Star Wars Prequels

Ajit Pai Taunts Net Neutrality Critics. Mark Hamill Taunts Ajit Pai (mashable.com) 39

An anonymous reader writes: Just days before voting to repeal net neutrality regulations, FCC chairman Ajit Pai introduced a comedy video at the annual gathering of the Federal Communications Bar Association -- and it offered its own self-disparaging version of Pai's tenure as a Verizon attorney in 2003. "We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman," says a real-world Verizon executive appearing in the videotaped skit. "That sounds awesome," Pai responds.

And the day of the vote Pai also appeared in another trying-to-be-funny video on the conservative site The Daily Caller demonstrating "seven things you can still do on the internet after net neutrality." In the first image he's holding a fidget spinner and dressed as Santa Claus, and the unmistakably patronizing video reminds critics that they can still upload photos of their meals to Instagram and "post photos of cute animals, like puppies." He also demonstrated that net neutrality critics can still stay part of their favorite fan communities -- by showing himself holding a light saber. And this unexpectedly drew the wrath of Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who responded on Twitter by calling him "Ajit 'Aren't I Precious?' Pai."

Hamill also added that "you are profoundly unworthy 2 wield a lightsaber. A Jedi acts selflessly for the common man, NOT lie 2 enrich giant corporations." When U.S. Senator Ted Cruz responded -- likening government overreach to Darth Vader and urging Hamill to "reject the dark side" -- Hamill responded again, complaining that the Senator was "smarm-splaining." Hamill also added, "you'd have more credibility if you spelled my name correctly. I mean IT'S RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU! Maybe you're just distracted from watching porn at the office again."

The Houston Chronicle reports that the newest meme on Twitter is now Pai's over-sized coffee mug stamped with the logo for Reese's Peanut Butter cups, "which he occasionally sipped from during the widely-criticized reversal." The Dangerous Minds site notes that some angry net neutrality supporters have even taken their complaints to Reese's Facebook page, adding "Perhaps these protester's pleas to the candy company are simply a misguided hope that someone, ANYONE will listen to their frustration."

"Clearly, the FCC wasn't listening to the estimated 83% of Americans who support net neutrality."
Intel

Can Intel's 'Management Engine' Be Repurposed? 62

Long-time Slashdot reader iamacat writes: Not a day goes by without a story about another Intel Management Engine vulnerability. What I get is that a lot of consumer PCs can access network and run x86 code on top of UNIX-like OS such as Minix even when powered off.

This sounds pretty useful for tasks such as running an occasional use Plex server. Like I can have a box that draws very little power when idle. But when an incoming connection is detected, it can power itself and the media drive on and serve the requested content.

The original submission ends with an interesting question. "if Intel ME is so insecure, how do I exploit it for practically useful purposes?"
Books

A Book Recommendation for Bill Gates: The Story of PLATO 36

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: This holiday season, many Slashdot readers are likely to find gifts under the tree because of Bill Gates' book picks. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it seems that turnabout is fair play -- what book recommendations do you have for Bill?

At the top of my pick list for personalized learning advocate Gates would be Brian Dear's remarkable The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, with its tale of how a group of visionary engineers and designers -- some of them only high school students -- created a shockingly little-known computer system called PLATO in the late 1960s and 1970s that was decades ahead of its time in experimenting with how people could learn, engage, communicate, and play through connected terminals and computers. After all, "we can't move forward," as Audrey Watters argued in The Hidden History of Ed-Tech, "til we reconcile where we've been before."
United States

Power Outage Strands Thousands at US Airport. 600 Flights Cancelled (cnn.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: A power outage at the world's busiest airport left thousands of passengers stranded in dark terminals and in planes sitting on the tarmac, amid a nationwide ground stop. Incoming and outgoing flights at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were halted indefinitely as crews worked to restore power, leading to hundreds of flight delays and cancellations. Atlanta is the heart of the US air transport system, and what happens there has the potential to ripple through the country.

More than 600 flights to and from Atlanta have been canceled, including 350 departures, according to Flightradar24... Flights headed to Atlanta are being held on the ground at their departure airport. Inbound flights to Atlanta are being diverted, US Customs and Border Protection said. Departures from the airport are delayed because electronic equipment is not working in the terminals, the FAA said. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Some people stranded in the dark terminals used their cellphones as flashlights, one passenger told CNN. "There were a few emergency lights on, but it was really dark -- felt totally apocalyptic."
Google

Google Reveals the Most-Trending Searches of 2017 (google.com) 38

"Google's annual list of the most popular searches is here, offering a peek into what people are really thinking about," writes CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: This year, you wanted to know more about one of the most powerful storms on record, the devastating Hurricane Irma. But you were also curious about [hip hop artist] Cardi B. and Unicorn Frappuccinos... Like 2017 itself, this year's top searches skew a little darker than usual, but are punctuated with some whimsy and positive moments. The top trending searches in the U.S. were Irma, Matt Lauer, Tom Petty, the Super Bowl and the Las Vegas shooting.

To determine the most popular trending searches, Google looked at its trillions of queries, filtered out spam and repeats, and identified searches that had the highest uptick in traffic compared with the previous year. It breaks them into categories like news, memes, and recipes (beef stroganoff was a hit).

Surprisingly there were more searches for 'iPhone 8" than for 'iPhone X," though those were the top two most-searched consumer technology products. (Followed by Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X.) Other top searches this year included "What is net neutrality?" as well as questions about what bitcoin is, how to buy it, and the latest bitcoin prices. And one of the 10 most-searched phrases of the year was "fidget spinner."

Google uploaded an inspiring video to YouTube stating "This year more than ever we asked how." To dramatic music, the examples it gives include "How to calm a dog during a storm," "How to help Puerto Rico," "How to make a protest sign" -- and "How to move forward."
Crime

Stolen Car Recovered With 11,000 More Miles -- and Lyft Stickers (sfgate.com) 81

The San Francisco Bay Area has more car thefts than any region in America, according to SFGate.com. A National Insurance Crime Bureau report found that between 2012 and 2014, there were an average of 30,000 car thefts a year just in the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward. But one theft took a strange turn. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Cierra and Josh Barton purchased a new Honda HR-V at the beginning of summer. It was stolen while parked in front of their Livermore apartment complex at the end of August. Four months later, Hayward police called the Bartons to say they had recovered the vehicle... What they found, to their surprise, was a car in relatively good shape -- a few dents, a rattling hood. But in the back and front windows were Lyft stickers, Cierra Barton said.

The odometer had spiked from 2,000 miles to more than 13,000. And in the back seat, Cierra said she found a pillow, a jacket and a stuffed animal. "It wasn't burned out, it wasn't gutted, but it appeared to be have been used as a Lyft," she said. That, Cierra added, was even worse than she imagined. "Not only did someone steal our car, they made money off it!"

Lyft says that "Given the information provided, we are unable to match this vehicle to any Lyft accounts in the area," adding they "stand ready to assist law enforcement in any investigation."
Television

What's The Best TV Show About Working in Tech? (gizmodo.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: Recently Gizmodo hailed "the best show ever made about Silicon Valley", asking its readers one question: why didn't you watch it? They're talking about AMC's Halt and Catch Fire, which their Senior Reviews Editor says "discovered the fascinating, frustrating human side to the soulless monsters who built Silicon Valley." Unfortunately, "nobody watched it. The show never cracked a million live viewers after the pilot episode. It sat firmly on the bubble every season, getting greenlit only by the grace of AMC."

Today Netflix is making that show's fourth (and final) season available -- but is it the best show about working in tech? What about Mr. Robot, Silicon Valley, or The IT Crowd -- or that short-lived X-Files spin-off, The Lone Gunmen?

Has there ever been a good show about geeks -- besides those various PBS documentaries? Leave your own answers in the comments.

What's the best TV show about working in tech?
Facebook

Former Exec Who Said Facebook Was 'Destroying Society' Still Loves Facebook (gizmodo.com) 36

Remember that former Facebook exec who felt "tremendous guilt" about creating tools "that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works"? He's now walking back his criticism -- at least somewhat. Gizmodo reports: Palihapitiya said that he believes that "Facebook is a force for good in the world," and went on to express his belief that the social network is really trying to make its platform less of a hellish garbage fire of misinformation and election interference. "Facebook has made tremendous strides in coming to terms with its unforeseen influence and, more so than any of its peers, the team there has taken real steps to course correct," he wrote in the post... Facebook is certainly trying to soothe naysayers who think the platform might be rotting the brains of our youth -- a viewpoint that Sean Parker, Facebook's first president, essentially expressed last month... For Palihapitiya's part, Thursday night's statement wasn't a total reversal of his original claims, but seemingly an apologetic gesture toward Facebook (or perhaps friends still working at the company). Yes, social media has the capacity to utterly destroy us, but can't you see that Facebook is trying to be better?
His post argues social media platforms "have been used and abused in ways that we, their architects, never imagined.

"Much blame has been thrown and guilt felt, but the important thing is what we as an industry do now to ensure that our impact on society continues to be a positive one."
Earth

Flat Earther Now Wants To Launch His Homemade Rocket From a Balloon (themaineedge.com) 242

A Maine alternative newsweekly just interviewed self-taught rocket scientist "Mad" Mike Hughes, who still believes that the earth is a flat, Frisbee-shaped disc. ("Think about this. Australia -- which is supposedly on the other side of the planet -- is upside down yet they're holding the waters in the ocean. Now how is that happening?") And Mike's got a new way to prove it after his aborted launch attempt in November. An anonymous reader writes: "One thing I want to clarify is that this rocket was never supposed to prove that the Earth is flat," Hughes tells an interviewer. "I was never going to go high enough to do that." But he will prove it's flat -- with an even riskier stunt. "I have a plan to go 62 miles up to the edge of space. It's going to cost $1.8 million and that could happen within 10 months."

"I'm going to have a balloon built at about $250,000 with $100,000 worth of hydrogen in it. It will lift me up about 20 miles... If I'm unconscious, they can use the controls to bring the balloon back." But if he's still conscious? "Then I'll fire a rocket through the balloon that will pull me up by my shoulders through a truss for 42 miles at 1.5 g's."

It's an awesome plan "if I don't burn up coming back through the atmosphere."

The interviewer asks Hughes a reasonable question. "Wouldn't it be cheaper and less deadly to just try to drill through the Earth to the other side to prove your point?"

"You can't," Hughes answers. "That's another fallacy. The deepest hole ever drilled is seven-and-a-half miles and it was done in Russia. It took 12 years. You cannot drill through this planet. It dulls every drill bit. All the stuff that you learned in school -- that the core is molten nickel -- it's all lies. No one knows what's in the center of the Earth or how deep it is. I'm no expert at anything, but I know that's a fact."
Microsoft

Microsoft Releases a Preview of OpenSSH Client and Server For Windows 10 (servethehome.com) 122

kriston (Slashdot user #7,886) writes: Microsoft released a preview of the OpenSSH server and client for Windows 10. Go to Settings, Apps & Features, and click "Manage optional features" to install them. The software only supports AES-CTR and chacha20 ciphers and supports a tiny subset of keys and KEXs, but, on the other hand, a decent set of MACs.

It also says that it doesn't use the OpenSSL library. That's the really big news, here. I understand leaving out arcfour/RC4 and IDEA, but why wouldn't MSFT include Blowfish, Twofish, CAST, and 3DES? At least they chose the CTR versions of these ciphers. (Blowfish isn't compromised in any practical way, by the way). I prefer faster and less memory- and CPU-intensive ciphers.

Still, it's a good start. The SSH server is compelling enough to check out especially since I just started using X2GO for remote desktop access which requires an SSH server for its file sharing feature.

United States

Trump Administration Prohibits CDC Policy Analysts From Using the Words 'Science-Based' (washingtonpost.com) 379

Long-time Slashdot reader hey! writes: On Friday the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration has forbidden the Centers for Disease Control from using seven terms in certain documents: "science-based", "evidence-based", "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," and "fetus".

It's important to note that the precise scope and intent of the ban is unknown at present. Scientific and medical personnel as of now have not been affected, only policy analysts preparing budgetary proposals and supporting data that is being sent to Congress. So it is unclear the degree to which the language mandates represent a change in agency priorities vs. a change in how it presents itself to Congress. However banning the scientifically precise term "fetus" will certainly complicate budgeting for things like Zika research and monitoring.

According to the Post's article, "Instead of 'science-based' or 'evidence-based,' the suggested phrase is 'CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

The New York Times confirmed the story with several officials, although "a few suggested that the proposal was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans."
Microsoft

Windows 10 Bundled a Password Manager with a Security Flaw (bleepingcomputer.com) 46

An anonymous reader writes: A Google security researcher has found and helped patch a severe vulnerability in Keeper, a password manager application that Microsoft has been bundling with some Windows 10 distributions this year... "This is a complete compromise of Keeper security, allowing any website to steal any password," Tavis Ormandy, the Google security researcher said, pointing out that the password manager was still vulnerable to a same vulnerability he reported in August 2016, which had apparently been reintroduced in the code.

Based on user reports, Microsoft appears to have been bundling Keeper as part of Windows 10 Pro distributions since this past summer.

The article reports that Keeper issued a fix -- browser extension version 11.4 -- within less than 24 hours.
Microsoft

Do More People Use Firefox Than Edge and IE Combined? (computerworld.com) 127

A funny thing happened when Net Applications' statistics began excluding fake traffic from ad-defrauding bots. Computerworld reports: Microsoft's Edge browser is less popular with Windows 10 users than earlier thought, if revised data from a U.S. analytics vendor can be believed. According to Net Applications of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Edge has been designated the primary browser by fewer than one in six Windows 10 users for more than a year and a half. That's a significant downgrading of Edge's user share statistics from the browser's portrayal before this month...

By comparing Edge's old and new shares, it was evident that as much as half of the earlier Edge traffic had been faked by bots. The portion of Edge's share credited to bots fluctuated month to month, but fell below 30% in only 4 of the 19 months for which Net Applications provided data... Microsoft's legacy browser, Internet Explorer (IE) also was revealed as a Potemkin village. Under the old data regime, which included bots, IE's user share was overblown, at times more than double the no-bots reality. Take May 2016 as an example. With bots, Net Applications pegged IE at 33.7%; without bots, IE's user share dwindled to just 14.9%. Together, IE and Edge - in other words, Microsoft's browsers - accounted for only 16.3% of the global user share last month using Net Applications' new calculations... In fact, the combined IE and Edge now face a once unthinkable fate: falling beneath Mozilla's Firefox.

StatCounter's stats on browser usage already show more people have already been using Firefox than both of Microsoft's browsers combined -- in 12 of the last 13 months.
AI

Artificial Intelligence Is Killing the Uncanny Valley and Our Grasp On Reality (wired.com) 187

rickih02 writes: In 2018, we will enter a new era of machine learning -- one in which AI-generated media looks and sounds completely real. The technologies underlying this shift will push us into new creative realms. But this boom will have a dark side, too. For Backchannel's 2018 predictions edition, Sandra Upson delves into the future of artificial intelligence and the double edged sword its increasing sophistication will present. "A world awash in AI-generated content is a classic case of a utopia that is also a dystopia," she writes. "It's messy, it's beautiful, and it's already here."
"The algorithms powering style transfer are gaining precision, signalling the end of the Uncanny Valley -- the sense of unease that realistic computer-generated humans typically elicit..." the article argues.

"But it's not hard to see how this creative explosion could all go very wrong."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How Can Programmers Explain Their Work To Non-Programmers? 318

Slashdot reader Grady Martin writes: I disrespect people who describe their work in highfalutin terms... However, describing my own work as "programming solutions to problems" is little more than codifying what just about anyone can perceive through intuition. Case in point: Home for the holidays, I was asked about recent accomplishments and attempted to explain the process of producing compact visualizations of branched undo/redo histories.

Responses ranged from, "Well, duh," to, "I can already do that in Word"...

It's the "duh" that I want to address, because of course an elegant solution seem obvious after the fact: Such is the nature of elegance itself. Does anyone have advice on making elegance sound impressive?

An anonymous Slashdot reader left this suggestion for explaining your work to non-programmers. "Don't. I get sick when I hear the bullshit artists spew crap out of their mouth when they have no idea wtf they're talking about. Especially managers..."

But how about the rest of you? How can programmers explain their work to non-programmers?

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