Education

Massive Financial Aid Data Breach Proves Stanford Lied For Years To MBAs (poetsandquants.com) 115

14 terabytes of "highly confidential" data about 5,120 financial aid applications over seven years were exposed in a breach at Stanford's Graduate School of Business -- proving that the school "misled thousands of applicants and donors about the way it distributes fellowship aid and financial assistance to its MBA students," reports Poets&Quants. The information was unearthed by a current MBA student, Adam Allcock, in February of this year from a shared network directory accessible to any student, faculty member or staffer of the business school. In the same month, on Feb. 23, the student reported the breach to Jack Edwards, director of financial aid, and the records were removed within an hour of his meeting with Edwards. Allcock, however, says he spent 1,500 hours analyzing the data and compiling an 88-page report on it...

Allcock's discovery that more money is being used by Stanford to entice the best students with financial backgrounds suggests an admissions strategy that helps the school achieve the highest starting compensation packages of any MBA program in the world. That is largely because prior work experience in finance is generally required to land jobs in the most lucrative finance fields in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.

Half the school's students are awarded financial aid, and though Stanford always insisted it was awarded based only on need, the report concluded the school had been "lying to their faces" for more than a decade, also identifying evidece of "systemic biases against international students."

Besides the embarrassing exposure of their financial aid policies, there's another obvious lesson, writes Slashdot reader twentysixV. "It's actually way too easy for users to improperly secure their files in a shared file system, especially if the users aren't particularly familiar with security settings." Especially since Friday the university also reported another university-wide file-sharing platform had exposed "a variety of information from several campus offices, including Clery Act reports of sexual violence and some confidential student disciplinary information from six to 10 years ago."
Cellphones

'App Truthers' Question the Accuracy of the Domino's Pizza Tracker (foxnews.com) 205

Despite the fact that 60% of its pizza orders arrive digitally, "A growing number of Domino's delivery customers are casting a critical eye at the company's online pizza-tracking app," reports the lifestyle editor at Fox News. "More specifically, they think it's a bunch of crap." Fault-finding app users -- or "app truthers," as The Wall Street Journal calls them -- are subscribing to the notion that the Domino's pizza tracker is nothing but a bunch of smoke and mirrors. One user who spoke with the Journal claims his app told him that "Melinda" would be arriving shortly with his order, but when he opened the door, a delivery man he already knew handed him the pizza. "Ever since then, I knew everything they said, I felt, was made up," he said.

Another man claims the tracker told him his pizza was en route, even though he could see the Domino's restaurant from his house, and there was no sign of the pizza being out for delivery. Others claim the pizza app told them their food had been delivered when it hadn't, or that there were huge discrepancies between when their pies were supposed to be delivered and when they actually arrived. A whole thread on Reddit suggests that the app is just an automated timer disguised to look like a real-time tracker.

In a statement Domino's blamed the problem on employees not entering correct data, while also insisting that "the vast majority of the time Pizza Tracker works as designed."

According to the article, "A person who claimed to be a Domino's employee also said nearly as much in a 2015 Reddit thread. He/she added that the name of the person preparing the pizza -- as far as the app is concerned -- is usually the manager.
Firefox

How Converting A C++ Game to JavaScript Gave Us WebAssembly (ieee.org) 139

Slashdot reader Beeftopia shares "a detailed history of WebAssembly...from one of the developers." IEEE Spectrum reports that "Like a lot of stories about tech innovation, this one started with video games." [Mozilla's Alon Zakai] wanted to take a game he had helped write in C++ and convert it to JavaScript code that would run well on the Web. This was in 2010, and back then, converting C++ to JavaScript was unthinkable... so he started working to adapt an open-source tool that could translate C++ code into JavaScript automatically. He called his project Emscripten... we were able to formalize the permitted JavaScript patterns, to make the contract between Emscripten and the browser completely clear. We named the resulting subset of JavaScript asm.js... I would optimize the JavaScript engine in Firefox to run the resulting code even faster...

This brings us to the present... Emscripten can take code written in C++ and convert it directly into WebAssembly. And there will be ways in time to run other languages as well, including Rust, Lua, Python, Java, and C#. With WebAssembly, multimillion-line code bases can now load in a few seconds and then run at 80 percent of the speed of native programs. And both load time and execution speed are expected to improve as the browser engines that run the code are made better.

They'd started with a C++ game because "If we could make games run well on the Web, other computationally intensive applications would soon follow."

The article -- by Mozilla software engineer Luke Wagner -- remembers that the name Emscripten was a "a mash-up of 'script' from JavaScript and 'embiggen' from the TV show The Simpsons."
Businesses

Shouting 'Pay Your Taxes', Activists Occupy Apple Stores in France (marketwatch.com) 233

An anonymous reader quotes MarketWatch: A group of global activists stormed and occupied several Apple Stores in France on Saturday in a move aimed at pressuring the company to pay up on a €13 billion ($15.5 billion) tax bill to the European Union. In a press release, the France unit of the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Citizen's Action organization (Attac), said 100 of its members occupied the Opera Apple Store in Paris, demanding the company pay its taxes... Attac said dozens of protests were organized at other Apple store locations throughout France on Saturday. In the Paris store, activists were seen via videos circulating on Twitter, pushing past security and hanging a banner that said "We will stop when Apple pays." Security in Paris reportedly evacuated Apple workers from the building as those protests began.
After three hours they left the store -- leaving behind protest messages on the iPads on display. The group claims that Apple has stashed $230 billion in tax havens around the world, but also hopes to raise awareness about other issues.

"Attac said the action was part of the #PhoneRevolt movement aimed at highlighting unfair practices by Apple, that are not just about taxes, but also pollution via extraction of metals for its phones, worker exploitation and driving a global consumption binge."
Republicans

Valuable Republican Donor Database Breached -- By Other Republicans (politico.com) 73

Politico reports: Staffers for Senate Republicans' campaign arm seized information on more than 200,000 donors from the House GOP campaign committee over several months this year by breaking into its computer system, three sources with knowledge of the breach told Politico... Multiple NRSC staffers, who previously worked for the NRCC, used old database login information to gain access to House Republicans' donor lists this year. The donor list that was breached is among the NRCC's most valuable assets, containing not only basic contact information like email addresses and phone numbers but personal information that could be used to entice donors to fork over cash -- information on top issues and key states of interest to different people, the names of family members, and summaries of past donation history... Donor lists like these are of such value to party committees that they can use them as collateral to obtain loans worth millions of dollars when they need cash just before major elections...

"The individuals on these lists are guaranteed money," said a Republican fundraiser. "They will give. These are not your regular D.C. PAC list"... The list has helped the NRCC raise over $77 million this year to defend the House in 2018... Though the House and Senate campaign arms share the similar goal of electing Republican candidates and often coordinate strategy in certain states, they operate on distinct tracks and compete for money from small and large donors.

Long-time Slashdot reader SethJohnson says the data breach "is the result of poor deprovisioning policies within the House Republican Campaign Committee -- allowing staff logins to persist after a person has left the organization."

NRCC officials who learned of the breach "are really pissed," one source told the site.
The Courts

Free Game Company Sues 14-Year-Old Over 'Cheats' Video -- Claiming DMCA Violation (bbc.co.uk) 237

Bizzeh shared this report from the BBC: A mother has written a letter in defense of her 14-year-old son who is facing a lawsuit over video game cheats in the US. Caleb Rogers is one of two people facing legal action from gaming studio Epic Games for using cheat software to play the free game Fortnite. The studio says it has taken the step because the boy declined to remove a YouTube video he published which promoted how to use the software... "This company is in the process of attempting to sue a 14-year-old child," she wrote in the letter which has been shared online by the news site Torrentfreak.

Ms. Rogers added that she had not given her son parental consent to play the game as stated in its terms and conditions, and that as the game was free to play the studio could not claim loss of profit as a result of the cheats... In a statement given to the website Kotaku, Epic Games said the lawsuit was a result of Mr. Rogers "filing a DMCA counterclaim to a takedown notice on a YouTube video that exposed and promoted Fortnite Battle Royale cheats and exploits... Epic is not OK with ongoing cheating or copyright infringement from anyone at any age," it said.

Cory Doctorow counters that the 14-year-old "correctly asserted that there was no copyright infringement here. Videos that capture small snippets of a videogame do not violate that game creator's copyrights, because they are fair use..."
Red Hat Software

Understanding the New Red Hat-IBM-Google-Facebook GPL Enforcement Announcement (perens.com) 96

Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond -- and he's also Slashdot reader #3872. Bruce Perens writes: Red Hat, IBM, Google, and Facebook announced that they would give infringers of their GPL software up to a 30-day hold-off period during which an accused infringer could cure a GPL violation after one was brought to their attention by the copyright holder, and a 60 day "statute of limitations" on an already-cured infringement when the copyright holder has never notified the infringer of the violation. In both cases, there would be no penalty: no damages, no fees, probably no lawsuit; for the infringer who promptly cures their infringement.
Perens sees the move as "obviously inspired" by the kernel team's earlier announcement, and believes it's directed against one man who made 50 copyright infringement claims involving the Linux kernel "with intent to collect income rather than simply obtain compliance with the GPL license."

Unfortunately, "as far as I can tell, it's Patrick McHardy's legal right to bring such claims regarding the copyrights which he owns, even if it doesn't fit Community Principles which nobody is actually compelled to follow."
Space

A Programing Error Blasted 19 Russian Satellites Back Towards Earth (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica's report on Russia's failed attempt to launch 19 satellites into orbit on Tuesday: Instead of boosting its payload, the Soyuz 2.1b rocket's Fregat upper stage fired in the wrong direction, sending the satellites on a suborbital trajectory instead, burning them up in Earth's atmosphere... According to normally reliable Russian Space Web, a programming error caused the Fregat upper stage, which is the spacecraft on top of the rocket that deploys satellites, to be unable to orient itself. Specifically, the site reports, the Fregat's flight control system did not have the correct settings for a mission launching from the country's new Vostochny cosmodrome. It evidently was still programmed for Baikonur, or one of Russia's other spaceports capable of launching the workhorse Soyuz vehicle. Essentially, then, after the Fregat vehicle separated from the Soyuz rocket, it was unable to find its correct orientation. Therefore, when the Fregat first fired its engines to boost the satellites into orbit, it was still trying to correct this orientation -- and was in fact aimed downward toward Earth. Though the Fregat space tug has been in operation since the 1990s, this is its fourth failure -- all of which have happened within the last 8 years.

"In each of the cases, the satellite did not reach its desired orbit," reports Ars Technica, adding "As the country's heritage rockets and upper stages continue to age, the concern is that the failure rate will increase."
Mozilla

Mozilla Releases Open Source Speech Recognition Model, Massive Voice Dataset (mozilla.org) 58

Mozilla's VP of Technology Strategy, Sean White, writes: I'm excited to announce the initial release of Mozilla's open source speech recognition model that has an accuracy approaching what humans can perceive when listening to the same recordings... There are only a few commercial quality speech recognition services available, dominated by a small number of large companies. This reduces user choice and available features for startups, researchers or even larger companies that want to speech-enable their products and services. This is why we started DeepSpeech as an open source project.

Together with a community of likeminded developers, companies and researchers, we have applied sophisticated machine learning techniques and a variety of innovations to build a speech-to-text engine that has a word error rate of just 6.5% on LibriSpeech's test-clean dataset. vIn our initial release today, we have included pre-built packages for Python, NodeJS and a command-line binary that developers can use right away to experiment with speech recognition.

The announcement also touts the release of nearly 400,000 recordings -- downloadable by anyone -- as the first offering from Project Common Voice, "the world's second largest publicly available voice dataset." It launched in July "to make it easy for people to donate their voices to a publicly available database, and in doing so build a voice dataset that everyone can use to train new voice-enabled applications." And while they've started with English-language recordings, "we are working hard to ensure that Common Voice will support voice donations in multiple languages beginning in the first half of 2018."

"We at Mozilla believe technology should be open and accessible to all, and that includes voice... As the web expands beyond the 2D page, into the myriad ways where we connect to the Internet through new means like VR, AR, Speech, and languages, we'll continue our mission to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all."
Transportation

Drone Pilot Arrested After Flying Over Two Stadiums, Dropping Leaflets (cbslocal.com) 108

"A man with an anti-media agenda was arrested in Oakland after he flew a drone over two different stadiums to drop leaflets" last Sunday, writes Slashdot reader execthis. A local CBS station reports: According to investigators, [55-year-old Tracy] Mapes piloted his drone over Levi's Stadium during the second quarter of the 49ers-Seattle game and released a load of pamphlets. He then quickly landed the drone, loaded it up and drove over to Oakland. He flew a similar mission over the Raiders-Broncos game. Santa Clara Police Lt. Dan Moreno said after Mapes was apprehended he defended the illegal action as a form of free speech.
USA Today reports there's now also an ongoing federal investigation "because the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the flying of drones within five miles of an airport. Both Levi's Stadium and Oakland Coliseum are within that range."

"The San Francisco Chronicle added that the drone was a relatively ineffective messenger because 'most of the drone-dropped leaflets were carried away by the wind.'"
Perl

Perl, Perl 6, and Two Application Frameworks Release 2017 Advent Calendars (perladvent.org) 38

An anonymous reader writes: Friday saw this year's first new posts on the Perl Advent Calendar, a geeky tradition first started back in 2000. It describes Santa including Unicode's "Father Christmas" emoji by enabling UTF-8 encoding and then using the appropriate hexadecimal code.

But in another corner of the North Pole, you can also unwrap the Perl 6 Advent Calendar, which this year celebrates the two-year anniversary of the official launch of Perl 6. Its first post follows a Grinch who used the but and does operators in Perl 6, while wrapping methods and subroutines to add extra sneaky features, "and even mutated the language itself to do our bidding."

Perl/Python guru Joel Berger has also started an advent calendar for the Mojolicious web application framework (written in Perl), and there's apparently also an advent calendar coming for the Perl Dancer web application framework.

Mars

SpaceX Plans To Blast a Tesla Roadster Into Orbit Around Mars (arstechnica.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Previously, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he intends to launch the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy. This is partly because the rocket is experimental -- there is a non-trivial chance the rocket will explode on the launch pad, or shortly after launch. It is also partly because Musk is a master showman who knows how to grab attention. On Friday evening, Musk tweeted what that payload would be -- his "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster."

And the car will be playing Space Oddity, by David Bowie; the song which begins, "Ground Control to Major Tom." Oh, and the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket will send the Tesla into orbit around Mars. "Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk added. Ars was able to confirm Friday night from a company source that this is definitely a legitimate payload. Earlier on Friday, Musk also said the Falcon Heavy launch would come "next month" from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, meaning in January.

"No private company has ever launched a spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit, let alone to another planet," according to the article, adding that SpaceX's new rocket "could play a major role in any plans the agency has to send humans to the Moon." In addition, Musk added on Twitter, "Red car for a red planet."

UPDATE (12/2/17): Saturday Elon Musk told The Verge that he "totally made it up" about sending a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Then in "multiple emails" to Ars Technica --- sent Saturday afternoon -- "Musk confirmed that this plan is, indeed, real."
Power

Electric Cars Are Already Cheaper To Own and Run Than Petrol Or Diesel, Says Study (theguardian.com) 474

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Electric cars are already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel cars in the UK, US and Japan, new research shows. The lower cost is a key factor driving the rapid rise in electric car sales now underway, say the researchers. At the moment the cost is partly because of government support, but electric cars are expected to become the cheapest option without subsidies in a few years. The researchers analyzed the total cost of ownership of cars over four years, including the purchase price and depreciation, fuel, insurance, taxation and maintenance. They were surprised to find that pure electric cars came out cheapest in all the markets they examined: UK, Japan, Texas and California.

Pure electric cars have much lower fuel costs -- electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel -- and maintenance costs, as the engines are simpler and help brake the car, saving on brake pads. In the UK, the annual cost was about 10% lower than for petrol or diesel cars in 2015, the latest year analyzed. Hybrid cars which cannot be plugged in and attract lower subsidies, were usually a little more expensive than petrol or diesel cars. Plug-in hybrids were found to be significantly more expensive -- buyers are effectively paying for two engines in one car, the researchers said. The exception in this case was Japan, where plug-in hybrids receive higher subsidies.
The study has been published in the journal Applied Energy.
Transportation

GM Says It Will Put Fleets of Self-Driving Cars In Cities In 2019 (detroitnews.com) 82

General Motors has laid out a plan to not only mass-deploy self-driving cars on public roads in 2019, but to do it profitably. "With a driverless ride-hailing service as its framework, GM is counting on cost reductions, advancements in autonomous technologies and growth of the ride-hailing market to enable a successful self-driving car launch in 2019," reports The Detroit News. From the report: The automaker is using the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt as its autonomous mule, dovetailing Thursday's autonomous projection with GM's earlier vow to roll out a profitable electric vehicle platform by 2021. "For GM to get the benefit they're looking for, they need these cars on the road at scale as soon as possible," said Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. "With ride-hailing services, consumers are saved from sticker shock of how much an EV costs -- and the cost of automation in early years is going to be expensive, too." GM didn't say exactly where it plans to launch its driverless ride-hailing service, but identified "dense urban environments" in the presentation. The Detroit automaker's testbeds for the self-driving Bolt are in Warren, San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Space

China's Dark Matter Probe Detects Tantalizing Signal (sciencemag.org) 37

hackingbear shares a report from Science Magazine: Results reported by a China-led space science mission provide a tantalizing hint -- but not firm evidence -- for dark matter. In its first 530 days of scientific observations, China's Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) detected 1.5 million cosmic ray electrons and positrons above a certain energy threshold. When researchers plot of the number of particles against their energy, they saw hints of an anomalous break in the curve. Now, DAMPE has confirmed that deviation. "It may be evidence of dark matter," but the break in the curve "may be from some other cosmic ray source," says astrophysicist Chang Jin, who leads the collaboration at the Chinese Academy of Science's Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing. DAMPE's life span will be extended to 5 years given the excellent conditions of this Chinese spacecraft, then it can record over 10 billion cosmic events, allowing researchers to confirm if it is indeed dark matter. Perhaps more significantly, the first observational data produced by China's first mission dedicated to astrophysics shows that the country is set to become a force in space science, says David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. China is now "making significant contributions to astrophysics and space science," he says. The DAMPE results appear online in the journal Nature.

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