Jah-Wren Ryel writes with news that a few CS folks are working on a way to present opposing viewpoints without angering the reader. From the article: "Computer scientists have discovered a way to number-crunch an individual's own preferences to recommend content from others with opposing views. The goal? To burst the 'filter bubble' that surrounds us with people we like and content that we agree with. A recent example of the filter bubble at work: Two people who googled the term 'BP.' One received links to investment news about BP while the other received links to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, presumably as a result of some recommendation algorithm." From the paper's abstract: "We found that recommending topically relevant content from authors with opposite views in a baseline interface had a negative emotional effect. We saw that our organic visualization design reverts that effect. We also observed significant individual differences linked to evaluation of recommendations. Our results suggest that organic visualization may revert the negative effects of providing potentially sensitive content."
Navigate with confidence through the cloud. Sign up for the SlashCloud Update newsletter now.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Last month, a company working on behalf of the publisher Random House, asked Google to remove links to a free copy of Stephen King's Carrie from search results. Google complied for three out of the four requested links, but didn't remove Kim Dotcom's new website Mega.co.nz as requested — for even if Mega is hosting pirated copies of Carrie, they sure aren't on the homepage. But leaving that link up was an exception to the rule. More and more, copyright owners and the organizations they employ are cutting off where the websites and the public meet — the search engine. Google's transparency reports show that requests to remove links to copyrighted material rose steadily in 2013. The search giant received 6.5 million requests during the week of November 18, 2013, which is over twice as many as the same week a year ago. Google said it complies with 97 percent of requests." I know someone who had his original work taken down by a Warner Bros DMCA bot (without recourse, naturally, since only lawyers are people nowadays).
Bennett Haselton has in years previous made some canny suggestions for tech-oriented holiday gifts; you can look forward to another one. Today, though, Bennett writes about one cool toy in particular: a kit to make your own creepy robot: "For over 20 years, Dutch inventor Theo Jansen has been building truck-sized sculptures that crab-walk eerily across the beach, using only the power of the wind to turn fan blades that power the gears and crankshafts and enable the walking motion. This kit allows you to assemble your own working model that 'walks' sideways across your desktop." Read on for the rest.
An anonymous reader writes "Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since much of Indonesia's telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore. The NSA has a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan. Japan had refused to take part."
Trailrunner7 writes "Buried underneath the ever-growing pile of information about the mass surveillance methods of the NSA is a small but significant undercurrent of change that's being driven by the anger and resentment of the large tech companies that the agency has used as tools in its collection programs. The changes have been happening since almost the minute the first documents began leaking out of Fort Meade in June. When the NSA's PRISM program was revealed this summer, it implicated some of the larger companies in the industry as apparently willing partners in a system that gave the agency 'direct access' to their servers. Officials at Google, Yahoo and others quickly denied that this was the case, saying they knew of no such program and didn't provide access to their servers to anyone and only complied with court orders. More recent revelations have shown that the NSA has been tapping the links between the data centers run by Google and Yahoo, links that were unencrypted. That revelation led a pair of Google security engineers to post some rather emphatic thoughts on the NSA's infiltration of their networks. It also spurred Google to accelerate projects to encrypt the data flowing between its data centers. These are some of the clearer signs yet that these companies have reached a point where they're no longer willing to be participants, witting or otherwise, in the NSA's surveillance programs."
mahiskali writes with this interesting news via the EFF's Deep Links "The new Renault Zoe comes with a 'feature' that absolutely nobody wants. Instead of selling consumers a complete car that they can use, repair, and upgrade as they see fit, Renault has opted to lock purchasers into a rental contract with a battery manufacturer and enforce that contract with digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that can remotely prevent the battery from charging at all. This coming on the heels of the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership IP Rights Chapter leak certainly makes you wonder how much of that device (car?) you really own. Perhaps Merriam-Webster can simply change the definition of ownership."
ccguy writes "It seems that while Google could really care less about your site and has no real interest in hacking you, their automated bots can be used to do the heavy lifting for an attacker. In this scenario, the bot was crawling Site A. Site A had a number of links embedded that had the SQLi requests to the target site, Site B. Google Bot then went about its business crawling pages and following links like a good boy, and in the process followed the links on Site A to Site B, and began to inadvertently attack Site B."
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "A Harvard biologist was able to get an intentionally flawed paper accepted for publication by a number of open-access academic journals, included that had supposedly been vetted for quality by advocates of open access. It seems the problem could be mitigated by consolidating journals within a field, so that there are much fewer of them, publishing much more articles per journal -- so the review processes take the same amount of labor, but you have fewer journals that have to be audited for procedural honesty." Read on for the rest, including his idea to solve the problem of fraudulent submissions (or even just sub-par science) through simplification.
starglider29a writes "Yesterday, a website I maintain that has a Twitter presence encountered an 'unsafe' warning when clicking on the tweets. 'This link has been flagged as potentially harmful.' After scanning the site and its database, then checking with Google and third-party site scanners, I found no evidence of harm. At noon, The Atlantic posted an article which describes the same issue with the Philadelphia City Paper. 'Perhaps most frustrating of all is that Twitter has not been particularly responsive to the paper's plight.' If the warnings are incorrect, how does Twitter justify this libel?"
Many of today's adult video gamers grew up with a gaming industry that was still trying to figure itself out. In the early-to-mid 1990s, most of the gaming genres we're familiar with today were still indistinct, half-formed concepts waiting for that one game necessary to define them. Thus, many players sat up and took notice when a relatively unknown company named Blizzard managed to exemplify not one, but two separate types of game in quick succession. Warcraft: Orcs and Humans put real-time strategy on the map, and Diablo set the standard for action RPGs. The two games immediately elevated Blizzard to the top of the industry, and many gamers wondered how one studio could put out two games like these so quickly. As it turns out, it wasn't one studio; it was a blending of two very different but extremely creative groups who had a passion for making video games. In Stay Awhile and Listen, author David Craddock lays out the history of the two groups, from how they first got into the gaming business to their eventual success launching now-legendary games. Read on for our review of the book.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Government whistleblower Edward Snowden, exiled in Russia after releasing top-secret documents about the National Security Agency's surveillance activities to the press, has a new job: tech support. Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the Associated Press that his client starts work Nov. 1 for a "major" Russian Website, which he declined to name. In June, Snowden—a former CIA employee who worked as a contractor for the NSA—began feeding an enormous pile of classified charts and documents about federal surveillance programs to The Guardian and other newspapers. Many of those documents suggested that the NSA, ordinarily tasked with intercepting communications from terrorists and foreign governments, collects massive amounts of information on ordinary Americans, which in turn ignited a firestorm of controversy. The Snowden revelations have continued into this week, with The Washington Post reporting that the NSA has aggressively targeted Google and Yahoo servers. Snowden's documents suggest that the agency has figured out how to tap the links connecting the two tech giants' datacenters to the broader Web. Google told the Post that it was "troubled" by the report. A Yahoo spokesperson insisted that the company had "strict controls in place to protect the security of our datacenters" and that "we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.""
barlevg writes "The Washington Post reports that, according to documents obtained from Edward Snowden, through their so-called 'MUSCULAR' initiative, the National Security Agency has exploited a weakness in the transfers between data centers, which Google and others pay a premium to send over secure fiber optic cables. The leaked documents include a post-it note as part of an internal NSA Powerpoint presentation showing a diagram of Google network traffic, an arrow pointing to the Google front-end server with text reading, 'SSL Added and Removed Here' with a smiley face. When shown the sketch by The Post and asked for comment, two engineers with close ties to Google responded with strings of profanity." The Washington Post report is also summarized at SlashBI. Also in can't-trust-the-government-not-to-spy news, an anonymous reader writes: "According to recent reports, the National Security Agency collects 'one-end foreign' Internet metadata as it passes through the United States. The notion is that purely domestic communications should receive greater protection, and that ordinary Americans won't send much personal information outside the country. A researcher at Stanford put this hypothesis to the test... and found that popular U.S. websites routinely pass browsing activity to international servers. Even the House of Representatives website was sending traffic to London. When the NSA vacuums up international Internet metadata, then, it's also snooping on domestic web browsing by millions of Americans."
An anonymous reader writes "Oracle is exploring silicon photonics, an optical technology drawing widespread interest, as a potential weapon in the battle against data-center power consumption. Advances in CPU and memory design could boost efficiency dramatically over the next few years. When they do, the interconnects among components, servers and switches will effectively become the power hogs of the data center, according to Ashok Krishnamoorthy, architect and chief technologist in photonics at Oracle. Oracle isn't often associated with networking and may not even manufacture or sell the technologies it's now studying. But as a big player in computing and storage, it could benefit from fostering a future technology that helps make faster, more efficient data centers possible."
judgecorp writes "Facebook's links to the NSA's PRISM program could be investigated in Ireland, thanks to the persistence of some Austrian law students. The group has challenged Facebook in Europe as it has its regional headquarters there for tax reasons. 'The [Data Protection Commissioner] simply wanted to get this hot potato off his table instead of doing his job. But when it comes to the fundamental rights of millions of users and the biggest surveillance scandal in years, he will have to take responsibility and do something about it,' said the leader of the student group, Max Schrems."
Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes "A recent webinar for newsletter publishers suggested that if you want your emails not to be blocked as 'spam,' you paradoxically have to engage in some practices that contribute to the erosion of users' privacy, including some tactics similar to what many spammers are doing. The consequences aren't disastrous, but besides being a loss for privacy, it's another piece of evidence that free-market forces do not necessarily lead to spam filters that are optimal for end users." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
Charliemopps writes that the Washington Post reports "The NSA is collecting hundreds of millions of contact lists from all over the world, many of them belonging to Americans. The intercept them from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. The NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world's e-mail and instant messaging accounts." According to the leaked document (original as a PDF), the NSA is intercepting some chat protocols and at least IMAP, and then analyzing the data for buddy list information and inbox contents.
theodp writes "Q. What do you get when Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch put their heads together? A. inBloom (aka SLC), the Gates Foundation-bankrolled and News Corp. subsidiary-implemented collaboration whose stated mission is to 'inform and involve each student and teacher with data and tools designed to personalize learning.' It's noble enough sounding, but as the NY Times reports, the devil is in the details when it comes to deciding who sees students' academic and behavioral data. inBloom execs maintain their service has been unfairly maligned, saying it is entirely up to school districts or states to decide which details about students to store in the system and with whom to share them. However, a video on inBloom's Web site suggesting what this techno-utopia might look like may give readers of 1984 some pause. In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly. Later, she moves to a student named Tyler and selects an e-book 'for at-risk students' for his further reading. The video follows Tyler home, where his mom logs into a parent portal for an update on his status — attendance, 86%; performance, 72% — and taps a button to send the e-book to play on the family TV. And another scene shows a geometry teacher reassigning students' seating assignments based on their 'character strengths', moving a green-coded female student ('actively participates: 98%') next to a red-and-yellow coded boy ('shows enthusiasm: 67%'). The NYT also mentions a parent's concern that school officials hoping to receive hefty Gates Foundation Grants may not think an agreement with the Gates-backed inBloom completely through."
An anonymous reader writes "LLVM's libc++ standard library (an alternative to GNU libstdc++) now has full support for C++1y, which is expected to become C++14 next year. Code merged this week implements the full C++1y standard library, with support for new language features in the Clang compiler frontend nearly complete." GCC has some support for the soon-to-be standard too. The C++ standards committee is expected to produce a more or less final draft in just a few weeks. The LLVM and GCC C++14 status pages both have links to the proposals for the new features.
First time accepted submitter gbrambilla writes "A problem every system administrator has to face sooner or later is to improve the performance of the infrastructure that he administers. This is especially true if the infrastructure is a Citrix XenApp farm that publishes applications to the users, that starts complaining as soon as those applications become slow. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to publish a new ERP application and suddenly all the hosted applications started to suffer performance problems... after some basic tests I looked on Amazon for an help and found the book I'm reviewing: Citrix XenApp Performance Essentials, by Luca Dentella, is a practical guide that helps system administrators to identify bottlenecks, solve performance problems and optimize XenApp farms thanks to best-practices and real-world examples." Read below for the rest of gbrambilla's review.