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

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Submission Summary: 2 pending, 222 declined, 88 accepted (312 total, 28.21% accepted)

+ - Just Switch to Linux if You Want to Download Lots of Freeware-> 1

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "From How to Geek.com:

There’s a systemic problem in the Windows software ecosystem. It’s not just a handful of websites, or a handful of bad programs. Practically every piece of freeware is stuffed with junk. If you try to avoid freeware sites and just Google something like “VLC download,” you’ll be pointed straight at adware-filled junk installers too.

Linux has its problems, and it’s not ideal for anyone. Want to play every single PC game that comes out? You need Windows. Need a specific desktop program that only runs on Windows? Yeah, you need Windows by definition — although you could always run those programs in a virtual machine if you don’t mind the additional complexity.

But Linux is an ideal place to be for freeware-lovers. Do you love downloading programs and testing them out? Seriously, switch to Linux now. Linux Mint is very good, although Ubuntu is definitely popular — and there are lots of other Linux distributions, too."

Link to Original Source

+ - Kim Dotcom launches end-to-end encrypted voice chat 'Skype killer'->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "Kim Dotcom’s encrypted file sharing service has added free end-to-end encrypted voice and video chat through the browser.

MegaChat, which promises to keep video chats secure and private, has been developed by the Mega “Conspiracy Team” and is being described as a “Skype killer” by Dotcom.

“We are releasing #MegaChat beta step by step. Starting with video calling today. Text chat & video conferencing will follow soon,” said Dotcom.

MegaChat does not require software beyond a web browser to operate, unlike many other similar services, although plugins for Google’s Chrome and Firefox are available for “faster loading and added resilience against attacks”.

‘No US-based online service provider can be trusted’
The system allows users to share encrypted files having previously shared a personal decryption key with them."

Link to Original Source

+ - Some UFO reports from US Air Force declassified and now available online->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "UFO fans rejoice, the UNITED STATES AIR FORCE has declassified files containing information about UFO sightings, related incident reports and other information reported by its agents and employees.

As noted by the MILITARY TIMES, at least 130,000 pages of declassified UFO reports are now viewable on the web (without any restrictions) — at the site called the Blackvault.com — available to anyone who wants to dig into UFO accounts filed during the 1940s to the late 60s. People can search by keyword, like a city for example, or browse filed incidents by year, or date of the incident’s filing.

These reports were compiled by UFO enthusiast John Greenewald who has spent nearly 20 years filing FOI or Freedom of Information requests for the government to release their “UFO files.”

Of course, skeptics can still argue that these files don’t actually confirm that we’re not alone in the universe, and we’ve been visited in the past by highly intelligent extraterrestrial creatures — but at least researchers can expand their knowledge about how the UFO mania exploded in the 40s especially after the Roswell incident.

AND here’s the most interesting part of this story — these files don’t include any direct information about the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico incident — giving UFOlogists yet another reason to believe that the government is “hiding” something from the public.

One of the 10,000 plus UFO cases documented by the US Air Force include a 1950 incident at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, an area just several miles away from Roswell.

The said incident involved an agent at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent who reported a “star-like craft that shifted from a bright white color to red and green as it moved erratically in several directions.”"

Link to Original Source

+ - NASA is testing an autonomous Martian helicopter->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "The Verge: Drones are everywhere these days. They're under Christmas trees. They're at the X-Games. They're even in Congress. And if NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has its way, they could be headed to Mars next in the form of the Mars Helicopter.

Rover teams still have a tough time with the Martian surface even though they're flush with terrestrial data. The alien surface is uneven, and ridges and valleys make navigating the terrain difficult. The newest solution proposed by JPL is the Mars Helicopter, an autonomous drone that could "triple the distances that Mars rovers can drive in a Martian day," according to NASA. The helicopter would fly ahead of a rover when its view is blocked and send Earth-bound engineers the right data to plan the rover's route."

Link to Original Source

+ - John McAfee: 'I know who hacked Sony Pictures - and it wasn't North Korea'->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "Anti-virus pioneer John McAfee claims to have been in contact with the group of hackers behind the devastating cyber-attack against Sony Pictures and guarantees they are not from North Korea.

Speaking to IBTimes UK about his current roster of security startups under his Future Tense brand — including secure messaging app Chadder — McAfee spoke about working with the FBI previously but said that, in this case, the agency was "wrong".

"I can guarantee they are wrong. It has to do with a group of hackers — I will not name them — who are civil libertarians and who hate the confinement the restrictions the music industry and the movie industry has placed on art and so they are behind it.""

Link to Original Source

+ - Obsessed: Star Trek TOS continues-> 2

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "ST:TOS's Starship Enterprise was on a 5 year mission, but the original series was canceled after the third year. A new Star Trek:TOS is being created by a dedicated cast and crew intent on keeping true to the spirit of Gene Roddenberry's television show. From recreating the original sets with incredible accuracy and attention to details, staying faithful to original storylines has been a true labor of love for all involved.
        Click on the link below to view a series of videos showing the progress being made on recreating the iconic series."

Link to Original Source

+ - Birds 'heard tornadoes coming' and fled one day ahead->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "Scientists say tracking data shows that five golden-winged warblers "evacuated" their nesting site one day before the April 2014 tornado outbreak.

Geolocators showed the birds left the Appalachians and flew 700km (400 miles) south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The next day, devastating storms swept across the south and central US.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, ecologists suggest these birds — and others — may sense such extreme events with their keen low-frequency hearing.

Remarkably, the warblers had completed their seasonal migration just days earlier, settling down to nest after a 5,000km (3,100 mile) journey from Colombia.

Dr Henry Streby, from the University of California, Berkeley, said he initially set out to see if tracking the warblers was even possible.

"This was just a pilot season for a larger study that we're about to start," Dr Streby told the BBC.

"These are very tiny songbirds — they weigh about nine grams.

"The fact that they came back with the geolocators was supposed to be the great success of this season. Then this happened!"

Everybody out
Working with colleagues from the Universities of Tennessee and Minnesota, Dr Streby tagged 20 golden-winged warblers in May 2013, in the Cumberland Mountains of north-eastern Tennessee.

The birds nest and breed in this region every summer, and can be spotted around the Great Lakes and the Appalachian Mountains.

golden-winged warbler
The golden-winged warblers were being tracked as part of a pilot study of their normal, seasonal migration
After disappearing to Colombia for the winter, 10 of the tagged warblers returned in April 2014. The team was in the field observing them when they received advance warning of the tornadoes.

"We evacuated ourselves to the waffle house in Caryville, Tennessee, for the one day that the storm was really bad," Dr Streby said.

Elsewhere in the US the storm had more drastic consequences. At least 84 tornadoes caused 35 fatalities and more than $1bn (£0.6bn) in property damage.

After the storm had blown over, the team recaptured five of the warblers and removed the geolocators.

These are tiny devices weighing about half a gram, which measure light levels. Based on the timing and length of the days they record, these gadgets allow scientists to calculate and track the approximate location of migratory birds.

In this case, all five indicated that the birds had taken unprecedented evasive action, beginning one to two days ahead of the storm's arrival.

"The warblers in our study flew at least 1,500km (932 miles) in total," Dr Streby said.

They escaped just south of the tornadoes' path — and then went straight home again. By 2 May, all five were back in their nesting area.

Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Aerial footage, captured by a drone in the wake of the storms, shows emergency vehicles and debris on a highway in Arkansas
Remarkably, the warblers' evacuation commenced while the closest tornado was still hundreds of miles away. Weather conditions in the nesting area were still nothing out of the ordinary.

Distant rumble
The most likely tip-off was the deep rumble that tornadoes produce, well below what humans can hear.

Noise in this "infrasound" range travels thousands of kilometres, and may serve as something of an early warning system for animals that can pick it up.

"It's very unlikely that this species is the only group doing this," Dr Streby said.

Even from casual birdwatching in the area as the storm drew nearer, he said, "It seemed like there were far fewer birds — so I suspect it's not a species-specific trait."

Dr Chris Hewson, a senior research ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology, told BBC News that infrasound was a plausible explanation.

He pointed out that several birds, including falcons, are thought to use infrasound to help them navigate.

"And you can see from the weather data that there doesn't appear to be any alternative cue that they could be picking up on," he said."

Link to Original Source

+ - NASA Satellite's 1st CO2 Maps of Earth Revealed->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "This past summer, NASA launched its first satellite devoted to measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that is driving global warming.

Today (Dec. 18), scientists with the space agency unveiled the first carbon maps obtained by the spacecraft, named the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2.

OCO-2 only started collecting its first scientifically useful information at the end of September, but the initial results "are quite amazing," said Annmarie Eldering, OCO-2 deputy project scientist, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In a news briefing at the 47th annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Eldering and her colleagues showed a map of the globe that uses about 600,000 data points taken by OCO-2 from Oct. 1 through Nov. 17. It shows hotspots of carbon dioxide over northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil.

These carbon spikes could be explained by agricultural fires and land clearing — practices that are widespread during spring in the Southern Hemisphere, OCO-2 scientists said.

The satellite has a grading spectrometer to measure carbon dioxide levels with a precision of about 1 part per million, or ppm. (Today's carbon concentration, 400 ppm, is the highest in at least 800,000 years. This number means there are 400 molecules of carbon dioxide in the air per every million air molecules. Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon concentration was thought to be about 280 ppm.)"

Link to Original Source

+ - Colorado sued by neighboring states over legal pot-> 2

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "The attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing state-legalized marijuana from Colorado is improperly spilling across state lines.

The suit invokes the federal government's right to regulate both drugs and interstate commerce, and says Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana has been "particularly burdensome" to police agencies on the other side of the state line.

In June, USA TODAY highlighted the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska: felony drug arrests in Chappell, Neb., just 7 miles north of the Colorado border have skyrocketed 400% in three years.

"In passing and enforcing Amendment 64, the state of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining plaintiff states' own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems," says the lawsuit. "The Constitution and the federal anti-drug laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local pro-drug policies and licensed distribution schemes throughout the country which conflict with federal laws.""

Link to Original Source

+ - NYC lawmaker wants to ban drones except for cops with warrants->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "On Wednesday Councilman Dan Garodnick introduced a bill to the New York City council seeking to ban all use of drones except those operated by police officers who obtain warrants. A second, parallel bill introduced by councilman Paul Vallone would place more stringent restrictions on drone use but stop short of banning drones for hobbyists and companies altogether. Both bills have been passed to the city's committee on public safety.

An all-out ban on drones within the metropolis would be a quite wide-reaching step, especially as the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) seems poised to adopt more permissive rules, with respect to commercial interests in particular. Earlier this year, the FAA formally granted six Hollywood companies exemptions to drone ban rules. A couple of months later, the FAA granted similar exemptions for construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections.

Despite the FAA's tentative steps towards drone regulation, pilots of planes and helicopters have reported increased sightings of drones in their airspace, and several near-collisions. 12 incidents of dangerous encounters between drones and planes in the New York and Newark areas have been reported in recent months. In addition, in 2011, a man was fined $10,000 by the FAA for flying a remote-controlled plane recklessly through New York City. However, the National Transportation Safety Board struck down that fine. (ArsTechnica article....)"

Link to Original Source

+ - Coolpad's backdoor installs apps and tracks customers without their knowledge->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "(from ComputerWorld)

Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad has built an extensive "backdoor" into its Android devices that can track users, serve them unwanted advertisements and install unauthorized apps, a U.S. security firm alleged today.

In a research paper released today, Palo Alto Networks detailed its investigation of the backdoor, which it dubbed "CoolReaper."

"Coolpad has built a backdoor that goes beyond the usual data collection," said Ryan Olson, director of intelligence at Palo Alto's Unit 42. "This is way beyond what one malicious insider could have done."

Coolpad, which sells smartphones under several brand names — including Halo, also called Danzen — is one of China's largest ODMs (original device manufacturers). According to IDC, it ranked fifth in China in the third quarter, with 8.4% of the market, and has expanded sales outside of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan to Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Western Europe.

Tipped off by a string of complaints from Coolpad smartphone users in China and Taiwan — who griped about seeing advertisements pop up and apps suddenly appear — Palo Alto dug into the ROM updates that Coolpad offered on its support site and found widespread evidence of CoolReaper.

Of the 77 ROMs that Palo Alto examined, 64 contained CoolReaper, including 41 hosted by Coolpad and signed with its own digital certificate.

Other evidence that Coolpad was the creator of the backdoor, said Olson, included the malware's command-and-control servers — which were registered to domains belonging to the Chinese company and used, in fact, for its public cloud — and an administrative console that other researchers had found last month because of a vulnerability in Coolpad's backend control system. The console confirmed CoolReaper's functionality.

CoolReaper has a host of components that allow Coolpad to download updates and apps to devices, start services and uninstall apps, dial phone numbers and send texts, and more — all without user knowledge, much less authorization.

So far, the backdoor has been used to serve up unsolicited ads and install apps without user approval, said Olson, who speculated that both were being done for financial reasons. Coolpad may be getting a per-app-install fee, for example."

Link to Original Source

+ - Ralph H. Baer, a father of video gaming, dies at 92-> 1

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "At the dawn of the television age in 1951, a young engineer named Ralph Baer approached executives at an electronics firm and suggested the radical idea of offering games on the bulky TV boxes.

“And of course,” he said, “I got the regular reaction: ‘Who needs this?’ And nothing happened.”

It took another 15 years before Mr. Baer, who died Dec. 6 at 92, developed a prototype that would make him the widely acknowledged father of video games. His design helped lay the groundwork for an industry that transformed the role of the television set and generated tens of billions of dollars last year.

Mr. Baer “saw that there was this interesting device sitting in millions of American homes — but it was a one-way instrument,” said Arthur P. Molella, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. “He said, ‘Maybe there’s some way we can interact with this thing.’”"

Link to Original Source

+ - Apple accused of deleting songs from iPods without users' knowledge->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "During in-court proceedings of Apple's iPod/iTunes antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday, plaintiffs' lawyers claimed Apple surreptitiously deleted songs not purchased through the iTunes Music Store from users' iPods.

Attorney Patrick Coughlin, representing a class of individuals and businesses, said Apple intentionally wiped songs downloaded from competing services when users performed a sync with their iTunes library, reports The Wall Street Journal.

As explained by the publication, users attempting to sync an iPod with an iTunes library containing music from a rival service, such as RealNetworks, would see an ambiguous error message without prompting them to perform a factory reset. After restoring the device, users would find all non-iTunes music had disappeared.

"You guys decided to give them the worst possible experience and blow up" the iTunes library, Coughlin said.

It is unclear if iTunes or iPod encountered a legitimate problem, though Coughlin seems to be intimating Apple manufactured the error message as part of a supposed gambit to stop customers from using their iPod to play back music from stores other than iTunes.

For its part, Apple said the system was a safety measure installed to protect users. In testimony, Apple security director Augustin Farrugia said additional detail about the error's nature was not necessary because, "We don't need to give users too much information," and "We don't want to confuse users." He went on to say that Apple was "very paranoid" in its protection of iTunes, a sentiment echoed in an executive email penned by Steve Jobs in 2004. .."

Link to Original Source

+ - Android "Not Compatible" Malware "maturing"->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "Mobile malware reaches new heights

By Cory Bennett — 11/20/14 04:58 PM EST
Cyber criminals are reaching a level of sophistication when targeting smartphones previously only seen in desktop computer attacks.

Mobile security research firm Lookout revealed findings on Thursday showing hackers can now effectively turn Android phones into so-called botnets, a compromised device that can be used to communicate with other infected devices for nefarious purposes.

The company estimates between 4 million and 4.5 million phones in the U.S. have been turned into botnets this year as a result.
For years, cybersecurity experts knew malware targeting smartphones was a growing threat as the Internet-connected devices became more ubiquitous.

Lookout thinks this malware shows the threat has finally taken a dangerous jump.

The malware has been getting onto smartphones by first infecting a legitimate website. When users visit that website from their phone, they unwittingly download the malicious code.

This particular strategy is “one of the first times hacked websites were used at a large scale to specifically target and infect mobile devices,” said Tim Strazzere, Lookout’s lead research and response engineer, in a blog post.

The malware behind it, dubbed NotCompatible, was initially “compelling threat” when the company started tracking it two years ago, Strazzere explained. But NotCompatible has evolved.

The newest iteration “set a new bar for mobile malware sophistication and operational complexity,” Strazzere said. “This malware is a prime example of how mobile malware complexity is advancing and is borrowing technical tactics already seen in PC malware.”

National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers sees mobile hacking as a Top 3 concern in 2015.

“The greatest growth these days” in cyberattacks “is not in the corporate fixed, large-network structures,” he testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

“We are all turning to mobile digital devices as vehicles to enhance our productivity,” Rogers added.

That makes those devices a desirable target for hackers.

Lookout said the hackers behind the malware are renting out the infected devices to criminals who then conduct large-scale scams — from buying up tickets in bulk to sending out more spam.

“We expect more of this type of sophistication in mobile malware,” Strazzere said. “Mobile malware maturity is here.”"

Link to Original Source

+ - US Justice Department Used Fake Cell Towers In Planes To Track Criminals->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "US Justice Department Used Fake Cell Towers In Planes To Track Criminals
By Tyler Lee on 11/13/2014

There is a lot of concern regarding privacy at the moment, especially in the wake of the Snowden reports which revealed that for the past few years, the government has been spying on its citizens. A recent study also revealed that a vast majority of adults feel like they have no control over their personal information anymore.
Well if all of that bothers you, then this might bother you even more. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal (via MacRumors), it has been revealed that the United States Justice Department has been using fake cell towers installed in airplanes to acquire cellphone data that is used to track criminals. Apparently this is a program that has been in place since 2007 and uses Cessna airplanes (not the commercial plans, thankfully) to operate out of at least five metropolitan area airports.
These planes have been outfitted with a “dirtbox” that is meant to replicate cellular towers, thus tricking cellphones into reporting information to them, which in turn is used to help track individuals who are under investigation. Given that non-criminals’ data can be captured in the process as well, there are some who are questioning the legality of the practice as well as raising concerns about the safeguarding of the information that they have captured in the process."

Link to Original Source

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)

Working...