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Ask Slashdot: Do You Like Functional Programming?

/. - 1 hour 35 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: Functional programming seems to be all the rage these days. Efforts are being made to highlight its use in Java, JavaScript, C# and elsewhere. Lots of claims are being made about it's virtues that seem relatively easy to prove or disprove such as "Its use will reduce your debugging time." Or "It will clarify your code." My co-workers are resorting to arm-wrestling matches over this style choice. Half of my co-workers have drunk the Kool-Aid and are evangelizing its benefits. The other half are unconvinced of its virtues over Object Oriented Design patterns, etc. What is your take on functional programming and related technologies (i.e. lambdas and streams)? Is it our salvation? Is it merely another useful design pattern? Or is it a technological dead-end? Python creator Guido van Rossum has said most programmers aren't used to functional languages, and when he answered Slashdot reader questions in 2013 said the only functional language he knew much about was Haskell, and "any language less popular than Haskell surely has very little practical value." He even added "I also don't think that the current crop of functional languages is ready for mainstream." Leave your own opinions in the comments. Do you like functional programming?

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Scientists Consider 'Cloud Brightening' To Preserve Australia's Great Barrier Reef

/. - 3 hours 43 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: A group of Australian marine scientists believe that altering clouds might offer one of the best hopes for saving the Great Barrier Reef. For the last six months, researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sydney School of Geosciences have been meeting regularly to explore the possibility of making low-lying clouds off the northeastern coast of Australia more reflective in order to cool the waters surrounding the world's biggest coral reef system... Last year, as El Nino events cranked up ocean temperatures, at least 20% of the reef died and more than 90% of it was damaged. The Australian researchers took a hard look at a number of potential ways to preserve the reefs. But at this point, making clouds more reflective looks like the most feasible way to protect an ecosystem that stretches across more than 130,000 square miles, says Daniel Harrison, a postdoctoral research associate with the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney. Cloud brightening is the only thing we've identified that's scalable, sensible, and relatively environmentally benign," he says... Next month, he plans to start computer climate modeling to explore whether cloud brightening could make a big enough temperature difference to help. They're collaborating with Silicon Valley's Marine Cloud Brightening Project, which has spent the last seven years "developing a nozzle that they believe can spray salt particles of just the right size and quantity to alter the clouds. They're attempting to raise several million dollars to build full-scale sprayers." The article describes them as "one of several research groups that have started to explore whether cloud brightening, generally discussed as a potential tool to alter the climate as a whole, could be applied in more targeted ways."

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Is Social Media Making Us Hate Each Other?

/. - 4 hours 43 min ago
Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader reports on Carr's newest warning: It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them. The assumption underpins our deep-seated belief that communication networks, from the telephone system to Facebook, will help create social harmony. But what if the opposite is true? In a Boston Globe article, Nicholas Carr presents evidence showing that as we get more information about other people, we tend to like them less, not more. Through a phenomenon called "dissimilarity cascades," we place greater stress on personal and cultural differences than on similarities, and the bias strengthens as information accumulates. "Proximity makes differences stand out," he writes. The phenomenon intensifies online, where people are rewarded for sharing endless information about themselves. What the research indicates, warns Carr, is that the spread of social media is more likely to create social strife than social harmony. The article concludes by opposing the idea that "If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It's a pleasant thought, but it's a fantasy... Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst. What it doesn't do is make us better people. That's a job we can't offload on machines."

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Uber Tried To Hide Its Secret IPhone Fingerprinting From Apple

/. - 5 hours 43 min ago
theodp quotes today's New York Times profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick: For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple's engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had secretly been tracking iPhones even after its app had been deleted from the devices, violating Apple's privacy guidelines. Uber told TechCrunch this afternoon that it still uses a form of this device fingerprinting, saying they need a way to identify those devices which committed fraud in the past -- especially in China, where Uber drivers used stolen iPhones to request dozens of rides from themselves to increase their pay rate. It's been modified to comply with Apple's rules, and "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app..." an Uber spokesperson said. "Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users." The article offers a longer biography of Kalanick, who dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to start a peer-to-peer music-sharing service named Scour. (The service eventually declared bankruptcy after being sued for $250 billion for alleged copyright infringement.) Desperately trying to save his next company, Kalanick "took the tax dollars from employee paychecks -- which are supposed to be withheld and sent to the Internal Revenue Service," according to the Times, "and reinvested the money into the start-up, even as friends and advisers warned him the action was potentially illegal." The money eventually reached the IRS as he "staved off bankruptcy for a second time by raising another round of funding." But the article ultimately argues that Kalanick's drive to win in life "has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion."

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Companies Are Paying Millions For White Hat Hacking

/. - 6 hours 53 min ago
White hat hackers "are in very high demand," says PwC's director of cyber investigation and breach response, in a New York Post article titled "Companies are paying millions to get hacked -- on purpose." An anonymous reader quotes their report: HackerOne, a San Francisco-based "vulnerability coordination and bug bounty platform," reports that it has some 800 corporate customers who paid out more than $15 million in bonuses to white-hat hackers since its founding in 2012. Most of that bounty was paid in the past two years, as companies have become more aware of their cyber vulnerabilities. Clients that have used the platform include General Motors, Uber, Twitter, Starbucks and even the US Department of Defense. Google paid $3 million last year through its own bounty program, according to HackerOne's CEO Marten Micko, who touts his company's "turn-key" solution -- a platform which now offers the services of 100,000 ethical (and vetted) hackers. "With a diverse group, all types of vulnerabilities can be found," Micko told TechRepublic. "This is a corollary to the 'given enough eyeballs' wisdom... they find them faster than other solutions, the hunting is ongoing and not happening at just one time, and the cost is a tenth of what it would be with other methods." And one of the platform's white hat hackers has already earned over $600,000 in just two years.

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Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever

/. - 7 hours 53 min ago
Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction. In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't. "The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.

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America's Most-Hated ISP Is Now Hated By Fewer People

/. - 8 hours 53 min ago
"Comcast's customer service may actually be improving," writes an Oregon newspaper. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In the second year of Comcast's broad customer service overhaul, complaints to Oregon cable regulators are down 25%. They've also declined 40% since 2014. Complaints are falling nationally, too, according to the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. Its most recent report showed a surge in Comcast subscriber satisfaction... Two years ago, Comcast made Oregon the test bed for its customer service push, responding both to disparaging headlines and the prospect of growing competition from other telecom companies and from streaming video services. The company is adding Apple-style retail stores around the metro area and introduced innovations to help consumers understand what they're paying for and when technicians will arrive for service calls. It's rolling out new tools nationally to help them improve their home Wi-Fi, and diagnosing problems before customers call to complain... For example, if several subscribers in the same neighborhood use the company's tool for testing internet speeds, that triggers an alert at Comcast to look for a problem in the local network. The company redesigned its bills to make it clearer what customers subscribe to, and what it costs, in hopes of reducing confusion and calls. And Comcast has a robust social media presence, fielding complaints on Twitter. The article points out that Comcast's satisfaction scores are still below-average for cable TV providers, "and well below the median among internet service providers. And that's a low bar -- the telecom sector is among the most complained about under ACSI's rankings." Their figures show that the only ISPs in America with a lower score for customer satisfaction are Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and MediaCom.

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Flawed Online Tutorials Led To Vulnerabilities In Software

/. - 9 hours 53 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes Help Net Security: Researchers from several German universities have checked the PHP codebases of over 64,000 projects on GitHub, and found 117 vulnerabilities that they believe have been introduced through the use of code from popular but insufficiently reviewed tutorials. The researchers identified popular tutorials by inputting search terms such as "mysql tutorial", "php search form", "javascript echo user input", etc. into Google Search. The first five results for each query were then manually reviewed and evaluated for SQLi and XSS vulnerabilities by following the Open Web Application Security Project's Guidelines. This resulted in the discovery of 9 tutorials containing vulnerable code (6 with SQLi, 3 with XSS). The researchers then checked for the code in GitHub repositories, and concluded that "there is a substantial, if not causal, link between insecure tutorials and web application vulnerabilities." Their paper is titled "Leveraging Flawed Tutorials for Seeding Large-Scale Web Vulnerability Discovery."

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'Detergent' Hydroxl Molecules May Affect Methane Levels In The Atmosphere

/. - 10 hours 58 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes Caltech's announcement about the results of a study funded by NASA and the Department of Energy: During the early 2000s, environmental scientists studying methane emissions noticed something unexpected: the global concentrations of atmospheric methane -- which had increased for decades, driven by methane emissions from fossil fuels and agriculture -- inexplicably leveled off. The methane levels remained stable for a few years, then started rising again in 2007... New modeling by researchers at Caltech and Harvard University suggests that methane emissions might not have increased dramatically in 2007 after all. Instead, the most likely explanation has less to do with methane emissions and more to do with changes in the availability of the hydroxyl radical, which breaks down methane in the atmosphere... If global levels of hydroxyl decrease, global methane concentrations will increase -- even if methane emissions remain constant, the researchers say... Tracking decadal trends in both methane and hydroxyl, Christian Frankenberg and his colleagues noted that fluctuations in hydroxyl concentrations correlated strongly with fluctuations in methane... "Think of the atmosphere like a kitchen sink with the faucet running," Frankenberg explains. "When the water level inside the sink rises, that can mean that you've opened up the faucet more. Or it can mean that the drain is blocking up. You have to look at both." So what's changing the level of hydroxl in the atmosphere? The researchers say they have no idea.

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Pioneering Researchers Track Sudden Learning 'Epiphanies'

/. - 12 hours 3 min ago
wisebabo quotes Science Daily: Until now, researchers had not had a good way to study how people actually experienced what is called "epiphany learning." In new research, scientists at The Ohio State University used eye-tracking and pupil dilation technology to see what happens as people figured out how to win a strategy game on a computer. "We could see our study participants figuring out the solution through their eye movements as they considered their options," said Ian Krajbich, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology and economics at Ohio State. "We could predict they were about to have an epiphany before they even knew it was coming." The original submission suggests, "This might be useful to determine when you are trying to teach a difficult subject to someone who you're afraid might be inclined to just nod their head. Or maybe this is how the Voight-Kampff test works. (Are you a replicant?)"

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CIA, FBI Launch Manhunt For WikiLeaks Source

/. - 13 hours 8 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes CBS: CBS News has learned that a manhunt is underway for a traitor inside the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems. Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider -- either a CIA employee or contractor -- who had physical access to the material... Much of the material was classified and stored in a highly secure section of the intelligence agency, but sources say hundreds of people would have had access to the material. Investigators are going through those names. Homeland security expert Michael Greenberger told one CBS station that "My best guest is that when this is all said and done we're going to find out that this was done by a contractor, not by an employee of the CIA."

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Slashdot Asks: What Was Your First Programming Language?

/. - 16 hours 13 min ago
This question was inspired by news that Stanford's computer science professor Eric Roberts will try JavaScript instead of Java in a new version of the college's introductory computer programming course. The Stanford Daily reports: When Roberts came to Stanford in 1990, CS106A was still taught in Pascal, a programming language he described as not "clean." The department adopted the C language in 1992. When Java came out in 1995, the computer science faculty was excited to transition to the new language. Roberts wrote the textbooks, worked with other faculty members to restructure the course and assignments and introduced Java at Stanford in 2002... "Java had stabilized," Roberts said. "It was clear that many universities were going in that direction. It's 2017 now, and Java is showing its age." According to Roberts, Java was intended early on as "the language of the Internet". But now, more than a decade after the transition to Java, Javascript has taken its place as a web language. In 2014 Python and Java were the two most commonly-taught languages at America's top universities, according to an analysis published by the Communications of the ACM. And Java still remains the most-commonly taught language in a university setting, according to a poll by the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. In a spreadsheet compiling the results, "Python appears 60 times, C++ 54 times, Java 84 times, and JavaScript 28 times," writes a computing professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, adding "if Java is dying (or "showing its age"...) it's going out as the reigning champ." I'm guessing Slashdot's readers have their own opinions about this, so share your educational experiences in the comments. What was your first programming language?

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Should Archive.org Ignore Robots.txt Directives And Cache <em>Everything</em>?

/. - 19 hours 18 min ago
Archive.org argues robots.txt files are geared toward search engines, and now plans instead to represent the web "as it really was, and is, from a user's perspective." We have also seen an upsurge of the use of robots.txt files to remove entire domains from search engines when they transition from a live web site into a parked domain, which has historically also removed the entire domain from view in the Wayback Machine... We receive inquiries and complaints on these "disappeared" sites almost daily." In response, Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: We can stipulate at the outset that the venerable Internet Archive and its associated systems like Wayback Machine have done a lot of good for many years -- for example by providing chronological archives of websites who have chosen to participate in their efforts. But now, it appears that the Internet Archive has joined the dark side of the Internet, by announcing that they will no longer honor the access control requests of any websites. He's wondering what will happen when "a flood of other players decide that they must emulate the Internet Archive's dismal reasoning to remain competitive," adding that if sys-admins start blocking spiders with web server configuration directives, other unrelated sites could become "collateral damage." But BoingBoing is calling it "an excellent decision... a splendid reminder that nothing published on the web is ever meaningfully private, and will always go on your permanent record." So what do Slashdot's readers think? Should Archive.org ignore robots.txt directives and cache everything?

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Linux PC Maker System76 Plans To Design And Manufacture Its Own Hardware

/. - 23 hours 20 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing: System76 is one of only a handful of PC vendors that exclusively sells computers with Linux-based software. Up until now, that's meant the company has chosen hardware that it could guarantee would work well with custom firmware and the Ubuntu Linux operating system... Starting in 2018 though, you may be able to buy a System76 computer that was designed and built in-house... CAD files for System76 computers will be open source, allowing anyone with the appropriate skills and equipment to build or modify their own cases based on the company's designs. "We're prototyping with acrylic and moving to metal soon," the company says in a blog post, adding "Our first in-house designed and manufactured desktops will ship next year. Laptops are more complex and will follow much later."

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Microsoft Will Block Desktop 'Office' Apps From 'Office 365' Services In 2020

/. - 22 April 2017 - 10:05pm
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is still encouraging businesses to rent their Office software, according to TechRadar. "In a bid to further persuade users of the standalone versions of Office to shift over to a cloud subscription (Office 365), Microsoft has announced that those who made a one-off purchase of an Office product will no longer get access to the business flavours of OneDrive and Skype come the end of the decade." PC World explains that in reality this affects very few users. "If you've been saving all of your Excel spreadsheets into your OneDrive for Business cloud, you'll need to download and move them over to a personal subscription -- or pony up for Office 365, as Microsoft really wants you to do." Microsoft is claiming that when customers connect to Office 365 services using a legacy version of Office, "they're not enjoying all that the service has to offer. The IT security and reliability benefits and end user experiences in the apps is limited to the features shipped at a point in time. To ensure that customers are getting the most out of their Office 365 subscription, we are updating our system requirements." And in another blog post, they're almost daring people to switch to Linux. "Providing over three years advance notice for this change to Office 365 system requirements for client connectivity gives you time to review your long-term desktop strategy, budget and plan for any change to your environment." In a follow-up comment, Microsoft's Alistair Speirs explained that "There is still an option to get monthly desktop updates, but we are changing the 3x a year update channel to be 2x a year to align closer to Windows 10 update model. We are trying to strike the right balance between agile, ship-when-ready updates and enterprise needs of predictability, reliability and advanced notice to validate and prepare."

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Can Geoengineering Drones Fight Global Warming?

/. - 22 April 2017 - 7:54pm
MIT Technology Review reports: David Mitchell, a lanky, soft-spoken atmospheric physicist, believes frigid clouds in the upper troposphere may offer one of our best fallback plans for combating climate change... Fleets of large drones would crisscross the upper latitudes of the globe during winter months, sprinkling the skies with tons of extremely fine dust-like materials every year. If Mitchell is right, this would produce larger ice crystals than normal, creating thinner cirrus clouds that dissipate faster. "That would allow more radiation into space, cooling the earth," Mitchell says... Increasingly grim climate projections have convinced a growing number of scientists it's time to start conducting experiments to find out what might work. In addition, an impressive list of institutions including Harvard University, the Carnegie Council, and the University of California, Los Angeles, have recently established research initiatives... By this time next year, Harvard professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to launch a high-altitude balloon from a site in Tucson, Arizona. This will mark the beginning of a research project to explore the feasibility and risks of an approach known as solar radiation management. The basic idea is that spraying materials into the stratosphere could help reflect more heat back into space, mimicking a natural cooling phenomenon that occurs after volcanoes blast tens of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the sky. "I don't really know what the answer is," says a former associate director at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "But I do believe we need to keep saying what the truth is, and the truth is, we might need it."

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Steve Case On How To Get Funded Outside Tech Corridors

/. - 22 April 2017 - 6:49pm
Long-time reader Esther Schindler writes: Innovation occurs outside the Bay Area, New York, Boston, and Austin. So why is it so hard for a startup to get attention and acquire venture capital? Steve Case and Kara Swisher discussed this never-ending-topic recently, such as the fact 78% of U.S. venture capital last year went to just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. Case sees a "third wave" of venture capital funding and through his VC firm is investing in startups based outside major tech centers. But, points out Stealthmode's Francine Hardaway, if you're in Boise or Baltimore you don't have to wait for Case to come to town. She shares advice about what's worked in other startup communities, focusing on the #YesPhx efforts. Conventional wisdom says you should be in a major tech center to get funding, but the article offers an encouraging counterargument. "Never rely on conventional wisdom if you're an innovator. Money follows real innovation."

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Verizon.net 'Gets Out Of The Email Business'

/. - 22 April 2017 - 5:44pm
"We have decided to close down our email business," Verizon has announced -- in a move which affects 4.5 million accounts. Slashdot reader tomservo84 writes: Strangely enough, I didn't find out about this from Verizon, itself, but SiriusXM, who sent me an email saying that since I have a Verizon.net email address on file, I'd have to update it because they were getting rid of their email service. I thought it was a bad phishing attempt at first... Network World reports that customers are being notified "on a rolling basis... Once customers are notified, they are presented with a personal take-action date that is 30 days from the original notification." But even after that date, verizon.net email addresses can be revived using AOL Mail. "Over the years we've realized that there are more capable email platforms out there," Verizon concedes. "Migration is going well," a Verizon spokesperson told Network World. "I don't have any stats to share, but customers seem to appreciate that they have several choices, including an option that keeps their Verizon.net email address intact."

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Anbox Can Run Android Apps Natively On Linux (In A Container)

/. - 22 April 2017 - 4:39pm
Slashdot user #1083, downwa, writes: Canonical engineer Simon Fels has publicly released an Alpha version of Anbox. Similar to the method employed for Android apps on ChromeOS, Anbox runs an entire Android system (7.1.1 at present) in an LXC container. Developed over the last year and a half, the software promises to seamlessly bring performant Android apps to the Linux desktop. After installing Anbox (based on Android 7.1.1) and starting Anbox Application Manager, ten apps are available: Calculator, Calendar, Clock, Contacts, Email, Files, Gallery, Music, Settings, and WebView. Apps run in separate resizeable windows. Additional apps (ARM-native binaries are excluded) can be installed via adb. Installation currently is only supported on a few Linux distributions able to install snaps. Contributions are welcome on Github. In a blog post Simon describes it as "a side project" that he's worked on for over a year and a half. "There were quite a few problems to solve on the way to a really working implementation but it is now in a state that it makes sense to share it with a wider audience."

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Waymo Is Using Grand Theft Auto V To Help Teach Its Self-Driving Cars

/. - 22 April 2017 - 3:34pm
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix... Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector. The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections... The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team. Waymo uses its simulators to create a confounding motoring situation for every variation engineers can think of: having three cars changing lanes at the same time at an assortment of speeds and directions, for instance. What's learned virtually is applied physically, and problems encountered on the road are studied in simulation.

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