Linux fréttir

The US Government Just Paid a Crypto Startup to Explore Digital Dollars

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 20:36
"The U.S. federal government just awarded a grant to the blockchain startup Key Retroactivity Network Consensus (KRNC)," reports Futurism.com, "to study the feasibility of integrating cryptocurrency into the economy." That doesn't mean that the U.S. is going to pivot to a digital blockchain dollar, CoinDesk reports. Rather, the National Science Foundation funded KRNC because it's interested in exploring new ways to improve the security of digital transactions. The protocol KRNC is developing would meter out a new cryptocurrency in proportion to a user's existing wealth, CoinDesk reports, instead of requiring them to purchase or actively mine new crypto. In other words, it wouldn't make people richer, but it would grant them an alternative means to transfer funds online. "Bitcoin, which runs on the principle of Proof-of-Work, is wasteful," KRNC CEO Clint Ehrlich told CoinDesk. "It requires people to waste money and computing power solving pointless problems."

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Google Chrome 85 To Allow Users To Compose Tweets From Windows 10 Taskbar

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 19:40
In the "quick launch bar" of Windows 10, native app icons "support a shortcut menu for commonly or frequently performed tasks in the app. This menu can be invoked by right-clicking the app's quick launch bar icon," writes the Windows Club site -- adding that Mac users can use similar functionality when opening a web browser from the MacOS dock. But now Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are working on similar "App Shortcuts" that allow users to do things like send email or composing tweets directly from the Windows 10 taskbar or macOS dock. Slashdot reader techtsp shares their report: Right now, Chromium does not allow users to start a key task within a progressive web app through the Windows 10 taskbar. This is exactly what Chromium-based web browsers are now trying to change. This feature will enable web developers to add support in Chromium for shortcuts defined in a Web App Manifest. As a result, Chromium progressive web apps can offer App shortcuts for their quick launch bar icon much like native apps. The App shortcuts feature is currently in development on Microsoft Edge. Meanwhile, Google Chrome 85 is in the Dev channel.

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How Accurate Were Ray Kurzweil's Predictions for 2019?

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 18:34
In 1999, Ray Kurzweil made predictions about what the world would be like 20 years in the future. Last month the community blog LessWrong took a look at how accurate Kurzweil's predictions turned out to be: This was a follow up to a previous assessment about his predictions about 2009, which showed a mixed bag, roughly evenly divided between right and wrong, which I'd found pretty good for 10-year predictions... For the 2019 predictions, I divided them into 105 separate statements, did a call for volunteers [and] got 46 volunteers with valid email addresses, of which 34 returned their predictions... Of the 34 assessors, 24 went the whole hog and did all 105 predictions; on average, 91 predictions were assessed by each person, a total of 3078 individual assessments... Kurzweil's predictions for 2019 were considerably worse than those for 2009, with more than half strongly wrong. The assessors ultimately categorized just 12% of Kurzweil's predictions as true, with another 12% declared "weakly true," while another 10% were classed as "cannot decide." But 52% were declared "false" -- with another 15% also called "weakly false." Among Kurzweil's false predictions for the year 2019: "Phone" calls routinely include high-resolution three-dimensional images projected through the direct-eye displays and auditory lenses... Thus a person can be fooled as to whether or not another person is physically present or is being projected through electronic communication. The all-enveloping tactile environment is now widely available and fully convincing. "As you can see, Kurzweil suffered a lot from his VR predictions," explains the LessWrong blogpost. "This seems a perennial thing: Hollywood is always convinced that mass 3D is just around the corner; technologists are convinced that VR is imminent." But the blog post also thanks Kurzweil, "who, unlike most prognosticators, had the guts and the courtesy to write down his predictions and give them a date. I strongly suspect that most people's 1999 predictions about 2019 would have been a lot worse." And they also took special note of Kurzweil's two most accurate predictions. First, "The existence of the human underclass continues as an issue." And second: "People attempt to protect their privacy with near-unbreakable encryption technologies, but privacy continues to be a major political and social issue with each individual's practically every move stored in a database somewhere."

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GitHub, Android, Python, Go: More Software Adopts Race-Neutral Terminology

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 17:34
"The terms 'allowlist' and 'blocklist' describe their purpose, while the other words use metaphors to describe their purpose," reads a change description on the source code for Android -- from over a year ago. 9to5Mac calls it "a shortened version of Google's (internal-only) explanation" for terminology changes which are now becoming more widespread. And Thursday GitHub's CEO said they were also "already working on" renaming the default branches of code from "master" to a more neutral term like "main," reports ZDNet: GitHub lending its backing to this movement effectively ensures the term will be removed across millions of projects, and effectively legitimizes the effort to clean up software terminology that started this month. But, in reality, these efforts started years ago, in 2014, when the Drupal project first moved in to replace "master/slave" terminology with "primary/replica." Drupal's move was followed by the Python programming language, Chromium (the open source browser project at the base of Chrome), Microsoft's Roslyn .NET compiler, and the PostgreSQL and Redis database systems... The PHPUnit library and the Curl file download utility have stated their intention to replace blacklist/whitelist with neutral alternatives. Similarly, the OpenZFS file storage manager has also replaced its master/slave terms used for describing relations between storage environments with suitable replacements. Gabriel Csapo, a software engineer at LinkedIn, said on Twitter this week that he's also in the process of filing requests to update many of Microsoft's internal libraries. A recent change description for the Go programming language says "There's been plenty of discussion on the usage of these terms in tech. I'm not trying to have yet another debate." It's clear that there are people who are hurt by them and who are made to feel unwelcome by their use due not to technical reasons but to their historical and social context. That's simply enough reason to replace them. Anyway, allowlist and blocklist are more self-explanatory than whitelist and blacklist, so this change has negative cost. That change was merged on June 9th -- but 9to5Mac reports it's just one of many places these changes are happening. "The Chrome team is beginning to eliminate even subtle forms of racism by moving away from terms like 'blacklist' and 'whitelist.' Google's Android team is now implementing a similar effort to replace the words 'blacklist' and 'whitelist.'" And ZDNet reports more open source projects are working on changing the name of their default Git repo from "master" to alternatives like main, default, primary, root, or another, including the OpenSSL encryption software library, automation software Ansible, Microsoft's PowerShell scripting language, the P5.js JavaScript library, and many others.

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A Spaceflight Engineer Recovers the Lost Software For Apollo 10's Lunar Module

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 16:34
Long-time Slashdot reader destinyland writes: Vintage computing enthusiasts have recreated NASA's legendary "Apollo Guidance Computer," the 1960s-era assembly-language onboard guidance and navigation computer for the Apollo missions to the moon. Unfortunately, the software had been lost for the Apollo 10 mission (a manned "dress rehearsal" mission which flew to the moon eight weeks before Neil Armstrong's famous moonwalk mission). But spaceflight engineer Mike Stewart found a clever way to recreate it, according to one science show on YouTube. Stewart found a print-out of an earlier version of the program, and "with the help of a small army of volunteers, Mike hand-transcribed the source listing and all of its programs..." — all 1,735 pages of it. (Though what used to take 25 minutes to compile together on a Honeywell mainframe now takes less than a second on his modern laptop.) There were also NASA memos which described the change, later versions of the program which had implemented the changes — and most importantly, a recently-discovered NASA document giving the checksum for every version of every program run on the Apollo Guidance Computer. So Stewart was able to cut-and-paste carefully-chosen code and variables from later versions of the program — based on the clues in NASA's memos — until he'd recreated a program with the exact same checksum. There's also a separate video about the Apollo 10 code, highlighting "lighthearted comments in very serious code." (For example, to warn off people who'd change their crucial constants, they'd actually included a Latin phrase — a play on a biblical quote which translates roughly to "Don't touch these.") The ignition routine that actually lights the descent engine for the moon landing is named BURNBABY. The comment accompanying it? "OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD."

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Lego Unveils New 'Robot Inventor' Mindstorms Kit

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 15:34
After seven years, Lego has finally unveiled a new Mindstorms kit, reports PC Magazine -- the Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor, available this fall for $359: The Robot Inventor kit lets kids (or adults) build five different robot models out of 949 pieces, ranging from a four-legged walker to a bipedal wheeled robot that can give high-fives. All of these robots can be programmed to perform different tricks, like grabbing items, firing plastic projectiles, avoiding obstacles, and playing various sports with a ball. The kit includes four low-profile, medium-angular motors; a color and light sensor; and a distance sensor, which work together with the Intelligent Hub block to power these robots and execute commands. Of course, like all Mindstorms kits, you can build your own robotic creations with the tools at hand, and add Lego Technic and System pieces for more complex projects. The Intelligent Hub serves as the brain of Lego Mindstorms, and the block that houses the Mindstorms Robot Inventor Kit is the most advanced one yet. It features six input/output ports for sensors and motors, a six-axis gyro/accelerometer, a speaker, and a five-by-five LED matrix. The Intelligent Hub and all robots built with it can be controlled wirelessly over Bluetooth with the Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor app for Android, iOS, Windows 10, and macOS. The app supports programming in both the tile-based Scratch language and in Python, for more complex projects that require the precision of written code.

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Bjarne Stroustrup Releases 168-Page Paper on How C++ Thrived

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 14:34
Bjarne Stroustrup, the 69-year-old Danish creator of C++, just released a 168-page paper (published under a Creative Commons Attributions-NoDerivatives license) in the Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages, detailing the growth of C++ from its 21st birthday in 2006 up through the year 2020. It begins by noting that by 2006, C++ "contained parts that had survived unchanged since introduced into C in the early 1970s as well as features that were novel in the early 2000s..." Originally, I designed C++ to answer to the question "How do you directly manipulate hardware and also support efficient high-level abstraction?" Over the years, C++ has grown from a relatively simple solution based on a combination of facilities from the C and Simula languages aimed at systems programming on 1980s computers to a far more complex and effective tool for an extraordinary range of applications... [T]his is also the story of the people involved in the evolution of C++, the way they perceived the challenges, interpreted the constraints on solutions, organized their work, and resolved their inevitable differences. From the abstract: From 2006 to 2020, the C++ developer community grew from about 3 million to about 4.5 million. It was a period where new programming models emerged, hardware architectures evolved, new application domains gained massive importance, and quite a few well-financed and professionally marketed languages fought for dominance. How did C++ -- an older language without serious commercial backing -- manage to thrive in the face of all that? This paper focuses on the major changes to the ISO C++ standard for the 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2020 revisions... Themes include efforts to preserve the essence of C++ through evolutionary changes, to simplify its use, to improve support for generic programming, to better support compile-time programming, to extend support for concurrency and parallel programming, and to maintain stable support for decades' old code... Specific language-technical topics include the memory model, concurrency and parallelism, compile-time computation, move-semantics, exceptions, lambda expressions, and modules. "I hope other languages learn from C++'s successes," the paper concludes. "It would be sad if the lessons learned fromC++'s evolution were limited to the C++ community."

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Scientists Trigger Hibernation In Mice, Could Astronauts Be Next?

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 13:34
"Scientists in Japan successfully triggered a hibernation-like state in mice by activating a specific group of brain cells," reports UPI, which points out that entering a hibernation-like state "could help astronauts conserve food and water, as well as avoid the ill-effects of microgravity, on long journeys through space." The research, published this week in the journal Nature, suggests even animals that don't naturally sleep through the winter are capable of hibernation... Hibernation isn't simply prolonged sleep. When food gets scarce and winter approaches, hibernating animals begin to slow down their metabolism and drop their body temperature. During their prolonged slumber, hibernating animals quiet their brains and slow their heart rate and breathing. As a result, bears, snakes, turtles and other hibernating species are able to conserve energy. When spring arrives, the animals wake having lost a little weight, but are otherwise healthy. Mice don't hibernate in the wild. But in the lab, researchers were able to coax mice into a hibernation-like state by activating a type of brain cell called Q neurons... During their approximately weeklong hibernation, the mice had slower heart rates, reduced oxygen consumption and slower respiration.

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Gizmodo Reports Airbnb 'Agrees to Rat Out Its Hosts Like NYC Wants It To'

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 10:34
In New York City, Airbnb "has agreed to hand over personal data about its hosts — like their phone numbers and email addresses, along with a full list of every home they're putting on the platform — in order to help city authorities track down those that flout the city's regulations," reports Gizmodo. The city is Airbnb's largest market in the U.S. -- but city officials have estimated that up to 35,000 listings were violating a law preventing short-term rentals of apartments that don't have tenants. The heat between Airbnb and New York heated up roughly two years ago, when officials passed another local law forcing home-rental companies like Airbnb to disclose data about their hosts on a regular basis, which would shine a spotlight on any that were, say, caught renting out more space than they legally ought to. In return, Airbnb and Homeaway, another short-stay platform, fired back with a lawsuit of their own, which gleaned the favor of local judges last summer. According to Bloomberg, the battle has since simmered down in the form of a private settlement between the two companies and the city of New York. Both agreed to share information on a quarterly basis, rather than the month-by-month arrangements first pushed by the regulators in question. Information shared includes the host's full name and address, along with their contact information and income generated on either platform — not to mention information about every listing they're putting up at any given time.

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Facebook paying for exploit to catch a predator, voting software security under the microscope...

TheRegister - Sun, 2020-06-14 10:06
... and more in this rapid-fire summary of infosec news

Roundup We all made it through another week – and here's a treat: another Register security roundup.…

Categories: Linux fréttir

Does the Internet Need a New Architecture that Puts Users First?

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 07:38
Two VoIP pioneers argue in a Wired opinion piece that "Treating the internet like a public utility only bolsters the platform giants," adding "A more secure model starts with control by the people." As we rely on the internet more and more for work, social connections, and basic needs, it is time to talk about the future of meaningful online experiences, and the need for a new internet architecture. We need a user-focused, localized internet. This competitive architecture would deliver an experience that values real-time connectivity over one-way advertising and puts control with the user, not with big tech platforms. This paradigm would flip the model on its head, letting people start with complete privacy and security, and from there allow them to open their channels depending on trust level. It inverts the terms of service, where instead of any platform imposing them on users, users impose theirs terms on the platform. A new architecture that competes with the "public" internet is completely possible, and it begins with a policy approach that fosters the necessary innovation and investment, while allowing for flexibility and experimentation. Fixing the internet is not rooted in treating it like a public utility; it is not to be found in micromanagement by government. In fact, those very backward-looking policies only fuel more harm by protecting the status quo, which is likely why big tech platforms have been so fervently pushing for them... As we argued in challenges to the 2015 Federal Communications Commission's public-utility-based Net Neutrality rules, this also kills investment, startups, and new innovation... [T]he public internet we experience today created the trillion-dollar tech platforms, but it allows for a few entities in Silicon Valley to colonize the entire planet and kill consumer choice. Six companies control 43 percent of all internet traffic. Of those six, three — Google, Facebook, and Amazon — receive 70 percent of all digital ad revenue in the U.S... Exposing everyone to the equivalent of homelessness online for the purposes of selling advertising already exceeds the tolerance of most of us. There exist more valuable uses of connectivity in support of human productivity than conjuring ever expanding modes of performance and creepy surveillance to drive advertising revenues.

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Study: 100% Face Mask Use Could Crush Second, Third COVID-19 Wave

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 03:44
"A new modeling study out of Cambridge and Greenwich universities suggests that face masks may be even more important than originally thought in preventing future outbreaks of the new coronavirus," reports SFGate: To ward off resurgences, the reproduction number for the virus (the average number of people who will contract it from one infected person) needs to drop below 1.0. Researchers don't believe that's achievable with lockdowns alone. However, a combination of lockdowns and widespread mask compliance might do the trick, they say. "We show that, when face masks are used by the public all the time (not just from when symptoms first appear), the effective reproduction number, Re, can be decreased below 1, leading to the mitigation of epidemic spread," the scientists wrote in the paper published Wednesday by the Proceedings of the Royal Society A. The modeling indicated that when lockdown periods are combined with 100% face mask use, disease spread is vastly diminished, preventing resurgence for 18 months, the time frame that has frequently been cited for developing a vaccine. It also demonstrated that if people wear masks in public, it is twice as effective at reducing the R number than if face coverings are only worn after symptoms appear. The masks don't have to be top-of-the-line surgical or respirator masks. Homemade coverings that catch only 50 percent of exhaled droplets would provide a "population-level benefit," they concluded. Another review funded by the World Health Organization and published in the journal Lancet also concluded "that data from 172 observational studies indicate wearing face masks reduces the risk of coronavirus infection," according to the Washington Post. A former director of America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, "It's a lot less economically disruptive to wear a mask than to shut society, so I can't understand some of the resistance to mask wearing."

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SpaceX vs. Space Shuttle: NASA's Falcon 9 Astronauts Compare the Differences

Slashdot - Sun, 2020-06-14 01:34
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flew to the International Space Station on SpaceX's Crew Dragon. But they're also uniquely qualified to describe what it felt like, since both had also flown twice on NASA's Space Shuttle. So how did its solid-fueled booster rockets during the first stage of lift-off compare to SpaceX's liquid-fueled booster rockets? Slashdot reader Iwastheone shares their answer, in an article from Spaceflight Now: The Crew Dragon astronauts said the ride on the Falcon 9 rocket was smoother than the space shuttle for the first couple of minutes... "[O]ur expectation was, as we continued with the flight into second stage, that things would basically get a lot smoother than the space shuttle did. But Dragon was huffing and puffing all the way into orbit..." Behnken said. "A little bit less Gs, but a little bit more alive is probably the best way I would describe it." Hurley said, "it was very similar to what you saw in the Apollo 13 movie, where they staged from first to second stage... "That was the highlight of the ascent for me," Hurley said. "So totally different than shuttle," Hurley said. "It was smooth. It got a little rougher." The Dragon's automatic docking with the space station felt more gentle than expected, Hurley said. "The thing that really stood out to both us — and we mentioned it was soon as we docked — is we didn't feel the docking," he said. "It was just so smooth, and then we were docked. In shuttle, you felt a little bit of a jolt, nothing real heavy, but you felt it." Hurley and Behnken also had positive reviews for their SpaceX-made pressure suits. The astronauts wore them during launch and docking, and will put them on again for their return to Earth — expected in late July or August. "They're custom designed and custom fitted, so they're very comfortable," Hurley said. The astronauts said taking off the suits and putting them on in space, without the effect of gravity, was much easier than on Earth. "We'd have to give the suits a five star rating," Behnken said.... "For us — as the test pilots, so to speak — we're there to evaluate how it does the mission, and so far it's done just absolutely spectacularly," Hurley said.

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Python Overtakes Java? JetBrains Releases 'State of Developer Ecosystem' Survey

Slashdot - Sat, 2020-06-13 23:34
The creators of the Kotlin programming language — the Czech software development company Jetbrains — announced results from their annual "State of the Developer Ecosystem" survey. This year's survey involved 19,696 developers in 18 countries, and found that: JavaScript is the most used overall programming language. Websites are the most common type of application developers work on. Python has overtaken Java in the list of programming languages used in the last 12 months. And it is also the most studied language. In the last 12 months 30% of respondents have started or continued to learn Python — even more than last year. Go, Kotlin, and Python are the top 3 languages developers are planning to adopt or migrate to. JetBrains also gathered some statistics from programmers for a special section on Lifestyle and Fun: 65% said they preferred laptops, while 33% preferred desktops.52% said they contributed to charity.20% said they owned a cat; another 20% said they owned a dog.16% said they owned cryptocurrency. And when asked if they contributed to open-source projects: 44% said "No, but I would like to."20% said "I have only contributed a few times."16% said "Yes, from time to time (several times a year)."11% said "Yes, regularly (at least once a month)."4% said "No, and I would not like to."3% said "I work full-time on open-source code and get paid for it."2% said "I work full-time on open-source code but do not get paid for it." Also interesting were the answers to the question: If your country's government replaced your courts with AI, would you trust it? The results were: Probably not (26%)Definitely not (24%)Maybe (26%)Probably yes (20%)Definitely yes (5%)

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Chemical Engineers Turn Carbon Dioxide Into Useful Industrial Materials

Slashdot - Sat, 2020-06-13 22:34
"Chemical engineers from UNSW Sydney have developed new technology that helps convert harmful carbon dioxide emissions into chemical building blocks to make useful industrial products like fuel and plastics," reports Phys.org: The researchers, who carried out their work in the Particles and Catalysis Research Laboratory led by Scientia Professor Rose Amal, show that by making zinc oxide at very high temperatures using a technique called flame spray pyrolysis (FSP), they can create nanoparticles which act as the catalyst for turning carbon dioxide into 'syngas' — a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide used in the manufacture of industrial products. The researchers say this method is cheaper and more scalable to the requirements of heavy industry than what is available today... "Syngas is often considered the chemical equivalent of Lego because the two building blocks — hydrogen and carbon monoxide — can be used in different ratios to make things like synthetic diesel, methanol, alcohol or plastics, which are very important industrial precursors," says Dr. Lovell, co-author of a paper published this week in Advanced Energy Materials. "So essentially what we're doing is converting CO2 into these precursors that can be used to make all these vital industrial chemicals..." The researchers say in effect, they are closing the carbon loop in industrial processes that create harmful greenhouse gases... "The idea is that we can take a point source of CO2, such as a coal fired power plant, a gas power plant, or even a natural gas mine where you liberate a huge amount of pure CO2 and we can essentially retrofit this technology at the back end of these plants. Then you could capture that produced CO2 and convert it into something that is hugely valuable to industry," says Dr. Lovell.

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Interview with the Science Writer Who Predicted the Pandemic 8 Years Ago

Slashdot - Sat, 2020-06-13 21:34
In 1945, after atomic bomb detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, several former Manhattan Project scientists founded the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Publishing continuously since 1945, its current deputy editor, science writer DanDrollette, is also a Slashdot reader, and shared one of the nonprofit magazine's thought-provoking new interviews: In 2012, author David Quammen wrote a book, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, that was the result of five years of research on scientists who were looking into the possibility of another Ebola-type disease emerging. The consensus: There would indeed be a new disease, likely from the coronavirus family, coming out of a bat, and it would likely emerge in or around a wet market in China. But what was not predictable was how unprepared we would be. Quammen: For 15 years, scientists have said: "Watch out for coronaviruses; they could be very dangerous." And for five years, Chinese scientist Zhengli Shi at Wuhan Institute of Virology has been warning us to watch out for the coronaviruses found in Chinese bats; SARS is a coronavirus, and it came out of Chinese bats in 2003. That was very dangerous to humans, but it didn't transmit as readily as this one does. But Shi and her group saw a virus very similar to it in bats in a cave in Yunnan Province and published a paper in 2017 saying, "Watch out for these particular coronaviruses in these horseshoe bats. They necessitate the highest preparedness." That was three years ago... Everything about this outbreak was predictable, to me and to the scientists I was listening to, 10 years ago.

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Why One of Kubernetes' Creators Moved From Google To Microsoft

Slashdot - Sat, 2020-06-13 20:34
Long-time Slashdot reader destinyland writes: One of the three Google employees who created Kubernetes — the open source container-orchestration platform now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation — was software engineer Brendan Burns. But in 2016 Burns became an engineer at Microsoft (where since March he's been a corporate vice president at Microsoft). This week in a new podcast interview [video here], Burns explained why he went from Google to Microsoft, which was "all-in on cloud": Obviously growing up in Seattle, Microsoft is sort of like the home-town team — so that was a big plus also. And it's been great to be able to come in and really help them figure out — I think one of the really amazing things about being there is it's a company in transition. Certainly four years ago when I joined, it's a company in transition. And getting a chance to help continue that transition, and help continue and shift its focus from closed-source and Windows to a really renewed focus on open source and Linux and cloud native application development — that ability to influence and help shape direction has been really awesome also. But it was more than just their commitment to the cloud... "There's just such a great developer history there, of developer tooling and developer productivity. Just such a focus on empowering people to build stuff. That's really compelling to me too, because I think one of the things we really haven't done a good job of in Kubernetes is make it easier to build these programs. Right? We do a lot to make it easier to operate the stuff, but it's still really hard to build these systems, and Kubernetes isn't helping you at all. So I'm really excited and interested and thinking a lot about how can we make it easier for developers to build systems. And I think the DNA and history and experience of Microsoft to build things, the hugely successful platform that is Windows, means there's just a great — a really strong amount of DNA about what it takes to build a platform that doesn't just succeed for elite devs but can really succeed for people all the way from no-code solutions all the way through to advance systems solutions. And so that opportunity is really exciting.

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Can AI Design Games? How Nick Walton Created 'AI Dungeon'

Slashdot - Sat, 2020-06-13 19:34
shirappu writes: Nick Walton created AI Dungeon as an experiment to build an AI dungeon master for D&D games. Since then, it's grown into a text adventure game in which players can type in anything they want, with the game's AI responding dynamically [and with over 1.5 million players and multiplayer adventures.] In this interview about the year since its release, Nick talks about how it works and what they're working on now: quest systems, world persistence, and longer-term memory. He also opens up about where he thinks AI systems can support game development. "One of our visions for AI is not as a tool to replace game designers, but a tool for augmenting their work. We want to make it easier to create awesome games. If it only takes one or two people to build an awesome game because AI fills in the details, it opens up doors for a lot of people. "We really want to enable people to build cool things with this tech. Deploying this kind of AI training and these massive models is really hard for the average person, so our hope is that we build out the infrastructure and platform, and then let people build cool things on top of that." Walton says they've recently added a modding feature that "basically allows for people to create custom modifications for their worlds." In a test run I was a cyberpunk "living in the the futuristic city of Zail. You have a bag of drugs and a holoband. You wake up in a dark alley with bruises all over your body. You have no idea what happened. You stand up and see three men pointing guns at you..."

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More Drone Deliveries Being Tested in America

Slashdot - Sat, 2020-06-13 18:34
Long-time Slashdot reader necro81 writes: For several years, Zipline has deployed autonomous, fixed-wing airplane drones for medical supply deliveries in Rwanda. Now they have received permission to test their aircraft in the U.S., ferrying COVID-19 supplies from a depot to a hospital in North Carolina. The practical benefit is small: the cargo is modest amounts of PPE that could have been delivered by truck in about 20 minutes. But this is a big deal, because it required a waiver from the FAA for the planes to operate fully autonomously and beyond visual line-of-sight — just launch and forget. It is happening in proximity to an airport no less. The article notes it's America's "first drone delivery operation to be approved to fly in airspace where all air traffic is actively managed by the FAA." But meanwhile, another headline this week at the Washington Post tells us that Google-backed drones "will drop library books so kids in Virginia can do their summer reading." Wing, a company owned by Google parent Alphabet, started delivering household goods and meals [and prescriptions] from Walgreens and local restaurants to a limited area of the southwest Virginia town that covers several thousand homes last October. The company has seen a jump in demand during the pandemic as people are increasingly staying home and avoiding crowded spaces like grocery stores, said Keith Heyde, head of Virginia operations for Wing. The company reached a high of 1,000 deliveries globally in a single week this spring, he said. And they're not the only companies experimenting with drone deliveries, according to Forbes: UPS and CVS have also paired up with a focus on medical products. The two companies are partnering to use drones to deliver prescriptions to residents of The Villages in Florida, one of the country's biggest retirement communities. The deliveries come from a CVS store about a half mile away and mark the first paid residential deliveries by UPS's drone unit Flight Forward. The drones drop the prescriptions to a central location, where a Flight Forward employee will ferry them by golf cart to homes. Chennai, India, and Surabaya, Indonesia have tried using drones to spray disinfectant in crowded cities. But Forbes reports that around the world, "the biggest use case has been the deployment of drones to enforce social distancing and monitor crowds." Although at least one Paris prefect complains that there's still one problem with the drones. "Sometimes they are attacked by birds, which mistake them for rivals."

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How an Online Mob Doxxed an Innocent Man

Slashdot - Sat, 2020-06-13 17:34
"An innocent man faced a torrent of online threats and abuse after being mistakenly identified in a viral video in which an angry cyclist hurt a child," reports the BBC: Mr. Weinberg was falsely identified when the wrong date was attached to the initial appeal made by the police in Bethesda, U.S. Mr. Weinberg used the popular fitness tracking app Strava, which showed him as having been on the Maryland bike trail on that day. However on the correct date he was working at home... Once his address had been shared by others — a practice known as doxxing — the police had to patrol the area for his safety, reported New York magazine... Mr. Weinberg has since received dozens of apologies from people who abused him online. Weinberg mistakenly thought his app only shared his bike-ride routes with his network of friends, New York Magazine reports. They add that Weinberg also discovered tweets wrongly accusing another man — a former police officer in Maryland — which had been retweeted and liked more than half a million times. And that the woman who'd posted Weinberg's home address later "deleted it and posted an apology, writing that in all of her eagerness to see justice served, she was swept up in the mob that so gleefully shared misinformation, depriving someone of their own right to justice. "Her correction was shared by fewer than a dozen people."

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