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Government

Theresa May Becomes UK's 'Spy Queen' and New Prime Minister (arstechnica.co.uk) 238

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Theresa May has become the new British Prime Minister. As she sat down with the Queen on Wednesday, a controversial surveillance draft legislation that looks to significantly increase surveillance of Brits' online activity will be debated during its second committee stage day in the House of Lords. Ars Technica reports: "The Investigatory Powers Act could be in place within months of May arriving at Number 10 -- if peers and legal spats fail to scupper its passage through parliament -- after MPs recently waved it through having secured only minor amendments to the bill. As home secretary, May fought for six years to get her so-called Snoopers' Charter onto the statute books." According to Ars Technica, Theresa May's key political moments on the Investigatory Powers Bill start in 1997 when she became the Member of Parliament for Maidenhead. During her opposition years, her home affairs record shows that she generally votes against the Labour government's more draconian measures on topics such as anti-terrorism and ID cards. Mid-2009: May votes against requiring ISPs to retain certain categories of communications data, which they generate or process, for a minimum period of 12 months. 2010: She was appointed home secretary in coalition government between the Conservatives and junior partner the Liberal Democrats. 2011: The previous government's shelved Interception Modernization Program is rebranded as the Communications Capabilities Development Program (CCDP) by home office under May. Mid-2012: The CCDP morphs into Communications Data Bill, which is brought before parliament. Late-2012: May's Snoopers' Charter bid fails as deputy PM Nick Clegg orders the home office to go back to the drawing board. Mid-2014: May rushes what she characterizes as an "emergency" Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill through parliament, after the European Court of Justice invalidates the Data Retention Directive for failing to have adequate privacy safeguards in place. Late-2015: British security services have intercepted bulk communications data of UK citizens for years, May reveals to MPs for the first time as she brings her revamped Snoopers' Charter bid -- this time dubbed the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) -- before parliament. Mid-2016: MPs support thrust of IPB as it passes through the House of Commons. July 13, 2016: Theresa May becomes the UK's new prime minister as peers in the House of Lords undertake a second day of committee stage scrutiny of the Investigatory Powers Bill. UPDATE 7/13/16: Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who led the Brexit campaign, has been made foreign secretary by the new Prime Minister Theresa May.
Android

Google Will Let You Share Movies, Apps, and Music You Buy With Up To Six People (cnet.com) 57

Google reportedly plans to introduce Google Play Family Library plan later this month which will enable users to share their Android apps, games, and media purchases with five different people. The feature, which is similar to Apple's Family Sharing plan, is something that many will find super useful. If nothing, you can split the cost of an app or a music album with your friends. CNET reports:It works like this. Everyone in the group will be able to access every single app, video and book that's available to the [primary] account holder. If you decide to let the kids run wild on your media collection, you can even remove specific titles from the library to keep it more kid-friendly, or hide certain artists you might not want to share with others. You don't have to pay extra to sign up for the Google Play Family Library, but you will need a credit card saved to the account for future purchases. To avoid any financial snafus that might come with multiple account users, Google will send a receipt so there aren't any unpleasant (or expensive) surprises.
Businesses

Amazon Wants People to Pay for Podcasts (bloomberg.com) 72

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: There are several hundred thousand podcasts available through Apple's podcast app, and all of them cost the same amount: nothing. Starting today, you can have access to a far smaller slate of podcasts for a few bucks a month over at Audible, the audio books service owned by Amazon. Audible is betting that avid podcast fans will pay $4.95 per month for Channels, an exclusive selection of ad-free original podcasts, comedy performances, and audio renditions of written articles. The subscription is free for current Audible members. While Apple has always loomed large over podcasting, other big companies like Amazon, Google, and Spotify are beginning to inch into the space. Channels is Amazon's first major foray into the business and puts it in a position to be both a platform for and creator of new shows. "They are doing to audio what they did with Prime Video -- it's vertical integration, and it puts them in a position where they can firmly participate in the larger development of culture," said Nick Quah, who writes the podcasting newsletter Hot Pod.Is the right move? Will people for it? AdAge writes:A lot of people don't think there will be a Netflix of podcasting. Andy Bowers, chief content officer of Slate's Panoply Network, said the best chance for a subscription model to work would be to offer one that offers ad-free versions of many of the most popular podcasts that exist today. "Short of that -- and I don't see anyone doing that at the moment -- I think the ad-supported version is here to stay for a while," he said. Still, a handful of other podcasting businesses have begun experimenting with paid premium services. Acast, a podcast app, created an option for its podcasters to begin charging for content earlier this year. Midroll Media charges $4.99 a month for a service called Howl that offers access to original shows and archives of popular podcasts like "WTF with Marc Maron."
Data Storage

UW, Microsoft Successfully Encoded 200MB of Data Onto Synthetic DNA Molecules (seattletimes.com) 46

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Seattle Times: Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington said Thursday that they had successfully encoded about 200 megabytes of data onto synthetic DNA molecules. The information included more than 100 books, translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a high-definition music video from the band OK Go. Previously, the record was 22 megabytes encoded and decoded on DNA, said the researchers. Microsoft's lead researcher on the project, Karin Strauss, said DNA storage of the type demonstrated in the UW lab could, theoretically, store an exabyte (one billion gigabytes) of data in about one cubic inch of DNA material. "Our goal is really to build systems to show that it is possible," she said. DNA is also very durable. If stored in the right conditions, data encoded on DNA could be readable for thousands of years, compared to typical hard disks or flash drives that can fail in a few years.
Australia

The Fight To Save the Australian Digital Archive Trove (abc.net.au) 87

Slashdot reader sandbagger writes: A digital archive and research tool developed by the Australian National Archives may be the victim of upcoming budget cuts. Used by an estimated 70,000 users per day, the system may be eliminated thanks to a $20 Million (AUD) budget cut to the agency's budget. Since its 2009 launch, Trove has grown to house four million digitised items, including books, images, music, historic newspapers and maps. Critics of the cuts say that such systems should be considered national infrastructure because there's literally no replacement service.
Crime

Aaron Swartz Ebook's DRM Has Been Cracked (hackaday.com) 63

Slashdot reader jenningsthecat writes: From Hackaday comes news that the collected writings of Aaron Swartz, released as a watermarked eBook by publishing company Verso Books, has had its watermarking scheme cracked by The Institute for Biblio-Immunology, who also published a guide for removing the BooXtream watermarks.

The writings of Aaron Swartz, with DRM applied? Oh, the irony. Still, at least the DRM employed doesn't restrict a user from reading the book on any and all capable devices, so it's not a very intrusive form of DRM. But I somehow doubt that Mr. Swartz would take any comfort from that...

Democrats

Elizabeth Warren Says Apple, Amazon and Google Are Trying To 'Lock Out' Competition (recode.net) 321

Elizabeth Warren, an American academic and member of the Democratic Party, believes that Google, Apple, and Amazon are trying to use their size to "snuff out competition." In a speech about the perils of "consolidation and concentration" throughout the economy, the Massachusetts senator singled out the three of tech's biggest players. From a report:Warren had different beefs with Google, Apple and Amazon, but the common thread was that she accused each one of using its powerful platform to "lock out smaller guys and newer guys," including some that compete with Google, Apple and Amazon. Google, she said, uses "its dominant search engine to harm rivals of its Google Plus user review feature;" Apple "has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services" that compete with Apple Music; and Amazon "uses its position as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers.""Google, Apple and Amazon have created disruptive technologies that changed the world, and ... they deserve to be highly profitable and successful," Warren said. "But the opportunity to compete must remain open for new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world again."
Education

Amazon Unveils Inspire Online Education Service For Teachers and Schools (geekwire.com) 32

Amazon on Monday launched a new site called Amazon Inspire where K-12 teachers and schools can upload and access unlimited education and classroom resources such as videos, tests, projects, games, lesson plans with their peers across the country for free of charge. In a statement, the company said, "Our ultimate goal is for every teacher in every single subject to benefit from Amazon Inspire. When they walk into a classroom, we want every teacher to benefit from the collective knowledge, the collective insights and the experience of every single one of their peers." GeekWire reports:It's the latest in a series of moves by Amazon in the education technology market. The company acquired the TenMarks online math startup in 2014, and separately markets e-books and tablets for teachers and school districts. The company describes the project as an outgrowth of its involvement in the U.S. Department of Education's GoOpen initiative. Amazon also provides technical resources and support for the department's Learning Registry open database.
Hardware

Amazon's New Kindle Is Only $80, Comes In White, and With More Storage 87

Found the $290 Kindle Oasis too expensive? Amazon has a new, familiar e-reader for you. On Wednesday, the e-commerce giant announced a new, more-affordable Kindle that is pretty much identical to the Kindle Paperwhite, but costs only $80. It comes in white as well as black, and has 512MB storage space (the Kindle Paperwhite sport a 256MB internal storage chip). From an Ars Technica report:In addition to the extra memory, the $80 Kindle will have a slightly thinner, lighter, and more rounded design than its predecessors. It will have a touchscreen display as well, but it won't be the 300 PPI screen that the $120 Kindle Paperwhite has (it will sport a 167 PPI display instead). Some reports also suggest that the new Kindle will come with Bluetooth support so blind readers can hook up a pair of wireless headphones to listen to books, along with a note-sending feature that will let you send yourself messages and highlights, which can be exported as PDFs or spreadsheets.
Books

Apple Starts To Shell Out $400 Million To Customers In eBook Settlement (cnet.com) 30

An anonymous reader writes: Starting today, millions of e-book purchasers will get either credits or checks for twice their losses, said legal firm Hagens Berman, which helped litigate the class action lawsuit. CNET reports: "Apple is on the hook for $400 million in damages plus an additional $30 million to pay the legal fees for Hagens Berman and $20 million to the state attorney generals who became involved in the case. On an individual basis, each plaintiff in the suit will receive $1.57 in credit for most e-books they bought and a $6.93 credit for every e-book purchased that was on the New York Times bestseller list. Consumers who purchased e-books from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 are eligible to receive credits deposited directly in their accounts or checks sent through the mail. In August 2011, a lawsuit filed by two individuals accused Apple of conspiring to fix e-book prices with five publishers: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Holtzbrinck Publishers, Penguin Group and Simon and Schuster. The DoJ and the attorneys general of several states joined in with their own suits against the publishers. The lawsuits charged that the actions of Apple and the publishers prevented other e-book sellers from competing on price, thereby increasing the prices that consumers had to pay for e-books. After being found guilty of violating antitrust laws by a U.S. District Judge in 2013 and by an Appeals court in 2015, Apple's request for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied this past March, forcing it to settle with the plaintiffs."
Books

Hacker Who Stole Half-Life 2's Source Code Interviewed For New Book (arstechnica.com) 192

"Can you love a game so much you must take its sequel?" asks Ars Technica, posting an excerpt from the new book "Death By Video Game: Danger, Pleasure, and Obsession on the Virtual Frontline." At 6am on May 7, 2004, Axel Gembe awoke in the small German town of Schonau im Schwarzwald to find his bed surrounded by police officers bearing automatic weapons... "You are being charged with hacking into Valve Corporation's network, stealing the video game Half-Life 2, leaking it onto the Internet, and causing damages in excess of $250 million... Get dressed..." The corridors were lined by police, squeezed into his father's house...
Gembe had tried creating homegrown keystroke-recorders specifically targeted at Valve, according to the book, but then poking around their servers he'd discovered one which wasn't firewalled from the internal network. Gembe spent several weeks discovering notes and design documents, until eventually he stumbled onto the latest version of the unreleased game's source code. He'd never meant for the code to be leaked onto the internet -- but he did share it with another person who did. ("I didn't think it through. The person I shared the source with assured me he would keep it to himself. He didn't...")

Eventually Gembe contacted Valve, apologized, and asked them for a job -- which led to a fake 40-minute job interview designed to gather enough evidence to arrest him. But ultimately a judge sentenced him to two years probation -- and Half-Life 2 went on to sell 8.6 million copies.
IBM

IBM Engineer Builds a Harry Potter Sorting Hat Using 'Watson' AI (thenextweb.com) 117

An anonymous reader writes: As America celebrates Father's Day, The Next Web reports on an IBM engineer who found a way to combine his daughters' interest in the Harry Potter series with an educational home technology project. Together they built a Hogwarts-style sorting hat -- which assigns its wearer into an appropriate residence house at the school of magic -- and it does it using IBM's cognitive computing platform Watson. "The hat uses Watson's Natural Language Classifier and Speech to Text to let the wearer simply talk to the hat, then be sorted according to what he or she says..." reports The Next Web. "Anderson coded the hat to pick up on words that fit the characteristics of each Hogwarts house, with brainy and cleverness going right into Ravenclaw's territory and honesty a recognized Hufflepuff attribute."
The hat's algorithm would place Stephen Hawking and Hillary Clinton into Ravenclaw, according to the article, while Donald Trump "was assigned to Gryffindor for his boldness -- but only with a 48 percent certainty."

The sorting hat talks, drawing its data directly from the IBM Cloud, and if you're interested in building your own, the IBM engineer has shared a tutorial online.
Books

What Star Trek Owes To Robert Heinlein 180

HughPickens.com writes: As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, Manu Saudia, author of Trekonomics, has an interesting article on BoingBoing about how according to Gene Roddenberry himself, no author had more influence on The Original Star Trek than Robert Heinlein, and more specifically his juvenile novel Space Cadet. That book, published in 1948, is considered a classic. It is a bildungsroman, retelling the education of young Matt Dodson from Iowa, who joins the Space Patrol and becomes a man. (In a homage from Roddenberry, Star Trek's Captain James Tiberius Kirk is also from Iowa.) The Space Patrol is a prototype of Starfleet: it is a multiracial, multinational institution, entrusted with keeping the peace in the solar system. In Space Cadet, Heinlein portrayed a society where racism had been overcome. Not unlike Starfleet, the Space Patrol was supposed to be a force for good. According to Saudia, the hierarchical structure and naval ranks of the first Star Trek series (a reflection of Heinlein's Annapolis days) were geared to appeal to Heinlein's readers and demographics, all these starry-eyed kids who, like Roddenberry himself, had read Space Cadet and Have Spacesuit -- Will Travel. Nobody cared about your sex or the color of your skin as long as you were willing to sign up for the Space Patrol or Starship Troopers' Federal service. Where it gets a little weird is that Heinlein's Space Patrol controls nuclear warheads in orbit around Earth, and its mission is to nuke any country that has been tempted to go to war with its neighbors. This supranational body in charge of deterrence, enforcing peace and democracy on the home planet by the threat of annihilation, was an extrapolation of what could potentially be achieved if you combined the UN charter with mutually assured destruction. "The fat finger on the nuclear trigger makes it a very doubtful proposition," concludes Saudia. "The Space Patrol, autonomous and unaccountable, is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek."
Sci-Fi

William Gibson Announces New Sci-Fi Comic Book (arstechnica.com) 32

68-year-old science fiction author William Gibson just released a complicated new science fiction comic book, and this weekend Ars Technica proclaimed that "the results are grand". An anonymous reader shares their report: A father and son occupy the new White House as President and Vice President. We never meet dad, but his son -- an evil jerk by the name of Junior Henderson -- has been surgically altered to resemble his grandfather, because Junior is about travel to an alternate Earth in 1945 to take grandpa's place, with the intent of remaking that world more to his liking (and, presumably, to prevent whatever it was that laid waste to the one we start off in)...The world is in ruins. The White House relocated to the ominous-sounding National Emergency Federal District in Montana. They have technology that far outstrips our own...

"It's an alternate-history/cross-worlds story," Gibson writes... "And I wouldn't want to spoil too much of the frame, because that's an inherent part of our narrative. But I will say that one of the first verbal tags we had for the material was 'Band Of Brothers vs. Blackwater.'"

On his Twitter feed, Gibson is also applauding the news that Marvel and DC comics abandoned a two and a half year legal battle to enforce their trademark on the word "superhero" against a publisher in the U.K.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Books Should An Aspiring Coder Read? 178

Earlier this month Bill Gates released his summer reading list, which included Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson and mathematician Jordan Ellenberg's book How Not to be Wrong. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader asks for your book recommendations. I've been trying to learn more about coding, but I need a break sometimes from technical documentation and O'Reilly books. Are there any good books that can provide some good general context and maybe teach me about our place in the history of technology or the state of the programming profession today?
In the U.S., Memorial Day is considered the "unofficial" first weekend of summer -- so what should be on this geek's summer reading list? Cracking the Coding Interview? Godel, Escher, Bach? This year's Nebula award winners? George Takei's The Internet Strikes Back? Leave your suggestions in the comments. What books should an aspiring coder be reading?
Books

Slashdot Asks: Should It Be Legal To Resell E-Books, Software, and Other Digital Goods? (arstechnica.co.uk) 380

There's no one stopping you from selling the CDs and DVDs that you buy, so why can't you do the same with e-books, music albums, movies, and other things you've downloaded? Ars Technica reports about a Dutch second-hand e-book platform called Tom Kabinet which has been "at a war" with Dutch Publishers Association (NUV) over this issue. This is seen as a threat to the entire book industry. German courts have suggested that the practice of reselling e-books should be stopped, whereas Dutch courts don't necessarily see it as an issue. What's your view on this?
Medicine

Why Don't Scientists Kill The 'Demon In The Freezer'? 287

HughPickens.com writes: Smallpox was one of the most devastating diseases humanity has ever faced, killing more than 300 million people in the 20th century alone. But thanks to the most successful global vaccination campaign in history, the disease was completely eradicated by 1980. By surrounding the last places on earth where smallpox was still occurring -- small villages in Asia and Africa -- and inoculating everyone in a wide circle around them, D. A. Henderson and the World Health Organization were able to starve the virus of hosts. Smallpox is highly contagious, but it is not spread by insects or animals. When it is gone from the human population, it is gone for good. But Errol Moris writes in the NYT that Henderson didn't really eliminate smallpox. In a handful of laboratories around the world, there are still stocks of smallpox, tucked away in one freezer or another. In 2014 the CDC announced that vials containing the deadly virus had been discovered in a cardboard box in a refrigerator located on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, Maryland. How can you say it's eliminated when it's still out there, somewhere? The demon in the freezer.

Some scientists say that these residual stocks of smallpox should not be destroyed because some ruthless super-criminal or rogue government might be working on a new smallpox, even more virulent than existing strains of the virus. We may need existing stocks to produce new vaccines to counteract the new viruses. Meanwhile, opponents of retention argue that there's neither need nor practical reason for keeping the virus around. In a letter to Science Magazine published in 1994, the Nobel laureate David Baltimore wrote, "I doubt that we so desperately need to study smallpox that it would be worth the risk inherent in the experimentation." It all comes down to the question of how best to protect ourselves against ourselves. Is the greater threat to humanity our propensity for error and stupidity, or for dastardly ingenuity?
Businesses

Amazon "Invades" College Campus With Media Center (businessinsider.com) 59

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon opened its first media center on a college campus, including couches, conference tables and TVs with game controllers, as well as a full-time Amazon staffer and a package pickup station. Since 40% of the boxes delivered to Penn are from Amazon, it will be installed in one of the dining halls, according to CNET, offering Amazon Prime members same-day or next-day delivery for more than 3 million items, from textbooks to toothpaste. Amazon already has pickup points on five college campuses, and hopes to add five more by the end of the year, in an effort to compete with 748 college bookstores run by Barnes and Noble.
One analyst told CNET, "They just want to hook you when you're 20."
Youtube

Amazon Goes After YouTube With New Online Video Posting Service (bloomberg.com) 61

Spencer Soper, writing for Bloomberg (edited and condensed): Amazon will let people post videos to its website and earn money from advertising, royalties and other sources, putting the company in more-direct competition with Google's YouTube. Amazon already offers movies and television programs over the Internet -- including its own original productions -- to compete with Netflix. The new product dubbed Video Direct will let Amazon give consumers more options about what to watch without an upfront fee because many of those posting videos will be paid based on how their content performs. Competing streaming services have been driving up the cost of this material. Amazon used a similar strategy to boost its inventory of electronic books through Kindle Direct Publishing, which lets authors bypass traditional publishers and reach readers directly by posting and selling their own e-books online. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant said the service is designed for "professional video producers," but its only requirements are that the videos be high definition and have closed-captioning for the hearing impaired.The company is offering 15 cents for every hour of viewing a video creator's content via Prime Video in the U.S, and six cents an hour for views outside of the U.S. Content creators can also allow Amazon to show their videos to any visitor for free. In such case, Amazon says it is offering 55 percent of all ad revenue their clips generate. Content creators can also sell their videos via its subscription service, or its rental its store -- in which case, Amazon will offer 50 percent of the revenue. YouTube has been long criticized for paying less to YouTube creators, forcing many to leave the platform, or look for alternate revenue channels.

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