An anonymous reader writes "MIT has posted a letter to campus newspaper The Tech providing a timeline of last weekend's 'gunman' hoax. On Saturday morning, Cambridge, MA police were contacted via Internet relay by a tipster who claimed that a someone wearing armor and carrying a 'really big gun' was in Building 7 at MIT (the Massachusetts Ave. entrance to the Infinite Corridor) and was heading towards the office of MIT President Rafael Reif. The call continued for 18 minutes, with the caller eventually claiming that the gunman was seeking to avenge the suicide of Aaron Swartz, who was being prosecuting for alleged illegal downloads of millions of journal articles using MIT's computer network. The caller also identified the gunman as an MIT staff member, who has since been questioned by police and cleared. MIT has been criticized for waiting 1.5 hours before sending a campus-wide alert after the call was received."
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Last Thursday, we discussed news that millionaire Dennis Tito was planning a private mission to Mars in 2018, but details were sparse. Now, reader RocketAcademy writes that Tito has provided more information about the tip, and that he intends the mission to be manned: "Dennis Tito, the first citizen space explorer to visit the International Space Station, has created the Inspiration Mars Foundation to raise funds for an even more dramatic mission: a human flyby of the planet Mars. Tito, a former JPL rocket scientist who later founded the investment firm Wilshire Associates, proposes to send two Americans — a man and a woman — on a 501-day roundtrip mission which would launch on January 5, 2018. Technical details of the mission can be found in a feasibility analysis (PDF), which Tito is scheduled to present at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in March. Former NASA flight surgeon Dr. Jonathon Clark, who is developing innovative ways of dealing with radiation exposure during the mission, called the flight 'an Apollo 8 moment for the next generation.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Develop reports on comments from Blake Jorgensen, Electronic Arts' Chief Financial Officer, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference. As you may have guessed from the name of the conference, the business aspect of EA was the topic. Jorgensen said, 'The next and much bigger piece [of the business] is microtransactions within games. ... We're building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way, either to get to a higher level to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be, and consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of the business.' This is particularly distressing given EA's recent implementation of microtransations in Dead Space 3, where you can spend money to improve your weaponry."
puddingebola writes "The Guardian reports that hackers have been targeting officials from over 20 European governments with a new piece of malware called 'MiniDuke.' 'The cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, which discovered MiniDuke, said the attackers had servers based in Panama and Turkey – but an examination of the code revealed no further clues about its origin (PDF). Goverments targeted include those of Ireland, Romania, Portugal, Belgium and the Czech Republic. The malware also compromised the computers of a prominent research foundation in Hungary, two thinktanks, and an unnamed healthcare provider in the US.' Eugene Kaspersky says it's an unusual piece of malware because it's reminiscent of attacks from two decades ago. 'I remember this style of malicious programming from the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. I wonder if these types of malware writers, who have been in hibernation for more than a decade, have suddenly awoken and joined the sophisticated group of threat actors active in the cyber world.' The computers were corrupted through an Adobe PDF attachment to an email."
Nerval's Lobster writes "As we discussed yesterday, Google is bringing a Quickoffice viewer to its new high-end Chromebook Pixel, with full editing ability expected within three months. According to TechCrunch, Quickoffice-on-Chromebooks comes courtesy of Native Client. If Chromebooks prove a hit (and Google ports Quickoffice onto devices other than the ultra-high-priced Chromebook Pixel), could that mean the beginning of the end of Microsoft Office's market dominance of the productivity software space? While Microsoft has been pushing into the cloud with software like Office 365, that's also Google's home territory. But can Google actually disrupt the game?"
helix2301 sends this quote from CNET: "LG's reluctance to embrace Windows Phone 8 underscores the difficulties that the platform faces with both consumers and vendor partners. LG was one of the early partners that signed on with Microsoft, releasing the LG Quantum in the first wave of Windows Phone devices. Microsoft's has a great relationship with Nokia, which is considered in the industry first among equals when it comes to Microsoft partners, has some vendors reassessing their own support for the operating system. Over the past year or so, LG has been focusing on Android and has started building phones running on Mozilla's Firefox mobile OS."
pigrabbitbear writes "Look outside of your window: if you see miles of farmland, chances are you have terrible internet service. That's because major telecommunications companies don't think it's worth the investment to bring high-speed broadband to sparsely populated areas. But like most businesses, farms increasingly depend on the internet to pay bills, monitor the market and communicate with partners. In the face of a sluggish connection, what's a group of farmers to do? Grow their own, naturally. That's what the people of Lancashire, England, are doing. Last year, a coalition of local farmers and others from the northwestern British county began asking local landowners if they could use their land to begin laying a brand-new community-owned high-speed network, sparing them the expense of tearing up roads. Then, armed with shovels and backhoes, the group, called Broadband for the Rural North, or B4RN (it's pronounced 'barn'), began digging the first of what will be approximately 180,000 meters of trenches and filling them with fiber-optic cable, all on its own."
gurps_npc writes "Recently there was a poorly designed study that claimed computers don't help teaching. Here with the opposing viewpoint is Sugata Mitra in his recent TED talk. He went to a tiny village in India and put a computer there with software about DNA replication (in English, even though they did not speak or read English). When he came back months later, a group of young children said, 'We don't understand anything — except that mistakes in DNA replication cause diseases.' At heart, his argument is that the old style of teaching derives from Victorian England's need for bureaucrats, so it creates minimally competent people that know how to read, write, and do math in their head. He wants to update our teaching methods with more creative and technological solutions." One of Mitra's main points is that given resources and a question to ponder, children will learn on their own. Interference and too much direction gets in the way of that. Mitra won the $1M TED prize this year for his work. He said in an interview, "We spent 7000 years debating this issue of how do we educate everybody. We have never lived in a world where one standard educated everyone. And given that we have failed for over 7000 years, perhaps we will never have one standard. Maybe the right conclusion is that we do away with standard education. Maybe the convergence of technology and curiosity will solve this problem."
An anonymous reader writes "The Parallel Universe blog has a post about parallel data processing. They start off by talking about how Moore's Law still holds, but the shift from clock frequency to multiple cores has stifled the rate at which hardware allows software to scale. (Basically, Amdahl's Law.) The simplest approach to dealing with this is sharding, but that introduces its own difficulties. The more you shard a data set, the more work you need to do to separate out the data elements that can't interact. Optimizing for 2n cores takes more than twice the work of optimizing for n cores. The article says, 'If we want to continue writing compellingly complex applications at an ever-increasing scale we must come to terms with the new Moore's law and build our software on top of solid infrastructure designed specifically for this new reality; sharding just won't cut it.' Their solution is to transfer some of the processing work to the database. 'This because the database is in a unique position to know which transactions may contend for the same data items, and how to schedule them with respect to one another for the best possible performance. The database can and should be smart.' They demonstrate how SpaceBase does this by simulating a 10,000-spaceship battle on different sets of hardware (code available here). Going from a dual-core system to a quad-core system at the same clock speed actually doubles performance without sharding."
astroengine writes "Astronomers have directly measured the spin of a black hole for the first time by detecting the mind-bending relativistic effects that warp space-time at the very edge of its event horizon. By monitoring X-ray emissions from iron ions (iron atoms with some electrons missing) trapped in the black hole's accretion disk, the rapidly-rotating inner edge of the disk of hot material has provided direct information about how fast the black hole is spinning. Astronomers used NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) — that was launched into Earth orbit in June 2012 — and the European observatory XMM-Newton measured X-ray radiation as a tool to directly infer the spin of NGC 1365's black hole. 'What excites me is the fact that we are able to do this for the very massive black holes at the centers of galaxies but we can also make the same measurement for black holes in our galaxy ... black holes that resulted from the explosion of a star ... The fact we can extend this from billions of solar masses to 10 solar masses is pretty cool,' Fiona Harrison, professor of physics and astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., and principal investigator of the NuSTAR mission, told Discovery News."
Tim Lord met Jay Kim at the RSA Conference in an Francisco. Kim's background is in manufacturing, but he's got an interest in security that has manifested itself in hardware with an emphasis on ease of use. His company, DataLocker, has come up with a fully cross-platform, driver independent portable system that mates a touch-pad input device with an AES-encrypted drive. It doesn't look much different from typical external USB drives, except for being a little beefier and bulkier than the current average, to account for both a touchpad and the additional electronics for performing encryption and decryption in hardware. Because authentication is done on the face of the drive itself, it can be used with any USB-equipped computer available to the user, and works fine as a bootable device, so you can -- for instance -- run a complete Linux system from it. (For that, though, you might want one of the smaller-capacity, solid-state versions of this drive, for speed.) Kim talked about the drive, and painted a rosy picture of what it's like to be a high-tech entrepreneur in Kansas.
Velcroman1 writes "Biochemical engineers can now download a piece of software and with a few simple clicks, assemble the DNA for new life forms through their laptops. 'With the proper computer tools, biologists can write their own genetic code — and then turn that code into life,' said biochemist Omri Amirav-Drory, who founded Genome Compiler Corp., the company that sells the software. He demonstrated at a coffee shop early one morning by manipulating a bacteria's genes on his laptop. The synthetic biology app is still in beta; on Jan. 15, the company added an undo feature and support for new DNA file formats. Building creatures is increasingly like word processing, it would seem. But such is the strange reality in the age of cheap genome sequencing, DNA synthesizing and 'bioinformatics.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Continuing a firehose tradition of maximum information density, Xiph.Org's second video on digital media explores multiple facets of digital audio signals and how they really behave in the real world. Demonstrations of sampling, quantization, bit-depth, and dither explore digital audio behavior on real audio equipment using both modern digital analysis and vintage analog bench equipment... just in case we can't trust those newfangled digital gizmos. You can also download the source code for each demo and try it all for yourself!" Plus you get to look at Monty's beard and hear his soothing voice. There's a handy wiki page with further information and a summary of the video if text is your thing.
hypnosec writes "Ubuntu Developer Summits Community Manager Jono Bacon has announced that the bi-annual Ubuntu Developer Summits, which were held at different locations like Brussels, Oakland, Copenhagen will be replaced by online events by moving to the cloud. Bacon revealed that the event has been successful, but in a bid to bring about improvements and refinement in the openness and accessibility of the event, it is going to transition into an online event." They are also going to be held every three months instead of every six.
Zothecula writes "Back in 1967, California-based Gyro Transport Systems built a prototype vehicle known as the Gyro-X. The automobile had just two wheels, one in front and one in the back and, as the car's name implies, it utilized a built-in gyroscope to remain upright when not moving. Although its developers hoped to take the Gyro-X into production, the company went bankrupt, and the one-and-only specimen of the car became an orphan. For much of the past 40-plus years, that car has passed from owner to owner, its condition deteriorating along the way. Now, it's about to be restored to its former (weird) glory."
An anonymous reader writes "Symantec researchers have discovered an older version of the infamous Stuxnet worm that caused the disruption at Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz: Stuxnet 0.5. According to a whitepaper released by the researchers at RSA Conference 2013, Stuxnet 0.5 has first been detected in the wild in 2007 when someone submitted it to the VirusTotal malware scanning service, but has been in development as early as November 2005. Unlike Stuxnet versions 1.x that disrupted the functioning of the uranium enrichment plant by making centrifuges spin too fast or too slow, this one was meant to do so by closing valves."
Weezul writes "The Ada Initiative's Valerie Aurora got Violet Blue's Hackers As A High-Risk Population (29c3 abstract) talk on harm reduction methodology pulled from the Security BSides meeting in San Francisco by claiming it contained rape triggers [ed note: you might not want to visit the main page of the weblog as it contains a few pictures that might be considered NSFW in more conservative places]. It's frankly asinine to object to work around hacker ethics as 'off topic' at such broad hacker conference. Is Appelbaum's 29c3 keynote 'off topic' for asking hackers to work for the 'good guys' rather than military, police, their contractors, Facebook, etc.? Yes, obviously harm reduction is a psychological hack that need not involve a computer, but this holds for 'social engineering' as well. It's simply that hacking isn't nearly as specialized or inaccessible as say theoretical physics. Worse, there is no shortage of terrible technology laws like the CFAA, DMCA, etc. that exist partially because early hackers failed to communicate an ethics that seemed coherent and reasoned to outsiders." The Ada Initiative responds that such talks do more harm than good. It could also be argued that "not working for the bad guys" type talks aren't off-topic, since the hacker community has traditionally cared about things like information freedom.
pigrabbitbear writes with a story about some interesting possible effects of Global Warming. From the article: "It's a good thing that robots are stealing our jobs, because in about thirty-five years, nobody in their right mind is going to want to do them. Scientists from NOAA just published a report ... that details how a warming climate impacts the way we work, and the results are pretty clear — we do less of it. NOAA discovered that over the last 60 years, the hotter, wetter climate has decreased human labor capacity by 10%. And it projects that by 2050, that number will double."
An anonymous reader writes "With work done by ARM and Linaro, there is now a bootable image of Debian/Ubuntu that works for ARM64, the new 64-bit ARM architecture. There are still some caveats and work ahead, but Linux is once again the first platform that has software ready to run on a new architecture when released. This 64-bit ARM Linux support also includes the ability to run 32-bit ARM software side-by-side." You can grab a bootable rootfs, but there's no hardware to actually run it on now (the developers are using the free-as-in-beer simulator from ARM). Kernel support for the architecture was released around a year ago; this is more a tale of getting from a bootable kernel to a bootable operating system.
Zaatxe writes with a bit of news about the music industry; sales are slightly up (basically flat). From the article: "The music industry, the first media business to be consumed by the digital revolution, said on Tuesday that its global sales rose last year for the first time since 1999, raising hopes that a long-sought recovery might have begun. The increase, of 0.3 percent, was tiny, and the total revenue, $16.5 billion, was a far cry from the $38 billion that the industry took in at its peak more than a decade ago. Still, even if it is not time for the record companies to party like it's 1999, the figures, reported Tuesday by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, provide significant encouragement. 'At the beginning of the digital revolution it was common to say that digital was killing music,' said Edgar Berger, chief executive of the international arm of Sony Music Entertainment. Now, he added, it could be said 'that digital is saving music.'" Because CDs aren't digital. CD sales are declining, and being replaced by the sale of lossy files. I wonder how much more money they could be making if they'd just sell folks lossless music on the open market (not just iTunes) since at least that's all that keeps me buying a CD or three a year (I own way too many CDs personally, and stopped buying music until discovering Bandcamp and easy lossless downloads rekindled my desire to find new stuff).
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from a blog post by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, founder of corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org and partner of the late Aaron Swartz: "The DOJ has told Congressional investigators that Aaron's prosecution was motivated by his political views on copyright. I was going to start that last paragraph with 'In a stunning turn of events,' but I realized that would be inaccurate — because it's really not that surprising. Many people speculated throughout the whole ordeal that this was a political prosecution, motivated by anything/everything from Aaron's effective campaigning against SOPA to his run-ins with the FBI over the PACER database. But Aaron actually didn't believe it was — he thought it was overreach by some local prosecutors who didn't really understand the internet and just saw him as a high-profile scalp they could claim, facilitated by a criminal justice system and computer crime laws specifically designed to give prosecutors, however incompetent or malicious, all the wrong incentives and all the power they could ever want. But this HuffPo article, and what I’m hearing from sources on the Hill, suggest that that’s not true. That Ortiz and Heymann knew exactly what they were doing: Shutting up, and hopefully locking up, an extremely effective activist whose political views, including those on copyright, threatened the Powers That Be."
Hugh Pickens writes "USA Today reports that Australian billionaire Clive Palmer has unveiled plans for construction of Titanic II, a cruise ship designed as a 'full-scale re-creation' of the Titanic, adding that the ship will be built in China and begin carrying passengers in 2016. The Titanic II will be built 883 feet long – 3 inches longer than the original Titanic – and weigh 55,800 gross tons, according to Palmer, who stopped short of calling the vessel unsinkable. It will carry a maximum of 2,435 passengers and 900 crew members, and include a gymnasium, Turkish baths, a squash court, a swimming pool, a theater and a casino. Like the original ship, there will no TVs aboard and probably no Internet service, Palmer says. Passengers will be able to dress in 1912-style clothing, giving them an opportunity to step back in time, or pretend they are Leo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet, who starred in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster movie. But industry insiders are skeptical about the commercial viability of the ship. 'Titanic II is a curiosity and may have a draw as a floating hotel, but the idea of spending close to a week at sea on a vessel built around such a thin premise is seen as a stretch, at least by many within the industry,' says Michael Driscoll, editor of industry newsletter Cruise Week. Driscoll adds that he is skeptical about the future of Titanic II in the aftermath of the Carnival Triumph fire and last year's shipwreck of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Tuscany. Paul Kurzman, whose great-grandparents, Isidor and Ida Straus, died on the Titanic, says he has 'no problem' with the construction of Titanic II. 'I don't think they would have had any problem whatsoever, as long as the Titanic II steers clear of icebergs.'"
schwit1 writes "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill Tuesday legalizing Internet gambling. While the bill only allows Atlantic City casino companies to take online bets, the WSJ believes that those casinos will partner with overseas companies that provide services for online gambling, potentially opening up a bigger market. Furthermore, the bill (PDF) will allow bettors from other states to gamble online, so long as regulators determine that the activity isn't prohibited by any federal or state laws. They included setting a 10-year trial period for online betting, and raising the taxes on the Atlantic City casinos' online winnings from 10 to 15 percent. New Jersey became the third state in the nation to legalize gambling over the Internet. Nevada and Delaware have passed laws legalizing Internet betting, which also is going on offshore, untaxed and unregulated."
eegad writes "I've been thinking a lot about how much information I give to technology companies like Google and Facebook and how I'm not super comfortable with what I even dimly know about how they're handling and selling it. Is it time for major companies like this, who offer arguably utility-like services for free in exchange for info, to start giving customers a choice about how to 'pay' for their service? I'd much rather pony up a monthly fee to access all the Google services I use, for example, and be assured that no tracking or selling of my information is going on. I'm not aware of how much money these companies might make from selling data about a particular individual, but could it possibly be more than the $20 or $30 a month I'd fork over to know that my privacy is a little more secure? Is this a pipe dream, or are there other people who would happily pay for their private use of these services? What kinds of costs or problems could be involved with companies implementing this type of dual business model?"
pigrabbitbear writes "Even as we all love to debate the scholarly merits of Wikipedia, there's no denying that it's an immensely powerful research and learning tool. That goes doubly so in poor nations, where access to education materials can be limited to nonexistent. To that end, Wikimedia started the Wikipedia Zero project, which aims to partner with mobile service providers to bring Wikipedia to poor regions free of charge. It's a killer strategy, because while computer and internet access is still fleeting for much of the world, cell phones are far more ubiquitous. Wikimedia claims that four mobile partnerships signed since 2012 brings free Wiki service to 330 million cell subscribers in 35 countries, a huge boon for folks whose phones have web capability but who can't afford data charges."