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'Doom' Creator John Romero Explains What's Wrong With Today's Shooter Games

Slashdot - 1 hour 32 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: "Give us more guns!" is a common battle-cry among players of first-person shooters, the videogame industry's bloodiest genre. Doom co-creator John Romero has a rather different opinion. "I would rather have fewer things with more meaning, than a million things you don't identify with," he says, sitting in a Berlin bar mocked up to resemble a 1920s Chicago speakeasy. "I would rather spend more time with a gun and make sure the gun's design is really deep -- that there's a lot of cool stuff you learn about it...." Modern shooters are too close to fantasy role-playing games in how they shower you with new weapons from battle to battle, Romero suggests. This abundance of loot -- which reflects how blockbuster games generally have become Netflix-style services, defined by an unrelenting roll-out of "content" -- means you spend as much time comparing guns in menus as savouring their capabilities. It encourages you to think of each gun as essentially disposable, like an obsolete make of smartphone. "The more weapons you throw in there, the more you're playing an inventory game." Romero contrasts this to the sparing design of the original Doom, which launched in 1993 with a grand total of eight guns. "For Doom, it was really important that every time you got a new weapon, it never made any previous weapons useless...." Doom is also a game that knows how to keep a secret. It isn't just a firefight simulator but a treacherous, vaguely avant-garde work of 3D architecture. Its levels are mazes of hidden rooms and camouflaged doors that screech open behind you -- sometimes revealing a pile of ammunition, sometimes disgorging enemies into areas you've cleared. Today's shooters set less store by secret spaces, Romero says, because they cost so much to make.

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Boeing Fires Its Fuselage-Assembling Robots, Goes Back To Using Humans

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 11:34pm
schwit1 quotes the Seattle Times: After enduring a manufacturing mess that spanned six years and cost millions of dollars as it implemented a large-scale robotic system for automated assembly of the 777 fuselage, Boeing has abandoned the robots and will go back to relying more on its human machinists... The technology was implemented gradually from 2015 inside a new building on the Everett site. But right from the start, the robots proved painful to set up and error-prone, producing damaged fuselages and others that were incompletely assembled and had to be finished by hand. "The Fuselage Automated Upright Build process is a horrible failure," one mechanic told The Seattle Times in 2016. Another called the system "a nightmare" that was snarling 777 production. Yet Boeing insisted then that these were teething pains that would pass... The automation has never delivered its promise of reduced hand labor and Boeing has had to maintain a substantial workforce of mechanics to finish the work of the robots. Because of the errors in the automation, that often took longer than if they had done it all by hand from the start... It's taken six years to finally throw in the towel. Yet the article also notes that Boeing will continue to use its highly-automated autonomous robotic systems on other parts of their 777 assembly process.

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Lessons From the Cyberattack On India's Largest Nuclear Power Plant

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 9:34pm
Dan Drollette shares an article by two staffers at the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. "Indian officials acknowledged on October 30th that a cyberattack occurred at the country's Kudankulam nuclear power plant," they write, adding that "According to last Monday's Washington Post, Kudankulam is India's biggest nuclear power plant, 'equipped with two Russian-designed and supplied VVER pressurized water reactors with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts each.'" So what did we learn? While reactor operations at Kudankulam were reportedly unaffected, this incident should serve as yet another wake-up call that the nuclear power industry needs to take cybersecurity more seriously. There are worrying indications that it currently does not: A 2015 report by the British think tank Chatham House found pervasive shortcomings in the nuclear power industry's approach to cybersecurity, from regulation to training to user behavior. In general, nuclear power plant operators have failed to broaden their cultures of safety and security to include an awareness of cyberthreats. (And by cultures of safety and security, those in the field -- such as the Fissile Materials Working Group -- refer to a broad, all-embracing approach towards nuclear security, that takes into account the human factor and encompasses programs on personnel reliability and training, illicit trafficking interception, customs and border security, export control, and IT security, to name just a few items. The Hague Communique of 2014 listed nuclear security culture as the first of its three pillars of nuclear security, the other two being physical protection and materials accounting.) This laxness might be understandable if last week's incident were the first of its kind. Instead, there have been over 20 known cyber incidents at nuclear facilities since 1990. This number includes relatively minor items such as accidents from software bugs and inadequately tested updates along with deliberate intrusions, but it demonstrates that the nuclear sector is not somehow immune to cyber-related threats. Furthermore, as the digitalization of nuclear reactor instrumentation and control systems increases, so does the potential for malicious and accidental cyber incidents alike to cause harm. This record should also disprove the old myth, unfortunately repeated in Kudankulam officials' remarks, that so-called air-gapping effectively secures operational networks at plants. Air-gapping refers to separating the plant's internet-connected business networks from the operational networks that control plant processes; doing so is intended to prevent malware from more easily infected business networks from affecting industrial control systems. The intrusion at Kudankulam so far seems limited to the plant's business networks, but air gaps have failed at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio in 2003 and even classified U.S. military systems in 2008. The same report from Chatham House found ample sector-wide evidence of employee behavior that would circumvent air gaps, like charging personal phones via reactor control room USB slots and installing remote access tools for contractors... [R]evealing the culprits and motives associated with the Kudankulam attack matters less for the nuclear power industry than fixing the systemic lapses that enabled it in the first place. "The good news is that solutions abound..." the article concludes, noting guidance, cybersecurity courses, technical exchanges, and information through various security-minded public-private partnerships. "The challenge now is integrating this knowledge into the workforce and maintaining it over time... "But last week's example of a well-established nuclear power program responding to a breach with denial, obfuscation, and shopworn talk of so-called 'air-gaps' demonstrates how dangerously little progress the industry has made to date."

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Ask Slashdot: What Should You Do If Someone's Trying To Steal Your Identity?

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 7:59pm
Long-time Slashdot reader shanen "just got the darnedest phone call..." The caller knew my name and the name of a bank that I've done business with, and obviously my phone number, but beyond that I have no idea what was going on... There is no problem with my account. She was quite clear about that, but she had no clear reason for calling. As I got more and more suspicious, she asked me to wait and she eventually transferred the call to a man, who claimed to be a manager at the bank, but the entire thing stinks to high heaven. All I could think of was to suggest that I call him back, but he was apparently unable to provide a phone number that I could independently verify. Why not give me the bank's phone number that I could check on the Internet? One would think that I could then transfer to his extension. After almost nine minutes I just hung up, and now I realize that I have the caller's phone number, but that isn't definitive evidence of anything. A scammer might know that blocking the phone number would have made things more suspicious... So what should I have done? Do you have any similar experiences to share? Or have I missed warnings about some new scam that's going around? Now I realize that they could start from names and phone numbers and just guess for the largest banks. Maybe I got suspicious too quickly, before she could start asking for the personal information she was really after? The original submission also includes this question: "If it's an identity theft in progress, then I want to stop it and fast, but how can I tell what's going on?" So leave your own thoughts in the comments. What should you do if you think someone is trying to steal your identity?

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New Micro 3D Printing Technology Wins Prestigious NZ Engineering Award

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 5:34pm
Long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills quotes New Zealand's Innovation Agency: New 3D printing technology creating highly detailed objects, smaller than a strand of human hair, has won the 2019 ENVI Engineering Innovation Award (Engineering New Zealand Awards). Micromaker3D, powered by breakthrough Laminated Resin Printing (LRP), makes it easy and more accessible to create detailed submillimetre structures for applications such as sensors, wearables, point-of-care diagnostics, micro-robotics or aerospace components.... LRP enables the printing of submillimetre structures with complex geometries of up to 100 per cent density, in extraordinary low-layer thicknesses and with imaging speeds as quick as one second per layer independent of complexity or density... The judges saw MicroMaker3D as a gamechanger and believe it will spark many other innovations... The ENVI Engineering Innovation Award category is described as: "A breathtakingly clever engineering project or product that has solved an age-old problem or shifted from the 'always done this way' mentality...." Callaghan Innovation is working to take the technology global, from the development and demonstration phase to commercial reality... Lead engineer Neil Glasson points out that while a human hair is about 100 microns in width, "we're looking at five-micron resolution."

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Quantum Computer Made From Photons Achieves New Record

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 4:34pm
Slashdot reader hackingbear shared this article from Scientific American: In the race to create a quantum computer that can outperform a classical one, a method using particles of light (photons) has taken a promising step forward. Jian-Wei Pan and Chao-Yang Lu, both at the University of Science and Technology of China, and their colleagues improved a quantum computing technique called boson sampling to achieve a record 14 detected photons in its final results. Previous experiments were capped at only five detected photons. The increase in the number of the particles is small, but it amounts to a 6.5-billion-fold gain in "state space," or the number of ways in which a computer system can be configured. The larger the state space, the less likely a classical computer can perform the same calculation. The result was reported in a paper posted at the preprint server arXiv.org on October 22 and has yet to be peer-reviewed. But if it is confirmed, it would be an important milestone in the race for quantum-computational supremacy -- a fuzzy goalpost defined as the point where quantum computers outpace their best classical counterparts.... Pan and Lu argue in their paper that their technique is another possible route toward quantum supremacy... Part of the trouble is its limited utility. "A universal computer can solve any different type of problem," says Jonathan Dowling, a theoretical physicist at Louisiana State University, who was not involved with the research. "This can only solve one." But solving just one problem faster than a classical computer would count as a demonstration of quantum-computational supremacy... Over the past few weeks, the race for quantum computational supremacy has reached a breakneck pace. Google's quantum computer performed an operation that its scientists claim would take a classical computer 10,000 years in just 200 seconds. IBM researchers, who are also working on a quantum computer, have expressed doubts, suggesting a classical computer could solve that problem in under three days... "Quantum supremacy is like a horse race where you don't know how fast your horse is, you don't know how fast anybody else's horse is, and some of the horses are goats," Jonathan Dowling, a theoretical physicist at Louisiana State University, says. But this result, he clarifies, is not a goat.

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China Covers Up Killing Of Prisoners To Continue Harvesting Organs For Transplant: New Report

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 3:34pm
"Despite repeated denials, China stands accused of a systematic cover-up to hide the continuing practice of forced organ harvesting and murder," reports Forbes' cybersecurity writer Zak Doffman: The practice, described as "state-run mass murder" and valued at $1 billion each year, has supposedly been outlawed in the country. But a new report, published on November 14 in the BMC Medical Ethics journal, refutes this, accusing China of a "systematic falsification and manipulation of official organ transplant datasets," as the killings continue. In June, I reported on the China Tribunal in London, which found evidence of "forced organ harvesting" from Chinese prisoners, including Falun Gong practitioners and Uighur Muslims. The Tribunal's final judgment concluded that this "forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, [and] the tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China's transplantation industry has been dismantled..." With China's illegal organ transplant industry said to be worth $1 billion each year, the country is determined to deflect the international outcry that has intensified as details of the organ harvesting have come to light. But this latest report casts doubt over claims of reform, exposing a material delta between the estimated number of transplants and the state's official statistics. In short, a new system of voluntary donations has been operating alongside and not instead of forced extractions. The giveaway, according to the report, is patterns in the data provided by China which are too neat to be genuine -- they were falsified. In short, the article claims that China is "artificially manufacturing organ transplant donation data."

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Thousands of Hacked Disney+ Accounts Are Already For Sale On Hacking Forums

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 2:34pm
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: Hackers didn't waste any time and have started hijacking Disney+ user accounts hours after the service launched. Many of these accounts are now being offered for free on hacking forums, or available for sale for prices varying from $3 to $11, a ZDNet investigation has discovered... Many users reported that hackers were accessing their accounts, logging them out of all devices, and then changing the account's email and password, effectively taking over the account and locking the previous owner out... Two users who spoke with ZDNet on the condition we do not share their names admitted that they reused passwords. However, other users said online that they did not, and had used passwords unique for their Disney+ accounts. This suggests that in some cases hackers gained access to accounts by using email and password combos leaked at other sites, while in other cases the Disney+ credentials might have been obtained from users infected with keylogging or info-stealing malware. The speed at which hackers have mobilized to monetize Disney+ accounts is astounding.

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Consumer Reports Restores 'Recommended' Ratings to Both Tesla's Model 3 and Model S

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 1:34pm
"Consumer Reports has restored its coveted 'recommended' rating to the Tesla Model S and Model 3, because Tesla has made its cars more reliable," reports CNN: "The Tesla Model 3 struggled last year as the company made frequent design changes and ramped up production to meet demand," said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at CR. "But as the production stabilized, we have seen improvements to the reliability of the Model 3 and S that now allow us to recommend both models." Although Consumer Reports says the Models S and 3 need fewer repairs, it did have some bad news for Tesla, too: The Model X SUV continues to rank among the magazine's least reliable. The Model S had lost its recommended status last year, CNN notes. And while initially giving Tesla's Model 3 a "recommended" rating in 2018, further reliability survey data from more Tesla owners had prompted Consumer Reports to remove it from its recommended list in February of this year. The new ratings are just part of a good month for Tesla. Since reporting an unexpected profit last month, Tesla's stock price has shot up more than 40%.

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Something Strange Seems To Be Causing Distant Galaxies To Synchronize

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 12:34pm
pgmrdlm quotes Futurism: Massive StructuresGalaxies millions of light years away seem to be connected by an unseen network of massive intergalactic structures, which force them to synchronize in ways that can't be explained by existing astrophysics, Vice reports. The discoveries could force us to rethink our fundamental understanding of the universe. "The observed coherence must have some relationship with large-scale structures, because it is impossible that the galaxies separated by six megaparsecs [roughly 20 million light years] directly interact with each other," Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute astronomer Hyeop Lee told the site. There have been many instances of astronomers observing galaxies that seem to be connected and moving in sync with each other. A study by Lee, published in The Astrophysical Journal in October, found that hundreds of galaxies are rotating in exactly the same way, despite being millions of light years apart. And a separate study, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2014, found supermassive black holes aligning with each other, despite being billions of light years apart.

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How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 11:34am
Long-time Slashdot reader walterbyrd shared this report on "arguably the most powerful lines of computer code in the global economy," the Google algorithms that handle 3.8 million queries every single minute. But though Google claims its algorithms are objective and autonomous, the Wall Street Journal reports Google "has increasingly re-engineered and interfered with search results to a far greater degree than the company and its executives have acknowledged": More than 100 interviews and the Journal's own testing of Google's search results reveal: - Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBay Inc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. - Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called "knowledge panels" and "featured snippets," and news results, which aren't subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change. - Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results... Google employees and executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have disagreed on how much to intervene on search results and to what extent. Employees can push for revisions in specific search results, including on topics such as vaccinations and autism. - To evaluate its search results, Google employs thousands of low-paid contractors whose purpose the company says is to assess the quality of the algorithms' rankings. Even so, contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors' collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms. The Journal's findings undercut one of Google's core defenses against global regulators worried about how it wields its immense power -- that the company doesn't exert editorial control over what it shows users.

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Debian Project Drafts General Resolution on Init-System Diversity

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 10:34am
Debian "is heading toward a new general resolution to decide at what level init systems other than systemd should be supported," reports LWN.net. "I'm absolutely convinced we've reached a point where in order to respect the people trying to get work done, we need to figure out where we are as a project," writes Debian project leader Sam Hartman. "We can either decide that this is work we want to facilitate, or work that we as a project decide is not important." LWN.net reports: The immediate motivation for a reconsideration would appear to be the proposed addition of elogind, a standalone fork of the systemd-logind daemon, to Debian. Elogind would provide support for systemd's D-Bus-based login mechanism -- needed to support small projects like the GNOME desktop -- without the need for systemd itself. The addition of elogind has been controversial; it is a difficult package to integrate for a number of reasons. Much of the discussion has evidently been carried out away from the mailing lists, but some context on the problem can be found in this bug report. In short: merging elogind appears to be complex enough that it would be hard to justify in the absence of a strong commitment to the support of non-systemd init systems. It seems possible that this commitment no longer exists across the distribution as a whole; the purpose of a general resolution would be to determine whether that is the case or not. Unsurprisingly, Debian developers have a variety of opinions on this issue. This response from Russ Allbery is worth reading in its entirety. He argues that the 2014 decision (of which he was a part) never really nailed down the project's position toward other init systems. That was a necessary compromise at the time, he said, but it is causing stress now: "while I feel somewhat vindicated by the fact that this didn't immediately fall apart and has sort of worked, I think it's becoming increasingly untenable".... Josh Triplett zeroed in on one of the issues that is testing the init-system peace now. There is, he said, an increasingly long list of features that are only available with systemd, and application developers want to use those features... The responses to this argument took a couple of different approaches. Ted Ts'o described those features as "the 'embrace, extend, and extinguish' phenomenon of systemd which caused so much fear and loathing." There's much more information in LWN.net's 1,600-word article -- but where do things stand now? Hartman posted a draft general resolution last week with three choices. Affirm init diversitySupport "exploring" alternatives to systemd, "but believing sysvinit is a distraction in achieving that." [Marco d'Itri later noted that less than 1% of new installs use sysvinit] "Systemd without diversity as a priority." There would be no requirement to support anything but systemd in Debian. "It should be noted, though, that this is explicitly a draft," concludes LWN.net. "It is likely to evolve considerably before it reaches the point where the project will vote on it."

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Pointless Work Meetings 'Really a Form of Therapy'

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 8:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Meetings at work should be seen as a form of "therapy" rather than about decision-making, say researchers. Academics from the University of Malmo in Sweden say meetings provide an outlet for people at work to show off their status or to express frustration. Professor Patrik Hall says they are becoming increasingly frequent -- as more managerial and "strategy" jobs generate more meetings. But he says despite there being more meetings "few decisions are made." Prof Hall has investigated an apparent contradiction in how people can have a low opinion of work meetings, yet their numbers keep increasing. The political scientist says the rise in meetings reflects changes in the workforce -- with fewer people doing and making things and an increase in those involved in "meetings-intense" roles such as strategists, advisers, consultants and managers. "People don't do concrete things any more," he says. Instead he says there has been a rise of managerial roles, which are often not very well defined, and where "the hierarchy is not that clear." [...] Meetings can "arouse feelings of meaninglessness," he says. But he argues that is often missing their point. Once in a meeting -- particularly long ones -- their function can become "almost therapeutic." Prof Hall goes on to suggest booking rooms for shorter periods, as he says meetings will expand to fill whatever time is given to them. He also says that "equality" of participants is important, otherwise a "power struggle" will emerge when the meetings are dominated by different levels of status.

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Ancestry Taps AI To Sift Through Millions of Obituaries

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 6:45am
Algorithms identified death notices in old newspaper pages, then another set of algorithms pulled names and other key details into a searchable database. From a report: Ancestry used artificial intelligence to extract obituary details hidden in a half-billion digitized newspaper pages dating back to 1690, data invaluable for customers building their family trees. The family history and consumer-genomics company, based in Lehi, Utah, began the project in late 2017 and introduced the new functionality last month. Through its subsidiary Newspapers.com, the company had a trove of newspaper pages, including obituaries -- but it said that manually finding and importing those death notices to Ancestry.com in a form that was usable for customers would likely have taken years. Instead, Ancestry tasked its 24-person data-science team with having technology pinpoint and make sense of the data. The team trained machine-learning algorithms to recognize obituary content in those 525 million newspaper pages. It then trained another set of algorithms to detect and index key facts from the obituaries, such as names of the deceased's spouse and children, birth dates, birthplaces and more. Ancestry, which has about 3.5 million subscribers, now offers about 262 million obituaries, up from roughly 40 million two years ago. Its database includes about a billion names associated with obituaries, including names of the deceased and their relatives. Besides analyzing the trove of old newspaper pages, the algorithms were also applied to online obituaries coming into Ancestry's database, making them more searchable. Before the AI overhaul, the roughly 40 million obituaries on Ancestry.com were searchable only by the name of the deceased. That meant a search for "Mary R. Smith," for instance, would yield obituaries only for people with that name -- not other obituaries that mentioned that name as a sibling or child.

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'Algorithms Are Like Convex Mirrors That Refract Human Biases'

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 4:01am
Emil Protalinski, writing for VentureBeat: At the Movethedial Global Summit in Toronto yesterday, I listened intently to a talk titled "No polite fictions: What AI reveals about humanity." Kathryn Hume, Borealis AI's director of product, listed a bunch of AI and algorithmic failures -- we've seen plenty of that. But it was how Hume described algorithms that really stood out to me. "Algorithms are like convex mirrors that refract human biases, but do it in a pretty blunt way," Hume said. "They don't permit polite fictions like those that we often sustain our society with." I really like this analogy. It's probably the best one I've heard so far, because it doesn't end there. Later in her talk, Hume took it further, after discussing an algorithm biased against black people used to predict future criminals in the U.S. "These systems don't permit polite fictions," Hume said. "They're actually a mirror that can enable us to directly observe what might be wrong in society so that we can fix it. But we need to be careful, because if we don't design these systems well, all that they're going to do is encode what's in the data and potentially amplify the prejudices that exist in society today." If an algorithm is designed poorly or -- as almost anyone in AI will tell you nowadays -- if your data is inherently biased, the result will be too. Chances are you've heard this so often it's been hammered into your brain.

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Google Chrome Experiment Crashes Browser Tabs, Impacts Companies Worldwide

Slashdot - November 16, 2019 - 1:30am
A Google Chrome experiment has gone horribly wrong this week and ended up crashing browsers on thousands, if not more, enterprise networks for nearly two days. From a report: The issue first appeared on Wednesday, November 13. It didn't impact all Chrome users, but only Chrome browsers running on Windows Server "terminal server" setups -- a very common setup in enterprise networks According to hundreds of reports, users said that Chrome tabs were going blank, all of a sudden, in what's called a "White Screen of Death" (WSOD) error. The issue was no joke. System administrators at many companies reported that hundreds and thousands of employees couldn't use Chrome to access the internet, as the active browser tab kept going blank while working. In tightly controlled enterprise environments, many employees didn't have the option to change browsers and were left unable to do their jobs. Similarly, system administrators couldn't just replace Chrome with another browser right away.

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Web Summit Cancels Next Year's Rise, One of Asia's Largest Tech Conferences, Over Tension in Hong Kong

Slashdot - November 15, 2019 - 11:00pm
The ongoing tension in Hong Kong between the government and pro-democracy protesters continues to spill into the tech domain. From a report: Rise, which is among the largest tech conferences in Asia, will not run next year as planned due to "the ongoing situation in Hong Kong," according to Web Summit, the Ireland-based company that organizes the show. The organizer said it is postponing the sixth edition of its annual conference, which is held in Hong Kong, to March 2021 from March 2020. Web Summit, which hosts similar large-scale conferences in other parts of the world, made the announcement today in an email to previous attendees. A spokesperson confirmed the veracity of the email to TechCrunch. "Over recent months, we have been monitoring the ongoing situation in Hong Kong. Our number one concern is the wellbeing, safety, and security of attendees at our events," it said in a statement. "Given the uncertainty of the situation by early 2020 and after consulting with experts and advisories, we have decided to postpone RISE until 2021."

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Most Americans Think They're Being Constantly Tracked, Study Finds

Slashdot - November 15, 2019 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: More than 60% of Americans think it's impossible to go through daily life without being tracked by companies or the government, according to a new Pew Research study. It's not just that Americans (correctly) think companies are collecting their data. They don't like it. About 69% of Americans are skeptical that companies will use their private information in a way they're comfortable with, while 79% don't believe that companies will come clean if they misuse the information. When it comes to who they trust, there are differences by race. About 73% of black Americans, for instance, are at least a little worried about what law enforcement knows about them, compared with 56% of white Americans. But among all respondents, more than 80% were concerned about what social-media sites and advertisers might know. Despite these concerns, more than 80% of Americans feel they have no control over how their information is collected.

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US Workers Show Little Improvement In 21st Century Skills

Slashdot - November 15, 2019 - 9:20pm
A new government agency report found that U.S. workers are failing to improve the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly global economy. Bloomberg reports: The National Center for Education Statistics asked 3,300 respondents ages 16-to-65 to read simple passages and solve basic math problems. What the researchers found is that literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving ability in the U.S. have stagnated over the past few years. Some 19% of the test-takers ranked at the lowest of three levels for literacy and 24% lacked basic digital problem-solving abilities. Meanwhile, a shocking 29% performed at the lowest level for numeracy, the same as findings from the previous study conducted in 2012-2014. Almost one in three couldn't correctly answer "how much gas is in a 24-gallon tank if the gas gauge reads three-quarters full." There were a few bright spots among the research. Latino adults saw their overall scores improve in both literacy and digital problem solving. Some 35% ranked at the highest of three levels for the latter, up from 24% during the 2012-2014 survey period. In addition, high school graduation rates climbed 2 percentage-points to 14%, while the percentage of people with more than a high school diploma jumped 3 percentage-points to 48%.

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Ghost Ships, Crop Circles, and Soft Gold: A GPS Mystery in Shanghai

Slashdot - November 15, 2019 - 8:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: One night last summer, a ship called the MV Manukai arrived at the port of Shanghai. It would be the American container ship's last stop in China before making its long homeward journey to Long Beach, California. As the crew carefully maneuvered the 700-foot ship through the world's busiest port, its captain watched his navigation screens closely. They showed another ship steaming up the same channel at about seven knots (eight miles per hour). Suddenly, it disappeared from the display. Then it reappeared, then disappeared again. Eventually, mystified, the captain picked up his binoculars and scanned the dockside. The other ship had been stationary at the dock the entire time. When it came time for the Manukai to head for its own berth, the bridge began echoing to multiple alarms. Both of the ship's GPS units had lost their signals, and its transponder had failed. Even a last-ditch emergency distress system could not get a fix. Now, new research shows the Manukai and thousands of other vessels in Shanghai are falling victim to a mysterious new weapon that can spoof GPS systems. Who could be behind it? The Chinese state? Or could it be daring and sophisticated sand thieves? Read MIT Technology Review story to find out more.

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