By msmash from Slashdot's my-data,-my-rules department
A small company called hiQ is locked in a high-stakes battle over web scraping with LinkedIn. It's a fight that could determine whether an anti-hacking law can be used to curtail the use of scraping tools across the web. From a report: HiQ scrapes data about thousands of employees from public LinkedIn profiles, then packages the data for sale to employers worried about their employees quitting. LinkedIn, which was acquired by Microsoft last year, sent hiQ a cease-and-desist letter warning that this scraping violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the controversial 1986 law that makes computer hacking a crime. HiQ sued, asking courts to rule that its activities did not, in fact, violate the CFAA. James Grimmelmann, a professor at Cornell Law School, told Ars that the stakes here go well beyond the fate of one little-known company. "Lots of businesses are built on connecting data from a lot of sources," Grimmelmann said. He argued that scraping is a key way that companies bootstrap themselves into "having the scale to do something interesting with that data." [...] But the law may be on the side of LinkedIn -- especially in Northern California, where the case is being heard. In a 2016 ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over California, found that a startup called Power Ventures had violated the CFAA when it continued accessing Facebook's servers despite a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's why-Apple-why department
Last week, The Wall Street Journal had a big feature on Apple Campus, the big new beautiful office the company has spent north of $5 billion on. The profile, in which the reporter interviewed Apple's design chief Jony Ive, also mentioned about an open space where all the programmers would sit and work. Ever since the profile came out, several people have expressed their concerns about the work environment for the developers. American entrepreneur and technologist Anil Dash writes: [...] There have been countless academic studies confirming the same result: Workers in open plan offices are frustrated, distracted and generally unhappy. That's not to say there's no place for open plan in an offices -- there can be great opportunities to collaborate and connect. For teams like marketing or communications or sales, sharing a space might make a lot of sense. But for tasks that require being in a state of flow? The science is settled. The answer is clear. The door is closed on the subject. Or, well, it would be. If workers had a door to close. Now, when it comes to jobs or roles that need to be in a state of flow, programming may be the single best example of a task that benefits from not being interrupted. And Apple has some of the best coders in the world, so it's just common sense that they should be given a great environment. That's why it was particularly jarring to see this side note in the WSJ's glowing article about Apple's new headquarters: "Coders and programmers are concerned their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting." Usually, companies justify putting programmers into an open office plan for budget reasons. It does cost more to make enough room for every coder to have an office with a door that closes. But given that Apple's already invested $5 billion into this new campus, complete with iPhone-influenced custom-built toilets for the space, it's hard to believe this decision was about penny-pinching. The other possible argument for skipping private offices would be if a company didn't know that's what its workers would prefer.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's never-say-never department
Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode: Warring factions within factions, conflicting back-channeling, intense media scrutiny, questionable foreign influences and a capricious leader whose jarring moves leave everyone in a state of perpetual uncertainly. The Trump administration, right? Well, yes, but also Uber, as it nears its much anticipated decision on who will be its next CEO. And, according to sources, that top leader is not going to be a woman, as the board of the car-hailing company struggles to move forward. To add to the drama: Some directors worry that its former CEO Travis Kalanick -- who was ousted -- is trying to game the outcome in his favor, after he told several people that he was "Steve Jobs-ing it." It is a reference to the late leader of Apple, who was fired from the company, only to later return in triumph.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's robot-sportsballing department
An anonymous reader quotes Phys.org:
With steely focus, player number 3 scored a stunning opening goal in the first few minutes of the high-stakes football match between a dominant Bordeaux and their plucky Chinese opponents. But as the crowds cheered, the pint-sized player, known as Arya, showed none of the customary swagger of triumphant strikers. In fact, robot number 3 and its teammates showed no emotion at all as they continued to exterminate their rivals' hopes of victory at RoboCup 2017 in Japan. The game, which Bordeaux won 4-0, was one of the gripping final matches in a four-day event that saw about 3,000 researchers and engineering students from 40 countries displaying the prowess of their latest robotic inventions on the football pitch.
Ranging in design from humanoids with human faces to more skeletal contraptions, the robots were programmed to be self-directed and played strategically without being given instructions. The robots "see" using a camera installed in their heads, while installed with artificial intelligence to recognise the spacing and objects in the sight... [A]bility to play as a team was the "winning factor" in Bordeaux University's triumph, according to associate professor Olivier Ly, who acted as coach and positioned his team's players. "We developed lots of features on the team play... The robots play together, try to do some passes," he said.
Robot teamwork "was a completely unresearched area for computer engineers" when the competition started 20 years ago, according to the president of the RoboCup Federation.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fund-request department
An anonymous reader quotes Diginomica:
A fresh initiative aimed at information sharing about election threats and dubbed Defending Digital Democracy has the financial support of Facebook and the academic muscle of Harvard behind it. Will the project succeed where similar initiatives have failed...? On 19 July and backed by a $500,000 initial grant from Facebook, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School launched a new, bipartisan initiative called the Defending Digital Democracy Project. The project will be co-led by Robby Mook, Democrat Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign manager, and Matt Rhoades, Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager. The hope is that creating a unique and bipartisan team comprised of top-notch political operatives and leaders in the cyber and national security world, the project will be able to to identify and recommend strategies, tools, and technology to protect democratic processes and systems from cyber and information attacks.
The group will also assess new technologies (including blockchain) to secure elections, and wants to create an information sharing infrastructure modeled "on similar efforts within the tech industry to share tech intelligence." The article says Facebook's chief security officer "hopes that election officials who are wary of cooperating with the federal government will be more receptive to working with an independent group tied to Harvard and the tech industy," and the group also includes Google's director for Information Security and Privacy.
"Facebook plans to host state and local election officials at its D.C. office later this year to discuss the information sharing organization, and launch the organization in early 2018."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rocks-from-space department
Remember when NASA visited an asteroid with $10 quintillion worth of minerals? Now the lucrative asteroid-mining industry is being pursued by "the European banking hub with a population not much bigger than Albuquerque's," reports Bloomberg, as low-cost reconnaissance missions are already looking "increasingly feasible." An anonymous reader writes:
Last week Luxembourg's parliament unanimously passed an asteroid mining law (which goes into effect Tuesday) "that gives companies ownership of what they extract from the celestial bodies..." according to Engadget. "Luxembourg's law is pretty similar to the one President Obama signed back in 2015 in that it gives mining companies the right to keep their loot. Both of them also take advantage of a loophole in the UN's Outer Space Treaty, which states that nations can't claim and occupy the moon and other celestial bodies. They don't give companies ownership of asteroids, after all, only the minerals they extract.. Unlike the U.S. version, though, a company's major stakeholders don't need to be based in Luxembourg to enjoy its protection -- they only need to have an office in country."
Bloomberg reports that the law "could serve as a model for other small countries hoping to explore asteroids -- and to get a piece of the booming space business," since the tiny country is also offering to buy equity stakes in any companies which relocate to Luxembourg. "Luxembourg's success in attracting these companies should show other small countries that space isn't just for superpowers any more... Competition has made space achievable for many more companies, and for the countries that support them."
For the last few years Luxembourg has begun quietly investing in asteroid mining, including a joint venture with "Deep Space Industries" to build a spacecraft to test asteroid-mining technologies -- while another collaboration with Kleos Space is working on "in-space manufacturing technology."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's automating-larceny department
schwit1 shared an article from the BBC:
Using a cheap robot, a team of hackers has cracked open a leading-brand combination safe, live on stage in Las Vegas. The team from SparkFun Electronics was able to open a SentrySafe safe in around 30 minutes... After the robot discovered the combination was 51.36.93, the safe popped open -- to rapturous applause from the audience of several hundred... The robot, which cost around $200 to put together, makes use of 3D-printed parts that can be easily replaced to fit different brands of combination safe. It cannot crack a digital lock -- although vulnerabilities in those systems have been exposed by other hacking teams in the past.
Though the safe had a million possible combinations using three two-digit numbers, the last number had slightly larger indents on the dial -- reducing the possible combinations to just 10,000. And in addition, "the team also discovered that the safe's design allows for a margin of error to compensate for humans getting their combination slightly wrong" -- which meant that the robot only had to check every third number. "Using this method, they could cut down the number of possible combinations to around 1,000."
"Some SentrySafe models come with an additional lock and key, but the team was able to unlock it by using a Bic pen."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's so-ubiquitous-it-will-disappear department
An anonymous reader shares an article from O'Reilly Media's VP of content strategy:
It's high time to build the internet that we wanted all along: a network designed to respect privacy, a network designed to be secure, and a network designed to impose reasonable controls on behavior. And a network with few barriers to entry -- in particular, the certainty of ISP extortion as new services pay to get into the "fast lane." Is it time to start over from scratch, with new protocols that were designed with security, privacy, and maybe even accountability in mind? Is it time to pull the plug on the abusive old internet, with its entrenched monopolistic carriers, its pervasive advertising, and its spam? Could we start over again?
That would be painful, but not impossible... In his deliciously weird novel Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town, Cory Doctorow writes about an alternative network built from open WiFi access points. It sounds similar to Google's Project Fi, but built and maintained by a hacker underground. Could Doctorow's vision be our future backboneless backbone? A network of completely distributed municipal networks, with long haul segments over some public network, but with low-level protocols designed for security? We'd have to invent some new technology to build that new network, but that's already started.
The article cites the increasing popularity of peer-to-peer functionality everywhere from Bitcoin and Blockchain to the Beaker browser, the Federated Wiki, and even proposals for new file-sharing protocols like IPFS and Upspin. "Can we build a network that can't be monopolized by monopolists? Yes, we can..."
"It's time to build the network we want, and not just curse the network we have."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's United-States-of-Developers department
An anonymous reader writes:
Palo Alto-based HackerRank, which offers online programmng challenges, "dug into our data of about 450,000 unique U.S. developers to uncover which states are home to the best software engineers, and which pockets of the country have the highest rate of developer growth." Examining the 24 months from 2015 through the end of 2016, they calculated the average score for each state in eight programming-related domains. (Algorithms, data structures, functional programming, math, Java, Ruby, C++, and Python.) But it seems like low-population states would have fewer people taking the tests, meaning a disproportionate number of motivated and knowledgeable test takers could drastically skew the results. Sure enough, Wyoming -- with a population of just 584,153 -- has the smallest population of any U.S. state, but the site's second-highest average score, and the top score in three subject domains -- Ruby, data structures, and algorithms. And the District of Columbia -- population 681,170 -- has the highest average score for functional programming.
California, New York and Virginia still had the highest number of developers using the site, while Alaska, Wyoming and South Dakota not surprisingly had the least number of developers. But maybe the real take-away is that programmers are now becoming more distributed. HackerRank's announcement notes that the site "found growing developer communities and skilled developers all across the country. Previously, the highest concentrations of developers did not stray far from the tech hubs in California. Hawaii, Colorado, Virginia, and Nevada demonstrated the fastest growth in terms of developer activity on the HackerRank platform..." In addition, "we've had a noticeable uptick in customers across industries, from healthcare to retail and finance, with strong demand for identifying technical skills quickly."
< article continued at Slashdot's United-States-of-Developers department
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's extra-Flashy department
An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer:
A petition is asking Adobe to release Flash into the hands of the open-source community. Finnish developer Juha Lindstedt started the petition a day after Adobe announced plans to end Flash support by the end of 2020. "Flash is an important piece of Internet history and killing Flash means future generations can't access the past," Lindstedt explains in the petition's opening paragraph. "Games, experiments and websites would be forgotten." The developer wants Adobe to open-source Flash or parts of its technology so the open-source community could take on the job of supporting a minimal version of the Flash plugin or at least create a tool to accurately convert old SWF and FLA files to modern HTML5, canvas data, or WebAssembly code... Lindstedt is asking users to sign the petition by starring the project on GitHub. At the time of writing, the petition has garnered over 3,000 stars.
A reporter at ZDNet counters that "the only way to really secure Flash is to get rid of it... If Flash lives, people will continue to use it, and without security support, it will be even more insecure than ever."
He points out there's already several programs that convert Flash into other formats -- and that Adobe already open sourced its Flex framework for building Flash applications back in 2008 (now supported by the Apache Software Foundation as Apache Flex). "In other words, we don't need the Flash source code to convert or create Flash files. Just let Flash go already...!
"Usually, I'm favor with open-sourcing everything and anything. Not this time. Flash has proven to be a net of endless security holes. It's time to let it go for once and for all.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Should-The-Government-Fix-America's-Worst-Internet-Access? department
An anonymous reader quotes a story from Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site about "the worst internet in America":
FiveThirtyEight analyzed every county's broadband usage using data from researchers at the University of Iowa and Arizona State University and found that Saguache, Colorado was at the bottom. Only 5.6 percent of adults were estimated to have broadband... It has some of the worst internet in the country. That's in part because of the mountains and the isolation they bring... Its population of 6,300 is spread across 3,169 square miles 7,800 feet above sea level, but on land that is mostly flat, so you can almost see the full scope of two mountain ranges as you drive the county's highway...
But Saguache isn't alone in lacking broadband. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 39 percent of rural Americans -- 23 million people -- don't have access. In Pew surveys, those who live in rural areas were about twice as likely not to use the internet as urban or suburban Americans.
In Saguache County download speeds of 12 Mbps (with an upload speed of 2 Mbps) cost $90 a month, and the article points out that when it comes to providing broadband, "small companies and cooperatives are going it more or less alone, without much help yet from the federal government." But that raises an inevitable question. Should the federal government be subsidizing rural internet access?Read Replies (0)