Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×

Submission + - Ad-blocker Crystal massively reduces bandwidth usage and page load times in iOS (betanews.com)

Mark Wilson writes: There's a lot to look forward to in iOS 9. We already know that the new version of Safari will include the option to block ads, but the browser is not going to be alone in clearing out unwanted ads. Crystal is an ad blocker for iOS 9 created "with the goal of making web browsing with the iPhone and iPad a great experience again".

It started life as a tool for testing iOS 9's own content blocker, but grew into a stand-alone project. Crystal is currently in closed public beta but its developer, Dean Murphy, has released some figures that show how effective it is. The results show that Crystal can speed up page load times by nearly four times and reduce bandwidth consumption by 53 percent. Impressive stuff, and the stats make for extremely interesting reading — particularly for those waiting for the launch of a new iPhone.

Submission + - Amazon Work-Life Balance Defender: Prior Employer Nearly Killed Me and My Team

theodp writes: New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan questions whether her paper's portrayal of Amazon's brutal workplace was on target, citing a long, passionate response in disagreement from Nick Ciubotariu, a head of infrastructure development at Amazon. Interestingly, Ciubotariu — whose take on Amazon's work-life balance ("I’ve never worked a single weekend when I didn’t want to") was used as Exhibit A by CEO Jeff Bezos to refute the NYT's report — wrote last December of regretting his role as an enabler of his team's "Death March" at a former employer (perhaps Microsoft, judging by Ciubotariu's LinkedIn profile and his essay's HiPo and Vegas references). "I asked if there were any questions," wrote Ciubotariu of a team meeting. "Nadia, one of my Engineers, had one: 'Nick, when will this finally end?' As I looked around the room, I saw 9 completely broken human beings. We had been working over 100 hours a week for the past 2 months. Two of my Engineers had tears on their faces. I did my best to keep from completely breaking down myself. With my voice choking, I looked at everyone, and said: 'This ends right now'." Ciubotariu added, "I hope they can forgive me for being an enabler of their death march, however unwilling, and that I ultimately didn’t do enough to stop it. As a 'reward' for all this, I calibrated #1 overall in my organization, and received yet another HiPo nomination and induction, at the cost of a shattered family life, my health, and a broken team. I don’t think I ever felt worse in my entire career. If I could give it all back, I would, in an instant, no questions asked. Physically and mentally, I took about a year to heal."

Submission + - Microsoft can now remotely disable pirated games, if you're running them on Wind (firstpost.com)

totalcaos writes: Privacy concerns as Windows 10 EULA gives Microsoft the ability to remotely disable or un-install counterfeit software and games. How Microsoft will go about detecting this is still unknown, but raises real concerns as according to this Microsoft will be able to tell whats installed on you computer!

Submission + - Registered clinical trials make positive findings vanish

schwit1 writes: The requirement that medical researchers register in detail the methods they intend to use in their clinical trials, both to record their data as well as document their outcomes, caused a significant drop in trials producing positive results.

A 1997 US law mandated the registry's creation, requiring researchers from 2000 to record their trial methods and outcome measures before collecting data. The study found that in a sample of 55 large trials testing heart-disease treatments, 57% of those published before 2000 reported positive effects from the treatments. But that figure plunged to just 8% in studies that were conducted after 2000. Study author Veronica Irvin, a health scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, says this suggests that registering clinical studies is leading to more rigorous research. Writing on his NeuroLogica Blog, neurologist Steven Novella of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, called the study "encouraging" but also "a bit frightening" because it casts doubt on previous positive results.

In other words, before they were required to document their methods, research into new drugs or treatments would prove the success of those drugs or treatment more than half the time. Once they had to document their research methods, however, the drugs or treatments being tested almost never worked.

The article also reveals a failure of the medical research community to confirm their earlier positive results:

Following up on these positive-result studies would be interesting, says Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the executive director of the Center for Open Science, who shared the study results on Twitter in a post that has been retweeted nearly 600 times. He said in an interview: "Have they all held up in subsequent research, or are they showing signs of low reproducibility?"

It appears the medical research field has forgotten this basic tenet of science: A result has to be proven by a second independent study before you can take it seriously. Instead, they would do one study, get the results they wanted, and then declare success.

The lack of success once others could see their methods suggests strongly that much of the earlier research was simply junk, not to be taken seriously.

Submission + - Russian Government Threatening To Block Reddit Over Cannabis

An anonymous reader writes: The Russian Government is threatening to block the social linking site Reddit across its country if they do not comply with removing a thread dedicated to growing cannabis. According to a post on VK.com, a site similar to Facebook in Russia, they have asked Reddit administrator to read their emails and their social media posts stating that they want /r/trees brought down which had posted an article about growing narcotic plants. Recently, Reddit changed its rules to allow illegal discussions on its site but they say that they would continue to block things such as copyrighted material.

Submission + - Banned article about Megamos Crypto chip finally gets released (www.ru.nl)

An anonymous reader writes: In 2012, three computer security researchers at Radboud University discovered weaknesses in the Megamos chip, which is widely used in immobilisers for various brands of cars. Based on responsible disclosure guidelines, the scientists informed the manufacturer immediately, and they wrote a scientific article on the topic that was accepted for publication at a prestigious digital security symposium (USENIX 2013). However, the publication never took place because in June 2013 an English court, acting at the request of Volkswagen, ruled that the article had to be withdrawn. Now, in August 2015, the controversial article that was 'banned' in 2013 is being published after all.

What went before

In 2008, Radboud scientists discovered weaknesses in the MIFARE CLASSIC chip that was used for instance in the public transport chip card for the Netherlands, the ‘OV-chipkaart’, and in London's Oyster card. At that time, the Dutch court refused to ban publication, partly because Radboud University scrupulously complies with responsible disclosure rules.
Because of this, Volkswagen took the ‘Megamos case’ to an English court in 2013. This was possible because one of the researchers had transferred to the University of Birmingham in the meantime. In June 2013, the English court issued an injuction.

Defence

Radboud University, together with the University of Birmingham, immediately challenged this English publication ban: the data about the chip that the researchers used in their study was acquired in a lawful manner. The manufacturer was also informed more than 9 months prior to the proposed publication. According to the responsible disclosure guidelines of the Dutch government, pre-publication notice of 6 months is sufficient.
The controversial article contains a scientific analysis of the level of security of the Megamos chip and is certainly not a manual for hackers. Radboud University is a strong defender of academic freedom and believes that car owners have the right to know the strengths and weaknesses of the security of their car.

Negotiation and solution

Negotiations through lawyers were unproductive for a long time. However, direct informal consultation in the autumn of 2014 in London was successful. Volkswagen finally agreed to publication, after accepting the authors' proposal to remove one sentence from the original manuscript. This single sentence contains an explicit description of a component of the calculations on the chip. The removal of this sentence makes it more difficult to reconstruct the entire algorithm for improper use, but does not affect the scientific content.

Professor Bart Jacobs, head of the Digital Security Group in Nijmegen was closely involved in the whole process. He can live with the text change, he says. “We academics have to stand up for our rights; we continue to believe that solving security problems is best served by responsibly identifying weaknesses, not by keeping them under wraps. But it is frustrating that so much time, money and effort has been wasted. This is not an incentive to report defects only to the manufacturer concerned.”

Presentation in Washington

The researchers will present their article on Wednesday 12 August at the same conference that was scheduled two years ago: the USENIX Security Symposium in Washington. The presentation concerns the following manuscript: Roel Verdult, Flavio D. Garcia and Baris Ege, Dismantling Megamos Crypto: Wirelessly Lockpicking a Vehicle Immobilizer.

Usenix Security 2015 program
https://www.usenix.org/confere...

Special Paper Presentation foreword:
https://www.usenix.org/sites/d...

Submission + - Amid agony, scientists discover world's first venomous frog (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Brazilian biologists have discovered the world’s first venomous frog the hard way. When Carlos Jared of the Butantan Institute in São Paulo, Brazil, picked up a Brazilian hylid frog—a small, lumpy, green amphibian—while doing fieldwork in a jungle in the Goytacazes National Forest near the southwest coast of Brazil, the frog raked the spines hidden within its upper lip across his hand. He dropped the frog, and excruciating pain shot up his arm for the next 5 hours. Several other species of frogs are poisonous, but until now none have been shown to be venomous—that is injecting a toxin into their host. C. greening’s venom is twice as potent as that of the deadly pit viper, the researchers report.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Do you regret upgrading to Windows 10? (betanews.com)

Mark Wilson writes: Windows 10 is now with us, and, whether you've made the move from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, there is a lot to love, but also a lot to hate. With this latest release, there is also one very big difference from previous versions of Windows: it is free of charge.

This is not only likely to encourage more people into making the move to Windows 10, but it also opens up a possibility that many people would simply not have considered before. If you decide that you don’t like Windows 10 (the OS is not without its fair share of problems, after all), you can downgrade to your previous version without ending up out of pocket. The question is, how many people will go — or have gone — down this route?

Have you downgraded, will your downgrade, or are you currently toying with the idea? If so... what needs to change to entice you back or keep you from leaving?

Submission + - Idaho Law Against Recording Abuses on Factory Farms Ruled Unconstitutional

onproton writes: An Idaho law that made it illegal to record and document animal abuse or dangerous hygienic practices in agricultural facilities, often referred to as an ‘ag-gag’ law, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge on Monday. The judge concluded that the law restricted constitutionally protected free speech, and contradicted “long-established defamation and whistleblowing statutes by punishing employees for publishing true and accurate recordings on matters of public concern.” Idaho is just one of several states to pass this type of law, which allow food production facilities to censor some unfavorable forms of speech at their convenience. Under the Idaho statute, an employee that witnessed and recorded an incident, even if it depicted true and life-threatening health or safety violations, could be faced with a year in jail and fines of up to “twice the economic loss the owner suffers.” In his ruling, the judge stated that this was “precisely the type of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect.” This decision has raised questions about the constitutionality of these types of laws in other states as well, and it’s likely that there will be more legal battles ahead.

Submission + - Black Boys Were Cut Out of a 2008 NSF Initiative to Get Them in the CS Pipeline

theodp writes: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, reports Politico, are flying to Silicon Valley next week to press the nation’s biggest tech companies to hire more African-American workers — a sign that the industry’s well-documented diversity problems are starting to generate new political heat in Washington. So perhaps they should know that back in 2008, the National Science Foundation's Broadening Participation in Computing program kicked off its million-dollar New Image For Computing (NIC) initiative, which was supposed to tackle tech's racial diversity problems. "The WGBH Educational Foundation together with the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and dozens of partners, proposes a major new initiative to reshape the image of computing among college-bound high school students, with a special focus on Latina girls and African-American boys," read the abstract. But that didn't last long. An interim report bearing the names of the NIC Leadership — including representatives of the NSF, ACM, Microsoft, Intel, NCWIT, Sun, and major U.S. universities — explained that getting black boys in the computer science pipeline was no longer Job #1. "Although the NIC initiative was originally designed to create messages that target college-bound high school students, especially African American males and Hispanic girls," explained the report, "our research shows little racial/ethnic differentiation in young people’s attitudes toward computer science. It does show, however, a significant gender gap. Because of this, the NIC initiative is shifting its focus and will initially concentrate on girls as a special target audience." According to a follow-up Wired story, the NSF money originally earmarked for African-American boys instead helped bring the world Dot Diva, a girls-only website that also received funding from Google, which was launched at a 2010 Microsoft-hosted event (video). And four years later, it was deja-vu-all-over-again, as Google used some of the $90 million it's earmarked for getting girls in the CS pipeline to bring the world Made With Code, a girls-only website, which was launched at a glitzy 2014 Google event (video).

Submission + - Amazon Announces New Car Show Featuring the Old Top Gear Presenters (gizmodo.com)

mknewman writes: Amazon has announced that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will be reuniting to create “an all-new car show” that will be exclusively on Amazon Prime.

The new show will be produced by the old-time Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman and is scheduled to go into production “shortly.” It will apparently appear on screens in 2016. For what it’s worth, Jeremy Clarkson has said that the move makes him “feel like I’ve climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship.”

Submission + - Could the Slashdot community take control of Slashdot? 10

turp182 writes: This is intended to be an idea generation story for how the community itself could purchase and then control Slashdot. If this happened I believe a lot of former users would at least come and take a look, and some of them would participate again.

This is not about improving the site, only about aquiring the site.

First, here's what we know:
1. DHI (Dice) paid $20 million for Slashdot, SourceForce, and Freecode, purchased from Geeknet back in 2012:
    http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/...
2. Slashdot has an Alexa Global Rank of 1,689, obtaining actual traffic numbers require money to see:
    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/...
3. According to Quantcast, Slashdot has over 250,000 unique monthly views:
    https://www.quantcast.com/slas...
4. Per an Arstechnia article, Slashdot Media (Slashdot and Sourceforge) had 2015Q2 revenues of $1.7 million and have expected full year revenues of $15-$16 million (which doesn't make sense given the quarterly number):
    http://arstechnica.com/informa...

Next, things we don't know:
0. Is Slashdot viable without a corporate owner? (the only question that matters)
1. What would DHI (Dice) sell Slashdot for? Would they split it from Sourceforge?
2. What are the hosting and equipment costs?
3. What are the personnel costs (editors, advertising saleforce, etc.)?
4. What other expenses does the site incur (legal for example)?
5. What is Slashdot's portion of the revenue of Slashdot Media?

These questions would need to be answered in order to valuate the site. Getting that info and performing the valuation would require expensive professional services.

What are possible ways we could proceed?

In my opinion, a non-profit organization would be the best route.

Finally, the hard part: Funding. Here are some ideas.

1. Benefactor(s) — It would be very nice to have people with some wealth that could help.
2. Crowdfunding/Kickstarter — I would contribute to such an effort I think a lot of Slashdotters would contribute. I think this would need to be a part of the funding rather than all of it.
3. Grants and Corporate Donations — Slashdot has a wide and varied membership and audience. We regularly see post from people that work at Google, Apple, and Microsoft. And at universities. We are developers (like me), scientists, experts, and also ordinary (also like me). A revived Slashdot could be a corporate cause in the world of tax deductions for companies.
4. ????
5. Profit!

Oh, the last thing: Is this even a relevant conversation?

I can't say. I think timing is the problem, with generating funds and access to financial information (probably won't get this without the funds) being the most critical barriers. Someone will buy the site, we're inside the top 2,000 global sites per info above.

The best solution, I believe, is to find a large corporate "sponsor" willing to help with the initial purchase and to be the recipient of any crowd sourcing funds to help repay them. The key is the site would have to have autonomy as a separate organization. They could have prime advertising space (so we should focus on IBM...) with the goal would be to repay the sponsor in full over time (no interest please?).

The second best is seeking a combination of "legal pledges" from companies/schools/organizations combined with crowdsourcing. This could get access to the necessary financials.

Also problematic, from a time perspective, a group of people would need to be formed to handle organization (managing fundraising/crowdsourcing) and interations with DHI (Dice). All volunteer for sure.

Is this even a relevant conversation? I say it is, I actually love Slashdot; it offers fun, entertaining, and enlightning conversation (I browse above the sewer), and I find the article selection interesting (this gyrates, but I still check a lot).

And to finish, the most critical question: Is Slashdot financially viable as an independent organization?

Submission + - Twitter censors plagiarized tweets that repeat copyrighted joke (betanews.com)

Mark Wilson writes: Can a joke be copyrighted? Twitter seems to think so. As spotted by Twitter account Plagiarism is Bad a number of tweets that repeat a particular joke are being hidden from view. The tweets have not been deleted as such, but their text has been replaced with a link to Twitter's Copyright and DMCA policy.

The joke in question? "Saw someone spill their high end juice cleanse all over the sidewalk and now I know god is on my side." Perform a search for the text and, while you will find several tweeted instances of it available at the moment, there are many examples of tweets that have been censored.

Submission + - Giving Doctors Grades Has Backfired

HughPickens.com writes: Beginning in the early 1990s a quality-improvement program began in New York State and has since spread to many other states where report cards were issued to improve cardiac surgery by tracking surgical outcomes, sharing the results with hospitals and the public, and when necessary, placing surgeons or surgical programs on probation. But Sandeep Jauhar writes in the NYT that the report cards have backfired. "They often penalized surgeons, like the senior surgeon at my hospital, who were aggressive about treating very sick patients and thus incurred higher mortality rates," says Jauhar. "When the statistics were publicized, some talented surgeons with higher-than-expected mortality statistics lost their operating privileges, while others, whose risk aversion had earned them lower-than-predicted rates, used the report cards to promote their services in advertisements."

Surveys of cardiac surgeons in The New England Journal of Medicine have confirmed that reports like the Consumer Guide to Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery have limited credibility among cardiovascular specialists, little influence on referral recommendations and may introduce a barrier to care for severely ill patients. According to Jauhar, there is little evidence that the public — as opposed to state agencies and hospitals — pays much attention to surgical report cards anyway. A recent survey found that only 6 percent of patients used such information in making medical decisions. "Surgical report cards are a classic example of how a well-meaning program in medicine can have unintended consequences," concludes Jauhar. "It would appear that doctors, not patients, are the ones focused on doctors’ grades — and their focus is distorted and blurry at best."

Submission + - OPM hack included fingerprints (nationaljournal.com)

schwit1 writes: The Office of Personnel Management announced last week that the personal data for 21.5 million people had been stolen. But for national security professionals and cybersecurity experts, the more troubling issue is the theft of 1.1 million fingerprints.

Much of their concern rests with the permanent nature of fingerprints and the uncertainty about just how the hackers intend to use them. Unlike a Social Security number, address, or password, fingerprints cannot be changedâ"once they are hacked, they're hacked for good. And government officials have less understanding about what adversaries could do or want to do with fingerprints, a knowledge gap that undergirds just how frightening many view the mass lifting of them from OPM.

"It's probably the biggest counterintelligence threat in my lifetime," said Jim Penrose, former chief of the Operational Discovery Center at the National Security Agency and now an executive vice president at the cybersecurity company Darktrace. "There's no situation we've had like this before, the compromise of our fingerprints. And it doesn't have any easy remedy or fix in the world of intelligence."

Slashdot Top Deals

"If you don't want your dog to have bad breath, do what I do: Pour a little Lavoris in the toilet." -- Comedian Jay Leno

Working...