By msmash from Slashdot's patent-trolling department
Netflix added the ability to download movies and TV episodes for offline viewing in November last year. Music streaming service SoundCloud, and video hosting service Vimeo have had this feature for quite some time, too. But they are all being sued now by a patent troll. From an ArsTechnica report: The plaintiff is a company few have heard of: Blackbird Technologies, a company with no products or assets other than patents. Blackbird's business is to buy up patent rights and file lawsuits over them, a business known colloquially as "patent trolling." Last week, Blackbird (who tells potential clients about being "able to litigate at reduced costs and achieve results") filed lawsuits against Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners, which owns the Epix TV channel. [...] The patent-holding company, which filed the lawsuits in Delaware federal court, has good reason to hope for success. The '362 patent already has a track record of squeezing settlement cash out of big companies.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson writes in a blog post: When the Internet came along in the early 90s, we saw something completely different. Here was a level playing field where anyone could launch a business without permission from anyone. We had a great run over the last 25 years but I fear it's coming to an end, brought on by the growing consolidation of market power in the big consumer facing tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc, by the constricted distribution mechanisms on mobile devices, and by new leadership at the FCC that is going to tear down the notion that mobile carriers can't play the same game cable companies played. It is certainly true that consumers, particularly low-income consumers, like getting free or subsidized data plans. There is no doubt about that. But when the subsidies are coming from the big tech companies, who can easily pay them, to buy competitive advantage over that nimble startup that is scaring them, well we know how that movie ends.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department
An anonymous reader shares a WashingtonPost report: Silicon Valley is stepping up its confrontation with the Trump administration. On Sunday night, technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and many others filed a legal brief opposing the administration's contentious entry ban. The move represents a rare coordinated action across a broad swath of the industry (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source) -- 97 companies in total -- and demonstrates the depth of animosity toward the Trump ban. The amicus brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is expected to rule within a few days on an appeal by the administration after a federal judge in Seattle issued late Friday a temporary restraining order putting the entry ban on hold. The brief comes at the end of a week of nationwide protests against the plan -- as well as a flurry of activity in Silicon Valley, a region that sees immigration as central to its identity as an innovation hub.From a TechCrunch report: Notably absent from the list of 97 companies are several who met with Trump prior to his inauguration: Amazon, Oracle, IBM, SpaceX and Tesla. Although Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was highly critical of Trump prior to his election, he has not spoken out against the immigration policy. Oracle CEO Safra Catz is serving as an advisor to the Trump transition team, while SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has defended his decision to remain on an advisory council for Trump.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's managing-digital-rights-wrong department
Denuvo "left several private directories on its website open to the public," TorrentFreak wrote Sunday, calling it "an embarrassing blunder" for the digital rights management company. "Members of the cracking community are downloading and scrutinizing the contents," the site reports, with one of the finds being an 11-megabyte text file which apparently contains every message sent through Denuvo's web site since 2014. An anonymous reader writes:
There's a message from Google's security team, one from Capcom Japan, and "dozens of emails from angry pirates, each looking to vent their anger," according to TorrentFreak. Ars Technica reports that there's also a 2015 message from Microsoft about "an upcoming initiative," as well as messages several game studios, and even one from the producers of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. "Combing the log file brings up countless spam messages, along with complaints, confused 'why won't this game work' queries from apparent pirates, and even threats (an example: 'for what you did to arkham knight I will find you and I will kill you and all of your loved ones, this I promise you CEO of this SHIT drm')."
"Since Denuvo's contact page does not contain a link to a private e-mail address -- only a contact form and a phone number to the company's Austrian headquarters -- the form appears to also have been used by many game developers and publishers." And in addition, "much of Denuvo's web database content appears to be entirely unsecured, with root directories for 'fileadmin' and 'logs' sitting in the open right now."
In addition, there's also a slideshow -- which has since been uploaded to Imgur -- bragging that "With over 300 man years of development experience among us, we clearly know what we're doing."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's poker-faces department
"Four years ago this week, Blackberry named Alicia Keys its global creative officer... Keys was really going to work for Blackberry -- to participate in weekly calls addressing product development; develop ideas and content for the Keep Moving Projects, which targeted artists and athletes; and of course, promote the brand during her upcoming tour... It didn't work."
Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes:
For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars... In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8.
These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.
Lady Gaga left Polaroid in less than a year after "collaborating" on video camera sunglasses that offered playback through LCD lenses. While they weren't popular, this article argues most of these tech companies "faced structural business issues too significant to be addressed through celebrity branding and artistic energy." One digital ad agency even tells the site that "It's always been a flawed strategy," and calls the hiring of a celebrity "a press cycle hack."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's grand-gatherings-of-geeks department
An anonymous user is "just starting a programming career," and has several questions for Slashdot's readers:
What exactly is the role of tech conferences? I always assumed they were mostly for exhibitors to pitch me things, but then what's in it for me? Am I just going there to network, or am I learning new cutting-edge techniques and getting enlightened by awesome training sessions? Or is it just a fun way to get a free trip to Las Vegas?
And then what's in it for my employer, who's paying to send me there? If my boss has to approve the cost of attending a conference, what's going to make him say yes? I mean, do employers really get enough value from that extra conference-only information to justify sending off their employees for several days of non-productivity? (Don't they know all that networking could lead me to job offers from other companies?)
It's always been a little intimidating the way people talk about conferences, like everyone already knows all about them, and drop the conference's name into the conversations like you should already know what it is. I always assumed people just attended only conferences for their current programming language or platform -- but is there more to it than that? What exactly is the big deal?
I'm struggling to even find the right metaphor for this -- is it a live interactive infomercial or a grand gathering of geeky good will? So leave your best answers in the comments. Why do you care about tech conferences?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dangers-of-indigestion department
While the recommended dosage for Nexium, Prevacid and Prilose is just two weeks, doctors often advise patients to continue taking them for years. But now Scientific American reports that "Chronic use of popular heartburn medicines may be riskier than was thought," citing two papers linking the drugs to an increase risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, and a greater risk of kidney problems.
schwit1 quotes their report:
The papers did not prove that PPIs cause the problems. But some researchers have nonetheless suggested possible mechanisms by which long-term use of the drugs could trigger dementia or kidney problems. A reduction in vitamin B12, for example, might leave the brain more vulnerable to damage, says Britta Haenisch, an author of the JAMA Neurology study and a neuropharmacologist at the Bonn campus of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Last spring clinicians at the Houston Methodist Research Institute reported another plausible explanation for how PPIs might lead to these unexpected health issues: they picked up signs that the drugs act not only in the stomach but elsewhere in the body, too.
The article ends on an ambiguous note. "Without conclusive data, physicians and patients have to balance the need to prevent the ill effects of excess stomach acid and reflux with the desire to avoid potentially serious -- if theoretical -- side effects from long-term use of PPIs."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's media-meditations department
Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes:
The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones.
But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology?
Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's denial-of-DNS department
New data suggests that some 14,500 web domains stopped using Dyn's Managed DNS service in the immediate aftermath of an October DDoS attack by the Mirai botnet. That's around 8% of the web domains using Dyn Managed DNS... "The data show that Dyn lost a pretty big chunk of their customer base because they were affected by (Mirai)," said Dan Dahlberg, a research scientist at BitSight Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts... BitSight, which provides security rating services for companies, analyzed a set of 178,000 domains that were hosted on Dyn's managed DNS infrastructure before and immediately after the October 21st attacks.
It's possible some of those domains later returned to Dyn -- and the number of actual customers may be smaller than the number of hosted domains. But in the end it may not have mattered much, since Dyn was acquired by Oracle the next month, and TechCrunch speculates that the deal had already been set in motion before the attack. They also add that "Oracle, of course, is no stranger to breaches itself: in August it was found that hundreds of its own computer systems were breached."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's welcome,-robot-overlords department
gthuang88 reports on a talk titled "Will Robots Eat Your Job?"
Bill Gates and Elon Musk are sounding the alarm "too aggressively" over artificial intelligence's potential negative consequences for society, says MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson. The co-author of The Second Machine Age argues it will take at least 30 to 50 years for robots and software to eliminate the need for human laborers. In the meantime, he says, we should be investing in education so that people are prepared for the jobs of the future, and are focused on where they still have an advantage over machines -- creativity, empathy, leadership, and teamwork.
The professor acknowledges "there are some legitimate concerns" about robots taking jobs away from humans, but "I don't think it's a problem we have to face today... It can be counterproductive to overestimate what machines can do right now." Eventually humankind will reach a world where robots do practically everything, the professor believes, but with a universal basic income this could simply leave us humans with more leisure time.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's remote-inoculations department
"Now when a machine is compromised it takes days or weeks for someone to notice and then days or weeks -- or never -- until a patch is put out," says Carnegie Mellon professor David Brumley. "Imagine a world where the first time a hacker exploits a vulnerability he can only exploit one machine and then it's patched." An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review:
Last summer the Pentagon staged a contest in Las Vegas in which high-powered computers spent 12 hours trying to hack one another in pursuit of a $2 million purse. Now Mayhem, the software that won, is beginning to put its hacking skills to work in the real world... Teams entered software that had to patch and protect a collection of server software, while also identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in the programs under the stewardship of its competitors... ForAllSecure, cofounded by Carnegie Mellon professor David Brumley and two of his PhD students, has started adapting Mayhem to be able to automatically find and patch flaws in certain kinds of commercial software, including that of Internet devices such as routers.
Tests are underway with undisclosed partners, including an Internet device manufacturer, to see if Mayhem can help companies identify and fix vulnerabilities in their products more quickly and comprehensively. The focus is on addressing the challenge of companies needing to devote considerable resources to supporting years of past products with security updates... Last year, Brumley published results from feeding almost 2,000 router firmware images through some of the techniques that powered Mayhem. Over 40%, representing 89 different products, had at least one vulnerability. The software found 14 previously undiscovered vulnerabilities affecting 69 different software builds. ForAllSecure is also working with the Department of Defense on ideas for how to put Mayhem to real world use finding and fixing vulnerabilities.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's goodbye-to-an-API department
The Netscape Plugins API is "an ancient plugins infrastructure inherited from the old Netscape browser on which Mozilla built Firefox," according to Bleeping Computer.
But now an anonymous reader writes: Starting March 7, when Mozilla is scheduled to release Firefox 52, all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash, which Mozilla plans to support for a few more versions. This means technologies such as Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs won't work on Firefox. These plugins once helped the web move forward, but as time advanced, the Internet's standards groups developed standalone Web APIs and alternative technologies to support most of these features without the need of special plugins. The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be deprecated in ESR 53. A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's our-chemical-romance department
dryriver quotes CNN:
Most of the time, when you order fast food, you know exactly what you're getting: an inexpensive meal that tastes great but is probably loaded with fat, cholesterol and sodium. But it turns out that the packaging your food comes in could also have a negative impact on your health, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The report found fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the fast food packaging researchers tested.
These chemicals are favored for their grease-repellent properties. Along with their use in the fast food industry, fluorinated chemicals -- sometimes called PFASs -- are used "to give water-repellant, stain-resistant, and non-stick properties to consumer products such as furniture, carpets, outdoor gear, clothing, cosmetics (and) cookware," according to a news release that accompanied the report. "The most studied of these substances (PFOSs and PFOAs) has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning, as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children."
The chemicals can migrate into your food, says one of the study's authors, who suggests removing it from the packaging as quickly as possible. (You might also request your french fries in a paper cup, which are free from "chemicals of concern".) But they also suggest pressuring fast food chains to remove the chemicals from their packaging, and the president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute acknowledges that after the study concluded in 2015, fluorochemical-free packaging was introduced.Read Replies (0)