Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. ×
Cellphones

Fans Choose A New Football Team's Plays With Their Smartphones (slate.com) 47

A new arena-league football team plays on a 50-yard field and uses a mobile app that allows fans to vote on the team's next play. An anonymous reader writes: Slate describes a receiver tackled for a short gain after the audience instructed the quarterback to throw a quick pass -- as "shouts and cheers exploded from the stands, with phones raised triumphantly in the air." The quarterback is informed of the chosen plays through an earphone in his helmet, and after one touchdown, one of the players even thanked a fan in the seats for picking a good play. "Then noses immediately returned to screens...the coach and QB were antsy, peering upward, waiting for the fans' next call as the play clock ticked down again..." The team eventually lost 78-47, but to at least make things more interactive, the players all have their Twitter handles sewn on the backs of their jerseys.
Fans can also be "virtual general managers" for a small fee, dialing in to a weekly phone call to give feedback to the team's president, and fans also selected the team's head coach from online resumes and some YouTube videos of interviews. In fact, the article says the fans even picked the team's name, with the name "Screaming Eagles" finally winning out over "Teamy McTeamface" and "Spaghetti Monsters."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Web Comic 'Pokey The Penguin' Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary (twitter.com) 67

It's one of the longest-running comics on the internet. (Slashdot is approaching its 20th anniversary, and in its first year ran two stories about Pokey.) Open source developer Steve Havelka of Portland, Oregon created the truly bizarre strip back in 1998 -- one legend says it was originally a parody of another comic drawn with Microsoft Paint -- and he's since sporadically cranked out 637 strips.

Since 2010 he's also been publishing the cartoons in printed books, and this year launched an equally surreal page on Patreon identifying himself as "Steve Havelka, THE AUTHORS of Pokey the Penguin," offering supporters a "mystery item in the mail". Pokey has lots of fans -- he earned a shout-out in the videogame Hitman: Blood Money -- and very-long-time Slashdot reader 198348726583297634 informs us that on this 19th anniversary Pokey "is celebrating on Twitter!" where he's apparently accosting other web cartoonists and touting a new birthday strip. (Not to be confused with that truly horrible Pokey-goes-to-a-party movie created in Adobe Flash.)

I'd like to hear from any Slashdot readers who remember Pokey the Penguin -- but I'm also curious to hear from Slashdot readers who have never read the strip. ComixTalk called it "one of those webcomics that really only exist because of the Internet -- it would be hard to see something like this in any other medium... there's just something about Pokey the Penguin that fits online."
Toys

German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll (theverge.com) 140

It's illegal in Germany now to sell a talking doll named "My Friend Cayla," according to a story shared by Slashdot reader Bruce66423. And that's just the beginning. The Verge reports: A German government watchdog has ordered parents to "destroy" an internet-connected doll for fear it could be used as a surveillance device. According to a report from BBC News, the German Federal Network Agency said the doll (which contains a microphone and speaker) was equivalent to a "concealed transmitting device" and therefore prohibited under German telecom law... In December last year, privacy advocates said the toy recorded kids' conversations without proper consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Cayla uses a microphone to listen to questions, sending this audio over Wi-Fi to a third-party company that converts it to text. This is then used to search the internet, allowing the doll to answer basic questions, like "What's a baby kangaroo called?" as well as play games. In addition to privacy concerns over data collection, security researchers found that Cayla can be easily hacked. The doll's insecure Bluetooth connection can be compromised, letting a third party record audio via the toy, or even speak to children using its voice.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has said toys like this "subject young children to ongoing surveillance...without any meaningful data protection standards." One researcher pointed out that the doll was accessible from up to 33 feet away -- even through walls -- using a bluetooth-enabled device.
Earth

Hundreds of Stonehenge-Like Monuments Found In The Amazon Rainforest (yahoo.com) 147

turkeydance quotes The Telegraph: Hundreds of ancient earthworks resembling those at Stonehenge were built in the Amazon rainforest, scientists have discovered after flying drones over the area. The findings prove for the first time that prehistoric settlers in Brazil cleared large wooded areas to create huge enclosures meaning that the 'pristine' rainforest celebrated by ecologists is actually relatively new.
The researchers believe the monuments appeared roughly 2,000 years ago -- so after Stonehenge (by about 2,500 years). "It is thought they were used only sporadically," reports the BBC, "possibly as ritual gathering places similar to the Maya pyramids of Central America, or Britain's own Stonehenge."
Beer

Tostitos' Breathalyzer Bags Can Detect If You're Drunk -- Then Call Uber 75

Slashdot reader schwit1 writes that Tostito's corn chips "has developed a special bag, available for a limited time, that can detect if you've had too much to drink." Its all-black packaging measures your breath for traces of alcohol, and if the test reveals you're sober, a green circle appears on the bag. But, Mashable reports... If it decides you've been drinking -- regardless of how much -- an image of a red steering wheel appears on the otherwise stark black bag along with a reminder not to drive and a code for a $10 Uber discount (valid only on Super Bowl Sunday). And if you've had so much to drink that the mere act of hailing an Uber becomes a difficult chore, the bag will even do that for you. The package is equipped with near-field communication technology that will automatically order a ride when tapped with a smartphone.
The Courts

How A Professional Poker Player Conned a Casino Out of $9.6 Million (washingtonpost.com) 406

Phil Ivey is a professional poker player who's won ten World Series of Poker bracelets -- but he's also got a new game. An anonymous reader write: In 2012, Ivey requested that the Borgata casino let him play baccarat with an assistant named Cheng Yin Sun while using a specific brand of playing cards -- purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards -- and an automatic shuffler. He then proceeded to win $9.6 million over four visits. The pair would rotate certain cards 180 degrees, which allowed them to recognize those cards the next time they passed through the deck. (They were exploiting a minute lack of a symmetry in the pattern on the backs of the cards...)

But last month a U.S. district judge ruled that Ivey and his partner had a "mutual obligation" to the casino, in which their "primary obligation" was to not use cards whose values would be known to them -- and ordered them to return the $9.6 million [PDF]. "What this ruling says is a player is prohibited from combining his skill and intellect and visual acuity to beat the casino at its own game," Ivey's attorney told the AP, adding that the judge's ruling will be appealed.

The judge also ruled Ivey had to return the money he later won playing craps with his winnings from the baccarat game -- though the judge denied the casino's request for restitution over the additional $250,000 worth of goods and services they'd "comped" Ivey during his stay.
Iphone

Store Adds Donald Trump's Picture To $150,000 Gold-Encased iPhones (cnn.com) 186

An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report about an iPhone 7 "encased in solid gold, encrusted with diamonds and bearing the face of Donald Trump." Priced around $151,000, it's just one example of the mind-blowing bling sold by Goldgenie, a store in the United Arab Emirates where the super rich do their shopping. "There are very wealthy, high-net-worth individuals all over the world and sometimes its very difficult to buy gifts for them because they have everything," said Frank Fernando, Goldgenie's managing director... But the phones are far from the most expensive item on sale. A gold-plated racing bike will set you back about $350,000. If you're thinking no one would buy a $150,000 Trump phone, think again. In the last month, they've sold ten of them.
Government

FBI Relents, Confirms Previously-Denied UFO Investigation (muckrock.com) 85

Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: A Freedom of Information Act request for FBI files on a figure at the center of dozens of 20th century conspiracy theories reveals a rare glimpse into the Bureau's real-life "X-Files" -- which the agency had long maintained don't exist. And while there's no evidence yet of Mulder or Scully, the files do include a story of flying saucers and secret assassins stranger than anything on the show.
Specifically the documents detail the FBI's 1947 investigation into "flying discs" reported by early conspiracy theorist Fred Lee Crisman, describing "the Maury Island Incident" (picked up by U.S newspapers) which helped popularize the legend of UFO witnesses being detained by "men in black". Ironically, Crisman was later linked to one of the CIA's anti-Castro groups, connecting him another popular topic for conspiracy theorists: the assassination of President Kennedy.
Government

The FBI Spent Two Years Investigating An Online Cult That Didn't Exist (muckrock.com) 134

A two-year FBI investigation apparently centered on the satirical web site "GodHatesGoths". Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: In 2005, the FBI launched an investigation into the "Church of the Hammer," a fundamentalist Christian sect which called for the wholesale slaughter of practitioners of the goth subculture. Two years later, the investigation was closed, on grounds that the Church didn't exist. The FBI's threat assessment detailed "an extremely right-wing Christian group that adheres to a Middle Ages Catholic text called the 'Malleus Malificarum.'" But MuckRock.com reports that "The Bureau's main source on the case was a goth who had engaged with members of the Church via their Yahoo Group...trying to dispel their misconceptions about the relationship between the subculture and Satanism." After two years of scouring through crime databases and making phone calls to the Salem police department, FBI investigators actually visited the GodHatesGoths web site -- which turned out to be a parody.
Ubuntu

Canonical Names Ubuntu Linux 17.04 'Zesty Zapus' (betanews.com) 67

"Linux distributions and silly names go together like peanut butter and jelly," notes BetaNews. BrianFagioli writes: One of the most well-known Linux distributions to use funny names is Ubuntu. It famously uses the convention of an adjective and a lesser-known animal, each starting with the same letter... For example, Ubuntu 16.10 uses the letter "Y" -- "Yakkety Yak". The next version of the operating system will use the letter "Z" [and] Canonical has chosen "Zesty Zapus"... It is apparently a type of jumping mouse...

"As we come to the end of the alphabet, I want to thank everyone who makes this fun. Your passion and focus and intellect, and occasionally your sharp differences, all make it a privilege to be part of this body incorporate. Right now, Ubuntu is moving even faster to the centre of the cloud and edge operations. From AWS to the zaniest new devices, Ubuntu helps people get things done faster, cleaner, and more efficiently, thanks to you...", says Mark Shuttleworth, CEO, Canonical... "we are a tiny band in a market of giants, but our focus on delivering free software freely together with enterprise support, services and solutions appears to be opening doors, and minds, everywhere. So, in honour of the valiantly tiny leaping long-tailed over the obstacles of life, our next release which will be Ubuntu 17.04, is hereby code named the Zesty Zapus".

My favorite was Xenial Xerus.
United States

Dilbert Creator Scott Adams Endorses Gary Johnson For President (dilbert.com) 523

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike writes: Scott Adams, creator of the popular comic, Dilbert, has decided to endorse Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson for President. He writes at his blog: "Clinton supporters have been telling me for a few days that any visible support for Trump makes you a supporter of sex abuse. From a persuasion standpoint, that actually makes sense. If people see it that way, that's the reality you have to deal with. I choose to not be part of that reality so I moved my endorsement to Gary Johnson. I encourage all Clinton supporters to do the same, and for the same reason...

"To be fair, Gary Johnson is a pot head who didn't know what Allepo was. I call that relatable. A President Johnson administration might bring with it some operational risks, and policy risks, but at least he won't slime you by association and turn you into some sort of cheerleader for sex abuse in the way you would if you voted for the Clintons or Trump."

The essay concludes, "You might enjoy my book because you're not sure if I'm really endorsing Gary Johnson or just saying so to protect my brand."
Education

The Ig Nobel Awards Celebrate Their 26th First Annual Awards Ceremony (improbable.com) 37

Thursday Harvard's Sanders Theatre hosted the 26th edition of the humorous research awards "that make people laugh, then think...intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." One of this year's winners actually lived as a goat, wearing prosthetic extensions on his arms and legs so he could travel the countryside with other goats. Long-time Slashdot reader tomhath writes: The Journal of Improbable announced these winners:

REPRODUCTION PRIZE [EGYPT] -- The late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [NEW ZEALAND, UK] -- Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes, and Shelagh Ferguson, for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective...

PEACE PRIZE [CANADA, USA] -- Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'...

PERCEPTION PRIZE [JAPAN] -- Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

The Improable Research site lists the rest of this year's 10 winners, as well as every winner for the previous 25 years.
Privacy

Woman Sues Sex Toy App For Secretly Capturing Sensitive Information (ctvnews.ca) 211

A woman in Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of a smartphone-enabled vibrator, alleging their devices "secretly collect and transmit 'highly sensitive' information." CTV News reports: The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month in an Illinois court, explains that to fully operate the device, users download the We-Connect app on a smartphone, allowing them and their partners remote control over the Bluetooth-equipped vibrator's settings... The suit alleges that unbeknownst to its customers, Standard Innovation designed the We-Connect app to collect and record intimate and sensitive data on use of the vibrator, including the date and time of each use as well as vibration settings...

It also alleges the usage data and the user's personal email address was transmitted to the company's servers in Canada. The statement of claim alleges the company's conduct demonstrates "a wholesale disregard" for consumer privacy rights and violated a number of state and federal laws.

Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson argues that "It kind of has to share that information if it's going to be remotely controlled by someone else." But the woman's lawsuit claims she wouldn't have bought the device if she'd known that while using it, the manufacturer "would monitor, collect and transmit her usage information."
Crime

Fugitive Arrested After Using 'Wanted' Poster As His Facebook Profile Pic (ibtimes.co.uk) 89

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "A fugitive in Florida has been arrested by police after he used a wanted poster adorned with his mug shot for his Facebook profile picture," writes the International Business Times. After investigating reports of a disturbance, police discovered the 41-year-old's Facebook profile, which revealed the man was already wanted for six months for violating his parole after two counts of battery.

"Police say that as they arrested Yearwood a bag of marijuana fell out of his pocket. They charged him with possession of cannabis under 20 grams and are continuing to investigate the battery complaint."

One Twitter user jokingly suggested that the suspect should also be charged with copyright infringement -- for using the police department's photo without their permission.
Music

What Jonathan Coulton Learned From The Technology Industry (geekwire.com) 88

In a new article on GeekWire, Jonathan Coulton explains why he left a comfortable software development job in 2005 to launch a career as an online singer-songwriter. But he also describes the things he learned from the tech industry. "These guys were doing this thing they wanted to do, this thing they felt competent doing. They didn't chase after things, and they worked hard, but it was a business they created because they enjoyed it. They tried to minimize the things they didn't want to do. It wasn't about getting rich; it was about getting satisfied...

"I wanted to a set a good example to my children. I wanted to be the person I wanted to be, someone willing to take chances -- a person who didn't live with enormous regrets..." Within the first year, he had not replaced his software salary, but had enough success to cover his babysitter and to keep food on the table.

When he was younger -- in the pre-internet days -- "It was very unclear how to become a musician," Coulton explains. But somehow rolling his own career path eventually led to a life which includes everything from guest appearances on radio shows to an annual cruise with his fans (this year featuring Aimee Mann, Wil Wheaton, and Redshirts author John Scalzi).
Biotech

'Longest Living Human' Says He Is Ready For Death At 145 (telegraph.co.uk) 314

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from The Telegraph: An Indonesian man who claims to be the longest living human in recorded history has described how he "just wants to die". Mbah Gotho, from Sragen in central Java, was born on December 31, 1870, according to the date of birth on his identity card. Now officials at the local record office say they have finally been able to confirm that remarkable date as genuine. If independently confirmed, the findings would make Mr Gotho a staggering 145 years old -- and the longest lived human in recorded history.
"One of Mr Gotho's grandsons said his grandfather has been preparing for his death ever since he was 122," according to the article. Though he lived long enough to meet his great-great grandchildren, he's already outlived four wives, all 10 of his brothers and sisters, and all of his children.
Classic Games (Games)

Hacked Hobbit Pinball Machine Joins IoT, Broadcasts Itself Over Twitch (lachniet.com) 45

Random web surfers could send a text message or even upload an image to be displayed on the back glass of Mark Lachniet's pinball machine, according to Mael517, while the machine itself webcast footage of both its playing field and backglass using Twitch. Interestingly, all the extra functionality was coded directly into the machine, according to Lachniet, who added only the webcam and an ethernet cord. The Hobbit [machine] has a whole bunch of hardware that I don't really understand and can barely fix... However, it has a computer in its guts, and this I can mostly understand.
After identifying the pinball machine's motherboard, CPU, operating system (Ubuntu) and an SQL database, Lachniet was able to backup its software, and then create his own modifications. He envisions more possibilities -- for example, the ability to announce high scores on social media accounts or allow remote servicing of the machine. Lachniet even sees the possibility of a world-wide registry of pinball game scores with each player's location overlaid on Google Maps "so you could view pinball hot spots and where the high scores were coming from," and maybe even networking machines together to allow real-time global competition."
Sci-Fi

Star Wars Actor Kenny Baker Dies at Age 81 (theguardian.com) 51

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Guardian: The British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3-feet 8-inches tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

Baker's niece told the newspaper that "He brought lots of happiness to people and we'll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world..."
The Military

How The Navy Tried To Turn Sharks into Torpedos (undark.org) 60

Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: Documents recently declassified show one of the odder experimental weapons developed after World War II: Weaponized sharks. Guided by sharp electric shocks, the sharks were trained to deliver explosive payloads -- essentially turning them into living, breathing, remote-controlled torpedoes that could be put to use in the Pacific Theater.
Following years of research on "shark repellent," the Navy spent 13 years building a special head gear for sharks which sensed the shark's direction and tried to deliver shocks if the sharks strayed off-course. The journalist who tracked down details of "Project Headgear" published the recently-declassified information on MIT's journalism site Undark, noting that "The shark wasn't so much a 'torpedo' as a suicide bomber... "
The Almighty Buck

Wild Abuse Allegations Taint Indiegogo Helmet Maker Skully (digitaltrends.com) 84

Skully raised $2.4 million on Indiegogo in 2014 to manufacture motorcycle helmets with built-in Augmented Reality. Now they're filing for bankruptcy, and informing customers that refunds are unlikely on their $1,500 pre-ordered helmets. But a lawsuit filed by Skully bookkeeper Isabelle Faithhauer "claims the Wellers used the funds raised by the Indiegogo campaign and a secondary $11 million round of funding in 2015 as their personal 'piggy banks' to buy several motorcycles, two Dodge Vipers, groceries, and so on," according to a Digital Trends article shared by KingGypsy: The Wellers took trips to Bermuda and Hawaii using company funds, she said, went to strip clubs, rented a Lamborghini, and paid for personal housekeeping services on the company credit card, as well as paying out funds ranging from $500 to $80,000. Lastly, she claims that the Wellers asked her to fudge the books to obscure the expenses. Faithhauer claims that when accountants came calling with questions about the expenses, she was up front about what was going on. She says that when she took a pre-approved vacation to Disneyland in December of 2015, she was fired upon her return and offered a severance package, which the suit calls "hush money." She declined the offer.
"Following her termination at Skully, Faithhauer claims that when she found a new job, her new employer contacted the Wellers at Skully and were told she could not be trusted with confidential information. She was fired from that job as well."

Slashdot Top Deals