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  • Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

    New submitter rvw sends word that Bill Gates has posted a review of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, an acclaimed book by economist Thomas Piketty about how income equality is a necessary result of unchecked capitalism. Gates, one of the most successful capitalists of our time, agrees with Piketty's most important conclusions. That said, he also finds parts of the book to be flawed and incomplete, but says Piketty has started vital debate on these issues. Gates writes, Yes, some level of inequality is built in to capitalism. As Piketty argues, it is inherent to the system. The question is, what level of inequality is acceptable? And when does inequality start doing more harm than good? That's something we should have a public discussion about, and it's great that Piketty helped advance that discussion in such a serious way. ... I agree that taxation should shift away from taxing labor. It doesn't make any sense that labor in the United States is taxed so heavily relative to capital. It will make even less sense in the coming years, as robots and other forms of automation come to perform more and more of the skills that human laborers do today. But rather than move to a progressive tax on capital, as Piketty would like, I think we'd be best off with a progressive tax on consumption.

    832 comments | 5 days ago

  • Book Review: Scaling Apache Solr

    First time accepted submitter sobczakt writes We live in a world flooded by data and information and all realize that if we can't find what we're looking for (e.g. a specific document), there's no benefit from all these data stores. When your data sets become enormous or your systems need to process thousands of messages a second, you need to an environment that is efficient, tunable and ready for scaling. We all need well-designed search technology. A few days ago, a book called Scaling Apache Solr landed on my desk. The author, Hrishikesh Vijay Karambelkar, has written an extremely useful guide to one of the most popular open-source search platforms, Apache Solr. Solr is a full-text, standalone, Java search engine based on Lucene, another successful Apache project. For people working with Solr, like myself, this book should be on their Christmas shopping list. It's one of the best on this subject. Read below for the rest of sobczakt's review.

    42 comments | about a week ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Best Books On the Life and Work of Nikola Tesla?

    An anonymous reader writes The internet is full of interesting nuggets of info about Nikola Tesla's life and scientific exploits: The time a young Tesla improved an electric motor for Edison, and Edison simply would not pay Tesla the monetary reward he had promised him earlier. The friction between Tesla and wealthy industrialist J.P. Morgan, and Tesla's friendship with (kinder) industrialist George Westinghouse. The 2 different times Tesla's main laboratory burned to the ground. The time a Tesla lab experiment reportedly caused a small earthquake to trigger in lower Manhattan. Tesla's (never quite fulfilled) dream of transmitting electricity across great distances without using wires or cables, etc. All this fascinating stuff, and more, about Tesla's life is out there, mostly in shortish snippets — and sometimes woven into outright conspiracy theories — on the internet for anyone to examine. Now to my question: What are the best books to read to get a fuller picture of Nikola Tesla's life and work? Preferably something well researched and factually accurate. Are there any good documentaries or movies (apart from David Bowie playing a wizard-like Tesla in "The Prestige")? Why is Thomas Edison so well known and covered in education/popular culture, and the equally prolific and ingenious Tesla a "mysterious and ghostly figure" by comparison?

    140 comments | about two weeks ago

  • FBI Says It Will Hire No One Who Lies About Illegal Downloading

    wabrandsma writes with this excerpt from The State Hornet, the student newspaper at Sacramento State On Monday, Sacramento State's Career Center welcomed the FBI for an informational on its paid internship program where applications are now being accepted. One of the highly discussed topics in the presentation was the list of potential traits that disqualify applicants. This list included failure to register with selective services, illegal drug use including steroids, criminal activity, default on student loans, falsifying information on an application and illegal downloading music, movies and books. FBI employee Steve Dupre explained how the FBI will ask people during interviews how many songs, movies and books they have downloaded because the FBI considers it to be stealing. During the first two phases of interviews, everything is recorded and then turned into a report. This report is then passed along to a polygraph technician to be used during the applicant's exam, which consists of a 55-page questionnaire. If an applicant is caught lying, they can no longer apply for an FBI agent position. (Left un-explored is whether polygraph testing is an effective way to catch lies.)

    578 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Adobe Spies On Users' eBook Libraries

    New submitter stasike writes: Nate at the-digital-reader.com reports that Adobe is spying on any computer that runs Digital Editions 4, the newest version of Adobe's Epub app. They are collecting data about what users are reading, and they're also searching users' computers for e-book files and sending that information too. That includes books not indexed in DE4. All of the data is sent in clear text. This is just another example of DRM going south.

    150 comments | about two weeks ago

  • James Bamford Releases DOJ Report On NSA Warrantless Wiretapping From 1976

    maynard writes: Investigative Journalist James Bamford knows a thing or two more than most about the National Security Agency. Across his more than three-decade long career digging muck out of exactly those places U.S. government intelligence agencies preferred he wouldn't tread, he's published five books and over eighty press reports. At times, this made for some tense confrontations with intelligence officials from an organization once so secret even few members of Congress knew of its existence.

    For the last several years public focus on the NSA has been on Bush and Obama era reports of illicit domestic spying. From allegations of warrantless wiretapping reported by James Risen in 2005 to secret documents released to journalists at The Guardian by Edward Snowden a year ago. And smack in the middle, Bamford's 2012 revelation of the existence of a huge, exabyte-capable data storage facility then under construction in Bluffdale, Utah.

    Given all this attention on recent events, it might come as a surprise to some that almost forty years ago Senator Frank Church convened a congressional committee to investigate reports of unlawful activities by U.S. intelligence agencies, including illegal domestic wiretapping by the NSA. At the time, Church brought an oversight magnifying glass over what was then half-jokingly referred to as "No Such Agency." And then, like today, James Bamford was in the thick of it, with a Snowden-like cloak-and-dagger game of spy-vs-journalist. It all began by giving testimony before the Church Committee. Writing yesterday in The Intercept, Bamford tells his firsthand historical account of what led him to testify as a direct witness to NSA's wiretapping of domestic communications decades ago and then details the events that led to the publication of his first book The Puzzle Palace back in 1982.
    Read on for more.

    54 comments | about three weeks ago

  • UK Copyright Reforms Legalize Back-Ups, Protect Parody

    rastos1 writes A law has come into effect that permits UK citizens to make copies of CDs, MP3s, DVDs, Blu-rays and e-books. Consumers are allowed to keep the duplicates on local storage or in the cloud. While it is legal to make back-ups for personal use, it remains an offence to share the data with friends or family. Users are not allowed to make recordings of streamed music or video from Spotify and Netflix, even if they subscribe to the services. Thirteen years after iTunes launched, it is now legal to use it to rip CDs in the UK. Just as interesting are the ways that the new UK law explicitly, if imperfectly, protects parody.

    68 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Statistician Creates Mathematical Model To Predict the Future of Game of Thrones

    KentuckyFC writes One way of predicting the future is to study data about events in the past and build a statistical model that generates the same pattern of data. Statisticians can then use the model to generate data about the future. Now one statistician has taken this art to new heights by predicting the content of the soon-to-be published novels in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. The existing five novels are the basis of the hit TV series Game of Thrones. Each chapter in the existing books is told from the point of view of one of the characters. So far, 24 characters have starred in this way. The statistical approach uses the distribution of characters in chapters in the first five books to predict the distribution in the forthcoming novels. The results suggest that several characters will not appear at all and also throw light on whether one important character is dead or not, following an ambiguous story line in the existing novels. However, the model also serves to highlight the shortcomings of purely statistical approaches. For example, it does not "know" that characters who have already been killed off are unlikely to appear in future chapters. Neither does it allow for new characters that might appear. Nevertheless, this statistical approach to literature could introduce the process of mathematical modelling to more people than any textbook.

    127 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Ask Slashdot: How To Keep Students' Passwords Secure?

    First time accepted submitter bigal123 writes My son's school is moving more and more online and is even assigning Chromebooks or iPads to students (depending on the grade). In some cases they may have books, but the books stay home and they have user names and passwords to the various text book sites. They also have user names/passwords to several other school resources. Most all the sites are 3rd party. So each child may have many user names (various formats) and passwords. They emphasized how these elementary kids needed to keep their passwords safe and not share them with other kids. However when asked about the kids remembering all the user names and passwords the school said they are going to have the kids write them down in a notebook. This seemed like a very bad practice for a classroom and to/from home situation. Do others have good password management suggestions or suggestions for a single sign-on process (no/minimal cost) for kids in school accessing school provisioned resources?

    191 comments | about a month ago

  • Interviews: David Saltzberg Answers Your Questions About The Big Bang Theory

    As the science consultant for The Big Bang Theory for the past seven seasons, Dr. David Saltzberg makes sure the show gets its science right. A few weeks ago, you had the chance to ask him about his work on the show and his personal scientific endeavors. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.

    106 comments | about a month ago

  • ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

    mpicpp sends this news from CNN: In swaths of Syria now controlled by ISIS, children can no longer study math or social studies. Sports are out of the question. And students will be banned from learning about elections and democracy. Instead, they'll be subjected to the teachings of the radical Islamist group. And any teacher who dares to break the rules "will be punished." ISIS revealed its new educational demands in fliers posted on billboards and on street poles. The Sunni militant group has captured a slew of Syrian and Iraqi cities in recent months as it tries to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, spanning Sunni parts of both countries. Books cannot include any reference to evolution. And teachers must say that the laws of physics and chemistry "are due to Allah's rules and laws." Update: 09/18 16:26 GMT by S : CNN has pulled the story over "concerns about the interpretation of the information provided." They promise to update it when they get the facts straight.

    981 comments | about a month ago

  • Hewlett-Packard Pleads Guilty To Bribing Officials in Russia, Poland, and Mexico

    Charliemopps writes Hewlett-Packard and three subsidiaries pleaded guilty Thursday to paying bribes to foreign officials in Russia, Mexico and Poland and agreed to pay $108 million in criminal and regulatory penalties. For over 10 years Hewlett-Packard kept 2 sets of books to track slush-funds they used to bribe government officials for favorable contracts. From the article: According to the Justice Department, HP Poland paid more than $600,000 in cash bribes and gifts, travel and entertainment to the the police agency's director of information and communications technology. HP Poland gave the government official bags filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash, provided the official with HP desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices and other products and took the official on a leisure trip to Las Vegas, which included a private tour flight over the Grand Canyon, the Justice Department said. The foreign officials probably weren't reporting the income on their taxes, either.

    110 comments | about a month ago

  • Publishers Gave Away 123 Million Books During World War Two

    An anonymous reader writes Information wants to be free? During the Second World War, it actually was. Publishers took advantage of new printing technologies to sell crates of cheap, paperback books to the military for just six cents a copy, at a time when almost all the other books they printed cost more than two dollars. The army and the navy shipped them to soldiers and sailors around the world, giving away nearly 123 million books for free. Many publishers feared the program would destroy their industry, by flooding the market with free books and destroying the willingness of consumers to pay for content. Instead, it fueled a postwar publishing boom, as millions of GIs got hooked on good books, and proved willing to pay for more. It's a freemium model, more than 70 years ago.

    121 comments | about a month ago

  • Top EU Court: Libraries Can Digitize Books Without Publishers' Permission

    jfruh writes The top European court has ruled that libraries have the right to digitize the contents of the books in their collections, even if the copyright holders on those books don't want them to. There's a catch, though: those digitized versions can only be accessed on dedicated terminals in the library itself. If library patrons want to print the book out or download it to a thumb drive, they will need to pay the publisher.

    102 comments | about a month ago

  • Book Review: Architecting the Cloud

    benrothke writes Most books about cloud computing are either extremely high-level quasi-marketing tomes about the myriad benefits of the cloud without any understanding of how to practically implement the technology under discussion. The other type of cloud books are highly technical references guides, that provide technical details, but for a limited audience. In Architecting the Cloud: Design Decisions for Cloud Computing Service Models, author Michael Kavis has written perhaps the most honest book about the cloud. Make no doubt about it; Kavis is a huge fan of the cloud. But more importantly, he knows what the limits of the cloud are, and how cloud computing is not a panacea. That type of candor makes this book an invaluable guide to anyone looking to understand how to effective deploy cloud technologies. Keep reading below for the rest of Ben's review.

    75 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Could Tech Have Stopped ISIS From Using Our Own Heavy Weapons Against Us?

    JonZittrain writes: This summer, ISIS insurgents captured Mosul — with with it, three divisions' worth of advanced American military hardware. After ISIS used it to capture the Mosul Dam, the U.S. started bombing its own pirated equipment. Could sophisticated military tanks and anti-aircraft missiles given or sold to countries like Iraq be equipped with a way to disable them if they're compromised, without opening them up to hacking by an enemy?

    We already require extra authentication at a distance to arm nuclear weapons, and last season's 24 notwithstanding, we routinely operate military drones at a distance. Reportedly in the Falkland Islands war, Margaret Thatcher was able to extract codes to disable Argentina's Exocet missiles from the French. The simplest implementation might be like the proposal for land mines that expire after a certain time. Perhaps tanks — currently usable without even an ignition key — could require a renewal code digitally signed by the owning country to be entered manually or received by satellite every six months or so.

    I'm a skeptic of kill switches, especially in consumer devices, but still found myself writing up the case for a way to disable military hardware in the field. There are lots of reasons it might not work — or work too well — but is there a way to improve on what we face now?

    448 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • E-Books On a $20 Cell Phone

    An anonymous reader writes "Moon+ Pro Reader, FBReader, Kindle, you name it--many popular Android e-book apps can run on a smartphone available for $20 and shipping. The trick is to respect the device's limits and keep down the number of apps you install. This fun isn't for eager multitaskers. On the bright side, the $20 phone can do Acapela TTS, includes a 4GB memory card and works with cards of up to 32GB--easily enough for scads of pre-loaded books. Plus, the WiFi is great. And the screen of 3.2 inches isn't that much smaller than the 3.5 inchers on the older iPads. What could cell phone e-reading mean in the many "book deserts" of the U.S.? And how about the U.K. where miserly pols are closing libraries even though the Guardian says "a third of UK children do not own a single book and three-quarters claim never to read outside school"? The smartphone post on the LibraryCity site tells how librarians and others could start "cell phone book clubs" to promote the discovery and absorption of books as well as smarter use of technology."

    116 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • XKCD Author's Unpublished Book Remains a Best-Seller For 5 Months

    destinyland writes Tuesday is the official release date for the newest book from the geeky cartoonist behind XKCD — yet it's already become one of Amazon's best-selling books. Thanks to a hefty pre-order discount, one blogger notes that it's appeared on Amazon's list of hardcover best-sellers since the book was first announced in March, and this weekend it remains in the top 10. Randall Munroe recently announced personal appearances beginning this week throughout the U.S. (including Cambridge, New York, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area) — as well as a Google Hangout on Friday, September 12. Just two weeks ago he was also awarded the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story — and now many of his appearances are already sold out.

    169 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Feynman Lectures Released Free Online

    Anna Merikin writes In 1964, Richard Feynman delivered a series of seven hour-long lectures at Cornell University which were recorded by the BBC, and in 2009 (with a little help from Bill Gates), were released to the public. The three-volume set may be the most popular collection of physics books ever written, and now the complete online edition has been made available in HTML 5 through a collaboration between Caltech (where Feyman first delivered these talks, in the early 1960s) and The Feynman Lectures Website. The online edition is "high quality up-to-date copy of Feynman's legendary lectures," and, thanks to the implementation of scalable vector graphics, "has been designed for ease of reading on devices of any size or shape; text, figures and equations can all be zoomed without degradation." Volume I deals mainly with mechanics, radiation and heat; Volume II with electromagnetism and matter; and Volume III with quantum mechanics. Last year we told you when Volume I was made available. It's great to see the rest added.

    70 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Japanese Publishers Lash Out At Amazon's Policies

    Nate the greatest writes: Amazon is in a bitter contract fight with Hachette in the U.S. and Bonnier in Germany, and now it seems the retail giant is also in conflict with publishers in Japan. Amazon has launched a new rating system in Japan which gives preference to publishers with larger ebook catalogs (and publishers that pay higher fees), leading to complaints that Amazon is using its market power to blackmail publishers. Where have we heard that complaint before?

    The retailer is also being boycotted by a handful of Japanese publishers who disagree with Amazon offering a rewards program to students. The retailer gives students 10% of a book's price as points, which can be used to buy more books. This skirts Japanese fixed-price book laws, so several smaller publishers pulled their books from Amazon in protest. Businesses are out to make money and not friends, but Amazon sure is a lightning rod for conflicts, isn't it?

    113 comments | about 2 months ago

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