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United States

Bank of America Analysts Say There's A 50% Chance We Live In The Matrix (independent.co.uk) 284

Bank of America analysts have suggested that there is a 20 to 50 percent chance that the world around us is a "Matrix-style virtual reality." The report stated, "It is conceivable that with advancements in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and computing power, members of future civilizations could have decided to run a simulation of their ancestors." The idea is certainly nothing new, as many influential visionaries have come to similar theories. What some may find most unusual about the report is who issued it. According to Business Insider, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America's wealth management company, sent out a briefing to investors outlining their Matrix theory. In response, Slashdot reader marmot7 writes: Personally, I'd like to see all that brain power go toward a better and more stable banking system, not toward the promoting the nihilistic and self-indulgent idea that this might be the Matrix. Don't worry that banks behave in ways that create instability, it's not real. Just relax and enjoy the ones and zeroes. I have no doubt there are good, well meaning people there. I just don't really need my bank weighing in on the mystery of reality any more than I need them to come up with a unified theory of physics at long last. Well, unless it's in their spare time then by all means.
Movies

George Takei Opposes Gay Sulu In 'Star Trek Beyond' (hollywoodreporter.com) 354

HughPickens.com writes: Seth Abramovitch reports in the Hollywood Reporter that actor and LGBT activist George Takei says Paramount's plans to have Sulu's character in the upcoming 'Star Trek Beyond' the first LGBTQ lead character in Star Trek history is out of step with what creator Gene Roddenberry would have wanted. [Roddenberry] "was a strong supporter of LGBT equality," says Takei, now 79. "But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope -- and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air." Takei says he'd much prefer that Sulu stay straight. "I'm delighted that there's a gay character," says Takei. "Unfortunately, it's a twisting of Gene's creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it's really unfortunate." The timeline logic of the new revelation is enough to befuddle even the most diehard of Trek enthusiasts, as the rebooted trilogy takes place before the action of the original series. In other words, assuming canon orthodoxy, this storyline suggest Sulu would have had to have first been gay and married, only to then go into the closet years later. Simon Pegg, who has co-written the latest Star Trek movie, as well as starring as Scotty, has responded to criticism by the actor George Takei at the film-makers' decision to make the character he used to play openly gay. "He's right, it is unfortunate, it's unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn't featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the 'gay character,' rather than simply for who they are, and isn't that tokenism?" says Pegg. "Our Trek is an alternate timeline with alternate details. Whatever magic ingredient determines our sexuality was different for Sulu in our timeline. I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere."
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Manage Developers Distributed Across Multiple Projects? 112

An anonymous Slashdot reader asks whether it's possible to manage a "distributed" team of software developers in different locations who are all assigned to different projects, each with their own independent project managers: All embedded software engineers from multiple offices in different countries are now being reorganized into this new distributed team [with] better control of its own development practices, processes and tools, since everyone is working in embedded software...

While there's extensive material throughout the Internet on best practices for managing distributed teams, it seems to either take an agile perspective, the project manager's perspective or be otherwise based on the assumption that everyone in the team are working in the same project. In my case, I'd be managing a distributed team of developers all assigned to different projects. How can I build cohesion, alignment and trust for my team of embedded software developers in this new three-dimensional distributed matrix organization?

Anyone have any relevant experiences to share with distributed teams or "matrix" organizations? Leave your answers in the comments. How can you manage developers who are all distributed across multiple projects?
China

Huawei Prepares For Robot Overlords and Communication With the Dead (bloomberg.com) 114

An anonymous reader shares a report on Bloomberg: Chinese technology giant Huawei is preparing for a world where people live forever, dead relatives linger on in computers and robots try to kill humans. Kevin Ho, president of its handset product line said his company used science fiction movies like "The Matrix" to envision future trends and new business ideas. "Hunger, poverty, disease or even death may not be a problem by 2035, or 25 years from now," he said. "In the future you may be able to purchase computing capacity to serve as a surrogate, to pass the baton from the physical world to the digital world." He described a future where children could use apps like WeChat (Editor's note: WeChat is a popular instant messaging app in China and other Asian markets) to interact with dead grandparents, thanks to the ability to download human consciousness into computers.For those unaware, Huawei is a major Chinese conglomerate. The company, known for its network equipment, last year got some spotlight for its Nexus 6P smartphone.
Social Networks

Stephen Fry Urges Young To Flee 'Dystopian' Social Networks 270

An anonymous reader writes: English writer, presenter and activist Stephen Fry has urged his fans to abandon social networks, comparing such platforms to 'dystopian' forms of government seen in 1970s sci-fi films such as Logan's Run and Soylent Green. In a 2,600-word essay, the comedian, who had over four million Twitter followers prior to deleting his account in February, also compared the 'surveilled conformity' of social media to the unreal state of society depicted in The Matrix. "Who most wants you to stay on the grid? The advertisers. Your boss. Human Resources. The advertisers. Your parents (irony of ironies -- once they distrusted it, now they need to tag you electronically, share your Facebook photos and message you to death). The advertisers. The government. Your local authority. Your school. Advertisers," he writes. "Well, if you're young and have an ounce of pride, doesn't that list say it all?"
Security

Cloud Security Startup ProtectWise Creates Network DVR To Analyze Threats (hothardware.com) 41

MojoKid writes: A Denver-based security startup called ProtectWise has a rather interesting twist on a security as a service platform that also incorporates an innovative threat detection and management user interface. The ProtectWise security platform runs on a cloud-based infrastructure that currently utilizes Amazon AWS for storage and processing. ProtectWise is an all software solution comprised of a "Cloud Network DVR" platform made-up of virtual cameras in the cloud that record all traffic on the network. The sensors (12MB install package) record all network traffic wherever they're installed and stream it up to the ProtectWise platform where it is securely stored and the threat analysis is performed. The sensors can be configured with profiles to capture just light metadata like netflow or headers (source, destination etc.) all the way to the full payload. You can then playback the traffic from the ProtectWise cloud analytics platform, going months back if needed, and analyze the data for threats. You can go back in time and see if, where and how you've been compromised retrospectively. There's also a ProtectWise HUD that visualizes and renders network threat location and progression, allowing you to make better use of all the data recorded. It has a 'KillBox' that visually shows attack event progression across the network area. The only question has to do with compliance for financial applications since it is cloud-based. Currently, ProtectWise has 100 or so deployments of its product in the market with customers like Netflix, Hulu, Expedia, Pandora and Universal Music.
AI

Why Sarcasm Is Such a Problem In Artificial Intelligence (thestack.com) 152

An anonymous reader writes: A new paper from researchers in India and Australia, "Automatic Sarcasm Detection: A Survey," highlights one of the strangest and ironically most humorous facets of the problems in machine learning and humour. The paper outlines ten years of research efforts from groups interested in detecting sarcasm in online sources. It details the ways that academia has approached the sarcasm problem, including flagging authors and ring-fencing sarcastic data. However, the report concludes that the solution to the problem is not necessarily one of pattern recognition [PDF], but rather a more sophisticated matrix that has some ability to understand context.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: Cheap and Fun Audio Hacks? 135

An anonymous reader writes: A few years back I discovered that even a person of limited soldering skills can create a nifty surround-sound system with the magic of a passive matrix decoder system; the results pleased me and continue to, It's certainly not a big and fancy surround system, but I recommend it highly as a project with a high ratio of satisfaction to effort. (Here's one of the many, many tutorials out there on doing it yourself; it's not the long-forgotten one I actually used, but I like this one better.) I like listening to recorded music sometimes just to hear how a particular playback system sounds, not just to hear the music "as intended." I'd like to find some more audio hacks and tricks like this that are cheap, easy, and fun. Bonus points if they can be done with the assistance of a couple of smart children, without boring them too much. I have access to Goodwill and other thrift stores that are usually overflowing with cheap-and-cheerful gear, to match my toy budget. What mods or fixes would be fun to implement? Are there brands or models of turntable I should look for as the easiest with which to tinker? Are there cool easy-entry projects akin to that surround sound system that I could use to improve my radio reception? I'm not sure what's out there, but I'd like to get some cool use out of the closet-and-a-half I've got filled with speakers and other gear that I can't quite bear to toss, since "it still works."
Virtualization

The Tamagochi Singularity Made Real: Infinite Tamagochi Living On the Internet (hackaday.com) 84

szczys writes: Everyone loves Tamagochi, the little electronic keychains spawned in the '90s that let you raise digital pets. Some time ago, XKCD made a quip about an internet-based matrix of thousands of these digital entities. That quip is now a reality thanks to elite hardware hacker Jeroen Domburg (aka Sprite_TM). In his recent talk called "The Tamagochi Singularity" at the Hackaday SuperConference he revealed that he had built an infinite network of virtual Tamagochi by implementing the original hardware as a virtual machine. This included developing AI to keep them happy, and developing a protocol to emulate their IR interactions. But he went even further, hacking an original keychain to use wirelessly as a console which can look in on any of the virtual Tamagochi living on his underground network. This full-stack process is unparalleled in just about every facet: complexity, speed of implementation, awesome factor, and will surely spark legions of other Tamagochi Matrices.
Power

Your Body, the Battery: Powering Gadgets From Human "Biofuel" 67

An anonymous reader writes: This article takes a look at the future of electronic devices powered by the human body. From the electric voltage in mammal ears called the endocochlear potential, to body heat, and muscle motion, there are a number of exciting new areas of energy research being explored. Ars reports: "Staying alive guzzles energy. In order to keep us ticking, our bodies need to burn between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day, which is conveniently enough to power a modestly used smart phone. So if just a fraction of that energy could be siphoned, our bodies could in theory be used to run any number of electronic devices, from medical implants to electronic contact lenses—all without a battery in sight. Recently, researchers have taken important strides toward unlocking this electric potential."
Power

Energy Harnessed From Humidity Can Power Small Devices 41

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have built small devices that generate electricity by harnessing changes in the ambient humidity. This is done through the use of dormant bacterial spores which expand when they absorb moisture from the air. To prove the concept, researchers attached the spores to one side of a curved polymer sheet, and when the spores absorbed humidity from the air, the sheet straightened out. Coupling this movement with an electromagnetic generator allowed them to harvest enough energy to power small devices like an LED and a 100-gram toy car.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Best Test Case Manager Plugin For JIRA? 70

Bomarc writes: I've been working with software testing ... for a few years now. And there seems to be a serious lack of QA — Test Case Management (TCM) tools. The company that I'm working for needs a good test case manager. Currently JIRA is the tool of choice for other aspects of project management. I'm not asking to jump ship from JIRA, but the Atlassian TCM "Zephyr" has several problems, some of the key ones include: It does not have (any) matrix capabilities, no test case suite capabilities, if you change one test case (including assignments) the system changes all of the runs from that test case, the integration between the defect tracker and the TCM is archaic (at best), the number of actions to pass/fail a step (or test case) are annoying (way to many). Whoever designed it doesn't use it. If you watch the "Introduction" for Zephyr – it is amusing to see how the person performing he demo skips over and fumbles when dealing with the flaws I've mentioned above.

I have used the product "TestLog" which is a well-thought-out product; has test matrix capabilities (and other good features); however it does not have any integration with JIRA. (Hint, hint: Atlassian, this is what you need!).

Is there any company that makes a "plug-in" for JIRA with a similar features to TestLog – test case management that is well thought out, not just an afterthought?
Chrome

New Chrome Extension Uses Sound To Share URLs Between Devices 77

itwbennett writes: Google Tone is an experimental feature that could be used to easily and instantly share browser pages, search results, videos and other pages among devices, according to Google Research. "The initial prototype used an efficient audio transmission scheme that sounded terrible, so we played it beyond the range of human hearing," researcher Alex Kauffmann and software engineer Boris Smus wrote in a post on the Google Research blog.
Technology

New Device Could Greatly Improve Speech and Image Recognition 67

jan_jes writes: Scientists have successfully demonstrated pattern recognition using a magnonic holographic memory device, a development that could greatly improve speech and image recognition hardware. The researchers built a prototype eight-terminal device consisting of a magnetic matrix with micro-antennas to excite and detect the spin waves. The micro-antennas allow the researchers to generate and recognize any input phase pattern, a big advantage over existing practices. It takes about 100 nanoseconds for recognition, which is the time required for spin waves to propagate and to create the interference pattern. The main challenge associated with magnonic holographic memory is the scaling of the operational wavelength, which requires the development of sub-micrometer scale elements for spin wave generation and detection.
Technology

1980's Soviet Bloc Computing: Printers, Mice, and Cassette Decks 74

szczys writes Martin Maly rode the wave of computer evolution in the 1980's while living in the former Czechoslovak Republic. Computers themselves were hard to come by, peripherals were even more rare and so enthusiasts of the time hacked their own, like dot-matrix printers and computer mice. If your build was impressive enough, the government would adopt it and begin manufacturing the design somewhat widely. Was your first computer mouse built into a plastic spice container? We covered what the personal computer revolution was like in Eastern Bloc countries back in December.
Television

NBC Thinks Connected Gloves and "Bullet Time" Can Make Boxing Cool 169

New submitter Lashdots writes with this excerpt from a piece at Fast Company about what may be the future of boxing, at least from the perspective of television audiences. "Right now, millennials turn boxing on and they're like, 'Who's winning? I don't get this,'" said Anthony Bailey. The chief technology officer of NBC's Premier Boxing Champions was watching a pair of fighters spar—each wearing sensor-equipped boxing gloves—in preparation for this weekend's fight, the first to be broadcast on NBC's primetime slot (8:30 pm EST) in 30 years. "These guys are real athletes. It's not just two guys going out in the ring trying to beat the crap out of each other. It's two guys that actually have strategy. They're actually thinking."

In a makeshift television studio here last month, Bailey, a team of engineers, and some of boxing's heaviest hitters were working to make that thinking a little more visible—in HD, with video-game-like graphics and Matrix-like camera angles. It's one part of an ambitious multimillion-dollar effort by NBC and some of boxing's biggest names to gain an edge against popular competitors like mixed martial arts, and to draw in younger, more casual audiences who may never have thought about watching before.
Movies

Silicon Valley Security Experts Give 'Blackhat' a Thumbs-Up; Do You? 98

HughPickens.com writes Cade Metz writes that last week Parisa Tabriz, head of Google's Chrome security team, helped arrange an early screening of Michael Mann's Blackhat in San Francisco for 200-odd security specialists from Google, Facebook, Apple, Tesla, Twitter, Square, Cisco, and other parts of Silicon Valley's close-knit security community, and their response to the film was shockingly positive. "Judging from the screening Q&A—and the pointed ways this audience reacted during the screening—you could certainly argue Blackhat is the best hacking movie ever made," writes Metz. "Many info-sec specialists will tell you how much they like Sneakers—the 1992 film with Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Ackroyd, Ben Kingsley, and River Phoenix—but few films have so closely hewed to info-sec reality as Mann's new movie, fashioned in his characteristic pseudo-documentary style." "Unlike others, this is a film about a real person, not a stereotype—a real guy with real problems thrust into a real situation," says Mark Abene. "The technology—and the disasters—in the film were real, or at least plausible.

Director Michael Mann worked closely with Kevin Poulsen in researching, writing, and shooting the film. Like Hemsworth's character, Poulsen spent time in prison for his hacking exploits, and Mann says his input was invaluable. "It's the first crime-thriller to hinge so heavily on hacking without becoming silly." says Poulson. "We put a lot of work into finding plausible ways that malware and hosting arrangements and all these other things could be used to advance the plot and all of that I think turned out pretty nice."
I'm a fan of Michael Mann, and the previews I've seen of Blackhat make it look at least like a passable thriller. For anyone who's seen the film already, what did you think?
Games

Text Editor Created In Minecraft 114

jones_supa writes: The redstone mechanics in Minecraft can be pushed surprisingly far to create rather advanced digital circuits. Thanks to a user nicknamed Koala_Steamed, there now exists a text editor inside the game (YouTube demonstration). It comes with a 5 x 10 character matrix in which each character uses a starburst (16-segment) display. There are 7.357 x 10^92 different combinations the screen can show, all of which can be controlled from a single line. The scale of the workings used to make this piece of logic, using only redstone, is dauntingly huge.
Medicine

Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene 175

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.

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