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Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Who's Building The Open Source Version of Siri? (upon2020.com) 108

We're moving to a world of voice interactions processed by AI. Now Long-time Slashdot reader jernst asks, "Will we ever be able to do that without going through somebody's proprietary silo like Amazon's or Apple's?" A decade ago, we in the free and open-source community could build our own versions of pretty much any proprietary software system out there, and we did... But is this still true...? Where are the free and/or open-source versions of Siri, Alexa and so forth?

The trouble, of course, is not so much the code, but in the training. The best speech recognition code isn't going to be competitive unless it has been trained with about as many millions of hours of example speech as the closed engines from Apple, Google and so forth have been. How can we do that? The same problem exists with AI. There's plenty of open-source AI code, but how good is it unless it gets training and retraining with gigantic data sets?

And even with that data, Siri gets trained with a massive farm of GPUs running 24/7 -- but how can the open source community replicate that? "Who has a plan, and where can I sign up to it?" asks jernst. So leave your best answers in the comments. Who's building the open source version of Siri?
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Build Your Own Vacuum Tubes? 270

Could you beat wireless headphones by creating your own DIY home audio system? Two weeks ago one Slashdot commenter argued, "to have good audio that is truly yours and something to be proud of, you need to make your own vacuum tube amplifier and then use it to power real electrostatic headphones over a wire." And now long-time Slashdot reader mallyn is stepping up to the challenge: I want to try to make my own vacuum tubes. Is there anyone here who has tried DIY vacuum tubes (or valves, to you Europeans)? I need help getting started -- how to put together the vacuum plumbing system; how to make a glass lathe; what metals to use for the elements (grid, plate, etc). If this is not the correct forum, can anyone please gently shove me into the correct direction? It needs to be online as my physical location (Bellingham, Washington) is too far away from the university labs where this type of work is likely to be done.
Slashdot's covered the "tubes vs. transistors" debate before, but has anyone actually tried to homebrew their own? Leave your best answers in the comments. How do you build your own vacuum tubes?
Biotech

Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Techies Improving The World? 536

Slashdot reader marmot7 isn't impressed by "the latest app that solves some made up problem. I'm impressed by apps that solve real problems..." I don't feel that developers, sys admins, finance people, even policy wonks focus on the problems that we need to solve to have a healthy functioning society. It seems like it's mostly about short-term gain and not much about making the world better. That may be just the way the market works.

Is it that there's no profit to be made in solving the most important problems? I'm puzzled by that as I would think that a good solution to an important problem could find some funding from somewhere but maybe government, for example, won't take investment risks in that way?

Is there a systematic bias that channels technology workers into more profitable careers? (Or stunning counter-examples that show technology workers are making the world a better place?) Leave your answers in the comments. Why aren't geeks doing more to improve the world?
Books

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Technology Books and Novels? 175

It can be a nonfiction book, or a fictional narrative where technology plays a key role. I recently started to read 'The Rise of the Robots' by Martin Ford. It talks about how robots are threatening mass unemployment more than they ever did before. I also found Andrew Blum's 'Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet' quite insightful. I would like to read 'The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers'.

What are some of your favorite tech-centric books? And which book are you currently reading, or recently finished?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Would You Fire Your CEO? (cio.com) 205

As America celebrates a national holiday honoring organized labor, long-time Slashdot reader itwbennett shares this story about the modern workplace: Three years ago, talent management and human resources company Haufe U.S. created a workplace democracy in which C-level leadership is elected by the employees for a one-year term. In an interview with CIO, Kelly Max, who is currently serving as Haufe's CEO, explains how the company got to this point and what they've learned from the experience.

"If you're going to talk about how your employees 'own' the company, if you're going to tout how they all have a voice, why not go all the way and see what happens? Because why not? You already have people working for and with you who elect you every day, who either agree or disagree with you and follow you, so we wanted to make it very transparent," says Max.

This raises an inevitable question for Slashdot readers: would your own organization work as a democracy? So leave your answers here in the comments. Would your company's employees fire your CEO?
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Way To Backup Large Amounts Of Personal Data? (foxdeploy.com) 366

An anonymous Slashdot reader has "approximately two terabytes of photos, currently sitting on two 4-terabyte 'Intel Rapid Storage' RAID 1 disks." But now they're considering three alternatives after moving to a new PC: a) Keep these exactly as they are... The current configuration is OK, but it's a pain if a RAID re-sync is needed as it takes a long time to check four terabytes.

b) Move to "Storage Spaces". I've not used Storage Spaces before, but reports seem to show it's good... It's a Good Thing that the disks are 100% identical and removable and readable separately. Downside? Unknown territory.

c) Break the RAID, and set up the second disk as a file-copied backup... [This] would lose a (small) amount of resilience, but wouldn't suffer from the RAID-sync issues, ideally a Mac-like "TimeMachine" backup would handle file histories.

Any recommendations?

This is also a good time to share your experiences with Storage Spaces, so leave your answers in the comments. What's the best way to backup large amounts of personal data?
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Use Optical Media? 385

The other day at an event, public relation officials were handing out press kit (it usually contains everything the company announced, photos from the event, and contact information of the company) to journalists. When I reached office and opened the kit, I found a CD in it. Which was weird because it's been two to three years since I had a computer with an optical drive. And all these years I didn't need one. Which brings up the question: Does your work require dealing with CDs and DVDs anymore? An anonymous reader asks the same question: I still use optical discs for various backup purposes, but recently I developed doubts as to the reliability of the media to last a reasonable amount of time. I have read a review on Amazon of the TDK DVDs, in which somebody described losing 8000 (sic!) DVDs of data after 4 years of storage. I promptly canceled my purchase of TDKs. So, do you still use opticals for back-up -- Blu-Rays, DVDs, CDs? -- and if so, how do you go about it?I do buy Blu-Ray discs of movies, though. So my life isn't optical disc free yet. What about yours?
Microsoft

Ask Slashdot: How Will You Handle Microsoft's New 'Cumulative' Windows Updates? (slashdot.org) 405

Microsoft's announced they'll discontinue "individual patches" for Windows 7 and 8.1 (as well as Windows Server 2008 R2, 2012, and 2012 R2). Instead they'll have monthly "cumulative" rollups of each month's patches, and while there will be a separate "security-only" bundle each month, "individual patches will no longer be available." This has one anonymous Slashdot reader asking what's the alternative: We've read about the changes coming to Windows Update in October 2016... But what happens when it's time to wipe and reload the OS? Or what about installing Windows on different hardware? Admittedly, there are useful non-security updates worth having, but plenty to avoid (e.g. telemetry).

How does one handle this challenge? Set up a personal WSUS box before October to sync all desired updates through October 2016? System images can work if you don't change primary hardware, but what if you do? Or should one just bend the knee to Microsoft...?

Should they use AutoPatcher? Switch to Linux? Or just disconnect their Windows boxes from the internet... Leave your answers in the comments. How do you plan to handle Microsoft's new 'cumulative' Windows Updates?
KDE

Ask Slashdot: Is KDE Dying? 515

A long-time loyal KDE user "always felt that it was the more complete and integrated of the many Linux desktop environments...thus having the most potential to win over new Linux converts." And while still using KDE exclusively without any major functional issues, now Slashdot reader fwells shares concerns about the future of desktop development, along with a personal opinion -- that KDE is becoming stale and stagnant: KDE-Look.org, once a fairly vibrant and active contributory site, has become a virtual ghost town... Various core KDE components and features are quite broken and have been so for some time... KDEPIM/KMail frankly seems targeted specifically at the poweruser, maintaining over many years its rather plain and arguably retro interface. The Konqueror web browser has been a virtual carcass for several years, yet it mysteriously remains an integral component...

So, back to my opening question... Is KDE Dying? Has innovation and development evaporated in a development world dominated by the mobile device? And, if so, can it be reinvigorated? Will the pendulum ever swing back? Can it? Should it?

The original submission has some additional thoughts on Windows 10 and desktop development -- but also specific complaints about KDE's Recent Items/Application Launcher History and the KDE theming engine (which "seems disjointed and rather non-intuitive".) The argument seems to be that KDE lacks curb appeal to fulfill that form-over-function preference of the larger community of users, so instead it's really retaining the practical appeal of "my 12 year old Chevy truck, feature rich for its time... Solid and reliable, but definitely starting to fade and certainly lacking some modern creature comforts."

So leave your own thoughts in the comments. Does desktop development need to be reinvigorated in a world focused on mobile devices -- and if so, what is its future? And is KDE slowly dying?
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Are There Secure Alternatives To Skype? (theguardian.com) 237

How can you make a truly secure phone call? An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: I have a Windows 8.1 phone and mostly use it for Skype calls and chats. A bit of browsing every now and then, and checking public transportation schedules... What can I do to be able to securely chat and place audio/video calls? What do you think is the best device to buy and what apps to use on it?
Skype for Windows Phone will stop working in 2017, and Skype's privacy was already suspect after Edward Snowden leaked evidence of Microsoft's secret collaboration with the NSA. But are there any good alternatives -- especially for a Windows Phone user? Leave your suggestions in the comments. What are the best secure alternatives to Skype?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With Unreasonable Companies? 159

New submitter Ash-Fox writes: I recently ran into troubles trying to get reasonable quality of support from an anti-virus vendor, where they are attempting to cop-out of providing any reasonable support and then refusing to offer refunds under the guise of their EULA does not allow it. However, their EULA does not implicitly say that they cannot provide refunds in other circumstances, as the support tries to imply, and further living in Europe (as is the anti-virus headquarters), this EULA for sales is only valid if that was provided as the terms of sales contract, which it was not. How do other Slashdotters look to address companies that behave poorly and seek to only provide at best their minimum legal requirements?
Education

Ask Slashdot: What Should a Children's Computer Museum Look Like? (yourobserver.com) 133

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: If you're a wealthy techie looking for a way to establish your legacy, the City of Sarasota has a 117,000-square-foot children's science museum that's vacant and could use a little TLC. Housed on prime Bayfront property, the building that once housed the Gulf Coast Wonder and Imagination Zone might make a fine children's computer museum.

So in case any of those CEOs who stress the importance of getting children interested in CS are reading and want to put their money where their mouth is, any suggestions about what a kids' version of the Computer History Museum should look like? Something like an Apple Store? Microsoft Store? Something else?

There's often criticism about the ways computer science gets taught in schools -- so leave your suggestions in the comments. What would a good children's computer museum look like?
Microsoft

Ask Slashdot: Share Your Experiences With Windows 10 376

Long-time Slashdot reader shanen writes: The Start button is broken on one of my Windows 10 machines. Left click is dead. Fairly well known problem, but none of the solutions from non-Microsoft web pages has fixed it... My little meta-problem of the day is being locked out of Microsoft's so-called support. The email part (on outlook.live.com) works as usual, but every attempt to access the support part returns "Something went wrong and we can't sign you in right now. Please try again later." It's a black hole page with no links or options or suggestions. Once you get there, you are dead to Microsoft. Whenever I try to go to Microsoft support, that's all I've seen for several weeks now. ..

In general, Windows 10 seems to be a good thing -- but I don't really know how much it is abusing my personal information and privacy. The abusive relationship with Microsoft support is clearly the same, bad as it ever was.

The original submission has more thoughts on the market for consumer operating systems, and asks for suggestions about these two previously-known issues -- a start button that ignores left clicks, and an ongoing lock-out from Microsoft support. But there's obviously much more to talk about -- so share your thoughts in the comments. Have you had any interesting recent experiences with Windows 10?
Security

Ask Slashdot: Should The DHS Designate Elections As Critical Infrastructure? (politico.com) 279

The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly looking at designating elections as critical infrastructure, on par with the electricity grid or banking system, to help protect against cybersecurity threats. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said during a breakfast with reporters on August 3rd, "We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure. There is a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others as critical infrastructure." Demerara writes: I'm fascinated to hear the opinions of Slashdotters on the practical implications of any decision to designate "elections" as critical national infrastructure. For those of you who have worked on systems that are already under this regime: given that there are just over 90 days to the November elections, what can be achieved with respect to elections and in particular to electronic voting machines (whether direct-recording electronic (DRE), touch screen etc., or precinct ballot scanning machines)? What might the designation require of state and county boards (the buyers of these systems) and what would the vendors have to do?
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Keep Your Credit Card Secure? 385

It's easy to pontificate about the best security practices -- but the real test is what we do with our own money. Long-time Slashdot reader Keybounce writes: So, like most of you, I recently got a new credit card with a chip in it. I was not worried about that -- I know the chips are harder to copy and counterfeit. But I recently discovered that the card is also a radio card -- swiping it near the screen caused an message to show up on the reader. In this case, it told me to use the chip reader instead, but this means it has an active radio signal, and could be "hacked" -- stolen by someone with the right device.

How can I prevent this? Is there anything I can do that will disable the radio signal and still leave the chip functioning?

At least 200 million RFID credit cards were in circulation by 2012, even though their signals could be easily intercepted, prompting the introduction of RFID-blocking wallets and sleeves. But what's the alternative? A recent article in Quartz argued that America's transition to chip cards has been an utter disaster (since the banks dispensed with PIN numbers altogether and now validate with only an electronic signature). Is the answer to just use a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Android Pay -- or to always pay with cash?

So leave your own answer in the the comments. How are you keeping your own credit card secure?

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