Input Devices

The Challenge of Getting a Usable QWERTY Keyboard Onto a Dime-sized Screen 21

Posted by timothy
from the you-will-fail-at-that-task dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Spain and Germany are building on Carnegie Mellon's work to attempt to create workable text-input interfaces for wearables, smartwatches and a new breed of IoT devices too small to accomodate even the truncated soft keyboards familiar to phone users. In certain cases, the screen area in which the keyboard must be made usable is no bigger than a dime. Of all the commercial input systems I've used, Graffiti seems like it might be the most suited to such tiny surfaces.
Programming

Is It Worth Learning a Little-Known Programming Language? 86

Posted by timothy
from the worth-it-to-whom? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Ask a group of developers to rattle off the world's most popular programming languages, and they'll likely name the usual suspects: JavaScript, Java, Python, Ruby, C++, PHP, and so on. Ask which programming languages pay the best, and they'll probably list the same ones, which makes sense. But what about the little-known languages and skill sets (Dice link) that don't leap immediately to mind but nonetheless support some vital IT infrastructure (and sometimes, as a result, pay absurdly well)? is it worth learning a relatively obscure language or skill set, on the hope that you can score one of a handful of well-paying jobs that require it? The answer is a qualified yes—so long as the language or skill set in question is clearly on the rise. Go, Swift, Rust, Julia and CoffeeScript have all enjoyed rising popularity, for example, which increases the odds that they'll remain relevant for at least the next few years. But a language without momentum behind it probably isn't worth your time, unless you want to learn it simply for the pleasure of learning something new.
Security

USBKill Transforms a Thumb Drive Into an "Anti-Forensic" Device 108

Posted by timothy
from the content-scrambling-system dept.
Orome1 writes with a snippet from a report at net-security.org; a hacker going by Hephaestos has shared with the world a Python script that, when put on an USB thumb drive, turns the device in an effective kill switch for the computer to which it's plugged in. USBkill, as the programmer dubbed it, "waits for a change on your USB ports, then immediately kills your computer." The device would be useful "in case the police comes busting in, or steals your laptop from you when you are at a public library," Hephaestos explained.
Communications

How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text 88

Posted by timothy
from the message-could-not-be-lawfullly-transcribed dept.
Presto Vivace writes: Dan Froomkin reports at The Intercept: "Though perfect transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the Intelligence Community's 'holy grail,' the Snowden documents describe extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs designed to analyze and 'extract' the content of voice conversations, and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest." I am torn between admiration of the technical brilliance of building software like this and horror as to how it is being used. It can't just be my brother and me who like to salt all phone conversations with interesting keywords.
Bug

The BBC Looks At Rollover Bugs, Past and Approaching 39

Posted by timothy
from the ought-to-be-enough-for-anybody dept.
New submitter Merovech points out an article at the BBC which makes a good followup to the recent news (mentioned within) about a bug in Boeing's new 787. The piece explores various ways that rollover bugs in software have led to failures -- some of them truly disastrous, others just annoying. The 2038 bug is sure to bite some people; hopefully it will be even less of an issue than the Year 2000 rollover. From the article: It was in 1999 that I first wrote about this," comments [programmer William] Porquet. "I acquired the domain name 2038.org and at first it was very tongue-in-cheek. It was almost a piece of satire, a kind of an in-joke with a lot of computer boffins who say, 'oh yes we'll fix that in 2037' But then I realised there are actually some issues with this.
Earth

Recent Paper Shows Fracking Chemicals In Drinking Water, Industry Attacks It 190

Posted by timothy
from the they-never-factor-in-the-tastiness dept.
eldavojohn writes: A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences turned up 2-Butoxyethanol from samples collected from three households in Pennsylvania. The paper's level headed conclusion is that more conservative well construction techniques should be used to avoid this in the future and that flowback should be better controlled. Rob Jackson, another scientist who reviewed the paper, stressed that the findings were an exception to normal operations. Despite that, the results angered the PR gods of the Marcellus Shale Gas industry and awoke beltway insider mouthpieces to attack the research — after all, what are they paying them for?
Businesses

Appeals Judge Calls Prenda an "Ingenious Crooked Extortionate Operation" 41

Posted by timothy
from the bad-actor-seems-a-fair-description dept.
ktetch-pirate ("pirate politician" Andrew Norton) writes with this news from his blog: [Monday] was the long-awaited appeals court hearing in the ongoing Prenda copyright troll saga. Almost exactly two years after Judge Otis Wright went sci-fi on Prenda and its principles, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held an appeals hearing requested by Prenda on the sanctions, and it was not a pretty day for Prenda. Highlights included Senior Judge Pregerson calling Prenda's operation an "Ingenious Crooked Extortionate Operation" after describing in detail how they operate.

Prenda also astonished the judges by welcoming the idea of a criminal contempt hearing, which Legal blog Popehat thinks is likely to happen, on top of the sanctions being sustained.
Programming

The Programming Talent Myth 294

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-are-not-a-beautiful-and-unique-snowflake dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Jake Edge writes at LWN.net that there is a myth that programming skill is somehow distributed on a U-shaped curve and that people either "suck at programming" or that they "rock at programming", without leaving any room for those in between. Everyone is either an amazing programmer or "a worthless use of a seat" which doesn't make much sense. If you could measure programming ability somehow, its curve would look like the normal distribution. According to Edge this belief that programming ability fits into a bi-modal distribution is both "dangerous and a myth". "This myth sets up a world where you can only program if you are a rock star or a ninja. It is actively harmful in that is keeping people from learning programming, driving people out of programming, and it is preventing most of the growth and the improvement we'd like to see." If the only options are to be amazing or terrible, it leads people to believe they must be passionate about their career, that they must think about programming every waking moment of their life. If they take their eye off the ball even for a minute, they will slide right from amazing to terrible again leading people to be working crazy hours at work, to be constantly studying programming topics on their own time, and so on.

The truth is that programming isn't a passion or a talent, says Edge, it is just a bunch of skills that can be learned. Programming isn't even one thing, though people talk about it as if it were; it requires all sorts of skills and coding is just a small part of that. Things like design, communication, writing, and debugging are needed. If we embrace this idea that "it's cool to be okay at these skills"—that being average is fine—it will make programming less intimidating for newcomers. If the bar for success is set "at okay, rather than exceptional", the bar seems a lot easier to clear for those new to the community. According to Edge the tech industry is rife with sexism, racism, homophobia, and discrimination and although it is a multi-faceted problem, the talent myth is part of the problem. "In our industry, we recast the talent myth as "the myth of the brilliant asshole", says Jacob Kaplan-Moss. "This is the "10x programmer" who is so good at his job that people have to work with him even though his behavior is toxic. In reality, given the normal distribution, it's likely that these people aren't actually exceptional, but even if you grant that they are, how many developers does a 10x programmer have to drive away before it is a wash?"
Education

Led By Zuckerberg, Billionaires Give $100M To Fund Private Elementary Schools 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the price-of-an-education dept.
theodp writes: AltSchool, a 2-year-old software-fueled private elementary school initiative started by an ex-Googler, announced Monday a $100 million Series B round led by established VC firms and high-profile tech investors including Mark Zuckerberg, Laurene Powell Jobs, John Doerr, and Pierre Omidyar. AltSchool uses proprietary software that provides students with a personalized playlist lesson that teachers can keep close tabs on. Currently, a few hundred students in four Bay Area classrooms use AltSchool tech. Three more California classrooms, plus one in Brooklyn, are expected to come online this fall, plus one in Brooklyn. "We believe that every child should have access to an exceptional, personalized education that enables them to be happy and successful in an ever-changing world," reads AltSchool's mission statement. For $28,750-a-year, your kid can be one of them right now. Eventually, the plan is for the billionaire-bankrolled education magic to trickle down. AltSchool's pitch to investors, according to NPR, is that one day, charter schools or even regular public schools could outsource many basic functions to its software platform.
Science

New Findings On Whale Tongues May Lead To Insight On Human Nerve Damage 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the bend-me-shape-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about the discovery of stretchy nerves in whales. Researchers from the University of British Columbia have discovered that the largest animals alive – whales – have nerves in their tongues that can double in length and then recoil like a bungee cord. The researchers were studying specimens at a commercial whaling station in Iceland when they stumbled upon the discovery reported Monday in Current Biology. Researchers say it could have important implications for study into human nerve damage. "I had never seen a nerve like that," said Wayne Vogl, of UBC's Cellular and Physiological Sciences department.
Businesses

Cisco Names Veteran Robbins To Succeed Chambers as CEO 30

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-guy-in-charge dept.
bledri writes: After 20 years as Cisco's CEO, John Chambers will step down this summer. The search for a replacement took a committee 16 months, and they selected Chuck Robbins, who was previously responsible for the company's global sales and partner team. From the article: "Wall Street analysts said a change was expected and could signal a refocusing of Cisco, which acquired dozens of companies under Chambers but has failed to make great headway outside its core networking business."
Windows

Single Verizon IP Address Used For Hundreds of Windows 7 Activations 267

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-might-want-to-tone-it-down-a-little dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story from TorrentFreak: A presumed pirate with an unusually large appetite for activating Windows 7 has incurred the wrath of Microsoft. In a lawsuit filed [in] a Washington court, Microsoft said that it logged hundreds of suspicious product activations from a single Verizon IP address and is now seeking damages. ... Who he, she or they are behind address 74.111.202.30 is unknown at this point, but according to Microsoft they're responsible for some serious Windows pirating. "As part of its cyberforensic methods, Microsoft analyzes product key activation data voluntarily provided by users when they activate Microsoft software, including the IP address from which a given product key is activated," the lawsuit reads. The company says that its forensic tools allow the company to analyze billions of activations of software and identify patterns "that make it more likely than not" that an IP address associated with activations is one through which pirated software is being activated.
Programming

Singapore's Prime Minister Shares His C++ Sudoku Solver Code 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the prime-programmer dept.
itwbennett writes: Several weeks ago, during a speech at the Founders Forum Smart Nation Singapore Reception, Singapore's prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he used to enjoy programming, and that the last program he wrote was a Sudoku solver in C++. To back that up, earlier today he announced (on Facebook and Twitter) that his code is available to download. He wrote on Facebook that he wrote the program 'several years ago' and that the code does 'a backtrack search, choosing the next cell to guess which minimises the fanout.'
Security

Maritime Cybersecurity Firm: 37% of Microsoft Servers On Ships Are Vulnerable 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
colinneagle writes: A report from maritime cybersecurity firm CyberKeel claims that spot checks at 50 different maritime sites revealed that 37% of the servers running Microsoft were still vulnerable because they had not been patched. But what's most interesting is what happens when hackers can breach security in shipping environments, including one case in which "drug gangs were able to smuggle entire container loads of cocaine through Antwerp, one of Belgium's largest ports, after its hackers breached the port's IT network," said Rear Adm. Marshall Lytle, assistant commandant responsible for USCG Cyber Command.
Businesses

Internet Customers Surpass Cable Subscribers At Comcast 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the binge-watching dept.
mpicpp notes that for the first time, the country's largest cable provider has more internet subscribers than cable subscribers. The Internet is taking over television. That shift is occurring at Comcast, where the number of people who subscribe to the company's Internet service surpassed its total video subscribers for the first time during the second quarter this year. Announced in an earnings call on Monday, the development signals a major turning point in the technological evolution sweeping across the media business, as the Internet becomes the gateway for information and entertainment. Comcast, the country's largest cable operator, abandoned its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable last month after the deal drew regulatory scrutiny regarding concerns that the combined company would have too much control over the Internet. Comcast is already the country's largest broadband provider, with more than 22 million high-speed Internet customers. Brian L. Roberts, Comcast's chief executive, said in the call that the company was disappointed about the collapse of the deal but had moved on. He said that Comcast's top priorities now were to advance its existing business and improve its poorly rated customer service.