By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-Down-Under department
A report from AccessNow has asked Australia to change its course and lead the way in serving as a champion for human rights instead of against. From a report: Global human rights, public policy, and advocacy group AccessNow has called out Australia for its lack of focus on human rights as it adapts to the challenges of the digital era, with a report from the non-profit saying the country should instead be leading the way in serving as a champion for human rights. "Australia should be a global leader in serving as a champion for human rights, such as the right to privacy and rights to freedoms of expression and association," AccessNow said. "Unfortunately, Australia has taken actions that indicate the nation is willing to undermine human rights as it adapts to the challenges of the digital era." In Human Rights in the Digital Era: An International Perspective on Australia [PDF], AccessNow says that as the digital world continues to develop, and technology increasingly becomes an "intimate part" of daily lives, Australians are facing a choice. "The country can either continue to be a testing ground for policies that undermine privacy and security in the digital era, or it can be a champion for human rights in the digital age, leveraging its relationships in the world to raise the standards for the next generation," the report says.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: The Endangered Species Act, which for 45 years has safeguarded fragile wildlife while blocking ranching, logging and oil drilling on protected habitats, is coming under attack from lawmakers, the White House and industry on a scale not seen in decades, driven partly by fears that the Republicans will lose ground in November's midterm elections. In the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have been either introduced or voted on in Congress or proposed by the Trump administration. The actions included a bill to strip protections from the gray wolf in Wyoming and along the western Great Lakes; a plan to keep the sage grouse, a chicken-size bird that inhabits millions of oil-rich acres in the West, from being listed as endangered for the next decade; and a measure to remove from the endangered list the American burying beetle, an orange-flecked insect that has long been the bane of oil companies that would like to drill on the land where it lives. [...] The new push to undo the wildlife protection law comes as Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress, and is led by a president who has made deregulation -- the loosening of not only environmental protections but banking rules, car fuel efficiency standards and fair housing enforcement -- a centerpiece of his administration.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Amazon's Prime Day shopping spree offers free, fast shipping -- but experts say there's a hidden environmental cost that doesn't show up on the checkout page. From a report: Expedited shipping means your packages may not be as consolidated as they could be, leading to more cars and trucks required to deliver them, and an increase in packaging waste, which researchers have found is adding more congestion to our cities, pollutants to our air, and cardboard to our landfills. Free and fast shipping has always been a Prime membership's marquee perk -- one that's drawn in over 100 million subscribers who pay $119 annually. A 2017 study by UPS found that nearly all (96%) US customers had made a purchase on a marketplace like Amazon or Walmart, and over half (55%) said free or discounted shipping was the primary reason. [...] That convenience is encouraging people in the US to buy more, and to make more individual purchases rather than placing a single order for several items. "There are more sales in lower-price products online than there have been in stores," Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at the NPD Group, told BuzzFeed News. And all of those transactions are negatively impacting our planet, according to Miguel Jaller, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis: "People are consuming more. There's more demand created by the availability of these cheap products and cheap delivery options."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's they-are-coming department
Boston Dynamics, maker of uncannily agile robots, is poised to bring its first commercial product to market -- a small, dog-like robot called the SpotMini. From a report: The launch was announced in May, and founder Marc Raibert recently said that by July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini at the rate of around 1,000 units per year. The broader goal, as reported by Inverse, is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications. The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
A host of companies believe the better way to connect the estimated half of Earth's population that's still offline is to launch "constellations" of smaller satellites into low Earth orbit, around 100 to 1,250 miles above our planet. According to emails from the Federal Communications Commission, which Wired obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act request, Facebook is officially one such company. From the report: The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to "efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world," according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC. With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk's SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February. The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
From a report: O.K., it's not that surprising. But what did surprise two psychologist as they attempted to get to bottom of why so few people actually send thank yous is that many people totally "miscalibrate" the effect of an appreciative email. They underestimate the positive feelings it will bring. "They think it's not going to be that big a deal," said Amit Kumar, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies well-being. They also overestimate how insincere the note may appear and how uncomfortable it will make the recipient feel, their study found. But after receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were "ecstatic," scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they'd evoke a 3. To be clear -- the notes in question were not your typical "thanks for the Amazon gift card." Rather, the 100 or so participants in each of the four experiments were asked to write a short "gratitude letter" to a person who had affected them in some way. Sample letters included missives of appreciation to fellow students and friends who offered guidance through the college admissions process, job searches and tough times. In lab experiments, Dr. Kumar observed that it took most subjects less than five minutes to write the letters. Further reading: Finding Emails With Certain Variation Of Thank You Vastly Improves Response Rate, Study Finds; and Apparently, People Say 'Thank You' To Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department
All roads may lead to Rome, but once you get there, good luck taking the subway. The sprawling metropolis is expanding its mass transit system -- a sluggish process made even slower as workers keep running into buried ancient ruins. From a report: "I found some gold rings. I found glasswork laminated in gold depicting a Roman god, some amphoras," says Gilberto Pagani, a bulldozer operator at the Amba Aradam metro stop, currently under construction not far from the Colosseum. Pagani is part of an archaeological team at the site, a certified archaeological construction worker trained to excavate, preserve and build in cities like Rome, with thousands of years of civilization buried beneath the surface. The presence of ancient artifacts underground is a daunting challenge for urban developers. For archaeologists, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. "I think it's the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me, professionally speaking," says Simona Morretta, the state archaeologist in charge of the Amba Aradam site. "Because you never get the chance in a regular excavation to dig so deep. That's how we've found architectural complexes as important as this."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's synergies-emerge department
Megan Zahneis, writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education: Academics have traditionally distrusted Wikipedia, citing the inaccuracies that arise from its communally edited design and lamenting students' tendency to sometimes plagiarize assignments from it. Now, LiAnna Davis, director of programs for Wikipedia's higher-education-focused nonprofit arm Wiki Education, said, higher education and Wikipedia don't seem like such strange bedfellows. At conferences these days, "everyone's like, 'Oh, Wikipedia, of course you guys are here.'" "I think it's a recognition that Wikipedia is embedded within the fabric of learning now," she said. One initiative Davis oversees at Wiki Education aims to forge stronger bonds between Wikipedia and higher education. The Visiting Scholars program, which began in 2015, pairs academics at colleges with experienced Wikipedia editors. Institutions provide the editors with access to academic journals, research databases, and digital collections, which the editors use to write and expand Wikipedia articles on topics of mutual interest. A dozen institutions, including Rutgers University, Brown University, and the University of Pittsburgh, are participating.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's lets-settle-it department
In a story earlier this week, Popular Science magazine explored an age-old topic: Do people need to safely eject a USB stick before they pull it from their computer? The magazine's take on it -- which is, as soon any ongoing transfer of files is complete, it is safe to yank out the flash drive -- has unsurprisingly stirred a debate. Here's what the magazine wrote: But do you really need to eject a thumb drive the right way? Probably not. Just wait for it to finish copying your data, give it a few seconds, then yank. To be on the cautious side, be more conservative with external hard drives, especially the old ones that actually spin. That's not the official procedure, nor the most conservative approach. And in a worst-case scenario, you risk corrupting a file or -- even more unlikely -- the entire storage device. To justify its rationale, the magazine has cited a number of computer science professors. In the same story, however, a director of product marketing at SanDisk made a case for why people should probably safely eject the device. He said, "Failure to safely eject the drive may potentially damage the data due to processes happening in the system background that are unseen to the user." John Gruber of DaringFireball (where we originally spotted the story), makes a case for why users should safely eject the device before pulling it out: This is terrible advice. It's akin to saying you probably don't need to wear a seat belt because it's unlikely anything bad will happen. Imagine a few dozen people saying they drive without a seat belt every day and nothing's ever gone wrong, so it must be OK. (The breakdown in this analogy is that with seat belts, you know instantly when you need to be wearing one. With USB drives, you might not discover for months or years that you've got a corrupt file that was only partially written to disk when you yanked the drive.) I see a bunch of "just pull out the drive and not worry about it" Mac users on Twitter celebrating this article, and I don't get it. On the Mac you have to do something on screen when you eject a drive. Either you properly eject it before unplugging the drive -- one click in the Finder sidebar -- or you need to dismiss the alert you'll get about having removed a drive that wasn't properly ejected. Why not take the course of action that guarantees data integrity? What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the answer varies across different file systems and operating systems?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's for-the-lolz department
Since Venmo's transactions are "public" by default and broadcast on Venmo's API, a Python programmer decided to publicize a few of them, reports the Mercury News:
The creator of the bot named "Who's buying drugs on Venmo" under the Twitter handle @venmodrugs says he wanted users to consider their privacy settings before using Venmo. The bot finds Venmo transactions that include words such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, meth, speed or emojis that denote drugs and tweets the transaction with the names of the sender and receiver and the sender's photo, if there is one... "I wanted to demonstrate how much data Venmo was making publicly available with their open API and their public by default settings and encourage people to consider their privacy settings," Joel Guerra, the creator of the bot, told Motherboard, a technology news outlet run by Vice.
He shut the bot after 24 hours, according to a Medium essay titled "Why I blasted your 'drug' deals on Twitter":
I chose drugs, sex and alcohol keywords as the trigger for the bot because because they were funny and shocking. I removed the last names of users because I didn't want to actually contribute to the problem of lack of privacy... I braced myself for backlash but the response was overwhelmingly positive. People understood my point and I had sparked a lot of discussion about online privacy and the need for users to do a better job of understanding the terms of software they were using -- and a lot of discussion about how companies need to do a better job of informing customers how their data was being used...
< article continued at Slashdot's for-the-lolz department
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hypertext-pre-processing department
Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino does PHP for a living, but says he's growing "increasingly frustrated with the ignorant and clueless in the vincinity of PHP."
Crappy code and baaaaad application setups is one thing, but people refusing to fix them or simply not even understanding the broader implications of bad applications or attempting SEO with gadgets while refusing to fix 3.5 MB-per-pagecall are just minor tidbits in a history of increasingly unnerving run-ins with knuckledragers in the "web agency" camp...
Will I leave the larger part of this backwards stuff behind if I move to another server-side programming language such as Java or Kotlin for professional work in the broader web area? Do I have a chance to do quality work on quality projects using PHP, or are those slim compare to other programming languages? In short, should I ditch PHP?
"I think .NET is a much cleaner language to work in with Microsoft's excellent Visual Studio IDE and debugger," argues Slashdot reader Agret , adding "there are many large projects in my city hiring .NET developers and being a strongly typed language the code quality is generally better than PHP."
But what's been your experience? And would a frustrated developer find more quality projects by ditching PHP?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's moving-your-money-around department
An anonymous reader quotes this opinion piece by former derivatives broker Brett Scott:
Banks are closing ATMs and branches in an attempt to 'nudge' users towards digital services -- and it's all for their own benefit... I recently got a letter from my bank telling me that they are shutting down local branches because "customers are turning to digital", and they are thus "responding to changing customer preferences". I am one of the customers they are referring to, but I never asked them to shut down the branches... I am much more likely to "choose" a digital option if the banks deliberately make it harder for me to choose a non-digital option. In behavioural economics this is referred to as "nudging". If a powerful institution wants to make people choose a certain thing, the best strategy is to make it difficult to choose the alternative...
Digital systems may be "convenient", but they often come with central points of failure. Cash, on the other hand, does not crash. It does not rely on external data centres, and is not subject to remote control or remote monitoring. The cash system allows for an unmonitored "off the grid" space. This is also the reason why financial institutions and financial technology companies want to get rid of it. Cash transactions are outside the net that such institutions cast to harvest fees and data.
A cashless society brings dangers. People without bank accounts will find themselves further marginalised, disenfranchised from the cash infrastructure that previously supported them. There are also poorly understood psychological implications about cash encouraging self-control while paying by card or a mobile phone can encourage spending. And a cashless society has major surveillance implications.
While a cashless society might make it cheaper to run a bank, "A cashless society is not in your interest..." argues the author.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you'll-never-ride-alone department
Lauren Weinstein tipped us off to this story from Mashable:
Hundreds of Uber and Lyft rides have been broadcast live on Twitch by driver Jason Gargac this year, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday, all of them without the passengers' permission. Gargac, who goes by the name JustSmurf on Twitch, regularly records the interior of his car while working for Uber and Lyft with a camera in the front of the car, allowing viewers to see the faces of his passengers, illuminated by his (usually) purple lights, and hear everything they say. At no point does Gargac make passengers aware that they are being filmed or livestreamed.
Due to Missouri's "one-party consent" law, in which only one party needs to agree to be recorded for it to be legal (in this case, Gargac is the consenting one), what Gargac is doing is perfectly legal. That doesn't mean it's not 100 percent creepy. Sometimes, to confirm who they are for their driver, the passengers say their full names. Not only that, Gargac has another video that shows the view out the front of his car so that people can see where he's driving, giving away the locations of some passengers' homes.
All the while, viewers on Twitch are commenting about things like the quality of neighborhoods, what the passengers are talking about, and of course, women's looks. Gargac himself is openly judgmental about the women he picks up, commenting to his viewers about their appearances before they get in his car and making remarks after he drops them off. He also regularly talks about wanting to get more "content," meaning interesting people, and is open about the fact that he doesn't want passengers to know they are on camera.
"I feel violated. I'm embarrassed," one passenger told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We got in an Uber at 2 a.m. to be safe, and then I find out that because of that, everything I said in that car is online and people are watching me. It makes me sick."
< article continued at Slashdot's you'll-never-ride-alone department
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