By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-questions-to-ponder department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Unionization isn't a new idea for the game development industry, but it is a particularly hot and contentious topic right now. A handful of events in 2018 thrust the unionization conversation to the forefront, including Rockstar boss Dan Houser's comments about developers working 100-hour weeks to finish Red Dead Redemption 2, and the tragic implosion and bitter residue of Telltale Games. Groups like Game Workers Unite have been pounding the pavement (physically and digitally) and gathering support for unionization across the globe, with a goal to "bring hope to and empower those suffering in this industry." In December, a UK chapter of Game Workers Unite became a legal trade union.
With all of this conversation swirling around studio life, the folks behind the Game Developers Conference added new questions to the seventh annual State of the Industry Survey, which included responses from nearly 4,000 developers. The questions were broad: should the games industry unionize, and will the games industry unionize? Forty-seven percent of respondents said yes, game developers should unionize, while 16 percent said no and 26 percent said maybe. However, developers weren't exactly hopeful about unionization efforts. Just 21 percent of respondents said they thought the industry would unionize, and 39 percent said maybe. Twenty-four percent said it simply wasn't going to happen. The survey also found that 44 percent of developers worked more than 40 hours per week on average. Just over 1 percent said they worked more than 110 hours in a week, while 6 percent reported working 76 to 80 hours, "suggesting that deadline-related crunch can go far beyond normal working hours," according to the survey.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
Roughly a day after users in China began complaining that they were unable to access Bing, stoking fear that perhaps Microsoft's search engine is joining the long list of services that will not be permitted by the local government, Microsoft says it has fixed the situation. From a report: Bing is accessible in China again. In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said, "We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored." Microsoft did not offer an explanation for Bing's outage, but in a televised interview with Fox News at the World Economic Forum, company president Brad Smith addressed the matter. He noted that this is not the first time Bing has faced an outage in China. "It happens periodically."
He added, "You know, we operate in China pursuant to some global principles that's called the Global Network Initiative in terms of how we manage censorship demands and the like. There are times when there are disagreements, there are times when there are difficult negotiations with the Chinese government, and we're still waiting to find out what this situation is about."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's times,-they-are-changin' department
Lured by the prospect of high-salary, high-status jobs, college students are rushing in record numbers to study computer science. Now, if only they could get a seat in class. An anonymous reader shares a report: On campuses across the country, from major state universities to small private colleges, the surge in student demand for computer science courses is far outstripping the supply of professors, as the tech industry snaps up talent. At some schools, the shortage is creating an undergraduate divide of computing haves and have-nots -- potentially narrowing a path for some minority and female students to an industry that has struggled with diversity. The number of undergraduates majoring in the subject more than doubled from 2013 to 2017, to over 106,000, while tenure-track faculty ranks rose about 17 percent, according to the Computing Research Association, a nonprofit that gathers data from about 200 universities.
Economics and the promise of upward mobility are driving the student stampede. While previous generations of entrepreneurial undergraduates might have aspired to become lawyers or doctors, many students now are leery of investing the time, and incurring six-figure debts, to join those professions. By contrast, learning computing skills can be a fast path to employment, as fields as varied as agriculture, banking and genomics incorporate more sophisticated computing. While the quality of programs across the country varies widely, some computer science majors make six-figure salaries straight out of school. At the University of Texas at Austin, which has a top computer science program, more than 3,300 incoming first-year students last fall sought computer science as their first choice of major, more than double the number who did so in 2014.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
A new 3D-printing technique could render a three-dimensional object in minutes instead of hours -- at up to 100 times current speeds. The experimental approach uses a vat of resin and some clever tricks with UV and blue LED lights (no lasers needed) to accelerate the printing process. From a report: The technique looks almost like a time-reverse film loop of an object dissolving in a reservoir of acid. But instead of acid, this reservoir contains a specially-designed resin that hardens when exposed to a particular shade of blue light. Crucially, that hardening (the technical term is polymerization) does not take place in the presence of a certain wavelength of UV light. The resin is also particularly absorbent at the wavelengths of both the blue and UV light. So the intensity of UV or blue light going in translates directly to the depth to which light will penetrate into the resin bath. The brighter the light beam, the further it penetrates and the further its effects (whether inhibiting polymerization in the case of UV light, or causing it in the case of blue light) will be felt in the bath along that particular light path.
Timothy Scott, associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, says the way to get a 3D-printed object out of this process is to send UV light through a glass-bottomed basin of resin. Then, at the same time, through that same glass window, send patterns of bright and dim blue light. If this printing process used only the blue light, it would immediately harden the first bit of resin it encounters in the basin -- the stuff just inside the glass. And so each successive layer of the object to be printed would need to be scraped or pulled off the window's surface -- a time-consuming and potentially destructive process.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's worth-a-shot department
From a report, based on a book by Cliff Sims, who worked as a communications official for Trump on his presidential campaign and in the West Wing: As the clock ticked down, Trump "suddenly turned toward the NASA administrator." He asked: "What's our plan for Mars?" Lightfoot explained to the president -- who, again, had recently signed a bill containing a plan for Mars -- that NASA planned to send a rover to Mars in 2020 and, by the 2030s, would attempt a manned spaceflight. "Trump bristled," according to Sims. He asked, "But is there any way we could do it by the end of my first term?"
Sims described the uncomfortable exchange that followed the question, with Lightfoot shifting and placing his hand on his chin, hesitating politely and attempting to let Trump down easily, emphasizing the logistical challenges involving "distance, fuel capacity, etc. Also the fact that we hadn't landed an American anywhere remotely close to Mars ever." Sims himself was "getting antsy" by this point. With a number of points left to go over with the president, "all I could think about was that we had to be on camera in three minutes .. And yet we're in here casually chatting about shaving a full decade off NASA's timetable for sending a manned flight to Mars. And seemingly out of nowhere."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Google, whose employees have captured international attention in recent months through high-profile protests of workplace policies, has been quietly urging the U.S. government to narrow legal protection for workers organizing online. From a report: During the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board broadened employees' rights to use their workplace email system to organize around issues on the job. In a 2014 case, Purple Communications, the agency restricted companies from punishing employees for using their workplace email systems for activities like circulating petitions or fomenting walkouts, as well as trying to form a union. In filings in May 2017 and November 2018, obtained via Freedom of Information Act request, Alphabet's Google urged the National Labor Relations Board to undo that precedent.
Citing dissents authored by Republican appointees, Google's attorneys wrote that the 2014 standard "should be overruled" and a George W. Bush-era precedent -- allowing companies to ban organizing on their employee email systems -- should be reinstated. In an emailed statement, a Google spokeswoman said, "We're not lobbying for changes to any rules." Rather, she said, Google's claim that the Obama-era protections should be overturned was "a legal defense that we included as one of many possible defenses" against meritless claims at the NLRB.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's endgame department
An anonymous reader writes: A planned update to one of the Google Chrome extensions APIs would kill much more than a few ad blockers, ZDNet has learned, including browser extensions for antivirus products, parental control enforcement, phishing detection, and various privacy-enhancing services. Developers for extensions published by F-Secure, NoScript, Amnesty International, and Ermes Cyber Security, among others, made their concerns public today after news broke this week that Google was considering the API change. Furthermore, efforts to port NoScript from Firefox to Chrome are also impacted, according to the plugin's author, who says the new API update all but cripples the NoScript for Chrome port.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's unravelling-mysteries department
Long a suspected source of the virus, bats had not been confirmed as carriers of the lethal disease before. The discovery could help scientists learn more about how the virus infects humans. From a report: For the first time, the type of deadly Ebola virus responsible for recent epidemics in West and Central Africa has been found in a bat, Liberian health officials announced on Thursday. Scientists have long suspected that bats were a natural host of Ebola and a source of some human infections, but until now they had not found any bats that harbored the epidemic species, known as Zaire ebolavirus. Although the bat was found in Liberia, the country has not had any human cases of Ebola since 2016, and the bat was not associated with any illness in people. The finding is preliminary and not yet ready for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the usual venue for presenting scientific discoveries. Only 20 percent of the bat's genome has been studied, and research on it is continuing.
But because of its potential impact on public health, officials in Liberia wanted to share the information widely as soon as possible. "It's an incomplete study, a work in progress," said Simon J. Anthony, a virologist at Columbia University who has performed genetic analyses on samples from the infected bat. "It feels premature scientifically, but on the other hand, you have the public health aspect. We do have enough data to suggest to me that it is Ebola Zaire in this bat. We agree with our Liberian government partners that this information should be shared." Knowing which types of bat carry Ebola may help health officials prevent outbreaks by educating the public about how to prevent contact with the creatures, scientists said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hide-and-seek department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Science may never tell us what lies round the next corner, but researchers have come up with the nearest thing: a computer program that turns a normal digital camera into a periscope. In a demonstration of "computational periscopy" a U.S. team at Boston University showed they could see details of objects hidden from view by analyzing shadows they cast on a nearby wall. Vivek Goyal, an electrical engineer at the university, said that while the work had clear implications for surveillance he hoped it would lead to robots that could navigate better and boost the safety of driverless cars.
In the latest feat, Goyal and his team used a standard digital camera and a mid-range laptop. The researchers, writing in the journal Nature, describe how they pieced together hidden scenes by pointing the digital camera at the vague shadows they cast on a nearby wall. If the wall had been a mirror the task would have been easy, but a matt wall scatters light in all directions, so the reflected image is nothing but a blur. They found that when an object blocked part of the hidden scene, their algorithms could use the combination of light and shade at different points on the wall to reconstruct what lay round the corner. In tests, the program pieced together hidden images of video game characters -- including details such as their eyes and mouths -- along with colored strips and the letters "BU." The program takes about 48 seconds to work out a hidden scene from a digital image, but the researchers believe it could be sped up with a faster computer. Eventually, it may be fast enough to run on video footage. Goyal also said "it is even conceivable for humans to be able to learn to see around corners with their own eyes; it does not require anything superhuman."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's that-didn't-last-long department
Boeing has completed the first flight of its autonomous air taxi Tuesday at a small airport outside Washington, D.C. "The flight lasted less than a minute, according to Boeing, and it didn't actually go anywhere," reports CNN. "Instead, it hovered above the runway. Boeing declined to share how high above the ground it flew." From the report: But Boeing is hailing the achievement as a milestone for its NeXt division, which develops autonomous airplanes. The flying car prototype is 30 feet long and 28 feet wide. It's designed to fly up to 50 miles at a time. Boeing and its competitors such as Airbus are betting that small, self-flying airplanes -- technically dubbed electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) -- will revolutionize transportation, especially in urban areas. Boeing believes the vehicles, more commonly referred to as air taxis or flying cars, will be a solution to traffic congestion.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's uncertainty-of-science department
schwit1 shares a report from Space.com: The weirdly clustered orbits of some far-flung bodies in our solar system can be explained without invoking a big, undiscovered "Planet Nine," a new study suggests. The shepherding gravitational pull could come from many fellow trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) rather than a single massive world, according to the research. "If you remove Planet Nine from the model, and instead allow for lots of small objects scattered across a wide area, collective attractions between those objects could just as easily account for the eccentric orbits we see in some TNOs," study lead author Antranik Sefilian, a doctoral student in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University in England, said in a statement.
The duo's modeling work suggests that the strength-in-numbers explanation does indeed work -- if the mass of the Kuiper Belt, the ring of bodies beyond Neptune, is a few to 10 times that of Earth. This is a pretty big "if," given that most estimates peg the Kuiper Belt's mass at less than 10 percent that of Earth (and one recent study put the figure at 0.02 Earth masses). But other solar systems are known to harbor massive disks of material in their outer reaches, Sefilian and Touma noted. And our failure to spot one around our own sun doesn't mean it doesn't exist, they stressed. The new study has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's work-in-progress department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica, written by Sean Gallagher: Want to be able to run classic Mac OS applications compiled for the Motorola 68000 series of processors on your ever-so-modern Mac OS X machine? Or maybe you'd rather run them on a Raspberry Pi, or an Android device for that matter? There's an emulation project that's trying to achieve just that: Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS). Advanced Mac Substitute is an effort by long-time Mac hacker Josh Juran to make it possible to run old Mac OS software (up to Mac OS 6) without a need for an Apple ROM or system software. Other emulators out there for 64000 Mac applications such as Basilisk II require a copy of MacOS installation media -- such as install CDs from Mac OS 7.5 or Mac OS 8. But AMS uses a set of software libraries that allow old Mac applications to launch right within the operating environment of the host device, without needing to have a full virtual hardware and operating system instance behind them. And it's all open source.
I got a demo of AMS from Juran at Shmoocon in Washington, DC, this past weekend. He showed me an early attempt at getting the game LoadRunner to work with the emulator -- it's not yet interactive. A version of the project, downloadable from Github, includes a "Welcome" screen application (a sort of Mac OS "hello world"), Mac Tic-Tac-Toe, and an animation of NyanCat. Applications are launched from the command line for now and are executed by the emulation software, which interprets the system and firmware calls. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of work to be done. While AMS works on Mac OS X up to version 10.12 -- both on Intel and PowerPC versions of the operating system -- the code currently won't compile on MacOS Mojave. And the Linux implementation of AMS does not yet support keyboard input. I was unable to get the front end to execute at all on Debian 9 on Intel.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's clock-is-ticking department
SonicSpike shares a report from The Guardian: Julian Assange, the fugitive WikiLeaks founder whose diplomatic sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy appears increasingly precarious, is launching a legal challenge against the Trump administration. Lawyers for the Australian activist have filed an urgent application to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) aimed at forcing the hand of U.S. prosecutors, requiring them to "unseal" any secret charges against him. The legal move is an attempt to prevent Assange's extradition to the U.S. at a time that a new Ecuadorian government has been making his stay in the central London apartment increasingly inhospitable.
The 1,172-page submission by Assange's lawyers calls on the U.S. to unseal any secret charges against him and urges Ecuador to cease its "espionage activities" against him. Baltasar Garzon, the prominent Spanish judge who has pursued dictators, terrorists and drug barons, is the international coordinator of Assange's legal team. He has said the case involves "the right to access and impart information freely" that has been put in "jeopardy." The Trump administration is refusing to reveal details of charges against Assange despite the fact that sources in the U.S. Department of Justice have confirmed to the media that they exist under seal. The application alleges that U.S. prosecutors have begun approaching people in the U.S., Germany and Iceland and pressed them to testify against Assange in return for immunity from prosecution. Those approached, it is said, include people associated with WikiLeaks' joint publications with other media about U.S. diplomacy, Guantanamo Bay and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
"Threatpost has a link to some recent research about ways web pages can exploit browser extensions to steal information or write files," writes Slashdot reader jbmartin6. "Did we need another reason to be deeply suspicious of any browser extension? Not only do they spy on us for their makers, now other people can use them to spy on us as well. The academic paper is titled 'Empowering Web Applications with Browser Extensions' (PDF)." From the report: "An attacker [uses] a script that is present in a web application currently running in the user browser. The script either belongs to the web application or to a third party. The goal of the attacker is to interact with installed extensions, in order to access user sensitive information. It relies on extensions whose privileged capabilities can be exploited via an exchange of messages with scripts in the web application," researchers wrote. They added, "Even though content scripts, background pages and web applications run in separate execution contexts, they can establish communication channels to exchange messages with one another... APIs [are used] for sending and receiving (listening for) messages between the content scripts, background pages and web applications."
The researcher behind the paper focused on a specific class of web extension called "WebExtensions API," a cross-browser extensions system compatible with major browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Microsoft Edge. After analyzing 78,315 extensions that used the specific WebExtension API, it found 3,996 that were suspicious. While it seems voluminous, they noted that research found a small number of vulnerable extensions overall, and that concern should be measured. However, "browser vendors need to review extensions more rigorously, in particular take into consideration the use of message passing interfaces in extensions."Read Replies (0)