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California School District Hires Firm To Monitor Students' Social Media
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 07:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's let's-have-a-look-at-what-you-have-there department:
An anonymous reader writes "A suburban Los Angeles school district is taking a novel approach to tackling the problem of cyber-bullying. It's paying a company to snoop on students' social media pages. 'The district in Glendale, California, is paying $40,500 to a firm to monitor and report on 14,000 middle and high school students' posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media for one year. Though critics liken the monitoring to government stalking, school officials and their contractor say the purpose is student safety. As classes began this fall, the district awarded the contract after it earlier paid the firm, Geo Listening, $5,000 last spring to conduct a pilot project monitoring 9,000 students at three high schools and a middle school. Among the results was a successful intervention with a student "who was speaking of ending his life" on his social media, said Chris Frydrych, CEO of the firm.'"

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The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 04:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's not-really-new department:
fermion writes "This weeks 'Who Made That' column in The New York Times concerns the built in pencil eraser. In 1858 Hymen Lipman put a rubber plug into the wood shaft of a pencil. An investor then paid about 2 million in today's dollars for the patent. This investor might have become very rich had the supreme court not ruled that all Lipmen had done was put together two known technologies, so the patent was not valid. The question is where has this need for patents to be innovative gone? After all there is the Amazon one-click patent which, after revision, has been upheld. Microsoft Activesync technology patent seems to simply patent copying information from one place to another. In this modern day do patents promote innovation, or simply protect firms from competition?"

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Mitsuku Chatbot Wins Loebner Prize 2013
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 03:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's more-human-than-human department:
mikejuk writes "The final round of the 23rd annual Loebner Prize competition took place in Londonderry, Northern Ireland with four chatbots hoping to convince four judges that they were humans. Mitsuku, a chatbot that is kept busy chatting to people around the world, was awarded this year's bronze medal. Mitsuku's botmaster, Steve Worswick, used to run a music website. Once he added a chatbot he discovered more people visited to chat than for music so he concentrated all his efforts on the bot but he still regards it as a hobby. Mitsuku uses AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) and is a pandorabot, based on the free open-source-based community webservice the enables anyone who wants to, to develop and publish chatbots on the web."

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Toronto Family Bans All Technology In Their Home Made After 1986
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 02:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's have-you-tried-super-mario-bros-yet? department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Mary Am Shah reports in the Toronto Sun that 26-year-old Blair McMillan has banned any technology in his house post-1986, the year he and his girlfriend Morgan were born. They're doing it because their kids – Trey, 5, and Denton, 2 – wouldn't look up from their parents' iPhones and iPads long enough to kick a ball around the backyard. 'That's kind of when it hit me because I'm like, wow, when I was a kid, I lived outside,' says Blair adding that now 'we're parenting our kids the same way we were parented for a year just to see what it's like.' The McMillans do their banking in person instead of online. They develop rolls of film for $20 each instead of Instagramming their sons' antics. They recently traveled across the United States using paper maps and entertaining their screaming kids with coloring books and stickers, passing car after car with TVs embedded in the headrests and content infants seated in the back. Their plan is to continue living like it's 1986 until April 2014. Morgan, who admits she thought her boyfriend was 'crazy,' now devours books to pass the time and only uses a computer at work. 'I remember the day before we started this, I was a wreck and I was like I can't believe I have to delete my Facebook!' Blair originally experienced a form of phantom pain for the first few days after giving up his cellphone. 'The strangest thing without having a cellphone is that I could almost feel my pocket vibrating and I wanted to check my pocket.' Still Morgan says the change has been good for their family's spirit. 'We're just closer, there's more talking,'"

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NSA Chief Built Star Trek Like Command Center
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 01:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's make-it-so department:
Bruce66423 writes "As the NSA scandal moves from appalling to laughable, the latest report in the Guardian indicates that the current NSA chief spent US taxpayers' money to create a command center for his intelligence operations that was styled just like Star Trek. From the PBS News Hour report: 'When he was running the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a 'whoosh' sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather 'captain's chair' in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen. "Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard," says a retired officer in charge of VIP visit '"

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Dialing Back the Alarm On Climate Change
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 12:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's really-bad-not-really-really-bad department:
An anonymous reader writes "A leaked copy of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made the rounds and the good news is that the predicted temperature rise expected as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than predicted in 2007. From the article: 'Admittedly, the change is small, and because of changing definitions, it is not easy to compare the two reports, but retreat it is. It is significant because it points to the very real possibility that, over the next several generations, the overall effect of climate change will be positive for humankind and the planet. Specifically, the draft report says that "equilibrium climate sensitivity" (ECS)—eventual warming induced by a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which takes hundreds of years to occur—is "extremely likely" to be above 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), "likely" to be above 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and "very likely" to be below 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit). In 2007, the IPPC said it was "likely" to be above 2 degrees Celsius and "very likely" to be above 1.5 degrees, with no upper limit. Since "extremely" and "very" have specific and different statistical meanings here, comparison is difficult.'"

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Doctorow: Rivalry Keeps Google From Doing Evil
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 11:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's what's-my-motivation? department:
An anonymous reader writes "Writer and activist Cory Doctorow says competition keeps Google behaving ethically because it believes there are benefits to be had. However, as it moves into sectors where it faces fewer rivals this may not always be the case. 'It actually seems to be a quality metric. They believe they can attract customers, independent software vendors, resellers and an ecosystem around them by not being evil,' he says. 'Where they operate in narrower, less competitive markets — like where they’ve become an Internet service provider, for example — they abandon those commitments.'"

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"Patent Troll" Closes Controversial Podcast Patent Deal With SanDisk
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 10:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's this-podcast-is-my-podcast-this-podcast-is-not-your-podcast department:
wabrandsma writes "James Logan's patent company, Personal Audio, has closed a licensing agreement with SanDisk. The company says that now 'between a third and two thirds of all mp3 audio players' are made by companies to which its patents have been licensed, including LG, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Blackberry and Amazon. The Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to fight Personal Audio's podcasting patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office. About 30,000 dollars, was brought in earlier this year through crowdfunding to fight the case. Logan took part in a question-and-answer session here In June."

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Engineers Aim To Make Cleaner-Burning Cookstoves For Developing World
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 09:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's home-cooking department:
vinces99 writes in with news about a new cookstove design for developing countries. "About 3 billion people, or 42 percent of the world's population, rely on burning materials such as wood, animal dung or coal in stoves for cooking and heating their homes. Often these stoves are crudely designed, and poor ventilation and damp wood can create a smoky, hazardous indoor environment day after day. A recent study in The Lancet estimates that 3.5 million people die each year as a result of indoor air pollution from open fires or rudimentary stoves in their homes. More than 900,000 people die from pneumonia alone, which has been linked to indoor air pollution. University of Washington engineers hope to make a dent in these numbers by designing a cookstove that meets a stringent set of emission and efficiency standards while still being affordable and attractive to families who cook over a flame each day. The team has received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to design a better cookstove, which researchers say will use half as much fuel and cut emissions by 90 percent."

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Intel's Wine-Powered Microprocessor
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 08:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's it-does-go-well-with-the-fish department:
angry tapir writes "In a new twist on strange brew, an Intel engineer has showed off a project using wine to power a microprocessor. The engineer poured red wine into a glass containing circuitry on two metal boards during a keynote by Genevieve Bell, Intel fellow, at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. Once the red wine hit the metal, the microprocessor on a circuit board powered up. The low-power microprocessor then ran a graphics program on a computer with an e-ink display."

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No Child Left Untableted
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 06:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's get-your-device department:
theodp writes "Made possible by a $30 million grant from the Dept. of Education's Race to the Top program, the NY Times reports that every student and teacher in 18 of Guilford County's (NC) middle schools is receiving a tablet created and sold by Amplify, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. The tablets — 15,450 in all — are to be used for class work, homework, educational games — just about everything. With a total annual per unit lease cost of $214, Amplify was the low bidder of those responding to Guilford's Race-to-the-Top RFP, including Apple. Touted by Amplify as one of the largest tablet deployments in K-12 education, the deal raised some eyebrows, since Guilford's School Superintendent once reported to an Amplify EVP when the latter was the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, coincidentally a proving ground of the Gates Foundation. Amplify and the Gates Foundation are partners on a controversial national K-12 student tracking database that counts the Guilford County Schools among its guinea pigs. Getting back to the hardware, after putting their John Hancock on a Student Tablet Agreement and the Acceptable Use Guidelines for Tablet, students are provided with an ASUS-made tablet "similar to ASUS MeMO Pad ME301T" ($279 at Wal-Mart). The News & Record reports on some glitches encountered in the first week of the program, including Internet connectivity issues affecting about 5% of the tablets."

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German Data Protection Expert Warns Against Using iPhone5S Fingerprint Function
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 05:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's keep-your-fingers-to-yourself department:
dryriver writes "Translated from Der Spiegel: Hamburg Data-Protection Specialist Johannes Caspar warns against using iPhone 5S's new Fingerprint ID function. 'The biometric features of your body, like your fingerprints, cannot be erased or deleted. They stay with you until the end of your life and stay constant — they cannot be changed. One should thus avoid using biometric ID technologies for non-vital or casual everyday uses like turning on a smartphone. This is especially true if a biometric ID, like your fingerprint, is stored in a data file on the electronic device you are using.' Caspar finds Apple's argument that 'your fingerprint is only stored on the iPhone, never transmitted over the network' weak and misleading. 'The average iPhone user is not capable of checking, on a technical level, what happens to his or her fingerprint once it is on the iPhone. He or she cannot tell with any certainty or ease what kind of private data applications downloaded onto the iPhone can or cannot access. The recent disclosure of spying programs like Prism makes it riskier than ever before to share important personal data with electronic devices.' Caspar adds: 'As a matter of principle, one should never hand over any biometric data when it isn't strictly needed. Handing over a non-changeable biometric feature like a fingerprint for no better reason than that it provides 'some convenience' in everyday use, is ill advised and foolish. One must always be extremely cautious where and for what reasons one hands over biometric features.'"

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FISA Court Will Release More Opinions Because of Snowden
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 04:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's because-the-world-needs-more-heavily-redacted-documents department:
cold fjord sends this news from the Washington Post:
"Call it the Edward Snowden effect: Citing the former NSA contractor, a federal judge has ordered the government to declassify more reports from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In an opinion from the FISC itself, Judge F. Dennis Saylor on Friday told the White House to declassify all the legal opinions relating to Section 215 of the Patriot Act written after May 2011 that aren't already the subject of FOIA litigation. The court ruled (PDF) that the White House must identify the opinions in question by Oct. 4. 'The unauthorized disclosure of in June 2013 of a Section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about Section 215,' wrote Saylor. 'Publication of FISC opinions relating to this opinion would contribute to an informed debate.' The ruling comes in response to a petition by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking greater government transparency. But because the ACLU already has a similar FOIA case pending in another court, Saylor wrote that the new FISC order can only cover documents that don't relate to that case."
< article continued at Slashdot >

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Tooth Cavities May Protect Against Cancer
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '13 at 01:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's take-that-dentists department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "John Gever reports at MedPage Today on a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Buffalo, which found that people with more cavities in their teeth are 32 percent less likely to suffer from head and neck cancers. 'To our knowledge, the present study suggests, for the first time, an independent association between dental caries and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.' The researchers proposed a mechanism for the apparent protective effect: that cariogenic, lactic acid-producing bacteria prompt cell-mediated Th1 immune responses that suppress tumor formation. The team examined records of patients older than 21 seen in the university's dental and maxillofacial prosthetics department from 1999 to 2007, identifying 399 who were newly diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Assuming that the association between caries and reduced cancer risk is real, the team suggests that one could regard the cariogenic bacteria as beneficial overall, with caries 'a form of collateral damage.' Therefore an appropriate strategy could be to target that effect specifically without aggressively targeting the bacteria. 'Antimicrobial treatment, vaccination, or gene therapy against cariogenic bacteria may lead to more harm than good in the long run.'"

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Two Birmingham Men Are Arrested By UK's New Intellectual Property Crime Unit
Posted by News Fetcher on September 14 '13 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's new-law-&-order-show-already-in-pre-production department:
cervesaebraciator writes "The Guardian reports that the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit has arrested two men from Birmingham and have seized 'suspected counterfeit DVD box sets worth around £40,000, including titles such as Game of Thrones, CSI and Vampire Diaries.' The claim is that the men were buying foreign counterfeit copies and selling them online as genuine. London police commissioner Adriad Leppard offers commentary indicative of the thinking behind these efforts, saying, 'Intellectual property crime is already costing our economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year and placing thousands of jobs under threat, and left unchecked and free to feed on new technology could destroy some of our most creative and productive industries.' The article offers £51 billion as an estimate for the cost of illegal downloading to the music, film, and software industry, a figure they say will triple by 2015."
Meanwhile, Netflix is paying attention to piracy via torrent sites as well. The difference is that they're using that data to decide what shows they should buy.

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Feature-Rich FreeBSD 10 Alpha Released
Posted by News Fetcher on September 14 '13 at 07:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's double-digits department:
An anonymous reader writes "The first alpha release of FreeBSD 10.0 is now available for download. FreeBSD 10 features include replacing GCC with LLVM/Clang, VPS support, an AMD Radeon KMS support, Raspberry Pi support, Bhyve for HVN virtualization, and ARM EABI support."

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Study: Our 3D Universe Could Have Originated From a 4D Black Hole
Posted by News Fetcher on September 14 '13 at 04:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's useless-physics-trivia department:
New submitter TaleSlinger sends this quote from Nature:
"Afshordi's team realized that if the bulk universe contained its own four-dimensional (4D) stars, some of them could collapse, forming 4D black holes in the same way that massive stars in our Universe do: they explode as supernovae, violently ejecting their outer layers, while their inner layers collapse into a black hole. In our Universe, a black hole is bounded by a spherical surface called an event horizon. Whereas in ordinary three-dimensional space it takes a two-dimensional object (a surface) to create a boundary inside a black hole, in the bulk universe the event horizon of a 4D black hole would be a 3D object — a shape called a hypersphere. When Afshordi's team modeled the death of a 4D star, they found that the ejected material would form a 3D brane surrounding that 3D event horizon, and slowly expand. The authors postulate that the 3D universe we live in might be just such a brane — and that we detect the brane's growth as cosmic expansion. 'Astronomers measured that expansion and extrapolated back that the Universe must have begun with a Big Bang — but that is just a mirage,' says Afshordi."

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Ask Slashdot: Attracting Developers To Abandonware?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 14 '13 at 03:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's use-bacon department:
phlawed writes "I've been a Linux user since the previous millennium. I came from OS/2, which I really liked. I quickly felt at home with icewm, using a suitably tweaked config to give me something resembling Presentation Manager. I may have commented on that before. Today, I find myself in a position where my preferred 'environment' is eroding. The only force keeping icewm rolling these days is the distribution package maintainers. I can't code in any meaningful way, nor do I aspire to. I could easily pay for a supported version of icewm, but I can't personally pay someone enough to keep it alive. I'd love it if someone took a personal interest in the code, to ensure that it remains up to date, or to make it run on Wayland or whatever. I want someone to own the code, be proud of it. Is there a general solution for this situation? How do I go about drumming up interest for an old project?"

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Stephen Colbert and the Monster Truck of Tivos
Posted by News Fetcher on September 14 '13 at 02:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's please-don't-crush-my-car-with-your-tivo department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lee Hutchinson writes at Ars Technica that when you're picking out a DVR for your home, there's a pretty short list of candidates — TiVo has its new 6-tuner DVRs, or you can get something from your cable provider, or you can roll your own. But SnapStream makes a line of 30+ channel DVRs that can record dozens of TV shows simultaneously. Its products are the monster trucks of the DVR world, used by popular shows like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and The Soup. A SnapStream cluster can repackage, transcode, and distribute content for re-use — functionality you won't find on a consumer-grade DVR. 'Being able to record, say, all of the news channels was something companies were interested in,' says Aaron Thompson, SnapStream's president. 'The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and so on all use it to record a bunch of stuff, find what they want to make fun of, and quickly get it into their editing bays to get it on air.' Prior to SnapStream, the big media companies were using isolated DVRs to record all the different television channels and shows like The Colbert Report had armies of interns to watch and catalog all the recorded TV, but SnapStream can search the entire recorded library for video based on keywords in the closed captions. 'We bring some of the power of 'new media,' the ability to search, copy and paste, and e-mail clips, to the old media of television for organizations,' says Rakesh Agrawal . 'You weren't able to search television before, but now you can. Now you can pinpoint stuff and you can hold people accountable and move at the same speed at which media works in the online world.'"

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Open Source, Open World
Posted by News Fetcher on September 14 '13 at 01:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's yum-update-world department:
New submitter Ian Grant writes "This article takes a brief look at open source software in Brazil and how it's transforming tech use in South America: Bringing free software to Brazil, however, is not just a matter of copying North American practices. The idea of free software has also been substantially transformed through contact with Brazilian politics. In the United States, the open source software community has long had libertarian leanings, which have only strengthened over time. The core tenet of free software, after all, is giving the users freedom to do what they want. ... And when free software was finally embraced by business, many members of the movement welcomed it as a validation of their ideas. The business-friendly side of free software is easily visible in Brazil, too. Many Brazilian companies, for example, use Linux. At the forum in Porto Alegre, commercial free software was well represented by large foreign companies, many of which appeared to be there primarily for recruiting. Yet the forum also showcased another side of Brazil’s place in the world of free software — a key meeting place of free software and leftist politics. "

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