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Measles Cases Top Last Year's Total
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 08:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-not-a-competition department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: So far this year there have been 387 confirmed U.S. measles cases, more than 2018's full-year total and the second-largest number since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000 (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease has spread to 15 states in 2019, with six continuing outbreaks of three or more cases each in Washington, New York, New Jersey and California. The development has sparked new policies aimed at boosting inoculation and curbing misinformation about the measles vaccine.

Measles cases have has risen since 2000 as infected travelers bring the disease to the U.S. Those travelers -- unvaccinated foreign nationals or Americans who become infected abroad -- have spread the highly contagious disease to others in the U.S. who aren't vaccinated or hadn't previously had measles. These cases have fueled outbreaks in communities where large numbers of people haven't been inoculated because of personal or religious exemptions to the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The largest growth in infections since measles was eliminated totaled 23 outbreaks and 667 cases in 2014. Last year there were 17 outbreaks and 372 confirmed cases. The number of cases in 2019 could increase in the coming months. Measles is a seasonal disease, with cases rising in late winter and early spring in temperate climates, according to the World Health Organization.

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Justice Department Warns Academy About Changing Oscar Rules To Exclude Streaming
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 07:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's antitrust-concerns department:
The Justice Department has warned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that its potential rule changes limiting the eligibility of Netflix and other streaming services for the Oscars could raise antitrust concerns and violate competition law. From the report: According to a letter obtained by Variety, the chief of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, wrote to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson on March 21 to express concerns that new rules would be written "in a way that tends to suppress competition." "In the event that the Academy -- an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership -- establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns," Delrahim wrote. The letter came in response to reports that Steven Spielberg, an Academy board member, was planning to push for rules changes to Oscars eligibility, restricting movies that debut on Netflix and other streaming services around the same time that they show in theaters. Netflix made a big splash at the Oscars this year, as the movie "Roma" won best director, best foreign language film and best cinematography.

< article continued at Slashdot's antitrust-concerns department >

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iPad Mini Teardown Reveals a Frankenstein of Components From Different iPads
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 05:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-shiny department:
The updated fifth-generation iPad mini has been torn apart by iFixit, revealing an "amalgamation of components and designs from other iPads -- the internals of a previous iPad mini, the camera system of an iPad Pro, and the exterior design of an iPad Air," reports Ars Technica. From the report: iFixit has published its teardown of the new, fifth-generation iPad mini -- the first update to Apple's smaller-sized tablet since 2015. The iFixit team -- which sells gear for repairing and servicing gadgets and uses these teardown series to promote said gearâ"noted that the iPad mini looks on the outside like a smaller version of the new iPad Air. But on the inside, it's an updated iPad mini 4, the team wrote.

On opening the tablet up, iFixit discovered a 19.32Wh battery -- the same capacity as the previous-generation iPad mini. But there are some notable changes. The front-facing camera module has been updated to a 7-megapixel Æ'/2.2, like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. That's a marked improvement over the iPad mini 4. There's also Apple's A12 Bionic system-on-a-chip (the same found in the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR) with 3GB of LPDDR4X DRAM. The updated microphone array has been moved near the selfie cam, and new ambient light sensors support the True Tone feature, which adjusts the white balance of the display based on ambient light conditions for user comfort. The repair site gave the 2019 iPad mini a score of two out of 10 for repairability. "The only positive cited was that a single Phillips screwdriver can deal with all the screws in the device," Ars reports. "However, replacing the battery is 'unnecessarily difficult,' there's adhesive everywhere, and removing the home button (no small feat) is required in order to replace the screen."

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French ISPs Ordered To Block Sci-Hub, LibGen
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 05:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
The High Court of Paris has ordered several of the largest French ISPs to block access to the pirate libraries LibGen and Sci-Hub. "The decision is a setback for the sites that have come under increasing pressure, but Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan believes that determined researchers are smart enough to find an alternative route to her site," reports TorrentFreak. From the report: Following a complaint from academic publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature, Internet providers Bouygues, Free, Orange, and SFR have been ordered (PDF) to block access to Sci-Hub and LibGen sites for the year to come. In its decision, picked up by Next INpact, the French court ruled that the two sites "clearly claim to be pirate platforms rejecting the principle of copyright and bypassing publishers' subscription access portals."
The court order targets a total of 57 domain names, including various mirror sites. The academic publishers had asked the court for a more flexible blocklist, which they could update whenever new domains would become available, but this was denied. If the publishers want to expand the blocklist, they will have to go back to court. This ensures that there remains judicial oversight over local website blockades. Also, a request for a specific IP-address block was denied. The court sided with the ISPs, who argued that they should have the freedom to choose their own blocking method, including DNS blocking. That does mean, however, that the ISPs will also have to bear the costs. "The blockade will have some effect, though not very profound," says Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakya. "The people who are using Sci-Hub because they need access to research can still unblock it using VPN, TOR and etc."

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Google Will Require Temp Workers Receive $15 Minimum Wage, Parental Leave
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 04:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google said today that it would require its extended, non-employee workforce in the United States receive comprehensive health care coverage, a $15 minimum wage, and 12 weeks of parental leave. The move follows protests from employees and other workers at Google who have pushed the company to offer more benefits. Google relies on a massive staff of temporary, vendor, and contract workers, many of whom are supplied by third parties and aren't offered the same benefits as full Google employees. The disparity has led to calls for better conditions for the workers. Today, The Guardian reported that more than 900 employees have signed a letter supporting temporary workers whose contracts for work on Google Assistant were shortened.

In a statement announcing the changes, Google said it would require companies that provide temporary and vendor staff to offer health care benefits, including mental health, pediatric, oral, and dental services, as well as a minimum of eight paid days of sick leave. Workforce providers will also be required to pay workers at least $15 per hour and offer $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursement. The wage requirements will go into effect at the end of the year, Google said, and the health care requirements will start before 2022. The Tech Workers Coalition, which has organized tech industry workers, criticized that timeline. "Changes announced today apply to no one working right now -- but workers can't wait years to pay rent, see doctors and care for their families," the organization said in a tweet.

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Lego Education's Newest Spike Prime Programmable Robots Aim For the Classroom
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 04:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-kids department:
Lego Education, the education-focused arm of the veteran Denmark company, is making its biggest product debut in three years, unveiling Spike Prime, a new kit that aims to mix the company's familiar bricks with motors, sensors and introductory coding lessons. The company is targeting kids aged between 11 to 14. From a report: Lego Mindstorms have been around for years. The Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit remains a staple of many learning centers and robotics classrooms. Lego's newest kit looks more like Lego Boost, a programmable kit that aimed to win over families in 2017 and was compatible with regular Lego bricks. It's compatible with Lego Boost, Lego Technic sets and classic Lego pieces, but not with Lego's previous Mindstorms accessories. Lego Mindstorms EV3 is remaining alongside Lego Spike Prime in Lego Education's lineup, and looks like it's aiming more at the high school crowd, while Lego Spike Prime could bridge to that higher-end projects.

The Spike Prime set is created specifically for grades six to eight. It uses an app that uses visual Scratch programming and aims to adopt the Python programming language by the end of the year, according to Lego Education executives. The robots made by Spike Prime look cute, and Lego Boost-like, but not necessarily as complicated as some Mindstorm kits. The central processing hub that drives the Lego Spike Prime robotics creations has six input and output ports, and connects with sensors including an RGB color and light sensor, a force-sensitive touch sensor, and an ultrasonic distance sensor for measurement and navigation.

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Boeing Delays 737 Max Software Fix
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 03:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's safety-first department:
Boeing's promised software fix for its 737 Max planes involved in two deadly crashes since October has been pushed back several weeks after an internal review by engineers not connected to the aircraft raised additional safety questions. "The results of the 'non-advocate' review have not been revealed, but the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed on April 1 that the software needed additional work," reports Ars Technica. From the report: "The FAA expects to receive Boeing's final package of its software enhancement over the coming weeks for FAA approval," an FAA spokesperson said in a statement. "Time is needed for additional work by Boeing as the result of an ongoing review of the 737 MAX Flight Control System to ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues." Just how far back the delivery of the MCAS patch has been pushed is uncertain. The New York Times reports that the update's schedule has been pushed back "several weeks." And after its delivery, an FAA spokesperson said, "the FAA will subject Boeing's completed submission to a rigorous safety review. The FAA will not approve the software for installation until the agency is satisfied with the submission."

This means it could be months before grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are once again deemed airworthy. And that means more flight cancellations for airlines that have the aircraft in their inventory. Southwest Airlines, Boeing's largest 737 MAX customer, canceled all of its flights dependent on its 34 737 MAX aircraft through April 20 so far -- about 150 flights per day. And Boeing's delivery of new 737 MAX aircraft -- the company's best-seller -- has been indefinitely delayed.

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Microsoft Stops Selling eBooks, Will Refund Customers For Previous Purchases
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 03:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's services-you-forgot-existed department:
Starting today, Microsoft is ending all ebook sales in its Microsoft Store for Windows PCs. "Previously purchased ebooks will be removed from users' libraries in early July," reports The Verge. "Even free ones will be deleted. The company will offer full refunds to users for any books they've purchased or preordered." From the report: Microsoft's "official reason," according to ZDNet, is that this move is part of a strategy to help streamline the focus of the Microsoft Store. It seems that the company no longer has an interest in trying to compete with Amazon, Apple Books, and Google Play Books. It's a bit hard to imagine why anyone would go with Microsoft over those options anyway.

< article continued at Slashdot's services-you-forgot-existed department >

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Can We Stop AI Outsmarting Humanity?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 01:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's everything-is-awesome department:
The spectre of superintelligent machines doing us harm is not just science fiction, technologists say -- so how can we ensure AI remains 'friendly' to its makers? From a story: Jaan Tallinn (co-founder of Skype) warns that any approach to AI safety will be hard to get right. If an AI is sufficiently smart, it might have a better understanding of the constraints than its creators do. Imagine, he said, "waking up in a prison built by a bunch of blind five-year-olds." That is what it might be like for a super-intelligent AI that is confined by humans. The theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky, who has written hundreds of essays on superintelligence, found evidence this might be true when, starting in 2002, he conducted chat sessions in which he played the role of an AI enclosed in a box, while a rotation of other people played the gatekeeper tasked with keeping the AI in. Three out of five times, Yudkowsky -- a mere mortal -- says he convinced the gatekeeper to release him. His experiments have not discouraged researchers from trying to design a better box, however.

The researchers that Tallinn funds are pursuing a broad variety of strategies, from the practical to the seemingly far-fetched. Some theorise about boxing AI, either physically, by building an actual structure to contain it, or by programming in limits to what it can do. Others are trying to teach AI to adhere to human values. A few are working on a last-ditch off-switch. One researcher who is delving into all three is mathematician and philosopher Stuart Armstrong at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, which Tallinn calls "the most interesting place in the universe." (Tallinn has given FHI more than $310,000.) Armstrong is one of the few researchers in the world who focuses full-time on AI safety. When I asked him what it might look like to succeed at AI safety, he said: "Have you seen the Lego movie? Everything is awesome."

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Google Employees Are Lining Up To Trash Google's AI Ethics Council
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 01:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's politicized-AI department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Almost a thousand Google staff, academic researchers, and other tech industry figures have signed a letter protesting the makeup of an independent council that Google created to guide the ethics of its AI projects. The search giant announced the creation of the council last week at EmTech Digital, MIT Technology Review's event in San Francisco. Known as the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), it has eight members including economists, philosophers, policymakers, and technologists with expertise in issues like algorithmic bias. It is meant to hold four meetings a year, starting this month, and write reports designed to provide feedback on projects at the company that use artificial intelligence.

< article continued at Slashdot's politicized-AI department >

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Mozilla Will Run Two Experiments This Month With Firefox To Explore Ways To Fight Push Notification Permission Spam
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's bigger-fight department:
Mozilla said this week that it intends to run two experiments over the course of this month to determine the most adequate way of dealing with push notification spam, a growing problem that is slowly deteriorating the web experience for everyone. From a report: The experiments will run in Firefox Nightly (v68) and Firefox Beta (v67). The Firefox Nightly experiment will run from April 1 to April 29. During this time, Mozilla said Firefox Nightly would only allow websites to show a push notification permission only after the user has clicked or pressed a key while on a website. All attempts to show a push notification permission request before a click or key press will be blocked by default. [...] In the last two weeks of the experiment, Firefox will show an icon in the URL bar, but with no visible popup on the page. Users can click this icon and accept any push notification permission requests if they wish so. Further reading: Mozilla and Scroll Partner To Test Alternative Funding Models for the Web.

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Canada Warming Twice as Fast as the Rest of the World, Report Says
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's more-evidence department:
Canada is warming on average at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world, a new scientific report indicates. From a report: The federal government climate report also warns that changes are already evident in many parts of the country and are projected to intensify. Canada's Arctic has seen the deepest impact and will continue to warm at more than double the global rate. The report suggests that many of the effects already seen are probably irreversible. Canada's annual average temperature has increased by an estimated 1.7C (3F) since 1948, when nationwide temperatures were first recorded. The largest temperature increases have been seen in the North, the Prairies, and in northern British Columbia. Annual average temperature in northern Canada increased by approximately 2.3C.

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IT and Security Professionals Think Normal People Are Just the Worst
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 11:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's we-knew-that-already department:
Two new studies reaffirm every computer dunce's worst fears: IT professionals blame the employees they're bound to help for their computer problems -- at least when it comes to security. From a report: One, courtesy of SaaS operations management platform BetterCloud, offers grim reading. 91 percent of the 500 IT and security professionals surveyed admitted they feel vulnerable to insider threats. Which only makes one wonder about the supreme (over-)confidence of the other 9 percent.

[...] Yet now I've been confronted with another survey. This one was performed by the Ponemon Institute at the behest of security-for-your-security company nCipher. Its sampling was depressingly large. 5,856 IT and security professionals from around the world were asked for their views of corporate IT security. They seemed to wail in unison at the lesser and more unwashed. Oh, an objective 30 percent insisted that external hackers were the biggest cause for concern. A teeth-gritting 54 percent, however, said the most extreme threat to corporate IT security came from employee mistakes.

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Microsoft Launches Visual Studio 2019 For Windows and Mac
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 11:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's developer-tools department:
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today announced that Visual Studio 2019 for Windows and Mac has hit general availability — you can download it now from visualstudio.microsoft.com/downloads. Visual Studio 2019 includes AI-assisted code completion with Visual Studio IntelliCode. Separately, real-time collaboration tool Visual Studio Live Share has also hit general availability, and is now included with Visual Studio 2019.

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Intel Announces Cascade Lake With Up To 56 Cores and Optane Persistent Memory DIMMs
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 09:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's processor-war department:
At its Data-Centric Innovation Day, Intel today announced its Cascade Lake line of Xeon Scalable data center processors. From a report: The second-generation lineup of Xeon Scalable processors comes in 53 flavors that span up to 56 cores and 12 memory channels per chip, but as a reminder that Intel company is briskly expanding beyond "just" processors, the company also announced the final arrival of its Optane DC Persistent Memory DIMMs along with a range of new data center SSDs, Ethernet controllers, 10nm Agilex FPGAs, and Xeon D processors. This broad spectrum of products leverages Intel's overwhelming presence in the data center, it currently occupies ~95% of the worlds server sockets, as a springboard to chew into other markets, including its new assault on the memory space with the Optane DC Persistent Memory DIMMs. The long-awaited DIMMs open a new market for Intel and have the potential to disrupt the entire memory hierarchy, but also serve as a potentially key component that can help the company fend off AMD's coming 7nm EPYC Rome processors.

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iPad Mini Makes Two Common Repairs 'Unnecessarily Difficult,' Says iFixit
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 09:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's duh department:
Apple has released the fifth-generation iPad Mini. So, of course, the repair experts at iFixit needed to tear it apart. From a report: The new 7.9 inch tablet, launched two weeks ago, sticks to its roots as a revamp of the iPad Mini 4, according to iFixit's teardown published Tuesday. One notable change is the battery connector design, which could prevent people trying to fix a device from accidentally killing the backlight during a repair, according to iFixit. The iFixit team calls this tweak "nifty!"

iFixit also noted that both the screen and battery are difficult to remove. The removal of the display, in particular, if not done carefully, could compromise the Touch ID technology. "Battery and screen replacements are the two most common repairs, and the iPad Mini makes both unnecessarily difficult," iFixit said. "The battery lacks pull-to-remove adhesive tabs, and the display requires a tricky removal of the home button if you want to keep Touch ID after your repair."

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YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 08:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's show-me-the-money department:
Proposals to change recommendations and curb conspiracies on YouTube were sacrificed for engagement, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing Google employees. From the report: In recent years, scores of people inside YouTube and Google, its owner, raised concerns about the mass of false, incendiary and toxic content that the world's largest video site surfaced and spread. One employee wanted to flag troubling videos, which fell just short of the hate speech rules, and stop recommending them to viewers. Another wanted to track these videos in a spreadsheet to chart their popularity. A third, fretful of the spread of "alt-right" video bloggers, created an internal vertical that showed just how popular they were. Each time they got the same basic response: Don't rock the boat.

The company spent years chasing one business goal above others: "Engagement," a measure of the views, time spent and interactions with online videos. Conversations with over twenty people who work at, or recently left, YouTube reveal a corporate leadership unable or unwilling to act on these internal alarms for fear of throttling engagement. Wojcicki would "never put her fingers on the scale," said one person who worked for her. "Her view was, 'My job is to run the company, not deal with this.'"

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Readdle Brings Free Spark Email App To Android, Promises No Ads or Tracking
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 08:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's further-expansion department:
Twelve years after its inception, Readdle is finally venturing beyond Apple's ecosystem with the launch today of its Spark email app for Android. This comes on the heels of Google killing its own popular Inbox email app. From a report: Spark's Android app -- like its iOS and macOS incarnations -- includes three key selling points: It is free for individual users, does not serve ads, and offers a host of features aimed at power users. Plus, it supports all major email providers, including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple. Spark for Android, like the now defunct Inbox app, sorts emails -- prioritizing more important messages to help you reach "inbox zero." It offers options to snooze an email and to schedule when an email should go out. You can also pin emails so that it is easier to find them later and get reminders to follow up on previous conversations. Advanced search functionality lets you use conversational keywords to find things like that PDF file your boss sent last week. So how exactly does the Ukrainian-headquartered company make money? Readdle offers a paid version of Spark that is aimed at small to medium-sized teams and enterprises.

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Laptops To Stay in Bags as TSA Brings New Technology To Airports
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 07:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
Air passengers at a growing number of U.S. airports will no longer need to remove electronics, liquids, and other items from their carry-on luggage at security checkpoints as the Transportation Security Administration rolls out new technology. From a report: The TSA took a major step in a broader plan to revamp its overall screening process with faster, more advanced technology when it signed a contract Thursday for hundreds of new carry-on baggage screening machines, Administrator David Pekoske said on a press call Friday. The agency has tested the new technology at more than a dozen airports since 2017, along with the relaxed protocols that allow passengers to leave items such as laptops and toiletries inside their luggage. The rollout of the computed tomography, or CT, machines will begin this summer, Pekoske said. The $97 million contract will buy 300 machines, but the list of airports receiving them has yet to be made final, Pekoske said. The technology creates 3-D images of bags' contents and will eventually be able to detect items automatically that the TSA now asks passengers to remove, he said.

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Linux Mint 19.2 'Tina' is On the Way, But the Developers Seem Defeated and Depressed
Posted by News Fetcher on April 02 '19 at 07:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Brian Fagioli, reporting for BetaNews: Today should be happy times for the Linux Mint community, as we finally learn some new details about the upcoming version 19.2! It will be based on Ubuntu 18.04 and once again feature three desktop environments -- Xfce, Mate, and Cinnamon. We even found out the code name for Linux Mint 19.2 -- "Tina." And yet, it is hard to celebrate. Why? Because the developers seem to be depressed and defeated. They even appear to be a bit disenchanted with Free Software development overall. Clement Lefebvre, leader of the Linux Mint project, shared a very lengthy blog post today, and it really made me sad.

He wrote, "For a team to work, developers need to feel like heroes. They want the same things as users, they are users, they were 'only' users to start with. At some stage they decide to get involved and they start investing time, efforts and emotions into improving our project. What they're looking for the most is support and happiness. They need feedback and information to understand bugs or feature requests and when they're done implementing something, they need to feel like heroes, they literally do, that's part of the reason they're here really." Upon publication of the article, Jason Hicks, Muffin maintainer and member of the Linux Mint team, corroborated the claims made by others.

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