/.

Syndicate content Slashdot
News for nerds, stuff that matters
Updated: 1 day 9 hours ago

In Baltimore and Elsewhere, Police Use Stingrays For Petty Crimes

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 6:00pm
USA Today reports on the widespread use of stingray technology by police to track down even petty criminals and witnesses, as well as their equally widespread reluctance to disclose that use. The article focuses mostly on the city of Baltimore; by cross-checking court records against a surveillance log from the city’s Advanced Technical Team, the USA Today reporters were able to determine at least several hundred cases in which phony ("simulated") cell phone towers were used to snoop traffic. In court, though, and even in the information that the police department provides to the city's prosecutors, the use of these devices is rarely disclosed, thanks to a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI and probably a general reluctance to make public how much the department is using them, especially without bothering to obtain search warrants. From the article: In at least one case, police and prosecutors appear to have gone further to hide the use of a stingray. After Kerron Andrews was charged with attempted murder last year, Baltimore's State's Attorney's Office said it had no information about whether a phone tracker had been used in the case, according to court filings. In May, prosecutors reversed course and said the police had used one to locate him. "It seems clear that misrepresentations and omissions pertaining to the government's use of stingrays are intentional," Andrews' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Deborah Levi, charged in a court filing. Judge Kendra Ausby ruled last week that the police should not have used a stingray to track Andrews without a search warrant, and she said prosecutors could not use any of the evidence found at the time of his arrest.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Why Car Info Tech Is So Thoroughly At Risk

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 3:48pm
Cory Doctorow reflects in a post at Boing Boing on the many ways in which modern cars' security infrastructure is a white-hot mess. And as to the reasons why, this seems to be the heart of the matter, and it applies to much more than cars: [M]anufacturers often view bugs that aren't publicly understood as unimportant, because it costs something to patch those bugs, and nothing to ignore them, even if those bugs are exploited by bad guys, because the bad guys are going to do everything they can to keep the exploit secret so they can milk it for as long as possible, meaning that even if your car is crashed (or bank account is drained) by someone exploiting a bug that the manufacturer has been informed about, you may never know about it. There is a sociopathic economic rationality to silencing researchers who come forward with bugs.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Tesla Partners With Airbnb, Subsidizes Chargers

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 1:02pm
Fortune reports that Tesla and Airbnb have teamed up; certain Airbnb properties will get Tesla chargers as a perk. There are 12 locations already equippped with chargers, but expect to see more soon, because Tesla is willing to pay for some of them, at least in California. To get on the list from which Tesla is drawing takes more than an air mattress in a spare room: An existing Airbnb host who lists an entire home, has had more than more than five bookings, and has an average overall star rating of 4+ is eligible to receive a free Tesla charger, which cost $750. The host must pay for the installation, which costs between $200 and $900 depending on the layout of the home.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

In Germany, a Message-in-a-Bottle Found 108 Years After Its Release

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 11:34am
schwit1 writes with a report that an early 20th century experiment has generated a belated data point. One of many floating bottles released 108 years ago to study currents was recently found by a German couple; it washed up on a beach in Amrum, Germany. From The Independent: When the couple unfurled the note inside, they found a message in English, German and Dutch. It asked the finder to fill in some information on where and when they had found the bottle, before returning it to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth. It said whoever did so would be rewarded with one shilling. Communications director of the Marine Biological Association, Guy Baker, told The Daily Telegraph: "It was quite a stir when we opened that envelope, as you can imagine." Once at the association, staff recognised the bottle was one of 1,020 released into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 as part of a project to test the strength of currents. Mr Baker told the paper: "It was a time when they were inventing ways to investigate what currents and fish did. Many of the bottles were found by fishermen trawling with deep sea nets. Others washed up on the shore, and some were never recovered. Most of the bottles were found within a relatively short time. We're talking months rather than decades."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hugos Refuse To Award Anyone Rather Than Submit To Fan's Votes

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 10:12am
An anonymous reader writes: You may remember way back in April there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the nominees for the Hugo Awards being "too conservative" based on a voting campaign organized by a group of science fiction fans who wanted to promote hard science fiction over more recent nominees. This was spun as conservatives "ruining" a "progressive" award. The question was left: would the final voters of the Hugo awards accept these nominees, or just take their ball home and refuse to give out anyway awards at all? The votes are in and we know the answer now: they'd rather just not give out any awards. (Wired has a slightly different slant on the process as well as the outcome of this year's awards.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Not All Uber Drivers Like Surge Pricing, Either

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 9:05am
CNET reports that Uber's practice of surge pricing, which sometimes raises the ire of passengers, isn't universally acclaimed by the company's drivers, either. "[M]ost Uber riders," according the the linked article, "despise surge pricing," though it's not clear quite how that "most" is arrived at. From the piece: They've complained about running up bills totaling hundreds of dollars, and have criticized the company for using surge pricing during emergencies, like Hurricane Sandy and the Sydney hostage crisis. The San Francisco Better Business Bureau gave Uber the grade of an F because of complaints related to surge pricing. And New York lawmakers have even proposed legislation to put limits on how high fares can go. Now some drivers, like [San Francisco Uber driver Peter] Ashlock, are also having second thoughts on surge pricing." On the other hand, what system would you propose to better reward drivers for working at high-demand times?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ask Slashdot: Tips For Getting Into Model Railroading?

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 8:02am
An anonymous reader writes: A relative of mine has been hinting that he'd like me to take over his model railroad collection in the event of his death (or even before that, to make this a bit less morbid-sounding). I'm intrigued by the idea, because I've been interested in model railroads for years, but too commitment shy and too transient to actually start a collection. That's changed enough that I'd like to start planning a train system, and am looking for advice from people who have been at it for a while. A couple of parameters: 1) I'm only interested for now in HO-scale stuff, so I am not all that interested in the relative merits of the other kinds, cool as they might be. 2) Related, I am somewhat less interested in the rolling stock than I am in the construction and control of the track and surrounding landscape. Interested in learning from experienced model railroad enthusiasts what lessons you've learned over the years that would be useful for a newbie, especially if you've made some cool automation for your system, or have built extensive support structures. This includes negative lessons, too, if you've overloaded circuits or floorboards. I'd *like* to integrate some interesting sensors and control systems, and I see some interesting open source software for this. So: What advice would you give to a late-start railroader? For reference: this set-up may end up living in an unfinished suburban basement.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Relaxes Handset Makers' Requirements for "Must-Include" Android Apps

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 6:41am
According to The Verge, anyone who buys a new Android phone may benefit from an interesting change in their phone's default apps: namely, fewer pieces of included bloatware. However, the affected apps might not be the ones that a user concerned with bloatware might care most about (like carrier-specific apps), but are rather some of the standard Google-provided ones (Google+, Google Play Games, Google Play Books and Google Newsstand). These apps will still be available at the Google Play Store, just not required for a handset maker to get Google's blessing. (Also at ZDNet.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Windows 95 Turns 20

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 5:27am
Etherwalk writes: Windows 95 turns 20 tomorrow, August 24, 2015. Users looking to upgrade from Windows 3.1 should be warned that some reviewers on the Amazon purchase page have been receiving 3.5" high-density floppy disk versions instead of a modern 150 kbps CD-ROM disk. Do you remember first seeing or installing Windows 95? Do you have any systems still running it?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Underground Piracy Sites Want To Block Windows 10 Users

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 4:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Some smaller pirate sites have become concerned about Windows 10 system phoning home too many hints regarding that the users are accessing their site. Therefore, the pirate administrators have started blocking Windows 10 users from accessing the BitTorrent trackers that the sites host. The first ones to hit the alarm button were iTS, which have posted a statement and started redirecting Windows 10 users to a YouTube video called Windows 10 is a Tool to Spy on Everything You Do. Additionally, according to TorrentFreak, two other similar dark web torrent trackers are also considering following suit. "As we all know, Microsoft recently released Windows 10. You as a member should know, that we as a site are thinking about banning the OS from FSC," said one of the FSC staff. Likewise, in a message to their users, a BB admin said something similar: "We have also found [Windows 10] will be gathering information on users' P2P use to be shared with anti piracy group."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Top 10 Programming Languages On GitHub, Over Time

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 1:24am
An anonymous reader writes with a link to VentureBeat's article on the information that GitHub released this week about the top-ten languages used by GitHub's users, and how they've changed over the site's history. GitHub's chart shows the change in rank for programming languages since GitHub launched in 2008 all the way to what the site's 10 million users are using for coding today. To be clear, this graph doesn't show the definitive top 10 programming languages. Because GitHub has become so popular (even causing Google Code to shut down), however, it still paints a fairly accurate picture of programming trends over recent years. Trend lines aside, here are the top 10 programming languages on GitHub today: 1. JavaScript 2. Java 3. Ruby 4. PHP 5. Python 6. CSS 7. C++ 8. C# 9. C 10. HTML

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Some Observers Perceive the Universe To Be Much Younger Than We Do

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 10:18pm
StartsWithABang writes: It's been 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang for us, and when we look out at a distant object in the Universe, we're seeing it as it was in the past. Its age — as it appears — is determined only by how long the light took for it to travel from that object to our eyes, but to someone living there, it will also appear that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old. But it is actually possible for an observer living on another planet, star or galaxy to perceive that significantly less time has passed since the Big Bang, so long as they were moving close to the speed of light relative to the CMB. Paradoxically, if they slowed their speed, they'd find that they themselves were very young, but living in a 13.8 billion year-old Universe.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ubuntu Core Gets Support For Raspberry Pi 2 GPIO and I2C

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 7:01pm
An anonymous reader writes: Ubuntu Core is a tiny Ubuntu distribution aimed at the Internet of Things, using a new transactional packaging format called Snappy rather than the venerable Debian packaging format. It recently gained support for I2C and GPIO on the Raspberry Pi 2, and a quick demo is given here. Ubuntu's Core support site says that the support for Raspberry Pi 2 isn't yet official, but provides some handy tips for anyone who wants to try it out.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Why Google Wants To Sell You a Wi-Fi Router

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 4:06pm
lpress writes: Last quarter, Google made $16 billion on advertising and $1.7 billion on "other sales." I don't know how "other sales" breaks down, but a chunk of that is hardware devices like the Pixel Chromebook, Chromecast, Next thermostat, Nexus phone and, now, WiFi routers. Does the world need another $200 home router? Why would Google bother? I can think of a couple of strategic reasons — they hope it will become a home-automation hub (competing with the Amazon Echo) and it will enable them to dynamically configure and upgrade your home or small office network for improved performance (hence more ads).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ask Slashdot: Maintaining Continuity In Your Creative Works?

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 3:09pm
imac.usr writes: I recently rewatched the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons and laughed as always at the scene where Homer pulls into his parking space — right next to his house. It's such a great little comic moment. This time, though, it occurred to me that someone probably wrote in to complain that the power plant was normally in a completely different part of town, no doubt adding "I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder." And that got me to wondering: how do creators of serial media — books, web comics, TV shows, even movie serials — record their various continuities? Is there a story bible with the information, or a database of people/places/things, or even something scribbled on a 3x5 card. I know Slashdot is full of artists who must deal with this issue on a regular basis, so I'd be interested in hearing any perspectives on how (or even if) you manage it.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Standardized Tests Blamed, Asian Students Ignored In Google-Gallup K-12 CS Study

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 2:12pm
theodp writes: According to a study released Thursday by Google and Gallup, standardized tests may be holding back the next generation of computer programmers. The Google-Gallup Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education report (PDF) found that the main reason given by a "comprehensive but not representative" sample of 9,693 K-12 principals and 1,865 school district superintendents in the U.S. for their schools not offering computer science "is the limited time they have to devote to classes that are not tied to testing requirements." Which makes one wonder if Google now views Bill Gates as part of the problem and/or part of the solution of K-12 CS education. The Google-Gallup report also explores race/ethnicity differences to access and learning opportunities among White, Black and Hispanic students — but not Asian students — a curious omission considering that Google's own Diversity Disclosure shows that 35% of its U.S. tech workforce is Asian, making it by far the most overrepresented race/ethnicity group at Google when compared to the U.S. K-12 public school population. Which raises the question: Why would the Google-Gallup study ignore the access and learning opportunities of the race/ethnicity subgroup that has enjoyed the greatest success at Google? Not unsurprisingly, the Google-Gallup report winds up by concluding that what U.S. K-12 education really needs is more CS cowbell.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cheap Thermal Imagers Can Steal User PINs

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 1:10pm
Bismillah writes: A British infosec company has discovered that cheap thermal imaging attachments for smartphones can be used to work out which keys users press on -- for instance -- ATM PIN pads. The thermal imprint last for a minute or longer. That's especially worrying if your PIN takes the form of letters, as do many users' phone-unlock patterns.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Re-Examined IceCube Data Firms Up Case For Extra-Galactic Neutrinos

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 12:06pm
In 2013, the IceCube neutrino telescope detected dozens of high-energy neutrinos. Now, reports Astronomy magazine, researchers "have sorted through the billions of subatomic particles that zip through its frozen cubic-kilometer-sized detector each year to gather powerful new evidence in support of [those] 2013 observations confirming the existence of cosmic neutrinos." According to the report, Albrecht Karle from UW-Madison notes that while the neutrino-induced tracks recorded by the IceCube detector have a good pointing resolution, within less than a degree, the IceCube team has not observed a significant number of neutrinos emanating from any single source. ... “The plane of the galaxy is where the stars are. It is where cosmic rays are accelerated, so you would expect to see more sources there. But the highest-energy neutrinos we’ve observed come from random directions,” said Karle. “It is sound confirmation that the discovery of cosmic neutrinos from beyond our galaxy is real.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Big Changes From Mozilla Mean Firefox Will Get Chrome Extensions

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 11:36am
Mozilla announced yesterday a few high-level changes to the way Firefox and Firefox extensions will be developed; among them, the introduction of "a new extension API, called WebExtensions—largely compatible with the model used by Chrome and Opera—to make it easier to develop extensions across multiple browsers." (Liliputing has a nice breakdown of the changes.) ZDNet reports that at the same time, "Mozilla will be deprecating XPCOM and XUL, the foundations of its extension system, and many Firefox developers are ticked off at these moves."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

COBOL Comes To Visual Studio 2015

Sat, 08/22/2015 - 10:36am
New submitter dmleonard618 writes: Micro Focus isn't writing off COBOL just yet. The company is trying to win developers over with COBOL with the latest release of Visual COBOL for Visual Studio. The new solution aims to bring back the ancient language and make it relevant again. "Visual COBOL for Visual Studio 2015 is the next generation of COBOL development solutions, designed for today's application developer to do just that, in a productive and cost-effective way," said Micro Focus' Ed Airey.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.