Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To the World ( 56

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates., Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from

Chinese Company Offers Free Training For US Coal Miners To Become Wind Farmers ( 201

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: If you want to truly understand what's happening in the energy industry, the best thing to do is to travel deep into the heart of American coal country, to Carbon County, Wyoming (yes, that's a real place). The state produces most coal in the US, and Carbon County has long been known (and was named) for its extensive coal deposits. But the state's mines have been shuttering over the past few years, causing hundreds of people to lose their jobs in 2016 alone. Now, these coal miners are finding hope, offered from an unlikely place: a Chinese wind-turbine maker wants to retrain these American workers to become wind-farm technicians. It's the perfect metaphor for the massive shift happening in the global energy markets. The news comes from an energy conference in Wyoming, where the American arm of Goldwind, a Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer, announced the free training program. More than a century ago, Carbon County was home to the first coal mine in Wyoming. Soon, it will be the site of a new wind farm with hundreds of Goldwind-supplied turbines.

Apple's Jonathan Ive Says Immigration Vital For UK Firms ( 123

The UK must keep its doors open to top talent from around the world if its technology firms are to thrive, Apple's chief designer has told the BBC. An anonymous reader shares the article: Sir Jonathan Ive, who has just been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, also said that technology hubs like Silicon Valley had a "tremendous cultural diversity". Some technology firms fear they may lose access to talent after Brexit. "That general principle [on access] is terribly important for creating a context for multiple companies to grow and in a healthy way explore and develop new products and new product types," Sir Jonathan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Sir Jonathan said the UK had a "fabulous tradition of design education", but that it needed to do more to become a technology hub on a par with Silicon Valley in California, where the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are based. "I think Silicon Valley has infrastructures to support start-up companies... ranging from technological support through to funding," he said. "And there is the sense that failure isn't irreversible, so very often people will work on an idea, and there isn't the same sense of stigma when one idea and perhaps one company doesn't work out."

It's Time For Academics To Take Back Control Of Research Journals ( 73

Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, has a piece on The Guardian today in which he outlines the history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research. An excerpt from the article: "Publish or perish" has long been the mantra of seeking to make a success of their research career. Reputations are built on the ability to communicate something new to the world. Increasingly, however, they are determined by numbers, not by words, as universities are caught in a tangle of management targets composed of academic journal impact factors, university rankings and scores in the government's research excellence framework. The chase for metricised success has been further exacerbated by the takeover of scholarly publishing by profit-seeking commercial companies, which pose as partners but no longer seem properly in tune with academia. Evidence of the growing divergence between academic and commercial interests is visible in the secrecy around negotiations on subscription and open access charges. It's also clear from the popularity among academics of the controversial site Sci-Hub, which has made over 60m research articles freely available on the internet. Over-worked researchers could be forgiven for thinking that the time-honoured mantra has morphed to "publish, and perish anyway."

Researchers Find Dozens of Genes Associated With Measures of Intelligence ( 266

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We don't know a lot about the biological basis of our mental abilities -- we can't even consistently agree on how best to test them -- but a few things seem clear. One is that performance on a number of standardized tests that purport to measure intelligence tends to correlate with outcomes we'd associate with intelligence, like educational achievement. A second is that this performance seems to have a large genetic component. But initial studies clearly indicated that the effect of any individual gene on intelligence is small. As a result, the first genetics studies found very little, since you needed to look at a large number of people in order to see these small effects. Now, a new study has combined much of the previous work and has turned up 40 new genetic regions associated with intelligence test scores. But again, the effect of any individual gene is pretty minor. The team behind the new work took advantage of open data to pull together information from 13 different studies, which cumulatively looked through the genomes of over 78,000 individuals. While those individuals had been given a variety of tests, the authors focused on measures of general intelligence or fluid intelligence (the two seem to measure similar things). The genomes of these individuals had been scanned for single base pair differences, allowing the authors to look for correlations between regions of the genome and test scores. Two separate analyses were done. The first simply looked at each base difference individually. That turned up 336 individual bases, which clustered into 22 different genes. Half of these had not been associated with intelligence previously. To provide a separate validation of these results, the authors did a similar analysis with educational achievement. They found that nearly all of the sites they identified also correlated with that. In a second analysis, the authors tracked base differences that cluster in a single gene. Since there are more markers for each gene, this tends to be a more sensitive way of looking for effects. And in fact, it produced 47 genes associated with the intelligence test scores. Seventeen of those had been identified in the earlier analysis, which brought the total genes identified to 52, only 12 of which had been previously associated with intelligence test scores.

Linux Distros Won't Run On Microsoft's Education-Focused Windows 10 S OS ( 115

Reader BrianFagioli writes: I was sort of hopeful for Windows 10 S when Microsoft made a shocking announcement at Build 2017 that it is bringing Linux distributions to the Windows Store. This gave the impression that students using the S variant of the OS would be able to tinker with Linux. Unfortunately, this is not the case as Microsoft will be blocking Linux on the new OS. In other words, not all apps in the store will be available for Windows 10 S. "Windows 10 S does not run command-line applications, nor the Windows Console, Cmd / PowerShell, or Linux/Bash/WSL instances since command-line apps run outside the safe environment that protects Windows 10 S from malicious / misbehaving software," says Rich Turner, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft. Tuner further explains, "Linux distro store packages are an exotic type of app package that are published to the Windows Store by known partners. Users find and install distros , safely, quickly, and reliably via the Windows Store app. Once installed, however, distros should be treated as command-line tools that run outside the UWP sandbox and secure runtime infrastructure. They run with the capabilities granted to the local user -- in the same way as Cmd and PowerShell do. This is why Linux distros don't run on Windows 10 S: Even though they're delivered via the Windows Store, and installed as standard UWP APPX's, they run as non-UWP command-line tools and this can access more of a system than a UWP can."

Elsevier Wants $15 Million In 'Piracy' Damages From Sci-Hub and Libgen ( 158

lbalbalba writes: Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers, is demanding $15 million in damages from Sci-Hub and LibGen, who make paywalled scientific research papers freely available to the public [without permission]. A good chunk of these papers are copyrighted, many by Elsevier. Elsevier has requested a default judgment of $15 million against the defendants for their "truly egregious conduct" and "staggering" infringement. Sci-Hub's efforts are backed by many prominent scholars, who argue that tax-funded research should be accessible to everyone. Others counter that the site doesn't necessarily help the "open access" movement move forward. Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan defends her position and believes that what she does is helping millions of less privileged researchers to do their work properly by providing free access to research results.

A Quarter of IT Pros Find Their Job Very Stressful ( 108

An anonymous reader writes: A new report from Spiceworks, entitled A Portrait of IT Workers, says 41 per cent of IT pros in the UK consider themselves "accidental" -- and that they ended up in their career via a "non-traditional" route. The report, which covers areas including the career plans and education levels of IT professionals, found that a third (33 per cent) of the UK's IT job force don't have a college or a university degree. [...] When it comes to working, British IT bods work 41 hours a week, "far above" the 31 hour average across all industries. Almost all (89 per cent) see themselves as "somewhat stressed" at work, with a quarter (26 per cent) reported being extremely stressed.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust ( 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
United States

The Reign of the $100 Graphing Calculator Required By Every US Math Class Is Finally Ending ( 281

If you took a math class at some point in the US, there is likely a bulky $100 calculator gathering dust somewhere in your closet. Fast forward to today, and the Texas Instruments 84 -- or the TI 84-Plus, or the TI-89 or any of the other even more expensive hardware variants -- is quickly losing relevance. Engadget adds: Thanks to a new deal, they'll soon get a free option. Starting this spring, pupils in 14 US states will be able to use the TI-like Desmos online calculator during standardized testing run by the Smarter Balanced consortium. "We think students shouldn't have to buy this old, underpowered device anymore," Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff said. The Desmos calculator will be embedded directly into the assessments, meaning students will have access during tests with no need for an external device. It'll also be available to students in grades 6 through 8 and high school throughout the year. The calculator is free to use, and the company makes money by charging organizations to use it, according to Bloomberg.

'U Can't Talk to Ur Professor Like This' ( 486

Millennial college students have become far too casual when they talk with their professors, reads an opinion piece on The New York Times. Addressing professors by their first names and sending misspelled, informal emails with text abbreviations have become common practices (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; here's a syndicated source) among many students than educators would like, Molly Worthen, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill adds. From the article: Over the past decade or two, college students have become far more casual in their interactions with faculty members. My colleagues around the country grumble about students' sloppy emails and blithe informality. "When students started calling me by my first name, I felt that was too far, and I've got to say something," Mark Tomforde, a math professor at the University of Houston said. Sociologists who surveyed undergraduate syllabuses from 2004 and 2010 found that in 2004, 14 percent addressed issues related to classroom etiquette; six years later, that number had more than doubled, to 33 percent. This phenomenon crosses socio-economic lines. My colleagues at Stanford gripe as much as the ones who teach at state schools, and students from more privileged backgrounds are often the worst offenders. [...] Insisting on traditional etiquette is also simply good pedagogy. It's a teacher's job to correct sloppy prose, whether in an essay or an email. And I suspect that most of the time, students who call faculty members by their first names and send slangy messages are not seeking a more casual rapport. They just don't know they should do otherwise -- no one has bothered to explain it to them. Explaining the rules of professional interaction is not an act of condescension; it's the first step in treating students like adults.
United States

Google Owns the Classroom ( 114

An anonymous reader writes: The NYT's Natasha Singer has a fascinating, provocative look at "How Google Conquered The American Classroom." "[M]ore than half the nation's primary- and secondary-school students -- more than 30 million children -- use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs... Chromebooks, Google-powered laptops that initially struggled to find a purpose... account for more than half the mobile devices shipped to schools."

Open Source Educators 'OpenHatch' Close, Leaving Void For Campus Events ( 13

Long-time Slashdot reader paulproteus writes: OpenHatch was a non-profit that organized free tutorials with college computer science groups to learn how to teach how to get involved in open source, covered previously on Slashdot. It has run more than 50 events so far. On Friday, it announced it is closing its doors due to board members moving on to other projects, leaving open the door for other people to organize future Open Source Comes to Campus events.
If you have any stories to share about Open Hatch -- or other campus outreach groups -- feel free to leave them in the comments. Are any Slashdot readers involved with Open Source outreach efforts?

Why Doesn't Harvard Want To Talk About Its Mystery Microsoft Azure Project? ( 51

theodp writes: GeekWire's Tom Krazit reports, "Microsoft Azure appears to have scored a high-profile customer: Harvard University's prestigious CS50 computer science class, not that anybody wants to talk about it." A deleted-today-but-still-cached Microsoft Technical Case Study on the software giant's GitHub account touts the success of a recent DevOps collaboration effort between Microsoft's Azure team and an unnamed "major U.S. research university." "This U.S. university is world-class," explains the case study, "well known for its research and its alumni. For now, they would prefer to remain anonymous, so this document will refer to them as 'the university' (the case study web page, however, is a not-so-anonymous 'CS50.html')." Like many IT projects, there seems to be a disconnect between the software vendor and the client. "The project we defined and delivered was exactly what they were looking for," boasts the case study's three Microsoft authors, who add that "full deployment and migration will wait until summer." Contacted for comment by GeekWire, however, Harvard CS professor extraordinaire David Malan seemed less committed to the relationship. "We're actually still on AWS," Malan wrote, "though most every summer we do tend to re-evaluate our apps' architecture for the coming year, with AWS, Azure, Google, et al. always among the candidates. So no plans yet, but happy to reach out toward summer's end if we've made any decisions!"

'The Traditional Lecture Is Dead' ( 233

Rhett Allain, an Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, writing for Wired: What is the traditional lecture? It is a model of learning in which a teacher possesses the knowledge on a given topic and disseminates it to students. This model dates to the beginning of education, when it was the only way of sharing information. In fact, you occasionally still see the person presenting the lecture called a reader, because way back before the internet and even the printing press, a teacher would literally read from a book so students could copy it all down. Now, don't get me wrong. The traditional lecture model worked wonderfully for eons. But it is an outdated idea (free pass for adblockers). Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a college physics course with a professor giving a traditional lecture. Now open your eyes. Did you envision The Best Physics Lecture EVAR? I doubt it. You probably pictured someone droning on and on in front of a chalkboard or PowerPoint presentation. No way that is more engaging or interesting than an episode of The Mechanical Universe , and if you're a teacher who uses traditional lectures, just stop and play the show instead. Everyone will be better off. You may think by now that I think most physics professors are dolts. I promise that's not the case. But traditional lectures simply aren't effective. Research shows students don't learn by hearing or seeing, they learn by doing, a model often called active learning. Physics faculty should start thinking about how they can go beyond just a traditional lecture. There are some easy things they can do (or students can ask them to do) to make learning more engaging. First, make students read the book outside of class, rather than in class. If your lecture merely covers the material in the textbook, why make students buy the textbook? Now, you may put a different spin on the material, but still. You're merely repeating what students can read on their own. Let them do that on their own time, and use the classroom for experiments and demonstrations and so forth.
Operating Systems

Opinion: Even if You Hate the Idea, Windows Users Should Want Windows 10 S To Succeed ( 259

Last week, Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 S, a new variant of its desktop operating system aimed largely at the education space. While time will tell how this new edition of Windows fares, if early reactions from enthusiasts are anything to go by, Windows 10 S is in for a tough ride ahead. For one, Windows 10 S only permits installation of applications from the Windows Store. If that wasn't a deal-breaker, several popular applications including Google's Chrome are missing from the Store. Amid all of this, reporter and columnist Peter Bright has an op-ed up on ArsTechnica in which he argues that despite the walled-garden offering, people should want Windows 10 S to succeed as it could make Windows better for everyone else. From his article: This [forbidding execution of any program that wasn't downloaded from the Windows Store] positions Microsoft as a gatekeeper -- although its criteria for entry within the store is for the most part not stringent, it does reserve the right to remove software that it deems undesirable -- and means that the vast majority of extant Windows software can't be used. This means that PC mainstays, from Adobe Photoshop to Valve's Steam, can't be used on Windows 10 S. [...] Some of the arguments against this are bizarre. Notably, the complaint that Microsoft has now erected a paywall -- "you have to pay $50 to run Steam!" -- is very peculiar when one considers that, in general, Windows licenses have never been free. [...] The Windows Store makes bad parts of Windows better: I'd argue, however, that Windows users should want Windows 10 S to succeed. Windows 10 S isn't for everybody, and Windows 10 S may not be for you, but if Windows 10 S succeeds, it will make Windows 10 better for everyone. The Store in Windows RT required developers to write their apps from scratch. With negligible numbers of users, developers were uninterested in doing this work. The Store in Windows 10 has Centennial. In principle, Centennial should make it easy to package existing Win32 apps and sell them through the Store, and if developers of Windows apps adopt Centennial en masse then the Store restriction shouldn't be particularly restrictive. Widespread adoption will be good for Windows users of all stripes.

Should The Government Pay For Veterans To Attend Code Schools? ( 168

mirandakatz writes: David Molina was finishing up his 12-year time in the army when he started teaching himself to code, and started to think that he might like to pursue it professionally once his service was done. But with a wife and family, he couldn't dedicate the four years he'd need to get an undergraduate degree in computer science -- and the GI Bill, he learned, won't cover accelerated programs like code schools. So he started an organization dedicated to changing that. Operation Code is lobbying politicians to allow vets to attend code schools through the GI Bill and prepare themselves for the sorts of stable, middle-class jobs that have come to be called "blue-collar coding." Molina sees it as a serious failing that the GI Bill will cover myriad vocational programs, but not those that can prepare veterans for one of the fastest-growing industries in existence.
The issue seems to be quality. The group estimates there are already nine code schools in the U.S. which do accept GI Bill benefits -- but only "longer-standing ones that have made it through State Approving Agencies." Meanwhile, Course Report calculates 18,000 people finished coding bootcamps last year -- and that two thirds of them found a job within three months.

But I just liked how Molina described his introduction into the world of programmers. While stationed at Dover Air Force Base, he attended Baltimore's long-standing Meetup for Ruby on Rails, where "People taught me about open source. There was pizza, there was beer. They made me feel like I was at home."

10 Percent of Harvard's Popular 'Introduction To Computer Science' Class Accused of Cheating ( 131

theodp writes: The Harvard Crimson reports that more than 60 of the 636 students enrolled in last fall's CS50: "Introduction to Computer Science I" course appeared before the College's Honor Council in a wave of academic dishonesty cases that has stretched the Council to its limits over the past few months. Former students and course staff, though, said course policy was unclear about what constituted cheating, creating the potential for unintentional violations. Consistently, one of the most popular courses at Harvard, CS50 is known for an unconventional atmosphere, complete with flashy promotional videos and corporate-sponsored events.

How Scratch Is Feeding Hacker Values into Young Minds ( 48

Reader mirandakatz writes: It's the 10th anniversary of Scratch, the kids programming language that's become a popular tool for training the next generation of minds in computer science. But as Steven Levy writes at Backchannel, Scratch's real value is how it imparts lessons in sharing, logic, and hackerism: 'A product of the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is steeped in a complicated set of traditions -- everything from educational philosophy to open source activism and the pursuit of artificial life. The underpinnings of this tool subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, convey a set of values through its use... These values include reverence of logic, an unshakeable belief in the power of collaboration, and a celebration of the psychic and tangible rewards of being a maker.'

EU Leader Says English Is Losing Importance ( 711

An anonymous reader writes: Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, opted to deliver a speech in French on Friday morning because he said "English is losing importance" in Europe. He gave the comments, which are unlikely to mend fences after a war of words between Brussels and London over Brexit negotiations, at the "State of the Union" conference in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio -- an annual event for European dignitaries. Juncker said he was opting for French because "slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and France has elections this Sunday and I want the French people to understand what I am saying about the importance of the EU." He spoke in English.

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