Education

After 15 Years, Maine's Laptops-in-Schools Initiative Fails To Raise Test Scores (npr.org) 82

For years Maine has been offering laptops to high school students -- but is it doing more harm than good? An anonymous reader writes: One high school student says "We hardly ever use paper," while another student "says he couldn't imagine social studies class without his laptop and Internet connection. 'I don't think I could do it, honestly... I don't want to look at a newspaper. I don't even know where to get a newspaper!'" But then the reporter visits a political science teacher who "learned what a lot of teachers, researchers and policymakers in Maine have come to realize over the past 15 years: You can't just put a computer in a kid's hand and expect it to change learning."

"Research has shown that 'one-to-one' programs, meaning one student one computer, implemented the right way, increase student learning in subjects like writing, math and science. Those results have prompted other states, like Utah and Nevada, to look at implementing their own one-to-one programs in recent years. Yet, after a decade and a half, and at a cost of about $12 million annually (around one percent of the state's education budget), Maine has yet to see any measurable increases on statewide standardized test scores."

The article notes that Maine de-emphasized teacher training which could've produced better results. One education policy researcher "says this has created a new kind of divide in Maine. Students in larger schools, with more resources, have learned how to use their laptops in more creative ways. But in Maine's higher poverty and more rural schools, many students are still just using programs like PowerPoint and Microsoft Word."
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Pay To See Open Sourced? 275

jbrase writes: It's in the interest of the open-source community to make open-source development as profitable as possible. One potential means of making money from open source is crowdfunding, [but] proprietary vendors aren't likely to be enthusastic about using their flagship product to try out a relatively untested business model. Crowdfunding the open source release of legacy technologies of historical significance could provide a low-risk way for vendors to experiment with making money by crowdfunding: The product has already turned them a profit.

With that, I'd like to ask Slashdot readers, what would you pay to see open sourced?

Slashdot reader jonwil left a comment suggesting old games ("where the game is no longer being developed/worked on and where the engine/tech is no longer being used for anything"). But the sky's the limit here, so leave your own best answers in the comments. What would you pay to see open sourced?
Crime

FBI Warns US Private Sector To Cut Ties With Kaspersky (cyberscoop.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes CyberScoop: The FBI has been briefing private sector companies on intelligence claiming to show that the Moscow-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab is an unacceptable threat to national security, current and former senior U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell CyberScoop... The FBI's goal is to have U.S. firms push Kaspersky out of their systems as soon as possible or refrain from using them in new products or other efforts, the current and former officials say.

The FBI's counterintelligence section has been giving briefings since beginning of the year on a priority basis, prioritizing companies in the energy sector and those that use industrial control (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. In light of successive cyberattacks against the electric grid in Ukraine, the FBI has focused on this sector due to the critical infrastructure designation assigned to it by the Department of Homeland Security... The U.S. government's actions come as Russia is engaged in its own push to stamp American tech giants like Microsoft out of that country's systems.

Meanwhile Bloomberg Businessweek claims to have seen emails which "show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted" -- and that Kaspersky Lab "confirmed the emails are authentic."

Kaspersky Lab told ZDNet they have not confirmed the emails' authenticity. A representative for Kaspersky Lab says that the company does not have "inappropriate" ties with any government, adding that "the company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cybercrime."
Government

Microsoft Avoids Washington State Taxes, Gives Nevada Schoolkid A Surface Laptop (seattletimes.com) 61

theodp writes: The Official Microsoft Blog hopes a letter from a Nevada middle schooler advising Microsoft President Brad Smith to "keep up the good work running that company" will "inspire you like it did us." Penned as part of a math teacher's assignment to write letters to the businesses that they like, Microsoft says the letter prompted Smith to visit the Nevada school to meet 7th-grader Sky Yi in person as part of the company's effort to draw attention to the importance of math and encourage students and teachers who are passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. In an accompanying video of the surprise meeting, Smith presents Yi with a new Surface Laptop that comes with Windows 10 S, a version of the OS that has been streamlined with schools in mind. "Not bad for a little letter," the Microsoft exec says.

Speaking of Microsoft, Nevada, and education, Bing Maps coincidentally shows the school Smith visited is just a 43-minute drive from the software giant's Reno-based Americas Operations Center. According to the Seattle Times, routing sales through the Reno software-licensing office helps Microsoft minimize its tax bills (NV doesn't tax business income) to the detriment, some say, of Washington State public schools.

Microsoft's state and local taxes will drop to just $30 million for the last year (from an average of $214 milion over the previous 14 years) according to the Seattle Times. "A Microsoft spokesman said the decline in 2017 was caused by the company's deferring taxes on some income to future years and the winding down of the company's smartphone business."
Television

Should Plex Stop Allowing Users To Opt Out of Data Collection? (www.plex.tv) 131

Slashdot reader bigdogpete writes: Many users of Plex got an email that said they were changing their privacy policy which goes into effect on 20 September 2017. While most of the things are pretty standard, users found it odd that they were now not going to allow users to opt-out of data collection. Here is the part from their website explaining the upcoming changes.

"In order to understand the usage across the Plex ecosystem and how we need to improve, Plex will continue to collect usage statistics, such as device type, duration, bit rate, media format, resolution, and media type (music, photos, videos, etc.). We will no longer allow the option to opt out of this statistics collection, but we do not sell or share your personally identifiable statistics. Again, we will not collect any information that identifies libraries, files, file names, and/or the specific content stored on your privately hosted Plex Media Servers. The only exception to this is when, and only to the extent, you use Plex with third-party services such as Sonos, Alexa, webhooks, and Last.fm."

What do you all think?

Java

Oracle Now Wants To Give Java EE to an Open Source Foundation (infoworld.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Oracle wants to end its leadership in the development of enterprise Java and is looking for an open source foundation to take on the role. The company said Thursday that the upcoming Java EE (Enterprise Edition) 8 presents an opportunity to rethink how the platform is developed. Although development is done via open source with community participation, the current Oracle-led process is not seen as agile, flexible, or open enough. "We believe that moving Java EE technologies to an open source foundation may be the right next step, to adopt more agile processes, implement more flexible licensing and change the governance process," Oracle said in a statement...

Despite its desire to retreat from Java EE leadership, Oracle said it plans to continue participating in the evolution of Java EE technologies. "But we believe a more open process, that is not dependent on a single vendor as platform lead, will encourage greater participation and innovation, and will be in best interests of the community"... Oracle's goals for offloading Java EE would have Oracle not lead the project as it still effectively does with Java SE.

Red Hat's senior principal product manager called this "a very positive move," while Eclipse's executive director said that moving Java EE to a vendor-neutral open source foundation "would be great for both the platform and the community," adding "If asked to so, the Eclipse Foundation would be pleased to serve as the host organization."
Security

Hacker Helps Family Recover Minivan After Losing One-Of-A-Kind Car Key (bleepingcomputer.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: A hacker and a mechanic have helped a family regain access to their hybrid car after they've lost their one-of-a-kind car key while on vacation. The car in question is a Toyota Estima minivan, which a Canadian family bought reused and imported from Japan. When they did so, they received only one key, which the father says he lost when he bent down to tie his son's shoelaces.

Because it was a hybrid and the on-board computer was synced to the battery recharge cycles, the car owner couldn't simply replace the car key without risking the car battery to overcharge and catch fire. After offering a reward, going viral on Facebook, in Canadian media, and attempting to find the lost keys using crows, the family finally accepted the help of a local hacker who stripped the car apart and reprogrammed the car immobilizer with new car keys. The whole ordeal cost the family two months of their lives and around $3,500.

Government

US State Department Suffers Worldwide Email Outage (usatoday.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: The U.S. State Department's email system underwent a worldwide outage Friday, affecting all its unclassified communications within and outside of the department. The system was fully restored by Friday afternoon [after 12 hours], said a State Department official briefed on the incident who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

It was not clear what caused the early morning outage, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters it was not "any external action or interference."

United States

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Pay Foxconn $3 Billion To Get New Factory (arstechnica.com) 216

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Wisconsin Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill to give incentives worth $3 billion to Taiwan-based Foxconn so that the company would open its first U.S. plant in the state. Foxconn, best known for supplying parts of Apple's iPhones, will open the $10 billion liquid-crystal display plant in 2020, according to Reuters. The bill still has to be approved by a joint finance committee and the state Senate. Both houses of Wisconsin's legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the deal is supported by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who negotiated the deal. The vote was largely, but not entirely, along party lines. Three Democrats joined 56 Republicans in supporting the deal. Two Republicans and 28 Democrats voted against it. Opponents said the deal wasn't a good use of taxpayer funds. The $3 billion incentives package includes about $2.85 billion in cash payments from taxpayers and tax breaks valued at about $150 million. The state is also waiving certain environmental rules.
The Military

US Military To Create Separate Unified Cyber Warfare Command (securityweek.com) 56

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. military to elevate its cyber warfare operations to a separate command, signaling a new strategic emphasis on electronic and online offensive and defensive operations. "I have directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations," Trump said in a statement Friday. The move would expand the number of the Defense Department's unified combatant commands to 10, putting cyber warfare on an equal footing with the Strategic Command, the Special Operations Command, and regional commands. Until now cyber warfare operations have been run under the umbrella of the National Security Agency, the country's main electronic spying agency, with Admiral Michael Rogers heading both.
Google

YouTube Music Head Says Company Pays Higher Royalties Than Spotify in US (engadget.com) 14

An anonymous reader shares a report: Making a living from streaming royalties is tough for music artists, and YouTube has had one of the worst reputations in the music industry for a while. Even Lyor Cohen, the current head of YouTube Music, knows that many are skeptical about the service's ability to pay out a legitimate rate. Cohen wrote a blog post this week to explain why he thinks that YouTube deserves another chance, and that his company is the highest paying music streaming service out there. The former road manager for Run DMC has been at YouTube for eight months now. He believes that YouTube music got to the subscription party late, which allowed companies like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music to take an early lead. He also says that ads in music videos aren't the "death of the music industry," but rather a second supplement to bring in the money. Cohen claims that YouTube's ads brought in more than a billion dollars in the past 12 months. That should help soothe the music industry itself, but what about artists? Cohen rebuts the common belief that YouTube pays less than Spotify or Pandora, saying that his service pays more than $3 per thousand streams in the US, "more than other ad supported services."
Businesses

A 'Netflix Tax'? Yes, and It's Already a Thing in Some States (usatoday.com) 129

An anonymous reader shares a report: Your monthly bill for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming entertainment services could go up soon as states such as Illinois try to find ways to offset declining sales taxes and other revenue shortfalls. Chicago, Pennsylvania and Florida have already passed a so-called Netflix tax, and cities such as Pasadena, Calif. have broached the issue. These taxes can translate to additional fees of less than $1 each month to consumers. But over the months -- and tacked onto multiple streaming subscriptions -- they might add up to $50 or more each year. Netflix, consumer tax groups and tech trade organizations have voiced their opposition to such taxes, warning they can be unfair and deter innovation. Some opponents have initiated legal challenges, and at least one state has shelved plans after a court decision. But state and local governments aren't likely to halt fresh efforts as falling pay-TV subscriptions and video rentals mean there's less opportunity to tax cable bills or charge sales tax at the cash register.
Businesses

Hollywood, Apple Said To Mull Rental Plan, Defying Theaters (bloomberg.com) 72

An anonymous reader shares a report: Movie studios are considering whether to ignore the objections of cinema chains and forge ahead with a plan to offer digital rentals of films mere weeks after they appear in theaters, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the biggest proponents, including Warner Bros and Universal Pictures, are pressing on in talks with Apple and Comcast on ways to push ahead with the project even without theater chains, the people said. After months of negotiations, the two sides have been unable to arrive at a mutually beneficial way to create a $30 to $50 premium movie-download product. The leading Hollywood studios, except for Walt Disney, are eager to introduce a new product to make up for declining sales of DVDs and other home entertainment in the age of Netflix. They have discussed sharing a split of the revenue from premium video on demand, or PVOD, with the cinema chains if they give their blessing to the concept. But the exhibitors have sought a long-term commitment of as much as 10 years for that revenue split, which the studios have rejected, the people said. Deals with potential distributors such as Apple and Comcast could be reached as soon as early next year to sell digital downloads of major films as soon as two weeks after they debut in theaters, the people said.
United States

Trump Adviser Steve Bannon is Leaving White House Post (nytimes.com) 386

President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon left his position on Friday (alternative source) as the newly minted chief of staff John Kelly sought to bring order to a White House riven by infighting and power struggles, more than a dozen news outlets report. Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times: The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon. The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time. As of Friday morning, the two men were still discussing Mr. Bannon's future, the officials said. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but the move was delayed after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.
Earth

The Health Benefits of Wind and Solar Exceed the Cost of All Subsidies (arstechnica.com) 420

New submitter TheCoroner writes: A paper in Nature Energy suggests that the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Ars Technica reports: "Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.

This study ambitiously tries to estimate the benefits from emissions that were avoided because of the increase in wind and solar energy from 2007 through 2015, and to do so for the whole of the U.S. Millstein and colleagues looked at carbon emissions, as well as sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, all of which contribute to poor air quality. There are other factors that also need to be considered. A rise in renewables isn't the only thing that has been changing in the energy sector: fuel costs and regulation have also played a role. How much of the benefit can be attributed to wind and solar power, and how much to other changes? The researchers used models that track the benefits attributable to renewable power as a proportion of the total reduction in emissions.

Media

Video Is Coming To Reddit (variety.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report from Variety: Videos are coming to Reddit, thanks to a new feature that allows users to upload video clips directly to the service. Reddit rolled out the new video feature Tuesday after testing it with around 200 communities over the past couple of weeks. Reddit users are now able to upload videos of up to 15 minutes in length, with file sizes being limited to 1 gigabyte. Users will be able to upload videos via Reddit's website and its mobile apps for iOS and Android, with the latter offering basic trimming functionality as well. And, in keeping with the spirit of the site, Reddit is also offering a conversion tool to turn videos into animated Gifs. Videos are being displayed persistently, or pinned, meaning that users can scroll through the comments while the video keeps playing in the corner of their screen. And community moderators can opt not to allow videos in their Subreddits at all, with Le arguing that some discussion-heavy Subreddits may decide that the format just doesn't work for them.
Government

Ukraine Hacker Cooperating With FBI In Russia Probe, Says Report (thehill.com) 210

schwit1 shares a report from The Hill: A hacker in Ukraine who goes by the online alias "Profexer" is cooperating with the FBI in its investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, The New York Times is reporting. Profexer, whose real identity is unknown, wrote and sold malware on the dark web. The intelligence community publicly identified code he had written as a tool used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee ahead of last year's presidential election. The hacker's activity on the web came to a halt shortly after the malware was identified. The New York Times, citing Ukrainian police, reported Wednesday that the individual turned himself into the FBI earlier this year and became a witness for the bureau in its investigation. FBI investigators are probing Russian interference efforts and whether there was coordination between associates of President Trump's campaign and Moscow. Special counsel Robert Mueller is heading the investigation.
Facebook

Facebook Downranks Video Clickbait and Fake Play Buttons (techcrunch.com) 25

In a blog post, Facebook announced that it has started downranking the News Feed presence of links that display a fake play button in the preview image, as well as videos that are actually just a static image uploaded as a video file. While Facebook won't completely delete these posts unless they violate its other policies, it will be decreasing the distribution of these stories. TechCrunch reports: Facebook has prohibited the use of fake play buttons in advertisements under its policy against depicting non-existent functionality for a few years, News Feed Product Manager Greg Marra tells me. But the scourage has remained in the News Feed. Facebook says that if publishers want to denote there's a video behind a link, they should indicate that through Open Graph meta tags. They could also use words like "Watch" or "Video" in the headline or description. Meanwhile, Facebook's emphasis on video in News Feed has inspired the new menace of publishers uploading a static image as a video to get more eyeballs. These static image videos will be downranked too. Facebook is using a "motion scoring" system that detects movement inside a video to classify and demote these clips.
Education

Chatbot Helps Students Choose Courses (bbc.com) 20

An anonymous reader shares a report: Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course. It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said. But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process." The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: "We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."
The Almighty Buck

A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Get Her To Work by 7 AM (nytimes.com) 579

From a report on The New York Times: Sheila James starts her Monday, and the workweek, at 2:15 a.m. This might be normal for a baker or a morning radio host, but Ms. James is a standard American office worker. She is 62 and makes $81,000 a year as a public health adviser for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in San Francisco. Her early start comes because San Francisco is one of the country's most expensive metropolitan areas. Ms. James lives about 80 miles away in Stockton, which has cheaper homes but requires her to commute on two trains and a bus, leaving at 4 a.m. Plenty of office workers get up at 5 a.m. or a bit before, but 2:15 is highly unusual. "Two-fifteen is early enough that some people are still having their evening," she said on a (very) early morning. But she likes to take her time and have coffee. She keeps the lights low and the house quiet and Zen-like. "I just can't rush like that," she said. When the second alarm goes off at 3:45 -- a reminder to leave for the train in 15 minutes -- her morning shifts from leisure to precision. It is a seven-minute drive to the station, where she catches the Altamont Corridor Express train.

Slashdot Top Deals