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Dell Launches XPS 13 2-in-1 Laptop With Intel Kaby Lake Chip, Starts at $1,000

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 22:00
Ahead of CES 2016, which officially kicks off Tuesday, Dell has announced a convertible version of its popular XPS 13 laptop. The machine is powered by a seventh-generation Kaby Lake Intel Core i chip (i5 and i7 options are available), Intel HD Graphics 615 integrated GPU, 4 to 16GB LPDDR3 RAM, a 128GB-1TB solid-state drive (SSD), a 720p webcam on the bottom of the display with support for Windows Hello, a fingerprint scanner, a 46 watt-hour battery, and a 13.3-inch touchscreen, available in QHD+ or FHD configurations. From a report on VentureBeat: The bezel is very narrow, in keeping with the XPS style. The fanless PC offers an SD card slot and two USB-C ports, and a USB-A to USB-C adapter comes in the box. The laptop is 0.32-0.54 inch thick, which is thinner than Dell's 2016 XPS. But the keyboard hasn't been squished down -- the keys have 1.3mm travel, or just a tad bit (0.1mm) more than you get on the XPS laptop -- which is impressive. The laptop weighs 2.7 pounds. The question is whether people will want the convertible option when the laptop is fine as is. The convertible XPS 13 starts at $1000, which is $200 more than the XPS 13 laptop.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

France Begins Opt-Out Organ Donation

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 21:00
Laura June, reporting for The Outline: France began to use a new opt-out system of organ donation on Jan. 1, making it one of a large number of European nations that now use a "presumed consent" system. This means that any adult who dies will now donate their organs by default, regardless of their survivors' wishes, unless they have signed a refusal registry in advance. The new law gets around what has historically been a stumbling block for organ donation: the surviving families of the deceased. A survey in France previously showed that while up to 80 percent of the population was in favor of donating their own organs, about 40 percent of families refuse when pressed to make the choice.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

SpaceX Moves Past Explosion With New Launch Plans

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 20:03
SpaceX plans to resume launching rockets as soon as next week, after completing an investigation into a spectacular launch pad explosion that destroyed a rocket and a satellite in September. From a report on CNN: The news comes following an in-depth investigation into the explosion of a rocket from SpaceX's September mission. The company said in a statement Monday the botched launch was due to a failed pressure vessel in a liquid oxygen tank. The vessel buckled, causing liquid oxygen to accumulate. It believes this led to friction, sparks and the explosion. SpaceX conducted the investigation along with officials from NASA, the Federal Aviation Authority, the U.S. Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board. The Federal Aviation Administration will have to sign off on the report and issue SpaceX a license to launch. SpaceX appears optimistic it will be launching rockets again soon.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

All the Features Facebook Copied From Snapchat in 2016

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 19:00
Last year, Facebook looked several times at Snapchat, a company that reportedly refused to be acquired by the social giant, for new features in Facebook Messenger, and its Instagram services. From a report on Recode: Here's the list of features Facebook launched this year that appear to be direct threats to Snapchat: 1. Facebook bought MSQRD, an app that creates silly face filters, in March. 2. It has since added the face filter technology to the main Facebook app and Messenger. 3. Facebook started testing a new Snapchat-style camera inside its main app. Messages sent using the new camera are ephemeral. 4. Facebook built a Snapchat clone app called Flash specifically for emerging markets like Brazil. 5. Instagram ripped off Snapchat's Stories feature. (It actually works pretty well.) Instagram also added ephemeral messaging.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Japanese White-Collar Workers Are Already Being Replaced by Artificial Intelligence

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 18:00
Most of the attention around automation focuses on how factory robots and self-driving cars may fundamentally change our workforce, potentially eliminating millions of jobs. But AI that can handle knowledge-based, white-collar work is also becoming increasingly competent. From a report on Quartz: One Japanese insurance company, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is reportedly replacing 34 human insurance claim workers with "IBM Watson Explorer," starting by this month. The AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, according to a company press release, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. Automation of these research and data gathering tasks will help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster, the release says.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Tesla Rolling Out Autopilot Software Updates to 1,000 Cars

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 17:00
Tesla Motors began rolling out software updates to customers with newer cars, bringing them to parity with owners who have what's known as "Autopilot 1" and setting the stage to ultimately unleash full self-driving capability. From a report on Bloomberg:"HW2 Autopilot software uploading to 1,000 cars this eve. Will then hold to verify no field issues and upload to rest of fleet next week," Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said. When Musk announced in October that all vehicles now being produced at the Fremont, California, factory are shipping with a new hardware suite to enable full self-driving, he warned that the cars would temporarily lack some of the features currently available on Tesla vehicles with "first generation" Autopilot as the company validated the software. That includes some standard safety features like automatic emergency breaking, collision warning and active cruise control. Now customers with the âoeHardware 2â suite will have those features. .

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Samsung To Reveal This Month What Caused the Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone To Catch Fire - Report

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 16:00
One of the biggest mysteries of 2016 will come to an end sometime this month. Samsung will make public the results of its months-long investigation into what caused several Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to turn into flames later this month, according to a report on Reuters. From the report: The South Korean firm said in October it was examining all aspects of the phone, suggesting there may be a combination of factors that contributed to one of the costliest product safety failures in tech history. Samsung has also previously noted that it was working with several third-party sources and experts to figure out what could have caused the error. A popular theory among many is that Samsung attempted to further slim the form factor of the Galaxy Note 7, which resulted in the battery to be held too tightly within the device -- which in turn, caused the layers of lithium cobalt oxide and graphite to touch.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Bitcoin Breaks $1,000 Level, Highest in More Than 3 Years

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 15:00
The price of digital currency bitcoin has hit the $1,000 mark for the first time in three years. From a report on CNBC: The cryptocurrency was trading at $1,021 at the time of publication, according to CoinDesk data, at level not seen since November 2013, with its market capitalization exceeding $16 billion. Bitcoin has been on a steady march higher for the past few months, driven by a number of factors such as the devaluation of the yuan, geopolitical uncertainty and an increase in professional investors taking an interest in the asset class. "We are seeing the aftermath of zero interest rates run amok. So bitcoin is a healthy reminder that we don't have to hold on to dollars or renminbi, which is subject to capital controls and loss of purchasing power. Rather it's a new asset class," Bobby Lee, chief executive of BTC China, one of the world's largest bitcoin exchanges, told CNBC by phone.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Intel Finds Moore's Law's Next Step At 10 Nanometers

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 13:34
An anonymous reader writes: Sometime in 2017, Intel will ship the first processors built using the company's new, 10-nanometer chip-manufacturing technology. Intel says transistors produced in this way will be cheaper than those that came before, continuing the decades-long trend at the heart of Moore's Law -- and contradicting widespread talk that transistor-production costs have already sunk as low as they will go. In the coming years, Intel plans to make further improvements to the design of these transistors. And, for the first time, the company will optimize its manufacturing technology to accommodate other companies that wish to use Intel's facilities to produce chips based on ARM architecture, which is nearly ubiquitous in modern mobile processors.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

CodeSOD: Do You Think This is a Game?

The Daily WTF - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 12:30

We’ve passed Christmas and made our way through a Steam sale with our wallets mostly intact, and now most of us have a pile of games that we’ll probably never actually play.

Game programming is hard. Setting aside the “cultural” problems in the industry- endless crunches, compensation tied to review scores, conflicts between publishers and studios, and a veneer of glamour over unglamorous work- the actual work of developing a game is a hard job.

Building a game engine is even harder. Not only do you have to build highly performant code, you have to build a system flexible enough so that game developers can build a game on top of it. You need to provide a set of high-level abstractions that make it easy for them to build a game, and this is where the problems come in.

For example, I went through a brief period of playing Frozen Cortex, an interesting approach at a turn-based sports game. I was stunned at how badly it performs, though. Weirdly, it’s not during gameplay that performance stinks, but when staring at the menus. I was puzzling over this for some time, when Anonymous sent us a message.

You see, Frozen Cortex is build on the Torque engine, and our anonymous submitter is working on a different game that also uses the Torque engine. And they’ve encountered a few… special warts.

First, take a look at this code:

a = getWords("The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy programmer.", 3); b = getWords("The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy programmer.", 3, 5); c = getWords("The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy programmer.", 3, 2);

getWords is a substring function, taking a string, the starting index and the ending index. Now, what would you expect to happen if the ending index comes before the starting index? Would you expect it to throw an exception? Well, bad news- TorqueScript has no concept of exceptions. It just crashes the entire game. This is a great tool to teach you how to be a better defensive programmer.

Now, you could argue that prohibiting exceptions is a pretty clever optimization- exceptions and stack unwinding are expensive operations. We have to wonder though, because here’s a performance comparison between calling a function and in-lining the operation:

==>%r=getRealTime();for(%i=0;%i<999999;%i++)%d=getMin(getRandom(),getRandom());echo(getRealTime()-%r); 7040 ==>%r=getRealTime();for(%i=0;%i<999999;%i++)%d=(%a=getRandom()<%b=getRandom()?%a:%b);echo(getRealTime()-%r); 448

If you do a little arithmetic, it’s 15.7 times more expensive to call a function rather than in-line it.

The final stinger Anonymous wanted to share with us was this:

TorqueScript’s “variables”, behind the scenes, involve a lookup table to match a variable name to its stored value. But this isn’t done quite right - even when a function has exited, its local variable names are never cleaned up. So the lookup table simply grows and grows over time… until, eventually, TorqueScript’s already poor performance reaches unteneble levels of slowness. Essentially, it’s a memory leak in the scripting language itself. You can restart the game to clear the lookup table and bring it back to its original level of “speed”, or you could just let Torque eventually crash.

Now, this is a bit unfair. Torque was released by a small company, and after a few years of trying to find some market traction, became an open source product. I’m sure for the specific cases the developers were shooting for, some of these trade offs make sense. We certainly wouldn’t expect to see anything so strange in a big-budget game engine, right?

Well, Rich D is trying his hand at making a few X-COM 2 mods, and thus is exploring the quirks of Unreal Script for Unreal Engine 3 (or, more precisely, the highly modified version of the Unreal Engine used by X-COM 2).

He’s found a few quirks of his own:


1) Basic data structures that we take for granted, like maps and sets, don’t exist.
2) If you’re in a static function, you can’t call another static function that takes a delegate as a parameter. Even if the delegate is also a static function.
3) If you’re looping over an array of structs, for and foreach have different behavior
4) If a variable is None (Unrealscript’s equivalent of null) and you try to access something in it, that only results in a warning and your function continues executing anyway. No need to declare “On Error Resume Next”; for convenience

Again, many of these tradeoffs probably are there to optimize for performance, and can be avoided by defensive programming. But take a look at these two code blocks:

static function bool IsUnitValidForCrossTrainSlot(XComGameState_StaffSlot SlotState, StaffUnitInfo UnitInfo) { local XComGameState_Unit Unit; Unit = XComGameState_Unit(`XCOMHISTORY.GetGameStateForObjectID(UnitInfo.UnitRef.ObjectID)); if (Unit.IsASoldier() && !Unit.IsInjured() && !Unit.IsTraining() && !Unit.IsPsiTraining() && class'CrossTrainUtilities'.static.GetCrossClassAbilities(Unit).Length > 0) { return true; } return false; }

versus:

static function bool IsUnitValidForCrossTrainSlot(XComGameState_StaffSlot SlotState, StaffUnitInfo UnitInfo) { local XComGameState_Unit Unit; local array<SoldierClassAbilityType> Abilities; Unit = XComGameState_Unit(`XCOMHISTORY.GetGameStateForObjectID(UnitInfo.UnitRef.ObjectID)); if (Unit.IsASoldier() && !Unit.IsInjured() && !Unit.IsTraining() && !Unit.IsPsiTraining()) { Abilities = class'CrossTrainUtilities'.static.GetCrossClassAbilities(Unit); if (Abilities.Length > 0) { return true; } } return false; }

Tracing through the logic, you’ll see that both of these are logically equivalent. The only difference is that first example accesses the array in the if condition, while the second stuffs the array into a local variable. Which… as it turns out, is required. If the array doesn’t get put into a local variable, the entire contents of that array are wiped.

Game programming is hard, but sometimes, it seems like game engines make it actively harder.

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Categories: Fun/Other

Despite Piracy Claims, North American Box Office Hits Record $11.4 Billion In 2016

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 09:34
Slashdot reader rudy_wayne writes: Despite constant claims of losing billions of dollars to "piracy", the North American box office closed out 2016 with $11.4 billion in ticket sales. That marks a new record for the industry, bypassing the previous record of $11.1 billion that was established in 2015. Disney had four of the top five highest-grossing films, including "Finding Dory," the year's top film with $486.3 million. "When holdovers are taken into account, Disney had six of the year's ten highest-grossing releases, a group that includes Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which debuted in 2015," reports Variety. Other top films include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($408.2 million), Captain America: Civil War ($408.1 million), The Secret Life of Pets ($368.4 million), and The Jungle Book ($364 million). Disney "controlled more than a quarter of the domestic market share despite releasing fewer films than any of the major studios," according to the article, which notes that the record was achieved despite the absence of big releases in several major movie franchises partly through higher ticket prices (and possibly also inflation).

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Changing Other People's Flight Bookings Is Too Easy

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 05:34
"The security of online travel booking systems are stuck in the 1990s, according to security researchers," reports Computerworld. An anonymous reader quotes their article, which argues that the ancient systems are also "woefully insecure": This allows attackers to easily modify other people's reservations, cancel their flights and even use the refunds to book tickets for themselves, according a team of researchers who analyzed this online ecosystem... They presented their findings Tuesday at the 33rd Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg. The three major Global Distribution Systems operators...store Passenger Name Records for hundreds of millions of travelers at any given time. Any data added or modification made to a booking is stored in their systems and all that's required to access that information is typically a last name and a six-character booking code. There are multiple access points into these systems and this includes the websites operated by airlines and travel agencies, but also third-party websites like CheckMyTrip... The booking code itself is far from secret. It's printed on luggage tags that most people throw away after each flight -- even if their entire trip has not concluded yet -- and is also embedded in the QR codes printed on tickets that an alarmingly large number of travellers photograph and post on social media websites, the researchers said.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Wikipedia Announces Their Most Viewed Articles Of 2016

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 03:34
Slashdot reader westand writes, "Wikipedia's 5000 most-visited articles of 2016 have been released, and Donald Trump leads the pack." (Though the site's second-most popular article was about a porn site.) The top 5000 pages account for 21.6 billion views, with 42% of those being mobile traffic... After artificial traffic is discounted, election and celebrity deaths feature prominently. Wikipedia's article about the U.S. presidential election of 2016 also came in at #11, while their articles about Melania Trump and Hillary Clinton came in at #16 and #19, respectively. Other top-20 articles covered deaths in 2016, as well as "Prince (musician)" and David Bowie, with four more articles that covered 2016 superhero movies also reaching the top 20. (Along with "List of Bollywood films of 2016".) The eighth most-popular article was about web scraping, while Wikipedia's 404.php page was actually more popular than any article on the site. The original submission also points out that 323 million views were covered by The Wikipedia Zero project, in which mobile operators in the Global South ""'zero-rate' access to Wikimedia sites in their billing system, so their subscribers will not incur data charges while accessing Wikipedia and the sister projects on the mobile web or apps." And Wikipedia adds that their list is generated by Andrew G. West, a senior research scientist at Verisign Labs who "is particularly interested in academic collaboration regarding this English Wikipedia dataset."

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Lucasfilm Creates A 4K Ultra-HD Restoration of the Original 'Star Wars'

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 01:34
An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: When the first ever of the Star Wars films, "A New Hope" turns 40 in 2017, millions of dedicated fans of the immensely popular franchise might get a very unique treat in the form of a limited theater screening in beautifully restored form with theatrical 4K resolution of the first movie released in the series. According to recent comments made by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, a 4K restoration of Star Wars Episode IV "A New Hope" does indeed exist and now the only real question is whether or not the cleaned up and sharpened version of the movie will be hitting the big screen once again. White it's release status is unknown, the ultra-high definition footage is said to be spectacular. In the interview, Edwards says "You can't watch it without getting carried away... It just turns you into a child."

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Work Emails After Hours Finally Banned in France

Slashdot - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 00:30
An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: A new French law establishing workers' "right to disconnect" goes into effect today. The law requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish hours when staff should not send or answer emails. The goals of the law include making sure employees are fairly paid for work, and preventing burnout by protecting private time. French legislator Benoit Hamon, speaking to the BBC, described the law as an answer to the travails of employees who "leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash -- like a dog." The BBC reports that France already has a 35-hour work week, while Fortune adds that many European companies have already taken steps to curtail after-work emails. "In 2012, Volkswagen blocked all emails to employees' Blackberries after-hours," and "Daimler took the step of deleting all emails received by employees while on vacation."

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Categories: Tech/Science News

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