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Submission + - Malaysian Police: VX nerve gas killed N Korea leader's brother in airport attack (reuters.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Malaysian police have announced their finding that Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jon Un, was killed by assassins using VX nerve gas in an attack in the busy Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian authorities plan to decontaminate the airport and other sites visited by the attackers. Police are holding the two female attackers, one of whom was affected by the chemical agent, as well as two other men. They are seeking seven more North Koreans connected to the case. VX is the most toxic of the nerve gasses and the UN has declared it a weapon of mass destruction. The manufacture and stockpiling of more than 100 grams of VX per year is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. It has no commercial uses. The Malaysian police are trying to discover if it was smuggled into their country, or manufactured there. The Malaysian government has recalled its ambassador to North Korea for consultation. North Korea is blaming the death of Kim Jong Nam on Malaysia. North Korea is believed to have major stockpiles of chemical weapons, and is alleged to conduct experiments on prisoners and social undesirables.

Submission + - Craigslist Is Ugly, Janky, Old Schooland Unbeatable (backchannel.com)

mirandakatz writes: Craigslist has endured for more than two decades, offering a service that is simply "good enough"—but not great. It facilitates peer-to-peer interactions, but does little to ensure that those transactions go off seamlessly. Enter the myriad startups trying to disrupt the “moving used crap around” space. At Backchannel, Justin Peters takes a deep look at one such startup—AptDeco—which, like Craigslist, allows users to list and view ads for used furniture—but unlike Craigslist, it also processes payments, coordinates pickup and delivery, and serves as a buffer between buyer and seller. Writes Peters, "everyone only has about a dozen major websites filed away in their brains. Once a site has made its way onto this list, it takes a lot to dislodge it: It has to start sucking, or change drastically, in order to lose its spot." Can AptDeco unseat Craigslist from one of those 12 spots?

Submission + - IMDb Is Shutting Down Its Long-Running, Popular Message Boards After 16 Years (polygon.com)

An anonymous reader writes: After 16 years, IMDb’s message boards and the ability to privately message other users is shutting down, with many members of the community openly mourning the loss of the section. IMDb, which stands from the Internet Movie Database, is one of the world’s biggest databases for film and television. According to the company, there is information on more than 4.1 million titles and 7.7 million personalities available on the site as of January 2017. The message board, which was introduced in 2001, reportedly remains one of the most used services on the website, but despite that, the company is getting ready to shut it down, citing a desire to foster a positive environment and serve its audience the best way it can. “After in-depth discussion and examination, we have concluded that IMDb's message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide,” a statement on the site reads. “The decision to retire a long-standing feature was made only after careful consideration and was based on data and traffic. Because IMDb's message boards continue to be utilized by a small but passionate community of IMDb users, we announced our decision to disable our message boards on February 3, 2017 but will leave them open for two additional weeks so that users will have ample time to archive any message board content they'd like to keep for personal use. During this two-week transition period, which concludes on February 19, 2017, IMDb message board users can exchange contact information with any other board users they would like to remain in communication with (since once we shut down the IMDb message boards, users will no longer be able to send personal messages to one another).”

Submission + - 4 Forgotten Code Constructs: Time to Revisit the Past?

mikeatTB writes: Some things in the programming world are so easy to misuse that most people prefer to never use them at all. These are the programming equivalent of a flamethrower: You might rarely be in the position to really need one, but every once in a while it turns out that you need to take down a forest. In that case, there’s no easier way than going Rambo on your codebase. That's where a few of the old, forgotten code constructs come into play. Creative use of features such as goto, multiple inheritance, eval, and recursion may be just the right solution for experienced developers when used in the right situation. Is it time to resurrect these four forgotten code constructs?

Submission + - The Brief, Bumbling Tech Careers of Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, and Will.i.am (backchannel.com)

mirandakatz writes: For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars. In 2013, Blackberry hired Alicia Keys. In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8. These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.

Submission + - Coursera Quietly Shifting Strategy - Inspired by Netflix and LinkedIn (edsurge.com)

jyosim writes: MOOC providers may finally be figuring out a business model. For Coursera, which has raised more than $100-mil in financing and works with the world's top-name colleges, the latest idea is to shift from a directory of a courses to a more full-service career-building tool.

It recently shifted to subscriptions, and now it's adding diagnostic and match-making tools to point users (it calls them "learners") to a mix of courses — both for hard technical skills and soft skills and business strategy.

But can the company entice professionals to think of career development the way fitness buffs think of gym memberships?

Submission + - The 32-Bit Dog Ate 16 Million Kids' CS Homework

theodp writes: Tech backed-Code.org explains in a blog post that it encountered technical difficulties Friday that temporarily made the work of 16 million K-12 students who have used the nonprofit's Code Studio offering disappear. Code.org CTO Jeremy Stone gave the kids an impromptu lesson on the powers of two with his explanation of why The Cloud ate their homework: "This morning, at 9:19 am PST, coding progress by students stopped saving on Code Studio, and the issue briefly brought the Code Studio site down. We brought the site back up shortly thereafter but student progress was still not being saved, and instead students saw an outdated message about the Hour of Code from December. [...] The way we store student coding activity is in a table that until today had a 32-bit index. What this means is that the database table could only store 4 billion rows of coding activity information. We didn’t realize we were running up to the limit, and the table got full. We have now made a new student activity table that is storing progress by students. With the new table, we are switching to a 64-bit index which will hold up to 18 quintillion rows of information. On the plus side, this new table will be able to store student coding information for millions of years. On the down side, until we’ve moved everything over to the new table, some students’ code from before today may temporarily not appear, so please be patient with us as we fix it."

Submission + - Trump's problem: Will China, Japan, Europe or U.S. build first exascale system? (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: The global race to develop an exascale supercomputer may be a Sputnik moment for President Donald Trump. The new administration has said nothing about its plans for supercomputing. Will it participate in the global race to develop an exascale supercomputer? The supercomputing race is going to turn very real for the Trump administration. China and Japan both have plans to deliver an exascale system by 2020. Europe is well in the race and has targeted 2022, but it could deliver something earlier. The U.S. plan had a delivery date of 2023-24 — until a few weeks ago. In the final weeks of the Obama administration, a new plan emerged to produced the nation's first exascale system by 2021. The U.S. Department of Energy's Exascale Computing Project "is now a 7-year project, not a 10-year project, but it will cost more," said Paul Messina, a computer scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory and head of the project. But the Hill recently reported that the Trump administration is considering cutting the Dept. of Energy's advance computing budget to 2008 levels.

Submission + - Possibly fatal blow against a patent trolls. (computerworld.com)

whoever57 writes: Patent trolls rely on the fact that they have no assets and, if they lose a case, they can fold the company that owned the patent and sued, thus avoiding paying any the defendant's legal bills. However, in a recent case, the judge has told the winning defendant that it can claim its legal bills from the law firm. The decision is based on the plaintiff's law firm using a contract under which it would take a portion of any judgment, making it more than just counsel, but instead a partner with the plaintiff. This will likely result in law firms wanting to be paid up front, instead of offering a contingency-based fee.

Submission + - Oracle begins aggressively pursuing fees for the Java SE

rsilvergun writes: The Register reports that Oracle has begun aggressively pursuing fees for the Java SE product line.

Oracle bought Java with Sun Microsystems in 2010 but only now is its License Management Services (LMS) division chasing down people for payment, we are told by people familiar with the matter.

Oracle had previously sued Google for the use of Java in Android but had lost that case. While that case is being appealed it remains to be seen if the latest push to monetize Java is a response to that loss or part of a broader strategy on Oracle's part.

Submission + - Republican National Committee Security Foiled Russian Hackers (wsj.com)

OverTheGeicoE writes: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that, according to U.S. officials who have been briefed on the attempted intrusion, Russian hackers unsuccessfully tried to penetrate the computer networks of the Republican National Committee using the same techniques that allowed them to infiltrate its Democratic counterpart. (Warning: article may be paywalled.) According to the article, "electronic filters" at RNC blocked phishing e-mails from being delivered to their intended RNC recipient, a former employee. Similar attacks against the Democratic National Committee helped reveal a treasure trove of damaging e-mails.

The article states that the attacks against the RNC were "less aggressive and much less persistent". Why? Was this disparity of effort evidence of Russian bias against the Democrats, or were Republicans simply better protected by superior information security practices?

Submission + - Student facing legal threats for publishing video of professor's anti-Trump rant (cbslocal.com)

mi writes: When the "Human Sexuality" teacher called Trump's victory "an Act of Terrorism" in classroom, a student began recording her rant. Now that he posted the video online, he is facing legal threats from the professor's union:

"This is an illegal recording without the permission of the instructor. The student will be identified and may be facing legal action.


Submission + - Dinosaur Tail With Feathers Found Perfectly Preserved In Amber (bbc.com)

dryriver writes: The BBC reports: The tail of a feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years. Examination of the specimen suggests the tail was chestnut brown on top and white on its underside. "This is the first time we've found dinosaur material preserved in amber," co-author Ryan McKellar, of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, told the BBC News website. Co-author Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, added: "It's amazing to see all the details of a dinosaur tail — the bones, flesh, skin, and feathers — and to imagine how this little fellow got his tail caught in the resin, and then presumably died because he could not wrestle free."

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