By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, plans to integrate the social network's messaging services -- WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger -- asserting his control over the company's sprawling divisions at a time when its business has been battered by scandals.
The New York Times: The move, described by four people involved in the effort, requires thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger function at their most basic levels. While all three services will continue operating as stand-alone apps, their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified, the people said. Facebook is still in the early stages of the work and plans to complete it by the end of this year or in early 2020, they said.
Mr. Zuckerberg has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption, the people said, a significant step that protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation. After the changes take effect, a Facebook user could send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, for example. Currently, that isn't possible because the apps are separate.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's go-to-bed department
According to The Washington Post, "a growing number of scientists, not normally known for being advocates, are bringing evangelical zeal to the message that lack of sleep is an escalating public health crisis that deserves as much attention as the obesity epidemic." "We're competing against moneyed interests, with technology and gaming and all that. It's so addictive and so hard to compete with," said Orfeu Buxton, a sleep researcher at Pennsylvania State University. "We've had this natural experiment with the Internet that swamped everything else." From the report: The sleep research community, formerly balkanized into separate sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, has begun to coalesce around the concept of "sleep health" -- which for most adults means getting at least seven hours a night. But time in the sack has been steadily decreasing. In 1942, a Gallup poll found that adults slept an average of 7.9 hours per night. In 2013, the average adult had sheared more than an hour off that number. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a third of adults fail to get the recommended seven hours. In the blink of an eye, in evolutionary terms, humans have radically altered a fundamental biological necessity -- with repercussions we are still only beginning to understand.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's keyboard-shortcuts-FTW department
Slashdot reader dmoberhaus writes via Motherboard: Over the course of the next five days, I relied solely on my keyboard to navigate the web and my local hard drive. It was a limited form of digital detox, a way of trying to understand the way people used computers before the computer mouse became widely adopted for commercial machines in the 1980s. If I had to describe the experience of computing without a mouse in a word, I'd say it was fucking fantastic. It took about a day and a half before I had memorized all the shortcuts that I would be using on a regular basis. All the other important shortcuts I wrote down on a notepad I kept on my desk for reference. I also had to do a little set up for certain applications, such as Gmail, which doesn't have many of its most useful shortcuts turned on by default, such as the ability to select all unread messages or the ability to move between messages with only a single keystroke.
By the end of my week without a mouse, many of the shortcuts were already beginning to feel like second nature. I found that they saved me a ton of time, especially on tedious tasks like deleting emails. Indeed, one shortcut evangelist suggests that switching to keyboard shortcuts in Gmail saved him as much as 60 hours per year. If nothing else, it made the experience of using a laptop way less miserable because I didn't have to touch the touchpad. [...] Admittedly, not everything was rosy without a mouse. I haunt a number of forums and found it a little tedious to have to ctrl+f whatever item I wanted to "click" on. Similarly, doing anything that involved image editing in Photoshop was basically impossible. I don't game on my PC, but from what I hear, this would also be quite difficult without a mouse.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-a-first-time-for-everything department
In a series of matches streamed on YouTube and Twitch, DeepMind AI AlphaStar defeated two top-ranked professionals 10-1 at real-time strategy game StarCraft II. "This is of course an exciting moment for us," said David Silver at DeepMind in a live stream watched by more than 55,000 people. "For the first time we saw an AI that was able to defeat a professional player." New Scientist reports: DeepMind created five versions of their AI, called AlphaStar, and trained them on footage of human games. The different AIs then played against each other in a league, with the leading AI accumulating the equivalent of 200 years of game experience. With this, AlphaStar beat professional players Dario Wunsch and Grzegorz Komincz -- ranked 44th and 13th in the world respectively. AlphaStar's success came with some caveats: the AI played only on a single map, and using a single kind of player (there are three in the game). The professionals also had to contend with playing different versions of AlphaStar from match to match. While the AlphaStar was playing on a single graphics processing unit, a computer chip found in many gaming computers, it was trained on 16 tensor processing units hosted in the Google cloud -- processing power beyond the realms of many.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-it-comes department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Automation is coming, but not for everyone. Researchers at the Brookings Institution estimate just 25% of occupations in the US -- in production, food service, and transportation -- are at "high risk" for losing jobs from the advance of automation. "Automation is not the end of work," said Mark Muro, policy director for the Brookings Institution's program on urban economies and co-author of a study published Jan. 24. Most occupations will see specific tasks assumed by machines, but much of their labor will likely be enhanced, rather than fully replaced, through automation, the study found. That's because automation rarely replaces entire jobs, but instead handles specific tasks in occupations that often require hundreds of them.
To forecast the effects, Brookings researchers looked at thousands of specific tasks within each occupation, and the degree to which automation could handle them, coming up with a risk rating for each occupation. The workers most vulnerable are in transportation, production, food preparation, and office administration, which, combined, make up about 36 million jobs, or 25% of the total jobs in the US today. In these occupations, roughly 70% of tasks were considered routine and predictable, prime targets to be managed by machines. The most vulnerable were "packaging and filling machine operators" (100% exposure to automation), food preparation workers (91%), payroll and timekeeping clerks (87%), and light-truck and delivery drivers (78%).Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's let's-settle-this-once-and-for-all department
Google is asking the Supreme Court to make the final call in its infamous dispute with Oracle. "Today, the company announced it has filed a petition with the Court, asking the justices to determine the boundaries of copyright law in code," reports The Verge. From the report: The case dates back to 2010, when Oracle first accused Google of improperly using elements of Oracle's Java programming language to build Android. Oracle said that Google's use of Java application programing interfaces was a violation of copyright law. Google has responded that APIs are too fundamental to programming to be copyrighted. The case has led to two jury trials, and several rulings have doled out wins and losses to both companies over the course of eight years. Last year, a favorable Oracle decision set Google up to potentially lose billions of dollars.
Google asked for a Supreme Court hearing on the case in 2014, but the Court rejected the request at the time. The company says new issues are now at play, and is asking the Court to decide whether software interfaces can be copyrighted, and whether using them to build something new constitutes fair use under the law. In its new petition to the Supreme Court, Google says the case is not only important to copyright law, but has "sheer practical importance," as it centers around two touchstones of computing: Google's Android and Oracle's Java. The Court's intervention could alter the future of software, the company argues.Read Replies (0)
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)