Geek Stuff

Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality

Slashdot -

mpicpp (3454017) writes "The 'kill switch,' a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group. All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Code Quality: Open Source vs. Proprietary

Slashdot -

just_another_sean sends this followup to yesterday's discussion about the quality of open source code compared to proprietary code. Every year, Coverity scans large quantities of code and evaluates it for defects. They've just released their latest report, and the findings were good news for open source. From the article: "The report details the analysis of 750 million lines of open source software code through the Coverity Scan service and commercial usage of the Coverity Development Testing Platform, the largest sample size that the report has studied to date. A few key points: Open source code quality surpasses proprietary code quality in C/C++ projects. Linux continues to be a benchmark for open source quality. C/C++ developers fixed more high-impact defects. Analysis found that developers contributing to open source Java projects are not fixing as many high-impact defects as developers contributing to open source C/C++ projects."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left?

Slashdot -

guises writes: "A recent story discussing the cover of Byte Magazine reminded me of just how much we've lost with the death of print media. The Internet isn't what took down Byte, but a lot of other really excellent publications have fallen by the wayside as a result of the shift away from the printed page. We're not quite there yet, though. There seem to still be some holdouts, so I'm asking Slashdot: what magazines (or zines, or newsletters, or newspapers) are still hanging around that are worth subscribing to?"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Armenian Bill Threatens Online Anonymity

EFF's Deeplinks -

In Armenia, online anonymity could be a luxury of the past if a bill that is currently before the Armenian parliament is passed.  The bill would make it illegal for media outlets to publish defamatory content by anonymous or fake sources.  Additionally, under this bill, sites that host libelous comments that are posted anonymously or under a pseudonym would be required to remove such content within 12 hours unless an author is identified.

Edmon Marukyan, one of the bill’s drafters, explained the goal of the bill saying, “You can remain incognito as much as you like. Write your posts, but if they end up in the media, then someone has to bear responsibility.” Thus this bill was drafted in an effort to hold a party accountable if and when the dissemination of defamatory material on public websites occurs.  However, the need for Armenian legislators to target media outlets and hold them responsible for this type of commentary greatly infringes upon the right to freedom of expression and association.  Marukyan believes that sites “bear responsibility” for users' comments, but said “the purpose of the bill was to clarify liability, not curb expression.”  Unfortunately, the bill would most certainly curb expression—stifling the commentary of those who would no longer feel secure posting on a medium that would require them to reveal their true self.

Holding a public electronic site liable for its users’ commentary is risky, as displayed in a legal analysis of the Armenian bill published in March 2014 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE raises concerns with the bill, mainly criticizing it for its excessively broad scope, vague definitions, and general lack of clarity.  The OSCE proposes that Armenia, though not a member state of the European Union (and thus not legally bound to EU law), look to European law and other directives as a guide for determining whether the bill upholds the right to freedom of expression as outlined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Legislation that is noted in the OSCE’s legal analysis includes Directive 95/46/EC (Directive on Data Protection), “a reference text, at European level, on the protection of personal data."

Furthermore, the OSCE notes that since Armenia is a member state of the United Nations, it is obligated to uphold the civil and political rights of individuals outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)—an international treaty aimed at preserving the right to freedom of expression, amongst other liberties. Additionally, the legal analysis points to the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (the 13 Principles) as another guide for the Armenian parliament to use when determining whether or not the proposed bill is consistent with human rights law.  

The OSCE writes that if the bill is passed, it’s “likely to discourage Internet operators from carrying out business in the Republic of Armenia, since the risk of being charged with liability for defamation is apparently doomed to increase.”  It would be devastating if certain online platforms that were once available for anonymous users to post and exercise their basic human right to freedom of expression were suddenly inaccessible.

Stay tuned for updates on the bill and click here to read the Legal Analysis of Draft Amendments to the Civil Code of the Republic of Armenia in its entirety.

Related Issues: Free SpeechAnonymity
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Samsung to launch Tizen phones this year, but Android remains key

Liliputing -

Samsung hopes to ship the first two smartphones running the Tizen operating system this year. The company has been one of the key backers of the Linux-based operating system (as is Intel), and the Samsung Gear 2 line of smartwatches already run a version of Tizen. But despite years of development, no company has brought […]

Samsung to launch Tizen phones this year, but Android remains key is a post from: Liliputing

Steam's Most Popular Games

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes "The folks at Ars Technica scraped a ton of gameplay data from Steam's player profiles to provide statistics on how many people own each game, and how often it's played. For example: 37% of the ~781 million games owned by Steam users have never been played. Dota 2 has been played by almost 26 million people for a total of 3.8 billion hours. Players of CoD: Modern Warfare 2 spend six times as long in multiplayer as in single-player. This sampling gives much more precise data than we usually have about game sales rates. 'If there's one big takeaway from looking at the entirety of our Steam sales and player data, it's that a few huge ultra-hits are driving the majority of Steam usage. The vast majority of titles form a "long tail" of relative crumbs. Out of about 2,750 titles we've tracked using our sampling method, the top 110 sellers represent about half of the individual games registered to Steam accounts. That's about four percent of the distinct titles, each of which has sold 1.38 million copies or more. This represents about 50 percent of the registered sales on the service. ... about half of the estimated 18.5 billion man-hours that have been spent across all Steam games have gone toward just the six most popular titles.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Lenovo doubles down on Flex with the Flex 2 laptops

Liliputing -

Lenovo’s Flex line of laptops are notebooks with screens that can rotate 300 degrees until they face away from the keyboard instead of toward it. While the company’s Yoga devices feature 360 degree hinges that let you use the systems like tablets, Flex models are more like convertible laptops that you can use as an […]

Lenovo doubles down on Flex with the Flex 2 laptops is a post from: Liliputing

'Thermoelectrics' Could One Day Power Cars

Slashdot -

sciencehabit writes: "Fossil fuels power modern society by generating heat, but much of that heat is wasted. Researchers have tried to reclaim some of it with semiconductor devices called thermoelectrics, which convert the heat into power. But they remain too inefficient and expensive to be useful beyond a handful of niche applications. Now, scientists in Illinois report that they have used a cheap, well-known material to create the most heat-hungry thermoelectric so far (abstract). In the process, the researchers say, they learned valuable lessons that could push the materials to the efficiencies needed for widespread applications. If that happens, thermoelectrics could one day power cars and scavenge energy from myriad engines, boilers, and electrical plants."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Survey: 56 Percent of US Developers Expect To Become Millionaires

Slashdot -

msmoriarty writes: "According to a recent survey of 1,000 U.S.-based software developers, 56 percent expect to become millionaires in their lifetime. 66 percent also said they expect to get raises in the next year, despite the current state of the economy. Note that some of the other findings of the study (scroll to bulleted list) seem overly positive: 84 percent said they believe they are paid what they're worth, 95 percent report they feel they are 'one of the most valued employees at their organization,' and 80 percent said that 'outsourcing has been a positive factor in the quality of work at their organization.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Google redesigns Android camera app, puts it in the Play Store

Liliputing -

Google has given the stock camera app for Android a makeover with a new user interface and a few new features. Google Camera is now available as a standalone app from the Google Play Store for the first time. That lets users update the app without updating their entire operating system — and allows Google […]

Google redesigns Android camera app, puts it in the Play Store is a post from: Liliputing

Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes "Here's another story of a tech gadget that arrived before its time. Nokia created a web-ready tablet running EPOC (later to be renamed as Symbian) thirteen years ago. The tablet was set to go into full production, and they actually built a thousand units just before it was canceled. The tablet was scrubbed because market research showed there wasn't demand for the device. The team got devices for themselves and the rest were destroyed. The team was then fired. The lesson: Don't try to be pioneer if you're relying on market research studies."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








In the One-sided Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, It's Hard to Get The Whole Story

EFF's Deeplinks -

While most courts in the United States are adversarial—each party presents its side and a jury, or occasionally a judge, makes a decision—in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), only the government presents its case to a judge. While typically two opposing sides work under public review to make sure all the facts are brought to light, in the FISC the system relies on a heightened duty of candor for the government. As is illustrated all too well by recent developments in our First Unitarian v. NSA case, this one-sided court system is fundamentally unfair.

In March, after we learned that the government intended to destroy records of Section 215 bulk collection relevant to our NSA cases, we filed for a temporary restraining order in the federal court in San Francisco. We also filed a motion to correct the record with the FISC, since it was a FISC order requiring the destruction of bulk metadata after five years that was at issue.

Following the emergency hearing on our motion, the San Francisco federal court ordered the government to preserve the evidence. On the same day that the federal court issued its order, the FISC issued its own strongly worded order in which it granted our motion and mandated the government to make a filing with the FISC explaining exactly why it had failed to notify the Court about relevant information regarding preservation orders in two related cases, Jewel and Shubert. This omission influenced the FISC's decision on the government's request for relief, and the FISC was not happy about it.

On April 2, the DOJ made its filing. The government's statements in this document deserve close attention because they illustrate in high-definition the failures of the FISC's one-sided system.

The response essentially says that in hindsight, it is clear to the government why the FISC would have wanted to know about the Jewel and Shubert orders. But the government's filings show that it unilaterally decided it was right about its interpretation of the legal theories in these cases. In so doing, it failed to live up to the heightened duty of candor present in ex parte proceedings by failing to inform the FISC that this was disputed. In essence, the government narrowly interpreted the causes of action in the Jewel complaint, excluding the Section 215 surveillance purportedly authorized by the FISC, and thereby narrowing the evidence it would preserve. By making a decision about what facts were relevant, the DOJ attorneys elevated themselves into the role of a judge.

The government apologized to the FISC for its omission, but it also continues to inaccurately portray the controversy over the legal theories our cases. In fact, the DOJ uses this filing to again present their interpretation of the disagreement over the scope of the cases, failing to mention the various arguments we have made on that issue before Judge White in San Francisco. The DOJ calls our view "recently-expressed," attempting to create the impression that the DOJ had no idea that there was any controversy until 2014.  They neglect to mention that we wrote in a 2010 brief that the "government defendants' assertion that 'plaintiffs do not challenge surveillance authorized by the FISA Court' ... misconceives both plaintiffs' complaint and the role of the district court ...."

If this had been a normal court proceeding, each side would present their position in the most favorable light, and the judge would decide who is right. In the FISC, however, this balanced system breaks down. This one-sided system allows for no accountability except in the rare circumstance where the affected parties can raise the issue with the court. Indeed, in most cases, the arguments and the decision are kept secret, and no one can second-guess the government. 

This is why we continue to urge Congress to change the laws governing how FISC operates. At a minimum, significant court decisions must be made public, and a privacy advocate should be a part of the process. These improvements won't bring the same kind of balance that can come with an adversarial system, but could at least deliver a semblance of fairness to the process.

 

Related Issues: NSA SpyingRelated Cases: Jewel v. NSAFirst Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
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Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

Slashdot -

SpankiMonki sends this news from The Guardian: "Children are arriving at nursery school able to 'swipe a screen' but lack the manipulative skills to play with building blocks, teachers have warned. They fear that children are being given tablets to use 'as a replacement for contact time with the parent' and say such habits are hindering progress at school. Addressing the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Colin Kinney said excessive use of technology damages concentration and causes behavioural problems such as irritability and a lack of control."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








LG plans to produce its own chips for smart devices

Liliputing -

LG Electronics produces everything from washing machines to laptops. But up until now, the company’s relied on outside sources for a key component of its smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices such as televisions and smartwatches. Now the Korea Herald reports LG plans to begin building its own processors. LG will design the chips and […]

LG plans to produce its own chips for smart devices is a post from: Liliputing

Intel Pushes Into Tablet Market, Pushes Away From Microsoft

Slashdot -

jfruh (300774) writes "The Wintel cartel appears to be well and truly dead, as Intel chases after ARM with grim determination into the rapidly growing world of Android tablets. 'Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace,' the company's CEO said, a nice way of saying they see more potential growth from white-box Chinese tablet makers than from Microsoft Surface. Intel managed to ship 5 million tablet chips in the first quarter of the year, although plunging PC sales meant that company profit overall was still down."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Astronomers Solve Puzzle of the Mountains That Fell From Space

Slashdot -

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Iapetus, Saturn's third largest moon, was first photographed by the Cassini spacecraft on 31 December 2004. The images created something of a stir. Clearly visible was a narrow, steep ridge of mountains that stretch almost halfway around the moon's equator. The question that has since puzzled astronomers is how this mountain range got there. Now evidence is mounting that this mountain range is not the result of tectonic or volcanic activity, like mountain ranges on other planets. Instead, astronomers are increasingly convinced that this mountain range fell from space. The latest evidence is a study of the shape of the mountains using 3-D images generated from Cassini data. They show that the angle of the mountainsides is close to the angle of repose, that's the greatest angle that a granular material can form before it landslides. That's not proof but it certainly consistent with this exotic formation theory. So how might this have happened? Astronomers think that early in its life, Iapetus must have been hit by another moon, sending huge volumes of ejecta into orbit. Some of this condensed into a new moon that escaped into space. However, the rest formed an unstable ring that gradually spiraled in towards the moon, eventually depositing the material in a narrow ridge around the equator. Cassini's next encounter with Iapetus will be in 2015 which should give astronomers another chance to study the strangest mountain range in the Solar System."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Deals of the Day (4-16-2014)

Liliputing -

In the market for a thin and light laptop with a full HD touchscreen display, an Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, a 16GB SSD, 500GB hard drive, and 4GB of RAM? Best Buy is knocking $100 off the list price of an Asus Zenbook UX302LA and selling it for $900. Not cheap enough for you? […]

Deals of the Day (4-16-2014) is a post from: Liliputing

Lavabit Loses Contempt Appeal

Slashdot -

After being forced to turn over encryption keys (being held in contempt of court for several weeks after initially refusing to comply), secure mail provider Lavabit halted all operations last year. With the assistance of the EFF, an appeal was mounted. Today, the appeals court affirmed the district court decision and rejected the appeal. From Techdirt: "The ruling does a decent job explaining the history of the case, which also details some of the (many, many) procedural mistakes that Lavabit made along the way, which made it a lot less likely it would succeed here. ... The procedural oddities effectively preclude the court even bothering with the much bigger and important question of whether or not a basic pen register demand requires a company to give up its private keys. The hail mary attempt in the case was to argue that because the underlying issues are of 'immense public concern' (and they are) that the court should ignore the procedural mistakes. The court flatly rejects that notion: 'exhuming forfeited arguments when they involve matters of “public concern” would present practical difficulties. For one thing, identifying cases of a “public concern” and “non-public concern” –- divorced from any other consideration –- is a tricky task governed by no objective standards..... For another thing, if an issue is of public concern, that concern is likely more reason to avoid deciding it from a less-than-fully litigated record....'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Microsoft Brings Office Online To Chrome OS; Ars Reviews Windows Phone 8.1

Slashdot -

SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "While we are still waiting for the official Windows 8.1 touch-enabled apps to get launched on the Windows Store, Microsoft went and decided that it's time to finally bring the Office online apps to the Chrome Web Store, instead. Thus, Microsoft is making the Web versions of its Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote apps available to users through the Chrome Web Store and also improving all of them with new features, along with several bug fixes and performance improvements." More on the Microsoft front: an anonymous reader wrote in with a link to Ars Technica's review of the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release: "It is a major platform update even if it is just a .1 release. Updates include the debut of Cortana, using the same kernel as Windows 8.1 and the Xbox One, a notebook reminder app, inner circle friend management, IE 11, Nokia's camera app by default, lock screen and background customizations, a much improved email client with calendar support, more general Windows 8.1 API inclusion for better portability, and a notification center. Ars rated it more of a Windows Phone 9 release than .1 update."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








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