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Education Chief Should Know About PLATO and the History of Online CS Education
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 09:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's back-in-the-day department:
theodp writes Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marvels that his kids can learn to code online at their own pace thanks to "free" lessons from Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for "changing the way my kids learn" (Duncan calls out his kids' grade school for not offering coding). The 50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale, may be surprised to learn that the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later (Roger Ebert remarked in his 2011 TED Talk that seeing Khan Academy gave him a flashback to the PLATO system he reported on in the '60s). So, does it matter if the nation's education chief — who presides over a budget that includes $69 billion in discretionary spending — is clueless about The Hidden History of Ed-Tech? Some think so. "We can't move forward," Hack Education's Audrey Watters writes, "til we reconcile where we've been before." So, if Duncan doesn't want to shell out $200 to read a 40-year-old academic paper on the subject (that's a different problem!) to bring himself up to speed, he presumably can check out the free offerings at Ed.gov. A 1975 paper on Interactive Systems for Education, for instance, notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester, not bad considering that Khan Academy is boasting that it "helped over 2000 girls learn to code" in 2014 (after luring their teachers with funding from a $1,000,000 Google Award). Even young techies might be impressed by the extent of PLATO's circa-1975 online CS offerings, from lessons on data structures and numerical analysis to compilers, including BASIC, PL/I, SNOBOL, APL, and even good-old COBOL.

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Google Wallet API For Digital Goods Will Be Retired On March 2, 2015
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 09:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's end-of-the-line department:
An anonymous reader points out that Google plans to shut down Google Wallet API for third-party digital purchases. "Google has quietly revealed it plans to retire the Google Wallet API for digital goods on March 2, 2015. The company plans to continue supporting the sale of apps on Google Play as well as in-app payments, but users will not be able to purchase any virtual items offered on the Web through Google Wallet. We say "quietly" because there is no official announcement from Google. Furthermore, Google says it has no plans to proactively communicate the change to Google Wallet users; buyers will simply get 404 errors when trying to check out after support is pulled."

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Window Washing a Skyscraper Is Beyond a Robot's Reach
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 08:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's does-not-compute department:
HughPickens.com writes "Patrick McGeehan writes in the NYT that the image of a pair of window washers clinging to a scaffold dangling outside the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center have left many wondering why robots can't rub soapy water on glass and wipe it off with a squeegee relieving humans of the risk of injury, or death, from a plunge to the sidewalk? The simple answer, several experts say, is that washing windows is something that machines still cannot do as well as people can. "Building are starting to look like huge sculptures in the sky," says Craig Caulkins. "A robot can't maneuver to get around those curves to get into the facets of the building." According to Caulkins robotic cleaning systems tend to leave dirt in the corners of the glass walls that are designed to provide panoramic views from high floors. "If you are a fastidious owner wanting clean, clean windows so you can take advantage of that very expensive view that you bought, the last thing you want to see is that gray area around the rim of the window."

< article continued at Slashdot >

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US Education Chief Should Know About PLATO and the History of Online CS Educatio
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 07:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's back-in-the-day department:
theodp writes Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marvels that his kids can learn to code online at their own pace thanks to "free" lessons from Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for "changing the way my kids learn" (Duncan calls out his kids' grade school for not offering coding). The 50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale, may be surprised to learn that the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later (Roger Ebert remarked in his 2011 TED Talk that seeing Khan Academy gave him a flashback to the PLATO system he reported on in the '60s). So, does it matter if the nation's education chief — who presides over a budget that includes $69 billion in discretionary spending — is clueless about The Hidden History of Ed-Tech? Some think so. "We can't move forward," Hack Education's Audrey Watters writes, "til we reconcile where we've been before." So, if Duncan doesn't want to shell out $200 to read a 40-year-old academic paper on the subject (that's a different problem!) to bring himself up to speed, he presumably can check out the free offerings at Ed.gov. A 1975 paper on Interactive Systems for Education, for instance, notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester, not bad considering that Khan Academy is boasting that it "helped over 2000 girls learn to code" in 2014 (after luring their teachers with funding from a $1,000,000 Google Award). Even young techies might be impressed by the extent of PLATO's circa-1975 online CS offerings, from lessons on data structures and numerical analysis to compilers, including BASIC, PL/I, SNOBOL, APL, and even good-old COBOL.

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Comet Probe Philae To Deploy Drill As Battery Life Wanes
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 06:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's last-days department:
An anonymous reader writes With less than a day of battery life left, The European Space Agency's Philae probe will begin to drill for samples even though the drilling may dislodge it. From the article: "Philae is sitting in the shadow of a cliff, and will not get enough sunlight to work beyond Saturday. Friday night's radio contact with the orbiting Rosetta satellite will be the last that engineers have a reasonable confidence will work. The team is still not sure where on the surface the probe came to rest after bouncing upon landing on Wednesday. Scientists have been examining radio transmissions between the orbiter and the lander to see if they can triangulate a position. This work has now produced a 'circle of uncertainty' within which Philae almost certainly lies."

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Sony To Take On Netflix With Playstation Vue
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 06:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's changing-channels department:
stephendavion writes "Sony is planning to launch PlayStation Vue, a TV service for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles providing on demand programs and live content. The company will roll out the service to selected customers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and is expected to feature content from CBS, Fox, NBC Universal, Discovery Communications and 75 other channels. The service is expected to allow users to save their programs for up to 28 days."

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Department of Justice Harvests Cell Phone Data Using Planes
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 05:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's we-can-hear-you-now department:
Tyketto writes The US Department of Justice has been using fake communications towers installed in airplanes to acquire cellular phone data for tracking down criminals, reports The Wall Street Journal. Using fix-wing Cessnas outfitted with DRT boxes produced by Boeing, the devices mimic cellular towers, fooling cellphones into reporting "unique registration information" to track down "individuals under investigation." The program, used by the U.S. Marshals Service, has been in use since 2007 and deployed around at least five major metropolitan areas, with a flying range that can cover most of the US population. As cellphones are designed to connect to the strongest cell tower signal available, the devices identify themselves as the strongest signal, allowing for the gathering of information on thousands of phones during a single flight. Not even having encryption on one's phone, like found in Apple's iPhone 6, prevents this interception. While the Justice Department would not confirm or deny the existence of such a program, Verizon denies any involvement in this program, and DRT (a subsidiary of Boeing), AT&T, and Sprint have all declined to comment.

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Researchers Forecast the Spread of Diseases Using Wikipedia
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 02:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's searching-sick department:
An anonymous reader writes Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have used Wikipedia logs as a data source for forecasting disease spread. The team was able to successfully monitor influenza in the United States, Poland, Japan, and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. The team was also able to forecast all but one of these, tuberculosis in China, at least 28 days in advance.

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Ubisoft Points Finger At AMD For Assassin's Creed Unity Poor Performance
Posted by News Fetcher on November 14 '14 at 12:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's who's-to-blame department:
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Life is hard when you're a AAA publisher. Last month, Ubisoft blamed weak console hardware for the troubles it had bringing Assassin's Creed Unity up to speed, claiming that it could've hit 100 FPS but for weak console CPUs. Now, in the wake of the game's disastrous launch, the company has changed tactics — suddenly, all of this is AMD's fault. An official company forum post currently reads: "We are aware that the graphics performance of Assassin's Creed Unity on PC may be adversely affected by certain AMD CPU and GPU configurations. This should not affect the vast majority of PC players, but rest assured that AMD and Ubisoft are continuing to work together closely to resolve the issue, and will provide more information as soon as it is available." There are multiple problems with this assessment. First, there's no equivalent Nvidia-centric post on the main forum, and no mention of the fact that if you own an Nvidia card of any vintage but a GTX 970 or 980, you're going to see less-than ideal performance. According to sources, the problem with Assassin's Creed Unity is that the game is issuing tens of thousands of draw calls — up to 50,000 and beyond, in some cases. This is precisely the kind of operation that Mantle and DirectX 12 are designed to handle, but DirectX 11, even 11.2, isn't capable of efficiently processing that many calls at once. It's a fundamental limit of the API and it kicks in harshly in ways that adding more CPU cores simply can't help with.

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Thanks To the Private Space Industry, Things Are Looking Up For Space City USA
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 10:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's not-dead-yet department:
gallifreyan99 writes When the shuttle program was ended, and manned space exploration was put on hold, the people of Titusville, Florida were left in big trouble. "Just 20 miles northwest of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it used to have a proud nickname: Space City USA. The dizzying boom of the 1950s and '60s helped create myriad jobs by giving work to nearby aerospace companies. Unfortunately, the past 15 years have seen everything dry up By December 2010, Titusville had one of the America's highest unemployment rates, 13.8 percent." But even though there's been plenty of bad news recently, the city hopes that the private space industry can save it from destruction.

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Google Quadruples A.M. Turing Award To $1M
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 07:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's sweeten-the-pot department:
alphadogg writes The Association for Computing Machinery has announced that its annual A.M. Turing Award, sometimes called the Nobel Prize in Computing, will now come with a $1M award courtesy of Google. Previously, the award came with a $250K prize funded by Google and Intel. The award, which goes to "an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community," is generally doled out in February or March. This past March, the winner was Microsoft Research principal Leslie Lambert. The ACM says the bigger prize should raise the award's visibility.

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Will Lyft and Uber's Shared-Ride Service Hurt Public Transit?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 05:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's forget-the-bus department:
An anonymous reader writes Lyft and Uber have already undercut the price of a taxi in most markets, but with this new service, both are now taking aim at public transit systems. By attempting to offer a viable alternative to the bus and metro, Lyft and Uber are offering new options to consumers in a space where few existed before. As Timothy Lee writes at Vox, "Until recently, there weren't many services in this 'in between' category. If you were going to the airport, you could get a shared-ride van. And some urban areas had dollar vans. But these were limited services in niche markets." If you're traveling with multiple people over short distances, Lyft Line and UberPool can be quite affordable, but it's still not cheap enough.

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Researchers Use DNA To Record a Cell's Life History
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 04:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's what-have-you-done? department:
sciencehabit writes If cells could talk, they'd have quite a story to tell: Their life history would include what molecules they'd seen passing by, which signals they'd sent to neighbors, and how they'd grown and changed. Researchers haven't quite given cells a voice, but they have now furnished them with a memory of sorts—one that's designed to record bits of their life history over the span of several weeks. The new method uses strands of DNA to store the data in a way that scientists can then read. Eventually, it could turn cells into environmental sensors, enabling them to report on their exposure to particular chemicals, among other applications.

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SatNOGS Wins the 2014 Hackaday Prize For Satellite Networked Open Ground Station
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 03:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's king-of-the-hill department:
szczys writes SatNOGS has won the 2014 Hackaday Prize. The team of developers designed a satellite ground station which can be built with available tools, commodity parts, and modest skills. Data from each station can be shared via a networked protocol to benefit a much wider swath of humanity than one station could otherwise accomplish.

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US Gov't Issues Alert About iOS "Masque Attack" Threat
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's that'll-teach-'em department:
alphadogg writes Three days after security company FireEye warned of an iPhone/iPad threat dubbed "Masque Attack", the U.S. government has issued a warning of its own about this new risk by malicious third-party apps to Apple iOS devices. US-CERT warned: "This attack works by luring users to install an app from a source other than the iOS App Store or their organizations' provisioning system. In order for the attack to succeed, a user must install an untrusted app, such as one delivered through a phishing link." Revelations of Masque came on the heels of a related exploit (that also threatens Macs) called WireLurker.

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Ask Slashdot: Getting Around Terrible Geolocation?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 02:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-but-does-this-get-you-irish-citizenship? department:
First time accepted submitter AvitarX writes W3C has the IP address where I work as showing up in Ireland (we are in the USA). This is a nuisance for a lot of reasons (many dates now display in European format, prices are listed in euros, search results redirect to google.ie). Some of these issues can be worked around, but it's frustrating. I have searched as best as I can, and only can find information on the geolocation API in HTML5. The office is on a static IP address from Comcast. When I visit whatismyipaddress.com all info is correct except for W3C's result. I have submitted that it is inaccurate; is there anything else I can do? Googling, I have only managed to find usage examples for web developers/designers.

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Assassin's Creed: Unity Launch Debacle Pulls Spotlight Onto Game Review Embargos
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 02:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's hey-can-you-hold-this? department:
RogueyWon (735973) writes "The latest entry in the long-running Assassin's Creed game series, Assassin's Creed: Unity released this week. Those looking for pre-release reviews on whether to make a purchase were out of luck; the publisher, Ubisoft, had provided gaming sites with advance copies, but only on condition that their reviews be withheld until 17 hours after the game released in North America. Following the game's release, many players have reported finding it in a highly buggy state, with severe performance issues affecting all three release platforms (PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One). Ubisoft has been forced onto the defensive, taking the unprecedented step of launching a live-blog covering their efforts at debugging the game, but the debacle has already had a large impact on the company's share value and the incident has drawn widespread attention to the increasingly common practice of review embargoes."

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HYREL 3-D Printers Were Developed by 3-D Printer Users (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 01:45 PM
By Roblimo from Slashdot's we-aren't-going-to-excited-by-a-printer-again-until-we-see-a-4d-one department:
HYREL 3-D had a display Timothy spotted at last month's Maker Faire Atlanta. They're not trying to hustle Kickstarter donors; they exceeded their $50,000 goal by over $100,000. Their main pitch was (and still is) that they are making high-reliability 3-D printers that can run many hours without breaking. Project spokesperson Daniel Hutchison says he and other people he knows who were making prototypes and short-run parts in the Atlanta area were continually disappointed by the poor reliability of available 3-D printers, which is why they decided to make their own. Open Source? Somewhat, partially, kind of... but they have a bunch of proprietary secret sauce in their software, too. Daniel goes into this in more detail in the video, so there's no need for us to repeat his words when you can hear them (or read them in the transcript) for yourself. (Alternate Video Link)

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Internet Voting Hack Alters PDF Ballots In Transmission
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 12:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's don't-let-the-nice-man-borrow-your-router department:
msm1267 (2804139) writes Threats to the integrity of Internet voting have been a major factor in keeping the practice to a bare minimum in the United States. On the heels of the recent midterm elections, researchers at Galois, a computer science research and development firm in Portland, Ore., sent another reminder to decision makers and voters that things still aren't where they should be. Researchers Daniel M. Zimmerman and Joseph R. Kiniry published a paper called 'Modifying an Off-the-Shelf Wireless Router for PDF Ballot Tampering' that explains an attack against common home routers that would allow a hacker to intercept a PDF ballot and use another technique to modify a ballot before sending it along to an election authority. The attack relies on a hacker first replacing the embedded Linux firmware running on a home router. Once a hacker is able to sit in the traffic stream, they will be able to intercept a ballot in traffic and modify code strings representing votes and candidates within the PDF to change the submitted votes.

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Nvidia Shield Tablet Gets Android Lollipop Update, Half Life 2 EP1 and GRID
Posted by News Fetcher on November 13 '14 at 12:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's oopmh-and-grace department:
MojoKid writes Nvidia's Shield Tablet is only a few months old, but Nvidia is already updating the device with a freshly minted OS, a refreshed Shield Hub and access to the company's newly upgraded GRID Game Streaming service. A number of new Tegra K1 optimized games are arriving as well, as well as a new game bundle which includes Half Life 2 Episode 1. The SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop update will feature Android's new "material design" interface and improved app performance, according to Nvidia. The update will also come preloaded with a new version of Nvidia's own Dabbler drawing and painting app (Dabbler 2.0). In addition to a new interface inspired by Lollipop's design language, Dabbler 2.0 will offer full support for layers and it'll allow users to share their sessions over Twitch. Previously, accessing the Nvidia's GRID beta meant streaming games from a GRID server cluster on the west coast, but Nvidia is expanding the service with server clusters located in Virginia, Europe and Asia. For the best possible user experience, streaming games from the cloud must incur minimal latency, and adding more servers in strategic locations not only affords Nvidia greater capacity, but minimizes latency as well. Nvidia says the GRID service will be available in North America this month, Western Europe in December and Asia sometime next year. The company's GRID service gives gamers access to 20 top titles currently, including Batman Arkham City, Borderlands 2 and Psychonauts, among others, and Nvidia is planning to add new games every week.

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