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What Happened to Google Maps?

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 21:10
Google Maps has reduced the number of cities it shows by up to 83% over the past few years, according to Justin O'Beirne. Maps, in addition, has increased the number of roads it showcases. O'Beirne, who writes about digital maps, in a blog post outlines the changes Google has made to its mapping and navigation service over the years. The side-by-side screenshots comparison on his blog post shows that Google has largely abandoned labelling towns and cities in favor of showing as many roads as it can. He has also looked into several elements of Maps from the design standpoint, and questioned Google's decision. He writes: If these roads were so important that they deserved to be upgraded in appearance, why weren't they also given shield icons? After all, an unlabeled road is only half as useful as a labeled one. [...] [Comparing Google Maps to a paper map] Even though it's from the early 1960s, the old print map has so much more information than the Google Map. So many more cities. So many more road labels. And the text size is comparable between the two. O'Beirne believes that Google has made these changes to better serve mobile users. "Unfortunately, these 'optimizations' only served to exacerbate the longstanding imbalances already in the maps," he writes. "As is often the case with cartography: less isn't more. Less is just less."

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CV of Failures: Princeton Professor Publishes Resume of His Career Lows

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 20:10
An anonymous reader shares a Guardian report: A professor at Princeton University has published a CV listing his career failures (PDF), in an attempt to "balance the record" and encourage others to keep trying in the face of disappointment. Johannes Haushofer, who is an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at the university in New Jersey, posted his unusual CV on Twitter last week. The document contains sections titled Degree programs I did not get into , Research funding I did not get and Paper rejections from academic journals. Haushofer writes: Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective. He added another section called "Meta-Failures" to his resume, writing, "This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work."

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RIP Kuro5hin

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 19:50
themusicgod1 writes: Can we please get a moment of silence? Long-time sister site to Slashdot, Kuro5hin has finally gone offline.

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Government Could Ban BBC From Showing Top Shows at Peak Times

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 19:30
An anonymous reader writes: The BBC is on a collision course with the government over reported efforts to bar it from showing popular shows at peak viewing times. The culture secretary, John Whittingdale, is widely expected to ban the broadcaster from going head-to-head with commercial rivals as part of the BBC charter review. He is due to publish a white paper within weeks that will set out a tougher regime as part of a new royal charter to safeguard the service for another 11 years. ITV has complained about licence fee money being used to wage a ratings battle with it and other channels funded by advertising. A source at the BBC said the public would be deeply concerned if it were forced to move programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who and Sherlock from prime time weekend slots.In some unrelated news, Clarkson, Hammond, and May are still figuring out the name for their new show.

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Apple's Smartwatch Draws Competition And A Very Bad Review

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 18:30
Apple's share of the smartwatch market actually started declining in 2016, dropping down to just 52.4% (down from 63%), according to Business Insider. And following up on Apple's first drop in earnings in over 10 years, Slashdot reader Zanadou shares a Gizmodo's latest story about the Apple Watch. "I stopped wearing it two months ago, and I'm not sure if I'll ever wear it again. That's because it doesn't really do anything that anyone needs, and even when it does, it doesn't always work like it's supposed to. Here are some things I learned over the past year of strapping the screen vibrator to my wrist." The article describes wanting to try a new form factor, but ending up confused by the watch's two-button interface (where the buttons perform multiple functions). Gizmodo's writer complains that "there's literally no comfortable way to actually use it," and while he did appreciate things like the time-of-sunrise feature and the ability to read text messages on your wrist, most Apple Watch apps "just end up being a shell of the iPhone app". And worst of all, it was difficult to use the watch to actually tell time, since "the screen doesn't always turn on when you raise your wrist like it's supposed to."

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New Chip Offers Artificial Intelligence On A USB Stick

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 17:30
An anonymous reader writes: "Pretty much any device with a USB port will be able to use advanced neural networks," reports PC Magazine, announcing the new Fathom Neural Compute Stick from chip-maker (and Google supplier) Movidius. "Once it's plugged into a Linux-powered device, it will enable that device to perform neural network functions like language comprehension, image recognition, and pattern detection," and without even using an external power supply. Device manufacturers could now move AI-level processing from the cloud down to end users, PC Magazine reports, with one New York computer science professor saying the technology means that now "every robot, big and small, can now have state-of-the-art vision capabilities." The article argues that this standalone, ultra-low power neural network could start the creation of a whole new category of next-generation consumer technologies.

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Engineers Plan The Most Expensive Object Ever Built

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 16:30
HughPickens.com writes: Ed Davey has an interesting story at BBC about the proposed nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, UK which at $35 billion will be the most expensive object ever put together on Earth. For that sum you could build a small forest of Burj Khalifas -- the world's tallest building, in Dubai, which each cost $1.5 billion. You could build almost six Large Hadron Colliders, built under the border between France and Switzerland to unlock the secrets of the universe, and at a cost a mere $5.8 billion. Or you could build five Oakland Bay Bridges in San Francisco, designed to withstand the strongest earthquake seismologists would expect within the next 1,500 years at a cost of $6.5 billion... But what about historical buildings like the the pyramids. Although working out the cost of something built more than 4,500 years ago presents numerous challenges, in 2012 the Turner Construction Company estimated it could build the Great Pyramid of Giza for $5 billion. That includes about $730 million for stone and $58 million for 12 cranes. Labor is a minor cost as it is projected that a mere staff of 600 would be necessary. In contrast, it took 20,000 people to build the original pyramid with a total of 77.6 million days' labor. Using the current Egyptian minimum wage of $5.73 a day, that gives a labor cost of $445 million. But whatever the most expensive object on Earth is, up in the sky is something that eclipses all of these things. The International Space Station. Price tag: $110 billion.

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Ask Slashdot: How Could You Statistically Identify The Best Sci-Fi Books?

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 15:30
jimharris writes: Over at SF Signal I wrote a piece "How Well-Read Are You in Science Fiction?" There are three databases that collect lists of popular science fiction books that try to statistically identify the best books of the genre, [offering] combined list that shows which books were cited the most. They use different sets of best-of lists, but their results are often similar. The final lists are, Classics of Science Fiction, Worlds Without End Top Listed, and Premiosylista Comparativas: Comparativas: Ciencia ficcion (Spain). Interestingly, each list has a different book in its #1 position (though both "Dune" and "Frankenstein" make the top four on at least two of the three lists). But is this really a good methodology for determining the classic canon? What would be the best way to statistically identify the greatest sci-fi books? (And have you read any good science fiction novels lately?)

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Can Quantum Entanglement Create Faster-Than-Light Communication?

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 14:30
Slashdot reader StartsWithABang writes: If you were to send a space probe to a distant star system, gather information about it and send it back to Earth, you'd have to wait years for the information to arrive. But if you have an entangled quantum system -- say, two photons, one with spin +1 and one with spin -1 -- you could know the spin of the distant one instantly by measuring the spin of the one in your possession. This "incredible idea to exploit quantum weirdness" for communication was the subject of a recent Forbes article [which blocks ad-blockers] as well as a NASA mission directorate. ("Entanglement-assisted Communication System for NASA's Deep-Space Missions: Feasibility Test and Conceptual Design".) And Friday MIT News reported a research team is now making progress toward capturing paired electron halves for quantum computing on gold film. "Our first goal is to look for the Majorana fermions, unambiguously detect them, and show this is it. " This week even 85-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner cited quantum entanglement in a discussion of Star Trek's transporter technology, arguing that "Although a lot of the concepts in science fiction are absurd to our Newtonian minds, anything is possible because of the new language of quantum physics."

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Flexible Floating Football-Field Sized Solar Panels

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 13:30
mdsolar writes: Offshore wind farms are growing in popularity as energy providers look for different ways of harvesting power from the sun without using valuable land resources. One unique idea being developed by engineers at Vienna University of Technology is a floating platform called a Heliofloat that would function as a sea-based solar power station.... an open-bottom, flexible float as large as a football field and covered from edge to edge with solar panels. Heliofloats can operate as standalone platforms for smaller operations with moderate energy requirements. Multiple heliofloats also can be connected together, forming a floating solar-harvesting power grid. Each heliofloat is 100 meters long, reportedly cheap and easy to build, and may eventually be used to power desalination plants and biomass extraction.

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Google Helps Police With Child Porn WebCrawler

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 07:30
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the Internet Watch Foundation, "an organization that works with police worldwide to remove images of child sexual abuse from the Internet, has credited Google with helping it develop a 'Web crawler' that finds child pornography." The pilot project makes it easier to identify and remove every copy of specific images online, and the group says "We look forward to the next phase of the Googler in Residence project in 2016." Last year Google also had an engineer working directly with the foundation, and the group's annual report says "This was just one part of the engineering support Google gave us in 2015." [PDF] Their report adds that the new technology "should block thousands of their illegal images from being viewed on the Internet."

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US Spy Court Didn't Reject a Single Government Surveillance Request In 2015

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 03:30
schwit1 shares news from ZDNet's security blog: In more than three decades years, the FISA Court has only rejected 12 requests. A secret court that oversees the US government's surveillance requests accepted every warrant that was submitted last year, according to new figures.The Washington DC.-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court received 1,457 requests from the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to intercept phone calls and emails. In long-standing fashion, the court did not reject a single warrant, entirely or in part. The FBI also issued 48,642 national security letters, a subpoena-like power that compels a company to turn over data on national security grounds without informing the subject of the letter. The memo said the majority of these demands sought data on foreigners, but almost one-in-five were requests for data on Americans. It'll be interesting to see if the numbers go down any in 2016, since in November the court appointed five new lawyers to push back against government requests. Meanwhile, a new report shows an increase in the number of government requests to Facebook about their users, more than half of which contained a non-disclosure order prohibiting Facebook from notifying those users.

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Australia: VPN Users Aren't Breaching Copyright

slashdot - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 01:30
Slashdot reader Zanadou writes: The Australian Government Productivity Commission in a draft report recommended that Australian consumers should be able to legally circumvent geoblocking restrictions that have prevented them from using foreign online streaming services like Netflix, and that the Australian Government needs to send a clear message that it is not an infringement of copyright for consumers to be able evade geoblocking technology. Karen Chester, a commissioner with the Productivity Commission, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that geoblocking restrictions have the opposite effect of encouraging internet piracy. "Making copyright material more accessible and more competitively priced online, and not geoblocking, is the best antidote to copyright infringement." In probably related news, Australia topped the list of countries who illegally downloaded the Game Of Thrones season six premiere, this week. In January Netflix's chief product officer admitted that the company has no magic solution to subscribers who use VPNs to circumvent geoblocking.

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Amazon Beats Microsoft In 'The Battle of Seattle'

slashdot - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 23:30
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earned $5 billion in one afternoon when the company's stock price jumped 9.6%. Amazon reported an actual profit of $513 million (nearly double the amount expected), and next year Amazon's sales are projected by analysts to be 63% higher than Microsoft's, which USA Today calls "a good illustration of how growth in the sector has moved from hardware, software and chip companies to Internet firms selling goods or advertising online... [W]hile Bill Gates helped put Seattle area on the map as a U.S. tech hub, Bezos now runs the largest tech company in the State of Washington, by far, in terms of sales." Amazon's Echo and Alexa devices are believed to be outselling their Kindles (and Alexa will soon make her first appearance on a non-Amazon device). But Amazon attributed their surprise jump in revenue to a 51% annual increase in the "tens of millions" of subscribers paying for their Amazon Prime shipping service (which in San Francisco now even includes delivery from restaurants), as well as a 64% increase from their AWS cloud service, which recently announced a new automated security assessment tool. Amazon ultimately reported more than twice as much new business as Google and three times as much as Facebook, according to USA Today, which notes that now of all the tech companies, only Apple has more revenue than Amazon, and because of the jump in their stock price, Jeff Bezos is now the fourth-richest person in the world. But with all that money floating around, Seattle tech blogger Jeff Reifman is now wondering why Amazon's local home delivery vehicles in Seattle seem to be operating with out of state plates.

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Germany Plans $1.4 Billion In Incentives For Electric Cars

slashdot - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 22:30
An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg article: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government reached a deal with automakers to jointly spend 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) on incentives to boost sluggish electric-car sales. Buyers will be able to receive as much as 4,000 euros in rebates to help offset the higher price of an electric vehicle, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said at a press conference in Berlin. Purchasers of hybrid cars will get as much as 3,000 euros off the price. The industry will shoulder 50 percent of the cost. The program is set to start in May, pending approval from the German parliament's budget committee, he said. "The goal is to move forward as quickly as possible on electric vehicles," Schaeuble told reporters, adding that the aim is to begin offering the incentives next month. "With this, we are giving an impetus."

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Malware Taps Windows' 'God Mode'

slashdot - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 21:30
Reader wiredmikey writes: Researchers at McAfee have discovered a piece of malware dubbed "Dynamer" that is taking advantage of a Windows Easter Egg -- or a power user feature, as many see it -- called "God Mode" to gain persistency (warning: annoying popup ads) on an infected machine. God Mode, as many of you know, is a handy tool for administrators as it is essentially a shortcut to accessing the operating system's various control settings. Dynamer malware is abusing the function by installing itself into a folder inside of the %AppData% directory and creating a registry run key that persists across reboots. Using a "com4" name, Windows considers the folder as being a device, meaning that the user cannot easily delete it. Given that Windows treats the folder "com4" folder differently, Windows Explorer or typical console commands are useless when attempting to delete it.Fortunately, there's a way to remove it. McAfee writes: Fortunately, there is a way to defeat this foe. First, the malware must be terminated (via Task Manager or other standard tools). Next, run this specially crafted command from the command prompt (cmd.exe): > rd "\\.\%appdata%\com4.{241D7C96-F8BF-4F85-B01F-E2B043341A4B}" /S /Q.

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Ask Slashdot: Should This Photographer Sue A Hotel For $2M?

slashdot - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 20:30
Unhappy Windows User writes: An Austrian photographer was contracted by the luxury [hotel] Sofitel in Vienna to photograph the bar with an amazing view over the skyline. He was paid for his time (4200 euros) and arranged a three-year internal usage contract for the photos. After the contract expired, he still found his photos being used -- on external sites too. He is now suing for 2 million euros, based on each individual usage. My question is: Is this the real market value of his work...? It seems like the largest economic contribution to the work was from Sofitel, who allowed access to the property and closed it to customers. I don't have any issue in a photographer wanting to be paid fairly for his work, and asking for perhaps double or treble the original price for the breach of contract to match what an unlimited license would have cost. [But] with this money they could have employed a professional for a month and automatically obtained full rights to the work...it seems like this guy is trying to take advantage of an oversight by a large corporation, never to have to work again. Here's the original article in German and an English translation, and it's one of those rare cases where the copyright belongs to an individual instead of a massive entertainment conglomeration. But do you think the photographer should be suing for 2 million euros over this copyright beach?

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Neil Gaiman Celebrates Independent Bookstore Day

slashdot - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 18:30
An anonymous reader writes: Today is "Independent Bookstore Day," a national event promoting local bookstores which will feature exclusive bookstore-only offerings, including a Neil Gaiman coloring book with 20 black-and-white illustrations by Gaiman illustrator Chris Riddell and quotes from Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Fortunately, the Milk. "Independent bookstores are not just stores, they're community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers," reads the event's web site, saying independent bookstores "are not just stores, they are solutions. They hold the key to your love life, your career, and your passions." There's actually more independent bookstores this year than there were last year, according to the site, which argues that "In a world of tweets and algorithms and pageless digital downloads, bookstores are not a dying anachronism. They are living, breathing organisms that continue to grow and expand."

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Humble Bundle Announces 'Hacker' Pay-What-You-Want Sale

slashdot - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 17:30
An anonymous reader writes: Humble Bundle announced a special "pay what you want" sale for four ebooks from No Starch Press, with proceeds going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (or to the charity of your choice). This "hacker edition" sale includes two relatively new titles from 2015 -- "Automate the Boring Stuff with Python" and Violet Blue's "Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy," as well as "Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering" by Andrew "bunnie" Huang, and "The Linux Command Line". Hackers who are willing to pay "more than the average" -- currently $14.87 -- can also unlock a set of five more books, which includes "The Maker's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse: Defend Your Base with Simple Circuits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi". (This level also includes "Bitcoin for the Befuddled" and "Designing BSD Rootkits: An Introduction to Kernel Hacking".) And at the $15 level -- just 13 cents more -- four additional books are unlocked. "Practical Malware Analysis: The Hands-On Guide to Dissecting Malicious Software" is available at this level, as well as "Hacking: The Art of Exploitation" and "Black Hat Python." Nice to see they've already sold 28,506 bundles, which are DRM-free and available in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI format. (I still remember Slashdot's 2012 interview with Make magazine's Andrew "bunnie" Huang, who Samzenpus described as "one of the most famous hardware and software hackers in the world.")

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Language Creation Society Says Klingon Language Isn't Covered By Copyright

slashdot - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 16:30
Reader AmiMoJo writes: Earlier this year Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios filed a lawsuit against the makers of a Star Trek inspired fan film, accusing them of copyright infringement. In their amicus brief, which actually uses Klingon language, the Language Creation Society lists many examples of how Klingon has evolved, and it specifically disputes Paramount's earlier claims that there are no human beings who communicate using the Klingon language. "In fact, there are groups of people for whom Klingon is their only common language. There are friends who only speak Klingon to each other. In fact, at least one child was initially raised as a native speaker of Klingon." As such, Paramount should not be allowed to claim copyright over the entire Klingon language, both in written and spoken form. The language is a tool for people to communicate and express ideas, something people should be allowed to do freely under U.S. law, LCS argues.

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