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Litebook Launches A $249 Linux Laptop
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 05:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's latest-Linux-laptops department:
An anonymous reader writes:
It's "like a Chromebook for Linux users on a budget," reports ZDNet. The new 2.9-pound Litebook uses Intel's Celeron N3150 processor and ships with a 14.1-inch display and a 512-gigabyte hard drive with full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080). For $20 more they'll throw in a 32-gigabyte SSD to speed up your boot time. "Unlike Windows laptops, Litebooks are highly optimized, come without performance hogging bloatware, [are] designed to ensure your privacy, and are entirely free of malware and viruses," writes the company's web site. They also add that their new devices "are affordable, customizable, and are backwards compatible with Windows software."

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FBI Dismisses Child Porn Case Rather Than Reveal Their Tor Browser Exploit
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 04:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-charges department:
An anonymous reader writes:
Federal prosecutors just dropped charges against a child pornography suspect rather than reveal the source code for their Tor exploit. Of the 200 cases they're prosecuting nationwide, this is only the second one where the FBI has asked that the case be dismissed. "Disclosure is not currently an option," federal prosecutors wrote in a court ruling Friday. The Department of Justice is still prosecuting 135 different people believed to have accessed an illegal child pornography web site. Before shutting it down, the FBI seized the site and operated it themselves for 13 more days, which allowed them to deploy malware to expose the users' real IP addresses.

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What Happens When Robots Can Deliver Your Groceries?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 04:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's meals-on-wheels department:
"What if you could get groceries in less than two minutes without even leaving your apartment?" asks VentureBeat. "Another beer...? Think guacamole would go extremely well with those Doritos you just opened?" Several grocery-delivery startups are already working to make this a reality. Slashdot reader moglito summarizes their vision of autonomous indoor-delivery robots from automated refrigerators servicing high-rise apartment buildings.
Coupled with AI algorithms for learning what residents like to consume, and algorithms for automatically restocking those items via a network of suppliers or logistics companies, this "bot-mart" could make grocery shopping a boring and time-consuming thing of the past... Will robots similarly reduce the need for a kitchen next?

Yes, the article also describes cooking robots (which can already prepare burgers, pizza, and sandwiches), as well as new automated delivery vehicles restaurants. "Perhaps the only question remaining is whether there is a business case for this," they point out -- though under some scenarios, it could actually prove cheaper than driving to the grocery store yourself. "Consumers will find it ever easier to get what they want, when they want it, where they want it."

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Windows 10 Build 15048 Has a Windows Mixed Reality Demo You Can Try
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 02:34 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's insider-previews department:
Microsoft's big push into mixed reality involves headsets from multiple manufacturers (including ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo), and developer kits with Acer's headset will begin a phased rollout this month. But Windows 10's latest "Insider Preview" build already includes a mixed reality simulator with a first-person 3D environment that can be navigated with the W, A, S and D keys. Slashdot reader Mark Wilson writes:
From the look of the changelog for Windows 10 build 15048 that was released a few days ago to Insiders, it looked to be little more than a bug fixing release. But in fact Microsoft has already started to include references to -- and even a portal for -- Windows Mixed Reality. We have seen reference to Windows Holographic in Windows 10 before, but this is the first time there has been anything to play with. It coincides nicely with Microsoft revealing that Windows Mixed Reality is the new name for Windows Holographic, and it gives Insiders the chance to not only see if their computer meets the recommended specs, but also to try out a Windows Mixed reality simulation.

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Microsoft Browser Usage Drops 50% As Chrome Soars
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 01:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's living-off-the-Edge department:
An anonymous reader quotes Network World's report about new statistics from analytics vendor Net Applications:
From March 2015 to February 2017, the use of Microsoft's IE and Edge on Windows personal computers plummeted. Two years ago, the browsers were run by 62% of Windows PC owners; last month, the figure had fallen by more than half, to just 27%. Simultaneous with the decline of IE has been the rise of Chrome. The user share of Google's browser -- its share of all browsers on all operating systems -- more than doubled in the last two years, jumping from 25% in March 2015 to 59.5% last month. Along the way, Chrome supplanted IE to become the world's most-used browser...
In the last 24 months, Mozilla's Firefox -- the other major browser alternative to Chrome for macOS users -- has barely budged, losing just two-tenths of a percentage point in user share. [And] in March 2015, an estimated 69% of all Mac owners used Safari to go online. But by last month, that number had dropped to 56%, a drop of 13 percentage points -- representing a decline of nearly a fifth of the share of two years prior.

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Hidden Backdoor Discovered In Chinese IoT Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 11:52 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's telnet-trouble department:
"A backdoor has been found in devices made by a Chinese tech firm specializing in VoIP products," reports TechRadar. An anonymous reader quotes their article:
Security outfit Trustwave made the discovery of a hidden backdoor in DblTek's devices which was apparently put there to allow the manufacturer access to said hardware -- but of course, it's also open to being exploited by other malicious parties. The backdoor is in the Telnet admin interface of DblTek-branded devices, and potentially allows an attacker to remotely open a shell with root privileges on the target device.

What's perhaps even more worrying is that when Trustwave contacted DblTek regarding the backdoor last autumn -- multiple times -- patched firmware was eventually released at the end of December. However, rather than removing the flaw, the vendor simply made it more difficult to access and exploit. And further correspondence with the Chinese company has apparently fallen on deaf ears.
The firmware with the hole "is present on almost every GSM-to-VoIP device which DblTek makes," and Trustwave "found hundreds of these devices on the net, and many other brands which use the same firmware, so are equally open to exploit."

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Underwater Pumped-Storage Hydroelectric Project Completes Its First Practical Test
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 11:52 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's energy-from-the-ocean department:
What if you built massive concrete spheres -- 98 feet in diameter, with 10-foot walls -- under the ocean to help generate electricity during peak periods? Slashdot reader nachtkap reports that German researchers just finished testing their 1:10-scale prototype StEnSEA:
It was retrieved from Lake Constance, where it was submerged at a depth of 100 meters [328-feet] since November. The system was developed by the Fraunhofer-Institut IWES in Kassel, Germany in collaboration with its inventors... The German Trade Department and Department of Education and Research as well as the German construction company Hochtief are also involved with the project.
The system's hollow concrete spheres are intended to be used in conjunction with off-shore wind-farms to serve as energy storage for peak hours. The spheres are ultimately supposed to be submerged near off-shore wind-farms and pumped free of water with excess energy. When additional energy is needed during peak hours the system goes into reverse and water rushes in, driving a turbine... At 700 meters the system has a capacity of 20MWh, with a linear capacity increase as depth increases.

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Third-Party Vendor Issues Temporary Patch For Windows Vulnerability
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 10:23 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's patchwork-of-patches department:
An anonymous reader writes: "A vulnerability discovered by Google Project Zero security researchers and left without a patch by Microsoft received a temporary fix from third-party security vendor ACROS Security," according to Bleeping Computer. Microsoft is set to officially patch the flaw on March 15, after it previously pushed back February's Patch Tuesday for next month.
"According to Google researchers, attackers could leverage malformed EMF files to expose data found in the victim's memory, which can then be leveraged to bypass ASLR protection and execute code on the user's computer... ACROS Security has issued a temporary patch that can be applied to Windows computers via its product, called 0patch, a platform that applies fixes for zero-days, unpatched vulnerabilities, end-of-life and unsupported products, for legacy OSes, vulnerable 3rd party components, and customized software." When Microsoft issues an official update, the temporary patch will stop working immediately.

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More Fast Food Restaurants Are Now Automating
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's may-our-kiosk-take-your-order? department:
An anonymous reader writes:
Wendy's is adding self-service ordering kiosks "to at least 1,000 restaurants, or about 15% of its stores," reports the Los Angeles Times, while McDonald's and Panera Bread are now planning to add kiosks to every restaurant. "Lots of restaurants, not just fast-food chains, are really trying to mitigate the costs of higher wages," says one market research firm, while also citing a survey which found 40% of millennials willing to use kiosks (compared to 30% of restaurant-goers overall).

But in some cases this means more work for human employees. Quartz points out that McDonalds doesn't plan to reduce its workforce after installing kiosks, and Panera Bread "has said that at some locations where it has ordering kiosks, it has actually increased human hours to help the kitchen keep up with the higher number of orders that come in through the more efficient ordering system."

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Streaming TV Sites Now Have More Subscribers Than Cable TV
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cutting-cords department:
Nielsen reported this week that millennials "spend about 27% less time watching traditional TV than viewers over the age of 35," possibly threatening the dominance of cable TV. An anonymous reader quotes Axios:
Streaming service subscribers (free or paid) increased again (68% in 2016 vs. 63% in 2014) and have caught up with the percentage of paid TV service providers (67%) for the first time ever, according to the Consumer Technology Association's new study, The Changing Landscape for Video and Content. The rise of streaming services represents a shift in consumption habits towards cord-cutting, primarily amongst millennials.

Some other trends are impossible to ignore. 2016 also saw a saw dramatic drops in the use of physical disks -- from 41% in 2015 to just 28% -- as well as another big drop in the use of antennas, from 18% to just 10%.

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Local Police Departments Are Building Their Own DNA Databases
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 07:34 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cops-vs-chromosomes department:
Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the Associated Press: Dozens of police departments around the U.S. are amassing their own DNA databases to track criminals, a move critics say is a way around regulations governing state and national databases that restrict who can provide genetic samples and how long that information is held. The local agencies create the rules for their databases, in some cases allowing samples to be taken from children or from people never arrested for a crime. Police chiefs say having their own collections helps them solve cases faster because they can avoid the backlogs that plague state and federal repositories...
Frederick Harran, the public safety director in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania...said he knows of about 60 departments using local databases... "The local databases have very, very little regulations and very few limits, and the law just hasn't caught up to them," said Jason Kreig, a law professor at the University of Arizona who has studied the issue.

One ACLU attorney cites a case where local police officers in California took DNA samples from children without even obtaining a court order first.

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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Handle A Bogus Copyright Infringement Notice?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 04:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's getting-it-wrong department:
Very long-time Slashdot reader Andy Smith writes:
Yesterday I received an email from my ISP telling me that I had illegally downloaded an animated film called Cubo and the Two Strings. I'd never heard of the film and hadn't downloaded it. The accusation came from a government-approved group called Get It Right From a Genuine Site. I contacted that group and was directed to their FAQ. Worryingly, there's no way to correct a false report. The entire FAQ is written from the position that either you, or someone on your network, definitely downloaded what you're accused of downloading. Their advice to avoid any problems with your ISP is simply to not download anything illegally again. But if they can get it wrong once, then surely they can get it wrong again. How widespread is this problem? What safeguards are in place to ensure that people aren't falsely accused? Why has the government allowed this scheme to operate without the accused having some right to defend themselves?

After advising users to check their wifi password -- and confront all the network's users about whether they've downloaded Cubo and the Two Strings -- the site concludes simply that "If there is no further activity identified for an IP address associated with your account, you will NOT receive further Educational Emails." Six weeks ago the U.K. government reported that "The campaign has now reached 21% of the population and, whilst piracy levels remain constant, it has decreased significantly among those exposed to the campaign."

Have any other Slashdot users experienced problems with bogus copyright infringement notifications? And if so, how did you handle it?

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Strange New Social Media Trend: Licking Nintendo Switch Cartridges
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '17 at 12:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bad-taste-in-videogames department:
Now that the Nintendo Switch has launched, "lots of people are just licking their video games," reports McClatchy.
According to IGN, the tech company coated the cartridges, which are roughly the size of a SIM card, in a bittering agent called denatonium benzoate, which is also used in rat poison and antifreeze to deter human consumption. The chemical is also used to deter nail-biting, per the Telegraph. Nintendo used the chemical as a safety measure to stop small children and pets from eating the cartridges. While there is no adverse health effects from consuming denatonium benzoate, it does leave a sour, bitter taste that lasts for hours, according to taste testers from BBC News, Quartz and IGN. But even as more and more people take to social media to let others know how bad the cartridges taste, more and more people seem determined to try it in what some are calling the Nintendo cartridge challenge...

"Humanity deserves no faith," opines Slashdot reader RavenLrD20k. But meanwhile on Twitter, one gamer was already complaining that their morning coffee tasted like a Nintendo Switch cartridge.

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The City of Munich Might Stick With Linux
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '17 at 09:30 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's waffling-on-Windows? department:
Munich's "LiMux" project brought FOSS software to their city's IT administration -- until a vote last month on whether to abandon Linux and return to Windows. "Since this decision was reached, the majority of media have reported that a final call was made to halt LiMux and switch back to Microsoft software," reports the Free Software Foundation Europe. "This is, however, not an accurate representation of the outcome of the city council meeting." An anonymous reader quotes their report:

The opposing parties were overruled, but the decision was amended such that the strategy document must specify which LiMux-applications will no longer be needed, the extent in which prior investments must be written off, and a rough calculation of the overall costs of the desired unification... [Only then will the city council make their final decision...] We succeeded thus far in forcing the mayor Dieter Reiter to postpone the final decision, and this was possible through the unwavering pressure created by joint efforts between The Document Foundation, KDE, OSBA, and the FSFE together with all the individuals who wrote to city council members and took the issue to the media. Although the mandate is highly suggestive in that it suggests that the existing vendor-neutral approach is to be replaced with a proprietary solution, it leaves the door open... The new mandate buys us some time. And we will keep going.

Some politicians said they'd never received this much input from the public before, and the Free Software Foundation Europe says the city's issues were caused "from organizational problems, including lack of clear structures and responsibilities," which should not be attributed to the Linux operating system. "LiMux as such is still one of the best examples of how to create a vendor-neutral administration based on Free Software."

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After 19 Years, DMOZ Will Close, Announces AOL
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '17 at 07:53 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's closing-the-Open-Directory department:
Its volunteer-edited web directory formed the basis for early search offerings from Netscape, AOL, and Google. But 19 years later, there's some bad news. koavf
writes:
As posted on the DMOZ homepage, the Open Directory Project's web listing will go offline on March 14, 2017. Founded in 1998 as "Gnuhoo", the human-curated directory once powered Google and served as a model for Wikipedia.

A 1998 Slashdot editorial prompted Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation to complain about how "Gnu" was used in the site's name. "We renamed GnuHoo to NewHoo," a blog post later explained, "but then Yahoo objected to the 'Hoo' (and our red letters, exclamation point, and 'comical font')." After being acquired for Netscape's "Open Directory Project," their URL became directory.mozilla.org, which was shortened to DMOZ. Search Engine Land predicts the memory of the Open Directory Project will still be kept alive by the NOODP meta tag.

The site was so old that its hierarchical categories were originally based on the hierarchy of Usenet newsgroups. As it nears its expiration date, do any Slashdot readers have thoughts or memories to share about DMOZ?

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Which Linux Browser Is The Fastest?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '17 at 06:30 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-of-the-web-browsers department:
ZDNet's Networking blog calls Firefox "the default web browser for most Linux distributions" and "easily the most popular Linux web browser" (with 51.7% of the vote in a recent survey by LinuxQuestions, followed by Chrome with 15.67%). But is it the fastest? An anonymous reader writes:

ZDNet's Networking blog just ran speed tests on seven modern browsers -- Firefox, Chrome, Chromium, Opera (which is also built on Chromium), GNOME Web (formerly Epiphany), and Vivaldi (an open-source fork of the old Opera code for power-users). They subjected each browser to the JavaScript test suites JetStream, Kraken, and Octane, as well as reaction speed-testing by Speedometer and scenarios from WebXPRT, adding one final test for compliance with the HTML5 standard.
The results? Firefox emerged "far above" the other browsers for the everyday tasks measured by WebXPRT, but ranked near the bottom in all of the other tests. "Taken all-in-all, I think Linux users should look to Chrome for their web browser use," concludes ZDNet's contributing editor. "When it's not the fastest, it's close to being the speediest. Firefox, more often than not, really isn't that fast. Of the rest, Opera does reasonably well. Then, Chromium and Vivaldi are still worth looking at. Gnome Web, however, especially with its dreadful HTML 5 compatibility, doesn't merit much attention." The article also reports some formerly popular Linux browsers are no longer being maintained, linking to a KDE forum discussion that concludes that Konqueror and Rekonq "are both more or less dead."

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Douglas Crockford Envisions A Post-JavaScript World
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '17 at 06:30 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's beyond-JSON department:
JavaScript developer (and JSON proponent) Douglas Crockford recently described "a theoretical post-JavaScript World," according to InfoWorld. Crockford "believes the web development staple needs a successor that can fix multiple programming nuances." An anonymous reader summarizes their report:
Despite its status as the world's most popular language, Crockford told an audience at the Oracle Code conference, "It would be sad if JavaScript turns out to be the last language." He complained that JavaScript has two different ways of declaring variables -- let and var -- as well as two different "bottom variables" with no value -- both null and undefined. "There's an argument among language designers, should we have bottom values at all? But there's nobody who thinks you should have two of them."

According to InfoWorld, Crockford "also presented a scenario with JavaScript being turned into a purely functional programming language by getting rid of 'impurities' like date, the delete operation, math.random and object.assign. Afterward, he stressed replacing JavaScript rather than adding functional capabilities to it... The next language also should be better able to deal with multiple cores. Most languages have followed the sequential model of Fortran, executing one operation after another, he said. 'That's not how the world works anymore. We now have lots of cores available to us, which all want to be running at the same time.'"
In other news, Crockford also proposed ending the "spaces vs. tabs" debate by simply eliminating tabs altogether.

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New Technique Turns Random Objects Into FM Radio Stations
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '17 at 03:35 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-static-at-all department:
"A new technology is enabling everyday objects, such as posters and clothing, to be transformed into FM radio stations," reports The Stack, citing research from the University of Washington. An anonymous reader quotes their report.

The team has introduced a technique called "backscattering" which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope that the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.

During testing, the researchers were able to use the backscattering technique to create a "singing poster" which could send out the music of an advertised band to smartphone users at a distance of up to 4 meters and to cars in an 18-meter [59-foot] radius. "What we want to do is enable smart cities and fabrics where everyday objects in outdoor environments -- whether it's posters or street signs or even the shirt you're wearing -- can 'talk' to you by sending information to your phone or car," explained lead faculty and UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering Shyam Gollakota.

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US Suspends 'Expedited' H-1B Visas
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '17 at 02:16 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-fast-tracking department:
"Starting April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions," read Friday's announcement, which says the suspension "may last up to 6 months." Slashdot reader elrous0 sees it as part of the "ongoing efforts to curb abuses in the controversial H-1B program." The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
While it could be difficult to divorce the move Friday from the Trump administration's broader immigration crackdown, some experts believed the agency's decision to be apolitical. "It has everything to do with an understaffed, overworked, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services," said Jason Finkelman, an Austin, Texas, immigration attorney, adding that the wait time for an H-1B visa in California is currently about eight months. However, Vivek Wadhwa, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus in NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, said the suspension seems like a message from the government that you "can't buy your way into America."

Whatever the motivation, Engadget believes this will impact large tech companies. "Financial Times quotes a lawyer saying that 'close to 100 percent' of applications from companies like Microsoft utilize the option."

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Facebook Begins Marking 'Fake News' As 'Disputed'
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '17 at 02:16 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fakebook department:
An anonymous reader writes:

Facebook is now marking fake news as "disputed," several sites reported today. "According to Facebook's Help Center, news stories that are reported as fake by people on Facebook may be reviewed by independent, third-party fact-checkers," writes WDRB Media. "The fact-checkers will be signatories of the non-partisan Poynter Code of Principles. A story will be marked as disputed if fact-checkers find the story to be fake."

Mashable reports that the feature was rolled out quietly, and didn't gain much attention until it was noticed Friday by a reporter from Gizmodo, who tweeted a screenshot showing Facebook's new "disputed" icon. Further investigation revealed Facebook's help center now includes a page explaining how news gets marked as disputed, and another page informing users how to mark a news story as fake (which points out this feature "isn't available to everyone yet.")

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