A Clever Parody That Somehow Makes Mao Zedong Funny

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:57pm
In her new book, Cristina de Middel has taken the original text from Chairman Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book and redacted most of the words, creating new and often times biting quotes that mock the statements of this once powerful communist leader.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Mac OS X Yosemite Beta Opens

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:55pm
New submitter David Hames (3763525) writes Would you like to test drive the newest release of the Macintosh operating system? Apple is opening up the beta for Mac OS X Yosemite starting Thursday to the first million people who sign up. Beta users won't be able to access such promised Yosemite features such as the ability to make or receive your iPhone calls or text messages on your Mac, turn on your iPhone hotspot feature from your Mac, or "Handoff" the last thing you were doing on your iOS 8 device to your Mac and vice versa. A new iCloud Drive feature is also off-limits, while any Spotlight search suggestions are U.S.-based only. Don't expect all your Mac apps to run either. Ars has a preview of Yosemite.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Sony Agrees To $17.75m Settlement For 2011 PSN Attack

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:14pm
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes with word that Sony has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought by PSN users affected by the 2011 breach. From the article: Sony has finally agreed to a preliminary settlement of $15m, which may be able to appease most of the customers that suffered from this attack. The PlayStation Network users that did not partake in the "Welcome Back" program that Sony unveiled shortly after their online services were brought back will be able to choose from two of several options for compensation: One PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable game selected from a list of 14 games; three PlayStation 3 themes selected from a list of six themes; or a three-month subscription to PlayStation Plus free of charge. Claiming these benefits will be done on a first come, first serve basis ...The settlement isn't just about free games or services. Customers with documented identity theft charges are eligible for up to $2,500 per claim.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

President Obama To Kick Off Drone Privacy Guidelines

ReadWriteWeb - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 11:39am

The Federal Aviation Administration will no longer be able to stall on privacy guidelines for private drone operation in the United States.

President Barack Obama is set to issue an executive order to create privacy guidelines for private drones operating in U.S. airspace, according to Politico. If executed, this order would put the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department, in charge of developing these guidelines.

Until now, privacy guidelines for drones were considered to be under the domain of the FAA, which is currently embroiled in the lengthy process of crafting regulations for operating commercial drones in U.S. airspace. However, the FAA has yet to address photos and other personal information potentially collected by private drones, a move that's been criticized by both lawmakers and consumer groups.

See also: Why Commercial Drones Are Stuck In Regulatory Limbo

Brendan Schulman, a lawyer who specializes in litigation involving unmanned aircraft systems, told ReadWrite the measure lines up with the FAA’s earlier testimony.

“The FAA has never had a mandate concerning privacy, and in Congressional hearings has indicated that it would look to other agencies to develop any necessary privacy policies for commercial drones,” he said.

“There is no obvious agency to take this on, so it seems the President made a decision to specifically designate NTIA as the lead agency to study the issue. My understanding is that the result will be privacy best practices, not necessarily regulations.”

Congress has set a 2015 deadline for the FAA to develop its regulations. Internationally, drones are used for delivery purposes, crop surveying and maintenance, search and rescue, and more.

White House officials have not made it clear when the President will be issuing his order.

Categories: Technology Announces Linux Support

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 11:38am
For years, Good Old Games has made a business out of selling classic PC game titles completely free of DRM. Today they announced that their platform now supports Linux. They said, We've put much time and effort into this project and now we've found ourselves with over 50 titles, classic and new, prepared for distribution, site infrastructure ready, support team trained and standing by ... We're still aiming to have at least 100 Linux games in the coming months, but we've decided not to delay the launch just for the sake of having a nice-looking number to show off to the press. ... Note that we've got many classic titles coming officially to Linux for the very first time, thanks to the custom builds prepared by our dedicated team of penguin tamers. ... For both native Linux versions, as well as special builds prepared by our team, will provide distro-independent tar.gz archives and support convenient DEB installers for the two most popular Linux distributions: Ubuntu and Mint, in their current and future LTS editions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

For Half, Degrees In Computing, Math, Or Stats Lead To Other Jobs

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:56am
dcblogs (1096431) writes The Census Bureau reports that only 26% of people with any type of four-year STEM degree are working in a STEM field. For those with a degree specifically in computer, math or statistics, the figure is 49%, nearly the same for engineering degrees. What happens to the other STEM trained workers? The largest numbers are managers at non-STEM businesses (22.5%), or having careers in education (17.7%), business/finance (13.2%) and office support (11.5%). Some other data points: Among those with college degrees in computer-related occupations, men are paid more than women ($90,354 vs. $78,859 on average), and African American workers are more likely to be unemployed than white or Asian workers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Empathy For Virtual Characters Studied With FMRI Brain Imaging

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:15am
vrml (3027321) writes "A novel brain imaging study published by the prestigious Neuroimage journal sheds light on different reactions that players' brains display when they meet a virtual character in a game world. While their head was inside a fMRI machine, participants played an interactive virtual experience in which they had to survive a serious fire emergency in a building by reaching an exit as soon as possible. However, when they finally arrived at the exit, they also found a virtual character trapped under an heavy cabinet, begging them for help. Some participants chose not to help the character and took the exit, while others stopped to help although the fire became more and more serious and moving away the cabinet required considerable time. Functional brain imaging showed activation of very different brain areas in players when they met the character. When there was an increased functional connectivity of the brain salience network, which suggests an enhanced sensitivity to the threatening situation and potential danger, players ignored the character screams and went for the exit. In those players who helped the character, there was an engagement of the medial prefrontal and temporo-parietal cortices, which in the neuroscience literature are associated with the human ability of taking the perspective of other individuals and making altruistic choices. The paper concludes by emphasizing how virtual worlds can be a salient and ecologically valid stimulus for modern social neuroscience."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

When Computer Users Were Programmers

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:05am
There is a lot of excitement around the current trend to get more people to be into computer programming. Whether or not they end up becoming coders, we can all at least can gain a bit from “computational thinking.” Perhaps with this movement, computer users will all eventually become computational creators. Unlikely, but we can […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Why Javascript Developers Should Get Excited About Object.observe()

ReadWriteWeb - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:00am

Nobody is more excited about the most recent version of Google's Chrome browser than JavaScript developers.

The latest version, Chrome 36, now includes a long awaited potential update to the JavaScript language. Called Object.observe(), it’s a low-level API (see our API explainer) that might solve one of the biggest problems in modern JavaScript development.

That problem: JavaScript developers have yet to find a satisfactory way to ensure that changes in a Web app's underlying data—say, as the result of user input—are reflected properly in the browser display. (This basically reflects the fact that JavaScript developers usually separate an app's data structures and its user interface into distinct program components. That keeps the coding simpler and cleaner, but also raises issues when the two components need to communicate.)

Various JavaScript frameworks offer workarounds that developers can use to get a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) display based on exactly what their app is doing. But these workarounds add more code that can slow the app down, alter the flow of its execution and potentially introduce new bugs.

Object.observe() would simplify the problem by creating a direct pipeline between an app's data structures and its display. It can do this more easily because it's an actual change baked into the structure of the JavaScript language itself, and not just a collection of bolted-on code.

Object.observe() is still unofficial; it's so far only incorporated into Chrome, which means developers who use it can't count on it working their apps working in others browsers such as Firefox or Apple's Safari. And it's not clear when—or even whether—other browser makers will jump on the Object.observe() bandwagon.

Still, the promise of Object.observe() is such that if it clears these hurdles, it could change the way JavaScript is coded forever.

What Is Object.observe()?

I asked Rafael Weinstein, a software engineer at Google who played a big role in Object.observe() and Chrome integration, to explain what it is and what it does.

While some developers have guessed that Object.observe() will replace or remove the need to use JavaScript development frameworks, Weinstein says that isn’t the case.

“Object.observe() is a low-level primitive,” he said. “It is an enabling technology which should make some existing JavaScript libraries and frameworks faster, more robust or both.”

In other words, Object.observe() is an additional function that will one day be built into JavaScript. Developers won’t work with it directly; instead, frameworks like Backbone, Angular, and Ember will add new libraries that rely on Object.observe() to keep app data and the app display in sync.

In an introduction to Object.observe at <a href="">JSConf EU</a>, Google developer Addy Osmani demonstrated how you can use Object.observe to view and edit code.&nbsp;

The main advance Object.observe() offers is a feature called two-way data binding. Translated from codespeak, that means it ensures that changes in a program's underlying data are reflected in the browser display.

In order to view both the program's data state and its display at the same time, JavaScript developers usually work inside a framework that includes a Model View Controller (MVC), in which the raw code appears in one window and the user display appears in another. However, current solutions for displaying both at once tend to bulk up a program with extra code devoted to data binding. The very act of observing the display changes how it is coded.

Amjad Masad, a developer at Facebook, has called two-way data binding the “holy grail of JavaScript MVC frameworks” because it sidesteps such workarounds.

“In the [Model View Controller] pattern, you have the model [i.e., underlying app data] that describes the problem you want to solve and then you have this view that renders it," Masad told me. "It turns out that translating the model logic [i.e., the app's data structures] to the user interface is a really hard problem to solve as well as the place in the code where most of the bugs occur.”

“When you have true data binding, it reflects automatically in the user interface without you putting in any ‘glue’ code in the middle," Masad continued. "You simply describe your view and every time the model changes it reflects the view. This is why it’s desirable.”

It's 2014. Where's My Object.observe()?

Of course, nothing is an end-all be-all solution, not even an API that supposedly makes “the holy grail of JavaScript” possible. With Object.observe(), the hurdle that remains is that it's still not an official part of JavaScript. 

The Object.observe() proposal needs to be approved by TC39, the organization that oversees the development and maintenance of ECMAscript, a general scripting-language standard that encompasses JavaScript and several related languages. Currently, TC39 has approved Object.observe() as a draft, the second stage of the lengthy approval process.

See also: How To Build A WinJS App In 10 Easy Steps

TC39 members include developers from Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, and Apple. Weinstein, who submitted the Object.observe() proposal, said that since developers from these companies approved of adding it to ECMAscript, he’s optimistic that they’ll also want to add Object.observe functionality to their companies’ own browsers.

If Object.observe() becomes a standard feature across all major browsers, it's more likely to be adopted as an official JavaScript component. Still, the longer Object.observe() development drags on, the greater the possibility that developers will cotton to some other solution to the data-binding problem.

For example, Weinstein is also at the head of a project called Polymer or observe-js, a library that uses Object.observe() if it's available, and alternate methods if it isn't. That way, developers can harness Object.observe() whenever possible, although they still have to be prepared in case their program runs somewhere it's not supported.

Meanwhile. Facebook has come up with an alternative to Object.observe() called React, which developers can use now. React, however, isn't an addition to the JavaScript language itself—just a framework adjustment that performs a similar function. (Object.observe() proponents argue that React is actually solving a related, but distinctly separate problem.)

Developers can try a number of solutions for fixing the data binding problem. But since the absence of data binding is itself a general problem for Javascript, you can see the attraction of adding something like Object.observe() to the language in order to resolve the issue in a relatively clean and universal fashion.

This Is Your Code On Object.observe()

JavaScript developers don't usually code every part of their programs by hand. Instead, they use frameworks like Backbone, Angular, and Ember that incorporate libraries—chunks of code that handle frequently encountered programming hurdles.

For example, if you are a developer who builds a lot of contact forms for websites, you might have a library of software functions that shortcut the process of inserting a contact form in a website. So when the Object.observe() API is released, libraries will be built to make two-way data binding something developers can do as easily as inserting a library in their code.

See also: Angular, Ember, And Backbone: Which JavaScript Framework Is Right For You?

In the absence of Object.observe(), JavaScript frameworks have each come up with a different ways of implementing two-way data binding.

The Angular framework uses something called “dirty checking.” Every time you add to your code, Angular checks to see what changed. It checks even if the view hasn’t changed at all. This continues once the app is deployed; every time the user inputs a change into the app while using it, the dirty checking code checks if it needs to refresh the display in response. This adds load time to every screen of your app.

The Ember framework uses something called “wrapper objects.” Basically, the developer adds a class to the object that serves as a “listener.” When the object changes, the “listener” triggers an event so the developer knows something changed. Since these classes are not native to JavaScript, they add loading time as well. Wrapper objects also increase developer labor, which inevitably leads to more possibility for bugs and errors.

Goodbye, Cruel Wrappers And Dirty Checking

Object.observe() make both of these workarounds obsolete. It allows plain JavaScript objects without wrappers to listen for changes. And only when the listener object notices a change does the view model itself alter, instead of indiscriminate dirty checking.

Igor Minar, lead developer on the AngularJS framework, said developers who use Angular won’t have to work with Object.observe directly.

“Object.observe() is a low level API, which is kind of awkward or inconvenient to use directly," he told me." That's good because by providing such low level API the platform enables us to built on top the API and create higher layers with more opinions.” Object.observe() is already slated for addition as a feature in AngularJS 2.0

Early versions of Object.observe() have already given Angular a performance boost. In a test, dirty checking took 40 milliseconds compared to Object.observe()’s 1 to 2 milliseconds. In other words, Angular became 20 to 40 times faster while using Object.observe.

Object.observe() has the potential to change the way JavaScript operates. But developers themselves won’t notice much of a difference in their workflow.

“Object.observe() is a low level feature that framework authors will use,” said Masad. “Developers using those frameworks won’t notice a different except for higher performance programs.”

Screenshot of Google engineer Addy Osmani introducing Object.observe() at JSConf EU

Categories: Technology

Dutch Court Says Government Can Receive Bulk Data from NSA

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 9:31am
jfruh (300774) writes Dutch law makes it illegal for the Dutch intelligence services to conduct mass data interception programs. But, according to a court in the Hague, it's perfectly all right for the Dutch government to request that data from the U.S.'s National Security Agency, and doing so doesn't violate any treaties or international law.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

FCC Reminds ISPs That They Can Be Fined For Lacking Transparency

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 8:49am
An anonymous reader writes The FCC issued a notice on Wednesday reminding ISPs that, according to the still-intact transparency rule of the 2010 Open Internet Order, they are required to be transparent about their services. "The FCC's transparency rule requires that consumers get the information they need to make informed choices about the broadband services they purchase." Applicable scenarios include "poorly worded service offers or inaccurate counts of data against a data cap...[as well as] blocking or slowing certain types of traffic without explaining that to the customer." The transparency rule gives the FCC the power to fine ISPs for non-compliance.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Internet Explorer Vulnerabilities Increase 100%

Slashdot - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 8:06am
An anonymous reader writes Bromium Labs analyzed public vulnerabilities and exploits from the first six months of 2014. The research determined that Internet Explorer vulnerabilities have increased more than 100 percent since 2013, surpassing Java and Flash vulnerabilities. Web browsers have always been a favorite avenue of attack, but we are now seeing that hackers are not only getting better at attacking Internet Explorer, they are doing it more frequently.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Kim Kardashian And Her In-App Purchases Must Be Stopped!

ReadWriteWeb - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 7:55am

When it comes to cracking down on the predatory practices of in-app purchases found in “free to play” mobile app games, the European Union is looking out for the kids. “In particular, children must be better protected when playing online,” reads the European Commission press statement announcing its latest enforcement action.

But won’t somebody please think of the grown-ups?

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

Opportunities to lighten your digital wallet in exchange for in-game tchotchkes have grown ever-more insidious even for the supposedly mature set. Remember Farmville? Candy Crush? Now it's possible to level-up your way into debt with the "free" game of conspicuous consumption, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

Adults, too, are vulnerable to the in-app purchases offered within “free” games—the simpler the game, the better. As numerous studies find, tiny accomplishments—such as leveling up—release spikes of dopamine in the brain. That's the neurochemical tied to pleasure and reinforced behavior.

Mobile game developers are well aware of what makes games engrossing enough to inspire impulse purchases. They just don't share that information—or even a price list—with players. 

If you haven't personally experienced how engrossing such games can be, just take a look around. Take, for instance, whoever was in charge of the Twitter account for the EPA Office of Water. This person was apparently so entranced with the Kardashian game earlier this week that he or she let slip a tweet from the wrong account:


Hilarity across the Twitterverse, and then the network morning shows, ensued. Everybody loves a good twit slip. And EPA recovered with good grace:

Buckraking The Mobile Way

But what’s less funny is the fact that Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is projected to rake in $200 million this year, most of it likely not earned from kids who don’t know better. (Kim's take is estimated at just $85 million.)

How do “free” mobile apps such as the Kardashian game earn money? Not in any transparent way, and that’s one of the EU's complaints.

When reviewing the text that accompanies Kim Kardashian: Hollywood or Candy Crush or any similar game, you won't find any disclosures—no price list breaking down what kind point-of-purchase surprises you’ll be offered to enhance your game play or when these premiums will appear. Like that magazine with intriguing gossip, or that glasses repair kit, astrology guide or candy bar you suddenly realize you need at the check-out counter, you’ll see it when you see it.

The Kardashian game offers a new twist by giving players a shortcut to Kim’s “level” of fame. Instead of “working” one’s way up the Hollywood food chain via Kim’s kindly mentoring ("dating famous people will get you more fans," she notes), players can skip ahead by dropping $99 of real-world fiat cash on virtual K-Stars, thus paying their way to the red carpet.

Parental Controls Don't Protect Parents—Or Anyone Else

Tales such as the 8-year-old girl who blew $1,400 on smurfberries in Smurfs Village iPad game—just one of many complaints that led to an FCC investigation and Apple's $32.5 million in payouts to parents—mean more protection of Mom and Dad's wallet. But parental controls that prevent kids from accessing app store wallets mean little to grownups. Ask any Candy Crush addict whose dropped hundreds, even thousands of dollars to level up, thus contributing to the nearly $100,000 Candy Crush is estimated to bring in daily.

This lack of transparency is one of several in-app purchase problems the EU urges Google and Apple, as well as developers, to address. “Games advertised as 'free' should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved,” reads one of the EU’s demands. “Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent,” is another.

In the traditional gambling industry, the U.K. government is pressing mandatory rules to prevent predatory practices against habitual gamblers. In the world of mobile games, transparent practices, including a detailed price list alerting players to potential costs, is a reasonable request. 

It’s no coincidence the supermarket checkout line is full of potential purchases—such random selections are the results of years of psych research from advertising agencies. All the better to appeal to your impulse control (or lack thereof)! One difference between “free” mobile apps with opaque in-app purchase prices is this: Most people aren’t constantly going through the supermarket checkout line.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock; game image courtesy of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

Categories: Technology

Yammer Cofounder Leaving Microsoft

ReadWriteWeb - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 7:51am

Yammer co-founder David Sacks announced he’s leaving Microsoft on Wednesday, tweeting a thank you and goodbye to his former charges, whom he referred to as his “YamFamily.”

Microsoft acquired the maker of the enterprise social networking and chat tool two years ago for $1.2 billion, and when it did, Sacks was seen as a potentially transformative figure for the legacy technology company. He was even mentioned by outsiders as a candidate to replace Microsoft's outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer last year, though it’s not clear if he was ever seriously considered.

Yammer will be moving under Office 365 and Outlook as Microsoft looks to further integrate Yammer technologies throughout its Office productivity suite. Kristian Andaker, an Office team lead, will be heading up Yammer engineering, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reports. It's not clear what that means for Yammer cofounder and CTO Adam Pisoni, who thanked Sacks for the "wild ride" the two had together:

Prior to joining Microsoft, Sacks cofounded Geni, a genealogy website, from which he spun Yammer out, and was chief operating officer at PayPal. 

Lead image by TechCrunch on Flickr

Categories: Technology

These Weird Meals Are Actually Clever Data Visualizations

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:43am
Data visualizations and infographics are already a staple of our daily media diet. Maybe they be part of our actual diet, too.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

5 Comics to Read Before Seeing Guardians of the Galaxy

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:43am
As the latest superhero film looms large, some of you may be wondering if there are any comics you should read before seeing Guardians of the Galaxy. Admittedly, Marvel usually does a pretty good job of making films that anyone can enjoy, but if you really want to know what's up, here are five comics that can help you get started.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

WTF Just Happened: My Photos Make Everyone Look Like a Demon

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:43am
Everyone is familiar with the “red-eye” or “green-eye” effect. Here's why it happens and how to prevent it.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Facebook Finally Figured Out How to Make Money Off of Your Phone

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:43am
Two years ago, you didn’t want to be Mark Zuckerberg. Sure, there’s the whole billionaire thing, but no personal fortune was going to buy the young CEO out of his first earnings call. The Wall Street skeptics were circling, and within little more than a month, the value of the Facebook shares on which that […]

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Turn Any Image Into an iPhone Case With This Desktop Machine

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:43am
The Case Maker Pro lets you change your iPhone case as easily as slapping another sticker on your laptop.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Volvo’s New SUV Stops You From Making Risky Left-Hand Turns

Wired - Top Stories - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:43am
Volvo's new XC90 SUV automatically applies the brakes if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car.

Categories: Open Source, Technology