posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Software engineers understand the pace of writing code, but frequently managers don't. One line of code might take 1 minute, and another line of code might take 1 day. But generally, everything averages out, and hitting your goals is more a function of properly setting your goals than of coding quickly or slowly. Sprint.ly, a company than analyzes productivity, has published some data to back this up. The amount of time actually developing a feature was a small and relatively consistent portion of its lifetime as a work ticket. The massively variable part of the process is when "stakeholders are figuring out specs and prioritizing work." The top disrupting influences (as experienced devs will recognize) are unclear and changing requirements. Another big cause of slowdowns is interrupting development work on one task to work on a second one. The article encourages managers to let devs contribute to the process and say "No" if the specs are too vague. Is there anything you'd add to this list?

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Everyone understands by now that ads fund most of the sites on the web. Other sites have put up paywalls or started subscription bonuses, with varying success. Google, one of the web's biggest ad providers, saw a problem with that: it's a huge pain for readers to manage subscriptions for all the sites they visit — often more trouble than it's worth. And, since so few people sign up, the subscription fees have to be pretty high. Now, Google has launched a service called Contributor to try to fix this situation. The way Contributor works is this: websites and readers can opt in to the service (and sites like Imgur, The Onion, and ScienceDaily already have). Readers then pay a fee of $1-3 per month (they get to choose how much) to gain ad-free access to all participating sites. When the user visits one of the sites, instead of showing a Google ad, Google will just send a small chunk of that subscription money to the website instead.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: After losing its Supreme Court case in June and briefly attempting to transform itself into a cable company, Aereo is now filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their service worked by letting people stream over-the-air television to their internet-connected devices. The content industry pushed back, and though Aereo argued its way through several lower courts, they say, "The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo's technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome."

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is testing a group of five robot security guards. They contain a sophisticated sensor suite that includes 360-degree HD video, thermal imaging, night vision, LIDAR, and audio recorders. They can also detect various chemicals and radiation signatures, and do some rudimentary behavioral analysis on people they see. (And they look a bit like Daleks.) The robots are unarmed, so we don't have to worry about a revolt just yet, but they can sound an alarm and call for human officers. They weigh about 300 lbs each, can last roughly a day on a battery charge, and know to head to the charging station when they're low on power.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes A Swedish court rejected an appeal by Julian Assange to revoke a detention order issued over allegations of sexual assault. "In the view of the Court of Appeal there is no reason to set aside the detention solely because Julian Assange is in an embassy and the detention order cannot be enforced at present for that reason," the appellate court added. "When it comes to the reasons for and against detention, i.e. the assessment of proportionality that is always made when use is made of a coercive measure such as detention, the Court of Appeal considers that Julian Assange's stay at the embassy shall not count in his favor since he can himself choose to bring his stay there to an end."

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes Christina Nunez reports in National Geographic that in the past four years, at least 29 coal-fired plants in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass while another 54 units, mostly in the US Northeast and Midwest, are slated to be converted over the next nine years. By switching to natural gas, plant operators can take advantage of a relatively cheap and plentiful US supply. The change can also help them meet proposed federal rules to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, given that electricity generation from natural gas emits about half as much carbon as electricity from coal does. But not everyone is happy with the conversions. The Dunkirk plant in western New York, slated for conversion to natural gas, is the focus of a lawsuit by environmental groups that say the $150 million repowering will force the state's energy consumers to pay for an unnecessary facility. "What we're concerned about is that the Dunkirk proceeding is setting a really, really bad precedent where we're going to keep these old, outdated, polluting plants on life support for political reasons," says Christopher Amato. Dunkirk's operator, NRG, wanted to mothball the plant in 2012, saying it was not economical to run. The utility, National Grid, said shutting it down could make local power supplies less reliable, a problem that could be fixed by boosting transmission capacity—at a lower cost than repowering Dunkirk. Meanwhile the citizens of Dunkirk are happy the plant is staying open. "We couldn't let it happen. We would lose our tax base, we would lose our jobs, we would lose our future," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young. "This agreement saves us. It gives us a foundation on which to build our economy. It gives us hope. This is our community's Christmas miracle!"

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes with news that Russia may be building its own space station to replace the ISS. Russia may be planning to build a new, independent national space station rather than prolong its participation in the $150 billion International Space Station (ISS) program beyond its current 2020 end date. The U.S. space agency NASA proposed last year to extend the life of the ISS — the largest international project ever undertaken by nations during peacetime — beyond its currently scheduled 2020 end date to at least 2024.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
rossgneumann writes Life gets pretty chill after creating 'Tetris' and escaping the KGB. A quick web search for "Alexey Pajitnov" brings up pages of articles and interviews that fixate only on his seminal creation—a work that remains, far and away, the best selling video game of all time. But clearly, there's more to the man than just Tetris. Meeting Pajitnov himself led me to wonder about, well, everything else. What was the Tetris-less life of Alexey Pajitnov?

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
Nicola Hahn writes In his latest Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald considers the recent defeat of the Senate's USA Freedom Act. He remarks that governments "don't walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead of appealing to an allegedly irrelevant Congress Greenwald advocates utilizing the power of consumer demand to address the failings of cyber security. Specifically he argues that companies care about their bottom line and that the trend of customers refusing to tolerate insecure products will force companies to protect user privacy, implement encryption, etc. All told Greenwald's argument is very telling: that society can rely on corporate interests for protection. Is it true that representative government is a lost cause and that lawmakers would never knowingly yield authority? There are people who think that advising citizens to devolve into consumers is a dubious proposition.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
mdsolar writes A group of Harvard students, frustrated by the university's refusal to shed fossil fuel stocks from its investment portfolios, is looking beyond protests and resolutions to a new form of pressure: the courts. The seven law students and undergraduates filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts against the president and fellows of Harvard College, among others, for what they call "mismanagement of charitable funds." The 11-page complaint, with 167 pages of supporting exhibits, asks the court to compel divestment on behalf of the students and "future generations."

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes The Nintendo DS has reached a remarkable milestone: it's turned 10 years old. A new retrospective on one of Nintendo's greatest ever smash hits points out that it's now old enough to become a Pokemon trainer, and looks back at some of the greatest (and possibly overlooked) titles on the platform which has sold 154 million copies in a decade.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
Rambo Tribble writes Using machine learning techniques, Google claims to have produced software that can better produce natural-language descriptions of images. This has ramifications for uses such as better image search and for better describing the images for the blind. As the Google people put it, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it's the words that are the most useful ..."

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
angry tapir (1463043) writes Intel is shrinking PCs to thumb-sized "compute sticks" that will be out next year. The stick will plug into the back of a smart TV or monitor "and bring intelligence to that," said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel, during the Intel investor conference in Santa Clara, California. They might be a bit late to the party, but since Intel VP Kirk Skaugen mentioned both Chromecast and Amazon's Fire TV Stick, hopefully that mean Intel has some more interesting and general-purpose plans.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Gordon_Shure_DOT_com writes Human rights charity Amnesty International has released Detekt to tool which finds and removes known government spyware programs. Describing the free software as the first of its kind, Amnesty commissioned the tool from prominent German computer security researcher and open source advocate Claudio Guarnieri, aka 'nex'. While acknowledging that the only sure way to prevent governments surveillance of huge dragnets of individuals is legislation, Marek Marczynski of Amnesty nevertheless called the tool ( downloadable here ) a useful countermeasure versus spooks. According to the app's instructions, it operates similarly to popular malware or virus removal suites, though systems must be disconnected from the Internet prior to it scanning.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
dcblogs writes At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes The man who in every sense sits at the nerve centre of SUSE Linux has no airs about him. At 38, Vojtch Pavlík is disarmingly frank and often seems a bit embarrassed to talk about his achievements, which are many and varied. He is every bit a nerd, but can be candid, though precise. As director of SUSE Labs, it would be no exaggeration to call him the company's kernel guru. Both recent innovations that have come from SUSE — patching a live kernel, technology called kGraft, and creating a means for booting openSUSE on machines locked down with secure boot, have been his babies.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes So for a variety of reasons (some related to recent events, some ongoing for a while) I've kinda soured on Linux and have been looking at giving BSD a shot on the desktop. I've been a Gentoo user for many years and am reasonably comfortable diving into stuff, so I don't anticipate user friendliness being a show stopper. I suspect it's more likely something I currently do will have poor support in the BSD world. I have of course been doing some reading and will probably just give it a try at some point regardless, but I was curious what experience and advice other slashdot users could share. There's been many bold comments on slashdot about moving away from Linux, so I suspect I'm not the only one asking these questions. Use-case wise, my list of must haves is: Minecraft, and probably more dubiously, FTB; mplayer or equivalent (very much prefer mplayer as it's what I've used forever); VirtualBox or something equivalent; Firefox (like mplayer, it's just what I've always used, and while I would consider alternatives, that would definitely be a negative); Flash (I hate it, but browsing the web sans-flash is still a pain); OpenRA (this is the one I anticipate giving me the most trouble, but playing it is somewhat of an obsession). Stuff that would be nice but I can live without: Full disk encryption; Openbox / XFCE (It's what I use now and would like to keep using, but I could probably switch to something else without too much grief); jackd/rakarrack or something equivalent (currently use my computer as a cheap guitar amp/effects stack); Qt (toolkit of choice for my own stuff). What's the most painless way to transition to BSD for this constellation of uses, and which variety of BSD would you suggest?

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
New submitter clcto writes Back in 2010, Computer Engineer Barbie was released. Now, with the attention brought to the Frozen themed programming game from Disney and Code.org, unwanted attention has been given to the surprisingly real book "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer". So much so, that Mattel has pulled the book from Amazon. The book shows Barbie attempting to write a computer game. However, instead of writing the code, she enlists two boys to write the code as she just does the design. She then proceeds to infect her computer and her sister's computer with a virus and must enlist the boys to fix that for her as well. In the end she takes all the credit, and proclaims "I guess I can be a computer engineer!" A blog post commenting on the book (as well as giving pictures of the book and its text) has been moved to Gizmodo due to high demand.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
the_newsbeagle writes In 2007, Google boldly declared a new initiative to invent a green energy technology that produced cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants. Sure, energy researchers had been hammering at this task for decades, but Google hoped to figure it out in a few years. They didn't. Instead, Google admitted defeat and shut down the project in 2011. In a admirable twist, however, two of the project's engineers then dedicated themselves to learning from the project's failure. What did it mean that one of the world's most ambitious and capable innovation companies couldn't invent a cheap renewable energy tech?

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
L-One-L-One (173461) writes In a surprise move, nine months after being bought by Facebook, WhatsApp has begun rolling out end-to-end encryption for its users. With true end-to-end encryption data becomes unaccessible to admins of WhatsApp or law enforcement authorities. This new feature first proposed on Android only has been developed in cooperation with Open Whisper Systems, based on TextSecure. With hundreds of million users, WhatsApp becomes by far the largest secure messaging application. FBI Director James Comey might not be pleased. Do you have a current favorite for encrypted online chat?

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes BitTorrent today outlined the company's plans for its file synchronization tool Sync. Next year, the company will launch Sync 2.0, finally taking the product out of beta, as well as three new paid Sync products. Ever since its debut, Sync has provided a wide variety of solutions to various problems, BitTorrent says, from distributing files across remote servers to sharing vacation photos. BitTorrent thus believes it needs to build three distinct products for each of these separate audiences, including a Pro version for $40 per year.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
angry tapir writes An Android Trojan program that's behind one of the longest running multipurpose mobile botnets has been updated to become stealthier and more resilient. The botnet is mainly used for instant message spam and rogue ticket purchases, but it could be used to launch targeted attacks against corporate networks because the malware allows attackers to use the infected devices as proxies, according to security researchers.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
StartsWithABang writes After successfully landing on a comet with all 10 instruments intact, but failing to deploy its thrusters and harpoons to anchor onto the surface, Philae bounced, coming to rest in an area with woefully insufficient sunlight to keep it alive. After exhausting its primary battery, it went into hibernation, most likely never to wake again. We'll always be left to wonder what might have been if it had functioned optimally, and given us years of data rather than just 60 hours worth. The thing is, it wouldn't have needed to function optimally to give us years of data, if only it were better designed in one particular aspect: powered by Plutonium-238 instead of by solar panels.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes Scientific American reports that simply breathing on money could soon reveal if it's the real deal or counterfeit thanks to a photonic crystal ink developed by Ling Bai and Zhongze Gu and colleagues at Southeast University in Nanjing, China that can produce unique color changing patterns on surfaces with an inkjet printer system which would be extremely hard for fraudsters to reproduce. The ink mimics the way Tmesisternus isabellae – a species of longhorn beetle – reversibly switches its color from gold to red according to the humidity in its environment. The color shift is caused by the adsorption of water vapor in their hardened front wings, which alters the thickness and average refractive index of their multilayered scales. To emulate this, the team made their photonic crystal ink using mesoporous silica nanoparticles, which have a large surface area and strong vapor adsorption capabilities that can be precisely controlled. The complicated and reversible multicolor shifts of mesoporous CPC patterns are favorable for immediate recognition by naked eyes but hard to copy. "We think the ink's multiple security features may be useful for antifraud applications," says Bai, "however we think the technology could be more useful for fabricating multiple functional sensor arrays, which we are now working towards."

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
wiredmikey writes A federal court has temporarily shut down and frozen the assets of two telemarketing operations accused by the FTC of scamming customers out of more than $120 million by deceptively marketing computer software and tech support services. According to complaints filed by the FTC, since at least 2012, the defendants used software designed to trick consumers into believing there were problems with their computers and then hit them with sales pitches for tech support products and services to fix their machines. According to the FTC, the scams began with computer software that claimed to improve the security or performance of the customer's computer. Typically, consumers downloaded a free, trial version of the software that would run a computer system scan. The scan always identified numerous errors, whether they existed or not. Consumers were then told that in order to fix the problems they had to purchase the paid version of the software for between $29 and $49. In order to activate the software after the purchase, consumers were then directed to call a toll-free number and connected to telemarketers who tried to sell them unneeded computer repair services and software, according to the FTC complaint. The services could cost as much as $500, the FTC stated.

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