Communications

Switzerland Begins Trials of Expensive Postal Drones 48 48

An anonymous reader writes: Swiss Post has beat Amazon, Alibaba and other researchers into drone-based delivery by launching practical drops using a Matternet four-rotored drone this month. However the company says that five years of testing and negotiation with regulators lie ahead before it will be able to offer a commercial drone-based delivery service. Like Google's Project Wing, the Matternet drone in question is mooted as a potential lifeline in post-disaster situations, but from a business point of view the release notes its potential for 'express delivery of goods' — a further indicator that the future of postal drone delivery may be an exclusive and expensive one.
Security

Crypto Experts Blast Gov't Backdoors For Encryption 88 88

loid_void writes with a link to a New York Times report about some of the world's best-known cryptography experts, who have prepared a report which concludes that there is no viable technical solution which "would allow the American and British governments to gain "exceptional access" to encrypted communications without putting the world's most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger." From the article: [T]he government’s plans could affect the technology used to lock financial institutions and medical data, and poke a hole in mobile devices and the countless other critical systems — including pipelines, nuclear facilities, the power grid — that are moving online rapidly. ... “The problems now are much worse than they were in 1997,” said Peter G. Neumann, a co-author of both the 1997 report and the new paper, who is a computer security pioneer at SRI International, the Silicon Valley research laboratory. “There are more vulnerabilities than ever, more ways to exploit them than ever, and now the government wants to dumb everything down further.” The authors include Neumann, Harold Abelson, Susan Landau, and Bruce Schneier.
Businesses

Silicon Valley Is Filling Up With Ex-Obama Staffers 210 210

HughPickens.com writes: Edward-Isaac Dovere reports in Politico that the fastest-growing chapter of the Obama alumni association is in Silicon Valley. For the people who helped get Obama elected and worked for him once he did, there's something about San Francisco and its environs that just feels right: the emphasis on youth and trying things that might fail, chasing that feeling of working for the underdog, and even using that word "disrupting" to describe what they do. "A lot of people who moved out here were present at the creation of the Obama '08 campaign," says Tommy Vietor. "There's a piece of them that wants to replicate that." Vietor left the White House two years ago, and he and his business partner, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, founded a communications strategy firm with a focus on speechwriting for tech and other start-ups. "If you're writing for a CEO out here, they're more likely to be your peer than your grandfather," says Vietor. "They're young, they're cool, they get it."

Other former Obama staffers who have come to Silicon Valley include former campaign manager and White House adviser David Plouffe at Uber, Kyle O'Connor at Nest, Semonti Stephens at Twitter; Mike Masserman, at Lyft; Brandon Lepow at Facebook; Nicole Isaac, at LinkedIn; Liz Jarvis-Shean at Civis; Jim Green and Vivek Kundra at Salesforce, Alex McPhillips at Google; Gillian Bergeron, at NextDoor; Natalie Foster at the Institute for the Future; Catherine Bracy at Code for America; Hallie Montoya Tansey at Target Labs. Nick Papas, John Baldo, Courtney O'Donnell and Clark Stevens at AirBnB, and Jessica Santillo at Uber.

There are so many former Obama staffers in the Bay Area that a recent visit by former White House senior adviser David Axelrod served as a reunion of sorts, with more than a dozen campaign and White House veterans gathering over lunch to discuss life after the administration. Obama himself rarely misses an opportunity to come to San Francisco. He says he loves the energy there, loves the people and according to Dovere, the city's ultra-liberal leanings mean he was greeted as a rock star even during the dark days before last year's midterms. Obama's even become friendly with Elon Musk. "There should be a welcome booth at the SFO airport," says Jon Carson, the former Organizing for Action executive director now at SolarCity.
NASA

Glitch Halts New Horizons Operations As It Nears Pluto 107 107

An anonymous reader writes: NASA says their New Horizons probe suffered a temporary communication breakdown on Saturday, 10 days before it's supposed to fly past Pluto. The mission team is working to restore normal communications. "Full recovery is expected to take from one to several days," NASA wrote in a status report on Saturday. "New Horizons will be temporarily unable to collect science data during that time."
AI

Machine Learning System Detects Emotions and Suicidal Behavior 38 38

An anonymous reader writes with word as reported by The Stack of a new machine learning technology under development at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology "which can identify emotion in text messages and email, such as sarcasm, irony and even antisocial or suicidal thoughts." Computer science student Eden Saig, the system's creator, explains that in text and email messages, many of the non-verbal cues (like facial expression) that we use to interpret language are missing. His software applies semantic analysis to those online communications and tries to figure out their emotional import and context by looking for word patterns (not just more superficial markers like emoticons or explicit labels like "[sarcasm]"), and can theoretically identify clues of threatening or self-destructive behavior.
Crime

Trolls No Longer Welcome In New Zealand 269 269

An anonymous reader writes: Legislation designed to prevent cyber-bullying has passed its final hurdle in the New Zealand Parliament, making it a crime to send harmful messages or put damaging images online. The Harmful Digital Communications Bill passed 116 to 5. The Register reports: "The bill creates a regime under which digital communications causing 'serious emotional distress' are subject to an escalating regime that starts as 'negotiation, mediation or persuasion' but reaches up to creating the offenses of not complying with an order, and 'causing harm by posting digital communication.' The bill covers posts that are racist, sexist, or show religious intolerance, along with hassling people over disability or sexual orientation. There's also a new offense of incitement to suicide (three years' jail).
Communications

UK Government Illegally Spied On Amnesty International 109 109

Mark Wilson writes with this excerpt from a story at Beta News: A court has revealed that the UK intelligence agency, GCHQ, illegally spied on human rights organization Amnesty International. It is an allegation that the agency had previously denied, but an email from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal backtracked on a judgement made in June which said no such spying had taken place.

The email was sent to Amnesty International yesterday, and while it conceded that the organization was indeed the subject of surveillance, no explanation has been offered. It is now clear that, for some reason, communications by Amnesty International were illegally intercepted, stored, and examined. What is not clear is when the spying happened, what data was collected and, more importantly, why it happened.
Google

Google Hangouts and SMS Integration: A Mess, For Now 62 62

Android Headlines reports that a bug in the Google Hangouts app is causing confusion for users who would like to send and receive SMS messages. According to the article, [S]ome users are reporting an issue that is preventing the merging of SMS messages with Hangouts. The exact nature of what is causing this error is still unknown, as Google has not divulged any concrete information. They did state though that they are working on a fix and will have it ready for release as soon as they figure out what is going on. On this front, I wish there were a good roadmap for all the overlapping and sometimes circular-seeming options for Google's various flavors of VoiP and messaging. Between Google Voice, Google Plus, Messenger (not Facebook's Messenger), Gmail, and now Google Fi, it's hard to tell quite where the there begins. After setting up a new phone through Google Fi, I find that the very pleasant full-screen text-message window I used to like with Google Voice is now one I can't figure out how to reach, and the screen directs me to use Hangouts instead.
Encryption

Cameron Asserts UK Gov't Will Leave No "Safe Space" For Private Communications 260 260

An anonymous reader writes with the story from Ars Technica that UK prime minister David Cameron "has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to 'leave a safe space — a new means of communication — for terrorists to communicate with each other.'" That statement came Monday, as a response to Conservative MP David Bellingham, "who asked [Cameron, on the floor of the House of Commons] whether he agreed that the 'time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?' To which Cameron replied: 'we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.'" This sounds like the UK government is declaring a blustery war on encryption, and it might not need too much war: some companies can be persuaded (or would be eager) to cooperate with the government in handing over all kinds of information. However, the bluster part may leave even the fiercest surveillance mostly show: as Ars writer Glyn Moody asks, what about circumstances "where companies can't hand over keys, or where there is no company involved, as with GnuPG, the open source implementation of the OpenPGP encryption system?" Or Tor?
Communications

RFC 7568 Deprecates SSLv3 As Insecure 53 53

AmiMoJo writes: SSLv3 should not be used, according to the IETF's RFC 7568. Despite being replaced by three versions of TLS, SSLv3 is still in use. Clients and servers are now recommended to reject requests to use SSLv3 for secure communication. "SSLv3 Is Comprehensively Broken," say the authors, and lay out its flaws in detail.
Cellphones

SMS Co-Inventor Matti Makkonen Dead At 63 31 31

An anonymous reader writes: The BBC News reports that Matti Makkonen, a 'grand old man of mobile industry' who helped launch the worldwide sensation of texting, has died at the age of 63 after an illness. Although planning to retire later in 2015 from the board of Finnet Telecoms, Makkonen constantly remained fascinated with communications technologies, from the Nokia 2010 mobile phone to 3G connections. He lived just enough to witness the last remnants of former Finnish mobile industry giant Nokia disappear, as Redmond announced its intent last month to convert all Nokia stores into Microsoft-branded Authorized Reseller and Service Centers, offering Xbox game consoles alongside the Nokia-derived Lumia range of smartphones.
Communications

European Government Agrees On Net Neutrality Rules, With Exemptions 37 37

An anonymous reader writes: The European Union's three main legislative bodies, the European Council, the European Parliment, and the European Commision, have reached an agreement on "Open Internet" rules that establish principles similar to Net Neutrality in the EU. The rules require that all internet traffic and users be treated equally, forbidding paid-for prioritisation of traffic. However, exemptions are permitted for particular "specialised services" where the service is not possible under the open network's normal conditions, provided that the customer using the service pays for the privilege. (The examples given are IPTV, teleconferencing, and telepresence surgery.) Zero-rating — exempting particular data from traffic caps — is also permitted, but will be subject to oversight. Notably, this means (if all goes as promised) the elimination of cellphone roaming fees within the EU; however, that's been promised and delayed before.
Power

Samsung Nanotech Breakthrough Nearly Doubles Li-Ion Battery Capacity 131 131

The Korea Times reports that Samsung researchers have published in Nature Communications the results of research (here's the abstract) that could lead to vastly greater storage capacity for lithium-ion batteries. The researchers, by growing graphene on silicon anodes, were able to preserve the shape of the anodes, an outcome which has formerly eluded battery designers: silicon tends to deform over numerous charging cycles. From the linked abstract: Here we report direct graphene growth over silicon nanoparticles without silicon carbide formation. The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700Whl1 at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries. Also at ZDNet.
Networking

Scientists Overcome One of the Biggest Limits In Fiber Optic Networks 62 62

Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at the University of California in San Diego have demonstrated a way of boosting transmissions over long distance fiber optic cables and removing crosstalk interference, which would mean no more need for expensive electronic regenerators (repeaters) to keep the signal stable. The result could be faster and cheaper networks, especially on long-distance international subsea cables. The feat was achieved by employing a frequency comb, which acts a bit like a concert conductor; the person responsible for tuning multiple instruments in an orchestra to the same pitch at the beginning of a concert. The comb was used to synchronize the frequency variations of the different streams of optical information (optical carriers) and thus compensate in advance for the crosstalk interference, which could also then be removed.

As a result the team were able to boost the power of their transmission some 20 fold and push data over a "record-breaking" 12,000km (7,400 miles) long fiber optic cable. The data was still intact at the other end and all of this was achieved without using repeaters and by only needing standard amplifiers.
Social Networks

Are We Too Quick To Act On Social Media Outrage? 371 371

RedK writes: Connie St-Louis, on June 8th, reported on apparently sexist remarks made by Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize winning scientist, during an event organised for women in sciences. This led to the man's dismissal from his stations, all in such urgency that he did not even have time to present his side, nor was his side ever offered any weight. A leaked report a few days later suggests that the remarks were taken out of context. Further digging shows that the accuser has distorted the truth in many cases it seems. This is not the first time that people may have jumped the gun too soon on petty issues and ruined great events or careers.
The Internet

Charter Hires Net Neutrality Activist To Make Policy 70 70

An anonymous reader writes: The Federal Communications Commission has been at loggerheads with many ISPs lately, after the agency pushed through net neutrality rules that have now gone into effect. The defeat of Comcast's attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable was hailed by many net neutrality activists as a victory, but then came the news that Charter was looking to buy TWC instead — which brought the worries back. But now Charter has taken the unusual step of hiring one of those activists to help develop its policy: Marvin Ammori. He says, "Charter hired me—which, to be honest, took some humility on its part since I have helped lead public campaigns against cable companies like Charter—to advise it in crafting its commitment to network neutrality. After our negotiation, I can say Charter is offering the strongest network neutrality commitments ever offered—in any merger or, to my knowledge, in any nation. In fact, in the end, I personally wrote the commitments." Put briefly, Charter agreed to abide by the interconnection mandates and prohibition of paid prioritization — regardless of the outcome of pending litigation from the ISPs fighting it — for a minimum of three years. The company has also promised no data caps and no usage-based billing.
Communications

After 6-Year Beta Test, All Gmail Users Get 'Undo Send' 95 95

jones_supa writes: Since 2009, Google has been beta testing a feature in Gmail called "Undo Send." It allows you to delay emails up to 30 seconds from when you press the "Send" button so you can take them back if you immediately decide it was a bad idea to press the send button. Google announced in a blog post that Undo Send is becoming an official feature. For users who already had the Undo Send beta enabled, the feature will remain on, and those who didn't can turn it on via the General tab under Settings. Users can choose if they want to hold their mail for 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.
The Internet

SpaceX and OneWeb -- Same Goal, Different Technology and Strategy 54 54

lpress writes: OneWeb has announced that Airbus will manufacture their Internet-connectivity satellites and told us more about their plans and progress. Both OneWeb and their competitor SpaceX have the same goal — global Internet connectivity and backhaul using satellite constellations, but their technologies and organizational strategies are different. SpaceX will use many more satellites than OneWeb, but they will be smaller, shorter-lived, cheaper and orbit at a lower altitude. They are also keeping more of the effort in-house. This is competitive capitalism at its best — let's hope both succeed.
Security

New Snowden Leaks Show NSA Attacked Anti-Virus Software 98 98

New submitter Patricbranson writes: The NSA, along with its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), spent years reverse-engineering popular computer security software in order to spy on email and other electronic communications, according to the classified documents published by the online news site The Intercept. With various countries' spy agencies trying to make sure computers aren't secure (from their own intrusions, at least), it's no wonder that Kaspersky doesn't want to talk about who hacked them.
The Military

The US Navy's Warfare Systems Command Just Paid Millions To Stay On Windows XP 192 192

itwbennett writes: The Navy relies on a number of legacy applications and programs that are reliant on legacy Windows products,' said Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego. And that reliance on obsolete technology is costing taxpayers a pretty penny. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which runs the Navy's communications and information networks, signed a $9.1 million contract earlier this month for continued access to security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.