An anonymous reader writes "Security firm Elcomsoft analyzed 17 iOS and BlackBerry password-keeping apps and found their actual security levels well below their claimed level of protection. With additional digging, however, Glenn Fleishman at TidBITS found that Elcomsoft's criticisms rely on physical access to the apps' data stores, and, for some of the more common apps, on the user employing a short (6 characters or fewer) or numeric password. In other words, there really isn't much risk here."
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Stowie101 writes "Today is Dynamic Range Day, which is an event to educate the public about the 'Loudness Wars' that are compressing and harming the quality of today's music. Ian Shepherd, a mastering engineer and founder of Dynamic Range Day, explains why music lovers should avoid MP3 files. 'The one that springs to mind is to avoid MP3, especially if it's 128 kbps. Apple uses a more advanced technology called AAC, but if someone can get lossless files like FLAC that's a better place to start.' Shepherd says it's actually harder to make a good 'lossy' encode of something that has been heavily musically compressed. Very heavy dynamic compression and limiting makes MP3s sound worse, so the loudness wars indirectly make MP3s sound worse."
itwbennett writes "Microsoft dropped a bomb yesterday: they won't be showing new hardware this year or 'anytime soon.' Microsoft told Kotaku that '2012 is all about Xbox 360.' Meanwhile, Bloomberg's mysterious sources are saying that Microsoft 'may show the successor to its Xbox 360 in June 2013 at the E3 conference and put it on sale that same year.' This would 'be a fast journey from announcement to launch,' says Peter Smith, 'but it'd mean we'd still get a new Xbox for holiday 2013, which is about the earliest anyone has expected it to arrive anyway.'"
cylonlover writes "Imagine a pair of rubber gloves whose surface texture could be altered on demand to provide more grip for climbing. Or maybe gloves with "fingerprints" that can be changed in the blink of an eye. They are just a couple of the many potential applications envisioned by researchers at Duke University for a process they have developed that allows the texture of plastics to be changed at will. By applying specific voltages, the researchers have been able to dynamically switch polymer surfaces among various patterns ranging from dots, segments, lines to circles."
Dmitri Baughman writes "I'm the IT guy at a small software development company of about 100 employees. Everyone is technically inclined, with disciplines in development, QA, and PM areas. As part of a monthly knowledge-sharing meeting, I've been asked to give a 30-minute presentation about our computing and networking infrastructure. I manage a pretty typical environment, so I'm not sure how to present the information in a fun and engaging way. I think network diagrams and bandwidth usage charts would make anyone's eyes glaze over! Any ideas for holding everyone's interest?"
gzipped_tar writes "Whether the fundamental constants really stay the same is always a question worth asking. In particular, the constancy of Planck's Constant is something that cannot be simply ignored, owing to its universal importance in linking the quantum and classical pictures of our world. Using publicly available GPS data and terrestrial clocks, researchers form the California State University were able to verify that the value of h indeed stays the same across different positions in the vicinity of our Earth. Their result says the local position invariance of h is satisfied within a limit of 0.007. The paper is published in the journal Physical Review Letters (abstract), and a free-to-read preprint is available on arXiv. In short: by the well-known formula E = h * f, a hypothetical variation on h induces changes in f, the transition frequency that keeps the time in atomic clocks, both on earth and aboard the satellites. When taking account of other time variations, such as general relativistic time dilation, and assuming the invariance of E (atomic transition energy) on physical grounds, we can figure out an upper bound on the variation of h reflected in the measured variation in f."
troyhunt writes "While we've long known that China takes a fairly aggressive stance on internet censorship, I thought a visit to Shanghai this week would pose a good opportunity to look at just how impactful this was to software developers behind the Great Firewall of China. It turns out that the access control policies make life very difficult at all sorts of levels when accessing simple technology resources we use every day from other countries. But I also found an amazing level of inconsistency with sites and services intended to be off limits being accessible via other means. It's an interesting insight into how our developer peers can and can't work in the country with the world's largest internet population."
An anonymous reader writes "Antivirus maker Avast is suspending its relationship with iYogi, a company it has relied upon for the past two years to provide live customer support for its products. The move comes just one day after an investigation into iYogi showed the company was using the relationship to push expensive and unnecessary support contracts onto Avast users. In a blog post, Avast's CEO wrote, 'We had initial reports of this behavior a few weeks ago and met with iYogi's senior executives to ensure the behavior was being corrected. Thus, we were shocked to find out about Mr. Krebs' experience. As a consequence, we have removed the iYogi support service from our website and shortly it will be removed from our products.'"
bednarz writes "The Smithsonian's 'Art of Video Games' exhibition opens today. To kick it off, they're holding a three-day festival with panel discussions, live action gaming, and crafting activities. 'Video games allow us as human beings to explore our dreams, our fears, our thoughts, our morals, and engage with each other in a way that no other medium allows us to. I find that inspiring and beautiful, and I am so happy to be alive during this time. We are going to experience, I think, one of the greatest surges of artistic intent in human history, and I believe that the majority of it will come through video games,' said Chris Melissinos, former Sun exec and guest curator of the new exhibition."
snydeq writes "Python creator Guido van Rossum discusses the prospects and criticisms of Python, noting that critics of Python performance should supplement with C/C++ rather than re-engineering Python apps into a faster language. 'At some point, you end up with one little piece of your system, as a whole, where you end up spending all your time. If you write that just as a sort of simple-minded Python loop, at some point you will see that that is the bottleneck in your system. It is usually much more effective to take that one piece and replace that one function or module with a little bit of code you wrote in C or C++ rather than rewriting your entire system in a faster language, because for most of what you're doing, the speed of the language is irrelevant.'"
longacre writes "One dull morning last week, two teams of NASA technicians simultaneously gathered at two iconic buildings — the 525-foot Vehicle Assembly Building and the shorter, but equally important Orbital Processing Facility 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, tasked with moving a space shuttle orbiter from one building to the other. The 'shuttle shuffle' would have Space Shuttle Discovery (the oldest and most flown orbiter surviving in the three-ship fleet) in OPF-1 swapping places with her sister ship, Atlantis, the second oldest and second most flown orbiter. Fleet leader Discovery would emerge from OPF-1 as a preserved spacecraft, gutted and mummified for museum display."
New submitter Hartree writes "This American Life aired an episode in January about visiting Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen China that supplies Apple with iPhones and iPads. It was the most downloaded of all of its episodes. That show helped prompt Apple to release, for the first time, a list of its suppliers and allow outside audits of working conditions at its suppliers. This American Life has now retracted the episode after finding out that Mike Daisey, whose visit to the factory the show was based on, fabricated portions of the story. This included a number of minor items, but also major ones such as his saying that he personally met underage workers and those poisoned by hexane exposure. To set the record straight, this weekend's episode of This American Life will present how they were mislead into airing a flawed story (PDF)."
ananyo writes "Neutrinos obey nature's speed limit, according to new results from an Italian experiment. The finding, posted to the preprint server arXiv.org, contradicts a rival claim from the OPERA experiment that neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light. ICARUS, located just a few meters from OPERA, clocked neutrinos traveling at the speed of light, and no faster, after monitoring a beam of neutrinos sent from CERN in late October and early November of last year. The neutrinos were packed into pulses just four nanoseconds long. That meant the timing could be measured far more accurately than the original OPERA measurement, which used ten microsecond pulses. The new findings are yet another blow to OPERA's results. Researchers there had announced possible timing problems with their original measurements. For many, this will pretty much be case closed."
In 2010, Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi used his computer's webcam to spy on the activities of his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, and commented about it publicly on Twitter. Days later, Clementi committed suicide. Ravi was indicted on 15 charges, going to trial last month. Now, reader doston sends word that the trial has ended, and Ravi has been found guilty on all 15 charges, though the jury returned a not guilty verdict on aspects of certain charges. "After less than three full days of deliberations, the five men and seven women of the jury found Dharun Ravi, 20 years old, guilty of invading the privacy of his 18-year-old roommate, Tyler Clementi, and his dorm-room date. They also found that Ravi was motivated by bias under a New Jersey hate-crime law that had been largely untested so far. ... The jury had been asked to decide Ravi’s motivations when he trained his webcam on Clementi and his date on two separate occasions in September 2010, in a case that set off a national conversation about cyber-bullying and treatment of gay youth. ... Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison on most serious bias intimidation convictions, but is likely to receive a lesser sentence based on sentencing guidelines because he is a first time offender. The India-born Ravi, who has spent most of his life in the U.S. as a permanent resident, faces the possibility of deportation as a result of his criminal conviction. He rejected a plea deal in December that would have kept him out of prison and offered him assistance with immigration authorities."
silentbrad sends this excerpt from the CBC: "The days of screaming activists marching with signs in hand to voice their displeasure at a particular politician are changing rapidly – just ask Vic Toews. Canada's public safety minister was the latest in a string of public-policy lightning rods to feel the wrath of Anonymous, a loose coalition of web-based activists who went after Toews for his overly vociferous promoting of the government's online surveillance bill. ... Graeme Hirst, a professor of computational linguistics at the University of Toronto, says that while Anonymous does share some properties of older protest movements, sometimes its motives can be called into question. 'It's a kind of civil disobedience, so we can immediately make analogies to the Civil Rights movement of the '60s,' Hirst said in an interview. 'On the other hand, it's not entirely clear that Anonymous is as altruistically motivated as those protests were.' ... Hirst viewed the January showdown as 'the first legitimate online protest' that was really only about the online world and suggested that the key to its success was that it was organized not by individuals but by organizations — and ones with clout. ... Another apparently successful online campaign was the Cost of Knowledge protest started by an international group of researchers in January, following a blog post by Cambridge University math professor Timothy Gowers."