An anonymous reader writes "Last week, Mozilla announced it will prompt Firefox users on Windows with old versions of Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, and Microsoft Silverlight to update their plugins, but refused to detail how the system will work. Now, the organization has unveiled 'click-to-play plugin blocks,' which will be on by default in Firefox 17, starting with the three aforementioned plugins. (Expect more to be added eventually.) Furthermore, you can try out the feature for yourself now in Firefox 17 beta for Windows, Mac, and Linux." Also coming in Firefox 17 is support for Mozilla's "Social API." The announcement describes it thus: "Much like the OpenSearch standard, the Social API enables developers to integrate social services into the browser in a way that is meaningful and helpful to users. As services integrate with Firefox via the Social API sidebar, it will be easy for you to keep up with friends and family anywhere you go on the Web without having to open a new Web page or switch between tabs. You can stay connected to your favorite social network even while you are surfing the Web, watching a video or playing a game."
At this summer's HOPE, Eben Moglen was one of the most incisive and entertaining speakers. But since only a small fraction of the Earth's population can fit into an aging hotel meeting room, you can watch his HOPE presentation via Archive.org on making the first law of robotics apply to cell phones. Besides being a professor at Columbia Law, former clerk in U.S. federal court as well as to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and a prolific writer, Moglen is founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center as well as the creator of the FreedomBox Foundation, and was for many years general counsel of the Free Software Foundation. Moglen has strong opinions, and a lot to say, about software licensing and freedom, copyright, patents, and (as you can see from the video linked above) about the privacy implications of always-on, always-on-us technology. Next week, I'll be meeting up with Moglen for a short interview. If you have a question for Eben, please post it below; I can't guarantee how many reader questions I'll have a chance to ask him, but the more, the merrier.
Sam Bagot and Will Bratton operate Horto Domi (hortodomi.com), an agricultural project they describe as "beyond organic." They're working with small prefab greenhouses, adding sensors and Arduino-actuated controls, and even including an earthworm breeding area in most domes, because earthworms are good for the soil and can increase plant production. If you're the kind of person whose plants always seem to shrivel up and die, this may be a great way to garden. With watering and other functions automated, it looks like all you have to do is set your controls, plant what you want to grow, and wait for the "time to harvest" alarm to go off. Okay, it might not be that simple, but Sam and Will say their gardening method saves a lot of energy and time. It also looks like fun, besides being an easy way to grow your own 100% organic fruits and vegetables.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian reports that members of computer hacker collective Anonymous have distanced themselves from WikiLeaks, claiming the whistleblowers' site has become too focused on the personal tribulations of its founder, Julian Assange. A statement linked from the Anonymous Twitter account, AnonymousIRC, described WikiLeaks as 'the one man Julian Assange show,' and complained that the website implemented a paywall seeking donations from users who wanted access to millions of leaked documents. 'The idea behind WikiLeaks was to provide the public with information that would otherwise be kept secret by industries and governments. Information we strongly believe the public has a right to know,' said the statement on behalf of Anonymous. The dispute could starve WikiLeaks of potentially newsworthy leaks in the future, as some of Wikileaks' recent disclosures – including the Stratfor emails – are alleged to have come from Anonymous."
Maow writes with word that the U.S. Federal Appeals Court has reversed a sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus phone. According to the decision (PDF), "Regardless of the extent to which Apple may be injured by the sales of the Galaxy Nexus, there is not a sufficient showing that the harm flows from Samsung’s alleged infringement. ...the district court abused its discretion in enjoining the sales of the Galaxy Nexus." The ruling also said Apple didn't do a good enough job showing that the allegedly infringing features were "core" to the Nexus's operation. The case centered on what is called "unified search," a method for bringing together search results from multiple places, such as a device's internal memory and the internet at large (U.S. Patent #8,086,604). "Apple must show that consumers buy the Galaxy Nexus because it is equipped with the apparatus claimed in the ’604 patent—not because it can search in general, and not even because it has unified search."
another random user sends this excerpt from TorrentFreak: "Downloading a car – or a pair of sneakers – will be entirely possible, although Ford and Nike won't be particularly happy if people use their designs to do so. A new patent, issued this week by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and titled 'Manufacturing control system', describes a system whereby 3D printer-like machines (the patent actually covers additive, subtractive, extrusion, melting, solidification, and other types of manufacturing) will have to obtain authorization before they are allowed to print items requested by the user. In a nutshell, a digital fingerprint of 'restricted items' will be held externally and printers will be required to compare the plans of the item they're being asked to print against those in a database. If there's a match, printing will be disallowed or restricted."
xSander writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal judge in San Jose, CA to rule that Universal abused the DMCA to take down a video of a toddler dancing to a Prince song. The case in question, whose oral argument will be Tuesday, October 16, is Stephanie Lenz vs. Universal, a case that began back in 2007. Lenz shared a video on YouTube of her son dancing to 'Let's Go Crazy' on a stereo in the background. After Universal took the video down, Lenz filed a suit with help of the EFF to hold Universal accountable for taking down her fair use. The court had already decided that content owners must consider fair use before sending copyright takedown notices."
mask.of.sanity writes "A penetration tester has shown that GSM communications systems can be taken down with a handful of malformed packets. The weakness was in the lack of security around the Home Location Register server clusters which store GSM subscriber details as part of the global SS7 network. A single packet, sent from within any network including femtocells, took down one of the clusters for two minutes."
Ever since news broke last year that Microsoft would require Windows 8 machines to have UEFI secure boot enabled, there were concerns that it would be used to block the installation of other operating systems, such as Linux distributions. Now, reader dgharmon sends this quote from Ars Technica about a new defense against that outcome: "The Linux Foundation has announced plans to provide a general purpose solution suitable for use by Linux and other non-Microsoft operating systems. The group has produced a minimal bootloader that won't boot any operating system directly. Instead, it will transfer control to any other bootloader — signed or unsigned — so that can boot an operating system." The announcement adds, "The pre-bootloader will employ a 'present user'; test to ensure that it cannot be used as a vector for any type of UEFI malware to target secure systems. This pre-bootloader can be used either to boot a CD/DVD installer or LiveCD distribution or even boot an installed operating system in secure mode for any distribution that chooses to use it."
Onymous Hero writes "Following the recent YouTube video 'The Innocence of Muslims' and the subsequent Muslim violence, Saudi Arabia has stated that there is a 'crying need for international collaboration to address "freedom of expression" which clearly disregards public order.' The World Telecommunications Policy Forum (a UN body) is the vehicle by which Saudi Arabia (and possibly other states) will try to use to implement a global set of internet content standards."
coondoggie writes "NASA said today it has helped develop a 57-lb robotic exoskeleton that a person could wear over his or her body either to assist or inhibit movement in leg joints. The X1 was derived from the NASA and General Motors Robonaut 2 project and the could find applications as an in-space exercise machine to supply resistance against leg movement more importantly as a way to help some individuals walk for the first time."
Qedward writes "Open source writer Glyn Moody discusses the Draft Communications Bill (aka Snooper's Charter) in the UK and how the Joint Parliamentary Committee that had been considering the bill received almost 19,000 emails during its consultation period. He notes: 'Out of 19,000 emails received by the Committee on the subject of the proposed Draft Communications Bill, not a single one was in favor of it, or even agreed with its premise. Has there ever been a bill so universally rejected by the public in a consultation? Clearly, it must be thrown out completely.'"
AlistairCharlton writes in a neat article about night vision watches, video recording glasses, and other real-life spy gadgets. "Q (real name Jeremy Marks) has run SpyMaster for 20 years and has three branches in central London. The company sells a wide range of covert equipment, from recorders disguised as chewing gum wrappers and watches with night vision cameras, to body armour and home security. Far from meeting our Quartermaster deep in the bowels of MI5 or at an abandoned Underground station, we were invited into SpyMaster's flagship store just off Oxford street; it's a glass-fronted shop just like any other - no M, no whiskey cabinet (so far as we could see) and no ejector seats in sight. "
If you are a seafood lover and wish that you could eat more fish raised on pig feces, your dreams are coming true. Due to fierce competition in the Chinese tilapia industry, farmers are increasingly switching to feces instead of commercial feed. From the article: "At Chen Qiang’s tilapia farm in Yangjiang city in China’s Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, Chen feeds fish partly with feces from hundreds of pigs and geese. That practice is dangerous for American consumers, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety. 'The manure the Chinese use to feed fish is frequently contaminated with microbes like salmonella,' says Doyle, who has studied foodborne diseases in China."
StonyCreekBare writes "I started out programming in Z80 assembler in the 1970s. Then I programmed in Pascal. Then x86 Assembler in the early '90s. Over time I did a smattering of C, Basic, Visual C++, Visual Basic, and even played at Smalltalk. Most recently I settled on Perl, and Perl/Tk as the favorite 'Swiss army Chainsaw' tool set, and modestly consider myself reasonably competent with that. But suddenly, in this tight financial environment I need to find a way to get paid for programming, and perl seems so 'yesterday.' The two hot areas I see are iOS programming and Python, perhaps to a lesser extent, Java. I need to modernize my skill-set and make myself attractive to employers. I recently started the CS193P Stanford course on iTunesU to learn iPad programming, but am finding it tough going. I think I can crack it, but it will take some time, and I need a paycheck sooner rather than later. What does the Slashdot crowd see as the best path to fame, wealth and full employment for gray-haired old coots who love to program?"