Education

Could VR Field Trips Replace the Real Thing? (theindychannel.com) 96

turkeydance shares a report from RTV6, which cites a new editorial in the journal Science that explores the question, "Could VR field trips replace the real thing?" Virtual field trips have been around for a while, but they used to be pretty boring: some photos, some text -- basically a Wikipedia entry. But they've come a long way. Nearpod and Google Expeditions let students immerse themselves in places they couldn't normally visit, like Antarctica or even Mars. These virtual field trips are safer and easier to organize than real outings, and they might soon be cheaper, too. Douglas McCauley, assistant professor of ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says traditional field trips have already declined under budget constraints, so schools might be tempted to simply make a switch. McCauley says he's excited about the possibilities of VR. Taking students back to prehistoric times or forward to witness the results of climate change could be a powerful teaching tool.
Google

Google Publicly Releases Internal Developer Documentation Style Guide (betanews.com) 96

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: The documentation aspect of any project is very important, as it can help people to both understand it and track changes. Unfortunately, many developers aren't very interested in documentation aspect, so it often gets neglected. Luckily, if you want to maintain proper documentation and stay organized, today, Google is releasing its internal developer documentation style guide. This can quite literally guide your documentation, giving you a great starting point and keeping things consistent.

Jed Hartman, Technical Writer, Google says, "For some years now, our technical writers at Google have used an internal-only editorial style guide for most of our developer documentation. In order to better support external contributors to our open source projects, such as Kubernetes, AMP, or Dart, and to allow for more consistency across developer documentation, we're now making that style guide public. If you contribute documentation to projects like those, you now have direct access to useful guidance about voice, tone, word choice, and other style considerations. It can be useful for general issues, like reminders to use second person, present tense, active voice, and the serial comma; it can also be great for checking very specific issues, like whether to write 'app' or 'application' when you want to be consistent with the Google Developers style."
You can access Google's style guide here.
The Internet

28 Years Later, Pioneering Tech Magazine 'Mondo 2000' Relaunches Online (mondo2000.com) 35

In 1989 Mondo 2000 magazine ran an editorial promising they'd cover "the leading edge in hyperculture...the latest in human/technological interactive mutational forms as they happen." 28 years later, they're now heckling that editorial as they relaunch into a web site. Slashdot reader DevNull127 quotes Motherboard's interview with R.U. Sirius, the founder of Mondo 2000 (as well as its predecessors High Frontiers and Reality Hackers): "It was my idea to merge psychedelics and emerging technologies, and the culture around technology," Sirius said, citing Timothy Leary, writer Robert Anton Wilson and counterculture magazine The Whole Earth Catalog among his inspirations... "I kind of found my way into that particular stream of bohemian culture. It was probably a minority, but there had always been that idea of letting robots replace human work." Soon High Frontiers evolved into a glossy magazine, Reality Hackers ("Some distributors at the time thought it was about hacking people up, and put it on the shelf next to murder mystery magazines"), and later Mondo 2000, which ran from 1989 till 1998...

"We really had to work to convince people that technology was defining the future. Nobody really got it. Doug Rushkoff wrote his book Cyberia, and his first book company cancelled its publication because they said the internet was a fad and that it would be over by the time the book came out"... While he uses Facebook and Twitter, Sirius is critical of their role in colonising what was once a more democratic and open space. "People are being herded into little buildings -- or huge ones -- in what was supposed to be a wide open space in which everybody created their own sites. It's a complete corporate takeover of the net, Facebook in particular... It's definitely not what we were expecting."

Mondo 2000's new online relaunch includes audio of a conversation between William Gibson and Timothy Leary about a Neuromancer game to accompany a proposed film back in 1989. (Gibson complained "That was no interview! That was a drunken business meeting!" when first informed of the magazine's plans to publish it, though he eventually "became friendly.") There's also a 1987 discussion about mind technologies with 73-year-old William S. Burroughs (who was also "an advocate of high technology, and the 'brain machine'"), plus an unpublished John Shirley essay titled "The Next Fifty Years: Why I'm Optimistic Because Everything Will Be Terrible" and new pieces by Paul Krassner ("Alternative Facts") and M.Christian ("La Petite Mort: The Death Of Sex").
Math

Math Journal Editors Resign To Start Rival Journal That Will Be Free To Read (insidehighered.com) 59

An anonymous reader writes: To protest the high prices charged by their publisher, Springer, the editors of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics will start a rival journal that will be free for all to read. The four editors in chief of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics have informed their publisher, Springer, of their intention to launch a rival open-access journal to protest the publisher's high prices and limited accessibility. This is the latest in a string of what one observer called "editorial mutinies" over journal publishing policies. In a news release, the editors said their decision was not made because of any "particular crisis" but was the result of it becoming "more and more clear" that Springer intended to keep charging readers and authors large fees while "adding little value."
Businesses

Fact-checking and Rumor-dispelling Site Snopes.com Held Hostage By vendor (savesnopes.com) 401

Snopes.com, which began as a small one-person effort in 1994 and has since become one of the Internet's oldest and most popular fact-checking sites, is in danger of closing its doors. From a report: Since our inception, we have always been a self-sustaining site that provides a free service to the online world: we've had no sponsors, no outside investors or funding, and no source of revenue other than that provided by online advertising. Unfortunately, we have been cut off from our historic source of advertising income. We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for Snopes.com. That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status and continues to essentially hold the Snopes.com web site hostage. Although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site's hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or -- most crucially -- place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us. Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.
Star Wars Prequels

Predatory Journals Hit By "Star Wars" Sting (discovermagazine.com) 112

intellitech quotes an article from Discover's Neuroskeptic blog: A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper...an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it... I created a spoof manuscript about "midi-chlorians" -- the fictional entities which live inside cells and give Jedi their powers in Star Wars...and submitted it to nine journals under the names of Dr. Lucas McGeorge and Dr. Annette Kin... The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn't pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof.
At one point the paper simply transcribes dialogue from Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. ("Did you ever hear of the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? I thought not. It is not a story the Jedi would tell you....") And the author also cut-and-pasted big chunks of the Wikipedia page for mitochondrion (after globally replacing mitochondr* with midichlor*), then admitted in the paper's "Methodology" section that "The majority of the text in the current paper was Rogeted from Wikipedia" -- with a direct link back to that Wikipedia page. One sentence even mentions "JARJAR syndrome."

Three more journals did reject the paper -- but at least one more unquestioningly asked the author to revise and resubmit it. The author calls it "a reminder that at some 'peer reviewed' journals, there really is no meaningful peer review at all" -- adding that one journal has even invited Dr. Lucas McGeorge to join their editorial board.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

American ISPS Are Now Fighting State Broadband Privacy Proposals (eff.org) 74

The EFF complains that "the very companies who spent millions of dollars lobbying in D.C. to repeal our federal broadband privacy rights are now fighting state attempts to protect consumers because they supposedly prefer a federal rule." The EFF urges Californians to phone their state senator ahead of a crucial back-to-back committee hearings on Tuesday. An anonymous reader writes: "Congress stole your online privacy. Let's seize it back," begins an email that the EFF is sending to California supporters. It warns that "Big Telecom has massive amounts of money to spend on an army of lobbyists. But if Internet users from across California unite with one voice, we can defeat their misinformation campaign... Don't let the big ISPs coopt our privacy."

The EFF's site points out that more than 83% of Americans support the privacy regulations which were repealed in March by the U.S. Congress, according to a new poll released last week. That's even more than the 77% of Americans who support keeping current net neutrality protections in place, according to the same poll. The EFF now hopes that California's newly-proposed legislation could become a model for privacy-protecting laws in other states. And back in Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News writes that California "has an obligation to take a lead in establishing the basic privacy rights of consumers using the Internet. Beyond being the right thing to do for the whole country, building trust in tech products is an essential long-term business strategy for the industry that was born in this region."

The EFF has also compiled an interesting list of past instances where ISPs have already tried to exploit the personal information of their customers for profit.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Seven Science Journals Have A Dog On Their Editorial Board (atlasobscura.com) 106

An anonymous reader writes: A professor of health policy at Australia's Curtin University got seven different science journals to put his dog on their editorial board. The dog is now associate editor for the Global Journal of Addiction & Rehabilitation Medicine, and sits on the editorial board of Psychiatry and Mental Disorders. The professor says he feels sorry for one researcher who recently submitted a paper about how to treat sheath tumors, because "the journal has sent it to a dog to review." The official profile of the dog lists its research interests as "the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines" and "avian propinquity to canines in metropolitan suburbs."
An Australian news site points out that career-minded researchers pay up to $3,000 to get their work published in predatory journals so they can list more publications on their resumes. "While this started as something lighthearted," says the dog-owning professor, "I think it is important to expose shams of this kind which prey on the gullible, especially young or naive academics and those from developing countries."
Windows

Windows 10 Is Just 'A Vehicle For Advertisements', Argues Tech Columnist (betanews.com) 353

A new editorial by BetaNews columnist Mark Wilson argues that Windows 10 isn't an operating system -- it's "a vehicle for ads". An anonymous reader quotes their report: They appear in the Start menu, in the taskbar, in the Action Center, in Explorer, in the Ink Workspace, on the Lock Screen, in the Share tool, in the Windows Store and even in File Explorer.

Microsoft has lost its grip on what is acceptable, and even goes as far as pretending that these ads serve users more than the company -- "these are suggestions", "this is a promoted app", "we thought you'd like to know that Edge uses less battery than Chrome", "playable ads let you try out apps without installing". But if we're honest, the company is doing nothing more than abusing its position, using Windows 10 to promote its own tools and services, or those with which it has marketing arrangements.

The article suggests ads are part of the hidden price tag for the free downloads of Windows 10 that Microsoft offered last year (along with the telemetry and other user-tracking features). Their article has already received 357 comments, and concludes that the prevalence of ads in Windows 10 is "indefensible".
Mozilla

After 19 Years, DMOZ Will Close, Announces AOL 60

Its volunteer-edited web directory formed the basis for early search offerings from Netscape, AOL, and Google. But 19 years later, there's some bad news. koavf writes: As posted on the DMOZ homepage, the Open Directory Project's web listing will go offline on March 14, 2017. Founded in 1998 as "Gnuhoo", the human-curated directory once powered Google and served as a model for Wikipedia.
A 1998 Slashdot editorial prompted Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation to complain about how "Gnu" was used in the site's name. "We renamed GnuHoo to NewHoo," a blog post later explained, "but then Yahoo objected to the 'Hoo' (and our red letters, exclamation point, and 'comical font')." After being acquired for Netscape's "Open Directory Project," their URL became directory.mozilla.org, which was shortened to DMOZ. Search Engine Land predicts the memory of the Open Directory Project will still be kept alive by the NOODP meta tag.

The site was so old that its hierarchical categories were originally based on the hierarchy of Usenet newsgroups. As it nears its expiration date, do any Slashdot readers have thoughts or memories to share about DMOZ?
Government

Uber Has Been Using a Secretive Program To Identify Enforcement Officers And Prevent Them From Hailing Cars (nytimes.com) 218

Uber has been using a secretive program to evade authorities for years, particularly at times when city regulators were trying to block the ride-hailing service, according to a new report by the New York Times. From the report: Uber is using a tool called "Greyball" to work identify requests made by certain users and deny them service, according to the report. The application, later renamed the "violation of terms of service" or VTOS program, is said to employ data analysis on info collected by the Uber app to identify individuals violating Uber's terms of service, and blocks riders from being able to hail rides who fall into that category -- including, according to the report, members of code enforcement authorities or city officials who are attempting to gather data about Uber offering service where it's currently prohibited. The report claims that that Uber's "violation of terms of service" or VTOS program, briefly known as Greyball, began around 2014, and has sign-off from Uber's legal team.In a statement, Uber said, "This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service -- whether that's people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret 'stings' meant to entrap drivers."

Journalists, putting things in context. Russell Brandom, a reporter at The Verge said, This is the kind of thing a DA would put in front of a judge if they wanted to subpoena Uber's business records for an entire city. Matt Rosoff, editorial director at CNBC Digital added, I've been a tech journalist on and off for 21 years and I can't remember any company having a worse month news cycle-wise than Uber is now.
Government

Ask Slashdot: Can US Citizens Trust Government Data? (msn.com) 460

mmell writes: An editorial in the Washington Post and made publicly available via an MSN news feed has asked the question: "In the Trump administration era of 'alternative facts,' what happens to government data?" Given that Slashdot members (and readers) may represent a somewhat more in-the-know crowd on matters concerning data integrity and trustworthiness, I thought this would be a good place to ask: can we trust (or has anyone ever really trusted) government data? One might think government data would all be cut 'n' dried and not subject to manipulation, but I personally remember when government data back early in the Reagan presidency went from reporting nearly 15% unemployment nationwide to well under 6% by redefining what "unemployed" meant. So . . . has government data ever been trustworthy, and is it still so?
Security

Top Security Researchers Ask The Guardian To Retract Its WhatsApp Backdoor Report (technosociology.org) 70

Earlier this month The Guardian reported what it called a "backdoor" in WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned instant messaging app. Some security researchers were quick to call out The Guardian for what they concluded was irresponsible journalism and misleading story. Now, a group of over three dozen security researchers including Matthew Green and Bruce Schneier (as well as some from companies such as Google, Mozilla, Cloudflare, and EFF) have signed a long editorial post, pointing out where The Guardian's report fell short, and also asking the publication to retract the story. From the story: The WhatsApp behavior described is not a backdoor, but a defensible user-interface trade-off. A debate on this trade-off is fine, but calling this a "loophole" or a "backdoor" is not productive or accurate. The threat is remote, quite limited in scope, applicability (requiring a server or phone number compromise) and stealthiness (users who have the setting enabled still see a warning; "even if after the fact). The fact that warnings exist means that such attacks would almost certainly be quickly detected by security-aware users. This limits this method. Telling people to switch away from WhatsApp is very concretely endangering people. Signal is not an option for many people. These concerns are concrete, and my alarm is from observing what's actually been happening since the publication of this story and years of experience in these areas. You never should have reported on such a crucial issue without interviewing a wide range of experts. The vaccine metaphor is apt: you effectively ran a "vaccines can kill you" story without interviewing doctors, and your defense seems to be, "but vaccines do kill people [through extremely rare side effects]."
Cellphones

Faulty Phone Battery May Have Caused Fire That Brought Down EgyptAir Flight MS80 (ibtimes.co.uk) 142

New submitter drunkdrone writes: "French authorities investigating the EgyptAir crash that killed 66 people last year believe that the plane may have been brought down by an overheating phone battery," reports International Business Times. Investigators say the fire that broke out on the Airbus A320 in May 2016 started in the spot where the co-pilot had stowed his iPad and iPhone 6S, which he placed on top of the instrument panel in the plane's cockpit. From the report: "EgyptAir flight MS804 was traveling from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar on 19 May 2016. Egyptian investigators have speculated that the crash, which killed all 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel on board, was caused by an act of terrorism due to traces of explosives reported to be found on some the victims. Investigators in France have disputed these claims, saying that data recorded from the aircraft around the time it disappeared points to an accidental fire on the right-hand side of the flight deck, next to the co-pilot. According to The Times, CCTV pulled from cameras at Paris' Charles de Gualle airport show that the co-pilot stored a number of personal items above the dashboard, where the first signs of trouble were detected. This included an automated alert indicating a series of malfunctions on the right-hand flight deck window, followed by smoke alerts going off in a toilet and in the avionics area below the cockpit, minutes before the plane vanished."
Social Networks

Facebook Is Clamping Down On Fake News, Partners With Fact Checkers To Flag Stories (slate.com) 415

After weeks of criticism over its role in spreading fake news during and after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, Facebook said today it is taking concrete steps to halt the sharing of hoaxes on its platform. From a report on Slate: The company announced on Thursday several new features designed to identify, flag, and slow the spread of false news stories on its platform, including a partnership with third-party fact-checkers such as Snopes and PolitiFact. It is also taking steps to prevent spammers and publishers from profiting from fake news. The new features are relatively cautious and somewhat experimental, which means they may not immediately have the intended effects. But they signal a new direction for a company that has been extremely reticent to take on any editorial oversight of the content posted on its platform. And they are likely to evolve over time as the company tests and refines them. First, it's trying to make it easier for users to report fake news stories. The drop-down menu at the top right of each post in your feed will now include an explicit option to report it as a "fake news story," after which you'll be prompted to choose among multiple options, which include notifying Facebook and messaging the person who shared it.
Businesses

CNN Acquires Social-Video Startup Beme, Co-Founded By YouTube Star Casey Neistat (variety.com) 62

CNN announced Monday that it has purchased video-sharing app Beme, and will work with its founder, Casey Neistat, to build a new media brand next year focused on storytelling for a younger audience. Casey Neistat is a YouTube celebrity and tech entrepreneur who launched Beme last year. Variety reports: CNN said the new venture that it's forming out of the acquisition -- aimed at reaching millennial viewers with the street cred of Neistat's reporting and commentary -- will launch in the summer of 2017. All 11 of Beme's employees will join CNN; the cable news network will be shutting down Beme, which had garnered more than 1 million downloads. New York-based filmmaker Neistat, who has more than 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, announced earlier this month on his channel that he would be suspending his personal vlog to focus on new projects, one of which turns out is the pact with CNN. His daily vlog dispatches cover current political and news events as well as action sequences like his viral "Snowboarding With the NYPD" video last winter. Led by Hackett, formerly VP of engineering at Yahoo's Tumblr, Beme's development team will "build technology to enable the new company and also develop mobile video capabilities for CNN's portfolio of digital properties," according to the Turner-owned cable news network. Neistat, 35, will lead the new venture's "editorial vision" as executive producer. CNN said it will employ its global resources to launch the new media brand, and plans to hire dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers and content creators for the new company. CNN said the new Beme-based company will operate as a standalone business under the CNN Digital umbrella.
Businesses

China Threatens To Cut Sales of iPhones and US Cars if 'Naive' Trump Pursues Trade War (theguardian.com) 742

US president-elect Donald Trump would be a "naive" fool to launch an all-out trade war against China, a Communist party-controlled newspaper has claimed. From a report on The Guardian:During the acrimonious race for the White House Trump repeatedly lashed out at China, vowing to punish Beijing with "defensive" 45% tariffs on Chinese imports and to officially declare it a currency manipulator. "When they see that they will stop the cheating," the billionaire Republican, who has accused Beijing of "the greatest theft in the history of the world", told a rally in August. On Monday the state-run Global Times warned that such measures would be a grave mistake. "If Trump wrecks Sino-US trade, a number of US industries will be impaired. Finally the new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence," the newspaper said in an editorial. The Global Times claimed any new tariffs would trigger immediate "countermeasures" and "tit-for-tat approach" from Beijing.
Censorship

WikiLeaks Calls for Pardons From President Obama -- Or President Trump (wikileaks.org) 445

"President Obama has a political moment to pardon Manning & Snowden," WikiLeaks tweeted on Friday, adding "If not, he hands a Trump presidency the freedom to take his prize." And a new online petition is also calling for a pardon of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying Assange is "a hero and must be honoured as such," attracting over 10,000 supporters in just a few days. An anonymous reader writes: Monday WikiLeaks also announced, "irrespective of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the real victor is the U.S. public which is better informed as a result of our work." Addressing complaints that they specifically targeted Hillary Clinton's campaign, the group said "To date, we have not received information on Donald Trump's campaign, or Jill Stein's campaign, or Gary Johnson's campaign or any of the other candidates that fulfills our stated editorial criteria." But they also objected to the way their supporters were portrayed during the U.S. election, arguing that Trump and others "were painted with a broad, red brush. The Clinton campaign, when they were not spreading obvious untruths, pointed to unnamed sources or to speculative and vague statements from the intelligence community to suggest a nefarious allegiance with Russia. The campaign was unable to invoke evidence about our publications -- because none exists."
Thursday a WikiLeaks representative expressed surprise that, despite the end of the U.S. election, Julian Assange's internet connection in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London has not yet been restored.
The Media

Gawker Pays $750,000 To That Guy Who Didn't Invent Email (gizmodo.com) 121

Shiva Ayyadurai still claims he invented email -- rather than the late ARPANET pioneer Ray Tomlinson. Now Gizmodo reports that Ayyadurai "will receive a $750,000 settlement from Gawker Media, the bankrupt publisher that he sued for defamation earlier this year." As part of the settlement, Gawker Media has agreed to delete three stories from the archive of Gawker.com, including one about Ayyadurai. Univision, which purchased most of Gawker Media's assets [including Gizmodo] out of bankruptcy in September, deleted two Gizmodo posts concerning Ayyadurai -- over the objections of the editorial staff -- immediately after closing the transaction... The offending Gizmodo articles made the case that "a lot of people don't believe that Ayyadurai invented email," and that "networked communication actually predates [his] computer program by a few years." As Tomlinson told Gizmodo in one of the stories Ayyadurai succeeded in getting unpublished, the email formats that are so familiar today -- to:, from:, etc. -- were in use years before Ayyadurai "invented" them.
The third post was titled, "If Fran Drescher Read Gizmodo She Would Not Have Married This Fraud."
Communications

City ISP Makes Broadband Free Because State Law Prohibits Selling Access (arstechnica.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A municipal ISP that was on the verge of shutting off Internet service outside its city boundaries to comply with a state law has come up with a temporary fix: it will offer broadband for free. The free Internet service for existing customers outside Wilson, North Carolina, will be available for six months, giving users more time to switch to an alternative. But Wilson also hopes that six months will be enough time to convince elected officials to change the state law that prohibits the municipal ISP from selling Internet service to non-residents. As [Ars Technica] covered previously, the Federal Communications Commission voted in February 2015 to preempt laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that prevent municipal broadband providers from expanding outside their territories. Greenlight Community Broadband in Wilson subsequently began offering service outside of Wilson. But officials in both states sued the FCC and in August won reinstatement of their laws that protect private ISPs from municipal competitors. In mid-September, the Wilson City Council reluctantly voted to turn off the fiber Internet service it provides to customers outside Wilson city limits. But that decision was reversed in a City Council vote last week, The Wilson Times reported. (The news came to our attention today via DSLReports.) A Wilson Times editorial reported: "City leaders are walking a tightrope as they balance their desire to keep Vick Family Farms in rural Nash County and 200 customers in the Edgecombe County town of Pinetops connected to Greenlight with their obligation to obey a federal court ruling that blocks the municipal broadband service from branching out beyond county lines. The council agreed Thursday night to provide six months of free internet access and phone service to Greenlight customers outside Wilson County while Wilson lobbies the General Assembly for permission to keep the town connected on a permanent basis."

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