TrueSatan writes in with the latest in the ongoing Aaron Swartz tragedy. "Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday said the suicide death of internet activist Aaron Swartz was a 'tragedy,' but the hacking case against the 26-year-old was 'a good use of prosecutorial discretion.' The attorney general was testifying at a Justice Department oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee and was facing terse questioning from Sen. John Cornyn (D-Texas). ...Holder stated: 'I think that's a good use of prosecutorial discretion to look at the conduct, regardless of what the statutory maximums were and to fashion a sentence that was consistent with what the nature of the conduct was. And I think what those prosecutors did in offering 3, 4, zero to 6 was consistent with that conduct.' Notwithstanding Holder's testimony, Massachusetts federal prosecutors twice indicted Swartz for the alleged hacking, once in 2011 on four felonies and again last year on 13 felonies. The case included hacking charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 to enhance the government's ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
sciencehabit writes "In 1592, a British ship sank near the island of Alderney in the English Channel carrying an odd piece of cargo: a small, angular crystal. Once it was brought back to land, a few European scientists began to suspect the mysterious object might be a calcite crystal, a powerful 'sunstone' referred to in Norse legends which they believe Vikings and other European seafarers used to navigate before the introduction of the magnetic compass. Now, after subjecting the object to a battery of mechanical and chemical tests, the team has determined that the Alderman crystal is indeed a calcite and, therefore, could have been the ship's optical compass. Today, similar calcite crystals are used by astronomers to analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets—perhaps setting the stage for a whole new age of exploration."
cylonlover writes "After a handful of days of furtive suggestion, spring made its presence felt in London today, where the second Technology Frontiers conference got underway. The Economist-organized event sees leading technologists and cultural figures take to the podium in front of some 250 ideas-thirsty business persons. Among them was Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton, who extolled the benefits of learning to program for all professions. He went into some detail as to the inception of the Raspberry Pi and the need for more computer programmers."
coondoggie writes "As of April 25th the Transportation Security Administration will let a bunch of previously prohibited items such as small pocket knives and what it calls 'novelty' or toy bats to be taken on aircraft as carry-ons. The idea the agency said was to let Transportation Security Officers better focus their efforts on spotting higher-threat items such as explosives and guns."
First time accepted submitter tookul03 writes "I'm a graduating senior from a small New England liberal arts college, and have secured a spot in a Biological Science Ph.D. program for the next five years. I realize this coming summer will be my last out of the lab for a long time and am not sure If I am interested in doing something related to my research interests or use it as an opportunity to find some new hobbies/interests. I figured the Slashdot community had a number of individuals who were/are in a similar position (albeit different fields) and could shed some light on things they (or others) had done. Thanks."
New submitter abuelos84 writes "Just a few hours after the Kickstarter project was opened to the public, Torment: Tides of Numenera, successor of the legendary Planescape:Torment, had been funded. In the dev's own words: 'Our heads are still spinning at the incredible response we have had from today's support of our Kickstarter campaign. We had plans to roll out our stretch goals and to write our Kickstarter updates but never in our wildest dreams did we think we would fund this quickly!!! We are joyfully scrambling right now to get a longer update and some stretch goals in front of you as soon as we can. We should have more to say later today.'"
tcd004 writes "An article at PBS begins, 'Imagine this crazy scenario: A space vehicle we've sent to a distant planet to search for life touches down in an icy area. The heat from the spacecraft's internal power system warms the ice, and water forms below the landing gear of the craft. And on the landing gear is something found on every surface on planet Earth... bacteria. Lots of them. If those spore-forming bacteria found themselves in a moist environment with a temperature range they could tolerate, they might just make themselves at home and thrive and then, well... the extraterrestrial life that we'd been searching for might just turn out to be Earth life we introduced.' The article goes on to talk about NASA's efforts to prevent situations like this. It's a job for the Office of Planetary Protection. They give some examples, including the procedure for sterilizing the Curiosity Rover: 'Pieces of equipment that could tolerate high heat were subjected to temperatures of 230 to 295 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 144 hours. And surfaces were wiped down with alcohol and tested regularly.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that at about 11:45 am today, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul took the floor of the Senate to launch one of the chamber's rarest spectacles: a genuine filibuster. Paul says he is 'alarmed' at the lack of definition over who can be targeted by drone strikes. He called Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to rule out drone strikes to kill an American on U.S. soil 'more than frightening,' adding, 'When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It's an easy question. It should have been a resounding, an unequivocal, "No." The president's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. We're supposed to be comforted by that.' Any senator can opt to hold the floor to speak on any matter, but the practice of speaking for hours on end is rare, especially in the modern-day Senate, where the chamber's rules are used more often to block legislation or to hold show votes on trivial matters. Paul has since been joined in his symbolic effort by Republicans Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). He has also gotten some bipartisan support from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.). Paul suggested that many college campuses in the 1960s were full of people who might have been considered enemies of the state. 'Are you going to drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Facebook's Graph Search, its new and powerful way of searching the social network for all manner of information, has drawn a lot of attention since its January unveiling. Some have praised its innovation; others have wondered openly whether its search abilities will end up threatening Google and LinkedIn. Still more have questioned what it all means for users' privacy—always a touchy subject in conjunction with Facebook. The social network previously revealed how it's adjusting its hardware infrastructure to deal with the spike in traffic that will come from interactions with Graph Search (short answer: the Disaggregated Rack, which will break up hardware resources and scale them independently of one another). Now, in a new blog posting, it's offering a bit more with regard to the software side of things, and how the company repurposed an existing system to solve Graph Search's enormous engineering challenge. Bottom line: Facebook's engineers and executives finally decided on Unicorn, an inverted-index system they'd had in development for quite some time."
ananyo writes "The incidence of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, has spiked in developed countries in recent decades. In three studies published today, researchers describe the molecular pathways that can lead to autoimmune disease and identify one possible culprit that has been right under our noses — and on our tables — the entire time: salt. Some forms of autoimmunity have been linked to overproduction of TH17 cells, a type of helper T cell that produces an inflammatory protein called interleukin-17. Now scientists have found sodium chloride turns on the production of these cells (abstract). They also showed that in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis, a high-salt diet accelerated the disease's progression (abstract)."
adeelarshad82 writes "Earlier today FreedomPop, a telecom company headquartered in Los Angeles, announced its plans to launch a very low cost home broadband plan for extremely low-intensity users, with 1GB monthly for free. Clearly this is much lower than an average U.S. home broadband usage, which is between 24 and 28 gigs per month. The 1GB of free Internet is basically a teaser; the company aims to disrupt the cable and DSL business with its 10GB for $10 plan which is extendable by paying $5 for each additional GB beyond 10."
Spearphishing. The deluxe (but easy) way to get unwary employees to put malware on your network. It's basically the same as phishing, except more targeted. That is, a plain phishing scam might offer an unwary web-browsing employee a chance to see a famous starlet naked, while a spearphishing attack might purport to be an urgent request from your Bizzaro County office for 200 Kg of Unobtainium Oxide. Open that email, and... ZAP! So this is social hacking (cracking for the old-timers), and cannot necessarily be fought entirely by technical means. So how about setting up fake spearphishing attempts and immediately sending employees who fall for them to an IT security class with an emphasis on how to avoid phishing scams? You can do this yourself, possibly with help from a bright person or two from a nearby University. Or you can contact PhishMe or another anti-phish training company and have them help you teach spearphishing awareness to your people. Either way, every computer-using person in your company should know about phishing -- and should know how to avoid getting hooked by phishers.
New submitter gewalker writes "Bowing to significant unfriendly customer feedback regarding its new 'no transfer' license for Office 2013, Microsoft has reconsidered and will now allow Office 2013 licenses to be transferred between computers. Actual license language will not be reflected for a few months for shipped products, but Microsoft will allow transfer of license effective immediately. Calls to customer support will be necessary, as the activation servers won't be updated for a few months."
judgecorp writes "The Pirate Bay's announcement that it was moving to North Korea was a prank, making fun of gullible readers. Admitting the hoax, the site said 'You can't seriously cheer the 'fact' that we moved our servers to bloody North Korea. Applauds to you who told us to f*** off. Always stay critical. Towards everyone!'" The essence of a good troll: so absurd it could just be true.