the unofficial Slashdot digest archive

Google Trains AI To Write Wikipedia Articles

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
The Register: A team within Google Brain -- the web giant's crack machine-learning research lab -- has taught software to generate Wikipedia-style articles by summarizing information on web pages... to varying degrees of success. As we all know, the internet is a never ending pile of articles, social media posts, memes, joy, hate, and blogs. It's impossible to read and keep up with everything. Using AI to tell pictures of dogs and cats apart is cute and all, but if such computers could condense information down into useful snippets, that would be really be handy. It's not easy, though. A paper, out last month and just accepted for this year's International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR) in April, describes just how difficult text summarization really is. A few companies have had a crack at it. Salesforce trained a recurrent neural network with reinforcement learning to take information and retell it in a nutshell, and the results weren't bad.

Sweden Considers Six Years in Jail For Online Pirates

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Sweden's Minister for Justice has received recommendations as to how the country should punish online pirates. From a report: Helene Fritzon received a proposal which would create crimes of gross infringement under both copyright and trademark law, leading to sentences of up to six years in prison. The changes would also ensure that non-physical property, such as domain names, can be seized.

And how much....

By Sebby • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread
.... for those that falsely claim copyright infringement on stuff that they don’t own copyright on to begin with?

Better idea

By alvinrod • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread
Why not just make them do community service instead? I don't think it's really in the interest of the taxpayers to spend tens of thousands of dollars (or Swedish Krona I suppose) to lock up non-violent individuals who are committing what would be best regarded as civil offenses.

Meanwhile Afghan men can murder for less than 2 yr

By aliquis • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

Mean-while Afghan men can murder people in Sweden and get a punishment of less than 2 years of prison.

That's because among the adults of Afghans hardly anyone got the right of asylum so they lie and claim they are children. And while applying for asylum it's kinda ok to lie and the Migration office may believe them.

But then when they actually do kill someone else then it become up to the court to show that they are adults and good luck with that since you don't even know who the fuck they are in the first place.

And since Sweden don't have the same sentences for actual youth (and even less for people below 15 years old) as for adults they get a very low punishment.
"16" years now, supposedly "15" then.

So less than two years for knife murder.
Up to six years for breaking copyright.

Make sense. The idiots in charge and those who want to keep all the afghans for instance claim we must have rule of law as far as immigration and peopleÂs behavior in response to criminality goes. But it's of course only valid when it benefit the invaders and destroy the life of Swedes. But the system definitely isn't fair or just and we don't have equality against the law in Sweden because the immigrants can do whatever the fuck they want since they can just claim to not be responsibility because they are children whereas actual Swedes can't even if they behaved like the filth coming here which by itself would be very unlikely. So far.

At least you get off easy for any other crime...

By Jarwulf • Score: 3 • Thread
Sweden is generally pretty lenient on crime. Unless you do something which offends, Muslims, LGBT, or the honer of a woman. Such as not getting written permission everytime you want sex. Or not having a corporate board with a certain percentage of females no matter how unqualified they are. Then they'll come down on you like a ton of bricks.

Seems harsh considering ...

By fahrbot-bot • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
The punishment for actual piracy, studying the prosecution of Somali pirates:

... the sentences imposed on pirates for similar crimes range from four years to life in prison. The average sentence globally is 16 years ...

The Wikipedia Zero Program Will End This Year

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Wikimedia: Wikimedia 2030, the global discussion to define the future of the Wikimedia movement, created a bold vision for the future of Wikimedia and the role we want to play in the world as a movement. With this shared vision for our movement's future in mind, the Wikimedia Foundation is evolving how we work with partners to address some of the critical barriers to participating in free knowledge globally. After careful evaluation, the Wikimedia Foundation has decided to discontinue one of its partnership approaches, the Wikipedia Zero program. Wikipedia Zero was created in 2012 to address one barrier to participating in Wikipedia globally: high mobile data costs. Through the program, we partnered with mobile operators to waive mobile data fees for their customers to freely access Wikipedia on mobile devices. Over the course of this year, no additional Wikipedia Zero partnerships will be formed, and the remaining partnerships with mobile operators will expire. In the program's six year tenure, we have partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries to provide access to Wikipedia to more than 800 million people free of mobile data charges. Further reading: Medium.

So much for net neutrality

By wvmarle • Score: 3 • Thread

we have partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries to provide access to Wikipedia to more than 800 million people free of mobile data charges.

These agreements ought to be illegal, and in many countries they would be (and rightfully so).

Re:Top Barrier: the Editors

By ShanghaiBill • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

Care to justify yourself?

I am not the GPP, but I, and many people I know, stopped contributing to Wikipedia when content that we had invested hundreds of hours into creating was summarily deleted by some teenage editor with a Napoleon Complex.

In my case, the articles were either technical or refered to locations or recurring events. None were political, biased, or offensive. The rationale give was that they were "not notable". Yet they were clearly notable to the hundreds of people that read them monthly, and were invisible to the people that didn't read them.

Today, years later, most of the pages are back, written by other people, but are less accurate, more poorly written, and are missing much of the previous detail.

My time and donations now go elsewhere.

Donation allocations at WMF

By yurik • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

I was the principal engineer on Wikipedia Zero, and one of the top code contributors to the MediaWiki itself, first as a volunteer, and later as an employee. I think Wikipedia Zero was a great attempt at promoting open knowledge in the less developed locations. I suspect that by now it is not as critical as it once was, and it would be good for the Wikimedia foundation to focus on better allocation of funds.

That said, I do have serious concern with how WMF does its allocation and chooses its priorities. Foundation collects over $80 million a year, and employs nearly 300 people, yet the **only** team that is directly driven by the community is a tiny 10 person Community Tech team. Community tech runs community surveys, and picks just the top 10 items to work on. Think about this - foundation that was created and prospers financially due to the community's efforts only lets 3% of its work, and even less of its funds be directly driven by that same community. Instead of allocating funds based on comunity's preferences, and in the same order, WMF has choosen the order and fund allocation according to the internal goals and inside politics. The recent priority setting efforts (which took nearly a year) may change that, but the process so far has seem to be far too complex, whereas the community tech team's voting was much more straightforward and simple to follow and participate.

There is fundamentally only one reason WMF gets the $80 millions in donations -- content. People value Wikipedia's content, and wish to support that content as much as possible. Despite this, almost none of these money goes towards improvements in the content -- Wikipedia is still a wall of text with a few static images, just like it was in 2001. I am still hopeful that a more interactive content would make its way to Wikipedia pages, avoiding stagnation and keeping the whole project relevant for the future.

Re:Donation allocations at WMF

By arth1 • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Wikipedia is still a wall of text with a few static images, just like it was in 2001.

Good! Text has, by far, the highest content-to-bit ratio. It should be encouraged, and not be replaced with prolefeed.

Occupational Licensing Blunts Competition and Boosts Inequality

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Occupational licensing -- the practice of regulating who can do what jobs -- has been on the rise for decades. In 1950 one in 20 employed Americans required a licence to work. By 2017 that had risen to more than one in five. From a report: The trend partly reflects an economic shift towards service industries, in which licences are more common. But it has also been driven by a growing number of professions successfully lobbying state governments to make it harder to enter their industries. Most studies find that licensing requirements raise wages in a profession by around 10%, probably by making it harder for competitors to set up shop.

Lobbyists justify licences by claiming consumers need protection from unqualified providers. In many cases this is obviously a charade. Forty-one states license makeup artists, as if wielding concealer requires government oversight. Thirteen license bartending; in nine, those who wish to pull pints must first pass an exam. Such examples are popular among critics of licensing, because the threat from unlicensed staff in low-skilled jobs seems paltry. Yet they are not representative of the broader harm done by licensing, which affects crowds of more highly educated workers like Ms Varnam. Among those with only a high-school education, 13% are licensed. The figure for those with postgraduate degrees is 45%.

[...] One way of telling that many licences are superfluous is the sheer variance in the law across states. About 1,100 occupations are regulated in at least one state, but fewer than 60 are regulated in all 50, according to a report from 2015 by Barack Obama's White House. Yet a handful of high-earning professions are regulated everywhere. In particular, licences are more common in legal and health-care occupations than in any other.

Re:My kid's friends did cosmology

By Richard_at_work • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Or rather, someone did something deliberate which was stupid - such as using a non-human-grade product because it was cheaper than the human-grade one and burned someones scalp off.

That's the main reason things tend to end up licensed - illegal behavior on the part of the unlicensed actor.

Blame the guilds

By quonset • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

What guilds you ask? Way back when, anyone could claim to be a bread maker, or tanner, or brewer. At some point, due to various reasons, those who took pride in their work and felt their standard of excellence should be met by the shyster down the stall banded together and formed guilds.

Those guilds set minimum standards for quality such as no sawdust in bread or beer which wasn't watered down or had spices thrown in to cover up bad tastes or bad alcohol.

Fast forward to today and for somewhat similar reasons, professions want people to meet minimum standards of service. For example, the person who colors your hair should have some basic knowledge of how not to burn your skin or turn your hair into straw when applying the mixed chemicals.

Now I know what many of you are going to say. "I'm a programmer and I've never been involved in a guild or union or anything like them. Employers simply hire me."

Oh really? Those employers never asked what your qualifications were? Never asked how many years experience you had in python or Rust or whatever language they're looking for? They never asked to see examples of your work? Never quizzed you on your knowledge?

What they did is no different than what people being licensed go through. You have to meet some minimum standard set by the employer in the same manner someone has to meet the minimum standard to be a cosmetologist, an attorney or doctor.

To those who say, "Free markets!", what happens when your scalp is burned getting your hair colored? What if the person, somehow, gets the wash in your eyes and causes damage? Your response is most likely to get an attorney to sue them for damages. Question: how do you know that attorney is qualified to handle your case?

Re:My kid's friends did cosmology

By ShanghaiBill • Score: 5, Funny • Thread

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

If we allow cosmologists to be unlicensed, the entire universe could collapse into a black hole. There is some evidence that this is already happening. That is far worse than a bad haircut.

So I checked my state's bartending licensing.

By hey! • Score: 3 • Thread

You're required to pass a test on how to recognize fake ids, determine if someone has had too much to drink and needs to be shut off, and what your legal responsibilities and liabilities are as a server. The permit cost is $8.99, and includes a video tutorial.

That seems pretty reasonable to me. It's not like they're testing you on whether you can mix a Martini.

Re: Milton Friedman is shite

By Actually, I do RTFA • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Given the prevalence of autocorrect, it is no longer possible to distinguish a typo from choosing an incorrect but similar word.

'Microsoft Should Scrap Bing and Call it Microsoft Search'

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Chris Matyszczyk, writing for CNET: Does anyone really have a deep, abiding respect for the Bing brand? Somehow, if ever I've heard the brand name being used, it seems to be in the context of a joke. That doesn't mean the service itself is to be derided. It does suggest, though, that the brand name doesn't incite passion or excesses of reverence. The Microsoft brand, on the other hand, has become much stronger under Satya Nadella's stewardship. It's gained respect. Especially when the company showed off its Surface Studio in 2016 and made Apple's offerings look decidedly bland. Where once Microsoft was a joke in an Apple ad, now it's a symbol of a resurgent company that's trying new things and sometimes even succeeding. The funny thing about Bing is that it's not an unsuccessful product -- at least not as unsuccessful as some might imagine. Last year, Redmond said it has a 9 percent worldwide search market share, enjoying a 25 percent share in the UK, 18 percent in France and 17 percent in Canada. And look at the US. Microsoft says it has a 33 percent share here. Wouldn't it be reasonable to think that going all the way with Microsoft branding and letting Bing drift into the retirement home for funny names might be a positive move?

Re:Did /. at least get paid for this Microsoft Ad?

By Darinbob • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Have to agree. There's not a lot of positive images with the Microsoft brand name. The brand name most definitely has not improved under new leadership. I think this CNET guy has drunk too much kool-aid.

Bing is a recursive acronym

By Stormwatch • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

Have you ever noticed this? B - I - N - G - Bing Is Not Google.

Bing still serves pictures - score one for MS.

By az-saguaro • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

A few days ago here on Slashdot was an article about Google changing the way it handles image searches. Due to a dispute with a commercial entity (Getty Images if I recall correctly), Google was no longer going to serve the full image when you clicked on the thumbnail, just take you to the origin website. It would have made much more sense to just offer content owners a way to opt out of having their images displayed. The Slashdot replies are full of sensible comments and insights.

This weekend, Google made the switch. Now, you can no longer preview an image in Google, not from any source. For me, doing a lot of graphic and imagery intensive work, that was one of Google's most important features. Now suddenly, Google sucks for that purpose. I just tried doing image searches on Bing, and they still work properly, I can see the full image.

Brand loyalty has nothing to do with anything. Getting the job done is everything. So now, when I need to find images, hello Bing, get lost Google. MS should find a way to capitalize on that. Starting with a name change wouldn't be a bad idea.


By stephanruby • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

I agree about the confusion. Also, let's apply the "Google" test to it.
"You don't know what this is? Let me bing it for you."
"You don't know what this is? Let me 'Microsoft Search' it for you."
The second one doesn't roll off the tongue as much.

In any case, to say that Microsoft has improved its reputation means that this CNET contributor is either completely out of touch with current reality, or is being paid to shill for Microsoft.

Personally, I've never hated Microsoft is as much as I do now.

I hope Microsoft and its lawyers go to hell!


By darkain • Score: 3 • Thread

Microsoft abandoned the "Live" branding in favor of "Bing", and I personally believe this is one of their all time greatest fuckups. Google has the "Play" branding, with "Play Store", "Play Games", "Play Music", "Play Videos" and others. Microsoft's "Live" brand was very similar, and especially with the onset of live streaming that we're seeing, they would have easily had a good and simplistic marketing campaign. Instead, we have Google (YouTube), Facebook (ugh...), and Amazon (Twitch) corning the market currently, with MS not giving fuck all to what could have been the highlight of their business.

AI Can Be Our Friend, Says Bill Gates

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader shares a report: "AI can be our friend," says Gates. In response to the question, "What do you think will happen to human civilization with further development in AI technology?" Gates says the rise in artificial intelligence will mean society will be able to do more with less. "AI is just the latest in technologies that allow us to produce a lot more goods and services with less labor. And overwhelmingly, over the last several hundred years, that has been great for society," explains Gates. "We used to all have to go out and farm. We barely got enough food, when the weather was bad people would starve. Now through better seeds, fertilizer, lots of things, most people are not farmers. And so AI will bring us immense new productivity," says Gates.

Sure it can be a friend

By Solandri • Score: 3 • Thread
Hey! It looks like you're writing a missive on how AI can be our friend.

Would you like help?

Why would AI befriend the cannon fodder?

By shanen • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

I actually think this story is hilarious. Bill Gates basically has one claim to fame. He created one of the greatest of the corporate cancers. Made him rich, too.

Now the leading corporate cancers "are engaged in a great civil war" to see which corporate cancer shall swallow all of the others. Each of them seeks to create an AI sufficiently powerful to maximize profit to infinity and buy out and absorb all of the other corporate cancers. There is also a minor question as to whether the host (AKA human society) will die first. (My apologies to the ghost of Honest Abe.)

Bill Gates has one major claim to innovation. I think that Microsoft perfected the EULA. If you read it carefully, you will discover that you just signed up as cannon fodder. Nowadays you click past such contracts all the time for every sort of product. I think the key bit is the limitation of liability. Whatever goes wrong, whether its destruction of your personal information and identity due a software bug or a fatal self-driving car accident caused by the corporation's AI, you can't do anything about it. You already agreed you won't do anything to harm the profits of the corporation (AKA gigantic corporate cancer) whose license terms you accepted. Unread and with a click or a tear. (That's "tear" as in tearing open the shrinkwrap, not "tears" as in what you should be crying.)

Remember: "There is no gawd but Profit, and [put your favorite joke here]."

Why in gawd's name would ANY corporation's AI be a friend of ANY of the human cannon fodder?

(Answer: The AI might fake "friendship" as long as the calculations indicate profit will be increased.)

P.S. Sure would be nice if there were an honest governmental referee with a consumer protection agency of some sort and no concern about the unsolvable problem of maximizing profits to infinity. Eh?

P.P.S. I actually think there is a solution: A progressive tax on corporate profits based on market share. I also think there is almost no chance we can get there from here.

AI can be anything

By Shemmie • Score: 3 • Thread

AI will be whatever it's programmed to be.

I picked up a book the other day on AI coding on .NET - it was fascinating.

How do I do image recognition? Well... you take a photo, and send it off to an Azure web service, and then hey presto, you'll receive a message with the data from the photo.

How do I do voice recognition? Well... you get some audio, and send it off to an Azure web service...

This isn't an exclusive Microsoft shitheap, for a change. There's a real push to have AI behind a paywall. That suggests to me that AI won't be inherently friendly, or unfriendly. It'll simply be profitable.

Tokyo To Build 350m Tower Made of Wood

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
A skyscraper set to be built in Tokyo will become the world's tallest to be made of wood. From a report: The Japanese wood products company Sumitomo Forestry Co is proposing to build a 350 metre (1,148ft), 70-floor tower to commemorate its 350th anniversary in 2041. Japan's government has long advertised the advantages of wooden buildings, and in 2010 passed a law requiring it be used for all public buildings of three stories or fewer. Sumitomo Forestry said the new building, known as the W350 Project, was an example of "urban development that is kind for humans," with more high-rise architecture made of wood and covered with greenery "making over cities as forests." The new building will be predominantly wooden, with just 10% steel. Its internal framework of columns, beams and braces -- made of a hybrid of the two materials -- will take account of Japan's high rate of seismic activity. The Tokyo-based architecture firm Nikken Sekkei contributed to the design.

Dpes it weigh

By rossdee • Score: 3 • Thread

the same as a duck?

Would be illegal here...

By green1 • Score: 3 • Thread

Where I am, building code prohibits wood for buildings over 4 stories (though they're talking about allowing it for up to 5 or even 6 because the builders don't want to pay for concrete, and their lobbying is amazingly effective) Combined with the requirement for all buildings over 4 stories to have elevators, we have a ton of 4 story apartment buildings. We've also proven repeatedly that wood is a HORRIBLE material for any multi-family building, as we've had quite a few burn to the ground leaving hundreds of people homeless. Of course each time they say that if only they'd made this minor tweak to the building code the disaster wouldn't have happened, but then the next one happens despite whatever tweak they say will solve it.

I'll believe it when I see it...

By Pollux • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

When I read this, I immediately wondered why it was even possible to build a 1,100 ft tall wooden building, more than eight times taller than the current record for the tallest wooden building. This Guardian article goes into more detail about the engineering of tall wooden buildings, and cites this Canadian Wood Council case study for some of its information. In short, the wood materials to be used are highly specialized fireproofed laminate composites. Calling the finished product wood is like calling Splenda sugar; just because it's a derivative of the original doesn't mean it's the same thing.

From an engineering perspective, a skyscraper undergoes incredible stresses. The building has to be capable of supporting itself and all the weight within it. It has to withstand the tremors of earthquakes, the forces of wind and water, and not lose its strength over time, even as it's exposed for decades to UV rays. The building materials need to have a unique combination of sheer strength, tensile strength, and compressive strength. A combination of steel and concrete give you all three. But natural wood is inconsistent. Flaws like knots and cracks in the grains weaken its sheer strength. Wood has great tensile strength in the direction of the grain, but is very weak against the grain. And it works the opposite way with compression. The only way to overcome these weaknesses is with laminates, which are very expensive (currently, due to the lack of demand) to produce.

Not to mention wood burns much easier.

My personal opinion is that there are some architects trying to get name recognition by coming up with something unique. I hope anyone considering to fund such imaginations take a lesson from the Spruce Goose and use wood when it's advantageous, not avant garde.


By hey! • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

Well, consider the 67.3m Grenfell Tower which burned spectacularly last June, killing seventy people. The tower was reinforced concrete, but it was the decorative polyethylene cladding that transmitted the fire at deadly speed, and the interior apartment furnishings that actually killed people.

So it's quite possible for a concrete building to become a fire trap; it's the superficial bits that are the risk. Massive wooden structural members might burn in theory, but like an over-large log they wouldn't catch fire quickly.

So I should think that a large wooden building could in principle be engineered to be for all practical purposes as fire safe as concrete building. The problem is knowing that something is safe in practice. Engineering is as much about the application of experience as it is induction from general principles. So if you build far beyond the limits of experience, you can never be quite certain of the behavior of a system.

Give Workers 10,000 Pound To Survive Automation, British Top Think Tank Suggests

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Britons should be able to bid for 10,000 pound (roughly $14,000) to help them prosper amid huge changes to their working lives, a leading think tank suggests today. From a report: The Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) has released research proposing a radical new sovereign wealth fund, which would be invested to make a profit like similar public funds in Norway. The returns from the fund would be used to build a pot of money, to which working-age adults under-55 would apply to receive a grant in the coming decade.

People would have to set out how they intend to put the five-figure payouts to good use, for example, by using the cash to undergo re-training, to start a new business, or to combine work with the care of elderly or sick relatives. It would be funded like the student grant system and wealthier individuals could be required to pay back more in tax as their earnings increase. Ultimately, the RSA paper suggests, the wealth fund would finance a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as the world of modern work is turned upside down by increased automation, new technology and an ageing population.

Re:let student loans be dishcahnged in bankruptcy!

By alvinrod • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread
They could be if the government would stop subsidizing them. Banks shouldn't be required to lend people money and I suspect if student loans didn't have government backing the banks would be far more picky about who they loan money to. Of course, everyone needs to go to college these days, even little Timmy who had a 2.3 GPA in high school and plans to major in philosophy. That's just as good of a financial risk as little Suzy who was the class valedictorian and wants to go into biomedical engineering.

Re:Hysterically inadaquate

By ShanghaiBill • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

First, we don't necessarily know what jobs to train them for

A common policy is to offer tax incentives or other subsidies to employers to hire less skilled workers and train them for real jobs. The obvious employer response is to take the subsidies and apply them to people that they would have hired anyway, or to even fire existing workers to replace them with effectively cheaper "trainees".

There is little evidence that government programs to encourage training are actually effective ... but there is also little evidence that automation is actually causing job losses, so training subsidies are a bad solution to a problem that may not even exist.

Re:Hysterically inadaquate

By PolygamousRanchKid • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

Just as we have free public schooling, we need free job training or else you'll see violence.

Bring on the violence, please. English citizens don't have guns. What are they going to do? Throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the police? British soccer hooligans are good at whipping up a wee bit of mayhem, but when the police and army return fire with SA80's . . . the hooligans will hatch a new plan and return to the Winchester for the night.

"The Crown" will have no qualms about slaughtering their own citizens if their regency feels threatened. That Prince William may have a nice smile, but he's got that true bloodline of despotic dictators in him. This experience with the Brits is why the Founding Fathers of the US decided that they needed liberal gun laws.

But thankfully won't come to this. The same thing was supposed to happen during the industrial revolution in the late 1800's . . . and none of those dire prophecies became reality. Human beings are like weeds and toenail fungus: incredibly resilient. Folks will adjust to the new environment and find new jobs.

“Man is a singular creature. He has a set of gifts which make him unique among the animals: so that, unlike them, he is not a figure in the landscape — he is a shaper of the landscape.” Jacob Bronowski

Sounds Like Something ...

By wisnoskij • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

This sounds like something someone with no training in economics, politics, engineering, or logic would think up.

Royal Society for the ARTS

That explains it.

Re:Sounds Like Something ...

By AmiMoJo • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

"Arts" in English refers to science and engineering too. That meaning is less common today but the RSA was founded in the 1750s. In fact it's full name is the "Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce."

They should be popular with the Slashdot crowd, having previously worked on projects like re-thinking intellectual property rights from first principals. Their membership includes Tim Berners-Lee and Steven Hawking.

Contractors Pose Cyber Risk To Government Agencies

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: While US government agencies are continuing to improve their security performance over time, the contractors they employ are failing to meet the same standards according to a new report. The study by security rankings specialist BitSight sampled over 1,200 federal contractors and finds that the security rating for federal agencies was 15 or more points higher than the mean of any contractor sector. It finds more than eight percent of healthcare and wellness contractors have disclosed a data breach since January 2016. Aerospace and defense firms have the next highest breach disclosure rate at 5.6 percent. While government has made a concerted effort to fight botnets in recent months, botnet infections are still prevalent among the government contractor base, particularly for healthcare and manufacturing contractors. The study also shows many contractors are not following best practices for network encryption and email security.

The OPM data breaches wins though

By OffTheLip • Score: 3 • Thread
The Feds Office of Personnel Management 2015 data breach wins (or loses) hands down. Not only an employee's personal info but family members and others included in "security" background checks. So, yeah, about those negligent contractors...

Simple solution

By Gravis Zero • Score: 3, Interesting • Thread

Just tie the security clearances of the company's executives to the company's security. If the company's security is compromised, the executives lose their security clearances, leaving the corporation with two options, replace all the executives or forfeit it's government contracts.

Who Killed The Junior Developer?

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Melissa McEwen, writing on Medium: A few months ago I attended an event for women in tech. A lot of the attendees were new developers, graduates from code schools or computer science programs. Almost everyone told me they were having trouble getting their first job. I was lucky. My first "real" job out of college was "Junior Application developer" at Columbia University in 2010. These days it's a rare day to find even a job posting for a junior developer position. People who advertise these positions say they are inundated with resumes. But on the senior level companies complain they can't find good developers. Gee, I wonder why?

I'm not really sure the exact economics of this, because I don't run these companies. But I know what companies have told me: "we don't hire junior developers because we can't afford to have our senior developers mentor them." I've seen the rates for senior developers because I am one and I had project managers that had me allocate time for budgeting purposes. I know the rate is anywhere from $190-$300 an hour. That's what companies believe they are losing on junior devs.

Re:Killed themselves

By whoever57 • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Great guy but he just won't shut up about Kubernetes. We have 36 servers in the production environment, each of which does something different using different software. Kubernetes is the wrong tool for every job we have.

Or, perhaps it is a better tool than what you are using today, and you are letting your skills age and become out of date.

Seriously, you have 36 servers and manage each one individually? That's not the most efficient way of doing things.

Why hire a junior developer

By OrangeTide • Score: 3 • Thread

When I can hire an experienced foreign worker for the same amount?

Lol true. We seniors could mentor better

By raymorris • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

The newer guys at my company wouldn't shut up about Amazon Lambda (not to be confused with actual lambda functions). No matter what the question, their answer was always "Lambda!"

Tiring of "arguing" with them all the time (shooting them down), I eventually let one proposal proceed to the point where they scheduled a meeting to discuss how to move a certain project to Lambda, with management present. It was a process that handles processing a data feed from Microsoft. In that meeting, I didn't shut them down right away. I let them talk about the many benefits of Lambda vs the current system, mainly scalability. And ... scalability. Yeah pretty much just scalability. After they pitched it pretty hard, I asked "so the main driver of this, the primary reason to take a couple of weeks to rewrite this using Lambda, is for massive scalability, right? It could run thousands of times per second, right?" "Yep, that's the great thing about Lambda", they said. "Our current implementation can only run about once per minute, right?", I asked. "Yeah, the current code takes a minute or so to run". "And what it does is process the Patch Tuesday data which comes out once a month, right? We need to run it once a month?" "ummmm....". "We need to scale in case Patch Tuesday starts occurring thousands of times per minute?"

After stammering for a minute, one of them piped up with a great answer "we'll be able to parse more feeds, from other sources!" "True, that might be good", I said. "Our current system does four feeds. It probably can't handle more than about 500-1,000 feeds. Over the last six years, we've added a total of four feeds. How long do you think it will be before we have more than 500 feeds and need something more scalable? 25 years? 50 years? 200 years? Should we plan on building something that can handle 500 feeds and schedule to that project 50 years from now?"

I haven't heard a word about Lambda since then.

What I HAVE done since then is found a good pattern to maximize the productivity of the team, seniors and juniors combined, while making my job more fun. Some trivial problems the juniors just handle. Anything that might benefit from a senior developer's attention, I look at at make some notes about generally how it might be solved, and any traps that may be lurking. I might include a link to a certain third-party module that may be useful. Then the junior person has my notes pointing them in the right direction. At each morning scrum, I remind the team that I *love* helping to solve problems and helping people understand things they are having trouble with. So they reach out when they hit a wall or need help choosing between two options. Then when they finish the task we do code review - I, or another Senior, looks over the code and makes suggestions as needed. The junior guys handle the details of actually implementing the ideas I suggest. They write the unit tests. They fill out the change request forms. All the bureaucratic red tape is theirs. It works great. I can guide five to ten times as much work as I could do myself. Their code isn't quite what mine might be "in the small", but the approach they use, the overall design, is either what I suggested, or something better they found. Code doesn't go to production with glaring errors that would be obvious to me, because I've looked over all the code, and made a unit test policy. It works quite well.

So junior devs work out nicely in my system, IF they can do one particular thing right - know when to ask for help. Don't ask me AGAIN the same thing you've asked me ten times, knowing the right answer but just lacking confidence, and don't go charging ahead when you have no idea wtf you're doing. Ask when you need to ask, and not when you don't. If they can do that, a team of junior devs and senior devs who have a solid system of working together can be very productive, multiplying the benefit of the Senior dev's experience. My company also isn't paying me senior salary to fill out change request forms and crap. The juniors can do that, based on the documentation that I wrote for them.

Schools have never produced experts

By RhettLivingston • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

When I came out of school, I had theory and the experience of writing (on my own) a compiler for a largish subset of Ada 83, a cross-assembler, a couple of device drivers, a few minor device firmwares, and various assundry other useless classroom exercises. That was enough to have put me on my school's team for the ACM regionals. As a Computer Engineer, I had also designed and constructed devices and could quickly make designs without having pre-made boards like Raspberry Pis in existence. But the reality of the difficulty of accomplishing a design that also met reliability, manufacturability, and other real-world goals had not yet hit.

Within days of starting work as an Associate Engineer in Avionics, I understood that I had gone to school from ages 4 to 21 to get the learner's permit that would allow me to start learning how to design and program real-world systems. It took about three more years of 90 hour weeks with unbelievable financing and toys (the lab I was in probably had over a billion dollars of hardware) to play with to reach a level that I would consider a competent systems engineer.

In that day, virtually everyone spent their first years in corporate environments that gave you a year or so as an Associate Engineer contributing nearly nothing and two or three years as an Engineer barely breaking even in the contribution to project versus cost of mistakes equation before becoming a truly useful Senior Engineer. If we've lost that level of corporate training to season the college output, we might as well quit.

Job hopping

By teg • Score: 3 • Thread

Taking on a fresh developer takes a lot of resources - not only do they need to learn company routines, all the tools, how to work with teams and how to actually do development in a non-school setting, but they also need to learn how to actually work: Show up, what's not acceptable for taking days off, how to interact with all sorts of internal and external stakeholders etc.

As the average time a developer spends before switching jobs decreases - apparently Job Hopping Is the 'New Normal' for Millennials - the commitment from companies will go down too. Why spend a lot of time and resources to groom someone if he's probably going to leave anyway? Why not just get someone who's past that in the first place?

US's Greatest Vulnerability is Ignoring the Cyber Threats From Our Adversaries, Foreign Policy Expert Says

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
America's greatest vulnerability is its continued inability to acknowledge the extent of its adversaries' capabilities when it comes to cyber threats, says Ian Bremmer, founder and president of leading political risk firm Eurasia Group. From a report: Speaking to CNBC from the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, the prominent American political scientist emphasized that there should be much more government-level concern and urgency over cyber risk. The adversarial states in question are what U.S. intelligence agencies call the "big four": Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. "We're vulnerable because we continue to underestimate the capabilities in those countries. WannaCry, from North Korea -- no one in the U.S. cybersecurity services believed the North Koreans could actually do that," Bremmer described, naming the ransomware virus that crippled more than 200,000 computer systems across 150 countries in May of 2017.

Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, weighed in, stressing the economic cost of cyber crimes. "It is very hard to attribute cyberattacks to different actors or countries, but the cost is just unbelievable. Annually more than a thousand billion U.S. dollars are lost for companies or countries due to these attacks and our economy is more and more based on internet and data."

Biggest Cyberthreat

By StormReaver • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Our biggest cyberthreat is Windows. Until that thread is neutralized, we will continue to be unnecessarily vulnerable.

Re:Shut the fuck up

By MightyMartian • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

Thanks for that Ivan. How's the weather in St. Petersburg?


By XSportSeeker • Score: 3, Insightful • Thread

The problem lies on a way more fundamental level...
For instance, how much Equifax had to pay for leaking a whole ton of sensitive data? It was obviously less than enough.
How much other companies who leaked medical data, credit card data, governmental data, electors data, had to pay for weak security?
Not enough.
US is it's own cyber threat, it doesn't need to label other ships as the enemy, it's sinking by itself.
What's the response around security from US politicians? Let's use fearmongering against smartphone companies without any proof and bar them from the US market without any proof of doing anything wrong, because we think the chinese government might exploit connections to spy on us. It applies because we'd certainly do the same in their position.

We don't punish incompetence, we put in question the competence of others, and we accuse others of the unethical behaviour that we practice and deserve to be called for. US gets exactly what it deserves. Leaders who thinks they own the place and keep pushing others away while making unreasonable demands all the time eventually gets overthrown. Those who still didn't get this will be forced to given time.

Bullshit: It's "smart phones"

By DogDude • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
Windows isn't the biggest threat. I know plenty of people who don't even have a computer any more. Besides, Windows can be locked down.

Phones, on the other hand, are always-on cameras and microphones that cannot be locked down in any way. Phones alsoallow for 100% harvesting of all email, text messages, and phone calls sent through them.

We'd be in good shape, as a country, if Windows really was the greatest "cyberthreat".


By marcle • Score: 3 • Thread

Interesting to see so many comrades on the job right away. Slashdot must be closely monitored.

New AI Model Fills in Blank Spots in Photos

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
A new technology uses artificial intelligence to generate synthetic images that can pass as real. From a report, shared by a reader (the link may be paywalled): The technology was developed by a team led by Hiroshi Ishikawa, a professor at Japan's Waseda University. It uses convolutional neural networks, a type of deep learning, to predict missing parts of images. The technology could be used in photo-editing apps. It can also be used to generate 3-D images from real 2-D images. The team at first prepared some 8 million images of real landscapes, human faces and other subjects. Using special software, the team generated numerous versions for each image, randomly adding artificial blanks of various shapes, sizes and positions. With all the data, the model took three months to learn how to predict the blanks so that it could fill them in and make the resultant images look identical to the originals. The model's learning algorithm first predicts and fills in blanks. It then evaluates how consistent the added part is with its surroundings.

It might be ok and awful at the same time.

By Mal-2 • Score: 3 • Thread

I bet it will be pretty good in some contexts, and most likely an improvement overall compared to content-aware fills. However, when it completely falls on its face I bet it will be even funnier than the way content-aware fill blows up. Lower rate of occurrence, but much more hilarity when it happens.

Alternate Headline

By OzPeter • Score: 3, Insightful • Thread

The alternate headline is:

Computer program analyzes data and based on that analysis invents new data that seems plausible to most people

Not bad, but not great

By lurker412 • Score: 3 • Thread
The example shown in the linked article doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Look at the blue-green books on the center-right--the convergence of the shelves is wrong and the corner is not rendered correctly. Assuming this was a one-step edit, it's probably better than Photoshop's current content aware fill, but it still requires additional work to escape detection.

We've Reached Peak Smartphone

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
You don't really need a new smartphone. From a column on the Washington Post (may be paywalled): Sure, some of them squeeze more screen into a smaller form. The cameras keep getting better, if you look very close. And you had to live under a rock to miss the hoopla for Apple's 10th-anniversary iPhone X or the Samsung Galaxy S8. Many in the smartphone business were sure this latest crop would bring a "super cycle" of upgrades. But here's the reality: More and more of Americans have decided we don't need to upgrade every year. Or every other year. We're no longer locked into two-year contracts and phones are way sturdier than they used to be. And the new stuff just isn't that tantalizing even to me, a professional gadget guy. Holding onto our phones is better for our budgets, not to mention the environment. This just means we -- and phone makers -- need to start thinking of them more like cars. We may have reached peak smartphone. Global shipments slipped 0.1 percent in 2017 -- the first ever decline, according to research firm IDC. In the United States, smartphone shipments grew just 1.6 percent, the smallest increase ever. Back in 2015, Americans replaced their phones after 23.6 months, on average, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel. By the end of 2017, we were holding onto them for 25.3 months.

Re: Like cars?

By Anonymous Coward • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

Quarter horse. Abacus (that I recently and cheaply reoiled for faster calculations). Lincoln is president. My neighbor just died of cholera. This is the good life!

Re:Market saturation

By Zuriel • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

It's not just refinement of existing designs - manufacturers are starting to experiment with electric aircraft now. Batteries don't have the capacity for long flights yet, but short hops are starting to look doable. Not to mention automated drones that can carry people. There was a hybrid aircraft announced late last year which had three ordinary jet engines, one electric engine, batteries and a generator.

There's going to be some exciting developments in aircraft in the next few decades. They'll mostly have wings, a tail and a point at the front, but there's still a lot of stuff happening.

Re:Cameras (and software) have a loong way to go

By Archimonde • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

The best camera is the one you have with you. So if you can get a good camera with your phone that is great.

Re:Market saturation

By Ramze • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

I think you misunderstand capitalism. There have always been products that have reached peak innovation and have become ubiquitous, cheap, and offered by many suppliers at prices very near to their cost. They are called commodities.

A great example of commodities are foods in the produce aisle. Sure, people grow and sell specialty cultivars (sometimes even with patents! -- especially the GMOs), but by and large... they're commodities.

Screws, nails, hinges, bolts, nuts, pine wood, and many other things used in construction are commodities.

The cell phone has a long way to go before it becomes a commodity unencumbered by patents, but its product life cycle will eventually be extended -- just like desktop PCs and laptops have gone from 2 year cycles to 3 year cycles... to 5 year and now 7 year cycles or longer. If/when Moore's Law prevents further die shrinks, we'll probably see some architecture changes that will keep things chugging along for a while..... and new battery technologies as well. But, sooner or later, after we've gotten the right architecture on the smallest sized chip with the best possible battery running on the fastest speed (5G or faster), and the patents run out on the hardware and the license restrictions on software are gone -- boom. Cell phone becomes a commodity with little to no change and cheap price.

What drives the market is the exchange of goods and services. People are always going to need things they can't reasonably make/grow for themselves and have time and/or money to trade for those things. Capitalism doesn't live and die by computer/cell phone technology innovations. It's been around since long before computers existed. Plenty of other things to make and improve -- lots of new areas that need innovation as well. But, even if we become hyper advanced to where everything that could be invented has been and we have no new applications for that technology... people will still need stuff & still be willing to work or trade with others for that stuff in exchange for stuff that their trading partners want in return. That's the core of capitalism.

So what you are saying is, you're not a power user

By SuperKendall • Score: 3 • Thread

For the average person I would agree with you.

But something you are overlooking is that smartphone processing capability is advancing much faster, percentage-wise, than laptops (which have stalled for many years now and at this point even regressed thanks to meltdown).

At first as smartphones came along, I would happily skip upgrading every other year, and would have been tempted to skip longer periods if I did not need the devices for testing.

But over the past few years, I have in fact gotten a new phone every year because the upgrades have become more compelling. The processing speed is notably faster every generation. The authentication features like TouchID and now FaceID keep advancing. The cameras advance notably in quality, and because the processor speed has improved so do camera features that require processing (like the quality of panos or HDR images). The battery management keeps improving.

At this point I've shifted to doing a lot of photo editing on an iPad Pro, and I am actually looking forward to the next generation of that platform to give be a decent processing boost for working with images. They are arguably superior for such work because they adjust color temperature of the display automatically based on ambient light, not to mention being able to work directly on the photo with an Apple Pencil (which work way better than the Wacom Cintiq I tried using a few years ago)..

One a side note, I do not honestly see how someone could use an iPhoneX for more than a day and then claim the smartphone platform has "peaked", as we have a long way to go and major changes are still underway.

Facebook Plans To Use US Mail To Verify IDs of Election Ad Buyers

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Facebook will start using postcards sent by U.S. mail later this year to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site, a senior company executive said on Saturday. From a report: The postcard verification is Facebook's latest effort to respond to criticism from lawmakers, security experts and election integrity watchdog groups that it and other social media companies failed to detect and later responded slowly to Russia's use of their platforms to spread divisive political content, including disinformation, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Re:Give information

By Hal_Porter • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

If only the people who support this supported voter ID laws.

Re:Give information

By DNS-and-BIND • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Facebook VP: "The Majority Of Russian Ad Spend Happened AFTER The Election"

"many of these ads did not violate our content policies. That means that for most of them, if they had been run by authentic individuals, anywhere, they could have remained on the platform."

"Shouldn't you stop foreigners from meddling in US social issues?
The right to speak out on global issues that cross borders is an important principle. Organizations such as UNICEF, Oxfam or religious organizations depend on the ability to communicate â" and advertise â" their views in a wide range of countries. While we may not always agree with the positions of those who would speak on issues here, we believe in their right to do so â" just as we believe in the right of Americans to express opinions on issues in other countries."

Re:Better idea

By TimHunter • Score: 4 • Thread
No. The 1st Amendment only restricts the government.

Re: Give information

By Hal_Porter • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama's 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina's adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

They do say

We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.

However if you look at their paper

Nonetheless, identification requirements blocked ballot access for only a small portion of non-citizens. Of the 27 non-citizens who indicated that they were "asked to show picture identification, such as a driver's license, at the polling place or election office," in the 2008 survey, 18 claimed to have subsequently voted, and one more indicated that they were "allowed to vote using a provisional ballot." Only 7 (25.9%) indicated that they were not allowed to vote after showing identification. These results are summarized in Fig. 1. Although the proportion of non-citizens prevented from voting by ID requirements is statistically distinguishable from the portion of citizens5 (Chi-Square 161, p < .001), the overall message is that identification requirements do not prevent the majority of non-citizen voting. The fact that most non-citizen immigrants who showed identifi- cation were subsequently permitted to vote suggests that efforts to use photo-identification to prevent non-citizen voting are unlikely to be particularly effective. This most likely reflects the impact of state laws that permit noncitizens to obtain state identification cards (e.g. driver's licenses

I.e. voter ID laws don't work if by voter ID you mean "driving license" and the state gives out driving licenses to non citizens which are indistinguishable from the ones they hand out to citizens. Which is not impossible. E.g.

The law provides driver's licenses to people who filed Colorado state income taxes in the previous year and can show proof of current state residence, or who have an Individual Taxpayer ID and proof of 24 months of state residency, with a passport, consular ID, or military ID. The license will state "Not valid for federal identification, voting, or public benefits purposes."

The paper also contains this mindblowing passage

In 2008, the proportion of non-citizens who were in fact registered to vote was somewhere between 19.8% (all who reported or had verified registration, or both) and 3.3% (11 non-citizen respondents were almost certainly registered to vote because they both stated that they were registered and had their registration status verified). Even the lowend estimate suggests a fairly substantial population of registered-to-vote non-citizens nationwide. Out of roughly 19.4 million adult non-citizens in the United States, this would represent a population of roughly 620,000 registered non-citizens4 . By way of comparison, there are roughly 725,000 individuals in the average Congressional district.

I.e. even if only 3.3% of non citizens are registered to vote, that's 620,000 people voting illegally and the number who reported being registered was 19.8%.

Of course the Dems - who want people to prove legal residence before buying Facebook ads - will claim

1) It's not a significant problem, even though the above paper shows it is. And isn't any amount of law breaking an issue, even if it's not 'significant'? Mass shootings are not a significant contribution to the total homicide rate, but the Dems sure as hell don't think those should be ignored.
2) Voter ID is an racist plan to discourage minority voters who are less likely to have ID.

Ami Horowitz actually asked some painfully upper class white voters at UC Berkeley and some based working class black voters in Harlem and found that while the former believed this, the later did not

It's hard not to get the impression that the Democrats aren't aware that the US's lax requirements for voting gives them an advantage and that's the reason they don't want anyone to do anything about it.

In the UK you need to be on the electoral register to vote, and that is fairly carefully checked to make sure people who are not eligible to vote don't get on it. In fact it's been reformed recently

The UK is also trialling voter ID.

Of course as in the US the left say "Voter fraud is not a significant problem". Mind you a recent report says it is

Re:Top of first article nullifies your entire post

By Hal_Porter • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Read the rebuttals and the author's response to them. It's just the WashPo trying to discredit Inconvenient Truths.


Author's response which seems to cover them all :

I think the authors are onto something. Their paper was peer reviewed too. And the peer reviewed paper the WashPo claims debunks it is in the same journal but is paywalled. Unlike theirs, which I linked to. It seems to be claiming their sample size is too small and that constitutes cherry picking.

tl;dr - they did a study which was very cautious about interpreting the data. Even that found evidence of 620,000 non citizens voting. People criticized them. They responded. Peer reviewed is not the same as 'true', and in fact can't be given both their paper and the paper critiquing it were published in the same journal.

And the comments are full of anecdotal evidence that illegals voting is well known.

It's true they said Trump's claim that non citizens voting accounted for all of Hillary's popular vote lead. However they reckon significant numbers of non citizens voted.

If the assumptions stated above concerning non-citizen turnout are correct, could non-citizen turnout account for Clintonâ(TM)s popular vote margin? There is no way it could have. 6.4 percent turnout among the roughly 20.3 million non-citizen adults in the US would add only 834,318 votes to Clintonâ(TM)s popular vote margin. This is little more than a third of the total margin.

Is it plausible that non-citizen votes added to Clintonâ(TM)s margin. Yes. Is it plausible that non-citizen votes account for the entire nation-wide popular vote margin held by Clinton? Not at all.

Then when that number got picked up by people they disagree with they disowned it

As a primary author cited in this piece, I need to say that I think the Washington Times article ( is deceptive. It makes it sound like I have done a study concerning the 2016 election. I have not. What extrapolation I did to the 2016 election ( was purely and explicitly and exclusively for the purpose of pointing out that my 2014 study of the 2008 election did not provide evidence of voter fraud at the level some Trump administration people were claiming it did. I do not think that one should rely upon that extrapolation for any other purpose. And I do not stand behind that extrapolation if used for ANY other purpose.

In the original article they point out things like

This post is not intended to make a specific claim on my part concerning how many non-citizens voted in 2016. It has a much narrower aim. My goal was to show that an extrapolation from my coauthored work on the 2008 election to the 2016 election did not support the arguments some seemed to be making that the entire popular vote margin for Clinton was due to illegal votes by non-citizens. In this post I do my own calculation of that extrapolation for the purpose of demonstrating that this extrapolation would not support that claim.

There are a number of reasons why one should be cautious about extrapolating from the 2008 CCES data to 2016.

Many things can and have changed over the course of eight years. For example, a number of states have made efforts to use matching of records to remove non-citizen registrants from voter rolls. For example, on this blog I have recently highlighted data from Virginia and North Carolina concerning such matching efforts. These non-citizens are no longer on voter rolls. There are other states that have been even more aggressive about the issue of attempting to verify that registered voters are citizens. Furthermore, although the evidence from our 2014 paper suggests that it is only partially effective, many states have moved to adopt tighter identification requirements.

The 2008 estimate is inherently uncertain. It depends upon a number of assumptions including assumptions about the validity of the survey data. Our critics have made a variety of arguments and I encourage readers to evaluate those arguments along with our responses to them. The underlying study on which the extrapolation is based has been the subject of some cogent criticisms, and this leads me to believe that the actual rate of non-citizen involvement is on the low end of our initial estimates rather than anywhere close to the high end.

In the absence of other data, arguably an extrapolation from the earlier (2008) numbers is the best one can do. But one should recognize that this is an extrapolation fraught with a great deal of uncertainty.

Still remember in the original study they claimed 620K non citizens voted in 2008. So the numbers are not enough to account for all of Clinton's popular vote lead - and claiming so was clearly Trumpian bullshit - but they are definitely not negligible. In other elections, as they pointed out, non citizens voting may have changed the result. If that's not a non negligible/significant I don't know what is.

The WashPo is backpedalling hard and try to find anything they can throw at the authors because of the implications of their study.

Google is Making it Easier For 911 To Find You in an Emergency

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader shares a report: When you call 911 from a cellphone, your location is typically sent to the call taker by a wireless carrier. But that information isn't always so accurate. Well Google might have a better way of going about it and it tested its system across a few states in December and January, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the states where the tests took place, Google sent location data from a random selection of 911 callers using Android phones straight to the people taking those calls. The test included 50 call centers that cover around 2.4 million people in Texas, Tennessee and Florida, and early reports of the results suggest the system is promising.

One company involved in the test told the Wall Street Journal that for over 80 percent of the 911 calls where Googl's system was used, the tech giant's location data were more accurate than what wireless carriers provided. The company, RapidSOS, also said that while carrier data location estimates had, on average, a radius of around 522 feet, Google's data gave estimates with radii around 121 feet. Google's data also arrived more quickly than carrier data typically did.

Pretty cool!

By EzInKy • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

But how do I make Google forget where I was?


By Anonymous Coward • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

Finland commissioned an app for exactly this. For example I have the app on my Android phone. It detects automatically if I am about to call 911 (112 in Europe actually, but if you dial 911 it will work as well), uses the facilities of the cell phone to locate me, and sends the location via a side channel. It is probably much more accurate than the information cell phone towers has.

IIRC over million people (out of ~6 million living in Finland) have downloaded the app.

They also built an API for the national "911 system" so that systems integrators can develop competing applications. There is one such application already, made by a consortium of reindeer farmers or something similar. I have not looked into it, but iirc their application has extra features related to their jobs.

Advanced Mobile Location

By Cochonou • Score: 4, Informative • Thread
It is surprising that slashdot makes no reference to the Advanced Mobile Location system, given that it already wrote about it in an article. Because we would like to compare the pros and cons of those different systems.

Re:Advanced Mobile Location

By Hal_Porter • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

The interesting thing is that in the US there's an FCC mandated location service since 1996.

In 1996, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order requiring wireless carriers to determine and transmit the location of callers who dial 911. The FCC set up a phased program: Phase I involved sending the location of the receiving antenna for 911 calls, while Phase II sends the location of the calling telephone. Carriers were allowed to choose to implement 'handset based' location by Global Positioning System (GPS) or similar technology in each phone, or 'network based' location by means of triangulation between cell towers. The order set technical and accuracy requirements: carriers using 'handset based' technology must report handset location within 50 meters for 67% of calls, and within 150 meters for 90% of calls; carriers using 'network based' technology must report location within 100 meters for 67% of calls and 300 meters for 90% of calls.

The order also laid out milestones for implementing wireless location services. Many carriers requested waivers of the milestones, and the FCC granted many of them. By mid-2005, implementation of Phase II was generally underway, limited by the complexity of coordination required from wireless and wireline carriers, PSAPs, and other affected government agencies; and by the limited funding available to local agencies which needed to convert PSAP equipment to display location data (usually on computerized maps).

In July 2011, the FCC announced a proposed rule requiring that after an eight-year implementation period, at some yet-to-be-determined date in 2019, wireless carriers will be required to meet more stringent location accuracy requirements. If enacted, this rule would require both "handset based" and "network based" location techniques to meet the same accuracy standard, regardless of the underlying technology used. The rule is likely to have no effect as all major carriers will have already achieved over 85% GPS chipset penetration, and are thus able to meet the standard regardless of their 'network based' location capabilities.[7]

However according to TFA

One company involved in the test told the Wall Street Journal that for over 80 percent of the 911 calls where Google's system was used, the tech giant's location data were more accurate than what wireless carriers provided. The company, RapidSOS, also said that while carrier data location estimates had, on average, a radius of around 522 feet, Google's data gave estimates with radii around 121 feet. Google's data also arrived more quickly than carrier data typically did.

So Google is better at tracking people than say T-Mobile. Also government mandates don't actually work very well.

Re:Advanced Mobile Location

By tlhIngan • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

It is surprising that slashdot makes no reference to the Advanced Mobile Location system, given that it already wrote about it in an article. Because we would like to compare the pros and cons of those different systems.

AML is neat, but it would be problematic implementing it in North America. Basically, AML works because Europe doesn't have E911 (Enhanced 911) services that support GPS. In E911, which is mandated on all phones, and works even if the phone cannot do data (dumbphones included - remember, this was implemented as part of 9/11 so the smartphone craze hasn't happened yet) the phone has a simple GPS receiver (generally A-GPS) inside the phone stack. That GPS receiver works alongside the towers to get your position, and the location is transmitted to the 911 operator on the control plane - it's metadata.

AML is implemented differently and reflects that Europe did not have an E911 mandate and thus does not have the functionality baked into their network to send GPS information through the control plane and have it reach emergency services. So instead of using the control plane, it uses the user plane (user plane is where "billable" happens). It opens up a data connection and sends the location information that way.

The problem is well, AML is user plane and if you're unaware, that can mean bills for its use. In an emergency, this might not matter, but you may not be aware of this and may not be able to use data. After all, most carriers in North America let you block data roaming, or if you exceed say $50, they will automatically disable all data services to keep you from running up your bill. AML will not work - the network will have to be smart enough to realize it needs to re-enable data connectivity, and then tell the phone that data works again for that data to transfer

And then you have the case where a phone is in "emergency call only" mode - i.e., there is no SIM card. This means there is no data connection because the modem doesn't have any of the required data parameters that would be stored on the SIM card. In North America, it's very common for phones to be recycled in this manner - they have no service, but are useful for emergency calls, and with E911, at least they will get location data. But there is no data service because it cannot be configured.

For those wondering how the system decides if it's emergency or not, you may not realize that ANY emergency number works! The phones do not actually dial 911 or 999 or whatever. They could, and it will reach emergency services, but it's treated as a normal phone call. When you dial 911, the software stack realizes it's emergency and goes into an emergency state - the modem is told to make an emergency call (it's a special dial command - dial emergency). This puts the modem in an emergency state - if it is not attached to a tower or has no service, it will immediately use the first one it finds, and a control message is sent to set up an emergency call. The modem doesn't have to know the emergency number, it tells the network "connect me to emergency services" and the network routes the call to the local emergency call center, regardless of the actual number you're supposed to call.

The emergency state may cause the modem to use a higher power transmit setting to make a connection, and it will tell the network that since the call is emergency, if the tower overloads then it will drop non-emergency calls. Emergency calls also get priority during handoffs so you're less likely to get cut off.