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Cloudflare Has a New Plan To Fight Bots -- and Climate Change

Slashdot - 56 min 3 sec ago
Cloudflare is ratcheting up its fight against bots with a new "fight mode," which it says will frustrate and disincentivize bot operators from their malicious activity. From a report: Bots are notorious for scraping websites and abusing developer access to download gobs of user data. All too often bots try to game the system by scraping concert or airline ticket prices to buy in bulk at their lowest price and sell them off for higher. Worse, some imitate real users and brute-force their way into websites with lists of stolen passwords. Cloudflare gets three billion bot requests each day. Now the company said it's "decided to fight back." Its new "bot fight mode," which Cloudflare today enabled as a free opt-in feature for all accounts, will detect and serve bots with deliberately computationally intensive challenges. As the bot tries to crunch the impossible puzzle -- effectively a small bit of code only visible to the bot -- the bot's server will max out its processing power, churning up cloud resources and driving up costs for the bot operator. While the company says its efforts will dissuade bot activities in the long run, it recognizes its efforts in the short term will result in cloud servers working overtime, thus consuming more electricity and requiring more cooling -- all of which contribute to greater energy consumption.

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HBO Fends Off Streamers at Emmys While Other TV Networks Struggle

Slashdot - 1 hour 37 min ago
HBO managed to thwart competition from big streaming companies again Sunday night, taking home far more Emmy wins than any other network or streaming company. From a report: Other legacy cable and broadcast networks otherwise had a rough night. All other broadcast and cable networks combined nabbed 24 awards -- 10 fewer than HBO. HBO has been known for decades as the home to some of television's most prestigious content. But the premium cable network has faced stiffer competition in recent years from tech giants like Netflix and Amazon, which have poured billions of dollars into original content production for TV and film. Netflix made history last year by tying HBO in Emmy wins, putting an end to HBO's 17 year-long winning streak. HBO took home 37 wins, with 12 going to its blockbuster hit "Game of Thrones." The hit series, which ended this year, picked up a whopping 32 nominations. HBO's "Chernobyl" was a surprise winner of the evening, nabbing 12 awards. The final season of HBO's hit comedy series "Veep," however, was largely ignored by the major awards categories. Amazon's hit comedy series "Fleabag" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" took home 14 awards collectively. Final count: HBO: 34; Netflix: 27; Amazon: 15; National Geographic: 8; NBC: 7; CNN: 5; FX Networks: 5; CBS: 4; FOX: 4; and Hulu: 4.

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Challenging Facebook and Google, Apple's New OS Warns Users When Data Is Collected

Slashdot - 5 hours 3 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes Forbes: Apple's updated operating system will now show you how often your location has been recorded and by which apps. It will do this proactively via a pop up, which shows a map of where you have been tracked, including the option to allow or limit it. Previously, many apps were able to track you in the background without your knowledge. They were able to collect vast amounts of data on you, which they could use to target you with advertising. Along the same theme, another blow to apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp is a change in Apple's iOS 13 that will not allow messaging and calling apps to run in the background when the programs are not actively in use. Before, apps such as these were able to collect information on what you were doing on your device. People are certainly becoming more aware of the way their data is used, following incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In this context, many of the changes could be seen as a direct blow to Apple's rivals Google and Facebook: iOS 13 highlights their data collection practices and gives iPhone users the opportunity to stop them. In this way, it's an attack on Facebook and Google's business models. It's true: There are many apps that track you and collect data on you, and iOS 13 will affect all of these. But it is also worth considering the position that Apple holds in the market. When Apple speaks, people listen. Forbes concludes that these features in iOS 13 "could encourage even the most apathetic Apple users to care more about their privacy."

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Ask Slashdot: Could Climate Change Be Solved By Manipulating Photons in Space?

Slashdot - 8 hours 3 min ago
Slashdot reader dryriver writes: Most "solutions" to climate change center on reducing greenhouse gas emissions on Earth and using renewable energy where possible. What if you could work a bit closer to the root of the problem, by thinking about the problem as an excess number of photons traveling from the Sun to the Earth? Would it be completely physically impossible to place or project some kind of electrical or other field into space that alters the flight paths of photons -- which are energy packets -- that pass through it? What if you could make say 2% of photons that would normally hit the Earth miss the Earth, or at the very least enter Earth's atmosphere at an altered angle? Given that the fight against climate change will likely swallow hundreds of billions of dollars over the next years, is it completely unfeasible to spend a few billion dollars on figuring out how to manipulate the flight paths of photons out in Space? Here's a recent news report along those lines: A group of Swedish researchers believe that a cataclysmic asteroid collision from hundreds of millions of years ago could have the answers to solving climate change... Researchers have been discussing different artificial methods of recreating post-collision asteroid dust, such as placing asteroids in orbits around Earth like satellites and having them "liberate fine dust" to block warming sunlight, thus hypothetically cooling our warming planet. "Our results show for the first time that such dust at times has cooled Earth dramatically," said Birger Schmitz, professor of geology at Lund University and the leader of the study. "Our studies can give a more detailed, empirical based understanding of how this works, and this in turn can be used to evaluate if model simulations are realistic." The research is still a ways out from practical use, however. Scientists are understandably wary about recreating a prehistoric dust storm. Speaking to Science Magazine, Seth Finnegan, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley said that the results of the study "shows that the consequences of messing around in that way could be pretty severe." The university's press release does say their research "could be relevant for tackling global warming if we fail to reduce carbon dioxide emissions." But what do Slashdot's readers think of these ideas? Leave your own thoughts in the comments. Could climate change be solved by manipulating photons in space?

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Google Loans Cameras To Volunteers To Fill Gaps in 'Street View'

Slashdot - 11 hours 3 min ago
NPR explains why a man "applied to borrow a 360-degree camera through Google's Street View camera loan program." Kanhema, who works as a product manager in Silicon Valley and is a freelance photographer in his spare time, volunteered to carry Google's Street View gear to map what amounted to 2,000 miles of his home country. The Berkeley, California, resident has filled in the map of other areas in Africa and Canada as well.... Google says it has "largely mapped" only 87 of nearly 200 countries on the platform, which launched in 2007. Many other countries on the planet have at least some Street View coverage, Google says. But there are sizable gaps in regions like Africa, Antarctica and Central Asia, while areas such as the U.S. and Europe are mostly filled in. While users can see almost every street corner in places such as Paris or New York, they can't do the same for Algiers, Algeria, or Kabul, Afghanistan. "We start in the large metropolitan areas where we know we have users, where it's easy for us to drive and we can execute quickly," says Stafford Marquardt, a product manager for Street View. He says the team is working to expand the service's reach. To do that, Google often relies on volunteers who can either borrow the company's camera equipment or take photos using their own. Most images on Street View are collected by drivers, and most of these drivers are employed by third parties that work with Google. But when it comes to the places Google hasn't prioritized, people like Kanhema can fill in the gaps... All this is a lot of work, but for Kanhema, it's a hobby. Google doesn't pay him or the other volunteers -- whom the company calls "contributors" -- for the content they upload. Kanhema, for example, spent around $5,000 of his own money to travel across Zimbabwe for the project. "What motivates me is just being that constant nudge on these companies and this system to pay attention to those parts of the world," he says. Craig Dalton, an assistant professor of global studies and geography at Hofstra University, says Google's business model plays a big role in which places are added to Street View first. "Google Maps is not a public service. Google Maps is a product from a company, and things are included and excluded based on the company's needs," Dalton says. "Sometimes that means that things are excluded that have a lot of merit but that don't fit the business plan..." Although the company's end goal is to make a global street map, Kanhema is unsure when places like his hometown would be visible on the platform without volunteered images. "There's not always going to be a business case to tell the story of how people live across the world," he says. The volunteer contributors to Street View can sometimes receive funding from tourism boards or travel agencies, according to the article, but Street View's product manager adds that Google currently has no plans to compensate its volunteers. He says instead that Google compensates its volunteer contributors "in a lot of other ways" by offering "a platform to host gigabytes and terabytes of imagery and publish it to the entire world, absolutely for free."

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Do Coders Crave a Sense of Control?

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 9:34pm
This week Stack Overflow's CEO/founder Joel Spolsky spoke to Clive Thompson, the tech journalist who just published the new book Coders: the Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World . "It's a sort of ethnographic history of this particular tribe," explains a blog post at Stack Overflow, "examining how software developers fit into the world of business and culture and how their role in society has shifted in recent decades. "The official conversation kicked off after a 15-minute tangent on Joel's collection of Omni magazine and the formative role this publication had for both men." Some excerpts: Clive: The question in my mind is, who is interested in this? What gets them bit by the bug so they are willing to crawl over all the broken glass that is the daily work. Joel: In my time, it was the absolute control. Whatever code you wrote, that's what executed. There was no translation. It wasn't like, well the flour was kind of old, and I tried to make the souffle but it collapsed. Unlike so many things you will try to accomplish as a child or an adult, where you work on something but it doesn't turn out as you expect it to, with code it will do exactly what you told it. Even if that's not what you meant. You might suddenly realize you're obeying me to the point of making me angry. Clive: The monkey's paw thing. I shouldn't have wished for that. Joel: But the computer is still being completely obedient. Clive: That thrill is a common thread I found in my research, from the 1960s through today. I will talk to people in their 80s who worked on machines the size of an entire room, and it's the same damn thing talking to a 15-year-old girl at an afterschool program working on a raspberry pi or P5. There is something unique about the micro-world that is inside the machine, qualitatively different from our real world. Joel: It's sort of utopian. Things behave as they are supposed to. The reason I put a question mark on that, as programmers move higher and higher up the abstraction tree, that kinda goes away. Clive: I think the rise of machine learning is an interesting challenge to the traditional craft of software development. Some of the people I spoke with for the book aren't interested in it because they don't like the idea of working with these indeterminate training systems... there is something unsettling about not really knowing what's going on with what you're building. Joel: I just picked up Arduino a year ago and that was enormously fun because it was like going back to C, instead of all these fancy high-level languages where you don't know what they are going to do. It offered a really detailed level of control. If something doesn't work, you can figure it out, because everything is tractable. They also discussed the future of coding -- and took a fond look back at its past. Spolsky remembers his first exposure to computers was an interactive terminal system connected to a mainframe that ran FORTRAN, BASIC, and PL/I programs. "Many, many years later I realized there was no way they had enough memory for three compilers and in fact what they had was a very simple pre-processsor that made Basic, FORTRAN, and PL/I all look like the same mush. "It was a very crappy subset of each of those three languages."

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 'Nog' Actor Aron Eisenberg Has Died at 50

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 7:39pm
An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Actor Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, died Saturday at age 50, his wife Malíssa Longo posted on Facebook. "He was an intelligent, humble, funny, emphatic soul," Longo wrote. "He sought to live his life with integrity and truth. He was so driven to put the best he had into whatever work was put before him." The actor's cause of death wasn't released, but he underwent his second kidney transplant in 2015, StarTrek.com notes in an obituary. Eisenberg played Nog, the first Ferengi to join Starfleet, and appeared in 40 episodes from across all seven seasons. The show ran from 1993 to 1999. His character was the son of Rom, the nephew of Quark, and the best friend of Jake Sisko, who was the son of commanding officer Benjamin Sisko. Eisenberg was told nothing about his character when he was cast and had no idea that the part would last, Star Trek reports "I thought every episode I was doing might be my last episode," he told StarTrek.com in 2012. The site also notes that Eisenberg also played Kar, the young Kazon-Ogla, in a 1995 Star Trek: Voyager episode. This year Aron had become the host and producer of a Star Trek-themed podcast called "The 7th Rule." And Deep Space Nine (and the other early Star Trek series) are all available through Amazon Prime. CNET remembered the actor by sharing the Deep Space Nine scene where Nog makes a passionate speech about why he wants to join Starfleet Academy. ("My father is a mechanical genius. He could've been chief engineer of a starship if he'd had the opportunity. But he went into business like a good Ferengi...") On Twitter 79-year-old René Auberjonois (who played Odo on Deep Space Nine) called Aron "such a pure, sweet soul and gifted artist. He was a dedicated collaborator and friend. My condolences and love to his wife and family." Armin Shimerman, who had played Nog's bartender uncle Quark, tweeted Sunday "I have lost a great friend and the world has lost a great heart... He was a man of conviction and enormous sensitivity and the best of humanity... Flights of angels my friend... you will be missed." And Next Generation actor Jonathan Frakes tweeted "bless his sweet soul."

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How the Microsoft Store Urges Customers To Trade In Their iPhones

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 6:45pm
"Have you ever wondered how -- or even why -- Microsoft is offering $650 to switch from iPhone to Samsung's latest phones?" asks tech columnist Chris Matyszczyk. "A Microsoft store salesman enlightened me. It was spiritual, as much as factual." "This is a Microsoft store," I said. "Why are you pushing these?" "Because three weeks ago, you couldn't do what you can do now," he said. This was quite some drama. I hadn't heard that my life had changed just 21 days prior, but Oscar was ready to explain. "Now you can have a terabyte, which means this phone improves your mobility and can now replace your laptop. You can now run your business straight from this phone," he said... With a fervent -- and, I have to say, elegant -- enthusiasm, he talked me through my new possibilities. The ability to have everything from Outlook to Word to Excel to One Drive existing simultaneously on every gadget was, apparently, my new Nirvana. He took me over to a desktop and showed me how to dock my new Samsung phone and work simultaneously on the phone and the desktop. He then led me to the Surface Pro 6. "This is the one I've got. And, look, you don't need a keyboard," he said, as he brought up the on-screen keyboard that really isn't very easy to type on. Oscar's congenital positivity was so alluring that I had to insert a pause and ask him what phone he had. He pulled out the same iPhone XR as mine, but sadly in a case. "I've been with Apple for a long time," he explained. "But I just need to pay my iPhone down a bit more and I'm going to switch to this Note..." "Switching from iPhone to Samsung isn't easy, is it?" I muttered. "It's all in your mind," he replied. "You need to have a growth mindset. That's what leaving your iPhone behind represents. Growth." I had to laugh. Not out of insult, but out of sheer admiration for his TED Talk attempt to inspire. He was appealing to my spirit, not my rational mind. He was right, of course. I have a growth bodyset, not a growth mindset.... [A]s I walked out many minutes later, I remembered there was a new iPhone coming out. Three new iPhones. Would any of them represent personal growth?

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Is 'The Far Side' Comic Strip Coming Back?

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 5:37pm
An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: Fans of the surreal, the bizarre and sardonic anthropomorphic cows are in a fervour after The Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson's website was updated last weekend with promises of "a new online era", 24 years after the reclusive creator retired at the age of 44. Larson's iconic Far Side cartoons were syndicated in more than 1,900 daily newspapers from 1980 to 1995, treating readers to daily offerings from his offbeat visions of the world... His image of a caveman pointing to the tail of a stegosaurus and letting his audience know that it is called "the thagomizer, after the late Thag Simmonds", led paleontologists to adopt the invented term. Larson retired The Far Side in 1995 , citing "simple fatigue and a fear that if I continue for many more years my work will begin to suffer or at the very least ease into the Graveyard of Mediocre Cartoons". Hugely publicity-shy -- he has long refused to have his picture taken -- he has since then released a compilation of Far Side cartoons, but worked to keep his pictures from being reproduced digitally, explaining in a letter the "emotional cost" of having his work "offered up in cyberspace beyond my control... These cartoons are my 'children' of sorts, and like a parent, I'm concerned about where they go at night without telling me," wrote Larson. "And, seeing them at someone's website is like getting the call at 2am that goes, 'Uh, Dad, you're not going to like this much, but guess where I am.'" But the updating over the weekend of thefarside.com, which had previously remained virtually unchanged for more than a decade, has left many fans hoping for Larson's return. A new image, in which some of Larson's most iconic characters -- the cow on two legs, the bee-hived woman, the nerd -- are being defrosted from an iceberg, has appeared on the site, along with the promise: "Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen. A new online era of The Far Side is coming!"

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US Military Apologizes For Joking about Bombing 'Millennials' Who Might Storm Area 51

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 4:39pm
"The US military has been forced to apologise for tweeting that it would use stealth-bombers on 'millenials' who try to storm Area 51," reports Yahoo News UK: More than two million people signed up to a Facebook event recently which encouraged atendees to visit the top secret base in Nevada. But only a few thousand UFO enthusiasts turned up on Friday to the facility, which is rumoured to contain secrets about aliens. As hordes of enthusiasts turned up the PR arm of the US military, called the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS), tweeted: "The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today" with a picture of military officers in front of a stealth bomber. Shortly afterwards the tweet was deleted and the unit apologised saying it "in no way" reflects their stance... "It was inappropriate and we apologize for this mistake." Around 1,000 people visited the facility's gates on Friday and at least six were arrested by police. The Storm Area 51 invitation spawned festivals in the tiny nearby towns of Rachel and Hiko, more than two hours' drive from Las Vegas. Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated late on Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites, and more than 150 made the trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.... "It's public land," the sheriff said. "They're allowed to go to the gate as long as they don't cross the boundary." Most of the arrests were for "misdemeanor trespassing on base property," which carries a $1,000 fine, according to the article. "In the end, no one actually 'stormed' Area 51, although deputies in rural Nye County resorted to 'heated warnings' to disperse as many as 200 people," reports the Associated Press. In another article the news service also quotes Lincoln County emergency services chief Eric Holt as saying resources had been mustered to handle up to 30,000 people and calling the low turnout a "best-case" scenario... Although there were two car crashes involving cows. "The cows died, but motorists weren't hurt." The main festival apparently drew 3,000 attendees, while the rival "Area 51 Basecamp" festival sold just 500 tickets for their Friday concert, prompting them to cancel their Saturday concert altogether. Its promoter told the Associated Press, "It was a gamble financially. We lost."

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Apple Watch May Have Saved A Biker's Life

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 3:34pm
"A Spokane man is saying that an Apple Watch helped save his dad's life following a bicycle crash at Doomsday Hill," reports a local TV station: According to a Facebook post, Gabe Burdett was on his way to meet up with his father Bob last weekend at Riverside State Park, but Bob wasn't at their meet up spot. Burdett received a text from his father's Apple Watch, which read, "Emergency SOS Bob Burdett called emergency services from this approximate location after Apple Watch detected a hard fall." Not only had the watch texted Burdett, it also called 911 with his father's location, he said. Bob had flipped his bike at the bottom of Doomsday Hill and hit his head, knocking him unconscious, Burdett said. Thanks to the watch, Bob was able to be picked up by emergency services and transported to the hospital within 30 minutes of the fall occurring. Gabe's Facebook post includes a picture of the now-damaged Apple Watch on his father's wrist in the hospital. The Apple Watch even texted a map showing the son his father's new location at the hospital. And now "Dad is doing great, clear X-Rays and CT scan, but a little sore for sure!"

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Is Air Travel Really Bad For the Climate?

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 2:34pm
"The best way to get oneself somewhere with the least impact on the climate is a lot more complex than it may seem at first glance," writes Slashdot reader Dan Drollette (who is also the deputy editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists). Slashdot reader Lasrick also submitted their report. A few excerpts: - For a short distance taking a train may be better than flying, but there is some ambiguity for long-distance travel. But no matter what mode of travel we choose, the distance traveled strongly determines emissions. - Trends suggest that ground transportation is increasingly being electrified (with the potential for using renewable sources). However, there is likely no such technological breakthrough on the horizon for planes. Thus, flying less is an important long-term commitment because it helps to make sure there are more alternative transportation options, and shows where we want government and industry to prioritize efforts toward efficiency and transit... [I]f you choose to drive because it is more climate-friendly than flying short-haul, you are adding an extra car on the road while the plane would have flown anyway. However, in the long run, if many people choose to drive (hopefully in a full car), it is likely there will be fewer short-haul flights. Obviously, fewer passengers per vehicle will also increase the per-passenger carbon count, and right now short economy flights "generally have higher occupancy and lighter fuel loads," placing them just below a U.S. grid-powered electric car. And mode of transportation is still less important than distance traveled, though very short flights less than 1000 kilometres (621 miles) are more carbon intensive than longer flights "as they spend little time cruising, and are often not very direct." Energy sources also matter, since trains in Europe are largely electrified, while North America's trains burn fossil fuels. "In Europe, trains are by far the best choice in terms of climate benefits, even if that's not as true elsewhere." Thus the three worst choices right now are a large car (getting 15 miles per gallon), followed by a long (non-economy) business flight, and a "medium" car (getting 25 miles per gallon), while the three best choices are a solar-powered electric car (#3), a crowded U.S. school bus, and Eurostar rail. But it's important to remember that the majority of people don't fly, Dan Drollette reminds us, "And we should not be so focused on the carbon contributions of air travel (which only account for 2 percent of all carbon emissions) that we take our eyes off the causes of the other 98 percent of carbon emissions."

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Researchers Determine the 120 Most Surveilled (CCTV) Cities In the World

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 1:34pm
dryriver writes: Comparitech.com has published a report and spreadsheet laying out how many CCTV cameras are in operation in 120 different cities around the world, and data for the crime rates in these cities. The report notes "We found little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety." 8 of the 10 most surveilled cities are in China, even though London and Atlana also make the cut, and the report says that — depending on what numbers you believe — China will have between 200 Million and 626 Million CCTV cameras, or possibly even more, in operation by 2020. That would be almost 1 CCTV camera per 2 citizens in the country, and the number could go up. Outside of China, the top most-surveilled cities in the world are: London - 68.40 cameras per 1,000 peopleAtlanta - 15.56 cameras per 1,000 peopleSingapore - 15.25 cameras per 1,000 peopleAbu Dhabi - 13.77 cameras per 1,000 peopleChicago - 13.06 cameras per 1,000 peopleSydney - 12.35 cameras per 1,000 peopleBaghdad - 12.30 cameras per 1,000 peopleDubai - 12.14 cameras per 1,000 peopleMoscow - 11.70 cameras per 1,000 peopleBerlin - 11.18 cameras per 1,000 peopleNew Delhi - 9.62 cameras per 1,000 people With 4,000 cameras, Washington D.C. is #29 on the list. Other American cities include San Francisco (#39 with 2,753 cameras), San Diego (#43 with 3,600 cameras), Boston (#47 with 1,552 cameras), and New York City (#58 with 11,000 cameras). And the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that at least for their city the total "is likely an undercount, considering that San Diego police officials said they recently installed surveillance sensors on about half of a planned 8,000 'smart' street lights." Also on the list are Chennai India (#33 with 50,000 cameras), Auckland (#36 with 5,577 cameras), and Toronto (#44 with 14,955 cameras).

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As Criticism Grows After Crashes, Boeing Committee May Recommend Organizational Changes

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 12:34pm
McGruber summarizes an article in the New York Times: A small committee of Boeing's board is expected to call for several meaningful changes to the way the company is structured. The commitee may recommend that Boeing change aspects of its organizational structure, call for the creation of new groups focused on safety and encourage the company to consider making changes to the cockpits of future airplanes to accommodate a new generation of pilots, some of whom may have less training. Currently, Boeing's top engineers report primarily to the business leaders for each airplane model, and secondarily to the company's chief engineer. "Under this model, engineers who identify problems that might slow a jet's development could face resistance from executives whose jobs revolve around meeting production deadlines," reports the New York Times. "The committee recommends flipping the reporting lines, so that top engineers report primarily to Boeing's chief engineer, and secondarily to business unit leaders. "Another key recommendation calls for establishing a new safety group that will work across the company..." "Though the committee did not investigate the two crashes of Boeing's 737 MAX jet, their findings represent the company's most direct effort yet to reform its internal processes after the accidents, which killed 346 people." Meanwhile, a scathing article in the New Republic outlines the need for change, criticizing "pilot errorists" who have attempted to shift focus and blame from Boeing's own missteps in creating "a self-hijacking plane": In the now infamous debacle of the Boeing 737 MAX, the company produced a plane outfitted with a half-assed bit of software programmed to override all pilot input and nosedive when a little vane on the side of the fuselage told it the nose was pitching up. The vane was also not terribly reliable, possibly due to assembly line lapses reported by a whistle-blower, and when the plane processed the bad data it received, it promptly dove into the sea. It is understood, now more than ever, that capitalism does half-assed things like that, especially in concert with computer software and oblivious regulators... [T]here was something unsettlingly familiar when the world first learned of MCAS in November, about two weeks after the system's unthinkable stupidity drove the two-month-old plane and all 189 people on it to a horrific death. It smacked of the sort of screwup a 23-year-old intern might have made -- and indeed, much of the software on the MAX had been engineered by recent grads of Indian software-coding academies making as little as $9 an hour, part of Boeing management's endless war on the unions that once represented more than half its employees. Down in South Carolina, a nonunion Boeing assembly line that opened in 2011 had for years churned out scores of whistle-blower complaints and wrongful termination lawsuits packed with scenes wherein quality-control documents were regularly forged, employees who enforced standards were sabotaged, and planes were routinely delivered to airlines with loose screws, scratched windows, and random debris everywhere. The MCAS crash was just the latest installment in a broader pattern...

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The Ozone Layer Is On Track To Completely Repair Itself by the 2060s

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 11:34am
pgmrdlm quotes a report from SBS: The world's ozone layer is on track to be completely healed by the 2060s, according to modelling by the UN's environmental agency (UNEP). In the past 19-years, parts of the ozone layer have recovered at a rate of one to three per cent every ten years, UNEP has found. If this continues, the Northern Hemisphere's ozone layer is set to heal completely by the 2030s, the Southern Hemisphere by the 2050s, and the polar regions in the following decade. As we rightly focus our energies on tackling climate change, we must be careful not to neglect the ozone layer and stay alert to the threat posed by the illegal use of ozone-depleting gases," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on Monday. "The recent detection of emissions of one such gas, CFC-11, reminds us that we need continued monitoring and reporting systems, and improved regulations and enforcement."

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Did a Prehistoric Asteroid Breakup Shower Earth With Enough Dust To Change the Climate?

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 10:34am
Applehu Akbar writes: CNN reports this week on a paper describing a hypothesis that the breakup of a large asteroid 466 million years ago generated enough dust in Earth's orbit to substantially change the terrestrial climate for an extended period. This would have triggered an 'Ordovician icehouse' climate event, with major effects on biology. "The 93-mile-wide asteroid was in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter when it collided with something else and broke apart, creating a wealth of dust that flooded the inner solar system..." CNN reports. "To understand how this process unfolded, the researchers found evidence of space dust locked in 466-million-year-old rocks that were once on the sea floor." The paper argues that to this day, that collision "still delivers almost a third of all meteorites falling on Earth."

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Debian May Need To Re-Evaluate Its Interest In 'Init System Diversity'

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 9:34am
"Debian Project Leader Sam Hartman has shared his August 2019 notes where he outlines the frustrations and issues that have come up as a result of init system diversity with some developers still aiming to viably support systemd alternatives within Debian," reports Phoronix: Stemming from elogind being blocked from transitioning to testing and the lack of clarity into that, Hartman was pulled in to try to help mediate the matter and get to the bottom of the situation with a lack of cooperation between the elogind and systemd maintainers for Debian as well as the release team. Elogind is used by some distributions as an implementation of systemd's logind, well, outside of systemd as a standalone daemon. Elogind is one of the pieces to the puzzle for trying to maintain a modern, systemd-free Linux distribution. Various issues were raised that are trying to be worked through albeit many Debian developers face time limitations and other factors like emotional exhaustion. Hartman noted in his August notes, "I think we may be approaching a point where we need to poll the project -- to have a GR and ask ourselves how committed we are to the different parts of this init diversity discussion. Reaffirming our support for sysvinit and elogind would be one of the options in any such GR. If that option passed, we'd expect all the maintainers involved to work together or to appoint and empower people who could work on this issue. It would be fine for maintainers not to be involved so long as they did not block progress. And of course we would hold the discussions to the highest standards of respect."

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'Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates' Premieres on Netflix

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 7:34am
hcs_$reboot shared this report about Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, a new three-part documentary that debuted Friday on Netflix from Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim: The Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist is asked what his worst fear is. It's not family tragedy or personal pain. "I don't want my brain to stop working," he responds... A portrait emerges of a visionary who gnaws on his eyeglasses' arms, downs Cokes and is relentlessly optimistic that technology can solve social ills. He is also someone who reads manically -- he'll scrutinize the Minnesota state budget for fun -- and who is a wicked opponent at cards... While the series is largely sympathetic toward its subject, Guggenheim nevertheless presses Gates on everything from the federal antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s to his relationship with his mother. In a phone interview, Gates acknowledged that he balanced the camera's intrusion with the chance to tell the world -- and recruit help -- about his efforts to help the planet and the poor... Each episode in the series introduces three huge global issues the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has tackled recently -- safe sanitation technology, polio eradication and nuclear power -- and then switches back in time to see how Gates solved other complex issues in his life as a younger man. "The series doesn't do a traditional cradle-to-grave portrait of him. He wasn't interested in that. I wasn't interested in that," said the filmmaker. Instead, he wanted to find out the source of his relentless optimism and his push to do all these great things.... Gates himself said he appreciated Guggenheim serving as a reality check for many of the seemingly intractable public health issues that his foundation has tackled. "I'm not that objective. It was interesting, through Davis' eyes, to have him say, 'Are you sure?' Well, I'm not sure," said Gates. "So I thought that was good. It made me step back." At one point, Gates admits to eating Tang straight out of the jar.

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Ask Slashdot: How Will 2019 Look To People 20 Years From Now?

Slashdot - September 22, 2019 - 3:34am
Here's an interesting thought exercise from Slashdot reader dryriver : What is likely to be so different about living in 2039 that it makes our current present in 2019 feel badly dated in many ways? And can we learn lessons about what we are not doing particularly well today in 2019 -- in the technology field for example -- by imagining ourselves looking back at a long bygone 2019 from 20 years in the future...? Will everything from our current clothing, 4K 2D TVs and film VFX to our computer games, Internet, cars, medical care options and tech gadgets look "terribly dated" to them? Will people in 2039 look at us from their present and think "why couldn't they do X, Y, Z better in 2019?", just as we tend to look 20 years back and wonder "why couldn't they do X, Y, Z better in 1999?" The original submission argues that "If we could understand today how we look 'from 20 years in the future', including the mistakes we are making compared to how things are (possibly) done in 2039, we might get a better understanding of how we should be doing things today." So leave your own thoughts in the comments. How will 2019 look to people 20 years from now?

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GNU's Former Kernel Maintainer Shares 'A Reflection on the Departure of Richard Stallman'

Slashdot - September 21, 2019 - 11:34pm
Thomas Bushnell, BSG, founded GNU's official kernel project, GNU Hurd, and maintained it from 1990 through 2003. This week on Medium he posted "a reflection on the departure of RMS." There has been some bad reporting, and that's a problem. While I have not waded through the entire email thread Selam G. has posted, my reaction was that RMS did not defend Epstein, and did not say that the victim in this case was acting voluntarily. But it's not the most important problem. It's not remotely close to being the most important problem. This was an own-goal for RMS. He has had plenty of opportunities to learn how to stfu when that's necessary. He's responsible for relying too much on people's careful reading of his note, but even that's not the problem. He thought that Marvin Minsky was being unfairly accused. Minsky was his friend for many many years, and I think he carries a lot of affection and loyalty for his memory. But Minsky is also dead, and there's plenty of time to discuss at leisure whatever questions there may be about his culpability. RMS treated the problem as being "let's make sure we don't criticize Minsky unfairly", when the problem was actually, "how can we come to terms with a history of MIT's institutional neglect of its responsibilities toward women and its apparent complicity with Epstein's crimes". While it is true we should not treat Minsky unfairly, it was not -- and is not -- a pressing concern, and by making it his concern, RMS signaled clearly that it was much more important to him than the question of the institution's patterns of problematic coddling of bad behavior. And, I think, some of those focusing themselves on careful parsing of RMS's words are falling into the same pitfall as he.... Minsky was RMS's protector for a long long time. He created the AI Lab, where I think RMS found the only happy home he ever knew. He kept the rest of the Institute at bay and insulated RMS from attack (as did other faculty that also had befriended RMS). I was around for most of the 90s, and I can confirm the unfortunate reality that RMS's behavior was a concern at the time, and that this protection was itself part of the problem... Bushnell also calls Stallman "a tragic figure. He is one of the most brilliant people I've met, who I have always thought desperately craved friendship and camaraderie, and seems to have less and less of it all the time. This is all his doing; nobody does it to him. But it's still very sad. As far as I can tell, he believes his entire life's work is a failure..." But Bushnell concludes that "It is time for the free software community to leave adolescence and move to adulthood, and this requires leaving childish tantrums, abusive language, and toxic environments behind."

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