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Chrome 56 Quietly Added Bluetooth Snitch API
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 10:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-really-happening department:
Richard Chirgwin, writing for The Register: When Google popped out Chrome 56 at the end of January it was keen to remind us it's making the web safer by flagging non-HTTPS sites. But Google made little effort to publicise another feature that's decidedly less friendly to privacy, because it lets websites ask about users' Bluetooth devices and harvest information from them through the browser. That's more a pitch to developers, as is clear in this YouTube video from Pete LePage of the Chrome Developers team. "Until now, the ability to communicate with Bluetooth devices has been possible only for native apps. With Chrome 56, your Web app can communicate with nearby Bluetooth devices in a private and secure manner, using the Web Bluetooth API," Google shares in the video. "The Web Bluetooth API uses the GATT [Generic Attribute Profile - ed] protocol, which enables your app to connect to devices such as light bulbs, toys, heart-rate monitors, LED displays and more, with just a few lines of JavaScript." In other words, the API lets websites ask your browser "what Bluetooth devices can you see," find out what your fridge, and so on, is capable of, and interact with it.

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Patent Troll With Good Record in Past Sues Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Others Over Offline Downloads
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 10:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's patent-trolling department:
Netflix added the ability to download movies and TV episodes for offline viewing in November last year. Music streaming service SoundCloud, and video hosting service Vimeo have had this feature for quite some time, too. But they are all being sued now by a patent troll. From an ArsTechnica report: The plaintiff is a company few have heard of: Blackbird Technologies, a company with no products or assets other than patents. Blackbird's business is to buy up patent rights and file lawsuits over them, a business known colloquially as "patent trolling." Last week, Blackbird (who tells potential clients about being "able to litigate at reduced costs and achieve results") filed lawsuits against Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners, which owns the Epix TV channel. [...] The patent-holding company, which filed the lawsuits in Delaware federal court, has good reason to hope for success. The '362 patent already has a track record of squeezing settlement cash out of big companies.

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Are Robots Coming To Take Investor Jobs on Wall Street?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 10:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's they-are-coming department:
From an article on NYPost: More investors are warming to the cold, steely embrace of the increasingly sophisticated, low-cost automated robo-advisers. The primary reason is to save money on those fees and charges. Nearly one in three investors says these machines are superior at picking stocks and lessen their risk, and almost as many say the machines are better at selecting investments for retirement than human brokers, according to a new study of US investors by market research and consulting firm Spectrem Group.

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China To Add More than 50 Million New urban jobs in 2016-2020
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 10:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-economy department:
China is striving to create more than 50 million new jobs in urban areas over the five years to 2020, the cabinet said in an employment promotion plan on Monday. From a report on Reuters: It will also aim to hold the urban registered unemployment rate below 5 percent in the same period, according to the document published on the central government's website. "Opportunities and challenges in promoting employment coexist," the cabinet said. The government has said 13 million new urban jobs were created in 2016, beating its target of 10 million. The official unemployment rate has been hovering just over 4 percent in recent years, even as China's economic growth slowed to 6.7 percent in 2016, its slowest in 26 years.

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The Leap Week: Did Apple Really Have a Record Quarter?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 07:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's leap-week department:
An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Apple stated that Q1 FY2017 was an all-time record for quarterly revenue. The media dutifully and mostly uncritically spread this "great" news for Apple. Technically the claim is true, the revenue was an all-time record. True but misleading. Although Apple didn't lie as such, you might say there was a sin of omission, and a definite spin of the facts. Most Apple fiscal quarters are 13 weeks long. Once in a while, however, they need a 14 week quarter. You might call it a "leap quarter". There was a good explanation of this financial practice a few years ago in Slate. Apple's Q1 2017 was a 14 week quarter, for the first time since Q1 2013. John Gruber writes at DaringFireball, "Adjusted for the extra week, Apple actually had another down quarter."

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'The End Of The Level Playing Field'
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 07:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson writes in a blog post: When the Internet came along in the early 90s, we saw something completely different. Here was a level playing field where anyone could launch a business without permission from anyone. We had a great run over the last 25 years but I fear it's coming to an end, brought on by the growing consolidation of market power in the big consumer facing tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc, by the constricted distribution mechanisms on mobile devices, and by new leadership at the FCC that is going to tear down the notion that mobile carriers can't play the same game cable companies played. It is certainly true that consumers, particularly low-income consumers, like getting free or subsidized data plans. There is no doubt about that. But when the subsidies are coming from the big tech companies, who can easily pay them, to buy competitive advantage over that nimble startup that is scaring them, well we know how that movie ends.

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97 Tech Companies Including Apple, Google, Microsoft Call Travel Ban Unlawful In Rare Coordinated Legal Action
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 06:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department:
An anonymous reader shares a WashingtonPost report: Silicon Valley is stepping up its confrontation with the Trump administration. On Sunday night, technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and many others filed a legal brief opposing the administration's contentious entry ban. The move represents a rare coordinated action across a broad swath of the industry (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source) -- 97 companies in total -- and demonstrates the depth of animosity toward the Trump ban. The amicus brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is expected to rule within a few days on an appeal by the administration after a federal judge in Seattle issued late Friday a temporary restraining order putting the entry ban on hold. The brief comes at the end of a week of nationwide protests against the plan -- as well as a flurry of activity in Silicon Valley, a region that sees immigration as central to its identity as an innovation hub.From a TechCrunch report: Notably absent from the list of 97 companies are several who met with Trump prior to his inauguration: Amazon, Oracle, IBM, SpaceX and Tesla. Although Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was highly critical of Trump prior to his election, he has not spoken out against the immigration policy. Oracle CEO Safra Catz is serving as an advisor to the Trump transition team, while SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has defended his decision to remain on an advisory council for Trump.

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DRM Company Denuvo Forgets To Secure Its Server, Leaks Two Years Of Emails
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 05:00 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's managing-digital-rights-wrong department:
Denuvo "left several private directories on its website open to the public," TorrentFreak wrote Sunday, calling it "an embarrassing blunder" for the digital rights management company. "Members of the cracking community are downloading and scrutinizing the contents," the site reports, with one of the finds being an 11-megabyte text file which apparently contains every message sent through Denuvo's web site since 2014. An anonymous reader writes:

There's a message from Google's security team, one from Capcom Japan, and "dozens of emails from angry pirates, each looking to vent their anger," according to TorrentFreak. Ars Technica reports that there's also a 2015 message from Microsoft about "an upcoming initiative," as well as messages several game studios, and even one from the producers of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. "Combing the log file brings up countless spam messages, along with complaints, confused 'why won't this game work' queries from apparent pirates, and even threats (an example: 'for what you did to arkham knight I will find you and I will kill you and all of your loved ones, this I promise you CEO of this SHIT drm')."

"Since Denuvo's contact page does not contain a link to a private e-mail address -- only a contact form and a phone number to the company's Austrian headquarters -- the form appears to also have been used by many game developers and publishers." And in addition, "much of Denuvo's web database content appears to be entirely unsecured, with root directories for 'fileadmin' and 'logs' sitting in the open right now."

In addition, there's also a slideshow -- which has since been uploaded to Imgur -- bragging that "With over 300 man years of development experience among us, we clearly know what we're doing."

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The Brief, Bumbling Tech Careers of Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and Will.i.am
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 02:20 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's poker-faces department:
"Four years ago this week, Blackberry named Alicia Keys its global creative officer... Keys was really going to work for Blackberry -- to participate in weekly calls addressing product development; develop ideas and content for the Keep Moving Projects, which targeted artists and athletes; and of course, promote the brand during her upcoming tour... It didn't work."
Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes:
For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars... In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8.

These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.

Lady Gaga left Polaroid in less than a year after "collaborating" on video camera sunglasses that offered playback through LCD lenses. While they weren't popular, this article argues most of these tech companies "faced structural business issues too significant to be addressed through celebrity branding and artistic energy." One digital ad agency even tells the site that "It's always been a flawed strategy," and calls the hiring of a celebrity "a press cycle hack."

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Ask Slashdot: Why Do You Care About Tech Conferences?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 09:50 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's grand-gatherings-of-geeks department:
An anonymous user is "just starting a programming career," and has several questions for Slashdot's readers:
What exactly is the role of tech conferences? I always assumed they were mostly for exhibitors to pitch me things, but then what's in it for me? Am I just going there to network, or am I learning new cutting-edge techniques and getting enlightened by awesome training sessions? Or is it just a fun way to get a free trip to Las Vegas?

And then what's in it for my employer, who's paying to send me there? If my boss has to approve the cost of attending a conference, what's going to make him say yes? I mean, do employers really get enough value from that extra conference-only information to justify sending off their employees for several days of non-productivity? (Don't they know all that networking could lead me to job offers from other companies?)

It's always been a little intimidating the way people talk about conferences, like everyone already knows all about them, and drop the conference's name into the conversations like you should already know what it is. I always assumed people just attended only conferences for their current programming language or platform -- but is there more to it than that? What exactly is the big deal?

I'm struggling to even find the right metaphor for this -- is it a live interactive infomercial or a grand gathering of geeky good will? So leave your best answers in the comments. Why do you care about tech conferences?

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Studies Link Some Stomach Drugs To Alzheimer's Disease and Kidney Problems
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 07:10 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dangers-of-indigestion department:
While the recommended dosage for Nexium, Prevacid and Prilose is just two weeks, doctors often advise patients to continue taking them for years. But now Scientific American reports that "Chronic use of popular heartburn medicines may be riskier than was thought," citing two papers linking the drugs to an increase risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, and a greater risk of kidney problems.

schwit1 quotes their report:
The papers did not prove that PPIs cause the problems. But some researchers have nonetheless suggested possible mechanisms by which long-term use of the drugs could trigger dementia or kidney problems. A reduction in vitamin B12, for example, might leave the brain more vulnerable to damage, says Britta Haenisch, an author of the JAMA Neurology study and a neuropharmacologist at the Bonn campus of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Last spring clinicians at the Houston Methodist Research Institute reported another plausible explanation for how PPIs might lead to these unexpected health issues: they picked up signs that the drugs act not only in the stomach but elsewhere in the body, too.

The article ends on an ambiguous note. "Without conclusive data, physicians and patients have to balance the need to prevent the ill effects of excess stomach acid and reflux with the desire to avoid potentially serious -- if theoretical -- side effects from long-term use of PPIs."

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A Super Bowl Koan: Does The NFL Wish It Were A Tech Company?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 05:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's media-meditations department:
Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes:
The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones.

But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology?

Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.

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How Open Sourcing Made Apache Kafka A Dominant Streaming Platform
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 04:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's world-domination department:
Open sourced in 2010, the Apache Kafka distributed streaming platform is now used at more than a third of Fortune 500 companies (as well as seven of the world's top 10 banks). An anonymous reader writes:
Co-creator Neha Narkhede says "We saw the need for a distributed architecture with microservices that we could scale quickly and robustly. The legacy systems couldn't help us anymore." In a new interview with TechRepublic, Narkhede explains that while working at LinkedIn, "We had the vision of building the entire company's business logic as stream processors that express transformations on streams of data... [T]hough Kafka started off as a very scalable messaging system, it grew to complete our vision of being a distributed streaming platform."

Narkhede became the CTO and co-founder of Confluent, which supports enterprise installations of Kafka, and now says that being open source "helps you build a pipeline for your product and reduce the cost of sales... [T]he developer is the new decision maker. If the product experience is tailored to ensure that the developers are successful and the technology plays a critical role in your business, you have the foundational pieces of building a growing and profitable business around an open-source technology... Kafka is used as the source-of-truth pipeline carrying critical data that businesses rely on for real-time decision-making."

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Disney Thinks High Schools Should Let Kids Take Coding In Place of Foreign Languages
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 03:02 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's learning-for-earning department:
theodp writes:
Florida lawmakers are again proposing a contentious plan that would put coding and foreign language on equal footing in a public high school student's education. Under a proposed bill students who take two credits of computer coding and earn a related industry certification could then count that coursework toward two foreign language credits.

"I sort of comically applaud that some would want to categorize coding as a foreign language," said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "Coding cannot be seen as an equivalent substitute." Disclosure records show that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has three lobbyists registered to fight in support of the bill. Disney did not return an email seeking comment, but State Senator Jeff Brandes said the company's interest is in a future workforce... Disney has provided signature tutorials for the nation's Hour of Code over the past three years, including Disney's Frozen princess-themed tutorial.

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14,000 Domains Dropped Dyn's DNS Service After Mirai Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 01:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's denial-of-DNS department:
chicksdaddy
New data suggests that some 14,500 web domains stopped using Dyn's Managed DNS service in the immediate aftermath of an October DDoS attack by the Mirai botnet. That's around 8% of the web domains using Dyn Managed DNS... "The data show that Dyn lost a pretty big chunk of their customer base because they were affected by (Mirai)," said Dan Dahlberg, a research scientist at BitSight Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts... BitSight, which provides security rating services for companies, analyzed a set of 178,000 domains that were hosted on Dyn's managed DNS infrastructure before and immediately after the October 21st attacks.
It's possible some of those domains later returned to Dyn -- and the number of actual customers may be smaller than the number of hosted domains. But in the end it may not have mattered much, since Dyn was acquired by Oracle the next month, and TechCrunch speculates that the deal had already been set in motion before the attack. They also add that "Oracle, of course, is no stranger to breaches itself: in August it was found that hundreds of its own computer systems were breached."

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Are Gates, Musk Being 'Too Aggressive' With AI Concerns?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 01:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's welcome,-robot-overlords department:
gthuang88 reports on a talk titled "Will Robots Eat Your Job?"

Bill Gates and Elon Musk are sounding the alarm "too aggressively" over artificial intelligence's potential negative consequences for society, says MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson. The co-author of The Second Machine Age argues it will take at least 30 to 50 years for robots and software to eliminate the need for human laborers. In the meantime, he says, we should be investing in education so that people are prepared for the jobs of the future, and are focused on where they still have an advantage over machines -- creativity, empathy, leadership, and teamwork.

The professor acknowledges "there are some legitimate concerns" about robots taking jobs away from humans, but "I don't think it's a problem we have to face today... It can be counterproductive to overestimate what machines can do right now." Eventually humankind will reach a world where robots do practically everything, the professor believes, but with a universal basic income this could simply leave us humans with more leisure time.

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Anonymous Takes Down 10,613 Dark Web Portals
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 12:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's onion-attacks department:
An anonymous reader writes: Anonymous hackers have breached Freedom Hosting II, a popular Dark Web hosting provider, and have taken down 10,613 .onion sites. In a message left on all Freedom Hosting II sites, the hackers claim to have found massive troves of child pornography imagery hosted on the company's servers. The hackers dumped 74GB of server files (half of which they say contained child pornography) and a database dump of 2.3GB. Security researcher Chris Monteiro has analyzed some of the dumped data. He says he discovered .onion URLs hosting botnets, fraud sites, sites peddling hacked data, weird fetish portals, more weird stuff, and child abuse websites targeting both English- and Russian-speaking buyers. Freedom Hosting II hosts about a fifth of all .onion URLs. The first Freedom Hosting service was targeted by Anonymous in 2011 and eventually shut down in 2013 after the FBI also found child pornography hosted on its sites.

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Can The Mayhem AI Automate Bug-Patching?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 11:05 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's remote-inoculations department:
"Now when a machine is compromised it takes days or weeks for someone to notice and then days or weeks -- or never -- until a patch is put out," says Carnegie Mellon professor David Brumley. "Imagine a world where the first time a hacker exploits a vulnerability he can only exploit one machine and then it's patched." An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review:
Last summer the Pentagon staged a contest in Las Vegas in which high-powered computers spent 12 hours trying to hack one another in pursuit of a $2 million purse. Now Mayhem, the software that won, is beginning to put its hacking skills to work in the real world... Teams entered software that had to patch and protect a collection of server software, while also identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in the programs under the stewardship of its competitors... ForAllSecure, cofounded by Carnegie Mellon professor David Brumley and two of his PhD students, has started adapting Mayhem to be able to automatically find and patch flaws in certain kinds of commercial software, including that of Internet devices such as routers.

Tests are underway with undisclosed partners, including an Internet device manufacturer, to see if Mayhem can help companies identify and fix vulnerabilities in their products more quickly and comprehensively. The focus is on addressing the challenge of companies needing to devote considerable resources to supporting years of past products with security updates... Last year, Brumley published results from feeding almost 2,000 router firmware images through some of the techniques that powered Mayhem. Over 40%, representing 89 different products, had at least one vulnerability. The software found 14 previously undiscovered vulnerabilities affecting 69 different software builds. ForAllSecure is also working with the Department of Defense on ideas for how to put Mayhem to real world use finding and fixing vulnerabilities.

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Mozilla To Drop Support For All NPAPI Plugins In Firefox 52 Except Flash
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 09:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's goodbye-to-an-API department:
The Netscape Plugins API is "an ancient plugins infrastructure inherited from the old Netscape browser on which Mozilla built Firefox," according to Bleeping Computer.
But now an anonymous reader writes: Starting March 7, when Mozilla is scheduled to release Firefox 52, all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash, which Mozilla plans to support for a few more versions. This means technologies such as Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs won't work on Firefox. These plugins once helped the web move forward, but as time advanced, the Internet's standards groups developed standalone Web APIs and alternative technologies to support most of these features without the need of special plugins. The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be deprecated in ESR 53. A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.

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Which US Cities Have The Worst Malware Infection Rates?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 05 '17 at 09:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's spreading-like-a-virus department:
A new report from Enigma Software Group identifies the American cities with abnormally high infection rates for malware. An anonymous reader quotes TechRepublic:
In 2016, Tampa, Orlando, and St. Louis each had malware infection rates per capita more than five times the national average -- the highest in the U.S., the report found. Those same three cities were also at the top of the list of highest infection rates in 2015... ESG compiled malware detection data from its SpyHunter anti-spyware software in the 100 largest cities in the US in all of 2016.

Two Ohio cities also made it into the top ten for malware infection rates -- Cleveland and Cincinnati -- as well as Washington D.C. (with an infection rate 242% higher than the national average). But the infection rates drop noticeably after the top 10, with Miami (at #14) the last city with an infection rate more than double the national average. Interestingly, the top 35 cities include major high-tech centers like Seattle, Austin, Boston, and San Jose.

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