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What Star Trek Owes To Robert Heinlein
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 09:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's in-memory-of department:
HughPickens.com writes: As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, Manu Saudia, author of Trekonomics, has an interesting article on BoingBoing about how according to Gene Roddenberry himself, no author had more influence on The Original Star Trek than Robert Heinlein, and more specifically his juvenile novel Space Cadet. That book, published in 1948, is considered a classic. It is a bildungsroman, retelling the education of young Matt Dodson from Iowa, who joins the Space Patrol and becomes a man. (In a homage from Roddenberry, Star Trek's Captain James Tiberius Kirk is also from Iowa.) The Space Patrol is a prototype of Starfleet: it is a multiracial, multinational institution, entrusted with keeping the peace in the solar system. In Space Cadet, Heinlein portrayed a society where racism had been overcome. Not unlike Starfleet, the Space Patrol was supposed to be a force for good. According to Saudia, the hierarchical structure and naval ranks of the first Star Trek series (a reflection of Heinlein's Annapolis days) were geared to appeal to Heinlein's readers and demographics, all these starry-eyed kids who, like Roddenberry himself, had read Space Cadet and Have Spacesuit -- Will Travel. Nobody cared about your sex or the color of your skin as long as you were willing to sign up for the Space Patrol or Starship Troopers' Federal service. Where it gets a little weird is that Heinlein's Space Patrol controls nuclear warheads in orbit around Earth, and its mission is to nuke any country that has been tempted to go to war with its neighbors. This supranational body in charge of deterrence, enforcing peace and democracy on the home planet by the threat of annihilation, was an extrapolation of what could potentially be achieved if you combined the UN charter with mutually assured destruction. "The fat finger on the nuclear trigger makes it a very doubtful proposition," concludes Saudia. "The Space Patrol, autonomous and unaccountable, is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek."

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How a Bad UI Decision From Microsoft Helped Macro Malware Make a Comeback
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 06:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Rocky-Balboa department:
An anonymous reader writes: Macro malware is a term to describe malware that relies on automatically executed macro scripts inside Office documents. This type of malware was very popular in the '90s, but when Microsoft launched Office 97, it added a popup before opening Office files that warned users about the dangers of enabling macros. Microsoft's decision had a huge impact on macro malware, and by the 2000s, this type of malware went almost extinct. Lo and behold, some smart Microsoft UI designers start thinking that users might get popup fatigue, so in Office 2007, Microsoft makes the monumental mistake of removing the very informative popup, and transforming the warning into a notification bar at the top of the document with only six words warning users about macros. Things get worse in Office 2010, when Microsoft even adds a shiny button that reads "Enable Content," ruining everything it had done in the past 10-15 years, and allowing macro malware to become the dangerous threat it is today. The U.S.-CERT team issued an official threat yesterday warning organizations about the resurging threat of malware that uses macro scripts in Office documents.

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Scientists In Iceland Turn CO2 Into Stone
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 06:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's turned-to-stone department:
New submitter Zmobie quotes a report from The Guardian: [Carbon dioxide has been pumped underground and turned rapidly into stone, demonstrating a radical new way to tackle climate change.] The unique project promises a cheaper and more secure way of burying CO2 from fossil fuel burning underground, where it cannot warm the planet. Such carbon capture and storage (CCS) is thought to be essential to halting global warming, but existing projects store the CO2 as a gas and concerns about costs and potential leakage have halted some plans. The new research pumped CO2 into the volcanic rock under Iceland and sped up a natural process where the basalts react with the gas to form carbonate minerals, which make up limestone. The researchers were amazed by how fast all the gas turned into a solid -- just two years, compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that had been predicted. One of the downsides for the project is that it requires 25 tons of water for each ton of CO2 buried. However, seawater can be used. The Iceland Project (also referred to as the CarbFix Project) is already being upscaled to bury 10,000 tons of CO2 each year, in addition to the hydrogen sulphide which also turns into minerals.

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Facebook Now Lets Users Comment With a Video
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 05:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's media-consumption department:
An anonymous reader writes: As internet users continue to consume more videos than ever before, Facebook has decided to further add to the trend and officially launch video comments. Users are watching so many videos that the Cisco Visual Networking Index forecasts internet video traffic will represent 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020. Facebook said via a blog post that the new feature was developed at Facebook's 50th Hackathon. The team that built the feature included: Bob Baldwin who lead the initiative with Hermes Pique and Sameer Madan working on iOS, Muhammed Ibrahim worked on the web, and Billy Ng worked on Android. Baldwin's past projects consisted of features that let Facebook users include photos or stickers in the comments. The new video comments feature may help Facebook catch up to Snapchat in terms of daily videos viewed on the social media platform.

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Microsoft Analyzes Web Searches, Finds Clues For Early Cancer Detection
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 05:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's less-invasive-prostate-exam department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Computerworld: Analyzing online activities can provide clues as to a person's chances of having cancer, Microsoft researchers showed in a paper published this week. Specifically, the researchers demonstrated that by analyzing web query logs they were able to identify internet users who had pancreatic cancer even before they'd been diagnosed. The study suggest that "low-cost, high-coverage surveillance systems" can be created to passively observe search behavior and to provide early warning for pancreatic cancer, and with extension of the methodology, for other challenging cancers," the researchers concluded. "Surveillance systems could also provide for automated capture and summarization of data and landmarks over time so as to provide patients with talking points in their discussion with medical professionals." The researchers used proprietary logs of 9.2 million web queries on Microsoft's own Bing search engine but focused exclusively on English-speaking people in the U.S. from October 2013 to May 2015. First, the team identified searchers in logs of online search activity who made "special queries" that are suggestive of a recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Those queries included phrases such as "Why did I get cancer in pancreas," and "I was told I have pancreatic cancer, what to expect." The team then went back "many months" before the initial queries were made to examine patterns of symptoms as they were expressed by web searches about pancreatic cancer symptoms. "We showed specifically that we can identify 5% to 15% of cases, while preserving extremely low false-positive rates," the researchers said in their paper. The false positives ranged from one in 10,000 to one in 100,000.

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There's No Evidence That Google Is Manipulating Searches To Help Hillary Clinton
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 03:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's conspiracy-theory department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Vox: A recent report via SourceFed surfaced suggesting that Google is suppressing the phrase "Hillary Clinton crimes" from autocomplete results, thus helping her candidacy. In the video, it shows that if you type "Donald Trump rac," Google will suggest the word "racist" to complete the phrase. However, if you type "Hillary Clinton cri," Google will suggest "crime reform" and "crisis" but not "crimes," despite the fact that Google Trend results show that people search for "Hillary Clinton crimes" a lot more than "Hillary Clinton crime reform." The video suggests some sort of reliance between the Clinton campaign and Eric Schmidt. But Vox reports there's a simpler explanation: "Choose any famous American who has been accused of a serious crime and Google their name followed by the letters "cri," and in no case does Google suggest the word "crimes." Apparently, Google has a policy of not suggesting that customers do searches on people's crimes. I have no inside knowledge of why it runs its search engine this way. Maybe Google is just uncomfortable with having an algorithm suggesting that people search for other people's crimes. In any event, there's no evidence that this is specific to Hillary Clinton, and therefore no reason to think this is a conspiracy by Google to help Clinton win the election." Earlier this week, Julian Assange stated Google is "directly engaged" with the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. It goes hand-in-hand with SourceFed's report, as they both mention Eric Schmidt's role in helping the Clinton campaign. Assange said, "The chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, set up a company to run the digital component of Hillary Clinton's campaign."

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Amazon To Launch Streaming Music Service In Late Summer Or Early Fall: Report
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 03:52 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's another-music-service department:
If Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, YouTube, and Apple Music aren't enough to meet your music demands, you will be delighted to know that Amazon is also working on a streaming music service that it intends to launch in late summer or early fall. According to Reuters, Amazon's upcoming subscription-based service will be offered at $9.99 per month, in line with major rivals. From the report: Although it will be a late entrant to the crowded streaming space, Amazon believes a comprehensive music service is important to its bid to be a one-stop shop for content and goods, the sources said. The new music offering also is intended to increase the appeal of the Amazon Echo, its home speaker, which searches the Internet and orders products from the retailer with voice commands.

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Ready CEO: Coding Snobs Are Not Helping Our Children Prepare For The Future
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 02:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's code-literacy department:
jader3rd writes: Quartz has an article written by the CEO of Ready, David S. Bennahum, about how public education should be embracing computer science, and how existing programmers don't like these efforts because they feel that doing so will result in kids being exposed to programming in a manner different then how they were introduced to it. Bennahum writes: "Writing software today is eerily similar to what it was like in the late 1950s, when people sat at terminals and wrote COBOL programs. And like the late 1950s, the stereotype of the coder is largely unchanged: mostly white guys with deep math skills, and minimal extroversion. Back in the Sputnik-era, people thought of programmers as a priesthood in lab coats: the sole keepers of knowledge that ran these exotic, and mysterious room-sized machines. Today the priesthood is a little hipper -- lab coats have long given way to a countercultural vibe -- but it's still a priesthood, perhaps more druidic than Jesuitic, but a priesthood nonetheless, largely comprised of white men." "Instead of attempting to lure code-literate teachers away from Silicon Valley, we need to revolutionize the way coding is done. Rather than fit the person to the tool, letâ(TM)s fit the tool to the person. Pop computing can help us get there, offering a gloriously diverse array of tools to match our gloriously diverse species. Itâ(TM)s only a matter of time before the process of making software itself is transformed, from one that requires a mastery of syntax -- the precise stringing of sentences needed to command a computer -- to the mastery of logic. Logic is the essence of software creation, and the second step after mastering syntax.'

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23 Seriously Ill MS Patients Recover After 'Breakthrough' Stem Cell Treatment
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 02:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's groundbreaking-research department:
schwit1 quotes a report from The Telegraph: Multiple sclerosis patients who were severely disabled are walking, working and even downhill skiing again following a breakthrough therapy which completely destroys, then rebuilds, the immune system. The trial, which is the first in the world to show complete long-term remission from the debilitating disease has been hailed by experts as "exciting" "unprecedented," and "close to curative." Although it is unclear what causes MS it is thought that the immune system attacks the protective coating which surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to inflammation, pain, disability and in severe cases, early death. [The new technique, which is a treatment usually used to fight leukemia, involves using chemotherapy to entirely eradicate the damaged immune system, before rebooting it with a transfusion of bone marrow cells. Out of the 24 patients who were given the treatment at least seven years ago, the majority have seen significant improvements. 70 per cent of patients saw a complete stop to the progression of the disease, while 40 per cent saw a reversal in symptoms such as vision loss, muscle weakness and balance loss.] Last week, it was reported that a wheelchair-bound stroke victim was able to walk again after an "unprecedented" stem cell trial at Stanford.

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Google's Algorithm Displays Racist Results Because the Society Is Racist
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 01:02 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's how-Google-works-101 department:
On June 6, Kabir Alli, an 18-year old in Virginia, posted a brief video of himself running a couple of quick Google image searches. First he searched for "three black teenagers" and was met with several rows of decontextualized mugshots. Then he searched for "three white teenagers" and was served up stock photos of relaxed teens hanging out in front of various plain white backgrounds. The tweet has stirred controversy, with many people accusing Google of being racist. But is that the case? Alli says that while it's Google's fault in some sense as they should have better control over the things people see, he also believes that at the end of the day, what Google shows us is a reflection of what people think. A Google spokesperson had similar things to say. Our image search results are a reflection of content from across the web, including the frequency with which types of images appear and the way they're described online. This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what image search results appear for a given query. These results don't reflect Google's own opinions or beliefs -- as a company, we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures.

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Facebook Developers Can See Private Links Shared Through Messenger
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 01:02 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Earlier this week, security researchers at Checkpoint reported about vulnerabilities in Facebook Chat and Messenger that, if exploited, could allow anyone to essentially take control of any message sent by Chat or Messenger. Now a developer named Inti De Ceukelaire is pointing out another flaw in how Facebook deals with URLs. The Verge reports: Through the right API call, De Ceukelaire was able to summon links shared by specific users in private messages. The links were collected by the Facebook crawler, where De Ceukelaire discovered they were easily accessible to anyone running a Facebook app. Those links could be anything from a popular news story to directions to an abortion clinic. As long as they're shared in private messages, they're logged in Facebook's database, and accessible to API calls. It would be hard to exploit that bug at scale for a few different reasons. De Ceukelaire was only able to make the API call because he's registered as a Facebook developer, and if he started pulling those links en masse, Facebook would quickly catch on and pull his credentials. Still, the bug points to a number of lingering problems with the conflicting way web services treat URLs, and how those conflicts can put private information into public view.

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Yahoo Bidders Can't Even Agree On What They're Buying
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 11:32 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's curious-case-of-Yahoo department:
It's been a while since Yahoo has been up for sale, but the interested companies are still struggling to figure out what parts of Yahoo are worth purchasing. "Being for sale is what Yahoo does for a living now," Kara Swisher reports. "This is a pretty basic deal with everyone trying to figure out the risk and reward here of taking over a clearly failing business," said one bidder quoted in the report. "Everyone has different criteria for what matters." Yahoo essentially has three things to offer, which come with their own set of problems. From the report: (1) Its core business that includes search, advertising and media assets, all of which are in decline and getting worse.(2) Its patent portfolio that the company thinks is worth as much as $3 billion, but others peg at $1 billion. (3) Its real estate, which the company is pegging at about $1 billion, while others put it at a much lower value.It's also being reported that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will have to leave the company, regardless of whether it gets acquired or not. Some of the potential buyers include Verizon, which according to the report, isn't interested in getting Yahoo's patents. It is offering $3B to $3.5B all-cash. Several private equity firms, who are interested in getting hold of Yahoo-owned patents and real estate, are offering Yahoo a sum of $5 billion or more. "This deal is not one in which everyone's really enthusiastic, since there is a giant question of how quickly the business is deteriorating," said another bidder. "If you win, you might lose and vice versa."

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Gawker Files For Bankruptcy After Hulk Hogan Lawsuit
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 11:32 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's house-of-cards department:
Gawker has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move comes after the media house was ordered to pay up $140M to Hulk Hogan for publishing his sex tape. Gawker, which is known for its irreverent voice, is currently facing multiple lawsuits, backed by billionaire Peter Thiel, one of the people that Gawker has extensively reported on. USA Today reports: In its filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, Gawker is seeking to reorganize under the bankruptcy protection and there's no indication, as of yet, that it will cease publication. Gawker listed estimated assets of $50 million to $100 million and liabilities of $100 million to $500 million. [...] Thiel's funding triggered concerns about the possibility of First Amendment rights being quashed by wealthy individuals' funding of third-party legal claims against media organizations.According to a separate report, Ziff Davis is interested in purchasing Gawker and various properties that it owns. Gawker media also runs Gizmodo, LifeHacker, and Deadspin among other popular publications.

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Canada Federal Court Restrains Sale Of 'Pirate' Boxes
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 10:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's say-no-to-piracy department:
An anonymous reader writes:The Federal Court in Canada has handed down an interlocutory injunction against distributors of Android-based set-top boxes configured for piracy. The devices, which are loaded with software including Kodi (with pirate addons) and Showbox, are now banned from sale pending a full trial.Judge Daniele Tremblay-Lamer wrote in her order: "The devices marketed, sold and programmed by the Defendants enable consumers to obtain unauthorized access to content for which the Plaintiffs own the copyright. [...] They deliberately encourage consumers and potential clients to circumvent authorized ways of accessing content -- say, by a cable subscription or by streaming content from the Plaintiffs' websites -- both in the manner in which they promote their business, and by offering tutorials in how to add and use applications which rely on illegally obtained content."

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Bluetooth 5 With 2x More Range and 4x Better Speed Coming Next Week
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 10:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's improved-wireless-standards department:
Bluetooth is about to get more powerful. Mark Powell, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group noted in a newsletter that Bluetooth 5 will debut on June 16. The new incarnation of wireless standard offers "double the range and quadruple the speed of low energy Bluetooth transmissions." From an Ars Technica report: It also adds "significantly more capacity to advertising transmissions," which is more exciting than it sounds because it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what you normally think of when you think of "advertising." In the Bluetooth spec, an "advertising packet" allows Bluetooth devices to send small snippets of information to other Bluetooth devices even if the two aren't actually paired or connected to one another.It's currently unclear whether existing devices will be able to support the new standard.

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Judge Blasts Oracle's Attempt To Overturn Pro-Google Jury Verdict
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 08:54 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's struggle-is-real department:
Joe Mullin, reporting for Ars Technica: Google successfully made its case to a jury last month that its use of Java APIs in Android was "fair use," and the verdict rejected Oracle's claim that the mobile system infringed its copyrights. After Google argued its case, though, Oracle filed a motion arguing that the judge should decide as a matter of law that fair use didn't cover it. In the wake of the jury's pro-Google verdict, Oracle's motion was its last hope of a trial victory. It didn't happen; US District Judge William Alsup shot down the motion on Wednesday. The same order also denied Google's motion making similar arguments, filed at the close of trial but before the jury's verdict. Alsup's stinging order [PDF], which rejects Oracle's argument [PDF] on every front, hardly comes as a surprise. But the document provides the first insights as to what Oracle might bring up in an appeal proceeding, which the company has said it will pursue. In the order, Alsup defends how he ran the trial. The evidence and instructions presented to the jury were a mix of mandates from the appeals court, which overruled Alsup on the key issue of API copyrightability, and modifications urged by both sides' lawyers.

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Sony Confirms It's Making a 'High-End PlayStation 4' With 4K and Richer Graphics
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 08:54 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's new-console department:
Sony has confirmed it is working on an upgraded version of its PlayStation 4 gaming console (could be paywalled; alternate source). The company says that the upcoming console dubbed Neo is intended to sit alongside and complement the standard PS4. Touted as the "high-end PS4", the gaming console will support ultra-high definition 4K resolution and richer graphics, and will certainly cost more than PlayStation 4's $350 retail price. The move might upset many PlayStation 4 owners, especially the ones who have purchased the console in the recent months. One of the perks of purchasing a gaming console from Sony and Microsoft is knowing that neither company will launch an upgraded version of their respective console for around six to seven years. Sony realizes that it is playing with fire here, so it assured that all forthcoming games -- including the VR ones -- must support the older version of the console as well. The company says that the new PS4 console won't be unveiled at E3 tradeshow next week, however.

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First Batch Of Chromebooks Reach End Of Life, To Stop Receiving Support and Updates
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 07:34 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's software-update-policy department:
An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews report:The original Chromebooks launched back in 2011 are reaching the end of their support cycle. With Google offering a fairly generous five years of support and updates, users have had a good run, but the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is the first device to drop off the support list. Having been launched in August 2011, Acer AC700 Chromebook will be in a similar position in a couple of months. Google says that after five years, automatic updates are "no longer guaranteed". Interestingly, it has continued to provide updates to at least one of its own device that originated in 2010. It's not entirely clear what will happen by the end of this month, but if the company sticks to how it handles its smartphones, you should be worried.

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Mozilla Will Fund Code Audits For Open Source Software
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 07:34 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's open-source-ftw department:
Reader Orome1 writes: The Mozilla Foundation has set up the Secure Open Source (SOS) Fund, whose aim is to help open source software projects get rid their code of vulnerabilities. Projects that want Mozilla's help must be open source/free software and must be actively maintained, but they have a much better probability to being chosen if their software is commonly used and is vital to the continued functioning of the Internet or the Web. Three open source projects -- PCRE, libjpeg-turbo, and phpMyAdmin -- have already gone through the process, and the result was removal of 43 vulnerabilities (including one critical).

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Visual Studio 2015 C++ Compiler Secretly Inserts Telemetry Code Into Binaries
Posted by News Fetcher on June 10 '16 at 06:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's Microsoft-things department:
Reader edxwelch writes: Reddit user sammiesdog discovered recently that Visual Studio 2015 C++ compiler was inserting calls to a Microsoft telemetry function into binaries. "I compiled a simple program with only main(). When looking at the compiled binary in IDA, I see a call for telemetry_main_invoke_trigger and telemetry_main_return_trigger. I cannot find documentation for these calls, either on the web or in the options page," he wrote. Only after the discovery did Steve Carroll, the dev manager for Visual C++ admit to the "feature" and posted a workaround to remove it.A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the existence of this behavior to InfoQ, adding that the company wil bel removing it in a future preview build. For those who wish to get rid of it, the blog writes: Users who have a copy of VS2015 Update 2 and wish to turn off the telemetry functionality currently being compiled into their code should add notelemetry.obj to their linker command line.

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