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Android

ZDNet: Linux 'Takes The World' While Windows Dominates The Desktop (zdnet.com) 34

ZDNet editor-in-chief Steve Ranger writes that desktop dominance is less important with today's cloud-based apps running independent of operating system, arguing that the desktop is now "just one computing platform among many." An anonymous reader quotes his report: Linux on the desktop has about a 2% market share today and is viewed by many as complicated and obscure. Meanwhile, Windows sails on serenely, currently running on 90% of PCs in use... That's probably OK because Linux won the smartphone war and is doing pretty well on the cloud and Internet of Things battlefields too.

There's a four-in-five chance that there's a Linux-powered smartphone in your pocket (Android is based on the Linux kernel) and plenty of IoT devices are Linux-powered too, even if you don't necessarily notice it. Devices like the Raspberry Pi, running a vast array of different flavours of Linux, are creating an enthusiastic community of makers and giving startups a low-cost way to power new types of devices. Much of the public cloud is running on Linux in one form or another, too; even Microsoft has warmed up to open-source software.

Bug

Google Discloses An Unpatched Windows Bug (Again) (bleepingcomputer.com) 64

An anonymous reader writes: "For the second time in three months, Google engineers have disclosed a bug in the Windows OS without Microsoft having released a fix before Google's announcement," reports BleepingComputer. "The bug in question affects the Windows GDI (Graphics Device Interface) (gdi32.dll)..." According to Google, the issue allows an attacker to read the content of the user's memory using malicious EMF files. The bad news is that the EMF file can be hidden in other documents, such as DOCX, and can be exploited via Office, IE, or Office Online, among many.

"According to a bug report filed by Google's Project Zero team, the bug was initially part of a larger collection of issues discovered in March 2016, and fixed in June 2016, via Microsoft's security bulletin MS16-074. Mateusz Jurczyk, the Google engineer who found the first bugs, says the MS16-074 patches were insufficient, and some of the issues he reported continued to remain vulnerable." He later resubmitted the bugs in November 2016. The 90-days deadline for fixing the bugs expired last week, and the Google researcher disclosed the bug to the public after Microsoft delayed February's security updates to next month's Patch Tuesday, for March 15.

Microsoft has described Google's announcements of unpatched Windows bugs as "disappointing".
Transportation

Self-Driving Car Speed Race Ends With A Crash (electrek.co) 55

An anonymous reader writes:On a professional track in Buenos Aires, fans watched the first Formula E auto race with self-driving electric cars. "Roborace's two test vehicles battled it out on the circuit at a reasonably quick 115MPH," reports Engadget, "but one of the cars crashed after it took a turn too aggressively. The racing league was quick to tout the safety advantages of crashing autonomous cars ('no drivers were harmed'), but it's clear that the tech is still rough around the edges." Electrek is reporting that the cars "still have a cabin for a driver but neither car's cabin was occupied during the event." The ultimate goal is to have several teams racing the exact same self-driving car, while letting each team customize its car's driving software.
An Argentinian journalist shared footage of the race cars on Twitter, and apparently at one point a dog wandered out in front of an oncoming race car. But the real question is how the fans are going to feel about watching a speed race between cars with no drivers?
Privacy

Used Cars Can Still Be Controlled By Their Previous Owners' Apps (wtkr.com) 86

An IBM security researcher recently discovered something interesting about smart cars. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Charles Henderson sold his car several years ago, but he still knows exactly where it is, and can control it from his phone... "The car is really smart, but it's not smart enough to know who its owner is, so it's not smart enough to know it's been resold," Henderson told CNNTech. "There's nothing on the dashboard that tells you 'the following people have access to the car.'" This isn't an isolated problem. Henderson tested four major auto manufacturers, and found they all have apps that allow previous owners to access them from a mobile device. At the RSA security conference in San Francisco on Friday, Henderson explained how people can still retain control of connected cars even after they resell them.

Manufacturers create apps to control smart cars -- you can use your phone to unlock the car, honk the horn and find out the exact location of your vehicle. Henderson removed his personal information from services in the car before selling it back to the dealership, but he was still able to control the car through a mobile app for years. That's because only the dealership that originally sold the car can see who has access and manually remove someone from the app.

It's also something to consider when buying used IoT devices -- or a smart home equipped with internet-enabled devices.
Communications

Alaska Gets 'Artificial Aurora' As HAARP Antenna Array Listens Again (hackaday.com) 50

Freshly Exhumed quotes Hackaday: The famous HAARP antenna array is to be brought back into service for experiments by the University of Alaska. Built in the 1990s for the US Air Force's High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, the array is a 40-acre site containing a phased array of 180 high-frequency antennas and their associated high-power transmitters. Its purpose is to conduct research on charged particles in the upper atmosphere, but that hasn't stopped an array of bizarre conspiracy theories.
A university space physics researcher will actually create an artificial aurora starting Sunday (and continuing through Wednesday) to study how yjr atmosphere affects satellite-to-ground communications, and "observers throughout Alaska will have an opportunity to photograph the phenomenon," according to the University. "Under the right conditions, people can also listen to HAARP radio transmissions from virtually anywhere in the world using an inexpensive shortwave radio."
The Courts

Techdirt Asks Judge To Dismiss Another Lawsuit By That Guy Who Didn't Invent Email (arstechnica.com) 70

Three months ago Shiva Ayyadurai won a $750,000 settlement from Gawker (after they'd already gone bankrupt). He'd argued Gawker defamed him by mocking Ayyadurai's claim he'd invented email, and now he's also suing Techdirt founder Michael Masnick -- who is not bankrupt, and is fighting back. Long-time Slashdot reader walterbyrd quotes Ars Technica: In his motion, Masnick claims that Ayyadurai "is seeking to use the muzzle of a defamation action to silence those who question his claim to historical fame." He continues, "The 14 articles and 84 allegedly defamatory statements catalogued in the complaint all say essentially the same thing: that Defendants believe that because the critical elements of electronic mail were developed long before Ayyadurai's 1978 computer program, his claim to be the 'inventor of e-mail' is false"...

The motion skims the history of e-mail and points out that the well-known fields of e-mail messages, like "to," "from," "cc," "subject," "message," and "bcc," were used in ARPANET e-mail messages for years before Ayyadurai made his "EMAIL" program. Ayyadurai focuses on statements calling him a "fake," a "liar," or a "fraud" putting forth "bogus" claims. Masnick counters that such phrases are "rhetorical hyperbole" meant to express opinions and reminds the court that "[t]he law provides no redress for harsh name-calling."

The motion calls the lawsuit "a misbegotten effort to stifle historical debate, silence criticism, and chill others from continuing to question Ayyadurai's grandiose claims." Ray Tomlinson has been dead for less than a year, but in this fascinating 1998 article recalled testing the early email protocols in 1971, remembering that "Most likely the first message was QWERTYIOP."
Education

Software Goes Through Beta Testing. Should Online College Courses? (edsurge.com) 69

"Testing online courses is not standard practice at traditional colleges," points out a new article at EdSurge -- though beta-testing is part of the process for other online learning sites. jyosim summarizes their report: Coursera has recruited a volunteer corp of more than 2,500 beta testers to try out MOOCs before they launch. Other free online course providers have set up systems that catch things like mistakes in tests, or just whether videos are confusing. Traditional colleges have shied away from checking online course content before going live, citing academic freedom. But some colleges are developing checklists to judge course design and accessibility.

"It would be lovely if universities would consider ways of adopting the practice of beta testing," says Phillip Long, chief innovation officer and associate vice provost for learning sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. One factor, though, is cost. "How do you scale that at a university that has thousands of courses being taught," he asks... How much beta testing makes sense for courses, and what's the best way to do it?

A senior instructional designer at the State University of New York says "On most campuses, instructional designers have their hands full and don't have time to review the courses before they go live... We're still trying to find the magic bullet that motivates people to review other people's courses when they're not being paid."
Toys

German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll (theverge.com) 110

It's illegal in Germany now to sell a talking doll named "My Friend Cayla," according to a story shared by Slashdot reader Bruce66423. And that's just the beginning. The Verge reports: A German government watchdog has ordered parents to "destroy" an internet-connected doll for fear it could be used as a surveillance device. According to a report from BBC News, the German Federal Network Agency said the doll (which contains a microphone and speaker) was equivalent to a "concealed transmitting device" and therefore prohibited under German telecom law... In December last year, privacy advocates said the toy recorded kids' conversations without proper consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Cayla uses a microphone to listen to questions, sending this audio over Wi-Fi to a third-party company that converts it to text. This is then used to search the internet, allowing the doll to answer basic questions, like "What's a baby kangaroo called?" as well as play games. In addition to privacy concerns over data collection, security researchers found that Cayla can be easily hacked. The doll's insecure Bluetooth connection can be compromised, letting a third party record audio via the toy, or even speak to children using its voice.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has said toys like this "subject young children to ongoing surveillance...without any meaningful data protection standards." One researcher pointed out that the doll was accessible from up to 33 feet away -- even through walls -- using a bluetooth-enabled device.
Android

Congressman Calls For Probe Into Trump's Unsecured Android Phone (cnet.com) 476

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: President Donald Trump regularly makes news because of his tweets. Now a congressman is making news because of the device the president reportedly uses to tweet. On Friday, Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Los Angeles, wrote a letter to the House Oversight Committee requesting an investigation into Trump's cybersecurity practices. In particular, he calls out Trump's apparent decision to keep using his personal Android phone instead of a secured phone the Secret Service issued him for his inauguration. The letter is also signed by 14 other members of Congress and calls for a public hearing to discuss the issues. "The device President Trump insists on using -- most likely the Samsung Galaxy S3 -- has particularly well documented vulnerabilities," the letter says. "The use of an unsecured phone risks the president of the United States being monitored by foreign or domestic adversaries, many of whom would be happy to hijack the president's prized Twitter account causing disastrous consequences for global security. Cybersecurity experts universally agree that an ordinary Android smartphone, which the president is reportedly using despite repeated warnings from the Secret Service, can be easily hacked."
Earth

Genetically-Modified 'Surrogate Hens' Could Lay Eggs of Rare Chicken Breeds, Scientists Say (theguardian.com) 33

In an effort to preserve rare varieties of chicken breeds and diversify the chicken gene pool, scientists at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute have come up with a plan to breed genetically-modified chickens designed to act as surrogates that would be capable of laying eggs from any rare breed. Such rare breeds include the Nankin, Scots Dumpy and Sicilian Buttercup. The Guardian reports: The surrogacy technique, which places a new, mind-bending twist on the classic chicken or egg question, involves first genetically engineering hens to be sterile. This is done by deleting a gene, called DDX4, that is required for the development of primordial follicles (the precursors to eggs) meaning that the surrogate hens will never lay eggs that are biologically their own. The next step will be to transplant follicles from rare birds into the surrogate (this is done before the surrogate chick is hatched from its own egg), meaning it would go on to lay eggs belonging to entirely different breeds of chicken. Given that the hens would also need to be artificially inseminated with sperm from the same rare variety, the approach may appear unnecessarily convoluted. Why not just breed the rare birds the normal way? The scientists' ultimate goal is to create a gene bank of chicken breeds preserved for posterity, and since primordial follicles can be frozen efficiently, while eggs cannot, the surrogacy technique serves an essential work-around. Mike McGrew, who is leading the project and is the first author on a paper on the work published this week in the journal Development, predicts that the surrogates will be able to lay eggs from any breed, including chicken's wild predecessor, the red junglefowl, but he is doubtful about whether it will work efficiently across species -- it is not likely that the surrogate hens will be giving birth to eagle chicks, for instance. Richard Broad, a field officer for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, agreed that rare chickens could be a source of valuable genetic variation, potentially carrying variants that would provide resistance against new forms of avian flu. At present, the team is focused on chicken breeds, but expects the technique to work to preserve rare varieties of ducks, geese and quail.
Businesses

How Atari's Nolan Bushnell Pioneered the Tech Incubator In the 1980s (fastcompany.com) 25

harrymcc writes: After Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese in the 1970s, he had so many ideas for new tech products that he started a tech incubator called Catalyst to spin them off into startups. Catalyst's companies were involved in robotics, online shopping, navigation, electronic game distribution, and other areas that eventually became big businesses -- but they did it with 1980s technology. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells this remarkable, forgotten story. New submitter deej1097 provides an excerpt from Edwards' report: In the annals of Silicon Valley history, Nolan Bushnell's name conjures up both brilliant success and spectacular failure. His two landmark achievements were founding Atari in 1972 -- laying the groundwork for the entire video game industry -- and starting Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre in 1977. But there's another highlight of Bushnell's bio that has long gone undocumented: pioneer of the high-tech incubator.
Microsoft

Bill Gates: The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes (qz.com) 369

In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said he believes that governments should tax companies that use robots who are taking human jobs, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. The money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools -- jobs which humans are particularly well suited for. Quartz reports: [Gates] argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it. "You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed" of automation, Gates argues. That's because the technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it's important to be able to manage that displacement. "You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once," Gates says, citing warehouse work and driving as some of the job categories that in the next 20 years will have robots doing them. You can watch Gates' remarks in a video here, or read the transcript embedded in Quartz' report.
Encryption

Researchers Discover Security Problems Under the Hood of Automobile Apps (arstechnica.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Malware researchers Victor Chebyshev and Mikhail Kuzin examined seven Android apps for connected vehicles and found that the apps were ripe for malicious exploitation. Six of the applications had unencrypted user credentials, and all of them had little in the way of protection against reverse-engineering or the insertion of malware into apps. The vulnerabilities looked at by the Kaspersky researchers focused not on vehicle communication, but on the Android apps associated with the services and the potential for their credentials to be hijacked by malware if a car owner's smartphone is compromised. All seven of the applications allowed the user to remotely unlock their vehicle; six made remote engine start possible (though whether it's possible for someone to drive off with the vehicle without having a key or RFID-equipped key fob present is unclear). Two of the seven apps used unencrypted user logins and passwords, making theft of credentials much easier. And none of the applications performed any sort of integrity check or detection of root permissions to the app's data and events -- making it much easier for someone to create an "evil" version of the app to provide an avenue for attack. While malware versions of these apps would require getting a car owner to install them on their device in order to succeed, Chebyshev and Kuzin suggested that would be possible through a spear-phishing attack warning the owner of a need to do an emergency app update. Other malware might also be able to perform the installation.
Debian

Mozilla Thunderbird Finally Makes Its Way Back Into Debian's Repos (softpedia.com) 45

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: A year ago, we told you that, after ten long years, the Debian Project finally found a way to switch their rebranded Iceweasel web browser back to Mozilla Firefox, both the ESR (Extended Support Release) and normal versions, but one question remained: what about the Mozilla Thunderbird email, news, and calendar client? Well, that question has an official answer today, as the Mozilla Thunderbird packages appear to have landed in the Debian repositories as a replacement for Icedove, the rebranded version that Debian Project was forced to use for more than ten years due to trademark issues. "Thunderbird is back in Debian! We also renamed other related packages to use official names, e.g. iceowl-extension -> lightning. For now, we need testers to catch existing issues and things we haven't seen until now," said Christoph Goehre in the mailing list announcement. You can find out how to migrate your Icedove profiles to Thunderbird via Softpedia's report.
Transportation

GM Plans To Build, Test Thousands of Self-Driving Bolts In 2018 (reuters.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: General Motors Co plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker's plans said this week. It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source. In a statement on Friday, GM said: "We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think."
Businesses

SoftBank Is Willing To Cede Control of Sprint To Get T-Mobile Merger Done, Says Report (phonedog.com) 27

According to Reuters, SoftBank is willing to cede control of Sprint to make a T-Mobile-Sprint merger happen. The company controls 83 percent of Sprint, but it'd reportedly be willing to surrender control of Sprint and retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile. PhoneDog reports: It's said that SoftBank is growing frustrated with Sprint's lack of major growth in the U.S. market, and so it wants to merge with T-Mobile in order to better compete with Verizon and ATT. No talks between SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom are currently happening because of the FCC's 600MHz spectrum auction that prevents collusion between competing companies. Once the auction ends in April, though, it's expected that SoftBank will approached Deutsche Telekom about a deal.
AI

Japan Unveils Next-Generation, Pascal-Based AI Supercomputer (nextplatform.com) 117

The Tokyo Institute of Technology has announced plans to launch Japan's "fastest AI supercomputer" this summer. The supercomputer is called Tsubame 3.0 and will use Nvidia's latest Pascal-based Tesla P100 GPU accelerators to double its performance over its predecessor, the Tsubame 2.5. Slashdot reader kipperstem77 shares an excerpt from a report via The Next Platform: With all of those CPUs and GPUs, Tsubame 3.0 will have 12.15 petaflops of peak double precision performance, and is rated at 24.3 petaflops single precision and, importantly, is rated at 47.2 petaflops at the half precision that is important for neural networks employed in deep learning applications. When added to the existing Tsubame 2.5 machine and the experimental immersion-cooled Tsubame-KFC system, TiTech will have a total of 6,720 GPUs to bring to bear on workloads, adding up to a total of 64.3 aggregate petaflops at half precision. (This is interesting to us because that means Nvidia has worked with TiTech to get half precision working on Kepler GPUs, which did not formally support half precision.)
AI

EU Moves To Bring In AI Laws, But Rejects Robot Tax Proposal (newatlas.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: The European Parliament has voted on a resolution to regulate the development of artificial intelligence and robotics across the European Union. Based on a raft of recommendations drafted in a report submitted in January to the legal affairs committee, the proposed rules include establishing ethical standards for the development of artificial intelligence, and introducing an insurance scheme to cover liability for accidents involving driverless cars. Not every element in the broad-ranging report was accepted by the Parliament though, with a recommendation to institute a "robot tax" roundly rejected. The robot tax proposal was designed to create a fund that manages the repercussions and retraining of workers made redundant through the increased deployment of industrial and service robots. But those in the robotics industry were supportive of the Parliamentary rejection, with the International Federation of Robotics suggesting to Reuters a robot tax would have been harmful to the burgeoning industry, stifling innovation and competitiveness. The European Parliament passed the resolution comfortably with 396 votes to 123, with 85 abstentions.
Yahoo!

Deleting Your Yahoo Email Account? Yeah, Good Luck With That (zdnet.com) 98

In the wake of security breach revelations, many of you might have considered deleting your Yahoo account. Many of you might be thinking about doing so soon. Heads up, it turns out, deleting a Yahoo email account isn't as straightforward as you may have imagined, and you again have Yahoo to blame for that. From a report on ZDNet: Several Yahoo users, who last year decided to leave the service, told us that their accounts remained open for weeks or months after the company said they would be closed. David Clarke was one of those departing users, whose dormant account was slowly accumulating junk over the past few years. "This was an ancient email I had set up, had no personal data in it anymore and had a unique password," writing about his troubles on Medium. "But it's a part of my digital footprint that I no longer required and decided, given the horrible security practices going on at Yahoo, to vote with my account and have it removed." Yahoo makes the account deletion process straightforward enough, but users have to wait "in most cases... approximately 90 days" for the account to close. The company says this is to "discourage users from engaging in fraudulent activity." On day 91, Clarke logged back into his account to find that it was still active. Unbeknownst to him, logging back in simply to check would reset the clock back to zero. "Yahoo confirmed via email yesterday if you access your account it resets the timer," he told me. "So, if you login to ensure your account has been deleted and it hasn't, you have to wait at least another 90 days."
Google

YouTube Will Kill Unskippable 30-Second Ads Next Year (theverge.com) 148

YouTube is planning to do away with the non-skippable 30-second ads that appear before a YouTube video. From a report: In a statement first given to Campaign then confirmed by The Verge, a Google spokesperson said the company will focus on commercial formats that are more engaging for both advertisers and viewers. "We're committed to providing a better ads experience for users online. As part of that, we've decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers," Google said.

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