Slashdot

Subscribe to Slashdot feed Slashdot
News for nerds, stuff that matters
Updated: 3 days 23 hours ago

The Ethical Dilemmas Today's Programmers Face

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 23:15
snydeq (1272828) writes "As software takes over more of our lives, the ethical ramifications of decisions made by programmers only become greater. Unfortunately, the tech world has always been long on power and short on thinking about the long-reaching effects of this power. More troubling: While ethics courses have become a staple of physical-world engineering degrees, they remain a begrudging anomaly in computer science pedagogy. Now that our code is in refrigerators, thermostats, smoke alarms, and more, the wrong moves, a lack of foresight, or downright dubious decision-making can haunt humanity everywhere it goes. Peter Wayner offers a look at just a few of the ethical quandaries confronting developers every day. 'Consider this less of a guidebook for making your decisions and more of a starting point for the kind of ethical contemplation we should be doing as a daily part of our jobs.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 22:34
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Paul Monies reports at NewsOK that Oklahoma's legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. 'Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service,' says John Aziz. 'Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand.' The state's major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn't provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. 'If there's something wrong with their panel or it's really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it's going to be there for them,' O'Shea said. 'We just want to make sure they're paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost.' The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry's research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). 'When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.''"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








The Limits of Big Data For Social Engineering

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 18:51
An anonymous reader writes "In his new book, Social Physics, MIT data scientist Alex 'Sandy' Pentland argues that by analyzing data from smartphones, social media, and credit-card systems, we'll soon be able to have a mathematical understanding of 'the basic mechanisms of social interactions.' Social scientists will be able to understand and predict the interactions of people the way physicists understand and predict the interactions of objects. That will, in turn, enable governments and businesses to create incentive systems to 'tune' people's behavior, making society more productive and creative. In a review of Pentland's book in Technology Review, Nicholas Carr argues that such data-based social engineering 'will tend to perpetuate existing social structures and dynamics' and 'encourage us to optimize the status quo rather than challenge it.' Carr writes, 'Defining social relations as a pattern of stimulus and response makes the math easier, but it ignores the deep, structural sources of social ills. Pentland may be right that our behavior is determined largely by social norms and the influences of our peers, but what he fails to see is that those norms and influences are themselves shaped by history, politics, and economics, not to mention power and prejudice.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Venus' Crust Heals Too Fast For Plate Tectonics

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 16:40
An anonymous reader writes in with an interesting look at how important plate tectonics may be to life and why the crust on Venus works differently than it does on Earth. "Without plate tectonics, carbon would build up in the atmosphere. Venus, which does not have tectonics, shows the results: an atmosphere that is 96 percent carbon dioxide. It's toxic. Yet Venus is about the same size and composition as our planet, so why doesn't it have plate tectonics? Some researchers made a model to explore how Earth initiated plate movements, and these same researchers made one model of its neighbor for comparison. A 1.5-billion-year-old Earth and a similarly aged Venus were modeled as a hot, mushy material made of tiny particles of rock. The model uses physics at the one-millimeter rock grain scale to explain how the whole planet behaves. According to David Bercovici, a geophysicist at Yale who was an author on the paper, the model also shows how plate tectonics emerged on Earth but not on her twin."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Apple, Google Vying For Mobile Game Exclusivity

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 16:18
An anonymous reader writes "Here's an interesting look at the battle for mobile video game money between Google and Apple. 'Last August, for the launch of "Plants Vs. Zombies 2," a highly anticipated sequel to a popular zombie-survival strategy game, publisher Electronic Arts Inc. struck a deal with Apple, which promoted the game prominently in its App Store, according to people familiar with the matter. In exchange, one of these people said, EA agreed to give Apple about a two-month window of exclusivity for the title, which wasn't released on Google's Android software until October.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Heartbleed Pricetag To Top $500 Million?

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 15:58
darthcamaro (735685) writes "The Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability has dominated IT security headlines for two weeks now as the true impact the flaw and its reach is being felt. But what will all of this cost? One figure that has been suggested is $500 million, using the 2001 W.32 Nimda worm as a precedent. Is that number too low — or is it too high?"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








In a Hole, Golf Courses Experiment With 15-inch Holes

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 11:12
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "According to the National Golf Foundation, golf has lost five million players in the last decade with 20 percent of the existing 25 million golfers apt to quit in the next few years. Now Bill Pennington writes that golf courses across the country are experimenting with 15 inch golf holes the size of pizzas to stop people from quitting the game. "We've got to stop scaring people away from golf by telling them that there is only one way to play the game and it includes these specific guidelines," says Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America. "We've got to offer more forms of golf for people to try. We have to do something to get them into the fold, and then maybe they'll have this idea it's supposed to be fun." A 15-inch-hole event was held at the Reynolds Plantation resort last week featuring top professional golfers Sergio García and Justin Rose, the defending United States Open champion. "A 15-inch hole could help junior golfers, beginning golfers and older golfers score better, play faster and like golf more," says García, who shot a six-under-par 30 for nine holes in the exhibition. Another alternative is foot golf, in which players kick a soccer ball from the tee to an oversize hole, counting their kicks. Still it is no surprise that not everyone agrees with the burgeoning alternative movement to make golf more user-friendly. "I don't want to rig the game and cheapen it," says Curtis Strange, a two-time United States Open champion and an analyst for ESPN. "I don't like any of that stuff. And it's not going to happen either. It's all talk.""

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








General Mills Retracts "No Right to Sue" EULA Clause

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 07:59
Just a few days after General Mills changed its policies to declare that people who so much as "liked" their page on Facebook thereby waived their right to sue the company in favor of arbitration, the company has reversed itself: "The announcement resulted in huge backlash on social media, as well as from consumer groups. Legal experts expressed doubts it could ever be enforced. Hamline Law Professor David Schultz appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning. “When I first saw this earlier this week I said this is questionable at best from a legal point of view,” he said. “From a marketing point of view, it’s a dumb idea, too, but legally it didn’t rest on very sound grounds so it’s not a surprise that they are reversing it. The lawyers at General Mills should have known better.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Drones On Demand

Mon, 21/04/2014 - 04:50
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Gofor is a new company that is promoting the idea of drones on demand. All you have to do is use the app to request a drone and it shows you were they are and how long before one reaches your location. You want to take the ultimate selfie? Scout ahead to see if the road is clear or just find a parking space? No problem just task a drone to do the job. For the photo you simply flash your phone camera at it and it pinpoints your location for an aerial selfie. If it is scouting ahead then it shows you what awaits you via a video link. See the promo video to see how it might work. Flight of fancy? Possibly but the company claims to be operational in five US cities." I wish my car had a drone for instant scouting of traffic-jam alternates.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Why Portland Should Have Kept Its Water, Urine and All

Sun, 20/04/2014 - 22:12
Ars Technica has nothing good to say about the scientific understanding (or at least public understanding) that led Portland to drain 38 million gallons of water after a teenage prankster urinated into the city's water supply. Maybe SCADA systems shouldn't be quite as high on the list of dangers, when major utilities can be quite this brittle even without a high-skill attack.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








SpaceX Successfully Delivers Supplies To ISS

Sun, 20/04/2014 - 21:08
Reuters reports on the successful SpaceX-carried resupply mission to the ISS: "A cargo ship owned by Space Exploration Technologies arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, with a delivery of supplies and science experiments for the crew and a pair of legs for the experimental humanoid robot aboard that one day may be used in a spacewalk. Station commander Koichi Wakata used the outpost's 58-foot (18-meter) robotic crane to snare the Dragon capsule from orbit at 7:14 a.m. (1114 GMT), ending its 36-hour journey. ... "The Easter Dragon is knocking at the door," astronaut Randy Bresnik radioed to the crew from Mission Control in Houston. Space Exploration, known as SpaceX, had planned to launch its Dragon cargo ship in March, but was delayed by technical problems, including a two-week hold to replace a damaged U.S. Air Force radar tracking system."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Obama Delays Decision On Keystone Pipeline Yet Again

Sun, 20/04/2014 - 13:29
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Christian Science Monitor reports that once again, the Obama administration has pushed back a final decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline possibly delaying the final determination until after the November midterm elections. In announcing the delay, the State Department cited a Nebraska Supreme Court case that could affect the route of the pipeline that may not be decided until next year, as well as additional time needed to review 2.5 million public comments on the project. Both supporters and opponents of the pipeline criticized the delay as a political ploy. Democratic incumbents from oil-rich states have urged President Obama to approve the pipeline but approving the pipeline before the election could staunch the flow of money from liberal donors and fund-raisers who oppose the project. The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell said in a statement that "at a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it's a shame that the administration has delayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for years." Activists say its construction could devastate the environment, but several State Department reviews have concluded that the pipeline would be safe and was unlikely to significantly increase the rate of carbon pollution in the atmosphere. Even if the pipeline was canceled, it said, the oil sands crude was likely to be extracted and brought to market by other means, such as rail, and then processed and burned."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








OpenSSL Cleanup: Hundreds of Commits In a Week

Sun, 20/04/2014 - 11:37
New submitter CrAlt (3208) writes with this news snipped from BSD news stalwart undeadly.org: "After the news of heartbleed broke early last week, the OpenBSD team dove in and started axing it up into shape. Leading this effort are Ted Unangst (tedu@) and Miod Vallat (miod@), who are head-to-head on a pure commit count basis with both having around 50 commits in this part of the tree in the week since Ted's first commit in this area. They are followed closely by Joel Sing (jsing@) who is systematically going through every nook and cranny and applying some basic KNF. Next in line are Theo de Raadt (deraadt@) and Bob Beck (beck@) who've been both doing a lot of cleanup, ripping out weird layers of abstraction for standard system or library calls. ... All combined, there've been over 250 commits cleaning up OpenSSL. In one week.'" You can check out the stats, in progress.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Russia Writes Off 90 Percent of North Korea Debt

Sat, 19/04/2014 - 16:47
jones_supa (887896) writes "In Russia, the State Duma (lower house) on Friday ratified a 2012 agreement to write off the bulk of North Korea's debt. It said the total debt stood at $10.96 billion as of Sept. 17, 2012. Russia sees this lucrative in advancing the plans to build a gas pipe and railroad through North to South Korea. The rest of the debt, $1.09 billion, would be redeemed during the next 20 years, to be paid in equal installments every six months. The outstanding debt owed by North Korea will be managed by Russia's state development bank, Vnesheconombank. Moscow has been trying to diversify its energy sales to Asia away from Europe, which, in its turn, wants to cut its dependence on oil and gas from the erstwhile Cold War foe. Russia's state-owned top natural producer Gazprom is dreaming shipping 10 billion cubic meters of gas annually through the Koreas. Russia has written off debts to a number of impoverished Soviet-era allies, including Cuba. North Korea's struggling communist economy is just 2 percent of the size of neighboring South's."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








The Design Flaw That Almost Wiped Out an NYC Skyscraper

Sat, 19/04/2014 - 15:45
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Joel Werner writes in Slate that when Citicorp Center was built in 1977 it was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world but no one figured out until after it was built that although the chief structural engineer, William LeMessurier, had properly accounted for perpendicular winds, the building was particularly vulnerable to quartering winds — in part due to cost-saving changes made to the original plan by the contractor. "According to LeMessurier, in 1978 an undergraduate architecture student contacted him with a bold claim about LeMessurier's building: that Citicorp Center could blow over in the wind," writes Werner. "LeMessurier realized that a major storm could cause a blackout and render the tuned mass damper inoperable. Without the tuned mass damper, LeMessurier calculated that a storm powerful enough to take out the building hit New York every 16 years." In other words, for every year Citicorp Center was standing, there was about a 1-in-16 chance that it would collapse." (Read on for more.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








For $20, Build a VR Headset For Your Smartphone

Sat, 19/04/2014 - 13:31
An anonymous reader writes "Not everyone can drop a few hundred dollars on a VR headset, but that doesn't mean they can't experience VR! For those with the time and a bit of handiwork skill, this DIY guide from guest writer Ohaple will show you how to make a smartphone-based VR headset for as little as $20. Along the way, you'll learn the hardware and software basics of a VR headset." This project screams for a ready-made commercial version; does anyone know of existing purpose-built headgear? As one of the comments on the linked tutorial says, Poppy seems close, but lacks an LED for tracking.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Bookies Predict the Future of Tech

Sat, 19/04/2014 - 01:52
First time accepted submitter machineghost (622031) writes "It's one thing to make predictions about the future of tech; that happens all the time on Slashdot. But it's quite a different thing to put money on the line to back up those predictions, which is exactly what this British bookie has done. Think you know whether Google Glass will beat the iPhone, or whether we'll be ready to go to Mars and back by 2020? Now's your chance to capitalize on those predictions!" Or you could, y'know, invest money in at least some of them, and thereby increase their chances of succeeding.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Minerva CEO Details His High-Tech Plan To Disrupt Universities

Sat, 19/04/2014 - 00:32
waderoush (1271548) writes "In April 2012, former Snapfish CEO Ben Nelson provoked both praise and skepticism by announcing that he'd raised $25 million from venture firm Benchmark to start the Minerva Project, a new kind of university where students will live together but all class seminars will take place over a Google Hangouts-style video conferencing system. Two years later, there are answers – or the beginnings of answers – to many of the questions observers have raised about the project, on everything from the way the seminars will be organized to how much tuition the San Francisco-based university will charge and how it's gaining accreditation. And in an interview published today, Nelson share more details about how Minerva plans to use technology to improve teaching quality. 'If a student wants football and Greek life and not doing any work for class, they have every single Ivy League university to choose from,' Nelson says. 'That is not what we provide. Similarly, there are faculty who want to do research and get in front of a lecture hall and regurgitate the same lecture they've been giving for 20 years. We have a different model,' based on extensive faculty review of video recordings of the seminars, to make sure students are picking up key concepts. Last month Minerva admitted 45 students to its founding class, and in September it expects to welcome 19 of them to its Nob Hill residence hall."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Peoria Mayor Sends Police To Track Down Twitter Parodist

Fri, 18/04/2014 - 23:51
New submitter rotorbudd (1242864) writes with an article at Reason about Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, who ordered police to track down whoever was responsible for a parody Twitter account mocking him."Guess the good Mayor has never heard of the Streisand Effect. 'The original Twitter account had a total of 50 followers. The new account has over 200.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








California Utility May Replace IT Workers with H-1B Workers

Fri, 18/04/2014 - 23:09
dcblogs writes: "Southern California Edison is preparing to offshore IT jobs, the second major U.S. utility in the last year to do so. It will be cutting its staff, but it hasn't said by how much. The utility is using at least two offshore outsourcing firms, according to government records. SCE's management culture may be particularly primed for firing its IT workers. Following a workplace shooting in SCE's IT offices in 2011, the utility conducted an independent audit of its organizational and management culture. One observation in this report, which was completed a year later, was that 'employees perceive managers to be more concerned about how they 'look' from above, and less concerned about how they are viewed by their subordinates. This fosters an unhealthy culture and climate by sending a message to employees that it is more important to focus on how things look from the top than how they actually are down below.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Pages