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How the Year Looked On Slashdot 161

Posted by timothy
from the that-was-the-year-that-was dept.
Happy New Year! It's that time (as of now!) for the UK, and since the Slashdot backend operates in Greenwich Mean Time, that seems as good a reason as any to welcome 2012 now instead of local midnight for any of the various U.S. time zones. Everyone has a different take on how to rank the events of the last year; read on below for a few notes on some of the goings on of the past 31,536,000 seconds (give or take). The list is pretty arbitrary, drawn from the thousand-ish stories that hit the Slashdot page in that time; please say in the comments what news hit you the hardest this year.


Politics and all that:

Events in the Middle East dominated much of the news, including in particular the ways that governments have been tracking (and sometimes imprisoning or killing) opponents; California-based Blue Coat flatly denied selling equipment to Syria to help that sort of tracking before 'fessing up to it. (And in the U.S., the Occupy movement set about occupying bits of various cities, drawing both admiration and scorn.)

Related: The nuttiness surrounding Wikileaks continues.

Then there's the still unfinished story of SOPA; at least in some cases, speaking loudly seems to've caused businesses to change their public stances as defenders of the law as proposed; could this be called washing SOPA out with mouth?

On the tech front:

Donald Knuth published the 4th volume (or at least the first installment of it) of his ambitious Art of Computer Programming.

Netflix's management decided to couple a change that many customers thought was a stupid rate increase with what many people (customers or not) felt was a stupid name change; the company at least agreed on the name change, and reverted it.

HP seemed to do an interesting dance, both by shaking up its management structure , then announcing it was considering a spin-off of its PC hardware business before canceling that maneuver. HP sent a different but similarly mixed set of messages with a fire sale on its WebOS tablets (to the disappointment of those who praised and wished more success to WebOS).

Nokia also did some shaking in place. It's been a rough year for phone junkies on the whole, with Blackberry outages and privacy debacles both intentional and accidental from RIM, and no joy for those who'd expected iPhone 5, along with a handful of security issues for Android phones made it a rough year for phone junkies.

Meanwhile, the Linux kernel reached the magical number 3.0, and then 3.1 even though Mr. Linux himself, true to form, downplayed the leap from 2.x as basically just a number. Notably, the kernel suffered a persistent power-use regression, but also (Yay!) a fix.

On the GUI front, Gnome3 and Ubuntu's Unity generated lots of excitement, particularly from those who dislike the changes they bring. Forks and workarounds ensued — open source abides. We've seen also quite a bit this year about the Raspberry Pi, IMO the most exciting hardware news stuff of the year.

Questions of the stars:

Speaking of the Raspberry Pi, we were glad to have had the chance this year to ask questions of Eben Upton, as well as of William Shatner and Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, among many others. (And though it's sad, must also note rejections to our requests to interview Steven Hawking, Tom Lehrer, Freeman Dyson a distinguished list, at least.)

Endings:

Several of the biggest names in technology will sadly no longer be around for the years to come. After years of uncertain health and swirling rumors, Steve Jobs succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Less known outside tech circles, both John McCarthy and Dennis Ritchie died as well, both leaving rich legacies of software and inspiration. For all that he thrived on being a bad penny to both sides of the political spectrum, Christopher Hitchens, too, will be missed. On the other side of the "world changing" coin, this year also brought the end for Usama Bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, and North Korea's not-particularly-dear leader Kim Jong Il.

A different kind of ending: after a few years of life support, 2011 witnessed (with CmdrTaco's help) the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle. Everyone who had a chance to see a Shuttle launch will have a great story to tell their children.

Coming attractions:

Whatever the eventual fate of the other players in the phone world, 2012 will probably mean the end of the road for Symbian phones.

It's time for a reality check on the space hotel that was predicted for 2012; I'd place my bet against. Less happily, the continuing push for surveillance and tracking means I wouldn't bet against the projected nationwide trials in the coming year of face-recognition and tracking software from the FBI.

Finally: the end is near. That is, the actual end of the world (versus this recent contender), as predicted by the Mayans, as interpreted by various non-Mayans, and massaged to give us a few more years (or at least a few more months). Or, you can choose to rotate your tinfoil hat one quarter turn clockwise and take NASA's word for it — whatever the fate of humanity, Earth itself will probably keep right on going; we hope you'll stick around for the rest of the story — we're still waiting for The HURD
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How the Year Looked On Slashdot

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@noSPam.hackish.org> on Saturday December 31, 2011 @08:09PM (#38552578)

    Both from the first week of December, so admittedly I may be forgetting a lot of interesting stuff from the first 11 months of the year:

    Institutional Memory and Reverse Smuggling [slashdot.org], a tale of document-management woes, corporate management foibles, and engineering archaeology

    Physical Models In an Age of Computers [slashdot.org], a nice write-up of a large-scale physical model of the San Francisco Bay built in 1959 built to test some theories about how it'd behave if various proposed modifications were made

  • Steve Jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anss123 (985305) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @08:19PM (#38552652)

    please say in the comments what news hit you the hardest this year

    Of the news reported on Slashdot I think SJ death hit me the hardest. I don't follow Apple or Jobs news so his death came out of nowhere. Didn't know he had cancer or that he was dying from it.

    If the Japan earthquake was reported here it wins by a huge margin. Well, there has been a lot of /. posts on the nuke plant, so I guess that or the earth quake wins out of the non-geek news.

  • by decora (1710862) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @08:21PM (#38552670) Journal

    i can think for example of the revelation that Microsoft made a deal with the dictator of Tunisia to allow the regime to stick it's own certificate authorities into IE's auto-approve list.

    MS's argument was that Tunisia was buying a lot of linux computers, and then wiping them and installing MS. the whole purpose of the document (leaked on the net, signed by Bill Gates) was to destroy linux and get the business of a corrupt, violent dictator.

    thats just the tip of the iceberg.

  • no so many killers. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pbjones (315127) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @08:27PM (#38552714)

    2011 was a year where I heard the term x-killer less than usual. In the past the iPod-killer, the killer-app, etc. seemed to used every time something 'new' came out, and I was happy that the term didn't seem to show up as often.

    Nokia shifting to Windoze is my pick of the news. It will keep Nokia in the marketplace and it means that MS gets a foot in the door without a lot of development dollars being spent on hardware.

    The other memory 0f 2011 are the changes to the interfaces of MacOSX and Win8, both working more like an iPad but still retaining the old GUI under the facade. I'm including Win8 because of the Dev preview, which I count as a release (limited as it may be).

    It is also the year that I decided that computers are not interesting any more, having been doing this stuff since 1978, it has all become as exciting as a new toaster.

  • Re:2012 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by muon-catalyzed (2483394) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @09:28PM (#38553126)

    2012 will be the year, Linux finally comes to the desktop, I heared

    Google could make it happen, a dedicated Android (Linux) version for desktop would be a guaranteed success, even now, lots of people are working on it [android-x86.org] in their free time, which is speaking for itself. Once Android is flagged official for desktop by Google big software and hardware players would have to consider it and they would port stuff over as there is no barrier of entry.

  • Suxnet Anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Whiteox (919863) <htcstech.gmail@com> on Saturday December 31, 2011 @09:29PM (#38553136) Journal

    I took a few years off Slashdot and only logged on because of boredom a few months ago.
    Here's my 2 cents worth on some of the issues that have surfaced in that time:

    I actually liked the Stuxnet saga and how the Iranian scenario was investigated and collaborated around the world. This is one of the first tech conspiracies of importance and those responsible for it have not owned up (yet). It also made me think of other digital servo equipment that are vulnerable in industry and consumer grade products.

    Flying copters with wifi/drones also interested me as the technology can now be bought/assembled for a few hundred dollars. A great at home project with lots of possibilities. On that, there was an assumption that Iran could not reverse engineer the captured drone, something I feel unlikely as their engineering and research faculties are quite well developed.

    US Bashing: I'm not a US citizen, but this should stop. Most of us are aware of US policy and the incredible problems that the US faces in their federal system. I think that most US Slashdotters are aware of the shit they are in. The fact that the whole world blames the US for bad economic policy and ineffectual wars and an idiotic congress that has hamstrung change makes them a laughing stock. OK, we get it. Now let's move on and maybe give some support.

    Atheism vs Religious beliefs: The problem here is to be one or the other, you have to accept the whole mindset/weltanshaung/worldview without exception. For example you cannot be an atheist and hope to argue successfully the mitochondrial Eve, pre-Big Bang and for that matter, the cause of it all which is consciousness. The same goes for religious beliefs. God MUST be involved in every part of life and history. Sometimes that is a pill too hard to swallow. Gnostic or agnosticism maybe an alternative as most proponents of religion do not follow the precepts of their god without exception. Personally, I just don't care. Richard Dawkins argues that rational thought can be a basis of ethics of morality without the need for fundamentalism. I tend to agree with that. Religion has too much baggage.

    Freedom of Speech: Wikileaks, filtering, bloghate, tweets, FB and whatever is supremely important. Freedom of Speech is a right that should have personal responsibility attached to it unless you want to be an anonymus coward.

  • by cynyr (703126) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @09:49PM (#38553290)

    Maybe i could support the Occupy people if I had some clue what they wanted. All they seem to want is for goverment to not be corrupt, rich people to pay taxes, and something else I think...

    While I generally support all of those goals, I can't really get behind them without knowing how they would like it. Do they have any ideas on how to makes those or whatever goals happen?

  • by geezer nerd (1041858) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @10:19PM (#38553460)
    And you seemed to completely overlook the really unique aspect of the Occupy movement in that it was truly of international scale. You referred only to US aspects of it. It is still occupying in other countries, as well. When did that ever happen before?
  • Tsunami & meltdowns (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maow (620678) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @10:23PM (#38553480) Journal

    The tsunami & meltdowns were a story that went from incredibly, indescribably bad to worse and worse and, impossibly... worse.

    Left me with a sick feeling that wouldn't go away.

    One of the worst parts (as someone not directly affected, and bringing a technical angle into it) was reading in El Reg stories by their resident pro-nuke shill about how "radiation cannot escape even the fence surrounding Fukushima's property". Written *before* the first explosion.

    And a full page of "yeah! Greenies want us to all live in caves and freeze in the dark" comments getting way more thumbs up than down. I'm pro-nuke myself, but this ignored the reality of the problem as much as the worst "greenies" do in the opposite direction.

    This was followed by more nuke-shill posts doubling down on the stupid after the explosions, *never* acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, including the bravery of the guys on the ground working to fix the problems.

    So, on top of the incredible sense of loss I felt as a member of the human race, I also felt loss at the stupidity of highly educated, technically aware people whom I figured should've known better.

    To top all that off, my best friend I've ever had took sick, was hit by a vehicle, then, a week later (two weeks post-tsunami) died. I should add, this best friend ever was my dog. I didn't know how true the old cliche is; A Dog is a Man's Best Friend.

    The losses seemed to keep piling up and I was depressed for a long time.

    Yeah, fuck you 2011, buh-bye.

  • by chrb (1083577) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @10:36PM (#38553556)
    I nominate 2011 as the year of the patent lawsuit. Apple managed to get Samsung's products banned. In return, Samsung eventually got a revenge ruling banning Apple's products. Everybody in the phone industry went lawsuit crazy suing each other, and Microsoft earned more money from patent extortion against a competing product than they did by legitimately selling their own product.
  • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:21AM (#38554430) Journal

    Maybe i could support the Occupy people if I had some clue what they wanted. All they seem to want is for goverment to not be corrupt, rich people to pay taxes, and something else I think...

    In other words, you do have some clue of what they want.

    While I generally support all of those goals, I can't really get behind them without knowing how they would like it. Do they have any ideas on how to makes those or whatever goals happen?

    So, you'd get behind them if they had a suggested, workable course of action and until then you're just not willing to support their more abstract objectives. Hmm.. Some of that I get, as it's easy to rant about the problems of the world and one doesn't want to support a group that ends up deciding some crazy later on as the solution when it's nothing of the sort. But, the converse of that has often been to have a solution and then pretend to shoehorn it to solve the problem of the day. I'd say to a great extent, the fact that the Occupy movement hasn't gone out of its way to offer solutions is in part to not exclude a lot of people who would quickly hear any semi-formulated (as that's how it'll invariable start out) plan, quickly categorize it as right or left, and then use previous arguments of how each system is flawed--it obvious is since we're here precisely because both right and left have had a go at it and always failed to some degree--to discount the group as a whole; ie, it wants to set the stage for serious support of its objectives and only then to actually discuss a course of action so there will be actual discussion instead of pigeonholing.

    The other part, of course, is that I don't think the Occupy movement really hasn't a good idea how to real their goals really any more than the current political scene has a clue. I mean, sure, Republicans wave the free market around but then forget that the free market as an ideal can't exist as it requires a level of omniscience that's surreal and falling short of that ideal is used as but an excuse for why there are invariable problems when a heavily free market approach is taken instead of acknowledging there are limitations to the construct that is the free market. Meanwhile, Democrats so often wave legislation around as if by writing a law people or companies will actually follow them when it's often the point that those laws are either pointless, circumvented--often with the de facto blessing of those same Democrats--, or never fully applied or applicable to an actual problem.

    And my point isn't to say "well, they're both wrong some times, so we shouldn't listen to their ideas or ever follow their suggestions". It's to acknowledge that an actual discussion needs to take place that tries very hard to avoid reverting to a position of ideology for the sake of that ideology while losing sight of the big picture. Of course, a lot of people have their own agenda--hence the noted issue of corruption--so perhaps too often the big picture is being looked after, it's just not in the role of representing the people. That more fundamental problem isn't really inherently solvable; so, it leads one more to wonder how to at least counter it as it goes, and that's a point that's rarely heavily discussed as corruption behaves much like how computer viruses do with anti-virus scanners--there's always someone behind the scenes who can work to see if it takes but a single bit flip to pass the current test and it makes all the effort seemingly futile. That's the sort of distressing truth that makes it hard for someone to spend a lifetime working constantly to root out corruption when it occurs and install non-corrupt individuals to power.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:21AM (#38554432)
    Many horrible things worldwide happened in 2011, but most striking positive thing for me was Kepler mission, the stars of the galaxy are full of planets of all kinds. It won't be long before we're taking spectrographic measurements of atmospheres of worlds in "goldilocks zones"
  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:16AM (#38554890)

    You both asked:

    I'm surprised you didn't include Occupy

    and answered your own question:

    Freedom of speech rights my ass. Occupy doesn't know what their rights are and what they mean, how to deliver a message, or how to work for change. Instead, they come across as a bunch of posers and whiners squatting in the parks and demanding the right to squat there for the rest of their lives while they wait for the world to change itself just because they discovered the world isn't fair.

    Despite that, Occupy was the news story of the year to me. It was a brief spark of hope dashed by the incompetence of self-styled "victims" who insult those who know what actual oppression is.

    The Occupy movement in the US is essentially the political equivalent of bitcoint: It takes large amounts of valuable time and energy and produces seeming random outputs that are claimed to be valuable but which in fact are largely useless despite the claims of their respective supporters.

    Excellent: “Daily Show” on class divisions at Occupy Wall Street [hotair.com]

    Occupy’s Misogyny [nationalreview.com]

    When are the feminists going to speak out on the abuse of women that’s happening at the hands of the Occupy crowd? Rapes and sexual assaults are rampant among the Occupy movement in cities across the nation. According to ABC News, this past Saturday night a 23-year-old reported being raped by a 50-year-old inside a tent at Occupy Philadelphia. Similarly, a 14-year-old child was allegedly raped at Occupy Dallas. And at Occupy Cleveland, a 19-year-old told police she was raped after sharing a tent with an unknown man. After reporting her rape at Occupy Baltimore, a young woman claimed occupiers refused to help find her attacker. Now reports of rape and attempted rape in Zuccotti Park are surfacing. These are just the ones that were reported.

    In addition to rapists, suicidal folks are causing emotional distress within the movement. After a 32-year-old man shot himself inside his tent at Occupy Burlington, Vermont protesters were so traumatized that they readily agreed to pack up and end their demonstration.

    Besides rapes and suicides, occupiers have injured women in the midst of their shameless attempts to grab attention. A couple weeks ago, I attended Americans for Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream” Summit, which was crashed by Occupy D.C. I was able to depart safely, with my frightened guests in tow, as protesters hissed vile remarks in our direction. Others weren’t that lucky. The Daily Caller reports that an elderly woman was pushed down the stairs during the occupiers’ stampede into the convention center. Not one protester stopped to help her, even as she lay in pain from severe injuries to her wrists, ankles, and legs.

    Despite claiming to represent the 99%, Occupy Wall Street managed to cost at least 91 people their jobs: Milk Street Cafe, FiDi eatery that lost business due to Occupy Wall Street barricades, to close for good [nydailynews.com]

    During a time when most city governments have having a very difficult time financially, the Occupy movment jacked up the costs. It cost Oakland CA about $2.4 million [mercurynews.com], LA is looking at $2.3 million [washingtonpost.com], with some more big bills coming in shortly. Many other cities are in a similar position.

    A number of "Occupy" site around the world was hit by revelations that

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