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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

The Courts

Hacker Threatened With 44 Felony Charges Escapes With Misdemeanor 5

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-days-of-not-taking-you-seriously-are-certainly-coming-to-a-middle dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's no secret that prosecutors usually throw every charge they can at an alleged criminal, but the case of Aaron Swartz brought to light how poorly-written computer abuse laws lend themselves to this practice. Now, another perfect example has resolved itself: a hacker with ties to Anonymous was recently threatened with 44 felony counts of computer fraud and cyberstalking, each with its own 10-year maximum sentence. If the charges stuck, the man was facing multiple lifetimes worth of imprisonment.

But, of course, they didn't. Prosecutors struck a deal to get him to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge, which carried only a $10,000 fine. The man's attorney, Tor Eklund, said, "The more I looked at this, the more it seemed like an archetypal example of the Department of Justice's prosecutorial abuse when it comes to computer crime. It shows how aggressive they are, and how they seek to destroy your reputation in the press even when the charges are complete, fricking garbage."
Ruby

Is Ruby On Rails Losing Steam? 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the only-among-left-handed-geriatric-haberdashers dept.
itwbennett writes: In a post last week, Quartz ranked the most valuable programming skills, based on job listing data from Burning Glass and the Brookings Institution. Ruby on Rails came out on top, with an average salary of $109,460. And that may have been true in the first quarter of 2013 when the data was collected, but "before you run out and buy Ruby on Rails for Dummies, you might want to consider some other data which indicate that Rails (and Ruby) usage is not trending upwards," writes Phil Johnson. He looked at recent trends in the usage of Ruby (as a proxy for Rails usage) across MS Gooroo, the TIOBE index, the PYPL index, Redmonk's language rankings, and GitHut and found that "demand by U.S. employers for engineers with Rails skills has been on the decline, at least for the last year."
HP

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina Considering US Presidential Run 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
McGruber writes: Fired HP CEO and failed Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is "actively exploring a 2016 presidential run." Fiorina has been "talking privately with potential donors, recruiting campaign staffers, courting grass-roots activists in early caucus and primary states, and planning trips to Iowa and New Hampshire starting next week."
Medicine

Canada's Ebola Vaccine Nets Millions For Tiny US Biotech Firm 35

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-fun-and-games-until-somebody-loses-several-internal-organs dept.
Anita Hunt (lissnup) writes: Iowa-based NewLink Genetics has secured a US$50million deal with pharmaceutical giant Merck for the experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian government scientists. NewLink bought the exclusive commercial licensing rights to Canada's VSV-EBOV in 2010 with a milestone payment of just US$205,000. This is an interesting new twist in a story we've discussed previously, and which continues to draw media attention.
News

LHC's 'Heart' Starts Pumping Protons Before Restart 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the pumped-up-to-crash-particles dept.
astroengine writes: While on its long road to restart, yet another milestone was reached at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over the weekend. Protons were generated by the LHC's source and blasted through a "daisy-chain" of smaller accelerators before being intentionally smashed into a metaphorical brick wall. The particle beam didn't reach the LHC's famous 17-mile (27-kilometer) accelerator ring — they were stopped just short — but the event was used to begin calibration efforts of the massive experiment's detectors before the whole system is powered back up again early next year. "These initial tests are a milestone for the whole accelerator chain," said the LHC's chief engineer, Reyes Alemany Fernandez. "Not only was this the first time the injection lines have seen beams in over a year, it was also our first opportunity to test the LHC's operation system. We successfully commissioned the LHC's injection and ejection magnets, all without beam in the machine itself."
Sony

Sony To Offer Partial Refunds For PS Vita 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the step-up-for-your-slap-on-the-wrist dept.
mpicpp sends this report from the Houston Chronicle: "Hundreds of thousands of people who bought the handheld gaming console PlayStation Vita are in line for a partial refund from Sony because of questionable claims in its advertising. The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday it had reached a settlement with Sony Computer Entertainment America, the U.S.-based arm of the PlayStation business, over advertising claims that the government contended were misleading.

As part of the proposed settlement, Sony will provide refunds to those who bought the PS Vita console before June 1, 2012. They'll be eligible for either a $25 cash or credit refund — or a $50 merchandise voucher from Sony. ... Among the claims challenged by the FTC: That the pocket-sized console would revolutionize gaming mobility by allowing consumers to play their PlayStation 3 games via "remote play" on the console anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, [and] that people could engage in "cross-platform" play by starting a game on a PlayStation 3, pausing it, and continuing the game with the PS Vita from where they left off. Not really true, the FTC said.
Power

Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places? 343

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not,-the-power-company-just-hates-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I live in a relatively large college town that's within easy driving distance of several major metropolitan centers. In many ways, the infrastructure around here is top-notch. The major exception is the electrical grid. Lightning storm? Power outage. Heavy winds? Power outage. Lots of rain? Power outage. Some areas around town are immune to this — like around the hospital, for obvious reasons. But others seem to lose power at the drop of hat. Why is this? If it were a tiny village or in the middle of nowhere, it would make sense to me. What problems do the utility companies face that they can't keep service steady? Do you deal with a lot of outages where you live? I'm not sure if it's just an investment issue or a technological one. It hasn't gotten better in the decade I've lived here, and I can imagine it will only get worse as the infrastructure ages.
Supercomputing

NSF Commits $16M To Build Cloud-Based and Data-Intensive Supercomputers 20

Posted by Soulskill
from the petaflops-for-megabucks dept.
aarondubrow writes: As supercomputing becomes central to the work and progress of researchers in all fields, new kinds of computing resources and more inclusive modes of interaction are required. The National Science Foundation announced $16M in awards to support two new supercomputing acquisitions for the open science community. The systems — "Bridges" at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and "Jetstream," co-located at the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute and The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center — respond to the needs of the scientific computing community for more high-end, large-scale computing resources while helping to create a more inclusive computing environment for science and engineering. Reader 1sockchuck adds this article about why funding for the development of supercomputers is more important than ever: America's high-performance computing (HPC) community faces funding challenges and growing competition from China and other countries. At last week's SC14 conference, leading researchers focused on outlining the societal benefits of their work, and how it touches the daily lives of Americans. "When we talk at these conferences, we tend to talk to ourselves," said Wilf Pinfold, director of research and advanced technology development at Intel Federal. "We don't do a good job communicating the importance of what we do to a broader community." Why the focus on messaging? Funding for American supercomputing has been driven by the U.S. government, which is in a transition with implications for HPC funding. As ComputerWorld notes, climate change skeptic Ted Cruz is rumored to be in line to chair a Senate committee that oversees NASA and the NSF.
United Kingdom

New Snowden Docs Show GCHQ Paid Telcos For Cable Taps 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the hands-in-the-cookie-jar dept.
Advocatus Diaboli sends word of a new release of documents made available by Edward Snowden. The documents show British intelligence agency GCHQ had a deep partnership with telecommunications company Cable & Wireless (acquired later by Vodafone). The company allowed GCHQ to tap submarine cables around the world, and was paid millions of British pounds as compensation. The relationship was so extensive that a GCHQ employee was assigned to work full time at Cable & Wireless (referred to by the code name “Gerontic” in NSA documents) to manage cable-tap projects in February of 2009. By July of 2009, Cable & Wireless provided access to 29 out of the 63 cables on the list, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the data capacity available to surveillance programs. ... As of July of 2009, relationships with three telecom companies provided access to 592 10-gigabit-per-second pipes on the cables collectively and 69 10-gbps “egress” pipes through which data could be pulled back. The July 2009 documents included a shopping list for additional cable access—GCHQ sought to more than triple its reach, upping access to 1,693 10-gigabit connections and increasing egress capacity to 390. The documents revealed a much shorter list of "cables we do not currently have good access [to]."
ISS

ISS's 3-D Printer Creates Its First Object In Space 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the made-in-space dept.
An anonymous reader writes: NASA reports that the 3-D printer now installed on the International Space Station has finally finished its first creation. After it was installed on November 17th and calibrated over the next week, ground control sent it instructions yesterday to build a faceplate for the extruder's own casing. The process was mostly a success. "[Astronaut Butch Wilmore] Wilmore removed the part from the printer and inspected it. Part adhesion on the tray was stronger than anticipated, which could mean layer bonding is different in microgravity, a question the team will investigate as future parts are printed. Wilmore installed a new print tray, and the ground team sent a command to fine-tune the printer alignment and printed a third calibration coupon. When Wilmore removes the calibration coupon, the ground team will be able to command the printer to make a second object. The ground team makes precise adjustments before every print, and the results from this first print are contributing to a better understanding about the parameters to use when 3-D printing on the space station."
Data Storage

Is LTO Tape On Its Way Out? 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the IT-no-longer-caught-on-tape dept.
storagedude writes: With LTO media sales down by 50% in the last six years, is the end near for tape? With such a large installed base, it may not be imminent, but the time is coming when vendors will find it increasingly difficult to justify continued investment in tape technology, writes Henry Newman at Enterprise Storage Forum.

"If multiple vendors invest in a technology, it has a good chance of winning over the long haul," writes Newman, a long-time proponent of tape technology. "If multiple vendors have a technology they're not investing in, it will eventually lose over time. Of course, over time market requirements can change. It is these interactions that I fear that are playing out in the tape market."
Security

The People Who Are Branding Vulnerabilities 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-marketing-all-the-way-down dept.
antdude points out a story at ZDNet about how the naming of security vulnerabilities and exploits has evolved into branding and awareness campaigns. Heartbleed set the trend early this year, having a distinct name and logo to represent a serious security problem. It seemed to work; the underlying bug got massive exposure, even in the mainstream media. This raises a new set of issues — should the response to the disclosure of a vulnerability be dependent on how catchy its name is? No, but it probably will be. Heartbleed charmed the public, and in a way, it was designed to do so. By comparison Shellshock, POODLE (aka clumsy "Poodlebleed"), Sandworm, the secretively named Rootpipe, Winshock, and other vulns seem like proverbial "red headed stepchildren" — despite the fact that each of these vulns are critical issues, some are worse than Heartbleed, and all of which needed fast responses. The next "big bug" after Heartbleed was Shellshock — real name CVE-2014-6271. Shellshock didn't have a company's pocketbook or marketing team behind it. So, despite the fact that many said Shellshock was worse than Heartbleed (rated high on severity but low on complexity, making it easy for attackers), creating a celebrity out of Shellshock faced an uphill climb.
Firefox

Firefox Will Soon Offer One-Click Buttons For Your Search Engines 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-needs-keyword-search dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today unveiled some of the new search features coming to Firefox. The company says the new additions are "coming soon to a Firefox near you" but didn't give a more specific timeline. The news comes less than a week after Mozilla struck a deal with Yahoo to replace Google as the default search engine in its browser for U.S. users. At the time, the company said a new search experience was coming in December, so we're betting the search revamp will come with the release of Firefox 34, which is currently in beta. In the future release, when you type a search term into the Firefox search box, you will get a list of reorganized search suggestions from the default search provider. Better yet, a new array of buttons below these suggestions will let you pick which search engine you want to send the query to.
Hardware

How the World's First Computer Was Rescued From the Scrap Heap 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-man's-trash dept.
anavictoriasaavedra sends this quote from Wired: "Eccentric billionaires are tough to impress, so their minions must always think big when handed vague assignments. Ross Perot's staffers did just that in 2006, when their boss declared that he wanted to decorate his Plano, Texas, headquarters with relics from computing history. Aware that a few measly Apple I's and Altair 880's wouldn't be enough to satisfy a former presidential candidate, Perot's people decided to acquire a more singular prize: a big chunk of ENIAC, the "Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer." The ENIAC was a 27-ton, 1,800-square-foot bundle of vacuum tubes and diodes that was arguably the world's first true computer. The hardware that Perot's team diligently unearthed and lovingly refurbished is now accessible to the general public for the first time, back at the same Army base where it almost rotted into oblivion.
Input Devices

Samsung Shows 'Eye Mouse' For People With Disabilities 16

Posted by Soulskill
from the eye-for-a-ui dept.
Samsung today announced a project among a group of its engineers to build an input device that allows people with limited mobility to operate a computer through eye movement alone. The EYECAN+ is a rectangular box that needs to be situated roughly 60-70cm away from a user's face. Once calibrated, it will superimpose a multifunction UI and track a user's eye movements to move the cursor where they want. Samsung says they won't be commercializing this device, but they'll soon be making the design open source for any company or organization who wants to start building them.

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