Sci-Fi

Amazon Is Developing a TV Series Based On Iain M. Banks' Sci-Fi Novel 'Consider Phlebas' (hollywoodreporter.com) 103

leathered writes: Jeff Bezos today announced that Amazon Studios has picked up the rights to adapt the late Iain M. Bank's acclaimed Culture novels to the small screen, beginning with the first in the series, Consider Phlebas. This comes after nearly three decades of attempts to bring Banks' utopian, post-scarcity society to film or television. A huge fan of the Culture series is Elon Musk, whose SpaceX drone ships are named after Culture space vessels. Here's how Amazon describes Consider Phlebas: "a kinetic, action-packed adventure on a huge canvas. The book draws upon the extraordinary world and mythology Banks created in the Culture, in which a highly advanced and progressive society ends up at war with the Idirans, a deeply religious, warlike race intent on dominating the entire galaxy. The story centers on Horza, a rogue agent tasked by the Idirans with the impossible mission of recovering a missing Culture 'Mind,' an artificial intelligence many thousands of times smarter than any human -- something that could hold the key to wiping out the Culture altogether. What unfolds, with Banks' trademark irreverent humor, ultimately asks the poignant question of how we can use technology to preserve our humanity, not surrender it."
The Courts

Man, Seeking New Copy of Windows 7 After Forced Windows 10 Upgrade, Sues Microsoft (bleepingcomputer.com) 356

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: An Albuquerque man has sued Microsoft and its CEO -- Satya Nadella -- seeking a fresh copy of Windows 7 or $600 million in damages. According to a civil complaint filed last week on February 14, Frank K. Dickman Jr. of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is suing Microsoft because of a botched forced Windows 10 upgrade. "I own a ASUS 54L laptop computer which has an OEM license for Windows Version 7," Dickman's claim reads. "The computer was upgraded to Windows Version 10 and became non-functional immediately. The upgrade deleted the cached, or backup, version of Windows 7." Dickman says that the laptop's original OEM vendor is "untrustworthy," hence, he cannot obtain a legitimate copy of Windows 7 to downgrade his laptop.
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There Are Ajit Pai 'Verizon Puppet' Jokes That the FCC Doesn't Want You To Read (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release the draft versions of jokes told by Chairman Ajit Pai at a recent dinner, claiming that releasing the drafts would "impede the candid exchange of ideas" within the commission. In December, Pai gave a speech at the annual FCC Chairman's Dinner and played a video that attempts to lampoon critics who accuse Pai of doing the bidding of Verizon, his former employer. The video was shown less than a week before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules, a favorable move for the broadband industry requested by Verizon and other ISPs. The satirical skit shows Pai planning his future ascension to the FCC chairmanship with Verizon executive Kathleen Grillo in 2003, the last year Pai worked as a Verizon lawyer. The video shows Pai and the Verizon executive plotting to install a "Verizon puppet" as FCC chair. In response, Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request for "any communications records from within the chairman's office referencing the event or the Verizon executive," the news site wrote yesterday. "Nearly a dozen pages worth of emails were located, including draft versions of the video's script and various edits," Gizmodo wrote. "The agency is refusing to release them, however; it is 'reasonably foreseeable,' it said, that doing so would injure the 'quality of agency decisions.'" The FCC searched for the records in response to Gizmodo's request and "returned no communications whatsoever with Kathy Grillo," the article said.
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Apparently, People Say 'Thank You' To Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles (technologyreview.com) 261

An anonymous reader shares a report: Last summer, Ford worked with Domino's Pizza on a test in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it delivered pizza to randomly chosen customers in a self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid. An operator was inside the car, and a regular human-driven car trailed behind, videotaping the drive. Customers had to approach the car and enter a number on a touch screen on the side of the vehicle to get their pizza. Speaking at CES, the annual consumer electronics show, in Las Vegas this week, Jim Farley, Fordâ(TM)s executive vice president, acknowledged that the idea sounds silly, "but we learned so freaking much," he said. Apparently, most people say "thank you" to the car after getting their pizza.
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Bitcoin Conference Stops Accepting BTC Due To High Fees (bitcoin.com) 135

An anonymous reader shares a report: Next week the popular cryptocurrency event, The North American Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) will be hosted in downtown Miami at the James L Knight Center, January 18-19. However, bitcoin proponents got some unfortunate news this week as the event organizers have announced they have stopped accepting bitcoin payments for conference tickets due to network fees and congestion. Bitcoin settlement times, and the fee market associated with transactions, have become a hot topic these days as on-chain fees have risen to $30-60 per transaction. These issues have made it extremely difficult for businesses to operate, and many merchants have stopped accepting bitcoin for services and goods altogether.
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Trump's Website Is Coded With a Broken Server Error Message That Blames Obama (techcrunch.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: If you're a fan of Easter eggs hidden in source code, this is a pretty good one. Apparently, as Washington Post data reporter Christopher Ingraham observed on Twitter, some Trump administration and GOP websites have a portion of code with a joke that throws shade at Obama's golf habits, the irony nowhere to be found. We checked the source code and sure enough the line "Oops! Something went wrong. Unlike Obama, we are working to fix the problem and not on the golf course" appears on action.donaldjtrump.com sites, like the one hosting this surely statistically sound, Obama-obsessed "Inaugural Year Approval Poll," but not on donaldjtrump.com pages. As Ingraham pointed out, it's also present on some official GOP sites, including the GOP.com homepage. In both instances, the Obama dig is paired with a 404 error message that states "What do Hillary Clinton and this link have in common? They're both dead broke." To top it off, the code itself is apparently itself broken, swapping a single equal sign where there should be two. An honest mistake? Or perhaps the world was never meant to be gifted with these very good jokes at all?
Space

Wired Publishes Fake Christmas Letter By Elon Musk (wired.com) 32

Wired's transportation editor just published what he's calling "Elon Musk's Christmas letter" touting the accomplishments of Musk's "family" of companies, "thanks to an anonymous tipster." (Though the story's photo caption suspiciously calls it "an absolutely real and totally not made up holiday message," and at the very bottom of the piece it's tagged as "satire" -- a word which also appears at the end of its URL.)

SpaceX (age 15) Man these companies grow up fast. SpaceX didn't just successfully launch its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station this summer, it upped its ambitions with a pretty detailed plan for colonizing Mars. (OK, as long as it comes home for Thanksgiving and Christmas!) The scheme involves an Interplanetary Transport System the company calls the BFR, or Big Fucking Rocket (you wonder where they get their sense of humor!), which it will definitely have built in just five years.

Tesla (age 14) After promising to start deliveries of its affordable Model 3 sedan this summer, my little automaker went all the way to production hell to make it happen. And boy is the car a wonder, with its huge glass roof, innovative touchscreen interface (so long, dashboard), and all the acceleration you know to expect from Tesla. I'm sure the 400,000 people who have pre-ordered one will agree whenever they get theirs...!

OpenAI and Neuralink (ages 2, 1) I've always thought we should merge our brains with computers, and I'm so glad two of my youngest are dedicated to making it happen... Maybe it'll even find the time to help big brother Tesla with that AI chip it's making for Autopilot.

The Boring Company (age 1) Celebrated its first birthday this month...! Boring knows my views on public transit, and has reassured me these tunnels will be for fancy hyperloops and private cars on electric sleds, only...

So, my friends and fans, comrades and competitors, investors short and long, my best tidings. May your lives be as rich, electrifying, and ambitious as ours.

For its 13th resupply mission of the ISS on December 15th, (the real) SpaceX used a recycled rocket, and Friday (the real) Elon Musk jokingly tweeted a video of the weird trail left behind by SpaceX's latest rocket launch with the caption, "Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea." By late Saturday he'd posted an update. "Having a sinking feeling that most people actually do think it was aliens..."

"So strange that people often believe things inversely proportionate to the evidence."
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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?
AI

Predictive Keyboard Tries To Write a New Harry Potter Chapter (cnet.com) 65

Long-time Slashdot reader Baron_Yam writes, "Some AI news items are amusing. This is one of those." ProKras reports: What do you get when a predictive keyboard app tries to write a new Harry Potter story? Apparently, you get Chapter 13 from Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash.

The folks at Botnik Studios trained their keyboard using all 7 Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. They used one set of training data for narration and another for dialogue. Then a bunch of team members got together in a chat room and pitched the best (worst?) lines created using the keyboard, and Botnik editors assembled them into a cohesive(ish) chapter of a story.

The results are about as ridiculous as you might imagine. For example, at one point Ron Weasley "saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione's family. Ron's Ron shirt was just as bad as Ron himself." It is never explained how Hermonie knew that the password to a certain locked door was "BEEF WOMEN," nor why "the pig of Hufflepuff pulsed like a large bullfrog." Maybe that was covered in Chapter 12.

Communications

Someone Used Wet String To Get a Broadband Connection (vice.com) 78

dmoberhaus shares a Motherboard report: A UK techie with a sense of humor may have found an alternative to expensive corporate broadband cables: some wet string. It's an old joke among network technicians that it's possible to get a broadband connection with anything, even if it's just two cans connected with some wet string. As detailed in a blog post by Adrian Kennard, who runs an ISP called Andrews & Arnold in the UK, one of his colleagues took the joke literally and actually established a broadband connection using some wet string. Broadband is a catch-all term for high speed internet access, but there are many different kinds of broadband internet connections. For example, there are fiber optic connections that route data using light and satellite connections, but one of the most common types is called an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), which connects your computer to the internet using a phone line. Usually, broadband connections rely on wires made of a conductive substances like copper. In the case of the Andrews & Arnold technician, however, they used about 6 feet of twine soaked in salt water (better conductivity than fresh water) that was connected to alligator clips to establish the connection. According to the BBC, this worked because the connection "is not really about the flow of current." Instead, the string is acting as a guide for an electromagnetic wave -- the broadband signal carrying the data -- and the medium for a waveguide isn't so important.
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Elon Musk Trolls the Media With a Clip From 'Spaceballs' (twitter.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk is having fun on Twitter, where he's either promoting the new line of $20 "Boring Company" hats or trolling the media. "To preserve the transcendent majesty & specialness of The Boring Company cap, we are capping cap orders at 50,000 caps," Musk tweeted Sunday, adding "Almost there ..." Responding to a user who asked, "Is this really how you're funding the boring company??" Musk answered "Yes."

An hour later he tweeted that "Every 5000th buyer of our boringly boring hat will get a free hat signed by the delivery guy. That special hat delivery will take place deep within the real, but fictional (of course), tunnel we are building under LA while you drive the giant machine blindfolded. This will actually happen."

And then hours later, Musk shared a fresh insight into his thought process. "The *real* money comes from merchandising," he tweeted, adding "I learned it from this documentary," sharing a video titled "merchandising" which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a clip from the 1987 comedy "Spaceballs" starring Mel Brooks.

Ironically, George Lucas had only blessed Mel Brooks' parody of Star Wars with one condition: that no Space Balls action figure merchandise ever be produced.
Software

The Strange Art of Writing Release Notes (ieee.org) 70

Reader necro81 writes: IEEE Spectrum has an amusing piece on how App Stores, and the frequent updates to those apps, have given release notes new prominence to average users. Unfortunately, most release notes are hum drum and uninformative: "bug fixes, performance improvements." That may be accurate, but isn't useful for determining if the new version is worth downloading. The article highlights counterexamples that weave humor and creativity into the narrative, even if it still just boils down to "bug fixes". For instance, when was the last time your release notes included ASCII art?
Although a bit old, TechCrunch also has a commentary on the highs and lows of App Store release notes.

What is the opinion of /. readers? How much information is appropriate in release notes? Should one make any attempts at levity, or keep it strictly to business? For those of you who actually write release notes, what guidelines do you use?

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Parody 'Subgenius' Religion Wants to Crowdfund An Alien-Contacting Beacon (gofundme.com) 78

In 1979 the followers of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs founded a satirical religion called the Church of the Subgenius. (Slackware Linux reportedly drew its name from the "pursuit of Slack", a comfort-seeking tenet of the 38-year-old parody religion.) Combining UFOs and conspiracy theories with some social critiques (and a few H.P. Lovecraft characters), the strange group is now re-emerging online with an official Facebook page -- and a slick new video channel.

In "Adventures in the Forbidden Sciences," former church CEO K'taden Legume announces that in January of 2016, "the Subgenius Foundation received an overdue bill for a storage locker in the Pacific Northwest registered under the name J. R. Dobbs. Behind the steel door was a freight elevator leading deep underground to what was long considered to be a myth: The church's long-abandoned forbidden science laboratories. Hidden in a forgotten cavern, packed floor-to-ceiling with thousands of crates dating back to the mid-19th century." Eighteen months of experimentation lead to clues about a flying saucer arriving on "the Black Day" -- and one last chance at eternal salvation and everlasting Slack: the construction of an alien-contacting beacon. Legume calls it "our best last hope for getting off of this planet. We have the tech. We have the moxie to do this, but to finish the beacon -- we need your help."

"The Beacon will be constructed by a team of 'Forbidden Scientists' led by former church CEO Dr. K'taden Legume," writes new Slashdot reader Ktaden Legume, touting a new $25,000 campaign to crowdfund the beacon's construction.

So far it's raised $294.
The Internet

Swedish Rail Firm Approves Trainy McTrainface As Name Following Online Poll (theguardian.com) 88

Those disappointed when Britain rejected the name Boaty McBoatface for a polar research ship should find joy in the name of a new train in Sweden. After a public vote, a Swedish rail operator has vowed to name one of its trains Trainy McTrainface. The Guardian reports: Trainy McTrainface won 49% of the votes in the naming competition, conducted online by train operator MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro, beating choices such as Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon. The train will run between the Swedish capital Stockholm and Gothenburg, the country's second-biggest city. MTR said another train had been voted to be named "Glenn," an apparent tribute to an IFK Gothenburg soccer team of the 1980s that featured four players of that name -- uncommon in Sweden -- including Glenn Hysen, who later captained Liverpool.
Businesses

Umbrella-sharing Startup Loses Nearly All of Its 300,000 Umbrellas In a Matter of Weeks (shanghaiist.com) 159

With bike-sharing companies like Mobike becoming incredibly successful in Chinese cities, a few startups have decided to mimic the concept with shareable umbrellas. The only problem: most of the umbrellas have gone missing, reports local media. From a report: Only a few weeks after starting up operations in 11 cities across China, Sharing E Umbrella announced that it had lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrellas. The Shenzhen-based company was launched with a 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) investment. The concept was similar to those that bike-sharing startups have used to (mostly) great success. Customers use an app on their smartphone to pay a 19 yuan deposit fee for an umbrella, which costs just 50 jiao for every half hour of use.
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Texting On the Move Makes You Walk Weird, Study Finds (cnet.com) 83

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University put a mobile eye tracker and motion analysis sensors on participants who walked and crossed a curb-like obstacle on the ground while writing or reading a text or talking on the phone. According to results, phone users spend up to 61 percent less time watching out for the obstacle, and bring their foot up "higher and slower" over the obstacle as they walked, adopting a "cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy" to minimise the risk of tripping. This tendency is observed most in users writing a text on their phones. "We found that using a phone means we look less frequently, and for less time, at the ground, but we adapt our visual search behaviour and our style of walking so we're able to negotiate static obstacles in a safe manner," said Dr Matthew Timmis, lead author and senior lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science. "This results in phone users adopting a slow and exaggerated stepping action."
Television

BBC Technical Glitch Leaves TV Presenter In Silence (theguardian.com) 56

Viewers of BBC's News at Ten were entranced last night when a glitch in its system produced over four minutes of surreal beauty. Two readers share a report: Huw Edwards was left sitting in silence for four minutes at the start of BBC News at Ten on Tuesday night after a technical fault delayed the start of the programme and bemused viewers. Viewers on some devices and channels were left watching the presenter sitting in silence as he waited for his cue to start. The BBC News Channel showed Edwards sitting mute for the entirety of the delay, while BBC1 put up a message apologising for the fault and played saxophone music. On BBC iPlayer an announcer apologised for the glitch and breaking news alerts also appeared during the delay. When the programme started at 22:04, Edwards apologised for what he described as a "few technical problems." The presenter said on Wednesday that nobody had told him he was on air until two minutes into the delay. However, Edwards told Radio 4's The Media Show that he "sensed I might be on" so took "the most conservative approach possible" and sat at his desk reading his notes before the bulletin started. BBC hasn't shared more about those "technical glitches." You can watch the clip here.
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Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's Ex-CEO, Says She's Looking 'Forward To Using Gmail Again' 187

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who resigned on Tuesday after running the company for about five years, appeared at a conference in London today. At the conference, Mayer said one of the things she was looking forward to in her post-Yahoo life was using Gmail again. "I am always faster when using a tool I designed myself," she added.
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Tim Cook Takes Swipe at Windows During MIT Commencement (cnet.com) 91

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Friday, and he couldn't help taking a swipe at a rival. In a section of his speech describing his search for answers and tough decisions in college and beyond, he admitted turning to a Microsoft computer. "I went to grad school at Duke, looking for the answer," Cook said. "I tried meditation. I sought guidance and religion. I read great philosophers and authors. In a moment of youthful indiscretion, I might even have experimented with a Windows PC. And obviously that didn't work." The line got a hearty laugh from the crowd.

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