Botnet

How 'Grinch Bots' Are Ruining Online Christmas Shopping (nypost.com) 283

Yes, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer actually called them "Grinch bots." From the New York Post: The senator said as soon as a retailer puts a hard-to-get toy -- like Barbie's Dreamhouse or Nintendo game systems -- for sale on a website, a bot can snatch it up even before a kid's parents finish entering their credit card information... "Bots come in and buy up all the toys and then charge ludicrous prices amidst the holiday shopping bustle," the New York Democrat said on Sunday... For example, Schumer said, the popular Fingerlings -- a set of interactive baby monkey figurines that usually sell for around $15 -- are being snagged by the scalping software and resold on secondary websites for as much as $1,000 a pop...

In December 2016, Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, which Schumer sponsored, to crack down on their use to buy concert tickets, but the measure doesn't apply to other consumer products. He wants that law expanded but knows that won't happen in time for this holiday season. In the meantime, Schumer wants the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to block the bots and lead the effort to stop them from buying toys at fair retail prices and then reselling them at outrageous markups.

Programming

'24 Pull Requests' Suggests Contributing Code For Christmas (24pullrequests.com) 30

An anonymous reader writes: "On December 1st, 24 Pull Requests will be opening its virtual doors once again, asking you to give the gift of a pull request to an open source project in need," writes UK-based software developer Andrew Nesbitt -- noting that last year the site registered more than 16,000 pull requests. "And they're not all by programmers. Often the contribution with the most impact might be an improvement to technical documentation, some tests, or even better -- guidance for other contributors."

This year they're even touting "24 Pull Requests hack events," happening around the world from Lexington, Kentucky to Torino, Italy. (Last year 80 people showed up for an event in London.) "You don't have to hack alone this Christmas!" suggests the site, also inviting local communities and geek meetups (as well as open source-loving companies) to host their own events.

Contributing to open source projects can also beef up your CV (for when you're applying for your next job), the site points out, and "Even small contributions can be really valuable to a project."

"You've been benefiting from the use of open source projects all year. Now is the time to say thanks to the maintainers of those projects, and a little birdy tells me that they love receiving pull requests!"
Perl

Perl, Perl 6, and Two Application Frameworks Release 2017 Advent Calendars (perladvent.org) 38

An anonymous reader writes: Friday saw this year's first new posts on the Perl Advent Calendar, a geeky tradition first started back in 2000. It describes Santa including Unicode's "Father Christmas" emoji by enabling UTF-8 encoding and then using the appropriate hexadecimal code.

But in another corner of the North Pole, you can also unwrap the Perl 6 Advent Calendar, which this year celebrates the two-year anniversary of the official launch of Perl 6. Its first post follows a Grinch who used the but and does operators in Perl 6, while wrapping methods and subroutines to add extra sneaky features, "and even mutated the language itself to do our bidding."

Perl/Python guru Joel Berger has also started an advent calendar for the Mojolicious web application framework (written in Perl), and there's apparently also an advent calendar coming for the Perl Dancer web application framework.

Google

Did Google.org Steal the Christmas Spirit? (theregister.co.uk) 103

Google.org gives nonprofits roughly $100 million each year. But now the Register argues that festive giving "has become a 'Googlicious' sales push." Among other things, The Register criticizes the $30 million in grant funding that Google.org gave this Christmas "to nonprofits to bring phones, tablets, hardware and training to communities that can benefit from them most," some of which utilized the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose (which tacks a fee of at least $30 fee onto every donation). "The most critical learning resources that teachers need are often exercise books, pen and paper, but incentives built into the process steer educators to request and receive Google hardware, rather than humble classroom staples," claims the Register. theodp writes: [O]ne can't help but wonder if Google.org's decision to award $18,130 to teachers at Timberland Charter Academy for Chromebooks to help make students "become 'Google'licious" while leaving another humbler $399 request from a teacher at the same school for basic school supplies -- pencils, paper, erasers, etc. -- unfunded is more aligned with Google's interests than the Christmas spirit. Google, The Register reminds readers, lowered its 2015 tax bill by $3.6 billion using the old Dutch Sandwich loophole trick, according to new regulatory filings in the Netherlands.
The article even criticizes the "Santa's Village" site at Google.org, which includes games like Code Boogie, plus a game about airport security at the North Pole. Their complaint is its "Season of Giving" game, which invites children to print out and color ornaments that represent charities -- including DonorsChoose.org. The article ends by quoting Slashdot reader theodp ("who documents the influence of Big Tech in education") as saying "Nothing says Christmas fun more than making ornaments to celebrate Google's pet causes..."
Iphone

Store Adds Donald Trump's Picture To $150,000 Gold-Encased iPhones (cnn.com) 186

An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report about an iPhone 7 "encased in solid gold, encrusted with diamonds and bearing the face of Donald Trump." Priced around $151,000, it's just one example of the mind-blowing bling sold by Goldgenie, a store in the United Arab Emirates where the super rich do their shopping. "There are very wealthy, high-net-worth individuals all over the world and sometimes its very difficult to buy gifts for them because they have everything," said Frank Fernando, Goldgenie's managing director... But the phones are far from the most expensive item on sale. A gold-plated racing bike will set you back about $350,000. If you're thinking no one would buy a $150,000 Trump phone, think again. In the last month, they've sold ten of them.
Christmas Cheer

Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Geeky Gift For Children? 204

Everyone's suggesting gifts to teach the next generation of geeks about science, technology, engineering, and math. Slashdot reader theodp writes: In "My Guide to Holiday Gifts," Melinda Gates presents "a STEM gift guide" [which] pales by comparison to Amazon's "STEM picks". Back in 2009, Slashdot discussed science gifts for kids. So, how about a 2016 update?
I've always wanted to ask what geeky gifts Slashdot's readers remember from when they were kids. (And what geeky gifts do you still bitterly wish some enlightened person would've given you?) But more importantly, what modern-day tech toys can best encourage the budding young geeks of today? Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best geeky gift for children?
Perl

Perl Advent Calendar Enters Its 17th Year (perladvent.org) 37

An anonymous reader writes: Thursday brought this year's first new posts on the Perl Advent Calendar, a geeky tradition first started back in 2000. Friday's post described Santa's need for fast, efficient code, and the day that a Christmas miracle occurred during Santa's annual code review (involving the is_hashref subroutine from Perl's reference utility library). And for the last five years, the calendar has also had its own Twitter feed.

But in another corner of the North Pole, you can also unwrap the Perl 6 Advent Calendar, which this year celebrates the one-year anniversary of the official launch of Perl 6. Friday's post was by brian d foy, a writer on the classic Perl textbooks Learning Perl and Intermediate Perl (who's now also crowdfunding his next O'Reilly book, Learning Perl 6). foy's post talked about Perl 6's object hashes, while the calendar kicked off its new season Thursday with a discussion about creating Docker images using webhooks triggered by GitHub commits as an example of Perl 6's "whipupitude".

Businesses

Amazon May Handle 30% Of All US Retail Sales (usatoday.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Amazon's yearly sales account for about 15% of total U.S. consumer online sales, according to the company's statements and the Department of Commerce. But the Seattle e-commerce company may actually be handling double that amount -- 20% to 30% of all U.S. retail goods sold online -- thanks to the volume of sales it transacts for third parties on its website and app. Only a portion of those sales add to its revenue.

"The punchline is that Amazon's twice as big as people give them credit for, because there's this iceberg under the surface, but you only see the tip," said Scot Wingo, executive chairman of Channel Advisor, an e-commerce software company that works with thousands of online sellers. When third-party sales are taken into account, Amazon's share of what U.S. shoppers spend online could be as high as $125 billion yearly...

Amazon's share will grow even larger when they can offer two-hour deliveries, warns one analyst, while another puts it more succinctly. "Amazon's just going to slowly grab more and more of your wallet."
Christmas Cheer

Merry Christmas - Be an Erector Engineer! 200

theodp writes: More than 50 years ago, lucky kids found an Automatic Conveyor Erector Set under the Xmas tree. And while President Obama lamented last year that kids — including his own — were done a disservice by an educational system that failed to introduce computer science concepts 'with the ABCs and the colors', Radio Shack advised 'Parents Who Care' to put a TRS-80 under the tree for their kids to program way back in 1978. So, to bring things up-to-date, what are the hot tech/science gifts that Santa brought children today?
Games

PhantomSquad Hackers Begin Their Xmas DDoS Attacks By Taking Down EA Servers (softpedia.com) 127

An anonymous reader writes: The hacking crew was not kidding about their Christmas DDoS attacks on Xbox & PSN. This morning the group started warmup attacks on the EA network, taking it down for 3 hours. The attacks were severe enough to take down the network completely, and EA issued apologies on its Twitter account. Phantom Squad is now carrying out DDoS attacks on PSN. Users started reporting outages in small areas around the world.
Christmas Cheer

Another Internet Griswold's Controllable Christmas Lights 46

An anonymous reader writes: For over a decade, Alek's Controllable Christmas Lights have been a festive online holiday tradition for millions of Internet users world-wide, so it was sadly the end of an era last year, when the Griswold wanna-be hung up his Santa Hat in 2014. But with the "Internet of Things" being the rage these days, it didn't take long for another Griswold to emerge from the North Pole, or at least pretty darn close to it. Ken Woods from Fairbanks, Alaska has his house online 24 hours a day with a dozen ON/OFF buttons that Internet users can use to toggle his lights with a click of a mouse. Here's a video of it in action and he uses Amazon EC2 to power it online. (While that all looks real, low-UID /.'ers will remember that Alek did a simulation from 2002-2004 using Perl code to switch between a series of images. Looks like the prankster dusted off that code for the Control Christmas Lights.com website.) I, for one, welcome our new Griswold Overlords with a big HO-HO-HO.
Perl

Perl 6 Gets Beta Compiler, Modules and an Advent Calendar (thenewstack.io) 131

An anonymous reader writes: A "useful and usable distribution of Perl 6" was released Saturday, a new beta version of the Rakudo compiler to support the coming production release this Christmas. And there's already 467 Perl 6 modules on the new archive at proto.perl6.org (though Perl 6 will also be able to load modules written in other languages). "Perl has a huge community of avid users that continues to thrive in spite of detractors," says one developer, pointing to new applications for big data, in a new article reporting that over one million people have downloaded ActivePerl's own Perl distribution just in 2015. And this week also saw the release of two new "Advent Calendars" of programming tips, one for Perl 5 and one for Perl 6.
Christmas Cheer

Finnish IT Retailer Reveals Most Returned Products 108

jones_supa writes: The largest computer gear retailer in Finland, Verkkokauppa.com, has unveiled top 20 lists of most returned and most serviced equipment in 2015 (Google translation). To offer an alternative to Black Friday, the company is going with a theme called "Sustainable Christmas". They want to guide shoppers to make good choices, as product returns always create extra burden for the distribution chain. Is there anything that catches your eye in the lists, or something else that you would like to warn about?
XBox (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Xbox One Or PlayStation 4? 375

An anonymous reader writes: I'm looking at getting the kids a new gaming console for Christmas this year. I'm stuck trying to decide between getting an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4. I'm really wary on the PlayStation because of the 5 PS2s with broken optical drives sitting in my garage; none lasted more than two years. On the other hand, I'm also wary of buying a Microsoft product; I'm a Linux user for life after getting tired of their crappy operating system. I've also considered getting a gaming PC, whether Linux or Windows, but it's more expensive and game reviews show most are not as good as a dedicated game console. The kids want Fallout 4, and I want Star Wars Battlefront and any version of Gran Turismo. We currently have a Nintendo Wii and a crappy gaming PC with some Steam games. So, which gaming console should I get that will last a long time?
Christmas Cheer

'Twas the Week Before the Week of Black Friday 146

theodp writes: It's almost time for America's answer to the Running of the Bulls (YouTube), kids. So, if you're dreaming of a cheap tech Christmas, it's time to peruse the 2015 Black Friday ads and make your game plan. Get lucky at Best Buy this year, and you could score a $299.99 Dell 15.6" touchscreen laptop (i3, 8GB memory, 1 TB HD), a $399.99 Microsoft 10.8" Surface 3 (Atom x7, 2GB memory, 64GB storage), $899.99 MacBook Pro 13.3" laptop (i5, 4GB memory, 500MB HD), $99 Acer 11.6" Chromebook (Celeron, 2GB memory, 16GB storage), or, for those on a tight budget, a $34.99 7" Amazon Fire tablet. Fight the crowds at Walmart, and you could snag a $199 HP 15.6" laptop (Celeron, 4GB memory, 500GB drive) or $199 iPad mini 2. And for stay-at-home shoppers, Dell's Windows 10 price-breakers include a $149.99 14" laptop (Celeron, 2GB memory, 32GB storage) and a $229 15.6" laptop (i3, 4GB memory, 500MB HD). So, in your experience, has Black Friday been like a claw machine — suckering you with big prizes, but never delivering — or have you actually walked away with a great deal?
Christmas Cheer

Slashdot Asks: Notes For Next Hallowe'en? 151

There are 364 more shopping days until next year's Hallowe'en. But while this year's is still fresh in the memory, I'd like to start gathering ideas for next year in the hopes of actually making my neighborhood worthwhile as a trick-or-treating destination, specifically for fun projects to actually give my yard a haunted-house feel. (For the second time in three years, there were zero candy-seekers, and I'd like to convince my neighbors to make the whole block more decorated and spooky, even if we never get all Alek Komarnitsky.) Did you create an animatronic zombie for your yard? Glowing eyes to appear from behind the bushes? Poltergist-style rising graves to frighten the children? Remote-controlled candy dispensers? If you used any kind of complex haunt technology at home, what things worked and what didn't? (I hear too many stories about fog machines leaking to make them sound like a good idea.)
Education

WA Pushes Back On Microsoft and Code.org's Call For Girls-First CS Education 288

theodp writes On Tuesday, the State of Washington heard public testimony on House Bill 1813 (video), which takes aim at boy's historical over-representation in K-12 computer classes. To allow them to catch flights, representatives of Microsoft and Microsoft-bankrolled Code.org were permitted to give their testimony before anyone else ("way too many young people, particularly our girls...simply don't have access to the courses at all," lamented Jane Broom, who manages Microsoft's philanthropic portfolio), so it's unclear whether they were headed to the airport when a representative of the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction voiced the sole dissent against the Bill. "The Superintendent strongly believes in the need to improve our ability to teach STEM, to advance computer science, to make technology more available to all students," explained Chris Vance. "Our problem, and our concern, is with the use of the competitive grant program...just providing these opportunities to a small number of students...that's the whole basic problem...disparity of opportunity...if this is a real priority...fund it fully" (HB 1813, like the White House K-12 CS plan, counts on philanthropy to make up for tax shortfalls). Hey, parents of boys are likely to be happy to see another instance of educators striving to be more inclusive than tech when it comes to encouraging CS participation!

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