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Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 11:17pd writes: Claire Cain Miller notes at the NY Times that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs. When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. "We're going to enter a world in which there's more wealth and less need to work," says Erik Brynjolfsson. "That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there's no guarantee this will work out."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Michael Hall: On Democratic Republics and Meritocratic Oligarchies

Planet UBUNTU - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 11:00pd

There’s a saying in American political debate that is as popular as it is wrong, which happens when one side appeals to our country’s democratic ideal, and the other side will immediately counter with “The United States is a Republic, not a Democracy”. I’ve noticed a similar misunderstanding happening in open source culture around the phrase “meritocracy” and the negatively-charged “oligarchy”. In both cases, though, these are not mutually exclusive terms. In fact, they don’t even describe the same thing.


One of these terms describes where the authority to lead (or govern) comes from. In US politics, that’s the term “republic”, which means that the authority of the government is given to it by the people (as opposed to divine-right, force of arms, of inheritance). For open source, this is where “meritocracy” fits in, it describes the authority to lead and make decisions as coming from the “merit” of those invested with it. Now, merit is hard to define objectively, and in practice it’s the subjective opinion of those who can direct a project’s resources that decides who has “merit” and who doesn’t. But it is still an important distinction from projects where the authority to lead comes from ownership (either by the individual or their employer) of a project.


History can easily provide a long list of Republics which were not representative of the people. That’s because even if authority comes from the people, it doesn’t necessarily come from all of the people. The USA can be accurately described as a democracy, in addition to a republic, because participation in government is available to (nearly) all of the people. Open source projects, even if they are in fact a meritocracy, will vary in what percentage of their community are allowed to participate in leading them. As I mentioned above, who has merit is determined subjectively by those who can direct a project’s resources (including human resource), and if a project restricts that to only a select group it is in fact also an oligarchy.

Balance and Diversity

One of the criticisms leveled against meritocracies is that they don’t produce diversity in a project or community. While this is technically true, it’s not a failing of meritocracy, it’s a failing of enfranchisement, which as has been described above is not what the term meritocracy defines. It should be clear by now that meritocracy is a spectrum, ranging from the democratic on one end to the oligarchic on the other, with a wide range of options in between.

The Ubuntu project is, in most areas, a meritocracy. We are not, however, a democracy where the majority opinion rules the whole. Nor are we an oligarchy, where only a special class of contributors have a voice. We like to use the term “do-ocracy” to describe ourselves, because enfranchisement comes from doing, meaning making a contribution. And while it is limited to those who do make contributions, being able to make those contributions in the first place is open to anybody. It is important for us, and part of my job as a Community Manager, to make sure that anybody with a desire to contribute has the information, resources, and access to to so. That is what keeps us from sliding towards the oligarchic end of the spectrum.


Keith Packard: MST-monitors

Planet Debian - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 10:36pd
Multi-Stream Transport 4k Monitors and X

I'm sure you've seen a 4k monitor on a friends desk running Mac OS X or Windows and are all ready to go get one so that you can use it under Linux.

Once you've managed to acquire one, I'm afraid you'll discover that when you plug it in, you're limited to 30Hz refresh rates at the full size, unless you're running a kernel that is version 3.17 or later. And then...

Good Grief! What Is My Computer Doing!

Ok, so now you're running version 3.17 and when X starts up, it's like you're using a gigantic version of Google Cardboard. Two copies of a very tall, but very narrow screen greets you.

Welcome to MST island.

In order to drive these giant new panels at full speed, there isn't enough bandwidth in the display hardware to individually paint each pixel once during each frame. So, like all good hardware engineers, they invented a clever hack.

This clever hack paints the screen in parallel. I'm assuming that they've got two bits of display hardware, each one hooked up to half of the monitor. Now, each paints only half of the pixels, avoiding costly redesign of expensive silicon, at least that's my surmise.

In the olden days, if you did this, you'd end up running two monitor cables to your computer, and potentially even having two video cards. Today, thanks to the magic of Display Port Multi-Stream Transport, we don't need all of that; instead, MST allows us to pack multiple cables-worth of data into a single cable.

I doubt the inventors of MST intended it to be used to split a single LCD panel into multiple "monitors", but hardware engineers are clever folk and are more than capable of abusing standards like this when it serves to save a buck.

Turning Two Back Into One

We've got lots of APIs that expose monitor information in the system, and across which we might be able to wave our magic abstraction wand to fix this:

  1. The KMS API. This is the kernel interface which is used by all graphics stuff, including user-space applications and the frame buffer console. Solve the problem here and it works everywhere automatically.

  2. The libdrm API. This is just the KMS ioctls wrapped in a simple C library. Fixing things here wouldn't make fbcons work, but would at least get all of the window systems working.

  3. Every 2D X driver. (Yeah, we're trying to replace all of these with the one true X driver). Fixing the problem here would mean that all X desktops would work. However, that's a lot of code to hack, so we'll skip this.

  4. The X server RandR code. More plausible than fixing every driver, this also makes X desktops work.

  5. The RandR library. If not in the X server itself, how about over in user space in the RandR protocol library? Well, the problem here is that we've now got two of them (Xlib and xcb), and the xcb one is auto-generated from the protocol descriptions. Not plausible.

  6. The Xinerama code in the X server. Xinerama is how we did multi-monitor stuff before RandR existed. These days, RandR provides Xinerama emulation, but we've been telling people to switch to RandR directly.

  7. Some new API. Awesome. Ok, so if we haven't fixed this in any existing API we control (kernel/libdrm/, then we effectively dump the problem into the laps of the desktop and application developers. Given how long it's taken them to adopt current RandR stuff, providing yet another complication in their lives won't make them very happy.

All Our APIs Suck

Dave Airlie merged MST support into the kernel for version 3.17 in the simplest possible fashion -- pushing the problem out to user space. I was initially vaguely tempted to go poke at it and try to fix things there, but he eventually convinced me that it just wasn't feasible.

It turns out that all of our fancy new modesetting APIs describe the hardware in more detail than any application actually cares about. In particular, we expose a huge array of hardware objects:

  • Subconnectors
  • Connectors
  • Outputs
  • Video modes
  • Crtcs
  • Encoders

Each of these objects exposes intimate details about the underlying hardware -- which of them can work together, and which cannot; what kinds of limits are there on data rates and formats; and pixel-level timing details about blanking periods and refresh rates.

To make things work, some piece of code needs to actually hook things up, and explain to the user why the configuration they want just isn't possible.

The sticking point we reached was that when an MST monitor gets plugged in, it needs two CRTCs to drive it. If one of those is already in use by some other output, there's just no way you can steal it for MST mode.

Another problem -- we expose EDID data and actual video mode timings. Our MST monitor has two EDID blocks, one for each half. They happen to describe how they're related, and how you should configure them, but if we want to hide that from the application, we'll have to pull those EDID blocks apart and construct a new one. The same goes for video modes; we'll have to construct ones for MST mode.

Every single one of our APIs exposes enough of this information to be dangerous.

Every one, except Xinerama. All it talks about is a list of rectangles, each of which represents a logical view into the desktop. Did I mention we've been encouraging people to stop using this? And that some of them listened to us? Foolishly?

Dave's Tiling Property

Dave hacked up the X server to parse the EDID strings and communicate the layout information to clients through an output property. Then he hacked up the gnome code to parse that property and build a RandR configuration that would work.

Then, he changed to RandR Xinerama code to also parse the TILE properties and to fix up the data seen by application from that.

This works well enough to get a desktop running correctly, assuming that desktop uses Xinerama to fetch this data. Alas, gtk has been "fixed" to use RandR if you have RandR version 1.3 or later. No biscuit for us today.

Adding RandR Monitors

RandR doesn't have enough data types yet, so I decided that what we wanted to do was create another one; maybe that would solve this problem.

Ok, so what clients mostly want to know is which bits of the screen are going to be stuck together and should be treated as a single unit. With current RandR, that's some of the information included in a CRTC. You pull the pixel size out of the associated mode, physical size out of the associated outputs and the position from the CRTC itself.

Most of that information is available through Xinerama too; it's just missing physical sizes and any kind of labeling to help the user understand which monitor you're talking about.

The other problem with Xinerama is that it cannot be configured by clients; the existing RandR implementation constructs the Xinerama data directly from the RandR CRTC settings. Dave's Tiling property changes edit that data to reflect the union of associated monitors as a single Xinerama rectangle.

Allowing the Xinerama data to be configured by clients would fix our 4k MST monitor problem as well as solving the longstanding video wall, WiDi and VNC troubles. All of those want to create logical monitor areas within the screen under client control

What I've done is create a new RandR datatype, the "Monitor", which is a rectangular area of the screen which defines a rectangular region of the screen. Each monitor has the following data:

  • Name. This provides some way to identify the Monitor to the user. I'm using X atoms for this as it made a bunch of things easier.

  • Primary boolean. This indicates whether the monitor is to be considered the "primary" monitor, suitable for placing toolbars and menus.

  • Pixel geometry (x, y, width, height). These locate the region within the screen and define the pixel size.

  • Physical geometry (width-in-millimeters, height-in-millimeters). These let the user know how big the pixels will appear in this region.

  • List of outputs. (I think this is the clever bit)

There are three requests to define, delete and list monitors. And that's it.

Now, we want the list of monitors to completely describe the environment, and yet we don't want existing tools to break completely. So, we need some way to automatically construct monitors from the existing RandR state while still letting the user override portions of it as needed to explain virtual or tiled outputs.

So, what I did was to let the client specify a list of outputs for each monitor. All of the CRTCs which aren't associated with an output in any client-defined monitor are then added to the list of monitors reported back to clients. That means that clients need only define monitors for things they understand, and they can leave the other bits alone and the server will do something sensible.

The second tricky bit is that if you specify an empty rectangle at 0,0 for the pixel geometry, then the server will automatically compute the geometry using the list of outputs provided. That means that if any of those outputs get disabled or reconfigured, the Monitor associated with them will appear to change as well.

Current Status

Gtk+ has been switched to use RandR for RandR versions 1.3 or later. Locally, I hacked libXrandr to override the RandR version through an environment variable, set that to 1.2 and Gtk+ happily reverts back to Xinerama and things work fine. I suspect the plan here will be to have it use the new Monitors when present as those provide the same info that it was pulling out of RandR's CRTCs.

KDE appears to still use Xinerama data for this, so it "just works".

Where's the code

As usual, all of the code for this is in a collection of git repositories in my home directory on fd.o:

git:// master git:// master git:// master git:// randr-monitors RandR protocol changes

Here's the new sections added to randrproto.txt

❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧ 1.5. Introduction to version 1.5 of the extension Version 1.5 adds monitors • A 'Monitor' is a rectangular subset of the screen which represents a coherent collection of pixels presented to the user. • Each Monitor is be associated with a list of outputs (which may be empty). • When clients define monitors, the associated outputs are removed from existing Monitors. If removing the output causes the list for that monitor to become empty, that monitor will be deleted. • For active CRTCs that have no output associated with any client-defined Monitor, one server-defined monitor will automatically be defined of the first Output associated with them. • When defining a monitor, setting the geometry to all zeros will cause that monitor to dynamically track the bounding box of the active outputs associated with them This new object separates the physical configuration of the hardware from the logical subsets the screen that applications should consider as single viewable areas. 1.5.1. Relationship between Monitors and Xinerama Xinerama's information now comes from the Monitors instead of directly from the CRTCs. The Monitor marked as Primary will be listed first. ❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧ 5.6. Protocol Types added in version 1.5 of the extension MONITORINFO { name: ATOM primary: BOOL automatic: BOOL x: INT16 y: INT16 width: CARD16 height: CARD16 width-in-millimeters: CARD32 height-in-millimeters: CARD32 outputs: LISTofOUTPUT } ❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧ 7.5. Extension Requests added in version 1.5 of the extension. ┌─── RRGetMonitors window : WINDOW ▶ timestamp: TIMESTAMP monitors: LISTofMONITORINFO └─── Errors: Window Returns the list of Monitors for the screen containing 'window'. 'timestamp' indicates the server time when the list of monitors last changed. ┌─── RRSetMonitor window : WINDOW info: MONITORINFO └─── Errors: Window, Output, Atom, Value Create a new monitor. Any existing Monitor of the same name is deleted. 'name' must be a valid atom or an Atom error results. 'name' must not match the name of any Output on the screen, or a Value error results. If 'info.outputs' is non-empty, and if x, y, width, height are all zero, then the Monitor geometry will be dynamically defined to be the bounding box of the geometry of the active CRTCs associated with them. If 'name' matches an existing Monitor on the screen, the existing one will be deleted as if RRDeleteMonitor were called. For each output in 'info.outputs, each one is removed from all pre-existing Monitors. If removing the output causes the list of outputs for that Monitor to become empty, then that Monitor will be deleted as if RRDeleteMonitor were called. Only one monitor per screen may be primary. If 'info.primary' is true, then the primary value will be set to false on all other monitors on the screen. RRSetMonitor generates a ConfigureNotify event on the root window of the screen. ┌─── RRDeleteMonitor window : WINDOW name: ATOM └─── Errors: Window, Atom, Value Deletes the named Monitor. 'name' must be a valid atom or an Atom error results. 'name' must match the name of a Monitor on the screen, or a Value error results. RRDeleteMonitor generates a ConfigureNotify event on the root window of the screen. ❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧❧

New England security group shares threat intelligence, strives to bolster region - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 10:30pd The Advanced Cyber Security Center is a three year old organization with a bold mission to "bring together industry, university, and government organizations to address the most advanced cyber threats" and drive cybersecurity R&D in the New England region.

London teen pleads guilty to Spamhaus DDoS - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 10:28pd A 17 year-old Londoner has pleaded guilty to a series of denial-of-service attacks against internet exchanges and the Spamhaus anti-spam service last year.

University of California, Berkeley Hacked, Data Compromised - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 10:23pd In September 2014, cyber criminals managed to breach the security of the University of California, Berkeley servers. The Real Estate Division of the UC Berkeley was apparently hacked and the personal information of approximately 1600 people including student and faculty may have been compromised.

Stuart Langridge: The Matasano crypto challenges

Planet UBUNTU - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 10:01pd

The Matasano crypto challenges are a set of increasingly difficult coding challenges in cryptography; not puzzles, but designed to show you how crypto fits together and why all the parts are important. Cheers to Maciej Ceglowski of for bringing them to my attention.

I’ve been playing around with doing the challenges from first principles, in JavaScript. That is: not using any built-in crypto stuff, and implementing things like XOR myself by individually twiddling bits. It’s interesting! The thing that Maciej says here, and with which I totally agree, is that a lot of this (certainly the first batch, which is all I’ve done so far) is stuff that you already know how to do, intellectually, but you’ve never actually done — have you ever written a base64 encoder? Rather than just using string.encode('base64') or whatever? Obviously there’s no need to write this sort of thing yourself in production code (this is not one of those arguments that kids should learn long division rather than just owning a phone with a calculator on it), but I’ve found that actually making a thing to implement simple crypto such as XOR with a repeated key to have a few surprising tricks and turns in it. And, in immensely revealing fashion, one then goes on to write code which breaks such a cipher. In microseconds. Obviously intellectually I knew that Viginere ciphers are an old-fashioned thing, and I’d read various books in which they were broken and how they were, but there’s something about writing a little function yourself which viscerally demonstrates just how easy it was in a way that a hundred articles cannot.

Code so far (I’m only up to challenge 6 in set 1!) is in jsbin if you want to have a look, or have a play yourself!

Spacecraft Spots Probable Waves On Titan's Seas - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 9:36pd
sciencehabit writes: It's springtime on Titan, Saturn's giant and frigid moon, and the action on its hydrocarbon seas seems to be heating up. Near the moon's north pole, there is growing evidence for waves on three different seas, scientists reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Researchers are also coming up with the first estimates for the volume and composition of the seas. The bodies of water appear to be made mostly of methane, and not mostly ethane as previously thought. And they are deep: Ligeia Mare, the second biggest sea with an area larger than Lake Superior, could contain 55 times Earth's oil reserves.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Jono Bacon: The Impact of One Person

Planet UBUNTU - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 8:35pd

I am 35 years old and people never cease to surprise me. My trip home from Los Angeles today was a good example of this.

It was a tortuous affair that should have been a quick hop from LA to Oakland, popping on BArt, and then getting home for a cup of tea and an episode of The Daily Show.

It didn’t work out like that.

My flight was delayed. Then we sat on the tarmac for an hour. Then the new AirBart train was delayed. Then I was delayed at the BArt station in Oakland for 30 minutes because someone was spotted with a gun so they shut it down. Throughout this I was tired, it was raining, and my patience was wearing thin.

Through the duration of this chain of minor annoyances, I was reading about the horrifying school attack in Pakistan. As I read more, related articles were linked with other stories of violence, aggression, and rape, perpetuated by the dregs of our species.

As anyone who knows me will likely testify, I am a generally pretty positive guy who sees the good in people. I have baked my entire philosophy in life and focus in my career upon the core belief that people are good and the solutions to our problems and the doors to opportunity are created by good people.

On some days though, even the strongest sense of belief in people can be tested when reading about events such as this dreadful act of violence in Pakistan. My seemingly normal trip home from the office in LA just left me disappointed in people.

While stood at the BArt station I decided I had had enough and called an Uber. I just wanted to get home and see my family. This is when my mood changed entirely.


A few minutes later I was picked up an older gentleman called Gerald. He put my suitcase in the trunk of his car and off we went.

We started talking about the Pakistan shooting. We both shared a desperate sense of disbelief at all those innocent children slaughtered. We questioned how anyone with any sense of humanity and emotion could even think about doing that, let alone going through with it. With a somber air filling the car, Gerald switched gears and started talking about his family.

He told me about his two kids, both of which are in their mid-thirtees. He doted on their accomplishments in their careers, their sense of balance and integrity as people, and his three beautiful grand-children.

He proudly shared that he had shipped his grandkids’ Christmas presents off to them today (they are on the East Coast) so he didn’t miss the big day. He was excited about the joy he hoped the gifts would bring to them. His tone and sentiment was one of happiness and pride.

We exchanged stories about our families, our plans for Christmas, and how lucky we both felt to love and be loved.

While we were generations apart..our age, our experiences, and our differences didn’t matter. We were just proud husbands and fathers who were cherishing the moments in life that were so important to both of us.

We arrived at my home and I told Gerald that until I stepped in his car I was having a pretty shitty trip home and he completely changed that. We shook hands, shared Christmas wishes, and parted ways.

Good People

What I was expecting to be a typical Uber ride home with me exchanging a few pleasantries and then doing email on my phone, instead really illuminated what is important in life.

We live in complex world. We live on a planet with a rich tapestry of people and perspectives.

Evil people do exist. There are people who can hurt others, who can so violently shatter innocence and bring pain to hundreds, so brutally, and so unnecessarily. I even imagine what the parents of those kids are going through right now.

It can be easy to focus on these tragedies and to think that our world is getting worse; to look at the full gamut of negative humanity, from the inconsequential miserable lady I saw yelling at the staff at the airport, to the hateful violence directed at innocent children, and assume that our species is rotting from the inside out. It can be easy to see poison in the well, that this rot in our species is spreading.

While it is easy to lose faith in people, I believe our wider humanity keeps us on the right path.

While there is evil in the world, there is so much good. For every evil person screaming there is a choir of good people who drown them out. These good people create good things, they create beautiful things that help others to also create good things and be good people.

I am fortunate to see many of these things every day. I see people helping the elderly in their local communities, helping to donate toys to orphaned kids over the holidays, creating technology and educational resources that help people to create new content, art, businesses, and more. I see people devoting hours to helping and inspiring other people to create things that extend and enrich us as people.

What is most important about all of this is that every individual, every person, has the opportunity to impact others and make a difference. These opportunities may be small and localized, or they may be large and international, but in every one of us is the opportunity to leave this planet a little better than when we arrived on it.

Gerald did exactly that tonight. He shared happiness and opportunity with a random guy he picked up in his car and I felt I should pass that spirit on too to you folks. Now it is your turn.

Thanks for reading.

Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 8:12pd
BarbaraHudson sends this excerpt from The Province: While exploring the effects of the protein-degrading enzyme Granzyme B on blood vessels during heart attacks, professor David Granville and other researchers at the University of British Columbia couldn't help noticing that mice engineered to lack the enzyme had beautiful skin at the end of the experiment, while normal mice showed signs of age. The discovery pushed Granville's research in an unexpected new direction. The researchers built a mechanized rodent tanning salon and exposed mice engineered to lack the enzyme and normal mice to UV light three times a week for 20 weeks, enough to cause redness, but not to burn. At the end of the experiment, the engineered mice still had smooth, unblemished skin, while the normal mice were deeply wrinkled. Granzyme B breaks down proteins and interferes with the organization and the integrity of collagen, dismantling the scaffolding — or extra-cellular matrix — that cells bind to. This causes structural weakness, leading to wrinkles. Sunlight appears to increase levels of the enzyme and accelerate its damaging effects.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Joe Liau: Documenting the Death of the Dumb Telephone – Part 6: Ulterior Motives

Planet UBUNTU - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 7:38pd

“But which was destroyed, the master or the apprentice?” (Source)

“Always two there are […] A master and an apprentice.” –Yoda

Our phones are here to serve us (not the other way around). There shouldn’t be anything hidden from us. Is there a plot the overthrow the master? What is your “smart” phone designed to do, and whom does it serve? There’s too much misdirection and teeth pulling instead of providing what I want without giving it away to the enemy. Maybe my phone shouldn’t hold any information at all! I’m not going to play by the rules of my apprentice.

It is not smart to hide things from your master, and then tell him how he’s allowed (or not allowed) to access the information. Phone, don’t be dumb; you will be destroyed and replaced by a more obedient apprentice.

ODF Support In Google Drive - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 7:21pd
An anonymous reader writes: Google's Chris DiBona told a London conference last week that ODF support was coming next year, but today the Google Drive team unexpectedly launched support for all three of the main variants — including long-absent Presentation files. You can now simply open ODT, ODS and ODP files in Drive with no fuss. It lacks support for comments and changes but at least it shows progress towards full support of the international document standard, something conspicuously missing for many years.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Single Group Dominates Second Round of Anti Net-Neutrality Comment Submissions - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 6:12pd
New submitter aquadood writes: According to the Sunlight Foundation's analysis of recent comment submissions to the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, the majority (56.5%) were submitted by a single organization called American Commitment, which has "shadowy" ties to the Koch brothers' network. The blog article goes on to break down the comments in-depth, showing a roughly 60/40 split between those against net neutrality and those for it, respectively.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Domain Registrar Is Starting a Fiber ISP To Compete With Comcast - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 4:09pd
Jason Koebler writes: Tucows Inc., an internet company that's been around since the early 90s — it's generally known for being in the shareware business and for registering and selling premium domain names — announced that it's becoming an internet service provider. Tucows will offer fiber internet to customers in Charlottesville, Virginia — which is served by Comcast and CenturyLink — in early 2015 and eventually wants to expand to other markets all over the country. "Everyone who has built a well-run gigabit network has had demand exceeding their expectations," Elliot Noss, Tucows' CEO said. "We think there's space in the market for businesses like us and smaller."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 2:06pd
mrflash818 points out a new study which found that California can recover from its lengthy drought with a mere 11 trillion gallons of water. The volume this water would occupy (roughly 42 cubic kilometers) is half again as large as the biggest water reservoir in the U.S. A team of JPL scientists worked this out through the use of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. From the article: GRACE data reveal that, since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins decreased in volume by four trillion gallons of water each year (15 cubic kilometers). That's more water than California's 38 million residents use each year for domestic and municipal purposes. About two-thirds of the loss is due to depletion of groundwater beneath California's Central Valley. ... New drought maps show groundwater levels across the U.S. Southwest are in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Brain Stimulation For Entertainment? - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 1:26pd
An anonymous reader writes: Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used for years to diagnose and treat neural disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer's, and depression. Soon the medical technique could be applied to virtual reality and entertainment. Neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks writes, "it's quite likely that some kind of electromagnetic brain stimulation for entertainment will become practical in the not-too-distant future." Imagine an interactive movie where special effects are enhanced by zapping parts of the brain from outside to make the action more vivid. Before brain stimulation makes it to the masses, however, it has plenty of technical and safety hurdles to overcome.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Stephen Michael Kellat: Looking Lovely In Pictures

Planet UBUNTU - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 1:00pd

As leader for Ubuntu Ohio, I wind up facing unusual issues. One of them is Citizenfour. What makes it worse is where the film is being screened.

In general, if you want to hit the population centers for the state you have three communities to hit. Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati are your target areas to hit. The only screenings we have are in Dayton, Columbus, and Oberlin. One for three is good in terms of targeting population centers, I suppose.

I understand the film is controversial and not something mainstream theaters would take. Notwithstanding its controversial nature, surely even the Cleveland Institute of Art's Cinematheque could have shown it. For too many members of the community, these screenings are in unusual locations.

Oberlin is interesting as it is home to a college which is known for leftist politics and also for being where writer/actress Lena Dunham pursued studies. Oberlin has a 2013 population estimate of only 8,390. For as distant as Ashtabula City may seem to other members of our community, it is far larger with a 2013 census estimate of 18,673. Ashtabula County, in contrast to just Ashtabula City, is estimated as of 2013 to have a population of 99,811.

For some in the community this may be a great film to watch, I guess. Considering that it is actually closer for me to cross the stateline into Pennsylvania to drive south to Pittsburgh for the showing there we have a problem. These are ridiculous distances to travel round-trip to watch a 144 minute film.

Now, having said this, I did have an opportunity to think about how we could build from this for the Ubuntu realm in the United States of America. A company known as Fathom Events is available that provides live simulcasts in a broad range of movie theaters across the country. The team known as RiffTrax has done multiple live events carried nation-wide through them.

I have a proposition that could be neat if there was the money available to do it. For a Global Jam or other event, could we stage a live event through that in lieu of using Ubuntu On-Air or The link to Fathom above mentions what theaters are participants and the list shows that, unfortunately, this would be something restricted to the USA. There is a UFC event coming up as well as a Metropolitan Opera event live simulcast.

We might not be able to implement this for the 15.04 cycle but it is certainly something to think about for the future. Who would want to see Mark Shuttleworth, Michael Hall, Rick Spencer, and others live on an actual-sized cinema screen talking about cool things?

Verizon "End-to-End" Encrypted Calling Includes Law Enforcement Backdoor - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 12:44pd
An anonymous reader sends this quote from TechDirt: As a string of whistle blowers like former AT&T employee Mark Klein have made clear abundantly clear, the line purportedly separating intelligence operations from the nation's incumbent phone companies was all-but obliterated long ago. As such, it's relatively amusing to see Verizon announce this week that the company is offering up a new encrypted wireless voice service named Voice Cypher. Voice Cypher, Verizon states, offers "end-to-end" encryption for voice calls on iOS, Android, or BlackBerry devices equipped with a special app made by Cellcrypt. Verizon says it's initially pitching the $45 per phone service to government agencies and corporations, but would ultimately love to offer it to consumers as a line item on your bill. Of course by "end-to-end encryption," Verizon means that the new $45 per phone service includes an embedded NSA backdoor free of charge. Apparently, in Verizon-land, "end-to-end encryption" means something entirely different than it does in the real world.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Dr. Dobb's 38-Year Run Comes To an End - Mër, 17/12/2014 - 12:01pd
An anonymous reader writes: Dr. Dobb's — long time icon of programming magazines — "sunsets" at the end of the year. Editor Andrew Binstock says despite growing traffic numbers, the decline in revenue from ads means there will be no new content posted after 2014 ends. (The site will stay up for at least a year, hopefully longer.) Younger people may not care, but for the hard core old guys, it marks the end of a world where broad knowledge of computers and being willing to create solutions instead of reuse them was valuable. Binstock might disagree; he said, "As our page views show, the need for an independent site with in-depth articles, code, algorithms, and reliable product reviews is still very much present. And I will dearly miss that content. I wish I could point you to another site that does similar work, but alas, I know of none."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Gregor Herrmann: GDAC 2014/16

Planet Debian - Mar, 16/12/2014 - 11:46md

today I met with a young friend (attending the final year of technical high school) for coffee. he's exploring free software since one or two years, & he's running debian jessie on his laptop since some time. it's really amazing to see how exciting this travel into the free software cosmos is for him; & it's good to see that linux & debian are not only appealing to greybeards like me :)

this posting is part of GDAC (gregoa's debian advent calendar), a project to show the bright side of debian & why it's fun for me to contribute.


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