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Original author: 
boesing

sutrs

“The first joint of a little finger can be sliced easily,” he said. “You tie the bottom of it with thread tightly and put your body weight on a kitchen knife. But the second joint was tougher than I thought.” Luckily, there was a brother to hand, who could stand on the knife and slice through the knuckle. The loss of the tip of the pinkie on his right hand was his own fault — he got drunk and started throwing furniture around in a bar. Unfortunately for him, the bar belonged to a friend of his boss. Out came the kitchen knife again, and off came the top of his little finger. But his fourth amputation bore a whole different significance.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/13/fake-fingers-help-ex-yakuza-lead-l...

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Original author: 
Cory Doctorow


Brian Krebs offers an in-depth look at a "cashout" service used by ransomware crooks to get money from their victims. Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts your personal files and demands that you pay a ransom for the key to decrypt them; the crooks who run the attacks demand that their victims buy prepaid MoneyPak cards and send the numbers for them by way of payment. But converting MoneyPaks to cash is tricky -- one laundry, which pipes the money through a horse/dog-track betting service -- charges a 60% premium.

* The ransomware victims who agree to purchase MoneyPak vouchers to regain control over their PCs.

* The guys operating the botnets that are pushing ransomware, locking up victim PCs, and extracting MoneyPak voucher codes from victims.

* The guy(s) running this cashout service.

* The “cashiers” or “cashers” on the back end who are taking the Moneypak codes submitted to the cashing service, linking those codes to fraudulently-obtained prepaid debit cards, and then withdrawing the funds via ATMs and wiring the proceeds back to the cashing service, minus their commission. The cashing service then credits a percentage of the MoneyPak voucher code values to the ransomware peddler’s account.

How much does the cashout service charge for all this work? More than half of the value of the MoneyPaks, it would seem. When a user logs in to the criminal service, he is greeted with the following message:

“Dear clients, due to decrease of infection rate on exploits we are forced to lift the price. The price is now 0.6. And also, I explained the rules for returns many times, we return only cheques which return on my side if you cash them out after then we lock the account! There are many clients who don’t return anything, and I will work only with these people now. I warn you.”

Cashout Service for Ransomware Scammers     

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Original author: 
samzenpus

An anonymous reader writes "There's a persistent bias against older programmers in the software development industry, but do the claims against older developers' hold up? A new paper looks at reputation on StackOverflow, and finds that reputation grows as developers get older. Older developers know about a wider variety of technologies. All ages seem to be equally knowledgeable about most recent programming technologies. Two exceptions: older developers have the edge when it comes to iOS and Windows Phone."

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Original author: 
samzenpus

Strudelkugel writes in with a story about how big data is being used to recruit workers. "When the e-mail came out of the blue last summer, offering a shot as a programmer at a San Francisco start-up, Jade Dominguez, 26, was living off credit card debt in a rental in South Pasadena, Calif., while he taught himself programming. He had been an average student in high school and hadn't bothered with college, but someone, somewhere out there in the cloud, thought that he might be brilliant, or at least a diamond in the rough. 'The traditional markers people use for hiring can be wrong, profoundly wrong,' says Vivienne Ming, the chief scientist at Gild since late last year. That someone was Luca Bonmassar. He had discovered Mr. Dominguez by using a technology that raises important questions about how people are recruited and hired, and whether great talent is being overlooked along the way."

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Original author: 
samzenpus

theodp writes "So, you're a 10x developer or a 25x programmer, but not getting paid like one? Keep your chin up! BusinessWeek reports that Silicon Valley is going Hollywood and top software developers can now get their very own agent through 10x Management, which bills itself as 'the talent agency for the technology industry.'"

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Original author: 
timothy

bshell writes "According to the CBC, there was a massive leak of "files containing information on over 120,000 offshore entities — including shell corporations and legal structures known as trusts — involving people in over 170 countries. The leak amounts to 260 gigabytes of data, or 162 times larger than the U.S. State Department cables published by WikiLeaks in 2010...In many cases, the leaked documents expose insider details of how agents would incorporate companies in Caribbean and South Pacific micro-states on behalf of wealthy clients, then assign front people called "nominees" to serve, on paper, as directors and shareholders for the corporations — disguising the companies' true owners." Makes a good read and there are some good interactive components. Perhaps Slashdot readers can figure out how the source of the leak, the D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists got their hands on this data."

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Original author: 
Cory Doctorow

In Wired, Steven Levy has a long profile of the fascinating field of algorithmic news-story generation. Levy focuses on Narrative Science, and its competitor Automated Insights, and discusses how the companies can turn "data rich" streams into credible news-stories whose style can be presented as anything from sarcastic blogger to dry market analyst. Narrative Science's cofounder, Kristian Hammond, claims that 90 percent of all news will soon be algorithmically generated, but that this won't be due to computers stealing journalists' jobs -- rather, it will be because automation will enable the creation of whole classes of news stories that don't exist today, such as detailed, breezy accounts of every little league game in the country.

Narrative Science’s writing engine requires several steps. First, it must amass high-quality data. That’s why finance and sports are such natural subjects: Both involve the fluctuations of numbers—earnings per share, stock swings, ERAs, RBI. And stats geeks are always creating new data that can enrich a story. Baseball fans, for instance, have created models that calculate the odds of a team’s victory in every situation as the game progresses. So if something happens during one at-bat that suddenly changes the odds of victory from say, 40 percent to 60 percent, the algorithm can be programmed to highlight that pivotal play as the most dramatic moment of the game thus far. Then the algorithms must fit that data into some broader understanding of the subject matter. (For instance, they must know that the team with the highest number of “runs” is declared the winner of a baseball game.) So Narrative Science’s engineers program a set of rules that govern each subject, be it corporate earnings or a sporting event. But how to turn that analysis into prose? The company has hired a team of “meta-writers,” trained journalists who have built a set of templates. They work with the engineers to coach the computers to identify various “angles” from the data. Who won the game? Was it a come-from-behind victory or a blowout? Did one player have a fantastic day at the plate? The algorithm considers context and information from other databases as well: Did a losing streak end?

Then comes the structure. Most news stories, particularly about subjects like sports or finance, hew to a pretty predictable formula, and so it’s a relatively simple matter for the meta-writers to create a framework for the articles. To construct sentences, the algorithms use vocabulary compiled by the meta-writers. (For baseball, the meta-writers seem to have relied heavily on famed early-20th-century sports columnist Ring Lardner. People are always whacking home runs, swiping bags, tallying runs, and stepping up to the dish.) The company calls its finished product “the narrative.”

Both companies claim that they'll be able to make sense of less-quantifiable subjects in the future, and will be able to generate stories about them, too.

Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?

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NewsBlur survives a traffic surge after news of Google Reader’s pending demise gets around.
Image: NewsBlur.

One of the more interesting stories to emerge from the demise of Google Reader is that of NewsBlur, a previously small, but very nice, open source alternative RSS reader.

NewsBlur is a one-man operation that was humming along quite nicely, but when Google announced Reader would shutdown, NewsBlur saw a massive traffic spike — in a few short days NewsBlur more than doubled its user base. How NewsBlur developer Samuel Clay handled the influx of new users should be required reading for anyone working on a small site without loads of funding and armies of developers.

“I was able to handle the 1,500 users who were using the service everyday,” writes Clay, “but when 50,000 users hit an uncachable and resource intensive backend, unless you’ve done your homework and load tested the living crap out of your entire stack, there’s going to be trouble brewing.”

Having tested NewsBlur a few times right after Google announced Reader was closing, I can vouch for the fact that there were times when the site was reduced to a crawl, but it came back to life remarkably quickly for a one-man operation.

In his postmortem, Clay details the moves he had to make to keep NewsBlur functioning under the heavy load — switching to new servers, adding a new mailing service (which then accidentally mailed Clay 250,000 error reports) and other moments of rapid, awkward growth.

It’s also worth noting that Clay credits the ability to scale to his premium subscription model, writing that, “the immediate benefits of revenue have been very clear over the past few days.”

As for the future, Clay says he plans to work on “scaling, scaling, scaling,” launching a visual refresh (which you can preview at dev.newsblur.com) and listening to feedback from the service’s host of new users.

If you’re looking for a Google Reader replacement, give NewsBlur a try. There’s a free version you can test out (the number of feeds is limited). A premium account runs $24/year and you can also host NewsBlur on your own server if you prefer.

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glowend writes "James Temple writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: 'In the fall of 2011, Max Levchin took the stage at a TechCrunch conference to lament the sad state of U.S. innovation. "Technology innovation in this country is somewhere between dire straits and dead," said the PayPal co-founder, later adding: "The solution is actually very simple: You have to aim almost ridiculously high." But for all the funding announcements, product launches, media attention and wealth creation, most of Silicon Valley doesn't concern itself with aiming "almost ridiculously high." It concerns itself primarily with getting people to click on ads or buy slightly better gadgets than the ones they got last year.' I feel like this may be true as more money and MBA types invade the Silicon Valley. There's a lot of 'me-too' startups with some of the best and brightest figuring out ways to sell me stuff rather the working on flying cars."

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AUSTIN—The knight who invented the World Wide Web came to SXSW to point out a few ways in which we're still doing it wrong.

Tim Berners-Lee's "Open Web Platform: Hopes & Fears" keynote hopscotched from the past of the Web to its present and future, with some of the same hectic confusion that his invention shows in practice. (The thought that probably went through attendees' heads: "Sir Tim is nervous at public speaking. Just like us!")

But his conclusion was clear enough: The Web is our work, and we shouldn't put our tools down.

The British scientist led off with some candy for the audience at the Austin Convention Center, in the form of stories about developing the Web on the "beautiful magnesium box" that was his NeXT workstation. Did you know that the Web's original default port was 2784 because low-numbered ports such as 80, today's default, needed root access?

"The Gopher people had 79, which was so much less cool," said Berners-Lee, drawing knowing laughter.

But the most important part of the Web's origins was its simple open-ness. Before writing a program that could connect to a program on another computer, he said, "I didn't have to ask anybody."

That paved a path to Berners-Lee's points on preserving the Web as a space where any compatible device works. As he put it: "The Web worked because HTML didn't say anything about the platform you were on."

Part of Berners-Lee's sermon involved encouraging people to see the Web as the ultimate app store.

Local apps can easily do things like access a phone's camera, but the mobile Web is catching up with standards to let HTML apps talk to components such as accelerometers, which let programs respond when we tilt or shake our devices.

HTML5 is also pulling in such media capabilities as video conferencing; Berners-Lee pointed the audience to WebPlatform.org, a hub for those efforts.

Web apps, in turn, comply with Berners-Lee's "principle of least power," a rule of simplicity, security and interoperability he defined as "If you're going to transmit something, you should use the least powerful language that you can."

He did not, however, present himself as an opponent of digital locks. During a post-talk Q&A, he defended proposals to add support for "digital rights management" usage restrictions to HTML5 as necessary to get more content on the open Web: "If we don't put the hooks for the use of DRM in, people will just go back to using Flash," he claimed.

Berners-Lee's biggest fear is not a mobile experience dominated by iOS or Play Store apps, but one in which the basic protocols of the Web are eaten away by ISP interference and state surveillance.

Deep packet inspection, for example, allows third parties to "look at all the stuff you're looking up on the Web, and store it, and use it." An Internet provider might employ that to sell ads or charge some sites and services extra; a government could exploit it to slow or disconnect sites it considers harmful.

In all of those warnings, exhortations and technical digressions (such as the virtue of coding in Objective-C, the declining cost of displays that may leave taxis "covered in pixels," the perils of "Turing-complete" languages), however, Berners-Lee didn't emphasize one of the most important features of his invention: the fact that it was also open-source. It fell to introducer John Perry Barlow to make that point.

"One of the more important things that Tim Berners-Lee was what we didn't do," added the Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder. "He did not say World Wide WebTM"

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