DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×
Businesses

The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death (newyorker.com) 2

Writing for The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino documents stories of several people -- a nine-month pregnant Lyft driver, for instance -- who contribute to companies that work on the model of gig economy. Through these tales, Tolentino underscores an increasingly growing pattern in the Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) where companies offer hard-labor contracts to people, pay them peanuts (with little liabilities), and yet find a reason to celebrate their business and encourage more to come onboard. From the article: Fiverr, which had raised a hundred and ten million dollars in venture capital by November, 2015, has more about the "In Doers We Trust" campaign on its Web site. In one video, a peppy female voice-over urges "doers" to "always be available," to think about beating "the trust-fund kids," and to pitch themselves to everyone they see, including their dentist. A Fiverr press release about "In Doers We Trust" states, "The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today's emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding." This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic. No one wants to eat coffee for lunch or go on a bender of sleep deprivation -- or answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video. It's a stretch to feel cheerful at all about the Fiverr marketplace, perusing the thousands of listings of people who will record any song, make any happy-birthday video, or design any book cover for five dollars. I'd guess that plenty of the people who advertise services on Fiverr would accept some "whiteboarding" in exchange for employer-sponsored health insurance. At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy's rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear.
Software

Researchers Develop App That Accurately Determines Sperm Quality (scientificamerican.com) 42

New submitter omaha393 writes: A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School have developed a point-of-care microfluidic detector capable of determining sperm quality using the simple device and a standard smartphone. Typical male fertility screens require a team of trained laboratory professionals and a screening process taking days to weeks and incurring high costs. The alternative home sperm measuring kits rely on chemical probes and only give measurements of quantity, not quality.The new method offers an easier, cheaper approach, with processing time taking about 5 seconds with no sample processing or wash steps required. The team found their device meets WHO guidelines with 98% accuracy of sperm quality measurements and is comparable to clinical results. The new device uses 35 microliters of sample to accurately measure both concentration and motility at a manufacturing cost of less than $5 per device. The device must still undergo FDA evaluations before being available to consumers, and the technology has yet to be named. The results of the study were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Further reading: NPR, Ars Technica, Scientific American
Mars

SpaceX Disappointed In Lack of NASA Mars Funding; Starts Looking For Landing Sites For Its Own Mars Missions 55

frank249 writes: Elon Musk says that the new NASA authorization legislation "changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars." From a report via Ars Technica: "Musk is absolutely correct on two counts. First, an 'authorization' bill does not provide funding. That comes from appropriations committees. Secondly, while Congress has been interested in building rockets and spacecraft, it is far less interested in investing in the kinds of technology and research that would actually enable a full-fledged Mars exploration program." In other news, SpaceNews reports that "SpaceX has been working with NASA to identify potential landing sites on Mars for both its Red Dragon spacecraft (starting in 2020) and future human missions." From the report: "Paul Wooster of SpaceX said the company, working with scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and elsewhere, had identified several potential landing sites, including one that looks particularly promising -- Arcadia Planitia. Those landing sites are of particular interest, he said, for SpaceX's long-term vision of establishing a human settlement on Mars, but he said the company wouldn't rule out sending Red Dragon spacecraft elsewhere on the planet to serve other customers. 'We're quite open to making use of this platform to take various payloads to other locations as well,' he said. 'We're really looking to turn this into a steady cadence, where we're sending Dragons to Mars on basically every opportunity.' The Red Dragon spacecraft, he said, could carry about one ton of useful payload to Mars, with options for those payloads to remain in the capsule after landing or be deployed on the surface. 'SpaceX is a transportation company,' he said. 'We transport cargo to the space station, we deliver payloads to orbit, so we're very happy to deliver payloads to Mars.'" Fans of the book/movie "The Martian" would be happy if SpaceX does select Arcadia Planitia for their first landing site as that was the landing site of the Ares 3.
Mars

Mars Rover Spots Clouds Shaped By Gravity Waves (sciencemag.org) 36

sciencehabit writes from a report via Science Magazine: NASA's Curiosity rover has shot more than 500 movies of the clouds above Mars, including the first ground-based view of martian clouds shaped by gravity waves, researchers reported this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The shots are the best record made so far of a mysterious recurring belt of equatorial clouds known to influence the martian climate. Understanding these clouds will help inform estimates of ground ice depth and perhaps recurring slope lineae, potential flows of salty water on the surface, says John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada, who led the study with his graduate student, Jake Kloos. "If we wish to understand the water story of Mars's past," Moores says, "we first need to [separate out] contributions from the present-day water cycle." Using Curiosity's navigation camera, Moores and Kloos recorded eight-frame movies of this wispy cloud belt for two martian years. They've used two angles to capture the clouds: one pointed directly up, to see wind direction and speed, and another that keeps the rover's horizon in the frame, allowing a view into the clouds' depth. Given the limited water vapor, solar energy, and atmosphere, the martian clouds lack the variety of shapes seen on Earth. But during one day of cloud gazing -- Curiosity's 1302th martian day, to be precise -- the team got lucky and saw something unusual. That day, when Curiosity looked to the horizon, it saw a sequence of straight, parallel rows of clouds flowing in the same direction: the first ground-based view of a gravity wave cloud. Similar to the waves that follow a pebble tossed into a pond, gravity waves are created when some unknown feature of the martian landscape causes a ripple in the atmosphere that is then seen in clouds. Such waves are common at the edge of the martian ice caps, but thought to be less frequent over its equator.
Businesses

A Lithuanian Phisher Tricked Two Big US Tech Companies Into Wiring Him $100 Million (theverge.com) 82

According to a recent indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice, a 48-year-old Lithuanian scammer named Evaldas Rimasauskas managed to trick two American technology companies into wiring him $100 million. He was able to perform this feat "by masquerading as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer," reports The Verge, citing court documents, "and tricking employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries." From the report: What makes this remarkable is not Rimasauskas' particular phishing scam, which sounds rather standard in the grand scheme of wire fraud and cybersecurity exploits. Rather, it's the amount of money he managed to score and the industry from which he stole it. The indictment specifically describes the companies in vague terms. The first company is "multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States," the documents read. The second company is a "multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services." Both apparently worked with the same "Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware," a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late '80s. What's more important is that representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money. Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. In other words, he faces serious prison time of convicted -- each charge of wire fraud and laundering carries a max sentence of 20 years. The court documents don't reveal the names of the two companies. Though, one could surely think of a few candidates that would fit the descriptions provided in the court documents.
Power

Japanese Company Develops a Solar Cell With Record-Breaking 26%+ Efficiency (arstechnica.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The silicon-based cells that make up a solar panel have a theoretical efficiency limit of 29 percent, but so far that number has proven elusive. Practical efficiency rates in the low-20-percent range have been considered very good for commercial solar panels. But researchers with Japanese chemical manufacturer Kaneka Corporation have built a solar cell with a photo conversion rate of 26.3 percent, breaking the previous record of 25.6 percent. Although it's just a 2.7 percent increase in efficiency, improvements in commercially viable solar cell technology are increasingly hard-won. Not only that, but the researchers noted in their paper that after they submitted their article to Nature Energy, they were able to further optimize their solar cell to achieve 26.6 percent efficiency. That result has been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). In the Nature Energy paper, the researchers described building a 180.4 cm2 cell using high-quality thin-film heterojunction (HJ) -- that is, layering silicon within the cell to minimize band gaps where electron states can't exist. Controlling heterojunctions is a known technique among solar cell builders -- Panasonic uses it and will likely incorporate it into cells built for Tesla at the Solar City plant in Buffalo, and Kaneka has its own proprietary heterojunction techniques. For this record-breaking solar cell, the Kaneka researchers also placed low-resistance electrodes toward the rear of the cell, which maximized the number of photons that collected inside the cell from the front. And, as is common on many solar cells, they coated the front of the cell with a layer of amorphous silicon and an anti-reflective layer to protect the cell's components and collect photons more efficiently.
Bug

LastPass Bugs Allow Malicious Websites To Steal Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 95

Earlier this month, a Slashdot reader asked fellow Slashdotters what they recommended regarding the use of password managers. In their post, they voiced their uncertainty with password managers as they have been hacked in the past, citing an incident in early 2016 where LastPass was hacked due to a bug that allowed users to extract passwords stored in the autofill feature. Flash forward to present time and we now have news that three separate bugs "would have allowed a third-party to extract passwords from users visiting a malicious website." An anonymous Slashdot reader writes via BleepingComputer: LastPass patched three bugs that affected the Chrome and Firefox browser extensions, which if exploited, would have allowed a third-party to extract passwords from users visiting a malicious website. All bugs were reported by Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy, and all allowed the theft of user credentials, one bug affecting the LastPass Chrome extension, while two impacted the LastPass Firefox extension [1, 2]. The exploitation vector was malicious JavaScript code that could be very well hidden in any online website, owned by the attacker or via a compromised legitimate site.
DRM

W3C Erects DRM As Web Standard (theregister.co.uk) 155

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has formally put forward highly controversial digital rights management as a new web standard. "Dubbed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), this anti-piracy mechanism was crafted by engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, and has been in development for some time," reports The Register. "The DRM is supposed to thwart copyright infringement by stopping people from ripping video and other content from encrypted high-quality streams." From the report: The latest draft was published last week and formally put forward as a proposed standard soon after. Under W3C rules, a decision over whether to officially adopt EME will depend on a poll of its members. That survey was sent out yesterday and member organizations, who pay an annual fee that varies from $2,250 for the smallest non-profits to $77,000 for larger corporations, will have until April 19 to register their opinions. If EME gets the consortium's rubber stamp of approval, it will lock down the standard for web browsers and video streamers to implement and roll out. The proposed standard is expected to succeed, especially after web founder and W3C director Sir Tim Berners-Lee personally endorsed the measure, arguing that the standard simply reflects modern realities and would allow for greater interoperability and improve online privacy. But EME still faces considerable opposition. One of its most persistent vocal opponents, Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that EME "would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity." He is referring to the most recent controversy where the W3C has tried to strike a balance between legitimate security researchers investigating vulnerabilities in digital rights management software, and hackers trying to circumvent content protection. The W3C notes that the EME specification includes sections on security and privacy, but concedes "the lack of consensus to protect security researchers remains an issue." Its proposed solution remains "establishing best practices for responsible vulnerability disclosure." It also notes that issues of accessibility were ruled to be outside the scope of the EME, although there is an entire webpage dedicated to those issues and finding solutions to them.
The Internet

'Dig Once' Bill Could Bring Fiber Internet To Much of the US (arstechnica.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If the U.S. adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished. The idea is an old one. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband -- her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband. Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, put Eshoo's dig once legislation on the agenda for a hearing she held yesterday on broadband deployment and infrastructure. Blackburn's opening statement (PDF) said that dig once is among the policies she's considering to "facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure." But her statement did not specifically endorse Eshoo's dig once proposal, which was presented only as a discussion draft with no vote scheduled. The subcommittee also considered a discussion draft that would "creat[e] an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure." Dig once legislation received specific support from Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who said that he is "glad to see Ms. Eshoo's 'Dig Once' bill has made a return this Congress. I think that this is smart policy and will help spur broadband deployment across the country."
Privacy

Hackers Claim Access To 300 Million iCloud Accounts, Demand $75,000 From Apple To Delete the Cache of Data (vice.com) 103

A hacker or group of hackers calling themselves the "Turkish Crime Family" claim they have access to at least 300 million iCloud accounts, and will delete the alleged cache of data if Apple pays a ransom by early next month. Motherboard is reporting that the hackers are demanding "$75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum, another increasingly popular crypto-currency, or $100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards in exchange for deleting the alleged cache of data." From the report: The hackers provided screenshots of alleged emails between the group and members of Apple's security team. One also gave Motherboard access to an email account allegedly used to communicate with Apple. "Are you willing to share a sample of the data set?" an unnamed member of Apple's security team wrote to the hackers a week ago, according to one of the emails stored in the account. (According to the email headers, the return-path of the email is to an address with the @apple.com domain). The hackers also uploaded a YouTube video of them allegedly logging into some of the stolen accounts. The hacker appears to access an elderly woman's iCloud account, which includes backed-up photos, and the ability to remotely wipe the device. Now, the hackers are threatening to reset a number of the iCloud accounts and remotely wipe victim's Apple devices on April 7, unless Apple pays the requested amount. According to one of the emails in the accessed account, the hackers claim to have access to over 300 million Apple email accounts, including those use @icloud and @me domains. However, the hackers appear to be inconsistent in their story; one of the hackers then claimed they had 559 million accounts in all. The hackers did not provide Motherboard with any of the supposedly stolen iCloud accounts to verify this claim, except those shown in the video.
GNOME

GNOME 3.24 Released (softpedia.com) 95

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: GNOME 3.24 just finished its six-month development cycle, and it's now the most advanced stable version of the modern and popular desktop environment used by default in numerous GNU/Linux distributions. It was developed since October 2016 under the GNOME 3.23.x umbrella, during which it received numerous improvements. Prominent new features of the GNOME 3.24 desktop environment include a Night Light functionality that promises to automatically shift the colors of your display to the warmer end of the spectrum after sunset, and a brand-new GNOME Control Center with redesigned Users, Keyboard and Mouse, Online Accounts, Bluetooth, and Printer panels. As for the GNOME apps, we can mention that the Nautilus file manager now lets users browse files as root (system administrator), GNOME Photos imitates Darktable's exposure and blacks adjustment tool, GNOME Music comes with ownCloud integration and lets you edit tags, and GNOME Calendar finally brings the Week view. New apps like GNOME Recipes are also part of this release. The full release notes can be viewed here. Softpedia notes in conclusion: "As mentioned before, it will take at least a couple of weeks for the new GNOME 3.24 packages to land on the stable repositories of your favorite distro, which means that you'll most probably be able to upgrade from GNOME 3.22 when the first point release, GNOME 3.24.1, is out on April 12, 2017."
AT&T

17,000 AT&T Workers Go On Strike In California and Nevada (fortune.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Approximately 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wired telephone business in California and Nevada walked out on strike on Wednesday, marking the most serious labor action against the carrier in years. The walkout -- formally known as a grievance strike -- occurred after AT&T changed the work assignments of some of the technicians and call center employees in the group, the Communications Workers of America union said. The union would not say how long the strike might last. A contract covering the group expired last year and there has been little progress in negotiations over sticking points like the outsourcing of call center jobs overseas, stagnant pay, and rising health care costs. The union said it planned to file an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the work assignment changes. "A walkout is not in anybody's best interest and it's unfortunate that the union chose to do that," an AT&T spokesman told Fortune. "We're engaged in discussion with the union to get these employees back to work as soon as possible."
Nintendo

Nintendo Is Repairing Left Joy-Cons With ... a Piece of Foam? (polygon.com) 72

While Nintendo remains silent on the issue of some left Joy-Con controllers becoming desynced from the Switch console, it appears it has a solution for those affected. No, it's not avoidance of aquariums or all other wireless devices; instead, it's apparently as simple as a foam sticker placed in the right spot. From a report: Early reviews and, later, actual retail units of the Nintendo Switch highlighted an apparent hardware flaw in the design of the left Joy-Con controller. In certain scenarios -- like when played some distance from the console using the Joy-Con Grip -- some left Joy-Cons could lose sync and players would find themselves unable to accurately control what's happening on the screen. While a day one console update fixed this issue for some, it's remained for others and Nintendo has done little to assuage would-be consumers that it's solved the issue for good. But, a Joy-Con sent in for repair by CNET's Sean Hollister was returned with one small enhancement a week later and -- lo and behold -- it works. That enhancement: A small piece of conductive foam.
Transportation

Plans For London-Paris Electric Flight in 'Next Decade' Unveiled (telegraph.co.uk) 81

A start-up has unveiled ambitious plans to offer an electric-powered commercial flight between London and Paris in the next ten years. From a report: Wright Electric believes the proposed low-emission electric plane would offer a cheaper alternative to jet fuel for airlines and consumers. However, the start-up's bid to revolutionize short-haul flights relies on the continued advancement of battery technology. The company, who pitched to investors this week, would be forced to switch to a hybrid of aviation fuel and electricity if the advances in battery technology fail to materialise.
Security

Ebay Asks Users To Downgrade Security (krebsonsecurity.com) 68

Ebay has started to inform customers who use a hardware key fob when logging into the site to switch to receiving a one-time code sent via text message. The move from the company, which at one time was well ahead of most e-commerce companies in providing more robust online authentication options, is "a downgrade to a less-secure option," say security reporter Brian Kerbs. He writes: In early 2007, PayPal (then part of the same company as Ebay) began offering its hardware token for a one-time $5 fee, and at the time the company was among very few that were pushing this second-factor (something you have) in addition to passwords for user authentication. I've still got the same hardware token I ordered when writing about that offering, and it's been working well for the past decade. Now, Ebay is asking me to switch from the key fob to text messages, the latter being a form of authentication that security experts say is less secure than other forms of two-factor authentication (2FA). The move by Ebay comes just months after the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) released a draft of new authentication guidelines that appear to be phasing out the use of SMS-based two-factor authentication.

Slashdot Top Deals