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Education

Interviews: Ask Adora Svitak About Education and Women In STEM and Politics 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
samzenpus writes Adora Svitak is a child prodigy, author and activist. She taught her first class on writing at a local elementary school when she was 7, the same year her book, Flying Fingers was published. In 2010, Adora spoke at a TED Conference. Her speech, "What Adults Can Learn from Kids", has been viewed over 3.7 million times and has been translated into over 40 different languages. She is an advocate for literacy, youth empowerment, and for the inclusion of more women and girls in STEM and politics. 17 this year, she served as a Youth Advisor to the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. and is a freshman at UC Berkeley. Adora has agreed to take some time from her books and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Education

"Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon 541

Posted by timothy
from the made-it-past-the-drawing-board dept.
New submitter clcto writes Back in 2010, Computer Engineer Barbie was released. Now, with the attention brought to the Frozen themed programming game from Disney and Code.org, unwanted attention has been given to the surprisingly real book "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer". So much so, that Mattel has pulled the book from Amazon. The book shows Barbie attempting to write a computer game. However, instead of writing the code, she enlists two boys to write the code as she just does the design. She then proceeds to infect her computer and her sister's computer with a virus and must enlist the boys to fix that for her as well. In the end she takes all the credit, and proclaims "I guess I can be a computer engineer!" A blog post commenting on the book (as well as giving pictures of the book and its text) has been moved to Gizmodo due to high demand.
The Courts

US Gov't Seeks To Keep Megaupload Assets Because Kim Dotcom Is a Fugitive 164

Posted by timothy
from the them-as-has-gits-by-law dept.
mrspoonsi writes with this excerpt from Billboard: 'On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice told a Virginia federal judge that Kim Dotcom and cohorts have no business challenging the seizure of an estimated $67 million in assets because the Megaupload founder is evading prosecution. The government brought criminal charges against Dotcom in early 2012, but he's been holed up in New Zealand awaiting word on whether he'll be extradited. The government got antsy and this past July, brought a civil complaint for forfeiture in rem, a maneuver to firmly establish a hold over money from bank accounts around the world, luxury cars, big televisions, watches, artwork and other property allegedly gained by Megaupload in the course of crimes. Dotcom is fighting the seizures by questioning the government's basis for asserting a crime, saying "there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement," as well as challenging how the seized assets are tied to the charges against Dotcom. But according to the U.S. government, Dotcom doesn't get the pleasure of even making the arguments. In a motion to strike, the government cites the doctrine of fugitive disentitlement, which bars a person from using the resources of the court if that person is aware of prosecution and is evading it.
United States

US Intelligence Unit Launches $50k Speech Recognition Competition 62

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.
Canada

Millions of Spiders Seen In Mass Dispersal Event In Nova Scotia 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the arachnophobia dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes A bizarre and oddly beautiful display of spider webs have been woven across a large field along a walking trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. "Well it's acres and acres; it's a sea of web," said Allen McCormick. Prof. Rob Bennett, an expert on spiders who works at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, BC, Canada, said tiny, sheet-web weaver spiders known as Erigoninae linyphiidae most likely left the webs. Bennett said the spiders cast a web net to catch the wind and float away in a process known as ballooning. The webs in the field are the spiders' drag lines, left behind as they climb to the top of long grass to be whisked away by the wind. Bennett said it's a mystery why these spiders take off en masse.
The Almighty Buck

Blowing On Money To Tell If It Is Counterfeit 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the huff-and-puff dept.
HughPickens.com writes Scientific American reports that simply breathing on money could soon reveal if it's the real deal or counterfeit thanks to a photonic crystal ink developed by Ling Bai and Zhongze Gu and colleagues at Southeast University in Nanjing, China that can produce unique color changing patterns on surfaces with an inkjet printer system which would be extremely hard for fraudsters to reproduce. The ink mimics the way Tmesisternus isabellae – a species of longhorn beetle – reversibly switches its color from gold to red according to the humidity in its environment. The color shift is caused by the adsorption of water vapor in their hardened front wings, which alters the thickness and average refractive index of their multilayered scales. To emulate this, the team made their photonic crystal ink using mesoporous silica nanoparticles, which have a large surface area and strong vapor adsorption capabilities that can be precisely controlled. The complicated and reversible multicolor shifts of mesoporous CPC patterns are favorable for immediate recognition by naked eyes but hard to copy. "We think the ink's multiple security features may be useful for antifraud applications," says Bai, "however we think the technology could be more useful for fabricating multiple functional sensor arrays, which we are now working towards."
The Courts

Court Shuts Down Alleged $120M Tech Support Scam 125

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.
Yahoo!

Firefox Signs Five-Year Deal With Yahoo, Drops Google as Default Search Engine 382

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-couple dept.
mpicpp writes with news that Yahoo will soon become the default search engine in Firefox. Google's 10-year run as Firefox's default search engine is over. Yahoo wants more search traffic, and a deal with Mozilla will bring it. In a major departure for both Mozilla and Yahoo, Firefox's default search engine is switching from Google to Yahoo in the United States. "I'm thrilled to announce that we've entered into a five-year partnership with Mozilla to make Yahoo the default search experience on Firefox across mobile and desktop," Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer said in a blog post Wednesday. "This is the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years." The change will come to Firefox users in the US in December, and later Yahoo will bring that new "clean, modern and immersive search experience" to all Yahoo search users. In another part of the deal, Yahoo will support the Do Not Track technology for Firefox users, meaning that it will respect users' preferences not to be tracked for advertising purposes. With millions of users who perform about 100 billion searches a year, Firefox is a major source of the search traffic that's Google's bread and butter. Some of those searches produce search ads, and Mozilla has been funded primarily from a portion of that revenue that Google shares. In 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available, that search revenue brought in the lion's share of Mozilla's $311 million in revenue.
United States

Congress Suggests Moat, Electronic Fence To Protect White House 211

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-monkeys-with-straight-razors dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes Acting Secret Service director Joseph Clancy on Wednesday faced a number of tough questions from the House Judiciary Committee about the fence jumper who made it deep into the White House. But along with the tough questions, Clancy fielded a couple eyebrow raising suggestions on how to better protect the president's home. "Would a moat, water six feet around, be kind of attractive and effective?" Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., asked with trepidation. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, asked: “Would you be in favor of removing the fence around the White House and having, maybe, a virtual or electronic fence around it?” Clancy liked the moat idea better than the electric fence. “My knee-jerk reaction to that would be no, sir,” he told Gohmert. “Partly because of the number of tourists that come up Pennsylvania Avenue and come up to that area.”
United States

Number of Coders In Congress To Triple (From One To Three) 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the small-steps dept.
jfruh writes Last weekend, Tim Berners-Lee said that the UK needs more members of parliament who can code. Well, the most recent U.S. congressional election has obliged him on this side of the Atlantic: the number of coders in Congress has tripled, with the downside being that their numbers have gone from one to three.
The Internet

Head of FCC Proposes Increasing Internet School Fund 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the dollars-for-bits dept.
Rambo Tribble writes: The commissioners at the FCC are expected to vote, on December 11, on a proposal by Chairman Tom Wheeler to increase the funding for the nation's largest educational technology subsidy program, E-Rate, by 62 percent. The proposal is intended to be paid for by higher fees on phone service. The increased cost is pegged at $1.92 a year, per telephone line. Support for the proposal, or lack thereof, appears to be falling along partisan lines. To quote Wheeler, however, "Almost two-thirds of American schools cannot appropriately connect their students to the 21st century."
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 428

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-everybody-will-have-forgotten-about-it-in-two-years dept.
Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
Debian

Debian Votes Against Mandating Non-systemd Compatibility 534

Posted by Soulskill
from the there-will-be-peace-in-our-time dept.
paskie writes: Voting on a Debian General Resolution that would require packagers to maintain support even for systems not running systemd ended tonight with the resolution failing to gather enough support.

This means that some Debian packages could require users to run systemd on their systems in theory — however, in practice Debian still works fine without systemd (even with e.g. GNOME) and this will certainly stay the case at least for the next stable release Jessie.

However, the controversial general resolution proposed late in the development cycle opened many wounds in the community, prompting some prominent developers to resign or leave altogether, stirring strong emotions — not due to adoption of systemd per se, but because of the emotional burn-out and shortcomings in the decision processes apparent in the wake of the systemd controversy.

Nevertheless, work on the next stable release is well underway and some developers are already trying to mend the community and soothe the wounds.
United Kingdom

UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online 302

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-they-never-learn dept.
Bizzeh writes: A British couple has been "fined" £100 by a Blackpool hotel for leaving critical comments on Trip Advisor. The UK's Trading Standards organization is investigating the incident, saying it may breach regulations. The Broadway Hotel's booking policy reads (in small print), "Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. "For every bad review left on any website, the group organizer will be charged a maximum £100 per review."
Canada

City of Toronto Files Court Injunction Against Uber 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-very-polite-injunction dept.
Sebolains writes: The city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada has filed a court injunction on Uber Canada Inc. today that requests for all operations in the city to cease. Uber has been operating there since 2012 without a license from the city, and so officials are concerned that Uber's operations pose a risk to both drivers and riders. How quickly this will happen, we don't know, but the city has asked the courts to be expedient in hearing this application.
Power

Rooftop Solar Could Reach Price Parity In the US By 2016 495

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopefully-the-sun-is-still-shining-then dept.
Lucas123 writes: The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices of coal-powered energy and other conventional sources in all 50 U.S. states in just two years, a leap from today where PV energy has price parity in only 10 states, according to Deutsche Bank's leading solar industry analyst. The sharp decline in solar energy costs is the result of increased economies of scale leading to cheaper photovoltaic panels, new leasing models and declining installation costs, Deutsche Bank's Vishal Shah stated in a recent report. The cost of solar-generated electricity in the top 10 states for capacity ranges from 11-15 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh), compared to the retail electricity price of 11-37 c/kWh. Amit Ronen, a former Congressional staffer behind legislation that created an investment tax credit for solar installations, said one of the only impediments to decreasing solar electricity prices are fees proposed by utilities on customers who install solar and take advantage of net metering, or the ability to sell excess power back to utilities.
Privacy

NYT: Privacy Concerns For ClassDojo, Other Tracking Apps For Schoolchildren 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the won't-somebody-other-than-advertisers-think-of-the-children dept.
theodp writes: The NY Times' Natasha Singer files a report on popular and controversial behavior tracking app ClassDojo, which teachers use to keep a running tally of each student's score, award virtual badges for obedience, and to communicate with parents about their child's progress. "I like it because you get rewarded for your good behavior — like a dog does when it gets a treat," was one third grader's testimonial. Some parents, teachers and privacy law scholars say ClassDojo (investors) — along with other unproven technologies that record sensitive information about students — is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness. "ClassDojo," writes Singer, "does not seek explicit parental consent for teachers to log detailed information about a child's conduct. Although the app's terms of service state that teachers who sign up guarantee that their schools have authorized them to do so, many teachers can download ClassDojo, and other free apps, without vetting by school supervisors. Neither the New York City nor Los Angeles school districts, for example, keep track of teachers independently using apps."

A high school teacher interviewed for the article confessed to having not read ClassDojo's policies on handling student data, saying: "I'm one of those people who, when the terms of service are 18 pages, I just click agree." And, if all this doesn't make you parents just a tad nervous, check out this response to the "Has anyone ran a data analysis on their CD data?" question posed to the Class Dojo Community: "I needed to analyze data in regards to a student being placed on ADHD medicine to see whether or not he made any improvements. I have also used it to determine any behavioral changes depending on if a student was with mom/dad for a custody review. I use dojo consistently, so I LOVE getting to use the data to evaluate and share with parents, or even administrators."
Education

Ask Slashdot: Professionally Packaged Tools For Teaching Kids To Program? 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-child-left-in-a-for-loop dept.
Binestar writes: I've been doing IT consulting for years, but I'm not a programmer beyond bash scripting, perl scripts to make administration easier, and batch files to make Windows easier. I recently found an online course for modding Minecraft that my 9-year-old daughter is really enjoying (she built a custom sword that shoots lightning). Does anyone have any recommendations on online courses that would be age appropriate and worth the investment? It's been easy to get her interested in the Minecraft modding course because, as any parent with young children knows, Minecraft is kinda popular...

The course she's taking now is teaching her Eclipse and Gimp, and I'm sure there are other tools installed that they haven't had her open yet. What other vendors have stuff worth introducing her to? I've also started looking at things like the Kano and Learn to Mod, but as a non-programmer, I'm not really sure which are most useful for introduction and which are accomplishing what they claim vs. being a waste of money/time.

Anyone have experience or suggestions to help sort this out?
Australia

Laser Creates Quantum Whirlpool 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-fall-in dept.
Quantus347 writes: Physicists at The Australian National Univ. (ANU) have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. Polaritons are hybrid particles that have properties of both matter and light. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser- and fiber-based technologies. Polaritons form in semiconductors when laser light interacts with electrons and holes (positively charged vacancies) so strongly that it is no longer possible to distinguish light from matter.
Bitcoin

US Marshals Auctioning $20M Worth of Silk Road's Bitcoins 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-bitjamins dept.
coondoggie writes: The U.S. Marshals office says it will auction off almost 50,000 bitcoins (about $20 million worth) seized from alleged Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht. The auction, which is the second sale of Silk Road's bitcoin collection, will take place during a 6-hour period on Dec. 4 from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. EST. Bids will be accepted by email from pre-registered bidders only, the U.S. Marshals office said. In June more than $17 million in bitcoins seized from the Silk Road take-down were auctioned off.

If God had a beard, he'd be a UNIX programmer.

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