Story 2014-10-17

Debian to vote on init system... again

in linux on (#2TEV)
Ian Jackson is at it again.

A proposal has been submitted in the Debian vote mailing list to ensure that the next version of Debian, Jessie, will not require any specific init system. This comes after the Debian technical committee (TC) already decided in February to adopt systemd as the default init system for Jessie. The TC had left the door open for a general resolution to decide whether other init systems would be supported in Jessie. At this time, it appears that enough support has been garnered for the proposal to ensure that there will be a vote on this issue. From the text of the proposal:
This GR seeks to preserve the freedom of our users now to select an init system of their choice, and the project's freedom to select a different init system in the future. It will avoid Debian becoming accidentally locked in to a particular init system (for example, because so much unrelated software has ended up depending on a particular init system that the burden of effort required to change init system becomes too great). A number of init systems exist, and it is clear that there is not yet broad consensus as to what the best init system might look like.
When the TC debated the issue, keeping SysVinit was an unpopular opinion. The two real contenders were systemd and upstart, and there seemed to be a general agreement that the init system must change. Is this vote an attempt to delay the inevitable? Let's remember that the reason the TC had to vote on this issue is that the developers wanted to be set on which init system to support. Could this resolution end with Debian "supporting" other init systems as second-class citizen, with many developers choosing not to bother supporting anything that's not systemd?

Tetrachromatic Humans See 100 Times More Colors

in science on (#2TEH)
story imageThe same genetic mutation that makes people color-blind, can allow a small portion of women to perceive 100 times as many shades of colors as the rest of us, up to a potential 99 million. The mutations, when found on both X-chromosomes, can cause development of a 4th cone cell in a photosensitive layer in the back of the eye that responds to specific wavelengths of light. This increased visual acuity has been found most substantial in mid to long-wavelength, or "reddish", spectral components.

Lots of animals are tetrachromats, including birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects, but only a handful of human tetrachromats have been identified since 2012. This increased visual ability does come with a disadvantage of offspring having a high likelihood of color-blindness. Continued research may help scientists find a way to improve the vision of the (much larger) portion of the population that suffers from color-blindness.

More information on scientific studies of human tetrachromacy can be found here.

Google possibly investigating high-speed wireless alternatives to fiber

in google on (#2TEA)
On Monday, Google sought permission from the Federal Communications Commission to conduct tests of "proprietary wireless applications" in a section of the electromagnetic spectrum that experts say could serve as a perfect replacement for fiber. Google declined to comment on its application for experimental radio service licenses for the 5.8 GHz, 24 GHz, 72 GHz and 82 GHz bands. In correspondence with the FCC, Google went so far as to request confidential treatment.

This is spurring speculation that Google may be looking to wireless alternatives for gigabit speed internet access in future Google Fiber cities. This could allow them to run fiber to the block, and use wireless distribution for the last-mile. Potentially, a cheaper alternative to costly fiber roll-outs to individual homes.

High frequency spectrum is "not an unreasonable way to think about replacing fiber to the home," McFarland said. "However you'd need a clear line of sight. You could have something on a telephone pole on the street, and you could point it at an antenna on top of your house. As long as you had no obstructions, you could get multiple gigabits per second."