Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 206 declined, 53 accepted (259 total, 20.46% accepted)

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Submission + - How to stop TPP

Presto Vivace writes: The gold standard in political activism is an in-person visit to your Senator's or Representative's office. That is not practical for most people, so a visit to their district office is the next best thing. Politicians assume that people who make in person visits are very serious about an issue, and further assume that for every voter who makes a personal visit their are ten more who feel the same way. Writing a letter via their congressional website is very effective. Using snail mail is not effective because of the post anthrax security delivery is delayed for weeks. What is more effective is writing a letter to the editor and including your Senator's or Representative's name in the letter. For example: TPP is a terrible deal and will have a very negative impact on the Internet and I hope that Senator Snort will vote against it. Senator Snorts will pick up the letter on their Google News Alert, or whatever they are using, and will see that someone was sufficiently movtivated to write a letter to the editor and that it was published. A letter to the editor will also alert the publisher that TPP is a hot issue, and will spread the word amongst the general public. It is a great tool for acitivism and I encouraged Slashdotter's to use it.

Submission + - America's voting machines are rapidly aging out

Presto Vivace writes: America’s Voting Machines at Risk

Technology has changed dramatically in the last decade, but America's voting machines are rapidly aging out. In 2016, for example, 43 states will use electronic voting machines that are at least 10 years old, perilously close to the end of most systems' expected lifespan. Old voting equipment increases the risk of failures and crashes — which can lead to long lines and lost votes on Election Day — and problems only get worse the longer we wait.

Submission + - Drones impede air battle against California wildfires

Presto Vivace writes: ‘If you fly we can’t,’ pleads firefighter

Drought stricken California is now fighting at least 14 large wildfires in at least ten counties across the state, engaging a force of some 7,000 firefighters plus National Guardsmen. They’re up against a triple-threat of three digit temperatures in some parts of the state, high winds that are spreading the fires rapidly and drought conditions furnishing fuel for the burning. ... ... A fourth threat is also emerging: Drones. ...

... One four-foot drone shut down evening operations over the Lake Fire, which burned an additional 3.5 square miles overnight Wednesday, KTLA news reported.

Submission + - Republicans push to limit FCC's net neutrality rules

Presto Vivace writes: Senate Republicans push rider to limit FCC's net neutrality rules

Senate Republicans are pushing a measure to bar the Federal Communications Commission from regulating broadband Internet rates under its net neutrality rules.

While the commission has vowed not to regulate rates under net neutrality, Republicans oppose the rules and are wary of expanding the FCC's powers.

The measure is included as a policy rider in the Senate's Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that was reported out of an Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday

Submission + - Trucks driven by software

Presto Vivace writes: Self-Driving Trucks Will Hit Us Like Ton of Bricks

At $40,000 a year, the incentive to replace truck drivers with software is massive. And it will happen. Not only that, but insurance costs will drop. Most truck accidents are caused by user error: Driving too fast, driving while tired, driving intoxicated, etc.
Robots don't drink, don't get tired, won't drive unsafe to get to a destination faster,

Think of all the fun hackers could have with trucks driven by software.

Submission + - ISP Not Following Net Neutrality? The FCC's Got A Complaint Form For That.

Presto Vivace writes: Consumerist

The FCC has updated their new consumer help center — specifically, the internet service complaint form. Among the issues concerned consumers can complain about, the form now contains “open internet/net neutrality,” right there alphabetically between “interference” and “privacy.”
So what, specifically, qualifies as a net neutrality violation you can complain about? The FCC has guidance for that, too. In general, paraphrased, if’s a problem if there’s
Blocking: ISPs may not block access to any lawful content, apps, services, or devices.
Throttling: ISPs may not slow down or degrade lawful internet traffic from any content, apps, sites, services, or devices.
Paid prioritization: ISPs may not enter into agreements to prioritize and benefit some lawful internet traffic over the rest of it on their networks.

Submission + - Copyright Law As an Intimidation Tactic

Presto Vivace writes: Guy Reveals Airtel Secretly Inserting JavaScript, Gets Threatened With Jail For Criminal Copyright Infringement

Last week, an Indian blogger, Thejesh GN, discovered that mobile operator Airtel was injecting javascript into subscribers' browsing sessions, which is both incredibly sketchy and a huge security concern (not to mention raising net neutrality issues on the side). He posted the proof to GitHub and tweeted about it.
He posted the evidence showing that javascript was being quietly inserted, and that it apparently tried to insert some sort of toolbar:
That's all super sketchy. But that's just the very beginning of this story. Because days later, Thejesh received the most ridiculous legal threat letter, coming from a lawyer named Ameet Mehta from the law firm Solicis Lex. It claims to be representing an Israeli company, Flash Network, which is apparently responsible for the code injection software... and it claims that by merely revealing to the public that Airtel was doing these injections, he had engaged in criminal copyright infringement under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Submission + - WikiLeaks releases secret TISA docs

Presto Vivace writes: The new agreement that would hamstring governments and citizens even further.

the EU would be forbidden from requiring that US companies like Google or Facebook keep the personal data of European citizens within the EU—one of the ideas currently being floated in Germany. Article 9.1 imposes a more general ban on requiring companies to locate some of their computing facilities in a territory: "No Party may require a service supplier, as a condition for supplying a service or investing in its territory, to: (a) use computing facilities located in the Party’s territory."

Article 6 of the leaked text seems to ban any country from using free software mandates: "No Party may require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition of providing services related to such software in its territory." The text goes on to specify that this only applies to "mass-market software," and does not apply to software used for critical infrastructure. It would still prevent a European government from specifying that its civil servants should use only open-source code for word processing—a sensible requirement given what we know about the deployment of backdoors in commercial software by the NSA and GCHQ.

Any agreement whose text has not been publicly released cannot possibly be a good agreement.

Submission + - Why American broadband is slow

Presto Vivace writes: The basic truth about broadband that cable companies want to hide

The American cities that are delivering best-in-the-world speeds at bargain prices are precisely the cities that aren't relying on Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Time-Warner, etc. to run their infrastructure. In Kansas City, Google built a state-of-the-art fiber optic network largely just to prove a point. In Chattanooga and Lafayette, the government did it. At the moment, the US federal government could issue 5-year bonds at a 1.58 percent interest rate and make grants to cities interested in following Chattanooga and Lafayette down that path. But it doesn't happen, because while broadband incumbents don't want to spend the money it would take to build state-of-the-art fiber networks, they are happy to spend money on lobbying.

Submission + - You destroy basic usability by hijacking the scrollbar

Presto Vivace writes: Facebook vs the news media

Here’s an absolute fact that all of these reporters, columnists, and media pundits need to get into their heads:
The web doesn’t suck. Your websites suck.
All of your websites suck.
You destroy basic usability by hijacking the scrollbar. You take native functionality (scrolling, selection, links, loading) that is fast and efficient and you rewrite it with ‘cutting edge’ javascript toolkits and frameworks so that it is slow and buggy and broken. You balloon your websites with megabytes of cruft. You ignore best practices. You take something that works and is complementary to your business and turn it into a liability.
The lousy performance of your websites becomes a defensive moat around Facebook.
Of course, Facebook might still win even if you all had awesome websites, but you can’t even begin to compete with it until you fix the foundation of your business.

Submission + - Apple and Google attend spy summit in the UK


The three-day conference, which took place behind closed doors and under strict rules about confidentiality, was aimed at debating the line between privacy and security.

Among an extraordinary list of attendees were a host of current or former heads from spy agencies such as the CIA and British electronic surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Other current or former top spooks from Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden were also in attendance. Google, Apple, and telecommunications company Vodafone sent some of their senior policy and legal staff to the discussions. And a handful of academics and journalists were also present.

According to an event program obtained by The Intercept, questions on the agenda included: “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance’?” “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?” “Who should authorize intrusive intelligence operations such as interception?” “What should be the nature of the security relationship between intelligence agencies and private sector providers, especially when they may in any case be cooperating against cyber threats in general?” And, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity?”

The most disturbing part of this is the number of journalists present.

Submission + - GM: That Car You Bought? We're Really The Ones Who Own It.

Presto Vivace writes:

Congratulations! You just bought a new Chevy, GMC, or Cadillac. You really like driving it. And it’s purchased, not leased, and all paid off with no liens, so it’s all yours isn’t it? Well, no, actually: according to GM, it’s still theirs. You just have a license to use it. At least, that’s what an attorney for GM said at a hearing this week, Autoblog reports. Specifically, attorney Harry Lightsey said, “It is [GM’s] position the software in the vehicle is licensed by the owner of the vehicle.”... ...The U.S. Copyright Office is currently holding a series of hearings on whether or not anyone other than the manufacturer of a car has a right to tinker with that car’s copyrighted software. And with the way modern design goes, that basically means with the car, at all.

Submission + - Australian defence controls could criminalise teaching encryption

Presto Vivace writes: How the DSGL covers encryption

The DSGL contains detailed technical specifications. Very roughly, it covers encryption above a certain “strength” level, as measured by technical parameters such as “key length” or “field size”.

The practical question is how high the bar is set: how powerful must encryption be in order to be classified as dual-use?

The bar is currently set low. For instance, software engineers debate whether they should use 2,048 or 4,096 bits for the RSA algorithm. But the DSGL classifies anything over 512 bits as dual-use. In reality, the only cryptography not covered by the DSGL is cryptography so weak that it would be imprudent to use.

Moreover, the DSGL doesn’t just cover encryption software: it also covers systems, electronics and equipment used to implement, develop, produce or test it.

In short, the DSGL casts an extremely wide net, potentially catching open source privacy software, information security research and education, and the entire computer security industry in its snare.

Most ridiculous, though, are some badly flawed technicalities. As I have argued before, the specifications are so imprecise that they potentially include a little algorithm you learned at primary school called division. If so, then division has become a potential weapon, and your calculator (or smartphone, computer, or any electronic device) is a potential delivery system for it.

Submission + - The Myth of Outsourcing's Efficiency

Presto Vivace writes: Why outsourcing winds up producing cost creep over time

Outsouring over time starts to create its own bureaucracy bloat. It’s the modern corporate version of one of the observations of C. Northcote Parkinson: “Officials make work for each other.” As Clive describes, the first response to the problems resulting from outsourcing is to try to bury them, since outsourcing is a corporate religion and thus cannot be reversed even when the evidence comes in against it. And then when those costs start becoming more visible, the response is to try to manage them, which means more work (more managerial cost!) and/or hiring more outside specialists (another transfer to highly-paid individuals).

Neutrinos have bad breadth.