IT

JSON Feed Announced As Alternative To RSS (jsonfeed.org) 200

Reader Anubis IV writes: With Slashdot recently asking whether we still use RSS, it may come as a surprise that something interesting has happened in the world of news feeds this week. JSON Feed was launched as an alternative to RSS and Atom, eschewing the XML they rely on -- which is frequently malformed and difficult to parse -- in favor of a human readable JSON format that reflects the decades of combined experience its authors have in the field. The JSON Feed spec is a simple read that lays out a number of pragmatic benefits the format has over RSS and Atom, such as eliminating duplicate entries, adding the ability to paginate feeds so that old entries remain available, and reducing the need for clients to scrape sites to find images and other resources. Given that it's authored by the developers behind one of the earliest, popular RSS clients and a recently Kickstarted blogging platform, the format is intended to address the common pain points currently faced by developers when producing and parsing feeds.

While it remains to be seen whether JSON Feed will escape the chicken-and-egg stage of adoption, several clients have already added support for the fledging format in the week since its announcement, including Feedbin, Inoreader, and NewsBlur.

Security

Wikimedia Is Clear To Sue the NSA Over Its Use of Warrantless Surveillance Tools (engadget.com) 60

The Wikimedia Foundation has the right to sue the National Security Agency over its use of warrantless surveillance tools, a federal appeals court ruled. "A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, saying the group hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on its communications," reports Engadget. "In this case, proof was a tall order, considering information about the targeted surveillance system, Upstream, remains classified." From the report: The appeals court today ruled Wikimedia presented sufficient evidence that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently. The Upstream system regularly tracks the physical backbone of the internet -- the cables and routers that actually transmit our emoji. With the help of telecom providers, the NSA then intercepts specific messages that contain "selectors," email addresses or other contact information for international targets under U.S. surveillance. "To put it simply, Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the appeals court writes. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."
Education

Researchers Find Dozens of Genes Associated With Measures of Intelligence (arstechnica.com) 259

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.
Communications

Comcast Proves Need For Net Neutrality By Trying To Censor Advocacy Website (fightforthefuture.org) 150

Reader mrchaotica writes: As most Slashdot readers are probably aware, the FCC, under the direction of Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai, is trying to undo its 2015 decision to protect Net Neutrality (PDF) by classifying ISPs as common carriers. During the recent public comment period, the FCC's website was flooded with pro-Net-Neutrality comments from actual people (especially those who heeded John Oliver's call to arms) as well as anti-Net-Neutrality comments posted by bots using the names and addresses of people without their consent. The fake comments use boilerplate identical to that used in a 2010 press release by the conservative lobbying group Center for Individual Freedom (which is funded by Comcast, among other entities), but beyond that, the entities who perpetrated and funded the criminal acts have not been conclusively identified. In response to this brazen attempt to undermine the democratic process, the Internet freedom advocacy group Fight for the Future (FFTF) created the website Comcastroturf.com to call attention to the fraud and allow people to see if their identity had been misappropriated. Comcast, in a stunning display of its tone-deaf attitude towards free speech, has sent a cease-and-desist order to FFTF, claiming that Comcastroturf.com violates its "valuable intellectual property[sic]." According to the precedent set in Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer , websites created for the purpose of criticizing an organization can not be considered trademark infringement. As such, FFTF reportedly has no intention of taking down the site.

"This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, "If Ajit Pai's plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies," she added. "It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?"

Could there be a better example to illustrate why ensuring strong Net Neutrality protections by regulating ISPs as common carriers is so important?


Movies

Resident Evil Getting Rebooted Into a Six-Film Franchise (variety.com) 198

Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.
Education

Elsevier Wants $15 Million In 'Piracy' Damages From Sci-Hub and Libgen (torrentfreak.com) 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.
News

Can You Copyright a Joke? (npr.org) 229

Reader AnalogDiehard writes: Writer Alex Kaseburg has filed a lawsuit against TBS and Time Warner alleging that jokes recited on the Conan O'Brien show were stolen from his blog shortly after they were published. The case gets heard in August and could create new protections in a legal forum in which there is little precedent or clear definition in what defines a joke as "original" and subject to legal protection, especially in an industry where theft of humor occurs on a regular basis. But the outcome of any judicial decision opens a big can of worms and raises serious questions: Will YouTube videos get shut down from DMCA notices citing copyrighted jokes? Will compliance staff have to be retained to ensure that their magazine or news article, TV show, movie, or broadway act is not infringing on copyrighted jokes? Will copyrights on jokes get near-perpetual protection like the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act? Will people be able to recite limericks without fear of infringing? Will tyrannical politicians copyright critical jokes to oppress freedom of speech? Will legal cases be filed arguing that a comedian's joke(s) bears too much similarity to a copyrighted joke recited decades ago? Will girl scouts be free to tell copyright jokes around the campfire?
China

China Is On Track To Fully Phase Out Cash (vice.com) 212

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Motherboard: Experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, becomes the first to go totally cashless. In a poky sex toy shop in Sanlitun shopping district in central Beijing, a placard with a QR code is strategically placed next to a pink, vein-knobbled dildo called the Super Emperor, and a clitoral pump. Just scan your phone, and walk out with your purchase. The cigarette vendor across the street accepts smartphone payments too. A fast-moving queue of customers purchase smokes by scanning their phones over a tatty cardboard QR code. All the bars in Sanlitun, equal parts seedy and swish, still take cash, but have likewise implemented cashless pay, largely through the ubiquitous WeChat and Alipay app, as primary payment platforms. Beijing taxi drivers accept smartphone payments too. No one in the area uses physical money, for sex toys or otherwise. Largely due to China's vibrant fintech landscape, the recent rise of phone payments in the country has shunted cash onto the endangered list, perhaps somewhere alongside the pangolin. Many experts believe it won't be long before China, the first country to introduce paper money, also becomes the first to phase it out to become fully cashless. But when will this moment come?
Businesses

Intel's Itanium CPUs, Once a Play For 64-bit Servers And Desktops, Are Dead (arstechnica.com) 138

Reader WheezyJoe writes: Four new 9700-series Itanium CPUs will be the last and final Itaniums Intel will ship. For those who might have forgotten, Itanium and its IA-64 architecture was intended to be Intel's successor to 32-bit i386 architecture back in the early 2000's. Developed in conjunction with HP, IA-64 used a new architecture developed at HP that, while capable as a server platform, was not backward-compatible with i386 and required emulation to run i386-compiled software. With the release of AMD's Opteron in 2003 featuring their alternative, fully backward-compatible X86-64 architecture, interest in Itanium fell, and Intel eventually adopted AMD's technology for its own chips and X86-64 is now dominant today. In spite of this, Itanium continued to be made and sold for the server market, supported in part by an agreement with HP. With that deal expiring this year, these new Itaniums will be Intel's last.
Piracy

Digital Economy Act: Illegal Kodi Streams Could Now Land Users In Prison For 10 Years (independent.co.uk) 213

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: The Digital Economy Act has passed into law, meaning people could now face ten-year prison sentences for illegally streaming copyrighted content. It covers a wide number of areas, including broadband speeds, access to online pornography and government data-sharing. However, amid the rising popularity of Kodi, an increase to the maximum prison term -- from two years to ten -- for people guilty of copyright infringement is particularly interesting. Anyone caught streaming TV shows, films and sports events illegally using websites, torrents and Kodi add-ons could technically face a decade behind bars. However, the new law will most likely target individuals and groups making a business out of selling illegal content, FACT CEO Kieron Sharp told the Mirror. The Independent also notes in a separate report that The Digital Economy Act could allow UK police to "remotely disable mobile phones, even before the user actually commits a crime." The Digital Economy Act "contains a section stating that officers will be able to place restrictions on handsets that they believe are being used by drug dealers," reports The Independent.
Sci-Fi

Dormant Diseases Frozen In the Ice Are Waking Up (bbc.co.uk) 173

boley1 writes: Like a plot from a Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) movie, evil is waking up as permafrost melts due to weather or natural, man-made, local, and/or global climate change. (Take your pick of any or all -- doesn't matter -- the plot and result is roughly the same.) According the the BBC, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalized after being infected by a disease (anthrax) that lay buried in the ice for 75 years. "The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost," reports BBC. "There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed." In this case, bringing back the disease was accidental, but the story goes on to give examples of scientists (no indication of whether they are mad or not) purposefully seeing what ancient bacteria and virus they can resurrect from the ice. How many more diseases are lurking in the ice? Will The Andromeda Strain be released by meddling scientists or global warming?
Encryption

'First Pirated Ultra HD Blu-Ray Disk' Appears Online (torrentfreak.com) 260

Has AACS 2.0 encryption used to protect UHD Blu-ray discs been cracked? While the details are scarce, a cracked copy of a UHD Blu-ray disc surfaced on the HD-focused BitTorrent tracker UltraHDclub. TorrentFreak reports: The torrent in question is a copy of the Smurfs 2 film and is tagged "The Smurfs 2 (2013) 2160p UHD Blu-ray HEVC Atmos 7.1-THRONE." This suggests that AACS 2.0 may have been "cracked" although there are no further technical details provided at this point. UltraHDclub is proud of the release, though, and boasts of having the "First Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc in the NET!" Those who want to get their hands on a copy of the file have to be patient though. Provided that they have access to the private tracker, it will take a while to download the entire 53.30 GB disk. TorrentFreak reached out to both the uploader of the torrent and an admin at the site hoping to find out more, but thus far we have yet to hear back. From the details provided, the copy appears to be the real deal although not everyone agrees.
China

China Makes Quantum Leap In Developing Quantum Computer (scmp.com) 70

hackingbear writes: Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China created a quantum device, called a boson sampling machine, that can now carry out calculations for five photons, but at a speed 24,000 times faster than previous experiments. Pan Jianwei, the lead scientist on the project, said that though their device was already (only) 10 to 11 times faster at carrying out the calculations than the first electronic digital computer, ENIAC, and the first transistor computer, TRADIC, in running the classical algorithm, their machine would eclipse all of the world's supercomputers in a few years. "Our architecture is feasible to be scaled up to a larger number of photons and with a higher rate to race against increasingly advanced classical computers," they said in the research paper published in Nature Photonics. This device is said to be the first quantum computer beating a real electronic classical computer in practice. Scientists estimate that the current faster supercomputers would struggle to estimate the behavior of 20 photons.
China

China is Recruiting 20,000 People To Write Its Own Wikipedia (vice.com) 88

The Chinese government is recruiting 20,000 people to create an online encyclopedia that will be the country's own, China-centric version of Wikipedia, or as one official put it, like "a Great Wall of culture." From a report: Known as the "Chinese Encyclopedia," the country's national encyclopedia will go online for the first time in 2018, and the government has employed tens of thousands of scholars from universities and research institutes who will contribute articles in more than 100 disciplines. The end result will be a knowledge base with more than 300,000 entries, each of which will be about 1,000 words long. "The Chinese Encyclopaedia is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture," Yang Muzhi, the editor-in-chief of the project and the chairman of the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, said. He added that China was under pressure from the international community to produce an encyclopedia that will "guide and lead the public and society."
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Could We Build A Global Wireless Mesh Network? 168

An anonymous reader wants to start a grassroots effort to build a self-organizing global radio mesh network where every device can communicate with every other device -- and without any central authority. There is nothing in the rules of mathematics or laws of physics that prevents such a system. But how would you break the problem up so it could be crowdfunded and sourced? How would you build the radios? And what about government spectrum rules... How would you persuade governments to allow for the use of say, 1%, of the spectrum for an unlicensed mesh experiment? In the U.S. it would probably take an Act of Congress to overrule the FCC but a grassroots effort with potential for major technology advances backed by celebrity scientists might be enough to tilt the issue but would there be enough motivation?
Is this feasible? Would it amass enough volunteers, advocates, and enthusiastic users? Would it become a glorious example of geeks uniting the world -- or a doomed fantasy with no practical applications. Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Could we build a global wireless mesh network?
Censorship

Wikipedia Is Being Blocked In Turkey (turkeyblocks.org) 94

Nine hours ago, Ilgaz wrote: The Turkey Blocks monitoring network has verified restrictions affecting the Wikipedia online encyclopedia in Turkey. A block affecting all language editions of the website [was] detected at 8:00AM local time Saturday 29 April. The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country.
stikves added Access to Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey as a result of "a provisional administrative order" imposed by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (BTK)... Turkey Blocks said an administrative blocking order is usually expected to precede a full court blocking order in coming days. While the reason for the order was unknown early on Saturday, a statement on the BTK's website said: "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651, ADMINISTRATION MEASURE has been taken for this website (wikipedia.org) according to Decision Nr. 490.05.01.2017.-182198 dated 29/04/2017 implemented by Information and Communication Technologies Authority."
The BBC adds reports from Turkish media that authorities "had asked Wikipedia to remove content by writers 'supporting terror.'"
Input Devices

Computer Pioneer Harry Huskey Dies At Age 101 (bbc.co.uk) 46

Big Hairy Ian quotes the BBC: Engineer Harry Huskey, who helped build many of the first ever computers, has died aged 101. Dr. Huskey was a key member of the team that built the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) which first ran in February 1946. ENIAC is widely considered to be one of the first electronic, general purpose, programmable computers. Dr. Huskey also helped complete work on the Ace -- the Automatic Computing Engine -- designed by Alan Turing.
U.C. Santa Cruz also remembers Huskey's work on the Bendix G-15 in 1954, "a 950-pound predecessor to today's laptops" which is sometimes hailed as the first personal computer (since it didn't require a separate technician to run) -- though each one cost over $50,000. The idea of an "electronic brain" was still so new, it led Huskey to an appearance on Groucho Marx's radio show You Bet Your Life, where Groucho warned him that "They're pretty tricky those machines! I wouldn't trust 'em... They'll turn on your like a mad dog, doctor!"
Businesses

Should Banks Let Ancient Programming Language COBOL Die? (thenextweb.com) 383

COBOL is a programming language invented by Hopper from 1959 to 1961, and while it is several decades old, it's still largely used by the financial sector, major corporations and part of the federal government. Mar Masson Maack from The Next Web interviews Daniel Doderlein, CEO of Auka, who explains why banks don't have to actively kill COBOL and how they can modernize and "minimize the new platforms' connections to the old systems so that COBOL can be switched out in a safe and cheap manner." From the report: According to [Doderlein], COBOL-based systems still function properly but they're faced with a more human problem: "This extremely critical part of the economic infrastructure of the planet is run on a very old piece of technology -- which in itself is fine -- if it weren't for the fact that the people servicing that technology are a dying race." And Doderlein literally means dying. Despite the fact that three trillion dollars run through COBOL systems every single day they are mostly maintained by retired programming veterans. There are almost no new COBOL programmers available so as retirees start passing away, then so does the maintenance for software written in the ancient programming language. Doderlein says that banks have three options when it comes to deciding how to deal with this emerging crisis. First off, they can simply ignore the problem and hope for the best. Software written in COBOL is still good for some functions, but ignoring the problem won't fix how impractical it is for making new consumer-centric products. Option number two is replacing everything, creating completely new core banking platforms written in more recent programming languages. The downside is that it can cost hundreds of millions and it's highly risky changing the entire system all at once. The third option, however, is the cheapest and probably easiest. Instead of trying to completely revamp the entire system, Doderlein suggests that banks take a closer look at the current consumer problems. Basically, Doderlein suggests making light-weight add-ons in more current programming languages that only rely on COBOL for the core feature of the old systems.
China

Netflix Is Now In China Via a Deal With iQiyi (techcrunch.com) 18

randomErr writes: Last year, Netflix tried to go into China but ran into regulatory issues. So Netflix has entered into a licensing deal with iQiyi. iQiyi was founded in 2010 by Baidu in a very similar way that Google owns YouTube. What Netflix content will be shown and how the subscription service will work has yet to be announced.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales is Launching an Online Publication To Fight Fake News (cnn.com) 190

Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia, is launching a new online publication which will aim to fight fake news by pairing professional journalists with an army of volunteer community contributors. The news site is called Wikitribune. From a report: "We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events," the publication's website states. The site will publish news stories written by professional journalists. But in a page borrowed from Wikipedia, internet users will be able to propose factual corrections and additions. The changes will be reviewed by volunteer fact checkers. Wikitribune says it will be transparent about its sources. It will post the full transcripts of interviews, as well as video and audio, "to the maximum extent possible." The language used will be "factual and neutral."

Slashdot Top Deals