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When Sentencing Criminals, Should Judges Use Closed-Source Algorithms?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 04 '17 at 04:00 AM
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."

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ESR Shares A Forgotten 'Roots Of Open Source' Moment From 1984
Posted by News Fetcher on June 04 '17 at 12:00 AM
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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Ask Slashdot: Is There a Way To Write Working Code By Drawing Flow Charts?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 09:20 PM
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.

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Bruce Perens Explains That 'GPL Is A Contract' Court Case
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 06:40 PM
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."

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NASA Will Create Fake Red And Green Clouds Near Virginia
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 04:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sky-lights department:
An anonymous reader quotes CNET:
The early morning hours on the U.S. East Coast might be unusually colorful as NASA plans to produce artificial blue-green and red clouds that may be visible from New York to North Carolina... It's a test of a new system that helps scientists study the auroras and ionosphere. A NASA sounding rocket (a small, sub-orbital rocket often used in research) will launch from Wallops Flight Facility off the coast of Virginia and release several soda-sized canisters of vapor tracers in the upper atmosphere that may appear as colorful clouds. The tracers use vapors made up of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in the atmosphere to glow, letting researchers visually track the flows of ionized and neutral particles. It's a bit like being able to dye the wind or ocean currents to be able to get a visual picture.
CNN adds that "If you're near the eastern U.S. coast, look toward the eastern horizon beginning about 4:30 a.m. The farther you are from the launch location, the lower the clouds will appear on the horizon." Basically, try to adjust your gaze towards Virginia's eastern shore -- and if you're not on the east coast, NASA is livestreaming the launch and posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.

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Network Time Protocol Hardened To Protect Users From Spying, Increase Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 02:41 PM
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.

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'Rime' Developer Keeps Promise, Removes Denuvo DRM After Game Gets Cracked
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 02:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's achievement-unlocked department:
An anonymous reader quotes CinemaBlend:

Tequila Works and Grey Box had previously announced that the DRM for the PC version of Rime would be removed if it were cracked. Well, in just five days the DRM was cracked and a cracked version of the game was made available online. So, now the DRM will be removed...

Five days after the PC launch of Rime, the cracking scene managed to get into the executable and spill all of its guts, removing the DRM and putting the exe back together so it could be distributed across the usual sites. One of the things noted by the cracker was that he found Denuvo executing hundreds of triggers a second, which caused major slowdown in the performance of Rime on PC. This form of digital rights management resulted in every legitimate customer having to deal with a lot of slowdown and performance hiccups... The sad reality was that those who pirated Rime and used the cracked file essentially gained access to a game that had improved performance and frame-rates over those who actually paid for the game.

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Bitcoin Exchange Coinbase Reportedly Valued At $1 Billion
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 01:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's virtual-money department:
An anonymous reader quotes Reuters:
Bitcoin exchange Coinbase Inc. is in talks with potential investors on a new round of funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. It is not clear which investors are committing to the round, which was described as targeting around $100 million or more, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter... Demand for crypto-assets has soared with the creation of new tokens to raise funding for start-ups using blockchain technology. Coinbase said in January it raised $75 million from several major financial institutions including the New York Stock Exchange, USAA Bank and Spanish banking group BBVA.
Though Bitcoins were selling for $892 in January, they've nearly tripled in value over the last five months. Despite the fact that Coinbase "suffered outages" last week, the price of Bitcoin still rose 13.6% over the next nine days to $2561.

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Twitter Isn't Removing Enough Hate Speech, Complains The EU
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 12:01 PM
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.

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Java 9 Delayed Due To Modularity Controversy
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 10:41 AM
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.

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Chrome To Deprecate PNaCl, Embrace New WebAssembly Standard
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 10:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's near-native-performance department:
An anonymous reader quotes Tom's Hardware
Google announced that its Portable Native Client (PNaCl) solution for making native code run inside the browser will be replaced by the new cross-browser web standard called WebAssembly... Even though Google open sourced PNaCl, as part of the Chromium project, Mozilla ended up creating its own alternative called "asm.js," an optimized subset of JavaScript that could also compile to the assembly language. Mozilla thought that asm.js was far simpler to implement and required no API compatibility, as PNaCl did. As these projects seemed to go nowhere, with everyone promoting their own standard, the major browser vendors seem to have eventually decided on creating WebAssembly. WebAssembly can give web apps near-native performance, offers support for more CPU features, and is simpler to implement in browsers and use by developers.

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Toyota Demos A Flying Car. It Crashes.
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 09:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's back-to-the-drawing-board department:
thomst shares the AP's report on Toyota's latest venture. From the article:
A startup backed by the Japanese automaker has developed a test model that engineers hope will eventually develop into a tiny car with a driver who'll be able to light the Olympic torch in the 2020 Tokyo games. For now, however, the project is a concoction of aluminum framing and eight propellers that barely gets off the ground and crashes after several seconds... At a test flight Saturday in the city where the automaker is based, the gadgetry, about the size of a car and loaded with batteries and sensors, blew up a lot of sand and made a lot of noise. It managed to get up as high as eye level for several seconds before tilting and falling to the ground... After several attempts, the endeavor had to be canceled after one of the covers got detached from the frame and broke, damaging the propellers.
Project leader Tsubasa Nakamura envisions seamlessly transitioning from driving to flight like the DeLorean in Back To The Future, and his team still plans to perform their first manned flights by 2019.

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Pioneering Link-Sharing Site Del.icio.us Shuts Down
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 08:01 AM
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."

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Can Older IT Workers 'Navigate' Ageism?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 06:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's occupational-hazards department:
Slashdot reader snydeq writes, "In an industry that favors youth over experience, the best defense against age discrimination may be avoiding becoming a victim in the first place, writes Bob Violino in a report on your rights and how to deal with ageism in IT." From the article:
That includes being a lifelong learner and staying on top of developments in your field at every stage of your career, and seeking out training at your workplace and on your own. Make sure your employer knows you're willing to undertake training to retain and gain knowledge and skills. It's also important to show current or potential employers that you bring value to the organization through experience and flexibility.
The article suggests bringing any concerns about ageism to your Human Resources department -- and documenting any age-related incidents. But it also quotes a labor attorney who argues "Many employers believe that older workers are reluctant to try new technologies," adding that age discrimination is more prevalent in specific industries including technology. Another labor attorney even suggests tech firms are hiring younger workers because they ask for lower salaries and less time off. He also points out that in the U.S. laid-off workers are actually entitled to a list showing the positions and ages of all other affected employees -- which in cases of age discrimination can provide grounds for a class action lawsuit.

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CIA Malware Can Switch Clean Files With Malware When You Download Them Via SMB
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 05:20 AM
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.

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Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Unveils World's Biggest Plane
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 02:41 AM
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.

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JRR Tolkien Book 'Beren and Luthien' Published After 100 Years
Posted by News Fetcher on June 03 '17 at 12:01 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
seoras quotes a report from BBC: A new book by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is going on sale -- 100 years after it was first conceived. Beren and Luthien has been described as a "very personal story" that the Oxford professor thought up after returning from the Battle of the Somme. It was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and contains versions of a tale that became part of The Silmarillion. The book features illustrations by Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his work on Peter Jackson's film trilogy. It is being published on Thursday by HarperCollins on the 10th anniversary of the last Middle Earth book, The Children of Hurin.

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FCC Seeks To Increase ISP Competition In Apartment Buildings
Posted by News Fetcher on June 02 '17 at 08:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's no-such-thing-as-a-stupid-question department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Exclusive deals between broadband providers and landlords have long been a problem for Internet users, despite rules that are supposed to prevent or at least limit such arrangements. The Federal Communications Commission is starting to ask questions about whether it can do more to stop deals that impede broadband competition inside apartment and condominium buildings. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday released a draft Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that seeks public comment "on ways to facilitate greater consumer choice and to enhance broadband deployment in multiple tenant environments (MTEs)." The commission is scheduled to vote on the NOI at its June 22 meeting, and it would then take public comments before deciding whether to issue new rules or take any other action. The NOI discusses preempting local rules "that may expressly prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of telecommunications services" in multi-unit buildings. But one San Francisco regulation that could be preempted was designed to boost competition by expanding access to wires inside buildings. It's too early to tell whether the FCC really wants to preempt any state or city rules or what authority the FCC would use to do so. The NOI could also lead to an expansion of FCC rules, as it seeks comment on whether the commission should impose new restrictions on exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements between companies and building owners. The NOI further seeks comment on how "revenue sharing agreements and exclusive wiring arrangements between MTE owners and broadband providers may affect broadband competition" and "other contractual provisions and non-contractual practices that may impact the ability of broadband providers to compete in MTEs." The NOI also asks whether the commission should encourage cities and states to adopt model codes that promote competition in multi-unit buildings, and the document asks what practices those model codes should prohibit or mandate.

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'Our Streets Are Made For People': San Francisco Mulls Ban On Delivery Robots
Posted by News Fetcher on June 02 '17 at 06:41 PM
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."

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Scientists Decipher the Neural Code For Faces
Posted by News Fetcher on June 02 '17 at 06:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's major-advances department:
New submitter akakaak writes: In a new paper published in Cell, researchers Le Chang and Doris Tsao claim to have uncovered "The Code for Facial Identity in the Primate Brain." They develop a model representing each face as a vector in a 50-dimensional "face-space," and show that the firing rate for each face-sensitive neuron represents the location along a single axis through this space. This allows them to accurately predict the appearance of a viewed face from the collective recorded activity of the neurons. This work is a major advance in the decoding of complex neural representations, and refutes exemplar-based models of face recognition. Further reading: Scientific American

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