schwit1 writes with a short excerpt from The Cable "The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network." A leaked memo containing U.S. suggestions for changes to the ICCPR includes gems like (referring to intercepting communications) "Move 'may threaten' from before 'the foundations of a democratic [society]...' to before 'freedom of expression.' We need to clarify that privacy violations could 'interfere with' freedom of expression and avoid the inaccurate suggestion that all privacy violations are violations of freedom of expression." The U.S. changes are pretty much directed at making dragnet surveillance of non-citizens technically legal.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
schwit1 writes about the hazards of driving through Ohio in a car with a secret compartment in the trunk. From the article: "Norman Gurley, 30, is facing drug-related charges in Lorain County, Ohio, despite the fact that state troopers did not actually find any drugs in his possession. Ohio passed a law in 2012 making it a felony to alter a vehicle to add a secret compartment with the 'intent' of using it to conceal drugs for trafficking." This is the first person arrested under the strange law.
nk497 writes "Only 25% of Yahoo staff have obeyed the company's request to 'eat their own dog food' and switch to Yahoo Mail, a colorful internal memo has revealed. The leaked email, acquired by All Things Digital, implores staff to move over to the corporate version of Yahoo's webmail system, gently lambasting staff who refuse to part with Microsoft Outlook. The message goes on to take a swipe at what appears to be Yahoo employees' preferred mail client, Microsoft Outlook, describing it as 'anachronism of the now defunct 90s PC era, a pre-web program written at a time when NT Server terrorized the data center landscape with the confidence of a T-Rex born to yuppie dinosaur parents who fully bought into the illusion of their son's utter uniqueness because the big-mouthed, tiny-armed monster infant could mimic the gestures of The Itsy-Bitsy Pterodactyl.'"
A year after the first schematics were completed and a few months after the first prototype board shipped, Make Play Live has released Improv, the first engineering card for EOMA-68 (EOMA-68 is a specification for modular systems that splits the cpu board from the rest of the system, allowing the end user to use the same core with several devices or upgrade e.g. a tablet without having to pay for a new screen shell). From Aaron Seigo's weblog post: "The hardware of Improv is extremely capable: a dual-core ARM® Cortex-A7 System on Chip (SoC) running at 1Ghz, 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB of on-board NAND flash and a powerful OpenGL ES GPU. To access all of this hardware goodness there are a variety of ports: 2 USB2 ports (one fullsize host, one micro OTG), SD card reader, HDMI, ethernet (10/100, though the feature card has a Gigabit connector; more on that below), SATA, i2c, VGA/TTL and 8 GPIO pins. The entire device weighs less than 100 grams, is passively cooled and fits in your hand. Improv comes pre-installed with Mer OS, sporting a recent Linux kernel, systemd, and a wide variety of software tools. By default it boots into console, so if you are making a headless device you needn't worry about extra overhead running that you don't need. If you are going to hook it up to a screen (or two), then you have an amazing starting point with choices such as X.org, Wayland, Qt4, Qt5 and a full complement of KDE libraries and Plasma Workspaces. Improv takes advantage of the open EOMA68 standard to deliver a unique design: the SoC, RAM and storage live on one card (the 'CPU card'), the feature ports are on a PCB it docks with (the 'feature board'). The two dock securely together with the CPU card sitting under the feature board nestled in a pair of rails; they are undocked from each other by pushing a mechanical ejector button." Check out the specs and pictures. The card is available now for $75. Improv is open hardware, with the schematics licensed under the GPL and available soon.
Jim_Austin writes "In a very funny column, Adam Ruben reviews the disadvantages and, well, the disadvantages of doing a postdoc, noting that 'The term "postdoc" refers both to the position and to the person who occupies it. (In this sense, it's much like the term "bar mitzvah.") So you can be a postdoc, but you can also do a postdoc.'"
Lucas123 writes "Next year, LoJack plans to come out with a telematics system that will allow parents to track their children's cars, auto makers to record vehicle diagnostics and insurance companies to review driving habits as the basis of rate quotes. LoJack said the wireless tracking systems will likely come in several forms, including a OBD II plug-in dongle as well as a factory installable model. The company said it has no plans to sell any information collected through a cloud service connected to the devices, but to only share it with stakeholders — either vehicle owners or businesses that have been given the OK to collect and use the data. Additional features will include the ability for parents to set up geo fences to restrict where their children can drive before alerts can sent as well as the ability to restrict and texting while the vehicle is being operated."
mattydread23 writes "You may not think your business has much in common with the New York Times, but the newspaper is a perfect example of how to maintain investment in a large but declining legacy business while simultaneously investing in new areas that will drive future growth. Surprisingly, 10% of the paper's revenue now comes from digital subscriptions and other all-digital products (not including advertising)."
First time accepted submitter windwalker13th writes "Recently the New York Times ran an article highlighting the pull that a State Board in Texas holds over that state and rest of the Nation. Because of the unique way in which Texas picks school textbooks (purchasing large volumes of textbooks at once to be used for the next decade) publishers pander to this board to get their books approved. The board currently holds several members (6 of 28 who are known to reject evolution) who hold creationist views and actively work to ensure that the science textbooks do not use as strong language or must include "critical thinking" about possible alternate explanations for evolution."
benrothke writes "Many of us have experimented with what it means to be disabled, by sitting in a wheelchair for a few minutes or putting a blindfold over our eyes. In Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward without Leaving People Behind, author Kel Smith details the innumerable obstacles disabled people have to deal with in their attempts to use computers and the Internet. The book observes that while 1 in 7 people in the world have some sort of disability, (including the fact that 1 in every 10 U.S. children has been diagnosed with ADHD), software and hardware product designers, content providers and the companies who support these teams often approach accessibility as an add-on, not as a core component. Adding accessibility functionality to support disabled people is often seen as a lowest common denominator feature. With the companies unaware of the universal benefit their solution could potentially bring to a wider audience. " Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Bloomberg reports that 23andMe Inc., the Google-backed DNA analysis company, has been told by US regulators to halt sales of its main product, the Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service, or PGS that tells users whether they carry a disease, are at risk of a disease and would respond to a drug because the kit is being sold without FDA's marketing clearance or approval. 'FDA is concerned about the public health consequences of inaccurate results from the PGS device,' says the agency. 'The main purpose of compliance with FDA's regulatory requirements is to ensure that the tests work.' 23andMe was founded six years ago by Anne Wojcicki, who recently separated from her husband, Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The FDA decided in 2010 that services claiming to evaluate a customer's risk of disease must be cleared by regulators if the companies sell directly to consumers. Most FDA-cleared genetic tests are for a single disease while 23andMe's would be the first to test for multiple conditions. 23andMe submitted FDA applications in July and September of 2012 for the least stringent of two types of medical device reviews but the FDA said the company failed to address 'the issues described during previous interactions'."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC is reporting that an investigation into a UK-based Amazon facility has uncovered conditions that experts believe foster mental illness. At the root of the problem seems to be unreasonable performance expectations combined with a fundamentally dehumanizing environment. From the article: 'Amazon said that official safety inspections had not raised any concerns and that an independent expert appointed by the company advised that the picking job is "similar to jobs in many other industries and does not increase the risk of mental and physical illness."'"
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Fraunhofer FKIE, Germany have presented a paper on covert acoustical communications between laptop computers. In their paper 'On Covert Acoustical Mesh Networks in Air', they describe how acoustical communication can be used to secretly bridge air gaps between computers and connect computers and networks that are thought to be completely isolated from each other. By using ad-hoc routing protocols, they are able to build up a complete mesh network of infected computers that leaks data over multiple hops. A multi-hop acoustical keylogger is also presented where keystrokes are forwarded to an attacker over multiple hops between different office rooms. The fundamental part of the communication system is a piece of software that has originally been developed for acoustic underwater communications. The researchers also provide different countermeasures against malicious participation in a covert acoustical network. The limitations of air gaps have been discussed recently in the context of a highly advanced malware, although reports on this so-called badBIOS malware could not yet be confirmed."
Zothecula writes "Harvesting power from the wind and the sun is nothing new. We've seen flying wind turbines and solar power plants that aim to provide clean renewable energy. UK-based New Wave Energy has a bolder idea in the works. The company plans to build the first high altitude aerial power plant, using networks of unmanned drones that can harvest energy from multiple sources and transmit it wirelessly to receiving stations on the ground."
cagraham writes "In a pretty major executive shakeup, BlackBerry's Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and Chief Operating Officer have all left the company. It's unclear whether the changes were brought about by new interim-CEO John Chen in order to facilitate company change, or represent an abandon-ship style exit after BlackBerry's failed bid to go private. The company announced that the CFO position would be filled by current SVP James Yersch, but gave no word on the other vacancies."
KentuckyFC writes "The Tsimane tribe are hunter-gatherers living in the forested region between the foothills of the Andes and the wetland-savannas of the Llanos de Moxos in Bolivia. They drink beer made from boiled manioc (a type of sweet potato) which they chew and spit into the mix to trigger fermentation. After a week or so, the resultant brew is about 4 per cent alcohol. Now anthropologists studying this tribe say the way they host beer drinking events for each other offers important clues into their culture. At issue is the question of altruism: why people spend considerable time and effort doing favors for others that don't directly benefit them. The answer from studying these beer drinking events is that the favor is quickly returned by the guests in the form of another beer drinking event. This helps to build good relations with neighbors and family. And when the beer drinking invite is not returned, the researchers speculate that this is probably because there is some other favor involved, such as helping to gather or prepare food, suggesting mates or political co-operation."
An anonymous reader writes in with this excerpt from Shirky.com. "The idea that 'failure is not an option' is a fantasy version of how non-engineers should motivate engineers. That sentiment was invented by a screenwriter, riffing on an after-the-fact observation about Apollo 13; no one said it at the time. (If you ever say it, wash your mouth out with soap. If anyone ever says it to you, run.) Even NASA's vaunted moonshot, so often referred to as the best of government innovation, tested with dozens of unmanned missions first, several of which failed outright. Failure is always an option. Engineers work as hard as they do because they understand the risk of failure. And for anything it might have meant in its screenplay version, here that sentiment means the opposite; the unnamed executives were saying 'Addressing the possibility of failure is not an option.' ... Healthcare.gov was unable to complete even a thousand enrollments a day at launch, and for weeks afterwards. As we now know, programmers, stakeholders, and testers all expressed reservations about Healthcare.gov's ability to do what it was supposed to do. Yet no one who understood the problems was able to tell the President. Worse, every senior political figure—every one—who could have bridged the gap between knowledgeable employees and the President decided not to. And so it was that, even on launch day, the President was allowed to make things worse for himself and his signature program by bragging about the already-failing site and inviting people to log in and use something that mostly wouldn't work. Whatever happens to government procurement or hiring (and we should all hope those things get better) a culture that prefers deluding the boss over delivering bad news isn't well equipped to try new things.'"
Third Position writes "Many of us yearn for a return to one golden age or another. But there's a community of bloggers taking the idea to an extreme: they want to turn the dial way back to the days before the French Revolution. Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good. They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Washington Post reports that a rigorous, six-month training program launched by successful tech entrepreneurs for inmates in the decaying San Quentin State Prison is teaching carefully selected inmates the ins and outs of designing and launching technology firms, using local experts as volunteer instructors and the graduates, now trickling out of the penal system, are landing real jobs at real dot-coms. 'We believe that when incarcerated people are released into the world, they need the tools to function in today's high-tech, wired world,' says co-founder Beverly Parenti, who with her husband, Chris Redlitz, has launched thriving companies, including AdAuction, the first online media exchange. During twice-a-week evening lessons, students — many locked up before smartphones or Google— practice tweeting, brainstorm new companies and discuss business books assigned as homework. Banned from the Internet to prevent networking with other criminals, they take notes on keyboard-like word processors or with pencil on paper. The program is still 'bootstrapping,' as its organizers say, with just 12 graduates in its first two years and now a few dozen in classes in San Quentin and Twin Towers. But the five graduates released so far are working in the tech sector. 'This program will go a long way to not only providing these guys with jobs, but it is my hope that they hire people like them who have changed their lives and are now ready to contribute to society, pay taxes, follow the law, support their families,' says former California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation director Matthew Cate who adds he made the right decision to approve the training course. 'All those things contribute to the economy.'"
At Kurzweil AI, an article proclaims that the next wonder material for computer chips may be an unexpectedly common one: "Move over, graphene. 'Stanene' — a single layer of tin atoms — could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at the temperatures that computer chips operate, according to a team of theoretical physicists led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University." (Original paper is available here, but paywalled.)
An anonymous reader writes "Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since much of Indonesia's telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore. The NSA has a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan. Japan had refused to take part."
The reports that Apple was to buy Israeli 3-D sensor maker PrimeSense have turned out to be correct; the BBC reports that Apple has confirmed the purchase, though it is mum both about the price it paid and about where 3D sensors are likely to show up first in the Apple lineup. Also at the Register and Apple Insider, among others.