Open Source

Building Hospitable Open Source Communities (Video) 109

Posted by Roblimo
from the the-tirades-will-continue-until-morale-improves dept.
This is an 11 minute excerpt from an hour-long video, contributed by long-time Slashdot user Erik Möller. This video is the moving picture equivalent of the typical Slashdot summary of a text article, complete with a link to the main article, which in this case is a video (over an hour long) at Erik's interviewee, Sumana Harihareswara, is also a long-time Slashdot reader who claims (admits?) that she met her husband through a Slashdot link, albeit indirectly. She's spent most of the past decade working with open source, much of it as a community leader. If you are in a leadership role in an open source community or plan to lead one someday, you may want to listen to the complete interview. Sumana has many useful things to say about how open source communities should -- and shouldn't -- be run.
United Kingdom

British Politicians Delete Negative Wikipedia Descriptions Before Election 117

Posted by timothy
from the war-on-the-ground dept.
EwanPalmer writes: The Wikipedia pages of dozens of UK politicians had references to sex scandals, fraud and opposition to same sex marriage removed in the run up to the UK general election. Dozens of MPs had negative aspects of their online biographies removed or altered prior to the election in a bid to make them more electable. The changes include several instances of MPs' expense claim scandals being removed, as well as details of arrests and the use of 'chauffeur-driven cars.' The edits were made using computers with IP addresses registered from inside Parliament.

Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed? 385

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-in-it-for-me? dept. writes: Richard Horton writes that a recent symposium on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research discussed one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with science (PDF), one of our greatest human creations. The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. According to Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a United Kingdom-based medical journal, the apparent endemicity of bad research behavior is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world or retrofit hypotheses to fit their data.

Can bad scientific practices be fixed? Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivized to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivized to be productive and innovative. Tony Weidberg says that the particle physics community now invests great effort into intensive checking and rechecking of data prior to publication following several high-profile errors. By filtering results through independent working groups, physicists are encouraged to criticize. Good criticism is rewarded. The goal is a reliable result, and the incentives for scientists are aligned around this goal. "The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously," says Horton. "The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system."

Large Amount of Star Citizen Art Assets Leaked 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the pre-pre-release dept.
jones_supa writes: A huge batch of work-in-progress assets for Star Citizen have leaked to the public. An unknown person, likely connected with Cloud Imperium Games in some way, provided a link to the 48 gigabytes of content. The link has now been taken down, but as we know, it's hard to remove material from Internet after once put there. Being a CryEngine game, it has been suggested that it might be possible to view some of the assets using CryEngine development tools. Leaks are always quite the conundrum with the opportunities they present to curious fans and competitor companies, but can also be very depressing for the developers and publisher of the game.

Sex-Switched Mosquitoes May Help In Fight Against Diseases 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-girls-allowed dept.
cstacy writes: Only the female mosquitoes bite and transmit viral diseases such as Dengue Fever. Scientists have finally discovered the elusive genetic switch called Nix, that determines the sex of these blood sucking insects, and hope to selectively eliminate females to control the spread of diseases. "Nix provides us with exciting opportunities to harness mosquito sex in the fight against infectious diseases because maleness is the ultimate disease-refractory trait," explained Zhijian Jake Tu, an affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute and a biochemistry professor from Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Largest Eruption In the Known Universe Is ~100 Times the Size of Milky Way 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-boom dept.
StartsWithABang writes: At the center of almost every galaxy is a supermassive black hole (SMBH); at the center of almost every cluster is a supermassive galaxy with some of the largest SMBHs in the Universe. And every once in a while, a galactocentric black hole will become active, emitting tremendous amounts of radiation out into the Universe as it devours matter. This radiation can cut across the spectrum, from the X-ray down to the radio. At the heart of MS 0735.6+7421, there's a >10^10 solar mass black hole that appears to have been active for hundreds of millions of years, something unheard of!

Tech Bubble? What Tech Bubble? 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the shiny-bubbles dept. writes: Conor Dougherty writes in the NYT that the tech industry's venture capitalists — the financiers who bet on companies when they are little more than an idea — are going out of their way to avoid the one word that could describe what is happening around them: Bubble. "I guess it is a scary word because in some sense no one wants it to stop," says Tomasz Tunguz. "And so if you utter it, do you pop it?" In 2000, tech stocks crashed, venture capital dried up and many young companies were vaporized. Today, people see shades of 2000 in the enormous valuations assigned to private companies like Uber, with a valuation of $41 billion, and Slack, the corporate messaging service that is about a year old and valued at $2.8 billion in its latest funding round. A few years ago private companies worth more than $1 billion were rare enough that venture capitalists called them "unicorns." Today, there are 107 unicorns and while nobody doubts that many of tech's unicorns are indeed real businesses, valuations are inflating, leading some people to worry that investment decisions are being guided by something venture capitalists call FOMO — the fear of missing out.

With interest rates at historic lows, excess capital causes investment bubbles. The result is too much money chasing too few great deals. Unfortunately, overcapitalizing startups with easy money results in superfluous spending and dangerously high burn rates and investors are happy to admit that this torrid pace of investment has started to worry them. "Do I think companies are overvalued as a whole? No," says Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. "Do I think too much money can kill good companies? Yes. And that is an important difference."

San Bernardino Sheriff Has Used Stingray Over 300 Times With No Warrant 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After a records request by Ars, the sheriff in San Bernardino County (SBSD) sent an example of a template for a "pen register and trap and trace order" application. The county attorneys claim what they sent was a warrant application template, even though it is not. The application cites no legal authority on which to base the request. "This is astonishing because it suggests the absence of legal authorization (because if there were clear legal authorization you can bet the government would be citing it)," Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, told Ars. "Alternatively, it might suggest that the government just doesn't care about legal authorization. Either interpretation is profoundly troubling," he added. Further documents reveal that the agency has used a Stingray 303 times between January 1, 2014 and May 7, 2015.

Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear 101

Posted by timothy
from the teddy-ruxpin-pinned-it-on-the-one-armed-man dept. writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils."

The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."

25 Years Today - Windows 3.0 386

Posted by timothy
from the hindsight-is-warm-and-fuzzy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Windows 3.0 was launched on 22 May 1990 — I know, 'coz I was there as a SDE on the team. I still have, um, several of the shrink-wrapped boxes of the product — with either 3.5 inch and 5.25 floppies rattling around inside them — complete with their distinctive 'I witnessed the event' sticker!

It was a big deal for me, and I still consider Win 3 as *the* most significant Windows' release, and I wonder what other Slashdotters think, looking back on Win 3?

A Conversation with Druva Co-Founder Jaspreet Singh (Video) 39

Posted by Roblimo
from the doo-wop-is-now-de-dupe dept.
This was originally going to be an interview about the state of enterprise-level backup software in an increasingly edge computing-focused world, but we rapidly drifted into talking about how Druva started in Pune (near Bangalore) and ended up moving to Silicon Valley. We hear plenty about American software companies moving to India, but not a lot about Indian software companies moving here. Druva had good reasons for the move, the chief one being a financing deal with Sequoia Capital. Aside from that, though, Jaspreet says the talent pool -- not just developers but software marketing people and other important staffers -- is more concentrated in Silicon Valley than almost anywhere else in the world. 'It's like Hollywood for geeks,' Jaspreet says. This doesn't mean business is necessarily easy in the USA: Jaspreet ended up laying off his entire staff. Twice. And he made other mistakes as a young, new CEO bringing a company to life in a crowded field.

Those mistakes, which Jaspreet shares freely with us, are like a business school 'Start-Up Pitfalls' class. You may never want to do your own startup, but if you're a developer or otherwise involved with the software industry, there's a good chance that you'll have a chance to work for one at some point. And if you have that chance, you'll be glad you watched this video (or read the transcript) before you take the startup plunge.

New Class of "Non-Joulian" Magnets Change Volume In Magnetic Field 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the polarizing-research dept.
Zothecula notes an announcement from the University of Maryland saying they have developed a new class of magnets, called "Non-Joulian" magnets, which physically expand in the presence of a magnetic field. "In the 1840s, physicist James Prescott Joule discovered that iron-based magnetic materials changed their shape but not their volume when placed in a magnetic field. This phenomenon is referred to as "Joule Magnetostriction," and since its discovery 175 years ago, all magnets have been characterized on this basis." Another significant property of these new magnets is that they can harvest or convert energy with very little waste heat (abstract). The magnets are created when thermally-treated, iron-based alloys are heated in a furnace, then rapidly cooled. When they reach room temperature, they have an odd, almost cellular shape on the microscopic level. The researchers say the magnets have numerous applications for energy-efficient sensors and actuators.

'Logjam' Vulnerability Threatens Encrypted Connections 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-day-another-vulnerability dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A team of security researchers has revealed a new encryption vulnerability called 'Logjam,' which is the result of a flaw in the TLS protocol used to create encrypted connections. It affects servers supporting the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, and it's caused by export restrictions mandated by the U.S. government during the Clinton administration. "Attackers with the ability to monitor the connection between an end user and a Diffie-Hellman-enabled server that supports the export cipher can inject a special payload into the traffic that downgrades encrypted connections to use extremely weak 512-bit key material. Using precomputed data prepared ahead of time, the attackers can then deduce the encryption key negotiated between the two parties."

Internet Explorer is the only browser yet updated to block such an attack — patches for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are expected soon. The researchers add, "Breaking the single, most common 1024-bit prime used by web servers would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to 18% of the Top 1 Million HTTPS domains. A second prime would allow passive decryption of connections to 66% of VPN servers and 26% of SSH servers. A close reading of published NSA leaks shows that the agency's attacks on VPNs are consistent with having achieved such a break." Here is their full technical report (PDF).

US Levels Espionage Charges Against 6 Chinese Nationals 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the coveting-our-baconnaise-technology dept.
Taco Cowboy writes: The U.S. government has indicted five Chinese citizens and arrested a Chinese professor on charges of economic espionage. The government alleges that they took jobs at two small, American chipmakers — Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions — in order to steal microelectronics designs. "All of them worked, the indictment contends, to steal trade secrets for a type of chip popularly known as a “filter” that is used for acoustics in mobile telephones, among other purposes. They took the technology back to Tianjin University, created a joint venture company with the university to produce the chips, and soon were selling them to both the Chinese military and to commercial customers."

It's interesting to note that the Reuters article keeps mentioning how this technology — used commonly as an acoustic filter — has "military applications." It's also interesting to look at another recent case involving Shirrey Chen, a hydrologist who was mysteriously arrested on suspicion of espionage, but then abruptly cleared five months later. One can't help but wonder what's driving the U.S.'s new strategy for tackling economic espionage.
America Online

Jason Scott of Wants Your AOL & Shovelware CDs 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-kids-know-them-as-the-small-frisbees-that-shatter-so-beautifully dept.
eldavojohn writes: You've probably got a spindle in your closet, or a drawer layered with them: the CD-ROM discs that were mailed to you or delivered with some hardware that you put away "just in case." Now, of course, the case for actually using them is laughable. Well, a certain eccentric individual named Jason Scott has a fever — and the only cure is more AOL CDs. But his sickness doesn't stop there, "I also want all the CD-ROMs made by Walnut Creek CD-ROM. I want every shovelware disc that came out in the entire breadth of the CD-ROM era. I want every shareware floppy, while we're talking. I want it all. The CD-ROM era is basically finite at this point. It's over. The time when we're going to use physical media as the primary transport for most data is done done done. Sure, there's going to be distributions and use of CD-ROMs for some time to come, but the time when it all came that way and when it was in most cases the only method of distribution in the history books, now. And there were a specific amount of CD-ROMs made. There are directories and listings of many that were manufactured. I want to find those. I want to image them, and I want to put them up. I'm looking for stacks of CD-ROMs now. Stacks and stacks. AOL CDs and driver CDs and Shareware CDs and even hand-burned CDs of stuff you downloaded way back when. This is the time to strike." Who knows? His madness may end up being appreciated by younger generations!

Four Quasars Found Clustered Together Defy Current Cosmological Expectations 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-out-in-a-crowd dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Get a supermassive black hole feeding on matter, particularly on large amounts of cool, dense gas, and you're likely to get a quasar: a luminous, active galaxy emitting radiation from the radio all the way up through the X-ray. Our best understanding and observations indicate that these objects should be rare, transient, and isolated; no more than two have ever been found close together before. Until this discovery, that is, where we just found four within a million light years of one another, posing a problem for our current theories of structure formation in the Universe.
Social Networks

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Responds In Nepal 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the lending-a-hand dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about the efforts of the The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to help in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal. The team asks those living in the affected areas to help out by reporting which buildings are damaged, which are still standing, and where fissures and other quake damage is located. has a profile of their efforts which reads: Since the devastating earthquake in Nepal, there have been responses from all over the world from relief agencies, governments, non-profits, and ordinary citizens. One interesting effort has been from the crowdsourced mapping community, especially on, a free and open web map of the world that anyone can edit (think the Wikipedia of maps.) The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), an NGO that works to train, coordinate, and organize mapping on OpenStreetMap for humanitarian, disaster response, and economic development, has mobilized volunteers from around the world to help map since the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

Decoding the Enigma of Satoshi Nakamoto 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-ip-address dept. writes: For the past year Nathaniel Popper has been working on a book about the history of Bitcoin and writes in the NYT that it is hard to avoid being drawn in by the almost mystical riddle of Satoshi Nakamoto's identity. Popper has his own candidate for founder of Bitcoin, a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo. Szabo worked in a loosely organized group of digital privacy activists who over decades laid the foundation for Bitcoin and created many parts that later went into the virtual currency. Bitcoin was not a bolt out of the blue, as is sometimes assumed, but was instead built on the ideas of multiple people over several decades. Several experiments in digital cash circulated on the Cypherpunk lists in the 1990s. Adam Back, a British researcher, created an algorithm called hashcash that later became a central component of Bitcoin. Another, called b money, was designed by an intensely private computer engineer named Wei Dai.

It may be impossible to prove Satoshi's identity until the person or people behind Bitcoin's curtain decide to come forward and prove ownership of Satoshi's old electronic accounts and at this point, the creator's identity is no longer important to Bitcoin's future. Since Satoshi stopped contributing to the project in 2011, most of the open-source code has been rewritten by a group of programmers whose identities are known. According to Popper whoever it is, the real Satoshi Nakamoto has many good reasons for wanting to stay anonymous. Perhaps the most obvious is potential danger. Satoshi Nakamoto most likely collected nearly a million Bitcoins during the system's first year. Given that each Bitcoin is now worth about $240, the stash could be worth more than $200 million. That could make Satoshi a target. "With his modest clothes and unassuming manner, Mr. Szabo could be the kind of person who could have a fortune and not spend any of it," concludes Popper, "or even throw away the keys to the bank."

Baton Bob Receives $20,000 Settlement For Coerced Facebook Post 201

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-the-man dept.
McGruber writes: After arresting him during a June 2013 street performance, Atlanta Police Officers forced costumed street performer "Baton Bob" to make a pro-police statement on his Facebook page before they would allow him to be released on bond. Social media coverage of the incident triggered a six-month internal police investigation into the arrest. Atlanta Police Officer H.J. Davis was given a one-day suspension, then resigned from the Atlanta Police department a few weeks later. Atlanta Police Lt. Jeffrey Cantin received a five-day suspension for "violating responsibilities of a supervisor".

Baton Bob also filed a federal lawsuit against the city, arguing that officers made a wrongful arrest that violated, well, nearly every constitutional right you can name. Those included Jamerson's "right to free speech, his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, his right to remain silent while in custody, his right to be free from compelled speech, his right to counsel, and his right to privacy." The City of Atlanta's legal department reviewed the case and determined that a $20,000 settlement would "be in the best interest of the city" rather than fighting the claims in court.

Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission? 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-micrograms-of-nanites dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater — a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What — if any — backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?