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! ×
Earth

First Gene Drive In Mammals Could Aid Vast New Zealand Eradication Plan (technologyreview.com) 301

wisebabo writes: Say goodbye to our little whiskered friends! There is an effort to wipe out not just any species, (there's been discussions to wipe out the mosquitos that carry Malaria), but a mammal. Specifically the house mouse which, along with other invasive species introduced by Westerners, have ravaged New Zealand's ecosystem. (Amongst other things they've rendered extinct many of the flightless birds there). They'll try using the "gene drive" in mammals, which is a new genetic weapon made possible by the editing system CRISPR-Cas9. Basically, it'll make all of the children of the genetically engineered mice male and then all of their children male and so on. This'll continue until there are no females left and the population will crash. If this is successful, they want to use this technique on other species until all of the predators on New Zealand are wiped out.
Japan

Excessive Radiation Inside Fukushima Fries Clean-Up Robot (gizmodo.com) 307

"A remotely-controlled robot sent to inspect and clean a damaged reactor at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant had to be pulled early when its onboard camera went dark, the result of excess radiation," reports Gizmodo. "The abbreviated mission suggests that radiation levels inside the reactor are even higher than was reported last week -- and that robots are going to have a hell of a time cleaning this mess up." From the report: Last week, Gizmodo reported that radiation levels inside the containment vessel of reactor No. 2 at Fukushima reached a jaw-dropping 530 sieverts per hour, a level high enough to kill a human within seconds. Some Japanese government officials questioned the reading because Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding (TEPCO) calculated it by looking at camera interference on the robot sent in to investigate, rather than measuring it directly with a geiger counter or dosimeter. It now appears that this initial estimate may have been too low. Either that, or TEPCO's robot is getting closer to the melted fuel -- which is very likely. High radiation readings near any of the used fuel are to be expected. Yesterday, that same remotely operated robot had to be pulled when its camera began to fail after just two hours of exposure to the radiation inside the damaged reactor. Accordingly, TEPCO has revised its estimate to about 650 sieverts per hour, which is 120 more sieverts than what was calculated late last month (although the new estimate comes with a 30 percent margin of error). The robot is designed to withstand about 1,000 accumulated sieverts, which given the failure after two hours, jibes well with the camera interference. This likely means that the melted fuel burned through its pressure vessel during the meltdown in March of 2011, and is sitting somewhere nearby.
Medicine

Amputees Control Virtual Prosthetic Arm Using Nerve Signals (newscientist.com) 8

CanadianRealist writes: Current prosthetic arms are usually controlled by detecting signals from the user twitching muscles in the shoulder or arm. This allows only a limited number of possible movements, such as grasp and release. Researchers have developed a new technique that interprets signals from motor neurons in the spinal cord, allowing for a greater range of control of an arm. Signals from nerves associated with hand and arm movements were mapped to the corresponding movements. Test subjects were able to move a virtual prosthetic arm with greater freedom than has been achieved with muscle-controlled prosthetics. (Note: A virtual prosthetic arm was used rather than a real one as this work is still in the early stages.) The study has been published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Spam

Spammer Faces Decades In Prison For Sending More Than 1 Million Spam Emails (suntimes.com) 146

mi quotes a report from Chicago Sun-Times: A man has been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly sending more than a million spam emails. The indictment charges 36-year-old Michael Persaud of Scottsdale, Arizona, with 10 counts of wire fraud and seeks the forfeiture of four computers, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office. The indictment was returned Dec. 9, 2016, and was unsealed after Persaud was arrested last month in Arizona. Between 2012 and 2015, Persaud used multiple IP addresses and domains to send spam emails over at least nine networks, including several servers in Chicago, according to the indictment. He sent more than a million spam emails to people in the U.S. and abroad, using false names to register domains and creating fraudulent "from address" fields to conceal the fact that he was the one sending the emails. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
mi leaves us with some rather unpleasant imagery, writing: "Personally, I wish [the sentence] carried removal of 1 square millimeter of skin for each message instead."
Republicans

Russia Considers Sending Snowden Back To US As a 'Gift' To Trump (nbcnews.com) 294

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a "gift" to President Donald Trump -- who has called the NSA leaker a "spy" and a "traitor" who deserves to be executed. That's according to a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations and who says a Snowden handover is one of various ploys to "curry favor" with Trump. A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration. Snowden's ACLU lawyer, Ben Wizner, told NBC News they are unaware of any plans that would send him back to the United States. "Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern," Wizner said. Former deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate urged the Trump administration to be cautious in accepting any Snowden offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House had no comment, but the Justice Department told NBC News it would welcome the return of Snowden, who currently faces federal charges that carry a minimum of 30 years in prison. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said talk about returning Snowden is "nonsense." If he were returned to American soil, Snowden -- a divisive figure in America who is seen by some as a hero and others as treasonous -- would face an administration that has condemned him in the strongest terms.
Businesses

Lockheed Martin Screwup Delays Delivery of Air Force GPS Satellites (bloomberg.com) 68

schwit1 writes: Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions. Bloomberg reports: "Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military's targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians' smartphones. The program's latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. 'This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,' Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News. The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite's power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn't conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010. Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris 'immediately notified Lockheed and the government' after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message." So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then they did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan. The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the U.S. tax payer has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.
The Almighty Buck

The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster (vice.com) 120

Jason Koebler quotes a report from Motherboard: The scourge of ticket bots and the immorality of the shady ticket scalpers using them is conventional wisdom that's so ingrained in the public consciousness and so politically safe that a law to ban automated ticket bots passed both houses of Congress unanimously late last year, in part thanks to a high-profile public relations campaign spearheaded by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. But no one actually involved in the ticket scalping industry thinks that banning bots will do much to slow down the secondary market. Seven years after his Los Angeles office was raided by shotgun-wielding FBI agents, Ken Lowson, the man who invented ticket bots, told Motherboard's Jason Koebler he's switched teams. Now, he's out to expose the secrets of the ticket industry in a bid to make sure tickets are sold directly to their fans.
The Courts

Former CIA Analyst Sues Defense Department To Vindicate NSA Whistleblowers (theintercept.com) 22

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: In 2010, Thomas Drake, a former senior employee at the National Security Agency, was charged with espionage for speaking to a reporter from the Baltimore Sun about a bloated, dysfunctional intelligence program he believed would violate Americans' privacy. The case against him eventually fell apart, and he pled guilty to a single misdemeanor, but his career in the NSA was over. Though Drake was largely vindicated, the central question he raised about technology and privacy has never been resolved. Almost seven years have passed now, but Pat Eddington, a former CIA analyst, is still trying to prove that Drake was right. While working for Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., Eddington had the unique opportunity to comb through still-classified documents that outline the history of two competing NSA programs known as ThinThread and Trailblazer. He's seen an unredacted version of the Pentagon inspector general's 2004 audit of the NSA's failures during that time, and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests. In January, Eddington decided to take those efforts a step further by suing the Department of Defense to obtain the material, he tells The Intercept. "Those documents completely vindicate" those who advocated for ThinThread at personal risk, says Eddington.
Australia

Australia's Retailers Join the Local Giant Banks in Their Battle With Apple Pay (nfcworld.com) 68

More trouble for Apple in Down Under. The $300 billion retail sector has hit back at Apple, saying the global tech giant is trying to freeload on the payments infrastructure built by banks and retailers and restricting iPhone access to payments terminals will hinder loyalty schemes. From a report: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has come out in support of the group of four Australian banks seeking stronger negotiation powers with Apple over the introduction of Apple Pay in the country, saying they believe access to the NFC functionality in the iPhone would allow retailers to provide "a richer and more convenient customer experience." The ARA, which represents 5,000 independent and national retailers, says access to the NFC functionality will allow retailers to "develop or participate in mobile wallets that provided a consistent and fully integrated experience to all users regardless of their choice of smartphones" while also allowing loyalty programs, coupons and rewards to be "more effectively integrated into these mobile wallets." "In our view -- for as long as Apple Pay remains the only app that can use the iPhone's NFC functionality -- the potential for innovation in mobile wallets and mobile payments will be limited," the ARA says in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Google

Google Might Be Gearing Up To Remove Millions of Play Store Apps Next Month (pcworld.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld report: Take a look at the digital shelves of the Google Play Store and you're likely to come across a bevy of so-called zombie apps. These apps typically take the form of a knock-off of a popular game or a sloppy utility that doesn't quite match its description, and they strategically turn up alongside legitimate apps, which makes them hard to spot if you're not doing a forensic analysis of reviews while you shop. Now it looks like something is finally being done about them. In a letter uncovered by The Next Web, Google has begun warning some developers that one or more of their apps has been flagged for a lack of an adequate privacy policy, a common problem among these sort of hastily published and subsequently ignored apps. In the message, Google reiterates its policy, which "requires developers to provide a valid privacy policy when the app requests or handles sensitive user information." Such permissions include camera, microphone, account, contacts, or phone access, which requires a transparent disclosure of how user data is handled, according to Google's requirements. It's unclear how many letters were sent out, but The Next Web estimates it could affect millions of apps.
Microsoft

Microsoft Allowed To Sue US Government Over Email Surveillance (bloomberg.com) 56

A judge has ruled that Microsoft is allowed to sue the U.S. government over a policy that prevents the tech company from telling its users when their emails are being intercepted. From a report on Bloomberg: The judge said Microsoft has at least made a plausible argument that federal law muzzles its right to speak about government investigations, while not ruling on the merits of the case. "The public debate has intensified as people increasingly store their information in the cloud and on devices with significant storage capacity," U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in Thursday's ruling. "Government surveillance aided by service providers creates unique considerations because of the vast amount of data service providers have about their customers."
Iphone

Apple Fails To Remove 'Deleted' Safari Web Browser Histories From iCloud (betanews.com) 29

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Apple was storing Safari browsing histories in iCloud, even after they had been 'deleted' by the user, with such records being kept going back to 2015 -- although apparently this was an accidental by-product of the way the cloud syncing system works rather than anything malicious, and the issue has now been fixed. This information first came to light in a Forbes report, which cited Vladimir Katalov, the chief executive of Elcomsoft, a Russian security firm (which focuses on password/system recovery). Katalov stumbled onto the issue when reviewing the browsing history on his iPhone, when he discovered his supposedly deleted surfing history still present in iCloud, being able to extract it by using his company's Phone Breaker tool.
Security

State-sponsored Hackers Targeting Prominent Journalists, Google Warns (politico.com) 102

State-sponsored hackers are attempting to steal email passwords of a number of prominent journalists, Google has warned. The hackers are suspected to be Russians, reports POLITICO. Some of the journalists who have received such warnings from Google as recent as two-to-three weeks ago include Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine, Julia Ioffe, who recently started at The Atlantic, Ezra Klein of Vox, and CNN's Brian Stelter. From the report: "The fact that all this started right after the election suggests to me that journalists are the next wave to be targeted by state-sponsored hackers in the way that Democrats were during it," said one journalist who got the warning. "I worry that the outcome is going to be the same: Someone, somewhere, is going to get hacked, and then the contents of their Gmail will be weaponized against them -- and by extension all media."
Transportation

How UPS Trucks Saved Millions of Dollars By Eliminating Left Turns (ndtv.com) 359

Some people probably already know this, but for those who don't: UPS truck drivers don't take left turns, and despite this usually resulting in longer route, they are saving millions of dollars in fuel costs. From a report: The company decided on eliminating left turns (or right turns in left-hand driving countries such as India) wherever possible after it found that drivers have to sit idly in the trucks while waiting to take the left turn to pass through traffic. So, it created an algorithm that eliminated left turns from drivers' routes even if meant a longer journey. This meant that drivers do not have to wait in traffic to take a left turn and can take the right turn at junctions. Of course, the algorithm does not entirely eliminate left turns, but the number of left turns taken by UPS trucks is less than 10 percent of all turns made. Turns out that UPS was right -- the idea really paid off. In 2005, a year after it announced that it will minimize left turns, the company said that the total distance covered by its 96,000 trucks was reduced by 747,000km, and 190,000 litres of fuel had been saved. In 2011, Bob Stoffel, a UPS Senior Vice President, told Fortune that the company had reduced distance traveled by trucks by 20.4 million miles, and reduced CO2 emissions by 20,000 metric tons, by not taking left turns. A recent report by The Independent says that the total reduction in distance traveled by UPS trucks now stands at 45.8 million miles, and there are 1,100 fewer trucks in its fleet because of the algorithm. Even by conservative estimates, that's tens of millions of dollar of savings in fuel costs. Senior VP Bob Stoffel explained how it works on CNN a few years ago.
AT&T

More Than 20,000 AT&T Workers Are Getting Ready To Protest Nationwide (fortune.com) 73

Aaron Pressman, reporting for Fortune: Some 21,000 workers in AT&T's wireless business have overwhelming voted to authorize a strike just ahead of the expiration of their contract on Saturday. The vote, which was expected, comes after 17,000 additional workers in AT&T's phone, internet, and cable services in Nevada and California also approved a strike authorization last month. They have been working without a contract since April. But despite the strike authorization votes -- a common tactic to increase pressure on management during labor negotiations -- AT&T said it was still seeking to find common ground with its workers. Unlike some of its peers, AT&T has had a long run of labor peace with its workers and their main union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
Piracy

Internet Backbone Provider Cogent Blocks Pirate Bay and Other 'Pirate' Sites (torrentfreak.com) 186

Several Pirate Bay users from ISPs all over the world have been unable to access their favorite torrent site for more than a week. Their requests are being stopped in the Internet backbone network of Cogent Communications, which has blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of The Pirate Bay and many other torrent and streaming sites, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: When the average Internet user types in a domain name, a request is sent through a series of networks before it finally reaches the server of the website. This also applies to The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites such as Primewire, Movie4k, TorrentProject and TorrentButler. However, for more than a week now the US-based backbone provider Cogent has stopped passing on traffic to these sites. The sites in question all use CloudFlare, which assigned them the public IP-addresses 104.31.18.30 and 104.31.19.30. While this can be reached just fine by most people, users attempting to pass requests through Cogent's network are unable to access them.
Facebook

How Tech Ate the Media and Our Minds (axios.com) 82

From a report: On average, we check our phones 50 times each day -- with some studies suggesting it could three times that amount. We spend around 6 hours per day consuming digital media. As a result, the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000, while the goldfish attention span is nine seconds. And we just mindlessly pass along information without reading or checking it. Columbia University found that nearly 60 percent of all social media posts are shared without being clicked on.
Intel

Intel Confirms 8th Gen Core On 14nm, Data Center First To New Nodes (anandtech.com) 78

Ian Cutress, writing for AnandTech: Intel's 8th Generation Core microarchitecture will remain on the 14nm node. This is an interesting development with the recent launch of Intel's 7th Generation Core products being touted as the 'optimization' behind the new 'Process-Architecture-Optimization' three-stage cadence that had replaced the old 'tick-tock' cadence. With Intel stringing out 14nm (or at least, an improved variant of 14nm as we've seen on 7th Gen) for another generation, it makes us wonder where exactly Intel can promise future performance or efficiency gains on the design unless they start implementing microarchitecture changes.
Chrome

Most of the Web Really Sucks If You Have a Slow Connection (danluu.com) 325

Dan Luu, hardware/software engineer at Microsoft, writes in a blog post: While it's easy to blame page authors because there's a lot of low-hanging fruit on the page side, there's just as much low-hanging fruit on the browser side. Why does my browser open up 6 TCP connections to try to download six images at once when I'm on a slow satellite connection? That just guarantees that all six images will time out! I can sometimes get some images to load by refreshing the page a few times (and waiting ten minutes each time), but why shouldn't the browser handle retries for me? If you think about it for a few minutes, there are a lot of optimizations that browsers could do for people on slow connections, but because they don't, the best current solution for users appears to be: use w3m when you can, and then switch to a browser with ad-blocking when that doesn't work. But why should users have to use two entirely different programs, one of which has a text-based interface only computer nerds will find palatable?
Programming

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Know a Developer is Doing a Good Job? 229

An anonymous reader writes: One of the easiest ways to evaluate a developer is keeping a tab on the amount of value they provide to a business. But the problem with this approach is that the nature of software development does not make it easy to measure the value a single developer brings. Some managers are aware of this, and they look at the number of lines of code a developer has written. The fewer, the better, many believe. I recently came across this in a blog post, "If you paid your developers per line of code, you would reward the inefficient developers. An analogy to this is writing essays, novels, blog posts, etc. Would you judge a writer solely on the number of words written? Probably not. There are a minimum number of words needed to get a complex point across, but those points get lost when a writer clutters their work with useless sentences. So the lines of code metric doesn't work. The notion of a quantifiable metric for evaluating developers is still attractive though. Some may argue that creating many code branches is the mark of a great developer. Yet I once worked with a developer who would create code branches to hide the fact that he wasn't very productive." Good point. But then, what other options do we have?
Businesses

Tesla Employee Calls For Unionization, Musk Says That's 'Morally Outrageous' (arstechnica.com) 594

"In a Medium post published today, Tesla employee Jose Moran detailed working conditions at the company's Freemont factory and called for the factory workers to unionize with United Auto Workers (UAW)," reports Ars Technica. In response, Elon Musk told Gizmodo via Twitter Direct Messages: "Our understanding is that this guy was paid by the UAW to join Tesla and agitate for a union. Frankly, I find this attack to be morally outrageous. Tesla is the last car company left in California, because costs are so high." Musk went on to blame the UAW for killing the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc (NUMMI), which sold the Fremont factory to Musk in 2010. Ars Technica reports: Tesla currently employs more than 5,000 non-union workers at its Fremont, CA-based factory. Moran wrote that the workers are often faced with "excessive mandatory overtime" and earn between $17 and $21 hourly, compared with the national average of $25.58 hourly for most autoworkers in the U.S. The Tesla employee noted that the astronomical cost of living in the Bay Area makes $21 an hour difficult to live on. Moran also claimed that the factory's "machinery is often not ergonomically compatible with our bodies," and requires "too much twisting and turning and extra physical movement to do jobs that could be simplified if workers' input were welcomed." He added that at one point, six out of eight people on his team were out on medical leave "due to various work-related injuries."
Moon

A Guide To Friday's Comet-Eclipse-Full-Moon Triple Feature (cnet.com) 28

SonicSpike quotes a report from CNET: Even if you aren't a space nerd whose idea of a good time is craning your neck to stare into the vast nothingness of space on a frigid evening, this Friday the heavens will put on a show worth heading outdoors for. A penumbral lunar eclipse, a full "snow moon" and a comet will be spicing up the night sky February 10 in a rare convergence of such celestial happenings. We'll start with our nearest neighbor. February brings the full moon known as the "snow moon" because this month in North America tends to see a lot of the white fluffy stuff. This snow moon will be special though because, well... we'll all get in its way in a sense when the penumbral lunar eclipse takes place Friday. The eclipse will be at least partly visible from most but not all places on Earth (sorry Australia and Japan). The moment of greatest eclipse is at 4:43 p.m. PT and the eclipse will then dissipate until it completes a little over two hours later, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Next up, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova has actually been visible with binoculars and telescopes for several weeks already, but it will be at its closest approach to Earth on the morning of February 11 as it passes by at a distance of 7.4 million miles (11.9 million kilometers) or 30 times further away than the moon.
Security

Attacks On WordPress Sites Intensify As Hackers Deface Over 1.5 Million Pages (bleepingcomputer.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: "Attacks on WordPress sites using a vulnerability in the REST API, patched in WordPress version 4.7.2, have intensified over the past two days, as attackers have now defaced over 1.5 million pages, spread across 39,000 unique domains," reports BleepingComputer. "Initial attacks using the WordPress REST API flaw were reported on Monday by web security firm Sucuri, who said four groups of attackers defaced over 67,000 pages. The number grew to over 100,000 pages the next day, but according to a report from fellow web security firm WordFence, these numbers have skyrocketed today to over 1.5 million pages, as there are now 20 hacking groups involved in a defacement turf war." Making matters worse, over the weekend Google's Search Console service, formerly known as Google Webmaster, was sending out security alerts to people it shouldn't. Google attempted to send security alerts to all WordPress 4.7.0 and 4.7.1 website owners (vulnerable to the REST API flaw), but some emails reached WordPress 4.7.2 owners. Some of which misinterpreted the email and panicked, fearing their site might lose search engine ranking.

Slashdot Top Deals