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The Bizarre and Complex Story of a Failed Wikipedia Software Extension
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 10:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's mythical-man-month department:
metasonix writes Originally developed by Wikia coders, "Liquid Threads" was intended to be a better comment system for use on MediaWiki talkpages. When applied to Wikipedia, then each Wikipedia talkpage or noticeboard would become something resembling a more modernized bulletin board, hopefully easier to use. Unfortunately, the project was renamed "Flow" and taken over by the Wikimedia Foundation's developers. And as documented in this very long Wikipediocracy post, the result was "less than optimal." After seven years and millions of dollars spent, even WMF Director Lila Tretikov admits "As such it is not ready for 'prime time' for us."

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An Argument For Not Taking Down Horrific Videos
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 06:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's what's-actually-happening department:
A few days ago, we posted a story that asked whether posting horrific videos online served a legitimate journalistic purpose; some images that are shocking in their violence are now routinely available, including and especially the recent video of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive. Matthew Ingram writes at GigaOm that, whatever you think of the motives or results of the traditional news media showing such videos or choosing not to, there's good reason for social media sites not to reflexively remove such content.

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Tracking System Bug Delays SpaceX's DSCOVR Launch
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 04:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's for-want-of-a-highly-sophisticated-tracking-system department:
The SpaceX two-fer launch that was scheduled for today has been scrubbed. NBC News reports that the launch
was postponed until Monday at the earliest due to a problem with the range-tracking system in Florida. That means an ambitious second attempt to land the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage on an oceangoing platform will also have to be delayed. ... Satellites such as the Advanced Composition Explorer and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which are already located at the L1 point, can provide up to an hour's warning of major storms. Both those satellites are well past their anticipated lifetimes, however, and DSCOVR is designed to provide a much-needed backup. SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket will boost DSCOVR into a preliminary orbit, but it will take 110 days of in-space maneuvers to get the probe into the right position. This launch would mark the first time that SpaceX has sent a spacecraft so far, and it will be judged a success if DSCOVR reaches its intended orbit.

The delayed launch could take place as soon as tomorrow (Monday) evening.

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Silk Road Drug Dealer Pleads Guilty After Federal Sting
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's today's-oxymoron-is-consensual-crime department:
Ars Technica reports that

A 26-year-old Columbus, Ohio man has pleaded guilty to selling drugs through the Silk Road website. David Lawrence Handel apparently obtained methylone and other drugs from a supplier in China, which he then sold to buyers on the online black market. Among those buyers were Maryland federal agents, who were making undercover purchases. Handel shipped the drugs to them through the US Postal Service, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. ... Handel faces up to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking and up to life for using and possessing a firearm. His sentencing is scheduled for May 15.

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AP Test's Recursion Examples: An Exercise In Awkwardness
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's best-practice-or-best-illustration department:
theodp writes "Yet another example of how AP exams are loaded with poor coding practices," quipped Alfred Thompson, referring to a recursive code example that prints the numbers 0 to 6, which was posted to the (closed) AP Computer Science Facebook group. "We are often forced to use code examples that are not ideal coding practice," Thompson notes. "We do that to make things clear and to demonstrate specific concepts in a sort of isolation that we might not normally use. We seem to do that a lot with recursion because the examples that require recursion tend to be fairly complex." So, while asking students to use recursion instead of a loop to print '0123456' serves the purpose of teaching recursion, Thompson opines that it's also a poor example of code practice. "Someone raised on functional programming where recursion is a pretty standard way of doing looping might disagree of course," he adds. "There is a saying that when all you have is a hammer all your problems look like nails. This seems, in a way, to be the case with recursion and loops. If your first tool of choice (or what you have learned first) for iteration is loops you tend not to think of recursion as a solution. Similarly if you start with recursion (as is common with functional programming) you are a lot more likely to look at recursion as a tool for iteration." So, do you tend to embrace or eschew recursion in your programming?

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Free-As-In-Beer Electricity In Greece?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 02:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's everything-free-that-money-can-buy department:
PolygamousRanchKid writes New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will lay out his radical left-wing government's policies in a speech later on Sunday, firmly rejecting any more austerity forced on his debt-strapped country by its euro zone partners. In his first major speech to parliament as premier, Tsipras is expected to say that Greece wants no more bailout money, plans to renegotiate its debt deal and wants a "bridge agreement" to tide the country over until a new pact is sealed. A second part of the speech will touch on his government's social and fiscal policy over the longer term and is likely to repeat pledges for such things as a rise in the minimum wage and free electricity for poorer Greeks. Which gets me to thinking: with free electricity, wouldn't that be a great business opportunity, to build a cloud of servers in poorer Greeks' basements? Maybe that is the real plan behind the free electricity idea.

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RMS Objects To Support For LLVM's Debugger In GNU Emacs's Gud.el
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 01:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's purity-in-body-mind-and-spirit department:
An anonymous reader writes with the news that Richard Stallman is upset over the prospect of GNU Emacs's Grand Unified Debugger (Gud.el) supporting LLVM's LLDB debugger.

Stallman says it looks like there is a systematic effort to attack GNU packages and calls for the GNU to respond strategically. He wrote his concerns to the mailing list after a patch emerged that would optionally support LLDB alongside GDB as an alternative debugger for Emacs. Other Emacs developers discounted RMS' claims by saying Emacs supports Windows and OS X, so why not support a BSD-licensed compiler/debugger? The Emacs maintainer has called the statements irrelevant and won't affect their decision to merge the LLDB support.

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AP Test's Recursion Examples: An Exercise In Awkardness
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 12:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's best-practice-or-best-illustration department:
theodp writes Yet another example of how AP exams are loaded with poor coding practices," quipped Alfred Thompson, referring to a recursive code example that prints the numbers 0 to 6, which was posted to the (closed) AP Computer Science Facebook group. "We are often forced to use code examples that are not ideal coding practice," Thompson notes. "We do that to make things clear and to demonstrate specific concepts in a sort of isolation that we might not normally use. We seem to do that a lot with recursion because the examples that require recursion tend to be fairly complex." So, while asking students to use recursion instead of a loop to print '0123456' serves the purpose of teaching recursion, Thompson opines that it's also a poor example of code practice. "Someone raised on functional programming where recursion is a pretty standard way of doing looping might disagree of course," he adds. "There is a saying that when all you have is a hammer all your problems look like nails. This seems, in a way, to be the case with recursion and loops. If your first tool of choice (or what you have learned first) for iteration is loops you tend not to think of recursion as a solution. Similarly if you start with recursion (as is common with functional programming) you are a lot more likely to look at recursion as a tool for iteration." So, do you tend to embrace or eschew recursion in your programming?

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Google Earth Pro Now Available Free
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 11:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's more-data-points-to-chew-on department:
HughPickens.com writes Google has long offered a Pro version of Google Earth for $399 per year that includes some pretty cool extras not found in the free version. Now Rick Broida reports at Cnet that you can get Google Earth Pro absolutely free. All you have to do is download the installer, run it, then sign in using your e-mail address (as your username) and license code GEPFREE. Features include: Advanced measurements: Measure parking lots and land developments with polygon area measure, or determine affected radius with circle measure; High-resolution printing: Print images up to 4,800 x 3,200 pixel resolution; Exclusive pro data layers with Demographics and traffic count; Spreadsheet import: Ingest up to 2,500 addresses at a time, assigning place marks and style templates in bulk; and Movie-Maker: Export Windows Media and QuickTime HD movies, up to 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. If you've ever been involved in a property dispute, you'll know how acrimonious they can get. Google Earth Pro includes parcel data that definitively defines property boundaries. "Do you really need this? Probably not, as Pro was created with business/enterprise users in mind," writes Broida. "Let's be honest, [Google Earth Pro has] entertainment value that's virtually impossible to measure."

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Replacing the Turing Test
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 10:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's thinking-is-hard-to-pin-down department:
mikejuk writes A plan is afoot to replace the Turing test as a measure of a computer's ability to think. The idea is for an annual or bi-annual Turing Championship consisting of three to five different challenging tasks. A recent workshop at the 2015 AAAI Conference of Artificial Intelligence was chaired by Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University. His opinion is that the Turing Test had reached its expiry date and has become "an exercise in deception and evasion." Marcus points out: the real value of the Turing Test comes from the sense of competition it sparks amongst programmers and engineers which has motivated the new initiative for a multi-task competition. The one of the tasks is based on Winograd Schemas. This requires participants to grasp the meaning of sentences that are easy for humans to understand through their knowledge of the world. One simple example is: "The trophy would not fit in the brown suitcase because it was too big. What was too big?" Another suggestion is for the program to answer questions about a TV program: No existing program — not Watson, not Goostman, not Siri — can currently come close to doing what any bright, real teenager can do: watch an episode of "The Simpsons," and tell us when to laugh. Another is called the "Ikea" challenge and asks for robots to co-operate with humans to build flat-pack furniture. This involves interpreting written instructions, choosing the right piece, and holding it in just the right position for a human teammate.. This at least is a useful skill that might encourage us to welcome machines into our homes.

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Ask Slashdot: Is There a Web Development Linux Distro?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's best-of-brood department:
Qbertino writes I've been a linux user for more than 15 years now and in the last ten I've done basically all my non-trivial web development on Linux. SuSE in the early days, after that either Debian or, more recently, Ubuntu, if I want something to click on. What really bugs me is, that every time I make a new setup, either as a virtual machine, on concrete hardware or a remote host, I go through 1-2 hours of getting the basics of a web-centric system up and running. That includes setting PHP config options to usable things, setting up vhosts on Apache (always an adventure), configging mod_rewrite, installing extra CLI stuff like Emacs (yeah, I'm from that camp) walking through the basic 10-15 steps of setting up MySQL or some other DB, etc. ... You get the picture.

What has me wondering is this: Since Linux is deeply entrenched in the field of server-side web, with LAMP being it's powerhouse, I was wondering if there aren't any distros that cover exactly this sort of thing. You know, automatic allocation of memory in the runtime settings, ready-made Apache http/https/sftp/ftp setup, PHP all ready to go, etc. What are your experiences and is there something that covers this? Would you think there's a need for this sort of thing and would you base it of Debian or something else? If you do web-dev, how do you do it? Prepareted scripts for setup? Anything else? ... Ideas, unkown LAMP distros and opinions please."


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SpaceX Launch of "GoreSat" Planned For Today, Along With Another Landing Attempt
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 08:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's elon-musk-for-the-win department:
The New York Times reports that SpaceX will again attempt to recover a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, after the recent unsuccessful try; the company believes the lessons from the earlier launch have been learned, and today's launch will be loaded with more hydraulic fluid. This evening, the rocket is to loft the satellite nicknamed "GoreSat," after Al Gore, who envisioned it as a sort of permanent eye in space beaing back pictures of Earth from afar. The purpose of the satellite has evolved, though: Writes the Times: The observatory, abbreviated as Dscovr and pronounced “discover,” is to serve as a sentinel for solar storms: bursts of high-energy particles originating from the sun. The particles from a gargantuan solar storm could induce electrical currents that might overwhelm the world’s power grids, possibly causing continent-wide blackouts. Even a 15-minute warning could let power companies take actions to limit damage.

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Xfce Getting a New Version Soon
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 07:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's welcome-eye-candy department:
jones_supa writes It looks like the release of Xfce 4.12 is finally about to materialize. It has been about two and half years since the last stable release. There is now a concerted effort underway to ship a new release of this lightweight GTK+2 desktop environment out around the end of February or early March. "As we have discussed the status and progress of core components with many of you individually, we feel confident that the state of Xfce is good enough to polish some final edges and push more translations until then.", wrote Simon Steinbeiß on the xfce4-dev mailing list. The official list of showstopper bugs does not look too bad either. However, looking at the long time between releases certainly makes one think if the project could have use for some extra resources.

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Canadian Supreme Court Rules Ban On Assisted Suicide Unconstitutional
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 05:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ask-your-doctor-about-the-black-capsule department:
BarbaraHudson writes with word that Canada's Supreme Court has issued a strong statement in defense of Canadians' right to choose assisted suicide: [A] judgment, which is unsigned to reflect the unanimous institutional weight of the court, says the current ban on assisted suicide infringes on all three of the life, liberty and security of person provisions in Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It does not limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness. The court agreed with the trial judge "that a permissive regime with properly designed and administered safeguards was capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error. While there are risks, to be sure, a carefully designed and managed system is capable of adequately addressing them." Parliament has one year to enact new legislation modifying the Criminal Code to conform to the judgment.

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Xenon Flashes Can Make New Raspberry Pi 2 Freeze and Reboot
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 02:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's camera-shy department:
An anonymous reader writes Unfortunately for Raspberry Pi 2 owners who are trying to photograph their devices, ... the Raspberry Pi 2 has been found to be Xenon flash sensitive. Any camera with a Xenon flash aimed at the device is causing the device to freeze for a few seconds before rebooting. The forum thread about the bug is an interesting play-by-play of how the problem was narrowed down.

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DARPA's ALASA Could Pave Way For Cheaper, Faster Satellite Launches
Posted by News Fetcher on February 08 '15 at 12:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's cheaper-faster-better-ok department:
hypnosec writes DARPA is all set to take its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access module (ALASA) program to the next level after the program has shown promising results toward its mission of sending 100-pound satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) for just $1 million per launch."

ALASA is a new program that seeks to streamline production and encourage re-usability and interchangeability in satellite systems.

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Mystery Ash Clouds Rain In Parts of Washington, Oregon
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '15 at 09:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's what-ash-hole-is-responsible? department:
Inland parts of Oregon and Washington, as well as Idaho, have experienced a strange, murky rain today that contains what seems to be volcanic ash, though ash from which volcano isn't completely clear. Experts said they are checking out several possible explanations including a recent volcanic eruption in Mexico and one in Russia. The weather service said the rainstorm may have passed through some dust or volcanic ash as it moved west. Walla Walla County's emergency management staff posted a statement on its Facebook page that the ash is likely from Volcano Shiveluch in Kamchatka Krai, Russia, some 3,000 miles away. Volcano Shiveluch spewed an ash plume about 22,000 feet high in late January, the statement said.... CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam, meanwhile, pointed to an eruption Wednesday of a volcano in southwestern Colima, Mexico, as another potential source of the dirty rain. That volcano is more than 2,000 miles away from the region.
Time points out that other theories include leftover ash from last year’s wildfires in Oregon in Idaho.

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The First Ubuntu Phone Is Here, With Underwhelming Hardware
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '15 at 06:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's early-days-yet department:
A few days ago, Fast Company reviewer Jay Cassano was enthusiastic about Ubuntu's approach to apps for its new phone OS: namely, not relying on them, and instead interfacing seamlessly with existing websites and protocols. Now, new submitter ablutions (4006541) writes with a less than glowing review at The Daily Dot of the actual hardware that the OS is launching on. A sample that conveys the gist: Let's start with the good stuff: It sports a 4.5-inch multi-touch screen and a respectable 8-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel lens on the front. That's pretty much it. The list of negatives is a bit longer.

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Earth's Libration Visualized For the First Time Above the Moon's Far Side
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '15 at 04:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's can-you-see-your-house-from-there department:
StartsWithABang writes Thanks to the fact that the Moon is tidally locked, we can only see 50% of it's surface on any given night. Over time, the fact that the Moon's orbit is elliptical, and that it moves faster at perigee and slower at apogee means that up to another 9% is visible over the course of many years. The observed "rocking" and growing/shrinking of the Moon over time is known as lunar libration, an incredibly interesting phenomenon. But now, for the first time, we've been able to visualize how the Earth appears to move as seen from above the far side of the Moon.

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Sites Featuring "Terrorism" Or "Child Pornography" To Be Blocked In France
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '15 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's whose-definitions-though department:
Advocatus Diaboli writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: Now, the General Directorate of the National Police and its cybercrimes unit will be able to request that sites serving terrorist or pedophilia-related content be blocked by Internet Service Providers serving people in France and its territories. ISPs then have to comply with the request within 24 hours. ISPs will be able to request compensation from the French government for any extra costs incurred in blocking the sites. Users who navigate to a site 'to which access is prohibited will be led to an informational page from the Ministry of the Interior,' the text of the decree said. The informational page will list the grounds for the blocking as well as any possibly remedies. Every quarter, French authorities will check whether the blocked pages still contain the offending material. If not, then the authorities will contact ISPs, which will have to unblock the sites, again within 24 hours.

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