Matt Steelblade writes "I've been in love with computers since my early teens. I took out books from the library and just started messing around until I had learned QBasic, then Visual Basic 5, and how to take apart a computer. Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy (because of seminary, which I recently left). I want to get into IT work, but am not sure where to start. I have about four years experience working at a grade/high school (about 350 computers) in which I did a lot of desktop maintenance and some work on their AD and website. At college (Loyola University Chicago) I tried to get my hands on whatever computer courses I could. I ended up taking a python course, a C# course, and data structures (with python). I received either perfect scores or higher in these courses. I feel comfortable in what I know about computers, and know all too well what I don't. I think my greatest strength is in troubleshooting. With that being said, do I need more schooling? If so, should I try for an associate degree (I have easy access to a Gateway technical college) or should I go for an undergraduate degree (I think my best bet there would be UW-Madison)? If not, should I try to get certified with CompTIA, or someone else? Or, would the best bet be to try to find a job or an internship?"
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jjohn writes "Wizards of the Coasts, holders of the TSR catalog, have released rulebooks and modules for most editions of Dungeons and Dragons through a partnership with DriveThruRPG.com. The web site, dndclassics.com, may be a little overloaded right now. Most module PDFs are $4.99 USD." The article points out that these are all fresh scans of the old books. It's also worth noting that the decision to make these PDFs available reverses WotC's 2009 decision to stop all PDF sales because of piracy fears. The only reference to this in the article is a quote from the D&D publishing and licensing director: "We don't want them to go to torrent sites. Why not give them a legal route?"
mynamestolen writes "In order to read paper-based books many visually impaired people want to attach a webcam to a computer and attach the computer to a TV. Some Electronic Magnifiers are purpose-built to provide a similar solution. Different organisations around the world (such as in the UK) have help pages. But I have not been able to find a guide to set up my own system. So I'm asking Slashdot readers how to go about it. What is the best camera to use if I want to hold the camera in my hand and point it at book or magazine? What parameters should I adjust, either in the software or on the camera? Depth of view, refresh rates, contrast, color balance and resolution might be key problems. My system is Linux and getting drivers for a good camera might also be a problem."
Bennett Haselton writes "Here are three hacks that I adopted in the last few weeks, each of which solved a minor problem that I had lived with for so long that I no longer thought of it as a problem — until a solution came along, which was like a small weight off my shoulders. None of these hacks will help impress anyone with your technical prowess; I'm just putting them here because they made my life easier." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
benrothke writes "In the 4th edition of A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing Technology, author Sara Baase takes a broad look at the social, legal and ethical issues around technology and their implications. Baase notes that her primary goal in writing the book is for computer professionals to understand the implications of what they create and how it fits into society. The book is an interesting analysis of a broad set of topics. Combined with Baase's superb writing skills, the book is both an excellent reference and a fascinating read." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
jones_supa writes "The classic hacker book publisher O'Reilly is releasing their book Open Government for free as a tribute for Aaron Swartz. The book asks the question, in a world where web services can make real-time data accessible to anyone, how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness? Through a collection of essays and case studies, leading visionaries and practitioners both inside and outside of government share their ideas on how to achieve and direct this emerging world of online collaboration, transparency, and participation. The files are posted on the O'Reilly Media GitHub account as PDF, Mobi, and EPUB files."
sciencehabit writes "Scientists have found that, when it comes to mental recall, people are far more likely to remember the text of idle chitchat on social media platforms like Facebook than the carefully crafted sentences of books. The team gathered 200 Facebook posts from the accounts of undergraduate research assistants, such as 'Bc sometimes it makes me wonder' and 'The library is a place to study, not to talk on your phone.' They also randomly selected 200 sentences from recently published books, gathered from free text on Amazon.com. Sentences included, 'Underneath the mass of facial hair beamed a large smile,' and 'Even honor had its limits.' Facebook posts were one-and-a-half times as memorable as the book sentences (abstract). The researchers speculate that effortless chatter is better than well-crafted sentences at tapping into our minds' basic language capacities — because human brains evolved to prioritize and remember unfiltered information from social interaction."
An anonymous reader writes "The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) has put a stop to the publication and sale of all books in its archives that support the theory of evolution, daily Radikal has reported. The books have long been listed as “out of stock” on TÜBTAK's website, but their further publication is now slated to be stopped permanently. Titles by Richard Dawkins, Alan Moorehead, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levontin and James Watson are all included in the list of books that will no longer be available to Turkish readers. In early 2009, a huge uproar occurred when the cover story of a publication by TÜBITAK was pulled, reportedly because it focused on Darwin’s theory of evolution."
CowboyRobot writes "In San Antonio, a judge and a precinct commissioner are proposing (PDF) a plan to create a library called BiblioTech that offers electronic media exclusively, offering patrons only e-readers and digital materials. 'BiblioTech intends to start with 100 e-readers that can be loaned out, 50 pre-loaded e-readers for children, 50 computer stations, 25 laptops and 25 tablets, with additional accommodations planned for the visually impaired.' But the economics have yet to be ironed out. 'A typical library branch might circulate 10,000 titles a month... To do that electronically would be cost-prohibitive — most libraries can't afford to supply that many patrons with e-reading devices at one time. And expecting library visitors to bring their own devices may be expecting too much.'"
MassDosage writes "I first heard about the Scratch programming language a few years ago and the idea of a simple language designed to teach kids to program in a fun, new way has always appealed to me. For those of you who don't know, Scratch was developed by the wonderfully named "Lifelong Kindergarten Group" at the MIT Media Lab. It's a programming language that allows programs to be built by dragging, dropping, configuring and combining various blocks that represent common coding concepts such as if/else statements and while loops. Scratch also provides tools for doing simple animation, playing audio and controlling sprites. The idea behind it is to make programming simple, fun and accessible to first time programmers so they can understand the key concepts without first needing to learn complex syntax which can come later when they move on from Scratch to other languages. It has been very successful and there are literally millions of Scratch programs freely available from the Scratch website and many others." Read below for the rest of Mass Dosage's review.
eldavojohn writes "I kickstarted a project undertaken by Daniel Shiffman to write a book on what (at the time) seemed to be a very large knowledge space. What resulted is a good book (amazing by CC-BY-NC standards) available in both PDF and HTML versions. In addition to the book he maintains the source code for creating the book and of course the book examples. The Nature of Code starts off swimmingly but remains front heavy with a mere thirty five pages devoted to the final chapter on neural networks. This is an excellent book for Java and Processing developers that want to break into simulation and modeling of well, anything. It probably isn't a must-have title for very seasoned developers (unless you've never done simulation and modeling) but at zero cost why not?" Read below for the rest of eldavojohn's review.
Qedward writes "Software developed by the FBI and Ernst & Young has revealed the most common words used in email conversations among employees engaged in corporate fraud. The software, which was developed using the knowledge gained from real life corporate fraud investigations, pinpoints and tracks common fraud phrases like 'cover up,' write off,' 'failed investment,' 'off the books,' 'nobody will find out' and 'grey area'. Expressions such as 'special fees' and 'friendly payments' are most common in bribery cases, while fears of getting caught are shown in phrases such as 'no inspection' and 'do not volunteer information.'"
New submitter razor88x writes "Although just 16% of Americans have purchased an e-book to date, the growth rate in sales of digital books is already dropping sharply. At the same time, sales of dedicated e-readers actually shrank in 2012, as people bought tablets instead. Meanwhile, printed books continue to be preferred over e-books by a wide majority of U.S. book readers. In his blog post Will Gutenberg Laugh Last?, writer Nicholas Carr draws on these statistics and others to argue that, contrary to predictions, printed books may continue to be the book's dominant form. 'We may be discovering,' he writes, 'that e-books are well suited to some types of books (like genre fiction) but not well suited to other types (like nonfiction and literary fiction) and are well suited to certain reading situations (plane trips) but less well suited to others (lying on the couch at home). The e-book may turn out to be more a complement to the printed book, as audiobooks have long been, rather than an outright substitute.'"
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Eriq Gardner writes that Warner Brothers is suing California resident Mark Towle, a specialist in customizing replicas of automobiles featured in films and TV shows, for selling replicas of automobiles from the 1960s ABC series Batman by arguing that copyright protection extends to the overall look and feel of the Batmobile. The case hinges on what exactly is a Batmobile — an automobile or a piece of intellectual property? Warner attorney J. Andrew Coombs argues in legal papers that the Batmobile incorporates trademarks with distinctive secondary meaning and that by selling an unauthorized replica, Towle is likely to confuse consumers about whether the cars are DC products are not. Towle's attorney Larry Zerner, argues that automobiles aren't copyrightable. 'It is black letter law that useful articles, such as automobiles, do not qualify as "sculptural works" and are thus not eligible for copyright protection,' writes Zerner adding that a decision to affirm copyright elements of automotive design features could be exploited by automobile manufacturers. 'The implications of a ruling upholding this standard are easy to imagine. Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and Honda would start publishing comic books, so that they could protect what, up until now, was unprotectable.'"
timothy writes "For the last few years, I've been using Android tablets for various of the reasons that most casual tablet owners do: as a handy playback device for movies and music, a surprisingly decent interface for reading books, a good-enough camera for many purposes, and a communications terminal for instant messaging and video chat. I started out with a Motorola Xoom, which I still use around the house or as a music player in the car, but only started actually carrying a tablet very often when I got a Nexus 7. And while I have some high praise for the Nexus 7, its limitations are frustrating, too. I'll be more excited about a tablet when I can find one with (simultaneously) more of the features I want in one. So here's my wish list (not exhaustive) for the ideal tablet of the future, consisting only of features that are either currently available in some relevant form (such as in existing tablets), or should be in the foreseeable near future; I'll be on the lookout at CES for whatever choices come closest to this dream." Read below to see what's on Timothy's wish list.
tearmeapart writes "The teams at FreeBSD have reached another great achievement with FreeBSD 9.1, with improvements to the already fantastic zfs features, more VM improvements (helping bringing FreeBSD to the next generation of VMs), and improvements in speed to many parts of the network system. Support FreeBSD via the FreeBSD mall or download/upgrade FreeBSD from a mirror. Unfortunately, the torrent server is still down due to the previous security incident." And new submitter northar writes "The other day the NetBSD project released their first update to the 6.x series, 6.0.1. They also (rather discreetly) announced a fund drive targeting 60.000 USD before the end of 2012 in the release notes. They better get going if their donation page is anything like recently updated."
First time accepted submitter Lordfly writes "The wife and I have started looking to buy a house. In the spirit of that, I've been giving away books, CDs, and DVDs to 'downsize' the pile of crap I'll have to lug around when we do find the right place. That got me thinking about digital files. I'm perfectly okay with giving up (most) books, CDs, and DVD cases. The only music I buy are MP3s anyway, and we stream most everything else if we wanted to watch a show or movie. That being said, I have a desktop, my wife has an old Macbook, we both have tablets, and I also have an Android smartphone. I'd like to set up something on an extra Windows box shoved in a closet that lets me dump every digital file we have (photos, music, ebooks, movies) and then doles it out as necessary to all of our devices. Unfortunately my best computer geek days are likely behind me (photography and cooking have consumed me since), so while I CAN schlep around a command line, I've lost most of my knowledge, so go easy on the 'just apt-get FubarPackageInstaller.gzip and rd -m Arglebargle' stuff. Something easy enough for my wife to use would be a major plus. So: What's the best way to make your own personal 'cloud'?"
In an effort to step up its fight against astroturfers, Amazon has barred authors from reviewing books. It's not simply that authors can't review their own books — they can't review any book in a similar genre to something they've published. "This means that thriller writers are prevented from commenting on works by other authors who write similar books. Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels." British author Joanne Harris had a simpler solution in mind: "To be honest I would just rather Amazon delete all their reviews as it... has caused so much trouble. It is a pity. Originally it was a good idea but it is has become such an issue now. The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt." How would you improve the online review system?
Amazon and Google, both giants in the online business world, started out as separate entities with two very different agendas. As each has grown into an empire, the overlapping areas of business between the two companies has grown as well. But with both companies moving strongly into the electronic device market, cloud services, and Amazon now building out its advertising network, they find themselves increasingly at odds, and 2013 may bring more direct battles."Amazon wants to be the one place where you buy everything. Google wants to be the one place where you find everything, of which buying things is a subset. So when you marry those facts I think you're going to see a natural collision," said VC partner Chi-hua Chien. Adds Reuters, "Not long after Bezos learned of Google's catalog plans, Amazon began scanning books and providing searchable digital excerpts. Its Kindle e-reader, launched a few years later, owes much of its inspiration to the catalog news, the executive said. Now, Amazon is pushing its online ad efforts, threatening to siphon revenue and users from Google's main search website."
theodp writes "With all of the content that can be delivered electronically — e-books, music, apps, movies, e-gift cards, tickets — the percentage of Christmas gift giving that's digital is growing each year. However, the e-gift unwrapping user experience on Christmas morning leaves much to be desired. In addition to providing old-school mail delivery of gift cards, Amazon offers a variety of other options, including e-mailing a gift card on a specific day with or without a suggested gift, posting it on someone's Facebook Wall, or allowing you to print one for personal delivery. Another suggestion — using USB drives — harkens back to the days of burning CDs with custom playlists for last-minute gifts, but you'll be thwarted by DRM issues for lots of content. So, until Facebook introduces The Tree to save our e-gifts under until they're 'unwrapped' on Christmas morning with the other physical gifts, how do you plan on handling e-gift giving and getting?"