A new (slow) open source JPEG algorithm makes images 35% smaller and looks better than older compression systems

Guetzli is Google's new free/open JPEG compression algorithm, which produces images that are more than a third smaller in terms of byte-size, and the resulting images are consistently rated as more attractive than traditionally compressed JPEGs. It's something of a web holy grail: much smaller, better-looking files without having to convince people to install a plugin or browser makers to support a new file-format. Read the rest

Mathematics for Computer Science: a free, CC-licensed MIT textbook

This is indeed an up-to-the-minute text [PDF], dated Mar 7, 2017. It's written by Googler/MIT prof Eric Lehman, MIT/Akamai scientist F Thomson Leighton and MIT AI researcher Albert R Meyer, as a companion to their Mathematics for Computer Science open course. (via 4 Short Links) Read the rest

Deflationary Intelligence: in 2017, everything is "AI"

Ian Bogost (previously) describes the "deflationary" use of "artificial intelligence" to describe the most trivial computer science innovations and software-enabled products, from Facebook's suicide detection "AI" (a trivial word-search program that alerts humans) to the chatbots that are billed as steps away from passing a Turing test, but which are little more than glorified phone trees, and on whom 40% of humans give up after a single conversational volley. Read the rest

Google's troll-fighting AI can be defeated by typos

Jigsaw is a "wildly ambitious" Google spin-off research unit that recently released Perspective, a machine-learning system designed to identify argumentative, belittling and meanspirited online conversation. Within days of its release, independent researchers have published a paper demonstrating a way of tricking Perspective into trusting ugly messages, just by introducing human-readable misspellings into their prose. Read the rest

US border guards can't believe Nigerian man is a software engineer, google "questions to ask a software engineer" and give him a pop quiz

Celestine Omin is a Nigerian software engineer who works for Andela, a technology company backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded to give talented African coders an entree into the leading American tech firms; this week, he flew to the USA on a B1/B2 visa to meet with the company, but he found himself detained at the border. Read the rest

Rhymes from a high-schooler's machine learning system trained on Kanye lyrics

Robbie Barrat is president and founder of their high school computer science club; they created Rapper-Neural-Network, a free software project that uses machine learning trained on a corpus of 6,000 Kanye West lines to autogenerate new rap songs. Read the rest

Proof-of-concept ransomware locks up the PLCs that control power plants

In Out of Control: Ransomware for Industrial Control Systems, three Georgia Tech computer scientists describe their work to develop LogicLocker, a piece of proof-of-concept ransomware that infects the programmable logic controllers that are used to control industrial systems like those in power plants. Read the rest

Yale's college will no longer bear the name of a slaver, from now on, it's "Grace Murray Hopper" college

Yale's Calhoun College was named for the South Carolina politician John C Calhoun, a Yale alum and notorious enslaver and advocate of slavery; this was, understandably, controversial. Read the rest

Russia's slot-machine bans let criminals buy machines on the cheap and reverse-engineer them

In 2009, then-PM Vladimir Putin engineered a Russian ban on slot machines in a bid to starve Georgian mafiyeh of funds, the resulting glut of used slots gave Russia's own criminal gangs cheap testbeds to use in a project to reverse-engineer the machines and discover their weaknesses -- now, Russian gangs roam the world's casinos, racking up careful, enormous scores. Read the rest

Researchers discover hundreds of thousands of unsuspected, Star Wars-themed twitterbots hiding in plain sight

Twitter is a great place for bots. Botherders like Shardcore produce amazing, politics, artistic bots that mine Twitter, inject useful information into Twitter, or just frolic on Twitter, making it a better place. Twitterbots produce entries in imaginary grimoires, conduct sociological research, produce virtual model railroads, alert the public when governments try to make bad news disappear, and much, much more. Read the rest

Why connecting to wifi is such a pain in the phone

A group of computer scientists from Tsinghua University, Tencent and Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology have posted a first-of-its-kind paper to Arxiv, analyzing the problems that make connecting to wifi networks so achingly slow. Read the rest

Why are the data-formats in Star Wars such an awful mess? Because filmmakers make movies about filmmaking

Sarah Jeong's long, terrifyingly thorough analysis of the data-formats in the Star Wars universe is both hilarious and insightful, and illustrates the difference between the burgeoning technological realism of shows like Mr Robot and the long tradition of science fiction media to treat computers as plot devices, rather than things that audiences are familiar with. Read the rest

How much energy can dust-sized computers harvest from sun and motion, and how much work can they do with it?

Pete Warden reports in from the ARM Research Summit, where James Myers presented on "energy harvesting" by microscopic computers -- that is, using glints of sunlight and the jostling of motion from bumping into things or riding on our bodies to provide power for computation. Read the rest

Free audiobook of Car Wars, my self-driving car/crypto back-door apocalypse story

Last month, Melbourne's Deakin University published Car Wars, a short story I wrote to inspire thinking and discussion about the engineering ethics questions in self-driving car design, moving beyond the trite and largely irrelevant trolley problem. Read the rest

Interviewing for Amazon: a literal Orwellian experience

Shivan, a computer science student in Montreal, applied for a job at Amazon; the second round interview was conducted remotely by a proctor from an online service called Proctor U who insisted that Shivan install a remote-access trojan on his computer that let the proctor completely control his machine; then he was made to use the camera on his laptop to give the proctor a view of his room and all the things in it (with the proctor barking orders at him to shift his belonging around to give a better view. Read the rest

Accelerando: once you teach a computer to see, it can teach itself to hear

In SoundNet: Learning Sound Representations from Unlabeled Video, researchers from MIT's computer science department describe their success in using software image-recognition to automate sound recognition: once software can use video analysis to decide what's going on in a clip, it can then use that understanding to label the sounds in the clip, and thus accumulate a model for understanding sound, without a human having to label videos first for training purposes. Read the rest

Google and Facebook's "fake news" ban is a welcome nail in the coffin of "software objectivity"

In the wake of the Trump election -- a triumph of fake news -- both Google and Facebook have announced that they will take countermeasures to exclude "fake news" from their services, downranking them in the case of Facebook and cutting them off from ad payments in Google's case. Read the rest

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