posted 14 days ago on slashdot
According to an article at The Wall Street Journal, President Obama has sided with British Prime Minister David Cameron in saying that police and government agencies should not be blocked by encryption from viewing the content of cellphone or online communications, making the pro-spying arguments everyone has come to expect: “If we find evidence of a terrorist plot and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media address or email address, we can’t penetrate that, that’s a problem,” Obama said. He said he believes Silicon Valley companies also want to solve the problem. “They’re patriots.” ... The president on Friday argued there must be a technical way to keep information private, but ensure that police and spies can listen in when a court approves. The Clinton administration fought and lost a similar battle during the 1990s when it pushed for a “clipper chip” that would allow only the government to decrypt scrambled messages.

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on slashdot
Lasrick writes Laura Kahn, a physician on the research staff of Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security, writes that the high tech solutions being promoted to help fight Ebola in Africa will make no difference. What Africa really needs is anti-corruption efforts, now. "A case in point is Liberia, which has received billions of dollars in international aid for over a decade, with little to show for it. The country ranks near the bottom of the United Nation's Human Development Index and near the bottom of Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer. And while international aid groups and non-governmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps provide important humanitarian assistance and medical care, they also inadvertently absolve African political leaders from developing medical and public health infrastructures."

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes Cade Metz writes that last week Parisa Tabriz, head of Google's Chrome security team, helped arrange an early screening of Michael Mann's Blackhat in San Francisco for 200-odd security specialists from Google, Facebook, Apple, Tesla, Twitter, Square, Cisco, and other parts of Silicon Valley's close-knit security community, and their response to the film was shockingly positive. "Judging from the screening Q&A—and the pointed ways this audience reacted during the screening—you could certainly argue Blackhat is the best hacking movie ever made," writes Metz. "Many info-sec specialists will tell you how much they like Sneakers—the 1992 film with Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Ackroyd, Ben Kingsley, and River Phoenix—but few films have so closely hewed to info-sec reality as Mann's new movie, fashioned in his characteristic pseudo-documentary style." "Unlike others, this is a film about a real person, not a stereotype—a real guy with real problems thrust into a real situation," says Mark Abene. "The technology—and the disasters—in the film were real, or at least plausible. Director Michael Mann worked closely with Kevin Poulsen in researching, writing, and shooting the film. Like Hemsworth's character, Poulsen spent time in prison for his hacking exploits, and Mann says his input was invaluable. "It's the first crime-thriller to hinge so heavily on hacking without becoming silly." says Poulson. "We put a lot of work into finding plausible ways that malware and hosting arrangements and all these other things could be used to advance the plot and all of that I think turned out pretty nice." I'm a fan of Michael Mann, and the previews I've seen of Blackhat make it look at least like a passable thriller. For anyone who's seen the film already, what did you think?

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "Linus Torvalds has sent a lengthy statement to Ars Technica responding to statements he made in a conference in New Zealand. One of his classic comments in NZ was: "I'm not a nice person, and I don't care about you. I care about the technology and the kernel — that's what's important to me." On diversity, he said that "the most important part of open source is that people are allowed to do what they are good at" and "all that stuff is just details and not really important." Now he writes: "What I wanted to say — and clearly must have done very badly — is that one of the great things about open source is exactly the fact that different people are so different", and that "I don't know where you happen to be based, but this 'you have to be nice' seems to be very popular in the US," calling the concept of being nice an "ideology"."

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa (887896) writes "Reports are coming in that users of certain devices by Indian phone manufacturer Micromax noticed apps being silently installed without their consent or permission. Uninstalling these apps won't help, as they will be automatically reinstalled. Alternatively, instead of downloading apps, the phone might litter the UI with stack of notifications which are advertisements for online stores and other apps. It turns out that the "System Update" application is responsible for all of this. When starting to tear down the application (which is actually called FWUpgrade.apk on the filesystem), the first thing you notice is that it's a third-party application. A Chinese company named Adups developed it as a replacement for the stock Google OTA service. The article shows the potential abilities of this app and how Micromax customers can work around the disruptive behavior."

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Steven Levy writes with "a deep dive into Google's AI effort," part of a multi-part series at Medium. In 2006, Geoffrey Hinton made a breakthrough in neural nets that launched Deep Learning. Google is all-in, hiring Hinton, having its ace scientist Jeff Dean build the Google Brain, and buying the neuroscience-based general AI company DeepMind for $400 million. Here's how the push for scary-smart search worked, from mouths of the key subjects. The other parts of the series are worth reading, too.

Read More...
posted 14 days ago on slashdot
MojoKid writes We can finally stop arguing over which is the superior game console, the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Quite frankly, it's a pointless debate, and it took a self-taught engineer to put the argument to rest, which he did by combining both game systems into a 22-inch laptop. Meet the "PlayBox," a gaming laptop that's equal parts Xbox One and PS4 rolled into one. The PlayBox wins the argument because it allows you to play games on either system, and when it comes down to it, the ability to play games is all that matters. Built for a "specific customer," the owner of this prototype system needn't worry about exclusives since he now has a system that can play them all, and do it while taking up no more space than a single console.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
TechCurmudgeon writes with a look at how well Google Docs and Microsoft Word Online are at dealing with documents that start (or are exported) in Open Document Format. Does using proprietary document formats make any more sense than buying a coffee maker that uses only one type of coffee, or an ebook you can only read on one device, or a nail that you can only hit with one type of hammer? Why do we use document formats that lock us into only one specific piece of software? Why are we limiting ourselves to only one type of tool? "Control of a format or distribution channel can make it harder to use a competitive solution. That's one problem of proprietary formats: a switch costs you time and/or money. You don't want to buy a new coffee maker to try different coffee, a new e-reader to read a different book, or new software to edit a new document. Open formats or distribution channels make it easier for people to choose a different solution. ... Fortunately, Google re-enabled support for ODF in December 2014. That means you can leverage the collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, then export your completed work to a file in an open, non-proprietary format." Spoiler alert: On balance, both Google Docs and Word Online handle ODT files reasonably well.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
gurps_npc writes: As most people know, the US has for quite some time let police seize pretty much anything they wanted to, forcing you to go to court to get back your stuff (at significant expense). Most of the problems came about because the Federal government let the local cops keep most of what they took. Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, has changed the rules of that program, making it more difficult for the police to do it under the federal program. They can still use local state programs, but that accounts for only about 57% of the cash taken. Holder did not end the program entirely — he left in some exceptions for things like explosives, weapons, and items related to child pornography, which all together amount to about 1% of the current federal program. Still, with this action he will have struck a serious blow to a despicable practice that serious newspapers and comedy TV shows decried as nothing more than legalized theft.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes: It's common knowledge the NSA collects plenty of data on suspected terrorists as well as ordinary citizens, but the agency also has algorithms in place to filter out information that doesn't need to be collected or stored for further analysis, such as spam emails. Now Alice Truong reports that during operations in Afghanistan after 9/11, the U.S. was able to analyze laptops formerly owned by Taliban members. According to NSA officer Michael Wertheimer, they discovered an email written in English found on the computers contained a purposely spammy subject line: "CONSOLIDATE YOUR DEBT." According to Wertheimer, the email was sent to and from nondescript addresses that were later confirmed to belong to combatants. "It is surely the case that the sender and receiver attempted to avoid allied collection of this operational message by triggering presumed "spam" filters (PDF)." From a surveillance perspective, Wertheimer writes that this highlights the importance of filtering algorithms. Implementing them makes parsing huge amounts of data easier, but it also presents opportunities for someone with a secret to figure out what type of information is being tossed out and exploit the loophole.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: A new not-for-profit app, Be My Eyes, aims to help the visually-impaired by connecting them with volunteer users who can support them in their daily lives via live video calls. Once downloaded, Be My Eyes asks the user to identify as blind or sighted, to see if you require help or are offering it. When a blind person requests assistance the app scans the system for an available volunteer. The blind user connects with the volunteer over a video call and points to the item they would like described. Be My Eyes was created by Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a visually-impaired entrepreneur, at a startup event. Wiberg teamed up with Robocat, the Danish software studio behind Haze and Thermo, to make his vision a reality.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
We all love 'The Internet of Things.' Now imagine appliances, such as your refrigerator and hot water heater, getting radio messages from the power grid telling them when they should turn on and off to get the best electricity prices. Now kick that up to the electric company level, and give them a radio network that tells them which electric provider to get electricity from at what time to get the best (wholesale) price. This is what e-Radio is doing. They make this claim: "Using pre-existing and near ubiquitous radio signals can save billions of dollars, reduce environmental impact, add remote addressability and reap additional significant societal benefits." Timothy noticed these people at CES. They were one of the least flashy and least "consumer-y" exhibitors. But saving electricity by using it efficiently, while not glamorous, is at least as important as a $6000 Android phone. Note that the guy e-Radio had at CES speaking to Timothy was Scott Cuthbertson, their Chief Financial Officer. It's a technology-driven company, from Founder and CEO Jackson Wang on down, but in the end, saving money is what they sell. (Alternate Video Link)

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Last week, SpaceX attempted to land a Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous ocean platform after successfully launching supplies to the ISS. It didn't work, but Elon Musk said they were close. Now, an amazing video has been recovered from an onboard camera, and it shows just how close it was. You can see the rocket hitting the platform while descending at an angle, then breaking up. Musk said a few days ago that not only do they know what the problem was, but they've already solved it. The rocket's guiding fins require hydraulic fluid to operate. They had enough fluid to operate for 4 minutes, but ran out just prior to landing. Their next launch already carries 50% more hydraulic fluid, so it shouldn't be an issue next time.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Tests of the AMD Catalyst driver with the latest AAA Linux games/engines have shown what poor shape the proprietary Radeon driver currently is in for Linux gamers. Phoronix, which traditionally benchmarks with open-source OpenGL games and other long-standing tests, recently has taken specially interest in adapting some newer Steam-based titles for automated benchmarking. With last month's Linux release of Metro Last Light Redux and Metro 2033 Redux, NVIDIA's driver did great while AMD Catalyst was miserable. Catalyst 14.12 delivered extremely low performance and some major bottleneck with the Radeon R9 290 and other GPUs running slower than NVIDIA's midrange hardware. In Unreal Engine 4 Linux tests, the NVIDIA driver again was flawless but the same couldn't be said for AMD. Catalyst 14.12 wouldn't even run the Unreal Engine 4 demos on Linux with their latest generation hardware but only with the HD 6000 series. Tests last month also showed AMD's performance to be crippling for NVIDIA vs. AMD Civilization: Beyond Earth Linux benchmarks with the newest drivers.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Just days after Google angered Microsoft by releasing information about a Windows security flaw, they've now released two more. "The more serious of the two allows an attacker to impersonate an authorized user, and then decrypt or encrypt data on a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 device. Google reported that bug to Microsoft on Oct. 17, 2014, and made some background information and a proof-of-concept exploit public on Thursday. Project Zero is composed of several Google security engineers who investigate not only the company's own software, but that of other vendors as well. After reporting a flaw, Project Zero starts a 90-day clock, then automatically publicly posts details and sample attack code if the bug has not been patched." Microsoft says there's no evidence these flaws have been successfully exploited.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Stolga sends this report from the BBC: The missing Mars robot Beagle2 has been found on the surface of the Red Planet, apparently intact. High-resolution images taken from orbit have identified its landing location, and it looks to be in one piece. The UK-led probe tried to make a soft touchdown on the dusty world on Christmas Day, 2003, using parachutes and airbags — but no radio contact was ever made with the probe. Many scientists assumed it had been destroyed in a high-velocity impact. The new pictures, acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, give the lie to that notion, and hint at what really happened to the European mission. Beagle's design incorporated a series of deployable "petals," on which were mounted its solar panels. From the images, it seems that this system did not unfurl fully. "Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels," explained Prof Mark Sims, Beagle's mission manager from Leicester University.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader sends a report of a bug in Steam's Linux client that will accidentally wipe all of a user's files if they move their Steam folder. According to the bug report: I launched steam. It did not launch, it offered to let me browse, and still could not find it when I pointed to the new location. Steam crashed. I restarted it. It re-installed itself and everything looked great. Until I looked and saw that steam had apparently deleted everything owned by my user recursively from the root directory. Including my 3tb external drive I back everything up to that was mounted under /media. Another user reported a similar problem — losing his home directory — and problems with the script were found: at some point, the Steam script sets $STEAMROOT as the directory containing all Steam's data, then runs rm -rf "$STEAMROOT/"* later on. If Steam has been moved, $STEAMROOT returns as empty, resulting in rm -rf "/"* which causes the unexpected deletion.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
M-Saunders writes: Systemd is ambitious and controversial, taking over a large part of the GNU/Linux base system. But where did it come from? Even Red Hat wasn't keen on it at the start, but since then it has worked its way into almost every major distro. Linux Voice talks to Lennart Poettering, the lead developer of Systemd, about its origins, its future, its relationship with Upstart, and handling the pressures of online flamewars.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
ckwu writes Materials scientists have constructed round, pom-pom-like graphene microparticles by spraying graphene oxide droplets into a hot solvent—a process akin to deep-frying. The technique could provide a simple, versatile means to make electrode materials for batteries and supercapacitors, possibly leading to devices with improved energy and power densities, the researchers say. The microparticles contain graphene nanosheets radiating out from their centers, which increases the exposed surface area of the graphene and creates open nanochannels that can enhance charge transfer. Electrodes made with the graphene microspheres had higher capacitance than those made with unassembled graphene sheets, demonstrating that the 3-D structure of the particles improved performance.

Read More...
posted 15 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes Since the middle of December, visitors to sites that run Google AdSense ads have intermittently found themselves redirected to other sites featuring spammy offerings for anti-aging and brain-enhancing products. While webmasters who have managed to figure out which advertisers are responsible could quash the attacks on their AdSense consoles, only now has Google itself managed to track down the villains and ban them from the service.

Read More...
posted 16 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa writes Gustav Nipe, president of Sweden's Pirate Party's youth wing, was successful with somewhat trivial social engineering experiment in the area of the Sälen security conference. He set up a WiFi hotspot named "Öppen Gäst" ("Open Guest") without any kind of encryption. What do you know, a large amount of unsuspecting high profile guests associate with the network. Nipe says he was able to track which sites people visited as well as the emails and text messages of around 100 delegates, including politicians and journalists as well as security experts. He says that he won't be revealing which sites were visited by specific experts, as the point was just to draw attention to the issue of rogue network monitoring. The stunt has already sparked criticism in Swedish newspapers and on social media, with some angry comments saying that Nipe breached Sweden's Personal Data Act.

Read More...
posted 16 days ago on slashdot
mdsolar writes When the fossil-fuel divestment movement first stirred on college campuses three years ago, you could almost hear Big Oil and Wall Street laughing. Crude prices were flirting with $100 a barrel, and domestic oil production, from Texas to North Dakota, was in the midst of a historic boom. But the quixotic campus campaign suddenly has the smell of smart money. One of the biggest names in the history of Big Oil – the Rockefellers – announced last September that they would be purging the portfolio of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund of 'risky' oil investments. And that risk has been underscored by the sudden collapse of the oil market. After cresting at more than $107 in mid-June, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate dipped below $50 a barrel in early January. The crash carries big costs: Goldman Sachs warned that nearly $1 trillion in planned oil-field investments would be unprofitable – even if oil were to stabilize at $70 per barrel.

Read More...
posted 16 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes that Elon Musk wants to speed up the development of his proposed 800-mph tube transport. "Billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk is getting more hands-on with the Hyperloop. Musk, who heads up both space transportation outfit SpaceX and electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors, casually announced via Twitter on Thursday that he's decided to help accelerate development of his vision for near-supersonic tube transportation, first outlined in August 2013. Musk said he will build a five-mile test track for the still-theoretical system for students and companies to use. A possible location would be Texas, he added, where presumably there is plenty of flat land to go around."

Read More...
posted 16 days ago on slashdot
malachiorion writes If you're into robots, AI, you've probably read about the open letter on AI safety. But do you realize how blatantly the media is misinterpreting its purpose, and its message? I spoke to the organization that released letter, and to one of the AI researchers who contributed to it. As is often the case with AI, tech reporters are getting this one wrong on purpose. Here's my analysis for Popular Science. Or, for the TL;DR crowd: "Forget about the risk that machines pose to us in the decades ahead. The more pertinent question, in 2015, is whether anyone is going to protect mankind from its willfully ignorant journalists."

Read More...
posted 16 days ago on slashdot
As reported by CNN, Reuters, and other outlets, a raid in the Belgian city of Verviers -- one of several counter-terrorism actions in the country today -- ended in the death of two men, and the capture of a third, who are said to have been planning imminent acts of violence akin to the ones earlier this month in France. From Reuters' coverage: Coming a week after Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, the incident heightened fears across Europe of young local Muslims returning radicalised from Syria. But prosecutors' spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said the Belgian probe had been under way before the Jan. 7 attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. ... Describing events in the quiet provincial town just after dark, he said: "The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralised." ... Earlier in the day, prosecutors said they had detained a man in southern Belgium whom they suspected of supplying weaponry to Amedy Coulibaly, killer of four people at a Paris Jewish grocery after the Charlie Hebdo attack. After the violence in Verviers, La Meuse newspaper quoted an unidentified police officer saying: "We've averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo."

Read More...