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Submission + - Study Reveals Bot-On-Bot Editing Wars Raging On Wikipedia's Pages (theguardian.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A new study from computer scientists has found that the online encyclopedia is a battleground where silent wars have raged for years. Since Wikipedia launched in 2001, its millions of articles have been ranged over by software robots, or simply “bots," that are built to mend errors, add links to other pages, and perform other basic housekeeping tasks. In the early days, the bots were so rare they worked in isolation. But over time, the number deployed on the encyclopedia exploded with unexpected consequences. The more the bots came into contact with one another, the more they became locked in combat, undoing each other’s edits and changing the links they had added to other pages. Some conflicts only ended when one or other bot was taken out of action. The findings emerged from a study that looked at bot-on-bot conflict in the first ten years of Wikipedia’s existence. The researchers at Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute in London examined the editing histories of pages in 13 different language editions and recorded when bots undid other bots’ changes. While some conflicts mirrored those found in society, such as the best names to use for contested territories, others were more intriguing. Describing their research in a paper entitled Even Good Bots Fight in the journal Plos One, the scientists reveal that among the most contested articles were pages on former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, the Arabic language, Niels Bohr and Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the most intense battles played out between Xqbot and Darknessbot which fought over 3,629 different articles between 2009 and 2010. Over the period, Xqbot undid more than 2,000 edits made by Darknessbot, with Darknessbot retaliating by undoing more than 1,700 of Xqbot’s changes. The two clashed over pages on all sorts of topics, from Alexander of Greece and Banqiao district in Taiwan to Aston Villa football club.

Submission + - A.T.F. Filled Secret Bank Account With Millions From Shadowy Cigarette Sales (nytimes.com)

schwit1 writes: “Working from an office suite behind a Burger King in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren’t known smugglers, but rather agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The operation, not authorized under Justice Department rules, gave agents an off-the-books way to finance undercover investigations and pay informants without the usual cumbersome paperwork and close oversight, according to court records and people close to the operation.”

Laws and rules are for the little people.

Submission + - Is Slack Safe? (fastcompany.com)

An anonymous reader writes: If you work in media (or most other tech-oriented jobs), chances are you've come across Slack—or you find yourself using it every waking hour. It's an easy way to chat and collaborate with fellow employees. But amid increasing concerns about press freedom in the U.S. and elsewhere, are chatroom apps like Slack really the best way for journalists—and anyone else with sensitive information—to communicate? Reporters, editors, and privacy advocates aren't so sure.

Submission + - At the End, Obama Administration Gave NSA Broad New Powers (pjmedia.com) 1

Tulsa_Time writes: This story, from the Jan. 12, 2017, edition of the New York Times, was little-remarked upon at the time, but suddenly has taken on far greater significance in light of current events:

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

Submission + - Astronomers discover 60 new planets including 'super Earth' (nypost.com)

schwit1 writes:

An international team of astronomers has found 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earth’s solar system, including a rocky “super Earth.”

The experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114.

One planet in particular, Gliese 411b, has been generating plenty of attention. Described as a “hot super Earth with a rocky surface,” Gliese 411b is located in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third-nearest planetary system to the Sun, according to the U.K.’s University of Hertfordshire, which participated in the research. Gliese 411b (also known as GJ 411b or Lalande 21185) orbits the star Gliese 411 (or GJ 411).

Despite the “super Earth” label, Dr. Mikko Tuomi from University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics told Fox News that Gliese 411b is too hot for life to exist on its surface.


Submission + - Nearly 56,000 bridges called structurally deficient (usatoday.com)

schwit1 writes:

More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group.

“America’s highway network is woefully underperforming,” said Alison Premo Black, the group’s chief economics who conducted the analysis. “It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization.”


Submission + - Its time to have a talk about Slashdot technology 3

hackwrench writes: On top of not fixing the problems that Slashdot has. the new owners have added an annoying ad that persistently blocks actual usage on every load.
Slashdot also frequently launches users some distance into comments for no explicable reason.
It doesn't do Unicode.
The new interface is horrendous. Fortunately it can be switched off.
Features that used to be free are now subscription-only items.
Let's all hash it out. Not just technological issues but editorial grievances as well. And how many of us are on a moderation ban list for some long forgotten stupid reason?

Submission + - Mozilla to Drop Support for All NPAPI Plugins in Firefox 52, Except Flash (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Starting with March 7, when Mozilla is scheduled to release Firefox 52, all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash, which Mozilla plans to support for a few more versions. This means technologies such as Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs won't work on Firefox.

These plugins once helped the web move forward, but as time advanced, the Internet's standards groups developed standalone Web APIs and alternative technologies to support most of these features without the need of special plugins.

The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be deprecated in ESR 53. A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.

Submission + - Are Gates, Musk Being "Too Aggressive" With AI Concerns? (xconomy.com)

gthuang88 writes: Bill Gates and Elon Musk are sounding the alarm “too aggressively” over artificial intelligence’s potential negative consequences for society, says MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson. The co-author of “The Second Machine Age” argues it will take at least 30 to 50 years for robots and software to eliminate the need for human laborers. In the meantime, he says, we should be investing in education so that people are prepared for the jobs of the future, and are focused on where they still have an advantage over machines---creativity, empathy, leadership, and teamwork.

Submission + - Ms. Pac-Man turns 35 (fastcompany.com)

harrymcc writes: Ms. Pac-Man--the most popular arcade game in U.S. history--was officially unveiled on February 3, 1982. Unlike Pac-Man, which was created in Japan by Namco, it was designed by a Boston-area startup called General Computer Corp., founded by MIT dropouts. (They originally intended to call the game "Crazy Otto" before selling it to Midway, Pac-Man's U.S. distributor.) In Fast Company's oral history of Ms. Pac-Man's origin, her creators tell their remarkable tale.

Submission + - Plex gets Amazon Alexa compatibility (betanews.com)

BrianFagioli writes: Never known to stand on its laurels, Plex is constantly improving, and today, it gets a really exciting new feature. Users of the service that are also owners of Amazon Echo or other compatible devices can now leverage the Alexa voice assistant to interact with Plex.

"The Plex Alexa experience begins with a quick setup. First, tell Alexa to enable the Plex skill. Link your account and then ask her to 'open Plex' to start using the skill. From there, you can have her ask Plex to play whatever media you like on any of your players. You can ask for suggestions, 'ask Plex what's On Deck,' and more! To learn more about the Plex Alexa skill, head over to https://www.plex.tv/alexa and enjoy the future!" says Plex.

Submission + - Blueprint for building a quantum computer released by Sussex U researcher (phys.org)

haruchai writes: "An international team, led by a scientist from the University of Sussex, have today unveiled the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer, the most powerful computer on Earth

The work features a new invention permitting actual quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules in order to obtain a fully modular large-scale machine capable of reaching nearly arbitrary large computational processing powers.

Prof Hensinger said: "The availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society as a whole. Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK's strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen."

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"Anyone attempting to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin." -- John Von Neumann

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