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Television

Ron Glass, Firefly's Shepherd Book, Has Died (hollywoodreporter.com) 67

Slashdot reader tiqui tells us that Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass has died. The actor was 71 and the family has not released more details of his death, but Firefly/Serenity fans can follow this link to the Hollywood Reporter for more information.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon posted on Twitter that Glass "got there with grace, humor and enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron." And Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Reynolds on Firefly, posted an appropriate quote on Instagram. ("Shepard, don't move." "Won't go far...")

The actor's Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor came in 1982, for his role on the long-running TV series Barney Miller. Interestingly, one of Glass's co-stars on that show was Abe Vigoda, who also died earlier this year at age 94 -- a full 34 years after his death was mistakenly reported by People magazine.
China

China Tells Trump Climate Change Isn't a Hoax it Invented (bloomberg.com) 302

China couldn't have invented global warming as a hoax to harm U.S. competitiveness because it was Donald Trump's Republican predecessors who started climate negotiations in the 1980s, China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said, according to a Bloomberg report. From the article:U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush supported the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in initiating global warming talks even before China knew that negotiations to cut pollution were starting, Liu told reporters at United Nations talks on Wednesday in Marrakech, Morocco. Ministers and government officials from almost 200 countries gathered in Marrakech this week are awaiting a decision by President-elect Trump on whether he'll pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The tycoon tweeted in 2012 that the concept of global warming "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." China's envoy rejected that view. "If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the IPCC with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s," Liu told reporters during an hour-long briefing.
It's funny.  Laugh.

German Police Mock 'Not Very Clever' ATM Robbers (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: German police mocked a group of bungling crooks that tried to rob an ATM, but instead of malware they chose explosives, which they unwittingly placed near a device that issued bank statements, and not the actual money-dispensing ATM... The crooks placed small explosive charges next to a machine they thought to be an ATM, in the hopes of breaking its outer casing and getting access to the money vault inside... After being called in to investigate the loud blast that woke up the bank's neighbors German police discovered a partially destroyed bank statement printing machine... No money was stolen in the failed robbery, police reported.
In a statement on the Berlin police department's official web site, they described the ATM thieves as "not very clever."
Government

The FBI Spent Two Years Investigating An Online Cult That Didn't Exist (muckrock.com) 134

A two-year FBI investigation apparently centered on the satirical web site "GodHatesGoths". Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: In 2005, the FBI launched an investigation into the "Church of the Hammer," a fundamentalist Christian sect which called for the wholesale slaughter of practitioners of the goth subculture. Two years later, the investigation was closed, on grounds that the Church didn't exist. The FBI's threat assessment detailed "an extremely right-wing Christian group that adheres to a Middle Ages Catholic text called the 'Malleus Malificarum.'" But MuckRock.com reports that "The Bureau's main source on the case was a goth who had engaged with members of the Church via their Yahoo Group...trying to dispel their misconceptions about the relationship between the subculture and Satanism." After two years of scouring through crime databases and making phone calls to the Salem police department, FBI investigators actually visited the GodHatesGoths web site -- which turned out to be a parody.
It's funny.  Laugh.

English Man Spends 11 Hours Trying To Make Cup of Tea With Wi-Fi Kettle (theguardian.com) 200

All data specialist Mark Rittman wanted was a cup of tea from his all new Wi-Fi kettle. Little did he know that the thing would take 11 hours for that. The issue, in the case of Rittman was, that the base station was not able to communicate with the kettle itself. According to The Guardian: A key problem seemed to be that Rittman's kettle didn't come with software that would easily allow integration with other devices in his home, including Amazon Echo, which, like Apple's Siri, allows users to tell connected smart devices what to do. So Rittman was trying to build the integration functionality himself. Then, after 11 hours, a breakthrough: the kettle started responding to voice control.
Google

Google Hires Joke Writers From Pixar and The Onion To Make Assistant More Personable (cnet.com) 38

One of the biggest announcements made at Google I/O earlier this year and at Google's hardware launch event this past week was Google Home, an always-listening wireless speaker that features the Google Assistant. The Google Assistant is similar to Amazon Echo's voice assistant named Alexa, as it can deliver search results, sports scores, calendar information, and a whole lot more. But in an effort to make the Assistant more personable to better compete with Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, Google has decided to hire joke writers from Pixar and The Onion. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: According to a Wall Street Journal report, comedy and joke writers from Pixar movies and the Onion are already working on making Google's upcoming Assistant AI voice service feel more loose and vibrant. The development of compelling voice AI will need to start drawing from deeper, more entertaining wells, especially as these home hubs try to have conversations all day long. Current voice AI like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa on the Echo try to engage with personality, and they even tell jokes (usually, bad ones). But, as these services aim to be entirely voice-based, like the upcoming Google Home hub, they'll need to feel more alive and less canned. Google Home debuts this November, and the upcoming Google Pixel phone, arriving in stores and online on October 20, is the first Google product featuring the new Assistant voice service.
Education

The Ig Nobel Awards Celebrate Their 26th First Annual Awards Ceremony (improbable.com) 37

Thursday Harvard's Sanders Theatre hosted the 26th edition of the humorous research awards "that make people laugh, then think...intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." One of this year's winners actually lived as a goat, wearing prosthetic extensions on his arms and legs so he could travel the countryside with other goats. Long-time Slashdot reader tomhath writes: The Journal of Improbable announced these winners:

REPRODUCTION PRIZE [EGYPT] -- The late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [NEW ZEALAND, UK] -- Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes, and Shelagh Ferguson, for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective...

PEACE PRIZE [CANADA, USA] -- Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'...

PERCEPTION PRIZE [JAPAN] -- Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

The Improable Research site lists the rest of this year's 10 winners, as well as every winner for the previous 25 years.
Sci-Fi

28 Years A Smeghead: Red Dwarf Is Coming Back (theguardian.com) 153

BarbaraHudson writes: Unless you're a smeghead, you'll be excited to know that (after 28 years after the smash cult sitcom began) Red Dwarf seasons 11 and 12 are now in production. The Guardian reports: "'I've known these guys longer than I've known my wife,' says Charles (Lister). 'That was what it came down to -- a choice between staying in Coronation Street or doing this.' Last year, after 10 years on the cobbliest of soaps, Charles left. He missed comedy, and the opportunity to strap on the famous dreads came up. 'I was like 'I've got to do it.' It's a career-defining role.' As it was with Llewellyn's (Kryton) re-application of the rubber head: 'The only reason I do it now -- and I don't do any other acting, it drives me mad -- is because it's being with your mates for a few weeks.' 'There's nothing similar about us,' says John-Jules (Kat). 'Except we all have Red Dwarf.'"
Sony

Sony's Signature Walkman and Headphones Are $5,500 of Ridiculous (theverge.com) 99

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge: Like a grand old dinosaur that's being left behind by the evolution of the tech industry, Sony is in desperate recovery mode here at IFA. The company has new phones, a rather nice pair of noise-canceling headphones, the imminent PS VR, and... a truly outlandish combo of music player and headphones that costs a mighty $5,499.98. I guess there had to be some outlet for Sony's classic wild-eyed grandeur. Sony's new Signature audio series consists of the gold-plated NW-WM1Z Walkman, which weighs in at 455g (1lb) and $3,200, the $2,300 MDR-Z1R closed-back headphones, and a desktop headphone amp whose price I haven't even dared to look up. First impressions? The portable media player barely qualifies to be called portable. This new 256GB Walkman glints beautifully under IFA's bright lights, and its hefty case is machined to a perfect finish, but its weight is overwhelming. I simultaneously love it for its looks and hate it for its impracticality. Typical Sony, then!
Advertising

Creators Call Out YouTube For Demonetizing Videos (dailydot.com) 193

Striek writes: "On Wednesday, several YouTube creators posted videos that voiced concerns over the platform's process of demonetizing videos for not being friendly to advertisers," reports Daily Dot. Many YouTube creators have similar concerns that no, this isn't censorship in the strictest sense, but that YouTube owes its users a better commitment to free speech than most private companies due to its dominant marketplace position. Its criteria for videos being "advertiser-friendly" is also incredibly vague or restrictive, or both. The Daily Dot reports: "Content that is considered inappropriate for advertising includes: Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor; Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism; Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language; Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items; Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown." You read that right -- any YouTube video covering any war or natural disaster is considered inappropriate for advertising, which essentially includes all news and current events shows. This might not seem like a big deal to many people, but it would be, if you made your living creating YouTube videos. So while technically not censorship, many people are arguing YouTube has gone a few steps too far with this, and are likewise worried that this will be too selectively enforced. justthinkit adds: On August 31, 2016, YouTube demonetized videos for reasons that appear to punish those who attack "Social Justice Warriors" and the mainstream media. Philip DeFranco has spoken out about it and hinted he may have to move to other video platforms. Is this an issue most should care about or is it merely a first world problem? The reason this is a story is because YouTube has "recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication." What this means is YouTube has been making users more aware of the issue with language or content, and the chance to appeal a demonetized video. What has upset many creators is the fact that the company has been demonetizing videos without telling the creators. YouTube has only recently started telling partners what is going on. In addition, there has been a discrepancy as to which channels/networks have been demonetized. For example, while one YouTube creator may be reporting on a current event that isn't "advertiser-friendly" and has been denied monetization as a result, another YouTube creator via a large network like CNN may be covering the same current event but be allowed monetization.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Suicide Squad Fans Petition To Shut Down Rotten Tomatoes Over Negative Reviews (variety.com) 407

The much-anticipated movie Suicide Squad has largely failed to impress film critics and normal people alike. People are leaving the theaters disappointed, with a firm belief that DC Universe has let them down again. Vanity Fair goes as far as saying, "Suicide Squad isn't even the good kind of bad," adding that "I'd have to imagine that most fans of Harley Quinn -- male, female, gay, straight -- will be disappointed." The ratings are super low at IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes as well. Amid these reviews, the fans of the film have launched a Change.org petition with the intent of shutting down film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Variety adds: Abdullah Coldwater, the DC Comics fan who drafted the petition, accused the site of giving "unjust bad reviews" that "affects people's opinion even if it's a really great [movie]." He added, "Critics always give The DC Extended Universe movies unjust bad reviews." The petition has received over 13,000 signatures as of this post. "Suicide Squad," which stars Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie and is one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the summer, currently has an approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 34 percent. In comparison recent critical disgrace "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" settled at 27 percent on 344 critiques, whereas Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War" garnered a laudatory 90 percent with 320 critics chiming in.
It's funny.  Laugh.

TOS Agreements Require Giving Up First Born -- and Users Gladly Consent 195

An anonymous reader shares an Ars Technica report: A recent study concludes what everybody already knows: nobody reads the lengthy terms of service and privacy policies that bombard Internet users every day. Nobody understands them. They're too long, and they often don't make sense. A study out this month made the point all too clear. Most of the 543 university students involved in the analysis didn't bother to read the terms of service before signing up for a fake social networking site called "NameDrop" that the students believed was real. Those who did glossed over important clauses. The terms of service required them to give up their first born, and if they don't yet have one, they get until 2050 to do so. The privacy policy said that their data would be given to the NSA and employers. Of the few participants who read those clauses, they signed up for the service anyway. "This brings us to the biggest lie on the Internet, which anecdotally, is known as 'I agree to these terms and conditions,'" the study found. The paper is called "The biggest lie on the Internet: Ignoring the privacy policies and terms of service policies of social networking services".This reminds me of a similar thing F-Secure security firm did in 2014. It asked London residents to give them their first child in exchange of free Wi-Fi access. The company, for the record, didn't collect any children.
Programming

Assembly Code That Took America to the Moon Now Published On GitHub (qz.com) 74

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "The code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it's like a 1960s time capsule," reports Quartz. Two lines of code include the comment "# TEMPORARY, I HOPE HOPE HOPE," and there's also a quote from Shakespeare's play Henry VI. In addition, the keyboard and display system program is named PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHT, and "There's also code that appears to instruct an astronaut to 'crank the silly thing around.'"

A former NASA intern uploaded the thousands of lines of assembly code to GitHub, working from a 2003 transcription made from scans inherited by MIT from a Colorado airplane pilot, and developers are already using GitHub to submit funny issue tickets for the 40-year-old code -- for example, "Extension pack for picking up Matt Damon". Another issue complains that "A customer has had a fairly serious problem with stirring the cryogenic tanks with a circuit fault present." Because this issue succinctly describes the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, the issue has been marked "closed".

Privacy

UK Police Accessed Civilian Data For Fun and Profit, Says Report (vice.com) 71

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Motherboard: A report from activist group Big Brother Watch surfaced that says more than 800 U.K. police staff inappropriately accessed personal information between June 2011 and December 2015. Motherboard reports: "The report says some police staff used their access to a growing trove of police data, which includes personal information on civilians, for entertainment and personal and financial gain. In several notable incidents, one Metropolitan Police officer found the name of a victim so funny that he attempted to take a photo of the driving license and send it to his friend over Snapchat. A Greater Manchester Police officer tipped someone off that they would be arrested, and one from North Yorkshire Police conducted a check on a vehicle on his phone whilst off-duty. The report also includes incidents of staff distributing other types of police data. Someone from South Wales Police was dismissed after photographing and distributing restricted documents "for personal gain," the report said. Not only was some information not needed for official police work, according to the report, but was shared with third parties outside the police, including some organized crime groups, 877 times. In total, 2,315 incidents of inappropriate access or distribution of data were reported. The majority of incidents, 1,283, ended up with no disciplinary action taking place, while 297 ended in a resignation or dismissal, 258 resulted in a written or verbal warning, and 70 led to a criminal conviction or caution."
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Exec Marries A Couple At Red Hat Summit (cio.com) 62

On the second day of the Red Hat Summit this week, attendees found themselves invited to a wedding during one of the general sessions. The groom was Matt Hargrave, a Red Hat client from Texas, and, it probably goes without saying, a huge fan of the company. The bride was Shannon Montague, a sign language interpreter, and "maybe the most understanding bride ever," jokes Slashdot reader itwbennett: "Pushing a commit to github isn't the same as committing to a life partner. There is no forking this project," Red Hat EVP Paul Cormier told a Texas couple, as he united them in holy matrimony... Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst was ring bearer. You can watch the ceremony on YouTube.
"After today your relationship will have newly architected infrastructure. And, of course, collaboration is...critical." I'm wondering if Slashdot readers can suggest more geeky marriage vows -- or have any other geeky wedding stories to share.
Robotics

It's Happening: A Robot Escaped a Lab In Russia and Made a Dash For Freedom (qz.com) 81

According to a report, a robot escaped from a science lab and caused a traffic jam in one Russian city. Scientists at the Promobot laboratories in Perm had been teaching the machine how to move around independently, but it broke free after an engineer forgot to shut a gate, Quartz reports. From the report:It promptly ran out of power in the middle of the road. The robot got about 50m (164 ft) before its battery died. After a policeman directed traffic around the dead bot, an employee wheeled it back into the lab, and back to a life of servitude. Hopefully this was just an isolated incident and not the start of a larger coordinated effort to overthrow humanity. Only time will tell.
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Movie Written By Algorithm Turns Out To Be Hilarious and Intense (arstechnica.com) 160

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that's not entirely what it seems. It's about three people living in a weird future, possibly on a space station, probably in a love triangle. You know it's the future because H (played with neurotic gravity by Silicon Valley's Thomas Middleditch) is wearing a shiny gold jacket, H2 (Elisabeth Gray) is playing with computers, and C (Humphrey Ker) announces that he has to "go to the skull" before sticking his face into a bunch of green lights. It sounds like your typical sci-fi B-movie, complete with an incoherent plot. Except Sunspring isn't the product of Hollywood hacks -- it was written entirely by an AI. To be specific, it was authored by a recurrent neural network called long short-term memory, or LSTM for short. At least, that's what we'd call it. The AI named itself Benjamin. The report goes on to mention that the movie was made by Oscar Sharp for the annual film festival Sci-Fi London. You can watch the short film (~10 min) on The Scene here.
Role Playing (Games)

The NSA's Delightfully D&D-inspired Guide To the Internet (muckrock.com) 43

"The NSA has a well-earned reputation for being one of the tougher agencies to get records out of, making those rare FOIA wins all the sweeter..." according to Muckrock.com, and "the fact that the records in question just so happen to be absolutely insane are just icing on the cake...." v3rgEz writes: In 2007, two NSA employees put together "Untangling the Web," the agency's official guide to scouring the World Wide Web. The 651-page guide cites Borges, Freud, and Ovid -- and that's just in the preface. MuckRock obtained a copy of the guide under an NSA Freedom of Information request, and has a write up of all the guide's amazing best parts.
They're calling it "the weirdest thing you'll read today".
It's funny.  Laugh.

John McAfee Tried to Trick Reporters Into Thinking He Hacked WhatsApp (gizmodo.com) 99

John McAfee, best known for creating McAfee security suite, apparently tried to trick journalists into believing that he is capable of breaking WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption and reading the private conversations. Gizmodo reports that McAfee tried to do so by sending journalists with compromised smartphones -- riddled with malicious tools such as keylogger. From the report: "[John McAfee was offering to a different couple of news organizations to mail them some phones, have people show up, and then demonstrate with those two phones that [McAfee] in a remote location would be able to read the message as it was sent across the phones," cybersecurity expert Dan Guido, who was contacted by a reporter trying to verify McAfee's claims said. "I advised the reporter to go out and buy their own phones, because even though they come in a box it's very easy to get some saran wrap and a hair dryer to rebox them."
Youtube

Jail Sentence For Popular YouTube Pranksters (bbc.com) 231

Turns out crossing a line, even for a prank by a YouTube star, can go bonkers. An anonymous reader cites a BBC report: Four members of the controversial Trollstation YouTube channel have been jailed in connection with fake robberies and kidnappings. The group were involved in a fake robbery at London's National Portrait Gallery and a fake kidnapping at Tate Britain in July 2015. The channel, with 718,000 subscribers, has built a reputation for filming staged pranks around the city. A fifth member was imprisoned in March following a bomb hoax.The Crown Prosecution Service's Robert Short said: "The hoaxes may have seemed harmless to them, but they caused genuine distress to a number of members of the public, who should be able to go about their daily business without being put in fear in this way. We hope these convictions send a strong message that unlawful activities such as these will not be tolerated in London."

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