Trust the World's Fastest VPN with Your Internet Security & Freedom - A Lifetime Subscription of PureVPN at 88% off. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. ×
It's funny.  Laugh.

Web Comic 'Pokey The Penguin' Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary (twitter.com) 53

It's one of the longest-running comics on the internet. (Slashdot is approaching its 20th anniversary, and in its first year ran two stories about Pokey.) Open source developer Steve Havelka of Portland, Oregon created the truly bizarre strip back in 1998 -- one legend says it was originally a parody of another comic drawn with Microsoft Paint -- and he's since sporadically cranked out 637 strips.

Since 2010 he's also been publishing the cartoons in printed books, and this year launched an equally surreal page on Patreon identifying himself as "Steve Havelka, THE AUTHORS of Pokey the Penguin," offering supporters a "mystery item in the mail". Pokey has lots of fans -- he earned a shout-out in the videogame Hitman: Blood Money -- and very-long-time Slashdot reader 198348726583297634 informs us that on this 19th anniversary Pokey "is celebrating on Twitter!" where he's apparently accosting other web cartoonists and touting a new birthday strip. (Not to be confused with that truly horrible Pokey-goes-to-a-party movie created in Adobe Flash.)

I'd like to hear from any Slashdot readers who remember Pokey the Penguin -- but I'm also curious to hear from Slashdot readers who have never read the strip. ComixTalk called it "one of those webcomics that really only exist because of the Internet -- it would be hard to see something like this in any other medium... there's just something about Pokey the Penguin that fits online."
Businesses

Jeff Bezos Talks About Music Streaming, and His Political Ambitions (billboard.com) 69

In a wide-ranging interview with Billboard, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, Blue Origin, and owner of The Washington Post, talked about music streaming business. He also talked about whether he desires to become the president of the United States. Excerpts from the interview: On music streaming business, being one of the late ones to join the party:Well, here's what I would say: We've been in the music category since 1998. It was the second category we launched after books. Our customers listen to a lot of music and we have a couple of freight trains kind of pulling the business along. One is Prime, and the other is Echo and Alexa.

On the prospect of seeing President Bezos and other political interests: Oh, no. I don't think so. No. I love my life. I love being an inventor. I love Blue Origin, my space company. I love The Washington Post. They are very good, but the Internet transition was difficult for them -- so I've been able to help them on that. But basically... I have a very full life. And I really like it.

Books

The Most Mentioned Books On StackOverflow (dev-books.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: People over at DevBooks have analyzed more than four million questions and answers on StackOverflow to list the top of the most mentioned books. You can check out the list for yourself here, but here are the top 10 books: Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael C Feathers; Design Patterns by Ralph Johnson, Erich Gamma, John Vlissides, and Richard Helm; Clean Code by Robert C. Martin; Java concurrency in practice by Brian Goetz, and Tim Peierls; Domain-driven Design by Eric Evans; JavaScript by Douglas Crockford; Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler; Code Complete by Steve McConnell; Refactoring by Martin Fowler, and Kent Beck; Head First Design Patterns by Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Freeman, Kathy Sierra, and Bert Bates.
EU

EU Agrees To Cross-Border Access To Streaming Services (variety.com) 55

Putting in place the first piece of its hoped-for unified digital market, the European Union has agreed on new rules allowing subscribers of online services in one E.U. country access to them while traveling in another. From a report: "Today's agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans," said vice president in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, in a statement. "People who have subscribed to their favorite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe. This is a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market." Variety explain: That said, "portability" is the least contentious of DSM regulations being advanced by the European Commission. Reached yesterday, the agreement between the Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm, the European Parliament and the E.U.'s Council of Ministers, representing its 28 member states, will allow consumers to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when traveling within the E.U. The online service providers who will be mandated to make these services available range from video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Mubi, Chili TV) to online TV services (Viasat's Viaplay, Sky's Now TV, Voyo), music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Google Music) and game online marketplaces (Steam, Origin).
Java

Ask Slashdot: How To Get Started With Programming? [2017 Edition] 312

Reader joshtops writes: I know this is a question that must have been asked -- and answered -- on Slashdot several times, but I am hoping to listen from the community again (fresh perspective, if you will). I'm in my 20s, and have a day job that doesn't require any programming skills. But I want to learn it nonetheless. I have done some research but people have varied opinions. Essentially my question is: What is perhaps the best way to learn programming for my use case? I am looking for best possible resources -- perhaps tutorials on the internet, the right books and the order in which I should read/watch them. Some people have advised me to start with C language, but I was wondering if I could kickstart things with other languages such as perhaps Apple's Swift as well?
Books

George Orwell's '1984' Tops Amazon's Bestseller List (theguardian.com) 659

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Sales of George Orwell's dystopian drama 1984 have soared after Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the reality-TV-star-turned-president, Donald Trump, used the phrase "alternative facts" in an interview. As of Tuesday, the book was the sixth best-selling book on Amazon. Comparisons were made with the term "newspeak" used in the 1949 novel, which was used to signal a fictional language that aims at eliminating personal thought and also "doublethink." In the book Orwell writes that it "means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." The connection was initially made on CNN's Reliable Sources. "Alternative facts is a George Orwell phrase," said Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty. Conway's use of the term was in reference to White House press secretary Sean Spicer's comments about last week's inauguration attracting "the largest audience ever". Her interview was widely criticized and she was sub-tweeted by Merriam-Webster dictionary with a definition of the word fact. In 1984, a superstate wields extreme control over the people and persecutes any form of independent thought. UPDATE 1/24/17 6:56PM PST: Orwell's dystopian novel is now the #1 Best Seller in Books on Amazon.
Books

Amazon Offers To Scrap Ebook Clauses To Settle EU Antitrust Probe (reuters.com) 16

U.S. online retailer Amazon has offered to alter its e-book contracts with publishers in a bid to end an EU antitrust probe and stave off a possible fine, the European Commission said on Tuesday. From a report: Amazon, the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, proposed to drop some clauses in its contracts so publishers will not be forced to give it terms as good as those for rivals, the Commission said. Such clauses relate to business models, release dates, catalogs of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices. The Commission opened an investigation into the company's e-books in English and German in June 2015, concerned that such parity clauses make it harder for other e-book retailers to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services. The EU competition enforcer gave rivals and customers a month to provide feedback before it decides whether to accept the proposal. Under EU antitrust rules, such settlements mean no finding of infringement nor fines which could reach 10 percent of a company's global turnover.
Security

Ransomware Infects All St Louis Public Library Computers (theguardian.com) 163

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Libraries in St Louis have been bought to a standstill after computers in all the city's libraries were infected with ransomware, a particularly virulent form of computer virus used to extort money from victims. Hackers are demanding $35,000 (£28,000) to restore the system after the cyberattack, which affected 700 computers across the Missouri city's 16 public libraries. The hackers demanded the money in electronic currency bitcoin, but, as CNN reports, the authority has refused to pay for a code that would unlock the machines. As a result, the library authority has said it will wipe its entire computer system and rebuild it from scratch, a solution that may take weeks. On Friday, St Louis public library announced it had managed to regain control of its servers, with tech staff continuing to work to restore borrowing services. The 16 libraries have all remained open, but computers continue to be off limits to the public. Spokeswoman Jen Hatton told CNN that the attack had hit the city's schoolchildren and its poor worst, as many do not have access to the internet at home. "For many [...] we're their only access to the internet," she said. "Some of them have a smartphone, but they don't have a data plan. They come in and use the wifi." As well as causing the loans system to seize up, preventing borrowers from checking out or returning books, the attack froze all computers, leaving no one able to access the four million items that should be available through the service. The system is believed to have been infected through a centralized computer server, and staff emails have also been frozen by the virus. The FBI has been called in to investigate.
Programming

Knuth Previews New Math Section For 'The Art of Computer Programming' (stanford.edu) 176

In 1962, 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming -- and 55 years later, he's still working on it. An anonymous reader quotes Knuth's web site at Stanford: Volume 4B will begin with a special section called 'Mathematical Preliminaries Redux', which extends the 'Mathematical Preliminaries' of Section 1.2 in Volume 1 to things that I didn't know about in the 1960s. Most of this new material deals with probabilities and expectations of random events; there's also an introduction to the theory of martingales.

You can have a sneak preview by looking at the current draft of pre-fascicle 5a (52 pages), last updated 18 January 2017. As usual, rewards will be given to whoever is first to find and report errors or to make valuable suggestions. I'm particularly interested in receiving feedback about the exercises (of which there are 125) and their answers (of which there are 125).

Over the years Knuth gave out over $20,000 in rewards, though most people didn't cash his highly-coveted "hexadecimal checks", and in 2008 Knuth switched to honorary "hexadecimal certificates". In 2014 Knuth complained about the "dumbing down" of computer science history, and his standards remain high. In his most-recent update, 79-year-old Knuth reminds readers that "There's stuff in here that isn't in Wikipedia yet!"
Education

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60 (nytimes.com) 314

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records. At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League -- Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown -- more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. From a report on the NYTimes (alternate non-paywall link): Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college -- universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of "elite" at the bottom). In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. "Free tuition only helps if you can get in," said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study.
Books

Amazon, Apple To End Audiobook Exclusivity: EU (marketwatch.com) 16

European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Amazon.com to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple. From a report: The European Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon's unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple's iTunes store. The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.
Microsoft

Microsoft Plans To Add an Ebook Store To Windows 10 (mspoweruser.com) 68

Microsoft may have plans to give Windows 10 users the ability to purchase ebooks directly from the Windows Store. According to a report on MSPowerUser, Windows 10 Creators Update will feature a new book store interface that will support the purchase and viewing of books in the Microsoft Edge browser. The report claims that this feature will be coming to both Windows 10 Mobile and other Windows 10 variants on PCs and tablets. It's worth mentioning that Microsoft made EPUB support a feature of Microsoft Edge as part of its Windows 10 Creators Update Insider test builds last year.
Windows

Windows 10 Privacy Changes Appease Watchdogs, But Still No Data 'Off-Switch' (zdnet.com) 211

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced several privacy changes in Windows 10, but it didn't give users an option to completely opt-out of data-collection feature. The announcement came at a time to coincide with a statement by the Swiss data protection and privacy regulator, the FDPIC, which last week said it would drop its threats of a lawsuit after the company "agreed to implement" a string of recommendations it made last year. The news closed the books on an investigation that began in 2015, shortly after Windows 10 was released. Though the Swiss appear satisfied, other critics are waiting for more. The French data protection watchdog, the CNIL, was equally unimpressed by Microsoft's actions, and it served the company with a notice in July to demand that it clean up its privacy settings. In an email, the CNIL said that the changes "seem to comply" with its complaint, but it's "now analyzing more in [sic] details Microsoft answers in order to know whether all the failures underlined in the formal notice do now comply with the law." ZDNet adds: Microsoft still hasn't said exactly what gets collected as part of the basic level of collection, except that the data is used to improve its software and services down the line; a reasonable ask -- but one that nonetheless lacks specifics. Microsoft said it wants users to "trust" it. And while the likelihood that the company is doing anything nefarious with users' information is frankly unlikely, the running risk is that the data could somehow be turned over to a government agency or even stolen by hackers is inescapable. That risk alone is enough for many to want to keep what's on their computer in their homes. While changing the privacy controls is a move in the right direction, it's still short of what many have called for. By ignoring the biggest privacy complaint from its consumer users -- the ability to switch off data collection altogether -- Microsoft has favored the "just enough" approach to appease the regulators. Without a way to truly opt-out, Microsoft's repeated pledge (eight times in the blog post, no less) to give its users "control" of their data comes off as a hollow soundbite.
Medicine

Scientists Identify New Organ In Humans (livescience.com) 112

Scientists have classified a new organ called the mesentery, which connects a person's small and large intestines to the abdominal wall and anchors them in place, according to the Mayo Clinic. Until recently, it was thought of a number of distinct membranes by most scientists. It was none other than Leonardo da Vinci who identified the membranes as a single structure, according to a recent review. Live Science reports: In the review, lead author Dr. Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick's Graduate Entry Medical School in Ireland, and colleagues looked at past studies and literature on the mesentery. Coffey noted that throughout the 20th century, anatomy books have described the mesentery as a series of fragmented membranes; in other words, different mesenteries were associated with different parts of the intestines. More recent studies looking at the mesentery in patients undergoing colorectal surgery and in cadavers led Coffey's team to conclude that the membrane is its own, continuous organ, according to the review, which was published in November in the journal The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology. The reclassification of the mesentery as an organ "is relevant universally as it affects all of us," Coffey said in a statement. By recognizing the anatomy and the structure of the mesentery, scientists can now focus on learning more about how the organ functions, Coffey said. In addition, they can also learn about diseases associated with the mesentery, he added.
Books

Scribd Pulls Digital Comics From Its Subscription Reading Service (the-digital-reader.com) 32

Popular ebooks platform, Scribd has quietly removed digital comics from its subscription reading service. According to a report on The Digital Reader, the feature was added in February 2015, and may have been pulled as part of a cost-cutting measure. From the article: Scribd confirmed the news in a statement: "We launched comics in 2015, and while we were excited to bring new content to our readers, few actively took advantage of them. We will be focusing our efforts on enhancing the experience surrounding our other great content types including books, audiobooks, magazines, and documents. We alerted comic readers of the news via email in early December. We understand that this news is disappointing to comic readers. This was a difficult decision, and we hope that they'll explore the rest of what Scribd has to offer in the coming months." It's interesting that Scribd says that they informed subscribers, because that is not the impression I get from the complaints on Twitter. Many were surprised when they noticed, and based on the timestamps the comics were apparently pulled on or before 1 December.
Books

Library Creates Fake Patron Records To Avoid Book-Purging (heraldnet.com) 258

An anonymous reader writes: Chuck Finley checked out 2,361 books from a Florida library in just nine months, increasing their total circulation by 3.9%. But he doesn't exist. "The fictional character was concocted by two employees at the library, complete with a false address and driver's license number," according to the Orlando Sentinel. The department overseeing the library acknowledges their general rule is "if something isn't circulated in one to two years, it's typically weeded out of circulation." So the fake patron scheme was concocted by a library assistant working with the library's branch supervisor, who "said he wanted to avoid having to later repurchase books purged from the shelf." But according to the newspaper the branch supervisor "said the same thing is being done at other libraries, too."
Books

'Watership Down' Author Richard Adams Died On Christmas Eve At Age 96 (theguardian.com) 46

Initially rejected by several publishers, "Watership Down" (1972) went on to become one of the best-selling fantasy books of all time. Last Saturday the book's author died peacefully at the age of 96. Long-time Slashdot reader haruchai remembers some of the author's other books: In addition to his much-beloved story about anthropomorphic rabbits, Adams penned two fantasy books set in the fictional Beklan Empire, first Shardik (1974) about a hunter pursuing a giant bear he believes to be imbued with divine power, and Maia (1984), a peasant girl sold into slavery who becomes entangled in a war between neighboring countries.
Adams also wrote a collection of short stories called "Tales From Watership Down" in 1996, and the original "Watership Down" was also made into a movie and an animated TV series. In announcing his death, Richard's family also included a quote from the original "Watership Down".

"It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

"'You needn't worry about them,' said his companion. 'They'll be alright -- and thousands like them.'"

Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse (slate.com) 295

One of the many ways self-driving cars will impact the world is with organ shortages. It's a morbid thought, but the most reliable sources for healthy organs and tissues are the more than 35,000 people killed each year on American roads. According to the book "Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead," 1 in 5 organ donations comes from the victim of a vehicular accident. Since an estimated 94 percent of motor-vehicle accidents involve some kind of a driver error, it's easy to see how autonomous vehicles could make the streets and highways safer, while simultaneously making organ shortages even worse. Slate reports: As the number of vehicles with human operators falls, so too will the preventable fatalities. In June, Christopher A. Hart, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said, "Driverless cars could save many if not most of the 32,000 lives that are lost every year on our streets and highways." Even if self-driving cars only realize a fraction of their projected safety benefits, a decline in the number of available organs could begin as soon as the first wave of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles hits the road -- threatening to compound our nation's already serious shortages. We're all for saving lives -- we aren't saying that we should stop self-driving cars so we can preserve a source of organ donation. But we also need to start thinking now about how to address this coming problem. The most straightforward fix would be to amend a federal law that prohibits the sale of most organs, which could allow for development of a limited organ market. Organ sales have been banned in the United States since 1984, when Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act after a spike in demand (thanks to the introduction of the immunosuppressant cyclosporine, which improved transplant survival rates from 20-30 percent to 60-70 percent) raised concerns that people's vital appendages might be "treated like fenders in an auto junkyard." Others feared an organ market would exploit minorities and those living in poverty. But the ban hasn't completely protected those populations, either. The current system hasn't stopped organ harvesting -- the illegal removal of organs from the recently deceased without the consent of the person or family -- either in the United States or abroad. It is estimated that, worldwide, as many as 10,000 black market medical operations are performed each year that involve illegally purchased organs. So what would an ethical fix to our organ transplant shortage look like? To start, while there's certainly a place for organ donation markets in the United States, implementation will be understandably slow. There are, however, small steps that can get us closer to a just system. For one, the country could consider introducing a "presumed consent" rule. This would change state organ donation registries from affirmative opt-in systems (checking that box at the DMV that yes, you do want to be an organ donor) to an affirmative opt-out system where, unless you state otherwise, you're presumed to consent to be on the list.
Books

Amazon's Digital Day is Like Cyber Monday But For Downloads (cnet.com) 20

Amazon is hoping to replicate the success of its online-only sales. It has announced a "Digital Day" sale on December 30, where it will offer discounts of up to 50 percent on apps, ebooks, games, movies, and music. From a report on CNET: Now, the Seattle-based online retailer giant is hoping to do the same with Digital Day. Movies like "Bolt," "The Lego Movie" and "Storks" are up to 50 percent off. So are games like Titanfall 2 and Rocket League. There will also be deals on Amazon's music streaming service and kids book app Amazon Rapids.
Books

What's the Best Book You Read This Year? 338

The year is almost over. It's time we asked you about the books you read over the past few months. Which ones -- new or old -- were your favourite? Please share just one title name in the comments section (and if you would like, rest in parenthesis). Also, which books are you looking forward to reading in the coming weeks?

Slashdot Top Deals