MikeatWired writes "It wasn't ever seriously in doubt, but the FBI yesterday acknowledged that it secretly took control of Freedom Hosting last July, days before the servers of the largest provider of ultra-anonymous hosting were found to be serving custom malware designed to identify visitors. Freedom Hosting's operator, Eric Eoin Marques, had rented the servers from an unnamed commercial hosting provider in France, and paid for them from a bank account in Las Vegas. It's not clear how the FBI took over the servers in late July, but the bureau was temporarily thwarted when Marques somehow regained access and changed the passwords, briefly locking out the FBI until it gained back control. The new details emerged in local press reports from a Thursday bail hearing in Dublin, Ireland, where Marques, 28, is fighting extradition to America on charges that Freedom Hosting facilitated child pornography on a massive scale. He was denied bail today for the second time since his arrest in July. On August 4, all the sites hosted by Freedom Hosting — some with no connection to child porn — began serving an error message with hidden code embedded in the page. Security researchers dissected the code and found it exploited a security hole in Firefox to identify users of the Tor Browser Bundle, reporting back to a mysterious server in Northern Virginia. The FBI was the obvious suspect, but declined to comment on the incident. The FBI also didn't respond to inquiries from WIRED today. But FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brooke Donahue was more forthcoming when he appeared in the Irish court yesterday to bolster the case for keeping Marque behind bars."
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An anonymous reader writes "Timothy Zahn, one of the most influential Star Wars Expanded Universe authors (creator of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade), and writer of 40 novels and 90+ short stories, will be trying his hand as the Creative Director for a new video game, Timothy Zahn's Parallax. From the Kickstarter page: 'The game concept is heavily inspired by the original Master of Orion but, because Timothy Zahn is the co-creator, a major focus is going to be on making sure that each alien race is as fully-realized as possible, and that the interactions with the other aliens are realistic: talking to one alien race will be different than talking to another, and the choices you make in the game will have side effects and the computer players will remember them — and treat you differently because of them.' Other highlights: 'The game will include at least 5 of his non-Star Wars alien races (Modhri, Kalixiri, Zhirrzh, Qanska and Pom); Backers will be active participants in the game creation process; No Digital Rights Management foolishness.' The Kickstarter starts at 6pm MST today."
New submitter TinTops writes "Speaking in a keynote at Intel's Developer Forum, Microsoft's vice president of marketing, Tami Reller, said the firm has 'now seen about three quarters of Windows enterprises moving to modern desktops' from Windows XP, with the last leg of Windows XP migrations being spurred by the imminent availability of Windows 8.1. However, Reller did not offer a breakdown of the enterprise uptake of Windows 8 compared to Windows 7, both of which are counted by Microsoft as modern desktops."
Have you ever wondered how much energy is needed to power a phaser set to kill? A trio of researchers at the University of Leicester did, so they ran some tests and found out it would take roughly 2.99 GJ to vaporize an average-sized adult human body. Quoting: "First, consider the true vaporization – the complete separation of all atoms within a molecule – of water. With a simple molecular structure containing an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms, it takes serious energy to break these bonds. In fact, it takes 460 kilojoules of energy to break just one mole of oxygen-hydrogen bonds — around the same energy that a 2,000-pound car going 70 miles per hour on the highway has in potential. And that's just 18 grams of water! So as you can see, it would take a gargantuan amount of energy to separate all the atoms in even a small glass of water — especially if that glass of water is your analog for a person. The human body is a bit more complicated than a glass of water, but it still vaporizes like one. And thanks to our spies spread across scientific organizations, we now have the energy required to turn a human into an atomic soup, to break all the atomic bonds in a body. According to the captured study, it takes around three gigajoules of death-ray to entirely vaporize a person — enough to completely melt 5,000 pounds of steel or simulate a lightning bolt."
coop0030 writes "Adafruit has a new tutorial that will show you how to use your Raspberry Pi as a WiFi access point that blocks ads by default for any devices using it. This is really neat in that it would work for your Android or iOS device, your Xbox 360, TiVo, laptop, and more without needing to customize any of those devices other than to use your Raspberry Pi as the access point for WiFi. Using an ad-blocker can be useful for conserving bandwidth, helping out low-power devices, or for keeping your sanity while browsing the web!"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Adrian Kingsley-Hughes says it's not just because Apple likes bragging about being first and because a 64-bit processor sounds cooler than 32-bits that Apple used the 64-bit A7 chip in the new iPhone 5s. A shift from a 32-bit processor to a 64-bit part paves the way for iPhones to be fitted out with 4GB+ of RAM down the line, but more importantly the move brings iOS and OS X apps much closer. The architecture for 64-bit apps on iOS will be almost identical to the architecture for OS X apps, making it easy to create a common code base that runs in both operating systems. 'Apple has slowly been bringing iOS-like features to Mac OS for years now: think of Launchpad and Gatekeeper,' writes Sascha Segan. 'The ultimate prize, of course, would be to bring the million-plus iOS apps to Macs. Apple could do that with an ARM-compatible virtual machine on Mac hardware, but it would want the VM, the OS and the associated apps to play nicely in the much larger memory space available on Macs. That means moving the whole system over to 64 bit.' By unifying iOS and Mac OS with Xcode developer tools in a 64-bit space, Apple could once again leap ahead of Microsoft and Google, says Segan. Microsoft hasn't yet been able to leverage its desktop strengths to achieve success as a mobile OS. The 64-bit chips for Android devices aren't ready, and neither is Android itself."
cartechboy writes "Follow the thinking for a second. Google drops $258 million into the car-taxi app Uber. Google says it will make self-driving cars available within four years, based on its ground-breaking research into self-driving cars. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has spoken with Google about driverless technology for future Tesla vehicles. So, are we watching the assembly of a massive driverless taxi service of the future? Battery-electric vehicles make excellent autonomous taxis (very few moving parts, low per-mile energy cost, and zero noise or emissions) Could Google use some of its cash hoard to buy Tesla outright (making Elon Musk its third largest shareholder in the process), then grab Uber and turn the whole thing into an app? Musk's goal has always been to transform the very nature of transportation. This might just do that."
jfruh writes "Some melancholy news from the Hot Chips symposium last week: NAND memory, which powers the solid-state drives that have revolutionized storage, has broken the $1 per gigabyte barrier and isn't getting any cheaper. 'They will always be ten times the cost of a hard drive,' says analyst Jim Handy. There are newer technologies in development, but they won't be able to beat NAND on price for years."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Massachusetts lawmakers have agreed to repeal a six-week-old tax on computer services that generated such outrage that even the governor who proposed the tax in January now opposes it. The 6.25 percent sales tax on 'computer system design services' was proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick in January, but got little notice before it was slipped in mid-July into a $500 million supplementary funding bill meant to pay for improvements in the state's public transportation system. It was passed by the legislature with almost no debate, was signed into law by the governor with little public outrage, and went into effect – theoretically – July 31. IT businesses in the state used social media, business associations and angry letters to both lawmakers and local media to describe problems with the tax and show their opposition. Confusion over what qualifies as a 'computer system design service' and how to actually implement the tax – which was supposed to generate $161 million in revenue for the state – has been such a challenge to implement that the state has yet to collect a dime. The main logistical problem is figuring out what is covered and what isn't: data access, data processing and 'information services,' for example, are not taxed, which exempts most hosting, cloud, outsourcing and remote-access monitoring or security services. Democratic leaders announced Sept. 12 they would support repeal of the tax, which could be completed within weeks. 'It is now evident that the impact of the tax is broader than any of us ever anticipated or intended,' according to Mass. Senate President Therese Murray at a press conference Sept. 12."
An anonymous reader writes "The Atlantic reports on a study into reversing the typical lecture/homework educational method. The study had students watch lecture videos at home, then use class time to work on activities. After three years of trials, the researchers found both a student preference for the new method and a 5% increase in exam scores. 'In 2012, that flipped model looked like this: At home, before class, students watched brief lecture modules, which introduced them to the day's content. They also read a textbook — the same, introductory-level book as in 2011 — before they arrived. When they got to class, Mumper would begin by asking them "audience response" questions. He'd put a multiple-choice question about the previous night's lectures on a PowerPoint slide and ask all the students to respond via small, cheap clickers. He'd then look at their response, live, as they answered, and address any inconsistencies or incorrect beliefs revealed. Maybe 50 percent of the class got the wrong answer to one of these questions: This gave him an opportunity to lecture just enough so that students could understand what they got wrong. Then, the class would split up into pairs, and Mumper would ask them a question which required them to apply the previous night's content... The pairs would discuss an answer, then share their findings with the class. At the end of that section, Mumper would go over any points relevant to the question which he felt the class failed to bring up.'"
dcblogs writes "Boulder Co. was recently ranked first in nation for its 'high-tech start-up density,' for cities of its size by the Kauffman Foundation. The ranking is based on a ratio of start-ups to population. But the tech community has left its downtown offices, some of which are flooded and others under threat. Normally there are 70 people working in Gnip's office, but Chris Moody, the CEO, in response to request from the city to get traffic off roads, closed the office. In another part of downtown, TeamSnap's building was flooding, and Dave DuPont, its CEO, said his only commute option was 'by boat.' The city's decision to ask businesses to close was a sign 'that the worse might still be in front us,' said Moody."
In the northeast U.S., most of the tolls people encounter when driving make use of a system called E-ZPass to let them pay the tolls electronically. Drivers are given small RFID transponders that are scanned in tollbooths, at which point the toll is automatically deducted from a pre-paid account. One hacker got curious whether the RFID tags were being scanned elsewhere, so he tweaked his E-ZPass to blink a light and make a noise every time it was read. He tested the streets of New York City, and wasn't surprised to see it light up in plenty of places where there were no tollbooths to be found. From the article: "It’s part of Midtown in Motion, an initiative to feed information from lots of sensors into New York’s traffic management center. A spokesperson for the New York Department of Transportation, Scott Gastel, says the E-Z Pass readers are on highways across the city, and on streets in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and have been in use for years. The city uses the data from the readers to provide real-time traffic information, as for this tool. The DoT was not forthcoming about what exactly was read from the passes or how long geolocation information from the passes was kept. Notably, the fact that E-ZPasses will be used as a tracking device outside of toll payment, is not disclosed anywhere that I could see in the terms and conditions. When I talked to the E-ZPass Inter-agency Group — the umbrella association that oversees the use of the pay-toll-paying tags in 15 different states — it said New York is the only state that is employing this inventive re-use of the tags. ... 'If NYDOT can put up readers, says [the hacker], 'other agencies could as well.'"
Dr. Richard Feynman's lectures on physics have been iconic standards of physics education for the past five decades. Videos of the series were put online at Microsoft Research a few years ago, but now the entirety of Volume 1 is available over simple HTML (mirror). In a letter to members of the Feynman Lectures Forum, editor Mike Gottlieb said, "It was an idea conceived many years ago, when through FL website correspondence I became aware of the many eager young minds who could benefit from reading FLP, who want to read it, but for economic or other reasons have no access to it, while at the same time I was becoming aware of the growing popularity of horrid scanned copies of old editions of FLP circulating on file-sharing and torrent websites. A free high-quality online edition was my proposed solution to both problems. All concerned agreed on the potential pedagogical benefits, but also had to be convinced that book sales would not be harmed. The conversion from LaTeX to HTML was expensive: we raised considerable funds, but ran out before finishing Volumes II and III, so we are only posting Volume I initially. (I am working on finishing Volumes II and III myself, as time permits, and will start posting chapters in the not-too-distant future, if all goes as planned.)"
theodp writes "Over at Scripting News, Dave Winer has a hobbyist phone on his wish list. Innovative phone manufacturers, Winer suggests, should 'make a smart phone with a really great scripting language, with all kinds of scriptable tools on board. Instead of disallowing scripting, disallow apps that can't be scripted. Make a great simple programming environment that runs on desktops or laptops that plugs right in, but it should also be easy to write scripts on the phone itself. Dave concludes, 'We've already seen the Jobs phone. Now it's time for Woz's.' Having ditched App Inventor, it would appear that Google isn't interested. Microsoft Research has the idea, if not the right implementation, with TouchDevelop (video). Any other existing or in-the-works projects that might fit the bill?"
mask.of.sanity writes "Cheap home alarms, door opening systems and wireless mains switches can be bypassed with low-cost and home-made devices that can replicate their infrared signals. Fixed-code radio frequency systems could be attacked using a $20 'toy', or using basic DIY componentry. Quoting: 'Criminals might be able to capture IR signals if they can get a line of sight to when the system is being armed or disarmed. If a criminal knows what type of alarm system you're using then they could do what we did here and reverse it for cloning a remote. A more likely scenario is just to buy a duplicate system and use that remote. Not all IR remotes can be switched from the same system. It depends on whether a code is being transmitted and how many variations of the code and remote exist. In the system described in this post, there is no code, just a carrier signal. If a code is being transmitted, then the Infrared toy can capture it and replay it. So that's your best bet for a criminal looking at a completely unknown remote.'"
DoctorBit writes "A team of researchers funded in part by the NSF has just published a paper in which they demonstrate a way to introduce hardware Trojans into a chip by altering only the dopant masks of a few of the chip's transistors. From the paper: 'Instead of adding additional circuitry to the target design, we insert our hardware Trojans by changing the dopant polarity of existing transistors. Since the modified circuit appears legitimate on all wiring layers (including all metal and polysilicon), our family of Trojans is resistant to most detection techniques, including fine-grain optical inspection and checking against "golden chips."' In a test of their technique against Intel's Ivy Bridge Random Number Generator (RNG) the researchers found that by setting selected flip-flop outputs to zero or one, 'Our Trojan is capable of reducing the security of the produced random number from 128 bits to n bits, where n can be chosen.' They conclude that 'Since the Trojan RNG has an entropy of n bits and [the original circuitry] uses a very good digital post-processing, namely AES, the Trojan easily passes the NIST random number test suite if n is chosen sufficiently high by the attacker. We tested the Trojan for n = 32 with the NIST random number test suite and it passed for all tests. The higher the value n that the attacker chooses, the harder it will be for an evaluator to detect that the random numbers have been compromised.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "We all know the stereotype about tenured college professors: great researchers, lazy teachers. Now Jordan Weissmann writes in the Atlantic that a new study confirms the conventional knowlege that faculty who aren't on the tenure-track appear to do a better job at teaching freshmen undergraduates in their introductory courses than their tenured/tenure-track peers. 'Our results provide evidence that the rise of full-time designated teachers at U.S. colleges and universities may be less of a cause for alarm than some people think, and indeed, may actually be educationally beneficial.' Using the transcripts of Northwestern freshmen from 2001 through 2008, the research team focused on two factors: inspiration and preparation. The team began by asking if taking a class from a tenure or tenure-track professor in their first term later made students more likely to pursue additional courses in that field. That's the inspiration part. Next the researchers wanted to know if students who took their first course in a field from a tenure or tenure-track professor got better grades when they pursued more advanced coursework. That's the preparation part. Controlling for certain student characteristics, freshmen were actually about 7 percentage points more likely to take a second course in a given field if their first class was taught by an adjunct or non-tenure professor and they also tended to get higher grades in those future courses. The pattern held 'for all subjects, regardless of grading standards or the qualifications of the students the subjects attracted' from English to Engineering. The defining trend among college faculties during the past 20 years or so (40, if you really want to stretch back) has been the rise of the adjuncts. 'That said, there is something appealingly intuitive in these results,' concludes Weissmann. 'Professionals who are paid entirely to teach, in fact, make for better teachers. Makes sense, right?'"
Zothecula writes "A very promising vaccine candidate for HIV/AIDS has shown the ability to completely clear the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a very aggressive form of HIV that leads to AIDS in monkeys. Developed at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), the vaccine proved successful in about fifty percent of the subjects tested and could lead to a human vaccine preventing the onset of HIV/AIDS and even cure patients currently on anti-retroviral drugs."
coondoggie writes "f you've ever wondered if you could fly just by holding onto a bunch of helium balloons over your head, well then you might understand where Accenture IT Technical Projects Manager Jonathan Trappe is coming from. Trappe today set out today from Caribou, Maine to cross 2,500 miles of Atlantic Ocean using 370 helium balloons slung under a small gondola. According to a DailyMail.com story, Trappe is relying on state-of-the-art weather data from the meteorologist who advised Felix Baumgartner on his record-breaking skydive from the stratosphere last year. The latest weather reports before the launch suggested winds would take Trappe to western Europe, though the exact destination would be hard to predict." Update: 09/13 14:08 GMT by S : The attempt is already over and unsuccessful. Trappe landed safely in Newfoundland, saying he was having trouble controlling the balloons.
netbuzz writes "A federal appeals court in California has upheld a lower court ruling that Cisco lacks the necessary standing to seek dismissal of patent infringement lawsuits against some of its biggest customers – wireless network providers and enterprises – being brought by TR Labs, a Canadian research consortium. The appeals court agreed with TR Labs' that its patent infringement claims are rightfully against the users of telecommunications equipment – be it made by Cisco, Juniper, Ciena or others – and not the manufacturers. 'In fact, all of the claims and all of the patents are directed at a communications network, not the particular switching nodes that are manufactured by Cisco and the other companies that are subject of our claims,' an attorney for TR Labs told the court. The court made no judgment relative to the patents themselves or the infringement claims."
cartechboy writes "And you thought stealing cars was hard today? You're facing locks, kill switches, LoJacks, OnStar, and more. But there's worse on the way: Engineers at Japan's Tottori University have developed a prototype theft-prevention system that uses brain waves to identify drivers. That's right: The system samples your brain waves, stores them--and actually shuts down the car if the driver's EEG signals don't match what's on file. It also busts drunk and sleepy drivers, because their brain waves differ from those when you're fully awake and totally sober. One non-Tron downside: If you want to drive, you have to wear a scary-looking set of sensors on your skull so the car can constantly reads your brainwaves."