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New Heating Technology Uses Seawater and Carbon Dioxide
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 08:12 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's greenhouse-remissions department:
Kenneth Stephen writes: While some enterprises have used sea-water for cooling, others are starting to use this for heating. and thereby cut back greatly on the carbon footprint of large facilities. What makes this technique even more fascinating is that a key component of this technology is carbon dioxide — the greenhouse gas that has climate watchers so worried.
An Alaska aquarium recently announced "the first installation of CO2 refrigerant heat pumps to replace oil or electrical boilers in a conventional heating system in the United States" after 7 years of development, and predicts they'll now save up to $15,000 each month on their heating bill.

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Interview With Python Creator Guido Van Rossum
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 05:27 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's naming-languages-after-Monty-Python department:
The online programming school Tech Rocket just published a new interview with Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python. "Looking back I don't think I ever really doubted Python, and I always had fun," he tells the site. "I had a lot of doubts about myself, but Python's ever-increasing success, and encouragement from people to whom I looked up (even Larry Wall!), made me forget that."
He describes what it's like being Python's Benevolent Dictator for Life, and says that the most astonishing thing he's seen built with Python is "probaby the Dropbox server. Two million lines of code and counting, and it serves hundreds of millions of users." And he leaves aspiring programmers with this advice. "Don't do something you don't enjoy just because it looks lucrative -- that's where the competition will be fiercest, and because you don't enjoy it, you'll lose out to others who are more motivated."

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Report: Google Developing New 'Area 120' Corporate Incubator
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 04:03 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's controlled-conditions department:
An anonymous reader writes: The Information has released a new report about how Google is developing its own "startup incubator" called "Area 120." According to sources, the incubator will be helmed by Google executives Don Harrison and Bradley Horowitz. The way it will work is teams of Google employees will pitch their ideas for inclusion in Area 120. If a team's idea is approved, they will then be able to work full-time on their idea, and eventually start a new company after the business plan is created. The timing is unclear but the whole process will likely take several months. According to The Next Web, "The '120' in Area 120 is a homage to Google's famed '20 percent time,' which asks that employees spend one-fifth of their working hours on projects that excite them." Both Gmail and AdSense were a result of Google's 20 percent time workplace philosophy. The report claims Area 120 will be tied exclusively to Google, not its parent company, Alphabet. It also says it will remain separate from Google's Mountain View campus.

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Schools Are Helping Police Spy On Kids' Social Media Activity
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 02:43 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Officer-Friendly department:
schwit1 shares this excerpt from an article in The Washington Post: Schools in Florida are renewing a program that monitors their students' social media activity for criminal or threatening behavior, although it has caused some controversy since its adoption last year. The school system in Orange County, where Orlando is located, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that the program, which partners the school system with local police departments, has been successful in protecting students' safety, saying that it led to 12 police investigations in the past year. The school district says it will pay about $18,000 annually for SnapTrends, the monitoring software used to check students' activity. It's the same software used by police in Racine, Wisconsin, to track criminal activity and joins a slew of similar social media monitoring software used by law enforcement to keep an eye on the community. SnapTrends collects data from public posts on students' social media accounts by scanning for keywords that signify cases of cyberbullying, suicide threats, or criminal activity. School security staff then comb through flagged posts and alert police when they see fit.

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AIs vs Humans - Next Battle: Starcraft
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 02:43 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's in-ur-base-killing-your-dudes department:
braindrainbahrain writes: Having conquered checkers, chess, and more recently Go, artificial intelligence research now looks at the next frontier: the popular real-time strategy game of StarCraft.
Blizzard Entertainment's president reached out to Google's DeepMind researchers last month, who are now describing StarCraft as "our likely next target". But many top StarCraft experts believe AIs will fail because "Unlike machines, humans are good at lying," reports the Wall Street Journal. An executive at the Korea e-Sports Association tells them "It's going to be hard for AI to bluff or to trick a human player."

One University of Alberta computer scientist David Churchill counters that âoeWhen the AI finds that the only way to win is to show strength, it will do that. If you want to call that bluffing, then the AI is capable of bluffing, but there's no machismo behind it." Unfortuantely, for five years Churchill has been running AI-vs-human StarCraft tournaments, and "So far, it hasn't even been close... Using a mouse and keyboard, the world's top players can issue 500 or more commands a minute," the Journal reports. But they add that now both Facebook and Microsoft are also working on small StarCraft AI projects.

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Slashdot Asks: Have You Experienced Ageism?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 11:56 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's have-you-been-experienced department:
Friday the Huffington Post wrote that "Ageism runs rampant through Silicon Valley, where older workers are frequently overlooked for jobs." They ran tips from the man who recruited Tim Cook for Apple, who pointed out that it's difficult and expensive to recruit new talent, urging businesses to "stop seeing workforce diversity as a good deed; it's good business."
And earlier this month The Observer ran an article by Dan Lyons, a writer for HBO's "Silicon Valley," who shared his perspective on ageism from his time at HubSpot. Their CEO actively cultivated an age imbalance, bragging that he was "trying to build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y'ers," because, "in the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated."

Meanwhile, Slashdot reader OffTheLip writes: Information technology is a young business in comparison to many other industries but one of the few where older workers are not valued for their institutional knowledge... As a recently retired techie I experienced this firsthand, both as an older worker, and earlier in my career [as] one who didn't see the value in older workers. As Lyons states, older workers are good business.
What are your thoughts? And have you experienced ageism?

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British Astronaut Competes in London Marathon from ISS
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 11:56 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's racing-in-space department:
An anonymous reader writes:
"British astronaut Tim Peake became the first man to complete a marathon in space on Sunday, running the classic 26.2 mile distance while strapped to a treadmill aboard the International Space Station..." reports Reuters. "The 44-year-old spaceman saw London's roads under his feet in real time on an iPad as, 250 miles below him, more than 37,000 runners simultaneously pounded the streets."
Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, two earth-bound runners ran the marathon wearing space suits.

CNN notes that Peake "ran the race for real in 1999," but this time competed with avatars that represented actual runners who were using the Run Social app. His zero-gravity run took longer -- more than three and a half hours -- while a Kenyan runner ultimately won the race, completing the whole 26.2-mile course in just two hours, three minutes and four seconds, the second-fastest time ever recorded.

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How Big Data Creates False Confidence
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 10:32 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's yabba-data-doo department:
Mr D from 63 shares an article from Nautilus urging skepticism of big data: "The general idea is to find datasets so enormous that they can reveal patterns invisible to conventional inquiry... But there's a problem: It's tempting to think that with such an incredible volume of data behind them, studies relying on big data couldn't be wrong. But the bigness of the data can imbue the results with a false sense of certainty. Many of them are probably bogus -- and the reasons why should give us pause about any research that blindly trusts big data."
For example, Google's database of scanned books represents 4% of all books ever published, but in this data set, "The Lord of the Rings gets no more influence than, say, Witchcraft Persecutions in Bavaria." And the name Lanny appears to be one of the most common in early-20th century fiction -- solely because Upton Sinclair published 11 different novels about a character named Lanny Budd.

The problem seems to be skewed data and misinterpretation. (The article points to the failure of Google Flu Trends, which it turns out "was largely predicting winter".) The article's conclusion? "Rather than succumb to 'big data hubris,' the rest of us would do well to keep our skeptic hats on -- even when someone points to billions of words."

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Oculus Rift Users Angered By Pre-Order Snafu
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 09:13 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's virtual-shipping-dates department:
fluor2 writes: In April, Oculus announced that many of the Oculus Rift CV1 pre-orders were getting bumped from March to early May or even June...but they're still finding CV1's for supplying Rift+PC bundles. The solution for some has now been to cancel their order, order Rift+PC bundles...and cancel the PC portion.

This tactic appears to have mixed results, and those Rift+PC bundles have now also sold out, adds the Road To VR site, which reports that some of the original pre-orders "are now shipping out significantly ahead of the initial delay estimates provided by Oculus." For one customer, "Oculus estimated the Rift wouldn't ship until sometime between May 23 and June 2, around two months after the official launch date. However, the customer tells us that their Rift was shipped today, about one month ahead of the delay estimate, and about one month after the official launch date."

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Fired Reddit Exec Launches Competing Site
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 07:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Ask-Imzy department:
An anonymous reader writes: "Dan McComas, the former second-in-command at Reddit -- and vocal critic of its more inflammatory groups -- wants to build a better Reddit, one that focuses on 'healthy, positive communities,'" reports TheNextWeb. Raising $3 million, Imzy.com quietly launched earlier this year with over 500 discussion forums, aspiring to become an advertising-free space where content creators can interact with their fans. Moderators and users of Imzy can be "tipped" with online payments from other users, while the site hopes to remain advertising-free by taking a cut from on-site transactions. But "at its core though, Imzy wants to provide a safe place to share and discuss without the fear of being harassed, a problem Reddit has struggled with for several years."

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This Battery-Free Computer Sucks Power Out Of Thin Air
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 07:42 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's fascinating-gadget department:
An anonymous reader shares an article on Fast Co Design (edited and condensed for clarity): Researchers at University of Washington's Sensor Lab have created the WISP, or Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform: a combination sensor and computing chip that doesn't need a battery or a wired power source to operate. Instead, it sucks in radio waves emitted from a standard, off-the-shelf RFID reader -- the same technology that retail shops use to deter shoplifters -- and converts them into electricity. The WISP isn't designed to compete with the chips in your smartphone or your laptop. It has about the same clock speed as the processor in a Fitbit and similar functionality, including embedded accelerometers and temperature sensors. [...] It has about the same bandwidth as Bluetooth Low Energy mode, the wireless power-sipping technology which drives most Bluetooth speakers and wireless headphones.

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ESA Offering Prizes For First Radio Reception From Satellite
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 06:24 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's can-you-hear-me-Major-Tom department:
An anonymous reader writes: The European Space Agency education office set up a contest to receive the radio signals from their new Cubesat satellites: AAUSAT4, E-st@r-II or OUFTI-1. Prizes will be rewarded to those who receive the first signal (audio or waterfall) from TLM, packet or ham radio transponders. Even if you're not the first, any valid submission will be rewarded with a nice QSL card from ESA, reports one space site. Arianespace's Soyuz is scheduled for liftoff on April 24 with a multi-mission satellite payload. Designated Flight VS14 in Arianespace's launcher family numbering system, the medium-lift Soyuz carries a mixed payload of the Sentinel-1B C-band radar observation platform, a trio of "Fly Your Satellite!" technology demonstrator CubeSats, and the Microscope scientific satellite.

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40% of Silicon Valley's Profits (But Not Sales) Came from Apple
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 05:03 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's step-two-equals-??? department:
An anonymous reader writes:The San Jose Mercury News reports that last year 40% of Silicon Valley's profits came from one company -- Apple. "The iPhone maker accounted for 28 percent of the Bay Area tech industry's $833 billion in 2015 sales," while "Its profits were a jaw-dropping 40 percent of the region's $133 billion total." Meanwhile, Google's parent company Alphabet racked up $75 billion in sales, representing nearly 57% of the total for all Silicon Valley internet companies, followed by eBay and PayPal.

But while sales grew, internet-company profits fell by 29% as more companies focused on growth. "Profits are nice, sure, but becoming profitable isn't the top priority around here, particularly for younger firms," wrote the newspaper, noting that investors are paying 18 times Facebook's annual sales for its stock. In fact, 29% of Silicon Valley's top companies didn't have sales growth in 2015 (an increase from 17% the previous year), and five of the top 10 companies saw a drop in sales in 2015 (including Intel). "The numbers are telling the story," one analyst tells the newspaper. "There is growth, but it is slowing."
The Mercury News adds that "The question for those with the biggest sales drops is how much time do they have left if the trend continues..."

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Drone Fire-Fighting Tested in Nebraska
Posted by News Fetcher on April 24 '16 at 03:32 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fighting-fire-with-fire department:
An anonymous reader writes: Friday Researchers at the University of Nebraska flew a drone over a prairie test site, dropping small containers the size of ping-pong balls to ignite controlled fires. "The fires clear out brush to make it easier to control wildfires on the prairie," reports the Associated Press, citing a National Park Service spokesperson who believes it could help clear overgrown vegetation in hard-to-reach areas.
"The technology is already used by helicopters to start controlled burns," reports the AP, "but researchers note that the drone is cheaper and more portable. 'You could afford one of these on the back of your fire truck, whereas you probably can't afford to have a full-sized helicopter parked at your fire station,' said Carrick Detweiler, a member of the Nebraska research team."

One engineering professor tells the AP, "Imagine them having this in their backpack, pulling it out and telling it, 'Hey, go scout out there. Check whether it's hot. Check whether it's safe..." And this Omaha news site has video footage of the drone fire-fighting test.

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Hacker Collective Attacks KKK Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on April 23 '16 at 11:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tweeting-for-social-justice department:
An anonymous reader writes: A KKK web site went offline for several hours Saturday, part of an ongoing attack campaign being attributed to "several hacker collectives, including Anonymous and BinarySec, under a loosely-coordinated operation theyâ(TM)re calling #OpKKK." The Epoch Times newspaper reports that "Over the course of the last couple months, websites belonging to the KKK flicked off and on, members of the hate group have had their identities posted online, and their recruiting efforts have been attacked." Saturday's DDoS attack and others are being chronicled on Twitter with the hashtag #OpKKK, prompting the newspaper to describe the collective as "very active".

"Part of OpKKK is bringing attention to the fact that these groups are not dead and are in fact finding a new life online..." one attacker told the newspaper. "We private citizens have the right to pass judgment and respond to hate speech and those who perpetuate these dangerous ideals...and there are consequences."

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NASA Hackathon Expected to Draw Over 15,000 Coders
Posted by News Fetcher on April 23 '16 at 08:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's the-final-frontier department:
Saturday NASA began live-streaming footage of their "Space Apps Challenge" hackathon, which they're describing as one of the largest hackathons on earth. "Together, citizens like you have developed thousands of open-source solutions," says the event's site, while Fast Company reports that last year 14,264 people gathered in 133 locations to create apps using NASA's trove of open data. Last year's largest local app hackathon was started by two women in Cairo, drawing 700 participants, and this year NASA is trying to increase participation by female coders. NASA's open innovation project manager tells FastCompany that women "are looking for signals that they will be in a safe space where they feel like they belong," noting that 80% of last year's participants were men.

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'I Hacked Facebook -- and Found Someone Had Beaten Me To It'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 23 '16 at 05:52 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's you're-not-Facebook's-first department:
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Register: A bug bounty hunter compromises a Facebook staff server through a sloppy file-sharing webapp -- and finds someone's already beaten him to it by backdooring the machine. The pseudo-anonymous penetration tester Orange Tsai, who works for Taiwan-based outfit Devcore, banked $10,000 from Facebook in February for successfully drilling into the vulnerable system. According to Tsai, he or she stumbled across malware installed by someone else that was stealing usernames and passwords of FB employees who logged into the machine. The login credentials were siphoned off to an outside computer. According to Facebook security engineer Reginaldo Silva, the password-slurping malware was installed by another security researcher who had earlier poked around within Facebook's system in an attempt to snag a bug bounty.

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From Uber To Eric Schmidt, Tech Is Closer To the US Government Than You'd Think
Posted by News Fetcher on April 23 '16 at 04:31 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's frenemies department:
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Guardian: Alphabet's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, recently joined a Department of Defense advisory panel. Facebook recently hired a former director at the U.S. military's research lab, Darpa. Uber employs Barack Obama's former campaign manager David Plouffe and Amazon.com tapped his former spokesman Jay Carney. Google, Facebook, Uber and Apple collectively employ a couple of dozen former analysts for America's spy agencies, who openly list their resumes on LinkedIn. These connections are neither new nor secret. But the fact they are so accepted illustrates how tech's leaders -- even amid current fights over encryption and surveillance -- are still seen as mostly U.S. firms that back up American values. Christopher Soghoian, a technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level employees' government connections matter less than leading executives' ties to government. For instance, at least a dozen Google engineers have worked at the NSA, according to publicly available records on LinkedIn. And, this being Silicon Valley, not everyone who worked for a spy agency advertises that on LinkedIn. Soghoian, a vocal critic of mass surveillance, said Google hiring an ex-hacker for the NSA to work on security doesn't really bother him. "But Eric Schmidt having a close relationship with the White House does," he said.Danny Yadron, said, "What's worse for a Silicon Valley executive: ties to the Chinese military or friends in the US Defense Department?"

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Greece's Former Finance Minister Explains Why A Universal Basic Income Could Save Us
Posted by News Fetcher on April 23 '16 at 03:12 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's good-luck-with-that department:
Charlie Sorrel, writing for FastCoExist: Next time you're having a fight with somebody who doesn't like the idea of a universal basic income, you might employ some of these arguments from Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former finance minister. In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, he not only refutes the usual arguments against the concept that the government should give everyone a minimum check every month, but he makes them sound quite ridiculous. The interview was published ahead of the Switzerland's vote on a universal basic income (or UBI) in June. If successful, all Swiss adults would get $2,500 per month, and kids around $625 per month, whether or not they have a job. Here are some of Varoufakis's best answers. First, on the need for a UBI: "For the first time in the history of technology more jobs are destroyed than created. Technical progress means that more and more high-paying jobs will disappear and thus shrink the middle class. This will in turn cause a further concentration of income and wealth in the upper classes. That's why I fight like a basic income for sociopolitical reforms.
The robotization [of work] has long been underway, but robots don't buy products. Therefore, a basic income is needed to offset this change and stabilize a society which has an increasing wealth inequality." Then, on why you need a UBI if you already have a good job: "What good is a well-paying job, if you are afraid to lose it? This constant fear paralyzes."Good luck convincing many citizens to do actual work.

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Bill Nye Slams Donald Trump, Republicans On Climate Change
Posted by News Fetcher on April 23 '16 at 01:52 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's when-the-science-guy-says department:
An anonymous reader writes: On the eve of Earth Day, environmental activist Bill Nye told CNN that while everybody is more aware of climate change "than ever before," we still have a long way to go (annoying auto-play videos). The science educator and engineer, who became an icon on his 1990s hit show "Bill Nye the Science Guy," criticized the Republican presidential candidates and the fossil fuel industry for not acknowledging the deleterious effects of climate change. "There's still a very strong contingent of people who are in denial about climate change," Nye said. "And if you don't believe me, look at the three people currently running for president of the world's most influential country who are ... climate change deniers," Nye said, referring to the three Republican presidential candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

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