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Updated: 17 hours 25 min ago

Ukraine Hacker Cooperating With FBI In Russia Probe, Says Report

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 4:05pm
schwit1 shares a report from The Hill: A hacker in Ukraine who goes by the online alias "Profexer" is cooperating with the FBI in its investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, The New York Times is reporting. Profexer, whose real identity is unknown, wrote and sold malware on the dark web. The intelligence community publicly identified code he had written as a tool used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee ahead of last year's presidential election. The hacker's activity on the web came to a halt shortly after the malware was identified. The New York Times, citing Ukrainian police, reported Wednesday that the individual turned himself into the FBI earlier this year and became a witness for the bureau in its investigation. FBI investigators are probing Russian interference efforts and whether there was coordination between associates of President Trump's campaign and Moscow. Special counsel Robert Mueller is heading the investigation.

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Motorola Patents a Display That Can Heal Its Own Cracked Screen With Heat

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 3:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A patent published today explains how a phone could identify cracks on its touchscreen and then apply heat to the area in an effort to slightly repair the damage. The process relies on something called "shape memory polymer," a material that can apparently become deformed and then recovered through thermal cycling. Thermal cycling involves changing the temperature of the material rapidly. This material could be used over an LCD or LED display with a capacitive touch sensor layered in, as well. Although the phone could heat the polymer in order to restore it, a user's body heat can be used, too.

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Facebook Downranks Video Clickbait and Fake Play Buttons

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 2:40pm
In a blog post, Facebook announced that it has started downranking the News Feed presence of links that display a fake play button in the preview image, as well as videos that are actually just a static image uploaded as a video file. While Facebook won't completely delete these posts unless they violate its other policies, it will be decreasing the distribution of these stories. TechCrunch reports: Facebook has prohibited the use of fake play buttons in advertisements under its policy against depicting non-existent functionality for a few years, News Feed Product Manager Greg Marra tells me. But the scourage has remained in the News Feed. Facebook says that if publishers want to denote there's a video behind a link, they should indicate that through Open Graph meta tags. They could also use words like "Watch" or "Video" in the headline or description. Meanwhile, Facebook's emphasis on video in News Feed has inspired the new menace of publishers uploading a static image as a video to get more eyeballs. These static image videos will be downranked too. Facebook is using a "motion scoring" system that detects movement inside a video to classify and demote these clips.

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Hacker Claims To Have Decrypted Apple's Secure Enclave Processor Firmware

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 2:00pm
According to iClarified, a hacker by name of "xerub" has posted the decryption key for Apple's Secure Enclave Processor (SEP) firmware. "The security coprocessor was introduced alongside the iPhone 5s and Touch ID," reports iClarified. "It performs secure services for the rest of the SOC and prevents the main processor from getting direct access to sensitive data. It runs its own operating system (SEPOS) which includes a kernel, drivers, services, and applications." From the report: The Secure Enclave is responsible for processing fingerprint data from the Touch ID sensor, determining if there is a match against registered fingerprints, and then enabling access or purchases on behalf of the user. Communication between the processor and the Touch ID sensor takes place over a serial peripheral interface bus. The processor forwards the data to the Secure Enclave but can't read it. It's encrypted and authenticated with a session key that is negotiated using the device's shared key that is provisioned for the Touch ID sensor and the Secure Enclave. The session key exchange uses AES key wrapping with both sides providing a random key that establishes the session key and uses AES-CCM transport encryption. Today, xerub announced the decryption key "is fully grown." You can use img4lib to decrypt the firmware and xerub's SEP firmware split tool to process. Decryption of the SEP Firmware will make it easier for hackers and security researchers to comb through the SEP for vulnerabilities.

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Judge Dismisses AT&T's Attempt To Stall Google Fiber Construction In Louisville

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 1:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T has lost a court case in which it tried to stall construction by Google Fiber in Louisville, Kentucky. AT&T sued the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County in February 2016 to stop a One Touch Make Ready Ordinance designed to give Google Fiber and other new ISPs quicker access to utility poles. But yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, saying AT&T's claims that the ordinance is invalid are false. "We are currently reviewing the decision and our next steps," AT&T said when contacted by Ars today. One Touch Make Ready rules let ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for other providers like AT&T to send work crews to move their own wires. Without One Touch Make Ready rules, the pole attachment process can cause delays of months before new ISPs can install service to homes. Google Fiber has continued construction in Louisville despite the lawsuit and staff cuts that affected deployments in other cities.

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Dilution of Whisky -- the Molecular Perspective

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 12:40pm
From a new published paper in Scientific Report by Bjorn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman: Despite the growing knowledge of the nature of water-alcohol mixtures on a molecular level, much less is known on the interaction of water, alcohol and small solutes. In particular, the nature of the interaction between the solvent and taste-carrying molecules, such as guaiacol, is not known. To address this gap, we used MD simulations to study the distribution of guaiacol in water-alcohol mixtures of different concentrations. Our simulations revealed that guaiacol is present at the air-liquid interface at ethanol concentrations that correspond to the alcohol content of bottled or diluted whiskies. Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, our findings help to understand why adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste. A molecular understanding of the nature of taste compounds in water-alcohol mixtures allows for optimizing the taste of alcoholic spirits. [...] Overall, there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste.

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We Print 50 Trillion Pages a Year, and Xerox Is Betting That Continues

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 12:24pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: For most of its 111-year history, Xerox has been known as one of the tech industry's most innovative companies. Now the legendary copier company is reinventing itself. In January, Xerox made the bold decision to split itself into two, spinning off its business services operations into a separate company called Conduent. And Jeffrey Jacobson, a Xerox tech executive, was tapped as Xerox's new CEO. Speaking with Fortune's Susie Gharib, Jacobson says Xerox is still "one of the top patent producing companies in the world" and he's counting on that scientific expertise to pivot the company to be a leader in digital print technology. "If I look at the things we're looking at with the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and bridging the digital and physical," he says, "that's what I think we'll be known for."

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Chatbot Helps Students Choose Courses

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 12:00pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course. It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said. But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process." The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: "We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."

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Unpatchable 'Flaw' Affects Most of Today's Modern Cars

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 11:20am
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A flaw buried deep in the hearts of all modern cars allows an attacker with local or even remote access to a vehicle to shut down various components, including safety systems such as airbags, brakes, parking sensors, and others. The vulnerability affects the CAN (Controller Area Network) protocol that's deployed in modern cars and used to manage communications between a vehicle's internal components. The flaw was discovered by a collaborative effort of Politecnico di Milano, Linklayer Labs, and Trend Micro's Forward-looking Threat Research (FTR) team. Researchers say this flaw is not a vulnerability in the classic meaning of the word. This is because the flaw is more of a CAN standard design choice that makes it unpatchable.

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Bitcoin Is Forking. Again.

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:40am
Merely weeks after it was announced that Bitcoin was splitting into two separate entities, the initial version of bitcoin and it's new "bitcoin cash," the network is adding a third version, according to a report. From the article: On Wednesday, a group of bitcoiners scheduled yet another split for the network in November, which would create a third version of bitcoin. So, what makes this version different from the others? Right now, the bitcoin network can sometimes take a long time to process transactions due to so many people using it. This is because the "blocks" of transaction data that get added to bitcoin's public ledger, the blockchain, are getting full. In the weeks preceding the fork, bitcoin coalesced around a solution called "segregated witness," which will change how data is stored in blocks to free up some space when it kicks in later in August. But the size of the blocks themselves will stay at one megabyte on the original bitcoin blockchain. Still, some bitcoiners maintained that the only way to speed bitcoin up for the foreseeable future was to increase the size of blocks themselves. So, a group of bitcoin companies and developers got together and launched a fork called bitcoin cash, which does not include segregated witness. It bumped the size of blocks up to a maximum of eight megabytes. That fork was widely anticipated to be a failure before it happened, but at the time of writing, bitcoin cash is trading above $300 USD per coin, which is comparable to cryptocurrencies like ethereum. Sounds like everyone got what they wanted, right? Oh, no. There's a third group of bitcoin developers, companies, and users who advocate for a "best of both worlds approach." This group includes Bitmain, the largest bitcoin infrastructure company in the world, and legendary bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik. They got together back in May and signed what is known as the "New York Agreement," which bound them to implement a two megabyte block size increase alongside segregated witness via a hard fork within six months of the time of signing. They call the fork Segwit2x. Now, that's exactly what's happening. According to an announcement posted to the Segwit2x GitHub repository, a bitcoin block between one and two megabytes will be created at block 494,784.

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In Defense of the Popular Framework Electron

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:00am
Electron, a popular framework that allows developers to write code once and seamlessly deploy it across multiple platforms, has been a topic of conversation lately among developers and users alike. Many have criticised Electron-powered apps to be "too memory intensive." A developer, who admittedly uses a high-end computer, shares his perspective: I can speak for myself when I say Electron runs like a dream. On a typical day, I'll have about three Atom windows open, a multi-team Slack up and running, as well as actively using and debugging my own Electron-based app Standard Notes. [...] So, how does it feel to run this bloat train of death every day? Well, it feels like nothing. I don't notice it. My laptop doesn't get hot. I don't hear the fan. I experience no lags in any application. [...] But aside from how it makes end-users feel, there is an arguably more important perspective to be had: how it makes software companies feel. For context, the project I work in is an open-source cross-platform notes app that's available on most platforms, including web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. All the desktop applications are based off the main web codebase, and are bundled using Electron, while the iOS and Android app use their own native codebases respectively, one in Swift and the other in Kotlin. And as a new company without a lot of resources, this setup has just barely allowed us to enter the marketplace. Three codebases is two too many codebases to maintain. Every time we make a change, we have to make it in three different places, violating the most sacred tenet of computer science of keeping it DRY. As a one-person team deploying on all these platforms, even the most minor change will take at minimum three development days, one for each codebase. This includes debugging, fixing, testing, bundling, deploying, and distributing every single codebase. This is by no means an easy task.

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A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Get Her To Work by 7 AM

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 9:20am
From a report on The New York Times: Sheila James starts her Monday, and the workweek, at 2:15 a.m. This might be normal for a baker or a morning radio host, but Ms. James is a standard American office worker. She is 62 and makes $81,000 a year as a public health adviser for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in San Francisco. Her early start comes because San Francisco is one of the country's most expensive metropolitan areas. Ms. James lives about 80 miles away in Stockton, which has cheaper homes but requires her to commute on two trains and a bus, leaving at 4 a.m. Plenty of office workers get up at 5 a.m. or a bit before, but 2:15 is highly unusual. "Two-fifteen is early enough that some people are still having their evening," she said on a (very) early morning. But she likes to take her time and have coffee. She keeps the lights low and the house quiet and Zen-like. "I just can't rush like that," she said. When the second alarm goes off at 3:45 -- a reminder to leave for the train in 15 minutes -- her morning shifts from leisure to precision. It is a seven-minute drive to the station, where she catches the Altamont Corridor Express train.

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New MH370 Analysis Again Suggests Plane Came Down Outside Search Area

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 8:40am
An anonymous reader shares a report: New analysis of images thought to depict wreckage from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 suggest the Boeing 777 came down to the north of the area searched during efforts to find the plane. A new document [PDF] released yesterday by Geoscience Australia (GA) detailed analysis of four images captured by the PLEIADES 1A Earth-imaging satellite on March 23rd, 2014, not long after the March 8th disappearance of the plane. The images were provided to GA by the French Ministry of Defence. The images depict an area to the north and east of the area searched by underwater survey, and in-between areas where search and rescue operations were conducted in the wake of the plane's disappearance. The image displays the areas covered by underwater survey in yellow and the search and rescue zones in red. Extensive manual analysis of the images -- there was not enough data to use machine learning -- yielded a dozen objects that researchers were happy to classify as "probably not natural." Several of those objects were clustered in the northern parts of the areas depicted in the photos. The document is at pains to point out that it is not possible to identify the objects as airplane debris. The new analysis referred back to drift pattern analysis made on debris known to have come from MH370 and released in December 2016. That analysis suggested the search area be extended by 25,000km2. More detailed drift analysis released in April 2017 also called for a new search to the north, as did a July talk by scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

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China Cracks Down on VPN Vendors

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 8:00am
An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: China's latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs). Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs. It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content. Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps. China's cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate "self-examination and correction." "The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account.. and submit a rectification report by a deadline," the regulator said in a statement.

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Why Does Hollywood Remain Out of Step With the Body-Positive Movement?

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 5:25pm
According to a report from The New York Times, Hollywood continues to praise average-sized actresses in knockout roles and then reduce them to bit parts about physical weight. Slashdot reader cdreimer shares an excerpt from the report: The first thing Danielle Macdonald did at the Cannes Film Festival in May was break into a cold sweat: The airline had lost her luggage. She was already nervous enough. Ms. Macdonald, 26, had been plucked from obscurity to play the lead role in "Patti Cake$," a drama about a rapper that was about to face the Cannes critics. Now she had to find something glamorous to wear -- pronto -- to the premiere. "As a bigger girl," Ms. Macdonald told me recently, "where was I meant to find something that would fit?" Her story then veered in an unexpected direction -- revealing her approach to Hollywood, which expects its lead actresses to be scarily skinny. "I gave myself a pep talk," she said. "This situation is what it is. Find a way to work around it." The red carpet crisis was resolved (another "Patti Cake$" star, Cathy Moriarty, lent her a black dress), but if the experiences of countless actresses before Ms. Macdonald are any indication, it will not be as easy to overcome the career obstacles that await her post-"Patti Cake$." For women -- less so for men -- weight is perhaps the most stubborn of the entertainment industry's many biases. Have an average-sized body? Call us when you've starved yourself. In particular, Ms. Macdonald must avoid a cycle that plays out over and over in moviedom, one that some film agents coarsely call the fat flavor of the moment. A plus-size actress, almost always an unknown, lands the central role in a film and delivers a knockout performance. She is held up by producers and the entertainment news media as refreshing, long overdue evidence that Hollywood's insistence on microscopic waistlines is ending. And then she is slowly but surely pushed into bit parts, many of which are defined by weight.

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'Surkus' App Pays Users To Line Up Outside New Restaurants

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 4:45pm
A new app called Surkus allows restaurants to manufacture their ideal crowd and pay people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. The app reportedly uses "an algorithmic casting agent of sorts" to hand-pick people according to age, location, style and Facebook "likes." All of this is done to create the illusion that a restaurant is busy and worthy of your hard-earned money. Chicago Tribune reports: They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their "reputation score," an identifier that influences whether they'll be "cast" again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won't be paid -- their movements are being tracked with geolocation. Welcome to the new world of "crowdcasting." Surkus raises new questions about the future of advertising and promotion. At a time when it has become commonplace for individuals to broadcast polished versions of their lives on social media, does Surkus give businesses a formidable tool to do the same, renting beautiful people and blending them with advertising in a way that makes reality nearly indiscernible? Or have marketers found a new tool that offers them a far more efficient way to link brands with potential customers, allowing individuals to turn themselves into living extensions of the share economy using a structured, mutually beneficial transaction? The answer depends on whom you ask.

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Essential Phone Will Ship Next Week, Shortly After Breaking $1 Billion Valuation

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 4:05pm
New submitter cloud.pt writes: Andy Rubin's Essential Phone will be released next week according to 9to5Google, just shy from its initial June mark. The company has been speculated to be worth around $1.2 billion, after giant Foxconn filed yesterday for a 0.25% acquisition at around $3 million -- clearing unicorn status as it hasn't shipped a single unit at the time. According to Engadget, future and existing pre-orders will have a chance to switch to the Pure White version of the slab, despite initial shipments being scheduled to be of the Black Moon variety. Essential's storefront orders will get the device unlocked, while the only parties offering the device will initially be Sprint. Rumor has it Amazon plans to sell the device as it invested in the company through its Alexa fund. No matter the contract attached, it will come with the full range of network capabilities unlocked.

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Roku Gets Tough On Pirate Channels, Warns Users

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 3:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn't over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn't without consequences. While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance. Pirate content generally doesn't show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party "private" channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these "private" channels to "non-certified" channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed. A "WARNING!" message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content. "By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences," Roku's warning reads. "Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku's terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE."

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Australian Scientists Figure Out How Zinc-Air Batteries Can Replace Lithium-Ion Batteries

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 2:40pm
Researchers at the University of Sydney has figured out how to solve one of the biggest problems standing in the way for zinc-air batteries to replace lithium-ion batteries. The reason zinc batteries are so sought after is because they're powered by zinc metal -- the 24th most abundant element in Earth's crust. Not only are they cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, they can theoretically store five times more energy, are much safer and environmentally friendly. The problem with zinc batteries stems around them being difficult to charge because of the lack of electrocatalysts needed to reduce and generate oxygen during the discharging and charging of a battery. labnet shares a report from Gizmodo: "Up until now, rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been made with expensive precious metal catalysts, such as platinum and iridium oxide. In contrast, our method produces a family of new high-performance and low-cost catalysts." These new catalysts are produced through the simultaneous control of the composition, size and crystallinity of metal oxides of earth-abundant elements like iron, cobalt and nickel. They can then be applied to build rechargeable zinc-air batteries. Researcher Dr Li Wei, also from the University's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, said trials of zinc-air batteries developed with the new catalysts had demonstrated "excellent rechargeability" -- including less than a 10 percent battery efficacy drop over 60 discharging/charging cycles of 120 hours. The research was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Cloudflare Stops Supporting Neo-Nazi Site The Daily Stormer

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 2:03pm
Timothy B. Lee reports via Ars Technica: All week, the infamous hate site Daily Stormer has been battling to stay online in the face of a concerted social media campaign to shut it down. The site lost its "dailystormer.com" domain on Monday after first GoDaddy and then Google Domains blacklisted it from their domain registration services. The site re-appeared online on Wednesday morning at a new domain name, dailystormer.ru. But within hours, the site had gone offline again after it was dropped by Cloudflare, an intermediary that defends customers against denial-of-service attacks. Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin reported Cloudflare's decision to drop the site in a post on the social media site Gab. His post was first spotted by journalist Matthew Sheffield.

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