WWII Code-Breaker Dies At Age 95
An anonymous reader quotes an article from the Washington Post:
Jane Fawcett, a British code-breaker during World War II who deciphered a key German message that led to the sinking of the battleship Bismarck -- one of Britain's greatest naval victories during the war -- died May 21 at her home in Oxford, England. She was 95... Fluent in German and driven by curiosity, Mrs. Fawcett -- then known by her maiden name, Jane Hughes -- found work at Britain's top-secret code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park, about 50 miles northwest of London. Of the 12,000 people who worked there, about 8,000 were women. Bletchley Park later became renowned as the place where mathematician Alan Turing and others solved the puzzle of the German military's "Enigma machine," depicted in the 2014 film "The Imitation Game"...
The sinking of the Bismarck marked the first time that British code-breakers had decrypted a message that led directly to a victory in battle... Mrs. Fawcett's work was not made public for decades. Along with everyone else at Bletchley Park, she agreed to comply with Britain's Official Secrets Act, which imposed a lifetime prohibition on revealing any code-breaking activities.
Meanwhile, volunteers from The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park finally
tracked down an original keyboard from the Lorenz machine used to encode top-secret messages between Hitler and his general. It was selling on eBay for 10 pounds, advertised as an old machine for sending telegrams.
Real-World Pong Created by Amateur Builders
sproketboy shares this article about a computer graphic designer who spent two years building
a real-world version of the classic videogame Pong, played on a full-sized coffee table using only mechanical parts. The project's team apparently used a hard drive platter for the real-world scroll wheels controlling the paddles, aided by
some large Arduinos and other homemade electronics (along with rainbow LED lights to create the pixels for the score).
"We don't have any electronics, product design, or manufacturing background," Daniel Perdomo told one technology site. "All we knew for this was thanks to the Internet (Google, YouTube, forums). Today you can grab all the knowledge you want just a few clicks away!" He's now looking for a hardware incubator to transform his "Atari Pong Project" into a real consumer product. (Interestingly, another group of hobbyists
built a similar electromechanical version of Pong back In 2004.)
Researchers Criticize New DAO Ethereum VC Fund
Three cryptocurrency experts published
a scientific paper Friday detailing seven attacks that could influence how the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) allocates its Ether funds. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes, "Coincidentally or not, they released their work with one day before funding for the DAO closed, and not surprisingly, Ether's price went down, devaluing the DAO from $150 million to $132 million."
DAO is a crowdfunded project that works on the Ethereum network, a new crypto-currency network that deals with crypto-currency named Ether, which many experts say is better than Bitcoin's blockchain... Investors can submit funding proposals, on which the DAO users vote by submitting some of their tokens and a YES/NO vote. In the end, based on the tokens and YES/NO votes, the DAO's computer program decides on the outcome.
Softpedia reports that the paper released Friday also suggests a series of mitigations to a design they say will "incentivize investors to behave strategically; that is, at odds with truthful voting on their preferences."
Google Scholar Users Report Badly Malfunctioning Captcha
Google's search engine for academic research materials is
blocking many users with a malfunctioning captcha screen, according to complaints on a Google help forum. "I'm a doctoral student and a professor, which means I use this extensively. Now I'm blocked from using it at all, even after answering all of the stupid image questions (3 times)," reads a typical complaint.
A lot of researchers when using Google Scholar are being asked to prove they are not a robot. You have to find all the rivers (but not the sea or lakes) or all street numbers (but not other numbers) or all the store fronts from nine poor quality images, sometimes more than once and, surprise, you will fail more than two thirds of the time and then just get an error 400 "Malformed request, that's all we know". You are offered an audio challenge but clicking on that simply loads more pictures... Is that the best they can do distinguishing between man and machine?
One post ended by stating succinctly "I'm not a robot, I'm an academic professional, and this process is wasting nontrivial amounts of my time. How do I stop it?"
Doubts Raised About Cellphone Cancer Study
Vox is strongly criticizing coverage of a supposed link between cellphones and cancer suggested by a new study, calling it "
a breathtaking example of irresponsible science hype." An anonymous reader writes:
A professor and research monitoring administrator at an American medical school reported that to get their results, the researchers "exposed pregnant rats to whole body CDMA- and GSM-modulated radiofrequency radiation, for 9 hours a day, 7 days a week," and the results were seen only with CDMA (but not GSM-modulated) radiofrequency. "[F]alse positives are very likely. The cancer difference was only seen in females, not males. The incidence of brain cancer in the exposed groups was well within the historical range. There's no clear dose response..."
An emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University in Britain also called the study "statistically underpowered..." according to Vox. "Not enough animals were used to allow the researchers to have a good chance of detecting a risk from radiofrequency radiation of the size one might plausibly expect."
Systemd Starts Killing Your Background Processes By Default
systemd changed a default value in logind.conf to "yes", which will kill all your processes, when you log out... There is already a bug-report over at debian: Debian bug tracker.
The new change means "user sessions will be properly cleaned up after," according to the changelog, "but additional steps are necessary to allow intentionally long-running processes to survive logout. To effectively allow users to run long-term tasks even if they are logged out, lingering must be enabled for them."
Massive Backlash Building Over Windows 10 Upgrades
Some Windows users
are now disabling critical updates on their systems rather than face the prospect of mistakenly upgrading to Windows 10. An anonymous reader writes:
"By pushing it on users in such a heavy-handed way, Microsoft is encouraging users who have very valid reasons to stick with Windows 7/8 to perform actions that leave their machines open to attack," writes PC World's senior editor. He adds that "Over the past week, I've received more contact from readers about this issue than I have about everything else I've written over the rest of my career combined."
Now even China's official news agency is reporting that users are angry about stealthy Windows 10 upgrades, saying over 1.2 million complaints appeared on one microblogging site. It quotes a legal advisor with the Internet Society of China, who says Microsoft "has abused its dominant market position and broken the market order for fair play," saying that lawsuits would be justified over Microsoft's action. "Yang Shuo, a worker at a Beijing-based public relations company, told Xinhua that the sudden update interrupted his drafting of a business plan and led to a meeting cancellation for a deal worth 3 million yuan ($457,735). 'Just because I didn't see the pop-up reminder does not mean I agreed.'"
In a possibly-unrelated development, the Chinese military plans to
send nuclear submarines into the Pacific Ocean.
Study Indicates Americans Don't Trust AI
Taco Cowboy writes:
It may be brilliant, but it's not all that trustworthy. That appears to be the opinion Americans hold when it comes to Artificial Intelligence systems... And while we may be interacting with AI systems more frequently than we realize (hi, Siri), a new study from Time etc suggests that Americans don't believe the AI revolution is quite here yet, with 54 percent claiming to have never interacted with such a system
The more interesting finding reveals that 26 percent of respondents said they would not trust an AI with any personal or professional task. Sure, sending a text message or making a phone call is fine, but 51 percent said they'd be uncomfortable sharing personal data with an AI system. Moreover, 23 percent of Americans who say they have interacted with an AI reported being dissatisfied with the experience.
I thought it was interesting that 66% of the respondents said they'd be uncomfortable sharing financial data with an AI, while 53% said they'd be uncomfortable sharing professional data.
How The IoT Will Change The Chip
"Get ready for some big changes in the 'silicon' of Silicon Valley," writes tech CEO Narbeh Derhacobian who argues that the need to build tens of billions of connected sensor devices
will change the way computers get built. "Just like smartphone owners like to pick and choose which apps they want, IoT manufacturers may want to shop for components individually without being locked into a single fab." An anonymous reader summarizes his article on TechCrunch:
Thousands of different hardware devices, each selling around one million units, "would suggest the need for a much greater diversity of chip configurations than we've seen to date." Currently smartphones are engineered using a "System on a Chip" design where all the components are "locked into a single manufacturing process," but Derhacobian predicts chip manufacturers will continue a trend of moving towards a "System in a Package" approach -- "packing components closely together, without the complete, end-to-end integration... In a smart, connected world, sensor requirements could vary greatly from factory to factory, not to mention between industries as varied as agriculture, urban planning and automotive."
"In some ways, the great trends of the PC and smartphone eras were toward standardization of devices. Apple's great vision was understanding that people prefer a beautiful, integrated package, and don't need many choices in hardware. But in software it's generally the opposite. People have different needs, and want to select the apps and programs that work best for them."
William Gibson Announces New Sci-Fi Comic Book
68-year-old science fiction author William Gibson just released a complicated new science fiction comic book, and this weekend Ars Technica
proclaimed that "the results are grand". An anonymous reader shares their report:
A father and son occupy the new White House as President and Vice President. We never meet dad, but his son -- an evil jerk by the name of Junior Henderson -- has been surgically altered to resemble his grandfather, because Junior is about travel to an alternate Earth in 1945 to take grandpa's place, with the intent of remaking that world more to his liking (and, presumably, to prevent whatever it was that laid waste to the one we start off in)...The world is in ruins. The White House relocated to the ominous-sounding National Emergency Federal District in Montana. They have technology that far outstrips our own...
"It's an alternate-history/cross-worlds story," Gibson writes... "And I wouldn't want to spoil too much of the frame, because that's an inherent part of our narrative. But I will say that one of the first verbal tags we had for the material was 'Band Of Brothers vs. Blackwater.'"
his Twitter feed, Gibson is also applauding the news that Marvel and DC comics
abandoned a two and a half year legal battle to enforce their trademark on the word "superhero" against a publisher in the U.K.
Mugger Arrested After Victim Spots Him On Facebook's 'People You May Know'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BGR:
In a somewhat bizarre story which proves that truth is often stranger than fiction, a serial mugger in England was arrested after one of his victims spotted him under Facebook's 'People you may know' section.Originally reported by the BBC, 21-year old Omar Famuyide had a long history of theft, muggings and armed robberies to his name. Not too long ago, Famuyide brandished a knife and stole a car.
Flash forward a bit, and the victim of said car robbery was recently shocked to see Famuyide's face pop up as a suggested friend he might want to add on Facebook. The victim promptly called the police who quickly managed to tie him to a large number of other violent crimes. By the time the dust settled and the full extent of Famuyide's criminal rampage was revealed, Famuyide was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
His Facebook profile ultimately led to charges of robbery, attempted robbery, and possessing a firearm.
Fiverr Suffers Six-Hour DDoS Attack After Removing DDoS-For-Hire Listings
Two days after Fiverr, a marketplace for digital services, removed user listings from its website that advertised DDoS-for-hire services, the company's website
suffered a six-hour long DDOS attack. Softpedia reports:
The incident took place on the morning of May 27 (European timezones), and the service admitted its problems on its Twitter account. At the time of writing, Fiverr has been back up and functioning normally for more than two hours. Fiverr's problems stem from an Incapsula probe that found DDoS-for-hire ads on its marketplace, available for $5. Incapsula reported the suspicious listings to Fiverr, who investigated the issue and removed the ads. Fiverr first removed all listings advertising blatantly illegal DDoS services, but later also removed the ads offering to "test" a website for DDoS "protection" measures.
Is Denver The Next High-Tech Center?
An anonymous reader write:
"The spread of the tech industry outside Silicon Valley has helped make Denver the fastest-growing large city in the U.S.," reports the New Yorker, saying it's now growing faster than Austin and Seattle, becoming one of America's 20 most populous cities. Cost-conscious investors and tech executives now are opening offices in cheaper "secondary cities" outside of Silicon Valley, like Salt Lake City, and the good universities near Denver mean a well-educated workforce, coupled with a low cost of living.
"Though the city isn't the headquarters for any big tech companies -- like Dell in the Austin area or Microsoft and Amazon in Seattle -- several of them, including IBM and Oracle, have offices here. The presence of those offices, and of the universities, has also helped create a vibrant startup scene: people get educated here or come here for jobs, and then they graduate or leave those jobs and become entrepreneurs." Last year venture capitalists invested $800 million in Demver's tech, energy, food, and marijuana companies, and in 2014 Oracle paid over a billion dollars to acquire Denver-based Datalogix.
Anyone else live in a burgeoning "secondary" tech city? Scott McNealy said he co-founded his data-analysis startup in Denver because in California "
The prices of everything have skyrocketed. The regulations. The pension deficit. The traffic. It's just not a fun place to go start."
Ray Kurzeil's Google Team Is Building Intelligent Chatbots
An anonymous reader quotes an article from The Verge.
Inventor Ray Kurzweil made his name as a pioneer in technology that helped machines understand human language, both written and spoken. In a video from a recent Singularity conference Kurzweil says he and his team at Google are building a chatbot, and that it will be released sometime later this year... "My team, among other things, is working on chatbots. We expect to release some chatbots you can talk to later this year."
One of the bots will be named Danielle, and according to Kurzweil, it will draw on dialog from a character named Danielle, who appears in a novel he wrote -- a book titled, what else, Danielle... He said that anyone will be able to create their own unique chatbot by feeding it a large sample of your writing, for example by letting it ingest your blog. This would allow the bot to adopt your "style, personality, and ideas."
Kurzweil also predicted that we won't see AIs with full "human-level" language abilities until 2029, "But you'll be able to have interesting conversations before that."
Ruby on Rails Creator Supports After-Work Email Bans
An anonymous reader writes:
David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, is applauding talk of an after-work e-mail ban, writing that "the ever-expanding expectations for when someone is available have gotten out of hand... Work emails are ticking in at all sorts of odd hours and plenty of businesses are dysfunctional enough to believe they have a right to have those answered, whatever the hour. That's unhealthy, possibly even exploitative... Same goes for forcing everyone to work in an open office. The research is mounting on all the ills that come from persistent noise and interruptions from that arrangement."
While acknowledging that his firm's project management tool Basecamp has a "perfect storm" of features that can send emails and texts after hours, Hansson points out that at least version 3 (released in 2015) shipped with a scheduling feature that will hold notifications during weekends and other specified off-work periods. "What we need before we can even dream of having something like the French response is a change in attitudes. Less celebration of workaholism, more #WorkCanWait. More recognition that stress from unrealistic and unhealthy expectations and work habits is actually a real hazard to health and sanity."