By BeauHD from Slashdot's planning-for-the-future department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Finland will introduce legislation next year to phase out coal and increase carbon taxes, a top government official told Reuters, which would require the country to find alternative energy sources to keep its power system stable. Coal produces roughly 10 percent of the energy consumed by Finland, which is the Nordics' heaviest coal consumer and burned about 4.1 million tons of oil equivalent in 2016. "This strategy has a goal of getting rid of coal as an energy source by 2030 [...] We have to write a law [...] and that will be next year," Riku Huttunen, director general in Finland's energy department, said. The law will, however, leave "room for manoeuvre" to ensure security of supply, he said, meaning coal-fired power plants could still be available to avoid the risk of blackouts. Finland is increasing its nuclear capacity, which could replace coal. But that may not be sufficient, a Nordic power trader said, as Finland will receive less nuclear power from neighboring Sweden, which is phasing out two reactors. Helsinki is raising its nuclear power capacity to reduce dependency on Russian energy imports. Two new reactors, Olkiluoto 3 and Hanhikivi 1, are due to go online in 2018 and 2024, respectively.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's don't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover department
theodp writes: Most TV computer scientists are still white men," USA Today reports. "Google wants to change that. Google is calling on Hollywood to give equal screen time to women and minorities after a new study the internet giant funded found that most computer scientists on television shows and in the movies are played by white men. The problem with the hackneyed stereotype of the socially inept, hoodie-clad white male coder? It does not inspire underrepresented groups to pursue careers in computer science, says Daraiha Greene, Google CS in Media program manager, multicultural strategy." According to a Google-funded study conducted by Prof. Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Google's Computer Science in Media team conducted "CS interventions" with "like-minded people" to create "Google influenced storytelling." The executive summary for a USC study entitled Cracking the Code: The Prevalence and Nature of Computer Science Depictions in Media notes that "Google influenced" TV programs include HBO's Silicon Valley and AMC's Halt and Catch Fire. The USC researchers also note that "non-tech focused programs may offer prime opportunities to showcase CS in unique and counter-stereotypical ways. As the Google Team moves forward in its work with series such as Empire, Girl Meets World, Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street, or The Amazing Adventures of Gumball, it appears the Team is seizing these opportunities to integrate CS into storytelling without a primary tech focus." The study adds, "In the case of certain series, we provided on-going advisement. The Fosters, Miles from Tomorrowland, Halt and Catch Fire, Ready, Jet, Go, The Powerpuff Girls and Odd Squad are examples of this. In addition to our continuing interactions, we engaged in extensive PR and marketing support including social media outreach, events and press." Google's TV interventions have even spilled over into public education -- one of Google-sponsored Code.org's signature Hour of Code tutorials last December was Gumball's Coding Adventure, inspired by the Google-advised Cartoon Network series, The Amazing Adventures of Gumball. "We need more students around the world pursuing an education in CS, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field," explains a Google CS First presentation for educators on the search giant's Hour of Code partnership with Cartoon Network. "Based on our research, one of the reasons girls and underrepresented minorities are not pursuing computer science is because of the negative perception of computer scientists and the relevance of the field beyond coding." According to a 2015 USC report, President Obama was kept abreast of efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women; White House Visitor Records show that USC's Smith, the Google-funded study's lead author, and Google CS Education in Media Program Manager Julie Ann Crommett (now at Disney) were among those present when the White House Council on Women and Girls met earlier that year with representatives of the nation's leading toy makers, media giants, retailers, educators, scientists, the U.S. Dept. of Education, and philanthropists.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Logan's-Run department
dcblogs shared an interesting article from IEEE-USA's "Insight" newsletter:
Millennials, which date from the 1980s to mid-2000s, are the largest generation. But what will happen to this generation's tech workers as they settle into middle age? Will the median age of tech firms rise as the Millennial generation grows older...? The median age range at Google, Facebook, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Amazon, Salesforce, Apple and Adobe, is 29 to 31, according to a study last year by PayScale, which analyzes self-reported data... Karen Panetta, the dean of graduate engineering education at Tufts University and the vice president of communications and public relations at the IEEE-USA, believes the outcome for tech will be Logan's Run-like, where age sets a career limit... Tech firms want people with the current skills sets and those "without those skills will be pressured to leave or see minimal career progression," said Panetta...
The idea that the tech industry may have an age bias is not scaring the new college grads away. "They see retirement so far off, so they are more interested in how to move up or onto new startup ventures or even business school," said Panetta. "The reality sets in when they have families and companies downsize and it's not so easy to just pick up and go on to another company," she said. None of this may be a foregone conclusion. Millennials may see the experience of today's older workers as a cautionary tale, and usher in cultural changes...
David Kurtz, a labor relations partner at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, suggests tech firms should be sharing age-related date about their workforce, adding "The more of a focus you place on an issue the more attention it gets and the more likely that change can happen. It's great to get the new hot shot who just graduated from college, but it's also important to have somebody with 40 years of experience who has seen all of the changes in the industry and can offer a different perspective."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fighting-for-the-future department
"I can't remember the last time I cared about Mozilla," writes Matt Asay at TechRepublic. "I also can't remember a time when we needed it more."
An anonymous reader quotes TechRepublic:
Mozilla's Firefox is almost a rounding error in desktop market share, and nonexistent in mobile browser market share. It offers a few other services, like Pocket, but largely gets ignored... This is a mistake. Our world is increasingly mediated by the internet, and that internet has just a few gatekeepers, collecting tolls as we browse. As Python guru Matt Harrison put it, "Vendors control the default browser which 99.9% of people use." Those vendors are happy to sell us access to information. Nothing about it is free. You are most definitely the product.
On mobile, where the majority of the world's content is now consumed, Google and Facebook own eight of the top 10 apps, with apps devouring 87% of our time spent on smartphones and tablets, according to new comScore data. For that remaining 13% of time spent on the mobile web, Google and Apple offer the two dominant browsers... the majority of our time online is now mediated by just a few megacorporations, and for the most part their top incentive is to borrow our privacy just long enough to target an ad at us. Then there's Mozilla, an organization whose mantra is "Internet for people, not profit." That feels like a necessary voice to add to today's internet oligopoly, but it's not one we're hearing... We clearly need an organization standing up for web freedom, as expecting Google to do that is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse. Google does many great things, but its clear incentive is to sell ads. We are Google's product, as the saying goes.
The article applauds the Mozilla-sponsored Rust programming language as promising, "but not to save the web from the all-consuming embrace of Facebook and Google, especially as they wall off the experience in apps...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's changelog-of-the-internet department
An anonymous reader quotes an announcement from Reddit's founding engineer:
When we open sourced Reddit back in 2008, Reddit Inc was a ragtag organization and the future of the company was very uncertain. We wanted to make sure the community could keep the site alive should the company go under and making the code available was the logical thing to do. Nine years later and Reddit is a very different company and as anyone who has been paying attention will have noticed, we've been doing a bad job of keeping our open-source product repos up to date. This is for a variety of reasons, some intentional and some not so much:
Open-source makes it hard for us to develop some features "in the clear" (like our recent video launch) without leaking our plans too far in advance. As Reddit is now a larger player on the web, it is hard for us to be strategic in our planning when everyone can see what code we are committing. Because of the above, our internal development, production and "feature" branches have been moving further and further from the "canonical" state of the open source repository... We are actively moving away from the "monolithic" version of reddit that works using only the original repository... Because of these reasons, we are making the following changes to our open-source practice. We're going to archive reddit/reddit and reddit/reddit-mobile. These will still be accessible in their current state, but will no longer receive updates.
The announcement has been condensed slightly, but Reddit's founding engineer insists that "We believe in open source, and want to make sure that our contributions are both useful and meaningful. We will continue to open source tools that are of use to engineers everywhere." In addition, "Much of the core of Reddit is based on open source technologies (Postgres, python, memcached, Cassanda to name a few!) and we will continue to contribute to projects we use and modify..."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's virtual-licenses department
An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld:
Now that Oracle wants to turn over leadership of enterprise Java's (Java EE's) development to a still-unnamed open source foundation, might the same thing happen with the standard edition of Java (Java SE) that Oracle also controls? Such a move could produce substantial benefits... Oracle said it has no plans to make such a move. But the potential fruits of a such a move are undeniable.
For one, a loosening of Oracle's control could entice other contributors to Java to participate more... [W]ith the current Oracle-dominated setup, other companies and individuals could be reluctant to contribute a lot if they see it as benefiting a major software industry provider -- and possible rival -- like Oracle... Indeed, the 22-year-old language and platform could be given a whole new lease on life, if the open source community rises to the occasion and boosts participation...
Despite the potential to grow Java SE by ceding control, Oracle seems content to hold on to its place as the steward of JDK development. But that could change given the tempestuous relationship Oracle has with parts of the Java community. Oracle has been at loggerheads with the community over both Java SE and Java EE... Oracle may at some point decide it is easier to just cede control rather than having to keep soothing the ruffled feathers that keep occurring among its Java partners.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's flyover-country department
An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review:
AT&T is using drones to inspect its cellular towers for damage, while insurance companies like Allstate and Farmers are rolling out their own fleets to follow up on claims... Rescue operations are benefitting, too. According to Axios, the company DroneDeploy is sending out vehicles to produce detailed 3-D maps that can help navigate the watery chaos. The company claims it can speed up rescue operations by providing imagery that allows rescuers to see around buildings and beneath tree cover.
The drones can fly high-definition cameras, and there's now dozens of them flying over Houston, reports USA Today:
By Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized 43 drone operators in Harvey's wake, for recovery efforts and for news organizations covering it... Eight approvals went to a railroad company to survey damage along tracks running through Houston. Five went to oil or energy companies to look for damage to fuel tanks, power lines and other facilities. Emergency-management officials are checking damage to roads, bridges and water-treatment plants... The FAA has also prohibited private drone pilots from flying in a broad area around Houston to avoid areas where emergency aircraft such as rescue helicopters are plucking people from rooftops or searching for survivors.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's moving-magical-internet-money department
Less than three weeks after surging past $4,000, Bitcoin reached $5,000 on Asian exchanges Friday. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The idea of Bitcoin breaking the symbolic milestone of $5,000 would have been unthinkable to most people at the start 2017, when the price topped $1,000 for the first time. If you're keeping track, the digital currency is up 500% this year, and nearly 2200% since mid-2015, when it was in the doldrums at around $220. There appears to be no single reason for the recent run-up. Instead, it can likely be explained by the same factors driving this year's cryptocurrency bull run: Publicity-driven speculation; New financial products creating unprecedented liquidity; Trading surges in Asian markets; Institutional investors treating digital currency as a permanent new asset class.
"Magical Internet Money Hits $5k" writes Bitcoin News, adding "so far in 2017 bitcoin has outperformed all government issued tender and a vast majority of stocks and commodities."
While the head of the Bitcoin Foundation has urged people to invest "no more than they can afford," Bitcoin now has a market capitalization of $82.6 billion.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's million-dollar-check-mate department
An anonymous reader brings an important announcement:
Researchers at the University of St Andrews have thrown down the gauntlet to computer programmers to find a solution to a "simple" chess puzzle which could, in fact, take thousands of years to solve, and net a $1 million prize. Computer Scientist Professor Ian Gent and his colleagues, at the University of St Andrews, believe any program capable of solving the famous "Queens Puzzle" efficiently would be so powerful, it would be capable of solving tasks currently considered impossible, such as decrypting the toughest security on the internet. In a paper [PDF] published in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research today, the team conclude the rewards to be reaped by such a program would be immense, not least in financial terms with firms rushing to use it to offer technological solutions, and also a $1 million prize offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in America.
Devised in 1850, the Queens Puzzle originally challenged a player to place eight queens on a standard chessboard so that no two queens could attack each other. This means putting one queen in each row, so that no two queens are in the same column, and no two queens in the same diagonal. Although the problem has been solved by human beings, once the chess board increases to a large size no computer program can solve it.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bombs-away department
More than 70 years ago the UK's Royal Air Force dropped an 1,100-pound bomb on Germany. They just found it. An anonymous reader quotes ABC:
Residents in two German cities are evacuating their homes as authorities prepare to dispose of World War II-era bombs found during construction work this week. About 21,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes and workplaces in the western city of Koblenz as a precaution before specialists attempt to defuse the 500-kilogram bomb on Saturday afternoon (local time). Among those moved to safety are prison inmates and hospital patients. Officials in the financial capital Frankfurt, meanwhile, are carrying out what is described as Germany's biggest evacuation. Frankfurt city officials have said more than 60,000 residents will have to leave their homes for at least 12 hours.
Failure to defuse the bomb could cause a big enough explosion to flatten a city block, a fire department official said. "This bomb has more than 1.4 tonnes of explosives," Frankfurt fire chief Reinhard Ries said. "It's not just fragments that are the problem, but also the pressure that it creates that would dismantle all the buildings in a 100-metre radius"... Police will ring every doorbell and use helicopters with heat-sensing cameras to make sure nobody is left behind before they start diffusing the bomb.
Reuters notes that every year Germany discovers more than 2,000 tons of live bombs and munitions, adding "In July, a kindergarten was evacuated after teachers discovered an unexploded World War Two bomb on a shelf among some toys."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's original-or-extra-creepy department
An anonymous reader quotes Quartz:
Ant Financial, the financial services spinoff of e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced Friday it has rolled out a service with a KFC branch in Hangzhou, in eastern China, that lets customer pay for orders with their faces. It works just as one might expect -- diners approach a virtual menu, select the item they want to purchase, and then choose "facial scan" as a payment option. Users must input their phone numbers as an extra layer of verification, but the technology still works even if one's phone is turned off, an Ant Financial spokesperson tells Quartz.
A promotional video shows a young female customer scanning her face while donning a wig and appearing with friends, to tout that the technology can recognize an individual even if they are disguised or in a group... [T]he KFC partnership marks the first time it has been rolled out for commerce. An Ant Financial spokesperson tells Quartz that it intends to roll out the scanning at more locations later.
There's rumors of a similar service coming from Jd.com, according to the article, which also provides several examples of facial recognition technology being used by the Chinese government. "The Communist Party, facing no political opposition or democratic checks, can implement controversial technology with little pushback. This all means that facial recognition in China looks set to steadily move beyond a few novelty cases toward near ubiquity."Read Replies (0)
Do Code Bootcamps Work?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 02 '17 at 07:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's programming-pupils department
"Computer programming is highly specialized work; it can't be effectively taught in an intensive program," writes Inc. magazine's contributing editor:
Last month, two of the country's largest and most well-regarded coding bootcamps closed. While there are still over 90 such camps in the U.S. and Canada, these for-profit intensive software engineering schools aren't successfully preparing their students for programming jobs. According to a recent Bloomberg article, the Silicon Valley recruiter Mark Dinan characterized the bootcamps as "a freaking joke," while representatives of Google and Autodesk said respectively that "most graduates from these programs are not quite prepared" and "coding schools haven't been much of a focus for [us]."
In one sense, the failure of coding bootcamps reflects the near-universal failure of for-profit universities, colleges, and charter schools to provide a usable education. In another sense, though, coding bootcamps represent a profound misunderstanding of what computer programming is all about... Coding at the professional level is highly specialized and requires years of practice to master... the idea of a bootcamp for coding is just as practical as the idea of a bootcamp for surgery.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ahead-of-the-curve department
Thuy Ong reports via The Verge: Now that you've upgraded to a shiny new 4K TV, Sharp has revealed its latest screen to stoke your fear of missing out: a 70-inch Aquos 8K TV. That 8K (7,680 x 4,320) resolution is 16 times that of your old Full HD (1920 x 1080) TV. Sharp calls it "ultimate reality, with ultra-fine details even the naked eye cannot capture," which doesn't seem like a very good selling point. Keep in mind that having a screen with more pixels doesn't buy you much after a certain point, because those pixels are invisible from a distance -- while an 8K panel would be beneficial as a monitor, where you're sitting close, it won't buy you much when leaning back on the couch watching TV. HDR, however, is something else entirely, and fortunately, Sharp's new 8K set is compatible with Dolby Vision HDR and BDA-HDR (for Blu-ray players). The lack of available 8K HDR content is also a problem. But there is some content floating around. The TV will be rolling out to China and Japan later this year, and then Taiwan in February 2018. Sharp is repurposing its 70-inch 8K TV as an 8K monitor (model LV-70X500E) for Europe, which will be on sale in March. There is no news about a U.S. release.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's world-record department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's most powerful X-ray laser has begun operating at a facility where scientists will attempt to recreate the conditions deep inside the sun and produce film-like sequences of viruses and cells. The machine, called the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL), acts as a high-speed camera that can capture images of individual atoms in a few millionths of a billionth of a second. Unlike a conventional camera, though, everything imaged by the X-ray laser is obliterated -- its beam is 100 times more intense than if all the sunlight hitting the Earth's surface were focused onto a single thumbnail. The facility near Hamburg, housed in a series of tunnels up to 38 meters underground, will allow scientists to explore the architecture of viruses and cells, create jittery films of chemical reactions as they unfold and replicate conditions deep within stars and planets.
XFEL is the world's third major X-ray laser facility -- projects in Japan and the U.S. have already spawned major advances in structural biology and materials science. The European beam is more powerful, but most significantly has a far higher pulse rate than either of its predecessors. "They can send 100 pulses out per second, we can send 27,000," said Robert Feidenhan'l, chairman of the European XFEL management board. This matters because to study chemical reactions or biological processes, the X-ray strobe is used to capture flickering snapshots of the same system at different time-points that can be stitched together into a film sequence.Read Replies (0)