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Updated: 12 min 59 sec ago

Software Audits: How High-Tech Software Vendors Play Hardball

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 4:57pm
snydeq writes: InfoWorld's Dan Tynan offers an inside look at how high-tech software vendors such as Adobe, Oracle, and IBM play hardball over software licensing, pushing customers to "true up" to the tune of billions of dollars per year -- and using the threat of audits as a sales tool to close lucrative deals. "When it comes to software audits, the code of omerta prevails," Tynan writes. "It's not a question of whether your organizations' software licenses will get audited. It's only a question of when, how often, and how painful the audits will be. The shakedown is such a sure thing that nearly every customer we contacted asked us to keep their names out of this story, lest it make their employers a target for future audits."

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US Justice Dept Approves Charter's Time Warner Cable Purchase With Conditions

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 4:13pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Justice Department has approved Charter Communications Inc's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc and Bright House networks, which would create the second-largest broadband provider and third largest video-provider. The Justice Department valued the purchase of Time Warner Cable at $78 billion and Bright House at $10.4 billion. Under terms, New Charter has agreed to refrain from telling its content providers that they cannot also sell shows online. The deal must also be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday he circulated an order seeking approval of the merger with conditions that "will directly benefit consumers by bringing and protecting competition to the video marketplace and increasing broadband deployment."

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Mozilla Seeks New Home For Email Client Thunderbird

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 3:30pm
Reader chefmonkey writes: In a report commissioned by Mozilla to explore the next home for Thunderbird, two potential new hosts have been offered: the Software Freedom Conservancy (host to git, boost, QEMU, and a host of other projects) and The Document Foundation (home of LibreOffice). At the same time, the report discusses completely uncoupling Thunderbird from the rest of the Mozilla codebase and bringing in a dedicated technical architect to chart the software's roadmap. Given that the two named organizations are already on board with taking Thunderbird under their wing, is this a new lease on life for the email program Mozilla put out to pasture four years ago?In December last year, Mozilla Foundation chairperson Mitchell Baker had argued that the organization should disentangle itself from the Thunderbird email client in order to focus on Firefox. It appears the Firefox-maker is all set to part ways with Thunderbird.

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Swedish ISP Vows to Protect Users From a Piracy Witch Hunt

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 3:00pm
Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: Swedish Internet service provider Bahnhof says it will do everything in its power to prevent copyright holders from threatening its subscribers. The provider is responding to a recent case in which a competing ISP was ordered to expose alleged BitTorrent pirates, reportedly without any thorough evidence. At the birth ground of The Pirate Bay, media outfit Crystalis Entertainment received permission from the court to identify several BitTorrent users, based on their IP-addresses. The case, which could be the first of many, was filed against the local ISP TeliaSonera who handed over the requested information without putting up much of a fight. This prompted the competing Internet provider Bahnhof to issue a warning. The company notes that the copyright holder in question doesnâ(TM)t have a very strong case, and it criticizes Telia for caving in too easily.

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Does More Carbon Dioxide Mean Increased Crop Water Productivity?

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 2:30pm
An anonymous reader points us to an Ars Technica report: For the most part, we think of rising levels of carbon dioxide as an environmental problem. But atmospheric CO2 can also boost agricultural productivity by helping plants grow. How do these potential issues balance out? In an investigation recently published in Nature Climate Change, scientists have looked into the global implications of carbon dioxide's ability to enhance agricultural productivity. Increased levels of CO2 can enhance photosynthesis and reduce leaf-level transpiration, the process by which some of the water that plants draw from the ground gets released back into the atmosphere. These changes can reduce growing seasons and water loss. The result could be an increase in what's called "crop water productivity," i.e. the amount of food produced for each unit of water expended. If elevated CO2 levels increase crop yield and reduce water consumption at large scales, this could help ensure water and food security despite the climate disruptions. By combining data from a massive network of field experiments and global crop models, the scientists claimed that depending on the crop type, global crop water productivity will increase by 10 to 27 percent by the 2080s. Arid regions exhibited large increases that were based on crop type.

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US Begins Dropping 'Cyberbombs' On ISIS

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 1:40pm
In what appears to be a significant shift in its tactic to battle against the terrorist organization, the U.S. has begun launching cyberattacks against ISIS (non-paywall link). The New York Times reports that the Department of Defense's Cyber Command unit is mounting cyberattacks against the terrorist organization. The Cyber Command unit aims to stop the organization from spreading its message. The Times reports: The goal of the new campaign is to disrupt the ability of the Islamic State to spread its message, attract new adherents, circulate orders from commanders and carry out day-to-day functions, like paying its fighters. A benefit of the administration's exceedingly rare public discussion of the campaign, officials said, is to rattle the Islamic State's commanders, who have begun to realize that sophisticated hacking efforts are manipulating their data. Potential recruits may also be deterred if they come to worry about the security of their communications with the militant group. "We are dropping cyberbombs," Robert O. Work, deputy secretary of defense said. "We have never done that before."

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US Wants Its Own Secure and Self-Destructing Messaging App -- And It's Willing to Pay

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 1:00pm
Long time reader schwit1 writes: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency within the Department of Defense historically known for creating the Internet itself, has published a call for companies to submit proposals to build a robust messaging platform that the military could use for secure communication of everything from intelligence to procurement contracts. "Troops on the ground in denied communications environments would have a way to securely communicate back to HQ and DoD back office executives could rest assured that their logistics system is efficient, timely and safe from hackers," according to the DARPA proposal. The request for proposals, reported earlier by the UK's Telegraph outlet, also says that the messaging platform should incorporate a customized blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins the digital currency bitcoin, for recording messages and contract information. The proposal says such a distributed ledger would allow the military to conduct its business in a more efficient and secure fashion.Motherboard's Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports that DARPA is willing to pay people to make this app. "This project falls under the rules of the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. During the first phase, according to the program's rules, successful applicants might be awarded no more than $150,000 for one year. The companies and researchers who are part of phase one can then be eligible for a phase two award of up to $1 million for two years. Lastly, during phase three, the company or companies can pursue commercialization, and receive no funds from the federal government."

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Spy Chief Complains That Edward Snowden Sped Up Spread of Encryption By 7 Years

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 12:10pm
An anonymous reader cites an article on The Intercept: The director of national intelligence on Monday blamed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for advancing the development of user-friendly, widely available strong encryption. "As a result of the Snowden revelations, the onset of commercial encryption has accelerated by seven years," James Clapper said. The shortened timeline has had "a profound effect on our ability to collect, particularly against terrorists," he said. When pressed by The Intercept to explain his figure, Clapper said it came from the National Security Agency. "The projected growth maturation and installation of commercially available encryption -- what they had forecasted for seven years ahead, three years ago, was accelerated to now, because of the revelation of the leaks." Asked if that was a good thing, leading to better protection for American consumers from the arms race of hackers constantly trying to penetrate software worldwide, Clapper answered no. "From our standpoint, it's not ⦠it's not a good thing," he said."Of all the things I've been accused of," Snowden said, "this is the one of which I am most proud."

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Active Drive-By Exploits Critical Android Bugs, Care Of Hacking Team

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 11:30am
Dan Goodin, reporting for Ars Technica: An ongoing drive-by attack is forcing ransomware onto Android smartphones by exploiting critical vulnerabilities in older versions of Google's mobile operating system still in use by millions of people, according to research scheduled to be published Monday. The attack combines exploits for at least two critical vulnerabilities contained in Android versions 4.0 through 4.3, including an exploit known as Towelroot, which gives attackers unfettered "root" access to vulnerable phones. The exploit code appears to borrow heavily from, if not copy outright, some of these Android attack scripts, which leaked to the world following the embarrassing breach of Italy-based Hacking Team in July. Additional data indicates devices running Android 4.4 may also be infected, possibly by exploiting a different set of vulnerabilities.Blue Coat, a California-based provider of security and networking solutions writes: This is the first time, to my knowledge; an exploit kit has been able to successfully install malicious apps on a mobile device without any user interaction on the part of the victim. During the attack, the device did not display the normal "application permissions" dialog box that typically precedes installation of an Android application. After consulting with analyst Joshua Drake of Zimperium, he was able to confirm that the Javascript used to initiate the attack contains an exploit against libxslt that was leaked during the Hacking Team breach. Drake also confirmed that the payload of that exploit, a Linux ELF executable named module.so, contains the code for the "futex" or "Towelroot" exploit that was first disclosed at the end of 2014.

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Over 1M BeautifulPeople Dating Site User Details Leak Online

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 10:50am
An anonymous reader writes: Personal information of over one million users stored by popular dating site BeautifulPeople has leaked, and is now accessible online. We already knew that BeautifulPixel.com was hacked (it happened in November 2015), but this is the first confirmation from a security researcher that the details are legitimate. (BeautifulPeople had downplayed it at the time, saying that it was a staging server, and not a production server, that was hacked.) Security researcher Troy Hunt, citing a source, noted that the data has been sold online. The leaked personal information include email addresses, phone numbers, as well as hair color, weight, job and other details.Troy also noted that of the 1.1 million users details,170 of them have government email addresses. Some of you may remember BeautifulPixel as the creator the "Shrek" virus.

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Stephen Hawking Suggests Black Holes Are Possible Portals To Another Universe

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 10:00am
An anonymous reader shares an article on Science World Report: Stephen Hawking, in a recent lecture held at the Harvard University, claimed that black holes could be portals to a parallel universe. The celebrated physicist spoke at length about black holes and suggested that they neither store materials absorbed by them nor physical information about the object that created them. Known as the information paradox, the theory goes against the scientific rule that information on a system belonging to a particular time can be used to understand its state at a different time. Over the years, it has been speculated that black holes do not retain information about the stars from which they are formed, except storing their electrical charge, angular momentum and mass. According to Hawking, as per that theory, it was believed that identical black holes might be formed by an infinite quantity of matter configurations. However, quantum mechanics has signaled the opposite by revealing that black holes could only be formed by particles with explicit wavelengths. If the characteristics of the bodies that create black holes are not deprived, then they include a lot of information that is not revealed to the outside world, according to the physicist. "For more than 200 years, we have believed in the science of determinism, that is that the laws of science determine the evolution of the universe" Stephen Hawking said. If information was lost in black holes, we wouldn't be able to predict the future because the black hole could emit any collection of particles."This is in contrast to some of Hawking's earlier views. In 2014, for instance, Hawking suggested that black holes don't exist, at least not like we think.

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Nearly All New Diesel Cars Exceed Official Pollution Limits

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 9:10am
An anonymous reader writes: The Guardian, citing a comprehensive set of data, reports that 97% of all modern diesel cars emit more toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution on the road than the official limit. A quarter of this voluminous number emits at least six times more than the limit. From the report, "Surprisingly, the tiny number of models that did not exceed the standard were mostly Volkswagens, the carmaker whose cheating of diesel emissions tests emerged last year sparked the scandal. Experts said the new results show that clean diesel cars can be made but that virtually all manufacturers have failed to do so. The new data, from testing industry leader Emissions Analytics (EA), follows the publication this week by the Department for Transport of emissions results for 37 vehicles, all of which emitted more NOx on the road than the official limit. But the new data covers more than 250 vehicles in more stringently standardised road conditions. EA found that just one of 201 Euro 5 diesels, the EU standard from 2009, did not exceed the limit, while only seven of 62 Euro 6 diesels, the stricter standard since 2014, did so. Diesel cars must meet an official EU limit for NOx but are only tested in a laboratory under fixed conditions. All vehicles sold pass this regulation but, when taken out on to real roads, almost all emit far more pollution. There is no suggestion that any of the cars tested broke the law on emissions limits or used any cheat devices. Mayoral candidates in London, the city with the worst air quality in Britain, have seized on the DfT data to call for tighter controls on polluting traffic -- including a ban on diesel cars."Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib Dem mayoral candidate, said: "The figures are exactly the reason why we need to speed up the introduction of the ultra-low emission zone so that it starts in 2018. Ultimately we will need to ban diesel vehicles from much of London and we need a mayor prepared to take these tough decisions and work with people to make these changes happen."

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Google Appears To Be Working On Bringing Android Apps to Chrome OS

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 8:30am
The Wall Street Journal reported late last year that Google plans to merge Chrome OS and Android. The search giant, at the time, had refuted such claims while adding that it continues to work on "bringing together" the best of both operating systems. It appears, one such step is adding the Google Play (Android's marquee app store) to Chrome OS. Several users are reporting that they have seen an option -- "Enable Android apps to run on your Chromebook" -- which would understandably allow them to run mobile apps on the desktop platform. Unfortunately, the feature isn't working just yet. Bolstering this theory is another such instance in the source code, which says "over a million apps and games on Google Play" will be made available to Chromebook users. A report on Ars Technica speculates this move as the demise of Chrome Web Store, the marketplace for extensions and themes for Chrome, which hasn't received any significant improvement or feature in years. At any rate, the timing of this discovery is interesting as Google's developer conference -- I/O -- is just around the corner (May 18-22).

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U.S. Goverment Shames Texting Drivers on Twitter

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 6:00am
An anonymous reader writes: "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the federal body tasked with automotive safety," reports the Verge, adding "If you look at NHTSA's Twitter feed right now, you'll find that it's just a non-stop stream of burns aimed at people who admit -- sometimes gleefully -- that they text and drive." For example, seeing a tweet that read, "I have no problem texting while driving, but I won't text while going down stairs, the NHTSA replied "You might not have a problem with the texting & driving...but we do. Stay off your phone and #justdrive - it's not worth it." And seeing a tweet that read "I text and drive way too much," they responded, "Um, agreed... Please realize you're putting yourself and others in danger, and a silly text isn't worth it. #justdrive". The Verge argues "For what it's worth, NHTSA is right: countless studies have linked texting in the driver's seat with higher accident rates... Getting shamed online by a government agency is far harsher than getting shamed by a friend -- but it's still a lot better than getting killed over an email." To which the NHTSA responded on Twitter, "Thanks for the shoutout, .@verge! #justdrive"

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Malaria Has Been Eliminated In Europe

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 2:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Quartz reports that "Malaria cases in Europe have dropped from a peak of over 90,000 in 1995 to zero in 2015, according to the World Health Organization," who calls the "extraordinary but fragile" achievement a step towards eliminating malaria everywhere. Nine European countries had reported malaria cases, but agreed to focus their efforts on a full elimination of the mosquito-borne disease. "The WHO attributes success to improved surveillance systems, better mosquito control, and greater collaboration across borders," reports Quartz, noting it now provides a blueprint for other countries fighting the disease -- and a boost in morale.

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New Heating Technology Uses Seawater and Carbon Dioxide

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 10:30pm
Kenneth Stephen writes: While some enterprises have used sea-water for cooling, others are starting to use this for heating. and thereby cut back greatly on the carbon footprint of large facilities. What makes this technique even more fascinating is that a key component of this technology is carbon dioxide — the greenhouse gas that has climate watchers so worried. An Alaska aquarium recently announced "the first installation of CO2 refrigerant heat pumps to replace oil or electrical boilers in a conventional heating system in the United States" after 7 years of development, and predicts they'll now save up to $15,000 each month on their heating bill.

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Interview With Python Creator Guido Van Rossum

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 8:21pm
The online programming school Tech Rocket just published a new interview with Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python. "Looking back I don't think I ever really doubted Python, and I always had fun," he tells the site. "I had a lot of doubts about myself, but Python's ever-increasing success, and encouragement from people to whom I looked up (even Larry Wall!), made me forget that." He describes what it's like being Python's Benevolent Dictator for Life, and says that the most astonishing thing he's seen built with Python is "probaby the Dropbox server. Two million lines of code and counting, and it serves hundreds of millions of users." And he leaves aspiring programmers with this advice. "Don't do something you don't enjoy just because it looks lucrative -- that's where the competition will be fiercest, and because you don't enjoy it, you'll lose out to others who are more motivated."

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Report: Google Developing New 'Area 120' Corporate Incubator

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 6:21pm
An anonymous reader writes: The Information has released a new report about how Google is developing its own "startup incubator" called "Area 120." According to sources, the incubator will be helmed by Google executives Don Harrison and Bradley Horowitz. The way it will work is teams of Google employees will pitch their ideas for inclusion in Area 120. If a team's idea is approved, they will then be able to work full-time on their idea, and eventually start a new company after the business plan is created. The timing is unclear but the whole process will likely take several months. According to The Next Web, "The '120' in Area 120 is a homage to Google's famed '20 percent time,' which asks that employees spend one-fifth of their working hours on projects that excite them." Both Gmail and AdSense were a result of Google's 20 percent time workplace philosophy. The report claims Area 120 will be tied exclusively to Google, not its parent company, Alphabet. It also says it will remain separate from Google's Mountain View campus.

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Schools Are Helping Police Spy On Kids' Social Media Activity

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 5:21pm
schwit1 shares this excerpt from an article in The Washington Post: Schools in Florida are renewing a program that monitors their students' social media activity for criminal or threatening behavior, although it has caused some controversy since its adoption last year. The school system in Orange County, where Orlando is located, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that the program, which partners the school system with local police departments, has been successful in protecting students' safety, saying that it led to 12 police investigations in the past year. The school district says it will pay about $18,000 annually for SnapTrends, the monitoring software used to check students' activity. It's the same software used by police in Racine, Wisconsin, to track criminal activity and joins a slew of similar social media monitoring software used by law enforcement to keep an eye on the community. SnapTrends collects data from public posts on students' social media accounts by scanning for keywords that signify cases of cyberbullying, suicide threats, or criminal activity. School security staff then comb through flagged posts and alert police when they see fit.

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AIs vs Humans - Next Battle: Starcraft

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 4:21pm
braindrainbahrain writes: Having conquered checkers, chess, and more recently Go, artificial intelligence research now looks at the next frontier: the popular real-time strategy game of StarCraft. Blizzard Entertainment's president reached out to Google's DeepMind researchers last month, who are now describing StarCraft as "our likely next target". But many top StarCraft experts believe AIs will fail because "Unlike machines, humans are good at lying," reports the Wall Street Journal. An executive at the Korea e-Sports Association tells them "It's going to be hard for AI to bluff or to trick a human player." One University of Alberta computer scientist David Churchill counters that âoeWhen the AI finds that the only way to win is to show strength, it will do that. If you want to call that bluffing, then the AI is capable of bluffing, but there's no machismo behind it." Unfortuantely, for five years Churchill has been running AI-vs-human StarCraft tournaments, and "So far, it hasn't even been close... Using a mouse and keyboard, the world's top players can issue 500 or more commands a minute," the Journal reports. But they add that now both Facebook and Microsoft are also working on small StarCraft AI projects.

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