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Submission + - What are the FLOSS community's answers to Siri and AI? (

jernst writes: A decade ago, we in the free and open-source community could build our own versions of pretty much any proprietary software system out there, and we did. Publishing, collaboration, commerce, you name it. Some apps were worse, some were better than closed alternatives, but much of it was clearly good enough to use every day.

But is this still true? For example, voice control is clearly going to be a primary way we interact with our gadgets in the future. Speaking to an Amazon Echo-like device while sitting on my couch makes a lot more sense than using a web browser. Will we ever be able to do that without going through somebody’s proprietary silo like Amazon’s or Apple’s? Where are the free and/or open-source versions of Siri, Alexa and so forth?

The trouble, of course, is not so much the code, but in the training. The best speech recognition code isn’t going to be competitive unless it has been trained with about as many millions of hours of example speech as the closed engines from Apple, Google and so forth have been. How can we do that?

The same problem exists with AI. There’s plenty of open-source AI code, but how good is it unless it gets training and retraining with gigantic data sets? We don’t have those in the FLOSS world, and even if we did, would we have the money to run gigantic graphics card farms 24×7? Will we ever see truly open AI that is not black-box machinery guarded closely by some overlord company, but something that “we can study how it works, change it so it does our computing as we wish” and all the other values embodied in the Free Software Definition?

Who has a plan, and where can I sign up to it?

Submission + - mechanics of the rejection of science ( 2

Layzej writes: Science strives for coherence. For example, the findings from climate science form a highly coherent body of knowledge that is supported by many independent lines of evidence. Those who reject climate science often rely on several mutually contradictory ideas. Hence, claims that the globe “is cooling” can coexist with claims that the “observed warming is natural” and that “the human influence does not matter because warming is good for us.” A recent study examines this behavior at the aggregate level, but gives many examples where contradictory ideas are held by the same individual, and sometimes are presented within a single publication.

The common denominator among contrarian positions is the conviction that climate change either does not exist or is not human caused, and that either way it does not present a risk (or if it does, then adaptation will deal with the problem). In a nutshell, the opposition to GHG emission cuts is the unifying and coherent position underlying all manifestations of climate science denial. Climate science denial is therefore perhaps best understood as a rational activity that replaces a coherent body of science with an incoherent and conspiracist body of pseudo-science for political reasons and with considerable political coherence and effectiveness.

Submission + - Lenovo denies claims it plotted with Microsoft to block Linux installs (

kruug writes: Several users noted certain new Lenovo machines' SSDs are locked in a RAID mode, with AHCI removed from the BIOS. Windows is able to see the SSD while in RAID mode due to a proprietary driver, but the SSD is hidden from Linux installations — for which such a driver is unavailable.

Speaking to The Register today, a Lenovo spokesperson claimed the Chinese giant "Does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems on its devices and is fully committed to providing Linux certifications and installation guidance on a wide range of products."

Complaints on Lenovo's forums suggest that users have been unable to install GNU/Linux operating systems on models from the Yoga 900S to the Ideapad 710S, with one 19-page thread going into detail about the BIOS issue and users' attempts to work around it.

Submission + - Brain's graphic processors repurposed for math in visually impaired (

Earthquake Retrofit writes: A functional MRI study of 17 people blind since birth found that areas of visual cortex became active when the participants were asked to solve algebra problems, a team from Johns Hopkins reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Link in article.)

"And as the equations get harder and harder, activity in these areas goes up in a blind person," says Marina Bedny, an author of the study and an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

In 19 sighted people doing the same problems, visual areas of the brain showed no increase in activity.

"That really suggests that yes, blind individuals appear to be doing math with their visual cortex," Bedny says.

Submission + - Dry ice -- the new weapon against rats ( 1

mi writes: Earlier this week, USA TODAY observed Chicago sanitation department workers at one of the city’s oldest parks scoop chunks of smoking dry ice into a burrow before quickly covering the entry and exit holes with dirt and newspaper to stop any rats from escaping as the -109.3-degree Fahrenheit gas dissipated. Sanitation workers say they treat burrows during morning hours, when rats are less active and most likely to be huddled inside the burrows.

The asphyxiated dead rats then decompose in place and out-of-sight of city denizens who count the disease-carrying vermin among the vilest of indignities of urban living.

“We are seeing 60% fewer burrows in areas where we are using the dry ice,” said Charles Williams, Chicago’s streets and sanitation commissioner. “It’s more environmentally friendly, and it’s very humane on the rodents as well.”

Humane or not, what is so especially "undignified" about rats? What makes them worse, than, for example, cats, deer or wild horses?

Submission + - Homo Deus – How data will destroy human freedom (

Strudelkugel writes: At the heart of this spellbinding book is a simple but chilling idea: human nature will be transformed in the 21st century because intelligence is uncoupling from consciousness. We are not going to build machines any time soon that have feelings like we have feelings: that’s consciousness. Robots won’t be falling in love with each other (which doesn’t mean we are incapable of falling in love with robots). But we have already built machines – vast data-processing networks – that can know our feelings better than we know them ourselves: that’s intelligence. Google – the search engine, not the company – doesn’t have beliefs and desires of its own. It doesn’t care what we search for and it won’t feel hurt by our behaviour. But it can process our behaviour to know what we want before we know it ourselves. That fact has the potential to change what it means to be human.

Submission + - Kim Dotcom To Revive Megaupload; Claims Bitcoin Will Spike As A Result (

SonicSpike writes: The controversial entrepreneur Kim Dotcom said last month that he was preparing to relaunch Megaupload, the file-sharing site that U.S. and New Zealand authorities dramatically shut down in 2012, with bitcoins being involved in some way.

This system will be called Bitcache and Dotcom claimed its launch would send the bitcoin price soaring way above its current $575 value.

The launch of Megaupload 2.0 will take place on Jan. 20, 2017, he said, urging people to “buy bitcoin while cheap, like right now, trust me.” Bitcoin’s value fell sharply this week after a $72 million theft from the Hong Kong exchange Bitfinex, though it subsequently bounced back to a degree.

Crucially, Dotcom said the Bitcache system would overcome bitcoin’s scaling problems. “It eliminates all blockchain limitations,” he claimed.

Submission + - RIP John Ellenby, godfather of the modern laptop (

fragMasterFlash writes: John Ellenby, a British-born computer engineer who played a critical role in paving the way for the laptop computer, died on Aug. 17 in San Francisco. He was 75.

Mr. Ellenby’s pioneering work came to fruition in the early 1980s, after he founded Grid Systems, a company in Mountain View, Calif. As chief executive, he assembled an engineering and design team that included the noted British-born industrial designer William Moggridge.

The team produced a clamshell computer with an orange electroluminescent flat-panel display that was introduced as the Compass. It went to market in 1982. The Compass is now widely acknowledged to have been far ahead of its time.

Submission + - SPAM: Atomic bombs and oil addiction herald Earth's new epoch: The Anthropocene

sciencehabit writes: Although the Anthropocene is already a widely popular shorthand for humanity's global environmental reach, for the past 7 years a small group of scientists has been mulling whether to propose the term as a formal span of geologic time. This month, the group voted to propose the Anthropocene as the Holocene's successor, with its start at the industrial boom that followed World War II. Before a formal submission can go to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the bureaucracy that governs geologic time, researchers must still identify a stratigraphic section rich in geochemical markers of this postwar transition. They have a high bar to clear: Many stratigraphers are skeptical of their initiative and fear being drawn into a political statement.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Malibu Media stay lifted, motion to quash denied

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes: In the federal court for the Eastern District of New York, where all Malibu Media cases have been stayed for the past year, the Court has lifted the stay and denied the motion to quash in the lead case, thus permitting all 84 cases to move forward. In his 28-page decision (PDF), Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke accepted the representations of Malibu's expert, one Michael Patzer from a company called Excipio, that in detecting BitTorrent infringement he relies on "direct detection" rather than "indirect detection", and that it is "not possible" for there to be misidentification.

Submission + - Robert Heinlein Honored as Famous Missourian with Bust in State Capital writes: The Joplin Globe reports that Missouri lawmakers have inducted science fiction writer Robert Heinlein to the Hall of Famous Missourians to a cheering crowd of fans who call themselves "Heinlein's children." State Rep. T.J. Berry says Heinlein encouraged others to "strive for the stars, for the moon" and "for what's next." Donors to the Heinlein Society and the Heinlein Prize Trust paid for a bronze bust of Heinlein, which will be displayed in the House Chamber at the Capitol where it will join 45 other Missourians honored with busts in the hall including Mark Twain, Dred Scott and Ginger Rogers, as well as more controversial Missourians such as Rush Limbaugh. In 2013 Missourians were asked to vote on who would go into the Hall. Heinlein received more than 10,000 votes. Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri on July 7, 1907 and grew up in Kansas City. "Our devotion to this man must seem odd to those outside of the science fiction field, with spaceships and ray guns and bug-eyed monsters," Heinlein Society President Keith Kato said. "But to Heinlein's children, the writing was only the beginning of doing."

Submission + - Adblock Plus Offers Workaround To block Facebook Ads Again 1

An anonymous reader writes: On Tuesday, Facebook announced it will begin showing ads in desktop browsers “for people who currently use ad blocking software.” Adblock Plus, the most popular ad blocking tool with over 500 million downloads, responded the same day by calling the move “a dark path against user choice.” Today, just two days later, Adblock Plus is offering a workaround that users can implement themselves now, and which will automatically take effect for all users in “a couple of days.”

Submission + - DARPA wants to build very low frequency wireless systems (

coondoggie writes: Wireless transmitters that operate at very or ultra low frequencies (0.330 kHz) typically require some big antenna complexes to handle their communications. Scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said they are interested looking to eliminate that issue and develop smaller physical structures that could handle new long-distance communication applications.

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