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Wired Publishes Fake Christmas Letter By Elon Musk
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 02:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's seasons-greetings department:
Wired's transportation editor just published what he's calling "Elon Musk's Christmas letter" touting the accomplishments of Musk's "family" of companies, "thanks to an anonymous tipster." (Though the story's photo caption suspiciously calls it "an absolutely real and totally not made up holiday message," and at the vert bottom of the piece it's tagged as "satire" -- a word which also appears at the end of its URL.)

SpaceX (age 15) Man these companies grow up fast. SpaceX didn't just successfully launch its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station this summer, it upped its ambitions with a pretty detailed plan for colonizing Mars. (OK, as long as it comes home for Thanksgiving and Christmas!) The scheme involves an Interplanetary Transport System the company calls the BFR, or Big Fucking Rocket (you wonder where they get their sense of humor!), which it will definitely have built in just five years.
Tesla (age 14) After promising to start deliveries of its affordable Model 3 sedan this summer, my little automaker went all the way to production hell to make it happen. And boy is the car a wonder, with its huge glass roof, innovative touchscreen interface (so long, dashboard), and all the acceleration you know to expect from Tesla. I'm sure the 400,000 people who have pre-ordered one will agree whenever they get theirs...!
OpenAI and Neuralink (ages 2, 1) I've always thought we should merge our brains with computers, and I'm so glad two of my youngest are dedicated to making it happen... Maybe it'll even find the time to help big brother Tesla with that AI chip it's making for Autopilot.
The Boring Company (age 1) Celebrated its first birthday this month...! Boring knows my views on public transit, and has reassured me these tunnels will be for fancy hyperloops and private cars on electric sleds, only...
< article continued at Slashdot's seasons-greetings department >

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Some Telcos and ISPs are Frustrating IPv6 Adoption
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 01:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's following-protocols department:
An anonymous reader writes:
"There are indications that telecommunications operators and traditional ISPs in the country are frustrating adoption of Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) by other networks," reports Nigeria's Guardian newspaper, citing Nigeria CommunicationsWeek. The magazine found 32 networks with IPv6 addresses -- but only three which are using them. And the newspaper cites "a network engineer with a university who does not want to be named" frustrated that their ISP's network isn't IPv6-compatible, so the university can't use its own IPv6 address. "Mohammed Rudman, chairman, IPv6 Council Nigeria, said that most telecommunications operators and internet service providers in the country have not adopted IPv6 which raises the issue of compatibility with other networks."

Firefox has a fast-fallback-to-IPv4 option, which you can disable in about:config (as well as an option to disable IPv6 altogether). But "the Chrome browser supports IPv6 natively and doesn't allow users to decide which protocol to use," reports TechGlimpse.com.

How does your browser perform? Long-time Slashdot reader ourlovecanlastforeve shared a link to Test-IPv6.com, which detects whether "when given the choice, your browser decided it would prefer to use IPv4 instead of IPv6."

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36,744 People Are Watching Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan Sit Motionless With A Yule Log
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 01:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's roasting-on-an-open-fire department:
An anonymous reader quotes Kotaku:
He's been this way for over an hour, and as word's gotten out the audience has swelled to over 30,000... The Twitch stream opened a couple hours ago on an empty chair. A few minutes later Kaplan walked in and sat down. He's been there ever since, sometimes crossing his legs, sometimes uncrossing them, and always looking, watching, waiting. And lest anyone think the stream is somehow a small segment of footage on loop, there have been a few weird moments sprinkled throughout, including one where Jeff gets booped by an off camera boom mic. In the other, less action filled parts, you can feel time passing as the rate of Jeff blinking changes. Three different blinking speeds, we'll call them long stare, short stare, and turbo eye lash flicking, have taken shape in the stream like the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future...
It's boring to the point of being impossible to look away. It's actually the opposite of what this time of year's supposed to be about. You should be having human interactions with other people. Catching up with family and friends. Not sitting with your phone or laptop transfixed by a motionless Jeff Kaplan...so far he's just continued to sit and stare, perhaps pondering the future of the game or that email he forgot to respond to from a few days ago or maybe just the fact the how many Christmas Eves ago he never imagined where he'd be on December 24, 2017.

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How Harvard Teaches CS Students How To Code
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 11:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's this-is-CS50 department:
Harvard computer science professor David J. Malan "is pretty amazing!" says long-time education-watcher theodp. And he's sharing a link to the online version of Malan's famous CS50 class, "if you can't pony up the estimated $63,025-a-year sticker price to take 'the quintessential Harvard (and Yale!) course' on campus." KQED's education site "MindShift" reports:
Malan's class attracts students who have never taken computer science before, as well as kids who have been coding a long time. His goal with this diverse group of learners is to create a community that's equal and collaborative. One way he does this is by asking students to self-identify by comfort level. Those groups become different section levels, and they sometimes get different homework, but harder assignments are not worth more credit. Malan said recently that the "less comfortable" group has dominated his 700-person course. "At the end of the day all students are treated with the same expectations," said Malan, speaking at the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston.
Students are graded based on each individual's growth; Malan and his team of teaching assistants don't use absolute measures when assigning grades. Instead, they look at scope, how hard the student tried, correctness, how right the work was, style, how aesthetic the code is, and design, which is the most subjective. When it's time to assign grades, Malan and his teaching fellows have lots of in-depth conversations about how each student has improved relative to where he or she started...

< article continued at Slashdot's this-is-CS50 department >

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Project Maven Brings AI To the Fight Against ISIS
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 10:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-of-the-acronyms department:
Dog of the South writes: When the Pentagon -- famous for its painful procurement process and its penchant for producing tech systems that are obsolete before they're fielded -- decided to develop and deploy artificial intelligence to a combat zone within just six months, the idea sounded like a failure waiting to happen. Remarkably, Project Maven has met its goals and won rave reviews -- and may have changed the Pentagon's whole approach to tech innovation. But is the Defense Department ready for the enormous challenges that lie at the intersection of military power and artificial intelligence?

The project "focuses on analysis of full-motion video data from tactical aerial drone platforms," according to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
, which reports that the Pentagon has already spent "tens of billions of dollars" developing them.

"A single drone with these sensors produces many terabytes of data every day. Before AI was incorporated into analysis of this data, it took a team of analysts working 24 hours a day to exploit only a fraction of one drone's sensor data."

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Days Before Christmas, Theranos Secures $100 Million in New Funding
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 09:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Christmas-presents department:
An anonymous reader quotes Fortune:
Call it a Christmas miracle -- albeit of a rather perverse sort. Theranos, the digraced medical-technology startup that infamously inflated the capabilities of its devices, has secured $100 million in new funding in the form of a loan. The loan, reported by the Wall Street Journal, will come from Fortress Investment Group. Fortress, whose other underdog bets include a private passenger rail line under construction in Florida, is set to be acquired by Japan's SoftBank. Theranos was reportedly on the verge of bankrutpcy...

By the end of 2016, the company reportedly still had $200 million in cash on hand, but had sharply limited prospects for attracting more capital. It has since settled a major lawsuit with Walgreens, a former client, for an undisclosed but likely substantial sum. According to the Journal, the Fortress loan is expected to keep Theranos solvent through 2018. That will give the company more time for its ongoing effort to reboot as a medical device manufacturer, rather than a testing service.
The loan is conditional on "achieving certain product and operational milestones," notes Fortune, adding "It's unclear whether those might include positive outcomes for the multiple investigations and lawsuits still facing the company."

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12 Days In Xinjiang - China's Surveillance State
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 07:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's state-of-the-art-surveillance-states department:
Long-time Slashdot reader b0s0z0ku writes: China has turned Xinjiang, the Northwestern part of the country surrounding Urumqi, into one of the most advanced surveillance states in the world. Officially, the purpose is to prevent terrorism and control resistance to the government in one of the few parts of China where ethnic Chinese are a minority. From routine use of facial recognition cameras, to police checkpoints where people's cell phones randomly are checked for unauthorized software, to needing to swipe an ID card and be photographed to buy gasoline and other necessities, the level of technology — and control — is frightening and awe-inspiring.

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FSF Adds PureOS To List of Endorsed GNU/Linux Distributions
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 07:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's come-along-and-share-the-OS department:
Long-time Slashdot reader donaldrobertson writes: The Free Software Foundation on Thursday announced PureOS as an endorsed GNU/Linux distro. PureOS is an operating system focused on privacy, security and ease of use. Endorsement means the system meets the FSF's Free System Distribution Guidelines by providing and promoting only free software, with a dedication to making sure the system always remains free.

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Republican's 'Net Neutrality' Proposal Called 'Bait and Switch'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 05:00 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Marsha-Marsha-Marsha department:
Remember that net neutrality legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)? TechCrunch is calling it "half-hearted" -- and suspect.
It's not going to happen, it wouldn't help if it did and Blackburn isn't someone you want writing this kind of legislation. Among other things, she thinks it's the ISPs' job to police content, and voted to kill the Broadband Privacy Rule.
In fact, Blackburn's legislation would deal a "fatal blow" to net neutrality, argues Evan Greer, campaign director at the nonprofit Fight for the Future, writing in Newsweek:
Already one of Big Cable's best friends in Congress, Marsha Blackburn, who has taken more than $600,000 from the industry, is pushing for legislation that would permanently undermine the FCC's ability to enforce open internet protections. This bait and switch has been in the works for months. The telecom lobby's end game is to use the crisis they've created to ram through legislation that's branded as a compromise but amounts to a fatal blow to net neutrality... We don't need legislation that's been watered down with kool-aid.

A better solution, he suggests, is pushing Congress to overrule the FCC with a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval.

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Could 2018 Be The Year of the Linux Desktop?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '17 at 01:00 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's this-time-for-sure department:
Suren Enfiajyan writes: Red Hat worker and GNOME blogger Christian F.K. Schaller wrote why GNU/Linux failed to become a mainstream desktop OS... "My thesis is that there really isn't one reason, but rather a range of issues that all have contributed to holding the Linux Desktop back from reaching a bigger market. Also to put this into context, success here in my mind would be having something like 10% market share of desktop systems. That to me means we reached critical mass."

He named the following reasons:

- A fragmented market
- Lack of special applications
- Lack of big name applications
- Lack of API and ABI stability
- Apple's resurgence
- Microsoft's aggressive response
- Windows piracy
- Red Hat mostly stayed away
- Canonical's business model not working out
- Lack of original device manufacturer support

Then he ended with some optimism:

"So anyone who has read my blog posts probably knows I am an optimist by nature. This isn't just some kind of genetic disposition towards optimism, but also a philosophical belief that optimism breeds opportunity while pessimism breeds failure. So just because we haven't gotten the Linux Desktop to 10% marketshare so far doesn't mean it will not happen going forward. It just means we haven't achieved it so far.

"One of the key identifiers of open source is that it is incredibly hard to kill, because unlike proprietary software, just because a company goes out of business or decides to shut down a part of its business, the software doesn't go away or stop getting developed. As long as there is a strong community interested in pushing it forward it remains and evolves, and thus when opportunity comes knocking again it is ready to try again."

< article continued at Slashdot's this-time-for-sure department >

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Researchers Ask: Are People Better Off Than 50 Years Ago?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 10:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's summer-of-'67 department:
Long-time Slashdot reader gollum123 quotes MarketWatch:
Are you doing better than the previous generation? The Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., asked nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe that question this past spring. Residents in 20 countries said people like them were better off than they were 50 years ago. In Vietnam, 88% felt better off, followed by India (69%), South Korea (68%), Japan (65%), Germany (65%), Turkey (65%), the Netherlands (64%), Sweden (64%), Poland (62%) and Spain (60%)...

The U.S. was among the other 18 countries in which people said they were actually worse off than half a century ago. In Senegal, 45% felt this way, followed by Nigeria (54%), Kenya (53%), the U.S. (41%), Ghana (47%), Brazil (49%), France (46%), Hungary (39%), Lebanon (54%) and Peru (46%).
55% of Canadians feel they're better off, while just 45% of people in the U.K. feel the same way, according to the article.
"Venezuela, which has suffered from political unrest and economic turbulence in recent years, was last on the list. Some 72% people there said they felt worse off than 50 years ago."

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Fleeing Google's Apps and iOS, Mandrake Linux Creator Launches 'eelo' Project
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 07:40 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's eelo-and-goodbye department:
Open-source veteran Gaël Duval created Mandrake Linux in 1998. But in a new essay, he writes that "I realized that I had become lazy. Not only wasn't I using Linux anymore as my main operating system, but I was using a proprietary OS on my smartphone. And I was using Google more and more." Long-time Slashdot reader nuand999 writes:

He's creating a non-profit project called eelo.io that's going to release a "privacy-friendly" smartphone OS and associated web-services... eelo is going to be forked fromLineageOS, and will ship with the existing open source bricks put together into a consistent and privacy-enhanced, yet desirable, smartphone OS + web-services. A crowdfunding campaign has just started on Kickstarter to fuel early developments.
"iOS is proprietary and I prefer Open Source Software," Gaël writes on Hacker Noon, while also adding that "like millions of others, I'VE BECOME A PRODUCT OF GOOGLE... I'm not happy because Google has become too big and is tracking us by catching a lot of information about what we do. They want to know us as much as possible to sell advertising..."

"People are free to do what they want. They can choose to be volunteery slaves. But I do not want this situation for me anymore. I want to reconquer my privacy. My data is MY data. And I want to use Open Source software as much as possible."

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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Avoid 'Information Overload'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 05:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's signals-to-noises department:
As we approach a holiday weekend and a brand new year, do we need to start carving out more time away from the internet? "I'm convinced the Internet (as in Slashdot) is making many people more lonely (and duller), not better," writes long-time Slashdot reader shanen:
I think the best description of the problem I've read is The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Not exactly his formulation, but in brief I would say that too much information is overwhelming us...

Some approaches towards solutions appear in The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli (based on the German Die Kunst des klaren Denkens : 52 Denkfehler, die Sie besser anderen uberlassen. Again, better references would be greatly appreciated, especially as regards the problem of disaster porn overwhelming journalism.
New Media professor Clay Shirky has argued that "it's not information overload, it's filter failure." And Carr's original question was actually "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" though he still warned of the possibility that "the crazy quilt of Internet media" is remapping the neural circuitry in our brains. (And that "as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens.") The original submitter asked the question another way -- "Is deep thought possible in the Internet Age?" But it'd be interesting to hear what strategies are being used by Slashdot readers.
Leave your best answers in the comments. How do you avoid information overload?

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Russian Submarines are 'Prowling Around' Undersea Internet Cables
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 03:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's oceanic-investigations department:
An anonymous reader quotes The Hill:
Russian submarine activity around undersea cables that provide internet and other communications connections to North America and Europe has raised concerns among NATO officials, according to The Washington Post. NATO officials say an unprecedented amount of Russian deep-sea activity, especially around undersea internet lines, constitutes a newfound "vulnerability" for NATO nations. "We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don't believe we have ever seen," said NATO submarine forces commander and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon. "Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations' undersea infrastructure."

"The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the cables," reports the Washington Post, adding that "prowling around" the cables "could give the Kremlin the power to sever or tap into vital data lines, officials said."
They cite the commander of NATO's submarine forces, who says "We know that these auxiliary submarines are designed to work on the ocean floor, and they're transported by the mother ship, and we believe they may be equipped to manipulate objects on the ocean floor."

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Court Throws Out Grsecurity Libel Lawsuit Against Bruce Perens
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 02:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's saw-you-in-court department:
Long-time Slashdot reader SlaveToTheGrind writes: As previously discussed on Slashdot, Grsecurity developer Open Source Security sued Bruce Perens for allegedly defamatory statements about Grsecurity's licensing policies. Thursday, Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of the District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the lawsuit, holding that Perens's statements were not libelous:

"Mr. Perens counters, and the court agrees, that the blog posts are opinions about a disputed legal issue, are not false assertions of fact, and thus are not actionable libel. . . . Mr. Perens -- who is not a lawyer — voiced an opinion about whether the Grsecurity Access Agreement violated the General Public License. No court has addressed the legal issue. Thus, his "opinion" is not a "fact" that can be proven provably false and thus is not actionable as defamation." While Open Source Security technically has the ability to amend its complaint to allege a new legal theory, Judge Beeler said any amendment likely would fall under California's anti-SLAPP statute: "Mr. Perens's statements were made in a public forum and concern issues of public interest, and the plaintiffs have not shown a probability of prevailing on their claims."

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Can We Get Global Broadband From Low-Earth Orbit Satellites?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 01:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's we-could-call-it-Skynet department:
"The internet is unavailable to and/or unaffordable by about 50% of the world population," writes Larry Press (formerly of IBM), who's now an information systems professor at California State University. But he's also long-time Slashdot reader lpress, and reports on new efforts to bring cheap high-speed internet to the entire world.
SpaceX, Boeing, OneWeb, Telesat, and Leosat are investing in very large projects to deliver global, high-speed Internet service [using low-earth orbit satellites]. This could be a significant option for developing nations, rural areas of developed nations, long-haul links, Internet of things, and more by the mid-2020s.
Parts of Alaska could see internet-via-satellite as soon as 2020, according to Larry's article, which adds that the technology could even be used to bring high-speed internet access to ships at sea.

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Firefox 57's Speed Secret? Delaying Requests from Tracking Domains
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 01:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Quantum-improvements department:
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
A Mozilla engineer has revealed one of the hidden techniques that Firefox 57 -- known as Quantum -- is using to improve page load times... It delays scripts from tracking domains, such as www.google-analytics.com. The technique was developed by Mozilla engineer Honza Bambas, who calls it "tailing". It works by delaying scripts from tracking domains when a page is actively loading and rendering...

Tailing only briefly prevents the tracking scripts loading, rather than disabling them entirely. Page load performance is improved by saving on network bandwidth and computing resources while loading a page, in a way that prioritizes site requests over tracking requests. "Requests are kept on hold only while there are site sub-resources still loading and only up to about 6 seconds. The delay is engaged only for scripts added dynamically or as async. Tracking images are always delayed. This is legal according all HTML specifications and it's assumed that well built sites will not be affected regarding functionality," explains Bambas.

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UK Police's Porn-Spotting AI Keeps Mistaking Desert Pics for Nudes
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 11:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sand-in-the-gears department:
An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo:
London's Metropolitan Police believes that its artificial intelligence software will be up to the task of detecting images of child abuse in the next "two to three years." But, in its current state, the system can't tell the difference between a photo of a desert and a photo of a naked body... "Sometimes it comes up with a desert and it thinks its an indecent image or pornography," Mark Stokes, the department's head of digital and electronics forensics, recently told The Telegraph. "For some reason, lots of people have screen-savers of deserts and it picks it up thinking it is skin colour."
The article concludes that the London police software "has yet to prove that it can successfully differentiate the human body from arid landscapes."

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65% of Washington DC's Outdoor Surveillance Cameras Infiltrated by Romanian Hackers
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 10:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'll-be-seeing-you department:
An anonymous reader quotes The Hill:
Two Romanian hackers stand accused of hacking more than 100 outdoor police security cameras in the D.C. area during the days leading up to President Trump's inauguration, according to a court document obtained by CNN. According to an affidavit from Secret Service agent James Graham, Mihai Alexandru Isvanca and Eveline Cismaru are accused of hacking and disabling 123 out of 187 of the city's cameras between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15... Isvanca and Cismaru are also accused in the affidavit of spreading ransomware.
In a possibly-related story, the Washington Post reports:
Five Romanian hackers were arrested over the past week as part of an international investigation into computer ransomware, officials in the United States and Europe said Wednesday. In six houses across Romania, law enforcement operatives from Romania, Britain, the United States and the Netherlands seized hard drives, laptops, external storage devices and documents related to malicious software called CTB-Locker or Critroini.

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Rust Blog Touts 'What We Achieved' in 2017
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '17 at 09:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Rust-never-sleeps department:
An anonymous reader quotes the official Rust blog:
Rust's development in 2017 fit into a single overarching theme: increasing productivity, especially for newcomers to Rust. From tooling to libraries to documentation to the core language, we wanted to make it easier to get things done with Rust. That desire led to a roadmap for the year, setting out 8 high-level objectives that would guide the work of the team. How'd we do? Really, really well.

Aaron Turon, part of the core developer team for Rust, wrote the blog post, and specifically touts this year's progress on lowering the learning curve with books and curriculum, as well as actual improvements in the language and a faster edit-compile-debug cycle. He also notes new support for Rust in IntelliJ and Atom (as well as preview versions for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code) in 2017 -- and most importantly, mentoring.

I'd like to specifically call out the leaders and mentors who have helped orchestrate our 2017 work. Leadership of this kind -- where you are working to enable others -- is hard work and not recognized enough. So let's hand it to these folks...! Technical leaders are an essential ingredient for our success, and I hope in 2018 we can continue to grow our leadership pool, and get even more done -- together.

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