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Published: 2017-05-29T07:45:15+00:00

 



Walt Mossberg's Last Column Calls For Privacy and Security Laws

2017-05-29T01:30:00+00:00

70-year-old Walt Mossberg wrote his last weekly column Thursday, looking back on how "we've all had a hell of a ride for the last few decades" and revisiting his famous 1991 pronouncement that "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault." Not only were the interfaces confusing, but most tech products demanded frequent tweaking and fixing of a type that required more technical skill than most people had, or cared to acquire. The whole field was new, and engineers weren't designing products for normal people who had other talents and interests. But, over time, the products have gotten more reliable and easier to use, and the users more sophisticated... So, now, I'd say: "Personal technology is usually pretty easy to use, and, if it's not, it's not your fault." The devices we've come to rely on, like PCs and phones, aren't new anymore. They're refined, built with regular users in mind, and they get better each year. Anything really new is still too close to the engineers to be simple or reliable. He argues we're now in a strange lull before entering an unrecognizable world where major new breakthroughs in areas like A.I., robotics, smart homes, and augmented reality lead to "ambient computing", where technology itself fades into the background. And he uses his final weekly column to warn that "if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it's time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws."

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New Privacy Vulnerability In IOT Devices: Traffic Rate Metadata

2017-05-28T20:30:00+00:00

Orome1 quotes Help Net Security: Even though many IoT devices for smart homes encrypt their traffic, a passive network observer -- e.g. an ISP, or a neighborhood WiFi eavesdropper -- can infer consumer behavior and sensitive details about users from IoT device-associated traffic rate metadata. A group of researchers from the Computer Science Department of Princeton University have proven this fact by setting up smart home laboratory with a passive network tap, and examining the traffic rates of four IoT smart home devices: a Sense sleep monitor, a Nest Cam Indoor security camera, a WeMo smart outlet, and an Amazon Echo smart speaker... "Once an adversary identifies packet streams for a particular device, one or more of the streams are likely to encode device state. Simply plotting send/receive rates of the streams revealed potentially private user interactions for each device we tested," the researchers noted. [PDF] In addition, the article notes, "Separating recorded network traffic into packet streams and associating each stream with an IoT device is not that hard."

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Ask Slashdot: Is There A Screen-Less, Keyboard-Less, Battery-Powered Computer?

2017-05-28T02:04:00+00:00

Long-time Slashdot reader Wycliffe writes: So I have a travel keyboard that I love. I can carry my OS on a USB flash drive. There are several options for portable battery powered monitors. The only thing I'm missing to have a completely modular laptop is the CPU/MB/RAM... I can get a laptop but it seems silly to carry around a laptop with a keyboard when I never use the keyboard. I don't need a long battery life, if I need more than an hour then I can find somewhere to plug it in... I've thought about buying a small box like a Zotac and trying to replace the hard drive with a battery -- but does anything like this already exist...? Also, are there any systems like this with decent specs? Most stuff I see like the Intel Compute Stick are horribly underpowered compared to a decent laptop. The original submission drew some interesting discussion. Another option is "a good x86/x64 tablet that I can install Linux on" -- especially with a decent processor -- or "laptop-like systems that got rid of the screen entirely... I just need the travel CPU part without the added weight of a second keyboard and monitor." So leave your best suggestions in the comments. Is there a good, lightweight computer that's battery-powered without a screen or a keyboard?

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New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World

2017-05-27T22:54:00+00:00

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview. The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




SSD Drives Vulnerable To Rowhammer-Like Attacks That Corrupt User Data

2017-05-27T21:49:00+00:00

An anonymous reader writes: NAND flash memory chips, the building blocks of solid-state drives (SSDs), include what could be called "programming vulnerabilities" that can be exploited to alter stored data or shorten the SSD's lifespan. According to research published earlier this year, the programming logic powering of MLC NAND flash memory chips (the tech used for the latest generation of SSDs), is vulnerable to at least two types of attacks. The first is called "program interference," and takes place when an attacker manages to write data with a certain pattern to a target's SSD. Writing this data repeatedly and at high speeds causes errors in the SSD, which then corrupts data stored on nearby cells. This attack is similar to the infamous Rowhammer attack on RAM chips. The second attack is called "read disturb" and in this scenario, an attacker's exploit code causes the SSD to perform a large number of read operations in a very short time, which causes a phenomenon of "read disturb errors," that alters the SSD ability to read data from nearby cells, even long after the attack stops.

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A New Amiga Arrives On the Scene -- the A-EON Amiga X5000

2017-05-27T10:00:00+00:00

dryriver writes: It is 2017 and the long dead Amiga platform has suddenly been resurrected. The new Amiga X5000 costs about $1,800 and is an exotic mix of PC parts and completely new custom chips, including "Xena," an XMOS 16-core programmable 32-bit 500 MHz coprocessor that can be configured by software to act as any type of custom chip imaginable. It is connected to a special "Xorro" slot that has the same physical connection as a PCIe x8 expansion card, but it is dedicated to adding more Xena chips as desired. Amiga X5000 can run all legacy Amiga software, including software written for later PowerPC Amigas. It boots from a U-Boot BIOS. The OS is AmigaOS 4.1, but the X5000 can also boot into MorphOS or Linux. The test system used by Ars came with a ATI Radeon R9 270X video card.

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UCF Research Could Bring 'Drastically' Higher Resolution To Your Phone and TV

2017-05-27T02:05:00+00:00

New submitter cinemetek quotes a report from University of Central Florida: Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a new color changing surface tunable through electrical voltage that could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones and other devices. Current LCD's are made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels that display different colors. With current technology, each of these pixels contain three subpixels -- one red, one green, one blue. UCF's NanoScience Technology Center (Assistant Professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin) have come up with a way to tune the color of these subpixels. By applying differing voltages, they are able to change the color of individual subpixels to red, green or blue -- the RGB scale -- or gradations in between. By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three. Three times as many pixels means three times the resolution. That would have major implications for not only TVs and other general displays, but augmented reality and virtual-reality headsets that need very high resolution because they're so close to the eye.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes

2017-05-27T00:45:00+00:00

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




Apple Is Working On a Dedicated Chip To Power AI On Devices

2017-05-26T23:20:00+00:00

According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks. "The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence -- such as facial recognition and speech recognition," reports Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter. From the report: Engineers at Apple are racing to catch their peers at Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. in the booming field of artificial intelligence. While Siri gave Apple an early advantage in voice-recognition, competitors have since been more aggressive in deploying AI across their product lines, including Amazon's Echo and Google's Home digital assistants. An AI-enabled processor would help Cupertino, California-based Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person's view of the world. Apple devices currently handle complex artificial intelligence processes with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




Scientists Develop Technology That Burns Natural Gas With No CO2 Emissions

2017-05-26T10:00:00+00:00

New submitter Ben Sullivan writes: Researchers and engineers in Vienna have developed a way to burn natural gas without releasing CO2 into the air through a combustion method called chemical looping combustion (CLC). In this process, CO2 can be isolated during combustion without having to use any additional energy, which means it can then go on to be stored. The method had already been applied successfully in a test environment, and has now been upscaled to allow use in up to a 10 MW facility. ScienceBlog.com reports: "A granulate made of metal oxide circulates between the two chambers and is responsible for transporting oxygen from air to fuel: 'We pump air through one chamber, where the particles take up oxygen. They then move on to the second chamber, which has natural gas flowing through it. Here is where the oxygen is released, and then where flameless combustion takes place, producing CO2 and water vapor,' explains Stefan Penthor from the Institute of Chemical Engineering at TU Wien. The separation into two chambers means there are two separate flue gas streams to deal with too: air with a reduced concentration of oxygen is discharged from one chamber, water vapor and CO2 from the other. The water vapor can be separated quite easily, leaving almost pure CO2, which can be stored or used in other technical applications."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




Chinese Company Offers Free Training For US Coal Miners To Become Wind Farmers

2017-05-26T03:30:00+00:00

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: If you want to truly understand what's happening in the energy industry, the best thing to do is to travel deep into the heart of American coal country, to Carbon County, Wyoming (yes, that's a real place). The state produces most coal in the US, and Carbon County has long been known (and was named) for its extensive coal deposits. But the state's mines have been shuttering over the past few years, causing hundreds of people to lose their jobs in 2016 alone. Now, these coal miners are finding hope, offered from an unlikely place: a Chinese wind-turbine maker wants to retrain these American workers to become wind-farm technicians. It's the perfect metaphor for the massive shift happening in the global energy markets. The news comes from an energy conference in Wyoming, where the American arm of Goldwind, a Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer, announced the free training program. More than a century ago, Carbon County was home to the first coal mine in Wyoming. Soon, it will be the site of a new wind farm with hundreds of Goldwind-supplied turbines.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




T-Mobile's 'Digits' Program Revamps the Phone Number

2017-05-25T22:00:00+00:00

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile has announced the launch of its "Digits" program, coming May 31. Digits is a revamp of how T-Mobile phone numbers work, virtualizing customer numbers so they can work across multiple devices. It sounds a lot like Google Voice -- rather than having a phone number tied to a single SIM card or a device, numbers are now account-based, and you can "log in" to your phone number on several devices. T-Mobile says the new phone number system will work "across virtually all connected devices," allowing multiple phones, tablets, and PCs to get texts and calls. This means T-Mobile needs apps across all those platforms, with the press release citing "native seamless integration" in Samsung Android phones, Android and iOS apps, and a browser interface for PCs. The new phone number system is free to all T-Mobile customers. Customers can also buy an extra phone number for $10 or by signing up to the $5-per-month "T-Mobile One Plus" package, which is a bundle of extra features like a mobile hotspot and in-flight Wi-Fi.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




Robot Police Officer Goes On Duty In Dubai

2017-05-24T23:40:00+00:00

The first robot officer has joined the Dubai Police force tasked with patrolling the city's malls and tourist attractions. "People will be able to use it to report crimes, pay fines and get information by tapping a touchscreen on its chest," reports BBC. "Data collected by the robot will also be shared with the transport and traffic authorities." From the report: The government said the aim was for 25% of the force to be robotic by 2030 but they would not replace humans. "We are not going to replace our police officers with this tool," said Brig Khalid Al Razooqi, director general of smart services at Dubai Police. "But with the number of people in Dubai increasing, we want to relocate police officers so they work in the right areas and can concentrate on providing a safe city. "Most people visit police stations or customer service, but with this tool we can reach the public 24/7. It can protect people from crime because it can broadcast what is happening right away to our command and control center."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




Consumers Trust Robots For Surgery Over Savings, Research Finds

2017-05-24T22:40:00+00:00

An anonymous reader shares an article: Andy Maguire faces a challenge: tasked with upgrading HSBC's digital-banking systems, he has discovered that customers are twice as likely to trust a robot for heart surgery than for picking a savings account. "I do find it slightly odd," said the chief operating officer of Europe's largest bank, referring to its survey of more than 12,000 consumers in 11 countries published this week. Just 7 percent of respondents would trust a robot with their savings, versus the 14 percent willing to submit to a machine for heart surgery. "You think, gosh, one would've imagined the world had moved on further or was moving faster than that," Maguire said in an interview. While consumers tend naturally to trust medical professionals, the "bar is pretty high" for banks dealing with people's money, he said. Banks around the world are spending billions of dollars to bolster creaking computer systems in a push to ward off startup competitors and cut long-term operating expenses. But consumers and regulators are holding them to ever-higher standards of security and convenience, driving the cost of overhauls higher and potentially eroding any savings.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.




Intel Drops Thunderbolt 3 Royalty, Adds CPU Integration and Works Closely With Microsoft

2017-05-24T21:20:00+00:00

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Over the last few days, Thunderbolt 3 has been a hot topic amongst Windows users especially with its notable absence with the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop. Part of the problem is adoption, integration, cost, and consumer confusion according to Microsoft. Intel is aware of the current roadblocks to Thunderbolt 3 implementation, which adds 40Gbps data transfers along with charging and display support for USB Type-C. Today, the company announced numerous changes to its roadmap to speed up its adoption, including: Dropping royalty fees for the Thunderbolt protocol specification starting next year; Integrating Thunderbolt 3 into future Intel CPUs. The good news here is that Intel is dropping many of the roadblocks with today's announcement. By subtracting the licensing costs for Thunderbolt 3 and integrating into the CPU, Intel can finally push mass adoption. Getting back to Microsoft, Intel noted that the two companies are already working closely together with the latest Creators Update bringing more OS support for the protocol. Roanne Sones, general manager, Strategy, and Ecosystem for Windows and Devices at Microsoft added that such cooperation would continue with even more OS-level integration coming down the road.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.