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Italian Supreme Court Bans the 'Microsoft Tax' - Sat Oct 25 15:40:10 2014

An anonymous reader writes: In a post at the Free Software Foundation, lawyer Marco Ciurcina reports that the Italian Supreme Court has ruled the practice of forcing users to pay for a Windows license when they buy a new PC is illegal. Manufacturers in Italy are now legally obligated to refund that money if a buyer wants to put GNU/Linux or another free OS on the computer. Ciurcina says, "The focus of the Court's reasoning is that the sale of a PC with software preinstalled is not like the sale of a car with its components (the 4 wheels, the engine, etc.) that therefore are sold jointly. Buying a computer with preinstalled software, the user is required to conclude two different contracts: the first, when he buys the computer; the second, when he turns on the computer for the first time and he is required to accept or not the license terms of the preinstalled software. Therefore, if the user does not accept the software license, he has the right to keep the computer and install free software without having to pay the 'Microsoft tax.'"


Scientists Engineer Cancer-Killing Stem Cells - Sat Oct 25 14:48:01 2014

SternisheFan writes with news that medical researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have successfully cultivated stem cells that will kill brain cancer cells in mice without damaging healthy cells. "They used genetic engineering to make stem cells that spewed out cancer-killing toxins, but, crucially, were also able to resist the effects of the poison they were producing. ... In animal tests, the stem cells were surrounded in gel and placed at the site of the brain tumor after it had been removed. Their cancer cells then died as they had no defense against the toxins (abstract)." The next step in the research is to try the treatment on humans. Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine, said, "This is a clever study, which signals the beginning of the next wave of therapies. It shows you can attack solid tumors by putting mini pharmacies inside the patient which deliver the toxic payload direct to the tumor. Cells can do so much. This is the way the future is going to be."


CHP Officers Steal, Forward Nude Pictures From Arrestee Smartphones - Sat Oct 25 13:40:17 2014

sabri writes: Following the initial suspension of a California Highway Patrol officer earlier this week, news has come out that the CHP has an entire ring of officers who steal and subsequently share nude pictures. The nudes are stolen from women who are arrested or stopped. Officer Sean Harrington of Martinez reportedly confessed to stealing explicit photos from the suspect's phone, and said he forwarded those images to at least two other CHP officers. Where is the ACLU when you need them the most?


Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business" - Sat Oct 25 12:35:53 2014

theodp writes According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. "In my world, you're not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don't make money at some point." Ballmer's comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you're going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there's a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all."


Google Search Finally Adds Information About Video Games - Sat Oct 25 09:36:22 2014

An anonymous reader writes Google has expanded its search engine with the capability to recognize video games. If your query references a game, a new Knowledge Graph panel on the right-hand side of Google's search results page will offer more information, including the series it belongs to, initial release date, supported platforms, developers, publishers, designers, and even review scores. Google spokesperson: "With today's update, you can ask questions about video games, and (while there will be ones we don't cover) you'll get answers for console and PC games as well as the most popular mobile apps."


Peter Kuran:Visual Effects Artist and Atomic Bomb Archivist - Sat Oct 25 06:26:21 2014

Lasrick links to this interview with Peter Kuran, an animator of the original Star Wars and legendary visual effects artist, writing If you saw the recent remake of Godzilla, you saw stock footage from Atom Central, known on YouTube as 'the atomic bomb channel.' Atom Central is the brainchild of Kuran, who among his many talents is an expert on archival films of the atmospheric testing era of 1945 to 1963. Combining his film restoration and photography expertise with his interest in nuclear history, he has also produced and directed five documentaries. He is currently working with Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories to preserve and catalog images from the bomb-testing era, and to produce a technical handbook that will help people understand these images and the techniques used to create them.


OwnCloud Dev Requests Removal From Ubuntu Repos Over Security Holes - Sat Oct 25 03:16:23 2014

operator_error notes a report that ownCloud developer Lukas Reschke has emailed the Ubuntu Devel mailing list to request that ownCloud (server) be removed from the Ubuntu repositories because it contains "multiple critical security bugs for which no fixes have been backported," through which an attacker could "gain complete control [of] the web server process." From the article: However, packages can't be removed from the Ubuntu repositories for an Ubuntu version that was already released, that's why the package was removed from Ubuntu 14.10 (2 days before its release) but it's still available in the Ubuntu 14.04 and 12.04 repositories (ownCloud 6.0.1 for Ubuntu 14.04 and ownCloud 5.0.4 for Ubuntu 12.04, while the latest ownCloud version is 7.0.2). Furthermore, the ownCloud package is in the universe repository and software in this repository "WILL NOT receive any review or updates from the Ubuntu security team" (you should see this if you take a look at your /etc/apt/sources.list file) so it's up to someone from the Ubuntu community to step up and fix it. "If nobody does that, then it unfortunately stays the way it is", says Marc Deslauriers, Security Tech Lead at Canonical. You can follow the discussion @ Ubuntu Devel mailing list. So, until (if) someone fixes this, if you're using ownCloud from the Ubuntu repositories, you should either remove it or upgrade to the latest ownCloud from its official repository, hosted by the openSUSE Build Service."


Microsoft Now Makes Money From Surface Line, Q1 Sales Reach Almost $1 Billion - Sat Oct 25 00:17:37 2014

SmartAboutThings writes Microsoft has recently published its Q1 fiscal 2015 earnings report, disclosing that it has made $4.5 billion in net income on $23.20 billion in revenue. According to the report, revenue has increased by $4.67 billion, compared to $18.53 billion from the same period last year. However, net income has decreased 14 percent compared to last year's $5.24 billion mainly because of the $1.14 billion cost associated with the integration and restructuring expenses related to the Nokia acquisition.

But what's finally good news for the company is that the Surface gross margin was positive this quarter, which means the company finally starts making money on Surface sales. Microsoft didn't yet reveal Surface sales, but we know that Surface revenue was $908 million this quarter, up a massive 127 percent from the $400 million this time last year. However, if we assume that the average spent amount on the purchase of this year's Surface Pro 3 was around $1000, then we have less than 1 million units sold, which isn't that impressive, but it's a good start.



Days After Shooting, Canada Proposes New Restrictions On and Offline - Fri Oct 24 23:43:01 2014

New submitter o_ferguson writes As Slashdot reported earlier this week, a lone shooter attacked the war memorial and parliament buildings in Ottawa, Canada on Wednesday. As many comments predicted, the national government has seized this as an opportunity to roll out considerable new regressive legislation, including measures designed to* increase data access for domestic intelligence services, institute a new form of extra-judicial detention, and, perhaps most troubling, criminalize some forms of religious and political speech online. As an example of the type of speech that could, in future, be grounds for prosecution, the article mentions that the killer's website featured "a black ISIS flag and rejoiced that 'disbelievers' will be consigned to the fires of Hell for eternity." A government MP offers the scant assurance that this legislation is not "trauma tainted," as it was drafted well prior to this week's instigating incidents. Needless to say, some internet observes remain, as always, highly skeptical of the manner in which events are being portrayed. (Please note that some articles may be partially paywalled unless opened in a private/incognito browser window.)


AT&T Locks Apple SIM Cards On New iPads - Fri Oct 24 22:57:50 2014

As reported by MacRumors, the unlocked, carrier-switchable SIM cards built into the newest iPads aren't necessarily so -- at least if you buy them from an AT&T store. Though the card comes from Apple with the ability to support (and be switched among with software, if a change is necessary) all major carriers, "AT&T is not supporting this interchangeability and is locking the SIM included with cellular models of the iPad Air 2 and Retina iPad mini 3 after it is used with an AT&T plan. ... AT&T appears to be the only participating carrier that is locking the Apple SIM to its network. T-Mobile's John Legere has indicated that T-Mobile's process does not lock a customer in to T-Mobile, which appears to be confirmed by Apple's support document, and Sprint's process also seems to leave the Apple SIM unlocked and able to be used with other carrier plans. Verizon, the fourth major carrier in the United States, did not opt to allow the Apple SIM to work with its network." The iPad itself can still be activated and used on other networks, but only after the installation of a new SIM.


Passwords: Too Much and Not Enough - Fri Oct 24 22:16:28 2014

An anonymous reader writes: Sophos has a blog post up saying, "attempts to get users to choose passwords that will resist offline guessing, e.g., by composition policies, advice and strength meters, must largely be judged failures." They say a password must withstand 1,000,000 guesses to survive an online attack but 100,000,000,000,000 to have any hope against an offline one. "Not only is the difference between those two numbers mind-bogglingly large, there is no middle ground." "Passwords falling between the two thresholds offer no improvement in real-world security, they're just harder to remember." System administrators "should stop worrying about getting users to create strong passwords and should focus instead on properly securing password databases and detecting leaks when they happen."


Verizon Injects Unique IDs Into HTTP Traffic - Fri Oct 24 21:34:14 2014

An anonymous reader writes: Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless carrier, is now also a real-time data broker. According to a security researcher at Stanford, Big Red has been adding a unique identifier to web traffic. The purpose of the identifier is advertisement targeting, which is bad enough. But the design of the system also functions as a 'supercookie' for any website that a subscriber visits. "Any website can easily track a user, regardless of cookie blocking and other privacy protections. No relationship with Verizon is required. ...while Verizon offers privacy settings, they don’t prevent sending the X-UIDH header. All they do, seemingly, is prevent Verizon from selling information about a user." Just like they said they would.


Secretive Funding Fuels Ongoing Net Neutrality Astroturfing Controversy - Fri Oct 24 20:51:13 2014

alphadogg writes: The contentious debate about net neutrality in the U.S. has sparked controversy over a lack of funding transparency for advocacy groups and think tanks, which critics say subverts the political process. News stories from a handful of publications in recent months have accused some think tanks and advocacy groups of "astroturfing" — quietly shilling for large broadband carriers. In a handful of cases, those criticisms appear to have some merit, although the term is so overused by people looking to discredit political opponents that it has nearly lost its original meaning. An IDG News Service investigation found that major groups opposing U.S. Federal Communications Commission reclassification and regulation of broadband as a public utility tend to be less transparent about their funding than the other side. Still, some big-name advocates of strong net neutrality rules also have limited transparency mechanisms in place.


A Low Cost, Open Source Geiger Counter (Video) - Fri Oct 24 20:08:01 2014

Sawaiz Syed's LinkedIn page says he's a "Hardware Developer at GSU [Georgia State University], Department of Physics." That's a great workplace for someone who designs low cost radiation detectors that can be air-dropped into an area where there has been a nuclear accident (or a nuclear attack; or a nuclear terrorist act) and read remotely by a flying drone or a robot ground vehicle. This isn't Sawaiz's only project; it's just the one Timothy asked him about most at the recent Maker Faire Atlanta. (Alternate Video Link)


Computer Scientist Parachutes From 135,908 Feet, Breaking Record - Fri Oct 24 19:23:12 2014

An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times reports that Alan Eustace, a computer scientist and senior VP at Google, has successfully broken the record for highest freefall jump, set by Felix Baumgartner in 2012. "For a little over two hours, the balloon ascended at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of 135,908 feet, more than 25 miles. Mr. Eustace dangled underneath in a specially designed spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system. He returned to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall. ... Mr. Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive device and plummeted toward the earth at a speeds that peaked at more than 800 miles per hour, setting off a small sonic boom heard by observers on the ground. ... His technical team had designed a carbon-fiber attachment that kept him from becoming entangled in the main parachute before it opened. About four-and-a-half minutes into his flight, he opened the main parachute and glided to a landing 70 miles from the launch site."


Researcher Finds Tor Exit Node Adding Malware To Downloads - Fri Oct 24 18:38:01 2014

Trailrunner7 writes: A security researcher has identified a Tor exit node that was actively patching binaries users download, adding malware to the files dynamically. The discovery, experts say, highlights the danger of trusting files downloaded from unknown sources and the potential for attackers to abuse the trust users have in Tor and similar services. Josh Pitts of Leviathan Security Group ran across the misbehaving Tor exit node while performing some research on download servers that might be patching binaries during download through a man-in-the middle attack.

What Pitts found during his research is that an attacker with a MITM position can actively patch binaries–if not security updates–with his own code. In terms of defending against the sort of attack, Pitts suggested that encrypted download channels are the best option, both for users and site operators. "SSL/TLSis the only way to prevent this from happening. End-users may want to consider installing HTTPS Everywhere or similar plugins for their browser to help ensure their traffic is always encrypted," he said via email.



Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills - Fri Oct 24 17:51:35 2014

Nerval's Lobster writes: Every company needs employees who can analyze information effectively, discarding what's unnecessary and digging down into what's actually useful. But employers are getting a little bit worried that U.S. schools aren't teaching students the necessary critical-thinking skills to actually succeed once they hit the open marketplace. The Wall Street Journal talked with several companies about how they judge critical-thinking skills, a few of which ask candidates to submit to written tests to judge their problem-solving abilities. But that sidesteps the larger question: do schools need to shift their focus onto different teaching methods (i.e., downplaying the need for students to memorize lots of information), or is our educational pipeline just fine, thank you very much?


Recent Nobel Prize Winner Revolutionizes Microscopy Again - Fri Oct 24 17:09:29 2014

An anonymous reader writes: Eric Betzig recently shared in the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on high-resolution microscopy. Just yesterday, Betzig and a team of researchers published a new microscopy technique (abstract) that "allows them to observe living cellular processes at groundbreaking resolution and speed." According to the article, "Until now, the best microscope for viewing living systems as they moved were confocal microscopes. They beam light down onto a sample of cells. The light penetrates the whole sample and bounces back. ... The light is toxic, and degrades the living system over time. Betzig's new microscope solves this by generating a sheet of light that comes in from the side of the sample, made up of a series of beams that harm the sample less than one solid cone of light. Scientists can now snap a high-res image of the entire section they're illuminating, without exposing the rest of the sample to any light at all."


Decades-old Scientific Paper May Hold Clues To Dark Matter - Fri Oct 24 16:26:53 2014

sciencehabit writes: Here's one reason libraries hang on to old science journals: A paper from an experiment conducted 32 years ago may shed light on the nature of dark matter, the mysterious stuff whose gravity appears to keep the galaxies from flying apart. The old data put a crimp in the newfangled concept of a 'dark photon' and suggest that a simple bargain-basement experiment could put the idea to the test. The data come from E137, a "beam dump" experiment that ran from 1980 to 1982 at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. In the experiment, physicists slammed a beam of high-energy electrons, left over from other experiments, into an aluminum target to see what would come out. Researchers placed a detector 383 meters behind the target, on the other side of a sandstone hill 179 meters thick that blocked any ordinary particles.


PCGamingWiki Looks Into Linux Gaming With 'Port Reports' - Fri Oct 24 15:53:01 2014

AberBeta writes: PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb has been looking into the recent larger budget game releases to appear on Linux, including XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Borderlands: The Pre–Sequel produced by Mac porting houses Feral and Aspyr. Soeb reports that while feature parity is high, performance could be a bit better. Performance differences aside, the games are finally arriving on Linux — now the userbase needs to expand to make a virtuous cycle.


How To Beat Online Price Discrimination - Fri Oct 24 15:08:01 2014

New submitter Intrepid imaginaut sends word of a study (PDF) into how e-commerce sites show online shoppers different prices depending on how they found an item and what the sites know about the customer. "For instance, the study found, users logged in to Cheaptickets and Orbitz saw lower hotel prices than shoppers who were not registered with the sites. Home Depot shoppers on mobile devices saw higher prices than users browsing on desktops. Some searchers on Expedia and Hotels.com consistently received higher-priced options, a result of randomized testing by the websites. Shoppers at Sears, Walmart, Priceline, and others received results in a different order than control groups, a tactic known as “steering.” To get a better price, the article advises deleting cookies before shopping, using your browser's private mode, putting the items in your shopping cart without buying them right away, and using tools like Camelcamelcamel to keep an eye out for price drops.


Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes - Fri Oct 24 14:21:50 2014

dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient way...to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.


FTDI Removes Driver From Windows Update That Bricked Cloned Chips - Fri Oct 24 13:38:20 2014

New submitter weilawei writes: Last night, FTDI, a Scottish manufacturer of USB-to-serial ICs, posted a response to the ongoing debacle over its allegedly intentional bricking of competitors' chips. In their statement, FTDI CEO Fred Dart said, "The recently release driver release has now been removed from Windows Update so that on-the-fly updating cannot occur. The driver is in the process of being updated and will be released next week. This will still uphold our stance against devices that are not genuine, but do so in a non-invasive way that means that there is no risk of end user's hardware being directly affected." This may have resulted from a discussion with Microsoft engineers about the implications of distributing potentially malicious driver software.

If you design hardware, what's your stance on this? Will you continue to integrate FTDI chips into your products? What alternatives are available to replace their functionality?



Stem Cells Grown From Patient's Arm Used To Replace Retina - Fri Oct 24 12:54:19 2014

BarbaraHudson writes: The Globe and Mail is reporting the success of a procedure to implant a replacement retina grown from cells from the patient's skin. Quoting: "Transplant doctors are stepping gingerly into a new world, one month after a Japanese woman received the first-ever tissue transplant using stem cells that came from her own skin, not an embryo. On Sept. 12, doctors in a Kobe hospital replaced the retina of a 70-year-old woman suffering from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. The otherwise routine surgery was radical because scientists had grown the replacement retina in a petri dish, using skin scraped from the patient's arm.

The Japanese woman is fine and her retinal implant remains in place. Researchers around the world are now hoping to test other stem-cell-derived tissues in therapy. Dr. Jeanne Loring from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., expects to get approval within a few years to see whether neurons derived from stem cells can be used to treat Parkinson's disease."



Detritus From Cancer Cells May Infect Healthy Cells - Fri Oct 24 12:11:04 2014

bmahersciwriter writes Tiny bubbles of cell membrane — called exosomes — are shed by most cells. Long thought to be mere trash, researchers had recently noticed that they often contain short, regulatory RNA molecules, suggesting that exosomes may be one way that cells communicate with one another. Now, it appears that RNA in the exosomes shed by tumor cells can get into healthy cells and 'transform' them, putting them on the path to becoming cancerous themselves.


British Army Looking For Gamers For Their Smart-Tanks - Fri Oct 24 09:31:47 2014

concertina226 writes The U.K. branch of global defense firm General Dynamics is working on a futuristic state-of-the-art smart-tank to replace the British Army's aging armored vehicle fleet, to be delivered to the Ministry of Defense in 2020. The Scout SV armored vehicle is the first fully-digitized armored fighting vehicle to have been built for the British Army, and is far bigger and more durable than any of its existing tanks, which are now at least 20 years old. The tank comes in six variants that can be customized with a tools for different missions, and has numerous sensors, cameras, and sights to offer real-time intelligence on weather conditions, target acquisition, and reconnaissance — all crucial battlefield data required by commanders to access and direct situations. "With the capability in the Scout SV, we're really looking for the type of people who play Xbox games – tech-savvy people who are able to take in a lot of information and process it in the proper way," says Kevin Connell, the vice president for General Dynamic UK's Land Systems Regiment.


Incapacitating Chemical Agents: Coming Soon To Local Law Enforcement? - Fri Oct 24 07:36:52 2014

Lasrick writes To this day, Russian authorities refuse to disclose the incapacitating chemical agent (ICA) they employed in their attempt, 12 years ago, to save 900 hostages held in a theater by Chechen fighters. Malcom Dando elaborates on a new report (PDF) that Russia, China, Israel, and a slew of other countries are continuing research into ICAs, and the apparent indifference of the international community into such research. Proponents of ICAs have long promoted their use in a variety of scenarios, including that of law enforcement, because in theory these chemicals incapacitate without permanent disability. Critics, however, point out that these weapons rely on exact dosage to prevent fatality, and that the ability to 'deliver the right agent to the right people in the right dose without exposing the wrong people, or delivering the wrong dose' is a near-impossible expectation. ICAs represent the further misuse and militarization of the life sciences and a weakening of the taboo against the weaponization of toxic substances, and the idea that they could be used in law enforcement situations is a disturbing one."


NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola - Fri Oct 24 04:37:20 2014

An anonymous reader writes An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. It's the first case in the city and the fourth in the nation. From the article: "The doctor, identified as Craig Spencer, 33, came back from treating Ebola patients in Guinea about 10 days ago, and developed a fever, nausea, pain and fatigue Wednesday night. The physician, employed at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, has been in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan since Thursday morning, the official said."


Tracking a Bitcoin Thief - Fri Oct 24 02:09:09 2014

An anonymous reader writes A small group of researchers were able to publish an investigative report on the hacking of a popular Bitcoin exchange earlier this year by the name of CryptoRush.in. Close to a million dollars stolen in crypto currency lead the group to discover evidence, track down the attacker and put together a timeline of what exactly happened. A captivating read for a community desensitized by thefts, hackings and lack of reporting. With pictures, and logs to prove it all.


How Sony, Intel, and Unix Made Apple's Mac a PC Competitor - Fri Oct 24 01:16:26 2014

smaxp writes In 2007, Sony's supply chain lessons, the network effect from the shift to Intel architecture, and a better OS X for developers combined to renew the Mac's growth. The network effects of the Microsoft Wintel ecosystem that Rappaport explained 20 years ago in the Harvard Business Review are no longer a big advantage. By turning itself into a premium PC company with a proprietary OS, Apple has taken the best of PC ecosystem, but avoided taking on the disadvantages.


SMART Begins Live Public Robocar Tests In Singapore - Fri Oct 24 00:22:42 2014

Hallie Siegel writes Robocar R&D is moving fast in Singapore, and this week, the National University of Singapore (NUS) announced they will be doing a live public demo of their autonomous golf carts over a course with 10 stops in the Singapore Chinese and Japanese Gardens. The public will be able to book rides online, and then summon and direct the vehicles with their phones. The vehicles will have a touch tablet where the steering wheel will go. Rides will be free, and will take place Oct. 23-25, Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1.


Microsoft Exec Opens Up About Research Lab Closure, Layoffs - Thu Oct 23 23:38:01 2014

alphadogg writes It's been a bit over a month since Microsoft shuttered its Microsoft Research lab in Silicon Valley as part of the company's broader restructuring that will include 18,000 layoffs. This week, Harry Shum, Microsoft EVP of Technology & Research, posted what he termed an "open letter to the academic research community" on the company's research blog. In the post, Shum is suitably contrite about the painful job cut decisions that were made in closing the lab, which opened in 2001. He also stresses that Microsoft will continue to invest in and value "fundamental research".


Tech Firm Fined For Paying Imported Workers $1.21 Per Hour - Thu Oct 23 22:50:24 2014

An anonymous reader sends in news about a company that was fined for flying in "about eight employees" from India to work 120-hour weeks for $1.21 per hour. Electronics for Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company's Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. "We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from employers," said Susana Blanco, district director of the U.S. Labor Department's wage and hour division in San Francisco.... An anonymous tip prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the case, which resulted in more than $40,000 in back wages paid to the eight employees and a fine of $3,500 for Electronics for Imaging.


Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin At Tsinghua University In Beijing - Thu Oct 23 22:08:01 2014

HughPickens.com writes Abby Phillip reports at the Washington Post that that Mark Zuckerberg just posted a 30-minute Q&A at Tsinghua University in Beijing in which he answered every question exclusively in Chinese — a notoriously difficult language to learn and particularly, to speak. "It isn't just Zuckerberg's linguistic acrobatics that make this a notable moment," writes Philip. "This small gesture — although some would argue that it is a huge moment — is perhaps his strongest foray into the battle for hearts and minds in China." Zuckerberg and Facebook have been aggressively courting Chinese users for years and the potential financial upside for the business. Although Beijing has mostly banned Facebook, the company signed a contract for its first ever office in China earlier this year. A Westerner speaking Mandarin in China — at any level — tends to elicit joy from average Chinese, who seem to appreciate the effort and respect they feel learning Mandarin demonstrates. So how well did he actually do? One Mandarin speaker rates Zuckerberg's language skills at a seventh grader's speech: "It's hard not see a patronizing note in the Chinese audience's reaction to Zuckerberg's Mandarin. To borrow from Samuel Johnson's quip, he was like a dog walking on its hind legs: It wasn't done well, but it was a surprise to see it done at all."


Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems - Thu Oct 23 21:20:24 2014

oxide7 (1013325) writes "In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet's future that has only gathered force subsequently. Assange describes his encounter with Schmidt and how he came to conclude that it was far from an innocent exchange of views."


Leaked Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Ebola Vaccine Issues - Thu Oct 23 20:38:01 2014

sciencehabit writes Extensive background documents from a meeting that took place today at the World Health Organization (WHO) have provided new details about exactly what it will take to test, produce, and bankroll Ebola vaccines, which could be a potential game changer in the epidemic. ScienceInsider obtained materials that vaccinemakers, governments, and WHO provided to the 100 or so participants at a meeting on 'access and financing' of Ebola vaccines. The documents put hard numbers on what until now have been somewhat fuzzy academic discussions. And they make clear to the attendees—who include representatives from governments, industry, philanthropies, and nongovernmental organizations—that although testing and production are moving forward at record speed, knotty issues remain.


Ubuntu 14.10 Released With Ambitious Name, But Small Changes - Thu Oct 23 19:55:08 2014

Ubuntu 14.10, dubbed Utopic Unicorn, has been released today (here are screenshots). PC World says that at first glance "isn't the most exciting update," with not so much as a new default wallpaper — but happily so: it's a stable update in a stable series, and most users will have no pressing need to update to the newest version. In the Ubuntu Next unstable series, though, there are big changes afoot: Along with Mir comes the next version of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, Unity 8. Mir and the latest version of Unity are already used on Ubuntu Phone, so this is key for Ubuntu's goal of convergent computing — Ubuntu Phone and Ubuntu desktop will use the same display server and desktop shell. Ubuntu Phone is now stable and Ubuntu phones are arriving this year, so a lot of work has gone into this stuff recently. The road ahead looks bumpy however. Ubuntu needs to get graphics drivers supporting Mir properly. The task becomes more complicated when you consider that other Linux distributions — like Fedora — are switching to the Wayland display server instead of Mir. When Ubuntu Desktop Next becomes the standard desktop environment, the changes will be massive indeed. But for today, Utopic Unicorn is all about subtle improvements and slow, steady iteration.


German Publishers Capitulate, Let Google Post News Snippets - Thu Oct 23 19:12:20 2014

itwbennett writes German publishers said they are bowing to Google's market power, and will allow the search engine to show news snippets in search results free of charge — at least for the time being. The decision is a step in an ongoing legal dispute between the publishers and Google in which, predictably, publishers are trying to get compensation from the search engine for republishing parts of their content and Google isn't interested in sharing revenue. The move follows a Google decision earlier this month — and which was to go into effect today — to stop using news snippets and thumbnails for some well-known German news sites.


Ask Slashdot: Smarter Disk Space Monitoring In the Age of Cheap Storage? - Thu Oct 23 17:24:55 2014

relliker writes In the olden days, when monitoring a file system of a few 100 MB, we would be alerted when it topped 90% or more, with 95% a lot of times considered quite critical. Today, however, with a lot of file systems in the Terabyte range, a 90-95% full file system can still have a considerable amount of free space but we still mostly get bugged by the same alerts as in the days of yore when there really isn't a cause for immediate concern. Apart from increasing thresholds and/or starting to monitor actual free space left instead of a percentage, should it be time for monitoring systems to become a bit more intelligent by taking space usage trends and heuristics into account too and only warn about critical usage when projected thresholds are exceeded? I'd like my system to warn me with something like, 'Hey!, you'll be running out of space in a couple of months if you go on like this!' Or is this already the norm and I'm still living in a digital cave? What do you use, on what operating system?


Austin Airport Tracks Cell Phones To Measure Security Line Wait - Thu Oct 23 16:31:37 2014

jfruh writes If you get into the TSA security line at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, you'll see monitors telling you how long your wait will be — and if you have a phone with Wi-Fi enabled, you're helping the airport come up with that number. A system implemented by Cisco tracks the MAC addresses of phones searching for Wi-Fi networks and sees how long it takes those phones to traverse the line, giving a sense of how quickly things are moving. While this is useful information to have, the privacy implications are a bit unsettling.


Apple 1 Sells At Auction For $905,000 - Thu Oct 23 15:48:11 2014

Dave Knott writes One of the few remaining examples of Apple Inc's first pre-assembled computer, the Apple 1, sold for $905,000 at an auction in New York on Wednesday. The final price outstrips expectations, as auction house Bonhams had said it expected to sell the machine, which was working as of September, for between $300,000 and $500,000. The buyer was The Henry Ford organization, which plans to display the computer in its museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Only 63 surviving authentic Apple 1's were listed in an Apple 1 Registry as of January out of the 200 that were built. The auctioned computer is thought to be one of the first batch of 50 Apple-1 machines assembled by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in Steve Job's family garage in Los Altos, California in the summer of 1976. It is also believed to be one of only 15 that still have functioning motherboards. That's a bit more beastly than the original price.


Ello Formally Promises To Remain Ad-Free, Raises $5.5M - Thu Oct 23 15:01:53 2014

Social media site Ello is presented as the anti-Facebook, promising an ad-free social network, and that they won't sell private data. Today, they've also announced that Ello has become a Public Benefit Corporation, and that the site's anti-advertising promise has been enshrined in a corporate charter. The BBC reports on the restrictions that Ello has therefore entered into, which mean the site cannot, for monetary gain,

  1. Sell user-specific data to a third party
  2. Enter into an agreement to display paid advertising on behalf of a third party; and
  3. In the event of an acquisition or asset transfer, the Company shall require any acquiring entity to adopt these requirements with respect to the operation of Ello or its assets.

While that might turn off some potential revenue flows (the company says it will make money by selling optional features), as the linked article points out, it hasn't turned off investors; Ello has now raised $5.5 million from investors.




Cisco Fixes Three-Year-Old Telnet Flaw In Security Appliances - Thu Oct 23 14:08:43 2014

Trailrunner7 writes "There is a severe remote code execution vulnerability in a number of Cisco's security appliances, a bug that was first disclosed nearly three years ago. The vulnerability is in Telnet and there has been a Metasploit module available to exploit it for years. The FreeBSD Project first disclosed the vulnerability in telnet in December 2011 and it was widely publicized at the time. Recently, Glafkos Charalambous, a security researcher, discovered that the bug was still present in several of Cisco's security boxes, including the Web Security Appliance, Email Security Appliance and Content Security Management Appliance. The vulnerability is in the AsyncOS software in those appliances and affects all versions of the products." At long last, though, as the article points out, "Cisco has released a patched version of the AsyncOS software to address the vulnerability and also has recommended some workarounds for customers."


Sale of IBM's Chip-Making Business To GlobalFoundries To Get US Security Review - Thu Oct 23 13:37:13 2014

dcblogs writes IBM is an officially sanctioned trusted supplier to the U.S. Defense Dept., and the transfer of its semiconductor manufacturing to GlobalFoundries, a U.S.-based firm owned by investors in Abu Dhabi, will get U.S. scrutiny. Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, who authored a report last year for an industry group about U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities and national security, said regulators will have to look closely. "I don't want cast aspersions unnecessarily on Abu Dubai — but they're not Canada," said Adams "I think that the news that we may be selling part of our supply chain for semiconductors to a foreign investor is actually bad news."


Proposed Penalty For UK Hackers Who "Damage National Security": Life - Thu Oct 23 12:53:43 2014

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from The Guardian: Government plans that mean computer users deemed to have damaged national security, the economy or the environment will face a life sentence have been criticised by experts who warn that the new law could be used to target legitimate whistleblowers. The proposed legislation would mean that any British person deemed to have carried out an unauthorised act on a computer that resulted in damage to human welfare, the environment, the economy or national security in any country would face a possible life sentence. Last week the Joint Committee on Human Rights raised concerns about the proposals and the scope of such legislation.


The Inevitable Death of the Internet Troll - Thu Oct 23 12:11:45 2014

HughPickens.com writes James Swearingen writes at The Atlantic that the Internet can be a mean, hateful, and frightening place — especially for young women but human behavior and the limits placed on it by both law and society can change. In a Pew Research Center survey of 2,849 Internet users, one out of every four women between 18 years old and 24 years old reports having been stalked or sexually harassed online. "Like banner ads and spam bots, online harassment is still routinely treated as part of the landscape of being online," writes Swearingen adding that "we are in the early days of online harassment being taken as a serious problem, and not simply a quirk of online life." Law professor Danielle Citron draws a parallel between how sexual harassment was treated in the workplace decades ago and our current standard. "Think about in the 1960s and 1970s, what we said to women in the workplace," says Citron. "'This is just flirting.' That a sexually hostile environment was just a perk for men to enjoy, it's just what the environment is like. If you don't like it, leave and get a new job." It took years of activism, court cases, and Title VII protection to change that. "Here we are today, and sexual harassment in the workplace is not normal," said Citron. "Our norms and how we understand it are different now."

According to Swearingen, the likely solution to internet trolls will be a combination of things. The expansion of laws like the one currently on the books in California, which expands what constitutes online harassment, could help put the pressure on harassers. The upcoming Supreme Court case, Elonis v. The United States, looks to test the limits of free speech versus threatening comments on Facebook. "Can a combination of legal action, market pressure, and societal taboo work together to curb harassment?" asks Swearingen. "Too many people do too much online for things to stay the way they are."



Machine Learning Expert Michael Jordan On the Delusions of Big Data - Thu Oct 23 09:40:12 2014

First time accepted submitter agent elevator writes In a wide-ranging interview at IEEE Spectrum, Michael I. Jordan skewers a bunch of sacred cows, basically saying that: The overeager adoption of big data is likely to result in catastrophes of analysis comparable to a national epidemic of collapsing bridges. Hardware designers creating chips based on the human brain are engaged in a faith-based undertaking likely to prove a fool's errand; and despite recent claims to the contrary, we are no further along with computer vision than we were with physics when Isaac Newton sat under his apple tree.


U.K. Supermarkets Beta Test Full-Body 3D Scanners For Selfie Figurines - Thu Oct 23 07:01:31 2014

Lucas123 writes Walmart-owned ASDA supermarkets in the U.K. are beta testing 3D full-body scanning booths that allow patrons to buy 6-in to 9-in high "selfie" figurines. Artec Group, a maker of 3D scanners and software, said its Shapify Booth, which can scan your entire body in 12 seconds and use the resulting file to create a full-color 3D printed model, is making its U.S. debut this week. The 3D Shapify booths are equipped with four wide view, high-resolution scanners, which rotate around the person to scan every angle. Artec claims the high-powered scan and precision printing is able to capture even the smallest details, down to the wrinkles on clothes. The scanning process generates 700 captured surfaces, which are automatically stitched together to produce an electronic file ready for 3D printing. Artec offers to print the figurines for booth operators (retailers) for $50 for a 6-in model, $70 for a 7.5-in model, and $100 for a 9-in figurine.


New Microsoft Garage Site Invites Public To Test a Wide Range of App Ideas - Thu Oct 23 04:42:02 2014

An anonymous reader writes Microsoft today launched a new section on its website: The Microsoft Garage is designed to give the public early access to various projects the company is testing right now. The team is kicking off with a total of 16 free consumer-facing apps, spanning Android, Android Wear, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, and even the Xbox One. Microsoft Garage is still going to be everything it has been so far, but Microsoft has simply decided it's time for the public to get involved too: You can now test the wild projects the company's employees dream up.


Will Fiber-To-the-Home Create a New Digital Divide? - Thu Oct 23 02:11:43 2014

First time accepted submitter dkatana writes Having some type of fiber or high-speed cable connectivity is normal for many of us, but in most developing countries of the world and many areas of Europe, the US, and other developed countries, access to "super-fast" broadband networks is still a dream. This is creating another "digital divide." Not having the virtually unlimited bandwidth of all-fiber networks means that, for these populations, many activities are simply not possible. For example, broadband provided over all-fiber networks brings education, healthcare, and other social goods into the home through immersive, innovative applications and services that are impossible without it. Alternatives to fiber, such as cable (DOCSYS 3.0), are not enough, and they could be more expensive in the long run. The maximum speed a DOCSYS modem can achieve is 171/122 Mbit/s (using four channels), just a fraction the 273 Gbit/s (per channel) already reached on fiber.


Oldest Human Genome Reveals When Our Ancestors Mixed With Neanderthals - Thu Oct 23 01:08:01 2014

sciencehabit writes DNA recovered from a femur bone in Siberia belongs to a man who lived 45,000 years ago, according to a new study. His DNA was so well preserved that scientists were able to sequence his entire genome, making his the oldest complete modern human genome on record. Like present-day Europeans and Asians, the man has about 2% Neanderthal DNA. But his Neanderthal genes are clumped together in long strings, as opposed to chopped up into fragments, indicating that he lived not long after the two groups swapped genetic material. The man likely lived 7000 to 13,000 years after modern humans and Neanderthals mated, dating the mixing to 52,000 to 58,000 years ago, the researchers conclude. That's a much smaller window than the previous best estimate of 37,000 to 86,000 years ago.


Two Exocomet Families Found Around Baby Star System - Thu Oct 23 00:13:44 2014

astroengine writes Scientists have found two families of comets in the developing Beta Pictoris star system, located about 64 million light-years from Earth, including one group that appears to be remnants of a smashed-up protoplanet. The discovery bolsters our theoretical understanding of the violent processes that led to the formation of Earth and the other terrestrial planets in the solar system. "If you look back at the solar system when it was only 22 million years old, you might have seen phenomena that's a like more like what's happening in Beta Pic," astrophysicist Aki Roberge, with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., told Discovery News.


Will the Google Car Turn Out To Be the Apple Newton of Automobiles? - Wed Oct 22 23:40:58 2014

An anonymous reader writes The better question may be whether it will ever be ready for the road at all? The car has fewer capabilities than most people seem to be aware of. The notion that it will be widely available any time soon is a stretch. From the article: "Noting that the Google car might not be able to handle an unmapped traffic light might sound like a cynical game of 'gotcha.' But MIT roboticist John Leonard says it goes to the heart of why the Google car project is so daunting. 'While the probability of a single driver encountering a newly installed traffic light is very low, the probability of at least one driver encountering one on a given day is very high,' Leonard says. The list of these 'rare' events is practically endless, said Leonard, who does not expect a full self-driving car in his lifetime (he’s 49)."


Michigan Latest State To Ban Direct Tesla Sales - Wed Oct 22 22:55:32 2014

An anonymous reader writes As many expected, Michigan Governor Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that bans Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to buyers online in the state. When asked what Tesla's next step will be, Diarmuid O'Connell, vice president of business development, said it was unclear if the company would file a lawsuit. "We do take at their word the representations from the governor that he supports a robust debate in the upcoming session," O'Connell said. "We've entered an era where you can buy products and services with much greater value than a car by going online."


BitTorrent Performance Test: Sync Is Faster Than Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox - Wed Oct 22 22:12:31 2014

An anonymous reader writes Now that its file synchronization tool has received a few updates, BitTorrent is going on the offensive against cloud-based storage services by showing off just how fast BitTorrent Sync can be. More specifically, the company conducted a test that shows Sync destroys Google Drive, Microsoft's OneDrive, and Dropbox. The company transferred a 1.36 GB MP4 video clip between two Apple MacBook Pros using two Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapters, the Time.gov site as a real-time clock, and the Internet connection at its headquarters (1 Gbps up/down). The timer started when the file transfer was initiated and then stopped once the file was fully synced and downloaded onto the receiving machine. Sync performed 8x faster than Google Drive, 11x faster than OneDrive, and 16x faster than Dropbox.


Deutsche Telecom Upgrades T-Mobile 2G Encryption In US - Wed Oct 22 21:29:20 2014

An anonymous reader writes T-Mobile, a major wireless carrier in the U.S. and subsidiary of German Deutsche Telecom, is hardening the encryption on its 2G cellular network in the U.S., reports the Washington Post. According to Cisco, 2G cellular calls still account for 13% of calls in the US and 68% of wireless calls worldwide. T-Mobile's upgrades will bring the encryption of older and inexpensive 2G GSM phone signals in the US up to par with that of more expensive 3G and 4G handsets. Parent company Deutsche Telecom had announced a similar upgrade of its German 2G network after last year's revelations of NSA surveillance. 2G is still important not only for that 13 percent of calls, but because lots of connected devices rely on it, or will, even while the 2G clock is ticking. The "internet of things" focuses on cheap and ubiquitous, and in the U.S. that still means 2G, but lots of things that might be connected that way are ones you'd like to be encrypted.


The Classic Control Panel In Windows May Be Gone - Wed Oct 22 20:56:20 2014

jones_supa writes In Windows 8, there was an arrangement of two settings applications: the Control Panel for the desktop and the PC Settings app in the Modern UI side. With Windows 10, having the two different applications has started to look even more awkward, which has been voiced loud and clear in the feedback too. Thus, the work at Microsoft to unify the settings programs has begun. The traditional Control Panel is being transformed to something temporarily called "zPC Settings" (sic), which is a Modern UI app that melts together the current two settings applications.


Judge Says EA Battlefield 4 Execs Engaged In "Puffery," Not Fraud - Wed Oct 22 20:14:07 2014

DemonOnIce writes with a story, as reported by Ars Technica, that a federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a proposed securities fraud class action lawsuit connected to Battlefield 4's bungled rollout. From the report: EA and several top executives were sued in December and were accused of duping investors with their public statements and concealing issues with the first-person shooter game. The suit claimed executives were painting too rosy of a picture surrounding what ultimately would be Battlefield 4's disastrous debut on various gaming consoles beginning last October, including the next-generation Xbox One. But US District Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco said their comments about EA and the first-person shooter game were essentially protected corporate speak. "The Court agrees with defendants that all of the purported misstatements are inactionable statements of opinion, corporate optimism, or puffery," Illston ruled Monday.


Microsoft, Ask.com, Oracle Latest To Be Sued Over No-Poach Deal - Wed Oct 22 19:32:01 2014

itwbennett (1594911) writes Oracle, Microsoft and Ask.com are facing suits alleging that they conspired to restrict hiring of staff. The suits appear to refer to a memo that names a large number of companies that allegedly had special arrangements with Google to prevent poaching of staff and was filed as an exhibit on May 17, 2013 in another class action suit over hiring practices. The former employees filing lawsuits against Microsoft, Ask.com and Oracle have asked that the cases be assigned to Judge Koh as there were similarities with the case against Google, Apple and others — and it maybe doesn't hurt that Judge Koh thought the $324.5 million settlement in that case was too low.


6,000 Year Old Temple Unearthed In Ukraine - Wed Oct 22 19:20:27 2014

An anonymous reader writes A massive archaeological dig of an ancient Ukrainian village first begun in 2009 has yielded a discovery that I sort of hope ends up inspiring a video game: a massive, scary-sounding temple. From the article: "Inside the temple, archaeologists found the remains of eight clay platforms, which may have been used as altars, the finds suggested. A platform on the upper floor contains "numerous burnt bones of lamb, associated with sacrifice," write Burdo and Videiko, of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The floors and walls of all five rooms on the upper floor were "decorated by red paint, which created [a] ceremonial atmosphere."
Maybe this is what Putin has been after.



FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips. - Wed Oct 22 18:51:13 2014

janoc writes It seems that chipmaker FTDI has started an outright war on cloners of their popular USB bridge chips. At first the clones stopped working with the official drivers, and now they are being intentionally bricked, rendering the device useless. The problem? These chips are incredibly popular and used in many consumer products. Are you sure yours doesn't contain a counterfeit one before you plug it in? Hackaday says, "It’s very hard to tell the difference between the real and fake versions by looking at the package, but a look at the silicon reveals vast differences. The new driver for the FT232 exploits these differences, reprogramming it so it won’t work with existing drivers. It’s a bold strategy to cut down on silicon counterfeiters on the part of FTDI. A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip."


Google Announces Inbox, a New Take On Email Organization - Wed Oct 22 18:04:21 2014

Z80xxc! writes: The Gmail team announced "Inbox" this morning, a new way to manage email. Inbox is email, but organized differently. Messages are grouped into "bundles" of similar types. "Highlights" pull out and display key information from messages, and messages can be "snoozed" to come back later as a reminder. Inbox is invite-only right now, and you can email inbox@google.com to request an invite.


Astronomers Find Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed - Wed Oct 22 17:22:36 2014

An anonymous reader writes: Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the NuSTAR satellite have discovered a pulsar so bright that it challenges how scientists think pulsars work. While observing galaxy M82 in hopes of spotting supernovae, the researchers found an unexpected source of X-rays very close to the galaxy's core. It was near another source, thought to be a black hole. But the new one was pulsing, which black holes don't do. The trouble is that according to known pulsar models, it's about 100 times brighter than the calculated limits to its luminosity (abstract). Researchers used a different method to figure out its mass, and the gap shrank, but it's still too bright to fit their theories.


Raspberry Pi Founder Demos Touchscreen Display For DIY Kits - Wed Oct 22 16:40:39 2014

An anonymous reader writes: Over 4 million Raspberry Pis have been sold so far, and now founder Eben Upton has shown off a touchscreen display panel that's designed to work with it. It's a 7" panel, roughly tablet sized, but slightly thicker. "With the incoming touchscreen panel The Pi Foundation is clearly hoping to keep stoking the creative fires that have helped drive sales of the Pi by slotting another piece of DIY hardware into the mix." Upton also discussed the Model A+ Raspberry Pi board — an updated version they'll be announcing soon.


Shooting At Canadian Parliament - Wed Oct 22 16:29:35 2014

CBC reports that a man pulled up to the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, got out of his car, and shot a soldier with a rifle. The Memorial is right next to the Canadian Parliament buildings. A shooter (reportedly the same one, but unconfirmed) also approached Parliament and got inside before he was shot and killed. "Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, said ... the man hopped over the stone fence that surrounds Parliament Hill, with his gun forcing someone out of their car. He then drove to the front doors of Parliament and fired at least two shots, Walsh said." Canadian government officials were quickly evacuated from the building, while the search continues for further suspects. This comes a day after Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level. Most details of the situation are still unconfirmed -- CBC has live video coverage here. They have confirmed that there was a second shooting at the Rideau Center, a shopping mall nearby.


Shooting At Canadian Parliament - Wed Oct 22 16:05:15 2014

CBC reports that a man pulled up to the War Memorial in downtown Canada, got out of his car, and shot a soldier with a rifle. The Memorial is right next to the Canadian Parliament buildings. A shooter (reportedly the same one, but unconfirmed) also approached Parliament and got inside before he was shot and killed. "Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, said ... the man hopped over the stone fence that surrounds Parliament Hill, with his gun forcing someone out of their car. He then drove to the front doors of Parliament and fired at least two shots, Walsh said." Canadian government officials were quickly evacuated from the building, while the search continues for further suspects. This comes a day after Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level. Most details of the situation are still unconfirmed -- CBC has live video coverage here.


What It Took For SpaceX To Become a Serious Space Company - Wed Oct 22 15:49:17 2014

An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic has a nice profile of SpaceX's rise to prominence — how a private startup managed to successfully compete with industry giants like Boeing in just a decade of existence. "Regardless of its inspirations, the company was forced to adopt a prosaic initial goal: Make a rocket at least 10 times cheaper than is possible today. Until it can do that, neither flowers nor people can go to Mars with any economy. With rocket technology, Musk has said, "you're really left with one key parameter against which technology improvements must be judged, and that's cost." SpaceX currently charges $61.2 million per launch. Its cost-per-kilogram of cargo to low-earth orbit, $4,653, is far less than the $14,000 to $39,000 offered by its chief American competitor, the United Launch Alliance. Other providers often charge $250 to $400 million per launch; NASA pays Russia $70 million per astronaut to hitch a ride on its three-person Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX's costs are still nowhere near low enough to change the economics of space as Musk and his investors envision, but they have a plan to do so (of which more later)."


Software Glitch Caused 911 Outage For 11 Million People - Wed Oct 22 15:17:09 2014

HughPickens.com writes: Brian Fung reports at the Washington Post that earlier this year emergency services went dark for over six hours for more than 11 million people across seven states. "The outage may have gone unnoticed by some, but for the more than 6,000 people trying to reach help, April 9 may well have been the scariest time of their lives." In a 40-page report (PDF), the FCC found that an entirely preventable software error was responsible for causing 911 service to drop. "It could have been prevented. But it was not," the FCC's report reads. "The causes of this outage highlight vulnerabilities of networks as they transition from the long-familiar methods of reaching 911 to [Internet Protocol]-supported technologies."

On April 9, the software responsible for assigning the identifying code to each incoming 911 call maxed out at a pre-set limit; the counter literally stopped counting at 40 million calls. As a result, the routing system stopped accepting new calls, leading to a bottleneck and a series of cascading failures elsewhere in the 911 infrastructure. Adm. David Simpson, the FCC's chief of public safety and homeland security, says having a single backup does not provide the kind of reliability that is ideal for 911. "Miami is kind of prone to hurricanes. Had a hurricane come at the same time [as the multi-state outage], we would not have had that failover, perhaps. So I think there needs to be more [distribution of 911 capabilities]."



Windows 0-Day Exploited In Ongoing Attacks - Wed Oct 22 14:29:25 2014

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is warning users about a new Windows zero-day vulnerability that is being actively exploited in the wild and is primarily a risk to users on servers and workstations that open documents with embedded OLE objects. The vulnerability is currently being exploited via PowerPoint files. These specially crafted files contain a malicious OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) object. This is not the first time a vulnerability in OLE has been exploited by cybercriminals, however most previous OLE vulnerabilities have been limited to specific older versions of the Windows operating system. What makes this vulnerability dangerous is that it affects the latest fully patched versions of Windows.


DHS Investigates 24 Potentially Lethal IoT Medical Devices - Wed Oct 22 13:47:27 2014

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent recommendations to strengthen security on net-connected medical devices, the Department of Homeland Security is launching an investigation into 24 cases of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in hospital equipment and personal medical devices. Independent security researcher Billy Rios submitted proof-of-concept evidence to the FDA indicating that it would be possible for a hacker to force infusion pumps to fatally overdose a patient. Though the complete range of devices under investigation has not been disclosed, it is reported that one of them is an "implantable heart device." William Maisel, chief scientist at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said, "The conventional wisdom in the past was that products only had to be protected from unintentional threats. Now they also have to be protected from intentional threats too."


Hungary To Tax Internet Traffic - Wed Oct 22 13:03:01 2014

An anonymous reader writes: The Hungarian government has announced a new tax on internet traffic: 150 HUF ($0.62 USD) per gigabyte. In Hungary, a monthly internet subscription costs around 4,000-10,000 HUF ($17-$41), so it could really put a constraint on different service providers, especially for streaming media. This kind of tax could set back the country's technological development by some 20 years — to the pre-internet age. As a side note, the Hungarian government's budget is running at a serious deficit. The internet tax is officially expected to bring in about 20 billion HUF in income, though a quick look at the BIX (Budapest Internet Exchange) and a bit of math suggests a better estimate of the income would probably be an order of magnitude higher.


Xerox Alto Source Code Released To Public - Wed Oct 22 12:18:01 2014

zonker writes: In 1970, the Xerox Corporation established the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) with the goal to develop an "architecture of information" and lay the groundwork for future electronic office products. The pioneering Alto project that began in 1972 invented or refined many of the fundamental hardware and software ideas upon which our modern devices are based, including raster displays, mouse pointing devices, direct-manipulation user interfaces, windows and menus, the first WYSIWYG word processor, and Ethernet.

The first Altos were built as research prototypes. By the fall of 1976 PARC's research was far enough along that a Xerox product group started to design products based on their prototypes. Ultimately, ~1,500 were built and deployed throughout the Xerox Corporation, as well as at universities and other sites. The Alto was never sold as a product but its legacy served as inspiration for the future.

With the permission of the Palo Alto Research Center, the Computer History Museum is pleased to make available, for non-commercial use only, snapshots of Alto source code, executables, documentation, font files, and other files from 1975 to 1987. The files are organized by the original server on which they resided at PARC that correspond to files that were restored from archive tapes. An interesting look at retro-future.



Ask Slashdot: Aging and Orphan Open Source Projects? - Wed Oct 22 09:18:20 2014

osage writes: Several colleagues and I have worked on an open source project for over 20 years under a corporate aegis. Though nothing like Apache, we have a sizable user community and the software is considered one of the de facto standards for what it does. The problem is that we have never been able to attract new, younger programmers, and members of the original set have been forced to find jobs elsewhere or are close to retirement. The corporation has no interest in supporting the software. Thus, in the near future, the project will lose its web site host and be devoid of its developers and maintainers. Our initial attempts to find someone to adopt the software haven't worked. We are looking for suggestions as to what course to pursue. We can't be the only open source project in this position.


First Evidence of Extrasolar Planets Discovered In 1917 - Wed Oct 22 06:19:16 2014

KentuckyFC writes: Earth's closest white dwarf is called van Maanen 2 and sits 14 light-years from here. It was discovered by the Dutch astronomer Adriaan van Maanen in 1917, but it was initially hard to classify. That's because its spectra contains lots of heavy elements alongside hydrogen and helium, the usual components of a white dwarf photosphere. In recent years, astronomers have discovered many white dwarfs with similar spectra and shown that the heavy elements come from asteroids raining down onto the surface of the stars. It turns out that all these white dwarfs are orbited by a large planet and an asteroid belt. As the planet orbits, it perturbs the rocky belt, causing asteroids to collide and spiral in toward their parent star. This process is so common that astronomers now use the heavy element spectra as a marker for the presence of extrasolar planets. A re-analysis of van Maanen's work shows that, in hindsight, he was the first to discover the tell-tale signature of extrasolar planets almost a century ago.


Internet Broadband Through High-altitude Drones - Wed Oct 22 04:22:03 2014

mwagner writes: Skynet is coming. But not like in the movie: The future of communications is high-altitude solar-powered drones, flying 13 miles above the ground, running microwave wireless equipment, delivering broadband to the whole planet. The articles predicts this technology will replace satellites, fiber, and copper, and fundamentally change the broadband industry. The author predicts a timescale of roughly 20 years — the same amount of time between Arthur C. Clarke predicting geosynchronous satellites and their reality as a commercial business. "Several important technology milestones need to be reached along the way. The drones that will make up Skynet have a lot more in common with satellites than the flippy-flappy helicopter drone thingies that the popular press is fixated on right now. They're really effing BIG, for one thing. And, like satellites, they go up, and stay up, pretty much indefinitely. For that to happen, we need two things: lighter, higher-capacity wireless gear; and reliable, hyper-efficient solar tech."