the unofficial Slashdot digest for 2019-Dec-01 today archive

Alterslash picks up to the best 5 comments from each of the day’s Slashdot stories, and presents them on a single page for easy reading.

Should Twitter Delete the Accounts of Dead People?

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader quotes Twitter said Wednesday it is putting the brakes, for now, on a plan to start deleting inactive accounts that was set to begin next month.

Twitter said it would hold back on the plan to clear out accounts that had been inactive for at least six months after hearing from multiple users about whether or not they would be able to access the accounts of deceased family members after the Dec. 11 deadline Twitter had established.

Twitter had already begun informing users that their accounts and usernames were in danger of being deleted if they didn't log in at least once by Dec. 11. However, less than 24 hours after announcing the new policy, Twitter took to Twitter to say it had changed its plans. "We've heard from you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased," Twitter said. "This was a miss on our part. We will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorialize accounts."

Twitter had originally said they were worried that inactive users couldn't agree to the recently-updated terms of service. And they've also said the move would help them "present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter."

This raises some interesting metaphysical questions. Would you want your Twitter accounts to live on forever, even after your death? And should Twitter be allowed to choose a default answer for everyone? Leave your own thoughts in the comments.

Should Twitter delete the accounts of dead people?

Yes, they should

By Todd Knarr • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

As a practical matter, a service should be able to remove inactive accounts to reduce the resource drain (mainly storage space and related costs). You understand when you sign up that you're hosting your content on someone else's service, and that it isn't guaranteed space there forever (especially for a free service). Your heirs... well, they weren't involved in that agreement, they don't get a say in that matter.

In practice I think Twitter should let users pick whether they want their content preserved after they die or not. Either way it'll still be subject to being cleaned up, but accounts whose owners wanted them preserved should be on a longer time-frame. Twitter should also allow an option for heirs of account owners to show their legal status and take control of the account of the deceased, at which point they can keep the account active and control whether it gets purged or not directly. A secure method of delegating control if the owner isn't able to exercise it themselves would also be nice, eg. emergency 2-factor recovery codes that can be left in a sealed envelope along with the password (some services have emergency 2-factor code lists, some don't, and 2-factor complicates handing off control of an account).

For services where the owner's paying for it, the rule should be that the account continues as long as the bills are paid and the service itself exists. The same options for delegating control or passing it to heirs should be there, but clean-up should never happen to accounts which are paid through the current billing cycle no matter how active or inactive they are. Paying the bills is up to the heirs, and informing the heirs is up to the account owner.

The real question

By ArhcAngel • Score: 3 • Thread
Should Twitter delete @jack ?

Remove them, with empathy

By Slugster • Score: 3 • Thread
Accounts of deceased should be removed after a month or whatever time limit.
This allows next of kin to put a message up, but closes the account so that nobody else can misrepresent themselves as the deceased.
And it takes a liability off Twitter's hands as well.

Nothing in this universe lasts forever--and dead accounts are still susceptible to live hackers.

They should certainly revise the suspension policy

By AbRASiON • Score: 3 • Thread

I use bad language in my tweets and sometimes I'm quite, abrasive but I do my best to not attack or insult anyone directly. I make tweets mostly about the poor government policy of my country, ever focused on investing house prices through any means necessary.

But I digress, I don't attack people, yet I'm suspended at the moment for the first time ever. No email, no text, no DM. Nothing. No idea what for, simply logged on and found I couldn't do stuff.

. Requested it to be looked at 2 days ago, nothing. I guess that they don't work weekends?

Poor all round.

Eventually, with consideration

By twocows • Score: 3 • Thread
Give a ton of advance warning and notification to next of kin so they know what's up, give them options to export whatever data they have access to, and afterward, lock down the username so some jackass can't immediately grab the handle and start trolling the family.

I don't think they should have to maintain anything indefinitely if they're not getting paid to, but a bit of empathy goes a long way.

Guido van Rossum Explains How Python Makes Thinking in Code Easier

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Dropbox's Work in Progress blog shared a 2000-word "conversation with the creator of the world's most popular programming language," noting that many computer science schools are switching over from Java to Python, and arguing that "JavaScript still owns the web, and Java runs 2.5 billion Android phones, but for general purpose programming and education, Python has become the default standard."

They also write that the language's recently-retired creator Guido van Rossum "thinks Python may be closer to our visual understanding of the structures that we are representing in code than other languages." "While I was researching my book, CODERS," says author Clive Thompson, "I talked to a lot of developers who absolutely love Python. Nearly all said something like âPython is beautiful.' They loved its readability -- they found that it was far easier to glance at Python code and see its intent. Shorn of curly brackets, indented in elegant visual shelves, anything written in Python really looks like modern poetry." They also find that Python is fun to write, which is more important than it may seem. As Thompson writes, "When you meet a coder, you're meeting someone whose core daily experience is of unending failure and grinding frustration."

Building the priority of the programmer's time into the language has had a curious effect on the community that's grown around it. There's a social philosophy that flows out of Python in terms of the programmer's responsibility to write programs for other people. There's an implicit suggestion, very much supported by Van Rossum in the ways he talks and writes about Python, to take a little more time in order to make your code more interpretable to someone else in the future. Expressing your respect for others and their time through the quality of your work is an ethos that Van Rossum has stealthily propagated in the world. "You primarily write your code to communicate with other coders, and, to a lesser extent, to impose your will on the computer," he says...

Part of the enduring appeal of Python is the optimism and humility of starting over. "If you've invested much more time into writing and debugging code, you're much less eager to throw it all away and start over." Co-founder and CEO, Drew Houston wrote the first prototype of Dropbox in Python on a five-hour bus ride from Boston to New York. "The early prototypes of Dropbox were thrown away, largely, many times," says Van Rossum....

What has he taken away from his thirty year journey with Python? "I have learned that you can't do it alone, which is not an easy lesson for me. I've learned that you don't always get the outcome that you went for, but maybe the outcome you get is just as good, or better."

Though two decades ago van Rossum had tried a short-lived project called Computer Programming 4 Everybody (or CP4E), he now says "I'm not so sure that it needs to happen anymore. I think computers have made it to that point, where they're just a useful thing that not everybody needs to know what goes on inside."

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp also flagged van Rossum's remarks that "there are certain introductions to programming that are fun for kids to do, but they're not fun for all kids, and I don't think I would want to make it a mandatory part of the curriculum."

Re: Just another scripting language without static

By sodul • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Iâ(TM)ve used Python for over 10y and started using mypy this year on a large-ish project. The type annotation was a little weird at first and it still has ways to go but it is definitely helpful, especially with an IDE to help deal with a high number of custom classes and types that may have similar names and functionality.

Guido worked on mypy at DropBox and it took a few years for the typing to be solid enough for production development but we are now sold on it. Use an IDE that also understand type annotation and things are just much faster to code. I refer to the official docs to check the syntax a lot less than I used to.

If you are doing any serious work in Python you should use a modern IDE and make pylint + mypy part of your CI pipeline.

Python has its share of warts

By bluFox • Score: 3 • Thread
def my_cmd(val=None): if val is None: val = [] --- Python has its share of warts, for example, changing the default value of `val` from `None` to `[]` will make the value of `val` shared between all instances. Python got one thing right, which is the indentation sensitive syntax.

Re:Just another scripting language without static

By JaredOfEuropa • Score: 5, Informative • Thread
To be honest, the whole bracket vs. whitespace thing is a non-issue in my experience. It's not that often that I have to think very hard about brackets or whitespace in Python; if something doesn't work because of that, the cause usually becomes apparent upon inspection very quickly. Arguing about which is superior is a bit like arguing about where the curly should go (K&R vs BSD): each has their own merits, but in the end it really doesn't matter much (no really, not even if you mix these styles).

One advantage of brackets is that they have some redundancy, in a way: your code will have brackets to form code blocks, and will have indentation to visually set those blocks apart. If you somehow lose a curly, it'll be clear where it belongs thanks to the indentation. And (far more common) if the indentation gets messed up, your code will still work even though it'll look like crap, and restoring the formatting will be easy.


By Ambassador Kosh • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

I agree that most people should learn basic coding. I work with experimentalists that have only basic programming skills and that still allows them to massively improve their jobs. They will never be software developers but can still use programming to help their jobs. Exactly for the same reason as writing skills are useful even if you don't write a novel.

I think one of the best advances so far for most of these people are jupyter notebooks. You have a single place with the code, data and results and they can share the entire document with others that can execute it and when they run into trouble the document can be shared and debugged.


By theCoder • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

If you think the whitespace thing is annoying, wait until you learn about some of the other fun things.

* Sometimes you have to pass an object to a function and sometimes you have to call a function on the object. For example, to find the first instance of a character in a string, you call "find()" on the string. But to find the length of a string, you call the global function "len()" with the string. That one took me a while to figure out when I first started with Python, as the str class documentation has information on many methods, but none of them returns the length of the string. Well, there is __len__(), but...

* Private methods on a class are denoted by starting with two underscores. But that's just a convention. You could easily call somestr.__len__() to get the length, which I did until I learned that it was supposed to be len(somestr). Which, AIUI, is implemented by calling __len__() on whatever object it is passed. There's probably some advantage to this, but I cannot see how it is better than just standardizing on classes having a len() method that people can call, which seems to be more in line with the whole duck typing idea. Maybe it's more historical than deliberate. Certainly Python wouldn't be the only language with historical baggage.

* I still haven't quite figured out how to correctly use import statements. Sure, simple ones are easy, but when should I use "import a.b.c" vs. "from a.b import c"? Is it just a preference, or is there a more substantive difference? And why does there have to be a file called "" in each directory? There probably is a good reason, but it can be a real PITA, especially if you forget about it.

* Methods on classes in Python use a "self" variable to refer to the object. This is fine, and I guess it's fine that each class method has to take that as a parameter explicitly, but that variable also has to be used explicitly, whether setting variables or calling other class methods. An argument could be made that Python isn't really an OO language, but this really makes it obvious it isn't.

* Some of those cool packages come with some annoying drawbacks. At $EMPLOYER, we have a script that can do some processing using Tensorflow. It can do other things as well, but because it uses TF, it has to load it every time, even just to print the help statement, and that can take several seconds. Other imports, like matplotlib will fail to initialize and crash the script if DISPLAY isn't set, which is kind of annoying if the script is running from a cron job where there is no DISPLAY.

And this is just a stylistic complaint, but I find that Python style pushes a lot of underscores. Whether it is to mark something as "private", or to separate words in function names C style (i.e., "do_something"). Even though I mostly do C++ work, I've gotten more used to the more Java style "doSomething" camel casing. The C++ standard library is more C like, but many other libraries, as well as the large code base I work on at $EMPLOYER, tend to use camel case. But this is more a cultural thing than anything really technical. Kind of like braces vs. whitespace (though like most old-skool coders, I prefer braces as being more explicit).

This isn't to say that Python is all bad! It is really nice to be able to dump out a 2d array as an image through a nice package someone wrote. Just that no language is perfect, and it seems like lots of people look at Python through rosy glasses. I wonder if the people who wrote Numpy and some of the other more important Python libs had written them as Perl modules instead if Perl would be just as popular. Perl was really popular for a while mostly because of Slashdot itself uses Perl because of that. Of course a lot of people consider the $@% decorations on variables to be "ugly" and very few people really understand regular expressions which seem more core to Perl than any other language, and between the two, Perl has a hard time overcoming the "line noise" reputation. So Perl is probably past its peak popularity.

2019 Sees More Geeky Advent Calendars

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
It's the first day of December, which means the return of an annual geek tradition: the computer programming advent calendars!

An anonymous reader delivers this update: It's the very first year for the Raku Advent Calendar (using the language formerly known as Perl 6).

Meanwhile, Perl 5 still has its own separate advent calendar. Amsterdam-based Perl programmer Andrew Shitov is also writing a special "Language a Day" advent calendar in which he'll cover the basics of an entirely different programming language each day. And the Go language site Gopher Academy has also launched their 7th annual advent calendar.

The 24 Ways site is also promising "an advent calendar for web geeks," offering "a daily dose of web design and development goodness to bring you all a little Christmas cheer."

And each day until Christmas the Advent of Code site will offer "small programming puzzles for a variety of skill sets and skill levels that can be solved in any programming language you like. People use them as a speed contest, interview prep, company training, university coursework, practice problems, or to challenge each other." (Their Day One puzzle explains this year's premise. "Santa has become stranded at the edge of the Solar System while delivering presents to other planets....!")

There's also one particularly ambitious advent calendar from closer to the north pole. The Norwegian design/technology/strategy consulting firm Bekk is attempting 12 different geeky Christmas calendars, each running for 24 days (for a total of 288 articles).

And each one is hosted at a .christmas top-level domain

We need a /. advent calendar

By jfdavis668 • Score: 3 • Thread
or maybe a Beowulf Cluster of them.

This is the true war on Christmas

By drinkypoo • Score: 3 • Thread

Replacing chocolate with code? Fuck right off.

My favorite...

By ctrl-alt-canc • Score: 3 • Thread xkcd Zeno's advent calendar.

Public Libraries Drop Overdue Book Fines To Alleviate Inequity

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
The San Diego Public Library system just wiped out overdue fines for 130,000 people. It's part of a growing trend, reports NPR: The changes were enacted after a city study revealed that nearly half of the library's patrons whose accounts were blocked as a result of late fees lived in two of the city's poorest neighborhoods. "I never realized it impacted them to that extent," said Misty Jones, the city's library director.

For decades, libraries have relied on fines to discourage patrons from returning books late. But a growing number of some of the country's biggest public library systems are ditching overdue fees after finding that the penalties drive away the people who stand to benefit the most from free library resources. From San Diego to Chicago to Boston, public libraries that have analyzed the effects of late fees on their cardholders have found that they disproportionately deter low-income residents and children. Acknowledging these consequences, the American Library Association passed a resolution in January in which it recognizes fines as "a form of social inequity" and calls on libraries nationwide to find a way to eliminate their fines....

Lifting fines has had a surprising dual effect: More patrons are returning to the library, with their late materials in hand. Chicago saw a 240% increase in return of materials within three weeks of implementing its fine-free policy last month. The library system also had 400 more card renewals compared with that time last year. "It became clear to us that there were families that couldn't afford to pay the fines and therefore couldn't return the materials, so then we just lost them as patrons altogether," said Andrea Telli, the city's library commissioner. "We wanted our materials back, and more importantly, we wanted our patrons back..."

in San Diego, officials calculated that it actually would be saving money if its librarians stopped tracking down patrons to recover books. The city had spent nearly $1 million to collect $675,000 in library fees each year.

Re:Mercy me

By GuB-42 • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Usually, you can't borrow any more books before you clear your debt, i.e. return the book, pay the fine, or buy a replacement.
It may be true that no one will come after you, but you can only do it once. Not worth it IMHO, access to the library is more valuable than a single book.

Re:Mercy me

By Rick Schumann • Score: 4 • Thread
The so-called 'basic thought' IS WRONG. First we sabotage them by ensuring they can't read worth shit, then we discourage them from using the Public Library system just because they forgot to return a book on time for whatever reason? Fuck you, Anonymous Racist.

Re:Mercy me

By ShanghaiBill • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Rich, poor, smart, dumb; all those classes have passers and failers in their ranks.

They do indeed. But not in equal proportion. The correlation between delayed gratification and later economic success is not perfect, but it is strong.

From the citation: the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes,

It's a test of self-control. Unless you honestly believe poor people have no self-control.

Lack of self-control is strongly correlated with poverty.

Not all poor people lack self-control. Not all rich people have it. Also, correlation is not causation. If you have poor parents, they are less likely to teach you good life skills.

But any attempt to ameliorate poverty without addressing lack of self-control, lack of time management, lack of planning for the future, is unlikely to be successful.

Re:Mercy me

By Gavagai80 • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

poor people tend to be disorganized and have bad time management skills. That is a big part of why they are poor.

Having to work longer or more unusual hours (night shifts or the like), having to watch children because you can't afford to hire a baby sitter or daycare, and having to rely on infrequent and unreliable buses and trains, is not "bad time management skills." And the most frequent reason why people are poor is that their parents were poor, just like the most frequent reason people are rich is that their parents were rich -- the people who go from poor to rich or rich to poor are the newsworthy exceptions, not the rule.

Re: Mercy me

By skam240 • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Ones 5 dollars in late fees does not ever go to collections so no, late fees are not a way to " enforce it's eventual return". A borrowing ban until late materials are returned, something that already happens at libraries, is all that you really need. If they want to continue using their library they'll return the books, otherwise, congratulations to them, they just stole a book all marked up for library use whose resale value is virtually zero.

Of course without late fees you don't get to enjoy the righteous zeal of punishing some one. I could see how that would be a drawback for some.

Can We Save Coral Reefs Using Underwater Loudspeakers?

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
"The desperate search for ways to help the world's coral reefs rebound from the devastating effects of climate change has given rise to some radical solutions," reports the Washington Post. There's coral "nurseries" in the Caribbean, while Hawaiian scientists are trying to breed a new and more resilient type of coral.

But at least one team focused on the herbivorous fish which improve the microbiomes around the reefs -- party by eating the seaweed that would otherwise compete with the coral. And they think the solution lies in sounds: On Friday, British and Australian researchers rolled out another unorthodox strategy that they say could help restoration efforts: broadcasting the sounds of healthy reefs in dying ones. In a six-week field experiment, researchers placed underwater loudspeakers in patches of dead coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef and played audio recordings taken from healthy reefs... The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that twice as many fish flocked to the dead coral patches where healthy reef sounds were played compared with the patches where no sound was played... According to the study, the number of species present in the reef patches where healthy sounds were played increased by 50 percent over the other patches. The new fish populations included species from all parts of the food web, such as scavengers, herbivores and predatory fish. Importantly, the fish that arrived at the patches tended to stay there...

The technique, if it can be replicated on larger scales, could offer scientists another tool to revive coral reefs around the world that have been ravaged by climate change, overfishing and pollution in recent years. Scientists have warned that climate change may already be accelerating too fast for some reefs to recover at all and that conservation efforts are not keeping pace with the devastation. Severe coral bleaching triggered by extreme heat waves killed off 50 percent of the Great Barrier Reef, the planet's largest coral reef, in 2016 and 2017. Such bleaching events -- which occur when the nutrient-rich and color-providing algae that live in corals are expelled because of heat stress -- are occurring four times as frequently as they did in the 1980s, as The Washington Post has reported.

Not climate change...

By LynnwoodRooster • Score: 3, Informative • Thread
At least, according to UNESCO. In fact, it is not climate change at all, but agricultural pollution that is the source of reef die-offs.

Baiting fish to unhealthy environment?

By Chewbacon • Score: 3 • Thread

Begs the question: will this hurt the fish? If they determine a reef is healthy by the sound and we lure them to an unhealthy one... what will happen to the fish?

Re:Not climate change...

By dumuzi • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Actually your source clearly says it is not "just" climate change. Climate change clearly plays a key role. "Not just climate change" is very different from "not climate change at all".

In the particular case of the Florida keys agriculture played a primary role.
In the case of the Great Barrier Reef climate change played a primary role, so the study you sourced does not really apply to the Great Barrier Reef. So far most bleaching events are almost entirely due to warmer water plus ocean acidification, but it does remain important to find the actual causes and not just assume all events are carbon dioxide related (even though the majority are).


fake news for fish

By swell • Score: 3 • Thread

They will figure out that the reef is dead eventually, or they may starve first. That reminds me very little of the strategy for catching a rabbit for dinner--hide behind a tree and make noises like a carrot.

Remembering The Home Computer Christmas Wars of 1983

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
"1983 had seen an explosion of home computer models of varying capabilities and at various price-points," remembers the vintage computing site Paleotronic, looking back at the historic tech battle between Commodore, Texas Instruments, and eventually Coleco.

Slashdot reader beaverdownunder shares the site's fond remembrance of the days when "The question on everyone's minds was not who was going to win, but who would survive." Commodore's Jack Tramiel saw an emerging market for low-cost home computers, releasing the VIC-20 in 1980. At a US$299 price point sales were initially modest, but rival Texas Instruments, making a play for the bottom of the market, would heavily discount its TI99/4A, and start a price war with Commodore that culminated with both computers selling as low as $US99. Only one company was going to walk away... [W]hile TI spokesperson Bill Cosby joked about how easy it was to sell a computer when you gave people US$100 to buy one, Jack Tramiel wasn't going to take this lying down, and he dropped the price of the VIC-20 to US$200 in order to match TI. However, unlike TI, who was selling the 4A at a loss in order to gain market share, Commodore wasn't losing any money at all, since it owned MOS Technology, the maker of many of the chips inside of the VIC-20, and as a result got all of those components at cost. Meanwhile TI was paying full price and haemorrhaging cash on every model sold.

You would think TI might have realised they were playing a fool's game and back off but instead after Tramiel dropped the wholesale price of the VIC-20 to US$130 they went all-in, dropping the 4A's retail price to $150. Commodore went to $100, and TI matched it, with many retailers selling both machines for $99. Inside TI, Cosby's joke stopped being funny, and many wondered whether management had dug them into a hole they could never climb out of...

After all the dust had settled, the only real winner was Commodore. It fended off all of its competitors and cemented the Commodore 64 as the low-budget 8-bit computer everyone wanted their parents to buy.

Re: Missed opportunity

By Anonymous Coward • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

The 1541 disk drive was a stand-alone computer almost as complex as the 64 itself. Far from being "simple commands built into hardware" (WTF does that even mean?), it was running DOS internally to the drive. Two drives could be connected to each other via the Commodore serial post and copy disks stand-alone without a C64 connected.
So much for "simple".

The operating system was called the KERNAL. It booted the machine into BASIC.

"Plus there was no such thing as Open Source in the 80s."

Except for every computer magazine and reference book with type-in programs.

Anything else you care to be wrong about today?

Re:Depends on country - ZX Spectrum/BBC B in the U

By Richard_at_work • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Really? I don't recall the ZX Spectrum vs BBC battle in the private consumer space in the UK - no one I knew had a BBC (the schools did, certainly, but common amongst private individuals?), and it was C64 vs ZX Spectrum until the Amiga/Atari wars later on. And being a military brat, I moved schools a lot in that time so I had a lot of exposure to different playgrounds....

Re:Missed opportunity

By itsdapead • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

If comodore had open sourced their OS they could have been the worlds Microsoft and controlled the home computer market for decades.

If Commodore had licensed their proprietary OS to IBM who had built it into a proprietary* PC which their smartly suited and booted sales force could sell to their vast base of corporate customers (who had, so far, stayed away from the turtle-necked hippies selling microcomputers)... but craftily made the license non-exclusive so that when some bright spark figured a legal way to clone the IBM PC and sell it to the mass market, they could buy the OS directly from Commodore ... then they could have been the worlds Microsoft and controlled the home computer market for decades.

Fixed that bit of revisionist history for you.

* In 1983, "open" didn't mean what it means now. The IBM PC was "open" in the sense that third parties were graciously permitted to sell hardware and software for it - which was a massive u-turn c.f. the restrictive practices in IBM's mainframe business, but pretty much business as usual for the emerging microcomputer market. You sure as hell weren't allowed to make an IBM compatible machine (which would need IBM's BIOS software) until someone came up with the "clean room" technique for cloning software without violating copyright (although Oracle seem to be trying to fix that now in their action against Google).

Re:TI made the chips as well

By Average • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Or was this one of those situations where the part of TI that made the chips and the part of TI that made the computers were kept at arms length? (with the TI computer guys having to buy the TI chips at retail)

The latter. The consumer products group (TI-99s, Speak and Spells, eventually calculators) was in Lubbock. Hundreds and hundreds of miles from Dallas HQ and Houston IC research, and very much a us-v-them, exiled-to-Siberia part of the company.

I Got My First Computer That Year

By Greyfox • Score: 3 • Thread
Was it just the price war? I was under the impression the TI 99/4A had been discontinued because its power supply had a tendency to catch on fire or something. Mom and Dad got one for me in a K Mart for $50. I played games on it for a while, but I was fascinated by it and started getting programming books. I kept after the parents to buy the extended basic cartridge that would allow me to do sprites in BASIC but by the time we got around to it, none were to be had. However, the "mini memory" cartridge that provided access to assembly language programming was still available, so that's what they got. And that's how assembly language was the second computer programming language I learned. If I'd realized it at the time, I could have just gotten the asm to numeric command chart and written my assembly language code with pokes, but it took me several years before I reached that level of programming enlightenment. I credit this Christmas gift with an extremely lucrative career and still mention it every once in a while when I talk to the parents.

Kali Linux Adds 'Undercover' Mode to Impersonate Windows 10

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
"Kali Linux 2019.4 was released last week and with it comes an 'Undercover' mode that can be used to quickly make the Kali desktop look like Windows 10," reports Bleeping Computer: Kali is a Linux distribution created for ethical hacking and penetration testing and is commonly used by researchers and red teamers to perform security tests against an organization. As most people are used to seeing Windows and macOS devices being used, it may look suspicious to see a user running Kali Linux with it's distinctive dragon logo and a Linux environment in an office lobby or other public setting.

With this in mind, in Kali Linux 2019.4 the developers created a new 'Undercover' mode that will make the desktop look similar to Windows 10 in order to draw less suspicion.

The script even hides Kali's dragon logo, explains a post on the Kali blog, so "you can work a bit more incognito. After you are done and in a more private place, run the script again and you switch back to your Kali theme. Like magic...!"

"Thanks to Robert, who leads our penetration testing team, for suggesting a Kali theme that looks like Windows to the casual view..."

Um, no

By apoc.famine • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

....suggesting a Kali theme that looks like Windows to the casual viewer....

The casual viewer is going to immediately notice that you've either got a terminal window open or a GUI, and that immediately makes what you're doing seem out-of-place. They're expecting either a browser, Outlook, a MS Office App, or maybe an Adobe app. Anything else and you're squarely in "who's that guy, and what's he doing" territory.

If you want to be sneaky you need to just reskin the terminal as an Excel sheet with commands getting entered in cells. When most people look over and see an Excel sheet with lots of crap in it, you immediately just got 1000% less interesting.

Hmm ...

By fahrbot-bot • Score: 3 • Thread

... ethical hacking and penetration testing ... it may look suspicious ... in an office lobby or other public setting.

If you're doing "ethical hacking", presumably you're doing it for someone and presumably they know about it, so can't you do it in one of their cubicals or offices, rather than slinking about in the lobby or Starbucks next door? Even so, if you're not doing anything wrong, using the Kali desktop with dragon logo shouldn't be an issue - right?

Re:Hmm ...

By Zero__Kelvin • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

"Even so, if you're not doing anything wrong, using the Kali desktop with dragon logo shouldn't be an issue - right?"

In most pen testing scenarios it isn't common knowledge throughout the company that pen testing is happening. Being covert is how a real hacker would do it, so if you want to see what a real hacker can accomplish you need to also be covert.

this wont work for the most common fingerprinting

By nimbius • Score: 3 • Thread

most OS fingerprinting is done of course at the network level, however most operating systems are fingerprinted at the DHCP level. You see, the order of operations and offer of options during the DHCP handshake is quite unique to certain operating systems. BSD, Linux, Windows, and Mac all have separate eccentricities in their network stack that allow them to be fingerprinted. This is largely how 802.1x can advertise the ability to "reject" certain blacklisted operating systems.

ive always been fascinated by opportunities to cloak DHCP offers, but unless this is being done in Kali, then most efforts to thwart fingerprinting and spoof windows will be rendered useless by the lowest feature set of IDS and IPS.

That Windows 10 mode looks pretty convincing...

By leonbev • Score: 3 • Thread

Convincing enough that Microsoft will probably be sending them a Cease And Desist order to remove it by the end of next week.

Cool idea, though!

What Happened After The Explosion at a Virology Campus in Siberia?

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Lasrick writes: You may remember the explosion at VECTOR, once a center of Soviet biological warfare research. Filippa Lentzos, senior research fellow jointly appointed in the Departments of War Studies and of Global Health and Social Medicine at King's College London, just posted an update on what happened after the explosion. Her research focuses on biological threats and on the security and governance of emerging technologies in the life sciences, and she's been covering the accident since it first happened in September.
The article examines the facility's history as the center of the Soviet Union's biological warfare effort -- and how forthcoming Russian officials were in the wake of the September incident: Global public health and security officials were concerned the explosion might have affected labs holding dangerous viruses... An international legal framework (the International Health Regulations) obligates countries to notify the World Health Organization of events constituting a public health risk. In the case of the VECTOR explosion, where, as far as we know, no staff were infected and there were no signs of a disease outbreak to suggest there might be a public health risk, the incident would not require formal notification. Informal communications are always encouraged, however, and, according to another source, once prompted, Russian officials did also communicate through more formal channels following the incident at VECTOR to reassure the international public health community.

The explosion had occurred in a decontamination room where staff change into and out of the personal protective gear worn in high containment labs. The area was being renovated at the time of the incident and there were no biohazardous substances in the room. While the windows had been blown out, there was no structural damage to the building itself. One contractor had been taken to hospital with severe burns and was in intensive care, but there were no public health risks stemming from the explosion...

The international community does not yet know with any certainty what really happened at VECTOR that day. If it really was an accidental gas explosion with no resulting health or security risks, the situation seems to have been handled appropriately. But given Russia's history of covering up biological warfare research and secrecy around major accidents, national and local officials needed to show even more transparency than they did.


By Archtech • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

"Filippa Lentzos, senior research fellow jointly appointed in the Departments of War Studies and of Global Health and Social Medicine at King's College London..."

Departments of... ... War Studies

AND ... Global Health and Medicine.

An interesting combination, indeed.

My guess...

By 110010001000 • Score: 3 • Thread that they all got new jobs at troll farms and convinced everyone to vote for Trump.

Re:I no longer feel any joy in using the Internet.

By Joviex • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
You are modded down because this has nothing to do with the article.

If you want to be "heard" and "spread your message" why not actually try posting a news item that even vaguely resembles the paranoia you have?

Smallpoxvirus reconstituted from DNA fragments

By De_Boswachter • Score: 3 • Thread
There's no need to store intact smallpox virus particles. In order to preserve the virus, all you need is the DNA sequence, which has already been available for many decades. Like most DNA viruses, the smallpox virus can be reconstituted from synthetic DNA fragments by injecting them into cell cultures. For science.

Rust-Based Redox OS Is Nearly Self-Hosting After Four Years

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Long-time Slashdot reader sosume quotes the Register: Redox OS, written in Rust and currently under development, is only "a few months of work away" from self-hosting, meaning that the Rustc compiler would run on Redox itself, according to its creator Jeremy Soller...

Redox has a POSIX-compliant C library written in Rust, called relibc. It is Linux-compatible both at the syscall API level and at the syscall ABI (Application binary interface) level, subject to the same architecture.

The article notes that the OS's latest release was version 0.5 last March, arguing that it's "best described as experimental..."

"Still, if Rust continues to grow in popularity, its characteristics of safety and unimpeded performance seem ideal for creating a new operating system, so perhaps Redox will become more prominent."

Re:Not a great design.

By gweihir • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

They claim that it somehow eliminate "buggy drivers" because of memory safety features but then omit the fact that those features are disabled using the "unsafe" keyword for anything that interacts with hardware. They also talk about how fast it boots but then fail to mention that the downside of a microkernel is slow IPC.

While Rust has some nice features, most of the claims made are direct or indirect lies. That community is rotten to the core. Nothing new.

Re:Do not want

By jythie • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
One could say the same about desktop linux environments. Could, but personally I see value in both types of projects but really people work on what THEY find value in, not what other random people who have no connection to their project want more resources going into.

Re:Not a great design.

By jythie • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread
Eh, every generation of programmers needs to spend some time rediscovering the things they refuse to listen about from the previous generation.

Though to be fair, there is a fine line between not learning from the past and revisiting things to see how times have changed. Hard to say where this one will fall.

Re:Not a great design.

By Bengie • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
About 1-2% of their code is "unsafe". Much easier to validate those few. All C lines of code are unsafe. There are many anecdotes from veteran C programmers who were able to re-write a complex check of C code in Rust in 1/2 the lines of code. On top of that, certain classes of bugs were completely eliminated. And Rust allows for certain better algorithms and datastructures that can't safely be used in C because the code becomes too complex for humans to use correctly, and "easy"+safe concurrency.

The fact of the matter is that Rust not only has static analysis baked into the language, but the language was built around static analysis instead of bolted-on half-baked option. Rust as a community has been making tremendous headway in all areas, at rates much faster than seen in nearly all other projects and with a fraction the number of people, and with few issues.

Redox is an interesting experiment that is different enough from other microkernels of the past to be a useful case study. No doubt some useful knowledge will come from the project. And it's a great test bed for the Rust language as a whole, covering a gamut of use cases, exposing limitations and issues with the language.

Rust is better than C in the same way C is better than Brainfuck. You can write good code in C, but Rust enforces more of it. An in my experience, the value of clean code increases exponentially. A project with lots of poor code and a little great code is barely better than all poor code. Even a project with 50/50 poor/great code is still a pain in the ass. But a project with mostly great code where some of the poor code is cleaned up is now much much easier to work with. The biggest issue I have with handing off projects is code rot. Most programmers are not disciplined enough to deliver clean code. And messy code begets messy code. I've seen smallish projects that I was able to put enough effort to deliver immaculate code in the hopes of it being easy to manage in the long run. Only to have the next several programmers to make a mess of the code over time. In many of these situations, Rust would have been throwing all kinds of compiler errors because of bad practices.

Re:Not a great design.

By slack_justyb • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

in C if you want to write to VGA video memory, you can just make a pointer to 0xA000

And you would be writing bad code if you did exactly what you just said in C. You need to mark anything like that as volatile in C. And this is why Rust wraps that kind of stuff inside core::ptr::write_volatile and core::ptr::read_volatile, because most C programmers forget that you need to add volatile to such kinds of memory access.

Thank you, you've demonstrated exactly why Rust does the things that it does.

Astronomers Have Now Photographed A Second Interstellar Comet

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
"A new photo shows the solar system's second confirmed interstellar visitor in an impressive new light," writes

elainerd (Slashdot reader #94,528) quotes their report: A team of astronomers from Yale University in Connecticut imaged Comet 2I/Borisov last Sunday (Nov. 24) using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, revealing the object's tail to be nearly 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) long. That's about 14 times Earth's diameter, and more than 40% the distance from our planet to the moon. "It's humbling to realize how small Earth is next to this visitor from another solar system," Yale astronomy professor Pieter van Dokkum said in a statement. Borisov's tail dwarfs its body, of course; researchers think the comet's nucleus is just 1 mile (1.6 km) or so across.

The comet was discovered in late August by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov. Analysis of the object's speed and trajectory revealed that it came into our solar system from afar, making it the second known interstellar interloper after the mysterious body 'Oumuamua, which was first spotted in October 2017. Astronomers didn't see 'Oumuamua until it had already zoomed past Earth on its way toward the outer solar system, limiting the opportunity for detailed study. But Comet Borisov is a more obliging target.

Only one conclusion...

By 110010001000 • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

Since we didn't see any for thousands of years, and now we have seen two in two years, we must be under attack. That is the only logical conclusion. Time to notify the Space Force.

Re:Only one conclusion...

By Immerman • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

>It may also mean that the solar system is starting to enter a part of space where there are more interstellar objects

There's not really any evidence to support that. Far more likely that we've only just started looking close enough to spot them. We're only just beginning to do serious comet/asteroid spotting, so these could easily be a typical frequency, or even less common than usual.

We're currently discovering thousands of new asteroids every year, which puts two interstellar asteroids in two years at a small fraction of a tenth of a percent of the total. And the number of asteroids spotted is increasing exponentially as better telescopes and analysis techniques are developed - virtually the entire catalog of identified asteroids were discovered in just the last twenty years, with the majority of those in the last 10 years (and the majority of those in the last 5, etc)


By drinkypoo • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

"It's humbling to realize how small Earth is next to this visitor from another solar system," Yale astronomy professor Pieter van Dokkum said in a statement. Borisov's tail dwarfs its body, of course; researchers think the comet's nucleus is just 1 mile (1.6 km) or so across.

So it's humbling to realize how small Earth is next to this thing which is much smaller than Earth? That's just stupid. The tail isn't part of the comet's body any more. It's stuff that it's losing, i.e. it's actually getting smaller.

It is humbling to realize how small Earth is compared to the cosmos, but how is this an example of that? It's just confusing to people. Save statements like this for when a rogue gas giant shows up.

Did Protocells Serve As Software 'Code' In Early Evolutionary Biology?

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
Software developer nickwinlund77 writes: A new study following Nick Lane, et al.'s protocell study mentioned on Slashdot offers an explanation for how ''protocells'' could have emerged on early Earth, eventually leading to the cells we know today.

The work suggests that molecules called cyclophospholipids may have been the ingredient necessary for protocells to form important internal structures called vesicles, which likely kicked off the evolutionary process.

Are protocells basically a form of preliminary software-like 'code' in evolutionary biology?

Why would you ask if the hardware is software?

By Immerman • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

If DNA or RNA was the early "software" i.e. the information carrier, then the early protocells (which may well have come later) would be moire akin to hardware, would they not?


By drinkypoo • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

They're hardware, or 'wetware' if you like, but they are not software.

I guess if it weren't a bad analogy, it wouldn't belong on Slashdot.

Re:Why would you ask if the hardware is software?

By Ol Olsoc • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

If DNA or RNA was the early "software" i.e. the information carrier, then the early protocells (which may well have come later) would be moire akin to hardware, would they not?

Definitely. Phospholipids are basically fat or oil cells that are more or less attracted to themselves, so they tend to form tiny spheres, inside of which other life forming chemicals can be sequestered.

This is low level chemistry, quite promising as a hypothesis, and fascinating in it's simplicity. RNA and DNA fit the software concept, not lipid cell formation.


By Applehu Akbar • Score: 3 • Thread

This hypothesis would explain the platypus as a species coded in Perl. Cancer would be a bug in a C++ implementation.

Uhhh don't use 'code'!

By nsxdavid • Score: 3 • Thread

Whenever the word 'code' is used in biology, such as in describing DNA, it throws needless confusion into the mix. Chemical processes are not code. Code is written by, and with purpose, by a coder... or a creator. And that is not what this is. The waters just get muddied for anyone clinging to nonsensical religious machinations about the origin of life.

DC Comics Deletes 'Batman' Image That China Complained Was Supporting Hong Kong Protesters

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
"DC Comics has yanked a poster for a new Batman title from its social media accounts after the image drew criticism from Chinese commenters who said it appeared to support the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong," reports Variety: The artwork depicts Batman throwing a Molotov cocktail against a backdrop of hot-pink words spelling out the new comic book's tagline, "the future is young." It was posted on DC Comics' Twitter and Instagram accounts; both platforms are blocked in mainland China... [T]he poster came under fire from Chinese internet users who contended that it contained coded messages in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests. They said that the Molotov cocktail alluded to young Hong Kong protesters' more violent tactics, that the "dark knight's" choice of black attire referred to the black-clad Hong Kong protesters, and that the "golden child" of the book's title was a veiled reference to the color yellow, which was taken up by previous pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong five years ago...

DC Comics has since removed the poster from its social media. A Beijing-based representative of Warner Bros. declined to comment on the move. China is a critical market for Warner Bros., which owns DC Entertainment and DC Comics, its publishing subsidiary....

DC Comics' Instagram has been flooded with criticism from people who support the Hong Kong protests or are angry that the company appears to have given in to Chinese political pressure. "So now Batman loves money more than justice?" asked one commenter.

Another wrote: "Apparently China rules the world now. The future is young? No, the future is censorship."

Ironically, the Daily Wire notes that technically, the figure on the front cover might not even be Batman.

" It's actually Batwoman."

Re: The image being censored

By sycodon • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

The Irony is that the SJWs that infest Hollywood and will pillory anyone who crosses the PC line even one micrometer, are willingly submitting themselves to the dictates of a murderous Communist Dictatorship.

That's ridiculous!

By MiniMike • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

who contended that it contained coded messages in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests

That should not be acceptable. Support for the protests should be clear and unambiguous.

Re:The image being censored

By TheGratefulNet • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

2) This isn't censorship. It's a voluntary action by a company interested in making more money in China.

its effectively the same. china is a strong corporate 'funder', if you will, in the west. 'money talks' is a known phrase and it applies, here.

yes, the corps are free to ignore their strongest source of income. yeah, that's VERY realistic isn'it it? its really going to happen, yeah?

no. and so this is an indirect way of censoring things. you are correct that its not *direct*, but the end result is the same and its merely a work-around or end-run (if you like sports analogies) to get to the same result.

I don't know what the answer is, but the system is clearly broken, when a whole country gets to deny others NOT in their country, things that seem perfectly reasonable to the rest of us.

when the US tries that shit (telling the rest of the world what to do), no one likes it. the middle east goes ape-shit when the US does this and they continually use it as an excuse to fuck with the west.

why does china keep getting a free pass on this? no other country would get such treatment.

we need to find a way to fix this bug. and yes, its clearly a bug that needs fixing.

Re:Google Uyghurs

By Some Guy I Dont Know • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Well, there is a program of sending male Han officials to sleep in the same bed as Uighur women exists, and China describes the program as a "voluntary" way to bring officials closer, making them "like family", and suggests that no official has ever "heard of an official sexually abusing their new relatives".

So, yes, China admits there is a program to force Uighur women to sleep with Han men, but totally not in a sexual manner. Of course, you may not believe China when they say that... and have the brains wonder why Uighur women are turning up pregnant when their husbands are in prisons having their organs extracted.

So Unnecessary

By Colossus2Guardian • Score: 3, Insightful • Thread
'Joker' pulled in over a billion dollars as an R rated movie *not released in China*. You don't have to be amoral cowards to make a buck in this world ... D.C. is just choosing to be.

The Rise and Fall of a Teenager's Massive Meme Empire

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader writes: The New York Times just profiled 15-year-old "businessman" Rowan Winch, who made up to $10,000 a month from his Instagram feed. ("He planned to purchase a Tesla next year, when he's eligible to get his driver's license.") Rowan started by re-selling goods he'd bought online, eventually creating an online storefront that acted as a middleman for third-party retailers, but it was his meme accounts that brought him online fame, and what he really wanted: clout. "Rack up enough while you're young, and doors everywhere begin to open," the Times notes. "College recruiters notice you. Job opportunities and internships come your way. Your social status among peers rises, money flows in. Even fame becomes a possibility, if that's what you're after...."

His Instagram account gave him a feeling of helping others on a daily basis. ("His mother said that when she would try to restrict Rowan's phone use, his followers would send DMs protesting her parenting decisions...") Then in July his account was shut down as part of Instagram's great meme page purge. "A lot of my friends think I've become depressed, and I think that's right," Rowan said. (His mother tells the Times "he's not in a healthy state.")

From the article:

His parents have tried to get him to engage with life offline. They've urged him to get an hourly job at the hot dog shop by their house, just for social connection. "Any extracurricular activity, sports or a physical job, not selling something on the internet," Ms. Winch said.

But he loves the internet. He created a Discord server called The Fallen with over 200 other teenagers whose meme accounts were also deactivated, mostly in two major waves over the last 12 months. He started a podcast. He still posts to his personal Instagram account, with 60,000 followers, and two other meme pages with 120,000 followers and 197,000 followers. But losing [his Instagram account] was like suddenly getting fired from a big job. Rowan's identity was so intertwined with the page, he's still trying to figure out who he is without it.

Lately, he's been thinking he might become a YouTuber...

Re:Oh well

By Cipheron • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Well he was drawing eyeballs, sure, but the platform probably worked out that they could divert those eyeballs somewhere else that the advertisers were willing to pay "more money per eyeball". Opportunity costs. i.e. *he* may have been making money but the platform as a whole could be losing money due to the glut of low-quality content that said advertisers didn't like.

Re: Pandering for attention is way out of control

By Tyr07 • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Did I like, destroy your youtube dreams or something?

I'm not a boomer but I mean, clearly anyone who has a point of view must be some old person holding on to old values or something. I guess you can go for some gender hate identity crime or something.
First of all, you hipster, you used fellate incorrectly. I get what you were trying to go for, but is a transitive sense it's completely nonsensical.Also no, just because someone can put together what you were trying to say doesn't mean it did it's intended purpose. It's like failing your arms while slobbering and think you did a good job because someone figured out you wanted a cookie from a cookie jar.

People suffering doesn't boost my ego at all. I think it's shitty, that people have been left thinking they're too good to be amongst the common folk. We're going to have serious repercussions for individuals thinking that when they get a dose of reality. People who are well adjusted can handle failure and move on.

Some of them will find new avenues of success, there are people who put a lot of work in what they do and it's a job to them closer to actual content producers.
They're also the ones who won't throw a tempertauntrum saying they're not fit for regular work and demand more attention.

Suicide and depression is bad. People are getting delusions of grandeur because a few thousand people were bored for awhile and interested in their life. They are not handling it well when they find out they're regular people and not nobility.

This is a sad thing.

And this is why I don't fear the robots

By cascadingstylesheet • Score: 4, Informative • Thread
We can make "jobs" out of anything, including thin air.

Article doesn't address why his account was closed

By JoeyRox • Score: 3 • Thread
Here's an article with theories on why Instagram shut down meme accounts:

Re: Pandering for attention is way out of control

By tsqr • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

If you use the word snowflake, you've bought into a dim worldview.

LOL, wasn't it you who posted, "Ok, boomer" a little earlier? Why yes, it was you. Do you have any idea how stupid this makes you look?

Facebook Bows to Singapore's 'Fake News' Law, Posts 'Correction'

Posted by EditorDavidView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader quotes the BBC: Facebook has added a correction notice to a post that Singapore's government said contained false information. It is the first time Facebook has issued such a notice under the city-state's controversial "fake news" law. Singapore claimed the post, by fringe news site States Times Review, contained "scurrilous accusations".

The note issued by the social media giant said it "is legally required to tell you that the Singapore government says this post has false information".

Facebook's addition was embedded at the bottom of the original post, which was not altered. It was only visible to social media users in Singapore... Critics say the law threatens freedom of expression. Amnesty International said it would "give authorities unchecked powers to clamp down on online views of which it disapproves". But Singapore's law minister said free speech "should not be affected by this bill", adding that it was aimed only at tackling "falsehoods, bots, trolls and fake accounts". The government has argued that the law safeguards against abuse of power by allowing judicial reviews of its orders.

Singapore had first ordered the page's editor to correct the post, but as an Australian citizen he'd refused and promised (on Facebook) that he would "not comply with any order from a foreign government".

Could maybe some enterprising journalist ...

By quax • Score: 3 • Thread

... establish the facts of the underlying claims?

I.e. is the Singapore government correct on the merits?