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Sci-Fi

William Gibson Announces New Sci-Fi Comic Book (arstechnica.com) 22

68-year-old science fiction author William Gibson just released a complicated new science fiction comic book, and this weekend Ars Technica proclaimed that "the results are grand". An anonymous reader shares their report: A father and son occupy the new White House as President and Vice President. We never meet dad, but his son -- an evil jerk by the name of Junior Henderson -- has been surgically altered to resemble his grandfather, because Junior is about travel to an alternate Earth in 1945 to take grandpa's place, with the intent of remaking that world more to his liking (and, presumably, to prevent whatever it was that laid waste to the one we start off in)...The world is in ruins. The White House relocated to the ominous-sounding National Emergency Federal District in Montana. They have technology that far outstrips our own...

"It's an alternate-history/cross-worlds story," Gibson writes... "And I wouldn't want to spoil too much of the frame, because that's an inherent part of our narrative. But I will say that one of the first verbal tags we had for the material was 'Band Of Brothers vs. Blackwater.'"

On his Twitter feed, Gibson is also applauding the news that Marvel and DC comics abandoned a two and a half year legal battle to enforce their trademark on the word "superhero" against a publisher in the U.K.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Books Should An Aspiring Coder Read? 163

Earlier this month Bill Gates released his summer reading list, which included Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson and mathematician Jordan Ellenberg's book How Not to be Wrong. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader asks for your book recommendations. I've been trying to learn more about coding, but I need a break sometimes from technical documentation and O'Reilly books. Are there any good books that can provide some good general context and maybe teach me about our place in the history of technology or the state of the programming profession today?
In the U.S., Memorial Day is considered the "unofficial" first weekend of summer -- so what should be on this geek's summer reading list? Cracking the Coding Interview? Godel, Escher, Bach? This year's Nebula award winners? George Takei's The Internet Strikes Back? Leave your suggestions in the comments. What books should an aspiring coder be reading?
Role Playing (Games)

The NSA's Delightfully D&D-inspired Guide To the Internet (muckrock.com) 41

"The NSA has a well-earned reputation for being one of the tougher agencies to get records out of, making those rare FOIA wins all the sweeter..." according to Muckrock.com, and "the fact that the records in question just so happen to be absolutely insane are just icing on the cake...." v3rgEz writes: In 2007, two NSA employees put together "Untangling the Web," the agency's official guide to scouring the World Wide Web. The 651-page guide cites Borges, Freud, and Ovid -- and that's just in the preface. MuckRock obtained a copy of the guide under an NSA Freedom of Information request, and has a write up of all the guide's amazing best parts.
They're calling it "the weirdest thing you'll read today".
Graphics

Wearable 'Backpack PCs' Let You Experience High-End VR On The Go (mashable.com) 47

An anonymous reader writes: Powerful virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive require powerful PCs with beefy graphics cards to operate. That means you'll usually be tethered to a PC tower in your home. Well, HP and MSI have announced portable 'backpack PCs' designed to be used with high-end virtual reality headsets. These PC internals are built in a backpack enclosure powered by a large battery pack. The HP Omen X weighs less than 10 pounds and has a battery that's big enough to last for up to one hour of gameplay, but you do have the option of swapping out the batteries for uninterrupted VR. Specs include either an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, up to 32GB of RAM, and at least an Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 or higher. The MSI Backpack PC features an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 980 graphics, according to the company. The last of the backpack PC trio is the Zotac Mobile VR. The company hasn't released any specs of the product but the company did state in a blog post, "This mobile solution not only removes the bulk of connecting to the large traditional computer towers of old, but also allows the user to roam freely in VR with their undivided attention. This innovative solution includes a system powerful enough to drive VR, and a portable battery pack to keep you going." There is no pricing or availability information as of yet.
Patents

Patent Troll VirnetX Wants To Ban FaceTime and iMessage, Increase Damages Award By $190M (9to5mac.com) 93

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, patent troll VirnetX won a court battle with Apple to the tune of $625 million. Now, the company wants to increase the damages award by $190 million. Law360 reports: "At a post-trial hearing Wednesday, Texas technology company VirnetX argued that although an injunction blocking Apple's popular video chatting and messaging features, along with a virtual private network on demand feature, may seem like a harsh remedy, it is necessary because of the irreparable harm Apple's infringement caused the company. VirnetX also asked the court to increase the jury's damages award by at least $190 million, arguing that Apple has been the 'poster child' for unreasonable litigation tactics." VirnetX also wants the court to block FaceTime and iMessage entirely. "Meanwhile, Apple argued that in light of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decisions rejecting the four patents-in-suit, an injunction would be inappropriate, as would any ongoing royalty based on FaceTime, iMessage and virtual private network on demand features. The tech giant also sought a mistrial based on a purportedly inappropriate argument to the jury and argued that the company is entitled to a judgment of non infringement, despite the jury verdict, based on VirnetX's allegedly insufficient evidence," reports Law360.
Advertising

Smartphone Surveillance Tech Used To Target Anti-Abortion Ads At Pregnant Women (rewire.news) 251

VoiceOfDoom writes: Rewire reports: "Last year, an enterprising advertising executive based in Boston, Massachusetts, had an idea: Instead of using his sophisticated mobile surveillance techniques to figure out which consumers might be interested in buying shoes, cars, or any of the other products typically advertised online, what if he used the same technology to figure out which women were potentially contemplating abortion, and send them ads on behalf of anti-choice organizations?"

Regardless of one's personal stance on the pro-choice/anti-abortion debate, the unfettered use of tracking and ad-targeting technology which makes this kind of application possible is surely a cause for concern. In Europe, Canada and many other parts of the world, the use of a person's data in this way would be illegal thanks to strict privacy laws. Is it time for the U.S. to consider a similar approach to protect its citizens?
Google has been reportedly tracking users on around 80 percent of all 'Top 1 Million' domains. Facebook is doing something similar. A recent report shows that Facebook uses smartphone microphones to identify the things users are listening to or watching based on the music and TV shows its able to identify. Facebook says the feature must be turned on, and that "it's only active when you're writing a status update."
Books

Slashdot Asks: Should It Be Legal To Resell E-Books, Software, and Other Digital Goods? (arstechnica.co.uk) 374

There's no one stopping you from selling the CDs and DVDs that you buy, so why can't you do the same with e-books, music albums, movies, and other things you've downloaded? Ars Technica reports about a Dutch second-hand e-book platform called Tom Kabinet which has been "at a war" with Dutch Publishers Association (NUV) over this issue. This is seen as a threat to the entire book industry. German courts have suggested that the practice of reselling e-books should be stopped, whereas Dutch courts don't necessarily see it as an issue. What's your view on this?
Education

American Schools Teaching Kids To Code All Wrong (qz.com) 361

theodp writes: Over at Quartz, Globaloria CEO Idit Harel argues that American schools are teaching our kids how to code all wrong. She writes, "The light and fluffy version of computer science -- which is proliferating as a superficial response to the increased need for coders in the workplace -- is a phenomenon I refer to as 'pop computing.' While calling all policy makers and education leaders to consider 'computer science education for all' is a good thing, the coding culture promoted by Code.org and its library of movie-branded coding apps provide quick experiences of drag-and-drop code entertainment. This accessible attraction can be catchy, it may not lead to harder projects that deepen understanding." You mean the "first President to write a line of computer code" may not have progressed much beyond moving Disney Princess Elsa forward? Harel says there must be a distinction drawn between "coding tutorials" and learning "computer science." Building an app, for example, can't be done in a couple of hours, it "requires multi-dimensional learning contexts, pathways and projects." "Just as would-be musicians become proficient by listening, improvising and composing, and not just by playing other people's compositions, so would-be programmers become proficient by designing prototypes and models that work for solving real problems, doing critical thinking and analysis, and creative collaboration -- none of which can be accomplished in one hour of coding," she writes.
AI

Xiaomi Unveils Budget-Friendly Mi Drone, $460 For 4K Or $380 For 1080p (theverge.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi has officially journeyed into the drones product category. The Xiaomi Mi Drone is a quadcopter with a three-axis gimbal, 4K camera, and a remote control that uses your Mi smartphone as a viewfinder. The 4K version retails for about $460 while the 1080p model retails for about $380. When compared to drones from DJI or Yuneec, the Mi Drone seriously undercuts them as they typically retail for more than $1,000. Some other features of the Mi Drone center around modularity and serviceability -- the camera module and rotors are detachable. The 5,100 mAh battery that Xiaomi claims can last 27 minutes of continuous flight time on a single charge is also replaceable. It uses GPS and GLONASS for positioning. It even features a visual positioning system on the rear that allows itself to remain stable when flying at low altitudes in environments where a satellite signal cannot be reached. Some of the autonomous flight modes include: takeoff, landing, return to home, waypoint navigation and orbit, with the ability to create a geofence to limit its movement. The 1080p Mi Drone "will be crowdfunded on the Mi Hope app starting May 26, 2016," while the 4K Mi Drone "will be available for testing via an open beta program at the end of July." With such an affordable price tag relative to the competition, the Xiaomi Mi Drone may help increase revenues for the company whose sales barely grew last year.
Piracy

The Pirate Bay Sails Back To Its .ORG Domain (cnet.com) 90

An anonymous reader writes: Following a report that the Swedish Court would seize the domain names 'ThePirateBay.se' and 'PirateBay.se,' The Pirate Bay is now sailing back to where it started in 2003, ThePirateBay.org. CNET reports: "The site is currently redirecting all traffic from the above two domains back to its .org home." In 2012, The Pirate Bay moved to the .se domain. It then moved to more secure domains, such as .sx and .ac, eventually returning to .se in 2015. Every alternative domain the site was using has been seized. Since the registry that manages the top level .org domains is based in Virginia, it's likely we'll see some legal action from the U.S. in response to the move. Meanwhile, Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij plans to appeal the Swedish's court's decision to seize the .se domains.
Google

Google Built an Escape Room, Making People Use Its Apps To Get Out (adweek.com) 50

An anonymous reader writes: Google France has built an escape room created by We Are Social, called "Premiere Piece," that will open in the heart of Paris. Adweek writes: "The campaign builds on the escape room trend, in which you and a bunch of friends pay to get locked in a room for an hour or two, left to solve puzzles and work in collaboration to find a way out. In 40 minutes, you must solve puzzles with help from apps like Search, Maps, Translate, Photos, Art and Culture and Cardboard, all of which are integrated into the gameplay. In Premiere Piece, visitors must help save a crew of digital artists locked in a workshop, so they can present their painstaking work at an art center in Paris. By working together, participants must unlock an object that completes their masterpiece." Google France was in the news recently for being raided by investigators for unpaid taxes.
Businesses

Toyota Forms 'Strategic Partnership' With Uber (theverge.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Toyota and Uber are forming a "strategic partnership" which will include an investment by the Japanese automaker in the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company. Under the agreement, Uber drivers can lease their vehicles from Toyota and cover their payments through earnings generated as Uber drivers. Toyota says it will invest an undisclosed sum in Uber, which is already the most valuable technology startup in the world. A partnership between Toyota and Uber could help the ride-sharing company solve a lingering question surrounding its self-driving ambitions, namely where its going to get a fleet of cars to equip with its autonomous technology. Toyota, which is the world's largest car manufacturer, is taking self-driving technology very seriously. It recently established the Toyota Research Institute to develop AI technologies in two main areas: autonomous cars and robot helpers for around the home. Last month, Google, Ford, Volvo, Lyft and Uber joined a coalition to help spur the development of self-driving cars, ultimately to make them arrive to the market faster. Meanwhile, Apple made an investment in Uber's Chinese rival Didi.
AI

Apple To Open Up Siri To Developers, Release An Amazon Echo Competitor (bgr.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BGR: According to a new report from The Information, Apple is finally ready to let Siri grow up. Specifically, the publication relays that Apple will finally offer official Siri APIs to developers, thus paving the way for third-party integrations, the kind that Amazon Echo users can't seem to get enough of. Things like ordering an Uber or pizza are currently impossible, because Siri is locked down by Apple. What's more, Apple is also reportedly working on a standalone device meant to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google's recently unveiled Google Home. If that's true, it's huge news -- Apple has been lacking any kind of smart home hub until now, but a Siri-powered device would be a serious play to get Apple into our homes. Google is the latest tech giant to announce a virtual home assistant. It unveiled Google Home, a small round gadget with microphones and speakers that listen and respond to your questions and commands.
Graphics

E Ink Creates Full-Color Electronic Paper Display (mashable.com) 94

SkinnyGuy writes: The reflective display company finally figured out how to make those ultra tiny balls produce 32,000 colors in one super-low-powered display. It's a breakthrough for E Ink, display advertising and, maybe someday, e-readers and digital photo frames. The new prototype display, which can be manufactured in an array of sizes, features a 20-inch, 2500 x 1600 resolution and is equally as power-efficient as the monochromatic display. E Ink Holding's Head of Global marketing Giovanni Mancini said it can be powered with solar cells used in bus stop signage, for example. Some of the limitations center around the resolution and refresh rate. As of right now, the resolution is only 150 pixels per inch (ppi), which is about half the resolution of a typical 6-inch, monochromatic E ink display. It also takes about two seconds to fully resolve images, which is pretty slow when compared to today's e-readers. The company is currently only focused on using the new color display for commercial signage.
Businesses

Facebook Acquires VR Audio Company, Launches 'Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation' (theverge.com) 28

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Facebook is looking to improve its virtual-reality audio experience with the acquisition of Two Big Ears. Facebook is rereleasing Two Big Ears' "Spatial Workstation" software as the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation, reports VentureBeat. The software is designed to "make VR audio succeed across all devices and platforms," and Two Big Ears developers will be merged with Facebook's Oculus team of employees. The acquisition of Two Big Ears is being made by Facebook and not Oculus -- the program is branded as a Facebook product, focused on 360-degree video and VR. The Spatial Workstation was first released last fall and was a platform for mixing audio that sounded realistically three-dimensional. Two Big Ears will provide "support in accordance with your current agreement" for the next 12 months to those who purchased a paid license to the old workstation. The company says it "will continue to be platform and device agnostic," not being locked into the Rift or Gear VR. Facebook did not disclose the sum of the acquisition. Two Big Ears was previously partnered with YouTube to help bring 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio to the site.

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