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IBM Engineer Builds a Harry Potter Sorting Hat Using 'Watson' AI ( 117

An anonymous reader writes: As America celebrates Father's Day, The Next Web reports on an IBM engineer who found a way to combine his daughters' interest in the Harry Potter series with an educational home technology project. Together they built a Hogwarts-style sorting hat -- which assigns its wearer into an appropriate residence house at the school of magic -- and it does it using IBM's cognitive computing platform Watson. "The hat uses Watson's Natural Language Classifier and Speech to Text to let the wearer simply talk to the hat, then be sorted according to what he or she says..." reports The Next Web. "Anderson coded the hat to pick up on words that fit the characteristics of each Hogwarts house, with brainy and cleverness going right into Ravenclaw's territory and honesty a recognized Hufflepuff attribute."
The hat's algorithm would place Stephen Hawking and Hillary Clinton into Ravenclaw, according to the article, while Donald Trump "was assigned to Gryffindor for his boldness -- but only with a 48 percent certainty."

The sorting hat talks, drawing its data directly from the IBM Cloud, and if you're interested in building your own, the IBM engineer has shared a tutorial online.
Classic Games (Games)

Mattel Sells Out Of 'Game Developer Barbie' ( 224

Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger writes: The Mattel people have released a new Barbie doll figurine touted as Game Developer Barbie. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she was apparently designed by a game developer.
It's already sold out on Mattel's web site, with CNET saying it provides a better role model than a 2014 book In which "computer engineer" Barbie designed a cute game about puppies, then admitted "I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game," before her laptop crashed with a virus. Mattel says that with this new doll, "young techies can play out the creative fun of this exciting profession," and the doll even comes with a laptop showing an IDE on the screen. Sandbagger's original submission ended with a question. Do Slashdot readers think this will inspire a new generation of programmers to stay up late writing code?

Political Party's Videoconference System Hacked, Allowed Spying On Demand 32

The political party heading the Quebec parliament "had its internal videoconference system hacked in what seems to be a default password hack," writes Slashdot reader courteaudotbiz , citing reports in a Canadian newspaper. "Quebec Liberals got a lesson in how not to use the internet," joked one Quebec news station, writing that the security flaw "allowed anyone to gain access to strategy meetings and watch any of the party's live video conferences; and at least one person did... According to the source it was as easy as using a commonly used password, that is often the default code that never gets changed."

While the default password has since been changed, it represents the second high-profile Canadian password screw-up, since last week in Winnipeg, "Two 14-year-old high school students managed to hack into a Bank of Montreal ATM at a super market during their lunch break using an operator's manual they found online... They notified a nearby BMO branch manager, who was nice enough to write the pair notes for being absent from school as they showed security personnel how they did it."
Classic Games (Games)

Real-World Pong Created by Amateur Builders ( 39

sproketboy shares this article about a computer graphic designer who spent two years building a real-world version of the classic videogame Pong, played on a full-sized coffee table using only mechanical parts. The project's team apparently used a hard drive platter for the real-world scroll wheels controlling the paddles, aided by some large Arduinos and other homemade electronics (along with rainbow LED lights to create the pixels for the score).

"We don't have any electronics, product design, or manufacturing background," Daniel Perdomo told one technology site. "All we knew for this was thanks to the Internet (Google, YouTube, forums). Today you can grab all the knowledge you want just a few clicks away!" He's now looking for a hardware incubator to transform his "Atari Pong Project" into a real consumer product. (Interestingly, another group of hobbyists built a similar electromechanical version of Pong back In 2004.)
Role Playing (Games)

The NSA's Delightfully D&D-inspired Guide To the Internet ( 43

"The NSA has a well-earned reputation for being one of the tougher agencies to get records out of, making those rare FOIA wins all the sweeter..." according to, and "the fact that the records in question just so happen to be absolutely insane are just icing on the cake...." v3rgEz writes: In 2007, two NSA employees put together "Untangling the Web," the agency's official guide to scouring the World Wide Web. The 651-page guide cites Borges, Freud, and Ovid -- and that's just in the preface. MuckRock obtained a copy of the guide under an NSA Freedom of Information request, and has a write up of all the guide's amazing best parts.
They're calling it "the weirdest thing you'll read today".

Fake Facebook Event Draws Police, Spawns New Meme ( 92

An anonymous reader writes: A fake event announcement on Facebook has now launched "a long string of viral jokes featuring fake concert events for music acts at oddly appropriate venues," according to CNET -- for example, a Radiohead concert at Radio Shack or a Sunday Brunch with Insane Clown Posse. It began with a fake announcement touting an upcoming concert with Limp Bizkit on April 20 at a Sunoco gas station. "The event got so much viral attention and local and national news coverage that the Dayton Police Department had to issue a statement to the local press and on its Twitter page on April 19 that there would be no Limp Bizkit concert..." CNET reports.

"That still didn't stop a crowd of 100 Limp Bizkit fans from going to the Sunoco and chanting 'Fred! Fred! Fred!' in front of the station. The station had to close up for the night and police were called to the scene to disperse the crowd. Since then, other Facebook users decided to try their luck at tricking the more gullible people on the Internet into going to concerts that don't exist."
In an unrelated development, 12 Facebook employees and their guests were stuck in an elevator at Facebook's California headquarters for more than two hours on Friday, until being rescued by local firefighters using the Jaws of Life.
First Person Shooters (Games)

History Buffs Discover Inaccuracies In Battlefield 1 Trailer ( 74

MojoKid shares an interesting article from Tom's Hardware. While the new Battlefield 1 trailer may be the most-liked trailer in the history of YouTube, it's also historically inaccurate, according to a popular YouTube channel about World War I. "Some of the scenes feature some unusual or experimental gear," reports Indy Neidell, the voice of the video series The Great War, "and some weapons are carried by soldiers from the other side."

Thousands of people joined the YouTube channel after the release of the game's new trailer, prompting this special video review of the historical accuracy of the Battlefield 1 trailer. "Some of the most spectacular moments in the trailer, such as the tanks bursting into trenches or giant, ominous zeppelins hovering, are actually historically accurate," reports Tom's Hardware, adding that the YouTube commentator "ultimately applauds Battlefield 1 for incorporating so many different elements of WWI. Many people often forget that much of WWI was fought through hand-to-hand combat or that battles took place throughout Eurasian landmass."
First Person Shooters (Games)

Original 'Doom' Level Remade in the New 'Doom' ( 46

An anonymous reader writes: After the new Doom was released yesterday, Vice discovered its SnapMap feature had already been used to recreate one of the levels from the original Doom. "The original Doom thrived on a strong modding community, and id is supporting that tradition here in a great way." Sharing videos for both the old and new versions of the E1 M2 nuclear plant map, Vice also applauded the interface for the new SnapMap tool, which lets users design their own levels, even on consoles. SnapMap includes tools for arranging objects, placing enemies, and even triggering events when a player reaches certain points in a level. "It's incredibly easy to use considering how much you can do, and so far I've had little trouble uploading, downloading, and browsing for user-made levels."
Newegg is also offering a $15 discount code for PC, Xbox One, or PS4 versions.
Classic Games (Games)

New "Perfect Game" Donkey Kong Record May Be Unbeatable ( 77

An anonymous reader writes: Standing in front on a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet, Wes Copeland set a new all-time high score on Thursday, playing Donkey Kong for 3 hours, 20 minutes, and scoring 1,218,000 points."It's how he took the title, though that's so staggering," reports Polygon. "Copeland did not lose a single Mario in the game. He took his first life all the way from the first level all the way to the end, cashing in the extra lives to obliterate all comers." Since the game ends after 22 levels, it will be difficult to surpass Copeland's "perfect game".

For comparison, Steve Wiebe set a high score in 2007 with just 695,500 points in the documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," eventually bumping his score up to 1,064,500 by 2010. But Thursday, posting a picture of his new high score on Facebook, Copeland announced that "This will be my last record score. I don't believe I can put up a game any higher than this."


Siri Voice Actress Doesn't Use Siri ( 82

An anonymous coward writes: Susan Bennett, the actress who provided the voice of Apple's Siri assistant, says she "doesn't really" use Siri herself. "It's too weird," she says in a new interview. While she uses many Apple products, "I'm used to hearing my voice on radio and TV commercials and that sort of thing, but to hear my own voice coming out of this little computer phone is too strange."

Bennett says she recorded every sound combination in the English language one fateful July in 2005, working five days a week, four hours a day, but didn't know it was for Siri until six years later, in 2011, when another voice actor e-mailed,"Hey, we're playing around with this new iPhone. Isn't this you?" Bennett says she was "kind of horrified, because I hadn't been told... On the other hand, I was extremely flattered."
In the interview she also says she felt "dissed" when Siri answered one of her first questions, "What are you doing," with a disgusted "I'm talking to you..." Although on her personal web site, Bennett shares a recording of herself being interviewed by Siri.
The Internet

RIP Kuro5hin ( 264

themusicgod1 writes: Can we please get a moment of silence? Long-time sister site to Slashdot, Kuro5hin has finally gone offline.

Online Voters Name British Vessel 'Boaty McBoatface' ( 221

Britain's Natural Environment Research Council conducted an online poll to select the name for their new advanced polar research vessel. Though it cost more than 200 million pounds and represents their fleet's largest and most advanced research vessel, when the voting closed yesterday the clear winner, was the name 'Boaty McBoatface'. The name received over 124,000 votes, while the nearest runner-up -- Poppy-Mai -- received just 34,371, and the fourth-most popular suggestion, "RRS It's Bloody Cold Here," received just 10,679 votes. "I am grateful to everyone who has participated in the competition," Britain's science minister told The Daily Telegraph, though he added "You won't be surprised to know that we want something that fits the mission and captures the spirit of scientific endeavor." The Telegraph takes this as a signal that the ministers "were unlikely to endorse the result."

Flying Jet-Powered Hoverboard Now a Reality ( 93

Zapata Racing has begun testing prototypes of a new jet-powered hoverboard called the "Flyboard Air". The Verge published a new interview with the company's CEO, who confirms that a backpack full of kerosene-grade fuel powers the flying hoverboard's four 250-horsepower turboengines, with two more engines used for stabilizaton. Capable of flying up to 100 miles per hour, the jet-powered hoverboard uses an internal algorithm to adjust the thrust and angle of each turboengine, so "It's like we have six systems working together plus my brain and my legs." The company hopes to ultimately interest the military and security sectors in the technology, but they're also working on a smaller version that could be piloted while sitting, which the CEO describes as "extremely small, extremely stable, and something that you can take to go and buy your bread in the morning."

Underwater Sonar Robot Discovers A Real Loch Ness Monster (Prop) ( 62

A Norwegian oil company is finally performing a sonar scan on the bottom of Loch Ness, creating a high-resolution map of the Scottish lake that's reputed to contain a mysterious lake monster. "Operation Groundtruth" will be using a marine robot named Munin, and they've already identified a 27-foot-long shipwreck and disproved rumors of a 27-foot-long "Nessie trench" where the cryptid creature could be hiding. The Scottish tourism agency has issued a press release about the robot's discovery of a life-sized model of the Loch Ness monster used in a 1970 film, which had sunk during the filming more than 45 years ago. "The agency's statement said 'Nessie found'," reports Discovery News, "with an asterisk at the bottom reading 'replica model'."

Worshipping the Flying Spaghetti Monster Isn't a Real Religion, Court Rules ( 527

WheezyJoe writes: A court in Nebraska has officially ruled that Pastafarianism is not a real religion, and therefore a prison inmate with "several tattoos proclaiming his faith" will not get $5 million or privileges to order and wear religious clothing and pendants, nor meet for weekly worship services and classes and receive communion. The Federal judge ruled that The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a "real" religion eligible for protection under the First Amendment...

In ruling against the inmate and the church of Pastafarianism, the judge wrote "there must be a line beyond which a practice is not 'religious' simply because a plaintiff labels it as such... A prisoner could just as easily read the works of Vonnegut or Heinlein and claim it as his holy book, and demand accommodation of Bokononism or the Church of All Worlds [citing Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land]. The Flying Spaghetti Monster Gospel is plainly a work of satire, meant to entertain while making a pointed political statement," and thus not a "real" religion.


Free Lightsaber Event Now Battling Lucasfilm's Lawyers ( 198

For eight years the arts collective Newmindspace had been staging free lightsaber battles, and in December they set a world record with 9,951 "combatants" simultaneously participating in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle. But then in January they received a letter from the copyright attorneys for the Star Wars franchise. "We immediately stopped using the words 'lightsaber,' 'Jedi,' 'Sith' and 'The Force,' " the group's co-founder told the technology blog of the San Jose Mercury News, saying they've still been "aggressively pursued" for the last three months. '''In March we received further communication stating 'The Light Battle Tour' and 'light sword' were still too close to their trademarks, and we moved to settle the dispute to avoid legal action." Their new solution involves referring to the weapons as "catblades", and they've re-branded their upcoming series of events (which begins on April 30 in San Jose) as the "Cats in Space Tour".
United Kingdom

Amateur Scientist Builds Thermite Grenade Cannon ( 97

YouTube personality Colin Furze has built a homemade cannon which he's filmed launching grenades filled with thermite, "an especially nasty chemical composition made of metal power and oxide that burns as hot as 2,500 degrees Celsius." Furze once co-hosted Sky1's program Gadget Geeks, and he's since made a new career demonstrating strange science projects on YouTube. Furze's other homemade devices have included a rocket-powered go-kart and a knife that can also toast bread while it's cutting.

Slashdot Asks: What's Your Favorite Easter Egg? ( 165

One year ago, Easter Sunday was greeted with the news that many companies were increasingly cracking down on "Easter Eggs," like the harmless snippets of vanity code playfully hidden by developers. "As programming becomes more corporate, more official, one cannot appear to have code that is not officially sanctioned," the author of The Elements of Computing Style told the BBC, though other programmers they spoke to disagreed.

The Easter Egg is a tradition which dates back at least to a hidden room in a 1979 Atari game, and I still have fond memories of the Batmobile Easter Egg (video) in King's Quest II (1985) and tales of that weird musical Easter Egg in Windows 95 which scrolled the names of their entire development team.

So share your favorites in the comments. What's your favorite Easter Egg?

33,000 Sign Online Petition Promoting Guns At Republican Convention ( 663

An anonymous reader writes: "An online petition on claims that constitutional rights are being denied to those who want to bring a gun to the fight for the Republican Party's future," reports CNET. "Though Ohio is an open carry state, which allows for the open carry of guns, the hosting venue — the Quicken Loans Arena — strictly forbids the carry of firearms on their premises." Citing a quote from the National Rifle Association that gun-free zones are "the worst and most dangerous of all lies," the petition has already attracted more than 33,000 signatures, though CNET reports that the whole petition is a satire they're attributing to the Hyperationalist blog. The petition appears to have attracted its last 8,000 signatures within the last 18 hours, shortly after its URL appeared on a web site for young conservatives.

Feds: Brink's Employee Makes Off With $196,000 In Quarters ( 142

dfsmith writes: CNN is reporting today on the prosecution of a man who stole $196,000 worth of quarters from his employer in Alabama. Apparently the Brinks facility kept large bags of the coins for the Federal Reserve (about 1 ton each), which the accused emptied and refilled with beads (leaving some coins visible in the bag's window). Dennis faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. That's a million-quarter fine, or 216,000 more quarters than Dennis stole.
Notwithstanding the enterprise of purchasing and transporting that many beads, you've got to wonder: how would you go about this heist, and what would you do with the proceeds?

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