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Slashdot Asks: What's Your Computer Set-Up Look Like?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 18 '16 at 04:14 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pretend-you're-Larry-Wall department:
I thought it'd be fun to ask Slashdot readers one of the same questions we asked Larry Wall: What's your computer set-up look like? Slashdot reader LichtSpektren had asked:
Can you give us a glimpse into what your main work computer looks like? What's the hardware and OS, your preferred editor and browser, and any crucial software you want to give a shout-out to?

Larry Wall is running Linux Mint (Cinnamon edition), and he surfs the web with Firefox (and Chrome on his phone) -- "but I'm not a browser wonk. Maybe I'll have more opinions on that after our JS backend is done for Perl 6..." And for a text editor, he's currently ensconced in the vi/vim camp, though "I've used lots of them, so I have no strong religious feelings."

So leave your answers in the comments. What's your OS, hardware, preferred editor, browser, "and any crucial software you want to give a shout-out to?" What does your computer set-up look like?

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The Slashdot Interview With Larry Wall
Posted by News Fetcher on July 18 '16 at 12:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's state-of-the-onion department:
You asked, he answered! Perl creator Larry Wall has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on for his answers...

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New Zealand Crowdfunds $1.7 Million To Buy A Private Beach
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 07:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's beach-buys department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article from FastCoExist:
When debt-troubled businessman Michael Spackman put his private New Zealand beach on sale, Kiwis started a crowdfunding campaign to buy it back for the public... The crowdfunding campaign raised $1.7 million in donations from around 40,000 people. Even the New Zealand government contributed $254,000.

The BBC reports that the campaign "snubbed a businessman who offered them money in exchange for private access to part of the beach," with the campaign's creator calling this an example of technology's power to unite people for a common cause. "Sometimes you can feel powerless, so for us, it's been a marvelous experience... There's been a real feeling of coming together."

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DARPA Will Stage an AI Fight in Las Vegas For DEF CON
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 06:12 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hack-me-if-you-can department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "A bunch of computers will try to hack each other in Vegas for a $2 million prize," reports Tech Insider calling it a "historic battle" that will coincide with "two of the biggest hacking conferences, Blackhat USA and DEFCON". DARPA will supply seven teams with a supercomputer. Their challenge? Create an autonomous A.I. system that can "hunt for security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to attack a computer, create a fix that patches that vulnerability and distribute that patch -- all without any human interference."

"The idea here is to start a technology revolution," said Mike Walker, DARPA's manager for the Cyber Grand Challenge contest. Yahoo Tech notes that it takes an average of 312 days before security vulnerabilities are discovered -- and 24 days to patch it. "if all goes well, the CGC could mean a future where you don't have to worry about viruses or hackers attacking your computer, smartphone or your other connected devices. At a national level, this technology could help prevent large-scale attacks against things like power plants, water supplies and air-traffic infrastructure.

It's being billed as "the world's first all-machine hacking tournament," with a prize of $2 million for the winner, while the second and third place tem will win $1 million and $750,000.

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The Case Against a Universal Basic Income
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 04:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's free-lunch department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
A prominent think tank founder argues that a Universal Basic Income is more likely to increase poverty than decrease it. Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates just in the U.S. the cost would reach $3 trillion a year, "close to 100 percent of all tax revenue the federal government collects... A UBI that's financed primarily by tax increases would require the American people to accept a level of taxation that vastly exceeds anything in U.S. history..."

In a long interview with Vox, he warns that "If you have big, very expensive, and therefore highly politically unrealistic proposals, then I worry that people will look at them and say, 'Okay, we can do one or two pieces,' and too often the pieces that get selected out are pieces where a lot of the money goes to the middle or upper middle class... even UBI's staunchest supporters say we can get there in 15 to 20 years. I am totally not comfortable with any policy prescription that says we wait 15 to 20 years to deal with very deep poverty." He suggests instead focussing on the neediest people first, possibly by subsidizing jobs programs and making housing more affordable.

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Cities Struggling To Crack Down On Airbnb Renters
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 03:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's home-lend-security department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
A California man has been charged with eight misdemeanors for renting several apartments under his own name, and then subletting them all. "Apartments in Santa Monica that might fetch $3500 a month as ordinary rentals, are worth three or four times that on a daily or weekly basis," reports one newsweekly, and the subletter notes that he only received two years of probation plus a $3,500 fine, "what one of my properties makes in a month."
On Wednesday three prominent U.S. Senators "called for a regulatory probe into whether short-term rental websites such as Airbnb are taking housing away from long-term renters and pushing up prices," but the number of Americans planning to use Airbnb this summer has apparently already doubled since last year.
The Hotel and Lodging Association of Alaska is complaining that the state's renters "are not required to follow the same state and federal safety mandates that are required for other hotels and lodges creating an unsafe and unfair market for consumers as well as hoteliers." But it seems like currently the only pushback is coming from local and city officials, like the short-term rental rules that Airbnb is currently fighting in their home city of San Francisco. For example, in Maine, the owner of one of Portland's 425 rentals units is now fighting a city order "demanding that he stop renting out part of his home through Airbnb. "Portland has a limited staff to enforce zoning rules, so it comes down on the most egregious cases, said City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin."

I laughed at the quote from the City Hall spokeswoman.
"It's kind of like speeding on the highway. You know it is illegal, you do it anyway, and you get caught."

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U.S. Curtails Federal Election Observers
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 02:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's change-for-votes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune:
Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year's U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box. The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court's 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act... Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Friday the Justice Department's ability to deploy election observers had been "severely curtailed" by the Supreme Court's decision... Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, said federal observers are especially needed this year because 17 states have tightened restrictions on voting since the last presidential election.

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The World's Most Powerful Telescope Just Discovered 1,230 New Galaxies
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 02:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's we-are-not-alone department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from Vice:
On Saturday night astronomers at the South African MeerKAT radio telescope array fired up 16 of its recently completed dishes and released the first ever image from what is slated to become the worldâ(TM)s most powerful radio telescope. The initial results were incredibly promising: operating with only one quarter of the 64 dishes that will eventually comprise MeerKAT, the telescope was able to find 1300 galaxies in a small corner of the universe where only 70 galaxies were known to exist previously.

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes a report Agence France-Presse:
MeerKAT's full contingent of 64 receptors will be integrated next year into a multi-nation Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which is is set to become the world's most powerful radio telescope. The images produced by MeerKAT "are far better that we could have expected," the chief scientist of the SKA in South Africa, Fernando Camilo said at the site of the dishes near the small town of Carnarvon, 600 kilometres north of Cape Town. When fully up and running in the 2020s, the SKA... will have a discovery potential 10,000 times greater than the most advanced modern instruments and will explore exploding stars, black holes, dark energy and traces of the universe's origins some 14 billion years ago.

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The Freeware Hall of Fame Enters Its 20th Year
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 12:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's two-decades-of-DOS-(and-Windows) department:
After our story about the ongoing development of FreeDOS, long-time Slashdot reader reybo shares another valuable resource that's been "All free, all the time since 1984": Younger FreeDOS users may not know of the Freeware Hall of Fame, a source of old DOS freeware some of which is on-line 24/7 at www.freewarehof.org . This file base of free programs was begun in 1984 to help small businesses enter the world of computers. It became an international file base distributed to BBSs around the world via floppy disc until Bobbie Sumrada in Memphis gave it a home on CHEERS, her premier BBS. The entire history is on the FreeHOF web site. Also there are downloadable copies of PCBoard, one of the great BBS platforms of all time. Anyone can create a dial-up BBS with this to see what they were like, so long as they have a DOS partition for it. I think MS DOS is also there to download, version 5.n or 6.n. Something you won't find at this site is games. FHOF never distributed games. "No Flash, no Java, no goddam rollovers..." reads one page, which notes that in the mid-'90s they were picked as one of the world's 25 best BBSs by Boardwatch magazine.

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Did Armenia Censor Facebook?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 11:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Turkey's-next-door-neighbor department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
"Only one day after Twitter was throttled in Turkey during an ill-fated coup attempt, social media again seemed to become a target during unrest in Armenia's capital, Yerevan," reports Mashable. A day after Turkey's president declared that Friday's coup has failed, armed men had taken hostages in nearby Armenia, and "The National Security Service accused the hostage takers' supporters of spreading false rumors on the internet about an uprising and the seizure of other buildings," according to Reuters. "Early Sunday, journalists and others in Armenia used Twitter to suggest Facebook had been blocked for a period as the incident unfolded," Mashable reports, noting that later Facebook access appeared to be restored. Facebook was unavailable for comment.

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Google, Tesla, and Facebook Attract 'Hordes of Tech Tourists' To Their Headquarters
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 09:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's drop-in-any-time! department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
"We just came from Oracle, then we go to HP, Google; we're going to do Tesla, Intel, eBay and Yahoo. And Apple, I forgot Apple..." says one San Francisco resident, describing a tour he's providing for his friend from Tokyo. In fact, Silicon Valley's iconic tech companies have discovered tourists are now dropping in on their headquarters. "It was nice to walk between the buildings, take some pictures and see the employees enjoy their lunch break," wrote one visitor to Google's campus, before complaining that Google hadn't also provided them with bathroom access. "We got told not to use the Google bikes as they are for employees only, which was a bit of a shame," another visitor complained.

"Hundreds of people a day visit the Facebook sign and Google's Android sculpture garden in Mountain View," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, "with many stopping at other tech giants as well, snapping photos and shooting video..." In fact, Tesla, Apple, Facebook, and Google have all now installed stores where tourists can purchase branded merchandise. (Google sells figurines of their Android mascot for $15).
"What you're seeing are people on a pilgrimage..." said Stanford communications professor Fred Turner. "Folks are looking for a physical place behind the kind of dematerialized experience that they have online."

Intel has its own museum, and the Los Altos garage where Steve Jobs started Apple has even been designated a historic site. Are there any other historic tech sites that should be preserved to inspire future generations of tourists?

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Coursera Relaunches Classic Computer Science Courses
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 09:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's online-educators department:
"Many of the Computer Science courses that we feared had been assigned to the scrapheap have reappeared in Coursera's catalog," reports i-programmer.info.

Slashdot reader mikejuk shares this update on his original story:

Coursera has a list of 90 courses that have transitioned to the new platform since the old one shut on June 30th and it includes 25 Computer Science ones and the all important [Geoffrey] Hinton course on neural networks. Most of the courses are free but there are no certificates of completion or anything else. While they have specified start dates and cohorts of students will be encouraged to complete them within a set number of weeks, without graded assignments there may not be the same impetus as for the original courses or as for newer courses designed specifically for the new platform.

Coursera says "As has always been our intention, we are working diligently to relaunch the vast majority of the courses from our old platform on the new one." i-programmer.info has apparently removed their original article, and their reporter writes that "I am now willing to retract my accusation of 'cultural vandalism'... Why [Coursera] managed to convey the opposite impression for such a long time may just have been a failure of communication."

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Juniper OS Flaw Allowed Forged Certificates
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 08:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's trusted-sources department:
Slashdot reader disccomp shares an article from Ars Technica:
In an advisory posted Wednesday, Juniper officials said they just fixed a bug in the company's Junos operating system that allowed adversaries to masquerade as trusted parties. The impersonation could be carried out by presenting a forged cryptographic certificate that was signed by the attacker rather than by a trusted certificate authority that normally vets the identity of the credential holder...

"It seems that Junos was accepting specially crafted, invalid certificates as trusted," said Stephen Checkoway, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who recently focused on security in Juniper products. "This would enable anyone to create a VPN connection and gain access to the private network, e.g., a private, corporate network."

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Is The DOJ Using Obsolete Software To Subvert FOIA Requests?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 07:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's failure-by-design department:
"A new lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Department of Justice intentionally conducts inadequate searches of its records using a decades-old computer system when queried by citizens looking for records that should be available to the public," reports The Guardian. Slashdot reader Bruce66423 writes:
An MIT PhD student has filed a suit in Federal court alleging that the use of a 21-year-old, IBM green screen controlled search software to search the Department of Justice databases...constitutes a deliberate failure to provide the data that should be being produced.

Ryan Shapiro's lawsuit alleges "failure by design," saying that the Justice Department records are inadequately indexed -- and that they fail to search the full text of their records when responding to requests "When few or no records are returned, Shapiro said, the FBI effectively responds 'sorry, we tried' without making use of the much more sophisticated search tools at the disposal of internal requestors." The FBI has a $425 million software system to handle FOIA requests, but refuses to use it, saying that would be "needlessly duplicative...and wasteful of Bureau resources."

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First Open Source-Based Database Completes U.S. Security Review
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 05:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's red-tape-dispenser department:
RaDag writes: The U.S. government has published a DoD-validated implementation guide, known as a STIG, for EDB Postgres Advanced Server from EnterpriseDB (EDB). This is a first. No other open source database, or open source-based database, has been through the US government's security review process and gotten a STIG published. Having this guide will help agencies seeking an open source-based alternative to costly traditional vendors like Oracle [and] will speed and ease deployment of EDB Postgres, which has database compatibility for Oracle. They're now working with the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, according to a company statement. It also says that the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies "seek open source alternatives to traditional proprietary software," and see their database solution as "an opportunity to quickly reduce costs and shift away from expensive proprietary vendors, particularly as public policy initiatives around the world mandate adoption of more open source."

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New Study Shows Why Big Pharma Hates Medical Marijuana
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 04:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's going-to-pot department:
HughPickens.com writes: Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post that a new study shows that painkiller abuse and overdose are significantly lower in states with medical marijuana laws and that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients are increasingly choosing pot over powerful and deadly prescription narcotics. The researchers "found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law... In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year."

[P]ainkiller drug companies "have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization..."

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How (And Why) FreeDOS Keeps DOS Alive
Posted by News Fetcher on July 17 '16 at 12:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's commanding-the-command-line department:
FreeDOS was originally created in response to Microsoft's announcement that after Windows 95, DOS would no longer be developed as a standalone operating system, according to a new interview about how (and why) Jim Hall keeps FreeDOS alive. For its newest version, Hall originally imagined "what 'DOS' would be like in 2015 or 2016 if Microsoft hadn't stopped working on MS-DOS in favor of Windows" -- before he decided there's just no such thing as "modern DOS". An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:

No major changes are planned in the next version. "The next version of FreeDOS won't be multitasking, it won't be 32-bit, it won't run on ARM," Hall said. "FreeDOS is still intended for Intel and Intel-compatible computers. You should still be able to run FreeDOS on your old 486 or old Pentium PC to play classic DOS games, run legacy business programs, and support embedded development."

By day, Hall is the CIO for a county in Minnesota, and he's also a member of the board of directors for GNOME (and contributes to other open source projects) -- but he still remembers using DOS's built-in BASIC system to write simple computer programs.
"Many of us older computer nerds probably used DOS very early, on our first home computer..." he tells ComputerWorld. Even without John Romero's new Doom level, "The popularity of DOS games and DOS shareware applications probably contributes in a big way to FreeDOS's continued success." I'd be curious how many Slashdot readers have some fond memories about downloading DOS shareware applications.

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Microsoft 'Patch' Blocks Linux Installs On Locked-Down Windows RT Computers
Posted by News Fetcher on July 16 '16 at 08:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's scratching-the-Surface department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from fossBytes:
Microsoft has released a security update that has patched a backdoor in Windows RT operating system [that] allowed users to install non-Redmond approved operating systems like Linux and Android on Windows RT tablets.
This vulnerability in ARM-powered, locked-down Windows devices was left by Redmond programmers during the development process. Exploiting this flaw, one was able to boot operating systems of his/her choice, including Android or GNU/Linux.

The Register points out that since Windows RT is "a dead-end operating system" which Microsoft has announced they'll stop developing, "mainstream support for Surface RT tablets runs out in 2017 and Windows RT 8.1 in 2018. This is why a means to bypass its boot mechanisms is highly sought."

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Energy Prices Skyrocket in South Australia
Posted by News Fetcher on July 16 '16 at 06:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's power-play department:
Slashdot reader sycodon quotes an article from AFR:
Turmoil in South Australia's heavily wind-reliant electricity market has forced the state government to plead with the owner of a mothballed gas-fired power station to turn it back on. The emergency measures are needed to ease punishing costs for South Australian industry as National Electricity Market prices in the state have frequently surged above $1000 a megawatt hour this month and at one point on Tuesday hit the $14,000/MWh maximum price...

"A planned outage of the Heywood Interconnector to Victoria, coupled with higher than expected gas prices and severe weather conditions have contributed to large-scale price volatility in the energy spot market in recent days," said South Australia's energy minister, Tom Koutsantonis. The Australian Associated Press adds that "The state Labor government has invested heavily in wind and solar energy at the expense of baseload power, a move critics say has left the state exposed during poor weather. Mr. Koutsantonis has described the energy volatility as a failure of the national energy market because a lack of interconnection means South Australia often produces more renewable power than it can sell into the grid. But opposition spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the government had been too hasty to invest in renewables."

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Bird-Shaped Drone Symbolizes New Forms Of Covert Surveillance To Come
Posted by News Fetcher on July 16 '16 at 04:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's eye-in-the-sky department:
One security writer in Somali recently discovered a downed metal drone that had been carefully disguised as a bird, a reminder that drones will bring powerful new forms of surveillance. Slashdot reader Stephen Sellner also shares an article by the CEO of one unmanned systems company who's predicting that the commercial drone industry will create more than 100,000 new jobs and generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy, and suggesting "security of industrial areas (shipyard, storage facility, etc.) can now be augmented by drones to provide a quick eye in the sky."

But it may be inevitable that drones will be used in a variety of unexpected ways. Airbus is also testing the use of drones for quality inspections on their commercial aircraft. In Iowa, a drone helped lead first-responders to a man suffering from a heart attack. And the U.S. wildlife service is planning to drop peanut-butter pellets onto northeastern Montana to deliver vaccines to prairie dogs -- so that they can then in turn be eaten by Montana's population of endangered black-footed ferrets. Any predictions about drone news we'll be seeing in the future?

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