Open Source

What Happens to Open Source Code After Its Developer Dies? (wired.com) 78

An anonymous reader writes: The late Jim Weirich "was a seminal member of the western world's Ruby community," according to Ruby developer Justin Searls, who at the age of 30 took over Weirich's tools (which are used by huge sites like Hulu, Kickstarter, and Twitter). Soon Searls made a will and a succession plan for his own open-source projects. Wired calls succession "a growing concern in the open-source software community," noting developers have another option: transferring their copyrights to an open source group (for example, the Apache Foundation).

Most package-management systems have "at least an ad-hoc process for transferring control over a library," according to Wired, but they also note that "that usually depends on someone noticing that a project has been orphaned and then volunteering to adopt it." Evan Phoenix of the Ruby Gems project acknowledges that "We don't have an official policy mostly because it hasn't come up all that often. We do have an adviser council that is used to decide these types of things case by case." Searls suggests GitHub and package managers like Ruby Gems add a "dead man's switch" to their platform, which would allow programmers to automatically transfer ownership of a project or an account to someone else if the creator doesn't log in or make changes after a set period of time.

Wired also spoke to Michael Droettboom, who took over the Python library Matplotlib after John Hunter died in 2012. He points out that "Sometimes there are parts of the code that only one person understands," stressing the need for developers to also understand the code they're inheriting.
Iphone

Some iPhone X Displays Plagued By Mysterious 'Green Line of Death' (thenextweb.com) 76

Some iPhone X owners are reporting a random green line appearing on their displays. According to The Next Web, "the defect has already started to take on the endearing 'Green Line of Death' moniker." From the report: Several users across Apple forums and social media have reported the error -- I've counted over a dozen accounts, and MacRumors mentions it's read "at least 25" such reports. Oddly, the issue doesn't appear to affect users immediately, only showing up after some time with regular usage. In some cases it alternates with a purple line, for variety. It generally appears towards the right or left sides of the display, and sometimes it simply disappears altogether. Weird. Either way, it appears to be a hardware defect affecting a small number of users, and Apple appears to be replacing affected units. Mac Rumors first reported the issue.
The Media

New Victims in the 'Billionaire War on Journalism' (newsweek.com) 207

Newsweek offers a new reminder that internet journalism can vanish in a corporate shutdown or be "sued out of existence" -- so it certainly isn't permanent. Writers at the local New York City news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist -- as well as Gothamist's network of city-specific sister sites, such as LAist and DCist -- learned this chilling lesson on Thursday, when billionaire Joe Ricketts abruptly shut down the publications and fired their employees. The decision has been widely regarded as a form of retaliation in response to the newsroom's vote last week to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. Worse, for a full 20 hours after the news broke, Gothamist.com and DNAinfo.com effectively didn't exist: Any link to the sites showed only Ricketts's statement about his decision, which claims the business was not profitable enough to support the journalism...

The larger tragedy is a nationwide death of local news. Alt-weeklies are flailing as ad revenue dries up. The Village Voice, a legendary New York paper, published its final print issue in September. Houston Press just laid off its staff and ended its print edition this week. Countless stories won't be covered, because the journalistic institutions to tell them no longer exist. Who benefits from DNAinfo being shuttered? Billionaires. Shady landlords. Anyone DNAinfo reported critically on over the years. Who loses? Anyone who lives in the neighborhoods DNAinfo and Gothamist helped cover.

Space

Laika, the Pioneering Space Dog, Was Launched 60 Years Ago Today (space.com) 74

sqorbit writes: Sixty years ago, the space race was in full swing. Russia had sent Sputnik into space with much success. In an effort to push farther, they rushed sending a dog into space in a re-purposed Sputnik rocket. The mission launched with no clear solution to a safe re-entry. Within a few hours of launch, temperature controls failed, killing the female dog named Laika. Launched on November 3, 1957, it did not re-enter the earth's atmosphere until April 14, 1958. Laika was the first living creature to fly into orbit, Space.com reports. While Soviet publications at the time claimed that Laika died, painlessly, after a week in Earth's orbit, Anatoly Zak of RussianSpaceWeb.com writes that several Russian sources revealed decades later that the dog actually survived in orbit for four days and then died when the cabin overheated. "According to other sources, severe overheating and the death of the dog occurred only five or six hours into the mission," he writes. "With all systems dead, the spacecraft continued circling the Earth until April 14, 1958, when it re-entered the atmosphere after 2,570 orbits (2,370 orbits according to other sources) or 162 days in space. Many people reportedly saw a fiery trail of Sputnik 2 as it flew over New York and reached the Amazon region in just 10 minutes during its re-entry."
Media

Is the Optical Cable Dying? (cnet.com) 299

Geoffrey Morrison from CNET explains how the optical cable is "dying a very slow death": The official term for optical audio cable is "Toslink," short for Toshiba Link. Developed in the early '80s to connect their CD players to their receivers, it was a red laser optical version of the Sony/Phillips "Digital Interconnect Format" aka S/PDIF standard. You've seen standard S/PDIF connections a bunch too; they're often called "coax digital." Optical had certain benefits over copper cables, but they were also more fragile, and for a long time, more expensive. Though glass cables were available, for even more money, most optical cables were made from cheap plastic. This limited their range to in-room use, primarily. Through the '90s and 2000's, the optical cable was near-ubiquitous: The easiest way to get Dolby Digital and DTS from your cable/satellite box, TiVo, or DVD player to your receiver. Even in the early days of HDMI, right next to it would be the lowly optical cable, ready in case someone's receiver didn't accept HDMI. But now more and more gear are dropping optical. It's gone completely on the latest Roku and Apple TV 4K, for example. It's also disappeared from many smaller TVs, though it lingers on in larger ones, a potentially redundant backup to HDMI with ARC. The reason for this? Soundbars...
Communications

Algorithm Can Identify Suicidal People Using Brain Scans (wired.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from WIRED: In a study published today in Nature Human Behavior, researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh analyzed how suicidal individuals think and feel differently about life and death, by looking at patterns of how their brains light up in an fMRI machine. Then they trained a machine learning algorithm to isolate those signals -- a frontal lobe flare at the mention of the word "death," for example. The computational classifier was able to pick out the suicidal ideators with more than 90 percent accuracy (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). Furthermore, it was able to distinguish people who had actually attempted self-harm from those who had only thought about it. In today's study, the researchers started with 17 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 who had recently reported suicidal ideation to their therapists. Then they recruited 17 neurotypical control participants and put them each inside an fMRI scanner. While inside the tube, subjects saw a random series of 30 words. Ten were generally positive, 10 were generally negative, and 10 were specifically associated with death and suicide. Then researchers asked the subjects to think about each word for three seconds as it showed up on a screen in front of them. "What does 'trouble' mean for you?" "What about 'carefree,' what's the key concept there?" For each word, the researchers recorded the subjects' cerebral blood flow to find out which parts of their brains seemed to be at work.
Star Wars Prequels

John Mollo, Oscar-Winning 'Star Wars' Costume Designer, Dies At 86 (hollywoodreporter.com) 13

schwit1 quotes the Hollywood Reporter: John Mollo, the costume designer who brought to life Ralph McQuarrie and George Lucas' conceptual vision for Star Wars, has died. He was 86... "We discussed a few concepts when I joined the team, and George Lucas had a clear vision of what he was looking for. He liked the idea of the baddies having a fascist look about them, with the heroes reflecting the look of heroes of the American Wild West," he told www.starwarshelmets.com.

With McQuarrie's sketches and a meager budget of $1,173 for one costume, the London-born Mollo began shaping and fine-tuning Darth Vader's image through his knowledge of World War 1 trench armour and Nazi helmets, ultimately creating the look of one cinema's most memorable villains. His military influence is also visible in the regalia worn by the crew of the Death Star.

Working on Ridley Scott's Alien, " Molloâ(TM)s focus was to create used and well-worn clothing for the crew of the Nostromo on their long return trip to Earth as well as designing the patches and emblems emblazoned across their suits."
NASA

Astronaut Paul Weitz Dies At 85; Veteran of Skylab and Shuttle Missions 15

NPR reports the death of NASA astronaut Paul Weitz, who spent nearly a month in orbit on the first manned Skylab mission in 1973 and flew a decade later as mission commander on the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Challenger. He was 85. From the report: Weitz died in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Monday; he had been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of blood cancer. Weitz was born in Erie, Pa., and graduated from Penn State. He joined the Navy and became an aviator and test pilot, eventually rising to the rank of captain. He was chosen in NASA's fifth round of astronaut selection in 1966, as the agency was ramping up for the Apollo moon program. On his first space flight, he served as pilot on Skylab-2 (SL-2), along with Apollo 12 veteran Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., and Joseph Kerwin, also a rookie on SL-2. The mission to fix Skylab, which had suffered significant damage during the space station's launch, is still considered one of the most difficult and dangerous in the annals of spaceflight. The three astronauts had to conduct multiple space walks to repair the damaged craft, deploying a giant reflective parasol to act as a sunshade in place of a damaged thermal shield. Weitz logged two hours and 11 minutes in space walks and the crew of the mission established a new world record for time in space -- 672 hours, 49 minutes.
China

Hong Kong Has No Space Left for the Dead (vice.com) 165

Justin Heifetz, writing for Motherboard: When Fung Wai-tsun's family carried their grandfather's ashes across the Hong Kong border to Mainland China in 2013, they worried Customs officers, thinking the urn was full of drugs, would stop them. Fung, like many others in Hong Kong, could not find a space to lay his loved one to rest in his own city and would have to settle for a site across the border and hours away. It's an increasingly common story as demand for spaces to house the dead outpaces supply here in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of some 7.4 million people. Hong Kong's public, government-run spaces to store ashes -- which are affordable to the public, starting at $360 -- have waiting lists that can last years. But many Chinese, like Fung, strongly believe the ashes must be put in a resting place immediately as to not disrespect their ancestor's spirit. Meanwhile, a private space -- one that is not run by the government -- tends to start at more than $6,000 and can go for as high as $130,000. This is simply not an option for many families like the Fung's. In Hong Kong, most people cremate their loved ones and house the urns in columbariums, or spaces where people can then go to pay their respects. While burying a body is possible, the option is prohibitively expensive -- and besides, Hong Kong has a law that the body must be exhumed after six years, at which point one must be cremated.
AI

When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines (tumblr.com) 165

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

She trained it separately on the first decade of Slashdot headlines -- 1997 through 2007 -- as well as the second decade from 2008 to the present, and then re-ran the entire experiment using the whole collection of every headline from the last 20 years. Among the remarkable machine-generated headlines?
  • Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
  • More Pong Users for Kernel Project
  • New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
  • Steve Jobs To Be Good

But that was just the beginning...


Intel

Former Intel CEO Paul Otellini Dies At 66 (engadget.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Paul Otellini, Intel's previous CEO, died in his sleep on Monday, the company announced this morning. He was 66. Otellini served as Intel's fifth chief executive from 2005 through 2013, and leaves behind a legacy of the company's dominance in x86 processors. Notably, he also worked with Apple as it moved away from PowerPC chips and adopted Intel's wares. After retiring in 2013, Otellini revealed one major regret during his tenure: not working hard enough to get Intel's chips in the iPhone. Consequently, Intel mostly missed on the smartphone revolution.

Otellini joined Intel in 1974 and served various roles throughout his career, including chief operating officer from 2003 to 2005. He would go on to spend almost 40 years at the company. He was an intriguing choice as CEO, since he was the company's first non-engineer to hold that role.

Science

Breast-Cancer Death Rate Drops Almost 40 Percent, Saving 322,000 Lives, Study Says (washingtonpost.com) 64

Breast cancer death rates declined almost 40 percent between 1989 and 2015, averting 322,600 deaths, the American Cancer Society reported Tuesday. From a report: Breast cancer death rates increased by 0.4 percent per year from 1975 to 1989, according to the study. After that, mortality rates decreased rapidly, for a 39 percent drop overall through 2015. The report, the latest to document a long-term reduction in breast-cancer mortality, attributed the declines to both improvements in treatments and to early detection by mammography. Deanna Attai, a breast cancer surgeon at the University of California at Los Angeles who was not involved in the study, said the advances in treatment included much better chemotherapy regimens -- developed in the 1980s and refined ever since -- that are administered post-surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence. Other improvements have included tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen agent that was approved in the late 1970s; Herceptin, a drug used to treat tumors with a higher-than-normal level of a protein called HER2 and drugs called aromatase inhibitors.
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman vs. Canonical's CEO: 'Will Microsoft Love Linux to Death?' (techrepublic.com) 269

TechRepublic got different answers about Microsoft's new enthusiasm for Linux from Canonical's founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth, and from Richard Stallman. Stallman "believes that Microsoft's decision to build a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) amounts to an attempt to extinguish software that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve." "It certainly looks that way. But it won't be so easy to extinguish us, because our reasons for using and advancing free software are not limited to practical convenience," he said. "We want freedom. As a way to use computers in freedom, Windows is a non-starter..." Stallman remains adamant that the WSL can only help entrench the dominance of proprietary software like Windows, and undermine the use of free software. "That doesn't advance the cause of free software, not one bit," he says... "The aim of the free software movement is to free users from freedom-denying proprietary programs and systems, such as Windows. Making a non-free system, such as Windows or MacOS or iOS or ChromeOS or Android, more convenient is a step backward in the campaign for freedom..."

For Shuttleworth, Windows' embrace of GNU/Linux is a net positive for open-source software as a whole. "It's not like Microsoft is stealing our toys, it's more that we're sharing them with Microsoft in order to give everyone the best possible experience," he says. "WSL provides users who are well versed in the Windows environment with greater choice and flexibility, while also opening up a whole new potential user base for the open source platform..." Today Shuttleworth takes Microsoft's newfound enthusiasm for GNU/Linux at face value, and says the company has a different ethos to that of the 1990s, a fresh perspective that benefits Microsoft as much as it does open-source software. "Microsoft is a different company now, with a much more balanced view of open and competitive platforms on multiple fronts," he says. "They do a tremendous amount of engineering specifically to accommodate open platforms like Ubuntu on Azure and Hyper-V, and this work is being done in that spirit."

The article also points out that Microsoft "does seem to be laying the groundwork for WSL to extend what's possible using a single GNU/Linux distro today, for instance, letting the user chain together commands from different GNU/Linux distros with those from Windows."
Medicine

E-Cigarettes With Nicotine Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease, Says Study (theverge.com) 170

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Even after puffing on just one electronic cigarette with nicotine, healthy non-smokers were found to have a biological marker known to increase the risk of heart disease in tobacco users, according to a new study. The research, published in Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that nicotine is not harmless, as many people believe. It can affect a smoker's health in more than one way, and not just by triggering addiction. Another study, conducted by Middlekauff that was published earlier this year, showed that people who use e-cigs almost every day have biological markers known to increase the risk of heart disease in tobacco users. These included an increase in adrenaline levels in the heart, which can predispose smokers to bad heart rhythms, heart attacks, and sudden death, as well as increased oxidative stress, an imbalance in the body's ability to defend itself against the damaging action of free radicals. Oxidative stress can lead to changes in blood fats and lead to arteriosclerosis.

That study, however, didn't show what exactly was causing those changes. E-cigarettes can have different flavoring and solvents, as well as nicotine. So to identify the culprit, Middlekauff brought 33 healthy non-smokers and non-vapers into the lab. On three different days, one month apart, the participants were asked to puff on three different kinds of e-cigarettes for 30 minutes: one with nicotine, one without nicotine, and a sham e-cig that was empty. The researchers did blood tests and measured the subjects' heart rhythms, and found that the participants had high levels of adrenaline in their hearts after they smoked the e-cig with nicotine, but not after they puffed on the e-cigarette without nicotine or the empty e-cig.

GNOME

GNOME Partners With Purism On Librem 5 Linux-based Privacy-focused Smartphone (betanews.com) 100

BrianFagioli writes: The Librem 5 smartphone by Purism has a long and difficult road ahead of it. Competing against the likes of Apple and Google on the mobile market has proven to be a death sentence for many platforms -- including Microsoft with its failed Windows 10 Mobile. Luckily, Purism has found itself a new partner on this project -- one of the most important organizations in the Linux community -- The GNOME Foundation. The GNOME Foundation explains, 'The Librem 5 is a hardware platform the Foundation is interested in advancing as a GNOME/GTK phone device. The GNOME Foundation is committed to partnering with Purism to create hackfests, tools, emulators, and build awareness that surround moving GNOME/GTK onto the Librem 5 phone. As part of the collaboration, if the campaign is successful the GNOME Foundation plans to enhance GNOME shell and general performance of the system with Purism to enable features on the Librem 5.'
Medicine

Poor Diet Is a Factor In One In Five Deaths, Global Disease Study Reveals (theguardian.com) 110

schwit1 shares a report from The Guardian: Millions of people are eating the wrong sorts of food for good health. Eating a diet that is low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds and fish oils and high in salt raises the risk of an early death, according to the huge and ongoing study Global Burden of Disease. The study, based at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, compiles data from every country in the world and makes informed estimates where there are gaps. Five papers on life expectancy and the causes and risk factors of death and ill health have been published by the Lancet medical journal. Diet is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. Other high risks are high blood glucose which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) which is a measure of obesity, and high total cholesterol. All of these can be related to eating the wrong foods, although there are also other causes.
Medicine

Researchers Find Antidepressants Increase Risk of Death (medicalxpress.com) 125

Artem Tashkinov shares a report from Medical Xpress: Antidepressant medications, most commonly prescribed to reduce depression and anxiety, increase the risk of death, according to new findings by a McMaster-led team of researchers. It's widely known that brain serotonin affects mood, and that most commonly used antidepressant treatment for depression blocks the absorption of serotonin by neurons. It is less widely known, though, that all the major organs of the body -- the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver -- use serotonin from the bloodstream. Antidepressants block the absorption of serotonin in these organs as well, and the researchers warn that antidepressants could increase the risk of death by preventing multiple organs from functioning properly.

Interestingly, the news about antidepressants is not all bad. The researchers found that antidepressants are not harmful for people with cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This makes sense since these antidepressants have blood-thinning effects that are useful in treating such disorders. Unfortunately, this also means that for most people who are in otherwise good cardiovascular health, antidepressants tend to be harmful.
The study has been published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
Medicine

Moving Every Half Hour Could Help Limit Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle, Says Study (theguardian.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed. The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death. Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven U.S. institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the U.S. with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013. Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015. The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes. After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behavior were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time. The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behavior (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

News

Mexico's Strongest Quake in Century Strikes Off Southern Coast (bbc.com) 63

An earthquake described by Mexico's president as the country's strongest in a century has struck off the southern coast, killing at least 33 people. From a report: The quake, which President Enrique Pena Nieto said measured 8.2, struck in the Pacific, about 87km (54 miles) south-west of Pijijiapan. Severe damage has been reported in Oaxaca and Chiapas states. A tsunami warning was initially issued for Mexico and other nearby countries, but later lifted. The quake, which struck at 23:50 local time on Thursday (04:50 GMT Friday), was felt hundreds of miles away in Mexico City, with buildings swaying and people running into the street. The tremors there were reported to have lasted up to a minute. President Pena Nieto said about 50 million Mexicans would have felt the tremor and that the death toll might rise.
Books

Terry Pratchett's Hard Drive Destroyed By Steamroller (nytimes.com) 161

WheezyJoe writes: In accordance with his wishes, a hard drive formerly belonging to author Terry Pratchett has been crushed by steamroller. According to friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman, Pratchett (who died at 66 in 2015) wanted "whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all."

According to the article, on August 25, two years after the author's passing, Mr. Pratchett's estate manager and close friend, Rob Wilkins, posted a picture of a hard drive and a steamroller on an official Twitter account they shared. The pictures posted suggest the steamroller was one powered by actual steam.

Minutes later they tweeted a photo of the crushed hard drive -- which will soon be displayed at the Salisbury Museum in England as part of their new exhibit on the life and work of Terry Pratchett.

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