By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dark-nights department
"More than 40,000 in Manhattan don't have power," reports CNN:
Of the 42,000 customers without power in New York, most are in Midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side, the utility company said. The city's fire department is responding to numerous transformer fires, the first of which occurred in Manhattan on West 64th Street and West End Avenue, officials said.
The outage is having a widespread effect, with the New York subway system also experiencing power outages in its stations, the agency managing the trains said. "We're working to identify causes and keep trains moving," the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tweeted... Photos from Times Square are showing some of the famous electronic billboards dark as dozens of people stand confused on the sidewalks.
Updates from CNN report that subway trains "have been stopped for more than 45 minutes and they can't move back to stations. Some people have been forced to walk through train cars to evacuate."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unique-logins department
"Like many bad ideas, this one started with Bud Light," reports Slate.
As four high school seniors sat around shooting the breeze before graduation, they decided to vandalize their school as a senior prank. Disguised with T-shirts over their faces to evade security cameras, the young men originally set out to spray-paint "Class of 2018," but in a moment one of the men describes to the Washington Post as "a blur," their graffiti fest took a turn toward swastikas, racial slurs attacking the school's principal, and other hateful symbols.
Despite their covered faces, school officials had no problem finding who was responsible: The students' phones had automatically connected with the school's Wi-Fi using their unique logins. Their digital fingerprints tipped off administrators to who was on campus just before midnight, and, as the Post describes, they were held accountable for their crime. But the incident also showcases how little we know about what we're giving away with our digital footprints. These men had clearly given thought about how to stay anonymous -- they knew they needed masks to foil the cameras -- but they didn't think the devices in their pockets could give them away.
The AP adds that the prison sentences for the four teenagers "ranged from eight to 18 weekends behind bars."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tenant-disputes department
"Cheap surveillance software is changing how landlords manage their tenants and what laws police can enforce," reports Slate.
For example, there's a private company contracting with property managers that says they now have 475 security cameras in place and can sometimes scan more than 1.5 million license plates in a week. (According to Clayton Burnett, Watchstore Security's director of "innovation and new technology".)
Burnett's company regularly hands over location data to police, he says, as evidence for cases large and small. But that investigative firepower also comes in handy for more routine landlord-tenant affairs. They've investigated tree trimmers charging for a day of work they didn't do and caught people dumping trash on private property. Sometimes, he says, a tenant will claim her car was hit in the building's parking lot and ask for free rent. His company can search for her plate and see that one day, she left the lot with her bumper intact and then came back later with a dent in it. Probably once a week, Burnett says, Watchtower uses it to prove that a tenant has "a buddy crashing on their couch," violating their lease. "Normally, there's some limit to how long they can stay, like five days," he says, "and we can prove they're going over that." One search, and they have proof that that buddy has been coming over every night for a month.
I was wondering how tenants felt about this, and I asked Burnett whether anyone had ever complained about the license plate readers. "No," he said with a laugh. "I'd say they probably don't know about it...."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's automated-advice department
"The UK's National Health Service (NHS) has announced what it claims is a world first: a partnership with Amazon's Alexa to offer health advice from the NHS website."
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge:
Britons who ask Alexa basic health questions like "Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?" and "Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?" will be given answers vetted by NHS health professionals and currently available on its website. At the moment, Alexa sources answers to such questions from a variety of places, including the Mayo Clinic and WebMD.
The partnership does not add significantly to Alexa's skill-set, but it is an interesting step for the NHS. The UK's Department of Health (DoH) says it hopes the move will reduce the pressure on health professionals in the country, giving people a new way to access reliable medical advice. It will also benefit individuals with disabilities, like sight impairments, who may find it difficult to use computers or smartphones to find the same information.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sunshine-but-not-privacy department
Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles "made $77 million in 2017 by selling drivers' personal information to more than 30 private companies, including marketing firms, bill collectors, insurance companies and data brokers..." according to local news site.
schwit1 shared this report from WPTV:
A Florida woman is blaming the state government for an onslaught of robocalls and direct mail offers â"- accusations that come as the Scripps station WFTS in Tampa uncovered that the DMV makes millions by selling Florida drivers' personal information to outside companies, including marketing firms.
WFTS I-Team Investigator Adam Walser obtained records showing the state sold information on Florida drivers and ID cardholders to more than 30 private companies, including marketing firms, bill collectors, insurance companies and data brokers in the business of reselling information.
They also report that the woman was illiterate, and "had no digital footprint â" until she got an ID." But within days, her legal guardian reports she was "receiving direct mail offers for lawn service, credit cards, cell phones and insurance. She also now receives constant robocalls and salespeople have even started showing up at her door."
And their investigation revealed more damning details. One data broker said their firm "has an agreement with the state to buy driver and ID cardholder data for a penny a record." A promotional video on their web site brags they have "access to 2.5 billion customers and two-thirds of the world's population."
Though it may be possible to opt-out of data collection from individual marketing companies, a spokesperson for the state of Florida "said there's no way for drivers to opt out if they don't want their personal information sold."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Intel-patches-inside department
This week Intel announced two new patches, according to Tom's Hardware:
The flaw in the processor diagnostic tool (CVE-2019-11133) is rated 8.2 out 10 on the CVSS 3.0 scale, making it a high-severity vulnerability. The flaw [found by security researcher Jesse Michael from Eclypsium] "may allow an authenticated user to potentially enable escalation of privilege, information disclosure or denial of service via local access," according to Intel's latest security advisory. Versions of the tool that are older than 22.214.171.124 are affected.
The second vulnerability, found by Intel's internal team, is a medium-severity vulnerability in Intel's SSD DC S4500/S4600 series sold to data center customers. The flaw found in the SSD firmware versions older than SCV10150 obtained a 5.3 score on the CVSS 3.0 scale, so it was labeled medium-severity. The bug may allow an unprivileged user to enable privilege escalation via physical access.
As one of the flaws was uncovered by Intel itself and for the other the Eclypsium research coordinated with Intel for its disclosure, Intel was able to have ready the patches in time for the public announcement.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cutting-edge-technology department
Many of America's voting machines are depending on an outdated Microsoft operating system, reports the Associated Press. "The vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts."
That's significant because Windows 7 reaches its "end of life" on Jan. 14, meaning Microsoft stops providing technical support and producing "patches" to fix software vulnerabilities, which hackers can exploit. In a statement to the AP, Microsoft said Friday it would offer continued Windows 7 security updates for a fee through 2023.
Critics say the situation is an example of what happens when private companies ultimately determine the security level of election systems with a lack of federal requirements or oversight....
It's unclear whether the often hefty expense of security updates would be paid by vendors operating on razor-thin profit margins or cash-strapped jurisdictions. It's also uncertain if a version running on Windows 10, which has more security features, can be certified and rolled out in time for primaries.
The Associated Press contacted the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity advocacy organization, and received this comment from the group's the executive director.
"Is this a bad joke?"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's good-morning-Starshot department
"Starshot wants to build the world's most powerful laser and aim it at the closest star. What could go wrong?"
An anonymous reader quotes MIT's Technology Review:
In 2015, Philip Lubin, a cosmologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, took the stage at the 100-Year Starship Symposium in Santa Clara. He outlined his plan to build a laser so powerful that it could accelerate tiny spacecraft to 20% of the speed of light, getting them to Alpha Centauri in just 20 years. We could become interstellar explorers within a single generation. It was quite the hook.
Because Lubin is an excellent public speaker, and because the underlying technologies already existed, and because the science was sound, he was mobbed after the talk. He also met Pete Worden, a former research director of NASA's Ames Research Center, for the first time. Worden had recently taken over as head of the Breakthrough Initiatives, a nonprofit program funded by Russian technology billionaire Yuri Milner. Six months later, Lubin's project had $100 million in funding from Breakthrough and the endorsement of Stephen Hawking, who called it the "next great leap into the cosmos."
Starshot is straightforward, at least in theory. First, build an enormous array of moderately powerful lasers. Yoke them together—what's called "phase lock"—to create a single beam with up to 100 gigawatts of power. Direct the beam onto highly reflective light sails attached to spacecraft weighing less than a gram and already in orbit. Turn the beam on for a few minutes, and the photon pressure blasts the spacecraft to relativistic speeds.
Not only could such a technology be used to send sensors to another star system; it could dispatch larger craft to Earth's neighboring planets and moons. Imagine a package to Mars in a few days, or a crewed mission to Mars in a month. Starshot effectively shrinks the solar system, and ultimately the galaxy.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fat-finger-filings department
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes the Register:
An interior design tools startup called Mosss on Wednesday sued Google to get it to restore its data after someone at the startup accidentally deleted the firm's G Suite account. In a pro se lawsuit [PDF] filed in US District Court in Oakland, California, Mosss, under its previous corporate name, Musey Inc., asked Google to help it restore its data...
Initially, the filing says, the company believed Google would be able to help because a customer service representative said he'd deal with the issue. But the cavalry did not arrive... "All efforts failed and at the end we received a one-line email that stated our data was lost and couldn't be returned to us."
Except perhaps not. According to the complaint, the company was informed – it's not clear whether Google or a third-party advised this – that it could seek a subpoena or file a civil lawsuit to access its data. So that's what it has done.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's to-GNOME-is-to-love-'em department
intensivevocoder quotes TechRepublic: Following Canonical's pivot away from its internally-developed Unity user interface and Mir display server, Ubuntu has enjoyed two relatively low-drama years, as the Linux Desktop market homogenized during its transition back to a customized GNOME desktop. In a review of the most recent release, TechRepublic's Jack Wallen declared that "Ubuntu 19.04 should seriously impress anyone looking for a fast and reliable Linux desktop platform."
Largely, it's been a slow-and-steady pace for Ubuntu since the pivot from Unity to GNOME, though the distribution made headlines for plans to end support for 32-bit support. This prompted Valve, operators of games marketplace Steam, to re-think its approach toward Ubuntu, which it previously characterized as "as the best-supported path for desktop users."
TechRepublic's James Sanders interviewed Will Cooke, director of engineering for Ubuntu Desktop at Canonical, about the distribution's long-term plans for legacy 32-bit support, shipping a desktop in a post-Unity-era Ubuntu, and why Linux should be the first choice for users migrating from Windows 7 prior to the end of support.
From the interview:
When we did the switch to GNOME Shell from Unity, we did a survey [asking] people straightforward questions like, "What sort of features do you want to see continue in Ubuntu Desktop?" The answer came through very, very clearly that people liked having the launcher on the left, and they wanted to keep that feature there. They liked having desktop icons and they wanted to keep that feature there.
We've made decisions based on data from our user base, from our community. They have provided that feedback and we've done what the majority of people want.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's nein department
"Schools in the central German state of Hesse [population: 6 million] have been told it's now illegal to use Microsoft Office 365," reports ZDNet:
The state's data-protection commissioner has ruled that using the popular cloud platform's standard configuration exposes personal information about students and teachers "to possible access by US officials".
That might sound like just another instance of European concerns about data privacy or worries about the current US administration's foreign policy. But in fact the ruling by the Hesse Office for Data Protection and Information Freedom is the result of several years of domestic debate about whether German schools and other state institutions should be using Microsoft software at all.
Besides the details that German users provide when they're working with the platform, Microsoft Office 365 also transmits telemetry data back to the US. Last year, investigators in the Netherlands discovered that that data could include anything from standard software diagnostics to user content from inside applications, such as sentences from documents and email subject lines. All of which contravenes the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, the Dutch said...
To allay privacy fears in Germany, Microsoft invested millions in a German cloud service, and in 2017 Hesse authorities said local schools could use Office 365. If German data remained in the country, that was fine, Hesse's data privacy commissioner, Michael Ronellenfitsch, said. But in August 2018 Microsoft decided to shut down the German service. So once again, data from local Office 365 users would be data transmitted over the Atlantic. Several US laws, including 2018's CLOUD Act and 2015's USA Freedom Act, give the US government more rights to ask for data from tech companies.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's elephants-in-the-room department
Long-time Slashdot reader retroworks writes: In "Zoos Called It a 'Rescue.' But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?" New York Times reporter Charles Siebert does much to dispel the idea that zoos are a solution to extinction. In the first half of the article, the cruelty of zoos is in focus. "Neuroimaging has shown that elephants possess in their cerebral cortex the same elements of neural wiring we long thought exclusive to us, including spindle and pyramidal neurons, associated with higher cognitive functions like self-recognition, social awareness and language. "
The second half of the article questions whether any current (expensive) efforts to "save" the elephants offers anything more than window dressing. Ted Reilly [founder and executive director of a game preserve] is quoted that, "The greatest threat to wildlife in Africa today is the uncontrolled spread of human sprawl. As far as it sprawls, nature dies. And that's the reality on the ground. It's not the nice idea that people cook up and suggest, but that's the reality. And in my view, an equally important threat, serious threat, is dependence on donor money. If you become dependent on donor money, you will inevitably become dictated to in terms of your policies. And your management integrity will be interfered with. And it's not possible to be totally free of corruptive influences if you're not financially independent."
Does this type of reporting improve the situation, or cause despondence and abandonment of the extinction cause?
The 7,000-word article points out that 22 American zoos had already closed their elephant exhibits (or were phasing them out) by 2012 (according to a depressing study by the Seattle Times).
The New York Times adds that "an increasing awareness of nonhuman animal sentience is now compelling many to question the very existence of zoos."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-is-ticking department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: E-cigarette companies such as Juul must submit applications to U.S. regulators by May 2020 to keep their vaping products on the market, a federal judge ruled Friday. The ruling was the result of a court case brought by anti-tobacco and public-health groups after the FDA had delayed an earlier application deadline. The groups argued that the agency had abdicated its duty to regulate the products, which have been blamed for a rise of youth use of vaping products. A company's e-cigarettes will be able to stay on the market for up to one year while the FDA considers its application, according to the order. In anticipation of having to move more quickly, the FDA issued a guideline last month to help e-cigarette makers craft their applications. "Given the uncertainty in the efficacy of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices, the overstated effects that a shorter deadline may have on manufacturers, the industry's recalcitrance, the continued availability of e-cigarettes and their acknowledged appeal to youth, and the clear public health emergency, I find that a deadline is necessary," U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm wrote in his order.
Juul said it was supportive of the application process and had been preparing research on its products and how they're used by smokers. "We're confident in the content and quality of the materials we will submit with our application," said spokeswoman Lindsay Andrews.Read Replies (0)