By msmash from Slashdot's grand-scheme-of-things department
In 2017, a poker bot called Libratus made headlines when it roundly defeated four top human players at no-limit Texas Hold 'Em. Now, Libratus' technology is being adapted to take on opponents of a different kind -- in service of the US military.
From a report: Libratus -- Latin for balanced -- was created by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to test ideas for automated decision making based on game theory. Early last year, the professor who led the project, Tuomas Sandholm, founded a startup called Strategy Robot to adapt his lab's game-playing technology for government use, such as in war games and simulations used to explore military strategy and planning. Late in August, public records show, the company received a two-year contract of up to $10 million with the US Army. It is described as "in support of" a Pentagon agency called the Defense Innovation Unit, created in 2015 to woo Silicon Valley and speed US military adoption of new technology.
[...] Sandholm declines to discuss specifics of Strategy Robot's projects, which include at least one other government contract. He says it can tackle simulations that involve making decisions in a simulated physical space, such as where to place military units. The Defense Innovation Unit declined to comment on the project, and the Army did not respond to requests for comment. Libratus' poker technique suggests Strategy Robot might deliver military personnel some surprising recommendations. Pro players who took on the bot found that it flipped unnervingly between tame and hyperaggressive tactics, all the while relentlessly notching up wins as it calculated paths to victory.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Most Android smartphone vendors have been notorious for the time they take to roll out the newest Android OS updates to their respective handsets. To tackle this, Google in 2017 announced Project Treble, which bypasses some middlemen in delivering new updates to consumers. With Project Treble now supported by all Android phone makers, in theory updates should roll out to us faster than before. To test this, news blog AndroidAuthority looked at the data to see where things stand.
From the report: On average, Nougat updates took about 192 days to reach key devices, while Oreo was slightly faster at 170. Android Pie updates hit devices much faster, averaging just 118 days from Google's launch to significant OEM rollout. That's a significant improvement, though we're still waiting on updates from LG and HTC, which could drag this average back up. Most manufacturers are faster at providing updates now, but a few are slower. Huawei, Samsung, and Xiaomi were noticeably quicker this time around, bringing updates to key devices before the end of 2018. OnePlus and Sony were especially fast, but they've always been speedier than most. Disappointingly, Motorola has rolled out updates to its flagship Z series slower over the last few years.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Thousands of women were systematically underpaid at Oracle, one of Silicon Valley's largest corporations, according to a new motion in a class-action complaint that details claims of pervasive wage discrimination. From a report: A motion filed in California on Friday said attorneys seek to represent more than 4,200 women and alleged that female employees were paid on average $13,000 less per year than men doing similar work. An analysis of payroll data found disparities with an "extraordinarily high degree of statistical significance," the complaint said. Women made 3.8% less in base salaries on average than men in the same job categories, 13.2% less in bonuses, and 33.1% less in stock value, it alleges.
The civil rights suit comes as the tech industries faces increased scrutiny of gender and racial discrimination, including sexual misconduct, unequal pay and biased workplaces. The case against Oracle, which is headquartered in Redwood Shores and provides cloud computing services to companies across the globe, resembles high-profile litigation against Google, which has also faced repeated claims of systematic wage discrimination.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's audacious-plans department
From a report: Last summer, Justin Sun, the 28-year-old CEO of Tron acquired BitTorrent, the 15-year-old file-sharing company that is one of the biggest decentralized networks in existence for $140 million. He wanted to take advantage of blockchain, the decentralized ledger that is both secure and transparent, and combine it with the decentralized file-sharing app, offering crypto rewards to those who share their computers for file sharing. And this week, Sun appeared on stage with former basketball star Kobe Bryant at the NiTron Summit, which drew more than 1,000 attendees. Tron has also created a $100 million fund to convince game developers to make games that use Tron's protocol and its TRX cryptocurrency. The promise is to create a crypto network that is both fast -- at 2,000 transactions per second -- and reliable.
I interviewed Sun backstage at the NiTron Summit, where he said he wanted his company to become the major blockchain platform that could one day be the decentralized alternative to the centralized internet networks of Google, Facebook, and Apple. But to make that happen, Sun has to get mainstream people like the 100 million BitTorrent users to trust cryptocurrency, even after a coin market slide that has wiped out billions in value, including taking Tron's TRX market value down from near $20 billion to $1.6 billion today.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's God-doesn't-play-dice department
Slashdot reader dryriver asks about "the sheer number of times scientists consider something to be 'scientifically impossible', are badly disproven by some kind of new finding or discovery a few years later, and then express 'surprise' that 'X is indeed possible'."
If you do a Google News search for the keywords "scientists were surprised" or similar, a huge number of science-related news articles contains a passage about "scientists being surprised" by what they discovered. There seems to be a great disparity between the mindset of inventors -- who always try to MAKE new things become possible -- and the mindset of many scientists, who seem unable or unwilling to consider that what "science holds to be true today" may not turn out to be quite so true tomorrow.
Here's the question: Why do many scientists, having knowledge of the fact that surprises in science happen all the time, continually express "surprise" when they find something unusual? If surprises in scientific research are so common, why are scientists still "surprised" by "surprise findings"?
"The surprising stuff is what we hear about, and there has to be some reason why it is surprising," argues gurps_npc in response to the original submission. "A common answer is that current state of science thinks the surprising stuff was impossible."
"The whole premise is flawed," counters long-time reader Martin+S. "Natural skepticism is an essential component of science." And long-time reader UnknownSoldier supplies a one-word answer: "Ego."
But how would you answer the question? Share your best thoughts in the comments.
Why are scientists constantly surprised by what they discover?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's end-times department
Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein shares his report on how Google is handling the end of its Google+ service. He's describing it as "a boot to the head: when you know that Google just doesn't care any more" about users "who have become 'inconvenient' to their new business models."
We already know about Google's incredible user trust failure in announcing dates for this process. First it was August. Then suddenly it was April. The G+ APIs (which vast numbers of web sites -- including mine -- made the mistake of deeply embedding into their sites), we're told will start "intermittently failing" (whatever that actually means) later this month.
It gets much worse though. While Google has tools for users to download their own G+ postings for preservation, they have as far as I know provided nothing to help loyal G+ users maintain their social contacts... As far as Google is concerned, when G+ dies, all of your linkages to your G+ friends are gone forever. You can in theory try to reach out to each one and try to get their email addresses, but private messages on G+ have always been hit or miss...
And with only a few months left until Google pulls the plug on G+, I sure as hell wouldn't still be soliciting for new G+ users! Yep -- believe it or not -- Google at this time is STILL soliciting for unsuspecting users to sign up for new G+ accounts, without any apparent warnings that you're signing up for a service that is already officially the walking dead! Perhaps this shows most vividly how Google today seems to just not give a damn about users who aren't in their target demographics of the moment. Or maybe it's just laziness.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's change-in-the-weather department
"California's largest power company intends to file for bankruptcy as it faces tens of billions of dollars in potential liability following massive wildfires that devastated parts of the state over the last two years," reports the Washington Post.
Calling it "a climate change casualty," one Forbes contributor notes that PG&E's stock has now lost 90% of its mid-October value after a giant November wildfire, adding that "Future investors will look back on these three months as a turning point, and wonder why the effects of climate change on the economic underpinnings to our society were not more widely recognized at the time."
Climate scientists may equivocate about the degree to which Global Warming is contributing to these fires until more detailed research is complete, but for an investor who is used to making decisions based on incomplete or ambiguous information, the warning signs are flashing red... there is no doubt in my mind that Global Warming's thumb rests on the scale of PG&E's decision to declare bankruptcy.
And the Wall Street Journal is already describing it as "the first climate-change bankruptcy, probably not the last," noting that it was a prolonged drought that "dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire."
"This is a fairly new development," said Bruce Usher, a professor at Columbia University's business school who teaches a course on climate and finance. "If you are not already considering extreme weather and other climatic events as one of many risk factors affecting business today, you are not doing your job"...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's time-well-spent department
Early Facebook investor Roger McNamee published a scathing 3,000-word article adapted from his new book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. Here's just one example of what's left him "shocked and disappointed":
Facebook (along with Google and Twitter) has undercut the free press from two directions: it has eroded the economics of journalism and then overwhelmed it with disinformation. On Facebook, information and disinformation look the same; the only difference is that disinformation generates more revenue, so it gets better treatment.... At Facebook's scale -- or Google's -- there is no way to avoid influencing the lives of users and the future of nations. Recent history suggests that the threat to democracy is real. The efforts to date by Facebook, Google and Twitter to protect future elections may be sincere, but there is no reason to think they will do anything more than start a game of whack-a-mole with those who choose to interfere. Only fundamental changes to business models can reduce the risk to democracy.
Google and Facebook "are artificially profitable because they do not pay for the damage they cause," McNamee argues, adding that some medical researchers "have raised alarms noting that we have allowed unsupervised psychological experiments on millions of people."
But what's unique is he's offering specific suggestions to fix it.
"I want to set limits on the markets in which monopoly-class players like Facebook, Google and Amazon can operate. The economy would benefit from breaking them up. A first step would be to prevent acquisitions, as well as cross subsidies and data sharing among products within each platform."
"Another important regulatory opportunity is data portability, such that users can move everything of value from one platform to another. This would help enable startups to overcome an otherwise insurmountable barrier to adoption."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's day-before-Groundhog-Day department
Long-time Slashdot reader syn3rg quotes the DNS Flag Day page:
The current DNS is unnecessarily slow and suffers from inability to deploy new features. To remediate these problems, vendors of DNS software and also big public DNS providers are going to remove certain workarounds on February 1st, 2019. This change affects only sites which operate software which is not following published standards. Are you affected?
The site includes a form where site owners can test their domain -- it supplies a helpful technical report about any issues encountered -- as well as suggestions for operators of DNS servers and DNS resolvers, researchers, and DNS software developers. The Internet Systems Consortium blog also has a list of the event's supporters, which include Google, Facebook, Cisco, and Cloudflare, along with some history. "Extension Mechanisms for DNS were specified in 1999, with a minor update in 2013, establishing the 'rules of the road' for responding to queries with EDNS options or flags. Despite this, some implementations continue to violate the rules.
"DNS software developers have tried to solve the problems with the interoperability of the DNS protocol and especially its EDNS extension by various workarounds for non-standard behaviors... These workarounds excessively complicate DNS software and are now also negatively impacting the DNS as a whole. The most obvious problems caused by these workarounds are slower responses to DNS queries and the difficulty of deploying new DNS protocol features. Some of these new features (e.g. DNS Cookies) would help reduce DDoS attacks based on DNS protocol abuse....
"Our goal is a reliable and properly functioning DNS that cannot be easily attacked."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's revision-histories department
Haaretz (with contributions from Reuters and the Associated Press) reports:
According to NetBlocks, a digital rights group that tracks restrictions to the internet, as of 12 January, Venezuela largest telecommunications provider CANTV has prevented access to Wikipedia in all languages. The internet observatory told Haaretz the ban was discovered by attempting "to access Wikipedia and other services 60,000 times from 150 different points in the country using multiple providers."
Roughly 16 million people have access to the internet in the South American country ravaged by poverty and now facing a political crisis as leader Nicolas Maduro attempts to cling to power following a highly contested re-election last year. Wikipedia receives on average 60 million views from the country every month.
According to NetBlocks, the ban was likely imposed after a Wikipedia article listed newly-appointed National Assembly president Juan GuaidÃ as âoepresident number 51 of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,â ousting Maduro from his presidential status on Wikipedia... Alp Toker, the head of NetBlocks, explained to Haaretz that the block followed a string of controversial edits on the Spanish-language article for Guaido as well as other related articles.
Long-time Slashdot reader williamyf identifies himself as "a Venezuelan in Venezuela." He reports that "The method used seems to be to intercept the SSL handshake and not a simple DNS block," adding "the situation is developing."
In May of last year the government declared a "state of emergency" that authorized the government to police the internet and filter content, rights activists reported Monday. They added that now Venezuela's new leaders plan to introduce legislation requiring messaging service providers to censor content, and implementing other so-called "content security" measures.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's big-brotherhood department
A senior policy analyst from a non-partisan national security think tank -- and one of their cybersecurity policy fellows -- sound a dire warning in an op-ed shared by Slashdot reader schwit1:
From facial recognition software to GPS trackers to computer hacking tools to systems that monitor and redirect flows of Internet traffic, contemporary surveillance technologies enable "high levels of social control at a reasonable cost," as Nicholas Wright puts it in Foreign Affairs. But these technologies don't just aid and enable what Wright and other policy analysts have called "digital authoritarianism." They also promote a sovereign and controlled model of the Internet, one characterized by frequent censorship, pervasive surveillance and tight control by the state. The United States could be a world leader in preventing the spread of this Internet model, but to do so, we must reevaluate the role U.S. companies play in contributing to it....
On one hand, the United States cares deeply about protecting a global and open Internet... On the other hand, American companies are selling surveillance technology that undermines this mission -- contributing to the broader spread of digital authoritarianism that the United States claims to fight. (This also implicates allies such as Britain, whose companies have also sold surveillance technology to oppressive regimes.) We won't be able to allay this situation until the United States updates its approach to exporting surveillance technology. Of course, this must be done carefully. But digital authoritarianism is spreading, and U.S. companies need to stop helping it.-Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's league-of-injustice department
The Huffington Post recently published a post by one of the 300 members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association -- and a contributing writer to Variety.
I saw "Aquaman" on a brisk Monday morning in December. Though I appreciated that star Jason Momoa didn't take himself too seriously while playing an underwater superhero, the glut of CGI effects distracted me from the story. Which was hollow and nonsensical anyway. As with every movie I watch -- up to four a week, hundreds a year -- I expressed my opinion in print and online for Us Weekly, as well as my own site, MaraMovies.com. The review was also linked on Rotten Tomatoes, where I'm a Top Critic.
Since I had a lot of films on my busy holiday schedule, I quickly moved on. Hundreds of men who read my review did not.... [Example comment: "I will kill your mom, dad and friends Bcoz I want [you] to regret for what u did. I have your address and details about your family members." I reported the messages to Instagram and was rebuffed because, per the automated response, the vitriol didn't "violate community guidelines." Didn't matter. They found me on Facebook and Twitter, too.... Nearly 2,000 people "liked" a post in which some guy made a collage of my face and a few negative reviews.... I wasn't scared by the threats as I much as I was disheartened. One guy summed it up when he messaged me: "How many of us are you going to block? There are thousands of us."
Ironically, the review wasn't all negative. It called Aquaman "the first live-action D.C. Comics movie in which a superhero actually appears to be having fun. Batman, Superman, the Suicide Squad, even our beloved Wonder Woman tend to behave as if they just lost their 401(k) savings during the apocalypse." Yet rifing on the critic's last name, one commenter still wrote "hope another Holocaust happens."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's opening-source department
An anonymous reader quotes the Internet Archive's blog
Please join us for a Grand Re-opening of the Public Domain, featuring a keynote address by Creative Commons' founder, Lawrence Lessig, on January 25, 2019. Co-hosted by the Internet Archive and Creative Commons, this celebration will feature legal thought leaders, lightning talks, demos, and the chance to play with these new public domain works. The event will take place at the Internet Archive in San Francisco....
Join the creative, legal, library, and advocacy communities plus an amazing lineup of people who will highlight the significance of this new class of public domain works. Presenters include Larry Lessig, political activist and Harvard Law professor; Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and co-editor of Boing Boing; Pam Samuelson, copyright scholar; and Jamie Boyle, the man who literally wrote the book on the public domain, and many others.
Attendees will also receive a discount on the world premiere of DJ Spooky's Quantopia: The Evolution of the Internet, a live concert commissioned by the Internet Archive "synthesizing data and art, both original and public domain materials, in tribute to the depth and high stakes of free speech and creative expression involved in our daily use of media."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's free-as-in-beer department
Devon Zuegel, "a developer with a passion for governance and economics," recently became GitHub's open source product manager to "support maintainers in cultivating vital, productive communities" -- specifically open source software (OSS).
Thursday they put out a call for feedback from open source developers about their contribution hours, their projects, and especially their issues:
As the OSS community has grown in scale and importance, the way we think about working together has to evolve, too. What works in a village or a town needs to evolve to serve a metropolis. Open source has grown from a small, academic sharing network to a giant, global web of dependencies. It now forms the backbone of the internet and technology in general. Just like any growing city, we have to coordinate the knowledge, infrastructure, and tools for the good of the whole community. OSS is an essential and special part of software development.
OSS has also been the heart of GitHub since the beginning. However, there is so much more we could do to support the people behind it. I have many ideas, but first I want to hear from you.
The essay argues OSS maintainers and contributors "don't have all the tools, support, and environment they need to succeed," including analytics, communication resources, recognition and "proportionate incentive to contribute time and money to creating and maintaining projects." (As well as deficiencies in both governance and mentorship.) And at the bottom of the blog post, there's a contact form.
"I want you to be part of the conversation and our roadmap. These challenges are nuanced, and they are unique to each project and community, so it's crucial that we have an open dialogue as we focus on helping you address them."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's new-Rust department
An anonymous reader summarizes the changes in Thursday's release of Rust 1.32.0 stable:
"Quality of life" improvements include a new dbg macro to easily print values for debugging without having to use a println statement. For example, dbg!(x); prints the filename and line number, as well as the variable's name and value, to stderr (rather than to standard output). Making it even more useful, the macro also returns the value of what it's debugging -- even all the boolean values returned by each execution of an if-then statement.
Rust macros can now match literals of any type (string, numeric, char) -- and the 2018 edition of Rust also allows ? for matching zero or one repetitions of a pattern.
In addition, all integral numeric primitives now provide conversion functions to and from byte-arrays with specified endianness.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's discriminating-databases? department
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
MongoDB is an open-source document NoSQL database with a problem. While very popular, cloud companies, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, Scalegrid, and ObjectRocket has profited from it by offering it as a service while MongoDB Inc. hasn't been able to monetize it to the same degree. MongoDB's answer? Relicense the program under its new Server Side Public License (SSPL).
Open-source powerhouse Red Hat's reaction? Drop MongoDB from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. Red Hat's Technical and Community Outreach Program Manager Tom Callaway explained, in a note stating MongoDB is being removed from Fedora Linux, that "It is the belief of Fedora that the SSPL is intentionally crafted to be aggressively discriminatory towards a specific class of users." Debian Linux had already dropped MongoDB from its distribution....
The business point behind MongoDB's license change is to force cloud companies to use one of MongoDB's commercial cloud offerings. This hasn't worked either. AWS just launched DocumentDB, a database, which "is designed to be compatible with your existing MongoDB applications and tools," wrote AWS evangelist Jeff Barr.Read Replies (0)