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GitHub Hacked
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '12 at 06:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's crack-in-the-wall department:
MrSeb writes "Over the weekend, developer Egor Homakov exploited a gaping vulnerability in GitHub that allowed him (or anyone else with basic hacker know-how) to gain administrator access to projects such as Ruby on Rails, Linux, and millions of others. GitHub uses the Ruby on Rails application framework, and Rails has been weak to what's known as a mass-assignment vulnerability for years. Basically, Homakov exploited this vulnerability to add his public key to the Rails project on GitHub, which then meant that GitHub identified him as an administrator of the project. From here, he could effectively do anything, including deleting the entire project from the web; instead, he posted a fairly comical commit. GitHub summarily suspended Homakov, fixed the hole, and, after 'reviewing his activity,' he has been reinstated. Homakov could've gained administrative access to the master branch of any project on GitHub and deleted the history, committed junk, or closed or opened tracker tickets."

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Video Captchas are Hard for Computers to Understand but Easy for Humans (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '12 at 06:00 AM
By Roblimo from Slashdot's who-do-you-think-you-are department:
A new company called NuCaptcha provides animated video captchas it says are much harder for OCR-based programs to crack than static captchas, but lots easier for humans to figure out. While at the 2012 RSA conference, Timothy Lord pointed his camcorder at NuCaptcha CTO Christopher Bailey, and had him explain how video captchas work and how the company makes money. The video includes demos of the video captchas so you can see what they look like, and the company's website has lots more video captcha examples.)

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Microsoft Seeks Patent For "Search By Sketch"
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '12 at 05:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's composite-search department:
theodp writes "So, how does one search for images that aren't tagged with keywords? Google does offer its sometimes-spotty search by image, but what if you don't have an image handy that looks like what you're searching for? Microsoft, reports GeekWire, offers a solution that's 'a little like playing Pictionary with a search engine — drawing a sketch and seeing if the algorithm can return pictures that match it.' That's the concept behind Microsoft Research's patent-pending 'MindFinder' project, which has already been incorporated into a Windows Phone app called Sketch Match. A patent application made public Thursday notes that touch computing makes sketching easier than ever, making one wonder if we'll be 'giving Bing the finger' with Windows 8!"

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AT&T Clarifies Data Limitations On "Unlimited" Data Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on March 05 '12 at 02:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means department:
MojoKid writes "Several months ago, AT&T notified customers that it would begin throttling network speeds for users who exceeded a certain threshold, with the definitive throttle point defined as an imprecise "the top 5% of mobile data users." The company has issued a statement clarifying this policy after irate customers with unlimited data plans demanded to know what the cap was and how the company determined who should and shouldn't be throttled. The magic number is 3GB, which conveniently happens to be the maximum amount of tiered bandwidth AT&T will sell you. So why would AT&T want unlimited users to move to tiered pricing when its maximum tier is also set at 3GB? Simple — the amount of money the company makes on customers who exceed that 3GB limit. The fine print reads: 'If 3GB is exceeded, an additional 1 GB is automatically provided at a rate of $10 for each additional 1 GB.' Anyone using above 3GB on an unlimited plan is a customer who isn't paying enough for the privilege (from AT&T's perspective)."

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Man Convicted For Helping Thousands Steal Internet Access
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 11:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's free-web department:
angry tapir writes "An Oregon man has been convicted of seven courts of wire fraud for helping thousands of people steal Internet service. Ryan Harris, 26, of Redmond, Oregon, was convicted by a jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He faces a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to US$250,000 on each of the seven counts."

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Iran's Smart Concrete Can Cope With Earthquakes and Bombs
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 08:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's built-tough department:
PolygamousRanchKid writes "Iran is an earthquake zone, so its engineers have developed some of the toughest building materials in the world. Ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) could also be used to protect hidden nuclear installations from the artificial equivalent of small earthquakes, namely bunker-busting bombs. UHPC is based—like its quotidian cousins—on sand and cement. In addition, though, it is doped with powdered quartz (the pure stuff, rather than the tainted variety that makes up most sand) and various reinforcing metals and fibers. UHPC can withstand more compression than other forms of concrete. UHPC is also more flexible and durable than conventional concrete. It can therefore be used to make lighter and more slender structures. All of which is fine and dandy for safer dams and better sewers, which threaten no one. But UHPC's potential military applications are more intriguing—and for many, more worrying. Deep bunkers can be tackled in other ways. America's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has looked at what is known in the jargon as functional defeat, in other words bombing their entrances shut or destroying their electrical systems with electromagnetic pulses. They are also working on active penetrators—bombs which can tunnel through hundreds of meters of earth, rock and concrete. Development work is also under way on esoteric devices such as robot snakes, carrying warheads, which can infiltrate via air ducts and cable runs."

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FTC Attorney Joins Microsoft
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 05:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's stacking-the-deck department:
inode_buddha writes "Randall Long a senior attorney who led several antitrust investigations against Google has been hired by Microsoft. From the article: 'The software giant told the Wall Street Journal yesterday that it hired Randall Long, an official at the FTC's Bureau of Competition. When he joins the software giant at the end of the month, Long will head up Microsoft's regulatory affairs division in Washington.

Long was involved in FTC reviews of Google's acquisitions of both DoubleClick and AdMob. According to the Journal's unnamed sources, Long was especially outspoken about Google's AdMob acquisition, saying that the FTC should challenge the deal. His reservations were eventually set aside and the deal was approved in 2010.'"


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Nearly Half of American Adults Are Smartphone Owners
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 04:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's gentlemen-start-your-apps department:
First time accepted submitter saiful76 writes "Nearly half (46%) of American adults are smartphone owners as of February 2012, an increase of 11 percentage points over the 35% of Americans who owned a smartphone last May. Two in five adults (41%) own a cell phone that is not a smartphone, meaning that smartphone owners are now more prevalent within the overall population than owners of more basic mobile phones."

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Have We Lost Our Privacy To the Internet?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 03:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's tell-us-everything department:
An anonymous reader writes "An article in the Guardian, penned by Joss Wright and Tom Chatfield, discusses whether we — as in Internet users in general — are, or indeed are not, giving away way too much information about ourselves to large Corporations that profit handsomely from mining the info. The article talks about how contemporary internet companies — perhaps predictably — are run with a 'privacy is dead' motto. It considers what implications having all your private data out on the internet — where it can be seen, searched, shared, retransmitted, perhaps archived forever without your consent — has for the 'future of our society' (by which the authors presumably mean the society of the UK). The (rather long) article ends by mentioning that Gmail scans your email, that Facebook apps frequently send your private data right to the app developer, that iPhones are known to log your geographic location, and that some smartphone apps read your address book and messages, then dial home to transmit this info to the company that developed the app."

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Asteroid Will Make Close Pass To Earth
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 01:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's skin-of-your-teeth department:
The Bad Astronomer writes "News is starting to spread about a small 45-meter-wide asteroid called 2012 DA14 that will make a close pass to Earth on February 15, 2013. However, some of these articles are claiming it has 'a good chance' of impacting the Earth. This is simply incorrect; the odds of an impact next year are essentially zero. Farther in the future the odds are unclear; another near pass may occur in 2020, but right now the uncertainties in the asteroid's orbit are too large to know much about that. More observations of DA14 are being made, and we should have better information about future encounters soon."

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Did the Titanic Sink Due To an Optical Illusion?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 12:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's that's-no-iceberg department:
Hugh Pickens writes "According to new research by British historian Tim Maltin, records by several ships in the area where the Titanic sank show atmospheric conditions were ripe for super refraction, a bending of light that caused a false horizon that concealed the iceberg that sank the Titanic in a mirage layer preventing the Titanic's lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time to avoid collision. According to the new theory, Titanic was sailing from Gulf Stream waters into the frigid Labrador Current, where the air column was cooling from the bottom up, creating a thermal inversion with layers of cold air below layers of warmer air creating a superior mirage. The theory also explains why the freighter Californian was unable to identify the Titanic on the moonless night because even though the Titanic sailed into the Californian's view, it appeared too small to be the great ocean liner. The abnormally stratified air may also have disrupted signals sent by the Titanic by Morse Lamp to the California to no avail. This is not the first time atmospheric conditions have been postulated as a factor in the disaster that took 1,517 lives. An investigation in 1992 by the British government's Marine Accident Investigation Branch also suggested that super refraction may have played a role in the disaster (PDF See page 13), but that possibility went unexplored until Maltin mined weather records, survivors' testimony and long-forgotten ships' logs."

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Star Wars Conceptual Artist Ralph McQuarrie Dies at 82
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 11:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's may-the-force-be-with-you department:
First time accepted submitter puddingebola writes "Ralph McQuarrie, the conceptual designer that created the look of characters such as Darth Vader, Chewbacca and R2-D2, and helped design sets and scenes for George Lucas has passed away at 82. From the article: 'The success of his "Star Wars" paintings launched a late feature film career for McQuarrie that included helping design such classics as "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial," "Back to the Future," "Cocoon," "Total Recall," and the original TV series "Battlestar Galactica."'"

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Museum of Engineered Organisms Opens In Pittsburgh
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 10:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's it's-alive-alive department:
qeorqe writes "The Center for PostNatural History is a museum and research library about organisms that have been created either by genetic engineering or selective breeding. Included in the collection are Sea Monkeys and GloFish. From the article: 'One of the cool things about natural history museums is that they show you how nature has changed over time, adapting to volatile conditions and extreme challenges. And nothing is more volatile, extreme, or challenging than the human race, so it makes sense that there would be a museum to chronicle just how much we’ve messed with plants, animals, the climate, and in general the world around us. The Center for PostNatural History, opening this week in Pittsburgh, is that museum.'"

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Ask Slashdot: Using Company Laptop For Personal Use
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 09:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home department:
An anonymous reader writes "I'm starting a new job soon, and I will be issued a work laptop. For obvious reasons I cannot name any names, but I can state that I do expect my employer to have tracking software on the laptop, and I expect to not be the administrator on the device. That being said, I am not the kind of person who can just 'not browse the internet.' If I ever have to travel with this laptop, I may want to read an ebook or watch a movie or maybe even play a game. I can make an image of the drive, then wipe the machine, and restore it back to its former state if I ever have to return it. I can use portable apps off a usb key and browse in private mode. The machine will be encrypted, but I can also make myself my own little encrypted folder or partition perhaps. Are there any other precautions I could or should take?"

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The Vortex Gun Coming Soon To a Protest Near You
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 08:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's don't-vortex-me-bro department:
An anonymous reader writes "Vortex technology has been used in everything from rocket-powered fire extinguishers to Nerf guns, but neither of those things are capable of giving the beat-down to hapless protesters. By giving spinning vortices an electric charge, though, pepper spray can be sent over 150 feet at between 60 and 90 mph. A vortex gun uses a pressure wave and a carefully designed barrel to fire donut-shaped rings of air that can hold themselves together over long distances. The military (starting with the German military during World War II) has been running experiments with using vortex canons to knock things over, but it's not a particularly efficient or effective way to go. What the gas rings can be used for is transporting other gasses (like pepper spray or tear gas or pesticide) long distances with a decent amount of accuracy, holding their cargo inside the calm center spinning vortex"

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$10,000 Prize For Connecting Businesses With Government Data
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 07:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's working-for-the-man department:
First time accepted submitter InsertCleverUsername writes "The Department of Commerce has announced a $10,000 contest for developers making apps to utilize Commerce and other publicly available data and information to support American businesses. Developers must use at least one Department of Commerce dataset to create an application that assists businesses and/or improves the service delivery of Business.USA.gov to the business community. Developers may choose any platform. A list of developer-friendly data sets can be found on the Business Data and Tools page of Data.gov."

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Math Textbooks a Textbook Example of Bad Textbooks
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 06:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's bottom-of-the-barrel department:
theodp writes "Over at Salon, Annie Keeghan does an Upton Sinclair number on the math textbook industry. In recent years, Keeghan explains, math has become the subject du jour due to government initiatives and efforts to raise the rankings of lagging U.S. students. But with state and local budgets constrained, math textbook publishers competing for fewer available dollars are rushing their products to market before their competitors, resulting in product that in many instances is inherently, tragically flawed. Keeghan writes: 'There may be a reason you can't figure out some of those math problems in your son or daughter's math text and it might have nothing at all to do with you. That math homework you're trying to help your child muddle through might include problems with no possible solution. It could be that key information or steps are missing, that the problem involves a concept your child hasn't yet been introduced to, or that the math problem is structurally unsound for a host of other reasons.' The comments on Keeghan's article are also an eye-opener — here's a sample: 'Sales and marketing budgets are astronomical because the expenses pay off more than investments in product. Sadly, most teachers are not curriculum experts and are swayed by the surface pitches. Teachers make the decisions, but are not the users (students) nor are they spending their own money. As a result, products that make their lives easier and that come with free meals and gifts are the most successful.' So, can open source or competitions build better math textbooks?"

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Patent Attorneys Sued For Copyright Infringement
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 05:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's sibling-fights-are-the-worst-fights department:
Zordak writes "Patent blogger Dennis Crouch writes on Patently-O of a catch-22 for attorneys. Patent attorneys are required to submit all prior art that they know of to the patent office. Failing to do so is an ethical violation, and can result in a patent being invalidated. But now the Hoboken Publishing Company and the American Institute of Physics are suing a major patent firm for copyright infringement, because they submit articles to the patent office without paying a separate royalty."

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Anonymous, Decentralized and Uncensored File-Sharing Is Booming
Posted by News Fetcher on March 04 '12 at 02:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's can't-stop-the-signal department:
PatPending writes with this excerpt from TorrentFreak:
"The RetroShare network allows people to create a private and encrypted file-sharing network. Users add friends by exchanging PGP certificates with people they trust. All the communication is encrypted using OpenSSL and files that are downloaded from strangers always go through a trusted friend. In other words, it's a true Darknet and virtually impossible to monitor by outsiders. RetroShare founder DrBob told us that while the software has been around since 2006, all of a sudden there's been a surge in downloads. 'The interest in RetroShare has massively shot up over the last two months,' he said."

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Why Did It Take So Long To Invent the Wheel?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '12 at 11:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-blame-the-schools department:
Hugh Pickens writes "Wheels are the archetype of a primitive, caveman-level technology, and we tend to think that inventing the wheel was the number one item on man's to-do list after learning to walk upright. But LiveScience reports that it took until the bronze age (3500 BC), when humans were already casting metal alloys and constructing canals and sailboats, for someone to invent the wheel-and-axle, a task so challenging archaeologists say it probably happened only once, in one place. The tricky thing about the wheel isn't a cylinder rolling on its edge, but figuring out how to connect a stable, stationary platform to that cylinder. 'The stroke of brilliance was the wheel-and-axle concept,' says David Anthony, author of The Horse, the Wheel, and Language. To make a fixed axle with revolving wheels, the ends of the axle have to be nearly perfectly smooth and round, as did the holes in the center of the wheels. The axles have to fit snugly inside the wheels' holes, but not too snug, or there will be too much friction for the wheels to turn. But the real reason it took so long is that whoever invented the wheel would have needed metal tools to chisel fine-fitted holes and axles. 'It was the carpentry that probably delayed the invention until 3500 BC or so, because it was only after about 4000 BC that cast copper chisels and gouges became common in the Near East.'"

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