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Rikers Inmates Learn How To Code Without Internet Access ( 169

An anonymous reader sends the story of another prison where inmates are learning the basics of programming, despite having no access to the vast educational resources on the internet. Instructors from Columbia University have held a lengthy class at New York's Rikers Island prison to teach the basics of Python. Similar projects have been attempted in California and Oklahoma. The goal wasn’t to turn the students into professional-grade programmers in just a few classes, [Instructor Dennis] Tenen emphasizes, but to introduce them to the basics of programming and reasoning about algorithms and code. "It’s really to give people a taste, to get people excited about coding, in hopes that when they come out, they continue," says Tenen. ...Having an explicit goal—building the Twitter bot—helped the class focus its limited time quickly on learning to do concrete tasks, instead of getting bogged down in abstract discussions of syntax and algorithms.

How Technology Is Increasing the Number of Jobs We Have ( 218

An anonymous reader writes: An article at The Guardian takes a look at the way in which we hold jobs as technology as changes. Its central thesis is this: "My father had one job in his life, I've had six in mine, my kids will have six at the same time." This may compress the generational changes a bit, but it's an interesting point; the average time people spend at one job has been trending downward for a long time. As technology enables the so-called "gig economy" (or "sharing economy," if you prefer), we're seeing many more people start to hold multiple jobs, working whichever one happens to give them something to do at a given time. Economist Jeremy Rifkin says, "This sharing economy is reestablishing the commons in a hi-tech landscape. Commons came about when people formed communities by taking the meager resources they had and sharing then to create more value. The method of regulation of these systems is also comparable. If people are trusted and vouched for they are accepted as part of the sharing economy group. If they behave badly they are excluded. Your social capital means everything in this new economy."

Facebook Expands Parental Leave Policy For All Employees Globally ( 128

Reuters reports that Mark Zuckerberg's not the only Facebook employee who will enjoy a nice chunk of time off to spend with a new baby; the company is expanding its parental leave policy (and posting on Facebook about it). The benefit includes up to four months of paid leave, to all full-time employees, including those outside the U.S., regardless of sex, within a new child's first year. That means that new parents of either sex will be allowed to take a longer absence; previously, non-U.S. employees who were not primary caregivers were granted four weeks of leave. From the Reuters story: [Facebook HR head Lori Matloff] Goler said the new policy will primarily help new fathers and employees in same-sex relationships outside the United States, noting that it will not change maternity leave already available to employees worldwide. ... Technology companies in Silicon Valley have been rushing to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits to help recruit and retain employees. Many high-tech workers, however, do not take advantage of such benefits for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.

Pwned Barbies Spying On Children? Toytalk CEO Downplays Hacking Reports ( 88

McGruber writes: Earlier this year Mattel unveiled "Hello Barbie," a $74.99 wi-fi equipped interactive doll. Users press a button on Barbie's belt to start a conversation and the recorded audio is processed over the internet so that the doll can respond appropriately. The doll also remembers the user's likes and dislikes.

Now Security Researcher Matt Jakubowski claims that he has managed to hack the Hello Barbie system to extract wi-fi network names, account IDs and MP3 files, which could be used to track down someone's home. "You can take that information and find out a person's house or business. It's just a matter of time until we are able to replace their servers with ours and have her say anything we want," Jakubowski warned. Mattel partnered with ToyTalk to develop "Hello Barbie." ToyTalk CEO Oren Jacob said: "An enthusiastic researcher has reported finding some device data and called that a hack. While the path that the researcher used to find that data is not obvious and not user-friendly, it is important to note that all that information was already directly available to Hello Barbie customers through the Hello Barbie Companion App. No user data, no Barbie content, and no major security or privacy protections have been compromised to our knowledge." A petition by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asking Mattel to drop the doll has already been signed by over 6,000 people.

NOTE: The original reporting of this hack appears to have been this NBC-Chicago newscast.


Parts of Falcon 9 Launcher Wash Ashore In England ( 20

RockDoctor writes with news as reported by the BBC that parts of a Falcon 9 launcher have washed ashore on the Isles of Scilly off the SW coast of Britain. Early impressions are that the pieces are from the failed Falcon 9 ISS launch which exploded after take-off in June. That's not the only possibility, though; according to the article, However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. "All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. "It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.

Parts of the SpaceX Falcon-9 Rocket Found Off the Isles of Scilly ( 29

New submitter AppleHoshi writes: The BBC is reporting that a large chunk of the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket, which exploded shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral earlier this year, has been found 4,000 miles away, in the sea off the Isles of Scilly. The recovered section is approximately 10m (32ft) by 4m (13ft). It was discovered by a local coastguard patrol, though they didn't recognize it until they scraped off a layer of goose barnacles.

Critical Zen Cart Vulnerability Could Spell Black Friday Disaster For Shoppers ( 59

Mark Wilson writes: It's around this time of year, with Black Friday looming and Christmas just around the corner, that online sales boom. Today security firm High-Tech Bridge has issued a warning to retailers and shoppers about a critical vulnerability in the popular Zen Cart shopping management system. High-Tech Bridge has provided Zen Cart with full details of the security flaw which could allow remote attackers to infiltrate web servers and gain access to customer data. Servers running Zen Cart are also at risk of malware, meaning that hundreds of thousands of ecommerce sites pose a potential danger. Technical details of the vulnerability are not yet being made public, but having notified Zen Cart of the issue High-Tech Bridge says the date of full public disclosure is 16 December.

New Wearable Tech Translates Sign Language Into Text ( 32

An anonymous reader writes: A new wearable technology developed by a team of biomedical engineers at Texas A&M University seeks to aid seamless communication between deaf people who use sign language and those who do not understand it. The arm device contains a network of sensors which track hand movements, as well as the electromyography (EMG) signals generated by the muscles in the wrist, and process and translate the different signals into text in real-time.The prototype currently uses Bluetooth to translate the sign language to a computer or smartphone.

What Is the Future of the Television? ( 232

An anonymous reader writes: Benedict Evans has an interesting post about where television hardware is headed. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the tech industry made a huge push to invade the living room, trying to make the internet mesh with traditional TV broadcasts. As we all know, their efforts failed. Now, we periodically see new waves of devices to attach to the TV, but none have been particularly ambitious. The most successful devices of the recent wave, like the Chromecast and Apple TV, are simply turning the TV into a dumb screen for streamed content. Meanwhile, consumption of all types of video content is growing on smaller screens — tablets, phones, etc. Even game consoles are starting to see their market eroded by boxes like the Steam Link, which acts as a pipe for a game being played elsewhere on a PC. It raises an intriguing question: where is the television headed? What uses and functions does one giant screen serve that can't be cleverly redistributed to smaller screens? Evans concludes, "The web's open, permissionless innovation beat the closed, top-down visions of interactive TV and the information superhighway."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 222

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.
The Military

Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed For Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still In Use 151 writes: Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept that although it remains in use at sensitive security areas throughout the world, the ADE 651 is a complete fraud and the ADE-651's manufacturer sold it with the full knowledge that it was useless at detecting explosives. There are no batteries in the unit and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. The device contains nothing but the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores and critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.

The story of how the ADE 651 came into use involves the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the height of the conflict, as the new Iraqi government battled a wave of deadly car bombings, it purchased more than 7,000 ADE 651 units worth tens of millions of dollars in a desperate effort to stop the attacks. Not only did the units not help, the device actually heightened the bloodshed by creating "a false sense of security" that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. A BBC investigation led to a subsequent export ban on the devices.

The device is once again back in the news as it was reportedly used for security screening at hotels in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where a Russian airliner that took off from that city's airport was recently destroyed in a likely bombing attack by the militant Islamic State group. Speaking to The Independent about the hotel screening, the U.K. Foreign Office stated it would "continue to raise concerns" over the use of the ADE 651. James McCormick, the man responsible for the manufacture and sale of the ADE 651, received a 10-year prison sentence for his part in manufacture of the devices, sold to Iraq for $40,000 each. An employee of McCormick who later became a whistleblower said that after becoming concerned and questioning McCormick about the device, McCormick told him the ADE 651 "does exactly what it's designed to. It makes money."

Can Full-Time Tech Workers Survive the Gig Economy? ( 169

Nerval's Lobster writes: By some measures, more than 40 percent of U.S. workers will be independent in 2020. Today, that number stands at 34 percent, according to the Freelancer's Union. By all accounts, the trend seems widespread enough to indicate that tech pros should prepare themselves for the dynamics of a world that depends more on contingent work. The question isn't whether the tech world will see an increasing prevalence of 'gigs,' rather than full-time positions; it's whether those in full-time positions can easily keep their jobs when there's pressure to farm it out cheaply and easily to freelancers. Or will the need for people who can see projects through the long term prevent the 'gig economy' from radically changing the tech industry?

Ask Slashdot: What Single Change Would You Make To a Tech Product? 508

An anonymous reader writes: We live in an age of sorcery. The supercomputers in our pockets are capable of doing things it took armies of humans to accomplish even a hundred years ago. But let's face it: we're also complainers at heart. For every incredible, revolutionary device we use, we can find something that's obviously wrong with it. Something we'd instantly fix if we were suddenly put in charge of design. So, what's at the top of your list? Hardware, software, or service — don't hold back.

Here's an example: over the past several years, e-readers have standardized on 6-inch screens. For all the variety that exists in smartphone and tablet sizing, the e-reader market has decided it must copy the Kindle form factor or die trying. Having used an e-reader before all this happened, I found a 7-8" e-ink screen to be an amazingly better reading experience. Oh well, I'm out of luck. It's not the worst thing in the world, but I'd fix it immediately if I could.

New IBM Tech Lets Apps Authenticate You Without Personal Data ( 27

itwbennett writes: IBM's Identity Mixer allows developers to build apps that can authenticate users' identities without collecting personal data. Specifically, Identity Mixer authenticates users by asking them to provide a public key. Each user has a single secret key, and it corresponds with multiple public keys, or identities. IBM announced on Friday that Identity Mixer is now available to developers on its Bluemix cloud platform.
United States

US and China Setting Up "Space Hotline" ( 15

Taco Cowboy writes: Washington and Beijing have established an emergency 'space hotline' to reduce the risk of accidental conflict. Several international initiatives are already in train to seal a space treaty to avoid a further build-up of weapons beyond the atmosphere. However, security experts say the initiatives have little chance of success. A joint Russia-China proposal wending its way through the UN was not acceptable to the US. An EU proposal, for a "code of conduct" in space, was having diplomatic "difficulties" but was closer to Washington's position.