Ask Slashdot:Why is Microsoft Blocking Its Own Server Pages?21

Long-time Slashdot reader lpq writes: I followed a link that pointed at a Microsoft security advisory about ".lnk" files.The original link, https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/technet/security/advisory/2286198.mspx, produced this message:


It turns out the advisory number doesn't matter, just the extension for "Active Microsoft Server Page" (https.../.mspx) at the end.I guess there were too many security advisory lookups for MS to handle!*snort*!

The .mspx extension indicates a page using a special internal Microsoft rendering framework with a custom web handler (built in ASP.Net). But I ran some tests Saturday, and observed the exact same glitch described above using three different browsers — Firefox, Edge, and Brave. Anyone have a theory about what's going on?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.Why is Microsoft blocking its own server pages?

Ask Slashdot:Are Virtual Or In-Person Developer Conferences 'Better'?92

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: Microsoft Build kicks off online Tuesday as a free virtual event after plans for an in-person Seattle conference with a $2,395 entry fee and 6,000 or so attendees were shelved due to the coronavirus outbreak. It is just one of many large in-person developer conferences that were canceled in response to the pandemic.

While the deep-pocketed sponsors of Microsoft Build (virtual for 2020), Facebook F8 (canceled for 2020), Google I/O (canceled for 2020), and Apple WWDC (virtual for 2020) won't miss the loss of conference revenue, one wonders what the effect may be on nonprofit-run conferences like the Grace Hopper Celebration. GHC is also going virtual in 2020 (details to be determined) after hosting nearly 25,000 in-person attendees last year — registration fees were $1150 (general), $600 (academic), $450 (students)...

They may be cheaper, more accessible, and have a lower carbon footprint than face-to-face conferences, but are virtual conferences "better" than meeting in person?

Ask Slashdot: What Are You Doing To Help?251

Long-time Slashdot reader destinyland writes: With all the news stories about how the pandemic is impacting our world, some of us have been just plain lucky.As an information worker, I was already working from home, so I still have my full-time job — and my full-time income.So my question is, if we really are all "in this together," then what can I be doing to help the others who need it?

Here's what I've done so far. First just by staying at home, I'm keeping myself healthy, while not adding to the burdens of medical workers, or spreading the virus to anyone else.But I'm also at least trying to place some food orders at local restaurants, having it delivered to my home(and also adding a big tip.) The post office will be sending me two sheets of "Forever" stamps that I bought to help pre-fund future postal services.And though I haven't bought any gift cards yet, I've ordered $40 worth of books to support my local bookstore, and placed a second order for a bunch of graphic novels from my favorite local comic book shop.

Bookstores do need our support.You can also try buying your books through BookShop.org, a new e-commerce site whose profits go to local independent bookstores while giving book-buyers an alternative to Amazon. But some stores are just turning to crowdfunding campaigns.When people heard that San Francisco's iconic City Lights Bookstore might be forced to close after 60 years, they contributed over $484,000 to its GoFundMe campaign to keep it alive.

In fact, there's now at least 30,000 coronavirus-related GoFundMe pages to choose from.If you want to do something more organized, the New York Times has launched its own fundraising page for "four nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to those facing economic hardship."The nonprofit-evaluating site Charity Navigator has also created a list of trustworthy organizations seeking donations to support communities affected by the pandemic.

Everyone's got their own ideas about how to help — so what are the rest of you doing?If you've been lucky, what ways have you found to give back, to pitch in, or just feel like you're connecting to the community beyond your door?

Leave your answers in the comments.

What are you doing to help?
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: Should the Internet Be A Public Utility? (qz.com) 230

The pandemic has "proven conclusively that the internet should be a public utility," argues Quartz."It's a basic necessity in the 21st century, like running water, gas, and electricity. Indeed, the United Nations in 2016 declared that internet access is a human right."Sure, you could theoretically survive without it, just as you might light your home with candles or warm it by fire. Just as you could arguably trek to the closest freshwater source and walk back with buckets of the life-sustaining stuff. But in wealthy societies, like the U.S., those are absurd notions. Living under such conditions is virtually impossible and endangers everyone... [T]hough we have a whole lot of social woes to contend with right now -- pressing medical and economic needs -- it's not too soon to recognize that internet service providers' profits are not the top priority and that lack of access exacerbates existing class divides....

Increasingly, towns, cities, and states are taking a close look at Chattanooga, Tennessee, which built its own high-speed fiber-optic internet network in 2009. A 2018 Consumer Reports survey found the city's broadband was rated best in the US. There are already more than 500 communities nationwide operating public networks or leveraging their massive contracts with broadband providers to ensure free wiring of schools, libraries, and other publicly-accessible wifi hotspots. This patchwork approach to public access is taking hold across the U.S. and there is a growing understanding that internet access is a social issue that has to be addressed by governments, not private companies operating with profit as their sole motivator.

Perhaps after the pandemic panic gives way to a new state of normalcy, the people will demand inexpensive and reliable high-quality broadband, and maybe private internet service providers will have to sing a different tune.

An anonymous reader asked how exactly this could be accomplished, and long-time Slashdot reader Futurepower(R) suggested towns and cities should own the fiber lines, and then rent it out "to as many Internet-providing companies as are interested."

But the original submission also asks, "If you aren't convinced yet, why not?"So share your own opinions in the comments.

Should the internet be a public utility?

A Slashdotter's Take On a Way To Use Smartphones To Defeat the Coronavirus Pandemic221

Longtime Slashdot reader dbart writes: With the near ubiquitous use of smartphones in America, it's sensible to seize upon this resource to help with the coronavirus pandemic. Here's my take on a way to use smartphones to deal with the pandemic:

America does not currently have a good coronavirus test -- but they are in development. Once a test is available there should be a smartphone app ready to deploy immediately. The app should work like this: A person would be tested for the virus at a testing station and the results of the test would be entered into the app's database. The person could then go about their business, such as going back to work. Upon arriving at the place of work, the person would bring up the app on their smartphone. The app would display some information to identify the subject that was tested along with a barcode. The employer would then scan in the barcode with the app on the employer's phone which will check with the central database and report back the results of their coronavirus test and the recency of the test. The employer would decide whether to allow the person into the workplace. This could similarly be used to safely allow entry to a restaurant, airplane, theater, sporting event, etc. -- thus getting the economy functioning again.

I've only presented a rough sketch of my idea about this above and there's many nuances to how this should work. It's obvious that everyone should be tested frequently for this to be effective. This would require testing on a massive scale, but considering the damage happening to the American economy, such massive testing could easily be justified. A capability as described above would get the American economy restarted at the soonest possible time and would allow society to function until a vaccine is available. It would also be a very valuable asset to epidemiological investigators. If an app was designed with enough forethought it could be deployed internationally. I'm hoping to get not just a Slashdot conversation but a larger conversation started about the use of technology to defeat this virus. Perhaps there's a Slashdotter with the skillsets to make this happen who would like to take this on. If anyone has a contact at the CDC please forward this post to them to insure that technological solutions such as this are being considered.

Slashdot Asks:How are YOU Handling the Coronavirus? (theatlantic.com) 425

This week saw dramatic responses to the coronavirus pandemic.At least two different U.S. states have ordered all bars and restaurants to close, according to the AP, while "officials elsewhere in the country said they were considering similar restrictions." America's Center for Disease Control is now urging the entire country to "cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more." At least two more states have postponed their presidential primary elections -- and lots of people now seem to be avoiding movie theatres.

Meanwhile, earlier this week GitLab released its first "Remote Work Report," arguing that "it's undeniable that the future of work will be remote."

But what are you doing?Are you working remotely?(And is the rest of your company?)Are you buying groceries during off-peak hours? Staying home to watch Frozen 2?

We're all in this together -- so let's hear about the experiences of Slashdot readers. Share your own stories in the comments.

How are you handling the coronavirus?

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Refresh Your Linux and Sysadmin Skills?140

Slashdot reader PrimeGoat has used Linux for 20 years, "10 of which were during my career as a Linux sysadmin..."

"However, there's more to being a sysadmin than just knowing how to use Linux."There are best practices that evolve, new methods of doing things and new software that constantly comes out and evolves. This is where my challenge comes.In 2012 I stopped my career as a Linux sysadmin...There's a lot of stuff that I missed out on.I'm wondering what I should do to refresh my skills and to catch up on what I've missed?

An obvious solution would be to get a job as a sysadmin again, but this probably isn't going to happen, as I'm changing my trajectory.I'm currently training to become a fullstack web developer, but still have a need to update my sysadmin skills and keep them fresh...Any suggestions on what actions to take on my own to catch up and keep fresh?

Leave your thoughts in the comments. What's the best way to refresh both your Linux and sysadmin skills?

Slashdot Asks: What's the Worst Review You Ever Saw on Amazon? (slashdot.org) 176

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp shared his story about the worst tech book review he found on Amazon in 2019. Stephen Few is a respected author and speaker whose books on data visualization and analysis are well-received. But when it comes to Amazon reviews, you simply can't make everyone happy, a particularly good example of which is a one-star review he received for The Data Loom: Weaving Understanding by Thinking Critically and Scientifically with Data.

So, what is it that the reviewer didn't like about Few's latest book? "THIS IS NOT A BOOK ON WEAVING TECHNIQUES," complains P. Dennis in her 1-star review, "Was not paying attention, I guess. Very disappointed."

Amazon shows potential buyers that 5 people found Ms. Dennis's 1-star review helpful, while hiding 6 comments that complain about Amazon's allowance of the 'ridiculous' review [including two from the frustrated author, who asks, "Would you give J. D. Salinger's book 'The Catcher in the Rye' a 1-star review because it is not about baseball?"].

And that kids, can be the difference between a 4 and a 5 rating on Amazon if your book is lightly-reviewed!

I still remember when Amazon shared their own favorite fake customer reviews, posting on the front page of Amazon in big orange letters, "You guys are really funny," and adding that "occasionally customer creativity goes off the charts in the best possible way."

But sometimes their reviewers are just stupid.

Leave your own favorite examples in the comments.What's the worst review you ever saw on Amazon?

Ask Slashdot: What Will the 2020s Bring Us?207

dryriver writes: The 2010s were not necessarily the greatest decade to live through. AAA computer games were not only DRM'd and internet tethered to death but became increasingly formulaic and pay-to-win driven, and poor quality console ports pissed off PC gamers. Forced software subscriptions for major software products you could previously buy became a thing. Personal privacy went out the window in ways too numerous to list, with lawmakers failing on many levels to regulate the tech, data-mining and internet advertising companies in any meaningful way. Severe security vulnerabilities were found in hundreds of different tech products, from Intel CPUs to baby monitors and internet-connected doorbells. Thousands of tech products shipped with microphones, cameras, and internet connectivity integration that couldn't be switched off with an actual hardware switch. Many electronics products became harder or impossible to repair yourself. Printed manuals coming with tech products became almost non-existent. Hackers, scammers, ransomwarers and identity thieves caused more mayhem than ever before. Troll farms, click farms and fake news factories damaged the integrity of the internet as an information source. Tech companies and media companies became afraid of pissing off the Chinese government.

Windows turned into a big piece of spyware. Intel couldn't be bothered to innovate until AMD Ryzen came along. Nvidia somehow took a full decade to make really basic realtime raytracing happen, even though smaller GPU maker Imagination had done it years earlier with a fraction of the budget, and in a mobile GPU to boot. Top-of-the-line smartphones became seriously expensive. Censorship and shadow banning on the once-more-open internet became a thing. Easily-triggered people trying to muzzle other people on social media became a thing. The quality of popular music and music videos went steadily downhill. Star Wars went to shit after Disney bought it, as did the Star Trek films. And mainstream cinema turned into an endless VFX-heavy comic book movies, remakes/reboots and horror movies fest. In many ways, television was the biggest winner of the 2010s, with many new TV shows with film-like production values being made. The second winner may be computer hardware that delivered more storage/memory/performance per dollar than ever before.

To the question: What, dear Slashdotters, will the 2020s bring us? Will things get better in tech and other things relevant to nerds, or will they get worse?

Slashdot Asks: What's Your Favorite Podcast? (pocketcasts.com) 277

Pocket Casts, one of the most widely used podcast apps, has shared a list of podcasts that were most subscribed by its user base this year. Top 10 podcasts this year were: 1. The Joe Rogan Experience.
2. This American Life.
3. Stuff You Should Know.
4. Serial.
5. The Daily.
6. Reply All.
7. Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast.
8. Dan Carlin's Hardcore History.
9. Radiolab.
10. Invisible.
Did your favorite podcast make it to the list? If not, what are some of the podcasts you listen to that you enjoy?

Ask Slashdot: Will Future TVs Be Able To DeepFake Actor Faces In Realtime?65

dryriver writes: We've all seen the DeepFake videos on Youtube, where a different actor's face from the original is digitally inserted into a film scene. Some of these DeepFakes are actually quite convincing. DeepFakes are currently computationally intensive, but may one day happen in realtime on hardware custom made to accelerate the process. Now to the question: Will this "digital face swapping" be a realtime feature in future TVs some day? Will people be able to say to their TV "I don't like this actor/actress. Replace him/her with _actorname_ please"? Or watch a 100 Million Dollar movie with their own face on an actor's body, essentially making the TV owner the star of the movie playing? Will this perhaps become so normal some day that people in the future look back at our era and say "In those days, you couldn't choose which actors to watch any given piece of content with. Technology wasn't as advanced as it is today back then."?

Ask Slashdot: Is There A Laptop That Uses Rechargeable 18650 Cell Batteries?95

"Present laptop dying, battery of course," writes long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills.It uses proprietary pouch Lithium cells. Wouldn't it be great to just swap in a new set of 18650s? Okay, it may not be a thin laptop but it would save me from turfing a perfectly good laptop otherwise...
The original submission drew some interesting comments -- including one from long-time Slashdot reader thegreatbob suggesting a used laptop might be the only option."This seems to be due to the notion that 'thinner!' and 'lighter!' are more important than 'doesn't periodically turn into an incendiary pillow!' "

But are there other options?Share your own thoughts in the comments.

Is there a laptop that uses rechargeable 18650 cell batteries?
Christmas Cheer

Ask Slashdot: At What Age Should Toddlers Get Screen Time? (kidshealth.org) 101

Slashdot reader ne0phyte73 writes:I got my first computer (a Commodore 64) when I was 13. My daughter got hers (One Laptop Per Child) when she was 5.

What are the current trends?

I see new AI-powered edutainment products coming to the market, targeted at toddlers. Would you give something like this to your 18 months old? (Kidshealth claims that there should be no screen time at all until 18 months, with the exception of "video chatting with grandparents or other family friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.").Well, developers of "Animal Island Learning Adventure" claim that they provide quality interaction with AI-powered characters.Do you believe in the claims of developers that this or similar systems help toddlers to develop?

Would you give it to your child?

If this is, in fact, a "quality interaction", would you give it to kids even before they are 18 months old?

One review site said that particular learning adventure offers a tablet "pre-loaded with 60 days of ad-free content" focused on learning skills for preschoolers.Personally, that just makes me worry what would happen after 60 days.But share your own thoughts in the comments.

At what age should toddlers get screen time?
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Upgradable Storage and Memory When Buying a New Computer?183

davidwr writes: If you were going to buy a desktop or laptop computer, how important is it to be able to upgrade memory and storage after your purchase? Is not being able to upgrade an "automatic no-buy," assuming you can get a computer that meets your needs that is upgradeable? If not, would you be willing to pay a little more for upgradeability?A lot more?

Personally, I like to keep computers 4-6 years, which means I prefer to buy an upgradeable machine then upgrade it after 2 or 3 years using then-much-cheaper or not-available-at-all-today parts. What are your thoughts?

Ask Slashdot: Who Is Most Likely To Challenge Microsoft In the Office?147

Tablizer writes: Microsoft still dominates cubicle-land. Google is making a push into that domain, but it's unclear how far or how fast they can go. Most "serious" applications still run on only Windows and that doesn't seem to be changing much. What's keeping others out? Do we need new desktop-oriented, cross-platform standards? It seems everyone "went web" and forgot about the desktop niche, but it's a big niche still.