Privacy

Info on 1.8M Chicago Voters Was Publicly Accessible, But Now Removed From Cloud Service (chicagotribune.com) 26

A file containing the names, addresses, dates of birth and other information about Chicago's 1.8 million registered voters was published online and publicly accessible for an unknown period of time, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said this week. From a report: The acknowledgment came days after a data security researcher alerted officials to the existence of the unsecured files. The researcher found the files while conducting a search of items uploaded to Amazon Web Services, a cloud system that allows users to rent storage space and share files with certain people or the general public. The files had been uploaded by Election Systems & Software, a contractor that helps maintain Chicago's electronic poll books. Election Systems said in a statement that the files "did not include any ballot information or vote totals and were not in any way connected to Chicago's voting or tabulation systems." The company said it had "promptly secured" the files on Saturday evening and had launched "a full investigation, with the assistance of a third-party firm, to perform thorough forensic analyses of the AWS server." State and local officials were notified of the existence of the files Saturday by cybersecurity expert Chris Vickery, who works at the Mountain View, Calif. firm UpGuard.
The Internet

I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and None of the Links Worked (vice.com) 180

An anonymous reader shares a report (condensed for space and clarity): For crate-diggers of all stripes, the internet is awesome for one reason: The crate never ends. There's always something new to find online, because people keep creating new things to throw into that crate. But that crate has a hole at the bottom. Stuff is falling out just as quickly, and pieces of history that would stick around in meatspace disappear in an instant online. So as a result, there aren't a lot of websites from 1995 that made it through to the present day. Gopher sites? Odds are low. Text files? Perhaps. The endless pace of linkrot has left books about the internet in a curious limbo -- they're dead trees about the dead-tree killer, after all. [...] Recently, I bought a book -- a reference book, the kind that you can still pick up at Barnes and Noble today. The book, titled Free $tuff From the Internet (Coriolis Group Books, 1994), promises to help you find free content online. And, crucially, it focuses less on the web, which was still quite young, than on many of the alternative protocols of the era. This book links to FTP sites, telnet servers, and Gopher destinations, and I've tried many of them in an effort to figure out whether something, anything in this book works in the present day. These FTP servers were often based at universities which have a vested interest in keeping information online for a long-term period -- think the University of North Carolina, or Kansas State University. But despite this, I could not get most of these servers to load -- they were long ago murdered by the World Wide Web.
Books

The 2017 Hugo Awards (thehugoawards.org) 180

Dave Knott writes: The Hugo Awards, the most prestigious awards in science fiction, had their 2017 ceremony today, at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.
The winners are:

Best Novel: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Best Novella: "Every Heart a Doorway" by Seanan McGuire
Best Novelette: "The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon
Best Short Story: "Seasons of Glass and Iron", by Amal El-Mohtar
Best Related Work: Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K Le Guin
Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening , written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Arrival , screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes , written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough
Best Series: The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Ada Palmer

This year's slate of nominees, unlike the drama surrounding the 2016 and 2015 Hugos, was less impacted by the ballot-stuffing tactics of the "Rabid Puppies", thanks to a change in the way nominees were voted for this year (including the fact no work could appear in more than one category) in an attempt to avoid tactical slate picks.

Biotech

How Apple Is Putting Voices In Users' Heads -- Literally (wired.com) 91

schwit1 shared WIRED's report on "a life-changing technology." Steven Levy spoke with Mathias Bahnmueller as he tested a new Apple sound processor that beams digital audio directly into hearing aids. Bahnmueller suffers from hearing loss so severe that a year ago he underwent surgery to install a cochlear implant -- an electronic device in the inner ear that replaces the usual hearing mechanism. Around a million patients have undergone this increasingly mainstream form of treatment, and that's just a fraction of those who could benefit from it. (Of the 360 million people worldwide with hearing loss, about 10 percent would qualify for the surgery.) "For those who reach a point where hearing aids no longer help, this is the only solution," says Allison Biever, an audiologist in Englewood, CO who works with implant patients. "It's like restoring a signal in a radio station."

Cochlear implants bypass the usual hearing process by embedding a device in the inner ear and connecting it via electrodes to the nerve that sends audio signals to the brain... The system Bahnmueller was using came from a collaboration between Apple and Cochlear, a company that has been involved with implant technology since the treatment's early days. The firms announced last week that the first product based on this approach, Cochlear's Nucleus 7 sound processor, won FDA approval in June -- the first time that the agency has approved such a link between cochlear implants and phones or tablets. Those using the system can not only get phone calls directly routed inside their skulls, but also stream music, podcasts, audio books, movie soundtracks, and even Siri -- all straight to the implant... Apple will offer the technology free to qualified manufacturers.

Google's accessibility team for Android has no public timeline for any similar hearing aid support, though according to the article it's "on the roadmap."
Facebook

The Chiefs of Facebook, Google and Other Tech Giants Aren't Committing To Testify To the US Congress On Net Neutrality (recode.net) 46

Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix -- along with their telecom industry foes -- have not committed to sending their chief executives to testify before the U.S. Congress in September on the future of net neutrality. From a report: Not a single one of those companies told the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is convening the hearing, that they would send their leaders to Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks, even at a time when the Trump administration is preparing to kill the open internet rules currently on the government's books. The panel initially asked those four tech giants, as well as AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon, to indicate their plans for attendance by July 31. Now, the committee is pushing back its deadline indefinitely, as it continues its quest to engage the country's tech and telecom business leaders on net neutrality. "The committee has been engaging in productive conversations with all parties and will extend the deadline for response in order to allow for those discussions to continue," a spokesman said.
Books

United Airlines Claims TSA Banned Comic Books In Checked Luggage For Comic-Con, TSA Denies It (boardingarea.com) 107

schwit1 shares a report: San Diego Comic-Con has become so much more than just a comic book convention. But comic books remain the heart and soul of Comic-Con. In addition to attendees being there to buy comic books, vendors flock to Comic-Con to sell their comic books as well. That's why participants in Comic-Con were shocked to find a notice waiting for them at the San Diego airport after Comic-Con: "COMIC-CON ATTENDEES: REMOVE ALL BOOKS FROM CHECKED BAGS." On Twitter, United Airlines confirmed the ban: "The restriction on checking comic books applies to all airlines operating out of San Diego this weekend and is set by the TSA. ^MD" Consumerist reached out to TSA and were told by a spokeswoman that the warnings about not allowing comic books -- or any kind of book -- in checked bags were simply not true. There is "no restriction on anything related to putting comics or any type of books" in baggage, and TSA never put out any guidance to that effect, she said. "In fact, they are allowed in both checked and carry-on baggage," the spokeswoman told Consumerist, adding that there were no delays in the processing of checked bags out of San Diego yesterday.
Education

'In the Knowledge Economy, We Need a Netflix of Education' (techcrunch.com) 144

An anonymous reader shares a report: When we want to acquire useful knowledge, we have to search the web broadly, find experts by word-of-mouth and troll through various poorly designed internal document sharing systems. This method is inefficient. There should be a better solution that helps users find what they need. Such a solution would adapt to the user's needs and learn how to make ongoing customized recommendations and suggestions through a truly interactive and impactful learning experience. Before Netflix, Spotify, Reddit and similar curated content apps, you had to go to numerous sources to find the shows, music, news and other media you wished to view. Now, the entertainment and media you actually want to consume is easily discoverable and personalized to your interests. In many ways the entertainment model is a good framework for knowledge management and learning development applications. The solution for the learning and development industry would be a platform that can make education more accessible and relevant -- something that allows us to absorb and spread knowledge seamlessly. Just as Netflix delivers entertainment we want at our fingertips, the knowledge and learning we need should be delivered where and when we need it.
The Courts

Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle $80 Million 'Hobbit' Lawsuit (hollywoodreporter.com) 71

Five years later and it appears Warner Bros. and the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien have settled their lawsuit over the digital exploitation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. "The Tolkien Estate and book publisher HarperCollins filed a $80 million lawsuit in 2012 alleging that Warners, its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. infringed copyright and breached contract by overstepping their authority," reports Hollywood Reporter. "The plaintiffs claimed that a decades-old rights agreement entitled the studio to create only 'tangible' merchandise based on the books, not other digital exploitations that the estate called highly offensive." From the report: The lawsuit brought the two sides into a new battle. Previously, New Line and the Tolkien Estate had fought over profit participation, coming to a deal in 2009 pegged as being worth more than $100 million. As Warner Bros. readied a Peter Jackson big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, the Tolkien Estate began investigating digital exploitations when its attorney received a spam e-mail about the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game. The subsequent complaint filed in court talked about irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation from the prospect of everything from online games to housing developments. In reaction, Warner Bros. filed counterclaims, alleging that repudiation of a 1969 contract and 2010 regrant caused the studio to miss out on millions in Hobbit licensing and decreased exposure to the Jackson films. Warners contended that digital exploitations was both customary and within its scope of rights. Those counterclaims became the subject of a side fight over whether Warners could sue for being sued. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Warner Bros. had properly asserted contract claims.
The Internet

You're Thinking About the Dictionary All Wrong, Lexicographers Say (theoutline.com) 130

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Outline: It seems like ever since "bootylicious" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 2004, dictionaries have been trying to play catch up to ever-evolving languages of slang, especially when it comes to words originating with African Americans and other communities of color. User-generated definitions found on websites like Urban Dictionary and Genius are also giving them some competition. But in fact, lexicographers have always intended the dictionary to be more of an archive than an authority. The purpose of the dictionary has always been to record how language is being used, but the internet has allowed publishers and lexicographers to communicate that purpose differently, explained Kory Stamper, lexicographer and author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, to The Outline. "I think people assume that because dictionaries are dusty books that the language is this dusty book or that language is only what you find in the dictionary," Stamper said. "And to be able to say, 'No, language is always on the move and here's how it's moving,' really mirrors the way that we can interact with people online." Thanks to the internet, it's now easier for lexicographers to access more written materials and take note of the ways people are using and producing language. And as a result, dictionaries are updated more frequently and more robustly than they were in the days of print-only source material. "Woke" was just one of 1200 new additions to the OED this quarter alone. But even with all the technology afforded to them, lexicographers still walk a fine line between including words that are well-known enough without being too obscure. "We joke around that when we add new words we want 50 percent of the people who see that new word to say, 'Oh my gosh that's not in the dictionary yet?'" said Stamper, who writes for Merriam-Webster. "And then we want the other half of people to go, 'I don't even know what this word is. Why are you adding it to the dictionary?'"
Books

O'Reilly No Longer Selling Individual Books, Videos Online 82

dovf writes: Just got an email from O'Reilly Media that as of today, they are no longer selling individual books or videos online -- rather, they are encouraging people to sign up for Safari. They are continuing to publish books and videos, "and you'll still be able to buy them at Amazon and other retailers." They also make it clear that we will not lose access to already-purchased content, updates to such content, etc. More details can be found in the FAQ. No mention, though, of whether the content sold at these other retailers will remain DRM-free... From the FAQ: "You can buy all of the books (ebooks and print) at shop.oreilly.com from Amazon and other digital and bricks-and-mortar retailers. We're no longer selling individual books and videos via shop.oreilly.com -- but we are definitely continuing to publish books and videos on the topics you need to know. And of course, every O'Reilly book and video (including O'Reilly conference sessions) is available instantly on Safari." The only mention of "DRM" in the FAQ is in regard to what happens to the digital content you have in your account at members.oreilly.com. According to O'Reilly, "Your DRM-free ebooks and videos are safe and sound, and you'll continue to have free lifetime access to download them anytime, anywhere."
Books

O'Reilly Media Has Stopped Retailing Books Directly On Its Ecommerce Store (oreilly.com) 24

An anonymous reader shares a press release: This week, O'Reilly Media stopped retailing books directly on our ecommerce store. You might say "what!?" Or you might say "what's the big deal?" Before I explain our business strategy here, there are two important things to note: We are absolutely continuing to publish the top-quality books that are important to the communities we serve.
1. We still sell them through Amazon or your favorite retailer.
2. So why the change? It's clear that we're in the midst of a fundamental shift in how people get and use their content.
Subscription services like Spotify and Netflix are the new norm, as people opt for paying for digital access rather than purchasing physical units one by one. We've already seen this in our own business -- the growth of membership on Safari far exceeds the individual units previously purchased on oreilly.com. That's one reason for the change.

Books

Former Slashdot Contributor Jon Katz Believes He Can Talk To Animals (amazon.com) 171

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) 253

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) 84

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.

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