By EditorDavid from Slashdot's world-domination department
"There are signs that Chromebooks are a bigger long-term threat to Microsoft than you might imagine," reports ITWorld, arguing that "long term, they'll likely be a serious competitor."
The reason? Chromebooks sell big in education. They've unseated the Mac in schools. Two years ago, for the first time, Chromebooks outsold Macs in schools. Schools are a great market for Google, but Chromebooks are also Trojan horses. Children and teens use them for schoolwork and more. And when they get Chromebooks, they also get free subscriptions to Google's G suite of apps. If kids grow up using G Suite and Chromebooks, there's a reasonable chance they'll use them when they get older.
Where I live, in Cambridge, Mass., the public Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School gives out free Chromebooks to every one of the more than 2,000 teens in the school, in a bid to close the digital divide between families who can afford to buy computers for their children and those who can't... Cambridge isn't unique. According to a 2017 article in The New York Times, "More than half the nation's primary- and secondary-school students -- more than 30 million children -- use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs... And Chromebooks, Google-powered laptops that initially struggled to find a purpose, are now a powerhouse in America's schools. Today they account for more than half the mobile devices shipped to schools...."
When students graduate, Google makes it easy for them to move all their mail and documents from their school accounts to their personal accounts. And schools sometimes even act as inadvertent salespeople for Google. The Times reports that some schools tell graduating seniors to move all their documents from their school to their personal accounts... The upshot of all this? Windows hardware continues to rule in enterprises. But Chromebooks may one day prove a serious competitor, as students make their way into the workforce.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fraudulent-friend-requests department
An anonymous reader quotes NBC News:
"Every high-tech crime unit has one," said an officer who uses an undercover account to monitor gang members and drug dealers in New Jersey and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid having the account exposed or shut down. "It's not uncommon, but we don't like to talk about it too much." The proliferation of fake Facebook accounts and other means of social media monitoring -- including the use of software to crunch data about people's online activity -- illustrates a policing "revolution" that has allowed authorities to not only track people but also map out their networks, said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mind-melds department
An anonymous reader quotes ScienceAlert:
Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people share their thoughts -- and in this case, play a Tetris-style game. The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it's as weird as it sounds. It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields.
The researchers behind the new system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.... For now it's very slow and not fully reliable, and this work has yet to be peer-reviewed by the neuroscience community, but it's a glimpse at some fanciful ways we could be getting our thoughts across to each other in the future -- maybe even pooling mental resources to try and tackle major problems. "Our results raise the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a 'social network' of connected brains," writes the team.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's stress-testing department
It seems like everyone's curious about how the Apple Watch 4 detects falls. The Washington Post reports:
In the interest of science, I've tried jumping off ledges and throwing myself onto furniture. The thing never went off. (The feature is on by default only for people older than 65, but I turned mine on.) It's possible, even likely, that the Watch could tell I was faking.
What's important is actual falls, not stunts. Apple says it studied the falls of 2,500 people of varying ages. Yet the company hasn't said how often it catches real falls or sets off false alarms. This isn't like claiming the "best camera ever" on a smartphone -- if Apple wants us to think of its products as life aids, it ought to show us the data. Even better: peer-reviewed studies. Apple's disclaimer says: "Apple Watch cannot detect all falls. The more physically active you are, the more likely you are to trigger Fall Detection due to high impact activity that can appear to be a fall."
But there's now also a new video by the Wall Street Journal that tests the watch's fall-detecting capabilities with a professional stuntwoman. Hot Hardware reports:
The Wall Street Journal found that the Apple Watch did a very good job of detecting a serious fall while ignoring insignificant or outright fake falls. The stunt double performed a series of falls that are similar to falls in the slides that Apple showed in its keynote explaining the feature. In the testing, the watch was able to identify those falls and offer to call emergency services.
The most interesting part is that even though the stunt woman pulled some serious fake falls, complete with Hollywood-style tumbling down a hill, the Apple Watch was able to figure out if the fall was fake and didn't offer to call emergency services.
The Journal's reporter credits the watch's gyroscope and accelerometer, which can monitor numerous factors including both speed and wrist trajectory. Their conclusion?
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's plan-B-stop-using-Gmail department
"I've seen this 'Smart Compose' feature described publicly with a range of adjectives," writes Lauren Weinstein, "including intrusive, wonderful, invasive, creepy, accurate, loony, mistaken, helpful, misguided -- well, you get the point, opinions are all over the map...."
My foundational complaint here isn't that Google deployed Smart Compose, but rather that they enabled it by default without providing users even basic related information, including the all important "How the hell do I turn this damned thing off?" -- the very question filling my inbox of late! So here's how you turn it off. It's easy, IF you know how.
One anonymous reader has another solution. "I'm just using Gmail in HTML-only mode now. Its actually far more usable than their new crap and I'm quite fond of the older look anyway." You could also just stop using Gmail -- but Weinstein thinks it's easier to disable the "Smart Compose feature.
"With the understanding that Google has great AI and is itching to use it whenever and wherever possible, I don't really need it analyzing my email drafts as I type them. At least in my case, its proposed wordings are nearly always -- what's the technical term? -- oh yes, WRONG.
"And the predictions intrusively and continuously interrupt my flow of typing as each one needs to be individually bypassed."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's amulet-of-Yendor department
An anonymous reader writes:
The 24th annual Interactive Fiction Competition kicked off Monday, unveiling 77 new text adventures which will vie for nearly $9,000 in prize money. The contest's organizers are encouraging people to play and rate the free games, and encourage their friends to join in the fun (or to donate more prize money or other prizes). They're dedicating this year's competition to the memory of Stu Galley, who co-founded the pioneering text adventure company Infocom back in 1979 with his classmates from MIT. Infocom went on to create everything from Zork to a popular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game, and Stu is credited as the driving force behind text adventures like Moonmist, Seastalker, and The Witness.
Meanwhile, long-time Slashdot reader paulproteus reminds us that the "Roguelike Celebration" is happening today and tomorrow at the GitHub office in San Francisco -- and is streaming on Twitch.
The Roguelike Celebration is a community-generated weekend of talks, games, and conversations about roguelike [games] and related topics, including procedural generation and game design... It's for fans, players, developers, scholars, and everyone else, including people new to this type of game.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's status-updates department
Tesla's model 3 is now one of the five top-selling sedans in America (while sales of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class are down 28 percent through September), Bloomberg reports. Elon Musk tweeted out a link to their article on Thursday -- but it was his other tweet, a satirical criticism of the SEC, that made headlines. MarketWatch reports:
Tesla shares ended 7% lower on Friday as Wall Street reacted to Musk's tweet seemingly out of nowhere late Thursday about the "Shortseller Enrichment Commission." Musk also tweeted that day that short sellers were "value destroyers" and should be illegal. Friday's losses for Tesla "produced more than half a billion in paper profit for the shorts," S3 Partners LLC, which tracks real-time short interest data, said in a note. Since news of the Musk's settlement with the SEC, shorts are up $941 million, S3 Partners said. "Clearly short positions are building in the wake of strong selling by longs, as Musk demonstrates a refusal to keep away from controversy," the note said.
The article notes that last Saturday the SEC settled charges that Musk misled investors with a tweet about taking Tesla private. "Terms of the settlement included requiring Tesla to rein in Musk's social-media communications, but it was unclear when Tesla intends to implement that.... The settlement has yet to be court-approved."
On Friday Musk was back on point, tweeting out the news that Tesla owners "can refer someone to buy a Tesla & get any image they want laser etched in glass & sent to deep space for millions of years."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's downstream-developers department
"Linux runs the world, right? So we want to make sure that things are secure," says Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman. When asked in a new video interview which bug makes them most angry, he first replies "the whole Spectre/Meltdown problem. What made us so mad, in a way, is we were fixing a bug in somebody else's layer!"
One also interesting thing about the whole Spectre/Meltdown is the complexity of that black box of a CPU is much much larger than it used to be. Right? Because they're doing -- in order to eke out all the performance and all the new things like that, you have to do extra-special tricks and things like that. And they have been, and sometimes those tricks come back to bite you in the butt. And they have, in this case. So we have to work around that.
But a companion article on Linux.com notes that "Intel has changed its approach in light of these events. 'They are reworking on how they approach security bugs and how they work with the community because they know they did it wrong,' Kroah-Hartman said." (And the article adds that "for those who want to build a career in kernel space, security is a good place to get started...")
Kroah-Hartman points out in the video interview that "we're doing more and more testing, more and more builds," noting "This infrastructure we have is catching things at an earlier stage -- because it's there -- which is awesome to see." But security issues can persist thanks to outside vendors beyond their control. Linux.com reports:
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's making-radio-waves department
Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond -- and he's also Slashdot reader #3872. But this week he wrote in with some news from the world of amateur (or "ham") radio:
ARRL has been the USA's representative organization for Amateur Radio for over a century. More recently, the organization has replaced transparency and democratic representation of its membership with confidentiality, policies to stifle dissent, and punishment of their own leadership when they get out of line. A vote happening this month offers members a chance to get back in control.
The open letter at that link -- signed by several AARL life members (including Perens), argues that "The members are not currently represented as they should be, due to the continued application of a policy meant for a for-profit corporate board," adding that "The only whistle-blower on the board was publicly castigated for informing us."
"The currently-suspended rules that go against the member's interest are temporarily suspended, and could be restored."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's game-over department
AmiMoJo quotes Rock, Paper, Shotgun: Sandbox space sim Limit Theory has been cancelled, six years after a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, because main developer Josh Parnell is simply exhausted from working on it for so long. He's spent, he says: emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. "Not in my darkest nightmares did I expect this day to ever come, but circumstances have reached a point that even my endless optimism can no longer rectify," Parnell said on Friday. He plans to release the source code for folks to poke around but makes clear "it's not a working game." Though Limit Theory blew past its $50,000 goal, drawing $187,865 in pledges (and remember Kickstarter takes a cut), development has gone on years longer than anticipated. Costs have burned through that initial cash and started eating into Parnell's personal savings but, more than that, he's just exhausted.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speed-limits department
Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: One of the key assumptions of Relativity — both Special and General — is that the speed of light is a constant in all non-accelerating reference frames. As a key assumption, it is also one of the things that gets the kooks, wingnuts and fanatics all riled up, because they have proven that it's wrong, though those pesky scientists refuse to listen to their spittle-flecked presentations.
Back in the real world, real scientists also wonder if the assumption is justified, then try to work out how to test it. One idea for performing this test has just been published — that of using the gravitational lensing of distant supernovae to try to interrogate the speed of light in the distant past.
When a (relatively) nearby galaxy lenses a (relatively) distant galaxy, it is common for multiple images to be formed. If a supernova occurs in the distant galaxy, then supernova images will be seen in the different images, but typically at different times (on Earth) because the light paths from different images are of different lengths, and were of different lengths in the past.
The Chinese-Polish team of authors have studied the possibilities of making such observations and suggest that the LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, "a wide-field survey reflecting telescope with an 8.4-meter primary mirror, currently under construction, that will photograph the entire available sky every few nights") should detect several thousand gravitationally-lensed distant quasars, and so yield around 50 gravitationally-lensed distant supernovas per year. This is estimated to "produce robust constraints on the speed of light at the level of delta-c/c;= 0.005" (half a percent) in a decade of operations.
Which will shut the wingnuts, lunatics and kooks up. Not.At.All.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's ready-to-commit department
An anonymous reader writes:
This October will see the fifth annual Hacktoberfest, "a month-long celebration of open source software run by DigitalOcean in partnership with GitHub and Twilio." Basically you sign up any time in October, then submit five quality pull requests to public GitHub repositories to win a t-shirt and stickers. (Issues and commits don't count, only pull requests created after October 1st -- but pull requests will still count even if they're not accepted or merged, "unless they are spam, irrelevant, or tagged as invalid.") "No contribution is too small -- bug fixes and documentation updates are valid ways of participating."
Here's Microsoft's own announcement about the event from their Open Source blog:
We're excited to announce that we're participating in this year's Hacktoberfest! An annual celebration of all things open source, Hacktoberfest launched as a partnership between DigitalOcean and GitHub in 2014 and rallies a global community of contributors, with last year's event drawing more than 30K participants and nearly 240K pull requests.
This October, we'll recognize anyone who submits a pull request to one of our open source projects with a special limited-edition T-shirt (more details below)... Our projects span nearly all areas of computing, from developer tools and frameworks like .NET Core, Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit, Visual Studio Code, and Visual Studio Tools for Xamarin to Kubernetes tooling like Draft and the Service Fabric container orchestrator. Any contributions are welcome, so explore our GitHub repos, find something that interests you, and submit your first (or 100th) pull request.
Microsoft's t-shirt design includes a cameo appearance by.... Clippy, Microsoft's widely beloved default assistant for Office 2000/XP/2003.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-about-time department
Eight years later, Firefox has decided to join Google's WebP -- "a modern image format that provides superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web." Mozilla initially rejected the format for not offering a big enough improvement over the more widely used image formats, JPEG and PNG. CNET reports: "Mozilla is moving forward with implementing support for WebP," the nonprofit organization said. WebP will work in versions of Firefox based on its Gecko browser engine, Firefox for personal computers and Android but not for iOS. Mozilla plans to add support in the first half of 2019. Committing to a new image format on the web is a big deal. In addition to technical challenges and new security risks, embracing a new image format means embracing it for years and years, because removing support at some point in the future will break websites that rely on it.
Why the change of heart? "We are seeing a number of developments coming together that might lead to an accelerated adoption of WebP," including Edge support, Mozilla said. Mozilla is a major backer of another image format under development, AVIF. Where WebP is based on Google's VP8 video compression technology, AVIF is based on a newer video format called AV1 from a much broader group, the Alliance for Open Media. That alliance includes a lot of heavy hitters, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Amazon, Netflix and Facebook, but most of its work is focused on the AV1 video format. "We also look forward to AVIF being ready, and we will continue to invest in it," Mozilla said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flip-of-a-switch department
NASA has switched its Curiosity rover over to its backup computer system after the main system started experiencing errors last month. "Many NASA spacecraft and surface missions have redundant systems built-in," reports ExtremeTech. "Once they've launched from Earth, there's no way to repair damage to critical systems, so it makes sense to double-up on the vital components. That includes Curiosity's computers, which were designed specifically for the harsh environment on Mars." From the report: The rover has a pair of identical brains running a 5-watt RAD750 CPU. This chip is part of the PowerPC 750 family, but it has been custom designed to survive high-radiation environments as you'd find on Mars or in deep space. These radiation-hardened CPUs cost $200,000 each, and NASA equipped the rover with two of them. Each computer also has 256 kB of EEPROM, 256 MB of DRAM, and 2 GB of flash memory. They run identical VxWorks real-time operating systems. When Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, it used the "Side-A" computer. However, just a year later in 2013 (Sol 200), the computer failed due to corrupted memory. The rover got stuck in a bootloop, which prevented it from processing commands and drained the batteries. NASA executed a swap to Side-B so engineers could perform remote diagnostics on Side-A. In the following months, NASA confirmed that part of Side-A's memory was unusable and quarantined it. They kept Curiosity on Side-B, though. With Side-B experiencing problems preventing the rover from storing key science and engineering data, NASA switched Curiosity back to Side-A while it investigates the problem, which it can only do when the other computer is active. "NASA hasn't said how much of Side-A's RAM is bad, and it only had 256MB to start, but the team does intend to move Curiosity operations back to Side-B if possible," the report adds. "For now, the mission is functioning normally on Side-A."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's safety-first department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert: A new study argues that we have Neanderthals to thank for helping us cope with the viral tides we encountered as we marched around the globe. Stanford University researchers have identified DNA sequences that evolved in our ancient cousins can produce antivirus proteins, which more than likely gave some human populations the edge they needed to survive. Roughly 1 percent of our genome's coding was written in Neanderthal populations. But this is a broad average -- many families with African ancestry have zero, for instance, while other populations boast as much as 2 percent or more. So the question is how much of this difference comes down to the random drift of DNA being passed on around the globe, and how much is due to natural selection giving those with Neanderthal genes an advantage?
To build a case one way or another, the Stanford researchers put together a list of just over 4,500 virus-interacting proteins (VIP) made by our genome. These were all matched against a database of Neanderthal DNA that could be found in modern East Asian and European human populations, providing 152 VIP genes shared by both groups of human. Interestingly, all of these VIP genes were of a variety that interacted with RNA viruses -- pathogens that include influenza A, hepatitis C, and HIV. This isn't to say these viruses were problems for ancient humans, but rather that similar RNA viruses were more than likely prevalent enough to shape our evolution. The discovery supports a view of genetic exchange described as the 'poison-antidote' model.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's another-one-bites-the-dust department
South Korea's former president, Lee Myung-bak, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for bribery and embezzlement. He will also have to pay $11.5 million in fines. NPR reports: Lee is the second South Korean leader convicted this year of charges of corruption and the fourth former president to be arrested for corruption since the 1990s. Prior to entering politics, Lee had been an executive at Hyundai and campaigned on a promise to help South Korea's economy grow. Lee served as president of South Korea from 2008 until 2013. A court ruled Friday that before and during his presidency Lee accepted $5.4 million in bribes from Samsung, South Korea's largest conglomerate.
In exchange, Lee had granted a presidential pardon to Lee Kun-hee, Samsung's chairman, who had been convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion. The conviction had forced Lee Kun-hee to resign from Samsung in 2008; he returned to work at the company shortly after receiving the presidential pardon. The court also found that former president Lee disguised his ownership of a lucrative auto-parts maker under the names of his relatives and embezzled 24 billion Korean won from the company, according to The New York Times. Samsung later offered to pay legal fees for a court case involving the auto-parts company. Lee, who did not appear in court on Friday, denied the charges. "During the hearings, he shifted the blame to his aides, accusing them of committing the crimes for their own profit and conspiring against him," Judge Chung Kae-seon said on Friday, according to The Times.Read Replies (0)