posted 1 day ago on slashdot
alphadogg writes: "Apple is making a billion dollar bet on sapphire as a strategic material for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and perhaps an iWatch. Exactly what the company plans to do with the scratch-resistant crystal – and when – is still the subject of debate. Apple is creating its own supply chain devoted to producing and finishing synthetic sapphire crystal in unprecedented quantities. The new Mesa, Arizona plant, in a partnership with sapphire furnace maker GT Advanced Technologies, will make Apple one of the world's largest sapphire producers when it reaches full capacity, probably in late 2014. By doing so, Apple is assured of a very large amount of sapphire and insulates itself from the ups and downs of sapphire material pricing in the global market."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. general population is often the butt of jokes with regard to their understanding of science. A survey by the Associated Press now shows just how arbitrary and erratic the public's dissent can be. 'The good news is that more than 80 percent of those surveyed are strongly confident that smoking causes cancer; only four percent doubt it. Roughly 70 percent accepted that we have a genome and that mental illness is seated in the brain; about 20 percent were uncertain on these subjects, and the doubters were few. But things go downhill from there. Only about half of the people accepted that vaccines are safe and effective, with 15 percent doubting. And that's one of the controversial topics where the public did well. As for humanity's role in climate change, 33 percent accepted, 28 percent were unsure, and 37 percent fell in the doubter category. For a 4.5-billion-year-old Earth and a 13.8-billion-year-old Big Bang, acceptance was below 30 percent. Fully half of the public doubted the Big Bang (PDF).'"

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "Andrew Kelley was a big fan of the Amarok open source music player. But a few years ago, its shortcomings were becoming more annoying and the software's development path no longer matched with the new features he wanted. So he did what any enterprising hacker would do: he started work on a replacement. Three and a half years later, his project, Groove Basin, has evolved into a solid music player, and it's still under active development. Kelley has now posted a write-up of his development process, talking about what problems he encountered, how he solved them, and how he ended up contributing code to libav."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
theodp writes: "You may recall that inBloom is a data initiative that sought to personalize learning. GeekWire's Tricia Duryee now reports that inBloom, which was backed by $100 million from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, is closing up shop after parents worried that its database technology was violating their children's privacy. According to NY Times coverage (reg.), the inBloom database tracked 400 different data fields about students — including family relationships ('foster parent' or 'father's significant other') and reasons for enrollment changes ('withdrawn due to illness' or 'leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident') — that parents objected to, prompting some schools to recoil from the venture. In a statement, inBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger said that personalized learning was still an emerging concept, and complained that the venture had been 'the subject of mischaracterizations and a lightning rod for misdirected criticism.' He added, 'It is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole.' [Although it was still apparently vulnerable to Heartbleed.] Gates still has a couple of irons left in the data-driven personalized learning fire via his ties to Code.org, which seeks 7 years of participating K-12 students' data, and Khan Academy, which recently attracted scrutiny over its data-privacy policies."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Details have leaked about the next iteration of Intel's Thunderbolt connector. The good news: bandwidth will double, going up to about 40Gbps from its current 20. Power usage will drop by half, and it'll support PCI-e 3.0. The bad news: it uses a redesigned connector, and will rely on adapters for backward compatibility. From the article: "Doubling the available bandwidth will enable next-generation Thunderbolt controllers to drive two 4K displays simultaneously, where current controllers can only drive one. The new controllers will allegedly be compatible with a variety of other protocols as well, including DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0, and HDMI 2.0. Intel will offer two different versions of the controller—a version that uses four PCI Express lanes to drive two Thunderbolt ports and an "LP" (presumably "Low Power") version that uses two PCI Express lanes to drive one port."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Trailrunner7 writes: "Apple has fixed a serious security flaw present in many versions of both iOS and OS X and could allow an attacker to intercept data on SSL connections. The bug is one of many the company fixed Tuesday in its two main operating systems, and several of the other vulnerabilities have serious consequences as well, including the ability to bypass memory protections and run arbitrary code. The most severe of the vulnerabilities patched in iOS 7.1.1 and OSX Mountain Lion and Mavericks is an issue with the secure transport component of the operating systems. If an attacker was in a man-in-the-middle position on a user's network, he might be able to intercept supposedly secure traffic or change the connection's properties."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "Despite the high news coverage that large breaches receive, and despite tales told by their friends about losing their laptops for a few days while a malware infection is cleared up, employees generally believe they are immune to security risks. They think those types of things happen to other, less careful people. Training users how to properly create and store strong passwords, and putting measures in place that tell individuals the password they've created is 'weak' can help change behavior. But how do we embed this training in our culture?"

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Yesterday AT&T announced it would examine 100 cities and municipalities in the U.S., including 21 metropolitan areas, for introduction of gigabit fiber. Taken on its face, the announcement is the company's response to Google Fiber. But many were quick to note AT&T has promised nothing. Karl Bode at DSLReports went so far as to call AT&T's announcement a giant bluff. "Ever since Google Fiber came on the scene, AT&T's response has been highly theatrical in nature. What AT&T would have the press and public believe is that they're engaged in a massive new deployment of fiber to the home service. What's actually happening is that AT&T is upgrading a few high-end developments where fiber was already in the ground (these users were previously capped at DSL speeds) and pretending it's a serious expansion of fixed-line broadband. It's not. At the same time AT&T is promising a massive expansion in fixed line broadband, they're telling investors they aren't spending much money on the initiative, because they aren't. AT&T's focus is on more profitable wireless. 'Gigapower' is a show pony designed to help the company pretend they're not being outmaneuvered in their core business by a search engine company."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Last month, a report suggested that Austin has the highest salaries for tech workers (after factoring in the cost of living), followed by Atlanta, Denver, Boston, and Silicon Valley. Now, a new report (yes, from Dice, because it gathers this sort of data from tech workers) suggests that more tech people are earning six figures a year than ever. Some 32 percent of full-time tech pros took home more than $100,000 in 2013, according to the findings, up from 30 percent in 2012 and 26 percent in 2011. For contractors, the data is even better: In 2013, a staggering 54 percent of them earned more than $100,000 a year, up from 51 percent the previous year and 50 percent in 2011. How far that money goes depends on where you live, of course, but it does seem like a growing number of the world's tech workers are earning a significant amount of cash."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "The embattled founder of VK, Russia's largest social networking site, said this week that the company is now 'under the complete control' of two oligarchs with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. In a VK post published Monday, Pavel Durov said he's been fired as CEO of the website, claiming that he was pushed out on a technicality, and that he only heard of it through media reports."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
ananyo (2519492) writes "Overall working hours have fallen over the past century. But the rich have begun to work longer hours than the poor. In 1965 men with a college degree, who tend to be richer, had a bit more leisure time than men who had only completed high school. But by 2005 the college-educated had eight hours less of it a week than the high-school grads. Figures from the American Time Use Survey, released last year, show that Americans with a bachelor's degree or above work two hours more each day than those without a high-school diploma. Other research shows that the share of college-educated American men regularly working more than 50 hours a week rose from 24% in 1979 to 28% in 2006, but fell for high-school dropouts. The rich, it seems, are no longer the class of leisure. The reasons are complex but include rising income inequality but also the availability of more intellectually stimulating, well-remunerated work." (And, as the article points out, "Increasing leisure time [among less educated workers] probably reflects a deterioration in their employment prospects as low-skill and manual jobs have withered.")

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Burphytez (3625571) writes with this excerpt of a Reuters story, as carried by the Chicato Tribune: "Video streaming service Netflix Inc said it intends to raise the monthly subscription price for new customers by $1 or $2 a month to help the company buy more movies and TV shows and improve service for its 48 million global subscribers. Investors welcomed the announcement by Netflix, which had suffered from a consumer exodus and stock plunge after it announced an unpopular price increase in July 2011. The company's shares jumped 6.7 percent in after-hours trading to $371.97, after the company released plans for a price hike and posted a rise in first-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "As some of you may know, OpenBSD team have started cleaning up OpenSSL code base. LibreSSL is primarily developed by the OpenBSD Project, and its first inclusion into an operating system will be in OpenBSD 5.6. In the wake of Heartbleed, OpenBSD group is creating a simpler, cleaner version of the dominant OpenSSL. Theo de Raadt, founder and leader of the OpenBSD and OpenSSH, tells ZDNet that the project has already removed 90,000 lines of C code and 150,000 lines of content. The project further promises Multi OS support once they have proper funding and the right portability team in place. Please consider donating to support LibreSSL via OpenBSD foundation."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "Late Yesterday, GitHub concluded its investigation regarding sexual harassment within its work force, and although it found no evidence of 'legal wrongdoing', Tom Preston-Werner, one of its founding members implicated in the investigation a... resigned. In its statement, GitHub vows to implement 'a number of new HR and employee-led initiatives as well as training opportunities to make sure employee concerns and conflicts are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately'. Julie Ann Horvath, the former GitHub employee whose public resignation last month inspired the sexual harassment investigation, found the company's findings to be gratuitous and just plain wrong."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes with news about a scam with a twist. The scammers purchased login details to internal Comcast systems from an employee using them to lower the bills of Comcast customers, for a price. "Alston Buchanan, the mastermind of a two-man scam to lower the bills of Comcast customers for a price, pleaded guilty last week and awaits sentencing. His accomplice, Richard Justin Spraggins, who also pleaded guilty in February, will serve 11-23 months in prison and pay Comcast $66,825. Their operation purportedly cost Comcast $2.4 million, and Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customers. However, the allegedly huge financial loss went undetected until a Comcast customer reported his/her suspicions to Comcast customer service."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
Nemo the Magnificent (2786867) writes "In this guy's opinion most IT workers can't think critically. They are incapable of diagnosing a problem, developing a possible solution, and implementing it. They also have little fundamental understanding of the businesses their employers are in, which is starting to get limiting as silos are collapsing within some corporations and IT workers are being called upon to participate in broader aspects of the business. Is that what you see where you are?"

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Last week, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol, a powdered alcohol product that you can either use to turn water into a presumably not-that-delicious marg or to snort if you don't care too much about your brain cells. It's the first time a powdered alcohol product has been approved for sale in the US, but not the first time someone has devised one, and such products have been available in parts of Europe for a few years now. Now you may be wondering, as I was, how the heck do you go about powdering alcohol? As you might expect, there's quite a bit of chemistry involved, but the process doesn't seem overly difficult; we've known how to do it since the early 1970s, when researchers at the General Foods Corporation (now a subsidiary of Kraft) applied for a patent for an 'alcohol-containing powder.'" It turns out the labels were issued in error, so don't expect it to be available soon. But it does appear to be a real thing that someone is trying to have approved.

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Last week, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol, a powdered alcohol product that you can either use to turn water into a presumably not-that-delicious marg or to snort if you don't care too much about your brain cells. It's the first time a powdered alcohol product has been approved for sale in the US, but not the first time someone has devised one, and such products have been available in parts of Europe for a few years now. Now you may be wondering, as I was, how the heck do you go about powdering alcohol? As you might expect, there's quite a bit of chemistry involved, but the process doesn't seem overly difficult; we've known how to do it since the early 1970s, when researchers at the General Foods Corporation (now a subsidiary of Kraft) applied for a patent for an 'alcohol-containing powder.'" It turns out the labels were issued in error, so don't expect it to be available soon. But it does appear to be a real thing that someone is trying to have approved.

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
New submitter janoc (699997) writes about a backdoor that was fixed only not "Eloi Vanderbeken from Synacktiv has identified an intentional backdoor in a module by Sercomm used by major router manufacturers (Cisco, Linksys, Netgear, etc.). The backdoor was ostensibly fixed — by obfuscating it and making it harder to access. The original report (PDF). And yeah, there is an exploit available ..." Rather than actually closing the backdoor, they just altered it so that the service was not enabled until you knocked the portal with a specially crafted Ethernet packet. Quoting Ars Technica: "The nature of the change, which leverages the same code as was used in the old firmware to provide administrative access over the concealed port, suggests that the backdoor is an intentional feature of the firmware ... Because of the format of the packets—raw Ethernet packets, not Internet Protocol packets—they would need to be sent from within the local wireless LAN, or from the Internet service provider’s equipment. But they could be sent out from an ISP as a broadcast, essentially re-opening the backdoor on any customer’s router that had been patched."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes with some concerning news from the Atlantic. From the article: "In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sent a civilian aircraft over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality. Compton residents weren't told about the spying, which happened in 2012. 'We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,' Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he's trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren't watching in real time."

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
snydeq (1272828) writes "As software takes over more of our lives, the ethical ramifications of decisions made by programmers only become greater. Unfortunately, the tech world has always been long on power and short on thinking about the long-reaching effects of this power. More troubling: While ethics courses have become a staple of physical-world engineering degrees, they remain a begrudging anomaly in computer science pedagogy. Now that our code is in refrigerators, thermostats, smoke alarms, and more, the wrong moves, a lack of foresight, or downright dubious decision-making can haunt humanity everywhere it goes. Peter Wayner offers a look at just a few of the ethical quandaries confronting developers every day. 'Consider this less of a guidebook for making your decisions and more of a starting point for the kind of ethical contemplation we should be doing as a daily part of our jobs.'"

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posted 2 days ago on slashdot
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Paul Monies reports at NewsOK that Oklahoma's legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. 'Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service,' says John Aziz. 'Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand.' The state's major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn't provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. 'If there's something wrong with their panel or it's really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it's going to be there for them,' O'Shea said. 'We just want to make sure they're paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost.' The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry's research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). 'When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.''"

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posted 3 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "It looks like a standardized test question: Is the sum of two numbers on the left or the single number on the right larger? Rhesus macaques that have been trained to associate numerical values with symbols can get the answer right, even if they haven't passed a math class. The finding doesn't just reveal a hidden talent of the animals—it also helps show how the mammalian brain encodes the values of numbers. Previous research has shown that chimpanzees can add single-digit numbers. But scientists haven’t explained exactly how, in the human or the monkey brain, numbers are being represented or this addition is being carried out. Now, a new study helps begin to answer those questions."

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posted 3 days ago on slashdot
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "The axe has been with us for thousands of years, with its design changing very little during that time. After all, how much can you really alter a basic blade-and-handle? Well, Finnish inventor Heikki Karna has tried to change it a whole lot, with a new, oddly-shaped axe that he claims is a whole lot safer because it transfers a percentage of downward force into rotational energy, cutting down on deflections. 'The Vipukirves [as the axe is called] still has a sharpened blade at the end, but it has a projection coming off the side that shifts the center of gravity away from the middle. At the point of impact, the edge is driven into the wood and slows down, but the kinetic energy contained in the 1.9 kilogram axe head continues down and to the side (because of the odd center of gravity),' is how Geek.com describes the design. 'The rotational energy actually pushes the wood apart like a lever.' The question is, will everyone pick up on this new way of doing things?"

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posted 3 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "In his new book, Social Physics, MIT data scientist Alex 'Sandy' Pentland argues that by analyzing data from smartphones, social media, and credit-card systems, we'll soon be able to have a mathematical understanding of 'the basic mechanisms of social interactions.' Social scientists will be able to understand and predict the interactions of people the way physicists understand and predict the interactions of objects. That will, in turn, enable governments and businesses to create incentive systems to 'tune' people's behavior, making society more productive and creative. In a review of Pentland's book in Technology Review, Nicholas Carr argues that such data-based social engineering 'will tend to perpetuate existing social structures and dynamics' and 'encourage us to optimize the status quo rather than challenge it.' Carr writes, 'Defining social relations as a pattern of stimulus and response makes the math easier, but it ignores the deep, structural sources of social ills. Pentland may be right that our behavior is determined largely by social norms and the influences of our peers, but what he fails to see is that those norms and influences are themselves shaped by history, politics, and economics, not to mention power and prejudice.'"

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