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Comment Re:unpossible software hack? (Score 1) 237

I, too, don't believe much is impossible so far as software is probably the most abstract and malleable construct that Man has devised and created. I say that with a huge caveat though; when someone asks if I can add a feature or write a piece of code my response has always been "with sufficient motivation and time anything is doable". That being said, while I usually _start_ with "yes", many things come down to "I can do this, but it's not worth doing" or "I can do this, but something else is shipping late". That's the nature of the game.

As an example, I tried to explain to someone earlier today why trying to do high end DSP apps for Android phones would take massive resources due to the engineering envelopes that are inherent to the system (high level, JITted language with GC, multiple hardware profiles with a short life span, and the need for low level access on a platform where you're on top of many layers of abstraction makes for a lot of interesting challenges that would devour resources). I'm not saying it can't be done, but I surely wouldn't invest in it.

Submission + - Did scientists pick up their first intelligent radio waves from aliens? (

schwit1 writes: Astronomers have picked up five mysterious unidentified radio signals that could originate from outside the Milky Way.

The "fast radio bursts" included one "double signal" never heard before and have left astronomers buzzing with excitement over the possibility of it being a message with alien origins.

Only 11 of the unidentified transient radio pulses have been recorded before around the world.

And it is the curious new double blast — which was accompanied by four "singles" — which has baffled astronomers analyzing data from the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

Submission + - How bad of a world are we really living in right now?

Y.A.A.P. writes: Slate has a surprisingly relevant article of the state of the world today. A reasonable number of graphs and statistical comparisons show that our world is more peaceful than it has been for a long time. The article tells us that, despite what most news outlets (and political candidates) tell us, The World Is Not Falling Apart. Well, not from violence, at least.

Submission + - Is there a bookmark manager that actually manages bookmarks? 1

hackwrench writes: Most reviews of so-called bookmark managers focus on the fact that they can share bookmarks across browsers and devices and whether or not they can make your bookmarks public or not. Sometimes they mention that you can annotate bookmarks.

Little is said about real management features like making certain bookmarks exclusive to one or a set of browsers or devices, checking for dead links and maybe even looking them up on

I'm sure this isn't an exhaustive list of features that would be good to have. What bookmarks managers do you use and why, and what features would you like to see in a bookmark manager?

Submission + - George Lucas: 'I'm Done With Star Wars' writes: Entertainment Weekly reports that George Lucas has compared his retirement from Star Wars to a break-up – a mutual one, maybe, but one that nonetheless comes with hard feelings and although Lucas came up with story treatments for a new trilogy, those materials, to put it bluntly, were discarded. “They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were gonna go do their own thing,” says Lucas. “They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway. But at the same time, I said if I get in there I’m just going to cause trouble. Because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that anymore. All I would do is muck everything up. So I said, ‘Okay, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’” Lucas says he was going to tell a story about the grandchildren of figures from the original trilogy. “The issue was, ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans,’” says Lucas. “So, I said, all I want to do is tell a story of what happened – it started here and went there. It’s all about generations, and issues of fathers and sons and grandfathers. It’s a family soap opera.”

Although the team behind The Force Awakens acknowledges they’re taking the story in a different direction from what Lucas intended, they maintain affection for his original creations and the man himself. “Before I showed up, it was already something that Disney had decided they wanted to go a different way with,” says J. J. Abrams. “But the spirit of what he wrote, both in those pages and prior, is everything that this movie is built upon.” Some fans question why there was no “Based on” credit for Lucas in the poster for The Force Awakens. “I don’t know why it isn’t on the poster, but it’s a valid point. I’m sure that that will be a credit in the film,” says Abrams. “We are standing on the shoulders of Episodes I through VI.”

Submission + - Database backup solution for a company that has a lot of customers?

Nillerz writes: I work for a company in a field that is still dominated by electricians, but is moving toward an IT future.

This means that they're starting to deal with problems that their industry hasn't had before, namely how are we going to securely store hundreds of customer database backups that are coming from off-site servers?

The ideal solution would be something that automatically backs up the database locally on their machines, encrypts it, gets a secure session over at our servers, uploads it, and exits. I don't know how likely it is that a solution already exists that does exactly this.

Comment When bad design meets operating a vehicle (Score 1) 461

One of the things I really hate currently is taking the current fads in interface design and applying them in the not unlikely scenario that I'm driving with my iPod/iPhone docked. If I'm plugged in, with my phone in landscape orientation for more than a few moments (ie, to make selection of a choice of things easier in the orientation layout), even if I'm not driving DON'T EVER ASK ME ANYTHING OR POP UP OR INTERFERE WITH ME AT ALL! I'm in a context where it is reasonable to assume I'm viewing something and don't want to be bothered.

You mention the shake interaction; I found out that Google Maps on iOS has this while driving and using it for navigating when something triggered it and in small text Maps pops up a "useful and helpful" explanation that I can report issues with the app by shaking the device. But then they took it one step further and made it a modal dialog with "OK"/"cancel" such that you have to read, process the info and successfully choose and execute one of two options. Did anyone at Google, at any point, think and articulate that perhaps having an easy to accidentally trigger interface was a bad idea and that perhaps the worst way to handle the fact that it was easy to accidentally trigger was to pop up a modal dialog box with small text and then proceed to force a user to use multiple higher level cognitive functions while the device's sensors indicate that, one could reasonably assume, they are in the middle of operating a vehicle at 75 MPH? Either they considered it and didn't care or they never considered in what context one might use their application. So they're either dumb or evil, take your pick.

That's the tip of the iceberg. I'm reasonably certain that the point of Google Maps when in GPS mode is to kill and maim as many as possible. It'd be one thing if they didn't have access to sensors that can give a very reasonable assumption as to the context in which the device is operating, but there's more than enough information to derive the context in which the phone is operating. GPS, power, Bluetooth, NFC, screen orientation, mic, etc. I cannot think of a situation in which I'm in a loud environment, Bluetooth connected to an audio device with remote controls, power connected, screen in landscape orientation, while moving at > 5 MPH, with a mapping application using GPS, in which it cannot be reasonably assume I'm driving. Yet, so many of these apps that only get used in that very context won't take that into consideration with regards to their interface. The only one I've ever seen get it right is a war-driving application. Feedback is large text in a dashboard mode in landscape orientation, or a different output in vertical orientation with configurable audio feedback at defined intervals. It never tries to ask you a question while its in use and the layout is such that you aren't likely to need to interact outside of one large start/stop button and changing the device's orientation.

Submission + - How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name (

ColdWetDog writes: Codesign has an article by two early Apple designers on how the company has lost its way, and quite frankly, lost its marbles when it comes to user interface design. In the search for minimalist, clean design it has forgotten time honored UI principles and made it harder for people to use their products. As someone who has followed computer UI since the command line and who has used various Apple products for a number of years, their concerns really hit home.

Of course, Apple isn't the only company out there who makes UI mistakes. And it is notable that TFA has totally annoying, unstoppable GIFs that do nothing to improve understanding. User Interfaces are hard, but it would be nice to have every body take a few steps back from the precipice.

Submission + - Audit shows DHS Running Hundreds of Vulnerable Sensitive, Top Secret Databases (

schwit1 writes: The Department of Homeland Security is running hundreds of sensitive and top secret databases without the proper authorization, leaving the agency unsure if it can “protect sensitive information” from cyber attacks.

An audit released publicly Thursday by the inspector general found multiple areas of weaknesses within the agency’s information security programs.

Specifically, the department is operating 136 “sensitive but unclassified,” “Secret,” and “Top Secret” systems with “expired authorities to operate.”

“As of June 2015, DHS had 17 systems classified as ‘Secret’ or ‘Top Secret’ operating without [authorities to operate] ATOs,” the inspector general said. “Without ATOs, DHS cannot ensure that its systems are properly secured to protect sensitive information stored and processed in them.”

Submission + - Controversy Over High-Tech Brooms Sweeps Through Sport of Curling writes: Billy Witz reports at the NYT that the friendly sport of curling suddenly has become roiled in controversy over — what else? — the brooms. The crux of the debate is fabric — specifically, something called directional fabric. The use of this material in broom pads is the latest escalation in an arms race among manufacturers, whereby the world’s best curlers can guide the 44-pound stone around a sheet of ice as if it were controlled by a joystick. Many of the sport’s top athletes, but not all of them, signed an agreement last month not to use the newest brooms. But with few regulations on the books and Olympic qualifying tournaments underway this month, the World Curling Federation has stepped in and issued new rules that set severe restrictions on the types of brooms that can be used. “There’s definitely some anger over it,” says Dean Gemmell. “In curling, we’re generally known for being pretty friendly with most of your opponents. Even at the big events, you see the top players hanging out. But it’s sort of taken that away this year, that’s for sure.”

It was prototype brooms made by BalancePlus that were the focus of complaints at the Toronto tournament, but Scott Taylor, president of BalancePlus, says they were never intended for sale, and were meant to demonstrate the problems that the reversed fabrics could cause. Players say the brooms allowed sweepers to "steer" the rock much more than they were comfortable with, and even slow them down. The brooms have been compared to high-tech drivers that allow amateur golfers to hit the ball as far as a pro, or the advanced full-body swimsuits that were banned from competition in 2010 for providing an unfair advantage. Of his company’s high-tech broom, Taylor says: “This isn’t good. It’s like hitting a golf ball 500 yards.”

Submission + - How To Convince a Team to Undertake UX Enhancements on a Large Codebase 1

unteer writes: I work at a enterprise software company that builds an ERP system for a niche industry (i.e. not Salesforce or SAP size). Our product has been continuously developed for 10 years, and incorporates code that is even older. Our userbase is constantly expanding, and many of these users expect modern conveniences like intuitive UI and documented processes. However, convincing the development teams that undertaking projects to clean up the UI or build more self-explanatory features are often met with, "It's too big an undertaking," or, "it's not worth it."

Slashdotters, help me out. What is your advice for how to quantify and qualify improving the user experience of an aging, fairly large,but also fairly niche, ERP product?

Submission + - The War on Campus Sexual Assault Goes Digital writes: According to a recent study of 27 schools, about one-quarter of female undergraduates said they had experienced nonconsensual sex or touching since entering college, but most of the students said they did not report it to school officials or support services. Now Natasha Singer reports at the NYT that in an effort to give students additional options — and to provide schools with more concrete data — a nonprofit software start-up in San Francisco called Sexual Health Innovations has developed an online reporting system for campus sexual violence. One of the most interesting features of Callisto is a matching system — in which a student can ask the site to store information about an assault in escrow and forward it to the school only if someone else reports another attack identifying the same assailant. The point is not just to discover possible repeat offenders. In college communities, where many survivors of sexual assault know their assailants, the idea of the information escrow is to reduce students’ fears that the first person to make an accusation could face undue repercussions.

"It’s this last option that makes Callisto unique," writes Olga Khazan. "Most rapes are committed by repeat offenders, yet most victims know their attackers. Some victims are reluctant to report assaults because they aren’t sure whether a crime occurred, or they write it off as a one-time incident. Knowing about other victims might be the final straw that puts an end to their hesitation—or their benefit of the doubt. Callisto’s creators claim that if they could stop perpetrators after their second victim, 60 percent of campus rapes could be prevented." This kind of system is based partly on a Michigan Law Review article about “information escrows,” or systems that allow for the transmitting of sensitive information in ways that reduce “first-mover disadvantage" also known to economists as the "hungry penguin problem". As game theorist Michael Chwe points out, the fact that each person creates her report independently makes it less likely they’ll later be accused of submitting copycat reports, if there are similarities between the incidents.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Is Scrum still relevant? (

An anonymous reader writes: In an article titled "Scrum is dead: breaking down the new open development method," Ahmad Nassri writes:

Among the most "oversold as a cure" methodologies introduced to business development teams today is Scrum, which is one of several agile approaches to software development and introduced as a way to streamline the process. Scrum has become something of an intractable method, complete with its own holy text, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development , and daily devotions (a.k.a., Scrum meetings).

Although Scrum may have made more sense when it was being developed in the early '90s, much has changed over the years. Startups and businesses have work forces spread over many countries and time zones, making sharing offices more difficult for employees. As our workforce world evolves, our software development methods should evolve, too.

What do you think? Is Scrum still a viable approach to software development, or is it time to make way for a different way of doing things?

Submission + - Louis Friedman says humans will never venture beyond Mars (

MarkWhittington writes: Dr. Louis Friedman, one of the co-founders of the Planetary Society, is coming out with a new book, “Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars,” an excerpt of which was published in Scientific America. Friedman revives and revises a version of the humans vs. robots controversy that has roiled through aerospace circles for decades. Unlike previous advocates of restricting space travel to robots, such as Robert Park and the late James Van Allen, Friedman admits that humans are going to Mars to settle. But there, human space travel will end. Only robots will ever venture further.

"Spock, did you see the looks on their faces?" "Yes, Captain, a sort of vacant contentment."