The Courts

Supreme Court Set To Hear Landmark Online Sales Tax Case (gizmodo.com) 243

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could at least somewhat clarify Donald Trump's complaints about Amazon "not paying internet taxes." It will also decide if those cheap deals on NewEgg are going to be less of a steal. The case concerns the state of South Dakota versus online retailers Wayfront, NewEgg, and Overstock.com in a battle over whether or not state sales tax should apply to all online transactions in the U.S., regardless of where the customer or retailer is located. It promises to have an impact on the internet's competition with brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as continue to address the ongoing legal questions surrounding real-world borders in the borderless world of online.
United States

Facebook Must Face Class-Action Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition, Says Judge (kfgo.com) 79

U.S. District Judge James Donato ruled on Monday that Facebook must face a class-action lawsuit alleging that the social network unlawfully used a facial recognition process on photos without user permission. Donato ruled that a class-action was the most efficient way to resolve the dispute over facial templates. KFGO reports: Facebook said it was reviewing the ruling. "We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously," the company said in a statement. Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment. Facebook users sued in 2015, alleging violations of an Illinois state law about the privacy of biometric information. The class will consist of Facebook users in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored facial recognition algorithms after June 7, 2011, Donato ruled. That is the date when Facebook launched "Tag Suggestions," a feature that suggests people to tag after a Facebook user uploads a photo. In the U.S. court system, certification of a class is typically a major hurdle that plaintiffs in proposed class actions need to overcome before reaching a possible settlement or trial.
Cloud

Microsoft Built Its Own Custom Linux Kernel For Its New IoT Service (techcrunch.com) 197

At a small press event in San Francisco, Microsoft today announced the launch of a secure end-to-end IoT product that focuses on microcontroller-based devices -- the kind of devices that use tiny and relatively low-powered microcontrollers (MCUs) for basic control or connectivity features. TechCrunch reports: At the core of Azure Sphere is a new class of certified MCUs. As Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith stressed in today's announcement, Microsoft will license these new Azure Sphere chips for free, in hopes to jump-start the Azure Sphere ecosystem. Because it's hard to secure a device you can't update or get telemetry from, it's no surprise that these devices will feature built-in connectivity. And with that connectivity, these devices can also connect to the Azure Sphere Security Service in the cloud. For the first time ever, Microsoft is launching a custom Linux kernel and distribution: the Azure Sphere OS. It's an update to the kind of real-time operating systems that today's MCUs often use.

Why use Linux? "With Azure Sphere, Microsoft is addressing an entirely new class of IoT devices, the MCU," Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's partner director for Windows enterprise and security told me at the event. "Windows IoT runs on microprocessor units (MPUs) which have at least 100x the power of the MCU. The Microsoft-secured Linux kernel used in the Azure Sphere IoT OS is shared under an OSS license so that silicon partners can rapidly enable new silicon innovations." And those partners are also very comfortable with taking an open-source release and integrating that with their products. To get the process started, MediaTek is producing the first set of these new MCUs. These are low-powered, single-core ARM-A7 systems that run at 500MHz and include WiFi connectivity as well as a number of other I/O options.

Businesses

New Child Protection Nonprofit Strikes Back At Sex-Negative Approach of FOSTA-SESTA (youcaring.com) 208

qirtaiba writes: When the FOSTA-SESTA online sex trafficking bill passed last month, it sailed through Congress because there were no child protection organizations that stood against it, and because no member of Congress (with the brave exceptions of Ron Wyden and Rand Paul) wanted to face re-election having opposed a bill against sex trafficking, despite its manifest flaws. In the wake of the law's passage, its real targets -- not child sex traffickers, but adult sex workers and the internet platforms used by them -- have borne the brunt of its effects. Websites like the Erotic Review and Craigslist's personals section have either shut down entirely or for U.S. users, while Backpage.com has been seized, leaving many adult sex workers in physical and financial peril.

A new child protection organization, Prostasia Foundation, has just been announced, with the aim of taking a more sex-positive approach that would allow it to push back against laws that really target porn or sex work under the guise of being child protection laws. Instead, the organization promotes a research-based approach to the prevention of child sexual abuse before it happens. From the organization's press release: "Prostasia Director Jaylen MacLaren is a former child prostitute who used a website like this to screen her clients. She now recognizes those clients as abusers, but she does not blame the website for her suffering. 'I am committed to preventing child sexual abuse, but I don't believe that this should come at the cost of civil liberties and sexual freedom,' Jaylen said. 'I have found ways to express my sexuality in consensual and cathartic ways.'" Nerea Vega Lucio, a member of the group's Advisory Council, said, 'Child protection laws need to be informed by accurate and impartial research, and ensuring that policy makers have access to such research will be a top priority for Prostasia.'"

Wireless Networking

Planet Fitness Evacuated After WiFi Network Named 'Remote Detonator' Causes Scare (windsorstar.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windsor Star: A Michigan gym patron looking for a Wi-Fi connection found one named "remote detonator," prompting an evacuation and precautionary search of the facility by a bomb-sniffing dog. The Saginaw News reports nothing was found in the search Sunday at Planet Fitness in Saginaw Township, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. Saginaw Township police Chief Donald Pussehl says the patron brought the Wi-Fi connection's name to the attention of a manager, who evacuated the building and called police. The gym was closed for about three hours as police responded. Pussehl says there's "no crime or threat," so no charges are expected. He notes people often have odd names for WiFi connections. Planet Fitness says the manager was following company procedure for when there's suspicion about a safety issue.
Operating Systems

ReactOS 0.4.8 Released (osnews.com) 60

jeditobe shares a report from OSNews: With software specifically leaving NT5 behind, ReactOS is expanding its target to support NT6+ (Vista, Windows 8, Windows 10) software. Colin, Giannis and Mark are creating the needed logic in NTDLL and LDR for this purpose. Giannis has finished the side-by-side support and the implicit activation context, Colin has changed Kernel32 to accept software made for NT6+, and Mark keeps working on the shim compatibility layer. Although in a really greenish and experimental state, the new additions in 0.4.8 should start helping several software pieces created for Vista and upwards to start working in ReactOS. Microsoft coined the term backwards compatibility, ReactOS the forward compatibility one. Slashdot reader jeditobe adds: "A new tool similar to DrWatson32 has been created by Mark and added to 0.4.8, so now any application crashing will create a log file on the desktop. This crash dump details the list of modules and threads loaded, stack traces, hexdumps, and register state."

The announcement, general notes, tests, and changelog for the release can be found at their respective links. A less technical community changelog for ReactOS 0.4.8 is also available.
Bitcoin

Coinbase Buys Earn.com For Reported $100 Million, Adds Key Executive (cnbc.com) 8

Digital currency exchange Coinbase announced today that it has acquired Earn.com, a portal that allows people to make money by answering emails or completing other tasks. Coinbase did not disclose the terms of the deal but according to Recode, the offer was more than $100 million. As part of the acquisition, the crypto company will bring on Earn's founder and CEO Balaji Srinivasan as its first-ever chief technology officer. From the report: Srinivasan will act as "technological evangelist" for both the industry, and for Coinbase in his new role, the company said. "Balaji has become one of the most respected technologists in the crypto field and is considered one of the technology industry's few true originalists," Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said in a blog post Monday. Srinivasan holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University, and has taught courses in data mining, stats, genomics, blockchain at his alma mater. He will also be responsible for recruiting more talent, an effort that the San Francisco-based company has beefed up in recent months.
Businesses

California Bill Would Restore, Strengthen Net Neutrality Protections (mercurynews.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Mercury News: With the FCC order to repeal net neutrality rules set to take effect next week, a bill that would restore those regulations in California will get its first hearing Tuesday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). SB 822, written by State Sen. Scott D. Wiener, D-San Francisco, is backed by big names including Tom Wheeler, the Obama-appointed former Federal Communications Commission chairman who wrote the 2015 Open Internet Order. Wheeler is joined by former FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Gloria Tristani in advocating for SB 822, which would in some ways be stronger than the net neutrality rules put in place under President Obama's administration after more than a decade of legal and political wrangling. Those rules required equal treatment of all internet traffic, and prohibited the establishment of internet slow and fast lanes. Wiener's bill would also prohibit "zero rating," in which internet providers exempt certain content, sites and services from data caps. In addition, it would prohibit public agencies in the state from signing contracts with ISPs that violate net neutrality principles, and call for internet service providers to be transparent about their practices and offerings.
Earth

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles (theguardian.com) 218

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles -- by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. From a report: The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug. The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. "What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock," said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. "It's great and a real finding." The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic -- far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.
United States

T-Mobile To Pay $40 Million Over False Ring Tones on Rural US Calls (reuters.com) 77

David Shepardson, writing for Reuters: T-Mobile USA agreed on Monday to pay $40 million to resolve a government investigation that found it failed to correct problems with delivering calls in rural areas and inserted false ring tones in hundreds of millions of calls, the Federal Communications Commission said. T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom, agreed to changes and acknowledged that it had injected false ring tones into hundreds of millions of long-distance rural calls, the FCC said, in violation of FCC rules.

False ring tones "cause callers to believe that the phone is ringing at the called party's premises when it is not," the FCC said, noting uncompleted calls "cause rural businesses to lose revenue, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications."

Transportation

Why New York City Stopped Building Subways (citylab.com) 219

New York City, which once saw an unprecedented infrastructure boom -- putting together iconic bridges, opulent railway terminals to build the then world's largest underground and rapid transit network in just 20 years -- has not built a single new subway line in more than seven decades. As New York's rapid transit system froze, cities across the globe expanded their networks. A closer inspection reveals that things have actually moved backward -- New York's rapid transit network is actually considerably smaller than it was during the Second World War, and due to this, today's six million daily riders are facing constant delays, infrastructure failures, and alarmingly crowded cars and platforms. This raises two questions: Why did New York abruptly stop building subways after the 1940s? And how did a construction standstill that started nearly 80 years ago lead to the present moment of transit crisis? The Atlantic's CityLab explores: Three broad lines of history provide an explanation. The first is the postwar lure of the suburbs and the automobile -- the embodiment of modernity in its day. The second is the interminable battles of control between the city and the private transit companies, and between the city and the state government. The third is the treadmill created by rising costs and the buildup of deferred maintenance -- an ever-expanding maintenance backlog that eventually consumed any funds made available for expansion.

To see exactly how and why New York's subway went off the rails requires going all the way back to the beginning. What follows is a 113-year timeline of the subway's history, organized by these three narratives (with the caveat that no history is fully complete).

Businesses

Demand For Batteries Is Shrinking, Yet Prices Keep On Going and Going ... Up (wsj.com) 208

schwit1 shares a report: Batteries on average cost 8.2% more than a year ago, while prices in the overall household-care segment rose only 1.8%, according to Nielsen. At a time when prices are stagnating on everything from toilet paper to diapers, such pricing power for a product that is increasingly obsolete has confounded shoppers [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. "As far as the prices go, you don't have a choice," said Samuel Hurly, a contractor from Mount Vernon, N.Y., as he scanned a Home Depot display of AAA batteries to power flashlights he uses on the job. Batteries ordered online take too long to arrive, Mr. Hurly said, and he finds cheaper, private-label options lose power too quickly.

Battery prices were more likely to fluctuate a few years ago, when Duracell was owned by consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble Co. and Energizer was part of Edgewell Personal Care Co. Those companies were more focused on their bigger, more profitable razor businesses -- Edgewell with Schick and P&G with Gillette. They would invest less in batteries, or slash prices to drive up volume, to compensate for weak sales in other units, said SunTrust analyst Bill Chappell. Energizer Holdings Inc. spun off from Edgewell in 2015, and Duracell broke apart from P&G a year later when it was acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
schwit1 asks, "Both businesses have become more profit-focused since separating from their previous owners. Is the Energizer/Duracell duopoly ripe for disruption?"
Communications

France is Building Its Own Encrypted Messaging Service To Ease Fears That Foreign Entities Could Spy on Private Conversations (reuters.com) 87

The French government is building its own encrypted messenger service to ease fears that foreign entities could spy on private conversations between top officials, the digital ministry said on Monday. From a report: None of the world's major encrypted messaging apps, including Facebook's WhatsApp and Telegram -- a favorite of President Emmanuel Macron -- are based in France, raising the risk of data breaches at servers outside the country.

About 20 officials and top civil servants are testing the new app which a state-employed developer has designed, a ministry spokeswoman said, with the aim that its use will become mandatory for the whole government by the summer. "We need to find a way to have an encrypted messaging service that is not encrypted by the United States or Russia," the spokeswoman said. "You start thinking about the potential breaches that could happen, as we saw with Facebook, so we should take the lead."

United Kingdom

State-Sponsored Russian Hackers Actively Seeking To Hijack Essential Internet Hardware, US and UK Intelligence Agencies Say (bbc.com) 170

State-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet hardware, US and UK intelligence agencies say. BBC reports: The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security issued a joint alert warning of a global campaign. The alert details methods used to take over essential network hardware. The attacks could be an attempt by Russia to gain a foothold for use in a future offensive, it said. "Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyber-space, so dealing with their attacks is a major priority for the National Cyber Security Centre and our US allies," said Ciaran Martin, head of the NCSC in a statement. The alert said attacks were aimed at routers and switches that directed traffic around the net. Compromised devices were used to look at data passing through them, so Russia could scoop up valuable intellectual property, business information and other intelligence.
Education

Former Senior VP of Apple Tony Fadell Says Company Needs To Tackle Smartphone Addiction (wired.co.uk) 73

In an op-ed published on Wired, former SVP at Apple Tony Fadell argues that smartphone manufacturers -- Apple in particular -- need to do a better job of educating users about how often they use their mobile phones, and the resulting dangers that overuse might bring about. An excerpt: Take healthy eating as an analogy: we have advice from scientists and nutritionists on how much protein and carbohydrate we should include in our diet; we have standardised scales to measure our weight against; and we have norms for how much we should exercise. But when it comes to digital "nourishment", we don't know what a "vegetable", a "protein" or a "fat" is. What is "overweight" or "underweight"? What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like? I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in -- as with nutritional labelling. Interestingly, we already have digital-detox clinics in the US. I have friends who have sent their children to them. But we need basic tools to help us before it comes to that. I believe that for Apple to maintain and even grow its customer base it can solve this problem at the platform level, by empowering users to understand more about how they use their devices. To do this, it should let people track their digital activity in detail and across all devices.
Earth

Carbon Dioxide From Ships at Sea To Be Regulated For First Time (theguardian.com) 136

Carbon dioxide from ships at sea will be regulated for the first time following a historic agreement reached after two weeks of detailed talks in London. From a report: Shipping companies will halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under the plan, brokered by the International Maritime Organization and binding across its 170 member states. The agreement will require a revolution among ships, which are overwhelmingly fuelled by heavy oils at present. In future, they will have to not only be more energy-efficient, but also make use of cleaner energy, in the form of batteries supplying electricity, solar and wind electricity generation, and perhaps even a return to sail in some cases, or more controversially to nuclear power, as some warships already use.

Environmental campaigners said the plan was not enough given the urgency of tackling climate change, though they welcomed the deal, which has taken decades of work. Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and aviation were omitted from the 1997 Kyoto protocol and have been excluded from regulations on carbon ever since, even though shipping is used for 80% of global trade. Although shipping accounts for only about 2% of global carbon emissions, it has been a cause of particular concern, both because of the increased need for transport under the globalising economy and because many ships use dirty, carbon-rich fuels such as heavy diesel, which would be banned in many countries from onshore transport.

United States

US Bans American Companies From Selling To Chinese Electronics Maker ZTE (reuters.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares a report: The U.S. Department of Commerce is banning American companies from selling components to leading Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp for seven years for violating the terms of a sanctions violation case, U.S. officials said on Monday. The Chinese company, which sells smartphones in the United States, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Texas for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran. It paid $890 million in fines and penalties, with an additional penalty of $300 million that could be imposed. As part of the agreement, Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp promised to dismiss four senior employees and discipline 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, senior Commerce Department officials told Reuters. Update: The UK's cyber security watchdog has warned the UK telecoms sector not to use network equipment or services from Chinese supplier ZTE as it would have a "long term negative effect on the security of the UK."
Encryption

Russia Begins Blocking Telegram Messenger (reuters.com) 59

Russia's state telecommunications regulator said on Monday it had begun blocking access to Telegram messenger after the company refused to comply with an order to give Russian state security access to its users' secret messages (encryption keys). From a report: The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement on its website that it had sent telecoms operators a notification about blocking access to Telegram inside Russia. The service, set up by a Russian entrepreneur, has more than 200 million global users and is ranked as the world's ninth most popular mobile messaging app.
Operating Systems

Linus Torvalds Says Linux Kernel v5.0 'Should Be Meaningless' (betanews.com) 162

An anonymous reader shares a report: Following the release of Linux kernel 4.16, Linus Torvalds has said that the next kernel will be version 5.0. Or maybe it won't, because version numbers are meaningless. The announcement -- of sorts -- came in Torvalds' message over the weekend about the first release candidate for version 4.17. He warns that it is not "shaping up to be a particularly big release" and questions whether it even matters what version number is slapped on the final release. He says that "v5.0 will happen some day. And it should be meaningless. You have been warned." That's not to say that Linux kernel v5.0 -- or whatever it ends up being called -- will not be significant. With the removal of old architecture and other bits of tidying up, with v4.17 RC1 there were more lines of code removed than added: something described as "probably a first. Ever. In the history of the universe. Or at least kernel releases."
Security

Hackers Stole a Casino's High-Roller Database Through a Thermometer in the Lobby Fish Tank (businessinsider.com) 245

From a report: Nicole Eagan, the CEO of cybersecurity company Darktrace, told the WSJ CEO Council in London on Thursday: "There's a lot of internet of things devices, everything from thermostats, refrigeration systems, HVAC [air conditioning] systems, to people who bring in their Alexa devices into the offices. There's just a lot of IoT. It expands the attack surface and most of this isn't covered by traditional defenses."

Eagan gave one memorable anecdote about a case Darktrace worked on where an unnamed casino was hacked via a thermometer in a lobby aquarium. "The attackers used that to get a foothold in the network. They then found the high-roller database and then pulled that back across the network, out the thermostat, and up to the cloud," she said.

Movies

Netflix Licensed Content Generates 80% of US Viewing, Study Finds (variety.com) 106

Netflix is spending a pretty penny on original entertainment -- but while that stuff grabs most of the headlines, it's actually licensed titles like TV show reruns that still form the core of the company's streaming business. From a report: That's according to a data analysis from 7Park Data, which found that 80% of Netflix U.S. viewing is from licensed content with 20% from original shows like "House of Cards" or "Stranger Things." The firm also found that 42% of Netflix subscribers watch mostly licensed content (95% or more of their total streaming). Just 18% of Netflix's U.S. streaming customers are "originals dominant," whose viewing comprises 40%-100% of originals, according to 7Park. The data is for the 12-month period that ended September 2017.
Power

Ola Wants a Million Electric Rides on India's Roads by 2021 (bloomberg.com) 28

Ride-hailing company Ola, Uber's fiercest Indian competitor, wants to roll out 10,000 electric three-wheeled rickshaws within a year and a million battery-powered vehicles by 2021. From a report: The startup run by ANI Technologies said it's in policy discussions with several state governments, and is talking with potential partners from automakers to battery producers. It aims to build out an existing pilot project in the central Indian city of Nagpur, where Ola's first EVs have already traveled more than 4 million kilometers. Ola's ambitions dovetail with the Indian government's objectives. Prime Minster Narendra Modi plans to significantly increase the number of new energy vehicles on the road. The power ministry in March said Modi had directed senior ministers to ensure that by 2030 most vehicles in India would be powered by electricity.
Operating Systems

Linux 4.17 Kernel Offers Better Intel Power-Savings While Dropping Old CPUs (phoronix.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: Linus Torvalds has released Linux 4.17-rc1. This kernel comes with a significant amount of new capabilities as outlined by the Linux 4.17 feature overview. Among the new features are AMDGPU WattMan support, Intel HDCP support, Vega 12 GPU enablement, NVIDIA Xavier SoC support, removal of obsolete CPU architectures, and even better support for the original Macintosh PowerBook 100 series. Phoronix testing has also revealed measurable power savings improvements and better power efficiency on Intel hardware. The kernel is expected to be stabilized by June.

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