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Ars Editor Learns Feds Have His Old IP Addresses, Full Credit Card Numbers

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 4:38pm
mpicpp writes with the ultimate results of Ars's senior business editor Cyrus Farivar's FOIA request. In May 2014, I reported on my efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, I wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked. But instead of providing what I had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So I appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time. The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. My own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I've ever used; some of them also contain: The IP address that I used to buy the ticket, my credit card number (in full), the language I used, and notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change.

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High School Students Not Waiting For Schools To Go Online

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 3:27pm
lpress writes UCLA conducts an annual survey of first-time, full-time college freshman and this year they included questions about the use of online education sites like Coursera and The Khan Academy. It turns out that over 40 percent of the incoming freshmen were frequently or occasionally assigned to use an online instructional website during the past year and nearly 70 percent had used online sites on their own. Students enrolling in historically black colleges were much more likely than others to have used online teaching material. They also compile a "habits of mind" index, and conclude that "Students who chose to independently use online instructional websites are also more likely to exhibit behaviors and traits associated with academic success and lifelong learning." The survey covers many other characteristics of incoming freshmen — you can download the full report here

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Critroni Crypto Ransomware Seen Using Tor for Command and Control

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 2:19pm
Trailrunner7 writes There's a new kid on the crypto ransomware block, known as Critroni, that's been sold in underground forums for the last month or so and is now being dropped by the Angler exploit kit. The ransomware includes a number of unusual features and researchers say it's the first crypto ransomware seen using the Tor network for command and control. The Critroni ransomware is selling for around $3,000 and researchers say it is now being used by a range of attackers, some of whom are using the Angler exploit kit to drop a spambot on victims' machines. The spambot then downloads a couple of other payloads, including Critroni. Once on a victim's PC, Critroni encrypts a variety of files, including photos and documents, and then displays a dialogue box that informs the user of the infection and demands a payment in Bitcoins in order to decrypt the files. "It uses C2 hidden in the Tor network. Previously we haven't seen cryptomalware having C2 in Tor. Only banking trojans," said Fedor Sinitsyn, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab, who has been researching this threat. "Executable code for establishing Tor connection is embedded in the malware's body. Previously the malware of this type, this was usually accomplished with a Tor.exe file. Embedding Tor functions in the malware's body is a more difficult task from the programming point of view, but it has some profits, because it helps to avoid detection, and it is more efficient in general."

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Exhibit On Real Johnny Appleseed To Hit the Road

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 1:10pm
An anonymous reader writes with this story about a traveling Johnny Appleseed exhibit set to hit the road sometime next year. If you picture Johnny Appleseed as a loner wearing a tin pot for a hat and flinging apple seeds across the countryside, experts say you're wrong. They're hoping that a traveling exhibit funded by an anonymous donation to a western Ohio center and museum will help clear misconceptions about the folk hero and the real man behind the legend. "We want people around the country to know the real person, not just the myths and folklore," said Cheryl Ogden, director of the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum at Urbana University in Urbana. "We want them to know John Chapman's values of hard work, compassion and generosity." Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed to generations of Americans, was a pioneer nurseryman in the late 18th and early 19th centuries credited with introducing apple trees to portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. While it's probably true that he lived outdoors and wore ragged clothes, at least sometimes, researchers doubt he wore a pot on his head or just gave his seedlings and nurseries away.

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Domain Registry of America Suspended By ICANN

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 11:59am
First time accepted submitter EpicMaxGuy writes ICANN has suspended Domain Registry of America aka Brandon Gray Internet Services aka NameJuice. The registrar is forbidden from registering any new domain names or accepting any inbound transfers until 17 October 2014. The announcement was posted on the ICANN website and will probably be welcomed in many circles."

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"Intelligent" Avatars Poised To Manage Airline Check-In

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 10:53am
An anonymous reader writes One of the developers behind special effects used in the film Avatar has inked a deal with airline check-in kiosk manufacturer BCS to implement avatars for personalized and interactive customer service. Dr Mark Sagar's Limbic IO is applying 'neurobehavioral animation' combining biologically based models of faces and neural systems to create live, naturally intelligent, and expressive interactive systems. "One of the comments levelled at self-service check in is that it has lost the human touch that people had when checking in at a traditional manned counter," Patrick Teo, BCS CEO says. "Travelling can be stressful and our aim is to make the interaction between human (passenger) and computer (check-in) as natural and helpful as possible."

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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:46am
An anonymous reader writes On July 20, 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong would say later he thought the crew had a 90% chance of getting home from the moon, and only a 50% chance of landing safely. The scope of NASA's Apollo program seems staggering today. President Kennedy announced his moon goal just four years into the Space Age, but the United States had not even launched a human into orbit yet. Amazingly, just eight years later, Armstrong and Aldrin were walking on the moon.

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MicroxWin Creates Linux Distribution That Runs Debian/Ubuntu & Android Apps

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 8:39am
An anonymous reader writes VolksPC who developed MicroXwin as a lightweight X Window Server has come up with their own Linux distribution. Setting apart VolksPC's distribution from others is that it's based on both Debian and Android and has the capability to run Debian/Ubuntu/Android apps together in a native ARM experience. The implementation doesn't depend on VNC or other similar solutions of the past that have tried to join desktop apps with mobile Android apps. This distribution is also reportedly compatible with all Android applications. The distribution is expected to begin shipping on an ARM mini-PC stick.

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States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 7:30am
An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Department of Labor has released data that some proponents of raising minimum wage are touting as evidence that higher minimum wage promotes job growth. While the data doesn't actually establish cause and effect, it does "run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs." The data shows that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages in January added jobs at a faster rate than those that didn't. Other factors likely contributed to this outcome, but some economists are simply relieved that the higher wage factor didn't have a dramatically negative effect in general.

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Can the Multiverse Be Tested Scientifically?

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 4:27am
astroengine writes: Physicists aren't afraid of thinking big, but what happens when you think too big? This philosophical question overlaps with real physics when hypothesizing what lies beyond the boundary of our observable universe. The problem with trying to apply science to something that may or may not exist beyond our physical realm is that it gets a little foggy as to how we could scientifically test it. A leading hypothesis to come from cosmic inflation theory and advanced theoretical studies — centering around the superstring hypothesis — is that of the "multiverse," an idea that scientists have had a hard time in testing. But now, scientists at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Ontario, Canada have, for the first time, created a computer model of colliding universes in the multiverse in an attempt to seek out observational evidence of its existence.

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Linux Needs Resource Management For Complex Workloads

SlashDot - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 1:23am
storagedude writes: Resource management and allocation for complex workloads has been a need for some time in open systems, but no one has ever followed through on making open systems look and behave like an IBM mainframe, writes Henry Newman at Enterprise Storage Forum. Throwing more hardware at the problem is a costly solution that won't work forever, he notes. Newman writes: "With next-generation technology like non-volatile memories and PCIe SSDs, there are going to be more resources in addition to the CPU that need to be scheduled to make sure everything fits in memory and does not overflow. I think the time has come for Linux – and likely other operating systems – to develop a more robust framework that can address the needs of future hardware and meet the requirements for scheduling resources. This framework is not going to be easy to develop, but it is needed by everything from databases and MapReduce to simple web queries."

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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 10:16pm
An anonymous reader writes: The White House on Friday gave final approval to allow the use of sonic cannons in finding energy deposits underneath the ocean floor on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says that finding energy resources off the Atlantic seaboard "could generate thousands of jobs, but has also acknowledged that the process will harm sea creatures." Sonic cannons "fire sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine." Mammals such as whales and dolphins that communicate through sound will most likely be affected, but scientists aren't sure to what extent. They also aren't sure how the cannons will affect fish and other sea creatures or how any physiological effects on them may impact the fishing industries of the U.S. and the other countries who rely on seafood that migrate into and out of the Atlantic Ocean.

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EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 7:08pm
mdsolar sends this news from Forbes: Both proponents and opponents of nuclear power expect the Environmental Protection Agency in coming months to relax its rules restricting radiation emissions from reactors and other nuclear facilities. EPA officials say they have no such intention, but they are willing to reconsider the method they use to limit public exposure—and the public's level of risk. At issue is a 1977 rule that limits the total whole-body radiation dose to any member of the public from the normal operation of the uranium fuel cycle—fuel processing, reactors, storage, reprocessing or disposal—to 0.25 millisieverts per year. (This rule, known as 40 CFR part 190, is different from other EPA regulations that restrict radionuclides in drinking water and that limit public exposure during emergencies. Those are also due for revision.) "We have not made any decisions or determined any specifics on how to move forward with any of these issues. We do, however, believe the regulation uses outdated science, and we are thinking about how to bring the regulation more in line with current thinking," said Brian Littleton, a chemical engineer with EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air."

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Drone Search and Rescue Operation Wins Fight Against FAA

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 6:01pm
An anonymous reader writes: Back in February, officials at the Federal Aviation Administration told a Texas search-and-rescue team they couldn't use drones help locate missing persons. The team, which is called EquuSearch, challenged the FAA in court. On Friday, the court ruled (PDF) in favor of EquuSearch, saying the FAA's directive was "not a formal cease-and-desist letter representing the agency's final conclusion." EquuSearch intends to resume using the drones immediately. This puts the FAA in the position of having to either initiate formal proceedings against EquuSearch, which is clearly operating to the benefit of society (as opposed to purely commercial drone use), or to revisit and finalize its rules for small aircraft entirely. The latter would be a lengthy process because "Congress has delegated rule making powers to its agencies, but the Administrative Procedures Act requires the agencies to provide a public notice and comment period first."

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Dealing With 'Advertising Pollution'

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 4:54pm
theodp writes: "Everyone gets that advertising is what powers the internet, and that our favorite sites wouldn't exist without it," writes longtime ad guy Ken Segall in The Relentless (and annoying) Pursuit of Eyeballs. "Unfortunately, for some this is simply license to abuse. Let's call it what it is: advertising pollution." CNN's in-your-face, your-video-will-play-in-00:25-seconds approach, once unthinkable, has become the norm. "Google," Segall adds, "is a leader in advertising pollution, with YouTube being a showcase for intrusive advertising. Many YouTube videos start with a mandatory ad, others start with an ad that can be dismissed only after the first 10 seconds. Even more annoying are the ad overlays that actually appear on top of the video you're trying to watch. It won't go away until you click the X. If you want to see the entire video unobstructed, you must drag the playhead back to start over. Annoying. And disrespectful." Google proposed using cap and trade penalties to penalize traditional polluters — how about for those who pollute the Internet?

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Genetically Modifying an Entire Ecosystem

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 3:42pm
New submitter structural_biologist writes: Genes normally have a 50-50 chance of being passed from parent to offspring, but scientists may have figured out a way to create genes that show up in offspring with a much higher frequency. "One type of gene drive influences inheritance by copying itself onto chromosomes that previously lacked it. When an organism inherits such a gene drive from only one parent, it makes a cut in the chromosome from the other parent, forcing the cell to copy the inheritance-biasing gene drive—and any adjacent genes—when it repairs the damage." When introduced into the wild, organisms containing gene drives would breed with the population, quickly spreading the modified genes throughout the ecosystem. While the technology could help prevent the spread of malaria and manage invasive species, many scientists worry about the wide-ranging effects of such a technology and are calling for its regulation.

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Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 2:31pm
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has been struggling for price control of the book and ebook markets for years, battling publicly and privately with publishers while making a lot of authors nervous. With yesterday's announcement of "Kindle Unlimited," a Netflix-like ebook subscription service, Amazon is reaching their endgame in disrupting the book-selling business. But there are other companies doing the same thing, and an article at TechCrunch makes the case that it's the general market, rather than any company in particular, that's making it harder for authors to earn a living. "Driving the prices lower isn't likely to expand the market of readers, since book prices don't seem to be the deciding factor on whether someone reads a book (time is). But those lower prices directly shrink the incomes of authors, who lack any other means of translating their sales into additional revenue. That's why I don't think the big revolution for writers and other content producers will come from Amazon, but rather from startups like Patreon, which allow producers to build audiences directly and develop their own direct subscription model with their most fervent fans."

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Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 1:23pm
An anonymous reader writes: This year is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Dungeons & Dragons, and it's getting a lot of mainstream attention. Long-time and former players are examining the game's influence and its legacy, even as it's being introduced to yet another generation of kids. "For countless players, Dungeons & Dragons redirected teen-age miseries and energies that might have been put to more destructive uses. How many depressed and lonely kids turned away from suicide because they found community and escape in role-playing games? How many acts of bullying or vandalism were sublimated into dice-driven combat? ... How many underage D.U.I.s never came to pass because spell tables were being consulted late into the night?" Meanwhile, as people who played the game long ago have grown into adults producing their own works, our culture has reaped the benefits of D&D's influence. "The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the 'weird fiction' author China Miéville (The City & the City); Brent Hartinger (author of Geography Club, a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (who still enjoys role-playing games). Others who have been influenced are television and film storytellers and entertainers like Robin Williams, Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Dan Harmon (Community) and Chris Weitz (American Pie)."

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Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 12:11pm
An anonymous reader writes "Toyota is on track to launch the first consumer fuel-cell car in Japan next year, and the country's Prime Minister says the government wants to assist the new alternative to gas-driven vehicles. Shinzo Abe announced that Japan will offer subsidies of almost $20,000 for fuel cell cars, which will decrease the Toyota model's cost by about 28%. He said, "This is the car of a new era because it doesn't emit any carbon dioxide and it's environmentally friendly. The government needs to support this. Honda is also planning to release a fuel-cell car next year, but experts expect widespread adoption to take decades, since hydrogen fuel station infrastructure is still in its infancy."

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NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts

SlashDot - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 11:02am
An anonymous reader writes: Astronomers have documented hundreds of holes on the lunar surface. These aren't simply craters, but actual pits ranging from 5 to 900 meters across. Scientists suspects many of these will lead to underground cave systems, which NASA says would be great spots for an astronaut habitat once we get back to the Moon. "A habitat placed in a pit — ideally several dozen meters back under an overhang — would provide a very safe location for astronauts: no radiation, no micrometeorites, possibly very little dust, and no wild day-night temperature swings," said Robert Wagner of Arizona State University. He says it's time to send probes into a few of these pits to see what they're like: "Pits, by their nature, cannot be explored very well from orbit — the lower walls and any floor-level caves simply cannot be seen from a good angle. Even a few pictures from ground-level would answer a lot of the outstanding questions about the nature of the voids that the pits collapsed into. We're currently in the very early design phases of a mission concept to do exactly this, exploring one of the largest mare pits."

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