By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Alexa-OS department
ZDNet's editor-in-chief warns that Amazon has ambitious plans for its new Echo Plus:
Amazon is making an explicit play to be the home hub because it can automatically discover and set up lights, locks, plugs, and switches without the need for additional hubs or apps. And the Alexa 'routines' feature will be able to tie all of this together by allowing you to automate a series of actions with a single voice command: saying "Alexa, good night," and having it turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV, for example. A platform that other apps and devices can connect into? This starts to sound a lot like an operating system for the home to me.
It's not just the home, either; Amazon announced a deal to make Alexa available in BMW and Mini vehicles from the middle of next year, allowing drivers to use the digital assistant to get directions, play music or control smart home devices while travelling, without having to use a separate app. Travellers will also have access to Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks, allowing them to order their coffee while driving and thus skip the line. Back in January, Amazon and Ford said they were working together to allow voice commands to turn on the engine, lock or unlock the doors as well as play music and use other skills...
It's still early days but I think Alexa has a good shot at becoming one of the standard interfaces, certainly for consumers -- an operating system for the home, if not more, if the automotive tie-ups take off too. All of this will make Amazon a serious force to be reckoned with. Windows has the desktop, and Android and iOS can fight it out for the smartphone, but right now Alexa has a lock on the smart home.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's global-re-positioning-signal department
How did a 37-ton tanker suddenly vanish from GPS off the coast of Russia? AmiMoJo shares a report from Wired:
The ship's systems located it 25 to 30 miles away -- at Gelendzhik airport... The Atria wasn't the only ship affected by the problem... At the time, Atria's AIS system showed around 20 to 25 large boats were also marooned at Gelendzhik airport. Worried about the situation, captain Le Meur radioed the ships. The responses all confirmed the same thing: something, or someone, was meddling with the their GPS...
After trawling through AIS data from recent years, evidence of spoofing becomes clear. GPS data has placed ships at three different airports and there have been other interesting anomalies. "We would find very large oil tankers who could travel at the maximum speed at 15 knots," said a former director for Marine Transportation Systems at the U.S. Coast Guard. "Their AIS, which is powered by GPS, would be saying they had sped up to 60 to 65 knots for an hour and then suddenly stopped. They had done that several times"...
"It looks like a sophisticated attack, by somebody who knew what they were doing and were just testing the system..." says Lukasz Bonenberg from the University of Nottingham's Geospatial Institute. "You basically need to have atomic level clocks."
The U.S. Maritime Administration confirms 20 ships have been affected -- all traveling in the Black Sea -- though a U.S. Coast Guard representative "refused to comment on the incident, saying any GPS disruption that warranted further investigation would be passed onto the Department of Defence." But the captain of the 37-ton tanker already has his own suspicions. "It looks like the Russians define an area where they don't want the GPS to apply."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's especially-if-they're-named-Equifax department
An anonymous reader quotes Fortune:There are two kinds of companies, according to a saying that former Equifax CEO Rick Smith shared in a speech at the University of Georgia on August 17. "There's those companies that have been breached and know it, and there are those companies that have been breached and don't know it," he said. Though it was still 21 days before his company would reveal that it had been massively hacked, Equifax, at that time, had been breached and knew it...
Smith's fastest growing area of security concern was state-sponsored hacking and espionage, he said. "It's countries you'd expect -- you know it's China, Russia, Iran, and Iraq -- and they're being very aggressive trying to get access to the know-how about how companies have built their capabilities, and transport that know-how back to their countries," said Smith. "It's my number one worry." he added.
"In a speech at the University of Georgia last month, he described a stagnating credit reporting agency with a 'culture of tenure' and 'average talent", reports Bloomberg, adding that the Equifax CEO also bragged that the company's data-crunching business nonetheless earned a gross profit margin of 90%.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's can-you-hear-me-now? department
An anonymous reader quotes NBC:
Cellphones smuggled into prisons -- enabling inmates to order murders, plan escapes, deal drugs and extort money -- have become a scourge in a bloc of states where corrections officers annually confiscate as many as one for every three inmates... In South Carolina, prison officers have found and taken one phone for every three inmates, the highest rate in the country. In Oklahoma, it's one phone for every six prisoners, the nation's second-highest rate... Cellphones are prized because they allow inmates to avoid privatized jailhouse phone and visitation services that charge up to $15 for a two-minute call home to friends and family. "Inmates call their mothers like most of us do on holidays," said Dr. John Shaffer, former executive deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Corrections Department.
But for some, the phones serve a darker purpose. "Most of these guys are just chitchatting with their girlfriends, but some of these guys are stone-hardened criminals running criminal enterprises," said Kevin Tamez of the MPM group, a litigation consulting firm that specializes in prison security... Meth rings operated by prisoners with cellphones, some with ties to prison gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood, the Irish Mob Gang and the United Blood Nation, have been discovered in at least five Southern facilities. Phones have also played a role in breakouts, with one South Carolina inmate dialing up drone delivery of wire cutters and cash for his escape in July. Cellphones are so prevalent in the prison system, Tamez said, that "if you don't have them, you would look like a loser."
The article reports convicts have actually uploaded in-prison videos to Facebook Live and to Snapchat. "Georgia inmates used phones to take photos of themselves tying up or beating other prisoners, then texted the horrifying images to the victim's family and demanded cash.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fighting-in-a-burning-house department
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg's report on the contractor Equifax first hired to investigate their breach:
Equifax and Mandiant got into a dispute just as the hackers were gaining a foothold in the company's network... Mandiant warned Equifax that its unpatched systems and misconfigured security policies could indicate major problems, a person familiar with the perspectives of both sides said. For its part, Equifax believed Mandiant had sent an undertrained team without the expertise it expected from a marquee security company...
That rift, which appears to have squelched a broader look at weaknesses in the company's security posture, looks to have given the intruders room to operate freely within the company's network for months. According to an internal analysis of the attack, the hackers had time to customize their tools to more efficiently exploit Equifax's software, and to query and analyze dozens of databases to decide which held the most valuable data. The trove they collected was so large it had to be broken up into smaller pieces to try to avoid tripping alarms as data slipped from the company's grasp through the summer... By the time they were done, the attackers had accessed dozens of sensitive databases and created more than 30 separate entry points into Equifax's computer systems. "They may not have immediately grasped the value of their discovery, but, as the attack escalated over the following months, that first group -- known as an entry crew -- handed off to a more sophisticated team of hackers," reports Bloomberg, suggesting that the attack may have been sponsored by a nation-state.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's where-do-you-want-to-go-today department
Bill Gates uses an Android phone now. "It may not be the most surprising revelation, given profits are sinking faster than a boat without a hull and big-name partners are jumping ship left and right, but the founder of Microsoft has presumably left Windows Mobile," reports Neonwin. Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates (no relation) writes:
I would assume this is the final nail in the coffin for Windows Phone and the rumored Surface Phone which may never see the light of day. Over the past few months we have seen a change in Microsoft with them being friendly to Linux with stories of porting .NET core over to Linux, helping write a custom Linux kernel, as well as introducing the not-so-popular-on-slashdot WSL Ubuntu for WIndows 10.
Noting the Android emulators in Visual Studio, he's wondering if the company's ambitions go beyond developers, and if they're planning a Microsoft version of Android, "as the tools are in place with Ubuntu, Node.js, Python, Microsoft Code editor, and the Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition."
His original submission points out that 10 years ago these stories would have been unimaginable, but he also asks a second question: has Microsoft really changed? "Could we be seeing a new Microsoft now that the world is moving to mobile and they have no operating system in it?"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you-won't-believe-what-happens-next department
An anonymous reader writes: InfoWorld announced the winners of this year's "Best of Open Source Software Awards" -- honoring 68 different projects, spread across five categories. Besides the 15 best software development tools, they also recognized the best cloud computing software, machine learning tools, and networking and security software (as well as the best databases and analytics tools).
"Open source software isn't what it used to be," writes Doug Dineley, the site's executive editor. "The term used to conjure images of the lone developer, working into the night and through weekends, banging out line after line of code to scratch a personal itch or realize a personal vision... But as you wend your way through our Bossie winners, you're bound to be struck by the number of projects with heavyweight engineering resources behind them... Elsewhere in the open source landscape, valuable engineering resources come together in a different way -- through the shared interest of commercial software vendors."
More than 10% of the awards went to the Apache Software Foundation -- 7 of the 68 -- though I was surprised to see that five of the best software development tools are languages -- specifically Kotlin, Go, Rust, Clojure, and Typescript. Two more of the best open source software development tools were Microsoft products -- .Net Core and Visual Studio Code. And in the same category was OpenRemote a home automation platform, as well as Ethereum, which "smells and tastes like an open source project that is solving problems and serving developers."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's steering-committees department
"If you don't place a Capable Engineering crew to oversee a project that involves lives, you're asking for trouble," writes Slashdot reader Neuronwelder. Consumer Reports writes:
Congress is moving ahead with plans to let self-driving cars be tested on U.S. roads without having to comply with the same safety rules as regular vehicles... The House passed its version of the legislation earlier this month with little opposition. The Senate is expected to vote on its bill in the coming weeks... "Federal law shouldn't leave consumers as guinea pigs," said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union. "We were hopeful that this bill would include much stronger measures to protect consumers against known emerging safety risks. Unfortunately, in the bill's current form, it doesn't."
The legislation, which would take effect in 18 months, would allow the deployment of up to 50,000 self-driving vehicles per company in the first year of its application, rising to 100,000 vehicles annually by the third year, exempt from essential federal safety standards... Automakers might be able to go beyond the limits by getting exemptions for more than one model. The bill also creates a means to go beyond 100,000 cars for each company, by allowing automakers to petition the NHTSA after five years for more vehicles.
"The bill pre-empts any state safety standards," argues the group Consumer Watchdog, "but there are none yet in place at the national level."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's green-alert department
Vortex.com is one of the oldest domains on the internet -- one of the first 40 ever registered, writes Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein. So why does Google sometimes block the email he sends?
Here's why. First, my message had the audacity to mention "Google Account" or "Google Accounts" in the subject and/or body of the message. And secondly, one of my mailing lists is "google-issues" -- so some (digest format) recipients received the email from "firstname.lastname@example.org"... Apparently what we're dealing with here is a simplistic (and frankly, rather haphazard in this respect at least) string-matching algorithm that could have come right out of the early 1970s...! [A]t least in this case, it appears that Google is basically using the venerable old UNIX/Linux "grep" command or some equivalent, and in a rather slipshod way, too.
In addition, the article concludes, "I've never found a way to get Google to 'whitelist' well-behaved senders against these kinds of errors, so some users see these false phishing warnings repeatedly.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Pirates-of-the-Kodi-Media-Players:-On-Stranger-Tides department
An anonymous reader quotes the EFF:
In the past few years, the sale of pre-configured Kodi boxes, and the availability of a range of plugins providing access to streaming media, has seen the software's popularity balloon -- and made it the latest target of Hollywood's copyright enforcement juggernaut. We've seen this in the appearance of streaming media boxes as an enforcement priority in the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, in proposals for new legislation targeting the sale of "illicit" media boxes, and in lawsuits that have been brought on both sides of the Atlantic to address the "problem" that media boxes running Kodi, like any Web browser, can be used to access media streams that were not authorized by the copyright holder...
The difficulty facing the titans of TV is that since neither those who sell Kodi boxes, nor those who write or host add-ons for the software, are engaging in any unauthorized copying by doing so, cases targeting these parties have to rely on other legal theories. So far several legal theories have been used; one in Europe against sellers of Kodi boxes, one in Canada against the owner of the popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons, and two in the United States against TVAddons and a plugin developer... These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.
The EFF details the specific lawsuits in each region, and concludes that their courts "should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's spoilers department
schwit1 was the first Slashdot reader to bring us the news. Newsweek reports:
Archaeologists believe they have found the key to unlocking a mystery almost as old as the Great Pyramid itself: Who built the structure and how were they able to transport two-ton blocks of stone to the ancient wonder more than 4,500 years ago...?
Experts had long established that the stones from the pyramid's chambers were transported from as far away as Luxor, more than 500 miles to the south of Giza, the location of the Great Pyramid, but had never agreed how they got there. However, the diary of an overseer, uncovered in the seaport of Wadi al-Jafr, appears to answer the age-old question, showing the ancient Egyptians harnessed the power of the Nile to transport the giant blocks of stone.
According to a new British documentary Egypt's Great Pyramid: The New Evidence, which aired on the U.K.'s Channel 4 on Sunday, the Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built using an intricate system of waterways which allowed thousands of workers to pull the massive stones, floated on boats, into place with ropes. Along with the papyrus diary of the overseer, known as Merer, the archaeologists uncovered a ceremonial boat and a system of waterworks. The ancient text described how Merer's team dug huge canals to channel the water of the Nile to the pyramid.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's time-for-sun department
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge:
Battery life on smartwatches is, in a word, bad. And while most of today's watches can more or less make it through a day without dying, they're still a far cry from the months or even years that traditional watches can run for. What if you never had to charge your smartwatch? That's the promise of Lunar, a new Kickstarter project that claims to be the world's first solar-powered smartwatch... The company says that the watch can charge off both indoor and outdoor light, and can run off as little as one hour of exposure a day. (The company also includes a traditional inductive charger as a backup.)
As for the watch itself, it's a pretty standard hybrid smartwatch, solar power aside. It'll be able to do basic activity and sleep tracking, offer some limited notification support through a colored LED, and automatically set time zones through a connected smartphone app. Also, given the need for low power consumption for the solar charging to feasibly work, there's no screen on the Lunar. Instead, there's just a ring of LED lights located where hour markers would be.
The campaign reached its funding goal wIthin two days of launching -- and one week later had double that amount, raising a total of $101,987 from 564 backers.
It's not clear if Slashdot readers love or hate smartwatches. Does it make a difference if the watch is solar powered?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's living-on-the-Edge department
Mark Wilson writes: It's now a little more than a year since Microsoft first brought extensions to Edge. After so long you would expect the selection of addons to be overwhelming -- but that's far from being the case. In all, there are only 70-odd Edge extensions available, and Microsoft has been moved to explain why. In a blog post, the company almost apologetically explains that it is "building a thoughtfully curated ecosystem," citing concern over quality and a fear of diminishing the user experience. What some might describe as "slow," Microsoft refers to as a "purposefully metered approach" to new extensions, and you probably shouldn't expect things to speed up a great deal any time soon. Colleen Williams, senior program manager for Microsoft Edge, says "We want Microsoft Edge to be your favorite browser, with the fundamentals you expect -- speed, power efficiency, reliability, security." She also adds that "Astute observers of our release notes and active testers in the Insider program may have noticed that some preview builds break extensions temporarily."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's future-phone-features department
BrianFagioli writes: Friday, Microsoft released a refreshed preview of Skype for Linux. There are both DEB and RPM packages available, making it easy to install on, say, Ubuntu, Debian, or Fedora. In fact, I successfully installed it on Pop!_OS earlier today. Believe it or not, the new interface is quite nice, making it something I could possibly enjoy using on my Linux machine. "Great news for Skype for Linux users -- the next generation of Skype for Linux is launching!" says The Skype Team. "Starting today, you can download Skype Preview for Linux and start enjoying new features across all your devices -- including screen sharing and group chat. With Skype for Linux, you can take advantage of the screen sharing feature on your desktop screen. Now, you can share content with everyone on the call -- making it even easier to bring your calls to life and collaborate on projects."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dire-warnings department
An anonymous reader quotes Silicon Beat:
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak penned an op-ed on Friday with a former Federal Communications Commission chairman, urging the current FCC to stop its proposed rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations. In the op-ed published by USA Today, Wozniak and Michael Copps, who led the FCC from 2001 to 2011, argued the rollback will threaten freedom for internet users and may corrode democracy... "Sometimes there's a nugget of truth to the adage that Washington policymakers are disconnected from the people they purport to represent," they wrote. "It is a stirring example of democracy in action. With the Internet's future as a platform for innovation and democratic discourse on the line, a coalition of grassroots and diverse groups joined with technology firms to insist that the FCC maintain its 2015 open internet (or 'net neutrality') rules."
In the joint letter, Wozniak and Copps write that "We come from different walks of life, but each of us recognizes that the FCC is considering action that could end the internet as we know it -- a dynamic platform for entrepreneurship, jobs, education, and free expression."
"Will consumers and citizens control their online experiences, or will a few gigantic gatekeepers take this dynamic technology down the road of centralized control, toll booths and constantly rising prices for consumers? At stake is the nature of the internet and its capacity to transform our lives even more than it already has."Read Replies (0)