Programming

ESR Sees Three Viable Alternatives To C (ibiblio.org) 594

An anonymous reader writes: After 35 years of programming in C, Eric S. Raymond believes that we're finally seeing viable alternatives to the language. "We went thirty years -- most of my time in the field -- without any plausible C successor, nor any real vision of what a post-C technology platform for systems programming might look like. Now we have two such visions...and there is another."

"I have a friend working on a language he calls 'Cx' which is C with minimal changes for type safety; the goal of his project is explicitly to produce a code lifter that, with minimal human assistance, can pull up legacy C codebases. I won't name him so he doesn't get stuck in a situation where he might be overpromising, but the approach looks sound to me and I'm trying to get him more funding. So, now I can see three plausible paths out of C. Two years ago I couldn't see any. I repeat: this is huge... Go, or Rust, or Cx -- any way you slice it, C's hold is slipping."

Raymond's essay also includes a fascinating look back at the history of programming languages after 1982, when the major complied languages (FORTRAN, Pascal, and COBOL) "were either confined to legacy code, retreated to single-platform fortresses, or simply ran on inertia under increasing pressure from C around the edges of their domains.

"Then it stayed that way for nearly thirty years."
Encryption

iPhone Encryption Hampers Investigation of Texas Shooter, Says FBI (chron.com) 240

"FBI officials said Tuesday they have been stymied in their efforts to unlock the cellphone of the man who shot and killed at least 26 people at a church here on Sunday," reports the Houston Chronicle. Slashdot reader Anon E. Muss writes: The police obtained a search warrant for the phone, but so far they've been unable to unlock it. The phone has been sent to the FBI, in the hope that they can break in... If it is secure, and the FBI can't open it, expect all hell to break loose. The usual idiots (e.g. politicians) will soon be ranting hysterically about the evil tech industry, and how they're refusing to help law enforcement.
FBI special agent Christopher Combs complained to the Chronicle that "law enforcement increasingly cannot get in to these phones."

A law professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology argues there's other sources of information besides a phone, and police officers might recognize this with better training. As just one example, Apple says the FBI could've simply just used the dead shooter's fingerprint to open his iPhone. But after 48 hours, the iPhone's fingerprint ID stops working.
Bug

Researchers Run Unsigned Code on Intel ME By Exploiting USB Ports (thenextweb.com) 171

Slashdot user bongey writes: A pair of security researchers in Russia are claiming to have compromised the Intel Management Engine just using one of the computer's USB ports. The researchers gained access to a fully functional JTAG connection to Intel CSME via USB DCI. The claim is different from previous USB DCI JTAG examples from earlier this year. Full JTAG access to the ME would allow making permanent hidden changes to the machine.
"Getting into and hijacking the Management Engine means you can take full control of a box," reports the Register, "underneath and out of sight of whatever OS, hypervisor or antivirus is installed."

They add that "This powerful God-mode technology is barely documented," while The Next Web points out that USB ports are "a common attack vector."
Education

Magazine For Museums Publishes Its 2040 Issue -- 23 Years Early (aam-us.org) 40

A nonprofit founded in 1906 is now offering a glimpse at 2040, according to an anonymous reader: The Alliance of American Museums has just published an ambitious Nov/Dec 2040 issue of Museum, the Alliance's magazine. The columns, reviews, articles, awards, and even the ads describe activities from a 2040 perspective, based on a multi-faceted consensus scenario.
Besides virtual reality centers (and carbon-neutral cities), it envisions de-extinction biologists who resurrect lost species. It also predicts a 2040 with orbiting storehouses to preserve historic artifacts (as well as genetic materials) as part of a collaboration with both NASA and a new American military branch called the US Space Corps. And of course, by 2040 musuems have transformed into hybrid institutions like "museum schools" and "well-being and cognitive health centers" that are both run by museums.

It also predicts for-profit museums that have partnered with corporations.
AI

Study Finds Robot Surgeons Are Actually Slower and More Expensive (theregister.co.uk) 44

"Robot-assisted surgery costs more time and money than traditional methods, but isn't more effective, for certain types of operations," reports the Register, in an article shared by schwit1: In a study of almost 24,000 laparoscopic surgeries just published in The Journal of American Medicine, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed data from 416 hospitals around the U.S. from 2003 to 2015. Robotic assistance provides 3D-visualization, a broader range of motion for instruments, and better ergonomics for physicians, according to the study. While it has advantages in scenarios where a high-degree of precision is required or where improved outcomes have been demonstrated (like radical prostatectomy), it appears to be a waste of resources for the two operations examined... But the patient outcomes were more or less the same.

A thematically-related economic study presented by the National Bureau for Economic Research on Monday suggests that while AI and machine learning have received substantial investment over the past five years and have been widely touted as a transformative technologies, "there is little sign that they have yet affected aggregate productivity statistics... The simplest possibility is that the optimism about the potential technologies is misplaced and unfounded," muse Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock (MIT), Chad Syverson (University of Chicago) in the paper.

But instead the paper's author suggest that fully realizing the benefits of AI "will require effort and entrepreneurship to develop the needed complements, and adaptability at the individual, organizational, and societal levels to undertake the associated restructuring."
Sci-Fi

'Starcraft II' Goes Free-to-Play on Tuesday (techcrunch.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: It was only in April that Blizzard made the original StarCraft free to play, and now the company has done the same for its sequel. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, which is certainly the most-played real-time strategy game ever made, will be free for anyone to play starting on November 14. Of course there's a catch, but nothing nefarious. The game was divided into three episodes, each focusing on one of the three playable races (Human, Zerg and Protoss -- but you knew that), and only the first (the human one) will be available for free. If you already own Wings of Liberty (as the episode is called) you can also get the Heart of the Swarm chapter for free by logging in and claiming it before December 8.
TechCrunch calls it "a good way to onboard new players who just never wanted to pay full price to find out if they liked it."
United States

H1-B Administrators Are Challenging An Unusually Large Number of Applications (bloomberg.com) 304

Long-time Slashdot reader decaffeinated quotes Bloomberg: Starting this summer, employers began noticing that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was challenging an unusually large number of H-1B applications. Cases that would have sailed through the approval process in earlier years ground to a halt under requests for new paperwork. The number of challenges -- officially known as "requests for evidence" or RFEs -- are up 44 percent compared to last year, according to statistics from USCIS...

"We're entering a new era," said Emily Neumann, an immigration lawyer in Houston who has been practicing for 12 years. "There's a lot more questioning, it's very burdensome." She said in past years she's counted on 90 percent of her petitions being approved by Oct. 1 in years past. This year, only 20 percent of the applications have been processed. Neumann predicts she'll still have many unresolved cases by the time next year's lottery happens in April 2018.

Portables

Crowdfunded 'PowerWatch' Runs on Body Heat, Never Needs Charging (engadget.com) 81

Engadget reports on a new watch that suggests the possibility of a future without chargers: This thermal-powered wearable doesn't need one -- it gets energy by converting your body heat into electricity. It's been a year since I saw an early prototype of the PowerWatch -- a smart(ish) watch that tracks basic fitness metrics. Now, the self-proclaimed energy-harvesting company is finally ready to ship PowerWatches to the early adopters who backed its Indiegogo campaign...

Because its functions are pretty basic and its LCD screen is relatively low-powered, it doesn't take too much electricity to keep the watch running... The PowerWatch can not only tell the time, set alarms and timers but also track your activity and sleep... Matrix co-founder Douglas Tham said the PowerWatch will keep running for up to 12 months if you don't wear it, and a PowerSave mode kicks in to conserve energy by killing non-timekeeping functions.

Classic Games (Games)

Text Adventure Competition Reports A 36% Spike In Entries (ifcomp.org) 21

There's just four days left to vote for the winner of the 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. An anonymous reader writes: This year's contest set a record, drawing 79 new text adventures -- 36% more entries than the previous year's 58. All of this year's games are available online, furthering the competition's goal of "making them freely available in order to encourage the creation, play, and discussion of interactive fiction." (And they're also available in a 236-megabyte .zip archive.)

Each game's developer is competing for $4,800 in cash prizes, to be shared among everyone who finishes in the top two-thirds (including a $247 prize to the first-place winner). Authors of the top-rated games will also get to choose from a 38-prize pool (which includes another $200 cash prize donated by Asymmetric Publications, as well as a "well-loved" used Wii console). But the most important thing is there's a bunch of fun new text adventures to play. Reviews are already appearing online, lovingly collected by the Interactive Fiction Wiki. And one game designer even livestreamed their text adventure-playing on Twitch.

Bitcoin

One Bitcoin Transaction Now Uses As Much Energy As Your House In a Week (vice.com) 225

Long-time Slashdot reader SlaveToTheGrind quotes Motherboard: Bitcoin's incredible price run to break over $7,000 this year has sent its overall electricity consumption soaring, as people worldwide bring more energy-hungry computers online to mine the digital currency. An index from cryptocurrency analyst Alex de Vries, aka Digiconomist, estimates that with prices the way they are now, it would be profitable for Bitcoin miners to burn through over 24 terawatt-hours of electricity annually as they compete to solve increasingly difficult cryptographic puzzles to "mine" more Bitcoins. That's about as much as Nigeria, a country of 186 million people, uses in a year.

This averages out to a shocking 215 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of juice used by miners for each Bitcoin transaction (there are currently about 300,000 transactions per day). Since the average American household consumes 901 KWh per month, each Bitcoin transfer represents enough energy to run a comfortable house, and everything in it, for nearly a week.

Earth

How Two Scientists Accurately Predicted Global Warming in 1967 (medium.com) 216

Slashdot reader Layzej shares an article from this spring marking the 50th anniversary of the first accurate climate model: Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel looks at a climate model (MW67) published in 1967 and finds "50 years after their groundbreaking 1967 paper, the science can be robustly evaluated, and they got almost everything exactly right."

An analysis on the "Climate Graphs" blog shows exactly how close the prediction has proven to be: "The slope of the CO2-vs-temperature regression line in the 50 years of actual observations is 2.57, only slightly higher than MW67's prediction of 2.36" They also note that "This is even more impressive when one considers that at the time MW67 was published, there had been no detectable warming in over two decades. Their predicted warming appeared to mark a radical change with the recent past:"

Security

The Computer Scientist Who Prefers Voting With Paper (theatlantic.com) 219

Geoffrey.landis writes: The Atlantic profiles a computer scientist: Barbara Simons, who has been on the forefront of the pushback against electronic voting as a technology susceptible to fraud and hacking. When she first started writing articles about the dangers of electronic voting with no paper trail, the idea that software could be manipulated to rig elections was considered a fringe preoccupation; but Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election have reversed Simons's fortunes. According to the Department of Homeland Security, those efforts included attempts to meddle with the electoral process in 21 states; while a series of highly publicized hacks -- at Sony, Equifax, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management -- has driven home the reality that very few computerized systems are truly secure. Simons is a former President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM); and the group she helps run, Verified Voting, has been active in educating the public about the dangers of unverified voting since 2003.
Nintendo

Nintendo Reportedly Plans To Double Switch Production In 2018 (engadget.com) 42

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The Switch, Nintendo's latest hybrid console is doing pretty well for the company, which expects it to outdo the Wii U's lifetime sales within a year. The company obviously thinks so, too, according to a new report at The Wall Street Journal, which says that Nintendo plans to ramp up production of the hardware itself, beginning in April 2018. The report claims that Nintendo is planning to make 25 million to 30 million more units of its successful Switch console over the next fiscal year. Further, Nintendo may plan for even more if this year's holiday sales are strong, according to the WSJ's sources. The company has already built almost 8 million Switches, total, as of its latest earnings report.
NASA

NASA Discovers Mantle Plume That's Melting Antarctica From Below (newsweek.com) 243

schwit1 shares a report from Newsweek: Researchers at NASA have discovered a huge upwelling of hot rock under Marie Byrd Land, which lies between the Ross Ice Shelf and the Ross Sea, is creating vast lakes and rivers under the ice sheet. The presence of a huge mantle plume could explain why the region is so unstable today, and why it collapsed so quickly at the end of the last Ice Age, 11,000 years ago. Mantle plumes are thought to be part of the plumbing systems that brings hot material up from Earth's interior. Once it gets through the mantle, it spreads out under the crust, providing magma for volcanic eruptions. The area above a plume is known as a hotspot.

[I]n a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, Seroussi and colleagues looked at one of the most well studied magma plumes on Earth -- the Yellowstone hotspot. The team developed a mantle plume model to look at how much geothermal heat would be needed to explain what is seen at Marie Byrd Land. They then used the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), which shows the physics of ice sheets, to look at the natural sources of heating and heat transport. This model enabled researchers to place "powerful constraint" on how much melt rate was allowable, meaning they could test out different scenarios of how much heat was being produced deep beneath the ice. Their findings showed that generally, the energy being generated by the mantle plume is no more than 150 milliwatts per square meter -- any more would result in too much melting. The heat generated under Yellowstone National Park, on average, is 200 milliwatts per square meter.

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