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Volkwagen Finally Pleads Guilty On 'Dieselgate' Charges

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 18:34
Friday Volkswagen admitted in court that they'd committed fraud in their diesel emissions tests, also pleading guilty to falsifying statements and obstruction of justice. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: It marks the first time VW admitted guilt in any court in the world, according to a VW spokesman speaking to Reuters. The judge overseeing the case in the U.S. District Court in Detroit accepted the plea and will issue a sentence at a hearing on April 21. "The agreements that we have reached with the US government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear," Volkswagen said in an emailed statement... The road to Dieselgate's conclusion still has plenty of pavement, though. The company is still under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Internal Revenue Service. And that's in the US alone. "VW AG is pleading guilty to all three counts because it is guilty on all three counts," the company's general counsel told the judge. Reuters also reports that VW offered to buy back half a million vehicles just in America, and agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the U.S. to address claims from unhappy owners.

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Hyperloop One Reveals Test Track Progress

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 17:34
Hyperloop One has released the first photographs of its "proof of concept" test track near Las Vegas, Nevada, and there's now also a couple short videos online. Slashdot reader angry tapir quotes Computerworld: The company revealed its progress on Tuesday at the Middle East Rail conference in Dubai, sharing pictures and footage of its Nevada development site dubbed "DevLoop." Taking Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept of a levitating pod in a low-pressure tube, Hyperloop One has developed what is so far the only full-scale, full-system Hyperloop test site...and says it plans to test the entire apparatus this year. In addition, Investopedia reports that Hyperloop One has now also signed letter of intent agreements to investigate the feasibility of building more hyperloop systems in Finland and the Netherlands.

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How Seven Movie Studios Forced A Pirated Movie Site Offline

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 16:34
A major pirated movie site went offline last month after seven Hollywood studios won a preliminary court injunction. An anonymous reader quotes the Hollywood Reporter: The MPAA-member studios sued the operators of PubFilm/PidTV in February, asking the court for a temporary restraining order to shut down what it described as a ring of six interconnected large-scale piracy sites. The suit was initially sealed, but was made public on Friday. Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Disney, Paramount and Viacom are named as plaintiffs in the suit for direct and secondary copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition. They're seeking statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement plus restitution of the sites' profits. So, depending on how many instances of infringement are discovered, the damages in this case could be astronomical. The studios claim the sites had more than 8 million visitors each month, nearly half of which were linked to IP addresses in the U.S... The sites are believed to be operated in Vietnam. The court also ordered GoDaddy, VeriSign and Enom to disable all six domain names, to prevent the domains from being transferred, and to do it without communicating or warning the sites' owners first. In response, the defendants purchased a new domain, and then began publicizing it with ads on Google AdSense.

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Proof Daylight Saving Time Is Dumb, Dangerous, and Costly

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 14:17
From a report on Bloomberg: The case for daylight saving time has been shaky for a while. The biannual time change was originally implemented to save energy. Yet dozens of studies around the world have found that changing the clocks has either minuscule or non-existent effects on energy use. [...] The latest research suggests the time change can be harmful to our health and cost us money. The suffering of the spring time change begins with the loss of an hour of sleep. That might not seem like a big deal, but researchers have found it can be dangerous to mess with sleep schedules. Car accidents, strokes, and heart attacks spike in the days after the March time change. It turns out that judges, sleep deprived by daylight saving, impose harsher sentences. [...] Some of the last defenders of daylight saving time have been a cluster of business groups who assume the change helps stimulate consumer spending. That's not true either, according to recent analysis of 380 million bank and credit-card transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

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Backlash Builds Against Bill Gates' Call For A Robot Tax

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 12:34
Bill Gates argued governments should tax companies that use replace humans with robots, which "provoked enough negative feedback to fry a motherboard," according to CBS News. Here's how they summarized some of the reactions: "Why pick on robots?" former Treasury Secretary Summers asked in a Washington Post opinion piece, which called Gates "profoundly misguided." The economist argued that progress, however messy and disruptive sometimes, ultimately benefits society overall.Mike Shedlock, a financial adviser with Sitka Pacific Capital Management in Edmonds, Washington, wrote on his blog that robot owners, who likely would pay the tax, would simply pass it along by jacking up prices.The European Union's parliament in February rejected a measure to impose a tax on robots, using much the same reasoning as Gates' critics. But even while acknowledging that technology can complement humans rather than replacing them, a Bloomberg columnist argues that "Gates is right to say that we should start thinking ahead of time about how to use policy to mitigate the disruptions of automation." So if we're not going to tax robots, then how should society handle the next great wave of automated labor?

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How The FBI Used Geek Squad To Increase Secret Public Surveillance

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 09:34
In 2011 a gynecology doctor took his computer for repairs at Best Buy's Geek Squad. But the repair technician was a paid FBI informant -- one of several working at Geek Squad -- and the doctor was ultimately charged with possessing child pornography, according to OC Weekly. An anonymous reader quotes their new report: Recently unsealed records reveal a much more extensive secret relationship than previously known between the FBI and Best Buy's Geek Squad, including evidence the agency trained company technicians on law-enforcement operational tactics, shared lists of targeted citizens and, to covertly increase surveillance of the public, encouraged searches of computers even when unrelated to a customer's request for repairs. Assistant United States Attorney M. Anthony Brown last year labeled allegations of a hidden partnership as "wild speculation." But more than a dozen summaries of FBI memoranda filed inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse this month in USA v. Mark Rettenmaier contradict the official line... Other records show how [Geek Squad supervisor Justin] Meade's job gave him "excellent and frequent" access for "several years" to computers belonging to unwitting Best Buy customers, though agents considered him "underutilized" and wanted him "tasked" to search devices "on a more consistent basis"... evidence demonstrates company employees routinely snooped for the agency, contemplated "writing a software program" specifically to aid the FBI in rifling through its customers' computers without probable cause for any crime that had been committed, and were "under the direction and control of the FBI." The doctor's lawyer argues Best Buy became an unofficial wing of the FBI by offering $500 for every time they found evidence leading to criminal charges.

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Linux Foundation Chief: Businesses 'Will Fail' If They Don't Use Open Source Code

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 06:34
The luminaries speaking at the Google Cloud Next conference had some strong words about the importance of openness, innovation, and a rich developer community. An anonymous reader writes: First Vint Cert said there's a "thread of openness" that runs throughout the internet, adding that "the internet, itself, has open characteristics" and thrives on "permissionless innovation." And Eric Brewer, vice president of infrastructure at Google, touched on the same themes, according to Tech Republic. "Linux, Brewer said, won some of the early internet wars because it was open, but also because it was the most innovative of its time. He also said that companies should work with open source for the value of the ecosystem and community, not just the value of the code." Then Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin told the audience that business models were already changing to include open source, and ultimately made the argument that organizations that "don't harvest the shared innovation" of open source "will fail."

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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Make Novice Programmers More Professional?

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 03:34
Slashdot reader peetm describes himself as a software engineer, programmer, lecturer, and old man. But how can he teach the next generation how to code more professionally? I have to put together a three-hour (maximum) workshop for novice programmers -- people with mostly no formal training and who are probably flying by the seat of their pants (and quite possibly dangerous in doing so). I want to encourage them to think more as a professional developer would. Ideally, I want to give them some sort of practicals to do to articulate and demonstrate this, rather than just "present" stuff on best practices... If you were putting this together, what would you say and include? This raises the question of not only what you'd teach -- whether it's variable naming, modular programming, test-driven development, or the importance of commenting -- but also how you'd teach it. So leave your best answers in the comments. How do you make novice programmers more professional?

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Will Montana Become America's Third State To Ditch Daylight Savings Time?

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 01:34
"Okay...twice every year Slashdot disses Daylight savings time," writes turkeydance, bringing a story from Montana, where lawmakers are proposing that the state should stop setting their clocks forward by one hour every spring. Similar legislation in several past sessions...failed to advance even out of committee. But SB206 passed committee unanimously and once on the floor, more than twice as many senators voted for it as against it. Now the House will take up SB206 during the session's second half, and likely with a renewed focus on the history of daylight saving time and what it would mean for Montana to become only the third state in the country not to observe it. Daylight savings time has been opposed by a grassroots group of Montana farmers and ranchers, who have to sync their work schedule to the sun rather than the time on the clock, but similar legislation has also been introduced in Texas, California, Iowa, New Mexico, Michigan, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Washington. Daylight savings time was originally introduced as an energy-saving measure during World Wars I and II, and returned during the 1970s energy crisis. There's just one problem, reports Live Science. "No one really knows whether daylight saving time saves energy at all. Research is decidedly mixed on the subject, with some studies actually finding that daylight saving time boosts energy consumption."

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Munich's IT Lead: 'No Compelling Reason' To Switch Back To Windows From Linux

Slashdot - Sun, 03/12/2017 - 00:34
"The man who runs Munich's central IT says there is no practical reason for the city to write off millions of euros and years of work to ditch its Linux-based OS for Windows," reports TechRepublic. Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino summarizes a German-language article: Karl-Heinz Schneider, lead of Munich's local system house company IT@M, goes on to claim, "We do not see pressing technical reasons to switch to MS and MS Office... The council [in their recent plans] didn't even follow the analysts' suggestion to stick with using LibreOffice." Furthermore, Schneider stated that "System failures that angered citizens in recent years never were related to the LiMux project, but due to new bureaucratic procedures..." and apparently decisions by unqualified personnel at the administrative level, as Munich's administration itself states.

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A Prenda Copyright Troll Finally Pleaded Guilty

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 23:34
"One of the attorneys behind the Prenda Law 'copyright trolling' scheme has pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud and money laundering," reports Ars Technica. Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed shares this article from the law blog Popehat: The factual basis section -- which Steele admits is true (as to facts he knows) or that the government can prove (as to facts he doesn't know directly) -- is a startling 16 pages long [PDF] and lavishly documents the entire scheme, complete with many details that accusers have been pointing out for years. In short, Steele admits that he and Hansmeier used sham entities to obtain the copyright to (or in some cases film) porn, uploaded it to file-sharing websites, and then filed "false and deceptive" copyright suits against downloaders designed to conceal their role in distributing the films and their stake in the outcomes. They lied to courts themselves, sent others to court to lie, lied at depositions, lied in sworn affidavits, created sham entities as plaintiffs, created fraudulent hacking allegations to try to obtain discovery into the identity of downloaders, used "ruse defendants" (strawmen, in effect) to get courts to approve broad discovery into IP addresses. Facing a maximum of 40 years in prison, Steele could get his sentence reduced if he testifies against Hansmeier, according to the article, and "Steele appears to have pinned all of his hopes on that option... I've seen a lot of plea agreements in a lot of federal cases, and I don't recall another one that so clearly conveyed the defendant utterly surrendering and accepting everything the government demanded, all in hopes of talking his sentence down later."

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New 'USG' Firewalls Protect USB Drives From Malicious Attacks

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 22:34
A developer has created the USG, "a small, portable hardware USB firewall...to prevent malicious USB sticks and devices laden with malware from infecting your computer." An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: The problem is that most computers automatically trust every USB device that's plugged in, which means malicious code can run without warning... Cars, cash registers, and some ATMs also come with USB ports, all of which can be vulnerable to cyberattacks from a single USB stick. That's where the USG firewall comes in...a simple hardware serial link that only accepts a very few select number of safe commands, which prevents the device from executing system commands or intercepting network traffic. That means the data can flow from the USB device, but [it] effectively blocks other USB exploits. The firmware has been open sourced, and the technical specifications have also been released online "to allow anyone to build their own from readily available development boards."

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Will WebAssembly Replace JavaScript?

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 21:34
On Tuesday Firefox 52 became the first browser to support WebAssembly, a new standard "to enable near-native performance for web applications" without a plug-in by pre-compiling code into low-level, machine-ready instructions. Mozilla engineer Lin Clark sees this as an inflection point where the speed of browser-based applications increases dramatically. An anonymous reader quotes David Bryant, the head of platform engineering at Mozilla. This new standard will enable amazing video games and high-performance web apps for things like computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization... Over time, many existing productivity apps (e.g. email, social networks, word processing) and JavaScript frameworks will likely use WebAssembly to significantly reduce load times while simultaneously improving performance while running... developers can integrate WebAssembly libraries for CPU-intensive calculations (e.g. compression, face detection, physics) into existing web apps that use JavaScript for less intensive work... In some ways, WebAssembly changes what it means to be a web developer, as well as the fundamental abilities of the web. Mozilla celebrated with a demo video of the high-resolution graphics of Zen Garden, and while right now WebAssembly supports compilation from C and C++ (plus some preliminary support for Rust), "We expect that, as WebAssembly continues to evolve, you'll also be able to use it with programming languages often used for mobile apps, like Java, Swift, and C#."

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Jeff Bezos' Spaceflight Company Blue Origin Gets Its First Paying Customer

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 20:34
Long-time Slashdot reader nickovs writes: Blue Origin was started as a "moon shot" company by Jeff Bezos and recently claimed that it would be offering an "Amazon-like" delivery service to the moon by 2020. In the mean time it seems their customers will be slightly closer to Earth: this week they announced that they now have a paying customer in the form of the satellite TV company Eutelsat. While this isn't a huge technical milestone, it is a major business milestone, turning Blue Origin from a hobby business into one which might eventually make a profit. According to a New York Times article, "The commercial partnership brings Blue Origin closer in line with SpaceX, created by Elon Musk, which has been launching satellites and taking NASA cargo to the International Space Station for several years." Meanwhile, SpaceX announced last week that two space tourists have already put down "a significant deposit" for a week-long trip around the moon at the end of 2018, adding "Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow."

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Report: Up To 15% Of Twitter Accounts Are Bots

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 19:34
A team of researchers claim they can identify Twitter account activity that's posted by bots through their new web portal -- "Bot or Not?" -- leveraging "more than a thousand features extracted from public data and meta-data." And it turns out there are a lot of bots. An anonymous reader writes: "A study released by the University of Southern California reports that roughly nine to 15 percent of Twitter accounts...are so-called bots controlled by software instead of humans," according to CBS News. "Twitter boasts 319 monthly active users meaning that this recent revelation equates to nearly 48 million bot accounts, according the university's high-end figure." CNBC adds that "The research could be troubling news for Twitter, which has struggled to grow its user base in the face of growing competition from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others." In a 2014 SEC filing Twitter admitted that between 5 and 8% of their users were bots. Twitter's response to this new report? "Many bot accounts are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters ... or from customer service points of view."

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IEEE-USA Criticizes Failure To Reform The H-!B Program

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 18:34
Slashdot reader Tekla Perry writes: IEEE USA says H-1B visas are a tool used to avoid paying U.S. wages. "For every visa used by Google to hire a talented non-American for $126,000, ten Americans are replaced by outsourcing companies paying their H-1B workers $65,000," says the current IEEE USA president, writing with the past president and president-elect. The outsourcing companies, Infosys, Cognizant, Wipro, and Tata Consultancy in 2014 "used 21,695 visas, or more than 25 percent of all private-sector H-1B visas used that year. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Uber, for comparison, used only 1,763 visas, or 2 percent," they say. On Friday, IEEE-USA also issued a new criticism about the lack of progress in reforming the H-1B program, saying "At least 50,000 Americans will lose their jobs this year because the president has yet to fulfill the promise he made to millions who voted for him."

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Microsoft Continues Porting Visual C++ To Linux

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 17:34
Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates shared some news from Microsoft's Visual C++ blog: Visual Studio 2017 now lets developers write C++ code for Linux desktops, servers, and other devices without an extension, targeting specific architectures, including ARM: Visual Studio will automatically copy and remotely build your sources and can launch your application with the debugger... Today Visual Studio only supports building remotely on the Linux target machine. It is not limited to specific Linux distros, but we do have dependencies on the presence of some tools. Specifically, we need openssh-server, g++, gdb and gdbserver.

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Police Allegedly Threaten A UK Photographer With Seizure Of All His Computers

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 16:34
Andy Smith is a Scotland-based news photographer (and a long-time reader of Slashdot). He writes Recently the police wanted to seize some of my work photos to use as evidence in a prosecution... Rather than trying (and likely failing) to get a warrant to seize the photos, the prosecutor used a tactic that nobody had heard of before: He got a warrant to seize all of my cameras, computers, memory cards, etc, even though the photos were in a secure location, not at my home or in my possession. I was then given 24 hours to retrieve and hand over the photos, or the police would raid my home and take everything, effectively ending my career. His blog post describes erasing every computer and memory card, though he believes the police only wanted the leverage that came from threatening to seize them. But the journalists' union advised him to surrender the photos, since otherwise his equipment could be held for over a year -- so he complied. "I regret my decision. Everyone on this side of the case has reassured me that it was the right thing to do, but it wasn't." "As for the warrant, it remains active, with no time limit. I now conduct my work knowing that the police could raid my home at any time, without warning, and take everything."

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California Says Autonomous Cars Don't Need Human Drivers

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 14:00
Currently, California law requires that all self-driving cars used for testing purposes be done with a human behind the wheel, so that they can take control if necessary. While California has been fairly strict on how self-driving cars are to be used in the state, they appear to be relaxing several of the rules. "The state's Department of Motor Vehicles released proposed regulations Friday for autonomous vehicles, dropping an earlier requirement that a human driver had to be present while testing on public roads," reports Bloomberg. "The DMV also backed down on a previous rule that vehicles needed a steering wheel and pedals for the operator to take back control." From the report: "When we think of driverless vehicles they can either have conventional controls, which are steering wheels, pedals, things like that, or they cannot," said California DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet during a conference call with reporters. If companies test vehicles without conventional controls, they have to show the California DMV that they have approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, he added. NHTSA said in early 2016 that self-driving software systems, not just humans, can be considered drivers. "If California was going to keep that level of development activity in the state, what they did was necessary and timely," said Eric Noble, president of The CarLab, an automotive consulting firm. "They kind of had to do it because at some point manufacturers can't move autonomous vehicles forward without getting controls out of cars." The proposed regulations have a 45-day public comment period that ends April 24. That will be followed by a public hearing. During Friday's conference call, the California DMV said the rules should be completed by the end of the year.

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Malware Found Preinstalled On 38 Android Phones Used By 2 Companies

Slashdot - Sat, 03/11/2017 - 11:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: An assortment of malware was found on 38 Android devices belonging to two unidentified companies. This is according to a blog post published Friday by Check Point Software Technologies, maker of a mobile threat prevention app. The malicious apps weren't part of the official ROM firmware supplied by the phone manufacturers but were added later somewhere along the supply chain. In six of the cases, the malware was installed to the ROM using system privileges, a technique that requires the firmware to be completely reinstalled for the phone to be disinfected. Most of the malicious apps were info stealers and programs that displayed ads on the phones. One malicious ad-display app, dubbed "Loki," gains powerful system privileges on the devices it infects. Another app was a mobile ransomware title known as "Slocker," which uses Tor to conceal the identity of its operators. Check Point didn't disclose the names of the companies that owned the infected phones. Padon said it's not clear if the two companies were specifically targeted or if the infections were part of a broader, more opportunistic campaign. The presence of ransomware and other easy-to-detect malware seems to suggest the latter. Check Point also doesn't know where the infected phones were obtained. One of the affected parties was a "large telecommunications company" and the other was a "multinational technology company."

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