benrothke writes "In its first week, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief was #3 on the New York Times Best Sellers list and will likely be #1 soon. The fact that the book is in print is somewhat miraculous given the voracious appetite Scientology has for litigation. It is the first time that such an expose could have been written and found such wide-scale reading. An interesting analysis of this fact is found in Why the Media Is No Longer Afraid of Scientology by Kim Masters. But as mesmerizing an expose as the book is, I doubt that this will be more than a speed bump to Scientology's growth and fund raising." Keep reading to be clear about what Ben has to say.
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The recipient of nineteen honorary doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents, Ray Kurzweil's accolades are almost too many to list. A prolific inventor, Kurzweil created the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments. His book, The Singularity Is Near, was a New York Times best seller. and is considered one of the best books about futurism and transhumanism ever written. Mr. Kurzweil was hired by Google in December as Director of Engineering to "work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing." He has agreed to take a short break from creating and predicting the future in order to answer your questions. As usual, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.
Matt Steelblade writes "I've been in love with computers since my early teens. I took out books from the library and just started messing around until I had learned QBasic, then Visual Basic 5, and how to take apart a computer. Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy (because of seminary, which I recently left). I want to get into IT work, but am not sure where to start. I have about four years experience working at a grade/high school (about 350 computers) in which I did a lot of desktop maintenance and some work on their AD and website. At college (Loyola University Chicago) I tried to get my hands on whatever computer courses I could. I ended up taking a python course, a C# course, and data structures (with python). I received either perfect scores or higher in these courses. I feel comfortable in what I know about computers, and know all too well what I don't. I think my greatest strength is in troubleshooting. With that being said, do I need more schooling? If so, should I try for an associate degree (I have easy access to a Gateway technical college) or should I go for an undergraduate degree (I think my best bet there would be UW-Madison)? If not, should I try to get certified with CompTIA, or someone else? Or, would the best bet be to try to find a job or an internship?"
jjohn writes "Wizards of the Coasts, holders of the TSR catalog, have released rulebooks and modules for most editions of Dungeons and Dragons through a partnership with DriveThruRPG.com. The web site, dndclassics.com, may be a little overloaded right now. Most module PDFs are $4.99 USD." The article points out that these are all fresh scans of the old books. It's also worth noting that the decision to make these PDFs available reverses WotC's 2009 decision to stop all PDF sales because of piracy fears. The only reference to this in the article is a quote from the D&D publishing and licensing director: "We don't want them to go to torrent sites. Why not give them a legal route?"
mynamestolen writes "In order to read paper-based books many visually impaired people want to attach a webcam to a computer and attach the computer to a TV. Some Electronic Magnifiers are purpose-built to provide a similar solution. Different organisations around the world (such as in the UK) have help pages. But I have not been able to find a guide to set up my own system. So I'm asking Slashdot readers how to go about it. What is the best camera to use if I want to hold the camera in my hand and point it at book or magazine? What parameters should I adjust, either in the software or on the camera? Depth of view, refresh rates, contrast, color balance and resolution might be key problems. My system is Linux and getting drivers for a good camera might also be a problem."
Bennett Haselton writes "Here are three hacks that I adopted in the last few weeks, each of which solved a minor problem that I had lived with for so long that I no longer thought of it as a problem — until a solution came along, which was like a small weight off my shoulders. None of these hacks will help impress anyone with your technical prowess; I'm just putting them here because they made my life easier." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
benrothke writes "In the 4th edition of A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing Technology, author Sara Baase takes a broad look at the social, legal and ethical issues around technology and their implications. Baase notes that her primary goal in writing the book is for computer professionals to understand the implications of what they create and how it fits into society. The book is an interesting analysis of a broad set of topics. Combined with Baase's superb writing skills, the book is both an excellent reference and a fascinating read." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
jones_supa writes "The classic hacker book publisher O'Reilly is releasing their book Open Government for free as a tribute for Aaron Swartz. The book asks the question, in a world where web services can make real-time data accessible to anyone, how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness? Through a collection of essays and case studies, leading visionaries and practitioners both inside and outside of government share their ideas on how to achieve and direct this emerging world of online collaboration, transparency, and participation. The files are posted on the O'Reilly Media GitHub account as PDF, Mobi, and EPUB files."
sciencehabit writes "Scientists have found that, when it comes to mental recall, people are far more likely to remember the text of idle chitchat on social media platforms like Facebook than the carefully crafted sentences of books. The team gathered 200 Facebook posts from the accounts of undergraduate research assistants, such as 'Bc sometimes it makes me wonder' and 'The library is a place to study, not to talk on your phone.' They also randomly selected 200 sentences from recently published books, gathered from free text on Amazon.com. Sentences included, 'Underneath the mass of facial hair beamed a large smile,' and 'Even honor had its limits.' Facebook posts were one-and-a-half times as memorable as the book sentences (abstract). The researchers speculate that effortless chatter is better than well-crafted sentences at tapping into our minds' basic language capacities — because human brains evolved to prioritize and remember unfiltered information from social interaction."
An anonymous reader writes "The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) has put a stop to the publication and sale of all books in its archives that support the theory of evolution, daily Radikal has reported. The books have long been listed as “out of stock” on TÜBTAK's website, but their further publication is now slated to be stopped permanently. Titles by Richard Dawkins, Alan Moorehead, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levontin and James Watson are all included in the list of books that will no longer be available to Turkish readers. In early 2009, a huge uproar occurred when the cover story of a publication by TÜBITAK was pulled, reportedly because it focused on Darwin’s theory of evolution."
CowboyRobot writes "In San Antonio, a judge and a precinct commissioner are proposing (PDF) a plan to create a library called BiblioTech that offers electronic media exclusively, offering patrons only e-readers and digital materials. 'BiblioTech intends to start with 100 e-readers that can be loaned out, 50 pre-loaded e-readers for children, 50 computer stations, 25 laptops and 25 tablets, with additional accommodations planned for the visually impaired.' But the economics have yet to be ironed out. 'A typical library branch might circulate 10,000 titles a month... To do that electronically would be cost-prohibitive — most libraries can't afford to supply that many patrons with e-reading devices at one time. And expecting library visitors to bring their own devices may be expecting too much.'"
MassDosage writes "I first heard about the Scratch programming language a few years ago and the idea of a simple language designed to teach kids to program in a fun, new way has always appealed to me. For those of you who don't know, Scratch was developed by the wonderfully named "Lifelong Kindergarten Group" at the MIT Media Lab. It's a programming language that allows programs to be built by dragging, dropping, configuring and combining various blocks that represent common coding concepts such as if/else statements and while loops. Scratch also provides tools for doing simple animation, playing audio and controlling sprites. The idea behind it is to make programming simple, fun and accessible to first time programmers so they can understand the key concepts without first needing to learn complex syntax which can come later when they move on from Scratch to other languages. It has been very successful and there are literally millions of Scratch programs freely available from the Scratch website and many others." Read below for the rest of Mass Dosage's review.
eldavojohn writes "I kickstarted a project undertaken by Daniel Shiffman to write a book on what (at the time) seemed to be a very large knowledge space. What resulted is a good book (amazing by CC-BY-NC standards) available in both PDF and HTML versions. In addition to the book he maintains the source code for creating the book and of course the book examples. The Nature of Code starts off swimmingly but remains front heavy with a mere thirty five pages devoted to the final chapter on neural networks. This is an excellent book for Java and Processing developers that want to break into simulation and modeling of well, anything. It probably isn't a must-have title for very seasoned developers (unless you've never done simulation and modeling) but at zero cost why not?" Read below for the rest of eldavojohn's review.
Qedward writes "Software developed by the FBI and Ernst & Young has revealed the most common words used in email conversations among employees engaged in corporate fraud. The software, which was developed using the knowledge gained from real life corporate fraud investigations, pinpoints and tracks common fraud phrases like 'cover up,' write off,' 'failed investment,' 'off the books,' 'nobody will find out' and 'grey area'. Expressions such as 'special fees' and 'friendly payments' are most common in bribery cases, while fears of getting caught are shown in phrases such as 'no inspection' and 'do not volunteer information.'"
New submitter razor88x writes "Although just 16% of Americans have purchased an e-book to date, the growth rate in sales of digital books is already dropping sharply. At the same time, sales of dedicated e-readers actually shrank in 2012, as people bought tablets instead. Meanwhile, printed books continue to be preferred over e-books by a wide majority of U.S. book readers. In his blog post Will Gutenberg Laugh Last?, writer Nicholas Carr draws on these statistics and others to argue that, contrary to predictions, printed books may continue to be the book's dominant form. 'We may be discovering,' he writes, 'that e-books are well suited to some types of books (like genre fiction) but not well suited to other types (like nonfiction and literary fiction) and are well suited to certain reading situations (plane trips) but less well suited to others (lying on the couch at home). The e-book may turn out to be more a complement to the printed book, as audiobooks have long been, rather than an outright substitute.'"