By EditorDavid from Slashdot's or-shouldn't-I department
An anonymous reader quotes BGR:
One of the more interesting 2018 retrospectives we've seen focuses on which Google searches were the most popular across each state. Specifically, AT&T tapped into data from Google Trends and came up with a rather amusing look at the most popular "should I..." questions on a state by state basis.
"Should I vote" was the most-popular question in seven states, which isn't surprising, given the exciting races in many areas. Indiana and Michigan, on the other hand, are more concerned with the other four-letter v-word: vape.
Other interesting results:
The most popular question in Washington was "Should I delete Facebook?" The most popular question in California was "Should I move out?" The most popular question in Texas was "Should I apologize?" The most popular question in both Nevada and New Hampshire was "Should I buy bitcoin?"
Although the article warns that "If you're asking Google what you should or shouldn't do, you probably already know the answer."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's all-around-you department
In the future, "A massive convergence of technologies will enable us to use computers and the internet without really using them," argues Computerworld.
At the dawn of the personal computing revolution, people "operated" a computer. They sat down and did computing -- often programming. Later, with the application explosion, operators became "users." People used computers for purposes other than programming or operating a computer -- like balancing their checkbooks or playing video games. All computing uses so far have required a cognitive shift from doing something in the real world to operating or using a computer. Ambient computing changes all that, because it involves using a computer without consciously or deliberately or explicitly "using" a computer....
It's just there, guiding and nudging you along as you accomplish things in life. Ambient computing devices will operate invisibly in the background. They'll identify, monitor and listen to us and respond to our perceived needs and habits. So a good working definition of ambient computing is "computing that happens in the background without the active participation of the user...."
In 20 years, the idea of picking up a device or sitting down at a computer to actively use it will seem quaintly antiquated. All computing will be ambient -- all around us all the time, whispering in our ear, augmenting the real world through our prescription eyeglasses and car windshields, perceiving our emotions and desires and taking action in the background to help us reach our business goals and live a better life. Between now and then we'll all ride together on a very interesting journey from computers we actively use to computing resources increasingly acting in the background for us.
Though the article identifies smart speakers are the first ambient computing devices most people will encounter, it's argues that that's just the beginning of a much larger change.
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How Microsoft Embraced Python
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '18 at 06:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's beyond-Basic department
Steve Dower, a Python developer at Microsoft, describes how the language become popular internally:
In 2010, our few Pythonistas were flying under the radar, in case somebody noticed that they could reassign a few developers to their own project. The team was small, leftover from a previous job, but was chipping away at a company culture that suffered from "not invented here" syndrome: Python was a language that belonged to other people, and so Microsoft was not interested. Over the last eight years, the change has been dramatic. Many Microsoft products now include Python support, and some of the newest only support Python. Some of our critical tools are written in Python, and we are actively investing in the language and community....
In 2018, we are out and proud about Python, supporting it in our developer tools such as Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, hosting it in Azure Notebooks, and using it to build end-user experiences like the Azure CLI. We employ five core CPython developers and many other contributors, are strong supporters of open-source data science through NumFOCUS and PyData, and regularly sponsor, host, and attend Python events around the world.
"We often felt like a small startup within a very large company" Downer writes, in a post for the Medium community "Microsoft Open Source Stories."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-sharing-the-road department
Waymo's testing dozens of self-driving mini-vans near Phoenix. Now the Arizona Republic asks why the vehicles are getting so much hate, citing "a slashed tire, a pointed gun, bullies on the road..."
"Police have responded to dozens of calls regarding people threatening and harassing Waymo vans."
That was clear August 19, when police were called because a 37-year-old man who police described as "heavily intoxicated" was standing in front of a Waymo and not allowing the van to proceed. "He stated he was sick and tired of the Waymo vehicles driving in his neighborhood, and apparently thought the best idea to resolve this was to stand in front of one of these vehicles," Officer Richard Rimbach wrote in a report.
Phil Simon, an information systems lecturer at Arizona State University and author of several books on technology, said angst from residents is probably less about how the Waymo vans drive and more about people frustrated with what Waymo represents. "This stuff is happening fast and a lot of people are concerned that technology is going to run them out of a job," Simon said. Simon said it is hard for middle-class people to celebrate technological breakthroughs like self-driving cars if they have seen their own wages stagnate or even decline in recent years. "There are always winners and losers, and these are probably people who are afraid and this is a way for them to fight back in some small, futile way," Simon said. "Something tells me these are not college professors or vice presidents who are doing well."
Police used video footage from Waymo to identify the license plate of a Jeep that kept driving head-on toward Waymo's test car -- six different times, one in which the driver then slammed on the brakes, jumped out of their car, and demanded that Waymo get out of their neighborhood. Another local resident told the newspaper that "Everybody hates Waymo drivers. They are dangerous." On four separate occasions, people have thrown rocks.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-such-place-as-Farmville department
An anonymous reader quotes a CNN opinion piece by Stanford business school lecturer David Dodson:
"Senator, we run ads." That's what Mark Zuckerberg told Senator Orrin Hatch earlier this year during his congressional testimony when asked to describe Facebook's business model. The 84-year-old senator was later mocked on social media for not understanding modern technology. But I'd argue that the wily senior senator understood Facebook's business quite well. Hatch was simply getting Mark Zuckerberg to say it out loud. Sometimes it takes an old guy to call out a youngster....
For media companies that run ads, especially ones that use public networks, we tell them that they can't lie or mislead, that it's not okay to advertise cigarettes to children or push prescription drugs without including the risks. We have laws governing deceptive advertisements and Truth in Advertising laws. Companies that run ads can't say a car gets 40 miles per gallon unless it's true. They can't say a movie won an Academy Award unless it did. If you say the wool comes from New Zealand, it must.... When nearly half of Americans get their news from Facebook, its newsfeed should be subjected to the same standards of fairness, decency and accuracy as newspapers, television and other media outlets....
Calling Facebook a tech company is how we got into so much trouble. It's also why, when Zuckerberg answered Hatch, the 34-year-old billionaire smiled in a way that was interpreted by many as smug. As if the senator was too antiquated to grasp the complexities of Facebook's revenue model. I see it differently. The company founder was offering a grin of acknowledgment. The jig was up. Facebook places ads just like most media companies do and should be held to the same overall standards.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's middle-age-craziness department
"it is clear to me that open source -- now several decades old and fully adult -- is going through its own midlife crisis," writes Joyent CTO Bryan Cantrill.
[O]pen source business models are really tough, selling software-as-a-service is one of the most natural of them, the cloud service providers are really good at it -- and their commercial appetites seem boundless. And, like a new cherry red two-seater sports car next to a minivan in a suburban driveway, some open source companies are dealing with this crisis exceptionally poorly: they are trying to restrict the way that their open source software can be used. These companies want it both ways: they want the advantages of open source -- the community, the positivity, the energy, the adoption, the downloads -- but they also want to enjoy the fruits of proprietary software companies in software lock-in and its concomitant monopolistic rents.
If this were entirely transparent (that is, if some bits were merely being made explicitly proprietary), it would be fine: we could accept these companies as essentially proprietary software companies, albeit with an open source loss-leader. But instead, these companies are trying to license their way into this self-contradictory world: continuing to claim to be entirely open source, but perverting the license under which portions of that source are available. Most gallingly, they are doing this by hijacking open source nomenclature. Of these, the laughably named commons clause is the worst offender (it is plainly designed to be confused with the purely virtuous creative commons), but others...are little better...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you-have-nine-new-emails department
An anonymous reader quotes Inc:
Our attention in the workplace is a precious resource that often falls victim to tools like email, Slack, and so on, which bring a nonstop supply of things to read, things to respond to, things to file, things to loop others in on, things to follow up on, and in general, things to do. This "always on" dynamic has roots in a desire for increased workplace collaboration and productivity, but as is so often the case, it turns out there is a balance to be struck for optimal results. New research shows that groups who collaborate less often may be better at problem solving....
In a study titled "How Intermittent Breaks in Interaction Improve Collective Intelligence", the authors use a standardized problem-solving test to measure the contrast between time spent in collaboration mode against the quality and quantity of problem solving results. The group with no interaction predictably had the highest options for solutions, but those solutions were of lower overall quality. The group with high interaction had higher quality solutions, but less variety and a lower likelihood to find the optimal solution. The intermittent collaboration groups found the desirable middle ground to balance out the pros/cons of the no interaction and high interaction groups, leading them to become the most successful problem solvers.
The article warns of a "collaboration drain", suggesting managers pay closer attention to when collaboration is (and isn't) necessary. "Once upon a time in the land of business, people primarily communicated through conversations, meetings, and internally circulated printed memos. In the absence of email, Internet, cell phones, and CRMs there was a repeating cadence of connection, then disconnection, even while in the office."
"In this case, 'disconnected' really amounts to uninterrupted -- and able to focus."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's defining-high-definition department
Is there an open source video analysis tool available that can take a folder full of video captures (e.g. news, sports, movies, music videos, TV shows), analyze the video frames in those captures, and put a hard number on how optically sharp, on average, the digital video provided by any given digital TV or streaming service is?
If such a tool exists, it could be of great use in shaming paid video content delivery services that promise proper "1080 HD" or "4K UHD" quality content, but deliver video that is actually Youtube quality or worse. With such a tool, people could channel-hop across their digital TV service's various offerings for an hour or so, capture the video stream to harddisk, and then have an "average optical sharpness score" for that service calculated that can be shared with others and published online, possibly shaming the content provider -- satellite TV providers in particular -- into upping their bitrate if the score turns out to be atrociously low for that service....
People in many countries -- particularly developing countries -- cough up hard cash to sign up for various satellite TV, digital TV, streaming video and similar services, only to then find that the bitrate, compression quality and optical sharpness of the video content delivered isn't too great at all. At a time when 4K UHD content is available in some countries, many satellite TV and streaming video services in many different countries do not even deliver properly sharp and well-defined 1080 HD video to their customers, even though the content quality advertised before signing up is very much "crystal clear 1080 HD High-Definition".
What's the solution? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.
And is there an open source tool measuring the sharpness of streaming video?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's elections-have-consequences department
CNET just published a fierce pro-net neutrality editorial co-authored by Nancy Pelosi, the soon-to-be Majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, with Mike Doyle, the expected Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and Frank Pallone, Jr. the expected Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The three representatives argue that "the Trump FCC ignored millions of comments from Americans pleading to keep strong net neutrality rules in place."
The FCC's net neutrality repeal left the market for broadband internet access virtually lawless, giving ISPs an opening to control peoples' online activities at their discretion. Gone are rules that required ISPs to treat all internet traffic equally. Gone are rules that prevented ISPs from speeding up traffic of some websites for a fee or punishing others by slowing their traffic down....
Without the FCC acting as sheriff, it is unfortunately not surprising that big corporations have started exploring ways to change how consumers access the Internet in order to benefit their bottom line.... Research from independent analysts shows that nearly every mobile ISP is throttling at least one streaming video service or using discriminatory boosting practices. Wireless providers are openly throttling video traffic and charging consumers extra for watching high-definition streams. ISPs have rolled out internet plans that favor companies they are affiliated with, despite full-page ads swearing they value net neutrality. And most concerning, an ISP was found throttling so-called "unlimited" plans for a fire department during wildfires in California.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's party-like-it's-1989 department
Long-time Slashdot reader Mike Bouma quotes Gizmodo:
Despite being ahead of its time when it was unveiled in 1985, the Commodore Amiga didn't survive past 1996. The machine, which went up against with the likes of the IBM PC and the Macintosh, offered far superior hardware than its competitors. But it just wasn't enough, as this video from Ahoy's Stuart Brown explains. While the Amiga had other 16-bit computers beat on technology, it didn't really have anything compelling to do with that hardware. "With 4096 colours, 4 channels of digital audio, and preemptive multitasking, [the Amiga] was capable of incredible things for the time...."
[U]nfortunately, internal struggles within Commodore would signal the beginning of the end.
I'll always remember Joel Hodgson's Amiga joke on a 1991 episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. But in 2015 Geek.com reported on an Amiga which had been running a school's heating system for the last 30 years. A local high school student had originally set it up, and "he's the only one who knows how to fix software glitches. Luckily, he still lives in the area."
Leave your own thoughts in the comments. Does anyone else have their own stories about Commodore's Amiga? And was the Amiga a computer ahead of its time?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's indoor-activities department
schwit1 shared this article from Bloomberg:
Brain scans of adolescents who are heavy users of smartphones, tablets and video games look different from those of less active screen users, preliminary results from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes of Health show, according to a report on Sunday by "60 Minutes." That's the finding of the first batch of scans of 4,500 nine- to 10-year-olds. Scientists will follow those children and thousands more for a decade to see how childhood experiences, including the use of digital devices, affect their brains, emotional development and mental health.
In the first round of testing, the scans of children who reported daily screen usage of more than seven hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world.... Early results from the $300 million study, called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), have determined that children who spend more than two hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests. A major data release is scheduled for early 2019.
The study's director cautions that "It won't be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we're seeing in this single snapshot."
The study will ultimately follow over 11,000 nine- to 10-year-olds for a decade.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's professionalism department
Thursday a bug report complained that the source code for OpenJDK, the free and open-source implementation of Java, "has too many swear words." An anonymous reader writes:
"There are many instances of swear words inside OpenJDK jdk/jdk source, scattered all over the place," reads the bug report. "As OpenJDK is used in a professional context, it seems inappropriate to leave these 12 instances in there, so here's a changeset to remove them."
IBM software developer (and OpenJDK team member and contributor) Adam Farley responded that "after discussion with the community, three determinations were reached":
"Damn" and "Crap" are not swear words. Three of the four f-bombs are located in jszip.js, which should be corrected upstream (will follow up). The f-bomb in BitArray.java, as well as the rude typo in SoftChannel.java, *are* swear words and should be removed to resolve this work item.
He promised a new webrev would be uploaded to reflect these determinations, and the bug has been marked as "resolved."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-ideal-for-millennials department
shanen writes about Vitaminwater's latest "publicity stunt," where they will pay $100,000 to one select contestant who can live without their smartphone for a year: All you have to do is come up with the most amusing entry [about how you will spend 365 days without the device] and have sufficient willpower to give up your smartphone for a year. They obviously have to pick a power user to make it interesting, but that's not the reason I'm disqualified. I would just read more books, which is boring from their perspective. So maybe you want to share your idea here? If it's really good, you don't have to worry about someone stealing it. After all, you'd have the evidence that it was your idea first, but you might be able to refine your entry while amusing the mob. The company will reportedly give you a 1996 cellphone to use in times of emergencies. Also, they will reward you with $10,000 if you are able to get through 6 months. According to Tech Times, contestants can use computers or desktops, "but not smartphones or tablets, even those owned by other people, or anything which the candidate can scroll or swipe on." Always-listening smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, are permitted. To make sure the candidate doesn't cheat, Vitaminwater will subject them to a lie-detector test at the end of the year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's quick-before-it's-too-late department
Researchers at the University of Geneva Switzerland have used NASA's Hubble telescope to find an exoplanet that's evaporating. The exoplanet, GJ 3470b, shows signs of losing hydrogen in its atmosphere, causing it to shrink. USA Today reports: The study is part of exploration into "hot Neptunes," planets that are the size of Neptune, sit very close to their star, and have atmospheres as hot at 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, says NASA. Finding a "hot Neptune" is rare because they sit so close to their star and tend to evaporate more quickly. In the case of GJ 3470b, scientists classify it as a "warmer" Neptune because it sits farther away from its star. The exoplanet discovered by astronauts is losing its atmosphere at a rate 100 times faster than a previous "warmer" Neptune planet discovered a few years before, according to a study published Thursday in the journal "Astronomy & Astrophysics." The planet sits 3.7 million miles from its star. For comparison, Earth is 92.9 million miles from the sun. Researchers say these "hot Neptune" planets shrink in size and morph into "Super Earths," versions of our planet that are massive and more rocky.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's going-forward department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: A panel of 19 scientists drawn from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended yesterday that the Department of Energy should continue an international experiment on nuclear fusion energy and then develop its own plan for a "compact power plant." A panel of 19 scientists drawn from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended yesterday that the Department of Energy should continue an international experiment on nuclear fusion energy and then develop its own plan for a "compact power plant."
But as the National Academies' report noted, major challenges must be overcome to reach these goals, beginning with how to contain and control a burning "plasma" of extremely hot gas, ranging from 100 million to 200 million degrees Celsius, that can produce more heat than it consumes. The report calls the resulting plasma "a miniature sun confined inside a vessel." The world's biggest experiment intended to create and draw energy from burning plasma is under construction at Cadarache, France. It's called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, and its centerpiece is a large, doughnut-shaped, Russian-inspired reactor called a tokamak. Several member nations have already developed their own national programs, and the assembled National Academies experts concluded that the United States should eventually follow, once the ITER experiment shows there are ways to contain and manipulate a sustained fusion reaction. "It is the next critical step in the development of fusion energy," says the report.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's up-up-and-away department
schwit1 shares a report from Variety: Streaming services snatched their biggest piece of the TV pie ever in 2018. According to FX's annual report on the number of scripted originals on TV, the number of streaming shows has surpassed the number of basic cable and broadcast shows for the first time ever. Out of 495 scripted originals that aired in 2018, 160 of them did so on a streaming platform. That is compared to 146 on broadcast and 144 on basic cable. Pay cable accounted for the remaining 45 shows. Streaming shows also saw the biggest increase year-to-year, growing from 117 last year. Broadcast dipped slightly, dropping from 153 in 2017. Basic cable saw a more sharp decline, compared to the 175 shows that aired on basic cable the previous year. Pay cable was up slightly from 42. On a percentage basis, streaming shows now account for approximately one third of all scripted originals, with approximately 32%. Broadcast made up 30% and basic cable 29%, with pay cable making up 9%. The total number of shows across all of TV was up again as well, rising from 487 in 2017. The year-to-year growth was less than that of previous years, however. For example, the number of shows grew from 455 to 487 between 2016 and 2017. The 495 scripted originals this year was also off from FX Networks CEO John Landgraf's prediction that 520 such shows would air this year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's legal-jeopardy department
Cloudflare is facing accusations that it's providing cybersecurity protection for at least seven terrorist organizations. "On Friday, HuffPost reported that it has reviewed numerous websites run by terrorist organizations and confirmed with four national security and counter-extremism experts that the sites are under the protection of Cloudflare's cybersecurity services," reports Gizmodo.
"Among Cloudflare's millions of customers are several groups that are on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations, including al-Shabab, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, al-Quds Brigades, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas -- as well as the Taliban, which, like the other groups, is sanctioned by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)," reports HuffPost.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's intimate-intel department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The biggest and perhaps best source of data about what people like to watch on the internet and what they would pay for doesn't come from streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu. It comes from porn. While consuming porn is typically a private and personal affair, porn sites still track your every move: What content you choose, which moments you pause, which parts you repeat. By mining this data to a deeper degree than other streaming services, many porn sites are able to give internet users exactly what they want -- and they want a lot of it. [...] MindGeek is the world's biggest porn company -- more specifically, it's a holding company that owns numerous adult entertainment sites and production companies, including the Pornhub Network. Like other streaming giants, MindGeek's sites analyze user data, but the company has an edge when it comes to producing tailor-made content in-house. With at least 125 million daily visits, MindGeek has a massive range of users to draw data from and create content for.
The average user can watch as much porn as they'd like without so much as making an account, let alone paying, but in exchange for meeting desires that can't always be met elsewhere, companies like MindGeek access user data because the user more willingly lets them. And it eventually pays off, when users decide to pay for premium content and the habits of paying subscribers become even clearer. What's more, Pornhub, in particular, operates one of the most sophisticated digital data analysis operations that caters primarily to users and not advertisers. Pornhub Insights provides transparency into its data collection -- on the most intimate of subjects -- by making research and analysis from billions of data points about viewership patterns, often tied to events from politics to pop culture, available to the public. It offers more than many other tech giants do.Read Replies (0)