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Java

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Java 8 Features? (infoworld.com) 30

New submitter liveedu shares with us a report from InfoWorld: When Java 8 was released two years ago, the community graciously accepted it, seeing it as a huge step toward making Java better. Its unique selling point is the attention paid to every aspect of the programming language, including JVM (Java Virtual Machine), the compiler, and other help-system improvements. Java is one of the most searched programming languages according to TIOBE index for July 2016, where Java ranks number one. Its popularity is also seen on LiveCoding, a social live coding platform for engineers around the world, where hundreds and thousands of Java projects are broadcasted live. InfoWorld highlights five Java 8 features for developers in their report: lambda expressions, JavaScript Nashorn, date/time APIs, Stream API and concurrent accumulators. But those features only scratch the surface. What makes Java 8 amazing in your opinion? What are your favorite Java 8 features that help you write high quality code? You can view the entire list of changes made to the programming language here.
Communications

Study: 33% of Facebook Users Want Less News In Their Feed (businessinsider.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Business Insider: According to a survey of 526 random Facebook users conducted by Spot.IM, 33% of Facebook users in the U.S. want to see fewer news articles in their feeds. The survey comes at a time when Facebook is desperately trying to improve the quality of publisher articles that gain traction on its platform. Here are some important takeaways from the study: Older people are likelier to want less news in their Facebook feeds. While 33% of all respondents indicated there was too much news and shared links in their Facebook feeds, the majority of this group was individuals aged 30 or older. Those 30-44 (37%), 45-59 (36%), and 60+ (36%) said they want less news in their feeds. Young Facebook users enjoy consuming news on social media. While middle-aged and older Facebook users don't like seeing news in their feeds, those aged 18-29 were much more interested and excited to see even more news articles on Facebook. 32% of respondents in this group wanted to see more news, while just 21% wanted less. This is an encouraging sign for publishers who want to reach a new generation of news consumers. The majority of people don't care about how much news they see on Facebook. Overall, 51% of all surveyed said they simply don't care if more or less news shows up in their Facebook feeds. A study conducted in June by Columbia University says that 59% of people don't even read the articles they share.
Facebook

Facebook Lets Users Prompt Danger Alert 17

Facebook's Safety Check is a handy service that allows people to let their friends and family know they are okay in an event of emergency. The social giant announced the next major step for this feature. From a BBC report: Facebook is to enable members to trigger its Safety Check service themselves if a dangerous event occurs near them. Until now, it could only be activated by Facebook staff. Safety Check lets people notify their friends and family that they are safe in the aftermath of a natural disaster or human conflict in their area. The recent earthquake in Italy marked the 25th time this year that it has been triggered. Safety notifications have reached one billion people in 2016 alone, the firm said. In the previous two years combined (2014 and 2015) it had only been activated 11 times. The Safety Check Facebook team uses three criteria to decide whether the tool should be switched on -- how many human lives are affected, the extent of that impact and the duration of the event.
Facebook

Facebook Is Telling the World It's Not a Media Company, But It Might Be Too Late (businessinsider.com) 46

Let's get some facts straight. The vast majority of people now get their news from social media. Facebook has become one of the largest platforms for media companies. Not only does it send people to publications, it also offers outlets Instant Articles platform, essentially acting as a publisher. But when CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked on Monday if Facebook is a media company, he took some time thinking about it, and said "no." From a Business Insider article: Zuckerberg went on to explain how Facebook is a technology company that gives media companies tools and a platform, not a media company itself. This isn't the first time we've heard him spout a similar rhetoric recently, because it has been a particularly thorny year for Facebook and the news business. Zuckerberg maintains that it isn't a media company because it doesn't create content. Sure, Facebook isn't making journalism (what many people think of when they hear "media company") but it is hosting, distributing, and monetizing content just like a media company. And even what Zuckerberg said -- "When you think about a media company, you know, people are producing content, people are editing content, and that's not us" -- has been more or less true this year depending on how you define producing and editing.
Social Networks

Facebook Removes Fake Article About Megyn Kelly From Trending Topics (theverge.com) 111

Less than a week after Facebook announced that it is changing the way it handles the Trending Topics section on the social networking website, a fake article about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was found trending on Facebook. The article, headlined "Breaking: Fox News Exposes Traitor Megyn Kelly, Kicks Her Out for Backing Hillary" comes from a conspiracy theory website, which has more than 200,000 likes on Facebook. Its Megyn Kelly story was the topic of discussion for many across the world. The article is obviously fake. The other cited source for this trending topic was an outlet called "Conservating101"
Social Networks

'Social Media ID, Please?' Proposed US Law Greeted With Anger (computerworld.com) 220

The U.S. government announced plans to require some foreign travelers to provide their social media account names when entering the country -- and in June requested comments. Now the plan is being called "ludicrous," an "all-around bad idea," "blatant overreach," "desperate, paranoid heavy-handedness," "preposterous," "appalling," and "un-American," reports Slashdot reader dcblogs: That's just a sampling of the outrage. Some 800 responded to the U.S. request for comments about a proposed rule affecting people traveling from "visa waiver" countries to the U.S., where a visa is not required. This includes most of Europe, Singapore, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand... In a little twist of irony, some critics said U.S. President Obama's proposal for foreign travelers is so bad, it must have been hatched by Donald Trump.
"Travelers will be asked to provide their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and whatever other social ID you can imagine to U.S. authorities," reports Computer World. "It's technically an 'optional' request, but since it's the government asking, critics believe travelers will fear consequences if they ignore it..."
Privacy

Eavesdropping On Tinder: Researcher Demonstrates Man-in-the-Middle Attacks (hert.org) 19

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Security expert Anthony Zboralski posted on HERT a social engineering attack for Tinder that lets you perform a man-in-the-middle attack against unsuspecting users. Zboralski says, "Not only we can eavesdrop on the conversation of two strangers, we can also change their reality." The attack can easily be extended to SMS, Whatsapp, iMessage and voice.
"At some point people exchange phone numbers and the Tinder convo stops. That's not a problem..." Zboralski explains, suggesting more ways to continue the man-in-the-middle exploits..

His article drew a response from Tinder, arguing they "employ several manual and automated mechanisms" to deter fake and duplicate profiles. But while they're looking for ways to improve, "ultimately, it is unrealistic for any company to positively validate the real-world identity of millions of users while maintaining the commonly expected level of usability."
Communications

Twitter Is Working On Anti-Harassment Keyword Filtering Tool, Says Report (bloomberg.com) 193

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has made it a top priority for company to limit hateful conduct. In late December 2015, for example, the company changed its rules to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time. A new report says Twitter is working to further curb the rise of hateful conduct as it is "working on a keyword-based tool that will let people filter the posts they see, giving users a more effective way to block out harassing and offensive tweets." Bloomberg reports: "The San Francisco-based company has been discussing how to implement the tool for about a year as it seeks to stem abuse on the site, said the people [familiar with the matter], who asked not to be identified because the initiative isn't public. By using keywords, users could block swear words or racial slurs, for example, to screen out offenders. The filtering tool could eventually become a moderator for any kind of content, the people said. For example, users could block a hashtag about an event they don't care to read about."
Facebook

Facebook Says Humans Won't Write Its Trending Topic Descriptions Anymore (recode.net) 76

Following a former Facebook journalist's report that the company's workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's Trending Topics section, the company has been in damage control mode. First, the company announced it would tweak its Trending Topics section and revamp how editors find trending stories. Specifically, they will train the human editors who work on Facebook's trending section and abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Most recently, Facebook added political scenarios to its orientation training following the concerns. Now, it appears that Facebook will "end its practice of writing editorial descriptions for topics, replacing them with snippets of text pulled from news stories." Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode: It's been more than three months since Gizmodo first published a story claiming Facebook's human editors were suppressing conservative news content on the site's Trending Topics section. Facebook vehemently denied the report, but has been dealing with the story's aftermath ever since. On Friday, Facebook announced another small but notable change to Trending Topics: Human editors will no longer write the short story descriptions that accompany a trending topic on the site. Instead, Facebook is going to use algorithms to "pull excerpts directly from stories." It is not, however, cutting out humans entirely. In fact, Facebook employees will still select which stories ultimately make it into the trending section. An algorithm will surface popular stories, but Facebook editors will weed out the inappropriate or fake ones. "There are still people involved in this process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality," the company's blog reads.
Android

Facebook's WhatsApp Data Gambit Faces Federal Privacy Complaint (vice.com) 94

Sam Gustin, writing for Motherboard: Facebook's decision to begin harvesting data from its popular WhatsApp messaging service provoked a social media uproar on Thursday, and prompted leading privacy advocates to prepare a federal complaint accusing the tech titan of violating US law. On Thursday morning, WhatsApp, which for years has dined out on its reputation for privacy and security, announced that it would begin sharing user phone numbers with its Menlo Park-based parent company in an effort "to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences." Consumer privacy advocates denounced the move as a betrayal of WhatsApp's one billion users -- users who had been assured by the two companies that "nothing would change" about the messaging service's privacy practices after Facebook snapped up the startup for a whopping $19 billion in 2014. "WhatsApp users should be shocked and upset," Claire Gartland, Consumer Protection Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a leading US consumer advocacy group, told Motherboard. "WhatsApp obtained one billion users by promising that it would protect user privacy. Both Facebook and WhatsApp made very public promises that the companies would maintain a separation. Those were the key selling points of the deal."
Social Networks

Researchers Create Algorithm That Diagnoses Depression From Your Instagram Feed (inverse.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Harvard University's Andrew Reece and the University of Vermont's Chris Danforth crafted an algorithm that can correctly diagnose depression, with up to 70 percent accuracy, based on a patient's Instagram feed alone. After a careful screening process, the team analyzed almost 50,000 photos from 166 participants, all of whom were Instagram users and 71 of whom had already been diagnosed with clinical depression. Their results confirmed their two hypotheses: first, that "markers of depression are observable in Instagram user behavior," and second, that "these depressive signals are detectable in posts made even before the date of first diagnosis." The duo had good rationale for both hypotheses. Photos shared on Instagram, despite their innocent appearance, are data-laden: Photos are either taken during the day or at night, in- or outdoors. They may include or exclude people. The user may or may not have used a filter. You can imagine an algorithm drooling at these binary inputs, all of which reflect a person's preferences, and, in turn, their well-being. Metadata is likewise full of analyzable information: How many people liked the photo? How many commented on it? How often does the user post, and how often do they browse? Many studies have shown that depressed people both perceive less color in the world and prefer dark, anemic scenes and images. The majority of healthy people, on the other hand, prefer colorful things. [Reece and Danforth] collected each photo's hue, saturation, and value averages. Depressed people, they found, tended to post photos that were more bluish, unsaturated, and dark. "Increased hue, along with decreased brightness and saturation, predicted depression," they write. The researchers found that happy people post less than depressed people, happy people post photos with more people in them than their depressed counterparts. and that depressed participants were less likely to use filters. The majority of "healthy" participants chose the Valencia filter, while the majority of "depressed" participants chose the Inkwell filter. Inverse has a neat little chart embedded in their report that shows the usage of Instagram filters between depressed and healthy users.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Under Tim Cook: More Socially Responsible, Less Visionary (cnn.com) 152

Let's talk about Apple, unarguably one of the most remarkable companies on the face of the earth. (Remarkable doesn't necessarily mean great -- it just means that the company is something worth making a remark). You can like it, or hate it, but you can simply not ignore Apple. But what's the occasion, you ask? It's been five years since Tim Cook took over as Apple CEO. (Editor's note: auto-playing video ahead, which may annoy you) Under his leadership, Apple has grown to become the world's most successful company, doubling the stock price and registering a staggering 84 percent growth in its net worth. Media outlets are abuzz with articles, analysis, and over-analysis of Tim Cook's Apple today. Some excerpts from a CNN article: Apple's culture has changed noticeably, both for the better and the worse. [...] If Jobs put a dent in the universe through Apple's coveted products, Cook is making his mark by highlighting the importance of social efforts: LGBT rights, philanthropy, corporate diversity, renewable energy and improving manufacturing conditions abroad. Under Cook's leadership, Apple finally began matching charitable contributions from employees, which had long been a sore spot for staff. Apple had 110,000 full-time employees as of the end of September 2015, nearly doubling from the 60,400 employees it reported having in September 2011, shortly after Cook took over, according to annual filings with the SEC. [...] There's now a feeling among some Apple insiders that the company is just running the same product playbook that Jobs created in his final years at the helm. "For four or five years, the playbook is the same that's been done," says Amit Sharma, a former Apple exec on the online store team. But, he adds, "just because everybody is looking for new doesn't mean it's not working."
Communications

Facebook Is Testing Autoplaying Video With Sound (thenextweb.com) 152

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is testing a "feature" that autoplays video clips on your feed with sound. It's not a very big test, but there's a possibility the company could roll it out to a larger group of users. The Next Web reports: "The company is currently trying two methods of getting people to watch video with sound in Australia: the aforementioned autoplaying, and an unmute button on the lower right corner of videos, like Vine videos on a desktop. The latter certainly sounds more reasonable; the last thing you want is to be checking Facebook quickly during a meeting or class, and suddenly have your phone blaring out an advert because you happened to stop on a video. Thankfully, you can disable the 'feature' from your settings, but the point is there's nothing wrong with the current opt-in approach, especially considering how many companies are embracing video captioning, and that Facebook even has its own auto-caption tool for advertisers." "We're running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable Australia. "For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we're running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook."
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet (techdirt.com) 85

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."
Canada

Ashley Madison Security Protocols Violated Canada, Austrialia Privacy Laws (www.cbc.ca) 29

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said Tuesday that the Canada-based online dating and social networking service Ashely Madison used inadequate privacy and security technology while marketing itself as a discreet and secure way for consenting adults to have affairs. CBC.ca reports: "In a report Tuesday, the privacy watchdog says the Toronto-based company violated numerous privacy laws in Canada and abroad in the era before a massive data breach exposed confidential information from their clients to hackers. The hack stole correspondence, identifying details and even credit card information from millions of the site's users. The resulting scandal cost the company about a quarter of its annual revenues from irate customers who demanded refunds and cancelled their accounts. Working with a similar agency in Australia, the privacy group says the company knew that its security protocols were lacking but didn't do enough to guard against being hacked. The company even adorned its website with the logo of a 'trusted security award' -- a claim the company admits it fabricated." The report found that "poor habits such as inadequate authentication processes and sub-par key and password management practices were rampant at the company" and that "much of the company's efforts to monitor its own security were 'focused on detecting system performance issues and unusual employee requests for decryption of sensitive user data.'" What's more is that Ashley Madison continued to store personal information of its users even after some of which had deleted or deactivated their account(s). These people then had their information included in databases published online after the hack.
Facebook

Facebook Knows Your Political Preferences (businessinsider.com) 183

Facebook knows a lot more about its users than they think. For instance, the New York Times reports, the company is categorizing its users as liberal, conservative, or moderate. These details are valuable for advertisers and campaign managers, especially ahead of the election season. From a BusinessInsider report: For some, Facebook is able to come to conclusions about your political leanings easily, if you mention a political party on your page. For those that are less open about politics on social media, Facebook makes assumptions based on pages you like. As The New York Times explained, if you like Ben and Jerry's Facebook page and most of the other people that like that page identify as liberal, Facebook might assume you too are liberal.
The Internet

Internaut Day Might Not Be the Web Anniversary You're Looking For (fortune.com) 70

David Meyer, reporting for Fortune: The web arguably went public before August 23, 1991. Social media users are enthusiastically celebrating "Internaut Day" on Tuesday. They're thanking Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, for first providing public access to it on this day in 1991, precisely a quarter of a century back. The only problem is that the supposed importance of Internaut Day doesn't seem to be supported by much evidence. Berners-Lee submitted his seminal proposal for a new information management system to CERN on March 12, 1989, a date which Berners-Lee celebrates as the birthday of the web. The building blocks were specified and written up by October 1990, and the first webpage went live in December that year. So when somebody celebrates the "Internaut Day" today, it really doesn't seem like the right occasion. The report adds: According to Wikipedia, that's when "new users could [first] access" the web -- and that's what a gazillion news stories on Tuesday are supposedly celebrating. But it doesn't square with what the Web Foundation and CERN say.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

US Customs and Border Protection Wants To Know Who You Are On Twitter (eff.org) 348

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electronic Frontier Foundation: U.S. border control agents want to gather Facebook and Twitter identities from visitors from around the world. But this flawed plan would violate travelers' privacy, and would have a wide-ranging impact on freedom of expression -- all while doing little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism. A proposal has been issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect social media handles from visitors to the United States from visa waiver countries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the proposal and has commented on it individually and as part of a larger coalition. "CBP specifically seeks 'information associated with your online presence -- Provider/Platform -- Social media identifier' in order to provider DHS 'greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections' for 'vetting purposes,'" reports EFF. "In our comments, we argue that would-be terrorists are unlikely to disclose social media identifiers that reveal publicly available posts expressing support for terrorism." They say this plan "would unfairly violate the privacy of innocent travelers," would cause "innocent travelers" to "engage in self-censorship, cutting back on their online activity out of fear of being wrongly judged by the U.S. government," and would lead to a "slippery slope, where CBP would require U.S. citizens and residents returning home to disclose their social media handles, or subject both foreign visitors and U.S. persons to invasive device searches at ports of entry with the intent of easily accessing any and all cloud data."
Twitter

Twitter Announces New Blocking and Filtering Features (wired.co.uk) 118

Twitter just began rolling out "new ways to control your experience," promising the two new features "will give you more control over what you see and who you interact with on Twitter." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from Wired UK: First up, notification settings will allow those using Twitter on the web or on desktop to limit the notifications they receive for @ mentions, RTs, and other interactions to just be from people they follow. The feature can be turned on through the notifications tab. Twitter is also expanding its quality filter -- also accessible through notifications. "When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior," the company's product manager Emil Leong said in a blog post.

In December 2015, the company changed its rules to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time, while back in February last year, Twitter's then-CEO Dick Costolo admitted the network needed to improve how it handled trolls and abuse. In a leaked memo he said: "I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd. There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing."

Meanwhile, the Twitter account of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was hacked on Saturday.
AI

Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working (theverge.com) 191

The U.S. will phase out private prisons, a move made possible by fewer and shorter sentences for drug offenses, reports the BBC. But when it comes to reducing arrests for violent crimes, police officers in Chicago found themselves resorting ineffectively to a $2 million algorithm which ultimately had them visiting people before any crime had been committed. schwit1 quotes Ars Technica: Struggling to reduce its high murder rate, the city of Chicago has become an incubator for experimental policing techniques. Community policing, stop and frisk, "interruption" tactics --- the city has tried many strategies. Perhaps most controversial and promising has been the city's futuristic "heat list" -- an algorithm-generated list identifying people most likely to be involved in a shooting.

The hope was that the list would allow police to provide social services to people in danger, while also preventing likely shooters from picking up a gun. But a new report from the RAND Corporation shows nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, it indicates that the list is, at best, not even as effective as a most wanted list. At worst, it unnecessarily targets people for police attention, creating a new form of profiling.

The police argue they've updated the algorithm and improved their techniques for using it. But the article notes that the researchers began following the "heat list" when it launched in 2013, and "found that the program has saved no lives at all."

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