Software

Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need? 273 273

An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?
Security

Video Veteran IT Journalist Worries That Online Privacy May Not Exist (Video) 39 39

Tom Henderson is a long-time observer of the IT scene, complete with scowl and grey goatee. And cynicism. Tom is a world-class cynic, no doubt about it. Why? Cover enterprise IT security and other computing topics long enough for big-time industry publications like ITWorld and its IDG brethren, and you too may start to think that no matter what you do, your systems will always have (virtual) welcome mats in front of them, inviting crackers to come in and have a high old time with your data.

Note: Alert readers have probably noticed that we talked with Tom about cloud security back in March. Another good interview, worth seeing (or reading).
Patents

HEVC Advance Announces H.265 Royalty Rates, Raises Some Hackles 183 183

An anonymous reader writes: The HEVC Advance patent pool has announced the royalty rates for their patent license for HEVC (aka H.265) video. HEVC users must pay these fees in addition to the license fees payable to the competing MPEG LA HEVC patent pool. With HEVC Advance's fees targeting 0.5% of content owner revenue which could translate to licensing costs of over $100M a year for companies like Facebook and Netflix, Dan Rayburn from Streaming Media advocates that "content owners band together and agree not to license from HEVC Advance" in the hope that "HEVC Advance will fail in the market and be forced to change strategy, or change their terms to be fair and reasonable." John Carmack, Oculus VR CTO, has cited the new patent license as a reason to end his efforts to encode VR video with H.265.
Education

Melinda Gates: Facebook Engineers Have Solved One of Education's Biggest Problem 162 162

theodp writes: Asked by the NY Times if Silicon Valley is saving the world or just making money, Melinda Gates replied, "I can say without a doubt — because I've seen it — that some of them [SV companies] are innovating in ways that make life better for billions of people." As an example, BillG's better half suggests that a handful of Facebook engineers have solved one of education's biggest problems with their 20% time project at billionaire-backed Summit Public Schools, a small charter school operator. Gates writes, "One of the biggest problems in American education is that teachers have to teach 30 students with different learning styles at the same time. Developers at Facebook, however, have built an online system that gives teachers the information and tools they need to design individualized lessons. The result is that teachers can spend their time doing what they're best at: inspiring kids." Some people — like the late Roger Ebert — might not be quite as impressed as Melinda to see Silicon Valley trying to reinvent the 1960's personalized-learning-wheel in 2015!
Facebook

New York Judge Rules Against Facebook In Search Warrant Case 157 157

itwbennett writes: Last year, Facebook appealed a court decision requiring it to hand over data, including photos and private messages, relating to 381 user accounts. (Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, among other companies backed Facebook in the dispute). On Tuesday, Judge Dianne Renwick of the New York State Supreme Court ruled against Facebook, saying that Facebook has no legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of search warrants served on its users.
Facebook

New Facebook Video Controls Let You Limit Viewing By Gender and Age 90 90

Mark Wilson writes: Videos on Facebook are big business. As well as drugged up post-dentist footage, there is also huge advertising potential. Now Facebook has announced a new set of options for video publishers — including the ability to limit who is able to see videos based on their age and gender. A social network might not be the first place you would think of to try to keep something private, but a new 'secret video' option makes it possible to restrict access to those people who have a direct link. Other new options include the ability to prevent embedding on other sites, but it is the audience restriction settings that are particularly interesting. For a long time Facebook has been about reaching out to as many people as possible in one hit — particularly in the case of pages, which are likely to be used for the promotion of businesses and services. But now the social giant provides tools to limit one's audience. It's fairly easy to understand the reasons for implementing age restrictions on video (although there is obviously scope for abuse), but the reasons for gender-based restrictions are less clear.
Privacy

Free Tools For Detecting Hacking Team Malware In Your Systems 62 62

An anonymous reader writes: Worried that you might have been targeted with Hacking Team spyware, but don't know how to find out for sure? IT security firm Rook Security has released Milano, a free automated tool meant to detect the Hacking Team malware on a computer system. Facebook has also offered a way to discover if your Mac(s) have been compromised by Hacking Team malware: they have provided a specific query pack for its open source OS analysis tool osquery.
Software

Apple Watch Still Waiting On App Developers 213 213

An anonymous reader writes: It's been almost three months since the Apple Watch launched, and the tiny device hasn't taken people's wrists by storm. That's not to say it's a failure — experts estimate Apple has sold between three and five million of them, and we may get more detailed sales information during their earnings call, tomorrow. But many major app developers are still missing from the Watch's catalog, and Apple doesn't have a good way of roping them into the new section of its ecosystem. "I don't know if we could get it all in there in a way that feels good and works well," said a Facebook executive. "Why would you look at a small picture when you can look at a large one on your phone?" said Snapchat's CEO. The app rush that hit phones and tablets is dampened for the Watch. For now, all Apple can do is improve their development toolkit and hope coders can figure out useful new wrist-based interactions.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Berkeley Breathed Revives Bloom County Comic Strip After 25 Years 109 109

cold fjord writes: Just as it was needed then, it is needed now (more than ever). NPR reports, "Fans of the well-loved comic strip Bloom County are celebrating ... cartoonist Berkeley Breathed issued the first panels of his satirical strip in decades. Breathed won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bloom County back in 1987; two years later, he quit producing it. ... It's unclear whether Breathed will syndicate his new work in newspapers; he recently recalled how an editorial dispute with a publisher had a direct role in his decision to quit cartooning in 2008. His Facebook postings, Breathed said earlier this month, are "nicely out of reach of nervous newspaper editors, the PC humor police now rampant across the web ... and ISIS." When Bloom County went idle in 1989, it was one of several clever and inventive comic strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, that were beloved by fans and yet were also comparatively short-lived. Today, devoted fans are treating its return as a small miracle." — The Washington Post adds, ""Honestly, I was unprepared for it," Breathed tells me of the public outpouring. "It calls for a bit of introspection about how characters can work with readers and how they're now absent as a unifying element with a society. "There is no media that will allow a Charlie Brown or a Snoopy to become a universal and shared joy each morning at the same moment across the country," Breathed continues. 'Maybe the rather marked response to my character's return is a reflection of that loss. A last gasp of a passing era.'"
Facebook

Facebook Acquires Israel's Pebbles Interfaces For Reported $60 Million 11 11

New submitter caseylane94 writes: Facebook has acquired virtual reality company Pebbles Interfaces for the sum of $60 million in a bid to keep its cutting edge virtual reality technology out of the hands of competitors. The move parallels Facebook's 2014 acquisition of VR goggle producer Oculus Rift. The resulting virtual reality product is set to hit the shelves around Christmas 2015.
Communications

Facebook Finally Ends XMPP Support For 3rd Party Chat 63 63

New submitter AcquaCow writes: Facebook has been pushing their Messenger app to all devices, requiring it for chatting with friends and family. It was announced last year that they would be ending their chat API and that the service would end on April 30, 2015. April passed, so did May, but the service remained functional. Finally, as of July 7th, 2015 it has not been possible to connect to chat.facebook.com. This doesn't seem to be an outage at this point. Looks like we have to wait for 3rd party messenger apps to adopt support for Facebook's Platform API v2 to allow new connectivity.
Businesses

Neil Young Says His Music Is Too Good For Streaming Services 573 573

An anonymous reader writes: After years of complaining about modern music formats Neil Young today announced that he's pulling his music from all streaming services. He made the announcement on his official Facebook page saying: "Streaming has ended for me. I hope this is ok for my fans. It's not because of the money, although my share (like all the other artists) was dramatically reduced by bad deals made without my consent. It's about sound quality. I don't need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution. I don't feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It's bad for my music. For me, It's about making and distributing music people can really hear and feel. I stand for that. When the quality is back, I'll give it another look. Never say never."
Businesses

As Cloud Growth Booms, Server Farms Get Super-Sized 57 57

1sockchuck writes: Internet titans are concentrating massive amounts of computing power in regional cloud campuses housing multiple data centers. These huge data hubs, often in rural communities, enable companies to rapidly add server capacity and electric power amid rapid growth of cloud hosting and social sharing. As this growth continues, we'll see more of these cloud campuses, and they'll be bigger than the ones we see today. Some examples from this month: Google filed plans for a mammoth 800,000 square foot data center near Atlanta, Equinix announced 1 million square feet of new data centers on its campus in Silicon Valley, and Facebook began work on a $1 billion server farm in Texas that will span 750,000 square feet.
Security

New Default: Mozilla Temporarily Disables Flash In Firefox 199 199

Trailrunner7 writes with news that "Mozilla has taken the unusual step of disabling by default all versions of Flash in Firefox." Two flaws that came to light from the recent document dump from Hacking Team could be used by an attacker to gain remote code execution. From Threatpost's article: One of the flaws is in Action Script 3 while the other is in the BitMapData component of Flash. Exploits for these vulnerabilities were found in the data taken from HackingTeam in the attack disclosed last week. An exploit for one of the Flash vulnerabilities, the one in ActionScript 3, has been integrated into the Angler exploit kit already and there's a module for it in the Metasploit Framework, as well. Reader Mickeycaskill adds a link to TechWeek Europe's article, which says these are the 37th and 38th flaws found in Flash so far this month, and that the development "is a blow for Flash after Alex Stamos, Facebook's new chief security officer, urged Adobe to set an 'end of life' date for the much-maligned software."
Facebook

Facebook's New Chief Security Officer Wants To Set a Date To Kill Flash 283 283

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook's new chief security officer, Alex Stamos, has stated publicly that he wants to see Adobe end Flash. This weekend Stamos tweeted: "It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day. Even if 18 months from now, one set date is the only way to disentangle the dependencies and upgrade the whole ecosystem at once."
Privacy

Snoopers' Charter Could Mean Trouble For UK Users of Encryption-Capable Apps 174 174

An anonymous reader writes with a story at IB Times that speculates instant messaging apps which enable encrypted communications (including Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and iMessage) could be banned in the UK under the so-called Snooper's Charter now under consideration. The extent of the powers that the government would claim under the legislation is not yet clear, but as the linked article says, it "would allow security services like the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, and MI5, or Military Intelligence Section 5, to access instant messages sent between people to and from the country," and evidently "would give the government right to ban instant messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption." That might sound outlandish, but reflects a popular and politically safe sentiment: "'In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read? My answer to that question is: "No, we must not,"' [Prime Minister] Cameron said earlier this year following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris."
The Almighty Buck

Is the Amazon-Led Economic Boom Wrecking Seattle? 410 410

reifman writes: Seattleites are struggling with massive traffic, rising housing costs and declining diversity. Amazon's building and acquiring enough office space to triple its local headcount by 2020. Facebook, Google and many other tech companies are now expanding here as well — it's the San Franciscoization of Seattle. Downtown is filled with 75 cranes — some blocks look like mining towns. Amazon's hired so many white males that King County is now the whitest in the nation and hate crimes against gays have shot up in a formerly LGBTQ neighborhood. Politicians can't agree on reforming impact fees and taxes to address these issues." An interesting piece of recent advice from a long time Amazonian to the company's interns: avoid full-time employment there.
Education

Well-Played: Microsoft Parlays NSF Video 'Remake' Into National CS K-12 Crisis 69 69

theodp writes: K–12 computer science and information technology teachers head to Grapevine, TX this week for the 2015 CSTA Conference. A glance at the draft agenda shows a remarkable number of presenters employed by or tied to two-year-old Code.org, the tech-bankrolled nonprofit that coincidentally sprung up together with Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC just months after Microsoft called for the creation of a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis to advance its agenda. Code.org's shaping of the nation's CS K-12 education began with the release of its tech-billionaire and celebrity-studded, slickly-produced What Most Schools Don't Teach video, which went viral on YouTube after being promoted by politicians, Facebook, Google, and a Microsoft-sponsored theatrical release, sparking a groundswell of interest in expanding K-12 CS education, succeeding where a similarly-themed-and-messaged but decidedly-amateurish National Science Foundation video of real-but-little-known computer scientists failed just months earlier (YouTube Doubler comparison). (More, below.)
Transportation

Boeing Patents an Engine Run By Laser-Generated Fusion Explosions 242 242

MarkWhittington writes: Boeing has had a patent approved for an aircraft engine that uses laser-generated nuclear fusion as a power source, according to a story in Business Insider. The idea is already generating a great deal of controversy, according to the website Counter Punch. The patent has generated fears of what might happen if an aircraft containing radioactive material as fuel were to crash, spreading such fuel across the crash site.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Measuring (and Constraining) Mobile Data Use? 129 129

An anonymous reader writes: I've carried a smart phone for several years, but for much of that time it's been (and I suspect this is true for anyone for whom money is an object) kept pretty dumb — at least for anything more data-intensive than Twitter and the occasional map checking. I've been using more of the smart features lately (Google Drive and Keep are seductive.) Since the data package can be expensive, though, and even though data is cheaper than it used to be, that means I don't check Facebook often, or upload pictures to friends by email, unless I'm in Wi-Fi zone (like home, or a coffee shop, etc). Even so, it seems I'm using more data than I realized, and I'd like to keep it under the 2GB allotment I'm paying for. I used to think half a gig was generous, but now I'm getting close to that 2GB I've paid for, most months.

This makes me a little paranoid, which leads to my first question: How accurate are carriers' own internal tools for measuring use, and do you recommend any third-party apps for keeping track of data use? Ideally, I'd like a detailed breakdown by app, over time: I don't think I'm at risk for data-stealing malware on my phone (the apps I use are either built-in, or plain-vanilla ones from Google's store, like Instagram, Twitter's official client, etc.), but of course really well-crafted malware would be tough to guard against or to spot. And even if they can be defeated, more and more sites (Facebook, for one) now play video just because I've rolled over a thumbnail.
Read on for second part of the question.