Submission + - A Middle-Aged Writer's Quest To Start Learning To Code For The First Time (

OpenSourceAllTheWay writes: The Economist's 1843 magazine details one middle-aged writer's (Andrew Smith) quest to learn to code for the first time, after becoming interested in the to him "alien" logic mechanisms that power completely new phenomena like crypto-currency and effectively make the modern world function in the 21st Century. The writer discovers that there are over 1,700 actively used computer programming languages to choose from, and that every programmer that he asks "Where should someone like me start with coding?" contradicts the next in his or her recommendation. One seasoned programmer tells him that programmers discussing what language is best is the equivalent of watching "religious wars". The writer is stunned by how many of these languages were created by unpaid individuals who often built them for "glory and the hell of it". He is also amazed by how many people help each other with coding problems on the internet every day, and the computer programmer culture that non-technical people are oblivious of. Eventually the writer finds a chart of the most popular programming languages online, and discovers that these are Python, Javascript and C++. The syntax of each of these languages looks indecipherable to him. The writer, with some help, and online tutorials then learns how to write a basic Python program that looks for keywords in a Twitter feed. The article is interesting in that it shows what the "alien world of coding" looks like to people who are not already computer nerds and in fact know very little about how computer software works. There are many interesting observations on coding/computing culture in the article, seen through the lens of someone who is not a computer nerd and who has not spent the last 2 decades hanging out on Slashdot or Stackoverflow.

Submission + - How Canada ended up as an AI superpower

pacopico writes: Neural nets and deep learning are all the rage these days, but their rise was anything but a sudden happening. A handful of determined researchers scattered around the globe spent decades developing neural nets while most of their peers thought they were mad. An unusually large number of these academics — including Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun and Richard Sutton — were working at universities in Canada. Bloomberg Businessweek has put together an oral history of how Canada brought them all together, why kept chasing neural nets in the face of so much failure and why their ideas suddenly started to take off. There's also a documentary featuring the researchers and Prime Minster Justin Trudeau that tells more of the story and looks at where AI technology is heading — both the good and the bad. Overall, it's a solid primer for people wanting to know about AI and the weird story of where the technology came from but might be kinda basic for hardcore AI folks.

Submission + - FBI Sucker Punches Russian Hackers

doom writes: But you need to reset your router and change your passwords.

From Dominic Gwinn at wonkette:

Yesterday the DOJ announced that the FBI had taken control of a major server in a Kremlin-linked Russian botnet that has infected 500,000 home and office routers in 54 countries. Computer nerds and authorities believe this to be one of the missing pieces in the 2016 DNC hacking puzzle, and are urging people to reset both their home and office routers.

Known as VPNFilter, the malware infected routers from Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR, and TP-Link. (Yep, one of those is your router!) Once installed, the malware could quietly download add-ons that allow attackers to spy on incoming and outgoing Internet traffic, steal website credentials, and brick (AKA: kill) any infected hardware.

The FBI, DOJ, and nerds are recommending people immediately reset routers to wipe out potential infections, as well as installing firmware and software updates, and changing your passwords.

Some more detail, from Ars Technica:

Both Cisco and Symantec are advising users of any of these devices to do a factory reset, a process that typically involves holding down a button in the back for five to 10 seconds. Unfortunately, these resets wipe all configuration settings stored in the device, so users will have to reenter the settings once the device restarts. At a minimum, Symantec said, users of these devices should reboot their devices. That will stop stages 2 and 3 from running, at least until stage 1 manages to reinstall them.

Users should also change all default passwords, be sure their devices are running the latest firmware, and, whenever possible, disable remote administration. (Netgear officials in the past few hours started advising users of "some" router models to turn off remote management. TP-Link officials, meanwhile, said they are investigating the Cisco findings.

There's no easy way to determine if a router has been infected. It's not yet clear if running the latest firmware and changing default passwords prevents infections in all cases. Cisco and Symantec said the attackers are exploiting known vulnerabilities, but given the general quality of IoT firmware, it may be possible the attackers are also exploiting zeroday flaws, which by definition device manufacturers have yet to fix.

Submission + - Why does Android require Location services now for Bluetooth and Wifi functions

labr01 writes: Android's new requirements for Location Services to be turned on for an increasing amount of functions is worrisome. Take a Wifi analyzer on Google Play for instance. The new version requires location services to be turned one which caused comments pounding the author to arrive. The author had to respond that this was google and google will NOT explain why this is. Bluetooth options such as syncing a fitbit also require location services now. Doesn't this seem quite wrong?

Submission + - GDPR Will Change Security and Privacy Everywhere (

storagedude writes: Companies that have separate data protection and privacy policies for non-EU customers may find that solution unworkable, writes Henry Newman on eSecurity Planet. Microsoft acknowledged the problem this week when it announced it would follow GDPR mandates globally for all customers. Expect others to follow, writes Newman.

'[G]iven the worldwide nature of business and worldwide travel of people ... it is virtually impossible to have different data policies in different locations. From a cost perspective, it makes the most sense to have a single inclusive policy for the company to follow around the world instead of lots of local polices that will be confusing to those charged with implementing them. A workforce that implements a single policy is much more cost-effective.'

Submission + - Some Low-Cost Android Phones Shipped With Malware Built In (

Trần Lâm writes: More than 100 different low-cost Android models from manufacturers such as ZTE, Archos, and myPhone ship with malware pre-installed, researchers at Avast Threat Labs reported on Thursday. Users in more than 90 countries, including the U.S., are affected by this, the researchers said. From a report:

The malware, called called Cosiloon, overlays advertisements over the operating system in order to promote apps or even trick users into downloading apps. The app consists of a dropper and a payload. "The dropper is a small application with no obfuscation, located on the /system partition of affected devices. The app is completely passive, only visible to the user in the list of system applications under 'settings.' We have seen the dropper with two different names, 'CrashService' and 'ImeMess,'" wrote Avast.

The dropper then connects with a website to grab the payloads that the hackers wish to install on the phone. "The XML manifest contains information about what to download, which services to start and contains a whitelist programmed to potentially exclude specific countries and devices from infection. However, we've never seen the country whitelist used, and just a few devices were whitelisted in early versions. Currently, no countries or devices are whitelisted. The entire Cosiloon URL is hardcoded in the APK."

Submission + - UPDATE: Android user given full refund in child in-app purchase case (yesterday) (

Lauren Weinstein writes: UPDATE (May 25, 2018): I’ve just been informed that a full refund has now been issued in the case I discussed in my post below from yesterday. I hope that the general class of issues described therein, especially the presence of expensive in-app “virtual” purchases in apps aimed at children — and the specific operation of Android parental control mechanisms — will still be addressed going forward. In the meantime, my great thanks to Google for quickly doing the right thing in this case of a (now very happy) Android user and her child.

Submission + - I Join EFF in Opposing the California SB 1001 "Bots Disclosure" Legislation (

Lauren Weinstein writes: While automated communications systems will not be immune to misuse, SB 1001 will not stop such abuse and will cause massive confusion for both site operators and users. It is not only premature, it is a textbook example of overly broad and badly written legislation that was not adequately thought through.

SB 1001 should not become law.

Submission + - The US military released a study on time travel and warp drives (

PolygamousRanchKid writes: - The US Department of Defense funded a series of studies on advanced aerospace technologies, including warp d

- The studies came out of a program that also funded research into UFO sightings.

- One report describes the possibility of using dark energy to warp space and effectively travel faster than light.

- However, a theoretical physicist says there's "zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes or the next 1,000 years" will see it happen.

Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth. Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the "propulsion" category titled, "Warp Drive, Dark Energy and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions". The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or "dark energy" — a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.

"Control of this higher dimensional space may b source of technological control vr the dark energy density and could ultimately play role in the development of exotic propulsion technologies; specifically, warp drive," the authors write.

However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report's optimism.

"It's bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn't." Carroll said. "There is something called a warp drive, there are extra dimensions, there is a Casimir effect, and there's dark energy. All of these things are true," he said. "But there's zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes, or the next 1,000 years, are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that." "If you took the entire Earth and annihilated it into energy, that's how much energy you'd need, except you'd need a negative amount of that, which no one has any clue how to make," Carroll said. "We're not taking the atoms of the Earth and dispersing them like the Death Star would do. We're making them cease to exist."

The study states that its conclusions are speculative, admits the negative-energy figure "is, indeed, an incredible number," and adds that "a full understanding of the true nature of dark energy may be many years away." However, it suggests "that experimental breakthroughs at the Large Hadron Collider or developments in the field of M-theory could lead to quantum leap in our understanding of this unusual form of energy and perhaps help to direct technological innovations."

Submission + - Newest NOAA Weather Satellite Suffers Critical Malfunction (

An anonymous reader writes: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released some bad news yesterday: the GOES-17 weather satellite that launched almost two months ago has a cooling problem that could endanger the majority of the satellite’s value. GOES-17 is the second of a new generation of weather satellite to join NOAA’s orbital fleet. Its predecessor is covering the US East Coast, with GOES-17 meant to become “GOES-West.” While providing higher-resolution images of atmospheric conditions, it also tracks fires, lightning strikes, and solar behavior. It’s important that NOAA stays ahead of the loss of dying satellites by launching new satellites that ensure no gap in global coverage ever occurs.

Several weeks ago, it became clear that the most important instrument—the Advanced Baseline Imager—had a cooling problem. This instrument images the Earth at a number of different wavelengths, including the visible portion of the spectrum as well as infrared wavelengths that help detect clouds and water vapor content. The infrared wavelengths are currently offline. The satellite has to be actively cooled for these precision instruments to function, and the infrared wavelengths only work if the sensor stays below 60K—that’s about a cool -350F. The cooling system is only reaching that temperature 12 hours a day. The satellite can still produce visible spectrum images, as well as the solar and lightning monitoring, but it’s not a glorious next-gen weather satellite without that infrared data.

Submission + - Arizona's education officials want to erase word "evolution". ( 1

An anonymous reader writes: Evolution may soon have a severely diminished role in Arizona science classrooms if proposed changes to the state's educational standards are approved.

According to a report by Capitol Media Services published in the Arizona Daily Star, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has proposed to largely eliminate mentions of the word "evolution" from the state's educational standards, instead replacing them with phrases like "change over time," "biological diversity" and "change in genetic composition."

Submission + - T-Mobile bug let anyone see any customer's account details (

An anonymous reader writes: A bug in T-Mobile's website let anyone access the personal account details of any customer with just their cell phone number.

The flaw, since fixed, could have been exploited by anyone who knew where to look — a little-known T-Mobile subdomain that staff use as a customer care portal to access the company's internal tools. The subdomain —, which can be easily found on search engines — contained a hidden API that would return T-Mobile customer data simply by adding the customer's cell phone number to the end of the web address.

Although the API is understood to be used by T-Mobile staff to look up account details, it wasn't protected with a password and could be easily used by anyone.

The returned data included a customer's full name, postal address, billing account number, and in some cases information about tax identification numbers. The data also included customers' account information, such as if a bill is past-due or if the customer had their service suspended.

Submission + - A worker in US Embassy in China experienced 'abnormal' sounds and Brain Damage (

amxcoder writes: A US citizen working at a US consulate located in Guangzhou, China has reported experiencing "abnormal" sounds (and pressures) for the past several months, starting in late 2017 until Apiril of 2018. Upon medical evaluation, the worker has been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury symptoms. The US Embassy is conducting an investigation into the issue, and is issuing warnings to all US citizens in China. The symptoms and several other similarities has drawn comparison to a similar event last year in a different US Embassy in Cuba. Officials can not link the two events together at this point, but the US State Department is working with Chinese authorities to investigate the issue further.

Submission + - Uber's self driving car saw pedestrian 6 seconds before fatal strike (

An anonymous reader writes: From the Arizona Daily Star:
"The autonomous Uber SUV that struck and killed an Arizona pedestrian in March spotted the woman about six seconds before hitting her, but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled, according to federal investigators.

In a preliminary report on the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that emergency braking is not enabled while Uber's cars are under computer control, "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior."

Instead, Uber relies on a human backup driver to intervene. The system, however, is not designed to alert the driver."
The report comes a day after Uber announced it will be ending it's self driving vehicle testing in Arizona.
Full report available at

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