Software

Ask Slashdot: What Is Missing In Tech Today? 356

dryriver writes: There is so much tech and gadget news pouring out of the internet every day that one might think "everything tech that is needed already exists." But of course, people thought precisely that at various points in human history, and then completely new tools, technologies, processes, designs, devices and innovations came along soon after and changed everything. Sometimes the opposite also happens: tech that was really good for its day and used to exist is suddenly no longer available. For example, many people miss the very usable Psion palmtop computers with their foldout QWERTY keyboards, touchscreens, and styluses; or would have liked the Commodore Amiga with its innovative custom chips and OS to continue existing and evolving; or would have liked to be able to keep using software like Softimage XSI or Adobe Director, which were suddenly discontinued.

So here is the question: what tech, in your particular profession, industry, personal area of interest, or scientific or academic field, is currently "missing?" This can be tech that is needed but does not exist yet, either hardware or software, or some kind of mechanical device or process. It could also be tech that was available in the past, but was EOL'd or "End Of Lifed" and never came back in an updated or evolved form. Bonus question: if what you feel is "missing" could quite feasibly be engineered, produced, and sold today at a profit, what do you think is the reason it isn't available?
Businesses

Working From Home: What if You Never Saw Your Colleagues in Person Again? (bbc.com) 212

Bryan Lufkin, writing for BBC: Throughout my career I've worked with people that I've never met in person. In theory, I could spend an entire day without meeting another human face-to-face. But could this kind of self-imposed isolation become standard working practice in the future?

Studies show that in the US, the number of telecommuters rose 115% between 2005 and 2017. And in early 2015, around 500,000 people used Slack, the real-time chat room programme, daily. By last September, that number soared to over 6 million. In 2017 a Gallup poll revealed that 43% of 15,000 Americans say they spend at least some of their time working remotely, a 4% rise from 2012. And a 2015 YouGov study found that 30% of UK office workers say they feel more productive when they work outside their workplace. How would we feel if we never had to work with another person face-to-face again? Would we care? Have things gone so far that we might not even notice?

Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Which Tech Company Do You Respect Most? 311

dryriver writes: On Slashdot, we often discuss the missteps and non consumer-friendly behavior of various tech companies. This company forced people into a subscription payment model. That tech company doesn't respect people's privacy. Yet another tech company failed to fix a dangerous exploit quickly, protect people's cloud data properly, or innovate and improve where innovation and improvement was badly needed.

Here's a question to the contrary: Of all the tech companies you know well and follow -- small, medium, or large -- which are the ones that you respect the most, and why? Which are the companies that still -- or newly -- create great tech in a landscape dotted with profiteers? Also, what is your personal criteria for judging whether a tech company is "good," "neutral," or "bad?"
Sci-Fi

Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Sci-Fi Books, Movies, and TV Shows You're Looking Forward To? 364

Even as Hollywood studios report fewer footfalls in theaters, the last few years have arguably been impressive if you're a sci-fi admirer. Last year, we finally got to watch the Blade Runner 2049, and the The Last Jedi and Logan also found plenty of backers. In 2016, Arrival was a home run for many. Star Trek: Discovery, and Stranger Things TV shows continue to receive positive feedback from critics, and the The X-Files is also quickly winning its loyal fans back.

"Artemis" by Andy Weir and "New York 2140" by Kim Stanley have found their ways among best selling books. "Borne" by Jeff VanderMeer, and "Walkaway" by BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow have also been widely loved by the readers.

On that note, what are some movies, TV shows, and books on sci-fi that you are waiting to explore in the next two to three years?
Television

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Build a Private TV Channel For My Kids? 163

Long-time Slashdot reader ljw1004 writes: I want to assemble my OneDrive-hosted mp4s into a "TV channel" for my kids -- so at 7am while I sleep in, they know they can turn the TV on, it will show Mr Rogers then Sesame Street then grandparents' story-time, then two hand-picked cartoons, and nothing for the rest of the day. How would you do this? With Chromecast and write a JS Chrome plugin to drive it? Write an app for FireTV? Is there any existing OSS software for either the scheduling side (done by parents) or the TV-receiver side? How would you lock down the TV beyond just hiding the remote?
"There are good worthwhile things for them to see," adds the original submission, "but they're too young to be given the autonomy to pick them, and I can do better than Nickeloden or CBBC or Amazon Freetime Unlimited."

Slashdot reader Rick Schumann suggested putting the video files on an external hard drive (or burning them to a DVD), while apraetor points out many TVs now play files from flash drives -- and also suggests a private Roku channel. But what's the best way to build a private TV channel for kids?

Leave your best answers in the comments.
Mars

Ask Slashdot: What Kind of Societies Will the First Mars Colonies Be? 305

New submitter nyri writes: I'm making a two-part study in what kind of societies humans will build on Mars when we start to colonize the red planet. In first part, I'm trying to approach the question sociologically as rigorously as possible. Sociology being what it is, this also includes informed speculation. So, what does Slashdot think: What sort of colonies will humans build on the red planet? How large will they be? How will they make decisions and select their leaders? What kind of judicial systems will they use? What happens if a colony's population grows larger than they are able to sustain? Will they be religious and if so, how? How will their internal and external economy work? And so on...

A second part of the study is of psychometric nature to explore the kind of personalities be present in first colonies. I also encourage you to take the survey.
Open Source

Are the BSDs Dying? Some Security Researchers Think So (csoonline.com) 196

itwbennett writes: The BSDs have lost the battle for mindshare to Linux, and that may well bode ill for the future sustainability of the BSDs as viable, secure operating systems, writes CSO's JM Porup. The reason why is a familiar refrain: more eyeballs mean more secure code. Porup cites the work of Ilja von Sprundel, director of penetration testing at IOActive, who, noting the "small number of reported BSD kernel vulnerabilities compared to Linux," dug into BSD source code. His search 'easily' turned up about 115 kernel bugs. Porup looks at the relative security of OpenBSD, FreeBSD and NetBSD, the effect on Mac OS, and why, despite FreeBSD's relative popularity, OpenBSD may be the most likely to survive.
Desktops (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: What's the Fastest Linux Distro for an Old Macbook 7,1? 248

Long-time Slashdot reader gr8gatzby writes: I have an old beautiful mint condition white Macbook 7,1 with a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo and 5GB RAM. Apple cut off the upgrade path of this model at 10.6.8, while a modern-day version of any browser requires at least 10.9 these days, and as a result my browsing is limited to Chrome version 49.0.2623.112.

So this leaves me with Linux. What is the fastest, most efficient and powerful distro for a Mac of this vintage?

It's been nearly eight years since its release, so leave your best thoughts in the comments. What's the best Linux distro for an old Macbook 7,1?
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Explain Einstein's Theories To a Nine-Year-Old? 293

SiggyRadiation writes: A few days ago, my 9-year-old son asked me why Albert Einstein was so famous. I decided not just to start with the famous formula E=mc^2, because that just seemed to be the easy way out. So I tried to explain what mass and energy are. Then I asked him to try to explain gravity to me. The earth pulls at you because it has a lot of mass. But how can the earth influence your body, pull your feet to the ground, without actually touching you? Why is it that one thing (the earth) can influence something else (you) without actually being connected? Isn't that weird? Einstein figured out how energy, mass and gravity work and are related to each other. This is where our conversation ended.

Afterwards I thought: this might be a nice question to ask on Slashdot; how would I continue this discussion to explain it to him further? Of course, with the goal of further feeding his interest in physics.
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Useful Voice-Activated PC? (dailycaring.com) 93

An anonymous reader writes: My elderly monther-in-law misses her computer. Her mind is okay, but she cannot use a computer because of her Parkinson's disease.

I am not all that impressed with Amazon Echo. Seems you can ask the Echo for the time of day, or the weather outside, but it will not do anything useful -- like send an email. A voice controlled PC would be great, even if it only did a few simple tasks.

The original submission ends with a question: "Is there such a thing?" So leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. Is there a useful voice-activated PC?
Government

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Use Computers To Make Elections Better? 498

shanen writes: Regarding politics, is there anything that Americans agree on? If so, it's probably something negative like "The system is broken," or "The leading candidates are terrible," or even "Your state is a shithole." With all our fancy technology, what's going wrong? Our computers are creating problems, not solutions. For example, gerrymandering relies on fancy computers to rig the maps. Negative campaigning increasingly relies on computers to target the attacks on specific voters. Even international attacks exploit the internet to intrude into elections around the world. Here are three of my suggested solutions, though I can't imagine any of today's politicians would ever support anything along these lines:

(1) Guest voting: If you hate your district, you could vote in a neighboring district. The more they gerrymander, the less predictable the election results.
(2) Results-based weighting: The winning candidates get more voting power in the legislature, reflecting how many people actually voted for them. If you win a boring and uncontested election where few people vote, then part of your vote in the legislature would be transferred to the winners who also had more real votes.
(3) Negative voting: A voter could use an electronic ballot to make it explicit that the vote is negative, not positive. The candidate with the most positive or fewest negative votes still wins, but if the election has too many negative votes, then that "winner" would be penalized, perhaps with a half term rather than a full term.

What wild and crazy ideas do you have for using computers to make elections better, not worse?
Portables

Ask Slashdot: How Should I Replace My Netbook? 232

Long-time Slashdot reader Kevin108 needs to replace his netbook: I've used and loved my Eee 701 for many years. None of the diminutive ergonomics were ever an issue. But the low-res screen, 4 GB SSD, and 630 MHz Celeron are a useless combo for current web browsing and modern software. I'm now in the market for a new device in a similar form factor.

I need a Windows device for my preferred photo editor and some other software I use for maps. It will often be used offline for writing and watching MKVs in VLC. I'm okay with a notebook or tablet and keyboard combo, but I've not found anything in a similar size with my feature requirements.

Any suggestions? Leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. What's the best way to replace a netbook?
Media

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Media Streaming Device? 206

The network card died on Thelasko's smart TV -- and rather than spend $65 on a new one, they're considering buying a nice, simple streaming box. I am running a Rygel server on my PC, but rarely use it... I primarily only watch Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube for streaming, and am wondering what Slashdot users have found to be the best option. I'm considering Roku or Chromecast because they are well known and supported. However, I have heard a lot of news about Kodi devices being more hackable.
AppleTV? Amazon Fire TV? The Emtec GEM Box? Building your own from a Raspberry Pi? Leave your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

What's the best media streaming device?
AI

Ask Slashdot: What Would an AI-Written Poem Look Like? 138

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: Imagine this. You are an AI running on the latest machine learning hardware, like Nvidia's new Tensor cores for example, or perhaps a data center full of Xeons and EPYCs. You have lots of processing power, lots of RAM, run under Linux and -- to make things more interesting -- you have access to the complete 21st Century internet over a huge data pipe, including blogs, porn sites, and gaming forums where 12- to 14-year-olds scream at game developers who didn't balance a weapon in a game properly.

You have access to 24 hour if-it-bleeds-it-leads news. You have access to the incredibly important tweets and selfies people post, and the equally important Youtube comments under the latest Taylor Swift or rap video. You read Slashdot as well. Every day.

What kind of poem do you, great AI poetry engine, write based on these inputs?
Power

Slashdot Asks: How Should Apple Have Responded To the Battery Controversy? 177

Yesterday, Apple officially apologized for slowing down older phones in order to compensate for degrading batteries. In a letter to customers, Apple said, "We apologize," offering anyone with an iPhone 6 or later a battery replacement for $29 starting in late January through December 2018 -- a discount of $50 from the unusual replacement cost. They're also promising to add features to iOS that provide more information about the battery health in early 2018.

Apple's response has left many wondering whether or not it is enough. Even though they are discounting the cost of a battery replacement, for example, they are still profiting from each battery replacement. At the end of the day, "Apple only came clean after independent investigation, giving the whole situation an air of underhanded secrecy," writes Macworld. Should Apple have responded differently to the battery controversy? In the first place, should Apple even issue a software update to older devices to purposefully throttle the CPU and prevent the phones from randomly shutting down when experiencing rapid power draw?

Quinn Nelson via Snazzy Labs explains the controversy and how it is largely exaggerated.
Social Networks

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Avoid 'Information Overload' (wikipedia.org) 133

As we approach a holiday weekend and a brand new year, do we need to start carving out more time away from the internet? "I'm convinced the Internet (as in Slashdot) is making many people more lonely (and duller), not better," writes long-time Slashdot reader shanen: I think the best description of the problem I've read is The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Not exactly his formulation, but in brief I would say that too much information is overwhelming us...

Some approaches towards solutions appear in The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli (based on the German Die Kunst des klaren Denkens : 52 Denkfehler, die Sie besser anderen uberlassen. Again, better references would be greatly appreciated, especially as regards the problem of disaster porn overwhelming journalism.

New Media professor Clay Shirky has argued that "it's not information overload, it's filter failure." And Carr's original question was actually "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" though he still warned of the possibility that "the crazy quilt of Internet media" is remapping the neural circuitry in our brains. (And that "as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens.") The original submitter asked the question another way -- "Is deep thought possible in the Internet Age?" But it'd be interesting to hear what strategies are being used by Slashdot readers.

Leave your best answers in the comments. How do you avoid information overload?
Star Wars Prequels

Ask Slashdot: Thoughts On Star Wars: The Last Jedi One Week Later? [Spoilers] (independent.co.uk) 300

AmiMoJo writes: After what feels like an eternity of waiting, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has finally reached cinemas, scoring a whopping $450 million opening weekend worldwide. While reviews have been unanimously positive for Rian Johnson's blockbuster, there's been huge backlash online, many fans expressing disappointment. There's no better place to see the great divide between critics and fans than on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critical consensus scores 93% while audiences score The Last Jedi 56%. The Last Jedi is apparently worse than Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Conversely, critics say The Last Jedi equals A New Hope and The Force Awakens, only falling behind The Empire Strikes Back.

One problem with Rotten Tomatoes' audience score, along with IMDB, is there's no vetting process. Instead, we should look to the movie's CinemaScore, an America-based exit poll system that scientifically works out an audience score. The Force Awakens earned an A score, with 90% of all respondents being positive, the average score being 4.5. According to Deadline, non-Disney sources are saying the backlash has been primarily online "trolling." The publication also points to one Facebook page titled "Down With Disney's Treatment of Franchises and Fanboys" who are claiming to use bot accounts to target the film's score.
SPOILERS: With Star Wars: The Last Jedi being released one week ago, we ask you to share your thoughts of the film now that you've had some time to watch and digest it. How did you like Daisy Ridley's performance? Do you think Kylo will try and turn Rey again as Supreme Leader? How will General Leia's future be dealt with now that Carrie Fisher has passed away last year?
Operating Systems

Slashdot Asks: Should Tech Companies End the One-Year Software Update Cycle? 187

Software giants Google, Microsoft, Apple and others release a major software update to their desktop and mobile operating system (and OS for other platforms they have) each year. This model seemed viable -- to a consumer -- until a few years ago -- the days when shiny new features were exciting -- but of late the number of bugs that companies are failing to patch before shipping these operating systems has seemingly gone off the roof. For instance, Apple has released more than 10 software updates since seeding out iOS 11 in September this year (up from seven last year). Similar is the case with macOS.

The situation has gotten so dire that IT admins in many corporate environments are waiting for as long as six months before they are certain that it is fine to get the staff to move to the "newer" major software update. For companies like Apple, new software update also means a business opportunity. Several of the new features that they ship with the new update doesn't work with older iPhone and iPad models. And as we learned this week, new major software updates could hinder the performance of old gadgets. With these things in mind, should industry at large consider prolonging the duration between two major software updates? Or should they stick with a one-year software cycle model?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: When Is the Right Time To Discuss Retirement With Your Employer? 333

An anonymous reader writes: As I am sliding down the far side of 60, retirement is something coming up in two or three years.

The usual notice time is two weeks, but I'm one of two people (maybe three if they pull one back in off other projects he's done the past four years) who do what I do, and is fairly important to the company's product. Yeah, we'd be in serious hurt if one of us were hit by a truck.

I'd like to give a lot of notice. It took them six months to find me for this position half a decade ago. But I don't want to be let go before I'm ready to go, either.

Most slashdotters seem to be a lot younger than me, so maybe I'm asking in the wrong place, but has anyone else dealt with this issue?
Printer

Ask Slashdot: Do You Print Too Little? 216

shanen writes: How many of you don't print much these days? What is the best solution to only printing a few pages every once in a while? Here are some dimensions of the problem...

Inexpensive printers: The cost of new printers is quite low, but how long can the printer sit there without printing before it dies? Lexmark and HP used to offer an expensive solution with integrated ink cartridges that also included new print heads, but... Should I just buy a cheap Canon or Epson and plan to throw it away in a couple of years, probably after printing less than a 100 pages?

Printing services: They're mostly focused on photos, but there are companies where you can take your data for printing. My main concerns here are actually with the costs and the tweaks. Each print is expensive because you are covering their overhead way beyond the cost of the printing itself. Also, most of the time my first print or three isn't exactly what I want. It rarely comes out perfectly on paper the first time.

Social printing: For example, are any of you sharing one printer with your neighbors via Wi-Fi? Do you just sneak a bit of personal printing onto a printer at your office? Do you travel across town to borrow your brother-in-law's printer?
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Alternatives To Android Or iOS? 304

An anonymous Slashdot reader is asking whether or not there are any alternatives to Android or iOS smartphones: Like most of us, I've owned a few smartphones over time, ranging from a Nokia E71 to a Samsung Android phone and now, an Apple iPhone. It is close to phone upgrade time, and I've been reviewing the features that I use on my phone. When I think honestly about it, the only features I really need are:

1. Phone calls (loads of conference calls, for which I use a wired headset with a microphone)
2. SMS Messaging (unlimited on my plan)
3. Navigation (very important, and is probably the most-used app on my phone)
4. Occasional internet browsing

All of this could be done by the Nokia E71, when Nokia Maps was a thing. If I want to move away from Apple, Google and the like, do I have any options now? Are there any trustable (and by trustable, I mean avoiding unknown Chinese manufacturers) phones in the market today that could do all four and (ideally) have better battery life than one day?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Ask Slashdot: What's The Worst IT-Related Joke You've Ever Heard? 656

dryriver writes: In just about any field of employment -- whether you're a 3D artist, a pastry chef or a lawyer -- there's an abundance of jokes related to the profession, or to situations commonly encountered during that profession. Some are pretty good, some so-so, and some are very, very bad.

What I want to know is, what are the absolute WORST computer or IT related jokes you've either heard from someone, found on the internet or possibly even invented yourself? And since this is Slashdot, feel free to throw in science-related jokes as well, provided that they are just as bad as the computer or IT jokes.

Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the worst IT (or science)-related joke you've ever heard?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How Can Programmers Explain Their Work To Non-Programmers? 340

Slashdot reader Grady Martin writes: I disrespect people who describe their work in highfalutin terms... However, describing my own work as "programming solutions to problems" is little more than codifying what just about anyone can perceive through intuition. Case in point: Home for the holidays, I was asked about recent accomplishments and attempted to explain the process of producing compact visualizations of branched undo/redo histories.

Responses ranged from, "Well, duh," to, "I can already do that in Word"...

It's the "duh" that I want to address, because of course an elegant solution seem obvious after the fact: Such is the nature of elegance itself. Does anyone have advice on making elegance sound impressive?

An anonymous Slashdot reader left this suggestion for explaining your work to non-programmers. "Don't. I get sick when I hear the bullshit artists spew crap out of their mouth when they have no idea wtf they're talking about. Especially managers..."

But how about the rest of you? How can programmers explain their work to non-programmers?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Biggest IT Management Mistakes? 341

snydeq writes: Sure, nobody's perfect. But for those in charge of enterprise technology, the fallout from a strategic gaffe, bad hire, or weak spine can be disastrous, writes Dan Tynan, in an article on the biggest management mistakes in IT. "Some of the most common IT gaffes include becoming trapped in a relationship with a vendor you can't shake loose, hiring or promoting the wrong people, and hiding problems from top management until it's too late to recover." What are some other career- and company-destroyers you've witnessed in your years in IT?
Networking

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Way to Retrain Old IT Workers? 343

A medium-sized company just hired a new IT manager who wants advice from the Slashdot community about their two remaining IT "gofers": These people have literally been here their entire "careers" and are now near retirement. Quite honestly, they do not have any experience other than reinstalling Windows, binding something to the domain and the occasional driver installation -- and are more than willing to admit this. Given many people are now using Macs and most servers/workstations are running Linux, they have literally lost complete control over the company, with most of these machines sitting around completely unmanaged.

Firing these people is nearly impossible. (They have a lot of goodwill within other departments, and they have quite literally worked there for more than 60 years combined.) So I've been tasked with attempting to retrain these people in the next six months. Given they still have to do work (imaging computers and fixing basic issues), what are the best ways of retraining them into basic network, Windows, Mac, Linux, and "cloud" first-level help desk support?

Monster_user had some suggestions -- for example, "Don't overtrain. Select and target areas where they will be able to provide a strong impact." Any other good advice?

Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best way to retrain old IT workers?
Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 254

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: How Do I Explain Copyright To My Kids? 327

orgelspieler writes: My son paid for a copy of a novel on his iPad. When his school made it against the rules to bring iPads, he wanted to get the same book on his Kindle. I tried to explain that the format of his eBook was not readily convertible to the Kindle. So he tried to go on his schools online library app. He checked it out just fine, but ironically, the offline reading function only works on the now-disallowed iPads. Rather than paying Amazon $7 for a book I already own, and he has already checked out from the library, I found a bootleg PDF online. I tried to explain that he could just read that, but he freaked out. "That's illegal, Dad!" I tried to explain format shifting, and the injustice of the current copyright framework in America. Even when he did his own research, stumbling across EFF's website on fair use, he still would not believe me.

Have any of you fellow Slashdotters figured out a good way to navigate the moral, legal, and technological issues of copyright law, as it relates to the next generation of nerds? Interestingly, my boy seems OK with playing old video games on the Wayback Machine, so I don't think it's a lost cause.
Wine

Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Greatest Successes and Weaknesses With Wine (Software)? 252

wjcofkc writes: As a distraction, I decided to get the video-editing software Filmora up and running on my Ubuntu box. After some tinkering, I was able to get it installed, only to have the first stage vaporize on launch. This got me reflecting on my many hits and misses with Wine (software) over the years. Before ditching private employment, my last job was with a software company. They were pretty open minded when I came marching in with my System76 laptop, and totally cool with me using Linux as my daily driver after quickly getting the Windows version of their software up and running without a hitch. They had me write extensive documentation on the process. It was only two or three paragraphs, but I consider that another Wine win since to that end I scored points at work. Past that, open source filled in the blanks. That was the only time I ever actually needed (arguably) for it to work. Truth be told, I mostly tinker around with it a couple times a year just to see what does and does not run. Wine has been around for quite awhile now, and while it will never be perfect, the project is not without merit. So Slashdot community, what have been your greatest successes and failures with Wine over the years?
Security

Ask Slashdot: How Are So Many Security Vulnerabilities Possible? 354

dryriver writes: It seems like not a day goes by on Slashdot and elsewhere on the intertubes that you don't read a story headline reading "Company_Name Product_Name Has Critical Vulnerability That Allows Hackers To Description_Of_Bad_Things_Vulnerability_Allows_To_Happen." A lot of it is big brand products as well. How, in the 21st century, is this possible, and with such frequency? Is software running on electronic hardware invariably open to hacking if someone just tries long and hard enough? Or are the product manufacturers simply careless or cutting corners in their product designs? If you create something that communicates with other things electronically, is there no way at all to ensure that the device is practically unhackable?
Chrome

Slashdot Asks: Have You Switched To Firefox 57? 589

Yesterday, Mozilla launched Firefox 57 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. It brings massive performance improvements as it incorporates the company's next-generation browser engine called Project Quantum; it also features a visual redesign and support for extensions built using the WebExtension API. Have you used Firefox's new browser? Does it offer enough to make you switch from your tried-and-true browser of choice? We'd love to hear your thoughts.
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: Which Software/Devices Are Unusable Without Connecting to the Internet? (techdirt.com) 201

New submitter AlejandroTejadaC writes: Currently, most commercial software and hardware manufactures rely on an internet connection for registering or activating their products and providing additional functionality. In an ideal world this works fine, but in our real world the buyer could lose access to internet for months -- such as in emergency situations like the aftermath of hurricane Maria -- and their products will refuse to work because they need an internet connection. Which companies are using their internet servers as replacements for hardware dongles? I want to see a complete list of software and devices that become completely unusable without a live internet connection. Just remember the infamous case of the Razer Synapse.
Input Devices

Ask Slashdot: Which Laptop Has The Best Keyboard? 300

Slashdot reader Rock21k is thinking of replacing an old laptop. But... All newer laptops seem to have wide spacing between the keyboard keys, which I hate... At one time, this used to be for consumer laptops but most major companies have done it for business laptops as well... Probably over time I might get used to it, but definitely not the first choice. I understand I can use an external keyboard but that defeats the purpose of a laptop! Do you also hate wide spacing between keyboard keys? Which brand do you find least annoying? Leave your best answers in the comments. Which laptop has the best keyboard?
Music

Ask Slashdot: Can You Convert Old iPods Into A Home Music-Streaming Solution? 118

Slashdot reader zhennian wants to stream music throughout his entire house, "and was hoping that with three old iPods I might be able to put together a centrally managed house-wide audio system." Ideally it would be possible to control what's playing from a central web interface using an app on an IOS or Android device. With the iPods already plugged into docking stations and on the home wifi network, I assume it should be possible.

A search of the Apple app store didn't bring up much and forking out $AUS400 for a Sonos One or equivalent seems wasted when I've already purchased iPod docks. Can anyone recommend an App that will still be compatible with old (ie. 2007) iPods and might do this?

Or is there a better cheap alternative? Leave your best answers in the comments. Can you convert old iPods into a home music-streaming solution?
Desktops (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: What Should A Mac User Know Before Buying a Windows Laptop? 449

New submitter Brentyl writes: Hello Slashdotters, longtime Mac user here faced with a challenge: Our 14-year-old wants a Windows laptop. He will use it for school and life, but the primary reason he wants Windows instead of a MacBook is gaming. I don't need a recommendation on which laptop to buy, but I do need a Windows survival kit. What does a fairly savvy fellow, who is a complete Windows neophyte, need to know? Is the antivirus/firewall in Windows 10 Home sufficient? Are there must-have utilities or programs I need to get? When connecting to my home network, I need to make sure I ____? And so on... Thanks in advance for your insights.
Television

Ask Slashdot: Can Smart TVs Insert Ads Into Your Movies? (gigaom.com) 235

dryriver writes: Back in 2015, the owners of some Samsung smart TVs complained about their viewing of films and other content being constantly interrupted by a recurring Pepsi ad. It turned out that yes, the Samsung TV itself was inserting the ad into content.

Samsung said at the time that it was a software glitch that caused this. They left a function on by default that should have been off when they shipped the TVs. But it proves that Smart TVs have an unnerving capability built into them -- the ability to interrupt content playback with product ads actually stored on the TV itself.

So here's the question -- what if all Smart TV makers suddenly decide that having the ability to push custom ads to the owner of the TV is "fair game"? What if they decide "You want to own this model of TV for XXX Dollars? Well, you can have it, but we'll reserve the right to show you customized advertising as you are viewing stuff with it"? Are there any laws anywhere that would protect TV owners from such intrusive advertising?

Television

Ask Slashdot: Should I Allow A 'Smart TV' To Connect To The Internet? 299

Slashdot reader GovCheese has a question: I use Roku and also the client apps on my gaming consoles for Amazon and Netflix. But it seems less prudent to allow my television, a Samsung, to connect to the internet. My Phillips Blu-ray wants to connect also. But I'd rather not. Is it illogical to allow Roku and a console to connect to streaming services but prevent a "smart" television from doing so?
Slashdot reader gurps_npc argues there's a distinction between devices that need internet access and devices that want it, adding "Smart TVs overcharge in privacy invasion for the minimal advantages they offer."

Leave your own best answers in the comments. Should you let a smart TV connect to the internet?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Where Do Old Programmers Go? 481

New submitter oort99 writes: Barreling towards my late 40s, I've enjoyed 25+ years of coding for a living, working in telecoms, government, and education. In recent years, it's been typical enterprise Java stuff. Looking around, I'm pretty much always the oldest in the room. So where are the other old guys? I can't imagine they've all moved up the chain into management. There just aren't enough of those positions to absorb the masses of aging coders. Clearly there *are* older workers in software, but they are a minority. What sectors have the others gone into? Retired early? Low-wage service sector? Genuinely interested to hear your story about having left the field, willfully or otherwise.
Privacy

A 14-Year-Old Asks: When Should I Get a VPN? 203

"One of my students sent me this letter," writes Slashdot reader Hasaf. "I have a good idea how I will answer, but I wanted to put it before the Slashdot community." The letter reads: Right now I am 14 years old, I was wondering when I should get a VPN... I was thinking about getting the yearly deal. But right now I really have no need for a VPN at the moment. I was thinking of getting a VPN when I'm in 11th grade or maybe in college. What do you think?
Of course, the larger question is what factors go into deciding whether your need to be using a VPN. So leave your best answers in the comments. When should you get your first VPN?
Security

Ask Slashdot: What Are Ways To Get Companies To Actually Focus On Security? 158

New submitter ctilsie242 writes: Many years ago, it was said that we would have a "cyber 9/11," a security event so drastic that it fundamentally would change how companies and people thought about security. However, this has not happened yet (mainly because the bad guys know that this would get organizations to shut their barn doors, stopping the gravy train.) With the perception that security has no financial returns, coupled with the opinion that "nobody can stop the hackers, so why even bother," what can actually be done to get businesses to have an actual focus on security. The only "security" I see is mainly protection from "jailbreaking," so legal owners of a product can't use or upgrade their devices. True security from other attack vectors are all but ignored. In fact, I have seen some development environments where someone doing anything about security would likely get the developer fired because it took time away from coding features dictated by marketing. I've seen environments where all code ran as root or System just because if the developers gave thought to any permission model at all, they would be tossed, and replaced by other developers who didn't care to "waste" their time on stuff like that.

One idea would be something similar to Underwriters Labs, except would grade products, perhaps with expanded standards above the "pass/fail" mark, such as Europe's "Sold Secure," or the "insurance lock" certification (which means that a security device is good enough for insurance companies to insure stuff secured by it.) There are always calls for regulation, but with regulatory capture being at a high point, and previous regulations having few teeth, this may not be a real solution in the U.S. Is our main hope the new data privacy laws being enacted in Europe, China, and Russia, which actually have heavy fines as well as criminal prosecutions (i.e. execs going to jail)? This especially applies to IoT devices where it is in their financial interest to make un-upgradable devices, forcing people to toss their 1.0 lightbulbs and buy 1.0.1 lightbulbs to fix a security issue, as opposed to making them secure in the first place, or having an upgrade mechanism. Is there something that can actually be done about the general disinterest by companies to make secure products, or is this just the way life is now?
Security

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Hard Truths IT Must Learn To Accept? (cio.com) 421

snydeq writes: "The rise of shadow IT, shortcomings in the cloud, security breaches -- IT leadership is all about navigating hurdles and deficiencies, and learning to adapt to inevitable setbacks," writes Dan Tynan in an article on six hard truths IT must learn to accept. "It can be hard to admit that you've lost control over how your organization deploys technology, or that your network is porous and your code poorly written. Or no matter how much bandwidth you've budgeted for, it never quite seems to be enough, and that despite its bright promise, the cloud isn't the best solution for everything." What are some hard truths your organization has been dealing with? Tynan writes about how the idea of engineering teams sticking a server in a closet and using it to run their own skunkworks has become more open; how an organization can't do everything in the cloud, contrasting the 40 percent of CIOs surveyed by Gartner six years ago who believed they'd be running most of their IT operations in the cloud by now; and how your organization should assume from the get-go that your environment has already been compromised and design a security plan around that. Can you think of any other hard truths IT must learn to accept?
Government

Ask Slashdot: Should Users Uninstall Kaspersky's Antivirus Software? (slashdot.org) 313

First, here's the opinion of two former NSA cybersecurity analysts (via Consumer Reports): "It's a big deal," says Blake Darche, a former NSA cybersecurity analyst and the founder of the cybersecurity firm Area 1. "For any consumers or small businesses that are concerned about privacy or have sensitive information, I wouldn't recommend running Kaspersky." By its very nature antivirus software is an appealing tool for hackers who want to access remote computers, security experts say. Such software is designed to scan a computer comprehensively as it searches for malware, then send regular reports back to a company server. "One of the things people don't realize, by installing that tool you give [the software manufacturer] the right to pull any information that might be interesting," says Chris O'Rourke, another former NSA cybersecurity expert who is the CEO of cybersecurity firm Soteria.
But for that reason, Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky suggests any anti-virus software will be targetted by nation-state actors, and argues that for most users, "non-state criminal threats are worse. That's why Interpol this week signed a new information-sharing agreement with Kaspersky despite all the revelations in the U.S. media: The international police cooperation organization deals mainly with non-state actors, including profit-seeking hackers, rather than with the warring intelligence services."

And long-time Slashdot reader freddieb is a loyal Kaspersky user who is wondering what to do, calling the software "very effective and non-intrusive." And in addition, "Numerous recent hacks have gotten my data (Equifax, and others) so I expect I have nothing else to fear except ransomware."

Share your own informed opinions in the comments. Should users uninstall Kaspersky's antivirus software?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Apply For A Job When Your Code Samples Suck? 408

An anonymous Slashdot reader ran into a problem when looking for a new employer: Most ask for links to "recent work" but the reason I'm leaving my current job is because this company doesn't produce good code. After years of trying to force them to change, they have refused to change any of their poor practices, because the CTO is a narcissist and doesn't recognize that so much is wrong. I have written good code for this company. The problem is it is mostly back-end code where I was afforded some freedom, but the front-end is still a complete mess that doesn't reflect any coherent coding practice whatsoever...

I am giving up on fixing this company but finding it hard to exemplify my work when it is hidden behind some of the worst front-end code I have ever seen. Most job applications ask for links to live code, not for code samples (which I would more easily be able to supply). Some of the websites look okay on the surface, but are one right click -> inspect element away from giving away the mess; most of the projects require a username and password to login as well but account registration is not open. So how do I reference my recent work when all of my recent work is embarrassing on the front-end?

The original submission's title asked what to use for work samples "when the CTO has butchered all my work." Any suggestions? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. How can you apply for a job when your code samples suck?
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite William Gibson Novel? 298

dryriver writes: When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer and then his other novels as a young man back in the 1990s, I was blown away by Gibson's work. Everything was so fresh and out of the ordinary in his books. The writing style. The technologies. The characters and character names. The plotlines. The locations. The future world he imagined. The Matrix. It was unlike anything I had read before. A window into the far future of humanity. I had great hopes over the years that some visionary film director would take a crack at creating film versions of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive . But that never happened. All sorts of big budget science fiction was produced for TV and the big screen since Neuromancer that never got anywhere near the brilliance of Gibson's future world. Gibson's world largely stayed on the printed page, and today very few people talk about Neuromancer, even though the world we live in, at times, appears headed in the exact direction Gibson described in his Sprawl trilogy. Why does hardly anybody talk about William Gibson anymore? His books describe a future that is much more technologically advanced than where we are in 2017, so it isn't like his future vision has become "badly dated." To get the conversation going, we rephrased dryriver's question... What is your favorite William Gibson novel?
Android

Slashdot Asks: Does the World Need a Third Mobile OS? 304

Now that it is evident that Microsoft doesn't see any future with Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile), it has become clear that there is no real, or potential competitor left to fight Android and iOS for a slice of the mobile operating system market. Mozilla tried Firefox OS, but that didn't work out either. BlackBerry's BBOS also couldn't find enough taker. Ideally, the market is more consumer friendly when there are more than one or two dominant forces. Do you think some company, or individual, should attempt to create their own mobile operating system?
Advertising

Ask Slashdot: Is Deliberately Misleading People On the Internet Free Speech? 503

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: Before anyone cries "free speech must always be free," let me qualify the question. Under a myriad of different internet sites and blogs are these click-through adverts that promise quick "miracle cures" for everything from toenail fungus to hair loss to tinnitus to age-related skin wrinkles to cancer. A lot of the ads begin with copy that reads "This one weird trick cures....." Most of the "cures" on offer are complete and utter crap designed to lift a few dollars from the credit cards of hundreds of thousands of gullible internet users. The IQ boosting pills that supposedly give you "amazing mental focus after just 2 weeks" don't work at all. Neither do any of the anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle creams, regardless of which "miracle berry" extract they put in them this year. And if you try to cure your cancer with an Internet remedy rather than seeing a doctor, you may actually wind up dead.

So the question -- is peddling this stuff online really "free speech"? You are promising something grandiose in exchange for hard cash that you know doesn't deliver any benefits at all.

Long-time Slashdot reader apraetor counters, "But how do you determine what is 'true'?" And Slashdot reader ToTheStars argues "It's already established that making claims about medicine is subject to scrutiny by the FDA (or the relevant authority in your jurisdiction)." But are other things the equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Is deliberately misleading people on the internet free speech?
Security

Ask Slashdot: Share Your Security Review Tales 198

New submitter TreZ writes: If you write software, you are most likely subject to a "security review" at some point. A large portion of this is common sense like don't put plain text credentials into github, don't write your own encryption algorithms, etc. Once you get past that there is a "subjective" nature to these reviews.

What is the worst "you can't do" or "you must do" that you've been subjected to in a security review? A fictitious example would be: you must authenticate all clients with a client certificate, plus basic auth, plus MFA token. Tell your story here, omitting incriminating details.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Which Businesses Will Go Away In the Next 10 Years? (nbcnews.com) 495

AmiMoJo writes: Ten years ago NBC published a list of business types that it predicted would disappear in the following decade. Ten years later and we can see how good their fortune telling was. What businesses do you think will go away by 2027? Who is destined to become the next buggy whip manufacturer, whose demand dried up due to changing technology and a changing world?

For reference, NBC's list was: Record stores; Camera film manufacturing; Crop dusters; Gay bars; Newspapers; Pay phones; Used bookstores; Piggy banks; Telemarketing; Coin-operated arcades.

Android

Ask Slashdot: Why Would Anyone Want To Spend $1,000 on a Smartphone? 487

Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the $1,000 sticker price for the base model of iPhone X, the latest flagship smartphone from the company which goes on sale next month, is "a value price for the technology that you're getting." An anonymous reader writes: I simply don't understand why anyone would want to spend such amount on a phone. Don't get me wrong. Having a smartphone is crucial in this day and age. I get it. But even a $200 phone, untethered from any carrier contract, will let you install the apps you need, will allow you to take good pictures, surf the web, and listen to music. That handset might not be as fast as the iPhone X or Samsung's new Galaxy Note 8, or it might not be able to take as great pictures, but the difference, I feel, doesn't warrant an additional $800. The reader shares a column: When considering a purchase, comparing the value a product will add to our lives, and its cost is wise. Subjective perceptions affect how we value possessions, but let's consider the practical value of how we use smartphones. Smartphones aren't used for talking as often as the phones that preceded them were. In fact, actual "phone" use ranks below messaging, web surfing, social media and other activities that dominate smartphone usage. Furthermore, statistically we use only six core apps regularly. [...] My point is, smartphones have't changed all that much relatively speaking. Sure they're bigger, faster, more powerful and have awesome cameras. But the iPhone X is fundamentally the same device the earlier iPhones were, and provides the same basic and sought after functions. It's a glass-covered rectangular slab mostly used for messaging, web-surfing, music and social media activity. An individual's perception of self, financial resources, desired or actual social position and love for tech will likely play a role in his perception of the value of a $1,000 smartphone.

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