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Communications

Cable Lobby Tries To Make You Forget That It Represents Cable Companies (arstechnica.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. cable industry's biggest lobby group has dropped the word "cable" from its name in a rebrand focusing on its members' role as providers of both Internet and TV services. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) will henceforth be called NCTA-The Internet and Television Association. NCTA will be maintained in the name as a nod to the group's past, even though the initials no longer stand for any particular words. "Just as our industry is witnessing an exciting transformation driven by technology and connectivity, NCTA's brand must reflect the vibrancy and diversity of our members," NCTA CEO Michael Powell (a former Federal Communications Commission chairman) said in today's announcement. The group's "mission to drive the industry forward remains the same," he said. This isn't the NCTA's first name change. The group began as the National Community Television Council in 1951 and then became the National Community Television Association in 1952, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Despite dropping the word "cable," the NCTA's name change announcement makes reference to how cable companies are dominating the broadband market. Powell noted that the NCTA "represent[s] an industry that is America's largest and fastest home Internet provider." As it goes forward, the NCTA won't be the only telecom lobby group initialism that no longer stands for anything. The CTIA -- previously known as the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and then the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association -- is now just "CTIA-The Wireless Association."
Games

Valve Bans Developer From Steam After It Sues Customers Over Bad Reviews (arstechnica.com) 194

From an ArsTechnica report: A game developer has been banned from Steam after users claimed that it had attempted to sue 100 users of the platform for $18 million -- for the crime of leaving bad reviews. Digital Homicide, which has released dozens of small games mostly available for a couple of quid each, had its titles removed from Valve's popular digital distribution platform on Friday night. Its boss, James Romine, was granted a subpoena by a court in Arizona apparently allowing him to demand the release of "identification and associated data" of anonymous Steam users. The lawsuit listed in turn the misdemeanours of dozens of John/Jane Does, which include counts of "harassment," "stalking," and "cyber-bullying." In a brief e-mail sent to Vice's Motherboard at the end of last week, Valve's marketing veep Doug Lombardi confirmed that "Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers."
The Courts

'Unpatent' Begins Crowdfunding Challenges To Bad Patents (unpatent.co) 109

"Unpatent is a crowdfunding platform that eliminates bad patents," reads their web site. "We do that by crowdsourcing the prior art -- that is all the evidence that makes clear that a patent was not novel -- and filing reexamination requests to the patent office." An anonymous Slashdot reader reports: "Everyone in the world can back the crowdfunding campaign against the patent," explains their site, which includes a special section with "Featured stupid patents". The first $16,000 raised covers the lawyers and fees at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and "The rest is distributed to those who find valid prior art...any evidence that a patent is not novel. We review all the prior art pieces and reward those that may invalidate a claim... Then, we file an ex partes reexamination to the USPTO."

Their team includes Lee Cheng, the legal officer at Newegg, "worldwide renowned as the patent trolls' nightmare," as well as Lus Cuende, who created his own Linux distro when he was 15 and is now CTO of Stampery, a company using the Bitcoin blockchain to notarize data.

They're currently targeting the infamous US8738435 covering "personalized content relating to offered products and services," which in February the EFF featured as their "stupid patent of the month." Its page on Unpatent.co argues that "Taking something so obvious such as personalizing content and offers...and writing the word online everywhere shouldn't grant you a monopoly over it." Unpatent's slogan? "We invalidate patents that shouldn't exist."
Robotics

Robot Handcuffed and Arrested At Moscow Rally (abc.net.au) 46

Russian police have arrested a robot. Long-time Slashdot reader ferret4 quotes ABC News: A robot has been detained by police at a political rally in Moscow, with authorities attempting to handcuff the machine. Police have not confirmed why they detained the machine named Promobot, but local media was reporting the company behind the robot said police were called because it was 'recording voters' opinions on [a] variety of topics for further processing and analysis by the candidate's team'."
Interestingly, an earlier model of the same robot escaped its research lab in June, traveling 150 feet before its batteries died -- and despite being reprogrammed twice, continued to move towards the exits.
Privacy

Assange Agrees to US Prison If Obama Pardons Chelsea Manning (theverge.com) 374

"If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to U.S. prison in exchange -- despite its clear unlawfulness," Wikileaks announced on Twitter Thursday. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Verge: WikiLeaks' statement was released one day before a Swedish appeals court decided to maintain a warrant for Assange's arrest over a 2010 rape charge. Assange has said that extradition to Sweden would lead to his eventual extradition to the US, where he could face charges related to WikiLeaks' publication of secret government documents... Assange has been living in political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012...

Chelsea Manning, a former US Army private, was convicted in 2013 for providing a trove of documents and videos to WikiLeaks, and is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the US Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kansas. She was hospitalized after a reported suicide attempt in July, and this month went on a hunger strike to seek treatment for her gender dysphoria. Manning ended her hunger strike this week after the military agreed to allow her to have gender reassignment surgery. She still faces indefinite solitary confinement due to administrative charges related to her suicide attempt.

The tweet also included a link to a letter from Assange's attorney, Barry Pollack, calling on the Justice Department to be more transparent about its investigation into WikiLeaks -- and citing the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information. "Director Comey made it clear his conclusion was based on the necessity of proving criminal intent [and] noted that responsible prosecutors consider the context of a person's actions... Criminal prosecution is appropriate only when a person...was intending to aid enemies of the United States or was attempting to obstruct justice."
Transportation

Uber Accused of Cashing In On Bomb Explosion By Jacking Rates (thesun.co.uk) 428

After a bomb exploded in Manhattan, leaving 29 injured, people leaving the scene discovered Uber had doubled their fares. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Sun: Traumatized families caught up in the New York bomb blast have accused Uber of cashing in on the tragedy by charging almost double to take them home. Furious passengers have taken to social media to slam the taxi firm in the wake of the blast... Uber reportedly charged between 1.4 and 3 times the standard fare with one city worker saying he had to pay twice as much as usual. Mortgage broker Nick Lalli said: "Just trying to get home from the city and Uber f****** doubled the surge price."
"Demand is off the charts!" the app informed its users, adding "Fares have increased to get more Ubers on the road." Uber soon tweeted that they'd deactivated their surge pricing algorithm for the affected area in Chelsea, "but passengers in other areas of Manhattan said they were still being charged higher than normal fares." One of the affected passengers was Michael Cohen, who is Donald Trump's lawyer, who tweeted that Uber was "taking total advantage of chaos and surcharging passengers 1.4 to 1.8 times." And another Uber user tweeted "I'm disgusted. People are trying to get home safe. Shame on you #DeleteApp."
United States

Oregon Settles $6 Billion Lawsuit Over Oracle's Botched Healthcare Website (registerguard.com) 113

"While the crippled website eventually worked, Oregon failed to enroll a single person online [and] had to resort to hiring 400 people to process paper applications." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the AP: The state paid Oracle $240 million to create its Cover Oregon website but ultimately abandoned the site and joined the federal exchange to comply with the Affordable Care Act... The state initially asked for more than $6 billion in punitive damages when it filed the lawsuit in 2014 against the Redwood City company, but Oregon ultimately accepted a package that included $35 million in cash payments and software licensing agreements and technical support with an estimated upfront worth of $60 million...

Six years of unlimited Oracle software and technical support included in the deal will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in years to come and ends a bitter legal battle that has damaged Oregon's "collective psyche," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. "The beauty of the deal is that if we choose to take full advantage of the free (software), we are uniquely situated to modernize our statewide IT systems over the next six years -- something we could not otherwise afford to do," she said.

"Oracle has insisted the website worked but former Gov. John Kitzhaber chose not to use it for political reasons."
Privacy

Woman Sues Sex Toy App For Secretly Capturing Sensitive Information (ctvnews.ca) 211

A woman in Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of a smartphone-enabled vibrator, alleging their devices "secretly collect and transmit 'highly sensitive' information." CTV News reports: The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month in an Illinois court, explains that to fully operate the device, users download the We-Connect app on a smartphone, allowing them and their partners remote control over the Bluetooth-equipped vibrator's settings... The suit alleges that unbeknownst to its customers, Standard Innovation designed the We-Connect app to collect and record intimate and sensitive data on use of the vibrator, including the date and time of each use as well as vibration settings...

It also alleges the usage data and the user's personal email address was transmitted to the company's servers in Canada. The statement of claim alleges the company's conduct demonstrates "a wholesale disregard" for consumer privacy rights and violated a number of state and federal laws.

Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson argues that "It kind of has to share that information if it's going to be remotely controlled by someone else." But the woman's lawsuit claims she wouldn't have bought the device if she'd known that while using it, the manufacturer "would monitor, collect and transmit her usage information."
Robotics

Robot Snatches Rifle From Barricaded Suspect, Ends Standoff (latimes.com) 129

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the L.A. Times: An hours-long standoff in the darkness of the high desert came to a novel end when Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies used a robot to stealthily snatch a rifle from an attempted murder suspect, authorities said Thursday. Officials said the use of the robot to disarm a violent suspect was unprecedented for the Sheriff's Department, and comes as law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on military-grade technology to reduce the risk of injury during confrontations with civilians.

"The robot was a game changer here," said Capt. Jack Ewell, a tactical expert with the Sheriff's Department -- the largest sheriff's department in the nation. "We didn't have to risk a deputy's life to disarm a very violent man."

It was only later when the robot came back to also pull down a wire barricade that the 51-year-old suspect realized his gun was gone.
Biotech

Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Techies Improving The World? 529

Slashdot reader marmot7 isn't impressed by "the latest app that solves some made up problem. I'm impressed by apps that solve real problems..." I don't feel that developers, sys admins, finance people, even policy wonks focus on the problems that we need to solve to have a healthy functioning society. It seems like it's mostly about short-term gain and not much about making the world better. That may be just the way the market works.

Is it that there's no profit to be made in solving the most important problems? I'm puzzled by that as I would think that a good solution to an important problem could find some funding from somewhere but maybe government, for example, won't take investment risks in that way?

Is there a systematic bias that channels technology workers into more profitable careers? (Or stunning counter-examples that show technology workers are making the world a better place?) Leave your answers in the comments. Why aren't geeks doing more to improve the world?
Communications

The Ham Radio Parity Act Unanimously Passed By US House (arrl.org) 195

This week the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed "The Ham Radio Parity Act" -- a huge victory for grass-roots advocates of amateur radio. Slashdot reader bobbied reports: This will allow for the reasonable accommodation of amateur radio antennas in many places where they are currently prohibited by homeowner associations or private land use restrictions... If this bill passes the Senate, we will be one step closer to allowing amateur radio operators, who provide emergency communications services, the right to erect reasonable antenna structures in places where they cannot do so now.
The national ham radio association is now urging supporters to contact their Senators through a special web page. "This is not just a feel-good bill," said representative Joe Courtney, remembering how Hurricane Sandy brought down the power grid, and "we saw all the advanced communications we take for granted...completely fall by the wayside."
Education

Code.org Disses Wolfram Language, Touts Apple's Swift Playgrounds (edsurge.com) 240

America is changing the way it teaches computer science. "There are now 31 states that allow CS to count towards high school graduation," according to an announcement this week by the White House, while a new Advance Placement course "will be offered in more than 2,000 U.S. classrooms this fall...the largest course launch in the history of the AP exam." But what's the best way to teach coding? theodp reports: Tech-backed Code.org, one of the leaders of the new CSforAll Consortium that was announced at the White House on Wednesday, took to its blog Thursday to say "Thanks, Tim [Cook], for supporting the effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," giving a shout out to Apple for providing "resources for teachers who want to put Swift Playgrounds in their classrooms. (A day earlier, the White House said Apple developed Swift Playgrounds "in support of the President's call to action" for CS for All).

Curiously, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi argued Friday that "the Wolfram Language has serious shortcomings for broad educational use" in an EdSurge op-ed that was called a "response to a recent blog post by Stephen Wolfram" on Wolfram's ambitious plan to teach computational thinking in schools. Partovi's complaints? "It requires login for all but the simplest use cases, but doesn't provide any privacy safeguards for young children (required in the U.S. through legislation such as COPPA). Also, a serious user would need to pay for usage, making implementation inaccessible in most schools. Lastly, it's a bit difficult to use by students who struggle with English reading or writing, such as English language learners or early elementary school students."

The submission ultimately asks how should computer science be taught to teenagers. "Would you be inclined to embrace Wolfram's approach, Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Microsoft TEALS' Java-centric AP CS curriculum, or something else (e.g., R, Tableau, Excel+VBA)?"
The Courts

Florida Man Sues Samsung, Says Galaxy Note 7 Exploded (reuters.com) 100

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Samsung Electronics Co was sued on Friday by a Florida man who said he suffered severe burns after his Galaxy Note 7 smartphone exploded in his front pants pocket. The lawsuit by Jonathan Strobel may be the first in the United States by a Samsung phone user against the South Korean company over a battery defect linked to the Note 7. It was filed one day after Samsung recalled about 1 million Note 7s sold in the United States. Samsung has received 92 reports of batteries overheating in the United States, including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, U.S. safety regulators said. "We don't comment on pending litigation," Samsung spokeswoman Danielle Meister Cohen said in an email. "We are urging all Note 7 owners to power their device down and exchange it immediately." Strobel, 28, of Boca Raton, said he was in a Costco store in Palm Beach Gardens on Sept. 9 when his Note 7 exploded. He said the phone burned directly through his pants, resulting in severe burns on his right leg.
Open Source

The World's Most Secure Home Computer Reaches Crowdfunding Goal (pcworld.com) 126

"If the PC is tampered with, it will trigger an alert and erase the PC's encryption key, making the data totally inaccessible." Last month Design SHIFT began crowdfunding an elaborate "open source, physically secure personal computer" named ORWL (after George Orwell). "Having exceeded its $25,000 funding goal on Crowd Supply, the super-secure PC is in production," reports PC World, in an article shared by Slashdot reader ogcricket about the device which tries to anticipate every possible attack: The encryption key to the drive is stored on a security microcontroller instead of the drive... The ORWL's makers say the wire mesh itself is constantly monitored... Any attempts to trick, bypass, or short the wire mesh will cause the encryption key to be deleted. The unit's security processor also monitors movement, and a user can select a setting that will wipe or lock down the PC's data if it is moved to another location... The RAM is soldered to the motherboard and can't be easily removed to be read elsewhere...

Your ORWL unlocks by using a secure NFC and Bluetooth LE keyfob. Pressing it against the top of the ORWL and entering a password authenticates the user. Once the user has been authenticated, Bluetooth LE is then ensures that the user is always nearby. Walk away, and the ORWL will lock.

Encryption

How The FBI Might've Opened the San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone 5c (schneier.com) 66

"Remember the San Bernardino killer's iPhone, and how the FBI maintained that they couldn't get the encryption key without Apple providing them with a universal backdoor?" Slashdot reader LichtSpektren quotes Bruce Schneier: Many of us computer-security experts said that they were wrong, and there were several possible techniques they could use. One of them was manually removing the flash chip from the phone, extracting the memory, and then running a brute-force attack without worrying about the phone deleting the key. The FBI said it was impossible. We all said they were wrong. Now, Sergei Skorobogatov has proved them wrong.
Sergei's new paper describes "a real world mirroring attack on the Apple iPhone 5c passcode retry counter under iOS 9." The process does not require any expensive and sophisticated equipment. All needed parts are low cost and were obtained from local electronics distributors. By using the described and successful hardware mirroring process it was possible to bypass the limit on passcode retry attempts... Although the process can be improved, it is still a successful proof-of-concept project.
The Military

The US Government Is Building A 'Drone Dragnet' For Battlefields (thestack.com) 25

The US government plans to launch "a three and a half year initiative to develop an urban drone detection system." An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The Aerial Dragnet program is to use off-the-shelf commercial components and mostly established technologies and methods to create a network of floating or tethered platforms that will ultimately provide 95% efficient drone identification in urban areas up to 180 square kilometers. The call to proposers states that the total cost of the system for a city should be around $90,000, and would likely include the ability to identify the micro-Doppler signatures given off by UAVs -- and birds.
Unmanned aerial systems are becoming platforms "for hostile reconnaissance, targeting, and weapon delivery," warns the government document, noting drones are hard to detect because they're small and fly slowly at low altitudes. "In future urban battlegrounds, U.S. forces will be placed at risk by small UAVs which use buildings and naturally-occurring motion of the clutter to make surveillance impractical..."
Businesses

21st Century Fox Sues Netflix Over Executive Poaching (latimes.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: 21st Century Fox on Friday filed a lawsuit against Netflix, accusing the streaming video giant of illegally recruiting two of its executives who were under contract. The suit, which was filed Friday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, says Netflix engaged in a "brazen campaign to unlawfully target, recruit, and poach valuable Fox executives by illegally inducing them to break their employment contracts with Fox to work at Netflix." The lawsuit was sparked following the exits of two Fox executives: Marcos Waltenberg, who made the jump to Netflix earlier this year, previously worked as a marketing executive at Twentieth Century Fox Film; Tara Flynn, who made the move to Netflix just last week, had been the vice president of creative affairs at Fox 21 TV Studios. Fox alleges that Netflix pursued and hired the executives even though it knew they each had employment contracts that were still in effect, according to the complaint. The Century City-based studio is seeking an injunction to prevent Netflix from interfering with its employment contracts, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. A Netflix spokesperson said in a statement: "We intend to defend this lawsuit vigorously. We do not believe Fox's use of fixed term employment contracts in this manner are enforceable. We believe in employee mobility and will fight for the right to hire great colleagues no matter where they work."
The Military

Air Force Grounds $400 Billion F-35s Because of 'Peeling and Crumbling' Insulation (washingtonpost.com) 192

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the Washington Post: Less than two months after declaring the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ready for combat, the Air Force on Friday announced that it was temporarily grounding 15 of the jets after it discovered that insulation was "peeling and crumbling" inside the fuel tanks. The setback is the latest for the $400 billion system, the most expensive in the history of the Pentagon. The problem comes as the program, which for years faced billions of dollars in cost overruns and significant schedule delays, had begun to make strides.

The insulation problem affects a total of 57 aircraft, the Air Force said, 42 of which are still in production... In a statement, Lockheed Martin said that "the issue is confined to one supplier source and one batch of parts." It emphasized that "this is not a technical or design issue; it is a supply chain manufacturing quality issue..." It is unclear how long the aircraft would be grounded, how long the problem would take to fix or what the larger affect on the program would be.

âoeWhile nearing completion, the F-35 is still in development, and challenges are to be expected," said an Air Force spokeswoman, adding "The F-35 program has a proven track record of solving issues as they arise, and we're confident we'll continue to do so."
Government

'Government Abuse' of the Internet Makes Some People More Equal Than Others, Says Study (washingtonpost.com) 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: When the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East and North Africa, the internet was considered to have been one of the main facilitators of the revolutions, and while the Arab Spring has since become a source of frustration to many of those who fought for it, the assumption that the internet will facilitate future uprisings has rarely been questioned. A new study, however, now raises doubts about to what extent the internet plays a role in fostering democracy. In fact, it may make some people more equal than others. To voice discontent online, groups first need access to the internet, but too often, that is precisely what they lack, according to the report which was published by the academic journal Science. Those findings could force Western governments and nongovernmental organizations engaged in pro-democracy initiatives to rethink how they spread their message. Comparing the accessibility of internet in certain regions and taking into account the existence of minority communities, the authors found "a strong and persistent political bias in the allocation of internet coverage across ethnic groups worldwide [...] an effect that cannot be explained by economic or geographic factors." Around 500 minority groups worldwide were included in the study, with consistent findings of what the authors called "digital discrimination." The 10 worst-affected minorities mostly come from Russia and Malaysia, said researcher Nils B. Weidmann.
Security

Alleged Hacker Lauri Love To Be Extradited To US (bbc.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: An autistic man suspected of hacking into U.S. government computer systems is to be extradited from Britain to face trial, a court has ruled. Lauri Love, 31, who has Asperger's syndrome, is accused of hacking into the FBI, the U.S. central bank and the country's missile defense agency. Mr Love, from Stradishall, Suffolk, has previously said he feared he would die in a U.S. prison if he was extradited. Earlier, his lawyer said his alleged hacking had "embarrassed" U.S. authorities. Tor Ekeland said the U.S. government "had very, very bad security and these hacks utilized exploits that were publicly-known for months." Mr Love's lawyers said he could face up to 99 years in prison if convicted of the hacking offenses. Mr Love's defense team argues his depression and Asperger's syndrome mean he should not be sent abroad, but U.S. prosecutors say he is using his mental health issues as an excuse to escape justice.

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