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Submission + - Why Bill Gates Is Dumping Another $1 Billion Into Clean Energy (qz.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A little over a month ago, Bill Gates made headlines when he decided to double down on his investments in renewable energy. Now, he's written an article for Quartz explaining why: "I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the most. Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop. Food supplies could decline. Hunger and malnutrition could rise. It would be a terrible injustice to let climate change undo any of the past half-century’s progress against poverty and disease—and doubly unfair because the people who will be hurt the most are the ones doing the least to cause the problem." He also says government is not doing enough to fund such research, and that energy markets aren't doing a good enough job of factoring the negative effects of carbon emissions.

Submission + - $10 billion wasted on military projects

schwit1 writes: In the past decade the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency has wasted $10 billion on defense projects that were either impractical and impossible.

There's no single quote about the absurd stupidity of these projects because the article is filled with so many. Read it all and weep. However, here is one quote which indicates who we should blame:

President George W. Bush, in 2002, ordered an urgent effort to field a homeland missile defense system within two years. In their rush to make that deadline, Missile Defense Agency officials latched onto exotic, unproven concepts without doing a rigorous analysis of their cost and feasibility. Members of Congress whose states and districts benefited from the spending tenaciously defended the programs, even after their deficiencies became evident.

We get the government we deserve. Until we stop electing candidates (from either party) who promise pork, we will continue to get pork, and waste, and a society that is steadily going bankrupt.

Submission + - Gmail is no longer acceptable - Slashdot, please opine on alternatives! 8

Press2ToContinue writes: Bettering security, I enable a VPN now (Avast Secureline) before accessing my banking and any other financial sites. Difficulty: gmail then thinks I'm a bot, and requires a captcha. In the past, after a few days of answering captchas, Google disabled access to my gmail, without recourse. It lasted 48 hours. I don't need this happening again. So, Google has now gone far enough IMHO. I need a reliable, secure email provider, with calendaring. So, (ahem, apprehensively) /.r's, you know the history (and can you see into the future?) of this sordid tale, what email service do -you- recommend to keep -my- email communications private? Or do you succumb idly to the false sense of security that accompanies the services of the almighty Goog?

(with a semi-faux-sheepish, yet vaguely wicked grin)

Submission + - Book Review: "FreeBSD Mastery: Storage Essentials", by Michael W. Lucas (amazon.com) 1

Saint Aardvark writes: (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review. Disclaimer to the disclaimer: I would gladly have paid for it anyway.)

If, like me, you administer FreeBSD systems, you know that (like Linux) there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to filesystems. GEOM, UFS, soft updates, encryption, disklabels — there is a *lot* going on here. And if, like me, you're coming from the Linux world your experience won't be directly applicable, and you'll be scaling Mount Learning Curve. Even if you *are* familiar with the BSDs, there is a lot to take in. Where do you start?

You start here, with Michael W. Lucas' latest book, "FreeBSD Mastery: Storage Essentials". You've heard his name before; he's written "Sudo Mastery" (which I reviewed previously), along with books on PGP/GnuPGP, Cisco Routers and OpenBSD. This book clocks in at 204 pages of goodness, and it's an excellent introduction to managing storage on FreeBSD. From filesystem choice to partition layout to disk encryption, with sidelong glances at ZFS along the way, he does his usual excellent job of laying out the details you need to know without every veering into dry or boring.

Do you need to know about GEOM? It's in here: Lucas takes your from "What *is* GEOM, anyway?" (answer: FreeBSD's system of layers for filesytem management) through "How do I set up RAID 10?" through "Here's how to configure things to solve that weird edge-case." Still trying to figure out GUID partitions? I sure as hell was...and then I read Chapter Two. Do you remember disklabels fondly, and wonder whatever happened to them? They're still around, but mainly on embedded systems that still use MBR partitions — so grab this book if you need to deal with them.

The discussion of SMART disk monitoring is one of the best introductions to this subject I've ever read, and should serve *any* sysadmin well, no matter what OS they're dealing with; I plan on keeping it around for reference until we no longer use hard drives. RAID is covered, of course, but so are more complex setups — as well as UFS recovery and repair for when you run into trouble.

Disk encryption gets three chapters (!) full of details on the two methods in FreeBSD, GBDE and GELI. But just as important, Lucas outlines why disk encryption might *not* be the right choice: recovering data can be difficult or impossible, it might get you unwanted attention from adversaries, and it will *not* protect you against, say, an adversary who can put a keylogger on your laptop. If it still make sense to encrypt your hard drive, you'll have the knowledge you need to do the job right.

I said that this covers *almost* everything you need to know, and the big omission here is ZFS. It shows up, but only occasionally and mostly in contrast to other filesystem choices. For example, there's an excellent discussion of why you might want to use FreeBSD's plain UFS filesystem instead of all-singing, all-dancing ZFS. (Answer: modest CPU or RAM, or a need to do things in ways that don't fit in with ZFS, make UFS an excellent choice.) I would have loved to see ZFS covered here — but honestly, that would be a book of its own, and I look forward to seeing one from Lucas someday; when that day comes, it will be a great companion to this book, and I'll have Christmas gifts for all my fellow sysadmins.

One big part of the appeal of this book (and Lucas' writing in general) is that he is clear about the tradeoffs that come with picking one solution over another. He shows you where the sharp edges are, and leaves you well-placed to make the final decision yourself. Whether it's GBDE versus GELI for disk encryption, or what might bite you when enabling soft updates journaling, he makes sure you know what you're getting into. He makes recommendations, but always tells you their limits.

There's also Lucas' usual mastery of writing; well-written explanations with liberal dollops of geek humour that don't distract from the knowledge he's dropping. He's clear, he's thorough, and he's interesting — and that's an amazing thing to say about a book on filesystems.

Finally, technical review was done by Poul Henning-Kamp; he's a FreeBSD developer who wrote huge parts of the GEOM and GBDE systems mentioned above. That gives me a lot of warm fuzzies about the accuracy of this book.

If you're a FreeBSD (or Linux, or Unix) sysadmin, then you need this book; it has a *lot* of hard-won knowledge, and will save your butt more than you'll be comfortable admitting. If you've read anything else by Lucas, you also know we need him writing more books. Do the right thing and buy this now.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Merry Christmas! 1

For the first time in nine years I got to see my youngest daughter on Christmas; this is the first Christmas in nine years she didn't have to work. Great Christmas present!

And the second to last pre-publication copies came Christmas eve eve. I finished going through it this morning, and the book itself is ready. What wasn't was the cover; I fixed it and ordered another copy, so Mars, Ho! should be online in a couple of weeks.

Submission + - MH370 shot by US Navy in March

hcs_$reboot writes: Remember the lost Malaysia Airlines aircraft? No, not the one shot over Ukraine, that's MH17, in June. The other Malaysian plane lost in March is still being searched. But there's no need to keep searching for MH370 for ages as it it seems it was actually shot by US Navy, while the plane was hovering over the Indian Ocean. US military feared it had been taken over by hackers and was about to be used in a 9/11-style attack. The claim comes from a serious source: Marc Dugain, the former chief executive of now-defunct Proteus Airlines, said the jumbo jet was shot down near a U.S. military base on the remote island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean after it was hacked. As long as the Chinese don't find the remains of the wreckage on the sea floor, and that may take a while, the plane will keep its more peaceful "lost in sea" status.

Submission + - Did North Korea Really Attack Sony? 1

An anonymous reader writes: Many security experts remain skeptical of North Korea's incolvment in the recent Sony hacks. Schneier writes: "Clues in the hackers' attack code seem to point in all directions at once. The FBI points to reused code from previous attacks associated with North Korea, as well as similarities in the networks used to launch the attacks. Korean language in the code also suggests a Korean origin, though not necessarily a North Korean one, since North Koreans use a unique dialect. However you read it, this sort of evidence is circumstantial at best. It's easy to fake, and it's even easier to interpret it incorrectly. In general, it's a situation that rapidly devolves into storytelling, where analysts pick bits and pieces of the "evidence" to suit the narrative they already have worked out in their heads."

Submission + - Yes, Virginia, There are NORAD/Microsoft and Google Santa Trackers

theodp writes: Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Marketing Land's Danny Sullivan has a pretty epic post on How Google Became A Santa Tracker Tradition To Rival NORAD, and wonders if future generations will think of Santa tracking as synonymous with Google, just as past ones have thought of for NORAD. Until it split with Google in 2012 (for unknown reasons) and hooked up with Microsoft, Sullivan explains, NORAD had really been the only place to go for a serious, dependable Santa tracking service. "There’s a big part of me that wishes Google had gotten out of Santa tracking when it split from NORAD," says Sullivan of the divorce. "The NORAD Santa tracker brings back memories from my childhood; it brings back memories of me being a father with young kids checking in on Santa’s progress. In contrast, Google feels to me like an upstart interloper messing with my nostalgic memories. But maybe Google’s a welcome alternative to others. It’s not uncommon to see the occasional complaint about a NORAD “Santa Cam” video showing Santa being accompanied by fighter jets. Some might prefer a Santa tracker that’s not connected to a military organization. Of course, some might not feel one connected to a giant company is necessarily preferable. Part of me is also sad that when I go to NORAD’s own site, I get a big Internet Explorer icon in the top right corner, which effectively opens up an ad for Microsoft. I guess I feel it’s too blatant. Of course, complaining about the commercialization of something Christmas-related, I suppose, is kind of useless." Sullivan adds, "Overall, I’m thankful to the many people who are involved with both operations [NORAD Tracks Santa and Google Santa Tracker], who work hard to make children smile on Christmas Eve."

Submission + - How Laws Restricting Tech Actually Expose Us to Greater Harm (wired.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Cory Doctorow has an article in Wired explaining why crafting laws to restrict software are going to hurt us in the long run Why? Because we're on an irreversible trajectory to integrating technology with our cars and houses, bodies and brains. If we don't control the software, then at some point, we won't control parts of our homes and our selves. Doctorow writes, "Any law or regulation that undermines computers' utility or security also ripples through all the systems that have been colonized by the general-purpose computer. And therein lies the potential for untold trouble and mischief. ... Code always has flaws, and those flaws are easy for bad guys to find. But if your computer has deliberately been designed with a blind spot, the bad guys will use it to evade detection by you and your antivirus software. That's why a 3-D printer with anti-gun-printing code isn't a 3-D printer that won't print guns—the bad guys will quickly find a way around that. It's a 3-D printer that is vulnerable to hacking by malware creeps who can use your printer's “security” against you: from bricking your printer to screwing up your prints to introducing subtle structural flaws to simply hijacking the operating system and using it to stage attacks on your whole network."

Submission + - Ars: Final Hobbit Movie is 'Soulless End' to 'Flawed' Trilogy (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The final chapter to Peter Jackson's series of films based on The Hobbit debuted last week, and the reviews haven't been kind. Ars Technica just posted theirs, and it highlights all the problems with Battle of the Five Armies, a two hour and twenty-four minute film based on only 72 pages of the book. Quoting: "The battles in Battle of the Five Armies are deadly boring, bereft of suspense, excessively padded, and predictable to the point of being contemptuous of the audience. Suspense is attempted mostly by a series of last-minute saves and switches. ... There are other problems. Everyone in this movie takes themselves way too seriously, which makes them even harder to sympathize with. Peter Jackson leans way too hard on voice modulation to make characters seem menacing or powerful. The movie's tone is still way out of step with the book's tone. ... There's one big thing that doomed these movies from the outset—the fiscally smart but artistically bankrupt decision to make a single, shortish children's novel into three feature-length prequel films." Other review titles: "Peter Jackson Must Be Stopped," "The Phantom Menace of Middle Earth," and "Lots of fighting, not much hobbit."

Submission + - 'Citizenfour' Producers Sued Over Edward Snowden Leaks (hollywoodreporter.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The Hollywood Reporter reports, "Horace Edwards, who identifies himself as a retired naval officer and the former secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation, has filed a lawsuit in Kansas federal court that seeks a constructive trust over monies derived from the distribution of Citizenfour. Edwards ... seeks to hold Snowden, director Laura Poitras, The Weinstein Co., Participant Media and others responsible for "obligations owed to the American people" and "misuse purloined information disclosed to foreign enemies." It's an unusual lawsuit, one that the plaintiff likens to "a derivative action on behalf of the American Public," and is primarily based upon Snowden's agreement with the United States to keep confidentiality. ... Edwards appears to be making the argument that Snowden's security clearance creates a fiduciary duty of loyalty — one that was allegedly breached by Snowden's participation in the production of Citizenfour without allowing prepublication clearance review. As for the producers and distributors, they are said to be "aiding and abetting the theft and misuse of stolen government documents." The lawsuit seeks a constructive trust to redress the alleged unjust enrichment by the film. A 1980 case that involved a former CIA officer's book went up to the Supreme Court and might have opened the path to such a remedy ... "

Submission + - Harsh Reality: Sony pays price for sloppy practices (varonis.com)

Cavaradossi writes: The leaked information should look all too familiar to any worker in a larger organization: readable files and emails and other unstructured data. So we’re talking about employee salaries, financial data, internal presentations, company information under NDA, legal memos, the CEO’s private notes, and on and on. All loosely protected with overly permissive access rights..

Submission + - The Orion Spacecraft Runs On 12-Year-Old Computer Tech (computerworld.com)

Lucas123 writes: While NASA's Orion spacecraft, which blasted off on a successful test flight today, may be preparing for a first-of-its-kind mission to carry astronauts to Mars and other deep-space missions, the technology inside of it is no where near leading edge. In fact, its computers and its processors are 12 years old — making them ancient in tech years. The spacecraft, according to one NASA engineer, is built to be rugged and reliable in the face of G forces, massive amounts of radiation and the other rigors of space."Compared to the [Intel] Core i5 in your laptop, it's much slower — much less powerful. It's probably not any faster than your smartphone," Matt Lemke, NASA's deputy manager for Orion's avionics, power and software team, told Computerworld. Lemke said the spacecraft was built to be rugged and reliable — not necessarily smart. That's why there are two flight computers. Orion's main computer was built by Honeywell as a flight computer originally for Boeing's 787 jet airliner.

Submission + - Et tu Laura Poitras? (cryptome.org)

Nicola Hahn writes: Recently Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who directed the movie Citizenfour, spoke with the Danish media outlet NRC Handelsblad. Near the end of her interview she told NRC:

"I think certainly a change in consciousness has come after Snowden. Google's servers are secure: that's a big change. This protects the privacy of people. Apple brings a secure phone on the market, that frustrates the FBI again"

There are recurring themes if one analyzes the basic talking points of Greenwald, Poitras, and Snowden: that corporations were victimized by a government run amok, that we can safeguard our civil liberties by going out and getting the latest app. Is it any surprise that all three of the above people are linked somehow to a man named Pierre Omidyar? Could a form of subtle manipulation be at work? Hints of betrayal?

Submission + - FBI: backdoors in software may need to be mandatory (nytimes.com)

wabrandsma writes: The New York Times:

The director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, said on Thursday that the "post-Snowden pendulum" that has driven Apple and Google to offer fully encrypted cellphones had "gone too far." He hinted that as a result, the administration might seek regulations and laws forcing companies to create a way for the government to unlock the photos, emails and contacts stored on the phones.

But Mr. Comey appeared to have few answers for critics who have argued that any portal created for the F.B.I. and the police could be exploited by the National Security Agency, or even Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies or criminals. And his position seemed to put him at odds with a White House advisory committee that recommended against any effort to weaken commercial encryption.

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