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AI

New AI Algorithm Beats Even the World's Worst Traffic (vice.com) 126

"Computer scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a new intelligent routing algorithm that attempts to minimize the occurrence of spontaneous traffic jams -- those sudden snarls caused by greedy merges and other isolated disruptions -- throughout a roadway network," reports Motherboard. "It's both computationally distributed and fast, requirements for any real-world traffic management system. Their work is described in the April issue of IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computational Intelligence." From the report: The Nanyang researchers' algorithm starts off by just assuming that, given enough traffic density, shit is going to happen. Someone is going to make a greedy merge -- something is going to cause enough of a traffic perturbation to result in a network breakdown. Breakdown in this context is a technical-ish term indicating that for some period of time the traffic outflow from a segment of roadway is going to be less than the traffic inflow. "We assume that the traffic breakdown model has already been given, and the probability of traffic breakdown occurrence is larger than zero (meaning that traffic breakdowns would occur), and our goal is to direct the traffic flow so that the overall traffic breakdown probability is minimized," Hongliang Guo and colleagues write. Put differently, "our objective is to maximize the probability that none of the network links encounters a traffic breakdown." So, the goal of the algorithm is this maximization, which reduces to a fairly tidy equation. It then becomes a machine learning problem. Things get pretty messy at this point, but just understand that we're taking the current traffic load, adding an unknown additional load that might enter the network at any time, and then coming up with probabilities of network breakdown at each of the network's nodes or intersections. Crunch some linear algebra and we wind up with optimal routes through the network. Crucially, Guo and co. were able to come up with some mathematical optimizations that make this kind of calculation feasible in real-time. They were able to demonstrate their algorithm in simulations and are currently working on a further analysis with BMW, which is providing a vast trove of data from its Munich car-sharing fleet. This may not be as distant a technology as it might seem. As it turns out, only 10 percent of cars in a network need to be driving according to the optimizations for those optimizations to have a positive effect on the entire network.
Piracy

'Pirate' Movie Streaming Sites Declared Legal By Italian Court (torrentfreak.com) 48

A Court of Appeal in Rome has overturned a 600,000 euro ruling against four unlicensed sites that offered streaming movies to the public. From a report: When it comes to passing judgment on so-called 'pirate' sites, Italy has more experience than most around Europe. Courts have passed down many decisions against unlicensed sites which have seen hundreds blocked by ISPs. Today, however, news coming out of the country suggests that the parameters of what defines a pirate site may not be so loosely interpreted in future. It began in 2015 when the operator of four sites that linked to pirated movies was found guilty of copyright infringement by a local court and ordered to pay more almost 600,000 in fines and costs. As a result, filmakers.biz, filmaker.me, filmakerz.org, and cineteka.org all shutdown but in the background, an appeal was filed. The appeal was heard by the Rome Court of Appeal in February and now, through lawyer Fulvio Sarzana who defended the sites' operator, we hear of a particularly interesting ruling. "The Court ruled that the indication of links does not qualify as making direct disposal of files protected by copyright law," Sarzana told TF in an email.
Encryption

After 20 Years, OpenSSL Will Change To Apache License 2.0, Seeks Past Contributors (openssl.org) 109

After nearly 20 years and 31,000 commits, OpenSSL wants to change to Apache License v2.0. They're now tracking down all 400 contributors to sign new license agreements, a process expected to take several months. Slashdot reader rich_salz shares links to OpenSSL's official announcement (and their agreement-collecting web site). "This re-licensing activity will make OpenSSL, already the world's most widely-used FOSS encryption software, more convenient to incorporate in the widest possible range of free and open source software," said Mishi Choudhary, Legal Director of Software Freedom Law Center and counsel to OpenSSL. "OpenSSL's team has carefully prepared for this re-licensing, and their process will be an outstanding example of 'how to do it right.'"
Click through for some comments on the significance of this move from the Linux Foundation, Intel, and Oracle.
Government

FBI Director Comey Confirms Investigation Into Trump Campaign (reuters.com) 536

FBI Director James Comey confirmed during testimony before Congress Monday that the FBI is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with a covert Russian campaign to interfere with the election. From a report on Reuters: Comey told a congressional hearing on Russian activities that the probe "includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. Because it is an open, ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining," Comey said. Earlier, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Republican Representative Devin Nunes, told the same hearing that the panel had seen no evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign. Nunes also denied an unsubstantiated claim from Trump that there had been a wiretap on his Trump Tower in New York but said it was possible other surveillance was used against the Republican.
Government

NY Bill Would Require Removal of Inaccurate, Irrelevant Or Excessive Statements (washingtonpost.com) 155

schwit1 writes: In a bill aimed at securing a "right to be forgotten," introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and (as Senate Bill 4561 by state Sen. Tony Avella), New York politicians would require people to remove "inaccurate," "irrelevant," "inadequate" or "excessive" statements about others... Failure to comply would make the search engines or speakers liable for, at least, statutory damages of $250/day plus attorney fees.
The Washington Post reports the bill's provisions would be as follows: Within 30 days of a "request from an individual, all search engines [and online speakers] shall remove...content about such individual, and links or indexes to any of the same, that is 'inaccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate' or 'excessive,' and without replacing such removed...content with any disclaimer [or] takedown notice.... [I]naccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate', or 'excessive' shall mean content, which after a significant lapse in time from its first publication, is no longer material to current public debate or discourse, especially when considered in light of the financial, reputational and/or demonstrable other harm that the information...is causing to the requester's professional, financial, reputational or other interest, with the exception of content related to convicted felonies, legal matters relating to violence, or a matter that is of significant current public interest, and as to which the requester's role with regard to the matter is central and substantial."
The Media

Nick Denton Predicts 'The Good Internet' Will Rise Again (pcworld.com) 135

Gawker founder Nick Denton argued today that the future will be rooted in sites like Reddit which involve their reader community -- even if there's only a handful of subtopics each user is interested in. "There's a vitality to it and there's a model for what [media] could be," he told an audience at the South by Southwest festival.

But when it comes to other social media sites, "Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world," Denton said. And he attempted to address America's politically-charged atmosphere where professional news organizations struggled to pay their bills while still producing quality journalism. An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld: The internet played a huge role in this crisis, but despite it all, Denton thinks the web can be the solution to the problems it created. "On Google Hangouts chats or iMessage you can exchange quotes, links, stories, media," he said. "That's a delightful, engaging media experience. The next phase of media is going to come out of the idea of authentic, chill conversation about things that matter. Even if we're full of despair over what the internet has become, it's good to remind yourself when you're falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online -- it's an amazing thing. In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That's where the good internet will rise up again."
To show his support for news institutions, Denton has also purchased a paid subscription to the New York Times' site.
Google

Google's Featured Snippets Are Worse Than Fake News (theoutline.com) 183

Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Outline: Peter Shulman, an associate history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, was lecturing on the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s when a student asked an odd question: Was President Warren Harding a member of the KKK? Shulman was taken aback. He confessed that he was not aware of that allegation, but that Harding had been in favor of anti-lynching legislation, so it seemed unlikely. But then a second student pulled out his phone and announced that yes, Harding had been a Klan member, and so had four other presidents. It was right there on Google, clearly emphasized inside a box at the top of the page. "I understand what Google is trying to do, and it's work that perhaps requires algorithmic aid," Shulman said in an email. "But in this instance, the question its algorithm scoured the internet to answer is simply a poorly conceived one. There have been no presidents in the Klan." Google needs to invest in human experts who can judge what type of queries should produce a direct answer like this, Shulman said. "Or, at least in this case, not send an algorithm in search of an answer that isn't simply 'There is no evidence any American president has been a member of the Klan.' It'd be great if instead of highlighting a bogus answer, it provided links to accessible, peer-reviewed scholarship."
The Internet

A Norwegian Website Is Making Readers Pass a Quiz Before Commenting (niemanlab.org) 185

Joseph Lichterman, writing for Nieman Lab: Two weeks ago, NRKbeta, the tech vertical of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, published an explainer about a proposed new digital surveillance law in the country. Digital security is a controversial topic, and the conversation around security issues can become heated. But the conversation in the comments of the article was respectful and productive: Commenters shared links to books and other research, asked clarifying questions, and offered constructive feedback. The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they're allowed to post a comment. The goal is to ensure that the commenters have actually read the story before they discuss it.
Communications

Battle of the Carriers: T-Mobile's New Promotion Offers Three Unlimited Data Lines For $100 (theverge.com) 61

A battle is raging between telecommunications giants and the public is benefiting from it. In response to T-Mobile's "One" unlimited data plan announced in August, Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own a couple of weeks ago. This caused a ripple effect as Sprint and AT&T unveiled new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. The battle appears to show no signs of slowing as the carriers are continuing their efforts to win consumers over. Today, AT&T undercut Verizon and T-Mobile with newer unlimited data plans. The "Unlimited Choice" plan is the cheaper of the two new plans, featuring unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot for $60 per month. While it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option, it may not be as generous as T-Mobile's latest promotion. The company just announced a new promotion after AT&T's announcement that offers three unlimited data lines for $100. The Verge reports: In its continuing efforts to attract more sign-ups, T-Mobile's latest promotion offers an additional line for free for accounts with two or more lines. The offer works whether you want to add an extra phone line or a line for wearables or tablets. The deal is available for current and new customers -- the amount of data available to the free line will match up with whatever your current plan is for the other lines. If your plan does not have the same amount of data between devices, the free line will get whatever's the lowest of the bunch. Just two weeks ago, the company updated its T-Mobile One plan to include unlimited data for $100 a month between two lines. CEO John Legere said the free line promotion also applies this new plan. If you are confused about the four carriers' recent announcements, you are not alone. We have included related links below to help you make sense of each carrier's plans.
Wikipedia

Study Reveals Bot-On-Bot Editing Wars Raging On Wikipedia's Pages (theguardian.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new study from computer scientists has found that the online encyclopedia is a battleground where silent wars have raged for years. Since Wikipedia launched in 2001, its millions of articles have been ranged over by software robots, or simply "bots," that are built to mend errors, add links to other pages, and perform other basic housekeeping tasks. In the early days, the bots were so rare they worked in isolation. But over time, the number deployed on the encyclopedia exploded with unexpected consequences. The more the bots came into contact with one another, the more they became locked in combat, undoing each other's edits and changing the links they had added to other pages. Some conflicts only ended when one or other bot was taken out of action. The findings emerged from a study that looked at bot-on-bot conflict in the first ten years of Wikipedia's existence. The researchers at Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute in London examined the editing histories of pages in 13 different language editions and recorded when bots undid other bots' changes. While some conflicts mirrored those found in society, such as the best names to use for contested territories, others were more intriguing. Describing their research in a paper entitled Even Good Bots Fight in the journal Plos One, the scientists reveal that among the most contested articles were pages on former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, the Arabic language, Niels Bohr and Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the most intense battles played out between Xqbot and Darknessbot which fought over 3,629 different articles between 2009 and 2010. Over the period, Xqbot undid more than 2,000 edits made by Darknessbot, with Darknessbot retaliating by undoing more than 1,700 of Xqbot's changes. The two clashed over pages on all sorts of topics, from Alexander of Greece and Banqiao district in Taiwan to Aston Villa football club.
Censorship

Tor's Ooniprobe, Now Available On Android and iOS, Helps People Track Internet Censorship (cnn.com) 27

In 2012, researchers at Tor announced Ooniprobe, an open-source tool to collect data about local meddling with the computer's network connections, and also whether the government was censoring something. The team has now released a new app, available for Android and iOS, which makes it easier than ever to tell what your government is up to on the web. From a report on CNN Money: The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), which monitors networks for censorship and surveillance, is launching Ooniprobe, a mobile app to test network connectivity and let you know when a website is censored in your area. The app tests over 1,200 websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. You can decide how long to run the test, but the default is 90 seconds and would test between 10 and 20 websites depending on bandwidth. Links to blocked websites are listed in red, while available sites are green. Service providers, sometimes controlled by the government, don't always shutdown the internet entirely -- for instance, Facebook.com might be inaccessible while CNN.com still works. "Not only we will be able to gather more data and more evidence, but we will be able to engage and bring the issue of censorship to the attention of more people," Arturo Filasto, chief developer for the Ooniprobe app, told CNNTech.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Bans Daily Mail As 'Unreliable' Source (theguardian.com) 405

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group "generally unreliable." The move is highly unusual for the online encyclopaedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications and which still allows links to sources such as Kremlin backed news organization Russia Today, and Fox News, both of which have raised concern among editors. The editors described the arguments for a ban as "centered on the Daily Mail's reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication." The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia but does not control its editing processes, said in a statement that volunteer editors on English Wikipedia had discussed the reliability of the Mail since at least early 2015. It said: "Based on the requests for comments section [on the reliable sources noticeboard], volunteer editors on English Wikipedia have come to a consensus that the Daily Mail is 'generally unreliable and its use as a reference is to be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. This means that the Daily Mail will generally not be referenced as a 'reliable source' on English Wikipedia, and volunteer editors are encouraged to change existing citations to the Daily Mail to another source deemed reliable by the community. This is consistent with how Wikipedia editors evaluate and use media outlets in general -- with common sense and caution."
Privacy

72% of 'Anonymous' Browsing History Can Be Attached To the Real User (thestack.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Researchers at Stanford and Princeton have succeeded in identifying 70% of web users by comparing their web-browsing history to publicly available information on social networks. The study "De-anonymizing Web Browsing Data with Social Networks" [PDF] found that it was possible to reattach identities to 374 sets of apparently anonymous browsing histories simply by following the connections between links shared on Twitter feeds and the likelihood that a user would favor personal recommendations over abstract web browsing. The test subjects were provided with a Chrome extension that extracted their browsing history; the researchers then used Twitter's proprietary URL-shortening protocol to identify t.co links. 81% of the top 15 results of each enquiry run through the de-anonymization program contained the correct re-identified user -- and 72% of the results identified the user in first place. Ultimately the trail only leads as far as a Twitter user ID, and if a user is pseudonymous, further action would need to be taken to affirm their real identity. Using https connections and VPN services can limit exposure to such re-identification attempts, though the first method does not mask the base URL of the site being connected to, and the second does not prevent the tracking cookies and other tracking methods which can provide a continuous browsing history. Additionally UTM codes in URLs offer the possibility of re-identification even where encryption is present. Further reading available via The Atlantic.
Programming

Developer Argues For 'Forgotten Code Constructs' Like GOTO and Eval (techbeacon.com) 600

mikeatTB quotes TechBeacon: Some things in the programming world are so easy to misuse that most people prefer to never use them at all. These are the programming equivalent of a flamethrower... [But] creative use of features such as goto, multiple inheritance, eval, and recursion may be just the right solution for experienced developers when used in the right situation. Is it time to resurrect these four forgotten code constructs?
The article notes that the Linux kernel uses goto statements, and links to Linus Torvalds' defense of them. ("Any if-statement is a goto. As are all structured loops...") And it points out that eval statements are supported by JavaScript, Python, PHP, and Ruby. But when the article describes recursion as "more forgotten than forbidden," it begs the inevitable question. Are you using these "forgotten code constructs" -- and should you be?
Stats

Massive Study Links IP Addresses Per Capita To GDP (itnews.com.au) 64

Three researchers "decided to scan the entire IPv4 address range every 15 minutes between 2006-2012 to work out what insights they could gain from humanity's mass connection to the internet," reports ITnews. The study...analysed data from 411 large regions from middle to high-income countries and found a positive correlation between GDP per capita and the number of IP addresses per head. A 10% increase in IP addresses per capita was associated with an 0.8% hike in GDP, the analysis found. The researchers cautioned that the output and productivity growth they noted when the number of IP address increased was correlation rather than causation. Service-oriented sectors -- such as publishing, news, film production, administrative support, and education -- appear to have suffered a negative effect from increasing internet penetration [PDF]. The researchers believe these sectors were susceptible to competition from cheaper outsourcing providers.
Slashdot Bismillah pointed out that the researchers also measured sleeping patterns over seven years, assuming IP addresses of internet-connected devices generally correlated to people who were awake. According to the article, "They found that sleep patterns may be changing and converging around the world: Europeans slept less, East Asians more, while Americans' sleeping patterns remained static over the seven-year period."
Security

Hacker Dumps iOS Cracking Tools Allegedly Stolen From Cellebrite (vice.com) 86

Last year, when Apple refused to unlock the security on an iPhone 5c belonging to the San Bernardino shooter, the FBI turned to an Israeli mobile forensics firm called Cellebrite to find another way into the encrypted iPhone. Now Motherboard reports that a hacker has released files allegedly from Cellebrite that demonstrate how cracking tools couldn't be kept private. From a report: Now the hacker responsible has publicly released a cache of files allegedly stolen from Cellebrite relating to Android and BlackBerry devices, and older iPhones, some of which may have been copied from publicly available phone cracking tools." The ripped, decrypted and fully functioning Python script set to utilize the exploits is also included within," the hacker wrote in a README file accompanying the data dump. The hacker posted links to the data on Pastebin. It's not clear when any of this code was used in the UFED. Many of the directory names start with "ufed" followed by a different type of phone, such as BlackBerry or Samsung. In their README, the hacker notes much of the iOS-related code is very similar to that used in the jailbreaking scene -- a community of iPhone hackers that typically breaks into iOS devices and release its code publicly for free.
Advertising

Google Bans 200 Publishers From Its Ad Network (recode.net) 161

Since it passed a new policy against fake news, Google has banned 200 publishers from its AdSense network, an ad placement service that automatically serves text and display ads on participating sites based on its audience. "The ban was part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites that mislead users with their content," reports Recode. From the report: Not all 200 publishers were swept up as part of the effort to root out fake news sites. Publishers were banned in November and December and included sites that impersonate real news organizations through shortened top-level domains, according to Google's 2016 "bad ads" report, normally released at the beginning of each year. So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of ".co" domains by appearing similar to legitimate news sites that would normally end in ".com." Google declined to provide a listing of the banned sites. Separately, the annual report on violations of advertising policy also included data on ads removed by Google. The company reported that in 2016 it took down 1.7 billion ads for violations, compared to 780 million in 2015. Google attributes the increase in ad removals to a combination of advertiser behavior and improvements in technology to detect offending ads. Also among those the removed ads were what Google calls "tabloid cloakers." These advertisers run what look like links to news headlines, but when the user clicks, an ad for a product such as a weight loss supplement pops up. Google suspended 1,300 accounts engaged in tabloid cloaking in 2016.
Google

The Problem With Google AMP (80x24.net) 56

Kyle Schreiber has raised some issues about Google's AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), an open source project unveiled by the company in 2015 with which it aims to accelerate content on mobile devices. He writes on his blog: The largest complaint by far is that the URLs for AMP links differ from the canonical URLs for the same content, making sharing difficult. The current URLs are a mess. They all begin with some form of https://wwww.google.com/amp/ before showing a URL to the AMP version of the site. There is currently no way to find the canonical link to the page without guessing what the original URL is. This usually involves removing either a .amp or ?amp=1 from the URL to get to the actual page. Make no mistake. AMP is about lock-in for Google. AMP is meant to keep publishers tied to Google. Clicking on an AMP link feels like you never even leave the search page, and links to AMP content are displayed prominently in Google's news carousel. This is their response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of which are designed to keep users within their respective ecosystems. However, Google's implementation of AMP is more broad and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google's implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn't limited to just an app like Facebook or Apple.
Google

Sensitive Data Stored On Box.com Accounts Accessible Via Search Queries (threatpost.com) 29

msm1267 writes: Last week Box.com moved quickly and quietly to block search engines from indexing links to confidential data owned by its users. That is after security researcher Markus Neis surfaced private data belonging to a number of Fortune 500 companies via Google, Bing and other search engines. Box.com said it's a classic case of users accidentally oversharing. Neis isn't convinced and says Box.com's so-called Collaboration links shouldn't have been indexed in the first place. Box.com has since blocked access to what security researchers say was a treasure trove of confidential data and fodder for phishing scams.
Google

Google Mobile Search Shows Recipe Suggestions When You Look For Food (engadget.com) 26

In the past few years, Google has used its so-called "knowledge graph" to make search results far more useful than just a list of links -- you can get lots of info on a variety of topics right in Google without having to click on any search results. The latest addition to Google search is something foodies should take note of. Now, when you search for food on mobile, you'll see a carousel of recipes at the top of the results page. From a report on Engadget: Google also added some filters to those recipe results -- right below the search bar are additional suggestions you can use to refine your results. Searching for "fried chicken" gave me the option to add "oven-fried," "buttermilk," and "southern fried" filters to narrow down the recipes. You can also tap "view all" to move out of the standard search page and see bigger, more detailed recipe cards that show a picture and quick preview of the recipe.

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