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We Must Slow Innovation in Internet-Connected Things, Says Bruce Schneier
Posted by News Fetcher on September 07 '18 at 08:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's warning-served department:
Bruce Schneier argues that governments must step in now to force companies developing connected gadgets to make security a priority rather than an afterthought. Schneier made these arguments in his new book titled, Click Here to Kill Everybody which is on sale now. Here's an excerpt from his interview with MIT Technology Review: Technology Review: So what do we need to do to make the Internet+ era safer? Schneier: There's no industry that's improved safety or security without governments forcing it to do so. Again and again, companies skimp on security until they are forced to take it seriously. We need government to step up here with a combination of things targeted at firms developing internet-connected devices. They include flexible standards, rigid rules, and tough liability laws whose penalties are big enough to seriously hurt a company's earnings. Technology Review: But won't things like strict liability laws have a chilling effect on innovation? Schneier: Yes, they will chill innovation -- but that's what's needed right now! The point is that innovation in the Internet+ world can kill you. We chill innovation in things like drug development, aircraft design, and nuclear power plants because the cost of getting it wrong is too great. We're past the point where we need to discuss regulation versus no-regulation for connected things; we have to discuss smart regulation versus stupid regulation. Technology Review: There's a fundamental tension here, though, isn't there? Governments also like to exploit vulnerabilities for spying, law enforcement, and other activities. Schneier: Governments are certainly poachers as well as gamekeepers. I think we'll resolve this long-standing tension between offense and defense eventually, but it's going to be a long, hard slog to get there.

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Pretty Clear GRU's Goal Was To Weaken a Future Clinton Presidency, Former Facebook CSO Says
Posted by News Fetcher on September 07 '18 at 06:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt tech conference this week, former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos reflected on his time dealing with fake news and Russian intelligence interference ahead and after the 2016 US presidential election. From a report: The former Facebook security head said "it [was] pretty clear the GRU's goal was to weaken a future Hillary presidency. Putin has a [you know, it's been well-documented] like a personal antipathy towards her and believes that she was behind the protests against him in the 2012 Russian election, and so, the GRU activity was specifically focused on weakening her." "I think it was less about actually electing Trump," Stamos added. "I find it unlikely that the Russians are better than Nate Silver at predicting elections." What kind of attacks could we expect in the near future? Per Stamos, "Throwing an election one way or another is going to be very difficult for a foreign adversary but throwing any election into chaos is totally doable right now."

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Elon Musk Takes a Fatalistic View Toward AI
Posted by News Fetcher on September 07 '18 at 06:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's magnet department:
Elon Musk sat down with California comedian Joe Rogan on Thursday evening for a 2 1/2-hour podcast [YouTube video] that touched upon everything from flamethrowers and artificial intelligence to the end of the universe. Talking about AI, a subject Musk has long been very vocal about, he said artificial intelligence could turn out to be terrible or it could end up being great, but one thing that is certain is that it will be beyond human's control. From a report: "You kind of have to be optimistic about the future. There's no point in being pessimistic," said the head of Tesla and SpaceX. "I rather be optimistic and wrong, than pessimistic and right. [...] It's not necessarily bad, but it's going to be outside of human control. It's going to be very tempting to use AI as a weapon, said Musk. "It will be used as a weapon. The on ramp to serious AI will be more humans using it against eachother. That will be the danger." Musk says he has tried to convince people to slow down where AI is concerned and regulate it, but nobody listened. "The way that regulation works is slow. Usually there will be some new technology that will cause damage or death, there will be an outcry, there will be an investigation," said the Tesla CEO. "Years will pass, there will be some insight committee, then rule making and oversight and eventually regulations. This all takes many years. This is the normal course of things." Musk used the example that it took ten years for seatbelts to become required, even though the number of deaths were obvious. He says this time frame doesn't work for AI. "We can't wait ten years to the point where something is dangerous to do something about AI. It will be too late," said Musk.

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Huawei Caught Cheating Performance Test For New Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on September 07 '18 at 05:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's can't-say-I'm-surprised department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: UL, the company behind the tablet and phone performance benchmark app 3DMark, has delisted new Huawei phones from its "Best Smartphone" leaderboard after AnandTech discovered the phone maker was boosting its performance to ace the app's test. The phones delisted were the P20, P20 Pro, Nova 3 and the Honor Play. "After testing the devices in our own lab and confirming that they breach our rules, we have decided to delist the affected models and remove them from our performance rankings," the company said in a statement.

For the Huawei case, the rules are actually a little fuzzy. Phones are permitted to adjust performance based on workload, which results in peaks or dips in performance for different apps, but they are not permitted to hard-code peaks in performance specifically for the benchmark app. Huawei reportedly claimed that the peak in performance seen during the run of the benchmark app was an intuitive jump determined by AI; however, when an unlabeled version of the benchmark test was run, the phones were unable to recognize it and, as a result, displayed lower performances. In other words, the phones aren't so smart after all.

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NASA Is Offerring $1 Million To Turn CO2 Into Sugar
Posted by News Fetcher on September 07 '18 at 02:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's turn-water-into-wine department:
NASA is challenging people in the United States to come up with an efficient method to convert carbon dioxide into glucose, a simple sugar. The atmosphere of Mars consists predominantly of CO2 (95%), and glucose is a great fuel for microbe-milking "bioreactors" that could manufacture a variety of items for future settlers of the Red Planet, NASA officials said. Space.com reports: The new competition consists of two phases. During Phase 1, applicants submit a detailed description of their CO2-to-glucose conversion system. Interested parties must register by Jan. 24, 2019 and submit their proposals by Feb. 28, 2019. In April, NASA will announce the selection of up to five finalists from this initial crop, each of whom will receive $50,000. Phase 2 will involve the construction and demonstration of a conversion system. Winning this round is worth $750,000, bringing the competition's total purse to $1 million (assuming five finalists are indeed selected from Phase 1). You don't have to win, or even participate in, Phase 1 to compete in Phase 2. The challenge is open to citizens and permanent residents of the United States; foreign nationals can compete if they're part of a U.S.-based team. To register or learn more, go to the CO2 Conversion Challenge website.

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World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Opens Off Northwest England
Posted by News Fetcher on September 07 '18 at 12:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bigger-is-better department:
The world's largest offshore wind farm has opened off the northwest coast of England. "The wind farm has a capacity of 659 megawatts (MW), enough to power almost 600,000 homes, and overtakes the London Array off England's east cost which has a capacity of 630 MW," reports Reuters. From the report: The Walney Extension (as it is called) is made up of 87 turbines built by Siemens Gamesa and MHI Vestas, and covers 145 square kilometers (55 square miles), which is equivalent to around 20,000 football pitches. The 40 eight-megawatt MHI Vestas turbines being used stand 195 meters (213 yards) tall and are the largest wind turbines in operation globally. Britain is the world's largest offshore wind market, hosting 36 percent of globally installed offshore wind capacity, data from the Global Wind Energy Council showed. Walney Extension was among the first renewable projects to secure a so-called contract for difference (CFD) subsidy from the British government in 2014. The contract guarantees it a minimum price for electricity of 150 pounds ($195) per megawatt hour (MWh) for 15 years. You can view some drone footage of the offshore windfarm via Orsted.

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Study Finds Probiotics 'Not As Beneficial For Gut Health As Previously Thought'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 08:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's contrary-to-popular-belief department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The gut microbiome is the sum total of all the micro-organisms living in a person's gut, and has been shown to play a huge role in human health. New research has found probiotics -- usually taken as supplements or in foods such as yoghurt, kimchi or kefir -- can hinder a patient's gut microbiome from returning to normal after a course of antibiotics, and that different people respond to probiotics in dramatically different ways. In the first of two papers published in the journal Cell, researchers performed endoscopies and colonoscopies to sample and study the gut microbiomes of people who took antibiotics before and after probiotic consumption. Another group were given samples of their own gut microbiomes collected before consuming antibiotics. The researchers found the microbiomes of those who had taken the probiotics had suffered a "very severe disturbance." "Once the probiotics had colonized the gut, they completely inhibited the return of the indigenous microbiome which was disrupted during antibiotic treatment," said Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and lead author on the studies.

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380,000 Card Payments Compromised In British Airways Breach
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 08:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sorry-not-sorry department:
Earlier today, British Airways said credit card information of at least 380,000 customers have been "compromised" in a data breach that occurred between August 21 and September 5. The information stolen includes customer names, email addresses, home addresses and payment card information -- but not travel or passport details. Sky News reports: In an email to affected customers, BA said: "We're deeply sorry, but you may have been affected. We recommend that you contact your bank or credit card provider and follow their recommended advice. We take the protection of your personal information very seriously. Please accept our deepest apologies for the worry and inconvenience that this criminal activity has caused." The breach has been "resolved" and the website is "working normally," it said. In a statement, the airline added: "We have notified the police and relevant authorities... [and] will continue to keep our customers updated with the very latest information. We will be contacting customers and will manage any claims on an individual basis."

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Icelanders Seek To Keep Remote Nordic Peninsula Digital-Free
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 05:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's no-cellphones-allowed department:
Hikers, park rangers, and summer residents of Iceland's northernmost peninsula are seeking to keep the area free from internet service, worrying that all that comes with it "will destroy a way of life that depends on the absence of [email, news, and social media]," reports the Associated Press. "The area has long resisted cell towers, but commercial initiatives could take the decision out of Icelanders' hands and push Hornstrandir across the digital divide." From the report: Despite or because of its remoteness, Iceland ranks first on a U.N. index comparing nations by information technology use, with roughly 98 percent of the population using the internet. Among adults, 93 percent report having Facebook accounts and two-thirds are Snapchat users, according to pollster MMR. Many people who live in northwestern Iceland or visit as outdoor enthusiasts want Hornstrandir's 570 square kilometers (220 square miles), which accounts for 0.6 percent of Iceland's land mass, to be declared a "digital-free zone." The idea hasn't coalesced into a petition or formal campaign, so what it would require or prohibit hasn't been fleshed out. The last full-time resident of the rugged area moved away in 1952 -- it never was an easy place to farm -- but many descendants have turned family farmsteads into summer getaways. Northwest Iceland's representative, Halla Signy Kristjansdottir, is in favor of adding cell towers for the safety of sailors and travelers in the area. "I don't see anything romantic about lying on the ground with a broken thigh bone and no cellphone signal," Kristjansdottir said in an interview.

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Valve Explains How It Decides Who's a 'Straight Up Troll' Publishing Video Games On Steam
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 05:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Wednesday, Valve, the company that operates the huge online video game store Steam, shared more details about how it plans to control and moderate the ever-increasing number of games published on its platform. In the post published Wednesday, Valve shared more details about how it determines what it considers "outright trolling." "It is vague and we'll tell you why," Valve wrote. "You're a denizen of the internet so you know that trolls come in all forms. On Steam, some are simply trying to rile people up with something we call 'a game shaped object' (ie: a crudely made piece of software that technically and just barely passes our bar as a functioning video game but isn't what 99.9% of folks would say is "good.")

Valve goes on to explain that some trolls are trying to scam folks out of their Steam inventory items (digital items that can be traded for real money), while others are trying to generate a small amount of money through a variety of schemes that have to do with how developers use keys to unlock Steam games, while others are trying to "incite and sow discord." "Trolls are figuring out new ways to be loathsome as we write this," Valve said. "But the thing these folks have in common is that they aren't actually interested in good faith efforts to make and sell games to you or anyone. When a developer's motives aren't that, they're probably a troll." One interesting observation Valve shares in the blog post is that it rarely bans individual games from Steam, and more often bans developers and/or publishers entirely. [...] Valve said that its review process for determining that something may be a "troll game" is a "deep assessment" that involves investigating who the developer is, what they've done in the past, their behavior on Steam as a developer, as a customer, their banking information, developers they associate with, and more.

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Professor Who Coined Term 'Net Neutrality' Thinks It's Time To Break Up Facebook
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easier-said-than-done department:
pgmrdlm shares a report from The Verge: Best known for coining the phrase "net neutrality" and his book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, Wu has a new book coming out in November called The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age. In it, he argues compellingly for a return to aggressive antitrust enforcement in the style of Teddy Roosevelt, saying that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other huge tech companies are a threat to democracy as they get bigger and bigger. "We live in America, which has a strong and proud tradition of breaking up companies that are too big for inefficient reasons," Wu told me on this week's Vergecast. "We need to reverse this idea that it's not an American tradition. We've broken up dozens of companies."

"I think if you took a hard look at the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, the argument that the effects of those acquisitions have been anticompetitive would be easy to prove for a number of reasons," says Wu. And breaking up the company wouldn't be hard, he says. "What would be the harm? You'll have three competitors. It's not 'Oh my god, if you get rid of WhatsApp and Instagram, well then the whole world's going to fall apart.' It would be like 'Okay, now you have some companies actually trying to offer you an alternative to Facebook.'" Breaking up Facebook (and other huge tech companies like Google and Amazon) could be simple under the current law, suggests Wu. But it could also lead to a major rethinking of how antitrust law should work in a world where the giant platform companies give their products away for free, and the ability for the government to restrict corporate power seems to be diminishing by the day. And it demands that we all think seriously about the conditions that create innovation. "I think everyone's steering way away from the monopolies, and I think it's hurting innovation in the tech sector," says Wu.

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MIT Graduate Creates Robot That Swims Through Pipes To Find Out If They're Leaking
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's leak-detecting department:
A 28-year-old MIT graduate named You Wu spent six years developing a low-cost robot designed to find leaks in pipes early, both to save water and to avoid bigger damage later from bursting water mains. "Called Lighthouse, the robot looks like a badminton birdie," reports Fast Company. "A soft 'skirt' on the device is covered with sensors. As it travels through pipes, propelled by the flowing water, suction tugs at the device when there's a leak, and it records the location, making a map of critical leaks to fix." From the report: MIT doctoral student You Wu spent six years developing the design, building on research that earlier students began under a project sponsored by a university in Saudi Arabia, where most drinking water comes from expensive desalination plants and around a third of it is lost to leaks. It took three years before he had a working prototype. Then Wu got inspiration from an unexpected source: At a party with his partner, he accidentally stepped on her dress. She noticed immediately, unsurprisingly, and Wu realized that he could use a similar skirt-like design on a robot so that the robot could detect subtle tugs from the suction at each leak. Wu graduated from MIT in June, and is now launching the technology through a startup called WatchTower Robotics. The company will soon begin pilots in Australia and in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One challenge now, he says, is creating a guide so water companies can use the device on their own.

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Blockchains Are Not Safe For Voting, Concludes NAP Report
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 02:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ensuring-the-integrity-of-elections department:
The National Academies Press has released a 156-page report, called "Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy," concluding that blockchains are not safe for the U.S. election system. "While the notion of using a blockchain as an immutable ballot box may seem promising, blockchain technology does little to solve the fundamental security issues of elections, and indeed, blockchains introduce additional security vulnerabilities," the report states. "In particular, if malware on a voter's device alters a vote before it ever reaches a blockchain, the immutability of the blockchain fails to provide the desired integrity, and the voter may never know of the alteration." The report goes on to say that "Blockchains do not provide the anonymity often ascribed to them." It continues: "In the particular context of elections, voters need to be authorized as eligible to vote and as not having cast more than one ballot in the particular election. Blockchains do not offer means for providing the necessary authorization. [...] If a blockchain is used, then cast ballots must be encrypted or otherwise anonymized to prevent coercion and vote-selling." The New York Times summarizes the findings: The cautiously worded report calls for conducting all federal, state and local elections on paper ballots by 2020. Its other top recommendation would require nationwide use of a specific form of routine postelection audit to ensure votes have been accurately counted. The panel did not offer a price tag for its recommended overhaul. New York University's Brennan Center has estimated that replacing aging voting machines over the next few years could cost well over $1 billion. The 156-page report [...] bemoans a rickety system compromised by insecure voting equipment and software whose vulnerabilities were exposed more than a decade ago and which are too often managed by officials with little training in cybersecurity.

< article continued at Slashdot's ensuring-the-integrity-of-elections department >

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Software Developers Are Now More Valuable To Companies Than Money, Says Survey
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 02:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-breed-of-corporate-leaders department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: As our global economy increasingly comes to run on technology-enabled rails and every company becomes a tech company, demand for high-quality software engineers is at an all-time high. A recent study from Stripe and Harris Poll found that 61 percent of C-suite executives believe access to developer talent is a threat to the success of their business. Perhaps more surprisingly -- as we mark a decade after the financial crisis -- this threat was even ranked above capital constraints. And yet, despite being many corporations' most precious resource, developer talents are all too often squandered. Collectively, companies today lose upward of $300 billion a year paying down "technical debt," as developers pour time into maintaining legacy systems or dealing with the ramifications of bad software. This is especially worrisome, given the outsized impact developers have on companies' chances of success. Software developers don't have a monopoly on good ideas, but their skill set makes them a uniquely deep source of innovation, productivity and new economic connections. When deployed correctly, developers can be economic multipliers -- coefficients that dramatically ratchet up the output of the teams and companies of which they're a part.

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Computer Chips Are Still 'Made in USA'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 01:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
For all the wishful thinking about manufacturing more laptops and iPhones in the U.S., there is one sector of tech manufacturing where America remains a leader: computer chips. From a report: Some $44 billion worth of semiconductors are exported from the U.S. each year, making them America's fourth leading manufacturing export after cars, airplanes and refined oil. There are roughly 80 wafer fabrication plants (aka fabs) in the U.S., spread across 19 states. [...] An even greater share of the world's computer chips are designed domestically and made overseas by companies including Qualcomm, Apple, Broadcom and Nvidia. A bunch of the high-tech gear needed to produce chips is also designed and/or made in the U.S.

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'I've Seen the Future of Consumer AI, and it Doesn't Have One'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 01:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's there-is-no-spoon department:
Andrew Orlowski of The Register recounts all the gadgets supercharged with AI that he came across at IFA tradeshow last week -- and wonders what value AI brought to the table. He writes: I didn't see a blockchain toothbrush at IFA in Berlin last week, but I'm sure there was one lurking about somewhere. With 30 vast halls to cover, I didn't look too hard for it. But I did see many things almost as tragic that no one could miss -- AI being squeezed into almost every conceivable bit of consumer electronics. But none were convincing. If ever there was a solution looking for a problem, it's ramming AI into gadgets to show of a company's machine learning prowess. For the consumer it adds unreliability, cost and complexity, and the annoyance of being prompted. [...] Back to LG, which takes 2018's prize for sticking AI into a superfluous gadget. The centrepiece of its AI efforts this year is a robot, ClOi. Put Google Assistant or Alexa on wheels, and you have ClOi. I asked the booth person what exactly ClOi could do to be told "it can take notes for your shopping list." Why wasn't this miracle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution let loose on the LG floor? I wondered -- a question answered by this account of ClOi's debut at CES in January. Clearly things haven't improved much -- this robot buddy was kept indoors.

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400,000 Websites Vulnerable Through Exposed<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.git Directories
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Open .git directories are a bigger cybersecurity problem than many might imagine, at least according to a Czech security researcher who discovered almost 400,000 web pages with an open .git directory possibly exposing a wide variety of data. From a report: Vladimir Smitka began his .git directory odyssey in July when he began looking at Czech websites to find how many were improperly configured and allow access to their .git folders within the file versions repository. Open .git directories are a particularly dangerous issue, he said, because they can contain a great deal of sensitive information. "Information about the website's structure, and sometimes you can get very sensitive data such as database passwords, API keys, development IDE settings, and so on. However, this data shouldn't be stored in the repository, but in previous scans of various security issues, I have found many developers that do not follow these best practices," Smitka wrote. Smitka queried 230 million websites to discover the 390,000 allowing access to their .git directories. The vast majority of the websites with open directories had a .com TLD with .net, .de, .org and uk comprising most of the others.

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'Eve Online' Studio Acquired By Korean MMO Maker
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's in-some-business-news department:
MAXOMENOS writes: EVE Online developer CCP Games has been acquired by Pearl Abyss, the South Korean studio behind the action-oriented MMORPG Black Desert Online. According to VentureBeat, the deal was worth $425 million and will close in early October. It's a surprise announcement for CCP, which has long operated as an independent developer. Eve Online isn't the biggest MMORPG on the market, but it has maintained a steady and loyal userbase through continuous updates and a well-timed switch to a hybrid premium and free-to-play model. The 15-year-old game is unique, too, with its large-scale battles and notoriously complex economic and political systems.

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Google Investigating Issue With Blurry Fonts on new Chrome 69
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's blurry-texts department:
Since the release of Chrome 69 earlier this week, countless of users have gone on social media and Google Product Forums to complain about "blurry" or "fuzzy" text inside Chrome. ZDNet: The blurred font issue isn't only limited to text rendered inside a web page, users said, but also for the text suggestions displayed inside the address bar search drop-down, and Chrome's Developer Tools panel. [...] According to reports, the issue only manifests for Chrome 69 users on Windows. Those who rolled back to Chrome 68 stopped having problems. Users said that changing Chrome, operating system, or screen DPI settings didn't help. "Our team is investigating reports of this behavior. You can find more information in this public bug report," a Google spokesperson said last night after first user complaints started surfacing online. Some users have also expressed concerns over Chrome not showing "trivial subdomains" including www and secure lock sign in the address bar.

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Tor Browser Gets a Redesign, Switches To New Firefox Quantum Engine
Posted by News Fetcher on September 06 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
The Tor Browser has rolled out a new interface with the release of v8. From a report: The Tor Browser has always been based on the Firefox codebase, but it lagged behind a few releases. Mozilla rolled out a major overhaul of the Firefox codebase in November 2017, with the release of Firefox 57, the first release in the Firefox Quantum series. Firefox Quantum came with a new page rendering engine, a new add-ons API, and a new user interface called the Photon UI. Because these were major, code-breaking changes, it took the smaller Tor team some time to integrate all of them into the Tor Browser codebase and make sure everything worked as intended. The new Tor Browser 8, released yesterday, is now in sync with the most recent version of Firefox, the Quantum release, and also supports all of its features. This means the Tor Browser now uses the same modern Photon UI that current Firefox versions use, it supports the same speed-optimized page rendering engine and has also dropped support for the old XUL-based add-ons system for the new WebExtensions API system used by Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and the rest of the Chromium browsers.

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