theodp writes "In his first term, President Obama was a big booster of indie bookstores. But on Tuesday, the President chose to deliver his speech on Jobs for the Middle Class at one of Amazon's controversial fulfillment centers in Chattanooga, TN. 'Amazon is a great example of what's possible,' said Obama, who also toured the 'amazing facility' where workers can make $10.50-$11.50 an hour as an employee of Integrity Staffing Group, 'may also be eligible for medical and dental benefits', and 'must be able to stand/walk for up to 10-12 hours' in temperatures that 'will occasionally exceed 90 degrees.' So, are '21st century migrant workers' the new middle class?"
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theodp writes "In the movie Groundhog Day, a weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again. It's a tale to which software-designers-of-a-certain-age can relate. Like Philip Greenspun, who wrote in 1999, 'One of the most painful things in our culture is to watch other people repeat earlier mistakes. We're not fond of Bill Gates, but it still hurts to see Microsoft struggle with problems that IBM solved in the 1960s.' Or Dave Winer, who recently observed, 'We marvel that the runtime environment of the web browser can do things that we had working 25 years ago on the Mac.' And then there's Scott Locklin, who argues in a new essay that one of the problems with modern computer technology is that programmers don't learn from the great masters. 'There is such a thing as a Beethoven or Mozart of software design,' Locklin writes. 'Modern programmers seem more familiar with Lady Gaga. It's not just a matter of taste and an appreciation for genius. It's a matter of forgetting important things.' Hey, maybe it's hard to learn from computer history when people don't acknowledge the existence of someone old enough to have lived it, as panelists reportedly did at an event held by Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us last Friday!"
benrothke writes "SlideShareis a free web 2.0 based slide hosting service where users can upload presentation-based files. Launched in October 2006, it's considered to be similar to YouTube, but for slideshows. It was originally meant to be used for businesses to share slides among employees more easily, but it has since expanded to also become a host of a large number of slides which are uploaded merely to entertain. SlideShare gets an estimated 58 million unique visitors a month and has about 16 million registered users. With such a strong user base, authors Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer write in Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business how SlideShare users can use the site (including other similar collaborative sites such as Prezi and Scribd) to present their story to a worldwide audience. Given that visual presentations are the new language of business, understanding how to maximize their potential can be a valuable asset for the entrepreneur, job seeker and everyone in between." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
An anonymous reader writes "We are teaching an introductory class in computer science for high school students. We have the technical aspects of the course covered, there is a lot of information on the internet on designing that aspect of the class. We also want to cover some aspects of how computers affect society, privacy, expectations, digital divide etc. We were suggested Blown to Bits, which covers a lot of this but I'm not sure high school students are really going to enjoy it or even take away the right implications ... any recommendations for anything else ? Movies, Fiction, Non-Fiction Books and any other media are all welcome. Students are expected to read no more than 200 pages (that's all the time they have)."
At a press conference dubbed "Breakfast With Sundar," Google announced two new pieces of hardware and a minor revision to Android. Complete stories and commentary are still coming in, but in the mean time you can skim a liveblog or two First is the new Nexus 7. The hardware is slightly improved (full HD screen, better graphics, etc.). The specs managed to "leak" hours before the event through Best Buy opening preordering too early. On the software side, they've announced a minor revision to Android, 4.3. It features improved Bluetooth support (including Bluetooth 4.0), OpenGL ES 3.0, enhanced internationalization, enhanced DRM, and multi-user support. The multi-user support looks most exciting: now you can share a tablet with more than one person. One of the features Google focused on was restricted profiles: a device owner can create accounts that e.g. cannot make in-app purchases (Junior won't rack up a $3000 bill again). Bad news: Google is implementing stricter DRM for books and video, locking down the entire video stack. The consolation prize is that Netflix will work on more devices and at 1080p. Also demoed were a new version of Chrome that brings the tablet experience closer to the desktop, improved hangouts, and improved maps. Google also appears to be making a push into gaming, emphasizing tablet-only games that integrate into Google+. In addition to gaming, they have secured deals with five major textbook publishers to sell students presumably DRMed electronic textbooks that can be purchased or rented, enhanced with better search and highlighting (because PDF readers don't support those features already). As usual lately, all of the really nice additions to Android are proprietary and tied to Google services, further eroding the open nature of Android. Finally, they announced a tiny $35 dongle named Chromecast that appears to be the successor of the Nexus Q. Running Chrome OS, it connects to any HDMI port, finds your Wi-Fi network, and Just Works (tm) for online video. The online and mobile Youtube and Netflix interfaces will allow you to hit a single button and forward the video to your television as well. Google Music streaming to the television is also supported. The Chromecast looks like a handy little device, hopefully it is turns out it can be reflashed. Of course, when using your browser as a remote, all of the commands go through The Cloud. An SDK and more details on the software side of things are slated for release later today, although conspiciously absent on their supported platforms list is GNU/Linux, listing only Chrome OS and Android. Update: 07/24 18:01 GMT by U L : The Chromecast SDK is out, but with an awfully restrictive license that requires written permission from Google to distribute any cast enabled applications, which appears to make it completely incompatible with Free/Open Source software.
Attila Dimedici writes "In a new Rasmussen poll, 75% of American adults would rather read a book in traditional print format than in an ebook format. Only 15% prefer the ebook format (the other 10% are undecided). The latter is a drop from the 23% that preferred the ebook format in Rasmussen's 2011 poll. In addition, more say they buy their books from a brick and mortar store than say they buy books online (35% from brick and mortar, 27% online). I suspect that the 27% who buy online buy more books, but these results are interesting and suggest that the brick and mortar bookstore is not necessarily doomed."
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton proposes a new use for online, anonymous voting: helping sort skill from luck in the cheek-by-jowl world of best-selling (and would-be best-selling) authors: "J.K. Rowling recently confirmed that she was the author of a book she had published under a pseudonym, which spiked in sales after she was outed as the true author. Perhaps she was doing an experiment to see how much luck had played a role in propelling her to worldwide success, and whether she could recreate anything close to that success when starting from scratch. But a better way to answer that question would be to strike a deal with an amateur-fiction-hosting site and use the random-sample-voting algorithm that I've written so much about, to test how her writing stacks up against other writers in the same genre." Read on for more. Update: 07/20 01:23 GMT by T : Note: An editorial goof (mine) swapped out the word "confirmed" for "revealed" (above) in an earlier rendering of this story.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Just to address one thing straight away: one of your favorite science fiction stories dealing, whether directly or indirectly, with surveillance is bound to be left off this list. And 1984's a given, so it's not here. At any rate, the following books deal in their own unique way with surveillance. Some address the surveillance head-on, while others speculate on inter-personal intelligence gathering, or consider the subject in more oblique ways. Still others distill surveillance down to its essence: as just one face of a much larger, all-encompassing system of control, that proceeds from the top of the pyramid down to its base."
An anonymous reader writes "I have deep experience programming in many languages, and I've some exposure to SQL through PostgreSQL. My math goes so far as trig and algebra, with a little statistics. So far, I've learned enough to be dangerous: mostly via other people's code, experimenting, the PostgreSQL docs, etc. I've been successful using the DB in various ways, but I know I am missing a great deal (and probably doing it wrong, at that.) When DB articles come up on Slashdot, I don't recognize a good deal of the terminology. What is the best way for a technical person to learn SQL/DB work using PostgreSQL? Books? Tutorials? I should mention I don't have local access to a university or people with DB knowledge; have to do this on my own, so books or the Internet are pretty much my options."
First time accepted submitter jasax writes "As an Amazon frequent buyer, I rely quite a lot on reviews of the books I want. However, some caution is in order: the (bad) quality of Amazon's reviews and reviewers under the Amazon Vine program has already been news in Slashdot. Today I was shocked by a practical result of that program. This second edition (published in 2012) of a very specialized system identification book has 12 reviews: the oldest (dated 2007) certainly targets the first edition. The remaining 11 reviews are all from 'Vine Reviewers' (VRs). All seem to be ignorant of what 'System Identification in the Frequency Domain' really is. None of the reviews is tagged with a 'Verified Amazon Purchase'; most (if not all) are 'small talk reviews' peppered with technical phrases cloning the publisher's book description, and some of the reviews are ridiculous, to say the least. If this sample of reviewing by VRs really is the norm, then the bottom line is that the Vine program is totally irrelevant and unreliable — at least for technical books."
benrothke writes "Every organization has external software, hardware and 3rd-party vendors they have to deal with. In many cases, these vendors will have direct access to the corporate networks, confidential and proprietary data and more. Often the software and hardware solutions are critical to the infrastructure and security of the organization. If the vendors don't have effective information security and privacy controls in place, your data is at risk. In addition, when selecting a product to secure your organization, how do you ensure that you are selecting the correct product? All of this is critical in the event of a breach. When the lawyers start circling, they will be serving subpoenas to your company, not your 3rd-party vendors." Keep reading for Ben's review.
Despite many publishers themselves settling with the DOJ over allegations of price fixing ebooks, Apple held firm and recently went to trial. And now the verdict is in: Apple conspired with major publishers to control ebook prices in violation of anti-trust laws. A trial for damages has been ordered. Quoting Reuters: "The decision by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan is a victory for the U.S. government and various states, which the judge said are entitled to injunctive relief. ... Cote said the conspiracy resulted in prices for some e-books rising to $12.99 or $14.99, when Amazon had sold for $9.99. 'The plaintiffs have shown that the publisher defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy,' Cote said. 'Without Apple's orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the spring of 2010,' she added." Update: 07/10 16:36 GMT by U L : The ruling is now available (160 page PDF).
interval1066 writes "A story in Wired describes Orson Scott Card's quest for tolerance in response to a boycott for Gavin Hood's film adaption of Ender's Game, saying that 'The gay marriage issue is moot' in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. Card is a long time anti-gay and defense of marriage activist. 'His concern, ostensibly, is that someone might be petty enough not to see his movie simply because he spent years lobbying for laws that treated certain people as less than human. The fallacy he employs here — that calling out hate-speech is intolerance on par with curtailing the human rights of others — is a favorite fallback of cowards and bullies, and a way of evading responsibility for the impact of their words and actions.' I guess he didn't see this film and the box-office importance of wide appeal coming, did he?"
Michael Ross writes "As a hugely popular scripting language with an 18-year history, PHP has been the topic of countless computer language books. One of the most comprehensive offerings has been Programming PHP, published by O'Reilly Media. The first edition appeared in March 2002, and was written by Rasmus Lerdorf (the original developer of PHP) and Kevin Tatroe. A second edition was released in May 2006, and saw the addition of another co-author, Peter MacIntyre. With the many changes to the language during the past seven years, the book has again been updated, to cover all of the major new features made available in version 5 of PHP." Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.
An anonymous reader writes "As physical book stores continue to struggle and disappear, the NY Times puts the changing book industry into perspective as a cost of the existence of Amazon. Further, it's a cost that hasn't been fully paid, as other effects of Amazon's ascendancy have yet to be felt. Quoting: 'One consequence of this shift is that soon no one will know what a book's "real" price is. Price will be determined by demand and perhaps by whim. The first seeds of this can be seen in the Justice Department's suit against the leading publishers, who felt that Amazon was pricing their e-books so low that it threatened their viability. The government accused the publishers of colluding to raise prices in an anti-consumer move. Amazon was not a party to the case, but it emerged the big winner.' Economists, publishers, and readers no longer have confidence that a book will cost the same amount this week as it did the last."
An anonymous reader writes "A new study of books and music for sale on Amazon shows how copyright makes works disappear. The research is described in the abstract: 'A random sample of new books for sale on Amazon.com shows three times more books initially published in the 1850's are for sale than new books from the 1950's. Why? A sample of 2300 new books for sale on Amazon.com is analyzed along with a random sample of 2000 songs available on new DVDs. Copyright status correlates highly with absence from the Amazon shelf. Second, the availability on YouTube of songs that reached number one on the U.S., French, and Brazilian pop charts from 1930-60 is analyzed in terms of the identity of the uploader, type of upload, number of views, date of upload, and monetization status. An analysis of the data demonstrates that the DMCA safe harbor system as applied to YouTube helps maintain some level of access to old songs by allowing those possessing copies (primarily infringers) to communicate relatively costlessly with copyright owners to satisfy the market of potential listeners.'"
In Paul Theroux's dystopian novel O-Zone, wearing masks in public is simply a fact of life, because of the network of cameras that covers the inhabited parts of earth. Earthquake Retrofit writes with a story at the New York Times describing a life-imitating-art reaction to the perception (and reality) that cameras are watching more of your life than you might prefer: clothing that obscures your electronic presence. "[Adam Harvey] exhibited a number of his stealth-wear designs and prototypes in an art show this year in London. His work includes a series of hoodies and cloaks that use reflective, metallic fabric — like the kind used in protective gear for firefighters — that he has repurposed to reduce a person’s thermal footprint. In theory, this limits one’s visibility to aerial surveillance vehicles employing heat-imaging cameras to track people on the ground. He also developed a purse with extra-bright LEDs that can be activated when someone is taking unwanted pictures; the effect is to reduce an intrusive photograph to a washed-out blur. In addition, he created a guide for hairstyling and makeup application that might keep a camera from recognizing the person beneath the elaborate get-up. The technique is called CV Dazzle — a riff on 'computer vision' and 'dazzle,' a type of camouflage used during World War II to make it hard to detect the size and shape of warships."
lpress writes "The Los Angeles Unified School District will spend $30 million over the next two years on iPads for 30,000 students. Coverage of the announcement has focused on Apple winning over other tablets, but that is not the key point. The top three proposals each included an app to deliver Pearson's K-12 Common Core System of Courses along with other third-party educational apps. The Common Core curriculum is not yet established, but many states are committed to it, starting next year. The new tablets and the new commitment to the Common Core curriculum will arrive around the same time, and busy faculty (and those hired to train them) will adopt the Pearson material. The tablets will be obsolete in a few years and the hardware platform may change, but lock-in to Pearson's default curriculum may last for generations."
tripleevenfall sends in a story at Yahoo Finance forecasting the end of Barnes & Noble. Quoting: "The last nationwide book retailer may be writing its final chapter. Barnes & Noble's latest quarterly results show a 7.4% drop in revenues and a $122 million loss for the fourth-quarter of its fiscal year. B&N's disastrous focus on making Nook e-Readers is weighing heavily on the chain's operations. A 17% drop in Nook revenues and stunning $475 million loss for the device division in 2013 are hobbling the company's ability to keep its stores afloat. B&N appears to be cannibalizing itself with branded tablets and cross-platform e-reader applications, which render the stores increasingly irrelevant."