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NASA's Space-Suit Drama Could Delay Our Trip To the Moon
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '18 at 02:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's postponed-until-further-notice department:
Zorro quotes a report from The Daily Beast: After years of planning, NASA is finally launching a new effort to send astronauts back to the moon and then onward to Mars. But one important piece of technology is missing: a new space suit. Fifty-three years after astronaut Ed White stepped outside his Gemini 4 capsule on the first-ever spacewalk for an American, NASA is stuck using decades-old suits that critics say are too old, too bulky, too rigid, and too few in number for America's new era of space exploration.

Astronauts could need as many as three different kinds of space suits for a single mission. NASA has plenty of flight-suit options, but its extravehicular activity or EVA suits are old and dwindling in number. And the agency doesn't have any suits specifically for surface missions. Time is running out to make up the space suit shortfalls. NASA plans to launch Exploration Mission 1, the first test of Orion and its heavy rocket, as early as 2020. The Lunar Gateway station could be ready for use five or six years later. Despite these looming deadlines, NASA "remains years away from having a flight-ready space suit... suitable for use on future exploration missions," the agency's inspector general warned in a 2017 audit.

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Logitech Is Acquiring Blue Microphones For $117 Million In Cash
Posted by News Fetcher on July 31 '18 at 12:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's uncharted-territory department:
Logitech announced late Monday night that it is acquiring Blue Microphones for $117 million. The company known for USB condenser microphones, such as the Snowball and Yeti, will join Logitech's existing portfolio of brands. The Verge reports: Founded in 1995, Blue sells microphones that range in price from $60 to over $4,000 (for studio-grade hardware), and they're used by podcasters, musicians, and any other consumers who need higher-fidelity audio than what they get from the built-in microphones on their devices. Now, after dropping a heap of cash on the company, Logitech will do its best to make sure Blue's devices become just as essential as its own wireless keyboards and mice. "For Logitech, this is a new space," the company wrote in a blog post. "But, at the same time, it's not at all. Gamers are already using our Logitech G webcams to stream. People are video calling with friends and family thanks to Logitech every day. And in business, our audio and video know-how is apparent every time a video meeting takes place at the office. Joining up with Blue and their microphone lines is a logical adjacent opportunity with great synergies."

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Senate Democrat Floats First Serious Proposals For Regulating Big Tech
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 08:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's substantive-debates department:
On Monday, Senator Mark Warner published 20 proposals on how to regulate big tech platforms. What's interesting is that none of the proposals call for breaking up the pseudo-monopolies. Instead, they aim to start a substantive debate by laying out different paths to address problems posed by the platforms. Gizmodo reports: What may be more important than the individual proposals themselves is that the document is at least trying to organize a holistic way of thinking about the issues now on the table. It breaks down the areas that need addressing into the promotion of disinformation, privacy and consumer protection, and ensuring competition in the marketplace. Just to highlight a few of the good issues on the table, the white paper blessedly brings the conversation back to privacy and data ownership -- something that seems to have been lost as the conversation has turned to content moderation. The easiest recommendation is to implement what it calls "GDPR-like" data protection legislation that would give Americans similar data rights as EU citizens gained in May. The jury is still out on the long-term consequences of those reforms, but they require greater transparency and consent for a company's terms of service, along with many more tools for keeping track of what information a company collects on you.

< article continued at Slashdot's substantive-debates department >

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Doug Grindstaff, 'Star Trek' Sound Effects Maestro, Dies At 87
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 06:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-in-peace department:
Doug Grindstaff, a five-time Emmy Award winner behind Star Trek's Tribble coos, communicator beeps, and Enterprise bridge door whooshes, has died at 87. The Hollywood Reporter looks back at Grindstaff's contributions to the Star Trek universe: [Grindstaff] received 14 Emmy nominations in all -- including one for Star Trek in 1967 -- and won for his editing on The Immortal in 1970, Medical Story in 1976, Police Story in 1978, Power in 1980 and Max Headroom in 1987. Working with Jack Finlay and Joseph Sorokin, Grindstaff created the background sounds and effects used on NBC's Star Trek. These sounds included red alert klaxons, the whoosh of Enterprise bridge doors opening/closing, heartbeats, boatswain whistles, sickbay scanners and communicator beeps and the acoustics that invoked phasers striking deflector shields and transporter materialization (and dematerialization).

In a 2016 interview for the Audible Range blog, Grindstaff noted that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry "wanted to paint the whole show [with sound] like you were painting a picture. "And he wanted sounds everywhere. One time I asked him, 'Don't you think we're getting too cartoony?' Because I felt it should be a little more dignified, but he wanted sound for everything. For example, I worked on one scene where [Dr. McCoy] is giving someone a shot. Gene says, 'Doug, I'm missing one thing. The doctor injects him and I don't hear the shot.' I said, 'You wouldn't hear a shot, Gene.' He said, 'No, no, this is Star Trek, we want a sound for it.' "So I turned around to the mixing panel and said, 'Do you guys have an air compressor?' And they did. I fired up the air compressor, squirted it for a long enough period by the mic, went upstairs, played with it a little bit and then put it in the show. And Gene loved it. So, that's how Gene was. He didn't miss nothing!" Grindstaff said he created Tribble coos by manipulating the sound of a dove.

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Tesla Model 3 Outselling Small, Midsize Luxury Cars In US
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 06:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blown-away department:
WindBourne shares a report from Forbes: In the second quarter of 2018, Tesla produced just over 53,000 vehicles, doubling its output compared to the same quarter last year. For the first time, Model 3 production (28,578) exceeded combined Model S and X production (24,761) with deliveries to customers totaling 40,740 for the quarter. The ramp up in Model 3 production is enabling it to outsell small and midsize luxury car sales in the U.S., according to some number crunching by CleanTechnica's Zachary Shahan.

His analysis claims that the Model 3 is crushing its "competitors" in that segment with total estimated sales for July amounting to 16,000 vehicles. The closest individual model to Tesla's mass-market endeavor is the Mercedes C-Class and even then, its July sales are estimated at just 6,029 units. The Model 3 is still untouchable when sales figures from multiple vehicles produced by the same company are added together. For example, the analysis expects sales of the BMW 2, 3, 4 and 5 Series to hit 12,811 at the end of July in total while customers will get their hands on 11,835 Mercedes C, CLA, CLS and E-Class models. That all means that Tesla would have a 23% share of the small and midsize luxury car market in July, ahead of BMW's 17% and Mercedes' 17%.

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With DaaS Windows Coming, Say Goodbye To Your PC As You Know It
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 05:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's market-your-calendar department:
Ostracus shares a report from Computerworld, written by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Microsoft is getting ready to replace Windows 10 with the Microsoft Managed Desktop. This will be a "desktop-as-a-service" (DaaS) offering. Instead of owning Windows, you'll "rent" it by the month. Microsoft Managed Desktop is a new take. It avoids the latency problem of the older Windows DaaS offerings by keeping the bulk of the operating system on your PC. But you'll no longer be in charge of your Windows PC. Instead, it will be automatically provisioned and patched for you by Microsoft. Maybe you'll be OK with that.

Microsoft has been getting away from the old-style desktop model for years now. Just look at Office. Microsoft would much rather have you rent Office via Office 365 than buy Microsoft Office and use it for years. Microsoft Managed Desktop is the first move to replacing "your" desktop with a rented desktop. By 2021, I expect the Managed Desktop to be to traditional Windows what Office 365 is to Office today: the wave of the future. Or maybe tsunami, depending on your perspective. I'm not happy with this development. I'm old enough to remember the PC revolution. We went from depending on mainframes and Unix boxes for computing power to having the real power on our desktops. It was liberating. Now Microsoft, which helped lead that revolution, is trying to return us to that old, centralized control model.

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OpenAI's Dactyl System Gives Robots Humanlike Dexterity
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 05:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's state-of-the-art department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: In a forthcoming paper ("Dexterous In-Hand Manipulation"), OpenAI researchers describe a system that uses a reinforcement model, where the AI [known as Dactyl] learns through trial and error, to direct robot hands in grasping and manipulating objects with state-of-the-art precision. All the more impressive, it was trained entirely digitally, in a computer simulation, and wasn't provided any human demonstrations by which to learn. The researchers used the MuJoCo physics engine to simulate a physical environment in which a real robot might operate, and Unity to render images for training a computer vision model to recognize poses. But this approach had its limitations, the team writes -- the simulation was merely a "rough approximation" of the physical setup, which made it "unlikely" to produce systems that would translate well to the real world. Their solution was to randomize aspects of the environment, like its physics (friction, gravity, joint limits, object dimensions, and more) and visual appearance (lighting conditions, hand and object poses, materials, and textures). This both reduced the likelihood of overfitting -- a phenomenon that occurs when a neural network learns noise in training data, negatively affecting its performance -- and increased the chances of producing an algorithm that would successfully choose actions based on real-world fingertip positions and object poses.

< article continued at Slashdot's state-of-the-art department >

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Human Bankers Are Losing To Robots as Nordea Sets a New Standard
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 04:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's coming-soon-to-a-bank-near-you department:
Something interesting happened in Swedish finance last quarter. The only big bank that managed to cut costs also happens to be behind one of the industry's boldest plans to replace humans with automation. From a report: Nordea Bank AB, whose Chief Executive Officer Casper von Koskull says his industry might only have half its current human workforce a decade from now, is cutting 6,000 of those jobs. Von Koskull says the adjustment is the only way to stay competitive in the future, with automation and robots taking over from people in everything from asset management to answering calls from retail clients. While many in the finance industry have struggled to digest that message, the latest set of bank results in Sweden suggests that executives in one of the planet's most technologically advanced corners are drawing inspiration from Nordea. At SEB AB, CEO Johan Torgeby now says that "whatever can be automated will be automated."

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T-Mobile, Nokia Reach $3.5 Billion Agreement To Build Nationwide 5G Network
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-is-better-than-one department:
T-Mobile has entered into a $3.5 billion multi-year agreement with Nokia to build out its 5G network. Nokia will supply T-Mobile with its end-to-end 5G technology, software, and services, including commercial AirScale radio platforms and cloud-native core, AirFrame hardware, CloudBand software, SON, and 5G Acceleration Services," reports PhoneDog. From the report: Nokia will help T-Mobile build a nationwide 5G network that'll use both 600MHz and 28GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum that'll be compliant with 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standards. T-Mobile has said that it'll deploy its 5G coverage in 30 cities in 2018, including New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. The carrier's first 5G-capable smartphones are expected to arrive in early 2019. The T-Mobile announcement can be viewed here.

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Uber's Self-Driving Trucks Division Is Dead
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's dead-in-the-water department:
Uber is shuttering its self-driving unit, reports TechCrunch. The company will reportedly stop development of self-driving trucks and instead focus its efforts on self-driving cars. "We recently took the important step of returning to public roads in Pittsburgh, and as we look to continue that momentum, we believe having our entire team's energy and expertise focused on this effort is the best path forward," Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in an emailed statement. From the report: Uber Freight, a business unit that helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, is unaffected by this decision. "Rather than having two groups working side by side, focused on different vehicle platforms, I want us instead collaborating as one team, according to an email reviewed by TechCrunch that was sent by Meyhofer to employees. "I know we're all super proud of what the Trucks team has accomplished, and we continue to see the incredible promise of self-driving technology applied to moving freight across the country. But we believe delivering on self-driving for passenger applications first, and then bringing it to freight applications down the line, is the best path forward. For now, we need the focus of one team, with one clear objective." The company will pivot employees focused on self-driving trucks to other work that revolves around self-driving technology.

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20 States Take Aim At 3D Gun Company, Sue To Get Files Off the Internet
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ctrl-+-z department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Twenty states announced Monday that they plan to ask a federal judge in Seattle to immediately issue a temporary restraining order against Defense Distributed, a Texas-based group that has already begun making 3D-printer gun files available on its DEFCAD website after a recent legal settlement with the US State Department. "After almost 18 months I was skeptical that there was anything else that this administration would do that would truly shock me, but they have," Washington Attorney General Bill Ferguson told reporters assembled in Olympia and by phone. "Frankly, it is terrifying... We think that it is important to put a stop to this right away and make it as difficult as humanly possible to access this information." The new lawsuit, which Ferguson explained will be filed "within hours," comes just one day after Defense Distributed voluntarily agreed to block IP addresses from Pennsylvania after that state's attorney general filed a similar motion in federal court there. "Pennsylvania is still suing and we are still responding," Defense Distributed's founder, Cody Wilson, told Ars. Preemptively on Sunday, Defense Distributed sued the attorney general of New Jersey and the city attorney of Los Angeles to stop those lawsuits, largely on First Amendment grounds.

In this new 20-state initiative, the Washington attorney general argued that the State Department settlement violated the Administrative Procedure Act and also infringed upon states' Tenth Amendment right to regulate firearms within their own states. Ferguson pointed out, for example, people convicted of domestic abuse are flagged when they attempt to legally buy a gun. Allowing anyone to download and manufacture their own gun circumvents that process, he said. But Wilson told Ars it may be too late, as the files went up last Friday evening -- days before he said he would resume publishing them on August 1.

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The World's Largest Solar Farm Rises in the Remote Egyptian Desert
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 01:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: In 1913 on the outskirts of Cairo, an inventor from Philadelphia named Frank Shuman built the world's first solar thermal power station, using the abundant Egyptian sunshine to pump 6,000 gallons of water a minute from the Nile to irrigate a nearby cotton field. World War I and the discovery of cheap oil derailed Shuman's dream of replicating his "sun power plant" on a grand scale and eventually producing enough energy to challenge the world's dependence on coal. More than a century later, that vision has been resurrected. The world's largest solar park, the $2.8-billion Benban complex, is set to open next year 400 miles south of Cairo in Egypt's Western Desert. It will single-handedly put Egypt on the clean energy map. That is no small feat for a country that's been hobbled by its longtime addiction to cheap, state-subsidized fossil fuels and currently gets more than 90% of its electricity from oil and natural gas. [...] The Benban complex, which will be operated by major energy companies from around the world, is expected to generate as much as 1.8 gigawatts of electricity, or enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. It will consist of 30 separate solar plants, the first of which began running in December, and employ 4,000 workers.

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Mozilla Is Rebranding Firefox and Wants Your Feedback
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 01:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's what-do-you-want-to-see department:
An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla is rebranding Firefox. The company is asking for feedback on the new look, which will try to cover the various Firefox offerings. For most people, Firefox refers to a browser, but the company wants the brand to encompass all the various apps and services that the Firefox family of internet products cover, "from easy screenshotting and file sharing to innovative ways to access the internet using voice and virtual reality." The fox with a flaming tail "doesn't offer enough design tools to represent this entire product family," Mozilla believes.

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Ubuntu Linux-based Distro Lubuntu To No Longer Focus on Old Hardware
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-of-plans department:
Lubuntu, a popular Ubuntu flavor, has gained traction over the years for supporting older hardware. As Brian Fagioli writes at BetaNews, one of the focuses of the Lubuntu developers is to support aging computers. However, that is about to change. He adds: When Lubunu 18.10 is released in October 2018, it will ditch LXDE for the newer LXQt. Despite it also being a desktop environment that is easy on resources, the Lubuntu developers are planning to drop their focus on old hardware after the transition. "[...] Our main focus is shifting from providing a distribution for old hardware to a functional yet modular distribution focused on getting out of the way and letting users use their computer. In essence, this is leveraging something we have always done with Lubuntu; providing an operating system which users can use to revive their old computers, but bringing this to the age of modern computing," says Simon Quigley of Lubuntu team.

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Terraforming Might Not Work on Mars, New Research Says
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-of-plans department:
Mars might not have the right ingredients to terraform into our planetary home away from home -- even with the recent discovery of liquid water buried near its south pole. From a report: Research published Monday in Nature Astronomy puts a kibosh on the idea of terraforming Mars. At the heart of the study is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is abundant on Mars -- its thin atmosphere is made of the stuff, and the white stuff we often see on the surface is dry ice, not snow. CO2 is even trapped in the rocks and soil. That abundance has long fueled visions of a fantasy future where all that trapped carbon dioxide is released, creating a thicker atmosphere that warms the planet. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has even proposed nuking Mars to make this happen. But in this new study, veteran Mars expert Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado Boulder and Christopher S. Edwards of Northern Arizona University, surveyed how much carbon dioxide is available for terraforming the Red Planet. They combined Martian CO2 observations from various missions -- NASA's MAVEN atmospheric probe, the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, as well as NASA's Odyssey and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The results throw shade on the dreams of futurists.

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Cops Accuse 20-Year-Old College Student of Stealing More Than $5 Million in Bitcoin by Hijacking Phone Numbers
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
California authorities say a 20-year-old college student hijacked more than 40 phone numbers to steal $5 million in Bitcoin, including some from cryptocurrency investors at a blockchain conference Consensus. Motherboard, which broke the story citing court documents: This is the first reported case of an alleged hacker who was using SIM swapping (also known as SIM hijacking or Port Out Scam) specifically to target people in the blockchain and cryptocurrency worlds. Joel Ortiz was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport on his way to Europe, according to sources close to the investigation, who said Ortiz was flashing a Gucci bag as part of a recent spending spree they believe was financed by the alleged crimes. He is facing 28 charges: 13 counts of identity theft, 13 counts of hacking, and two counts of grand theft, according to the complaint filed against him on the day before his arrest.

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More Than Half the Reviews For Certain Popular Products on Amazon Are Questionable, Outside Auditors Say. Amazon Disputes Those Estimates.
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's gaming-the-system department:
NPR has an interesting story, full of anecdotes, that looks into several growing marketplaces where reviews for Amazon products are bought and paid for. From the story: "Our approximation is that less than 1 percent of reviews are inauthentic," says Sharon Chiarella, vice president of community shopping at Amazon. She adds that "sometimes individual products have more suspicious activity." [...] Chiarella says the lawsuits give the company the opportunity to subpoena bad actors to get data from them. "That allows us to identify more bad actors and spider out from there and train our algorithms," she says. But this has led to a sort of digital cat-and-mouse game. As Amazon and its algorithms get better at hunting them down, paid reviewers employ their own evasive maneuvers. Travis, the teenage paid reviewer, explained his process. He's a member of several online channels where Amazon sellers congregate, hawking Ethernet cables, flashlights, protein powder, fanny packs -- any number of small items for which they want favorable reviews. If something catches Travis' attention, he approaches the seller and they negotiate terms. Once he buys the product and leaves a five-star review, the seller will refund his purchase, often adding a few dollars "commission" for his trouble. He says he earns around $200 a month this way. The sellers provide detailed instructions, to avoid being detected by Amazon's algorithms, Travis says. For example, he says, "Order here at the Amazon link. Don't clip any coupons or promo codes. [Wait 4 to 5 days] after receiving [the item]." This last instruction is especially important, Travis adds. "If you review too soon after receiving it'll look pretty suspicious."

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More Than 60% of Tech Workers Feel They're Underpaid
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
gollum123 writes: Tech workers are the envy of labor market -- they earn some of the highest starting salaries and often command top-notch benefits. But money doesn't always buy satisfaction. Entrepreneur reports that tech workers in major American cities earn an average of $135,000 and yet, a survey of 6,000 tech workers conducted by workplace app Blind and reported by Quartz found that over 60 percent feel they aren't being paid enough. The survey also breaks down how tech workers feel about their pay by company. The five tech companies with the highest percentage of employees who felt they were underpaid shared one important characteristic: They were all founded before 1998. Cisco, Intel, Expedia, VMware and Microsoft employees were the most likely to say that they did not make enough money. Cisco had the highest percentage of dissatisfied employees, with 80 percent telling Blind that they did not feel adequately compensated. Facebook employees, on the other hand, were the most like to say that they are overpaid, with 13.8 percent saying that they felt their employer was overly generous.

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Fake News 'Crowding Out' Real News
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
The volume of disinformation on the internet is growing so big that it is starting to crowd out real news, the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman has said. From a report: Tory MP Damian Collins said people struggle to identify "fake news." MPs in their committee report [PDF] said the issue threatens democracy and called for tougher social network regulation. The government said it plans to introduce a requirement for electoral adverts to have a "digital imprint". This would mean that all political communications carried online would need to clearly identify who they were published by. Labour said the government "needs to wake up to the new challenges we face and finally update electoral laws". The report follows the Cambridge Analytica data scandal earlier this year. The London-based data analytics firms and tech giant Facebook were at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data - and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.

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Hackers Break Into Voting Machines Within 2 Hours at Defcon
Posted by News Fetcher on July 30 '18 at 08:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's of-course-they-did department:
Hackers from around the world had the rare opportunity to crack election-style voting machines this weekend in Las Vegas -- and they didn't disappoint. From a report: After nearly an hour and a half, Carsten Schurmann, an associate professor with IT-University of Copenhagen, successfully cracked into a voting machine at Las Vegas' Defcon convention on Friday night, CNET reports. Schurmann penetrated Advanced Voting Solutions' 2000 WinVote machine through its Wi-Fi system. Using a Windows XP exploit from 2003, he was able to remotely access the machine, CNET reports. Voting technology was thrust into the political spotlight when election systems in several states were targeted by Russian cyber attacks. The convention purchased more than 30 voting machines for the event, although, organizers didn't specify how many models those units represented.

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