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Australia Discontinues Its National Biometric ID Project
Posted by News Fetcher on June 18 '18 at 06:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-road department:
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's (ACIC) biometrics project, which adds facial recognition to a national crime database, is being discontinued following reports of delays and budget blowouts. From a report: This announcement comes after the project was suspended earlier this month and NEC Australia staff were escorted out of the building by security on Monday June 4. [...] ACIC contracted the NEC for the $52 million Biometric Identification Services project with the view of replacing the fingerprint identification system that is currently in place. The aim of the project, which was supposed to run until 2021, was to include palm print, foot prints and facial recognition to aid in police investigations. The Australian government stated that it wanted to provide Australians with a single digital identity by 2025.

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Dutch Town Uses High-Tech Streetlights To Keep Their Bats Happy
Posted by News Fetcher on June 18 '18 at 02:40 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bat-friendly-city department:
Since streetlights disturb bats' internal sensors and rhythms and affect their feeding patterns, inner compasses, and general nocturnal behaviors, the Dutch town of Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop is taking action. The town is using special streetlights that emit a red color and use a wavelength that doesn't interfere with a bat's internal compass and lets them feed undisturbed. The Next Web reports: The lights [developed by Signify and the University of Wageningen and other NGO's active in conservation], being both beneficial for bats and humans alike, are also proving to be extremely energy saving, and is therefore also a big plus for the environment and the town's carbon footprint. The lights are connected LED lights that can be controlled remotely. This means that if there is one particular neighborhood in need of more or less light, this can be adjusted as needed.

Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop, due to their specific natural surroundings, is keen on being a sustainable town. The town and its surrounding area are part of the nature-protection network Natura 2000, which protects breeding and nesting areas for rare and threatened species all over Europe.

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New Commercial Amiga 500 Game Released
Posted by News Fetcher on June 18 '18 at 12:00 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
Mike Bouma writes: Pixelglass, known for their "Giana Sisters SE" game, has released a worthy new game for the Amiga 500, called "Worthy." Here's a description of this cute action puzzler: "Assume the role of a fearless boy and collect the required number of diamonds in each stage in order to win the girl's heart! Travel from maze to maze, kill the baddies, avoid the traps, collect beers (your necessary 'fuel' to keep you going), find the diamonds, prove to her you're WORTHY!" Time to dust off that classic Amiga or alternatively download a digital copy and use an UAE emulator for your platform of choice. Have a look at the release trailer.

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Man Reports PillCam Stuck In His Gut For Over 12 Weeks
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 08:00 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pain-in-the-ass department:
A Portland man appears to have a pill-sized camera stuck in his gut. That man is me... Let me explain.

For the average Joe, the following statement might sound a bit peculiar: I have swallowed a pill-sized camera a number of times. You see, I have Crohn's Disease (CD) in the small intestine -- a 20 foot-long portion of the gastrointestinal tract that runs between the stomach and the large intestine (colon). A "PillCam" is the most non-invasive, detailed method to survey this area as it doesn't require a scope up the rectum or down the esophagus, nor does it require any tissue slicing. It's also one of the safest procedures available -- the retention rate is as low as 1%. Unfortunately, this most recent capsule endoscopy resulted in my admission to the 1% club.

On March 27th, 2018, I swallowed the PillCam that is currently lodged in my small intestine. If you do the math, that's more than 82 days ago (over 12 weeks). After hiking Smith Rock and summiting Black Butte a couple weeks later, I thought for sure the pill would have exited. It didn't, as evident by the follow-up X-ray. It can be difficult to find research on such a what-if scenario that happens to so few, but I did manage to find a Motherboard article telling the story of Scott Willis, a CD patient that had a PillCam lodged in his gut for eight weeks. One of the key differences between him and me is that he had a partial block and endured more symptoms, prompting him to schedule a procedure to get it out quicker. I'm relatively symptom free.

< article continued at Slashdot's pain-in-the-ass department >

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Gaming Companies Remove Analytics App After Massive User Outcry
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
An anonymous reader writes: "Several gaming companies have announced plans to remove support for an analytics app they have bundled with their games," reports Bleeping Computer. "The decision to remove the app came after several Reddit and Steam users noticed that many game publishers have recently embedded a controversial analytics SDK (software development kit) part of recent updates to their games. The program bundled with all these games, and at the heart of all the recent controversy, is RedShell, an analytics package provided by Innervate, Inc., to game publishers." The app is intended to collect information about the source of new game installs, and details about the gamer. Following a massive user outcry in the past two weeks, several game makers have given in to pressure and are removing this SDK. Game makers and games who announced they were removing RedShell include Bethesda (Elder Scrolls), All Total War games, Warhammer games, Magic the Gathering Arena, and more. [This Google Docs spreadsheet and Reddit thread have a list of games containing RedShell. ]

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Fake Earthquake Detected In Mexico City After Player's Goal In World Cup Match
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 04:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's goal-goal-goal department:
According to officials in Mexico, an artificial earthquake was reported in Mexico City that was possibly caused by "massive jumps during the goal from the Mexico national soccer team" on Sunday. KABC reports: Hirving Lozano scored the lone goal in the 35th minute, picking up Javier Hernandez's pass inside the penalty area and beating Mesut Ozil before shooting past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from 10 yards. The goal decided the match -- a match Germany didn't expect to lose. Mexico upset Germany, the defending champion, 1-0. The loss meant Germany became the third defending champion in the last 16 years to lose its opening match at the World Cup. "Two monitoring stations in Mexico City picked up the temblor the same time Lozano scored, 35 minutes into the match," reports USA Today. "Seismologists in Chile also said that their instruments detected an artificial temblor at the same time."

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Gmail Proves That Some People Hate Smart Suggestions
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 02:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-so-smart-after-all department:
Citing a number of complaints following Google's Gmail makeover, TechCrunch's Romain Dillet makes the case for why some users don't want smart suggestions in the email service: There's a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don't want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter. A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That's why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing. But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking. VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google's order.

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Diversity At Google Hasn't Changed Much Over the Last Year
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 01:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-for-a-new-strategy department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

"Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

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Venmo Is Going All In On Mobile Payments
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 12:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's welcome-to-2018 department:
Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited."

The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

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Sony's PlayStation 5 Will Launch In 2020 Powered By An AMD Navi GPU, Says Report
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 10:41 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
According to a new report from WCCFtech, citing "sources familiar with the entire situation," Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5 for short) will launch in 2020 and be powered by AMD's Navi GPU chip. "While it was previously reported that the much-anticipated console will be using AMD's Ryzen CPU tech, it looks like the chip maker will have some involvement in the PS5's graphics chip, too," reports The Inquirer. From the report: The report also suggests this is the reason behind AMD not announcing a new GPU at Computex this year, because it has found custom-applications for consoles a much more financially attractive space. "Here is a fun fact: Vega was designed primarily for Apple and Navi is being designed for Sony - the PS5 to be precise," the report states, right before going on to explain AMD's roadmap for Navi and how it's dependent on Sony. "This meant that the graphics department had to be tied directly to the roadmap that these semi-custom applications followed. Since Sony needed the Navi GPU to be ready by the time the PS5 would launch (expectedly around 2020) that is the deadline they needed to work on." It's anyone's guess as to when the successor to the PlayStation 4 will be launched. While the source for this report is seen as reputable in the games industry, last month the head of PlayStation business said the next console is three years off.

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Studies Find Evidence That Meditation Is Demotivating
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 09:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's trendy-business-practices department:
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by behavioral scientists Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack: The practical payoff of mindfulness [meditation] is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience. But on the face of it, mindfulness might seem counterproductive in a workplace setting. To test this hunch, we recently conducted five studies, involving hundreds of people, to see whether there was a tension between mindfulness and motivation. As we report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, we found strong evidence that meditation is demotivating.

< article continued at Slashdot's trendy-business-practices department >

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Was the Stanford Prison Experiment a Sham?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 09:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's something-you-know-about-something-important-is-wrong department:
Frosty Piss writes: The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1971 by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power by focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. In the study, volunteers were randomly assigned to be either "guards" or "prisoners" in a mock prison, with Zimbardo serving as the superintendent. The results seemed to show that the students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers' request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. After Berkeley graduate Douglas Korpi appeared to have a nervous breakdown while playing the role of an inmate, the experiment was shut down. There's just one problem: Korpi's breakdown was a sham. Dr. Ben Blum took to Medium to publish his claims. "Blum's expose -- based on previously unpublished recordings of Zimbardo, a Stanford psychology professor, and interviews with the participants -- offers evidence that the 'guards' were coached to be cruel," reports New York Post. "One of the men who acted as an inmate told Blum he enjoyed the experiment because he knew the guards couldn't actually hurt him." "There were no repercussions. We knew [the guards] couldn't hurt us, they couldn't hit us. They were white college kids just like us, so it was a very safe situation," said Douglas Korpi, who was 22-years-old when he acted as an inmate in the study. The Berkeley grad now admits the whole thing was fake. Zimbardo also "admitted that he was an active participant in the study, meaning he had influence over the results," reports New York Post. According to an audio recording from the Stanford archive, you can hear Zimbardo encouraging the guards to act "tough."

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US Government Finds New Malware From North Korea
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 08:01 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-kid-on-the-block department:
Days after the historic North Korea-United States summit, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Thursday warning of a new variant of North Korean malware to look out for. Called Typeframe, the malware is able to download and install additional malware, proxies and trojans; modify firewalls; and connect to servers for additional instructions. Engadget reports: Since last May, the DHS has issued a slew of alerts and reports about North Korea's malicious cyber activity. The department also pointed out that North Korea has been hacking countries around the world since 2009. And of course, don't forget that the U.S. also labeled that country as the source of Wannacry cyberattack, which notably held data from the UK's National Health Service hostage, and wreaked havoc across Russia and Ukraine. CNN was first to report the news.

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Machine Figures Out Rubik's Cube Without Human Assistance
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 06:41 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hands-free department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: [Stephen McAleer and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine] have pioneered a new kind of deep-learning technique, called "autodidactic iteration," that can teach itself to solve a Rubik's Cube with no human assistance. The trick that McAleer and co have mastered is to find a way for the machine to create its own system of rewards. Here's how it works. Given an unsolved cube, the machine must decide whether a specific move is an improvement on the existing configuration. To do this, it must be able to evaluate the move. Autodidactic iteration does this by starting with the finished cube and working backwards to find a configuration that is similar to the proposed move. This process is not perfect, but deep learning helps the system figure out which moves are generally better than others. Having been trained, the network then uses a standard search tree to hunt for suggested moves for each configuration.

The result is an algorithm that performs remarkably well. "Our algorithm is able to solve 100% of randomly scrambled cubes while achieving a median solve length of 30 moves -- less than or equal to solvers that employ human domain knowledge," say McAleer and co. That's interesting because it has implications for a variety of other tasks that deep learning has struggled with, including puzzles like Sokoban, games like Montezuma's Revenge, and problems like prime number factorization. The paper on the algorithm -- called DeepCube -- is available on Arxiv.

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NASA's Most Experienced Astronaut Retires, Spent 665 Days In Space
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 04:00 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's final-frontiers department:
An anonymous reader quotes UPI:
After nearly four decades with NASA, including 22 years as an astronaut, Peggy Whitson is leaving the space agency. Her retirement is effective Friday, NASA announced... Whitson ends her career with multiple records to her name, including most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut -- 665 days...
The 57-year-old Whitson was a scientist before she was an astronaut, earning graduate degrees in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston before coming to conduct research at NASA's Johnson Space Center in 1989. The NASA scientist began training as an astronaut in 1996. She made her first trip to the International Space Station in 2008. During her time in space, including three long-duration stints aboard International Space Station, she helped carry out 21 science investigation and became the agency's first space station science officer... Whitson took a second turn as commander during Expedition 51, part of her most recent -- and last -- stay on the space station, which spanned from November 2016 to September 2017.

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Personal Flying Machine Contest Gets 600 Entries
Posted by News Fetcher on June 17 '18 at 12:00 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's come-sail-away department:
"A giant egg equipped with rotors and 'Transformers'-style robots are among some of the creative designs submitted in a $2 million dollar contest to dream up new ways of flying," reports CNN.

"GoFly, a $2 million competition to design personal flying machines backed by Boeing, has announced its first round of most promising designs out of 600 entries from around the world," writes harrymcc . "Proposed vehicles need to fly for at least 20 miles, at 35 miles an hour; many of the ideas look a bit like airborne motorcycles."

Fast Company reports:
"There's been a convergence of all of these breakthrough technologies that makes this the first moment in time where we have the ability to make people fly," says Gwen Lighter, who dreamed up the GoFly prize, recruited Boeing to bankroll it, and now serves as CEO. Many of the advances come from the world of drones -- "high-efficiency motors, high-capacity batteries, and cheap navigation and stabilizing technologies that keep even newbies on course and out of danger....
Their prototypes have to achieve vertical takeoff and landing (called VTOL), eliminating the need for an airport runway... The craft have to be small enough to fit within an 8.5-foot circle, and they have to be safe and manageable for anyone to operate -- "not just engineers or daredevils... GoFly's Lighter emphasizes that safety is a key requirement in judging. She says that whatever wins will be well on the way to meeting requirements of the FAA -- and regulatory bodies in other countries -- for mainstream operation. FAA staffers (in a non-official capacity) are even among GoFly's expert advisors.
Best of all, every participant -- even those who win the prize money -- "are free to take their innovations anywhere. They retain all intellectual property rights."

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'The Word Hack is Meaningless and Should Be Retired'
Posted by News Fetcher on June 16 '18 at 09:20 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's word-of-the-day department:
An anonymous reader quotes The Next Web:
The word 'hack' used to mean something, and hackers were known for their technical brilliance and creativity. Now, literally anything is a hack -- anything -- to the point where the term is meaningless, and should be retired. The most egregious abuse of the term "hack" comes from the BBC's Dougal Shaw. In a recent video of his, called "My lunch hack," Shaw demonstrates that it's cheaper to make your own sandwich each day than it is to buy a pre-packaged sandwich from the supermarket. Shaw calls that a hack. I call it common sense.
And that's not nearly the worst example. I haven't touched on "life hacks" yet. This term is nebulous. It means nothing and anything. It's used to describe arts and crafts... That said, the worst dilution of the term "hack" comes from growth hackers... Anyway, I regret to inform you that the word "hack" is now bad, and should be avoided.
A request for alternative words first went up on Slashdot back in 1999 -- but nothing's been settled. Back in 2014 a Gizmodo reporter wrote an impassioned plea titled "Please stop calling everything a hack" -- while others have argued the opposite.

in 2015 the editorial director of Make magazine cited hack's definition in The New Hacker's Dictionary as "an appropriate application of ingenuity," arguing that "my and other Make contributors' use of the term for clever shop techniques, ingeniously simple projects, and epic 'kluges' (i.e. Rube Goldberg-level hacks and fixes) is entirely appropriate."

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America's Nuclear Reactors Can't Survive Without Government Handouts
Posted by News Fetcher on June 16 '18 at 06:40 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's powering-down department:
Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight:
There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion....
[I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.
A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.
The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."

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After a Decade, 77-Year-Old Gets Back $110,000 Lost In 'Nigerian Prince' Scam
Posted by News Fetcher on June 16 '18 at 04:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cash-back department:
Slashdot reader grep -v '.*' * shares a surprising story. The Kansas City Star profiles the victim of a three-year con that started with an email to a Yahoo inbox back in 2005.
A decade ago, Fred Haines was wandering the Wichita airport looking for a Nigerian man hauling two chests full of cash. After an hour of waiting and asking around, he finally came to the realization that the $65 million Nigerian fortune he thought he was inheriting was not coming after all. What is now coming, though, is the $110,000 he had been scammed out of, thanks to the work of the Kansas Attorney General's Office.
< article continued at Slashdot's cash-back department >

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Prosecution of UK News Photographer Collapses After Recording Disproves Police Testimony
Posted by News Fetcher on June 16 '18 at 02:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's entering-into-evidence department:
Slashdot reader Andy Smith writes: Slashdot reported last September how I was arrested while standing in a field near a road accident, as I photographed the scene for a newspaper. I was initially given a police warning for "obstruction", but the warning was then cancelled and I was prosecuted for resisting arrest and breach of the peace. These are serious charges and I was facing a prison sentence. Fortunately we had one very strong piece of evidence: A recording of my arrest. Not only did the recording prove that two police officers' testimony was false, but it caught one of them boasting about how he had conspired with a prosecutor to arrest and prosecute me. Yesterday the case was dropped, and now the two police officers and the prosecutor face a criminal investigation.

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