By EditorDavid from Slashdot's age-against-the-machine department
Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: The project to actually construct Babbage's Analytical Engine, the first design for a general purpose computing machine, continues with the documentation phase of the programme. Since Babbage continued to refine his design almost until the day of his death, working out what he actually wanted to build is quite a task.
The last year's work is reported to includes work on a batch of previously unknown and uncatalogued materials discovered since the project's inception in 2011.
These decades, people don't think much of producing a new programming language to suit particular tasks — to "scratch an itch" in the vernacular. As with so many things, Babbage was a pioneer, according to the Plan 28 blog:
: There have already been significant finds. The Notations for Difference Engine 1, dating from 1834, thought to exist, had never come to light. These have now been found and represent a crucial piece in the puzzle of the developmental trajectory of the symbolic language Babbage developed as a design aid, to describe and specify his engine, and used extensively in the development of the Analytical Engine.
RockDoctor adds, "Anyone who has been tasked with taking over a project from someone else (retired, sacked, beheaded, whatever) will recognise this feeling..." The survey so far has identified mis-titled drawings, single drawings that have two unrelated catalogue entries, and drawings known to exist from earlier scholarly work but not located.
"The hope of the project is to have a working machine in time for Babbages sesquicentenary in 2021."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's exposing-vulnerabilities department
An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica:
People who find security vulnerabilities commonly run into difficulties when reporting them to the responsible company. But it's less common for such situations to turn into tense trade-show confrontations -- and competing claims of assault and blackmail. Yet that's what happened when executives at Atrient -- a casino technology firm headquartered in West Bloomfield, Michigan -- stopped responding to two UK-based security researchers who had reported some alleged security flaws. The researchers thought they had reached an agreement regarding payment for their work, but nothing final ever materialized. On February 5, 2019, one of the researchers -- Dylan Wheeler, a 23-year-old Australian living in the UK -- stopped by Atrient's booth at a London conference to confront the company's chief operating officer.
What happened next is in dispute. Wheeler says that Atrient COO Jessie Gill got in a confrontation with him and yanked off his conference lanyard; Gill insists he did no such thing, and he accused Wheeler of attempted extortion.
The debacle culminated in legal threats and a lot of mudslinging, with live play-by-play commentary as it played out on Twitter.
Ars Technica calls the story "practically a case study in the problems that can arise with vulnerability research and disclosure," adding "the vast majority of companies have no clear mechanism for outsiders to share information about security gaps."
A security research director at Rapid7 joked his first reaction was "man, I wish a vendor would punch me for disclosure. Boy, that beats any bug bounty." But they later warned, "It's on us as an industry not only to train corporate America on how to take disclosure, but also we need to do a little more training for people who find these bugs -- especially today, in an era where bug outings are kind of normal now -- to not expect someone to be necessarily grateful when one shows up."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cleaning-up-their-act department
On Friday the Ocean Cleanup project posted a status update after their giant U-shaped plastic trap lost a 60-foot section in January and had to be towed back to land:
During the first four months that the system was offshore, we were able to confirm many of the key features of the cleanup system. We also encountered some unscheduled learning opportunities; notably 1) the system hasn't been able to retain the plastic it caught, and 2) the floater suffered from a structural failure, causing an 18-meter end section to disconnect from the rest of the system, just before the end of 2018.
Its four months in the Pacific ocean validated much of their proposed solution, including the device's U-shaped configuration and its ability to orient with the wind. No harmful environmental impacts were observed, and in fact "Plastic concentrations in and around the system were much higher than in any other location in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; and, although the periods the plastic was retained in the system were not yet of sufficient length, the system did capture and concentrate plastic."
The bottom line: they're going to try again:
The engineering team is using these conclusions and results to update the design and prepare for relaunch. Using this thorough understanding, we hope to resolve the issues that are known to us and prove our technology, but we do realize that there may still be more unidentified challenges ahead. Only further proving the importance of returning to the patch as soon as possible, so we can continue to learn from and optimize the technology.... We now have all hands on deck and we aim to be ready for relaunch within a matter of months.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bagging-it department
An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fellow Democrats who control the Legislature have reached a deal to make New York the third state with a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags as they worked to finalize budget agreements, officials said Friday. The ban would prohibit grocery stores from providing plastic bags for most purchases, something California has been doing since a statewide ban was approved in 2016. Hawaii has an effective statewide ban, with all its counties imposing their own restrictions....
New York's ban wouldn't take effect until next March. The plan also calls for allowing local governments the option to impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 3 cents going to the state's Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents kept by local governments.
Meanwhile, Tennessee's state House and Senate have passed a different kind of bill -- one that bans local Tennessee governments from regulating plastic bags, according to local channel WMC.
One Memphis councilman had proposed allowing the use of plastic bags, but with a seven-cent tax to support clean water initiatives. "But that won't happen if the governor signs the bill to 'ban the bans.'"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's crime-doesn't-pay department
"The U.S. is recommending a 12.5 year prison sentence for Paul Hansmeier, one of the lead attorneys of the controversial law firm Prenda," reports TorrentFreak:
Last summer, Hansmeier admitted that he is guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering. With the final decision coming up, the Government and the defendant have now issued their sentencing recommendations. According to the Government, it is clear that Hansmeier was the driving force behind the entire scheme.... "Paul Hansmeier selected the pornographic movies for his brother to upload based upon how attractive they would be to BitTorrent users, thus deliberately encouraging the piracy Hansmeier pretended to hate," the Government writes...
With the IP-addresses that were obtained through this honeypot scheme, Prenda requested subpoenas to obtain the names and addresses of Internet subscribers. These people were then threatened into settling for figures up to $3,000. Whether they were guilty or not appeared to be irrelevant. "Hansmeier was generally content to take this step without investigating whether the subscriber was, in fact, the infringer. Hansmeier thus inflicted plenty of pain on persons who did not, in fact, download his pornographic bait," the Government writes.
In total, Prenda Law generated roughly $3,000,000 from the fraudulent copyright lawsuits they filed at courts throughout the United States. While it is by no means illegal to go after file-sharers, the Prenda attorneys crossed a line by repeatedly lying to or misleading the courts. Hansmeier also filmed and produced many videos himself, leading the court to believe that these were from a third-party company... Also, the court was led to believe that pirates caused financial damage, even though the videos were never commercially distributed.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Florida Power & Light has joined the race to build the world's largest solar battery storage system, announcing plans for its massive Manatee Energy Storage Center. The utility plans to build a 409 MW/900 MWh battery, to be powered by an existing FPL solar plant in Manatee County, Florida. It will begin serving customers in 2021. FPL says the battery system will be able to power 329,000 homes for two hours. For comparison, FPL notes the battery system is equivalent to 100 million iPhone batteries, or 300 million AA batteries. The system will be used in periods of high demand. The utility company also said that it will accelerate the retirement of two natural gas facilities at a nearby power plant. "FPL says the project will save customers more than $100 million while eliminating more than 1 million tons of carbon emissions, though no cost estimates for the project were disclosed," reports Electrek. And while the Manatee Energy Storage Center is projected to be the "world's largest solar-powered battery storage system," it will have some competition from Texas where there are plans to build a 495 MW battery storage system that would be paired with an equivalent 495 MW solar farm in Borden County, Texas. It too is due to come online in 2021.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy department
sciencehabit shares an excerpt from Science Magazine: Talk about getting something for nothing. Physicists predict that just by shooting charged particles through an electromagnetic field, it should be possible to generate light from the empty vacuum. In principle, the effect could provide a new way to test the fundamental theory of electricity and magnetism, known as quantum electrodynamics, the most precise theory in all of science. In practice, spotting the effect would require lasers and particle accelerators far more powerful than any that exist now. Physicists have long known that energetic charged particles can radiate light when they zip through a transparent medium such as water or a gas. In the medium, light travels slower than it does in empty space, allowing a particle such as an electron or proton to potentially fly faster than light. When that happens, the particle generates an electromagnetic shockwave, just as a supersonic jet creates a shockwave in air. But whereas the jet's shockwave creates a sonic boom, the electromagnetic shockwave creates light called Cherenkov radiation. That effect causes the water in the cores of nuclear reactors to glow blue, and it's been used to make particle detectors.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's who-needs-HTC-anyway department
After partnering with HTC to launch the Vive in 2016, Valve has moved ahead with plans to launch its own headset, called the Valve Index, in May 2019. Ars Technica reports: The news came on Friday in the form of a single teaser image, shown above, of a headset with the phrase "Valve Index" written on its front. The front of the headset is flanked by at least two sensors. This shadow-covered hardware matches the leaked headset reported by UploadVR in November of last year. That report hinted to Valve's headset supporting a wider, 135-degree field-of-view (FOV), as opposed to the roughly 110-degree FOV of the original HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Valve's dedicated website for the new device includes no other information than the above image and the date "May 2019." It does not include any mention of the new SteamVR Knuckles controllers, which Valve has advertised pretty heavily via developer outreach since their 2016 reveal and a later series of improved prototypes in 2018. This page also doesn't mention a series of three Valve-produced VR games that have been repeatedly advertised by Valve co-founder Gabe Newell since 2017. There's very little information about the headset, but after cranking up the brightness and contrast of the teaser image, Ars Technica's Sam Machkovech was able to find "a series of six dots on one of the headset's surfaces, [...] which may hint to this headset's use of an outside tracking sensor, a la the HTC Vive's infrared trackers." He adds: "Even so, those two giant lenses imply that 'inside-out' tracking, managed entirely by the headset without any extra webcams or sensors, may also be in the cards. Additionally, we can see a giant physical slider, which is likely linked to interpupillary distance (IPD), a precise measurement needed to ensure maximum VR comfort."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lost-and-found department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Doctors have identified a new mutation in a woman who is barely able to feel pain or stress after a surgeon who was baffled by her recovery from an operation referred her for genetic testing. Jo Cameron, 71, has a mutation in a previously unknown gene which scientists believe must play a major role in pain signaling, mood and memory. The discovery has boosted hopes of new treatments for chronic pain which affects millions of people globally.
In a case report published on Thursday in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, the UCL team describe how they delved into Cameron's DNA to see what makes her so unusual. They found two notable mutations. Together, they suppress pain and anxiety, while boosting happiness and, apparently, forgetfulness and wound healing. The first mutation the scientists spotted is common in the general population. It dampens down the activity of a gene called FAAH. The gene makes an enzyme that breaks down anandamide, a chemical in the body that is central to pain sensation, mood and memory. Anandamide works in a similar way to the active ingredients of cannabis. The less it is broken down, the more its analgesic and other effects are felt.
The second mutation was a missing chunk of DNA that mystified scientists at first. Further analysis showed that the "deletion" chopped the front off a nearby, previously unknown gene the scientists named FAAH-OUT. The researchers think this new gene works like a volume control on the FAAH gene. Disable it with a mutation like Cameron has and FAAH falls silent. The upshot is that anandamide, a natural cannabinoid, builds up in the system. Cameron has twice as much anandamide as those in the general population.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rolling-computers department
Tesla vehicles sent to the junk yard after a crash carry much more data than you'd think. According to CNBC, citing two security researchers, "Computers on Tesla vehicles keep everything that drivers have voluntarily stored on their cars, plus tons of other information generated by the vehicles including video, location and navigational data showing exactly what happened leading up to a crash." From the report: One researcher, who calls himself GreenTheOnly, describes himself as a "white hat hacker" and a Tesla enthusiast who drives a Model X. He has extracted this kind of data from the computers in a salvaged Tesla Model S, Model X and two Model 3 vehicles, while also making tens of thousands of dollars cashing in on Tesla bug bounties in recent years. Many other cars download and store data from users, particularly information from paired cellphones, such as contact information.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's brace-yourselves department
itwbennett writes: The popular e-commerce platform Magento has released 37 security issues affecting both the commercial and open-source versions, four of which are critical. "Of those, one SQL injection flaw is of particular concern for researchers because it can be exploited without authentication," writes Lucian Constantine for CSO. Researchers from Web security firm Sucuri "have already reverse-engineered the patch [for that flaw] and created a working proof-of-concept exploit for internal testing," says Constantin. "The SQL vulnerability is very easy to exploit, and we encourage every Magento site owner to update to these recently patched versions to protect their ecommerce websites," the researchers warn in a blog post. "Unauthenticated attacks, like the one seen in this particular SQL Injection vulnerability, are very serious because they can be automated -- making it easy for hackers to mount successful, widespread attacks against vulnerable websites," the Sucuri researchers warned. "The number of active installs, the ease of exploitation, and the effects of a successful attack are what makes this vulnerability particularly dangerous." Since the researchers were able to create a working proof-of-concept exploit, it's only a matter of time until hackers discover a way to use the exploit to plant payment card skimmers on sites that have yet to install the new patch.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-get-what-you-deserve department
slipped_bit writes: Tyler R. Barriss, 26, who pleaded guilty to multiple counts of "swatting" attempts, including the case that caused an innocent man to be killed by police in 2017, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. The case in 2017 was all because of a dispute between two online players over a $1.50 bet in the "Call of Duty: WWII" video game. A total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats were made against Barriss. "Barriss' prosecution in Wichita consolidated other federal cases that had initially been filed against him in California and the District of Columbia involving similar calls and threats he made," reports FOX 4 Kansas City. "Prosecutors had asked for a 25-year sentence, while the defense had sought a 20-year term."
"The intended target in Wichita, Shane Gaskill, 20, and the man who allegedly recruited Barriss, Casey Viner, 19, of North College Hill, Ohio, are charged as co-conspirators," the report adds. "Authorities say Viner provided Barriss with an address for Gaskill that Gaskill had previously given to Viner. Authorities also say that when Gaskill noticed Barriss was following him on Twitter, he gave Barriss that old address and taunted him to 'try something.'"Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's can't-touch-this department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Huawei's revenue grew 19.5 percent in 2018, surpassing $100 billion for the first time, despite continuing political headwinds from around the world. Sales came in at 721.2 billion yuan ($107.13 billion) last year. Net profit reached 59.3 billion yuan, higher by 25.1 percent compared to a year ago. The revenue growth was faster than that seen in 2017, but the net profit rise was slightly slower.
Huawei's numbers are a bright spot for the firm, which has faced intense political pressure. The U.S. government has raised concerns that Huawei's network gear could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. Huawei has repeatedly denied those allegations. Sales in its carrier business, which is its core networking equipment arm, reached 294 billion yuan, slightly below the 297.8 billion yuan recorded in 2017. The real driver of growth was the consumer business, with revenue for that division rising 45.1 percent year-on-year to reach 348.9 billion yuan. For the first time, consumer business is now the biggest share of Huawei's revenue.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's surprise-surprise department
After tearing apart Apple's new second-generation AirPods, the repair guide site found that there is no practical way to service or repair them even at a professional shop. They labeled them as "disappointingly disposable." Ars Technica reports: iFixit had to go to almost comical lengths to open the AirPods up, and despite their expertise and tools, the iFixit team was unable to do so without permanently damaging the product. [...] That's disappointing, given that the batteries in the AirPods won't last longer than a few years with heavy use, and they're hard to recycle. Apple does offer to recycle headphones through partners as part of its Apple GiveBack program, but the GiveBack Web portal does not offer a product-specific category for AirPods to consumers like it does with most other Apple products. Consumers may simply select a general "headphones & speakers" category on the site.
The teardown also revealed some differences from the first-generation AirPods. The battery is the same size, but iFixit identified the new, Bluetooth 5-ready H1 chip in the earbuds themselves. The site also found some small differences likely related to Apple's efforts to increase the case's water resistance. For all the details, visit iFixit's teardown page for the product. All told, iFixit gave the AirPods a 0 out of 10 for repairability -- that's low even for Apple products. By contrast, the site also opened up Samsung's Galaxy Buds and gave them a 6 out of 10.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's major-ambitions department
The company behind "Fortnite" wants to become the next Facebook or Google, said Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney. The idea isn't much of a stretch. From a report: While "Fortnite" began life as a relatively mundane game it continues to evolve, first by adding a battle royale mode, and then by leaning on the game's massive install base to turn the title into something more akin to a social platform that can host concerts, tell stories, and inspire creativity. Sweeney points to the game's popularity as a "mass-market streaming phenomenon," the moment when "Fortnite" player teamed up with musician Drake in-game, and when the game played host to about 10 million people in a live, in-game Marshmello concert. "We feel the game industry is changing in some major ways," he said. "'Fortnite' is a harbinger of things to come. It's a massive number of people all playing together, interacting together, not just playing but socializing."
"In many ways 'Fortnite' is like a social network. People are just in the game with strangers, they're playing with friends and using 'Fortnite' as a foundation to communicate." Flush with a relatively recent $1.25 billion investment from a half-dozen investment firms and the steady flow of cash from both "Fortnite" and Epic Game's Unreal game engine, Sweeney has big plans for the company.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unfortunate-business-decisions department
Intel has reportedly laid off a number of information technology workers at sites across the company this week. Sources say the layoffs are numbered in the hundreds, but Intel has declined to specify how many people lost their jobs or describe the rationale for the cutbacks. OregonLive reports: The cuts took place at sites across the company, including Oregon, Intel's largest site with 20,000 workers. Cuts also took place at other Intel facilities in the United States and at a large administrative facility in Costa Rica, according to people familiar with the layoffs. Though Intel forecasts flat sales in 2019, people inside the company said this week's layoffs don't appear to be strictly a cost-cutting move. Rather, they said the cuts appeared to reflect a broad change in the way Intel is approaching its internal technical systems.
Information technology (IT) professionals don't usually develop new technology but they play an essential role in managing a company's internal systems. Their work is particularly important at tech companies such as Intel, which depend on IT workers to keep systems secure and running smoothly. This week's layoffs appear to be Intel's biggest cutbacks since 2016, when the company eliminated 15,000 jobs across the company through layoffs, buyouts and early retirement offers. "Changes in our workforce are driven by the needs and priorities of our business, which we continually evaluate. We are committed to treating all impacted employees with professionalism and respect," Intel said in a brief statement acknowledging the cuts to The Oregonian/OregonLive. Intel isn't the only tech company laying off workers right now. A new report from The Mercury News reveals many Bay Area tech firms will be laying off about 1,200 jobs between now and Memorial Day. The layoffs are expected from SAP, Oracle America, PayPal, Instacart, Thin Film Electronics, and others.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's worse-than-an-oil-leak department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: The personal information of roughly 3.1 million Toyota customers may have been leaked following a security breach of multiple Toyota and Lexus sales subsidiaries, as detailed in a breach notification issued by the car maker today. As detailed in a press release published on Toyota'a global newsroom, unauthorized access was detected on the computing systems of Tokyo Sales Holdings, Tokyo Tokyo Motor, Tokyo Toyopet, Toyota Tokyo Corolla, Nets Toyota Tokyo, Lexus Koishikawa Sales, Jamil Shoji (Lexus Nerima), and Toyota West Tokyo Corolla. "It turned out that up to 3.1 million items of customer information may have been leaked outside the company. The information that may have been leaked this time does not include information on credit cards," says the data breach notification. Toyota has not yet confirmed if the attackers were able to exfiltrate any of the customer personal information exposed after the IT systems of its subsidiaries were breached. Toyota said in a statement: "We apologize to everyone who has been using Toyota and Lexus vehicles for the great concern. We take this situation seriously, and will thoroughly implement information security measures at dealers and the entire Toyota Group."Read Replies (0)