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Why Lavabit Shut Down
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 03:01 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's read-this-if-you-want-your-day-to-get-worse department:
An anonymous reader writes "Ladar Levison, founder of the encrypted email service Lavabit that shut down last year because of friction with U.S. government data requests, has an article at The Guardian where he explains the whole story. He writes, 'My legal saga started last summer with a knock at the door, behind which stood two federal agents ready to to serve me with a court order requiring the installation of surveillance equipment on my company's network. ... I had no choice but to consent to the installation of their device, which would hand the U.S. government access to all of the messages – to and from all of my customers – as they traveled between their email accounts other providers on the Internet. But that wasn't enough. The federal agents then claimed that their court order required me to surrender my company's private encryption keys, and I balked. What they said they needed were customer passwords – which were sent securely – so that they could access the plain-text versions of messages from customers using my company's encrypted storage feature. (The government would later claim they only made this demand because of my "noncompliance".) ... What ensued was a flurry of legal proceedings that would last 38 days, ending not only my startup but also destroying, bit by bit, the very principle upon which I founded it – that we all have a right to personal privacy.'"

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FBI Need Potheads To Fight Cybercrime
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 02:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's government-dorito-budget-not-up-to-snuff department:
An anonymous reader writes "The rate of cybercrime is growing and growing, and law enforcement is struggling to keep up. The FBI is in the process of beefing up its headcount, but they're running into a problem: many of the hackers applying for these jobs have a history of marijuana use, and the agency has a zero tolerance policy. FBI Director James Comey said, 'I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview.' However, change may be on the horizon: Comey said the FBI is changing 'both our mindset and the way we do business.' He also encouraged job applications from former pot users despite the policy."

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Chrome 35 Launches With New APIs and JavaScript Features
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 02:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's can-now-run-for-president department:
An anonymous reader writes "Google today released Chrome version 35 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version is mainly for developers, especially those building Web content and apps for mobile devices – this release doesn't appear to have any new features targeted at the end user. "

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California Legislation Affirms Privacy Rights Against NSA Spying Methods
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 01:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's but-only-for-prius-owners department:
New submitter amxcoder writes: "A recent bill making its way through the California state legislature reaffirms 4th amendment protections against NSA-style wiretapping of cell phones and computer records, and declares that the NSA's data collection methods and practices are unconstitutional. The bill has passed the California Senate with only a single opposing vote. It would require a warrant to be issued by a Judge before the state's law enforcement and other departments can assist federal agencies in obtaining these records. Similar bills in other states are trickling through the legislative process, but California's is the furthest along. At the least, it will establish that a state of 38 million people are unhappy with the NSA's methods."

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Ask Slashdot: Can Star Wars Episode VII Be Saved?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-find-your-lack-of-faith-quite-understandable-actually department:
An anonymous reader writes "10 years ago today, in the wake of two disappointing Star Wars prequels, we discussed whether Episode III could salvage itself or the series. Now, as production is underway on Episode VII under the care of Disney, I was wondering the same thing: can it return Star Wars to its former glory? On one hand, many critics of the prequels have gotten what they wanted — George Lucas has a reduced role in the production of Episode VII. Critically, he didn't write the screenplay, which goes a long way toward avoiding the incredibly awkward dialogue of the prequels. On the other hand, they're actively breaking with the expanded universe canon, and the series is now under the stewardship of J.J. Abrams. His treatment of the Star Trek reboot garnered lots of praise and lots of criticism — but his directorial style is arguably more suited to Star Wars anyway. What do you think? What can they do with Episode VII to put the series back on track?"

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OpenStack: the Open Source Cloud That Vendors Love and Users Are Ignoring
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 12:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-enough-sexy-buzzwords department:
Brandon Butler writes: "OpenStack has no shortage of corporate backers. Rackspace, Red Hat, IBM, Dell, HP, Cisco and many others have hopped on board. But many wonder, after four years, shouldn't there be more end users by this point? 'OpenStack backers say this progression is completely normal. Repeating an analogy many have made, Paul Cormier, president of products and technology for Red Hat, says OpenStack’s development is just like the process of building up Linux. This time the transition to a cloud-based architecture is an even bigger technological transformation than replacing proprietary operating systems with Linux. "It’s where Linux was in the beginning," he says about OpenStack's current status. "Linux was around for a while before it really got adopted in the enterprise. OpenStack is going through the same process right now."'"

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The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 11:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i'm-sorry-dave,-i-forgot-how-to-open-the-pod-bay-doors department:
malachiorion writes: "When it comes to robots, most of us are a bunch of Jon Snow know-nothings. With the exception of roboticists, everything we assume we know is based on science fiction, which has no reason to be accurate about its iconic heroes and villains, or journalists, who are addicted to SF references, jokes and tropes. That's my conclusion, at least, after a story I wrote Popular Science got some attention—it asked whether a robotic car should kill its owner, if it means saving two strangers. The most common dismissals of the piece claimed that robo-cars should simply follow Asimov's First Law, or that robo-cars would never crash into each other. These perspectives are more than wrong-headed—they ignore the inherent complexity and fallibility of real robots, for whom failure is inevitable. Here's my follow-up story, about why most of our discussion of robots is based on make-believe, starting with the myth of robotic hyper-competence."

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Driverless Cars Could Cripple Law Enforcement Budgets
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 11:01 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's jaywalking-soon-to-become-very-expensive department:
colinneagle writes "Google's driverless cars have now combined to drive more than 700,000 miles on public roads without receiving one citation, The Atlantic reported this week. While this raises a lot of questions about who is responsible to pay for a ticket issued to a speeding autonomous car – current California law would have the person in the driver's seat responsible, while Google has said the company that designed the car should pay the fine – it also hints at a future where local and state governments will have to operate without a substantial source of revenue.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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How Virtual Reality Became Reality
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's when-two-smartphones-and-a-gas-mask-love-each-other-very-much department:
An anonymous reader writes "Wired has an in-depth report on the development of the Oculus Rift, telling the story of the tech and its creators from conception to present. Quoting: 'That's because Oculus has found a way to make a headset that does more than just hang a big screen in front of your face. By combining stereoscopic 3-D, 360-degree visuals, and a wide field of view—along with a supersize dose of engineering and software magic—it hacks your visual cortex. As far as your brain is concerned, there's no difference between experiencing something on the Rift and experiencing it in the real world. "This is the first time that we've succeeded in stimulating parts of the human visual system directly," says Abrash, the Valve engineer. "I don't get vertigo when I watch a video of the Grand Canyon on TV, but I do when I stand on a ledge in VR." ... The hardware problems have been solved, the production lines are almost open, and the Rift will be here soon. After that it's anybody's guess. "I've written 2 million lines of code over the past 20 years, and now I'm starting from a blank page," Carmack says. "But the sense that I'm helping build the future right now is palpable."'"

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Surface Pro 3 Has 12" Screen, Intel Inside
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's touch-it department:
crookedvulture (1866146) writes "Microsoft unveiled its Surface Pro 3 tablet at a press event in New York this morning. The device has a larger 12" screen with a 2160x1440 display resolution and a novel 3:2 aspect ratio. Intel Core processors provide the horsepower, starting with the Core i3 in the base model and extending all the way up to Core i7 in pricier variants. The tablet is just 9.1 mm thick, which Microsoft claims is the thinnest ever for a Core-based device. Microsoft developed a new radial fan that's suppose to distribute airflow evenly inside the chassis without generating audible noise. The tablet weights 800 g, shaving 100 g off the Surface Pro 2, and it's supposed to have longer battery life, as well. Microsoft has also rolled out new keyboard accessories, a pressure-sensitive stylus, and a docking station that supports 4K video output. The Surface Pro 3 is scheduled to be available tomorrow with prices starting at $799." Update: 05/20 17:12 GMT by T : Mary Jo Foley points out at ZDNet that one thing not announced today is an ARM-powered Mini version.

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China Bans Government Purchases of Windows 8
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's everybody's-got-priorities department:
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Last week, China's Central Government Procurement Center posted a notice on new requirements for government tender, that included, among other things, the mysterious request that Windows 8 be excluded from the bidding process on computer purchases. The agency could not be reached Tuesday, but China's state-controlled Xinhua News Agency said that the government was forbidding the use of Windows 8 after Microsoft recently ended official support for Windows XP."

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Gun Rights Groups Say They Don't Oppose Smart Guns, Just Mandates
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 08:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's force-breeds-resistance department:
Lucas123 (935744) writes "When two gun stores attempted to sell the nation's first integrated smart gun, the iP1, gun advocacy groups were charged in media reports with organizing protests that lead to the stores pulling the guns from their shelves or reneging on their promise to sell them in the first place. But, the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation say they do not oppose smart gun technology, which they call "authorized user recognition" firearms. "We do oppose any government mandate of this technology, however. The marketplace should decide," Mike Bazinet, a spokesman for the NSSA, wrote in an email reply to Computerworld. However, the argument for others goes that if stores begin selling smart guns, then legislators will draft laws requiring the technology."

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How the Emerging Science of Proteotronics Will Change Electronics
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's peanut-butter-in-your-chocolate department:
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The study of proteins has become one of the hottest topics in science in the last 20 years, and not just for biologists. Researchers have been measuring the electrical properties of proteins for some time, discovering that some of them act like switches in certain circumstances. That's potentially useful but without a robust theoretical model of how these properties arise, nobody has been able to incorporate proteins into real devices. Now electronics engineers have developed the first model that reliably describes the real electrical behaviour of proteins and how it changes when they bond to other molecules. It even predicts the behaviour in new situations. That should make it possible to use proteins in the same way as other electronic components such as transistors, diodes and so on. That's leading to an entirely new field of science called proteotronics in which proteins work seamlessly with other components in electronic devices. First up, an electronic nose based on the olfactory receptor OR-17, a protein found in rats, which behaves like an electronic switch when it detects the presence of aldehydes such as octanal."

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The 69 Words GM Employees Can Never Say
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 06:31 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-and-you-can't-say-that-number-either department:
bizwriter (1064470) writes "General Motors put together its take on a George Carlin list of words you can't say. Engineering employees were shown 69 words and phrases that were not to be used in emails, presentations, or memos. They include: defect, defective, safety, safety related, dangerous, bad, and critical. You know, words that the average person, in the context of the millions of cars that GM has recalled, might understand as indicative of underlying problems at the company. Oh, terribly sorry, 'problem' was on the list as well."

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Google's Rogue Internet Balloon Test Spurred UFO Reports Nationwide
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's what's-the-frequency-richard department:
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "The hardest thing about Google X's Project Loon hasn't been the engineering challenge of beaming high-speed internet down to the far-flung corners of the world: It's trying to control all those freaking balloons. Project lead Rich DeVaul just revealed the 'Falcon 11,' a 120-foot long transparent mylar balloon made in-house at the secret Google X lab that spurred UFO reports nationwide after the company lost track of it: 'We tracked the balloon by outsourcing to the internet UFO community, it drifted all the way across the country,' he said."

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Controversial TSA Nudie X-Ray Machines Sent To Prisons
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 05:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's at-last-a-proper-home department:
An anonymous reader writes "The controversial TSA backscatter X-ray machines are being sent to prisons. According to Federal times, 'The controversial airport screening machines that angered privacy advocates and members of Congress for its revealing images are finding new homes in state and local prisons across the country, according to the Transportation Security Administration.' 154 backscatter X-rays have already ended up in Iowa, Louisiana, and Virginia prisons. TSA is working to find homes for the remaining machines. Per the article: '"TSA and the vendor are working with other government agencies interested in receiving the units for their security mission needs and for use in a different environment," TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said.'"

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XMPP Operators Begin Requiring Encryption, Google Still Not Allowing TLS
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 04:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's google-talk-is-the-new-internet-explorer department:
Via El Reg comes news that major XMPP (formerly known as Jabber, likely the only widely used distributed instant messaging protocol other than IRC) operators have all begun requiring encryption for client-to-server and server-to-server connections. Quoting the Prosidy developers: "Last year Peter Saint-Andre laid out a plan for strengthening the security of the XMPP network. The manifesto, to date signed by over 70 XMPP service operators and software developers, offered a rallying point for those interested in ensuring the security of XMPP for its users. Today is the date that the manifesto gave for the final 'flip of the switch': as of today many XMPP services will begin refusing unencrypted connections. If you run an XMPP service, we encourage you to do the same. On the xmpp.org wiki you can find instructions for all the popular XMPP server software. While XMPP is an open distributed network, obviously no single entity can 'mandate' encryption for the whole network — but as a group we are moving in the right direction."

There is a handy tool to test your server. A result worth noting is Google's: they still do not support TLS for server-to-server connections, and their sudden dropping of TLS s2s connections a few years ago is likely the primary reason operators switched off mandatory TLS for s2s (I know that's why I did it). Although Google Hangouts offers no federation, GTalk still does, but it appears that the XMPP network-at-large will now cease to federate with Google voluntarily.

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Fusion Power By 2020? Researchers Say Yes and Turn To Crowdfunding.
Posted by News Fetcher on May 20 '14 at 01:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's will-research-particle-physics-for-food department:
Luminary Crush (109477) writes "To date, the bulk of fusion research has been channelled towards a plasma containment and stabilization method. This is the approach used by ITER's tokamak reactor, the cost of which could exceed US$13.7 billion before it's online in the year 2027 (barring further delays). Researchers at LPP Fusion, in a project partially financed by NASA-JPL, are working in a different direction: focus fusion, which focuses the plasma in a very small area to produce fusion and an ion beam which could then be harnessed to produce electricity. It is small enough to fit in a shipping container, can double as a rocket engine, and would cost US$50 million to produce the working 5 MW prototype. To reach the next hurdle and demonstrate feasibility, LPP Fusion has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $200K."

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Curiosity Rover May Have Brought Dozens of Microbes To Mars
Posted by News Fetcher on May 19 '14 at 11:16 PM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's spreading-life-probably-just-as-interesting department:
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Despite rigorous pre-flight cleaning, swabbing of the Curiosity Rover just prior to liftoff revealed some 377 strains of bacteria. 'In the lab, scientists exposed the microbes to desiccation, UV exposure, cold and pH extremes. Nearly 11% of the 377 strains survived more than one of these severe conditions. Thirty-one per cent of the resistant bacteria did not form tough, protective spore coats; the researchers suspect that they used other biochemical means of protection, such as metabolic changes.' While the risk of contaminating the red planet are unknown, knowing the types of strains that may have survived pre-flight cleaning may help rule out biological 'discoveries' if and when NASA carries out its plans to return a soil sample from Mars."

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Rising Sea Level Could Put East Coast Nuclear Plants At Risk
Posted by News Fetcher on May 19 '14 at 08:15 PM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's coal-industry-will-stop-at-nothing department:
mdsolar (1045926) writes with news that global warming may make it more difficult to use modern power sources that rely upon being near large bodies of water for cooling. From the article: "During the 1970s and 1980s, when many nuclear reactors were first built, most operators estimated that seas would rise at a slow, constant rate. ... But the seas are now rising much faster than they did in the past ... Sea levels rose an average of 8 inches between 1880 and 2009, or about 0.06 inches per year. But in the last 20 years, sea levels have risen an average of 0.13 inches per year... NOAA) has laid out four different projections for estimated sea level rise by 2100. Even the agency's best-case scenario assumes that sea levels will rise at least 8.4 inches by the end of this century. NOAA's worst-case scenario, meanwhile, predicts that the oceans will rise nearly 7 feet in the next 86 years. But most nuclear power facilities were built well before scientists understood just how high sea levels might rise in the future. And for power plants, the most serious threat is likely to come from surges during storms. Higher sea levels mean that flooding will travel farther inland, creating potential hazards in areas that may have previously been considered safe."

The article has charts comparing the current elevation of various plants with their estimated elevations under the various NOAA sea level rise estimates.

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