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Submission + - In Praise of the Solo Programmer

HughPickens.com writes: Jean-Louis Gassée writes that once upon a time, we were awestruck by the solo programmer who could single-handedly write a magnum opus on a barebones machine like the Apple ][ with its 64 kilobytes of memory and an 8-bit processor running at 1MHz. Once such giant was Paul Lutus, known as the Oregon Hermit, who won a place next to Jobs and Wozniak in the Bandley Drive Hall of Fame for his Apple Writer word processor. "Those were the days Computers and their operating systems were simple and the P in Personal Computers applied to the programmer," writes Gassée. "There’s no place for a 2015 Paul Lutus. But are things really that dire?"

As it turns out, the size and complexity of operating systems and development tools do not pose completely insurmountable obstacles; There are still programs of hefty import authored by one person. One such example is Preview, Mac’s all-in-one file viewing and editing program. The many superpowers of Apple’s Preview does justice to the app’s power and flexibility authored by a solo, unnamed programmer who has been at it since the NeXT days. Newer than Preview but no less ambitious, is Gus Mueller’s Acorn, an “Image Editor for Humans”, now in version 5 at the Mac App Store. Mueller calls his Everett, WA company a mom and pop shop because his spouse Kristin does the documentation when she isn’t working as a Physical Therapist. Gus recently released Acorn 5 fixing hundreds of minor bugs and annoyances. "It took months and months of work, it was super boring and mind numbing and it was really hard to justify, and it made Acorn 5 super late," writes Mueller. "But we did it anyway, because something in us felt that software quality has been going downhill in general, and we sure as heck weren't going to let that happen to Acorn."
Privacy

How To Keep Microsoft's Nose Out of Your Personal Data In Windows 10 418

MojoKid writes: Amid the privacy concerns and arguably invasive nature of Microsoft's Windows 10 regarding user information, it's no surprise that details on how to minimize leaks as much as possible are often requested by users who have recently made the jump to the new operating system. If you are using Windows 10, or plan to upgrade soon, it's worth bearing in mind a number of privacy-related options that are available, even during the installation/upgrade. If you are already running the OS and forgot to turn them off during installation (or didn't even see them), they can be accessed via the Settings menu on the start menu, and then selecting Privacy from the pop-up menu. Among these menus are a plethora of options regarding what data can be gathered about you. It's worth noting, however, that changing any of these options may disable various OS related services, namely Cortana, as Microsoft's digital assistant has it tendrils buried deep.

Submission + - EPA withholds Colorado disaster documents demanded by Congress 2

schwit1 writes: The EPA, when ordered by Congress to release documents describing that agency's planning prior to the toxic waste disaster it caused in Colorado, has failed to meet the deadline set by Congress for turning over those documents.

"It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee's reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). "These documents are essential to the Committee's ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA."

Smith — who frequently spars with the EPA — is chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. EPA director Gina McCarthy has been asked to appear and answer questions about the agency's role in creating a 3-million-gallon toxic spill into Colorado's Animas River on Aug. 5. Critics say McCarthy and the EPA have been unresponsive, secretive and unsympathetic toward millions of people who live in three states bordering the river.

The word "coverup" comes to mind, though how could anyone believe that the Obama administration (the most transparent in history!) would do such a thing baffles the mind.

Submission + - Amazon Work-Life Balance Defender: Prior Employer Nearly Killed Me and My Team

theodp writes: New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan questions whether her paper's portrayal of Amazon's brutal workplace was on target, citing a long, passionate response in disagreement from Nick Ciubotariu, a head of infrastructure development at Amazon. Interestingly, Ciubotariu — whose take on Amazon's work-life balance ("I’ve never worked a single weekend when I didn’t want to") was used as Exhibit A by CEO Jeff Bezos to refute the NYT's report — wrote last December of regretting his role as an enabler of his team's "Death March" at a former employer (perhaps Microsoft, judging by Ciubotariu's LinkedIn profile and his essay's HiPo and Vegas references). "I asked if there were any questions," wrote Ciubotariu of a team meeting. "Nadia, one of my Engineers, had one: 'Nick, when will this finally end?' As I looked around the room, I saw 9 completely broken human beings. We had been working over 100 hours a week for the past 2 months. Two of my Engineers had tears on their faces. I did my best to keep from completely breaking down myself. With my voice choking, I looked at everyone, and said: 'This ends right now'." Ciubotariu added, "I hope they can forgive me for being an enabler of their death march, however unwilling, and that I ultimately didn’t do enough to stop it. As a 'reward' for all this, I calibrated #1 overall in my organization, and received yet another HiPo nomination and induction, at the cost of a shattered family life, my health, and a broken team. I don’t think I ever felt worse in my entire career. If I could give it all back, I would, in an instant, no questions asked. Physically and mentally, I took about a year to heal."

Submission + - Linus Torvalds says Security is never going to be perfect->

sfcrazy writes: Linus Torvalds made a surprise appearance for a Keynote discussion at LinuxCon 2015. He talked about many topics, including security. Linus said security in most cases is bugs which are exploited by some clever person. But can we get rid of bugs, and as a result security holes? So can Linux get rid of such bugs? Not realistically. It’s just impossible to write any software free of bugs. The thing is to catch them as soon as you can. “The thing is, you are never going to get rid of bugs,” Linus said. It’s also hard to know ahead of time that the bug in your software can be a security issue. And he’s absolutely right. “If you think of it that way, then you just know that bugs are inevitable; security is never going to be perfect,” he added
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Encryption

Jeb Bush Comes Out Against Encryption 494

An anonymous reader writes: Presidential candidate Jeb Bush has called on tech companies to form a more "cooperative" arrangement with intelligence agencies. During a speech in South Carolina, Bush made clear his opinion on encryption: "If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job — while protecting civil liberties — to make sure that evildoers aren't in our midst." He also indicated he felt the recent scaling back of the Patriot Act went too far. Bush says he hasn't seen any indication the bulk collection of phone metadata violated anyone's civil liberties.
Nintendo

Twenty Years Later, Nintendo's Virtual Boy Is Still an Oddity 43

An anonymous reader writes: Nintendo launched its Virtual Boy gaming console twenty years ago today. Expectations were high after the company sold tends of millions of its previous devices, but the Virtual Boy only sold about 770,000 units. It was conceived at the height of the '90s VR craze, but the technology of the time just couldn't produce the kind of experience that Nintendo (or gamers) envisioned. An article from Benj Edwards provides insight into the Virtual Boy's development and its inevitable failure.

"A major problem with the idea of making VR32 wearable, according to Makino, was that Nintendo engineers were concerned about placing a chip with high radio emissions near a user's head, since the safety of EMF radiation on the brain had yet to be thoroughly studied. Its proximity also produced visual noise in the displays. 'This meant that the internal CPU had to be covered by a metal plate,' says Makino, 'which made the whole system too heavy, forcing the goggle concept to be abandoned.' Not long after, Yokoi's console evolved from a strap-on headset into a heavier device that one could prop up onto one's face using a clumsy shoulder stand. Again, Nintendo's legal department feared liability issues; the device might cause children to fall down a stairwell while playing. ... Hobbled by liability concerns, VR32 soon evolved into a bulky red viewport mounted to a bi-pod that rested on a table."

Submission + - 20th anniversary of the Nintendo Virtual Boy's U.S. debut->

harrymcc writes: On April 21, 1995, Nintendo's Virtual Boy launched in the U.S. The world's first stereoscopic game console, it was originally intended to be the Oculus Rift of its era--but evolved into a strange device which is remembered mostly for being an enormous flop. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells the remarkable story, and explains what went wrong with a machine that started out being quite visionary.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - IRS computer hack bigger than previously thought

schwit1 writes: A hack of IRS taxpayer information was significantly bigger than previously estimated, the IRS revealed today.

An additional 220,000 potential victims had information stolen from an IRS website as part of a sophisticated scheme to use stolen identities to claim fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS said Monday. The revelation more than doubles the total number of potential victims, to 334,000.

Well, no matter, this hack is mere chicken feed compared to the 21 million records stolen from the federal Office of Personal Management. And it hardly compares with the recent Pentagon breach, where the Chinese got almost all federal records. No, the IRS is doing a much better job then those other agencies, only being slightly incompetent and screwing up only a little.

Wireless Networking

The Promise of 5G 158

An anonymous reader writes: From instant monitoring of leaking pipelines, to real-time worldwide collaboration, the increase in machine-to-machine communications that 5G allows will change the way we live. This TechCrunch article takes a look at the promise that 5G holds and its possibilities. From the article: "By 2030, 5G will transform and create many uses that we cannot even think of yet. We will live in a world that will have 10-100 times more Internet-connected devices than there are humans. Hundreds of billions of machines will be sensing, processing and transmitting data without direct human control and intervention."
Medicine

Registered Clinical Trials Make Positive Findings Vanish 118

schwit1 writes: The requirement that medical researchers register in detail the methods they intend to use in their clinical trials, both to record their data as well as document their outcomes, caused a significant drop in trials producing positive results. From Nature: "The study found that in a sample of 55 large trials testing heart-disease treatments, 57% of those published before 2000 reported positive effects from the treatments. But that figure plunged to just 8% in studies that were conducted after 2000. Study author Veronica Irvin, a health scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, says this suggests that registering clinical studies is leading to more rigorous research. Writing on his NeuroLogica Blog, neurologist Steven Novella of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, called the study "encouraging" but also "a bit frightening" because it casts doubt on previous positive results."

In other words, before they were required to document their methods, research into new drugs or treatments would prove the success of those drugs or treatment more than half the time. Once they had to document their research methods, however, the drugs or treatments being tested almost never worked. The article also reveals a failure of the medical research community to confirm their earlier positive results. It appears the medical research field has forgotten this basic tenet of science: A result has to be proven by a second independent study before you can take it seriously. Instead, they would do one study, get the results they wanted, and then declare success.

Submission + - Federal Judge Calls BS on Homeland Security's 2008 STEM 'Emergency'

theodp writes: In 2008, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security enacted 'emergency' changes to Optional Practical Training (OPT) to extend the amount of time foreign STEM graduates of US colleges could stay in the country and work ("to alleviate the crisis employers are facing due to the current H-1B visa shortage", as Bill Gates explained it in 2007). More than seven years later, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle has found that the government erred by not seeking public comment when it extended the program, and issued a ruling that could force tens of thousands of foreign workers on OPT STEM extensions to return to their home countries early next year. Huvelle has given the government six months to submit the OPT extension rule for proper notice and comment lest it be revoked. From the ruling (pdf): "By failing to engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking, the record is largely one-sided, with input only from technology companies that stand to benefit from additional F-1 student employees, who are exempted from various wage taxes. Indeed, the 17-month duration of the STEM extension appears to have been adopted directly from the unanimous suggestions by Microsoft and similar industry groups." Microsoft declared a new crisis in 2012, this time designed to link tech's need for H-1B visas to U.S. children's lack of CS savvy.

Submission + - Windows 10 could disable pirated games and unauthorized hardware->

Mark Wilson writes: Cries of "FUD!" ring out whenever potential issues and concerns with Windows 10 are pointed out, but there's no denying that the launch of this version of Windows has been more blighted than any other. The latest controversy finds Microsoft updating its EULA so that it is able to block pirated games and unauthorized peripherals.

While on one hand this seems entirely reasonable — few people would argue too strongly that they should be permitted to play pirated games — on the other it is confusing and worrisome. It is yet another example of Microsoft causing trouble for itself by failing to properly communicate with its customers, being insufficiently transparent and clear in meaning. Just what is an 'unauthorized peripheral'? It is the lack of clarity that is likely to give the greatest cause for concern here.

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