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Updated: 13 hours 47 min ago

Delays, Confusion as Toshiba Reports $6 Billion Nuclear Hit and Slides To Loss

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 9:20am
Makiko Yamazaki, reporting for Reuters: After a day of delays and confusion, Japan's Toshiba said on Tuesday it expected to book a $6.3 billion hit to its U.S. nuclear unit, a writedown that wipes out its shareholder equity and will drag the group to a full-year loss. Hours earlier on Tuesday, the battered conglomerate rattled investors by failing to release its earnings on schedule, saying initially it was 'not ready' and then announcing later it needed more time to probe its Westinghouse nuclear business after internal reports uncovered potential problems. The figures eventually released were numbers that have yet to be approved by its auditor and Toshiba cautioned investors that a major revision was possible. Fully audited numbers are now not due till March 14 after the firm was granted a reprieve for its formal filing by Japanese regulators. "Finally now people are starting to recognize that internal control problems, the accounting issues and governance issues are very real and no longer abstract," said Zuhair Khan, an analyst at Jefferies in Tokyo. "They impact the viability of the company."

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Microsoft's 'Forza' Video Game Francise Tops $1 Billion in Sales

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 8:40am
Here's another area where Microsoft, whose cloud services are doing very well, continues to make a lot of money: video games. Microsoft has minted its fifth billion-dollar video-game franchise. The "Forza" racing series in December topped $1 billion in lifetime sales since the first game's release 12 years ago, Microsoft said. From company's blogpost: As of December, more than 14 million unique players were involved in the Forza community on Xbox One and Windows 10, the award-winning Forza Horizon 3 sold through 2.5 million units, and Forza continued its run as the best-selling racing franchise of this console generation. Additionally, our online racing community expanded significantly: over three million players joined us online each month and we launched the Forza Racing Championship, an eSports league for players of all skill levels to compete for glory and real-world prizes. "Since the beginning, Forza has combined stunning graphics, racing's leading simulation engine, and an emphasis on fun and accessibility," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "With the Forza series, Turn 10 Studios has built the world's largest racing community. We couldn't be more proud of their success." Other game franchises in Microsoft's billion-dollar club are "Halo," "Minecraft," "Gears of War", and "Age of Empires".

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Microsoft Launches Outlook.com Premium Email Service, Costs $20 Per Year

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 8:00am
Outlook.com Premium email service, which Microsoft began testing in October, is now available to all. You get the following features with this paid service, via a report: Outlook.com Premium provides a number of useful features: (1) Custom domain support for five users. (2) Information sharing: Outlook Premium helps you easily share calendars, contacts, and documents (via OneDrive) between those five users. (3) Ad-free inbox: Like Ad-Free Outlook.com, Outlook Premium offers no "banner ads" for a "distraction-free view of your email, photos, and documents."

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Iconic Feature Phone Nokia 3310 Coming Back this Month, VentureBeat Says

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 7:20am
The iconic Nokia 3310 feature phone is all set for a return, according to a report. VentureBeat adds: HMD Global Oy, the Finnish manufacturer with exclusive rights to market phones under the storied Nokia brand, is planning to announce four such handsets at Mobile World Congress later this month, according to a person briefed on the company's plans. Known primarily for its plentiful battery life and nearly indestructible build, the 3310 was released at the turn of the millennium as a replacement to the also-popular 3210.

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Skype Gets A New Competitor: Amazon Announces Chime

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 6:40am
Amazon has released new service to make voice and video calls and share screen. Called Chime, the service is aimed at business users. It directly competes with well-known players such as Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Cisco's WebEx, among others. From a report: Amazon Web Services today unveiled Chime, a new service that it says takes the "frustration out of meetings" by delivering video, voice, chat, and screen sharing. Instead of forcing participants to call one another on a dedicated line, Amazon Chime automatically calls all participants at the start of a meeting, so "joining a meeting is as easy as clicking a button in the app, no PIN required," the company said in a press release. Chime also shows a visual roster of participants, and allows participants to pinpoint who exactly on the call is creating annoying background noise.

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Story Of a Country Which Has Built a Centralized Biometrics Database Of 1.1B People But Appears To Be Mishandling It Now

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 6:00am
In a bid to get more Indians to have a birth certificate or any sort of ID card, India announced Aadhaar project in 2009. At the time, there were more Indians without these ID cards than those with. As a result of this, much of the government funding for the citizens were disappearing before they could see them. But according to several security experts, lawyers, politicians and journalists, the government is using poor security practices, and this is exposing the biometrics data -- photo, name, address, fingerprint, iris info -- of people at risk. More than 1.1 billion people -- and 99 percent of all adults -- in India have enrolled themselves to the system. From a report: "There are two fundamental flaws in Aadhaar: it is poorly designed, and it is being poorly verified," Member of Parliament and privacy advocate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar told Mashable India. Another issue with Aadhaar is, Chandrasekhar explains, there is no firm legislation to safeguard the privacy and rights of the billion people who have enrolled into the system. There's little a person whose Aadhaar data has been compromised could do. [...] "Aadhaar is remote, covert, and non-consensual," he told Mashable India, adding the existence of a central database of any kind, but especially in the context of the Aadhaar, and at the scale it is working is appalling. Abraham said fingerprint and iris data of a person can be stolen with little effort -- a "gummy bear" which sells for a few cents, can store one's fingerprint, while a high-resolution camera can capture one's iris data. The report goes on to say that the Indian government is also not telling how the data is being shared with private companies. Experts cited in the story have expressed concerns that those companies (some of which are run by people who were previously members of the team which designed the framework of Aadhaar) can store and create a parallel database of their own. On top of that, the government is making Aadhaar mandatory for availing several things including registration for nation-wide examinations, but in the beginning it promised Aadhaar will be used only to help poor get grocery at subsidized prices.

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Father of Driver In Violent Tesla Crash Blames Sedan's 'Rocket-Ship' Acceleration

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 5:00am
"A Tesla crash that resulted in the deaths of the driver and a passenger in Indianapolis last November is drawing new controversy after the father of one of the victims made comments regarding the role of the Model S in the incident," Autoweek reports. "The crash occurred in downtown Indianapolis on Nov. 3, 2016, with the Model S driven by 27-year-old Casey Speckman striking a tree and catching fire. Speckman was pronounced dead at the scene while her passenger, 44-year-old Kevin McCarthy, succumbed to his injuries after being taken to the hospital." From the report: A report released last week by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department disclosed that Speckman had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21, almost three times the legal limit in the state of Indiana, The Indianapolis Star reports. Another new detail has emerged since the violent crash was first reported: The Tesla could have been been trying to maneuver around a vehicle traveling on the wrong side of the street, suggested by closed-circuit footage obtained by the attorney of the driver's father, Jon Speckman. The coroner's report cited blunt-force injuries caused by the crash as the causes of death for both victims, noting the vehicle's fire as a contributing factor, according to The Indianapolis Star. Jon Speckman recently made comments to the newspaper blaming the acceleration of the Tesla Model S. "Had she been in another vehicle, she would have been alive for me to yell at her for driving after drinking," Speckman told The Indianapolis Star in an interview at his attorney's office. "This is a vehicle that travels from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds," Speckman also said during the interview. "She's clearly having to swerve to miss a vehicle going the wrong way on a one-way street. If her foot should happen to hit the accelerator, it's like a rocket ship. I don't know why they have to make a car that does that."

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US National Weather Service Suffered 'Catastrophic' Outage; Website Stopped Sending Forecasts, Warnings

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 1:00am
jo7hs2 quotes a report from Miami Herald: On a day when a blizzard is pasting Maine and Northern California faces a dire flooding threat, several of the National Weather Service's primary systems for sending out alerts to the public have failed. As of approximately 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time, products from the National Weather Service ceased disseminating over the internet, including forecasts, warnings and current conditions. The Weather Service's public-facing website, Weather.gov, has not posted updated information since the outage began. Ryan Hickman, chief technology officer for Allison House, a weather data provider, called the situation "catastrophic." Hickman said two core routers for transmitting information from the Weather Service offices out to satellites, which beam the information back to public service providers, had stopped working. Hickman added that another backup system known as the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) was also not operating. Slashdot reader jo7hs2 notes: "The systems are back up as of Monday evening."

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Michael Flynn Resigns As Trump's National Security Adviser

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 9:10pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: President Donald Trump's embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn, who faced questions about a call to the Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration, has resigned. Retired Army General Keith Kellogg was named acting national security adviser to replace Flynn. ABC News reported Monday that Flynn called Vice President Mike Pence on Friday to apologize for misleading him about his conversation with the ambassador in November. Flynn previously denied that he spoke about sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia for its suspected interference in the 2016 election, a claim repeated by Pence in January. An administration official later claimed Pence was relying on information provided to him by Flynn. In his resignation later, Flynn cited the "fast pace of events" for "inadvertently" briefing "the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding [his] phone calls with the Russian Ambassador." You can view Flynn's full resignation letter, as provided by the White House, here.

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Elon Musk: Humans Need To Merge With Machines Else They Will Become Irrelevant in AI Age

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 8:00am
Billionaire Elon Musk is known for his futuristic ideas. So it didn't come as a surprise when on Monday at the World Government Summit in Dubai, he predicted that over time we will see a "closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence." He added, via a CNBC report: "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." Musk explained what he meant by saying that computers can communicate at "a trillion bits per second", while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second. In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there's a need to merge with machines, according to Musk. "Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem," Musk explained.

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Qualcomm's New 802.11ax Chips Will Ramp Up Your Wi-Fi

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 7:20am
Your home Wi-Fi performance could soon get much better thanks to new Wi-Fi chips that Qualcomm announced today, the IPQ8074 system-on-chip (SoC) for broadcasters (routers and access points) and the QCA6290 SoC for receivers (Wi-Fi devices). They belong to the first end-to-end commercial Wi-Fi portfolio to support the all-new 802.11ax standard. From a report on CNET: Qualcomm says the IPQ8074 is a highly-integrated all-in-one platform designed for access points, gateways and routers. The 14nm chip integrates an 11ax radio, MAC and baseband, and a quad-core 64-bit A53 CPU as well as a dual-core network accelerator. It uses a 12x12 Wi-Fi configuration (8x8 on the 5GHz band and 4x4 on the 2.4GHz band) and supports MU-MIMO for uplink. As a result, it can deliver up to 4.8 Gbps while maintaining fast connections over a larger coverage area than any 802.11ac chip. On the client side, Qualcomm says the QCA6290 SoC can offer up to a 4x increase in throughput speed in a crowded network. It supports 2x2 MU-MIMO and can realize the full benefits of the 8x8 MU-MIMO thanks to its 8x8 sounding mechanism. The chip can combine 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands using its Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) feature to deliver up to 1.8 Gbps Wi-Fi speed. Compared with 802.11ac, the chip can reduce power consumption by two-thirds.

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Bay Area Tech Job Growth Has Rapidly Decelerated

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 6:40am
An anonymous reader shares a MercuryNews report: Job growth in the tech industry used to zoom like a race car, but these days, hiring by this principal driver of the Bay Area's economy chugs along more like a family SUV. The technology industry's job growth in the nine-county region has dramatically decelerated, according to this newspaper's analysis of figures released by state labor officials and Beacon Economics. Tech's annual job growth throttled back to 3.5 percent, or 26,700 new jobs, in 2016. That's much slower than the 6 percent annual gain of 42,300 jobs in 2015, or the 6.4 percent gain in 2014. And while the industry's 3.5 percent growth last year is still a sturdy annual pace, Bay Area technology companies have already disclosed plans to slash about 2,000 jobs in the first three months of 2017.

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Angry Birds Is the Most-Banned Mobile App By Businesses

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 6:00am
Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Corporate IT pros face the unenviable task of trying to protect valuable data from threats that change all the time. One vector of attack is clearly smartphones and tablets that employees use both for work and pleasure. To that end, mobile device management firm MobileIron just came out with its latest tally of the ten most blacklisted apps, based on a survey of 7,800 companies worldwide. Angry Birds tops the list of most-banned apps at companies worldwide, as well as in Australia, the U.S., and government sectors tracked by MobileIron in its twice-yearly Mobile Security and Risk Review. The survey covers the use of Android, iOS, and Windows devices from Oct. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.

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34 'Highly Toxic Users' Wrote 9% of the Personal Attacks On Wikipedia

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 4:30am
Researchers used machine learning to analyze every single comment left on Wikipedia in 2015. An anonymous reader shares their results: 34 "highly toxic users" were responsible for 9% of all the personal attacks in the comments on Wikipedia, according to a research team from Alphabet's Jigsaw and the Wikimedia Foundation. They concluded that "significant progress could be made by moderating a relatively small number of frequent attackers." But at the same time, in Wikipedia's comments "less than half of attacks come from users with little prior participation; and perhaps surprisingly, approximately 30% of attacks come from registered users with over a 100 contributions. These results suggest the problems associated with personal attacks do not have an easy solution... the majority of personal attacks on Wikipedia are not the result of a few malicious users, nor primarily the consequence of allowing anonymous contributions." The researchers "developed a machine learning algorithm that was able to identify and distinguish different forms of online abuse and personal attacks," reports Bleeping Computer, adding that the team "hopes that Wikipedia uses their study to build a comments monitoring dashboard that could track down hotspots of abusive personal attacks and help moderators ban or block toxic users." The paper describes it as a method "that combines crowdsourcing and machine learning to analyze personal attacks at scale."

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Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Things That Every Hacker Once Knew?

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:30am
Open source guru Eric Raymond turns 60 this year, prompting this question from an anonymous reader: Eric Raymond's newest writing project is "Things Every Hacker Once Knew," inspired by the day he learned that not every programmer today's knows the bit structure of ASCII. "I didn't write it as a nostalgia trip -- I don't miss underpowered computers, primitive tools, and tiny low-resolution displays... In any kind of craft or profession, I think knowing the way things used to be done, and the issues those who came before you struggled with, is quite properly a source of pride and wisdom. It gives you a useful kind of perspective on today's challenges." He writes later that it's to "assist retrospective understanding by younger hackers so they can make sense of the fossils and survivals still embedded in current technology." It's focusing on ASCII and "related technologies" like hardware terminals, modems and RS-232. ("This is lore that was at one time near-universal and is no longer.") Sections include "UUCP and BBSes, the forgotten pre-Internets" and "The strange afterlife of the Hayes smartmodem" (which points out some AT commands survived to this day in smartphones). He requests any would-be contributors to remember that "I'm trying to describe common knowledge at the time." This got my thinking -- what are some that every programmer once knew that have since been forgotten by newer generations of programmers? Eric Raymond is still hard at work today on the NTPsec project -- a secure, hardened, and improved implementation of Network Time Protocol -- and he promises donations to his Patreon page will help fund it. But what things do you remember that were commonplace knowledge "back in the day" that have now become largely forgotten? Leave your best answers in the comments. What are some things that every hacker once knew?

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LinuxQuestions Users Choose Their Favorite Distro: Slackware

Sun, 02/12/2017 - 9:53pm
ZDNet summarizes some of the surprises in this year's poll on LinuxQuestions, "one of the largest Linux groups with 550,000 member". An anonymous reader quotes their report: The winner for the most popular desktop distribution? Slackware...! Yes, one of the oldest of Linux distributions won with just over 16% of the vote. If that sounds a little odd, it is. On DistroWatch, a site that covers Linux distributions like paint, the top Linux desktop distros are Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Manjaro. Slackware comes in 28th place... With more than double the votes for any category, it appears there was vote-stuffing by Slackware fans... The mobile operating system race was a runaway for Android, with over 68% of the vote. Second place went to CyanogenMod, an Android clone, which recently went out of business... Linux users love to debate about desktop environments. KDE Plasma Desktop took first by a hair's breadth over the popular lightweight Xfce desktop. Other well-regarded desktop environments, such as Cinnamon and MATE, got surprisingly few votes. The once popular GNOME still hasn't recovered from the blowback from its disliked design change from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3. Firefox may struggle as a web browser in the larger world, but on Linux it's still popular. Firefox took first place with 51.7 percent of the vote. Chrome came in a distant second place, with the rest of the vote being divided between a multitude of obscure browsers. LibreOffice won a whopping 89.6% of the vote for "best office suite" -- and Vim beat Emacs.

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US-Born NASA Scientist Detained At The Border Until He Unlocked His Phone

Sun, 02/12/2017 - 6:53pm
Sidd Bikkannavar works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After racing solar-powered cars in Chile, he had trouble returning to America. mspohr quote The Verge: Bikkannavar says he was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the Customs and Border Protection agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn't supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar's phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn't know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device... The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled "Inspection of Electronic Devices" and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. "I was cautiously telling him I wasn't allowed to give it out, because I didn't want to seem like I was not cooperating," says Bikkannavar. "I told him I'm not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it." While border agents have the right to search devices, The Verge reports that travelers aren't legally required to unlock their phones, "although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not." They also report that Bikkannavar "was not allowed to leave until he gave CBP his PIN," adding that the cybersecurity team at JPL "was not happy about the breach."

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Face Recognition + Mandatory Police Body Cameras = Mass Surveillance?

Sun, 02/12/2017 - 4:44pm
Facial recognition software is already in use, and it has privacy advocates worried. An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup. Southern California-based FaceFirst sells its facial recognition technology to retail stores, which use it to identify shoplifters who have been banned from the store, and alert management if they return. Corporate offices and banks also use the software to recognize people who are wanted by police... Several local law enforcement agencies have expressed interest in the technology, but so far none have had the budget for it. FaceFirst sells software police officers can install on their smartphones and use to identify people in the field from up to 12 feet away. Some privacy experts worry facial recognition technology will show up next in police body cameras, with potentially dangerous consequences... The problem, say privacy advocates, is that all kinds of people come into contact with police, including many who are never suspected of any crimes. So lots of innocent people could be caught up in a police database fed by face-recognizing body cameras. The body cameras could turn into a "massive mobile surveillance network," said Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. One-third of America's police departments use body cameras. (And just in San Jose, there's already 450 neighborhood cameras that have also agreed to share their footage for police investigations.) The new technologies concern the ACLU's policy director for technology and civil liberties. "You have very powerful systems being purchased, most often in secret, with little-to-no public debate and no process in place to make sure that there are policies in place to safeguard community members."

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Shamed In Super Bowl Ads, Verizon Introduces Unlimited Data Plans

Sun, 02/12/2017 - 3:44pm
A surprise announcement Sunday revealed that tomorrow Verizon will begin offering introductory plans with unlimited data.* * Customers "will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage," reports The Verge, "after which they'll be subject to reduced data speeds and de-prioritization." An anonymous reader writes: Other carriers have similar limits. "For Sprint it's 23GB. T-Mobile has a slightly higher threshold of 26GB... AT&T matches Verizon at 22GB," reports The Verge. Verizon says their cap is "to ensure a quality experience for all customers... While we don't expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers." The $80-a-month plan also includes hotspot tethering -- up to 10 gigabytes -- and "includes 'HD' video as opposed to the 480p/DVD-quality video that T-Mobile One customers get by default." In a Sunday YouTube video, the head of Verizon's wireless effort says customer interviews found "Some of the heavier users of data -- the power users -- had data anxiety." But it's still a surprising move. Engadget reports that in the past Verizon "frequently tried its hardest to discourage unlimited data users," but today is "facing stiff competition from T-Mobile, which engineered a dramatic comeback in recent years and upped the ante by making unlimited data standard through the One plan." Verizon's pricing was also targeted heavily last week in a barrage of Super Bowl ads by both Sprint and T-Mobile just last Sunday. T-Mobile showed a masochistic woman calling Verizon just to enjoying hearing about the overages, taxes and fees she incurred by exceeding her data limit, while Sprint showed a man who was trying to escape his Verizon contract by faking his own death.

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Gravity-Detecting LIGO Also Found To Be Creating Gravity Waves

Sun, 02/12/2017 - 2:24pm
LIGO is a large-scale physics experiment to detect "ripples in spacetime," as well as gravity waves from outer space. But it turns out that it's also creating gravity waves, according to a team of physicists led by Belinda Pang, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology. sciencehabit quotes Science magazine: Although these waves are far too feeble to detect directly, the researchers say, the radiation in principle could be used to try to detect weird quantum mechanical effects among large objects... Of course, LIGO doesn't generate large gravitational waves -- you could probably make bigger ones yourself by whirling bowling balls around -- but it does so with optimal efficiency [and] the waves could still be used to probe quantum effects among macroscopic objects, Pang says. Quantum mechanics says that a vanishingly small object such as an electron can literally be in two places in once. Many physicists suspect that it might just be possible to coax a macroscopic object, such as one of LIGO's mirrors, into a similar state of quantum motion. That delicate state wouldn't last long, as interactions with the outside world would make it "decohere" and put it in one place or another. However, one could imagine measuring the rate at which such a state decoheres to see whether it matches the rate expected from the radiation of gravitational waves, Pang says. "It's unbelievably difficult," Pang says. "But if you want to do it, what we're saying is that LIGO is the best place to do it."

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