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Updated: 12 hours 52 min ago

What Federal Employees Really Need To Worry About After the Chinese Hack

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 10:43am
HughPickens.com writes: Lisa Rein writes in the Washington Post that a new government review of what the Chinese hack of sensitive security clearance files of 21 million people means for national security is in — and some of the implications are quite grave. According to the Congressional Research Service, covert intelligence officers and their operations could be exposed and high-resolution fingerprints could be copied by criminals. Some suspect that the Chinese government may build a database of U.S. government employees that could help identify U.S. officials and their roles or that could help target individuals to gain access to additional systems or information. National security concerns include whether hackers could have obtained information that could help them identify clandestine and covert officers and operations (PDF). CRS says that if the fingerprints in the background investigation files are of high enough quality, "depending on whose hands the fingerprints come into, they could be used for criminal or counterintelligence purposes." Fingerprints also could be trafficked on the black market for profit — or used to blow the covers of spies and other covert and clandestine officers, the research service found. And if they're compromised, fingerprints can't be reissued like a new credit card, the report says, making "recovery from the breach more challenging for some." vivaoporto Also points out that these same hackers are believed to be responsible for hacking United Airlines.

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Interviews: Ask Richard Stallman a Question

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 10:00am
RMS founded the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. He now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. RMS has agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, how GNU relates to Linux the kernel, free software, why he disagrees with the idea of open source, and other issues of public concern. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

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Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Caps Lock Key Still So Prominent On Keyboards?

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 9:18am
Esther Schindler writes: The developers at .io are into tracking things, I guess. In any case, a few weeks back they decided to track team performance in terms of keyboard and mouse activity during the working day. They installed a simple Chrome plugin on every Macbook and collected some statistics. For instance, developers have fewer keypresses than editors and managers—around 4k every day. Managers type more than 23k characters per day. And so on. Some pretty neat statistics. But the piece that jumped out at me was this: "What's curious—the least popular keys are Capslock and Right Mouse Button. Somewhere around 0.1% of all keypresses together. It's time to make some changes to keyboards." I've been whining about this for years. Why is it that the least-used key on my keyboard is not just in a prominent position, but also bigger than most other keys? I can I invest in a real alternate keyboard with a different layout (my husband's a big fan of the Kinesis keyboards, initially to cope with carpal tunnel). But surely it's time to re-visit the standard key layout? What keys would you eliminate or re-arrange?

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Sprked Tries To Solve Valve's Paid Mods Scandal

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 8:36am
SlappingOysters writes: This article takes a closer look at the emerging crowdfunding platform Sprked, which aims to follow the Patreon support model, but exclusively for video game modders. The service is currently in its early stages, but by crafting a system of appreciation and support that acknowledges the loyalty of the modding community, Sprked has the potential to promote and foster the creativity that is so integral to modding, instead of hampering it with the murky baggage of a mandatory economy. Valve's attempt to let modders make some money for their efforts backfired within the community — there are four demons the paid mods plan must slay to actually work.

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Maliciously Crafted MKV Video Files Can Be Used To Crash Android Phones

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 7:55am
itwbennett writes: Just days after publication of a flaw in Android's Stagefright, which could allow attackers to compromise devices with a simple MMS message, researchers have found another Android media processing flaw. The latest vulnerability is located in Android's mediaserver component, more specifically in how the service handles files that use the Matroska video container (MKV), Trend Micro researchers said. "When the process opens a malformed MKV file, the service may crash (and with it, the rest of the operating system). The vulnerability is caused by an integer overflow when the mediaserver service parses an MKV file. It reads memory out of buffer or writes data to NULL address when parsing audio data."

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Kentucky Man Arrested After Shooting Down Drone

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 7:12am
McGruber writes: Hillview, Kentucky resident William H. Merideth describes his weekend: "Sunday afternoon, the kids – my girls – were out on the back deck, and the neighbors were out in their yard. And they come in and said, 'Dad, there's a drone out here, flying over everybody's yard.'" Merideth's neighbors saw it too. "It was just hovering above our house and it stayed for a few moments and then she finally waved and it took off," said neighbor Kim VanMeter. Merideth grabbed his shotgun and waited to see if the drone crossed over his property. When it did, he took aim and shot it out of the sky. The owners showed up shortly, and the police right after. He was arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief and first degree wanton endangerment before being released the next day. Merideth says he will pursue legal action against the drone's owner, "He didn't just fly over. If he had been moving and just kept moving, that would have been one thing -- but when he come directly over our heads, and just hovered there, I felt like I had the right. You know, when you're in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy. We don't know if he was looking at the girls. We don't know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing."

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Hacking a 'Smart' Sniper Rifle

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 6:30am
An anonymous reader writes: It was inevitable: as soon as we heard about computer-aimed rifles, we knew somebody would find a way to compromise their security. At the upcoming Black Hat security conference, researchers Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger will present their techniques for doing just that. "Their tricks can change variables in the scope's calculations that make the rifle inexplicably miss its target, permanently disable the scope's computer, or even prevent the gun from firing." In one demonstration they were able to tweak the rifle's ballistic calculations by making it think a piece of ammunition weighed 72 lbs instead of 0.4 ounces. After changing this value, the gun tried to automatically adjust for the weight, and shot significantly to the left. Fortunately, they couldn't find a way to make the gun fire without physically pulling the trigger.

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Newfound Bacteria Expand Tree of Life

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 5:47am
An anonymous reader writes: It used to be that to find new forms of life, all you had to do was take a walk in the woods. Now it's not so simple. The most conspicuous organisms have long since been cataloged and fixed on the tree of life, and the ones that remain undiscovered don't give themselves up easily. You could spend all day by the same watering hole with the best scientific instruments and come up with nothing. Maybe it's not surprising, then, that when discoveries do occur, they sometimes come in torrents. Find a different way of looking, and novel forms of life appear everywhere. A team of microbiologists based at the University of California, Berkeley, recently figured out one such new way of detecting life. At a stroke, their work expanded the number of known types — or phyla — of bacteria by nearly 50 percent, a dramatic change that indicates just how many forms of life on earth have escaped our notice so far.

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Windows 10 Launches

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 5:05am
An anonymous reader writes: Today Microsoft officially released Windows 10 in 190 countries as a free upgrade for anyone with Windows 7 or later. Major features include Continuum (which brings back the start menu and lets you switch between a keyboard/mouse UI and a touch UI without forcing you into one or the other), the Cortana digital assistant, the Edge browser, virtual desktops, DirectX 12 support, universal apps, an Xbox app, and security improvements. Reviews of the operating system generally consider it an improvement over Windows 8.1, despite launch-day bugs. Peter Bright writes, "Windows 8 felt unfinished, but it was an unfinished thought. ... Windows 10 feels unfinished, but in a different way. The concept of the operating system is a great deal better than its predecessor. It's better in fact than all of its predecessors. ... For all my gripes, it's the right idea, and it's implemented in more or less the right way. But I think it's also buggier than Windows 8.1, 8, 7, or Vista were on their respective launch days." Tom Warren draws similar conclusions: "During my testing on a variety of hardware, I've run into a lot of bugs and issues — even with the version that will be released to consumers on launch day. ... Everything about Windows 10 feels like a new approach for Microsoft, and I'm confident these early bugs and issues will be addressed fairly quickly."

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US Military Stepping Up Use of Directed Energy Weapons

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 4:22am
An anonymous reader writes: At a conference on Tuesday, U.S. officials explained that all branches of the military would be increasing their use of lasers and other directed energy weapons. Lieutenant General William Etter said, "Directed energy brings the dawn of an entirely new era in defense." The Navy's laser deployment test has gone well, and they're working on a new prototype laser in the 100-150 kilowatt range. "[Navy Secretary Ray] Mabus said Iran and other countries were already using lasers to target ships and commercial airliners, and the U.S. military needed to accelerate often cumbersome acquisition processes to ensure that it stayed ahead of potential foes."

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MPEG LA Announces Call For DASH Patents

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 3:39am
An anonymous reader writes: The MPEG LA has announced a call for patents essential to the Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (or DASH) standard. According to the MPEG LA's press release, "Market adoption of DASH technology standards has increased to the point where the market would benefit from the availability of a convenient nondiscriminatory, nonexclusive worldwide one-stop patent pool license." The newly formed MPEG-DASH patent pool's licensing program will allegedly offer the market "efficient access to this important technology."

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A Computer Umpires Its First Pro Baseball Game

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 1:11am
An anonymous reader writes: Baseball has long been regarded as a "game of inches." Among the major professional sports it arguably requires the greatest amount of precision — a few extra RPMs can turn a decent curveball into an unhittable one, and a single degree's difference in the arc of a bat swing can change a lazy popup into a home run. As sensor technology has improved, it's been odd to see how pro baseball leagues have made great efforts to keep it away from the sport. Even if you aren't a fan of the game, you're probably familiar with the cultural meme of an umpire blowing a key call and altering the course of the game. Thus, it's significant that for the first time ever, sensors and a computer have called balls and strikes for a professional game. In a minor league game between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Vallejo Admirals, a three-camera system tracked the baseball's exact position as it crossed home plate, and a computer judged whether it was in the strike zone or not. The game went without incident, and it provided valuable data in a real-life example. The pitch-tracking system still has bugs to work out, though. Dan Brooks, founder of a site that tracks ball/strike accuracy for real umpires, said that for the new system to be implemented permanently, fans must be "willing to accept a much smaller amount of inexplicable error in exchange for a larger amount of explicable error."

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UK Campaign Wants 18-Year-Olds To Be Able To Delete Embarrassing Online Past

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:07pm
An anonymous reader writes: People should be allowed to delete embarrassing social media posts when they reach adulthood, UK internet rights campaigners are urging. The iRights coalition has set out five rights which young people should expect online, including being able to easily edit or delete content they have created, and to know who is holding or profiting from their information. Highlighting how campaigners believe adults should not have to bear the shame of past immaturity, iRights also wants children to be protected from illegal or distressing pages; to be digitally literate; and be able to make informed and conscious choices.

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NVIDIA Tegra X1 Performance Exceeds Intel Bay Trail SoCs, AMD AM1 APUs

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 8:06pm
An anonymous reader writes: A NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV modified to run Ubuntu Linux is providing interesting data on how NVIDIA's latest "Tegra X1" 64-bit ARM big.LITTLE SoC compares to various Intel/AMD/MIPS systems of varying form factors. Tegra X1 benchmarks on Ubuntu show strong performance with the X1 SoC in this $200 Android TV device, beating out low-power Intel Atom/Celeron Bay Trail SoCs, AMD AM1 APUs, and in some workloads is even getting close to an Intel Core i3 "Broadwell" NUC. The Tegra X1 features Maxwell "GM20B" graphics and the total power consumption is less than 10 Watts.

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Honeywell Home Controllers Open To Any Hacker Who Can Find Them Online

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 6:00pm
Trailrunner7 writes: Security issues continue to crop up within the so-called "smart home." A pair of vulnerabilities have been reported for the Tuxedo Touch controller made by Honeywell, a device that's designed to allow users to control home systems such as security, climate control, lighting, and others. The controller, of course, is accessible from the Internet. Researcher Maxim Rupp discovered that the vulnerabilities could allow an attacker to take arbitrary actions, including unlocking doors or modifying the climate controls in the house.

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Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need?

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 3:58pm
An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?

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Advertising Companies Accused of Deliberately Slowing Page-load Times For Profit

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 3:10pm
An anonymous reader writes: An industry insider has told Business Insider of his conviction that ad-serving companies deliberately prolong the 'auctioning' process for ad spots when a web-page loads. They do this to maximize revenue by allowing automated 'late-comers' to participate beyond the 100ms limit placed on the decision-making process. The unnamed source, a principal engineer at a global news company (whose identity and credentials were confirmed by Business Insider), concluded with the comment: "My entire team of devs and testers mostly used Adblock when developing sites, just because it was so painful otherwise." Publishers use 'daisy-chaining' to solicit bids from the most profitable placement providers down to the 'B-list' placements, and the longer the process is run, the more likely that the web-page will be shown with profitable advertising in place.

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Amazon Proposes Dedicated Airspace For Drones

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 2:24pm
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has published two new position papers which lay out its vision for future drone regulation. Under Amazon's plan, altitudes under 200ft would be reserved for basic hobbyist drones and those used for things like videography and inspection. Altitudes between 200ft and 400ft would be designated for "well-equipped vehicles" capable of operating autonomously out of line of sight. They would need sophisticated GPS tracking, a stable data uplink, communications capabilities with other drones, and sensors to avoid collisions. This, of course, is where Amazon would want to operate its drone delivery fleet. From 400ft to 500ft would be a no-fly zone buffer between the drone airspace and integrated airspace. Amazon's plan also makes room for "predefined low-risk areas," where hobbyists and other low-tech drones can fly higher than the 200ft ceiling. "Additionally, it is Amazon's view that air traffic management operations should follow a 'managed by exception' approach. This means operators are always aware of what the fleet is doing, yet they only intervene in significant off-nominal cases."

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Poor Pilot Training Blamed For Virgin Galactic Crash

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 1:42pm
astroengine writes: SpaceShipTwo co-pilot Michael Alsbury was not properly trained to realize the consequences of unlocking the vehicle's hinged tail section too soon, a mistake that led to his death and the destruction of the ship during a test flight in California last year. Responsibility for the accident falls to SpaceShipTwo manufacturer Scaled Composites, a Mojave, Calif., company owned by Northrop Grumman Corp, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined at a webcast hearing on Tuesday (PDF). Poor oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial spaceflights in the United States, was also a factor in the accident, the NTSB said.

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Scientists Identify Possible New Substance With Highest Melting Point

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 1:00pm
JoshuaZ writes: Researchers from Brown University have tentatively identified an alloy of hafnium, nitrogen and carbon as having an expected melting point of about 7,460 degrees Fahrenheit (4120 Celsius). This exceeds that of the previous record-breaker, tantalum hafnium carbide, which melts at 7,128 F (3942 C). Its record stood for almost a century. At this point, the new alloy is still hypothetical, based on simulations, so the new record has not yet been confirmed by experiment. The study was published in Physical Review B (abstract), and a lay-summary is available at the Washington Post. If the simulations turn out to be correct, the new alloy may be useful in parts like jet engines, and the door will be opened to using similar simulations to search for substances with even higher melting points or with other exotic properties.

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