By BeauHD from Slashdot's here-we-go-again department
Ben Klemens writes via Ars Technica: A landmark 2014 ruling by the Supreme Court called into question the validity of many software patents. In the wake of that ruling, countless broad software patents became invalid, dealing a blow to litigation-happy patent trolls nationwide. But this week the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) proposed new rules that would make it easier to patent software. If those rules take effect, it could take us back to the bad old days when it was easy to get broad software patents -- and to sue companies that accidentally infringe them.
The Federal Circuit Appeals Court is the nation's highest patent court below the Supreme Court, and it is notoriously patent friendly. Ever since the Supreme Court's 2014 ruling, known as Alice v. CLS Bank, the Federal Circuit has worked to blunt the ruling's impact. In a 2016 ruling called Enfish, the Federal Circuit ruling took a single sentence from the Supreme Court's 2014 ruling and used it as the legal foundation for approving more software patents. This legal theory, known as the "technical effects doctrine," holds that software that improves the functioning of a computer should be eligible for a patent. A version of this rule has long held sway in Europe, but it has only recently started to have an impact in U.S. law.
This week, the Patent Office published a new draft of the section on examining software and other potentially abstract ideas in its Manual of Patent Examination Procedure (MPEP). This is the official document that helps patent examiners understand and interpret relevant legal principles. The latest version, drawing on recent Federal Circuit rulings, includes far tighter restrictions on what may be excluded from patentability. This matters because there's significant evidence that the proliferation of software patents during the 1990s and 2000s had a detrimental impact on innovation -- precisely the opposite of how patents are supposed to work.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shiny-and-tiny department
Lexar has just unveiled the first commercially available 1-terabyte SD card. "Lexar's Professional 633x line of SDHC and SDXC UHS-I cards [...] is now listed for sale in capacities from 16GB all the way up to the flagship 1TB," reports The Verge. "That card claims read speeds of up to 95MB/s and write speeds of 70MB/s, though it's only rated as V30/U3, which guarantees sustained write performance of 30MB/s." Unfortunately, you'll pay a premium price of $499.99 for the new 1TB SD card, which is more than the cost of two 512GB cards. Still, the convenience may be worth it.
Joey Lopez, Senior Marketing Manager of Lexar, said in a statement: "Almost fifteen years ago, Lexar announced a 1GB SD card. Today, we are excited to announce 1TB of storage capacity in the same convenient form factor. As consumers continue to demand greater storage for their cameras, the combination of high-speed performance with a 1TB option now offers a solution for content creators who shoot large volumes of high-resolution images and 4K video."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hidden-in-plain-view department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A weather app that comes preinstalled on Alcatel smartphones contained malware that surreptitiously subscribed device owners to premium phone numbers behind their backs. The app, named "Weather Forecast-World Weather Accurate Radar," was developed by TCL Corporation, a Chinese electronics company that among other things owns the Alcatel, BlackBerry, and Palm brands. The app is one of the default apps that TCL installs on Alcatel smartphones, but it was also made available on the Play Store for all Android users --where it had been downloaded and installed more than ten million times. But at one point last year, both the app included on some Alcatel devices and the one that was available on the Play Store were compromised with malware. How the malware was added to the app is unclear. TCL has not responded to phone calls requesting comment made by ZDNet this week. The app reportedly harvested users' data and sent it to China. It collected geographic locations, email addresses, and IMEI codes, which it sent back to TCL.
Upstream, a UK-based mobile security firm, also found that "the malicious code hidden inside the app would also attempt to subscribe users to premium phone numbers that incurred large charges on users' phone bills," reports ZDNet. "All in all, the company says it detected and blocked over 27 million transaction attempts across seven markets, which would have created losses of around $1.5 million to phone owners if they hadn't been blocked." Upstream notes that most of the behavior they've seen originated only from two types of smartphones: Pixi 4 and A3 Max models.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's call-the-IT department
Major Linux distributions are vulnerable to three bugs in systemd, a Linux initialization system and service manager in widespread use, California-based security company Qualys said late yesterday. From a report: The bugs exist in 'journald' service, tasked with collecting and storing log data, and they can be exploited to obtain root privileges on the target machine or to leak information. No patches exist at the moment. Discovered by researchers at Qualys, the flaws are two memory corruption vulnerabilities (stack buffer overflow - CVE-2018-16864, and allocation of memory without limits - CVE-2018-16865) and one out-of-bounds error (CVE-2018-16866). They were able to obtain local root shell on both x86 and x64 machines by exploiting CVE-2018-16865 and CVE-2018-16866. The exploit worked faster on the x86 platform, achieving its purpose in ten minutes; on x64, though, the exploit took 70 minutes to complete. Qualys is planning on publishing the proof-of-concept exploit code in the near future, but they did provide details on how they were able to take advantage of the flaws.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's war-of-words-continues department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Yesterday, AMD announced a new graphics card, the $700 Radeon VII, based on its second-generation Vega architecture. The GPU is the first one available to consumers based on the 7nm process. It's impressive technology, and Nvidia has touted it as the primary reason to upgrade from previous generation GPUs. AMD's GPUs, notably, do not support it. And at a round table Gizmodo attended with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang he jokingly dismissed AMD's Tuesday announcement, claiming the announcement itself was "underwhelming" and that his company's 2080 would "crush" the Radeon VII in benchmarks. "The performance is lousy," he said of the rival product. When asked to comment about these slights, AMD CEO Lisa Su told a collection of reporters, "I would probably suggest he hasn't seen it." When pressed about his comments, especially his touting of ray tracing she said, "I'm not gonna get into it tit for tat that's just not my style."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Kashmir Hill, reporting at Gizmodo: The visitors started coming in 2013. The first one who came and refused to leave until he was let inside was a private investigator named Roderick. He was looking for an abducted girl, and he was convinced she was in the house. John S. and his mother Ann live in the house, which is in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa and next to Johannesburg. They had not abducted anyone, so they called the police and asked for an officer to come over. Roderick and the officer went through the home room by room, looking into cupboards and under beds for the missing girl. Roderick claimed to have used a "professional" tracking device "that could not be wrong," but the girl wasn't there. This was not an unusual occurrence. John, 39, and Ann, 73, were accustomed to strangers turning up at their door accusing them of crimes; the visitors would usually pull up maps on their smartphones that pointed at John and Ann's backyard as a hotbed of criminal activity.
[...] The outline of this story might sound familiar to you if you've heard about this home in Atlanta, or read about this farm in Kansas, and it is, in fact, similar: John and Ann, too, are victims of bad digital mapping. There is a crucial difference though: This time it happened on a global scale, and the U.S. government played a key role. [...] Technologist Dhruv Mehrotra crawled MaxMind's free database for me and plotted the locations that showed up most frequently. Unfortunately, John and Ann's house must have just missed MaxMind's cut-off for remediation. Theirs was the 104th most popular location in the database, with over a million IP addresses mapped to it.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
In a wide-ranging interview, Nilay Patel of The Verge speaks with Bill Baxter, chief technology officer of Vizio, about what the company thinks of some TV vendors adding support for Apple's AirPlay 2, and other things. A remarkable exchange on the business of data collection and selling: Nilay Patel: I guess I have a philosophical question. You guys are committed to low price points and you often beat the industry at those price points. Can you hit those price points without the additional data collection that TV does if you don't have an ad business or a data business on top of the TV?
Bill Baxter: So that's a great question. Actually, we should have a beer and have a long, long chat about that. So look, it's not just about data collection. It's about post-purchase monetization of the TV. This is a cutthroat industry. It's a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it's pretty ruthless. You could say it's self-inflicted, or you could say there's a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don't need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost.
And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years -- the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, "I love Vizio TVs, I have one" and it's 11 years old. I'm like, "Dude, that's not even full HD, that's 720p." But they do last a long time and our strategy -- you've seen this with all of our software upgrades including AirPlay 2 and HomeKit -- is that we want to make things backward compatible to those TVs. So we're continuing to invest in those older TVs to bring them up to feature level comparison with the new TVs when there's no hardware limitation that would otherwise prevent that.
< article continued at Slashdot's how-about-that department
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By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
merbs writes: Automation is too often presented as a faceless, monolithic phenomenon -- but it's a human finger that ultimately pulls the trigger. Someone has to initiate the process that automates a task or mechanizes a production line. To write or procure the program that makes a department or a job redundant. And that's not always an executive, or upper-, or even middle management -- in fact, it's very often not. Sometimes it's a junior employee, or a developer, even an intern.
In a series of interviews with coders, technicians, and engineers who've automated their colleagues out of work -- or, in one case, been put in a position where they'd have to do so and decided to quit instead -- I've attempted to produce a snapshot of life on the messy front lines of modern automation. (Some names have been changed to protect the identities of the automators.) We've heard plenty of forecasting about the many jobs slated to be erased, and we've seen the impacts on the communities that have lost livelihoods at the hands of automation, but we haven't had many close up looks at how all this unfolds in the office or the factory floor.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fresh-coat-of-paint department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced a fully-managed document database service, building the Amazon DocumentDB (with MongoDB compatibility) to support existing MongoDB workloads. The cloud giant said developers can use the same MongoDB application code, drivers, and tools as they currently do to run, manage, and scale workloads on Amazon DocumentDB. Amazon DocumentDB uses an SSD-based storage layer, with 6x replication across three separate Availability Zones. This means that Amazon DocumentDB can failover from a primary to a replica within 30 seconds, and supports MongoDB replica set emulation so applications can handle failover quickly. Each MongoDB database contains a set of collections -- similar to a relational database table -- with each collection containing a set of documents in BSON format. Amazon DocumentDB is compatible with version 3.6 of MongoDB and storage can be scaled from 10 GB up to 64 TB in increments of 10 GB. The new offering implements the MongoDB 3.6 API that allows customers to use their existing MongoDB drivers and tools with Amazon DocumentDB. In a separate report, TechCrunch's Frederic Lardinois says AWS is "giving open source the middle finger" by "taking the best open-source projects and re-using and re-branding them without always giving back to those communities." "The wrinkle here is that MongoDB was one of the first companies that aimed to put a stop to this by re-licensing its open-source tools under a new license that explicitly stated that companies that wanted to do this had to buy a commercial license," Frederic writes. "Since then, others have followed." "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so it's not surprising that Amazon would try to capitalize on the popularity and momentum of MongoDB's document model," MongoDB CEO and president Dev Ittycheria told us. "However, developers are technically savvy enough to distinguish between the real thing and a poor imitation. MongoDB will continue to outperform any impersonations in the market."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's never-coming-down department
Global Energy Transmission (GET) co-founder William Kallamn says his wireless tech company has found a way to create a "power cloud" that can charge a drone while it's in flight. "The system comprises a ground-based power station with a frame of wires positioned in a roughly circular shape," reports Futurism. "When turned on, this creates an electromagnetic field in the air near the station. A drone equipped with a special antennae charges by flying into the range of the power cloud." From the report: Eight minutes of charge time translates to 30 minutes of flight. One of GET's power stations and two customized drones, each capable of carrying 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds), currently costs $120,000. It's hard to overstate the potential for drones to change our world, but for seemingly every positive use for the machines (package delivery, search and rescue operations), there's a negative one to consider (military weaponry, citizen surveillance). So, sure, a drone that never needs to land would be amazingly beneficial for moviemaking and sports coverage -- two uses Kallman notes in [an interview with entertainment vlogger David Fordham] -- but it's hard to imagine military or government officials wouldn't be highly interested in GET's drone charging tech as well.Read Replies (0)