An anonymous reader writes "Despite warnings that a cyberattack could cripple the nation's power supply, a U.S. Congressional report (PDF) finds that power companies' efforts to protect the power grid are insufficient. Attacks are apparently commonplace, with one utility claiming they fight off some 10,000 attempted attacks every month. The report also found that while most power companies are complying with mandatory standards for protection, few do much else above and beyond that to protect the grid. 'For example, NERC has established both mandatory standards and voluntary measures to protect against the computer worm known as Stuxnet. Of those that responded, 91% of IOUs [Investor-Owned Utilities], 83% of municipally- or cooperatively-owned utilities, and 80% of federal entities that own major pieces of the bulk power system reported compliance with the Stuxnet mandatory standards. By contrast, of those that responded to a separate question regarding compliance with voluntary Stuxnet measures, only 21% of IOUs, 44% of municipally- or cooperatively-owned utilities, and 62.5% of federal entities reported compliance.'"
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An anonymous reader writes "Google on Tuesday released Chrome version 27 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The new version features a big boost to page loads (now 5 percent faster on average) as well as significant updates for developers. The speed improvement is thanks to the introduction of 'smarter behind-the-scenes resource scheduling,' according to Google. Starting with this release, the scheduler more aggressively uses an idle connection and demotes the priority of preloaded resources so that they don’t interfere with critical assets."
Wired reports on a cluster of mini-satellites that will soon be launched into orbit that will assist U.S. special forces personnel during manhunts. "SOCOM is putting eight miniature communications satellites, each about the size of a water jug, on top of the Minotaur rocket that's getting ready to launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. They’ll sit more than 300 miles above the earth and provide a new way for the beacons to call back to their masters." When special forces are able to tag their target, the target can be tracked and located through the use of satellites and cell towers, but coverage is poor in many areas of the world. The satellites going up in September will help to fill in some gaps. "This array of configurable 'cubesats' is designed to stay aloft for three years or more. Yes, it will serve as further research project. But 'operators are going to use it,' Richardson promised an industry conference in Tampa last week."
An anonymous reader writes "When in early 2010 Google shared with the public that they had been breached in what became known as the Aurora attacks, they said that the attackers got their hands on some source code and were looking to access Gmail accounts of Tibetan activists. What they didn't make public is that the hackers have also accessed a database containing information about court-issued surveillance orders that enabled law enforcement agencies to monitor email accounts belonging to diplomats, suspected spies and terrorists. Whether this was the primary goal of the attacks as well as how much information was exfiltrated is unknown. current and former U.S. government officials interviewed by the Washington Post say that the database in question was possibly accessed in order to discover which Chinese intelligence operatives located in the U.S. were under surveillance."
New submitter QuantumPion writes "The Environmental Protection Agency released draft guidelines last month that could significantly relax radiation hazard standards in the case of a radiological event in the United States by using risk-based decisions. The goal is to have limits that make sense in an emergency that are different from the limits in day-to-day life. From the article: 'Currently, the only guidance are the extremely strict standards that apply for EPA Superfund sites and nuclear plant decommissioning, which are as low as 0.010–0.025 rem/year, far below the natural background levels in the U.S. of 0.300 rem/year, and even well below the average amount of radioactive materials that Americans eat each year. And these guidelines aren’t really different from the 1992 PAG, except in the area of long-term cleanup standards and, perhaps, standards for resettlement. What’s the big deal here? As radworkers, we’re allowed to get 5 rem/year. 2 rem/year doesn’t rate a second thought. ... No one has ever been harmed by 5 rem/year, so setting emergency levels at 2 rem/year is pretty mild and more than reasonable. ... Think of it this way. The situations covered by these new guidelines are similar to someone dying of thirst who has the chance to drink fresh water having 2,000 pCi per gallon of radium in it. While the safe drinking water levels are 20 pCi/gal for Ra, 2,000 pCi/gal is of no threat, especially if you’re going to die from imminent dehydration. Of course, a bag of potato chips has 3,500 picocuries, so go figure.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Fresh off purchasing Tumblr for $1.1 billion, Yahoo has moved to the next stage of what's becoming a company-wide reboot: fixing Flickr, the photo-sharing service that it acquired in 2005 and subsequently allowed to languish. Yahoo boosted Flickr accounts' individual storage capacity to one free terabyte, revamped the Website's overall look, and launched a new Flickr app for Google Android, among other tweaks. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer clearly wants her company to fight toe-to-toe on features with Google and Facebook, but she faces a long road ahead of her: not only does she need to streamline Yahoo's cumbersome corporate structure and product portfolio into something that resembles fighting shape, but she needs to reverse the general perception that Yahoo is teetering on the edge of history's trash-bin, with an aging customer base and unexciting features. The question is, could anyone actually pull it off? Is Yahoo capable of an Apple-style turnaround, or are its current actions merely delaying the inevitable?"
cervesaebraciator writes "According to Quartz, '[Anjan Contractor's] Systems & Materials Research Corporation just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer. But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3-D printing, envisions a much more mundane — and ultimately more important — use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3-D printer, and the earth's 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store. Contractor's vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store.' No word yet on whether anyone other than the guy trying to sell the technology thinks it'll make palatable food."
necro81 writes "Although its Tevatron particle accelerator has gone dark, Fermi Laboratory outside Chicago is still doing physics. A new experiment, called muon g-2 will investigate quantum mechanical behavior of the electron's heavier sibling: the muon. Fermi needs a large ring chamber to store the muons it produces and investigates, and it just so happens that Brookhaven National Laboratory outside NYC has one to spare. But how do you transport a delicate, 15-m diameter, 600-ton superconducting magnet halfway across the country? Very carefully."
Lucas123 writes "U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass) is pushing a bill that would require all U.S. handgun manufacturers to include 'personalization technology' in their weapons. Tierney said he got the idea for The Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. In it Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes his fingerprints, becomes inoperable when a bad guy picks it up. 'This technology, however, isn't just for the movies — it's a reality,' Tierney said. Tierney pointed to a myriad of cases where the smart gun tech could prevent children from being harmed or killed in firearms accidents. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, the official state association of the NRA, said he knows of no gun owners who would want smart gun technology on their weapons. Wallace said any technology that may impede the proper function of a weapon is a problem. He pointed to the fact that any integrated processor technology would also require a battery of some kind, which could pose a system failure if it lost power."
jammag writes "Free sodas, candy and energy bars can be surprisingly important to developers, says longtime coder Eric Spiegel. They need the perks, not to mention the caffeine boost. More important, free sodas from management are like the canary in the coal mine. If they get cut, then layoffs might be next. 'The sodas are just the wake-up call. If the culture changes to be focused more on cost-cutting than on innovation and creativity, then would you still want to work here? I wouldn't.' Are free perks really that important?"
Lone Star Hovercraft. Timothy Lord interviewed Ben at the Austin Mini Maker Faire, and we also found some video of Ben flying (is that the right word?) one of his hovercraft on a lake that we spliced into the interview to liven it up a little. Vroom!
Today at a press conference leading up to E3, Microsoft unveiled its next-gen games/entertainment console, the Xbox One. Their stated goal for the Xbox One is to have a single device provide "all of your entertainment." One of the big changes is increased support for voice and and gesture input. You can turn the console on by voice, and it will recognize you and automatically login. Swiping to the side with your hand will browse through menu pages, and saying "Watch TV" will bring up the TV app very quickly. The same with music, internet, and movies. The new console also supports multitasking — for example, while watching a movie, you can bring up your web browser in a side panel and surf the web at the same time. There is also a built-in TV listings app that responds to channel names — saying "Watch CBS" will switch to CBS without giving it an actual channel number. By this point, you're probably asking: does it play games? Yes. Hardware specs: 8-core CPU/GPU, 8GB RAM, a Blu-ray drive, a 500GB HDD, USB 3.0, and Wi-fi Direct. (They didn't provide the CPU frequency, instead saying it had 5 billion transistors.) The Kinect sensor got an upgrade: 2Gbps of data capture has finer skeletal visibility, can detect minor orientation changes in hands and fingers, and can even calculate your balance and weight distribution. The new controller looks slightly bigger, and is designed to play well with Kinect. They've also updated Smartglass, the remote control software that runs on mobile devices, but they didn't explain much about it. The new Xbox Live will have 300,000 servers powering it, up from 15,000 this year — though, of course, no details were provided about server specs. The console will have native game capture and editing tools — essentially, a game DVR. Saved games will be stored in the cloud, and they have new matchmaking capabilities that operate in the background. Update: 05/21 17:50 GMT by S : Halo is getting its own live-action TV show, for some reason. They'll be collaborating with Steven Spielberg. Microsoft is also partnering with the NFL for live broadcasts and interactive experiences, such as split-screen Skype chats and fantasy league updates. Xbox One will be out "later this year." No price information. it will not be backward-compatible with Xbox 360 games.
Writer and novelist Neil Gaiman and Amber Benson of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame have teamed up to star in a new vampire movie called, Blood Kiss. Kickstarted by ST:TNG and Emmy-winning writer Michael Reaves, Blood Kiss is a film noir vampire movie set in Golden Age Hollywood. Of his acting debut Gaiman says, "I'm willing to pretend that the prospect of acting doesn't terrify me in order to help Michael Reaves make his film." The trio have agreed to take a break from the blood and answer any questions you have about the new project or their past work. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
dcblogs writes "The Senate's immigration bill may force the large offshore outsourcing firms to reduce their use of H-1B visa-holding staff, forcing them to hire more local workers and raising their costs. But one large Indian firm, Infosys, will try to offset cost increases with software robotics. Infosys recently announced a partnership with IPsoft, a New York-based provider of autonomic IT services. With IPsoft's tools, work that is now done by human beings, mostly Level 1 support, could be done by a software machine. Infosys says that IPsoft tools can 'reduce human intervention.' More colorfully, Chandrashekar Kakal, global head of Infosys's business IT services, told the Times of India, that 'what robotics did for the auto assembly line, we are now doing for the IT engineering line.' James Slaby, a research director of HFS Research who has been following the use of autonomics closely, wrote in a recent report that the IPsoft partnership may help Infosys 'reap fatter margins by augmenting and replacing expensive, human IT support engineers with cheaper, more accurate, efficient automated processes,' and by improving service delivery."
First time accepted submitter Aaron B Lingwood writes "As reported by TorrentFreak, Viacom, Paramount, Fox and Lionsgate have all asked Google to take down links pointing to the Pirate Bay documentary 'TPB-AFK.' The film, created by Simon Klose, is available for no cost and has already been watched by millions of people. The public response to this free release model has been overwhelmingly positive, but it's now meeting resistance from Hollywood, TPB's arch rival. Pirate Party Australia opines 'Hollywood is using takedown notices to censor Pirate Bay doco, is it incompetence or malice? Always hard to tell.' Whichever the answer, the system is definitely broken."
Trailrunner7 writes "The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit has been spearheading botnet takedowns and other anti-cybercrime operations for many years, and it has had remarkable success. But the cybercrime problem isn't going away anytime soon, so the DCU is in the process of building a new cybercrime center here, and soon will roll out a new threat intelligence service to help ISPs and CERT teams get better data about ongoing attacks. Dennis Fisher sat down with TJ Campana, director of security at the DCU, to discuss the unit's work and what threats could be next on the target list."
Just a few weeks after Cody Wilson and friends successfully fired an instance of their own 3-D printed handgun design, Sparrowvsrevolution writes, "a couple of Wisconsin hobbyist gunsmiths have already managed to adapt Defense Distributed's so-called Liberator firearm and print it on a $1,725 Lulzbot 3D printer, a consumer grade machine that's far cheaper than the industrial quality Stratasys machine Defense Distributed used. They then proceeded to record their cheaper gun (dubbed the 'Lulz Liberator') firing nine .380 rounds without any signs of cracking or melting. Eight of the rounds were fired from a single plastic barrel. (Defense Distributed only fired one through its prototype.) In total, the Lulz Liberator's materials cost around $25 and were printed over just 48 hours."
walterbyrd writes "In 2012, IBM started retiring the Lotus brand. Now 1-2-3, the core product that brought Lotus its fame, takes its turn on the chopping block. IBM stated, 'Effective on the dates listed below, [June 11, 2013] IBM will withdraw from marketing part numbers from the following product release(s) licensed under the IBM International Program License Agreement:' IBM Lotus 123 Millennium Edition V9.x, IBM Lotus SmartSuite 9.x V9.8.0, and Organizer V6.1.0. Further, IBM stated, 'Customers will no longer be able to receive support for these offerings after September 30, 2014. No service extensions will be offered. There will be no replacement programs.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The Australian government came a step closer to formalising its plans to make Asian language study compulsory for schools this week. It has released a draft curriculum for public consultation which reveals plans to include Indonesian, Korean and french language in the curriculum. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly stated in September 2012 that in response to the "staggering growth" in the region, the government would be instigating 25 key measures to strengthen and exploit links with Asia. The plan includes the requirement that one third of civil servants and company directors have a "deep knowledge," thousands of scholarships for Asian students, and the opportunity for every schoolchild to learn one of four "priority" languages- Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Indonesian."
mspohr writes with news that Apple might be in a bit of hot water over its policy of offshoring revenues to favorable tax jurisdictions. Only they take it a step further, from the article: "Apple relied on a 'complex web of offshore entities' and U.S. tax loopholes to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes on $44 billion in offshore income over the past four years ... The maker of iPhones and iPads used at least three foreign subsidiaries that it claims are not 'tax resident in any nation' to help it avoid paying billions in 'otherwise taxable offshore income,' the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a statement yesterday."
judgecorp writes "German researchers from the Fraunhover and Karlsruhe institutes have achieved 40Gbps transfers over 1km using a wireless link. The new record raises the hope that point-to-point wireless could be used instead of expensive fibers in some rural broadband applications." Partially thanks to transmitting between 200GHz and 280GHz.
DavidGilbert99 writes "LulzSec's star burnt brightly in the short period it was active, but things quickly turned sour when its core members began getting arrested. Last week three of the six core members were sentenced in the UK, but this only served to highlight the fact that one member of the group, known as Avunit, has been able to remain unidentified despite the FBI having turned the group's leader Sabu into an informant. Who is Avunit? And does he hold the purse strings of the group's Bitcoin wallet which could have up to $180,000 in it?" As usual, be warned of the horrendous autoplaying video ads surrounding good content at the primary link.