Desktops (Apple)

In Defense of the Popular Framework Electron (dev.to) 132

Electron, a popular framework that allows developers to write code once and seamlessly deploy it across multiple platforms, has been a topic of conversation lately among developers and users alike. Many have criticised Electron-powered apps to be "too memory intensive." A developer, who admittedly uses a high-end computer, shares his perspective: I can speak for myself when I say Electron runs like a dream. On a typical day, I'll have about three Atom windows open, a multi-team Slack up and running, as well as actively using and debugging my own Electron-based app Standard Notes. [...] So, how does it feel to run this bloat train of death every day? Well, it feels like nothing. I don't notice it. My laptop doesn't get hot. I don't hear the fan. I experience no lags in any application. [...] But aside from how it makes end-users feel, there is an arguably more important perspective to be had: how it makes software companies feel. For context, the project I work in is an open-source cross-platform notes app that's available on most platforms, including web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. All the desktop applications are based off the main web codebase, and are bundled using Electron, while the iOS and Android app use their own native codebases respectively, one in Swift and the other in Kotlin. And as a new company without a lot of resources, this setup has just barely allowed us to enter the marketplace. Three codebases is two too many codebases to maintain. Every time we make a change, we have to make it in three different places, violating the most sacred tenet of computer science of keeping it DRY. As a one-person team deploying on all these platforms, even the most minor change will take at minimum three development days, one for each codebase. This includes debugging, fixing, testing, bundling, deploying, and distributing every single codebase. This is by no means an easy task.
Power

Australian Scientists Figure Out How Zinc-Air Batteries Can Replace Lithium-Ion Batteries (gizmodo.com.au) 117

Researchers at the University of Sydney has figured out how to solve one of the biggest problems standing in the way for zinc-air batteries to replace lithium-ion batteries. The reason zinc batteries are so sought after is because they're powered by zinc metal -- the 24th most abundant element in Earth's crust. Not only are they cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, they can theoretically store five times more energy, are much safer and environmentally friendly. The problem with zinc batteries stems around them being difficult to charge because of the lack of electrocatalysts needed to reduce and generate oxygen during the discharging and charging of a battery. labnet shares a report from Gizmodo: "Up until now, rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been made with expensive precious metal catalysts, such as platinum and iridium oxide. In contrast, our method produces a family of new high-performance and low-cost catalysts." These new catalysts are produced through the simultaneous control of the composition, size and crystallinity of metal oxides of earth-abundant elements like iron, cobalt and nickel. They can then be applied to build rechargeable zinc-air batteries. Researcher Dr Li Wei, also from the University's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, said trials of zinc-air batteries developed with the new catalysts had demonstrated "excellent rechargeability" -- including less than a 10 percent battery efficacy drop over 60 discharging/charging cycles of 120 hours. The research was published in the journal Advanced Materials.
Software

App Developers Should Charge More If They Want People To Buy Subscriptions, Suggests Report (theverge.com) 50

A new report from Liftoff, a Silicon Valley-based mobile app marketing and retargeting firm, says that subscription-based apps may do better if developers charge a higher price for services, rather than setting prices too low to lure users in initially. The Verge reports: The Liftoff report, which analyzed data gathered between June 2016 and June 2017, categorized app subscriptions into low-cost monthly subs ($0.99 to $7), medium ($7 to $20), and high-cost subs ($20 to $50), while also factoring the cost of acquisition per customer. The company found that apps in the medium price range had the highest conversion rate -- 7.16 percent -- and the lowest cost to acquire a subscriber, at just over $106 dollars. This was five times higher than the rate of people who subscribed to apps when the apps were in the low-cost category. This may partly be because streaming media apps, like Netflix and Spotify, have already conditioned people to pay around $10 a month for services. But it also might be attributable to the sunk cost fallacy, Liftoff says: the "cognitive bias people have that makes them stay the course because they have already spent time or resources on it." The report also examines apps that fulfill "need states," like dating apps or cloud services. These have the potential to offer services that customers are willing to pay for, again and again. But, according to Liftoff, utility apps have a much higher install-to-subscriber rate compared to dating apps. Blame those who eventually find love?
The Military

US Army Walks Back Decision To Ban DJI Drones Ever So Slightly (suasnews.com) 27

garymortimer shares a report from sUAS News: News has reached me that another DJI memo was passed around on Friday the 11th of August. An exception to policy with recommendations from the asymmetric warfare group that will permit the use of DJI kit once some conditions have been met. The Android Tactical Assault Kit will become the ground control station (GCS) of choice when a DJI plugin has passed OPSEC (Operational Security) scrutiny. In a separate report from Reuters, DJI said it is "tightening data security in the hopes that the U.S. Army will lift its ban on DJI drones because of 'cyber vulnerabilities.'" The company is "speeding deployment of a system that allows users to disconnect from the internet during flights, making it impossible for flight logs, photos or videos to reach DJI's computer servers," reports Reuters. While the security measure has been in the works for several months, it's being rolled out sooner than planned because of the Army's decision to discontinue the use of DJI drones.
Google

269 People Joined An Age Discrimination Class Action Suit Against Google (bizjournals.com) 178

Slashdot reader #9,119 BrookHarty writes: "269 people have joined a class-action lawsuit against Google claiming they were discriminated against in the workplace based on their age..." reports BizJournals. "The lawsuit originated in 2015 with plaintiff Robert Heath and was certified as a class-action in 2016." Google has stated it has implemented policies to stop age discrimination but still has an average employee age of 29.

In 2004 Larry Page fired Brian Reid nine days before IPO costing Reid 45 million in unvested stock options. Reid was fired for lack of "cultural fit". Reid has settled for an undisclosed amount.

The Internet

'I'm a Teapot' Error Code Saved From Extinction By Public Outcry (gizmodo.com.au) 111

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: It started back in 1998 as an April Fool's Day gag. Written up by Larry Masinter of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), error code 418 -- "I'm a teapot" -- was nothing more than a poke at the "many bad HTTP extensions that had been proposed". Despite its existence as a joke, a number of major software projects, including Node.js, ASP.NET and Google's Go language, implemented it as an Easter egg. A recent attempt to excise the fictitious code from these projects ended up doing the opposite, cementing it as a "reserved" error by the IETF...

Australian programmer Mark Nottingham flagged the code's removal as an "issue" for Google's Go language, the Node.js Javascript runtime and Microsoft's ASP.NET... Nottingham's argument was that 418 was "polluting [the] core protocol" of these projects... It didn't take long for a "Save 418" website to go live and through the efforts of interested internet historians (and jokers), all three of the aforementioned projects have decided to keep the code as it is, though Google will "revisit" the situation with the next major version of Go.

The Save 418 site argued that "the application of such an status code is boundless. Its utility, quite simply, is astonishingly unparalleled. It's a reminder that the underlying processes of computers are still made by humans. It'd be a real shame to see 418 go."
Biotech

Study Finds Vaccine Science Outreach Only Reinforced Myths (arstechnica.com) 464

Ars Technica reports on a study suggesting that "Striking at a myth with facts may only shore it up." Applehu Akbar writes: Researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied public attitudes toward vaccination in a group whose opinions on the subject were polled before and after being shown three different kinds of explanatory material that used settled scientific facts about vaccines to explain the pro-vaccination side of the debate. Not only was the anti-vax cohort not convinced by any of the three campaigns, but their attitudes hardened when another poll was taken a week later.

What seems to have happened was that the pro-vax campaign was taken by anti-vaxers as just another attempt to lie to them, and as reinforcement for their already made-up minds on the subject. A previous study at Dartmouth College in 2014 used similar methodology and except for the 'hardening' effect elicited similar results. What's really scary about this is that while the Dartmouth subjects were taken from a large general population, the Edinburgh subjects were college students.

"The researchers speculate that the mere repetition of a myth during the process of debunking may be enough to entrench the myth in a believer's mind," writes Ars Technica, with one of the study's authors attributing this to the "illusory truth" effect.

"People tend to mistake repetition for truth."
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.

NASA

NASA Looks At Reviving Atomic Rocket Program (newatlas.com) 122

Big Hairy Ian shares a report from New Atlas: When the first manned mission to Mars sets out, it may be on the tail of an atomic rocket engine. The Space Race vintage technology could have a renaissance at NASA after the space agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama signed a contract with BWXT Nuclear Energy to develop updated Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) concepts and new fuel elements to power them.

Today, with NASA once again considering the challenges of sending astronauts to Mars, the nuclear option is back on the table as part of the agency's Game Changing Development program. Under this, NASA has awarded BMXT, which supplies nuclear fuel to the U.S. Navy, a $18.8-million contract running through September 30, 2019 to look into the possibility of developing a new engine using a new type of fuel. Unlike previous designs using highly enriched uranium, BMXT will study the use of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU), which has less than 20 percent of fissile uranium 235. This will provide a number of advantages. Not only is it safer than the highly enriched fuel, but the security arrangements are less burdensome, and the handling regulations are the same as those of a university research reactor. If NASA determines next month that the LEU engine is feasible, the project will conduct testing and refine the manufacturing process of the Cermet fuel elements over the course of a year, with testing of the full-length Cermet fuel rods to be conducted at Marshall.

Slashdot reader Big Hairy Ian adds: "At the very least it looks much more feasible than Project Orion."

The Courts

Silicon Valley Billionaire Fails To Prevent Access To Public Beach (theguardian.com) 283

Robotron23 writes: Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, has lost his appeal to privatize Martins Beach -- a publicly-owned strip of coastline in California. Having previously fenced off the land in a bid to render the area private, Khosla has been ordered to restore access by a California court. Khosla had previously demanded the government pay him $30 million to reopen the gate to the beachfront. The law of California states that all beaches should be open to the public up to the "mean high tide line." "The decision this week, affirming a lower court ruling, stems from a lawsuit filed by the Surfrider Foundation, a not-for-profit group that says the case could have broader implications for beach access across the U.S.," reports The Guardian.
Space

Astronomers Detect Four Earth-Sized Planets Orbiting The Nearest Sun-Like Star (ucsc.edu) 100

Tim Stephens reports via The University of California in Santa Cruz: A new study by an international team of astronomers reveals that four Earth-sized planets orbit the nearest sun-like star, tau Ceti, which is about 12 light years away and visible to the naked eye. These planets have masses as low as 1.7 Earth mass, making them among the smallest planets ever detected around nearby sun-like stars. Two of them are super-Earths located in the habitable zone of the star, meaning they could support liquid surface water. The planets were detected by observing the wobbles in the movement of tau Ceti. This required techniques sensitive enough to detect variations in the movement of the star as small as 30 centimeters per second. The outer two planets around tau Ceti are likely to be candidate habitable worlds, although a massive debris disc around the star probably reduces their habitability due to intensive bombardment by asteroids and comets.
Security

Forget the Russians: Corrupt, Local Officials Are the Biggest Threat To Elections (securityledger.com) 287

chicksdaddy writes: Do you think that shadowy Russian hackers are the biggest threat to the integrity of U.S. elections? Think again. It turns out the bad actors in U.S. elections may be a lot more "Senator Bedfellow" than "Fancy Bear," according to Bev Harris, the founder of Black Box Voting. "It's money," Harris told The Security Ledger. "There's one federal election every four years, but there are about 100,000 local elections which control hundreds of billions of dollars in contract signings." Those range from waste disposal and sanitation to transportation."There are 1,000 convictions every year for public corruption," Harris says, citing Department of Justice statistics. "Its really not something that's even rare in the United States." We just don't think that corruption is a problem, because we rarely see it manifested in the ways that most people associate with public corruption, like violence or having to pay bribes to receive promised services, Harris said. But it's still there.

How does the prevalence of public corruption touch election security? Exactly in the way you might think. "You don't know at any given time if the people handling your votes are honest or not," Harris said. "But you shouldn't have to guess. There should be a way to check." And in the decentralized, poorly monitored U.S. elections system, there often isn't. At the root of our current problem isn't (just) vulnerable equipment, it's also a shoddy "chain of custody" around votes, says Eric Hodge, the director of consulting at Cyber Scout, which is working with the Board of Elections in Kentucky and in other states to help secure elections systems. That includes where and how votes are collected, how they are moved and tabulated and then how they are handled after the fact, should citizens or officials want to review the results of an election. That lack of transparency leaves the election system vulnerable to manipulation and fraud, Harris and Hodge argue.

Censorship

Syrian Open Source Developer Bassel Khartabil Believed Executed (www.cbc.ca) 151

TheSync writes: The Syrian open source developer, blogger, entrepreneur, hackerspace founder, and free culture advocate Bassell Khartabil was swept up in a wave of military arrests in March 2012. A CBC report states that his wife wrote on Facebook late Tuesday that she has received confirmation that security services executed Khartabil in October 2015 after torturing him in prison. Before his arrest, his most recent work included a 3D virtual reconstruction of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria.
At the time of his arrest, Khartabi was 30 years old -- after which he started a blog called "MeInSyrianJail" and a Twitter account called "Live from my cell." Though he spent the last three and half years of his life in prison, he once tweeted that "Jail is not walls, not the executioner and guards. It is the hidden fear in our hearts that makes us prisoners." The latest tweet on his feed says "Rest in power our friend."

Thursday the Creative Commons nonprofit described the developer as "our friend and colleague," and announced the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund, "which will support projects in the spirit of Bassel's work."
Open Source

Petition Asks Adobe To Open-Source Flash To Preserve Internet History (bleepingcomputer.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: A petition is asking Adobe to release Flash into the hands of the open-source community. Finnish developer Juha Lindstedt started the petition a day after Adobe announced plans to end Flash support by the end of 2020. "Flash is an important piece of Internet history and killing Flash means future generations can't access the past," Lindstedt explains in the petition's opening paragraph. "Games, experiments and websites would be forgotten." The developer wants Adobe to open-source Flash or parts of its technology so the open-source community could take on the job of supporting a minimal version of the Flash plugin or at least create a tool to accurately convert old SWF and FLA files to modern HTML5, canvas data, or WebAssembly code... Lindstedt is asking users to sign the petition by starring the project on GitHub. At the time of writing, the petition has garnered over 3,000 stars.
A reporter at ZDNet counters that "the only way to really secure Flash is to get rid of it... If Flash lives, people will continue to use it, and without security support, it will be even more insecure than ever." He points out there's already several programs that convert Flash into other formats -- and that Adobe already open sourced its Flex framework for building Flash applications back in 2008 (now supported by the Apache Software Foundation as Apache Flex). "In other words, we don't need the Flash source code to convert or create Flash files. Just let Flash go already...!

"Usually, I'm favor with open-sourcing everything and anything. Not this time. Flash has proven to be a net of endless security holes. It's time to let it go for once and for all.
United States

First Human Embryos Edited In US (technologyreview.com) 140

randomErr shares a report from MIT Technology Review: The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, MIT Technology Review has learned. The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR. Until now, American scientists have watched as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China. Now Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases. In altering the DNA code of human embryos, the objective of scientists is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed "germline engineering" because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells -- the egg and sperm. Reached by Skype, Mitalipov declined to comment on the results, which he said are pending publication. But other scientists confirmed the editing of embryos using CRISPR.
Apple

How Jony Ive Masterminded Apple's New Headquarters (wsj.com) 62

Reader cdreimer writes: As reported by The Wall Street Journal (paywalled, summary by Apple Insider), Jony Ive explains how he brought forth Steve Jobs' final design, Apple Park, Apple's newest campus headquarters, to life: "On a sunny day in May, Jonathan Ive -- Jony to anyone who knows him -- first encounters a completed section of Apple Park, the giant campus in Cupertino, California, that has turned into one of his longest projects as Apple's chief designer. A section of workspace in the circular, Norman Foster -- designed building is finally move-in-ready: sliding-glass doors on the soundproof offices, a giant European white oak collaboration table, adjustable-height desks, and floors with aluminum-covered hinged panels, hiding cables and wires, and brushed-steel grating for air diffusion. Ive's characteristically understated reaction -- "It's nice, though, isn't it?" -- masks the anxiety he feels each time a product he's designed is about to be introduced to the world. "There's the same rather strange process you go through when you finish a product and you prepare to release it -- it's the same set of feelings," says Ive, who turned 50 in February. "That feels, I don't know, encouragingly healthy, because I would be concerned if we lost that sense of anxiety. I think that would suggest that we were not as self-critical, not as curious, not as inquisitive as we have to be to be able to be effective and do good work." Apple Park is unlike any other product Ive has worked on. There will be only one campus -- in contrast to the ubiquity of Apple's phones and computers -- and it doesn't fit in a pocket or a hand. Yet Ive applied the same design process he brings to technological devices: prototyping to minimize any issues with the end result and to narrow what he calls the delta between the vision and the reality of a project. Apple Park is also the last major project Ive worked on with Steve Jobs, making it more personal for the man Jobs once called his "spiritual partner.""
Intel

Intel Exits the Maker Movement (hackaday.com) 84

Reader szczys writes: Intel just killed off its last "maker movement" hardware offering without fanfare by quietly releasing a Product Change Notification PDF. The Arduino 101 is halting production on September 17th. This microcontroller board is built around the Intel Curie module around which Intel bankrolled a television series called America's Greatest Makers. News on the end of life for the Arduino 101 board follows the recent cancellations of their Joule, Galileo, and Edison boards. This is the entirety of Intel's maker offerings and seems to signal their exit from entry-level embedded hardware.
NASA

How NASA Glimpsed The Mysterious Object 'New Horizons' Will Reach In 2019 (popsci.com) 68

necro81 writes: After its successful flyby of Pluto in July 2015, the New Horizons probe received a mission extension to fly past a Kuiper Belt object -- named 2014 MU69 -- in January 2019. However, we know few details about the object -- its size, shape, albedo, whether it has any companions -- which are crucial for planning the flyby. Based on observations from Hubble, the New Horizons team knew that the object would pass in front of a star -- an occultation -- on July 17th, which could provide some of this data. But the occultation would last for less than a second, would only be visible in Patagonia, and the star itself is quite dim.

NASA set up 24 telescopes near one community to capture the event, and received lots of cooperation from locals: turning off streetlights, shutting down a nearby highway, and setting up trucks as windbreaks. At least five of those telescopes captured the occultation. This was the latest in a series of observations ahead of the flyby.

"We had to go up to farmers' doors and say 'Hi, we're here from NASA, we're wondering if we can set up telescopes in your back pasture?'" one astronomer told Popular Science. "More often than not people were like 'that sounds awesome, sure, we'll help out!'"
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.
Sci-Fi

George A. Romero, Martin Landau Both Died This Weekend (variety.com) 53

This weekend the world lost two familiar faces from the world of fantasy, horror and science fiction films -- director George A. Romero and actor Martin Landau. An anonymous reader writes: Bronx-born director Romero started his career with a segment for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood about tonsilectomies, but is best remembered for his influential zombie movies Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005), as well as the 1982 horror film Creepshow (written by Stephen King). In 1998 Romero also directed a zombie-themed ad for Resident Evil 2, and later even wrote a rejected script for the first Resident Evil movie. In 2004 Romero began work on a zombie video game City of the Dead, which was ultimately never finished. Romero appears as himself in the zombie section of Call of Duty: Black Ops, and in 2014 Marvel comics launched Empire of the Dead, a 15-issue title written by Romero.

Martin Landau began his career playing a gunfighter in the third episode of The Twilight Zone, and a time-travelling astronaut in the sixth episode of The Outer Limits. Soon he was starring as master of disguise Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible -- which ran from 1966 to 1973 -- and on Space: 1999, which ran from 1975 to 1977. At the age of 66 Landau finally won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood. In 2012 Landau also provided the voice of the science teacher in Burton's Frankenweenie, and had an uncredited role in the director's 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow as one of the early victims of the headless horseman. Landau was also in the 1998 X-Files movie (playing the doctor who tips off Mulder that there's something suspicious in the morgue).

Slashdot reader schwit1 remembers that Landau began his career playing a sadistic henchman in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (who appears in the climactic final scene on Mt. Rushmore) -- and that Landau famously turned down the role of Mr. Spock on Star Trek.

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