By EditorDavid from Slashdot's frightened-by-fragmentation department
"I believe that, as Microsoft keeps moving Windows to a Desktop-as-a-Service model, Linux will be the last traditional PC desktop operating system standing," writes ZDNet contributing editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.
"But that doesn't mean I'm blind to its problems."
First, even Linus Torvalds is tired of the fragmentation in the Linux desktop. In a recent [December 2018] TFiR interview with Swapnil Bhartiya, Torvalds said, "Chromebooks and Android are the path toward the desktop." Why? Because we don't have a standardized Linux desktop. For example, better Linux desktops, such as Linux Mint, provide an easy way to install applications, but under the surface, there are half-a-dozen different ways to install programs. That makes life harder for developers. Torvalds wishes "we were better at having a standardized desktop that goes across the distributions."
Torvalds thinks there's been some progress. For software installation, he likes Flatpak. This software program, like its rival Snap, lets you install and maintain programs across different Linux distros. At the same time, this rivalry between Red Hat (which supports Flatpak) and Canonical (which backs Snap) bugs Torvalds. He's annoyed at how the "fragmentation of the different vendors have held the desktop back." None of the major Linux distributors -- Canonical, Red Hat, SUSE -- are really all that interested in supporting the Linux desktop. They all have them, but they're focused on servers, containers, the cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT). That's, after all, is where the money is.
Linux desktop distros "tend to last for five or six years and then real life gets in the way of what's almost always a volunteer effort..." the article argues. "It is not easy building and supporting a Linux desktop. It comes with a lot of wear and tear on its developers with far too little reward."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's move-slower-and-break-less department
On the technology podcast Recode Decode, America's Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said that Silicon Valley's self-regulating days "probably should be" over. Recode reports:
Pelosi said Silicon Valley is abusing the privilege of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says that internet companies are not responsible for what is posted on their platforms. "230 is a gift to them, and I don't think they are treating it with the respect that they should," she said. "And so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy.... For the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it, and it is not out of the question that that could be removed."
Asked about Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren's proposal to break up Amazon, Google, and Facebook, Pelosi said she had not studied it closely. Instead, she more cautiously suggested that some agglomerations of power may be worth breaking up. "I know there could be some clear lines that we see in our community, of companies that maybe could be easily broken up without having any impact, one on the other," she said. "I'm a big believer in the antitrust laws, I think that's very important for us to have them and to use them, and to subject those who should be subjected to it. "Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's run-time-errors department
An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian:
A judge in Ecuador has jailed a Swedish software developer whom authorities believe is a key member of WikiLeaks and close to Julian Assange, while prosecutors investigate charging him with hacking as part of an alleged plot to "destabilise" the country's government. Ola Bini, 36, was ordered to held in preventive detention on Saturday pending possible cyber-attack charges and his bank accounts were frozen. Prosecutors were examining dozens of hard drives and other material he had in his possession, according to local media reports...
On Thursday, Ecuador's interior minister, Maria Paula Romo, said they had identified a "key member of WikiLeaks" who was "close to Mr Julian Assange". Secret visitors' logs seen by the Guardian show that Bini was one of Assange's many visitors in Ecuador's embassy in Knightsbridge, west London.... Speaking to local media on Thursday, Romo said Ecuador was at risk of cyber attack, hinting Wikileaks could retaliate for the termination of Assange's asylum. She added the government did not want the country "to turn into an international [cyber] piracy centre"...
Last week, the government of president Lenin Moreno, 66, accused WikiLeaks of being involved in a campaign implicating Moreno and his family in corruption. Moreno, who has long expressed his unhappiness over Assange's asylum status, complained that "photos of my bedroom, what I eat and how my wife and daughters and friends dance" had been circulating on social media.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's overstaying-your-welcome department
The BBC reports that Ecuador's foreign minister Jose Valencia has been sharing complaints about Julian Assange's conduct during his stay in Ecuador's embassy -- for example, that Julian Assange "damaged the facilities by riding his skateboard and playing football, despite being told not to do so."
Cleaning staff, Mr Valencia said, had described "improper hygienic conduct" throughout Assange's stay, an issue that a lawyer had attributed to "stomach problems". One unnamed senior Ecuadorean official told AP news agency that other issues included "weeks without a shower" and a "dental problem born of poor hygiene". Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo then complained that Assange had been allowed to do things like "put faeces on the walls of the embassy and other behaviours of that nature...."
Assange's stay at the embassy cost Ecuador some $6.5m (£5m) from 2012 to 2018, Mr Valencia said.
NPR reports that Julian Assange's cat also "arguably played a small role in Ecuador's decision to end its asylum agreement," citing remarks from Ecuador President Lenin Moreno:
Moreno explained that Assange treated his hosts disrespectfully; late last year the embassy implemented a series of rules for Assange, including a requirement to be responsible for the "well-being, food, hygiene and proper care of your pet." If Assange didn't, the embassy threatened to put the cat in a shelter. In other words, it is likely that Assange didn't effectively clean up after his cat's own wiki-leaks...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rocketman department
At a flat-earth conference in May, Mad Mike Hughes will announce details of "an Antarctic expedition with the goal of reaching the edge of the world...to prove once and for all that this Earth is flat." But before that, he's heading for outer space.
An anonymous reader quotes PhillyVoice:
If you recognize the name Mad Mike Hughes, it's likely because he strapped himself into a rocket last March and traveled three-tenths of a mile into the heavens in the name of Flat Earth awareness. (See for yourself!) Well, nearly a year to the date after that momentous achievement, the limousine-driving daredevil and gubernatorial candidate has announced he's building upon the lessons learned last year and pushing the limits even further...
We caught up with him Thursday afternoon on the phone from California where he was "putting decals on the rocket right now!" Before any sort of Antarctica excursion, he's planning for a May 9 launch either in New Mexico "or the middle of the ocean if the government tries to stop me..." He hopes to reach the Kármán line, some 62.8 miles above Earth where space begins. "That way, we'll see what shape this rock really is," he said.
"More people will watch this than those who watched the fake moon landing. It will be an incredible, incredible event. People will see what I'm seeing for three hours up there and back and they'll be able to make up their own minds.... I'm the only guy capable of actually proving what shape this rock is, and that's by going up into space to do it."
The Science Channel is now filming Hughes' progress. (Here's a slick trailer for an upcoming documentary called "Rocketman".)
And Hughes says he's also claimed the legal entities that famous people are operating under, including Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffett, putting these powerful people in a precarious position because now "they can't even exist..."
"I have a lot of court cases going on."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hear-hear department
An anonymous reader quotes Vice:
On Wednesday, the Illinois State Senate passed the Keep Internet Devices Safe Act, a bill that would ban manufacturers of devices that can record audio from doing so remotely without disclosing it to the customer. But after lobbying from trade associations that represent the interests of Google, Amazon -- makers of the microphone-enabled Google Home and Alexa smart speakers, respectively -- and Microsoft, among other companies, the interests of big tech won out... In its current, neutered form, the bill provides exclusive authority to the Attorney General to enforce the Act, which means regular citizens won't be able to bring forward a case regarding tech giants recording them in their homes.
Ars Technica notes the move comes after Amazon admitted thousands of their employees listen to Alexa recordings -- "something not mentioned in Echo's terms of service or FAQ pages."
Vice points out that sometimes those recordings are shared "even after users opt out of having their data used in the program."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's using-the-Force department
The teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker has been viewed 13,665,350 times since its release Friday.
Collider reminds us that while George Lucas oversaw the original Star Wars trilogy and worked on its prequel trilogy, the final three movies in the franchise had moved ahead without direct involvement from the 74-year-old director:
To recap, Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, setting Kathleen Kennedy as the new head of Lucasfilm and handing over his treatments for Episode VII, Episode VIII, and Episode IX -- the final three films in his Skywalker saga. Kennedy and J.J. Abrams reportedly threw out much of what Lucas handed over (much to the Star Wars director's chagrin) in favor of charting their own path, and Lucas has been pretty mum on the new direction of Star Wars under Disney thus far -- save for high praise heaped on Rogue One and a visit to the set of Solo after Ron Howard took over the director's chair.
But it appears everything has come full circle, as Abrams revealed at Star Wars Celebration in an interview with IGN that when he signed on to direct Star Wars 9, he consulted Lucas before beginning work on the script. "This movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at, what is the bigger story? We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before writing the script," Abrams revealed...
Having seen the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer, this makes sense. The film looks to be leaning heavily on the original trilogy given the inclusion of that medal, the Death Star, and of course the return of Emperor Palpatine. And given Abrams' comments here, it sounds like he was very strongly thinking about Star Wars 9 as a conclusion to the entire Star Wars saga.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's background-processes department
Microsoft "has been quietly lobbying against Right to Repair legislation, which would prevent Microsoft from penalizing customers when they open up their devices," claims MSPoweruser:
The state representative hedged that "I can't confirm or deny this, because I have not seen a smoking gun."
But he also told his interviewer that to paint a discouraging picture of the landscape after passage of the bill, "Microsoft was going around telling our members that they wouldn't sell Surface Tablets in Washington any longer."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's into-the-void department
An anonymous reader quotes Reuters:
China's largest stock images provider, Visual China Group, shut its website and apologized on Friday after it falsely claimed copyright of images such as the first photo of a black hole and China's national flag. The company, which partners with U.S. photo agency Getty Images, said in a post on its official Weibo account the incident revealed its weak management and that it was cooperating with authorities investigating the matter. Shares in the company slumped by the maximum 10 percent allowed. The topic "Visual China apologises" was among the most-read items on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform on Friday, with over 250 million views...
The country's leaders have pledged to do more to protect intellectual property rights amid complaints by the United States and other key trading partners about the theft of such assets. Elliot Papageorgiou, the Shanghai-based head of the IP practice at law firm Clyde & Co., said Visual China's use of the black hole image was embarrassing due to the photo's high profile. "It comes at an inconvenient time because China is trying hard to get recognition for some positive steps it is taking to protect intellectual property," he said.
The company had claimed to have received authorization for using the photo -- though not for commercial purposes -- from the European Southern Observatory. But today the government-owned China Daily newspaper notes that "The European Southern Observatory, responding to questions from the National Business Daily in an email, said Visual China never contacted it for any purpose regarding the image. It said Visual China did not need to ask for authorization to reproduce the image provided the credit was clear and visible, but 'the behavior of using the so-called authorization as a copyright to sell the image in China and profit from it is illegal...'"
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's text-me-later department
After crunching data on 4.5 billion miles of driving, road-safety analytics company Zendrive concludes there's a new threat which just last year claimed the lives of 6,227 pedestrians: drivers "under the influence of a smartphone."
The study points out that drunk driving fatalities peak after midnight, while distracted driving happens all day, conluding that distracted driving is now a bigger threat than drunk driving. schwit1 shares this report from Axios:
"Phone addicts are the new drunk drivers," Zendrive concludes bluntly in its annual distracted driving study. The big picture: The continued increase in unsafe driving comes despite stricter laws in many states, as well as years of massive ad campaigns from groups ranging from cell phone carriers to orthopedic surgeons. "They hide in plain sight, blatantly staring at their phones while driving down the road," Zendrive says in the study.
And it's a growing problem. Over just the past year, Zendrive, which analyzes driver behavior for fleets and insurers, said the number of hardcore phone addicts doubled, now accounting for one in 12 drivers. If the current trend continues, that number will be one in five by 2022.
The report concludes drivers are 10 percent more distracted this year than last -- and that phone addicts have their eyes off the road for 28% of their drive. Yet when asked to describe their driving, 93% of phone addicts said they believed they were "safe" -- or "extremely safe" -- drivers.
One even insisted that they never texted while driving, "but I like to FaceTime my friends while driving since it makes time go by faster."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-in-the-open department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A hacker group has breached several FBI-affiliated websites and uploaded their contents to the web, including dozens of files containing the personal information of thousands of federal agents and law enforcement officers, TechCrunch has learned. The hackers breached three sites associated with the FBI National Academy Association, a coalition of different chapters across the U.S. promoting federal and law enforcement leadership and training located at the FBI training academy in Quantico, VA. The hackers exploited flaws on at least three of the organization's chapter websites -- which we're not naming -- and downloaded the contents of each web server. The hackers then put the data up for download on their own website, which we're also not naming nor linking to given the sensitivity of the data. The spreadsheets contained about 4,000 unique records after duplicates were removed, including member names, a mix of personal and government email addresses, job titles, phone numbers and their postal addresses. The FBINAA could not be reached for comment outside of business hours. If we hear back, we'll update. "We hacked more than 1,000 sites," said the hacker. "Now we are structuring all the data, and soon they will be sold. I think something else will publish from the list of hacked government sites." When asked if they were worried that the files they put up for download would put federal agents and law enforcement at risk, the hacker said: "Probably, yes." The hacker claimed to have "over a million data" [sic] on employees across several U.S. federal agencies and public service organizations.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's see-ya-later department
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings will not be nominated for re-election at the company's 2019 annual stockholders meetings, Facebook said on Friday. CNBC reports: Hastings has served on the board of the social media company since 2011. The company said it will also not be re-nominating Erskine Bowles the president emeritus of the University of North Carolina, and it will instead nominate Peggy Alford, PayPal senior vice president of core markets. The addition of Alford, an African-American woman, comes as Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies strive for the inclusion of more women and minorities in their boards and throughout their workforces.
Hastings departure had been talked about for some time due to Facebook's growing interest in video services, according to Andrew Ross Sorkin. In 2017, Facebook launched Watch, its video streaming service, and last year, the company released IGTV, its Instagram video streaming app. Hastings' departure comes about three years after he got into a tussle with fellow board member Peter Thiel over their political leanings. In an August 2016 email, Hastings told Thiel that he planned to dock his performance review over his endorsement of then Republican Presidential-nominee Donald Trump, according to a New York Times report.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-a-first-for-everything department
A baby with DNA from three people has been born in Greece following a controversial fertility treatment. "The doctors behind the treatment, from Greece and Spain, say it marks a historic advance -- it is the first time an in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique involving DNA from three people has been used with the aim of addressing fertility problems," reports The Guardian. From the report: The experimental IVF treatment, known as mitochondrial donation, involves using an egg from the mother, sperm from the father and another egg from a female donor. The vast majority of a person's genes -- about 99.8% -- are found on the 23 pairs of chromosomes that sit inside the nucleus in each cell in the body, and in the IVF procedure this DNA comes from the two parents. However, a tiny proportion of genetic material also resides in a cell's mitochondria, small structures that act as the cell's batteries and float around freely in the cell body. In mitochondrial donation, the mother's mitochondria are removed from her egg and replaced by a donor's.
The treatment was originally developed as a treatment that could prevent women with debilitating or even fatal mitochondrial diseases from passing them on to their children. The doctors behind the latest treatment claim that mitochondria also play a role in successful pregnancy and suggest that the technique could be applied more broadly as a fertility treatment. The 32-year old woman in the latest case had previously undergone four unsuccessful rounds of IVF.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shifting-course department
Tesla is changing up its retail strategy yet again, this time deciding to end online sales of the long-awaited $35,000 version of its Model 3 sedan (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The move comes just over a month after the company announced that the $35,000 version was finally coming to market. The New York Times reports: In a blog post late Thursday, Tesla said customers wanting the $35,000 version of the Model 3 would have to make the purchase by phone or in person at one of its stores. The cheapest Model 3s ordered online will now include Tesla's Autopilot driver-assistance system and a longer battery range, features that increase the price to $39,500. The blog post said Tesla was making the changes to "simplify vehicle choices and to make Autopilot more affordable." Such a configuration would previously have cost $40,500, it said.
A Tesla spokesman said the change would allow the company to produce one version of the Model 3 and use software to limit the battery range and turn off features such as heated seats for customers who wanted the $35,000 model. A longer range and additional features will be switched on in the $39,500 car, known as the Standard Plus model. Previously, Tesla planned to put a smaller battery pack in the basic model and a larger one in the Standard Plus, the spokesman said. Tesla's announcement also said it would begin leasing the Model 3, but would not offer customers the option to buy the cars after their leases expired, a departure from the typical industry practice and its own policy on other models. Tesla said it aimed to upgrade Model 3s returned after a lease to allow them to drive themselves, with no human at the wheel, and be deployed in a driverless taxi fleet. The company acknowledged that the technology for driverless taxis was still in development and would need to be approved by safety regulators before such a business could begin.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's predicting-the-future department
Researchers at New York University and Princeton have developed a framework that evaluates clinical notes and autonomously assigns a risk score indicating whether patients will be readmitted within 30 days. They claim that the code and model parameters, which are publicly available on Github, handily outperform baselines. VentureBeat reports: As the researchers point out in a preprint paper on Arxiv.org, clinical notes use abbreviations and jargon, and they're often lengthy, which poses an AI system design challenge. To overcome it, they used a natural language processing method -- Google's bidirectional encoder representations from transformers, or BERT -- that captures interactions between distant words in sentences by incorporating global, long-range information. Each clinical note is represented as a collection of tokens, or subword units extracted from text in a preprocessing step. From multiple sequences of these, ClinicalBERT identifies which tokens are associated with which sequence. It also learns the position of tokens from variables corresponding to the sequences, and inserts a special token used in classification tasks in front of every sequence.
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By msmash from Slashdot's strange-saga-continues department
Josh Dzieza, writing for The Verge: The secrecy and vagueness are frustrating to critics. How do you prove that Foxconn won't build an enormous LCD factory during an industry glut or create a research campus larger than MIT in rural Wisconsin other than by pointing out that experts -- and even, occasionally, Foxconn executives -- say it makes no sense? State House Minority Leader Gordon Hintz recently appointed himself to the board of WEDC, and Foxconn's continued promises of 13,000 jobs make him palpably furious. Speaking in slow, measured tones in his Madison office as he packed for a trip, he said the state needs to "right-size" the project to something realistic, likely a few hundred research jobs, and that Foxconn needs to be honest about its plans. "For something that had a 25-year payback, building a factory because the president wants you to for reasons that have nothing to do with market viability is insane." Hintz believes Foxconn is trying to slow-walk the project until 2020, continuing to use it to win Trump's goodwill in the trade war and waiting to see who's elected. Foxconn has responded. Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge: Today, Foxconn responded to that piece by... announcing another innovation center in Wisconsin, this one in Madison, the state's capital. The building, which currently houses a bank, actually sits directly across the street from the Capitol building, and it will continue to house the bank because Foxconn did not announce when it would be moving in. Here are some other things Foxconn did not announce: how much it had paid for the building, how many floors of the building it would occupy, how many people would work there, or what those people would be doing. It did announce that it would be rebranding the building "Foxconn Place Madison," however.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's work-life-balance department
Alibaba founder and billionaire Jack Ma has defended the grueling overtime work culture at many of China's tech companies, calling it a "huge blessing" for young workers. Reuters reports: The e-commerce magnate weighed into a debate about work-life balance and the overtime hours demanded by some companies as the sector slows after years of breakneck growth. In a speech to Alibaba employees, Ma defended the industry's "996" work schedule, which refers to the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. workday, six days a week. "I personally think that being able to work 996 is a huge blessing," he said in remarks posted on the company's WeChat account. "Many companies and many people don't have the opportunity to work 996," Ma said. "If you don't work 996 when you are young, when can you ever work 996?"
"In this world, everyone wants success, wants a nice life, wants to be respected," Ma said. "Let me ask everyone, if you don't put out more time and energy than others, how can you achieve the success you want?" Ma referred to the tech industry today where some people are without jobs, or working at companies in search of revenue or facing closure. "Compared to them, up to this day, I still feel lucky, I don't regret (working 12 hour days), I would never change this part of me," he said. On Thursday, an unnamed author published an opinion piece in a state newspaper, arguing that 996 violates China's Labor Law, which stipulates that average work hours cannot exceed 40 hours a week. "Creating a corporate culture of 'encouraged overtime' will not only not help a business' core competitiveness, it might inhibit and damage a company's ability to innovate," the author wrote.Read Replies (0)