Data Storage

Google, Bing, Yahoo Data Retention Doesn't Improve Search Quality, Study Claims (theregister.co.uk) 18

A new paper released on Monday via the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that retaining search log data doesn't do much for search quality. "Data retention has implications in the debate over Europe's right to be forgotten, the authors suggest, because retained data undermines that right," reports The Register. "It's also relevant to U.S. policy discussions about privacy regulations." From the report: To determine whether retention policies affected the accuracy of search results, Chiou and Tucker used data from metrics biz Hitwise to assess web traffic being driven by search sites. They looked at Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! Search during a period when Bing changed its search data retention period from 18 months to 6 months and when Yahoo! changed its retention period from 13 months to 3 months, as well as when Yahoo! had second thoughts and shifted to an 18-month retention period. According to Chiou and Tucker, data retention periods didn't affect the flow of traffic from search engines to downstream websites. "Our findings suggest that long periods of data storage do not confer advantages in search quality, which is an often-cited benefit of data retention by companies," their paper states. Chiou and Tucker observe that the supposed cost of privacy laws to consumers and to companies may be lower than perceived. They also contend that their findings weaken the claim that data retention affects search market dominance, which could make data retention less relevant in antitrust discussions of Google.
The Internet

Internet Is Having a Midlife Crisis (bbc.com) 124

An anonymous reader shares a report: The rise of cyber-bullying and monopolistic business practices has damaged trust in the internet, pioneering entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox has told the BBC. The Lastminute.com founder also called for a "shared set of principles" to make the web happier and safer. She said the internet had done much good over the last 30 years. But she said too many people had missed out on the benefits and it was time to "take a step back". "The web has become embedded in our lives over the last three decades but I think it's reached an inflexion point, or a sort of midlife crisis," she told Radio 4's Today programme. Baroness Lane-Fox co-founded travel booking site Lastminute.com in 1998 before going on to sell the firm for 577m pound seven years later. She described the early days of the internet as being "full of energy and excitement," and akin to the "wild West". "There was this feeling that suddenly, with this access to this new technology, you could start a business from anywhere," she said. However, she said that while technology had become a hugely important sector of the UK economy, it had not fulfilled its early potential.
Data Storage

Apple File System in macOS High Sierra Won't Work With Fusion Drives (arstechnica.co.uk) 111

An anonymous reader shares a report: MacOS High Sierra will come out of beta and roll out to the public next week. If you have previously installed the beta version, you may need to take extra steps before installing the release so your Fusion Drive-toting machine doesn't experience any negative consequences. Apple announced that the new Apple File system (APFS) won't immediately support Fusion Drives and will only support systems with all-flash built-in storage in the initial release of High Sierra. Those who tested out the beta versions of macOS High Sierra had their Fusion Drives converted to the new APFS. However, support was removed from the most recent beta versions, and it isn't coming back with the public release of High Sierra. Apple provided a set of instructions to help those users convert their Fusion Drives back from APFS to the standard HFS+ format before installing the High Sierra update. The instructions include backing up data using Time Machine, creating a bootable installer, reformatting the machine using Disk Utility, and reinstalling the operating system update.
Networking

Scientists Explore A Light Bulb-Based Based 10Gbps Li-Fi/5G Home Network (ispreview.co.uk) 12

Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at Brunel University in London have begun to develop a new 10 Gbps home wireless network using both Li-Fi (light fidelity) and 5G based mmWave technology, which will fit inside LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs on your ceiling.

In simple terms, the Visible Light Communication (VLC) based Li-Fi technology works by flicking a LED light off and on thousands of times a second (by altering the length of the flickers you can introduce digital communications).

The article says it'd be more energy efficient (and faster) than a standard Wi-Fi network -- though both technologies have trouble penetrating walls, so "you'd have to buy lots of pricey new bulbs in order to cover your home..."

"It's probably not something that an ordinary home owner would want to install; unless you're happy with running lots of optical fibre cable around your various light fittings."
Security

Equifax Says Almost 400,000 Britons Hit In Data Breach (bbc.co.uk) 45

MalachiK shares a report from the BBC: Data about British people "may potentially have been accessed" during the data breach at the U.S. credit rating firm Equifax. The UK arm of the organization said files containing information on "fewer than 400,000" UK consumers was accessed in the breach. In a statement, the UK office of Equifax said an internal investigation had shown that data on UK consumers was accessed during the hack. It said data on Britons was being held in the U.S. due to a "process failure" which meant that a limited amount of information was stored in North America between 2011 and 2016. The information held included names, dates of birth, email addresses and telephone numbers. No addresses, passwords or financial data was involved.
Windows

HP Users Complain About 10-Minute Login Lag During 'Win 10 Update' (theregister.co.uk) 105

A number of HP device owners are complaining of seeing black screens for around five to 10 minutes after entering their Windows login information. From a report: They appear to be pointing the finger of blame at Windows 10 updates released September 12 for x64-based systems. One, a quality update called KB4038788, offered a whopping 27 bullet points for general quality improvements and patches, such as an "issue that sometimes causes Windows File Explorer to stop responding and causes the system to stop working." Another, KB4038806, was a "critical" patch for Adobe Flash Player that allowed remote code execution.
Security

Equifax CEO Hired a Music Major as the Company's Chief Security Officer 428

Susan Mauldin, the person in charge of the Equifax's data security, has a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts degree in music composition from the University of Georgia, according to her LinkedIn profile. Mauldin's LinkedIn profile lists no education related to technology or security. If that wasn't enough, news outlet MarketWatch reported on Friday that Susan Mauldin's LinkedIn page was made private and her last name was replaced with "M", in a move that appears to keep her education background secret.

Earlier this month Equifax, which is one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, said that hackers had gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers, including Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers. On Friday, the UK arm of the organisation said files containing information on "fewer than 400,000" UK consumers was accessed in the breach.

UPDATE (9/16/2017): CSO Susan Mauldin has abruptly 'retired' from Equifax.
Security

Backdoor Found In WordPress Plugin With More Than 200,000 Installations (bleepingcomputer.com) 84

According to Bleeping Computer, a WordPress plug that goes by the name Display Widgets has been used to install a backdoor on WordPress sites across the internet for the past two and a half months. While the WordPress.org team removed the plugin from the official WordPress Plugins repository, the plugin managed to be installed on more than 200,000 sites at the time of its removal. The good news is that the backdoor code was only found between Display Widgets version 2.6.1 (released June 30) and version 2.6.3 (released September 2), so it's unlikely everyone who installed the plugin is affected. WordPress.org staff members reportedly removed the plugin three times before for similar violations. Bleeping Computer has compiled a history of events in its report, put together with data aggregated from three different investigations by David Law, White Fir Design, and Wordfence. The report adds: The original Display Widgets is a plugin that allowed WordPress site owners to control which, how, and when WordPress widgets appear on their sites. Stephanie Wells of Strategy11 developed the plugin, but after switching her focus to a premium version of the plugin, she decided to sell the open source version to a new developer who would have had the time to cater to its userbase. A month after buying the plugin in May, its new owner released a first new version -- v2.6.0 -- on June 21.
Music

Apple's 'Shoddy' Beats Headphones Get Slammed In Lawsuit (theregister.co.uk) 188

A lawsuit (PDF) filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, recounts the frustrations of five plaintiffs who found that Apple's Powerbeats 2 and Powerbeats 3 headphones did not perform as advertised. They are also claiming the company is refusing to honor warranty commitments to repair or replace the failed units. The Register reports: The complaint seeks $5,000,000 in damages and class action certification, in order to represent thousands of similarly afflicted Beats customers who are alleged to exist. "In widespread advertising and marketing campaigns, Apple touts that its costly Powerbeats (which retail for $199.95) are 'BUILT TO ENDURE' and are the 'BEST HEADPHONES FOR WORKING OUT,'" the complaint says. "But these costly headphones are neither 'built to endure' nor 'sweat & water resistant,' and certainly do not have a battery that lasts for six or twelve hours. Instead, these shoddy headphones contain a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish and eventually stop retaining a charge."

The complaint attributes the shoddiness of Apple's Powerbeats headphones to cheap components. Citing an estimate in a recent Motley Fool article, the complaint contends that Apple's Beats Solo headphones cost $16.89 to make and retail for $199.95: a markup of more than 1,000 per cent. That figure actually comes from a Medium post by Avery Louie, from hardware prototyping biz Bolt.

Science

Boffins Fear We Might Be Running Out of Ideas (theregister.co.uk) 355

Innovation, fetishized by Silicon Valley companies and celebrated by business boosters, no longer provides the economic jolt it once did. From a report: In order to maintain Moore's Law -- by which transistor density doubles every two years or so -- it now takes 18 times as many scientists as it did in the 1970s. That means each researcher's output today is 18 times less effective in terms of generating economic value than it was several decades ago. On an annual basis, research productivity is declining at a rate of about 6.8 percent per year in the semiconductor industry. In other words, we're running out of ideas. That's the conclusion of economic researchers from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a paper published this week through the National Bureau of Economic Research, "Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?", economics professors Nicholas Bloom, Charles Jones, and John Van Reenen, and PhD candidate Michael Webb, defy Betteridge's Law of Headlines by concluding that an idea drought has indeed taken hold. "Across a broad range of case studies ... we find that ideas -- and in particular the exponential growth they imply -- are getting harder and harder to find," the authors declare in their paper.
Encryption

Virginia Scraps Electronic Voting Machines Hackers Destroyed At DefCon (theregister.co.uk) 194

Following the DefCon demonstration in July that showed how quickly Direct Recording Electronic voting equipment could be hacked, Virginia's State Board of Elections has decided it wants to replace their electronic voting machines in time for the gubernatorial election due on November 7th, 2017. According to The Register, "The decision was announced in the minutes of the Board's September 8th meeting: 'The Department of Elections officially recommends that the State Board of Elections decertify all Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or touchscreen) voting equipment." From the report: With the DefCon bods showing some machines shared a single hard-coded password, Virginia directed the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) to audit the machines in use in the state (the Accuvote TSX, the Patriot, and the AVC Advantage). None passed the test. VITA told the board "each device analyzed exhibited material risks to the integrity or availability of the election process," and the lack of a paper audit trail posed a significant risk of lost votes. Local outlet The News Leader notes that many precincts had either replaced their machines already, or are in the process of doing so. The election board's decision will force a change-over on the 140 precincts that haven't replaced their machines, covering 190,000 of Virginia's ~8.4m population.
China

China Joins the Growing Movement To Ban Gasoline, Diesel Cars (arstechnica.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: China has become the latest country to publicly discuss plans to ban the production and sale of gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles. In July, both France and the UK published plans to phase out sales of conventionally powered vehicles by 2040. China will now add another nail to the coffin of the internal combustion engine. However, unlike the French or British plans, in this case there's no target date -- yet. The news comes from an automotive policy forum in Tianjin. China's vice minister of industry and information technology, Xin Guobin, said that his ministry has begun work on a timetable to phase out fossil fueled vehicles. The Xinhua news agency also reports that Xin told automakers they need to begin to "readjust their strategies" accordingly. For foreign car companies hoping to sell EVs in China, that will mean investing in the country, as imported vehicles come with stiff import duties attached.
Programming

Is Python Really the Fastest-Growing Programming Language? (stackoverflow.blog) 254

An anonymous reader quotes Stack Overflow Blog: In this post, we'll explore the extraordinary growth of the Python programming language in the last five years, as seen by Stack Overflow traffic within high-income countries. The term "fastest-growing" can be hard to define precisely, but we make the case that Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language... June 2017 was the first month that Python was the most visited [programming language] tag on Stack Overflow within high-income nations. This included being the most visited tag within the US and the UK, and in the top 2 in almost all other high income nations (next to either Java or JavaScript). This is especially impressive because in 2012, it was less visited than any of the other 5 languages, and has grown by 2.5-fold in that time. Part of this is because of the seasonal nature of traffic to Java. Since it's heavily taught in undergraduate courses, Java traffic tends to rise during the fall and spring and drop during the summer.

Does Python show a similar growth in the rest of the world, in countries like India, Brazil, Russia and China? Indeed it does. Outside of high-income countries Python is still the fastest growing major programming language; it simply started at a lower level and the growth began two years later (in 2014 rather than 2012). In fact, the year-over-year growth rate of Python in non-high-income countries is slightly higher than it is in high-income countries... We're not looking to contribute to any "language war." The number of users of a language doesn't imply anything about its quality, and certainly can't tell you which language is more appropriate for a particular situation. With that perspective in mind, however, we believe it's worth understanding what languages make up the developer ecosystem, and how that ecosystem might be changing. This post demonstrated that Python has shown a surprising growth in the last five years, especially within high-income countries.

The post was written by Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson, who notes that "I used to program primarily in Python, though I have since switched entirely to R."
Security

Mexican Tax Refund Site Left 400GB of Sensitive Customer Info Wide Open (theregister.co.uk) 18

Mexican VAT refund site MoneyBack exposed sensitive customer information online as a result of a misconfigured database. From a report: A CouchDB database featuring half a million customers' passport details, credit card numbers, travel tickets and more was left publicly accessible, security firm Kromtech reports. More than 400GB of sensitive information could be either downloaded or viewed because of a lack of access controls before the system was recently secured.
Twitter

Twitter is Just Randomly Deleting People's Lists -- and No One Knows Why (theregister.co.uk) 115

Twitter has silently, and without warning, deleted reams of lists users have spent months curating. These lists are used by journalists, activists, and loads of other people, to organize and manage twits they follow and aggregate their tweets, links, photos, and videos, reports The Register. From the article: They are, in a way, personalized RSS feeds of information from the Twitter firehose. For the past several days, though, lists have been disappearing from folks' profiles with no notification, and no explanation from Twitter thus far. Some private, or locked, lists have been made public. Among those impacted by the cockup is Australian freelance journalist and Cryptoparty founder Asher Wolf, who said the issue appears to be tied those who use the mobile Twitter App. Switching to different platforms doesn't help, however.
IBM

Lenovo Looks To Commemorate 25th Anniversary of IBM's Notebook Brand With Thinkpad 25 (theregister.co.uk) 132

New submitter Provocateur writes: Lenovo will be marking the 25th anniversary of IBM's well known notebook with the Thinkpad 25. Andrew Orlowski writes via The Register: "The long-awaited 'retro' Thinkpad will be based on the guts of a contemporary T470 laptop, Lenovo's business workhorse, according to a German certification site. Lenovo inherited IBM's notebook brand 12 years ago, and with it a design classic. However, in 2012 Lenovo saw fit to 'modernize' the iconic keyboard, along with other unwelcome changes. This didn't meet with approval from some stalwarts, who clung to the superior X220 and T420 lines, the last that you could buy with the 7 row QWERTY. Two years ago Lenovo's design chief Dave Hill acknowledged that some people 'would stand in line' for the classic version. In June, Hill confirmed that for the Thinkpad's 25th anniversary this year a retro edition would indeed be produced, which Hill promised 'will embody many of the things people asked for.'

The German certification site has found the 'Thinkpad 25' variant described as a Thinkpad T470 here (hat-tip to NoteBook Check). A Chinese notebook forum has a picture purporting to be the Thinkpad 25."

Earth

Hurricane Irma Reaches 185 MPH, Trailing Only Allen As Strongest Atlantic Storm On Record (arstechnica.com) 318

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We are quickly running out of adjectives to describe the destructive potential of Hurricane Irma. As of 2pm ET on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm's sustained winds to 185mph. This is near-record speed for a storm in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Such high, sustained winds tie Irma for the second-strongest storm on record in the Atlantic, along with Hurricane Wilma (2005), Hurricane Gilbert (1998), and the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane. Only Hurricane Allen, which reached 190 mph in 1980 before striking a relatively unpopulated area of Texas, reached a higher wind speed. Globally, the all-time record for hurricanes is held by Patricia, which reached a staggering 215 mph in the Pacific Ocean in 2015. Although sustained winds capture the most public attention, meteorologists generally measure the intensity of a storm based upon central pressures, which are considerably lower than sea-level pressure on Earth, 1,013 millibars. Typhoon Tip, in 1979, holds this record at 870 millibars. For now, at least, Irma has a relatively high central pressure of 927 millibars. Why the storm has such an odd wind-speed-pressure relationship isn't entirely clear. According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to bring catastrophic winds and potential storm surges to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the UK territory of Turks and Caicos this week. The Florida Keys could get hit by late Saturday night or Sunday.
Businesses

It's Official: Users Navigate Flat UI Designs 22 Percent Slower (theregister.co.uk) 408

Reader Zorro writes: The mania for "flat" user interfaces is costing publishers and e-commerce sites billions in lost revenue. A "flat" design removes the distinction between navigation controls and content. Historically, navigation controls such as buttons were shaded, or given 3D relief, to distinguish them from the application or web page's content. The mania is credited to Microsoft with its minimalistic Zune player, an iPod clone, which was developed into the Windows Phone Series UX, which in turn became the design for Windows from Windows 8 in 2012 onwards. But Steve Jobs is also to blame. The typography-besotted Apple founder was fascinated by WP's "magazine-style" Metro design, and it was posthumously incorporated into iOS7 in 2013. Once blessed by Apple, flat designs spread to electronic programme guides on telly, games consoles and even car interfaces. The consequence is that users find navigation harder, and so spend more time on a page. Now research by the Nielsen Norman Group has measured by how much. The company wired up 71 users, and gave them nine sites to use, tracking their eye movement and recording the time spent on content. On average participants spent 22 per cent more time (i.e. slower task performance) looking at the pages with weak signifiers," the firm notes. Why would that be? Users were looking for clues how to navigate. "The average number of fixations was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong-signifier versions. On average, people had 25 per cent more fixations on the pages with weak signifiers."
Businesses

Oracle Staff Report Big Layoffs Across Solaris, SPARC Teams (theregister.co.uk) 239

Simon Sharwood, reporting for the Register: Soon-to-be-former Oracle staff report that the company made hundreds of layoffs last Friday, as predicted by El Reg, with workers on teams covering the Solaris operating system, SPARC silicon, tape libraries and storage products shown the door. Oracle's media relations agency told The Register: "We decline comment." However, Big Red's staffers are having their say online, in tweets such as the one below. "For real. Oracle RIF'd most of Solaris (and others) today," an employee said. A "RIF" is a "reduction in force", Oracle-speak for making people redundant (IBM's equivalent is an "RA", or "resource action"). Tech industry observer Simon Phipps claims "~all" Solaris staff were laid off. "For those unaware, Oracle laid off ~ all Solaris tech staff yesterday in a classic silent EOL of the product."
Businesses

80% of UK Government IT Projects Suffer Delays Due To Tax Clampdown (theregister.co.uk) 88

An anonymous reader shares a report: The vast majority of UK government IT projects are suffering delays due to freelancers quitting over the IR35 tax clampdown, according to a survey of contractors. Of 405 IT freelancers surveyed by Contractor Calculator, 79 per cent said the projects they have been working on were delayed as a result of contractors leaving. In April, the government shifted responsibility for compliance with the IR35 legislation from the individual contractor to the public body or recruitment agency. The Treasury says it hopes to raise $240m for 2017/18 by bringing public sector contractors within the scope of the legislation. However, the overall number of freelancers leaving as a result of the changes is lower than previously thought, with 48 per cent jumping ship. In previous surveys more than 80 per cent had threatened to walk once the changes came into force. Half of the contractors who decided to stay managed to find a way of working outside the IR35 changes, with a further 13 per cent working within the scope of IR35 but negotiating a rate increase. The rest seemingly took the changes on the chin.

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