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Privacy

The Upsides of a Surveillance Society 138

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-it's-not-all-upside? dept.
theodp writes Citing the comeuppance of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who was suspended from her job after her filmed ad-hominem attack on a person McHenry deemed to be beneath her in terms of appearance, education, wealth, class, status went viral, The Atlantic's Megan Garber writes that one silver lining of the omnipresence of cameras it that the possibility of exposure can also encourage us to be a little kinder to each other. "Terrible behavior," Garber writes, "whether cruel or violent or something in between, has a greater possibility than it ever has before of being exposed. Just as Uber tracks ratings for both its drivers and its users, and just as Yelp can be a source of shaming for businesses and customers alike, technology at large has afforded a reciprocity between people who, in a previous era, would have occupied different places on the spectrum of power. Which can, again, be a bad thing — but which can also, in McHenry's case, be an extremely beneficial one. It's good that her behavior has been exposed. It's good that her story going viral might discourage similar behavior from other people. It's good that she has publicly promised 'to learn from this mistake.'"
Earth

Can Civilization Reboot Without Fossil Fuels? 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-start-breeding-dinosaurs dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We often talk about our dependence on fossil fuels, and vigorously debate whether and how we should reduce that dependence. This article at Aeon sidesteps the political bickering and asks an interesting technological question: if we had to rebuild society, could we do it without all the fossil fuels we used to do it the first time? When people write about post-apocalyptic scenarios, the focus is usually on preserving information long enough for humanity to rebuild. But actually rebuilding turns out to be quite a challenge when all the easy oil has been bled from the planet.

It's not that we're running out, it's that the best spots for oil now require high tech machinery. This would create a sort of chicken-and-egg problem for a rebuilding society. Technological progress could still happen using other energy production methods. But it would be very slow — we'd never see the dramatic accelerations that marked the industrial age, and then the information age. "A slow-burn progression through the stages of mechanization, supported by a combination of renewable electricity and sustainably grown biomass, might be possible after all. Then again, it might not. We'd better hope we can secure the future of our own civilization, because we might have scuppered the chances of any society to follow in our wake."
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Storing Data To Survive a Fire (or Other Disaster) 443

Posted by samzenpus
from the burning-down-the-house dept.
First time accepted submitter aka_bigred writes Every year as I file my taxes, I replicate my most important financial data (a couple GB of data) to store an offline copy in my fire-rated home safe. This gets me thinking about what the most reliable data media would be to keep in my fire-rated home safe.

CDs/DVDs/tapes could easily melt or warp rendering them useless, so I'm very hesitant to use them. I've seen more exotic solutions that let you print your digital data to paper an optically re-import it later should you ever need it, but it seems overly cumbersome and error prone should it be damaged or fire scorched. That leaves my best options being either a classic magnetic platter drive, or some sort of solid state storage, like SD cards, USB flash drives, or a small SSD. The problem is, I can't decide which would survive better if ever exposed to extreme temperatures, or water damage should my house burn down.

Most people would just suggest to store it in "the cloud", but I'm naturally averse to doing so because that means someone else is responsible for my data and I could lose it to hackers, the entity going out of business, etc. Once it leaves my home, I no longer fully control it, which is unacceptable. My thought being "they can't hack/steal what they can't physically access." What medium do other Slashdot users use to store their most important data (under say 5GB worth) in an at-home safe to protect it from fire?
Education

Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses 290

Posted by Soulskill
from the killing-your-buzz dept.
Bruce66423 writes: A large scale European study shows that students who were unable to buy cannabis legally were 5% more likely to pass their University courses. Below-average students with no legal access to pot were 7.6% more likely to pass their courses, and the effect was five times more pronounced when dealing with courses involving math. One of the study's authors said, "We think this newfound effect on productivity from a change in legal access to cannabis is not negligible and should be, at least in the short run, politically relevant for any societal drug legalization and prohibition decision-making. In the bigger picture, our findings also indicate that soft drug consumption behavior is affected by their legal accessibility, which has not been causally demonstrated before. ... Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consequences of consuming such products as compared with that of having a beer or pure vodka."
Businesses

Reddit CEO Ellen Pao Bans Salary Negotiations To Equalize Pay For Men, Women 892

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-things-equal dept.
sabri points out that Reddit CEO Ellen Pao plans to ban salary negotiations in an attempt to equalize pay for men and women. "After losing a sex-discrimination lawsuit in Silicon Valley last week, Ellen Pao continues on her crusade to bring gender equality to the tech world, but this time with a focus on her home turf. As Reddit’s interim CEO, Pao said she wants to eliminate salary negotiations from the company’s hiring process. In her first interview since the lawsuit, Pao told with the Wall Street Journal Monday that the plan would help level the playing field. 'Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate,' she said. 'So as part of our recruiting process we don’t negotiate with candidates. We come up with an offer that we think is fair. If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.'"
Microsoft

License Details Hint MS Undecided On Suing Users of Its Open Source Net Runtime 198

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.

Comment: I've got something like this; it's not perfect. (Score 1) 287

by ErikTheRed (#49333413) Attached to: Ford's New Car Tech Prevents You From Accidentally Speeding

I've got a system in my current car (BMW M5) that uses a camera to read speed limit signs and puts the current speed limit on my heads-up display. It's a cool system, but it's not perfect. It frequently has problems in school zones where it sees the 25 MPH sign and displays that whether the "school zone" rules are currently in effect or not. I'd agree with most of the posters here that allege that speed limits are set by ass-covering bureaucrats with absolutely zero consideration to actual public safety. Slow zones in residential areas are fine - I don't even have to be told to drive between 20 and 25 MPH is a neighborhood with kids out and about. But the speed limits on major roads and highways are ... I would say "childish," but that would be an insult to children. We're living with generations of people who grew up playing video games, and our car's steering, breaks, suspension, steering, etc. are massively superior to what our parents had (or even what we had a decade ago). When speed limits are set too low people get bored and find other ways to distract themselves, which virtually all more dangerous than going faster.

Comment: Luddism never dies (Score 2) 110

by ErikTheRed (#49309221) Attached to: A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute

Like any new tech, data mining and psychological optimizations can be used for positive or negative purposes and will drive its own bevy of bullshit management fads. The author, like most progressives and conservatives, would throw the newly born baby out with the bathwater to go back to a easier, simpler day where they understood everything and before these young whippersnappers with their "computers" and "smartwatches" started making things move too fast for the old people to keep up with. I'm at the point in my life where I've seen almost two generations of essayists crank out screeds like this and while I have that nagging fear that one day I will be the old fuddy-duddy... it hasn't happened yet. Still wish those damned kids would get off my lawn, though...

IBM

A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute 110

Posted by timothy
from the straight-to-godwin dept.
theodp writes Now that we have hard data on everything, observes the NY Times' Virginia Heffernan in A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute, we no longer make decisions from our hearts, guts or principles. "The gut is dead," writes Heffernan. "Long live the data, turned out day and night by our myriad computers and smart devices. Not that we trust the data, as we once trusted our guts. Instead, we 'optimize' it. We optimize for it. We optimize with it." To win Presidential elections. To turn web pages into Googlebait. To sucker people into registering for websites. Of the soon-to-arrive Apple Watch, Heffernan notes: "After time keeping, the watch's chief feature is 'fitness tracking': It clocks and stores physiological data with the aim of getting you to observe and change your habits of sloth and gluttony. Evidently I wasn't the only one whose thoughts turned to 20th-century despotism: The entrepreneur Anil Dash quipped on Twitter, albeit stretching the truth, 'Not since I.B.M. sold mainframes to the Nazis has a high-tech company embraced medical data at this scale.'"

Comment: Metered access, here we come! (Score 0) 550

Has nobody stopped to consider the fact that Net Neutrality (or, more appropriately, Net Neutering) more or less guarantee an eventual transition to metered pricing for customers, that metered pricing will be far more horribly abused by cablecos and telcos than any of this hypothetical preferential treatment could be, and that you'll have absolutely no recourse because the conditions will be fixed in place by regulations?

The "why" should be pretty damned obvious: you have a certain small percentage of users who consume orders of magnitude more bandwidth than others, mostly bittorrent users. ISPs deal with this in some legitimate ways like throttling (deprioritizing bittorrent packets so that they're first to drop when congestion occurs or policing the endpoints to a maximum throughput rate) and some not-so-legitimate ways (injecting connection reset packets to disrupt sessions). If you have to suddenly start treating your teenage neighbor's 8,000 pr0n torrent seeds as "equal traffic" then you either have to expand capacity by orders of magnitude to deal with it, driving up costs for everyone, or you have to introduce metered pricing (or worst case is you can just ignore it and everyone in that neighborhood has crap Internet speed). If you are worried about pricing abuse with so-called "fast lanes," that ain't nothing compared to the abuse you'll get with metered pricing.

Yes, cablecos and telcos are run by shitheads who do want to play stupid fast-lane games with their connections, but a certain amount of outrage can eventually correct that or make it livable. Getting rid of that without consequence would be desirable, but with an almost certain consequence of metered access it seems to me like people are doing an extremely poor job of picking their poisons. And for those who don't think metered access will happen haven't payed much attention to the FCC's history...

This is a practical worry about the ISPs, but it's not the worst one. The FCC is also the group of milquetoast, any-way-the-wind-blows political hacks responsible for freaking out every time there's a nipple slip on public television or somebody says a dirty word where The Children's fragile eyes and ears may be burned with hellfire. Because Satan is in boobies and f-bombs or something like that. And the only people they're semi-accountable to is Congress, who has a 9% approval rating. These are the people you want in charge of our Internet. Seriously? Yes, again, the people running telcos and cablecos are shitheads, but whenever there is hierarchy you will wind up with a shithead in charge. The only way you control these shitheads at all is by having as many as possible choose from. In this case, sorry, I think the supporters of Net Neutering have chosen their shitheads extremely poorly.

Earth

NASA, NOAA: 2014 Was the Warmest Year In the Modern Record 360

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-it-was-cold-this-morning dept.
Titus Andronicus writes: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both announced today that 2014 was the warmest year in the instrumental temperature record, surpassing the prior winners, 2010 and 2005. NASA also released a short video. They said, "Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades. ... While 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña. These phenomena warm or cool the tropical Pacific and are thought to have played a role in the flattening of the long-term warming trend over the past 15 years. However, 2014’s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year."
Sony

Sony Demands Press Destroy Leaked Documents 250

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-share dept.
SydShamino writes In an effort that may run afoul of the first amendment, Sony, through their lawyer David Boies (of SCO infamy), has sent a letter to major news organizations demanding that they refrain from downloading any leaked documents, and destroy those already possessed. Sony threatens legal action to news organizations that do not comply, saying that "Sony Pictures Entertainment will have no choice but to hold you responsible for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by you."

+ - Patent Trolls and Trial Lawyers->

Submitted by Jayson
Jayson (2343) writes "Steve Malanga takes down patent trolls and trial lawyers. Automated Transactions to the EFF to Judge Posner to sewing machines in a (very) long form article.

In fact, the opposition ran deeper than the trial bar, threatening future patent reform. Flaws in our patent system, which the distinguished appellate judge and law professor Richard Posner dubs “dysfunctional,” have transformed the technology market, making ceaseless litigation lucrative not only for Automated and patent trolls like it, but for others, too.

"

Link to Original Source

+ - Sony Hires SCO's Anti-Linux Lawyer in Attempt to Bully the Press

Submitted by ErikTheRed
ErikTheRed (162431) writes "In what can only be taken as a serious attempt to provoke maximum outrage in the hacking community, Sony has retained the services of David Boies — the lead attorney in SCO's failed attempts at destroying Linux through its legal actions against Novell and IBM — to engage in some rather pathetic and legally questionable (per UCLA law professor and Washington Post blogger Eugene Volokh) attempts to get the media to stop talking about what is probably the largest corporate hack in history. What could possibly go wrong?"

"If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?" -- Lily Tomlin

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