Geek Stuff

Microsoft To Acquire SwiftKey Predictive Keyboard Technology Company For $250M

Slashdot -

MojoKid writes: SwiftKey has been one of the more popular predictive keyboard offerings in the mobile space since it was first released in beta form on the Android market back in 2010. What made SwiftKey so appealing was its intelligent predictive texting technology. SwiftKey isn't a simple keyboard replacement. Rather, the software uses a combination of artificial intelligence technologies that give it the ability to learn usage patterns and predict the next word the user most likely intends to type. SwiftKey refines its predictions, learning over time by analyzing data from SMS, Facebook, and Twitter messages, then offering predictions based on the text being entered at the time. It is estimated that SwiftKey is installed on upwards of 500 million mobile devices. According to reports, Microsoft is apparently buying the UK-based company for a cool $250 Million. What Microsoft intends to do with SwiftKey is not clear just yet, but the company has been purchasing mobile apps at a good clip as of late.

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Journalist Claims Secret US Flight 'To Capture Snowden' Overflew Scottish Airspace

Slashdot -

schwit1 writes with a story in The National (a newspaper which makes no bones about it support for an independent Scotland) describing the charge laid by a Scottish journalist that in 2013 a secret U.S. flight involving a plane involved in CIA renditions crossed Scottish airspace, as part of a secret plan to capture whistleblower Edward Snowden. Alex Salmond, then Scotlandâ(TM)s First Minister, is calling for transparency with regard to the knowledge that the UK government had of the flight and its mission. According to the report, The plane, which passed above the Outer Hebrides, the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, was dispatched from the American east coast on June 24 2013, the day after Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow. The craft was used in controversial US 'rendition' missions. Reports by Scottish journalist Duncan Campbell claim the aircraft, traveling well above the standard aviation height at 45,000 feet and without a filed flight plan, was part of a mission to capture Snowden following his release of documents revealing mass surveillance by US and UK secret services. ... [N977GA, the aircraft named as involved in this flight] was previously identified by Dave Willis in Air Force Monthly as an aircraft used for CIA rendition flights of US prisoners. This included the extradition of cleric Abu Hamza from the UK. Snowden accused the Danish Government of conspiring in his arrest. In response to flight reports, he said: âoeRemember when the Prime Minister Rasmussen said Denmark shouldnâ(TM)t respect asylum law in my case? Turns out he had a secret.â

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Astro Pi: Mission Update 8 – ISS Deployment

Raspberry Pi -

Ed and Izzy

On Monday this week we released the first of four short cartoons that tell the story of the Astro Pi mission. Part 1 introduces Ed and Izzy, the two Astro Pi flight units that are up in space right now.

You may recognise the voice-over: it’s TV science presenter Fran Scott from Absolute Genius and How to be Epic. Thanks Fran!

The Story of Astro Pi (Part 1)

British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake has joined the crew of the International Space Station for Mission Principia – and two specially equipped and tested Raspberry Pi computers are there with him. Find out more at https://astro-pi.org/about/mission/. Narration by Fran Scott: http://franscott.co.uk/

The idea to anthropomorphise the Astro Pis came from Tim Peake himself. He was a fan of what ESA had done previously with Rosetta and Philae’s social media accounts, and felt that this would be a great way to involve young people in the mission.

Ed @astro_pi_vis and Izzy @astro_pi_ir have their own Twitter accounts and will be tweeting about what they’re doing over the coming weeks. They’re named after the real-life friendship between Sir Isaac Newton (Izzy) and Edmond Halley (Ed) which resulted in the publication of the famous 17th-century physics book, Principia Mathematica, after which Tim’s mission is named.

Deployment

On the 4th of January Tim unpacked Ed and took this amazing picture in the Columbus module of the ISS. You can download the original from Tim’s Flickr account.

Tim Peake on Twitter

Look what turned up today…nearly time to start running your code in space! @astro_pi @Raspberry_Pi pic.twitter.com/Dmdjev2BPh

The Astro Pis were originally scheduled to be powered up on the 11th of January; however, it was postponed due to the spacewalks they recently undertook, which rightly take priority over anything educational.

It gives us great pleasure to announce that yesterday Ed was successfully deployed by Tim. He’s powered up and is now running the student experiments that won the 2015 Astro Pi competition.

Ed on Twitter

@astro_timpeake Running Crew Detector code from @cranmerefriends @rdhayler @codeclub

It takes several days to get images back from the ISS because they have to be screened by ESA and NASA for crew privacy reasons. So keep an eye on Tim’s social media accounts over the next few days for pictures of Ed online and working!

Ed is running most of the experiments, but the others will be run by Izzy who will be deployed in the Harmony node of the ISS on February 15th. Izzy needs to look through a hatch window, as she’ll be taking infrared pictures of the Earth – there are no windows in Columbus.

If you enjoy watching the ISS Live Stream you may be able to spot them from time to time!

Flight Data Analysis

Once Ed and Izzy have finished running their student experiments, they will each begin a long-term ISS environmental monitoring experiment that you can all take part in.

They’ll enter a flight recorder mode where they save sensor readings to their own databases every ten seconds. Because the sensor readings are taken so often, there will be masses of data to search through, so we need your help to look through the data and find out what was going on. There could be strange, unexplained things, or just the normal day-to-day activities of the astronauts.

Check out the resource for this below. The data will not be available for several weeks yet, but there is some sample data here for you to practice with.

Astro Pi Flight Data Analysis | Raspberry Pi Learning Resources

Do strange, unexplained things happen on the International Space Station? With this resource you can help us find out. The Astro Pis will be watching… The two Astro Pi flight computers on board the ISS are programmed to run the competition-winning programs as part of an automatic sequence.

New Coding Challenge

It also gives us great pleasure to announce two new coding challenges, where the prize is to have your code uploaded and run by Ed or Izzy in space!

That’s right – your code in space!

The first requires you to write Python Sense HAT code to turn Ed and Izzy into an MP3 player, so that Tim can plug in his headphones and listen to music. The second requires you to code Sonic Pi music for Tim to listen to via the MP3 player. You may enter both challenges if you wish.

Head over to the Astro Pi website now, where you’ll find out everything you need to know.

Coding Challenges – Astro Pi

We are pleased to announce that, from today (03/02/2016), we are running a new set of coding challenges for the Astro Pi mission. There are currently two challenges on offer. What do I have to do? To take part you’ll need to pick a challenge from the list below, read through what’s required, and then …

The post Astro Pi: Mission Update 8 – ISS Deployment appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Homemade Speed Trap Made By Former UVA CS Professor

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Irritated by speeders in his neighborhood and frustrated with the City of Charlottesville's inability or unwillingness to enforce the speed limit, a former professor in the Computer Science department of the University of Virginia created a program in openCV to track vehicle speed on his residential neighborhood street: "You'll find that almost 85 percent of the cars going by are violators [of the neighborhood's 25mph limit]". This includes a city bus doing 34mph.

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Shopping Mall SMS Parking Notifications Could Be Used To Track Any Car

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Bismillah writes: Westfield's Scentre Group has removed SMS notifications for its ticketless parking system after it was discovered they could be used to track other people's cars unnoticed. The system allows you to enter any licence plate, which in turn will be scanned upon entry and exit at mall parking facilities — and when the free parking time is up, a notification message is sent to the mobile phone number entered, with the exact location of the car.

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Trade Officials Sign the TPP But It's Still Up to Lawmakers to Reject It

EFF's Deeplinks -

Top officials of countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are convening in New Zealand today to sign the final agreement. But really this ceremony is just a formality. We knew since November, from the day they announced a completed deal and made the text public shortly thereafter, that they would do this. These officials have not been accountable to the public. They have remained steadfast in excluding public participation and ignoring all calls for transparency over the more than five years of TPP negotiations. Because of this opaque process, trade negotiators were able to fill the agreement with Hollywood and Big Tech's wish lists of regulatory policies without having to worry about how they would impact the Internet or people's rights over their digital devices.

But for the TPP to actually go into force, countries need to ratify it. Each of the twelve TPP countries have differing procedures for doing this, but in the U.S., both houses of Congress needs to vote up or down on the agreement. Due to both political reasons and the terms of stipulated by the TPP,1 the agreement cannot go into force without the United States' ratification. That's why it's so critical that people in the U.S. demand congressional accountability over this deal and urge their lawmakers to vote no when the TPP comes before them for approval.

The U.S. Congress is not likely to vote on the TPP implementing legislation (aka ratification) until after the International Trade Commission (ITC) comes out with its report about the agreement's economic impacts in mid-May. At some point after that, the President will submit the implementing legislation to lawmakers. Once that happens, the House has 60 days from the bill's introduction to hold a vote on it and the Senate gets another 30 days, so 90 days in total, to approve or reject it. This second timeline will only begin when the White House is confident that it has the votes lined up for its approval. That's why it's critical to apply constant pressure on lawmakers so that they will turn a cold shoulder to the Executive's plan to pass the TPP.

Absolute Threats to Rights with Questionable Benefits to the Economy

While trade leaders tout the signature of the agreement today, the TPP continues to attract international criticism. From Geneva, UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas published a statement yesterday condemning the entire deal, saying that the "TPP is fundamentally flawed and should not be signed or ratified" unless it guarantees the right of states to enact regulations in the name of protecting the public interest. He also stressed that the countries involved must reaffirm their international human rights obligations while carrying out the provisions of the agreement. Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa has been writing about the agreement every weekday since the new year, highlighting all various Troubles with the TPP—including the lack of balance in the Intellectual Property chapter, its ban on circumventing digital locks on devices and content, and the different ways the deal could undermine users' online privacy.

Even the economic benefits of the TPP are being hotly contested. Researchers at Tufts University released a report on Monday that found the agreement would lead to losses in employment and increased economic inequality. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Peterson Institute for International Economics published last week supported the White House's claims that it would increase incomes and economic growth in the United States. These reports could influence the outcome of the ITC's examination of the TPP, and in turn, impact congressional support or disapproval for the deal.

There's disagreement about the impacts of the substantive contents of the deal, but there is one thing for certain. The TPP negotiations were held behind closed doors with heavy influence from a limited subset of stakeholders. This meant members of the broader public, including small businesses, entrepreneurs, and other underrepresented industries, were largely excluded. So given this fact, it is pretty unconvincing that the TPP could truly reflect the concerns of all the diverse stakeholders in the economy, many of whom may not be politically influential now, but may be on the frontiers of driving innovation forward in the decades to come.

What's important to remember too is that economic growth is not the only factor by which we should measure the value or necessity of proposed laws and regulations. The TPP may lead to the growth of national economies by some percentage points, but is all that matters? Of course not. Things like the right to repair, modify, and recycle our own devices matters. The ability to talk about, criticize, take apart, and reuse creative works that is new or otherwise relevant, matters. It matters whether or not culture remains locked up by the law for so long that decades of it becomes underutilized, or worse, literally disappears without ever getting preserved.

All of these and other considerations matter, and yet the impact the TPP will have on them was never taken into account, nor will they ever be measured or discussed. This is why this agreement is such a betrayal of democracy, of everyone whose concerns were not privileged in these negotiations. We have to make sure Congress understands this—and they only will if they hear it from U.S. folks, their constituents.

  • 1. The TPP will enter into force either 60 days after all original signatories ratify it or, if that doesn't happen within two years, in April 2018 if at least six of the 12 countries accounting for 85 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the original signatories have ratified the agreement.

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Ask Slashdot: How Can We Improve Slashdot?

Slashdot -

Hi all. Most of you are already aware that Slashdot was sold by DHI Group last week, and I very much enjoyed answering questions and reading feedback in the comments of that announcement story. There's no doubt that the Slashdot community is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and prolific communities on the web. I wanted to use this opportunity to get a discussion going on how we can improve Slashdot moving forward. I am not talking about a full re-design that will detract from the original spirit of Slashdot, but rather: user experience, bug fixes, and feature improvements that are requested from actual /. users. We appreciated many of your suggestions in the story announcing the sale, and I have taken note of those suggestions. This story will serve as a more master list for feature requests and improvement suggestions. We welcome any and all suggestions. Some ideas mentioned in the sale story were, in no particular order: Unicode support, direct messaging, increased cap on comment scores, put more weight on firehose voting to determine which stories make the front page, reduced time required between comments, and many more. We'd love a chance to discuss these suggestions and feature improvements and pros and cons here before we bring them back to our team for implementation.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How Uber Profits Even When Its Drivers Aren't Earning Money

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tedlistens writes: Jay Cassano spoke to Uber drivers about "dead miles" and what work means when your boss is an algorithm, and considers a new frontier of labor concerns and big data. "Uber is the closest thing to an employer we've ever seen in this industry," Bhairavi Desai, founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told him. "They not only direct every aspect of a driver's workday, they also profit off the entire day through data collection, not just the 'sale of a product.'"

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Severe and Unpatched eBay Vulnerability Allows Attackers To Distribute Malware

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An anonymous reader writes: Check Point researchers have discovered a severe vulnerability in eBay's online sales platform, which allows criminals to distribute malware and do phishing campaigns. This vulnerability allows attackers to bypass eBay's code validation and control the vulnerable code remotely, to execute malicious Javascript code on targeted eBay users.

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Magic Leap Raises $794 Million To Accelerate Adoption of Secretive AR Tech

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An anonymous reader writes: A massive new $794 million Series C investment in secretive AR startup Magic Leap puts the company among the world's most valuable startups, now reportedly valued at $4.5 billion. The company has aggressively teased what they believe to be revolutionary augmented reality display technology, allowing a mixture of the real and virtual dimensions in a way previously not achieved. Although they've played coy to the public, offering little more than bold claims, investors like Alibaba, Google Ventures, and Qualcomm Ventures have bought into the company's vision to the tune of $1.39 billion in total raised by Magic Leap thus far. Also at Network World, which notes that their demo must be amazing.

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EU Proposes End of Anonymity For Bitcoin and Prepaid Card Users

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An anonymous reader writes: In June the European Commission will propose new legislation to effectively end the possibility of anonymous payment, by forcing users of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, and of prepaid credit cards, to provide identity details. Additionally the EC intends to propose monitoring inter-bank transfers within Europe, a measure which had not been implemented with the launch of the EU-US Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme (TFTP). Though the proposed measures are intended to heap new pressure on the financing of terrorism, a report from Interpol last week concluded that terrorist funding methods have not changed substantially in recent years, stating 'Despite third party reporting suggesting the use of anonymous currencies like Bitcoin by terrorists to finance their activities, this has not been confirmed by law enforcement.'

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Alcatel OneTouch Idol 4 and Idol 4S coming soon (leaks)

Liliputing -

The 2015 Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 smartphones was pretty well received due to strong specs and a reasonably low price tag of $250. Now the company is apparently getting ready to launch the Idol 4 and Idol 4S smartphones, and while there are no details about the price tags for thew phones yet, the phones […]

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 4 and Idol 4S coming soon (leaks) is a post from: Liliputing

Barracuda Copy Shutting Down

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New submitter assaf07 writes: I received a notification [Monday] that Barracuda's excellent online storage option Copy will be shuttting down in May. A blog post by Rod Matthews, VP of Storage at Barracuda gives the usual business doublespeak excuse. Having used Google's Drive, Box, Dropbox, and Spideroak, I am very disappointed to lose Copy as its native Linux, Android, IOS, and Windows clients are/were wonderful.

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UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill: Loopholes Within Loopholes Will Lead to Unbridled Surveillance

EFF's Deeplinks -

The House of Commons Science and Tech Committee has published its report on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, influenced by comments submitted by 50 individuals, companies, and organizations, including EFF. The report is the first of three investigations by different Parliamentary committees. While it was intended to concentrate on the technological and business ramifications of the bill, their conclusions reflect the key concern of lawmakers, companies, and human rights groups about the bill’s dangerously vague wording.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, as written, is so vague as to permit a vast range of surveillance actions, with profoundly insufficient oversight or insight into what Britain’s intelligence, military and police intend to do with their powers. It is, in effect, a carefully-crafted loophole wide enough to drive all of existing mass surveillance practice through. Or, in the words of Richard Clayton, Director of the Cambridge Cloud Cybercrime Centre at the University of Cambridge, in his submissions to the committee: “the present bill forbids almost nothing ... and hides radical new capabilities behind pages of obscuring detail.”

The bill is 192 pages long, excluding over 60 pages of explanatory notes. Our comments to the committee focused on just one aspect of the bill, what they call “equipment interference.” Despite our emphasis on just one small part of the bill, our analysis revealed multiple ambiguities and broad new powers that would allow the security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the armed forces, to target electronic equipment such as computers and smartphones in order to obtain data, including communications content. The bill also provides for the UK government to compel companies and individuals to comply with its surveillance demands, including those located outside Britain, and to bar companies from revealing that they were the subject of such demands. As the committee says in its conclusions, “We believe the industry case regarding public fear about ‘equipment interference’ is well founded.”

The bill also includes a new mandate for data retention whose breadth is similarly ambiguous. Terms like “internet connection records,” “telecommunications service,” “relevant communications data,” “communications content,” “technical feasibility,” and “reasonable practicable” were all criticized in the report for their vague and overbroad use. The government’s excuse is that it wants to create a “future-proof” bill, but loose language is bad for businesses trying to understand what obligations they are under. And it’s certainly bad for civil liberties when governments exploit those ambiguities to obtain or hold onto new powers.

The details of these definitions and safeguards surrounding them should not be punted into secondary legislation. As the committee notes, a disturbing degree of detail about the Investigatory Powers Bill is deferred to future “Codes of Practice.” We’ve been down this road before in the UK. IPB’s predecessor, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) also placed its devilish details into future statutory instruments, which were often slipped past Parliamentarians with little warning or debate. The result was years of expansion of RIPA powers, to the point where powers originally intended for the intelligence services were delegated to over four hundred public bodies. Even the head of MI5, Lady Manningham-Buller, who lobbied for the RIPA powers, was shocked by the eventual overreach:

I can remember being astonished to read that organizations such as the Milk Marketing Board, and whatever the equivalent is for eggs, would have access to some of the techniques. On the principle governing the use of intrusive techniques which invade people's privacy, there should be clarity in the law as to what is permitted and they should be used only in cases where the threat justified them and their use was proportionate.

This is why, as the committee says, “it is essential that this timetable does not slip and that the Codes of Practice are indeed published alongside the Bill so they can be fully scrutinized and debated.”

We would go further: EFF believes that a productive discussion around the Investigatory Powers Bill can only begin once all the cards are on the table. The UK government needs to answer all the questions raised by the committee, including those currently postponed to Codes of Practice, and embed those answers in a revised bill, which can then be more seriously considered, or it's destined for a future of abuse followed by dismantlement in the courts.

The series of successful challenges in the UK and EU against previous surveillance law and practice shows that vague and unbounded language cannot survive a serious challenge in the courts. If the UK government wants its surveillance rules to stand the test of time, it needs to build them on a firm foundation of clarity, necessity, and proportionality.


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Morgan, Maker of Classic Handmade Sports Cars, Is Going Electric

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Ars Technica reports that Morgan, idiosyncratic maker of idiosyncratic cars, is about to make a move that might seem surprising, in light of the company's tradition of conservative design. "Yes," says the article, "you'll be able to buy a wood-framed electric car in 2019." From the article: The Morgan Motor Companyâ"best known for still using postwar styling and wooden body frames for some of its carsâ"will have a full hybrid and electric range within the next three years. The British car maker is going to invest $8.6 million (£6 million) to develop hybrid and electric powertrains for all the models in its range by 2019, working in conjunction with Delta Motorsport and Potenza technology.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Socat Weak Crypto Draws Suspicions Of a Backdoor

Slashdot -

msm1267 writes: Socat is the latest open source tool to come under suspicion that it is backdoored. A security advisory published Monday warned that the OpenSSL address implementation in Socat contains a hard-coded Diffie-Hellman 1024-bit prime number that was not prime. "The effective cryptographic strength of a key exchange using these parameters was weaker than the one one could get by using a prime p," the advisory said. "Moreover, since there is no indication of how these parameters were chosen, the existence of a trapdoor that makes possible for an eavesdropper to recover the shared secret from a key exchange that uses them cannot be ruled out." Socat said it has generated a new prime that is 2048 bits long; versions 1.7.3.0 and 2.0.0-b8 are affected. The advisory adds that a temporary workaround would be to disable the Diffie-Hellman ciphers.

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Perfect Coin-Toss Record Broke 6 Clinton-Sanders Deadlocks In Iowa

Slashdot -

schwit1 writes: While it was hard to call a winner between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders last night, it's easy to say who was luckier. The race between the Democrat presidential hopefuls was so tight in the Iowa caucus Monday that in at least six precincts, the decision on awarding a county delegate came down to a coin toss. And Clinton won all six, media reports said.

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Would you buy a virtual reality device from Nintendo?

Liliputing -

Nintendo is “looking into virtual reality” again… about 20 years after launching the ill-fated Virtual Boy. During an investor briefing, Nintendo officials mentioned they’re looking at VR, according to game consultant @serkantoto. In 1995, Nintendo was ahead of its time in terms of virtual reality. The Virtual Boy console allowed users to play games in stereoscopic 3D. […]

Would you buy a virtual reality device from Nintendo? is a post from: Liliputing

Utility Targets Bitcoin Miners With Power Rate Hike

Slashdot -

1sockchuck writes: A public utility in Washington state wants to raise rates for high-density power users, citing a flood of requests for electricity to power bitcoin mining operations. Chelan County has some of the cheapest power in the nation, supported by hydroelectric generation from dams along the Columbia River. That got the attention of bitcoin miners, prompting requests to provision 220 megawatts of additional power. After a one-year moratorium, the Chelan utility now wants to raise rates for high density users (more than 250kW per square foot) from 3 cents to 5 cents per kilowatt hour. Bitcoin businesses say the rate hike is discriminatory. But Chelan officials cite the transient nature of the bitcoin business as a risk to recovering their costs for provisioning new power capacity.

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