By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
A host of companies believe the better way to connect the estimated half of Earth's population that's still offline is to launch "constellations" of smaller satellites into low Earth orbit, around 100 to 1,250 miles above our planet. According to emails from the Federal Communications Commission, which Wired obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act request, Facebook is officially one such company. From the report: The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to "efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world," according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC. With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk's SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February. The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
From a report: O.K., it's not that surprising. But what did surprise two psychologist as they attempted to get to bottom of why so few people actually send thank yous is that many people totally "miscalibrate" the effect of an appreciative email. They underestimate the positive feelings it will bring. "They think it's not going to be that big a deal," said Amit Kumar, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies well-being. They also overestimate how insincere the note may appear and how uncomfortable it will make the recipient feel, their study found. But after receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were "ecstatic," scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they'd evoke a 3. To be clear -- the notes in question were not your typical "thanks for the Amazon gift card." Rather, the 100 or so participants in each of the four experiments were asked to write a short "gratitude letter" to a person who had affected them in some way. Sample letters included missives of appreciation to fellow students and friends who offered guidance through the college admissions process, job searches and tough times. In lab experiments, Dr. Kumar observed that it took most subjects less than five minutes to write the letters. Further reading: Finding Emails With Certain Variation Of Thank You Vastly Improves Response Rate, Study Finds; and Apparently, People Say 'Thank You' To Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department
All roads may lead to Rome, but once you get there, good luck taking the subway. The sprawling metropolis is expanding its mass transit system -- a sluggish process made even slower as workers keep running into buried ancient ruins. From a report: "I found some gold rings. I found glasswork laminated in gold depicting a Roman god, some amphoras," says Gilberto Pagani, a bulldozer operator at the Amba Aradam metro stop, currently under construction not far from the Colosseum. Pagani is part of an archaeological team at the site, a certified archaeological construction worker trained to excavate, preserve and build in cities like Rome, with thousands of years of civilization buried beneath the surface. The presence of ancient artifacts underground is a daunting challenge for urban developers. For archaeologists, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. "I think it's the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me, professionally speaking," says Simona Morretta, the state archaeologist in charge of the Amba Aradam site. "Because you never get the chance in a regular excavation to dig so deep. That's how we've found architectural complexes as important as this."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's synergies-emerge department
Megan Zahneis, writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education: Academics have traditionally distrusted Wikipedia, citing the inaccuracies that arise from its communally edited design and lamenting students' tendency to sometimes plagiarize assignments from it. Now, LiAnna Davis, director of programs for Wikipedia's higher-education-focused nonprofit arm Wiki Education, said, higher education and Wikipedia don't seem like such strange bedfellows. At conferences these days, "everyone's like, 'Oh, Wikipedia, of course you guys are here.'" "I think it's a recognition that Wikipedia is embedded within the fabric of learning now," she said. One initiative Davis oversees at Wiki Education aims to forge stronger bonds between Wikipedia and higher education. The Visiting Scholars program, which began in 2015, pairs academics at colleges with experienced Wikipedia editors. Institutions provide the editors with access to academic journals, research databases, and digital collections, which the editors use to write and expand Wikipedia articles on topics of mutual interest. A dozen institutions, including Rutgers University, Brown University, and the University of Pittsburgh, are participating.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's lets-settle-it department
In a story earlier this week, Popular Science magazine explored an age-old topic: Do people need to safely eject a USB stick before they pull it from their computer? The magazine's take on it -- which is, as soon any ongoing transfer of files is complete, it is safe to yank out the flash drive -- has unsurprisingly stirred a debate. Here's what the magazine wrote: But do you really need to eject a thumb drive the right way? Probably not. Just wait for it to finish copying your data, give it a few seconds, then yank. To be on the cautious side, be more conservative with external hard drives, especially the old ones that actually spin. That's not the official procedure, nor the most conservative approach. And in a worst-case scenario, you risk corrupting a file or -- even more unlikely -- the entire storage device. To justify its rationale, the magazine has cited a number of computer science professors. In the same story, however, a director of product marketing at SanDisk made a case for why people should probably safely eject the device. He said, "Failure to safely eject the drive may potentially damage the data due to processes happening in the system background that are unseen to the user." John Gruber of DaringFireball (where we originally spotted the story), makes a case for why users should safely eject the device before pulling it out: This is terrible advice. It's akin to saying you probably don't need to wear a seat belt because it's unlikely anything bad will happen. Imagine a few dozen people saying they drive without a seat belt every day and nothing's ever gone wrong, so it must be OK. (The breakdown in this analogy is that with seat belts, you know instantly when you need to be wearing one. With USB drives, you might not discover for months or years that you've got a corrupt file that was only partially written to disk when you yanked the drive.) I see a bunch of "just pull out the drive and not worry about it" Mac users on Twitter celebrating this article, and I don't get it. On the Mac you have to do something on screen when you eject a drive. Either you properly eject it before unplugging the drive -- one click in the Finder sidebar -- or you need to dismiss the alert you'll get about having removed a drive that wasn't properly ejected. Why not take the course of action that guarantees data integrity? What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the answer varies across different file systems and operating systems?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's for-the-lolz department
Since Venmo's transactions are "public" by default and broadcast on Venmo's API, a Python programmer decided to publicize a few of them, reports the Mercury News:
The creator of the bot named "Who's buying drugs on Venmo" under the Twitter handle @venmodrugs says he wanted users to consider their privacy settings before using Venmo. The bot finds Venmo transactions that include words such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, meth, speed or emojis that denote drugs and tweets the transaction with the names of the sender and receiver and the sender's photo, if there is one... "I wanted to demonstrate how much data Venmo was making publicly available with their open API and their public by default settings and encourage people to consider their privacy settings," Joel Guerra, the creator of the bot, told Motherboard, a technology news outlet run by Vice.
He shut the bot after 24 hours, according to a Medium essay titled "Why I blasted your 'drug' deals on Twitter":
I chose drugs, sex and alcohol keywords as the trigger for the bot because because they were funny and shocking. I removed the last names of users because I didn't want to actually contribute to the problem of lack of privacy... I braced myself for backlash but the response was overwhelmingly positive. People understood my point and I had sparked a lot of discussion about online privacy and the need for users to do a better job of understanding the terms of software they were using -- and a lot of discussion about how companies need to do a better job of informing customers how their data was being used...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hypertext-pre-processing department
Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino does PHP for a living, but says he's growing "increasingly frustrated with the ignorant and clueless in the vincinity of PHP."
Crappy code and baaaaad application setups is one thing, but people refusing to fix them or simply not even understanding the broader implications of bad applications or attempting SEO with gadgets while refusing to fix 3.5 MB-per-pagecall are just minor tidbits in a history of increasingly unnerving run-ins with knuckledragers in the "web agency" camp...
Will I leave the larger part of this backwards stuff behind if I move to another server-side programming language such as Java or Kotlin for professional work in the broader web area? Do I have a chance to do quality work on quality projects using PHP, or are those slim compare to other programming languages? In short, should I ditch PHP?
"I think .NET is a much cleaner language to work in with Microsoft's excellent Visual Studio IDE and debugger," argues Slashdot reader Agret , adding "there are many large projects in my city hiring .NET developers and being a strongly typed language the code quality is generally better than PHP."
But what's been your experience? And would a frustrated developer find more quality projects by ditching PHP?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's moving-your-money-around department
An anonymous reader quotes this opinion piece by former derivatives broker Brett Scott:
Banks are closing ATMs and branches in an attempt to 'nudge' users towards digital services -- and it's all for their own benefit... I recently got a letter from my bank telling me that they are shutting down local branches because "customers are turning to digital", and they are thus "responding to changing customer preferences". I am one of the customers they are referring to, but I never asked them to shut down the branches... I am much more likely to "choose" a digital option if the banks deliberately make it harder for me to choose a non-digital option. In behavioural economics this is referred to as "nudging". If a powerful institution wants to make people choose a certain thing, the best strategy is to make it difficult to choose the alternative...
Digital systems may be "convenient", but they often come with central points of failure. Cash, on the other hand, does not crash. It does not rely on external data centres, and is not subject to remote control or remote monitoring. The cash system allows for an unmonitored "off the grid" space. This is also the reason why financial institutions and financial technology companies want to get rid of it. Cash transactions are outside the net that such institutions cast to harvest fees and data.
A cashless society brings dangers. People without bank accounts will find themselves further marginalised, disenfranchised from the cash infrastructure that previously supported them. There are also poorly understood psychological implications about cash encouraging self-control while paying by card or a mobile phone can encourage spending. And a cashless society has major surveillance implications.
While a cashless society might make it cheaper to run a bank, "A cashless society is not in your interest..." argues the author.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you'll-never-ride-alone department
Lauren Weinstein tipped us off to this story from Mashable:
Hundreds of Uber and Lyft rides have been broadcast live on Twitch by driver Jason Gargac this year, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday, all of them without the passengers' permission. Gargac, who goes by the name JustSmurf on Twitch, regularly records the interior of his car while working for Uber and Lyft with a camera in the front of the car, allowing viewers to see the faces of his passengers, illuminated by his (usually) purple lights, and hear everything they say. At no point does Gargac make passengers aware that they are being filmed or livestreamed.
Due to Missouri's "one-party consent" law, in which only one party needs to agree to be recorded for it to be legal (in this case, Gargac is the consenting one), what Gargac is doing is perfectly legal. That doesn't mean it's not 100 percent creepy. Sometimes, to confirm who they are for their driver, the passengers say their full names. Not only that, Gargac has another video that shows the view out the front of his car so that people can see where he's driving, giving away the locations of some passengers' homes.
All the while, viewers on Twitch are commenting about things like the quality of neighborhoods, what the passengers are talking about, and of course, women's looks. Gargac himself is openly judgmental about the women he picks up, commenting to his viewers about their appearances before they get in his car and making remarks after he drops them off. He also regularly talks about wanting to get more "content," meaning interesting people, and is open about the fact that he doesn't want passengers to know they are on camera.
"I feel violated. I'm embarrassed," one passenger told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We got in an Uber at 2 a.m. to be safe, and then I find out that because of that, everything I said in that car is online and people are watching me. It makes me sick."
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NetBSD 8.0 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on July 21 '18 at 05:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dot-0-releases department
Slashdot reader fisted quotes NetBSD.org: The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 8.0, the sixteenth major release of the NetBSD operating system. This release brings stability improvements, hundreds of bug fixes, and many new features. Some highlights of the NetBSD 8.0 release are:
— USB stack rework, USB3 support added.
— In-kernel audio mixer (audio_system(9)).
— Reproducible builds
— PaX MPROTECT (W^X) memory protection enforced by default
— PaX ASLR enabled by default
— Position independent executables by default[...] NetBSD is free. All of the code is under non-restrictive licenses, and may be used without paying royalties to anyone.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cinematic-universes department
Today Comic-Con attendees were treated to new trailers and previews for a slew of upcoming geek-friendly movies. An anonymous reader writes:
Besides footage from Wonder Woman 1984, there were also trailers for DC's Aquaman movie, plus a new DC superhero franchise with a lighter tone, Shazam. (And there was also a very apocalyptic preview of Godzilla: King of the Monsters.)
Numerous celebrities were on-hand to tout their upcoming films. Johnny Depp introduced the trailer for Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald -- in character -- while Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson introduced the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's Glass. Jamie Lee Curtis even plugged her return to the Halloween franchise 40 years after the original, revealing that her character has been waiting all these decades to kill Michael Myers after his release from prison.
TV Guide has collected most of the trailers for TV shows, including season 11 of Doctor Who, the revival of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and new seasons of Marvel's Iron Fist and Fear the Walking Dead. There was apparently also a trailer for Marvel's mutant series The Gifted -- and a preview for the 30th season of The Simpsons featuring this Halloween's "Treehouse of Horror XXIX", which includes a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's oh-Cisco department
Cisco released 25 security updates Wednesday, including a critical patch removing an undocumented password for "root" accounts of Cisco Policy Suite (sold to ISPs and large corporate clients). "The vulnerability received a rare severity score of 9.8 out of a maximum of 10 on the CVSSv3 scale," reports Bleeping Computer.
An anonymous reader quotes Tom's Hardware:
Over the past few months, not one, not two, but five different backdoors joined the list of security flaws in Cisco routers.... In March, a hardcoded account with the username "cisco" was revealed. The backdoor would have allowed attackers to access over 8.5 million Cisco routers and switches remotely. That same month, another hardcoded password was found for Cisco's Prime Collaboration Provisioning software, which is used for remote installation of Cisco's video and voice products. Later this May, Cisco found another undocumented backdoor account in Cisco's Digital Network Architecture Center, used by enterprises for the provisioning of devices across a network. In June, yet another backdoor account was found in Cisco's Wide Area Application Services, a software tool for Wide Area Network traffic optimization...
Whether or not the backdoor accounts were created in error, Cisco will need to put an end to them before this lack of care for security starts to affect its business.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's achievement-unlocked department
Long-time Slashdot reader RoccamOccam summarizes an article now circulating on the web sites of several schools:
Child and adolescent psychologist Richard Freed writes, "...parents have no idea that lurking behind their kids' screens and phones are a multitude of psychologists, neuroscientists, and social science experts who use their knowledge of psychological vulnerabilities to devise products that capture kids' attention for the sake of industry profit. What these parents and most of the world have yet to grasp is that psychology—a discipline that we associate with healing—is now being used as a weapon against children."
Stanford psychology researcher B.J. Fogg, has developed the "Fogg Behavior Model", which he claims is a well-tested method to change behavior and, in its simplified form, involves three primary factors: motivation, ability, and triggers. Describing how his formula is effective at getting people to use a social network, the psychologist says in an academic paper that a key motivator is users' desire for "social acceptance," although he says an even more powerful motivator is the desire "to avoid being socially rejected."
Ramsay Brown, the founder of Dopamine Labs, says in a KQED Science article, "We have now developed a rigorous technology of the human mind, and that is both exciting and terrifying. We have the ability to twiddle some knobs in a machine learning dashboard we build, and around the world hundreds of thousands of people are going to quietly change their behavior in ways that, unbeknownst to them, feel second-nature but are really by design."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's go-south,-go-west department
Slashdot reader travers_r shares "a peek into the early days of internet culture and multiplayer gaming." (Apparently this MOO has been running continuously for 28 years.) "From the looks of it, squatters run it now..."
LambdaMOO was different from the earliest MUDs, which were Tolkienesque fantasies -- hack-and-slash games for Dungeons & Dragons types with computer access, mostly college students. LambdaMOO was one of the first social MUDs, where people convened largely to play-act society, and what might have been "one of the first MUDs to be run by an adult," [co-creator Pavel] Curtis believes... Everybody comes through the Coat Closet the first time they visit LambdaMOO, entering the Living Room through a curtain of clothes, like children into Narnia. In between the textual rooms and objects they explore, there's a faster-moving flow of words, the coursing real-time chatter of LambdaMOO's other users. This is a Multi-User Domain: a chatroom and a world at once, a place where telling takes the place of being...
[I]t's nearly impossible to describe to a modern computer user what that means, because although MUDs once made up 10 percent of internet traffic, their dominance was obliterated by the arrival of the visual, hyperlinked, page-based Web. To anyone weaned on images and clicked connections, every explanation sounds batty: A MUD is a text-based virtual reality. A MUD is a chatroom built by talking. A MUD is Dungeons & Dragons all around the world. A MUD is a map made of words. The science fiction writer Philip K. Dick once defined reality as "that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away," and in that sense a MUD is a real place. But a MUD is also nothing more than a window of text, scrolling along as users describe and inhabit a place from words.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's something-went-Bing department
"Bing has launched a new intelligent search feature which provides the exact piece of code a developer is looking for," writes Search Engine Journal. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The code snippet will appear right on the search results page itself, which means users will not have to skim through long threads and articles to find the one thing they're looking for. Bing calls this new feature a "Code Sample Answer" and says it's designed to help save developers' time. "Many of us are developers too, and we thought: what if Bing were intelligent enough to do this for us? What if it could save users' time by automatically finding the exact piece of code containing the answer to the question? That is how Code Sample Answer was born..."
A Code Sample Answer will trigger only when Bing intelligently detects the coding intent with high confidence. "To achieve this level of precision for query intent detection, Bing's natural language processing pipelines for developers leverages patterns found in training data from developer queries collected over the years containing commonly used terms and text structure typical for coding queries. The system also leverages a multitude of click signals to improve the precision even further"... [I]t also covers other tools used by developers. For example, a Code Sample Answer can be triggered when searching for git commands and their syntax.
Bing extracts "the best matched code samples from popular, authoritative and well moderated sites like Stackoverflow, Github, W3Schools, MSDN, Tutorialpoints, etc. taking into account such aspects as fidelity of API and programming language match, counts of up/down-votes, completeness of the solution and more."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Turing-tests department
An anonymous reader writes:
Several commentators are calling for a law that requires bots to admit they are not human. There is a bill in California that would do just that. A new paper argues that these laws may look Constitutional but actually raise First Amendment issues.
The New York Times reports:
Bots are easy to make and widely employed, and social media companies are under no legal obligation to get rid of them. A law that discourages their use could help, but experts aren't sure how the one [state senator Robert] Hertzberg is trying to push through, in California, might work. For starters, would bots be forced to identify themselves in every Facebook post? In their Instagram bios? In their Twitter handles? The measure, SB-1001, a version of which has already left the senate floor and is working its way through the state's Assembly, also doesn't mandate that tech companies enforce the regulation. And it's unclear how a bill that is specific only to California would apply to a global internet...
All parties agree that the bill illustrates the difficulty that lawmakers have in crafting legislation that effectively addresses the problems constituents confront online. As the pace of technological development has raced ahead of government, the laws that exist on the books -- not to mention some lawmakers' understandings of technology -- have remained comparatively stagnant.
The Times seems to question whether the law should be targeted at the creators of bots instead of the platforms that host them, pointing out that tech companies like Twitter "have the power to change dynamics on their platforms directly and at the scale that those problems require."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hot-potato department
Ecuador is planning to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to UK authorities in the "coming weeks or even days," RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, citing her own sources. Simonyan reported the news in a recent tweet, which was reposted by WikiLeaks. Slashdot reader Okian Warrior first shared the news. Daily Express reports: Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan is said to be involved in the diplomatic effort, which has come weeks ahead of a visit by new Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, who called Mr Assange an "inherited problem." He also referred to the exiled WikiLeaks founder as a "stone in the shoe." Sources close to Assange claim he was not aware of the talks, but believe America is piling "significant pressure" on Ecuador to give him up, according to the Sunday Times. The sources claim that America has threatened to block a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if he is not removed from the embassy, based in Knightsbridge, west London.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's very-unsatisfied-customers department
The Guardian revisits the disastrous 2016 launch of the massive open-universe videogame No Man's Sky, in a new interview with company director Sean Murray:
"I've never liked talking to the press. I didn't enjoy it when I had to do it, and when I did it, I was naive and overly excited about my game. There are a lot of things around launch that I regret, or that I would do differently." He is reluctant to relive the particulars of what happened in the weeks and months following No Man's Sky's release in August 2016 ("I find it really personal, and I don't have any advice for dealing with it," he says), but it involved death threats, bomb threats sent to the studio and harassment of people who worked at Hello Games on a frightening scale. They were in regular contact with Scotland Yard and the Metropolitan police... "I remember getting a death threat about the fact that there were butterflies in our original trailer, and you could see them as you walked past them, but there weren't any butterflies in the launch game. I remember thinking to myself: 'Maybe when you're sending a death threat about butterflies in a game, you might be the bad guy....'"
Despite the controversy, No Man's Sky sold extremely well, and plenty of its players have stuck by it. A year after release, when Hello Games released the Atlas Rises update, about a million people showed up to play, and the average playtime was 45 hours.... It is still recognisable as the lonely, abstractly beautiful space-exploration game I played in 2016, but three big updates have added a lot more. It is now definitely a better game, with much more to do and a clearer structure... Now you can also construct bases, drive around in vehicles and -- as of next week -- invite other players to explore with you, in groups of four. You can crew a freighter together, or colonise a planet with ever-expanding constructions.
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