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Commentary: Yes, governments should open source their custom code. But more than that is needed.

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For Drupal (and Acquia) founder Dries Buytaert, “the default [in government] should be ‘developed with public money, make it public code.'” That is, if a government is paying for software to be created, that software should be available under an open source license. While he acknowledged there might be exceptions (e.g., for military applications, as I’ve called out), his suggestion makes sense.

Years ago I argued that government mandates of open source made no sense. I still feel that way. Governments (and enterprises) should use whatever software best enables them to get work done. Increasingly, that software will be open source. But when good open source alternatives don’t yet exist, it makes no sense to mandate the use of suboptimal software. 

But software that governments create? There’s no compelling citizen-focused reason for closing it off. Instead, there are many reasons to open it up.

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Of the people, by the people, for the people

This topic of why countries should embrace open source is an easy argument to make. As Buytaert pointed out, if public money pays for the code to be developed, why wouldn’t that code be available to the public (except, as mentioned, in the case of sensitive military software)? 

Some countries have already gone this route. As I detailed in 2016, Bulgaria is one of them. A few years later, Bulgaria has been preparing its own national source code repository, based on Git (as required by law: “administrative authorities shall use public storage and control systems for the source code and technical documentation for development, upgrading or deployment of information systems or electronic services”). 

This is a significant step toward greater transparency. However, it’s not enough.

SEE: Open source can thrive in a recession says Drupal creator Dries Buytaert (TechRepublic)

Collaborating on common government issues

As much as I understand Bulgaria’s desire to build its own source code repository, there’s even greater need for governments to collaborate on code beyond their borders. Think about it: Governments tend to do the same things, like collecting taxes, issuing parking tickets, etc. Currently, each government builds (or buys) software to tackle these tasks. Obscene quantities of custom code are created each year by government organizations operating in silos.

Why isn’t the city of Bogota sharing software with London, which shares software with Lagos, which shares software with Pocatello (that’s in Idaho, by the way)? 

As IBM president (and former Red Hat CEO) Jim Whitehurst said way back in 2009, “The waste in IT software development is extraordinary….Ultimately, for open source to provide value to all of our customers worldwide, we need to get our customers not only as users of open source products but truly engaged in open source and taking part in the development community.” This is particularly true in government, where there isn’t even the competitive pressure (e.g., Bogota doesn’t compete with Pocatello) that might prevent large financial institutions from collaborating (though even they partner on open source).

So, yes, we need governments to open source the software they pay to have built, to Buytaert’s point. But we also need those same governments to share that code beyond their borders, thereby driving greater innovation at lower cost for their citizens. 

Disclosure: I work for AWS but the views expressed herein are mine, not those of my employer.

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Xbox Series X and Series S restock: Where to buy this week

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Xboxes are hot commodities this holiday shopping season. Here’s how to find and buy an Xbox Series X and Series S this week amid high demand.

Image: Target

On Nov. 10, Microsoft’s $500 Xbox Series X and the $300 Xbox Series S hit the market with plenty of fanfare. Since the debut, stores have quickly sold out of available options and others are quickly purchased as companies restock physical and virtual shelves. That said, it’s been difficult for many individuals to purchase a new Xbox Series X and Series S. To assist, we’ve created a list of options to consider as stores receive shipments and restock shelves in the days ahead. We will update this article periodically with new information as items become available.

SEE: Guide to becoming a digital transformation champion (TechRepublic Premium)

Where to buy the Xbox Series X and Series S

Newegg is offering a bundle pack including a Series X with an Xbox core controller for $550. However, the bundle as well as the standalone model are unavailable. Those so inclined can register for an auto-notification to receive updates about future availability. Newegg is also offering an Xbox Series S bundle with an included Xbox core controller for $350. However, this bundle as well as the standalone Series S are both unavailable. The auto-notification option is also available for the Series S.

On the Microsoft website, people can click a button to “select a retailer” to view available Series X and Series S options. Standalone Xbox Series X models are currently out of stock at Best Buy, GameStop, Target, and Walmart, according to the pop-up on Microsoft’s site. Similarly, standalone Series S models were also out of stock at these retailers, per the Microsoft website.

We also tried to locate available Series S and Series X models on Best Buy, GameStop, Target, and Walmart directly.

Both the Series X and Series S are unavailable at Best Buy. This could change throughout the day as the retailer receives shipments and restocks shelves. As we reported earlier this week, Best Buy often restock at midnight and shoppers may consider checking the website closer to the time.

Both the Series X and the Series S digital edition are unavailable on GameStop. However, similar to other retailers, GameStop could restock shelves intermittently throughout the day. With such high demand, individuals may need to frequent a number of retailer websites and refresh the pages to potentially snag a model as they are made available.

On Target’s website, Xbox Series S and Series X models are available for pick-up or drive-up customers only. However, neither of the models are in stock on Target’s website.

On Thursday morning, Walmart Canada Gaming announced on Twitter that it had postponed an Xbox release originally scheduled for 12 pm Eastern. Both the Xbox Series X and Series S are unavailable on Walmart’s website. Again, this could change as the store receives shipments and restocks shelves. On Amazon, the Series X is currently unavailable. The Series S is available from the BuBuZon storefront with 65% positive ratings in the last year, based on 427 Amazon ratings.

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Scientists discover why the heart slows down at night

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A consensus more than 90-years-old on the mechanisms which regulate the day-night rhythm in heart rate has been fundamentally challenged by an international team of scientists from Manchester, London, Milan, Maastricht, Trondheim and Montpellier.

The vagus nerve – one of the nerves of the autonomic nervous system which supplies internal organs including the heart – has long been thought to be responsible for the slower night-time heart rates.

Scientists discover why the heart slows down at night

But the University of Manchester-led study on mice and rats discovered that the vagus nerve is unlikely to be directly involved and instead of the sinus node – the heart’s natural pacemaker – has its own clock, a biological clock.

The sinus node, they find, knows when it is night and slows the heart rate accordingly.

The British Heart Foundation-funded findings, published in Heart Rhythm, shine new light on this fundamental biological question of why the heart rate is slower at night and why dangerously slow heart rates – called bradyarrhythmias – can occur when we’re asleep.

The team behind the study demonstrated that changes in the ‘funny channel’ – also known as HCN4, a key protein that controls the heart rate – at different times of the day and night can explain the changes in heart rate.

The team found that blocking the funny channel with ivabradine, an angina treatment, removed the difference in heart rate between day and night.

The team found a role for the clock gene called BMAL1 as a regulator of the funny channel and this could one day lead to a treatment for dangerous bradyarrhythmias when we’re asleep.

Though the research was carried out in mice and rats, funny channels and clock genes play similar roles in all mammals – including humans – which is why the research has a universal significance.

Lead author Dr Alicia D’Souza, a British Heart Foundation Intermediate Fellow from The University of Manchester said: “The heart slows down when we sleep and there can even be pauses between heartbeats. Strangely, this is especially true in elite athletes. The longest documented pause is 15 seconds – a very long time to wait for your next heartbeat!

“For the very first time, we have tested an alternative hypothesis that there is a circadian rhythm in the intrinsic pacemaker of the heart – the sinus node.

“Our study shows that in mice, this is indeed the case and that explains why the heart rate is slower at night.

“These basic mechanisms of heart rate regulation are conserved in mammals – including humans – and therefore widely accepted concepts that are taught in schools may one day need to be revised.”

The sinus node – sometimes known as the sinoatrial node – generates electrical impulses which cause the heart to beat. It consists of a cluster of cells in the upper part of the right upper chamber of the heart.

Previous assumptions about the vagus nerve’s impact on the heart were based on a technique-called ‘heart rate variability’.

There are over 26,000 scientific papers based on heart rate variability published over 60 years. But the team’s previous British Heart Foundation-funded work demonstrated that heart rate variability is fundamentally flawed and says nothing about the vagus nerve.

In the present study the authors used a range of measurements to assess electrical activity and genes in the heart’s pacemaker. These included studying heart rhythm and activity levels and further exploration of ionic currents, proteins and regulatory proteins called transcription factors.

Cali Anderson, a British Heart Foundation-funded PhD student and co-author added: “It is well known that the resting heart rate in humans varies over 24 hours and is higher during the day than at night.

“But for over 90 years, the daily changes in our heart rate has been – and we believe over simplistically – assumed to be the result of a more active vagus nerve at night.

“In the future these findings could have important therapeutic potential in the way we are able to understand and treat heart rhythm disturbances.”

Dr Noel Faherty, Senior Research Advisor at the BHF, said: “This research challenges a near century-old consensus on how heart rate is regulated.

“A slower heart rate at night by itself is quite normal in most people, but understanding the mechanisms that govern the heart’s basic functions are crucial building blocks for tackling more complicated questions about heart rhythm disturbances.

“Worryingly, our ability to fund research like this in the future is threatened by the devastating fall in income caused by a coronavirus. It is more important than ever that the public continue to support our work so that we can continue to make progress in treating and preventing heart and circulatory disease in the UK.”

Source: University of Manchester




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Amazon in Talks to Buy Podcast Publisher Wondery: Report

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Internet giant Amazon is in talks to buy podcast publisher Wondery, which serves up hit audio shows Dr. Death and Serial, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

West Hollywood-based Wondery boasts of being the world’s largest independent podcast publisher, and has reportedly also explored the potential for acquisition with Apple and Sony Music Entertainment.

Industry tracker Podtrac ranked Wondery as being the fourth most listened to podcast publisher in the US in November, with slightly more than 9 million people tuning in to audio programmes it hosts.

Podcasts have boomed in popularity, with people tuning in to hear compelling real or scripted stories as well as interviews.

Launched in 2016, Wondery has won audiences for shows such as Dr. Death, Dirty John, Business Wars, The Shrink Next Door, and Gladiator.

Wondery is seeking $300 million (roughly Rs. 2,200 crores) or more from a suitor, according to US media reports.

Amazon and Wondery both declined to comment on the report.

Word that Wondery is open to being bought comes as its chief executive Hernan Lopez defends himself against federal criminal charges over alleged bribes paid for broadcasting rights to major soccer tournaments while he worked as a Fox executive.

Amazon, which already offers some podcasts through its music app, is facing increased scrutiny from antitrust enforcers for its growing dominance over key sectors of the economy as it expands in retail and streaming media.


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