Star Wars Prequels

Saudi Arabian Textbook Shows Yoda Joining The UN (bbc.com) 74

Long-time Slashdot reader Mikkeles quotes the BBC: Saudi Arabia's education minister has apologised for the production of a school textbook in which the Star Wars character Yoda is seen superimposed on a photograph of the late King Faisal... The image, which shows the diminutive Jedi Master sitting beside King Faisal as he signs the UN Charter in 1945, was created by the Saudi artist Shaweesh. He told the BBC it was not yet clear how it had ended up in the textbook... The 2013 artwork, entitled United Nations (Yoda), is part of a series in which symbols of American pop culture -- ranging from Captain America to Darth Vader -- are superimposed onto archive photos of historical events... Shaweesh said he included Yoda because, like King Faisal, he was "wise, strong and calm".
"Someone should have checked the image before printing," he added.
The Almighty Buck

Why You Shouldn't Imitate Bill Gates If You Want To Be Rich (bbc.com) 289

dryriver writes: BBC Capital has an article that debunks the idea of "simply doing what highly successful people have done to get rich," because many of those "outliers" got rich under special circumstances that are not possible to replicate. An excerpt: "Even if you could imitate everything Gates did, you would not be able to replicate his initial good fortune. For example, Gates's upper-class background and private education enabled him to gain extra programming experience when less than 0.01% of his generation then had access to computers. His mother's social connection with IBM's chairman enabled him to gain a contract from the then-leading PC company that was crucial for establishing his software empire. This is important because most customers who used IBM computers were forced to learn how to use Microsoft's software that came along with it. This created an inertia in Microsoft's favor. The next software these customers chose was more likely to be Microsoft's, not because their software was necessarily the best, but because most people were too busy to learn how to use anything else. Microsoft's success and marketshare may differ from the rest by several orders of magnitude but the difference was really enabled by Gate's early fortune, reinforced by a strong success-breeds-success dynamic."
Education

Computer Science Degrees Aren't Returning On Investment For Coders, Research Finds (theregister.co.uk) 389

According to a new survey, coders with a bachelor's degree in computer science only earn 3,000 British Pounds (BP) more a year than those who don't have one. The survey of 4,700 developers in the UK was conducted by Stack Overflow, a community site frequented by developers for answers to technical questions. The Register reports the findings: This is despite the average degree now costing 9,000 BP a year in tuition fees alone. Average student debt is now more than 50,000 BP, according the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The research found that the median salary of those who did not have higher education was 35,000 BP per year, while those who gained a bachelor's degree earned 38,000 BP and postgraduates took home 42,000 BP. It found that 48 per cent of developers with less than four years of professional experience currently hold a Computer Science-related undergraduate degree, while 49 per cent had completed an online course instead. The research also found that JavaScript developers were most in demand, with almost 27 per cent of jobs advertised on Stack Overflow now requiring this skill, followed by Java (22 per cent), Python (16 per cent), C# (15 per cent) and ReactJS (9 per cent).
The Almighty Buck

Stack Overflow Launches Salary Calculator For Developers (stackoverflow.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: Stack Overflow today launched Salary Calculator, a tool that lets developers check out typical salaries across the industry. The calculated results are based on five factors: location, education, years of professional coding experience, developer type, and technologies used professionally. Stack Overflow is releasing the tool because it believes developers should be empowered with more information around job searches, careers, and salary. The company noticed ads on Stack Overflow Jobs that include salary information get 75 percent more clicks than ads without salary information. Even in cases when the salary range is below average, the ads still get 60 percent more clicks.
Social Networks

More Millennials Would Give Up Voting Than Texting (nypost.com) 350

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: As the staggering national student loan debt tally sits at an all-time high of $1.33 trillion, according to the Department of Education, many millennials say they would go to extreme lengths to wipe their slate clean. According to a new survey from Credible, a personal finance website, 50 percent of all respondents (ages 18-34) said they would give up their right to vote during the next two presidential elections in order to never have to make another loan payment again.
Yet only 44% said they'd be willing to give up Uber and Lyft -- and only 13% said they'd be willing to give up texting.
Bug

Equifax CSO 'Retires'. Known Bug Was Left Unpatched For Nearly Five Months (marketwatch.com) 196

phalse phace quotes MarketWatch: Following on the heels of a story that revealed that Equifax hired a music major with no education related to technology or security as its Chief Security Officer, Equifax announced on Friday afternoon that Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin has quit the company along with Chief Information Officer David Webb.

Chief Information Officer David Webb and Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin retired immediately, Equifax said in a news release that did not mention either of those executives by name. Mark Rohrwasser, who had been leading Equifax's international information-technology operations since 2016, will replace Webb and Russ Ayres, a member of Equifax's IT operation, will replace Mauldin.

The company revealed Thursday that the attackers exploited Apache Struts bug CVE-2017-5638 -- "identified and disclosed by U.S. CERT in early March 2017" -- and that they believed the unauthorized access happened from May 13 through July 30, 2017.

Thus, MarketWatch reports, Equifax "admitted that the security hole that attackers used was known in March, about two months before the company believes the breach began." And even then, Equifax didn't notice (and remove the affected web applications) until July 30.
Security

Equifax CEO Hired a Music Major as the Company's Chief Security Officer 430

Susan Mauldin, the person in charge of the Equifax's data security, has a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts degree in music composition from the University of Georgia, according to her LinkedIn profile. Mauldin's LinkedIn profile lists no education related to technology or security. If that wasn't enough, news outlet MarketWatch reported on Friday that Susan Mauldin's LinkedIn page was made private and her last name was replaced with "M", in a move that appears to keep her education background secret.

Earlier this month Equifax, which is one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, said that hackers had gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers, including Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers. On Friday, the UK arm of the organisation said files containing information on "fewer than 400,000" UK consumers was accessed in the breach.

UPDATE (9/16/2017): CSO Susan Mauldin has abruptly 'retired' from Equifax.
Medicine

Moving Every Half Hour Could Help Limit Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle, Says Study (theguardian.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed. The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death. Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven U.S. institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the U.S. with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013. Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015. The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes. After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behavior were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time. The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behavior (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

Education

The Washington Post Pans Apple-Sponsored School Reform TV Special (washingtonpost.com) 162

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: On Friday night, the Big Four Networks simultaneously aired EIF Presents: XQ Super School Live [YouTube], a commercial-free, one-hour TV special that championed Laurene Powell Jobs' mission to rethink the American high school. The closing credits listed Jobs as an Executive Producer, and noted that the chock-full-of-celebrities special was sponsored in part by her Emerson Collective and Apple.

"Surely Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, Mahershala Ali, Justin Timberlake, Cate Blanchett and a bevy of other celebrities have nothing but laudable intentions by appearing on Friday night's live televised high school reform spectacular on four -- count them, four -- major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox)," writes the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss. "But when an hour of prime time on four networks is purchased, it's fair to ask whether that is a public service or propaganda."

The Post points out gently that "not everyone believes" in the need to "transform" high schools, while theodp notes "viewers were pitched XQ Super School Board Program kits, which XQ's website explains are designed to prepare individuals for a school board candidacy."

If this seems suspiciously political -- or at least a way to ensure schools are friendly to Laurene Powell Jobs' specific proposals -- the nonprofit's web site adds reassuringly that "XQ won't be endorsing or supporting particular candidates; we'll be supporting all candidates who stand with us in a shared commitment to rethink high school, so all young people can be educated as they deserve."
Education

Following Cheating Scandals, Harvard Dean of Undergrad Ed Visits CS50 Class and Tells Students Not To Cheat (thecrimson.com) 107

theodp writes: After a flood of cheating cases roiled Harvard's Computer Science 50: "Introduction to Computer Science I" last year, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay Harris implored students in the course not to cheat on assignments at an orientation session Wednesday night. Course head David Malan, the Harvard Crimson reports, spent the last five minutes of the orientation session fielding questions from students confused about the course's collaboration policy and whether or not CS50 enrollees are allowed to use code found online. He told them never to Google solutions, and never to borrow a friend's work. Last week, CS50 students were informed via a CS50 FAQ that they are also now "encouraged" to physically attend the course's taped weekly lectures. In an essay last year, Prof. Malan had questioned the value of saying everyone should attend every lecture. Attendance is now also expected at every discussion section until the first mid-semester exam. In case you're curious, the estimated sticker price for attending Harvard College during the 2017-2018 school year is $69,600-$73,600 (health insurance sold separately).
Businesses

VR Company Upload Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (techcrunch.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Upload, formerly UploadVR, the virtual reality startup at the center of a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit filed earlier this year, has settled the case with its former employee and is aiming to put the ensuing damage behind it. The lawsuit, filed against the startup and its co-founders by former director of digital and social media Elizabeth Scott, alleged that the company had sought to create a "boy's club" environment and described "rampant" sexual behavior in the office, allegations that co-founders Will Mason and Taylor Freeman denied as "entirely without merit." The lawsuit is now over, according to people familiar with the matter, and though the terms of the agreement were undisclosed, some in the virtual reality community feel that the company has dodged a bullet in reaching some conclusion over the litigation.

"The matter has been concluded," was Upload's official statement. Neither Scott, nor her legal counsel, responded to a request for comment for this story. Upload has also released the following statement around the conclusion of the legal case. "Our primary focus at Upload is education, which we believe is the key to growing the mixed reality ecosystem. We are deeply committed to creating an inclusive community to empower the pioneers building the future."

Education

Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues (nytimes.com) 147

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States teaches third grade here at Mapleton Elementary, a public school with about 100 students in the sparsely populated plains west of Fargo. Her name is Kayla Delzer. Her third graders adore her. She teaches them to post daily on the class Twitter and Instagram accounts she set up. She remodeled her classroom based on Starbucks. And she uses apps like Seesaw, a student portfolio platform where teachers and parents may view and comment on a child's schoolwork. Ms. Delzer also has a second calling. She is a schoolteacher with her own brand, Top Dog Teaching. Education start-ups like Seesaw give her their premium classroom technology as well as swag like T-shirts or freebies for the teachers who attend her workshops. She agrees to use their products in her classroom and give the companies feedback. And she recommends their wares to thousands of teachers who follow her on social media. "I will embed it in my brand every day," Ms. Delzer said of Seesaw. "I get to make it better." Ms. Delzer is a member of a growing tribe of teacher influencers, many of whom promote classroom technology. They attract notice through their blogs, social media accounts and conference talks. And they are cultivated not only by start-ups like Seesaw, but by giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, to influence which tools are used to teach American schoolchildren.
Google

Google Conducted Hollywood 'Interventions' To Change Look of Computer Scientists (usatoday.com) 644

theodp writes: Most TV computer scientists are still white men," USA Today reports. "Google wants to change that. Google is calling on Hollywood to give equal screen time to women and minorities after a new study the internet giant funded found that most computer scientists on television shows and in the movies are played by white men. The problem with the hackneyed stereotype of the socially inept, hoodie-clad white male coder? It does not inspire underrepresented groups to pursue careers in computer science, says Daraiha Greene, Google CS in Media program manager, multicultural strategy." According to a Google-funded study conducted by Prof. Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Google's Computer Science in Media team conducted "CS interventions" with "like-minded people" to create "Google influenced storytelling." The executive summary for a USC study entitled Cracking the Code: The Prevalence and Nature of Computer Science Depictions in Media notes that "Google influenced" TV programs include HBO's Silicon Valley and AMC's Halt and Catch Fire. The USC researchers also note that "non-tech focused programs may offer prime opportunities to showcase CS in unique and counter-stereotypical ways. As the Google Team moves forward in its work with series such as Empire, Girl Meets World, Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street, or The Amazing Adventures of Gumball, it appears the Team is seizing these opportunities to integrate CS into storytelling without a primary tech focus." The study adds, "In the case of certain series, we provided on-going advisement. The Fosters, Miles from Tomorrowland, Halt and Catch Fire, Ready, Jet, Go, The Powerpuff Girls and Odd Squad are examples of this. In addition to our continuing interactions, we engaged in extensive PR and marketing support including social media outreach, events and press."

Google's TV interventions have even spilled over into public education -- one of Google-sponsored Code.org's signature Hour of Code tutorials last December was Gumball's Coding Adventure, inspired by the Google-advised Cartoon Network series, The Amazing Adventures of Gumball. "We need more students around the world pursuing an education in CS, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field," explains a Google CS First presentation for educators on the search giant's Hour of Code partnership with Cartoon Network. "Based on our research, one of the reasons girls and underrepresented minorities are not pursuing computer science is because of the negative perception of computer scientists and the relevance of the field beyond coding." According to a 2015 USC report, President Obama was kept abreast of efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women; White House Visitor Records show that USC's Smith, the Google-funded study's lead author, and Google CS Education in Media Program Manager Julie Ann Crommett (now at Disney) were among those present when the White House Council on Women and Girls met earlier that year with representatives of the nation's leading toy makers, media giants, retailers, educators, scientists, the U.S. Dept. of Education, and philanthropists.

Businesses

Will Millennials Be Forced Out of Tech Jobs When They Turn 40? (ieeeusa.org) 247

dcblogs shared an interesting article from IEEE-USA's "Insight" newsletter: Millennials, which date from the 1980s to mid-2000s, are the largest generation. But what will happen to this generation's tech workers as they settle into middle age? Will the median age of tech firms rise as the Millennial generation grows older...? The median age range at Google, Facebook, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Amazon, Salesforce, Apple and Adobe, is 29 to 31, according to a study last year by PayScale, which analyzes self-reported data... Karen Panetta, the dean of graduate engineering education at Tufts University and the vice president of communications and public relations at the IEEE-USA, believes the outcome for tech will be Logan's Run-like, where age sets a career limit... Tech firms want people with the current skills sets and those "without those skills will be pressured to leave or see minimal career progression," said Panetta...

The idea that the tech industry may have an age bias is not scaring the new college grads away. "They see retirement so far off, so they are more interested in how to move up or onto new startup ventures or even business school," said Panetta. "The reality sets in when they have families and companies downsize and it's not so easy to just pick up and go on to another company," she said. None of this may be a foregone conclusion. Millennials may see the experience of today's older workers as a cautionary tale, and usher in cultural changes...

David Kurtz, a labor relations partner at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, suggests tech firms should be sharing age-related date about their workforce, adding "The more of a focus you place on an issue the more attention it gets and the more likely that change can happen. It's great to get the new hot shot who just graduated from college, but it's also important to have somebody with 40 years of experience who has seen all of the changes in the industry and can offer a different perspective."
Education

Do Code Bootcamps Work? (inc.com) 139

"Computer programming is highly specialized work; it can't be effectively taught in an intensive program," writes Inc. magazine's contributing editor: Last month, two of the country's largest and most well-regarded coding bootcamps closed. While there are still over 90 such camps in the U.S. and Canada, these for-profit intensive software engineering schools aren't successfully preparing their students for programming jobs. According to a recent Bloomberg article, the Silicon Valley recruiter Mark Dinan characterized the bootcamps as "a freaking joke," while representatives of Google and Autodesk said respectively that "most graduates from these programs are not quite prepared" and "coding schools haven't been much of a focus for [us]."

In one sense, the failure of coding bootcamps reflects the near-universal failure of for-profit universities, colleges, and charter schools to provide a usable education. In another sense, though, coding bootcamps represent a profound misunderstanding of what computer programming is all about... Coding at the professional level is highly specialized and requires years of practice to master... the idea of a bootcamp for coding is just as practical as the idea of a bootcamp for surgery.

United States

As Coding Boot Camps Close, the Field Faces a Reality Check (nytimes.com) 179

An anonymous reader shares a report: In the last five years, dozens of schools have popped up offering an unusual promise: Even humanities graduates can learn how to code in a few months and join the high-paying digital economy. Students and their hopeful parents shelled out as much as $26,000 seeking to jump-start a career. But the coding boot-camp field now faces a sobering moment, as two large schools have announced plans to shut down this year -- despite backing by major for-profit education companies, Kaplan and the Apollo Education Group, the parent of the University of Phoenix. The closings are a sign that years of heady growth led to a boot-camp glut, and that the field could be in the early stages of a shakeout. [...] One of the casualties, Dev Bootcamp, was a pioneer. It started in San Francisco in 2012 and grew to six schools with more than 3,000 graduates. Only three years ago, Kaplan, the biggest supplier of test-preparation courses, bought Dev Bootcamp and pledged bold expansion. It is now closing at the end of the year. Also closing is The Iron Yard, a boot camp that was founded in Greenville, S.C., in 2013 and swiftly spread to 15 campuses, from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C. Its main financial backer is the Apollo Education Group. Since 2013, the number of boot camp schools in the United States has tripled to more than 90, and the number of graduates will reach nearly 23,000 in 2017, a tenfold jump from 2013, according to Course Report, which tracks the industry.
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Teach Programming To Schoolchildren? 353

Slashdot reader SPopulisQR writes: A new school year is approaching and I wanted to ask what are appropriate programming languages for children of various ages. Specifically, 1) what coding languages should be considered, and 2) are there are any self-guided coding websites that can be used by children to learn coding using guidance and help online? Let's say the ages are 8 and 12.
I know there's lots of opinions about CS education (and about whether or not laptops increase test scores). So leave your own best thoughts in the comments. How can you teach programming to schoolchildren?
Education

After 15 Years, Maine's Laptops-in-Schools Initiative Fails To Raise Test Scores (npr.org) 158

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."
Government

Microsoft Avoids Washington State Taxes, Gives Nevada Schoolkid A Surface Laptop (seattletimes.com) 72

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."
United States

US Product Safety Commission Warns That Some Fidget Spinners Explode (cnn.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Fidget spinners are supposed to be calming and fun, especially for students struggling to focus. But after some dangerous incidents involving the popular gizmos, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued new fidget spinner safety guidance for consumers and businesses. There have been a handful of choking incidents reported with the toys, as well as two instances of battery-operated spinners catching on fire and another incident in which a fidget spinner melted, the agency said. No deaths have been reported. The agency also issued safety guidance on battery-operated fidget spinners. Consumers should always be present when the product is charging, never charge it overnight and always use the cable it came with, the statement said. Users should unplug their spinner immediately once it's fully charged and make sure they have working smoke detectors in their home.

"As the agency investigates some reported incidents associated with this popular product, fidget spinner users or potential buyers should take some precautions," Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in a statement. "Keep them from small children; the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard; and older children should not put fidget spinners in their mouths." Fidget spinners should be kept away from children under the age of 3, the statement said.

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