Ask Slashdot: Surge Protection For International Travel? 114

New submitter gaiageek writes: As someone who has lost a laptop power supply (and thus use of the laptop) due to a late-night power surge while traveling in a developing country, I'm acutely aware of the need for surge protection when traveling abroad. While practically all laptop and phone power adapters these days are voltage auto-sensing 100V-240V compatible, most so-called "travel" surge protectors are restricted to either 110V or 220V. Given the space and weight constraints of carry-on only travel, I'd like to avoid having to carry two separate surge protectors knowing I may go from Central America (110V) to Southeast Asia (220V). Strangely, laptop specific surge protectors typically are 100V-240V compatible, but this doesn't provide protection for a phone or tablet that requires the original power supply (can't be charged from a notebook USB port).

Is there really no solution out there short using a 110V-240V notebook surge protector with an adapter to go from a "cloverleaf" notebook plug to a 5-15R (standard US) plug receptacle?

Ask Slashdot: Time To Get Into Crypto-currency? If So, Which? 259

Qbertino writes: With the ever-looming cyberpunk future in close proximity, I'm starting to wonder if it isn't time to get myself familiar with crypto currency as a means of trade. Bitcoin is all the hype, but the blockchain has flaws, in that it isn't as anonymous as one would hope for — you can track past transactions. Rumors of Bitcoin showing cracks are popping up and also there are quite a few alternatives out there. So I have some questions: Is getting into dealing with crypto currency worthwhile already? Is Bitcoin the way to go, or will it falter under wide use / become easily trackable once NSA and the likes adapt their systems to doing exactly that? What digital currency has the technical and mind-share potential to supersede bitcoin? Are there feasible cryptocurrencies that have the upsides of Bitcoin (such as a mathematical limit to their amount) but are fully anonymous in transactions? What do the economists and digi-currency nerds here have to contribute on that? What are your experiences with handling and holding cryptocurrency? And does Bitcoin own the market or is it still flexible enough for an technology upgrade?

Ask Slashdot: Fixing UVC Camera Issues Under Windows? 148

Khyber writes: I bought some cheap Chinese camera glasses with built-in microphones. These are (supposedly) UVC cameras manufactured in 2015. Under Windows XP, these cameras are seen perfectly fine and work as web cameras; even the microphones work. Under Windows 7, the camera appears to install just fine, however I get the 'This device can perform faster if you connect to USB 2.0' (which it is connected to) and when I try to load it up with any camera viewer such as manycam or any chat program's built-in previewer, I cannot receive any video from the camera. I can get audio from the camera microphones under Windows 7, so I am wondering if the camera device is having problems enumerating as a USB 2.0 device due to some change in Windows 7 (which it doesn't seem to have issues doing under XP,) or if the UVC driver for Windows 7 is missing something in comparison to the one used for Windows XP. Anybody else had issues getting newer UVC cameras to work in newer operating systems?

Ask Slashdot: How Can We Improve Slashdot? 1826

Hi all. Most of you are already aware that Slashdot was sold by DHI Group last week, and I very much enjoyed answering questions and reading feedback in the comments of that announcement story. There's no doubt that the Slashdot community is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and prolific communities on the web.

I wanted to use this opportunity to get a discussion going on how we can improve Slashdot moving forward. I am not talking about a full re-design that will detract from the original spirit of Slashdot, but rather: user experience, bug fixes, and feature improvements that are requested from actual /. users. We appreciated many of your suggestions in the story announcing the sale, and I have taken note of those suggestions. This story will serve as a more master list for feature requests and improvement suggestions.

We welcome any and all suggestions. Some ideas mentioned in the sale story were, in no particular order: Unicode support, direct messaging, increased cap on comment scores, put more weight on firehose voting to determine which stories make the front page, reduced time required between comments, and many more. We'd love a chance to discuss these suggestions and feature improvements and pros and cons here before we bring them back to our team for implementation.

Ask Slashdot: How Do I Reduce Information Leakage From My Personal Devices? 256

Mattcelt writes: I find that using an ad-blocking hosts file has been one of the most effective way to secure my devices against malware for the past few years. But the sheer number of constantly-shifting server DNs to block means I couldn't possibly manage such a list on my own. And finding out today that Microsoft is, once again, bollocks at privacy (no surprise there) made me think I need to add a new strategic purpose to my hosts solution — specifically, preventing my devices from 'phoning home'. Knowing that my very Operating Systems are working against me in this regard incenses me, and I want more control over who collects my data and how. Does anyone here know of a place that maintains a list of the servers to block if I don't want Google/Apple/Microsoft to receive information about my usage and habits? It likely needs to be documented so certain services can be enabled or disabled on an as-needed basis, but as a starting point, I'll gladly take a raw list for now.

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Major Companies Exiting the Spam Filtering Business? (slashdot.org) 244

broswell writes: For years we used Postini for spam filtering. Google bought Postini in 2007, operated it for 5 years and then began shutting it down. Then we moved to MX Logic. McAfee bought MX Logic, and McAfee was purchased by Intel. Now Intel is shutting down the service. Neither company chose to raise prices, or spin off the division. Anyone want to speculate on the reasons?

Ask Slashdot: Economical Lego-Compatible 3-D Printer? 165

Wycliffe writes: There are plenty of high end 3d printers which allow high precision and large prints. There are also plenty of economical 3d printers but most of them don't have high enough precision for printing good Lego pieces. What is a good economical printer for printing small Lego pieces? Build size is not important as most Lego pieces are tiny but precision and quality prints are very important. What is a good, cheap 3D printer that can reliably print tiny Lego pieces? What is the best bang for the buck when you want a small printer and don't care about large prints?

Ask Slashdot: Learning Robotics Without Hardware? 78

An anonymous reader writes: I live in a Third World country with a more or less open Internet access. I'm thinking of learning robotics. I can access Github and other free software repositories, and I can read or watch online tutorials in English. My only problem is that we don't really have the money to buy robotics hardware. We can afford an Arduino or Raspberry Pi board but not the mechanical attachments. So is there any chance for me to learn robotics even if I don't have the hardware? Is it possible to program a robot using pure software simulation?

Ask Slashdot: Math-Related Present For a Bright 10-Year-Old? 238

peetm writes: I have an above averagely bright nephew, aged 10, who's into maths and whose birthday is coming up soon. I'd like to get him a suitable present – most likely one that's mathematically centred. At Christmas we sat together while I helped him build a few very simple Python programs that 'animated' some simple but interesting maths, e.g., we built a factorial function, investigated the Collatz conjecture (3n + 1 problem) and talked about, but didn't implement Eratosthenes' Sieve – one step too far for him at the moment perhaps. I've looked about for books that might blend computing + maths, but haven't really found anything appropriate for a 10-year-old. I should be indebted to anyone who might suggest either a suitable maths book, or one that brings in some facet of computing. Or, if not a book, then some other present that might pique his interest.

Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Experiences With Online IDEs For Web Development? 168

Qbertino writes: I'm toying with the thought of moving my web development (PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript with perhaps a little Python and Ruby thrown in) into the cloud. The upsides I expect would be: 1) No syncing hassles across machines. 2) No installation of toolchains to get working or back to work — a browser and a connection is all that would be required. 3) Easy teamwork. 4) Easy deployment. 5) A move to Chrome OS for ultra-cheap laptop goodness would become realistic.

Is this doable/feasible? What are your experiences? Note, this would be for professional web development, not hobbyist stuff. Serious interactive JS, non-trivial PHP/LAMP development, etc. Has anyone have real world experience doing something like this? Maybe even experience with moving to a completely web-centric environment with Chrome OS? What have you learned? What would you recommend? How has it impacted your productivity and what do you miss from the native pipelines? What keeps you in the cloud, and enables you to stay there? Are you working "totally cloud" with a team and if so, how does it work out/feel? Does it make sense? As for concrete solutions, I'm eyeing Cloud9, CodeAnywhere, CodeEnvy but also semi-FOSS stuff like NeutronDrive. Anything you would recommend for real world productivity? Have you tried this and moved back? If so, what are your experiences and what would need to be improved to make it worthwhile? Thanks for any insights.

Ask Slashdot: Affordable Hardware For Remote-Booting USB Devices? 81

phlawed writes: USB ports are everywhere. It is very convenient for powering low-power devices, and by using a run-of-the-mill phone charger you can easily get 10+ watts or so. In other words: everyone already has the generic power supply and power cable. No issue with voltage or polarity. Perfect for the hobbyist market.

Another ubiquitous power source (in the enterprise environment) is Power over Ethernet. Active PoE splitters for 12V output are available for ~6-7 USD and up on eBay. With PoE you get networking and power over the same wires, and booting your (possibly borked) PoE device is a matter of instructing the PoE source to cycle the power on that port. (Also, USB chargers with 12V input are available for less than 1 USD on eBay. They are likely all crap, though.)

I am looking for the combination of these two concepts in a compact, affordable, quality product. I found one product offering USB power from PoE. That product appears to have left out Ethernet and has a MSRP of 30 USD. Otherwise, I find PoE wall sockets for a MSRP of USD 100 or more. It appears excessive, given the cost figures of the pieces listed above.

So, if it does not already exist... anyone feel like running with this on your favorite crowdsourcing platform? Any experienced electronics people who can do a back-of-the-envelope calculation for cost of parts and assembly?

Ask Slashdot: Good Introductory SW Engineering Projects? (HS Level) 140

New submitter mtapman writes: I'm looking for suggestions on introductory software engineering projects for a high school level student. Assume the student can do basic math (up through Algebra I or Statistics I) but is new to logic and computer science. Each project should take no more than four hours to complete including research, coding, and testing. The intent is to introduce the student to software engineering (and computer science) through practical and fun examples. Classic CS problems are welcome. One of the key criteria is available research/reference material to allow the student to make progress with 30-60 minutes of online research.

Some ideas that came to my mind (not necessarily good ones) are: (1) pick a sorting algorithm and sort a list of ten words alphabetically, (2) write a program to convert characters from lower to upper case, (3) write a program to divide two numbers in two different programming languages and compare the results to determine the differences between the languages.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: Cheap and Fun Audio Hacks? 135

An anonymous reader writes: A few years back I discovered that even a person of limited soldering skills can create a nifty surround-sound system with the magic of a passive matrix decoder system; the results pleased me and continue to, It's certainly not a big and fancy surround system, but I recommend it highly as a project with a high ratio of satisfaction to effort. (Here's one of the many, many tutorials out there on doing it yourself; it's not the long-forgotten one I actually used, but I like this one better.) I like listening to recorded music sometimes just to hear how a particular playback system sounds, not just to hear the music "as intended." I'd like to find some more audio hacks and tricks like this that are cheap, easy, and fun. Bonus points if they can be done with the assistance of a couple of smart children, without boring them too much. I have access to Goodwill and other thrift stores that are usually overflowing with cheap-and-cheerful gear, to match my toy budget. What mods or fixes would be fun to implement? Are there brands or models of turntable I should look for as the easiest with which to tinker? Are there cool easy-entry projects akin to that surround sound system that I could use to improve my radio reception? I'm not sure what's out there, but I'd like to get some cool use out of the closet-and-a-half I've got filled with speakers and other gear that I can't quite bear to toss, since "it still works."

Ask Slashdot: Jamming UK Metadata Collection? 192

AmiMoJo writes: It looks likely that the UK will try to require ISPs to collect metadata on behalf of its security services, and various other agencies will have access to this vast, privacy- and security-destroying database.

How can individuals resist? Some metadata is trivial to hide, e.g. much email is encrypted between the user and server, but a record of an access will still exist. Would there be much benefit to creating fake traffic, say by sending dummy emails to yourself? What about fake browsing, or keeping TOR running 24/7 (not as an exit node, just a client)?

The goal is to make the data less useful and harder to tie to an individual or separate from fake data, and to increase the cost of collecting and storing such data. Don't worry, I'm already on the list of known dissidents anyway.

Ask Slashdot: Composing an e-Book With a Couple of Bells and Whistles 148

New submitter Cbhihe writes: I want to edit an e-book, a scientific textbook to be distributed on the Kindle tablet to be exact. The book is written. For that I used LibreOffice.
It comes complete with index, drawings, pictures, formulae and its present look and feel is no different from the majority of scientific text, you might be accustomed to browsing. I need advice for the next step, which consists in making this digital pile of data suitable for an e-book.. with a slight twist. The e-book should allow for:
— picture zoom-in in pop-ups on screen
— allow in-text basic interactivity, e.g. when in a exercise, multiple answers are proposed, each answer when clicked should display "Right" or "Wrong" (for instance).
Can you recommend, if not a commercial package that allows such features right out of the box, then at least and preferably open-source technology needed for me to achieve what I want ? I am willing to get down to moderate programming to use your suggested solution. I am conversant in C, C++ and getting there with Python.

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