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Cortana Now Reminds You To Do the Things You Promised in Emails
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 12:02 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
From a report: Microsoft is adding a new feature to Cortana today that will remind you to keep your promises. Suggested reminders lets Cortana remind you when you've promised to do something in an email. Microsoft is using machine learning to highlight phrases in emails where you might promise your boss something, or make a commitment to a friend or family member. The result is a reminder that pops up telling you "don't forget you mentioned this." Cortana's suggested reminders will be available in the US first on Windows 10 PCs, and Microsoft is planning to bring them to iOS and Android in the coming weeks. Microsoft is supporting Outlook.com and Office 365 accounts for these reminders, and other accounts like Gmail will be supported soon. You'll need to connect an Outlook.com or Office 365 account to Cortana to enable the feature, and you'll start receiving reminders once the service detects your promises and commitments.

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Overeager Investors Seeking Snap Buy Snap Interactive Instead
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 10:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's weird-story-of-the-day department:
Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET: Investors eager to cash in on the initial public offering of Snap, makers of the popular Snapchat app, have instead been buying shares of Snap Interactive, maker of the Paltalk video chat app and FirstMet dating app. Snap Interactive stock, traded over the counter and not on major exchanges like Nasdaq, has slid below $6 per share in recent years, according to Google Finance. On Monday, after Snap detailed its IPO plans, though, its stock surged to $15 and remained between $8 and $10 per share Wednesday.

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Human Resources Startup Zenefits Is Laying Off Almost Half Its Employees
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 10:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's cutting-jobs department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Zenefits will lay off 45% of its employees in an effort to slash costs, according to an internal memo this morning that was obtained by BuzzFeed News, a stark acknowledgment by the embattled human resources startup that its onetime expectations for growth were vastly inflated. Roughly 430 workers will be cut, including 250 in Zenefits' San Francisco headquarters and 150 in its office in Tempe, Arizona, leaving the company with about 500 employees, according to the memo and a person briefed on the matter. That's about a third of the size it was a year ago, when it ousted its founding CEO, Parker Conrad, over revelations that it flouted state regulations for selling health insurance. Thursday's announcement, coming on the morning after the one-year anniversary of Conrad's departure, is the third round of layoffs -- and the largest -- to hit the company since the crisis began.

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Tor's Ooniprobe, Now Available On Android and iOS, Helps People Track Internet Censorship
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's find-out department:
In 2012, researchers at Tor announced Ooniprobe, an open-source tool to collect data about local meddling with the computer's network connections, and also whether the government was censoring something. The team has now released a new app, available for Android and iOS, which makes it easier than ever to tell what your government is up to on the web. From a report on CNN Money: The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), which monitors networks for censorship and surveillance, is launching Ooniprobe, a mobile app to test network connectivity and let you know when a website is censored in your area. The app tests over 1,200 websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. You can decide how long to run the test, but the default is 90 seconds and would test between 10 and 20 websites depending on bandwidth. Links to blocked websites are listed in red, while available sites are green. Service providers, sometimes controlled by the government, don't always shutdown the internet entirely -- for instance, Facebook.com might be inaccessible while CNN.com still works. "Not only we will be able to gather more data and more evidence, but we will be able to engage and bring the issue of censorship to the attention of more people," Arturo FilastÃ, chief developer for the Ooniprobe app, told CNNTech.

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NSA Contractor Indicted Over Mammoth Theft of Classified Data
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: A former National Security Agency contractor was indicted on Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges he willfully retained national defense information, in what U.S. officials have said may have been the largest heist of classified government information in history. The indictment alleges that Harold Thomas Martin, 52, spent up to 20 years stealing highly sensitive government material from the U.S. intelligence community related to national defense, collecting a trove of secrets he hoarded at his home in Glen Burnie, Maryland. The government has not said what, if anything, Martin did with the stolen data. Martin faces 20 criminal counts, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison, the Justice Department said. "For as long as two decades, Harold Martin flagrantly abused the trust placed in him by the government," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Tackles Truth in the Digital Age
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moment-of-truth department:
Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the University of Glasgow yesterday to be awarded an honorary doctorate. During the Q&A session, one audience member asked Cook to tell what the future looks like. Following is Cook's response: "The world is going through an enormous change. We used to watch three or four people tell us the news, and generally speaking most of us trusted that ... now you are growing up in an environment where everyone is telling you the news and everyone is trying to influence your opinion on something," Cook said. "Generally society hasn't moved as fast as technology has ... so all of us have been put in a position to make sure that when we hear something we automatically take it as our opinion that we think through the different views on it and unfortunately make sure it is accurate as well."

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This Blog Is Republishing All the Animal Welfare Records the USDA Deleted
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Last year, thousands of animal welfare records were removed from the web by the Department of Agriculture. Now, a government transparency blog is on a mission to recover and republish as many of these records as possible. From a report on Motherboard: "Whenever there are documents that were online, but got pulled offline, they're automatically important," said Russ Kick, who runs the blog The Memory Hole 2, where many of the documents have already been re-published. "Nobody's going to go through the trouble to delete something that doesn't matter." The documents, which were removed by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) late last week, included inspection records and annual reports made under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. The USDA indicated that removing the documents was in response to a court decision, but a spokesperson contacted by Motherboard would not specify what court case. The records were typically used by animal welfare groups to keep tabs on how well these laws were being enforced, but were also used by the general public to research the inspection records of everything from dog breeders to circuses and zoos. "I've learned that if I see something and think 'I'm really surprised the government posted this,' I need to download it," Kick told me. "So when I found these reports, I thought 'this is surprising,' and I downloaded them."

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Developer Explains Why All Windows Drivers Are Dated June 21, 2006
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 06:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's explain-like-I'm-5 department:
For years, people have wondered why all Windows drivers are dated June 21, 2006. Long time developer at Microsoft, Raymond Chen explains (much of the entire post in summary): When the system looks for a driver to use for a particular piece of hardware, it ranks them according to various criteria. If a driver provides a perfect match to the hardware ID, then it becomes a top candidate. And if more than one driver provides a perfect match, then the one with the most recent timestamp is chosen. If there is still a tie, then the one with the highest file version number is chosen. Suppose that the timestamp on the driver matched the build release date. And suppose you had a custom driver provided by the manufacturer. When you installed a new build, the driver provided by Windows will have a newer timestamp than the one provided by the manufacturer. Result: When you install a new build, all your manufacturer-provided drivers get replaced by the Windows drivers. Oops. Intentionally backdating the drivers avoids this problem. It means that if you have a custom manufacturer-provided driver, it will retain priority over the Windows-provided driver. On the other hand, if your existing driver was the Windows-provided driver from an earlier build, then the third-level selection rule will choose the one with the higher version number, which is the one from the more recent build. It all works out in the end, but it does look a bit funny.

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Verizon and T-Mobile Are In a Virtual Tie For the Best Network In the US
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 06:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's neck-and-neck department:
Verizon has tied T-Mobile for the fastest carrier in the United States and both carriers are virtually tied for the "best" in overall LTE download speeds, according to Open Signal's State of Mobile Networks: USA report. Android Central reports: Using data collected from 169,683 users, 4,599,231,167 data points were used to measure network speeds on both 4G and 3G, network availability and latency. The data is collected by users installing the Open Signal app from Google Play or the App Store and going about their daily routine. In their analysis of the collected data, they say that Verizon has improved their 4G network speeds to pull even with T-Mobile who has traditionally done well in this category. They also mention that the average overall network speeds in the U.S. have risen slightly, and over 81% of U.S. residents have access to LTE networks. Availability of high-speed data services shows that all four carriers have improved, but T-Mobile (86.6%) is now within two percentage points of Verizon (88.2%) when it comes to finding an LTE signal. The company with the most improvement here is Sprint, who jumped from covering 69.9% in August to 76.8% in February 2017.

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Tesla To Start Pilot Production of Model 3 This Month
Posted by News Fetcher on February 09 '17 at 02:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ambitious-goals department:
According to Reuters, Tesla is planning to "begin test-building its Model 3 sedans on February 20, a move that could allay concerns about the company meeting its target to start production in July." The sources familiar with the matter did not mention how many of the Model 3 vehicles Tesla aims to build in February, though the number is likely to be small to test the assembly system and the quality of vehicle parts. From the report: Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk last year told investors and more than 370,000 customers who put deposits down for a Model 3 that he intended to start building the cars in July 2017. At the time, many analysts and suppliers said the timeline was too ambitious and would be difficult to achieve, pointing to Tesla's history of missing aggressive production targets. If Tesla succeeds in starting pilot production of the sedan at its factory in Fremont, California on Feb. 20, the company would be able to share the news with shareholders two days later when it reports fourth-quarter results and better answer any questions about the Model 3 rollout. Musk had told investors last year that the company could miss the July 2017 startup target if suppliers do not meet deadlines.

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Glass From Nuclear Test Site Shows the Moon Was Born Dry
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's finding-the-good-in-the-bad department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: We can't recreate the giant impact that led to the moon's formation in a lab, but humans have made some other big explosions. By examining residue from the first detonation of a nuclear weapon, researchers have cracked a window into the moon's past. On 16 July 1945, the U.S. army detonated a nuclear weapon for the first time in an operation codenamed Trinity (see photo, above). As the bomb exploded with an energy equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the sand underneath it melted, producing a thin sheet of mostly green glass dubbed trinitite. The explosion brought the area around the bomb to temperatures over 8000 C and pressures nearing 80,000 atmospheres. These extreme conditions are similar to those created as the moon formed in a colossal collision between Earth and another rock, probably about the size of Mars. Fortunately for planetary science, scientists meticulously measured and recorded the details of the Trinity detonation, so there is plenty of information to work with. Day and his colleagues took advantage of that past precision to investigate why the moon has surprisingly little water and other volatiles with a relatively low boiling point -- much less than Earth. To do so, they studied the distribution of one volatile element, zinc, in trinitite collected at different distances out from the explosion's center. They found that the closer to the explosion the trinitite formed, the less zinc it had, especially when it came to zinc's lighter isotopes. That's because these evaporated in the intense heat of the explosion, while the heavier isotopes didn't and so remained in the trinitite. The ratios of different forms of zinc left behind in trinitite showed remarkable parallels to what was observed in the moon rocks retrieved in the Apollo missions. This means that zinc and other volatile elements, most notably water, probably evaporated off the moon while it was being formed in a violent collision or soon afterward, while its surface was still incredibly hot. The study has been published in Science Advances.

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Scientists Successfully Decode the Genome of Quinoa
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's health-food department:
Gr8Apes writes: Scientists have successfully decoded the genome of quinoa, a hugely popular "super-food" because it is well balanced and gluten-free. They have pinpointed one of the genes that they believe control the production of saponins (bitter toxic compounds that protect the plant from predators) which can facilitate the breeding of plants without saponins, resulting in sweeter seeds without having to process them. The scientists also believe that the genetic understanding now gained will allow them to breed shorter, stockier plants that don't fall over as easily, and that these benefits could be gained without the use of genetic modification. Furthermore, the researchers believe the genetic code will rapidly lead to more productive varieties that will push down costs. "We need the price of quinoa to go down by a factor of five," said project leader Professor Mark Tester, from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. "If we get to a similar price to wheat it can be used in processing and in bread making and in many other foods and products. It has the chance to truly add to current world food production." The study has been published in the journal Nature.

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Linux Kernel 3.18 Reaches End of Life
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's last-in-line department:
prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Linux kernel 3.18.48 LTS is here and it's the last in the series, which was marked for a January 2017 extinction since mid-April last year. According to the appended shortlog, the new patch changes a total of 50 files, with 159 insertions and 351 deletions. It brings an updated networking stack with Bluetooth, Bridge, IPv4, IPv6, CAIF, and Netfilter improvements, a couple of x86 fixes, and a bunch of updated USB, SCSI, ATA, media, GPU, ATM, HID, MTD, SPI, and networking (Ethernet and Wireless) drivers. Of course, this being the last maintenance update in the series, you are urged to move to a newer LTS branch, such as Linux kernel 4.9 or 4.4, which are far more secure and efficient than Linux 3.18 was. But Linux 3.18 appears to be used by Google and other vendors on a bunch of Android-powered devices, and even some Chromebooks use Linux kernel 3.18 on Chrome OS, so here's what the kernel developer suggests you do if you can't upgrade. "If you are _stuck_ on 3.18 (/me eyes his new phone), well, I might have a plan for you, that first involves you yelling very loudly at your hardware vendor and refusing to buy from them again unless they cut this crap out. After you properly vent to them, drop me an email and let's see what we can come up with, you aren't in this sinking ship alone, and it's obvious your vendor isn't going to help out," said Greg Kroah-Hartman in the mailing list announcement.

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Android Wear 2.0 Is An Evolutionary Update To Google's Smartwatch OS
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department:
Google is officially launching Android Wear 2.0 today -- the biggest update to the company's wearable operating system since its launch in 2014. While Android Wear 2.0 will be launching with two new flagship watches from LG -- the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style, a number of existing Wear watches will also get this update in the coming weeks and months. TechCrunch reports: The first thing you'll notice when you get a 2.0 watch is the overall update to its design -- both in terms of the overall look but also the user experience. The look of Wear 2.0 now skews closer to Google's Material Design guidelines. While the overall look will still feel familiar to Wear 1.0 users, the update put a stronger emphasis on cards, for example. This means every notification now gets a full screen to show its preview and you can use the watch's dial to scroll through them (assuming your watch has a dial, of course -- otherwise you can obviously still use the touch screen to scroll). The other marquee feature of Wear 2.0 is support for standalone apps that don't need a companion app to run on your phone. That means developers can write apps that are purely geared toward the watch and they can then publish it on the Google Play store, which is now also available directly on the watch. That sounds more useful than it is -- unless you plan on getting an LTE-enabled watch and leave your phone at home. That's an option now that you could run Hangout or Google Music directly on the watch, but, except for runners, that's likely not a typical use case. At the end of the day, the most important use case for a smartwatch remains dealing with notifications. Everything else often feels like an unnecessary complication. [In summary, Frederic Lardinois writes via TechCrunch:] The Android smartwatch market could use a revolution to kickstart what now occasionally feels like a moribund ecosystem. Wear 2.0 doesn't feel revolutionary. It is, however, a perfectly adequate update that addresses many of the issues with Android Wear. It also puts it on parity with its competitors, like Apple's watchOS or Samsung's Tizen. It does also introduce some new use cases for LTE-enabled watches, but I can't help but feel that this will remain a niche category. Much, however, will depend on Google's hardware partners who will now have to bring Wear 2.0 to life.

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Facebook Is Closing 200 of Its 500 VR Demo Stations At Best Buy Stores Across US
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new department:
According to Business Insider, "Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the U.S." The reason has to do with "store performance," as multiple Best Buy pop-ups told Business Insider that "it was common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration." From their report: Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert confirmed the closings and said they were due to "seasonal changes." "We're making some seasonal changes and prioritizing demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets," she said. "You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the U.S. and Canada." "We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo," she continued. "We're going to find opportunities to do regular events and pop ups in retail locations and local communities throughout the year." Best Buy spokeswoman Carly Charlson said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers, which cost $600 and $200 respectively. Multiple "Oculus Ambassador" workers BI spoke with said that, at most, they would sell a few Oculus headsets per week during the holiday season, and that foot traffic to their pop-ups decreased drastically after Christmas. "There'd be some days where I wouldn't give a demo at all because people didn't want to," said one worker at a Best Buy in Texas who asked to remain anonymous. Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.

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Wikipedia Bans Daily Mail As 'Unreliable' Source
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's you-best-look-elsewhere department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group "generally unreliable." The move is highly unusual for the online encyclopaedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications and which still allows links to sources such as Kremlin backed news organization Russia Today, and Fox News, both of which have raised concern among editors. The editors described the arguments for a ban as "centered on the Daily Mail's reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication." The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia but does not control its editing processes, said in a statement that volunteer editors on English Wikipedia had discussed the reliability of the Mail since at least early 2015. It said: "Based on the requests for comments section [on the reliable sources noticeboard], volunteer editors on English Wikipedia have come to a consensus that the Daily Mail is 'generally unreliable and its use as a reference is to be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. This means that the Daily Mail will generally not be referenced as a 'reliable source' on English Wikipedia, and volunteer editors are encouraged to change existing citations to the Daily Mail to another source deemed reliable by the community. This is consistent with how Wikipedia editors evaluate and use media outlets in general -- with common sense and caution."

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Police Arrest Five Men For Selling Kodi Boxes 'Fully Loaded' With Illegal Streaming Apps
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fully-loaded department:
Five people have been arrested in early morning raids for selling "fully loaded Kodi boxes," which are set-top boxes modified to stream subscription football matches, television channels and films for free. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) said it believed the suspects had made roughly $250,000 selling the devices online. BBC reports: Kodi is free software built by volunteers to bring videos, music, games and photographs together in one easy-to-use application. Some shops sell legal set-top boxes and TV sticks, often called Kodi boxes, preloaded with the software. The developers behind Kodi say their software does not contain any content of its own and is designed to play legally owned media or content "freely available" on the internet. However, the software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films and TV series, or free access to subscription television channels. The five arrests were made in Bolton, Bootle, Cheadle, Manchester and Rhyl.

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Comcast Should Stop Claiming It Has 'Fastest Internet,' Ad Board Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unsubstantiated-claims department:
The advertising industry's self-regulation body said Comcast should stop saying in advertisements that it "delivers the fastest internet in America" and the "fastest in-home Wi-Fi." The evidence Comcast uses to substantiate those claims is not sufficient, ruled the National Advertising Review Board (NARB). Ars Technica reports: Verizon had challenged Comcast's advertising claims, leading to today's ruling. Comcast said today that it disagreed with the findings but will comply with the decision. Comcast used crowdsourced speed test data from Ookla to make its claim about Xfinity Internet speeds. "Ookla's data showed only that Xfinity consumers who took advantage of the free tests offered on the Speedtest.net website subscribed to tiers of service with higher download speeds than Verizon FiOS consumers who took advantage of the tests," today's NARB announcement said. The Ookla data's accuracy wasn't questioned, but it was judged to be "not a good fit for an overall claim that an ISP delivers 'America's fastest Internet.'" The ad review board said Comcast's "America's Fastest Internet" claims gave the impression that Comcast offers "overall Internet speed superiority in all tiers of service that it provides." The Comcast ads also give the impression that Comcast "delivers the fastest download and upload speeds," whereas the Ookla data showed that the top 10 percent of Verizon FiOS customers had higher upload speeds than the top 10 percent of Comcast customers.

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Programmer Develops Phone Bot To Target Windows Support Scammers
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 02:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's broadside-campaign department:
Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: The man who developed a bot that frustrates and annoys robocallers is planning to take on the infamous Windows support scam callers head-on. Roger Anderson last year debuted his Jolly Roger bot, a system that intercepts robocalls and puts the caller into a never-ending loop of pre-recorded phrases designed to waste their time. Anderson built the system as a way to protect his own landlines from annoying telemarketers and it worked so well that he later expanded it into a service for both consumers and businesses. Users can send telemarketing calls to the Jolly Roger bot and listen in while it chats inanely with the caller. Now, Anderson is targeting the huge business that is the Windows fake support scam. This one takes a variety of forms, often with a pre-recorded message informing the victim that technicians have detected that his computer has a virus and that he will be connected to a Windows support specialist to help fix it. The callers have no affiliation with Microsoft and no way of detecting any malware on a target's machine. It's just a scare tactic to intimidate victims into paying a fee to remove the nonexistent malware, and sometimes the scammers get victims to install other unwanted apps on their PCs, as well. Anderson plans to turn the tables on these scammers and unleash his bots on their call centers. "I'm getting ready for a major initiative to shut down Windows Support. It's like wack-a-mole, but I'm getting close to going nuclear on them. As fast as you can report fake 'you have a virus call this number now' messages to me, I will be able to hit them with thousands of calls from bots," Andrew said in a post Tuesday.

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Pioneering Data Genius Hans Rosling Passes Away At Age 68
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '17 at 02:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-in-peace department:
An anonymous reader writes: On Tuesday, Sweden's prime minister tweeted that Hans Rosling "made human progress across our world come alive for millions," and the public educator will probably best be remembered as the man who could condense 200 years of global history into four minutes. He was a geek's geek, a former professor of global health who "dropped out" because he wanted to help start a nonprofit about data. Specifically, it urged data-based decisions for global development policy, and the Gapminder foundation created the massive Trendalyzer tool which let users build their own data visualizations. Eventually they handed off the tool to Google who used it with open-source scientific datasets. The BBC describes Rosling as a "public educator" with a belief that facts "could correct 'global ignorance' about the reality of the world, which 'has never been less bad.'" Rosling's TED talks include "The Best Data You've Never Seen" and "How Not To Be Ignorant About The World," and in 2015 he also gave a talk titled "How to Beat Ebola." Hans Rosling died Tuesday at age 68.

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