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Earth

Burning All Fossil Fuels Would Scorch Earth, Says Study (phys.org) 50

mspohr quotes a report from Phys.Org: A new study published in the Journal Nature Climate Change shows our precarious climate condition: "Using up all known fossil fuel reserves would render Earth even more unlivable than scientists had previously projected, researchers said on Monday. Average temperatures would climb by up to 9.5 degrees Celsius (17 degrees Fahrenheit) -- five times the cap on global warming set at climate talks in Paris in December, they reported. In the Arctic region -- already heating at more than double the global average -- the thermometer would rise an unimaginable 15 C to 20 C." This would make most of Earth uninhabitable to humans (although the dinosaurs seemed to do fine with it 65 million years ago). The report also stated that if fossil fuel trends go unchanged, ten times the 540 billion tons of carbon emitted since the start of industrialization would be reached near the end of the 22nd century. For comparison, "older models had projected that depleting fossil fuel reserves entirely would heat the planet by 4.3 C to 8.4 C. The new study revises this to between 6.4 C and 9.5 C," writes Phys.Org.
Facebook

Facebook Is Tweaking Trending Topics To Counter Charges of Bias (recode.net) 60

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has said once again in an open letter to Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, that its Trending Topics section is free of any political bias or manipulation. But in response to Gizmodo's report that Facebook employees were suppressing conservative news stories, Facebook is revamping how editors find trending stories. "We could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies," Facebook general Counsel Colin Stretch wrote. Of course, Facebook is going to train the human editors who work on their trending section; they're also going to abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Recode provides some examples, writing, "[Facebook] will no longer use its "1K list," a group of 1,000 websites it used to help verify headlines." Facebook will also get rid of several top publications, including the New York Times and CNN.
The Internet

Hacker Phineas Fisher is Trying To Start a 'Hack Back' Political Movement (vice.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: The hacker who breached Hacking Team and FinFisher is trying to get more people to "hack back" and fight "the system." For some, thanks to his targeted attacks and sophisticated political views, Phineas Fisher is quickly becoming the most influential hacktivist of the last few years. In response to his most recent hack where he released a 39-minute how-to video showing how to strip data from targeted websites, specifically a website of the Catalan police union, Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "Everything doesn't have to be big. I wanted to strike a small blow at the system, teach a bit of hacking with the video, and inspire people to take action." Biella Coleman, professor at McGill University in Montreal, believes Phineas Fisher has a good chance of inspiring a new generation of hacktivists and "setting the stage for other hackers to follow in his footsteps." She says he has been better at choosing targets and justifying his actions with more rounded and sophisticated political and ethical views than Anonymous and LulzSec-inspired hackers. Phineas Fisher told Motherboard, "I don't want to be the lone hacker fighting the system. I want to inspire others to take similar action, and try to provide the information so they can learn how."
Businesses

Facebook Acquires VR Audio Company, Launches 'Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation' (theverge.com) 24

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Facebook is looking to improve its virtual-reality audio experience with the acquisition of Two Big Ears. Facebook is rereleasing Two Big Ears' "Spatial Workstation" software as the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation, reports VentureBeat. The software is designed to "make VR audio succeed across all devices and platforms," and Two Big Ears developers will be merged with Facebook's Oculus team of employees. The acquisition of Two Big Ears is being made by Facebook and not Oculus -- the program is branded as a Facebook product, focused on 360-degree video and VR. The Spatial Workstation was first released last fall and was a platform for mixing audio that sounded realistically three-dimensional. Two Big Ears will provide "support in accordance with your current agreement" for the next 12 months to those who purchased a paid license to the old workstation. The company says it "will continue to be platform and device agnostic," not being locked into the Rift or Gear VR. Facebook did not disclose the sum of the acquisition. Two Big Ears was previously partnered with YouTube to help bring 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio to the site.
Communications

Researchers Set World Record Wireless Data Transmission Rate of 6 GB/Sec Over 37 KM (sciencedaily.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: Transmitting the contents of a conventional DVD in under ten seconds by radio transmission is incredibly fast -- and a new world record in wireless data transmission. With a data rate of 6 Gigabit per second over a distance of 37 kilometers, a collaborative project with the participation of researchers from the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF exceeded the state of the art by a factor of 10. The extremely high data rates of 6 Gbit/s was achieved by the group through efficient transmitters and receivers at a radio frequency of 71-76 GHz in the so-called E band, regulated for terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. The circuits are based on two innovative transistor technologies developed and manufactured by the project partner Fraunhofer IAF. In the transmitter the broadband signals are amplified to a comparatively high transmission power of up to 1 W with the help of power amplifiers on the basis of the novel compound semiconductor gallium-nitride. A highly directive parabolic antenna emits the signals. Built into the receiver are low-noise amplifiers on the basis of high-speed transistors using indium-gallium-arsenide-semiconductor layers with very high electron mobility. They ensure the detection of the weak signals at high distance. The transmission of high quantities of data by radio over large distances serves a high number of important application areas: the next generation of satellite communication requires an ever-increasing data offload from earth observation satellites down to earth. Supplying the rural area and remote regions with fast Internet is possible as shown in the trial. Earlier this year, engineers at the University of Illinois were able to set a record for fiber-optic data transmission, transmitting 57Gbps of error-free data at room temperature.
Iphone

Apple Sued Over iPhones Making Calls, Sending Email (fortune.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: A company that seemingly does nothing but license patents or, if necessary, sue other companies to get royalties, has taken aim at Apple. But here's the kicker: the lawsuit alleges that Apple's last several iPhones and iPads violate a slew of patents related to seemingly standard features, including the ability to place calls as well as sending and receiving emails. A total of six patent infringement claims were brought against Apple by Corydoras Technologies on May 20, according to Apple-tracking site Patently Apple, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit. According to Patently Apple, the counts against Apple cover every iPhone dating back to the iPhone 4 and every iPad dating back to the iPad 2. In addition to taking issue with Apple's devices placing calls, the lawsuits also allege that the tech giant violates patents Corydoras holds related to video calling, which is similar to Apple's FaceTime, as well as displaying a person's geographic location through a feature like Find My iPhone and the ability to block unwanted calls. Last year, Apple was ordered to pay $533 million to Smartflash LLC for allegedly violating three patents related to copy protection.
Government

FBI Wants Biometric Database Hidden From Privacy Act (onthewire.io) 52

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from onthewire.io: The FBI is working to keep information contained in a key biometric database private and unavailable, even to people whose information is contained in the records. The database is known as the Next Generation Identification System (NGIS), and it is an amalgamation of biometric records accumulated from people who have been through one of a number of biometric collection processes. That could include convicted criminals, anyone who has submitted records to employers, and many other people. The NGIS also has information from agencies outside of the FBI, including foreign law enforcement agencies and governments. Because of the nature of the records, the FBI is asking the federal government to exempt the database from the Privacy Act, making the records inaccessible through information requests. From the report: "The bureau says in a proposal to exempt the database from disclosure that the NGIS should be exempt from the Privacy Act for a number of reasons, including the possibility that providing access 'could compromise sensitive law enforcement information, disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another's personal privacy; reveal a sensitive investigative technique; could provide information that would allow a subject to avoid detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of law enforcement personnel, confidential sources, and witnesses.'" RT released a similar report on the matter.
Network

Americans Used Nearly 10 Trillion Megabytes of Mobile Data Last Year (washingtonpost.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes: A report from CTIA released Monday found that consumers have nearly doubled their consumption of mobile data last year. It found that last month, consumers chugged down 804 billion megabytes of data, which adds up to a total of 9.65 billion gigabytes. The numbers are especially significant when compared to previous years. "From December 2013 to December 2014, U.S. data consumption grew by about 26 percent. But over the following year, it grew by 137 percent," writes Washington Post. YouTube and Netflix account for over half of North American internet traffic at peak hours, according to the networking equipment firm Sandvine. That figure spikes to 70 percent when streaming audio is part of the mix. The wireless industry as a result raked in nearly $200 billion last year alone, which is a 70 percent jump compared to a decade ago. The numbers are likely to rise as more and more devices become connected to the internet. With news of films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar coming to Netflix this September, we're likely to see mobile data use increase even more this year.
Movies

September: Netflix Will 'Become Exclusive US Pay TV Home of Films From Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar' (venturebeat.com) 114

An anonymous reader writes: The licensing deal between Netflix and Disney for the rights to all new films that hit movie theaters in 2016 is nothing new. What is new is when exactly the deal will come into effect. "From September onwards, Netflix will become the exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilms and Pixar," said Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos in a blog post. This will only apply to new theatrical releases because separate licensing deals are in place for other Disney content. The exclusive partnership with Disney does also extend into original programming. Netflix's partnership with Disney is part of a bigger plan to host more unique content that rival services do not offer.
Android

Google's 'Science Journal' App Turns Your Android Device Into A Laboratory (pcmag.com) 20

An anonymous reader writes about Google's latest 'Science Journal' app that was released at the end of Google I/O last week: Google has launched its 'Science Journal' app that can essentially turn your Android device into a tricorder of sorts. The app uses the sensors in your smartphone to gather, graph and visualize data. For example, you can use Google's Science Journal app to measure sound in a particular area over a particular period of time, or the movement of the device's internal accelerometers. The app is fairly basic to start, but Google is working to expand its functionality. It's even partnering with San Francisco's Exploratorium to develop external kits that can be used with the app -- which includes various microcontrollers and other sensors. As part of its Google Field Trip Days initiative, which allows students from underserved communities to attend a local museum for no cost and includes transportation and lunch, Google sent out 120,000 kits to local science museums. They also sent out 350,000 different pairs of safety glasses to schools, makerspaces, and Maker Faires worldwide, to ultimately help young students work on even bigger projects. You can download the app from the Play Store and start experimenting here.
Windows

Pac-Man 256 Coming To PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC With Multiplayer (venturebeat.com) 45

Pac-Man is coming to gaming consoles. Publisher Bandai Namco announced on Monday that Pac-Mac 256 will be launching on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on June 21. The VentureBeat reports: The console version of Pac-Man 256 will include a four-player local co-op game where you and your friends will have to collaborate to eat as many pellets as possible while collectively avoiding ghosts. This means that you can have up to four people sitting together on a couch and playing the game simultaneously. Each person controls a Pac-Man, and you will work together to avoid the ghosts. Because it is "local" co-op, this isn't an online mode, and you should instead think of it as something to do at a party... if you're cool like me and play video games at parties.
Google

Google Plans To Bring Password-Free Logins To Android Apps By Year-End (techcrunch.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares a report on TechCrunch: Google's plan to eliminate passwords in favor of systems that take into account a combination of signals -- like your typing patterns, your walking patterns, your current location, and more -- will be available to Android developers by year-end, assuming all goes well in testing this year. In an under-the-radar announcement Friday afternoon at the Google I/O developer conference, the head of Google's research unit ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) Daniel Kaufman offered a brief update regarding the status of Project Abacus, the name for a system that opts for biometrics over two-factor authentication. With Project Abacus, users would unlock devices or sign into applications based on a cumulative "Trust Score." This score would be calculated using a variety of factors, including your typing patterns, current location, speed and voice patterns, facial recognition, and other things.The Trust API will be available to developers, who can then implement that into their apps. The company says that developers will have the option to adjust the threshold required for a trust score.
Transportation

Tesla Co-Founder Says Hydrogen Fuel Cells Are a 'Scam' (electrek.co) 440

Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of Tesla, believes hydrogen fuel cells are a "scam". Tarpenning, who is not with Tesla anymore appeared on Internet History Podcast last week to outline a number of issues with hydrogen fuel cells. He said (via Electrek blog): If your goal is to reduce energy consumption, petrol or whatever resource, you want to use it as efficiently as possible. You don't want to pick something that consumes a lot for whatever reason, and hydrogen is uniquely bad. There's a saying in the auto industry that hydrogen is the future of transportation and always will be. It's a scam as far as I can tell because the energy equation is terrible. People will say that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it's abundant out there in the universe not here. We live on a planet where hydrogen is super reactive -- it's bound up into everything. It's bound up into water, wood and everything else. They only way that you get hydrogen requires you to pour energy into it to break it from the chemical bonds. Electrolysis is the most common method. You put electricity in water and it separates it, but you are pouring energy in order to make hydrogen, and then you have to compress it and that takes energy, and then you have to transport it to wherever you actually need it, which is really difficult because hydrogen is much harder to work with than gasoline or even natural gas -- and natural gas is not that easy. And then you ultimately have to place it into a car where you'll have a very high-pressure vessel which offers its own safety issues -- and that's only to convert it back again to electricity to make the car go because hydrogen fuel cell cars are really electric cars. They just have an extraordinary bad battery.Here's the podcast.
Google

How Copyright Law Is Being Misused To Remove Material From the Internet (theguardian.com) 98

London-based resident Annabelle Narey posted a negative review of a building firm on Mumsnet. She noted in her review that her ceiling fell down in an upstairs bedroom. The Guardian reports about what happened to her in the aftermath of posting that review. Building firm BuildTeam sent a letter to Mumsnet, which the site passed on to Narey. According to Narey, BuildTeam found Narey's comment defamatory and untrue, and asked for the removal of the comment from the website. The original comment saw several other users also post similar grievances, though many of these users pulled their comments in response to the legal threats from BuildTeam. Narey wanted to keep hers up. Then things got even weirder, reports the Guardian. Narey says BuiltTeam staff visited her apartment, and instead of offering any apology, asked her to remove the comment. Mumsnet received a warning from Google: a takedown request under DMCA, alleging copyright infringement. This led Google to de-list the entire thread. From the report: No copyright infringement had occurred at all. At some point after Narey posted her comments on Mumsnet, someone had copied the entire text of one of her posts and pasted it, verbatim, to a spammy blog titled "Home Improvement Tips and Tricks". The post, headlined "Buildteam interior designers" was backdated to September 14 2015, three months before Narey had written it. BuildTeam says it has no idea why Narey's review was reposted, but that it had nothing to do with it.The Guardian deep dives into what is wrong with the copyright system, the issues Google faces in dealing with them, and the consequences many users are facing because of this.
AI

Avoiding BlackBerry's Fate: How Apple Could End Up In a Similar Position (marco.org) 194

It's almost unbelievable today that BlackBerry ruled the smartphone market once. The Canadian company's handset, however, started to lose relevance when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. At the time, BlackBerry said that nobody would purchase an iPhone, as there's a battery trade-off. Wittingly or not, Apple could end up in a similar position to BlackBerry, argues Marco Arment. Arment -- who is best known for his Apple commentary, Overcast and Instapaper apps, and co-founding Tumblr -- says that Apple's strong stand on privacy is keeping it from being the frontrunner in the advanced AI, a category which has seen large investments from Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon in the recent years. He adds that privacy cannot be an excuse, as Apple could utilize public data like the web, mapping databases, and business directories. He writes: Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for. If they're right -- and that's a big "if" -- I'm worried for Apple. Today, Apple's being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritise those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they're able to do, despite being very good at it, won't be enough anymore, and they won't be able to catch up. Where Apple suffers is big-data services and AI, such as search, relevance, classification, and complex natural-language queries. Apple can do rudimentary versions of all of those, but their competitors -- again, especially Google -- are far ahead of them, and the gap is only widening. And Apple is showing worryingly few signs of meaningful improvement or investment in these areas. Apple's apparent inaction shows that they're content with their services' quality, management, performance, advancement, and talent acquisition and retention. One company that is missing from Mr. Arment's column is Microsoft. The Cortana-maker has also placed large bets on AI. According to job postings on its portal, it appears, for instance, that Microsoft is also working on Google Home-like service.
Power

Nevada Startup Stores Energy With Trains (fortune.com) 299

An anonymous reader writes: Nevada's Bureau of Land Management has granted a land lease to a $55 million project by Advanced Rail Energy Storage, which "proposes to use excess off-peak energy to push a heavily-loaded train up a grade," according to Fortune. "Then, when the grid needs that energy back, the cars will be rolled back down the slope...that return trip will generate energy and put it back on the grid."

The company claims its solution is about 50% cheaper than other storage technologies, according to Fortune, and boasts an 80% efficency in energy reclamation, "similar to or slightly above typical hydro-storage efficiency." Citing Tesla's factory, the magazine callsthe project "further evidence for Nevadaâ(TM)s emergence as a leading region for innovative transportation and energy projects."

Microsoft

Microsoft Urged to Open Source Classic Visual Basic (i-programmer.info) 297

"On the 25th anniversary of classic Visual Basic, return it to its programmers..." reads the plea at UserVoice.com from Sue Gee -- drawing 85 upvotes. "The new Microsoft claims to back open source, why not in this case? There is no need for Microsoft to do any more work on the code base - simply open source it and allow the community to keep it alive."

In an essay at i-programmer.info, Gee shares a video of young Bill Gates building an app with Visual Basic in 1991, and complains that in the 25 years since Microsoft has open sourced .NET Core and the .NET Compiler Platform Roslyn, "but it has explicitly refused to open source VB6." She notes that Friday Visual Basic's program manager announced a "Visual Basic Silver Anniversary Celebratiathon," promising he's reaching out to the VB team members from the last 25 years for a behind-the-scenes retrospective, and adding "this is a party, so feel free to be interactive."

"What the post glosses over is that this history was blighted by the fork in the road that was .NET and that many Visual Basic fans are highly unsatisfied that the programming environment they cherished is lost to them..." writes Gee. "Vote for the proposal not because you want to use VB6 or that you think it is worth having -- Vote for it because a company like Microsoft should not take a language away from its users."
Government

How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers (theguardian.com) 133

10 years before Edward Snowden's leak, an earlier whistle-blower on NSA spying "was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally," according to a new article in The Guardian. "The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today... The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself."

But today The Guardian reveals a new story about John Crane, a senior official at the Department of Defense "who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake -- until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well..." Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute whistleblower Thomas Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake's identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge...

Crane's failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations... if [Crane's] allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.)

Meanwhile, George Maschke writes: In a presentation to a group of Texas law students, a polygraph examiner for the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, the number of polygraphs conducted annually by the department tripled (to over 120,000). Morris also conceded that mental countermeasures to the polygraph are a "tough thing."
Security

Hundreds of Drupal Sites Targeted With Fake Ransomware (softpedia.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes: A group of hackers have created a ransomware strain that specifically targets Drupal sites. Infection occurs thanks to an automated bot which scans Drupal sites and then uses an SQL injection (CVE-2014-3704) to change the site admin's password. The bot also dumps any emails it finds on the server, and then overwrites the site's main page to show a typical ransomware note. Over 400 sites have been infected until now, but nobody has paid the ransom yet.

This case yet again proves why "Web ransomware" will never work because even the worst Web hosting service provides automatic backups from where they could retrieve a clean version of their site.

Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Have You Migrated To Node.js? 299

A developer maintaining his company's "half-assed LAMP / WordPress stack pipeline for web and web application development" is considering something more scalable that could eventually be migrated into the cloud. Qbertino asks Slashdot: Have you moved from LAMP (PHP) to Node.js for custom product development and if so, what's your advice? What downsides of JS on the server and in Node.js have a real-world effect? Is callback hell really a thing? And what is the state of free and open-source Node products...? Is there any trend inside the Node.js camp on building a platform and CMS product that competes with the PHP camp whilst maintaining a sane architecture, or is it all just a ball of hype with a huge mess of its own growing in the background, Rails-style?
Condensing Qbertino's original submission: he wants to be able to quickly deliver "pretty, working, and half-way reliable products that make us money" -- and to build a durable pipeline. So leave your educated opinions in the comments. What did you experience moving to Node.js?

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