Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Who says Wikipedians don't have a sense of humor? While perusing Wikipedia I recently came across an article documenting the lamest examples of wikipedia edit wars over the most trivial things. As one wikipedian says: 'Some discussions are born lame; some achieve lameness; some have lameness thrust upon them.' A few of the most amusing examples include: Was Chopin Polish, French, Polish–French, or French–Polish? Can you emigrate from a country of which you are not a citizen? Can you receive citizenship if you already have it? The possibilities for intensive study are endless. Next up, Are U2 an 'Irish band' or simply a band that happen to be from Ireland, since two of their members were born in the UK? A heated discussion took place for over two-and-a-half weeks that resulted in at least one editor getting blocked and many more getting warnings. Next, should members of the Beatles be listed in the 'traditional' order or in alphabetical order? Another edit war which flares up continuously in The Beatles involves whether to identify the band as 'The Beatles' with a capital T or 'the Beatles' with a lower case t. The issue became so contentious it merited an article in the Wall Street Journal. One such installment of this saga was brought before the arbitration committee (by an administrator, no less) where it was quickly declared 'silly.' Next, Is J. K. Rowling's name pronounced like 'rolling' or to rhyme with 'howling'? Rowling is on record claiming she pronounces her name like 'rolling'. An irate editor argues that this is a 'British' pronunciation and the 'American" pronunciation of her name should also be noted. 'This is slightly ridiculous as she is English, and therefore of course will pronounce it in an English manner. Perhaps it rhymes with "Trolling"?' Finally did Jimmy Wales found Wikipedia or co-found it? 'Not surprisingly, those who actually were around at the time and know the answer stayed far away from this one. The casualty list has yet to be compiled, but no doubt editor egos will be among the worst hit.'"
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Jah-Wren Ryel writes "What do you get when you train a Markov chain on the King James Bible and a copy of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs? King James Programming — a tumblr of auto-generated pseudo-scripture (or pseudo-compsci lessons). Some examples: -- 'The LORD is the beginning (or prefix) of the code for the body of the procedure.' -- 'More precisely, if P and Q are polynomials, let O1 be the order of blessed.' -- ''In APL all data are represented as arrays, and there shall they see the Son of man, in whose sight I brought them out.'"
walterbyrd writes "Streaming services are ailing. Pandora, the giant of its class and the survivor at 13 years old, is waging an ugly war to pay artists and labels less in order to stay afloat. Spotify, in spite of 6 million paid users and 18 million subscribers who humor some ads in their stream, has yet to turn a profit. Rhapsody axed 15% of its workforce right as Apple's iTunes Radio hit the scene. On-demand competitor Rdio just opted for layoffs too, in order to move into a 'scalable business model.' Did no one wonder about that business-model bit in the beginning? Meanwhile, Turntable.fm, a comparatively tiny competitor with what should have been viral DNA, just pulled the plug on its virtual jam sessions this week—and it just might be the canary in the coal mine."
Freshly Exhumed writes "Looking a lot like the venerable Wolfenstein 3D or similar Id action games of the DOS days, the new online game Waiting in Line 3D was released Monday by developer Rajeev Basu, and was played 50,000 times in its first 24 hours of activity... er... inactivity. Is the complete lack of any action a brilliant satire of computer gaming? Is it software-based performance art? Is it silly? Judge for yourself, if you can meet the challenge!" Now's a good time to confess if you spent a major portion of your post-Thanksgiving dinner recovery time camped out in line for some of those Black Friday come-ons.
cold fjord writes with this report from The Telegraph: "The original members of Monty Python will reunite more than 30 years after the comedy troupe last worked together. John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Michael Palin will officially announce their reformation at a London press conference on Thursday. The five surviving members have reportedly been in months of secret talks about getting the Flying Circus back on the road. The reunion comes after several failed attempts to reform by the group. However, according to The Sun, the surviving members realised 'it was now or never,' and had decided to embark upon 'a fully-fledged reunion.'" Related stories include this commentary, one take on the best of Python and this negative reaction, too.
sciencehabit writes "Science Magazine has posted the 12 finalist videos from its annual Dance Your PhD contest. The contest asks scientists from around the world to send in videos of themselves interpreting their research in dance form. As usual, this year's finalists have gone all out with some wacky, fun, and just plain bizarre videos. You can vote for your favorite, with the winner and reader's choice announced on November 21."
McGruber writes "The Washington Post has the news that former head of the NSA Michael Hayden took a call while on the Acela train between D.C. and Boston. Hayden was talking to a journalist 'on background', which means the reporter is not allowed to cite Hayden by name. Unfortunately for Hayden, another train passenger overhead the call and live-tweeted it. 'Mattzie continued to livetweet Hayden’s conversations slamming the Obama administration, all the while insisting that he be referred to only on background. The conversation also seemed to touch on Hayden’s time as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George W. Bush as well. "Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago," Mattzie wrote. Hayden has in the past defended the use of waterboarding against detainees held in various sites around the world, and dismissed torture as a "legal term."'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "BBC reports that Jofi Joseph, a senior National Security Council staffer who was a key member of the White House team negotiating on Iran's nuclear weapons program, has been fired ... after a months-long probe into a barrage of tweets that included caustic criticisms of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top NSC officials, especially Ben Rhodes – whom he accused of dodging questions about Benghazi. Joseph, who posted under the now defunct Twitter name @NatSecWonk, gave a lacerating commentary on anything from policy to personal appearance. 'Was Huma Abedin wearing beer goggles the night she met Anthony Weiner,' he tweeted, referring to the scandal-hit former New York mayoral candidate and his wife, a former aide of Hillary Clinton. He tweeted that Mrs Clinton 'had few policy goals and no wins' in the Middle East. He said Chelsea Clinton was 'assuming all of her parents' vices,' and targeted figures such as Republican commentator Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney's wife Ann for their looks and weight. Many in the foreign policy community reacted with shock to the revelation that Joseph was the mystery tweeter because Joseph was well known among policy wonks and his wife, Carolyn Leddy, is a well-respected professional staffer on the Republican side of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 'What started out as an intended parody account of DC culture developed over time into a series of inappropriate and mean-spirited comments,' said Joseph in an apology. 'I bear complete responsibility for this affair and I sincerely apologize to everyone I insulted.'"
reifman writes "Perhaps the reason the NSA's surveillance programs are so unpopular with Americans is that we haven't seen any of the potential consumer benefits that spying and big data can provide. Here are ten ideas for the productization and monetization of the NSA's spying infrastructure to inspire Americans to consider the bright side of the dark arts." In case anyone doesn't notice, these suggestions (at least most of them) are presented tongue-in-cheek; a truly secure email system, though, is another story.
An anonymous reader writes "The Telegraph reports, 'Hordes of bankrupt French invade Switzerland to get their hands on their "stolen" money — such is the imaginary scenario cooked up by the Swiss military in simulations revealed over the weekend. Carried out in August, the apparently outlandish army exercise was based on the premise of an attack by a financially stricken France split into warring regions, according to Matin Dimanche, the Lausanne-based daily. ... Operation "Duplex-Barbara" went as far as imagining a three-pronged invasion from points near Neufchâtel, Lausanne and Geneva, according to a map published in the Swiss newspaper. Behind the dastardly raid was a paramilitary organization dubbed BLD, the Dijon Free Brigade bent on grabbing back "money that Switzerland had stolen from Saônia". "For its credibility, the Swiss army must work (to ward against) threats of the 21st century," Antoine Vielliard, Hauate-Savoie councilor, told Matin Dimanche. However, Daniel Berger, captain of the Swiss armored brigade, sought to play down the specificity of the threat. "The exercise has strictly nothing to do with France, which we appreciate" he told the Swiss press. ... "French towns were cited to provide soldiers with a real scale," he said. ... Neutral Switzerland has not been invaded since the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century. '"
An anonymous reader writes with word that two of the more intriguing memes of recent times have been outed as elaborate performance art. Bizarre Twitter-centric entities @Horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book aren't really inexplicable, it turns out: "[These feeds] have been running for the past several years, both have the hallmarks of automation, chugging along anonymously and churning out disjointed bits of text in a very spam-like fashion, but neither is as it appears." The Escapist has a bit more, now that the horse is out of the bag.
schwit1 writes "A group of Serbian academics, disgusted with the poor state of their country's research output, have scammed a Romanian science journal by getting it to accept their completely fabricated hoax article. From the article: 'The paper is replete with transparent gimmicks — obvious, that is, had anyone at the publication been paying attention — including a reference to the scholarship of [singer Michael] Jackson, Weber, [porn star Ron] Jeremy and citations to new studies by Bernoulli and Laplace, both dead more than 180 years (Weber died in 1920). They also throw in references to the "Journal of Modern Illogical Studies," which to the best of our knowledge does not and never has existed (although perhaps it should), and to a researcher named, dubiously, "A.S. Hole." And, we hasten to add, the noted Kazakh polymath B. Sagdiyev, otherwise known as Borat.' Their paper is hilarious and completely ridiculous, and yet it was published in a so-called serious journal without question. The best part is that they list Alan Sokal's hoax paper from 1996 as one of their sources."
schliz writes "A one percentage point increase in an inflation forecast brings about a 75% rise in laughter, according to an American University PhD student, who studied transcripts of the Federal Open Market Committee at the Federal Reserve. Laughter usually comes in response to witticisms during a meeting at the time of the inflation forecast, and has been shown to be a mechanism for coping with the stress of a perceived threat."
IamTheRealMike writes "In the wake of Bruce Schneier's statements that he no longer trusts the constants selected for elliptic curve cryptography, people have started trying to reproduce the process that led to those constants being selected ... and found it cannot be done. As background, the most basic standard elliptic curves used for digital signatures and other cryptography are called the SEC random curves (SEC is 'Standards for Efficient Cryptography'), a good example being secp256r1. The random numbers in these curve parameters were supposed to be selected via a "verifiably random" process (output of SHA1 on some seed), which is a reasonable way to obtain a nothing up my sleeve number if the input to the hash function is trustworthy, like a small counter or the digits of PI. Unfortunately it turns out the actual inputs used were opaque 256 bit numbers, chosen ad-hoc with no justifications provided. Worse, the curve parameters for SEC were generated by head of elliptic curve research at the NSA — opening the possibility that they were found via a brute force search for a publicly unknown class of weak curves. Although no attack against the selected values are currently known, it's common practice to never use unexplainable magic numbers in cryptography standards, especially when those numbers are being chosen by intelligence agencies. Now that the world received strong confirmation that the much more obscure and less widely used standard Dual_EC_DRBG was in fact an NSA undercover operation, NIST re-opened the confirmed-bad standards for public comment. Unless NIST/the NSA can explain why the random curve seed values are trustworthy, it might be time to re-evaluate all NIST based elliptic curve crypto in general."
judgecorp writes "Britain's Channel 4 screened Blackout, a drama about a cyber-attack which crashes the national power grid. The show was silly enough, with a strong message about the dangers of lighting candles in such a situation, but the Twitter responses were even better. The show terrified some viewers who apparently didn't realise that their TV screen was powered by the grid."
Barence writes "The wild man of antivirus software, John McAfee, has been forced to deny reports of his own death. Internet reports circulating last night claimed the hard-living security software entrepreneur had died after one too many drink and drugs sessions. However, McAfee has taken to his Twitter account in the past few hours to assure everyone that he's still alive, and hasn't mislaid his sense of humour.'"I felt great when I went to bed last night. I had such great plans,' tweeted McAfee, alongside a link to a report — now hastily withdrawn — that claimed he had died from an overdose."
Freshly Exhumed writes "A security blogger, acknowledging that the NSA methodically ranks communications on the basis of their 'foreignness' factor to determine candidacy for prolonged retention proposes, is proposing '...an opportunity for us on the civilian front to aid the NSA by voluntarily indicating citizenship on all our networked communications. Here, we define the syntax and semantics of X-No-Wiretap, a HTTP header-based mechanism for indicating and proving citizenship to well-intentioned man-in-the-middle parties. It is inspired by the enormously successful RFC 3514 IPv4 Security Flag and HTTP DNT header.'"
cartechboy writes "Usually, smartphones are a problem for humans transporting themselves — a massive distraction. But Honda is working on a way to use smartphones to protect pedestrians from bad drivers. The 'V2P' (Vehicle-to-Pedestrian) tech uses a smartphone's GPS and dedicated short range communications (DSRC) to warn drivers when a pedestrian say, steps out from behind a parked car. So the driver sees a dashboard message warning of an approaching pedestrian (which also notes whether said walker is using phone, texting or listening to music — which sort of shouldn't matter as you, uhm, brake.) The lucky pedestrian gets an alert on their phone telling them there's a DSRC-equipped car coming – that's if, say, actually looking at the road isn't telling you that already." The lesson here is to always keep your eyes on your smartphone when you're crossing the street. If you get an alert, stop where you are and read it! Relatedly, there's another phone app in development to help you avoid gunfire.
Anita Hunt (lissnup) writes "Hot on the heels of Dave Cameron's demands to make such content universally 'opt-in,' the Independent reports 'Westminster computers were prevented from accessing sex sites 114,844 times last November alone and on 55,552 in April, while February saw just 15 and in June officials blocked 397 attempts.' No explanation has been offered for the variation, although it would be interesting to know if the fall in the number of recorded/reported attempts coincides with the date the FOI request was filed."
MojoKid writes "The smartwatch race heated up today, as Samsung showed its Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the Samsung Unpacked event in Berlin. Samsung's take on such a device has been eagerly anticipated. Samsung announced the Galaxy Gear as a companion to the new Galaxy Note 3 (or any Galaxy device). The Gear lets users make and receive calls hands-free with the built-in speaker, and it notifies you of any incoming texts, emails, and alerts and gives you a preview of whatever is coming through. A Smart Relay feature will display the full content on your Galaxy device. The Galaxy Gear sports an 800MHz processor and 1.63-inch display (320x320) AMOLED display with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a speaker, and two microphones with noise cancellation. There's a 1.9MP camera with a BSI sensor and autofocus, and it connects via Bluetooth 4.0 + BLE. Sensors include an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Samsung plans to launch the smartwatch in October for $300."