By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
NASA is building a giant rocket ship to return astronauts to the moon and, later on, ferry the first crews to and from Mars. But agency leaders are already contemplating the retirement of the Space Launch System (SLS), as the towering and yet-to-fly government rocket is called, and the Orion space capsule that'll ride on top. From a report: NASA is anticipating the emergence of two reusable and presumably more affordable mega-rockets that private aerospace companies are creating. Those systems are the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which is being built by Elon Musk's SpaceX; and the New Glenn, a launcher being built by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. "I think our view is that if those commercial capabilities come online, we will eventually retire the government system, and just move to a buying launch capacity on those [rockets]," Stephen Jurczyk, NASA's associate administrator, told Business Insider at The Economist Space Summit on November 1. However, NASA may soon find itself in a strange position, since at least one of the two company's systems may beat SLS back to the moon -- and possibly be the first to reach Mars.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's mission-mars department
pgmrdlm writes: Bill Nye says the idea of Mars colonization and terraforming -- making a planet more Earth-like by modifying its atmosphere -- is science fiction. "This whole idea of terraforming Mars, as respectful as I can be, are you guys high?" Nye said in an interview with USA TODAY. "We can't even take care of this planet where we live, and we're perfectly suited for it, let alone another planet." As for living on Mars permanently: Sorry, Nye says that's not happening either. "People disagree with me on this, and the reason they disagree is because they're wrong," he quipped. The famous science educator and CEO of The Planetary Society appears on National Geographic Channel's series "MARS." While the series explores human beings living on the Red Planet and even mining it, that doesn't mean Nye buys into the idea. For starters, he points to Antarctica, where scientists are stationed even during the harsh winter months but no one lives permanently.
"Nobody goes to Antarctica to raise a family. You don't go there and build a park, there's just no such thing. Nobody's gonna go settle on Mars to raise a family and have generations of Martians," Nye said. "It's not reasonable because it's so cold. And there is hardly any water. There's absolutely no food, and the big thing, I just remind these guys, there's nothing to breathe." Plus living in a dome, then putting on a spacesuit to go outside will get tiring -- fast. "When you leave your dome, you're gonna put on another dome, and I think that will get old pretty quick," he said. "Especially the smell in the spacesuit 00 all the Febreze you can pack, I think it will really help you up there."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's out-of-the-office department
Inc. magazine explains a unique feature of GitLab. "Every employee of the San Francisco-based startup, which offers tools for software developers, works from home."
Three years ago, that was nine people. Today, GitLab's 350 employees across 45 countries use video calls and Slack chats to stay constantly connected.... GitLab meetings and presentations are uploaded to YouTube. Its employee handbook -- over 1,000 pages long when printed -- is publicly available online as a resource, so employees can get questions answered without waking up co-workers in a different time zone.
The biggest advantage to an all-remote team is obvious: Your hiring pool is gigantic, and you don't need to convince top talent to move for you. GitLab's percentage of quality job applications is similar to other companies -- its dramatic number of recent hires is due to how many applications it receives, 13,000 in the second quarter of 2018 alone. On the other hand, maintaining a culture is really difficult. "To be honest, I was definitely a bit concerned," says Dave Munichiello, a general partner at Alphabet's venture capital arm, GV, which invested in GitLab in 2017. "What happens when the all-hands meeting isn't a bunch of folks hanging around the water cooler listening to the CEO articulate the vision and the mission?"
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's anti-social-network department
Slate argues that Facebook "is a normal sleazy company now," saying the company "obscured its problems and fought dirty against its critics" -- but that now its failings are being publicly aired. And Reason provides yet another example:
The Times also reveals that Facebook chose to support FOSTA (and its Senate counterpart, SESTA) -- legislation that guts a fundamental protection for digital publishers and platforms, and makes prostitution advertising a federal crime -- not as a matter of principle but as a political tactic to tar opponents and cozy up to Congressional critics.
Even Steve Wozniak has joined the critics, saying this week that Facebook should "stop putting money before morals," adding later that "I haven't seen them do one real thing." Woz also suggested that Facebook should allow users to export their data so they could upload it onto competing social networks.
Now long-time Slashdot reader pcjunky reports that the same scammy ad has been running on Facebook for a full two months after it was reported. But maybe they're just understaffed? Engadget reports that over the last six months Facebook has discoverd and eliminated 1.5 billion different fake accounts -- which is 200 million more than the 1.3 billion accounts it removed in the previous six months. On the Blind app, one Facebook employee reportedly asked the ultimate question: "Why does our company suck at having a moral compass?"
So where will it all lead? According to Fortune, Senators Chris Coons and Bob Corker "warned Friday that Congress would impose new regulations to rein in Facebook unless the social-media company addresses concerns about privacy and the spread of misinformation on its platform." But will anything change?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's language-barriers department
A recent TechCrunch article claimed to have identified the best indicator of programming language popularity: GitHub's annual "State of the Octoverse" reports. So Austin-based technology reporter Mike Melanson explored the new verdict in GitHub's 2018 report:
When we look at the top languages according to the number of contributors, we see a similar story, with the top four languages mirrored. In this chart, of course, we see that Ruby is on a steady decline, while Typescript is on a steady rise. The only surprise to be seen here is that C, after a brief uptick in popularity, has taken a bit of a nosedive over the past year. Either way, seven of 10 languages have the same exact ranking....
Finally, beyond the language rankings themselves, GitHub offers a wonderful analysis of just what it is that makes a particular language popular in 2018, boiling it down to three key characteristics: thread safety, interoperability, and being open source.
GitHub's report also identifies its fastest growing languages over the last year -- including Kotin, TypeScript, Rust, Python, and Go. "This year, TypeScript shot up to #7 among top languages used on the platform overall, after making its way in the top 10 for the first time last year," the report notes.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's OS-as-a-Service department
Iwastheone shares an article by former PC World columnist Chris Hoffman.
"No PC users asked Microsoft for Windows as a service," Hoffman complains. "It was all Microsoft's idea."
"Software as a service" is trendy. But these types of services are generally hosted on a remote platform, like Amazon Web Services or even Microsoft Azure. Web applications like Gmail and Facebook are services. That all makes sense -- the company maintains the software, and you access it remotely. An operating system that runs on millions of different hardware configurations is not a service. It can't be updated as easily, and you'll run into issues with hardware, drivers, and software when you change things. The upgrade process isn't instant and transparent -- it's a big download and can take a while to install... [M]illions of applications (or computers!) could break if Microsoft makes a mistake with Windows.
What has Windows as a service even gotten us? How much has Windows 10 improved since its release? Sure, Microsoft keeps adding new features like the Timeline and Paint 3D, but how many Windows users care about those? Many of these new features, like Paint 3D and updates to Microsoft Edge, could be delivered without major operating system upgrades. Just take a look at the many features in Windows 10's October 2018 Update and ask whether they were worth all the deleted files and drama. Texting from your PC is great, but Microsoft could release an app that does that -- in fact, this was once supposed to be a Skype feature. Clipboard history is cool, and a dark theme for File Explorer is cute. But couldn't we have waited another six months for Microsoft to properly polish and test this stuff?
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fat-fingering department
Motherboard staff writer Daniel Oberhaus writes:
If I had a single piece of advice for anyone thinking about getting an NFC chip implant it would be to do it sober.... [A]t the urging of everyone at the implant station, the first thing I did with my implant was secure it with a four-digit pin. I hadn't decided what sort of data I wanted to put on the chip, but I sure as hell didn't want someone else to write to my chip first and potentially lock me out. I chose the same pin that I used for my phone so I wouldn't forget it in the morning -- or at least, I thought I did.... I spent most of my first day as a cyborg desperately cycling through the various pin possibilities that made it impossible for me to unlock the NFC chip in my hand and add data to it.
He remained locked out of his own implanted microchip for over a year. But even when he regained access, "a part of me wants to leave it blank. After a year of living with a totally useless NFC implant, I kind of started to like it.
"That small, almost imperceptible little bump on my left hand was a constant reminder that even the most sophisticated and fool-proof technologies are no match for human incompetence."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's in-the-chips department
"British companies are planning to microchip some of their staff in order to boost security and stop them accessing sensitive areas," reports the Telegraph. "Biohax, a Swedish company that provides human chip implants, told the Telegraph it was in talks with a number of UK legal and financial firms to implant staff with the devices."
An anonymous reader quote Zero Hedge:
It is really happening. At one time, the idea that large numbers of people would willingly allow themselves to have microchips implanted into their hands seemed a bit crazy, but now it has become a reality. Thousands of tech enthusiasts all across Europe have already had microchips implanted, and now a Swedish company is working with very large global employers....
For security-obsessed corporations, this sort of technology can appear to have a lot of upside. If all of your employees are chipped, you will always know where they are, and you will always know who has access to sensitive areas or sensitive information. According to a top official from Biohax, the procedure to implant a chip takes "about two seconds...." Of course once this technology starts to be implemented, there will be some workers that will object. But if it comes down to a choice between getting the implant or losing their jobs, how many workers do you think will choose to become unemployed?
Engadget provides more examples, pointing out that in 2006 an Ohio surveillance firm had two employees in its secure data center implant RFIDs in their triceps, and that just last year 80 employees at Three Square Market in Wisconsin had chips implanted into their hands. Their article also hints that "no one's thinking about the inevitable DEF CON talk 'Chipped employees: Fun with attack vectors'"
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's qubits-and-bytes department
"Quantum computing is complex and it's not all it's cracked up to be," writes Slashdot reader nickwinlund77, pointing to this new article from IEEE Spectrum arguing it's "not in our foreseeable future":
Having spent decades conducting research in quantum and condensed-matter physics, I've developed my very pessimistic view. It's based on an understanding of the gargantuan technical challenges that would have to be overcome to ever make quantum computing work.... Experts estimate that the number of qubits needed for a useful quantum computer, one that could compete with your laptop in solving certain kinds of interesting problems, is between 1,000 and 100,000. So the number of continuous parameters describing the state of such a useful quantum computer at any given moment must be at least 2**1,000, which is to say about 10**300. That's a very big number indeed. How big? It is much, much greater than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe. To repeat: A useful quantum computer needs to process a set of continuous parameters that is larger than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe. At this point in a description of a possible future technology, a hardheaded engineer loses interest....
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By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University. The gift is believed to be the largest ever to an academic institution. The money is earmarked for scholarships and grants for undergraduate students from low and middle-income families, Mr. Bloomberg, 76, said through a press release. The gift will enable Johns Hopkins to become one of just a handful of need-blind schools -- meaning students will be considered for admission regardless of their ability to pay. Currently, 44% of Johns Hopkins students graduate with some form of debt averaging $24,000. From a report: As a direct result of the endowment, Johns Hopkins will be able to permanently commit to "need-blind admissions," which will admit the highest-achieving students from all backgrounds, regardless of their ability to pay, according to the university. In addition, the Baltimore-based school will be able to offer no-loan financial aid packages, reduce contributions for families who qualify for financial aid, provide "comprehensive student support," and increase the enrollment of Pell grant eligible students, which will "build a more socioeconomically diverse student body," Johns Hopkins said in a statement. In an op-ed published in The New York Times, Bloomberg wrote: America is at its best when we reward people based on the quality of their work, not the size of their pocketbook. Denying students entry to a college based on their ability to pay undermines equal opportunity. It perpetuates intergenerational poverty. And it strikes at the heart of the American dream: the idea that every person, from every community, has the chance to rise based on merit.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blast-off department
Long-time Slashdot reader PuddleBoy quotes NasaSpaceflight.com: Northrop Grumman Innovation System's Antares rocket has launched the NG-10 Cygnus, named the S.S. John Young, on its way to the International Space Station on Saturday morning from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia... With its second and final flight of 2018 upon it, Antares lofted the S.S. John Young Cygnus up to the International Space Station with 3,268 kg (7,205 lb) of pressurized cargo and 82 kg (181 lb) of unpressurized cargo....
Cygnus is undertaking a two phase to the International Space Station, aligning for close approach to the orbital lab for grapple on Monday morning, 19 November -- just over 48 hours after launch. Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Serena Aunon-Chancellor will grapple Cygnus with the Station robotic arm, known as the SSRMS or the Space Station Remote Manipulator System).
John Young was a pioneering astronaut who died in January at the age of 87 -- 36 years after he became the ninth person to walk on the moon, driving the Lunar Roving Vehicle. He was also the commander on the very first Space Shuttle flight in 1981. "We're really proud to name it after John Young," said one executive at Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, "and we'll work hard to do him proud."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's faster-faster department
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
"One key factor is also whether the respective feature can be turned on by default and thus have maximum impact rather than being only made available optionally," Sullivan and Ubl said.... "We want developers to be creative in approaching and solving the performance problem on the web but at a high-level we'll be looking at features that directly impact loading performance (e.g. use of feature policies, smart bundling, code-splitting, differential serving) and runtime performance (e.g. breaking tasks into smaller, schedulable chunks & keeping fps high)...."
But in addition to putting up funds to help frameworks improve their codebase, Google has also invited the development teams some of these frameworks to provide feedback in a more prominent role as part of the Google Chrome development process... "Frameworks sometimes make web apps slower. They are also our best hope to make it faster," a slide in Sullivan and Ubl's Chrome Dev Summit presentation read.
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's free-as-in-beer department
An anonymous reader quotes SD Times:
Amazon wants to make sure Java is available for free to its users in the long term with the introduction of Amazon Corretto. The solution is a no-cost, multi-platform, production-ready distribution of the Open Java Development Kit (OpenJDK). "Java is one of the most popular languages in use by AWS customers, and we are committed to supporting Java and keeping it free," Arun Gupta, principal open-source technologist at Amazon, wrote in a blog post. "Many of our customers have become concerned that they would have to pay for a long-term supported version of Java to run their workloads. As a first step, we recently re-affirmed long-term support for Java in Amazon Linux. However, our customers and the broader Java community run Java on a variety of platforms, both on and off of AWS."
Amazon Corretto will be available with long-term support and Amazon will continue to make performance enhancements and security fixes to it, the company explained. Amazon plans on making quarterly updates with bug fixes and patches, as well as any urgent fixes necessary outside of its schedule... Corretto 8 is available as a preview with features corresponding to those in OpenJDK 8. General availability for the solution is planned for Q1 2019... "Corretto is designed as a drop-in replacement for all Java SE distributions unless you're using features not available in OpenJDK (e.g., Java Flight Recorder)," Gupta wrote....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's plenty-of-commits department
GitHub saw more than 67 million pull requests this year -- more than a third of GitHub's "lifetime" total of 200 million pull requests since its launch in 2008. It now hosts 96 million repositories, and has over 31 million contributors -- including 8 million who just joined within the last 12 months.
These are among the facts released in GitHub's annual "State of the Octoverse" report -- a surprising number of which involve Microsoft.
GitHub's top project this year, by contributor count, was Microsoft's Visual Studio Code (with 19,000 contributors), followed by Facebook's React Native (10,000), TensorFlow (9,300) and Angular CLI (8,800) -- as well as Angular (7,600) -- and the open source documentation for Microsoft Azure (7,800).
Microsoft now has more employees contributing to open source projects than any other company or organization (7,700 employees), followed by Google (5,500), Red Hat (3,300), U.C. Berkeley (2,700), and Intel (2,200). The open source documentation for Microsoft Azure is GitHub's fastest-growing open source project, followed by PyTorch (an open source machine learning library for Python).
Among the "Cool new open source projects" is an Electron app running Windows 95.
But more than 2.1 million organizations are now using GitHub (including public and private repositories) -- which is 40% more than last year -- and the report offers a fun glimpse into the minutiae of life in the coding community.
Read on for more details.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's making-movies department
"And the winner of the 2021 Academy Award for best picture is .â.â. Apple?" jokes the Washington Post, noting that Apple has just signed a new multi-year movie deal with film production company A24, "and while that seems like a comparatively minor announcement, it could change the game in some significant ways."
It's sneakily consequential. A24, if you're not familiar, is the boutique New York outfit that has been responsible for a slew of hipster-approved, Academy Award-recognized films including "Lady Bird," "Moonlight" and "Room." Since its founding six years ago by a trio that includes the former partner of late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, it has located commercial success and downtown cool. Its movies are handmade hipster-fests that also often manage to please audiences: In addition to its big three, they include "Hereditary," "Eighth Grade," "A Ghost Story" and "Ex Machina". Welcome to the party, Tim Cook....
For Apple, cachet is everything. And it needs that now. A company that has prided itself on cool has reason to be worried about sustaining that on the entertainment side, with Netflix swiping its video lunch and Spotify some of its music swagger.
That with major competitors like Amazon already producing its own films, Apple, "had to do something..." They add the Apple's announcement "contained about as many details as the iPhone 7 has headphone jacks."
But "Even without those specifics, the significance was clear. Apple is installing itself as a producer of some of the most-acclaimed films around, all without needing to take a single meeting or read one script off the slush pile first...."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Zero-Cool department
YouTube's "Movies & Shows" page added a "Free to Watch" section last month. They're trying to compete with free ad-supported online movie offerings from Roku, Walmart, and Tubi, while "Amazon is rumored to be working on something similar," reports TechCrunch:
Before, YouTube had only offered consumers the ability to purchase movies and TV shows, similar to how you can rent or buy content from Apple's iTunes or Amazon Video.... Currently, YouTube is serving ads on these free movies, but the report said the company is open to working out other deals with advertisers -- like sponsorships or exclusive screenings. YouTube's advantage in this space, compared with some others, is its sizable user base of 1.9 billion monthly active users and its ability to target ads using data from Google.
The 99 free movies include the first five Rocky movies, and four movies in the Pink Panther series (all from the post-Peter Sellers era, including the forgotten 1993 film in which the title theme is sung by Bobby McFerrin), as well as Pauly Shore's dreadful 1996 comedy Bio-Dome (which received a 4% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Also available is James Cameron's original 1984 film The Terminator, the 2010 documentary With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story and the 1995 film "Hackers" starring Angelina Jolie.
"In this cyberpunk thriller, a renegade group of elite teenage computer hackers rollerblade through New York City by day and ride the information highway by night. After hacking into a high-stakes industrial conspiracy, they become prime suspects and must recruit the best of the cybernet underground to help clear their names."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's very-cold-cases department
A U.S. Army officer with a security clearance and a "solid professional reputation" believes he's solved the infamous D.B. Cooper skyjacking case -- naming two now-dead men in New Jersey who have never before been suspected, "possibly breaking wide open the only unsolved skyjacking case in U.S. history," according to the Oregonian.
The data analyst started his research because, simply enough, he had stumbled upon an obscure old book called "D.B. Cooper: What Really Happened," by the late author Max Gunther. Gunther wrote that he was contacted in 1972 by a man who claimed to be the skyjacker... Using the name "Dan LeClair" and various details from the book, as well as information from the FBI's D.B. Cooper case files that have become public in recent years, Anonymous tracked the bread crumbs to a very real man named Dan Clair, a World War II Army veteran who died in 1990... Continuing his research, our anonymous Army officer eventually determined that Clair probably was not D.B. Cooper. More likely the skyjacker was a friend and co-worker of Clair's, a native New Jerseyan by the name of William J. Smith, who died in January of this year at age 89... Clair and Smith worked together at Penn Central Transportation Co. and one of its predecessors. For a while, they were both "yardies" at the Oak Island rail yard in Newark. It appears they bonded in the 1960s as Penn Central struggled to adapt to a changing economy.
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