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Updated: 4 hours 47 min ago

UK Government Illegally Spied On Amnesty International

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 1:34pm
Mark Wilson writes with this excerpt from a story at Beta News: A court has revealed that the UK intelligence agency, GCHQ, illegally spied on human rights organization Amnesty International. It is an allegation that the agency had previously denied, but an email from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal backtracked on a judgement made in June which said no such spying had taken place. The email was sent to Amnesty International yesterday, and while it conceded that the organization was indeed the subject of surveillance, no explanation has been offered. It is now clear that, for some reason, communications by Amnesty International were illegally intercepted, stored, and examined. What is not clear is when the spying happened, what data was collected and, more importantly, why it happened.

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Google Hangouts and SMS Integration: A Mess, For Now

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 12:50pm
Android Headlines reports that a bug in the Google Hangouts app is causing confusion for users who would like to send and receive SMS messages. According to the article, [S]ome users are reporting an issue that is preventing the merging of SMS messages with Hangouts. The exact nature of what is causing this error is still unknown, as Google has not divulged any concrete information. They did state though that they are working on a fix and will have it ready for release as soon as they figure out what is going on. On this front, I wish there were a good roadmap for all the overlapping and sometimes circular-seeming options for Google's various flavors of VoiP and messaging. Between Google Voice, Google Plus, Messenger (not Facebook's Messenger), Gmail, and now Google Fi, it's hard to tell quite where the there begins. After setting up a new phone through Google Fi, I find that the very pleasant full-screen text-message window I used to like with Google Voice is now one I can't figure out how to reach, and the screen directs me to use Hangouts instead.

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Microsoft Research Open Sources WorldWide Telescope

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 12:04pm
kfogel writes: Microsoft Research has open sourced WorldWide Telescope, releasing it under the MIT license and donating the code to the .NET Foundation. The code is up on GitHub at github.com/WorldWideTelescope, and there are demos and more details at WorldWideTelescope.org. Go forth and explore!

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Cameron Asserts UK Gov't Will Leave No "Safe Space" For Private Communications

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 11:20am
An anonymous reader writes with the story from Ars Technica that UK prime minister David Cameron "has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to "'eave a safe space — a new means of communication — for terrorists to communicate with each other.'" That statement came Monday, as a response to Conservative MP David Bellingham, "who asked [Cameron, on the floor of the House of Commons] whether he agreed that the 'time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?' To which Cameron replied: 'we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.'" This sounds like the UK government is declaring a blustery war on encryption, and it might not need too much war: some companies can be persuaded (or would be eager) to cooperate with the government in handing over all kinds of information. However, the bluster part may leave even the fiercest surveillance mostly show: as Ars writer Glyn Moody asks, what about circumstances "where companies can't hand over keys, or where there is no company involved, as with GnuPG, the open source implementation of the OpenPGP encryption system?" Or Tor?

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Angler Exploit Kit Evasion Techniques Keep Cryptowall Thriving

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 10:30am
msm1267 writes: Since the Angler Exploit Kit began pushing the latest version of Cryptowall ransomware, the kit has gone to great lengths to evade detection from IDS and other security technologies. The latest tactic is an almost-daily change to URL patterns used by the kit in HTTP GET requests for the Angler landing page, requests for a Flash exploit, and requests for the Cryptowall 3.0 payload. Traffic patterns as of yesterday are almost unrecognizable compared to those of as recent as three weeks ago.

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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Passwords Transmitted As Cleartext?

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 9:42am
An anonymous reader writes: My brother recently requested a transcript from his university and was given the option to receive the transcript electronically. When he had problems accessing the document, he called me in to help. What I found was that the transcript company had sent an e-mail with a URL (not a link) to where the document was located. What surprised me was that a second e-mail was also sent containing the password (in cleartext) to access the document. Not too long ago I had a similar experience when applying for a job online (ironically for an entry-level IT position). I was required to setup an account with a password and an associated e-mail address. While filling out the application, I paused the process to get some information I didn't have on hand and received an e-mail from the company that said I could continue the process by logging on with my account name and password, both shown in cleartext in the message. In my brother's case, it was an auto-generated password but still problematic. In my case, it showed that the company was storing my account information in cleartext to be able to e-mail it back to me. Needless to say, I e-mailed the head of their IT department explaining why this was unacceptable. My questions are: How frequently have people run into companies sending sensitive information (like passwords) in cleartext via e-mail? and What would you do if this type of situation happened to you?

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Solar Impulse 2 Breaks Three Records En Route To Hawaii

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 8:53am
Zothecula writes: Solar Impulse 2 has started smashing records even before the longest leg of its round-the-world flight is complete. At around three quarters of the way to its next touch down in Hawaii, the single-pilot aircraft has broken the world records for longest distance and duration for solar aviation, with the record for longest ever solo flight of any kind thrown in for good measure.

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Watching People Code Is Becoming an (Even Bigger) Thing

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 7:53am
itwbennett writes: Faithful Slashdot readers may recall the story of Adam Wulf, who spent two weeks live-streaming himself writing a mobile app. The phenomenon has quickly become thing, by which we mean a business. Twitch.TV, Watch People Code (which is an offshoot of the subreddit by the same name), Ludum Dare, and, of course, YouTube, are bursting with live or archived streams of lots of people writing lots of code for lots of different things. And just this week, Y Combinator-backed startup Livecoding.TV launched. The site has signed up 40,000 users since its beta went live in February, but unlike the other sites in this space what it doesn't have (and doesn't have plans for) is advertising. As co-founder Jamie Green told ITworld: 'We have some different ideas around monetisation in the pipeline, but for now we are just focussed on building a community around live education.'

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Volkswagen Factory Worker Killed By a Robot

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 7:11am
m.alessandrini writes: A worker at a Volkswagen factory in Germany has died, after a robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate. This is perhaps the first severe accident of this kind in a western factory, and is sparking debate about who is responsible for the accident, the man who was servicing the robot beyond its protection cage, or the robot's hardware/software developers who didn't put enough safety checks. Will this distinction be more and more important in the future, when robots will be more widespread?

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Retro City Rampage Getting a DOS Version

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 11:01pm
jones_supa writes: There is an indie game port in works which certainly cracks a smile on one's face. Vblank Entertainment is bringing Retro City Rampage — its homage to 8-bit games and Grand Theft Auto — over to one of the influential gaming operating systems of all time: DOS! Retro City Rampage 486 is a port of Retro City Rampage DX, an enhanced version of the game featuring a story mode, arcade challenges, and free roaming. As the name suggests, if one wants to run the game natively, a beefy 486 CPU is required, along with 3.7 MB of disk space and 4 MB of RAM. But of course, DOSBox can be used as well. A release date for the DOS version of the game is not yet known.

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Qt 5.5 Released

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 9:30pm
New submitter mx+b writes: The latest version of Qt, the cross platform GUI toolkit and development platform, is out for all major platforms. Highlights include better 3D, multimedia, and web support, as well as better support for the latest OS X and Windows releases (including Windows 10) and more Linux distributions.

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Exploring the Relationships Between Tech Skills (Visualization)

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 8:30pm
Nerval's Lobster writes: Simon Hughes, Dice's Chief Data Scientist, has put together an experimental visualization that explores how tech skills relate to one another. In the visualization, every circle or node represents a particular skill; colors designate communities that coalesce around skills. Try clicking "Java", for example, and notice how many other skills accompany it (a high-degree node, as graph theory would call it). As a popular skill, it appears to be present in many communities: Big Data, Oracle Database, System Administration, Automation/Testing, and (of course) Web and Software Development. You may or may not agree with some relationships, but keep in mind, it was all generated in an automatic way by computer code, untouched by a human. Building it started with Gephi, an open-source network analysis and visualization software package, by importing a pair-wise comma-separated list of skills and their similarity scores (as Simon describes in his article) and running a number of analyses: Force Atlas layout to draw a force-directed graph, Avg. Path Length to calculate the Betweenness Centrality that determines the size of a node, and finally Modularity to detect communities of skills (again, color-coded in the visualization). The graph was then exported as an XML graph file (GEXF) and converted to JSON format with two sets of elements: Nodes and Links. "We would love to hear your feedback and questions," Simon says.

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Cuba Connecting Universities With Fiber

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 6:00pm
lpress writes: Two Cuban universities have fiber links and fiber connections will be available to all Cuban universities in January 2016. One of the currently connected universities is in the west, near Havana (satellite ground station) and one in the east, near the undersea cable landing. Cuba will use Chinese equipment for DSL to the home and Wifi access points.

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Federal Wiretaps Down Slightly, Encryption Impact Decreases

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 4:30pm
coondoggie writes: According to the 2014 Wiretap Report, released today by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts a total of a total of 3,554 wiretaps were reported as authorized, with 1,279 authorized by federal judges and 2,275 authorized by state judges. Compared to the applications approved during 2013, the number approved by federal judges decreased 13% in 2014 and the number approved by state judges increased 8%. One state wiretap application was denied in 2014, the report stated.

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How the Next US Nuclear Accident Might Happen

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 3:43pm
Lasrick writes: Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson analyzes safety at US nuclear facilities and finds a disaster waiting to happen due to an over-reliance on automated security technology and private contractors cutting corners to increase profits. Gusterson follows on the work of Eric Schlosser, Frank Munger, and Dan Zak in warning us of the serious problems at US nuclear facilities, both in the energy industry and in the nuclear security complex.

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Windows 10 Shares Your Wi-Fi Password With Contacts

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 3:00pm
gsslay writes: The Register reports that Windows 10 will include, defaulted on, "Wi-Fi Sense" which shares wifi passwords with Outlook.com contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, Facebook friends. This involves Microsoft storing the wifi passwords entered into your laptop which can then be used by any other person suitably connected to you. If you don't want someone's Windows 10 passing on your password, Microsoft has two solutions; only share passwords using their Wi-Fi Sense service, or by adding "_optout" to your SSID.

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Depression: The Secret Struggle Startup Founders Won't Talk About

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 2:15pm
mattydread23 writes: In May, Cambrian Genomics CEO Austen Heinz committed suicide. The news stunned friends and family, and sparked a conversation about the growing problem of depression among startup founders. Some estimates say 30% of startup founders suffer from depression, but many are reluctant to talk about their struggle for fear of alienating investors and employees. This feature by Business Insider includes conversations with a friend of Heinz, plus many investors and other startup founders who are starting to talk about the problem and figure out how to make things better.

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First Human Colonies Should Be Among Venus' Clouds

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 1:30pm
StartsWithABang writes: When we talk about humans existing on worlds other than Earth, the first choice of a planet to do so on is usually Mars, a world that may have been extremely Earth-like for the first billion years of our Solar System or so. Perhaps, with enough ingenuity and resources, we could terraform it to be more like Earth is today. But the most Earth-like conditions in the Solar System don't occur on the surface of Mars, but rather in the high altitudes of Venus' atmosphere, some 50-65 km up. Despite its harsh conditions, this may be the best location for the first human colonies, for a myriad of good, scientific reasons. NASA proposed something similar last year and released a report on the subject.

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Meet the Makers of an Exotic (Partially) 3-D Printed Car (2 Videos)

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 12:46pm
Last month, in a story headlined 3D Printed Supercar Chassis Unveiled, we promised video interviews with builders Kevin and Brad "in the near future." Here they are. First, we have Kevin Czinger, Founder & CEO of Divergent Microfactories. He says the way we build cars is more important from an environmental standpoint than how we fuel them, and that the way we make cars now is a lot less efficient and a lot more expensive than it needs to be. Divergent's first demo vehicle, the Blade, is a tandem-seating 700 HP supercar its makers say does 0 - 60 in 2.5 seconds. Price? No word yet, but it's safe to assume "plenty" might be an accurate guess. In the second video, Blade project lead Brad Balzer goes into detail about how, why, and where they use 3-D printing, and explains the modular nature of their car chassis design. He says they don't need to change many parts to go from ultra-sports car to pickup truck. He also says that while Divergent Microfactories is working on cars right now, their manufacturing system can be applied to many different industries. Indeed, their long-range goal is to help people build microfactories making many different kinds of products faster, more flexibly, and for less money than it takes to make similar manufactured items today. Note: The transcript covers both videos and has a little 'bonus' material in it, too.

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Microsoft To Launch Minecraft Education Portal For Teachers

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 12:01pm
Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft wants to help educators use Minecraft to teach pupils about maths, history, creative design and other subjects and skills, claiming the game is already being used in classrooms in the US and UK. Minecraft developer Mojang was bought by Microsoft last year for $2.5 billion and the game has been featured in a number of HoloLens demos, an indication of how it sees the former indie phenomenon as more than just a game. "Very soon after Minecraft launched, we noticed teachers bringing the game into their classrooms," said a blog post. "Often inspired by the passion of their students, they started using Minecraft to design history lessons, teach language classes, explore mathematics, physics, computer science, writing, and more."

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