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January, 2019

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Windows 7 versus Windows 10: Here comes the final showdown

With less than a year to a major Windows 7 support deadline, it’s decision time for the PC. …read more

Source:: ZDNet

A Poker-Playing Robot Goes To Work for the Pentagon

In 2017, a poker bot called Libratus made headlines when it roundly defeated four top human players at no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em. Now, Libratus’ technology is being adapted to take on opponents of a different kind — in service of the US military.

From a report: Libratus — Latin for balanced — was created by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to test ideas for automated decision making based on game theory. Early last year, the professor who led the project, Tuomas Sandholm, founded a startup called Strategy Robot to adapt his lab’s game-playing technology for government use, such as in war games and simulations used to explore military strategy and planning. Late in August, public records show, the company received a two-year contract of up to $10 million with the US Army. It is described as “in support of” a Pentagon agency called the Defense Innovation Unit, created in 2015 to woo Silicon Valley and speed US military adoption of new technology.

[…] Sandholm declines to discuss specifics of Strategy Robot’s projects, which include at least one other government contract. He says it can tackle simulations that involve making decisions in a simulated physical space, such as where to place military units. The Defense Innovation Unit declined to comment on the project, and the Army did not respond to requests for comment. Libratus’ poker technique suggests Strategy Robot might deliver military personnel some surprising recommendations. Pro players who took on the bot found that it flipped unnervingly between tame and hyperaggressive tactics, all the while relentlessly notching up wins as it calculated paths to victory.

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Source:: Slashdot

GoFundMe launches its own campaign for government shutdown relief – CNET

And in a day, it’s already two-thirds of the way to its fundraising goal of $75,000. …read more

Source:: CNet

The Economics of Streaming is Making Songs Shorter

Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. From a report: Six percent of hit songs were 2 minutes 30 seconds or shorter in 2018, up from just 1% five years before. Take Kendrick Lamar. One of the world’s most popular musicians right now. The average track length on Lamar’s breakout 2013 album good kid, m.A.A.d city is 5 minutes 37 seconds. All are 3 minutes 30 seconds or longer. On Lamar’s most recent album DAMN., the average song is 3 minutes and 57 seconds. DAMN. won the Pulitzer Prize for music, going to show that this trend isn’t necessarily lowering the quality of music. It’s not just Lamar. The trend can be seen in albums of music’s biggest stars, like the rapper and singer Drake, perhaps pop music’s most dominant force.

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Source:: Slashdot

Popular WordPress Plugin WPML Hacked By Angry Former Employee

A very popular WordPress plugin was hacked over the weekend after a hacker defaced its website and sent a mass message to all its customers revealing the existence of supposed unpatched security holes. From a report: In a follow-up mass email, the plugin’s developers blamed the hack on a former employee, who also defaced their website. The plugin in question is WPML (or WP MultiLingual), the most popular WordPress plugin for translating and serving WordPress sites in multiple languages. According to its website, WPML has over 600,000 paying customers and is one of the very few WordPress plugins that is so reputable that it doesn’t need to advertise itself with a free version on the official WordPress.org plugins repository. But on Saturday, ET timezone, the plugin faced its first major security incident since its launch in 2007. The attacker, which the WPML team claims is a former employee, sent out a mass email to all the plugin’s customers.

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Source:: Slashdot

Facebook Launches a Petition Feature

Tomorrow Facebook will encounter a slew of fresh complexities with the launch of Community Actions, its News Feed petition feature. From a report: Community Actions could unite neighbors to request change from their local and national elected officials and government agencies. But it could also provide vocal interest groups a bully pulpit from which to pressure politicians and bureaucrats with their fringe agendas. Community Actions embodies the central challenge facing Facebook. Every tool it designs for positive expression and connectivity can be subverted for polarization and misinformation. Facebook’s membership has swelled into such a ripe target for exploitation that it draws out the worst of humanity. You can imagine misuses like “Crack down on [minority group]” that are offensive or even dangerous but some see as legitimate. The question is whether Facebook puts in the forethought and aftercare to safeguard its new tools with proper policy and moderation. Otherwise each new feature is another liability.

Community Actions start to roll out to the US tomorrow after several weeks of testing in a couple of markets. Users can add a title, description, and image to their Community Action, and tag relevant government agencies and officials who’ll be notified. The goal is to make the Community Action go viral and get people to hit the “Support” button. Community Actions have their own discussion feed where people can leave comments, create fundraisers, and organize Facebook Events or Call Your Rep campaigns. Facebook displays the numbers of supporters behind a Community Action, but you’ll only be able to see the names of those you’re friends with or that are Pages or public figures.

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Source:: Slashdot

Facebook is adding petitions to your news feed – CNET

“Community Actions” will start rolling out to users in the US on Monday. …read more

Source:: CNet

Lathe’s Tool Holder Holds a Rotary Tool

What is better than a tool? Two. What is better than two? Two tools tooling together. [tintek33] wanted a rotary tool to become an attachment on his mini lathe, the video is also below the break. Fortunately, Dremels and Proxxons are built to receive accessories, or in this case, become one. Even if the exact measurements do not apply to your specific hardware, we get to see the meat of the procedure from concept to use.

We start with where the rotary tool should be and get an idea of what type of bracket will be necessary. The design phase examines the important dimensions with a sketch and then a CAD mock-up. Suitably thick material is selected, and the steps for pulling the tool from the raw stock are shown with enough detail to replicate everything yet there is no wasted time in this video. That is important if you are making a quick decision as to whether or not this is worth your hard work. Once the brace is fully functional and tested, it is anodized for the “summer ocean” blue color to make it easy to spot in the tool heap. Some complex cuts are made and shown close-up.

Thank you [jafinch78] for your comment on Take a Mini Lathe for a Spin and check out [tintek33] using his mini lathe to make a hydraulic cylinder for an RC snow plow.

…read more

Source:: Hackaday

Shazam superhero movie with Zachary Levi: Release date, trailers, cast – CNET

Here’s our ongoing guide to the upcoming DC Comics film starring Zachary Levi. …read more

Source:: CNet

Radio Telescopes Horn In With GNU Radio

Who doesn’t like to look up at the night sky? But if you are into radio, there’s a whole different way to look using radio telescopes. [John Makous] spoke at the GNU Radio Conference about how he’s worked to make a radio telescope that is practical for even younger students to build and operate.

The only real high tech part of this build is the low noise amplifier (LNA) and the project is in reach of a typical teacher who might not be an expert on electronics. It uses things like paint thinner cans and lumber. [John] also built some blocks in GNU Radio that made it easy for other teachers to process the data from a telescope. As he put it, “This is the kind of nerdy stuff I like to do.” We can relate.

The telescope is made to pick up the 21 cm band to detect neutral hydrogen from the Milky Way. It can map the hydrogen in the galaxy and also measure the rotational speed of the galaxy using Doppler shift. Not bad for an upcycled paint thinner can. These are cheap enough, you can even build a fleet of them.

This would be a great project for anyone interested in radio telescopes or space. However, it is particularly set up for classroom use. Students can flex their skills in math, engineering, programming, and — of course — astronomy and physics.

We’ve seen old satellite LNAs repurposed to radio telescopes. If you think you don’t have room for a radio telescope, think again.

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Source:: Hackaday

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