By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-are-you-trying-to-hide department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this year, a federal judge in Fresno, California, denied prosecutors' efforts to compel Facebook to help it wiretap Messenger voice calls. But the precise legal arguments that the government made, and that the judge ultimately rejected, are still sealed. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union formally asked the judge to unseal court dockets and related rulings associated with this ongoing case involving alleged MS-13 gang members. ACLU lawyers argue that such a little-charted area of the law must be made public so that tech companies and the public can fully know what's going on.
In their new filing, ACLU lawyers pointed out that "neither the government's legal arguments nor the judge's legal basis for rejecting the government motion has ever been made public." The attorneys continued, citing a "strong public interest in knowing which law has been interpreted" and referencing an op-ed published on Ars on October 2 as an example. The ACLU argued that the case is reminiscent of the so-called "FBI v. Apple" legal showdown -- whose docket and related filings were public -- where the government made novel arguments in an attempt to crack the encryption on a seized iPhone. Those legal questions were never resolved, as the government said the day before a scheduled hearing that it had found a company to assist in its efforts. "Moreover, the sealing of the docket sheet in this case impermissibly prevents the public from knowing anything about the actions of both the judiciary and the executive in navigating a novel legal issue, which has the potential to reoccur in the future," the ACLU's attorneys continued.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's click-of-a-button department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Hydrogels are physical and chemical polymer networks capable of retaining large quantities of liquid in aqueous conditions without losing their dimensional stability. They are used in a whole host of applications, and in combination with other components and they acquire specific properties such as electrical conductivity. The Materials + Technology research group in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Environment of the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Engineering selected a biopolymer that had not previously been used for applications of this type: starch. They created the hydrogel for use in neural interfaces. "Due to the fact that electrodes of neural interfaces made of platinum or gold are rigid, they require conductive polymer coatings to bring their flexibility closer to that of neural tissue. Right now, however, smaller devices are required that offer better mechanical, electrical and biological properties," explained the researcher.
The hydrogels "address these demands very well." To provide the hydrogel with electrical conductivity, they used graphene. "It provides electrical properties that are highly suited to the hydrogel, but this also has a drawback: It is not easily stabilized in water. We used extracts of salvia to overcome this obstacle and to render the graphene stable in an aqueous medium. These extracts also make the hydrogel even more suitable, if that is possible, for use in medicine as it also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties." The researchers used "click chemistry" to produce the hydrogel. "Unlike other means of synthesis, click chemistry does not tend to use catalysts in the reactions; in addition, no by-products are generated and they are high-performance reactions."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's justice-served department
Two Iranian officials have been indicted by U.S. federal prosecutors for creating and deploying the notorious SamSam ransomware, which exploits a deserialization vulnerability in Java-based servers. TechCrunch reports: Faramarz Shahi Savandi, 34, and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri, 27, were indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey on Monday on several counts of computer hacking and fraud charges. The case was unsealed Wednesday, shortly before a press conference announcing the charges by U.S. deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. In total, SamSam has generated some $6 million in proceeds to date -- or 1,430 bitcoin at today's value. In a separate announcement, the Treasury said it had imposed sanctions against two bitcoin addresses associated with the ransomware. The department said the two addresses processed more than 7,000 transactions used to collect ransom demands from victims. "The Iranian defendants allegedly used hacking and malware to cause more than $30 million in losses to more than 200 victims," said Rosenstein. "According to the indictment, the hackers infiltrated computer systems in ten states and Canada and then demanded payment. The criminal activity harmed state agencies, city governments, hospitals, and countless innocent victims." One of the victims was the City of Atlanta, which was knocked offline earlier this year and spent a projected $2.6 million in recovery. "It was later discovered that the city's computers had long been vulnerable to leaked exploits developed by the National Security Agency -- later stolen and leaked online for anyone to use," reports TechCrunch.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's mind-games department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: After three weeks, 12 straight draws and a day of tiebreakers, Norway's Magnus Carlsen finally retained the world chess championship in London on Wednesday with a victory against Fabiano Caruana (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), his American challenger. Carlsen's victory came in what amounted to sudden-death chess: a scheduled series of four so-called rapid games in which the players started with 25 minutes to make their moves. The speedier pace of the games, after the far more deliberate matchups of the previous three weeks, meant players were more likely to make blunders. And that increased the chance of a victory by one player. Carlsen won the first two games, then closed out Caruana in Game 3.
Caruana, 26, was bidding to become the first American champion since Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky to win the world title in 1972. The famously cantankerous Fischer forfeited his title in 1975 amid a dispute with the world chess federation, and the sport has been dominated by Russians and Eastern Europeans in the decades since then. The tiebreaker result was not a shock. While Carlsen, 27, and Caruana, 26, are closely matched in longer conventional chess games, known as classical chess, Carlsen had been considered the favorite in the tiebreaker because he has had better rapid chess results than Caruana. "It was the first time in the history of the world championship, which dates to the 1800s, that regulation play ended with every game a draw," the report notes.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department
The Federal Trade Commission this week agreed to investigate video game loot boxes, accepting an official request by Senator Maggie Hassan. In a Congressional oversight committee hearing yesterday, FTC chairman Joe Simons affirmed Sen. Hassan's request that loot boxes be investigated. From a report: During her turn to ask questions at the hearing, Hassan cited a recent report by Great Britain's Gambling Commission that found 31% of children in the country had at one point or another paid money to open a loot box, a well as moves by Belgium (which prompted Square Enix to pull three mobile games from the country), Japan, and other countries to limit how loot boxes can be used in games. "Given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games," Hassan said. "Would you commit to undertaking this project and keeping this committee informed about it?" In response, Simons said "yes," but declined to go into any more detail about the FTC's current position on loot boxes and whether they constitute a form of gambling. Despite vocal criticism from Hassan and a few others on the topic, regulators have not been jumping to get involved in the debate.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's busy-day-at-amazon department
Amazon Web Services announced a slew of new or updated offerings at its cloud-computing conference in Las Vegas, seeking to maintain its lead in the market for internet-based computing. Following is a rundown.
Amazon Elastic Inference is a new service that lets customers attach GPU-powered inference acceleration to any Amazon EC2 instance and reduces deep learning costs by up to 75 percent. From a report: "What we see typically is that the average utilization of these P3 instances GPUs are about 10 to 30 percent, which is pretty wasteful with elastic inference. You don't have to waste all that costs and all that GPU," AWS chief executive Andy Jassy said onstage at the AWS re:Invent conference earlier today. "[Amazon Elastic Inference] is a pretty significant game changer in being able to run inference much more cost-effectively."
While the majority of workloads in the cloud are Linux-based, Amazon Web Services (AWS) CEO Andy Jassy said he is well aware that Windows is still significant, and as a result his company launched a new fully managed Windows file system built on native Windows file servers. From a report: "What we were hoping to do was make this Windows file system work as part of EFS -- would have been much easier for us to layer on another file system ... because it's much easier if you're trying to build a business at scale," he explained. However, he said customers wanted a native Windows file system and they "weren't being flexible." "So we changed our approach," he continued.
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By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department
Zorro shares a report: Silicon Valley researchers are attacking flying bloodsuckers in California's Fresno County. It's the first salvo in an unlikely war for Google parent Alphabet: eradicating mosquito-borne diseases around the world. A white high-top Mercedes van winds its way through the suburban sprawl and strip malls as a swarm of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes shoot out of a black plastic tube on the passenger-side window. These pests are tiny and, with a wingspan of just a few millimeters, all but invisible. "You hear that little beating sound?" says Kathleen Parkes, a spokesperson for Verily Life Sciences, a unit of Alphabet. She's trailing the van in her car, the windows down. "Like a duh-duh-duh? That's the release of the mosquitoes."
Jacob Crawford, a Verily senior scientist riding with Parkes, begins describing a mosquito-control technique with dazzling potential. These particular vermin, he explains, were bred in the ultra-high-tech surroundings of Verily's automated mosquito rearing system, 200 miles away in South San Francisco. They were infected with Wolbachia, a common bacterium. When those 80,000 lab-bred Wolbachia-infected, male mosquitoes mate with their counterpart females in the wild, the result is stealth annihilation: the offspring never hatch. Better make that 79,999. "One just hit the windshield," says Crawford. Mosquito-borne disease eradication is serious stuff for Alphabet, though it is just one of many of the company's forays into health care and life sciences.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's further-expansion department
Amazon.com is jumping on the blockchain wave with new cloud services that help customers build the technology needed to record transactions. From a report: Amazon Web Services Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy on Wednesday announced Amazon Managed Blockchain, a new service underpinning blockchain networks that record millions of transactions. The company spent the past year studying the needs of customers interested in blockchain solutions before creating the new products, Jassy said.
The service can be used to manage peer-to-peer payments, process loans and help businesses transact with distributors and suppliers, Jassy said. AWS announced a string of other new or updated cloud offerings, seeking to maintain its lead in the market for internet-based computing.
The company also announced a new service called Amazon Quantum Ledger Database or QLDB, which is a fully managed ledger database with a central trusted authority. The service, which is launching into preview today, offers an append-only, immutable journal that tracks the history of all changes, Amazon said. And all the changes are cryptographically chained and verifiable.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's Sci-Fi-industrial-complex department
Brian Merchant, writing for Medium : In 2017, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the professional services firm that advises 440 of the Fortune 500 companies, published a blueprint for using science fiction to explore business innovation. The same year, the Harvard Business Review argued that "business leaders need to read more science fiction" in order to stay ahead of the curve. "We're already seeing science fiction become reality today," said Google's then-CEO Eric Schmidt in 2012. "Think back to Star Trek, or my favorite, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- much of what those writers imagined is now possible," he said, ticking off auto-translation, voice recognition, and electronic books. Jeff Bezos' product design team built the Kindle to spec from Neal Stephenson's book The Diamond Age. (Stephenson himself is the chief future at the multibillion-dollar-valued Magic Leap.) Josh Wolfe, a managing partner at Lux Capital, is pouring millions of dollars into companies building what he explicitly describes as "the sci-fi future." "I'm looking for things that feel like they were once written about in science fiction," he told Fortune. "The gap between 'sci-fi,' -- that which was once imagined -- and 'sci-fact,' that which becomes manifest and real, is shrinking."
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By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department
Despite turning the trade fair into a fun fair, organizers could not save the beloved but struggling trade fair. CeBIT once boasted 850,000 visitors a year, but that heyday has long since passed. An anonymous reader shares a report: Organizers announced on Wednesday that the world's largest IT conference will be no more. CeBIT, held every year in Hanover, Germany, has been canceled for 2019 facing declining visitor numbers and decreases in exhibition space rentals. "There will be no more CeBIT in Germany in the future," said Onuora Ogbukagu of Deutsche Messe AG, which ran the trade fair that hosted the likes of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and data privacy advocate Edward Snowden.
CeBIT was once considered the best barometer of technological trends, and during the dot-com boom in the late 90s and early 2000s, it boasted some 850,000 visitors a year. However, that number has been declining for years, despite cultivating a 'fun fair' atmosphere. The news was met with an outpouring of gratitude for the conference-meets-festival on social media, with many calling it the "end of an era."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
For more than 30 years, Intel has dominated chipmaking, producing the most important component in the bulk of the world's computers. That run is now under threat from a company many Americans have never heard of. From a report: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was created in 1987 to churn out chips for companies that lacked the money to build their own facilities. The approach was famously dismissed at the time by Advanced Micro Devices founder Jerry Sanders. "Real men have fabs," he quipped at a conference, using industry lingo for factories. These days, ridicule has given way to envy as TSMC plants have risen to challenge Intel at the pinnacle of the $400 billion industry. AMD recently chose TSMC to make its most advanced processors, having spun off its own struggling factories years before.
TSMC's threat to Intel reflects a sea change in chipmaking that's seen one company after another hire TSMC to manufacture the chips they design. Hsinchu-based TSMC has scores of customers, including tech giants Apple and Qualcomm, second-tier players like AMD, and minnows such as Ampere Computing. The explosion of components built this way has given TSMC the technical know-how needed to churn out the smallest, most efficient and powerful chips in the highest volumes.
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By msmash from Slashdot's watching-the-watchers department
Advertisements in the real world are becoming more technologically sophisticated, integrating facial recognition, location data, artificial intelligence, and other powerful tools that are more commonly associated with your mobile phone. Welcome to the new age of digital marketing. From a report: During this year's Fashion Week in New York, a digital billboard ad for New Balance used A.I. technology to detect and highlight pedestrians wearing "exceptional" outfits. A billboard advertisement for the Chevy Malibu recently targeted drivers on Interstate 88 in Chicago by identifying the brand of vehicle they were driving, then serving ads touting its own features in comparison. And Bidooh, a Manchester-based startup that admits it was inspired by Minority Report, is using facial recognition to serve ads through its billboards in the U.K. and other parts of Europe as well as South Korea. According to its website, Bidooh allows advertisers to target people based on criteria like age, gender, ethnicity, hair color, clothing color, height, body shape, perceived emotion, and the presence of glasses, sunglasses, beards, or mustaches.
We've been on the path here since at least a decade ago when the New York Times reported that some digital billboards were equipped with small cameras that could analyze a pedestrian's facial features to serve targeted ads based on gender and approximate age. Things have progressed as you'd expect: In 2016, another Times report described how Clear Channel Outdoor Americas had partnered with companies including AT&T to track people via their mobile phones. The ads could determine the gender and average age of people passing different billboards and determine whether they visited a store after seeing an ad.Read Replies (0)