AI

Concerns of an Artificial Intelligence Pioneer 45

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody-program-it-to-think-humans-can-be-used-as-batteries dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In January, the British-American computer scientist Stuart Russell drafted and became the first signatory of an open letter calling for researchers to look beyond the goal of merely making artificial intelligence more powerful. "We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial," the letter states. "Our AI systems must do what we want them to do." Thousands of people have since signed the letter, including leading artificial intelligence researchers at Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other industry hubs along with top computer scientists, physicists and philosophers around the world. By the end of March, about 300 research groups had applied to pursue new research into "keeping artificial intelligence beneficial" with funds contributed by the letter's 37th signatory, the inventor-entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Russell, 53, a professor of computer science and founder of the Center for Intelligent Systems at the University of California, Berkeley, has long been contemplating the power and perils of thinking machines. He is the author of more than 200 papers as well as the field's standard textbook, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (with Peter Norvig, head of research at Google). But increasingly rapid advances in artificial intelligence have given Russell's longstanding concerns heightened urgency.
Government

USPS Shortlists 'HorseFly' Octocopter Drone Delivery Service 63

Posted by timothy
from the why-they-want-9-digit-zip dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The likes of GM and Nissan are keeping unusual company in the bidding war to build and deliver the next generation of delivery vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service. Workhorse Group Inc. have made it to the 16-company shortlist with their octocopter drone delivery system, developed by the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science. The self-guiding UAV 'HorseFly' has multiple hardware and software redundancy systems and launches from its special host van 'WorkHorse' to get the parcel the final hurdle to the door. The drone can recharge itself wirelessly in two minutes at base, and calculates its own routes from the van to the destination door.
AI

Computer Beats Humans At Arimaa 57

Posted by timothy
from the call-back-when-it-can-make-a-good-egg-cream dept.
An anonymous reader writes A computer engine has beaten humans at Arimaa, an abstract strategy game, in the official human–computer challenge of the year. Sharp, as the bot is called, had to beat each of three strong human players in a best 2-out-3 contest and managed to sweep the first two rounds, thereby already guaranteeing victory. Its developer David Wu will receive a $12,000 prize, contingent on him submitting a paper describing the program to the International Computer Games Association.
Transportation

How Uber Surge Pricing Really Works 91

Posted by timothy
from the has-a-catchy-name-regardless dept.
minstrelmike writes with this analysis from Nicholas Diakopoulos of the Washington Post: At the core of Uber's wild success and market valuation of over $41 billion is its data and algorithmically fueled approach to matching supply and demand for cars. It's classic economics, supposedly....but is Uber's surge pricing algorithm really doing what they claim? Do surge prices really get more cars on the road?

My analysis suggests that rather than motivating a fresh supply of drivers, surge pricing instead re-distributes drivers already on the road.
Adds minstrelmike: The writer goes on to analyze 4 weeks of pricing info from 5 areas in D.C. and plotted prices versus wait times. "Price surging can work in any of three ways: by reducing demand for cars (less people want a car for a higher price), by creating new supply (providing an incentive for new drivers to hit the roads), or by shifting supply (drivers) to areas of higher demand."

It moves current drivers from one side of town to the other. It does not put new drivers on the road. It can't because the prices change every 3-5 minutes."
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: What Features Would You Like In a Search Engine? 262

Posted by timothy
from the esp-heads-the-list dept.
New submitter nicolas.slusarenko writes Nowadays, there is one dominant search engine in the world among few alternatives. I have the impression that the majority of users think that it is the best possible service that could be made. I am sure that we could have a better search engine. During my spare time I been developing Trokam, an online search engine. I am building this service with the features that I would like to find in a service: respectful of user rights, ad-free, built upon open source software, and with auditable results. Well, those are mine. What features would you like in a search engine?
Security

Exploit For Crashing Minecraft Servers Made Public 117

Posted by timothy
from the hey-fellas-door's-unlocked dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After nearly two years of waiting for Mojang to fix a security vulnerability that can be used to crash Minecraft servers, programmer Ammar Askar has released a proof of concept exploit for the flaw in the hopes that this will force them to do something about it. "Mojang is no longer a small indie company making a little indie game, their software is used by thousands of servers, hundreds of thousands people play on servers running their software at any given time. They have a responsibility to fix and properly work out problems like this," he noted." Here is Askar's own post on the exploit, and his frustration with the response he's gotten to disclosing it to the developers.
Microsoft

Microsoft Open Technologies Is Closing: Good Or Bad News For Open Source? 110

Posted by timothy
from the sea-change-or-see-no-change dept.
BrianFagioli writes When Microsoft Open Technologies was founded as a subsidiary of Microsoft — under Steve Ballmer's reign — many in the open source community hailed it as a major win, and it was. Today, however, the subsidiary is shutting down and being folded into Microsoft. While some will view this as a loss for open source, I disagree; Microsoft has evolved so much under Satya Nadella, that a separate subsidiary is simply no longer needed. Microsoft could easily be the world's biggest vendor of open source software, which is probably one reason some people don't like the term.
Robotics

Embedded Linux Takes to the Skies (Video) 25

Posted by Roblimo
from the robot-drones-want-you-to-take-them-to-your-leader-(beep) dept.
This is an interview with Clay McClure. He makes his living designing 'custom Linux software solutions for technology start-ups in Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay area.' He also works on Embedded Linux for autonomous drones. Here's a link to slides from a talk he gave on exactly that topic: Flying Penguins - Embedded Linux Applications for autonomous UAVs, and that's far from all he has to say about making Linux-controlled drones. However, for some reason Timothy and Clay didn't talk about using drones for target practice. Perhaps they can discuss that another time.

NOTE: We urge you to read the transcript of this interview even if you prefer watching videos; it contains material we left out of the video due to sound problems.
Android

Cyanogen Partners With Microsoft To Replace Google Apps 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the unexpected-alliances dept.
Unknown Lamer writes: Microsoft and Cyanogen Inc have announced a partnership to bring Microsoft applications to Cyanogen OS. "Under the partnership, Cyanogen will integrate and distribute Microsoft's consumer apps and services across core categories, including productivity, messaging, utilities, and cloud-based services. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS, enabling a powerful new class of experiences." Ars Technica comments, "If Cyanogen really wants to ship a Googleless Android, it will need to provide alternatives to Google's services, and this Microsoft deal is a small start. Microsoft can provide alternatives for Search (Bing), Google Drive (OneDrive and Office), and Gmail (Outlook). The real missing pieces are alternatives to Google Play, Google Maps, and Google Play Services."

Rather than distribute more proprietary services, how about ownCloud for Drive, K-9 Mail for Gmail, OsmAnd for Maps, and F-Droid for an app store? Mozilla and DuckDuckGo provide Free Software search providers for Android, too. With Google neglecting the Android Open Source Project and Cyanogen partnering with Microsoft, the future for Free Software Android as anything but a shell for proprietary software looks bleak.
GUI

KDE Plasma 5.3 Beta Brings Lot of Improvements 64

Posted by timothy
from the gui-not-gooey dept.
jones_supa writes: The KDE project today announced the release of KDE Plasma 5.3 beta. It brings better power management, improved Bluetooth support, improved widgets, Wayland support, new media center, and nearly 350 bugfixes. The power management improvements include settings that can be independently configured per activity, there is a new energy usage monitor available in KInfoCenter, and a battery applet identifies applications that hog power. Bluetooth applet brings added support for blocking and unblocking devices. New touchpad module has been added as well. The combined window manager and compositor KWin is now able to start a nested XWayland server, which acts as a bridge between the old X11 and the new Wayland world.
Cloud

Google Sunsetting Old Version of Google Maps 208

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-beats-mapblast's-vector-directions dept.
New submitter Robertgilberts writes with word that Google is dropping the old version of Maps. The new version of Google Maps came out of preview back in February 2014 and was in beta for several months before that. The only way to access the old version of Google Maps was via a special URL or if you had a very old browser that did not support the new version of Google Maps. Consolation prize: There will still be a lighter-weight version, which "drops out many of the neat Google Maps features in exchange for speed and compatibility."
Transportation

The Car That Knows When You'll Get In an Accident Before You Do 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-eyes-on-the-road-your-hands-upon-the-wheel dept.
aurtherdent2000 sends word about a system designed to monitor drivers to determine when they're about to do something wrong. "I'm behind the wheel of the car of the future. It's a gray Toyota Camry, but it has a camera pointed at me from the corner of the windshield recording my every eye movement, a GPS tracker, an outside-facing camera and a speed logger. It sees everything I'm doing so it can predict what I'm going to do behind the wheel seconds before I do it. So when my eyes glance to the left, it could warn me there's a car between me and the exit I want to take. A future version of the software will know even more about me; the grad students developing what they’ve dubbed Brains4Cars plan to let drivers connect their fitness trackers to the car. If your health tracker 'knows' you haven’t gotten enough sleep, the car will be more alert to your nodding off."
Supercomputing

Nuclear Fusion Simulator Among Software Picked For US's Summit Supercomputer 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-about-a-nice-game-of-chess dept.
An anonymous reader writes Today, The Register has learned of 13 science projects approved by boffins at the US Department of Energy to run on the 300-petaFLOPS Summit. These software packages, selected for the Center for Accelerated Application Readiness (CAAR) program, will be ported to the massive parallel machine, and are hoped to make full use of the supercomputer's architecture.They range from astrophysics, biophysics, chemistry, and climate modeling to combustion engineering, materials science, nuclear physics, plasma physics and seismology.
Businesses

Nokia To Buy Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 Billion 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
totalcaos sends news that Nokia has announced plans to buy Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion worth of stock. Both companies have approved the transaction, though now they must wait for regulatory approval. They said they expect the deal to close in the first half of 2016. The combined company is expected to become the world’s second-largest telecom equipment manufacturer behind Ericsson of Sweden, with global revenues totaling $27 billion and operations spread across Asia, Europe and North America. The companies are betting that, by joining forces, they can better compete against Chinese and European rivals bidding to provide telecom hardware and software to the world’s largest carriers, including AT&T and Verizon in the United States, Vodafone and Orange in Europe, and SoftBank in Japan. ... Analysts say that Nokia has progressively focused on its equipment unit, which now represents roughly 85 percent of the company’s annual revenue. On Wednesday, Nokia confirmed that it had put its digital maps business — a competitor for Google Maps — up for sale.
Businesses

How Mission Creep Killed a Gaming Studio 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-actually-about-duke-nukem-forever dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Over at Kotaku, there's an interesting story about the reported demise of Darkside Game Studios, a game-development firm that thought it finally had a shot at the big time only to collapse once its project requirements spun out of control. Darkside got a chance to show off its own stuff with a proposed remake of Phantom Dust, an action-strategy game that became something of a cult favorite. Microsoft, which offered Darkside the budget to make the game, had a very specific list of requirements for the actual gameplay. The problem, as Kotaku describes, is those requirements shifted after the project was well underway. Darkside needed more developers, artists, and other skilled tech pros to finish the game with its expanded requirements, but (anonymous sources claimed) Microsoft refused to offer up more money to actually hire the necessary people. As a result, the game's development imploded, reportedly followed by the studio. What's the lesson in all this? It's one of the oldest in the book: Escalating and unanticipated requirements, especially without added budget to meet those requirements, can have devastating effects on both a project and the larger software company.
Programming

MIT's Picture Language Lets Computers Recognize Faces Through Inference 22

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-face-can-run,-but-it-can't-hide dept.
itwbennett writes: MIT researchers are working on a new programming language called Picture, which could radically reduce the amount of coding needed to help computers recognize objects in images and video. It is a prototype of how a relatively novel form of programming, called probabilistic programming, could reduce the amount of code needed for such complex tasks. In one test of the new language, the researchers were able to cut thousands of lines of code in one image recognition program down to fewer than 50.
Open Source

The Makerspace Is the Next Open Source Frontier 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the pull-requests-to-clean-up-corner-cases dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Jono Bacon explains that in the same way open source spawned millions of careers and thousands of companies, the same openness has massive potential when applied to products. It could potentially jumpstart a revolution in how we conceptualize, build, and share things and how we experiment and innovate to push the boundaries of science and technology. He outlines some steps for adapting open source principles to physical creations: "...we will need to create a premise of a blueprint bundle. In much the same way I can download a branch from Git or a tarball with some code, complete with build system, we will want to be able to download a single branch or tarball with the full software, hardware designs, and more for how to create an open product. ... we will need to figure out how we collaborate and improve different pieces of these projects. For example, if someone refines a 3D printed piece of a drone, how do they fork the blueprints, submit their changes, have them reviewed, and get them merged into the project? Another question could relate to automated testing: when building physical products we can't always afford to build and test new physical hardware for it to then crash and burn, so how can we have unit tests for hardware or test in a virtual setting?"
Crime

Allegation: Lottery Official Hacked RNG To Score Winning Ticket 342

Posted by timothy
from the his-number-was-up dept.
SternisheFan writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica about what may be the most movie-worthy real-life crime story of the year so far: Eddie Raymond Tipton, 51, may have inserted a thumbdrive into a highly locked-down computer that's supposed to generate the random numbers used to determine lottery winners, The Des Moines Register reported, citing court documents filed by prosecutors. At the time, Tipton was the information security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, and he was later videotaped purchasing a Hot Lotto ticket that went on to fetch the winning $14.3 million payout.

In court documents filed last week, prosecutors said there is evidence to support the theory Tipton used his privileged position inside the lottery association to enter a locked room that housed the random number generating computers and
infect them with software that allowed him to control the winning numbers. The room was enclosed in glass, could only be entered by two people at a time, and was monitored by a video camera. To prevent outside attacks, the computers aren't connected to the Internet. Prosecutors said Tipton entered the so-called draw room on November 20, 2010, ostensibly to change the time on the computers. The cameras on that date recorded only one second per minute rather than running continuously like normal.

"Four of the five individuals who have access to control the camera's settings will testify they did not change the cameras' recording instructions," prosecutors wrote. "The fifth person is defendant. It is a reasonable deduction to infer that defendant tampered with the camera equipment to have an opportunity to insert a thumbdrive into the RNG tower without detection."
Microsoft

Windows Remains Vulnerable To Serious 18-Year-Old SMB Security Flaw 171

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
Mark Wilson writes A serious security hole leaves millions of Windows users open to attack, making it possible to extract encrypted credentials from a target machine. Researchers at Cylance say the problem affects "any Windows PC, tablet or server" (including Windows 10) and is a slight progression of the Redirect to SMB attack discovered by Aaron Spangler way back in 1997. Redirect to SMB is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack which involves taking control of a network connection. As the name suggests, victims are then redirected to a malicious SMB server which can extract usernames, domains and passwords. Cylance also reports that software from companies such as Adobe, Oracle and Symantec — including security and antivirus tools — are affected.
Microsoft

Microsoft Pushes For Public Education Funding While Avoiding State Taxes 173

Posted by Soulskill
from the cognitive-dissonance-provides-shareholder-value dept.
theodp writes: After stressing how important the funding of Washington State education — particularly CS Ed — is to Microsoft, company general counsel Brad Smith encountered one of those awkward interview moments (audio at 28:25). GeekWire Radio: "So, would you ever consider ending that practice [ducking WA taxes by routing software licensing royalties through Nevada-based Microsoft Licensing, GP] in Nevada [to help improve WA education]?" Smith: "I think there are better ways for us to address the state's needs than that kind of step." Back in 2010, Smith, Steve Ballmer, and Microsoft Corporation joined forces to defeat Proposition I-1098, apparently deciding there were better ways to address the state's needs than a progressive income tax.