By EditorDavid from Slashdot's idk-lol department
The New Yorker reviews linguist Gretchen McCulloch new book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language
For McCulloch, the primary feat of the digital writer has been to enlist typography to convey tone of voice. We've used technology to "restore our bodies to writing": to infuse language with extra-textual meaning, in the same way that we might wave our hands during a conversation. One general principle is that communication leans toward the efficient, so any extra markings (sarcastic tildes, for instance, or a period where a line break will do) telegraph that there's more to the message than its literal import. That's how the period, in text messaging, earned its passive-aggressive reputation, and why so many visual flourishes default to implying irony. Similarly, the expressive lengthening of words like "yayyyy" or "nooo" confers a friendly intimacy, and technical marks (like the forward slash that ends a command in a line of code) find new life as social in-jokes ("/rant"). Typography, McCulloch writes, does not simply conjure the author's mood. It instructs the reader about the purpose of the statement by gesturing toward the spirit in which the statement was conceived.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's knowing-what-you-did-last-summer department
"The upcoming version of the Android operating system is taking a strong focus on privacy," reports SD Times, "but the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) believes it could still do better."
Android Q's new privacy features include: user control over app access to device location, new limits on access to files in shared external storage, restrictions on launching activities, and restrictions on access to the device's hardware and sensors... "However, in at least one area, Q's improvements are undermined by Android's continued support of a feature that allows third-party advertisers, including Google itself, to track users across apps," Bennett Cyphers, engineer for the EFF, wrote in a post. "Furthermore, Android still doesn't let users control their apps' access to the Internet, a basic permission that would address a wide range of privacy concerns."
According to Cyphers, while Android Q has new restrictions on non-resettable device identifies, it will allow unrestricted access for its own tracking identifier [called "advertising ID"]... "Facebook and other targeting companies allow businesses to upload lists of ad IDs that they have collected in order to target those users on other platforms," he wrote... "On Android, there is no way for the user to control which apps can access the ID, and no way to turn it off. While we support Google taking steps to protect other hardware identifiers from unnecessary access, its continued support of the advertising ID -- a "feature" designed solely to support tracking -- undercuts the company's public commitment to privacy," he wrote...
Cypher also noted that while Apple's iOS has similar identifiers for advertisers that contradict with its privacy campaign, it does enable users to turn off the tracking.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's getting-organized department
A group of content creators say they're organizing to make YouTube become a fairer platform, reports Motherboard:
The YouTubers Union, a community-based movement fighting for the rights of content creators and users, has joined forces with IG Metall, Germany's largest union and Europe's largest trade union. Together, they have launched a joint venture called FairTube and sent a letter of demands to YouTube accompanied by a video explaining their concerns, demands, and plan of action. The move is one of the most significant organized labor actions taken by creators on the platform, and puts some actual union power behind what has thus far been a nascent and disorganized movement.
In recent years, YouTube creators have consistently spoken out about changes to the massive platform that they say they are rarely consulted on that affect their ability to make money. For example, YouTube has repeatedly changed how it handles copyright takedown requests (allowing copyright holders to assert copyright on and monetize videos that they didn't upload, for example.) YouTube has also controversially "demonetized" or issued content warnings to some innocuous channels. One of the creators leading the unionization charge, Jörg Sprave, has had his popular slingshot videos removed by YouTube.
"We aren't demanding things that cut into profits or are unrealistic. We want fairness. We want transparency. We want to be treated like partners. And we want personal communication instead of anonymous communication," Sprave told Motherboard... . In a letter to YouTube signed by Sprave and Christiane Benner, the Vice President of IG Metall, FairTube asks that "all categories and decision criteria that affect Creators' earning capability, especially monetization and search and discovery, shall be transparent."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's oversight-oversights department
Boeing's 737 Max was built with "effectively neutered" oversight, writes the New York Times, citing interviews with over a dozen current and former employees at America's Federal Aviation Agency.
Their damning conclusion? The agency "had never independently assessed the risks of the dangerous software known as MCAS when they approved the plane in 2017."
The regulator had been passing off routine tasks to manufacturers for years, with the goal of freeing up specialists to focus on the most important safety concerns. But on the Max, the regulator handed nearly complete control to Boeing, leaving some key agency officials in the dark about important systems like MCAS, according to the current and former employees...The company performed its own assessments of the system, which were not stress-tested by the regulator.
Turnover at the agency left two relatively inexperienced engineers overseeing Boeing's early work on the system. The F.A.A. eventually handed over responsibility for approval of MCAS to the manufacturer. After that, Boeing didn't have to share the details of the system with the two agency engineers...
Late in the development of the Max, Boeing decided to expand the use of MCAS, to ensure the plane flew smoothly. The new, riskier version relied on a single sensor and could push down the nose of the plane by a much larger amount. Boeing did not submit a formal review of MCAS after the overhaul. It wasn't required by F.A.A. rules... The agency ultimately certified the jet as safe, required little training for pilots and allowed the plane to keep flying until a second deadly Max crash, less than five months after the first.... By 2018, the F.A.A. was letting the company certify 96 percent of its own work, according to an agency official.
The article ends by describing the days after the first 737 Max crash, when Boeing executives visited the regulatory agency's headquarters in Seattle.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-getting-a-reaction department
AmiMoJo quotes Reuters:
Scorching temperatures across Europe coupled with prolonged dry weather has reduced French nuclear power generation by around 5.2 gigawatts (GW) or 8%, French power grid operator RTE's data showed on Thursday. Electricity output was curtailed at six reactors by 0840 GMT on Thursday, while two other reactors were offline, data showed. High water temperatures and sluggish flows limit the ability to use river water to cool reactors.
In Germany, PreussenElektra, the nuclear unit of utility E.ON, said it would take its Grohnde reactor offline on Friday due to high temperatures in the Weser river.
France's nuclear reactors supply more than 75% of its electricity, according to the article -- though their grid operator says they still have enough capacity left to meet demand.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 1s-and-0s department
Long-time Slashdot reader Faizdog writes: The "sensitivity" conjecture stumped many top computer scientists, yet the new proof is so simple that one researcher summed it up in a single tweet.
"This conjecture has stood as one of the most frustrating and embarrassing open problems in all of combinatorics and theoretical computer science," wrote Scott Aaronson of the University of Texas, Austin, in a blog post. "The list of people who tried to solve it and failed is like a who's who of discrete math and theoretical computer science," he added in an email.
The conjecture concerns Boolean functions, rules for transforming a string of input bits (0s and 1s) into a single output bit. One such rule is to output a 1 provided any of the input bits is 1, and a 0 otherwise; another rule is to output a 0 if the string has an even number of 1s, and a 1 otherwise. Every computer circuit is some combination of Boolean functions, making them "the bricks and mortar of whatever you're doing in computer science," said Rocco Servedio of Columbia University.
"People wrote long, complicated papers trying to make the tiniest progress," said Ryan O'Donnell of Carnegie Mellon University.
Now Hao Huang, a mathematician at Emory University, has proved the sensitivity conjecture with an ingenious but elementary two-page argument about the combinatorics of points on cubes. "It is just beautiful, like a precious pearl," wrote Claire Mathieu, of the French National Center for Scientific Research, during a Skype interview. Aaronson and O'Donnell both called Huang's paper the "book" proof of the sensitivity conjecture, referring to Paul Erds' notion of a celestial book in which God writes the perfect proof of every theorem. "I find it hard to imagine that even God knows how to prove the Sensitivity Conjecture in any simpler way than this," Aaronson wrote.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's awful-algorithms department
An anonymous reader quotes the Huffington Post:
Six months ago, under tremendous public pressure, YouTube announced that it would tweak its algorithm to recommend fewer videos "that could misinform users in harmful ways." It was a major step for a company that has spent years driving people toward increasingly sensationalist content -- including dangerous disinformation -- that would keep viewers glued to their screens for as long as possible to maximize advertising revenue. The announcement in late January triggered panic within YouTube's sprawling network of conspiracy theorists. [But] the audience for YouTube's top conspiracy theory channels is still growing, a HuffPost investigation has found... Some channels are growing at slower rates than before, others at around the same rates or a bit more rapidly... [A]ll are still drawing in new viewers -- and the creators behind them remain undeterred.
There are significant financial incentives for conspiracy theorists to keep churning out clickbait disinformation on YouTube: They can still promote their merchandise and third-party fundraising pages on their videos, and they can still take a cut of the earnings from ads on their content through YouTube's monetization program. The payoff can be huge.
Views from video recommendations, which can be especially vital for new YouTube pages trying to develop audiences, have been cut in half for content featuring harmful misinformation, a YouTube spokesperson told HuffPost. But for massive conspiracy theory channels -- channels that YouTube's algorithm has already catapulted into notoriety, giving them large and loyal followings -- the change has been largely ineffective in suppressing their influence.... YouTube acted "way too late," said former Google engineer Guillaume Chaslot, who helped design YouTube's algorithm. "The harm that's been done in many cases can't now be undone."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's only-a-test department
An anonymous reader quotes Vice:
In May, Microsoft released a patch for a bug in several versions of Windows that is so bad that the company felt it even had to release a fix for Windows XP, an operating system that (has been unsupported) for five years. That vulnerability is known as BlueKeep, and it has kept a lot of security researchers up at night. They are worried that someone could write an exploit for it and make a worm that could wreak havoc the way WannaCry or NotPetya -- two viruses that spread almost uncontrollably all over the world locking thousands of computers -- did.... Researchers were so worried about this vulnerability that for months, no one has published the code for a proof-of-concept exploit. In other words, no one wanted to be the guy to even prove that this type of malware was even possible to write.
On Tuesday, Immunity, a long time US government contractor, announced that it had developed an exploit for BlueKeep and included it into its penetration testing toolkit Canvas, which is available only to paying subscribers. Canvas customers, can now exploit this bug using Immunity's own code.
ZDNet notes that Canvas licenses "cost between thousands and tens of thousands of US dollars," but also adds that "hackers have been known to pirate or legitimately buy penetration testing tools."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's reply-hazy-try-again department
Long-time Slashdot reader JonZittrain is an international law professor at Harvard Law School, and an EFF board member. Wednesday he contacted us to share his new article in the New Yorker:
I've been thinking about what happens when AI gives us seemingly correct answers that we wouldn't have thought of ourselves, without any theory to explain them. These answers are a form of "intellectual debt" that we figure we'll repay -- but too often we never get around to it, or even know where it's accruing.
A more detailed (and unpaywalled) version of the essay draws a little from how and when it makes sense to pile up technical debt to ask the same questions about intellectual debt.
The first article argues that new AI techniques "increase our collective intellectual credit line," adding that "A world of knowledge without understanding becomes a world without discernible cause and effect, in which we grow dependent on our digital concierges to tell us what to do and when."
And the second article has a great title. "Intellectual Debt: With Great Power Comes Great Ignorance." It argues that machine learning "at its best gives us answers as succinct and impenetrable as those of a Magic 8-Ball -- except they appear to be consistently right." And it ultimately raises the prospect that humanity "will build models dependent on, and in turn creating, underlying logic so far beyond our grasp that they defy meaningful discussion and intervention..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 73-year-old-ex-convicts department
An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post:
John McAfee of antivirus software fame has arrived in London from the Dominican Republic, where he had been detained for several days with his wife and several others for entering the Caribbean nation with a cache of weapons on his yacht, his lawyer said Friday. Authorities "asked him where he wanted to go, and he decided on London," his attorney Candido Simon told Reuters....
While in custody, McAfee retweeted a photo posted by his wife of himself sitting shirtless in a cell... [And another shirtless photo with his cellmate.] "My crime is not filing tax returns -- not a crime. The rest is propaganda by the U.S. government to silence me..." he wrote in a July 19 tweet.
In fact, McAfee now "is laying the blame on the CIA and 'an extremely corrupt Bahamian official,'" CNET reports.
McAfee "confessed in a tweetstorm earlier this year that he hasn't paid the IRS in eight years," reports the New York Daily News, adding that this week McAfee was "essentially deported" to London. "He previously fled to Guatemala from Belize when he was sought for questioning concerning the murder of a neighbor, Reuters previously reported." Earlier this month, Reuters also reported that McAfee had again fled to Cuba "after suspecting that U.S. law enforcement was trying to extradite him from the Bahamas."
CNET also quotes McAfee as saying that he now wants to run simultaneous campaigns to be both president of the United States and Prime Minister of England. "I believe I am one of the few people stil alive who could qualify for the combined position."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's forest-as-a-superorganism department
The Grim Reefer shares a report from Live Science: Once a mighty kauri tree -- a species of conifer that can grow up to 165 feet (50 meters) tall -- the low, leafless stump looks like it should be long dead. But, as a new study published today in the journal iScience reminds us, looks are only surface-deep. Below the soil, the study authors wrote, the stump is part of a forest "superorganism" -- a network of intertwined roots sharing resources across a community that could include dozens or hundreds of trees. By grafting its roots onto its neighbors' roots, the kauri stump feeds at night on water and nutrients that other trees have collected during the day, staying alive thanks to their hard work.
Using several sensors to measure the movement of water and sap (which contains important nutrients) through the three trees, the team saw a curious pattern: the stump and its neighbors seemed to be drinking up water at exact opposite times. During the day, when the vibrant neighbor trees were busy transporting water up their roots and into their leaves, the stump sat dormant. At night, when the neighbors settled down, the stump circulated water through what was left of its body. The trees, it seemed, were taking turns -- serving as separate pumps in a single hydraulic network. So, why add a near-dead tree to your underground nutrient highway? While the stump no longer has any leaves, researchers wrote, it's possible that its roots still have value as a bridge to other vibrant, photosynthesizing trees elsewhere in the forest. It's also possible that the stump joined roots with its neighbors a long time ago, before it was, well, a stump. Since nutrients still flow through the stump's roots and into the rest of the network, the neighboring trees may never have noticed its loss of greenery.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-of-aging department
New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works. The findings potentially pave the way for better cancer treatments and revolutionary new drugs that could vastly improve human health in the twilight years. ScienceDaily reports: "To drink from the fountain of youth, you have to figure out where the fountain of youth is, and understand what the fountain of youth is doing," said Nick Graham, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. "We're doing the opposite; we're trying to study the reasons cells age, so that we might be able to design treatments for better aging." To achieve this, lead author Alireza Delfarah, a graduate student in the Graham lab, focused on senescence, a natural process in which cells permanently stop creating new cells. This process is one of the key causes of age-related decline, manifesting in diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis and heart disease.
The research team discovered that the aging, senescent cells stopped producing a class of chemicals called nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA. When they took young cells and forced them to stop producing nucleotides, they became senescent, or aged. "This means that the production of nucleotides is essential to keep cells young," Delfarah said. "It also means that if we could prevent cells from losing nucleotide synthesis, the cells might age more slowly." Graham said that the team's research has applications in the emerging field of senolytics, the development of drugs that may be able to eliminate aging cells. He said that human clinical trials are still in early stages, but studies with mice have shown that by eliminating senescent cells, mice age better, with a more productive life span. The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Nature: A Japanese stem-cell scientist is the first to receive government support to create animal embryos that contain human cells and transplant them into surrogate animals since a ban on the practice was overturned earlier this year. Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who leads teams at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California, plans to grow human cells in mouse and rat embryos and then transplant those embryos into surrogate animals. Nakauchi's ultimate goal is to produce animals with organs made of human cells that can, eventually, be transplanted into people.
Until March, Japan explicitly forbid the growth of animal embryos containing human cells beyond 14 days or the transplant of such embryos into a surrogate uterus. That month Japan's education and science ministry issued new guidelines allowing the creation of human-animal embryos that can be transplanted into surrogate animals and brought to term. Nakauchi's experiments are the first to be approved under Japan's new rules, by a committee of experts in the science ministry. Final approval from the ministry is expected next month. Nakauchi says he plans to proceed slowly, and will not attempt to bring any hybrid embryos to term for some time. Initially, he plans to grow hybrid mouse embryos until 14.5 days, when the animal's organs are mostly formed and it is almost to term. He will do the same experiments in rats, growing the hybrids to near term, about 15.5 days. Later, Nakauchi plans to apply for government approval to grow hybrid embryos in pigs for up to 70 days.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fast-growing-source-of-power department
A new report (XLSX) from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas says wind power has surpassed coal for the first time in the state. CNN reports: Wind has generated 22% of the state's electrical needs this year. It just edged out coal, which provided 21% of the Lone Star State's power, according to the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas, which manages electrical flow on about 90% of the Texan grid. Sixteen years ago, in 2003, wind made up just 0.8% of the state's power, and coal satisfied 40% of electrical needs, the council documents show. By 2010, wind accounted for 8% of the state's energy, and it steadily inched forward to 19% last year and now 22% in the first half of 2019. At the same time, coal's portion of the energy mix has declined over the past several years, from 37% in 2013 to 24% last year and just 21% this year. Yet while wind has soared and coal-generated power has cooled, natural gas still accounts for the largest share of the state's energy mix, generating 46% of its power in 2003 and staying strong at 44% last year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's restricted-area department
After a developer based in the Crimea region of Ukraine was blocked from GitHub this week, the Microsoft-owned software development platform said it has started restricting accounts in countries facing U.S. trade sanctions. GitHub lists Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syris as countries facing U.S. sanctions. ZDNet reports: As the developer reports, his website https://tkashkin.tk, which is hosted on GitHub, now returns a 404 error. He also can't create new private GitHub repositories or access them. While his website could easily be moved to another hosting provider, the block does pose a challenge for his work on GameHub, which has an established audience on GitHub.
GitHub does offer developers an appeal form to dispute restrictions but [the developer] told ZDNet that, at this point, there's nothing to gain by appealing the restriction. "It is just pointless. My account is flagged as restricted and, in order to unflag it, I have to provide a proof that I don't live in Crimea. I am in fact a Russian citizen with Crimean registration, I am physically in Crimea, and I am living in Crimea my entire life," he said. "For individual users, who are not otherwise restricted by U.S. economic sanctions, GitHub currently offers limited restricted services to users in these countries and territories. This includes limited access to GitHub public repository services for personal communications only," it says.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's future-plans department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A new report from The Wall Street Journal shares some of the proposals for Saudi Arabia's biggest megaproject yet: a city built in the desert named Neom, where robots will outnumber humans and hologram teachers will educate genetically-enhanced students. These are only proposals, of course, dreamt up by American consulting firms like McKinsey and Boston Consulting who have no incentive to bring Saudi leaders down to Earth. But all the same, they give you a flavor of what trillions of dollars of oil wealth will do to your sense of proportion.
The whole Neom project is undeniably fascinating. It was first announced in 2017, with Saudi Arabia's de-facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying he wants the city to attract the "world's greatest minds and best talents." According to planning documents reported by the WSJ, bin Salman "envisions Neom the largest city globally by GDP, and wanted to understand what he can get with up to 500 billion USD investment." The project is the flagpole of Saudi Arabia's plans to diversify the country's economy away from oil. MBS and other Saudi leaders known this source of revenue can't last forever, and they're keen to develop cities like Neom as new commercial hubs. As currently planned, Neom will occupy a region the size of Massachusetts. This will include a huge coastal urban sprawl; outlying towns and villages; advance manufacturing hubs in industries like biotech and robotics; and links with international shipping routes. Early building work has already begun, with facilities including a new airport and palace. Some of the key features of the city include cloud seeding to make it rain, dystopian surveillance to keep citizens safe, genetic engineering to increase human strength and IQ, robot cage fights and "maids," flying taxis, and even a fake moon that could perhaps be created by a fleet of drones or via live-streaming images from space.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's processor-shootout department
MojoKid writes: AMD's new Ryzen 3000 processors can boost as high as 4.6 GHz, a notable bump over previous Ryzen models, but what about AMD's purported Instructions Per Cycle (IPC) gains? Has AMD's Zen 2 architecture finally caught up to Intel's Coffee Lake-based Core series processors in terms of IPC? To prove this out, HotHardware pitted a 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X against Intel's 8-core Core i9-9900K in an array of tests, with both chips locked at 4GHz across all cores and four of the Ryzen CPU cores (or 2 CCXs) disabled (save for a couple of instances to show MT scaling). This allowed AMD's fastest Zen 2-based CPU, with its full 64MB L3 cache complement, to compete against Intel's current fastest desktop chip at identical clock speeds. A series of single-threaded benchmarks were run, in addition to some standard games tests, which are lightly multithreaded. The Intel and AMD multi-core processors essentially traded blows across a number of tests, but Intel won more often than not. The blue team notched IPC wins in SANDRA's Dhrystone integer tests, Geekbench, POV-Ray, LAME MT, and the gaming tests. AMD stole single-threaded victories in SANDRA's Whetstone FPU tests, Cinebench, and Y-Cruncher. While not an outright win for AMD, the company has obviously worked hard to improve 3rd Gen Ryzen IPC throughput, while its multi-core scaling is downright impressive.Read Replies (0)