By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department
Ross Goodwin, a former ghostwriter for the Obama administration, uses neural networks to generate poetry, screenplays, and, now, literary travel fiction. The Atlantic tells the story of how Goodwin used a custom machine to write a "novel" narrating its own cross-country road trip. Slashdot reader merbs shares an excerpt from the report: On March 25, 2017, a black Cadillac with a white-domed surveillance camera attached to its trunk departed Brooklyn for New Orleans. An old GPS unit was fastened atop the roof. Inside, a microphone dangled from the ceiling. Wires from all three devices fed into Ross Goodwin's Razer Blade laptop, itself hooked up to a humble receipt printer. This, Goodwin hoped, was the apparatus that was going to produce the next American road-trip novel. The aim was to use the road as a conduit for narrative experimentation, in the tradition of Kerouac, Wolfe, and Kesey, but with the vehicle itself as the artist. He chose the New York-to-NOLA route as a nod to the famous leg of Jack Kerouac's expedition in On the Road. Underneath the base of the Axis M3007 camera, Goodwin scrawled "Further."
Along the way, the four sensors would feed data into a system of neural networks Goodwin had trained on hundreds of books and Foursquare location data, and the printer would spit out the results one letter at a time. By the end of the four-day trip, receipts emblazoned with artificially intelligent prose would cover the floor of the car. They're collected in 1 the Road, a book Goodwin's publisher, Jean Boite Editions, is marketing as "the first novel written by a machine." (Though, for the record, Goodwin says he disagrees it should bear that distinction -- "That might be The Policeman's Beard Is Half Constructed by a program from the '80s," he tells me.) Regardless, it is a hallucinatory, oddly illuminating account of a bot's life on the interstate; the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test meets Google Street View, narrated by Siri.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's to-each-their-own department
Last year, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak announced a coding program called Woz U that's designed with the goal of offering an affordable education. "Our goal is to educate and train people in employable digital skills without putting them into years of debt," Wozniak said last fall. "People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can't do it. I know they can, and I want to show them how."
Now that a round of students have been through the 33-week program, a number of problems have appeared. Former student, Bill Duerr, called the program "broken," and that "lots of times there's just hyperlinks to Microsoft documents, to Wikipedia." 9to5Mac reports: "Duerr said typos in course content were one of many problems. So-called 'live lectures' were pre-recorded and out of date, student mentors were unqualified, and at one point, one of his courses didn't even have an instructor," reports CBS. CBS heard from over 24 current and former students and employees that reiterated Duerr's experiences. Instead of a quality program, Duerr said Woz U was comparable to an ultra expensive e-book: "'I feel like this is a $13,000 e-book,' Duerr said. While it was supposed to be a program written by one of the greatest tech minds of all time, 'it's broken, it's not working in places, lots of times there's just hyperlinks to Microsoft documents, to Wikipedia,' he said."
A former Woz U enrollment counselor said that at times he had to do things that didn't feel right: "Asked whether he regrets working for Woz U, Mionske said, 'I regret in the aspect to where they're spending this money for, it's like rolling the dice. [...] But on the reverse side, I have to support my family.'" According to Business Insider, Steve Wozniak said that he's "not involved" in the "operational aspects" of Woz U and doesn't know anything about the report this morning.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's boulevard-of-broken-dreams department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Deutsche Welle: Citing Saudi government officials, the U.S. business daily The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Monday that Saudi plans to build the world's largest solar power generation facility had been shelved, as the desert kingdom was working on a "broader, more practical strategy to boost renewable energy." The solar project was expected to generate about 200 gigawatts of energy by 2030 -- more than three times the country's daily requirement. "It is easy to sway or grab one's attention, but difficult to do any execution," WSJ quoted a senior adviser to the Saudi government as saying. Now, no one was actively working on the project, the source added.
[T]he country's entry into the solar market is being hampered by high costs and logistical issues. The project's first phase alone was expected to gobble up $1 billion, and was due to be funded by the Vision Fund this year. According to the Saudi officials cited by WSJ, Riyadh hadn't yet made any decisions on the project's details, including land acquisition, the structure of development or whether it would receive subsidies from the state. "Everyone is just hoping this whole idea would just die," a Saudi energy official familiar with the matter was quoted as saying. Instead, Saudi officials said the government was now devising a broader renewable energies strategy to be announced in late October, which would help clarify renewable energy goals.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's power-hungry department
Poor cellular reception doesn't appear to be the only issue affecting some new iPhone XS and XS Max owners. "Dozens of users have reported charging issues with their iPhone XS and XS Max devices, and shared their experiences on the MacRumors forums and Apple's support forums," reports The Verge. From the report: Specifically, users are experiencing issues where phones will not charge if the Lightning cable is plugged in while the device is asleep. The problem appears to be a software bug -- perhaps related to the phone's USB accessory settings -- and requires iPhones to be unlocked (or at least have the screen lit up) in order to begin charging. Tech vlogger Lewis Hilsenteger demonstrated the issues on nine different iPhone X, XS, and XS Max devices on his YouTube channel Unbox Therapy. Some iPhones respond immediately to being plugged into a charger, while others have to be tapped to awaken, and others freeze up. If you are experiencing this issue, you should find relief by upgrading to the iOS 12.1 beta, which apparently eliminates the problem entirely. "For now, others suggest going into Settings, FaceID and Passcode, scrolling down to 'Allow access when locked' and turning on USB Accessories," reports The Verge.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department
"A decade ago, internet users who grew up with Web 1.0 bid a fond farewell to Sunset Strip, Rodeo Drive, Colosseum, and other 'neighborhoods' on web-hosting service GeoCities, when Yahoo announced it was shutting the main site down," writes Isabella Steger for Quartz. "Now Japanese GeoCities fans will face the same fate." From the report: Yahoo Japan announced today (Oct. 1) that it will shut down (link in Japanese) its GeoCities service in March 2019, 22 years after its launch. The company said in a statement that it was hard to encapsulate in one word the reason for the shut down, but that profitability and technological issues were primary factors. It added that it was full of "regret" for the fate of the immense amount of information that would be lost as a result of the service's closure. Japan is the only country where the web hosting service remained in operation. Like the main GeoCities, the Japanese service was also organized around different themed neighborhoods. For example, websites in the Silicon Valley neighborhood were tech-focused, while those in Berkeley focused on education.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
Jean-Baptiste Kempf, president of VideoLan and developer of VLC media player, made the following announced Monday: AV1 is a new video codec by the Alliance for Open Media, composed of most of the important Web companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft,...). AV1 has the potential to be up to 20% better than the HEVC codec, but the patents license is totally free, while HEVC patents licenses are insanely high and very confusing. The reference decoder for AV1 is great, but it's a research codebase, so it has a lot to improve. Therefore, the VideoLAN, VLC and FFmpeg communities have started to work on a new decoder, sponsored by the Alliance of Open Media. The goal of this new decoder is: be small, be as fast as possible, be very cross-platform, correctly threaded, libre and (actually) Open Source. Without further due, the code: https://code.videolan.org/videolan/dav1d Recommended: A talk during VDD 2018 conference about dav1d.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's further-push department
Long time reader theodp writes: Facebook last week announced the launch of CodeFWD, "a free online education program created in partnership with [robotic toy maker] Sphero to increase the amount of underrepresented and female students interested in studying computer science." Sphero and CodeFWD are offering a free Sphero BOLT Power Pack (a classroom set of 15 robots valued at $2,499) for a select number of accepted applicants through the program. So, what do you need to begin CodeFWD by Facebook? "No experience necessary. No experience preferred ," explains the website. However, that's not to say CodeFWD is for all. "CodeFWD is intended for educators who are credentialed K-12 teachers or 501(c)(3) non-profit staff members in the United States," the website makes clear, adding that "given the limited supply of robots, we will evaluate the information you've provided and prioritize those applications that help us achieve the goal of expanding access to computer programming opportunities." And Facebook, being Facebook, adds that it wants some data out of the deal: "Please note that Facebook will have access to aggregate, anonymous usage data from Sphero, but will not have access to user-identifiable data collected by Sphero."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's demand-and-supply department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Evidence of the battery-powered era is all around us. Electric vehicles are cruising down our freeways. Household appliances thrum with stored solar energy that was until recently a daytime-only power source. Governments from California to China and South Korea -- even Donald Trump's Washington -- have taken steps that will make battery power more ubiquitous. There's just one hitch to this battery boom: The world isn't making nearly enough. All of the new demand from North America, Europe and Asia is constrained at the moment by a market that remains heavily dependent on a few producers. Data on the global supply of batteries is hard to come by, but close observers of the industry have noticed evidence of the shortfall. "We've never seen such demand," said Yayoi Sekine, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg NEF. "But the supply is struggling to keep up." Oddly, however, lithium-ion battery-rack prices have continued their annual decline, even in the face of constrained supply and expectations of ever-growing demand. To get a clear sense of the near future, consider battery-powered cars: Today, there are more than 3 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide; by 2025, Volkswagen AG alone plans to build as many as 3 million electric vehicles per year. Those vehicle batteries -- in addition to storage batteries for homes, businesses and utilities -- will have to come from somewhere.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's profiting-from-your-data department
An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: Shiru Cafe looks like a regular coffee shop. Inside, machines whir, baristas dispense caffeine and customers hammer away on laptops. But all of the customers are students, and there's a reason for that. At Shiru Cafe, no college ID means no caffeine. "We definitely have some people that walk in off the street that are a little confused and a little taken aback when we can't sell them any coffee," said Sarah Ferris, assistant manager at the Shiru Cafe branch in Providence, R.I., located near Brown University. Ferris will turn away customers if they're not college students or faculty members. The cafe allows professors to pay, but students have something else the shop wants: their personal information. To get the free coffee, university students must give away their names, phone numbers, email addresses and majors, or in Brown's lingo, concentrations. Students also provide dates of birth and professional interests, entering all of the information in an online form. By doing so, the students also open themselves up to receiving information from corporate sponsors who pay the cafe to reach its clientele through logos, apps, digital advertisements on screens in stores and on mobile devices, signs, surveys and even baristas. According to Shiru's website: "We have specially trained staff members who give students additional information about our sponsors while they enjoy their coffee." The source article additionally explores privacy aspects of the business. The cafe, which is owned by Japanese company Enrission, says it shares general, aggregate data such as student majors and expected graduation years.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's bigger-picture department
For years, the number of Americans who have reported using the internet, social media, and smartphones has been on a meteoric rise. But that rate has slowed to a near-stall. From a report: New data published this week by the Pew Research Center show that, since 2016, that number has plateaued, indicating those technologies have reached a saturation point among many groups of people. The percentage of Americans using smartphones (77%), the internet (88% to 89%), and social media (69%) has remained virtually unchanged during the last two years. "Put simply, in some instances there just aren't many non-users left," the report states. More than 90% of adults younger than 50 report they use the internet or own a smartphone. This number squares with some of the trends noticed earlier this year by Gartner, a global research firm. The fourth quarter of 2017 marked the first time since 2004 that the market for smartphones declined globally compared to the prior year. People are less frequently buying new phones.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
New submitter ilguido writes: At a workshop organized by CERN, Prof Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University said that "physics was invented and built by men, it's not by invitation", BBC reported Monday. Strumia's presentation that supports the idea that "physics is not sexist against women[...], however the truth does not matter, because it is part of a political battle coming from outside" has already received a lot of criticism, with one female physicist defining Strumia's analysis as "simplistic, drawing on ideas that had long been discredited." In a statement on Sunday, CERN said, "It is unfortunate that one of the 38 presentations, by a scientist from one of the collaborating universities, risks overshadowing the important message and achievements of the event. CERN, like many members of the community, considers that the presentation, with its attacks on individuals, was unacceptable in any professional context and was contrary to the CERN Code of Conduct. It, therefore, decided to remove the slides from the online repository." On Monday, CERN said it has suspended the scientist from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week's event.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
HP announced Monday the Spectre Folio, a convertible laptop made of leather. From a report: Unveiled in an over-the-top press event in Manhattan today, that included such turns of phrase as "aluminum has become the gold standard," the device is a convertible laptop with a leather case. As HP put it at the event, "this isn't a PC that's wrapped in leather, it's a PC that's made of leather." So, what does that mean, exactly? Rather than covering the standard aluminum or plastic, the cow skin serves as both the chassis and hinge. The laptop has a 13.3 inch pen-enabled touch screen and an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor inside. There's 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage. The battery should get up to 18 hours of life on a charge, according to the company -- admittedly pretty solid. Price starts at $1,300 for the variant with the i5 processor.Read Replies (0)