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Updated: 13 hours 41 min ago

NASA Hackathon Expected to Draw Over 15,000 Coders

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 7:30pm
Saturday NASA began live-streaming footage of their "Space Apps Challenge" hackathon, which they're describing as one of the largest hackathons on earth. "Together, citizens like you have developed thousands of open-source solutions," says the event's site, while Fast Company reports that last year 14,264 people gathered in 133 locations to create apps using NASA's trove of open data. Last year's largest local app hackathon was started by two women in Cairo, drawing 700 participants, and this year NASA is trying to increase participation by female coders. NASA's open innovation project manager tells FastCompany that women "are looking for signals that they will be in a safe space where they feel like they belong," noting that 80% of last year's participants were men.

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'I Hacked Facebook -- and Found Someone Had Beaten Me To It'

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 5:30pm
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Register: A bug bounty hunter compromises a Facebook staff server through a sloppy file-sharing webapp -- and finds someone's already beaten him to it by backdooring the machine. The pseudo-anonymous penetration tester Orange Tsai, who works for Taiwan-based outfit Devcore, banked $10,000 from Facebook in February for successfully drilling into the vulnerable system. According to Tsai, he or she stumbled across malware installed by someone else that was stealing usernames and passwords of FB employees who logged into the machine. The login credentials were siphoned off to an outside computer. According to Facebook security engineer Reginaldo Silva, the password-slurping malware was installed by another security researcher who had earlier poked around within Facebook's system in an attempt to snag a bug bounty.

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From Uber To Eric Schmidt, Tech Is Closer To the US Government Than You'd Think

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 3:30pm
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Guardian: Alphabet's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, recently joined a Department of Defense advisory panel. Facebook recently hired a former director at the U.S. military's research lab, Darpa. Uber employs Barack Obama's former campaign manager David Plouffe and Amazon.com tapped his former spokesman Jay Carney. Google, Facebook, Uber and Apple collectively employ a couple of dozen former analysts for America's spy agencies, who openly list their resumes on LinkedIn. These connections are neither new nor secret. But the fact they are so accepted illustrates how tech's leaders -- even amid current fights over encryption and surveillance -- are still seen as mostly U.S. firms that back up American values. Christopher Soghoian, a technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level employees' government connections matter less than leading executives' ties to government. For instance, at least a dozen Google engineers have worked at the NSA, according to publicly available records on LinkedIn. And, this being Silicon Valley, not everyone who worked for a spy agency advertises that on LinkedIn. Soghoian, a vocal critic of mass surveillance, said Google hiring an ex-hacker for the NSA to work on security doesn't really bother him. "But Eric Schmidt having a close relationship with the White House does," he said.Danny Yadron, said, "What's worse for a Silicon Valley executive: ties to the Chinese military or friends in the US Defense Department?"

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Greece's Former Finance Minister Explains Why A Universal Basic Income Could Save Us

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 2:30pm
Charlie Sorrel, writing for FastCoExist: Next time you're having a fight with somebody who doesn't like the idea of a universal basic income, you might employ some of these arguments from Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former finance minister. In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, he not only refutes the usual arguments against the concept that the government should give everyone a minimum check every month, but he makes them sound quite ridiculous. The interview was published ahead of the Switzerland's vote on a universal basic income (or UBI) in June. If successful, all Swiss adults would get $2,500 per month, and kids around $625 per month, whether or not they have a job. Here are some of Varoufakis's best answers. First, on the need for a UBI: "For the first time in the history of technology more jobs are destroyed than created. Technical progress means that more and more high-paying jobs will disappear and thus shrink the middle class. This will in turn cause a further concentration of income and wealth in the upper classes. That's why I fight like a basic income for sociopolitical reforms. The robotization [of work] has long been underway, but robots don't buy products. Therefore, a basic income is needed to offset this change and stabilize a society which has an increasing wealth inequality." Then, on why you need a UBI if you already have a good job: "What good is a well-paying job, if you are afraid to lose it? This constant fear paralyzes."Good luck convincing many citizens to do actual work.

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Bill Nye Slams Donald Trump, Republicans On Climate Change

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 1:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: On the eve of Earth Day, environmental activist Bill Nye told CNN that while everybody is more aware of climate change "than ever before," we still have a long way to go (annoying auto-play videos). The science educator and engineer, who became an icon on his 1990s hit show "Bill Nye the Science Guy," criticized the Republican presidential candidates and the fossil fuel industry for not acknowledging the deleterious effects of climate change. "There's still a very strong contingent of people who are in denial about climate change," Nye said. "And if you don't believe me, look at the three people currently running for president of the world's most influential country who are ... climate change deniers," Nye said, referring to the three Republican presidential candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

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Dutch Police Seize Encrypted Communication Network With 19,000 Users

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 12:31pm
An anonymous reader writes: Dutch police have seized and shut down Ennetcom, an encrypted communications network with 19,000 users, according to Reuters. The network's 36-year-old owner, Danny Manupassa, has also been arrested, and faces charges of money laundering and illegal weapons possession, while the information obtained in the seizure may also be used for other criminal prosecutions. "Police and prosecutors believe that they have captured the largest encrypted network used by organized crime in the Netherlands," prosecutors said in a statement. "Although using encrypted communications is legal," Reuters reports, "many of the network's users are believed to have been engaged in 'serious criminal activity,' said spokesman Wim de Bruin of the national prosecutor's office, which noted that the company's modified phones have repeatedly turned up in cases involving drugs, criminal motorcycle gangs, and gangland killings. A spokesman for the National Prosecutor's office "declined to comment on whether and how police would be able to decrypt information kept on the servers."

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Chinese Conglomerate LeEco Wants To Give Away Its 'Tesla Killer' Electric Supercar For Free

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 12:20pm
Rishi Alwani, reporting for Gadgets 360 (edited and condensed for clarity): At an event in Beijing this week, Chinese technology conglomerate LeEco showed off its LeSEE self-driving electric supercar. A slide noted that LeEco's car can reach 130mph which is a fair bit behind of the Tesla Model S' top speed range of 140 to 155 mph. Nonetheless, the company said the final product should beat Tesla in "all aspects of performance." The car sports a rounded design with a giant LED screen plastered on the front of the vehicle. If the car is being used for cab services, for instance, the screen can show if it's available for hire or not. There's an arched transparent roof and what seems to be generous cabin space. The interior sported a futuristic-looking steering wheel with a lit-up centre that quite possibly would replace the traditional dashboard and was complemented by a monitor next to it. It also had ridged backseats that may look uncomfortable but is actually memory foam - a polyurethane material used in mattresses that can mould to the shape of a passenger's body for maximum comfort. Perhaps the most interesting component of its LeSEE concept has nothing to do with the technology, but rather the business models involved. For one, the company believes it has a huge role to play in LeShare - a time-sharing electric vehicle platform that's present in Beijing and Shanghai with plans to expand to five more cities in China. Electric vehicles and charging resources will be shared between LeShare and LeEco-backed Uber competitor Yidao. In addition to this, LeEco believes that the car will eventually be free, in line with the same business model it has for some of its other hardware, charging users for content, subscriptions or memberships.For a refresh, LeEco (LeTV) was founded in 2004, and has since become a major name in many technology-centric markets. It offers live-streaming, e-commerce, cloud, smartphones, TV set-top boxes, and smart TVs among many other products and services. The company has a market capitalisation of at least $12 billion.

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Jihadis Twice As Likely To Be Students of Science Than Of Sharia

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 11:31am
Bruce66423 writes: Time to cancel all the encouragement of studying STEM subjects, obviously... The Telegraph is reporting that prominent jihadists "are twice as likely to have studied science at university than subjects related to Islam," citing a new report by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics. "The report, which analyzed the histories of 100 of the most prominent jihadist leaders of the last three decades, said that despite claiming to be the sole interpreters of Islamic theology, they often had little or no training in the subject." Osama bin Laden went to a secular school and studied economics at college with little formal Islamic training, while the "underpants bomber," who tried to detonate a bomb in a plane over Detroit in 2009, got his degree in mechanical engineering. Of the 100 cases examined, "Around half had attended university, with 57 per cent of them studying science subjects, compared to only 28 per cent studying Islamic subjects."

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Wikipedia May Get Delivered To The Moon

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 10:31am
A new Meta page on Wikimedia.org reports: "A group of science enthusiasts from Berlin, Germany, are planning to send their own custom-built rover to the Moon. And they want to take Wikipedia with them." Sort of. Wikimedia Deutschland has been offered space on a data disc to be carried by one of the five image-gathering rovers still competing to land on the Moon by 2017 for the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. But there's only 20 gigabytes of space, so they're calling on the Wikipedia communities to agree on which content should be included by June 24. "Even if only a snapshot of Wikipedia can be brought to the Moon, its content will equal a genuine snapshot of the sum of all human knowledge..." the Meta page explains "This is an anniversary gift to all Wikipedia communities all over the world."

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Slashdot Asks: Does It Matter That We've Reached Peak Smartphone?

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 9:30am
Gizmodo, in its typical sensational voice, ran a story this week in which it argues that smartphones are in a "ridiculously boring place" right now. Alex Cranz with the publication expresses her discontent with some of the recently launched smartphones such as the iPhone SE, the LG G5, and the Galaxy S7. "These devices have not redefined the way we phone, nor have they blown us away with unprecedented speeds, or wowed us with extraordinary battery life. Each of these new phones is merely a marginal improvement over last year's model." I agree with most of what Cranz has to say. In the past one year, we've seen QHD display panel, Snapdragon 810/820 SoC, 3 to 4GB of RAM becoming a norm. Nearly every manufacturer has reached that point, and then sort of stopped there. Compared to the Nexus 4, for instance, the Nexus 6P offers a significant improvement. But when compared to anything you purchased two years ago -- in the echelon of your choice -- the latest offering isn't going to leave a big impression on you. The industry is currently making small noises about what it thinks could be the next big thing. Some players including Samsung and Lenovo believe that it could be the virtual reality addon. We will have to see how much traction that gets. My contention with Cranz's story is that it doesn't talk about how these devices are impacting people's lives, hence missing the big picture. I believe that it doesn't necessarily matter if our smartphones aren't going to get any smarter. The first-generation Moto G, from a few years ago, can also help you quickly get information from the Web, and it can also allow you to book a cab using Uber app, and do pretty much everything that you do on a flagship smartphone. As Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson pointed out last month, the next "second smartphone revolution" could enhance the lives of millions of people in places such as Asia, where most of the population still doesn't have a smartphone. When you look at that, it becomes unnecessary to talk about the top-of-the-line specs and the rate at which these smartphones are receiving incremental improvements. The vast majority of people in the emerging world are in a desperate need of a bare-bone smartphone that allows them to make phone calls, even if it doesn't do it in a "redefined" fashion, and works with speeds that don't blow them away, a couple of things that I think we are taking for granted. Wilson wrote: The first 2.5bn smartphones brought us Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, WhatsApp, Kik, Venmo, Duolingo, and most importantly, drove the big web apps to build world class mobile apps and move their userbases from web to mobile. But, if you stare at the top 200 non-game mobile apps in the US (and most of the western hemisphere) you will see that the list doesn't look that different than the top 200 websites. The mobile revolution from 2007 to 2015 in the west was more about how we accessed the internet than what apps we used, with some notable and important exceptions. The next 2.5bn people to adopt smartphones may turn out to be a different story. They will mostly live outside the developed and wealthy parts of the world and they will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all -- from the web or from the offline world. I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like. Stuff that matters a bit more than seeing where you friends had a fun time last night or what it looks like when you faceswap with your sister.At this moment, it does seem to me that over the coming months, our smartphones are unlikely to get a major hardware boost. The biggest milestone we have on the horizon is what happens when everyone has these smartphones, and how does it impact our businesses, culture, and social lives. What's your take on this? Do you think we are yet to reach the peak point in the smartphone world? What's the big picture in your opinion?Update: 04/23 18:55 GMT by M :Robotech_Master's take on this is pretty insightful.

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The Android Administration: Google's Relationship With the Obama White House

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 8:40am
theodp writes: The Intercept takes a look at Google's remarkably close relationship with the Obama White House, driving home its point with charts of When Google Visited the White House and how individuals have moved Back and Forth Between Google and Government. "Much of this collaboration could be considered public-minded," writes David Dayen. "It's hard to argue with the idea that the government should seek outside technical help when it requires it. And there's no evidence of a quid pro quo. But this arrangement doesn't have to result in outright corruption to be troubling. The obvious question that arises is: Can government do its job with respect to regulating Google in the public interest if it owes the company such a debt of gratitude?" One interesting meeting The Intercept missed was a 2014 sit-down of Google and Microsoft execs with the head of the National Science Foundation and educators following a White House Hour of Code event, at which President Obama was 'taught to code' by Google-backed Code.org with Google-exec-turned-US-CTO Megan Smith looking on. Asked about the event in an interview, the President suggested the school system was to blame for his daughters not taking to coding the way he'd like. "I think they got started a little bit late," the President explained. "Part of what you want to do is introduce this with the ABCs and the colors." Less than a year later, the President sought to redress things with his Computer Science for All K-12 Initiative, citing Google-provided factoids ("Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children's schools") to explain the need for the $4B budget request for the program.

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Consumer Complaints About Broadband Caps Are Soaring

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 7:40am
Karl Bode, reporting for DSL Reports: Consumer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission about broadband data caps rose to 7,904 in the second half of 2015 from 863 in the first half, notes a new report by the Wall Street Journal. The Journal filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency to obtain the data on complaints, which have spiked as a growing number of fixed-line broadband providers apply caps and overage fees to already pricey connections. According to the Journal, the FCC has received 10,000 consumer complaints about data caps since 2015.

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North Korea Launches Missile From Submarine

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 6:40am
schwit1 shares breaking news from CNN: North Korea has fired what is believed to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said Saturday. The missile was fired at 6:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET), South Korean officials said, and appears to have flown for about 30 km (about 19 miles) -- well short of the 300 km (roughly 186 miles) that would be considered a successful test... Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test in January. It said it succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear warheads to fit on medium-range ballistic missiles -- which U.S. intelligence analysts say is probably true.

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First Successful Gene Therapy Against Human Aging?

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 6:01am
An anonymous reader writes: For the first time data may show that a human being has been successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy, claims Bioviva USA. "In September 2015, then 44 year-old CEO of Bioviva USA Inc. Elizabeth Parrish received two of her own company's experimental gene therapies: one to protect against loss of muscle mass with age, another to battle stem cell depletion responsible for diverse age-related diseases and infirmities." Bypassing America's FDA, the controversial therapies were described by the MIT Technology Review as "do-it-yourself medicine," saying it "raises ethical questions about how quickly such treatments should be tested in people and whether they ought to be developed outside the scrutiny of regulators." "The treatment was originally intended to demonstrate the safety of the latest generation of the therapies," reports Bioviva's web site. "But if early data is accurate, it is already the world's first successful example of telomere lengthening via gene therapy in a human individual."

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Windows Phone Free-Fall May Force Microsoft To Push Harder On Windows 10

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 5:01am
tripleevenfall quotes a report from PCWorld: Microsoft sold a minuscule 2.3 million Lumia phones last quarter, down from 8.6 million a year ago. Phone revenue declines will only "steepen" during the current quarter, chief financial officer Amy Hood warned during a conference call. That's dragged down Microsoft's results as a company, too. As the company's mobile device strategy continues to disintegrate, Microsoft may feel compelled to push harder on Windows 10 adoption and paid services to prove it can survive without a viable smartphone. CEO Satya Nadella's strategy is simple enough: grow Microsoft's revenues by convincing customers to adopt its paid subscription services.

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Facebook Might Finally Kill Clickbait With New Algorithm Tweaks

Sat, 04/23/2016 - 2:01am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Facebook is bringing two additional tweaks to its News Feed algorithm: time spent viewing and page post diversity. The former is an effort to weed out clickbait and bad content by attempting to quantify quality links. The change appears to be a mobile-first solution, as the announcement only states that Facebook will measure the time spent looking at Instant Articles or those within the mobile browser. Facebook also reports that users enjoy reading articles from a wide range of publishers, a revelation that led them to tweak the algorithm for greater diversity of page posts. In short, the idea is to reduce how often people see content back-to-back, or in short order, from the same page. For most pages, the content is spread out enough to where this shouldn't be much of a problem, but for those that post several updates in a few minutes, it could lead to some of the content not being seen.

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CERN Releases 300TB of Large Hadron Collider Data Into Open Access

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 10:35pm
An anonymous reader writes: The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, has released 300 terabytes of collider data to the public. "Once we've exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly," said Kati Lassila-Perini, a physicist who works on the Compact Muon Solenoid detector. "The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS's data preservation coordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data," she said in a news release accompanying the data. Much of the data is from 2011, and much of it is from protons colliding at 7 TeV (teraelectronvolts). The 300 terabytes of data includes both raw data from the detectors and "derived" datasets. CERN is providing tools to work with the data which is handy.

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Spy Chief Pressed For Number of Americans Ensnared In Data Espionage

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 5:29pm
An anonymous reader writes: Eight Democrats and six Republicans sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in an effort to estimate the number of Americans having their data collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "You have willingly shared information with us about the important and actionable intelligence obtained under these surveillance programs," wrote the lawmakers, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee. "Now we require your assistance in making a determination that the privacy protections in place are functioning as designed," the lawmakers wrote. Section 702 includes the Internet surveillance program Prism, which was leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden nearly three years ago, and is set to expire at the end of 2017. According to Reuters, "In their letter to Clapper, the lawmakers said officials have demonstrated the feasibility of providing an estimate and that any one-time privacy concerns were acceptable in light of the importance of the information." Congress has asked for an estimate several times, even before Snowden leaked top-secret information about the NSA.

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US Suicide Rate Surges To Highest Level In Almost Three Decades, Says Report

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 4:44pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The suicide rate in the U.S. has surged to its highest level in almost three decades, according to a new report from the CDC. There was no explanation for the rise but some experts have pointed to increased abuse of prescription opiates and the financial downturn that began in 2008 as likely factors. The report did not break down the suicides by education level or income, but previous studies found rising suicide rates among white people without university degrees. CDC reported on Friday that suicides have increased in the US to a rate of 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. The overall suicide rate rose by 24% from 1999 to 2014, according to the CDC. However, the rate increased 43% among white men ages 45 to 64 and 63% for women in the same age-range. In 2014, more than 14,000 middle-aged white people killed themselves. That figure is double the combined suicides total for all blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. The suicide rate only declined for only two groups: black men and all people over 75.

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Over 1 Million People Use Tor To Check Facebook Anonymously Each Month

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 3:59pm
An anonymous reader writes: More than one million people have used the Tor anonymizing browser to login to Facebook, according to Facebook. Facebook expanded its support for Tor earlier this year as it rolled-out support for the Android Orbot proxy, providing Android Facebook users easier access to use Tor. In October 2014, Facebook created a dedicated onion address for Tor access, once again, making it easier for users to connect via Tor. Tor said some 525,000 people accessed [Facebook] via Tor in June 2015, rising to more than one million this month. "This [Tor] growth is a reflection of the choices that people make to use Facebook over Tor, and the value that it provides them. We hope they will continue to provide feedback and help us keep improving," Facebook added. Users may use Tor to access Facebook because of the location obfuscation feature, as well as to ensure their identity doesn't leak to intermediaries -- such as ISPs or "an agency that surveils the Internet."

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