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Security

Ask Slashdot: How Safe, Really, Is Paying For Things Online? 396

An anonymous reader writes: Due to the rash of intrusions into electronic payment systems lately, I've decided to go back to paying cash for everyday purchases, groceries, fuel, and anything else I pay for in person (which also has the positive effect of making balacing my checkbook every month that much easier). The question I have is: For the monthly bills it's just not practical to pay in person (utilities, for instance), how safe are those?

Five minutes of research is telling me that mailing paper checks isn't any more secure than online electronic payments and in fact may be even less secure, but short of literally showing up at the electric company, phone company, ISP, and so on, and paying them cash in person, I can't see any other way to pay them. So how safe is it right now, honestly?

I'm always interested in how Slashdot readers secure their own personal finances -- but how high is the danger that a remote malefactor will hijack and then drain your bank account? Leave your best answers in the comments. How safe, really, is paying for things online?
Technology

Ask Slashdot: Are We Living In the Golden Age of Bailing? (nytimes.com) 248

An anonymous reader shares a report that makes a case of us living in an era where bailing has become just too common: It's clear we're living in a golden age of bailing. All across America people are deciding on Monday that it would be really fantastic to go grab a drink with X on Thursday. But then when Thursday actually rolls around they realize it would actually be more fantastic to go home, flop on the bed and watch Carpool Karaoke videos. So they send the bailing text or email: "So sorry! I'm gonna have to flake on drinks tonight. Overwhelmed. My grandmother just got bubonic plague..." Bailing is one of the defining acts of the current moment because it stands at the nexus of so many larger trends: the ambiguity of modern social relationships, the fraying of commitments (paywalled), what my friend Hayley Darden calls the ethic of flexibility ushered in by smartphone apps -- not to mention the decline of civilization, the collapse of morality and the ruination of all we hold dear. [...] Technology makes it all so easy. You just pull out your phone and bailing on a rendezvous is as easy as canceling an Uber driver. There are different categories of bailing. There is canceling on friends. This seems to follow a bail curve pattern. People feel free to bail on close friends, because they will understand, and on distant friends, because they don't matter so much, but they are less inclined to bail on medium-tier or fragile friends. Then there is professional bailing. This tends to have a hierarchical structure. A high-status person will frequently bail on a lower-status colleague, but if an intern bails on a senior executive, it is a sign of serious disrespect. What do you folks think?
Transportation

Slashdot Asks: Your Favorite Ride-Sharing App? 144

There are many ride-sharing applications on the market but only two get all the media attention: Uber and Lyft. As many of you know, Uber has had a tumultuous year marked by a high-stakes legal fight with Alphabet over Google self-driving car trade secrets, a investigation by the U.S. government into the company's use of a software tool that helped its drivers avoid detection in parts of the country where the service wasn't allowed to operate in, and a sexual harassment investigation that resulted in 20 employees being fired. Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick resigned due to many of these scandals and investor pressure. Despite all of this, Uber continues to do well. Last week, the company announced it hit 5 billion rides across 6 continents, 76 countries, and 450+ cities.

Meanwhile, Lyft, which is only available in the U.S., just announced it hit one million rides a day. The company also says it's seen 48 consecutive months of ride growth and is on track to hit an annualized ride rate of 350 million. Our question to you is this: what ride-sharing app is your favorite? Have you found yourself gravitating more towards Lyft due to Uber's messes, or does that not matter much to you? Bonus: do you have a favorite ride-sharing app that's not Lyft or Uber?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Is Logging Long Hours a Recipe For Burnout or the Only Way To Get Ahead? (bloomberg.com) 253

An anonymous reader writes: Over the weekend, I came across this story on Bloomberg that illustrates a common dilemma that many of us face ourselves: are we sure we're working enough? From the article: "Earlier this month, venture capitalist Keith Rabois set off a Silicon Valley firestorm about what it takes to succeed. When another tech investor wrote on Twitter that working on the weekends and burning out isn't cool -- and doesn't work -- Rabois fired back. "Totally false," he said. Rabois cited icons like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Belichick as proof that dogged dedication (usually measured by long hours) was the only way to reach the top of your field. Lots of people objected to this assessment, for reasons ranging from VC privilege to its gendered implications." I was wondering where Slashdot readers find themselves in this debate.
Network

Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Isolate a Network And Allow Data Transfer? 237

Futurepower(R) writes: What is the best way to isolate a network from the internet and prevent intrusion of malware, while allowing carefully examined data transfer from internet-facing computers? An example of complete network isolation could be that each user would have two computers with a KVM switch and a monitor and keyboard, or two monitors and two keyboards. An internet-facing computer could run a very secure version of Linux. Any data to be transferred to that user's computer on the network would perhaps go through several Raspberry Pi computers running Linux; the computers could each use a different method of checking for malware. Windows computers on the isolated network could be updated using Autopatcher, so that there would never be a direct connection with the internet. Why not use virtualization? Virtualization does not provide enough separation; there is the possibility of vulnerabilities. Do you have any ideas about improving the example above?
Privacy

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Prepare For The Theft Of Your PC? 262

A security-conscious Slashdot reader has theft insurance -- but worries whether it covers PC theft. And besides the hassles of recreating every customization after restoring from backups, there's also the issue of keeping personal data private. I currently keep important information on a hidden, encrypted partition so an ordinary thief won't get much off of it, but that is about the extent of my preparation... What would you do? Some sort of beacon to let you know where your stuff is? Remote wipe? Online backup?
There's a couple of issues here -- including privacy, data recovery, deterrence, compensation -- each leading to different ways to answer the question: what can you actually do to prepare for the possibility? So use the comments to share your own experiences. How have you prepared for the theft of your PC?
Yahoo!

Ask Slashdot: Advice For a Yahoo Mail Refugee 322

New submitter ma1wrbu5tr writes: Very shortly after the announcement of Verizon's acquisition of Yahoo, two things happened that caught my attention. First, I was sent an email that basically said "these are our new Terms of Service and if you don't agree to them, you have until June 8th to close your account". Subsequently, I noticed that when working in my mailbox via the browser, I kept seeing messages in the status bar saying "uploading..." and "upload complete". I understand that Y! has started advertising heavily in the webmail app but I find these "uploads" disturbing. I've since broken out a pop client and have downloaded 15 years worth of mail and am going through to ensure there are no other online accounts tied to that address. My question to slashdotters is this: "What paid or free secure email service do you recommend as a replacement and why?" I'm on the hunt for an email service that supports encryption, has a good Privacy Policy, and doesn't have a history of breaches or allowing snooping.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some 'Best Practices' IT Should Avoid At All Costs? (cio.com) 348

snydeq writes: From telling everyone they're your customer to establishing a cloud strategy, Bob Lewis outlines 12 "industry best practices" that are sure to sink your company's chances of IT success: "What makes IT organizations fail? Often, it's the adoption of what's described as 'industry best practices' by people who ought to know better but don't, probably because they've never had to do the job. From establishing internal customers to instituting charge-backs to insisting on ROI, a lot of this advice looks plausible when viewed from 50,000 feet or more. Scratch the surface, however, and you begin to find these surefire recipes for IT success are often formulas for failure." What "best practices" would you add?
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If You Were To Put a Computer Inside a Fridge? 181

dryriver writes: This is not asking what would happen if you were to place your iMac inside your kitchen fridge. Rather, what if a computer casing for a high-powered graphics workstation with multiple CPUs and GPUs, lets say, worked just like a small fridge or freezer, cooling your hardware down without using any CPU fans or liquid cooling and similar. How much would such a fridge-casing cost to make and buy, how much electricity would it consume, how much bigger would it be than a normal PC casing, and would it be a practical solution to the problem of keeping high-powered computer hardware cool for extended periods of time? Bonus question: Is such a thing as a fridge-casing or "Fridgeputer" sold anywhere on the world market right now? Linus Tech Tips tackled this question in a video a couple of years ago, titled "PC Build in a Fridge - Does it Work?"
Python

Ask Slashdot: Will Python Become The Dominant Programming Language? 808

An anonymous reader shares their thoughts on language popuarity: In the PYPL index, which is based on Google searches and is supposed to be forward looking, the trend is unmistakable. Python is rising fast and Java and others are declining. Combine this with the fact that Python is now the most widely taught language in the universities. In fields such as data science and machine learning, Python is already dominating. "Python where you can, C++ where you must" enterprises are following suit too, especially in data science but for everything else from web development to general purpose computing...

People who complain that you can't build large scale systems without a compiler likely over-rely on the latter and are slaves to IDEs. If you write good unit tests and enforce Test Driven Development, the compiler becomes un-necessary and gets in the way. You are forced to provide too much information to it (also known as boilerplate) and can't quickly refactor code, which is necessary for quick iterations.

The original submission ends with a question: "Is Python going to dominate in the future?" Slashdot readers should have some interesting opinions on this. So leave your own thoughts in the comments. Will Python become the dominant programming language?
AI

Ask Slashdot: How Can Programmers Move Into AI Jobs? 121

"I have the seriously growing suspicion that AI is coming for us programmers and IT experts faster than we might want to admit," writes long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino. So he's contemplating a career change -- and wondering what AI work is out there now, and how can he move into it? Is anything popping up in the industry and AI hype? (And what are these positions called, what do they precisely do, and what are the skills needed to do them?) I suspect something like an "AI Architect", planning AI setups and clearly defining the boundaries of what the AI is supposed to do and explore.

Then I presume the requirements for something like an "AI Maintainer" and/or "AI Trainer" which would probably resemble something like an admin of a big data storage, looking at statistics and making educated decisions on which "AI Training Paths" the AI should continue to explore to gain the skill required and deciding when the "AI" is ready to be let go on to the task... And what about Tensor Flow? Should I toy around with it or are we past that stage already and will others do AI setup and installation better than me before I know how this thing really works...?

Is there a degree program, or other paths to skill and knowledge, for a programmer who's convinced that "AI is today what the web was in 1993"? And if AI of the future ends up tied to specific providers -- AI as a service -- then are there specific vendors he should be focusing on (besides Google?) Leave your best suggestions in the comments. How can programmers move into AI jobs?
AI

Ask Slashdot: What Types of Jobs Are Opening Up In the New Field of AI? 133

Qbertino writes: I'm about to move on in my career after having a "short rethink and regroup break" and was for quite some time now thinking about getting into perhaps a new programming language and technology, like NodeJS or Java/Kotlin or something. But I have the seriously growing suspicion that artificial intelligence is coming for us programmers and IT experts faster than we might want to admit. Just last weekend I heard myself saying to a friend who was a pioneer on the web, "AI is today what the web was in 1993" -- I think that to be very true. So just 20 minutes ago I started thinking and wondering about what types of jobs there are in AI. Is anything popping up in the industry from the AI hype and what are these positions called, what do they precisely do and what are the skills needed to do them? I suspect something like an "AI Architect" for planning AI setups and clearly defining the boundaries of what the AI is supposed to do and explore. Then I presume the requirements for something like an "AI Maintainer" and/or "AI Trainer," which would probably resemble something like an admin of a big data storage, looking at statistics and making educated decisions on which "AI Training Paths" the AI should continue to explore to gain the skill required and deciding when the "AI" is ready to be let go on to the task. You're seeing we -- AFAIK -- don't even have names for these positions yet, but I suspect, just as in the internet/web boom 20 years ago, that is about to change *very* fast.

And what about Tensor Flow? Should I toy around with it or are we past that stage already and will others do AI setup and installation better than me before I know how this thing really works? Because I also suspect most of the AI work for humans will closely be tied to services and providers such as Google. You know, renting "AI" as you rent webspace or subscribe to bandwidth today. Any services and industry vendors I should look into -- besides the obvious Google that is? In a nutshell, what work is there in the field of AI that can be done and how do I move into that? Like now. And what should I maybe get a degree in if I want to be on top of this AI thing? And how would you go about gaining skill and knowledge on AI today, and I mean literally, today. I know, tons of questions but insightful advice is requested from an educated slashdot crowd. And I bet I'm not the only one interested in this topic. Thanks.
Data Storage

Why Does Microsoft Still Offer a 32-bit OS? (backblaze.com) 367

Brian Wilson, a founder of cloud storage service BackBlaze, writes in a blog post: Moving over to a 64-bit OS allows your laptop to run BOTH the old compatible 32-bit processes and also the new 64-bit processes. In other words, there is zero downside (and there are gigantic upsides). Because there is zero downside, the first time it could, Apple shipped with 64-bit OS support. Apple did not give customers the option of "turning off all 64-bit programs." Apple first shipped 64-bit support in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in 2009. This was so successful that Apple shipped all future Operating Systems configured to support both 64-bit and 32-bit processes. All of them. But let's contrast the Apple approach with that of Microsoft. Microsoft offers a 64-bit OS in Windows 10 that runs all 64-bit and all 32-bit programs. This is a valid choice of an Operating System. The problem is Microsoft ALSO gives customers the option to install 32-bit Windows 10 which will not run 64-bit programs. That's crazy. Another advantage of the 64-bit version of Windows is security. There are a variety of security features such as ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) that work best in 64-bits. The 32-bit version is inherently less secure. By choosing 32-bit Windows 10 a customer is literally choosing a lower performance, LOWER SECURITY, Operating System that is artificially hobbled to not run all software. My problem is this: Backblaze, like any good technology vendor, wants to be easy to use and friendly. In this case, that means we need to quietly, invisibly, continue to support BOTH the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of every Microsoft OS they release. And we'll probably need to do this for at least 5 years AFTER Microsoft officially retires the 32-bit only version of their operating system.
Media

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your View On Sloot Compression? (youtube.com) 418

An anonymous reader writes: A Dutch electronics engineer named Jan Sloot spent 20 years of his life trying to compress broadcast quality video down to kilobytes -- not megabytes or gigabytes (the link in this story contains an 11 minute mini-documentary on Sloot). His CODEC, finalized in the late 1990s, consisted of a massive 370Mb decoder engine that likely contained some kind of clever system for procedurally generating just about any video frame or audio sample desired -- fractals or other generative approaches may have been used by Sloot. The "instruction files" that told this decoder what kind of video frames, video motion and audio samples to generate were supposedly only kilobytes in size -- kind of like small MIDI files being able to generate hugely complex orchestral scores when they instruct a DAW software what to play. Jan Sloot died of a heart attack two days before he was due to sign a technology licensing deal with a major electronics company. The Sloot Video Compression system source code went missing after his death and was never recovered, prompting some to speculate that Jan Sloot was killed because his ultra-efficient video compression and transmission scheme threatened everyone profiting from storing, distributing and transmitting large amounts of digital video data. I found out about Sloot Compression only after watching some internet videos on "invention suppression." So the question is: is it technically possible that Sloot Compression, with its huge decoder file and tiny instruction files, actually worked? According to Reddit user PinGUY, the Sloot Digital Coding System may have been the inspiration for Pied Piper, a fictional data compression algorithm from HBO's Silicon Valley. Here's some more information about the Sloot Digital Coding System for those who are interested.
Movies

What Are Some Documentaries and TV Shows That You Recommend To Others? 278

Reader joshtops writes: Wow thanks for the overwhelming response on my previous post. I'm taking notes and intend to give all of the suggested books a go in the near future. If I may, and I hope the editors approve of this, could you also list some of your favorite TV shows and documentaries? Also, is there any show or documentary you think that changed or influenced your life, or at least your perception on any particular subject?
Government

Slashdot Asks: Is Trump's Blocking of Some Twitter Users Unconstitutional? (usatoday.com) 390

An anonymous reader shares an article: Some Twitter users say President Trump should not be able to block them on the social network. The president makes unprecedented use of Twitter, having posted more than 24,000 times on his @realDonaldTrump account to 31.7 million followers. His tweets about domestic and foreign policy -- and media coverage of him and his administration -- has transformed Twitter into a public forum with free speech protections. That's the opinion of two Twitter users, who have the backing of the Knight First Amendment Institute. They are sending a letter today to the White House asking Trump to unblock them on his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account. Both users say they were blocked recently after tweeting messages critical of the President. Holly O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan), whose Twitter account identifies her as a March for Truth organizer, said she was blocked on May 23 after posting a GIF of Pope Francis looking and frowning at Trump captioned "this is pretty much how the whole world sees you." In the letter to Trump and the White House, the Knight First Amendment Institute's attorneys argue that Trump's Twitter account "operates as a 'designated public forum' for First Amendment purposes, and accordingly the viewpoint-based blocking of our clients is unconstitutional." In some other news, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today "@realDonaldTrump's tweets are official White House statements."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How Does Your Team Track And Manage Bugs In Your Software? 189

Slashdot reader jb373 is a senior software engineer whose team's bug-tracking methodology is making it hard to track bugs. My team uses agile software methodologies, specifically scrum with a Kanban board, and adds all bugs we find to our Kanban board. Our Kanban board is digital and similar to Trello in many regards and we have a single list for bugs... We end up with duplicates and now have a long list to try and scroll through... Has anyone run into a similar situation or do things differently that work well for their team?
The original submission ends with one idea -- "I'm thinking about pushing for a separate bug tracking system that we pull bugs from during refinement and create Kanban cards for." But is there a better way? Leave your own experiences in the comments. How does your team track and manage bugs in your software?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Way To Write Working Code By Drawing Flow Charts? 264

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: There appear to be two main ways to write code today. One is with text-based languages ranging from BASIC to Python to C++. The other is to use a flow-based or dataflow programming-based visual programming language where you connect boxes or nodes with lines. What I have never (personally) come across is a way to program by drawing classical vertical (top to bottom) flow charts. Is there a programming environment that lets you do this...?

There are software tools that can turn, say, C code into a visual flow chart representation of said C code. Is there any way to do the opposite -- draw a flowchart, and have that flowchart turn into working C code?

Leave your best answers in the comments.
News

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a News Source? (csmonitor.com) 275

Obfiscator writes: Journalism has long had potential to change the world. The latest elections in the United States demonstrated new dimensions of this, with the rise of "fake news" and "echo chambers," as well as a president who has few reservations in expressing his thoughts of the media. The Christian Science Monitor has been a favorite news site of mine for years, due to their objective and balanced reporting, as well as their tendency to avoid "breaking news" and provide detailed analysis a few days later. Very few stories are going to impact my world to the point where waiting a couple days to read about them will make a difference. Despite the name, the vast majority of articles have no religious context (they address this in their FAQ). CSM has recently switched to be completely behind a paywall, as well. In their words, "We hope the Monitor Daily addresses both those trends. It is pushed to where our readers are and offers this pact: We will deliver our distinctive view of the world and you support financially our ability to produce that news." Is this the next trend: moving away from advertising revenues? Will this create more balanced journalism, as there is no need to attract clicks? Or will it deepen "echo chambers?" How do Slashdotters choose their news sites?
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Is There A Screen-Less, Keyboard-Less, Battery-Powered Computer? 181

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) 230

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?
Software

Ask Slashdot: Are Accurate Software Development Time Predictions a Myth? (medium.com) 222

New submitter DuroSoft writes: For myself and the vast majority of people I have talked to, this is the case. Any attempts we make to estimate the amount of time software development tasks will take inevitably end in folly. Do you find you can make accurate estimates, or is it really the case, as the author, DuroSoft Technologies' CTO/Co-CEO Sam Johnson, suggests via Hacker Noon, that "writing and maintaining code can be seen as a fundamentally chaotic activity, subject to sudden, unpredictable gotchas that take up an inordinate amount of time" and that therefore attempting to make predictions in the first place is itself a waste of our valuable time?
Java

Ask Slashdot: Do You Like Functional Programming? (slashdot.org) 418

An anonymous reader writes: Functional programming seems to be all the rage these days. Efforts are being made to highlight its use in Java, JavaScript, C# and elsewhere. Lots of claims are being made about it's virtues that seem relatively easy to prove or disprove such as "Its use will reduce your debugging time." Or "It will clarify your code." My co-workers are resorting to arm-wrestling matches over this style choice. Half of my co-workers have drunk the Kool-Aid and are evangelizing its benefits. The other half are unconvinced of its virtues over Object Oriented Design patterns, etc.

What is your take on functional programming and related technologies (i.e. lambdas and streams)? Is it our salvation? Is it merely another useful design pattern? Or is it a technological dead-end?

Python creator Guido van Rossum has said most programmers aren't used to functional languages, and when he answered Slashdot reader questions in 2013 said the only functional language he knew much about was Haskell, and "any language less popular than Haskell surely has very little practical value." He even added "I also don't think that the current crop of functional languages is ready for mainstream."

Leave your own opinions in the comments. Do you like functional programming?
Software

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Explain 'Don't Improve My Software Syndrome' Or DIMSS? 388

dryriver writes: I am someone who likes to post improvement suggestions for different software tools I use on the internet. If I see a function in a software that doesn't work well for me or could work better for everyone else, I immediately post suggestions as to how that function could be improved and made to work better for everybody. A striking phenomenon I have come across in posting such suggestions is the sheer number of "why would you want that at all" or "nobody needs that" or "the software is fine as it is" type responses from software users. What is particularly puzzling is that its not the developers of the software rejecting the suggestions -- its users of the software that often react sourly to improvement suggestions that could, if implemented well, benefit a lot of people using the software in question. I have observed this happening online for years even for really good software feature/function improvement ideas that actually wound up being implemented. My question is -- what causes this behavior of software users on the internet? Why would a software user see a suggestion that would very likely benefit many other users of the software and object loudly to that suggestion, or even pretend that "the suggestion is a bad one?"
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Are Good Books On Inventing, Innovating and Doing R&D? 102

dryriver writes: I've signed up to a project that involves inventing new ways to do things and also performing the technology R&D required to make these new ways a reality. So, dear Slashdotters, are there any good books on inventing, innovating or doing R&D? Books that describe different ways to approach inventing/R&D? Books on managing a team effort to invent, innovate and research? Or even good books about the history of past inventions -- how they were created, why they were created, how and why they succeeded or failed in the real world? Thanks!
Movies

Slashdot Asks: What's Your Favorite Sci-Fi Movie? 1222

Many say it's the golden age of science fiction cinema. And rightly so, every month, we have a couple of movies that bend the rules of science to explore possibilities that sometimes make us seriously consider if things we see on the big screen could actually be true. The advances in graphics, and thanks to ever-so-increasing video resolution, we're increasingly leaving the theaters with visually appealing memories. That said, there are plenty of movies made back in the day that are far from ever getting displaced by the reboots spree that the Hollywood is currently embarking. With readers suggesting us this question every week, we think it's time we finally asked, what's your favorite science-fiction movie? Also, what are some other sci-fi movies that you have really enjoyed but think they have not received enough praises or even much acknowledgement?

Editor's note: the story has been moved up on the front page due its popularity.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Stop The Deployment Of Unapproved Code Changes? 324

Over a million lines of code -- in existence for over 10 years -- gets updates in six-week "sprints" using source control and bug-tracking systems. But now an anonymous reader writes: In theory users report bugs, the developers "fix" the bugs, the users test and accept the fix, and finally the "fix" gets released to production as part of a larger change-set. In practice, the bug is reported, the developers implement "a fix", no one else tests it (except for the developer(s) ), and the "fix" gets released with the larger code change set, to production.

We (the developers) don't want to release "fixes" that users haven't accepted, but the code changes often include changes at all levels of the stack (database, DOAs, Business Rules, Webservices and multiple front-ends). Multiple code changes could be occurring in the same areas of code by different developers at the same time, making merges of branches very complex and error prone. Many fingers are in the same pie. Our team size, structure and locations prevent having a single gatekeeper for code check-ins... What tools and procedures do you use to prevent un-approved fixes from being deployed to production as part of the larger code change sets?

Fixes are included in a test build for users to test and accept -- but what if they never do? Leave your best answers in the comments. How woud you stop un-approved code changes from being deployed?
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Was Your First Home Computer? 857

We've recently seen stories about old computers and sys-ops resurrecting 1980s BBS's, but now an anonymous reader has a question for all Slashdot readers: Whenever I meet geeks, there's one question that always gets a reaction: Do you remember your first home computer? This usually provokes a flood of fond memories about primitive specs -- limited RAM, bad graphics, and early versions of long-since-abandoned operating systems. Now I'd like to pose the same question to Slashdot's readers.

Use the comments to share details about your own first home computer. Was it a back-to-school present from your parents? Did it come with a modem? Did you lovingly upgrade its hardware for years to come? Was it a Commodore 64 or a BeBox?

It seems like there should be some good stories, so leave your best answers in the comments. What was your first home computer?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Should You Launch A Software Startup? (theguardian.com) 140

Slashdot reader ben-hnb is a developer who loves the idea of running a startup, or being one of the ones who got in early. But how exactly does he get there? I've got no "business" experience. Everyone seems to want to get on the startup incubator train -- the latest U.K. model I've seen, Launchpad, would even train (MA!) and support me financially for a year while developing the initial product. This just one in a long list of different models, from the famous Y-Combinator three-month model to the 500 Startups four-month seed program and simple co-working spaces with a bit of help, like Launch 22.

If you wanted to get a startup going, where would you go to first and why? Or would you just strike out in your bedroom/garage?

Leave your best answers in the comments. How would you launch a software startup?
Java

Ask Slashdot: Should I Move From Java To Scala? 245

"Scala is one of the JVM languages that manages to maintain a hip and professional vibe at the same time," writes long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino -- building up to a big question: One reason for this probably being that Scala was built by people who knew what they were doing. It has been around for a few years now in a mature form and I got curious about it a few years back. My question to the Slashdot community: Is getting into Scala worthwhile from a practical/industry standpoint or is it better to just stick with Java? Have you done larger, continuous multi-year, multi-man and mission-critical applications in Scala and what are your experiences?
The original submission asks two related questions. First, "Do you have to be a CS/math genius to make sense of Scala and use it correctly?" But more importantly, "Is Scala there to stay wherever it is deployed and used in real-world scenarios, or are there pitfalls and cracks showing up that would deter you from using Scala once again?" So share your experiences and answers in the comments. Would you recommend moving from Java to Scala?
Books

Slashdot Asks: What Books Are You Reading This Month? 259

An anonymous reader writes: Hey fellow Slashdot readers, what are some books you're reading right now, and intend to pick up later this month? Also if you would be so kind, what are some good new-ish novels (fiction / non-fiction) you recommend? Thanks!
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With a Terrible Tech Manager? 140

snydeq writes: From the Know It All to the Overwhelmer, succeeding beneath a bad manager takes strategy and finesse, writes Paul Heltzel in his round-up of bad IT bosses and how to keep them from derailing your career. "While there are truly great leaders in IT, not all inspire confidence. Worse, you can't always choose who will lead your team. But you can always map out new paths in your career. With that in mind, here is a look at some prototypically bad managers you may have already encountered in your engineering departments, with tips on how to deal with each of them." The six "terrible tech managers" mentioned by Heltzel include: "The Know It All," "The Pushover," "The Micromanager," "The Unexpected Boss," "The Fearful Manager," and "The Overwhelmer." Have you ever worked for any of these managers? If so, how did you deal with them?
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Can Linux Run a GPU-Computing Application Written For Windows? 117

dryriver writes: I have been told that Linux can run Windows software using Wine or perhaps a VM. What happens if that Windows software is a GPU-computing application -- accessing the GPU through HLSL/GLSL/CUDA/OpenCL or similar interfaces? Can Wine or other solutions run that software at a decent speed under Linux? Or is GPU-computing software written for the Windows platform unsuitable for use -- emulated or otherwise -- under Linux? This sounds like one of those cases where there's a theoretical answer and then your own real-world experiences. So leave your best answers in the comments. Can Linux run a GPU-computing application that's written for Windows?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Ask Slashdot: Seen Any Good April Fool's Pranks Today? 106

An anonymous reader writes: It's that special time of year where sites around the net celebrate April Fool's Day with parodies of their own product offerings. Google Home announces a new companion service for smart yards called Google Gnome. Stack Overflow announces Dance Dance Authentication. The Russian foreign ministry changed their voicemail to include new menu options like "Press 2 to use the services of Russian hackers," and "press 3 to request election interference." And in what's either a really good prank or a horrific piece of bad timing, Phrack.org announces that they've been seized by the FBI.

Has anybody else noticed anything funny today?

The internet has a long history of April Fool's Day pranks, and it looks like 2017 is no exception. So use the comments to share what you're seeing around the web today. Seen any good April Fool's Day pranks today?
Microsoft

Slashdot Asks: Windows 10 Creators Update Goes Live On April 11, Will You Upgrade? 239

Microsoft said today it will start rolling out Windows 10 Creators Update, the latest major update to its current desktop operating system, starting April 11. The company says Windows 10 Creators Update brings with it a range of new features. Some of the chief ones are:

1. Visual previews of tabs in Microsoft Edge.
2. Edge now has built-in support for ebooks.
3. Microsoft Paint now lets people create models in 3D.
4. Picture-in-Picture mode for videos. Essentially you can now have a small window with video playing on it placed on top of any other application.
5. Night Light: A baked in feature in Windows that will allow you to change the color and tone of display so that it doesn't pain your eyes to look at the screen at night.
6. Dynamic Lock: The feature first requires you to pair your phone or tablet with the computer. Once done, it will automatically log you out everytime you're away from desk (or technically speaking, the device is out of the computer's proximity).
7. Native support for surround sound.
8. Ability to scribble and make notes on Microsoft's Maps app.
9. Game mode: It "ensures" your computer is always maximizing its resources for an optimal gaming experience.
10. Built-in support for mixed reality handsets.

Over the past two years, we have seen numerous instances where Microsoft has been pushing Windows 10 update to customers who have Windows 7 or 8 running on their machines. There are still hundreds of millions of customers who're yet to upgrade from Windows 7, arguing that they either prefer how Windows 7 looks and functions, or (in some cases, and) why fix something when nothing is broken. That said, would you consider upgrading your system to Windows 10 Creators Update?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Lies Programmers Tell Themselves? 548

snydeq writes: "Confidence in our power over machines also makes us guilty of hoping to bend reality to our code," writes Peter Wayner, in a discussion of nine lies programmers tell themselves about their code. "Of course, many problems stem from assumptions we programmers make that simply aren't correct. They're usually sort of true some of the time, but that's not the same as being true all of the time. As Mark Twain supposedly said, 'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.'" The nine lies Wayner mentions in his discussion include: "Questions have one answer," "Null is acceptable," "Human relationships can be codified," "'Unicode' stands for universal communication," "Numbers are accurate," "Human language is consistent," "Time is consistent," "Files are consistent," and "We're in control." Can you think of any other lies programmers tell themselves?

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