By msmash from Slashdot's trouble-in-our-stars department
The world is filled with bad, baseless, factually inaccurate ideas that refuse to die. From an article: Philosopher Russell Blackford, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia, tweeted about this phenomenon earlier this month: "The momentum behind bad ideas can be enormous -- they can plunge on, gathering force, long after receiving devastating criticism." If you've ever found yourself unable to halt someone else's idiotic plans once they were already in motion, you're not alone. Whether you're a politician trying to make congress see sense or simply a manager trying to halt an atrocious team-building plan, there's simply no foolproof way to kill a terrible idea. Blackford blames the momentum behind bad ideas on cascade effects. Yes, individuals are prone to making poor decisions for emotional or biased reasons (known as "cognitive heuristics") and this irrationality is part of the problem. But there's also a broader sociological issue, in that others' opinions carry a huge amount of weight in influencing our views. A cultural consensus -- even without proper evidence -- can form pretty quickly. If one person convinces a second, says Blackford, then a third person will be far more likely to agree with the majority view. This effect exponentially increases with each person who agrees with the others. "We soon have a sociological effect whereby everyone knows that, say, a certain movie is very good or very bad, even though everyone might have 'known' the exact opposite if only a few early voices had been different," says Blackford.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's evolution department
An anonymous reader shares a Scientific American article: Programming has changed. In first generation languages like FORTRAN and C, the burden was on programmers to translate high-level concepts into code. With modern programming languages -- I'll use Python as an example -- we use functions, objects, modules, and libraries to extend the language, and that doesn't just make programs better, it changes what programming is. Programming used to be about translation: expressing ideas in natural language, working with them in math notation, then writing flowcharts and pseudocode, and finally writing a program. Translation was necessary because each language offers different capabilities. Natural language is expressive and readable, pseudocode is more precise, math notation is concise, and code is executable. But the price of translation is that we are limited to the subset of ideas we can express effectively in each language. Some ideas that are easy to express computationally are awkward to write in math notation, and the symbolic manipulations we do in math are impossible in most programming languages. The power of modern programming languages is that they are expressive, readable, concise, precise, and executable. That means we can eliminate middleman languages and use one language to explore, learn, teach, and think.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department
Donald Trump would like to see Americans walk on Mars during his presidency. Nasa would love to get there that quickly, too. The reality of space travel is slightly more complicated, however. From a report: On Monday, during a call with astronaut Peggy Whitson, who was aboard the International Space Station, Trump pressed her for a timeline on a crewed mission to Mars, one of Nasa's longest standing and most daunting goals. "Tell me, Mars," he asked her from the Oval Office, "what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule and when would you see that happening?" Whitson answered by pointing out that Trump, by signing a Nasa funding bill last month, had already approved a timeline for a mission in the 2030s. She added that Nasa was building a new heavy-launch rocket, which would need testing. "Unfortunately space flight takes a lot of time and money," she said. "But it is so worthwhile doing." Trump replied: "Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term, so we'll have to speed that up a little bit, OK?" It was not clear whether the president meant the remark as a quip or something more serious.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's released-candidate department
prisoninmate quotes Softpedia: Linux kernel 4.11 has been in development for the past two months, since very early March, when the first Release Candidate arrived for public testing. Eight RCs later, we're now able to download and compile the final release of Linux 4.11 on our favorite GNU/Linux distributions and enjoy its new features. Prominent ones include scalable swapping for SSDs, a brand new perf ftrace tool, support for OPAL drives, support for the SMC-R (Shared Memory Communications-RDMA) protocol, journalling support for MD RAID5, all new statx() system call to replace stat(2), and persistent scrollback buffers for VGA consoles... The Linux 4.11 kernel also introduces initial support for Intel Gemini Lake chips, which is an Atom-based, low-cost computer processor family developed using Intel's 14-nanometer technology, and better power management for AMD Radeon GPUs when the AMDGPU open-source graphics driver is used.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's internet-of-poorly-secured-things department
Ars Technica reports on Hajime, a sophisticated "vigilante botnet that infects IoT devices before blackhats can hijack them."
Once Hajime infects an Internet-connected camera, DVR, and other Internet-of-things device, the malware blocks access to four ports known to be the most widely used vectors for infecting IoT devices. It also displays a cryptographically signed message on infected device terminals that describes its creator as "just a white hat, securing some systems." But unlike the bare-bones functionality found in Mirai, Hajime is a full-featured package that gives the botnet reliability, stealth, and reliance that's largely unparalleled in the IoT landscape...
Hajime doesn't rashly cycle through a preset list of the most commonly used user name-password combinations when trying to hijack a vulnerable device. Instead, it parses information displayed on the login screen to identify the device manufacturer and then tries combinations the manufacturer uses by default... Also, in stark contrast to Mirai and its blackhat botnet competitors, Hajime goes to great lengths to maintain resiliency. It uses a BitTorrent-based peer-to-peer network to issue commands and updates. It also encrypts node-to-node communications. The encryption and decentralized design make Hajime more resistant to takedowns by ISPs and Internet backbone providers.
Pascal Geenens, a researcher at security firm Radware, watched the botnet attempt 14,348 hijacks from 12,000 unique IP addresses around the world, and says "If Hajime is a glimpse into what the future of IoT botnets looks like, I certainly hope the IoT industry gets its act together and starts seriously considering securing existing and new products. If not, our connected hopes and futures might depend on...grey hat vigilantes to purge the threat the hard way."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's countdown-to-unemployment department
An anonymous reader quotes CNBC:
Robots are likely to replace 50 percent of all jobs in the next decade, according to Kai-Fu Lee, founder of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures and a top voice on tech in China. Artificial intelligence is the wave of the future, the influential technologist told CNBC, calling it the "singular thing that will be larger than all of human tech revolutions added together, including electricity, [the] industrial revolution, internet, mobile internet -- because AI is pervasive"...
For example, he said, companies in which his firm has invested can accomplish feats such as recognizing 3 million faces at the same time, or dispersing loans in eight seconds. "These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50% of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty," Lee said, later adding that he expected that displacement to occur in the next 10 years.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-fooling-anyone department
An anonymous reader quote Neowin:
If you've been expecting Microsoft to issue a press release formally announcing the end of its Windows phone business, you're probably hoping for a bit too much. But make no mistake: its phone hardware business is dead. RIP-dead. Send-flowers-dead. Worm-food-dead. Some fans, and even some in the media, have consistently refused to acknowledge this, despite the clear signs in recent quarters. Now, Microsoft's own figures, and its statements regarding its phone division, should make it irrefutably clear that there is no life left in its Windows phone business.
During the quarter ending in December, Microsoft's phone revenue dropped to just $200 million, which included some sales of feature phones, before the company completed its sale of that business unit to Foxconn in November. That figure has now dropped to virtually nothing... Today, as Microsoft published its earnings report for Q3 FY2017, it revealed that its "Phone revenue declined $730 million". Based on its earlier financial disclosures, that means the company's phone hardware revenue fell to just $5 million for the entire quarter ending March 31, 2017. During Microsoft's earnings call today, its chief financial officer, Amy Hood, acknowledged this, stating that there was "no material phone revenue this quarter". The outlook for the next few months is similarly bleak, as Hood predicted "negligible revenue from Phone" in the coming quarter.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's money-for-media department
An anonymous reader writes:
"A hacker (or hacker group) known as The Dark Overlord (TDO) has leaked the first ten episodes of season 5 of the "Orange Is The New Black" show after two failed blackmail attempts, against Larson Studios and Netflix," reports BleepingComputer. The hacker said he stole hundreds of gigabytes of audio files from Larson Studios last December. "TDO claims the studio initially agreed to pay a ransom of 50 Bitcoin ($67,000) by January 31, and the two parties even signed a contract, albeit TDO signed it using the name 'Adolf Hitler.'" This might have been the reason why the company thought this was a joke and didn't pay the ransom as initially agreed.
At this point, the hacker turned from the studio to Netflix, but the company didn't want to pay either. As a warning, the hacker leaked the first episode of season 5, but half a day later, he leaked 9 more. "According to Netflix's website, season 5 is supposed to have 13 episodes and is scheduled for release in June, this year." The hacker also claims he's in possession of shows and movies from other movie studios and television channels, such as FOX, IFC, NAT GEO, and ABC. Some of the titles include "Celebrity Apprentice," "NCIS Los Angeles," "New Girl," and "XXX The return of Xander Cage".Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's photos-of-faces department
Images of Tinder users "were swept up in a massive grab of some 40,000 photos from the dating app by a dataset collector who plans to use the selfies in artificial intelligence training," writes Slashdot reader Frosty Piss, sharing this summary of a report in TechCrunch.
Tinder said in a statement that the photo sweeper "violated the terms of our service" and "we are taking appropriate action and investigating further." The creator of the data set, Stuart Colianni, has released it under a CC0: Public Domain License and also uploaded his scraper script to GitHub.
He describes it as a "simple script to scrape Tinder profile photos for the purpose of creating a facial dataset," saying his inspiration for creating the scraper was disappointment working with other facial data sets. He also describes Tinder as offering "near unlimited access to create a facial data set," and says scraping the app offers "an extremely efficient way to collect such data."
The article notes that Tinder's API has already been used for other "weird, wacky, and creepy" projects, including "hacking it to automatically like every potential date to save on thumb-swipes; offering a paid look-up service for people to check up on whether a person they know is using Tinder; and even building a catfishing system to snare horny bros and make them unwittingly flirt with each other.
"So you could argue that anyone creating a profile on Tinder should be prepared for their data to leech outside the community's porous walls in various different ways -- be it as a single screenshot, or via one of the aforementioned API hacks. But the mass harvesting of thousands of Tinder profile photos to act as fodder for feeding AI models does feel like another line is being crossed."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's send-in-the-drones department
The Atlantic's CityLab describes "a massive surge in deliveries to residential dwellings...creating a traffic nightmare." An anonymous reader quotes their report:
While truck traffic currently represents about 7% of urban traffic in American cities, it bears a disproportionate congestion cost of $28 billion, or about 17% of the total U.S. congestion costs, in wasted hours and gas. Cities, struggling to keep up with the deluge of delivery drivers, are seeing their curb space and streets overtaken by double-parked vehicles, to say nothing of the bonus pollution and roadwear produced thanks to a surfeit of Amazon Prime orders... Often, the box trucks will double-park in a two-lane street if there's no loading zone to pull into, snarling traffic behind them... "The streets were not designed for that kind of activity," says Alison Conway, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the City College of New York.
Scott Kubly, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, says "With the volume of deliveries, ticketing isn't effective for us in terms of managing the street. UPS and FedEx will just negotiate a lump sum payment for all the tickets they get instead of fighting every ticket"... In 2011 in Washington, D.C., UPS alone received just shy of 32,000 tickets. Instead of adjudicating each ticket, many large cities will strike agreements or introduce programs through which delivery companies can pay off all tickets in one swoop.
The article points out online retails sales have grown 15% every year this decade in the U.S. -- calling it the other side of the "retail apocalypse" that's killing brick-and-mortar stores.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's policing-the-internet department
An anonymous reader quotes Sopho's Naked Security blog:
In a column in The West Australian, Dan Tehan, Australia's cybersecurity minister, wrote: "Just as we trust banks to hold our money, just as we trust doctors with our health, in a digital age we need to be able to trust telecommunications companies to protect our information from threats." A companion news article in the same newspaper cited Tehan as arguing that "the onus is on telecommunications companies to develop products to stop their customers being infected with viruses"...
Tehan's government roles include assisting the prime minister on cybersecurity, so folks throughout Australia perked up when he said all this. However, it's not clear if there's an actual plan behind Tehan's observations -- or if there is, whether it will be backed by legal mandates... Back home in Australia, some early reactions to the possibility of any new government interference weren't kind. In iTWire, Sam Varghese said, "Dan Tehan has just provided the country with adequate reasons as to why he should not be allowed anywhere near any post that has anything to do with online security."
The West Australian also reports Australia's prime minister met telecommunications companies this week, "where he delivered the message the Government expected them to do more to shut dodgy sites and scams," saying the government will review current legislation to "remove any roadblocks that may be preventing the private sector and government from delivering such services."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's book-reports department
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% in the U.K. in 2016, according to the Publishers Association. Sales of physical books and journals went up by 7% over the same period, while children's books surged 16%. The same trend is on display in the U.S., where ebook sales declined 18.7% over the first nine months of 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers. Paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%...
Sales of e-readers declined by more than 40% between 2011 and 2016, according to consumer research group Euromonitor International. "E-readers, which was once a promising category, saw its sales peak in 2011. Its success was short-lived, as it spiraled downwards within a year with the entry of tablets," Euromonitor said in a research note.
The article includes an even more interesting statistic: that one-third of adults tried a "digital detox" in 2016, limiting their personal use of electronics. Are any Slashdot readers trying to limit their own screen time -- or reading fewer ebooks?Read Replies (0)