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Knocking Down the Great Firewall of China

SlashDot - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 8:28am
New submitter Nocturrne writes: The FOSS project Lantern is having great success in unblocking the internet for many users in oppressive regimes, like China and Iran. Much like Tor and BitTorrent, Lantern is using peer-to-peer networking to overcome firewalls, but with the additional security of a trusted network of friends. "If you download Lantern in an uncensored region, you can connect with someone in a censored region, who can then access whatever content they want through you. What makes the system so unique is that it operates on the basis of trust. ... Through a process called consistent routing, the amount of information any single Lantern user can learn about other users is limited to a small subset, making infiltration significantly more difficult." The network of peers is growing, but we need more friends in uncensored countries to join us.

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Leaked Documents: GCHQ Made Port-Scanning Entire Countries a Standard Spy Tool

SlashDot - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 7:21am
Advocatus Diaboli writes with this excerpt from Heise: Since the early days of TCP, port scanning has been used by computer saboteurs to locate vulnerable systems. In a new set of top secret documents seen by Heise, it is revealed that in 2009, the British spy agency GCHQ made port scans a "standard tool" to be applied against entire nations. Twenty-seven countries are listed as targets of the HACIENDA program in the presentation, which comes with a promotional offer: readers desiring to do reconnaissance against another country need simply send an e-mail. Also from the article: The list of targeted services includes ubiquitous public services such as HTTP and FTP, as well as common administrative protocols such as SSH (Secure SHell protocol – used for remote access to systems) and SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol – used for network administration) (Figure 4). Given that in the meantime, port scanning tools like Zmap have been developed which allow anyone to do comprehensive scans, it is not the technology used that is shocking, but rather the gargantuan scale and pervasiveness of the operation.

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Apple Begins Storing Chinese User Data On Servers In China

SlashDot - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 4:13am
An anonymous reader writes Reuters reported on Friday that Apple "has begun keeping the personal data of some Chinese users on servers in mainland China." Apple has claimed that the move is meant "to improve the speed and reliability of its iCloud service", but given China's track record with censorship and privacy, the explanation rings hollow for some skeptics. Nevertheless, Apple assures its Chinese users that their personal data on China Telecom is encrypted and that the encryption keys will be stored offshore. Only time will tell if Apple will be able to resist Chinese government requests to access its China-based servers.

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Not Just For ThinkPads Anymore: Lenovo Gets OK To Buy IBM Server Line

SlashDot - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 1:09am
IBM sold its personal computer line (including the iconic ThinkPad line) to Lenovo back in 2005. Now, Lenovo is poised to acquire IBM's line of X86-based servers, and has garnered the approval of a regulatory body which could have scotched the deal. (The article describes the server line at issue as "low end," but that's in the eye of the beholder.) From the article: The conclusion of the review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, is “good news for both IBM and Lenovo, and for our customers and employees,” Armonk, New York-based IBM said yesterday in a statement. While Cfius placed some conditions on the deal, they don’t significantly affect the business, and terms of the transaction didn’t change as result, a person with knowledge of the matter said, without specifying the conditions. The sale drew scrutiny because of disputes between China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies, over cyberintrusions. By completing the deal, IBM can jettison a less profitable business to focus on growing areas, such as cloud computing and data analytics, while giving Lenovo a bigger piece of the global computing-hardware market. ... Spokesmen for IBM and Lenovo declined to comment on whether the Cfius clearance included any requirements or concessions. Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, which leads Cfius, declined to comment.

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60,000 Oculus Rift DK2 Orders, 20,000+ Units Shipped, New Orders Ship In October

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 10:09pm
An anonymous reader writes The much lauded Oculus Rift DK2 is in high demand. Shipping began at the end of July and Oculus says they've already shipped more than 20,000 of their 60,000 orders. The company recently updated their order page to indicate that new units are expected to ship starting in October. The Oculus Rift DK2 is the company's second development kit which offers a number of major improvements over the original kit, called the DK1, which was the result of a successful Kickstarter back in August, 2012. Although the DK2 is intended for developers, the company openly offers the VR headset up for sale to anyone interested for $350. The Oculus Rift DK2s most notable enhancements are a higher resolution display and positional tracking capability as well as a number of other under-the-hood enhancements make the DK2 a huge improvement over its predecessor.

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Tesla Removes Mileage Limits On Drive Unit Warranty Program

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 7:10pm
Ars Technica reports that Elon Musk today wrote that Tesla will remove mileage limits on its warranty policy for all Tesla Model S drive units. The warranty, which will still span eight years, won't have a cap on the number of owners for each vehicle. People who purchased Teslas before today were told that the warranty period for the drive unit expired after eight years or once the car logged over 125,000 miles. The revised warranty applies to new vehicles and Model S cars that are already on the road. The article mentions that quite a few Tesla owners have had to have their drive units replaced; out of warranty, that runs about $15,000. Musk's announcement acknowledges that the change may cost the company some money, but says he's "confident it will work out well in the long run."

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Google Brings Chrome OS User Management To Chrome

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 6:23pm
An anonymous reader writes "Google is toying with a complete revamp of the user account system in its browser. Google is essentially pulling the user management system from Chrome OS back into Chrome. The company's thinking is likely two-layered. First, it wants users to stay in the browser for as long as possible, and thus it wants the switching process to be part of Chrome as opposed to Windows, Mac, or Linux. Second, if it can teach users to have accounts in Chrome (as well as use incognito and guest modes), the learning curve will have been flattened for when they encounter Chrome OS."

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Project Aims To Build a Fully Open SoC and Dev Board

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 5:42pm
DeviceGuru (1136715) writes "A non-profit company is developing an open source 64-bit system-on-chip that will enable fully open hardware, 'from the CPU core to the development board.' The 'lowRISC' SoC is the brainchild of a team of hardware and software hackers from the University of Cambridge, with the stated goal of implementing a 'fully open computing eco-system, including the instruction set architecture (ISA), processor silicon, and development boards.' The lowRISC's design is based on a new 64-bit RISC-V ISA, developed at UC Berkeley. The RISC-V core design has now advanced enough for the lowRISC project to begin designing an SoC around it. Prototype silicon of a 'RISC-V Rocket' core itself has already been benchmarked at UC Berkeley, with results results (on GitHub) suggesting that in comparison to a 32-bit ARM Cortex-A5 core, the RISC-V core is faster, smaller, and uses less power. And on top of that it's open source. Oh, and there's a nifty JavaScript-based RISC-V simulator that runs in your browser."

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Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 5:23pm
An anonymous reader writes: Third-party game engines are wonderful creations, allowing developers to skip a lengthy and complicated part of the development process and spend more time on content creation. But each engine has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they may not be apparent at the beginning of a project. If you realize halfway through that your game doesn't work well on the engine you picked, what do you do? Jeff LaMarche describes how he and his team made the difficult decision to throw out all their work with Unity and start over with Unreal. He describes some technical limitations, like Unity's 32-bit nature, and some economic ones, like needing to pay $500 per person for effective version control. He notes that Unreal Engine 4 has its problems, too, but the biggest reason to switch was this: "Our team just wasn't finding it easy to collaborate. We weren't gelling as a cohesive team and we often felt like the tools were working against us."

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Groundwork Laid For Superfast Broadband Over Copper

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 5:01pm
itwbennett writes: Telecom equipment vendor Adtran has developed a technology that will make it easier for operators to roll out broadband speeds close to 500Mbps over copper lines. Adtran's FDV (Frequency Division Vectoring), enhances the capabilities of two technologies — VDSL2 with vectoring and G.fast — by enabling them to better coexist over a single subscriber line, the company said. VDSL2 with vectoring, which improves speeds by reducing noise and can deliver up to 150Mbps, is currently being rolled out by operators, while G.fast, which is capable of 500Mbps, is still under development, with the first deployments coming in mid-2015. FDV will make it easier for operators to roll out G.fast once it's ready and expand where it can be used, according to Adtran. Meanwhile, Ars Technica has an article about how Verizon is letting its copper network rot in order to passively encourage customers to switch to fiber.

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Supervalu Becomes Another Hacking Victim

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 4:18pm
plover sends this news about another possible exposure of customer data: Supervalu is the latest retailer to experience a data breach, announcing today that cybercriminals had accessed payment card transactions at some of its stores. The Minneapolis-based company said it had "experienced a criminal intrusion" into the portion of its computer network that processes payment card transactions for some of its stores. There was no confirmation that any cardholder data was in fact stolen and no evidence the data was misused, according to the company. The event occurred between June 22 and July 17, 2014 at 180 Supervalu stores and stand-alone liquor stores. Affected banners include Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy.

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Watch a Cat Video, Get Hacked: the Death of Clear-Text

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 3:34pm
New submitter onproton writes: Citizen Lab released new research today on a targeted exploitation technique used by state actors involving "network injection appliances" installed at ISPs. These devices can target and intercept unencrypted YouTube traffic and replace it with malicious code that gives the operator control over the system or installs a surveillance backdoor. One of the researchers writes, "many otherwise well-informed people think they have to do something wrong, or stupid, or insecure to get hacked—like clicking on the wrong attachments, or browsing malicious websites...many of these commonly held beliefs are not necessarily true." This technique is largely designed for targeted attacks, so it's likely most of us will be safe for now — but just one more reminder to use https.

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How California's Carbon Market Actually Works

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 2:52pm
Lasrick writes: Almost 10 years ago, California's legislature passed Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. AB 32 set the most ambitious legally binding climate policy in the United States, requiring that California's greenhouse gas emissions return to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The centerpiece of the state's efforts — in rhetorical terms, if not practical ones — is a comprehensive carbon market, which California's leaders promote as a model policy for controlling carbon pollution. Over the course of the past 18 months, however, California quietly changed its approach to a critical rule affecting the carbon market's integrity. Under the new rule, utilities are rewarded for swapping contracts on the Western electricity grid, without actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Now that the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants, many are looking to the Golden State for best climate policy practices. On that score, California's experience offers cautionary insights into the challenges of using carbon markets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Ask Slashdot: What Recliner For a Software Developer?

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 2:09pm
Taxilian writes We've talked about office chairs before, but I'm one of those coders who tends to relax by doing more coding. Particularly when I'm short on time for a project, I like to move my work to where I am still around my wife and children so that I can still interact with them and be with my family, but still hit my deadlines. I have used various recliners and found that programming in them (at least in evenings) can be quite comfortable, but haven't felt like I really found the 'ideal chair' for relaxing and working on my Macbook. I have found references to failed chairs (like La-Z-Boy Explorer, the so-called "E-cliner") that were intended for tech and failed, but are there any existing and useful options? I'd really like something that provides some sort of lap desk (to keep the heat from the laptop away from me) and reasonable power arrangements while still being comfortable and not looking ridiculous in a normal family room.

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Involuntary Eye Movement May Provide Definitive Diagnosis of ADHD

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 1:26pm
Zothecula writes: If a child who's simply very active is mistakenly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), he can end up on pharmaceuticals such as Ritalin unnecessarily. The problem is, it can be quite difficult to determine if someone actually has ADHD, and misdiagnoses are common. Now, however, researchers from Tel Aviv University have announced that analyzing a patient's eye movements may be the key. "The researchers found a direct correlation between ADHD and the inability to suppress eye movement in the anticipation of visual stimuli. The research also reflected improved performance by participants taking methylphenidate, which normalized the suppression of involuntary eye movements to the average level of the control group."

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Swedish Dad Takes Gamer Kids To Warzone

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 12:43pm
Z00L00K sends this excerpt from The Local: A Swedish father has come under fire for taking his two sons on a trip to Israel, the West Bank and occupied Syria in order to teach them the reality of war. [Carl-Magnus Helgegren is] a journalist, university teacher, and proactive dad. And like so many other dads, Helgegren had to have the violent video-game conversation with his two sons, Frank and Leo, aged ten and 11 respectively. "We were sitting at the dinner table last autumn, and my kids started telling me about this game they wanted to play, the latest Call of Duty game, and told me about the guns and missions," Helgegren told The Local on Friday. So Helgegren struck a deal. The family would take a trip to a city impacted by real war. The boys would meet people affected, do interviews, and visit a refugee camp. And when they came back home, they would be free to play whatever games they chose.

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The Flight of Gifted Engineers From NASA

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 12:01pm
schwit1 writes: Rather than work in NASA, the best young engineers today are increasingly heading to get jobs at private companies like SpaceX and XCOR. This is a long article, worth reading in its entirety, but this quote sums it up well: "As a NASA engineering co-op student at Johnson Space Center, Hoffman trained in various divisions of the federal space agency to sign on eventually as a civil servant. She graduated from college this year after receiving a generous offer from NASA, doubly prestigious considering the substantial reductions in force hitting Johnson Space Center in recent months. She did have every intention of joining that force — had actually accepted the offer, in fact — when she received an invitation to visit a friend at his new job with rising commercial launch company SpaceX. Hoffman took him up on the offer, flying out to Los Angeles in the spring for a private tour. Driving up to the SpaceX headquarters, she was struck by how unassuming it was, how small compared to NASA, how plain on the outside and rather like a warehouse. As she walked through the complex, she was also surprised to find open work areas where NASA would have had endless hallways, offices and desks. Hoffman described SpaceX as resembling a giant workshop, a hive of activity in which employees stood working on nitty-gritty mechanical and electrical engineering. Everything in the shop was bound for space or was related to space. ... Seeing SpaceX in production forced Hoffman to acknowledge NASA might not be the best fit for her. The tour reminded her of the many mentors who had gone into the commercial sector of the space industry in search of better pay and more say in the direction their employers take." At NASA, young engineers find that they spend a lot of time with bureaucracy, the pace is slow, their projects often get canceled or delayed, and the creative job satisfaction is poor. At private companies like SpaceX, things are getting built now.

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Humans Need Not Apply: a Video About the Robot Revolution and Jobs

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 11:18am
Paul Fernhout writes: This explanatory compilation video by CGP Grey called "Humans Need Not Apply" on structural unemployment caused by robotics and AI (and other automation) is like the imagery playing in my mind when I think about the topic based on previous videos and charts I've seen. I saw it first on the econfuture site by Martin Ford, author of The Lights in the Tunnel. It is being discussed on Reddit, and people there have started mentioning a "basic income" as one possible response. While I like the basic income idea, I also collect other approaches in an essay called Beyond A Jobless Recovery: A heterodox perspective on 21st century economics. Beyond a basic income for the exchange economy, those possible approaches include gift economy, subsistence production, planned economy, and more — including many unpleasant alternatives like expanding prisons or fighting wars as we are currently doing. Marshall Brain's writings like Robotic Nation and Manna have inspired my own work. I made my own video version of the concept around 2010, as a parable called "The Richest Man in the World: A parable about structural unemployment and a basic income." (I also pulled together a lot of links to robot videos in 2009.) It's great to see more informative videos on this topic. CGP Grey's video is awesome in the way he puts it all together.

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Samsung Buys Kickstarter-Funded Internet of Things Startup For $200MM

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 10:36am
jfruh writes: In September of 2012, SmartThings took to Kickstarter with the promise of delivering an "Internet of things" package to backers, including a hub device that would control various home gadgets via the user's smartphone. They aimed to raise $250,000. They got $1.2 million. And now they've been bought by Samsung for a reported $200 million, as the South Korean electronics market tries to get a foothold into this emerging market.

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Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?

SlashDot - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 9:54am
An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic reports on a new online learning venture called Project Minerva. Its goal is to blend the most effective parts of online and real-life college education. The problem with most online courses is that the vast majority of people who sign up for them never finish — they aren't engaged enough. Minerva is set up to encourage more interaction between a live professor and other students. Quoting: "[A]t first it reminded me of the opening credits of The Brady Bunch: a grid of images of the professor and eight "students" (the others were all Minerva employees) appeared on the screen before me, and we introduced ourselves. ... Within a few minutes, though, the experience got more intense. Bonabeau began by polling us on our understanding of the reading, a Nature article about the sudden depletion of North Atlantic cod in the early 1990s. He asked us which of four possible interpretations of the article was the most accurate. In an ordinary undergraduate seminar, this might have been an occasion for timid silence, until the class's biggest loudmouth or most caffeinated student ventured a guess. But the Minerva class extended no refuge for the timid, nor privilege for the garrulous. Within seconds, every student had to provide an answer, and Bonabeau displayed our choices so that we could be called upon to defend them." The professor has fine-grained control over the class, and can easily divide students into groups, or link up directly for one-on-one advice. The project hopes that having a professor directly involved (and using modern tools) will bring the online learning experience up to speed with more traditional methods.

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