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The Billionaire Mathematician
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 10:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-enough-room-in-the-margin-for-all-these-benjamins department:
An anonymous reader writes Dr. James Simons received his doctorate at the age of 23. He was breaking codes for the NSA at 26, and was put in charge of Stony Brook University's math department at 30. He received the Veblen Prize in Geometry in 1976. Today, he's a multi-billionaire, using his fortune to set up educational foundations for math and science. "His passion, however, is basic research — the risky, freewheeling type. He recently financed new telescopes in the Chilean Andes that will look for faint ripples of light from the Big Bang, the theorized birth of the universe. The afternoon of the interview, he planned to speak to Stanford physicists eager to detect the axion, a ghostly particle thought to permeate the cosmos but long stuck in theoretical limbo. Their endeavor 'could be very exciting,' he said, his mood palpable, like that of a kid in a candy store." Dr. Simons is quick to say this his persistence, more than his intelligence, is key to his success: "I wasn't the fastest guy in the world. I wouldn't have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach."

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Plasma 5 Release Candidate Announced
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 09:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's test-before-it's-too-late department:
sfcrazy writes: The KDE Community has announced the first release of Plasma 5. It's a release candidate, so it's meant for testing and preview purposes, like the developer preview of Android L. The final release will be announced next week, so this is the last chance for testers and developers to find issues and get them fixed before the release.

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Avast Buys 20 Used Phones, Recovers 40,000 Deleted Photos
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 08:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's delete-then-rewrite-then-smash-into-bits department:
An anonymous reader writes: The used smartphone market is thriving, with many people selling their old devices on eBay or craigslist when it's time to upgrade. Unfortunately, it seems most people are really bad at wiping their phone of personal data before passing it on to a stranger. Antivirus company Avast bought 20 used Android phones off eBay, and used some basic data recovery software to reconstruct deleted files. From just those 20 phones, they pulled over 40,000 photographs, including 1,500 family pictures of children and over a thousand more.. personal pictures. They also recovered hundreds of emails and text messages, over a thousand Google searches, a completed loan application, and identity information for four of the previous owners. Only one of the phones had security software installed on it, but that phone turned out to provide the most information of all: "Hackers at Avast were able to identify the previous owner, access his Facebook page, plot his previous whereabouts through GPS coordinates, and find the names and numbers of more than a dozen of his closest contacts. What's more, the company discovered a lot about this guy's penchant for kink and a completed copy of a Sexual Harassment course — hopefully a preventative measure."

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Watch Dogs Graphics and Gameplay: PC Vs. Xbox One, With Surprising Results
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 07:32 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's platform-wars department:
MojoKid writes: Normally, the question of whether a game runs better on the PC or a console is a no-brainer, at least for PC users. Watch Dogs, however, with its problematic and taxing PC play, challenges that concept. And since the gap between consoles and PCs is typically smallest at the beginning of the console generation, HotHardware decided to take the Xbox One out for a head-to-head comparison against the PC with this long-awaited title. What was found may surprise you. Depending on just how much horsepower your PC has, the Xbox One (and possibly the PS4 though that wasn't compared) might be the better option. There's no question that the PC can look better, even before you factor in the mods that have been released to date, but unless you've spent $300 or more on a fairly recent GPU, you're not going to be able to run the game at sufficiently high detail to benefit from the enhanced image quality and resolution. If you have a Radeon HD 7950 / R9 280 or an NVIDIA card with greater than 4GB of RAM or a GeForce GTX 780 / 780 Ti, you can happily observe Watch Dogs make hash out of the Xbox One — but statistically, only a minority of gamers have this sort of high-end hardware.
This comparison should be viewed in light of the recent allegations that the PC version's graphics were deliberately handicapped.

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'Rosetta Flash' Attack Leverages JSONP Callbacks To Steal Credentials
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 06:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's clever-exploits department:
New submitter newfurniturey writes: A new Flash and JSONP attack combination has been revealed to the public today. It has been dubbed the "Rosetta Flash" attack. JSONP callback functions normally return a JSON blob wrapped in a user-specified callback function, which the browser will then execute as JavaScript. Nothing out of the ordinary here. However, the new attack has leveraged a method of crafting a Flash file to contain a restricted character set that's usable within JSONP callbacks (i.e. in a URL). By combining the two, the attack demonstrates it's possible to use a JSONP URL with the contents of the crafted Flash file as the callback function. When set as the data of a standard HTML object tag, the SWF file executes on the targeted site, bypassing all Same-Origin policies in place. Services such as Google, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr and eBay were found vulnerable to this attack. Several of these services fixed the vulnerability with a patch prior to the public release, and Tumblr patched within hours of the release.

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A Box of Forgotten Smallpox Vials Was Just Found In an FDA Closet
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 04:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's thanks-for-making-me-feel-safe department:
Jason Koebler writes: The last remaining strains of smallpox are kept in highly protected government laboratories in Russia and at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. And, apparently, in a dusty cardboard box in an old storage room in Maryland. The CDC said today that government workers had found six freeze-dried vials of the Variola virus, which causes smallpox, in a storage room at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland last week. Each test tube had a label on it that said "variola," which was a tip-off, but the agency did genetic testing to confirm that the viruses were, in fact, smallpox.

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US Tech Firms Recruiting High Schoolers (And Younger)
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 04:01 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's there-oughta-be-a-law-enforcing-the-laws-we-already-have department:
ShaunC writes: Is there a glut of qualified American tech workers, or isn't there? Some companies like Facebook and Airbnb are now actively courting and recruiting high school students as young as 13 with promises of huge stipends and salaries. As one student put it, "It's kind of insane that you can make more than the U.S. average income in a summer." Another who attended a Facebook-sponsored trip said he'd "forego college for a full-time job" if it were offered. Is Silicon Valley taking advantage of naive young workers?

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Another Dementia Test Oversold
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 03:16 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's basic-statistics-claims-another-victim department:
An anonymous reader writes: Many prominent news organizations, including the BBC, are reporting on a study (PDF) that claims a new blood test is 87% accurate in predicting which patients will develop cognitive impairment. It's hailed as a major step forward in efforts to fight dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, reality isn't quite so impressive. An article at MedPage Today explains all of the statistical facts that the mainstream press glosses over: "Only about 10% of patients of patients with MCI convert to clinical dementia per year. With nearly 30% of positive results false (remember, the specificity was 71%) as well as 15% of negative results false, most of the positive results in such a group will be false. Yes, it's time once again for a tutorial in positive predictive values. If we have 100 MCI patients and a 10% conversion rate, then 10 of them will develop dementia. These are the true positives. There will be 90 true negatives — the ones who don't convert. But with a specificity of 71%, the test will falsely identify 29% of the 90 true negatives, or 26, as positive. Meanwhile, with a false negative rate of 15%, only nine (rounding up from 8.5) of the 10 true positives will be correctly identified. ... It's easy to get a high negative predictive value when the annual event rate is 10%. If I simply predict that no one will convert, I'll be right 90% of the time."

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BlackBerry's Innovation: Square-Screened Smartphones
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 02:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bet-you-didn't-know-you-needed-that department:
EthanV2 sends word that BlackBerry, having finally caught up to a world dominated by smartphones, is now trying to push the envelope by developing a smartphone with a square screen. The BlackBerry Passport has a 4.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1440x1440. The phone has a physical keyboard as well. In a blog post about the new phone, they show a picture with it side-by-side with an iPhone and a Galaxy S5 — the Passport is slightly taller than the iPhone, and significantly wider, as you'd expect.
The Passport is a play for BlackBerry's "traditional" work-oriented user base, where the earlier BlackBerry Z10 and Z30 were efforts to break into the post-iPhone consumer smartphone space. Though the Passport may well be preferable for spreadsheets and word processing, that square screen will be much less useful for widescreen movies, and its wide, blocky design will entirely prohibit one-handed use. The Passport is expected to appear later this year, and it will launch with BlackBerry 10.3 (at least, according to early hands-on previews).

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Tired of Playing Cyber Cop, Microsoft Looks For Partners In Crime Fighting
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 01:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's every-batman-needs-a-robin department:
chicksdaddy writes: When it comes to fighting cybercrime, few companies can claim to have done as much as Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, which spent the last five years as the Internet's Dirty Harry: using its size, legal muscle and wealth to single-handedly take down cyber criminal networks from Citadel, to Zeus to the recent seizure of servers belonging to the (shady) managed DNS provider NO-IP. The company's aggressive posture towards cyber crime outfits and the companies that enable them has earned it praise, but also criticism. That was the case last week after legitimate customers of NO-IP alleged that Microsoft's unilateral action had disrupted their business. There's evidence that those criticisms are hitting home – and that Microsoft may be growing weary of its role as judge, jury and executioner of online scams. Microsoft Senior Program Manager Holly Stewart gave a sober assessment of the software industry's fight against cyber criminal groups and other malicious actors. Speaking to a gathering of cyber security experts and investigators at the 26th annual FIRST Conference in Boston, she said that the company has doubts about the long term effectiveness of its botnet and malware takedowns.

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All Web Developers Should Have Access to a Device Lab (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 01:00 PM
By Roblimo from Slashdot's still-working-on-making-website-standards-after-all-these-years department:
This interview with Googler Pete LePage took place at Google I/O 2014, where Pete and coworker Matt Gaunt set up a Device Lab with 46 different devices on their display wall. The point wasn't to show off Google's coolness as much as it was to let developers see how their websites displayed on as wide a range of mobile devices as possible. This is reminiscent of the last century's Any Browser campaign, which was set up to encourage developers to make sites that worked right in any browser instead of having a WWW full of sites "best viewed in Exploroscape" that displayed poorly in other browsers.

Today, the trick is to make a site that is fully functional across a wide range of devices with different size screens that a user might decide to view in landscape mode one day and portrait mode the next. Google is happy to share their MiniMobileDeviceLab with you to help set up multi-unit displays. Pete also suggests checking out PageSpeed Insights and Web Fundamentals even if you're a skilled and experienced Web designer, because those two Google sites are chock full of information on how to make sure your site works right on most devices and in most popular browsers. (Alternate Video Link)

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Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's from-college-import-education department:
itwbennett writes: Python has surpassed Java as the top language used to introduce U.S. students to programming and computer science, according to a recent survey posted by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Eight of the top 10 computer science departments now use Python to teach coding, as well as 27 of the top 39 schools, indicating that it is the most popular language for teaching introductory computer science courses, according to Philip Guo, a computer science researcher who compiled the survey for ACM."

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Wireless Contraception
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's just-connect-to-you-local-contraeptive-hotspot department:
Kittenman writes: The BBC is carrying information on a type of contraception (funded in part by Bill Gates) that takes the form of a microchip, inserted under the skin. The chip releases contraceptive hormones to the body until wirelessly advised not to do so. This device has several interesting applications and issues associated with it. The researchers are already working on making the device secure against unauthorized transmissions. There's also the issue of making it easier for governments to control population levels. The chip will be available from 2018. This correspondent will watch the issues with interest.

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Radical Dual Tilting Blade Helicopter Design Targets Speeds of Over 270mph
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's for-all-your-helicopter-racing-needs department:
Zothecula writes: As one of the contenders in the race to win a $100 billion contract from the U.S. government for the next generation of attack helicopter in the Army's Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) program, AVX Aircraft Company has conceived a futuristic machine kitted out with coaxial rotors, ducted fans and a retractable undercarriage that could hit speeds of over 270 mph (435 km/h).

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Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's beware-the-all-seeing-actuaries department:
New submitter jbmartin6 writes: The Panopticon may be coming, but perhaps not how we think. Instead of a massive government surveillance program, we might end up subjected to ubiquitous monitoring to save on our insurance premiums. The "internet of things (you can't get away from)" makes this more and more possible. Here a company saved money on its health insurance premiums by distributing Fitbits and an online service to enable reporting fitness gains back to the insurance company. We've already seen the stories on using black boxes to monitor drivers. There is even an insurance company named Panoptic! Heck, why not a premium hike for owners of this or that "aggressiveness gene"? What if in the future we got a quick "+50 cents" tweet for every scoop of ice cream? I suppose the natural stopping point might be the balance between an individual's willingness to be monitored and the desire to reduce insurance premiums.

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Mapping a Monster Volcano
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's shhh-it's-sleeping department:
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes In one of the biggest-ever seismology deployments at an active volcano, researchers are peppering Mount St Helens in Washington state with equipment to study the intricate system of chambers and pipes that fed the most devastating eruption in U.S. history. This month, they plan to set off 24 explosions — each equivalent to a magnitude-2 earthquake — around around the slumbering beast in an effort to map the its interior with unprecedented depth and clarity.

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Indie Game Developers Talk About Why They Struck Out On Their Own
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 08:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's you-can-hire-someone-to-flog-you department:
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Technology writer Jon Brodkin sat down with a group of indie game developers (as well as a professor at the University of Southern California's game-design program) to talk about why they decided to launch their own small studios rather than stick with comfortable (albeit stressful) jobs at major firms like Disney or Zynga. The answer, as you'd expect, boils down to control. "Working for a bigger company is a good way to gain experience, and learn how games are made," said Graham Smith, one of the co-founders of Toronto-based DrinkBox Studios. "It's also nice to have a steady salary coming in as you learn the ropes. On the flip side, depending on the company, you might not have much control over the game's design, or even be making the types of games that you enjoy playing." But startups come with their own challenges, not the least of which is the prospect of an economic downturn quickly wiping you out, or not making your Kickstarter goal."

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Thousands of Leaked KGB Files Are Now Open To the Public
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's file-a-foia-request department:
schwit1 (797399) writes "Over 20 years after being smuggled out of Russia, a trove of KGB documents are being opened up to the public for the first time. The leaked documents include thousands of files and represent what the FBI is said to view as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source." The documents include KGB information on secret Russian weapons caches, Russian spies, and KGB information on the activities of Pope John Paul II. Known as the Mitrokhin Archive, the files are all available as of today at Churchill College's Archives Centre."

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Coddled, Surveilled, and Monetized: How Modern Houses Can Watch You
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's eye-oh-tee department:
Presto Vivace (882157) links to a critical look in Time Magazine at the creepy side of connected household technology. An excerpt: A modern surveillance state isn't so much being forced on us, as it is sold to us device by device, with the idea that it is for our benefit. ... ... Nest sucks up data on how warm your home is. As Mocana CEO James Isaacs explained to me in early May, a detailed footprint of your comings and goings can be inferred from this information. Nest just bought Dropcam, a company that markets itself as a security tool allowing you to put cameras in your home and view them remotely, but brings with it a raft of disquieting implications about surveillance. Automatic wants you to monitor how far you drive and do things for you like talk to your your house when you're on your way home from work and turn on lights when you pull into your garage. Tied into the new SmartThings platform, a Jawbone UP band becomes a tool for remotely monitoring someone else's activity. The SmartThings hubs and sensors themselves put any switch or door in play. Companies like AT&T want to build a digital home that monitors your security and energy use. ... ... Withings Smart Body Analyzer monitors your weight and pulse. Teddy the Guardian is a soft toy for children that spies on their vital signs. Parrot Flower Power looks at the moisture in your home under the guise of helping you grow plants. The Beam Brush checks up on your teeth-brushing technique.
Presto Vivaci adds, "Enough to make the Stasi blush. What I cannot understand is how politicians fail to understand what a future Kenneth Starr is going to do with data like this."

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The World's Best Living Programmers
Posted by News Fetcher on July 08 '14 at 06:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's yeah-but-do-you-have-his-rookie-card? department:
itwbennett (1594911) writes "How do you measure success? If it's by Stack Overflow reputation, Google engineer Jon Skeet is the world's best programmer. If it's winning programming competitions, Gennady Korotkevich or Petr Mitrechev might be your pick. But what about Linus Torvalds? Or Richard Stallman? Or Donald Knuth? ITworld's Phil Johnson has rounded up a list of what just might be the world's top 14 programmers alive today."

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