DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Lies Programmers Tell Themselves? 124

snydeq writes: "Confidence in our power over machines also makes us guilty of hoping to bend reality to our code," writes Peter Wayner, in a discussion of nine lies programmers tell themselves about their code. "Of course, many problems stem from assumptions we programmers make that simply aren't correct. They're usually sort of true some of the time, but that's not the same as being true all of the time. As Mark Twain supposedly said, 'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.'" The nine lies Wayner mentions in his discussion include: "Questions have one answer," "Null is acceptable," "Human relationships can be codified," "'Unicode' stands for universal communication," "Numbers are accurate," "Human language is consistent," "Time is consistent," "Files are consistent," and "We're in control." Can you think of any other lies programmers tell themselves?
Education

'Brainstorming Doesn't Work' (fastcompany.com) 81

People aren't necessarily more creative in groups than alone, or vice versa, according to numerous studies. An anonymous reader shares an article: In fact, creativity needs both conditions; our performance peaks when we alternate -- first working alone, then coming together to share our ideas, then going off by ourselves again to mull over what we heard. It's a process. This is because our brains' creative engines are fueled both by quiet mind-wandering, allowing novel and unexpected connections to form, and by encountering new information, which often comes from other people. The typical brainstorm over-delivers on the latter and under-delivers on the former, which means that for lots of people, brainstorming is an utter nightmare. Introverts just feel alienated, and extroverts aren't pushed to reflect more deeply on the ideas they've batted around amongst themselves.
Education

Stylebooks Finally Embrace the Single 'They' (cjr.org) 288

Two major style manuals are now allowing the singular use of "they" in certain circumstances. While this is a victory for common sense, the paths taken are unusual in the evolution of usage. From a report on Columbia Journal Review: Both manuals, the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style, emphasize that "they" cannot be used with abandon. Even so, it's the middle of the end for the insistence that "they" can be only a plural pronoun. To recap: In English, there is no gender-neutral pronoun for a single person. In French, for example, the pronoun on can stand in for "he" or "she." English has no such equivalent; "it" is our singular pronoun, so devoid of gender that calling a person "it" is often considered insulting. We could use "one," but that is a very impersonal pronoun. Consider this sentence, for instance. "Everyone needs to be sure to tighten ____ safety belt before approaching the cliff." The article adds: For hundreds of years, anyone writing formally would default to "he." Advances in women's rights led to the clumsy "he or she." Many writers alternate "he" or "she." This twisting and turning is because what's known as "the epicene they" has been considered incorrect. [...] But that's not the "they" the style guides have let loose. Simply, the singular "they" will be allowed if someone prefers that pronoun.
XBox (Games)

Four Years Later, Xbox Exec Admits How Microsoft Screwed Up Disc Resale Plan (arstechnica.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We're now approaching the four-year anniversary of Microsoft's rollout (and subsequent reversal) of a controversial plan to let game publishers limit resale of used, disc-based games. Looking back on that time recently, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Windows and Devices Yusuf Mehdi acknowledged how that rollout fell flat and discussed how hard it was for the firm to change course even in light of fan complaints at the time. In a blog post on LinkedIn posted last weekend, Mehdi writes: "With our initial announcement of Xbox One and our desire to deliver breakthroughs in gaming and entertainment, the team made a few key decisions regarding connectivity requirements and how games would be purchased that didn't land well with fans. While the intent was good -- we imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing and new ways to try and buy games, we didn't deliver what our fans wanted. We heard their feedback, and while it required great technical work, we changed Xbox One to work the same way as Xbox 360 for how our customers could play, share, lend, and resell games. This experience was such a powerful reminder that we must always do the right thing for our customers, and since we've made that commitment to our Xbox fans, we've never looked back." It's an interesting reflection in light of an interview Mehdi gave to Ars Technica at E3 2013, when the executive defended Microsoft's announced plans for Xbox One game licensing. Mehdi, then serving as Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer, stressed at the time that "this is a big change, consumers don't always love change, and there's a lot of education we have to provide to make sure that people understand... We're trying to do something pretty big in terms of moving the industry forward for console gaming into the digital world. We believe the digital world is the future, and we believe digital is better."
Businesses

India's Silicon Valley Offers the Cheapest Engineers, But the Quality of Their Talent is Another Story (qz.com) 159

Ananya Bhattacharya, writing for Quartz: Bengaluru's startup ecosystem is what it is because of its engineers. With an average annual salary of $8,600, engineers in India's tech hub cost 13 times less than their Silicon Valley counterparts, according to the 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem Report. The city is home to the world's cheapest crop of engineers, with the average annual pay of a resident software engineer falling well below the global figure of $49,000. [...] However, the city's talent pool poses challenges in access and quality. For the most part, "engineers haven't been hired very quickly, experience is average, and visa success is low," the report says. "The quality and professionalism of resources is also questionable in many cases," Abhimanyu Godara, founder of US-based chatbot startup Bottr.me, which has a development team in Bangalore, said in the report.
ISS

17-Year-Old Corrects NASA Mistake In Data From The ISS (bbc.com) 79

"A British teenager has contacted scientists at NASA to point out an error in a set of their own data," writes the BBC. An anonymous reader quotes their report. A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data... The correction was said to be "appreciated" by NASA, which invited him to help analyse the problem... The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries. What Miles had noticed was that when nothing hit the detector, a negative reading was being recorded. But you cannot get negative energy... It turned out that Miles had noticed something no-one else had -- including the NASA experts. NASA said it was aware of the error, but believed it was only happening once or twice a year. Miles had found it was actually happening multiple times a day.
There's a video of the student -- and his teacher -- describing the discovery, a story which Miles says his friends at high school listen to with "a mixture of jealousy and boredom"
Crime

Indiana's Inmates Could Soon Have Access To Tablets (abc57.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC57 News in South Bend, Indiana: Indiana is looking to help offenders who are behind bars. Soon, each inmate in the Hoosier state could have their own tablet. The Indiana Department of Correction says the tablet will help inmates stay connected with their families and improve their education. Offenders will be able to use the tablets to access any classwork, self-help materials or entertainment. Officials expect to use entertainment, like music or movies, to reward good behavior. The proposal was first filed in January. Apple iPad's or kindles won't be used. Instead, a company that makes tablets specifically for prisons or jails will be hired. One San Francisco based-company they may consider, Telmate, has a device that is used in more than 20 states, including some jails in Marshall County. INDOC is hoping a vendor will front the costs of the entertainment apps so taxpayers won't have to. INDOC also says it wants to avoid charging inmate fees because charging fees that they can't afford would defeat the purpose of the system. If the company selected pays, the vendor would be reimbursed and still earn a profit.
Education

'New' Clouds Earn Atlas Recognition (bbc.com) 25

Twelve "new" types of cloud -- including the rare, wave-like asperitas cloud -- have been recognized for the first time by the International Cloud Atlas. From a report: The atlas, which dates back to the 19th Century, is the global reference book for observing and identifying clouds. Last revised in 1987, its new fully-digital edition includes the asperitas after campaigns by citizen scientists. Other new entries include the roll-like volutus, and contrails, clouds formed from the vapour trail of aeroplanes. Since its first publication in 1896, the International Cloud Atlas has become an important reference tool for people working in meteorological services, aviation and shipping. The first edition contained 28 coloured photographs and set out detailed standards for classifying clouds. The last full edition was published in 1975 with a revision in 1987, which quickly became a collector's item. Now, embracing the digital era, the new atlas will initially be available as a web portal, and accessible to the public for the first time.
News

Boston Public Schools Map Switch Aims To Amend 500 Years of Distortion (theguardian.com) 319

Students attending Boston public schools are now getting a more accurate depiction of the world after the school district rolled out a new standard map of the world that show North America and Europe much smaller than Africa and South America. From a report on The Guardian: In an age of "fake news" and "alternative facts", city authorities are confident their new map offers something closer to the geographical truth than that of traditional school maps, and hope it can serve an example to schools across the nation and even the world. For almost 500 years, the Mercator projection has been the norm for maps of the world, ubiquitous in atlases, pinned on peeling school walls. Gerardus Mercator, a renowned Flemish cartographer, devised his map in 1569, principally to aid navigation along colonial trade routes by drawing straight lines across the oceans. An exaggeration of the whole northern hemisphere, his depiction made North America and Europe bigger than South America and Africa. He also placed western Europe in the middle of his map. Mercator's distortions affect continents as well as nations. For example, South America is made to look about the same size as Europe, when in fact it is almost twice as large, and Greenland looks roughly the size of Africa when it is actually about 14 times smaller.
Education

In 18 Years, A College Degree Could Cost About $500,000 (buzzfeed.com) 374

An anonymous reader shares a report: People worried about college affordability today can at least take this to heart: it could get much, much worse. Tuition has been rising by about 6% annually, according to investment management company Vanguard. At this rate, when babies born today are turning 18, a year of higher education at a private school -- including tuition, fees, and room and board -- will cost more than $120,000, Vanguard said. Public colleges could average out to $54,000 a year. That means without financial aid, the sticker price of a four-year college degree for children born today could reach half a million dollars at private schools, and a quarter million at public ones. That's for a family with one kid; those with more could be facing a bill that reaches seven figures.
Patents

Maryland Legislator Wants To Keep State University Patents Away From Trolls (eff.org) 52

The EFF's "Reclaim Invention" campaign provided the template for a patent troll-fighting bill recently introduced in the Maryland legislature to guide public universities. An anonymous reader writes: The bill would "void any agreement by the university to license or transfer a patent to a patent assertion entity (or patent troll)," according to the EFF, requiring universities to manage their patent portfolios in the public interest. James Love, the director of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International, argues this would prevent assigning patents to "organizations who are just suing people for infringement," which is especially important for publicly-funded colleges. "You don't want public sector patents to be used in a way that's a weapon against the public." Yarden Katz, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet amd Society, says the Maryland legislation would "set an example for other states by adopting a framework for academic research that puts public interests front and center."
The EFF has created a web page where you can encourage your own legislators to pass similar bills, and to urge universities to pledge "not to knowingly license or sell the rights of inventions, research, or innovation...to patent assertion entities, or patent trolls."
Education

Ebook Pirates Are Relatively Old and Wealthy, Study Finds (torrentfreak.com) 153

A new study has found that people who illegally download ebooks are older and wealthier than most people's perception of the average pirate. From a report on TorrentFreak: Commissioned by anti-piracy company Digimarc, the study suggests that people aged between 30 and 44 years old with a household income of between $60k and $99k are most likely to grab a book without paying for it. [...] In previous studies, it has been younger downloaders that have grabbed much of the attention, and this one is no different. Digimarc reveals that 41 percent of all adult pirates are aged between 18 and 29 but perhaps surprisingly, 47 percent fall into the 30 to 44-year-old bracket. At this point, things tail off very quickly, as the remaining 13 percent are aged 45 or up.
The Courts

Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime Dispute (nytimes.com) 331

Daniel VIctor, writing for The New York Times: A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded -- or totally necessary -- Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks. What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday, was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million. In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years' worth of overtime pay that they had been denied (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate link from a syndicated partner). Maine law requires workers to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carves out some exemptions. [...] The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but it was anything but for the truck drivers. Note the lack of Oxford comma -- also known as the serial comma -- in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to: "The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods. Oakhurst Dairy is arguing that "packing for shipment" and "distribution" are two different items in the list. But that's not how the truck drivers are seeing it. They argue that "packing for shipment or distribution" is one item.
AI

Ray Kurzweil On How We'll End Up Merging With Our Technology (foxnews.com) 161

Mr.Intel quotes a report from Fox News: "By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence," Kurzweil said in an interview at the SXSW Conference with Shira Lazar and Amy Kurzweil Comix. Known as the Singularity, the event is oft discussed by scientists, futurists, technology stalwarts and others as a time when artificial intelligence will cause machines to become smarter than human beings. The time frame is much sooner than what other stalwarts have said, including British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, as well as previous predictions from Kurzweil, who said it may occur as soon as 2045. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, who recently acquired ARM Holdings with the intent on being one of the driving forces in the Singularity, has previously said it could happen in the next 30 years. Kurzweil apparently ins't worried about the rise in machine learning and artificial intelligence. In regard to AI potentially enslaving humanity, Kurzweil said, "That's not realistic. We don't have one or two AIs in the world. Today we have billions." He shares a similar view with Elon Musk by saying that humans need to converge with machines, pointing out the work already being done in Parkinson's patients. "They're making us smarter," Kurzeil said during the SXSW interview. "They may not yet be inside our bodies, but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud... We're going to be funnier, we're going to be better at music. We're going to be sexier. We're really going to exemplify all the things that we value in humans to a greater degree." You can watch the full interview on Facebook.
Education

20,000 Worldclass University Lectures Made Illegal, So We Irrevocably Mirrored Them (lbry.io) 554

An anonymous reader shares an article: Today, the University of California at Berkeley has deleted 20,000 college lectures from its YouTube channel. Berkeley removed the videos because of a lawsuit brought by two students from another university under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We copied all 20,000 and are making them permanently available for free via LBRY. Is this legal? Almost certainly. The vast majority of the lectures are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows attributed, non-commercial redistribution. The price for this content has been set to free and all LBRY metadata attributes it to UC Berkeley. Additionally, we believe that this content is legal under the First Amendment.
Education

Ask Slashdot: How To Teach Generic Engineers Coding, Networking, and Computing? 197

davegravy writes: I work at a small but quickly growing acoustic consulting engineering firm, consisting of a mix of mechanical, electrical, civil, and other engineering backgrounds. When I joined almost 10 years ago I was in good company with peers who were very computer literate -- able to develop their own complex excel macros, be their own IT tech support, diagnose issues communicating with or operating instrumentation, and generally dive into any technology-related problem to help themselves. In 2017, these skills and tendencies are more essential than they were 10 years ago; our instruments run on modern OS's and are network/internet-capable, the heavy data processing and analysis we need to do is python-based (SciPy, NumPy) and runs on AWS EC2 instances, and some projects require engineers to interface various data-acquisition hardware and software together in unique ways. The younger generation, while bright in their respective engineering disciplines, seems to rely on senior staff to a concerning degree when it comes to tech challenges, and we're stuck in a situation where we've provided procedures to get results but inevitably the procedures don't cover the vast array of scenarios faced day-to-day. Being a small company we don't have dedicated IT specialists. I believe I gathered my skills and knowledge through insatiable curiosity of all things technology as a child, self-teaching things like Pascal, building and experimenting with my own home LAN, and assembling computers from discrete components. Technology was a fringe thing back then, which I think drew me in. I doubt I'd be nearly as curious about it growing up today given its ubiquity, so I sort of understand why interest might be less common in today's youth.

How do we instill a desire to learn the fundamentals of networking, computing, and coding, so that the younger generation can be self-sufficient and confident working with the modern technology and tools they need to perform -- and be innovative in -- their jobs? I believe that the most effective learning occurs when there's a clearly useful purpose or application, so I'm hesitant to build a training program that consists solely of throwing some online courses at staff. That said, online courses may be a good place to get some background that can be built upon, however most that I've come across are intended for people pursuing careers in computer science, web development, software engineering, etc. Are there any good resources that approach these topics from a more general purpose angle?
Education

Australia To Ban Unvaccinated Children From Preschool (newscientist.com) 281

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: No-jab, no play. So says the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who has announced that unvaccinated children will be barred from attending preschools and daycare centers. Currently, 93 percent of Australian children receive the standard childhood vaccinations, including those for measles, mumps and rubella, but the government wants to lift this to 95 percent. This is the level required to stop the spread of infectious disease and to protect children who are too young to be immunized or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Childcare subsidies have been unavailable to the families of unvaccinated children since January 2016, and a version of the new "no jab, no play" policy is already in place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Other states and territories only exclude unvaccinated children from preschools during infectious disease outbreaks. The proposed policy is based on Victoria's model, which is the strictest. It requires all children attending childcare to be fully immunized, unless they have a medical exemption, such as a vaccine allergy.
Businesses

Women Still Underrepresented in Information Security (betanews.com) 374

An anonymous reader shares a report: Women make up only 11 percent of the cyber security workforce according to the latest report from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education and the Executive Women's Forum (EWF). The survey of more than 19,000 participants around the world finds that women have higher levels of education than men, with 51 percent holding a master's degree or higher, compared to 45 percent of men. Yet despite out qualifying them, women in cybersecurity earned less than men at every level and the wage gap shows very little signs of improvement. Men are four times more likely to hold C and executive level positions, and nine times more likely to hold managerial positions than women, globally. More worrying is that 51 percent of women report encountering one or more forms of discrimination in the cybersecurity workforce. In the Western world, discrimination becomes far more prevalent the higher a woman rises in an organization.
Google

Alphabet's Jigsaw Wants To Explain Tech Jargon To You, Launches Sideways Dictionary (cnet.com) 66

It might sound obvious, but the thing about tech is that sometimes it can get really, well, technical. From a report on CNET: So Alphabet wants to help make nitty-gritty tech jargon simpler to explain to the masses. On Tuesday, Jigsaw, a tech incubator owned by Google's parent company, launched a website called the Sideways Dictionary that takes jargon and puts it into terms normal people would understand. Jigsaw partnered with the Washington Post to build the tool.
The Internet

Online Job Sites May Block Older Workers (cnbc.com) 207

Joe_Dragon quotes a report from CNBC: Older Americans struggling to overcome age discrimination while looking for work face a new enemy: their computers. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently opened a probe into allegations that ageism is built right into the online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt. Separate research published recently by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank found that in a widespread test using fabricated resumes, fictional older workers were 30 percent less likely to be contacted after applying for jobs. Fictional older women had it even worse, being 47 percent less likely to get a "callback." Several forces are conspiring to ensure that many Americans have to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65. People are living longer, their retirement savings are inadequate, and Social Security reforms are almost certainly going to require it. The San Francisco Fed says that the share of the older-65 working population is projected to rise sharply -- from about 19 percent now to 29 percent in the year 2060. Online job-hunting tools should be making things easier for older employment seekers, and it can. Indeed.com, which claims to list 16 million jobs worldwide, currently lists 158,000 openings under its "Part Time Jobs, Senior Citizen Jobs" category. Monster.com, which claims 5 million listings, has a special home page for "Careers at 50+." In other ways, however, online job sites can cut older workers out. Age bias is built right into their software, according to Madigan. Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it's impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don't go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out. For example, one site's menu options for "years attended college" stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form. Madigan's office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, "barring anyone who is older than 52." Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. The Illinois' Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan's office has sent inquiry letters to six top jobs sites: Beyond.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.

Slashdot Top Deals