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Google

Google Has Demonstrated a Successful Practical Attack Against SHA-1 (googleblog.com) 9

Reader Artem Tashkinov writes: Ten years after of SHA-1 was first introduced, Google has announced the first practical technique for generating an SHA-1 collision. It required two years of research between the CWI Institute in Amsterdam and Google. As a proof of the attack, Google has released two PDF files that have identical SHA-1 hashes but different content. The amount of computations required to carry out the attack is staggering: nine quintillion (9,223,372,036,854,775,808) SHA1 computations in total which took 6,500 years of CPU computation to complete the attack first phase and 110 years of GPU computation to complete the second phase.

Google says that people should migrate to newer hashing algorithms like SHA-256 and SHA-3, however it's worth noting that there are currently no ways of finding a collision for both MD5 and SHA-1 hashes simultaneously which means that we still can use old proven hardware accelerated hash functions to be on the safe side.

Facebook

'Social Media Needs A Travel Mode' (idlewords.com) 60

Maciej CegÅowski, a Polish-American web developer, entrepreneur, and social critic, writes on a blog post: We need a 'trip mode' for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home. Both Facebook and Google make lofty claims about user safety, but they've done little to show they take the darkening political climate around the world seriously. A 'trip mode' would be a chance for them to demonstrate their commitment to user safety beyond press releases and anodyne letters of support. What's required is a small amount of engineering, a good marketing effort, and the conviction that any company that makes its fortune hoarding user data has a moral responsibility to protect its users. To work effectively, a trip mode feature would need to be easy to turn on, configurable (so you can choose how long you want the protection turned on for) and irrevocable for an amount of time chosen by the user once it's set. There's no sense in having a 'trip mode' if the person demanding your password can simply switch it off, or coerce you into switching it off.
Microsoft

Microsoft Creates Skype Lite Especially For India (cnet.com) 26

There's a new Skype app in town, and it is made just for India. According to a report on CNET: Microsoft is the latest US tech giant to help keep Indians connected. Skype Lite is a new version of the company's popular video and voice-calling app that's "built in India." Skype Lite functions much like its big brother Skype, but it's designed to work well on low-speed, 2G networks, which are still prevalent in India and many developing nations. It uses less data and battery power than the fully fledged app, and at 13MB it's around a third of the download size. Skype Lite, available for Android, also uses India's controversial Aadhaar biometric authentication.
Businesses

Inside Uber's Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture (cnbc.com) 97

Excerpts from Mike Isaac's report for the New York Times: Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee's head in with a baseball bat. Until this week, this culture was only whispered about in Silicon Valley. Then on Sunday, Susan Fowler, an engineer who left Uber in December, published a blog post about her time at the company. [...] One group appeared immune to internal scrutiny, the current and former employees said. Called the A-Team and composed of a small group of executives who were personally close to Mr. Kalanick, its members were shielded from much accountability over their actions. One member of the A-Team was Emil Michael, senior vice president for business, who was caught up in a public scandal over comments he made in 2014 about digging into the private lives of journalists who opposed the company. Mr. Kalanick defended Mr. Michael, saying he believed Mr. Michael could learn from his mistakes.
Science

Most Scientists 'Can't Replicate Studies By Their Peers' (bbc.com) 131

Science is facing a "reproducibility crisis" where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, research suggests. From a report: This is frustrating clinicians and drug developers who want solid foundations of pre-clinical research to build upon. From his lab at the University of Virginia's Centre for Open Science, immunologist Dr Tim Errington runs The Reproducibility Project, which attempted to repeat the findings reported in five landmark cancer studies. "The idea here is to take a bunch of experiments and to try and do the exact same thing to see if we can get the same results." You could be forgiven for thinking that should be easy. Experiments are supposed to be replicable. The authors should have done it themselves before publication, and all you have to do is read the methods section in the paper and follow the instructions. Sadly nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.
Businesses

Tech Breakthroughs Take a Backseat in Upcoming Apple iPhone Launch (reuters.com) 81

Stephen Nellis, reporting for Reuters: The new iPhone is expected to include new features such as high-resolution displays, wireless charging and 3-D sensors. Rather than representing major breakthroughs, however, most of the innovations have been available in competing phones for several years. Apple's relatively slow adoption of new features both reflects and reinforces the fact smartphone customers are holding onto their phones longer. Timothy Arcuri, an analyst at Cowen & Co, believes upwards of 40 percent of iPhones on the market are more than two years old, a historical high. That is a big reason why investors have driven Apple shares to an all-time high. There is pent-up demand for a new iPhone, even if it does not offer breakthrough technologies. It is not clear whether Apple deliberately held off on packing some of the new features into the current iPhone 7, which has been criticized for a lack of differentiation from its predecessor. Still, the development and roll-out of the anniversary iPhone suggest Apple's product strategy is driven less by technological innovation than by consumer upgrade cycles and Apple's own business and marketing needs.
Google

Google Releases an AI Tool For Publishers To Spot and Weed Out Toxic Comments (bbc.com) 139

Google today launched a new technology to help news organizations and online platforms identify and swiftly remove abusive comments on their websites. The technology, called Perspective, will review comments and score them based on how similar they are to comments people said were "toxic" or likely to make them leave a conversation. From a report on BBC: The search giant has developed something called Perspective, which it describes as a technology that uses machine learning to identify problematic comments. The software has been developed by Jigsaw, a division of Google with a mission to tackle online security dangers such as extremism and cyberbullying. The system learns by seeing how thousands of online conversations have been moderated and then scores new comments by assessing how "toxic" they are and whether similar language had led other people to leave conversations. What it's doing is trying to improve the quality of debate and make sure people aren't put off from joining in.
AI

Microsoft Research Developing An AI To Put Coders Out of a Job (mspoweruser.com) 241

jmcbain writes: Are you a software programmer who voted in a recent Slashdot poll that a robot/AI would never take your job? Unfortunately, you're wrong. Microsoft, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, is developing such an AI. This software "can turn your descriptions into working code in seconds," reports MSPoweruser. "Called DeepCoder, the software can take requirements by the developer, search through a massive database of code snippets and deliver working code in seconds, a significant advance in the state of the art in program synthesis." New Scientist describes program synthesis as "creating new programs by piecing together lines of code taken from existing software -- just like a programmer might. Given a list of inputs and outputs for each code fragment, DeepCoder learned which pieces of code were needed to achieve the desired result overall." The original research paper can be read here.
Science

Scientists Discover a Way To Get Every Last Drop of Ketchup Out of the Bottle (bbc.com) 139

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes a report from BBC: Scientists in Boston have found a way to get every last drop of ketchup out of the bottle. They have developed a coating that makes bottle interiors super slippery. The coating can also be used to make it easier to squeeze out the contents of other containers, such as those holding toothpaste, cosmetics and even glue. The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believe that their innovation could dramatically reduce waste. In its manufacture, the container must first be coated on the inside with a rough surface. A very thin layer is then placed over this. And, finally, a liquid is added that fills in any troughs to form a very slippery surface -- like an oily floor. The ketchup hovers on top and just glides out of the bottle. According to Prof Kripa Varanasi, who developed the slippery surface, the technology is completely safe. "The cool thing about it is that because the coating is a composite of solid and liquid, it can be tailored to the product. So for food, we make the coating out of food-based materials and so you can actually eat it."

schwit1 adds: "Pretty slick."

NASA

NASA Scientists Propose New Definition of Planets, and Pluto Could Soon Be Back (sciencealert.com) 160

Rei writes: After several years of publicly complaining about the "bullshit" decision at the IAU redefining what comprises a planet, New Horizons program head Alan Stern and fellow planetary geologists have put forth a new definition which they seek to make official, basing planethood on hydrostatic equilibrium. Under this definition, in addition to Ceres, Pluto and other Kuiper Belt objects, large moons like Titan and Europa, as well as our own moon, would also become planets; "planet" would be a physical term, while "moon" would be an orbital term, and hence one can have a planetary moon, as well as planets that orbit other stars or no star at all (both prohibited under the current definition). The paper points out that planetary geologists already refer to such bodies as planets, citing examples such as a paper about Titan: "A planet-wide detached haze layer occurs between 300-350 km above the surface; the visible limb of the planet, where the vertical haze optical depth is 0.1, is about 220 km above the surface."
The Courts

Judge Blocks California Law Limiting Publication of Actor's Ages (politico.com) 104

mi writes: IMDb has a reason to rejoice. Politico reports: "A federal judge has barred the State of California from enforcing a new law limiting online publication of actors' ages. Acting in a case brought by online movie information website IMDb, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ruled Wednesday that the California law likely violates the First Amendment and appears poorly tailored to proponents' stated goal of preventing age discrimination in Hollywood. The judge expressed deep skepticism that the law, which he said appeared to apply only to IMDb, would have any effect on discrimination. The judge rejected the state's arguments that the law was a regulation of commercial speech, finding that IMDb was acting as a publisher in posting the birthday and age information online." "It's not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all. And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal anti-discrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end," Chhabria wrote in a three-page order.
Communications

Paralyzed Man Uses Brain Implant To Type Eight Words Per Minute (ieee.org) 38

A study published in the journal eLife describes three participants that broke new ground in the use of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) by people with paralysis. One of the participants, a 64-year-old man paralyzed by a spinal cord injury, "set a new record for speed in a 'copy typing' task," reports IEEE Spectrum. "Copying sentences like 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,' he typed at a relatively blistering rate of eight words per minute." From the report: This experimental gear is far from being ready for clinical use: To send data from their implanted brain chips, the participants wear head-mounted components with wires that connect to the computer. But Henderson's team, part of the multiuniversity BrainGate consortium, is contributing to the development of devices that can be used by people in their everyday lives, not just in the lab. "All our research is based on helping people with disabilities," Henderson tells IEEE Spectrum. Here's how the system works: The tiny implant, about the size of a baby aspirin, is inserted into the motor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement. The implant's array of electrodes record electrical signals from neurons that "fire" as the person thinks of making a motion like moving their right hand -- even if they're paralyzed and can't actually move it. The BrainGate decoding software interprets the signal and converts it into a command for the computer cursor. Interestingly, the system worked best when the researchers customized it for each participant. To train the decoder, each person would imagine a series of different movements (like moving their whole right arm or wiggling their left thumb) while the researchers looked at the data coming from the electrodes and tried to find the most obvious and reliable signal. Each participant ended up imagining a different movement to control the cursor. The woman with ALS imagined moving her index finger and thumb to control the cursor's left-right and up-down motions. Henderson says that after a while, she didn't have to think about moving the two digits independently. "When she became facile with this, she said it wasn't anything conscious; she felt like she was controlling a joystick," he says. The man with the spinal cord injury imagined moving his whole arm as if he were sliding a puck across a table. "Each participant settled on control modality that worked best," Henderson says. You can watch a video about the study here.
Medicine

Owning a Cat Does Not Lead To Mental Illness, Study Finds (theverge.com) 212

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Cats host a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that other research has linked to various mental illnesses. So, for some time, people have wondered whether cats are unsafe; for example, pregnant women are usually told to stay away from litter boxes. (They should still do this because transmission during pregnancy is very real.) In a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers looked at data that tracked 5,000 Brits born in the early '90s until they were 18. This included information about whether the kids grew up with cats, or whether there were cats around when the mother was pregnant. After the scientists controlled for factors like socioeconomic status, there was no link between developing psychosis and having owned a cat. The researchers suggest that previous studies that did show a link had relatively small sample sizes. In addition, many of these studies asked people whether they remembered having cats, which is not quite as accurate. That said, it's important to keep in mind that some mental disorders linked to the parasite -- like schizophrenia -- tend to be diagnosed fairly late in life, so only tracking until age 18 might limit the study.
Communications

T-Mobile Promises Big LTE Boost From 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies (arstechnica.com) 63

"T-Mobile USA is ready to deploy a new LTE technology over the same 5GHz frequencies used by Wi-Fi following U.S. government approval of the first 'LTE-U' devices," reports Ars Technica. "The Federal Communications Commission today authorized the first LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed spectrum) devices after a controversial process designed to ensure that cellular network use of the 5GHz band won't interfere with Wi-Fi networks." From the report: LTE-U will help T-Mobile achieve its goal of offering gigabit LTE speeds, the carrier said. Verizon Wireless is also planning to use LTE-U. The company said in September that it is "eager to deploy" the technology and developed an equipment testing plan, but it's not clear when a Verizon deployment will happen. Cellular carriers in the US generally hold exclusive licenses to spectrum, while Wi-Fi operates in unlicensed frequencies. Anyone can operate in unlicensed spectrum without an FCC license as long as they use certified radio equipment and comply with power limits and other technical requirements. The plan to bring LTE to unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum set off an industry fight. LTE-U deployment plans drew opposition in 2015 from cable companies and the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that certifies equipment to make sure it doesn't interfere with other Wi-Fi equipment. Industry groups worked together to develop a "Coexistence Test Plan" to prevent interference, and the Wi-Fi Alliance said it's satisfied with the result even though the new testing is voluntary rather than required by the FCC.
Businesses

Tesla Posts Earnings Loss But Claims Model 3 Production Will Start In July (bgr.com) 59

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from BGR: Tesla on Wednesday released its earnings report (PDF) for the company's recent fourth quarter. When the dust settled, Tesla posted revenue of $2.28 billion and a loss of 69 cents per share. By way of contrast, Tesla during the same quarter a year-ago posted a loss of $0.87 per share on the back of $1.75 billion in revenue. Notably, Tesla notes that its cumulative 2016 revenue checked in at $7 billion, a 73% increase from 2015. As far as the Model 3 is concerned, Tesla's press release relays that the company is still on track to begin production in July ahead of volume production in September.

Tesla notes in its press release: "Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5,000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018. To support accelerating vehicle deliveries and maintain our industry-leading customer satisfaction, we are expanding our retail, Supercharger, and service functions. Model 3 vehicle development, supply chain and manufacturing are on track to support volume deliveries in the second half of 2017. In early February, we began building Model 3 prototypes as part of our ongoing testing of the vehicle design and manufacturing processes. Initial crash test results have been positive, and all Model 3-related sourcing is on plan to support the start of production in July. Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3."

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