Graphics

AMD Catalyst Linux Driver Performs Wildly Different Based On Program's Name 113 113

An anonymous reader writes: In past years the AMD Catalyst Linux driver has yielded better performance if naming the executable "doom3.x86" or "compiz" (among other choices), but these days this application profile concept is made more absurd with more games coming to Linux but AMD not maintaining well their Linux application profile database. The latest example is by getting ~40% better performance by renaming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on Linux. If renaming the "csgo_linux" binary to "hl2_linux" for Half-Life 2 within Steam, the frame-rates suddenly increase across the board, this is with the latest Catalyst 15.7 Linux driver while CS:GO has been on Linux for nearly one year. Should driver developers re-evaluate their optimization practices for Linux?
Programming

MUMPS, the Programming Language For Healthcare 166 166

citadrianne writes: An ICU patient is monitored and assessed according to 12 different variables. These include such measurements as body temperature, heart rate, blood oxygenation, blood pH, and others. Together, they're used to formulate a quantitative answer to the question, "How bad is it, doc?" Many of these physiological signs are measured in real-time via electrodes and like a billion different varieties of catheter. Add to it barrages of lab tests done multiple times per day per patient and the need for 20 or so clinicians (per patient) to have access to all of this data, and the result is very a deep data problem. Multiply that data problem by hundreds of thousands of patients.

This is the fundamental problem that the programming language MUMPS (sometimes called just "M"), or the Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System, aims to solve. To its proponents, MUMPS allows for a one of a kind synthesis of programming and database management, while to to its detractors, it's a bizarre anachronism with little connection to the evolution and innovation taking place elsewhere in programming. Probably to most people that do things with computers, MUMPS/M is poorly understood, at best, and more likely to be completely unknown.
The Media

Ask Slashdot: Which Expert Bloggers Do You Read? 203 203

An anonymous reader writes: The crush of news sites today is almost overwhelming. For true bits of news — bare facts and alerts that something has happened — it doesn't really matter which site you read it on. Some tiny, no-name website can tell me $company1 bought $company2 just as well as Reuters, CNN, or the NY Times. When it comes to opinion pieces and analysis, though, it's a different story. One of the generalist tech bloggers at the NY Times probably isn't going to have many worthwhile posts comparing database sorting algorithms or explaining the Cassini spacecraft's orbital path or providing soldering techniques for fixing a busted monitor. An example most of us are familiar with: Bruce Schneier generally provides good advice on security and encryption. So: what expert bloggers do you keep tabs on? I'm not looking for any particular posting frequency. This type of person I'm thinking of is probably not a journalist, and may not post very often at all — posting frequency matters far less than the signal-to-noise ratio. My goal is to build a big list of smart people who write interesting things — mainly for topics you'd expect to see on Slashdot, but I'm open to other subjects, as well.
The Internet

North America Runs Out of IPv4 Addresses 307 307

DW100 writes: The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) has been forced to reject a request for more IPv4 addresses for the first time as its stock of remaining address reaches exhaustion. The lack of IPv4 addresses has led to renewed calls for the take-up of IPv6 addresses in order to start embracing the next era of the internet.
Businesses

Exploring the Relationships Between Tech Skills (Visualization) 65 65

Nerval's Lobster writes: Simon Hughes, Dice's Chief Data Scientist, has put together an experimental visualization that explores how tech skills relate to one another. In the visualization, every circle or node represents a particular skill; colors designate communities that coalesce around skills. Try clicking "Java", for example, and notice how many other skills accompany it (a high-degree node, as graph theory would call it). As a popular skill, it appears to be present in many communities: Big Data, Oracle Database, System Administration, Automation/Testing, and (of course) Web and Software Development. You may or may not agree with some relationships, but keep in mind, it was all generated in an automatic way by computer code, untouched by a human. Building it started with Gephi, an open-source network analysis and visualization software package, by importing a pair-wise comma-separated list of skills and their similarity scores (as Simon describes in his article) and running a number of analyses: Force Atlas layout to draw a force-directed graph, Avg. Path Length to calculate the Betweenness Centrality that determines the size of a node, and finally Modularity to detect communities of skills (again, color-coded in the visualization). The graph was then exported as an XML graph file (GEXF) and converted to JSON format with two sets of elements: Nodes and Links. "We would love to hear your feedback and questions," Simon says.
Privacy

When a Company Gets Sold, Your Data May Be Sold, Too 92 92

An anonymous reader writes: A new report points out that many of the top internet sites have language in their privacy policies saying that your private data might be transferred in the event of an acquisition, bankruptcy sale, or other transaction. They effectively say, "We won't ever sell your information, unless things go bad for us." 85 of the top 100 websites in the U.S. (ranked by Alexa), had this sort of language, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hulu, and LinkedIn. (RadioShack did this recently.) "The potential ramifications of the fire sale provisions became clear two years ago when True.com, a dating site based in Plano, Tex., that was going through a bankruptcy proceeding, tried to sell its customer database on 43 million members to a dating site based in Canada. The profiles included consumers' names, birth dates, sexual orientation, race, religion, criminal convictions, photos, videos, contact information and more. Because the site's privacy policy had promised never to sell or share members' personal details without their permission, Texas was able to intervene to stop the sale of customer data, including intimate details on about two million Texans." But with this new language, users no longer enjoy that sort of protection. Only 17 of the top 100 sites even say they will notify customers of the data transfer. Only a handful allow users to opt out.
AI

WSJ Overstates the Case Of the Testy A.I. 230 230

mbeckman writes: According to a WSJ article titled "Artificial Intelligence machine gets testy with programmer," a Google computer program using a database of movie scripts supposedly "lashed out" at a human researcher who was repeatedly asking it to explain morality. After several apparent attempts to politely fend off the researcher, the AI ends the conversation with "I'm not in the mood for a philosophical debate." This, says the WSJ, illustrates how Google scientists are "teaching computers to mimic some of the ways a human brain works."

As any AI researcher can tell you, this is utter nonsense. Humans have no idea how the human, or any other brain, works, so we can hardly teach a machine how brains work. At best, Google is programming (not teaching) a computer to mimic the conversation of humans under highly constrained circumstances. And the methods used have nothing to do with true cognition.

AI hype to the public has gotten progressively more strident in recent years, misleading lay people into believing researchers are much further along than they really are — by orders of magnitude. I'd love to see legitimate A.I. researchers condemn this kind of hucksterism.
Security

My United Airlines Website Hack Gets Snubbed 187 187

Bennett Haselton writes: United Airlines announced that they will offer up to 1 million air miles to users who can find security holes in their website. I demonstrated a way to brute-force a user's 4-digit PIN number and submitted it to them for review, emailing their Bugs Bounty contact address on three occasions, but I never heard back from them. Read on for the rest. If you've had a different experience with the program, please chime in below.
Biotech

Building the Face of a Criminal From DNA 59 59

Dave Knott writes: It sounds like science fiction, but revealing the face of a criminal based on their genes may be closer than we think. In a process known as molecular photo fitting, scientists are experimenting with using genetic markers from DNA to build up a picture of an offender's face. Dr. Peter Claes, a medical imaging specialist at the University of Leuven, has amassed a database of faces and corresponding DNA. Armed with this information, he is able to model how a face is constructed based on just 20 genes (this number will soon be expanded to 200). At the moment, police couldn't publish a molecular photo-fit like this and hope to catch a killer. But that's not how Dr. Claes sees the technique being used in a criminal investigation. "If I were to bring this result to an investigator, I wouldn't necessarily give him the image to broadcast. I would talk to him and say okay, you're looking for a woman, with a very specific chin and eyebrow structure."
Privacy

Louisiana Governor Vetoes License Plate Reader Bill, Citing Privacy Concerns 131 131

An anonymous reader writes: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has vetoed a plan to acquire license plate reading cameras in the state. Law enforcement agencies nationwide use such cameras to scan cars and compare them to a "hot list" of stolen or wanted vehicles. That data is kept for weeks, or even years In some cases. Jindal wrote in a signing statement: "Senate Bill No. 250 would authorize the use of automatic license plate reader camera surveillance programs in various parishes throughout the state. The personal information captured by these cameras, which includes a person’s vehicle location, would be retained in a central database and accessible to not only participating law enforcement agencies but other specified private entities for a period of time regardless of whether or not the system detects that a person is in violation of vehicle insurance requirements. Camera programs such as these that make private information readily available beyond the scope of law enforcement, pose a fundamental risk to personal privacy and create large pools of information belonging to law abiding citizens that unfortunately can be extremely vulnerable to theft or misuse. For these reasons, I have vetoed Senate Bill No. 250 and hereby return it to the Senate."
Transportation

Allstate Patents Physiological Data Collection 142 142

TigerPlish writes: Allstate has been granted patent no. US 20140080100 A1 for a "driving-behavior database that it said might be useful for health insurers, lenders, credit-rating agencies, marketers and potential employers." The program is just in the patent stage for now, but the company says: "the invention has the potential to evaluate drivers' physiological data, including heart rate, blood pressure and electrocardiogram signals, which could be recorded from steering wheel sensors." Imagine a world where you are denied employment or credit based on the information obtained from your car and sold by your insurer. What could possibly go wrong?
ISS

UrtheCast Releases Its First Commercial Videos of Earth 45 45

schwit1 writes: UrtheCast has released high resolution videos of three Earth cities taken from its camera on ISS. Take a look. The cameras are quite successful in capturing the motion of vehicles on highways and road, which is amazing considering the vibrations that ISS experiences merely from astronaut movements. Quartz reports: "The company plans to offer the imagery in several tiers, from a free video feed on its website to an API that will allow customers, including corporations, governments and individuals, to purchase imagery data from its database or make real-time requests for a look at a given spot on the earth. The cameras scan the ground under the ISS, which tracks the earth between about 51 degrees north and south latitude."
Privacy

Police Scanning Every Face At UK Download Festival 134 134

AmiMoJo writes: Leicestershire Police have announced that they will be scanning every face at the popular UK Download music festival. The announcement article on Police Oracle (paywalled) reads, "the strategically placed cameras will scan faces at the Download Festival site in Donington before comparing it with a database of custody images from across Europe." The stated goal is to catch mobile phone thieves. Last year only 91 of the 120,000 visitors to the festival were arrested, and it isn't clear if the data will be deleted once checked against the database. The linked article provides at least one image of a costume that would probably trip up any facial recognition technology yet devised.
Mars

A First: CubeSat-Style Probes To Accompany InSight Mars Lander 22 22

Hundreds of CubeSats have been launched to Earth orbit since 2003. Now, though, two of the small-form-factor craft are set for a deeper space mission. According to Spaceflight Now, The twin CubeSat mission, known as Mars Cube One, will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket in March 2016 with NASA’s InSight lander. The CubeSats will relay status signals from InSight as the landing probe descends through the atmosphere, eliminating potential delays in verifying the success of the mission. ... Each Mars Cube One, or MarCO, CubeSat spacecraft measures 14.4 inches (36.6 centimeters) by 9.5 inches (24.3 centimeters) by 4.6 inches (11.8 centimeters) when closed up for launch, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which announced details of the mission Friday. The standardized and small CubeSat has made satellite design and launching accessible to schools and others; going to Mars costs a lot more (in this case it's a "$13 million secondary mission"), but it could conceivably put interplanetary probes possible for deep-pocketed universities or corporations.
Communications

Germany Abandons Investigation Into NSA Spying on Chancellor Merkel 81 81

After the purported eavesdropping by the NSA on German chancellor Angela Merkel's telephone commnunications, the German government opened an investigation. However, writes Bruce66423: A lack of evidence means that the investigation has now ended. Our congratulations to the NSA for covering their tracks so well. Note that it was announced on a Friday evening, which is universally recognised as the time to release the news you don't want to get attention. Also at The Guardian and the BBC; from the Guardian's version: The investigation came after Der Spiegel reported in October 2013 that the NSA had a database containing Merkel’s personal phone number. Merkel publicly expressed outrage and dispatched a team of senior German intelligence officers to Washington, supposedly to extract a ”no spy” agreement. When the row was its height, the chancellor said: “The charges are grave and have to be cleared up.” ... The White House, responding to the Der Spiegel story in 2013, said it was not spying on Merkel at present and nor would it in the future, but refused to say whether it had in the past, which was interpreted by some as an admission of guilt.
Software

Face Recognition Tech Pushes Legal Boundaries 110 110

An anonymous reader writes: As face recognition software becomes more capable, companies and governments are coming up with new ways to use it. Microsoft has already patented a Minority Report-style personalized billboard, and loss prevention departments in big stores are rolling out systems to "pre-identify" shoplifters. But this rush to implement the technology runs afoul of privacy laws in at least two U.S. states: Illinois and Texas forbid the use of face recognition software without "informed consent" from the target. Facebook is the target of a recent lawsuit in Illinois over this exact issue; it's likely to test the strength of such a law. "Facebook and Google use facial recognition to detect when a user appears in a photograph and to suggest that he or she be tagged. Facebook calls this "Tag Suggestions" ... With the boom in personalized advertising technology, a facial recognition database of its users is likely very, very valuable to Facebook. ... Eager to extract that value, Facebook signed users up by default when it introduced Tag Suggestions in 2011. This meant that Facebook calculated faceprints for every user who didn't take the steps to opt out." If Facebook loses and citizens start pushing for similar laws in other states, it could keep our activities in public relatively anonymous for a bit longer.
Python

How Much Python Do You Need To Know To Be Useful? 263 263

Nerval's Lobster writes: Since Python is a general-purpose language, it finds its way into a whole lot of different uses and industries. That means the industry in which you work has a way of determining what you actually need to know in terms of the language, as developer Jeff Cogswell explains in a new Dice piece. For example, if you're hired to write apps that interact with operating systems and monitor devices, you might not need to know how to use the Python modules for scientific and numerical programming. In a similar fashion, if you're hired to write Python code that interacts with a MySQL database, then you won't need to master how it works with CouchDB. The question is, how much do you need to know about Python's basics? Cogswell suggests there are three basic levels to learning Python: Learn the core language itself, such as the syntax and basic types (and the difference between Python 2 and Python 3); learn the commonly used modules, and familiarize yourself with other modules; learn the bigger picture of software development with Python, such as including Python in a build process, using the pip package manager, and so on. But is that enough?
China

China Unveils World's First Facial Recognition ATM 129 129

An anonymous reader links to an article at IB Times according to which: China has unveiled the world's first facial recognition ATM, which will not allow users to withdraw cash unless their face matches their IDs. The machine was created by Tsinghua University and Hangzhou-based technology company Tzekwan. It has a camera installed in it that captures the facial features of the user then compares it with a database of identification photos.
Stats

A Tool For Analyzing H-1B Visa Applications Reveals Tech Salary Secrets 124 124

Tekla Perry writes: The golden age of engineers is not over,' says a French software engineer who developed a tool for mining U.S. Department of Labor visa application data, but, he says, salaries appear to be leveling off. Indeed, salary inflation for software engineers and other technical professionals at Google and Facebook has slowed dramatically, according to his database, and Airbnb and Dropbox pay is down a little, though Netflix pay is through the roof. The data also shows that some large companies appear to be playing games with titles to deflate salaries, and Microsoft is finally offering technology professionals comparable salaries to Apple and Google. There's a lot more to be discovered in this interactive database, and researchers are getting ready to mine it.