By EditorDavid from Slashdot's reply-hazy-try-again department
Some judges in America have recently started using a closed-source algorithm that predicts how likely convicts are to commit another crime. Mosquito Bites shared an article by law professor Frank Pasquale raising concerns about the algorithms:
They may seem scientific, an injection of computational rationality into a criminal justice system riddled with discrimination and inefficiency. However, they are troubling for several reasons: many are secretly computed; they deny due process and intelligible explanations to defendants; and they promote a crabbed and inhumane vision of the role of punishment in society...
When an algorithmic scoring process is kept secret, it is impossible to challenge key aspects of it. How is the algorithm weighting different data points, and why? Each of these inquiries is crucial to two core legal principles: due process, and the ability to meaningfully appeal an adverse decision... A secret risk assessment algorithm that offers a damning score is analogous to evidence offered by an anonymous expert, whom one cannot cross-examine... Humans are in charge of governments, and can demand explanations for decisions in natural language, not computer code. Failing to do so in the criminal context risks ceding inherently governmental and legal functions to an unaccountable computational elite.
This issue will grow more and more important, the law professor argues, since there's now proprietary analytics software that also predicts "the chances that any given person will be mentally ill, a bad employee, a failing student, a criminal, or a terrorist."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's why-1984-happened department
Eric S. Raymond recently documented one of the first public calls for free software, which happened immediately after AT&T's fateful decision commercialize Unix:
[I]n October 1984 I was in a crowd of people watching a presentation by a woman from Bell Labs describing the then-new getopt(3) library, written by AT&T as a way to regularize the processing of command-line arguments in C programs... Everybody thought this was a fine idea, and several people asked questions probing whether AT&T was going to let anyone else use the getopt code they had written. These questions related to the general anxiety about Unix source code distributions drying up. Frustration mounted as the woman gave evasive answers which seemed to add up to "No, we refuse to commit to allowing general access to this code." Which seemed to confirm everyone's worst fears about what was going to happen to Unix source code access in general. At which point Henry Spencer stands up and says (not in these exact words) "I will write and share a conforming implementation." -- and got a cheer from the assembled.
If you're thinking "That's not a big deal, we do this sort of thing all the time," my actual point is that in October 1984 this was indeed a big deal. It took an actual imaginative leap for Henry Spencer to, in effect, say "Screw AT&T and its legalisms and evasions, if they're going to cut off source access we hackers are gonna do it for ourselves"... [H]e got an actual cheer exactly because he was pushing forward, exposing the possibility of doing not just small projects and demos and quirky little tools but at competing with the likes of AT&T itself at software production.
< article continued at Slashdot's why-1984-happened department
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tracking-the-code department
Slashdot reader dryriver writes:
There appear to be two main ways to write code today. One is with text-based languages ranging from BASIC to Python to C++. The other is to use a flow-based or dataflow programming-based visual programming language where you connect boxes or nodes with lines. What I have never (personally) come across is a way to program by drawing classical vertical (top to bottom) flow charts. Is there a programming environment that lets you do this...?
There are software tools that can turn, say, C code into a visual flow chart representation of said C code. Is there any way to do the opposite -- draw a flowchart, and have that flowchart turn into working C code?
Leave your best answers in the comments.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's freeing-the-software department
Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond -- and he's also Slashdot reader #3,872. Bruce Perens writes:
There's been a lot of confusion about the recent Artifex v. Hancomcase, in which the court found that the GPL was an enforceable contract. I'm going to try to explain the whole thing in clear terms for the legal layman.
Two key quotes: "What has changed now is that for the purposes of the court, the GPL is both a license, which can be enforced through a claim of copyright infringement, and a contract, which can be enforced through a claim of breach of contract. You can allege both in your court claim in a single case, and fall back on one if you can't prove the other. Thus, the potential to enforce the GPL in court is somewhat stronger than before this finding, and you have a case to cite rather than spending time in court arguing whether the GPL is a contract or not...""Another interesting point in the case is that the court found Artifex's claim of damages to be admissible because of their use of dual-licensing. An economic structure for remuneration of the developer by users who did not wish to comply with the GPL terms, and thus acquired a commercial license, was clearly present."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's time-standard-time department
AmiMoJo quotes the Register: The Internet Engineering Task Force has taken another small step in protecting everybody's privacy... As the draft proposal explains, the RFCs that define NTP have what amounts to a convenience feature: packets going from client to server have the same set of fields as packets sent from servers to clients... "Populating these fields with accurate information is harmful to privacy of clients because it allows a passive observer to fingerprint clients and track them as they move across networks". The header fields in question are Stratum, Root Delay, Root Dispersion, Reference ID, Reference Timestamp, Origin Timestamp, and Receive Timestamp. The Origin Timestamp and Receive Timestamp offer a handy example or a "particularly severe information leak". Under NTP's spec (RFC 5905), clients copy the server's most recent timestamp into their next request to a server – and that's a boon to a snoop-level watcher.
The proposal "proposes backward-compatible updates to the Network Time
Protocol to strip unnecessary identifying information from client
requests and to improve resilience against blind spoofing of
unauthenticated server responses." Specifically, client developers should set those fields to zero.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's anti-social-media department
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Twitter is not good enough at removing hate speech from its platform. That's the judgment of Europe's top regulator, which released data on Thursday showing that Twitter has failed to meet its standard of taking down 50% of hate speech posts after being warned that they include objectionable content. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google have all agreed to do more, promising last May to review a majority of hate speech flagged by users within 24 hours and to remove any illegal content.
A year into the agreement, the European Commission said that Facebook and YouTube, which is owned by Google, have both managed to remove 66% of reported hate speech. Twitter's rate, meanwhile, was 38%. That's below the commission's standard but a major improvement from December, when the service was removing only 19% of hate speech... Twitter was also slightly slower than rivals Facebook and YouTube when it came to reviewing content. The regulator said that Facebook reviewed flagged content within 24 hours in 58% of cases. YouTube did the same 43% of the time, while Twitter met the 24-hour benchmark in 39% of cases.
European lawmakers are considering laws mandating the blocking of online hate speech, so they're carefully watching what happens when social media companies self-regulate.
"Tackling illegal hate speech online is a contribution to the fight against terrorism," argued the EU Commission's top justice official.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's see-you-in-September department
An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld:
Java 9 won't be released on July 27 after all. Oracle has proposed that Java 9 Standard Edition be delayed until September 21 so the open source community that is finalizing Java 9 can address the ongoing controversy over a planned but later rejected approach to modularity, said Georges Saab, vice president of software development in the Java platform group at Oracle and chairman of the OpenJDK governing board...
The [Java Platform Module System] measure was sent back to the proposal's expert group for further discussion. Since then, the group has reached consensus on addressing the modularity concerns, Saab said. But they cannot rework Java 9 in time for the original July 27 release date... If the revised JSR 376 approved, as expected, work can proceed on implementing it in the official version of Java 9 SE. This setback for Java 9s upcoming upgrade, however, should just be temporary, with Oracle expecting a more rapid cadence of Java SE releases going forward, Saab said.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's del.icio.us-is-dead department
Long-time Slashdot reader brentlaminack writes:
One of the first and best social bookmarking platforms, Del.icio.us has changed hands about four times, one was to Yahoo for >$15M. Its most recent relaunch was over a year back, which was their last blog entry. Now images are broken, little "advertisement" blocks show up with no advertisements, things seem moribund. What's the deal?
The Next Web reports:
It's the end of the road for social bookmarking website del.icio.us. After almost fifteen years, the site has been acquired by rival Pinboard, and will be shuttered on June 15, when it goes into read-only mode. While the site will continue to be viewable, users won't be able to save any new bookmarks. Del.icio.us pioneered the social bookmarking paradigm. Its influence can be seen everywhere, from Reddit to Twitter...
After del.icio.us was acquired by AVOS Systems in 2011, users fled to Pinboard in droves over complaints AVOS was fundamentally changing the makeup of the site. By purchasing del.icio.us, Pinboard is able to coax the few remaining del.icio.us users to jump ship. Depending on how much Pinboard paid for the site, how many users remain, and how many users Pinboard is able to convert, this could be a financially lucrative move. A Pinboard subscription costs $11 per annum.
A late update to the article includes a quote from Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski. "In a statement, he said 'I am the greatest.' Ceglowski also confirmed the purchase price for del.icio.us, which was $35,000."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's dirty-files department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: "After taking last week off, WikiLeaks came back today and released documentation on another CIA cyber weapon. Codenamed Pandemic, this is a tool that targets computers with shared folders, from where users download files via SMB. The way Pandemic works is quite ingenious and original, and something not seen before in any other malware strain. According to a leaked CIA manual, Pandemic is installed on target machines as a "file system filter driver." This driver's function is to listen to SMB traffic and detect attempts from other users to download shared files from the infected computer. Pandemic will intercept this SMB request and answer on behalf of the infected computer. Instead of the legitimate file, Pandemic will deliver a malware-infected file instead. According to the CIA manual, Pandemic can replace up to 20 legitimate files at a time, with a maximum size of 800MB per file, and only takes 15 seconds to install. Support is included for replacing both 32-bit and 64-bit files. The tool was specifically developed to replace executable files, especially those hosted on enterprise networks via shared folders. The role of this cyber weapon is to infect corporate file sharing servers and deliver a malicious executable to other persons on the network, hence the tool's name of Pandemic.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's world-record department
Frosty Piss quotes a report from The Seattle Times: The huge Stratolaunch finally rolled out of its hangar in Mojave, Calif., Wednesday for the first time. Built by Paul Allen's Scaled Composites, the twin hulled monster will go through months of ground tests before a first flight. Jean Floyd, chief executive at Stratolaunch Systems, said in a statement that the empty airplane, powered by six used 747 engines, weighs approximately 500,000 pounds. The jet will have a three-person crew: pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer in the flight deck of the starboard fuselage, while the port fuselage cockpit is empty and unpressurized. Stratolaunch is intended to carry a rocket slung beneath the central part of the wing, between the two fuselages, and release it at 35,000 feet. The concept is that the rocket will then launch into space and deliver satellites into orbit.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's job-loss-fears department
Norman Yee, an American elected official in San Francisco, has recently proposed legislation that would prohibit autonomous delivery robots -- which includes those with a remote human operator -- on public streets in the city. In a statement provided to Recode, Yee said, "our streets and our sidewalks are made for people, not robots." He also worries that many delivery jobs would disappear. The proposed legislation is causing a headache for one high-tech startup in particular. The tech company is called Marble, which uses bots fitted with camera and ultrasonic sensors to deliver small packages and food within a one or two mile radius. The delivery robots themselves travel at a walking pace and use cameras and sensors to avoid pedestrians and navigate pavements. The Guardian reports: San Francisco police commander Robert O'Sullivan is in favor of the legislation, fearing the robots could harm children, the elderly, and those with limited mobility. "If hit by a car, they also have the potential of becoming a deadly projectile," he told a local TV station. Marble CEO Matt Delaney says these fears are unfounded. "We care that our robots are good citizens of the sidewalk," he says. "We've taken a lot of care from the ground up to consider their need to sense and intuit how people are going to react."Read Replies (0)