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Science

Most Scientists 'Can't Replicate Studies By Their Peers' (bbc.com) 260

Science is facing a "reproducibility crisis" where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, research suggests. From a report: This is frustrating clinicians and drug developers who want solid foundations of pre-clinical research to build upon. From his lab at the University of Virginia's Centre for Open Science, immunologist Dr Tim Errington runs The Reproducibility Project, which attempted to repeat the findings reported in five landmark cancer studies. "The idea here is to take a bunch of experiments and to try and do the exact same thing to see if we can get the same results." You could be forgiven for thinking that should be easy. Experiments are supposed to be replicable. The authors should have done it themselves before publication, and all you have to do is read the methods section in the paper and follow the instructions. Sadly nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.
Businesses

Thousands Of Disabled People Are Living In 'Virtual Utopias' In Second Life (backchannel.com) 54

"For many disabled residents, who may spend 12 hours a day or more in Second Life, the most important moments and relationships of their lives happen inside the virtual world," reports Backchanel. "For them, the fevered fantasies of a decade ago have become reality: Second Life is where they live." mirandakatz shares this article: Wagner James Au, who has written extensively about Second Life, estimates they may account for roughly 20 percent of users. Some active members estimate the number higher -- at as much as 50 percent... Abundant research shows imagining movement, without actually moving the body, can have positive effects on motor skills, balance, and learning... Studies suggest the therapeutic benefits of virtual reality extend beyond movement disorders -- to chronic pain, cognitive functioning in people with ADHD and PTSD, and social skills for people on the autism spectrum.
The article describes a 90-year-old former nurse, now living in a retirement community, who's spent eight years living in a Second Life archipelago called "Virtual Ability Island" with over a thousand other members. "Watching her avatar hike trails and dance gave her the confidence to try things in the physical world that she hadn't tried in a half decade -- like stepping off a curb or standing up without any help."
Android

Congressman Calls For Probe Into Trump's Unsecured Android Phone (cnet.com) 505

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: President Donald Trump regularly makes news because of his tweets. Now a congressman is making news because of the device the president reportedly uses to tweet. On Friday, Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Los Angeles, wrote a letter to the House Oversight Committee requesting an investigation into Trump's cybersecurity practices. In particular, he calls out Trump's apparent decision to keep using his personal Android phone instead of a secured phone the Secret Service issued him for his inauguration. The letter is also signed by 14 other members of Congress and calls for a public hearing to discuss the issues. "The device President Trump insists on using -- most likely the Samsung Galaxy S3 -- has particularly well documented vulnerabilities," the letter says. "The use of an unsecured phone risks the president of the United States being monitored by foreign or domestic adversaries, many of whom would be happy to hijack the president's prized Twitter account causing disastrous consequences for global security. Cybersecurity experts universally agree that an ordinary Android smartphone, which the president is reportedly using despite repeated warnings from the Secret Service, can be easily hacked."
Communications

PewDiePie Calls Out the 'Old-School Media' For Spiteful Dishonesty 920

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: After losing his Youtube Red show and his contract with Disney, the owner of the most subscribed channel on Youtube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (aka "PewDiePie"), has released a video response to the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news outlets, who have labeled his comedy videos variously as racist, fascist or anti-semitic. In it, he accuses the mainstream media of deliberately fabricating and misrepresenting the evidence used against him because they are afraid of independent content producers such as himself. In the video, PewDiePie discusses the recent actions of the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters sent nine cherry-picked and edited videos to Disney, which led directly to Disney's decision to terminate their relationship with him. These video clips and others used to "prove" PewDiePie's guilt have been edited (he claims) to remove all context, to the extent of using a pose of him pointing at something as a Nazi salute and using a clip where other players are creating swastikas in a game and editing out the part where he is asking them to stop. The most-cited video in the controversy involves seeing if he can use the site Fiverr to hire someone to create a video containing an over-the-top message for a mere $5. After a couple of laughing males unfurl a sign saying "Death to All Jews," he recoils with widened eyes and sits, apparently dumbfounded, for another thirty seconds before the video ends, without him uttering another word.

PewDiePie's video comes several days after a Tumblr post where he attempted to clarify that the videos were intended to be comedy showing "how crazy the modern world is." He has not yet used the phrase "fake news" in his response to the controversy, but given the current trends surrounding that phrase, it isn't surprising that his supporters are resorting to it frequently. Is this all just another unfortunate instance of collateral damage in the war against far-right political movements, is it a campaign of malicious retaliation by old media that is terrified of new media (as Felix claims), or was J.K. Rowling correct when she called out PewDiePie as a Death Eater? Err, I mean, ...as a fascist?

Update: Apparently, canceling his Youtube Red series was deemed an insufficient response. Youtube has now removed the mirror of PewDiePie's "Death to All Jews" video because it "violates Youtube's policy on hate speech." The original posting of the video had already been marked private by PewDiePie shortly after the controversy erupted. A quick check of Vimeo and Daily Motion came up empty, so you're on your own if you wish to find out for yourself what the controversy was all about.
Security

Russian Cyberspies Blamed For US Election Hacks Are Now Targeting Macs (computerworld.com) 251

You may recall "APT28", the Russian hacking group which was tied to last year's interference in the presidential election. It has long been known for its advanced range of tools for penetrating Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Now, researchers have uncovered an equally sophisticated malware package the group used to compromise Macs. From a report on ComputerWorld: The group -- known in the security industry under different names including Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and APT28 -- has been operating for almost a decade. It is believed to be the sole user and likely developer of a Trojan program called Sofacy or X-Agent. X-Agent variants for Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS have been found in the wild in the past, but researchers from Bitdefender have now come across what appears to be the first macOS version of the Trojan. It's not entirely clear how the malware is being distributed because the Bitdefender researchers obtained only the malware sample, not the full attack chain. However, it's possible a macOS malware downloader dubbed Komplex, found in September, might be involved. Komplex infected Macs by exploiting a known vulnerability in the MacKeeper antivirus software, according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks who investigated the malware at the time. The vulnerability allowed attackers to execute remote commands on a Mac when users visited specially crafted web pages.Further reading on ArsTechnica.
Earth

Scientists Propose Plan To Re-Freeze the Arctic (inhabitat.com) 401

Kristine Lofgren writes: In case you've been under a rock for the past 20 years, the Arctic is melting super fast. Certain *ahem* governments are dragging their feet doing anything about it, which means the planet could be in for a spectacular meltdown within the next 20 years. But a clever bunch of scientists have hatched a plan to re-freeze the Arctic using wind-powered pumps that will bring water to the surface, allowing it to freeze. This new layer of ice could last well into the summer, which is vital, because scientists think summer Arctic ice could be gone by 2030 -- and that causes a whole chain of terrible events that will only make our climate change problem much, much worse. The plan has a $500 billion price tag, but that's pocket change compared to the cost of dealing with an ice-free Arctic. The study has been published in The American Geophysical Union's journal Earth's Future. You can read more about the study via The Guardian.

Submission + - Meetup Doesn't Want Republican Business (battleswarmblog.com)

Nova Express writes: Yesterday all users of Meetup got an email announcing that Meetup was backing the anti-Trump/anti-Republican #Resist movement. "Last week, we created 1,000+ #Resist Meetup Groups to act as local hubs for actions on behalf of democracy, equality, human rights, social justice, and sustainability." This was not individual users setting up these groups, or even one company executive engaging in political activity on their own time, it was Meetup itself doing it as corporate policy. "Meetup has decided it's an extension of the Democratic Party and doesn't want any further Republican business. I just deleted my Meetup account and suggest that everyone who is not a leftwing agitator do the same."
Twitter

Twitter Announces (More) Hate-Speech Fighting Tools (Again) (cnn.com) 340

Building on anti-harassment tools announced in November, Twitter is now "trying to shake its reputation as a haven for online harassment" with still more new internal algorithms and features, reports CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The changes include preventing serial abusers from creating new accounts, a new "safe search" function and blocking potentially abusive and "low-quality" tweets from appearing in conversations, Twitter's engineering chief Ed Ho said in a blog post. Twitter is working on identifying users that have been permanently suspended and prevent them from creating new accounts, Ho said. This new measure specifically targets "accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others," he said, a problem that has long plagued the platform.

The new safe search function prevents tweets that are abusive, or from blocked and muted accounts, from appearing in users' search results. Those tweets can still be found if people want to see them, but they "won't clutter search results any longer," Ho said. And Twitter will now collapse tweet replies that are potentially abusive or low quality -- like duplicate tweets or content that appears to be automated. But those tweets "will still be accessible to those who seek them out," Ho said.

The blog post announces Twitter's ultimate goal is "a significant impact that people can feel," arguing that freedom of speech for all viewpoints is "put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices."

Comment Re:Professional accoutant (Score 1) 369

Are you kidding?

I'm already seeing junior-level accountant positions replaced by software. The sophistication isn't quite there yet to take out the next step up in the food-chain, but it's probably only a matter of a year or two at most. Now, accountancy is a broad profession and there are undoubtedly sub-sets which will hold out for considerably longer, but I'd have put accountancy right at the top of the list of white-collar professions at risk from automation.

Lawyers are probably second placed. Forget the courtroom dramas; an awful lot of what your average lawyer does on a day to day basis is highly subject to automation.

Comment Are Denuvo really that bad? (Score 2, Interesting) 77

Denuvo have become a popular company to hate recently. There are long-standing complaints that their DRM "harms performance" in the games that use it. The time-to-crack on some of the more recent Denuvo-protected releases has been down to around a week or so, which is a big reduction from the "several months" they could boast a year ago. They can also come over as a bit cocky in their public messaging at times.

And yet... are they really that bad? The war against DRM in PC gaming at the conceptual level was lost years ago, the moment consumers (self included) decided that the convenience of Steam and its equivalents (and the general reduction in game prices that came with them) outweighed concerns about ownership and digital rights. There have been battles since then, to be sure, but those have generally been over the extent to which DRM inconveniences legitimate consumers.

So we had (fairly successful) protests against Spore, which limited the number of installs possible from a single key (a practice which is more or less dead now). There is continuing pushback over the inclusion of always-on DRM in games which don't require it, which looks like it still has some way to run. We've had outcries, again generally successful, against DRM schemes which compromise the security of PCs they are run on (see the recent additional of such DRM to Street Fighter V and its subsequent removal).

But Denuvo doesn't really do any of these things. From the end-users point of view, provided they have a legitimate copy of the game, it is pretty much invisible. The rumours of it having a performance impact persist, but when credible sources like Eurogamer's Digital Foundry have investigated, they've never been able to substantiate them. In many cases, Denuvo appear to have become the scapegoat for poorly optimised PC ports.

PC gaming is actually in quite a good place right now. Most major releases find their way to PC; considerably more than did so 5 or even 10 years ago. Previously console-only developers have realised that they can expand their market for relatively little effort by producing a PC port. This has gone hand-in-hand with a general improvement in the quality of DRM, which appears (though I'll admit the link is not validated) to have deterred at least casual pirates (accepting that the hardcore will likely never be deterred). If DRM is here to stay, I would much prefer Denuvo to some of the alternatives.

Comment That's not the tool Facebook really needs (Score 2) 54

It's a "Block All Political Bullshit" button. Left, right, libertarian, socialist, SJW, vegan, just block it all. Automatically blocks all links to any political sites and anything else enough people tag as political.

But Facebook won't do that just like they won't honor your endless switching your feed back to Most Recent. Because there's no money in it for them.

Comment Re:Always assumed (Score 2) 45

I don't think that's likely to be the case with the PS4. You can already remove the hard drive from the machine pretty easily (and replacing the hard drive is an officially authorised modification that doesn't void your warranty). PS4 hard drives, like PS3 hard drives before them, use an encrypted structure that locks content to the console in question. I'm guessing there will be a requirement to format any external hard drives used in the same way.

This, incidentally, means it is really important to keep backups (cloud or USB stick) of your PS3/PS4 saves. If your console fails, you will not just be able to stick the drive from it into a replacement console or a PC and get the data off it. Happened to me with my old PS3. Lost five years worth of savegame data.

Comment Re:I'd agree (Score 4, Informative) 231

Same here, to be honest. AVG became unusable due to bloat a couple of years ago. Avast can have some serious issues when presented with a combination of Windows 10 with Anniversary Update and a Skylake CPU. The remainder all seem to be as bad as much of the malware they ostensibly protect you from.

I confess I spent a while feeling paranoid after I finally gave in and uninstalled Avast, but a few months on, I've had no problems with a combination of Windows Defender and a weekly Malwarebytes scan.

Comment The value of "proper" games (Score 3, Insightful) 77

The big challenge for "alternative" ways of playing video games has always been "can you play a proper game that way". We've seen supposedly revolutionary new technologies come along before and then falter when it turns out that all they are good for is playing casual or party-games.

The Wii's motion control sold a hell of a lot of consoles on the basis of Wii Sports. However, before too long, it dawned on people that Wii Sports was pretty much the limit of the device's capabilities. Similarly the Kinect had a lot of early success on the basis of some party games, but every attempt to integrate it into a proper game was either irrelevant or disastrous (Steel Battalion says hi). It's becoming increasingly clear that if any of these new technologies are going to "stick", then they need to be something you could realistically use to play a major AAA title; a Dragon Age or a Call of Duty (not that I'm a big fan of either of those).

VR had looked like it was headed in the same direction as the Wii/Kinect; an initial burst of hype, then growing disillusionment. It generated a load of pretty but thin tech demos, a handful of novelty party games and, until recently, not much else. RE7 is interesting because it's an attempt to do a major release, from a well-known franchise, via VR, without diluting the thing beyond recognition. I've held off from buying a VR set myself so far; even if it takes off, the number of mutually-incompatible offerings on the market at the moment makes it a bit too likely I'd end up on the Betamax side of the divide. But I'd like to see it succeed and it's good that serious efforts are being made to adopt it in major games.

I also find it interesting that it seems to be Sony that is spearheading this effort via PSVR (RE7 isn't even their first attempt; there were some "proper" games, even if not of the same profile, among the PSVR launch titles). While technically superior, the Oculus and Vive still seem to be mostly pushing minigames and tech demos so far.

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