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Bitcoin

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Freely Use Bitcoin In the Land of the Free? 270

New submitter devrtm writes: It appears that Bitcoin, a currency designed with anonymity in mind, can be effectively used almost anywhere in the world, except in a few countries where it is regulated, and in one country where you can only use it if you give up your privacy. That country is the United States. I have accumulated quite a few BTC from the currency's early days where block rewards were still at $50. There was a period of time where one could get a nearly anonymous debit card, or use BTC online with merchants. Nowadays, non-U.S. payment providers no longer issue debit cards to the U.S. residents and the U.S.-based merchants accepting BTC are nearly extinct. The only way to use BTC in the U.S. is to convert it to USD. Unfortunately, that conversion requires giving up your personal information to a U.S.-based BTC payment processor, and there are rumors that signing up for those services raises red flags with certain three letter acronym organizations. I have nothing to hide, but I do value my privacy. Can one freely and anonymously live off of their Bitcoin wallet in the U.S.? I am afraid the answer is no. Does anyone have an experience that proves me wrong? Please share.
Encryption

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Implement Site-Wide File Encryption? 151

Recently-leaked CIA documents prove that encryption works, according to the Associated Press. But how should sys-admins implement site-wide file encryption? Very-long-time Slashdot reader Pig Hogger writes: If you decide to implement server-level encryption across all your servers, how do you manage the necessary keys/passwords/passphrases to insure that you have both maximum uptime (you can access your data if you need to reboot your servers), yet that the keys cannot be compromised... What are established practices to address this issue?
Keep in mind that you can't change your password once the server's been seized, bringing up the issue of how many people know that password. Or is there a better solution? Share you suggestions and experiences in the comments. How would you implement site-wide file encryption?
PlayStation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Best Virtual Reality Headsets? 141

Quantus347 writes: Straightforward question: I held off for a year to let the various manufacturers shake out the bugs, but now it's down to either a virtual-reality system or a new generation console. So I ask you, the Slashdot community, what are your personal experiences with any of the various VR systems out there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What little things annoy you the most? What features make a given product the best (or worst) option? "Sprinkle us with wisdom from your mighty brain!" For reference, the HTC Vive costs $799.00, while the Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch motion controllers costs $598 (which is the price after the recent markdown from $799). These prices do not include the necessary hardware required to power each headset. The PlayStation VR ($399.99), Samsung Gear VR ($99.99), and Google Daydream View ($79.00) are also available for less moolah.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Is the Internet Killing Old and New Art Forms or Helping Them Grow? (nytimes.com) 110

The thing about the internet is that as it gained traction and started to become part of our lives, it caused a lot of pain -- bloodbath, many say -- to several major industries. The music industry was nearly decimated, for instance, and pennies on the dollar doesn't begin to describe what has happened to the newspapers. But things are starting to change, many observers note. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted at the New Yorker Tech Festival last year, the internet is increasingly changing the way people consume content and that has forced the industries to innovate and find new ways to cater to their audiences. But some of these industries are still struggling to figure out new models for their survival. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at The New York Times, argues that for people of the future, our time may be remembered as a period not of death, but of rejuvenation and rebirth. He writes: Part of the story is in the art itself. In just about every cultural medium, whether movies or music or books or the visual arts, digital technology is letting in new voices, creating new formats for exploration, and allowing fans and other creators to participate in a glorious remixing of the work. [...] In the last few years, and with greater intensity in the last 12 months, people started paying for online content. They are doing so at an accelerating pace, and on a dependable, recurring schedule, often through subscriptions. And they're paying for everything. [...] It's difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won't just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it.
Education

Ask Slashdot: How To Teach Generic Engineers Coding, Networking, and Computing? 196

davegravy writes: I work at a small but quickly growing acoustic consulting engineering firm, consisting of a mix of mechanical, electrical, civil, and other engineering backgrounds. When I joined almost 10 years ago I was in good company with peers who were very computer literate -- able to develop their own complex excel macros, be their own IT tech support, diagnose issues communicating with or operating instrumentation, and generally dive into any technology-related problem to help themselves. In 2017, these skills and tendencies are more essential than they were 10 years ago; our instruments run on modern OS's and are network/internet-capable, the heavy data processing and analysis we need to do is python-based (SciPy, NumPy) and runs on AWS EC2 instances, and some projects require engineers to interface various data-acquisition hardware and software together in unique ways. The younger generation, while bright in their respective engineering disciplines, seems to rely on senior staff to a concerning degree when it comes to tech challenges, and we're stuck in a situation where we've provided procedures to get results but inevitably the procedures don't cover the vast array of scenarios faced day-to-day. Being a small company we don't have dedicated IT specialists. I believe I gathered my skills and knowledge through insatiable curiosity of all things technology as a child, self-teaching things like Pascal, building and experimenting with my own home LAN, and assembling computers from discrete components. Technology was a fringe thing back then, which I think drew me in. I doubt I'd be nearly as curious about it growing up today given its ubiquity, so I sort of understand why interest might be less common in today's youth.

How do we instill a desire to learn the fundamentals of networking, computing, and coding, so that the younger generation can be self-sufficient and confident working with the modern technology and tools they need to perform -- and be innovative in -- their jobs? I believe that the most effective learning occurs when there's a clearly useful purpose or application, so I'm hesitant to build a training program that consists solely of throwing some online courses at staff. That said, online courses may be a good place to get some background that can be built upon, however most that I've come across are intended for people pursuing careers in computer science, web development, software engineering, etc. Are there any good resources that approach these topics from a more general purpose angle?
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Solve the Instant Messaging Problem? 456

Artem Tashkinov writes: The XKCD comics has posted a wonderful and exceptionally relevant post in regard to the today's situation with various instant messaging solutions. E-mail has served us well in the past, however, it's not suitable for any real-time communications involving video and audio. XMPP was a nice idea, however, it has largely failed except for a low number of geeks who stick to it. Nowadays, some people install up to seven instant messengers to be able to keep up with various circles of people. How do you see this situation being resolved?

People desperately need a universal solution which is secure, decentralized, fault tolerant, not attached to your phone number, protects your privacy, supports video and audio chats and sending of files, works behind NATs and other firewalls and has the ability to send offline messages. I believe we need a modern version of SMTP. [How would you solve the instant messaging problem?]
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Make Novice Programmers More Professional? 347

Slashdot reader peetm describes himself as a software engineer, programmer, lecturer, and old man. But how can he teach the next generation how to code more professionally? I have to put together a three-hour (maximum) workshop for novice programmers -- people with mostly no formal training and who are probably flying by the seat of their pants (and quite possibly dangerous in doing so). I want to encourage them to think more as a professional developer would. Ideally, I want to give them some sort of practicals to do to articulate and demonstrate this, rather than just "present" stuff on best practices... If you were putting this together, what would you say and include?
This raises the question of not only what you'd teach -- whether it's variable naming, modular programming, test-driven development, or the importance of commenting -- but also how you'd teach it. So leave your best answers in the comments. How do you make novice programmers more professional?
IT

Slashdot Asks: Are Password Rules Bullshit? (codinghorror.com) 498

Here's what Jeff Atwood, a founder of Stack Overflow thinks: Password rules are bullshit. They don't work.
They heavily penalize your ideal audience, people that use real random password generators. Hey, guess what, that password randomly didn't have a number or symbol in it. I just double checked my math textbook, and yep, it's possible. I'm pretty sure.
They frustrate average users, who then become uncooperative and use "creative" workarounds that make their passwords less secure.
Are often wrong, in the sense that they are grossly incomplete and/or insane.
Seriously, for the love of God, stop with this arbitrary password rule nonsense already. If you won't take my word for it, read this 2016 NIST password rules recommendation. It's right there, "no composition rules". However, I do see one error, it should have said "no bullshit composition rules".
What do you think?
Security

Ask Slashdot: Should You Use Password Managers? 415

New submitter informaticsDude writes: What do Slashdot users recommend regarding the use of password managers? The recent election underscored the hackability of many personal accounts. One solution is to use different passwords for every digital experience. But, of course, humans are lousy at remembering large numbers of large random strings. Another solution is to use a password manager. However, password managers have been hacked in the past, in which case you lose everything. How do Slashdot users balance the competing risks? What is a person to do?
Security

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Best Protect Client Files From Wireless Hacking? 140

dryriver writes: A client has given you confidential digital files containing a design for a not-yet-public consumer product. You need to work on those files on a Windows 10 PC that has a wireless chipset built into it. What can you do, assuming that you have to work under Windows 10, that would make 3rd party wireless access to this PC difficult or impossible? I can imagine that under a more transparent, open-source, power-user OS like Linux, it would be a piece of cake to kill all wireless access completely and reliably even if the system contains wireless hardware. But what about a I-like-to-phone-home-sometimes, non open-source OS like Windows 10 that is nowhere near as open and transparent? Is there a good strategy for making outside wireless access to a Windows 10 machine difficult or impossible?
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If All Software Ran On All Platforms? 383

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: We live in a computing world where the OS you use -- Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, others -- often determines what software can and cannot be run on a given electronic device. (Let us pretend for a moment that emulators and other options don't exist). What if -- magically -- such a thing as as Universally Compatible Software Application were possible. Software, in other words, that is magically capable of running on any electronic device equipped with enough CPU, GPU and memory capacity to run the software in a usable way.

Example: 3D CAD software that runs on Windows 14, Playstation 7, an Android Smartphone, Nintendo's latest handheld gaming device and an Ubuntu PC in exactly the same way with no compatibility problems whatsoever occurring. What would and would not change in such a computing world?

He also asks an even more important question: will this ever be possible or feasible from a technical standpoint? So leave your best answers in the comments. Will it ever be possible to run all software on all platforms -- and what would happen if we could?
Graphics

Ask Slashdot: Why Are There No Huge Leaps Forward In CPU/GPU Power? 474

dryriver writes: We all know that CPUs and GPUs and other electronic chips get a little faster with each generation produced. But one thing never seems to happen -- a CPU/GPU manufacturer suddenly announcing a next generation chip that is, say, 4-8 times faster than the fastest model they had 2 years ago. There are moderate leaps forward all the time, but seemingly never a HUGE leap forward due to, say, someone clever in R&D discovering a much faster way to process computing instructions. Is this because huge leaps forward in computing power are technically or physically impossible/improbable? Or is nobody in R&D looking for that huge leap forward, and rather focused on delivering a moderate leap forward every 2 years? Maybe striving for that "rare huge leap forward in computing power" is simply too expensive for chip manufacturers? Precisely what is the reason that there is never a next-gen CPU or GPU that is, say, advertised as being 16 times faster than the one that came 2 years before it due to some major breakthrough in chip engineering and manufacturing?
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Would You Use A Cellphone With A Kill Code? 301

Slashdot reader gordo3000 writes: Given all the recent headlines about border patrol getting up close and personal with phones, I've been wondering why phone manufacturers don't offer a second emergency pin that you can enter that wipes all private information on the phone? In theory, it should be pretty easy to just input a different pin (or unlock pattern) that opens up a factory reset screen on the phone and in the background begins deleting all personal information.

I'd expect that same code could also lock out the USB port until it is finished deleting the data, to help prevent many of the tools they now have to copy out everything on your phone. This nicely prevents you from having to back up and wipe your phone before every trip but leaves you with a safety measure if you get harassed at the border.

It could be built into the operating system, added by the manufacturer, or perhaps sideloaded as a custom mod -- but that begs the question of whether it'd really be a popular feature. So leave your own thoughts in the comments. Would you use a cellphone with a kill code?
Security

Ask Slashdot: How Are You Responding To Cloudbleed? (reuters.com) 82

An anonymous IT geek writes: Cloudflare-hosted web sites have been leaking data as far back as September, according to Gizmodo, which reports that at least Cloudflare "acted fast" when the leak was discovered, closing the hole within 44 minutes, and working with search engines to purge their caches. (Though apparently some of it is still lingering...) Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince "claims that there was no detectable uptick in requests to Cloudflare-powered websites from September of last year...until today. That means the company is fairly confident hackers didn't discover the vulnerability before Google's researchers did."

And the company's CTO also told Reuters that "We've seen absolutely no evidence that this has been exploited. It's very unlikely that someone has got this information... We do not know of anybody who has had a security problem as a result of this." Nevertheless, Fortune warns that "So many sites were vulnerable that it doesn't make sense to review the list and change passwords on a case-by-case basis." Some sites are now even resetting every user's password as a precaution, while site operators "are also being advised to wipe their sites' cookies and security certificates, and perform their own web searches to see if site data leaked." But I'd like to know what security precautions are being taken by Slashdot's readers?

Leave your own answers in the comments. How did you respond to Cloudbleed?
Displays

Slashdot Asks: Are Curved TVs Worth It? (cnet.com) 179

New submitter cherishjoo shares a report written by David Katzmaier via CNET: When the first curved TVs appeared more than three years ago I asked whether they were a gimmick. As a TV reviewer I had to give the curve a fighting chance, however, so I took a curved Samsung home to live with my family for awhile, in addition to subjecting it to a full CNET review. In the end, I answered my own question with the headline "Great picture quality, but the curved screen is a flat-out gimmick." Since then most of the video geeks I know, including just about everybody I hear from on Twitter, Facebook and article comments, pooh-poohs curved TV screens as a useless distraction. A curved TV takes the traditional flat screen and bends it along a gentle arc. The edges end up a bit closer, ostensibly providing a slight wraparound effect. Curved TV makers, citing huge curved screens like IMAX, call their sets more "immersive" than their flat counterparts, but in my experience that claim doesn't hold water at in-home (as opposed to theatrical) screen sizes and viewing distances. The only real image-quality benefit I saw to the curve was a reduction in reflections in some cases. That benefit wasn't worth the slight geometric distortions introduced by the curve, not to mention its awkwardness when hung on the wall. That said, the curve doesn't ruin an otherwise good picture. In TVs, assuming similar prices, curved vs. flat boils down to a choice of aesthetics. As Katzmaier mentioned, curved TVs have been on the market for several years now, and while manufacturers continue to produce them, the verdict on whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is still murky. Here's our question for you: Are curved televisions worth the inflated price tag? If you are in the market for a new TV, does the fact that the display is curved entice you or steer you away?

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