Cellphones

Controversial Study Claims 'Smartphone Addiction' Alters the Brain (inverse.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: In the new paper, presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, a team of radiologists at Korea University report that smartphone addiction changes teenagers' brains. Using brain imaging, they argue that smartphone- and internet-addicted teenagers have imbalanced brain chemistry when compared to their peers who aren't addicted to smartphones or the internet. But scientists not involved with the study have some serious issues with their research. Perhaps the most important of these issues is the fact that "smartphone addiction" is not a scientifically established thing -- at least not yet.

In the study, the team led by Dr. Hyung Suk Seo used "standardized internet and smartphone addiction tests to measure the severity of internet addiction" in nine boys and 10 girls, according to a statement. Then, they used MRS, a brain imaging technique that can identify particular brain chemicals, to examine the participants' brains before and after taking nine weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy to help their "addiction." Compared to a control group, the "smartphone addicts" had skewed levels of neurotransmitters in their brains. In particular, they had a higher ratio of GABA to Glx (glutamateglutamine), which are respectively responsible for slowing down brain signals and exciting neurons. An elevated ratio of GABA to Glx, the researchers concluded, can be associated with the self-reported symptoms of the "smartphone addict" teens, including depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsivity. After 12 of the teens participated in cognitive behavior therapy, the scientists report, their chemical imbalances appeared to even out to look more like the control group's.

Communications

Volunteers Around the World Build Surveillance-Free Cellular Network Called 'Sopranica' (vice.com) 77

dmoberhaus writes: Motherboard's Daniel Oberhaus spoke to Denver Gingerich, the programmer behind Sopranica, a DIY, community-oriented cell phone network. "Sopranica is a project intended to replace all aspects of the existing cell phone network with their freedom-respecting equivalents," says Gingerich. "Taking out all the basement firmware on the cellphone, the towers that track your location, the payment methods that track who you are and who owns the number, and replacing it so we can have the same functionality without having to give up all the privacy that we have to give up right now. At a high level, it's about running community networks instead of having companies control the cell towers that we connect to." Motherboard interviews Gingerich and shows you how to use the network to avoid cell surveillance. According to Motherboard, all you need to do to join Sopranica is "create a free and anonymous Jabber ID, which is like an email address." Jabber is slang for a secure instant messaging protocol called XMPP that let's you communicate over voice and text from an anonymous phone number. "Next, you need to install a Jabber app on your phone," reports Motherboard. "You'll also need to install a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) app, which allows your phone to make calls and send texts over the internet instead of the regular cellular network." Lastly, you need to get your phone number, which you can do by navigating to Sopranica's JMP website. (JMP is the code, which was published by Gingerich in January, and "first part of Sopranica.") "These phone numbers are generated by Sopranica's Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider which provides talk and text services over the internet. Click whichever number you want to be your new number on the Sopranica network and enter your Jabber ID. A confirmation code should be sent to your phone and will appear in your Jabber app." As for how JMP protects against surveillance, Gingerich says, "If you're communicating with someone using your JMP number, your cell carrier doesn't actually know what your JMP number is because that's going over data and it's encrypted. So they don't know that that communication is happening."
Government

Tesla Proves To Be Too Pricey For Germany, Loses Tax Subsidies (reuters.com) 121

Tesla has been removed from Germany's list of electric cars eligible for subsidies because its Model S sedan is too expensive for the scheme. Tesla customers cannot order the Model S base version without extra features that pushed the car above the 60,000 euro ($71,500) price limit, a spokesman for the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Controls (BAFA) said on Friday. From the report: Germany last year launched the incentive scheme worth about 1 billion euros, partly financed by the German car industry, to boost electric car usage. A price cap was included to exempt premium models. "This is a completely false accusation. Anyone in Germany can order a Tesla Model S base version without the comfort package, and we have delivered such cars to customers," Tesla said in a statement. The carmaker said the upper price limit was initially set by the German government to exclude Tesla, but later a compromise was reached "that allows Tesla to sell a low option vehicle that qualifies for the incentive and customers can subsequently upgrade if they wish." It said, however, it would investigate whether any car buyers were denied the no-frills version. Under the subsidy scheme, buyers get 4,000 euros off their all-electric vehicle purchase and 3,000 euros off plug-in hybrids.
Iphone

Every iPhone X Is Not Created Equal (pcmag.com) 74

According to a PC Magazine report that uses data from Cellular Insights, the Qualcomm-powered iPhone X has better LTE performance than the Intel-powered model. From the report: There are three iPhone X models sold globally. Using lab equipment, Cellular Insights tested two of them: the Qualcomm-powered A1865, sold by Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular and in Australia, China, and India; and the Intel-powered A1901, sold by most other global carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile. (The third model, A1902, is only sold in Japan.) Here in the U.S., we anticipate that the SIM-free model sold directly by Apple will be the A1865, as that's the model that supports all four U.S. carriers. For this test, Cellular Insights looked at performance on LTE Band 4, which is used by every major U.S. carrier except Sprint, as well as in Canada and parts of Latin America. Cellular Insights attenuated an LTE signal from a strong -85dBm until the modems showed no performance. While both modems started out with 195Mbps of download throughput on a 20MHz carrier, the Qualcomm difference appeared quickly, as the Intel modem dropped to 169Mbps at -87dBm. The Qualcomm modem took an additional -6dBm of attenuation to get to that speed. Most consumers will feel the difference in very weak signal conditions, where every dBm of signal matters, so we zoomed in on that in the chart below. At very weak signal strength, below -120dBm, the Qualcomm modem got speeds on average 67 percent faster than the Intel modem. The Intel modem finally died at -129dBm and the Qualcomm modem died at -130dBm, so we didn't find a lot of difference in when the modems finally gave out.
AI

Two Technologists Create Black Metal Album Using An AI (theoutline.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Outline: Coditany of Timeness" is a convincing lo-fi black metal album, complete with atmospheric interludes, tremolo guitar, frantic blast beats and screeching vocals. But the record, which you can listen to on Bandcamp, wasn't created by musicians. Instead, it was generated by two musical technologists using a deep learning software that ingests a musical album, processes it, and spits out an imitation of its style. To create Coditany, the software broke "Diotima," a 2011 album by a New York black metal band called Krallice, into small segments of audio. Then they fed each segment through a neural network -- a type of artificial intelligence modeled loosely on a biological brain -- and asked it to guess what the waveform of the next individual sample of audio would be. If the guess was right, the network would strengthen the paths of the neural network that led to the correct answer, similar to the way electrical connections between neurons in our brain strengthen as we learn new skills.
NASA

Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years (nasa.gov) 126

If you tried to start a car that's been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use. NASA announces: Voyager 1, NASA's farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or "puffs," lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980. "With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years," said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Bitcoin

Blockchains Are Poised To End the Password Era (technologyreview.com) 129

schwit1 shares a report from MIT Technology Review: Blockchain technology can eliminate the need for companies and other organizations to maintain centralized repositories of identifying information, and users can gain permanent control over who can access their data (hence "self-sovereign"), says Drummond Reed, chief trust officer at Evernym, a startup that's developing a blockchain network specifically for managing digital identities. Self-sovereign identity systems rely on public-key cryptography, the same kind that blockchain networks use to validate transactions. Although it's been around for decades, the technology has thus far proved difficult to implement for consumer applications. But the popularity of cryptocurrencies has inspired fresh commercial interest in making it more user-friendly.

Public-key cryptography relies on pairs of keys, one public and one private, which are used to authenticate users and verify their encrypted transactions. Bitcoin users are represented on the blockchain by strings of characters called addresses, which are derived from their public keys. The "wallet" applications they use to hold and exchange digital coins are essentially management systems for their private keys. Just like a real wallet, they can also hold credentials that serve as proof of identification, says Reed. Using a smartphone or some other device, a person could use a wallet-like application to manage access to these credentials. But will regular consumers buy in? Technologists will need to create a form factor and user experience compelling enough to convince them to abandon their familiar usernames and passwords, says Meltem Demirors, development director at Digital Currency Group, an investment firm that funds blockchain companies. The task calls for reinforcements, she says: "The geeks are working on it right now, but we need the designers, we need the sociologists, and we need people who study ethics of technology to participate."

Businesses

Homeland Security Claims DJI Drones Are Spying For China (engadget.com) 82

A memo from the Los Angeles office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) says that the officials assess "with moderate confidence that Chinese-based company DJI Science and Technology is providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government." It also says that the information is based on "open source reporting and a reliable source within the unmanned aerial systems industry with first and secondhand access." Engadget reports: Part of the memo focuses on targets that the LA ICE office believes to be of interest to DJI. "DJI's criteria for selecting accounts to target appears to focus on the account holder's ability to disrupt critical infrastructure," it said. The memo goes on to say that DJI is particularly interested in infrastructure like railroads and utilities, companies that provide drinking water as well as weapon storage facilities. The LA ICE office concludes that it, "assesses with high confidence the critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese government could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population." The accusation that DJI is using its drones to spy on the US and scope out particular facilities for the Chinese government seems pretty wacky and the company itself told the New York Times that the memo was "based on clearly false and misleading claims."
The Internet

Was Your Name Stolen To Support Killing Net Neutrality? (dslreports.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched a new tool for users interested in knowing whether their identity was stolen and used to fraudulently support the FCC's attack on popular net neutrality rules. The NY AG's office announced earlier this month that it was investigating identity theft and comment fraud during the FCC's public comment period. Researchers have noted repeatedly how "someone" used a bot to fill the comment proceeding with bogus support for the FCC plan, with many of the names being those of folks who'd never heard of net neutrality -- or were even dead. The new AG tool streamlines the act of searching the FCC proceeding for comments filed falsely in your name, and lets you contribute your findings to the AG's ongoing investigation into identity theft.

"Such conduct likely violates state law -- yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed," noted Schneiderman. "We reached out for assistance to multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC's Inspector General. We offered to keep the requested records confidential, as we had done when my office and the FCC shared information and documents as part of past investigative work." "Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests," stated the AG. "None." As such, the AG is taking its fight to the public itself.

Businesses

Health Risks To Farmworkers Increase As Workforce Ages (npr.org) 77

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: More than 90 percent of California's crop workers were born in Mexico. But in recent years, fewer have migrated to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Researchers point to a number of causes: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn't want to pick vegetables for Americans. As a result, the average farmworker is now 45 years old, according to federal government data. Harvesting U.S. crops has been left to an aging population of farmworkers whose health has suffered from decades of hard labor. Older workers have a greater chance of getting injured and of developing chronic illnesses, which can raise the cost of workers' compensation and health insurance.
Piracy

Netflix Is Not Going to Kill Piracy, Research Suggests (torrentfreak.com) 158

Even as more people than ever are tuning to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming services to look, piracy too continues to thrive, a research suggests. An anonymous reader shares a report: Intrigued by this interplay of legal and unauthorized viewing, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Universidade Catolica Portuguesa carried out an extensive study. They partnered with a major telco, which is not named, to analyze if BitTorrent downloading habits can be changed by offering legal alternatives. The researchers used a piracy-tracking firm to get a sample of thousands of BitTorrent pirates at the associated ISP. Half of them were offered a free 45-day subscription to a premium TV and movies package, allowing them to watch popular content on demand. To measure the effects of video-on-demand access on piracy, the researchers then monitored the legal viewing activity and BitTorrent transfers of the people who received the free offer, comparing it to a control group. The results show that piracy is harder to beat than some would expect. Subscribers who received the free subscription watched more TV, but overall their torrenting habits didn't change significantly. "We find that, on average, households that received the gift increased overall TV consumption by 4.6% and reduced Internet downloads and uploads by 4.2% and 4.5%, respectively. However, and also on average, treated households did not change their likelihood of using BitTorrent during the experiment," the researchers write.
Linux

Linux Journal Ceases Publication (linuxjournal.com) 122

Not too long after Linus Torvalds wrote his own Unix kernel, which he called Linux, in the summer of 1991, a magazine was founded by enthusiasts to focus on the operating system. For more than two decades Linux Journal has been an authority magazine on all things Linux, often cited by mainstream outlets, but it is now shuttering doors. In a blog post, Linux Journal's Carlie Fairchild writes: It looks like we're at the end, folks. If all goes according to a plan we'd rather not have, the November issue of Linux Journal was our last. The simple fact is that we've run out of money, and options along with it. We never had a wealthy corporate parent or deep pockets of our own, and that made us an anomaly among publishers, from start to finish. While we got to be good at flying close to the ground for a long time, we lost what little elevation we had in November, when the scale finally tipped irrevocably to the negative. Thanks for all the fish.
Australia

Tesla Switches on Giant Battery To Shore Up Australia's Grid (reuters.com) 173

Tesla switched on the world's biggest lithium ion battery on Friday in time to feed Australia's shaky power grid for the first day of summer, meeting a promise by Elon Musk to build it in 100 days or give it free. From a report: "South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy," state Premier Jay Weatherill said at the official launch at the Hornsdale wind farm, owned by private French firm Neoen. Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt hour battery for South Australia, which expanded in wind power far quicker than the rest of the country, but has suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months. In a politically charged debate, opponents of the state's renewables push have argued that the battery is a "Hollywood solution" in a country that still relies on fossil fuels, mainly coal, for two-thirds of its electricity.
Mozilla

Mozilla Revenue Jump Fuels Its Firefox Overhaul Plan (cnet.com) 127

Well, now we know what paid for all those programmers cranking out the overhauled Firefox Quantum browser: a major infusion of new money. From a report: Mozilla, the nonprofit behind the open-source web browser, saw its 2016 revenue increase 24 percent to an all-time high of $520 million, it said Friday. Expenses grew too, but not as much, from $361 million to $337 million, so the organization's war chest is significantly bigger now. Mozilla, which now has about 1,200 employees, releases prior-year financial results in conjunction with tax filings. Most of Mozilla's money comes from partnerships with search engines like Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Baidu and Yandex. When you search through Firefox's address bar, those search engines show search ads alongside results and share a portion of the revenue to Mozilla. Mozilla in 2014 signed a major five-year deal with Yahoo to be the default search engine in the US, but canceled it only three years in and moved back to Google instead in November. Mozilla's mission -- to keep the internet open and a place where you aren't in the thrall of tech giants -- may seem abstract. But Mozilla succeeded in breaking the lock Microsoft's Internet Explorer had on the web a decade ago, and now it's fighting the same battle again against Google's Chrome.
United States

House Panel Advances Bill on Key Surveillance Measure (axios.com) 70

The House Intelligence Committee approved a bill Friday along party lines that would reauthorize a central surveillance law, the Washington Post reports. From a report: It does change the law -- known as Section 702 -- but doesn't satisfy surveillance reform advocates, including in the tech industry. The law is used to authorize the surveillance of electronic communications by foreign nationals abroad, but advocates worry about the programs picking up communications involving Americans as well.
AI

Stephen Hawking: 'I Fear AI May Replace Humans Altogether' (wired.co.uk) 281

dryriver writes: Wired magazine recently asked physicist Stephen Hawking what he thinks of everything from AI to the Anti Science Movement. One of the subjects touched on was the control large corporations have over information in the 21st Century. In Hawking's own words: "I worry about the control that big corporations have over information. The danger is we get into the situation that existed in the Soviet Union with their papers, Pravda, which means "truth" and Izvestia, which means "news". The joke was, there was no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia. Corporations will always promote stories that reflect well on them and suppress those that don't." And since this is Slashdot, here's what Stephen Hawking said about Artificial Intelligence: "The genie is out of the bottle. We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans."
Businesses

US 'Orchestrated' Russian Spies Scandal, Says Kaspersky Founder (theguardian.com) 139

Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian: Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive and co-founder of the embattled Russian cybersecurity firm that bears his name, believes his company is at the centre of a "designed and orchestrated attack" to destroy its reputation. Over a short period in the summer of 2017, Kaspersky Labs was the subject of multiple media reports alleging that the company had helped Russian intelligence agencies spy on the US, a number of FBI raids on staff members, and a nationwide ban on the use of its software by federal government agencies. "This media attack and government attack from the United States, it was designed and orchestrated," Mr Kaspersky said at a press conference in London. "Because at the same time, there was government, there was FBI, there was media attack. That is expensive ... I mean all kinds of resources: political influence, money, lobbyists, the media etc." When asked directly whether he had ever been asked to help Russian intelligence agencies spy on the US, Kaspersky vehemently denied any such conversations had ever happened saying: "They have never asked us to spy on people. Never." "If the Russian government comes to me and asks me to do anything wrong, I will move the business out of Russia," he added. "We never helped the espionage agencies, the Russians or any other nation."
Businesses

Disney Sues Redbox, Hoping To Block Digital Movie Sales (marketwatch.com) 285

phalse phace writes: About 1 month ago, Redbox started selling through their kiosks slips of paper with codes on them that lets the buyer download a digital copy of a Disney movie.But Disney says that's a no-no and this week it sued Redbox in an attempt to stop the code sales. According to Marketwatch: "Walt Disney sued Redbox on Thursday in an attempt to stop the DVD rental company from selling digital copies of its movies. Privately held Redbox last month began offering consumers codes they can use to download a digital copy of a Disney movie. Redbox charges between $7.99 and $14.99 for slips of paper with the codes to download Disney films such as "Cars 3" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." That is less than those movies cost to buy and download from Apple's iTunes Store. Redbox is only offering digital copies of Disney movies because it doesn't have a distribution arrangement with the studio and buys retail copies of its discs to rent to customers. Those retail DVDs come with digital download codes."
Chrome

Google Will Block Third-Party Software From Injecting Code Into Chrome (bleepingcomputer.com) 40

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Google has laid out a plan for blocking third-party applications from injecting code into the Chrome browser. The most impacted by this change are antivirus and other security products that often inject code into the user's local browser process to intercept and scan for malware, phishing pages, and other threats. Google says these changes will take place in three main phases over the next 14 months. Phase 1: In April 2018, Chrome 66 will begin showing affected users a warning after a crash, alerting them that other software is injecting code into Chrome and guiding them to update or remove that software. Phase 2: In July 2018, Chrome 68 will begin blocking third-party software from injecting into Chrome processes. If this blocking prevents Chrome from starting, Chrome will restart and allow the injection, but also show a warning that guides the user to remove the software. Phase 3: In January 2019, Chrome 72 will remove this accommodation and always block code injection.
Businesses

The Underground Uber Networks Driven by Russian Hackers (thedailybeast.com) 49

Joseph Cox, reporting for DailyBeat: Uber's ride-sharing service has given birth to some of the most creative criminal scams to date, including using a GPS-spoofing app to rip off riders in Nigeria, and even ginning up fake drivers by using stolen identities. Add to those this nefariously genius operation: Cybercriminals, many working in Russia, have created their own illegitimate taxi services for other crooks by piggybacking off Uber's ride-sharing platform, sometimes working in collaboration with corrupt drivers. Based on several Russian-language posts across a number of criminal-world sites, this is how the scam works: The scammer needs an emulator, a piece of software which allows them to run a virtual Android phone on their laptop with the Uber app, as well as a virtual private network (VPN), which routes their computer's traffic through a server in the same city as the rider. The scammer acts, in essence, as a middleman between an Uber driver and the passenger -- ordering trips through the Uber app, but relaying messages outside of it. Typically, this fraudulent dispatcher uses the messaging app Telegram to chat with the passenger, who provides pickup and destination addresses. The scammer orders the trip, and then provides the car brand, driver name, and license plate details back to the passenger through Telegram.
The Internet

Russia Wants To Launch Backup DNS System By August 1, 2018 (bleepingcomputer.com) 160

An anonymous reader shares a report from BleepingComputer: The Russian government plans to build its own "independent internet infrastructure" that will be used by BRICS member states -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The plan was part of the topic list at the October meeting of the Russian Security Council, and President Vladimir Putin approved the initiative with a completion deadline of August 1, 2018, according to Russian news agency RT. The Russian Security Council has today formally asked the country's government to start the building of a backup global DNS system that Russia and fellow BRICS member states could use. The Russian Security Council cited the "increased capabilities of western nations to conduct offensive operations in the informational space." Russia, China, and many other countries have criticized the U.S. for hoarding control over the domain naming system (DNS), a position they claim has allowed the U.S. to intercept and tap global internet traffic. The U.S. has relinquished control over the DNS system last year.
Space

SpaceX's First Falcon Heavy Launch Will Now Take Place In 2018 (engadget.com) 130

The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has been delayed to 2018. In an email to Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, "We wanted to fly Heavy this year. We should be able to static fire this year and fly a couple of weeks right after that." Engadget reports: The static fire test will be the first time that all of Heavy's 27 Merlin engines will be fired at once. And if all goes well there, Falcon Heavy should be ready for launch within the first few weeks of 2018. There have been multiple launch delays with Heavy, which Elon Musk has attributed to the development of such a large and powerful rocket being "way, way more difficult" than SpaceX expected. "Falcon Heavy requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbit-class engines," Musk said at the ISS R&D conference in July. "There's a lot that can go wrong there." And because of that, Musk has been very clear about where everyone's expectations should be going into Falcon Heavy's first launch. "There's a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit. I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage -- I would consider that a win," he said.
Social Networks

Vine Co-Founder Dom Hofmann Says He's Working On 'a Follow-Up To Vine' (theverge.com) 54

Last year, the six-second video social media app called Vine was shut down by Twitter. The Verge reports that Vine's co-founder, Dom Hofmann, says he's working on "a follow-up to Vine," where he will be funding the project himself outside of his current company, Interspace. "I'm going to work on a follow-up to vine. i've been feeling it myself for some time and have seen a lot of tweets, dms, etc.," Hofmann tweeted.

Unfortunately, he didn't elaborate on his plans. It's possible the follow-up site could be another short-term video app similar to the original Vine, or some other project that will look to build on the foundation Vine started. Would you be interested in a new Vine-like social media app, or did Vine never really appeal to you to begin with?

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