By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cutting-edge-technology department
Many of America's voting machines are depending on an outdated Microsoft operating system, reports the Associated Press. "The vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts."
That's significant because Windows 7 reaches its "end of life" on Jan. 14, meaning Microsoft stops providing technical support and producing "patches" to fix software vulnerabilities, which hackers can exploit. In a statement to the AP, Microsoft said Friday it would offer continued Windows 7 security updates for a fee through 2023.
Critics say the situation is an example of what happens when private companies ultimately determine the security level of election systems with a lack of federal requirements or oversight....
It's unclear whether the often hefty expense of security updates would be paid by vendors operating on razor-thin profit margins or cash-strapped jurisdictions. It's also uncertain if a version running on Windows 10, which has more security features, can be certified and rolled out in time for primaries.
The Associated Press contacted the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity advocacy organization, and received this comment from the group's the executive director.
"Is this a bad joke?"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's good-morning-Starshot department
"Starshot wants to build the world's most powerful laser and aim it at the closest star. What could go wrong?"
An anonymous reader quotes MIT's Technology Review:
In 2015, Philip Lubin, a cosmologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, took the stage at the 100-Year Starship Symposium in Santa Clara. He outlined his plan to build a laser so powerful that it could accelerate tiny spacecraft to 20% of the speed of light, getting them to Alpha Centauri in just 20 years. We could become interstellar explorers within a single generation. It was quite the hook.
Because Lubin is an excellent public speaker, and because the underlying technologies already existed, and because the science was sound, he was mobbed after the talk. He also met Pete Worden, a former research director of NASA's Ames Research Center, for the first time. Worden had recently taken over as head of the Breakthrough Initiatives, a nonprofit program funded by Russian technology billionaire Yuri Milner. Six months later, Lubin's project had $100 million in funding from Breakthrough and the endorsement of Stephen Hawking, who called it the "next great leap into the cosmos."
Starshot is straightforward, at least in theory. First, build an enormous array of moderately powerful lasers. Yoke them together—what's called "phase lock"—to create a single beam with up to 100 gigawatts of power. Direct the beam onto highly reflective light sails attached to spacecraft weighing less than a gram and already in orbit. Turn the beam on for a few minutes, and the photon pressure blasts the spacecraft to relativistic speeds.
Not only could such a technology be used to send sensors to another star system; it could dispatch larger craft to Earth's neighboring planets and moons. Imagine a package to Mars in a few days, or a crewed mission to Mars in a month. Starshot effectively shrinks the solar system, and ultimately the galaxy.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fat-finger-filings department
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes the Register:
An interior design tools startup called Mosss on Wednesday sued Google to get it to restore its data after someone at the startup accidentally deleted the firm's G Suite account. In a pro se lawsuit [PDF] filed in US District Court in Oakland, California, Mosss, under its previous corporate name, Musey Inc., asked Google to help it restore its data...
Initially, the filing says, the company believed Google would be able to help because a customer service representative said he'd deal with the issue. But the cavalry did not arrive... "All efforts failed and at the end we received a one-line email that stated our data was lost and couldn't be returned to us."
Except perhaps not. According to the complaint, the company was informed – it's not clear whether Google or a third-party advised this – that it could seek a subpoena or file a civil lawsuit to access its data. So that's what it has done.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's to-GNOME-is-to-love-'em department
intensivevocoder quotes TechRepublic: Following Canonical's pivot away from its internally-developed Unity user interface and Mir display server, Ubuntu has enjoyed two relatively low-drama years, as the Linux Desktop market homogenized during its transition back to a customized GNOME desktop. In a review of the most recent release, TechRepublic's Jack Wallen declared that "Ubuntu 19.04 should seriously impress anyone looking for a fast and reliable Linux desktop platform."
Largely, it's been a slow-and-steady pace for Ubuntu since the pivot from Unity to GNOME, though the distribution made headlines for plans to end support for 32-bit support. This prompted Valve, operators of games marketplace Steam, to re-think its approach toward Ubuntu, which it previously characterized as "as the best-supported path for desktop users."
TechRepublic's James Sanders interviewed Will Cooke, director of engineering for Ubuntu Desktop at Canonical, about the distribution's long-term plans for legacy 32-bit support, shipping a desktop in a post-Unity-era Ubuntu, and why Linux should be the first choice for users migrating from Windows 7 prior to the end of support.
From the interview:
When we did the switch to GNOME Shell from Unity, we did a survey [asking] people straightforward questions like, "What sort of features do you want to see continue in Ubuntu Desktop?" The answer came through very, very clearly that people liked having the launcher on the left, and they wanted to keep that feature there. They liked having desktop icons and they wanted to keep that feature there.
We've made decisions based on data from our user base, from our community. They have provided that feedback and we've done what the majority of people want.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's nein department
"Schools in the central German state of Hesse [population: 6 million] have been told it's now illegal to use Microsoft Office 365," reports ZDNet:
The state's data-protection commissioner has ruled that using the popular cloud platform's standard configuration exposes personal information about students and teachers "to possible access by US officials".
That might sound like just another instance of European concerns about data privacy or worries about the current US administration's foreign policy. But in fact the ruling by the Hesse Office for Data Protection and Information Freedom is the result of several years of domestic debate about whether German schools and other state institutions should be using Microsoft software at all.
Besides the details that German users provide when they're working with the platform, Microsoft Office 365 also transmits telemetry data back to the US. Last year, investigators in the Netherlands discovered that that data could include anything from standard software diagnostics to user content from inside applications, such as sentences from documents and email subject lines. All of which contravenes the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, the Dutch said...
To allay privacy fears in Germany, Microsoft invested millions in a German cloud service, and in 2017 Hesse authorities said local schools could use Office 365. If German data remained in the country, that was fine, Hesse's data privacy commissioner, Michael Ronellenfitsch, said. But in August 2018 Microsoft decided to shut down the German service. So once again, data from local Office 365 users would be data transmitted over the Atlantic. Several US laws, including 2018's CLOUD Act and 2015's USA Freedom Act, give the US government more rights to ask for data from tech companies.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's elephants-in-the-room department
Long-time Slashdot reader retroworks writes: In "Zoos Called It a 'Rescue.' But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?" New York Times reporter Charles Siebert does much to dispel the idea that zoos are a solution to extinction. In the first half of the article, the cruelty of zoos is in focus. "Neuroimaging has shown that elephants possess in their cerebral cortex the same elements of neural wiring we long thought exclusive to us, including spindle and pyramidal neurons, associated with higher cognitive functions like self-recognition, social awareness and language. "
The second half of the article questions whether any current (expensive) efforts to "save" the elephants offers anything more than window dressing. Ted Reilly [founder and executive director of a game preserve] is quoted that, "The greatest threat to wildlife in Africa today is the uncontrolled spread of human sprawl. As far as it sprawls, nature dies. And that's the reality on the ground. It's not the nice idea that people cook up and suggest, but that's the reality. And in my view, an equally important threat, serious threat, is dependence on donor money. If you become dependent on donor money, you will inevitably become dictated to in terms of your policies. And your management integrity will be interfered with. And it's not possible to be totally free of corruptive influences if you're not financially independent."
Does this type of reporting improve the situation, or cause despondence and abandonment of the extinction cause?
The 7,000-word article points out that 22 American zoos had already closed their elephant exhibits (or were phasing them out) by 2012 (according to a depressing study by the Seattle Times).
The New York Times adds that "an increasing awareness of nonhuman animal sentience is now compelling many to question the very existence of zoos."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-is-ticking department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: E-cigarette companies such as Juul must submit applications to U.S. regulators by May 2020 to keep their vaping products on the market, a federal judge ruled Friday. The ruling was the result of a court case brought by anti-tobacco and public-health groups after the FDA had delayed an earlier application deadline. The groups argued that the agency had abdicated its duty to regulate the products, which have been blamed for a rise of youth use of vaping products. A company's e-cigarettes will be able to stay on the market for up to one year while the FDA considers its application, according to the order. In anticipation of having to move more quickly, the FDA issued a guideline last month to help e-cigarette makers craft their applications. "Given the uncertainty in the efficacy of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices, the overstated effects that a shorter deadline may have on manufacturers, the industry's recalcitrance, the continued availability of e-cigarettes and their acknowledged appeal to youth, and the clear public health emergency, I find that a deadline is necessary," U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm wrote in his order.
Juul said it was supportive of the application process and had been preparing research on its products and how they're used by smokers. "We're confident in the content and quality of the materials we will submit with our application," said spokeswoman Lindsay Andrews.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's faith-in-humanity-restored department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CityLab: It's one of the most enduring urban myths of all: If you get in trouble, don't count on anyone nearby to help. Research dating back to the late 1960s documents how the great majority of people who witness crimes or violent behavior refuse to intervene. Psychologists dubbed this non-response as the "bystander effect" -- a phenomenon which has been replicated in scores of subsequent psychological studies. The "bystander effect" holds that the reason people don't intervene is because we look to one another. The presence of many bystanders diffuses our own sense of personal responsibility, leading people to essentially do nothing and wait for someone else to jump in.
Past studies have used police reports to estimate the effect, but results ranged from 11 percent to 74 percent of incidents being interventions. Now, widespread surveillance cameras allow for a new method to assess real-life human interactions. A new study published this year in the American Psychologist finds that this well-established bystander effect may largely be a myth. The study uses footage of more than 200 incidents from surveillance cameras in Amsterdam; Cape Town; and Lancaster, England. The study finds that in nine out of 10 incidents, at least one bystander intervened, with an average of 3.8 interveners. There was also no significant difference across the three countries and cities, even though they differ greatly in levels of crime and violence. The study actually found that the more bystanders there were, the more likely it was that at least someone would intervene to help. "This is a powerful corrective to the common perception of 'stranger danger' and the 'unknown other,'" reports CityLab. "It suggests that people are willing to self-police to protect their communities and others."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's case-dismissed department
Last year, Oracle filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government complaining about the procurement process around the Pentagon's $10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract. "They claimed a potential conflict of interest on the part of a procurement team member (who was a former AWS employee)," reports TechCrunch. "Today, that case was dismissed in federal court." From the report: In dismissing the case, Federal Claims Court Senior Judge Eric Bruggink ruled that the company had failed to prove a conflict in the procurement process, something the DOD's own internal audits found in two separate investigations. Judge Bruggink ultimately agreed with the DoD's findings: "We conclude as well that the contracting officer's findings that an organizational conflict of interest does not exist and that individual conflicts of interest did not impact the procurement, were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record is therefore denied."
Today's ruling opens the door for the announcement of a winner of the $10 billion contract, as early as next month. The DoD previously announced that it had chosen Microsoft and Amazon as the two finalists for the winner-take-all bid.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's ever-growing-tentacles department
The music app that is adding subscribers to its service at the fastest rate is not Apple Music or Spotify or Google Music, it is Amazon, Financial Times reported this week [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From the report: The number of people subscribing to Amazon Music Unlimited has grown by about 70 per cent in the past year, according to people briefed on its performance. In April Amazon had more than 32m subscribers to all its music services including Unlimited and Prime Music. By contrast, Spotify, the world's largest streaming service with 100m subscribers, is growing at about 25 per cent a year. "Amazon is the dark horse [in music]," said Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Midia Research. "People don't pay as much attention to it [as to Apple and Spotify], but it's been hugely effective." [...] Amazon has gained momentum in recent months, propelled by its ubiquity with consumers and Alexa, its popular intelligent assistant, which can play music through voice commands issued to its wireless Echo speaker.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's rampant-issue department
The hearts of young city dwellers contain billions of toxic air pollution particles, research has revealed. The Guardian: Even in the study's youngest subject, who was three, damage could be seen in the cells of the organ's critical pumping muscles that contained the tiny particles. The study suggests these iron-rich particles, produced by vehicles and industry, could be the underlying cause of the long-established statistical link between dirty air and heart disease. The scientists said the abundance of the nanoparticles might represent a serious public health concern and that particle air pollution must be reduced urgently. More than 90% of the world's population lives with toxic air, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the issue a global "public health emergency."
The scientists acknowledged some uncertainties in their research, but Prof Barbara Maher, of Lancaster University, said: "This is a preliminary study in a way, but the findings and implications were too important not to get the information out there." Maher and colleagues found in 2016 that the same nanoparticles were present in human brains and were associated with Alzheimers-like damage, another disease linked to air pollution. While all ages were affected, Maher said she was particularly concerned about children.Read Replies (0)