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AI

New AI Algorithm Beats Even the World's Worst Traffic (vice.com) 61

"Computer scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a new intelligent routing algorithm that attempts to minimize the occurrence of spontaneous traffic jams -- those sudden snarls caused by greedy merges and other isolated disruptions -- throughout a roadway network," reports Motherboard. "It's both computationally distributed and fast, requirements for any real-world traffic management system. Their work is described in the April issue of IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computational Intelligence." From the report: The Nanyang researchers' algorithm starts off by just assuming that, given enough traffic density, shit is going to happen. Someone is going to make a greedy merge -- something is going to cause enough of a traffic perturbation to result in a network breakdown. Breakdown in this context is a technical-ish term indicating that for some period of time the traffic outflow from a segment of roadway is going to be less than the traffic inflow. "We assume that the traffic breakdown model has already been given, and the probability of traffic breakdown occurrence is larger than zero (meaning that traffic breakdowns would occur), and our goal is to direct the traffic flow so that the overall traffic breakdown probability is minimized," Hongliang Guo and colleagues write. Put differently, "our objective is to maximize the probability that none of the network links encounters a traffic breakdown." So, the goal of the algorithm is this maximization, which reduces to a fairly tidy equation. It then becomes a machine learning problem. Things get pretty messy at this point, but just understand that we're taking the current traffic load, adding an unknown additional load that might enter the network at any time, and then coming up with probabilities of network breakdown at each of the network's nodes or intersections. Crunch some linear algebra and we wind up with optimal routes through the network. Crucially, Guo and co. were able to come up with some mathematical optimizations that make this kind of calculation feasible in real-time. They were able to demonstrate their algorithm in simulations and are currently working on a further analysis with BMW, which is providing a vast trove of data from its Munich car-sharing fleet. This may not be as distant a technology as it might seem. As it turns out, only 10 percent of cars in a network need to be driving according to the optimizations for those optimizations to have a positive effect on the entire network.
Facebook

Facebook Launches 'Town Hall' For Contacting Government Reps, Adds Local Election Reminders (techcrunch.com) 34

Facebook has officially launched their "Town Hall" feature that allows users to locate, follow and contact their local, state and federal government representatives. The social media company also announced that they will be launching local election reminders in an effort to get more users to vote in state, county, and municipal elections. TechCrunch reports: The feature was recently made available in the "More" menu on mobile and on desktop to a subset of users. When you launch it, you would be presented with a list of reps at the local, state and federal level, and you could click to visit their Facebook page or send them a message, call them, or email. Not all reps offer their contact information via Facebook, however. And Facebook doesn't yet pull in the missing phone numbers or emails from off-site sources, like official government websites, for example. The company tell us that's something it wants to address in time, though. Today, Town Hall is available to all U.S. Facebook users and some of its features will now be integrated in the News Feed. If you like or comment on a post made by one of your elected officials, a new feature below the comments will invite you to call, message or email the rep. After doing so, users will then be prompted to share a post saying that they contacted the rep, as a means of encouraging their friends to do the same. Facebook says that this Contact Your Rep post is not shown to everyone, but only to those who are also already engaging with an elected official's post, through a like or comment. Additionally, Facebook says it will now offer Election Reminders for local elections. The new, local election reminders will appear for all state, county, and municipal elections in the U.S. in areas with a population of over 10,000 people, and will include both primaries and general elections.
Software

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Working Environment For a Developer? 192

New submitter Dorgendubal writes: I work for a company with more than a thousand developers and I'm participating in activities aimed at improving the work experience of developers. Our developers receive an ultrabook that is rather powerful but not really adapted for development (no admin rights, small storage capacity, restrictive security rules, etc.). They also have access to VDIs (more flexibility) but often complain of performance issues during certain hours of the day. Overall, developers want to have maximum autonomy, free choice of their tools (OS, IDE, etc.) and access to internal development environments (PaaS, GIT repositories, continuous delivery tools, etc.) . We recently had a presentation of VMWare on desktop and application virtualization (Workstation & Horizon), which is supposedly the future of the desktops. It sounds interesting on paper but I remain skeptical.

What is the best working environment for a developer, offering flexibility, performance and some level of free choice, without compromising security, compliance, licensing (etc.) requirements? I would like you to share your experiences on BYOD, desktop virtualization, etc. and the level of satisfaction of the developers.
Databases

Facial Recognition Database Used By FBI Is Out of Control, House Committee Hears (theguardian.com) 51

The House oversight committee claims the FBI's facial recognition database is out of control, noting that "no federal law controls this technology" and "no court decision limits it." At last week's House oversight committee hearing, politicians and privacy campaigners presented several "damning facts" about the databases. "About 80% of photos in the FBI's network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver's licenses and passports," reports The Guardian. "The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are most likely to misidentify black people than white people." From the report: "Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation," said the committee chair, Jason Chaffetz, adding that in the private sector it can be used to protect financial transactions and prevent fraud or identity theft. "But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals. It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public." Furthermore, the rise of real-time face recognition technology that allows surveillance and body cameras to scan the faces of people walking down the street was, according to Chaffetz, "most concerning." "For those reasons and others, we must conduct proper oversight of this emerging technology," he said.
PHP

Prominent Drupal, PHP Developer Kicked From the Drupal Project Over Unconventional Sex Life (techcrunch.com) 367

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Last week the Drupal community erupted in anger after its leader, Dries Buytaert, asked Larry Garfield, a prominent Drupal contributor and long-time member of the Drupal and PHP communities, "to leave the Drupal project." Buytaert claims he did this "because it came to my attention that he holds views that are in opposition with the values of the Drupal project." A huge furor has erupted in response -- not least because the reason clearly has much to do with Garfield's unconventional sex life. [Garfield is into BDSM, and is a member of the Gorean community, "a community who are interested in, and/or participate in, elaborate sexual subjugation fantasies, in which men are inherently superior to women."] Buytaert made his post (which is now offline) in response after Larry went public, outing himself to public opinion. Buytaert retorted (excerpt available via TechCrunch): "when a highly-visible community member's private views become public, controversial, and disruptive for the project, I must consider the impact [...] all people are created equally. [sic] I cannot in good faith support someone who actively promotes a philosophy that is contrary to this [...] any association with Larry's belief system is inconsistent with our project's goals [...] I recused myself from the Drupal Association's decision [to dismiss Garfield from his conference role] [...] Many have rightfully stated that I haven't made a clear case for the decision [...] I did not make the decision based on the information or beliefs conveyed in Larry's blog post." TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans goes on to "unpack" the questions that naturally arise from these "Code of Conduct conflicts."
Power

Interviews: Ask Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor John Goodenough a Question 110

John B. Goodenough is a solid-state physicist and professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at The University of Texas at Austin. While he is most famous for identifying and developing the lithium-ion battery, which can be found in just about every portable electronic device on the market, he has recently created a new fast charging solid-state battery that looks to revolutionize the industry. We sent him an email about doing an interview and he has responded. Now is your chance to ask Goodenough a question!

We'll pick the very best questions and forward them to John Goodenough himself. (Feel free to leave your suggestions for who Slashdot should interview next.) Go on, don't be shy!
Science

Elon Musk Launches Neuralink To Connect Brains With Computers (businessinsider.com) 99

At Recode's conference last year, Elon Musk said he would love to see someone do something about linking human brains with computers. With no other human being volunteering, Mr. Musk -- who founded PayPal and OpenAI, thought of Hyperloop, is working on a boring company, and runs SpaceX, TeslaX, SolarCity -- is now working on it. From a report on WSJ: Internal sources tell the WSJ that the company, called Neuralink, is developing "neural lace" technology that would allow people to communicate directly with machines without going through a physical interface. Neural lace involves implanting electrodes in the brain so people could upload or download their thoughts to or from a computer, according to the WSJ report. The product could allow humans to achieve higher levels of cognitive function. From WSJ's report (paywalled): The founder and chief executive of Tesla and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.has launched another company called Neuralink Corp., according to people familiar with the matter. Neuralink is pursuing what Mr. Musk calls "neural lace" technology, implanting tiny brain electrodes that may one day upload and download thoughts. Mr. Musk didn't respond to a request for comment. Max Hodak, who said he is a "member of the founding team," confirmed the company's existence and Mr. Musk's involvement.
IOS

Apple is Upgrading Millions of iOS Devices To a New Modern File System Today (theverge.com) 146

Apple today began rolling out iOS 10.3, the latest point update to its mobile operating system. iOS 10.3 brings with it several new features, chief among which is a new file system -- called the Apple File System (APFS). From a report: It's a file system that was originally announced at WWDC last year, and it's designed with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV in mind. Apple has been using its 31-year-old Hierarchical File System (HFS) for iOS devices so far. It was originally designed for Macs with floppy or hard disks, and not for modern mobile devices with solid state storage. Even its successor, HFS+, still doesn't address the needs of these mobile devices enough. Apple's new APFS is designed to scale across these new types of devices and take advantage of flash or SSD storage. It's also engineered with encryption as a primary feature, and even supports features like snapshots so restoring files on a Mac or even an iOS device might get a lot easier in the future.
Businesses

India's Silicon Valley Offers the Cheapest Engineers, But the Quality of Their Talent is Another Story (qz.com) 154

Ananya Bhattacharya, writing for Quartz: Bengaluru's startup ecosystem is what it is because of its engineers. With an average annual salary of $8,600, engineers in India's tech hub cost 13 times less than their Silicon Valley counterparts, according to the 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem Report. The city is home to the world's cheapest crop of engineers, with the average annual pay of a resident software engineer falling well below the global figure of $49,000. [...] However, the city's talent pool poses challenges in access and quality. For the most part, "engineers haven't been hired very quickly, experience is average, and visa success is low," the report says. "The quality and professionalism of resources is also questionable in many cases," Abhimanyu Godara, founder of US-based chatbot startup Bottr.me, which has a development team in Bangalore, said in the report.
Microsoft

Microsoft Yanks Docs.com Search After Complaints of Exposed Sensitive Files (zdnet.com) 53

Microsoft has quietly removed a feature on its document sharing site Docs.com that allowed anyone to search through millions of files for sensitive and personal information. From a report on ZDNet: Users had complained over the weekend on Twitter that anyone could use the site's search box to trawl through publicly-accessible documents and files stored on the site, which were clearly meant to remain private. Among the files reviewed by ZDNet, and seen by others who tweeted about them, included password lists, job acceptance letters, investment portfolios, divorce settlement agreements, and credit card statements -- some of which contained Social Security and driving license numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, and email and postal addresses. The company removed the site's search feature late on Saturday, but others observed that the files were still cached in Google's search results, as well as Microsoft's own search engine, Bing.
Government

Laptop Ban on Planes Came After Plot To Put Explosives in iPad (theguardian.com) 266

Last week, United States and United Kingdom officials announced new restrictions for airline passengers from eight Middle Eastern countries, forbidding passengers to carry electronics larger than a smartphone into an airplane cabin. Now The Guardian reports, citing a security source, the ban was prompted in part by a plot involving explosives hidden in a fake iPad. From the report: The security source said both bans were not the result of a single specific incident but a combination of factors. One of those, according to the source, was the discovery of a plot to bring down a plane with explosives hidden in a fake iPad that appeared as good as the real thing. Other details of the plot, such as the date, the country involved and the group behind it, remain secret. Discovery of the plot confirmed the fears of the intelligence agencies that Islamist groups had found a novel way to smuggle explosives into the cabin area in carry-on luggage after failed attempts with shoe bombs and explosives hidden in underwear. An explosion in a cabin (where a terrorist can position the explosive against a door or window) can have much more impact than one in the hold (where the terrorist has no control over the position of the explosive, which could be in the middle of luggage, away from the skin of the aircraft), given passengers and crew could be sucked out of any subsequent hole.
Transportation

Singapore Wants To Test Flying Taxi Drones (nypost.com) 50

An anonymous reader writes: Commuters in Singapore might soon be able to ride a flying taxi home at the end of the day," writes the New York Post. "The country's Minister of Transport is in negotiations with tech companies to start trials on taxi drones that can pick up passengers, says a story by Singapore's Business Times. The driverless pods, which resemble the speeding hover bikes in Return of the Jedi, would stop for passengers based on an 'e-hail' similar to what Uber uses, the report says." Flying taxis have already been prototyped, including the Hoversurf Scorpion and the Volocopter VC200, while Dubai plans to begin testing Ehang 184 self-driving flying taxi drones in July.

Though Singapore is a small country with a relatively small workforce, the head of their ministry of transportation "noted the availability and affordability of data and the rise of artificial intelligence are already upending the transport sector globally," reports the Singapore Business Times. To that end, Singapore is also considering on-demand buses that optimize their routes, but also driverless buses. "It has signed a partnership agreement with a party to build and put such buses through a trial, and will be signing another agreement quite soon."

Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: What's The Easiest Linux Distro For A Newbie? 450

joseph Kramer -- a long-time user of both Windows and MacOS -- comes to Slashdot with the ultimate question: I've been lurking here for years and seen many recommendations for a Linux flavor that works. What I'm really looking for is Linux that works without constant under-the-hood tweaking (ala early Windows flavors, 3.1, 95/98). Does such an OS exist? For the record, I am not an IT tech. I just need something to work with the mechanical equipment it controls. Any recommendations?
When it comes to Windows and MacOs, he describes himself as "fed up with their shenanigans." So leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best way for a newbie to get started with Linux?
Microsoft

Class Action Lawsuit Launched Over Forced Windows 10 Upgrades (courthousenews.com) 334

Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes The Register: Three people in Illinois have filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, claiming that its Windows 10 update destroyed their data and damaged their computers. The complaint, filed in Chicago's U.S. District Court on Thursday, charges that Microsoft Windows 10 [installer] is a defective product, and that its maker failed to provide adequate warning about the potential risks posed by Windows 10 installation -- specifically system stability and data loss... The attorneys representing the trio are seeking to have the case certified as a class action that includes every person in the U.S. who upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 and suffered data loss or damage to software or hardware within 30 days of installation. They claim there are hundreds or thousands of affected individuals.
Microsoft responded that they'd offered free customer service and other support options for "the upgrade experience," adding "We believe the plaintiffs' claims are without merit." But the complaint argues Windows 10's installer "does not check the condition of the PC and whether or not the hard drive can withstand the stress of the Windows 10 installation," according to Courthouse News, which adds that the lead plaintiff "says her hard drive failed after Windows 10 installed without her express approval, and she had to buy a new computer."
Transportation

Aerospace Startup Will Build A Supersonic Mach 2.2 Aircraft (fortune.com) 144

A new commercial aircraft will fly more than twice the speed of sound, traveling from New York to London in 3.4 hours. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Colorado-based startup Boom Supersonic is one step closer to making such travel a reality after securing $33 million in investments to construct and fly its first supersonic jet, the XB-1 demonstration and testing craft, according to TechCrunch... With the new funding, Boom will be able to put that concept -- and the technology needed to power it -- to the test. "This funds our first airplane, all the way through flight tests," Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl told TechCrunch. "Now we have all the pieces we need â" technology, suppliers and capital â" to go out and make some history and set some speed records."
They'll be testing a prototype that's one-third smaller than the commercial version within the next year.
IBM

A 21st-Century Version Of OS/2 Warp May Be Released Soon (arcanoae.com) 205

dryriver writes: A company named Arca Noae is working on a new release of the X86 OS/2 operating system code named "Blue Lion" and likely called ArcaOS 5 in its final release. Blue Lion wants to be a modern 21st Century OS/2 Warp, with support for the latest hardware and networking standards, a modern accelerated graphics driver, support for new cryptographic security standards, full backward compatibility with legacy OS/2, DOS and Windows 3.1 applications, suitability for use in mission-critical applications, and also, it appears, the ability to run "ported Linux applications". Blue Lion, which appears to be in closed beta with March 31st 2017 cited as the target release date, will come with up to date Firefox browser and Thunderbird mail client, Apache OpenOffice, other productivity tools, a new package manager, and software update and support subscription to ensure system stability. It is unclear from the information provided whether Blue Lion will be able to run modern Windows applications.
United Kingdom

UK Broadband Customers Set To Receive Millions In Compensation For Bad Service (thestack.com) 16

An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: British telecoms regulator Ofcom has revealed new plans which would see consumers who experience poor service automatically compensated, in cash or credit, by their landline or broadband providers. As part of the scheme, customers who have had to put up with delayed repairs, missed installation or engineer appointments, will be paid up to £30 in compensation, depending on the issue. According to Ofcom, 6 million landline and broadband customers could receive a total of around £185 million (approximately $230 million) in compensatory payments each year as a result of the policy. The regulator says every year U.K. repair technicians failed to show up for 250,000 repair appointments.
Government

Terrifying Anti-Riot Vehicle Created To Quash Any Urban Disturbance (boingboing.net) 195

"Are you an urban police force thinking about how to control your fellow humans?" jokes Cory Doctorow. "Look no farther! Your pals at Bozena have an all-new RIOT system, a crowd-control killdozer for all your protest-suppressing needs!" He's one of several web commentators marveling at the marketing copy for a Slovakian company's new anti-riot machinery, also spotted by Slashdot reader drunkdrone. Some quotes from the BOZENA RIOT SYSTEM site about the device's features:
  • Easy attachable bulldozer blade.
  • The [6,600 pound] shield comes equipped with launching ports designed for use of guns or other rubber projectiles launchers.
  • The trailer is capable of displacing the water/foam or its mixtures (available additives: pepper or painting substances) under the high pressure into the distance of several dozen meters.
  • Communication with rioters through the loudspeakers.
  • Designed to control riots in streets and urbanized areas...intended predominantly for the special military and police units responsible for the CROWD CONTROL during the violent political/social demonstrations, against football hooligans, etc.

Google

Still More Advertisers Pull Google Ads Over YouTube Hate Videos (morningstar.com) 290

"A week after Google apologized for running customers' advertisements alongside objectionable videos, triggering a change in policy, its YouTube site is still rife with examples that are angering more big advertisers and causing some to cut spending with the tech giant," reports the Dow Jones Newswire. Reporters from the Wall Street Journal spotted ads from Microsoft, Amazon, and Procter & Gamble appearing on hate videos -- and thus indirectly funding them. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Asked about the Journal's finding that their ads were still appearing with such content on YouTube as of Thursday night, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Dish Network Corp. said Friday they were suspending spending on all Google advertising except targeted search ads. Starbucks Corp. and General Motors Co. said they were pulling their ads from YouTube. FX Networks, part of 21st Century Fox Inc., said it was suspending all advertising spending on Google, including search ads and YouTube. Wal-Mart said: "The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values."
An executive at one of the affected companies complained that Google "had assured us over the past few days that our brands were safe from this type of content. Despite their assurances, it's clear they couldn't give assurance."
Privacy

'Why The US Senate's Vote To Throw Out ISP Privacy Laws Isn't All Bad' (technologyreview.com) 104

"Nobody wants their data spread far and wide," write two associate editors at MIT Technology Review, "but the FCC's rules were an inconsistent solution to a much larger problem." An anonymous reader writes: They point out the rules passed in October "weren't even yet in effect," but more importantly -- they only would've applied to ISPs. "[T]he reality is that the U.S. doesn't have a baseline law that governs online privacy," and the truth is, it never did. "The FCC's new privacy rules would have been dramatic, to be sure -- but they would only have addressed one piece of the problem, leaving companies like Facebook and Google free to continue doing much the same thing.
While the repeal still needs approval in the U.S. House of Representatives and the president's signature, their article argues that what's really needed is "a more consistent approach to privacy."

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