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NYT: Privacy Concerns For ClassDojo, Other Tracking Apps For Schoolchildren

Slashdot - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 00:45
theodp writes: The NY Times' Natasha Singer files a report on popular and controversial behavior tracking app ClassDojo, which teachers use to keep a running tally of each student's score, award virtual badges for obedience, and to communicate with parents about their child's progress. "I like it because you get rewarded for your good behavior — like a dog does when it gets a treat," was one third grader's testimonial. Some parents, teachers and privacy law scholars say ClassDojo (investors) — along with other unproven technologies that record sensitive information about students — is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness. "ClassDojo," writes Singer, "does not seek explicit parental consent for teachers to log detailed information about a child's conduct. Although the app's terms of service state that teachers who sign up guarantee that their schools have authorized them to do so, many teachers can download ClassDojo, and other free apps, without vetting by school supervisors. Neither the New York City nor Los Angeles school districts, for example, keep track of teachers independently using apps." A high school teacher interviewed for the article confessed to having not read ClassDojo's policies on handling student data, saying: "I'm one of those people who, when the terms of service are 18 pages, I just click agree." And, if all this doesn't make you parents just a tad nervous, check out this response to the "Has anyone ran a data analysis on their CD data?" question posed to the Class Dojo Community: "I needed to analyze data in regards to a student being placed on ADHD medicine to see whether or not he made any improvements. I have also used it to determine any behavioral changes depending on if a student was with mom/dad for a custody review. I use dojo consistently, so I LOVE getting to use the data to evaluate and share with parents, or even administrators."

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Player-Run MMORPG By Former Ultima Online Devs Finding Kickstarter Success

Slashdot - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 00:03
An anonymous reader writes: Shards Online has returned to Kickstarter with a refocused plan and a promise to match pledges dollar-for-dollar up to their goal. With just a week gone by, they have already reached 75% of their goal. Project Lead Derek Brinkmann says, "If Ultima Online and Neverwinter Nights had a love child, Shards Online would be the result. By combining the persistent virtual world of Ultima Online with the freedom of community run servers and the ability to act as a dungeonmaster in Neverwinter Nights, we are creating a paradise for roleplayers where you are no longer constrained by the rules handed to you by the development team." The team now has their sights set on their stretch goals like more animations for roleplayers and an extra game world to be released at Alpha.

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Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 23:20
This is not a practical bike. "Even on smooth pavement, your vision goes blurry because you're vibrating so hard," Collin said to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter back in 2012 when he was only 15 -- and already building wooden bicycles. Collin's wooden bikes are far from the first ones. Wikipedia says, "The first bicycles recorded, known variously as velocipedes, dandy horses, or hobby horses, were constructed from wood, starting in 1817." And not all wooden bicycles made today are as crude as Collin's. A Portland (OR) company called Renovo makes competition-quality hardwood bicycle frames -- for as little as $2200, and a bunch more for a complete bike with all its hardware fitted and ready to roll. Of course, while it might be sensible to buy a Renovo product if you want a wood-framed bike to Race Across America, you won't improve your woodworking skills the way Collin's projects have improved his to the point where he's made a nice-looking pair of wood-framed sunglasses described in his WOOD YOU? SHOULD YOU? blog. (Alternate Video Link)

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Chrome 39 Launches With 64-bit Version For Mac OS X and New Developer Features

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 22:38
An anonymous reader writes "Google today released Chrome 39 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The biggest addition in this release is 64-bit support for OS X, which first arrived in Chrome 38 beta. Unlike on Windows, where 32-bit and 64-bit versions will both continue to be available (users currently have to opt-in to use the 64-bit release), Chrome for Mac is now only available in 64-bit. There are also a number of security fixes and developer features. Here's the full changelog.

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Ask Slashdot: Professionally Packaged Tools For Teaching Kids To Program?

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 21:56
Binestar writes: I've been doing IT consulting for years, but I'm not a programmer beyond bash scripting, perl scripts to make administration easier, and batch files to make Windows easier. I recently found an online course for modding Minecraft that my 9-year-old daughter is really enjoying (she built a custom sword that shoots lightning). Does anyone have any recommendations on online courses that would be age appropriate and worth the investment? It's been easy to get her interested in the Minecraft modding course because, as any parent with young children knows, Minecraft is kinda popular... The course she's taking now is teaching her Eclipse and Gimp, and I'm sure there are other tools installed that they haven't had her open yet. What other vendors have stuff worth introducing her to? I've also started looking at things like the Kano and Learn to Mod, but as a non-programmer, I'm not really sure which are most useful for introduction and which are accomplishing what they claim vs. being a waste of money/time. Anyone have experience or suggestions to help sort this out?

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Laser Creates Quantum Whirlpool

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 21:15
Quantus347 writes: Physicists at The Australian National Univ. (ANU) have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. Polaritons are hybrid particles that have properties of both matter and light. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser- and fiber-based technologies. Polaritons form in semiconductors when laser light interacts with electrons and holes (positively charged vacancies) so strongly that it is no longer possible to distinguish light from matter.

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Launching 2015: a New Certificate Authority To Encrypt the Entire Web

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 20:31
Peter Eckersley writes: Today EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, and Akamai announced a forthcoming project called Let's Encrypt. Let's Encrypt will be a certificate authority that issues free certificates to any website, using automated protocols (demo video here). Launching in summer 2015, we believe this will be the missing piece that deprecates the woefully insecure HTTP protocol in favor of HTTPS.

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US Marshals Auctioning $20M Worth of Silk Road's Bitcoins

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 19:48
coondoggie writes: The U.S. Marshals office says it will auction off almost 50,000 bitcoins (about $20 million worth) seized from alleged Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht. The auction, which is the second sale of Silk Road's bitcoin collection, will take place during a 6-hour period on Dec. 4 from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. EST. Bids will be accepted by email from pre-registered bidders only, the U.S. Marshals office said. In June more than $17 million in bitcoins seized from the Silk Road take-down were auctioned off.

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Major Brain Pathway Rediscovered After Century-old Confusion, Controversy

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 19:06
vinces99 writes A couple of years ago a scientist looking at dozens of MRI scans of human brains noticed something surprising: A large fiber pathway that seemed to be part of the network of connections that process visual information that wasn't mentioned in any modern-day anatomy textbooks. "It was this massive bundle of fibers, visible in every brain I examined," said Jason Yeatman, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "... As far as I could tell, it was absent from the literature and from all major neuroanatomy textbooks.'"With colleagues at Stanford University, Yeatman started some detective work to figure out the identity of that mysterious fiber bundle. The researchers found an early 20th century atlas that depicted the structure, now known as the vertical occipital fasciculus. But the last time that atlas had been checked out was 1912, meaning the researchers were the first to view the images in the last century. They describes the history and controversy of the elusive pathway in a paper published Nov. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You'd think that we'd have found all the parts of the human body by now, but not necessarily.

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Interviews: Ask Malcolm Gladwell a Question

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 18:25
Malcolm Gladwell is a speaker, author, and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. Gladwell's writing often focuses on research in the social sciences and the unexpected connections or theories made from such research. His books: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Outliers: The Story of Success, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants are all New York Times best sellers. Malcolm has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any question you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

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Crowdfunded Linux Voice Magazine Releases First Issue CC-BY-SA

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 17:39
M-Saunders (706738) writes Linux Voice, the crowdfunded GNU/Linux magazine that Slashdot has covered previously, had two goals at its launch: to give 50% of its profits back to the community after one year, and release each issue's contents under the Creative Commons after nine months. Well, it's been nine months since issue 1, so the whole thing is now online and free to share. Readers and supporters have also made audio versions of articles, for listening to on the commute to work.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop Update Performance Explored

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 16:56
MojoKid writes Last week, NVIDIA offered information regarding its Android Lollipop update for the SHIELD Tablet and also revealed a new game bundle for it. This week, NVIDIA gave members of the press early access to the Lollipop update and it will also be rolling out to the general public sometime later today. Some of the changes are subtle, but others are more significant and definitely give the tablet a different look and feel over the original Android KitKat release. Android Lollipop introduces a new "material design" that further flattens out the look of the OS. Google seems to have taken a more minimalist approach as everything from the keyboard to the settings menus have been cleaned up considerably. Many parts of the interface don't have any markings except for the absolute necessities. While the OS definitely feels more fluid and responsive, the default look isn't always better, depending on your personal view. The app tray for example has a plain, white background which looks kind of jarring if you've using a colorful background. And finding the proper touch points for things like a settings menu or clearing notifications isn't always clear. Performance-wise, NVIDIA's Shield Tablet showed significantly better performance on Lollipop for general compute tasks in benchmarks like Mobile XPRT but lagged behind Kit Kat in graphics performance slightly, which could be attributed to driver optimization.

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Microsoft Releases Out-of-Band Security Patch For Windows

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 16:15
mrspoonsi writes Microsoft has announced today that they will be pushing an out-of-band security patch today. The patch, which affects nearly all of the company's major platforms, is rated 'critical' and it is recommended that you install the patch immediately. The patch is rated 'critical' because it allows for elevation of privileges and will require a restart. The platforms that are affected include: Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows RT and Windows RT 8.1 and Windows 10 Technical Preview customers are affected, too.

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Uber Threatens To Do 'Opposition Research' On Journalists

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 15:29
Nerval's Lobster writes A senior executive at Uber reportedly told a Buzzfeed reporter that the company "should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company." As detailed by the executive, Uber would spend a million dollars on the effort, which would involve "four top opposition researchers and four journalists," and dig into personal lives and families. Uber has pushed back against the report, insisting that it's never done opposition research, but the idea of any company engaging in such practices seems more like something Nixon would have dreamed up at his worst than a strategy by a "disruptive" startup.

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Court Rules Google's Search Results Qualify As Free Speech

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 14:49
wabrandsma writes with this news from Ars Technica: The regulation of Google's search results has come up from time to time over the past decade, and although the idea has gained some traction in Europe (most recently with "right to be forgotten" laws), courts and regulatory bodies in the U.S. have generally agreed that Google's search results are considered free speech. That consensus was upheld last Thursday, when a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Google's right to order its search results as it sees fit.

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Polyphonic Overtone Singing Explained Visually With Spectrograms

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 14:27
New submitter Tucano writes The overtone singer Anna-Maria Hefele can sing two notes at the same time. In her latest video, spectrograms and frequency filters are used to explain how she can produce two melody lines at the same time, and how she uses her mouth to filter the frequencies of her voice. When the voice produces a sound, many harmonics (or overtones) sound at the same time, and we normally hear this as a single tone. In overtone singing, the mouth filters out all harmonics but one, and the one that remains is amplified to become louder. This is then perceived as a separate tone, next to the fundamental. In her video, Anna-Maria shows techniques that become increasingly advanced. She shows the overtone scale (steady fundamental, moving overtone), the undertone scale (steady overtone, moving fundamental), parallel movement and opposing movement of overtone and fundamental, and even complex compositions with two separate melody lines.

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Machine-Learning Algorithm Ranks the World's Most Notable Authors

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 14:13
HughPickens.com writes: Every year the works of thousands of authors enter the public domain, but only a small percentage of these end up being widely available. So how do organizations such as Project Gutenberg choose which works to focus on? Allen Riddell has developed an algorithm that automatically generates an independent ranking of notable authors for any given year. It is then a simple task to pick the works to focus on or to spot notable omissions from the past. Riddell's approach is to look at what kind of public domain content the world has focused on in the past and then use this as a guide to find content that people are likely to focus on in the future. Riddell's algorithm begins with the Wikipedia entries of all authors in the English language edition (PDF)—more than a million of them. His algorithm extracts information such as the article length, article age, estimated views per day, time elapsed since last revision, and so on. This produces a "public domain ranking" of all the authors that appear on Wikipedia. For example, the author Virginia Woolf has a ranking of 1,081 out of 1,011,304 while the Italian painter Giuseppe Amisani, who died in the same year as Woolf, has a ranking of 580,363. So Riddell's new ranking clearly suggests that organizations like Project Gutenberg should focus more on digitizing Woolf's work than Amisani's. Of the individuals who died in 1965 and whose work will enter the public domain next January in many parts of the world, the new algorithm picks out TS Eliot as the most highly ranked individual. Others highly ranked include Somerset Maugham, Winston Churchill, and Malcolm X.

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Intel Announces Major Reorg To Combine Mobile and PC Divisions

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 11:15
MojoKid writes: For the past year, Intel has pursued what's known as a "contra-revenue" strategy in its mobile division, where product is deliberately sold at a loss to win market share and compete effectively. This has led to a huge rise in tablet shipments, but heavy losses inside Intel's mobile division. Today, the company announced that it would take steps to fold its mobile and conventional processors into a single operating division. While this helps shield the mobile segment from poor short-term results, it also reflects the reality that computing is something users now do across a wide range of devices and multiple operating systems. Intel may not have hit anything like the mobile targets it set out years ago, but long-term success in laptops, tablets, and smartphones remains integral to the company's finances. Desktops and conventional laptops are just one way people compute today and Intel needs to make certain it has a robust long-term presence in every major computing market.

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Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 08:20
Robotron23 writes: The developers behind the sequel to legendary video game Elite have, to the anger and dismay of fans, dropped the offline single-player mode originally promised. The game is due for full release in under a month. With the title having raised about $1.5 million from Kickstarter, and millions more in subsequent campaigns that advertised the feature, gamers are livid. A complaints thread on the official Elite forums has swelled to 450+ pages in only three days, while refunds are being lodged in the thousands. It is down to the discretion of Frontier, the game's developer, whether to process refund requests of original backers.

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HTML5: It's Already Everywhere, Even In Mobile

Slashdot - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 06:24
electronic convict writes: Tom Dale has never been shy, and in a Q&A with Matt Asay on ReadWrite, the EmberJS co-founder and JavaScript evangelist makes the outspoken claim that open Web technologies are already everywhere, even in native mobile apps, and that it's only a matter of time before they catch up to "all the capabilities of a native, proprietary platform." Take that, Web-is-dead doomsayers. Dale has plenty more to say, calling Google an "adolescent behemoth" that's belatedly embracing open-Web technologies in mobile, lauding Apple's Nitro JS engine and belittling the idea that Web apps have to look and feel the same as native apps for the open Web to triumph. His bottom line: "[I]t's not hard to see that the future of the Web on mobile is a happy one."

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