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+ - Bill Gates Owes His Career to Steven Spielberg's Dad. You May, Too.

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: On the 51st birthday of the BASIC programing language, GE Reports decided it was finally time to give-credit-where-credit-was-long-overdue, reporting that Arnold Spielberg, the 98-year-old father of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, helped revolutionize computing when he designed the GE-225 mainframe computer. The machine allowed a team of Dartmouth University students and researchers to develop BASIC, which quickly spread and ushered in the era of personal computers. BASIC helped kickstart many computing careers, include those of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, as well as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

+ - My High School CS Homework is the Centerfold

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: To paraphrase the J. Geils Band, Maddie Zug's high school computer science homework is the centerfold. In a Washington Post op-ed, Zug, a student at the top-ranked Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, argues that a centerfold does not belong in the classroom. "I first saw a picture of Playboy magazine’s Miss November 1972 a year ago as a junior at TJ," Zug explains. "My artificial intelligence teacher told our class to search Google for Lena Soderberg (not the full image, though!) and use her picture to test our latest coding assignment...Soderberg has a history with computer science. In the 1970s, male programmers at the University of Southern California needed to test their image-processing algorithm. They scanned what they had handy: the centerfold of a Playboy magazine. Before long, the image became a convention in industry and academia."

+ - White House Outsources K-12 CS Education to Infosys Charity 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: In December, the White House praised the leadership of Code.org for their efforts to get more computer science into K-12 schools, which were bankrolled by $20 million in philanthropic contributions from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Mark Zuckerberg. On Monday, it was announced that Infosys Foundation USA will be partnering with Code.org to bring CS education to millions of U.S. students. Infosys Foundation USA Chair Vandana Sikk, who joins execs from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon execs on Code.org's Board, is the spouse of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikk. The announcement from the tax-deductible charity comes as India-based Infosys finds itself scrutinized by U.S. Senators over allegations of H-1B visa program abuses.

+ - WSJ Frets That Brenda and John Romero's Kid Not Taught to Code at School

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, Microsoft might have succeeded in fabricating a K-12 CS crisis if the Wall Street Journal frets that Brenda and John Romero’s kid isn’t being taught to code at school (yes, THAT John Romero!). By all other accounts, their 10-year-old is doing just fine from a coding perspective, leading a team of 7 in the development of Gunman Taco Truck.

Comment: Re:Fabricating a Crisis? (Score 2) 162

by theodp (#49552903) Attached to: Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

And from the linked-to Code.org PowerPoint slide: "We CAN make this an issue like climate change." Btw, in a Reddit AMA at the time of Microsoft-backed Code.org's launch, CEO and Founder Hadi Partovi noted that his next-door-neighbor is Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, whose FWD.us bio notes is also responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work.

Comment: Re:Fabricating a Crisis? (Score 4, Informative) 162

by theodp (#49552761) Attached to: Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

MR. SMITH: "One of the things I've learned from all of the various anti-trust and intellectual property negotiations I've handled over the years is this, sometimes when a small problem proves intractable you have to make it bigger. You have to make the problem big enough so that the solution is exciting enough to galvanize people's attention..."

+ - Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: The NY Times' Eric Lipton was just awarded a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that shed light on how foreign powers buy influence at think tanks. So, it probably bears mentioning that Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas — which is on the verge of being codified into laws by the President and lawmakers — was hatched at an influential Microsoft and Gates Foundation-backed think tank mentioned in Lipton's reporting, the Brookings Institution. In 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms, where fabricating a crisis was discussed as a strategy to succeed with Microsoft's agenda where earlier lobbying attempts by Bill Gates and Microsoft had failed. "So, Brad [Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith]," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West at the event, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis, I take it?" "Yeah," Smith replied (video). And, with the help of nonprofit organizations like Code.org and FWD.us that were founded shortly thereafter, a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was indeed created. Last December, as Microsoft-backed Code.org 'taught President Obama to code' at a White House event to kick off the nations's Hour of Code (as a top Microsoft lobbyist looked on), Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was also in D.C. publicly lobbying for high-skilled immigration and privately meeting with White House officials on undisclosed matters. And that, kids, is How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law!

+ - Microsoft's K-12 CS and H-1B Visa Agenda: From Think Tank to Law of the Land

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Led by Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with corporate contributions from the likes of Microsoft and Google, a $30M campaign to promote K-12 computer science education was a smash success, winning over the President and lawmakers, who are poised to make CS a 'core academic subject' in a rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, which could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending that the tech giants suggested could be funded using fees from additional H-1B visas they're coincidentally lobbying for to bring in foreign programming talent. Since the NY Times' Eric Lipton just won a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that shed light on how foreign powers buy influence at think tanks, it probably bears mentioning that Microsoft's 'two-pronged' K-12 CS and H-1B visa agenda — which is on the verge of becoming the law of the land — was hatched at an influential Microsoft-backed think tank mentioned in Lipton's reporting, the Brookings Institution. On September 27, 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings "hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms and how these policy innovations can recharge American competitiveness and economic opportunity for current and future generations of workers." Keynote remarks were delivered by Brad Smith, executive VP and general counsel of Microsoft, who took the occasion to introduce Microsoft's National Talent Strategy. "So, Brad," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis ['like climate change', as Microsoft partner Code.org later put it], I take it?" Smith replied, "Yeah, I think we have the opportunity to do two things...the immigration and education issues are, to some degree, opposite sides of the same coin. The coin itself is about the need to have people with the right skills to do the work that the country needs to get done...And, you know, it will require additional people from outside the United States in the short term [20+ years, according to the WSJ] but let's use that to help address the broader and to some degree deeper and longer lasting problem that we face with respect to our educational system. It also gives us the opportunity to connect with people who may not have seen this connection or to connect with people who care more about one issue or the other, but bring them together" (video @ 49:24). Fittingly, in attendance two years later at the White House as President Obama tackled the national CS crisis as he 'learned to code' from a nonprofit headed by Smith's next-door-neighbor at the Brookings-trumpeted and nationally-covered Hour of Code event was Fred Humphries, a top Microsoft lobbyist and Brookings partner. According to visitor records, Humphries returned to the White House the next day with Smith and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to quietly meet with officials. While in D.C., Nadella also lobbied for high-skilled immigration. And that, kids, is How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law!

+ - Is Taking Air Force One to Florida to Celebrate Earth Day Tone-Deaf? 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: President Obama will visit the Everglades Wednesday, Earth Day, to call attention to global warming and the administration's efforts to cut carbon pollution across the globe, prompting the following exchange between CBS News reporter Mark Knoller and White House press secretary Josh Earnest. KNOLLER: "On the Everglades trip, does the President risk undermining his message when he flies to the Everglades on a 747 hundreds of miles to make a statement about climate change?" EARNEST: "It’s a provocative question. But, no, he doesn't. The President believes that there are important changes that we can make to reduce carbon pollution in this country, and we can do it in a way that will be good for our economy. That is precisely the case that the President will be making at the Everglades. And he’s looking forward to the trip." Earnest went on to suggest that Knoller "check with the Air Force" to see how the use of Air Force One jibes with the Pentagon's concern that "climate change poses immediate risks to our national security," which the President repeated in his last Weekly Address. Hey, the White House could always purchase some carbon offsets, which look-how-green-we-are Google explained more than made up for Larry Page and Sergey Brin's jetsetting!

+ - New Nudge Technology Prods You to Take Action

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com writes: Natasha Singer reports at the NYT on a new generation of devices whose primary function is to prod people to change. This new category of nudging technology includes “hydration reminder” apps like Waterlogged that exhort people to increase their water consumption; the HAPIfork, a utensil that vibrates and turns on a light indicator when people eat too quickly; and Thync, “neurosignaling” headgear that delivers electrical pulses intended to energize or relax people. “There is this dumbing-down, which assumes people do not want the data, they just want the devices to help them,” says Natasha Dow Schüll. “It is not really about self-knowledge anymore. It’s the nurselike application of technology.” While some self-zapping gizmos may resemble human cattle prods, other devices use more complex cues to encourage people to adopt new behavior. For example, the Muse, a brain-wave monitoring headband, is intended to help people understand their state of mind by playing different sounds depending on whether they are distracted or calm. “Based on what it registers, it plays loud, disruptive wind or waves lapping or, if you are supercalm and you maintain it for a while, you get calm, lovely noises of birds tweeting,” says Schüll. “You do learn to calm your mind.

But do the new self-tracking and self-improvement technologies benefit people or just create more anxiety? An article published in The BMJ, a British medical journal, describes healthy people who use self-tracking apps as “young, asymptomatic, middle-class neurotics continuously monitoring their vital signs while they sleep.” Dr. Des Spence argues that many health tracking apps encouraged healthy people to unnecessarily record their normal activities and vital signs — turning users into continuously self-monitoring “neurotics.” Spence recommends people view these new technologies with skepticism. “The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty,” says Spence. “Make no mistake: Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people.”

+ - K-12 CS Education Provider to Largest School Districts Eyes $200M in H-1B Fees

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Endorsed by the White House and bankrolled by tech's wealthiest individuals and their corporations, 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit Code.org has inked deals to bring K-12 computer science education to 7 of the largest US school districts. On Thursday, the group followed up on its earlier Congressional testimony, suggesting on Twitter and Tumblr that $200M in visa fees paid by its backers and others for H-1B workers be made available for CS education efforts. "With only 10% of all STEM graduates choosing to major in computer science," exclaimed Code.org in a blog post, "it’s no surprise the U.S. needs to bring in so many skilled workers from other countries!" Hey, it's also probably no surprise that many of Code.org's backers are also currently pressing for additional H-1B visas through Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC and other entities!

+ - Is iPhone's Lack of FM Support Increasing Your Chances of Dying in a Disaster?

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: "You may not know it," reports NPR's Emma Bowman, "but most of today's smartphones have FM radios inside of them. But the FM chip is not activated on two-thirds of devices. That's because mobile makers have the FM capability switched off. The National Association of Broadcasters has been asking mobile makers to change this. But the mobile industry, which profits from selling data to smartphone users, says that with the consumer's move toward mobile streaming apps, the demand for radio simply isn't there." But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says radio-enabled smartphones could sure come in handy during times of emergency. So, is it irresponsible not to activate the FM chips? And should it's-the-app-way-or-the-highway Apple follow Microsoft's lead and make no-static-at-all FM available on iPhones?

+ - Code.org: Poor Choices by US Kids Force Our Wealthy Donors to Hire H-1B Workers

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: "With only 10% of all STEM graduates choosing to major in computer science," exclaims Code.org in a blog post, "it’s no surprise the U.S. needs to bring in so many skilled workers from other countries!" Code.org, which is bankrolled by some of tech's wealthiest individuals and their companies, also took to Twitter to suggest that H-1B visas be used to raise $200 million for CS education, which the White House has coincidentally endorsed Code.org to provide. Speaking of coincidences, many of Code.org's donors are also backers of Mark Zuckerberg's H-1B hungry FWD.us PAC. And that, kids, is the circle of lobbying life.

+ - The Upsides of a Surveillance Society

Submitted by theodp
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.'"

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