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Education

2014 Geek Gift Guide 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the watch-out-for-robot-santa dept.
With the holidays coming up, Bennett Haselton has updated his geek-oriented gift guide for 2014. He says: Some of my favorite gifts to give are still the ones that were listed in several different previously written posts, while a few new cool gift ideas emerged in 2014. Here are all my current best recommendations, listed in one place. Read on for the list, or to share any suggestions of your own.
Twitter

An Algorithm To Prevent Twitter Hashtag Degeneration 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes The corruption of the #Ferguson and #Gamergate hashtags demonstrates how vulnerable the hashtag system is to being swamped by an "angry mob". An alternative algorithm could be created that would allow users to post tweets and browse the ones that had been rated "thoughtful" by other users participating in the same discussion. This would still allow anyone to contribute, even average users lacking a large follower base, while keeping the most stupid and offensive tweets out of most people's feeds. Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.

Comment: Re:Nice to have tech-savvy Administration (Score 1) 47

This "article" (scare quotes very much intended) is about social media, not technology or being tech-savvy. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other -- in fact, there's probably substance to an argument that they're somewhat opposites.

It's akin to saying someone is very skilled and more creative at using toilet paper -- and then bemoan that they're a pretty poor plumber.

Sony

The Sony Pictures Hack Was Even Worse Than Everyone Thought 528

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-looking-good dept.
An anonymous reader writes with today's installment of Sony hack news. "It's time to take a moment of silence for Sony Pictures, because more startling revelations about leaked information just came out and employees are starting to panic. BuzzFeed raked through some 40 gigabytes of data and found everything from medical records to unreleased scripts. This is probably the worst corporate hack in history. Meanwhile, Fusion's Kevin Roose is reporting on what exactly happened at Sony Pictures when the hack went down. The hack was evidently so extensive that even the company gym had to shut down. And once the hackers started releasing the data, people started 'freaking out,' one employee said. That saddest part about all of this is that the very worst is probably still to come. Hackers say they stole 100 terabytes of data in total. If only 40 gigabytes contained all of this damning information, just imagine what 100 terabytes contains."

Comment: Re:So close, so far (Score 1) 561

by nmb3000 (#48426715) Attached to: "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon

We have come so far since feminism began, but then stuff like this still happens... How could anyone, in 2014, have thought this was acceptable?

I can't help but feel like this whole thing is getting horribly blown out of proportion, more than likely due to a SJW invasion (does it have some absurd hash tag yet?)

I haven't read the book, but based on TFA:

  • It looks like they decided to put Barbie in a design position with other people doing the actual computer programming. This is not unusual in the real world.
  • The roles of designers and developers are in some many polar opposites. Is it that hard to believe that the female brain might often be better at aesthetics, usability, gameplay, and what the target audience (which, based on "cute puppies and colored blocks", sounds predisposed towards younger girls) thinks would be fun? And perhaps the male brain is better at abstract logic and systems interaction? I'm not saying everyone falls into those buckets, just that it's common. And from what I've seen on the job, this is not unusual in the real world.
  • The two programmers Barbie enlists happen to be male. Since a large majority of software developers in the world are male (especially in school), this is not that unusual.
  • The side-story about the computer virus is absurd, but it just sounds like it was written by someone who doesn't know anything about computers or viruses, other than what they hear on the evening news ("A new lethal computer virus is sweeping the globe, deleting files and murdering kittens! Film at 11." The portrayal of computer maladies in fiction is pretty bad in general, so this is also not that unusual.
  • Finally, this is Barbie FFS. Anyone who buys into that franchise and expects cutting-edge challenge of social norms is just self-deluded (might explain the attraction to SJWs...).

All in all, it looks like a cutesy little story written by someone who knows almost nothing about computers, probably has no interest in computers themselves, and subconciously wrote the story around their personal experiences of (1) most computer geeks are male, (2) computer viruses are scary, and (3) "it's Barbie, so who's going to really give a damn?"

This kind of stuff just isn't worth the heartache and venom people are throwing at it. Take a breath, put it in perspective, and move on.

(Besides, what people should be up in arms over is the picture of Tux on the front cover! A virus taking over Linux? Inconceivable! :)

Comment: Re:No longer a day one purchase (Score 1) 473

by nmb3000 (#48411655) Attached to: Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player

Yeah, as it turns out, "from time to time" means (in the dev's words): "At the moment it's whenever you need to conduct a server moderated transaction like trading." and "The servers handle more than just the data, they handle all the key processes for interaction in the game, so trading, mission generation and background simulation to name a few."

Oh hey, so it's exactly like every other MMO, including WoW. The client is basically a dumb terminal which renders graphics and plays sound, but as soon as you do something like sell to a vendor, or cast a spell or use an ability, a check is fired off to the server to make sure that your character is in a valid state to perform those actions, and then the result of the actions are sent back to the client for rendering. To do it any other way is just inviting people to cheat.

From what I can tell, their "single player" sounds more like the normal MMO, except that you can't see any other players even though their actions continue to have an effect on the game world. Seems like they're using baldfaced lies to do damage control.

Math

Big Talk About Small Samples 246

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: My last article garnered some objections from readers saying that the sample sizes were too small to draw meaningful conclusions. (36 out of 47 survey-takers, or 77%, said that a picture of a black woman breast-feeding was inappropriate; while in a different group, 38 out of 54 survey-takers, or 70%, said that a picture of a white woman breast-feeding was inappropriate in the same context.) My conclusion was that, even on the basis of a relatively small sample, the evidence was strongly against a "huge" gap in the rates at which the surveyed population would consider the two pictures to be inappropriate. I stand by that, but it's worth presenting the math to support that conclusion, because I think the surveys are valuable tools when you understand what you can and cannot demonstrate with a small sample. (Basically, a small sample can present only weak evidence as to what the population average is, but you can confidently demonstrate what it is not.) Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.
Build

3D Printed Art Smaller Than an Ant's Forehead 35

Posted by timothy
from the my-usual-measure-is-a-newt's-nostril dept.
ErnieKey (3766427) writes Artist Jonty Hurwitz has created the world's smallest sculptures: nanosculptures, no wider than a human hair and unable to be seen without an electron microscope, created using a specialized 3D printing process. Hurwitz says this project was 'Art, literally created with Quantum Physics.' While this seems quite a claim, it seems to be very well deserved. Hurwitz enlisted a team of approximately 15 people to help him bring his vision to life. After scanning his models in a 200-camera array, the sculptures were printed — with advice from the Weizmann Institute of Science — using a 3D print technique by the Institute of Microstructure Technology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, with multiphoton lithography used for the fine detail work.

Comment: Sad (Score 4, Insightful) 337

by nmb3000 (#48390303) Attached to: Philae's Batteries Have Drained; Comet Lander Sleeps

When you stop and think about the fact that the Rosetta project was launched over ten years ago (something I didn't realize until recently), it's hard not to feel sorry for the scientists and others on the project.

The statements the ESA is putting out have a positive spin on them (for multiple reasons, I'm sure), but at the end of the day this has got to be a pretty hard blow to the people personally invested in the project. After the effort required just to get it launched and a decade of waiting, it must be hard on them. Wish them the best of luck for a second chance when the comet nears the Sun.

Comment: Re:Can't wait for this! (Score 2) 327

by nmb3000 (#48357191) Attached to: Mozilla Updates Firefox With Forget Button, DuckDuckGo Search, and Ads

What is Firefox thinking? From the last paragraph in the article: "Firefox users should 'expect a lot more experimentation in advertising,' Mozilla Senior Engineering Manager Gavin Sharp told VentureBeat."

If you want to raise your blood pressure and really ruin your outlook of Firefox's future, go read some of Gavin Sharp's comments on various Bugzilla bugs. Seeing the justification for the removal of features and the addition of toxic features ruins my day every time I'm driving there to try and understand why something changed.

Gavin and the others like him that simply want to turn Firefox into Mini-Chrome are the biggest threat to Firefox today.

Supercomputing

Researchers Simulate Monster EF5 Tornado 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows dept.
New submitter Orp writes: I am the member of a research team that created a supercell thunderstorm simulation that is getting a lot of attention. Presented at the 27th Annual Severe Local Storms Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, Leigh Orf's talk was produced entirely as high def video and put on YouTube shortly after the presentation. In the simulation, the storm's updraft is so strong that it essentially peels rain-cooled air near the surface upward and into the storm's updraft, which appears to play a key role in maintaining the tornado. The simulation was based upon the environment that produced the May 24, 2011 outbreak which included a long-track EF5 tornado near El Reno Oklahoma (not to be confused with the May 31, 2013 EF5 tornado that killed three storm researchers).

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