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Elon Musk's Mars Colony Would Have a Horde of Mining Robots ( 217

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: If it wasn't already clear that Elon Musk has considered virtually every aspect of what it would take to colonize Mars, it is now. As part of his Reddit AMA session, the SpaceX founder has revealed that his vision of a permanent colony would entail a huge number of "miner/tunneling droids." The robots would build large volumes of underground pressurized space for industrial activity, leaving geodesic domes (made of carbon fiber and glass) for everyday living. As a resident, you might never see the 'ugly' side of settling the Red Planet. Musk also explained how his colony would get to the point where it can reliably refuel spacecraft all by itself. Dragon capsules would serve as scouts, helping find the "best way" to extract water for fuel reactions. An unmanned Heart of Gold spaceship would then deliver the basics for a propellant plant, while the first crewed mission would finish that plant. After that, SpaceX would double the number of flights between each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous (every 26 months) until the colony can reliably produce fuel by itself. Oh, and don't worry about today's Falcon 9 rockets being consigned to the history books. Although the main booster for interplanetary travel will "have an easier time of things," Musk believes that the final iteration of Falcon 9 (Block 5) could be used "almost indefinitely" if properly maintained. Production on Block 5 should fly in the next 6 to 8 months.
Classic Games (Games)

New Text Adventures Compete In 22nd 'Interactive Fiction Competition' ( 25

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: 58 brand-new text adventures are now available free online for the 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. The public is encouraged to play the games, and on November 16th the contest's organizers will announce which ones received the highest average ratings. After 22 years, the contest is now under "the auspices of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a new, charitable non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the technologies and services that enable IF creation and play..." according to the contest's organizers. "[T]he competition now runs on servers paid for by the IF-loving public, and for this I feel sincere gratitude."

Amazon Japan's Manga-Ready Kindle Has 8 Times the Storage ( 82

Amazon Japan has an unusual challenge with the Kindle: it not only has to cater to your typical bookworm, but to a local fondness for image-heavy (and thus storage-intensive) manga books. What it's going to do? Release a special model just for those readers, apparently. Engadget reports: The company has introduced a manga version of the Kindle Paperwhite with 32GB of storage, or eight times as much space as the run-of-the-mill 4GB model. You could cram every single volume of Asari-chan, Kochikame and Naruto into this e-reader, Amazon says. The manga Kindle is available for pre-order now, with pricing commanding a slight premium over the usual Paperwhite. You're spending about $157 or $118.

Spanish Police Arrest Their First Ever eBook Pirate ( 48

An anonymous reader writes: Spain's Ministry of the Interior has announced the first ever arrest of an eBook pirate. The suspect is said to have uploaded more than 11,000 literary works online, many on the same day as their official release. More than 400 subsequent sites are said to have utilized his releases. The investigation began in 2015 following a complaint from the Spanish Reproduction Rights Centre (CEDRO), a non-profit association of authors and publishers of books, magazines, newspapers and sheet music. According to the Ministry, CEDRO had been tracking the suspect but were only able to identify him by an online pseudonym. However, following investigations carried out by the police, his real identity was discovered.

O'Reilly Gives Away Free Programming Ebooks ( 87

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: There's now a section on offering free ebooks about computer programming. There's four free Java ebooks and seven about Python, as well as an "Other" section which contains ebooks like C++ Today, Swift Pocket Reference, and Why Rust? But there's also some broader categories for Open Source and Software Architecture ebooks, as well as separate sections for their free ebooks about Data, Security, Web Development, and the Internet of Things.

Why Is Science Fiction Snubbed By Literary Awards? ( 252

Slashdot reader bowman9991 quotes an essay from GalacticBrain: Science fiction authors have long been outcasts from the literary world, critics using the worst examples of the genre as ammunition against it. Unfortunately though, at times even science fiction authors themselves can turn on their own kind: "Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space," mocked Margaret Atwood, one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid's Tale, is exactly that...

Considered by the literary establishment, and frequently by non-SF award-giving institutions, to be trashy, pulpish, commercially driven lightweight gutter fiction, it's no surprise that very few works of science fiction have won major literary awards... Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the award-winning (not "literary" awards obviously) Mars novels, [in 2009] hit out at the literary establishment, accusing the Man Booker judges of "ignorance" in neglecting science fiction, which he declared was "the best British literature of our time".

The article ends with a simple question. "Will science fiction authors ever escape the publication ghetto?"

How Tech Companies Are Responding To Hurricane Matthew ( 38

South Carolina was hit by Hurricane Matthew at 11 a.m. EST, after the hurricane killed at least 300 people in Haiti (with Reuters estimating Haiti's death toll over 800). But as the U.S. declares a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and with the power out for more than a million people, an anonymous Slashdot reader looks at the role tech companies are playing in responding to the storm system: AirBNB "has been advertising free rooms in parts of Florida and South Carolina" reports Motherboard. AirBNB's Disaster Reponse Tool connects people needing shelter with volunteers who are offering their residences for free. Meanwhile, Uber promised to cap its "surge pricing" for the area, while Lyft promised its fares would rise no more than two times their normal rate.

But many escaped the path of the hurricane thanks to Shofur, a startup that books chartered buses and matches riders to low-cost tickets, according to the Daily Dot. "Through Thursday night and into the early morning hours of Friday, Shofur evacuated an estimated 10,000 Floridians and Georgians to areas such as Atlanta, Florida's west coast, and the panhandle."

NASA is also flying a huge 15,000-pound drone over the area to collect real-time weather data, while Verizon is testing a 17-foot drone which may one day provide LTE mobile connectivity to first responders. In addition, a Verizon spokesperson says drone-enabled connectivity has "set the stage" for connecting drones to their IoT platform next year.

Amazon Piles On the Prime Benefits With New 'Prime Reading' Perk ( 54

Amazon today unveiled the latest perk for Prime members in the United States: Prime Reading. With this, the company is offering access to "over a thousand" Kindle books, comics, magazines and more. The selection will rotate, the company says, suggesting that you should be able to read titles that aren't available today. GeekWire adds: The new perk, Prime Reading, lets Amazon Prime members access more than 1,000 e-books from best-selling authors at no extra charge, read a rotating selection of popular magazines, and read content from the company's Kindle Singles library, including classic short stories and essays. Prime reading is available on the Kindle app for iOS and Android, and on the company's Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets. The new perk comes in addition to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, which lets Prime members who own Amazon devices borrow one e-book a month from a larger selection of titles. Separate from a Prime membership, Amazon offers the $10/month Kindle Unlimited e-book subscription service.Amazon Prime program costs $99 per year.

Amazon's Kindle Unlimited Is a Victim of Its Success in Japan ( 48

You really need to understand the market before you start operating there. Take Amazon's case for instance, which has found itself in the middle of a backlash with publishers in Japan. When Amazon launched its "all-you-can-read-subscription" Kindle Unlimited service in Japan, the company didn't know it would become such a big success. And yet it did. So much so that Amazon had to sharply scale back within weeks of its introduction in the country. Before Amazon introduced the feature in Japan, it partnered with Japanese publishers to offer their popular content, committing to pay them a premium through the end of this year when a customer reads at least 10 percent of a book or other content. It worked -- too well, WSJ reports. From an article: Since it's easy for readers to get through the first 10% of a magazine or photo book in just a few minutes, Amazon quickly found itself on the hook for large payments (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), a person at one publisher said. A person at another publisher said Amazon made an overture for talks in September saying it had hit its budget limit for the payments to publishers and wanted revisions to its contract with the publisher."

Amazon Bans Incentivized Reviews Tied To Free Or Discounted Products ( 77

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Amazon is making a significant change to its Community Guidelines, announced today, which will eliminate any incentivized reviews, except for those that emerge from within its own Amazon Vine program. This program allows Amazon -- not the seller or vendor -- to identify trusted reviewers, and has a number of controls in place in order to keep bias out of the review process. Amazon has historically prohibited compensation for reviews -- even going so far as to sue those businesses who pay for fake reviews, as well as the individuals who write them, in an effort to make its review and rating system fairer and more helpful to online shoppers. However, it has allowed businesses to offer products to customers in exchange for their "honest" review. The only condition was that those reviewers would have to disclose their affiliation with the business in question in the text of their review. Reviewers were generally offered the product for free or at a discounted price, in exchange for their review. Although, in theory, these reviewers could write their true opinion on the product -- positive or negative -- these incentivized reviews have tended to be overwhelmingly biased in favor of the product being rated. Amazon says that, going forward, the only incentivized reviews will be those from Amazon Vine. These don't work the same way, however. For starters, Amazon selects who will be allowed to review products, and it does so mainly to boost the review count on new or pre-release products that haven't yet generated enough sales to have a large number of organic reviews. Vine reviewers are invited to join the program only after having written a number of reviews voted as "helpful" by other customers, and tend to have expertise in a specific product category. In addition, vendors don't have any contact with Vine reviewers, nor do they get to influence which reviewers will receive their products, which are submitted directly to Amazon for distribution. These changes will apply to all product categories other than books, as Amazon has always allowed advance copies of books to be distributed, the retailer notes.
The Almighty Buck

Revealed: How One Amazon Kindle Scam Made Millions of Dollars ( 40

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt with us from a report via ZDNet that summarizes a catfishing scheme designed to deceive Amazon users into buy low-quality ebooks: Emma Moore is just one of hundreds of pseudonyms employed in a sophisticated "catfishing" scheme run by Valeriy Shershnyov, whose Vancouver-based business hoodwinks Amazon customers into buying low-quality ebooks, which have been boosted on the online marketplace by an unscrupulous system of bots, scripts, and virtual servers. Catfishing isn't new -- it's been well documented. Some scammers buy fake reviews, while others will try other ways to game the system. Until now, nobody has been able to look inside at how one of these scams work -- especially one that's been so prolific, generating millions of dollars in royalties by cashing in on unwitting buyers who are tricked into thinking these ebooks have some substance. Shershnyov was able to stay in Amazon's shadows for two years by using his scam server conservatively so as to not raise any red flags. What eventually gave him away weren't customer complaints or even getting caught. It was good old-fashioned carelessness. He forgot to put a password on his server.

Edward Snowden Makes 'Moral' Case For Presidential Pardon ( 387

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Edward Snowden has set out the case for Barack Obama granting him a pardon before the U.S. president leaves office in January, arguing that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by U.S. and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off. Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited. "Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists -- for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things," he said. "I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [U.S.] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result." In his wide-ranging interview, Snowden insisted the net public benefit of the NSA leak was clear. "If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off," he said. But Snowden still wants to return to the U.S. and seems confident, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that it will happen. "In the fullness of time, I think I will end up back home," he said.

Amazon Adds Audiobooks and Podcasts To Prime Membership ( 60

If you're one of the 63 million Amazon Prime members out there, you may be happy to hear that Amazon will now grant you unlimited access to podcasts and audiobooks from Audible. Fortune reports: With Tuesday's news, Prime members will now be able to stream a rotating selection of more than 50 audiobooks. Prime members will also have free access to Amazon's newly launched on-demand audio service from Audible Channels, which provides ad-free podcasts and other audio content. Audible released the service in July, and is charging non-Prime members $4.95 each month to access the selection of podcasts. In addition to podcasts, Channels also includes access to audio versions of articles from major publications, comedy shows, short fiction, and more. Fingers crossed they have some engaging technology books in their rotating selection...

MIT Invented A Camera That Can Read Closed Books ( 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: In a breakthrough that will appeal to both spies and those who work with priceless but frail historical documents, researchers at MIT have developed a camera that uses terahertz radiation to peer at the text on pages of a book, without it having to be open. Terahertz radiation falls somewhere between the microwave and infrared spectrums, and the research team, including Barmak Heshmat, Ramesh Raskar, and Albert Redo Sanchez from MIT, and Justin Romberg and Alireza Aghasi from Georgia Tech, chose that particular flavor of radiation because of how it reacts with different chemicals. Different chemicals produce a distinct frequency as they react with different terahertz frequencies, which can be measured and distinguished. In this instance, it allows the researchers to tell the different between ink and blank paper. Complex algorithms and software is required to translate the frequencies being bounced back to the camera, allowing it to distinguish letters on a page. But it also relies on how far the short bursts of terahertz radiation are traveling, by precisely timing how long it takes to reach the 20-micrometer-thick air gaps between pages of a book, it's able to calculate when it moves from page to page. The report adds, "the researchers feel their system could be a fantastic tool for museums or other facilities who want to explore and catalog historical documents, without actually having to touch or open them, and risk damage."

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Technology Books and Novels? 175

It can be a nonfiction book, or a fictional narrative where technology plays a key role. I recently started to read 'The Rise of the Robots' by Martin Ford. It talks about how robots are threatening mass unemployment more than they ever did before. I also found Andrew Blum's 'Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet' quite insightful. I would like to read 'The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers'.

What are some of your favorite tech-centric books? And which book are you currently reading, or recently finished?

Google Uses Surface Books To Show Off Chrome Battery Improvements ( 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Google has posted a new video showing how much it has improved battery life while using Chrome on Windows. It demonstrated those changes in a video that featured the web browser on Microsoft's Surface Book notebooks. The video test was based on running a Vimeo video on Chrome 46, which was released in 2015, and the same video running on Chrome 53, which was released last week. The Surface Book with Chrome 46 ran out of battery power after 8 hours and 27 minutes, while the same notebook running Chrome 53 shut down in 10 hours and 39 minutes, or over 2 hours later. Chrome 53 also features Material Design, a user interface that "makes more liberal use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows." You can force the update to Chrome 53 by navigating to the about section of Chrome.

World Map Shows Countries Requiring Open Source Software ( 32

"Europe and South America are the biggest hotspots for open-source use in government," reports Network World, while Bulgaria requires all software written for the government to be FOSS. Slashdot reader alphadogg quotes their report: It's become increasingly common over the past decade or so to see laws being passed to either mandate the use of open-source software or, at the very least, encourage people in government who make procurement decisions to do so. Here's a map of the status of open-source laws around the world.

No, the Internet Has Not Killed the Printed Book - Most People Still Prefer Them ( 140

Daniel Victor, writing for The New York Times: Even with Facebook, Netflix and other digital distractions increasingly vying for time, Americans' appetite for reading books -- the ones you actually hold in your hands -- has not slowed in recent years (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Sixty-five percent of adults in the United States said they had read a printed book in the past year, the same percentage that said so in 2012. When you add in ebooks and audiobooks, the number that said they had read a book in printed or electronic format in the past 12 months rose to 73 percent, compared with 74 percent in 2012. Twenty-eight percent said they had opted for an ebook in the past year, while 14 percent said they had listened to an audiobook. Lee Rainie, the director of internet, science and technology research for Pew Research, said the study demonstrated the staying power of physical books. "I think if you looked back a decade ago, certainly five or six years ago when ebooks were taking off, there were folks who thought the days of the printed book were numbered, and it's just not so in our data," he said. The 28 percent who said they had read an ebook in the past year has remained relatively steady in the past two years, but the way they are consuming ebooks is changing.

Now Arriving On the New York Subway: Free E-Books, Timed For Your Commute ( 44

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews:Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York has announced a new promotion called "Subway Reads," which leverages the free Wi-Fi connectivity provided at the NYC subway. This initiative will help straphangers get some relief from the other nonsense by enabling them to bury themselves in a free Penguin Random House e-book short or excerpt. "As part of 'Subway Reads', Penguin Random House created a special platform to offer subway customers free access to five full-length e-shorts, including High Heat, a Jack Reacher novella by Lee Child; F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic short story, The Diamond As Big As The Ritz; 3 Truths and A Lie, a short story by Lisa Gardner; The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe; and At the Reunion Buffet by Alexander McCall Smith," says the New York State Government.Sounds like a good thing. What's your thought?

Belgians Are Hunting Books, Instead Of Pokemon ( 38

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report:Inspired by the success of Pokemon Go, a Belgian primary school headmaster has developed an online game for people to search for books instead of cartoon monsters, attracting tens of thousands of players in weeks. While with Pokemon Go, players use a mobile device's GPS and camera to track virtual creatures around town, Aveline Gregoire's version is played through a Facebook group called "Chasseurs de livres" ("Book hunters"). Players post pictures and hints about where they have hidden a book and others go to hunt them down. Once someone has finished reading a book, they "release" it back into the wild. "While I was arranging my library, I realized I didn't have enough space for all my books. Having played Pokemon Go with my kids, I had the idea of releasing the books into nature," Gregoire told Reuters. Though it was only set up a few weeks ago, more than 40,000 people are already signed up to Gregoire's Facebook group.

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