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NASA

Rosetta Spacecraft Prepares To Land On Comet, Solve Lingering Mysteries (sciencemag.org) 8

sciencehabit writes from a report via Science Magazine: All good things must come to an end, and so it will be tomorrow when the Rosetta spacecraft makes its planned soft landing onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the culmination of 2 years of close-up studies. Solar power has waned as 67P's orbit takes it and Rosetta farther from the sun, and so the mission team decided to go on a last data-gathering descent before the lights go out. This last data grab is a bonus after a mission that is already changing theorists' views about how comets and planets arose early in the solar system. Several Rosetta observations suggest that comets form not from jolting mergers of larger cometesimals, meters to kilometers across, but rather from the gentle coalescence of clouds of pebbles. And the detection of a single, feather-light, millimeter-sized particle -- preserved since the birth of the solar system -- should further the view of a quiet birth. The report concludes: "A slew of instruments will keep gathering data as Rosetta approaches the surface at the speed of a gentle stroll. For team members whose instruments have already been turned off to conserve power, the ending is bittersweet -- but their work is far from over. Most instrument teams have only examined their own data, and are just now thinking about combining data sets. "We've just started collaborating with other teams," [Holger Sierks of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, chief of Rosetta's main camera,] says. "This is the beginning of the story, not the end."
Earth

The Americas Are Now Officially 'Measles-Free' (theverge.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Americas are now free of measles and we have vaccines to thank, the Pan American Health Organization said earlier this week. This is the first region in the world to be declared measles-free, despite longtime efforts to eliminate the disease entirely. The condition -- which causes flu-like symptoms and a blotchy rash -- is one of the world's most infectious diseases. It's transmitted by airborne particles or direct contact with someone who has the disease and is highly contagious, especially among small children. To be clear, there are still people with measles in the Americas, but the only cases develop from strains picked up overseas. Still, the numbers are going down: in the U.S. this year, there have been 54 cases, down from 667 two years ago. The last case of measles that developed in the Americas was in 2002. (It took such a long time to declare the region measles-free because of various bureaucratic issues.) Health officials say that credit for this victory goes to efforts to vaccinate against the disease. Though the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for all children and required by many states, anti-vaxxers have protested it due to since-discredited claims that vaccines can cause autism. NPR interviewed Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of GAVI, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve and provide vaccine and immunization coverage to children in the world's poorest countries. She says that 90 to 95 percent of people in a given region need to be vaccinated in order to stop transmission in a region. The rate worldwide is about 80 percent for measles, which means that 20 percent of people around the world are not covered.
Security

The Psychological Reasons Behind Risky Password Practices (helpnetsecurity.com) 63

Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: Despite high-profile, large-scale data breaches dominating the news cycle -- and repeated recommendations from experts to use strong passwords -- consumers have yet to adjust their own behavior when it comes to password reuse. A global Lab42 survey, which polled consumers across the United States, Germany, France, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, highlights the psychology around why consumers develop poor password habits despite understanding the obvious risk, and suggests that there is a level of cognitive dissonance around our online habits. When it comes to online security, personality type does not inform behavior, but it does reveal how consumers rationalize poor password habits. My personal favorite: password paradox. "The survey revealed that the majority of respondents understand that their digital behavior puts them at risk, but do not make efforts to change it," reports Help Net Security. "Only five percent of respondents didn't know the characteristics of a secure password, with the majority of respondents understanding that passwords should contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Furthermore, 91 percent of respondents said that there is inherent risk associated with reusing passwords, yet 61 percent continue to use the same or similar passwords anyway, with more than half (55 percent) doing so while fully understanding the risk." The report also found that when attempting to create secure passwords, "47 percent of respondents included family names or initials," while "42 percent contain significant dates or numbers and 26 percent use the family pet."
Businesses

IBM Buys Promontory Financial Group (zdnet.com) 14

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: IBM said Thursday it plans to acquire compliance consulting firm Promontory Financial Group to bring more financial regulatory expertise to Watson's cognitive computing platform. Promontory is a global consulting operation with an aim of helping banks manage the ever-increasing regulation and risk management requirements in the financial sector. With that in mind, IBM wants to use the industry expertise of Promontory's workforce -- which is made up of ex-regulators and banking executives -- to teach Watson all about regulation, risk and compliance. IBM is also using the deal to create a new subsidiary called Watson Financial Services, which will build cognitive tools for things things like tracking regulatory obligations, financial risk modeling, surveillance, anti-money laundering detection systems. "This is a workload ideally suited for Watson's cognitive capabilities intended to allow financial institutions to absorb the regulatory changes, understand their obligations, and close gaps in systems and practices to address compliance requirements more quickly and efficiently," IBM said in a press release.
Android

Google Rebrands 'Apps for Work' To 'G Suite,' Adds New Features (thenextweb.com) 44

Google has renamed "Apps for Work" to "G Suite" to "help people everywhere work and innovate together, so businesses can move faster and go bigger." They have also added a bunch of new features, such as a "Quick Access" section for Google Drive for Android that uses machine learning to predict what files you're going to need when you open up the app, based off your previous behavior. Calendar will automatically pick times to set up meetings through the use of machine intelligence. Sheets is also using AI "to turn your layman English requests into formulas through its 'Explore' feature," reports The Next Web. "In Slides, Explore uses machine learning to dynamically suggest and apply design ideas, while in Docs, it will suggest backup research and images you can use in your musings, as well as help you insert files from your Drive account. Throughout Docs, Sheets, and Slides, you can now recover deleted files on Android from a new 'Trash' option in the side/hamburger menu." Google's cloud services will now fall under a new "Google Cloud" brand, which includes G Suite, Google Cloud Platform, new machine learning tools and APIs, and Google's various devices that access the cloud. Slashdot reader wjcofkc adds: I just received the following email from Google. When I saw the title, my first thought was that there was malware lying at the end -- further inspection proved it to be real. Is this the dumbest name change in the history of name changes? Google of all companies does not have to try so hard. "Hello Google Apps Customer, We created Google Apps to help people everywhere work and innovate together, so that your organization can move faster and achieve more. Today, we're introducing a new name that better reflects this mission: G Suite. Over the coming weeks, you'll see our new name and logo appear in familiar places, including the Admin console, Help Center, and on your invoice. G Suite is still the same all-in-one solution that you use every day, with the same powerful tools -- Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Calendar. Thanks for being part of the journey that led us to G Suite. We're always improving our technology so it learns and grows with your team. Visit our official blog post to learn more."
Security

The Yahoo Hackers Weren't State-Sponsored, Security Firm Says (csoonline.com) 24

itwbennett writes from a report via CSO Online: After Yahoo raised eyebrows in the security community with its claim that state-sponsored hackers were responsible for the history-making breach, security firm InfoArmor now says it has evidence to the contrary. InfoArmor claims to have acquired some of the stolen information as part of its investigation into "Group E," a team of five professional hackers-for-hire believed to be from Eastern Europe. The database that InfoArmor has contains only "millions" of accounts, but it includes the users' login IDs, hashed passwords, mobile phone numbers and zip codes, said Andrew Komarov, InfoArmor's chief intelligence officer. Earlier this week, Chase Cunningham, director of cyber operations at security provider A10 Networks, called Yahoo's claim of state-sponsored actors a convenient, if trumped up, excuse: "If I want to cover my rear end and make it seem like I have plausible deniability, I would say 'nation-state actor' in a heartbeat." "Yahoo was compromised in 2014 by a group of professional blackhats who were hired to compromise customer databases from a variety of different targeted organizations," Scottsdale, Arizona-based InfoArmor said Wednesday in a report. "The Yahoo data leak as well as the other notable exposures, opens the door to significant opportunities for cyber-espionage and targeted attacks to occur."
News

Slashdot Asks: The Washington Post Says It Publishes Something Every Minute -- How Much Is Too Much? (washingtonian.com) 67

Media outlets are increasingly vying for your attention. But they are also feeding Google's algorithm. Some of them churn hundreds of news articles every day, hoping to offer a diverse range of articles to their readers, and also increase their "search space." The Washington Post is currently running a promotional offer -- letting people get a six-month digital subscription for $10 (pretty good if you ask me). But the Washington Post also mentions that is now publishes a new piece of content every minute. That's like 1,440 articles, videos and other forms of content in one single day. This raises a question: how much content is too much content? How many stories can a person possibly find time to read in a day? Do you feel that perhaps outlets should cut down on the number of things they publish? Or are you happy with the way things are?
AI

Microsoft Forms New AI Research Group Led By Harry Shum (techcrunch.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A day after announcing a new artificial intelligence partnership with IBM, Google, Facebook and Amazon, Microsoft is upping the ante within its own walls. The tech giant announced that it is creating a new AI business unit, the Microsoft AI and Research Group, which will be led by Microsoft Research EVP Harry Shum. Shum will oversee 5,000 computer scientists, engineers and others who will all be "focused on the company's AI product efforts," the company said in an announcement. The unit will be working on all aspects of AI and how it will be applied at the company, covering agents, apps, services and infrastructure. Shum has been involved in some of Microsoft's biggest product efforts at the ground level of research, including the development of its Bing search engine, as well as in its efforts in computer vision and graphics: that is a mark of where Microsoft is placing its own priority for AI in the years to come. Important to note that Microsoft Research unit will no longer be its on discrete unit -- it will be combined with this new AI effort. Research had 1,000 people in it also working on areas like quantum computing, and that will now be rolled into the bigger research and development efforts being announced today. Products that will fall under the new unit will include Information Platform, Cortana and Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams led by David Ku, Derrick Connell and Vijay Mital, respectively. The Microsoft AI and Research Group will encompass AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs, and New Experiences and Technologies (NExT), Microsoft said.
Cellphones

FCC Votes To Upgrade Emergency Smartphone Alerts (cnn.com) 69

After recent bombings, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to update the four-year-old emergency smartphone alerts system, which is used by officials to ping smartphones to alert people of severe weather, missing children, terror attacks or other danger. Some of the new changes allow the system to send texts with links to pictures, maps and phone numbers. CNNMoney reports: The agency also voted to allow longer messages -- 360 characters, up from 90 -- and to require wireless providers to support Spanish-language alerts. Wireless carriers will be allowed to support embedded links later this year. They'll be required to next year. The system's limits were on display last week when millions of New Yorkers received a text alert seeking information on Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspected in bombings in New York and New Jersey. "See media for pic," the alert said. Emergency alerts still won't include embedded photos, but commissioners said they're open to the idea. "Vague directives in text about where to find information about a suspect, just as we saw in New York, are not good enough," said Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner. "As we move into the 5G future, we need to ensure that multimedia is available in all of our alert messages." Not everyone was so sure. Michael O'Rielly, another commissioner, said adding links and multimedia could jam cell networks during emergencies.
The Courts

Four States Sue To Stop Internet Transition (thehill.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Republican attorneys general in four states are filing a lawsuit to block the transfer of internet domain systems oversight from the U.S. to an international governing body. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Nevada Attorney General Paul Laxalt filed a lawsuit on Wednesday night to stop the White House's proposed transition of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. The state officials cite constitutional concerns in their suit against the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. government and the Department of Commerce. "The Obama Administration's decision violates the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution by giving away government property without congressional authorization, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by chilling speech, and the Administrative Procedure Act by acting beyond statutory authority," a statement released by Paxton's office reads. The attorneys generals claim that the U.S. government is ceding government property, pointing to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review that "concluded that the transition does not involve a transfer of U.S. government property requiring Congressional approval." Paxton also echoed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's warnings that the transition could harm free speech on the internet by giving Russia, China and Iran a voice on the international governing body that would oversee internet domain systems. "Trusting authoritarian regimes to ensure the continued freedom of the internet is lunacy," Paxton said. "The president does not have the authority to simply give away America's pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish."
Google

Google Delays Release of Android Wear 2.0 To 2017 (techcrunch.com) 12

Google announced today the next generation of its smartwatch platform -- Android Wear 2.0 -- won't be seeing the light of day this year. The company says that it will release the final version of Android Wear 2.0 in early 2017. From a TechCrunch report: While Google never talked about a final release date for Wear 2.0, its original schedule called for about 30 weeks of alpha and beta testing, which would have put the release date somewhere around the middle of December. Google, however, now says that it has gotten "tons of great feedback from the developer community about Android Wear 2.0" and that it is "committed to improve and iterate based on them to ensure a great user experience." Because of this, the plan is to continue the preview program into early 2017 at which time the first watches will receive the new version.CNET reported recently that three of the top Android Wear smartwatches maker -- LG, Huawei and Motorola -- had confirmed that they won't be releasing new smartwatches until next year, at least.
Networking

Researcher Find D-Link DWR-932 Router Is 'Chock Full of Holes' (helpnetsecurity.com) 49

Reader JustAnotherOldGuy writes: Security researcher Pierre Kim has unearthed a bucketload of vulnerabilities in the LTE router/portable wireless hotspot D-Link DWR-932. Kim found the latest available firmware has these vulnerabilities: Two backdoor accounts with easy-to-guess passwords that can be used to bypass the HTTP authentication used to manage the router
-A default, hardcoded Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) PIN, as well as a weak WPS PIN generation algorithm
- Multiple vulnerabilities in the HTTP daemon
- Hardcoded remote Firmware Over The Air credentials
- Lowered security in Universal Plug and Play, and more.
"At best, the vulnerabilities are due to incompetence; at worst, it is a deliberate act of security sabotage from the vendor," says Kim, and advises users to stop using the device until adequate fixes are provided.

America Online

AOL's Innovative Card-Based Email Service, Alto, Comes To iOS And Android (fastcompany.com) 38

Remember AOL? The company best known for its email service? Three years ago, it released a Pinterest-like platform for desktop email called Alto. Today AOL announced the release of Alto for iOS and Android -- nearly a year after it began beta testing it. FastCompany writes: The app's design is based on the idea that email has shifted from a communication tool to more of a transactional system -- today's inboxes are filled with receipts, order confirmations, and reservations, rather than personal messages. To combat this flood of data, Alto automatically sorts email into stacks, such as "travel," "photos," "files," "shopping," and "personal."
Operating Systems

Raspberry Pi Foundation Unveils New LXDE-Based Desktop For Raspbian Called PIXEL (softpedia.com) 35

Raspberry Pi Foundation's Simon Long has unveiled a new desktop environment for the Debian-based Raspbian GNU/Linux operating system for Raspberry Pi devices. From a Softpedia report (submitted by an anonymous reader):Until today, Raspbian shipped with the well-known and lightweight LXDE desktop environment, which looks pretty much the same as on any other Linux-based distribution out there that is built around LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment). But Simon Long, a UX engineer working for Raspberry Pi Foundation, was hired to make it better, transform it into something that's more appealing to users. So after two years of work, he managed to create a whole new desktop environment for Raspbian, the flagship operating system for Raspberry Pi single-board computers developed and distributed by Raspberry Pi Foundation. Called PIXEL, the new Raspbian desktop offers a more eye-candy design with the panel on top (not on the bottom like on a default LXDE setup), new icons, new Applications Menu, and new theme. "It's actually surprisingly easy to hack about with the LXDE desktop once you get your head around what all the bits do, and since then I've been slowly chipping away at the bits that I felt would most benefit from tweaking," reveals Simon Long. "Stuff has slowly been becoming more and more like my original concept for the desktop; with the latest changes, I think the desktop has reached the point where it's a complete product in its own right and should have its own name."
Businesses

Cable TV Companies Could Lose Nearly $1 Billion in the Next Year From People Ditching Their Subscriptions (businessinsider.com) 213

Nathan McAlone, writing for BusinessInsider: Cable TV companies could lose nearly $1 billion to people cutting the cord over the next year, according to a new study by management consulting firm cg42. The firm estimates that 800,000 cable customers will ditch their subscriptions in the next 12 months. Cg42 expects each customer to be an average loss of $1,248 annually, and losses to approach $1 billion over the year. Cg42 also found that the average cord-cutter saves $104 per month by canceling. Some in the industry have argued that cutting the cord doesn't actually save you money if you subscribe to a bunch of streaming services like Netflix, HBO, and so on. But that point of view neglects the reality that many cable subscribers pay for those streaming services already.

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