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+ - How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware? 1

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity.

Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide such a thing to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security.

I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating that '...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." [their phrasing, not mine]. Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately."

Comment: Re:Unintended Consequences (Score 3, Insightful) 92

by dpilot (#49143143) Attached to: Xeroxed Gene May Have Paved the Way For Large Human Brain

At what point does it become unethical to consider and treat these as lab animals. How much brain complexity is enough? This probably isn't it, and our A.I. isn't good enough yet. But some year we're going to cross the line, and I'm sure that as a society we're going to be completely unaware and in denial when we do.

+ - Star Wars-style 'bionic hand' fitted to first patients ->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 (797399) writes "Three Austrians have replaced injured hands with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs.

The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as "bionic reconstruction," which includes a voluntary amputation, the transplantation of nerves and muscles and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand.

Previously, people with bionic hands have primarily controlled them with manual settings."

Link to Original Source

+ - You Might (Still) Be Surprised By What Your Phone Keeps Track Of->

Submitted by Deathspawner
Deathspawner (1037894) writes "It should come as a surprise to no one that the amount of data scraped from our digital lives each and every day is immense. But could there still be room to be wowed — or even a little concerned? At reddit, user FallenMyst claimed that everything we've ever spoken to our phones, either via Siri, Cortana, or what-have-you, has been recorded — and in some cases, we can go back and listen to it. Techgage went on to investigate, and found proof of that claim. Further, it was also discovered that Google could be tracking a lot more data than you were even aware of, such as where you were a couple of years ago. Fortunately, this tracking can be turned off, but there's something to be said about the fact that it's on by default, and is so incredibly subtle."
Link to Original Source

+ - What happens when Betelgeuse explodes? 1

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "One of the great, catastrophic truths of the Universe is that everything has an expiration date. And this includes every single point of light in the entire sky. The most massive stars will die in a spectacular supernova explosion when their final stage of core fuel runs out. At only an estimated 600 light years distant, Betelgeuse is one (along with Antares) of the closest red supergiants to us, and it’s estimated to have only perhaps 100,000 years until it reaches the end of its life. Here's the story on what we can expect to see (and feel) on Earth when Betelgeuse explodes!"

+ - Elon Musk to write a book about Earth sustainability and Mars colonization->

Submitted by MarkWhittington
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "Elon Musk has taken on quite a number of projects with a goal of changing the world while making lots of money doing so. He proposes to revolutionize space travel through his commercial launch company, SpaceX. His more earthly endeavors have included electric cars (though with competition from Apple), home solar power, a transportation system called the Hyperloop, a space based Internet and, most recently, a battery that can power a house. Now, according to a story in Business Insider, Musk will open his mind on his views on “sustainability” was well as Mars colonization in book form."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:So, start a company making easy-to-fix equipmen (Score 2) 194

by dpilot (#48997825) Attached to: Farmers Struggling With High-Tech Farm Equipment

The brand that doesn't lock farmers out will get more business, presuming that there is such a brand, and it makes decent equipment.

Otherwise used equipment will start commanding a better price. Plus new business will emerge in buying too-broken-to-repair farm equipment, and managing to rebuild it with better facilities and spare parts.

One of my more-fun tasks on the farm was going into the weeds to get three dead green-choppers and scabbing the parts to make one that worked.

Comment: Re:Not really. (Score 1) 237

by dpilot (#48927313) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

There's a bit more to it than that. My tops would be two points.
First, we're memetically infectuous. Plant a new idea here, and someone will run with it, most likely in some direction you never wished for. Many of our memetic infections are downright dangerous, lethal, destructive, etc. Contact might well be considered irresponsible, no matter how well intended.
Second, there's the thing I mentioned about our reverse-engineering technology. They might accidentally give us more capability than they wanted to. Not that we'd be any threat to them, but we've been sitting here for however long with the Doomsday Clock close to midnight. Give us something new that can be weaponized, (We've been able to turn just about everything into a weapon, perhaps the most resistant invention was the "death ray", the laser - it's had so darned many peaceful uses and has been very hard to make into aweapon.) and we will do so. Perhaps that weapon might be what tips the scale, ticks the clock, or whatever metaphor you like.

+ - New Micro-Ring Resonator Creates Quantum Entanglement on a Silicon Chip ->

Submitted by Zothecula
Zothecula (1870348) writes "The quantum entanglement of particles, such as photons, is a prerequisite for the new and future technologies of quantum computing, telecommunications, and cyber security. Real-world applications that take advantage of this technology, however, will not be fully realized until devices that produce such quantum states leave the realms of the laboratory and are made both small and energy efficient enough to be embedded in electronic equipment. In this vein, European scientists have created and installed a tiny "ring-resonator" on a microchip that is claimed to produce copious numbers of entangled photons while using very little power to do so."
Link to Original Source

+ - We May Have Jupiter To Thank For the Nitrogen In Earth's Atmosphere->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Nitrogen makes up about 78% of the Earth's atmosphere. It's also the 4th most abundant element in the human body. But where did all the nitrogen on Earth come from? Scientists aren't sure, but they have a new theory. Back when the solar system was just a protoplanetary disk, the ice orbiting the early Sun included ammonia, which has a nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. But there needed to be a way for the nitrogen to get to the developing Earth. That's where Jupiter comes in. During its theorized Grand Tack, where it plunged into the center of the solar system and then retreated outward again, it created shock waves in the dust and ice cloud surrounding the sun. These shock waves caused gentle heating of the ammonia ice, which allowed it to react with chromium-bearing metal to form a mineral called carlsbergite. New research (abstract) suggests this mineral was then present when the Earth's accretion happened."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Not really. (Score 5, Insightful) 237

by dpilot (#48919725) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

First, it doesn't explain Fermi's Paradox, it merely adds another term to it. In all of those various probabilities, apparently there is something like a 10% chance of not getting taken out by a gamma burst in half-a-billion years. I would also expect the odds to get better as a given galaxy "settles down", generating fewer big, hot stars and more smaller, calmer ones. Some neighborhoods are probably rougher too. I wouldn't wait around to settle Trantor, near the center of our galaxy.

Second, I wouldn't consider intergalactic contact in any serious way - the distances are bad enough for interstellar, do we really want to add a few more orders of magnitude?

Third, our presence establishes our galaxy as one of the more benign ones. There is at least one neighborhood that has been sufficiently peaceful for the last half-billion hears. Last I knew, there were no supernova candidates close enough to cause that kind of trouble any time soon, either.

Fourth, I'll focus on your word "silliness", which I think you meant as an understatement. There is conceivably a chance that we are under observation, and rank as "too silly" for any contact. The Earth has had an oxygen atmosphere for the last half-billion years, and we're on the verge of being able to detect other such atmospheres on other worlds such as Kepler has found. It's not a bad assumption that any civilization capable of interstellar travel is also better at planetary surveys than us. If they're there and within a few thousand light-years, they know something worth seeing is probably here.

At this point in physics we're stuck at the Standard Model. We have many theories that move beyond, but no facts to select among them, and many of the experiments would be incredibly expensive. But let's say one day we saw a "warp signature", it's quite possible that we could immediately discard half of those theories. (By "warp signature" I really mean physical evidence of truly advanced technology.) IF there were here watching us, and seeing our "silliness" as well as the scientific acumen of some, they would be especially careful that we see no such evidence.

"Right now I feel that I've got my feet on the ground as far as my head is concerned." -- Baseball pitcher Bo Belinsky