Lasrick writes "Interesting piece about April's physical attack on a power station near San Jose, California, that now looks like a dress rehearsal for future attacks: Quote: 'When U.S. officials warn about "attacks" on electric power facilities these days, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a computer hacker trying to shut the lights off in a city with malware. But a more traditional attack on a power station in California has U.S. officials puzzled and worried about the physical security of the the electrical grid--from attackers who come in with guns blazing.'"
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beaverdownunder writes with an extract from The Guardian, based on a security diclosure from Gibson Security: "Snapchat users' phone numbers may be exposed to hackers due to an unresolved security vulnerability, according to a new report released by a group of Australian hackers. Snapchat is a social media program that allows users to send pictures to each other that disappear within 10 seconds. Users can create profiles with detailed personal information and add friends that can view the photos a user shares. But Gibson Security, a group of anonymous hackers from Australia, has published a new report with detailed coding that they say shows how a vulnerability can be exploited to reveal phone numbers of users, as well as their privacy settings." Snapchat downplays the significance of the hole.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from California: "According to the article, 'Officials at the Federal Bureau of Prisons say an inmate escaped from a minimum security area of the federal prison in Lompoc. Prison officials say Jeffrey Kilbride, 48, was discovered missing at around 1:30 p.m. on Friday....A search is reportedly underway. Prison officials say Kilbride was serving a 78-month sentence for conspiracy and fraud. He was due to be released on December 11, 2015.'" Here's why Kilbride was in prison.
An anonymous reader writes "Last year, Jordan Mechner, the creator of the Prince of Persia video game franchise, released the long-thought-lost original Apple II source code for Prince of Persia. Today marks the release of version 2.0 of apoplexy, the free and open-source level editor of Prince of Persia for DOS. Roughly 5.5 years after its initial release, support has been added for editing Prince of Persia 2 levels in both GNU/Linux and Windows. The game has its 25th anniversary next year, but the original trilogy only has a (very) small fan community. Will old games such as this also interest future generations or will they gradually lose their appeal because of technological advances?"
theodp writes "Over at The Atlantic, Taylor Clark's epic Jesse Willms, the Dark Lord of the Internet tells the tale of how one of the most notorious alleged hustlers in the history of e-commerce made a fortune on the Web. 'Accusing Willms of being a scammer,' Clark writes, 'does him a disservice; what he accomplished elicits something close to awe, even among his critics.' The classic themes Willms' company employed in 'sponsored' links for products that included colon cleansers, teeth whiteners, and acai supplements, Clark reports, included dubious scientific claims and fake articles ('farticles'); implied endorsements from celebrities and TV networks; incredible 'testimonials"; manipulative plays on insecurities ('You wouldn't have to worry about being the 'fat bridesmaid' at your sister's wedding!'); and 'iron-clad' guarantees that 'free trials' of the products were absolutely 'risk free.' But beneath his promises of a 'free trial,' the FTC alleged, Willms buried an assortment of charges in the fine print of his terms and conditions. After the 14-day trial period for each product, customers automatically became enrolled in monthly subscription plans, for up to $80 a month. 'The product was never the point,' explained an FTC attorney. 'The point was to get as many hits on each credit card as you could.' Despite a publicized $359 million settlement with the FTC, Jesse Willms is doing just fine financially-and he has a new yellow Lamborghini to prove it. After settling his tax debts, Willms surrendered his assets of just $991,000 to get the financial judgment suspended. Willms has left diet products behind and pivoted into information services. 'As of November,' Clark notes, 'if you searched vehicle history on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, ads for Willms's sites were among the first things you would see.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "The decision of a New York judge that the wholesale collection of cell-phone metadata by the National Security Agency is constitutional ties the score between pro- and anti-NSA forces at one victory apiece. The contradictory decisions use similar reasoning and criteria to come to opposite conclusions, leaving both individuals and corporations uncertain of whether their phone calls, online activity or even data stored in the cloud will ultimately be shielded by U.S. laws protecting property, privacy or search and seizure by law-enforcement agencies. On Dec. 27, Judge William H. Pauley threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that sought to stop the NSA PRISM cell-phone metadata-collection program on the grounds it violated Fourth Amendment provisions protecting individual privacy and limits on search and seizure of personal property by the federal government. Pauley threw out the lawsuit largely due to his conclusion that Fourth Amendment protections do not apply to records held by third parties. That eliminates the criteria for most legal challenges, but throws into question the privacy of any data held by phone companies, cloud providers or external hosting companies – all of which could qualify as unprotected third parties."
cartechboy writes "When you're in a waiting room and get hungry, what do you do? You hit the vending machine for a candy bar or some salty snack food. Now, if you're in China and you need to borrow an electric car from the local car-sharing service, you can do exactly the same thing: go and get one from the vending machine. Just like the Smart-car dispensers seen across Europe, the Kandi car-sharing service dispenses two-seat electric cars with a 75-mile range from a big tower that looks like a huge vending machine full of candy, errrrr, cars. It costs $3.25 an hour to rent one, and China hopes it'll help cut emissions from transportation. So the next time you're in China, and you need a car, just hit up the biggest vending machine you can find."
Freshly Exhumed writes "On the morning of December 26th, 2013, an error on the website of Delta Air Lines' produced impossibly low fare discounts of as much as 90% for about 2 hours before the problem was corrected. Delta, to their PR benefit, have swallowed the losses, and the lucky customers have shared their delight via social media. Unfortunately for many buyers of goods from The Brick furniture retailer, no such consumer warmth is forthcoming. The Brick's website checkout had awarded them an additional 50% off, over and above all other costs, but the official corporate response has been to demand the money be returned. Affected customers are now lashing The Brick with social media opprobrium and drawing direct comparisons with Delta's response. So, given that these are not small, mom-and-pop companies, have we reached a point at which online retailers are expected to just swallow such costs for PR purposes, as part of doing web business?"
jones_supa writes "GNU Octave — the open source numerical computation suite compatible with MATLAB — is doing very well. The new 3.8 release is a big change, as it brings a graphical user interface, a feature which has long been requested by users. It is peppered with OpenGL acceleration and uses the super fast FLTK toolkit for widgets. The CLI interface still remains available and GNUplot is used as a fallback in cases where OpenGL or FLTK support is not available. Other changes to Octave 3.8 are support for nested functions with scoping rules, limited support for named exceptions, new regular expressions, a TeX parser for the FLTK toolkit, overhauls to many of the m-files, function rewrites, and numerous other changes and bug fixes."
An anonymous reader writes "This week, NASA released the results of its Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration's (LLCD) 30-day test carried out by its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) that is currently in orbit around the Moon. According to the space agency, the LLCD mission proved that laser communications are practical at a distance of a quarter of a million miles and that such a system could perform as well, if not better, than any NASA radio system."
mikejuk writes "A recent paper by Dr Rob Jenkins of the Department of Psychology at York University (UK) has managed to prove that you can get useful images of faces from the reflections in eyes. It really is as simple as zooming in. The catch is that the experiments were done with a 39 mega pixel camera — even so the actual final images were low resolution. In the experiment a number of people were photographed with a 'bystander' in a position so that a reflection of their face would be captured in the eye. The resulting extracted image of the reflection in the eye was only 27x36 and then rescaled using bicubic interpolation to 400x240 or bigger and enhanced using standard PhotoShop operations to normalize the contrast and brightness. Test subjects were able to match faces using the low resolution images but the important result was that if the subject knew the person in the photo then recognition went up to 90% with false positives down at 10%. So the next time you appear in a photo consider the fact that a simple procedure might reveal who you are with."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The NYT reports that Milwaukee has begun a pilot program to use cheese brine to keep city roads from freezing, mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt as a way to trim costs and ease pollution. 'You want to use provolone or mozzarella,' says Jeffrey A. Tews, the fleet operations manager for the public works department, which has spread the cheesy substance in Bay View, a neighborhood on Milwaukee's south side. 'Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it.' Local governments across the country have been experimenting with cheaper and environmentally friendly ways of thawing icy thoroughfares, trying everything from sugar beet juice to discarded brewery grain in an attempt to limit the use of road salt, which can spread too thin, wash away and pollute waterways. 'If you put dry salt on a roadway, you typically lose 30 percent to bounce and traffic,' says Emil Norby, who works for Polk County and was the first in Wisconsin to come up with the cheese brine idea to help the salt stick. In a state where lawmakers once honored the bacterium in Monterey Jack as the state's official microbe, residents of Bay View say they have noticed little difference, good or bad, in the smell of their streets, and city officials say they have received no complaints. The mayor of Bay View says it's an experiment, but one that makes sense. The brine will come from the Dresser Farm in Polk County, where it is already being used on the roads. The only cost will be for transportation and distribution. 'We thought, 'Well, let's give it a shot.' The investment in this project is $1,474.'"
PolygamousRanchKid writes with this excerpt from BusinessWeek: "Should YouTube subsidize le cinéma français? France's audiovisual r.egulator thinks so. In a report this week, the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) says that video-sharing websites should be subject to a tax that helps finance the production of French films and TV shows. ... Although the CSA report says that videos posted online by private individuals should not be subject to taxation, it contends that video-sharing sites increasingly have become 'professional' content providers. ... Separately, France is considering a tax on smartphones, tablets, and other devices as another source of revenue for cultural subsidies. The proposed tax would raise an estimated €86 million annually that would be used to finance the 'cultural industries' digital transition,' France's Culture Ministry said at the time."
McGruber writes "Myer, Australia's largest department store chain, has closed its website 'until further notice' at the height of the post-Christmas (and Australian summer) sales season. The website crashed on Christmas Day and has been down ever since. This means Myer will see no benefit for those days from booming domestic online sales, which were tipped to hit $344 million across the retail sector on Boxing Day alone. Teams from IBM and Myer's information technology division were 'working furiously' to fix the problem."