Privacy

Info on 1.8M Chicago Voters Was Publicly Accessible, But Now Removed From Cloud Service (chicagotribune.com) 21

A file containing the names, addresses, dates of birth and other information about Chicago's 1.8 million registered voters was published online and publicly accessible for an unknown period of time, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said this week. From a report: The acknowledgment came days after a data security researcher alerted officials to the existence of the unsecured files. The researcher found the files while conducting a search of items uploaded to Amazon Web Services, a cloud system that allows users to rent storage space and share files with certain people or the general public. The files had been uploaded by Election Systems & Software, a contractor that helps maintain Chicago's electronic poll books. Election Systems said in a statement that the files "did not include any ballot information or vote totals and were not in any way connected to Chicago's voting or tabulation systems." The company said it had "promptly secured" the files on Saturday evening and had launched "a full investigation, with the assistance of a third-party firm, to perform thorough forensic analyses of the AWS server." State and local officials were notified of the existence of the files Saturday by cybersecurity expert Chris Vickery, who works at the Mountain View, Calif. firm UpGuard.
Amiga

A New Amiga Will Go On Sale In Late 2017 (theregister.co.uk) 184

An anonymous reader quote the Register: The world's getting a new Amiga for Christmas. Yes, that Amiga -- the seminal Commodore microcomputers that brought mouse-driven GUIs plus slick and speedy graphics to the masses from 1985 to 1996... The platform died when Commodore went bankrupt, but enthusiasm for the Amiga persisted and various clones and efforts to preserve AmigaOS continue to this day. One such effort, from Apollo Accelerators, emerged last week: the company's forthcoming "Vampire V4" can work as a standalone Amiga or an accelerator for older Amigas... There's also 512MB of RAM, 40-and-44-pin FastIDE connectors, Ethernet, a pair of USB ports and MicroSD for storage [PDF]. Micro USB gets power to the board.
A school in Michigan used the same Amiga for 30 years. Whenever it broke, they actually phoned up the high school student who original set it up in 1987 and had him come over to fix it.
Data Storage

Intel Unveils One-Petabyte Storage Servers For Data Centers (theinquirer.net) 58

Slashdot reader #9,219 Guy Smiley shared this report on a new breed of high-density flash storage. The Inquirer reports: Intel has unveiled a brand new form factor for solid state disc drives (SSDs)... Intel Optane's new "ruler" format will allow up to a petabyte of storage on a single 1U server rack... By using 3D-NAND, the ruler crams in even more data and will provide more stability with less chance of catastrophic failure with data loss. The company has promised that the Ruler will have more bandwidth, input/output operations per second and lower latency than SAS... As part of the announcement, Intel also announced a range of "hard drive replacement" SSDs -- the S4500 and S4600 0 which are said to have the highest density 32-layer 3D NAND on the market, and are specifically aimed at data centres that want to move to solid state simply and if necessary, in stages.
The Military

Military Tech Could Be Amazon's Secret To Cheap, Non-Refrigerated Food (cnbc.com) 80

According to CNBC, Amazon is exploring a technology first developed for the U.S. military to produce tasty prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, as it looks for new ways to muscle into the $700 billion U.S. grocery business. From the report: The world's biggest online retailer has discussed selling ready-to-eat dishes such as beef stew and a vegetable frittata as soon as next year, officials at the startup firm marketing the technology told Reuters. The dishes would be easy to stockpile and ship because they do not require refrigeration and could be offered quite cheaply compared with take-out from a restaurant. Delivering meals would build on the company's AmazonFresh service, which has been delivering groceries to customers' homes for a decade. It could also complement Amazon's planned $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market and Amazon's checkout-free convenience store, which is in the test stage.

The pioneering food-prep tech, known as microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or MATS, was developed by researchers at Washington State University, and is being brought to market by a venture-backed startup called 915 Labs, based in Denver. The method involves placing sealed packages of food in pressurized water and heating them with microwaves for several minutes, according to 915 Labs. Unlike traditional processing methods, where packages are in pressure cookers for up to an hour until both bacteria and nutrients are largely gone, the dishes retain their natural flavor and texture, the company said. They also can sit on a shelf for a year, which would make them suitable for Amazon's storage and delivery business model.

Security

Scientists Create DNA-Based Exploit of a Computer System (technologyreview.com) 43

Archeron writes: It seems that scientists at University of Washington in Seattle have managed to encode malware into genomic data, allowing them to gain full access to a computer being used to analyze the data. While this may be a highly contrived attack scenario, it does ask the question whether we pay sufficient attention to data-driven exploits, especially where the data is instrument-derived. What other systems could be vulnerable to a tampered raw data source? Perhaps audio and RF analysis systems? MIT Technology Review reports: "To carry out the hack, researchers led by Tadayoshi Kohno and Luis Ceze encoded malicious software in a short stretch of DNA they purchased online. They then used it to gain 'full control' over a computer that tried to process the genetic data after it was read by a DNA sequencing machine. The researchers warn that hackers could one day use faked blood or spit samples to gain access to university computers, steal information from police forensics labs, or infect genome files shared by scientists. To make the malware, the team translated a simple computer command into a short stretch of 176 DNA letters, denoted as A, G, C, and T. After ordering copies of the DNA from a vendor for $89, they fed the strands to a sequencing machine, which read off the gene letters, storing them as binary digits, 0s and 1s. Yaniv Erlich, a geneticist and programmer who is chief scientific officer of MyHertige.com, a genealogy website, says the attack took advantage of a spill-over effect, when data that exceeds a storage buffer can be interpreted as a computer command. In this case, the command contacted a server controlled by Kohno's team, from which they took control of a computer in their lab they were using to analyze the DNA file." You can read their paper here.
Android

T-Mobile To Launch Its Own Branded Budget Smartphone (cnet.com) 16

In a throwback to a time when carriers differentiated themselves by branding and selling exclusive phones, T-Mobile announced Wednesday that it's launching its very own budget Android smartphone called the Revvl. CNET reports: The Revvl, which runs on Android Nougat, offers pretty basic specs: a 5.5 inch HD display, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. But it also throws in a fingerprint sensor and will cost T-Mobile customers just $5 a month with no down payment through the company's Jump! upgrade program. It goes on sale Thursday. In a blog post, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said the company is catering to those who want the latest smartphone technology but can't afford to pay for high-end devices.
IOS

Developers Explain Why iOS Apps Are Getting Bulkier (ndtv.com) 140

Reader joshtops shares a report: Apps are getting bigger in size, in part because developers add new features, something many users obviously appreciate, developers say. "Apps are getting bigger because iOS devices are more powerful, and developers are building more and more complex things for them without considering the impact the size will have around the world," developer Stephen Troughton-Smith tells Gadgets 360. But in part, it is also happening because developers are being careless, and adding more than one instance of files, Troughton-Smith added. "So Facebook, Twitter, and other large companies have perhaps tens or hundreds of people building their iOS apps. A lot of the components for these apps are developed independently as components, or frameworks. For each additional component you glue together into an app, there is some overhead," he explained. "Some of the teams will duplicate functionality some other team wrote. Images and other resources end up being duplicated." The high-resolution image assets that developers are required to add also contributes to the size of an app, two India-based developers, and Peter Steinberger, founder and CEO of PSPDFKit, a dev kit that is used by several popular PDF apps, told Gadgets 360. Apple can itself take some blame, too. Developers using Apple's Swift language, which the company introduced in 2014, are required to add several components to their apps that make them heavier. "Apple's new Swift language, for example, requires a bunch of components to be embedded each time it's used, because it's not yet 'ABI stable,'" Troughton-Smith explained. This means developers need to embed the versions of libraries they've developed against, and not count on the one available on the system. Another developer who didn't want to be identified said a typical app built with Swift language requires as many as 30 Swift runtime libraries to be stuffed within the app. On top of this, he added, "you will be surprised at just how many apps use common code found at places like GitHub. Developers often don't care about removing the bits that wasn't relevant to their app," he added.
The Internet

Is this the End of Typing? The Internet's Next Billion Users Want Video and Voice (foxnews.com) 230

An anonymous reader shares a WSJ article: The internet's global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one. Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers -- "the next billion," the tech industry calls them -- is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world's less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy. Incumbent tech companies are finding they must rethink their products for these newcomers and face local competitors that have been quicker to figure them out. "We are seeing a new kind of internet user," said Ceasar Sengupta, who heads a group at Alphabet's Google trying to adapt to the new wave. "The new users are very different from the first billion." A look at Megh Singh's smartphone suggests how the next billion might determine a new set of winners and losers in tech. Mr. Singh, 36, balances suitcases on his head in New Delhi, earning less than $8 a day as a porter in one of India's biggest railway stations. He isn't comfortable reading or using a keyboard. That doesn't stop him from checking train schedules, messaging family and downloading movies. "We don't know anything about emails or even how to send one," said Mr. Singh, who went online only in the past year. "But we are enjoying the internet to the fullest." Mr. Singh squatted under the station stairwell, whispering into his phone using speech recognition on the station's free Wi-Fi. It is a simple affair, a Sony Corp. model with 4GB of storage, versus the 32GB that is typically considered minimal in the developed world. On his screen are some of the world's most popular apps -- Google's search, Facebook's WhatsApp -- but also many that are unfamiliar in the developed world, including UC Browser, MX Player and SHAREit, that have been tailored for slow connections and skimpy data storage.
Operating Systems

Android 8.0's 'Streaming OS Updates' Will Work Even If Your Phone Is Full (arstechnica.com) 40

Regardless of whether or not your phone is full of pictures, or videos, or apps, you will still be able to download and install an OS update with Android 8.0. According to the latest source.android.com documentation, Google has cooked up a scheme to make sure that an "insufficient space" error will never stop an update again. Ars Technica reports: Where the heck can Google store the update if your phone is full, though? If you remember in Android 7.0, Google introduced a new feature called "Seamless Updates." This setup introduced a dual system partition scheme -- a "System A" and "System B" partition. The idea is that, when it comes time to install an update, you can normally use your phone on the online "System A" partition while an update is being applied to the offline "System B" partition in the background. Rather than the many minutes of downtime that would normally occur from an update, all that was needed to apply the update was a quick reboot. At that point, the device would just switch from partition A to the newly updated partition B. When you get that "out of space" error message during an update, you're only "out of space" on the user storage partition, which is just being used as a temporary download spot before the update is applied to the system partition. Starting with Android 8.0, the A/B system partition setup is being upgraded with a "streaming updates" feature. Update data will arrive from the Internet directly to the offline system partition, written block by block, in a ready-to-boot state. Instead of needing ~1GB of free space, Google will be bypassing user storage almost entirely, needing only ~100KB worth of free space for some metadata. Ars Technica goes on to note that the feature will be backported to Google Play Services, and will be enabled on "Android 7.0 and later" devices with a dual system partition setup.
Cloud

Cisco Meraki Loses Customer Data in Engineering Gaffe (cloudpro.co.uk) 63

Cisco has admitted to losing customer data during a configuration change its enginners applied to its Meraki cloud managed IT service. From a report: Specific data uploaded to Cisco Meraki before 11:20 am PT last Thursday was deleted after engineers created an erroneous policy in a configuration change to its US object storage service, Cisco admitted on Friday. The company did say that the issue has been fixed, and while the error will not affect network operations in most cases, it admitted the faulty policy "but will be an inconvenience as some of your data may have been lost." Cisco hasn't said how many of its 140,000+ Meraki customers have been affected. The deleted data includes custom floor plans, logos, enterprise apps and voicemail greetings found on users' dashboard, systems manager and phones. The engineering team was working over the weekend to find out whether the data can be recovered and potentially build tools so that customers can find out what data has been lost.
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Acquires Data-Cleaning Company Permabit (fortune.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Business software company Red Hat said on Monday that it is acquiring the technology assets of Permabit, a small company that specializes in cleaning up corporate data to make storage more efficient and data access faster. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but a Red Hat spokesman said 16 people from Permabit will be joining that company...

While the conventional wisdom is that data storage is cheap, it is not free. And with companies turning to more expensive flash storage, it saves money to remove redundant data, said Richard Fichera, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research... Red Hat, which sells a version of the Linux operating system used by many Fortune 500 companies, also offers its own storage software. And, it wants to become a more formidable challenger in data storage, a goal that can be furthered by buying Permabit's technology, Fichera said.

Slashdot reader See Attached points out that this week Red Hat also released RHEL 7.4, which introduces support for Network Bound Disk Encryption (NBDE) and system protection against intrusive USB devices.
Businesses

Popular Password Manager LastPass Doubles Price of Its Premium Plan, Removes features From Its Free Service Tier (neowin.net) 156

An anonymous reader shares a report: In November, LastPass made a big change to its service, allowing users to keep track of their passwords across all their internet-enabled mobile and desktop devices, free of charge. In addition to the free tier, the cross-platform password manager - available on iOS, Android, and Windows 10 -- also offered a Premium plan with additional features, priced at $12 per year. Today, LastPass announced another wave of changes to its lineup for individual users -- but this time, the changes are unlikely to be welcomed with open arms by its customers. LastPass Premium has now doubled in price to $24 a year, which includes "emergency access, the ability to share single passwords and items with multiple people, priority tech support, advanced multi-factor authentication, LastPass for applications, and 1GB of encrypted file storage," along with all the other features of the Free tier. In a statement, the company said, "While LastPass Free continues to offer access on all browsers and devices and the core LastPass password management functionality, unlimited sharing and emergency access are now Premium features. Free users will be able to share one item with one other individual.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

HP Patents 'Reminder Messages' (eff.org) 68

Daniel Nazer reports via the Electronic Frontier Foundation: On July 25, 2017, the Patent Office issued a patent to HP on reminder messages. Someone needs to remind the Patent Office to look at the real world before issuing patents. United States Patent No. 9,715,680 (the '680 patent) is titled "Reminder messages." While the patent application does suggest some minor tweaks to standard automated reminders, none of these supposed additions deserve patent protection. Although this claim uses some obscure language (like "non-transitory computer-readable storage medium" and "article data"), it describes a quite mundane process. The "article data" is simply additional information associated with an event. For example, "buy a cake" might be included with a birthday reminder. The patent also requires that this extra information be input via a "scanning operation" (e.g. scanning a QR code). The '680 patent comes from an application filed in July 2012. It is supposed to represent a non-obvious advance on technology that existed before that date. Of course, reminder messages were standard many years before the application was filed. And just a few minutes of research reveals that QR codes were already used to encode information for reminder messages. The Patent Office reviewed HP's application for years without ever considering any real-world products. Indeed, the examiner considered only patents and patent applications.
Communications

BrickerBot Dev Claims Cyber-Attack That Affected Over 60,000 Indian Modems (bleepingcomputer.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: "The author of the BrickerBot malware has claimed a cyber-attack that affected several Indian states and has caused over 60,000 modems and routers to lose Internet connectivity," reports Bleeping Computer. "The incident affected modems and routers belonging to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), two Indian state-owned telecommunications service providers." The BrickerBot malware infected modems that used default passwords and modems that the two ISPs left exposed via the TR069 management interface to connections from anywhere on the Internet. BrickerBot is a malware strain that affects Linux-based IoT and networking devices. Unlike other malware that hoards devices into botnets for DDoS attacks and other purposes, BrickerBot "bricks" the equipment by rewriting its flash storage with random data. In most cases this bricking effect can be reversed, but in some cases this is permanent. BSNL and MTNL had worked to fix problems but efforts were delayed after a BSNL workforce strike. The BrickerBot author also raised the alarm about similar exposed devices on the network of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). In April, the BrickerBot author claimed he bricked over 2 million devices.
Businesses

Apple Discontinues iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle (macrumors.com) 151

From a report: Apple today removed the iPod nano and iPod shuffle from its website and online store around the world, suggesting the iconic portable media players may be discontinued. Apple continues to sell the iPod touch. Beyond new colors and storage capacities, Apple had last updated the iPod nano in October 2012 and the iPod shuffle in September 2010. Apple last updated the iPod touch in July 2015 with an 8-megapixel rear camera. Apple introduced the iPod shuffle in January 2005, followed by the iPod nano in September 2005. In total, there were seven generations of the iPod nano, and four generations of the iPod shuffle. The company has confirmed that it has discontinued the devices.
Data Storage

Upcoming USB 3.2 Specification Will Double Data Rates Using Existing Cables (macrumors.com) 159

A new USB specification has been introduced today by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which is comprised of Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and other companies. The new USB 3.2 specification will replace the existing 3.1 specification and will double data rates to 20Gbps using new wires available if your device embraces the newest USB hardware. Mac Rumors reports: An incremental update, USB 3.2 is designed to define multi-lane operation for USB 3.2 hosts and devices. USB Type-C cables already support multi-lane operation, and with USB 3.2, hosts and devices can be created as multi-lane solutions, allowing for either two lanes of 5Gb/s or two lanes of 10Gb/s operation. With support for two lanes of 10Gb/s transfer speeds, performance is essentially doubled over existing USB-C cables. As an example, the USB Promoter Group says a USB 3.2 host connected to a USB 3.2 storage device will be capable of 2GB/sec data transfer performance over a USB-C cable certified for USB SuperSpeed 10Gb/s USB 3.1, while also remaining backwards compatible with earlier USB devices. Along with two-lane operation, USB 3.2 continues to use SuperSpeed USB layer data rates and encoding techniques and will introduce a minor update to hub specifications for seamless transitions between single and two-lane operation.
Power

Toyota's New Solid-State Battery Could Make Its Way To Cars By 2020 (techcrunch.com) 69

According to the Wall Street Journal, Toyota is in production engineering for a solid state battery, which uses a solid electrolyte instead of the conventional semi-liquid version used in today's lithium-ion batteries. The company said it aims to put the new tech in production electric vehicles as early as 2020. TechCrunch reports: The improved battery technology would make it possible to create smaller, more lightweight lithium-ion batteries for use in EVs, that could also potentially boost the total charge capacity and result in longer-range vehicles. Another improvement for this type of battery would be longer overall usable life, which would make it possible to both use the vehicles they're installed in for longer, and add potential for product recycling and alternative post-vehicle life (some companies are already looking into putting EV batteries into use in home and commercial energy storage, for example).
Android

Motorola Unveils the Moto Z2 Force, a Smartphone With Double the Cameras and a Shatterproof Screen (theverge.com) 47

Motorola has announced a new flagship smartphone that will be available on every major U.S. carrier. Some of the noteworthy specifications include a nearly indestructible screen and dual rear-facing camera sensors. The Verge reports: The Moto Z2 Force is the closest thing to a flagship phone that Motorola has released this year, and it's got all the hardware specs to show for it: inside is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It runs Android 7.1 with a promised upgrade to Android O to come. That's all standard fare for an expensive 2017 smartphone, and the Z2 Force is certainly expensive at around $720. It's priced even higher on some carriers like AT&T ($810). This version is much thinner than last year's phone, but that sleek design comes with a significant sacrifice in battery capacity; the Z2 Force has a 2,730mAh battery compared to the 3,500mAh battery in the old Moto Z Force. Between this and the Moto Z2 Play, Motorola sure does seem obsessed with slimming things down lately, and what are we gaining? Oh, there's no headphone jack on this thing either. Be prepared to go wireless or live the dongle life.
AMD

Chipmakers Nvidia, AMD Ride Cryptocurrency Wave -- For Now (bloomberg.com) 57

During California's Gold Rush, it was often the sellers of pickaxes and shovels who made the most money. In the frenzy to get rich quick from cryptocurrencies, some investors are calling computer chipmakers the modern-day equivalent. From a report: Shares of Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices have gained at least 14 percent since the beginning of June, spurred in part by about a 10-fold boom from April to June in a market, known as ethereum, for a currency that can be used to buy computing power over the internet. What's the link between ethereum and these Silicon Valley chipmakers? It lies in the really powerful graphics processors, designed to make computer games more realistic, that are also needed to gain access to encrypted digital currencies. Nvidia and AMD have rallied in the last month and a half even as investors have ignored chip stocks leaving the benchmark Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index up about 1 percent. Nvidia has gained 14 percent and AMD rallied 27 percent. While some of that has come from optimism around new products for other markets, analysts are projecting that sales related to cryptocurrencies will result in a spike in revenue for both companies. Even so, investors shouldn't bank on a lasting impact from the cryptocurrency boom, said Stacy Rasgon, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "This has happened before," Rasgon said. "It lasted about a quarter." [...] Like bitcoin, ethereum is an attempt by an online community to create an economy that doesn't rely on government-backed currencies. Unlike bitcoin, it's focused solely on offering decentralized computing and storage services. Those seeking to use these services -- and speculators looking for a quick profit by creating and then selling ether -- have seized on graphics cards, which excel at performing multiple simple calculations in parallel, as a faster way to claim the blocks of code that act as the currency of the ethereum market. Demand from ethereum miners has created temporary shortages of some of the graphics cards, according to analysts, who cite sold-out products at online retailers. Estimates of additional sales from this demand run as high as $875 million, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Mitch Steves. That would roughly equal AMD's total sales from graphics chips last year, or half of Nvidia's quarterly sales of those components. But Steves and other analysts are also quick to warn that the market opportunity could fizzle out.
Movies

Biologists Use Gene Editing To Store Movies In DNA (scientificamerican.com) 87

New submitter elmohound writes: A recent paper in Nature describes how gene editing was used to store a digital movie into a bacterial population. The choice of subject is a nice hommage to Muybridge's 1887 photos. From a report via Scientific American: "The technical achievement, reported on July 12 in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. To develop such a system, however, his team would need to establish a method for recording hundreds of events in a cell. Shipman and his colleagues, including Harvard geneticist George Church, harnessed the CRISPR-Cas immune system best known for enabling researchers to alter genomes with relative ease and accuracy. Shipman's team exploited the ability to capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and store them in an organized array in the host genome. In nature, those snippets then target an enzyme to slice up the invader's DNA. The team designed its system so that these snippets corresponded to pixels in an image. The researchers encoded the shading of each pixel -- along with a barcode that indicated its position in the image -- into 33 DNA letters. Each frame of the movie consisted of 104 of these DNA fragments." You can view the movie here, which consists of five frames adapted from Muybridge's Human and Animal Locomotion series.

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