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Apple Releases Swift 3.0, 'Not Source-Compatibile With Swift 2.3'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 19 '16 at 12:37 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's think-different department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes InfoWorld:

"Move fast and break things," the saying goes. Apple does both with the 3.0 version of its Swift programming language...its first full point revision since it became an open source project... In a blog post detailing the full body of changes for Swift 3.0, Apple singled out the two biggest breaking changes. The first is better translation of Objective-C APIs into Swift, meaning that code imported from Objective-C and translated into Swift will be more readable and Swift-like. The bad news is any code previously imported from Objective-C into Swift will not work in Swift 3; it will need to be re-imported.

The other major change... Most every item referenced in the standard library has been renamed to be less wordy. But again, this brings bad news for anyone with an existing Swift codebase: Apple says "the proposed changes are massively source-breaking for Swift code, and will require a migrator to translate Swift 2 code into Swift 3 code."

Apple will provide migration tools in version 8.0 of their XCode IDE, "but such tools go only so far," notes the article, questioning what will happen to the Linux and Windows ports of Swift.

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'Unpatent' Begins Crowdfunding Challenges To Bad Patents
Posted by News Fetcher on September 19 '16 at 12:37 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's trials-for-trolls department:
"Unpatent is a crowdfunding platform that eliminates bad patents," reads their web site. "We do that by crowdsourcing the prior art -- that is all the evidence that makes clear that a patent was not novel -- and filing reexamination requests to the patent office." An anonymous Slashdot reader reports:

"Everyone in the world can back the crowdfunding campaign against the patent," explains their site, which includes a special section with "Featured stupid patents". The first $16,000 raised covers the lawyers and fees at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and "The rest is distributed to those who find valid prior art...any evidence that a patent is not novel. We review all the prior art pieces and reward those that may invalidate a claim... Then, we file an ex partes reexamination to the USPTO."

Their team includes Lee Cheng, the legal officer at Newegg, "worldwide renowned as the patent trolls' nightmare," as well as Lus Cuende, who created his own Linux distro when he was 15 and is now CTO of Stampery, a company using the Bitcoin blockchain to notarize data.

They're currently targeting the infamous US8738435 covering "personalized content relating to offered products and services," which in February the EFF featured as their "stupid patent of the month." Its page on Unpatent.co argues that "Taking something so obvious such as personalizing content and offers...and writing the word online everywhere shouldn't grant you a monopoly over it."
Unpatent's slogan? "We invalidate patents that shouldn't exist."

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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Build Your Own Vacuum Tubes?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 19 '16 at 12:37 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's transitioning-from-transistors department:
Could you beat wireless headphones by creating your own DIY home audio system? Two weeks ago one Slashdot commenter argued, "to have good audio that is truly yours and something to be proud of, you need to make your own vacuum tube amplifier and then use it to power real electrostatic headphones over a wire." And now long-time Slashdot reader mallyn is stepping up to the challenge:

I want to try to make my own vacuum tubes. Is there anyone here who has tried DIY vacuum tubes (or valves, to you Europeans)? I need help getting started -- how to put together the vacuum plumbing system; how to make a glass lathe; what metals to use for the elements (grid, plate, etc). If this is not the correct forum, can anyone please gently shove me into the correct direction? It needs to be online as my physical location (Bellingham, Washington) is too far away from the university labs where this type of work is likely to be done.

Slashdot's covered the "tubes vs. transistors" debate before, but has anyone actually tried to homebrew their own?
Leave your best answers in the comments. How do you build your own vacuum tubes?

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Uber Accused of Cashing In On Bomb Explosion By Jacking Rates
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 11:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's angry-at-algorithms department:
After a bomb exploded in Manhattan, leaving 29 injured, people leaving the scene discovered Uber had doubled their fares. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Sun:
Traumatized families caught up in the New York bomb blast have accused Uber of cashing in on the tragedy by charging almost double to take them home. Furious passengers have taken to social media to slam the taxi firm in the wake of the blast... Uber reportedly charged between 1.4 and 3 times the standard fare with one city worker saying he had to pay twice as much as usual. Mortgage broker Nick Lalli said: "Just trying to get home from the city and Uber f****** doubled the surge price."

"Demand is off the charts!" the app informed its users, adding "Fares have increased to get more Ubers on the road." Uber soon tweeted that they'd deactivated their surge pricing algorithm for the affected area in Chelsea, "but passengers in other areas of Manhattan said they were still being charged higher than normal fares." One of the affected passengers was Michael Cohen, who is Donald Trump's lawyer, who tweeted that Uber was "taking total advantage of chaos and surcharging passengers 1.4 to 1.8 times." And another Uber user tweeted "I'm disgusted. People are trying to get home safe. Shame on you #DeleteApp."

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Oldest-Ever Proteins Extracted From 3.8-Million-Year-Old Ostrich Shells
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 11:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's ancient-eggs department:
Slashdot reader sciencehabit writes: Scientists have smashed through another time barrier in their search for ancient proteins from fossilized teeth and bones, adding to growing excitement about the promise of using proteins to study extinct animals and humans that lived more than 1 million years ago. Until now, the oldest sequenced proteins are largely acknowledged to come from a 700,000-year-old horse in Canada's Yukon territory, despite claims of extraction from much older dinosaurs. Now geneticists report that they have extracted proteins from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich egg shells in Laetoli, Tanzania, and from the 1.7-million-year-old tooth enamel of several extinct animals in Dmanisi, Georgia...extinct horses, rhinos, and deer,
This raises the inevitable question. If we ever could clone a prehistoric species...should we?

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Vim 8.0 Released!
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 10:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speaking-of-text-editors department:
Long-time Slashdot reader MrKaos writes: The venerable and essential vim has had it's first major release in 10 years. Lots of new and interesting features including, vim script improvements, JSON support, messages exchange with background processes, a test framework and a bunch of Windows DirectX compatibility improvements. A package manager has been added to handle the ever-growing plug-in library, start-up changes and support for a lot of old platforms has been dropped. Many Vimprovements!

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Emacs 25.1 Released With Tons Of New Features
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 10:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's church-of-Emacs department:
After four years of development there's a major new release of Emacs, the 40-year-old libre text editor with over 2,000 built-in commands. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:

Emacs 25.1 now lets you embed GTK+ user interface widgets, including WebKitGTK+, "a full-featured WebKit port that can allow you to browse the internet and watch YouTube inside Emacs." And it can also load shared/dynamic modules, meaning it can import the extra functionality seen in Emacs Lisp programs. This version also includes enhanced the network security, experimental support for Cairo drawing, and a new "switch-to-buffer-in-dedicated-window" mode.

Emacs 25.1 is available at the GNU FTP server, and since it's the 40th anniversary of Emacs, maybe it's a good time for a discussion about text editors in general. So leave your best tips in the comments -- along with your favorite stories about Emacs, Vim, or the text editor of your choice. What comes to your mind on the 40th anniversary of Emacs?

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Oregon Settles $6 Billion Lawsuit Over Oracle's Botched Healthcare Website
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's settled-with-software department:
"While the crippled website eventually worked, Oregon failed to enroll a single person online [and] had to resort to hiring 400 people to process paper applications." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the AP:

The state paid Oracle $240 million to create its Cover Oregon website but ultimately abandoned the site and joined the federal exchange to comply with the Affordable Care Act... The state initially asked for more than $6 billion in punitive damages when it filed the lawsuit in 2014 against the Redwood City company, but Oregon ultimately accepted a package that included $35 million in cash payments and software licensing agreements and technical support with an estimated upfront worth of $60 million...

Six years of unlimited Oracle software and technical support included in the deal will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in years to come and ends a bitter legal battle that has damaged Oregon's "collective psyche," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. "The beauty of the deal is that if we choose to take full advantage of the free (software), we are uniquely situated to modernize our statewide IT systems over the next six years -- something we could not otherwise afford to do," she said.

"Oracle has insisted the website worked but former Gov. John Kitzhaber chose not to use it for political reasons."

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SciFi TV Series 'Space Patrol Orion' Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's beam-me-up,-Dietmar department:
In Germany the phrase "Fallback to Earth!" is about as cult as "Engage warp drive," reports Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino: One of the oldest science fiction TV serials, the famous German "Raumpatrouille Orion" (Space Patrol Orion) turned 50 today. Heise.de has a scoop on the anniversary in German [or roughly translated into English by Google]. The production of Space Patrol Orion predates Star Trek by roughly a year and was a huge hit in Germany, gaining the status of a "street sweeper" (Strabenfeger), referring to the effect it's airing had on public life. The special effects are pretty good for 1966 -- you can watch episode one on YouTube. (And feel free to share other related videos in the comments.) "In the series, nations no longer exist and Earth is united," according to Wikipedia, which reports that Commander Cliff McLane and his loyal crew fight an alien race called the Frogs, and "He is notoriously defiant towards his superiors."

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Woman Sues Sex Toy App For Secretly Capturing Sensitive Information
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 07:22 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sleepless-in-Chicago department:
A woman in Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of a smartphone-enabled vibrator, alleging their devices "secretly collect and transmit 'highly sensitive' information." CTV News reports:

The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month in an Illinois court, explains that to fully operate the device, users download the We-Connect app on a smartphone, allowing them and their partners remote control over the Bluetooth-equipped vibrator's settings... The suit alleges that unbeknownst to its customers, Standard Innovation designed the We-Connect app to collect and record intimate and sensitive data on use of the vibrator, including the date and time of each use as well as vibration settings... It also alleges the usage data and the user's personal email address was transmitted to the company's servers in Canada. The statement of claim alleges the company's conduct demonstrates "a wholesale disregard" for consumer privacy rights and violated a number of state and federal laws.

Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson argues that "It kind of has to share that information if it's going to be remotely controlled by someone else."
But the woman's lawsuit claims she wouldn't have bought the device if she'd known that while using it, the manufacturer "would monitor, collect and transmit her usage information."

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Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft In the War Over Classrooms
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 05:52 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's better-than-Oregon-Trail department:
Minecraft: Education Edition offers lesson plans like "City Planning for Population Growth" and "Effects of Deforestation," and a June preview attracted more than 25,000 students and teachers from 40 different countries. Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: In the two years since Microsoft acquired Minecraft's parent company, it's discovered a brilliant new direction to take the game: it's turning it into a tool for education, creating both an innovative approach to classroom technology and an inspired strategy for competing with Google and Apple in the ed-tech market. 'I actually never believed there would be a game that would really cross over between the commercial entertainment market and education in a mainstream way,' says cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito—but Minecraft has managed to do just that.

In 2015 Chromebooks represented over 50% of PC sales for U.S. schools, while Windows PC accounted for just 22%, the article reports. But Minecraft is the second best-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris, and in the two years since Microsoft acquired it, "Sales have doubled to almost 107 million copies sold... If you were to count each copy sold as representing one person, the resulting population would be the world's 12th largest country (after Japan)." And as the article points out, "wherever Minecraft goes, Microsoft is there."

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Robot Snatches Rifle From Barricaded Suspect, Ends Standoff
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 04:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cornered-in-California department:
Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the L.A. Times:
An hours-long standoff in the darkness of the high desert came to a novel end when Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies used a robot to stealthily snatch a rifle from an attempted murder suspect, authorities said Thursday.

Officials said the use of the robot to disarm a violent suspect was unprecedented for the Sheriff's Department, and comes as law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on military-grade technology to reduce the risk of injury during confrontations with civilians. "The robot was a game changer here," said Capt. Jack Ewell, a tactical expert with the Sheriff's Department -- the largest sheriff's department in the nation. "We didn't have to risk a deputy's life to disarm a very violent man."
It was only later when the robot came back to also pull down a wire barricade that the 51-year-old suspect realized his gun was gone.

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Vanity Fair Blames The Failure of Theranos On Silicon Valley
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '16 at 12:22 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's money-for-nothing department:
"I was only a day or two behind FBI agents who were trying to put together a time line of what Elizabeh Holmes knew and when she knew it," writes Vanity Fair, in what Slashdot reader PvtVoid describes as "a compelling story of hubris, glamour and secrecy about the unicorn Silicon Valley company that turned out to be founded on bullshit." Another anonymous Slashdot reader writes:

Holmes raised $700 million "on the condition that she would not divulge to investors how her technology actually worked," according to an article detailing how Silicon Valley can "replicate one big confidence game in which entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and the tech media pretend to vet one another while, in reality, functioning as cogs in a machine that is designed to not question anything -- and buoy one another all along the way... In the end, it isn't in anyone's interest to call bullshit."

Theranos employed "hundreds of marketers, salespeople, communications specialists, and even the Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris," as well as a chief scientist who eventually became suicidal. But then the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services "discovered that some of the tests Theranos was performing were so inaccurate that they could leave patients at risk of internal bleeding, or of stroke among those prone to blood clots." A reporter at the Wall Street Journal says "It's O.K. if you've got a smartphone app or a social network, and you go live with it before it's ready; people aren't going to die. But with medicine, it's different."

He became suspicious after reading the answer that the company's CEO, a Stanford dropout, supplied for a question about their technology. "A chemistry is performed so that a chemical reaction occurs and generates a signal from the chemical interaction with the sample, which is translated into a result, which is then reviewed by certified laboratory personnel."

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Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Techies Improving The World?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '16 at 08:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's defending-your-life department:
Slashdot reader marmot7 isn't impressed by "the latest app that solves some made up problem. I'm impressed by apps that solve real problems..."

I don't feel that developers, sys admins, finance people, even policy wonks focus on the problems that we need to solve to have a healthy functioning society. It seems like it's mostly about short-term gain and not much about making the world better. That may be just the way the market works.

Is it that there's no profit to be made in solving the most important problems? I'm puzzled by that as I would think that a good solution to an important problem could find some funding from somewhere but maybe government, for example, won't take investment risks in that way?

Is there a systematic bias that channels technology workers into more profitable careers? (Or stunning counter-examples that show technology workers are making the world a better place?) Leave your answers in the comments. Why aren't geeks doing more to improve the world?

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HP Printers Have A Pre-Programmed Failure Date For Non-HP Ink Cartridges
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '16 at 06:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's armageddon-for-ink department:
An anonymous reader quotes some harsh allegations from Myce.com:
Thousands of HP printers around the world started to show error messages on the same day, the 13th of September... HP printers with non-HP cartridges started to show the error message, "One or more cartridges appear to be damaged. Remove them and replace them with new cartridges"... When [Dutch online retailer 123ink] emailed their customers asking them if they wanted to check if their printer also had issues, they received replies from more than 1,000 customers confirming the issue...

Consumers who complained to HP were told the error was caused by using non-HP cartridges. A day later HP withdrew that statement and explained the issues were a side effect of a firmware update, [but] printers without any internet access started to reject non-HP cartridges. Therefore it's very unlikely that a firmware update caused the issues and the only other logical explanation is that HP programmed a date in its firmware on which non-HP cartridges would no longer be accepted.

"Printer worked fine for nine months," complains one of many angry users on HP's web site. "Then on 9/13 HP uploaded without my permission a firmware update that caused a message 'damaged cartridge' for all my cartridges and then it refused to print."

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The Ham Radio Parity Act Unanimously Passed By US House
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '16 at 04:02 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's old-school-communications department:
This week the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed "The Ham Radio Parity Act" -- a huge victory for grass-roots advocates of amateur radio.
Slashdot reader bobbied reports: This will allow for the reasonable accommodation of amateur radio antennas in many places where they are currently prohibited by homeowner associations or private land use restrictions... If this bill passes the Senate, we will be one step closer to allowing amateur radio operators, who provide emergency communications services, the right to erect reasonable antenna structures in places where they cannot do so now.
The national ham radio association is now urging supporters to contact their Senators through a special web page.
"This is not just a feel-good bill," said representative Joe Courtney, remembering how Hurricane Sandy brought down the power grid, and "we saw all the advanced communications we take for granted...completely fall by the wayside."

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Code.org Disses Wolfram Language, Touts Apple's Swift Playgrounds
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '16 at 04:02 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-of-the-code-schools department:
America is changing the way it teaches computer science. "There are now 31 states that allow CS to count towards high school graduation," according to an announcement this week by the White House, while a new Advance Placement course "will be offered in more than 2,000 U.S. classrooms this fall...the largest course launch in the history of the AP exam."
But what's the best way to teach coding? theodp reports: Tech-backed Code.org, one of the leaders of the new CSforAll Consortium that was announced at the White House on Wednesday, took to its blog Thursday to say "Thanks, Tim [Cook], for supporting the effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," giving a shout out to Apple for providing "resources for teachers who want to put Swift Playgrounds in their classrooms. (A day earlier, the White House said Apple developed Swift Playgrounds "in support of the President's call to action" for CS for All).

Curiously, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi argued Friday that "the Wolfram Language has serious shortcomings for broad educational use" in an EdSurge op-ed that was called a "response to a recent blog post by Stephen Wolfram" on Wolfram's ambitious plan to teach computational thinking in schools. Partovi's complaints? "It requires login for all but the simplest use cases, but doesn't provide any privacy safeguards for young children (required in the U.S. through legislation such as COPPA). Also, a serious user would need to pay for usage, making implementation inaccessible in most schools. Lastly, it's a bit difficult to use by students who struggle with English reading or writing, such as English language learners or early elementary school students."

The submission ultimately asks how should computer science be taught to teenagers. "Would you be inclined to embrace Wolfram's approach, Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Microsoft TEALS' Java-centric AP CS curriculum, or something else (e.g., R, Tableau, Excel+VBA)?"

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Florida Man Sues Samsung, Says Galaxy Note 7 Exploded
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '16 at 02:32 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's phone-on-fire department:
An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Samsung Electronics Co was sued on Friday by a Florida man who said he suffered severe burns after his Galaxy Note 7 smartphone exploded in his front pants pocket. The lawsuit by Jonathan Strobel may be the first in the United States by a Samsung phone user against the South Korean company over a battery defect linked to the Note 7. It was filed one day after Samsung recalled about 1 million Note 7s sold in the United States. Samsung has received 92 reports of batteries overheating in the United States, including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, U.S. safety regulators said. "We don't comment on pending litigation," Samsung spokeswoman Danielle Meister Cohen said in an email. "We are urging all Note 7 owners to power their device down and exchange it immediately." Strobel, 28, of Boca Raton, said he was in a Costco store in Palm Beach Gardens on Sept. 9 when his Note 7 exploded. He said the phone burned directly through his pants, resulting in severe burns on his right leg.

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China's Atomic Clock in Space Will Stay Accurate For a Billion Years
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '16 at 01:11 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's when-every-second-counts department:
The space laboratory that China launched earlier this week has an atomic clock in it which is more accurate than the best timepiece operated by America's National Institute of Standards and Technology, according to Chinese engineers. The atomic called, dubbed CACS or Cold Atomic Clock in Space, will slow down by only one second in a billion years. In comparison, the NIST's F2 atomic clock, which serves as the United States' primary time and frequency standard, loses a second every 300 million years. From an RT report:"It is the world's first cold atomic clock to operate in space... it will have military and civilian applications," said Professor Xu Zhen from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, who was involved in the CACS project. An atomic clock uses vibrations of atoms to measure time, which are very consistent as long as the atoms are held at constant temperature. In fact, since 1967 the definition of second has been "9,192,631,770 vibrations of a cesium-133 atom." In a cold atomic clock, the atoms are cooled down with a laser to decrease the effect of atom movement on the measurements. CACS goes even further and eliminates the pull of Earth's gravity by being based in orbit.

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Microsoft Will Close Its Skype Office in London, Nearly 400 Jobs To Be Impacted
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '16 at 11:52 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Microsoft is closing Skype's office in the UK, according to the Financial Times. The move is likely to affect jobs of nearly 400 people at the London HQ. Commenting on the report, Microsoft said it will "unify some engineering positions," but that it "will be entering into a consultation process to help those affected by the redundancies." From a TechCrunch report: The London office is a key part of Skype's history, since it was the primary engineering site and headquarters of the company before Microsoft acquired it, and it also survived Skype's strange interlude under the ownership of eBay before it was acquired by the big M. While the move is no doubt a blow to London's tech scene, some former insiders told the FT that it's also not a surprise to see it go, largely because a steady stream of executive departures over the last few years have foretold a shift in the locus of power at the company. Post-acquisition, Microsoft has also done a lot of product work on Skype, with plenty of integration with Office 365 and a number of feature introductions that bring it closer in line with Slack.

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