The Internet

How Bad User Interfaces Can Ruin Lives 13 13

Lauren Weinstein writes: A couple of months ago, in "Seeking Anecdotes Regarding 'Older' Persons' Use of Web Services," I asked for stories and comments regarding experiences that older users have had with modern Web systems, with an emphasis on possible problems and frustrations. I purposely did not define "older" — with the result that responses arrived from users (or regarding users) self-identifying as ages ranging from their 30s to well into their 90s (suggesting that "older" is largely a point of view rather than an absolute). Before I began the survey I had some preconceived notions of how the results would appear. Some of these were proven correct, but overall the responses also contained many surprises, often both depressing and tragic in scope. The frustration of caregivers in these contexts was palpable. They'd teach an older user how to use a key service like Web-based mail to communicate with their loved ones, only to discover that a sudden UI change caused them to give up in frustration and not want to try again. When the caregiver isn't local the situation is even worse. While remote access software has proven a great boon in such situations, they're often too complex for the user to set up or fix by themselves when something goes wrong, remaining cut off until the caregiver is back in their physical presence.
Open Source

What Goes Into a Decision To Take Software From Proprietary To Open Source 23 23

Lemeowski writes: It's not often that you get to glimpse behind the curtain and see what led a proprietary software company to open source its software. Last year, the networking software company Midokura made a strategic decision to open source its network virtualization platform MidoNet, to address fragmentation in the networking industry. In this interview, Midokura CEO and CTO Dan Mihai Dumitriu explains the company's decision to give away fours years of engineering to the open source community, how it changed the way its engineers worked, and the lessons learned along the way. Among the challenges was helping engineers overcome the culture change of broadcasting their work to a broader community.
Businesses

Software Devs Leaving Greece For Good, Finance Minister Resigns 268 268

New submitter TheHawke writes with this story from ZDNet about the exodus of software developers from Greece. "In the last three years, almost 80 percent of my friends, mostly developers, left Greece," software developer Panagiotis Kefalidis told ZDNet. "When I left for North America, my mother was not happy, but... it is what it is." It's not just the software developers quitting either. The Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis also resigned. A portion of his resignation announcement reads: "Soon after the announcement of the referendum results, I was made aware of a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my ‘absence’ from its meetings; an idea that the Prime Minister judged to be potentially helpful to him in reaching an agreement. For this reason I am leaving the Ministry of Finance today."
Censorship

Chilling Effect of the Wassenaar Arrangement On Exploit Research 26 26

Bismillah writes: Security researchers are confused as to how the export control and licensing controls covering exploits affect their work. The upcoming Wassenaar restrictions were expected to discourage publication of such research, and now it's already started to happen. Grant Wilcox, writing his dissertation for the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, was forced to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach when it came time to release the vulnerabilities he found in Microsoft's EMET 5.1. "No legal consultation on the matter took place, but Wilcox noted that exploit vendors such as Vupen had started to restrict sales of their products and services because of new export control and licensing provisions under the Wassenaar Arrangement. ... Wilcox investigated the export control regulations but was unable to clarify whether it applied to his academic work. The university did not take part. He said the provisions defining which type of exploits and software are and aren't controlled were written in ambiguous language and appeared to contradict each other."
Space

Pluto Probe Back To Normal, Cause of Snafu Found 74 74

Tablizer writes: NASA has provided an update to the problem with the New Horizons probe that will fly by Pluto next week. "The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter "safe mode" on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft. The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Snafu Causes Miners To Generate Invalid Blocks 175 175

An anonymous reader writes: A notice at bitcoin.org warns users of the cryptocurrency that many miners are currently generating invalid blocks. The cause seems to be out-of-date software, and software that assumed blocks were valid instead of checking them. They explain further "For several months, an increasing amount of mining hash rate has been signaling its intent to begin enforcing BIP66 strict DER signatures. As part of the BIP66 rules, once 950 of the last 1,000 blocks were version 3 (v3) blocks, all upgraded miners would reject version 2 (v2) blocks. Early morning UTC on 4 July 2015, the 950/1000 (95%) threshold was reached. Shortly thereafter, a small miner (part of the non-upgraded 5%) mined an invalid block--as was an expected occurrence. Unfortunately, it turned out that roughly half the network hash rate was mining without fully validating blocks (called SPV mining), and built new blocks on top of that invalid block. Note that the roughly 50% of the network that was SPV mining had explicitly indicated that they would enforce the BIP66 rules. By not doing so, several large miners have lost over $50,000 dollars worth of mining income so far."
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: How Much Did Your Biggest Tech Mistake Cost? 371 371

NotQuiteReal writes: What is the most expensive piece of hardware you broke (I fried a $2500 disk drive once, back when 400MB was $2500) or what software bug did you let slip that caused damage? (No comment on the details — but about $20K cost to a client.) Did you lose your job over it? If you worked on the Mars probe that crashed, please try not to be the First Post, that would scare off too many people!
AI

Machine Learning System Detects Emotions and Suicidal Behavior 38 38

An anonymous reader writes with word as reported by The Stack of a new machine learning technology under development at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology "which can identify emotion in text messages and email, such as sarcasm, irony and even antisocial or suicidal thoughts." Computer science student Eden Saig, the system's creator, explains that in text and email messages, many of the non-verbal cues (like facial expression) that we use to interpret language are missing. His software applies semantic analysis to those online communications and tries to figure out their emotional import and context by looking for word patterns (not just more superficial markers like emoticons or explicit labels like "[sarcasm]"), and can theoretically identify clues of threatening or self-destructive behavior.
The Almighty Buck

Leased LEDs and Energy Service Contracts can Cut Electric Bills (Video) 51 51

I first heard of Consumer Energy Solutions from a non-profit's IT guy who was boasting about how he got them to lease him LED bulbs for their parking lot and the security lights at their equipment lot -- pretty much all their outdoor lighting -- for a lot less than their monthly savings on electricity from replacing most of their Halogen, fluorescent, and other less-efficient lights with LEDs. What made this a big deal to my friend was that no front money was required. It's one thing to tell a town council or non-profit board, "If we spend $180,000 on LEDs we'll save it all back in five years" (or whatever). It's another thing to say, "We can lease LEDs for all our outdoor lighting for $4,000 per month and save $8,000 on electricity right away." That gets officials to prick up their ears in a hurry.Then there are energy service contracts, essentially buying electricity one, two or three years in advance. This business got a bad name from Enron and their energy wholesaling business, but despite that single big blast of negative publicity, it grows a little each year. And the LED lease business? In many areas, governments and utility companies actually subsidize purchases of anything that cuts electricity use. Totally worth checking out.

But why, you might ask, is this on Slashdot? Because some of our readers own stacks of servers (or work for companies that own stacks of servers) and need to know they don't have to pay whatever their local electric utility demands, but can shop for better electricity prices in today's deregulated electricity market. And while this conversation was with one person in this business, we are not pushing his company. As interviewee Patrick Clouden says at the end of the interview, it's a competitive business. So if you want the best deal, you'd better shop around. One more thing: the deregulated utility market, with its multitude of suppliers, peak and off-peak pricing, and (often) minute-by-minute price changes, takes excellent software (possibly written by someone like you) to negotiate, so this business niche might be one an entrepreneurial software developer should explore.
Software

Samsung Faces Lawsuit In China Over Smartphone Bloatware 79 79

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung is being sued in China for installing too many apps onto its smartphones. The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission is also suing Chinese vendor Oppo, demanding that the industry do more to rein in bloatware. The group said complaints are on the rise from smartphone users who are frustrated that these apps take up too much storage and download data without the user being aware. Out of a study of 20 smartphones, Samsung and Oppo were found to be the worst culprits. A model of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 contained 44 pre-installed apps that could not be removed from the device, while Oppo's X9007 phone had 71.
The Military

Naval Research Interested In Bringing 3D Printing To Large Scale For Ships 43 43

coondoggie writes: The Navy this month will outline what it is looking for from additive manufacturing or 3D printing technology as way to bolster what it terms "fleet readiness." The Office of Naval Research will on July 15 detail its Quality Metal Additive Manufacturing (Quality MADE) program that will aim to "develop and integrate the suite of additive manufacturing software and hardware tools required to ensure that critical metallic components can be consistently produced and rapidly qualified in a cost effective manner."
Google

Google: Stop Making Apps! (A Love Letter) 110 110

An anonymous reader writes: Seasoned Silicon Valley software executive and investor Domenic Merenda has written a love letter to Google, and it's filled with "tough" love. The main thesis is that Google, as a company, should stop making apps, and instead focus on using its enormous data assets to make meaningful connections between people and facilitate organic engagement within a rich ecosystem. Interestingly, the article cites Wikipedia's information that Google maintains over 70 apps on the Android platform alone.
Microsoft

Microsoft Research Open Sources WorldWide Telescope 18 18

kfogel writes: Microsoft Research has open sourced WorldWide Telescope, releasing it under the MIT license and donating the code to the .NET Foundation. The code is up on GitHub at github.com/WorldWideTelescope, and there are demos and more details at WorldWideTelescope.org. Go forth and explore!
Programming

Watching People Code Is Becoming an (Even Bigger) Thing 134 134

itwbennett writes: Faithful Slashdot readers may recall the story of Adam Wulf, who spent two weeks live-streaming himself writing a mobile app. The phenomenon has quickly become thing, by which we mean a business. Twitch.TV, Watch People Code (which is an offshoot of the subreddit by the same name), Ludum Dare, and, of course, YouTube, are bursting with live or archived streams of lots of people writing lots of code for lots of different things. And just this week, Y Combinator-backed startup Livecoding.TV launched. The site has signed up 40,000 users since its beta went live in February, but unlike the other sites in this space what it doesn't have (and doesn't have plans for) is advertising. As co-founder Jamie Green told ITworld: 'We have some different ideas around monetisation in the pipeline, but for now we are just focussed on building a community around live education.'
Robotics

Volkswagen Factory Worker Killed By a Robot 336 336

m.alessandrini writes: A worker at a Volkswagen factory in Germany has died, after a robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate. This is perhaps the first severe accident of this kind in a western factory, and is sparking debate about who is responsible for the accident, the man who was servicing the robot beyond its protection cage, or the robot's hardware/software developers who didn't put enough safety checks. Will this distinction be more and more important in the future, when robots will be more widespread?
Businesses

Exploring the Relationships Between Tech Skills (Visualization) 64 64

Nerval's Lobster writes: Simon Hughes, Dice's Chief Data Scientist, has put together an experimental visualization that explores how tech skills relate to one another. In the visualization, every circle or node represents a particular skill; colors designate communities that coalesce around skills. Try clicking "Java", for example, and notice how many other skills accompany it (a high-degree node, as graph theory would call it). As a popular skill, it appears to be present in many communities: Big Data, Oracle Database, System Administration, Automation/Testing, and (of course) Web and Software Development. You may or may not agree with some relationships, but keep in mind, it was all generated in an automatic way by computer code, untouched by a human. Building it started with Gephi, an open-source network analysis and visualization software package, by importing a pair-wise comma-separated list of skills and their similarity scores (as Simon describes in his article) and running a number of analyses: Force Atlas layout to draw a force-directed graph, Avg. Path Length to calculate the Betweenness Centrality that determines the size of a node, and finally Modularity to detect communities of skills (again, color-coded in the visualization). The graph was then exported as an XML graph file (GEXF) and converted to JSON format with two sets of elements: Nodes and Links. "We would love to hear your feedback and questions," Simon says.
Google

Google Apologises For Photos App's Racist Blunder 351 351

Mark Wilson writes: Google has issued an apology after the automatic tagging feature of its Photos apps labeled a black couple as "gorillas". This is not the first time an algorithm has been found to have caused racial upset. Earlier in the year Flickr came under fire after its system tagged images of concentration camps as sports venues and black people as apes. The company was criticized on social networks after a New York software developer questioned the efficacy of Google's algorithm. Accused of racism, Google said that it was "appalled" by what had happened, branding it as "100% not OK".
Java

Ask Slashdot: Getting My Wife Back Into Programming After Long Maternity Leave? 248 248

An anonymous reader writes: My wife has been on a maternity leave for three years, now. She is starting to think about refreshing her coding skills and looking for a job. Before, she worked as a Java developer for around two years doing mostly Java Enterprise stuff. However, she is not very eager to go back to coding. I think she has the right mental skills to be a developer, but she is just not very passionate about coding or IT in general. On the other hand, it's relatively easier to find a job in IT than starting a new career.

We live in Spain, and with the current economic situation, the market for software developers is not great — but it's definitely better than other jobs. I there anything else she might do, ideally Java (but could be anything IT related) that would be easier and more fun than the typical Java Enterprise stuff, while also giving her a good change to find a decent job? (I'm a Java developer myself with many years of experience but mostly doing boring Java Enterprise stuff.)
Safari

Is Safari the New Internet Explorer? 310 310

An anonymous reader writes: Software developer Nolan Lawson says Apple's Safari has taken the place of Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the major browser that lags behind all the others. This comes shortly after the Edge Conference, where major players in web technologies got together to discuss the state of the industry and what's ahead. Lawson says Mozilla, Google, Opera, and Microsoft were all in attendance and willing to talk — but not Apple.

"It's hard to get insight into why Apple is behaving this way. They never send anyone to web conferences, their Surfin' Safari blog is a shadow of its former self, and nobody knows what the next version of Safari will contain until that year's WWDC. In a sense, Apple is like Santa Claus, descending yearly to give us some much-anticipated presents, with no forewarning about which of our wishes he'll grant this year. And frankly, the presents have been getting smaller and smaller lately."

He argues, "At this point, we in the web community need to come to terms with the fact that Safari has become the new IE. Microsoft is repentant these days, Google is pushing the web as far as it can go, and Mozilla is still being Mozilla. Apple is really the one singer in that barbershop quartet hitting all the sour notes, and it's time we start talking about it openly instead of tiptoeing around it like we're going to hurt somebody's feelings."