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Neil deGrasse Tyson Touches Off Debate With Remarks On Commercial Space ( 144

MarkWhittington writes: In an interview published in The Verge, celebrity astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson touched off a firestorm when he suggested that commercial space was not going to lead the way to open up the high frontier. Tyson has started a live show that he calls "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts" in which he touched on, among other things, why the Apollo program did not lead to greater things in space exploration such as going to Mars. Tyson repeats conventional wisdom about Apollo and the Cold War. In any case, it is his remarks on commercial space that has caused the most irritation.

What Is the Future of the Television? ( 129

An anonymous reader writes: Benedict Evans has an interesting post about where television hardware is headed. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the tech industry made a huge push to invade the living room, trying to make the internet mesh with traditional TV broadcasts. As we all know, their efforts failed. Now, we periodically see new waves of devices to attach to the TV, but none have been particularly ambitious. The most successful devices of the recent wave, like the Chromecast and Apple TV, are simply turning the TV into a dumb screen for streamed content. Meanwhile, consumption of all types of video content is growing on smaller screens — tablets, phones, etc. Even game consoles are starting to see their market eroded by boxes like the Steam Link, which acts as a pipe for a game being played elsewhere on a PC. It raises an intriguing question: where is the television headed? What uses and functions does one giant screen serve that can't be cleverly redistributed to smaller screens? Evans concludes, "The web's open, permissionless innovation beat the closed, top-down visions of interactive TV and the information superhighway."

Another Giant xkcd Comics Experiment ( 39

Dave Knott writes: XKCD creator Randall Munroe has decided to celebrate the release of his new book, Thing Explainer, by creating a "small game" called Hoverboard. In actuality, it is a gigantic scrolling comic in the same style as his previous Click And Drag. However, this time there is a game element as one navigates the comic. Explore giant starships and volcanoes, or search for hidden lairs, all in the name of finding as many hidden gold coins as possible.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 209

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.

BBC World Service To Provide Radio For North Korea and Eritrea ( 62

Ewan Palmer writes: The BBC World service has announced it will expand to serve the worst countries for press freedom as part of a plan to reach a global audience of 500 million. The British government announced its "single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed" and promised to invest more than $128 million by 2017/18 to the service. Along with improvements in countries such as Thailand, Russia and Somalia, they will launch radio services in North Korea and Eritrea who, according to Reporters Without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom index, are the two worst performing countries in the world when ranked on a number of criteria including media independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.

Microsoft Pulls Windows 10 November Update (1511) ISOs ( 191

AmiMoJo writes: When Microsoft released Windows 10 version 1511 earlier this month, the company also updated the installer files it delivers via a free, downloadable media creation tool (MCT). That upgrade option worked as advertised for more than a week. This weekend, however, the new files have been pulled and the media creation tool available for download from that page instead installs the July 2015 (build 10240) release. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed they wish people install the older version and get the 1551 update via Windows Update. The more recent release is still available via an unpublished link (EXE download).

Nation-backed Hackers Using Evercookie and Web Analytics To Profile Targets ( 47

chicksdaddy writes: There's such a fine line between clever and criminal. That's the unmistakable subtext of the latest FireEye report on a new "APT" style campaign that's using methods and tools that are pretty much indistinguishable from those used by media websites and online advertisers. The difference? This time the information gathered from individuals is being used to soften up specific individuals with links to international diplomacy, the Russian government, and the energy sector.

The company released a report this week that presented evidence of a widespread campaign (PDF) that combines so-called "watering hole" web sites with a tracking script dubbed "WITCHCOVEN" and Samy Kamkar's Evercookie, the super persistent web tracking cookie. The tools are used to assemble detailed profiles on specific users including the kind of computer they use, the applications and web browsers they have installed, and what web sites they visit.

While the aims of those behind the campaign aren't known, FireEye said the use of compromised web sites and surreptitious tracking scripts doesn't bode well. "While many sites engage in profiling and tracking for legitimate purposes, those activities are typically conducted using normal third-party browser-based cookies and commercial ad services and analytics tools," FireEye wrote in its report. "In this case, while the individuals behind the activity used publicly available tools, those tools had very specific purposes....This goes beyond 'normal' web analytics," the company said.

Social Networks

EFF launches Site To Track Censored Content On Social Media ( 39

Mark Wilson writes: There are many problems with the censoring of online content, not least that it can limit free speech. But there is also the question of transparency. By the very nature of censorship, unless you have been kept in the loop you would simply not know that anything had been censored. This is something the Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to change, and today the digital rights organization launches to blow the lid off online censorship. The site, run by EFF and Visualizing Impact, aims to reveal the content that is censored on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube — not just the 'what' but the 'why'. If you find yourself the subject of censorship, the site also explains how to lodge an appeal.

Georgia Gives Personal Data of 6 Million Voters To Georgia GunOwner Magazine ( 109

McGruber writes: A class action lawsuit alleges that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office released the personal identifying information of Georgia voters to twelve organizations, "including statewide political parties, news media organizations and Georgia GunOwner Magazine".

According to Kemp, his office shares "voter registration data every month with news media and political parties that have requested it as required by Georgia law. Due to a clerical error where information was put in the wrong file, 12 recipients received a disc that contained personal identifying information that should not have been included."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution independently confirmed the inclusion of the personal data in the October file. The AJC did so by accessing the October data disc, looking up information for an AJC staffer and confirming his Social Security number and driver's license information was included. The AJC has returned its copy of the disc to the state.


First Liquid-Cooling Laser Could Advance Biological Research ( 55

Zothecula writes: In a world where lasers are sci-fi's weapon of choice for melting away an enemy spaceship, researchers at the University of Washington have swum against the current and produced the first laser capable of cooling liquids. " They demonstrated that the laser could refrigerate saline solution and cell culture media that are commonly used in genetic and molecular research. To achieve the breakthrough, the UW team used a material commonly found in commercial lasers but essentially ran the laser phenomenon in reverse. They illuminated a single microscopic crystal suspended in water with infrared laser light to excite a unique kind of glow that has slightly more energy than that amount of light absorbed. This higher-energy glow carries heat away from both the crystal and the water surrounding it." The technology could be especially useful for slowing down single cells and allowing scientists to study biological processes as they happen.
The Internet

US Rep. Joe Barton Has a Plan To Stop Terrorists: Shut Down Websites ( 275

Earthquake Retrofit writes: In an FCC oversight hearing, U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) asked Chairman Tom Wheeler if it's possible to shut down websites used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. He said, "Isn't there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they've declared war against us, our way of life, they've threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation." Wheeler pointed out that the legal definition of "lawful intercept" did not support such actions, but added that Congress could expand the law to validate the concept. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is exploring the idea of using the recent terror attacks in France as ammunition to force tech companies away from end-to-end encryption. "Lawmakers said it was time to intensify discussions over what technology companies such as Apple and Google could do to help unscramble key information on devices such as iPhones and apps like WhatsApp, where suspected terrorists have communicated."

Daimler Builds Massive Industrial Energy Storage Systems From Used EV Batteries ( 73

Lucas123 writes: German carmaker Daimler AG is building large battery storage systems for industrial use from the used lithium-ion batteries of its all-electric and hybrid vehicles. The first of Daimler's "2nd use battery storage units" will consist of 1,000 smart electric drive vehicle batteries and have a 13MWh of capacity. It is expected to be connected to the electrical grid in Lünen, Germany early next year. All of Daimler's battery storage units are currently planned to be greater than a megawatt in capacity, meaning they'll only be for commercial, not residential use, but the company said it does expect those batteries to be cost competitive with the ones Tesla announced earlier this year.

Anonymous Takes Down Thousands of ISIS-Related Twitter Accounts In a Day ( 318

BarbaraHudson writes: Softpedia is reporting that Anonymous, along with social media users, have identified several thousand Twitter accounts allegedly linked to ISIS members. "Besides scanning for ISIS Twitter accounts themselves, the hacking group has also opened access to the [takedown operation] site to those interested. Anyone who comes across ISIS social media accounts can easily search the database and report any new terrorists and supporters. The website is called #opIceISIS [slow right now, but it does load] and will index ISIS members based on their real name, location, picture, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts." Anonymous crowdsourcing their operations... welcome to the brave new world, ISIS. An article at The Independent reminds everyone that this information has not been independently confirmed, and that Anonymous is certainly capable of misidentifying people. It's also worth exploring the question of why Twitter hasn't already disabled these accounts, and why intelligence agencies haven't done anything about them, if they're so easy to find.
The Internet

After Paris, ISIS Moves Propaganda Machine To Darknet ( 184

itwbennett writes: Over the weekend, researcher Scot Terban came across the new website of Al-Hayat Media Center, the media division of Daesh (aka ISIS/ISIL), in a post on Shamikh forum (a known jihadi bulletin board), 'someone had posted the new address and instructions for reaching it,' writes CSO's Steve Ragan. The website hosts the usual anti-Western iconography, as well as songs (Nasheeds) and poems for mujahids in various locations. Terban has mirrored the website and its files; he says he plans to publish more details in the coming days. 'Over the years, there have been several claims made that Daesh had propaganda and recruitment hubs on the Darknet, but no one has ever published proof of those claims or explored how the propaganda machine operates in public,' says Ragan.

737 'Tailstrike' Caused By Typo On a Tablet ( 366

An anonymous reader writes: In August of last year, a Boeing 737 operated by Qantas experienced a tailstrike while taking off — the thrust wasn't great enough for the tail to clear the runway, so it clipped the ground. The investigation into the incident (PDF) has finally been completed, and it found the cause of the accident: the co-pilot accidentally entered the wrong plane weight data into the iPad used to make calculations about the takeoff thrust. "First, when working out the plane's takeoff weight on a notepad, the captain forgot to carry the "1," resulting in an erroneous weight of 66,400kg rather than 76,400kg. Second, the co-pilot made a "transposition error" when carrying out the same calculation on the Qantas on-board performance tool (OPT)—an iPad app for calculating takeoff speed, amongst other things. "Transposition error" is an investigatory euphemism for "he accidentally hit 6 on the keyboard rather than 7." This caused the problem: "For a weight of 76,400kg and temperature of 35C, the engine thrust should've been set at 93.1 percent with a takeoff speed of 157 knots; instead, due to the errors, the thrust was set to 88.4 percent and takeoff speed was 146 knots."
Social Networks

Social Media and the Age of Microcomplaints ( 118

An anonymous reader writes: "Name an inequity, and it is highly likely that social media has helped call meaningful attention to it, if not started and hashtagged a movement," claims the NY Times. The article suggests people are much more willing to complain about meaningless issues now that they have a public audience. "The smartphone in particular has facilitated extemporaneous caviling. Irritations that the passage of time may have soothed can, in the moment, be immediately expressed to an audience." Further, an aggrieved social media post can lend more weight to a minor problem than the author ever intended, or than it deserved. An offhand tweet can lead to a nationwide media frenzy as people who aren't connected with a complaint's author lack perspective and emotional context for it.

Belgian Home Affairs Minister: Terrorists Communicate Via PlayStation 4 ( 202

bricko writes with story at Quartz reporting the words of Belgium's home affairs minister Jan Jambon, who says that ISIL operators communicate using their PlayStation 4s; "which allows terrorists to communicate with each other and is difficult for the authorities to monitor. 'PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,' he said. The gaming console also was implicated in ISIL's plans back in June, when an Austrian teen was arrested for downloading bomb plans to his PS4." This seems a strange place to concentrate investigators' energies; terrrorists could be communicating in the chat session on the side of many social media games, too, or by any number of other means; Jambon would do well to read through some of the movie plotlines that Bruce Schneier has gathered.

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Paris Attacks; Death Toll At 127 728

The L.A. Times reports that Islamic State, the group variously known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh, has claimed responsibility for the multi-pronged terror attack yesterday in Paris which left at least 128 people dead, most of them from among the audience of a rock concert at the Bataclan theater, in the heart of the city. Details of how Friday’s assaults were carried out remained hazy. It was still unclear, for example, whether the restaurants and concert theater were attacked by two separate teams of militants or one group that went from one place to another. ... Attackers opened fire on the crowd with automatic weapons, shouting “God is great!” or blaming France for airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria, according to some reports. Dozens of concert-goers were killed before French forces stormed the theater. Many Parisians posted appeals and photos on social media asking for news of friends or loved ones whom they had not heard from since the attacks. One man said on Twitter that a government hotline set up to inquire about missing persons was so overloaded that calls could not get through. In the wake of the attacks and with an overloaded public infrastructure, Facebook activated its post-disaster check-in tool for Parisians to notify loved ones that they are safe. According to Reuters, French President Francois Hollande has vowed to undertake a "mercliess" response to the attacks.

Explosions and Multiple Shootings In Paris, Possible Hostages ( 965

An anonymous reader writes: Multiple sources are reporting that at least 18 people are dead across three shootings in central Paris. The Associated Press reports as many as 26, as of this writing. Some victims were at a restaurant, while others were at a nearby theater. Early reports indicate there may be a hostage situation with more people at that theater. Police have also confirmed an explosion at a bar near Stade de France stadium, where a football match was underway between France and Germany. There are reports of other explosions heard at the stadium as well, but no details yet. "The attack comes as France has heightened security measures ahead of a major global climate conference that starts in two weeks, out of fear of violent protests and potential terrorist attacks." The attacks occurred not far from where the Charlie Hebdo shooting happened in January. "French news media reported that Kalashnikov rifles had been involved in the shootings — a favored weapon of militants who have attacked targets in France — and that many rounds had been fired."
United Kingdom

Bank of England's Andy Haldane Warns Smart Machines Could Take 15M UK Jobs ( 291

New submitter Colin Robotenomics writes In an important new paper based on a speech at the trade union congress in London, Andy Haldane Chief Economist at the Bank of England and Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics has examined the history of technological unemployment and has given a thorough review of the literature and implications for public policy. The media will likely focus on the number of jobs that can be displaced and not necessarily Haldane's points on new jobs being created – both of which are highly important as is 'skilling-up'. His report reads in part: "...Taking the probabilities of automation, and multiplying them by the numbers employed, gives a broad brush estimate of the number of jobs potentially automatable. For the UK, that would suggest up to 15 million jobs could be at risk of automation. In the US, the corresponding figure would be 80 million jobs."