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Programming

It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-the-heat,-it's-the-humidity dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Software engineers understand the pace of writing code, but frequently managers don't. One line of code might take 1 minute, and another line of code might take 1 day. But generally, everything averages out, and hitting your goals is more a function of properly setting your goals than of coding quickly or slowly. Sprint.ly, a company than analyzes productivity, has published some data to back this up. The amount of time actually developing a feature was a small and relatively consistent portion of its lifetime as a work ticket. The massively variable part of the process is when "stakeholders are figuring out specs and prioritizing work." The top disrupting influences (as experienced devs will recognize) are unclear and changing requirements. Another big cause of slowdowns is interrupting development work on one task to work on a second one. The article encourages managers to let devs contribute to the process and say "No" if the specs are too vague. Is there anything you'd add to this list?
AI

Google Announces Image Recognition Advance 28

Posted by timothy
from the what-does-a-grue-look-like? dept.
Rambo Tribble writes Using machine learning techniques, Google claims to have produced software that can better produce natural-language descriptions of images. This has ramifications for uses such as better image search and for better describing the images for the blind. As the Google people put it, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it's the words that are the most useful ..."
Privacy

Amnesty International Releases Tool To Combat Government Spyware 92

Posted by timothy
from the doing-the-right-thing dept.
New submitter Gordon_Shure_DOT_com writes Human rights charity Amnesty International has released Detekt, a tool that finds and removes known government spyware programs. Describing the free software as the first of its kind, Amnesty commissioned the tool from prominent German computer security researcher and open source advocate Claudio Guarnieri, aka 'nex'. While acknowledging that the only sure way to prevent government surveillance of huge dragnets of individuals is legislation, Marek Marczynski of Amnesty nevertheless called the tool (downloadable here) a useful countermeasure versus spooks. According to the app's instructions, it operates similarly to popular malware or virus removal suites, though systems must be disconnected from the Internet prior to it scanning.
Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: Workaday Software For BSD On the Desktop? 237

Posted by timothy
from the clever-little-devil dept.
An anonymous reader writes So for a variety of reasons (some related to recent events, some ongoing for a while) I've kinda soured on Linux and have been looking at giving BSD a shot on the desktop. I've been a Gentoo user for many years and am reasonably comfortable diving into stuff, so I don't anticipate user friendliness being a show stopper. I suspect it's more likely something I currently do will have poor support in the BSD world. I have of course been doing some reading and will probably just give it a try at some point regardless, but I was curious what experience and advice other slashdot users could share. There's been many bold comments on slashdot about moving away from Linux, so I suspect I'm not the only one asking these questions. Use-case wise, my list of must haves is: Minecraft, and probably more dubiously, FTB; mplayer or equivalent (very much prefer mplayer as it's what I've used forever); VirtualBox or something equivalent; Firefox (like mplayer, it's just what I've always used, and while I would consider alternatives, that would definitely be a negative); Flash (I hate it, but browsing the web sans-flash is still a pain); OpenRA (this is the one I anticipate giving me the most trouble, but playing it is somewhat of an obsession).

Stuff that would be nice but I can live without: Full disk encryption; Openbox / XFCE (It's what I use now and would like to keep using, but I could probably switch to something else without too much grief); jackd/rakarrack or something equivalent (currently use my computer as a cheap guitar amp/effects stack); Qt (toolkit of choice for my own stuff).
What's the most painless way to transition to BSD for this constellation of uses, and which variety of BSD would you suggest?
Advertising

Apple Swaps "Get" Button For "Free" To Avoid Confusion Over In-App Purchases 98

Posted by timothy
from the for-the-low-low-price dept.
New submitter lazarus (2879) writes Apple is falling in line with the European Commission's request that app sellers do more to stop inadvertent in-app purchases. Following Google's lead, Cupertino has removed all instances of the word "free" within its iOS and Mac app stores (with the exception of its own apps, like iMovie), and replaced them with the term "Get." The new label clarifies what users can expect when downloading an app. Apps previously labeled as "Free" will now have a "Get" label. If those apps include in-app purchases, a small gray "In-App Purchase" label will appear below the "Get" button.
United States

US Intelligence Unit Launches $50k Speech Recognition Competition 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the unseen-mechanized-ear dept.
coondoggie writes The $50,000 challenge comes from researchers at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The competition, known as Automatic Speech recognition in Reverberant Environments (ASpIRE), hopes to get the industry, universities or other researchers to build automatic speech recognition technology that can handle a variety of acoustic environments and recording scenarios on natural conversational speech.
The Courts

Court Shuts Down Alleged $120M Tech Support Scam 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the shutting-it-down dept.
wiredmikey writes A federal court has temporarily shut down and frozen the assets of two telemarketing operations accused by the FTC of scamming customers out of more than $120 million by deceptively marketing computer software and tech support services. According to complaints filed by the FTC, since at least 2012, the defendants used software designed to trick consumers into believing there were problems with their computers and then hit them with sales pitches for tech support products and services to fix their machines.

According to the FTC, the scams began with computer software that claimed to improve the security or performance of the customer's computer. Typically, consumers downloaded a free, trial version of the software that would run a computer system scan. The scan always identified numerous errors, whether they existed or not. Consumers were then told that in order to fix the problems they had to purchase the paid version of the software for between $29 and $49. In order to activate the software after the purchase, consumers were then directed to call a toll-free number and connected to telemarketers who tried to sell them unneeded computer repair services and software, according to the FTC complaint. The services could cost as much as $500, the FTC stated.
Software

The Software Big Oil's PR Firm Uses To "Convert Average Citizens" 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the made-just-for-you dept.
merbs writes The CEO of the world's largest PR firm has a policy when it comes to campaigns that focus on the environment. "We do not work with astroturf groups and we have never created a website for a client with the intent to deny climate change," Richard Edelman wrote in a blog post in August. That may actually turn out to be true. Technically. Edelman may not work with astroturf groups. Instead, it appears to prefer to build them itself, from the ground up, using sophisticated proprietary software platform designed to "convert" advocates and then "track" their behavior.
Robotics

Halting Problem Proves That Lethal Robots Cannot Correctly Decide To Kill Humans 313

Posted by Soulskill
from the guess-we're-back-to-coinflips dept.
KentuckyFC writes: The halting problem is to determine whether an arbitrary computer program, once started, will ever finish running or whether it will continue forever. In 1936, Alan Turing famously showed that there is no general algorithm that can solve this problem. Now a group of computer scientists and ethicists have used the halting problem to tackle the question of how a weaponized robot could decide to kill a human. Their trick is to reformulate the problem in algorithmic terms by considering an evil computer programmer who writes a piece of software on which human lives depend.

The question is whether the software is entirely benign or whether it can ever operate in a way that ends up killing people. In general, a robot could never decide the answer to this question. As a result, autonomous robots should never be designed to kill or harm humans, say the authors, even though various lethal autonomous robots are already available. One curious corollary is that if the human brain is a Turing machine, then humans can never decide this issue either, a point that the authors deliberately steer well clear of.
Handhelds

Jolla Crowdfunds Its First Tablet 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the pitching-in-for-portable-tux dept.
SmartAboutThings writes: Jolla is another rising star in the tech world, having recently expanded its smartphone sales into more countries across the globe. Jolla's Sailfish OS is based on the Linux kernel, and considered by many to be a direct successor to Nokia and Intel's MeeGo and the N9 mobile phone. Its software is based on the open-sourced components of MeeGo. Now, the company is ready to start production of its first tablet. They're crowdfunding it, and they blew past their $380,000 goal in about two hours.

The tablet has a 7.9-inch screen with a resolution of 2048 x 1536. It's powered by a 1.8GHz 64-bit quad-core Intel processor, comes with a 32GB of storage, an SD card slot, 2GB of RAM and a 5MP rear camera. Judging by its size, we can see this will rival the iPad Mini the new Nokia N1. While there aren't too many Sailfish-specific apps available, as with the phone, Jolla's tablet will be compatible with Android apps.
Portables

Nokia's N1 Android Tablet Is Actually a Foxconn Tablet 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-build-a-tablet-when-you-could-not-build-a-tablet dept.
sfcrazy writes: "Nokia surprised everyone when it announced the N1 Android tablet during the Slush conference in Finland, today. This story has a twist, though: the N1 is not a Nokia device. Nokia doesn't have a device unit anymore: it sold its Devices and Services business to Microsoft in 2013. The N1 is made by Taiwanese contract manufacturing company Foxconn, which also manufactures the iPhone and the iPad.

But Nokia's relationship with Foxconn is different from Apple's. You buy iDevices from Apple, not Foxconn; you call Apple for support, not Foxconn. You never deal with Foxconn. In the case of N1, Foxconn will be handling the sales, distribution, and customer care for the device. Nokia is licensing the brand, the industrial design, the Z Launcher software layer, and the IP on a running royalty basis to Foxconn.
Software

HTML5: It's Already Everywhere, Even In Mobile 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-behind-you-right-now! dept.
electronic convict writes: Tom Dale has never been shy, and in a Q&A with Matt Asay on ReadWrite, the EmberJS co-founder and JavaScript evangelist makes the outspoken claim that open Web technologies are already everywhere, even in native mobile apps, and that it's only a matter of time before they catch up to "all the capabilities of a native, proprietary platform." Take that, Web-is-dead doomsayers.

Dale has plenty more to say, calling Google an "adolescent behemoth" that's belatedly embracing open-Web technologies in mobile, lauding Apple's Nitro JS engine and belittling the idea that Web apps have to look and feel the same as native apps for the open Web to triumph. His bottom line: "[I]t's not hard to see that the future of the Web on mobile is a happy one."
Businesses

The New-ish Technologies That Will Alter Your Career 66

Posted by samzenpus
from the job-of-the-future dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Over at Dice, there's a discussion of the technologies that could actually alter how you work (and what you work on) over the next few years, including 3D printing, embedded systems, and evolving Web APIs. Granted, predicting the future with any accuracy is a nigh-impossible feat, and a lot of nascent technologies come with an accompanying amount of hype. But given how these listed technologies have actually been around in one form or another for years, and don't seem to be fading away, it seems likely that they'll prove an increasing factor in how we live and work over the next decade and beyond. For those who have no interest in mastering aspects of the so-called "Internet of Things," or other tech on this list, never fear: if the past two decades have taught us anything, it's that lots of old hardware and software never truly goes away, either (hi, mainframes!).
AI

A Worm's Mind In a Lego Body 200

Posted by timothy
from the with-very-few-exceptions-is-not-a-worm dept.
mikejuk writes The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped, and one of the founders of the OpenWorm project, Timothy Busbice, has taken the connectome and implemented an object oriented neuron program. The neurons communicate by sending UDP packets across the network. The software works with sensors and effectors provided by a simple LEGO robot. The sensors are sampled every 100ms. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired as the worm's nose. If anything comes within 20cm of the 'nose' then UDP packets are sent to the sensory neurons in the network. The motor neurons are wired up to the left and right motors of the robot. It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward. The key point is that there was no programming or learning involved to create the behaviors. The connectome of the worm was mapped and implemented as a software system and the behaviors emerge. Is the robot a C. elegans in a different body or is it something quite new? Is it alive? These are questions for philosophers, but it does suggest that the ghost in the machine is just the machine. The important question is does it scale?
Open Source

Open Source Self-Healing Software For Virtual Machines 50

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-can-go-go-wrong dept.
An anonymous reader writes Computer scientists have developed Linux based software that not only detects and eradicates never-before-seen viruses and other malware, but also automatically repairs damage caused by them. If a virus or attack stops the service, A3 could repair it in minutes without having to take the servers down. The software then prevents the invader from ever infecting the computer again. "It's pretty cool when you can pick the Bug of the Week and it works." (Here's a paper with more details.)
Communications

New Trial Brings Skype to (Some) Browsers 54

Posted by timothy
from the video-chat-not-yet-standard-browser-feature dept.
Ars Technica reports that Microsoft has begun giving some users a taste of a new version of Skype, with a big difference compared to previous ones: the new one (tested by users on an invitation basis) is browser based. Rather than using the existing WebRTC standard, though (eschewed as too complex), Microsoft has developed a separate spec called ORTC (Object RTC), which is designed to offer similar capabilities but without mandating this same call setup system. Both Microsoft and Google are contributing to this spec, as are representatives from companies with video conferencing, telephony, and related products. ORTC isn't currently blessed as a W3C project, though the ORTC group has proposed integrating ORTC into WebRTC to create WebRTC 1.1 and including parts of ORTC into WebRTC 1.0. For now at least, video or audio chat therefore requires a plug-in, and requires Internet Explorer 10, or recent Firefox or Chrome browsers, and a current Safari on Mac OS X. Also at TechCrunch, among others, which notes that text chat (though as mentioned, not video or audio) will work with the new Skype under ChromeOS, too.
Books

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

Posted by timothy
from the your-codename-is-jonah dept.
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.
Operating Systems

FreeBSD 10.1 Released 119

Posted by timothy
from the longstanding-contributions dept.
An anonymous reader writes Version 10.1 of the venerable FreeBSD operating system has been released. The new version of FreeBSD offers support for booting from UEFI, automated generation of OpenSSH keys, ZFS performance improvements, updated (and more secure) versions of OpenSSH and OpenSSL and hypervisor enhancements. FreeBSD 10.1 is an extended support release and will be supported through until January 1, 2017. Adds reader aojensen: As this is the second release of the stable/10 branch, it focuses on improving the stability and security of the 10.0-RELEASE, but also introduces a set of new features including: vt(4) a new console driver, support for FreeBSD/i386 guests on the bhyve hypervisor, support for SMP on armv6 kernels, UEFI boot support for amd64 architectures, support for the UDP-Lite protocol (RFC 3828) support on both IPv4 and IPv6, and much more. For a complete list of changes and new features, the release notes are also available.
China

Ask Slashdot: Is Non-USB Flash Direct From China Safe? 178

Posted by timothy
from the ask-all-its-previous-partners dept.
Dishwasha (125561) writes I recently purchased a couple 128GB MicroSDXC card from a Chinese supplier via Alibaba at 1/5th the price of what is available in the US. I will be putting one in my phone and another in my laptop. A few days after purchased, it occurred to me there may be a potential risk with non-USB flash devices similar to USB firmware issues. Does anybody know if there are any known firmware issues with SD or other non-USB flash cards that could effectively allow a foreign seller/distributor to place malicious software on my Android phone or laptop simply on insertion of the device with autoplay turned off?
Communications

81% of Tor Users Can Be De-anonymized By Analysing Router Information 136

Posted by timothy
from the keep-him-on-the-line dept.
An anonymous reader writes A former researcher at Columbia University's Network Security Lab has conducted research since 2008 indicating that traffic flow software included in network routers, notably Cisco's 'Netflow' package, can be exploited to deanonymize 81.4% of Tor clients. Professor Sambuddho Chakravarty, currently researching Network Anonymity and Privacy at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, uses a technique which injects a repeating traffic pattern into the TCP connection associated with an exit node, and then compares subsequent aberrations in network timing with the traffic flow records generated by Netflow (or equivalent packages from other router manufacturers) to individuate the 'victim' client. In laboratory conditions the success rate of this traffic analysis attack is 100%, with network noise and variations reducing efficiency to 81% in a live Tor environment. Chakravarty says: 'it is not even essential to be a global adversary to launch such traffic analysis attacks. A powerful, yet non- global adversary could use traffic analysis methods [] to determine the various relays participating in a Tor circuit and directly monitor the traffic entering the entry node of the victim connection.'

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington

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