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Books

Ask Slashdot: Have You Read 'The Art of Computer Programming'? (wikipedia.org) 86

In 1962, 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming, publishing three volumes by 1973, with volume 4 arriving in 2005. (Volume 4A appeared in 2011, with new paperback fascicles planned for every two years, and fascicle 6, "Satisfiability," arriving last December). "You should definitely send me a resume if you can read the whole thing," Bill Gates once said, in a column where he described working through the book. "If somebody is so brash that they think they know everything, Knuth will help them understand that the world is deep and complicated."

But now long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino has a question: I've had The Art of Computer Programming on my book-buying list for just about two decades now and I'm still torn...about actually getting it. I sometimes believe I would mutate into some programming demi-god if I actually worked through this beast, but maybe I'm just fooling myself...

Have any of you worked through or with TAOCP or are you perhaps working through it? And is it worthwhile? I mean not just for bragging rights. And how long can it reasonably take? A few years?

Share your answers and experiences in the comments. Have you read The Art of Computer Programming?
Microsoft

Does Windows 10's Data Collection Trade Privacy For Microsoft's Security? (pcworld.com) 51

jader3rd shares an article from PC World arguing that Windows 10's data collection "trades your privacy for Microsoft's security." [Anonymized] usage data lets Microsoft beef up threat protection, says Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's director of program management for Windows Enterprise and Security. The information collected is used to improve various components in Windows Defender... For example, Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge will put the Edge browser into a lightweight virtual machine to make it harder to break out of the browser and attack the operating system. With telemetry, Microsoft can see when infections get past Application Guard defenses and improve the security controls to reduce recurrences.

Microsoft also pulls signals from other areas of the Windows ecosystem, such as Active Directory, with information from the Windows 10 device to look for patterns that can indicate a problem like ransomware infections and other attacks. To detect those patterns, Microsoft needs access to technical data, such as what processes are consuming system resources, hardware diagnostics, and file-level information like which applications had which files open, Lefferts says. Taken together, the hardware information, application details, and device driver data can be used to identify parts of the operating system are exposed and should be isolated into virtual containers.

The article points out that unlike home users, enterprise users of Windows 10 can select a lower level of data-sharing, but argues that enterprises "need to think twice before turning off Windows telemetry to increase corporate privacy" because Windows Update won't work without information about whether previous updates succeeded or failed.
Open Source

Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' BETA Ubuntu-based Operating System Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 66

BrianFagioli shares his story on Beta News: Feeling fatigued by Windows 10 and its constant updates and privacy concerns? Can't afford one of those beautiful new MacBook Pro laptops? Don't forget, Linux-based desktop operating systems are just a free download away, folks!

If you do decide to jump on the open source bandwagon, a good place to start is Linux Mint. Both the Mate and Cinnamon desktop environments should prove familiar to Windows converts, and since it is based on Ubuntu, there is a ton of compatible packages. Today, the first beta of Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' becomes available for download.

Here's the release notes for both Cinammon and MATE.
Cloud

Canonical Sues Cloud Provider Over 'Unofficial' Ubuntu Images (ostatic.com) 24

An anonymous reader quotes OStatic's update on Canonical's lawsuit against a cloud provider: Canonical posted Thursday that they've been in a dispute with "a European cloud provider" over the use of their own homespun version of Ubuntu on their cloud servers. Their implementation disables even the most basic of security features and Canonical is worried something bad could happen and it'd reflect badly back on them... They said they've spent months trying to get the unnamed provider to use the standard Ubuntu as delivered to other commercial operations to no avail. Canonical feels they have no choice but to "take legal steps to remove these images." They're sure Red Hat and Microsoft wouldn't be treated like this.
Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, wrote in his blog post that Ubuntu is "the leading cloud OS, running most workloads in public clouds today," whereas these homegrown images "are likely to behave unpredictably on update in weirdly creative and mysterious ways... We hear about these issues all the time, because users assume there is a problem with Ubuntu on that cloud; users expect that 'all things that claim to be Ubuntu are genuine', and they have a right to expect that...

"To count some of the ways we have seen home-grown images create operational and security nightmares for users: clouds have baked private keys into their public images, so that any user could SSH into any machine; clouds have made changes that then blocked security updates for over a week... When things like this happen, users are left feeling let down. As the company behind Ubuntu, it falls to Canonical to take action."
Security

70 Laptops Got Left Behind At An Airport Security Checkpoint In One Month (bravotv.com) 87

America's Transportation Security Administration has been making some surprising announcements on social media. An anonymous reader writes: A TSA spokesperson says 70 laptops were left behind in just one month at an airport security checkpoint in Newark. "And yes, there are plenty of shiny MacBooks in that pile," reported BravoTV, "which can cost in the $2,000 range new." The TSA shared an image of the 70 laptops on their Instagram page and on Twitter, prompting at least one mobile project designer to reclaim his laptop. "The most common way laptops are forgotten is when traveler's stack a bin on top of the bin their laptop is in," the TSA warns. "Out of sight out of mind."
The TSA is also sharing pictures on social media of the 70 guns they confiscated at security checkpoints in one week in November, reporting they've also confiscated a blowtorch, batarangs, and a replica of that baseball bat from "The Walking Dead". They're reporting they found 33 loaded firearms in carry-on luggage in one week, and remind readers that gun-carrying passengers "can face a penalty as high as $11,000. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home."
Microsoft

How Microsoft Lost In Court Over Windows 10 Upgrades (digitaltrends.com) 66

In June a California woman successfully sued Microsoft for $10,000 over forced Windows 10 upgrades, and she's now written a 58-page ebook about her battle (which she's selling for $9.99). But an anonymous Slashdot reader shares another inspiring story about a Texas IT worker and Linux geek who got Microsoft to pay him $650 for all the time that he lost. "Worley built a Windows 7 machine for his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's Disease, [customized] to look like Windows XP, an operating system his grandfather still remembered well..." writes Digital Trends. "But thanks to Microsoft's persistent Windows 10 upgrade program, Worley's grandfather unknowingly initiated the Win 10 upgrade by clicking the 'X' to close an upgrade window." After Worley filed a legal "Notice of Dispute," Microsoft quickly agreed to his demand for $650, which he donated to a non-profit focusing on Alzheimer's patients.

But according to the article, that's just the beginning, since Worley now "hopes people impacted by the forced Windows 10 upgrade will write a complaint to Microsoft demanding a settlement for their wasted time and money in repairing the device," and on his web page suggests that if people don't need the money, they should give it to charities fighting Alzheimer's. "If Microsoft isn't going to wake up and realize that lobbing intentionally-tricky updates at people who don't need and can't use them actively damages not only the lives of the Alzheimer's sufferer, but those of their whole family, then let's cure the disease on Microsoft's dime so their tactics and those of companies that will follow their reckless example aren't as damaging."

Worley suggests each Notice of Dispute should demand at least $50 per hour from Microsoft, adding "If recent history holds steady they might just write you a check!"
United States

Sysadmin Gets Two Years In Prison For Sabotaging ISP (bleepingcomputer.com) 83

After being let go over a series of "personal issues" with his employer, things got worse for 26-year-old network administrator Dariusz J. Prugar, who will now have to spend two years in prison for hacking the ISP where he'd worked. An anonymous reader writes: Prugar had used his old credentials to log into the ISP's network and "take back" some of the scripts and software he wrote... "Seeking to hide his tracks, Prugar used an automated script that deleted various logs," reports Bleeping Computer. "As a side effect of removing some of these files, the ISP's systems crashed, affecting over 500 businesses and over 5,000 residential customers."

When the former ISP couldn't fix the issue, they asked Prugar to help. "During negotiations, instead of requesting money as payment, Prugar insisted that he'd be paid using the rights to the software and scripts he wrote while at the company, software which was now malfunctioning, a week after he left." This tipped off the company, who detected foul play, contacted the FBI and rebuilt its entire network.

Six years later, Prugar was found guilty after a one-week jury trial, and was ordered by the judge to pay $26,000 in restitution to the ISP (which went out of business in October of 2015). Prugar's two-year prison sentence begins December 27.
Government

Virginia Police Spent $500K For An Ineffective Cellphone Surveillance System (muckrock.com) 33

Cell-site simulators can intercept phone calls and even provide locations (using GPS data). But Virginia's state police force just revealed details about their actual use of the device -- and it's not pretty. Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: In 2014, the Virginia State Police spent $585,265 on a specially modified Suburban outfitted with the latest and greatest in cell phone surveillance: the DRT 1183C, affectionately known as the DRTbox. But according to logs uncovered by public records website MuckRock, the pricey ride was only used 12 times — and only worked seven of those times.
According to Virginia's ACLU director, "each of the 12 uses cost almost $50,000, and only 4 of them resulted in an arrest [raising] a significant question whether the more than half million dollars spent on the device and the vehicle...was a wise investment of public funds."
The Media

Are We Seeing Propaganda About Russian Propaganda? (rollingstone.com) 229

MyFirstNameIsPaul was one of several readers who spotted this disturbing instance of fake news about fake news. An anonymous reader writes: Last week the Washington Post described "independent researchers" who'd identified "more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda" that they estimated were viewed more than 200 million times on Facebook. But the researchers insisted on remaining anonymous "to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers," and when criticized on Twitter, responded "Awww, wook at all the angwy Putinists, trying to change the subject -- they're so vewwy angwy!!"

The group "seems to have been in existence for just a few months," writes Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, calling the Post's article an "astonishingly lazy report". (Chris Hedges, who once worked on a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the New York Times, even found his site Truthdig on the group's dubious list of over 200 "sites that reliably echo Russian propaganda," along with other long-standing sites like Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.) "By overplaying the influence of Russia's disinformation campaign, the report also plays directly into the hands of the Russian propagandists that it hopes to combat," complains Adrian Chen, who in 2015 documented real Russian propaganda efforts which he traced to "a building in St. Petersburg where hundreds of young Russians worked to churn out propaganda."

The Post's article was picked up by other major news outlets (including USA Today), and included an ominous warning that "The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on 'fake news'."
United Kingdom

For The UK's 'Snoopers' Charter', Politicians Voted Themselves An Exemption (independent.co.uk) 103

The "Snoopers' Charter" passed in the U.K. greatly expands the government's surveillance power. But before they'd enact the new Investigatory Powers Act, Britain's elected officials first voted to make themselves exempt from it. Sort of. An anonymous reader writes: While their internet browsing history will still be swept up, just like everyone else's, no one will ever be able to access it without specific approval from the Prime Minister. And according to The Independent, "That rule applies not only to members of the Westminster parliament but also politicians in the devolved assembly and members of the European Parliament."
The article adds that the exemption was the very first amendment they approved for the legislation. And for a very long time, the only amendment.
EU

CO2 Researchers Are Now Hacking Photosynthesis (chicagotribune.com) 85

Remember that story about the "artificial leaf" solar cells? Long-time Slashdot reader managerialslime quotes the Chicago Tribune: University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have developed a way to mimic plants' ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, a way to decrease the amounts of harmful gas in the atmosphere and produce clean energy. The artificial leaf essentially recycles carbon dioxide. And it's powered entirely by the sun, mimicking the real photosynthesis process.
But meanwhile, in Germany: Biochemists led by Tobias Erb at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology...have developed a new, super-efficient method for living organisms to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. Plants, algae, and other organisms turn CO2 into fuel. Erb and his colleagues reengineered this process, making it about 25 percent more energy efficient and potentially up to two or three times faster... Erb hopes that one day the CETCH cycle could be genetically engineered into living organisms, helping them more rapidly reduce atmospheric CO2 while producing useful materials.
The researchers created their new CO2-transforming cycle using 11 carefully chosen enzymes.
United Kingdom

UK Health Secretary Urges Social Media Companies To Block Cyberbullying And Underaged Sexting (betanews.com) 63

Mark Wilson shares his article on Beta News: Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has made calls for technology companies and social media to do more to tackle the problems of cyberbullying, online intimidation and -- rather specifically -- under-18-year-olds texting sexually explicit images. Of course, he doesn't have the slightest idea about how to go about tackling these problems, but he has expressed his concern so that, in conjunction with passing this buck to tech companies, should be enough, right?
Hunt apparently believes there's already a technology which can identify sexually explicit photos, and that social media networks should now also develop algorithms to identify and block cyberbullying, an idea the Guardian called "sadly laughable."

"Is the blanket censorship of non-approved communications for all under 18s -- something that goes far further than even the Great Firewall of China -- really the kind of thing a government minister should be able to idly suggest in 2016?"
Security

Crooks Need Just Six Seconds To Guess A Credit Card Number (independent.co.uk) 99

schwit1 quotes The Independent: Criminals can work out the card number, expiration date, and security code for a Visa debit or credit card in as little as six seconds using guesswork, researchers have found... Fraudsters use a so-called Distributed Guessing Attack to get around security features put in place to stop online fraud, and this may have been the method used in the recent Tesco Bank hack...

According to a study published in the academic journal IEEE Security & Privacy, fraudsters could use computers to systematically fire different variations of security data at hundreds of websites simultaneously. Within seconds, by a process of elimination, the criminals could verify the correct card number, expiration date and the three-digit security number on the back of the card.

One of the researchers explained this attack combines two weaknesses into one powerful attack. "Firstly, current online payment systems do not detect multiple invalid payment requests from different websites... Secondly, different websites ask for different variations in the card data fields to validate an online purchase. This means it's quite easy to build up the information and piece it together like a jigsaw puzzle."
Businesses

Why MakerBot Didn't Kickstart A 3D Printing Revolution (backchannel.com) 232

Bre PettisâS once said MakerBot gave you a superpower -- "You can make anything you need." But four years later, mirandakatz writes that though MakerBot promised to revolutionize society, "That never happened." At Backchannel, Andrew Zaleski has the definitive, investigative account of why the 3D printing revolution hasn't yet come to pass, culled from interviews with industry observers, current MakerBot leadership, and a dozen former MakerBot employees. As he tells it, "In the span of a few years, MakerBot had to pull off two very different coups. It had to introduce millions of people to the wonders of 3D printing, and then convince them to shell out more than $1,000 for a machine. It also had to develop the technology fast enough to keep its customers happy. Those two tasks were too much for the fledgling company."
Open Source

Devuan's Systemd-Free Linux Hits Beta 2 (theregister.co.uk) 258

Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates writes, "For all the systemd haters who want a modern distro feel free to rejoice. The Debian fork called Devuan is almost done, completing a daunting task of stripping systemd dependencies from Debian." From The Register: Devuan came about after some users felt [Debian] had become too desktop-friendly. The change the greybeards objected to most was the decision to replace sysvinit init with systemd, a move felt to betray core Unix principles of user choice and keeping bloat to a bare minimum. Supporters of init freedom also dispute assertions that systemd is in all ways superior to sysvinit init, arguing that Debian ignored viable alternatives like sinit, openrc, runit, s6 and shepherd. All are therefore included in Devuan.
Devuan.org now features an "init freedom" logo with the tagline, "watching your first step. Their home page now links to the download site for Devuan Jessie 1.0 Beta2, promising an OS that "avoids entanglement".

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