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Ask Slashdot: Should All OSs Ship With a Programming Language Built In?

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 8:50pm
dryriver writes: If anybody remembers the good old Commodore 64, one thing stood out about this once popular 8-bit computer -- as soon as you turned it on, you could type in BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and run it. You didn't have to install a programming language, an IDE and all that jazz. You could simply start punching code in, and the C64 would execute it. Now that we live in a time where coding is even more important and bankable than it was back in the 1980s, shouldn't operating systems like Windows 10 or Android also come with precisely this kind of feature? An easy-to-learn programming language like the old BASIC that greets you right after you boot up the computer, and gives you unfettered access to all of the computer's hardware and capabilities, just like was possible on the C64 decades ago? Everybody talks about "getting more people to learn coding" these days. Well, why not go the old C64 route and have modern OSs boot you straight into a usable, yet powerful, coding environment? Why shouldn't my Android phone or tablet come out of its box with a CLI BASIC prompt I can type code into right after I buy it from a store?

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Graphene As an Open-Source Material

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 8:10pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The 2D wonder-material graphene could greatly benefit from the widespread experimentation of open-source use. In its current state, graphene is primarily researched by scientists in universities and labs, but by making graphene a material that is open to be improved upon by anyone, we might see the fulfillment of the potential that graphene has been hailed for since its discovery. Graphene's capabilities are staggering -- it is essentially 2D, flexible, 200 times stronger than steel, conducts heat 10 times better than copper and conducts electricity 250 times better than silicon. Its abilities are far-reaching and extremely potent, making graphene applications nearly endless. As it stands, graphene research is limited to a select few technology companies -- Samsung, for instance, has the most graphene patents to date. Otherwise, most graphene research is done in university labs. In the same way that open-sourcing has built up software and related technologies, open-sourcing could also viably allow a wider range of individuals and communities to help unlock graphene's unrealized potential. Graphene is fundamentally different from software in that it is a physical resource. Since the material's discovery, quantity has been a serious issue, preventing the material from seeing widespread use. Natural reserves of graphene are few and far between, and while scientists have discovered ways of producing graphene, the methods have proved unscalable. In addition, graphene would need a way to be experimented with by the average user. For those who don't have the same equipment researchers do, how can they go about tinkering with graphene? In order for graphene to become an open-source material, a solution for these two problems must be found.

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UK Porn Block Is a 'Privacy Timebomb,' New Report Warns

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 7:30pm
New age restrictions on pornography that are set to come into effect in the UK next month are a "privacy timebomb," a new report by privacy watchdog Open Rights Group has warned. They say that the data protection in place to protect consumers is "vague, imprecise and largely a 'tick box' exercise." The Independent reports: The identity checks needed to stop under-18s from visiting pornographic websites will force any commercial provider of online pornography to carry out "robust" checks on their users to ensure they are adults. The age verification measures will be introduced on 15 July but a recent YouGov poll showed that 76 per cent of the British public is unaware of the ID checks being introduced. "With one month until rollout, the UK porn block is a privacy timebomb," the report stated. Estimates suggest around 20 million adults in the UK watch porn, meaning the scale of any privacy breaches could be vast. "Due to the sensitive nature of age verification data, there needs to be a higher standard of protection than the baseline which is offered by data protection legislation," said Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock. "The BBFC's standard is supposed to deliver this. However, it is a voluntary standard, which offers little information about the level of data protection being offered and provides no means of redress if companies fail to live up to it." Mr Killock said the standard was therefore "pointless and misleading."

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Study Finds That a GPS Outage Would Cost $1 Billion Per Day

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 6:50pm
A new comprehensive study on Global Positioning System technology has examined what effect a 30-day outage would have on the U.S. economy -- whether it's due to a severe space weather event or "nefarious activity by a bad actor." If a widespread outage were to occur, the study estimates it would have a $1 billion per-day impact. "It would likely be higher during the planting season of April and May, when farmers are highly reliant on GPS technology for information about their fields," adds Ars Technica. From the report: To assess the effect of an outage, the study looked at several different variables. Among them was "precision timing" that enables a number of wireless services, including the synchronization of traffic between carrier networks, wireless handoff between base stations, and billing management. Moreover, higher levels of precision timing enable higher bandwidth and provide access to more devices. (For example, the implementation of 4G LTE technology would have been impossible without GPS technology). In the case of an outage, there would be relatively minimal impacts over the first two days, but after that time, the wireless network would begin to degrade significantly. After 30 days, the study estimates that functionality would lie somewhere between 0 percent and 60 percent of normal operating levels. Landline phones would be largely unaffected.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Retail Stores Use Bluetooth Beacons To Track Customers

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 6:10pm
In an opinion piece for The New York Times, writer Michael Kwet sheds some lights on the secret bluetooth surveillance devices retailers use to track your every move and better serve ads to you. Anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: Imagine you are shopping in your favorite grocery store. As you approach the dairy aisle, you are sent a push notification in your phone: "10 percent off your favorite yogurt! Click here to redeem your coupon." You considered buying yogurt on your last trip to the store, but you decided against it. How did your phone know? Your smartphone was tracking you. The grocery store got your location data and paid a shadowy group of marketers to use that information to target you with ads. Recent reports have noted how companies use data gathered from cell towers, ambient Wi-Fi, and GPS. But the location data industry has a much more precise, and unobtrusive, tool: Bluetooth beacons. These beacons are small, inobtrusive electronic devices that are hidden throughout the grocery store; an app on your phone that communicates with them informed the company not only that you had entered the building, but that you had lingered for two minutes in front of the low-fat Chobanis. Most location services use cell towers and GPS, but these technologies have limitations. Cell towers have wide coverage, but low location accuracy: An advertiser can think you are in Walgreens, but you're actually in McDonald's next door. GPS, by contrast, can be accurate to a radius of around five meters (16 feet), but it does not work well indoors. Bluetooth beacons, however, can track your location accurately from a range of inches to about 50 meters. They use little energy, and they work well indoors. That has made them popular among companies that want precise tracking inside a store. In order to track you or trigger an action like a coupon or message to your phone, companies need you to install an app on your phone that will recognize the beacon in the store. Retailers (like Target and Walmart) that use Bluetooth beacons typically build tracking into their own apps. But retailers want to make sure most of their customers can be tracked -- not just the ones that download their own particular app.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Citing Requests From People, FujiFilm Decides To Bring Back Its Black and White Film

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 5:50pm
AmiMoJo shares a report: Fujifilm has announced it will re-start black and white film manufacturing this year and will bring out a new version of its former Acros film. The new NEOPAN Acros 100 II will feature finer grain and the company claims it will be the sharpest black and white film on the market. The film will initially go on sale in Japan, with expansion to other markets depending on demand. In a press release on the Fujifilm Japan website, President Kenji Sono explains that after the company stopped production of monochrome film last year many of its users asked for production to be started again. Part of the issue for the company, he says, was that some raw materials in the film were hard to source. For the new film alternatives have been found and the production process radically changed to account for them.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Digital Marketer Mailchimp Bans Anti-Vaccination Content

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 5:30pm
Digital marketer Mailchimp has removed several anti-vaccination "activists" from its platform and will no longer provide services to newsletters that push anti-vaccination content. From a report: The move to block the anti-vaccination rhetoric follows similar actions by other tech companies and comes on the heels of increased pressure from public health advocates and lawmakers on digital platforms to curtail the spread of health misinformation. "Mailchimp has shut down a number of accounts for anti-vaccination content that violates our Terms of Use, and we're adding this category to our routine searches for prohibited content," a Mailchimp spokesperson said in a statement provided to NBC News. "Spreading misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines poses a serious threat to public health and causes real-world harm. We cannot allow these individuals and groups to use our Marketing Platform to spread harmful messages and expand their audiences." The company began quietly enforcing this decision last week. "We trust the world's leading health authorities, like the CDC, WHO, and the AAP, and follow their guidance when assessing this type of misuse of our platform," the spokesperson said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Spy Used AI-Generated Face To Connect With Targets

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 4:50pm
Raphael Satter, writing for AP: Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington's political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who's-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve. But Katie Jones doesn't exist, The Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn. And several experts contacted by the AP said Jones' profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program. Experts who reviewed the Jones profile's LinkedIn activity say it's typical of espionage efforts on the professional networking site, whose role as a global Rolodex has made it a powerful magnet for spies.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

In Stores, Secret Surveillance Tracks Your Every Move

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 4:10pm
In retail stores, Bluetooth "beacons" are watching you, using hidden technology in your phone. From a report: Imagine you are shopping in your favorite grocery store. As you approach the dairy aisle, you are sent a push notification in your phone: "10 percent off your favorite yogurt! Click here to redeem your coupon." You considered buying yogurt on your last trip to the store, but you decided against it. How did your phone know? Your smartphone was tracking you. The grocery store got your location data and paid a shadowy group of marketers to use that information to target you with ads. Recent reports have noted how companies use data gathered from cell towers, ambient Wi-Fi, and GPS. But the location data industry has a much more precise, and unobtrusive, tool: Bluetooth beacons. These beacons are small, inobtrusive electronic devices that are hidden throughout the grocery store; an app on your phone that communicates with them informed the company not only that you had entered the building, but that you had lingered for two minutes in front of the low-fat Chobanis. Most location services use cell towers and GPS, but these technologies have limitations. Cell towers have wide coverage, but low location accuracy: An advertiser can think you are in Walgreens, but you're actually in McDonald's next door. GPS, by contrast, can be accurate to a radius of around five meters (16 feet), but it does not work well indoors. Bluetooth beacons, however, can track your location accurately from a range of inches to about 50 meters. They use little energy, and they work well indoors. That has made them popular among companies that want precise tracking inside a store.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Amazon Lays Off Dozens Of Game Developers During E3

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 3:30pm
As the video game industry's attention was focused squarely on the final day of the E3 convention in Los Angeles this week, Amazon's video game division quietly laid off dozens of employees. From a report: Amazon Game Studios, which is currently developing the online games Crucible and New World, told affected employees on Thursday morning that they would have 60 days to look for new positions within Amazon, according to one person who was laid off. At the end of that buffer period, if they fail to find employment, they will receive severance packages. Amazon also canceled some unannounced games, that person told Kotaku. The company wouldn't say exactly how many employees it laid off, but confirmed the news when reached by Kotaku today.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Avast and AVG Are Causing Firefox Users To Lose Saved Passwords

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 2:50pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Firefox users are reporting that their saved passwords have been lost, with the problem seemingly caused by antivirus software rather than being an issue with Firefox itself. Antivirus software such as Avast and AVG appear to be corrupting the file in which Firefox stores passwords, rendering it unreadable. Thankfully, passwords can be recovered, but -- for the time being --- they will be corrupted again when you restart your computer.

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NASA Estimates It Will Need $20 Billion To $30 Billion For Moon Landing

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 2:10pm
NASA has touted its bold plan to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024 for months. Now we're starting to get an idea of how much it will cost. From a report: The space agency will need an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years for its moon project, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNN Business on Thursday. That would mean adding another $4 billion to $6 billion per year, on average, to the agency's budget, which is already expected to be about $20 billion annually. Bridenstine's remarks are the first time that NASA has shared a total cost estimate for its moon program, which is called Artemis (after the Greek goddess of the moon) and could send people to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century. NASA wants that mission to include two astronauts: A man and the first-ever woman to walk on the moon.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

We Won't Be Listening To Music in a Decade According To Vinod Khosla

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 1:25pm
In the future, we won't be listening to our favorite bands or artists, we'll be listening to custom made sounds that are tailored to our mood. At least, that's what billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla believes. From a report: "I actually think 10 years from now, you won't be listening to music," is a thing venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said onstage today during a fireside chat at Creative Destruction Lab's second annual Super Session event. Instead, he believes we'll be listening to custom song equivalents that are automatically designed specifically for each individual, and tailored to their brain, their listening preferences and their particular needs.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook's New Cryptocurrency, Libra, Gets Big Backers

Slashdot - June 14, 2019 - 12:45pm
Facebook has signed up more than a dozen companies including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and Uber to back a new cryptocurrency it plans to unveil next week and launch next year, according to a WSJ report. From the report: The financial and e-commerce companies, venture capitalists and telecommunications firms will invest around $10 million each in a consortium that will govern the digital coin, called Libra [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], according to people familiar with the matter. The money would be used to fund the creation of the coin, which will be pegged to a basket of government-issued currencies to avoid the wild swings that have dogged other cryptocurrencies, they said. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Facebook was recruiting backers to help start the crypto-based payments system and was seeking to raise as much as around $1 billion for the effort. In the works for more than a year, the secretive project revolves around a digital coin that its users could send to each other and use to make purchases both on Facebook and across the internet. Talks with some of the partners are ongoing, and the group's eventual membership may change, the people added.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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