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Transportation

Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident 727

Posted by timothy
from the that's-bad-news dept.
hcs_$reboot writes The Germanwings plane crash takes a scary turn. After a couple of days investigation, it appears that the co-pilot requested control of the aircraft about 20 minutes into the flight. The pilot then left the cockpit, leaving the co-pilot in full control of the plane. Then, the co-pilot manually and "intentionally" set the plane on the descent that drove it into the mountainside in the southern French Alps. Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 28-year-old German national, could be heard breathing throughout the plane's descent and was alive at the point of impact, according to the prosecutor.
The Almighty Buck

Russian Official Proposes Road That Could Connect London To NYC 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-the-bathroom-before-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes There's great news coming out of Russia for epic road trip lovers. Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin has proposed building a highway that would reach from London to Alaska via Russia, a 13,000-mile stretch of road. "This is an inter-state, inter-civilization, project," the Siberian Times quoted Yakunin. "The project should be turned into a world 'future zone,' and it must be based on leading, not catching, technologies."
Businesses

Comcast's Incompetence, Lack of Broadband May Force Developer To Sell Home 535

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-net-for-you dept.
BUL2294 writes Consumerist has an article about a homeowner in Kitsap County, Washington who is unable to get broadband service. Due to inaccurate broadband availability websites, Comcast's corporate incompetence, CenturyLink's refusal to add new customers in his area, and Washington state's restrictions on municipal broadband, the owner may be left with no option but to sell his house 2 months after he bought it, since he works from home as a software developer. To add insult to injury, BroadbandMaps.gov says he has 10 broadband options in his zip code, some of which are not applicable to his address, have exorbitant costs (e.g. wireless), or are for municipal providers that are prevented from doing business with him by state law. Yet, Comcast insists in filings that "the broadband marketplace is more competitive than ever." As someone who had Comcast call to cancel on the day of my closing (two days before my scheduled install) because they didn't offer service to my house after all, I can sympathize.
Businesses

RadioShack Puts Customer Data Up For Sale In Bankruptcy Auction 262

Posted by samzenpus
from the names-and-numbers dept.
itwbennett writes For years, RadioShack made a habit of collecting customers' contact information at checkout. Now, the bankrupt retailer is putting that data on the auction block. A list of RadioShack assets for sale includes more than 65 million customer names and physical addresses, and 13 million email addresses. Bloomberg reports that the asset sale may include phone numbers and information on shopping habits as well. New York's Attorney General says his office will take 'appropriate action' if the data is handed over.
Government

Gen Con Threatens To Leave Indianapolis Over Religious Freedom Bill 875

Posted by samzenpus
from the rolling-in-another-place dept.
Grymalkin writes A controversial religious freedom bill has passed the Indianapolis Senate and is now awaiting Governor Mike Pence's signature to become law. Supporters claim that this bill will protect business owners from excessive government control while opponents argue it is just a veiled attempt to allow those same business owners to deny services to individuals because of their sexual orientation. Now, Gen Con has released a statement saying this bill will influence their decision to keep the convention in Indiana. This announcement has tourism officials worried as Gen Con brings in roughly 50,000 visitors each year, contributing $50 million to the local economy. So far Gen Con's announcement has not swayed the Governor who says he is looking forward to signing the bill into law. Gen Con currently has a contract with the Indy Convention Center through 2020. No word yet as to exactly when the convention would be moved should the bill become law.
The Military

How Nuclear Weapon Modernization Undercuts Disarmament 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the perfecting-the-planetcracker dept.
Lasrick writes: John Mecklin details exactly how nuclear weapons modernization is kick-starting a new arms race, and how modernizing these weapons to make them more accurate and stealthy puts the world at even greater risk of nuclear war: "[T]his is precisely why the U.S. Congress rejected the Air Force’s requests for low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons in the 1990s: Their very accuracy increases the temptation to use them." The issue is not getting very much attention, but the patience of the non-nuclear states is wearing thin, and a breakthrough in public awareness may be on the horizon: "The disarmament debate is likely to make this spring's NPT conference a contentious one and just might be loud enough to make the public aware that a new type of nuclear arms race is unfolding around the world."
Programming

No, It's Not Always Quicker To Do Things In Memory 482

Posted by Soulskill
from the performance-that-fails-to-perform dept.
itwbennett writes: It's a commonly held belief among software developers that avoiding disk access in favor of doing as much work as possible in-memory will results in shorter runtimes. To test this assumption, researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia compared the efficiency of alternative ways to create a 1MB string and write it to disk. The results consistently found that doing most of the work in-memory to minimize disk access was significantly slower than just writing out to disk repeatedly (PDF).
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives" 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-high-score dept.
Andreas Kolbe writes: Recently, "ArbCom", Wikipedia's highest court, banned an administrator account that for years had been manipulating the Wikipedia article of a bogus Indian business school – deleting criticism, adding puffery, and enabling the article to become a significant part of the school's PR strategy. Believing the school's promises and advertisements, families went to great expense to send sons and daughters on courses there – only for their children to find that the degrees they had gained were worthless. "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives," an Indian journalist quoted in the story says. India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.
Software

Developers and the Fear of Apple 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the think-different-except-about-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: UI designer Eli Schiff has posted an article about the "climate of fear" surrounding Apple in the software development community. He points out how developers who express criticism in an informal setting often recant when their words are being recorded, and how even moderate public criticism is often prefaced by flattery and endorsements.

Beyond that, the industry has learned that they can't rely on Apple's walled garden to make a profit. The opaque app review process, the race to the bottom on pricing, and Apple's resistance to curation of the App Store are driving "independent app developers into larger organizations and venture-backed startups." Apple is also known to cut contact with developers if they release for Android first. The "climate of fear" even affects journalists, who face not only stonewalling from Apple after negative reporting, but also a brigade of Apple fans and even other journalists trying to paint them as anti-Apple.
Transportation

Ford's New Car Tech Prevents You From Accidentally Speeding 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the autonomy-by-parts dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of Ford's new "Intelligent Speed Limiter" technology, which they say will prevent drivers from unintentionally exceeding the speed limit. When the system is activated (voluntarily) by the driver, it asks for a current maximum speed. From then on, a camera mounted on the windshield will scan the road ahead for speed signs, and automatically adjust the maximum speed to match them. The system can also pull speed limit data from navigation systems. When the system detects the car exceeding the speed limit, it won't automatically apply the brakes — rather, it will deliver less fuel to the engine until the vehicle's speed drops below the limit. If the speed still doesn't drop, a warning noise will sound. The driver can override the speed limit by pressing "firmly" on the accelerator. The technology is being launched in Europe with the Ford S-MAX.
Censorship

Feds Attempt To Censor Parts of a New Book About the Hydrogen Bomb 339

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-do-that-on-bookovision dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The atom bomb — leveler of Hiroshima and instant killer of some 80,000 people — is just a pale cousin compared to the hydrogen bomb, which easily packs the punch of a thousand Hiroshimas. That is why Washington has for decades done everything in its power to keep the details of its design out of the public domain. Now William J. Broad reports in the NY Times that Kenneth W. Ford has defied a federal order to cut material from his new book that the government says teems with thermonuclear secrets. Ford says he included the disputed material because it had already been disclosed elsewhere and helped him paint a fuller picture of an important chapter of American history. But after he volunteered the manuscript for a security review, federal officials told him to remove about 10 percent of the text, or roughly 5,000 words. "They wanted to eviscerate the book," says Ford. "My first thought was, 'This is so ridiculous I won't even respond.'" For instance, the federal agency wanted him to strike a reference to the size of the first hydrogen test device — its base was seven feet wide and 20 feet high. Dr. Ford responded that public photographs of the device, with men, jeeps and a forklift nearby, gave a scale of comparison that clearly revealed its overall dimensions.

Though difficult to make, hydrogen bombs are attractive to nations and militaries because their fuel is relatively cheap. Inside a thick metal casing, the weapon relies on a small atom bomb that works like a match to ignite the hydrogen fuel. Today, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the only declared members of the thermonuclear club, each possessing hundreds or thousands of hydrogen bombs. Military experts suspect that Israel has dozens of hydrogen bombs. India, Pakistan and North Korea are seen as interested in acquiring the potent weapon. The big secret the book discusses is thermal equilibrium, the discovery that the temperature of the hydrogen fuel and the radiation could match each other during the explosion (PDF). World Scientific, a publisher in Singapore, recently made Dr. Ford's book public in electronic form, with print versions to follow. Ford remains convinced the book "contains nothing whatsoever whose dissemination could, by any stretch of the imagination, damage the United States or help a country that is trying to build a hydrogen bomb." "Were I to follow all — or even most — of your suggestions," says Ford, "it would destroy the book."
Programming

A Bechdel Test For Programmers? 515

Posted by timothy
from the this-code-feels-different dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes In order for a movie or television show to pass the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist and MacArthur genius Alison Bechdel), it must feature two female characters, have those two characters talk to one another, and have those characters talk to one another about something other than a man. A lot of movies and shows don't pass. How would programming culture fare if subjected to a similar test? One tech firm, 18F, decided to find out after seeing a tweet from Laurie Voss, CTO of npm, which explained the parameters of a modified Bechdel Test. According to Voss, a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a woman developer, that calls a function written by another woman developer. 'The conversation started with us quickly listing the projects that passed the Bechdel coding test, but then shifted after one of our devs then raised a good point,' read 18F's blog posting on the experiment. 'She said some of our projects had lots of female devs, but did not pass the test as defined.' For example, some custom languages don't have functions, which means a project built using those languages would fail even if written by women. Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.
AI

Steve Wozniak Now Afraid of AI Too, Just Like Elon Musk 291

Posted by timothy
from the I-can't-let-you-do-that-steve dept.
quax writes Steve Wozniak maintained for a long time that true AI is relegated to the realm of science fiction. But recent advances in quantum computing have him reconsidering his stance. Just like Elon Musk, he is now worried about what this development will mean for humanity. Will this kind of fear actually engender the dangers that these titans of industry fear? Will Steve Wozniak draw the same conclusion and invest in quantum comuting to keep an eye on the development? One of the bloggers in the field thinks that would be a logical step to take. If you can't beat'em, and the quantum AI is coming, you should at least try to steer the outcome. Woz actually seems more ambivalent than afraid, though: in the interview linked, he says "I hope [AI-enabling quantum computing] does come, and we should pursue it because it is about scientific exploring." "But in the end we just may have created the species that is above us."
Medicine

Hacking Weight Loss: What I Learned Losing 30 Pounds 491

Posted by timothy
from the can't-be-more-than-a-hundred-and-ninety-seven dept.
reifman writes The CDC reports that 69% of adult Americans are overweight or obese. Techies like us are at increased risk because of our sedentary lifestyles. Perhaps you even scoffed at Neilsen's recent finding that some Americans spend only 11 hours daily of screen time. Over the last nine months, I've lost 30 pounds and learned a lot about hacking weight loss and I did it without fad diets, step trackers, running or going paleo. No such discussion is complete without a link to the Hacker Diet.
Government

$1B TSA Behavioral Screening Program Slammed As "Junk Science" 224

Posted by timothy
from the little-here-a-little-there dept.
schwit1 writes The Transportation Security Administration has been accused of spending a billion dollars on a passenger-screening program that's based on junk science. The claim arose in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has tried unsuccessfully to get the TSA to release documents on its SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques) program through the Freedom of Information Act. SPOT, whose techniques were first used in 2003 and formalized in 2007, uses "highly questionable" screening techniques, according to the ACLU complaint, while being "discriminatory, ineffective, pseudo-scientific, and wasteful of taxpayer money." TSA has spent at least $1 billion on SPOT. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2010 that "TSA deployed SPOT nationwide before first determining whether there was a scientifically valid basis for using behavior detection and appearance indicators as a means for reliably identifying passengers as potential threats in airports," according to the ACLU. And in 2013, GAO recommended that the agency spend less money on the program, which uses 3,000 "behavior detection officers" whose jobs is to identify terrorists before they board jetliners.