Geek Stuff

Bigger Isn't Better As Mega-Ships Get Too Big and Too Risky

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HughPickens.com writes: Alan Minter writes at Bloomberg that between 1955 and 1975, the average volume of a container ship doubled -- and then doubled again over each of the next two decades. The logic behind building such giants was once unimpeachable: Globalization seemed like an unstoppable force, and those who could exploit economies of scale could reap outsized profits. But it is looking more and more like the economies of scale for mega-ships are not worth the risk. The quarter-mile-long Benjamin Franklin recently became the largest cargo ship ever to dock at a U.S. port and five more mega-vessels are supposed to follow. But today's largest container vessels can cost $200 million and carry many thousands of containers -- potentially creating $1 billion in concentrated, floating risk that can only dock at a handful of the world's biggest ports. Mega-ships make prime targets for cyberattacks and terrorism, suffer from a dearth of qualified personnel to operate them, and are subject to huge insurance premiums. But the biggest costs associated with these floating behemoths are on land -- at the ports that are scrambling to accommodate them. New cranes, taller bridges, environmentally perilous dredging, and even wholesale reconfiguration of container yards are just some of the costly disruptions that might be needed to receive a Benjamin Franklin and service it efficiently. Under such circumstances, you'd think that ship owners would start to steer clear of big boats. But, fearful of falling behind the competition and hoping to put smaller operators out of business, they're actually doing the opposite. Global capacity will increase by 4.5 percent this year. "Sooner or later, even the biggest operators will have to accept that the era of super-sized shipping has begun to list," concludes Minter. "With global growth and trade still sluggish, and the benefits of sailing and docking big boats diminishing with each new generation, ship owners are belatedly realizing that bigger isn't better."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Russian Bill Requires Encryption Backdoors In All Messenger Apps

Slashdot -

Patrick O'Neill quotes a report from The Daily Dot: A new bill in the Russian Duma, the country's lower legislative house, proposes to make cryptographic backdoors mandatory in all messaging apps in the country so the Federal Security Service -- the successor to the KGB -- can obtain special access to all communications within the country. [Apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram, all of which offer varying levels of encrypted security for messages, are specifically targeted in the "anti-terrorism" bill, according to the Russian-language media. Fines for the offending companies could reach 1 million rubles or about $15,000.] Russian Senator Elena Mizulina argued that the new bill ought to become law because, she said, teens are brainwashed in closed groups on the internet to murder police officers, a practice protected by encryption. Mizulina then went further. "Maybe we should revisit the idea of pre-filtering [messages]," she said. "We cannot look silently on this."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New York Senate Passes Bill That Bans Short-Term Apartment Listings On Airbnb

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: The New York Senate passed a bill on Friday that makes it illegal to advertise entire unoccupied apartments for short-term rentals on Airbnb. The bill is headed to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk for him to either veto or sign into law. The Verge reports: "The bill prohibits online apartment listings that last under 30 days and run up against the city's multiple dwelling law, which is designed to stop apartment buyers from renting out the entire space and basically turning their units into Airbnb hotels. First-time offenders would be fined $1,000, but a third infraction would be much costlier at $7,500. 'Let's be clear: this is a bad proposal that will make it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to pay the bills,' an Airbnb spokesperson told Tech Crunch. 'Dozens of governments around the world have demonstrated that there is a sensible way to regulate home sharing and we hope New York will follow their lead and protect the middle class.'" One of the bill's sponsors, State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, disagrees and claims that it targets "people or companies with multiple listings. There are so many units held by commercial operators, not individual tenants. They are bad actors who horde multiple units, driving up the cost of housing around them and across the city." She went on to say, "You should know who your neighbor is and what happens when people rent out their apartments on Airbnb is you get strangers," said told the New York Post. "Every night there could be a different person sleeping in the next apartment and it shatters that sense of community in the building. It also can be dangerous."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Smartphone Users Are Paying For Their Own Surveillance

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Nicola Hahn writes: While top secret NSA documents continue to trickle into the public sphere, tech industry leaders have endeavored to reassure anxious users by extolling the benefits of strong encryption. Rising demand among users for better privacy protection signifies a growth market for the titans of Silicon Valley -- this results in a tendency to frame the issue of cybersecurity in terms of the latest mobile device. Yet whistleblowers from our intelligence services offer dire warnings that contrast sharply with feel good corporate talking points. Edward Snowden, for example, noted that under mass surveillance we're essentially "tagged animals" who pay for our own tags. There's an argument to be made that the vast majority of network-connected gadgets enable monitoring far more than they protect individual liberty. In some instances, the most secure option is to opt out.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Red Hat Launches Ansible-Native Container Workflow Project

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Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: Red Hat launched Ansible Container under the Ansible project, which provides a simple, powerful, and agent-less open source IT automation framework. Available now as a technology preview, Ansible Container allows for the complete creation of Docker-formatted Linux containers within Ansible Playbooks, eliminating the need to use external tools like Dockerfile or docker-compose. Ansible's modular code base, combined with ease of contribution, and a community of contributors in GitHub, enables the powerful IT automation platform to manage today's infrastructure, but also adapt to new IT needs and DevOps workflows. Help Net Security reports: "The automated container creation and deployment offered by Ansible factor into Red Hat's existing container infrastructure stack, which now includes: A stable, container-centric operating system in Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host; An enterprise-grade, Kubernetes- and Docker-native container application platform through Red Hat OpenShift and the recently announced next-generation OpenShift Online public cloud service; Infrastructure management, automation and monitoring across hybrid environments with Red Hat CloudForms, Red Hat insights, Red Hat Satellite and Ansible Tower by Red Hat; Massively-scalable private and hybrid cloud architecture for large-scale container deployment through Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat Cloud Suite, which also includes Red Hat OpenShift."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Citing Attack, GoToMyPC Resets All Passwords

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Security reporter Brian Krebs writes:GoToMyPC, a service that helps people access and control their computers remotely over the Internet, is forcing all users to change their passwords, citing a spike in attacks that target people who re-use passwords across multiple sites. Owned by Santa Clara, Calif. based networking giant Citrix, GoToMyPC is a popular software-as-a-service product that lets users access and control their PC or Mac from anywhere in the world. On June 19, the company posted a status update and began notifying users that a system-wide password update was underway.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Tumblr Is Launching Live Video This Week

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tumblr plans to compete in the fast-crowding live video space, according to a promotional webpage unearthed by Twitter user David Chartier over this past weekend. The page, livevideo.tumblr.com, features a programming schedule and a launch date of June 21st, though the date may not be set in stone. TechCrunch confirmed today the images are indeed Tumblr advertising material for the new platform. It's unclear how the company's live video ambitions will shape up, and whether it will resemble anything like Facebook Live, Twitter's Periscope, or Amazon-owned Twitch. In April, Facebook rolled out a major live video update allowing anyone to post live streams of themselves to their timeline.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Twitter Pays $150 Million For Magic Pony Technology

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An anonymous reader writes: Following news that Twitter would invest around $70 million in music streaming service SoundCloud, the company is reportedly acquiring Magic Pony Technology, a company out of London that has developed technologies of using neural networks and machine learning to provide expanded data for images. For example, they can be used to enhance a picture or video taken on a mobile phone or to help develop graphics for virtual reality or augmented reality applications. "Machine learning is increasingly at the core of everything we build at Twitter," said Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO and co-founder, in a statement. "Magic Pony's machine learning technology will hep us build strength into our deep learning teams with world-class talent, so Twitter can continue to be the best place to see what's happening and why it matters, first. We value deep learning to help make our world better, and we will keep doing our part to share our work and learnings with the community." "[Magic Pony Technology] made a few further waves this year, as it further revealed the way that its technology worked to help enhance visuals with information that may not be in the picture itself, but essentially be created from composites of similar pictures, much like how the human eye works," writes TechCrunch. The company has remained under the radar for the most part. They have filed a number of patents -- around 20, which now belong to Twitter.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Happy Birthday Alice: Two Years Busting Bad Software Patents

EFF's Deeplinks -

This week marks the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Alice v. CLS Bank. In Alice, the court ruled that an abstract idea does not become eligible for a patent simply by being implemented on a generic computer. When the case was decided, we wrote that it would be a few years until we knew its true impact. Two years in, we can say that while Alice has not solved all problems with software patents, it has given productive companies a valuable tool for fighting back against patent trolls. And while it has been bad for the trolls, there’s little reason to think the Alice decision harmed real software companies.

When Alice was being argued, many supporters of software patents claimed that weakening software patents would harm the industry. For example, Judge Moore of the Federal Circuit argued (PDF) that invalidating all of the patent claims at issue would “would decimate the electronics and software industries.” Others made similar claims after the Supreme Court’s decision.

How did the doomsayers fare? Well, those who that thought Alice would “decimate” the software industry might want to try to rent an apartment in San Francisco right now. Demand for software engineers remains extremely strong. And software companies, including many with large patent portfolios, have generally done fine. In fact, if you had invested in a software ETF the day after Alice you would have handily beat the market. This isn’t to say that Alice is the reason the industry is thriving, but it is a reminder that software patents and the software industry are not the same thing.

While companies that actually write software and employ people are doing fine, Alice has put a dent in the business model of bottom-feeding trolls. Specifically, it has provided a valuable tool for getting abstract software patents thrown out early in litigation. This makes it harder for trolls to leverage the cost of defending a lawsuit and lets startups and other productive companies get on with the business of innovating. Consider these examples:

  • eDekka: The most litigious troll of 2014 had 168 cases thrown out when a judge found patent claims on storing and labeling information invalid under Alice.
  • Eclipse IP LLC: Another prolific patent troll had claims from multiple patents (on computer-based notification systems) ruled invalid under Alice. We later awarded a similar Eclipse patent our Stupid Patent of the Month award for April 2015. (Note that Eclipse IP LLC subsequently changed its name to Electronic Communication Technologies LLC.)
  • Garfum.com Corporation: EFF helped a photographer fight back against a company claiming to own the idea of having a vote-for-your-favorite photo competition. The patent owner dismissed its case rather than face a ruling on the merits under Alice.
  • White Knuckle: This patent on remotely updating sports video games was our Stupid Patent of the Month in January 2015. On June 2, 2016, a federal judge ruled that since remotely updating software was already conventional when the application was filed, the patent’s claims (which included things like updating the grass at a virtual stadium) were invalid.

Alice has not solved all problems with the patent system. But without the ruling, it is likely that these cases others like them would have dragged on until the defendant was effectively forced to settle. Two years in, we can celebrate Alice as a qualified success. We’ll keep working to ensure that the ruling is applied diligently and for more fundamental patent reform to protect innovators.

Related Cases: Abstract Patent Litigation
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Interview with BLOCKS modular smartwatch co-founder Serge Didenko (LPX Show)

Liliputing -

The BLOCKS modular smartwatch is set to begin shipping to customers in September. This follows a $1.6 million Kickstarter campaign in 2015 and a lot of other behind-the-scenes work to turn the idea of a modular smartwatch into an actual, working product.

BLOCKs started showing off the final hardware designs earlier this month, and co-founder Serge Didenko joined me for the latest episode of the LPX Show to discuss the company’s vision for a wearable gadget that uses the wrist strap as more than a fashion accessory.

Continue reading Interview with BLOCKS modular smartwatch co-founder Serge Didenko (LPX Show) at Liliputing.

Twitch Brings CFAA and Trademark Claim Against Bot Operators

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: I think most people agree that bots that drive up viewer/follower counts on various social media systems are certainly a nuisance, but are they illegal? Amazon-owned Twitch has decided to find out. On Friday, the company filed a lawsuit against seven individuals/organizations that are in the business of selling bots. Twitch's lawsuit uses a CFAA claim and a trademark claim. The CFAA is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was put in place in the 1980s in response to the movie War Games and is supposed to be used to punish "hackers" who break into secure computer systems. Techdirt reports: "It's a pretty big stretch to argue that bots accessing your open website that anyone can visit requires some kind of specific "authorization." Yes, cheating bots are annoying. And yes, they can be seen as a problem. But that doesn't mean that Twitch should be trying to expand the definition of the CFAA to include accessing an open website in a way the site doesn't like. The trademark claim is also somewhat troubling, though not as much. No one is visiting the sites of these bot makers and assuming that they're endorsed by Twitch. I mean, they're all pretty clear that their entire purpose is to inflate viewers/followers on Twitch, which is clearly something that Twitch is against. Twitch doesn't need to use either of these claims, and it's disappointing that they and their lawyers have chosen to do so. This is not to say that bots and fake followers are okay. But these kinds of cases can set really bad precedents when a company like Twitch decides to over-claim things in a way that harms the wider tech and internet industry."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mark Zuckerberg Votes To Keep Peter Thiel On Facebook Board

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Mark Zuckerberg has decided to keep billionaire VC Peter Thiel on Facebook's board of directors. The decision comes after weeks of controversy over whether it was appropriate for billionaire Thiel, who recently admitted to secretly funding a campaign of third-party lawsuits to bankrupt Gawker Media (more relevant but paywalled link, to remain on the board of a company that now plays such a powerful role in publishing. From a Gizmodo report: At Facebook's annual shareholders meeting today, every board member was up for re-election. The decision was made by shareholder vote, but ultimately fell to Zuckerberg, who controls more than 60 percent of the total voting power on the Facebook board.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New HP and Lenovo Chromebooks leaked

Liliputing -

It looks like HP and Lenovo are both planning to launch new Chromebooks with Intel Braswell processors soon. Brent Evans dug up some information about an unannounced Lenovo N22 Chromebook with a touchscreen display recently, and Notebook Italia spotted an HP document for the company’s new Chromebook 11 G5.

Both laptops feature 11.6 inch displays, and it’s likely that they’re both aimed at the education market.

HP Chromebook 11 G5

About half a year after launching the HP Chromebook 11 G4, it looks like HP has a new model with a similar design, but a newer processor and a slightly lighter body.

Continue reading New HP and Lenovo Chromebooks leaked at Liliputing.

New York Criminalizes the Use Of Ticket-Buying Bots

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An anonymous reader writes: If you failed to get tickets for your favorite band, even though your finger was poised on the "buy" link the instant they went on sale, don't worry -- you never stood a chance. They were probably snapped up by bots that, in one case, bought 1,012 Madison Square Garden U2 tickets in less than a minute. The state of New York has declared that scalpers who use them could get fines and even jail time. "New Yorkers have been dealing with this frustrating ticket buying experience for too long," says state assembly member Marcos Crespie. Using such bots was illegal before, but only brought civil, not criminal sanctions. However, a three-year investigation by NY attorney general Eric. T. Schneiderman found that the practice was so widespread that the state had to take harsher measures. Ticketing outlets and credit card companies revealed that bots scoop up the best seats in seconds, which scalpers then resell at prices many times over face value. Scalpers who exploit such software could now face criminal, class A misdemeanor charges.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

High IQ Countries Have Less Software Piracy, Research Finds

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Ernesto Van der Sar, writing for TorrentFreak (edited and condensed): There are hundreds of reasons why people may turn to piracy. A financial motive is often mentioned, as well as lacking legal alternatives. A new study from a group of researchers now suggests that national intelligence can also be added to the list. In a rather straightforward analysis, the research examined the link between national IQ scores and local software piracy rates -- from data provided by the Business Software Alliance. They concluded that there's a trend indicating that countries with a higher IQ have lower software piracy rates.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Now you can install Android TV on a PC (unofficially)

Liliputing -

Android TV is basically Android… for TVs. Google’s operating system for smart TVs and set top boxes is based on the same code as the company’s software for smartphones and tablets, but it features a custom user interface designed to be easy to navigate using a remote control and big screen TV and it supports apps with similar features.

The simplest way to use Android TV is to buy a television or a TV box that runs the software.

Continue reading Now you can install Android TV on a PC (unofficially) at Liliputing.

FCC To Vote On Spectrum For 5G Wireless Networks

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5G has been in the news for years, but it's not available for commercial use just yet. Things will become clearer this week. The Federal Communications Commission will vote on July 14 to decide new rules to identity and open spectrum for next-generation high-speed 5G wireless applications. Reuters reports: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said if the FCC "approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications." He said the FCC also will seek comments on opening other high-frequency spectrum bands. Policymakers and mobile phone companies say the next generation of wireless signals needs to be 10 to 100 times faster and be far more responsive to allow advanced technologies like virtual surgery or controlling machines remotely.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Alicia Keys Latest Artist To Enforce No Cell Phone Policy at Concerts

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Shane McGlaun, reporting for SlashGear:It appears that artists of all sorts are getting very serious about keeping fans from using smartphones while they are at their concerts or events. The latest musician to ban cell phones at her events is Alicia Keys. Fans aren't forced to give up their smartphones at the door to be locked up in some locker or box until the show is over. Rather, fans are handed a special pouch that is locked up with their smartphone inside the fan keeps that pouch with them during the event, but they can't get to the device to call, take photos, or shoot video. If they need to use their device during the show the users can go back to the door and a worker passes a disc about the size of a bagel over the bag to unlock it and the fan can step outside to use their smartphone.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Deals of the Day (6-20-2016)

Liliputing -

The Dell Inspiron 13 may not be the thinnest or lightest laptop Dell offers. But measuring about 0.75 inches thick and weighing less than 3.5 pounds, the notebook isn’t exactly enormous… and right now you can pick up a model with some pretty serious specs for just $649.

That’s how much the Microsoft Store is charging for a model with a Core i7 Skylake processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB storage. Oh, and the notebook also has a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display which folds back 360 degrees to let you use the computer as a tablet.

Continue reading Deals of the Day (6-20-2016) at Liliputing.

Slashdot Asks: What's Your Preferred Music Streaming Service?

Slashdot -

Spotify announced on Monday that it has hit 100 million users on its music streaming service, with over 30 million paid subscribers. The Swedish music company's service rivals with Apple Music, Pandora, and Google's Play Music. Apple's streaming service, which was launched last year, has over 15 million paid customers as of earlier this month. Amazon also reportedly plans to launch its music streaming service later this year. YouTube is also a stop for many music listeners. How do you get your music? Do you still purchase CDs and DVDs? Anyone with a turntable in the audience?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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