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Submission + - Virginia spent over half a million on cell surveillance that mostly doesn't work (muckrock.com)

v3rgEz writes: In 2014, the Virginia State Police spent $585,265 on a specially modified Suburban outfitted with the latest and greatest in cell phone surveillance: The DRT 1183C, affectionately known as the DRTbox. But according to logs uncovered by public records website MuckRock, the pricey ride was only used 12 times — and only worked 7 of those times. Read the full DRTbox documents at MuckRock.

Submission + - An Emacs Lisp JIT Compiler Released (github.com)

kruhft writes: An Emacs Lisp JIT compiler has been released showing a 25% speedup improvement with the benchmarked raytracer. Using libjit, it 'compiles down the spine' of the bytecode vectors, moving the overhead of the interpreter loop into the hardware execution unit. Work in progress, but a good start on speeding up emacs overall. Thoughts?

Submission + - Chrome 55 Now Blocks Flash, Uses HTML5 by Default (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Chrome 55, released earlier this week, now blocks all Adobe Flash content by default, according to a plan set in motion by Google engineers earlier this year, in May. While some of the initial implementation details of the "HTML5 By Default" plan changed since then, Flash has been phased out in favor of HTML5 as the primary technology for playing multimedia content in Chrome.

Google's plan is to turn off Flash and use HTML5 for all sites. Where HTML5 isn't supported, Chrome will prompt users and ask them if they want to run Flash to view multimedia content. The user's option would be remembered for subsequent visits, but to avoid overprompting, Chrome 55 will use a system called Site Engagement (chrome://site-engagement).

Submission + - The Lack of Women in Cybersecurity is a Problem and a Threat (securityledger.com)

chicksdaddy writes: The devaluation of traditionally “soft” skills like empathy, communication and collaboration in the information security space may be hampering the ability of IT security teams to respond to human-focused threats and attacks, according to this article at The Security Ledger. (https://securityledger.com/2016/12/cybers-lack-of-women-a-problem-and-threat/)

Failing to prioritize skills like empathy, communication, and collaboration and the people who have them (regardless of their gender) and focusing on "hard skills" (technical expertise) "limits our conceptions of security solutions and increases risks to our systems and users."

The problem goes beyond phishing attacks and social engineering, too. “Studies have shown that projects that embrace diversity are more successful. It’s a simple truth that people with different life backgrounds and life experiences bring unique perspectives to problem-solving,” says Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager at Access Now.

In short: "when we keep hiring technologists to solve problems, we get keep getting technical solutions." Too often, such technical fixes fail to account for the human environment in which they will be deployed. “It’s prioritizing a ‘tech first’—not a ‘human first’ or ‘empathy first’—perspective,” says Dr. Sara “Scout” Sinclair Brody, the executive director of Simply Secure.

This isn’t the first article to raise a red flag over the technology sector's glaring shortage of empathy. (http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/silicon-valley-has-an-empathy-vacuum).

And while instilling empathy and compassion in adults who lack it might seem like a tall order, the piece argues that it isn't an unsolvable problem: there are entire fields—like user experience and human-centered design—dedicated to improving the way humans and technology interact. “Shockingly little of that,” says Brody, “has made it into the security domain.”

Submission + - Nikola Motor Company Reveals Hydrogen Fuel Cell Truck With Range of 1,200 Miles (valuewalk.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Nikola Motor Company just unveiled a huge class 8 truck which will run on hydrogen fuel cells. Nikola claimed that the truck’s operational range will be as much as 1,200 miles (1,900 km), and it will be released in 2020. Nikola designed the Nikola One for long-haul transport across a large landmass. The truck will deliver over 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. Provided these claims are true, the vehicle will provide nearly double the power of the current-gen diesel-powered semis/articulated lorries, notes Ars Technica. The leasing cost of the trucks will include the fuel price, servicing costs and warranty, but exactly how the lease will work is not known now, notes Ars Technica. The company says it has already accepted nearly $3 billion in future orders. A fully-electric drivetrain which gets power from high-density lithium batteries runs the vehicle, and a hydrogen fuel cell charges the batteries on the go. Its reach is presently limited, as hydrogen fueling stations currently exist in only small numbers. This made Nikola decide to construct a network of 364 hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S. and Canada, just like Tesla with its network of Superchargers. Milton claims it will come with a smart dashboard which has the capability of picking the most cost-efficient route for drivers. Also one or two full-size beds will be included inside the vehicle’s enormous cab. It will have other luxuries and necessities as well, such as Wi-Fi, a refrigerator, 4G LTE connectivity, freezer, a 40-inch curved 4K TV with Apple TV and a microwave.

Submission + - Codefights online game leads to job offers for coders

rmdingler writes: James Johnston, 31, was designing software for orthodontists and living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he landed a better-paid software engineering job in Silicon Valley at a major tech startup.
The key to this career upgrade and cross-country move? CodeFights, an online game that offers programmers the chance to improve their skills and get noticed by Silicon Valley titans like Uber and Dropbox.
Johnston told CNNMoney he discovered the game through a Facebook ad in June.

Submission + - Stephen Hawking: Automation and AI Is Going To Decimate Middle Class Jobs (businessinsider.com)

An anonymous reader writes: In a column in The Guardian, the world-famous physicist wrote that "the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining." He adds his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned about the effects that technology will have on workforce in the coming years and decades. The fear is that while artificial intelligence will bring radical increases in efficiency in industry, for ordinary people this will translate into unemployment and uncertainty, as their human jobs are replaced by machines. Automation will, "in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world," Hawking wrote. "The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive." He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: "We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent." Combined with other issues — overpopulation, climate change, disease — we are, Hawking warns ominously, at "the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity." Humanity must come together if we are to overcome these challenges, he says.

Submission + - Social media is not your friend

Presto Vivace writes: Of 8 Tech Companies, Only Twitter Says It Would Refuse to Help Build Muslim Registry for Trump

The Intercept contacted nine of the most prominent such firms, from Facebook to Booz Allen Hamilton, to ask if they would sell their services to help create a national Muslim registry, an idea recently resurfaced by Donald Trump’s transition team. Only Twitter said no.

Submission + - Has any of you worked through TAOCP? (wikipedia.org)

Qbertino writes: I've got TAOCP ("The Art of Computer Programming") on my book-buying list for just about two decades now and I'm still torn here and there about actually getting it. I sometimes believe I would mutate into some programming demi-god if I actually worked through this beast, but maybe I'm just fooling myself.

This leads me to the question:
Have any of you worked or with through TAOCP or are you perhaps working through it? And is it worthwhile? I mean not just for bragging rights. And how long can it reasonably take? A few years?

Please share your experiences with TAOCP below. Thank you.

Submission + - USB Death Sticks for Sale (arstechnica.com)

npslider writes: "A USB Killer", a USB stick that fries almost everything that it is plugged into has been mass produced—available online for about £50/$50. Arstechnica first wrote about this diabolical device that looks like a fairly humdrum memory stick a year ago. From the ARS article:

"The USB Killer is shockingly simple in its operation. As soon as you plug it in, a DC-to-DC converter starts drawing power from the host system and storing electricity in its bank of capacitors (the square-shaped components). When the capacitors reach a potential of -220V, the device dumps all of that electricity into the USB data lines, most likely frying whatever is on the other end. If the host doesn't just roll over and die, the USB stick does the charge-discharge process again and again until it sizzles.

Since the USB Killer has gone on sale, it has been used to fry laptops (including an old ThinkPad and a brand new MacBook Pro), an Xbox One, the new Google Pixel phone, and some cars (infotainment units, rather than whole cars... for now). Notably, some devices fare better than others, and there's a range of possible outcomes—the USB Killer doesn't just nuke everything completely."


Submission + - The forgotten story of America's first toy robot (fastcompany.com) 2

harrymcc writes: In 1954, the Ideal Toy Company released Robert The Robot, the first toy robot made in the U.S. He was made of plastic instead of the more common tin, had a hand-cranked remote control and talked. And he not only became a bestseller, but appeared in a movie, inspired songs, and was generally a media superstar. And then everyone forgot about him. Over at Fast Company, Jared Newman chronicles his odd and interesting story.

Submission + - 6 seconds: How hackers only need moments to guess card number and security code (telegraph.co.uk) 1

schwit1 writes: Criminals can work out the card number, expiry date and security code for a Visa debit or credit card in as little as six seconds using guesswork, researchers have found.

Fraudsters use a so-called Distributed Guessing Attack to get around security features put in place to stop online fraud, and this may have been the method used in the recent Tesco Bank hack.

According to a study published in the academic journal IEEE Security & Privacy, that meant fraudsters could use computers to systematically fire different variations of security data at hundreds of websites simultaneously.

Within seconds, by a process of elimination, the criminals could verify the correct card number, expiry date and the three-digit security number on the back of the card.

Mohammed Ali, a PhD student at the university's School of Computing Science, said: "This sort of attack exploits two weaknesses that on their own are not too severe but, when used together, present a serious risk to the whole payment system.

Submission + - Alien life could thrive in the clouds of failed stars (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: There’s an abundant new swath of cosmic real estate that life could call home – and the views would be spectacular. Floating out by themselves in the Milky Way galaxy are perhaps a billion cold brown dwarfs, objects many times as massive as Jupiter but not big enough to ignite as a star. According to a new study, layers of their upper atmospheres sit at temperatures and pressures resembling those on Earth, and could host microbes that surf on thermal updrafts.

The idea expands the concept of a habitable zone to include a vast population of worlds that had previously gone unconsidered. “You don’t necessarily need to have a terrestrial planet with a surface,” says Jack Yates, a planetary scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, who led the study.

Submission + - Facebook started trending false news stories on a regular basis (citiesofthefuture.eu)

dkatana writes: "Facebook started trending false news stories on a regular basis." that's the conclusion of Susan Etlinger. She is an industry analyst at the thinktank, Altimeter Group, where she focuses on data strategy, analytics and ethical data use.

“In the Facebook News feed, which is optimized for engagement, the consequence is that the most controversial and provocative stories tend to be shared more than real news reporting, and Facebook has not had a way to make verification and authenticity an important part of the algorithm and then Facebook started trending false news stories on a regular basis.” That, Etlinger told Cities of the Future, “is an example where a machine has too much responsibility.”

When asked about the possibility of people using data and AI to influence political decisions and distort information to the public, Etlinger is outspoken:

We don’t even know the level of intentional misinformation that has been shared.” Etlinger says. “Obviously the US news media, as an example, is full of conspiracy theories right now. The reality is [AI] is an incredibly powerful technology, even more because it is very difficult, and in some cases impossible, to go back and understand exactly what happens in an algorithm, and AI.”

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