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United Kingdom

UK Government Faces Lawsuit Over Emergency Surveillance Bill 44

judgecorp (778838) writes The British Government has had to produce an emergency surveillance Bill after the European Court of Justice ruled that European rules on retaining metadata were illegal. That Bill has now been passed by the House of Commons with almost no debate, and will become law if approved by the House of Lords. But the so-called DRIP (Data retention and Investigatory Powers) Bill could face a legal challenge: the Open Rights Group (ORG) is fundraising to bring a suit which would argue that blanket data retention is unlawful, so these emergency measures would be no more legal than the ones they replaced.

Appeals Court Affirms Old Polaroid Patent Invalid 45

mpicpp (3454017) writes with news of a notoriously abused (basically "method of displaying images on a machine") software patent being declared invalid. From the article: The ruling from last week is one of the first to apply new Supreme Court guidance about when ideas are too "abstract" to be patented. ... The patents in this case describe a type of "device profile" that allows digital images to be accurately displayed on different devices. US Patent No. 6,128,415 was originally filed by Polaroid in 1996. After a series of transfers, in 2012 the patent was sold to Digitech Image Technologies, a branch of Acacia Research Corporation, the largest publicly traded patent assertion company. ... In the opinion, a three-judge panel found that the device profile described in the patent is a "collection of intangible color and spatial information," not a machine or manufactured object. "Data in its ethereal, non-physical form is simply information that does not fall under any of the categories of eligible subject matter under section 101," wrote Circuit Judge Jimmie Reyna on behalf of the panel.

Submission + - Australian website waits three years to tell customers about a data breach (

AlbanX writes: Australian daily deals website Catch of the Day waited three years to tell its customers their email addresses, delivery addresses, hashed passwords, and some credit card details had been stolen.

Its systems got hacked in April 2011 and the company told police, banks and credit cards issues, but didn't tell the Privacy Commissioner until later, or customers until last night.


$10 Million Lawsuit Against Wikipedia Editors "Stragetically" Withdrawn 51

First time accepted submitter The ed17 (2834807) writes with new developments in the $10 million defamation lawsuit against a few Wikipedia editors. From the article: On the same day the Wikimedia Foundation announced it would offer assistance to English Wikipedia editors embroiled in a legal dispute with Yank Barry, the lawsuit has been dismissed without prejudice at the request of Barry's legal team — but this action is being described as "strategic" so that they can refile the lawsuit with a "new, more comprehensive complaint."

Math, Programming, and Language Learning 241

An anonymous reader writes: There's often debate amongst modern programmers about how much math a professional developer should know, and to what extent programming is math. Learning to program is often viewed as being on a spectrum between learning math and learning spoken/written languages. But in a new article, Jeremy Kun argues that the spectrum should be formulated another way: Human language -> Mathematics -> Programming. "Having studied all three subjects, I'd argue that mathematics falls between language and programming on the hierarchy of rigor. ... [T]he hierarchy of abstraction is the exact reverse, with programming being the most concrete and language being the most abstract. Perhaps this is why people consider mathematics a bridge between human language and programming. Because it allows you to express more formal ideas in a more concrete language, without making you worry about such specific hardware details like whether your integers are capped at 32 bits or 64. Indeed, if you think that the core of programming is expressing abstract ideas in a concrete language, then this makes a lot of sense. This is precisely why learning mathematics is 'better' at helping you learn the kind of abstract thinking you want for programming than language. Because mathematics is closer to programming on the hierarchy. It helps even more that mathematics and programming readily share topics."

FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software 125

coondoggie writes: The Federal Trade Commission today announced the rules for its second robocall exterminating challenge, known this time as Zapping Rachel Robocall Contest. 'Rachel From Cardholder Services,' was a large robocall scam the agency took out in 2012. The agency will be hosting a contest at next month's DEF CON security conference to build open-source methods to lure robocallers into honeypots and to predict which calls are robocalls. They'll be awarding cash prizes for the top solutions.

Tesla Model S Hacking Prize Claimed 59

savuporo sends word that a $10,000 bounty placed on hacking a Tesla Model S has been claimed by a team from Zhejiang University in China. The bounty itself was not issued by Tesla, but by Qihoo 360, a Chinese security company. "[The researchers] were able to gain remote control of the car's door locks, headlights, wipers, sunroof, and horn, Qihoo 360 said on its social networking Sina Weibo account. The security firm declined to reveal details at this point about how the hack was accomplished, although one report indicated that the hackers cracked the six-digit code for the Model S's mobile app.

Chicago Red Light Cameras Issue Thousands of Bogus Tickets 229

mpicpp points out a report in the Chicago Tribune saying that thousands of the city's drivers have been wrongfully ticketed for red light violations because of "faulty equipment, human tinkering, or both." The Tribune's investigation uncovered the bogus tickets by analyzing the data from over 4 million tickets issued in the past seven years. Cameras that for years generated just a few tickets daily suddenly caught dozens of drivers a day. One camera near the United Center rocketed from generating one ticket per day to 56 per day for a two-week period last summer before mysteriously dropping back to normal. Tickets for so-called rolling right turns on red shot up during some of the most dramatic spikes, suggesting an unannounced change in enforcement. One North Side camera generated only a dozen tickets for rolling rights out of 100 total tickets in the entire second half of 2011. Then, over a 12-day spike, it spewed 563 tickets — 560 of them for rolling rights. Many of the spikes were marked by periods immediately before or after when no tickets were issued — downtimes suggesting human intervention that should have been documented. City officials said they cannot explain the absence of such records.

Submission + - Biggest "patent troll" slapped hard by appeals court (

mpicpp writes: Dozens of companies were sued over an old Polaroid digital imaging patent.

The most litigious "patent troll" in the US has lost a major case after the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found its patent was too abstract.

Court declines to stop software patents altogether.

The ruling from last week is one of the first to apply new Supreme Court guidance about when ideas are too "abstract" to be patented. In the recent Alice v. CLS Bank case, the high court made clear that adding what amounts to fancy computer language to patents on basic ideas shouldn't hold up in court.

The patents in this case describe a type of "device profile" that allows digital images to be accurately displayed on different devices. US Patent No. 6,128,415 was originally filed by Polaroid in 1996. After a series of transfers, in 2012 the patent was sold to Digitech Image Technologies, a branch of Acacia Research Corporation, the largest publicly traded patent assertion company. A study on "patent trolls" by RPX found that Acacia Research Corporation was the most litigious troll of 2013, having filed 239 patent lawsuits last year.

Submission + - U.S. Senator blasts Microsoft's H-1B push as it lays 18,000 off workers (

dcblogs writes: On the floor of U.S. Senate Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) delivered a scalding and sarcastic attack on the use of highly skilled foreign workers by U.S. corporations that was heavily aimed at Microsoft, a chief supporter of the practice. Sessions' speech began as a rebuttal to a recent New York Times op-ed column by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson, a casino owner that has chastised Congress for failing to take action on immigration reform. But the senator's attack on "three of our greatest masters of the universe," and "super billionaires," was clearly primed by Microsoft's announcement, also on Thursday, that it was laying off 18,000 employees. "What did we see in the newspaper today?" said Sessions, "News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all."

Google To Stop Describing Games With In-App Purchases As 'Free' 139

An anonymous reader writes After a series of investigations, lawsuits, and fines over how in-app purchases are advertised and communicated to users, Google has agreed to stop labeling games that use in-app purchases as "Free." This change is the result of a request by the European Commission to stop misleading customers about the costs involved with using certain apps. "Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them; Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent." The EC notes that Apple has not yet done anything to address these concerns.

Dell Starts Accepting Bitcoin 152

An anonymous reader writes: Mainstream retail companies have been slow to adopt Bitcoin, perhaps skeptical of its long-term value or unwilling to expend the effort required to put a payment system into place. Today, Bitcoin adoption got a momentum boost with Dell's announcement that it will accept Bitcoin as a payment method. Dell is by far the biggest company to start accepting Bitcoin. It's interesting to note that Dell, like many of the larger companies interacting with Bitcoin right now, is doing so through a third-party payment processor. On one hand, it's good — we don't necessarily want each company building their own implementation and possibly screwing it up. On the other hand, it scales back slightly the decentralized and fee-less nature of Bitcoin, which are important features to many of its supporters.

Point-of-Sale System Bought On eBay Yields Treasure Trove of Private Data 68

jfruh writes: Point-of-sale systems aren't cheap, so it's not unusual for smaller merchants to buy used terminals second-hand. An HP security researcher bought one such unit on eBay to see what a used POS system will get you, and what he found was disturbing: default passwords, a security flaw, and names, addresses, and social security numbers of employees of the terminal's previous owner.
First Person Shooters (Games)

CCP Games Explains Why Virtual Reality First Person Shooters Still Don't Work 154

An anonymous reader writes Icelandic studio CCP is better known for EVE Online, but its first foray into virtual reality with space shooter Valkyrie has caused a stir, and is widely seen as a flagship game for the Oculus Rift headset. In a new interview, Valkyrie executive producer Owen O'Brien explains what advantages the game will have when played with a headset — and gives his view on why a dogfighter is better suited to VR than a first person shooter: "People have hacked it together, but it doesn't really work," he says. "The basic problem is Simulator Sickness. In Valkyrie or any cockpit game or driving game, what you're doing in the real world, assuming you're sitting down, more or less mimics what your brain is telling you you're doing in the game. So you don't get that disconnect, and it's that disconnect that causes sickness. So, the problem with first-person shooters is that you're running or crouching or jumping in the game but not in the real world, and because it's so realistic it can make some people (not everybody) feel nauseated if they start doing it for extended periods of time."

Wearable Robot Adds Two Fingers To Your Hand 77

rtoz writes: Researchers at MIT have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand. This wrist-wearable robot adds two extra fingers that respond to movements in the wearer's hand. The robotic fingers are on either side of the hand — one outside the thumb, and the other outside the little finger. A control algorithm enables it to move in sync with the wearer's fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes. With the assistance of these extra fingers, the user can grasp objects that are usually too difficult to pick up and manipulate with a single hand.

The New Science of Evolutionary Forecasting 63

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists may not be able to predict what life will be like 100 million years from now, but they may be able to make short-term forecasts for the next few months or years. And if they're making predictions about viruses or other health threats, they might be able to save some lives in the process. "Biologists have found cases in which evolution has, in effect, run the same experiment several times over. And in some cases the results of those natural experiments have turned out very similar each time. In other words, evolution has been predictable. One of the most striking cases of repeated evolution has occurred in the Caribbean. ... Each time lizards colonized an island, they evolved into many of the same forms. On each island, some lizards adapted to living high in trees, evolving pads on their feet for gripping surfaces, along with long legs and a stocky body. Other lizards adapted to life among the thin branches lower down on the trees, evolving short legs that help them hug their narrow perches. Still other lizards adapted to living in grass and shrubs, evolving long tails and slender trunks. On island after island, the same kinds of lizards have evolved."

Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need? 272

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, word came down that Microsoft was starting to lay off some 18,000 workers. As of June 5th, Microsoft reported a total employee headcount of 127,005, so they're cutting about 15% of their jobs. That's actually a pretty huge percentage, even taking into account the redundancies created by the Nokia acquisition. Obviously, there's an upper limit to how much of your workforce you can let go at one time, so I'm willing to bet Microsoft's management thinks thousands more people aren't worth keeping around. How many employees does Microsoft realistically need? The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management. But they also have a huge number of software projects, and some of the projects, like Windows and Office, need big teams to develop. How would we go about estimating the total workforce Microsoft needs? (Other headcounts for reference: Apple: 80,000, Amazon: 124,600, IBM: 431,212, Red Hat: 5,000+, Facebook: 6,800, Google: 52,000, Intel: 104,900.)

Preparing For Satellite Defense 118

Taco Cowboy sends a report into China's development of anti-satellite technology, and efforts by the U.S. and Japan to build defenses for this new potential battleground. Last year, China launched what they said was a science space mission, but they did so at night and with a truck-based launch system, which are not generally used for science projects. Experts believe this was actually a missile test for targets in geostationary orbit. U.S. and Japanese analysts say China has the most aggressive satellite attack program in the world. It has staged at least six ASAT missile tests over the past nine years, including the destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite in 2007. ... Besides testing missiles that can intercept and destroy satellites, the Chinese have developed jamming techniques to disrupt satellite communications. In addition, ... the Chinese have studied ground-based lasers that could take down a satellite's solar panels, and satellites equipped with grappling arms that could co-orbit and then disable expensive U.S. hardware. To defend themselves against China, the U.S. and Japan are in the early stages of integrating their space programs as part of negotiations to update their defense policy guidelines. ... Both countries have sunk billions of dollars into a sophisticated missile defense system that relies in part on data from U.S. spy satellites. That's why strategists working for China's People's Liberation Army have published numerous articles in defense journals about the strategic value of chipping away at U.S. domination in space.

Verizon's Accidental Mea Culpa 390

Barryke writes: Verizon has blamed Netflix for the streaming slowdowns their customers have been seeing. It seems the Verizon blog post defending this accusation has backfired in a spectacular way: The chief has clearly admitted that Verizon has capacity to spare, and is deliberately constraining throughput from network providers. Level3, a major ISP that interconnects with Verizon's networks, responded by showing a diagram that visualizes the underpowered interconnect problem and explaining why Verizon's own post indicates how it restricts data flow. Level3 also offered to pay for the necessary upgrades to Verizon hardware: "... these cards are very cheap, a few thousand dollars for each 10 Gbps card which could support 5,000 streams or more. If that's the case, we'll buy one for them. Maybe they can't afford the small piece of cable between our two ports. If that's the case, we'll provide it. Heck, we'll even install it." I'm curious to see Verizon's response to this straightforward accusation of throttling paying users (which tech-savvy readers were quick to confirm).

New Mayhem Malware Targets Linux and UNIX-Like Servers 168

Bismillah writes: Russian security researchers have spotted a new malware named Mayhem that has spread to 1,400 or so Linux and FreeBSD servers around the world, and continues to look for new machines to infect. And, it doesn't need root to operate. "The malware can have different functionality depending on the type of plug-in downloaded to it by the botmaster in control, and stashed away in a hidden file system on the compromised server. Some of the plug-ins provide brute force cracking of password functionality, while others crawl web pages to scrape information. According to the researchers, Mayhem appears to be the continuation of the Fort Disco brute-force password cracking attack campaign that began in May 2013."
The Military

Russia Prepares For Internet War Over Malaysian Jet 503

An anonymous reader writes The investigation of a Malaysian passenger jet shot down over Ukrainian rebel held territory is heating up. U.S. and U.K. news organizations are studiously trying to spread the blame, Russian ITAR, which, just earlier today was celebrating the downing of a large aircraft by rebel missiles in Torez (Google cache) is reporting that the rebels do not have access to the missiles needed for such attacks. The rebel commander who earlier today reported the downing of the aircraft has also issued a correction to earlier reports that they had captured BUK air defense systems with Russian sources now stating that the rebels do not posses such air defenses. The Ukrainian president has been attempting to frame the incident as a "terrorist attack". President Obama made contact with Vladimir Putin and has been instead treating it as an accident, calling it a "terrible tragedy" and saying that the priority is investigating whether U.S. citizens were involved. With control of the black box and its own internet propaganda army Russia may be in a good position to win the propaganda war.

Lenovo Halts Sales of Small-Screen Windows 8.1 Tablets Due To "Lack of Interest" 125

DroidJason1 writes Microsoft has attempted to compete in the small-screen tablet market with Windows 8.1 and Windows RT, but it looks like the growing adoption of small-screen Android tablets are just too much for Lenovo to handle. Lenovo has slammed the brakes on sales of small screen Windows tablets in the United States, citing a lack of interest from consumers. In fact, Lenovo has stopped selling the 8-inch ThinkPad 8 and the 8-inch Miix 2. Fortunately, these small-screen Windows tablets have seen some success in Brazil, China, and Japan, so Lenovo will focus on efforts there. Microsoft also recently scrapped plans for the rumored Surface Mini.

Heinz Zemanek Passes At 94 52

Knuckles writes Austrian computer pioneer Heinz Zemanek, the first person to build a fully transistorized computer on the European mainland, died in Vienna, aged 94 (link in German). Officially named Binär dezimaler Volltransistor-Rechenautomat (binary-decimal fully transistorized computing automaton), but known as "Mailüfterl", the computer was built in 1955 and in 1958 calculated 5073548261 to be a prime number in 66 minutes. Its power was comparable to a small tube computer of the time, and it measured 4 by 2.5 by 0.5 meters. "Mailüfterl" means "may breeze" in Viennese German and was a play on US computers of the time, like MIT's Whirlwind. 'Even if it cannot match the rapid calculation speed of American models called "Whirlwind" or "Typhoon", it will be enough for a "Wiener Mailüfterl"' (Viennese may breeze), said Zemanek. Mailüfterl contained 3,000 transistors, 5,000 diodes, 1,000 assembly platelets, 100,000 solder joints, 15,000 resistors, 5,000 capacitors and 20,000 meters switching wire. It was built as an underground project at and without financial support from the technical university of Vienna, were Zemanek was an assistant professor at the time. In 1961, Zemanek and his team moved to IBM, who built them their own lab in Vienna. In 1976, Zemanek became an IBM Fellow and stayed at IBM until his retirement in 1985. He was crucial in the creation of the formal definition of the programming language PL/I. The definition language used was VDL (Vienna Definition Language), a direct predecessor of VDM Specification Language (VDM-SL). He remained a professor in Vienna and held regular lectures until 2006.