Should Twitter Delete the Accounts of Dead People?
An anonymous reader quotes SiliconValley.com:
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?
Guido van Rossum Explains How Python Makes Thinking in Code Easier
Work in Progress blog shared
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."
2019 Sees More Geeky Advent Calendars
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
Public Libraries Drop Overdue Book Fines To Alleviate Inequity
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.
Can We Save Coral Reefs Using Underwater Loudspeakers?
"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.
Remembering The Home Computer Christmas Wars of 1983
"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.
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.
Kali Linux Adds 'Undercover' Mode to Impersonate Windows 10
"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..."
What Happened After The Explosion at a Virology Campus in Siberia?
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.
Rust-Based Redox OS Is Nearly Self-Hosting After Four Years
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."
Astronomers Have Now Photographed A Second Interstellar Comet
new photo shows the solar system's second confirmed interstellar visitor in an impressive new light," writes Space.com.
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.
Did Protocells Serve As Software 'Code' In Early Evolutionary Biology?
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?
DC Comics Deletes 'Batman' Image That China Complained Was Supporting Hong Kong Protesters
"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
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."
Daily Wire notes that technically, the figure on the front cover might not even be Batman.
It's actually Batwoman."
The Rise and Fall of a Teenager's Massive Meme Empire
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...
Facebook Bows to Singapore's 'Fake News' Law, Posts 'Correction'
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".