By EditorDavid from Slashdot's degrees-of-separation department
A a new article in CIO magazine argues that when it comes to computer science, "few of us really need much of any of it." Slashdot reader itwbennett offers this summary:
At the heart of the matter is the fact that most businesses don't really need programmers to be deep thinkers. For them, it's "just as worthwhile to hire someone from a physics lab who just used Python to massage some data streams from an instrument. They can learn the shallow details just as readily as the CS genius," according to the article.
CIO's anonymous author promises an incomplete list of "why we may be better off ignoring CS majors." Some of the highlights:
Theory distracts and confuses. "Many computer scientists are mathematicians at heart and the theorem-obsessed mindset permeates the discipline." Academic languages are rarely used. "...the academy breeds snobbery and a love for arcane solutions." Many CS professors are mathematicians, not programmers. "One of the dirty secrets about most computer science departments is that most of the professors can't program computers. Their real job is giving lectures and wrangling grants...." Many required subjects are rarely used. "...it's too bad few of us use many data structures any more." Institutions breed arrogance. "...the very nature of academic degrees are designed to give graduates the ability to argue one's superiority with authority. " Many modern skills are ignored. "If you want to understand Node.js, React, game design or cloud computation, you'll find very little of it in the average curriculum... It's very common for computer science departments to produce deep thinkers who understand some of the fundamental challenges without any shallow knowledge of the details that dominate the average employee's day."
"It's not that CS degrees are bad," the article concludes. "It's just that they're not going to speak to the problems that most of us need to solve."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sky-net department
InfoQ got some interesting insights from their interview with Christophe de Hauwer, the chief strategy and development officer at the communications satellite company SES:
According to Morgan Stanly, the global space economy is predicted to grow from $350 billion in revenues today to more than $1.1 trillion by 2040. This impressive growth is driven by an exploding demand for connectivity... On one hand, satellite will be key to satisfy consumers' demand for always-on, high-performance connectivity. On the other hand, it will play an essential role in providing connectivity to populations in underserved and unserved areas...
[A]irlines are facing growing demands for inflight connectivity: market studies have shown that 63% of travelers think more flights should offer Wi-Fi, and 48% think Wi-Fi in the air should be as fast as it is on the ground. We are shaping and scaling our satellite fleet in order to deliver both the performance and economics needed to take these services mainstream. Whether a plane is travelling along densely populated routes or vast areas of deserts, we want to have them covered with the right kind of connectivity, always on, everywhere.
He also points out that SpaceX's re-usable rockets are just one of the ways space technology is making telecommunications cheaper.
"Electric propulsion means satellites can achieve a 40-50% reduction in their mass; high-throughput spot beams deliver a significantly higher amount of bandwidth than traditional satellites and can reduce cost per bit; fully new digitized payloads enable increased efficiency, full flexibility in global coverage and further optimization of spectrum use."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's trash-talk department
"Ever wondered why pages seem to load slower and slower? Or why it is that browsing seems to take just as long to load a page, even though your broadband connection doubled in speed a couple of months ago?" gb7djk, a long-time Slashdot reader, blames "the bullshit web" -- as described in this essay by Calgary-based front-end developer Nick Heer (who does his testing on a 50 Mbps connection).
A story at the Hill took over nine seconds to load; at Politico, seventeen seconds; at CNN, over thirty seconds. This is the bullshit web... When I use the word "bullshit" in this article, it isn't in a profane sense. It is much closer to Harry Frankfurt's definition in On Bullshit: "It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth -- this indifference to how things really are -- that I regard as of the essence of bullshit...." The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we're simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing.... But a lot of the stuff we're seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier -- if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.
Take that CNN article, for example. Here's what it contained when I loaded it:
- Eleven web fonts, totalling 414 KB
- Four stylesheets, totalling 315 KB
- Twenty frames
- Twenty-nine XML HTTP requests, totalling about 500 KB
- Approximately one hundred scripts, totalling several megabytes -- though it's hard to pin down the number and actual size because some of the scripts are "beacons" that load after the page is technically finished downloading.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unfriending department
"Facebook really is evil," writes Quartz reporter Nikhil Sonnad. "Not on purpose. In the banal kind of way. Underlying all of Facebook's screw-ups is a bumbling obliviousness to real humans..." An anonymous reader quotes Sonnad's essay:
The imperative to "connect people" lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct. To Facebook, the world is not made up of individuals, but of connections between them. The billions of Facebook accounts belong not to "people" but to "users," collections of data points connected to other collections of data points on a vast Social Network, to be targeted and monetized by computer programs.
There are certain things you do not in good conscience do to humans. To data, you can do whatever you like.... With Facebook, "life is turned into a database," writes technologist Jaron Lanier in his 2010 book You Are Not a Gadget... Silicon Valley culture has come to accept as certain, Lanier writes, that "all of reality, including humans, is one big information system".... The problem, says Lanier, is that there is nothing special about humans in this information system. Every data point is treated equally, irrespective of how humans experience it.
The essay argues Facebook's value system "has diverged from that of the rest of society," adding that Facebook "seems to be blind to the possibility that it could be used for ill."
Facebook needs to "check their instinctive technological optimism against the realities of human life. Absent human considerations, Facebook will continue to bring thoughtless, banal harm to the world."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's word-on-the-street department
An anonymous reader quotes CBS MoneyWatch:
The number of people residing in campers and other vehicles surged 46 percent over the past year, a recent homeless census in Seattle's King County, Washington found. The problem is "exploding" in cities with expensive housing markets, including Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, according to Governing magazine. The problem of vehicle residency is national in scope, although its impact may be more "acutely felt in urban areas where space is more limited," said Sara Rankin, an assistant professor law at Seattle University and the director of Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
"Amazon, Microsoft and other big tech companies are in the Seattle area," notes Zero Hedge, adding "It is a region that is supposedly 'prospering', and yet this is going on."
Back in Silicon Valley, one Google employee slept in a truck in Google's parking lot for two years -- allowing him to save at least $48,000 that he would've paid in rent -- though many vehicle-dwellers apparently have non-technical jobs as plumbers, janitors, and even teachers. "A fair number of
the 'vehicular homeless' in Silicon Valley are employed but are unable to find affordable housing," reports CBS, citing an AP article last November about "Silicon Valley's car people".
"Lines of RVs can be found near the headquarters of tech heavyweights such as Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's chip-off-the-ol-blockchain department
"Corporate America's love affair with all things blockchain may be cooling," reports Bloomberg. An anonymous reader quotes their report. [Alternate version here.]
A number of software projects based on the distributed ledger technology will be wound down this year, according to Forrester Research Inc. And some companies pushing ahead with pilot tests are scaling back their ambitions and timelines. In 90 percent of cases, the experiments will never become part of a company's operations, the firm estimates. Even Nasdaq Inc., a high-profile champion of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, hasn't moved as quickly as hoped. The exchange operator, which talked in 2016 about deploying blockchain for voting in shareholder meetings and private-company stock issuance, isn't using the technology in any widely deployed projects yet...
"The disconnect between the hype and the reality is significant -- I've never seen anything like it," said Rajesh Kandaswamy, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "In terms of actual production use, it's very rare...." Only 1 percent of chief information officers said they had any kind of blockchain adoption in their organizations, and only 8 percent said they were in short-term planning or active experimentation with the technology, according to a Gartner study. Nearly 80 percent of CIOs said they had no interest in the technology. Many companies that previously announced blockchain rollouts have changed plans
Problems include the fact that most blockchains "also can't yet handle a large volume of transactions," and worries about compatibility with other software -- which some hope to address next year with software certification testing. But at least two big tech companies are aggressively pushing blockchain.
"So far, IBM and Microsoft have grabbed 51 percent of the more than $700 million market for blockchain products and services, WinterGreen Research Inc. estimated earlier this year,"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Alexa-argue department
TechCrunch reports on a new Alexa skill called "Away Mode".
Instead of lights and noises, you can keep your home safe from unwanted visitors by playing lengthy audio tracks that sound like real -- and completely ridiculous -- conversations. When you launch Away Mode, Alexa will play one of seven audio tracks penned by comedy writers from SNL, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and UCB... These include gems like "Couple Has Breakup While Also Trying to Watch TV," "Two Average Guys Brainstorm What's Unique About Themselves So They Can Start a Podcast About It," "Emergency PTA Meeting To Discuss Memes, Fidget Spinners, and Other Teen Fads," and more. There are conversations from a book club where no one discusses the book, a mom walking her daughter through IKEA assembly over the phone, a stay-at-home mom losing her s***, and argument over a board game....
After enabling the skill on your Alexa device, you can cycle through the various conversations by saying "Next"... The tracks themselves are around an hour or so long... There are other "burglar deterrent" skills for Alexa if you're interested in the general concept, like that play fake house alarms or sound like guard dogs. But Away Mode is just a little more fun.
It's the brainchild of San Francisco-based Hippo Insurance, whose brand manager hopes to get people thinking about home security (though she says it isn't meant to be a serious security tool). Yet, "Theoretically it's a good idea," adds former California police chief Jim Bueermann (now the head of the nonprofit Police Foundation). "If this thing mimics real conversation, it's much more likely to trick the burglar into believing somebody is home."
In one fake argument, a board game player shouts "Hand me the rulebook! The other rulebook! That's the rules reference.... No, it's in the learn-to-play guide. That's the quick reference!"Read Replies (0)
Can We Decentralize the Web?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 10:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's building-a-new-internet department
This week the Internet Archive hosted an amazing Decentralized Web Summit, which united the makers who want to build a web "that's locked open for good." [Watch the videos here.] Vint Cerf was there, as was the technical product development leader for Microsoft's own decentralized identity efforts, several companies building the so-called punk rock Internet, "along with a handful of venture capitalists looking for opportunities." One talk even included Mike Judge, the creator of HBO's Silicon Valley, which recently included the decentralized web in its ongoing storyline.
Computing highlighted remarks by Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, and Mitchell Baker, the chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation.
The ideology of the web's early pioneers, according to Baker, was free software and open source. "Money was considered evil," she said. So when companies came in to commercialize the internet, the original architects were unprepared. "Advertising is the internet's original sin," Kahle told the packed room. "Advertising is winner-take-all, and that's how we've ended up with centralization and monopolies."
At the conference, attendees presented utopian visions of how the future of the internet could look. Civil, a new media startup, proposed crowd-supported journalism using cryptocurrency micro-payments. Mastodon, a decentralized and encrypted social network, was commonly referenced as an alternative to Twitter. As Facebook and Google continue to monopolize the digital advertising ecosystem -- recent estimates say that the two companies control over 70% of digital advertising spending globally -- the promise of a decentralized web, free from the shackles of advertiser demands is fun to imagine.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's on-the-grid department
An anonymous reader quotes Fast Company:
In seven years, the island nation of Samoa plans to run on 100% renewable electricity. Over the last year, the local utility has worked with Tesla to install a key piece of that plan -- battery storage, and also a software system that can control Samoa's entire electricity supply. In the past, like many islands, the country ran mostly on imported, expensive, and polluting diesel power. As recently as 2012, the country brought in 95 million liters of diesel.
Spurred by the cost and the threat of climate change -- Samoa is at particular risk from sea level rise and new outbreaks of climate-related diseases -- the country has been ramping up the use of renewables, with five large solar plants, a wind farm, and hydropower plants. But as renewable energy grew, the grid struggled with reliability.
"It had gotten to the point where just the solar, combined, could provide over half of the entire peak demand for the island, but they were having quite a few challenges managing that efficiently," says JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technical officer.... Tesla installed two of its "Powerpack" battery systems, and also developed and implemented island grid controller software that can control both the batteries and all of the power plants. "If a big cloud comes over the island and the solar drops very quickly, we can control the battery to make up the difference so we don't have to start a generator immediately, and we don't have to keep a generator running even when it might not be needed," says Straubel.Read Replies (0)
With any major version release, it is not unexpected for breaking changes to be introduced and that's certainly the case for TypeScript 3.0. One obvious change is that with "unknown" becoming a new type, it is now a reserved type name and can no longer be used in type declarations. Otherwise, there's a range of API breaking changes due to a number of functions and internal methods being deprecated or being made internal. On the plus side, TypeScript 3.0 reportedly has improved error messages, along with project references that let TypeScript projects have dependencies on other TypeScript projects.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's move-slow-and-fix-things department
Jonathan Edwards has been programming since 1969 (starting on a PDP-11/20). "Programming today," he writes, "is exactly what you'd expect to get by paying an isolated subculture of nerdy young men to entertain themselves for fifty years. You get a cross between Dungeons & Dragons and Rubik's Cube, elaborated a thousand-fold."
theodp summarizes the rest:
To be a 'full stack' developer, Edwards laments, one must master the content of something like a hundred thousand pages of documentation. "Isn't the solution to design technology that doesn't require a PhD...?" he asks. "What of the #CSForAll movement? I have mixed feelings. The name itself betrays confusion -- what we really want is #ProgrammingForAll. Computer science is not a prerequisite for most programming, and may in fact be more of a barrier to many. The confusion of computer science with programming is actually part of the problem, which seems invisible to this movement."
It wasn't always this way, Edwards notes, citing spreadsheets, HyperCard, and the many incarnations of Basic as examples of how programming technology can be vastly easier and more accessible. "Unfortunately application programming got trampled in the internet gold rush," Edwards explains. "Suddenly all that mattered was building large-scale systems as fast as possible, and money was no object, so the focus shifted to 'rock star' programmers and the sophisticated high-powered tools they preferred. As a result the internet age has seen an exponential increase in the complexity of programming, as well as its exclusivity."
"It is long past time to return to designing tools not just for rock stars at Google but the vast majority of programmers and laypeople with simple small-scale problems," the essay concludes, arguing we need new institutions to fund changes in both the technology and culture of programming. "We've done it before so we can do it again, even better this time."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blame-the-messenger department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: This week Cox's problems doubled after a group of high profile record labels filed a new piracy liability lawsuit against the Internet provider. Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music, Universal Music, Warner Bros Records, and several others accuse the company of turning a blind eye to pirating subscribers. The labels argue that Cox has knowingly contributed to the piracy activities of its subscribers and that it substantially profited from this activity. All at the expense of the record labels and other rightsholders. "Indeed, for years, Cox deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its Internet services to infringe on others' copyrights -- even once Cox became aware of particular customers engaging in specific, repeated acts of infringement," the complaint reads. To stop the infringing activities, the music companies sent hundreds of thousands of notices to the Internet provider. This didn't help much, they claim, noting that Cox actively limited the number of notices it processed.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's don't-breath-this department
Researchers say air pollution is linked to changes in the structure of the heart of the sort seen in early stages of heart failure. "The findings could help explain the increased number of deaths seen in areas with high levels of dirty air," reports The Guardian. From the report: "What we don't know is what is the mechanism behind it, why is air pollution leading to increased risk of heart attack and stroke?" said Dr Nay Aung, a cardiologist at Queen Mary University of London and first author of the research. The latest study helps to unpick the conundrum. Writing in the journal Circulation, Aung and colleagues report that they found exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5 and PM10 particles, is linked to an increase in the size of two of the chambers of the heart, the left and right ventricle. PM particles are commonly emitted by motor vehicles, among other sources. The authors add that similar changes can affect the performance of the heart and are often seen before heart failure takes hold.
The team used data from almost 4,000 volunteers who were part of a wider research effort known as the UK Biobank. These participants were aged between 40 and 69 years old, had been at the same address for the whole study, and were free from cardiovascular disease at the outset. Crucially, their data included cardiac MRI scans, which offer detailed images of the structure and function of the heart. The study also involved estimates of the outdoor concentrations of different pollutants at participants' home addresses at about five years prior to the scan. After controlling for factors including age, sex, income and smoking history, the team found that higher exposure to PM2.5 particles, PM10 particles and nitrogen dioxide were each linked to a greater volume of both the right and left ventricles after they had filled with blood.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Microsoft has declined to comment on an expert's many complaints about the quality of its recent patches and cadence of Windows 10 feature updates. Earlier, Susan Bradley, a Microsoft MVP who for the past 18 years has volunteered her time helping Windows users, took a survey of over 1,800 respondents regarding the Windows 10 Update experience. She then sent an open letter to Microsoft [OneDrive link] executives summarizing the results of this survey and providing thoroughly researched material regarding the poor update experience Windows 10 users have been experiencing. In return, Microsoft argued in a blog that it gives admins all the tools they need to test and provide feedback before it releases Patch Tuesday updates. From a report: Microsoft's John Wilcox, who helps promote why organizations should move to Windows 10's Windows-as-a-service model has, at the behest of Windows pros, offered an explanation of its monthly Windows 10 quality update servicing cadence and terminology. As noted by ZDNet's Ed Bott recently, IT admins who'd spent years learning about Windows Update needed to "prepare to do some unlearning" due to the many changes introduced by Microsoft's shift to a Windows 10-as-a-service model. "With Windows 10, Microsoft has completely rewritten the Windows Update rulebook. For expert users and IT pros accustomed to having fine-grained control over the update process, these changes might seem wrenching and even draconian," he noted. [...] Wilcox outlines that Microsoft's guiding principles to its monthly Windows service updates are built around being "simple and predictable", "agile", and "transparent." Wilcox doesn't directly address patching expert Bradley's major complaints about Microsoft's patches of late, but said Microsoft's predictability meant IT managers should be able to handle its "simple, regular and consistent patching cadence."Read Replies (0)