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Activist Group Sues US Border Agency Over New, Vast Intelligence System

An anonymous reader writes with news about one of the latest unanswered FOIA requests made to the Department of Homeland Security and the associated lawsuit the department's silence has brought. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has sued the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in an attempt to compel the government agency to hand over documents relating to a relatively new comprehensive intelligence database of people and cargo crossing the US border. EPIC's lawsuit, which was filed last Friday, seeks a trove of documents concerning the 'Analytical Framework for Intelligence' (AFI) as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. EPIC's April 2014 FOIA request went unanswered after the 20 days that the law requires, and the group waited an additional 49 days before filing suit. The AFI, which was formally announced in June 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), consists of "a single platform for research, analysis, and visualization of large amounts of data from disparate sources and maintaining the final analysis or products in a single, searchable location for later use as well as appropriate dissemination."

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How One School District Handled Rolling Out 20,000 iPads

First time accepted submitter Gamoid writes This past school year, the Coachella Valley Unified School District gave out iPads to every single student. The good news is that kids love them, and only 6 of them got stolen or went missing. The bad news is, these iPads are sucking so much bandwidth that it's keeping neighboring school districts from getting online. Here's why the CVUSD is considering becoming its own ISP.

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Researcher Finds Hidden Data-Dumping Services In iOS

Trailrunner7 writes There are a number of undocumented and hidden features and services in Apple iOS that can be used to bypass the backup encryption on iOS devices and remove large amounts of users' personal data. Several of these features began as benign services but have evolved in recent years to become powerful tools for acquiring user data. Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensic scientist and researcher who has worked extensively with law enforcement and intelligence agencies, has spent quite a bit of time looking at the capabilities and services available in iOS for data acquisition and found that some of the services have no real reason to be on these devices and that several have the ability to bypass the iOS backup encryption. One of the services in iOS, called mobile file_relay, can be accessed remotely or through a USB connection can be used to bypass the backup encryption. If the device has not been rebooted since the last time the user entered the PIN, all of the data encrypted via data protection can be accessed, whether by an attacker or law enforcement, Zdziarski said.

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UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

An anonymous reader writes New research at the University of East Anglia finds that oceans are vital in the search for alien life. So far, computer simulations of habitable climates on other planets have focused on their atmospheres. But oceans play an equally vital role in moderating climates on planets and bringing stability to the climate, according to the study. From the press release: "The research team from UEA's schools of Mathematics and Environmental Sciences created a computer simulated pattern of ocean circulation on a hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planet. They looked at how different planetary rotation rates would impact heat transport with the presence of oceans taken into account. Prof David Stevens from UEA's school of Mathematics said: 'The number of planets being discovered outside our solar system is rapidly increasing. This research will help answer whether or not these planets could sustain alien life. We know that many planets are completely uninhabitable because they are either too close or too far from their sun. A planet's habitable zone is based on its distance from the sun and temperatures at which it is possible for the planet to have liquid water. But until now, most habitability models have neglected the impact of oceans on climate.'"

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Verizon Boosts FiOS Uploads To Match Downloads

An anonymous reader writes Verizon is boosting the upload speeds of nearly all its FiOS connections to match the download speeds, greatly shortening the time it takes to send videos and back up files online. All new subscribers will get "symmetrical" connections. If you previously were getting 15 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up, you'll be automatically upgraded for no extra cost to 15/15. Same goes if you were on their 50/25 plan: You'll now be upgraded to 50/50. And if you had 75/35? You guessed it: Now it'll be 75 down, and 75 up.

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Method Rapidly Reconstructs Animal's Development Cell By Cell

An anonymous reader writes Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus have developed software that can track each and every cell in a developing embryo. The software will allow a researcher to pick out a single cell at any point in development and trace its life backward and forward during the embryo's growth. Philipp Keller, a group leader at Janelia says: "We want to reconstruct the elemental building plan of animals, tracking each cell from very early development until late stages, so that we know everything that has happened in terms of cell movement and cell division. In particular, we want to understand how the nervous system forms. Ultimately, we would like to collect the developmental history of every cell in the nervous system and link that information to the cell's final function. For this purpose, we need to be able to follow individual cells on a fairly large scale and over a long period of time."

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Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be

Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.

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China Has More People Going Online With a Mobile Device Than a PC

An anonymous reader points out that even though China's internet adoption rate is the lowest it's been in 8 years, the number of people surfing the net from a mobile device has never been higher. "The number of China's internet users going online with a mobile device — such as a smartphone or tablet — has overtaken those doing so with a personal computer (PC) for the first time, said the official China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) on Monday. China's total number of internet users crept up 2.3 percent to 632 million by the end of June, from 618 million at the end of 2013, said CNNIC's internet development statistics report. Of those, 527 million — or 83 percent — went online via mobile. Those doing so with a PC made up 81 percent the total. China is the largest smartphone market in the world, and by 2018 is likely to account for nearly one-third of the expected 1.8 billion smartphones shipped that year, according to data firm IDC.

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New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

An anonymous reader writes If you're tired of yelling at the kids without the help of technology, Toyota has a van for you. From the article: "The latest version of the company's Sienna minivan has a feature called 'Driver Easy Speak.' It uses a built-in microphone to amplify a parent's voice through speakers in the back seats. Toyota says it added Easy Speak 'so parents don't have to shout to passengers in the back.' But chances are many parents will yell into the microphone anyway. And the feature only works one way, so the kids can't talk back. At least not with amplified voices. The feature is an option on the 2015 Sienna, which is being refreshed with a totally new interior. It also has an optional 'pull-down conversation mirror' that lets drivers check on kids without turning around."

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New York Judge OKs Warrant To Search Entire Gmail Account

jfruh writes While several U.S. judges have refused overly broad warrants that sought to grant police access to a suspects complete Gmail account, a federal judge in New York State OK'd such an order this week. Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein argued that a search of this type was no more invasive than the long-established practice of granting a warrant to copy and search the entire contents of a hard drive, and that alternatives, like asking Google employees to locate messages based on narrowly tailored criteria, risked excluding information that trained investigators could locate.

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California In the Running For Tesla Gigafactory

An anonymous reader writes Thanks to some clean-energy tax incentives approved late this spring, California appears to be in the running again for Tesla's "Gigafactory". From the article: "The decision should have been made by now, and ground broken, according to the company's timeline, but is on hold, allowing California, which was not in the race initially — CEO Elon Musk has called California an improbable choice, citing regulations — to throw its hat in the ring. 'In terms of viability, California has progressed. Now it's a four-plus-one race,' said Simon Sproule, Tesla's vice president of global communication and marketing, referring to the four named finalists — Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada — for the prize. That's heartening. Having the Gigafactory would be a vindication of Gov. Jerry Brown's drive to make California the home of advanced manufacturing, of which Tesla's battery technology is a prime example. With its technology, 'Tesla may be in position to disrupt industries well beyond the realm of traditional auto manufacturing. It's not just cars,' a Morgan Stanley analyst told Quartz, an online business publication last year.

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Snowden Seeks To Develop Anti-Surveillance Technologies

An anonymous reader writes Speaking via a Google Hangout at the Hackers on Planet Earth Conference, Edward Snowden says he plans to work on technology to preserve personal data privacy and called on programmers and the tech industry to join his efforts. "You in this room, right now have both the means and the capability to improve the future by encoding our rights into programs and protocols by which we rely every day," he said. "That is what a lot of my future work is going to be involved in."

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Researchers Create Origami Wheels That Can Change Size

rtoz writes Researchers from Seoul National University have designed a robotic wheel based on the origami "magic ball pattern," which is a traditional technique used to create folded paper spheres. This robotic wheel can change its radius to create larger wheels to climb over things, and shrink back to a smaller size to squeeze under obstacles. The diameter of the wheels changes automatically to enable the robot to either be strong or speedy. The scientists think their innovation could one day be used for interplanetary rovers as the wheel can be folded up and "inflate" itself.

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The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

polyp2000 writes Many don't realize the impact the much forgotten Amiga 2000 had on the world. This lovely article is an informative and lighthearted read, especially if you are interested in the world of CG. "Unfortunately, The Amiga 2000 is one of the least favorite or collectible Amigas. Even today, with the most "die hard" Amiga fans, the A2000 often is ignored and shunned as a 'big, ugly' tank of a machine. One look at eBay (Canada or the U.S.), on any given day, and you can see that the A2000 often doesn't sell at all, and most times goes for a lot cheaper than all the other Amigas — even cheaper than an A500. But, because of this, one can find awesome deals, because, most of the time, the seller has no clue about what Zorro cards are inside, and for next to nothing, you can pick up a fully loaded A2000 with an '030 or above for peanuts."

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A Look At NASA's Orion Project

An anonymous reader writes "People in north Iowa got a first-hand look at NASA's Orion Project. Contractors with NASA were in Forest City to talk about the new project and show off a model of the new spaceship. NASA has big plans to send humans to an asteroid by 2025. The mission, however, will not be possible without several important components that include yet-to-be-developed technologies, as well as the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spacecraft to fly astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. In fact, Orion's first flight test later this year will provide NASA with vital data that will be used to design future missions."

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Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

An anonymous reader writes A political battle has broken out on Wikipedia over an entry relating to the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, with the Russian government reportedly removing sections which accuse it of providing 'terrorists' with missiles that were used to down the civilian airliner. A Twitter bot which monitors edits made to the online encyclopedia from Russian government IP addresses spotted that changes are being made to a page relating to the crash. All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) changed a Russian language version of a page listing civil aviation accidents to say that "The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers." That edit replaced text – written just an hour earlier – which said MH17 had been shot down "by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation."

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Ars Editor Learns Feds Have His Old IP Addresses, Full Credit Card Numbers

mpicpp writes with the ultimate results of Ars's senior business editor Cyrus Farivar's FOIA request. In May 2014, I reported on my efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, I wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked. But instead of providing what I had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So I appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time. The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. My own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I've ever used; some of them also contain: The IP address that I used to buy the ticket, my credit card number (in full), the language I used, and notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change.

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High School Students Not Waiting For Schools To Go Online

lpress writes UCLA conducts an annual survey of first-time, full-time college freshman and this year they included questions about the use of online education sites like Coursera and The Khan Academy. It turns out that over 40 percent of the incoming freshmen were frequently or occasionally assigned to use an online instructional website during the past year and nearly 70 percent had used online sites on their own. Students enrolling in historically black colleges were much more likely than others to have used online teaching material. They also compile a "habits of mind" index, and conclude that "Students who chose to independently use online instructional websites are also more likely to exhibit behaviors and traits associated with academic success and lifelong learning." The survey covers many other characteristics of incoming freshmen — you can download the full report here

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Critroni Crypto Ransomware Seen Using Tor for Command and Control

Trailrunner7 writes There's a new kid on the crypto ransomware block, known as Critroni, that's been sold in underground forums for the last month or so and is now being dropped by the Angler exploit kit. The ransomware includes a number of unusual features and researchers say it's the first crypto ransomware seen using the Tor network for command and control. The Critroni ransomware is selling for around $3,000 and researchers say it is now being used by a range of attackers, some of whom are using the Angler exploit kit to drop a spambot on victims' machines. The spambot then downloads a couple of other payloads, including Critroni. Once on a victim's PC, Critroni encrypts a variety of files, including photos and documents, and then displays a dialogue box that informs the user of the infection and demands a payment in Bitcoins in order to decrypt the files. "It uses C2 hidden in the Tor network. Previously we haven't seen cryptomalware having C2 in Tor. Only banking trojans," said Fedor Sinitsyn, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab, who has been researching this threat. "Executable code for establishing Tor connection is embedded in the malware's body. Previously the malware of this type, this was usually accomplished with a Tor.exe file. Embedding Tor functions in the malware's body is a more difficult task from the programming point of view, but it has some profits, because it helps to avoid detection, and it is more efficient in general."

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Exhibit On Real Johnny Appleseed To Hit the Road

An anonymous reader writes with this story about a traveling Johnny Appleseed exhibit set to hit the road sometime next year. If you picture Johnny Appleseed as a loner wearing a tin pot for a hat and flinging apple seeds across the countryside, experts say you're wrong. They're hoping that a traveling exhibit funded by an anonymous donation to a western Ohio center and museum will help clear misconceptions about the folk hero and the real man behind the legend. "We want people around the country to know the real person, not just the myths and folklore," said Cheryl Ogden, director of the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum at Urbana University in Urbana. "We want them to know John Chapman's values of hard work, compassion and generosity." Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed to generations of Americans, was a pioneer nurseryman in the late 18th and early 19th centuries credited with introducing apple trees to portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. While it's probably true that he lived outdoors and wore ragged clothes, at least sometimes, researchers doubt he wore a pot on his head or just gave his seedlings and nurseries away.

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