By msmash from Slashdot's things-to-watch department
Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: When you buy a System76 computer today, you aren't buying a machine manufactured by the company. Instead, the company works with other makers to obtain laptops, which it then loads with a Linux-based operating system -- Ubuntu or its own Pop!_OS. There's nothing really wrong with this practice, but still, System76 wants to do better. The company is currently working to manufacture its own computers ("handcrafted") right here in the USA. By doing this, System76 controls the entire customer experience -- software, service, and hardware. This week, the company announces that the fruits of its labor -- an "open-source computer" -- will be available to pre-order in October. Now, keep in mind, this does not mean the desktop will be available next month. Hell, it may not even be sold in 2018. With that said, pre-ordering will essentially allow you to reserve your spot. To celebrate the upcoming computer, System76 is launching a clever animated video marketing campaign.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's impressive-and-concerning department
An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2014, in a bid to replace the more than 11,000 aging payphones scattered across New York City's pedestrian walkways with more functional fixtures, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a competition -- the Reinvent Payphones initiative -- calling on private enterprises, residents, and nonprofits to submit designs for replacements. In the end, LinkNYC -- a plan proposed by consortium CityBridge -- secured a contract from the city, beating out competing proposals with electricity-generating piezoelectric pressure plates and EV charging stations. The plan was to spend $200 million installing as many as 10,000 kiosks, or Links, that would supply free, encrypted gigabit Wi-Fi to passers-by within 150 feet. They would have buttons that link directly to 911 and New York's 311 service and free USB charging stations for smartphones, plus wired handsets that would allow free calls to all 50 states and Washington, D.C. And perhaps best of all, they wouldn't cost the city a dime; advertising would subsidize expansion and ongoing maintenance. The Links wouldn't just get urbanites online and let them juice their phones, though. The idea was to engage users, too, principally with twin 55-inch high-definition displays and tethered Android tablets with map functions. Mike Gamaroff, head of innovation at Kinetic, characterized the Links in 2016 as "first and foremost a utility for the people of the city, that also doubles up as an advertising network." Two years after the deployment of prototypical kiosks in Manhattan, Intersection -- a part of the aforementioned CityBridge, which with Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes manages the kiosks -- is ready to declare them a success. The roughly 1,600 Links recently hit three milestones: 1 billion sessions, 5 million users, and 500,000 phone calls a month. Recommended reading: Free Municipal Wi-Fi May Be the Next Front In the War Against Privacy.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, thinks it's broken and he has a plan to fix it. The British computer scientist has announced a new project that he hopes will radically change his creation by giving people full control over their data. Tim Berners-Lee: This is why I have, over recent years, been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web. Solid changes the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. As we've all discovered, this hasn't been in our best interests. Solid is how we evolve the web in order to restore balance -- by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way. Solid is a platform, built using the existing web. It gives every user a choice about where data is stored, which specific people and groups can access select elements, and which apps you use. It allows you, your family and colleagues, to link and share data with anyone. It allows people to look at the same data with different apps at the same time. Solid unleashes incredible opportunities for creativity, problem-solving and commerce. It will empower individuals, developers and businesses with entirely new ways to conceive, build and find innovative, trusted and beneficial applications and services. I see multiple market possibilities, including Solid apps and Solid data storage. Solid is guided by the principle of "personal empowerment through data" which we believe is fundamental to the success of the next era of the web. We believe data should empower each of us. Imagine if all your current apps talked to each other, collaborating and conceiving ways to enrich and streamline your personal life and business objectives? That's the kind of innovation, intelligence and creativity Solid apps will generate. With Solid, you will have far more personal agency over data -- you decide which apps can access it. In an interview with Fast Company, he shared more on Solid and its creation: "I have been imagining this for a very long time," says Berners-Lee. He opens up his laptop and starts tapping at his keyboard. Watching the inventor of the web work at his computer feels like what it might have been like to watch Beethoven compose a symphony: It's riveting but hard to fully grasp. "We are in the Solid world now," he says, his eyes lit up with excitement. He pushes the laptop toward me so I too can see. On his screen, there is a simple-looking web page with tabs across the top: Tim's to-do list, his calendar, chats, address book. He built this app -- one of the first on Solid -- for his personal use. It is simple, spare. In fact, it's so plain that, at first glance, it's hard to see its significance. But to Berners-Lee, this is where the revolution begins. The app, using Solid's decentralized technology, allows Berners-Lee to access all of his data seamlessly -- his calendar, his music library, videos, chat, research. It's like a mashup of Google Drive, Microsoft Outlook, Slack, Spotify, and WhatsApp. The difference here is that, on Solid, all the information is under his control. Every bit of data he creates or adds on Solid exists within a Solid pod -- which is an acronym for personal online data store. These pods are what give Solid users control over their applications and information on the web. Anyone using the platform will get a Solid identity and Solid pod. This is how people, Berners-Lee says, will take back the power of the web from corporations. Starting this week, developers around the world will be able to start building their own decentralized apps with tools through the Inrupt site. Berners-Lee will spend this fall crisscrossing the globe, giving tutorials and presentations to developers about Solid and Inrupt. "What's great about having a startup versus a research group is things get done," he says. These days, instead of heading into his lab at MIT, Berners-Lee comes to the Inrupt offices, which are currently based out of Janeiro Digital, a company he has contracted to help work on Inrupt. For now, the company consists of Berners-Lee; his partner John Bruce, who built Resilient, a security platform bought by IBM; a handful of on-staff developers contracted to work on the project; and a community of volunteer coders. Later this fall, Berners-Lee plans to start looking for more venture funding and grow his team. The aim, for now, is not to make billions of dollars. The man who gave the web away for free has never been motivated by money. Still, his plans could impact billion-dollar business models that profit off of control over data. It's not likely that the big powers of the web will give up control without a fight.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cathedral-and-the-funhouse department
"There is a kind of programming trap I occasionally fall into that is so damn irritating that it needs a name," writes Eric S. Raymond, in a new blog post:
The task is easy to specify and apparently easy to write tests for. The code can be instrumented so that you can see exactly what is going on during every run. You think you have a complete grasp on the theory. It's the kind of thing you think you're normally good at, and ought to be able to polish off in 20 LOC and 45 minutes.
And yet, success eludes you for an insanely long time. Edge cases spring up out of nowhere to mug you. Every fix you try drags you further off into the weeds. You stare at dumps from the instrumentation until you're dizzy and numb, and no enlightenment occurs. Even as you are bashing your head against a wall of incomprehension, consciousness grows that when you find the solution, it will be damningly simple and you will feel utterly moronic, like you should have gotten there days ago.
Welcome to programmer hell. This is your shtoopid problem.... If you ever find yourself staring at your instrumentation results and thinking "It...can't...possibly...be...doing...that", welcome to shtoopidland. Here's your mallet, have fun pounding your own head. (Cue cartoon sound effects.)
Raymond's latest experience in shtoopidland came while working on a Python-translating tool, and left him analyzing why there's some programming conundrums that repel solutions. "You're not defeated by what you don't know so much as by what you think you do know," he concludes. So how do you escape?
"[I]nstrument everything. I mean EVERYTHING, especially the places where you think you are sure what is going on. Your assumptions are your enemy; printf-equivalents are your friend. If you track every state change in the your code down to a sufficient level of detail, you will eventually have that forehead-slapping moment of why didn't-I-see-this-sooner that is the terminal characteristic of a shtoopid problem."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's coming-along-and-sharing-the-software department
Mads Torgersen, the lead designer of C# at Microsoft, remembers "Project Roslyn," which built an open-source, cross-platform compiler for C# and Visual Basic.NET "in the deepest darkness of last decade's corporate Microsoft:
We would build a language engine! A unified, public API to C# code: We would redefine the meaning of "compiler". Of course, once you are building an API for the broad C# community, it is kind of a slam-dunk that it should be a .NET API, implemented in C#. So, the old dream of "bootstrapping" C# in C# was fulfilled almost as an accidental side benefit. Roslyn was thus born out of an openness mindset: sharing the inner workings of the C# language for the world to programmatically consume.
This in and of itself was a bit of a bold proposition in what was still a pervasively closed culture at Microsoft: We would share this intellectual property for free? We would empower tool builders that weren't us to better compete with us? The arguments that won the day for us here were about strengthening the ecosystem and becoming the best tooled language on the planet. They were about long-term growth of C# and .NET, versus short term monetization and protection of assets for Microsoft. So even without having mentioned open source, signing up for the cost and risk of the Roslyn project was a big and bold step for Microsoft....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Danger-Will-Robinson department
"Imagine an artificial-intelligence-driven military drone capable of autonomously patrolling the perimeter of a country or region and deciding who lives and who dies, without a human operator. Now do the same with tanks, helicopters and biped/quadruped robots." A United Nations conference recently decided not to ban these weapons systems outright, but to revisit the topic in November.
So a MarketWatch columnist looked at how these weapons systems could go bad -- and argues the risks are greater than simply fooling the AI into malfunctioning.
What about hijacking...? In warfare, AI units can function autonomously, but in the end they need a way to communicate with one another and to transfer data to a command center. This makes them vulnerable to hacking and hijacking. What would happen if one of these drones or robots was hijacked by an opposite faction and started firing on civilians? A hacker would laugh. Why? Because he wouldn't hijack just one. He would design a self-propagating virus that would spread throughout the AI network and infect all units in the vicinity, as well as those communicating with them. In a split second, an entire squad of lethal autonomous weapons systems would be under enemy control... Every machine can be overridden, tricked, hijacked and manipulated with an efficiency that's unheard of in the realm of human-operated traditional weaponry.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pandemic-anniversaries department
Last year 80,000 Americans died of the flu -- and 900,000 more were hospitalized, according to estimates by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. NBC News reports:
The numbers were shocking. Until now, CDC has said flu kills anywhere between 12,000 and 56,000 people a year, depending on how bad the flu season is, and that it puts between 250,000 and 700,000 into the hospital with serious illness. The numbers for the 2017-2018 flu season go far beyond that... Usually, flu hits first in one region and then another, but this past season saw widespread flu activity all at once, for weeks on end.
Coincidentally, it's the 100-year anniversary of the great flu pandemic of 1918, according to an article shared by schwit1:
Up to 500 million people -- about one-third of the world's population -- became infected with the influenza virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. As many as 50 million died, or one out of every 30 human beings on the planet, killing more American troops than those that died on World War I battlefields. The intensity and speed with which it struck were almost unimaginable, the worst global pandemic in modern history.
The article asks the ultimate question: Could it happen again?
Top health and science groups, such as the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predict influenza pandemics are nearly certain to recur. "Influenza viruses, with the vast silent reservoir in aquatic birds, are impossible to eradicate," the World Health Organization warned. "With the growth of global travel, a pandemic can spread rapidly globally with little time to prepare a public health response." A pandemic could also arise if a strain mutates with or develops directly from animal flu viruses, the CDC said...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's and-the-winner-is department
This week InfoWorld unveiled their annual list of "the leading open source projects for software development, cloud computing, big data, and machine learning."
[E]ven as we grapple with the likes of microservice architecture, distributed data processing frameworks, deep neural networks, and "dapps," we remain steadfast in our commitment to bring you -- this year and every year -- the best that open source has to offer.
In this year's edition, you'll find our picks for the best open source software development tools, cloud computing platforms, databases and data analytics tools, and machine learning and deep learning libraries. From Kubernetes and Docker to TensorFlow and PyTorch (49 projects in all), these are the projects that are ushering in the next stage of enterprise computing.
An anonymous reader writes:
Their choices for the best open source software for software development include .NET Core, Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, and Jenkins, as well as programming languages like Kotlin, Julia, and Rust. ("By now it's something of a cliche to talk about Rust as the next step beyond C and C++. So be it...") And their final award for best open source development software went, surprisingly, to Vanilla JS.
By BeauHD from Slashdot's serious-consequences department
Soon after it was reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Elon Musk for making false statements related to his abandoned efforts to take Tesla private, the SEC announced today that Elon Musk has agreed to settle the fraud charges. In a press release, the SEC says "Musk and Tesla have agreed to settle the charges against them without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations." The settlements, which are subject to court approval, require the following: - Musk will step down as Tesla's Chairman and be replaced by an independent Chairman. Musk will be ineligible to be re-elected Chairman for three years;
- Tesla will appoint a total of two new independent directors to its board;
- Tesla will establish a new committee of independent directors and put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk's communications;
- Musk and Tesla will each pay a separate $20 million penalty. The $40 million in penalties will be distributed to harmed investors under a court-approved process. Slashdot reader Rei writes: In the wake of initially refusing a settlement offer over the wording, Elon Musk has now settled today with the SEC, concerning his tweets about taking Tesla private. As per the settlement agreement, there is 1) no admission of wrongdoing; 2) Musk and Tesla will each pay a $20 million fine; 3) Musk will remain as CEO of Tesla; 4) Musk will be prohibited from serving as chairman of Tesla for three years; and 5) Tesla must appoint two new members to its board of directors. An additional clause seems apropos: Musk must "comply with all mandatory procedures implemented by Tesla, Inc [...] regarding (i) the oversight of communications relating to the Company made in any format, including, but not limited to, posts on social media..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's core-products department
An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup:
Apple turned against customers and its own employees after the death of co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, a fired Apple engineer claims in a lawsuit. "No corporate responsibility exists at Apple since Mr. Jobs' death," Darren Eastman alleged in a lawsuit over his termination and patents related to his work at the Cupertino tech giant... Eastman, who is representing himself in court, started working as an engineer for Apple in 2006, largely because Jobs was interested in his idea for a low-cost Mac for education, and wanted him hired straight out of graduate school, Eastman said in the filing. Eastman claims to have invented the "Find my iPhone" function. When Jobs headed Apple, he told Eastman to notify him of any unresolved problems with the company's products, and employees in general were expected to raise such concerns, Eastman said in a lawsuit filed Thursday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
That changed after Jobs died in 2011, he claimed. "Many talented employees who've given part of their life for Apple were now regularly being disciplined and terminated for reporting issues they were expected to (report) during Mr. Jobs tenure," Eastman alleged in the filing. "Cronyism and a dedicated effort to ignore quality issues in current and future products became the most important projects to perpetuate the goal of ignoring the law and minimizing tax. Complying with the law and paying what's honestly required is taboo at Apple, with judicial orders and paying tax (of any kind) representing the principal frustration of Apple's executives... Notifying Mr. Cook about issues (previously welcomed by Mr. Jobs) produces either no response, or, a threatening one later by your direct manager," Eastman claimed.... "There's no accountability, with attempts at doing the right thing met with swift retaliation."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'm-feeling-lucky department
"Recently, a privacy-oriented search engine called DuckDuckGo raised $10 million from a Canadian pension fund," reports Marketplace.org, saying the privacy-focused search engine is "trying to establish itself as the anti-Google."
An anonymous reader quotes their report:
"So it's like Google, except when you search on it, you're completely anonymous," said Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of the company. The searches are encrypted. The site knows where you are, but only while you're searching, and it doesn't store your personal information. "We serve you the search results and we throw away your personal information...so your IP address and things like that. And we don't actually store any cookies by default. And so when you search on DuckDuckGo, it's like every time you're a new user and we know nothing about you..." Weinberg said about a quarter of Americans have taken some action to protect their privacy, and DuckDuckGo searches have been growing about 50 percent a year.
"We are proud to have a profitable business model that doesn't rely on collecting personal data," the company tweeted in June, and this week they also shared a quote from a Harvard Business Review article that asked "How far can the surveillance economy go?"
"Most consumers are either unaware of the personal info they share online or, quite understandably, unable to determine the cost of sharing it -- if not both."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's back-to-the-future department
An anonymous reader quotes Microsoft's Developer blog:
In March 2014, Microsoft released the source code to MS-DOS 1.25 and 2.0 via the Computer History Museum. The announcement also contains a brief history of how MS-DOS came to be for those new to the subject, and ends with many links to related articles and resources for those interested in learning more.
Today, we're re-open-sourcing MS-DOS on GitHub. Why? Because it's much easier to find, read, and refer to MS-DOS source files if they're in a GitHub repo than in the original downloadable compressed archive file.... Enjoy exploring the initial foundations of a family of operating systems that helped fuel the explosion of computer technology that we all rely upon for so much of our modern lives!
While non-source modifications are welcome, "The source will be kept static," reads a note on the GitHub repo, "so please don't send Pull Requests suggesting any modifications to the source files."
"But feel free to fork this repo and experiment!"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's devs-and-data department
schwit1 shared an article from the New York Times:
When investigative journalist Julia Angwin worked for ProPublica, the nonprofit news organization became known as "Big Tech's scariest watchdog." By partnering with programmers and data scientists, Angwin pioneered the work of studying Big Tech's algorithms -- the secret codes that have an enormous effect on everyday American life... Now, with a $20 million gift from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, she and her partner at ProPublica, data journalist Jeff Larson, are starting the Markup, a news site dedicated to investigating technology and its effect on society. Sue Gardner, former head of the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia, will be the Markup's executive director. Angwin and Larson said that they would hire two dozen journalists for its New York office and that stories would start going up on the website in early 2019...
Angwin, who was part of a Wall Street Journal team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for coverage of corporate corruption, said the newsroom would be guided by the scientific method, and each story would begin with a hypothesis... At the Markup, journalists will be partnered with a programmer from a story's inception until its completion. "To investigate technology, you need to understand technology," said Angwin, 47... Newmark, who splits his time between San Francisco and New York, has for years kept a low profile. But he worries about what he sees as a lack of self-reflection among engineers. "Sometimes it takes an engineer a while to understand that we need help, then we get that help, and then we do a lot better," Newmark said. "We need the help that only investigative reporting with good data science can provide...."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's what-if department
Slashdot reader Actually, I do RTFA remains wary of a new "blockchain-powered mobile voting app" being used by the state of West Virginia to collect ballots from overseas absentee voters.
But meanwhile, Slashdot reader chicksdaddy notes an election hacking exercise conducted with city employees and local FBI officers in Boston focused on attempts to disrupt a hypothetical election in "Nolandia" by simply clogging highways and sowing chaos. From Security Ledger:
The day started with snarled traffic and a suspicious outage of the 9-1-1 emergency call center that has put the public and first responders on edge. Already, the city's police force was taxed keeping tabs on protests tied to a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. By afternoon, the federal Emergency Alert System (EAS) was warning Nolandia residents of massive natural gas leaks in neighborhoods in the north and west part of the city, prompting officials to order evacuations of the affected areas.
Later, bomb threats called in to local television stations shut down a bridge linking the northern and southern halves of the city -- a major artery for vehicles. The EAS warning turns out to have been false -- no gas leaks are detected, nor is any bomb found on the bridge. Later in the day, cyber attack s on a smart traffic light deployment in Nolandia snarl traffic further and sow chaos during the evening commute... This is election hacking 2018 style: a highly successful operation in which no voting machines or voting infrastructure were compromised, attacked or even targeted.
The cybersecurity company that created the exercise said they "wanted to expand that scope and demonstrate that the threat landscape is actually much broader...."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's nuclear-options department
An anonymous reader quotes iTWire:
Linux developers who contribute code to the kernel cannot rescind those contributions, according to the software programmer who devised the GNU General Public Licence version 2.0, the licence under which the kernel is released. Richard Stallman, the head of the Free Software Foundation and founder of the GNU Project, told iTWire in response to queries that contributors to a GPLv2-covered program could not ask for their code to be removed. "That's because they are bound by the GPLv2 themselves. I checked this with a lawyer," said Stallman, who started the free software movement in 1984.
There have been claims made by many people, including journalists, that if any kernel developers are penalised under the new code of conduct for the kernel project -- which was put in place when Linux creator Linus Torvalds decided to take a break to fix his behavioural issues -- then they would ask for their code to be removed from the kernel... Stallman asked: "But what if they could? What would they achieve by doing so? They would cause harm to the whole free software community. The anonymous person who suggests that Linux contributors do this is urging them to [use a] set of nuclear weapons in pique over an internal matter of the development team for Linux. What a shame that would be."
Slashdot reader dmoberhaus shared an article from Motherboard with more perspetives from Eric S. Raymond and LWN.net founder Jonathan Corbet, which also traces the origins of the suggestion. "[A]n anonymous user going by the handle 'unconditionedwitness' called for developers who end up getting banned through the Code of Conduct in the future to rescind their contributions to the Linux kernel 'in a bloc' to produce the greatest effect.
"It is worth noting that the email address for unconditionedwitness pointed to redchan.it, a now defunct message board on 8chan that mostly hosted misogynistic memes, many of which were associated with gamergate."Read Replies (0)