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Updated: 1 hour 27 min ago

How Facebook Is Influencing Who Will Win the Next Election

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 10:13
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Forbes: [Facebook] announced yesterday that it was shutting down a feature that the Obama campaign used in 2012 to register over a million voters. During the election supporters shared access to their list of Facebook friends list with the campaign through an app. Researchers have found that while people view often political messages with skepticism, they are more receptive and trusting when the information is coming from somebody they know. The feature was credited with boosting Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts which were crucial to his victory, but Facebook has decided to disable this ability in order to (rightfully) protect users from third-party apps collecting too much of their information. The company insists that it favors no particular ideology and that its efforts are “neutral.” The first part is likely true, but the second is not possible. The company’s algorithms take into account a proprietary mix of our own biases, connections, and interests combined with Facebook’s business priorities; that is the farthest thing from neutral. Facebook says it just want to encourage “civic participation,” but politically mobilizing the subsection of people that are on their network is not without its own impacts.

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Fish Tagged For Research Become Lunch For Gray Seals

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 08:34
sciencehabit writes: When scientists slap an acoustic tag on a fish, they may be inadvertently helping seals find their next meal. The tags — rods a few centimeters long that give off a ping that can be detected from up to a kilometer away — are often used to follow fish for studies on their migration, hunting, or survival rates. Researchers working with 10 gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) who were captive for a year have now reported that the animals can learn to associate the pings with food. If the findings hold true in the wild, the authors warn, they could skew the results of studies trying to analyze fish survival rates or predation.

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UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 07:14
Bizzeh writes: A British couple has been "fined" £100 by a Blackpool hotel for leaving critical comments on Trip Advisor. The UK's Trading Standards organization is investigating the incident, saying it may breach regulations. The Broadway Hotel's booking policy reads (in small print), "Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. "For every bad review left on any website, the group organizer will be charged a maximum £100 per review."

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Nokia's N1 Android Tablet Is Actually a Foxconn Tablet

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 05:19
sfcrazy writes: "Nokia surprised everyone when it announced the N1 Android tablet during the Slush conference in Finland, today. This story has a twist, though: the N1 is not a Nokia device. Nokia doesn't have a device unit anymore: it sold its Devices and Services business to Microsoft in 2013. The N1 is made by Chinese contract manufacturing company Foxconn, which also manufactures the iPhone and the iPad. But Nokia's relationship with Foxconn is different from Apple's. You buy iDevices from Apple, not Foxconn; you call Apple for support, not Foxconn. You never deal with Foxconn. In the case of N1, Foxconn will be handling the sales, distribution, and customer care for the device. Nokia is licensing the brand, the industrial design, the Z Launcher software layer, and the IP on a running royalty basis to Foxconn.

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City of Toronto Files Court Injunction Against Uber

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 03:26
Sebolains writes: The city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada has filed a court injunction on Uber Canada Inc. today that requests for all operations in the city to cease. Uber has been operating there since 2012 without a license from the city, and so officials are concerned that Uber's operations pose a risk to both drivers and riders. How quickly this will happen, we don't know, but the city has asked the courts to be expedient in hearing this application.

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Rooftop Solar Could Reach Price Parity In the US By 2016

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 01:10
Lucas123 writes: The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices of coal-powered energy and other conventional sources in all 50 U.S. states in just two years, a leap from today where PV energy has price parity in only 10 states, according to Deutsche Bank's leading solar industry analyst. The sharp decline in solar energy costs is the result of increased economies of scale leading to cheaper photovoltaic panels, new leasing models and declining installation costs, Deutsche Bank's Vishal Shah stated in a recent report. The cost of solar-generated electricity in the top 10 states for capacity ranges from 11-15 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh), compared to the retail electricity price of 11-37 c/kWh. Amit Ronen, a former Congressional staffer behind legislation that created an investment tax credit for solar installations, said one of the only impediments to decreasing solar electricity prices are fees proposed by utilities on customers who install solar and take advantage of net metering, or the ability to sell excess power back to utilities.

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Elusive Dark Matter May Be Detected With GPS Satellites

Wed, 19/11/2014 - 00:27
An anonymous reader writes: Two researchers say time disparities identified through the network of satellites that make up our modern GPS infrastructure can help detect dark matter. In a paper in the online version of the scientific journal Nature Physics, they write that dark matter may be organized as a large gas-like collection of topological defects, or energy cracks. "We propose to detect the defects, the dark matter, as they sweep through us with a network of sensitive atomic clocks. The idea is, where the clocks go out of synchronization, we would know that dark matter, the topological defect, has passed by." Another reader adds this article about research into dark energy: The particles of the standard model, some type of dark matter and dark energy, and the four fundamental forces. That's all there is, right? But that might not be the case at all. Dark energy may not simply be the energy inherent to space itself, but rather a dynamical property that emerges from the Universe: a sort of fifth force. This is speculation that's been around for over a decade, but there hasn't been a way to test it until now. If this is the case, it may be accessible and testable by simply using presently existing vacuum chamber technology

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NYT: Privacy Concerns For ClassDojo, Other Tracking Apps For Schoolchildren

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 23:45
theodp writes: The NY Times' Natasha Singer files a report on popular and controversial behavior tracking app ClassDojo, which teachers use to keep a running tally of each student's score, award virtual badges for obedience, and to communicate with parents about their child's progress. "I like it because you get rewarded for your good behavior — like a dog does when it gets a treat," was one third grader's testimonial. Some parents, teachers and privacy law scholars say ClassDojo (investors) — along with other unproven technologies that record sensitive information about students — is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness. "ClassDojo," writes Singer, "does not seek explicit parental consent for teachers to log detailed information about a child's conduct. Although the app's terms of service state that teachers who sign up guarantee that their schools have authorized them to do so, many teachers can download ClassDojo, and other free apps, without vetting by school supervisors. Neither the New York City nor Los Angeles school districts, for example, keep track of teachers independently using apps." A high school teacher interviewed for the article confessed to having not read ClassDojo's policies on handling student data, saying: "I'm one of those people who, when the terms of service are 18 pages, I just click agree." And, if all this doesn't make you parents just a tad nervous, check out this response to the "Has anyone ran a data analysis on their CD data?" question posed to the Class Dojo Community: "I needed to analyze data in regards to a student being placed on ADHD medicine to see whether or not he made any improvements. I have also used it to determine any behavioral changes depending on if a student was with mom/dad for a custody review. I use dojo consistently, so I LOVE getting to use the data to evaluate and share with parents, or even administrators."

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Player-Run MMORPG By Former Ultima Online Devs Finding Kickstarter Success

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 23:03
An anonymous reader writes: Shards Online has returned to Kickstarter with a refocused plan and a promise to match pledges dollar-for-dollar up to their goal. With just a week gone by, they have already reached 75% of their goal. Project Lead Derek Brinkmann says, "If Ultima Online and Neverwinter Nights had a love child, Shards Online would be the result. By combining the persistent virtual world of Ultima Online with the freedom of community run servers and the ability to act as a dungeonmaster in Neverwinter Nights, we are creating a paradise for roleplayers where you are no longer constrained by the rules handed to you by the development team." The team now has their sights set on their stretch goals like more animations for roleplayers and an extra game world to be released at Alpha.

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Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 22:20
This is not a practical bike. "Even on smooth pavement, your vision goes blurry because you're vibrating so hard," Collin said to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter back in 2012 when he was only 15 -- and already building wooden bicycles. Collin's wooden bikes are far from the first ones. Wikipedia says, "The first bicycles recorded, known variously as velocipedes, dandy horses, or hobby horses, were constructed from wood, starting in 1817." And not all wooden bicycles made today are as crude as Collin's. A Portland (OR) company called Renovo makes competition-quality hardwood bicycle frames -- for as little as $2200, and a bunch more for a complete bike with all its hardware fitted and ready to roll. Of course, while it might be sensible to buy a Renovo product if you want a wood-framed bike to Race Across America, you won't improve your woodworking skills the way Collin's projects have improved his to the point where he's made a nice-looking pair of wood-framed sunglasses described in his WOOD YOU? SHOULD YOU? blog. (Alternate Video Link)

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Chrome 39 Launches With 64-bit Version For Mac OS X and New Developer Features

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 21:38
An anonymous reader writes "Google today released Chrome 39 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The biggest addition in this release is 64-bit support for OS X, which first arrived in Chrome 38 beta. Unlike on Windows, where 32-bit and 64-bit versions will both continue to be available (users currently have to opt-in to use the 64-bit release), Chrome for Mac is now only available in 64-bit. There are also a number of security fixes and developer features. Here's the full changelog.

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Ask Slashdot: Professionally Packaged Tools For Teaching Kids To Program?

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 20:56
Binestar writes: I've been doing IT consulting for years, but I'm not a programmer beyond bash scripting, perl scripts to make administration easier, and batch files to make Windows easier. I recently found an online course for modding Minecraft that my 9-year-old daughter is really enjoying (she built a custom sword that shoots lightning). Does anyone have any recommendations on online courses that would be age appropriate and worth the investment? It's been easy to get her interested in the Minecraft modding course because, as any parent with young children knows, Minecraft is kinda popular... The course she's taking now is teaching her Eclipse and Gimp, and I'm sure there are other tools installed that they haven't had her open yet. What other vendors have stuff worth introducing her to? I've also started looking at things like the Kano and Learn to Mod, but as a non-programmer, I'm not really sure which are most useful for introduction and which are accomplishing what they claim vs. being a waste of money/time. Anyone have experience or suggestions to help sort this out?

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Laser Creates Quantum Whirlpool

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 20:15
Quantus347 writes: Physicists at The Australian National Univ. (ANU) have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. Polaritons are hybrid particles that have properties of both matter and light. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser- and fiber-based technologies. Polaritons form in semiconductors when laser light interacts with electrons and holes (positively charged vacancies) so strongly that it is no longer possible to distinguish light from matter.

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Launching 2015: a New Certificate Authority To Encrypt the Entire Web

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 19:31
Peter Eckersley writes: Today EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, and Akamai announced a forthcoming project called Let's Encrypt. Let's Encrypt will be a certificate authority that issues free certificates to any website, using automated protocols (demo video here). Launching in summer 2015, we believe this will be the missing piece that deprecates the woefully insecure HTTP protocol in favor of HTTPS.

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US Marshals Auctioning $20M Worth of Silk Road's Bitcoins

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 18:48
coondoggie writes: The U.S. Marshals office says it will auction off almost 50,000 bitcoins (about $20 million worth) seized from alleged Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht. The auction, which is the second sale of Silk Road's bitcoin collection, will take place during a 6-hour period on Dec. 4 from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. EST. Bids will be accepted by email from pre-registered bidders only, the U.S. Marshals office said. In June more than $17 million in bitcoins seized from the Silk Road take-down were auctioned off.

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Major Brain Pathway Rediscovered After Century-old Confusion, Controversy

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 18:06
vinces99 writes A couple of years ago a scientist looking at dozens of MRI scans of human brains noticed something surprising: A large fiber pathway that seemed to be part of the network of connections that process visual information that wasn't mentioned in any modern-day anatomy textbooks. "It was this massive bundle of fibers, visible in every brain I examined," said Jason Yeatman, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "... As far as I could tell, it was absent from the literature and from all major neuroanatomy textbooks.'"With colleagues at Stanford University, Yeatman started some detective work to figure out the identity of that mysterious fiber bundle. The researchers found an early 20th century atlas that depicted the structure, now known as the vertical occipital fasciculus. But the last time that atlas had been checked out was 1912, meaning the researchers were the first to view the images in the last century. They describes the history and controversy of the elusive pathway in a paper published Nov. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You'd think that we'd have found all the parts of the human body by now, but not necessarily.

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Interviews: Ask Malcolm Gladwell a Question

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 17:25
Malcolm Gladwell is a speaker, author, and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. Gladwell's writing often focuses on research in the social sciences and the unexpected connections or theories made from such research. His books: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Outliers: The Story of Success, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants are all New York Times best sellers. Malcolm has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any question you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

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Crowdfunded Linux Voice Magazine Releases First Issue CC-BY-SA

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 16:39
M-Saunders (706738) writes Linux Voice, the crowdfunded GNU/Linux magazine that Slashdot has covered previously, had two goals at its launch: to give 50% of its profits back to the community after one year, and release each issue's contents under the Creative Commons after nine months. Well, it's been nine months since issue 1, so the whole thing is now online and free to share. Readers and supporters have also made audio versions of articles, for listening to on the commute to work.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop Update Performance Explored

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 15:56
MojoKid writes Last week, NVIDIA offered information regarding its Android Lollipop update for the SHIELD Tablet and also revealed a new game bundle for it. This week, NVIDIA gave members of the press early access to the Lollipop update and it will also be rolling out to the general public sometime later today. Some of the changes are subtle, but others are more significant and definitely give the tablet a different look and feel over the original Android KitKat release. Android Lollipop introduces a new "material design" that further flattens out the look of the OS. Google seems to have taken a more minimalist approach as everything from the keyboard to the settings menus have been cleaned up considerably. Many parts of the interface don't have any markings except for the absolute necessities. While the OS definitely feels more fluid and responsive, the default look isn't always better, depending on your personal view. The app tray for example has a plain, white background which looks kind of jarring if you've using a colorful background. And finding the proper touch points for things like a settings menu or clearing notifications isn't always clear. Performance-wise, NVIDIA's Shield Tablet showed significantly better performance on Lollipop for general compute tasks in benchmarks like Mobile XPRT but lagged behind Kit Kat in graphics performance slightly, which could be attributed to driver optimization.

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Microsoft Releases Out-of-Band Security Patch For Windows

Tue, 18/11/2014 - 15:15
mrspoonsi writes Microsoft has announced today that they will be pushing an out-of-band security patch today. The patch, which affects nearly all of the company's major platforms, is rated 'critical' and it is recommended that you install the patch immediately. The patch is rated 'critical' because it allows for elevation of privileges and will require a restart. The platforms that are affected include: Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows RT and Windows RT 8.1 and Windows 10 Technical Preview customers are affected, too.

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