By msmash from Slashdot's calling-out-names department
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web, wrote an open-letter over the weekend to mark the 28th anniversary of his invention. In his letter, he shared three worrisome things that happened over the last twelve months. In his letter, Berners-Lee pointed out three things that occurred over the past 12 months that has him worried: we do not assume control of our personal data anymore; how easy it is for misinformation to spread on the web; and lack of transparency on political advertising on the web. Cyborg rights activist Aral Balkan wrote a piece yesterday arguing that perhaps Berners-Lee is being modest about the things that concern him. From the article: It's important to note that these (those three worrisome things) are not trends and that they've been in the making for far longer than twelve months. They are symptoms that are inextricably linked to the core nature of the Web as it exists within the greater socio-technological system we live under today that we call Surveillance Capitalism. Tim says we've "lost control of our personal data." This is not entirely accurate. We didn't lose control; it was stolen from us by Silicon Valley. It is stolen from you every day by people farmers; the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. It is stolen from you by an industry of data brokers, the publishing behavioural advertising industry ("adtech"), and a long tail of Silicon Valley startups hungry for an exit to one of the more established players or looking to compete with them to own a share of you. The elephants in the room -- Google and Facebook -- stand silently in the wings, unmentioned except as allies later on in the letter where they're portrayed trying to "combat the problem" of misinformation. Is it perhaps foolish to expect anything more when Google is one of the biggest contributors to recent web standards at the W3C and when Google and Facebook both help fund the Web Foundation? Let me state it plainly: Google and Facebook are not allies in our fight for an equitable future -- they are the enemy. These platform monopolies are factory farms for human beings; farming us for every gram of insight they can extract. If, as Tim states, the core challenge for the Web today is combating people farming, and if we know who the people farmers are, shouldn't we be strongly regulating them to curb their abuses?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's bizarre-obsession department
Columnist MG Siegler writes: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." I often find myself pointing to this quote from Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. It's just so succinctly perfect for so many things. This week's example: Facebook Messenger's new 'Day' functionality. [...] They've [Facebook] decided to weaponize all of these networks [Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram], user experience be damned. On Messenger, people have their list of contacts and/or groups that they chat with. The most recent conversationsâSâ" -- likely the most importantâS-- âSare at the top of that feed. But if you're anything like me, you're often scrolling down a bit because you have many regular conversations. And so this screen real estate is insanely valuable. And Messenger puked up this new 'Day' nonsense all over it. Yes, people share photos on Messenger. Undoubtedly a ton. That's maybe how you try to justify this move to yourself if you're Facebook. But Messenger is fundamentally about chatting; it's a utility. Photos may be additive, but they're not core. You could try to pivot your service into making them core, but that doesn't mean you should.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fault-in-our-types department
An anonymous reader has shared a shocking story about the arrest of Nigel Lang by the British police for a crime he didn't commit. It all happened because of a typo, according to a report. From the report: On a Saturday morning in July 2011, Nigel Lang, then aged 44, was at home in Sheffield with his partner and their 2-year-old son when there was a knock at the door. He opened it to find a man and two women standing there, one of whom asked if he lived at the address. When he said he did, the three strangers pushed past him and one of the women, who identified herself as a police officer, told Lang and his partner he was going to be arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children. [...] He was told that when police requested details about an IP address connected to the sharing of indecent images of children, one extra keystroke was made by mistake, sending police to entirely the wrong physical location. But it would take years, and drawn-out legal processes, to get answers about why this had happened to him, to force police to admit their mistake, and even longer to begin to get his and his familyâ(TM)s lives back on track. Police paid Lang 60,000 British Pound ($73,500) in compensation last autumn after settling out of court, two years after they finally said sorry and removed the wrongful arrest from his record.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's finding-the-problem department
Over the weekend, my colleague David ran a story that sought people's suggestion on how to make (force, encourage, advice) a novice programmer to be more professional. Several people have shared their insightful comment on the topic. One such comment, which has received an unusual support on not just Slashdot but elsewhere, is from William Woody, owner of Glenview Software (and who has previously worked as CTO at Cartifact, architect at AT&T Interactive). He writes: The problem is that our industry, unlike every other single industry except acting and modeling (and note neither are known for "intelligence") worship at the altar of youth. I don't know the number of people I've encountered who tell me that by being older, my experience is worthless since all the stuff I've learned has become obsolete. This, despite the fact that the dominant operating systems used in most systems is based on an operating system that is nearly 50 years old, the "new" features being added to many "modern" languages are really concepts from languages that are between 50 and 60 years old or older, and most of the concepts we bandy about as cutting edge were developed from 20 to 50 years ago. It also doesn't help that the youth whose accomplishments we worship usually get concepts wrong. I don't know the number of times I've seen someone claim code was refactored along some new-fangled "improvement" over an "outdated" design pattern who wrote objects that bare no resemblance to the pattern they claim to be following. And when I indicate that the "massive view controller" problem often represents a misunderstanding as to what constitutes a model and what constitutes a view, I'm told that I have no idea what I'm talking aboutâ"despite having more experience than the critic has been alive, and despite graduating from Caltechâ"meaning I'm probably not a complete idiot.) Our industry is rife with arrogance, and often the arrogance of the young and inexperienced. Our industry seems to value "cowboys" despite doing everything it can (with the management technique "flavor of the month") to stop "cowboys." Our industry is agist, sexist, one where the blind leads the blind, and seminal works attempting to understand the problem of development go ignored. You can read the full comment here or here.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Jung-Gur-PVN-JvxvYrnxf-Qhzc-Gryyf-Hf:-Rapelcgvba-Jbexf department
"If the tech industry is drawing one lesson from the latest WikiLeaks disclosures, it's that data-scrambling encryption works," writes the Associated Press, "and the industry should use more of it." An anonymous reader quotes their report:
Documents purportedly outlining a massive CIA surveillance program suggest that CIA agents must go to great lengths to circumvent encryption they can't break. In many cases, physical presence is required to carry off these targeted attacks. "We are in a world where if the U.S. government wants to get your data, they can't hope to break the encryption," said Nicholas Weaver, who teaches networking and security at the University of California, Berkeley. "They have to resort to targeted attacks, and that is costly, risky and the kind of thing you do only on targets you care about. Seeing the CIA have to do stuff like this should reassure civil libertarians that the situation is better now than it was four years ago"... Cindy Cohn, executive director for Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group focused on online privacy, likened the CIA's approach to "fishing with a line and pole rather than fishing with a driftnet."
The article points out that there are still some exploits that bypass encryption, according to the recently-released CIA documents. "Although Apple, Google and Microsoft say they have fixed many of the vulnerabilities alluded to in the CIA documents, it's not known how many holes remain open."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's ads-in-the-OS department
A new editorial by BetaNews columnist Mark Wilson argues that Windows 10 isn't an operating system -- it's "a vehicle for ads". An anonymous reader quotes their report:
They appear in the Start menu, in the taskbar, in the Action Center, in Explorer, in the Ink Workspace, on the Lock Screen, in the Share tool, in the Windows Store and even in File Explorer.
Microsoft has lost its grip on what is acceptable, and even goes as far as pretending that these ads serve users more than the company -- "these are suggestions", "this is a promoted app", "we thought you'd like to know that Edge uses less battery than Chrome", "playable ads let you try out apps without installing". But if we're honest, the company is doing nothing more than abusing its position, using Windows 10 to promote its own tools and services, or those with which it has marketing arrangements.
The article suggests ads are part of the hidden price tag for the free downloads of Windows 10 that Microsoft offered last year (along with the telemetry and other user-tracking features). Their article has already received 357 comments, and concludes that the prevalence of ads in Windows 10 is "indefensible".Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's next-28-years department
Sunday was the 28th anniversary of the day that 33-year-old Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for the World Wide Web -- and the father of the web published a new letter today about "how the web has evolved, and what we must do to ensure it fulfills his vision of an equalizing platform that benefits all of humanity."
It's been an ongoing battle to maintain the web's openness, but in addition, Berners-Lee lists the following issues: 1) We've lost control of our personal data. 2) It's too easy for misinformation to spread on the web. 3) Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding. Tim Berners-Lee writes:
We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology like personal "data pods" if needed and exploring alternative revenue models like subscriptions and micropayments. We must fight against government over-reach in surveillance laws, including through the courts if necessary. We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is "true" or not. We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed. We urgently need to close the "internet blind spot" in the regulation of political campaigning.
< article continued at Slashdot's next-28-years department
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fast-track-to-side-hustles department
"CBC News is reporting on how millennials are finding that education only guarantees debt, not a stable job. Not even in STEM," writes Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson, adding "The irony -- one of the teachers touting the values of further education is herself part of the gig economy." An anonymous reader summarizes the article, which reports that 33% of the engineers in Ontario are now underemployed.
"I actually thought that coming out of school I would be a commodity and someone would want me," said one 21-year-old mechanical engineering graduate. "But instead, I got hit with a wall of being not wanted whatsoever in the industry." He's applied for 250 engineering jobs, resulting in four interviews, but no job offer, and he's since broadened his job search to the deli counter at the local grocery store, because "It's a job."
"More than 12% of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed," reports CBC News, "and more than a quarter are underemployed, meaning they have degrees but end up in jobs that don't require them. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that the unemployment rate for 15-to-24-year-olds is almost twice that of the general population... A 2014 Canadian Teachers' Federation report found nearly a quarter of Canada's youth are either unemployed, working less than they want or have given up looking for work entirely."
The article also points out that the number of students enrolled in Canadian universities has more than doubled since 1980, from 800,000 to over two million.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-so-smart-after-all department
"Lab tests carried out by Dutch scientists have shown that some of today's 'smart' electrical meters may give out false readings that in some cases can be 582% higher than actual energy consumption," reports BleepingComputer. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The study involved several tests conducted on nine different brands of "smart" meters, also referred to in the industry as "static energy meters." Researchers also used one electromechanical meter for reference... Experiments went on for six months, with individual tests lasting at least one week, and sometimes several weeks. Test results varied wildly, with some meters reporting errors way above their disclosed range, going from -32% to +582%...
The results of the study also matched numbers posted on an online forum by a disgruntled Dutchman complaining about high energy bills... Researchers blamed all the issues on the design of some smart meters, and, ironically, electrical devices with energy-saving features. The latter devices, researchers say, introduced a large amount of noise in electrical current waveforms, which disrupt the smart meter sensors tasked with recording power consumption...
Long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills points out the researchers estimate that "potentially inaccurate meters have been installed in the meter cabinets of at least 750,000 Dutch households," while the article suggests that worldwide, "the numbers of possibly faulty smart meters could be in the millions,especially after some governments, especially in the EU, have pushed for smart meters to replace classic electromechanical (rotating disk) meters."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Debian-daily-news department
"Debian project leader Mehdi Dogguy has written a status update concerning the work going on for the first two months of 2017," reports Phoronix. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
So far this year Debian 9.0 Stretch has entered its freeze, bug squashing parties are getting underway for Stretch, the DebConf Committee is now an official team within Debian, a broad Debian Project roadmap is in the early stages of talk, and more.
Bug-Squashing Parties have been scheduled this week in Germany and Brazil, with at least two more happening in May in Paris and Zurich, and for current Debian contributors, "Debian is willing to reimburse up to $100 (or equivalent in your local currency) for your travel and accommodation expenses for participating in Bug Squashing Parties..." writes Dogguy, adding "If there are no Bug Squashing Parties next to your city, can you organize one?"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's taking-on-tablets department
"The mini-laptop's market niche got swamped by the iPad and the phablet," writes Salon, since the stripped-down hardware of tablets made them cheaper to produce. But now netbooks could be making a grassroots-fueled comeback, "thanks to the lower costs in electronics manufacturing and the fact that individual investors can come together to crowdfund projects." An anonymous reader quotes Salon:
Michael Mrozek, the Germany-based creator of creator of the DragonBox Pyra, says "I never understood why they were gone in the first place. I have no idea why you would use a tablet. I tried one, and it's awkward to use it for anything else than browsing the Web"... He has already managed to raise several hundred thousand dollars through a private pre-order system set up on his geek's paradise online store. Once those initial orders have been filled, Mrozek said he will probably start up a mainstream crowdfunding campaign for his Linux handheld... "The niche was always there, but thanks to the Internet and crowdfunding, it's easy to reach everyone who's interested in such a device so even a niche product still gets you enough users to sell it. That wasn't possible 10 years ago."
Meanwhile, in just under two weeks Planet Computer raised $446,000 on Indiegogo, more than double the original $200,000 goal for their netbook-like Gemini computer (with a keyboard designed by the creator of the original Psion netbook). Planet's CEO Janko Mrsic-Flogel says "It's a bit like Volkswagen bringing back the Beetle," and predicts that the worldwide demand for netbooks could reach 10 million a year.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's gawking-at-Gawker's-founder department
Gawker founder Nick Denton argued today that the future will be rooted in sites like Reddit which involve their reader community -- even if there's only a handful of subtopics each user is interested in. "There's a vitality to it and there's a model for what [media] could be," he told an audience at the South by Southwest festival.
But when it comes to other social media sites, "Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world," Denton said. And he attempted to address America's politically-charged atmosphere where professional news organizations struggled to pay their bills while still producing quality journalism. An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld:
The internet played a huge role in this crisis, but despite it all, Denton thinks the web can be the solution to the problems it created. "On Google Hangouts chats or iMessage you can exchange quotes, links, stories, media," he said. "That's a delightful, engaging media experience. The next phase of media is going to come out of the idea of authentic, chill conversation about things that matter. Even if we're full of despair over what the internet has become, it's good to remind yourself when you're falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online -- it's an amazing thing. In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That's where the good internet will rise up again."
To show his support for news institutions, Denton has also purchased a paid subscription to the New York Times' site.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's attacks-on-text-editors department
Free software Notepad++ (released under the GNU General Public License) received a new update this week which was announced under the headline "Fix CIA Hacking Notepad++ Issue". The CIA documents in WikiLeaks' 'Vault 7' included a "Notepad++ DLL Hijack" document which affected the popular Windows editor for text and source code. "It's not a vulnerability/security issue in Notepad++, but for remedying this issue, from this release (v7.3.3) forward, notepad++.exe checks the certificate validation in scilexer.dll before loading it," reads the announcement. From the Notepad++ web site:
If the certificate is missing or invalid, then it just won't be loaded, and Notepad++ will fail to launch.Checking the certificate of DLL makes it harder to hack.
Note that once users' PCs are compromised, the hackers can do anything on the PCs. This solution only prevents from Notepad++ loading a CIA homemade DLL. It doesn't prevent your original notepad++.exe from being replaced by modified notepad++.exe while the CIA is controlling your PC.
The update also includes "a lot of enhancements and bug-fixes," and if no critical issues are found, "Auto-updater will be triggered in few days."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's energy-alternatives department
"As power prices rise, some farmers have been forced to turn off the pumps," reports the Australian Broadcast Corporation. Long-time Slashdot reader connect4 shared their report from the coast of Queensland, where the price of pumping water to sugarcane fields has doubled.
Local irrigators council representative, Dale Hollis, says right now, irrigators have two options. "They have to switch off the pumps and go back to dryland [cropping], and that impacts upon the productivity of the region and impacts on jobs" he said. "The second option is to go off the grid and look at alternatives." Another option is solar and there are plenty of farmers installing panels, but many growers irrigate at night and can't afford the millions of dollars it could take to buy battery storage. That's pushing many of them back to a dirtier option. "Right now, diesel stacks up," Mr Hollis said.
The head of farm operations for a sugar producer says it's now 30% cheaper to pump water with diesel than electricity, even before you count the subsidy from the federal government, and they expect to save even more money as energy prices go up.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's live-from-Las-Vegas department
Hyperloop One has released the first photographs of its "proof of concept" test track near Las Vegas, Nevada, and there's now also a couple short videos online.
Slashdot reader angry tapir quotes Computerworld:
The company revealed its progress on Tuesday at the Middle East Rail conference in Dubai, sharing pictures and footage of its Nevada development site dubbed "DevLoop." Taking Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept of a levitating pod in a low-pressure tube, Hyperloop One has developed what is so far the only full-scale, full-system Hyperloop test site...and says it plans to test the entire apparatus this year.
In addition, Investopedia reports that Hyperloop One has now also signed letter of intent agreements to investigate the feasibility of building more hyperloop systems in Finland and the Netherlands.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lawyers-from-Los-Angeles department
A major pirated movie site went offline last month after seven Hollywood studios won a preliminary court injunction. An anonymous reader quotes the Hollywood Reporter:
The MPAA-member studios sued the operators of PubFilm/PidTV in February, asking the court for a temporary restraining order to shut down what it described as a ring of six interconnected large-scale piracy sites. The suit was initially sealed, but was made public on Friday. Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Disney, Paramount and Viacom are named as plaintiffs in the suit for direct and secondary copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition.
They're seeking statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement plus restitution of the sites' profits. So, depending on how many instances of infringement are discovered, the damages in this case could be astronomical. The studios claim the sites had more than 8 million visitors each month, nearly half of which were linked to IP addresses in the U.S... The sites are believed to be operated in Vietnam.
The court also ordered GoDaddy, VeriSign and Enom to disable all six domain names, to prevent the domains from being transferred, and to do it without communicating or warning the sites' owners first. In response, the defendants purchased a new domain, and then began publicizing it with ads on Google AdSense.Read Replies (0)