Businesses

Hollywood, Apple Said To Mull Rental Plan, Defying Theaters (bloomberg.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: Movie studios are considering whether to ignore the objections of cinema chains and forge ahead with a plan to offer digital rentals of films mere weeks after they appear in theaters, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the biggest proponents, including Warner Bros and Universal Pictures, are pressing on in talks with Apple and Comcast on ways to push ahead with the project even without theater chains, the people said. After months of negotiations, the two sides have been unable to arrive at a mutually beneficial way to create a $30 to $50 premium movie-download product. The leading Hollywood studios, except for Walt Disney, are eager to introduce a new product to make up for declining sales of DVDs and other home entertainment in the age of Netflix. They have discussed sharing a split of the revenue from premium video on demand, or PVOD, with the cinema chains if they give their blessing to the concept. But the exhibitors have sought a long-term commitment of as much as 10 years for that revenue split, which the studios have rejected, the people said. Deals with potential distributors such as Apple and Comcast could be reached as soon as early next year to sell digital downloads of major films as soon as two weeks after they debut in theaters, the people said.
Security

Secret Chips in Replacement Parts Can Completely Hijack Your Phone's Security (arstechnica.com) 62

Dan Goodin, writing for ArsTechnica: People with cracked touch screens or similar smartphone maladies have a new headache to consider: the possibility the replacement parts installed by repair shops contain secret hardware that completely hijacks the security of the device. The concern arises from research that shows how replacement screens -- one put into a Huawei Nexus 6P and the other into an LG G Pad 7.0 -- can be used to surreptitiously log keyboard input and patterns, install malicious apps, and take pictures and e-mail them to the attacker. The booby-trapped screens also exploited operating system vulnerabilities that bypassed key security protections built into the phones. The malicious parts cost less than $10 and could easily be mass-produced. Most chilling of all, to most people, the booby-trapped parts could be indistinguishable from legitimate ones, a trait that could leave many service technicians unaware of the maliciousness. There would be no sign of tampering unless someone with a background in hardware disassembled the repaired phone and inspected it. The research, in a paper presented this week (PDF) at the 2017 Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, highlights an often overlooked disparity in smartphone security. The software drivers included in both the iOS and Android operating systems are closely guarded by the device manufacturers, and therefore exist within a "trust boundary."
Operating Systems

Android 8.0's 'Streaming OS Updates' Will Work Even If Your Phone Is Full (arstechnica.com) 40

Regardless of whether or not your phone is full of pictures, or videos, or apps, you will still be able to download and install an OS update with Android 8.0. According to the latest source.android.com documentation, Google has cooked up a scheme to make sure that an "insufficient space" error will never stop an update again. Ars Technica reports: Where the heck can Google store the update if your phone is full, though? If you remember in Android 7.0, Google introduced a new feature called "Seamless Updates." This setup introduced a dual system partition scheme -- a "System A" and "System B" partition. The idea is that, when it comes time to install an update, you can normally use your phone on the online "System A" partition while an update is being applied to the offline "System B" partition in the background. Rather than the many minutes of downtime that would normally occur from an update, all that was needed to apply the update was a quick reboot. At that point, the device would just switch from partition A to the newly updated partition B. When you get that "out of space" error message during an update, you're only "out of space" on the user storage partition, which is just being used as a temporary download spot before the update is applied to the system partition. Starting with Android 8.0, the A/B system partition setup is being upgraded with a "streaming updates" feature. Update data will arrive from the Internet directly to the offline system partition, written block by block, in a ready-to-boot state. Instead of needing ~1GB of free space, Google will be bypassing user storage almost entirely, needing only ~100KB worth of free space for some metadata. Ars Technica goes on to note that the feature will be backported to Google Play Services, and will be enabled on "Android 7.0 and later" devices with a dual system partition setup.
Crime

Feds Crack Trump Protesters' Phones To Charge Them With Felony Rioting (thedailybeast.com) 465

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: Officials seized Trump protesters' cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants' locked cell phones. Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court. [A] July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. The July 21 filing moved to enter evidence from eight seized phones, six of which were "encrypted" and two of which were not encrypted. A Department of Justice representative confirmed that "encrypted" meant additional privacy settings beyond a lock screen. For the six encrypted phones, investigators were able to compile "a short data report which identifies the phone number associated with the cell phone and limited other information about the phone itself," the filing says. But investigators appear to have bypassed the lock on the two remaining phones to access the entirety of their contents.
NASA

How NASA Glimpsed The Mysterious Object 'New Horizons' Will Reach In 2019 (popsci.com) 68

necro81 writes: After its successful flyby of Pluto in July 2015, the New Horizons probe received a mission extension to fly past a Kuiper Belt object -- named 2014 MU69 -- in January 2019. However, we know few details about the object -- its size, shape, albedo, whether it has any companions -- which are crucial for planning the flyby. Based on observations from Hubble, the New Horizons team knew that the object would pass in front of a star -- an occultation -- on July 17th, which could provide some of this data. But the occultation would last for less than a second, would only be visible in Patagonia, and the star itself is quite dim.

NASA set up 24 telescopes near one community to capture the event, and received lots of cooperation from locals: turning off streetlights, shutting down a nearby highway, and setting up trucks as windbreaks. At least five of those telescopes captured the occultation. This was the latest in a series of observations ahead of the flyby.

"We had to go up to farmers' doors and say 'Hi, we're here from NASA, we're wondering if we can set up telescopes in your back pasture?'" one astronomer told Popular Science. "More often than not people were like 'that sounds awesome, sure, we'll help out!'"
The Courts

Federal Appeals Court: You Have a Constitutional Right to Film Police Officers in Public (slate.com) 304

On Friday, a panel of judges for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the First Amendment protects individuals' right to film police officers performing their official duties. From a report: The 3rd Circuit now joins the 1st, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th Circuits in concluding that the Constitution guarantees a right to record. No federal appeals court has yet concluded that the First Amendment does not safeguard the right to film law enforcement officers conducting police activity in public. Friday's decision involved two instances in which the Philadelphia police retaliated against citizens attempting to film them. In the first incident, a legal observer named Amanda Geraci tried to film police arresting an anti-fracking protester when an officer pinned her against a pillar, preventing her from recording the arrest. In the second, a Temple University sophomore named Richard Fields tried to film police officers breaking up a house party when an officer asked him whether he "like[d] taking pictures of grown men" and demanded that he leave. When Fields refused, the officer arrested and detained him, confiscating his phone and looking through its photos and videos. The officer cited Fields for "Obstructing Highway and Other Public Passages," although the charges were dropped when the officer failed to appear at a court hearing. Geraci and Fields filed civil rights suits against the officers who interfered with their filming attempts.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Will Soon Protect Files and Folders From Ransomware (theverge.com) 219

Microsoft is making some interesting security-related changes to Windows 10 with the next Fall Creators Update, expected to debut in September. From a report: Windows 10 testers can now access a preview of the changes that include a new controlled folder access feature. It's designed to only allow specific apps to access and read / write to a folder. If enabled, the default list prevents apps from accessing the desktop, pictures, movies, and documents folders. "Controlled folder access monitors the changes that apps make to files in certain protected folders," explains Dona Sarkar, head of Microsoft's Windows Insiders program. "If an app attempts to make a change to these files, and the app is blacklisted by the feature, you'll get a notification about the attempt."
Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 362

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
The Almighty Buck

The People GoFundMe Leaves Behind (theoutline.com) 242

citadrianne shares a report from The Outline: President Donald Trump's proposed budget seeks to slash $54 billion from social services including programs like Medicaid and Meals on Wheels. As these resources dry up, crowdfunding websites will further entrench themselves as extra-governmental welfare providers in order to fill the gap. For a lucky few, these sites are a lifeline. For most people, they are worthless. Crowdfunding's fatal flaw is that not every campaign ends up getting the money it needs. A recent study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that more than 90 percent of GoFundMe campaigns never meet their goal. For every crowdfunding success story, there are hundreds of failures. "As many happy stories as there are in charitable crowdfunding, there are a lot of really worthy causes when you browse these platforms that nobody has given a cent to," Rob Gleasure, professor at the business school of the National University of Ireland, Cork told The Outline. "People haven't come across them." Feller and Gleasure's report highlighted how fickle crowdfunding can be. Of all the Razoo campaigns started in 2013, they found, more than a third didn't receive any funding at all. According to their report, donors are more likely to give to campaigns that feature lots of pictures and accompanying text.
Facebook

Facebook Wants To Spy On People Using Their Phone's Camera and Analyze Facial Emotions (thesun.co.uk) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Sun: The social network applied for a patent to capture pictures of a user through their smartphone. The creepy designs, which date back to 2015, were discovered by software company CBI Insight, which has been analyzing Mark Zuckerberg's "emotion technology." Patent documents contain illustrations showing a person holding a smartphone with a camera taking a picture from which "emotion characteristics" like smiling or frowning are detected. If the person appears to like what they're seeing, Facebook could place more of the same type of content in front of them. Patents don't always make it through to the end product, so it's not clear whether Facebook will bring out this new feature. Researchers at CBI Insights warned that the plans could put a lot of people off using the service. Facebook appears to have tested out similar technology to work out which emoji to send to people using a selfie.
United States

Before Silicon Valley, New Jersey Was Tech Capital (npr.org) 91

New submitter artmancc writes: It was in New Jersey that Thomas Edison invented sound recording, motion pictures, and the light bulb in what is considered the first modern corporate R&D facility. In other words, Edison invented the modern lab -- teams of people working together, sharing ideas and perfecting devices. In the century after Edison, New Jersey became the place to set up shop if you wanted to invent. On top of all the other assets, the state had lots of inexpensive land available. The transistor and cellular communications came out of AT&T's Bell Labs, also in New Jersey. If it was 1955 and you had to bet on where the next half-century of technical innovation would emerge, the Garden State would be the most likely winner, not some farmland south of San Francisco. As a couple of Jersey natives at NPR note, it didn't quite work out that way. What happened?
Transportation

Your Face or Fingerprint Could Soon Replace Your Plane Ticket (washingtonpost.com) 89

Headed on a trip? You may soon be able to ditch your boarding pass in favor of your fingers or face. From a report: Delta announced, on Wednesday, a new biometric identification pilot program that will eventually let you use your fingerprints instead of a plane ticket (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). That followed a JetBlue announcement hours earlier that it is testing a program in Boston that will match pictures of customers' faces with the passport database maintained by U.S. Custom and Border Protections. Delta's program, which kicked off at Washington's Reagan National Airport, is in partnership with Clear, a company that already lets customers skip to the front of security lines without identification.
Transportation

Elon Musk Posts New Video of 'Boring' Equipment and Company's First Tunnel (cnbc.com) 118

Elon Musk has posted a new video and several pictures of equipment that will be used to start digging tunnels beneath Los Angeles. There's a picture of boring machine segments that are being lowered into the start tunnel at SpaceX, a front view of the tunnel, an inside view of the tunnel, and a picture of the front of the boring machine that will cut through underground rock. Additionally, the video shows a version of the "skate" that will cary cars through the tunnel at a speed of 125 mph. CNBC reports: The project is one of Musk's latest ventures, which was inspired by a desire to alleviate "out of control" traffic in Los Angeles. He aims to first dig a tunnel from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to the nearby Los Angeles airport. Musk frequently flies from Los Angeles to the San Francisco area, where he runs Tesla. Eventually, he envisions a deep, multilayered network of underground tunnels spanning the city.
Operating Systems

New Windows Look and Feel, Neon, Is Officially the 'Microsoft Fluent Design System' (arstechnica.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this year, pictures of a new Windows look and feel leaked. Codenamed Project Neon, the new look builds on Microsoft Design Language 2 (MDL2), the styling currently used in Windows 10, to add elements of translucency and animation. Neon has now been officially announced, and it has an official new name: the Microsoft Fluent Design System. The switch from "design language" to "design system" is deliberate; Fluent is intended to define more than just the appearance, but also the interactivity. Though visually there are common elements, the system is designed to work across virtual/augmented reality, phones, tablets, desktop PCs, games consoles, using mice, keyboards, motion controllers, voice, gestures, touch, and pen, with the interactivity and input optimized to each particular form factor. Fluent is described as having five "fundamentals": light, depth, motion, material, and scale. "Light" means that the interface should avoid distracting and strive to ensure that attention is drawn to where it needs to be. With "depth," Fluent apps will make greater use of layering and the relationships between objects and interface elements. Fluent will use "motion" to indicate relationships and connections between elements, establishing context. Microsoft is using "Material" to mean making best use of the screen space and giving room to content. "Scale" means building interfaces that can go beyond two dimensions, and go beyond the size of a screen, to embrace new form factors and input methods as they arrive.
NASA

What NASA Found Beyond The Rings Of Saturn (omaha.com) 48

NASA's Cassini spacecraft explored the inner edge of the rings of Saturn for the first time, and Phys.org reports that it made a surprising discovery: nothing. "Scientists have been surprised to find that not all that much -- not even space dust -- lies between Saturn's iconic rings." After the first pass, the NASA official managing the project described the the region between the rings and Saturn as "the big empty." An anonymous reader quotes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Cassini also beamed back pictures and other essential data as it maneuvered the 1,500-mile-wide space between the solar system's second largest planet and its icy rings. The images, which take 78 minutes to make the billion-mile trip back to Earth, reveal a blazing, mysterious process of alternating light and darkness in the rings that scientists will be working for years to understand. That seems only fair since it has already taken 20 years for Cassini to be in a position to do what it is doing so far.

Between now and September, Cassini will make 22 dives between Saturn's rings and the planet, clocking at an impressive 76,800 mph each time. The end result should be a treasure trove of stunning images of the planet and its diverse and mysterious rings, along with detailed maps of the gas giant's gravity, magnetic fields and atmospheric conditions. On Sept. 15, it will plunge into Saturn's atmosphere, streaming data back to Earth as it makes its descent of no return.

Businesses

Amazon Wants To Put a Camera and Microphone in Your Bedroom (vice.com) 207

On Wednesday, Amazon announced the Echo Look, the latest gadget in the company's new Echo-powered hardware lineup. Motherboard explains: The newly announced Echo Look is a virtual assistant with a microphone and a camera that's designed to go somewhere in your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever the hell you get dressed. Amazon is pitching it as an easy way to snap pictures of your outfits to send to your friends when you're not sure if your outfit is cute, but it's also got a built-in app called StyleCheck that is worth some further dissection. [...] "All photos and video captured with your Echo Look are securely stored in the AWS cloud and locally in the Echo Look app until a customer deletes them," a spokesperson for the company said. "You can delete the photos or videos associated with your account anytime in the Echo Look App." Motherboard also asked if Echo Look photos, videos, and the data gleaned from them would be sold to third parties; the company did not address that question.
Facebook

Navy, Marines Prohibit Sharing Nude Photos In Wake of a Facebook Scandal (fortune.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: The Navy and Marine Corps issued new regulations that ban members from sharing nude photographs following a scandal involving military personnel sharing intimate pictures of their female colleagues -- some of which were taken without their knowledge -- in a secret Facebook group. The new statute, which was signed Tuesday by Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, went into effect immediately and will be made permanent when the next edition of the Navy's regulations is printed, according to Navy Times. Military courts will handle violations of the new rule. The crackdown comes after a Facebook group was uncovered featuring naked photos of female service members. The group was eventually shut down by Facebook after a request from the Marine Corps. The Center for Investigative Reporting found that some of the photographs posted on the Facebook group may have been taken consensually, but others may not have been.
Encryption

Ransomware Asks For High Score Instead of Money (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Rensenware" forces players to get a high score in a difficult PC shoot-em-up to decrypt their files. As Malware Hunter Team noted yesterday, users on systems infected with Rensenware are faced with the usual ransomware-style warning that "your precious data like documents, musics, pictures, and some kinda project files" have been "encrypted with highly strong encryption algorithm." The only way to break the encryption lock, according to the warning, is to "score 0.2 billion in LUNATIC level" on TH12 ~ Undefined Fantastic Object. That's easier said than done, as this gameplay video of the "bullet hell" style Japanese shooter shows. As you may have guessed from the specifics here, the Rensenware bug was created more in the spirit of fun than maliciousness. After Rensenware was publicized on Twitter, its creator, who goes by Tvple Eraser on Twitter and often posts in Korean, released an apology for releasing what he admitted was "a kind of highly-fatal malware." The apology is embedded in a Rensenware "forcer" tool that Tvple Eraser has released to manipulate the game's memory directly, getting around the malware's encryption without the need to play the game (assuming you have a copy installed, that is). While the original Rensenware source code has been taken down from the creator's Github page, a new "cut" version has taken its place, showing off the original joke without any actually malicious forced encryption.
Facebook

Facebook To Use Photo-Matching To Block Repeat 'Revenge Porn' (aol.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AOL: Facebook is adding tools to make it easier for users to report so-called "revenge porn" and to automatically prevent the images from being shared again once they have been banned, the company said. "Revenge porn" refers to the sharing of sexually explicit images on the internet, without the consent of the people depicted in the pictures, in order to extort or humiliate them. The practice disproportionately affects women, who are sometimes targeted by former partners. Beginning on Wednesday, users of the world's largest social network should see an option to report a picture as inappropriate specifically because it is a "nude photo of me," Facebook said in a statement. The company also said it was launching an automated process to prevent the repeat sharing of banned images. Photo-matching software will keep the pictures off the core Facebook network as well as off its Instagram and Messenger services, it said.
The Internet

Scientists Discover Way To Transmit Taste of Lemonade Over Internet (vice.com) 95

schwit1 quotes a report from VICE: With the use of electrodes and sensors -- and zero lemons -- a group of researchers at the University of Singapore have announced that they can convince you that you're drinking lemonade, even if it's just water. Plus, they can send you a glass of lemonade virtually over the internet. In an experiment that involved 13 tasters, the subjects' taste buds were stimulated using electricity from receiving electrodes; LED lights mimicked a lemony color. Some were convinced that the water they were drinking was, in fact, almost as sour as lemonade. According to researcher Nimesha Ranasinghe, the experiment proved that taste can be shared online: "People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media -- what if you could upload the taste as well? That's the ultimate goal." Each of the subjects was given a tumbler filled with a liquid that was either cloudy white, green, or yellow. They were told to place their tongues on the rim of the tumbler before sipping. Then they took a taste and rated the beverage on appearance and taste. Some of the liquids were plain water and some were lemonade. "We're working on a full virtual cocktail with smell, taste, and color all covered. We want to be able to create any drink." Why would anyone want to drink a virtual lemonade? Advocates of virtual eating say that virtual foods can replace foods that are bad for you, that you may be allergic to, or that you shouldn't eat because of a medical condition.

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