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2018 Is the Last Year of America's Public Domain Drought

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader shares a report: Happy Public Domain Day, every-some of you! In New Zealand and Canada, published works by artists who died in 1967 -- Rene Magritte, Dorothy Parker, John Coltrane, and many others -- have entered the public domain; Kiwis and Canadians can now freely distribute, perform, and remix a wealth of painting, writing, and music. In Europe, work published by artists who died in 1947 are now public domain. In the United States, well, we get nothing for the 20th year in a row, with one more to go. Our public domain drought is nearly old enough to drink. American copyrights now stretch for 95 years. Since 1998, we've been frozen with a public domain that only applies to works from before 1923 (and government works). Jennifer Jenkins is a clinical professor of law at Duke Law School, which hosts the Center for the Study of the Public Domain. In an email she explained what changed and why nothing has entered American public domain for two decades. "Until 1978, the maximum copyright term was 56 years from the date of publication -- an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years," she wrote. "In 1998, Congress added 20 years to the copyright term, extending it to the author's lifetime plus 70 years, or 95 years after publication for corporate 'works made for hire.'"

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Security updates for New Year's day

LWN Headlines -

Security updates have been issued by Debian (asterisk, gimp, thunderbird, and wireshark), Fedora (global, python-mistune, and thunderbird-enigmail), Mageia (apache, bind, emacs, ffmpeg, freerdp, gdk-pixbuf2.0, gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad/gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad, gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly, gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly/gstreamer1.0-plugins-ugly, gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad, heimdal, icu, ipsec-tools, jasper, kdebase4-runtime, ldns, libvirt, mupdf, ncurses, openjpeg2, openssh, python/python3, ruby, ruby-RubyGems, shotwell, thunderbird, webkit2, and X11 client libraries), openSUSE (gdk-pixbuf and phpMyAdmin), and SUSE (java-1_7_1-ibm).

How Do You Vote? 50 Million Google Images Give a Clue

Slashdot -

Artificial Intelligence is now being used to scan millions of pictures taken by Google Street View to glean insights like income or voting patterns, The New York Times reports. In a Stanford project, computers scanned millions of pictures of parked cars to predict voting patterns and pollution. From the report: The Stanford project gives a glimpse at the potential. By pulling the vehicles' makes, models and years from the images, and then linking that information with other data sources, the project was able to predict factors like pollution and voting patterns at the neighborhood level. "This kind of social analysis using image data is a new tool to draw insights," said Timnit Gebru, who led the Stanford research effort. The research has been published in stages, the most recent in late November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the end, the car-image project involved 50 million images of street scenes gathered from Google Street View. In them, 22 million cars were identified, and then classified into more than 2,600 categories like their make and model, located in more than 3,000 ZIP codes and 39,000 voting districts.

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Call For Tech Giants To Face Taxes Over Extremist Content

Slashdot -

Internet companies should face a tax punishment for failing to deal with the threat of terrorism in the UK, security minister Ben Wallace has said. From a report: Mr Wallace said firms such as Facebook, Google and YouTube were too slow to remove radical content online, forcing the government to act instead. While tech firms were "ruthless profiteers," governments were spending millions policing the web, he added. Facebook said Mr Wallace was wrong to say it put profits before safety. YouTube said violent extremism was a "complex problem" and addressing it was a "critical challenge for us all." In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Wallace said tech giants were failing to help prevent the radicalisation of people online. "Because content is not taken down as quickly as they could do," he claimed, "we're having to de-radicalise people who have been radicalised. That's costing millions."

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Kernel prepatch 4.15-rc6

LWN Headlines -

The 4.15-rc6 kernel prepatch has been released for testing. "This would have been a very quiet week, if it wasn't for the final x86 PTI stuff - and that shows in the diffstat too. About half the rc6 work is x86 updates. The timing for this isn't wonderful, but it all looks nice and clean."

Germany Starts Enforcing Hate Speech Law

Slashdot -

Germany is set to start enforcing a law that demands social media sites move quickly to remove hate speech, fake news and illegal material. From a report: Sites that do not remove "obviously illegal" posts could face fines of up to 50m euro ($60m). The law gives the networks 24 hours to act after they have been told about law-breaking material. Social networks and media sites with more than two million members will fall under the law's provisions. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law's main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in its provisions.

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Efforts Grow To Help Students Evaluate What They See Online

Slashdot -

Alarmed by the proliferation of false content online, state lawmakers around the country are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell fact from fiction. From a report: Lawmakers in several states have introduced or passed bills calling on public school systems to do more to teach media literacy skills that they say are critical to democracy. The effort has been bipartisan but has received little attention despite successful legislation in Washington state, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Mexico. Several more states are expected to consider such bills in the coming year, including Arizona, New York and Hawaii. Advocates say the K-12 curriculum has not kept pace with rapid changes in technology. Studies show many children spend hours every day online but struggle to comprehend the content that comes at them. For years, they have pushed schools to incorporate media literacy -- including the ability to evaluate and analyze sources of information -- into lesson plans in civics, language arts, science and other subjects.

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Some Hopeful Predictions for 2018

Slashdot -

NBC asked 15 "top science and tech leaders" for their predictions for 2018. Despite arguments that technology has "created a monster," one anonymous reader sees their answers as a reason for hope: NBC notes the detection of gravitational waves in 2017 (predicted almost a century ago by Einstein) and the creation of genetically modified human embryos. And a professor of molecular medicine at The Scripps Research Institute points out that in 2018, more than 10 different medical conditions are now also moving forward in gene-editing clinical trials, including rare eye diseases, hemophilia, and sickle cell anemia. He predicts that in 2018, deep machine learning "will start to take hold in the clinic, first in ways to improve diagnostic accuracy and efficiency of doctors' workflow." Former ICANN head Esther Dyson predicts we'll also begin using big data not only to reduce healthcare costs, but also social problems like unemployment, depression, and crime. "With big data, and more data available through everything from health records and fitness apps to public data such as high school graduation rates and population demographics, we are increasingly able to compare what happens with what would have happened without a particular intervention...with luck, some communities will lead by example, and policy-makers will take note." The head of the atmospheric science program at the University of Georgia notes that already, "We now have technology in place to provide significant lead time for landfalling hurricanes, potentially tornadic storms, and multi-day flood events." And Dr. Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, predicts that in 2018 "it's possible that a replacement for Pluto will be found," while an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History adds that in 2018 the European Space Agency's Gaia Mission will determine "distances to over a billion stars and velocities for several million," creating "an exquisitely detailed 3D map of our home galaxy."

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Best of…: 2017: Nature, In Its Volatility

The Daily WTF -

Happy New Year! Put that hangover on hold, as we return to an entirely different kind of headache, back on the "Galapagos". -- Remy

About two years ago, we took a little trip to the Galapagos- a tiny, isolated island where processes and coding practices evolved… a bit differently. Calvin, as an invasive species, brought in new ways of doing things- like source control, automated builds, and continuous integration- and changed the landscape of the island forever.

Or so it seemed, until the first hiccup. Shortly after putting all of the code into source control and automating the builds, the application started failing in production. Specifically, the web service calls out to a third party web service for a few operations, and those calls universally failed in production.

“Now,” Hank, the previous developer and now Calvin’s supervisor, “I thought you said this should make our deployments more reliable. Now, we got all these extra servers, and it just plumb don’t work.”

“We’re changing processes,” Calvin said, “so a glitch could happen easily. I’ll look into it.”

“Looking into it” was a bit more of a challenge than it should have been. The code was a pasta-golem: a gigantic monolith of spaghetti. It had no automated tests, and wasn’t structured in a way that made it easy to test. Logging was nonexistent.

Still, Calvin’s changes to the organization helped. For starters, there was a brand new test server he could use to replicate the issue. He fired up his testing scripts, ran them against the test server, and… everything worked just fine.

Calvin checked the build logs, to confirm that both test and production had the same version, and they did. So next, he pulled a copy of the code down to his machine, and ran it. Everything worked again. Twiddling the config files didn’t accomplish anything. He build a version of the service configured for remote debugging, and chucked it up to the production server… and the error went away. Everything suddenly started working fine.

Quickly, he reverted production. On his local machine, he did something he’d never really had call to do- he flipped the build flag from “Debug” to “Release” and recompiled. The service hung. When built in “Release” mode, the resulting DLL had a bug that caused a hang, but it was something that never appeared when built in “Debug” mode.

“I reckon you’re still workin’ on this,” Hank asked, as he ambled by Calvin’s office, thumbs hooked in his belt loops. “I’m sure you’ve got a smart solution, and I ain’t one to gloat, but this ain’t never happened the old way.”

“Well, I can get a temporary fix up into production,” Calvin said. He quickly threw a debug build up onto production, which wouldn’t have the bug. “But I have to hunt for the underlying cause.”

“I guess I just don’t see why we can’t build right on the shared folder, is all.”

“This problem would have cropped up there,” Calvin said. “Once we build for Release, the problem crops up. It’s probably a preprocessor directive.”

“A what now?”

Hank’s ignorance about preprocessor directives was quickly confirmed by a search through the code- there was absolutely no #if statements in there. Calvin spent the next few hours staring at this block of code, which is where the application seemed to hang:

public class ServiceWrapper { bool thingIsDone = false; //a bunch of other state variables public string InvokeSoap(methodArgs args) { //blah blah blah soapClient client = new Client(); client.doThingCompleted += new doThingEventHandler(MyCompletionMethod); client.doThingAsync(args); do { string busyWork = ""; } while (thingIsDone == false) return "SUCCESS!" //seriously, this is what it returns } private void MyCompletionMethod(object sender, completedEventArgs e) { //do some other stuff thingIsDone = true; } }

Specifically, it was in the busyWork loop where the thing hung. He stared and stared at this code, trying to figure out why thingIsDone never seemed to become true, but only when built in Release. Obviously, it had to be a compiler optimization- and that’s when the lightbulb went off.

The C# compiler, when building for release, will look for variables whose values don’t appear to change, and replace them with in-lined constants. In serial code, this can be handled with some pretty straightforward static analysis, but in multi-threaded code, the compiler can make “mistakes”. There’s no way for the compiler to see that thingIsDone ever changes, since the change happens in an external thread. The fix is simple: chuck volatile on the variable declaration to disable that optimization.

volatile bool thingIsDone = false solved the problem. Well, it solved the immediate problem. Having seen the awfulness of that code, Calvin couldn’t sleep that night. Nightmares about the busyWork loop and the return "SUCCESS!" kept him up. The next day, the very first thing he did was refactor the code to actually properly handle multiple threads.

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New Year's Resolutions For Linux Admins: Automate More, Learn New Languages

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: A long-time Unix sys-admin is suggesting 18 different New Year's resolutions for Linux systems adminstrators. And #1 is to automate more of your boring stuff. "There are several good reasons to turn tedious tasks into scripts. The first is to make them less annoying. The second is to make them less error-prone. And the last is to make them easier to turn over to new team members who haven't been around long enough to be bored. Add a small dose of meaningful comments to your scripts and you have a better chance of passing on some of your wisdom about how things should be done." Along with that, they suggest learning a new scripting language. "It's easy to keep using the same tools you've been using for decades (I should know), but you might have more fun and more relevance in the long run if you teach yourself a new scripting language. If you've got bash and Perl down pat, consider adding Python or Ruby or some other new language to your mix of skills." Other suggestions include trying a new distro -- many of which can now be run in "live mode" on a USB drive -- and investigating the security procedures of cloud services (described in the article as "trusting an outside organization with our data"). "And don't forget... There are now only 20 years until 2038 -- The Unix/Linux clockpocalypse."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Which Programming Languages Are Most Prone to Bugs?

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: The i-Programmer site revisits one of its top stories of 2017, about researchers who used data from GitHub for a large-scale empirical investigation into static typing versus dynamic typing. The team investigated 20 programming languages, using GitHub code repositories for the top 50 projects written in each language, examing 18 years of code involving 29,000 different developers, 1.57 million commits, and 564,625 bug fixes. The results? "The languages with the strongest positive coefficients - meaning associated with a greater number of defect fixes are C++, C, and Objective-C, also PHP and Python. On the other hand, Clojure, Haskell, Ruby and Scala all have significant negative coefficients implying that these languages are less likely than average to result in defect fixing commits." Or, in the researcher's words, "Language design does have a significant, but modest effect on software quality. Most notably, it does appear that disallowing type confusion is modestly better than allowing it, and among functional languages static typing is also somewhat better than dynamic typing."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Congo Shuts Down Internet Services 'Indefinitely'

Slashdot -

On Saturday Engadget wrote: Authoritarian leaders are fond of severing communications in a bid to hold on to power, and that tradition sadly isn't going away. The Democratic Republic of Congo's government has ordered telecoms to cut internet and SMS access ahead of planned mass protests against President Joseph Kabila, whose administration has continuously delayed elections to replace him. Telecom minister Emery Okundji told Reuters that it was a response to "violence that is being prepared," but people aren't buying that argument. Officials had already banned demonstrations, and the country has history of cutting communications and blocking social network access in a bid to quash dissent. And today in the wake of deadly protests, Congo announced that the internet shutdown will continue "indefinitely." The New York Times reports: At least eight people were killed and a dozen altar boys arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday after security forces cracked down on planned church protests against President Joseph Kabila's refusal to leave office before coming elections... Congolese security forces set up checkpoints across Kinshasa, and the government issued an order to shut down text messaging and internet services indefinitely across the country for what it called "reasons of state security."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ask Slashdot: Has Technology Created A Monster?

Slashdot -

Stack Overflow co-founder Jeff Atwood posted a worried blog post on New Year's Eve. Remember in 2011 when Marc Andreeseen said that "Software is eating the world?" That used to sound all hip and cool and inspirational, like "Wow! We software developers really are making a difference in the world!" and now for the life of me I can't read it as anything other than an ominous warning that we just weren't smart enough to translate properly at the time... What do you do when you wake up one day and software has kind of eaten the world, and it is no longer clear if software is in fact an unambiguously good thing, like we thought, like everyone told us... like we wanted it to be? Slashdot reader theodp adds: "The year 2018 is the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," provocatively notes Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, "in which a scientist neglects to ask about the consequences of his creation. I suspect (and hope) that there will be much debate on the impact of technology on our lives in the numerous lectures and events scheduled this year. It is a long-overdue discussion because scientists sometimes get so excited about their innovations that they forget to ask, 'Am I building a monster?' This anniversary offers a pause to see if society likes where it is headed." That quote is from a "predictions for 2018" article on the Mach technology site (hosted by NBC News) in which Dr. Moshe Y. Vardi, a Professor of Computer Science at Rice University, also sees a looming debate. He remembers how Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan referred to tech's CEO's as "our country's real overlords" and described them as "moral Martians who operate on some weird new postmodern ethical wavelength." Keep reading for some even more dire predictions...

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

See a Random Slashdot Story from 2017

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Happy New Year, Slashdot! To say goodbye to 2017, I've created a web page that displays random Slashdot stories from the year gone by. It chooses a page from over 6,600 different URLs -- every story that Slashdot ran in 2017. And every time you reload this page, it pulls up a different story from 2017.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

WhatsApp Rings in the New Year with a Global Outage

Slashdot -

WhatsApp went down in several parts of the world today including parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The crowdsourced website DownDetector found the largest concentration of outages in portions of England, Germany, and virtually all of the Netherlands, as well as parts of Italy, Spain, and central Europe. Outages were also reported in many major cities around the world, from Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur, and Tel Aviv to Dubai, Mumbai, and Toronto... "WhatsApp users around the world experienced a brief outage today that has now been resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience," a WhatsApp spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple's iPhones Were the Best-Selling Tech Product of 2017

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Once again, the iPhone was the best-selling tech product of 2017, selling more units than the No. 2 through No. 5 products combined. According to Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, who compiled the chart for USA TODAY, Apple will sell 223 million iPhones in 2017, up from 211 million phones the previous year... Apple took a risk in introducing three new iPhones for 2017...but all in all, Apple sold more iPhones total, although fewer than the peak year of 2015, when it moved 230 million units. (That was the year of the iPhone 6...) The global market share for smartphones is dominated by Google's Android system, which owns 85%, compared to 15% for Apple's iOS, according to researcher IDC. But the iPhone is the most popular smartphone brand, having opened a huge gap compared to No. 2 Samsung's Galaxy phones at 33 million. However Samsung, which has a broader portfolio of phones, sells more overall. Indeed, in 2016, Samsung shipped over 320 million phones, most lower-priced phones sold outside the United States, like the J3, On8 and A9 lines. Apple's strong performance through September earned CEO Tim Cook a $9.3 million bonus on top of his $3.06 million salary -- plus vesting of $89.2 million more in Apple stock. Here's the complete list of the five best-selling tech products of 2017: Apple iPhones: 223 million Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 smartphones: 33 million Amazon Echo Dot connected speakers: 24 million Apple Watch: 20 million Nintendo Switch video game console: 15 million

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