New submitter Noel Trout writes "For a long time in the Java world, there has been a free tool called the 'tzupdater' or Time Zone Updater released as a free download first by Sun and then Oracle. This tool can be used to apply a patch to the Java runtime so that time zone information is correct. This is necessary since some time zones in the world are not static and change more frequently than one might think; in general time zone updates can be released maybe 4-6 times a year. The source information backing the Java timezone API comes from the open source Olson timezone database that is also used by many operating systems. For certain types of applications, you can understand that these updates are mission critical. For example, my company operates in the private aviation sector so we need to be able to display the correct local time at airports around the world. So, the interesting part is that Oracle has now decided to only release these updates if you have a Java SE support contract. Being Oracle, such licenses are far from cheap. In my opinion, this is a pretty serious change in stance for Oracle and amounts to killing free Java for certain types of applications, at least if you care about accuracy. We are talking about the core API class java.util.TimeZone. This begs the question, can you call an API free if you have to pay for it to return accurate information? What is the point of such an API? Should the community not expect that core Java classes are fully functional and accurate? I believe it is also a pretty bad move for Java adoption for these types of applications. If my company as a startup 10 years ago would have been presented with such a license fee, we almost certainly could not have chosen Java as our platform as we could not afford it."
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An anonymous reader writes "This is a new one, twitter as a form of historical reenactment: 'Israel's army is giving a "live" blow-by-blow account of the 1967 Six Day War, tweeting each air strike at the exact time it occurred 46 years ago ... @IDF1967 "is an official Israel Defence Forces account that is aimed at re-tweeting the events of the Six Day War in live time", ... The account was tweeting key events in the battle against the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria that took place from June 5 to 10, 1967 and includes pictures and videos, the army said. The tweets are mostly in Hebrew, with some translated into English. "In response to repeated provocations by Egypt, the State of Israel and the IDF are going to war. We will not sit idly as the enemy forces tighten the noose around our necks," the opening tweet said around 8.00am (1500 AEST) on Wednesday when Israel landed its first preemptive air strike 46 years ago.'"
The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers announced today that they have taken a direct image of the lowest mass exoplanet ever seen. HD 95086 b has a mass about 4 to 5 times that of Jupiter, and orbits a star 300 light years away that is slightly more massive and hotter than the Sun. The planet is not 100% confirmed, but it appears very likely to be real. If so, it's a hot gas giant, still cooling from its formation less than 20 million years ago. The picture, taken in the infrared, clearly shows the planet, making it one of fewer than a dozen such planets seen in actual telescopic images."
frdmfghtr notes (via Cult of Mac) that "the reporters of the Chicago Sun-Times are being given training in iPhone photography, to make up for the firing of the photography staff. From the CoM story: 'The move is part of a growing trend towards publications using the iPhone as a replacement for fancy, expensive DSLRs. It's a also a sign of how traditional journalism is being changed by technology like the iPhone and the advent of digital publishing.'"
Rambo Tribble writes "As reported by the BBC, astronomers are hoping to reap a black-hole-hunting windfall when a giant gas cloud passes through an area within our galaxy thought to contain numerous small black holes (abstract). When the cloud interacts with the black holes, the resultant emission of X-rays should allow scientists to finally confirm their existence. 'The idea is that as the cloud speeds past these small black holes — some slightly more massive than our Sun but just a few tens of km across — gas will spiral around them faster and faster, heating up to millions of degrees and emitting X-ray light. It is a bit like allowing a giant sink to empty through thousands of tiny drains and looking for any evidence of swirling water.'"
New submitter angelofdarkness writes "Jack Vance died Sunday evening. He was 96. Thank you for the stories and adventures and for influencing the games I still play after all these years. From the article: 'A science fiction Grand Master, Vance is probably best remembered for his four Dying Earth novels, which take place in a far-future Earth where the sun has dimmed and magic has been reestablished as a dominant force. They feature a brilliant picaresque adventure tone, including the unforgettable thief Cugel the Clever, and they were also celebrated in a recent anthology Songs of the Dying Earth, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. These books contain Vance's characteristic ironic, lightly humorous style, which has influenced generations of science fiction writers." Reader paai points to the official Jack Vance website, and this 2009 profile in the New York Times.
A while ago you had the chance to ask mathematician and theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson about his work in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear propulsion, and his thoughts on the past, present, and future of science. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
astroengine writes "Pulling from 20 years of research since the first discoveries of planets beyond our solar system, scientists have concluded that Earth and its sibling worlds comprise what appears to be a relatively rare breed in a diverse cosmic zoo that includes a huge variety of planet sizes, orbits and parent stars. The most common systems contain one or more planets one to three times bigger than Earth, all orbiting much closer to their parent stars than Earth circles the sun, says astronomer Andrew Howard, with the University of Hawaii."
SchrodingerZ writes "The nearest planet outside our solar system has recently been named Albertus Alauda. Originally named Alpha Centauri Bb, the planet is the closest known planet not orbiting the Sun, being a mere 4.3 light years away. The name comes from Jay Lark, who won the naming contest held by Uwingu starting last month and ending on April 22. Lark remarks that the name comes from the Latin name of his late grandfather, stating, "My grandfather passed away after a lengthy and valiant battle with cancer; his name in Latin means noble or bright and to praise or extol." The competition for naming the planet came from Uwing, a company which used the buying of name proposals and votes to fund grants for future space exploration ventures. Albertus Alauda won the competition with 751 votes, followed by Rakhat with 684 votes, and Caleo, with 622 votes."
hessian writes "New measurements suggest the Earth's inner core is far hotter than prior experiments suggested, putting it at 6,000C — as hot as the Sun's surface. The solid iron core is actually crystalline, surrounded by liquid. But the temperature at which that crystal can form had been a subject of long-running debate. Experiments outlined in Science used X-rays to probe tiny samples of iron at extraordinary pressures to examine how the iron crystals form and melt."
mikejuk writes "The founders of the original MySQL, the open-source database, are getting back together in a merger between Monty Program and SkySQL. SkySQL was created by around two dozen former MySQL executives and investors after Oracle bought MySQL from Sun. Widenius started Monty Program AB and created the MariaDB database from some of MySQL's open source code. The merger will provide a stronger rival to MySQL, so reassuring users who are worried about Oracle's future plans for the database."
An anonymous reader writes "Back in February 2010 NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory–a 3-axis stabilized satellite and fully redundant spacecraft. The aim of the SDO is to monitor solar activity and see how that impacts space weather. As part of its observations, the SDO captures an image of the Sun every 12 seconds using the onboard Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, but varies those shots across 10 different wavelengths. NASA has now collected three years worth of image data from the SDO and has put together a video letting us see the Sun spin in all its glory." If you watch closely, you can see individual frames containing the Moon and Venus.
coondoggie writes "IBM today said its researchers are developing a solar power system that concentrates solar radiation 2,000 times by using a human-blood supply modeled way of cooling and converting 80% of Sun's heat into useful energy. IBM says the system can also desalinate water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where such systems are often in short supply."
astroengine writes "About 1,200 light-years from Earth, five planets are circling around sun-like star Kepler-62, two of which are fortuitously positioned for water, if any exists, to remain liquid on their surfaces — a condition believed to be necessary for life. The discovery, made by scientists using NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, is the strongest evidence yet for more than one Earth-sized planet existing in a star's so-called 'habitable' zone. 'We're particularly delighted to find that there are two planets in the habitable zone,' lead Kepler scientist William Borucki, with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. 'It sort of doubles our chances of finding that Earth we'd all like to find. When you think about Earth and Mars, if Mars had been a bit larger, if Jupiter hadn't been so close, we'd again have two planets in the habitable zone and maybe we'd have a place to go,' he said." There's also a third planet believed to be a good candidate for hosting water.
New submitter AndyKrish links to the BBC's report that just two days after penning a "leave of presence" in which he says "I am not going away," Roger Ebert — "arguably the world's most famous film critic" — has died of cancer. Ebert was a long-time film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as (most famously along with Gene Siskel) for a string of television shows. In the course of dealing with persistent cancer that affected his thyroid and jaw, and which took away his voice, Ebert became a prolific blogger on movies as well as other topics, and drew on cutting edge technology to regain the power of speech.
First time accepted submitter markboyer writes "The Solar Impulse just landed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California to announce a journey that will take it from San Francisco to New York without using a single drop of fuel. The 'Across America' tour will kick off this May when founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg take off from San Francisco. From there the plane will visit four cities across the states before landing in New York."
angry tapir writes "When Oracle purchased Sun, many in the open source community were bleak about the future of MySQL. According to MySQL co-creator Michael "Monty" Widenius, these fears have been proven by Oracle's attitude to MySQL and its community. In the wake of the Sun takeover, Monty forked MySQL to create MariaDB, which has picked up momentum (being included by default in Fedora, Open SUSE and, most recently, Slackware). I recently interviewed Monty about what he learned from the MySQL experience and the current state of MariaDB."
First time accepted submitter bobthesungeek76036 writes "On March 26th, Larry Ellison and always with fashionable haircut John Fowler announced the new line of SPARC servers from Oracle. Touted as the fastest microprocessor in the world, they put up some impressive SPEC numbers against much more expensive (and older) IBM hardware. Is the industry still interested in SPARC or is it too late for Larry to regain the server market that Sun Microsystems had many moons ago?" El Reg has a pretty good overview of the new hardware; the T5 certainly looks interesting for highly threaded work loads (there's some massive SMT going on with 16 threads per core), but with Intel dominating for single-threaded performance and ARM-based servers becoming available squeezing them for massive multi-threading, is there really any hope in Oracle's efforts to stay in the hardware game?
iComp writes "A sophisticated scheme to use a casino's own security systems against it has netted scammers $33 million in a high-stakes poker game after they were able to gain a crucial advantage by seeing the opposition's cards. The team used a high-rolling accomplice from overseas who was known to spend large amounts while gambling at Australia's biggest casino, the Crown in Melbourne, according to the Herald Sun. He and his family checked into the Crown and were accommodated in one of its $30,000-a-night villas. The player then joined a private high-stakes poker game in a private suite. At the same time, an unnamed person got access to the casino's CCTV systems in the poker room and fed the information he gleaned back to the player via a wireless link. Over the course of eight hands the team fleeced the opposition to the tune of $33 million."
astroengine writes "Although there appears to be a mysterious dearth of exoplanets smaller than Earth, astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope have estimated that nearly a quarter of all sun-like stars in our galaxy play host to worlds 1-3 times the size of our planet. These astonishing results were discussed by Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, during a talk the W. M. Keck Observatory 20th Anniversary Science Meeting on Thursday. '23 percent of sun-like stars have a planet within (1-2.8 Earth radii) just within Mercury's orbit,' said Marcy. 'I'll say that again, because that number really surprised me: 23 percent of sun-like stars have a nearly-Earth-sized planet orbiting in tight orbits within 0.25 AU of the host stars.'"