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NSA Targeted 106,000 Foreigners In Spy Program Up For Renewal

Slashdot - 5 hours 17 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. National Security Agency conducted targeted surveillance over the past year against 106,000 foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism and other crimes, using powers granted in a controversial section of law that's set to expire at the end of this year. The number of foreigners targeted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act rose from 94,000 in fiscal year 2015, according to U.S. intelligence officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the information. The program lets agencies collect the content of emails and other communications from suspected foreign criminals operating outside the U.S., but it has become a flash point with some lawmakers for potential infringement of Americans' constitutional rights. Congress has to decide by year-end whether to renew the NSA's power under Section 702, a program that came to light when former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed classified government documents in 2013. While the intelligence officials cautioned that changes would limit its effectiveness, lawmakers including Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, have indicated they'll seek adjustments to ensure against abuses.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

An Emphasized Color

The Daily WTF - 7 hours 47 min ago

One of the major goals of many software development teams is to take tedious, boring, simplistic manual tasks and automate them. An entire data entry team can be replaced by a single well-written application, saving the company money, greatly improving processing time, and potentially reducing errors.

That is, if it’s done correctly.

Peter G. worked for a state government. One of his department’s tasks involved processing carbon copies of forms for most of the state’s residents. To save costs, improve processing time, and reduce the amount of manual data entry they had to perform, the department decided to automate the process and use optical character recognition (OCR) to scan in the carbon copies and convert the handwritten data into text which was eventually entered into a database.

By By Aaron Logan
[CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

The software was written and the department received boxes and boxes and boxes worth of the carbon copy paper forms. The printer had a very long lead time, so they ordered their entire supply of forms for the state for the next year. There were so many boxes that Peter joked about building a castle with them.

Then the system went live. And it didn’t work, at all. Something was wrong with the OCR software and Peter was pulled into the project to help find a fix.

While researching the project history, he found that much of the data on the paper forms wasn’t required, and the decision was made to print those boxes in a different, very specific color. During processing, their custom OCR software would ignore that color, blanking out the box and removing the extraneous information before it was unnecessarily entered into the system. Since it still needed to be visible, but wasn’t important, they chose, with the help of their printer, Pantone 5507.

So he filled out a sample form for one “Homer J. Simpson” and scanned it to see what was meant by “The system doesn’t work.” The system briefly churned and created a record in the test database for his form, but when he inspected the record, it was missing the mandatory unique ID. This ID came from the paper form and was comparable to a license number or Social Security Number, and was absolutely required for the data to be usable.

He filled out a couple more forms in case the system was having trouble understanding his handwriting, but they came out the same way. No unique ID.

He scratched his head and examined the paper forms some more. Eventually, he realized the issue. The box for the unique ID was considered “important” but not “something for users to interact with”, and thus was de-emphasized, and prrinted printed in that different, very specific color that the OCR software ignored: Pantone 5507. So the ID was blanked out and ignored during scanning.

Being a competent developer, Peter quickly came up with a plan to add a step to the task. After scanning, but before handing off to the OCR task, a new task would do a simple color-based find-and-replace within a region of the scan to correct the color of the ID field so it wouldn’t be blanked out.

“No, we don’t have time or money for that,” his manager explained to him. “I’ll have the offshore guys fix it for next year. For now, just cobble something together so the original scan stays with the record.”

The department hired a team of interns to perform manual data entry for the year, whose sole task was to sift through the database records, pull up the corresponding scan, and read and type in the single unique ID field that the OCR software ignored. Meanwhile, the department promised that something bigger, better, and fancier was on the way for next year…

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Categories: Fun/Other

Red Cross Asks For 50 Ham Radio Operators To Fly To Puerto Rico

Slashdot - 8 hours 17 min ago
Bruce Perens writes: The red cross has asked for 50 ham radio operators to fly to Puerto Rico and be deployed there for up to three weeks. This is unprecedented in the 75-year cooperation between Red Cross and ARRL, the national organization of ham radio operators for the U.S. The operators will relay health-and-welfare messages and provide communications links where those are missing and are essential to rescue and recovery. With much infrastructure destroyed, short-wave radio is a critical means of communicating from Puerto Rico to the Mainland at this time.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Star Trek: Discovery Nearly Cracks Pirate Bay's Top 10 In Less Than 24 Hours

Slashdot - 11 hours 17 min ago
Yesterday was the season premiere of the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years. While the first episode aired on the CBS broadcast network Sunday night, the second episode -- and all the rest to come -- was made available exclusively on the CBS All Access streaming service for $6 a month. Naturally, this upset Trekkies and led many of them to find alternative methods to watch the show. EW reports that Star Trek: Discovery "is on the verge of cracking Pirate Bay's Top 10 most illegally downloaded shows in less than 24 hours." From the report: The Discovery pilot is currently at No. 11 on the list (apparently at No. 15 just a few hours ago), the pilot is up there with the likes of HBO's Game of Thrones, Adult Swim's Rick and Morty and, for some reason, TNT's The Last Ship. The show's second episode is at No. 17, which is a tad surprising as that was the one that wasn't free. Ever since the distribution plan was first announced fans have resisted with some vehemence the idea of paying for "yet another streaming service just to watch a single show" (there's more than one show on All Access, CBS is quick to point out, and then a debate over the relative merits of NCIS and MacGyver repeats ensues).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

If Data Is the New Oil, Are Tech Companies Robbing Us Blind?

Slashdot - 14 hours 47 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It's an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars -- and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region. The essential bargain that's driven by today's tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains -- whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly "free" services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business. In an age in which concepts like universal basic income are increasingly widely discussed, one of the most intriguing solutions is one first put forward by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. In his book Who Owns the Future?, Lanier suggests that users should receive a micropayment every time their data is used to earn a company money. For example, consider the user who signs up to an online dating service. Here, the user provides data that the dating company uses to match them with a potential data. This matching process is, itself, based on algorithms honed by the data coming from previous users. The data resulting from the new user will further perfect the algorithms for later users of the service. In the case that your data somehow matches someone else successfully in a relationship, Lanier says you would be entitled to a micropayment.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Russia Reportedly Bought Thousands of Facebook Ads Sought To Stress Racial Divisions

Slashdot - 16 hours 12 min ago
According to The Washington Post, Russia government actors bought Facebook advertisements during the 2016 election cycle that sought to exploit and divide based on hot-button racial issues. Some of the ads promoted civil rights groups such as Black Lives Matter, while others criticized them in an effort to sow division. The Hill reports: Facebook is handing over some 3,000 ads to congressional investigators as part of probes into the Kremlin's alleged effort to influence the outcome of last year's presidential election. Other ads allegedly highlighted Hillary Clinton's support among Muslim women and promoted anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messages. Facebook didn't comment on the story, but did refer to a statement earlier this month from its chief privacy officer, Alex Stamos: "Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the idealogical spectrum -- touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Dubai Starts Tests in Bid To Become First City With Flying Taxis

Slashdot - 16 hours 52 min ago
Dubai staged a test flight on Monday for what it said would soon be the world's first drone taxi service under an ambitious plan by the United Arab Emirates city to lead the Arab world in innovation. From a report: The flying taxi developed by German drone firm Volocopter resembles a small, two-seater helicopter cabin topped by a wide hoop studded with 18 propellers. It was unmanned for its maiden test run in a ceremony arranged for Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. Meant to fly without remote control guidance and with a maximum flight duration of 30 minutes, it comes with plenty of fail-safes in case of trouble: back-up batteries, rotors and, for a worst case scenario, a couple of parachutes.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Intel Launches 16 and 18-Core Core i9 Desktop Chips To Take On AMD Threadripper

Slashdot - 17 hours 32 min ago
MojoKid writes: Intel has officially launched its Skylake-X processor offering in response to AMD's Ryzen Threadripper series of desktop CPUs. The new Core i9-7980XE and Core i9-7960X are 18 and 16-core configurations respectively, with 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz base clocks and 4.4GHz max boost clocks. Both chips support Intel HyperThreading, with 36 threads of processing for the 7980XE and 32 for the 7960X, while both also have 44 lanes of PCI Express connectivity and support for DDR4-2666MHz memory. Both chips also utilize Intel's X299 chipset platform and are LGA 2066 socket compatible. The Core i9-7980XE has 24.75MB of shared L3 cache, 1MB of L2 cache per core, and a TDP of 165W. The Core i9-7960X's details are essentially same, though two processor cores and the cache associated with them have been lopped off. The Core i9-7960X has a couple of advantages, however, in that its base clock is 200MHz higher than the flagship Core i9-7980XE and it has higher all-core frequency boost to 3.6GHz, while the 7908XE tops out at 3.4GHz on all cores. The new chips are multi-threaded beasts in the benchmarks, posting the highest scores seen to date in heavily threaded workloads. They also offer strong single-threaded performance that outpaces AMD's Ryzen processors. Power consumption is surprisingly good as well and only marginally higher than the 10-core Core i9-7900X. However, at $1999 for the Core i9-7980XE and $1699 for the Core i9-7960X, as usual with Intel high-end chips, they're certainly not cheap.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Instagram Now Has 800 Million Monthly, 500 Million Daily Active Users

Slashdot - 18 hours 12 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Instagram said Monday that it's added another 100 million monthly users. That brings the photo-sharing app to 800 million monthly active users, up from 700 million in April, according to Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, who spoke at an Advertising Week event in New York City. Five hundred million of those are daily active users, the company said. That means that Instagram is still ahead of rival Snap in terms of users, based on Snap's last report. Snap said in August that it had 173 million daily active users. Time spent watching video on Instagram is up more than 80 percent year over year, the company also said on Monday, and four times as many videos are being produced every day on Instagram compared with a year ago.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Tesla Model 3 Owners Share More Info On Model

Slashdot - 18 hours 57 min ago
Owners at the Model 3 Owners Club compiled a list of over 80 different features of the Model 3 they're curious about, including questions about how the car operates (does the card unlock all the doors, where does the UI show you that your turn signals are active), physical aspects of the car (what does the tow hitch attachment look like, how much stuff can you fit in the front and rear cargo areas), and subjective details (how aggressive is the energy regeneration, does that wood trim cause glare). Ars Technica reports: So far, we've learned a few interesting facts. For instance, the windshield wipers are turned on and off by a stalk like just about every other car on the market, but changing the speed (slow/fast/intermittent) is handled by a menu on the touchscreen. The stalk also does double duty turning on the headlights, and there are no rain sensors for the wipers. The touchscreen UI really is the only way to interact with every other function, according to owners, even the rear air vents are controlled from up front (although there are USB ports in the back). Rear seat passengers also won't get seat heaters from what we gather -- unless Tesla plans to activate them in a later software update -- and the steering wheel is not heated either. The two buttons on the steering wheel do not appear to be user-configurable. Instead, the left button primarily deals with audio functions (scroll up and down for volume, left and right to change track) while the other one is for adjusting the mirrors and steering wheel position while in those menus in the UI. Additionally it appears that as of now, there's no way to tab through a different part of the UI without taking your hands off the steering wheel.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Is Project Management Killing Good Products, Teams and Software?

Slashdot - 19 hours 37 min ago
New submitter mikeatTB writes: "For software development, no significant developer activity is predictable or repetitive; if it were, the developers would have automated it already," writes Steven A. Lowe, Principal Consultant Developer at ThoughtWorks, via TechBeacon. "In addition, learning is essentially a nonlinear process; it involves trying things that don't work in order to discover what does work. You might see linear progress for a while, but you don't know what you don't know, so there will be apparent setbacks. It is from these setbacks that one learns the truth about the system -- what is really needed to make it work, to make it usable, and to make a difference for the users and the business. In other words, the dirty little secret of software development is that projects don't really exist. And they're killing our products, teams, and software." Lowe continues: "Projects, with respect to software development, are imaginary boxes drawn around scope and time in an attempt to 'manage' things. This tendency is understandable, given the long fascination with so-called scientific management (a.k.a. Taylorism, a.k.a. Theory X), but these imaginary boxes do not reduce underlying complexity. On the contrary, they add unnecessary complexity and friction and invite a counterproductive temptation to focus on the box instead of the problem or product. This misplaced emphasis leads to some harmful delusions: Conformance to schedule is the same thing as success; Estimation accuracy is possible and desirable enough to measure and optimize for; The plan is perfect and guarantees success; The cost of forming and dissolving teams is zero; The cost of functional silo hand-offs is zero; The bigger and more comprehensive the plan, the better; Predictability and efficiency are paramount."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Waymo Clarifies It Actually Wants $1.8 Billion From Uber

Slashdot - 20 hours 17 min ago
Last week, a lawyer for Uber said Waymo was seeking about $2.6 billion from the company for the alleged theft of one of several trade secrets in a lawsuit over self-driving cars. Over the weekend, Waymo filed a document with the court noting that the correct figure was actually $1.859 billion. TechCrunch reports: It's not clear why this seemingly important detail was left uncorrected for nearly a week. The filing also includes some additional clarification around the way in which the damages figure was calculated. Though Waymo is arguing that nine trade secrets were put in jeopardy by Anthony Levandowski, it is seeking a maximum of $1.8 billion in damages. That figure is the value that Waymo is attributing to a single trade secret -- trade secret 25. The other eight secrets are being individually valued at less than $1.8 billion. Consequently, Waymo is capping the damages at the value of its most valuable compromised trade secret. Waymo's attorneys note that the $1.8 billion figure was calculated based on an estimate of "Uber's unjust enrichment from Uber's trade secret misappropriation." Waymo continues that the damages are based on Uber's own profitability forecasts of deploying autonomous vehicles into its ridesharing business.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

China Blocks WhatsApp

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 23:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: China has blocked WhatsApp, security experts confirmed today to The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled). Over the past few months, WhatsApp has experienced brief disruptions to service, with users unable to send video chats or photos. Now, even text messages are completely blocked, according to Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research firm that also monitors digital censorship in China. Kobeissi found that China may have recently upgraded its firewall to detect and block the NoiseSocket protocol that WhatsApp uses to send texts, in addition to already blocking the HTTPS/TLS that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos. He said, "I think it took time for the Chinese firewall to adapt to this new protocol so that it could also target text messages." His company noticed the app disruptions beginning last Wednesday.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Deloitte Hit By Cyber-attack Revealing Clients' Secret Emails

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:45
Accounting firm Deloitte confirmed on Monday it had suffered a cyberattack. From a report: One of the world's "big four" accountancy firms has been targeted by a sophisticated hack that compromised the confidential emails and plans of some of its blue-chip clients, the Guardian can reveal (the company has since confirmed the breach). Deloitte, which is registered in London and has its global headquarters in New York, was the victim of a cybersecurity attack that went unnoticed for months. One of the largest private firms in the US, which reported a record $37bn revenue last year, Deloitte provides auditing, tax consultancy and high-end cybersecurity advice to some of the world's biggest banks, multinational companies, media enterprises, pharmaceutical firms and government agencies. The Guardian understands Deloitte clients across all of these sectors had material in the company email system that was breached. The companies include household names as well as US government departments

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

DDoS Attacks Will Now Be 'Something You Only Read About In The History Books', Says Cloudflare CEO

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 22:04
Louise Matsakis, writing for Motherboard: Cloudflare, a major internet security firm, is on a mission to render distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks useless. The company announced Monday that every customer -- including those who only use its free services -- will receive a new feature called Unmetered Mitigation, which protects against every DDoS attack, regardless of its size. Cloudflare believes the move is set to level the internet security playing field: Now every website will be able to fight back against DDoS attacks for free. "The standard practice in the industry for some time has been to charge more if you come under attack," Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, told me on a phone call last week. Firms often "fire you as a customer if you're not sort of paying enough and you get a large attack," he explained. "That's kind of gross."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Apple Releases macOS High Sierra; Ex-NSA Hacker Publishes Zero-Day

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 21:22
Apple today released the newest version of its operating system for Macs, macOS High Sierra, to the public. macOS High Sierra is a free download, and offers a range of new features and improvements including the new Apple File System, and support for High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC) for better compression without loss of quality, and HEIF for smaller photo sizes. Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: Patrick Wardle, a former NSA hacker who now serves as chief security researcher at -- Synack, posted a video of the hack -- a password exfiltration exploit -- in action. Passwords are stored in the Mac's Keychain, which typically requires a master login password to access the vault. But Wardle has shown that the vulnerability allows an attacker to grab and steal every password in plain-text using an unsigned app downloaded from the internet, without needing that password.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Amazon Slashes Prices on 4K Content in Response To Apple TV 4K's Launch

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 20:40
An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the many announcements at Apple's keynote a couple weeks ago was that 4K movies would be added to iTunes at the same price as HD content. Previously purchased HD movies would also be upgraded to 4K for free, though for streaming only. In response, Amazon Video has drastically slashed the prices of its own 4K content to match iTunes. As Pocket Lint notes, Amazon Video's 4K selection is not only limited in comparison to Apple's, but was incredibly expensive with purchases running over $30. (This price was comparable to services like Vudu and Google, but Apple's worked out deals to offer 4K HDR movies at $19.99.) Over the weekend, it appears prices for 4K titles on Amazon Video are now starting at around $5, with newer releases in the range of $7 to $19.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

Apple Replaces Bing With Google as Search Engine For Siri and Spotlight

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 20:00
Apple is ditching Bing and will now use Google to power the default search engine for Siri, Search within iOS (iOS search bar), and Spotlight on Mac. From a report: TechCrunch reported Monday that Apple users will now see search results powered by Google, instead of Bing, when using those tools. For example, when an iPhone user asks Siri a question that needs a search engine result, the voice assistant will now pull from Google, not Bing. Apple will still use Bing for image search queries using Siri or Spotlight on Mac, TechCrunch reported. Apple said the move was done for consistency; its Safari browser uses Google as the default search engine. In a statement, the company told TechCrunch that "we have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible." Google is reportedly paying Apple $3 billion this year to remain as the default search engine on iPhones and iPads.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

President Donald Trump and His Daughter Ivanka To Unveil a New Federal Computer Science Initiative With Major Tech Backers

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 19:22
From a report: President Donald Trump will issue a new directive Monday to supercharge the U.S. government's support for science, tech, engineering and mathematics, including coding education, three sources familiar with the White House's thinking told Recode. To start, Trump is set to sign a presidential memorandum at the White House later today that tasks the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds each year to so-called STEM fields, as the administration seeks to train workers for high-demand computer-science jobs of the future. And on Tuesday, Trump's daughter and advisor, Ivanka, is expected to head to Detroit, where she will join business leaders for an event unveiling a series of private-sector commitments -- from Amazon, Facebook, Google, GM, Quicken Loans and others -- meant to boost U.S. coding and computer-science classes and programs, the sources said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

iOS 11 Is Causing Massive Battery Drain Problems

Slashdot - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 18:40
Mark Wilson writes: A study conducted by security research firm Wandera shows that iOS 11 is causing iPhone and iPad batteries to drain faster than ever -- much faster. The difference between iOS 10 and iOS 11 is anything but minor; batteries can drain in half the amount of time following the upgrade. Wandera's report shows how, on average, an iPhone or iPad running iOS 10 takes 240 minutes of usage to drain the battery from 100 percent to zero. With iOS 11 installed, this number plummets to just 96 minutes -- over twice as fast. Users have also complained about the issue.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Tech/Science News

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