Sci-Fi

Frank Herbert's Dune, 50 Years On 233 233

An anonymous reader writes: This October will be the 50th anniversary of Frank Herbert's massively popular and influential sci-fi novel Dune. The Guardian has written a piece examining its effects on the world at large, and how the book remains relevant even now. Quoting: 'Books read differently as the world reforms itself around them, and the Dune of 2015 has geopolitical echoes that it didn't in 1965, before the oil crisis and 9/11. ... As Paul's destiny becomes clear to him, he begins to have visions 'of fanatic legions following the green and black banner of the Atreides, pillaging and burning across the universe in the name of their prophet Muad'Dib.' If Paul accepts this future, he will be responsible for 'the jihad's bloody swords,' unleashing a nomad war machine that will up-end the corrupt and oppressive rule of the emperor Shaddam IV (good) but will kill untold billions (not so good) in the process. In 2015, the story of a white prophet leading a blue-eyed brown-skinned horde of jihadis against a ruler called Shaddam produces a weird funhouse mirror effect, as if someone has jumbled up recent history and stuck the pieces back together in a different order."
The Courts

Apple Loses Ebook Price Fixing Appeal, Must Pay $450 Million 97 97

An anonymous reader writes: A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 today that Apple indeed conspired with publishers to increase ebook prices. The ruling puts Apple on the hook for the $450 million settlement reached in 2014 with lawyers and attorneys general from 33 states. The Justice Dept. contended that the price-fixing conspiracy raised the price of some e-books from the $10 standard set by Amazon to $13-$15. The one dissenting judge argued that Apple's efforts weren't anti-competitive because Amazon held 90% of the market at the time. Apple is unhappy with the ruling, but they haven't announced plans to take the case further. They said, "While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values. We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps."
DRM

Cory Doctorow Talks About Fighting the DMCA (2 Videos) 48 48

Wikipedia says, 'Cory Efram Doctorow (/kri dktro/; born July 17, 1971) is a Canadian-British blogger, journalist, and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing. He is an activist in favour of liberalising copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons organization, using some of their licenses for his books. Some common themes of his work include digital rights management, file sharing, and post-scarcity economics.' Timothy Lord sat down with Cory at the O'Reilly Solid Conference and asked him about the DMCA and how the fight against it is going. Due to management-imposed restraints on video lengths, we broke the ~10 minute interview into two parts, both attached to this paragraph. The transcript covers both videos, so it's your choice: view, read or listen to as much of this interview as you like.
Books

The 2015 Open Source Summer Reading List 31 31

ectoman writes: Opensource.com has just published its annual Open Source Summer Reading List. This year's edition contains 15 recommendations for books that celebrate open source values and practices. Topics include Python programming, Grace Hopper, open-minded leadership, and teaching children to code. There are also books on the philosophy of open information, an intro to DIY/Maker activities, and even a book about mastering Emacs. What would you add to this list?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Best Setups For Navigating a Programming-Focused MOOC? 39 39

theodp writes: As one works his or her way through EdX's free The Analytics Edge, one finds oneself going back-and-forth between videos and R to complete the programming exercises associated with the lectures. While this can certainly be done on a cheap-o 13" laptop with a 6mbps connection by jumping around from the web-based videos to the client-based programming environment and to the web for help (god bless Stack Overflow), have you found (or do you dream of) a better setup for the MOOC programming courses offered by the likes of EdX, Udacity, and Coursera? Are you using multiple screens, split screens, touch screens, laptops/desktops/tablets, speakers, headphones, higher-speed connections? Anything else? Do you rely solely on the class materials and web-based resources, or do you purchase complementary books? Any thoughts on how to make the experience work best for those learning at home, in a classroom setting, on the road for business/travel, or during lengthy train commutes? Do you playback videos at faster speeds (e.g., 1.5x)? Any other tips?
Books

Amazon Is Only Going To Pay Authors When Each Page Is Read 172 172

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has a new plan to keep self-published authors honest: they're only going to pay them when someone actually reads a page. Peter Wayner at the Atlantic explores how this is going to change the lives of the authors — and the readers. Fat, impressive coffee table books are out if no one reads them. Thin, concise authors will be bereft. Page turners are in.
Education

Writer: "Why I Defaulted On My Student Loans" 1032 1032

schwit1 writes: There are some valid points raised in Lee Siegel's 1,100 word rant against college loans (if not so much against college education). There are also some bad ones. But two things are clear: the words "personal" and/or "responsibility" were used precisely zero times. Siegel, who described himself as "the author of five books who is writing a memoir about money," is hardly a glowing advertisement for the return on nearly a decade in university just to achieve a Master of Philosophy degree.

Siegel says, "As difficult as it has been, I’ve never looked back. The millions of young people today, who collectively owe over $1 trillion in loans, may want to consider my example. It struck me as absurd that one could amass crippling debt as a result, not of drug addiction or reckless borrowing and spending, but of going to college. ... The rapacity of American colleges and universities is turning social mobility, the keystone of American freedom, into a commodified farce. If people groaning under the weight of student loans simply said, 'Enough,' then all the pieties about debt that have become absorbed into all the pieties about higher education might be brought into alignment with reality. Instead of guaranteeing loans, the government would have to guarantee a college education."
Books

Librarians As the First Line of Privacy Defense 51 51

The Guardian features a look at the influence of librarians in the evolving fight for various of the liberties that here on Slashdot we group together as Your Rights Online. The article points out that the evolution of libraries from book repositiories to more general centers for information technology means that librarians have been pressured in many small ways to give up their patrons' privacy, and have (at least often) successfully resisted that pressure, including some from the NSA. A small slice: The first politician to discover the danger of underestimating what happens when you have thousands of librarians on your case was attorney general John Ashcroft who, in 2003, accused the American Library Association of “baseless hysteria” and ridiculed their protests against the Patriot Act. ... US libraries were once protected from blanket requests for records of what their patrons were reading or viewing online, but the legislation rushed through after after 9/11 threatened to wreck this tradition of confidentiality in ways that presaged later discoveries of bulk telephone and internet record collection."
Data Storage

How To Store Your Data For 1 Million Years 110 110

Whiteox writes with Fast Company's article about Robert Grass and his team, which is exploring how to use DNA as a data storage mechanism, along with others working on truly long-term storage. Both commercial interests and academic researchers are interested in protecting data not just for years or decades, but for multi-century stretches, right out into the millions. From the article: The idea of storing information on DNA traces back to a Soviet lab in the 1960s, but the first successful implementation wasn't achieved until 2012, when biologist George Church and his colleagues announced in the journal Science that they had encoded one of Church's books in DNA. More recently, reports the New Yorker, the artist Joe Davis, now in residence at Church's lab, has announced plans to encode bits of Wikipedia into a particularly old strain of apple, so that he can create "a living, literal tree of knowledge. "Impressive," writes Whiteox, "but I wonder if our future selves can make life from our archived data?"
Stats

Google Diversity Report Straight Out of 'How To Lie With Statistics' Playbook 287 287

theodp writes: Among the books recommended by Bill Gates for beach reading this summer is How to Lie With Statistics, the published-in-1954-but-timely-as-ever introduction to the (mis)use of statistics. So, how can one lie with statistics? "Sometimes it is percentages that are given and raw figures that are missing," explains the book, "and this can be deceptive too." So, does this explain Google's just-released Diversity Report and the accompanying chock-full-o-percentages narrative (find-all-%-image), which boasts "the Black community in grew [sic] by 38 percent", while the less-impressive raw figures — e.g., the number of Google employees increased by 5,928, but the ranks of Black females only increased by 35 (less than 0.6% of the net increase) — are relegated to a PDF of its EEO-1 Report that's linked to in the fine-print footnotes? To be fair to Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Apple and Amazon didn't want people to see their EEO-1 numbers, either.
Government

The Patriot Act May Be Dead For Good 218 218

HughPickens.com points out Shane Harris's report at The Daily Beast that when powerful spying authorities under the Patriot Act expire at the stroke of midnight Monday, as currently appears likely, they may never return. "Senators have been negotiating over whether to pass a House bill that would renew and tweak existing provisions in the long-controversial law, but if the sunset comes and the provisions are off the books, lawmakers in both chambers would be facing a vote to reinstate controversial surveillance authorities, which is an entirely different political calculation. ... Three major Patriot provisions are on the chopping block: so-called roving wiretaps, which let the government monitor one person's multiple electronic devices; the "lone-wolf" provision, which allows surveillance of someone who's not connected to a known terrorist group; and Section 215, which, among other things, the government uses to collect the records of all landline phone calls in the United States." Obama has been urging Congress to pass the Freedom Act, but not warning that the sky will fall if they don't. That may reflect a calculation on the president's part that the surveillance authorities aren't important enough to lose political capital fighting to keep them. Meanwhile with the Senate not slated to return to Washington until just hours before that deadline, opponents like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) showing no signs of budging, and the House so far unwilling to bail out the upper chamber, the prospects for an eleventh-hour breakthrough look slim.
America Online

Jason Scott of Textfiles.com Wants Your AOL & Shovelware CDs 123 123

eldavojohn writes: You've probably got a spindle in your closet, or a drawer layered with them: the CD-ROM discs that were mailed to you or delivered with some hardware that you put away "just in case." Now, of course, the case for actually using them is laughable. Well, a certain eccentric individual named Jason Scott has a fever — and the only cure is more AOL CDs. But his sickness doesn't stop there, "I also want all the CD-ROMs made by Walnut Creek CD-ROM. I want every shovelware disc that came out in the entire breadth of the CD-ROM era. I want every shareware floppy, while we're talking. I want it all. The CD-ROM era is basically finite at this point. It's over. The time when we're going to use physical media as the primary transport for most data is done done done. Sure, there's going to be distributions and use of CD-ROMs for some time to come, but the time when it all came that way and when it was in most cases the only method of distribution in the history books, now. And there were a specific amount of CD-ROMs made. There are directories and listings of many that were manufactured. I want to find those. I want to image them, and I want to put them up. I'm looking for stacks of CD-ROMs now. Stacks and stacks. AOL CDs and driver CDs and Shareware CDs and even hand-burned CDs of stuff you downloaded way back when. This is the time to strike." Who knows? His madness may end up being appreciated by younger generations!
Entertainment

Marvel's Female Superheroes Are Gradually Becoming More Super 228 228

New submitter RhubarbPye writes: A new study shows an increasing trend in the power and significance of female superhero characters in the Marvel comic book universe. Several criteria were used to examine the trend, including cover art, dialog, and the actual superpowers. Over 200 individual comic books from Marvel's 50+ year history were compared for the study. What's of particular interest is the study's author is a 17-year-old high school student from Ohio.
Books

Book Review: The Terrorists of Iraq 270 270

benrothke writes: The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting random typewriter keys for an infinite amount of time will eventually be able to create the complete works of Shakespeare. Various scientists such as Nobel laureate Arno Penzias have shown how the theorem is mathematically impossible. Using that metaphor, if you took every member of United States Congress and House of Representatives and wrote their collected wisdom on Iraq, it's unlikely they could equal the astuteness of even a single chapter of author Malcolm W. Nance in The Terrorists of Iraq: Inside the Strategy and Tactics of the Iraq Insurgency 2003-2014. It's Nance's overwhelming real-world experiential knowledge of the subject, language, culture, tribal affiliations and more which make this the overwhelming definitive book on the subject. Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
Sci-Fi

On the Taxonomy of Sci-Fi Spaceships 90 90

An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Venancio has done some research that's perfect reading for a lazy Saturday afternoon: figuring out a coherent taxonomy for sci-fi spaceships. If you're a sci-fi fan, you've doubtless heard or read references to a particular starship's "class" fairly often. There are flagships and capital ships, cruisers and corvettes, battleships and destroyers. But what does that all mean? Well, there's not always consistency, but a lot of it comes from Earth's naval history. "The word 'corvette' comes from the Dutch word corf, which means 'small ship,' and indeed corvettes are historically the smallest class of rated warship (a rating system used by the British Royal Navy in the sailing age, basically referring to the amount of men/guns on the vessel and its relative size; corvettes were of the sixth and smallest rate). ... They were usually used for escorting convoys and patrolling waters, especially in places where larger ships would be unnecessary."

Venancio takes the historical context for each ship type and then explains how it's been adapted for a sci-context. "Corvettes might be outfitted to have some sort of stealth or cloaking system for reconnaissance or spec ops missions; naturally it would be easier to cloak a smaller ship than a larger one (though plenty of examples of large stealth ships exist). In some series they are likely to be diplomatic vessels due to their small size and speed, particularly seen in Star Wars, and can commonly act as blockade runners (again; their small size and speed makes them ideal for slipping through a blockade, where a larger ship presents more of a target)."
Security

Photo Printing Website Artisan State Allows Access To All User-Uploaded Photos 94 94

fulldecent writes: Popular photo printing website Artisan State, which specializes in bound photo books mostly for weddings or other events, unintentionally makes all its uploaded user photos available publicly for download. This case study shows how their photos are able to be downloaded and discusses the things vendors should think about when considering security of seemingly private user content. The case study also discusses how this flaw was reported to the vendor, but unfortunately never fixed. This follows other articles on Slashdot discussing security disclosure. How do you report vulnerabilities to vendors? Do you support publishing them if they are not fixed in a reasonable time?
Piracy

How To Set Up a Pirate EBook Store In Google Play Books 90 90

Nate the greatest writes: Most ebook pirates simply upload ebooks to one of many pirate sites, but the entrepreneurial ones have opened storefronts in Google Play Books. They invent an author's name, and then upload dozens if not hundreds of pirated ebooks under that name, The names can range from Devad Akbak to Ispanyolca, but the really clever pirates choose a legit sounding name like Bestsellers — Books USA Press or Fort Press and then start selling ebooks.

Thanks to Google's indifference, the pirates can continue to sell ebooks no matter how many times copyright holders might complain. If Google takes a pirated ebook down in response to a DMCA notice, the pirates simply upload another copy of the same title.
Lord of the Rings

Why Scientists Love 'Lord of the Rings' 179 179

HughPickens.com writes: Julie Beck writes in The Atlantic that though science and fantasy seem to be polar opposites, a Venn diagram of "scientists" and "Lord of the Rings fans" have a large overlap which could (lovingly!) be labeled "nerds." Several animal species have been named after characters from the books, including wasps, crocodiles, and even a dinosaur named after Sauron, "Given Tolkien's passion for nomenclature, his coinage, over decades, of enormous numbers of euphonious names—not to mention scientists' fondness for Tolkien—it is perhaps inevitable that Tolkien has been accorded formal taxonomic commemoration like no other author," writes Henry Gee. Other disciplines aren't left out of the fun—there's a geologically interesting region in Australia called the "Mordor Alkaline Igneous Complex," a pair of asteroids named "Tolkien" and "Bilbo," and a crater on Mercury also named "Tolkien."

"It has been documented that Middle-Earth caught the attention of students and practitioners of science from the early days of Tolkien fandom. For example, in the 1960s, the Tolkien Society members were said to mainly consist of 'students, teachers, scientists, or psychologists,'" writes Kristine Larsen, an astronomy professor at Central Connecticut State University, in her paper "SAURON, Mount Doom, and Elvish Moths: The Influence of Tolkien on Modern Science." "When you have scientists who are fans of pop culture, they're going to see the science in it," says Larson. "It's just such an intricate universe. It's so geeky. You can delve into it. There's the languages of it, the geography of it, and the lineages. It's very detail oriented, and scientists in general like things that have depth and detail." Larson has also written papers on using Tolkien as a teaching tool, and discusses with her astronomy students, for example, the likelihood that the heavenly body Borgil, which appears in the first book of the trilogy, can be identified as the star Aldebaran. "I use this as a hook to get students interested in science," says Larson. "I'm also interested in recovering all the science that Tolkien quietly wove into Middle Earth because there's science in there that the casual reader has not recognized."
Books

Free Comic Book Day Event Features Neil Gaiman, the Simpsons 33 33

An anonymous reader writes: Today comic book stores around the world celebrate "Free Comic Book Day", offering anyone who pays them a visit some free comic books. This year there's 50 different titles to choose from, including a reprint of Neil Gaiman's "Lady Justice" (not seen in print in nearly 25 years) and a new Fight Club story by Chuck Palahniuk. The Marvel and D.C. universes are represented, as well as Dr. Who, The Simpsons, Jim Henson's Labyrinth, and even something called Steampunk Goldilocks. Saturday many bookstores will also be recognizing "Independent Bookstores Day" with special events, though ironically, some fans may be tempted to visit Amazon.com instead to download some free Kindle editions of last year's free comic books.
Books

Obama Announces e-Book Scheme For Low-Income Communities 126 126

An anonymous reader writes: The White House has today launched an initiative encouraging top book publishers to supply $250 million worth of free e-books to low-income students. Partnering with local governments and schools nationwide, President Obama hopes that the e-book scheme will support low-income households who significantly trail the national average for computer ownership and digital connectivity. At Anacostia Library in Southeast Washington, D.C., Obama announced that libraries and schools in poorer communities would be supported by the scheme and efforts would be made to increase internet access at these establishments. Publishers involved in the program include Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. NGOs, such as book donation charity Firstbook, and public libraries will also be working together to develop apps to support the digital reading program.