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Ask Slashdot: How Could You Statistically Identify The Best Sci-Fi Books?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '16 at 08:05 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's turning-thinking-over-to-machines department:
jimharris writes: Over at SF Signal I wrote a piece "How Well-Read Are You in Science Fiction?" There are three databases that collect lists of popular science fiction books that try to statistically identify the best books of the genre, [offering] combined list that shows which books were cited the most. They use different sets of best-of lists, but their results are often similar. The final lists are, Classics of Science Fiction, Worlds Without End Top Listed, and Premiosylista Comparativas: Comparativas: Ciencia ficcion (Spain). Interestingly, each list has a different book in its #1 position (though both "Dune" and "Frankenstein" make the top four on at least two of the three lists). But is this really a good methodology for determining the classic canon? What would be the best way to statistically identify the greatest sci-fi books? (And have you read any good science fiction novels lately?)

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Can Quantum Entanglement Create Faster-Than-Light Communication?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '16 at 06:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Kirk-to-Enterprise department:
Slashdot reader StartsWithABang writes: If you were to send a space probe to a distant star system, gather information about it and send it back to Earth, you'd have to wait years for the information to arrive. But if you have an entangled quantum system -- say, two photons, one with spin +1 and one with spin -1 -- you could know the spin of the distant one instantly by measuring the spin of the one in your possession.
This "incredible idea to exploit quantum weirdness" for communication was the subject of a recent Forbes article [which blocks ad-blockers] as well as a NASA mission directorate. ("Entanglement-assisted Communication System for NASA's Deep-Space Missions: Feasibility Test and Conceptual Design".) And Friday MIT News reported a research team is now making progress toward capturing paired electron halves for quantum computing on gold film. "Our first goal is to look for the Majorana fermions, unambiguously detect them, and show this is it. "

This week even 85-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner cited quantum entanglement in a discussion of Star Trek's transporter technology, arguing that "Although a lot of the concepts in science fiction are absurd to our Newtonian minds, anything is possible because of the new language of quantum physics."

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Flexible Floating Football-Field Sized Solar Panels
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '16 at 06:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's oceans-of-energy department:
mdsolar writes: Offshore wind farms are growing in popularity as energy providers look for different ways of harvesting power from the sun without using valuable land resources. One unique idea being developed by engineers at Vienna University of Technology is a floating platform called a Heliofloat that would function as a sea-based solar power station.... an open-bottom, flexible float as large as a football field and covered from edge to edge with solar panels. Heliofloats can operate as standalone platforms for smaller operations with moderate energy requirements. Multiple heliofloats also can be connected together, forming a floating solar-harvesting power grid. Each heliofloat is 100 meters long, reportedly cheap and easy to build, and may eventually be used to power desalination plants and biomass extraction.

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Drones Being Used By Peeping Toms, The Military, And Terrorists
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '16 at 06:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's womp-rats-with-T-16s department:
An anonymous reader writes: A 19-year-old woman called Massachusetts police about a drone peeking through her second-story window at 3 a.m. -- and was told no laws had been violated. Kansas is now passing an anti-harassment law after a woman reported her neighbor's drone was hovering over their pool and outside the window where her 16-year-old daughter was washing dishes. But meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has just outfitted one supercarrier with a new drone control room, while one Dutch activist writes in Newsweek that terrorist drone attacks "are not a matter of 'If' but 'When'." Noting that drones are cheap, portable and useful, PAX's Wim Zwijnenburg warns that "Terrorists and armed militia groups are already using consumer drones in conflict situations" -- for example, in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and the Ukraine -- "and it is likely only a matter of time before they use them to carry out attacks in Europe or the U.S." He believes ISIS is developing its own drone fleet, and warns about the possibility of swarms with "dozens of drones equipped with explosives or chemicals". Zwijnenburg proposes background checks and registrations for certain types of drones, as well as counter-drone technology to protect airports, crowded stadiums, and critical infrastructure points. Citing the blurring lines between military and civilian drones, he writes that "there needs to be an urgent and frank discussion among industry, the military, law enforcement, and most of all, the public, as to where we go from here."

Meanwhile, another prison just reported a drone had flown over their wall -- this time a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Heli Ball.

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The Future of Shopping: Trapping You in a Club You Didn't Know You Joined
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '16 at 06:42 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's word-of-caution department:
Just a word of caution: the next time you spot a great deal on a shopping portal, you will want to carefully look for all the radio buttons, and tick boxes -- and perhaps also skim through the ToS -- before placing the order. Bloomberg has an in-depth piece on the ordeal of a customer who purchased a lingerie item from an e-commerce website called Adore Me. Little did the customer know that the $19.95 she was spending to purchase a piece of cloth would end up costing her -- partly because of her own ignorance -- more than $300. Adore Me, you see, maintains a subscription model in which it charges users a fee of around $40 a month, even if they don't purchase anything. It might surprise many, but Adore Me isn't the only shopping portal or service that runs this sort of tactic. "It's the new thing," says Francisca Allen, the deputy district attorney of California's Santa Clara County. "There's thousands and thousands of companies that do this." What's more, these companies have made it frustratingly difficult to cancel these subscriptions -- it often requires you to sit through a one-hour call to the customer representative and listening to a bunch of funky songs that you suddenly don't adore as much. Bloomberg reports:Hundreds of customer complaints against Adore Me and other subscription e-commerce businesses are stacking up at the Federal Trade Commission, according to records obtained by Bloomberg. They follow a pattern: Shoppers believe they've been tricked into signing up for recurring credit card charges, often for a relatively small amount that can be easily overlooked in a monthly bill. Then companies make it an exasperating hassle to quit and get a refund.

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Google Helps Police With Child Porn WebCrawler
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '16 at 12:25 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's don't-be-evil department:
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the Internet Watch Foundation, "an organization that works with police worldwide to remove images of child sexual abuse from the Internet, has credited Google with helping it develop a 'Web crawler' that finds child pornography." The pilot project makes it easier to identify and remove every copy of specific images online, and the group says "We look forward to the next phase of the Googler in Residence project in 2016." Last year Google also had an engineer working directly with the foundation, and the group's annual report says "This was just one part of the engineering support Google gave us in 2015." [PDF] Their report adds that the new technology "should block thousands of their illegal images from being viewed on the Internet."

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US Spy Court Didn't Reject a Single Government Surveillance Request In 2015
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 07:55 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's there-are-no-coincidences department:
schwit1 shares news from ZDNet's security blog: In more than three decades years, the FISA Court has only rejected 12 requests. A secret court that oversees the US government's surveillance requests accepted every warrant that was submitted last year, according to new figures.The Washington DC.-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court received 1,457 requests from the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to intercept phone calls and emails. In long-standing fashion, the court did not reject a single warrant, entirely or in part.
The FBI also issued 48,642 national security letters, a subpoena-like power that compels a company to turn over data on national security grounds without informing the subject of the letter. The memo said the majority of these demands sought data on foreigners, but almost one-in-five were requests for data on Americans. It'll be interesting to see if the numbers go down any in 2016, since in November the court appointed five new lawyers to push back against government requests. Meanwhile, a new report shows an increase in the number of government requests to Facebook about their users, more than half of which contained a non-disclosure order prohibiting Facebook from notifying those users.

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Australia: VPN Users Aren't Breaching Copyright
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 06:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's let's-block-another-one department:
Slashdot reader Zanadou writes: The Australian Government Productivity Commission in a draft report recommended that Australian consumers should be able to legally circumvent geoblocking restrictions that have prevented them from using foreign online streaming services like Netflix, and that the Australian Government needs to send a clear message that it is not an infringement of copyright for consumers to be able evade geoblocking technology. Karen Chester, a commissioner with the Productivity Commission, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that geoblocking restrictions have the opposite effect of encouraging internet piracy. "Making copyright material more accessible and more competitively priced online, and not geoblocking, is the best antidote to copyright infringement."

In probably related news, Australia topped the list of countries who illegally downloaded the Game Of Thrones season six premiere, this week.

In January Netflix's chief product officer admitted that the company has no magic solution to subscribers who use VPNs to circumvent geoblocking.

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Amazon Beats Microsoft In 'The Battle of Seattle'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 03:33 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's send-in-the-drones department:
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earned $5 billion in one afternoon when the company's stock price jumped 9.6%. Amazon reported an actual profit of $513 million (nearly double the amount expected), and next year Amazon's sales are projected by analysts to be 63% higher than Microsoft's, which USA Today calls "a good illustration of how growth in the sector has moved from hardware, software and chip companies to Internet firms selling goods or advertising online... [W]hile Bill Gates helped put Seattle area on the map as a U.S. tech hub, Bezos now runs the largest tech company in the State of Washington, by far, in terms of sales."

Amazon's Echo and Alexa devices are believed to be outselling their Kindles (and Alexa will soon make her first appearance on a non-Amazon device). But Amazon attributed their surprise jump in revenue to a 51% annual increase in the "tens of millions" of subscribers paying for their Amazon Prime shipping service (which in San Francisco now even includes delivery from restaurants), as well as a 64% increase from their AWS cloud service, which recently announced a new automated security assessment tool.

Amazon ultimately reported more than twice as much new business as Google and three times as much as Facebook, according to USA Today, which notes that now of all the tech companies, only Apple has more revenue than Amazon, and because of the jump in their stock price, Jeff Bezos is now the fourth-richest person in the world. But with all that money floating around, Seattle tech blogger Jeff Reifman is now wondering why Amazon's local home delivery vehicles in Seattle seem to be operating with out of state plates.

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Malware Taps Windows' 'God Mode'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 02:14 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's bad-guys-getting-smater department:
Reader wiredmikey writes: Researchers at McAfee have discovered a piece of malware dubbed "Dynamer" that is taking advantage of a Windows Easter Egg -- or a power user feature, as many see it -- called "God Mode" to gain persistency (warning: annoying popup ads) on an infected machine. God Mode, as many of you know, is a handy tool for administrators as it is essentially a shortcut to accessing the operating system's various control settings. Dynamer malware is abusing the function by installing itself into a folder inside of the %AppData% directory and creating a registry run key that persists across reboots. Using a "com4" name, Windows considers the folder as being a device, meaning that the user cannot easily delete it. Given that Windows treats the folder "com4" folder differently, Windows Explorer or typical console commands are useless when attempting to delete it.Fortunately, there's a way to remove it. McAfee writes: Fortunately, there is a way to defeat this foe. First, the malware must be terminated (via Task Manager or other standard tools). Next, run this specially crafted command from the command prompt (cmd.exe): > rd âoe\.%appdata%com4.{241D7C96-F8BF-4F85-B01F-E2B043341A4B}â /S /Q.

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Ask Slashdot: Should This Photographer Sue A Hotel For $2M?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 02:14 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's copyrights-and-wrongs department:
Unhappy Windows User writes: An Austrian photographer was contracted by the luxury [hotel] Sofitel in Vienna to photograph the bar with an amazing view over the skyline. He was paid for his time (4200 euros) and arranged a three-year internal usage contract for the photos. After the contract expired, he still found his photos being used -- on external sites too. He is now suing for 2 million euros, based on each individual usage. My question is: Is this the real market value of his work...? It seems like the largest economic contribution to the work was from Sofitel, who allowed access to the property and closed it to customers. I don't have any issue in a photographer wanting to be paid fairly for his work, and asking for perhaps double or treble the original price for the breach of contract to match what an unlimited license would have cost. [But] with this money they could have employed a professional for a month and automatically obtained full rights to the work...it seems like this guy is trying to take advantage of an oversight by a large corporation, never to have to work again.
Here's the original article in German and an English translation, and it's one of those rare cases where the copyright belongs to an individual instead of a massive entertainment conglomeration. But do you think the photographer should be suing for 2 million euros over this copyright beach?

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Germany Plans $1.4 Billion In Incentives For Electric Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 02:14 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's electric-car-push department:
An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg article: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government reached a deal with automakers to jointly spend 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) on incentives to boost sluggish electric-car sales. Buyers will be able to receive as much as 4,000 euros in rebates to help offset the higher price of an electric vehicle, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said at a press conference in Berlin. Purchasers of hybrid cars will get as much as 3,000 euros off the price. The industry will shoulder 50 percent of the cost. The program is set to start in May, pending approval from the German parliament's budget committee, he said. "The goal is to move forward as quickly as possible on electric vehicles," Schaeuble told reporters, adding that the aim is to begin offering the incentives next month. "With this, we are giving an impetus."

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Wireless Carriers To Adopt a New Real-Time Text Protocol To Help People With Disabilities
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 12:31 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's one-for-the-team department:
The FCC, an independent agency of the United States government, says it is ready to adopt a proposal which would help people with disabilities communicate more efficiently and conveniently (PDF). Dubbed real-time text, the protocol is designed to supersede the aging teletypewriter devices that facilitate text conversations over traditional phone lines. FCC said that wireless phone networks would be required to support the aforementioned protocol starting in December 2017. "As communications networks migrate to IP-based environments, this technology would allow Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled or deaf-blind to use the same wireless communications devices as their friends, relatives and colleagues, and more seamlessly integrate into tomorrow's communications networks," FCC wrote. Engadget reports: The big differentiator for RTT over current, commonly used text-based messaging systems is that RTT messages are sent immediately as they're typed. The RTT technology will let text users communicate with people on voice-based phones and vice versa; it can also work easily on your standard smartphone, eliminating the need for specialized equipment.

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Neil Gaiman Celebrates Independent Bookstore Day
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 11:05 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's too-weird-for-words department:
An anonymous reader writes: Today is "Independent Bookstore Day," a national event promoting local bookstores which will feature exclusive bookstore-only offerings, including a Neil Gaiman coloring book with 20 black-and-white illustrations by Gaiman illustrator Chris Riddell and quotes from Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Fortunately, the Milk. "Independent bookstores are not just stores, they're community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers," reads the event's web site, saying independent bookstores "are not just stores, they are solutions. They hold the key to your love life, your career, and your passions."

There's actually more independent bookstores this year than there were last year, according to the site, which argues that "In a world of tweets and algorithms and pageless digital downloads, bookstores are not a dying anachronism. They are living, breathing organisms that continue to grow and expand."

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Humble Bundle Announces "Hacker" Pay-What-You-Want Sale
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 11:05 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's supporting-the-EFF department:
An anonymous reader writes: Humble Bundle announced a special "pay what you want" sale for four ebooks from No Starch Press, with proceeds going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (or to the charity of your choice). This "hacker edition" sale includes two relatively new titles from 2015 -- "Automate the Boring Stuff with Python" and Violet Blue's "Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy," as well as "Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering" by Andrew "bunnie" Huang, and "The Linux Command Line".

Hackers who are willing to pay "more than the average" -- currently $14.87 -- can also unlock a set of five more books, which includes "The Maker's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse: Defend Your Base with Simple Circuits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi". (This level also includes "Bitcoin for the Befuddled" and "Designing BSD Rootkits: An Introduction to Kernel Hacking".) And at the $15 level -- just 13 cents more -- four additional books are unlocked. "Practical Malware Analysis: The Hands-On Guide to Dissecting Malicious Software" is available at this level, as well as "Hacking: The Art of Exploitation" and "Black Hat Python." Nice to see they've already sold 28,506 bundles, which are DRM-free and available in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI format. (I still remember Slashdot's 2012 interview with Make magazine's Andrew "bunnie" Huang, who Samzenpus described as "one of the most famous hardware and software hackers in the world.")

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Language Creation Society Says Klingon Language Isn't Covered By Copyright
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 09:21 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's don't-put-klingon-in-a-wall-garden department:
Reader AmiMoJo writes: Earlier this year Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios filed a lawsuit against the makers of a Star Trek inspired fan film, accusing them of copyright infringement. In their amicus brief, which actually uses Klingon language, the Language Creation Society lists many examples of how Klingon has evolved, and it specifically disputes Paramount's earlier claims that there are no human beings who communicate using the Klingon language. "In fact, there are groups of people for whom Klingon is their only common language. There are friends who only speak Klingon to each other. In fact, at least one child was initially raised as a native speaker of Klingon." As such, Paramount should not be allowed to claim copyright over the entire Klingon language, both in written and spoken form. The language is a tool for people to communicate and express ideas, something people should be allowed to do freely under U.S. law, LCS argues.

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Design, Hardware, Software Errors Doomed Japanese Hitomi Spacecraft
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 09:21 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's why-do-we-fall,-Mr.-Wayne? department:
Reader Required Snark writes: The Japanese space agency JAXA said its recently launched X-Ray observation satellite Hitomi has been destroyed. After a successful launch on February 17, contact with the satellite was lost on March 28. Off the 10-year expected life span, only three days of observations were collected. Preliminary inquiry points to multiple failures in design, hardware and software. After the launch it was discovered that the star tracker stabilization didn't work in a low magnetic flux area over the South Atlantic. When the backup gyroscopic spin stabilization took control, the spin increased instead of stopping. An internal magnetic limit feature in the gyroscope failed, causing the spin get worse. Finally, a thruster based control started, but because of a software failure the spin increased further. The solar panels broke off, leaving the satellite without a long-term power supply. It seems that untested software had been uploaded for thrust control just before the breakup. This is a major loss for astronomical research. Two previous attempts by Japan to launch a high-resolution X-ray calorimeter had also failed, and the next planned sensor of this type is not scheduled until 2028 by the ESA. Just building a replacement unit would take 3 to 5 years and cost $50 million, without the cost of a satellite or launch.

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Design, Hardware, Software Error Doomed Japanese Hitomi Spacecraft
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 08:03 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's why-do-we-fall,-Mr.-Wayne? department:
Reader Required Snark writes: The Japanese space agency JAXA said its recently launched X-Ray observation satellite Hitomi has been destroyed. After a successful launch on February 17, contact with the satellite was lost on March 28. Off the 10-year expected life span, only three days of observations were collected. Preliminary inquiry points to multiple failures in design, hardware and software. After the launch it was discovered that the star tracker stabilization didn't work in a low magnetic flux area over the South Atlantic. When the backup gyroscopic spin stabilization took control, the spin increased instead of stopping. An internal magnetic limit feature in the gyroscope failed, causing the spin get worse. Finally, a thruster based control started, but because of a software failure the spin increased further. The solar panels broke off, leaving the satellite without a long-term power supply. It seems that untested software had been uploaded for thrust control just before the breakup. This is a major loss for astronomical research. Two previous attempts by Japan to launch a high-resolution X-ray calorimeter had also failed, and the next planned sensor of this type is not scheduled until 2028 by the ESA. Just building a replacement unit would take 3 to 5 years and cost $50 million, without the cost of a satellite or launch.

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Yahoo's Marissa Mayer In Line For $55M Severance If Fired Within A Year Of Sale
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 06:42 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pretty-penny department:
whoever57 writes: A Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing on Friday revealed that Yahoo's board has agreed to a $55 million severance package for Marissa Mayer if she loses her job within a year of a sale. That's a lot of money for a chief executive who hasn't been able to keep Yahoo's stock from falling. In 2015, the value of Yahoo's stock fell by 33%. Worth noting: most of the money from the severance package is composed of restricted stock units and options -- there's only $3 million in cold hard cash. Also, Yahoo revealed Mayer received a significant pay cut last year. Her "reported pay" was $36 million, but her "realized pay" is closer to $14 million.

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Berkeley Researchers Examine Five Worst-Case Security Nightmares
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '16 at 06:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's SkyNet-is-falling department:
An anonymous reader writes: Berkeley researchers have gamed out five worst-case security scenarios at their Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, calling it "a disciplined, imaginative approach to modeling what cybersecurity could mean in the future...to provoke a discussion about what the cybersecurity research and policy communities need to do now in order to be better positioned..." Two of the scenarios are set in 2020 -- one called "The New Normal" imagining a world were users assume their personal information can no longer be kept safe, and another involving the privacy and security implications in a world where hackers lurk undetected on a now-ubiquitous Internet of Things.

"Our goal is to identify emerging issues that will become more important..." they write in an executive summary, including "issues on the table today that may become less salient or critical; and new issues that researchers and decision-makers a few years from now will have wished people in the research and policy communities had noticed -- and begun to act on -- earlier.

Scenario #2 imagines a super-intelligent A.I. which can predict and even manipulate the behavior of individuals, and scenario #3 involves criminals exploiting valuable data sets -- and data scientists -- after an economic collapse.

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