The Military

The US Is Testing a Microwave Weapon To Stop North Korea's Missiles (vox.com) 210

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: According to an NBC News report, the weapon -- which is still under development -- could be put on a cruise missile and shot at an enemy country from a B-52 bomber. It's designed to use microwaves to target enemy military facilities and destroy electronic systems, like computers, that control their missiles. The weapon itself wouldn't damage the buildings or cause casualties. Air Force developers have been working with Boeing on the system since 2009. They're hoping to receive up to $200 million for more prototyping and testing in the latest defense bill. There's just one problem. It's not clear that the weapon is entirely ready for use -- and it's not clear that it would be any more effective than the powerful weapons the U.S. already possesses. The weapon, which has the gloriously military-style name of Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, isn't quite ready for action, but it could be soon. Two unnamed Air Force officials told NBC that the weapon could be ready for use in just a few days.
Businesses

ISP Disclosures About Data Caps and Fees Eliminated By Net Neutrality Repeal (arstechnica.com) 276

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission forced ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. Since the requirements were part of the net neutrality rules, they will be eliminated when the FCC votes to repeal the rules next week. Ars Technica reports: While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to keep some of the commission's existing disclosure rules and to impose some new disclosure requirements, ISPs won't have to tell consumers exactly what everything will cost when they sign up for service. There have been two major versions of the FCC's transparency requirements: one created in 2010 with the first net neutrality rules, and an expanded version created in 2015. Both sets of transparency rules survived court challenges from the broadband industry. The 2010 requirement had ISPs disclose pricing, including "monthly prices, usage-based fees, and fees for early termination or additional network services." That somewhat vague requirement will survive Pai's net neutrality repeal. But Pai is proposing to eliminate the enhanced disclosure requirements that have been in place since 2015. Here are the disclosures that ISPs currently have to make -- but won't have to after the repeal:

-Price: the full monthly service charge. Any promotional rates should be clearly noted as such, specify the duration of the promotional period and the full monthly service charge the consumer will incur after the expiration of the promotional period.
-Other Fees: all additional one time and/or recurring fees and/or surcharges the consumer may incur either to initiate, maintain, or discontinue service, including the name, definition, and cost of each additional fee. These may include modem rental fees, installation fees, service charges, and early termination fees, among others.
-Data Caps and Allowances: any data caps or allowances that are a part of the plan the consumer is purchasing, as well as the consequences of exceeding the cap or allowance (e.g., additional charges, loss of service for the remainder of the billing cycle).

Pai's proposed net neutrality repeal says those requirements and others adopted in 2015 are too onerous for ISPs.

Android

Android 8.0 Oreo For Android Wear Released (9to5google.com) 8

According to a Google developer, Android 8.0 Oreo is rolling out to Android Wear devices starting today. The developer said "timing is determined by each watch's manufacturer." 9to5Google notes that there are "no major redesigns with Oreo for the wearable platform," but there are some useful tweaks. From the report: There is a new option to disable touch-to-wake called "Touch lock" in Settings that Google positions as being useful in wet conditions. Google has added the ability to control the strength of vibrations for incoming notifications. Referred to as the "Vibration pattern," options include Normal, Long, and Double. Meanwhile, there is now a toggle to manually enable the "Battery saver," instead of having to wait until the device hits a low charge. This mode disables Vibration, Location services, Wi-Fi & mobile usage, Data & app updates, and the Always-on display. Meanwhile, the update includes notification channels for apps that should provide more granular user control. Google also shared that Wear is now available in seven new countries and languages: Belgium (Dutch), Czech Republic (Czech), El Salvador (Spanish), Honduras (Spanish), Nigeria (English), Paraguay (Spanish), and Portugal (Portuguese).
Medicine

What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse (npr.org) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Doctors in New York say a woman in her 20s came in three days after looking at the Aug. 21 eclipse without protective glasses. She had peeked several times, for about six seconds, when the sun was only partially covered by the moon. Four hours later, she started experiencing blurred and distorted vision and saw a central black spot in her left eye. The doctors studied her eyes with several different imaging technologies, described in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, and were able to observe the damage at the cellular level.

"We were very surprised at how precisely concordant the imaged damage was with the crescent shape of the eclipse itself," noted Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, in an email to NPR. He says this was the most severely injured patient they saw after the eclipse. All in all, 22 people came to their urgent care clinic with concerns about possible eclipse-related damage, and most of them complained of blurred vision. Of those, only three showed some degree of abnormality in the retina. Two of them had only mild changes, however, and their symptoms have gone away. The young woman described in this case report, at last check, still has not recovered normal vision.
For your viewing pleasure, The Verge has embedded several images of the woman's retinas in their report.
Bitcoin

Bank of America Wins Patent For Crypto Exchange System (coindesk.com) 51

New submitter psnyder shares a report from CoinDesk: [The patent] outlined a potential cryptocurrency exchange system that would convert one digital currency into another. Further, this system would be automated, establishing the exchange rate between the two currencies based on external data feeds. The patent describes a potential three-part system, where the first part would be a customer's account and the other two would be accounts owned by the business running the system. The user would store their chosen cryptocurrency through the customer account. The second account, referred to as a "float account," would act as a holding area for the cryptocurrency the customer is selling, while the third account, also a float account, would contain the equivalent amount of the cryptocurrency the customer is converting their funds to. That third account would then deposit the converted funds back into the original customer account for withdrawal. The proposed system would collect data from external information sources on cryptocurrency exchange rates, and use this data to establish its own optimal rate. The patent notes this service would be for enterprise-level customers, meaning that if the bank pursues this project, it would be offered to businesses.
Software

Apple Has Ruined Its Podcasts App (slate.com) 130

Mike Pesca, host of Slate's daily podcast The Gist, writes about the recent interface changes to Apple's Podcasts app (condensed): Up until two months ago, the Apple Podcasts app was the only podcasting app I used. It gave me a nice, workable list of the shows I liked; let me know when those shows were updated; played the shows easily and without glitches; and offered the option of listening in double speed. I knew where everything was, and I thought of its shortcomings not as features the app was lacking but more like things one simply could not do with a podcast. If the Apple Podcast app wasn't great for sharing podcasts via email or text -- and it was not -- I told myself, "That just must be something that's hard for a podcast app to execute." I figured the best a podcasting app could do was to facilitate sharing the feed of a show, rather than the specific episode I was listening to. I never dared dream I could send a specific time within that episode. What sorcery is that? But sometime in the past few months, the Apple app began to fail me. Of my four basic requirements, three suffered. The list of the shows I listened to was now incomplete. There was no longer a number denoting how many episodes of each show I had on the app. The list of unplayed episodes had melded into the list of played episodes. I was offered the opportunity to browse my "Library," but access to any "card catalog" or "Dewey Decimal System" proved elusive. Apple kept pushing me toward my "recently updated" shows, but these weren't the offerings most useful to me every time I checked back in.
Businesses

Tesla Could Be Hogging Batteries and Causing a Global Shortage, Says Report (gizmodo.com) 154

According to a report from the Korea news outlet ETNews, Tesla's solution to fixing a manufacturing bottleneck responsible for a $619 million loss last quarter could be causing a global battery shortage. Panasonic reportedly gave most of its cache of batteries in Japan to Tesla so that the automaker and Gigafactory 1 energy-storage company could keep up with its ambitious production schedule. Gizmodo reports: In early October, Tesla struggled with a "production bottleneck," but by the end of the month, Panasonic stated it would increase battery output at the Gigafactory, now that it understood the issues that led to the bottleneck and could automate some of the processes that had been done by hand. But this likely did not help Tesla fix any immediate shortage issues. ETNews claims that Panasonic is coping with the shortage by shipping batteries in from Japan. And many Japanese companies in need of cylinder batteries have turned to other suppliers like LG, Murata, and Samsung -- but those companies have not been able to meet the demands. Reportedly, companies that had contracts before 2017 aren't affected by the shortage, but several other manufacturers have not been able to place orders for batteries, and won't be able to order more batteries until the middle of next year.
Government

Volkswagen Executive Sentenced To Maximum Prison Term For His Role In Dieselgate (arstechnica.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, a U.S. District judge in Detroit sentenced Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen executive, to seven years in prison for his role in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal of 2015. Schmidt was also ordered to pay a criminal penalty of $400,000, according to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release. The prison term and the fine together represent the maximum sentence that Schmidt could have received under the plea deal he signed in August. Schmidt, a German citizen who lived in Detroit as an emissions compliance executive for VW, was arrested in Miami on vacation last January. In August, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to making a false statement under the Clean Air Act. Schmidt's plea deal stated that the former executive could face up to seven years in prison and between $40,000 and $400,000 in fines.

Last week, Schmidt's attorneys made a last-minute bid requesting a lighter sentence for Schmidt: 40 months of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. Schmidt also wrote a letter to the judge, which surfaced over the weekend, in which the executive said he felt "misused" by his own company and claimed that higher-ranked VW executives coached him on a script to help him lie to a California Air Resources Board (CARB) official. Instead, Schmidt was sentenced to the maximum penalties outlined in the plea deal. Only one other VW employee has been sentenced in connection with the emissions scandal: former engineer James Liang, who received 40 months in prison and two years of supervised release as the result of his plea deal. Although six other VW Group executives have been indicted, none is in U.S. custody.

Bitcoin

Cryptocurrency Miners Are Using Old Tires to Power Their Rigs (vice.com) 78

Christopher Malmo, writing for Motherboard: An entrepreneurial cryptocurrency mining company has just announced an unusual deal: it has partnered with a tire-based waste-to-energy company in the United States to power its mining computers. Standard American Mining and PRTI, a tire "thermal demanufacturing" company based in North Carolina, are powering graphics cards-based mining equipment to earn a range of alternative cryptocurrencies like Ethereum. Basically, they take used tires and heat them to a precise temperature, resulting in components like steel (from belted tires), carbon black, and a burnable fuel. That fuel is the energy source driving turbines to make electricity, which powers an onsite cryptocurrency mining farm. Taking advantage of an underutilized electricity source to run computers isn't groundbreaking, but the unusual set-up shows that cryptocurrency mining is now profitable enough to justify finding quite unconventional sources of cheap or new energy generation.
Businesses

No One Makes a Living on Crowdfunding Website Patreon (theoutline.com) 178

Brent Knepper, writing for The Outline (condensed): Patreon is basically a payments processor designed like a social network. Every creator sets up a profile where they fill out a prompt about what they're making: "Oliver Babish is creating cooking videos," or "Hannah Alexander is creating Art and Costume Designs inspired by pop culture and Art Nouveau." Patreon encourages creators to provide a description of themselves and their work and strongly suggests uploading a video. [...] Today, successful Patreon creators include Chapo Trap House, a lefty podcast with 19,837 patrons at the time of writing paying $88,074 a month; the new commentator and YouTuber Philip DeFranco (13,823 patrons paying an amount that is undisclosed, but is enough to put him in the top 20 creators on the site); and the gaming YouTuber Nerd (4,494 patrons, $8,003 per month). But despite the revolutionary rhetoric, the success stories, and the goodwill that Patreon has generated, the numbers tell a different story. Patreon now has 79,420 creators, according to Tom Boruta, a developer who tracks Patreon statistics under the name Graphtreon. Patreon lets creators hide the amount of money they are actually making, although the number of patrons is still public. Boruta's numbers are based on the roughly 80 percent of creators who publicly share what they earn. Of those creators, only 1,393 -- 2 percent -- make the equivalent of federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $1,160 a month, in October 2017. Worse, if we change it to $15 per hour, a minimum wage slowly being adopted by states, that's only .8 percent of all creators. In this small network designed to save struggling creatives, the money has still concentrated at the top.
Google

Inside Oracle's Cloak-and-dagger Political War With Google (recode.net) 83

schwit1 shares a Recode report: The story that appeared in Quartz this November seemed shocking enough on its own: Google had quietly tracked the location of its Android users, even those who had turned off such monitoring on their smartphones. But missing from the news site's report was another eyebrow-raising detail: Some of its evidence, while accurate, appears to have been furnished by one of Google's fiercest foes: Oracle. For the past year, the software and cloud computing giant has mounted a cloak-and-dagger, take-no-prisoners lobbying campaign against Google, perhaps hoping to cause the company intense political and financial pain at a time when the two tech giants are also warring in federal court over allegations of stolen computer code. Since 2010, Oracle has accused Google of copying Java and using key portions of it in the making of Android. Google, for its part, has fought those claims vigorously. More recently, though, their standoff has intensified. And as a sign of the worsening rift between them, this summer Oracle tried to sell reporters on a story about the privacy pitfalls of Android, two sources confirmed to Recode.
Google

Google's Mobile Search Results Now Include Videos Of Celebrities Answering Your Questions (techcrunch.com) 63

Google is testing a new feature that will allow celebrities and other notable figures to answer users' search queries directly in the form of "selfie" videos posted in the Google Search results. From a report: The company says this program is initially being piloted on mobile with a handful of people for now, including Priyanka Chopra, Will Ferrell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Gina Rodriguez, Kenan Thompson, Allison Williams, Nick Jonas, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Seth MacFarlane, Jonathan Yeo and Dominique Ansel. Of course, the celebs aren't answering users' queries in real-time. Instead, Google has had them pre-record their videos in response to what it already knows are some of fans' most-asked questions typed into the Google search box.
IT

Amazon Opens Registration For .BOT Domain Name (amazonregistry.com) 44

Amazon began accepting registration requests for .BOT domain name from the public this week as the e-commerce giant comes to realize the potential of the top level domain name it secured rights for two years ago. For now, Amazon is keeping the registration for .BOT domains limited. "Creators with published bots who use Amazon Lex, Microsoft Bot Framework and Dialogflow can validate a bot and register a .BOT domain name," the company said, noting that the limited registration phase would end on March 30, 2018. At the time of registration, Amazon requires users to sign into their Amazon account and validate their published bot.
Businesses

Kaspersky To Close Washington Office But Expand Non-State Sales (bloomberg.com) 65

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Russian software-maker, whose products are banned for use in federal information systems by the U.S. government, is seeking to remain in the North American market and prove its products have no hidden capabilities. Kaspersky Lab Inc. will close its Washington D.C. office that was selling to the government and will keep working with non-federal customers in the U.S. via its remaining offices in the country, vice-president Anton Shingarev said in an interview in Moscow. The company also committed in October to open its product's source code to an independent third-party review and plans to open new offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto next year. "This allows independent experts to verify that our software has no hidden functionality, that it doesn't send your files to third parties, doesn't spy on you and fully complies with the end-user agreement," Shingarev said. The U.S. banned government use of Kaspersky software in September, citing founder Eugene Kaspersky's alleged ties to Russian intelligence and the possibility its products could function as "malicious actors" to compromise federal information systems. The move caused concern about the company's products in other markets, including the U.K.
United States

San Francisco To Restrict Goods Delivery Robots (bbc.com) 114

San Francisco officials have voted to restrict where delivery robots can go in the city, in a blow for the burgeoning industry. From a report: Start-ups will have to get permits to use such bots, which will be restricted to less crowded urban areas. Opponents are concerned about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children. Walk San Francisco, a group that campaigns for pedestrian safety, wanted a complete ban. A range of companies have begun trialling small robots that can deliver food and other goods. They use sensors and lasers in a similar way to self-driving cars in order to navigate their routes. Robotics company Marble - which describes its machines as "friendly, neighbourhood robots" - began testing in San Francisco earlier this year.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Nears $17,000 After Climbing About $4,000 in Less Than a Day 457

As economists attempt to make sense of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency rocketed above $17,000 for the first time moments ago, adding about $4,000 to its price in fewer than 24 hours. Security reporter Brian Krebs tweeted on Thursday, "Closing in on $17k per bitcoin now (mind you, it was almost at $16k less than an hour ago. This is totally fine." Late Wednesday, finance author Ben Carlson wrote: Bitcoin has achieved something I've always wanted to see in the stock mkt - a reverse 1987 (20% gain in a single day)
Security

Uber Paid 20-year-old Florida Man To Keep Data Breach Secret (reuters.com) 27

A 20-year-old Florida man was responsible for the large data breach at Uber last year and he was paid by the company to destroy the data through a so-called "bug bounty" program, three people familiar with the events have told Reuters. From the report: Uber announced on Nov. 21 that the personal data of 57 million users, including 600,000 drivers in the United States, were stolen in a breach that occurred in October 2016, and that it paid the hacker $100,000 to destroy the information. But the company did not reveal any information about the hacker or how it paid him the money. Uber made the payment last year through a program designed to reward security researchers who report flaws in a company's software, these people said. Uber's bug bounty service -- as such a program is known in the industry -- is hosted by a company called HackerOne, which offers its platform to a number of tech companies.
Privacy

Keylogger Found On Nearly 5,500 WordPress Sites (bleepingcomputer.com) 83

An anonymous reader writes: Nearly 5,500 WordPress sites are infected with a malicious script that logs keystrokes and sometimes loads an in-browser cryptocurrency miner. The malicious script is being loaded from the "cloudflare.solutions" domain, which is not affiliated with Cloudflare in any way, and logs anything that users type inside form fields as soon as the user switches away from an input field. The script is included on both the sites' frontends and backends, meaning it can steal both admin account credentials and credit card data from WP sites running e-commerce stores. According to site source code search engine PublicWWW, there are 5,496 sites running this keylogger. The attacker has been active since April.
Earth

The Firestorm This Time: Why Los Angeles Is Burning (wired.com) 217

The Thomas Fire spread through the hills above Ventura, in the northern greater Los Angeles megalopolis, with the speed of a hurricane. Driven by 50 mph Santa Ana winds -- bone-dry katabatic air moving at freeway speeds out of the Mojave desert -- the fire transformed overnight from a 5,000-acre burn in a charming chaparral-lined canyon to an inferno the size of Orlando, Florida, that only stopped spreading because it reached the Pacific. Several readers have shared a Wired report: Tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes in Ventura; 150 buildings burned and thousands more along the hillside and into downtown are threatened. That isn't the only part of Southern California on fire. The hills above Valencia, where Interstate 5 drops down out of the hills into the city, are burning. Same for a hillside of the San Gabriel Mountains, overlooking the San Fernando Valley. And the same, too, near the Mount Wilson Observatory, and on a hillside overlooking Interstate 405 -- the flames in view of the Getty Center and destroying homes in the rich-people neighborhoods of Bel-Air and Holmby Hills. And it's all horribly normal. [...] Before humans, wildfires happened maybe once or twice a century, long enough for fire-adapted plant species like chapparal to build up a bank of seeds that could come back after a burn. Now, with fires more frequent, native plants can't keep up. Exotic weeds take root. Fires don't burn like this in Northern California. That's one of the things that makes the island on the land an island. Most wildfires in the Sierra Nevadas and northern boreal forests are slower, smaller, and more easily put out, relative to the south. Trees buffer the wind and burn less easily than undergrowth. Keeley says northern mountains and forests are "flammability-limited ecosystems," where fires only get big if the climate allows it -- higher temperatures and dryer conditions providing more fuel. Climate change makes fires there more frequent and more severe.
Power

Airlines Restrict 'Smart Luggage' Over Fire Hazards Posed By Batteries (npr.org) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Airlines including American, Delta and Alaska have announced restrictions on so-called smart luggage because the lithium-ion batteries found in many of these suitcases pose a fire risk. "Beginning Jan. 15, customers who travel with a smart bag must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked at any point in the customer's journey. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed," American said in a statement on Friday. The same day, Delta and Alaska announced similar policies on their flights.

American's policy dictates that if the bag is carry-on size, passengers can take the luggage onboard, so long as the battery can be removed if needed. If passengers need to check the bag, the battery must be removed and carried onboard. But if the bag has a non-removable battery, it can't be checked or carried on. An FAA spokesman told The Washington Post that the airlines' policies are "consistent with our guidance that lithium-ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold."

Sci-Fi

Jordan Peele To Executive Produce CBS 'The Twilight Zone' Reboot (engadget.com) 64

A couple of weeks ago, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves revealed that the network was planning to reboot the classic fantasy science-fiction TV series "The Twilight Zone." Few details about the show were available at that time, but we have now learned that Jordan Peele, director of the mystery/thriller Get Out, will co-executive produce the show. Engadget reports: The show will be produced by CBS Television Studios, with Simon Kinberg, Marco Ramirez, Win Rosenfeld and Audrey Chon also executive producing. Peele, Kinberg and Ramirez will collaborate on the premiere episode. "Too many times this year it's felt we were living in a twilight zone, and I can't think of a better moment to reintroduce it to modern audiences," Peele said in a statement.
Earth

Earth Will Likely Be Much Warmer In 2100 Than We Anticipated, Scientists Warn (vice.com) 370

According to a new analysis of the most realistic climate models to date, global temperature rise by 2100 could be 15 percent higher than the highest projections from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). What this means is that cuts in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) will have to be even greater than expected to meet the Paris climate target of keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Motherboard reports: The world is a long way from making sufficient emission reductions to meet the Paris climate targets to begin with -- nevermind cutting out another 15 percent. But there's some good news, too. Both rich and poor countries have begun to move away from coal and oil, the two biggest CO2 sources, according to many energy analysts. Patrick Brown is a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, California, a co-author of the study published Wednesday in Nature. "Our results imply 15 percent less cumulative emissions than previously calculated [are needed] in order to stay below 2 degrees Celsius," he told me. Brown and co-authors focused on finding out what future warming might be, using only the climate models that best replicate observations over the last 15-20 years. On a business-as-usual emissions trajectory, they found that the mean global temperature rise would be 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100, compared to the IPCC estimate of 4.3 degrees Celsius. The latter estimate is considered catastrophic for our planet, and would lead to sea level rise of over 30 feet, potentially putting the homes of 600 million people underwater.

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