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Richard Stallman leaves MIT after controversial remarks on rape

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Richard Stallman

Enlarge / Richard Stallman in 2015. (credit: Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Free software pioneer Richard Stallman has resigned from his posts at MIT and the Free Software Foundation after leaked emails showed him quibbling over the definition of rape in a conversation related to Jeffrey Epstein.

The conversation that triggered Stallman's fall started when someone—names other than Stallman's are redacted in the leaked emails—posted about a planned protest at MIT. The email stated that famed MIT computer scientist Marvin Minsky "is accused of assaulting one of Epstein's victims."

Stallman objected, saying that the blurb "does an injustice" to Minsky because even if it's true that the then-17-year-old had sex with Minsky, "the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing." (One witness to the alleged incident says that Minsky, who died in 2016, declined to have sex with her.)

Someone pointed out that the age of consent in the US Virgin Islands, where the incident allegedly occurred, is 18. That makes sex with a 17-year-old girl, "willing" or not, statutory rape. But Stallman wasn't persuaded.

"I think it is morally absurd to define 'rape' in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17," Stallman wrote.

Stallman has always been a stubborn nonconformist

Stallman has long been famous for his extreme devotion to the cause of free software. He spearheaded the GNU project to produce a Unix-like operating system that would be free for anyone to use and modify. GNU software became a key part of the operating system most people today call Linux—to the immense irritation of Stallman, who believes the GNU components are significant enough that the package should be called GNU/Linux.

Also significant was Stallman's philosophical, political, and legal work on behalf of free software. Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985 to advocate against the spread of proprietary software. By 1989, he had drafted the GNU General Public License, a "copyleft" software license that guarantees users the freedom to modify software as long as they share any resulting code under the same license.

For decades, Richard Stallman has traveled the world extolling the benefits of free software. Before he travels to give a speech, he frequently sends event hosts a lengthy email describing his conditions.

Stallman is legendary for his stubbornness and ideological inflexibility. Event organizers seeking to host Stallman are banned from using the terms "Linux" or "open source"—a term he views as a deliberate rejection of the moral stance implied by the term "free software."

Stallman also makes a number of suggestions that have nothing to do with politics or software.

"If you can find a host for me that has a friendly parrot, I will be very very glad," Stallman wrote in a 2012 edition of the email. However, he asked hosts not to purchase a parrot for his benefit.

"If you buy a captured wild parrot, you will promote a cruel and devastating practice, and the parrot will be emotionally scarred before you get it," he wrote.

For decades, Stallman has refused to use any proprietary software, which has meant opting out of many contemporary technology products. If organizers want to stream his speech, they must arrange to do so using entirely free software—a nontrivial challenge in a world where so much video streaming software is proprietary.

That stubbornness was on display in the email thread that caused Stallman's downfall at MIT. At one point, someone linked to a deposition given by one of Epstein's victims.

"I visited that URL and got a blank window," Stallman wrote. "It is on Google Drive, which demands running nonfree software in order to see it." He asked someone else to download the file and send him the part relating to Minsky.

Stallman’s past statements stoked further outrage

Former Free Software Foundation President Richard Stallman.

Former Free Software Foundation President Richard Stallman. (credit: Julian Pardo Cepeda)

When Stallman's emails were published, it caused an uproar at MIT, in the free software community, and on the broader Internet.

People began digging into Stallman's past writings and found other controversial comments. "I think that everyone age 14 or above ought to take part in sex, though not indiscriminately," Stallman wrote in a 2003 post about the UK banning minors from having access to sexually explicit material. "Some people are ready earlier."

"It is unnatural for humans to abstain from sex past puberty, and while I wouldn't try to pressure anyone to participate, I certainly encourage everyone to do so," he added.

In 2011, he criticized laws against child pornography. "'Child pornography' might be a photo of yourself or your lover that the two of you shared," he wrote. "It might be an image of a sexually mature teenager that any normal adult would find attractive. What's heinous about having such a photo?"

"Even when it is uncontroversial to call the subject depicted a "child", that is no excuse for censorship," he added. "Having a photo or drawing does not hurt anyone, so and if you or I think it is disgusting, that is no excuse for censorship."

In the last week, after his comments received widespread attention, Stallman said he was rethinking some of these views.

"Many years ago I posted that I could not see anything wrong about sex between an adult and a child, if the child accepted it," he wrote on Saturday. "Through personal conversations in recent years, I've learned to understand how sex with a child can harm her psychologically. This changed my mind about the matter: I think adults should not do that."

In another post later the same day, Stallman objected to headlines saying he defended Jeffrey Epstein.

"Headlines say that I defended Epstein," Stallman wrote. "Nothing could be further from the truth. I've called him a 'serial rapist,' and said he deserved to be imprisoned. But many people now believe I defended him—and other inaccurate claims—and feel a real hurt because of what they believe I said."

"I'm sorry for that hurt," Stallman added. "I wish I could have prevented the misunderstanding."

On Monday, Stallman resigned from MIT "due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations." He also resigned as president of the Free Software Foundation.

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34 days ago
Wow, finally! Seriously, fuck Stallman.

The first time I met him I was all "Oh shit! It's RMS!"

Second time it was "Oh shit... it's RMS..." :-/

He is a profoundly difficult and rude person, and having been part of conferences bending to his BS, I'm happy to see him go. He's VERY misogynistic(both online and especially in person), so this has been a looooooong time coming.
Somerville, MA
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Chirp brings data-over-sound capabilities your Arduino projects

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We are excited to announce a new partnership with Chirp, a London-based company on a mission to simplify connectivity using sound. Chirp’s machine-to-machine communications software enables any device with a loudspeaker or microphone to exchange data via inaudible sound waves. 

Starting today, our Chirp integration will allow Arduino-powered projects to send and receive data wirelessly over sound waves, using just microphones and loudspeakers. Thanks to some compatible libraries included in the official Arduino Library Manager and in the Arduino Create — as well as further comprehensive documentation, tutorials and technical support — it will be easy for anyone to add data-over-sound capabilities to their Arduino projects.

Our new Nano 33 BLE Sense board, with a DSP-optimised Arm Cortex-M4 processor, will be the first board in the Arduino range with the power to transmit and receive Chirp audio signals leveraging the board’s microphone as a receiver. From now on, the Chirp SDK for Arduino will support the following boards in send-only mode: Arduino MKR Zero, Arduino MKR Vidor 4000, Arduino MKR Fox 1200, Arduino MKR WAN 1300, Arduino MKR WiFi 1010, Arduino MKR GSM 1400, Arduino MKR NB 1500 and the Arduino Nano 33 IoT.

Creative applications of Arduino and Chirp include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • Triggering events from YouTube audio
  • Securely unlocking a smart lock with sound 
  • Sending Wi-Fi credentials to bring offline devices onto a Wi-Fi network
  • Having a remote control that only interacts with the gadgets in the same room as you

Connectivity is a fundamental asset for our users, as the demands of IoT uptake require devices to communicate information seamlessly and with minimal impact for the end user. Chirp’s data-over-sound solution equips our boards with robust data transmission, helping us to deliver enhanced user experiences whilst increasing the capabilities of our hardware at scale,” said Massimo Banzi, Arduino co-founder.  

“Sound is prevailing as a highly effective and versatile means of seamless data transmission, presenting developers with a simple to use, software-defined solution which can connect devices. Working with Arduino to extend the integration of data-over-sound across its impressive range of boards will not only increase the reach of Chirp’s technology, but provide many more developers with an accessible and easily integrated connectivity solution to help them drive their projects forward in all purposes and environments. We can’t wait to see what the Arduino community builds,” commented James Nesfield, Chirp CEO. 

To learn how to send data with sound with an Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense and Chirp, check out this tutorial and visit Chirp website here

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66 days ago
That's quite unexpected, but pretty cool.
Somerville, MA
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Review: The Boys is the perfect therapy for chronic superhero fatigue


Superheroes incorporate and go very, very bad in The Boys on Amazon Prime.

A ragtag gang of vigilantes takes on a powerful group of corrupt and venal superheroes in The Boys, Amazon's adaptation of the comic books series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

Ennis is also the creative mind behind Preacher, and he once said he intended The Boys to "out-Preacher, Preacher" in terms of the extreme violence and sexual content. It just so happens that the TV adaptation of Preacher started airing its fourth and final season on AMC. The two definitely share the Ennis sensibility, but much as I love Preacher, this adaptation of The Boys is even better. It's ideal late-summer therapy for anyone who has grown a bit weary of the constant onslaught of superhero movies.

(Mild spoilers below.)

The Boys is set in a fictional version of 2006-2008, where superheroes are real but corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. Billy Butcher (played by Karl Urban) heads up a secret CIA unit assigned with monitoring (and checking) the bad behavior of the "supes"—especially The Seven, the most elite superhero squad, and hence the most corrupt. Butcher hates The Seven, especially its leader, Homelander, who raped his wife, and he recruits an equally traumatized young man named Hugh "Hughie" Campbell to help in his revenge. At the same time, an idealistic young woman with powers, Starlight (real name: Annie January), has just joined the ranks of The Seven, but the harsh reality of her coveted position doesn't quite match up to her dreams.

The TV adaptation preserves much of that premise with a few tweaks, like making The Boys outright vigilantes and gender-swapping Vought International VP James Stillwell (in the comics) to Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue in the series). The show also dials back the over-the-top comic book violence a bit—a smart move, I think, since often what works on the page proves far too graphic fully realized on the screen. But that's not the same thing as watering down the original vision. The Boys TV series is every bit as wickedly funny, darkly irreverent, and unflinching in its depiction of just how violent and depraved The Seven are prepared to be.

It's a complicated plot, with lots of moving parts and twists, but it mostly makes sense. The writers also nailed the pacing, weaving together all those disparate narrative threads into a seamless action-packed whole that never lags, yet never seems rushed. But much of the success of this series is due to the careful development of its central characters—no easy feat, given the sheer size of this ensemble cast—and powerfully nuanced performances across the board. Each character has a fascinating backstory, with secret vulnerabilities and believable motivations. Nobody is entirely good or evil—with the possible exception of Starlight (Erin Moriarty), the closest thing to a genuine superhero in the series, and Homelander (Antony Starr), a genuine psychopath.

Starr is positively chilling in this role, switching between his charming public persona and his violent private one with ease, but his camera-ready smile never reaches his cold, hard eyes. Karl Urban brings just the right mix of menacing violence and cheeky charm to his portrayal of Butcher. It's a joy watching him debate a flustered born-again Christian at Believe Expo or whooping with delight when a baby supe gets The Boys out of tight spot by zapping their attackers with its laser eyes. But he's also so obsessively focused on taking his revenge against Homelander that he lets his anger and violent nature run amok and put his own team in needless danger. In that respect, the two are more alike than Butcher might care to admit.

If Butcher is the mirror image of Homelander, then Hughie (Jack Quaid) mirrors Starlight (Erin Moriarty) as the two naively innocent newcomers. He is driven by the desire for vengeance on A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), a member of The Seven. A-Train used his super-speed to literally run through Hughie's girlfriend, Robin, one fateful day, killing her instantly. Starlight earnestly wants to save the world and use her powers for good; it's a brutal shock when her first encounter with The Deep (Chace Crawford) involves him forcing her to perform a sexual act.

As for The Deep, he's pretty much the comic relief of The Seven, mostly relegated to the sidelines unless water is involved. Sure, he can talk to fish and breathe underwater. All that gets him is propositioned by a horny dolphin he rescues from an aquarium—with typically disastrous results—and a kinky sexual encounter with a woman obsessed with his gills. One might call it karmic payback.

Amazon has already given the green light for a second season of The Boys, which is very good news, considering season one ends on a major cliffhanger. If these first eight episodes are any indication, season two should be bloody, brilliant, and downright bonkers.

The Boys is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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72 days ago
It's pretty good, but damn is this article full of spoilers.
Somerville, MA
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1 public comment
72 days ago
Karl Urban delivers as usual, a legit actor
Bend, Oregon

Unraveling JPEG images #Graphics #Photography @parametricpress

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Via Parametric Press, JPEG images are everywhere in our digital lives, but behind their familiarity lie algorithms that remove details that are imperceptible to the human eye. This process produces the highest visual quality with the smallest file size—but what does that look like? This article shows you with live changes to images.

By the early 1980s, computers could store and display digital images, but there were many competing ideas about how best to do that. You couldn’t just send an image from one computer to another and expect it to work.

To solve this problem, the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), a committee of experts from all over the world, was established in 1986 as a joint effort by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission)—two international standards organizations headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

JPEG, the group of people, created JPEG, a standard for digital image compression, in 1992. Anyone who’s ever used the internet has probably seen a JPEG-encoded image. It is by far the most ubiquitous way of encoding, sending and storing images. From web pages to email to social media, JPEG is used billions of times a day—almost every time we view or send images online. Without JPEG, the web would be a little less colorful, a lot slower, and probably have far fewer cat pictures!

This article is about how to decode a JPEG image. In other words, it’s about what it takes to convert the compressed data stored on your computer to the image that appears on the screen. It’s worth learning about not just because it’s important to understand the technology we all use everyday, but also because, as we unravel the layers of compression, we learn a bit about perception and vision, and about what details our eyes are most sensitive to.

See more in the article here > > >

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81 days ago
This was way more informative and interesting than I first expected.
Somerville, MA
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LakhNES: Generate 8-bit music with machine learning #deepneuralnetwork #8bit #machinelearning @chrisdonahuey

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Create 8-bit music with LakhNES! This transformer model recently announced on Twitter can be used to generate chiptunes from scratch. LakhNES is a deep neural network fine tuned on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)-MDB 8-bit music dataset. The resulting chiptunes are more than a bit nostalgic. Take a look at the examples on Chris Donahue’s website. Here’s the summary of the project from GitHub:

…a deep neural network capable of generating music that can be played by the audio synthesis chip on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was trained on music composed for the NES by humans. Our model takes advantage of transfer learning: we pre-train on the heterogeneous Lakh MIDI dataset before fine tuning on the NES Music Database target domain.

You can wander over to GitHub to implement it yourself or take a look at their paper LakhNES: Improving multi-instrumental music generation with cross-domain pre-training for all the details.

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82 days ago
Somerville, MA
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You can go claim at least $125 from the Equifax settlement right now

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You can go claim at least $125 from the Equifax settlement right now

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

There is at long last a silver lining for the 144 million of us who had our personal data leaked in the gigantic 2017 Equifax data breach: cash money.

Under the terms of its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Equifax established a fund of at least $300 million to compensate individuals who had their data compromised.

You, the individual, get to choose which claim to file: up to 10 free years of credit monitoring service, or a $125 check.

Additionally, you may also be eligible to claim up to $500 in compensation for time you spent dealing with the fallout of the breach, and up to another $20,000 if you suffered identity theft you can tie back to it.

How to choose?

Ars is by no means a financial advisory site. But if you can, claim the cash. Credit monitoring can be a useful service, but it generally has major limits and doesn't really protect you from fraud.

Here's the catch for this Equifax offer: You can only claim the cash in the settlement if you certify you already have a credit monitoring service. Luckily, there's a very good chance that you do, or you easily could without much trouble.

Many banks, credit unions, and credit card companies offer free credit monitoring services to customers through a partnership with one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Services like AAA, professional organizations, and alumni organizations also frequently offer low- or no-cost credit monitoring programs through similar partnerships.

If you dig around in your wallet and your inbox, there are decent odds you'll find you already have an affiliation with some entity that can hook you up,

You may even already have free credit monitoring services as the result of a previous data breach (including even this one), as it has become standard practice for everybody and their grandmother to offer it to consumers following a "cybersecurity incident."

How to apply

Filing a claim, at least, is reasonably straightforward.

Step 1: Check your eligibility. Use the eligibility lookup tool to see if you were among the 144 million US residents who was affected by the breach.

If the answer is no, congratulations! Your data is doubtless still included in dozens of other breaches, of course, but not this one. Lucky you. If the answer is yes, proceed to...

Step 2: File a claim. You can use an online form or, if you prefer, send in a paper claims form.

On the first page of the online claim form, fill in your personal information and click next. The second page will ask you to choose what you want to claim: cash or credit monitoring. Selecting either option will bring up an explanation of your choice. If you select credit monitoring, you will also have the option to add an additional six years of service, provided by Equifax, to the initial four years provided by Experian.

Once you've chosen between credit monitoring or the $125 check, the next page gives you the option to claim compensation for up to 20 hours of time spent dealing with the breach at $25 per hour. If you don't want to claim any hourly compensation, just hit "next." If you do elect to claim time, and specify more than 10 hours of work, you must upload supporting documentation showing what you did.

Finally, the form will ask if you lost or spent money as a result of trying to prevent or recover from identity theft linked to the incident. If you select "yes," you will be presented with a form asking you to provide detailed information and to upload documents supporting your claim. Funds spent freezing your credit or paying for credit monitoring in the wake of the breach are eligible for recompense in this section.

Finally, you select how you want to be paid any compensation (in cash or on a prepaid debit card), review your answers, and sign to submit. Take a screenshot or save a PDF of your claim confirmation number after you submit just in case.

For more information, the Equifax Breach Settlement site has a detailed FAQ, or you can read about it on the FTC's website.

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87 days ago
Totally did this. Even claimed the time I spent on hold with them. We'll see if I get the extra $, but I certainly opted for the $125, as Mint.com already gives me free credit monitoring.
Somerville, MA
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