By EditorDavid from Slashdot's grand-gatherings-of-geeks department
An anonymous user is "just starting a programming career," and has several questions for Slashdot's readers:
What exactly is the role of tech conferences? I always assumed they were mostly for exhibitors to pitch me things, but then what's in it for me? Am I just going there to network, or am I learning new cutting-edge techniques and getting enlightened by awesome training sessions? Or is it just a fun way to get a free trip to Las Vegas?
And then what's in it for my employer, who's paying to send me there? If my boss has to approve the cost of attending a conference, what's going to make him say yes? I mean, do employers really get enough value from that extra conference-only information to justify sending off their employees for several days of non-productivity? (Don't they know all that networking could lead me to job offers from other companies?)
It's always been a little intimidating the way people talk about conferences, like everyone already knows all about them, and drop the conference's name into the conversations like you should already know what it is. I always assumed people just attended only conferences for their current programming language or platform -- but is there more to it than that? What exactly is the big deal?
I'm struggling to even find the right metaphor for this -- is it a live interactive infomercial or a grand gathering of geeky good will? So leave your best answers in the comments. Why do you care about tech conferences?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dangers-of-indigestion department
While the recommended dosage for Nexium, Prevacid and Prilose is just two weeks, doctors often advise patients to continue taking them for years. But now Scientific American reports that "Chronic use of popular heartburn medicines may be riskier than was thought," citing two papers linking the drugs to an increase risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, and a greater risk of kidney problems.
schwit1 quotes their report:
The papers did not prove that PPIs cause the problems. But some researchers have nonetheless suggested possible mechanisms by which long-term use of the drugs could trigger dementia or kidney problems. A reduction in vitamin B12, for example, might leave the brain more vulnerable to damage, says Britta Haenisch, an author of the JAMA Neurology study and a neuropharmacologist at the Bonn campus of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Last spring clinicians at the Houston Methodist Research Institute reported another plausible explanation for how PPIs might lead to these unexpected health issues: they picked up signs that the drugs act not only in the stomach but elsewhere in the body, too.
The article ends on an ambiguous note. "Without conclusive data, physicians and patients have to balance the need to prevent the ill effects of excess stomach acid and reflux with the desire to avoid potentially serious -- if theoretical -- side effects from long-term use of PPIs."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's media-meditations department
Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes:
The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones.
But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology?
Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's denial-of-DNS department
New data suggests that some 14,500 web domains stopped using Dyn's Managed DNS service in the immediate aftermath of an October DDoS attack by the Mirai botnet. That's around 8% of the web domains using Dyn Managed DNS... "The data show that Dyn lost a pretty big chunk of their customer base because they were affected by (Mirai)," said Dan Dahlberg, a research scientist at BitSight Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts... BitSight, which provides security rating services for companies, analyzed a set of 178,000 domains that were hosted on Dyn's managed DNS infrastructure before and immediately after the October 21st attacks.
It's possible some of those domains later returned to Dyn -- and the number of actual customers may be smaller than the number of hosted domains. But in the end it may not have mattered much, since Dyn was acquired by Oracle the next month, and TechCrunch speculates that the deal had already been set in motion before the attack. They also add that "Oracle, of course, is no stranger to breaches itself: in August it was found that hundreds of its own computer systems were breached."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's welcome,-robot-overlords department
gthuang88 reports on a talk titled "Will Robots Eat Your Job?"
Bill Gates and Elon Musk are sounding the alarm "too aggressively" over artificial intelligence's potential negative consequences for society, says MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson. The co-author of The Second Machine Age argues it will take at least 30 to 50 years for robots and software to eliminate the need for human laborers. In the meantime, he says, we should be investing in education so that people are prepared for the jobs of the future, and are focused on where they still have an advantage over machines -- creativity, empathy, leadership, and teamwork.
The professor acknowledges "there are some legitimate concerns" about robots taking jobs away from humans, but "I don't think it's a problem we have to face today... It can be counterproductive to overestimate what machines can do right now." Eventually humankind will reach a world where robots do practically everything, the professor believes, but with a universal basic income this could simply leave us humans with more leisure time.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's remote-inoculations department
"Now when a machine is compromised it takes days or weeks for someone to notice and then days or weeks -- or never -- until a patch is put out," says Carnegie Mellon professor David Brumley. "Imagine a world where the first time a hacker exploits a vulnerability he can only exploit one machine and then it's patched." An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review:
Last summer the Pentagon staged a contest in Las Vegas in which high-powered computers spent 12 hours trying to hack one another in pursuit of a $2 million purse. Now Mayhem, the software that won, is beginning to put its hacking skills to work in the real world... Teams entered software that had to patch and protect a collection of server software, while also identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in the programs under the stewardship of its competitors... ForAllSecure, cofounded by Carnegie Mellon professor David Brumley and two of his PhD students, has started adapting Mayhem to be able to automatically find and patch flaws in certain kinds of commercial software, including that of Internet devices such as routers.
Tests are underway with undisclosed partners, including an Internet device manufacturer, to see if Mayhem can help companies identify and fix vulnerabilities in their products more quickly and comprehensively. The focus is on addressing the challenge of companies needing to devote considerable resources to supporting years of past products with security updates... Last year, Brumley published results from feeding almost 2,000 router firmware images through some of the techniques that powered Mayhem. Over 40%, representing 89 different products, had at least one vulnerability. The software found 14 previously undiscovered vulnerabilities affecting 69 different software builds. ForAllSecure is also working with the Department of Defense on ideas for how to put Mayhem to real world use finding and fixing vulnerabilities.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's goodbye-to-an-API department
The Netscape Plugins API is "an ancient plugins infrastructure inherited from the old Netscape browser on which Mozilla built Firefox," according to Bleeping Computer.
But now an anonymous reader writes: Starting March 7, when Mozilla is scheduled to release Firefox 52, all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash, which Mozilla plans to support for a few more versions. This means technologies such as Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs won't work on Firefox. These plugins once helped the web move forward, but as time advanced, the Internet's standards groups developed standalone Web APIs and alternative technologies to support most of these features without the need of special plugins. The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be deprecated in ESR 53. A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's our-chemical-romance department
dryriver quotes CNN:
Most of the time, when you order fast food, you know exactly what you're getting: an inexpensive meal that tastes great but is probably loaded with fat, cholesterol and sodium. But it turns out that the packaging your food comes in could also have a negative impact on your health, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The report found fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the fast food packaging researchers tested.
These chemicals are favored for their grease-repellent properties. Along with their use in the fast food industry, fluorinated chemicals -- sometimes called PFASs -- are used "to give water-repellant, stain-resistant, and non-stick properties to consumer products such as furniture, carpets, outdoor gear, clothing, cosmetics (and) cookware," according to a news release that accompanied the report. "The most studied of these substances (PFOSs and PFOAs) has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning, as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children."
The chemicals can migrate into your food, says one of the study's authors, who suggests removing it from the packaging as quickly as possible. (You might also request your french fries in a paper cup, which are free from "chemicals of concern".) But they also suggest pressuring fast food chains to remove the chemicals from their packaging, and the president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute acknowledges that after the study concluded in 2015, fluorochemical-free packaging was introduced.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's server-subpoenas department
Every year Google receives more than 25,000 requests from U.S. authorities for "disclosures of user data in criminal matters," according to a U.S. judge's recent ruling. But this one is different. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters:
A U.S. judge has ordered Google to comply with search warrants seeking customer emails stored outside the U.S., diverging from a federal appeals court that reached the opposite conclusion in a similar case involving Microsoft. U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter in Philadelphia ruled on Friday that transferring emails from a foreign server so FBI agents could review them locally as part of a domestic fraud probe did not qualify as a seizure...because there was "no meaningful interference" with the account holder's "possessory interest" in the data sought.
"Though the retrieval of the electronic data by Google from its multiple data centers abroad has the potential for an invasion of privacy, the actual infringement of privacy occurs at the time of disclosure in the United States," Rueter wrote... The ruling came less than seven months after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said Microsoft could not be forced to turn over emails stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland that U.S. investigators sought in a narcotics case.
Google announced they'd appeal the case, saying "We will continue to push back on overbroad warrants."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's doing-it-yourself department
The Verge's Paul Miller has some harsh words for the $242 open source DIY laptop kit TERES-I from Olimex.
Instead of buying one hyper-integrated board that has all of the laptop's brains and I/O on it, you buy several little boards and wire them together. Then you put them inside a mostly finished case built by Olimex -- although if you want to go ultra DIY you can 3D print your own case, too. Everything, from the shell's CAD design to the motherboard's wiring, is available on GitHub for perusal or modification, and the modular nature of the internals means you can add a more powerful chipset or modify just about anything you find unsatisfying about the computer if you have the know-how or if Olimex or others offer compatible parts.
But, unfortunately, almost everything about this laptop is unsatisfying right now. It runs a quad-core ARM64 chip, though x86 and MIPS chips might be offered later on. It has a tiny 11.6-inch screen, a huge bezel, a tiny trackpad, a cramped-looking keyboard, and a whole lot of plastic. The OS (Linux, naturally) runs off a microSD card. At least the LCD comes in a 1080p variant, because the default 1366 x 768 resolution is a real throwback. There's even 802.11n Wi-Fi, which has me questioning what decade it is.
But are there any better alternatives? In the comments share your own thoughts about open source laptop kits.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's protocols-for-productivity department
Three researchers "decided to scan the entire IPv4 address range every 15 minutes between 2006-2012 to work out what insights they could gain from humanity's mass connection to the internet," reports ITnews.
The study...analysed data from 411 large regions from middle to high-income countries and found a positive correlation between GDP per capita and the number of IP addresses per head. A 10% increase in IP addresses per capita was associated with an 0.8% hike in GDP, the analysis found. The researchers cautioned that the output and productivity growth they noted when the number of IP address increased was correlation rather than causation. Service-oriented sectors -- such as publishing, news, film production, administrative support, and education -- appear to have suffered a negative effect from increasing internet penetration [PDF]. The researchers believe these sectors were susceptible to competition from cheaper outsourcing providers.
Slashdot Bismillah pointed out that the researchers also measured sleeping patterns over seven years, assuming IP addresses of internet-connected devices generally correlated to people who were awake. According to the article, "They found that sleep patterns may be changing and converging around the world: Europeans slept less, East Asians more, while Americans' sleeping patterns remained static over the seven-year period."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's to-block-or-not-to-block department
Slashdot reader dryriver writes:
I've noticed a disturbing trend while trying to resolve a rather tricky tech issue by asking questions on a number of internet forums. The number of people who don't help at all with problems but rather butt into threads with unhelpful comments like "Why would you want to do that in the first place?" or "why don't you look at X poorly written documentation page " was staggering. One forum user with 1,500+ posts even posted "you are such a n00b if you can't figure this out" in my question thread, even though my tech question wasn't one that is obvious or easy to resolve...
I seem to remember a time when people helped each other far more readily on the internet. Now there seems to be a new breed of forum user who a) hangs out at a forum socially all day b) does not bother to help at all and c) gets a kick out of telling you things like "what a stupid question" or "nobody will help you with that here" or similar... Where have the good old days gone when people much more readily gave other people step-by-step tips, tricks, instructions and advice?
The original submission claims the ratio of unhelpful comments to helpful ones was 5 to 1. Has anyone else experienced this? And if so, what's the best response? Leave your best answers in the comments. How do you deal with aggressive forum users?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's apps-for-apartments department
"For years, Airbnb was the friendly foil to Uber, aiming to work with cities rather than against them," writes Slashdot reader mirandakatz. "But as it grew and regulatory challenges mounted, the startup had to grow fangs." She shares an excerpt from a new book called The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World.
The reality people saw often depended on where their sympathies lay. Regulators, left-wing politicians, hotel CEOs, union leaders, affordable housing advocates, and angry neighbors tired of carousing guests saw Airbnb as nothing but a rule breaker from the far-away land of arrogant, entitled billionaires. Investors, hosts, property owners struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments, travel-discount shoppers, and high-tech aficionados tended to believe in the startup with good intentions that was disrupting the stultified hospitality industry.
The book is by Brad Stone, who also wrote The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon. He describes how "good AirBNB" got Portland to eliminate the $4,000 permits for B&Bs by agreeing to collect lodging taxes from AirBNB hosts (and by opening a Portland call center). But his excerpt ends as "momentum was shifting" against AirBNB in New York City, as powerful hotels and their service employee unions convinced city lawmakers that legitimizing the company would be "politically radioactive" -- while the company's CEO "was going to fight for every inch of territory".Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's ready-player-one department
Pong's creator is now "a grizzled guy in his mid-70s" who believes there's a market for people who'd prefer to try out virtual reality headsets at videogame arcades. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review:
In 1972, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell invented Pong, a version of table tennis that, in many ways, launched the video-game industry. Forty-five years later, Bushnell is using that same simple game to test the waters for virtual-reality arcade gaming. Bushnell's latest venture is a company called Modal VR, which is building its own wireless virtual-reality headsets and games that it plans to roll out in places like arcades, malls, and movie theaters in the coming months.
Bushnell's company has built three games -- a fighting game called Mythic Combat and Project Zenith a first-person shooter set in outer space. (More than 16 players can gather in the same virtual space.) Their third game, a VR adaptation of Pong "was originally put together as a joke, in homage to Bushnell's past -- but the company decided to use the simple two-player game anyway to demonstrate what it's working on at the World's Fair Nano technology fair in San Francisco in late January."
The article describes players who "donned a prototype bulky black headset and played Pong in virtual reality, running from side to side to control the game's simple white paddles -- which a smiling Bushnell said was fitting because "we're at the Pong stage of VR."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's chasing-its-Tails department
All of its outgoing connections are routed through Tor, and it even blocks non-anonymous connections. You can carry it around on a USB stick, and Edward Snowden uses it. But a big change is coming with Tails 3.0. BrianFagioli quotes BetaNews: Unfortunately for some users, Tails will soon not work on their computers. The upcoming version 3.0 of the operating system is dropping 32-bit processor support. While a decline in compatibility is normally a bad thing, in this case, it is good. You see, because there are so few 32-bit Tails users, the team was wasting resources by supporting them. Not to mention, 64-bit processors are more secure too... "In the beginning of 2016, only 4% of Tails users were still using a 32-bit computer. Of course, some of these computers will keep working for a while. But once the number had fallen this low, the benefits of switching Tails to 64-bit outweighed the reasons we had to keep supporting 32-bit computers," says the Tails team... "In the last few years, the developers who maintain Tails have spent lots of time addressing such issues. We would rather see them spend their time in ways that benefit our users on the long term, and not on problems that will vanish when Tails switches to 64-bit eventually."Read Replies (0)