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Cloud

How The IoT Will Change The Chip (techcrunch.com) 58

"Get ready for some big changes in the 'silicon' of Silicon Valley," writes tech CEO Narbeh Derhacobian who argues that the need to build tens of billions of connected sensor devices will change the way computers get built. "Just like smartphone owners like to pick and choose which apps they want, IoT manufacturers may want to shop for components individually without being locked into a single fab." An anonymous reader summarizes his article on TechCrunch: Thousands of different hardware devices, each selling around one million units, "would suggest the need for a much greater diversity of chip configurations than we've seen to date." Currently smartphones are engineered using a "System on a Chip" design where all the components are "locked into a single manufacturing process," but Derhacobian predicts chip manufacturers will continue a trend of moving towards a "System in a Package" approach -- "packing components closely together, without the complete, end-to-end integration... In a smart, connected world, sensor requirements could vary greatly from factory to factory, not to mention between industries as varied as agriculture, urban planning and automotive."

"In some ways, the great trends of the PC and smartphone eras were toward standardization of devices. Apple's great vision was understanding that people prefer a beautiful, integrated package, and don't need many choices in hardware. But in software it's generally the opposite. People have different needs, and want to select the apps and programs that work best for them."

Android

Op-ed: Oracle Attorney Says Google's Court Victory Might Kill the GPL (arstechnica.com) 320

Annette Hurst, an attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who represented Oracle in the recent Oracle v. Google trial, has written an opinion piece for Ars Technica in which she urges developers and creators to not celebrate Google's win in the hard-fought copyright case as the decision -- if remains intact -- is poised to make them "suffer" everywhere and also the free software movement itself "now faces substantial jeopardy." As you're aware, in a verdict earlier this week, a federal court announced that Google's Android operating system didn't infringe on Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use." Hurst writes: No business trying to commercialize software with any element of open software can afford to ignore this verdict. Dual licensing models are very common and have long depended upon a delicate balance between free use and commercial use. Royalties from licensed commercial exploitation fuel continued development and innovation of an open and free option. The balance depends upon adherence to the license restrictions in the open and free option. This jury's verdict suggests that such restrictions are now meaningless, since disregarding them is simply a matter of claiming "fair use." It is hard to see how GPL can survive such a result. In fact, it is hard to see how ownership of a copy of any software protected by copyright can survive this result. Software businesses now must accelerate their move to the cloud where everything can be controlled as a service rather than software. Consumers can expect to find decreasing options to own anything for themselves, decreasing options to control their data, decreasing options to protect their privacy.
Facebook

Is Facebook Sabotaging A Face-Recognition Law? (fortune.com) 49

"You know something's up when politicians bring up a bill out of nowhere, and then try to ram it through over Memorial Day weekend," writes Fortune. "That's what's happening in Illinois, where state lawmakers -- allegedly at the behest of Facebook and Google -- are poised to gut a law that limits the use of facial recognition technology." An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this month a judge refused to throw out a class action complaint against Facebook for using facial recognition software to identify people without their permission and then inviting their friends to "tag" them. Now that suit's lawyer says a so-called "Biometric Information Privacy Act" will actually swap in new definitions for "photograph" and "scan" that will apparently shield Facebook and Google from liability.
The Center for Democracy and Technology called the bill "an unnecessary loss of privacy." Google didn't respond to Fortune's request for a comment, and Facebook said only "We appreciate Senator Link's effort to clarify the scope of the law he authored."
Privacy

Controversial Surveillance Firm Blue Coat Was Granted a Powerful Encryption Certificate (vice.com) 113

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard (edited for clarity): A controversial surveillance company called Blue Coat Systems -- whose products have been detected in Iran and Sudan -- was recently issued a powerful encryption certificate by Symantec. The certificate, and the authority that comes with it, could allow Blue Coat Systems to more easily snoop on encrypted traffic. But Symantec downplayed concern from the security community. Blue Coat, which sells web-monitoring software, was granted the power in September last year, but it was only widely noticed this week. The company's devices are used by both government and commercial customers for keeping tabs on networks or conducting surveillance. In Syria, the technology has been used to censor web sites and monitor the communications of dissidents, activists and journalists.Blue Coat assures that it is not going to utilize the certificates to snoop on us. The Register reports: We asked Blue Coat how it planned to use its new powers -- and we were assured that its intermediate certificate was only used for internal testing and that the certificate is no longer in use. "Symantec has reviewed the intermediate CA issued to Blue Coat and determined it was used appropriately," the two firms said in a statement. "Consistent with their protocols, Symantec maintained full control of the private key and Blue Coat never had access to it. Blue Coat has confirmed it was used for internal testing and has since been discontinued. Therefore, rumors of misuse are unfounded."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Warns of Harsher CFAA (eff.org) 41

An anonymous reader writes: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is "vague, draconian, and notoriously out of touch with how we use computers today," warns the EFF. But instead of reforming it, two U.S. Senators "are on a mission to make things worse..." The senators' proposed Botnet Prevention Act of 2016 "could make criminals of paid researchers who test access in order to identify, disclose, and fix vulnerabilities," according to the EFF. And the bill would also make it a felony to damage "critical infrastructure," which may include software companies and ISPs (since they're apparently using the Department of Homeland Security's definition).

The harsher penalties would ultimately give prosecutors much more leverage for plea deals. But worst of all, the proposed bill even "empowers government officials to obtain court orders to force companies to hack computer users for a wide range of activity completely unrelated to botnets. What's worse is that the bill allows the government to do this without any requirement of notice to non-suspect or innocent customers or companies, including botnet victims... These changes would only increase -- not alleviate -- the CFAA's harshness, overbreadth, and confusion."

The CFAA was originally written in 1986, and was partly inspired by the 1983 movie "WarGames".
Software

ForcePhone App Uses Ultrasonic Tone To Create Pressure-Sensitive Batphone (thestack.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Researchers at the University of Michigan have created an app that makes any smartphone pressure-sensitive without additional hardware. The app, called ForcePhone, uses ultrasonic tones in the existing microphone and speaker hardware that respond to pressure for additional functionality for touchscreens. The app emits a high-frequency ultrasound tone from the device's existing microphone, which is inaudible to humans but can be picked up by the phone. That tone is calibrated to change depending on the pressure that the user gives on the screen or on the body of the phone. This gives users an additional way to interact with their device through the app alone. The additional functionality provided by ForcePhone can be used in a number of ways. Squeezing the body of the phone could take a user back a page, for example; or increased pressure on the touchscreen could act as a 'right-click' function, showing additional information on the app in use. Kan Shin, Professor at the University of Michigan, said, "You don't need a special screen or built-in sensors to do this. Now this functionality can be realized on any phone." He added, "We've augmented the user interface without requiring any special built-in sensors. ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user."
Google

Google Boosts Mobile Web Speed On Apple Devices With Accelerated Mobile Pages (fortune.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: The Google iOS app for devices like the iPhone and iPad now supports the search giant's Accelerated Mobile Pages project, created to increase the loading times of news articles on the Internet. Now when users search for news from their Apple devices using the Google app, they should see streamlined news articles from media companies like The Washington Post that chose to participate in Google's web project. The AMP project is a Google-led initiative to standardize the software code behind each news article on the mobile web. AMP was designed to remove years of accumulated software code that has built up on online publishers' websites. As of Friday, iOS users should see a lightning bolt graphic and the letters "AMP" next to news articles from participating publishers in the "Top Stories" section of their search results in the Google app.
Crime

FBI Raids Dental Software Researcher Who Found Patient Records On Public Server (dailydot.com) 126

blottsie writes: Yet another security researcher is facing possible prosecution under the CFAA for accessing data on a publicly accessible server. The FBI on Tuesday raided Texas-based dental software security researcher Justin Shafer, who found the protected health records of 22,000 patients stored on an anonymous FTP. "This is a troubling development. I hope the government doesn't think that accessing unsecured files on a public FTP server counts as an unauthorized access under the CFAA," Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and CFAA scholar told the Daily Dot. "If that turns out to be the government's theory -- which we don't know yet, as we only have the warrant so far -- it will be a significant overreach that raises the same issues as were briefed but not resolved in [Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer's] case. I'll be watching this closely." It was also reported this week via The Intercept that a provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate's annual intelligence authorization that would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals' email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers using those beloved 'National Security Letters' -- without a warrant and in complete secrecy.
AI

Amazon Built An Echo Simulator You Can Use In the Browser (venturebeat.com) 54

Jordan Novet, writing for VentureBeat: Amazon today announced the availability of Echosim.io, a website that simulates the capabilities of the Amazon Echo speaker, which employs Amazon's Alexa voice assistant technology. The thing about Alexa is that many people who don't own the Echo -- or its smaller siblings, the Tap and the Echo Dot -- haven't been able to see what Alexa is capable of. The new tool -- which was inspired by the Alexa in the Browser application that Nexmo developer advocate Sam Machin came up with during a hackathon last year -- solves that problem. All you have to do is head to the website, sign in with your Amazon credentials, and start holding your mouse down over the microphone button to see what Alexa can do. It's nifty for anyone to use, but it's also potentially useful to developers. "Developers worldwide can use Echosim to experience Alexa," Amazon Alexa developer marketing manager Glenn Cameron wrote in a blog post.Interesting move, especially for people who either do not want to -- or can't -- purchase the device (unavailability being one reason). You will need to login with your Amazon account in order to test Echosim.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Get Windows 10 App, KB 3035583, Reappears (infoworld.com) 322

An anonymous reader shares an InfoWorld article: Once again, Microsoft has unleashed the GWX Kraken, with no explanation and no description. The latest KB 3035583 appears as a "Recommended" optional patch for Windows 7 and 8.1. Those with Automatic Update turned on and "Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates" checked -- the default settings -- will see the patch as a checked, optional update, and it will be installed the next time Automatic Update runs. If you previously hid KB 3035583, it's now unhidden. I'm sure there are a dozen people on earth who still have Auto Updates turned on, "Recommended updates" checked, and who haven't yet accepted Microsoft's kind invitation for a free copy of Windows 10. This one's for them. In late March 2015, Microsoft released the first version of KB 3035583. Described as "Update enables additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 SP1," the patch immediately raised eyebrows. In April of last year, a German researcher named Gerard Himmelein, writing at heise.de, figured out that Microsoft was sneaking a Windows 10 upgrader onto Win7 and 8.1 machines. Life for Win7 and 8.1 customers since then has degenerated into Win10 whack-a-mole.In some other news, Chinese news outlet Xinhua reports that plenty of users in China are unhappy about Microsoft's push to get them to mandatorily upgrade their Windows OS. "The company has abused its dominant market position and broken the market order for fair play," Xinhua quoted Zhao Zhanling, a legal adviser with the Internet Society of China, as saying.
Android

Slashdot Asks: Would You Pay For Android Updates? (theverge.com) 239

It's no secret that most Android OEMs could do better when it comes to seeding out updates for their existing devices. A report on Bloomberg earlier this week claimed that Google plans to publicly name and shame the OEMs who are too slow at updating their devices. An HTC executive who didn't want to be identified told Slashdot on Thursday that it is not the right way to approach the problem. But that's only one part of the problem. The other issue is that almost every Android OEM partner -- including Google itself -- only provides support to their devices for 18-24 months. Vlad Savov of The Verge in a column today urges Android OEMs to perhaps charge its users if that is what it takes for them to offer support to their devices for a longer period of time and in a timely manner. He writes: I've been one of the many people dissatisfied with the state of Android software updates, however I can't in good conscience direct my wrath at the people manufacturing the devices. Price and spec competition is so intense right now that there's literally no option to disengage: everyone's been sucked into the whirlpool of razor-thin profit margins, and nobody can afford the luxury of dedicating too many resources to after-sales care. The question that's been bugging me lately is, if we value Android updates as highly as we say we do, why don't we pay for them? The situation can't be fixed by manufacturers -- most of them are barely breaking even -- or by Google, which is doing its best to improve things but ultimately relies on carriers and device makers to get the job done. Carriers will most certainly not be the solution, given how they presently constitute most of the problem (just ask AT&T Galaxy S6 owners) -- so like it or not, the best chance for substantial change comes from us, the users. What I'm proposing is a simple crowdfunding operation. I'm skeptical about this, because I don't think it is in an OEM's best interest to serve its existing users for long -- how else they will convince customers to purchase their new devices? A newer software version is after all one of the ultimate selling points of a new phone. So I don't think an OEM will take up on such an offer. What do you folks think?
Google

Android Is 'Fair Use' As Google Beats Oracle In $9 Billion Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 239

infernalC writes: Ars Technica is reporting that the verdict is in, and that the jury decided that Google's duplication of several Java interfaces is fair use. Ars Technica writes that Google's Android OS does not infringe upon Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use." The jury unanimously answered "yes" in response to whether or not Google's use of Java APIs was a "fair use" under copyright law. The trial is now over, since Google won. "Google's win somewhat softens the blow to software developers who previously thought programming language APIs were free to use," Ars Technica writes. "It's still the case that APIs can be protected by copyright under the law of at least one appeals court. However, the first high-profile attempt to control APIs with copyright law has now been stymied by a "fair use" defense." The amount Oracle may have asked for in damages could have been as much as $9 billion.
Books

Slashdot Asks: Should It Be Legal To Resell E-Books, Software, and Other Digital Goods? (arstechnica.co.uk) 374

There's no one stopping you from selling the CDs and DVDs that you buy, so why can't you do the same with e-books, music albums, movies, and other things you've downloaded? Ars Technica reports about a Dutch second-hand e-book platform called Tom Kabinet which has been "at a war" with Dutch Publishers Association (NUV) over this issue. This is seen as a threat to the entire book industry. German courts have suggested that the practice of reselling e-books should be stopped, whereas Dutch courts don't necessarily see it as an issue. What's your view on this?
AI

Xiaomi Unveils Budget-Friendly Mi Drone, $460 For 4K Or $380 For 1080p (theverge.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi has officially journeyed into the drones product category. The Xiaomi Mi Drone is a quadcopter with a three-axis gimbal, 4K camera, and a remote control that uses your Mi smartphone as a viewfinder. The 4K version retails for about $460 while the 1080p model retails for about $380. When compared to drones from DJI or Yuneec, the Mi Drone seriously undercuts them as they typically retail for more than $1,000. Some other features of the Mi Drone center around modularity and serviceability -- the camera module and rotors are detachable. The 5,100 mAh battery that Xiaomi claims can last 27 minutes of continuous flight time on a single charge is also replaceable. It uses GPS and GLONASS for positioning. It even features a visual positioning system on the rear that allows itself to remain stable when flying at low altitudes in environments where a satellite signal cannot be reached. Some of the autonomous flight modes include: takeoff, landing, return to home, waypoint navigation and orbit, with the ability to create a geofence to limit its movement. The 1080p Mi Drone "will be crowdfunded on the Mi Hope app starting May 26, 2016," while the 4K Mi Drone "will be available for testing via an open beta program at the end of July." With such an affordable price tag relative to the competition, the Xiaomi Mi Drone may help increase revenues for the company whose sales barely grew last year.
AI

Researchers Teaching Robots To Feel and React To Pain (ieee.org) 63

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Leibniz University of Hannover in Germany are developing what they call an "artificial robot nervous system" that would allow robots to "feel" pain and react accordingly so they can avoid potential damages to their components. According to IEEE, the system uses a "nervous robot-tissue model that is inspired by the human skin structure" to measure different pain levels and move the robot in a way that prevents damaging interactions. [The model transmits pain information in repetitive spikes if the force exceeds a certain threshold, and the pain controller reacts after classifying the information into light, moderate, or severe pain.] Johannes Kuehn, one of the researchers, argues that in addition to avoiding potential damages to their components, robots will be protecting humans as well, since a growing number of them will be operating in close proximity to human workers. Kuehn, who worked on the project with Professor Sami Haddadin, reasoned that if our biological mechanisms to sense and respond to pain are so effective, why not devise a bio-inspired robot controller that mimics those mechanisms?
The Military

US Military Uses 8-Inch Floppy Disks To Coordinate Nuclear Force Operations (cnbc.com) 267

An anonymous reader writes from a report via CNBC: A new report reveals the U.S. Defense Department is still using 8-inch floppy disks in a computer system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation's nuclear forces. The Defense Department's 1970s-era IBM Series/1 Computer and long-outdated floppy disks handle functions related to intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft, according to the new Governmental Accountability Office report. The report shows how outdated IT systems are being used to handle important functions related to the nation's taxpayers, federal prisoners and military veterans, as well as to the America's nuclear umbrella. "Federal legacy IT systems are becoming increasingly obsolete: Many use outdated software languages and hardware parts that are unsupported," the report found. "Agencies reported using several systems that have components that are, in some cases, at least 50 years old." From the report: "GAO pointed out that aging systems include the Treasury Department's 'individual master file,' which is the authoritative data source for individual taxpayers. It's used to assess taxes and generates refunds. That file 'is written in assembly language code -- a low-level computer code that is difficult to write and maintain -- and operates on an IBM mainframe,' the report said." The report also mentioned that several other departments, such as the departments of Treasury, Commerce, Health and Human Services and the Veterans' Administration, "reported using 1980s and 1990s Microsoft operating systems that stopped being supported by the vendor more than a decade ago."
Android

Google Steps Up Pressure on Partners Tardy in Updating Android (bloomberg.com) 85

Google is actively tracking the time its partner OEMs take to release a new version of Android onto their devices. According to a Bloomberg report, the company is drawing up rankings that could shame some phone makers into better behavior. From the report: Google shared this list with Android partners earlier this year. It has discussed making it public to highlight proactive manufacturers and shame tardy vendors through omission from the list, two of the people said. [...] Google is making progress persuading phone makers and carriers to install security updates quicker "for the good of users," Android chief Hiroshi Lockheimer said. The same expedited process may then be used to send operating system updates to phones, he explained. The most challenging discussions are with carriers, which can be slow to approve updates because they test them thoroughly to avoid network disruption. The report adds that several OEMs are also stepping up their game to better comply with Google's new wishes. Motorola, for instance, is working on offering quarterly updates to its three years old devices.

For users with non-Nexus devices, it's really frustrating to wait for months, and in some cases, years, before their devices from Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, HTC and other manufacturers get upgraded to a newer version of Android. Another challenge for Google is to push its partners to actively release updates to affordable and mid-range smartphones. Many OEMs mostly worry about serving those users who have the flagship and high-end models.
Math

Billionaire Technologist Accuses NASA Asteroid Mission of Bad Statistics (sciencemag.org) 205

Taco Cowboy quotes a report from Science Magazine: Nathan Myhrvold, ex-CTO of Microsoft, is accusing NASA of providing bad statistics on asteroid size. Mr. Myhrvold alleged that scientists using a prominent NASA space telescope have made fundamental mistakes in their assessment of the size of more than 157,000 asteroids they have observed. In a paper posted to the arXiv.org e-print repository on 22 May, Myhrvold takes aim at the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), a space telescope launched in 2009, and a follow-on mission, NEOWISE, which together are responsible for the discovery of more asteroids than any other observatory. Yet Myhrvold says that the WISE and NEOWISE teams' papers are riddled with statistical missteps. "None of their results can be replicated," he tells ScienceInsider. "I found one irregularity after another" Myhrvold says the NASA teams have made mistakes, such as ignoring the margin of error introduced when extrapolating from a small sample size to an entire population. They also neglected to include Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation in their thermal models of the asteroids. Based on his own models, Myhrvold says that errors in the asteroid diameters based on WISE data should be 30%. In some cases, the size errors rise to as large as 300%. "Asteroids are more variable than we thought they were," he says. He has submitted the paper to the journal Icarus for review. However, the WISE and NEOWISE teams are standing by their results, and say that Myhrvold's criticism should be dismissed. "For every mistake I found in his paper, if I got a bounty, I would be rich," says Ned Wright, the principal investigator for WISE at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wright says that WISE's data match very well with two other infrared telescopes, AKARI and IRAS. To find out how accurately those infrared data determine the size of an asteroid, scientists have to calibrate them with radar observations, other observations made when asteroids pass in front of distant stars, and observations made by spacecraft up close. When they do that, Wright says, WISE's size errors end up at roughly 15%. Wright says his team doesn't have Myhrvold's computer codes, "so we don't know why he's screwing up." But Wright archly noted that Myhrvold once worked at Microsoft, so "is responsible in part for a lot of bad software."
Microsoft

Microsoft Awards Grants To Deliver Affordable Internet Access (cnet.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Microsoft said Tuesday it had awarded grants to 12 businesses as part of the company's Affordable Access Initiative, part of the software giant's effort to encourage low-cost Internet around the world. Grant recipients include businesses from Argentina, Botswana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, the UK and the US. In addition to financial support, each company will have access to Microsoft resources, software and services to help them develop their technology. "With more than half of the world's population lacking access to the Internet, connectivity is a global challenge that demands creative problem solving," Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development, said in a press release. "By using technology that's available now and partnering with local entrepreneurs who understand the needs of their communities, our hope is to create sustainable solutions that will not only have impact today but also in the years to come." Google and Facebook are also working on bringing affordable Internet access around the world. Google has plans to broadcast Internet from hot air balloons via Project Loon, while Facebook plans to beam Internet down to earth from drones.
China

China's Huawei Sues Samsung Claiming Mobile Patent Infringement (reuters.com) 45

An anonymous reader writes: Huawei said on Wednesday it has filed lawsuits against Samsung claiming infringement of smartphone patents, in the first such case by the Chinese firm against the world's biggest mobile maker. Huawei has filed lawsuits in the United States and China seeking compensation for what it said was unlicensed use of fourth-generation (4G) cellular communications technology, operating systems and user interface software in Samsung phones. The lawsuit marks a reversal of roles in China where firms have often been on the receiving end of patent infringement disputes. In smartphones, makers have grown rapidly in recent years but different intellectual property laws outside of China have slowed overseas expansion. "We hope Samsung will ... stop infringing our patents and get the necessary license from Huawei, and work together with Huawei to jointly drive the industry forward," Ding Jianxing, president of Huawei's Intellectual Property Rights Department, said.

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