Geek Stuff

White House Releases Report On How To Spur Smart-Gun Technology

Slashdot -

Lucas123 writes: A report commissioned by the White House involving the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments has begun a process to define, for the first time, the requirements that manufacturers would need to meet for federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies to consider purchasing firearms with "smart" safety technology. They've committed to completing that process by October, and will also identify agencies interested in taking part in a pilot program to develop the smart gun technology. The DoD will help manufacturers test smart guns under "real-world conditions" at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Manufacturers would be eligible to win cash prizes through that program as well. In addition to spurring the adoption of smart gun technology, the report stated that the Social Security Administration has published a proposed rule that would require individuals prohibited from buying a gun due to mental health issues to be included in a background check system.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US Steel Says China Is Using Cyber Stealth To Steal Its Secrets

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An anonymous reader writes: U.S. Steel Corp. filed a trade complaint with the International Trade Commission: "The Chinese industry has formed a cartel that sets purchase and sale prices, and controls production and export volumes to target export markets. The Chinese industry has used its government to steal U.S. Steel's closely guarded trade secrets and uses those trade secrets to produce advanced steel products it could not make on its own." The steelmaker based in Pittsburgh argues its Chinese rivals must be investigated and that they will "use every tool available to fight for fair trade." The ITC has 30 days to review the complaint and determine whether or not it's worth investigating. In the meantime, China's Commerce Ministry said the complaints "have no factual basis," urging the ITC to reject U.S. Steel's case. The investigation will likely take a while if the ITC decides to proceed with an investigation, as they'll be dealing with three separate issues: price fixing, false labeling to avoid duties, and theft of trade secrets.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Devuan Releases Beta of Systemd-Free 'Debian Fork' Base System

Slashdot -

jaromil writes: Devuan beta is released today, following up the Debian fork declaration and progress made during the past two years. Devuan now provides an alternative upgrade path to Debian, and switching is easy from both Wheezy and Jessie. From The Register: "Devuan came into being after a rebellion by a self-described 'Veteran Unix Admin collective' argued that Debian had betrayed its roots and was becoming too desktop-oriented. The item to which they objected most vigorously was the inclusion of the systemd bootloader. The rebels therefore decided to fork Debian and 'preserve Init freedom.' The group renamed itself and its distribution 'Devuan' and got work, promising a fork that looked, felt, and quacked like Debian in all regards other than imposing systemd as the default Init option."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Billionaire Investor Carl Icahn Sells Entire Stake In Apple

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An anonymous reader writes: Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn said he has sold his entire stake in Apple, citing the risk of China's influence on the stock. The report comes after Apple announced its first earnings decline in more than a decade, where Apple's revenue is dropping 26% year-over-year. Icahn is concerned with the barriers to trade that China's authoritarian regime might put in place. Icahn said he wasn't concerned with interference so much with the country's "relationship" with Apple. "The thing that I'm worried about here in China doesn't affect the whole market. I'm not talking about China's economic status right now. I'm talking about, could the thing with Apple escalate a little bit? And if that does, what does that mean to Apple's profits during the interim?" Icahn acquired a stake in the company almost three years ago, calling the investment a "no brainer." What caused him to sell his 45.8 million Apple shares (priced at $240 a share) was China's economic slowdown and worries about how China could become more prohibitive in doing business.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Files Patent For Injecting A Device Directly Into Your Eyeball

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: It's no secret Google and their parent company Alphabet are interested in developing smart contact lenses for monitoring diabetes. Well, Google-parent Alphabet has filed a patent which takes their development to another level. The patent specifically covers a method for "injecting a fluid into a lens capsule of an eye, wherein a natural lens of the eye has been removed from the lens capsule." It's powered by "radio frequency energy" received by a small antenna inside. The gadget even has its own data storage. Forbes reports, it is designed to help the focusing of light onto the retina, resulting in the correction of poor vision. Samsung is one of the most recent companies to receive a patent for smart contact lenses. Their lenses are for experimenting with new methods of delivering augmented reality interfaces and data.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cable Industry Threatens To Sue If FCC Tries To Bring Competition To Cable Set Top Boxes

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: Back in February the FCC voted on a new plan to open up the traditional cable box to competition. According to a fact sheet being circulated by the agency (pdf), under the FCC's plan you'd still pay your cable company for the exact same content, cable operators would simply have to design systems -- using standards and copy protection of their choice -- that delivered this content to third-party hardware. The FCC's goal is cheaper, better hardware and a shift away from the insular gatekeeper model the cable box has long protected. Given this would obliterate a $21 billion captive market in set top box rental fees -- and likely direct consumers to more third-party streaming services -- the cable industry has been engaged in an utterly adorable new hissy fit. And now, the industry is also threatening a lawsuit. Former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell is arguing that the FCC has once again overstepped its regulatory authority: "An agency of limited jurisdiction has to act properly within that jurisdiction," Powell said, making it abundantly clear the NCTA does not believe the FCC has not done so in this case. He said that the statute empowers the FCC to create competition in navigation devices, not new services. "Every problem does not empower an FCC-directed solution. The agency is not an agency with unbridled plenary power to roam around markets and decide to go fix inconveniences everywhere they find them irrespective of the bounds of their authority."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Reports: Intel is killing off low-power Atom chips

Liliputing -

Intel recently announced plans to layoff 11 percent of its workforce as the company shifts its focus from PCs to the cloud… now we’re starting to get an idea of what that will mean for the company’s line of chips for personal computers: the low-power, entry-level Atom chip family is dead.

More specifically, Forbes reports that Intel is cancelling plans to launch next-gen Atom chips based on the previously announced SoFIA and Broxton technology.

Continue reading Reports: Intel is killing off low-power Atom chips at Liliputing.

Rovi Acquires DVR Company TiVo For $1.1 Billion

Slashdot -

Major Blud writes: TiVo, maker of one of the first consumer DVR's, has been purchased by IP powerhouse Rovi (formerly known as Macrovision) for $1.1 Billion. The combined company will go by the TiVo name. According to USA Today, "Shares of Rovi (ROVI) were up 3.7% to $17.99 in premarket trading. TiVo (TIVO) shares closed Thursday up 2% to $9.42." The combined company will reportedly hold more than 6,000 patents related to TV and video technology. Both Robi and TiVo represent a $3 billion entertainment technology company, with saving synergies of $100 million expected over the first year, the companies said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mississippi Attorney General Withdraws Burdensome Subpoena, but Google Continues to Fight

EFF's Deeplinks -

Last week, after over a year of fighting in court, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood withdrew a burdensome, 79-page investigatory subpoena issued to Google back in October 2014. Documents from the 2014 Sony hack implied the subpoena was part of a Hollywood plot against the search giant, with the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) pushing the Attorney General to aggressively investigate and smear the company.

Last year, a federal district court issued an injunction prohibiting Hood from enforcing the subpoena. Although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the injunction last month on the ground that Hood had not yet moved to enforce the subpoena (and because he did not have statutory authority to enforce the subpoena without asking for court’s help), the court made it clear that the subpoena was “expansively” written and presented a serious threat of violating both the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).

Hood seems to have taken note. According to Google’s most recent filing, Hood withdrew the subpoena by letter on April 22, 2016. Hood, however, indicated that Google was still under a “litigation hold”—essentially meaning that Google could be in trouble if it didn’t hold on to the documents that are the subject of the subpoena. (And given the incredible breadth of the subpoena, that’s a lot of documents.)

Unsurprisingly then, Google isn’t done fighting. The company has asked for a rehearing before the Fifth Circuit panel. 

We are happy to see Google continuing to fight against this attempted abuse of a power by a state government official. Hood’s subpoena is replete with speculative, non-specific allegations, and it appeared to be based primarily on allegedly unlawful activities of third parties who use Google’s services. Holding a service provider like Google liable for this information would be a direct violation of Section 230, which is intended to encourage the development of new communication technologies by shielding intermediaries from liability based on third-party content. The subpoena also threatens to violate the First Amendment, which protects both the right of service providers to exercise editorial control over the third party content they host and the right of Internet uses to receive and engage with such information online.

We support an injunction against Hood in this case. We told the Fifth Circuit as much in an amicus brief back in August 2015. As we argued in our brief, allowing this this type of abuse of investigatory powers by state officials would set a dangerous precedent. An injunction is necessary to send a message that courts will not tolerate such abusive use of a state official’s investigatory subpoena power. It’s an important message to send, because not all companies will have the resources to fight back against such abuses of power. 

Thanks to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), Public Knowledge (PK), and R Street Institute for joining our amicus brief.

Related Cases: Google v. Hood
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Intel Cuts Atom Chips, Basically Giving Up On Smartphone and Tablet Market

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Intel, the marquee PC chipmaker, has long struggled to get a foothold in the smartphone market. The company, which was late in joining the mobile platform, is still playing catchup with Qualcomm and MediaTek. And it appears it's finally giving up on this ambition. The company is "immediately canceling" Atom chips, code-named Sofia and Broxton, for mobile devices, reports PCWorld, citing a company's spokesperson. The publication reports:Intel's mobile chip roadmap now has a giant hole after the cancellation of the chips. Intel's existing smartphone and tablet-only chips are aging and due for upgrades, and no major replacements are in sight. Sofia is already shipping, and Broxton was due to ship this year but had been delayed. Intel is also discontinuing its Atom X5 line of tablet chips code-named Cherry Trail, which is being replaced by Pentium and Celeron chips code-named Apollo Lake, aimed more at hybrids than pure tablets. Many PC makers are already choosing Intel's Skylake Core M processors over Cherry Trail for hybrids and PC-like tablets.The announcement comes days after its CEO outlined the company's future vision, and a week after the chipmaker let go 12,000 people.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

One US Oil Field a Key Culprit In Global Ethane Gas Increase

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An anonymous reader writes: According to scientists, a single U.S. shale oil field is responsible for much of the past decade's increase in global atmospheric levels of ethane, a gas that can damage air quality and impact climate. The Bakken Formation, an oil and gas field in North Dakota and Montana is spewing nearly 2% of the globe's ethane. That translates to about 250,000 tons each year. "Two percent might not sound like a lot, but the emissions we observed in this single region are 10 to 100 times larger than reported in inventories. They directly impact air quality across North America. And they're sufficient to explain much of the global shift in ethane concentrations," said Eric Kort, U-M assistant professor of climate and space sciences and engineering.The Washington Post has more details (paywalled; alternatively you can read this Gizmodo report)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Federal Circuit Declines to Fix Forum Shopping in Patent Cases, Reform Still Needed

EFF's Deeplinks -

In a disappointing but unsurprising ruling, the Federal Circuit confirmed today that patent owners essentially have free rein to file suit in any tiny corner of the country, regardless of its minimal connection to the patent owner, the alleged infringer, or the technology involved.

The case is In re TC Heartland. The alleged infringer, TC Heartland, was sued by Kraft in Delaware. TC Heartland asked the Federal Circuit, through a petition for writ of mandamus, to find that the case couldn’t be heard there, according to laws regarding “venue.”

The case is one of statutory interpretation. Prior to 1990, the Supreme Court had long held that in patent cases, the statute found at 28 U.S.C. § 1400 controlled where a patent case could be filed. However, in 1990 in a case called VE Holding, the Federal Circuit held that a small technical amendment to another statute—28 U.S.C. § 1391—abrogated this long line of cases. VE Holding, together with another case called Beverly Hills Fan, essentially meant that companies that sold products nationwide could be hailed into any court in the country on charges of patent infringement, regardless of how tenuous the connection to that court.

Although this case was filed in Delaware, it would have had a big impact on another US district. As we’ve discussed on numerous occasions, the expansion of patent venue has fostered an unprecedented concentration of patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas. In 2015, almost 45% of all patent cases were heard there, with almost 30% in front of a single judge. This concentration is likely due to procedural and substantive rules put in place in the Eastern District of Texas that tend to increase costs on defendants. This in turn incentivizes patent owners with the most dubious patents and claims of infringement to file there, as they can more easily leverage the cost of litigation to get an undeserved settlement.

In today’s decision, the Federal Circuit has indicated that it is unwilling to disturb the status quo. Although it’s still possible for the full Federal Circuit or the Supreme Court to rule otherwise, it may be that a legislative fix is needed.

Three senators recently proposed changing the law that the Federal Circuit says allows this venue shopping. Called the VENUE Act, the law would limit the ability of patent owners to file in any district they want, and would instead require lawsuits to be filed in districts that make sense, like where the inventor lives or where the defendant is located. Congress should step in and make clear it never intended over 40% of all patent cases to be heard in a single, far-flung district. The VENUE Act is not the comprehensive reform we need, but we can’t keep waiting while unfair procedural rules put innovators and small businesses at an unfair disadvantage. Let’s tell the Senate to pass the VENUE Act now.

Tell the Senate to end venue abuse in patent lawsuits.


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FBI Bought $1M iPhone 5C Hack, But Doesn't Know How It Works

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An anonymous reader writes: The FBI has no idea how the hack used in unlocking the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone 5C works, but it paid a sum less than $1m for the mechanism, according to a report. Reuters, citing several U.S. government sources, note that the government intelligence agency didn't pay a value over $1.3m for purchasing the hack from professional hackers, as previously reported by many outlets. The technique can also be used as many times as needed without further payments, the report adds. The FBI director, James Comey, said last week that the agency paid more to get into the iPhone 5C than he will make in the remaining seven years and four months he has in his job, suggesting the hack cost more than $1.3m, based on his annual salary.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Slashdot Asks: What's Your View On Benchmark Apps?

Slashdot -

There's no doubt that benchmark apps help you evaluate different aspects of a product, but do they paint a complete picture? Should we utterly rely on benchmark apps to assess the performance and quality of a product or service? Vlad Savov of The Verge makes an interesting point. He notes that DxOMark (a hugely popular benchmark app for testing a camera) rating of HTC 10's camera sensor is equal to that of Samsung's Galaxy S7, however, in real life shooting, the Galaxy S7's shooter offers a far superior result. "I've used both extensively and I can tell you that's simply not the case -- the S7 is outstanding whereas the 10 is merely good." He offers another example: If a laptop or a phone does well in a web-browsing battery benchmark, that only gives an indication that it would probably fare decently when handling bigger workloads too. But not always. My good friend Anand Shimpi, formerly of AnandTech, once articulated this very well by pointing out how the MacBook Pro had better battery life than the MacBook Air -- which was hailed as the endurance champ -- when the use changed to consistently heavy workloads. The Pro was more efficient in that scenario, but most battery tests aren't sophisticated or dynamic enough to account for that nuance. It takes a person running multiple tests, analyzing the data, and adding context and understanding to achieve the highest degree of certainty. The problem is -- more often than not -- gadget reviewers treat these values as the most important signal when judging a product, which in turn, also influences several readers' opinion. What's your take on this?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Slashdot Asks: What's Your View On Benchmark Tools?

Slashdot -

There's no doubt that benchmark tools help you evaluate different aspects of a product, but do they paint a complete picture? Should we utterly rely on benchmark tools to assess the performance and quality of a product or service? Vlad Savov of The Verge makes an interesting point. He notes that DxOMark (a hugely popular benchmark tool for testing a camera) rating of HTC 10's camera sensor is equal to that of Samsung's Galaxy S7, however, in real life shooting, the Galaxy S7's shooter offers a far superior result. "I've used both extensively and I can tell you that's simply not the case -- the S7 is outstanding whereas the 10 is merely good." He offers another example: If a laptop or a phone does well in a web-browsing battery benchmark, that only gives an indication that it would probably fare decently when handling bigger workloads too. But not always. My good friend Anand Shimpi, formerly of AnandTech, once articulated this very well by pointing out how the MacBook Pro had better battery life than the MacBook Air -- which was hailed as the endurance champ -- when the use changed to consistently heavy workloads. The Pro was more efficient in that scenario, but most battery tests aren't sophisticated or dynamic enough to account for that nuance. It takes a person running multiple tests, analyzing the data, and adding context and understanding to achieve the highest degree of certainty. The problem is -- more often than not -- gadget reviewers treat these values as the most important signal when judging a product, which in turn, also influences several readers' opinion. What's your take on this?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google’s $999 Chromebook Pixel is discontinued ($1299 model still available)

Liliputing -

Since the first model launched in 2013 with a $1299 price tag, the Google Chromebook Pixel has always been the most expensive Chrome OS laptop money could buy. But in 2015 the company eased the pain a bit by introducing a new model with a starting price of $999.

Now that model is out of stock… and a Google representative tells me the company has no plans of re-stocking the $999 Chromebook Pixel with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage.

Continue reading Google’s $999 Chromebook Pixel is discontinued ($1299 model still available) at Liliputing.

Weasel Apparently Shuts Down World's Most Powerful Particle Collider

Slashdot -

New reader mjnhbg1088 cites an article on NPR: A small mammal has sabotaged the world's most powerful scientific instrument. The Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile superconducting machine designed to smash protons together at close to the speed of light, went offline overnight. Engineers investigating the mishap found the charred remains of a furry creature near a gnawed-through power cable. "We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal," says Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for CERN, the organization that runs the $7 billion particle collider in Switzerland. Although they had not conducted a thorough analysis of the remains, Marsollier says they believe the creature was "a weasel, probably." The shutdown comes as the LHC was preparing to collect new data on the Higgs Boson, a fundamental particle it discovered in 2012. The Higgs is believed to endow other particles with mass, and it is considered to be a cornerstone of the modern theory of particle physics. CERN says the creature may have been a marten.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

GCHQ Has Disclosed Over 20 Vulnerabilities This Year

Slashdot -

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: Earlier this week, it emerged that a section of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK's signal intelligence agency, had disclosed a serious vulnerability in Firefox to Mozilla. Now, GCHQ has said it helped fix nearly two dozen individual vulnerabilities in the past few months, including in highly popular pieces of software like iOS. "So far in 2016 GCHQ/CESG has disclosed more than 20 vulnerabilities across a number of software products," a GCHQ spokesperson told Motherboard in an email. CESG, or the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, is the information security wing of GCHQ. Those issues include a kernel vulnerability in OS X El Captain v10.11.4, the latest version, that would allow arbitrary code execution, and two in iOS 9.3, one of which would have done largely the same thing, and the other could have let an application launch a denial of service attack.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google’s OnHub routers get smart home features with IFTTT

Liliputing -

Google’s OnHub series routers are designed to be easy to use and attractive enough that you might not want to hide them underneath or behind furniture (which can actually improve performance since the signal won’t be obstructed).

But another thing that sets OnHub devices from Asus and TP-Link apart from most other routers is their support for automatic software updates… and the latest brings support for IFTTT (If this, then that).

The free service lets you create “recipes” that can trigger all sorts of actions, and in the case of the OnHub platform, IFTTT support sort of transforms your router into a smart home hub.

Continue reading Google’s OnHub routers get smart home features with IFTTT at Liliputing.

Microsoft Flow -- An IFTTT Alternative -- Aims To Connect Your Online Apps

Slashdot -

An anonymous user writes: Microsoft has unveiled a new product called Microsoft Flow, which is designed to better connect diverse services so that you could, if you were so inclined, put all your tweets into a spreadsheet or get an SMS alert when you receive an email. That example may be a solution in search of a problem, but there are other more useful possibilities. Flow could be set up so that any email from your boss triggers an SMS notification to your phone, for example. Or you could make sure any updated work documents get deposited in your team's SharePoint. To be sure, Microsoft is not first to this app-integration party. Many people already use If This Then That (IFTTT) or Zapier, which claims more than 500 app integrations, to knit their services together.Some IFTTT users must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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