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Technology

The Design Flaw That Almost Wiped Out an NYC Skyscraper 167

Posted by timothy
from the let's-not-blow-this-out-of-proportion dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Joel Werner writes in Slate that when Citicorp Center was built in 1977 it was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world but no one figured out until after it was built that although the chief structural engineer, William LeMessurier, had properly accounted for perpendicular winds, the building was particularly vulnerable to quartering winds — in part due to cost-saving changes made to the original plan by the contractor. "According to LeMessurier, in 1978 an undergraduate architecture student contacted him with a bold claim about LeMessurier's building: that Citicorp Center could blow over in the wind," writes Werner. "LeMessurier realized that a major storm could cause a blackout and render the tuned mass damper inoperable. Without the tuned mass damper, LeMessurier calculated that a storm powerful enough to take out the building hit New York every 16 years." In other words, for every year Citicorp Center was standing, there was about a 1-in-16 chance that it would collapse." (Read on for more.)
Censorship

Peoria Mayor Sends Police To Track Down Twitter Parodist 155

Posted by timothy
from the how-is-this-playing-in-peoria? dept.
New submitter rotorbudd (1242864) writes with an article at Reason about Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, who ordered police to track down whoever was responsible for a parody Twitter account mocking him."Guess the good Mayor has never heard of the Streisand Effect. 'The original Twitter account had a total of 50 followers. The new account has over 200.'"
Social Networks

Click Like? You May Have Given Up the Right To Sue 214

Posted by timothy
from the sue-you-sue-anybody dept.
sandbagger (654585) writes "The New York Times reports that General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, or 'join' it in social media communities. Who'd have imagined that clicking like requires a EULA?"
Education

Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charge 791

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-takes-real-effort-to-be-this-wrong dept.
An anonymous reader tips news of an incident in a Pennsylvania high school in which a student, Christian Stanfield, was being bullied on a regular basis. He used a tablet to make an audio recording of the bullies for the purpose of showing his mother how bad it was. She was shocked, and she called school officials to tell them what was going on. The officials brought in a police lieutenant — but not to deal with the bullies. Instead, the officer interrogated Stanfield and made him delete the recording. The officer then threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct, and Stanfield was forced to testify before a magistrate, who found him guilty. Stanfield's mother said, "Christian's willingness to advocate in a non-violent manner should be championed as a turning point. If Mr. Milburn and the South Fayette school district really want to do the right thing, they would recognized that their zero-tolerance policies and overemphasis on academics and athletics have practically eliminated social and emotional functioning from school culture."

Update: 04/17 04:36 GMT by T : The attention this case has gotten may have something to do with the later-announced decision by the Allegheny County District Attorney's office to withdraw the charges against Stanfield.
Government

Is Crimea In Russia? Internet Companies Have Different Answers 303

Posted by timothy
from the now-that-depends-who-you-gentleman-are-with dept.
judgecorp (778838) writes "Three weeks after Russia asserted that Crimea is part of its territory, the social networks have a problem: how to categories their users from the region? Facebook and the largest Russian social network, Vkontakte, still say Crimeans are located in Ukraine, while other Russian social networks say they are Russians. Meanwhile, on Wikipedia, an edit war has resulted in Crimea being part of Russia, but shaded a different colour to signify the territory is disputed. Search engine Yandex is trying to cover both angles: its maps service gives a different answer, depending on which location you send your query from."
The Almighty Buck

IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt 630

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dead-...-beat-relatives? dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Just in time for the April 15 IRS filing deadline comes news from the Washington Post that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers expecting refunds are instead getting letters informing them of tax debts they never knew about: often a debt incurred by their parents. The government is confiscating their checks, sometimes over debts 20—30 years old. For example, when Mary Grice was 4 (in 1960), her father died ... 'Until the kids turned 18, her mother received survivor benefits from Social Security ... Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family in 1977. ... Four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. ... "It was a shock," says Grice, 58. "What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can't prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus."' The Treasury Department has intercepted ... $75 million from debts delinquent for more than 10 years according to the department's debt management service. 'The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.'"
Encryption

First Phase of TrueCrypt Audit Turns Up No Backdoors 171

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the only-slightly-insecure dept.
msm1267 (2804139) writes "A initial audit of the popular open source encryption software TrueCrypt turned up fewer than a dozen vulnerabilities, none of which so far point toward a backdoor surreptitiously inserted into the codebase. A report on the first phase of the audit was released today (PDF) by iSEC Partners, which was contracted by the Open Crypto Audit Project (OCAP), a grassroots effort that not only conducted a successful fundraising effort to initiate the audit, but raised important questions about the integrity of the software.

The first phase of the audit focused on the TrueCrypt bootloader and Windows kernel driver; architecture and code reviews were performed, as well as penetration tests including fuzzing interfaces, said Kenneth White, senior security engineer at Social & Scientific Systems. The second phase of the audit will look at whether the various encryption cipher suites, random number generators and critical key algorithms have been implemented correctly."
Twitter

44% of Twitter Users Have Never Tweeted 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the 140-characters-to-go dept.
First time accepted submitter RileyWalz (3614865) writes "Twopcharts (a third party website that records and monitors activity on Twitter) is reporting that about 44 percent of all 947 million accounts on Twitter have never posted a single tweet. Of the 550 million users who have tweeted before, 43 percent posted their last tweet over a year ago. And only about 13.3 percent have tweeted in the last 30 days. This could be a sign of many users just signing up and forgetting about their account, or they just prefer reading other's posts. Twitter is not commenting on this data, saying that they do not talk about third-party information related to its service."
Google

Mr. Schmidt Goes To Washington: A Look Inside Google's Lobbying Behemoth 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the mr.-president-we-seem-to-be-alone dept.
barlevg (2111272) writes "In May 2012, in the midst of an FTC investigation into Google's search practices, the law school at George Mason University in Northern Virginia hosted a conference attended by congressmen, regulators and staffers. The topic: competition, search and social media. What none of the attendees of the conference knew was that Google was pulling many of the strings behind the event, even going so far as to suggest invited speakers. This event, as documented in The Washington Post is just a snapshot of the operations of one of the largest and highest spending lobbying entities in DC, a far cry from the one-man shop it started out as nine years ago, from a company "disdainful" of Washington's "pay-to-play" culture."
The Internet

Can Web-Based Protests Be a Force for Change? 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-come-a-long-way-since-"sign-my-petition" dept.
Lucas123 writes: "Several high profile protests have circulated across the Web in the past few weeks, garnering social and news media attention — and even forcing the resignation of one high-level executive. There are two components driving the trend in Internet protests: They tend to be effective against Web services, and online networks allow people to mobilize quickly. According to a study released last month by Georgetown University's Center for Social Impact Communication, active Web useres are likely to do far more for a cause than simply 'like' it on a website. And, because a few clicks can cancel a service, their actions carry weight. But there may be a coming backlash as people can grow tired of online activism; and corporations may also take a more proactive stance in response to them."
China

Chinese Man On Trial For Spreading False Rumors Online 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the rumors-on-the-internet-surely-you-jest dept.
hackingbear writes: "Qin Zhihui, a user of the Chinese Twitter-like website Weibo, has confessed in court to spreading false rumors about the Chinese government in the first public trial under a Chinese crackdown on online rumors. China has threatened criminal penalties against anyone who spreads rumors on microblogs that are reposted more than 500 times, or seen by more than 5,000 users. Qin invented a story that the government gave 200m yuan (US$32m) in compensation to the family of a foreign passenger killed in a high-speed train crash in 2011 in order to incite hatred to the government which gave much lower compensation to Chinese nationals. The Chinese government did have policies in the past to give more compensations to foreigners than locals in disasters, though those policies have been phased out in recent years. Online rumours are particularly pervasive in China, where traditional media is heavily regulated by the government and public trust in the media is low."
Chrome

Google Chrome Flaw Sets Your PC's Mic Live 152

Posted by timothy
from the lives-of-others dept.
First time accepted submitter AllTheTinfoilHats (3612007) writes "A security flaw in Google Chrome allows any website you visit with the browser to listen in on nearby conversations. It doesn't allow sites to access your microphone's audio, but provides them with a transcript of the browser's speech-to-text transcriptions of anything in range. It was found by a programmer in Israel, who says Google issued a low-priority label to the bug when he reported it, until he wrote about it on his blog and the post started picking up steam on social media. The website has to keep you clicking for eight seconds to keep the microphone on, and Google says it has no timeline for a fix." However, as discoverer Guy Aharonovsky is quoted, "It seems like they started to look for a way to quickly mitigate this flaw."
The Internet

Photo Web Site Offers a Wall of Shame For Image Thieves 126

Posted by timothy
from the fightin'-words dept.
sandbagger (654585) writes "Stop Stealing Photos is a resource in the pro photographer community for protecting consumers. How? By identifying wannabes who use images in their portfolios that they did not create. In this case, one 'photographer' built a massive social media presence, in many platforms including Linked In where he includes System Architecture in his skills. However, such advocacy web sites are very manual and often run by non-programmers. How can the tech community help consumers in protecting them from phoney on-line presences? Or is this vigilantism?"
Technology

How Cochlear Implants Are Being Blamed For Killing Deaf Culture 509

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-flamewar-begin dept.
First time accepted submitter Maddie Kahn (3542515) writes "Deaf culture has its own language, its own social norms, its own art forms, its own theater. But it's under threat. Why? Because most parents of deaf children now choose to use technology to help their kids hear. This piece explores why a revolutionary technology stands accused of killing a culture."
Social Networks

Study: People That Think Social Media Helps Their Work Are Probably Wrong 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the throw-off-the-yoke-of-your-sepia-overlords dept.
RichDiesal writes: "In an upcoming special issue of Social Science Computer Review, researchers set out to understand how people actually use social media while at work and how it affects their job performance. By polling workers across 17 industries, they identified 8 broad ways that people use social media that they believe help their work, and 9 broad ways that people use social media that they believe harm their work. Although the harmful social media behaviors were related to decreased job performance, the beneficial social media behaviors were unrelated to job performance. In short, wasting time on social media hurts you, but trying to use social media to improve your work probably doesn't actually help."
Games

How Riot's Social Scientists Fight League of Legends Trolling 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the have-you-tried-passing-out-mod-points dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There's an interesting interview up today with Jeffrey Lin, lead designer of social systems for Riot, the game studio behind League of Legends. Lin has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. His recognition that most trolls are only trolls because they're having an off day has changed the way that Riot punishes players. 'In other words, you need a carrot and not a stick. Where a punishment would come across as harsh and out-of context, pointing out to players that they're letting their usually-high standards of conduct slide usually results in a change of attitude. Incentivising the good behaviour with an Honour stat which could be affected by conduct in any match also serves to reinforce that good behaviour.' As a result, Lin's seen a noticeable spike in the number of people saying 'GG' (good game) at the end of a match. It leaves you wondering: what if Activision approached Call of Duty griefers on Xbox Live the same way?"
Input Devices

Princeton Students Develop Open Source Voice Control Platform For Any Device 34

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the yell-at-your-computer-more-effectively dept.
rjmarvin (3001897) writes "Two Princeton computer science students have created an open source platform for developing voice-controlled applications that are always on. Created by Shubhro Saha and Charlie Marsh, Jasper runs on the Raspberry Pi under Raspbian, using a collection of open source libraries to make up a development platform for building voice-controlled applications. Marsh and Saha demonstrate Jasper's capability to perform Internet searches, update social media, and control music players such as Spotify. You need a few easily obtainable bits of hardware (a USB microphone, wifi dongle or ethernet, and speakers). The whole thing is powered by CMU Sphinx (which /. covered the open sourcing of back in 2000). Jasper provides Python modules (under the MIT license) for recognizing phrases and taking action, or speaking when events occur. There doesn't seem to be anything tying it to the Raspberry Pi either, so you could likely run it on an HTPC for always-on voice control of your media center.
Games

Study: Video Gamer Aggression Result of Game Experience, Not Violent Content 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the random-number-generators-are-the-root-of-all-evil dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study published in the March edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that a gamer's experience of a video game and not the content of the game itself can give rise to violent behavior. In other words, 'researchers found it was not the narrative or imagery, but the lack of mastery of the game's controls and the degree of difficulty players had completing the game that led to frustration.' Based on their findings, researchers note that even games like Tetris and Candy Crush can inspire violent behavior more so than games like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto if they are poorly designed and difficult to play."
The Internet

How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion 1037

Posted by timothy
from the randi-does-miracles dept.
pitchpipe (708843) points out a study highlighted by MIT's Technology Review, which makes the bold claim that "Using the Internet can destroy your faith. That's the conclusion of a study showing that the dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the U.S. since 1990 is closely mirrored by the increase in Internet use," and writes "I attribute my becoming an atheist to the internet, so what the study is saying supports my anecdote. If I hadn't been exposed to all of the different arguments about religion, etc., via the internet I would probably just be another person who identifies as religious but doesn't attend services. What do you think? Have you become more religious, less religious, or about the same since being on the internet? What if you've always had it?"
Government

More On the "Cuban Twitter" Scam 90

Posted by timothy
from the disrupting-the-moral-purity-of-the-cuban-autocracy dept.
We mentioned a few days ago the USAID-funded SMS social network that was connecting Cubans against the wishes of the Cuban government. Now Glen Greenwald's The Intercept has more on this kind of back-channel government intervention via what he characterizes as "the Internet propaganda bucket." Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes with an excerpt: "These ideas–discussions of how to exploit the internet, specifically social media, to surreptitiously disseminate viewpoints friendly to western interests and spread false or damaging information about targets–appear repeatedly throughout the archive of materials provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Documents prepared by NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ–and previously published by The Intercept as well as some by NBC News–detailed several of those programs, including a unit devoted in part to "discrediting" the agency's enemies with false information spread online.

The documents in the archive show that the British are particularly aggressive and eager in this regard, and formally shared their methods with their U.S. counterparts. One previously undisclosed top-secret document–prepared by GCHQ for the 2010 annual "SIGDEV" gathering of the "Five Eyes" surveillance alliance comprising the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S.–explicitly discusses ways to exploit Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media as secret platforms for propaganda."

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