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Books

Ask Slashdot: Good, Forgotten Fantasy & Science Fiction Novels? 1244

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-ender's-game-does-not-count dept.
jjp9999 writes "I've been looking for some good reading material, and have been delving into the realms of some great, but nearly forgotten authors — finding the likes of Lord Dunsany (The King of Elfland's Daughter) and E.R. Eddison (The Worm Ouroboros). I wanted to ask the community here: do you know of any other great fantasy or science fiction books that time has forgotten?"
Books

Google Unifies Media, Apps Into Google Play 146

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the enslavement-was-never-so-much-fun dept.
eldavojohn writes "Google has just announced Google Play to merge their existing solutions for music, movies, books and apps in the new cloud based storage system promising that you will never have to worry about losing or moving them across devices ever again. You'll be able to store 20,000 songs for free. The region breakdown is: 'In the U.S., music, movies, books and Android apps are available in Google Play. In Canada and the U.K., we'll offer movies, books and Android apps; in Australia, books and apps; and in Japan, movies and apps. Everywhere else, Google Play will be the new home for Android apps.'"
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Do Kids Still Take Interest In Programming For Its Own Sake? 276

Posted by Soulskill
from the too-hip-to-be-cool dept.
nirgle writes "I have been wondering lately if there are any kids interested in programming for its own sake anymore. When I was my nephew's age, computers were still fascinating: There wasn't a laptop on every table, facebook wasn't splattered on every screen, and you couldn't get any question answered in just a couple seconds with Google. When I was 10, I would have done anything for a close programming mentor instead of the 5-foot high stack of books that I had to read cover-to-cover on my own. So I was happy when my nephew started asking about learning to do what "Uncle Jay does." Does the responsibility now shift to us to kindle early fires in computer science, or is programming now just another profession for the educational system to manage?" Another reader pointed out a related post on the Invent with Python blog titled "Nobody wants to learn how to program."
Books

The eBook Backlash 418

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-a-new-reader dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that people who read ebooks on tablets like the iPad are beginning to realize that while a book in print is straightforward and immersive, a tablet is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity offering a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks. 'The tablet is like a temptress,' says James McQuivey. 'It's constantly saying, "You could be on YouTube now." Or it's sending constant alerts that pop up, saying you just got an e-mail. Reading itself is trying to compete.' There are also signs that publishers are cooling on tablets for e-reading. A recent survey by Forrester Research showed that 31 percent of publishers believed iPads and similar tablets were the ideal e-reading platform; one year ago, 46 percent thought so. Then there's Jonathan Franzen, regarded as one of America's greatest living novelists, who says consumers have been conned into thinking they need the latest technology and that e-books can never have the magic of the printed page. 'I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn't change.'"
Books

Math Textbooks a Textbook Example of Bad Textbooks 446

Posted by samzenpus
from the bottom-of-the-barrel dept.
theodp writes "Over at Salon, Annie Keeghan does an Upton Sinclair number on the math textbook industry. In recent years, Keeghan explains, math has become the subject du jour due to government initiatives and efforts to raise the rankings of lagging U.S. students. But with state and local budgets constrained, math textbook publishers competing for fewer available dollars are rushing their products to market before their competitors, resulting in product that in many instances is inherently, tragically flawed. Keeghan writes: 'There may be a reason you can't figure out some of those math problems in your son or daughter's math text and it might have nothing at all to do with you. That math homework you're trying to help your child muddle through might include problems with no possible solution. It could be that key information or steps are missing, that the problem involves a concept your child hasn't yet been introduced to, or that the math problem is structurally unsound for a host of other reasons.' The comments on Keeghan's article are also an eye-opener — here's a sample: 'Sales and marketing budgets are astronomical because the expenses pay off more than investments in product. Sadly, most teachers are not curriculum experts and are swayed by the surface pitches. Teachers make the decisions, but are not the users (students) nor are they spending their own money. As a result, products that make their lives easier and that come with free meals and gifts are the most successful.' So, can open source or competitions build better math textbooks?"
Censorship

Paypal Forces E-Book Publisher To Censor Erotic Content 301

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
hey! writes "On February 18 of this year, global giant payment processor PayPal sent eBook publisher Smashwords an ultimatum: if Smashwords didn't remove all eBooks with certain erotic content from its catalog in the next several days, PayPal would immediately stop handling payments. Smashword's TOS already precluded child pornography, but now PayPal wants them to also censor depictions of consenting, non-related adults acting out incest fantasies. Likewise, fantasy novels in which human characters transform into non-humans are affected if those characters have sex. ZDNet has a summary of the impact of these changes, which would among other things ban Vladmir Nabokov's Lolita. As outrage mounts, finger pointing is in full swing. Smashwords blames PayPal, and PayPal blames the banks it deals with. The crux seems to be that erotica buyers have a higher rate of 'chargebacks' — customers who buy stuff then demand their money back. Fair enough, but is a customer really more likely to return a book because it depicts one kind of fantasy between consenting adults vs. another? Perhaps the problem is just the quality of writing." Note: as you can probably tell from the summary, the linked articles (while factual in nature) discuss subjects that may not be suitable for workplace reading.
Android

Will Tablet Price War Mean a Larger Amazon Tablet? 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the well-it-won't-mean-a-smaller-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes "PC Magazine reports that even while Amazon was building their Kindle Fire tablet, it was already planning on a much larger model that 'will be its marquee product and the hopeful cornerstone of its tablet strategy.' Amazon's already begun offering $30 discounts on refurbished 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets, matching last week's new aggressive pricing from Barnes and Noble on their color touchscreen Nook. But PCMag argues that the 7-inch color Kindle was simply a 'beta' release of the larger device to come. 'In no way was Amazon being dishonest with its customers... To be truly fair, many people may never want a screen larger than seven inches because of the associated weight and bulk.' But the author argues that its real purpose may have been as a test run to gather important real-world data for their ultimate war with the iPad. 'After all, as industry insiders joke, all first-generation products, whether hardware or software, are really "beta" programs disguised as initial launches.'"
Sci-Fi

2 Science Publishers Delve Into Science Fiction 67

Posted by timothy
from the parallel-universes dept.
braindrainbahrain writes "Coincidence or conspiracy? Two new science fiction magazines have just been announced and they are both being published by more serious science publications. New Scientist magazine has announced the publication of Arc, 'A new digital magazine about the future.' Arc features such articles as 'The best time travel movie ever made' and 'The future of science fiction, games, galleries — and futurism.' They are advertising new fact and fiction from the likes of Maragret Atwood and Alastair Reynold. The MIT Technology Review has announced the TRSF, dubbed 'the first installment of a to-be-annual "hard" SF collection.' Some authors: Joe Haldeman and Cory Doctorow. As an interesting note, both publications will be printed on paper for the first ('collectable') issue only; all forthcoming ones will be e-books."
Books

Is Hypertext Literature Dead? 208

Posted by timothy
from the 1-for-yes-2-for-no-3-to-start-over dept.
First time accepted submitter dylan_k writes "In the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a lot of buzz about ideas like 'hypertext literature' and 'electronic literature.' Nowadays, it's easier to create those things than ever before, and there are plenty of digital texts but it just doesn't seem like authors are writing any new 'hypertext' literature these days. Why?"
Google

'Culturomics' Spreads From Google Books To Scientific Preprints 12

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-making-up-words dept.
ananyo writes "Cultural Observatory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts is to index the whole of the ArXiv pre-print database of papers from the physical sciences, breaking down the full text of the articles into component phrases to see how often a particular word or phrase appears relative to others — a measure of how 'meme-like' a term is. The team has already applied a similar approach to 5 million books in the Google Books database to produce their n-gram viewer. But the Google Books database carries with it a major limitation: because many of the works are under copyright, users cannot be pointed to the actual source material. Applying the tool to ArXiv means it could be used to chart trends in high-energy physics, for example: a quickening pulse of papers citing the Higgs boson, for example, or a peak in papers about supersymmetry, a theory which may soon be waning."
Medicine

Interrupted Sleep Might Be the Best Kind 277

Posted by timothy
from the helps-me-remember-my-dreams-too dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that a growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that eight-hours of uninterrupted sleep may be unnatural as a wealth of historical evidence reveals that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks called first and second sleep. A book by historian Roger Ekirch, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern — in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria. 'It's not just the number of references — it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,' says Ekirch. References to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century with improvements in street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in coffee houses — which were sometimes open all night. Today most people seem to have adapted quite well to the eight-hour sleep, but Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body's natural preference for segmented sleep which could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. 'Our pattern of consolidated sleep has been a relatively recent development, another product of the industrial age, while segmented sleep was long the natural form of our slumber, having a provenance as old as humankind,' says Ekrich, adding that we may 'choose to emulate our ancestors, for whom the dead of night, rather than being a source of dread, often afforded a welcome refuge from the regimen of daily life.'"
Book Reviews

Book Review: Liars and Outliers 68

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
First time accepted submitter benrothke writes "It is said that the song Wipe Out launched a generation of drummers. In the world of information security, the classic Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C by Bruce Schneier may have been the book that launched a generation of new cryptographers. Schneier's latest work of art is Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive. For those that are looking for a follow-up to Applied Cryptography, this it is not. In fact, it is hard to classify this as an information security title and in fact the book is marked for the current affairs/sociology section. Whatever section this book ultimately falls in, the reader will find that Schneier is one of the most original thinkers around." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Eternal Copyright: a Modest Proposal 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-a-matter-of-time dept.
New submitter SpockLogic writes "The Telegraphs has a tongue in cheek essay in praise of eternal copyright by the founder of an online games company. Quoting: 'Imagine you're a new parent at 30 years old and you've just published a bestselling new novel. Under the current system, if you lived to 70 years old and your descendants all had children at the age of 30, the copyright in your book – and thus the proceeds – would provide for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. But what, I ask, about your great-great-great-grandchildren? What do they get? How can our laws be so heartless as to deny them the benefit of your hard work in the name of some do-gooding concept as the "public good," simply because they were born a mere century and a half after the book was written? After all, when you wrote your book, it sprung from your mind fully-formed, without requiring any inspiration from other creative works – you owe nothing at all to the public. And what would the public do with your book, even if they had it? Most likely, they'd just make it worse.'"
Book Reviews

Book Review: Java Performance 160

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
jkauzlar writes "The standard Oracle JVM has about sixty 'developer' (-XX) options which are directly related to performance monitoring or tuning. With names such as 'UseMPSS' or 'AllocatePrefetchStyle', it's clear that Joe Schmo Code Monkey was not meant to be touching them, at least until he/she learned how the forbidding inner recesses of the JVM work, particularly the garbage collectors and 'just-in-time' compiler. This dense, 600-page book will not only explain these developer options and the underlying JVM technology, but discusses performance, profiling, benchmarking and related tools in surprising breadth and detail. Not all developers will gain from this knowledge and a few will surrender to the book's side-effect of being an insomnia treatment, but for those responsible for maintaining production software, this will be essential reading and a useful long-term reference." Keep reading for the rest of jkauzlar's review.
Robotics

New Technique For Mass-Producing Microbots Inspired By Origami 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-your-fold-bot dept.
Zothecula writes "Inspired by origami and children's pop-up books, Harvard engineers have pioneered a means of mass-producing bee-sized flying microrobots. The breakthrough mechanizes the already state-of-the art process of making Harvard's Mobee robots by hand, by mass producing flat assemblies by the sheet which can be folded and assembled in a single movement. The technique, which cunningly exploits existing machinery for making printed circuit boards, can theoretically be applied to a multitude of electromechanical machines."

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