Programming

Even the "Idea Person" Should Learn How To Code 100 100

theodp writes: "A few months ago," writes Steph Rhee, "I was at a dinner with a dozen students and a 60-year-old entrepreneur who made himself a fortune on Wall Street. At the time, I was a junior at Yale and the only person at the table studying a computer-related major. We went around saying what our big dreams were. When I said that I'm studying computer science because I want to be a software engineer and hope to start my own company one day, he said, 'Why waste so many years learning how to code? Why not just pay someone else to build your idea?'" But Rhee isn't buying into the idea of the look-Ma-no-tech-skills "idea person." "We must not neglect the merits of technical skills in the conception of the 'idea person,'" she argues. "What the 60-year old entrepreneur and others of his generation — the people in control of the education we receive — don't realize is this: for college students dreaming of becoming unicorns in Silicon Valley, being an 'idea person' is not liberating at all. Being able to design and develop is liberating because that lets you make stuff. This should be a part of what we see in the 'idea person' today and what it means to be 'right' when designing an undergraduate curriculum."
Earth

Philips Is Revolutionizing Urban Farming With New GrowWise Indoor Farm 203 203

Kristine Lofgren writes: With arable land dwindling and the cost — both economically and environmentally — of growing and transporting food increasing, it's time to redefine farming. So Philips is creating a revolution with their new GrowWise indoor farm, which uses customized 'light recipes' in high-tech cells to grow plants that don't need pesticides or chlorine washes, and use a fraction of the water that traditional farming requires. The system can churn out 900 pots of basil a year in just one square meter of floor space, and bees keep things humming year-round for farming that is truly local, even in the middle of a city.
United States

Japanese and US Piloted Robots To Brawl For National Pride 106 106

jfruh writes: Japan may have just lost the Women's World Cup to the U.S., but the country is hoping for a comeback in another competition: a battle between giant robots. Suidobashi Heavy Industry has agreed to a challenge from Boston-based MegaBots that would involve titanic armored robots developed by each startup, the first of its kind involving piloted machines that are roughly 4 meters tall. "We can't let another country win this," Kogoro Kurata, who is CEO of Suidobashi, said in a video posted to YouTube. "Giant robots are Japanese culture."
United States

Proposed Regulation Could Keep 3D-printed Gun Blueprints Offline For Good 378 378

SonicSpike sends a report on a proposed update to the International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regulations which could shut down the sharing of files for 3D printed gun parts over the internet. "Hidden within the proposal, which restricts what gear, technology, and info can and cannot be exported out of the U.S., is a ban on posting schematics for 3D printed gun parts online." This follows a lawsuit from Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed back in May fighting the federal government's command to remove blueprints for the "Liberator" 3D-printed gun from their website. A senior official at the U.S. State Department said, "By putting up a digital file, that constitutes an export of the data. If it's an executable digital file, any foreign interests can get a hold of it."
Businesses

Silicon Valley Is Filling Up With Ex-Obama Staffers 203 203

HughPickens.com writes: Edward-Isaac Dovere reports in Politico that the fastest-growing chapter of the Obama alumni association is in Silicon Valley. For the people who helped get Obama elected and worked for him once he did, there's something about San Francisco and its environs that just feels right: the emphasis on youth and trying things that might fail, chasing that feeling of working for the underdog, and even using that word "disrupting" to describe what they do. "A lot of people who moved out here were present at the creation of the Obama '08 campaign," says Tommy Vietor. "There's a piece of them that wants to replicate that." Vietor left the White House two years ago, and he and his business partner, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, founded a communications strategy firm with a focus on speechwriting for tech and other start-ups. "If you're writing for a CEO out here, they're more likely to be your peer than your grandfather," says Vietor. "They're young, they're cool, they get it."

Other former Obama staffers who have come to Silicon Valley include former campaign manager and White House adviser David Plouffe at Uber, Kyle O'Connor at Nest, Semonti Stephens at Twitter; Mike Masserman, at Lyft; Brandon Lepow at Facebook; Nicole Isaac, at LinkedIn; Liz Jarvis-Shean at Civis; Jim Green and Vivek Kundra at Salesforce, Alex McPhillips at Google; Gillian Bergeron, at NextDoor; Natalie Foster at the Institute for the Future; Catherine Bracy at Code for America; Hallie Montoya Tansey at Target Labs. Nick Papas, John Baldo, Courtney O'Donnell and Clark Stevens at AirBnB, and Jessica Santillo at Uber.

There are so many former Obama staffers in the Bay Area that a recent visit by former White House senior adviser David Axelrod served as a reunion of sorts, with more than a dozen campaign and White House veterans gathering over lunch to discuss life after the administration. Obama himself rarely misses an opportunity to come to San Francisco. He says he loves the energy there, loves the people and according to Dovere, the city's ultra-liberal leanings mean he was greeted as a rock star even during the dark days before last year's midterms. Obama's even become friendly with Elon Musk. "There should be a welcome booth at the SFO airport," says Jon Carson, the former Organizing for Action executive director now at SolarCity.
Technology

Wired Looks Back At 'Mondo 2000' 44 44

destinyland writes: On a day when America looks back on those who came before, Wired is remembering a pioneering technology magazine named Mondo 2000 — and sharing video of its editors' legendary appearance on a mid-90s PBS series, "The Internet Cafe". When its host questioned them about cyberpunk, they turned the interview into an ironic media stunt by providing a live, sneering cyberpunk model named Malice (wearing a fake neural implant on his head), as the words "real cyberpunk" jokingly flashed on the bottom of the screen. "At a time when few people outside academia had access to the internet, Mondo 2000 was many a wannabe hacker's introduction to the online world," Wired remembers fondly, even acknowledging that they'd "borrowed" their own magazine's design motif from Mondo 2000, in those early years before ISPs started popularizing consumer internet access.
Build

When Nerds Do BBQ 146 146

Rick Zeman writes: On this 4th of July, the day when Americans flock to their grills and smokers, Wired has a fascinating article on a computerized smoker designed by Harvard engineering students. They say, "In prototype form, the smoker looks like a combination of a giant pepper mill, a tandoori oven, and V.I.N.CENT from The Black Hole. It weighs 300 pounds. It has a refueling chute built into the side of it. And it uses a proportional-integral-derivative controller, a Raspberry Pi, and fans to regulate its own temperature, automatically producing an ideal slow-and-low burn."

After cooking >200 lbs of brisket while fine-tuning the design, the students concluded, "Old-school pitmasters are like, 'I cook mine in a garbage can,' and there's a point of pride in that. A lot of the cutting edge is when you take an art form and drag it back onto scientific turf and turn it into an algorithm. I don't think we've diluted the artistic component with this."
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: How Much Did Your Biggest Tech Mistake Cost? 373 373

NotQuiteReal writes: What is the most expensive piece of hardware you broke (I fried a $2500 disk drive once, back when 400MB was $2500) or what software bug did you let slip that caused damage? (No comment on the details — but about $20K cost to a client.) Did you lose your job over it? If you worked on the Mars probe that crashed, please try not to be the First Post, that would scare off too many people!
ISS

Russian Cargo Ship Successfully Makes Orbit, Will Supply ISS 50 50

An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, a Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a Progress capsule containing 2,700kg of supplies for the International Space Station. It's a much-needed victory after a series of launch failures that saw ISS resupply missions from Orbital ATK, Russia, and SpaceX end in failure. "The station, a joint project involving 15 nations which is staffed by a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts, currently has a four-month supply of food and water, NASA said. The arrival of the Russian cargo ship, and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, NASA said. Friday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members to fly to the station later this month."
Businesses

MasterCard To Approve Online Payments Using Your Selfies 77 77

An anonymous reader writes: MasterCard is experimenting with a new program: approving online purchases with a facial scan. Once you’re done shopping online, instead of a password, the service will require you to snap a photo of your face, so you won’t have to worry about remembering a password. The Stack reports: "MasterCard will be joining forces with tech leaders Apple, BlackBerry, Google, Samsung and Microsoft as well as two major banks to help make the feature a reality. Currently the international group uses a SecureCode solution which requires a password from its customers at checkout. The system was used across 3 billion transactions last year, the company said. It is now exploring biometric alternatives to protect against unauthorized payment card transactions. Customers trialling the new technologies are required to download the MasterCard app onto their smart device. At checkout two authorization steps will be taken; fingerprint recognition and facial identification using the device's camera. The system will check for blinking to avoid criminals simply holding a photograph up to the lens."
Games

The Plan To Bring Analytics To eSports 72 72

An anonymous reader writes: We're used to seeing instant replays, halftime analysis and in depth analytics in traditional sports, but now they're coming to eSports too. A new start-up, Dojo Madness, is hoping to bring the same techniques to games like League of Legends and Dota, in the hopes players can learn from their mistakes in a game when shown them. In a new interview, founder and former Electronic Sports League boss Jens Hilgers reveals that the company's main product, Dota training and replay site Bruce.GG, will use machine learning to teach itself what are good and bad plays — and he hopes to bring the tech to other games, like Counter-Strike, too. "The feedback of the users watching these videos, these input points, are allowing us to determine the relevancy of what we have done and the system will learn from that and get smarter," he says.
Encryption

Cameron Asserts UK Gov't Will Leave No "Safe Space" For Private Communications 257 257

An anonymous reader writes with the story from Ars Technica that UK prime minister David Cameron "has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to 'leave a safe space — a new means of communication — for terrorists to communicate with each other.'" That statement came Monday, as a response to Conservative MP David Bellingham, "who asked [Cameron, on the floor of the House of Commons] whether he agreed that the 'time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?' To which Cameron replied: 'we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.'" This sounds like the UK government is declaring a blustery war on encryption, and it might not need too much war: some companies can be persuaded (or would be eager) to cooperate with the government in handing over all kinds of information. However, the bluster part may leave even the fiercest surveillance mostly show: as Ars writer Glyn Moody asks, what about circumstances "where companies can't hand over keys, or where there is no company involved, as with GnuPG, the open source implementation of the OpenPGP encryption system?" Or Tor?
Movies

"Jobs" vs. "Steve Jobs": Hollywood Takes Another Stab At Telling the Steve Jobs Story 262 262

theodp writes: Didn't like Jobs, the 2013 biopic about the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher? Maybe you'll prefer Steve Jobs, the 2015 biopic about the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender. "Steve Jobs is a tech visionary, total dick," writes Esquire's Matt Patches in his mini-review of the just-released Steve Jobs trailer. So, is inspiring kids to become the "Next Steve Jobs" a good or bad thing?
Crime

San Francisco Fiber Optic Cable Cutter Strikes Again 198 198

HughPickens.com writes: USA Today reports that the FBI is investigating at least 11 physical attacks on high-capacity Internet cables in California's San Francisco Bay Area dating back to at least July 6, 2014, including one early this week. "When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing," says Special Agent Greg Wuthrich. "We definitely need the public's assistance." The pattern of attacks raises serious questions about the glaring vulnerability of critical Internet infrastructure, says JJ Thompson. "When it's situations that are scattered all in one geography, that raises the possibility that they are testing out capabilities, response times and impact," says Thompson. "That is a security person's nightmare."

Mark Peterson, a spokesman for Internet provider Wave Broadband, says an unspecified number of Sacramento-area customers were knocked offline by the latest attack. Peterson characterized the Tuesday attack as "coordinated" and said the company was working with Level 3 and Zayo to restore service. It's possible the vandals were dressed as telecommunications workers to avoid arousing suspicion, say FBI officials. Backup systems help cushion consumers from the worst of the attacks, meaning people may notice slower email or videos not playing, but may not have service completely disrupted. But repairs are costly and penalties are not stiff enough to deter would-be vandals. "There are flags and signs indicating to somebody who wants to do damage: This is where it is folks," says Richard Doherty. "It's a terrible social crime that affects thousands and millions of people."
Businesses

Exploring the Relationships Between Tech Skills (Visualization) 64 64

Nerval's Lobster writes: Simon Hughes, Dice's Chief Data Scientist, has put together an experimental visualization that explores how tech skills relate to one another. In the visualization, every circle or node represents a particular skill; colors designate communities that coalesce around skills. Try clicking "Java", for example, and notice how many other skills accompany it (a high-degree node, as graph theory would call it). As a popular skill, it appears to be present in many communities: Big Data, Oracle Database, System Administration, Automation/Testing, and (of course) Web and Software Development. You may or may not agree with some relationships, but keep in mind, it was all generated in an automatic way by computer code, untouched by a human. Building it started with Gephi, an open-source network analysis and visualization software package, by importing a pair-wise comma-separated list of skills and their similarity scores (as Simon describes in his article) and running a number of analyses: Force Atlas layout to draw a force-directed graph, Avg. Path Length to calculate the Betweenness Centrality that determines the size of a node, and finally Modularity to detect communities of skills (again, color-coded in the visualization). The graph was then exported as an XML graph file (GEXF) and converted to JSON format with two sets of elements: Nodes and Links. "We would love to hear your feedback and questions," Simon says.