posted about 1 hour ago on slashdot
Citing a number of complaints following Google's Gmail makeover, TechCrunch's Romain Dillet makes the case for why some users don't want smart suggestions in the email service: There's a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don't want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter. A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That's why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing. But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking. VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google's order.

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posted about 2 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. "Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

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posted about 3 hours ago on slashdot
Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited." The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

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posted about 4 hours ago on slashdot
According to a new report from WCCFtech, citing "sources familiar with the entire situation," Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5 for short) will launch in 2020 and be powered by AMD's Navi GPU chip. "While it was previously reported that the much-anticipated console will be using AMD's Ryzen CPU tech, it looks like the chip maker will have some involvement in the PS5's graphics chip, too," reports The Inquirer. From the report: The report also suggests this is the reason behind AMD not announcing a new GPU at Computex this year, because it has found custom-applications for consoles a much more financially attractive space. "Here is a fun fact: Vega was designed primarily for Apple and Navi is being designed for Sony - the PS5 to be precise," the report states, right before going on to explain AMD's roadmap for Navi and how it's dependent on Sony. "This meant that the graphics department had to be tied directly to the roadmap that these semi-custom applications followed. Since Sony needed the Navi GPU to be ready by the time the PS5 would launch (expectedly around 2020) that is the deadline they needed to work on." It's anyone's guess as to when the successor to the PlayStation 4 will be launched. While the source for this report is seen as reputable in the games industry, last month the head of PlayStation business said the next console is three years off.

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posted about 5 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by behavioral scientists Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack: The practical payoff of mindfulness [meditation] is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience. But on the face of it, mindfulness might seem counterproductive in a workplace setting. To test this hunch, we recently conducted five studies, involving hundreds of people, to see whether there was a tension between mindfulness and motivation. As we report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, we found strong evidence that meditation is demotivating. Some of the participants in our studies were trained in a few of the most common mindfulness meditation techniques. They were instructed by a professional meditation coach to focus on their breathing or mentally scan their bodies for physical sensations, being gently reminded throughout that there was no right or wrong way to do the exercise. Other participants were led through a different exercise. Some were encouraged to let their thoughts wander; some were instructed to read the news or write about recent activities they had done. Then we gave everyone a task to do. Among those who had meditated, motivation levels were lower on average. Those people didn't feel as much like working on the assignments, nor did they want to spend as much time or effort to complete them. Meditation was correlated with reduced thoughts about the future and greater feelings of calm and serenity -- states seemingly not conducive to wanting to tackle a work project. The studies also found that meditation "neither benefited nor detracted from a participant's quality of work." Furthermore, Vohs and Hafenbrack found that a financial bonus for outstanding performance did not overcome the demotivating effect of mindfulness. "While the promise of material rewards will always be a useful tool for motivating employees, it is no substitute for internal motivation," the report reads.

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posted about 6 hours ago on slashdot
Frosty Piss writes: The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1971 by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power by focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. In the study, volunteers were randomly assigned to be either "guards" or "prisoners" in a mock prison, with Zimbardo serving as the superintendent. The results seemed to show that the students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers' request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. After Berkeley graduate Douglas Korpi appeared to have a nervous breakdown while playing the role of an inmate, the experiment was shut down. There's just one problem: Korpi's breakdown was a sham. Dr. Ben Blum took to Medium to publish his claims. "Blum's expose -- based on previously unpublished recordings of Zimbardo, a Stanford psychology professor, and interviews with the participants -- offers evidence that the 'guards' were coached to be cruel," reports New York Post. "One of the men who acted as an inmate told Blum he enjoyed the experiment because he knew the guards couldn't actually hurt him." "There were no repercussions. We knew [the guards] couldn't hurt us, they couldn't hit us. They were white college kids just like us, so it was a very safe situation," said Douglas Korpi, who was 22-years-old when he acted as an inmate in the study. The Berkeley grad now admits the whole thing was fake. Zimbardo also "admitted that he was an active participant in the study, meaning he had influence over the results," reports New York Post. According to an audio recording from the Stanford archive, you can hear Zimbardo encouraging the guards to act "tough."

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posted about 7 hours ago on slashdot
Days after the historic North Korea-United States summit, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Thursday warning of a new variant of North Korean malware to look out for. Called Typeframe, the malware is able to download and install additional malware, proxies and trojans; modify firewalls; and connect to servers for additional instructions. Engadget reports: Since last May, the DHS has issued a slew of alerts and reports about North Korea's malicious cyber activity. The department also pointed out that North Korea has been hacking countries around the world since 2009. And of course, don't forget that the U.S. also labeled that country as the source of Wannacry cyberattack, which notably held data from the UK's National Health Service hostage, and wreaked havoc across Russia and Ukraine. CNN was first to report the news.

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posted about 8 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: [Stephen McAleer and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine] have pioneered a new kind of deep-learning technique, called "autodidactic iteration," that can teach itself to solve a Rubik's Cube with no human assistance. The trick that McAleer and co have mastered is to find a way for the machine to create its own system of rewards. Here's how it works. Given an unsolved cube, the machine must decide whether a specific move is an improvement on the existing configuration. To do this, it must be able to evaluate the move. Autodidactic iteration does this by starting with the finished cube and working backwards to find a configuration that is similar to the proposed move. This process is not perfect, but deep learning helps the system figure out which moves are generally better than others. Having been trained, the network then uses a standard search tree to hunt for suggested moves for each configuration. The result is an algorithm that performs remarkably well. "Our algorithm is able to solve 100% of randomly scrambled cubes while achieving a median solve length of 30 moves -- less than or equal to solvers that employ human domain knowledge," say McAleer and co. That's interesting because it has implications for a variety of other tasks that deep learning has struggled with, including puzzles like Sokoban, games like Montezuma's Revenge, and problems like prime number factorization. The paper on the algorithm -- called DeepCube -- is available on Arxiv.

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posted about 11 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes UPI: After nearly four decades with NASA, including 22 years as an astronaut, Peggy Whitson is leaving the space agency. Her retirement is effective Friday, NASA announced... Whitson ends her career with multiple records to her name, including most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut -- 665 days... The 57-year-old Whitson was a scientist before she was an astronaut, earning graduate degrees in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston before coming to conduct research at NASA's Johnson Space Center in 1989. The NASA scientist began training as an astronaut in 1996. She made her first trip to the International Space Station in 2008. During her time in space, including three long-duration stints aboard International Space Station, she helped carry out 21 science investigation and became the agency's first space station science officer... Whitson took a second turn as commander during Expedition 51, part of her most recent -- and last -- stay on the space station, which spanned from November 2016 to September 2017.

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posted about 15 hours ago on slashdot
"A giant egg equipped with rotors and 'Transformers'-style robots are among some of the creative designs submitted in a $2 million dollar contest to dream up new ways of flying," reports CNN. "GoFly, a $2 million competition to design personal flying machines backed by Boeing, has announced its first round of most promising designs out of 600 entries from around the world," writes harrymcc . "Proposed vehicles need to fly for at least 20 miles, at 35 miles an hour; many of the ideas look a bit like airborne motorcycles." Fast Company reports: "There's been a convergence of all of these breakthrough technologies that makes this the first moment in time where we have the ability to make people fly," says Gwen Lighter, who dreamed up the GoFly prize, recruited Boeing to bankroll it, and now serves as CEO. Many of the advances come from the world of drones -- "high-efficiency motors, high-capacity batteries, and cheap navigation and stabilizing technologies that keep even newbies on course and out of danger.... Their prototypes have to achieve vertical takeoff and landing (called VTOL), eliminating the need for an airport runway... The craft have to be small enough to fit within an 8.5-foot circle, and they have to be safe and manageable for anyone to operate -- "not just engineers or daredevils... GoFly's Lighter emphasizes that safety is a key requirement in judging. She says that whatever wins will be well on the way to meeting requirements of the FAA -- and regulatory bodies in other countries -- for mainstream operation. FAA staffers (in a non-official capacity) are even among GoFly's expert advisors. Best of all, every participant -- even those who win the prize money -- "are free to take their innovations anywhere. They retain all intellectual property rights."

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posted about 18 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes The Next Web: The word 'hack' used to mean something, and hackers were known for their technical brilliance and creativity. Now, literally anything is a hack -- anything -- to the point where the term is meaningless, and should be retired. The most egregious abuse of the term "hack" comes from the BBC's Dougal Shaw. In a recent video of his, called "My lunch hack," Shaw demonstrates that it's cheaper to make your own sandwich each day than it is to buy a pre-packaged sandwich from the supermarket. Shaw calls that a hack. I call it common sense. And that's not nearly the worst example. I haven't touched on "life hacks" yet. This term is nebulous. It means nothing and anything. It's used to describe arts and crafts... That said, the worst dilution of the term "hack" comes from growth hackers... Anyway, I regret to inform you that the word "hack" is now bad, and should be avoided. A request for alternative words first went up on Slashdot back in 1999 -- but nothing's been settled. Back in 2014 a Gizmodo reporter wrote an impassioned plea titled "Please stop calling everything a hack" -- while others have argued the opposite. in 2015 the editorial director of Make magazine cited hack's definition in The New Hacker's Dictionary as "an appropriate application of ingenuity," arguing that "my and other Make contributors' use of the term for clever shop techniques, ingeniously simple projects, and epic 'kluges' (i.e. Rube Goldberg-level hacks and fixes) is entirely appropriate."

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posted about 21 hours ago on slashdot
Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight: There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion.... [I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025. A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade. The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."

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posted about 23 hours ago on slashdot
Slashdot reader grep -v '.*' * shares a surprising story. The Kansas City Star profiles the victim of a three-year con that started with an email to a Yahoo inbox back in 2005. A decade ago, Fred Haines was wandering the Wichita airport looking for a Nigerian man hauling two chests full of cash. After an hour of waiting and asking around, he finally came to the realization that the $65 million Nigerian fortune he thought he was inheriting was not coming after all. What is now coming, though, is the $110,000 he had been scammed out of, thanks to the work of the Kansas Attorney General's Office. From 2005 to 2008, swindlers hoodwinked Haines, a self-employed handyman in Wichita, into spending thousands in pursuit of an imaginary inheritance from a Nigerian government official -- a con known as the Nigerian Prince Scam. Haines re-mortgaged his house three times in the process. Last year, in a settlement with the Department of Justice, Western Union admitted it knew some of its employees had conspired with scam artists to bilk people out of money and had failed to fix the problem. The company set aside $586 million to create a fund to refund victims across the U.S. and Canada... All victims who'd sent money to hucksters using the service were able to request refunds, but only those who had complained to law enforcement or Western Union were notified directly of the settlement. "It got to the point where they were showing me that the president of Nigeria had sent me a letter. It had his picture on it and everything," Haines said. "I looked it up on the computer to see what the Nigerian president looked like, and it was him." Once, he received an email claiming to be from Robert Mueller, who was then the FBI director. The email was addressed to Haines, code-name "B-DOG," and it was signed with the FBI's address and official seal. "I wish you can remove doubt and suspicious and go ahead I assured you that you will never regret this fund release," the email said in part. Haines is one of 344 victims who recovered a total of $1,758,988 through the Kansas Attorney General's office -- though when the office sent out 25,000 letters to possible scam victims, many of them were now skeptical of the promise of unclaimed money, and "Some were even angry when employees called to follow up on those who hadn't responded."

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posted about 24 hours ago on slashdot
Slashdot reader Andy Smith writes: Slashdot reported last September how I was arrested while standing in a field near a road accident, as I photographed the scene for a newspaper. I was initially given a police warning for "obstruction", but the warning was then cancelled and I was prosecuted for resisting arrest and breach of the peace. These are serious charges and I was facing a prison sentence. Fortunately we had one very strong piece of evidence: A recording of my arrest. Not only did the recording prove that two police officers' testimony was false, but it caught one of them boasting about how he had conspired with a prosecutor to arrest and prosecute me. Yesterday the case was dropped, and now the two police officers and the prosecutor face a criminal investigation.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In her Bard College commencement speech, ex-Google VP and former U.S. CTO Megan Smith revealed to graduates that she gave President Obama a computing history lesson on the same day he learned to code in 2014. "I walked into the Oval Office to do coding with President Obama, and, interestingly, Prince William had just stepped out," Smith explained (YouTube). "They had just had a meeting. I said to President Obama, you know what you and I are about to do is related to Prince William, and he said, how's that. Well, the Prince's wife Kate, her mother and grandmother were codebreakers at Bletchley Park, where they cracked the Nazi Enigma codes...." [Presumably Smith meant to say Kate's great-aunt, not mother — Carole Middleton wasn't born until 1955.] To be fair to the President, Smith once confessed to not knowing much about computing history herself, explaining in a 2012 Official Google Blog post that she and other visiting tech luminaries were embarrassingly clueless about who Ada Lovelace was in a 2011 visit to England. "Last year, a group of us were lucky enough to visit the U.K. Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street, as part of the Silicon Valley Comes to the U.K. initiative," Smith wrote. "While there, we asked about some of the paintings on the wall. When we got to a large portrait of a regally dressed woman, our host said 'and of course, that's Lady Lovelace'... You can imagine our surprise when we learned she was considered by some to be the world's first computer programmer -- having published the first algorithm intended for use on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine." One imagines Smith might also have been surprised to learn that many programmers older than Smith were already very aware of Lady Ada at that time thanks to the Department of Defense, who tried in vain to make Ada a household name for decades, but had little success popularizing the Ada programming language, which was named after Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond -- and he's also Slashdot reader #3872. Now he's just won a legal victory in court. "Open Source Security, maker of the grsecurity Linux kernel patches, has been directed to pay Bruce Perens and his legal team almost $260,000 following a failed defamation claim," reports The Register. Slashdot reader Right to Opine writes: The order requires Spengler and his company to pay $259,900.50, with the bill due immediately rather than allowing a wait for the appeal of the case. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's attorneys will represent Perens during OSS/Spengler's appeal of the case. Perens was sued for comments on his blog and here on Slashdot that suggested that OSS's Grsecurity product could be in violation of the GPL license on the Linux kernel. The court had previously ruled that Perens' statements were not defamatory, because they were statements by a non-attorney regarding an undecided issue in law. It is possible that Spengler is personally liable for any damages his small company can't pay, since he joined the case as an individual in order to preserve a claim of false light (which could not be brought by his company), removing his own corporate protection.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
"Despite its low profile, OpenStreetMap is arguably one of the most important projects for the future of free software," argues Glyn Moody, author of Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution, in a new Linux Journal article shared by long-time Slashdot reader carlie: The rise of mobile phones as the primary computing device for billions of people, especially in developing economies, lends a new importance to location and movement. Many internet services now offer additional features based on where users are, where they are going and their relative position to other members of social networks. Self-driving cars and drones are two rapidly evolving hardware areas where accurate geographical information is crucial. All of those things depend upon a map in critical ways, and they require large, detailed datasets. OpenStreetMap is the only truly global open alternative to better-known, and much better-funded geodata holdings, such as Google Maps. The current dominance of the latter is a serious problem for free software -- and freedom itself. The data that lies behind Google Maps is proprietary. Thus, any open-source program that uses Google Maps or other commercial mapping services is effectively including proprietary elements in its code. For purists, that is unacceptable in itself. But even for those with a more pragmatic viewpoint, it means that open source is dependent on a company for data that can be restricted or withdrawn at any moment.... Although undoubtedly difficult, creating high-quality map-based services is a challenge that must be tackled by the Open Source community if it wants to remain relevant in a world dominated by mobile computing. The bad news is that at the moment, millions of people are happily sending crucial geodata to proprietary services like Waze, as well as providing free bug-fixes for Google Maps. Far better if they could be working with equal enthusiasm and enjoyment on open projects, since the resulting datasets would be freely available to all, not turned into corporate property. The good news is that OpenStreetMap provides exactly the right foundation for creating those open map-based services, which is why supporting it must become a priority for the Open Source world.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Open source guru Eric Raymond warned about the possibility of security bugs in critical code which can now date back more than two decades -- in a talk titled "Rescuing Ancient Code" at last week's SouthEast Linux Fest in North Carolina. In a new interview with ITPro Today, Raymond offered this advice on the increasingly important art of "code archaeology". "Apply code validators as much as you can," he said. "Static analysis, dynamic analysis, if you're working in Python use Pylons, because every bug you find with those tools is a bug that you're not going to have to bleed through your own eyeballs to find... It's a good thing when you have a legacy code base to occasionally unleash somebody on it with a decent sense of architecture and say, 'Here's some money and some time; refactor it until it's clean.' Looks like a waste of money until you run into major systemic problems later because the code base got too crufty. You want to head that off...." "Documentation is important," he added, "applying all the validators you can is important, paying attention to architecture, paying attention to what's clean is important, because dirty code attracts defects. Code that's difficult to read, difficult to understand, that's where the bugs are going to come out of apparent nowhere and mug you." For a final word of advice, Raymond suggested that it might be time to consider moving away from some legacy programming languages as well. "I've been a C programmer for 35 years and have written C++, though I don't like it very much," he said. "One of the things I think is happening right now is the dominance of that pair of languages is coming to an end. It's time to start looking beyond those languages for systems programming. The reason is we've reached a project scale, we've reached a typical volume of code, at which the defect rates from the kind of manual memory management that you have to do in those languages are simply unacceptable anymore... think it's time for working programmers and project managers to start thinking about, how about if we not do this in C and not incur those crazy downstream error rates." Raymond says he prefers Go for his alternative to C, complaining that Rust has a high entry barrier, partly because "the Rust people have not gotten their act together about a standard library."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Heritype quotes the Guardian's science correspondent: The idea of killer robots rising up and destroying humans is a Hollywood fantasy and a distraction from the more pressing dilemmas that intelligent machines present to society, according to one of Britain's most influential computer scientists. Sir Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at the University of Oxford, predicts that AI will bring overwhelming benefits to humanity, revolutionising cancer diagnosis and treatment, and transforming education and the workplace. If problems arise, he said, it will not be because sentient machines have unexpectedly gone rogue in a Terminator-like scenario. "The danger is clearly not that robots will decide to put us away and have a robot revolution," he said. "If there [are] killer robots, it will be because we've been stupid enough to give it the instructions or software for it to do that without having a human in the loop deciding...." However, Prof Shadbolt is optimistic about the social and economic impact of emerging technologies such as machine learning, in which computer programmes learn tasks by looking for patterns in huge datasets. "I don't see it destroying jobs grim reaper style," he said. "People are really inventive at creating new things for humans to do for which will pay them a wage. Leisure, travel, social care, cultural heritage, even reality TV shows. People want people around them and interacting with them."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Two more men entered pleas in federal court for their roles in a SWAT call that led to a fatal police shooting in Kansas: not guilty. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita, Kansas, and Casey Viner, 18, from a suburb of Cincinnati, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and remained free on $10,000 bond, court records showed. Both of the suspects live with their parents, local media reported. In the so-called "swatting" incident, in which someone falsely reports an emergency requiring a police response, Viner got upset at Gaskill over a video game they played online, federal prosecutors said, and Viner contacted a known "swatter"...and asked him to make the false report to police at an address that had been provided by Gaskill. Viner did not know that Gaskill no longer lived at the address, but Gaskill knew, prosecutors said. After media reports of the shooting, Gaskill urged [swatter Tyler] Barriss to delete their communications and Viner wiped his phone, according to the indictment... Barriss and Viner face federal charges of conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud. Viner and Gaskill were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Gaskill was also charged with wire fraud and additional counts of obstruction of justice. In a jailhouse interview in January, Barriss told a local news team that "Whether you hang me from a tree, or you give me 5, 10, 15 years... I don't think it will ever justify what happened... I hope no one ever does it, ever again. I hope it's something that ceases to exist." In April, while still in jail, Barriss gained access to the internet then posted "All right, now who was talking shit? >:) Your ass is about to get swatted."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Pocket, which lets you save articles and videos you find around the web to consume later, now has a home inside Firefox as the engine powering recommendations to 50 million people a month. By analyzing the articles and videos people save into Pocket, [Pocket founder and CEO Nate] Weiner believes the company can show people the best of the web -- in a personalized way -- without building an all-knowing, Facebook-style profile of the user. "We're testing this really cool personalization system within Firefox where it uses your browser history to target personalized [recommendations], but none of that data actually comes back to Pocket or Mozilla," Weiner said. "It all happens on the client, inside the browser itself. There is this notion today... I feel like you saw it in the Zuckerberg hearings. It was like, 'Oh, users. They will give us their data in return for a better experience.' That's the premise, right? And yes, you could do that. But we don't feel like that is the required premise. There are ways to build these things where you don't have to trade your life profile in order to actually get a good experience." Pocket can analyze which articles and videos from around the web are being shared as well as which ones are being read and watched. Over time, that gives the company a good understanding of which links lead to high-quality content that users of either Pocket or Firefox might enjoy. I use Firefox, but I don't use Pocket. Are there any Slashdot readers who want to share their experiences with read-it-later services, or thoughts about what Firefox is attempting?

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Samsung said this week it plans to transition to entirely renewable energy in its offices, factories, and operational facilities in the United States, China, and Europe by 2020. From a report: The company has also joined the World Wildlife Fund's Renewable Energy Buyers' Principles and the Rocky Mountain Institute's Business Renewables Center. In its home in Korea, Samsung plans to install 42,000 meters of solar panels at its headquarters, and will continue to add approximately 21,000 meters of solar arrays and geothermal power generation facilities beginning in 2019 at its satellite campuses in Pyeongtaek and Hwaseong.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
dryriver shares a report from Fast Company: Researchers at Norway's Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research now have scientific proof of something we've long suspected -- we're all getting dumber. In their paper, "Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused," which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg report that IQ scores have been steadily dropping since the 1970s. The study consisted of analyzing 730,000 IQ test results gleaned from young men entering Norway's compulsory military service from 1970 to 2009. They found that scores declined by an average of seven points per generation, a reversal of the so-called "Flynn effect" where IQ was seen to be rising during the first part of the 20th century. The decline may be due to environmental factors, but because the researchers couldn't find consistent trends among families, Bratsberg and Rogeberg discounted factors like parental education, family size, increased immigration, and genetics as significant causes.

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A massive project to supercharge the world's largest particle collider launched on Friday in the hope that the beefed-up machine will reveal fresh insights into the nature of the universe. The approximately $950 million Swiss franc mission will see heavy equipment, new buildings, access shafts and service tunnels installed, constructed and excavated at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the particle physics laboratory on the edge of Geneva. The upgrade will make the collider far more sensitive to subtle quirks in the laws of physics, and physicists hope these anomalies will pry open the door to entirely new theories of the universe. If the upgrade goes to plan, the proton beams in the souped-up accelerator, known as the high-luminosity LHC, or HL-LHC, will be so intense that the number of collisions in the machine will be five to 10 times greater than today. The upgrade is expected to take eight years. While new magnets and beam instruments will be installed when the LHC is switched off for two years in 2019, most of the required equipment will be fitted in a longer shutdown from 2024 to 2026, when the revamped machine will switch back on again.

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
Zorro shares a report from Quartz: In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a landmark study that found that people put on a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower chance of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease than people on a low-fat diet. It received massive media and public attention when released, and since has been cited by 3,268 other scientific papers. The study had tremendous impact on the field of nutrition and health science. Yesterday (June 13), however, the journal retracted the study -- providing a new reason for skepticism about how effective the now-popular Mediterranean diet really is. The reasons for the withdrawal are complicated, having to do with the methodology of the study. As Alison McCook of the Retraction Watch blog writes for NPR, this retraction is the result of the work of John Carlisle, a British anesthesiologist and self-taught statistician. Carlisle has spent recent years analyzing over 5,000 published randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of medical science research) to see how likely they were to have actually been properly randomized. In 2017, he reported his results: at least 2% of the studies were problematic. One was the 2013 NEJM article on the Mediterranean diet.

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