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Controversy Over High-Tech Brooms Sweeps Through Sport of Curling 181

HughPickens.com writes: Billy Witz reports at the NYT that the friendly sport of curling suddenly has become roiled in controversy over — what else? — the brooms. The crux of the debate is fabric — specifically, something called directional fabric. The use of this material in broom pads is the latest escalation in an arms race among manufacturers, whereby the world's best curlers can guide the 44-pound stone around a sheet of ice as if it were controlled by a joystick. Many of the sport's top athletes, but not all of them, signed an agreement last month not to use the newest brooms. But with few regulations on the books and Olympic qualifying tournaments underway this month, the World Curling Federation has stepped in and issued new rules that set severe restrictions on the types of brooms that can be used. "There's definitely some anger over it," says Dean Gemmell. "In curling, we're generally known for being pretty friendly with most of your opponents. Even at the big events, you see the top players hanging out. But it's sort of taken that away this year, that's for sure."

It was prototype brooms made by BalancePlus that were the focus of complaints at the Toronto tournament, but Scott Taylor, president of BalancePlus, says they were never intended for sale, and were meant to demonstrate the problems that the reversed fabrics could cause. Players say the brooms allowed sweepers to "steer" the rock much more than they were comfortable with, and even slow them down. The brooms have been compared to high-tech drivers that allow amateur golfers to hit the ball as far as a pro, or the advanced full-body swimsuits that were banned from competition in 2010 for providing an unfair advantage. Of his company's high-tech broom, Taylor says: "This isn't good. It's like hitting a golf ball 500 yards."
Input Devices

Scan a Book In Five Minutes With a $199 Scanner? (teleread.com) 221

New submitter David Rothman writes: Scan a 300-page book in just five minutes or so? For a mere $199 and shipping — the current price on Indiegogo — a Chinese company says you can buy a device to do just that. And a related video is most convincing. The Czur scanner from CzurTek uses a speedy 32-bit MIPS CPU and fast software for scanning and correction. It comes with a foot pedal and even offers WiFi support. Create a book cloud for your DIY digital library? Imagine the possibilities for Project Gutenberg-style efforts, schools, libraries and the print-challenged as well as for booklovers eager to digitize their paper libraries for convenient reading on cellphones, e-readers and tablets. Even at the $400 expected retail price, this could be quite a bargain if the claims are true. I myself have ordered one at the $199 price.

Book Review: the Network Security Test Lab: a Step-by-Step Guide 19

benrothke writes: It wasn't that long ago that building a full network security test lab was an expensive prospect. In The Network Security Test Lab: A Step-by-Step Guide, author Michael Gregg has written a helpful hands-on guide to provide the reader with an economical method to do that. The book is a step-by-step guide on how to create a security network lab, and how to use some of the most popular security and hacking tools. Read below for the rest of Ben's review.

Ask Slashdot: How Can My Code Help? 47

An anonymous reader writes: The story will probably be familiar. My non-profit organization had a particular need (we want to communicate with government officials by offering anecdotes and stories of how we help their constituents), and while I created a solution, the time constraints and lack of experience, training and natural ability show. I'd like to do more with the code, both in terms of letting others have it for their needs and also because I'm sure talented coders could more quickly and efficiently solve some of the existing problems with my code. But how do I make that happen? What do I do with it?

I have every intention of continuing to work on it. I enjoyed the learning opportunity, and I've already identified a number of things I want to improve upon, but I recognize that even as crude as my code is, if it solved my issue it might help others too.

Do I just put it on Github or SourceForge and hope that someone else will have that magic formula of my use case and skill level (because someone more talented would probably make their own code easily enough, while someone less talented may not realize how doable the solution can be)? Do I try to find an existing project and see if I can shoe-horn my efforts in somewhere? Do I keep it to myself until some unspecified point in time that I realize it's right for sharing?
Read on for further background information on this question.

Ask Slashdot: An 'Ex Libris' For My Books In a Digital Age? 149

New submitter smalgin writes: While I cannot boast an extensive library, it keeps growing every week. I share the books I like the most with my friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, some of them are sloppy and forget to return my books, so to speak. I would like to put some mark, sticker or a stamp (Ex Libris) on my books to make them recognizable later. However, living in a digital age (blah blah yada yada) I cannot help but wonder how I could improve the ex libris beyond an ink stamp on a title page or a glued-on postcard-sized monstrosity some libraries use. Has anyone tried using RFIDs to identify his books? Please share your experience.

Interviews: Ask Alan Donovan and Brian Kernighan About Programming and Go 185

Alan Donovan is a member of Google’s Go team in New York and holds computer science degrees from Cambridge and MIT. Since 2005, he has worked at Google on infrastructure projects and was the co-designer of its proprietary build system, Blaze. Brian Kernighan is a professor in the Computer Science Department at Princeton University. He was a member of technical staff in the Computing Science Research Center at Bell Labs, where he worked on languages and tools for Unix. He is the co-author of several books, including The C Programming Language, and The Practice of Programming. Recently, the pair have co-authored a soon to be released book titled The Go Programming Language. Alan and Brian have agreed to give us some of their time to answer any questions you may have about the upcoming book, Go, and programming in general. Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please keep them to one per post.

DRM Circumvention Now Lawful For More Devices 106

BUL2294 writes: The U.S. Library of Congress' Copyright Office has published their newest rules regarding DRM circumvention. Much to the chagrin of car makers and agricultural vehicle manufacturers, DRM circumvention, with the exception of telmatics ("black box") and entertainment systems, and anything that would run afoul of DOT or EPA regulations, is now allowed for "diagnosis, repair or lawful modification of a vehicle function." In addition, jailbreaking is now extended to tablets, wearables, and smart TVs, but not to single-purpose devices like e-readers. An exemption has been carved out for security researchers to hack cars, voting machines, and medical devices — as long as that device is not being used for its purpose and is in an isolated environment. Finally, owners of abandoned video games that require server authentication (where such authentication is no longer available) may also circumvent DRM. DRM circumvention is NOT allowed for jailbreaking gaming systems and e-readers, and does not allow for "format-shifting" (e.g. moving e-books from one platform to another).

The full text of the new rules is available online (PDF), and will be published in the Federal Register on October 28, 2015.

RIP: Prolific Amazon Customer Reviewer Harriet Klausner (1952-2015) (teleread.com) 92

Robotech_Master writes: Prolific Amazon customer reviewer Harriet Klausner passed away last week at the age of 67. Klausner was a controversial figure: She never gave anything a negative review, her review blurbs cast doubt on how closely she actually read what she reviewed, and received dozens of free books per week (which ended up resold on Half.com via her son's account). Nonetheless, for a time she was one of the most recognizable names to any frequent Amazon.com customer; it was rare to come across any popular title that didn't have a Klausner review. Not many reviewers have ever inspired snarky sites tracking their contributions.

Google Books Wins Again (documentcloud.org) 120

cpt kangarooski writes: After Google won a lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild alleging that Google's project to scan and provide a searchable index of books was copyright infringement, Google has now won the inevitable appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The court found that Google is engaging in fair use, and reminds all that "[t]he ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding." The ruling (PDF) adds, "while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public."

Is Amazon Harming the E-reader Category? (teleread.com) 200

An anonymous reader sends a story from TeleRead which argues that Amazon doing harm to the e-reader category of devices it helped create. The company has been aggressively pushing adoption of its Kindle Fire brand of tablets, dropping the price for the cheapest model down to $50. Compare that to the basic version of the e-ink Kindle: $80 if you don't want it cluttered with "special offers." If you care enough about an e-ink screen, you might still buy it, but most of those people probably already have e-readers. The general populace, when looking at the tablet's color screen, app ecosystem, and access to forms of entertainment beyond books, will probably consider the tablet a no-brainer.

This is in Amazon's best interest; if you buy an e-reader, you're only going to be buying books for it. If you buy a tablet, they can sell you videos and software, too. Amazon has succeeded in pushing several competing e-readers out of the market. They also refuse to experiment or innovate on the design; there have been no significant changes since the Paperwhite's backlighting technology in 2012. Given that ebook sales are no longer growing explosively, this could be a sign that the e-reader category of devices is stagnating.

How Amazon's Monster Erotica Book Ban Shaped CloudFlare's Censorship Stance (zdnet.com) 125

An anonymous reader writes with news that CloudFlare chief executive Matthew Prince recently spoke about how Amazon's ban on "monster erotica" helped shape his position on censorship. ZDNet reports: "I worry about Jeff Bezos' bizarre obsession with dinosaur sex," said Prince, towards the end of a long conversation in our New York newsroom. "I don't think I've ever heard a chief executive -- hell, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say anything like that before," I said. Prince was referring to how the bookseller and online retail giant banned so-called "monster erotica," a genre of fan-fiction revolving around fantasy-based fictional encounters with mythical or extinct creatures (including dinosaurs), which was for a time sold on its online bookstore. Amazon, according to reports, pulled hundreds of the self-published books it sold -- as well as some content that fetishized incest and rape -- despite "vague" guidelines by the retailer. "You can make a rational argument that if you're writing books fantasizing about having sex with animals or children, maybe that promotes a certain kind of behavior. But there's no risk of someone abusing a dinosaur," he said.
Lord of the Rings

See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used To Build Middle-Earth (wired.com) 48

Esther Schindler writes: In addition to writing the story of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien drew it. The maps and sketches he made while drafting it "informed his storytelling, allowing him to test narrative ideas and illustrate scenes he needed to capture in words," reports Ethan Gilsdorf at Wired. "For Tolkien, the art of writing and the art of drawing were inextricably intertwined."

It's all coming out in a new book, but here we get a sneak preview, along with several cool observations, such as: "If Tolkien's nerdy use of graph paper feels like a secret message to future Dungeons & Dragons players, then so does his 'Plan of Shelob's lair.' Tolkien's map of tunnels stocked with nasties—here, a spider named Shelob—would be right at home in any Dungeon Master's campaign notes. He even marks the place for a classic dungeon crawl feature: 'trap.'"


'Voices From Chernobyl' Author Svetlana Alexievich Wins Lit Nobel (theguardian.com) 48

Lawrence Bottorff writes: The author of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Svetlana Alexievich, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's somewhat surprising, since she is an investigative journalist and not a fiction writer/novelist. And yet her "novels in voices" style, as the Nobel jurists believe, clearly has a literary impact. Here's what a review from the Journal of Nuclear Medicine says about Voices from Chernobyl:

"Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernobyl accident. Instead of choosing the usual approach of trying to quantify a disaster in terms of losses and displacement, the author chose instead to interview more than 500 eyewitnesses over a span of 10 years. ... It tells us about the psychologic and personal tragedy of the modern-day nuclear disaster. It is about the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives."

Although the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded based on "lifetime work" rather than an individual book, Voices... is her best-known and most celebrated work.


Ask Slashdot: Where Can I Find "Nuts and Bolts" Info On Cookies & Tracking Mechanisms? 84

New submitter tanstaaf1 writes: I was thinking about the whole tracking and privacy train-wreck and I'm wondering why specific information on how it is done, and how it can be micromanaged or undone by a decent programmer (at least), isn't vastly more accessible? By searching, I can only find information on how to erase cookies using the browser. Browser level (black box) solutions aren't anywhere near good enough; if it were, the exploits would be few and far between instead everywhere everyday. Read below for the rest of tanstaaf1's question.