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Billionaire Donors Lavish Millions On Code.org Crowdfunding Project

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 22:48
theodp (442580) writes "Whether it's winning yacht races, assembling the best computer science faculty, or even dominating high school basketball, billionaires like to win. Which may help explain why three tech billionaires — Code.org backers (and FWD.us founders) Mark Zuckerberg, VC John Doerr, and Sean Parker — stepped up to the plate and helped out Code.org's once-anemic Hour of Code Indiegogo crowdfunding project with $500k donations. When matched by Code.org's largest donors (Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman and others), the three donations alone raised $3,000,000, enough to reach the organization's goal of becoming the most funded crowdfunding campaign ever on Indiegogo. On its campaign page, Code.org remarked that "to sustain our organization for the long haul, we need to engage parents and community members," which raises questions about how reliant the K-12 learn-to-code movement might be on the kindness of its wealthy corporate and individual donors. Code.org started shedding some light on its top donors a few months back, but contributor names are blank in the 2013 IRS 990 filing posted by the organization on its website, although GuideStar suggests the biggest contributors in 2013 were Microsoft ($3,149,411) and Code.org founders Hadi and Ali Partovi ($1,873,909 in Facebook stock). Coincidentally, in a Reddit AMA at Code.org's launch, CEO and Founder Hadi Partovi noted that his next-door-neighbor is Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, whose FWD.us bio notes is responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work. Just months before Code.org and FWD.us emerged on the lobbying scene, Smith announced Microsoft's National Talent Strategy, which called for "an increase in developing the American STEM pipeline in exchange for these new [H-1B] visas and green cards," a wish that President Obama is expected to grant shortly via executive action."

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Longtime Debian Developer Tollef Fog Heen Resigns From Systemd Maintainer Team

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 21:51
An anonymous reader writes Debian developer Tollef Fog Heen submitted his resignation to the Debian Systemd package maintainers team mailing list today (Sun. Nov. 16th, 2014). In his brief post, he praises the team, but claims that he cannot continue to contribute due to the "load of continued attacks...becoming just too much." Presumably, he is referring to the heated and, at times, even vitriolic criticism of Debian's adoption of Systemd as the default init system for its upcoming Jessie release from commenters inside and outside of the Debian community. Currently, it is not known if Tollef will cease contributing to Debian altogether. A message from his twitter feed indicates that he may blog about his departure in the near future.

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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With VoIP Fraud/Phishing Scams?

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 20:55
An anonymous reader writes I run the IT department for a medium-sized online retailer, and we own a set of marketing toll-free numbers that route to our VoIP system for sales. Yesterday we began receiving dozens and now hundreds of calls from non-customers claiming that we're calling out from our system and offering them $1 million in prizes and asking for their checking account details (a classic phishing scheme). After verifying that our own system wasn't compromised, we realized that someone was spoofing the Caller ID of our company on a local phone number, and then they were forwarding call-backs to their number to one of our 1-800 numbers. We contacted the registered provider of the scammer's phone number, Level3, but they haven't been able to resolve the issue yet and have left the number active (apparently one of their sub-carriers owns it). At this point, the malicious party is auto-dialing half of the phone book in the DC metro area and it's causing harm to our business reputation. Disabling our inbound 800 number isn't really possible due to the legitimate marketing traffic. Do you have any suggestions?

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After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 19:43
The Associated Press reports on one happy consequence of the inevitable shutdown of the Philae lander, after its incredible landing on Rosetta: the team that was in control of the lander here on earth finally gets to take a well-deserved break, after four nearly sleepless days and nights. It seems unlikely -- though it's not impossible -- that Philae will get enough solar energy to briefly wake up again; its bouncy landing and harpoon malfunction mean that the craft is in shadow rather than the sunlight that it was hoped to bask in. From CNN: Originally, it was supposed to have seven hours of light per comet day -- which lasts just 12.4 hours. Now it is exposed only 1.5 hours a day. That's likely not enough to juice up Philae's rechargeable secondary battery, ESA said. There is one last hope. "Mission controllers sent commands to rotate the lander's main body, to which the solar panels are fixed," ESA says in on its blog. "This may have exposed more panel area to sunlight."

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Open Source Self-Healing Software For Virtual Machines

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 18:46
An anonymous reader writes Computer scientists have developed Linux based software that not only detects and eradicates never-before-seen viruses and other malware, but also automatically repairs damage caused by them. If a virus or attack stops the service, A3 could repair it in minutes without having to take the servers down. The software then prevents the invader from ever infecting the computer again. "It's pretty cool when you can pick the Bug of the Week and it works." (Here's a paper with more details.)

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MARS, Inc: We Are Running Out of Chocolate

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 18:04
schwit1 writes There's no easy way to say this: You're eating too much chocolate, all of you. And it's getting so out of hand that the world could be headed towards a potentially disastrous (if you love chocolate) scenario if it doesn't stop. ... Chocolate deficits, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm. Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. It also looks like deficits aren't just carrying over from year-to-year—the industry expects them to grow. Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. By 2020, the two chocolate-makers warn that that number could swell to 1 million metric tons, a more than 14-fold increase; by 2030, they think the deficit could reach 2 million metric tons.

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Apple Disables Trim Support On 3rd Party SSDs In OS X

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 17:44
MojoKid (1002251) writes One of the disadvantages to buying an Apple system is that it generally means less upgrade flexibility than a system from a traditional PC OEM. Over the last few years, Apple has introduced features and adopted standards that made using third-party hardware progressively more difficult. Now, with OS X 10.10 Yosemite, the company has taken another step down the path towards total vendor lock-in and effectively disabled support for third-party SSDs. We say "effectively" because while third-party SSDs will still work, they'll no longer perform the TRIM garbage collection command. Being able to perform TRIM and clean the SSD when its sitting idle is vital to keeping the drive at maximum performance. Without it, an SSD's real world performance will steadily degrade over time. What Apple did with OS X 10.10 is introduce KEXT (Kernel EXTension) driver signing. KEXT signing means that at boot, the OS checks to ensure that all drivers are approved and enabled by Apple. It's conceptually similar to the device driver checks that Windows performs at boot. However, with OS X, if a third-party SSD is detected, the OS will detect that a non-approved SSD is in use, and Yosemite will refuse to load the appropriate TRIM-enabled driver.

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GTK+ Developers Call For Help To Finish Cross-Platform OpenGL Support

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 16:29
jones_supa writes OpenGL support under GTK is getting into good shape for providing a nice, out-of-the-box experience by default on key platforms for the GTK+ 3.16 / GNOME 3.16 release in March. For a few weeks now within mainline GTK+ has been native OpenGL support and as part of that a new GtkGLArea widget for allowing OpenGL drawing within GTK applications. Since that initial work landed, there's been more GTK+ OpenGL code progressing that right now primarily benefits Linux X11 and Wayland users. While good progress is being made and improvements still ongoing to the GNOME toolkit, GNOME developers are requesting help in ensuring other GTK+ backends can benefit from this OpenGL support. If you are using or planning to use GTK+ 3 on Windows or OS X, and you know how to use OpenGL on those two platforms, please consider helping out the GTK+ developers by implementing the GdkGLContext API using WGL and AppleGL.

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Can the US Actually Cultivate Local Competition in Broadband?

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 15:32
New submitter riskkeyesq writes with a link to a blog post from Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic.net, about what Jasper sees as the deepest problem in the U.S. broadband market and the Internet in general: "There are a number of threats to the Internet as a system for innovation, commerce and education today. They include net neutrality, the price of Internet access in America, performance, rural availability and privacy. But none of these are the root issue, they're just symptoms. The root cause of all of these symptoms is a disease: a lack of competition for consumer Internet access." Soft landings for former legislators, lobbyists disguised as regulators, hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber sitting unused, the sham that is the internet provider free market is keeping the US in a telecommunications third-world. What, exactly, can American citizens do about it? One upshot,iIn Jasper's opinion (hardly disinterested, is his role at CEO at an ISP that draws praise from the EFF for its privacy policies) is this: "Today’s FCC should return to the roots of the Telecom Act, and reinforce the unbundling requirements, assuring that they are again technology neutral. This will create an investment ladder to facilities for competitive carriers, opening access to build out and serve areas that are beyond our reach today."

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For Some Would-Be Google Glass Buyers and Devs, Delays May Mean Giving Up

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 14:27
ErnieKey writes with a Reuters story that says Google's Glass, not yet out for general purchase, has been wearing on the patience of both developers and would-be customers: "After an initial burst of enthusiasm, signs that consumers are giving up on Glass have been building.' Is it true that Google Goggles are simply not attractive to wear? Or perhaps it's the invasion of privacy that is deterring people from wearing them. Regardless, Google needs to change something quickly before they lose all their potential customers. From the article: Of 16 Glass app makers contacted, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects. Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official website include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter. "If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There's no market at this point," said Tom Frencel, the chief executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including the Facebook-owned virtual-reality goggles Oculus Rift. Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.

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Machine Learning Used To Predict Military Suicides

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 13:26
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes David Wagner writes that a predictive computer model using machine learning methods is helping to identify soldiers in the United States Army most likely to commit suicide. Computers combed through data on more than 40,000 soldiers who'd been hospitalized for mental health problems looking at 421 variables on each soldier drawn from 38 military data systems. Using a method known as "machine learning," the researchers identified roughly two dozen factors that are most important in predicting soldiers most likely to commit suicide. The soldiers most likely to take their own lives were men with past suicidal behavior and a history of psychiatric disorders and criminal offenses, including weapons possession and verbal assaults. Soldiers with hearing loss also faced heightened risk — a strong indicator that they had suffered a head injury. So did enlisting in the Army after age 27, most likely because those soldiers had already experienced trouble finding their way in life. "There's this group that comes to the Army later in life — they're smart, they have skills, they tend not to be married and they have no career or have left a career to join," Dr. Kessler said. "We don't know why they should be at higher risk, but they appear to be." Murray Stein, co-author of the new study, found that among soldiers recently discharged from psychiatric hospitals, more than half of suicides were committed by just five percent of patients. "The most impressive thing is that they identified this high-risk group in the hospital, and by just focusing on one in 20 of them, you're really dramatically improving your ability to predict," says Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who was not involved in the study. "Clinicians don't do a very good job predicting suicide risk, even though we think we do."

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3D Printed Art Smaller Than an Ant's Forehead

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 10:25
ErnieKey (3766427) writes Artist Jonty Hurwitz has created the world's smallest sculptures: nanosculptures, no wider than a human hair and unable to be seen without an electron microscope, created using a specialized 3D printing process. Hurwitz says this project was 'Art, literally created with Quantum Physics.' While this seems quite a claim, it seems to be very well deserved. Hurwitz enlisted a team of approximately 15 people to help him bring his vision to life. After scanning his models in a 200-camera array, the sculptures were printed — with advice from the Weizmann Institute of Science — using a 3D print technique by the Institute of Microstructure Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, with multiphoton lithography used for the fine detail work.

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How To Anesthetize an Octopus

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 07:28
sciencehabit writes Researchers have figured out how to anesthetize octopuses so the animals do not feel pain while being transported and handled during scientific experiments. In a study published online this month in the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, researchers report immersing 10 specimens of the common octopus in seawater with isoflurane, an anesthetic used in humans. They gradually increased the concentration of the substance from 0.5% to 2%. The investigators found that the animals lost the ability to respond to touch and their color paled, which means that their normal motor coordination of color regulation by the brain was lost, concluding that the animals were indeed anesthetized. The octopuses then recovered from the anesthesia within 40 to 60 minutes of being immersed in fresh seawater without the anesthetic, as they were able to respond to touch again and their color was back to normal.

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Low Cost Ground Robot Chassis That Can Traverse Challenging Obstacles

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 04:26
Hallie Siegel writes In order for a robot to be useful in our world, it must be able to traverse unpredictable obstacles, including stairs. But currently available robot chassis tend to be either too small or extremely expensive, and most platform kits cannot leave a controlled environment – a huge problem for makers who want to get outside the lab or workshop. This has been an extremely hard problem for roboticists to solve, but the Ground Drone Project wants to change all that with its low-cost ground robot chassis. Check out this innovative design. (Currently, the project is raising money through Kickstarter; if it succeeds, "the instructions and bill of materials will be available for all.")

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Visual Studio 2015 Supports CLANG and Android (Emulator Included)

Sun, 16/11/2014 - 01:43
Billly Gates (198444) writes "What would be unthinkable a decade ago is Visual Studio supporting W3C HTML and CSS and now apps on other platforms. Visual Studio 2015 preview is available for download which includes support for LLVM/Clang, Android development, and even Linux development with Mono using Xamarin. A little more detail is here. A tester also found support for Java, ANT, SQL LITE, and WebSocket4web. We see IE improving in terms of more standards and Visual Studio Online even supports IOS and MacOSX development. Is this a new Microsoft emerging? In any case it is nice to have an alternative to Google tools for Android development."

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US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer

Sat, 15/11/2014 - 23:34
dcblogs writes U.S. officials Friday announced plans to spend $325 million on two new supercomputers, one of which may eventually be built to support speeds of up to 300 petaflops. The U.S. Department of Energy, the major funder of supercomputers used for scientific research, wants to have the two systems – each with a base speed of 150 petaflops – possibly running by 2017. Going beyond the base speed to reach 300 petaflops will take additional government approvals. If the world stands still, the U.S. may conceivably regain the lead in supercomputing speed from China with these new systems. How adequate this planned investment will look three years from now is a question. Lawmakers weren't reading from the same script as U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz when it came to assessing the U.S.'s place in the supercomputing world. Moniz said the awards "will ensure the United States retains global leadership in supercomputing." But Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) put U.S. leadership in the past tense. "Supercomputing is one of those things that we can step up and lead the world again," he said.

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AT&T Stops Using 'Super Cookies' To Track Cellphone Data

Sat, 15/11/2014 - 22:35
jriding (1076733) writes AT&T Mobility, the nation's second-largest cellular provider, says it's no longer attaching hidden Internet tracking codes to data transmitted from its users' smartphones. The practice made it nearly impossible to shield its subscribers' identities online. Would be nice to hear something similar from Verizon.

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Alleged Satellite Photo Says Ukraine Shootdown of MH17

Sat, 15/11/2014 - 21:36
theshowmecanuck (703852) writes A group calling itself the Russian Union of Engineers has published a photograph, picked up by many news organizations (just picked one, Google it yourself to find more), claiming to show that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter plane. The interesting thing is the very quick ad hoc crowd sourced debunking of the photograph using tools from Google maps, online photos/data, to their own domain knowledge backed up with the previous information. It would be interesting to understand who the "Russian Union of Engineers" are and why they in particular were chosen to release this information.

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Real Steampunk Computer Brought Back To Life

Sat, 15/11/2014 - 20:36
New submitter engineerguy writes We discovered a 100 year old 19th century computer that does Fourier analysis with just gears spring and levers. It was locked in a glass case at the University of Illinois Department of Mathematics. We rebuilt a small part of the machine and then for two years thoroughly photographed and filmed every part part of the machine and its operation. The results of this labor of love are in the video series (short documentary), which is 22 minutes long and contains stunning footage of the machine in action — including detailed descriptions of how it operates. The photos are collected in a free book (pdf) . The computer was designed by Albert Michelson, who was famous for the Michelson-Morley experiment; he was also the first American to win a Nobel Prize in physics.

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Former Police Officer Indicted For Teaching How To Pass a Polygraph Test

Sat, 15/11/2014 - 19:41
George Maschke (699175) writes On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment (2.6 mb PDF) of Douglas Gene Williams, a 69-year-old former Oklahoma City police polygraphist turned anti-polygraph activist for teaching two undercover agents posing as federal law enforcement applicants how to pass (or beat) a polygraph test. Williams offers instruction on how to pass polygraph tests through his website, Polygraph.com, which remains online. Marisa Taylor of McClatchy, who has been covering polygraph policy issues for several years, has written an informative report. This appears to be a case where an individual was targeted for criminal prosecution to suppress speech that the U.S. government dislikes. AntiPolygraph.org, which may also have been the target of an attempted entrapment, has a commentary.

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