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News

Wastelanders Decry Lack of Change In Punishment Wheel 5

Posted by samzenpus
from the bust-a-deal dept.
If you've spent time in the wasteland you've no doubt gone to Bartertown. Famous for its functioning walls, the oasis gives traders a chance to watch people battle to the death in a giant cage and deal busters spin The Wheel to learn their fate. While most wanderers enjoy watching the bloodsport many are now complaining that The Wheel is starting to feel old. "It's been around so long I think everyone has seen every option many times. You never know what's going to happen when someone is trying to smash someone else with a giant hammer, but The Wheel is getting predictable. It's worked so well that nobody has bothered to come up with new options," says one purveyor of slightly irradiated meat. His voice is just one in a growing chorus of dissatisfied wanderers. Another long-time resident adds: "I know it may not seems like a big deal, but part of the fun of living out here is the excitement. If the punishment to my eventual crime can't be fresh or creative I don't know what we're trying to build. These are not the values of the Bartertown I grew up in."
Wikipedia

If You Thought Studying History Was Bad, This Math Professor Is Making It Harder 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-reference-books-become-religion dept.
Raven writes: New research out of Streeling University aims to make planning for the future much easier. The work, led by professor Seldon, tries to set probabilistic values on future events, and then weigh those probabilities against each other to figure out what combination of events is most likely to happen. Describing it under the unlikely moniker "psychohistory," Seldon seems to think planning even 10,000 years into the future might be possible. (Seldon also seems to be a bit of a doomsayer, so this is likely exaggerated.) Nevertheless, it'll be another tool for government planners to consider when developing new colonies.
United Kingdom

Man-Shaped Robots Harass Britain Once Again 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the typical-government-IT-project dept.
NotRicky writes: The UK's terrible string of luck with violent robots continues. The man-shaped metal monstrosities that have plagued the country at seemingly random times throughout history rose up once more yesterday. No one yet knows their source, or what phenomenon — natural or man-made — keeps drawing them to that area of the world. While initial reports indicated trillions of dollars worth of damage and countless lives lost, the re-establishment of communications paints a much more hopeful picture. The British government remains quiet about the situation, politely refusing foreign aid and letting one of their intelligence agencies direct efforts to restore order. Reporters and camera crews are having difficulty documenting the situation — it's not clear whether this is due to interference from the government or simply the chaotic nature of the robot uprising. A medical professional on the scene was quoted as saying, "It's simple, really — even the flattened brick you call a computer can undelete, can't it?"
Piracy

UK IP Chief Wants ISPs To Police Piracy Proactively 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the he-believes-in-intellectual-property dept.
An anonymous reader sends this report from TorrentFreak: The UK's top IP advisor has published recommendations on how Internet service providers should deal with online piracy. Among other things, he suggested that Internet services should search for and filter infringing content proactively. According to the report, ISPs have a moral obligation to do more against online piracy. Mike Weatherley, a Conservative MP and Intellectual Property Adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, has pushed various copyright related topics onto the political agenda since early last year. Previously Weatherley suggested that search engines should blacklist pirate sites, kids should be educated on copyright ethics, and that persistent file-sharers should be thrown in jail.
Education

The End of College? Not So Fast 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the beer-companies-and-loan-companies-won't-allow-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The advent of MOOCs, Khan Academy, and the hundreds of other learning sites that have popped up caused many people to predict the decline of expensive, four-year universities. But Donald Heller writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that most of the people making these claims don't have a good understanding of how actual students are interacting with online classes. He points out that it's a lot easier for a 40-year-old who's in a stable life position, and who has already experienced college-level education to work through an MOOC with ease. But things change when you're asking 18- to 20-year-olds to give up the structure and built-in motivation of a physical university to instead sit at their computer for hours at a time. (The extremely low pass rate for free online courses provides some evidence for this.) Heller also warns that prematurely hailing MOOCs as a replacement for colleges will only encourage governments and organizations to stop investing in institutions of higher learning, which could have dire consequences for education worldwide.
Encryption

NSA Worried About Recruitment, Post-Snowden 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-thought-of-that-before-being-jerks dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NSA employs tens of thousands of people, and they're constantly recruiting more. They're looking for 1,600 new workers this year alone. Now that their reputation has taken a major hit with the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, they aren't sure they'll be able to meet that goal. Not only that, but the NSA has to compete with other companies, and they Snowden leaks made many of them more competitive: "Ever since the Snowden leaks, cybersecurity has been hot in Silicon Valley. In part that's because the industry no longer trusts the government as much as it once did. Companies want to develop their own security, and they're willing to pay top dollar to get the same people the NSA is trying to recruit." If academia's relationship with the NSA continues to cool, the agency could find itself struggling within a few years.
Sci-Fi

We're In a Golden Age of Star Trek Webseries Right Now 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the living-long-and-prospering dept.
New submitter DakotaSmith writes: io9 has an article explaining why We're Living In The Golden Age Of Star Trek Webseries Right Now. If you're a true geek, you probably already know about Star Trek Continues and Star Trek: Phase II. (If you're a true geek and you don't know about them, run — do not walk, run — to watch "Lolani." Your brain— and more importantly, your heart — will love you for the rest of your life.)

But there's more to it than that. A lot more. How about the years'-long wait for Act IV of Starship Exeter : "The Tressaurian Intersection"? Or Yorktown: "A Time to Heal" — an attempt to resurrect an aborted fan film from 1978 starring George Takei? For fans of old-school Star Trek (the ones who pre-date "Trekker" and wear "Trekkie" as a badge of honor), not since 1969 has there been a better time to watch Star Trek: The Original Series.

(Oh, and there's plenty content out there for you "Trekkers" and NextGen-era fans. It all varies in quality, but it doesn't take much effort to find them. This is truly a Golden Age. Recognize it and enjoy it while it lasts.)
The Courts

SCOTUS: GPS Trackers Are a Form of Search and Seizure 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the may-the-fourth-amendment-be-with-you dept.
schwit1 writes: If the government puts a GPS tracker on you, your car, or any of your personal effects, it counts as a search—and is therefore protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court clarified and affirmed that law on Monday, when it ruled on Torrey Dale Grady v. North Carolina (PDF), before sending the case back to that state's high court. The Court's short but unanimous opinion helps make sense of how the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, interacts with the expanding technological powers of the U.S. government. "The only theory we discern [...] is that the State's system of nonconsensual satellite-based monitoring does not entail a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. That theory is inconsistent with this Court's precedents."
Power

Massive Power Outage Paralyzes Turkey 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the taken-for-granted-until-it's-gone dept.
wiredmikey writes: A massive power outage caused chaos and shut down public transport across Turkey on Tuesday, with the government refusing to rule out that the electricity system had been the victim of an attack. The nationwide power cut, the worst in 15 years, began shortly after 10:30 am (0730 GMT) in Istanbul, the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted the Turkey Electricity Transmission Company (TEIAS) as saying. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the authorities were investigating whether the power outage was due to a technical failure or cyber-attack. "It is too early to say now if it is because of a technical reason, a manipulation, a faultplay, an operational mistake, or a cyber (attack). We are looking into it... We cannot say they are excluded possibilities."
Canada

Amazon Tests Delivery Drones At Secret Canada Site After US Frustration 193

Posted by Soulskill
from the building-the-national-dronehockey-league dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from The Guardian: Amazon is testing its drone delivery service at a secret site in Canada, following repeated warnings by the e-commerce giant that it would go outside the U.S. to bypass what it sees as the U.S. federal government's lethargic approach to the new technology. The largest internet retailer in the world is keeping the location of its new test site closely guarded. What can be revealed is that the company's formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing – including a former NASA astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787 – are now operating in British Columbia. The end goal is to utilize what Amazon sees as a slice of virgin airspace – above 200ft, where most buildings end, and below 500ft, where general aviation begins. Into that aerial slice the company plans to pour highly autonomous drones of less than 55lbs, flying through corridors 10 miles or longer at 50mph and carrying payloads of up to 5lbs that account for 86% of all the company's packages.
Firefox

Firefox 37 Released 144

Posted by Soulskill
from the onward-and-upward dept.
Today Mozilla began rolling out Firefox version 37.0 to release channel users. This update mostly focuses on behind-the-scenes changes. Security improvements include opportunistic encryption where servers support it and improved protection against site impersonation. They also disabled insecure TLS version fallback and added a security panel within the developer tools. One of the things end users will see is the Heartbeat feedback collection system. It will pop up a small rating widget to a random selection of users every day. After a user rates Firefox, an "engagement" page may open in the background, with links to social media pages and a donation page. Here are the release notes and full changelist.
Books

Book Review: Drush For Developers, 2nd Edition 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Michael Ross writes As with any content management system, building a website using Drupal typically requires extensive use of its administrative interface, as one navigates through its menus, fills out its forms, and reads the admin pages and notifications — or barely skims them, as they have likely been seen by the site builder countless times before. With the aim of avoiding this tedium, speeding up the process, and making it more programmatic, members of the Drupal community created a "shell" program, Drush, which allows one to perform most of these tasks on the command line. At this time, there is only one current print book that covers this tool, Drush for Developers, Second Edition, which is ostensibly an update of its predecessor, Drush User's Guide. Read below for the rest of Michael's review.
Education

Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous 345

Posted by timothy
from the fallacy-of-the-excluded-middle dept.
HughPickens.com writes According to an op-ed by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, if Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills, expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. "It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher." But according to Zakaria the dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future.

As Steve Jobs once explained "it's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." Zakaria says that no matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write and cites Jeff Bezos' insistence that writing a memo that makes sense is an even more important skill to master. "Full sentences are harder to write," says Bezos. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking." "This doesn't in any way detract from the need for training in technology," concludes Zakaria, "but it does suggest that as we work with computers (which is really the future of all work), the most valuable skills will be the ones that are uniquely human, that computers cannot quite figure out — yet. And for those jobs, and that life, you could not do better than to follow your passion, engage with a breadth of material in both science and the humanities, and perhaps above all, study the human condition."
Earth

Cetaceans Able To Focus Sound For Echolocation 24

Posted by timothy
from the are-you-a-squeaker dept.
Rambo Tribble writes A recent study from Denmark has determined that porpoises, dolphins and whales can focus the sounds they make, described as "clicks and buzzes", when hunting. This appears to exceed even the capabilities of bats. One researcher described the ability as, "like adjusting a flashlight." The BBC offers approachable, and illustrated coverage.
Microsoft

License Details Hint MS Undecided On Suing Users of Its Open Source Net Runtime 189

Posted by timothy
from the full-of-shift dept.
ciaran2014 writes With Microsoft proudly declaring its .NET runtime open source, a colleague and I decided to look at the licensing aspects. One part, the MIT licence, is straightforward, but there's also a patent promise. The first two-thirds of the first sentence seems to announce good news about Microsoft not suing people. Then the conditions begin. It seems Microsoft can't yet bring itself to release something as free software without retaining a patent threat to limit how those freedoms can be exercised. Overall, we found 4 Shifty Details About Microsoft's "Open Source" .NET.
NASA

X-37B To Fly Again 47

Posted by timothy
from the gets-high-with-a-little-help-from-its-friends dept.
schwit1 writes The May 6 Atlas 5 launch will carry one of the Air Force's two X-37B mini-shuttles on a new mission in space. "The Air Force won't yet confirm which of the Boeing-built spaceplanes will be making the voyage. The first craft returned in October from a 675-day mission in space following a 224 day trek in 2010. OTV No. 2 spent 469 days in space in 2011-2012 on its only mission so far. "The program selects the Orbital Test Vehicle for each activity based upon the experiment objectives," said Capt. Chris Hoyler, an Air Force spokesperson. "Each OTV mission builds upon previous on-orbit demonstrations and expands the test envelope of the vehicle. The test mission furthers the development of the concept of operations for reusable space vehicles." There are indications that the Air Force wants to attempt landing the shuttle at Kennedy this time.
China

Bitcoin In China Still Chugging Along, a Year After Clampdown 31

Posted by timothy
from the government-vs-the-people dept.
angry tapir writes A year after China began tightening regulations around Bitcoin, the virtual currency is still thriving in the country, albeit on the fringes, according to its largest exchange. Bitcoin prices may have declined, but Chinese buyers are still trading the currency in high volumes with the help of BTC China, an exchange that witnessed the boom days back in 2013, only to see the bust following the Chinese government's announcement, in December of that year, that banks would be banned from trading in bitcoin.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Questions US Government's Software Flaw Disclosure Policy 16

Posted by Soulskill
from the we'll-do-that-at-least-once-in-the-past-decade dept.
angry tapir writes: It's not clear if the U.S. government is living up to its promise to disclose serious software flaws to technology companies, a policy it put in place five years ago, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They write, "ODNI has now finished releasing documents in response to our suit, and the results are surprisingly meager. Among the handful of heavily redacted documents is a one-page list of VEP 'Highlights' from 2010. It briefly describes the history of the interagency working group that led to the development of the VEP and notes that the VEP established an office called the 'Executive Secretariat' within the NSA. The only other highlight left unredacted explains that the VEP 'creates a process for notification, decision-making, and appeals.' And that's it. This document, which is almost five years old, is the most recent one released. So where are the documents supporting the 'reinvigorated' VEP 2.0 described by the White House in 2014?"
Education

No Film At 11: the Case For the Less-Video-Is-More MOOC 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-learning-through-animated-GIFs dept.
theodp writes: In Why My MOOC is Not Built on Video, GWU's Lorena Barba explains why the Practical Numerical Methods with Python course she and colleagues put together has but one video: "Why didn't we have more video? The short answer is budget and time: making good-quality videos is expensive & making simple yet effective educational videos is time consuming, if not necessarily costly. #NumericalMOOC was created on-the-fly, with little budget. But here's my point: expensive, high-production-value videos are not necessary to achieve a quality learning experience." When the cost of producing an MOOC can exceed $100,000 per course, Barba suggests educators pay heed to Donald Bligh's 1971 observation that "dazzling presentations do not necessarily result in learning." So what would Barba do? "We designed the central learning experience [of #NumericalMOOC] around a set of IPython Notebooks," she explains, "and meaningful yet achievable mini-projects for students. I guarantee learning results to any student that fully engages with these!"
Businesses

IT Jobs With the Best (and Worst) ROI 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the becoming-borg-is-at-both-the-top-and-the-bottom dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Over at Dice, there's a breakdown of which tech jobs have the greatest return on investment, with regard to high starting salaries and growth potential relative to how much you need to spend on degrees and certifications. Which jobs top this particular calculation? No shockers here: DBAs, software engineers, programmers, and Web developers all head up the list, with salaries that tick into six-figure territory. How about those with the worst ROI? Graphic designers, sysadmins, tech support, and software QA testers often present a less-than-great combination of relatively little money and room for advancement, even if you possess a four-year degree or higher, unless you're one of the lucky few.