Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Is There A Screen-Less, Keyboard-Less, Battery-Powered Computer? 137

Long-time Slashdot reader Wycliffe writes: So I have a travel keyboard that I love. I can carry my OS on a USB flash drive. There are several options for portable battery powered monitors. The only thing I'm missing to have a completely modular laptop is the CPU/MB/RAM... I can get a laptop but it seems silly to carry around a laptop with a keyboard when I never use the keyboard. I don't need a long battery life, if I need more than an hour then I can find somewhere to plug it in...

I've thought about buying a small box like a Zotac and trying to replace the hard drive with a battery -- but does anything like this already exist...? Also, are there any systems like this with decent specs? Most stuff I see like the Intel Compute Stick are horribly underpowered compared to a decent laptop.

The original submission drew some interesting discussion. Another option is "a good x86/x64 tablet that I can install Linux on" -- especially with a decent processor -- or "laptop-like systems that got rid of the screen entirely... I just need the travel CPU part without the added weight of a second keyboard and monitor." So leave your best suggestions in the comments. Is there a good, lightweight computer that's battery-powered without a screen or a keyboard?
News

Can You Copyright a Joke? (npr.org) 229

Reader AnalogDiehard writes: Writer Alex Kaseburg has filed a lawsuit against TBS and Time Warner alleging that jokes recited on the Conan O'Brien show were stolen from his blog shortly after they were published. The case gets heard in August and could create new protections in a legal forum in which there is little precedent or clear definition in what defines a joke as "original" and subject to legal protection, especially in an industry where theft of humor occurs on a regular basis. But the outcome of any judicial decision opens a big can of worms and raises serious questions: Will YouTube videos get shut down from DMCA notices citing copyrighted jokes? Will compliance staff have to be retained to ensure that their magazine or news article, TV show, movie, or broadway act is not infringing on copyrighted jokes? Will copyrights on jokes get near-perpetual protection like the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act? Will people be able to recite limericks without fear of infringing? Will tyrannical politicians copyright critical jokes to oppress freedom of speech? Will legal cases be filed arguing that a comedian's joke(s) bears too much similarity to a copyrighted joke recited decades ago? Will girl scouts be free to tell copyright jokes around the campfire?
Android

Slashdot Asks: In the Wake Of Ransomware Attacks, Should Tech Companies Change Policies To Support Older OSs Indefinitely? 360

In the aftermath of ransomware spread over the weekend, Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, writes an opinion piece for The New York Times: At a minimum, Microsoft clearly should have provided the critical update in March to all its users, not just those paying extra. Indeed, "pay extra money to us or we will withhold critical security updates" can be seen as its own form of ransomware. In its defense, Microsoft probably could point out that its operating systems have come a long way in security since Windows XP, and it has spent a lot of money updating old software, even above industry norms. However, industry norms are lousy to horrible, and it is reasonable to expect a company with a dominant market position, that made so much money selling software that runs critical infrastructure, to do more. Microsoft supported Windows XP for over a decade before finally putting it to sleep. In the wake of ransomware attacks, it stepped forward to release a patch -- a move that has been lauded by columnists. That said, do you folks think it should continue to push security updates to older operating systems as well?
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Should Businesses Switch To Biometric Passwords? (hbr.org) 204

This question was inspired by a recent article in Harvard Business Review: It's become abundantly clear that passwords are an untenable way to secure our data online. And asking your customers to keep track of complicated log-in information is a terrible user experience... The threat to security when relying on passwords is one reason businesses are increasingly migrating to biometric systems. Identity verification through biometrics can ensure greater security for personal information, while also providing customers with a more seamless experience in the digital environment of smartphones, tablets, sensors, and other devices... the idea is to verify someone's identity with a high degree of assurance by tying it to multiple mechanisms at once, known as biometric modalities [which] when used in concert, can provide a significantly safer environment for the customer, and are much easier to use... [I]f an app simultaneously requires a thumbprint, a retina scan, and a vocal recognition signature, it would be close to impossible for a bad actor to replicate that in the seconds needed to open the app.
This got me curious -- are Slashdot's readers already seeing biometric verification systems in their own lives? Share your experiences in the comments, as well as your informed opinion. Do you think businesses should be switching to biometric passwords?
Google

Slashdot Asks: Which Tech Giant You Can't Live Without? 269

In this week's column of NYTimes, Farhad Manjoo writes about the five largest technology companies in the world: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google. As he notes, these companies have become the most powerful firms of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. This brings us to two questions:
1. Of the five aforementioned companies, tell us one whose services you don't need for work and for personal use. (In short, the company that doesn't matter to you.) Here's a poll where you can cast your vote.
2. On the same note, which company's services and products you can't ditch (for work / personal use)?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How To Improve At Work When You're Not Getting Feedback? 222

An anonymous reader writes: Too many managers avoid giving any kind of feedback, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. If you work for a boss who doesn't provide feedback, it's easy to feel rudderless. It can be especially disorienting if you're new in the role, new to the company, or a recent graduate new to the workforce. In the absence of specific guidance, is there any way to know what the average boss would want you to work on? What would you advise someone who works in IT, engineering, coding, designing or any similar industry?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Should Be the Attributes of an Ideal Programming Language If Computers Were Infinitely Fast? 326

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier today, Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games, asked his Twitter followers an interesting question: "What are the attributes of an ideal programming language if computers were infinitely fast, and we designed for coding productivity only?" I could think of several things, the chief of which would be getting rid of the garbage collection. I was wondering what other things you folks would suggest?
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Handle Interruptions At Work? 224

This question was inspired by this anonymous submission: Analysis of programming sessions and surveys note that programmers take 10-15 minutes to resume editing code after being interrupted. Computer scientists and researchers from University of Zurich and ABB Inc. have designed the 'FlowLight' system which automatically determines a worker's interruptibility using a combination of keyboard/mouse usage, calendar information, and login state, and makes interruptibility visible to other employees using a red/yellow/green LED indicator placed near the desk... Knowledge workers in various locations found that interruptions were significantly reduced by 46%. [PDF]
NBC reports these researchers "also tested a more advanced version that uses biometric sensors to detect heart rate variability, pupil dilation, eye blinks or even brainwave activity," and of course one of the researchers tells the New Yorker that a commercial version "is 'in the works.'" But it'd be interesting to hear from Slashdot's readers about their own solutions -- and how interruptions affect their own productivity at work. So share your best answers in the comments. How do you feel about interrupt
Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: Is ReactOS A Serious Alternative To Windows? (reactos.org) 236

dryriver writes: So I just discovered the ReactOS 0.4.4 Alpha... It seems like this is basically a free, open source Windows replacement in the making. Does anyone have serious experience with ReactOS?

Do you think that ReactOS will ever reach the point where you can basically say "bye bye" to Microsoft Windows, but keep using all your favorite Windows software under ReactOS? Will this be able to run Windows Games and DCC software that taps into the processing power of the GPU? Or will ReactOS wind up being "mildly compatible" with Windows software -- e.g. basic Office productivity type software works, but professional-grade 3D software like Maya/CATIA does not?

Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Is the 'Special Appeal' of Apple Products? 757

Reader dryriver writes: As someone who comes from MS-DOS/Windows PCs background, I've never quite understood the appeal of Apple's products. I don't think Apple's products are terrible or anything, but I just fail to see what is so special and different about Apple's electronics that many Apple users would never dream of switching to a non-Apple product. Where does the 'special appeal' of Apple products reside? And why are Apple users so very loyal to Apple products, even though with Apple's pricing policy, you rarely get the best bang-for-the-buck in a product?
News

Slashdot Asks: Do You Still Use RSS? 438

Real Site Syndication, or RSS has been around for over a decade but it never really managed to lure regular web users (though maybe it wasn't built to serve everyone). So much so that even Google cited declining usage of Google Reader, at one time the most popular RSS reader service, as one of the two reasons for shutting down the service. With an increasingly number of people looking at Facebook and Twitter for news, we thought it would be a good time to ask the following question: Do you use any RSS reader app? If yes, do you think it is still a good way to keep track of the "new stuff" that your favorite sites publish?
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Could We Build A Global Wireless Mesh Network? 168

An anonymous reader wants to start a grassroots effort to build a self-organizing global radio mesh network where every device can communicate with every other device -- and without any central authority. There is nothing in the rules of mathematics or laws of physics that prevents such a system. But how would you break the problem up so it could be crowdfunded and sourced? How would you build the radios? And what about government spectrum rules... How would you persuade governments to allow for the use of say, 1%, of the spectrum for an unlicensed mesh experiment? In the U.S. it would probably take an Act of Congress to overrule the FCC but a grassroots effort with potential for major technology advances backed by celebrity scientists might be enough to tilt the issue but would there be enough motivation?
Is this feasible? Would it amass enough volunteers, advocates, and enthusiastic users? Would it become a glorious example of geeks uniting the world -- or a doomed fantasy with no practical applications. Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Could we build a global wireless mesh network?
The Almighty Buck

Slashdot Asks: Should an Employee Be Fired For Working On Personal Side Projects During Office Hours? (quora.com) 405

An anonymous reader writes: I found this article that talks about whether an engineer should be fired if s/he is working on a side project. Several people who have commented in the thread say that the employer should first talk to the person and understand why they are working on personal projects during the office hours. One reason, as many suggested, could be that the employee might not have been fairly compensated despite being exceptionally good at the job. In which case, the problem resides somewhere in the management who has failed to live up to the expectations. What do you folks think? Let's not just focus on engineers, per se. It could be an IT guy (who might have a lot of free time in hand), or a programmer.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Favorite Books On Entrepreneurship? 87

An anonymous reader writes: There are excellent well-known books like Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, but I find some of the lesser-known books about tech entrepreneurship very interesting, like A Triumph of Genius about Edwin Land of Polaroid or Riding the Runaway Horse about An Wang of Wang Laboratories. Also, there's Fast Forward by Lardner about VHS/Betamax. What books regarding entrepreneurship would Slashdotters recommend?

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