Open Source

30-Year-Old Operating System 'PC-MOS/386' Finally Open Sourced (github.com) 148

PC-MOS/386 "was a multi-user, computer multitasking operating system...announced at COMDEX in November 1986," remembers Wikipedia, saying it runs many MS-DOS titles (though it's optimized for the Intel 80386 processor).

Today Slashdot user Roeland Jansen writes: After some tracking, racing and other stuff...PC-MOS/386 v5.01 is open source under GPLv3. Back in May he'd posted to a virtualization site that "I still have the source tapes. I want(ed) to make it GPL and while I got an OK on it, I haven't had time nor managed to get it legalized. E.g. lift the NDA and be able to publish."

1987 magazine ads described it as "the gateway to the latest technology...and your networking future," and 30 years later its release on GitHub includes sources and executables. "In concert with Gary Robertson and Rod Roark it has been decided to place all under GPL v3."
Education

Could VR Field Trips Replace the Real Thing? (theindychannel.com) 96

turkeydance shares a report from RTV6, which cites a new editorial in the journal Science that explores the question, "Could VR field trips replace the real thing?" Virtual field trips have been around for a while, but they used to be pretty boring: some photos, some text -- basically a Wikipedia entry. But they've come a long way. Nearpod and Google Expeditions let students immerse themselves in places they couldn't normally visit, like Antarctica or even Mars. These virtual field trips are safer and easier to organize than real outings, and they might soon be cheaper, too. Douglas McCauley, assistant professor of ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says traditional field trips have already declined under budget constraints, so schools might be tempted to simply make a switch. McCauley says he's excited about the possibilities of VR. Taking students back to prehistoric times or forward to witness the results of climate change could be a powerful teaching tool.
Businesses

First Floating Wind Farm Delivers Electricity (arstechnica.com) 81

The world's first floating offshore wind farm began delivering electricity to the Scottish grid today. "The 30MW installation, situated 25km (15.5mi) from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters, miles away from land, where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible," reports Ars Technica. "At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes." From the report: The installation, called Hywind Scotland, is also interesting because it was built by Statoil, a Norwegian mega-corporation known for offshore oil drilling. Statoil has pursued offshore wind projects in recent years, using the companyâ(TM)s experience building and managing infrastructure in difficult open sea conditions to its advantage. Hywind Scotland began producing power in September, and today it starts delivering electricity to the Scottish grid. Now, all that's left is for Statoil and its partner company Masdar to install a 1MWh lithium-ion battery, charmingly called âoeBatwind,â on shore. Batwind will help the offshore system regulate power delivery and optimize output. After a number of small demonstration projects, the five 6MW turbines are the first commercial turbines to lack a firm attachment to the seafloor. They're held in place using three giant suction anchors, which are commonly used in offshore oil drilling. Essentially, an enormous, empty, upside-down âoebucketâ is placed on the seafloor, and air is sucked out of the bucket, which forces the bucket downward, further into the seafloor sediment. The report mentions a 2013 video that shows how offshore wind farms work.
Security

Ask Slashdot: What Are Ways To Get Companies To Actually Focus On Security? 158

New submitter ctilsie242 writes: Many years ago, it was said that we would have a "cyber 9/11," a security event so drastic that it fundamentally would change how companies and people thought about security. However, this has not happened yet (mainly because the bad guys know that this would get organizations to shut their barn doors, stopping the gravy train.) With the perception that security has no financial returns, coupled with the opinion that "nobody can stop the hackers, so why even bother," what can actually be done to get businesses to have an actual focus on security. The only "security" I see is mainly protection from "jailbreaking," so legal owners of a product can't use or upgrade their devices. True security from other attack vectors are all but ignored. In fact, I have seen some development environments where someone doing anything about security would likely get the developer fired because it took time away from coding features dictated by marketing. I've seen environments where all code ran as root or System just because if the developers gave thought to any permission model at all, they would be tossed, and replaced by other developers who didn't care to "waste" their time on stuff like that.

One idea would be something similar to Underwriters Labs, except would grade products, perhaps with expanded standards above the "pass/fail" mark, such as Europe's "Sold Secure," or the "insurance lock" certification (which means that a security device is good enough for insurance companies to insure stuff secured by it.) There are always calls for regulation, but with regulatory capture being at a high point, and previous regulations having few teeth, this may not be a real solution in the U.S. Is our main hope the new data privacy laws being enacted in Europe, China, and Russia, which actually have heavy fines as well as criminal prosecutions (i.e. execs going to jail)? This especially applies to IoT devices where it is in their financial interest to make un-upgradable devices, forcing people to toss their 1.0 lightbulbs and buy 1.0.1 lightbulbs to fix a security issue, as opposed to making them secure in the first place, or having an upgrade mechanism. Is there something that can actually be done about the general disinterest by companies to make secure products, or is this just the way life is now?
Patents

Tribal 'Sovereign Immunity' Patent Protection Could Be Outlawed (arstechnica.com) 92

AnalogDiehard writes: The recent -- and questionable -- practice of technological and pharmaceutical companies selling their patents to U.S. native Indian tribes (where they enjoy "sovereign immunity" from the inter partes review (IPR) process of the PTO) and then the tribes licensing them back to the companies is drawing scrutiny from a federal court and has inspired a new U.S. bill outlawing the practice. The IPR process is a "fast track" (read: much less expensive) process through the PTO to review the validity of challenged patents -- it is loved by defendants and hated by patent holders. Not only has U.S. Circuit Judge William Bryson invalidated Allergan's pharmaceutical patents due to "obviousness," he is questioning the legitimacy of the sovereign immunity tactic. The judge was well aware that the tactic could endanger the IPR process, which was a central component of the America Invents Act of 2011, and writes that sovereign immunity "should not be treated as a monetizable commodity that can be purchased by private entities as part of a scheme to evade their legal responsibility." U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- no stranger to abuses of the patent system -- has introduced a bill that would outlaw the practice she describes as "one of the most brazen and absurd loopholes I've ever seen and it should be illegal." Sovereign immunity is not absolute and has been limited by Congress and the courts in the past. The bill would apply only to the IPR proceedings and not to patent disputes in federal courts.
Science

Over 30,000 Published Studies Could Be Wrong Due To Contaminated Cells (sciencealert.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Alert: Researchers warn that large parts of biomedical science could be invalid due to a cascading history of flawed data in a systemic failure going back decades. A new investigation reveals more than 30,000 published scientific studies could be compromised by their use of misidentified cell lines, owing to so-called immortal cells contaminating other research cultures in the lab. The problem is as serious as it is simple: researchers studying lung cancer publish a new paper, only it turns out the tissue they were actually using in the lab were liver cells. Or what they thought were human cells were mice cells, or vice versa, or something else entirely. If you think that sounds bad, you're right, as it means the findings of each piece of affected research may be flawed, and could even be completely unreliable.

Horback and fellow researcher Willem Halffman wanted to know how extensive the phenomenon of misidentified cell lines really was, so they searched for evidence of what they call "contaminated" scientific literature. Using the research database Web of Science, they looked for scientific articles based on any of the known misidentified cell lines as listed by the International Cell Line Authentication Committee's (ICLAC) Register of Misidentified Cell Lines.There are currently 451 cell lines on this list, and they're not what you think they are -- having been contaminated by other kinds of cells at some point in scientific history. Worse still, they've been unwittingly used in published laboratory research going as far back as the 1950s.

Earth

Nobel Prize Winner Argues Tech Companies Should Be Changing The World (qz.com) 152

An anonymous reader writes: Tech companies are competing to serve the wealthy, argues the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, complaining there's no "global vision," with big innovations instead "designed and dedicated mostly for commercial successes... while trillions of dollars are invested in developing robotics and artificial intelligence for military and commercial purposes, there is little interest in applying technology to overcome the massive human problems of the world." A genius in the tech industry "can dedicate his work to creating a medical breakthrough that will save thousands of lives -- or he can develop an app that will let people amuse themselves."

As an exception, he cites the low-cost Endless computer, which runs Linux and has 50,000 Wikipedia articles pre-installed to enable offline research -- plus more than 100 applications -- for a price of just $79. "One part of Endless's business is operated like a conventional, profit-seeking company, while the other part is a social business that provides underserved populations with educational, health, and creative services they were once denied. Endless is already being shipped around the globe by four of the five largest computer manufacturers. It has become the leading PC platform in Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia. It has also been selected as the standard operating system for the Brazilian Ministry of Education, and in coming months it will be adopted as the primary platform by a number of other Latin American countries."

The article is by Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, and is taken from his new book, A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.
Social Networks

Elon Musk Teases Reddit With Bad Answers About BFR Rocket (reddit.com) 100

Long-time Slashdot reader Rei writes: On Saturday evening, Elon Musk took questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) concerning SpaceX's new design for the BFR (Big F* Rocket). But unlike the 2016 IAC conference where many audience questions seemed to be trolling Musk, this time the tables were turned. Asked why Raptor thrust was reduced from 300 tons to 170, Musk replied, "We chickened out." He responded to a statement about landing on the moon by quoting Bob the Builder, while responding to a user's suggestion about caching internet data from Mars by writing simply "Nerd." A question as to whether BFR autogenous pressurization would be heat-exchanger based, Musk replied that they planned to utilize the Incendio spell from Harry Potter -- helpfully providing a Wikipedia link for the spell.

A technical question about the lack of a tail? "Tails are lame." A question about why the number of landing legs was increased from 3 to 4? "Because 4." After one Redditor observed "This is one bizarre AMA so far," Musk replied "Just wait..." While Musk ultimately did follow up some of the trolling with some actual responses, the overall event could be best described as "surreal".

To be fair, Musk provided some serious answers. (And his final comment ended with "Great questions nk!!") But one Redditor suggested Musk's stranger answers were like a threat, along the lines of "Just wait. It will get way more bizarre than that. Let me finish my whiskey."

Musk replied, "How did you know? I am actually drinking whiskey right now. Really."
Education

'Maybe Wikipedia Readers Shouldn't Need Science Degrees To Digest Articles About Basic Topics' (vice.com) 304

Wikipedia articles about "hard science" (physics, biology, chemistry) topics are really mostly written for other scientists, writes Michael Byrne, a reporter on Science beat at Vice's Motherboard news outlet. From the article: This particular class of Wikipedia article tends to take the high-level form of a scientific paper. There's a brief intro (an abstract) that is kinda-sorta comprehensible, but then the article immediately degenerates into jargon and equations. Take, for example, the page for the electroweak interaction in particle physics. This is a topic of potentially broad interest; its formulation won a trio of physicists the Nobel Prize in 1979. Generally, it has to do with a fundamental linkage between two of the four fundamental forces of the universe, electromagnetism and the weak force. The Wikipedia article for the electroweak force consists of a two-paragraph introduction that basically just says what I said above plus some fairly intimidating technical context. The rest of the article is almost entirely gnarly math equations. I have no idea who the article exists for because I'm not sure that person actually exists: someone with enough knowledge to comprehend dense physics formulations that doesn't also already understand the electroweak interaction or that doesn't already have, like, access to a textbook about it. For another, somewhat different example, look at the article for graphene. Graphene is, of course, an endlessly hyped superstrong supermaterial. It's in the news constantly. The article isn't just a bunch of math equations, but it's also not much more penetrable for a reader without at least some chemistry/materials science background.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite William Gibson Novel? 298

dryriver writes: When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer and then his other novels as a young man back in the 1990s, I was blown away by Gibson's work. Everything was so fresh and out of the ordinary in his books. The writing style. The technologies. The characters and character names. The plotlines. The locations. The future world he imagined. The Matrix. It was unlike anything I had read before. A window into the far future of humanity. I had great hopes over the years that some visionary film director would take a crack at creating film versions of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive . But that never happened. All sorts of big budget science fiction was produced for TV and the big screen since Neuromancer that never got anywhere near the brilliance of Gibson's future world. Gibson's world largely stayed on the printed page, and today very few people talk about Neuromancer, even though the world we live in, at times, appears headed in the exact direction Gibson described in his Sprawl trilogy. Why does hardly anybody talk about William Gibson anymore? His books describe a future that is much more technologically advanced than where we are in 2017, so it isn't like his future vision has become "badly dated." To get the conversation going, we rephrased dryriver's question... What is your favorite William Gibson novel?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Parody 'Subgenius' Religion Wants to Crowdfund An Alien-Contacting Beacon (gofundme.com) 78

In 1979 the followers of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs founded a satirical religion called the Church of the Subgenius. (Slackware Linux reportedly drew its name from the "pursuit of Slack", a comfort-seeking tenet of the 38-year-old parody religion.) Combining UFOs and conspiracy theories with some social critiques (and a few H.P. Lovecraft characters), the strange group is now re-emerging online with an official Facebook page -- and a slick new video channel.

In "Adventures in the Forbidden Sciences," former church CEO K'taden Legume announces that in January of 2016, "the Subgenius Foundation received an overdue bill for a storage locker in the Pacific Northwest registered under the name J. R. Dobbs. Behind the steel door was a freight elevator leading deep underground to what was long considered to be a myth: The church's long-abandoned forbidden science laboratories. Hidden in a forgotten cavern, packed floor-to-ceiling with thousands of crates dating back to the mid-19th century." Eighteen months of experimentation lead to clues about a flying saucer arriving on "the Black Day" -- and one last chance at eternal salvation and everlasting Slack: the construction of an alien-contacting beacon. Legume calls it "our best last hope for getting off of this planet. We have the tech. We have the moxie to do this, but to finish the beacon -- we need your help."

"The Beacon will be constructed by a team of 'Forbidden Scientists' led by former church CEO Dr. K'taden Legume," writes new Slashdot reader Ktaden Legume, touting a new $25,000 campaign to crowdfund the beacon's construction.

So far it's raised $294.
Slashdot.org

20 Years of Stuff That Matters 726

Today we're marking Slashdot's 20th birthday. 20 years is a long time on the internet. Many websites have come and gone over that time, and many that stuck around haven't had any interest in preserving their older content. Fortunately, as Slashdot approaches its 163,000th story, we've managed to keep track of almost all our old postings - all but the first 2^10, or so. In addition to that, we've held onto user comments, the lifeblood of the site, from 1999 onward. As we celebrate Slashdot's 20th anniversary this month, we thought we'd take a moment to highlight a few of the notable or interesting stories and discussions that have happened here in the past decade and a half. This is part of our 20-year anniversary celebration, and we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups. We'll be continuing to run some special pieces throughout the month, so keep an eye out for those.

Read on for a trip down memory lane.

Update: Slashdot founder CmdrTaco has taken to Medium with some of his own Slashdot nostalgia.
Communications

Ex-Verizon Lawyer Ajit Pai Confirmed To Second Term As FCC Chair (fastcompany.com) 101

Congress late Monday approved Ajit Pai for a second term as chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Fast Company reports. "The Senate voted 52-41 (with almost all 'yea' votes coming from Republicans) to give Pai a new five-year term retroactive to July 1, 2017. Without the confirmation, Pai would have had to give up the chair at the end of 2017."

"I am deeply grateful to the U.S. Senate for confirming my nomination to serve a second term at the FCC and to President Trump for submitting that nomination to the Senate," Pai said in a statement. Pai served as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc. in February 2001, where he handled competition matters, regulatory issues, and counseling of business units on broadband initiatives.
Communications

Air Force Gives 10-Year-Old Orbiting Satellite To Ham Radio Operators (arrl.org) 74

Longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: The U.S. Air Force has transferred control of a 10-year-old orbiting satellite to AMSAT, a ham radio organization, which has enabled it for any licensed ham to use on the air, as the satellite's Air Force missions have ended. Falconsat 3's first mission was science: measuring gravity gradient, spectrometry of the plasmasphere, electronic noise in the plasmasphere, and testing three-axis attitude control using microthrusters. Secondarily it was used to train Air Force Institute of Technology students in space operations, with close to 700 cadets obtaining ham licenses in order to operate a number of Air Force satellites using ham frequencies.

Now in its third mission, control of the satellite has been transferred to AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, and all government frequencies have been disabled with only ham ones remaining. The satellite will relay APRS (position and status reporting) signals, it will operate a BBS in the sky, and will broadcast telemetry.

Software

Is Project Management Killing Good Products, Teams and Software? (techbeacon.com) 176

New submitter mikeatTB writes: "For software development, no significant developer activity is predictable or repetitive; if it were, the developers would have automated it already," writes Steven A. Lowe, Principal Consultant Developer at ThoughtWorks, via TechBeacon. "In addition, learning is essentially a nonlinear process; it involves trying things that don't work in order to discover what does work. You might see linear progress for a while, but you don't know what you don't know, so there will be apparent setbacks. It is from these setbacks that one learns the truth about the system -- what is really needed to make it work, to make it usable, and to make a difference for the users and the business. In other words, the dirty little secret of software development is that projects don't really exist. And they're killing our products, teams, and software." Lowe continues: "Projects, with respect to software development, are imaginary boxes drawn around scope and time in an attempt to 'manage' things. This tendency is understandable, given the long fascination with so-called scientific management (a.k.a. Taylorism, a.k.a. Theory X), but these imaginary boxes do not reduce underlying complexity. On the contrary, they add unnecessary complexity and friction and invite a counterproductive temptation to focus on the box instead of the problem or product. This misplaced emphasis leads to some harmful delusions: Conformance to schedule is the same thing as success; Estimation accuracy is possible and desirable enough to measure and optimize for; The plan is perfect and guarantees success; The cost of forming and dissolving teams is zero; The cost of functional silo hand-offs is zero; The bigger and more comprehensive the plan, the better; Predictability and efficiency are paramount."
Programming

'Tetris' Recreated In Conway's 'Game of Life' (stackexchange.com) 87

In 1970 mathematician John Conway created rules for the "Game of Life," a now famous "zero-player game" where a grid of cells evolves (following Conway's rules) from an initial state proposed by the player. In 2013 someone challenged readers of StackExchange's "Programming Puzzles & Code Golf" section to devise an initial state "that will allow for the playing of a game of Tetris."

An anonymous Slashdot reader reports that "This challenge sat around, gathering upvotes but no answer, for four years. Then, it was answered." Citing the work of seven contributors, a massive six-part response says their solution took one and a half years to create, and "began as a quest but ended as an odyssey." The team created their own assembly language, known as QFTASM (Quest for Tetris Assembly) for use within Conway's mathematical universe, and then also designed their own processor architecture, and eventually even a higher-level language that they named COGOL. Their StackExchange response includes a link to all of their code on GitHub, as well as to a page where you can run the code online.

One StackExchange reader hailed the achievement as "the single greatest thing I've ever scrolled through while understanding very little."
AI

You Might Use AI, But That Doesn't Mean You're an AI Company, Says a Founder of Google Brain (venturebeat.com) 73

As AI space gets crowded, there are a slew of businesses -- new and old -- looking to market themselves as "AI companies." But according to Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain team and a luminary in the space, there's more to being an AI company than just using a neural net. From a report: In his view, while it's possible to create a website for a shopping mall, that doesn't make it an internet company. In the same way, just implementing basic machine learning does not make a standard technology company (or any other business) an AI company. "You're not an AI company because there are a few people using a few neural networks somewhere," Ng said. "It's much deeper than that." First and foremost, AI companies are strategic about their acquisition of data, which is used as the fuel for machine learning systems. Once an AI company has acquired the data, Ng said that they tend to store it in centralized warehouses for processing. Most enterprises have their information spread across multiple different warehouses, and collating that data for machine learning can prove difficult. AI companies also implement modern development practices, like frequent deployments. That means it's possible to change the product and learn from the changes.
Medicine

Bacteria In Tumors Can Inactivate Common Chemotherapy Drugs, Study Suggests (arstechnica.com) 38

Researchers caught the bacteria Mycoplasma hyorhinis hiding out among cancer cells, thwarting chemotherapy drugs intended to treat the tumors they reside in. The findings have been published this week in Science. Ars Technica reports: Drug resistance among cancers is a "foremost challenge," according to the study's authors, led by Ravid Straussman at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Yet the new data suggest that certain types of drug-resistant cancers could be defeated with a simple dollop of antibiotics alongside a chemotherapy regimen. Dr. Straussman and his colleagues got a hunch to look for the bacteria after noticing that, when they grew certain types of human cancer cells together in lab, the cells all became more resistant to a chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine. This is a drug used to treat pancreatic, lung, breast, and bladder cancers and is often sold under the brand name Gemzar. The researchers suspected that some of the cells may secrete a drug-busting molecule. So they tried filtering the cell cultures to see if they could catch it. Instead, they found that the cell cultures lost their resistance after their liquid broth passed through a pretty large filter -- 0.45 micrometers. This would catch large particles -- like bacteria -- but not small molecules, as the researchers were expecting.

Looking closer, the researchers noticed that some of their cancer cells were contaminated with M. hyorhinis. And these bacteria could metabolize gemcitabine, rendering the drug useless. When the researchers transplanted treatable cancer cells into the flanks of mice -- some with and some without M. hyorhinis -- the bacteria-toting tumors were resistant to gemcitabine treatment.

Youtube

PewDiePie Is Inexcusable But DMCA Takedowns Are Not the Way To Fight Him (vice.com) 506

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the most popular YouTuber in the world. He's gotten himself into another controversy, this time for shouting the n-word while livestreaming a video game. The 27-year-old Swede has repeatedly been criticized for hate speech, and just last month said he would no longer make Nazi jokes after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent. But while playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on Sunday, Kjellberg, who has over 57 million subscribers on YouTube, called another player the n-word before erupting into laughter. "What a fucking n****r," he said. "Jeez, oh my god. What the fuck? Sorry, but what the fuck? What a fucking asshole. I don't mean that in a bad way." Kjellberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and has yet to publicly acknowledge the incident.

In response to Kjellberg's use of a racial slur, a number of video game players and developers have condemned the creator. Sean Vanaman, the co-founder of video game company Campo Santo, decided to use copyright law to push back against Kjellberg. On Twitter, he said he was filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request against the famous YouTuber regarding a video in which Kjellberg plays Campo Santo's game Firewatch. There are compelling reasons to [remove hate speech from major internet platforms] by any means necessary, but DMCA overreach is among the least compelling options, considering that it unilaterally puts power into the hands of what are essentially uninvolved parties and allows for little arbitration or defense on the part of those who have their content removed.

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