By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
An anonymous reader writes: "Several gaming companies have announced plans to remove support for an analytics app they have bundled with their games," reports Bleeping Computer. "The decision to remove the app came after several Reddit and Steam users noticed that many game publishers have recently embedded a controversial analytics SDK (software development kit) part of recent updates to their games. The program bundled with all these games, and at the heart of all the recent controversy, is RedShell, an analytics package provided by Innervate, Inc., to game publishers." The app is intended to collect information about the source of new game installs, and details about the gamer. Following a massive user outcry in the past two weeks, several game makers have given in to pressure and are removing this SDK. Game makers and games who announced they were removing RedShell include Bethesda (Elder Scrolls), All Total War games, Warhammer games, Magic the Gathering Arena, and more. [This Google Docs spreadsheet and Reddit thread have a list of games containing RedShell. ]Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's something-you-know-about-something-important-is-wrong department
Frosty Piss writes: The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1971 by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power by focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. In the study, volunteers were randomly assigned to be either "guards" or "prisoners" in a mock prison, with Zimbardo serving as the superintendent. The results seemed to show that the students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers' request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. After Berkeley graduate Douglas Korpi appeared to have a nervous breakdown while playing the role of an inmate, the experiment was shut down. There's just one problem: Korpi's breakdown was a sham. Dr. Ben Blum took to Medium to publish his claims. "Blum's expose -- based on previously unpublished recordings of Zimbardo, a Stanford psychology professor, and interviews with the participants -- offers evidence that the 'guards' were coached to be cruel," reports New York Post. "One of the men who acted as an inmate told Blum he enjoyed the experiment because he knew the guards couldn't actually hurt him." "There were no repercussions. We knew [the guards] couldn't hurt us, they couldn't hit us. They were white college kids just like us, so it was a very safe situation," said Douglas Korpi, who was 22-years-old when he acted as an inmate in the study. The Berkeley grad now admits the whole thing was fake. Zimbardo also "admitted that he was an active participant in the study, meaning he had influence over the results," reports New York Post. According to an audio recording from the Stanford archive, you can hear Zimbardo encouraging the guards to act "tough."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hands-free department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: [Stephen McAleer and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine] have pioneered a new kind of deep-learning technique, called "autodidactic iteration," that can teach itself to solve a Rubik's Cube with no human assistance. The trick that McAleer and co have mastered is to find a way for the machine to create its own system of rewards. Here's how it works. Given an unsolved cube, the machine must decide whether a specific move is an improvement on the existing configuration. To do this, it must be able to evaluate the move. Autodidactic iteration does this by starting with the finished cube and working backwards to find a configuration that is similar to the proposed move. This process is not perfect, but deep learning helps the system figure out which moves are generally better than others. Having been trained, the network then uses a standard search tree to hunt for suggested moves for each configuration.
The result is an algorithm that performs remarkably well. "Our algorithm is able to solve 100% of randomly scrambled cubes while achieving a median solve length of 30 moves -- less than or equal to solvers that employ human domain knowledge," say McAleer and co. That's interesting because it has implications for a variety of other tasks that deep learning has struggled with, including puzzles like Sokoban, games like Montezuma's Revenge, and problems like prime number factorization. The paper on the algorithm -- called DeepCube -- is available on Arxiv.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's come-sail-away department
"A giant egg equipped with rotors and 'Transformers'-style robots are among some of the creative designs submitted in a $2 million dollar contest to dream up new ways of flying," reports CNN.
"GoFly, a $2 million competition to design personal flying machines backed by Boeing, has announced its first round of most promising designs out of 600 entries from around the world," writes harrymcc . "Proposed vehicles need to fly for at least 20 miles, at 35 miles an hour; many of the ideas look a bit like airborne motorcycles."
Fast Company reports:
"There's been a convergence of all of these breakthrough technologies that makes this the first moment in time where we have the ability to make people fly," says Gwen Lighter, who dreamed up the GoFly prize, recruited Boeing to bankroll it, and now serves as CEO. Many of the advances come from the world of drones -- "high-efficiency motors, high-capacity batteries, and cheap navigation and stabilizing technologies that keep even newbies on course and out of danger....
Their prototypes have to achieve vertical takeoff and landing (called VTOL), eliminating the need for an airport runway... The craft have to be small enough to fit within an 8.5-foot circle, and they have to be safe and manageable for anyone to operate -- "not just engineers or daredevils... GoFly's Lighter emphasizes that safety is a key requirement in judging. She says that whatever wins will be well on the way to meeting requirements of the FAA -- and regulatory bodies in other countries -- for mainstream operation. FAA staffers (in a non-official capacity) are even among GoFly's expert advisors.
Best of all, every participant -- even those who win the prize money -- "are free to take their innovations anywhere. They retain all intellectual property rights."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's word-of-the-day department
An anonymous reader quotes The Next Web:
The word 'hack' used to mean something, and hackers were known for their technical brilliance and creativity. Now, literally anything is a hack -- anything -- to the point where the term is meaningless, and should be retired. The most egregious abuse of the term "hack" comes from the BBC's Dougal Shaw. In a recent video of his, called "My lunch hack," Shaw demonstrates that it's cheaper to make your own sandwich each day than it is to buy a pre-packaged sandwich from the supermarket. Shaw calls that a hack. I call it common sense.
And that's not nearly the worst example. I haven't touched on "life hacks" yet. This term is nebulous. It means nothing and anything. It's used to describe arts and crafts... That said, the worst dilution of the term "hack" comes from growth hackers... Anyway, I regret to inform you that the word "hack" is now bad, and should be avoided.
A request for alternative words first went up on Slashdot back in 1999 -- but nothing's been settled. Back in 2014 a Gizmodo reporter wrote an impassioned plea titled "Please stop calling everything a hack" -- while others have argued the opposite.
in 2015 the editorial director of Make magazine cited hack's definition in The New Hacker's Dictionary as "an appropriate application of ingenuity," arguing that "my and other Make contributors' use of the term for clever shop techniques, ingeniously simple projects, and epic 'kluges' (i.e. Rube Goldberg-level hacks and fixes) is entirely appropriate."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's powering-down department
Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight:
There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion....
[I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.
A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.
The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cash-back department
Slashdot reader grep -v '.*' * shares a surprising story. The Kansas City Star profiles the victim of a three-year con that started with an email to a Yahoo inbox back in 2005.
A decade ago, Fred Haines was wandering the Wichita airport looking for a Nigerian man hauling two chests full of cash. After an hour of waiting and asking around, he finally came to the realization that the $65 million Nigerian fortune he thought he was inheriting was not coming after all. What is now coming, though, is the $110,000 he had been scammed out of, thanks to the work of the Kansas Attorney General's Office.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's finding-Ada department
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In her Bard College commencement speech, ex-Google VP and former U.S. CTO Megan Smith revealed to graduates that she gave President Obama a computing history lesson on the same day he learned to code in 2014. "I walked into the Oval Office to do coding with President Obama, and, interestingly, Prince William had just stepped out," Smith explained (YouTube). "They had just had a meeting. I said to President Obama, you know what you and I are about to do is related to Prince William, and he said, how's that. Well, the Prince's wife Kate, her mother and grandmother were codebreakers at Bletchley Park, where they cracked the Nazi Enigma codes...." [Presumably Smith meant to say Kate's great-aunt, not mother — Carole Middleton wasn't born until 1955.]
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sharing-the-road department
"Despite its low profile, OpenStreetMap is arguably one of the most important projects for the future of free software," argues Glyn Moody, author of Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution, in a new Linux Journal article shared by long-time Slashdot reader carlie:
The rise of mobile phones as the primary computing device for billions of people, especially in developing economies, lends a new importance to location and movement. Many internet services now offer additional features based on where users are, where they are going and their relative position to other members of social networks. Self-driving cars and drones are two rapidly evolving hardware areas where accurate geographical information is crucial. All of those things depend upon a map in critical ways, and they require large, detailed datasets. OpenStreetMap is the only truly global open alternative to better-known, and much better-funded geodata holdings, such as Google Maps.
The current dominance of the latter is a serious problem for free software -- and freedom itself. The data that lies behind Google Maps is proprietary. Thus, any open-source program that uses Google Maps or other commercial mapping services is effectively including proprietary elements in its code. For purists, that is unacceptable in itself. But even for those with a more pragmatic viewpoint, it means that open source is dependent on a company for data that can be restricted or withdrawn at any moment....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's C-no-evil department
Open source guru Eric Raymond warned about the possibility of security bugs in critical code which can now date back more than two decades -- in a talk titled "Rescuing Ancient Code" at last week's SouthEast Linux Fest in North Carolina. In a new interview with ITPro Today, Raymond offered this advice on the increasingly important art of "code archaeology".
"Apply code validators as much as you can," he said. "Static analysis, dynamic analysis, if you're working in Python use Pylons, because every bug you find with those tools is a bug that you're not going to have to bleed through your own eyeballs to find... It's a good thing when you have a legacy code base to occasionally unleash somebody on it with a decent sense of architecture and say, 'Here's some money and some time; refactor it until it's clean.' Looks like a waste of money until you run into major systemic problems later because the code base got too crufty. You want to head that off...."
"Documentation is important," he added, "applying all the validators you can is important, paying attention to architecture, paying attention to what's clean is important, because dirty code attracts defects. Code that's difficult to read, difficult to understand, that's where the bugs are going to come out of apparent nowhere and mug you."
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