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Warner Bros Is Cracking Down On Harry Potter Festivals

Warner Bros is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals around the country, saying it's necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. From a report: Fans, however, liken the move to Dementors sucking the joy out of homegrown fun, while festival directors say they'll transfigure the events into generic celebrations of magic. "It's almost as if Warner Bros. has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town," said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that coincides with the annual suburban Philadelphia festival. Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill's business district director, said Warner Bros. reached out to his group in May, letting them know new guidelines prohibit festivals' use of any names, places or objects from the series. That ruled out everything from meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. Related story, from 18 years ago: Harry Potter Sites vs. Warner Brothers.

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The Rise of the Video-Game Gambler

Among the more insidious gifts that video games have bestowed on modern culture is the loot box. The New Yorker: A loot box is like an in-game lottery ticket: for a small fee, involving real money, a player can purchase an assortment of items that promise to enhance the game experience. Loot boxes are an appealing source of income for game developers, and they've been integral to the rise of smartphone "freemium" games, which are free to download but can't be fully enjoyed unless the player pays for in-app boosts. For pretty much everyone else, loot boxes are a scourge. Players hate that they have to pay extra just to be competitive. Parents hate discovering, too late, that several hundred dollars in Clash Royale arena packs have been charged to their credit card. And, increasingly, government regulators are thinking that loot boxes look too much like gambling -- gambling aimed at kids, no less. Belgium and the Netherlands have banned in-game loot boxes as a form of gambling, and Minnesota recently introduced a bill that would ban the sale of games containing loot boxes to people under the age of eighteen. The concern isn't merely prudish. In a finding that will surprise virtually no one, psychologists in New Zealand have discovered that loot boxes do indeed bear troubling similarities to gambling. The researchers, led by Aaron Drummond, of Massey University, looked at twenty-two console games released between 2016 and 2017, from Overwatch and FIFA 18 to Madden N.F.L. 18 and Star Wars Battlefront II. They noted how closely the loot-box system of each game aligned with five standard psychological criteria for gambling, including whether the loot box must be bought with real money, whether it has tangible value in the game or can be cashed out, and whether its contents are randomly determined.

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'Snapdragon 1000' Chip May Be Designed For PCs From the Ground Up

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 850 processor may be intended for PCs, but it's still a half step -- it's really a higher-clocked version of the same processor you'd find in your phone. The company may be more adventurous the next time, though. From a report: WinFuture says it has obtained details surrounding SDM1000 (possibly Snapdragon 1000), a previously hinted-at CPU that would be designed from the start for PCs. It would have a relatively huge design compared to most ARM designs (20mm x 15mm) and would consume a laptop-like 12W of power across the entire system-on-a-chip. It would compete directly with Intel's low-power Core processors where the existing 835 isn't really in the ballpark. A reference design found in import databases might give a clue as to what you could expect: it'd have up to 16GB of RAM and two 128GB storage modules.

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Some Science Journals That Claim To Peer Review Papers Do Not Do So

A rising number of journals that claim to review submissions do not bother to do so. Not coincidentally, this seems to be leading some academics to inflate their publication lists with papers that might not pass such scrutiny. The Economist: Experts debate how many journals falsely claim to engage in peer review. Cabells, an analytics firm in Texas, has compiled a blacklist of those which it believes are guilty. According to Kathleen Berryman, who is in charge of this list, the firm employs 65 criteria to determine whether a journal should go on it -- though she is reluctant to go into details. Cabells' list now totals around 8,700 journals, up from a bit over 4,000 a year ago. Another list, which grew to around 12,000 journals, was compiled until recently by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado. Using Mr Beall's list, Bo-Christer Bjork, an information scientist at the Hanken School of Economics, in Helsinki, estimates that the number of articles published in questionable journals has ballooned from about 53,000 a year in 2010 to more than 400,000 today. He estimates that 6% of academic papers by researchers in America appear in such journals.

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8 Months After a Surge of Complaints, Apple Announces a Repair Program For Its Flawed MacBooks and MacBook Pros

Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline: At long last, Apple admitted to its customers that its MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard designs are so flawed and prone to sticking or dead keys, as originally reported by The Outline in October, and that it will cover the cost of repairs beyond the products' normal warranty. The admission comes after the company has been hit with no fewer than three class action lawsuits concerning the computers and their ultra-thin butterfly-switch keyboards. While the repair and replacement program covers costs and notes that Apple will repair both single keys as well as whole keyboards when necessary, it doesn't note whether the replacements will be a different, improved design that will prevent the problem from happening again (and again, and again).

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eBay and Amazon Delist Faulty Carbon Monoxide Alarms

An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: Dozens of potentially deadly carbon monoxide alarms have been removed from sale by Amazon and eBay after a Which? investigation found some of them would not have protected their buyers. The consumer group tested four alarms that were on sale on both sites -- including an Amazon bestseller -- and found that they consistently failed to sound when the gas was present.... It said one of the alarms -- the Topolek GEHS007AW CO alarm (14.99) -- was listed as a bestseller on Amazon. It failed to detect the gas in more than 80% of tests. Three other unbranded alarms that were made in China and sold through sellers on Amazon and eBay for under 10 also repeatedly failed to sound when there was carbon monoxide present... Which? said all four claimed to meet the British safety standard for detecting carbon monoxide. Both Amazon and eBay have now removed the alarms -- as well as "another 50 lookalike alarms."

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NYT: 'Firefox Is Back. It's Time to Give It a Try.'

Another high-profile endorsement for Firefox -- this time from the lead consumer technology writer for The New York Times. (Alternate link here). The web has reached a new low. It has become an annoying, often toxic and occasionally unsafe place to hang out. More important, it has become an unfair trade: You give up your privacy online, and what you get in return are somewhat convenient services and hyper-targeted ads. That's why it may be time to try a different browser. Remember Firefox...? About two years ago, six Mozilla employees were huddled around a bonfire one night in Santa Cruz, Calif., when they began discussing the state of web browsers. Eventually, they concluded there was a "crisis of confidence" in the web. "If they don't trust the web, they won't use the web," Mark Mayo, Mozilla's chief product officer, said in an interview.... After testing Firefox for the last three months, I found it to be on a par with Chrome in most categories. In the end, Firefox's thoughtful privacy features persuaded me to make the switch and make it my primary browser. The Times cites privacy features like Firefox's "Facebook Container," which prevents Facebook from tracking you after you've left their site. While both Chrome and Firefox have tough security (including sandboxing), Cooper Quintin, a security researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tells the Times that Google "is fundamentally an advertising company, so it's unlikely that they will ever have a business interest in making Chrome more privacy friendly."

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How Should Open Source Development Be Subsidized?

"Open source maintainers are exhausted and rarely paid," writes TechCrunch's editorial manager. "A new generation wants to change the economics." An anonymous reader quotes their report: [Patreon] is increasingly being used by notable open source contributors as a way to connect with fans and sustain their work... For those who hit it big, the revenues can be outsized. Evan You, who created the popular JavaScript frontend library Vue.js, has reached $15,206 in monthly earnings ($182,472 a year) from 231 patrons... While Patreon is one direct approach for generating revenues from users, another one is to offer dual licenses, one free and one commercial... Companies care about proper licensing, and that becomes the leverage to gain revenue while still maintaining the openness and spirit of open source software... Tidelift is designed to offer assurances "around areas like security, licensing, and maintenance of software," CEO Donald Fischer explained... In addition, Tidelift handles the mundane tasks of setting up open source for commercialization such as handling licensing issues... Open Collective wants to open source the monetization of open source itself. Open Collective is a non-profit platform that provides tools to "collectives" to receive money while also offering mechanisms to allow the members of those collectives to spend their money in a democratic and transparent way. TechCrunch warns that "It's not just that people are free riding, it's often that they don't even realize it. Software engineers can easily forget just how much craftsmanship has gone into the open source code that powers the most basic of applications... "If you work at a for-profit company, take the lead in finding a way to support the code that allows you to do your job so efficiently. The decentralization and volunteer spirit of the open source community needs exactly the same kind of decentralized spirit in every financial contributor. Sustainability is each of our jobs, every day."

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George Lucas's Terrible Idea for Star Wars Episodes 7-9

In an interview with James Cameron, George Lucas reveals what he'd planed for the final three Star Wars films: "[The next three 'Star Wars' films] were going to get into a microbiotic world," he told Cameron. "There's this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force...." In terms of his storytelling, Lucas regarded individuals as "vehicles for the Whills to travel around in... And the conduit is the midi-chlorians. The midi-chlorians are the ones that communicate with the Whills. The Whills, in a general sense, they are the Force." Lucas is confident that had he kept his company, the Whills-focused films "would have been done. Of course, a lot of the fans would have hated it, just like they did 'Phantom Menace' and everything, but at least the whole story from beginning to end would be told." Lucas acknowledges in the interview that "Everybody hated it in 'Phantom Menace' [when] we started talking about midi-chlorians," prompting one Ars Technica editor to add "Because it was a really dumb idea." He speculates that if the final three Star Wars movies followed Lucas's original plan, "Imagine, if you can, our heroes shrinking down like the Fantastic Voyage to go meet some midi-chlorians." Knowing Lucas's plans for the franchise "should make every Star Wars fan send a note of gratitude to whoever at Disney decided to buy the franchise and take it away and out from under Lucas' control."

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Can Two Injections of Tuberculosis Vaccine Cure Diabetes?

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The causes of Type 1 diabetes can be significantly reversed over several years with just two injections of a common tuberculosis vaccine injected a few weeks apart, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital announced Thursday in a paper published in the journal Nature. Researchers found a substantial reduction in the blood-sugar marker HbA1c that is used to diagnose diabetes. All subjects with diabetes who received the vaccine had a 10% reduction after three years and 18% after four years, bringing them below the cutoff point for a clinical diagnosis. Those subjects followed for a full eight years retained most of the reduction. Participants who received a placebo or were in a reference group that followed normal diabetic management saw their blood sugar measurement rise by a few percentage points during the same periods followed... A 10% reduction in Hb1Ac reduces the risk of death as a result of diabetes by 21%, and drops by 37% other complications, like blindness and loss of feeling in hands and feet, according to a 2000 study.

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Tesla Autopilot Safety Defeat Device Gets a Cease-and-Desist From NHTSA

schwit1 writes: The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) is cracking down on a device that was designed to trick Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot feature into thinking a driver is paying attention, in order to extend the amount of time that it will operate without anyone touching the steering wheel. NHTSA announced on Tuesday that it has sent a cease and desist letter to the makers of Autopilot Buddy, and has given the company until June 29 to end sales and distribution of the $199 product. The device is a two-piece weighted hoop with magnets that wraps around a steering wheel spoke and registers with the car's sensors as a hand on the wheel. Autopilot is programmed to disengage after a short period of time if the driver is not touching the wheel and ignores a series of alerts to take control.unity.

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Can NASA Protect Earth from Catastrophic Asteroid Collisions?

An anonymous reader quotes Qz: NASA is not going to be able to find all the asteroids big enough to cause serious devastation on Earth by 2020 -- or even 2033. Also: For a hypothetical attempt to send a spacecraft to divert an seriously dangerous incoming asteroid, we'll need a ten year heads-up to build it and get it to the asteroid. The good news? They're working on it. "If a real threat does arise, we are prepared to pull together the information about what options might work and provide that information to decision-makers," Lindley Johnson, NASA's Planetary Defense Officer, told reporters. But NASA's methodology is now being criticized by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold -- in the peer-reviewed journal Icarus. An anonymous reader quotes Scientific American: Since 2016, Nathan Myhrvold has argued that there are fatal flaws in the data from NASA's NEOWISE mission to hunt space rocks... NASA is working to develop a follow-up space telescope that would use the same scientific approach to fulfill a mandate from the US Congress to discover nearly all of the space rocks that could pose a threat to Earth. After 18 months of peer review, and plenty of acrimony on both sides, Myhrvold's latest critique appeared on 22 May on the website of the journal Icarus. Among other things, he argues that NEOWISE estimates of asteroid diameters should not be trusted -- a crucial challenge, because the size of an asteroid determines how much damage it would cause if it hit Earth. "These observations are the best we're going to have for a very long time," says Myhrvold. "And they weren't really analysed very well at all." NASA hasn't responded in detail to Myhrvold's criticism, though a June 14th statement said their team "stands by its data and scientific findings," noting that they'd also been published in several peer-reviewed journals.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


America's 'CyberWar' With Foreign Governments Could Get More Aggressive

America's Department of Defense "has quietly empowered the United States Cyber Command to take a far more aggressive approach to defending the nation against cyberattacks, a shift in strategy that could increase the risk of conflict with the foreign states that sponsor malicious hacking groups," reports the New York Times. Long-time Slashdot reader TheSauce shares their report: In the spring, as the Pentagon elevated the command's status, it opened the door to nearly daily raids on foreign networks, seeking to disable cyberweapons before they can be unleashed, according to strategy documents and military and intelligence officials... The new strategy envisions constant, disruptive "short of war" activities in foreign computer networks... "Continuous engagement imposes tactical friction and strategic costs on our adversaries, compelling them to shift resources to defense and reduce attacks"... The risks of escalation -- of U.S. action in foreign networks leading to retaliatory strikes against U.S. banks, dams, financial markets or communications networks -- are considerable, according to current and former officials... The chief risk is that the internet becomes a battleground of all-against-all, as nations not only place "implants" in the networks of their adversaries -- something the United States, China, Russia, Iran and North Korea have done with varying levels of sophistication -- but also begin to engage in daily attack and counterattack. An article shared by schwit1 notes that officials in the Obama administration "were also worried that a vigorous cyber response...could escalate into a full scale cyber war." Yet the Times reports that this new policy reflects "a widespread view that the United States has mounted an inadequate defense against the rising number of attacks aimed at America."

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Should Professional Sports Switch To Robot Referees?

Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler writes: Everyone who watches sports spends some amount of time yelling at the umpire or sports referee. For the past few years we've also been shouting, "Replace that ump with a robot!" But is it technically feasible? Is the current level of AI and robotics tech up to the job? This article starts with the assumption that someone seriously wants to create a robot umpire or sports referee and then evaluates whether it possible to build an accurate and trustworthy augmented reality solution today. The article points out that professional tennis matches already apply AI to high-definition video feeds from up to six different cameras to dispense binding judgments on whether a ball was in or out. At the same time, not every officiating decision in every sport is so easily automated, since AI "can't yet handle calls that hinge on judgment of players' intent." But there's a larger question: do we really want to remove those human watchers from our sports? "Sports is a human activity," argues a professor of social sciences at Cardiff University in Wales, suggesting that human officials continue a cultural tradition which reminds us of who we are. "Humans are imperfect; that's OK." What do Slashdot's readers think? Should professional sports switch to robot referees?

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Dropbox Open Sources DivANS: a Compression Algorithm In Rust Compiled To WASM

Slashdot reader danielrh writes: DivANS is a new compression algorithm developed at Dropbox that can be denser than Brotli, 7zip or zstd at the cost of compression and decompression speed. The code uses some of the new vector intrinsics in Rust and is multithreaded. It has a demo running in the browser. One of the new ideas is that it has an Intermediate Representation, like a compiler, and that lets developers mashup different compression algorithms and build compression optimizers that run over the IR. The project is looking for community involvement and experimentation.

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