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SpaceX Sends Dragon To ISS But Falcon 9 Rocket Misses Landing Pad
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 04:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's A-for-effort department:
On Wednesday, SpaceX successfully sent a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station to deliver supplies, but unfortunately it wasn't able to recover the Falcon 9 rocket that launched with it. "The first stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle appeared to lose control as it approached Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral," reports CNET. "The live feed from the rocket cut away on the SpaceX webcast, but video from people in the media area at the cape showed the Falcon 9 appearing to regain control before making an unplanned landing in the water rather than ashore at the landing area." From the report: Musk tweeted shortly afterward that cutting the live feed "was a mistake" and shared the full clip of the water landing from the rocket's perspective. The rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1:16 p.m. local time, a little more than 48 hours after SpaceX sent another Falcon 9 to space from the West Coast on Monday. Dragon's flight to low-Earth orbit was supposed to happen Tuesday, but the mission was pushed back a day to replace some food being sent to the space station for experimental mice living there.

SpaceX had planned to land the first stage of the brand-new Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket at a landing zone ashore at Cape Canaveral, but as the rocket descended toward the cape, the live feed from the booster's onboard cameras appeared to show the craft going into some sort of uncontrolled spin. Musk tweeted that the problem was that a "grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea." Musk also tweeted that the pump that failed didn't have a backup because "landing is considered ground safety critical, but not mission critical. Given this event, we will likely add a backup pump & lines."

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Thieves Are Boosting the Signal From Key Fobs Inside Homes To Steal Vehicles
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 02:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's auto-theft department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: According to Markham automotive security specialist Jeff Bates, owner of Lockdown Security, wireless key fobs have a role to play in many recent car thefts, with thieves intercepting and rerouting their signals -- even from inside homes -- to open and steal cars. According to Bates, many of these thieves are using a method called "relay theft." Key fobs are constantly broadcasting a signal that communicates with a specific vehicle, he said, and when it comes into a close enough range, the vehicle will open and start. The thief will bring a device close to the home's door, close to where most keys are sitting, to boost the fob's signal. They leave another device near the vehicle, which receives the signal and opens the car. Many people don't realize it, Bates said, but the thieves don't need the fob in the car to drive it away. Bates says, if you have a key fob that can wirelessly unlock/start your car, you should not keep it by the front door. "If you do live in a house, try to leave your keys either upstairs or ... as far away from the vehicle as possible," he said. "The other thing that you can do is there are products out there that you can put your key fob into," such as a faraday cage -- a box used to block radio signals -- a key pouch, which works similarly, or even a steel box.

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Cyber-Espionage Group Uses Chrome Extension To Infect Victims
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 02:52 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
In what appears to be a first on the cyber-espionage scene, a nation-state-backed hacking group has used a Google Chrome extension to infect victims and steal passwords and cookies from their browsers. From a report: This is the first time an APT (Advanced Persistent Threat -- an industry term for nation-state hacking groups) has been seen (ab)using a Chrome extension, albeit it's not the first time one has used a browser extension, as the Russian-linked Turla APT previously used a Firefox add-on in 2015. According to a report that's going to be published later today by the ASERT team at Netscout reveals the details of a spear-phishing campaign that's been pushing a malicious Chrome extension since at least May 2018.

Hackers used spear-phishing emails to lure victims on websites copied from legitimate academic organizations. These phishing sites, now down, showed a benign PDF document but prevented users from viewing it, redirecting victims to the official Chrome Web Store page to install a (now removed) Chrome extension named Auto Font Manager.

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Facebook Used Its VPN App To Track Competitors, Documents Reveal
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-facebook-does department:
Newly public documents reveal just how paranoid Facebook was of its potential competitors and shines new light on some of the company's most important acquisitions. From a report: The internal documents, made public as part of a cache of documents released by UK lawmakers, show just how close an eye the social network was keeping on competitors like WhatsApp and Snapchat, both of which became acquisition targets. The documents, which are labeled "highly confidential," show slides from an internal presentation in 2013 that compares Facebook's reach to competing apps, including WhatsApp and Snapchat. While Facebook and Instagram lead in marketshare, it's clear why Facebook may have viewed Snapchat and WhatsApp as potential threats. [...] Facebook's presentation relied on data from Onavo, the virtual private network (VPN) service which Facebook also acquired several months later. Facebook's use of Onavo, which has been likened to "corporate spyware," has itself been controversial.

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Americans Are Moving Less Than Ever, and It's Bad For the Economy
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader writes: The best job for someone is not always in the area where they live. Often times, the job that will pay them most, and make the best use of their skills means moving to another city, state or country. Though making the choice to move can be difficult emotionally, it is extremely good for economic growth. Productive people make productive economies. Unfortunately for the US economy, people don't move they like they used to. According to recently released data from the US Census, only 10.1% of adults moved homes from August 2017 to August 2018. This is the lowest rate of moving since the government began collected data in 1948. The census tracks moves within counties, within states, or across states, and no matter how you look at it, moving rates are way down from just 15 years ago. For example, from 2002 to 2003, 2.8% of Americans moved across state lines. From 2017 to 2018, it was just 1.5%.

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Bizarre 'Dark Fluid' With Negative Mass Could Dominate the Universe
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
One of the most galling mysteries in physics is that of the dark matter and dark energy. Scientists believe that together, these could account for up to 95 percent of the total mass in the universe. Now, a researcher at the University of Oxford says a new theory could explain all that "dark phenomena." From a report: The two mysterious dark substances can only be inferred from gravitational effects. Dark matter may be an invisible material, but it exerts a gravitational force on surrounding matter that we can measure. Dark energy is a repulsive force that makes the universe expand at an accelerating rate. The two have always been treated as separate phenomena. But my new study, published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, suggests they may both be part of the same strange concept -- a single, unified "dark fluid" of negative masses.

Negative masses are a hypothetical form of matter that would have a type of negative gravity -- repelling all other material around them. Unlike familiar positive mass matter, if a negative mass was pushed, it would accelerate towards you rather than away from you. Negative masses are not a new idea in cosmology. Just like normal matter, negative mass particles would become more spread out as the universe expands -- meaning that their repulsive force would become weaker over time. However, studies have shown that the force driving the accelerating expansion of the universe is relentlessly constant. This inconsistency has previously led researchers to abandon this idea. If a dark fluid exists, it should not thin out over time.

< article continued at Slashdot's how-about-that department >

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Internal Emails Show Facebook Weighing the Privacy Risks of Quietly Collecting Call and Text Records From Its Android Users -- Then Going Ahead Anyway
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's priorities department:
Earlier this year, many Android users were shocked to discover that Facebook had been collecting a record of their call and SMS history, as revealed by the company's data download tool. Now, internal emails released by the UK Parliament show how the decision was made internally. From a report: According to the emails, developers knew the data was sensitive, but they still pushed to collect it as a way of expanding Facebook's reach. The emails show Facebook's growth team looking to call log data as a way to improve Facebook's algorithms as well as to locate new contacts through the "People You May Know" feature. Notably, the project manager recognized it as "a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective," but that risk seems to have been overwhelmed by the potential user growth.

Initially, the feature was intended to require users to opt in, typically through an in-app pop-up dialog box. But as developers looked for ways to get users signed up, it became clear that Android's data permissions could be manipulated to automatically enroll users if the new feature was deployed in a certain way.

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An Eye-Scanning Lie Detector Is Forging a Dystopian Future
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 10:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's Dystopian-Future department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Sitting in front of a Converus EyeDetect station, it's impossible not to think of Blade Runner. In the 1982 sci-fi classic, Harrison Ford's rumpled detective identifies artificial humans using a steam-punk Voight-Kampff device that watches their eyes while they answer surreal questions. EyeDetect's questions are less philosophical, and the penalty for failure is less fatal (Ford's character would whip out a gun and shoot). But the basic idea is the same: By capturing imperceptible changes in a participant's eyes -- measuring things like pupil dilation and reaction time -- the device aims to sort deceptive humanoids from genuine ones.

It claims to be, in short, a next-generation lie detector. Polygraph tests are a $2 billion industry in the US and, despite their inaccuracy, are widely used to screen candidates for government jobs. Released in 2014 by Converus, a Mark Cuban-funded startup, EyeDetect is pitched by its makers as a faster, cheaper, and more accurate alternative to the notoriously unreliable polygraph. By many measures, EyeDetect appears to be the future of lie detection -- and it's already being used by local and federal agencies to screen job applicants.

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We're No Longer in Smartphone Plateau. We're in the Smartphone Decline.
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 10:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's where-we-are department:
The days of double-digit smartphone growth are over -- and the next decade may start to see smartphone sales decline. A report adds: From roughly 2007 until 2013, the smartphone market grew at an astonishing pace, posting double-digit growth year after year, even during a global recession. They were the good years, the type that would inspire a Scorsese montage: millions and then billions of smartphones going out; billions and then trillions of dollars in rising company valuations; every year new models of phones hitting the market, held up triumphantly at events that were part sales pitch, part tent revival. (To nail the Scorsese effect, imagine "Jumpin' Jack Flash" playing while you think about it.)

But just like every Scorsese movie, the party ends. Smartphone growth began to slow starting in 2013 or 2014. In 2016, it was suddenly in the single digits, and in 2017 global smartphone shipments, for the first time, actually declined -- fewer smartphones were sold than in 2017 than in 2016. Every smartphone manufacturer is now facing a world where, at best, they can hope for single-digit growth in smartphone sales -- and many seem to be preparing for a world where they face declines.

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Samsung Caught (Again) Using DSLR Photo To Advertise Smartphone Camera
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's embarrassing-stuff department:
An anonymous reader writes: Over at DIYPhotography (which we spotted via Daring Fireball), writer and photographer Dunja Djudjic says that she caught Samsung Malaysia using one of her photos to advertise the portrait mode capabilities of the Galaxy A8 Star, a midrange phone that came out over the summer. Djudjic suspects that Samsung licensed the picture from her through the photo site EyeEm, so payment isn't necessarily a problem. But Djudjic does say that the photo wasn't taken with an A8 Star. Instead, it was taken with an (unnamed) DSLR she owns.

Samsung doesn't state outright that the photo was taken on the A8 Star, but it's certainly implied by the page it's on, which is meant to illustrate the phone's capabilities. The page doesn't note that the images are simulated, and after showing Djudjic's photo, it proceeds to show the A8's dual rear cameras, implying a connection.

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Google's 'Shadow Workforce' of Contractors Demands Higher Wages, Equal Benefits in a Letter To CEO Sundar Pichai
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Members of Google's "shadow workforce" of temporary workers and contractors is demanding higher wages and equal benefits to full employees in an open letter addressed to CEO Sundar Pichai. From a report, submitted by an anonymous reader: It's the latest in a series of public stands made by Google employees against aspects of the company culture. A coordinated walkout by employees around the globe protesting discrimination and sexual harassment at Google led the company to end forced arbitration for claims. Last month, several hundred employees signed onto a letter protesting the company's censored search efforts in China. A Bloomberg report in July said Alphabet had more contractors than direct employees this year, for the first time ever.

Google's mission is to 'organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.' But the company fails to meet this standard within its own workplace. Google routinely denies [temporary, vendor, and contract workers] access to information that is relevant to our jobs and our lives," the letter published Wednesday says. The latest letter is signed only by "TVCs at Google" and does not indicate the number of employees backing the effort. Google did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

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Qualcomm: 5G Android Flagship Phones Will Storm the 2019 Holidays
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 08:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Get ready for lots of 5G phones in time for the holidays next year. From a report: The first devices for the fast, next-generation network will hit the market in early 2019. Samsung, for one, said it will have a phone for Verizon, AT&T and other networks in the first half of the year. By the holidays next year, every flagship handset -- at least when it comes to those running Google's Android software and using Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor -- will tap into 5G, said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. "When we get to exactly this time of year one year from now ... we will see every [handset maker] on the Android ecosystem, their flagship across all US carriers will be a 5G device," he told CNET in an interview Tuesday at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii. "Every Android vendor is working on 5G right now."

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Russian Internet Giant Yandex Launches Its First Smartphone
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 08:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Russia's Yandex has launched its first ever smartphone as the company seeks to leverage its dominant position in apps and services into hardware sales. Yandex, which runs the most popular search engine in Russia, hopes its Yandex.Phone will bind users closer to its suite of products, from food delivery and taxi hailing apps to marketplace and music streaming platforms, as competition rises for online services. From a report: The Yandex.Phone is a 5.65-inch Android-powered phone that will cost 17,990 rubles ($270) when it goes on sale tomorrow. In terms of specifications, Yandex.Phone is a fairly mid-range device, sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a 16-megapixel / 5-megapixel dual rear camera.

In place of Google Assistant, which is standard on most Android phones, the company is also pushing its own intelligent assistant, Alice. This isn't the first piece of Yandex hardware to sport Alice since it was unveiled in 2017 -- earlier this year, Yandex launched a $160 smart speaker that also included the virtual assistant. It's not entirely clear what the default apps on the phone will be, but judging by the official photos it seems pretty clear Yandex is positioning its own services at the forefront of the device and favoring its own search engine. That said, Google's apps are also bundled.

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Australia Set To Spy on WhatsApp Messages With Encryption Law
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 08:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Australia is set to give its police and intelligence agencies the power to access encrypted messages on platforms such as WhatsApp, becoming the latest country to face down privacy concerns in the name of public safety. From a report: Amid protests from companies such as Facebook and Google, the government and main opposition struck a deal on Tuesday that should see the legislation passed by parliament this week. Under the proposed powers, technology companies could be forced to help decrypt communications on popular messaging apps, or even build new functionality to help police access data.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the legislation is needed to help foil terrorist attacks and organized crime. Critics say it is flawed and could undermine security across the Internet, jeopardizing activities from online voting to market trading and data storage.

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VW Says the Next Generation of Combustion Cars Will Be Its Last
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 05:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fully-committed department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Volkswagen AG expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026. "Our colleagues are working on the last platform for vehicles that aren't CO2 neutral," Michael Jost, strategy chief for Volkswagen's namesake brand, said Tuesday at an industry conference near the company's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. "We're gradually fading out combustion engines to the absolute minimum."

The world's largest automaker has started to introduce its first wave of electric cars, including next year's Porsche Taycan. The rollout across its stable of 12 automotive brands is forecast to comprise about 15 million vehicles, as the company earmarks $50 billion over the next five years to spend on its transformation to self-driving, electric cars. Production of the VW brand's I.D. Neo hatchback will start in 12 months in Germany, followed by other models from the I.D. line assembled at two sites in China as of 2020. VW plans to launch fully or partly electric versions across its lineup of more than 300 cars, vans, trucks and motorbikes by 2030. The company "will continue to modify its combustion engine technology after the new platform is introduced next decade," reports Bloomberg. "After 2050, there may still be some gasoline and diesel models in regions where there is insufficient charging infrastructure, according to Jost."

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Facebook Ends Platform Policy Banning Apps That Copy Its Features
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 02:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's copy-and-paste department:
Facebook will now freely allow developers to build competitors to its features upon its own platform. Today Facebook announced it will drop Platform Policy section 4.1, which stipulates "Add something unique to the community. Don't replicate core functionality that Facebook already provides." TechCrunch reports: Facebook had previously enforced that policy selectively to hurt competitors that had used its Find Friends or viral distribution features. Apps like Vine, Voxer, MessageMe, Phhhoto and more had been cut off from Facebook's platform for too closely replicating its video, messaging or GIF creation tools. The move will significantly reduce the risk of building on the Facebook platform. It could also cast it in a better light in the eyes of regulators. Anyone seeking ways Facebook abuses its dominance will lose a talking point. And by creating a more fair and open platform where developers can build without fear of straying too close to Facebook's history or road map, it could reinvigorate its developer ecosystem. In a statement to TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson said: "We built our developer platform years ago to pave the way for innovation in social apps and services. At that time we made the decision to restrict apps built on top of our platform that replicated our core functionality. These kind of restrictions are common across the tech industry with different platforms having their own variant including YouTube, Twitter, Snap and Apple. We regularly review our policies to ensure they are both protecting people's data and enabling useful services to be built on our platform for the benefit of the Facebook community. As part of our ongoing review we have decided that we will remove this out of date policy so that our platform remains as open as possible. We think this is the right thing to do as platforms and technology develop and grow."

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Amazon Promised Drone Delivery In Five Years Five Years Ago
Posted by News Fetcher on December 05 '18 at 12:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's broken-promises department:
On December 1, 2013, Amazon announced its plans to deliver packages by drone in just "four or five years" on a 60 Minutes episode with then-host Charlie Rose. As The Associated Press reports, it's officially been five years and drone deliveries seem to be nowhere in sight. "Bezos made billions of dollars by transforming the retail sector," reports The Associated Press. "But overcoming the regulatory hurdles and safety issues posed by drones appears to be a challenge even for the world's wealthiest man." From the report: The day may not be far off when drones will carry medicine to people in rural or remote areas, but the marketing hype around instant delivery of consumer goods looks more and more like just that -- hype. Drones have a short battery life, and privacy concerns can be a hindrance, too. Amazon says it is still pushing ahead with plans to use drones for quick deliveries, though the company is staying away from fixed timelines. "We are committed to making our goal of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less a reality," says Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish. The Seattle-based online retail giant says it has drone development centers in the United States, Austria, France, Israel and the United Kingdom.

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Google Bridges Android, iOS Development With Flutter 1.0
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '18 at 09:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-for-prime-time department:
Google has launched Flutter 1.0, the first stable release of its open source, cross-platform UI toolkit and SDK. "Flutter lets developers share a single code base across Android and iOS apps, with a focus on speed and maintaining a native feel," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Flutter enables cross-platform app code by sidestepping the UI frameworks of both Android and iOS. Flutter apps run on the Flutter rendering engine and Flutter framework, which are shipped with every app. The Flutter platform handles communication with each OS and can spit out Android and iOS binaries with native-looking widgets and scrolling behavior if desired. It's kind of like applying a "video game" style of development to apps: if you write for a game engine like Unity or Unreal, those engines are packaged with your game, allowing it to run on multiple different platforms. It's the same deal with Flutter.

< article continued at Slashdot's ready-for-prime-time department >

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Researchers Discover SplitSpectre, a New Spectre-like CPU Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '18 at 08:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via ZDNet: Three academics from Northeastern University and three researchers from IBM Research have discovered a new variation of the Spectre CPU vulnerability that can be exploited via browser-based code. The vulnerability, which researchers codenamed SplitSpectre, is a variation of the original Spectre v1 vulnerability discovered last year and which became public in January 2018. The difference in SplitSpectre is not in what parts of a CPU's microarchitecture the flaw targets, but how the attack is carried out. Researchers say a SplitSpectre attack is both faster and easier to execute, improving an attacker's ability to recover code from targeted CPUs. The research team says they were successfully able to carry out a SplitSpectre attack against Intel Haswell and Skylake CPUs, and AMD Ryzen processors, via SpiderMonkey 52.7.4, Firefox's JavaScript engine. The good news is that existing Spectre mitigations would thwart the SplitSpectre attacks.

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Japan's Final Pager Provider To End Its Service In 2019
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '18 at 06:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department:
Tokyo Telemessage, Japan's last pager provider, has announced that it will end service to its 1,500 remaining users in September 2019. It will bring a national end to telecommunication beepers, 50 years after their introduction. The BBC reports: The once-popular devices are able to receive and show wireless messages. Users would then find a phone to call the sender back. Developed in the 1950s and 1960s, they grew in popularity in the 1980s. By 1996, Tokyo Telemessage had 1.2 million subscribers. However, the rise of mobile phones rendered the pager obsolete, and few remain worldwide. Emergency services, however, continue to use the reliable technology -- including in the UK.

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