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China's ZTE Pleads Guilty, Will Pay $1.19 Billion For Violating US Trade Sanctions
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 02:33 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's made-an-example-of department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp will plead guilty and pay $1.19 billion ($892 million in the Iran case) to settle allegations it violated U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran and North Korea, the company and U.S. government agencies said on Tuesday. ZTE entered into an agreement to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, obstruction of justice and making a material false statement, the U.S. Justice Department said. The Commerce Department investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that ZTE had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars worth of hardware and software from some of the best-known U.S. technology companies to Iran's largest telecoms carrier. Between January 2010 and January 2016, ZTE directly or indirectly shipped approximately $32 million of U.S.-origin items to Iran without obtaining the proper export licenses from the U.S. government. ZTE then lied to federal investigators during the investigation when it insisted that the shipments had stopped, Justice said. It also took actions involving 283 shipments of controlled items to North Korea, authorities said. Shipped items included routers, microprocessors and servers controlled under export regulations for security, encryption and anti-terrorism reasons.

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Dell Doubles Down On High-End Ubuntu Linux Laptops
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 01:12 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's affinity-for-Linux-machines department:
Dell became the first major OEM to offer a laptop with Linux pre-installed in it in 2007. Ten years later, the company says it is more committed than ever to offering Linux-powered machines to users. From a report on ZDNet: The best known of these is the Dell XPS 13 developer edition, but it's not the only Linux laptop Dell offers. In a blog post, Barton George, senior principal engineer at Dell's Office of the CTO, announced "the next generation of our Ubuntu-based Precision mobile workstation line." All of these systems boast Ubuntu 16.04 long-term support (LTS), 7th generation Intel Core or Intel Xeon processors, and Thunderbolt 3, AKA 40 Gigabit per second (Gbps) USB-C, ports. As the Xeon processor option shows, these are top-of-the-line laptops for professionals. It took longer than expected for Dell to get this new set of five Ubuntu-powered Precision mobile workstations out the door. The Precision 5520 and 3520 are now available. The 3520, the entry-level workstation, starts with an Intel Core 2.5GHz i5-7300HQ Quad Core processor with Intel HD Graphics 630. From there, you can upgrade it all the way to an Intel Core Xeon 3 GHz E3-1505M v6 processor with Nvidia Quadro M62 graphics.

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Payments Giant Verifone Investigating Breach
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 01:12 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Verifone is investigating a breach of its internal networks that appears to have impacted a number of companies running its point-of-sale card terminals, security reporter Brian Krebs reports. From the report: Verifone says the extent of the breach was limited to its corporate network and that its payment services network was not impacted. San Jose, Calif.-based Verifone is the largest maker of credit card terminals used in the United States. It sells point-of-sale terminals and services to support the swiping and processing of credit and debit card payments at a variety of businesses, including retailers, taxis, and fuel stations. On Jan. 23, 2017, Verifone sent an "urgent" email to all company staff and contractors, warning they had 24 hours to change all company passwords.

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Music Charts No Longer Make Sense
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 11:54 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's math-of-music department:
American rapper Future's back to back new albums have created a stir among music enthusiasts and the studios alike. Billboard today refreshed its weekly US Top 200 chart, and the American rapper officially became the first artist to ever knock his own album out of the #1 spot with another one of his albums. Future released the self-titled FUTURE on Feb. 17. One week later, the artist then dropped a second album HNDRXX which is the new champion. What does it mean, though? Confusion, some say. From a report on Quartz: Up till December 2014, Billboard's Top 200 chart -- which pulls its numbers from data juggernaut Nielsen -- measured new music in the US only by album sales. As music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, came into the mainstream, Nielsen and Billboard revamped their system to be based off "units." How does is work? One "unit" is equivalent to either one album sale, 10 track sales, or 1,500 song streams. In other words, listeners on a streaming platform would need to stream a Future song 1,500 times for it to count the same way a single album purchase does.
While that number may seem high, consider that it costs (more or less) $9.99 a month to stream tens of thousands of songs, as opposed to dropping $10-15 on a single album to own it, either physically or digitally. That means people who subscribe to online streaming services aren't taking out an additional cost to listen to every new Future song or album or the same ones over and over again -- it's essentially free. It becomes an odd, if necessary, way of calculating charts, because it means people who pay the most for an artist's music count for the least when sales are tallied.

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Microsoft Releases Visual Studio 2017
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 11:54 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's new-developer-tools department:
Reader Anon E. Muss writes: Microsoft on Tuesday released Visual Studio 2017. The latest version of the venerable Integrated Development Environment supports a variety of languages (C/C++, C#, VB.net, F#, Javascript/Typescript, Python, etc.) and targets classic "Win32" desktop, Universal Windows Platform (UWP, also known as "Metro"), .NET, ASP, node.js, etc.). A "Community Edition" is available at no cost for individual developers and those working on open source software. "Professional" and "Enterprise" editions are available for corporate developers, at prices sure to shock whoever has to sign the check.

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Android is About To Eclipse Windows as the World's Most-Used Operating System
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 11:54 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
John Falcone, writing for CNET: Android is poised to overtake Windows as the world's most-used operating system. That's the word from web analytics service StatCounter, which monitors worldwide web traffic with an eye towards device operating systems. The firm found that 37.4 percent of devices online were Android -- just a hair behind Windows at 38.6 percent. Perhaps the bigger concern for Microsoft are the trend lines, however: Windows is on a steady march down from 82 percent in 2012, while Android is mirroring it upward from 2.2 percent in the same 5-year period.

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For the First Time, More US Households Have Netflix Than a DVR
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 11:54 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's changing-landscape department:
For the first time, U.S. households with the Netflix video-streaming service outnumber those that own a digital video recorder (DVR), a dramatic rise from just five years ago, according to new data. From a report: About 54% of U.S. adults said they have Netflix in their household -- while 53% have a DVR, according to Research Group's annual on-demand study. It's the first time that households with Netflix have surpassed the level of those with a DVR in the history of LRG's studies. In 2011, according to the research firm, 44% of TV households had a DVR and 28% had Netflix. Netflix has now eclipsed DVR usage despite the latter having a years-long head start. TiVo's first digital video recorder shipped in 1999, while Netflix debuted its video-streaming service in 2007 and started the shift away from its DVD-by-mail business. As of the end of 2016, Netflix had 49.4 million streaming subscribers in the U.S., up 10.5% year over year.

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Chatbot that Overturned 160,000 Parking Fines Now Helping Refugees Claim Asylum
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 09:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Elena Cresci, writing for The Guardian: The creator of a chatbot which overturned more than 160,000 parking fines and helped vulnerable people apply for emergency housing is now turning the bot to helping refugees claim asylum. The original DoNotPay, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, describes itself as "the world's first robot lawyer", giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface. The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support. The London-born developer worked with lawyers in each country, as well as speaking to asylum seekers whose applications have been successful. Browder says this new functionality for his robot lawyer is "long overdue". He told the Guardian: "I've been trying to launch this for about six months -- I initially wanted to do it in the summer. But I wanted to make sure I got it right because it's such a complicated issue. I kept showing it to lawyers throughout the process and I'd go back and tweak it.

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Microsoft Says It Is Working On Fix After Users Report Skype, Outlook, Xbox Live Outages
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 09:03 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's outage-report department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: A huge outage hit Microsoft services Tuesday morning, with users across the globe experiencing problems accessing Outlook, Xbox and Skype. Users were unable to log onto the Outlook email client via mobile devices and received an error message when trying to access the desktop version of the service. Users also reportedly experienced problems with Microsoft's Xbox and Skype services. Microsoft acknowledged the Xbox issues in a statement posted to its Xbox Live status page. "Another issue has been identified that is causing problems for some members signing in to Xbox Live. The team is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thanks for your patience," it said.

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Robots in Warehouses To Jump 15X Over Next 4 Years
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 07:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
The worldwide warehouse and logistics robot unit shipments will increase from 40,000 robots in 2016 to 620,000 robots annually by 2021, according to highly reliable numbers from Tractica, which adds that the $1.9 billion market in 2016 is expected to jump a staggering tenfold to an annual $22.4 billion by the end of 2021. From a report on TechRepublic: As a measure of global market value, Tractica also expects the robotic shipments to reach $22.4 billion by the end of 2021, up from an estimated $1.9 billion in 2016. The report, which highlights market drivers and challenges, profiles 75 "emerging industry players," and is divided into sections based on robot type. According to the report, "warehousing and logistics industries are looking for robotics solutions, more than ever before, to remain globally competitive," which will "lead to widespread acceptance and presence of robots in warehouses and logistics operations." To allay fears about lost jobs due to automation, the report authors said they expect that the increase in robots will likely yield new jobs and opportunities for businesses. "The next 5 years will be a period of significant innovation in the space, bringing significant opportunities for established industry players and startups alike," said Manoj Sahi, a research analyst, in the report.

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WikiLeaks Reveals CIA's Secret Hacking Tools and Spy Operations
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 07:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: WikiLeaks has unleashed a treasure trove of data to the internet, exposing information about the CIA's arsenal of hacking tools. Code-named Vault 7, the first data is due to be released in serialized form, starting off with "Year Zero" as part one. A cache of over 8,500 documents and files has been made available via BitTorrent in an encrypted archive. The plan had been to release the password at 9:00am ET today, but when a scheduled online press conference and stream came "under attack" prior to this, the password was released early. Included in the "extraordinary" release are details of the zero day weapons used by the CIA to exploit iPhones, Android phones, Windows, and even Samsung TVs to listen in on people. Routers, Linux, macOS -- nothing is safe. WikiLeaks explains how the "CIA's hacking division" -- or the Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI) as it is officially known -- has produced thousands of weaponized pieces of malware, Trojans, viruses and other tools. It's a leak that's essentially Snowden 2.0. In a statement, WikiLeaks said CIA has tools to bypass the encryption mechanisms imposed by popular instant messenger apps Signal, Confide, WhatsApp (used by more than a billion people), and Telegram.

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Facebook Reports BBC To Police Following Publication's 'Sexualized Images' Investigation
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 06:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what-in-the-world department:
"Grave doubts" have emerged about the effectiveness of Facebook's moderation system after an investigation by the BBC last year revealed the social network was failing to remove sexualised images of children even after they were reported. Damian Collins, chair of the culture, media and sport committee, made the comments as he criticised Facebook's handling of the images, dozens of which were reported to the company by the BBC and fewer than 20% were removed. After the BBC sent evidence of the photos to Facebook, the social media company reported the BBC to the police for distributing the images, which had been shared on private Facebook groups intended for paedophiles. From a report on BBC: When provided with examples of the images, Facebook reported the BBC journalists involved to the police and cancelled plans for an interview. It subsequently issued a statement: "It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation." Mr Collins said it was extraordinary that the BBC had been reported to the authorities when it was trying to "help clean up the network." [...] Information the BBC provided to the police led to one man being sent to prison for four years.

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Mozilla Firefox 52 Released As ESR Branch, Will Receive Security Updates Until 2018
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 06:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-about-time department:
prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Back in January, we told you that the development of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 kicked off with the first Beta release and promised to let users send and open tabs from one device to another, among numerous other improvements and new features. Nine beta builds later, Mozilla has pushed today, March 7, the final binary and source packages of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 web browser for all supported platforms, including GNU/Linux, macOS, and Windows. The good news is that Firefox 52.0 is an ESR (Extended Support Release) branch that will be supported until March-April 2018. Prominent features of the Mozilla Firefox 52.0 ESR release include support for the emerging WebAssembly standard to boost the performance of Web-based games and apps without relying on plugins, the ability to send and open tabs from one device to another, as well as multi-process for Windows users with touchscreens. With each new Firefox release, Mozilla's developers attempt to offer new ways to improve the security of the widely-used web browser across all supported platforms. Firefox 52.0 ESR implements a "This connection is not secure" warning for non-secure pages that require user logins, along with a new Strict Secure Cookies specification.

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New Sponge Can Soak Up and Release Spilled Oil Hundreds of Times
Posted by News Fetcher on March 07 '17 at 02:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Shamwow department:
Seth Darling and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have created a new material that can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in spilled oil and then be squeezed out like a sponge and reused. This is compared to most commercial products used for soaking up oil, called "sorbents," which act like a paper towel and are only good for a single use. Once the sorbents are used, they get incinerated along with the oil. New Scientist reports: The oil sponge consists of a simple foam made of polyurethane or polyimide plastics and coated with "oil-loving" silane molecules with a sweet spot for capturing oil. Too little chemical attraction would render the sponge useless as an absorber, whereas too much would mean the oil could not be released. In laboratory tests, the researchers found that when engineered with just the right amount of silane, their foam could repeatedly soak up and release oil with no significant changes in capacity. But to determine whether this material could help sort out a big spill in marine waters, they needed to perform a special large-scale test. To do this, the team made an array of square pads of the sponge material measuring around 6 square meters. "We made a lot of the foam, and then these pieces of foam were placed inside mesh bags -- basically laundry bags, with sewn channels to house the foam," Darling says. The researchers suspended their sponge-filled bags from a bridge over a large pool specially designed for practicing emergency responses to oil spills. They then dragged the sponges behind a pipe spewing crude oil to test the material's capability to remove oil from the water. They next sent the sponges through a wringer to remove the oil and then repeated the process, carrying out many tests over multiple days. This so-far unpublished test was conducted in early December at the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in Leonardo, New Jersey. Here's a video showing the sponge in action.

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NASA Proposes a Magnetic Shield To Protect Mars' Atmosphere
Posted by News Fetcher on March 06 '17 at 11:20 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's science-fiction-to-science-fact department:
New submitter Baron_Yam writes: Apparently it is no longer necessarily science fiction to consider terraforming the red planet in a human lifetime. NASA scientists have proposed putting a magnetic shield at the Mars L1 Lagrange Point, diverting sufficient solar wind in hopes that the Martian atmosphere would thicken and heat the planet to the point of melting the ice caps, causing what remains of Martian water to pool on the surface. While not enough of a change to allow walking around without a space suit, this would make human exploration of the planet a much easier task.

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Nintendo Switch Owners Complain About Dead Pixels, Nintendo Says They're 'Normal'
Posted by News Fetcher on March 06 '17 at 08:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's don't-worry-be-happy department:
Nintendo says the dead or stuck pixels Switch owners are complaining about are "normal" and not defects. "New Switch players have taken to online discussion boards, including a 2,000-comment strong Reddit post, to complain of screen issues distracting play, unbecoming of a $300 handheld gaming machine," reports The Guardian. From the report: In a support document entitled "There are black or bright dots on the Nintendo Switch screen that do not go away, or there are dark or light patches on the screen," Nintendo said: "Small numbers of stuck or dead pixels are a characteristic of LCD screens. These are normal and should not be considered a defect." Customers wishing to swap their Switch consoles with defective screens will get no support from Nintendo. A similar issue happened with the Nintendo DS at launch in the U.S., but the Japanese gaming company eventually relented after complaints from buyers, begrudgingly offering replacements under warranty. Nintendo also warned users that using the Switch near an aquarium or within a meter of another wireless device, including laptops, wireless headsets, wireless printers, microwaves, cordless phones or even USB-3.0 compatible devices "such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc," might cause the Joy-Con controllers to disconnect from the Switch.

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Amazon Shares Data With Arkansas Prosecutor In Murder Case
Posted by News Fetcher on March 06 '17 at 08:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-the-window department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Associated Press: Amazon dropped its fight against a subpoena issued in an Arkansas murder case after the defendant said he wouldn't mind if the technology giant shared information that may have been gathered by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. James Andrew Bates has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Victor Collins, who was found dead in a hot tub at Bates' home. In paperwork filed Monday, Bates said Amazon could share the information and Amazon said it handed over material on Friday. The Echo "listens" for key words and may have recorded what went on before Collins was found dead in November 2015. Amazon had fought a subpoena, citing its customers' privacy rights. A hearing had been set for Wednesday on whether any information gathered was even pertinent.

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Poachers Are Trying To Hack Animal Tracking Systems
Posted by News Fetcher on March 06 '17 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's you-can-run-but-you-can't-hide department:
Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: Animal tracking through electronic tagging has helped researchers gain insight into the lives of many wild animal species, but can also be misused by wildlife poachers, hunters, animal-persecution groups and people interested in seeing and interacting with the animals -- all to the detriment of our animal brethren. A recent paper by a group of researchers from several Canadian and U.S. universities has pointed to several instances of misuse or attempted misuse of the tracking technology. The researchers believe that instances of poachers intercepting signals to track animals down are under-reported, as the researchers and conservationists are worried about losing funding. The researchers have also noted that photographers and people interested in seeing wild animals have been known to acquire and use tracking equipment, and they are worried that "frequent exposure of animals to people can habituate them to human interaction, which at minimum alters the animal's natural behavior, thus negatively influencing research findings." The tagging devices are usually collars with GPS or radio transmitters, and cost between 150 and 4,000 British pounds, The Times reports. But, unfortunately, security measures for protecting their signal are not adequate.

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Toronto Start-Up Will Send a Mechanic To Your Driveway To Repair Your Car On Demand
Posted by News Fetcher on March 06 '17 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's uber-like-experience department:
Toronto-based startup Fiix, part of Y Combinator's Winter 2017 class, has built a platform to send a mechanic to your home to fix your car within hours of being requested. TechCrunch reports: Customers request service by calling or chatting with the company on the website. Interestingly, Fiix prefers to deal with customers over the phone so they can accurately diagnose the issue. This lets them send the right parts and mechanic without actually seeing your car, and make sure the issue can actually be fixed in a driveway and doesn't need a full garage. That being said, the startup says over 80% of repairs done in a shop can be done in a driveway as long as you have an experienced mechanic. All of Fiix's mechanics are independent contractors -- some who are generalists and some who specialize in foreign cars like Mercedes. In fact many are mechanics who work during the day in dealership repair shops and work for Fiix to make some extra cash on the side. Since the startup has no fixed overhead they can pay their mechanics more than most shops or dealerships can. TechCrunch notes that it's not the only on-demand mechanic startup -- YourMechanic, for example, launched in 2012 at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. What do you Slashdotters think of this start-up? Would you trust an on-demand mechanic to visit your home and work on your vehicle, or would you prefer to take it to a local shop?

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US Wind Capacity Surpasses Hydro, Overall Generation To Follow
Posted by News Fetcher on March 06 '17 at 04:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-heights department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Wind power is now the largest source of renewable energy generating capacity, passing hydroelectric power in 2016. And since the two sources produce electricity at nearly the same rate, we'll soon see wind surpass hydro in terms of electricity produced. Wind power capacity has been growing at an astonishing pace (as shown in the graph above), and 2016 was no exception. As companies rushed to take advantage of tax incentives for renewable power, the U.S. saw 8.7 Gigawatts of new wind capacity installed in 2016. That's the most since 2012, the last time tax incentives were scheduled to expire. This has pushed the U.S.' total wind capacity to over 81 GW, edging it past hydroelectric, which has remained relatively stable at roughly 80 GW. Note that this is only capacity; since generators can't be run non-stop, they only generate a fraction of the electricity that their capacity suggests is possible. That fraction, called a capacity factor, has been in the area of 34 percent for U.S. wind, lower than most traditional sources of electricity. But hydropower's capacity factor isn't that much better, typically sitting at 37-38 percent. As a result, wind won't need to grow much to consistently exceed hydro. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Data Browser

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