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Open Source

Dropbox Open Sources New Lossless Middle-Out Image Compression Algorithm (dropbox.com) 135

Dropbox announced on Thursday that it is releasing its image compression algorithm dubbed Lepton under an Apache open-source license on GitHub. Lepton, the company writes, can both compress and decompress files, and for the latter, it can work while streaming. Lepton offers a 22% savings reductions for existing JPEG images, and preserves the original file bit-for-bit perfectly. It compresses JPEG files at a rate of 5MB/s and decodes them back to the original bit at 15MB/s. The company says it has used Lepton to encode 16 billion images saved to Dropbox, and continues to utilize the technology to recode its older images. You can find more technical details here.

Congress Gives Federal Agencies Two Weeks To Tally Backdoored Juniper Kit (csoonline.com) 77

itwbennett writes: In an effort to gauge the impact of the recent Juniper ScreenOS backdoors on government organizations, the House of Representatives is questioning around two dozen U.S. government departments and federal agencies. The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters to the agencies on Jan. 21, asking them to identify whether they used devices running the affected ScreenOS versions, to explain how they learned about the issues and whether they took any corrective actions before Juniper released patches and to specify when they applied the company's patches. The questioned organizations have until Feb. 4 to respond and deliver the appropriate documents, a very tight time frame giving that 'the time period covered by this request is from January 1, 2009 to the present.'

University of Helsinki To Lay Off a Thousand People (yle.fi) 308

jones_supa writes: University of Helsinki, the place where Linus Torvalds got his degree as well, will reduce staff by 980 people, with 570 being laid off by the end of 2017. In addition, the university will reorganize and incorporate certain divisions including continuing education. Professors, teachers and researchers are criticizing the cuts, which coincide with the university's administrative and educational overhaul. The staff cuts reflect the government's drastic funding cuts to education, which plays one part in the effort of trying to help the difficult economic situation of today's Finland. The university estimates that of the 980 positions, terminations during this coming spring will account for 570 positions. Of the employees to be made redundant, 75 are teaching and research staff and 495 other staff. The rest of the cuts will be spread over the coming years.
Classic Games (Games)

Computer Beats Go Champion 149

Koreantoast writes: Go (weiqi), the ancient Chinese board game, has long been held up as one of the more difficult, unconquered challenges facing AI scientists... until now. Google DeepMind researchers, led by David Silver and Demis Hassabis, developed a new algorithm called AlphaGo, enabling the computer to soundly defeat European Go champion Fan Hui in back-to-back games, five to zero. Played on a 19x19 board, Go players have more than 300 possible moves per turn to consider, creating a huge number of potential scenarios and a tremendous computational challenge. All is not lost for humanity yet: DeepMind is scheduled to face off in March with Lee Sedol, considered one of the best Go players in recent history, in a match compared to the Kasparov-Deep Blue duels of previous decades.
Technology

Creator of Minecraft Develops Experimental VR Project (roadtovr.com) 63

An anonymous reader writes: Despite his on-again off-again relationship with VR headset maker Oculus, the creator of Minecraft, Markus "Notch" Persson, has developed an experimental virtual reality project that leverages WebVR technology to run directly within a browser using a Rift DK2 headset. Notch contributed $10,000 to Oculus' 2012 Kickstarter, and even traveled from Europe to visit the company in its early days. After Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014, his enthusiasm dwindled, saying "I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook." One month before selling his own company to Microsoft for a similar sum, he said he was "officially over being upset about Facebook buying Oculus."

DeLoreans To Go Back To Production (cnn.com) 276

An anonymous reader writes: The last time a DeLorean was built was about 35 years ago, but that is all about to change. Next year, you'll be able to buy a new 2017 DeLorean to satisfy all your deepest Back to the Future dreams. CNN reports: "The new production plan is itself something of a time warp. The cars will be built from an inventory of a million spare parts that have been in storage ever since the Belfast plant closed. Only the engine will be a creature of the 21st century."

The Tragedy Of Apollo 1 And The Lessons That Brought Us To The Moon (forbes.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes: On January 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 crew was performing a "plugs-out" test of the Command/Service Module, an essential simulation of how the three-person capsule would perform under in-space conditions under its own power. At 6:30 PM, a voltage spike occurred, leading to a disaster. In 26 seconds, everything changed. The Apollo 1 fire and the tragic death of all three astronauts wasn't due to just a single point-of-failure, but rather due to five independent confounding factors that if any one of them had been different, the astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee might have survived. As it stands, all the crewed Apollo missions were scrapped for 20 months while NASA changed how they did business. The changes worked remarkably well, and 2.5 years later, humans walked on the Moon.

Submission + - DeLoreans to go back to production (cnn.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The last time a DeLorean was built was about 35 years ago, but that is all about to change. Next year, you'll be able to buy a new 2017 DeLorean to satisfy all your deepest Back to the Future dreams. CNN reports: "The new production plan is itself something of a time warp. The cars will be built from an inventory of a million spare parts that have been in storage ever since the Belfast plant closed. Only the engine will be a creature of the 21st century."
Facebook

Top Telcos Join Facebook Open Source Hardware Project (thestack.com) 18

An anonymous reader sends word about the latest telcos to join Facebook's Open Compute Project. The Stack reports: "A new wave of communications companies has joined Facebook's non-profit Open Compute Project (OCP), including AT&T, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom and South Korea's SK Telecom, as the movement seeks to share innovative hardware designs and drive down costs in the telecom arena. An OCP sub-section focused entirely on telecom requirements has been set up to look into servers and networking efficiency in the field. As one of the largest hardware buyers, telcos will provide a significant new market for the project, alongside its successful data center efforts.
Android

Android Ransomware Threatens To Share Your Browsing History With Your Friends (symantec.com) 160

An anonymous reader writes: The newly discovered Lockdroid ransomware is unique in two ways. First it uses perfectly overlaid popups to trick users into giving it admin privileges. This trick works on devices running Android versions prior to 5.0 (Lollipop), which means 67% of all Android smartphones. Secondly, after it encrypts files and asks for a ransom, it also steals the user's browsing history and contacts list, and blackmails the user to pay the ransom, or his browsing history will be forwarded to his contacts.

Newegg Sues Patent Troll After Troll Dropped Its Own Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 174

WheezyJoe writes: Not satisfied that a patent troll dropped its lawsuit against them, Newegg has sued the troll. So-called "patent holding company" Minero Digital sought to exact royalty payments on a wide range of USB hubs, suing, among others, Newegg's subsidiary Rosewill. But the "non-practicing entity" dropped its East Texas lawsuit against Rosewill within days of getting a call from the Newegg's lawyer. However, Minero dismissed its Texas lawsuit "without prejudice", meaning it can refile the case at a time of its choosing. So, Newegg filed its own lawsuit against Minero in Los Angeles federal court, asking a judge to lay down a ruling that Minero's case against Rosewill is baseless. Says Newegg's Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng, "Minero's case does not have merit, and its patent is not only expired but would suck even if it wasn't expired. Now that they have started the litigation, it would be irresponsible for Newegg to not finish it."
Education

Interview: Ask CEO Anant Agarwal About edX and the Future of Online Education 55

Anant Agarwal is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the CEO of edX. A massive open online course platform founded by MIT and Harvard, edX offers numerous courses on a wide variety of subjects. As of 2014 edX had more than 4 million students taking more than 500 courses online. The organization has developed open-source software called Open edX that powers edX courses and is freely available online. Mr. Agarwal has agreed to take some time out of his schedule and answer your questions about edX and the future of learning. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Businesses

Disney IT Workers Allege Conspiracy In Layoffs, File Lawsuits (computerworld.com) 243

dcblogs writes with the latest in the laid off Disney IT worker saga. According to ComputerWorld: "Disney IT workers laid off a year ago this month are now accusing the company and the outsourcing firms it hired of engaging in a 'conspiracy to displace U.S. workers.' The allegations are part of two lawsuits filed in federal court in Florida on Monday. Between 200 and 300 Disney IT workers were laid off in January 2015. Some of the workers had to train their foreign replacements — workers on H-1B visas — as a condition of severance. The lawsuits represent what may be a new approach in the attack on the use of H-1B workers to replace U.S. workers. They allege violations of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), claiming that the nature of the employment of the H-1B workers was misrepresented, and that Disney and the contractors knew the ultimate intent was to replace U.S. workers with lower paid H-1B workers."
The Courts

Stingray Case Lawyers: "Everyone Knows Cell Phones Generate Location Data" (techdirt.com) 171

An anonymous reader writes with news that the Maryland Attorney General is arguing that anyone who has ever used a smartphone knows it's tracking them, so no warrant is needed for stingrays. Techdirt says: "Up in Baltimore, where law enforcement Stingray device use hit critical mass faster and more furiously than anywhere else in the country (to date...) with the exposure of 4,300 deployments in seven years, the government is still arguing there's no reason to bring search warrants into this. The state's Attorney General apparently would like the Baltimore PD's use of pen register orders to remain standard operating procedure. According to a brief filed in a criminal case relying on the warrantless deployment of an IMSI catcher (in this case a Hailstorm), the state believes there's no reason for police to seek a warrant because everyone "knows" cell phones generate data when they're turned on or in use.

The brief reads in part: 'The whereabouts of a cellular telephone are not "withdrawn from public view" until it is turned off, or its SIM card removed. Anyone who has ever used a smartphone is aware that the phone broadcasts its position on the map, leading to, for example, search results and advertising tailored for the user's location, or to a "ride-sharing" car appearing at one's address. And certainly anyone who has ever used any sort of cellular telephone knows that it must be in contact with an outside cell tower to function.'"
Science

How Melinda Gates Got Her Daughters Excited About Science (geekwire.com) 106

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that Melinda Gates concluded a Davos panel discussion about gender parity with a personal story about her own family, explaining how she originally became interested in computer science, and how she later played Lab Manager to Bill's Mr. Wizard to help pass along their passion for science and math to their kids. "On Saturday mornings," Gates explained, "I wanted to sleep late. So you know what I did? I made sure there were science projects available, and that's what he did with our two daughters and our son. And guess what my two daughters are interested in? Science and math."

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