New submitter aissixtir sends word that Apple has responded to allegations that the NSA has backdoor access to iPhones. Apple said, "Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. ... Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple’s industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them."
harrymcc writes "Over at TIME.com, I rounded up the year's dumbest moments in technology. Yes, the launch of Healthcare.gov is included, as are Edward Snowden's revelations. But so are a bunch of people embarrassing themselves on Twitter, both BlackBerry and Lenovo hiring celebrities to (supposedly) design products, the release of glitchy products ranging from OS X 10.9 Mavericks to the new Yahoo Mail, and much more." I can't think of anything dumber than the NSA's claims that metadata isn't data.
An anonymous reader writes "A presentation at the Chaos Communication Congress explains how X11 Server security with being 'worse than it looks.' The presenter found more than 120 bugs in a few months of security research and is not close to being done in his work. Upstream X.Org developers have begun to call most of his claims valid. The presentation by Ilja van Sprunde is available for streaming."
An anonymous reader writes "Having already imaged the Apollo landing sites on the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has now added China's recent lander and rover to its collection of snapshots."
vikingpower writes "Isabel Allende's The House of The Spirits. Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man. What do these titles have in common? They are banned at a school in the U.S. Yes, in 2013. A project named The Kids' Right to Read Project (by the National Coalition Against Censorship ) investigated three times the average number of incidents, adding to an overall rise in cases for the entire year, according to KRRP coordinator Acacia O'Connor. To date, KRRP has confronted 49 incidents in 29 states this year, a 53% increase in activity from 2012. During the second half of 2013, the project battled 31 new incidents, compared to only 14 in the same period last year. 'It has been a sprint since the beginning of the school year,' O'Connor said. 'We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning to find out another book was on the chopping block. The NCAC also offers a Book Censorship Toolkit on its website."
Mat Honan, a writer for Wired, has posted an article detailing his takeaways from long-term use of Google Glass. He makes particular note of how the device's form factor is much more offensive to others than the actual technology contained within. For example, his wife wanted him to take pictures and shoot videos of their child's birth, but not with Glass: "It was the way Glass looked. It might let me remain in the moment, but my wife worried it would take her out of it, that its mere presence would be distracting because it’s so goddamn weird-looking." It can get unpleasant when strangers are involved: "People get angry at Glass. They get angry at you for wearing Glass. They talk about you openly. It inspires the most aggressive of passive aggression. ... Wearing Glass separates you. It sets you apart from everyone else. It says you not only had $1,500 to plunk down to be part of the “explorer” program, but that Google deemed you special enough to warrant inclusion (not everyone who wanted Glass got it; you had to be selected). Glass is a class divide on your face." Honan found most of the default software to be handy, but the third-party software to be lacking. Glass also facilitated his unintentional switch from an iPhone to an Android phone. He ends the piece by warning of the inevitability of devices like Glass: "The future is on its way, and it is going to be on your face. We need to think about it and be ready for it in a way we weren’t with smartphones."
iFixit has posted a teardown of Apple's new soda-can-shaped Mac Pro. Despite the unusual form factor, it earned a relatively high repairability score: 8/10. iFixit said, "For being so compact, the design is surprisingly modular and easy to disassemble. Non-proprietary Torx screws are used throughout, and several components can be replaced independently." They say it's easy to access the fan and the RAM slots, and while the CPU is buried a bit more deeply, it's still user-replaceable. The Mac Pro doesn't get higher than an 8 because its uses some proprietary connectors and the cable routing is cramped. They add, "There is no room, or available port, for adding your own internal storage. Apple has addressed this with heaps of Thunderbolt, but we'd personally rather use the more widely compatible SATA if we could."
BigZee writes "For many years, I've used a page-a-day diary as both a planner and a method for taking notes. While not perfect, it's proven to be an approach that's worked fairly well for me. Conscious of the limitations, I want this to become more electronic. In principle, I want to be able to use my Nexus 7 for this function. There are some limitations: My workplace uses MS Outlook. However, I am not able to use Evernote (or similar) on my workplace machine. This limits possible integration along the lines proposed with GTD. What I want is to be able to take notes that are organized by date as well as being integrated to a calendar (preferably Google). Additionally, I want to be able to prioritize my work along lines similar to GTD. I'm not averse to spending money for the right software but prefer to use free software where possible. Can anyone suggest what could be used?" The above-linked Wikipedia page lists some relevant Free software as well as closed-source options. If you use such organizing software, though, how do you use it, and how well do you find it works?
Nerval's Lobster writes "Lots of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and developers made headlines in 2013—but in hindsight, Edward Snowden will likely stand as this year's most influential figure in technology. In June, Snowden began feeding top-secret documents detailing the National Security Agency's surveillance programs to The Guardian and other newspapers. Much of that information, downloaded by Snowden while he served as a system administrator at an NSA outpost in Hawaii, suggested that the U.S. government swept up massive amounts of information on ordinary Americans as part of its broader operations. Whatever one's feelings on the debate over privacy and security, it's undeniable that Snowden's documents have increased general awareness of online vulnerability; but whether that's sparked an increased use of countermeasures—including encryption tools—is another matter entirely. On the developer side of things, when you consider the sheer amount of money, time, and code that'll be invested over the next few years in encryption and encryption-breaking, it's clear that Snowden's influence will be felt for quite some time to come—even if the man himself is trapped in Russian exile."
An anonymous reader writes "What could have been entering the public domain in the US on January 1, 2014? Under the law that existed until 1978.... Works from 1957. The books On The Road, Atlas Shrugged, Empire of the Atom, and The Cat in the Hat, the films The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and 12 Angry Men, the article "Theory of Superconductivity," the songs "All Shook Up" and "Great Balls of Fire," and more.... What is entering the public domain this January 1? Not a single published work."
Bennett Haselton writes with four big tips for anyone blessed by the holiday buying frenzy with a new laptop; in particular, these are tips to pass on to non-techie relatives and others who are unlikely to put (say) "Install a Free operating system" at the very top of the list: Here's Bennett's advice, in short: (1) If you don't want to pay for an anti-virus program, at least install a free one. (2) Save files to a folder that is automatically mirrored to the cloud, for effortless backups. (3) Create a non-administrator guest account, in case a friend needs to borrow the computer. (4) Be aware of your computer's System Restore option as a way of fixing mysterious problems that arose recently." Read on for the expanded version; worth keeping in mind before your next friends-and-family tech support call.
Bill Dimm writes "An article on Softpedia claims that Linux distributions using NetworkManager are storing Wi-Fi passwords in plain text in /etc by default. The article recommends encrypting the full disk or removing NetworkManager and using a different tool like netctl. Some of the article comments claim the article is FUD. Is this a real problem?"
First time accepted submitter hrb1979 writes "Thought I'd share an interview with Kang Zhao — the professor behind the machine learning algorithm which could transform online dating. His algorithm takes into account both a user's tastes (in an approach similar to the Netflix recommendation engine) and their attractiveness (by analyzing how many responses they get) — enabling the machine to 'learn' and hence propose higher potential matches. His research was recently covered in both a Forbes' article and the MIT Technology Review, though this interview provides more depth and color."
DavidGilbert99 writes "Fantasy fans are clearly among the most prevalent downloaders of pirated material if the 2013 lists of most pirated films and TV shows is anything to go by. The Hobbit beat Django Unchained and Fast and Furious 6 while on TV, Game of Thrones saw off competition from Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead as the most pirated TV show. While this is clearly losing money for both industries, the US box office doesn't seem to be suffering too much as it is about to record its best year ever."
An anonymous reader writes that USA Today reports "Retired general Michael Hayden ... called on President Obama Monday to ... reject many of the recommendations of the commission he appointed to rein in NSA surveillance ... 'President Obama now has the burden of simply doing the right thing,' ... 'And I think some of the right things with regard to the commission's recommendations are not the popular things. They may not poll real well right now. They'll poll damn well after the next attack ...' ... The commission ... said the recommendations were designed to increase transparency, accountability and oversight at the NSA. Hayden ... oversaw the launch of some of the controversial programs ... He defended them as effective and properly overseen by congressional intelligence committees and a special court. 'Right now, since there have been no abuses and almost all the court decisions on this program have held that it's constitutional, I really don't know what problem we're trying to solve by changing how we do this,' he said."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Charles Stross has written a very clever article where he describes the religious metaphor he uses with non-technical folks to explain the relationship between Mac OS X and UNIX. There is one true religion in operating systems says Stross and it is UNIX although there's also an earlier, older, more arcane religion with far fewer followers, MULTICS, from which UNIX sprang as a stripped-down rules-deficient heresy. If MULTICS is Judaism then UNIX is Christianity. By the mid-1970s there were two main sects: AT&T UNIX, which we may liken unto the Roman Catholic Church, and BSD UNIX, which we may approximate to the Orthodox Churches. In an attempt to control the schisms, the faithful defined a common interoperating subset of the one true religion that all could agree on—the Nicene Creed of UNIX which is probably POSIX. Stross says that today the biggest church in the whole of UNIX is Mac OS X, which rests on the bedrock of Orthodox BSD but "has added an incredible, towering superstructure of fiercely guarded APIs and proprietary user interface stuff that renders it all but unrecognizable to followers of the Catholic AT&T path." But lo, in the late 1980s, UNIX succumbed to the sins of venality, demanding too much money from the faithful and so, in 1991 Linus Torvalds nailed his famous source code release to the cathedral door and kicked off the Reformation. 'The Linux wars were brutal and unforgiving and Linux itself splintered into a myriad of fractious Protestant churches, from the Red Hat wearing Lutherans to the Ubuntu Baptists.' More recently, a deviant faith has sprung from Linux. 'Android is the Church of Latter Day Saints of UNIX: hard-working, sober, evangelizing the public, and growing at a ferocious rate. There are some strange fundamentalist Mormon Android churches living in walled communities under the banners of Samsung and Amazon, but for the most part the prosperous worship at the Church of Google.' Stross notes that as with all religion, those sects with most in common are the ones who hold the most vicious grudges against one another. 'Is that clear?'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Some high-profile tech initiatives really crashed-and-burned this year. Did BlackBerry executives really think that BlackBerry 10 would spark a miraculous turnaround, or were they simply going through the motions of promoting it? That's the key question as BlackBerry 10 devices fail to sell. Then there's Facebook's misbegotten attempt at 'skinning' the Android OS with its Home app. Or maybe Healthcare.gov counts as 2013's biggest debacle, with its repeated crashes and glitches and inability to carry out core functions. What do you think was the biggest software or hardware (or both) mishap of the past twelve months?"
An anonymous reader writes with news that the UK is introducing new laws tightening security around military bases, quoting the article "The Ministry of Defense is set to introduce "draconian" new powers to tighten security and limit access to US airbases in Britain implicated in mass surveillance and drone strikes, The Independent can reveal. ... Among the 20 activities to be banned within the controlled area are camping 'in tents, caravans, trees or otherwise,' digging, engaging in 'any trade or business' or grazing any animal. Also among the offenses, which can result in an individual being 'taken into custody without warrant,' is a failure to pick up dog waste or causing damage to 'any crops, turfs, plants, roots or trees'"