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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Google

Privacy Lawsuit Against Google Rests On Battery Drain Claims 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the discovery-will-be-powered-by-bing dept.
Jason Koebler writes: According to plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Google, personal information about you and your browsing, email, and app-using habits that is regularly sent between apps on you Android phone is harming your battery life. As odd as it sounds, this minor yet demonstrable harm is what will allow their lawsuit to go forward. A federal judge ruled that the claim "requires a heavily and inherently fact-bound inquiry." That means there's a good chance we're about to get a look into the ins and outs of Google's advertising backbone: what information is shared with whom, and when.
Earth

Oso Disaster Had Its Roots In Earlier Landslides 17

Posted by Soulskill
from the learning-lessons dept.
vinces99 writes: The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the "remobilization" of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes. The research indicates the landslide, the deadliest in U.S. history, happened in two major stages. The first stage remobilized the 2006 slide, including part of an adjacent forested slope from an ancient slide, and was made up largely or entirely of deposits from previous landslides. The first stage ultimately moved more than six-tenths of a mile across the north fork of the Stillaguamish River and caused nearly all the destruction in the Steelhead Haven neighborhood. The second stage started several minutes later and consisted of ancient landslide and glacial deposits. That material moved into the space vacated by the first stage and moved rapidly until it reached the trailing edge of the first stage, the study found. "Perhaps the most striking finding is that, while the Oso landslide was a rare geologic occurrence, it was not extraordinary," said Joseph Wartman, a University of Washington associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and a team leader for the study.
Software

UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the won-the-battle,-working-on-the-war dept.
Andy Updegrove writes: "The U.K. Cabinet Office accomplished today what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts set out (unsuccessfully) to achieve ten years ago: it formally required compliance with the Open Document Format (ODF) by software to be purchased in the future across all government bodies. Compliance with any of the existing versions of OOXML, the competing document format championed by Microsoft, is neither required nor relevant. The announcement was made today by The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. Henceforth, ODF compliance will be required for documents intended to be shared or subject to collaboration. PDF/A or HTML compliance will be required for viewable government documents. The decision follows a long process that invited, and received, very extensive public input – over 500 comments in all."
Verizon

Deaf Advocacy Groups To Verizon: Don't Kill Net Neutrality On Our Behalf 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-on-your-behalf dept.
Dega704 sends this quote from Ars: No company has lobbied more fiercely against network neutrality than Verizon, which filed the lawsuit that overturned the FCC's rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking and discriminating against Web content. But the absence of net neutrality rules isn't just good for Verizon—it's also good for the blind, deaf, and disabled, Verizon claims. That's what Verizon lobbyists said in talks with congressional staffers, according to a Mother Jones report last month. "Three Hill sources tell Mother Jones that Verizon lobbyists have cited the needs of blind, deaf, and disabled people to try to convince congressional staffers and their bosses to get on board with the fast lane idea," the report said. With "fast lanes," Web services—including those designed for the blind, deaf, and disabled—could be prioritized in exchange for payment. Now, advocacy groups for deaf people have filed comments with the FCC saying they don't agree with Verizon's position."
Media

Open-Source Blu-Ray Library Now Supports BD-J Java 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the hack-it-until-it-works dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Updates to the open-source libbluray, libaacs, and libbdplus libraries have improved the open-source Blu-ray disc support to now enable the Blu-ray Java interactivity layer (BD-J). The Blu-ray Java code is in turn executed by OpenJDK or the Oracle JDK and is working well enough to play a Blu-ray disc on the Raspberry Pi when paired with the VLC media player."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Releases Wireless Router Firmware For Open Access Points 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the secure-is-as-secure-does dept.
klapaucjusz writes: The EFF has released an experimental router firmware designed make it easy to deploy open (password-less) access points in a secure manner. The EFF's firmware is based on the CeroWRT fork of OpenWRT, but appears to remove some of its more advanced routing features. The EFF is asking for help to further develop the firmware. They want the open access point to co-exist on the same router as your typical private and secured access point. They want the owner to be able to share bandwidth, but with a cap, so guests don't degrade service for the owner. They're also looking to develop a network queueing, a minimalist web UI, and an auto-update mechanism. The EFF has also released the beta version of a plug-in called Privacy Badger for Firefox and Chrome that will prevent online advertisers from tracking you.
Privacy

Black Hat Presentation On Tor Cancelled, Developers Working on Bug Fix 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-say-that-on-television dept.
alphadogg writes A presentation on a low-budget method to unmask users of a popular online privacy tool Tor will no longer go ahead at the Black Hat security conference early next month. The talk was nixed by the legal counsel with Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute after a finding that materials from researcher Alexander Volynkin were not approved for public release, according to a notice on the conference's website. Tor project leader Roger Dingledine said, "I think I have a handle on what they did, and how to fix it. ... Based on our current plans, we'll be putting out a fix that relays can apply that should close the particular bug they found. The bug is a nice bug, but it isn't the end of the world." Tor's developers were "informally" shown materials about the bug, but never saw any details about what would be presented in the talk.
Games

The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry 491

Posted by Soulskill
from the requiring-a-cultural-shift dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Brianna Wu, leader of a game development studio, has an article exposing the constant harassment of women in the games industry. She says, "I'm not writing this piece to evoke your sympathy. I'm writing to share with you what prominent, successful women in the industry experience, in their own words." She goes through the individual stories of several women targeted by this vitriol, and tries to figure out why it happens. Quoting: "We live in a society that's sexist in ways it doesn't understand. One of the consequences is that men are extremely sensitive to being criticized by women. ... This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it. ... Growing a thicker skin isn't the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward."
Medicine

Researchers Successfully Cut HIV DNA Out of Human Cells 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the uses-for-your-trusty-nanoknife dept.
mrspoonsi sends word that researchers from Temple University have managed to eliminate the HIV-1 virus from human cells for the first time. "When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and excise the HIV-1 DNA (abstract). From there, the cell's gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells." While antiretroviral therapy can treat people who are infected with HIV, the immune system is incapable of actually removing the virus, so this is an important step in fighting it. The researchers still have to overcome the problem of delivering the the genetic "toolkit" to each affected cell in a patient's body, and also HIV's high mutation rate.
Power

Google Offers a Million Bucks For a Better Inverter 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-small-or-go-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: With the Little Box Challenge, Google (and IEEE, and a few other sponsors like Cree and Rohm) is offering a $1 million prize to the team which can "design and build a kW-scale power inverter with the highest power density (at least 50 Watts per cubic inch)." Going from cooler-sized to tablet sized, they say, would make whole lot of things better, and the prize is reserved for the best performing entrant. "Our testing philosophy is to not look inside the box. You provide us with a box that has 5 wires coming out of it: two DC inputs, two AC outputs and grounding connection and we only monitor what goes into and comes out of those wires, along with the temperature of the outside of your box, over the course of 100 hours of testing. The inverter will be operating in an islanded more—that is, not tied or synced to an external grid. The loads will be dynamically changing throughout the course of the testing, similar to what you may expect to see in a residential setting." The application must be filled out in English, but any serious applicants can sign up "regardless of approach suggested or team background." Registration runs through September.
Firefox

Firefox 31 Released 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the baskin-robbins-edition dept.
An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has released version 31 of its Firefox web browser for desktops and Android devices. According to the release notes, major new features include malware blocking for file downloads, automatic handling of PDF and OGG files if no other software is available to do so, and a new certificate verification library. Smaller features include a search field on the new tab page, better support for parental controls, and partial implementation of the OpenType MATH table. Firefox 31 is also loaded with new features for developers. Mozilla also took the opportunity to note the launch of a new game, Dungeon Defenders Eternity, which will run at near-native speeds on the web using asm.js, WebGL, and Web Audio. "We're pleased to see more developers using asm.js to distribute and now monetize their plug-in free games on the Web as it strengthens support for Mozilla's vision of a high performance, plugin-free Web."
Businesses

Buying New Commercial IT Hardware Isn't Always Worthwhile (Video) 81

Posted by Roblimo
from the sometimes-it's-better-and-costs-less-to-stick-with-proven-hardware dept.
Ben Blair is CTO of MarkITx, a company that brokers used commercial IT gear. This gives him an excellent overview of the marketplace -- not just what companies are willing to buy used, but also what they want to sell as they buy new (or newer) equipment. Ben's main talking point in this interview is that hardware has become so commoditized that in a world where most enterprise software can be virtualized to run across multiple servers, it no longer matters if you have the latest hardware technology; that two older servers can often do the job of one new one -- and for less money, too. So, he says, you should make sure you buy new hardware only when necessary, not just because of the "Ooh... shiny!" factor" (Alternate Video Link)
Medicine

Why Are the World's Scientists Continuing To Take Chances With Smallpox? 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
Lasrick writes: MIT's Jeanne Guillemin looks at the recent blunders with smallpox and H5N1 at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health to chronicle the fascinating history of smallpox eradication efforts and the attempts (thwarted by Western scientists) to destroy lab collections of the virus in order to make it truly extinct. "In 1986, with no new smallpox cases reported, the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, resolved to destroy the strain collections and make the virus extinct. But there was resistance to this; American scientists in particular wanted to continue their research." Within a few years, secret biological warfare programs were discovered in Moscow and in Iraq, and a new flurry of defensive research was funded. Nevertheless, Guillemin and others believe that changes in research methods, which no longer require the use of live viruses, mean that stocks of the live smallpox virus can and should finally be destroyed.
Bug

Researchers Test Developer Biometrics To Predict Buggy Code 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the subject-was-asleep-when-this-code-was-checked-in dept.
rjmarvin writes: Microsoft Research is testing a new method for predicting errors and bugs while developers write code: biometrics. By measuring a developer's eye movements, physical and mental characteristics as they code, the researchers tracked alertness and stress levels to predict the difficulty of a given task with respect to the coder's abilities. In a paper entitled "Using Psycho-Physiological Measures to Assess Task Difficulty in Software Development," the researchers summarized how they strapped an eye tracker, an electrodermal sensor and an EEG sensor to 15 developers as they programmed for various tasks. Biometrics predicted task difficulty for a new developer 64.99% of the time. For a subsequent tasks with the same developer, the researchers found biometrics to be 84.38% accurate. They suggest using the information to mark places in code that developers find particularly difficult, and then reviewing or refactoring those sections later.
United Kingdom

UK Users Overwhelmingly Spurn Broadband Filters 99

Posted by timothy
from the but-it's-a-free-service dept.
nk497 (1345219) writes "Broadband customers are overwhelmingly choosing not to use parental-control systems foisted on ISPs by the government — with takeup in the single-digits for three of the four major broadband providers. Last year, the government pushed ISPs to roll out network-level filters, forcing new customers to make an "active" decision about whether they want to use them or not. Only 5% of new BT customers signed up, 8% opted in for Sky and 4% for Virgin Media. TalkTalk rolled out a parental-control system two years before the government required it and has a much better takeup, with 36% of customers signing up for it. The report, from regulator Ofcom, didn't bother to judge if the filters actually work, however."

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