Geek Stuff

Opportunity Rover Sets Off-World Driving Record

Slashdot -

schwit1 writes: "With a drive of 157 feet on Sunday, the Mars rover Opportunity broke the Soviet record, set by Lunokhod 2 in 1973, for the longest distance traveled by a vehicle on another planet. "If the rover can continue to operate the distance of a marathon — 26.2 miles (about 42.2 kilometers) — it will approach the next major investigation site mission scientists have dubbed "Marathon Valley." Observations from spacecraft orbiting Mars suggest several clay minerals are exposed close together at this valley site, surrounded by steep slopes where the relationships among different layers may be evident. The Russian Lunokhod 2 rover, a successor to the first Lunokhod mission in 1970, landed on Earth's moon on Jan. 15, 1973, where it drove about 24.2 miles (39 kilometers) in less than five months, according to calculations recently made using images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) cameras that reveal Lunokhod 2's tracks."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








University of Michigan Solar Car Wins Fifth Straight National Title

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes For the fifth consecutive year, the solar car team from the University of Michigan has won the American Solar Car Challenge. The event is an eight-day, 1,700-mile race with a total of 23 participating teams. The Umich victory comes in spite of a 20-30 minute delay when they had problems with the motor at the very beginning of the race. "They made the time up when team strategists decided to push the car to the speed limit while the sun was shining bright, rather than hold back to conserve energy." Footage of the race and daily updates on the car's performance are available from the team's website, as are the specs of the car itself. Notably, the current iteration of the car weighs only 320 pounds, a full 200 pounds lighter than the previous version.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies Trailer Released

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: The first teaser trailer for the final installment of the Middle Earth saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, debuted at Comic-Con, and now Warner Bros have made it available online. While the trailer contains some nice shots on a visual level, very much in keeping with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, about 80% of the trailer's awesomeness is provided by the background music. Pippin's mournful song from Return of the King plays intercut with the doomed mission that Faramir leads on his father Denethor's orders.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Old Apache Code At Root of Android FakeID Mess

Slashdot -

chicksdaddy writes: A four-year-old vulnerability in an open source component that is a critical part of Android leaves hundreds of millions of mobile devices susceptible to silent malware infections. The vulnerability affects devices running Android versions 2.1 to 4.4 ("KitKat"), according to a statement released by Bluebox. The vulnerability was found in a package installer in affected versions of Android. The installer doesn't attempt to determine the authenticity of certificate chains that are used to vouch for new digital identity certificates. In short, Bluebox writes, "an identity can claim to be issued by another identity, and the Android cryptographic code will not verify the claim." The security implications of this are vast. Malicious actors could create a malicious mobile application with a digital identity certificate that claims to be issued by Adobe Systems. Once installed, vulnerable versions of Android will treat the application as if it was actually signed by Adobe and give it access to local resources, like the special webview plugin privilege, that can be used to sidestep security controls and virtual 'sandbox' environments that keep malicious programs from accessing sensitive data and other applications running on the Android device. The flaw appears to have been introduced to Android through an open source component, Apache Harmony. Google turned to Harmony as an alternative means of supporting Java in the absence of a deal with Oracle to license Java directly. Work on Harmony was discontinued in November, 2011. However, Google has continued using native Android libraries that are based on Harmony code. The vulnerability concerning certificate validation in the package installer module persisted even as the two codebases diverged.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








A National Consensus: Cell Phone Location Records Are Private

EFF's Deeplinks -

The Fourth Amendment protects us from “unreasonable” government searches of our persons, houses, papers and effects. How courts should determine what is and isn’t reasonable in our increasingly digital world is the subject of a new amicus brief we filed today in San Francisco federal court. 

At issue is historical cell site data—the records of the cell towers a customer’s cell phone connects to. The government has long maintained that it’s unreasonable for customers to expect those records to remain private. As a result, the government argues it does not need a search warrant to obtain historical cell site records from cell phone providers. 

Federal appeals courts are divided on the issue. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, ruled there was no expectation of privacy in historical cell site data. But last month, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Alabama, Florida and Georgia, reached the opposite conclusion, ruling people did have an expectation of privacy in this information. 

Federal magistrate judge Nathanael Cousins in San Francisco, who is not required to follow either the Fifth or Eleventh Circuit–he’s bound to follow the Ninth Circuit which hasn’t ruled on the issue yet–recently requested the local U.S. Attorney’s office to explain why the government believed it did not need a search warrant to obtain cell site records. He invited the San Francisco Federal Defender to file a response as well, and we filed an amicus brief supporting a warrant requirement. The ACLU of Northern California and University of San Francisco law professor Susan Freiwald also submitted amicus briefs.

A Fourth Amendment “search” is an intrusion upon something in which a person has a subjective expectation of privacy that society considers reasonable. By definition, determining whether a search is “reasonable” requires looking at what society considers to be deserving of privacy protection. So our amicus brief explains why many Americans actually expect this detailed and sensitive location information to remain private, even when it’s stored by phone companies. 

It’s clear that people consider location information—which can reveal who we associate with, our patterns of movement, and things like religion, sexual practices, and political affiliations—to remain private. If someone followed you everywhere you went for long stretches of time, you’d probably call the police. While some people may choose to broadcast their location publicly, by posting a picture or “checking in” on social media, for example, historical cell site information is very different. It may show you traveling to or from a doctor or somewhere else you’d like to keep private. 

But this isn’t just mere conjecture; the fact that a growing number of states are extending location privacy protection to their citizens is a gauge of societal understandings that it is reasonable to expect this information remain private. While the Fourth Amendment does not depend on state law or statutory guarantees, they are nonetheless compelling evidence of societal understandings of privacy. 

Many states protect location information. Police in HawaiiNew YorkOregon and Washington require police to use a search warrant to track a person’s movement with a GPS or other electronic tracking device. In 2012, five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognized in concurring opinions in United States v. Jones that people can expect information about their movements over an extended period of time, even on public streets, remain private. 

After JonesColoradoMaineMinnesotaMontana and Utah passed statutes requiring law enforcement use a search warrant to obtain historical cell site information. IndianaVirginia and Wisconsin passed laws requiring police to use a warrant if they want to track a cell phone in real time. The state high courts in Massachusetts and New Jersey ruled their respective state constitutions require police use a search warrant to obtain historical cell site records. All of this is compelling proof of Americans expectation their location information is private.

Our amicus brief also explains that the 35-year-old Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Maryland, which found a phone customer had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone numbers he dialed over three days, does not mean law enforcement can skirt the warrant requirement here. Our brief notes many states have rejected Smith, including California, who ruled just a few months after Smith was decided that because dialed phone numbers provide a “virtual current biography” about a person, there is an expectation of privacy in them under the state constitution. For the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, tasked with investigating crimes occurring in Northern California and likely involving suspects throughout the Golden State, to argue that there is no expectation of privacy in historical cell site records ignores the explicit promise California has made to its citizens that certain phone records are private. 

Last month, the Supreme Court in Riley v. California extended privacy protections to the contents of cell phones, settling a judicial split by prohibiting police from searching a cell phone incident to arrest. Although the court long ago ruled police could search items like a pack of cigarettes and other things that may be found on a person after they’d been arrested, the court noted that a cell phone was different, a technology that was “nearly inconceivable just a few decades ago.” One of the reasons the court believed a warrant was necessary was the ubiquity of the modern cell phone. In the past, police came across scraps of papers or diaries only sporadically. But today, 90 percent of Americans carry cell phones, the majority of which are Internet connected smartphones that contain text messages, pictures, videos, emails and other sensitive information. The court’s decision to ban searches of cell phone data incident to arrest was a response the privacy implications of technology changing the societal reality. 

Judge Cousins and other federal and state courts have an opportunity to follow the Supreme Court’s lead in Riley and ensure that the Fourth Amendment keeps up with accepted expectations of privacy in California and nationwide. As more courts and state legislatures across the country identify and establish privacy guarantees for this data, it has become clear that society recognizes that an expectation of privacy in cell site records is “reasonable.” The only thing that should now be considered unreasonable is the government’s attempt to get historical cell site data without a warrant.

Related Issues: PrivacyCell TrackingLocational PrivacyRelated Cases: In re Telephone Info
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35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

Slashdot -

New submitter meeotch writes: According to a new study by the Urban Institute, 35% of U.S. adults with a credit history (91% of the adult population of the U.S.) have debt "in collections" — a status generally not acquired until payments are at least 180 days past due. Debt problems seem to be worse in the South, with states hovering in the 40%+ range, while the Northeast has it better, at less than 30%. The study's authors claim their findings actually underrepresent low-income consumers, because "adults without a credit file are more likely to be financially disadvantaged." Oddly, only 5% of adults have debt 30-180 days past due. This latter fact is partially accounted for by the fact that a broader range of debt can enter "in collections" status than "past due" status (e.g. parking tickets)... But also perhaps demonstrates that as one falls far enough along the debt spiral, escape becomes impossible. Particularly in the case of high-interest debt such as credit cards — the issuers of which cluster in states such as South Dakota, following a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that found that states' usury laws did not apply to banks headquartered in other states. Even taking into account the folks who lost a parking ticket under their passenger seat, 35% is a pretty shocking number. Anyone have other theories why this number is so much higher than the 5% of people who are just "late"? How about some napkin math on the debt spiral?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








EA Tests Subscription Access To Game Catalog

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Electronic Arts has announced a new program called "EA Access," a subscription-based service that will grant Xbox One users access to a small catalog of EA's popular games, as well as early trials of upcoming games. They're beta testing the service now, and the available games are FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2, and Battlefield 4. (More titles will be added later.) They're charging $5 per month or $30 per year. It probably won't ever include their newest releases, but it's interesting to see such a major publisher experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription service.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Which Is Better, Adblock Or Adblock Plus?

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Wladimir Palant is the creator of the Adblock Plus browser extension, but he often gets asked how it compares to a similar extension for Chrome called Adblock. In the past, he's told people the two extensions achieve largely the same end, but in slightly different ways. However, recent changes to the Adblock project have him worried. "AdBlock covertly moved from an open development model towards hiding changes from its users. Users were neither informed about that decision nor the reasons behind it." He goes through the changelog and highlights some updates that call into question the integrity of Adblock. For example, from an update on June 6th: "Calling home functionality has been extended. It now sends user's locale in addition to the unique user ID, AdBlock version, operating system and whether Google Search ads are being allowed. Also, AdBlock will tell getadblock.com (or any other website if asked nicely) whether AdBlock has just been installed or has been used for a while — again, in addition to the unique user ID." Of course, Palant has skin in this game, and Adblock Plus has dealt with fallout from their "acceptable ads policy," but at least it's still developed in the open.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








A Look At the Firepick Delta Circuit Board Assembler (Video)

Slashdot -

From the Firepick website: 'We are developing a really cool robotic machine that is capable of assembling electronic circuit boards (it also 3D prints, and does some other stuff!). It uses a vacuum nozzle to pick really tiny resistors and computer chips up, and place them down very carefully on a printed circuit board.' There are lots of companies here and in China that will happily place and solder components on your printed circuit board, but hardly any that will do a one-off prototype or a small quantity. And the components have gotten small enough that this is really a job for a robot (or at least a Waldo), not human fingers. || There are obviously other devices on the market that do this, but Firepick Delta creator Neil Jansen says they are far too expensive for small companies, let alone individual makers. The Firepick Delta Hackaday page talks about a $300 price for this machine. That may be too optimistic, but even if it ends up costing two or three times that amount, that's still a huge step forward for small-time inventors and custom manufacturers who need to populate just a few circuit boards, not thousands. They have a Haxlr8r pitch video, and have been noticed by TechCrunch, 3DPrintBoard.com, and Adafruit, just to name a few. Kickstarter? Not yet. Maybe next year. Open source? Totally, complete with GitHub repository. And they were at OSCON 2014, which is where Timothy found them. (Alternate Video Link)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








seL4 Verified Microkernel Now Open Source

Slashdot -

Back in 2009, OKLabs/NICTA announced the first formally verified microkernel, seL4 (a member of the L4 family). Alas, it was proprietary software. Today, that's no longer the case: seL4 has been released under the GPLv2 (only, no "or later versions clause" unfortunately). An anonymous reader writes OSnews is reporting that the formally verified sel4 microkernel is now open source: "General Dynamics C4 Systems and NICTA are pleased to announce the open sourcing of seL4, the world's first operating-system kernel with an end-to-end proof of implementation correctness and security enforcement. It is still the world's most highly assured OS." Source is over at Github. It supports ARM and x86 (including the popular Beaglebone ARM board). If you have an x86 with the VT-x and Extended Page Table extensions you can even run Linux atop seL4 (and the seL4 website is served by Linux on seL4).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Lilbits (7-29-2014): Why the Vivaldi open source tablet failed

Liliputing -

Once upon a time a group of developers working on the open source KDE Plasma Active desktop environment for mobile devices figured it’d be cool if there was a tablet designed specifically to run the software. So they tried to find a device maker to offer truly open hardware with no proprietary components. It would […]

Lilbits (7-29-2014): Why the Vivaldi open source tablet failed is a post from: Liliputing

Enceladus's 101 Geysers Blast From Hidden Ocean

Slashdot -

astroengine writes: New observations from NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft have revealed at least 101 individual geysers erupting from Enceladus' crust and, through careful analysis, planetary scientists have uncovered their origin. From the cracked ice in this region, fissures blast out water vapor mixed with organic compounds as huge geysers. Associated with these geysers are surface "hotspots" but until now there has been some ambiguity as to whether the hotspots are creating the geysers or whether the geysers are creating the hotspots. "Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa," said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of one of the research papers. "It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots." And those roots point to a large subsurface source of liquid water — adding Enceladus as one of the few tantalizing destinations for future astrobiology missions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

Slashdot -

Nerval's Lobster writes: Over at Dice, there's a breakdown of the programming languages that could prove most popular over the next year or two, including Apple's Swift, JavaScript, CSS3, and PHP. But perhaps the most interesting entry on the list is Erlang, an older language invented in 1986 by engineers at Ericsson. It was originally intended to be used specifically for telecommunications needs, but has since evolved into a general-purpose language, and found a home in cloud-based, high-performance computing when concurrency is needed. "There aren't a lot of Erlang jobs out there," writes developer Jeff Cogswell. "However, if you do master it (and I mean master it, not just learn a bit about it), then you'll probably land a really good job. That's the trade-off: You'll have to devote a lot of energy into it. But if you do, the payoffs could be high." And while the rest of the featured languages are no-brainers with regard to popularity, it's an open question how long it might take Swift to become popular, given how hard Apple will push it as the language for developing on iOS.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Senate Bill Would Ban Most Bulk Surveillance

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Today Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill that would ban bulk collection of telephone records and internet data for U.S. citizens. This is a stronger version of the legislation that passed the U.S. House in May, and it has support from the executive branch as well. "The bill, called the USA Freedom Act, would prohibit the government from collecting all information from a particular service provider or a broad geographic area, such as a city or area code, according to a release from Leahy's office. It would expand government and company reporting to the public and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews NSA intelligence activities. Both House and Senate measures would keep information out of NSA computers, but the Senate bill would impose stricter limits on how much data the spy agency could seek."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Tesla and Panasonic Have Reached an Agreement On the Gigafactory

Slashdot -

cartechboy writes: Tesla's been pretty quiet regarding its upcoming gigafactory lately, but that's about to change. It seems the Silicon Valley startup has reached an agreement with Panasonic in regards to the gigafactory, and Panasonic's going to end up having skin in the game. While the electronics giant was originally skeptical of Tesla's battery factory, it now isn't just on board, it's actually going to participate in the construction of this new facility. It's reported that Panasonic will invest 20 billion to 30 billion yen (194 million to $291 million at current exchange rates), and supply fabrication machinery necessary for cell production. That means Pansonic could end up footing the bill for $1 billion of the total $5 billion anticipated investment required for the gigafactory to get off the ground. If things continue to move forward, the Gigafactory should be online by the end of 2017.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Epson Endeavor TB20S Windows tablet hits Japan

Liliputing -

Epson’s probably best known in the United States for its printers. But in Japan the company just launched a new 10 inch Windows 8 tablet called the Endeavor TB20S. It’s a relatively inexpensive tablet with a 1280 x 800 pixel display and an Intel Bay Trail processor. But it’s a bit more powerful than some entry-level […]

Epson Endeavor TB20S Windows tablet hits Japan is a post from: Liliputing

3-D Printing Comes To Amazon

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes Promising "an appstore for the physical world," Amazon has just unveiled their new online market for products created using a 3-D printer. "Customization gives customers the power to remix their world," explains the co-founder of Mixee Labs (an Amazon partner), "and we want to change the way people shop online." Amazon's ability to sell you things before they've even been built is currently limited mostly to novelties like iPhone cases, jewelry, and bobbleheads that look like you. But this could be the beginning of mainstream 3D printing.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








The New Senate USA FREEDOM Act: A First Step Towards Reforming Mass Surveillance

EFF's Deeplinks -

Earlier today, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a revised version of his USA FREEDOM legislation, the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014, which focuses on telephone record collection and FISA Court reform. While this bill is not a comprehensive solution to overbroad and unconstitutional surveillance, it is a strong first step. EFF urges Congress to support passage of the bill without any amendments that will weaken it

The new legislation contains a number of key changes from the gutted House version of USA FREEDOM:

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 will end bulk collection of phone records under Section 215

EFF, along with other groups, made it clear that we would not support any legislation that did not effectively end bulk collection of call detail records. The Senate version of USA FREEDOM achieves this goal, by limiting collection to instances where there is reasonable suspicion that a “specific selection term” is associated with international terrorism.  

The House version of USA FREEDOM used murky language around the phrase “specific selection term,” in particular, raising concerns that a “specific selection term” could include an entire zip code or other similarly broad terms. For purposes of collection of call detail records where there is reasonable suspicion, the Senate version continues to use the definition that a specific selection term is an “individual, account, or personal device.” However, for any other purpose, the term must narrowly limit the scope of a request for information, and cannot include a broad geographic region or an entire electronic communications service provider.

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 makes significant improvements to the FISA Court

The new USA FREEDOM makes two key changes to the secretive FISA Court process. First, we were pleased to see that it creates a special advocate position that will serve as an amicus in the court and is intended to advocate for civil liberties and privacy.

Second, it directs the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to declassify “significant” FISA Court opinions. We would have preferred that this process be overseen directly by the Attorney General, with input from the FISA Court itself.  On the other hand, the new USA FREEDOM bill actually defines “significant” (the original USA FREEDOM bill did not), and this definition includes any novel interpretation of “specific selection term.”  

The legislation also makes several other improvements.  When USA FREEDOM was originally introduced, we were concerned that it would codify “about” searches—the practice of searching for any communication that references a target, in addition to communications to and from a target. We were deeply concerned that this controversial practice would be written into law, and glad that the Senate version removes any reference to that form of searching.

The new legislation also has some small improvements to the initiation and judicial review procedure for national security letters—secretive FBI orders for data that are accompanied by gag orders—as well as pen register and trap-and-trace devices. The bill creates new reporting requirements for the government—including a requirement that the government estimate how many U.S. persons have been affected by backdoor warrantless searches of information collected under the authority of  Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. And finally, the bill creates a new option for companies to report on national security requests.

What the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 doesn't do

First and foremost, the USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 does not adequately address Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the problematic 2008 law that the government argues gives it the right to engage in mass Internet surveillance. We remain committed to reform of Section 702. We intend to pursue further reforms to end the NSA’s abuse of this authority.

The legislation also does not affect Executive Order 12333, which has been interpreted by the NSA to allow extensive spying both on foreigners and U.S. citizens abroad. Strictly speaking, we don’t need Congress to fix this—the President could do it himself—but legislation would ensure that a later President couldn’t reinstate 12333 on her or his own.

The legislation may not completely end suspicionless surveillance. With respect to call detail records, it allows the NSA to get a second set of records (a second “hop”) with an undefined “direct connection” to the first specific selection term.  Because the “direct connection” standard is vague, the government may seek to construe that phrase to mean less than reasonable suspicion.

Finally, as with all legislation up to this point, the new USA FREEDOM continues to exclude meaningful protections for the rights of non-U.S. persons.

A meaningful first step

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 is a real first step because it creates meaningful change to NSA surveillance right now, while paving the way for the public to get more information about what the NSA is doing. We believe that this legislation will help ensure that the NSA reform conversation in Congress continues, rather than shutting it down. That’s why we urge Congress to support the Senate version of USA FREEDOM and pass it without any changes that will weaken its provisions.  

Please help us pass this bill. Speak out today.

Related Issues: NSA SpyingPATRIOT ActPen Trap
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Hardkernel ODROID-W is a tiny, Raspberry Pi-compatible PC

Liliputing -

The Raspberry Pi is a cheap, small, low-power single-board computer that can run Linux-based software and which developers and hobbyists have used to create home media centers, handheld game consoles, robots, and more. But if the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi is too big for you, there’s a new game in town: The Hardkernel ODROID-W is […]

Hardkernel ODROID-W is a tiny, Raspberry Pi-compatible PC is a post from: Liliputing

Ask Slashdot: Open Hard- & Software Based Security Token?

Slashdot -

Qbertino (265505) writes I've been musing about a security setup to allow my coworkers/users access to files from the outside. I want security to be a little safer than pure key- or password-based SSH access, and some super-expensive RSA Token setup is out of question. I've been wondering whether there are any feasible and working FOSS and open hardware-based security token generator projects out there. It'd be best with ready-made server-side scripts/daemons. Perhaps something Arduino or Raspberry Pi based? Has anybody tried something like this? What are your experiences? What do you use? How would you attempt an open hardware FOSS solution to this problem?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








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