Books

Former Slashdot Contributor Jon Katz Believes He Can Talk To Animals (amazon.com) 168

Long-time Slashdot reader destinyland got a surprise when he visited his local bookstore: Jon Katz turns 70 this August, and he's published a new book called Talking to Animals: How You Can Understand Animals and They Can Understand You. Katz was a former newspaper reporter (and a contributing editor to Rolling Stone) who wrote for HotWired, the first online presence for Wired magazine in the mid-1990s, before becoming a controversial contributor to Slashdot during the site's early days. Katz left Manhattan in the 1990s to live on a farm "surrounded by dogs, cats, sheep, horses, cows, goats, and chickens," according to the book's description, an experience he writes about on his blog. His new book promises that Katz now "marshals his experience to offer us a deeper insight into animals and the tools needed for effectively communicating with them."
Education

University of Missouri To Use Open Source And Other Cheaper Alternatives For General Education Textbook (columbiatribune.com) 58

Rudi Keller, writing for Columbia Tribune: The University of Missouri will move quickly to use open source and other cheaper alternatives for general education textbooks, building on initiatives already in place, system President Mun Choi said. At an event with members of the Board of Curators, administrators, lawmakers, faculty from all four campuses and student representatives, Choi said the intent is to save money for students while providing up-to-date materials. Faculty, including graduate assistants, will be eligible for incentive payments of $1,000 to $10,000 for preparing and adopting materials that save students money, Choi said. Textbooks are sometimes overlooked as a contributor to the cost of attending college, Choi said. "We want to provide our students an opportunity to have a low cost, high-quality alternative," Choi said.
The Courts

Offensive Trademarks Must Be Allowed, Rules Supreme Court (arstechnica.com) 252

In a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases in future, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a ruling involving a band called The Slants. From a report: The opinion in Matal v. Tam means that Simon Tam, lead singer of an Asian-American rock band called "The Slants," will be able to trademark the name of his band. It's also relevant for a high-profile case involving the Washington Redskins, who were involved in litigation and at risk of being stripped of their trademark. The court unanimously held that a law on the books holding that a trademark can't "disparage... or bring... into contemp[t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead," violates the First Amendment. Tam headed to federal court years ago after he was unable to obtain a trademark. In 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in Tam's favor, finding that the so-called "disparagement clause" of trademark law was unconstitutional.
AI

Facebook Built an AI System That Learned To Lie To Get What It Wants (qz.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Humans are natural negotiators. We arrange dozens of tiny little details throughout our day to produce a desired outcome: What time a meeting should start, when you can take time off work, or how many cookies you can take from the cookie jar. Machines typically don't share that affinity, but new research from Facebook's AI research lab might offer a starting point to change that. The new system learned to negotiate from looking at each side of 5,808 human conversations, setting the groundwork for bots that could schedule meetings or get you the best deal online. Facebook researchers used a game to help the bot learn how to haggle over books, hats, and basketballs. Each object had a point value, and they needed to be split between each bot negotiator via text. From the human conversations (gathered via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and testing its skills against itself, the AI system didn't only learn how to state its demands, but negotiation tactics as well -- specifically, lying. Instead of outright saying what it wanted, sometimes the AI would feign interest in a worthless object, only to later concede it for something that it really wanted. Facebook isn't sure whether it learned from the human hagglers or whether it stumbled upon the trick accidentally, but either way when the tactic worked, it was rewarded.
Movies

What Are Some Documentaries and TV Shows That You Recommend To Others? 278

Reader joshtops writes: Wow thanks for the overwhelming response on my previous post. I'm taking notes and intend to give all of the suggested books a go in the near future. If I may, and I hope the editors approve of this, could you also list some of your favorite TV shows and documentaries? Also, is there any show or documentary you think that changed or influenced your life, or at least your perception on any particular subject?
Government

Edward Snowden On Trump Administration's Recent Arrest of an Alleged Journalistic Source (freedom.press) 342

Snowden writes: Winner is accused of serving as a journalistic source for a leading American news outlet about a matter of critical public importance. For this act, she has been charged with violating the Espionage Act -- a World War I era law meant for spies -- which explicitly forbids the jury from hearing why the defendant acted, and bars them from deciding whether the outcome was to the public's benefit. This often-condemned law provides no space to distinguish the extraordinary disclosure of inappropriately classified information in the public interest -- whistleblowing -- from the malicious disclosure of secrets to foreign governments by those motivated by a specific intent to harm to their countrymen. The prosecution of any journalistic source without due consideration by the jury as to the harm or benefit of the journalistic activity is a fundamental threat to the free press. As long as a law like this remains on the books in a country that values fair trials, it must be resisted. No matter one's opinions on the propriety of the charges against her, we should all agree Winner should be released on bail pending trial. Even if you take all the government allegations as true, it's clear she is neither a threat to public safety nor a flight risk. To hold a citizen incommunicado and indefinitely while awaiting trial for the alleged crime of serving as a journalistic source should outrage us all.
Programming

Jean Sammet, Co-Designer of COBOL, Dies at 89 (nytimes.com) 73

theodp writes: A NY Times obituary reports that early software engineer and co-designer of COBOL Jean Sammet died on May 20 in Maryland at age 89. "Sammet was a graduate student in math when she first encountered a computer in 1949 at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign," the Times reports. While Grace Hopper is often called the "mother of COBOL," Hopper "was not one of the six people, including Sammet, who designed the language -- a fact Sammet rarely failed to point out... 'I yield to no one in my admiration for Grace,' she said. 'But she was not the mother, creator or developer of COBOL.'"
By 1960 the Pentagon had announced it wouldn't buy computers unless they ran COBOL, inadvertently creating an industry standard. COBOL "really was very good at handling formatted data," Brian Kernighan, tells the Times, which reports that today "More than 200 billion lines of COBOL code are now in use and an estimated 2 billion lines are added or changed each year, according to IBM Research."

Sammet was entirely self-taught, and in an interview two months ago shared a story about how her supervisor in 1955 had asked if she wanted to become a computer programmer. "What's a programmer?" she asked. He replied, "I don't know, but I know we need one." Within five years she'd become the section head of MOBIDIC Programming at Sylvania Electric Products, and had helped design COBOL -- before moving on to IBM, where she worked for the next 27 years and created the FORTRAN-based computer algebra system FORMAC.
Books

JRR Tolkien Book 'Beren and Luthien' Published After 100 Years (bbc.com) 94

seoras quotes a report from BBC: A new book by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is going on sale -- 100 years after it was first conceived. Beren and Luthien has been described as a "very personal story" that the Oxford professor thought up after returning from the Battle of the Somme. It was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and contains versions of a tale that became part of The Silmarillion. The book features illustrations by Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his work on Peter Jackson's film trilogy. It is being published on Thursday by HarperCollins on the 10th anniversary of the last Middle Earth book, The Children of Hurin.
Books

Technology Is Making the World More Unequal; Only Technology Can Fix This (theguardian.com) 145

mspohr shares an excerpt from an article written by Cory Doctorow via The Guardian: The inequality of badly-run or corrupt states is boosted by the power of technology -- but it's also easier than ever to destabilize these states, thanks to technology. The question is: which future will prevail?" [The article discusses two sides to the issue:] Here's the bad news: technology -- specifically, surveillance technology -- makes it easier to police disaffected populations, and that gives badly run, corrupt states enough stability to get themselves into real trouble. Here's the good news: technology -- specifically, networked technology -- makes it easier for opposition movements to form and mobilize, even under conditions of surveillance, and to topple badly run, corrupt states. Long before the internet radically transformed the way we organize ourselves, theorists were predicting we'd use computers to achieve ambitious goals without traditional hierarchies -- but it was a rare pundit who predicted that the first really successful example of this would be an operating system (GNU/Linux), and then an encyclopedia (Wikipedia). [Cory also has a new novel, Walkaway , which explores these ideas further.] The future will see a monotonic increase in the ambitions that loose-knit groups can achieve. My new novel, Walkaway, tries to signpost a territory in our future in which the catastrophes of the super-rich are transformed into something like triumphs by bohemian, anti-authoritarian "walkaways" who build housing and space programs the way we make encyclopedias today: substituting (sometimes acrimonious) discussion and (sometimes vulnerable) networks for submission to the authority of the ruling elites.
Books

Creative Commons Staff Members Release New Free eBook (creativecommons.org) 27

ChristianVillum writes: Creative Commons staff-members Sarah Hinchliff Pearson and Paul Stacey have now published Made With Creative Commons, the awaited book they successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2015. "Made With Creative Commons is a book about sharing," explains the book's description. "It is about sharing textbooks, music, data, art, and more. People, organizations, and businesses all over the world are sharing their work using Creative Commons licenses because they want to encourage the public to reuse their works, to copy them, to modify them... But if they are giving their work away to the public for free, how do they make money?

"This is the question this book sets out to answer. There are 24 in-depth examples of different ways to sustain what you do when you share your work. And there are lessons, about how to make money but also about what sharing really looks like -- why we do it and what it can bring to the economy and the world. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share."

There's free versions in PDF, ePub, and MOBI formats for downloading from the Creative Commons site, and there's also an edit-able version on Google Docs. A small Danish non-profit publisher named Ctrl+Alt+Delete Books is also publishing print copies of the book under a Creative Commons license "to ensure easy sharing," and is making the book available on Amazon or through the publisher's own web site.
Books

Amazon Brings Its Physical Bookstore To New York (usatoday.com) 36

Amazon's first New York City bookstore, Amazon Books, will open to the general public on Thursday morning, marking Amazon's highest-profile move into bricks-and-mortar retail to date. Even as the book shop is a physical bookstore, some "Amazon" elements can be felt. From a report: While some may be excited that this is an "Amazon Store," similar to Apple and Microsoft's respective flagship stores located just blocks away, Amazon says its goal for the new store is the same as it was when the online retail giant first started two decades ago: To sell books. "We have this 20 years of information about books and ratings, and we have millions and millions of customers who are passionate," said Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books. "It really is a different way to surface great books." The 4,000 square-foot-store features roughly 3,000 books, all with their covers facing out in order to better to "communicate their own essence," Cast says. The company's recommendation system makes a physical appearance in the bookstore through an "if you like this" section, which combines the data Amazon gathers on the books listed with human curators to recommend new books. To someone who walks in to browse, it feels like a high-tech Barnes and Noble.
Android

Amazon Refreshes Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Tablets (betanews.com) 28

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Amazon's tablets have needed a refresh for a while now, and today it happened. The company announced two newly updated models -- the Fire 7 ($49) and the Fire HD 8 ($79). They both feature Alexa support, of course, and are designed for a quality experience with all types of media, such as movies, music, and books. The 7-inch has a 1024 x 600 resolution, while the 8-inch variant has 1280 x 800. Best of all, they are extremely affordable. At these insanely low prices, you might expect anemic performance, but both come with a respectable Quad-core 1.3 GHz processor. The Fire 7 has 1GB of RAM, while the HD 8 has 1.5GB. Regardless of which model you select, you will also get both front and rear cameras. The low cost might make you think they will be cheaply made, but Amazon claims they are more durable than Apple's newest iPad.
Data Storage

HPE Unveils The Machine, a Single-Memory Computer Capable of Addressing 160 Terabytes (venturebeat.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced what it is calling a big breakthrough -- creating a prototype of a computer with a single bank of memory that can process enormous amounts of information. The computer, known as The Machine, is a custom-built device made for the era of big data. HPE said it has created the world's largest single-memory computer. The R&D program is the largest in the history of HPE, the former enterprise division of HP that split apart from the consumer-focused division. If the project works, it could be transformative for society. But it is no small effort, as it could require a whole new kind of software. The prototype unveiled today contains 160 terabytes (TB) of memory, capable of simultaneously working with the data held in every book in the Library of Congress five times over -- or approximately 160 million books. It has never been possible to hold and manipulate whole data sets of this size in a single-memory system, and this is just a glimpse of the immense potential of Memory-Driven Computing, HPE said. Based on the current prototype, HPE expects the architecture could easily scale to an exabyte-scale single-memory system and, beyond that, to a nearly limitless pool of memory -- 4,096 yottabytes. For context, that is 250,000 times the entire digital universe today.
Books

Today is 'Free Comic Book Day' (npr.org) 31

An anonymous reader writes: "Walk into a comic shop this Saturday, May 6, and you'll get some free comic books," reports NPR. "You can find your closest shop by typing your ZIP code into the Comics Shop Locator on the Free Comic Book Day page... While you're there, buy something... The comics shops still have to pay for the 'free' FCBD books they stock, and they're counting on the increased foot traffic to lift sales."

There's many familiar characters among the 50 free titles this year, according to Gizmodo. Marvel's free comics are a Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in by Brian Michael Bendis and a Secret Empire prequel, "which has seen Steve Rogers transform from a patriotic superhero to the fascist leader of an invasive Hydra force that has taken over the U.S." Meanwhile, D.C. Comics will re-release "the excellent second issue of the current Wonder Woman Rebirth series," and there's also comics based on Rick & Morty, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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