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)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's break-the-silence department
An dochasac writes: WAPA (680 AM) is a radio station in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria took out power, phone lines, cell towers and internet, WAPA was the only Puerto Rican radio station on the air for crucial public emergency communication. But WAPA's signal coverage was significantly cut in March 2017 when the FCC refused to renew the license for synchronous AM booster stations at Arecibo, Mayaguez and Aguadilla in March due to procedural issues with the petition for renewal. This decision limited the coverage, signal strength and signal quality of this station for remote and mountainous parts of Puerto Rico where the need for emergency communications is greatest. The FCC audio division chief who pulled WAPA's synchronous booster license decided to retire a few days ago. The position is open but is focused on legal training rather than technical expertise and experience with emergency communications.
FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states. With IoT, cellular, mesh, satellite, social media and cognitive radio, communications technology is changing much faster than the FCC's legal efforts to regulate it. But its arcane regulations leave Puerto Rico as one of the few islands in the Caribbean without a long distance shortwave broadcast station. With line of sight FM stations offline and WAPA's AM station neutered, post-Maria Puerto Ricans have a better chance of getting news and emergency information from Havana, Cuba than from anything under the FCC's increasingly pointless jurisdiction.Read Replies (0)
Apple is Really Bad At Design
Posted by News Fetcher on September 29 '17 at 10:40 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department
Joshua Topolsky, writing for the Outline: Once upon a time, Apple could do little wrong. As one of the first mainstream computer companies to equally value design and technical simplicity, it upended our expectations about what PCs could be. "Macintosh works the way people work," read one 1992 ad. Rather than requiring downloads and installations and extra memory to get things right (as often required by Windows machines), Apple made it so you could just plug in a mouse or start up a program and it would just... work. Marrying that functionality with the groundbreaking design the company has embodied since the early Macs, it's easy to see how Apple became the darling of designers, artists, and the rest of the creative class. The work was downright elegant; unheard of for an electronics company. [...] But things changed. In 2013 I wrote about the confusing and visually abrasive turn Apple had made with the introduction of iOS 7, the operating system refresh that would set the stage for almost all of Apple's recent design. The product, the first piece of software overseen by Jony Ive, was confusing, amateur, and relatively unfinished upon launch. [...] It's almost as if the company is being buried under the weight of its products. Unable to cut ties with past concepts (for instance, the abomination that is iTunes), unable to choose clear paths forward (USB-C or Lightning guys?), compromising core elements to make room for splashy features, and executing haphazardly to solve long-term issues. [...] Pundits will respond to these arguments by detailing Apple's meteoric and sustained market-value gains. Apple fans will shout justifications for a stylus that must be charged by sticking it into the bottom of an iPad, a "back" button jammed weirdly into the status bar, a system of dongles for connecting oft-used devices, a notch that rudely juts into the display of a $1,000 phone. But the reality is that for all the phones Apple sells and for all the people who buy them, the company is stuck in idea-quicksand, like Microsoft in the early 2000s, or Apple in the 90s.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's back-from-the-dead department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American about a device that delivers infusions of DNA and other molecules to restore injured limbs in mice, and maybe someday, humans: Cells are typically reprogrammed using mixtures of DNA, RNA and proteins. The most popular method uses viruses as a delivery vehicle -- although they can infect unintended cells, provoke immune responses and even turn cells cancerous. One alternative, called bulk electroporation, exposes cells to an electric field that pokes holes in their membranes to let in genetic material and proteins. Yet this method can stress or kill them. Tissue nanotransfection, described in a study published in August in Nature Nanotechnology, involves a chip containing an array of tiny channels that apply electric fields to individual cells. "You affect only a small area of the cell surface, compared with the conventional method, which upsets the entire cell," says study co-author James Lee, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at The Ohio State University. "Essentially we create a tiny hole and inject DNA right into the cell, so we can control the dosage."
Chandan Sen, a physiologist at Ohio State, and his colleagues developed a genetic cocktail that rapidly converts skin cells into endothelial cells -- the main component of blood vessels. They then used their technique on mice whose legs had been damaged by a severed artery that cut off blood supply. New blood vessels formed, blood flow increased, and after three weeks the legs had completely healed.Read Replies (0)