Science

Interviews: Ask Malcolm Gladwell a Question 111

Malcolm Gladwell is a speaker, author, and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. Gladwell's writing often focuses on research in the social sciences and the unexpected connections or theories made from such research. His books: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Outliers: The Story of Success, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants are all New York Times best sellers. Malcolm has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any question you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Books

Machine-Learning Algorithm Ranks the World's Most Notable Authors 55

HughPickens.com writes: Every year the works of thousands of authors enter the public domain, but only a small percentage of these end up being widely available. So how do organizations such as Project Gutenberg choose which works to focus on? Allen Riddell has developed an algorithm that automatically generates an independent ranking of notable authors for any given year. It is then a simple task to pick the works to focus on or to spot notable omissions from the past. Riddell's approach is to look at what kind of public domain content the world has focused on in the past and then use this as a guide to find content that people are likely to focus on in the future.

Riddell's algorithm begins with the Wikipedia entries of all authors in the English language edition (PDF)—more than a million of them. His algorithm extracts information such as the article length, article age, estimated views per day, time elapsed since last revision, and so on. This produces a "public domain ranking" of all the authors that appear on Wikipedia. For example, the author Virginia Woolf has a ranking of 1,081 out of 1,011,304 while the Italian painter Giuseppe Amisani, who died in the same year as Woolf, has a ranking of 580,363. So Riddell's new ranking clearly suggests that organizations like Project Gutenberg should focus more on digitizing Woolf's work than Amisani's. Of the individuals who died in 1965 and whose work will enter the public domain next January in many parts of the world, the new algorithm picks out TS Eliot as the most highly ranked individual. Others highly ranked include Somerset Maugham, Winston Churchill, and Malcolm X.
Government

Sweden Considers Adding "Sexism" Ratings To Video Games 642

An anonymous reader writes A government-funded agency in Sweden is considering creating special labels for video games based on whether or not the games' portrayals of women are sexist. From the article: "Avoiding sexism and gender stereotypes in video games produced in Sweden will become a key goal for the association, which has been given a 272,000 kronor ($36,672) grant by Sweden's government-funded innovation agency, Vinnova. Inspired by the Bechdel test, which looks at whether fictional films or books feature at least two women talking about a topic other than men, Dataspelsbranchen will work with several game developers to analyze how Swedish video games portray female characters and gender issues.
Books

R. A. Montgomery, Creator of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" Books, Dead At 78 80

Dave Knott writes Raymond Almiran Montgomery, original publisher and author of the incredibly popular "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series for children, the 4th bestselling children's series of all time, has died at the age of 78. In 1975, Montgomery founded a small press and when, in 1977, Ed Packard submitted an innovative book for young readers, "Sugarcane Island", Montgomery immediately saw it for what it was: a role-playing game in book form. He leapt at the chance to publish it, and launched a series, writing the second book, "Journey Under The Sea", himself. When Montgomery went through a divorce and sold his stake in the press to his ex-wife, he took the series, renamed as "Choose Your Own Adventure", to Bantam. The books went on to sell more than 250 million copies across 230 titles in 40 languages. Montgomery's interests also extended to new technology, adapting the series to the Atari console in 1984. He was also responsible for the Comic Creator software on Apple's Macintosh computers. Montgomery died on November 9th. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Education

Ask Slashdot: Programming Education Resources For a Year Offline? 223

An anonymous reader writes "I will be traveling to a remote Himalayan village for year and won't have access to the internet. What offline resources would you all recommend to help me continue to develop my coding skills? I think this would be a good time to get better at fundamentals, since I won't be able to learn any new frameworks or APIs. What about other, non-programming skills to practice and learn? Any ideas?" What would you bring?
Sci-Fi

HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show 242

wired_parrot writes: Jonathan Nolan, writer of Interstellar and The Dark Knight, and producer of the TV show "Person of Interest," is teaming up with HBO to bring to screen a new series based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation series of books. This would be the first adaptation of the Hugo-award-winning series of novels to the screen.
Books

Book Review: Countdown To Zero Day 58

benrothke writes A word to describe the book Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Americas Most Wanted Computer Outlaw was hyperbole. While the general storyline from the 1996 book was accurate, filler was written that created the legend of Kevin Mitnick. This in turn makes the book a near work of historical fiction. Much has changed in nearly 20 years and Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the Worlds First Digital Weapon has certainly upped the ante for accurate computer security journalism. The book is a fascinating read and author Kim Zetters attention to detail and accuracy is superb. In the inside cover of the book, Kevin Mitnick describes this as an ambitious, comprehensive and engrossing book. The irony is not lost in that Mitnick was dogged by misrepresentations in Markoff's book. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
Australia

Amazon's Luxembourg Tax Deals 200

Presto Vivace writes in with this story of a European Commission investigation into a secret tax agreement between Amazon and Luxembourg. "Leaked tax documents from accounting firm PwC in Luxembourg show how Amazon sidesteps the 30 per cent tax rates local [Australian] players face. The Luxembourg documents, obtained in a review led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, contain some of the first hard numbers and details on how Amazon pays virtually no tax for its non-US earnings, including in Australia. Last month, the European Commission announced an investigation into the secret 2003 advance tax agreement Amazon struck with Luxembourg that is the key to its global tax strategy. The Luxembourg documents show not only the extent of the related-party transactions in Amazon's Luxembourg companies but how Amazon has changed its tax strategy after investigation by French tax authorities and the US Internal Revenue Service. The change is so dramatic it raises questions whether the European Commission is targeting the right transactions."
Books

Interviews: Ask Warren Ellis a Question 58

samzenpus writes "Warren Ellis is an acclaimed British author of comics, novels, and television who is well known for his sociocultural commentary. The movies Red and Iron Man 3 are based on his graphic novels. In addition to numerous other comic titles, he started a personal favorite, Transmetropolitan. Ellis has written for Vice, Wired UK, and Reuters on technological and cultural matters, and is co-writing a video project called Wastelanders with Joss Whedon. Warren has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post."
Books

Adobe's Digital Editions Collecting Less Data, Says EFF 32

itwbennett writes Tests on the latest version of Adobe System's e-reader software shows the company is now collecting less data following a privacy-related dustup last month, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Adobe was criticized in early October after it was discovered Digital Editions collected metadata about e-books on a device, even if the e-books did not have DRM. Those logs were also sent to Adobe in plain text. Digital Editions version 4.0.1 appears to only collect data on e-books that have DRM (Digital Rights Management), writes Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist with the EFF.
Books

Rhode Island Comic Con Oversold, Overcrowded 126

New submitter RobertJ1729 writes The Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) is in the middle of a complete meltdown as hundreds are turned away at the door or denied reentry due to the event organizers selling far more tickets than the venue can accomodate. The Providence Journal reports that "According to Providence Fire Chief David Soscia, too many people were being let in at a time and the organizers were not correctly counting them. That led to over-congested areas in the building which has a maximum capacity of 17,000 people." Meanwhile the Rhode Island Comic Con Facebook page is being flooded with comments from angry attendees describing chaos both inside and out of the convention center. RICC initially posted, "Hello RICC fans! WE ARE NOT OVERSOLD!," and promised to honor tomorrow tickets sold for today. That post generated several hundred angry comments before eventually being deleted (though it survives in part on RICC's twitter feed). Commenters are alleging that RICC is deleting negative Facebook comments. Users are tweeting at #ricomicconfail2014 to vent their frustration.
Apple

Tim Cook: "I'm Proud To Be Gay" 764

An anonymous reader writes Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly come out as gay. While he never hid his sexuality from friends, family, and close co-workers, Cook decided it was time to make it publicly known in the hopes that the information will help others who don't feel comfortable to do so. He said, "I don't consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I've benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy."

Cook added that while the U.S. has made progress in recent years toward marriage equality, there is still work to be done. "[T]here are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation."
Open Source

Slashdot Asks: Appropriate Place For Free / Open Source Software Artifacts? 46

A friend of mine who buys and sells used books, movies, etc. recently purchased a box full of software on CD, including quite a few old Linux distributions, and asked me if I'd like them. The truth is, I would like them, but I've already collected over the last two decades more than I should in the way of Linux distributions, on at least four kinds of media (starting with floppies made from a CD that accompanied a fat book on how to install some distribution or other -- very useful in the days of dialup). I've got some boxes (Debian Potato, and a few versions of Red Hat and Mandrake Linux), and an assortment of marketing knickknacks, T-shirts, posters, and books. I like these physical artifacts, and they're not dominating my life, but I'd prefer to actually give many of them to someplace where they'll be curated. (Or, if they should be tossed, tossed intelligently.) Can anyone point to a public collection of some kind that gathers physical objects associated with Free software and Open Source, and makes them available for others to examine? (I plan to give some hardware, like a pair of OLPC XO laptops, to the same Goodwill computer museum highlighted in this video, but they probably don't want an IBM-branded radio in the shape of a penguin.)
Books

Book Review: Measuring and Managing Information Risk: a FAIR Approach 46

benrothke writes It's hard to go a day without some sort of data about information security and risk. Research from firms like Gartner are accepted without question; even though they can get their results from untrusted and unvetted sources. The current panic around Ebola shows how people are ill-informed about risk. While stressing over Ebola, the media is oblivious to true public health threats like obesity, heart disease, drunk driving, diabetes, and the like. When it comes to information security, it's not that much better. With myriad statistics, surveys, data breach reports, and global analyses of the costs of data breaches, there is an overabundance of data, and an under abundance of meaningful data. In Measuring and Managing Information Risk: A FAIR Approach, authors Jack Freund and Jack Jones have written a magnificent book that will change the way (for the better) you think about and deal with IT risk. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
The Internet

The Inevitable Death of the Internet Troll 571

HughPickens.com writes James Swearingen writes at The Atlantic that the Internet can be a mean, hateful, and frightening place — especially for young women but human behavior and the limits placed on it by both law and society can change. In a Pew Research Center survey of 2,849 Internet users, one out of every four women between 18 years old and 24 years old reports having been stalked or sexually harassed online. "Like banner ads and spam bots, online harassment is still routinely treated as part of the landscape of being online," writes Swearingen adding that "we are in the early days of online harassment being taken as a serious problem, and not simply a quirk of online life." Law professor Danielle Citron draws a parallel between how sexual harassment was treated in the workplace decades ago and our current standard. "Think about in the 1960s and 1970s, what we said to women in the workplace," says Citron. "'This is just flirting.' That a sexually hostile environment was just a perk for men to enjoy, it's just what the environment is like. If you don't like it, leave and get a new job." It took years of activism, court cases, and Title VII protection to change that. "Here we are today, and sexual harassment in the workplace is not normal," said Citron. "Our norms and how we understand it are different now."

According to Swearingen, the likely solution to internet trolls will be a combination of things. The expansion of laws like the one currently on the books in California, which expands what constitutes online harassment, could help put the pressure on harassers. The upcoming Supreme Court case, Elonis v. The United States, looks to test the limits of free speech versus threatening comments on Facebook. "Can a combination of legal action, market pressure, and societal taboo work together to curb harassment?" asks Swearingen. "Too many people do too much online for things to stay the way they are."
The Almighty Buck

Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right 839

New submitter rvw sends word that Bill Gates has posted a review of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, an acclaimed book by economist Thomas Piketty about how income equality is a necessary result of unchecked capitalism. Gates, one of the most successful capitalists of our time, agrees with Piketty's most important conclusions. That said, he also finds parts of the book to be flawed and incomplete, but says Piketty has started vital debate on these issues. Gates writes, Yes, some level of inequality is built in to capitalism. As Piketty argues, it is inherent to the system. The question is, what level of inequality is acceptable? And when does inequality start doing more harm than good? That's something we should have a public discussion about, and it's great that Piketty helped advance that discussion in such a serious way. ... I agree that taxation should shift away from taxing labor. It doesn't make any sense that labor in the United States is taxed so heavily relative to capital. It will make even less sense in the coming years, as robots and other forms of automation come to perform more and more of the skills that human laborers do today. But rather than move to a progressive tax on capital, as Piketty would like, I think we'd be best off with a progressive tax on consumption.
Books

Book Review: Scaling Apache Solr 42

First time accepted submitter sobczakt writes We live in a world flooded by data and information and all realize that if we can't find what we're looking for (e.g. a specific document), there's no benefit from all these data stores. When your data sets become enormous or your systems need to process thousands of messages a second, you need to an environment that is efficient, tunable and ready for scaling. We all need well-designed search technology. A few days ago, a book called Scaling Apache Solr landed on my desk. The author, Hrishikesh Vijay Karambelkar, has written an extremely useful guide to one of the most popular open-source search platforms, Apache Solr. Solr is a full-text, standalone, Java search engine based on Lucene, another successful Apache project. For people working with Solr, like myself, this book should be on their Christmas shopping list. It's one of the best on this subject. Read below for the rest of sobczakt's review.
Books

Ask Slashdot: Best Books On the Life and Work of Nikola Tesla? 140

An anonymous reader writes The internet is full of interesting nuggets of info about Nikola Tesla's life and scientific exploits: The time a young Tesla improved an electric motor for Edison, and Edison simply would not pay Tesla the monetary reward he had promised him earlier. The friction between Tesla and wealthy industrialist J.P. Morgan, and Tesla's friendship with (kinder) industrialist George Westinghouse. The 2 different times Tesla's main laboratory burned to the ground. The time a Tesla lab experiment reportedly caused a small earthquake to trigger in lower Manhattan. Tesla's (never quite fulfilled) dream of transmitting electricity across great distances without using wires or cables, etc. All this fascinating stuff, and more, about Tesla's life is out there, mostly in shortish snippets — and sometimes woven into outright conspiracy theories — on the internet for anyone to examine. Now to my question: What are the best books to read to get a fuller picture of Nikola Tesla's life and work? Preferably something well researched and factually accurate. Are there any good documentaries or movies (apart from David Bowie playing a wizard-like Tesla in "The Prestige")? Why is Thomas Edison so well known and covered in education/popular culture, and the equally prolific and ingenious Tesla a "mysterious and ghostly figure" by comparison?
Piracy

FBI Says It Will Hire No One Who Lies About Illegal Downloading 580

wabrandsma writes with this excerpt from The State Hornet, the student newspaper at Sacramento State On Monday, Sacramento State's Career Center welcomed the FBI for an informational on its paid internship program where applications are now being accepted. One of the highly discussed topics in the presentation was the list of potential traits that disqualify applicants. This list included failure to register with selective services, illegal drug use including steroids, criminal activity, default on student loans, falsifying information on an application and illegal downloading music, movies and books. FBI employee Steve Dupre explained how the FBI will ask people during interviews how many songs, movies and books they have downloaded because the FBI considers it to be stealing. During the first two phases of interviews, everything is recorded and then turned into a report. This report is then passed along to a polygraph technician to be used during the applicant's exam, which consists of a 55-page questionnaire. If an applicant is caught lying, they can no longer apply for an FBI agent position. (Left un-explored is whether polygraph testing is an effective way to catch lies.)

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