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DRM

W3C Erects DRM As Web Standard (theregister.co.uk) 13

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has formally put forward highly controversial digital rights management as a new web standard. "Dubbed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), this anti-piracy mechanism was crafted by engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, and has been in development for some time," reports The Register. "The DRM is supposed to thwart copyright infringement by stopping people from ripping video and other content from encrypted high-quality streams." From the report: The latest draft was published last week and formally put forward as a proposed standard soon after. Under W3C rules, a decision over whether to officially adopt EME will depend on a poll of its members. That survey was sent out yesterday and member organizations, who pay an annual fee that varies from $2,250 for the smallest non-profits to $77,000 for larger corporations, will have until April 19 to register their opinions. If EME gets the consortium's rubber stamp of approval, it will lock down the standard for web browsers and video streamers to implement and roll out. The proposed standard is expected to succeed, especially after web founder and W3C director Sir Tim Berners-Lee personally endorsed the measure, arguing that the standard simply reflects modern realities and would allow for greater interoperability and improve online privacy. But EME still faces considerable opposition. One of its most persistent vocal opponents, Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that EME "would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity." He is referring to the most recent controversy where the W3C has tried to strike a balance between legitimate security researchers investigating vulnerabilities in digital rights management software, and hackers trying to circumvent content protection. The W3C notes that the EME specification includes sections on security and privacy, but concedes "the lack of consensus to protect security researchers remains an issue." Its proposed solution remains "establishing best practices for responsible vulnerability disclosure." It also notes that issues of accessibility were ruled to be outside the scope of the EME, although there is an entire webpage dedicated to those issues and finding solutions to them.
Social Networks

Reddit To Transform Into a Social Network With New Profile Pages (digitaljournal.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Journal: Reddit has announced it has begun trialling a radical new profile page design that's reminiscent of Facebook and Twitter. It will evolve the discussion board site towards being a social network by enabling users to post directly to their new profile page. At present, posts on Reddit have to be directed into a specific sub-Reddit community. You can't simply write a post and have it appear across the network which can make it difficult to get your voice heard. Unless you've got some reputation in a relevant sub-Reddit, your posts may end up going unnoticed. That could soon change. Last night, Reddit announced it's working on a drastic revision of its user profile page experience. The site has commenced testing of an early version of the design. According to a report from Reuters, just three "high-profile" users currently have access to the feature. When the new pages are eventually opened up to all, they'll showcase the user's profile picture and description. Below the header, posts from the user will be publicly displayed. The user will be able to add new posts to their page, without submitting to a sub-Reddit. Users will be able to follow each other to stay informed of new posts, effectively creating a social network atmosphere above the discussion boards.
Space

A New Definition Would Add 102 Planets To Our Solar System -- Including Pluto (washingtonpost.com) 141

The Grim Reefer quotes a report from The Washington Post: Is Pluto a planet? It's not a question scientists ask in polite company. "It's like religion and politics," said Kirby Runyon, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University. "People get worked up over it. I've gotten worked up over it." For years, astronomers, planetary scientists and other space researchers have fought about what to call the small, icy world at the edge of our solar system. Is it a planet, as scientists believed for nearly seven decades? Or must a planet be something bigger, something more dominant, as was decided by vote at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006? The issue can bring conversations to a screeching halt, or turn them into shouting matches. "Sometimes," Runyon said, "it's just easier not to bring it up." But Runyon will ignore his own advice this week when he attends the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. In a giant exhibit hall crowded with his colleagues, he's attempting to reignite the debate about Pluto's status with an audacious new definition for planet -- one that includes not just Pluto, but several of its neighbors, objects in the asteroid belt, and a number of moons. By his count, 102 new planets could be added to our solar system under the new criteria. USA Today reports: "In the mind of the public, the word 'planet' carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies," the proposal states. "In the decade following the supposed 'demotion' of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union, many members of the public, in our experience, assume that alleged 'non-planets' cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration."
Businesses

Walmart Unveils 'Store No. 8' Tech Incubator In Silicon Valley (bloomberg.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is creating a technology-startup incubator in Silicon Valley to identify changes that will reshape the retail experience, including virtual reality, autonomous vehicle and drone delivery and personalized shopping. The incubator will be called Store No. 8, a reference to a Wal-Mart location where the company experimented with new store layouts. Marc Lore, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart's e-commerce operations, announced the incubator Monday at the ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas. The world's biggest retailer has been overhauling its online team to better challenge Amazon.com Inc. with greater selection and lower prices. Lore founded Jet.com, which Wal-Mart purchased in September for about $3.3 billion in pursuit of Amazon in the e-commerce race. Lore said Wal-Mart has an advantage over "pure play" e-commerce companies because of its large network of stores that attract shoppers for such items as fresh food. The incubator will partner with startups, venture capitalists and academics to promote innovation in robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to Wal-Mart. The goal is to have a fast-moving, separate entity to identify emerging technologies that can be developed and used across Wal-Mart.
Mars

Trump Adds To NASA Budget, Approves Crewed Mission To Mars (nbcnews.com) 265

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: President Donald Trump signed a law on Tuesday authorizing funding for a crewed NASA mission to Mars. The new bill (S.442) adds a crewed mission to the red planet as a key NASA objective and authorizes the space agency to direct test human space flight programs that will enable more crewed exploration in deep space. The space agency has $19.5 billion in funding for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts this October. Trump had allocated $19.1 billion for NASA in his budget, which is slightly down from the current year, but still an improvement from the past decade, which saw the end of the space shuttle program. The commander in chief signed the bill surrounded by astronauts and his former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who both sponsored the bill. Getting to Mars, though, isn't expected to happen during the Trump presidency. NASA has its sights set on getting to the red planet in the 2030s. In the near term, NASA plans to test its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, in addition to visiting an asteroid and redirecting a chunk of it into orbit around the moon. Astronauts could later visit the boulder and use the mission to test some of the tools needed for a Mars mission.
Microsoft

Microsoft Outlook, Skype, OneDrive Hit By Another Authentication Issue (zdnet.com) 48

Two weeks after a widespread authentication issue hit Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, Xbox and other Microsoft services, it's happening again. From a report: On March 21, users across the world began reporting via Twitter that they couldn't sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive and Skype, (and possibly more). I, myself, am unable to sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive or Skype at 2:30 pm ET today, but my Office 365 Mail account is working fine. (Knock wood.) I believe the issue started about an hour ago, or 1:30 p.m. ET or so. MSA is Microsoft's single sign-on service which authenticates users so they can log into their various Microsoft services. As happened two weeks ago, Skype Heartbeat site, has posted a message noting that users may be experiencing problems sending messages and signing in.
Businesses

GitHub Now Lets Its Workers Keep the IP When They Use Company Resources For Personal Projects (qz.com) 74

If it's on company time, it's the company's dime. That's the usual rule in the tech industry -- that if employees use company resources to work on projects unrelated to their jobs, their employer can claim ownership of any intellectual property (IP) they create. But GitHub is throwing that out the window. From a report on Quartz: Today the code-sharing platform announced a new policy, the Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA). This allows its employees to use company equipment to work on personal projects in their free time, which can occur during work hours, without fear of being sued for the IP. As long as the work isn't related to GitHub's own "existing or prospective" products and services, the employee owns it. Like all things related to tech IP, employee agreements are a contentious issue. In some US states, it's not uncommon for contracts to give companies full ownership of all work employees produce during their tenure, and sometimes even before and after their tenure, regardless of when or how they produce it. These restrictions have led to several horror stories, like the case of Alcatel vs. Evan Brown.
Businesses

Two More Executives Are Leaving Uber, Drivers May Unionize (nytimes.com) 200

First the resignations. "The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber," the company's former president told Recode on Sunday, announcing his resignation. "The departures add to the executive exodus from Uber this year," writes The New York Times. An anonymous reader quotes their report. Brian McClendon, vice president of maps and business platform at Uber, also plans to leave at the end of the month... Raffi Krikorian, a well-regarded director in Uber's self-driving division, left the company last week, while Gary Marcus, who joined Uber in December after Uber acquired his company, left this month. Uber also asked for the resignation of Amit Singhal, a top engineer who failed to disclose a sexual harassment claim against him at his previous employer, Google, before joining Uber. And Ed Baker, another senior executive, left this month as well.
Jones left Uber after less than six months, though McClendon's departure is said to be more amicable. "Mr. McClendon, in a statement, said he was returning to his hometown, Lawrence, Kansas, after 30 years away. 'This fall's election and the current fiscal crisis in Kansas is driving me to more fully participate in our democracy -- and I want to do that in the place I call home."

In other news, the Teamsters labor union plans to start organizing Uber's drivers into a union, after a Washington judge rejected Uber's attempt to overturn a right-to-unionize ordinance passed by the city of Seattle.
Books

O'Reilly Site Lists 165 Things Every Programmer Should Know (oreilly.com) 231

97 Things Every Programmer Should Know was published seven years ago by O'Reilly Media, and was described as "pearls of wisdom for programmers collected from leading practitioners." Today an anonymous reader writes: All 97 are available online for free (and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3), including an essay by "Uncle Bob" on taking personal responsibility and "Unix Tools Are Your Friend" by Athens-based professor Diomidis Spinellis, who writes that the Unix tool chest can be more useful than an IDE.

But the book's official site is also still accepting new submissions, and now points to 68 additional "edited contributions" (plus another seven "contributions in progress"), including "Be Stupid and Lazy" by Swiss-based Java programmer Mario Fusco, and "Decouple That UI" by tech trainer George Brooke.

"There is no overarching narrative," writes the site's editor Kevlin Henney (who also wrote the original book). "The collection is intended simply to contain multiple and varied perspectives on what it is that contributors to the project feel programmers should know...anything from code-focused advice to culture, from algorithm usage to agile thinking, from implementation know-how to professionalism, from style to substance..."
Stats

America's Most Affordable Cities For Tech Workers: Seattle, Austin, and Pittsburgh (prnewswire.com) 125

"Seattle tech workers who own their homes can expect to have about $2,000 more in disposable income each month than tech workers in the Bay Area," according to a new study from LinkedIn and Zillow. An anonymous reader writes: "For technology workers who rent, Seattle, Austin and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came out on top among the housing markets analyzed, with the Bay Area at #4..." the two companies reported. "Salaries for other industries don't hold up as well in the San Francisco area, though. Even highly-paid finance workers keep only about 32 percent of their incomes after paying for housing and taxes. In Charlotte or Chicago, they can pocket a median of 61 percent."

The Bay Area's high housing prices are apparently offset by the high salaries paid there to tech workers, according to the study. Even so, both home owners and renters pay roughly half the median income for housing on the west coast, "while a rental in the middle of the country costs more like 25 percent of the median income."

The report also identified the best cities for health workers -- Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Boston -- as well as for finance workers, who do best in Charlotte, Chicago and Dallas. The top 15 cities for tech workers also included those same cities except Chicago and Phoenix, while also including known tech hotspots like Denver, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. But surprisingly the top 15 best cities for tech workers also included Detroit, Nashville, St. Paul (Minnesota) and Tampa, Florida.
Microsoft

WikiLeaks Won't Tell Tech Companies How To Patch CIA Zero-Days Until Demands Are Met (fortune.com) 225

"WikiLeaks has made initial contact with us via secure@microsoft.com," a Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard -- but then things apparently stalled. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Wikileaks this week contacted major tech companies including Apple and Google, and required them to assent to a set of conditions before receiving leaked information about security "zero days" and other surveillance methods in the possession of the Central Intelligence Agency... Wikileaks' demands remain largely unknown, but may include a 90-day deadline for fixing any disclosed security vulnerabilities. According to Motherboard's sources, at least some of the involved companies are still in the process of evaluating the legal ramifications of the conditions.
Julian Assange announced Friday that Mozilla had already received information after agreeing to their "industry standard responsible disclosure plan," then added that "most of these lagging companies have conflicts of interest due to their classified work for U.S. government agencies... such associations limit industry staff with U.S. security clearances from fixing security holes based on leaked information from the CIA." Assange suggested users "may prefer organizations such as Mozilla or European companies that prioritize their users over government contracts. Should these companies continue to drag their feet we will create a league table comparing company responsiveness and government entanglements so users can decided for themselves."
Crime

Your Hotel Room Photos Could Help Catch Sex Traffickers (cnn.com) 151

100,000 people people have already downloaded an app that helps fight human trafficking. dryriver summarizes a report from CNN: Police find an ad for paid sex online. It's an illegally trafficked underage girl posing provocatively in a hotel room. But police don't know where this hotel room is -- what city, what neighborhood, what hotel or hotel room. This is where the TraffickCam phone app comes in. When you're staying at a hotel, you take pictures of your room... The app logs the GPS data (location of the hotel) and also analyzes what's in the picture -- the furniture, bed sheets, carpet and other visual features. This makes the hotel room identifiable. Now when police come across a sex trafficking picture online, there is a database of images that may reveal which hotel room the picture was taken in.
"Technology drives everything we do nowadays, and this is just one more tool that law enforcement can use to make our job a little safer and a little bit easier," says Sergeant Adam Kavanaugh, supervisor of the St. Louis County Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Task Force. "Right now we're just beta testing the St. Louis area, and we're getting positive hits," he says (meaning ads that match hotel-room photos in the database). But the app's creators hope to make it available to all U.S. law enforcement within the next few months, and eventually globally, so their app is already collecting photographs from hotel rooms around the world to be stored for future use.
Stats

RedMonk Identifies 2017's Most Popular Languages: JavaScript, Java, And Python (redmonk.com) 125

Twice a year the tech analysts at RedMonk attempt to gauge adoption trends for programing languages based on data from both GitHub and Stack Overflow. Here's their top 10 list for 2017: JavaScript, Java, Python, and PHP, followed by a two-way tie between C# and C++, a two-way tie between Ruby and CSS, and then C at #9, and Objective-C at #10. But their GitHub data now counts the number of pull requests rather than the number of repositories. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Swift was a major beneficiary of the new GitHub process, jumping eight spots from 24 to 16 on our GitHub rankings. While the language appears to be entering something of a trough of disillusionment from a market perception standpoint, with major hype giving way to skepticism in many quarters, its statistical performance according to the observable metrics we track remains strong. Swift has reached a Top 15 ranking faster than any other language we have tracked since we've been performing these rankings. Its strong performance from a GitHub perspective suggests that the wider, multi-platform approach taken by the language is paying benefits...

Of all of the top tier languages, none jumped more than TypeScript on our GitHub rankings, as the JavaScript superset moved up 17 points.... PowerShell moved from 36 within the GitHub rankings to 19 to match TypeScript's 17 point jump, and that was enough to nudge it into the Top 20 overall from its prior ranking of 25... One of the biggest overall gainers of any of the measured languages, Rust leaped from 47 on our board to 26 â" one spot behind Visual Basic.

Swift and Scala and Shell all just missed out on the top 10, clustering in a three-way tie at the #11 spot.
China

China's Police Will Shoot Illegal Drones With Radio-Jamming Rifles (mashable.com) 62

"Police in China are being equipped with new high-tech weaponry to help them fight back against illegal drone use," writes new submitter drunkdrone. Mashable reports: A Chinese city's police department is arming itself with more than 20 drone-jamming rifles...which work by emitting radio signals that force the drones to land, purportedly without damaging them. The drone-killing rifles will be used during the upcoming 2017 Wuhan Marathon, to raise security. Wuhan police demonstrated the drone-killing rifles last week, where they shot down six drones, according to the Chutian Metropolitan Daily.
Each rifle costs $36,265, and has a range of 0.6 miles.
Biotech

Tech Billionaires Invest In Linking Brains To Computers (technologyreview.com) 77

"To many in Silicon Valley, the brain looks like an unconquered frontier whose importance dwarfs any achievement made in computing or the Web," including Bryan Johnson, the founder of Braintree online payments, and Elon Musk. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: Johnson is effectively jumping on an opportunity created by the Brain Initiative, an Obama-era project which plowed money into new schemes for recording neurons. That influx of cash has spurred the formation of several other startups, including Paradromics and Cortera, also developing novel hardware for collecting brain signals. As part of the government brain project, the defense R&D agency DARPA says it is close to announcing $60 million in contracts under a program to create a "high-fidelity" brain interface able to simultaneously record from one million neurons (the current record is about 200) and stimulate 100,000 at a time...

According to neuroscientists, several figures from the tech sector are currently scouring labs across the U.S. for technology that might fuse human and artificial intelligence. In addition to Johnson, Elon Musk has been teasing a project called "neural lace," which he said at a 2016 conference will lead to "symbiosis with machines." And Mark Zuckerberg declared in a 2015 Q&A that people will one day be able to share "full sensory and emotional experiences," not just photos. Facebook has been hiring neuroscientists for an undisclosed project at Building 8, its secretive hardware division.

Elon Musk complains that the current speeds for transferring signals from brains are "ridiculously slow".

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