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Google

Google and Facebook: Unelected Superpowers? 241

Posted by timothy
from the but-if-by-elect-you-mean-choose dept.
theodp (442580) writes "'The government is not the only American power whose motivations need to be rigourously examined,' writes The Telegraph's Katherine Rushton. 'Some 2,400 miles away from Washington, in Silicon Valley, Google is aggressively gaining power with little to keep it in check. It has cosied up to governments around the world so effectively that its chairman, Eric Schmidt, is a White House advisor. In Britain, its executives meet with ministers more than almost any other corporation. Google can't be blamed for this: one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders, but it is up to governments to push back. As things stand, Google — and to a lesser extent, Facebook — are in danger of becoming the architects of the law.' Schmidt, by the way, is apparently interested in influencing at least two current hot-button White House issues. Joined by execs from Apple, Oracle, and Facebook, the Google Chairman asserted in a March letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the economic interests of the U.S.; the Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the pipeline, perhaps until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections. And as a 'Major Contributor' to Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, Schmidt is also helping to shape public opinion on the White House's call for immigration reform; FWD.us just launched new attack ads (videos) and a petition aimed at immigration reform opponent Rep. Steve King. In Dave Eggers' The Circle, politicians who impede the company execs' agenda are immediately brought down. But that's fiction, right?"
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left? 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-the-crap-in-my-mailbox-every-day dept.
guises writes: "A recent story discussing the cover of Byte Magazine reminded me of just how much we've lost with the death of print media. The Internet isn't what took down Byte, but a lot of other really excellent publications have fallen by the wayside as a result of the shift away from the printed page. We're not quite there yet, though. There seem to still be some holdouts, so I'm asking Slashdot: what magazines (or zines, or newsletters, or newspapers) are still hanging around that are worth subscribing to?"
Books

Seattle Bookstores Embrace Amazon.com 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-enemies-close dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Even though many independent bookstores around the country blame their closing on competition from Amazon.com, bookstores in Seattle are booming thanks to Amazon's growth. It turns out many of the thousands of new workers at their downtown headquarters are avid readers who prefer shopping at the local stores. '"A lot of our customers work at Amazon," said Tracy Taylor, the general manager at the Elliott Bay Book Company, one of the city's largest independent booksellers. The store, about a mile from Amazon headquarters, last year earned what Ms. Taylor called the "first substantial profit" in almost 20 years, enough to even pay employee bonuses.'"
Books

Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain 224

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the slashdot-ruined-your-brain dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Michael S. Rosenwald reports in the Washington Post that, according to cognitive neuroscientists, humans seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online at the expense of traditional deep reading circuitry... Maryanne Wolf, one of the world's foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse's challenging novel The Glass Bead Game. 'I'm not kidding: I couldn't do it,' says Wolf. 'It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn't force myself to slow down so that I wasn't skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.'

The brain was not designed for reading and there are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. ... Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. ... Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade our ability to deal with other mediums. 'We're spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scrolling and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,' says Andrew Dillon."
Book Reviews

Book Review: Mobile HTML5 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Michael Ross (599789) writes "Web designers and developers nowadays are familiar with the critical decision they face each time before building an application intended for mobile devices: whether to target a particular device operating system (e.g., iOS) and create the app using the language dictated by the OS (e.g., Objective-C), or try to build an operating system-agnostic app that runs on any device equipped with a modern web browser (primarily using HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript), or try to do a combination of both (using a library such as PhoneGap). The second option offers many advantages, and is the approach explored in the book Mobile HTML5, authored by Estelle Weyl, an experienced front-end developer." Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.
News

Judge (Tech) Advice By Results 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the listen-up dept.
Bennett Haselton writes "What advice would you give someone who just bought a new laptop? What would you tell someone about how to secure their webserver against attacks? For that matter, how would you tell someone to prepare for their first year at Burning Man? I submit that the metric by which we usually judge tech advice, and advice in general, is fundamentally flawed, and has bred much of the unhelpful tech advice out there." Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
Government

Book Review: How I Discovered World War II's Greatest Spy 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke (2577567) writes "When it comes to documenting the history of cryptography, David Kahn is singularly one of the finest, if not the finest writers in that domain. For anyone with an interest in the topic, Kahn's works are read in detail and anticipated. His first book was written almost 50 years ago: The Codebreakers – The Story of Secret Writing; which was a comprehensive overview on the history of cryptography. Other titles of his include Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boats Codes, 1939-1943. The Codebreakers was so good and so groundbreaking, that some in the US intelligence community wanted the book banned. They did not bear a grudge, as Kahn became an NSA scholar-in-residence in the mid 1990's. With such a pedigree, many were looking forward, including myself, to his latest book How I Discovered World War IIs Greatest Spy and Other Stories of Intelligence and Code. While the entire book is fascinating, it is somewhat disingenuous, in that there is no new material in it. Many of the articles are decades old, and some go back to the late 1970's. From the book description and cover, one would get the impression that this is an all new work. But it is not until ones reads the preface, that it is detailed that the book is simple an assemblage of collected articles." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
The Almighty Buck

Book Review: Money: The Unauthorized Biography 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
jsuda (822856) writes "Most of us know that making money is difficult and saving it is even harder, but understanding money is easy–it's just coins and folding certificates, a mere medium of exchange. That's wrong! according to Felix Martin, author of Money: The Unauthorized Biography. Not only is that understanding wrong but it's responsible (in large part) for the 2007 Great Recession and the pitiful 'recovery' from it as well as a number of previous financial and credit disasters." Keep reading for the rest of Jsuda's review.
Medicine

Researchers: Rats Didn't Spread Black Death, Humans Did 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-rats? dept.
concertina226 (2447056) writes "Scientists studying the human remains of plague victims found during excavations for London's new Crossrail train line have concluded that humans spread the Black Death rather than rats, a fact that could rewrite history books. University of Keele scientists, working together with Crossrail's lead archaeologist Jay Carver and osteologists from the Museum of London, analyzed the bones and teeth of 25 skeletons dug up by Crossrail. They found DNA of Yersinia pestis, which is responsible for the Black Death, on the teeth of some of the victims."
Books

Judge OKs Class Action Suit Against Apple For E-Book Price Fixing 88

Posted by timothy
from the opening-the-books dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Reuters reports: 'A federal judge in New York granted class certification on Friday to a group of consumers who sued Apple Inc for conspiring with five major publishers to fix e-book prices in violation of antitrust law....The plaintiffs are seeking more than $800 million in damages.' The trial will probably be in July or September. The judge who granted class certification, Denise Cote, ruled in 2013 that Apple was guilty of colluding with other publishers to raise the price of e-books and to force Amazon.com to do the same."
Books

UK Bans Sending Books To Prisoners 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-thoughts-are-dangerous dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Alan Travis and Mark Tran report in The Guardian that new rules introduced by the justice secretary in the UK ban anyone sending in books to prisoners It's part of a new earned-incentives and privileges scheme, which allows better-behaved prisoners to get better access to funds to buy their own books. But members of Britain's literary establishment have combined to condemn Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's ban on sending books to prisoners. 'While we understand that prisons must be able to apply incentives to reward good behavior by prisoners, we do not believe that education and reading should be part of that policy,' says a letter signed by more than 80 leading authors. 'Books represent a lifeline behind bars, a way of nourishing the mind and filling the many hours that prisoners spend locked in their cells. In an environment with no internet access and only limited library facilities, books become all the more important.' Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman says the prime minister backs the ban on receiving books and entirely supports Grayling, whose department imposed the ban to preserve a rigid system of rewards and punishments for prisoners and said there was no need for prisoners to be sent books as prisoners could borrow from prison libraries and keep some reading material in their cells. However a former prisoner told the Guardian that although libraries existed, access could be severely restricted, particularly in closed prisons. 'I've been in places where prisoners only get 20 minutes a week to visit the library and change books.'"
Books

Bring On the Monsters: Tolkien's Translation of Beowulf To Be Published 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-grendel-met-sauron dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Tolkien was often criticized by his academic colleagues for wasting time on fiction, even though that fiction has probably done more to popularize medieval literature than the work of 100 scholars. Now John Garth reports that HarperCollins plans to publish Tolkien's long-awaited 1926 translation of the oldest surviving Old English epic poem about Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, who kills the monster Grendel with his bare hands and Grendel's mother with a sword of a giant that he found in her lair. Verlyn Flieger, identifies Beowulf as representing one of the two poles of Tolkien's imagination: the darker half, in which we all face eventual defeat – a complete contrast to the sudden joyous upturn of hope that he also expresses so superbly. 'In truth,' writes Garth, 'it is his ability to move between the two attitudes that really lends him emotional power as a writer.' Tolkien pushed the monsters to the forefront arguing that they 'represent the impermanence of human life, the mortal enemy that can strike at the heart of everything we hold dear, the force against which we need to muster all our strength – even if ultimately we may lose the fight.' Without the monsters, the peculiarly northern courage of Beowulf and his men is meaningless. Tolkien, veteran of the Somme, knew that it was not. 'It will be fascinating to see how [Tolkien] exercised his literary, historical and linguistic expertise on the poem,' concludes Garth adding that Tolkien was the arch-revivalist of literary medievalism, who made it seem so relevant to the modern world. 'I can't wait to see his version of the first English epic.'"
Music

Algorithm Composes Music By Text Analyzing the World's Best Novels 31

Posted by timothy
from the best-novels-worst-music dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The recent development of vast databases that link words to the emotions they conjure up is changing the way researchers study text. Sentiment analysis, for example, is increasingly used to gauge the mood of society on topics ranging from politics to movies. Now researchers have used the same technique to measure the "emotional temperature" throughout a novel and then to automatically compose music that reflects the content. The key advance in this work is the development of rules that map the emotional changes into musical qualities such as tempo, key pitch and so on. The team has fed a number of well known books through the algorithm, which they call TransProse. These include lighter texts such as Peter Pan and much darker novels such as The Road and Heart of Darkness. And the music isn't bad (to my untrained ear). The teams say the new algorithm could lead to audio-visual e-books that generate music that reflects the mood on open pages. And it may even be possible to use the algorithm in reverse to recommend known songs that reflect the mood in a book."
Education

Don't Help Your Kids With Their Homework 278

Posted by timothy
from the pinkie-swear dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Dana Goldstein writes in The Atlantic that while one of the central tenets of raising kids in America is that parents should be actively involved in their children's education — meeting with teachers, volunteering at school, and helping with homework — few parents stop to ask whether they're worth the effort. Case in point: In the largest-ever study of how parental involvement affects academic achievement researchers combed through nearly three decades' worth of longitudinal surveys of American parents and tracked 63 different measures of parental participation in kids' academic lives, from helping them with homework, to talking with them about college plans, to volunteering at their schools. What they found surprised them. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire — regardless of a parent's race, class, or level of education. Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, an effect Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school. 'As kids get older—we're talking about K-12 education — parents' abilities to help with homework are declining,' says Keith Robinson. 'Even though they may be active in helping, they may either not remember the material their kids are studying now, or in some cases never learned it themselves, but they're still offering advice. And that means poor quality homework.'" (More, below.)
Education

CEO Says One Laptop Per Child Project Has Achieved Its Goals 54

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the extended-mission-doing-ok dept.
waderoush (1271548) writes "A blog post at OLPC News last week went viral with the claim that the nine-year-old One Laptop Per Child project is dead. Media outlets quickly controverted the assertion, but the response from the OLPC Association itself was brief, saying that its mission is 'far from over' and citing ongoing projects to distribute laptops in Central America. In a more lengthy Q&A this week, OLPC chairman and CEO Rodrigo Arboleda says the organization has achieved many of its goals, including demonstrating the value of the 'Constructionist' 1:1 learning philosophy originally espoused by Negroponte. With 2.5 million laptops distributed so far, the OLPC vision is 'on track to being fully realized,' Arboleda says. He sees 'commercial greed' and a 'status-quo mentality' within ministries of education and teachers' unions as the main hurdles holding back faster progress."
Stats

St. Patrick's Day, March Madness, and Steve Jobs' Liver 129

Posted by timothy
from the human-organs-enclosed dept.
Many Americans are probably rubbing their temples and wandering around with a bit of a post-St. Patrick's day hangover. Reader theodp writes with a sobering statistical consequence of traditional heavy-drinking holidays: "Keep in mind that this time of year has traditionally been very good to those awaiting organ transplants, including the late Steve Jobs, as Walter Isaacson explained in Jobs: 'By late February 2009 Jobs had secured a place on the Tennessee list (as well as the one in California), and the nervous waiting began. He was declining rapidly by the first week in March, and the waiting time was projected to be twenty-one days. 'It was dreadful,' Powell recalled. 'It didn't look like we would make it in time.' Every day became more excruciating. He moved up to third on the list by mid-March, then second, and finally first. But then days went by. The awful reality was that upcoming events like St. Patrick's Day and March Madness (Memphis was in the 2009 tournament and was a regional site) offered a greater likelihood of getting a donor because the drinking causes a spike in car accidents. Indeed, on the weekend of March 21, 2009, a young man in his mid-twenties was killed in a car crash, and his organs were made available.'"
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Can an Old Programmer Learn New Tricks? 306

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the new-and-exciting-skills dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I have been programming in some fashion, for the last 18 years. I got my first job programming 15 years ago and have advanced my career programming, leading programmers and bringing my technical skill sets into operations and other areas of the business where problems can be solved with logical solutions. I learned to program on the Internet in the 90s.. scouring information where ever I could and reading the code others wrote. I learned to program in a very simple fashion, write a script and work your way to the desired outcome in a straight forward logical way. If I needed to save or reuse code, I created include files with functions. I could program my way through any problem, with limited bugs, but I never learned to use a framework or write modular, DRY code. Flash forward to today, there are hundreds of frameworks and thousands of online tutorials, but I just can't seem to take the tutorials and grasp the concepts and utilize them in a practical manner. Am I just too old and too set in my ways to learn something new? Does anyone have any recommendations for tutorials or books that could help a 'hacker' like me? Also, I originally learned to program in Perl, but moved onto C and eventually PHP and Python."
Sci-Fi

Transhumanist Children's Book Argues, "Death Is Wrong" 334

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-you-want-to-live-forever? dept.
destinyland writes "Hoping to inspire life-extending medical research, science fiction author Gennady Stolyarov has launched a campaign to give away 1,000 free copies of his transhumanist picture book for children, Death is Wrong. 'My greatest fear about the future is not of technology running out of control or posing existential risks to humankind,' he explains. 'Rather, my greatest fear is that, in the year 2045, I will be...wondering, "What happened to that Singularity we were promised by now...?"' Along with recent scientific discoveries, the book tells its young readers about long-lived plants and animals '"that point the way toward lengthening lifespans in humans,' in an attempt to avoid a future where children 'would pay no more attention to technological progress and life-extension possibilities than their predecessors did.'"
Books

Why Are There More Old Songs On iTunes Than Old eBooks? 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
New submitter Paul J Heald writes "The vast majority of books and songs from the 20th Century are out-of-print. New data show music publishers doing an admirable job of digitizing older content, but book publishers fail miserably at putting old works in eBook form. I've done some research in an attempt to explain why: 'Music publishers can proceed with the digitization of their back catalog without competing to re-sign authors or hiring lawyers to renegotiate and write new contracts. Research has revealed no cases holding that music publishers must renegotiate in order to digitize their vinyl back catalogs. The situation for book publishers is substantially the opposite. In the landmark case of Random House v. Rosetta Books, the Second Circuit held that Random House had to renegotiate deals with its authors in order to publish their hard copy books in eBook format. ... Another advantage that the music industry may have is the lower cost of digitization. A vinyl album or audio master tape can be converted directly to a consumable digital form and be made available almost immediately. A book, on the other hand, can be scanned quite easily, but in order to be marketed as a professional-looking eBook (as opposed to a low quality, camera-like image of the original book), the scanned text needs to be manipulated with word processing software to reset the fonts and improve the appearance of the text.'"

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