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Canada

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Makes Game For Third Annual Hour of Code (gamasutra.com) 134

Eloking writes: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Twitter account lit up today with a message all too familiar to many indie devs: Mr. Trudeau has made a video game, and he'd like everyone to play it. It was a cute bit of promotion for Hour of Code, the computer science education event masterminded every year by the Code.org nonprofit. While the Hour of Code websites hosts one-hour tutorials (in 45 languages) for coding all sorts of simple applications, game developers may appreciate that the lion's share appears to be game projects, like the one Trudeau modified into a sort of hockey-themed Breakout variant.
Open Source

Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' BETA Ubuntu-based Operating System Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 137

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.
Linux

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Linux Laptop? 284

Long-Time Slashdot reader sconeu is finally replacing his 10-year-old Toshiba Satellite laptop, and needs suggestions on the best current laptops for running Linux. I'm looking to run some flavor of Linux (probably KDE-based UI, but not mandatory) while using a virtual machine to run Windows 7 (for stuff needed for work). For me personally, battery life and weight are more important than raw power. I'm not going to be running games on this. I've been considering an XPS 13 Developer Edition, or something from System76, ZaReason or Emperor Linux. What laptop do you use? Do you have any suggestions?
It's your chance to share useful information, recommendations, and your own experiences with various brands of laptop. So leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best Linux laptop?
Twitter

Reuters Built An Algorithm That Can Identify Real News On Twitter (popsci.com) 121

Reuters has built an algorithm called News Tracer that flags and verifies breaking news on Twitter. The algorithm weeds through all 500 million tweets that are posted on a daily basis to "sort real news from spam, nonsense, ads, and noise," writes Corinne Iozzio via Popular Science: In development since 2014, reports the Columbia Journalism Review, News Tracer's work starts by identifying clusters of tweets that are topically similar. Politics goes with politics; sports with sports; and so on. The system then uses language-processing to produce a coherent summary of each cluster. What differentiates News Tracer from other popular monitoring tools, is that it was built to think like a reporter. That virtual mindset takes 40 factors into account, according to Harvard's NiemanLab. It uses information like the location and status of the original poster (e.g. is she verified?) and how the news is spreading to establish a "credibility" rating for the news item in question. The system also does a kind of cross-check against sources that reporters have identified as reliable, and uses that initial network to identify other potentially reliable sources. News Tracer can also tell the difference between a trending hashtag and real news. The mix of data points News Tracer takes into account means it works best with actual, physical events -- crashes, protests, bombings -- as opposed to the he-said-she-said that can dominate news cycles.
Medicine

New Study Shows Marijuana Users Have Low Blood Flow To the Brain (eurekalert.org) 560

cold fjord writes: State level marijuana legalization efforts across the U.S. have been gaining traction driven by the folk wisdom that marijuana is both a harmless recreational drug and a useful medical treatment for many aliments. However, some cracks have appeared in that story with indications that marijuana use is associated with the development of mental disorders and the long-term blunting of the brain's reward system of dopamine levels. A new study has found that marijuana appears to have a widespread effect on blood flow in the brain. EurekAlert reports: "Published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), a sophisticated imaging study that evaluates blood flow and activity patterns, demonstrated abnormally low blood flow in virtually every area of the brain studies in nearly 1,000 marijuana users compared to healthy controls, including areas known to be affected by Alzheimer's pathology such as the hippocampus. According to Daniel Amen, M.D., 'Our research demonstrates that marijuana can have significant negative effects on brain function. The media has given the general impression that marijuana is a safe recreational drug, this research directly challenges that notion. In another new study just released, researchers showed that marijuana use tripled the risk of psychosis. Caution is clearly in order.'"
Space

San Francisco's 58-Story Millennium Tower Seen Sinking From Space (sfgate.com) 242

An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: Engineers in San Francisco have tunneled underground to try and understand the sinking of the 58-story Millennium Tower. Now comes an analysis from space. The European Space Agency has released detailed data from satellite imagery that shows the skyscraper in San Francisco's financial district is continuing to sink at a steady rate -- and perhaps faster than previously known. The luxury high-rise that opened its doors in 2009 has been dubbed the Leaning Tower of San Francisco. It has sunk about 16 inches into landfill and is tilting several inches to the northwest. Engineers have estimated the building is sinking at a rate of about 1-inch per year. The Sentinel-1 twin satellites show almost double that rate based on data collected from April 2015 to September 2016. The satellite data shows the Millennium Tower sunk 40 to 45 millimeters -- or 1.6 to 1.8 inches -- over a recent one-year period and almost double that amount -- 70 to 75 mm (2.6 to 2.9 inches) -- over its 17-month observation period, said Petar Marinkovic, founder and chief scientist of PPO Labs which analyzed the satellite's radar imagery for the ESA along with Norway-based research institute Norut. The Sentinel-1 study is not focused on the Millennium Tower but is part of a larger mission by the European Space Agency tracking urban ground movement around the world, and particularly subsidence "hotspots" in Europe, said Pierre Potin, Sentinel-1 mission manager for the ESA. The ESA decided to conduct regular observations of the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Hayward Fault, since it is prone to tectonic movement and earthquakes, said Potin, who is based in Italy. Data from the satellite, which is orbiting about 400 miles (700 kilometers) from the earth's surface, was recorded every 24 days. The building's developer, Millennium Partners, insists the building is safe for occupancy and could withstand an earthquake.
Education

Science Journals Caught Publishing Fake Research For Cash (vice.com) 137

Tuesday a Canadian journalist described his newest victory in his war on fake-science journals. An anonymous reader writes: In 2014, journalist Tom Spears intentionally wrote "the world's worst science research paper...a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble" -- then got it accepted by eight different journals. ("I copied and pasted one phrase from a geology paper online, and the rest from a medical one, on hematology...and so on. There are a couple of graphs from a paper about Mars...") He did it to expose journals which follow the publish-for-a-fee model, "a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate."

But earlier this year, one such operation actually purchased two prominent Canadian medical journals, and one critic warns they're "on a buying spree, snatching up legitimate scholarly journals and publishers, incorporating them into its mega-fleet of bogus, exploitative, and low-quality publications.â So this summer, Spears explains to Vice, "I got this request to write for what looked like a fake journal -- of ethics. Something about that attracted me... one morning in late August when I woke up early I made extra coffee and banged out some drivel and sent it to them."

He's now publicizing the fact that this formerly-respectable journal is currently featuring his submission, which was "mostly plagiarized from Aristotle, with every fourth or fifth word changed so that anti-plagiarism software won't catch it. But the result is meaningless. Some sentences don't have verbs..."
Mars

An Underground Ice Deposit On Mars Is Bigger Than New Mexico (popularmechanics.com) 113

schwit1 quotes a report from Popular Mechanics: A single underground deposit of ice on Mars contains about as much water as there is in Michigan's Lake Superior, according to new research from NASA. The deposit rests in the mid-northern latitudes of the Red Planet, specifically in the Utopia Planitia region. Discovered by the Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARD) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the deposit is "more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico," according to a NASA press release. It ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, and has a composition that's 50 to 85 percent water ice, with what appears to be dust or larger rocky particles mixed in as well. None of the ice is exposed to the surface. At various points the dirt covering it is in between 3 and 33 feet thick.
Security

WordPress Auto-Update Server Had Flaw Allowing Persistent Backdoors In Websites (theregister.co.uk) 33

mask.of.sanity quotes a report from The Register: Up to a quarter of all websites on the internet could have been breached through a since-patched vulnerability that allowed WordPress' core update server to be compromised. The since-shuttered remote code execution flaw was found in a php webhook within api.wordpress.org that allows developers to supply a hashing algorithm of their choice to verify code updates are legitimate. Matt Barry, lead developer of WordPress security outfit WordFence, found attackers could supply their own extremely weak hashing algorithm as part of that verification process, allowing a shared secret key to be brute-forced over the course of a couple of hours. The rate of guessing attempts would be small enough to fly under the radar of WordPress' security systems. Attackers that used the exploit could then send URLs to the WordPress update servers that would be accepted and pushed out to all WordPress sites. Web-watching service W3techs.com reckons those sites represent 27.1 per cent of the entire world wide web. "By compromising api.wordpress.org, an attacker could conceivably compromise more than a quarter of the websites worldwide in one stroke," Barry says. "We analyzed [WordPress] code and found a vulnerability that could allow an attacker to execute their own code on api.wordpress.org and gain access to it. Compromising this [update] server could allow an attacker to supply their own URL to download and install software to WordPress websites, automatically." Attackers could go further; once a backdoored or malicious update was pushed out, they could disable the default auto updates preventing WordPress from fixing compromised websites.
United States

One Third of California's Trees Are Dead (sfgate.com) 393

"There are about 21 million acres of trees spread across California's 18 national forests, and the latest figures show 7.7 million of them -- more than one-third -- are dead." An anonymous reader quotes the San Francisco Chronicle: California's lingering drought has pushed the number of dead trees across the state past 100 million, an ecological event experts are calling dangerous and unprecedented in underlining the heightened risk of wildfires fueled by bone-dry forests. In its latest aerial survey released Friday, the U.S. Forest Service said 62 million trees have died this year in California, bringing the six-year total to more than 102 million.

Scientists blame five-plus years of drought on the increasing tree deaths -- tree "fatalities" increased by 100 percent in 2016 -- but the rate of their demise has been much faster than expected, increasing the risk of ecologically damaging erosion and wildfires even bigger than the largest blazes the state's seen this year.

An ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey says that on the bright side, this gives scientists a good chance to study how trees die.
Security

OWASP ModSecurity Core Rule Set Version 3.0 Released (modsecurity.org) 17

Need a new set of generic attack detection rules for your web application firewall? Try the new OWASP ModSecurity Core Rule Set version 3.0.0! Long-time Slashdot reader dune73 writes: The OWASP CRS is a widely-used Open Source set of generic rules designed to protect users against threats like the OWASP Top 10. The rule set is most often deployed in conjunction with an existing Web Application Firewall like ModSecurity. Four years in the making, this release comes with dozens of new features including reduced false positives (by over 90% in the default setup), improved detection of SQLi, XSS, RCE and PHP injections, the introduction of a Paranoia Mode which allows assigning a certain security level to a site, and better documentation that takes the pain out of ModSecurity.
There's rumors this new rule set is even being made into a movie
Facebook

Facebook Users Sue Over Alleged Racial Discrimination In Housing, Job Ads (arstechnica.com) 177

In response to a report from ProPublica alleging that Facebook gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls "Ethnic Affinities," three Facebook users have filed a lawsuit against the company. They are accusing the social networking giant of violating the Federal Housing Act of 1964 over its alleged discriminatory policies. Ars Technica reports: ProPublica managed to post an ad placed in Facebook's housing categories that excluded anyone with an "affinity" for African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic people. When the ProPublica reporters showed the ad to prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he described it as "horrifying" and "as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find." According to the proposed class-action lawsuit, by allowing such ads on its site, Facebook is in violation of the landmark civil rights legislation, which specifically prohibits housing advertisements to discriminate based on race, gender, color, religion, and other factors. "This lawsuit does not seek to end Facebook's Ad Platform, nor even to get rid of the "Exclude People" mechanism. There are legal, desirable uses for such functionalities. Plaintiffs seek to end only the illegal proscribed uses of these functions," the lawyers wrote in the civil complaint, which was filed last Friday. The proposed class, if approved by a federal judge in San Francisco, would include any Facebook user in the United States who has "not seen an employment- or housing-related advertisement on Facebook within the last two years because the ad's buyer used the Ad Platform's 'Exclude People' functionality to exclude the class member based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin."
Security

User Forks FileZilla FTP Client After Getting Hacked (filezillasecure.com) 166

Slashdot reader Entropy98 writes: A frustrated FileZilla user took matters into his own hands after getting hacked due to the fact that his saved passwords were being saved in plain text files. Despite years of numerous requests over almost 10 years the FileZilla devs refused to add a Master Password option to encrypt the stored passwords. Finally fed up one user forked FileZilla and created FileZilla Secure with the Master Password option.
Education

Face Electrodes Let You Taste and Chew In Virtual Reality (newscientist.com) 41

walterbyrd quotes a report from New Scientist: Experiments with "virtual food" use electronics to emulate the taste and feel of the real thing, even when there's nothing in your mouth. This tech could add new sensory inputs to virtual reality or augment real-world dining experiences, especially for people with restricted diets or health issues that affect their ability to eat. Several projects have succeeded in tricking us into tasting things that aren't there. Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore has already experimented with a "digital lollipop" to emulate different tastes, and a spoon embedded with electrodes that amplify the salty, sour, or bitter flavor of the real food eaten off it. However, his experiments with electrical stimulation had less success simulating sweetness compared to the other tastes. But digitizing this taste could be particularly useful in, for example, helping people cut back on sugary food or drinks. So Ranasinghe and his colleague Ellen Yi-Luen Do started experimenting with thermal stimulation instead. Their new project, presented at the 2016 ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST) in Tokyo, uses changes in temperature to mimic the sensation of sweetness on the tongue. The user places the tip of their tongue on a square of thermoelectric elements that are rapidly heated or cooled, hijacking thermally sensitive neurons that normally contribute to the sensory code for taste. In an initial trial, it worked for about half of participants. Some also reported a sensation of spiciness when the device was warmer (around 35 degrees Celsius) and a minty taste when it was cooler (18 degrees Celsius). Ranasinghe and Do envisage such a system embedded in a glass or mug to make low-sugar drinks taste sweeter.
Medicine

Every Year of Smoking Causes About 150 New DNA Mutations That Can Make Cancer More Likely, Says Study (latimes.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: For every year that you continue your pack-a-day habit, the DNA in every cell in your lungs acquires about 150 new mutations. Some of those mutations may be harmless, but the more there are, the greater the risk that one or more of them will wind up causing cancer. The threat doesn't stop there, according to a study in Friday's edition of the journal Science. After a year of smoking a pack of cigarettes each day, the cells in the larynx pick up roughly 97 new mutations, those in the pharynx accumulate 39 new mutations, and cells in the oral cavity gain 23 new mutations. Even organs with no direct exposure to tobacco smoke appear to be affected. The researchers counted about 18 new mutations in every bladder cell and six new mutations in every liver cell for each "pack-year" that smokers smoked. The findings are based on a genetic analysis of 5,243 cancers, including 2,490 from smokers and 1,063 from patients who said they had never smoked tobacco cigarettes. The researchers used powerful supercomputers to compare thousands of cancer genome sequences. The computers grouped the sequences into about 20 distinct categories, or "mutational signatures." Mutations tied to five of these signatures were more common in tumors from smokers than in tumors from nonsmokers. One of the signatures involves a specific DNA nucleobase change -- instead of a C for cytosine, there was an A for adenine -- that "is very similar" to the change that occurs in the lab when cells are exposed to benzo[a]pyrene, a compound that the International Agency for Research on Cancer says is carcinogenic to humans. Most of the lung and larynx cancers obtained from smokers had this type of mutation, the researchers reported. They also found that the signature was more common among smokers than nonsmokers. Another mutational signature was characterized by Cs that should have been Ts (thymine) and vice versa. Although these changes can be found in all kinds of cancers, the signature was 1.3 to 5.1 times more common in tumors from smokers than in tumors from nonsmokers, according to the study.
Emulation (Games)

Archive.org Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary (sfchronicle.com) 42

20 years ago this week, Archive.org started with just 500,000 sites. An anonymous reader quotes the San Francisco Chronicle: Now, the nonprofit San Francisco organization -- which celebrated the milestone with a party Wednesday night -- curates a vast digital archive that includes more than 370 million websites and 273 billion pages, many captured before they disappeared forever. It's more than an archive of Internet sites. The organization, founded by computer scientist and entrepreneur Brewster Kahle, now has a virtual storehouse ranging from digitally converted books and historic film to funny memes and audio recordings of Grateful Dead concerts...

The Internet Archive has survived through community donations and by working with about 1,000 libraries around the world that pay the group to help digitize books and other material. But the site itself remains free.

We've written about Archive.org over the years, and its collection of 2,400 DOS games, over 10,000 Amiga games (and other software) and a massive collection of arcade machine emulators. And here's what Slashdot looked like back in 1998. But what's your favorite page on Archive.org?
Data Storage

32GB iPhone 7 Has 8 Times Slower Storage Performance Than 128GB Model (thenextweb.com) 159

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Apple isn't telling you everything about its phones. Few weeks back, GSMArena reported that the 32GB iPhone 7 and 7 Plus had significantly slower storage performance than the 128GB and 256GB models of the device. In a new video, Unbox Therapy's Lew Hilsenteger conducted a series of speed tests that confirm the discrepancy in storage speeds between the different configurations of Apple's phone -- and it turns out the 32GB iPhone is about eight times slower than the larger capacity storage version of the device. For his first test, Hilsenteger used the free PerformanceTest Mobile app to compare the read and write speeds of the iPhone. While there was little difference between the read speeds of the 32GB and 128GB models, there's a huge disparity when it comes to write speed. The 32GB iPhone writes at 42MB per second, which is nearly eight times slower than the 128GB version's 341MB per second. Hilsenteger then performed a real-world speed test, which included transferring movies from a MacBook to the iPhone using a USB cable. While the 256GB model took two minutes and 34 seconds to complete the 4.2GB file transfer, the 32GB iPhone 7 needed a total of three minutes and 40 seconds for the same transmission.
Google

Google's Go Language Surges In Popularity (infoworld.com) 252

2016 saw a big spike in the popularity of Go, attributed to the rising importance of Docker and Kubernetes. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes InfoWorld: Ranked 65th a year ago in the Tiobe Index of language popularity, it has climbed to 16th this month and is on track to become Tiobe's Programming Language of the Year, a designation awarded to the language with the biggest jump in the index...which gauges popularity based on a formula assessing searches on languages in popular search engines...

Elsewhere in the index, Java again came in first place, with an 18.799 rating while C, still in second place, nonetheless continued its precipitous drop, to 9.835% (it had been 16.185% a year ago). In third was C++ (5.797%) followed by C# (4.367%), Python (3.775%), JavaScript (2.751%), PHP (2.741%), Visual Basic .Net (2.66%), and Perl (2.495%).

The article also cites an alternate set of rankings. "In the PyPL index, the top 10 were: Java, with a share of 23.4%, followed by Python (13.6%), PHP (9.9%), C# (8.8%), JavaScript (7.6%), C++ (6.9%), C (6.9%), Objective-C (4.5%), R (3.3%), and Swift (3.1%)."
Power

More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted (mercurynews.com) 99

While "the vast majority" of lithium-ion batteries will never malfunction, lithium itself "is highly combustible and batteries made with it are subject to 'thermal runaway'," which can be triggered by damage -- or by bad design. An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: Battery and electronics manufacturers take numerous steps to try to mitigate such dangers... But while the industry has tried to make lithium-ion batteries safer, 'the technology itself isn't foolproof,' said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage research at GTM Research... And there's reason to think that the problem could get worse before it gets better. Consumer demand for devices that are ever more powerful and longer lasting has encouraged manufacturers to make batteries that can hold even more charge. To do that, they typically pack the battery cells closer and closer together...

Since June of this year, educational toy company Roylco recalled 1,400 light tables designed for kids... Razor, Swagway and some eight other manufacturers recalled a total of 500,000 hoverboards. And HP and Sony between them recalled more than 42,000 notebook computers. All for similar reasons -- lithium-ion batteries that either had caught fire or which have posed a fire hazard... Other notorious examples include the several different Tesla Model S's that have caught fire, typically after crashes compromised their battery packs, and Sony's wide-scale recall a decade ago of the batteries that powered its Vaio and other laptop computers.

In a related story, Samsung's recall of their Note 7 is now expected to cost $5.3 billion.
AI

China Has Now Eclipsed The US in AI Research (washingtonpost.com) 97

Earlier this week, the Obama administration discussed a new strategic plan aimed at fostering the development of AI-centered technologies in the United States. What's striking about it is, the Washington Post notes, although the United States was an early leader in deep-learning research (a subset of the overall branch of AI known as machine learning), China has effectively eclipsed it in terms of the number of papers published annually on the subject (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). From the report: The rate of increase is remarkably steep, reflecting how quickly China's research priorities have shifted. The quality of China's research is also striking. The chart narrows the research to include only those papers that were cited at least once by other researchers, an indication that the papers were influential in the field.

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