Geek Stuff

Newfound Bacteria Expand Tree of Life

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: It used to be that to find new forms of life, all you had to do was take a walk in the woods. Now it's not so simple. The most conspicuous organisms have long since been cataloged and fixed on the tree of life, and the ones that remain undiscovered don't give themselves up easily. You could spend all day by the same watering hole with the best scientific instruments and come up with nothing. Maybe it's not surprising, then, that when discoveries do occur, they sometimes come in torrents. Find a different way of looking, and novel forms of life appear everywhere. A team of microbiologists based at the University of California, Berkeley, recently figured out one such new way of detecting life. At a stroke, their work expanded the number of known types — or phyla — of bacteria by nearly 50 percent, a dramatic change that indicates just how many forms of life on earth have escaped our notice so far.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Windows 10 Launches

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Today Microsoft officially released Windows 10 in 190 countries as a free upgrade for anyone with Windows 7 or later. Major features include Continuum (which brings back the start menu and lets you switch between a keyboard/mouse UI and a touch UI without forcing you into one or the other), the Cortana digital assistant, the Edge browser, virtual desktops, DirectX 12 support, universal apps, an Xbox app, and security improvements. Reviews of the operating system generally consider it an improvement over Windows 8.1, despite launch-day bugs. Peter Bright writes, "Windows 8 felt unfinished, but it was an unfinished thought. ... Windows 10 feels unfinished, but in a different way. The concept of the operating system is a great deal better than its predecessor. It's better in fact than all of its predecessors. ... For all my gripes, it's the right idea, and it's implemented in more or less the right way. But I think it's also buggier than Windows 8.1, 8, 7, or Vista were on their respective launch days." Tom Warren draws similar conclusions: "During my testing on a variety of hardware, I've run into a lot of bugs and issues — even with the version that will be released to consumers on launch day. ... Everything about Windows 10 feels like a new approach for Microsoft, and I'm confident these early bugs and issues will be addressed fairly quickly."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US Military Stepping Up Use of Directed Energy Weapons

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: At a conference on Tuesday, U.S. officials explained that all branches of the military would be increasing their use of lasers and other directed energy weapons. Lieutenant General William Etter said, "Directed energy brings the dawn of an entirely new era in defense." The Navy's laser deployment test has gone well, and they're working on a new prototype laser in the 100-150 kilowatt range. "[Navy Secretary Ray] Mabus said Iran and other countries were already using lasers to target ships and commercial airliners, and the U.S. military needed to accelerate often cumbersome acquisition processes to ensure that it stayed ahead of potential foes."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

MPEG LA Announces Call For DASH Patents

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: The MPEG LA has announced a call for patents essential to the Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (or DASH) standard. According to the MPEG LA's press release, "Market adoption of DASH technology standards has increased to the point where the market would benefit from the availability of a convenient nondiscriminatory, nonexclusive worldwide one-stop patent pool license." The newly formed MPEG-DASH patent pool's licensing program will allegedly offer the market "efficient access to this important technology."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Bike computer for the myopic

Raspberry Pi -

We found this video titled “Build a better bike computer” at IEEE Spectrum. Gordon, Pi Towers’ resident pro bike racer and mountain bike nutcase (ask him to show you his X-rays some time) demurs: he says (I quote): “That’s big and stupid”. Gordon also shaves his legs, and says that he wants to fill his bike frame with helium; his cycling needs are the needs of the few.

The rest of us rather liked this Kindle bike hack.

This build uses the Kindle as a display – but, rather than sending information straight to the display, publishes speed, distance, and navigation data to a webpage, which the Kindle’s experimental browser then reads on the hoof  fly wheel. Thanks are due to David Schneider, the mind behind; David, please ignore Gordon. He’s a curmudgeon.

The post Bike computer for the myopic appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Trekstor MiniPC W1 is a tiny, fanless Windows PC

Liliputing -

German company Trekstor manufactures a line PC accessories including hard drives and flash drives as well as a few other gadgets such as MP3 players and portable speakers. Now the company is getting into the mini PC space. TrekStor already offers a line of Windows tablets, but the company’s most recent computer takes the guts […]

Trekstor MiniPC W1 is a tiny, fanless Windows PC is a post from: Liliputing

A Computer Umpires Its First Pro Baseball Game

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Baseball has long been regarded as a "game of inches." Among the major professional sports it arguably requires the greatest amount of precision — a few extra RPMs can turn a decent curveball into an unhittable one, and a single degree's difference in the arc of a bat swing can change a lazy popup into a home run. As sensor technology has improved, it's been odd to see how pro baseball leagues have made great efforts to keep it away from the sport. Even if you aren't a fan of the game, you're probably familiar with the cultural meme of an umpire blowing a key call and altering the course of the game. Thus, it's significant that for the first time ever, sensors and a computer have called balls and strikes for a professional game. In a minor league game between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Vallejo Admirals, a three-camera system tracked the baseball's exact position as it crossed home plate, and a computer judged whether it was in the strike zone or not. The game went without incident, and it provided valuable data in a real-life example. The pitch-tracking system still has bugs to work out, though. Dan Brooks, founder of a site that tracks ball/strike accuracy for real umpires, said that for the new system to be implemented permanently, fans must be "willing to accept a much smaller amount of inexplicable error in exchange for a larger amount of explicable error."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Week of Action Opposing CISA: Over 400,000 Faxes Sent At Halfway Point

EFF's Deeplinks -

We're halfway through our Week of Action opposing the privacy-invasive "cybersecurity" bill CISA. This is the fifth time in as many years that Congress is trying to pass an information-sharing bill. The Week of Action aims to stop a rumored vote on the bill before Congress leaves for a 5-week vacation on August 7. We're only three days in and over 400,000 faxes have been sent to the Senate opposing CISA. Join us now in the Week of Action.

Today we'll be hosting a Reddit AMA starting at 10am ET/7am PT diving deeper into why this zombie bill must be stopped. 

CISA Must be Stopped 

CISA is a "cybersecurity" bill aimed at granting companies immunity for sharing information about "cybersecurity threats"—which could include personal information—with the government. Unfortunately, the bill's broad immunity clausesvague definitions, and aggressive spying powers combine to make the bill a surveillance bill in disguise. The provisions are ripe for abuse and allow for companies to share completely unrelated personal information directly with intelligence agencies like the NSA.

What's worse is that CISA isn’t likely to improve users' computer security. The bill's sponsors—Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein— are painting the bill as a way to stop corporate and government data breaches. But many of the breaches they point to are due to unencrypted files, poor computer architecture, un-updated servers, and employees (or contractors) who clicked malware links.  Information sharing won't cure these failings. 

The bill also includes a countermeasures provision that creates additional dangers for everyday users. The provision authorizes companies to launch "defensive measures" protecting any "information system" (defined as either hardware or software) from any perceived threat, including threats from "anomalous patterns of communications." The standard grants wide latitude for potentially egregious attacks against unwitting users who don’t know their machines are part of a botnet. While the bill prohibits measures that cause “substantial harm,” we don’t know what “substantial” means—leaving open the possibility that companies will launch countermeasures causing significant (but not “substantial”) harm.

All of the information being shared and collected is kept away from public scrutiny because the bill contains exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Combined with the broad legal immunity, the FOIA exemptions ensure the public is kept in the dark about what companies are sharing and how the law is operating. 

The Week of Action 

That's why we're asking you to join us in our Week of Action to stop CISA. Here’s how to help:

  1. Visit the Stop Cyber Spying coalition website where you can email and fax your Senators and tell them to vote no on CISA.
  2. Use a new tool developed by Fight for the Future to fax your lawmakers from the Internet. We want to make sure they get the message.
  3. Check out our AMA on Reddit on Wednesday July 29 at 10am ET/7am PT with EFF, Access, Fight for the Future, and the ACLU and let your friends know about it.
  4. Help us spread the word. After you’ve taken action, tweet out why CISA must be stopped with the hashtag #StopCISA. Use the hashtag #FaxBigBrother if you want to automatically send a fax to your Senator opposing CISA. If you have a blog, join us by publishing a blog post this week about why you oppose CISA, and help us spread the word about the action tools at For detailed analysis you can check out this blog post and this chart.

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UK Campaign Wants 18-Year-Olds To Be Able To Delete Embarrassing Online Past

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: People should be allowed to delete embarrassing social media posts when they reach adulthood, UK internet rights campaigners are urging. The iRights coalition has set out five rights which young people should expect online, including being able to easily edit or delete content they have created, and to know who is holding or profiting from their information. Highlighting how campaigners believe adults should not have to bear the shame of past immaturity, iRights also wants children to be protected from illegal or distressing pages; to be digitally literate; and be able to make informed and conscious choices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

EFF and ACLU of Southern California Urge California Supreme Court to Grant Review in Automated License Plate Reader Case

EFF's Deeplinks -

EFF and the ACLU of Southern California urged the California Supreme Court to review our lawsuit seeking access to a week’s worth of automated license plate data collected by the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s Departments. The California Court of Appeal last spring sided with the agencies and ruled that these data—gathered on about three million vehicles in Los Angeles every week—could be withheld as “records of law enforcement investigations.”

This case has significant precedential impact, setting a troubling standard allowing police to keep these records and details of its surveillance of ordinary, law-abiding citizens from ever being scrutinized. The appeals court ruling may apply not only to records collected with license plate cameras, but to data collected using other forms of automatic and indiscriminate surveillance systems, from body cameras and dash cameras to public surveillance cameras and drones. Without access to these records, we can’t ensure police accountability.

Our case started in 2012 when we submitted public records requests to the Los Angeles law enforcement agencies asking for data collected by the hundreds of Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) cameras mounted on patrol cars and at fixed locations around the city and county of Los Angeles. ALPRs automatically take a picture of all license plates that come into view and record the time, date, and location where the vehicle was photographed. Because the agencies store the data for two to five years, they have been able to collect a massive amount of sensitive location-based information on mostly innocent Los Angeles residents—likely as many as a half billion data points.

When the agencies refused to turn over the data, we partnered with the ACLU of Southern California—which had filed its own ALPR-related requests—to file suit in Los Angeles Superior Court. We argued the public needed access to the data to learn more about this government-funded program and to properly assess the scope of the privacy risk inherent in such a massive data collection system.

The agencies refused to turn over the records, claiming they could withhold the millions of license plate data points as “records of law enforcement investigations,” which are exempt from public review under the California Public Records Act. Incredibly, they argued that all drivers in Los Angeles are under criminal investigation at all times—whether or not the police suspect them of being involved in any criminal activity. The ACLU has estimated that as many as 99.8% of the vehicles photographed by ALPR cameras are never linked to any ongoing criminal investigation or vehicle registration issue—these drivers are innocent. Unfortunately, both the trial court and the court of appeal agreed with the agencies.

No case in California has ever before held that this kind of automatic, indiscriminate and untargeted collection of data on the public by the police constitutes an “investigation”—or that data collected through this kind of surveillance regime are “records” of a police investigation. And such a ruling appears contrary to the California Constitution, which not only mandates that the public has a constitutional right to government records but also requires that statutes and other authorities, such as the law involved in our case, “shall be broadly construed if they further the people’s right of access, and narrowly construed if they limit the right of access.”

Law enforcement organizations have already cited the court of appeal’s opinion in another case, trying to prevent public access to patrol car dash camera videos of a fatal police shooting. And law enforcement agencies, both in California and across the U.S. are trying to prevent the public from accessing footage collected with body cameras. It would be ironic if video from cameras adopted to increase transparency and police accountability could be kept from the public. If the Court of Appeal’s decision in our case is allowed to stand, it could do just that.

We hope the California Supreme Court will recognize the importance of this case, grant review, and reverse the lower court ruling to shine a light on this massive surveillance program. We expect to hear from the court in the next few weeks.

Litigation Documents

California Court of Appeal Opinion in License Plate Reader Case

EFF & ACLU of Southern California Petition for California Supreme Court Review

Exhibits in support of EFF & ACLU's Petition to the California Supreme Court

Los Angeles Agencies' Answer to California Supreme Court Petition for review

EFF & ACLU's Reply in Support of Petition for California Supreme Court Review

Exhibit in support of EFF/ACLU Reply in California Supreme Court

An amazing group of amici filed letters in support of our petition with the California Supreme Court:

Reporters Committee Amicus Letter in support of EFF/ACLU Petition for California Supreme Court Review

On behalf of:

-  Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

-  Californians Aware

-  California Newspaper Publishers Association

-  Los Angeles Times Communications

-  McClatchy Company

Media Organizations and Michael Robertson Amicus Letter in support of EFF/ACLU Petition for California Supreme Court Review

On behalf of:

-  Sacramento Valley Mirror

-  Lake County News

-  Ferndale Enterprise,

-  People's Vanguard of Davis

-  Woodland Record

-  Rio Dell Times

-  LION Publishing Group

-  Michael Robertson (petitioner in Robertson v. the San Diego Regional Planning Agency (SANDAG), another case seeking access to ALPR data)

EPIC Amicus Letter in support of EFF/ACLU Petition for California Supreme Court Review

Related Issues: PrivacyLocational PrivacyTransparencyRelated Cases: Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR)
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NVIDIA Tegra X1 Performance Exceeds Intel Bay Trail SoCs, AMD AM1 APUs

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An anonymous reader writes: A NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV modified to run Ubuntu Linux is providing interesting data on how NVIDIA's latest "Tegra X1" 64-bit ARM big.LITTLE SoC compares to various Intel/AMD/MIPS systems of varying form factors. Tegra X1 benchmarks on Ubuntu show strong performance with the X1 SoC in this $200 Android TV device, beating out low-power Intel Atom/Celeron Bay Trail SoCs, AMD AM1 APUs, and in some workloads is even getting close to an Intel Core i3 "Broadwell" NUC. The Tegra X1 features Maxwell "GM20B" graphics and the total power consumption is less than 10 Watts.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Nokia’s first Virtual Reality device is a professional camera

Liliputing -

The rumors that Nokia was planning to launch a Virtual Reality product were true. But the Finnish company isn’t producing a headset that you can use to watch interactive videos or play games. Instead, the company’s first VR device is a camera called Ozo. It can capture 360 degree video and audio to help create virtual […]

Nokia’s first Virtual Reality device is a professional camera is a post from: Liliputing

Honeywell Home Controllers Open To Any Hacker Who Can Find Them Online

Slashdot -

Trailrunner7 writes: Security issues continue to crop up within the so-called "smart home." A pair of vulnerabilities have been reported for the Tuxedo Touch controller made by Honeywell, a device that's designed to allow users to control home systems such as security, climate control, lighting, and others. The controller, of course, is accessible from the Internet. Researcher Maxim Rupp discovered that the vulnerabilities could allow an attacker to take arbitrary actions, including unlocking doors or modifying the climate controls in the house.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Secret TPP Talks Continue at a Luxury Hotel in Hawaii as the Deal Grows More Controversial

EFF's Deeplinks -

Trade ministers are meeting behind closed-doors at the Westin Resort and Spa in Maui this week to finalize the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is the first formal round of talks since the U.S. passed the controversial Fast Track trade legislation in June, which has given U.S. negotiators a renewed sense of determination as they continue to push TPP's corporate-driven mandate on intellectual property and digital regulations. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) seeks to wrap up talks by the end of the week. According to recent reports, the U.S. is still pushing for copyright terms of life plus 70 years, excessive financial damages for infringements, along with a host of other harmful provisions.

Despite officials' confidence that a final deal could emerge the next few days, this round of talks has been steeped in controversy. A report from last week revealed how the amount of corporate lobbying money that was spent on influencing trade policy surged in the last few months. Health organizations have sounded the alarm over the TPP's patent provisions that would make make medicines more expensive and inaccessible for millions of people, and yet the USTR seems to continue to demand more expansive patent provisions nonetheless.

More horrifying was the news on the State Department's annual human trafficking and slavery report. The final Fast Track legislation included a provision that prohibited trade agreements with countries failing to take any action to prevent human trafficking and slavery. Malaysia has been listed for several years as a country known to turn a blind eye to human trafficking, and of course, is a party to the TPP. So in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to sidestep the law's requirement, the White House seemed to have pressured the State Department to modify Malaysia's ranking and therefore clear the way for the TPP to go on the Fast Track to ratification.

Now as the negotiations march ahead in Hawaii, some public interest representatives have gone there to try to do anything they can to get the worst provisions out of the TPP. The USTR continues to exclude them from any of the formal and informal meetings it has with lobbyists. According to one civil society representative, the USTR organized a special briefing for U.S. stakeholders, but only invited industry groups to attend. Despite this continued disregard for public interest concerns, together we are continuing to mount an offensive against the deal's destructive intellectual property provisions.

In addition to our ongoing work to show how the TPP undermines users rights, our main focus is on getting excessive copyright terms thrown out of the final deal. That's why we've created a petition urging the U.S. Copyright Office to affirm its call for sensible copyright term reforms and urge the USTR to strongly reconsider its proposal in the TPP that would lock the U.S. to its current, lengthy copyright terms.

If you're in the U.S. take action by signing our petition now.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceTrade Agreements and Digital RightsTrans-Pacific Partnership AgreementTPP's Copyright Trap
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Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need?

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Advertising Companies Accused of Deliberately Slowing Page-load Times For Profit

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: An industry insider has told Business Insider of his conviction that ad-serving companies deliberately prolong the 'auctioning' process for ad spots when a web-page loads. They do this to maximize revenue by allowing automated 'late-comers' to participate beyond the 100ms limit placed on the decision-making process. The unnamed source, a principal engineer at a global news company (whose identity and credentials were confirmed by Business Insider), concluded with the comment: "My entire team of devs and testers mostly used Adblock when developing sites, just because it was so painful otherwise." Publishers use 'daisy-chaining' to solicit bids from the most profitable placement providers down to the 'B-list' placements, and the longer the process is run, the more likely that the web-page will be shown with profitable advertising in place.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ethiopia Promises Reform, But Has a Long Way To Go on Civil Liberties

EFF's Deeplinks -

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn praised the value of the press in his remarks after a state visit with Barack Obama, saying "as far as Ethiopia is concerned, we need journalists.” But almost in the same breath, he called for limits on free expression, suggesting Ethiopia’s domestic journalists work with violent terrorist groups

His comments are reflective of the country’s long-established record of human rights abuse and violation of the right to free expression in Ethiopia, including the prosecution and arrest of journalists on terrorism charges, the issuing of criminal charges for pursuing Internet security training, and the use of invasive spyware to surveil individuals they allege are associated with opposition political groups. 

When US President Barack Obama announced his state visit to Ethiopia this week, the first by a sitting President, things boded well for the possibility of change: US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes promised human rights would be squarely on the agenda, saying “We’ve seen too much intimidation, and even imprisonment of journalists, and the need for a viable space for civil society and political opposition in the country.” Ethiopia also took promising steps by releasing five members of the Zone 9 blogging collective along with journalist Reeyot Alemu in the weeks leading up to the visit.

But Desalegn’s remarks reveal the country still has a long way to go to improve its record on civil liberties. Though Obama referred to the government as “democratically elected,” Ethiopia is currently ranked 142 on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, and “Not Free” on Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom in the World, Freedom of the Press and 2014 Freedom of the Net reports.

Obama himself emphasized in the press conference the need for democratic reform in Ethiopia, particularly around the issue of free expression: “In a global economy that’s increasingly driven by technology and the Internet, continued growth in Ethiopia depends on the free flow of information and open exchanges of ideas. I believe that when all voices are being heard, when people know that they’re included in the political process, that makes a country stronger and more successful and more innovative. So we discussed steps that Ethiopia can take to show progress on promoting good governance, protecting human rights, fundamental freedoms, and strengthening democracy.”

Prime Minister Desalegn asserted Ethiopia plans to reform, saying “My government has expressed its commitment to deepen the democratic process already underway in the country, and work towards the respect of human rights and improving governance.”

To bolster its position, there are several things the Ethiopian government can do right away to improve its human rights record:

  • Immediately free all journalists in prison, including the remaining Zone 9 bloggers, and relieve them of all charges for the “crime” of reporting the news.
  • End the prosecution of individuals for pursuing security training and using encryption technologies, and free Zelalem Workagegnehu, Yonatan Wolde, Abraham Solomon, and Bahiru Degu.
  • Cease and desist from using invasive surveillance technologies like FinFisher and Hacking Team’s Remote Control System to spy on Ethiopian journalists, diaspora, and opposition groups.

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