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Healthcare.gov and the Gulf Between Planning and Reality
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '13 at 07:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's if-at-first-you-don't-succeed department:
An anonymous reader writes in with this excerpt from Shirky.com. "The idea that 'failure is not an option' is a fantasy version of how non-engineers should motivate engineers. That sentiment was invented by a screenwriter, riffing on an after-the-fact observation about Apollo 13; no one said it at the time. (If you ever say it, wash your mouth out with soap. If anyone ever says it to you, run.) Even NASA's vaunted moonshot, so often referred to as the best of government innovation, tested with dozens of unmanned missions first, several of which failed outright. Failure is always an option. Engineers work as hard as they do because they understand the risk of failure. And for anything it might have meant in its screenplay version, here that sentiment means the opposite; the unnamed executives were saying 'Addressing the possibility of failure is not an option.' ... Healthcare.gov was unable to complete even a thousand enrollments a day at launch, and for weeks afterwards. As we now know, programmers, stakeholders, and testers all expressed reservations about Healthcare.gov's ability to do what it was supposed to do. Yet no one who understood the problems was able to tell the President. Worse, every senior political figure—every one—who could have bridged the gap between knowledgeable employees and the President decided not to. And so it was that, even on launch day, the President was allowed to make things worse for himself and his signature program by bragging about the already-failing site and inviting people to log in and use something that mostly wouldn't work. Whatever happens to government procurement or hiring (and we should all hope those things get better) a culture that prefers deluding the boss over delivering bad news isn't well equipped to try new things.'"

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Geeks For Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '13 at 06:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's I-wish-to-subscribe-to-your-newsletter department:
Third Position writes "Many of us yearn for a return to one golden age or another. But there's a community of bloggers taking the idea to an extreme: they want to turn the dial way back to the days before the French Revolution. Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good. They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy."

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San Quentin Inmates Learn Technology From Silicon Valley Pros
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '13 at 05:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's information-flows-both-ways department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Washington Post reports that a rigorous, six-month training program launched by successful tech entrepreneurs for inmates in the decaying San Quentin State Prison is teaching carefully selected inmates the ins and outs of designing and launching technology firms, using local experts as volunteer instructors and the graduates, now trickling out of the penal system, are landing real jobs at real dot-coms. 'We believe that when incarcerated people are released into the world, they need the tools to function in today's high-tech, wired world,' says co-founder Beverly Parenti, who with her husband, Chris Redlitz, has launched thriving companies, including AdAuction, the first online media exchange. During twice-a-week evening lessons, students — many locked up before smartphones or Google— practice tweeting, brainstorm new companies and discuss business books assigned as homework. Banned from the Internet to prevent networking with other criminals, they take notes on keyboard-like word processors or with pencil on paper. The program is still 'bootstrapping,' as its organizers say, with just 12 graduates in its first two years and now a few dozen in classes in San Quentin and Twin Towers. But the five graduates released so far are working in the tech sector. 'This program will go a long way to not only providing these guys with jobs, but it is my hope that they hire people like them who have changed their lives and are now ready to contribute to society, pay taxes, follow the law, support their families,' says former California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation director Matthew Cate who adds he made the right decision to approve the training course. 'All those things contribute to the economy.'"

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Single-Atom Layer of Tin May Be a New Wonder Conductor
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '13 at 03:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-does-it-have-heart? department:
At Kurzweil AI, an article proclaims that the next wonder material for computer chips may be an unexpectedly common one:
"Move over, graphene. 'Stanene' — a single layer of tin atoms — could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University." (Original paper is available here, but paywalled.)

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Singapore & South Korea Help NSA Tap Undersea Cables
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '13 at 01:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's friends-in-need-with-lots-of-guns department:
An anonymous reader writes "Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since much of Indonesia's telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore. The NSA has a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan. Japan had refused to take part."

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Apple Officializes Purchase of Motion-Sensor Firm PrimeSense
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 10:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's have-it-wrapped-and-delivered department:
The reports that Apple was to buy Israeli 3-D sensor maker PrimeSense have turned out to be correct; the BBC reports that Apple has confirmed the purchase, though it is mum both about the price it paid and about where 3D sensors are likely to show up first in the Apple lineup. Also at the Register and Apple Insider, among others.

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Image Lifted From Twitter Leads to $1.2M Payout For Haitian Photog
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 07:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's always-look-for-the-cc-label department:
magic maverick writes "A U.S. federal jury has ordered Agence France-Presse and Getty Images to pay $1.2 million to a Daniel Morel, Haitian photographer, for their unauthorized use of photographs, from the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The images, posted to Twitter, were taken by an editor at AFP and then provided to Getty. A number of other organizations had already settled out of court with the photographer."

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CMU AI Learning Common Sense By Watching the Internet
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 05:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's sound-of-sensors-getting-really-big department:
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from the Washington Post "Researchers are trying to plant a digital seed for artificial intelligence by letting a massive computer system browse millions of pictures and decide for itself what they all mean. The system at Carnegie Mellon University is called NEIL, short for Never Ending Image Learning. In mid-July, it began searching the Internet for images 24/7 and, in tiny steps, is deciding for itself how those images relate to each other. The goal is to recreate what we call common sense — the ability to learn things without being specifically taught."

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Kdenlive Developer Jean-Baptiste Mardelle Is Missing
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's hope-all-is-well department:
jones_supa writes "Kdenlive's project leader Jean-Baptiste Mardelle, who always used to let people know if he was going to be away for a couple of days, seems to have just disappeared. His last e-mail and blog post were in early July and they didn't suggest any problems. While there's many Kdenlive fans out there for the KDE-focused open-source video editor, it seems new development efforts around the project have ceased. Also the Kdenlive Git repository hasn't seen any new commits (aside from the automated l10n daemon script) since early July. There has been also people in KDE forums and Kdenlive developers' mailing list pondering about the status of the project, being left none the wiser."

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Study Suggests Link Between Dread Pirate Roberts and Satoshi Nakamoto
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 02:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's now-he's-gonna-get-you-too department:
wabrandsma writes "Two Israeli computer scientists say they may have uncovered a puzzling financial link between Ross William Ulbricht, the recently arrested operator of the Internet black market known as the Silk Road, and the secretive inventor of bitcoin, the anonymous online currency, used to make Silk Road purchases."

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China Creates Air Defence Zone Over Japan-Controlled Islands, Issues War Threat
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 01:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's halt-who-goes-there department:
cold fjord writes "France24 reports, "Beijing on Saturday announced it was setting up an 'air defence identification zone' over an area that includes islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China, in a move that could inflame the bitter territorial row. Along with the creation of the zone in the East China Sea, the defence ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that must be followed by all planes entering the area, under penalty of intervention by the military. Aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to 'respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries' from Chinese authorities. The outline of the new zone ... covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan that includes the Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkakus to Japan and Diaoyous to China. "China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions," according to the ministry. ' The Politico adds, "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday the United States is 'deeply concerned'" over the move. Spiegel Online has background on the conflict with Japan and on related regional issues. This announcement follows the recent publication in Chinese state media of maps showing nuclear strike plans against the U.S."

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Code.org: More Money For CS Instructors Who Teach More Girls
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 01:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's achieving-a-particular-balance department:
theodp writes "The same cast of billionaire characters — Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Eric Schmidt — is backing FWD.us, which is lobbying Congress for more visas to 'meet our workforce needs,' as well as Code.org, which aims to popularize Computer Science education in the U.S. to address a projected CS job shortfall. In laying out the two-pronged strategy for the Senate, Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith argued that providing more kids with a STEM education — particularly CS — was 'an issue of critical importance to our country.' But with its K-8 learn-to-code program which calls for teachers to receive 25% less money if fewer than 40% of their CS students are girls, Smith's Code.org is sending the message that training too many boys isn't an acceptable solution to the nation's CS crisis. 'When 10 or more students complete the course,' explains Code.org, "you will receive a $750 DonorsChoose.org gift code. If 40% or more of your participating students are female, you'll receive an additional $250, for a total gift of $1,000 in DonorsChoose.org funding!" The $1+ million Code.org-DonorsChoose CS education partnership appears to draw inspiration from a $5 million Google-DoonorsChoose STEM education partnership which includes nebulous conditions that disqualify schools from AP STEM funding if projected participation by female students in AP STEM programs is deemed insufficient. So, are Zuckerberg, Gates, Ballmer, and Schmidt walking-the-gender-diversity-talk at their own companies? Not according to the NY Times, which just reported that women still account for only about 25% of all employees at Code.org supporters Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. By the way, while not mentioning these specific programs, CNET reports that Slashdot owner Dice supports the STEM efforts of Code.org and Donors Choose."

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If You Want To Code From Home, Learn JavaScript
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 11:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ocaml-guys-all-work-from-spaceships department:
itwbennett writes "Earlier this month, remote-work cheerleader and Basecamp developer 37signals launched a job board called WeWorkRemotely.com that is, you guessed it, devoted to telecommuting jobs. At present there are only a couple hundred jobs listed on the site, so you'll still have to use other job boards as well. (Dice, SimplyHired, and Craigslist all have filters for finding remote working jobs.) But here's another thing that will help you land a work-from-home gig: Learn JavaScript. ITworld's Phil Johnson looked at a number of job postings for software developers open to people wanting to work remotely and then compared the frequency with which a number of popular programming languages and technologies were mentioned by the postings to determine the top tech skills for telecommuting jobs. Not surprisingly, the ubiquitous JavaScript topped the list, being mentioned in just over 20% of these listings. Other languages and tools used for the web are high up the list as well: jQuery at #3 (12.5%), PHP at #5 (9.5%) in the fifth spot, iOS at #8 (5.6%)."

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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Stop a Debt Collection Scam From Targeting You?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 10:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's have-you-considered-just-going-into-debt? department:
An anonymous reader writes "I'm currently being targeted by an overseas debt collection scam. My landline rings every 10-15 minutes all day every day. I considered getting a blacklisting device to block the incoming calls, but the call center spoofs a different number on my caller ID each time, and it's gotten to the point where I've just unplugged the phones. I'm already on the Do No Call Registry and have filed a complaint with the FTC. Aside from ditching my landline, changing my number, and/or blowing a whistle into the receiver anytime I actually pick up, are there any real solutions out there? Has anybody had luck with a blacklisting device?"

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Make Way For "Mutant" Crops As GM Foods Face Opposition
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 10:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's pure-safe-organic-pesticide-free-nightshade department:
squiggleslash writes "The concerns, legitimate or otherwise, about genetically modified foods such as Monsanto's Round-up Ready soy-beans, may be causing unintended consequences: Monsanto's rivals such as BASF are selling 'naturally' mutated seeds where extreme exposure to ultra-violet is used to increase the rate of mutations in seeds, a process called mutagenesis. These seeds end up with many of the same properties, such as herbicide resistance, as GM seeds, but inevitably end up with other, uncontrolled, mutations too. The National Academy of Sciences warns that there's a much higher risk of unintentionally creating seeds that have active health risks through mutagenesis than by other means, including relatively controlled genetic engineering, presumably because of the blind indiscriminate nature of mutations caused by the process. But because mutagenesis is effectively an acceleration of the natural system of evolution, it's very difficult to regulate."

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The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's if-only-he-was-an-analyst-and-therapist department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Joseph Stromberg writes at the Smithsonian that one afternoon in October 2005, neuroscientist James Fallon was sifting through thousands of PET scans to find anatomical patterns in the brain that correlated with psychopathic tendencies in the real world. 'Out of serendipity, I was also doing a study on Alzheimer's and as part of that, had brain scans from me and everyone in my family right on my desk,' writes Fallon. 'I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological.' When he looked up the code, he was greeted by an unsettling revelation: the psychopathic brain pictured in the scan was his own. When he underwent a series of genetic tests, he got more bad news. 'I had all these high-risk alleles for aggression, violence and low empathy,' he says, such as a variant of the MAO-A gene that has been linked with aggressive behavior. It wasn't entirely a shock to Fallon, as he'd always been aware that he was someone especially motivated by power and manipulating others. Additionally, his family line included seven alleged murderers, including Lizzie Borden, infamously accused of killing her father and stepmother in 1892. Many of us would hide this discovery and never tell a soul, out of fear or embarrassment of being labeled a psychopath. Perhaps because boldness and disinhibition are noted psychopathic tendencies, Fallon has gone in the opposite direction, telling the world about his finding in a TED Talk, an NPR interview and now a new book published last month, The Psychopath Inside. 'Since finding all this out and looking into it, I've made an effort to try to change my behavior,' says Fallon. 'I've more consciously been doing things that are considered "the right thing to do," and thinking more about other people's feelings.'"

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NYT: Healthcare.gov Project Chaos Due Partly To Unorthodox Database Choice
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 07:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's even-if-it's-perfectly-nice department:
First time accepted submitter conoviator writes "The NY Times has just published a piece providing more background on the healthcare.gov software project. One interesting aspect: 'Another sore point was the Medicare agency's decision to use database software, from a company called MarkLogic, that managed the data differently from systems by companies like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. CGI officials argued that it would slow work because it was too unfamiliar. Government officials disagreed, and its configuration remains a serious problem.'" The story does not say that MarkLogic's software is bad in itself, only that the choice meant increased complexity on the project.

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Tapping Data From Radio-Controlled Bus Stop Displays
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 07:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's how-to-get-hypnotized department:
jones_supa writes "A couple of weeks ago hacker Oona Räisänen told about finding a 16 kbps data stream on FM broadcast frequencies, and her suspicion was that it's being used by the public transit display system in Helsinki, Finland. Now it's time to find out the truth. She had the opportunity to observe a display stuck in the middle of its bootup sequence, displaying a version string. This revealed that the system is called IBus and it's made by the Swedish company Axentia. Sure enough, their website talks about DARC and how it requires no return channel, making it possible to use battery-powered displays in remote areas. Other than that, there are no public specs for the proprietary protocol. So she implemented the five-layer DARC protocol stack in Perl and was left with a stream of fully error-corrected packets on top of Layer 5, separated into hundreds of subchannels. Some of these contained human-readable strings with names of terminal stations. They seemed like an easy starting point for reverse engineering..."

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Twitter Implements Forward Secrecy For Connections
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 05:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's nsa-sad-it-doesn't-know-what-you-ate-five-minutes-ago department:
Fnord666 writes with this excerpt from Tech Crunch "Twitter has enabled Perfect Forward Secrecy across its mobile site, website and API feeds in order to protect against future cracking of the service's encryption. The PFS method ensures that, if the encryption key Twitter uses is cracked in the future, all of the past data transported through the network does not become an open book right away. 'If an adversary is currently recording all Twitter users' encrypted traffic, and they later crack or steal Twitter's private keys, they should not be able to use those keys to decrypt the recorded traffic,' says Twitter's Jacob Hoffman-Andrews. 'As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, this type of protection is increasingly important on today's Internet.'"

Of course, they are also using Elliptic Curve ciphers.

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The Double Life of Memory Exposed With Automata Processor
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '13 at 02:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's perl-accelerator department:
An anonymous reader writes "As Nicole Hemsoth over at HPCwire reports 'In a nutshell, the Automata processor is a programmable silicon device that lends itself to handing high speed search and analysis across massive, complex, unstructured data. As an alternate processing engine for targeted areas, it taps into the inner parallelism inherent to memory to provide a robust and absolutely remarkable, if early benchmarks are to be believed, option for certain types of processing.'"

Basically, the chip is designed solely to process Nondeterministic Finite Automata and can explore all valid paths of an NFA in parallel, hiding the whole O(n^2) complexity thing. Micron has a stash of technical documents including a paper covering the design and development of the chip. Imagine how fast you can process regexes now.

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