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Apple's 'Shoddy' Beats Headphones Get Slammed In Lawsuit
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unhappy-camper department:
A lawsuit (PDF) filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, recounts the frustrations of five plaintiffs who found that Apple's Powerbeats 2 and Powerbeats 3 headphones did not perform as advertised. They are also claiming the company is refusing to honor warranty commitments to repair or replace the failed units. The Register reports: The complaint seeks $5,000,000 in damages and class action certification, in order to represent thousands of similarly afflicted Beats customers who are alleged to exist. "In widespread advertising and marketing campaigns, Apple touts that its costly Powerbeats (which retail for $199.95) are 'BUILT TO ENDURE' and are the 'BEST HEADPHONES FOR WORKING OUT,'" the complaint says. "But these costly headphones are neither 'built to endure' nor 'sweat & water resistant,' and certainly do not have a battery that lasts for six or twelve hours. Instead, these shoddy headphones contain a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish and eventually stop retaining a charge."

The complaint attributes the shoddiness of Apple's Powerbeats headphones to cheap components. Citing an estimate in a recent Motley Fool article, the complaint contends that Apple's Beats Solo headphones cost $16.89 to make and retail for $199.95: a markup of more than 1,000 per cent. That figure actually comes from a Medium post by Avery Louie, from hardware prototyping biz Bolt.

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Study Finds That Banning Trolls Works, To Some Degree
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's jump-ship department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On October 5, 2015, facing mounting criticism about the hate groups proliferating on Reddit, the site banned a slew of offensive subreddits, including r/Coontown and r/fatpeoplehate, which targeted Black people and those with weight issues. But did banning these online groups from Reddit diminish hateful behavior overall, or did the hate just spread to other places? A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and University of Michigan examines just that, and uses data collected from 100 million Reddit posts that were created before and after the aforementioned subreddits were dissolved. Published in the journal ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, the researchers conclude that the 2015 ban worked. More accounts than expected discontinued their use on the site, and accounts that stayed after the ban drastically reduced their hate speech. However, studies like this raise questions about the systemic issues facing the internet at large, and how our culture should deal with online hate speech. First, the researchers automatically extracted words from the banned subreddits to create a dataset that included hate speech and community-specific lingo. The researchers looked at the accounts of users who were active on those subreddits and compared their posting activity from before and after those offensive subreddits were banned. The team was able to monitor upticks or drops in the hate speech across Reddit and if that speech had "migrated" to other subreddits as a result.

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EU Set To Demand Internet Firms Act Faster To Remove Illegal Content
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's pace-it-up department:
Companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter could face European Union laws forcing them to be more proactive in removing illegal content if they do not do more to police what is available on the Internet. From a report: The European Union executive outlines in draft guidelines reviewed by Reuters how Internet firms should step up efforts with measures such as establishing trusted flaggers and taking voluntary measures to detect and remove illegal content. Proliferating illegal content, whether because it infringes copyright or incites terrorism, has sparked heated debate in Europe between those who want online platforms to do more to tackle it and those who fear it could impinge on free speech. The companies have significantly stepped up efforts to tackle the problem of late, agreeing to an EU code of conduct to remove hate speech within 24 hours and forming a global working group to combine their efforts remove terrorist content from their platforms.

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Kaspersky Software Banned From US Government Systems Over Concerns About Russia
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's going-at-it department:
Mark Wilson writes: The Department of Homeland Security has told US government agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their systems. The directive was issued because of concerns about influence exerted over the company by the Russian government. Government agencies have been given three months to identify and start to remove Kaspersky's security products. Kaspersky has constantly denied connections to the Russian government, but the US is simply not willing to take the risk.

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Windows 10 Will Soon Give Users More Control Over App Permissions
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-steps department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The software giant has revealed that you'll get much more control over what apps are allowed to do with your device. Where you previously only had control over location sharing, the Fall Creators Update will ask you to grant permission before accessing all kinds of potentially sensitive hardware and software features. It'll ask to use your camera and microphone if you have a video recording app, for instance, or check before offering access to your calendar and contacts. You'll only get these prompts for apps installed after you move to the Fall Creators Update; you'll have to dive into your privacy settings to review permissions for apps you already have. Even so, it's an important boost to Windows' privacy security levels. Much as on phones, where fine-grained permissions are already fairly commonplace, you might not have to worry as much about malicious apps spamming your contacts or hijacking the camera.

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Equifax Had 'Admin' as Login and Password in Argentina
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Reader wired_parrot writes: The credit report provider Equifax has been accused of a fresh data security breach, this time affecting its Argentine operations. The breach was revealed after security researchers discovered that an online employee tool used by Equifax Argentina was accessible using the "admin/admin" password combination.

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Trump Administration Sued Over Phone Searches at US Borders
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 10:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department:
The Trump administration has engaged in an unconstitutional practice of searching without a warrant the phones and laptops of Americans who are stopped at the border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleged. From a report: Ten U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, saying the searches and prolonged confiscation of their electronic devices violate privacy and free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution. DHS could not be immediately reached for comment. The lawsuit comes as the number of searches of electronic devices has surged in recent years, alarming civil rights advocates.

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Ask Slashdot: What Are You Reading This Month?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 10:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's let's-get-going department:
An anonymous reader writes: Hey folks! Could you share what are some books (or book) you're reading this month? Maybe it's the book you've already started, or you intend to begin or resume later this month? Thanks!

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The Fake News Machine: Inside a Town Gearing Up for 2020
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's inside-story department:
CNN has a story on Veles, riverside town in Macedonia, which back in the day was known to make porcelain for the whole of Yugoslavia. But now, as an investigation by the news outlet has found, it makes fake news. Veles has become home to dozens of website operators who churn out bogus stories designed to attract the attention of Americans. Each click adds cash to their bank accounts. From the report: The scale is industrial: Over 100 websites were tracked here during the final weeks of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, producing fake news that mostly favored Republican candidate for President Donald Trump. One of the shadowy industry's pioneers is a soft-spoken law school dropout. Worried that his online accounts could be shut down, the 24-year-old asked to be known only as Mikhail. He takes on a different persona at night, prowling the internet as "Jesica," an American who frequently posts pro-Trump memes on Facebook. The website and Facebook page that "Jesica" runs caters to conservative readers in the U.S. The stories are political -- and often wrong on the facts. But that doesn't concern Mikhail. "I don't care, because the people are reading," he said. "At 22, I was earning more than someone [in Macedonia] will ever learn in his entire life." He claims to have earned up to $2,500 a day from advertising on his website, while the average monthly income in Macedonia is just $426. The profits come primarily from ad services such as Google's AdSense, which place targeted advertisements around the web. Each click sends a little bit of cash back to the content creator. Mikhail says he has used his profits to buy a house and put his younger sister through school. [...] That site was blocked a few months ago after Facebook and Google started cracking down on fake news sites. Mikhail is now retooling his operation, with his sights set firmly on the 2020 presidential election.

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$782,000 Over Asking For a House in Sunnyvale
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-concern department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: A house in Sunnyvale just sold for close to $800,000 over its listing price. Your eyes do not deceive you: The four-bed, two-bath house -- less than 2,000 square feet -- listed for $1,688,000 and sold for $2,470,000. "I think it's the most anything has ever gone for over asking in Sunnyvale -- a record for Sunnyvale," said Dave Clark, the Keller Williams agent who represented the sellers in the deal. "We anticipated it would go for $2 million, or over $2 million. But we had no idea it would ever go for what it went for." This kind of over-bidding is known to happen farther north in cities including Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View. But as those places have grown far too expensive for most buyers, future homeowners have migrated south to Sunnyvale, a once modest community that now finds itself among the Bay Area's real estate hot spots.

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The iPhone Is Guaranteed To Last Only One Year, Apple Argues In Court
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-they-see-it department:
Reader Jason Koebler writes: Last month, Greg Joswiak, Apple's VP of iOS, iPad, and iPhone Marketing, told Buzzfeed that iPhones are "the highest quality and most durable devices. We do this because it's better for the customer, for the iPhone, and for the planet."But in a class-action court case over the widespread premature failure of tens of thousands of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices, Apple argues that the company cannot guarantee any iPhone for more than a year. In a motion to dismiss, Apple argued that "to hold Apple's Limited Warranty substantively unconscionable simply because Plaintiffs expect their iPhones to last the length of their cellular service contracts 'would place a burden on [Apple] for which it did not contract.'"

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Java EE Is Moving To the Eclipse Foundation
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's new-beginning department:
Oracle has chosen the Eclipse Foundation to be the new home of the Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE), the company announced this week. Oracle made the decision in collaboration with IBM and Red Hat, the two other largest contributors to the platform. From a report: "The Eclipse Foundation has strong experience and involvement with Java EE and related technologies," wrote Oracle software evangelist David Delabassee in a blog post. This will help us transition Java EE rapidly, create community-friendly processes for evolving the platform, and leverage complementary projects such as MicroProfile. We look forward to this collaboration." Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, is optimistic about this move, which he said is exactly what the enterprise Java needs and what the community has been hoping for.

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Disney Is Lone Holdout From Apple's Plan to Sell 4K Movies for $20
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 06:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's advent-of-4K-titles department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple has signed new deals to sell movies in ultra high-definition with every major Hollywood studio except the one with which it has long been closest: Walt Disney. At an event Tuesday where he announced the new Apple TV 4K, the tech giant's head of software and services, Eddy Cue, said the device will offer Hollywood movies in the high-resolution format, called either 4K or UHD, for ultra-high definition. Logos for most major studios briefly flashed on a screen behind Mr. Cue, including Time Warner's Warner Bros and Comcast's Universal Pictures. Mr. Cue said those studios' movies will be available in UHD at the same price as high-definition movies. Participating studios have agreed to a maximum price of $19.99 for 4K movies, currently the highest price for HD movies, according to a person with knowledge of the deal making. Apple had pushed studios not to raise film prices above that threshold. The one absence from Apple's list of big studios selling movies in UHD is Disney. It wasn't immediately clear why the company behind Star Wars and Marvel couldn't reach an arrangement with Apple. It currently sells its films in 4K on other digital stores, such as Wal-Mart Stores' Vudu, for $24.99.

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North Korea Is Dodging Sanctions With a Secret Bitcoin Stash
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 05:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's top-secret department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: North Korea appears to be stepping up efforts to secure bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which could be used to avoid trade restrictions including new sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council. Hackers from Kim Jong Un's regime are increasing their attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea and related sites, according to a new report from security researcher FireEye Inc. They also breached an English-language bitcoin news website and collected bitcoin ransom payments from global victims of the malware WannaCry, according to the researcher. Kim's apparent interest in cryptocurrencies comes amid rising prices and popularity. The same factors that have driven their success -- lack of state control and secretiveness -- would make them useful fund raising and money laundering tools for a man threatening to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. With tightening sanctions and usage of cryptocurrencies broadening, security experts say North Korea's embrace of digital cash will only increase. The 15-member Security Council on Monday approved sanctions aimed at punishing North Korea for its latest missile and nuclear tests. U.S. officials said the new measures would cut the country's textile exports by 90 percent, restricting its ability to get hard currency.

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French Company Plans To Heat Homes, Offices With AMD Ryzen Pro Processors
Posted by News Fetcher on September 13 '17 at 02:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's green-living department:
At its Ryzen Pro event in New York City last month, AMD invited a French company called Qarnot to discuss how they're using Ryzen Pro processors to heat homes and offices for free. The company uses the Q.rad -- a heater that embeds three CPUs as a heat source -- to accomplish this feat. "We reuse the heat they generate to heat homes and offices for free," the company says in a blog post. "Q.rad is connected to the internet and receives in real time workloads from our in-house computing platform."

The idea is that anyone in the world can send heavy workloads over the cloud to a Q.rad and have it render the task and heat a person's home in the process. The two industries that are targeted by Qarnot include movies studios for 3D rendering and VFX, and banks for risk analysis. Qarnot is opting in for Ryzen Pro processors over Intel i7 processors due to the performance gain and heat output. According to Qarnot, they "saw a performance gain of 30-45% compared to the Intel i7." They also report that the Ryzen Pro is "producing the same heat as the equivalent Intel CPUs" they were using -- all while providing twice as many cores.

While it's neat to see a company convert what would otherwise be wasted heat into a useful asset that heats a person's home, it does raise some questions about the security and profitability of their business model. By using Ryzen Pro's processors, OS independent memory encryption is enabled to provide additional security layers to Qarnot's heaters. However, Q.rads are naturally still going to be physically unsecured as they can be in anyone's house.

Further reading: The Mac Observer, TechRepublic

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At Least 1.65 Million Computers Are Mining Cryptocurrency For Hackers So Far This Year
Posted by News Fetcher on September 12 '17 at 11:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's where-we-stand department:
According to new statistics released on Tuesday by Kaspersky Lab, a prominent Russian information security firm, 2017 is on track to beat 2016 -- and every year since 2011 -- in terms of the sheer number of computers infected with malware that installs mining software. From a report: So far in 2017, the company says it has detected 1.65 million infected machines. The total amount of infected computers for all of the previous year was roughly 1.8 million. The infected machines are not just home computers, the firm stated in a blog post, but company servers as well. "The main effect for a home computer or organization infrastructure is reduced system performance," Anton Ivanov, a security researcher for Kaspersky, wrote me in an email. "Also some miners could download modules from a threat actor's infrastructure, and these modules could contain other malware such as Trojans [malware that disguises itself as legitimate software]." Ivanov said that the firm doesn't know how much money has been made overall with this scheme, but a digital wallet for one mining botnet that the company identified currently contains over $200,000 USD.

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Department of Energy Invests $50 Million To Improve Critical Energy Infrastructure Security
Posted by News Fetcher on September 12 '17 at 07:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's next-gen department:
Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing awards of up to $50 million to DOE's National Laboratories to support early stage research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the Nation's critical energy infrastructure, including the electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure. The electricity system must continue to evolve to address a variety of challenges and opportunities such as severe weather and the cyber threat, a changing mix of types of electric generation, the ability for consumers to participate in electricity markets, the growth of the Internet of Things, and the aging of the electricity infrastructure. The seven Resilient Distribution Systems projects awarded through DOE's Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC) will develop and validate innovative approaches to enhance the resilience of distribution systems -- including microgrids -- with high penetration of clean distributed energy resources (DER) and emerging grid technologies at regional scale. The project results are expected to deliver credible information on technical and economic viability of the solutions. The projects will also demonstrate viability to key stakeholders who are ultimately responsible for approving and investing in grid modernization activities. In addition, the Department of Energy "is also announcing 20 cybersecurity projects that will enhance the reliability and resilience of the Nation's electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure through innovative, scalable, and cost-effective research and development of cybersecurity solutions."

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Why Bats Crash Into Windows
Posted by News Fetcher on September 12 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Marco-Polo department:
According to a new report published in the journal Science, Bats slam into vertical structures such as steel and glass buildings because they appear invisible to bats' echolocation system. Nature reports: Bats rely on echolocation to navigate in the dark. They locate and identify objects by sending out shrill calls and listening to the echoes that bounce back. Greif and his colleagues tested the echolocation of 21 wild-caught greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) in the lab. The researchers placed a featureless metal plate on a side wall at the end of a flight tunnel. The bats interpreted the smooth surface -- but not the adjacent, felt-covered walls -- as a clear flight path. Over an an average of around 20 trials for each bat, 19 of them crashed into the panel at least once. The researchers also put up smooth, vertical plates near wild bat colonies, and saw similar results. The animals became confused owing to a property of smooth surfaces called "acoustic mirroring." Whereas rough objects bounce some echoes back towards the bat, says Greif, a smooth surface reflects all echolocation calls away from the source. This makes a smooth wall appear as empty space to the bats, until they are directly in front of it. Only once a bat is facing the surface are their perpendicular echoes reflected back, which alerts the bat to its mistake. This explains why some bats attempted to swerve out of harm's way at the last second -- but often too late.

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Researchers Catch Microsoft Zero-Day Used To Install Government Spyware
Posted by News Fetcher on September 12 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's quick-on-your-feet department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Government hackers were using a previously-unknown vulnerability in Microsoft's .NET Framework, a development platform for building apps, to hack targets and infect them with spyware, according to security firm FireEye. The firm revealed the espionage campaign on Tuesday, on the same day Microsoft patched the vulnerability. According to FireEye, the bug, which until today was a zero-day, was being used by a customer of FinFisher, a company that sells surveillance and hacking technologies to governments around the world. The hackers sent a malicious Word RTF document to a "Russian speaker," according to Ben Read, FireEye's manager of cyber espionage research. The document was programmed to take advantage of the recently-patched vulnerability to install FinSpy, spyware designed by FinFisher. The spyware masqueraded as an image file called "left.jpg," according to FireEye.

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J.J. Abrams To Direct Star Wars: Episode IX; Premiere Date Pushed To December 2019
Posted by News Fetcher on September 12 '17 at 03:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's musical-chair department:
A week after Jurassic World's Colin Trevorrow was ousted from the Star Wars: Episode IX director's chair, a familiar face has stepped in to replace him: J.J. Abrams, the man responsible for successfully rebooting the new trilogy in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. From a report: Disney just pushed back the release of Star Wars: Episode IX from May 2019 to December 2019, Deadline reports. The news comes after an announcement today that J.J. Abrams is taking over from Colin Trevorrow as director of the movie. Episode IX, originally slated to premiere on May 24th, 2019, was supposed to be a return to May release dates for the Star Wars franchise. Back in 2015, The Force Awakens was also originally supposed to be released in the summer, but was moved to a December release after Abrams took over screenwriting duties with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and needed more time.

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