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Submission + - Grandma's Phone, DSL, and the Copper They Share (

szczys writes: DSL is high-speed Internet that uses the same twisted pair of copper wire that still works with your Grandmother's wall-mounted telephone. How is that possible? The short answer is that the telephone company is cheating. But the long answer delves into the work of Claude Shannon, who figured out how much data could be reliably transferred using a given medium. His work, combined with that of Harry Nyquist and Ralph Hartley (pioneers of channel capacity and the role noise plays in these systems), brings the Internet Age to many homes on an infrastructure that has been in use for more than a hundred years.

Submission + - shutting down -- Thanks, Facebook. (

waimate writes:, a popular BAAS (back-end as a service), has fallen prey to Facebook. Declared by Fast Company as one of the top 50 most innovative companies of 2013, committed users shuddered when it was purchased by Facebook soon after. Today the other shoe finally dropped, when Facebook announced they are shutting the service down, leaving thousands of users scrambling for a viable replacement. It calls into question to what extent developers can trust *AAS providers, while at the same time creating an opportunity for a vendor to deploy a compatible service. Many other service provision offerings exist, but none quite the same as Parse. Thanks for nothing, Facebook.

Submission + - How Melinda Gates Got Her Daughters Excited About Science

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that Melinda Gates concluded a Davos panel discussion about gender parity with a personal story about her own family, explaining how she originally became interested in computer science, and how she later played Lab Manager to BillG's Mr. Wizard to help pass along their passion for science and math to their kids. "On Saturday mornings," Gates explained, "I wanted to sleep late. So you know what I did? I made sure there were science projects available, and that’s what he did with our two daughters and our son. And guess what my two daughters are interested in? Science and math."

Submission + - Why Do Americans Work So Much?

An anonymous reader writes: writes

Rebecca Rosen has an interesting essay at The Atlantic on economist John Maynard Keynes' prediction in 1930 that with increased productivity, over the next 100 years the economy would become so productive that people would barely need to work at all. For a while, it looked like Keynes was right: In 1930 the average workweek was 47 hours. By 1970 it had fallen to slightly less than 39. But then something changed. Instead of continuing to decline, the duration of the workweek stayed put; it’s hovered just below 40 hours for nearly five decades. According to Rosen there would be no mystery in this if Keynes had been wrong about the economy’s increasing productivity, which he thought would lead to a standard of living “between four and eight times as high as it is today.” Keynes got that right: Technology has made the economy massively more productive.

Now a new paper Benjamin Friedman says that “the U.S. economy is right on track to reach Keynes’s eight-fold multiple” by 2029—100 years after the last data Keynes would have had. But according to Friedman, the key reason that Keynes prediction failed to come true is that Keynes failed to allow for the changing distribution of wealth. With widening inequality, median income (and therefore the income of most families) has risen, and is now rising, much more slowly than Keynes anticipated. The failure of the workweek to shrink as he predicted follows. Although Keynes’s eight-fold figure holds up for the economy in aggregate, it’s not at all the case for the median American worker. For them, output by 2029 is likely to be around 3.5 times what it was when Keynes was writing—a bit below his four- to-eight-fold predicted range. "What Keynes foretold was a very optimistic version of what economists call technological unemployment—the idea that less labor will be necessary because machines can do so much," writes Rosen. "The prosperity Keynes predicted is here. After all, the economy as a whole has grown even more brilliantly than he expected. But for most Americans, that prosperity is nowhere to be seen—and, as a result, neither are those shorter workweeks."

Submission + - How friendly is your AI? It depends on the rewards (

Hallie Siegel writes: New research from the Computational Neuroscience Lab at the University of Tartu looks at what happens when multiple AI agents are competing or collaborating in the same environment. The research (built on some of the pioneering Deep Reinforcement Learning work done by Deepmind) shows that AI agents will tend to try to maximize their rewards. Leaves interesting questions about the role of researchers in defining these rewards clearly and ethically.

Submission + - Intelligence genes discovered by scientists ( 2

schwit1 writes: Genes which make people intelligent have been discovered and scientists believe they could be manipulated to boost brain power.

Researchers have believed for some time that intellect is inherited with studies suggesting that up to 75 per cent of IQ is genetic, and the rest down to environmental factors such as schooling and friendship groups.

But until now, nobody has been able to pin-point exactly which genes are responsible for better memory, attention, processing speed or reasoning skills.

Now Imperial College London has found that two networks of genes determine whether people are intelligent or not-so-bright.

They liken the gene network to a football team. When all the players are in the right positions, the brain appears to function optimally, leading to clarity of thought and what we think of as quickness or cleverness. However when the genes are mutated or in the wrong order, it can lead to dullness of thinking, or even serious cognitive impairments.

Submission + - ZFS Replication to the Cloud is Finally Here ... and it's Fast (

kozubik writes: Jim Salter at arstechnica provides a detailed, technical rundown of ZFS send and receive and compares it to traditional remote syncing and backup tools such as rsync. He writes: "In mid-August, the first commercially available ZFS cloud replication target became available at Who cares, right? As the service itself states, If you're not sure what this means, our product is Not For You. ... after 15 years of daily use, I knew exactly what rsync's weaknesses were, and I targeted them ruthlessly."

Submission + - Web-Based LibreOffice Takes On Google Docs, Office 365

snydeq writes: Collabora Productivity has released a distribution of LibreOffice Online as part of a joint venture with ownCloud, makers of an open source file hosting and sharing system a la Dropbox, InfoWorld reports. The Web edition of the open source productivity suite still has a minimal feature set, but documents are editable in the desktop version LibreOffice. 'A preview build of the product more closely resembles Google Docs than LibreOffice. Despite the editor being a little sluggish and the feature set minimal, the product did allow for basic creation and editing of word processing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. "This initial version allows basic editing," the Collabora press release stated. "Collaborative and rich editing are on the roadmap."'

Submission + - 0-Day GRUB2 Authentication Bypass Hits Linux

prisoninmate writes: A zero-day security flaw was discovered by developers Ismael Ripoll and Hector Marco in the upstream GRUB2 packages, which did not correctly handled the backspace key when the bootloader was configured to use password protected authentication, thus allowing a local attacker to bypass GRUB's password protection. Versions from 1.98 (December, 2009) to 2.02 (December, 2015) are affected. At the moment, it looks like only a few distributons received the patched GRUB2 versions, including Ubuntu, Debian (Squeeze LTS only) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7. Arch Linux devs should release a patched GRUB2 version in the next hours.

Submission + - Microsoft's Modernized Development Workflow Begins To Show Cracks (

An anonymous reader writes: As widely reported last year from various sources, most of Microsoft's QA staff in the Windows division was eliminated in their 2014 layoffs. According to an article at Petri, the effects are now starting to be felt and the results aren't nearly as positive as those reported by Yahoo's similar experiment:

"According to several people familiar with the new process who asked not to be named, the new workflow caused issues for developers as they were not quite sure how to balance time devoted to testing versus building. Further, having spent years coding and not performing detailed and prolonged testing, their methods for quality control were not to the same standards as those who were dedicated to the task. Under the new process, the time allotted to building out new features includes testing the code as well, which it previously did not, which means that those engineers who are accustomed to the old style, now find themselves under more pressure to turn out quality code in a shorter period since they have to do the detailed testing. The end result, as we have seen with Windows 10, is a product with more bugs and it's starting to show the weakness of the new process flow."

Apropos of nothing, ZDNet reports that the latest Windows Phone 10 release has been pulled because of bugs in the installation process and also reports on Microsoft's official apology for the numerous issues that have plagued it's recent Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book devices.

Submission + - Why President Obama Was Held Back a Year Before Starting Code School

theodp writes: Microsoft is boasting that UK Prime Minister David Cameron learned to code during this year's Hour of Code thanks to its Minecraft-themed tutorial, much like US President Barack Obama learned to code during 2014's Hour of Code thanks to Disney's Frozen Princess-themed tutorial. Interestingly, according to a recent Quora post by CEO Hadi Partovi, plans to have President Obama 'learn to code' a year earlier were torpedoed by the debacle. "We launched the first Hour of Code campaign, in 2013," explains Partovi. "We launched the first Hour of Code on the home page of Google, in every Apple Store, and we had convinced the President to issue a speech about computer science. But it was impossible to get the president to actually write any code that year — the administration had just launched its website, and after the infamous technical failures, nobody wanted the visual of website failing while the President is learning to code."

Submission + - 90:9:1 – the odd ratio that technology keeps creating ( 1

mspohr writes: The Guardian asks the question:
"Mozilla has killed off its Firefox OS, leaving the mobile OS market dominated by Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Will technology always follow the same pattern?"
There are now three main platforms – Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone – for which worldwide shipments are currently running in a ratio of about 85:14:1 respectively."
In the OS sphere:
"Now look at desktop OS sales: the ratio stands in the most recent quarter at about 91:8:1 between Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OSX, and “self-build” machines which probably get Linux."
Similar numbers for browsers and search engines... but not game consoles which don't seem to follow the rule.
"There is one notable technology hardware space where 90:9:1 clearly doesn’t apply: games consoles. In the previous generation of consoles (Nintendo Wii v PlayStation 3 v Xbox 360) total sales were 101.2m to 85.9m to 84.9m – nearly an equal split. The current generation continues to deviate from the rule."

Submission + - Physicists (string theorists) and philosophers debate the scientific method

StartsWithABang writes: One of the most damning, albeit accurate, condemnations of String Theory that has been leveled at it is that it's untestable, non-empirical, and offers no concrete predictions or methods of falsification. Yet some have attempted to address this failing not by coming up with concrete predictions or falsifiable tests, but by redefining what is meant by theory confirmation. Many physicists and philosophers have jumped into this debate, and a recently completed workshop has produced no agreements, but lots of interesting perspectives being live blogged by a physicist. Also weighing in is a philosopher in three separate parts.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: What's Your Most Innovative Hardware Hack?

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter once asked us what kind of things could someone power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, monitors, cell phones, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them? Have you ever done something stupid and damaged your electronic device? Were you able to repair it?

Submission + - Undercover Activists Buy Off Professors in Climate Sting (

An anonymous reader writes: With the second week of climate talks in a relatively steady holding pattern, the most interesting news out of Paris today had nothing to do with the negotiations themselves. Greenpeace used the platform of COP21 to release results of an undercover investigation that revealed just how easy it is to pay an academic to say whatever you want him to.

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