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Pwned Barbies Spying On Children? Toytalk CEO Downplays Hacking Reports ( 24

McGruber writes: Earlier this year Mattel unveiled "Hello Barbie," a $74.99 wi-fi equipped interactive doll. Users press a button on Barbie's belt to start a conversation and the recorded audio is processed over the internet so that the doll can respond appropriately. The doll also remembers the user's likes and dislikes.

Now Security Researcher Matt Jakubowski claims that he has managed to hack the Hello Barbie system to extract wi-fi network names, account IDs and MP3 files, which could be used to track down someone's home. "You can take that information and find out a person's house or business. It's just a matter of time until we are able to replace their servers with ours and have her say anything we want," Jakubowski warned. Mattel partnered with ToyTalk to develop "Hello Barbie." ToyTalk CEO Oren Jacob said: "An enthusiastic researcher has reported finding some device data and called that a hack. While the path that the researcher used to find that data is not obvious and not user-friendly, it is important to note that all that information was already directly available to Hello Barbie customers through the Hello Barbie Companion App. No user data, no Barbie content, and no major security or privacy protections have been compromised to our knowledge." A petition by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asking Mattel to drop the doll has already been signed by over 6,000 people.

NOTE: The original reporting of this hack appears to have been this NBC-Chicago newscast.


Swarm Robotics Breakthrough Brings Pheromone Communication To AI ( 20

An anonymous reader writes: Computer scientists at the University of Lincoln have invented a reliable, low-cost system which replicates in robots the pheromone-based communication behind insect swarms. Using off-the-shelf equipment including an LCD screen and a USB camera, the team has proposed what they call COS-phi, or Communication System via Pheromone. The artificial pheromone trails are traced visually onto the screen. As soon as a bot picks up on the path, it is forced to follow the leader.

Creator of Relay On BITNET, Predecessor of IRC, Dies ( 24

tmjva writes: Jeff Kell passed away on November 25 as reported here in the 3000newswire. He was inventor of BITNET Relay, a predecessor of Internet Relay Chat using the REXX programming language.

In 1987 he wrote the following preserved article about RELAY and here is his obituary.. May this early inventor rest in peace.


NASA Prepares To Launch an Orion and 3 Cubesats To Deep Space: 3 Years To Go ( 32

MarkWhittington writes: As NASA has noted, the space agency and its contractors are working diligently on the first launch of the heavy-lift Space Launch System. The launch, officially called EM-1, or Exploration Mission 1, will loft an unpiloted version of the Orion spacecraft around the moon. also noted that a number of secondary payloads, known as CubeSats, will be along for the ride as well. NASA considered EM-1, scheduled for 2018, a crucial step in its Journey to Mars which will, it is hoped, reach its ultimate destination sometime in the 2030s.

Bill Gates To Headline Paris Climate Talks 58

theodp writes: The NY Times and others report that Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday at the opening of the two-week long Paris Climate Change Conference. The climate summit, which will be attended by President Obama and 100+ world leaders, is intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions. The pending announcement was first reported by ClimateWire. A spokesman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to a request for comment. Let's hope it goes better than BillG school reform!

What USB Has Replaced (And What it Hasn't) ( 158

An anonymous reader writes with a story at Ars Technica about the evolution thus far of USB as an enabling technology: Like all technology, USB has evolved over time. Despite being a 'Universal' Serial Bus, in its 18-or-so years on the market it has spawned multiple versions with different connection speeds and many, many types of cables. A casual search around the shelves by my desk shows that I've got at least 12 varieties, and that's not even counting serial and PS/2 adapters. What have you replaced with USB?

How Bad of a World Are We Really Living In Right Now? 117

New submitter Y.A.A.P. writes: Slate has a surprisingly relevant article of the state of the world today. A reasonable number of graphs and statistical comparisons show that our world is more peaceful than it has been for a long time. The article tells us that, despite what most news outlets (and political candidates) tell us, The World Is Not Falling Apart. Well, not from violence, at least.

DecryptorMax/CryptInfinite Ransomware Decrypted, No Need To Pay Ransom ( 30

An anonymous reader writes: Emsisoft has launched a new tool capable of decrypting files compromised by the DecryptorMax (CryptInfinite) ransomware. The tool is quite easy to use, and will generate a decryption key. For best results users should compare an encrypted and decrypted file, but the tool can also get the decryption key by comparing an encrypted PNG with a random PNG downloaded off the Internet.

Ask Slashdot: Buy Or Build a High End Gaming PC? 221

An anonymous reader writes: Looking at some Black Friday ads, I'm seeing some good deals on Alienware and other gaming rigs that would be cheaper than building them from scratch. If you built or were to build a high end gaming rig, what would you suggest? Or would you just get a prebuilt system and customize it to your needs? I'm not looking for cheap, I want best quality and performance, but not overkill that would rival supercomputers and at the same time break my bank account. It would be a Windows system to keep my family happy, but possibly dual boot with Linux to keep me happy. It will be located in the livingroom hooked up to a regular monitor and the big screen TV, replacing a budget PC that's in there now.
The Military

Air Force Hires Civilian Drone Pilots For Combat Patrols ( 65

schwit1 writes: For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence. Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.

Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age 253 writes: Peter Thiel writes in the NYT that what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. "But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled," says Thiel. "If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago. Instead, we went in reverse."

According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power. However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones. "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy," concludes Thiel. "supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it."

Parts of Falcon 9 Launcher Wash Ashore In England 18

RockDoctor writes with news as reported by the BBC that parts of a Falcon 9 launcher have washed ashore on the Scilly Islands off the SW coast of Britain. Early impressions are that the pieces are from the failed Falcon 9 ISS launch which exploded after take-off in June. That's not the only possibility, though; according to the article, However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. "All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. "It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.

C.H.I.P. vs Pi Zero: Which Sub-$10 Computer Is Better? ( 99

Make Magazine weighs in on a issue that's suddenly relevant in a world where less thn $10 can buy a new, (nominally) complete computer. Which one makes most sense? Both the $9 C.H.I.P and the newest, stripped-down Raspberry Pi model have plusses and minuses, but to make either one actually useful takes some additional hardware; at their low prices, it's not surprising that neither one comes with so much as a case. The two make different trade-offs, despite being just a few dollars apart in ticket price. C.H.I.P. comes with built-in storage that rPi lacks, for instance, but the newest Pi, like its forebears, has built in HDMI output. Make's upshot? The cost of owning either a C.H.I.P. or a Pi is a bit more money than the retail cost of the boards. Peripherals such as a power cable, keyboard, mouse, and monitor are necessary to accomplish any computer task on either of the devices. But it turns out the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero costs significantly more to operate than the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P.

Hacker Cracks Lumia Bootloader, Offers Tool For Root Access and Custom ROMs ( 57

MojoKid writes: Microsoft and Nokia have worked hard making Lumia smartphones difficult to break into at a low-level, but software hacker Heathcliff has just proven that it's not impossible. He's just released a solid-looking tool called Windows Phone Internals, and it can do everything from unlocking the bootloader to replacing the phone's ROM. WP Internals is a completely free download, though Heathcliff welcomes donations by those who've found the tool useful. According to the "Getting Started" section of the tool, supported models include Lumia 520, 521, 525, 620, 625, 720, 820, 920, 925, 928, 1020, and 1320. If your model is not on the list, the developer has said that he hopes to add more models in the near future.
Christmas Cheer

Finnish IT Retailer Reveals Most Returned Products 95

jones_supa writes: The largest computer gear retailer in Finland,, has unveiled top 20 lists of most returned and most serviced equipment in 2015 (Google translation). To offer an alternative to Black Friday, the company is going with a theme called "Sustainable Christmas". They want to guide shoppers to make good choices, as product returns always create extra burden for the distribution chain. Is there anything that catches your eye in the lists, or something else that you would like to warn about?
United Kingdom

Celebrating ARM's 25th Anniversary With the Visual ARM1 ( 36

In a slow-burn series of posts going back to 2010, the has presented diagrams and commentary on "ancient microchips," mosly based on painstaking microphotography after just-as-painstaking depackaging and cleaning of the actual chips.Today, reader trebonian writes an excerpt from their latest entry, in honor of the 25th anniversary of ARM Ltd., UK, which is somewhat different: To celebrate and honor their amazing work, we present the Visual ARM1, created in collaboration with some of ARM's founding engineers.

Designed by Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber before there was an ARM Ltd., the Acorn RISC Machine was the first of a line of processors that power our cell phones and tablets today. Unlike our projects based on microscope images, the Visual ARM was created from a resurrected .cif chip layout file, used under our license agreement with ARM. We also photographed one of the few ARM1 chips at very high resolution, and our photograph is featured at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge.

Credit goes to ARM founding engineers John Biggs for inspiring the project, discovering the tape, and recovering a usable .cif file, Lee Smith for spotting the variable record format used to encode the file (an artifact of the VMS on Acorn's VAX that at first appeared to be widespread corruption of the file), to Cambridge University Computing Services for reading the Exabyte tape, and to ARM founder Dave Howard for help unraveling the VLSI CIF dialect. Our chip simulation and visualization was developed by Barry Silverman, Brian Silverman, Ed Spittles, and Greg James.


France Using Emergency Powers To Prevent Climate Change Protests ( 207

Bruce66423 writes: Following the Paris massacre, the French government declared a state of emergency. One of the regulations this introduced was control of large scale gatherings, and one of the events that is being caught up in this is planned protests to do with the Climate Change conference in Paris next month. This has resulted in some activists being put under house arrest — yet other gathering, such as commercial street markets — are being allowed to go ahead. Funny that; anyone would think that the government is using the opportunity to suppress dissent.
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Bookmark Manager That Actually Manages Bookmarks? 89

hackwrench writes: Most reviews of so-called bookmark managers focus on the fact that they can share bookmarks across browsers and devices and whether or not they can make your bookmarks public or not. Sometimes they mention that you can annotate bookmarks. Little is said about real management features like making certain bookmarks exclusive to one or a set of browsers or devices, checking for dead links and maybe even looking them up on I'm sure this isn't an exhaustive list of features that would be good to have. What bookmarks managers do you use and why, and what features would you like to see in a bookmark manager?

Privacy Vulnerability Exposes VPN Users' Real IP Addresses ( 82

An anonymous reader writes: A major security flaw which reveals VPN users' real IP addresses has been discovered by Perfect Privacy (PP). The researchers suggest that the problem affects all VPN protocols, including IPSec, PPTP and OpenVPN. The technique involves a port-forwarding tactic whereby a hacker using the same VPN as its victim can forward traffic through a certain port, which exposes the unsuspecting user's IP address. This issue persists even if the victim has disabled port forwarding. PP discovered that five out of nine prominent VPN providers that offer port forwarding were vulnerable to the attack.

NSA To End Bulk Phone Surveillance By Sunday ( 128

An anonymous reader writes: The White House announced today that the NSA will be shutting down the program responsible for the bulk collection of phone records by the end of tomorrow. The program will be immediately replace with a new, scaled back version as enumerated by the USA Freedom Act. "Under the Freedom Act, the NSA and law enforcement agencies can no longer collect telephone calling records in bulk in an effort to sniff out suspicious activity. Such records, known as "metadata," reveal which numbers Americans are calling and what time they place those calls, but not the content of the conversations. Instead analysts must now get a court order to ask telecommunications companies ... to enable monitoring of call records of specific people or groups for up to six months."