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Communications

Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop (hothardware.com) 43

MojoKid writes: One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles. The Commodore 64 (also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64) was released in January 1982 and still holds the title for being the best-selling computer of all time.
Government

US Believes Hackers Are Shielded By Russia To Hide Its Role In Cyberintrusions: WSJ (newsmax.com) 42

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warining: may be paywalled), U.S. officials are all but certain that the hacker Guccifer 2.0, who hacked the Democratic National Committee in June, is connected to a network of individuals and groups who are being shielded by the Russian government to mask its involvement in cyberintrusions. Even though the hacker denies working for the Russian government, the hacker is thought to be working with the hacking groups Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, which have ties to the Russian government. The Wall Street Journal reports: Following successful breaches, the stolen data are apparently transferred to three different websites for publication, these people say. The websites -- WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and a blog run by Guccifer 2.0 -- have posted batches of stolen data at least 42 times from April to last week. Cybersecurity experts believe that DCLeaks.com and Guccifer 2.0 often work together and have direct ties to Russian hackers. Guccifer 2.0 said in a Twitter direct message sent to The Wall Street Journal that he wants to expose corruption in politics and shine light on how companies influence policy. The hacker said he also hopes to expose "global electronization." "I think I won't have a better opportunity to promote my ideas than this year," Guccifer 2.0 added in a long exchange with a Journal reporter. The Journal cannot verify the identity of the person sending messages on behalf of Guccifer 2.0, but the account is the same one that was used to publish personal information about Democrats. A posting on a blog run by Guccifer 2.0 says he is a man who was born in Eastern Europe, has been a hacker for years and fears for his safety. "I think u've never felt that feeling when u r crazy eager to shout: look everyone, this is me, this is me who'd done it," the hacker wrote to the Journal. "but u can't." WikiLeaks officials didn't respond to requests for comment on whether Russia fed them the stolen files published by WikiLeaks in July. A representative for DCLeaks.com asked the Journal to submit questions via email but hasn't responded to them. Last week, U.S. intelligence chielf James Clapper said it "shouldn't come as a big shock to people" that Russia is behind the hacking operation. While Russia has tried to interfere in U.S. elections since at least the 1960s by spying and funneling money to particular political groups, "I think it's more dramatic maybe because now they have the cyber tools," he said.
Earth

92% of the World's Population Exposed To Unsafe Levels of Air Pollution: WHO (sciencedaily.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: A new World Health Organization (WHO) air quality model confirms that 92% of the world's population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. "The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combatting it," says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO. It also represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO. The model is based on data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban. It was developed by WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom. Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together. Nearly 90% of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly 2 out of 3 occurring in WHO's South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. Ninety-four per cent are due to noncommunicable diseases -- notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections. Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities. However, not all air pollution originates from human activity. For example, air quality can also be influenced by dust storms, particularly in regions close to deserts. The model has carefully calibrated data from satellite and ground stations to maximize reliability. National air pollution exposures were analyzed against population and air pollution levels at a grid resolution of about 10 km x 10 km. The interactive maps provide information on population-weighted exposure to particulate matter of an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) for all countries. The map also indicates data on monitoring stations for PM10 and PM2.5 values for about 3000 cities and towns. Quartz's report features a table that highlights the countries with the world's worst air pollution. The table "shows all the median levels of particulate matter in each country where the WHO collected data."
AI

Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft Come Together To Create Historic Partnership On AI (techcrunch.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In an act of self-governance, Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, IBM, and Microsoft came together today to announce the launch the new Partnership on AI. The group is tasked with conducting research and promoting best practices. Practically, this means that the group of tech companies will come together frequently to discuss advancements in artificial intelligence. The group also opens up a formal structure for communication across company lines. It's important to remember that on a day to day basis, these teams are in constant competition with each other to develop the best products and services powered by machine intelligence. Financial support will be coming from the initial tech companies who are members of the group, but in the future membership and involvement is expected to increase. User activists, non-profits, ethicists, and other stakeholders will be joining the discussion in the coming weeks. The organizational structure has been designed to allow non-corporate groups to have equal leadership side-by-side with large tech companies. As of today's launch, companies like Apple, Twitter, Intel and Baidu are missing from the group. Though Apple is said to be enthusiastic about the project, their absence is still notable because the company has fallen behind in artificial intelligence when compared to its rivals -- many of whom are part of this new group. The new organization really seems to be about promoting change by example. Rather than preach to the tech world, it wants to use a standard open license to publish research on topics including ethics, inclusivity, and privacy.
Music

Spotify in Talks To Acquire SoundCloud (variety.com) 9

Janko Roettgers, writing for Variety: Spotify is in advanced talks to acquire rival music service SoundCloud, according to a report by the Financial Times. An announcement of the acquisition could be made soon, according to the Times. The acquisition would come just months after SoundCloud launched its own paid streaming service. A Spotify spokesperson declined to comment on the report when contacted by Variety; SoundCloud didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify is the market leader in the growing paid streaming business, disclosing earlier this month that it now has more than 40 million paying subscribers. Its biggest competitor is Apple Music with 17 million paying subscribers.
IBM

Banks Adopting Blockchain 'Dramatically Faster' Than Expected (reuters.com) 27

Banks and other financial institutions are adopting blockchain technology "dramatically faster" than initially expected, with 15 percent of top global banks intending to roll out full-scale, commercial blockchain products in 2017, IBM said on Wednesday. Reuters reports: The technology company said 65 percent of banks expected to have blockchain projects in production in three years' time, with larger banks -- those with more than 100,000 employees -- leading the charge. IBM, whose findings were based on a survey of 200 banks, said the areas most commonly identified by lenders as ripe for blockchain-based innovation were clearing and settlement, wholesale payments, equity and debt issuance and reference data. Blockchain, which originates from digital currency bitcoin, works as an electronic transaction-processing and record-keeping system that allows all parties to track information through a secure network, with no need for third-party verification.
Businesses

Amazon Looking To Abandon UPS, FedEx In Favor of Its Own Delivery Service (arstechnica.com) 120

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A report by The Wall Street Journal claims that Amazon is building its own shipping service to replace FedEx and UPS, giving it more control over its packages and possibly allowing it to ship packages from other retailers. Amazon has said its own delivery services would be meant to increase its capacity during busier times of the year, like the upcoming holiday season. However, "current and former Amazon managers and business partners" claim that the company's plans are bigger than that. The initiative dubbed "Consume the City" will eventually let Amazon "haul and deliver" its own packages and those of other retailers and consumers. That delivery network would also directly compete with the likes of UPS and FedEx. It makes sense that Amazon would want to sell, ship, and deliver orders on its own. The report estimates that the company spent $11.5 billion on shipping just last year, amounting to 10.8 percent of sales. The shipping process is currently a bit convoluted: packages from Amazon warehouses get sent to one of two shipping routes, either FedEx or UPS, or to a sorting facility that lumps all packages with similar zip codes together. FedEx and UPS handle its shipments and deliver them to customers, while the packages at the sorting facilities either get delivered via USPS or by Amazon employees themselves. If Amazon were to have control over its shipments over longer distances, it's estimated that the company could save about $3 per package -- about $1.1 billion annually.
Businesses

D-Wave's 2,000-Qubit Quantum Annealing Computer Now 1,000x Faster Than Previous Generation (tomshardware.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: D-Wave, a Canadian company developing the first commercial "quantum computer," announced its next-generation quantum annealing computer with 2,000 qubits, which is twice as many as its previous generation had. One highly exciting aspect of quantum computers of all types is that beyond the seemingly Moore's Law-like increase in number of qubits every two years, their performance increases much more than just 2x, unlike with regular microprocessors. This is because qubits can hold a value of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two, making quantum systems able to deal with much more complex information. If D-Wave's 2,000-qubit computer is now 1,000 faster than the previous 1,000-qubit generation (D-Wave 2X), that would mean that, for the things Google tested last year, it should now be 100 billion times faster than a single-core CPU. The new generation also comes with control features, which allows users to modify how D-Wave's quantum system works to better optimize their solutions. These control features include the following capabilities: The ability to tune the rate of annealing of individual qubits to enhance application performance; The ability to sample the state of the quantum computer during the quantum annealing process to power hybrid quantum-classical machine learning algorithms that were not previously possible; The ability to combine quantum processing with classical processing to improve the quality of both optimization and sampling results returned from the system. D-Wave's CEO, Vern Brownell, also said that D-Wave's quantum computers could also be used for machine learning task in ways that wouldn't be possible on classical computers. The company is also training the first generation of programmers to develop applications for D-Wave quantum systems. Last year, Google said that D-Wave's 1,000 qubit computer proved to be 100 million times faster than a classical computer with a single core: "We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1,000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 10^8 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core," said Hartmut Neven, Google's Director of Engineering.
Cellphones

Verizon Technician Is Accused of Selling Customers' Call Records and Location Data To Private Investigator (ap.org) 35

A former Verizon technician who worked in Alabama is being accused of selling customers' private call records and location data to an unnamed private investigator. Authorities said the data was sold for more than four years, from 2009 to 2014. The Associated Press reports: [Daniel Eugene Traeger] logged into one Verizon computer system to gain access to customers' call records, authorities said. He used another company system known as Real Time Tool to "ping" cellphones on Verizon's network to get locations of the devices, according to the plea agreement. He then compiled the data in spreadsheets, which he sent to the private investigator for years, the court records show. "Between April 2009 and January 2014, the defendant was paid more than $10,000 in exchange for his provision of confidential customer information and cellular location data to the PL, an unauthorized third party," court records state. Though Traeger was based in the Birmingham area, the court records do not indicate whether the information that was sold involved Verizon Wireless customers in Alabama or elsewhere. He faces up to five years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a lesser sentence since he accepted responsibility, according to terms of the plea agreement.
HP

HP To Issue 'Optional Firmware Update' Allowing 3rd-Party Ink (arstechnica.com) 56

Soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a letter to HP, calling for them to apologize to customers for releasing firmware that prevents the use of non-HP ink cartridges and refilled HP cartridges, the company has responded with a temporary solution. HP "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature" for certain OfficeJet printers. Ars Technica reports: HP made its announcement in a blog post titled "Dedicated to the best printing experience." "We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP," the company said. The recent firmware update for HP OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X printers "included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned," HP said. For customers who don't wish to be protected from the ability to buy less expensive ink cartridges, HP said it "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here." This customer-friendly move may just be a one-time thing. HP said it will continue to use security features that "protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working." Without the optional firmware update, printers will only be able to use third-party ink cartridges that have an "original HP security chip," the company said.
Piracy

Cloudflare: We Can't Shut Down Pirate Sites (torrentfreak.com) 83

CloudFlare has said it cannot shut down piracy websites. The CloudFlare's response comes two months after adult entertainment outfit ALS Scan filed a complaint at a California federal court two months ago in which the company accused the CDN service of various counts of copyright and trademark infringement. From a TorrentFreak report:"CloudFlare is not the operator of the allegedly infringing sites but is merely one of the many intermediaries across the internet that provide automated CDN services, which result in the websites in question loading a bit faster than they would if they did not utilize CDN services." If Cloudflare terminated the accounts of allegedly infringing websites, the sites themselves would still continue to exist. It would just require a simple DNS reconfiguration to continue their operation. "Indeed, there are no measures of any kind that CloudFlare could take to prevent this alleged infringement, because the termination of CloudFlare's CDN services would have no impact on the existence and ability of these allegedly infringing websites to continue to operate," Cloudflare writes. As such, the company argues that it's not "materially contributing" to any of the alleged copyright infringements.
Space

The United Nations Will Launch Its First Space Mission In 2021 (vice.com) 49

The United Nations will send its first ever mission to space in 2021. It said it intends to send Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft into a two-week, low-Earth orbit flight in 2021. Sierra Nevada had signed the UN as a partner in June. Motherboard adds:As detailed for a small crowd at the International Astronautical Congress yesterday, the goal of the 2021 UN mission is to make space accessible to developing member states that lack the resources to develop a standalone, national space program. "One of UNOOSA's core responsibilities is to promote cooperation and the peaceful uses of outer space, but our work is about more than that," said Simonetta Di Pippo, the director of UNOOSA. "We have the vision of bringing the benefits of space to humankind, and that means helping developing countries access space technologies and their benefits."
Hardware

US Warns Samsung Washing Machine Owners After Explosion Reports (cnn.com) 126

Samsung may have a new problem on its hands, and it feels too familiar. The U.S. regulators on Wednesday warned users of certain top-loading Samsung washing machines of safety issues following reports that "some have exploded." CNN reports: The warning, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, covered machines made between March 2011 and April 2016. It did not specify a model. The commission suggested people use only the delicate cycle to wash bedding and water-resistant and bulky items because the lower spin speed "lessens the risk of impact injuries or property damage due to the washing machine becoming dislodged." The agency said it is working with Samsung on a remedy.
Games

No Man's Sky Under Investigation For False Advertising (polygon.com) 180

No Man's Sky is one of the most talked about games this year. The game sees the protagonist explore the space and experience uncertain places. But its controversial promotional material may also have played an instrumental role in making the title a sleeper-hit success. Polygon reports: No Man's Sky's promotional material has come under fire since launch, and it's now the subject of an ongoing investigation. The U.K.-based Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed to Polygon that it's received "several complaints about No Man's Sky's advertising," which angry customers have criticized as misleading. "I can confirm we have received several complaints about No Man's Sky advertising and we have launched an investigation," the ASA told Polygon. A representative for the ASA declined to comment on the particulars of the investigation, but a thread on the No Man Sky's subreddit details some of the most prominent issues Steam users have with the game's store page, which they passed on to the organization. Screens and video on Steam suggest a different type of combat, unique buildings, "ship flying behaviour" and creature sizes than what's found in the actual game itself. The store page overall has also been criticized for showing No Man's Sky with higher quality graphics than can be attained in-game.
Yahoo!

Yahoo Repeatedly Didn't Invest In Security, Rejected Bare Minimum Measure To Reset All User Passwords: NYTimes 114

If it wasn't already enough that the mega breach at Yahoo affects over 500 million users, a new investigative report on The New York Times states the extent to which Yahoo didn't care about its users' security (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The report says Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer refused to fund security initiatives at the company, and instead invested money in features and new products. Despite Edward Snowden warning Yahoo that it was too easy of a target for hackers, the company took one year to hire a new chief information officer. The company hired Alex Stamos, who is widely respected in the industry. But Stamos soon left partly due to clashes with Mayer, The Times adds. And it gets worse. From the report:But when it came time to commit meaningful dollars to improve Yahoo's security infrastructure, Ms. Mayer repeatedly clashed with Mr. Stamos, according to the current and former employees. She denied Yahoo's security team financial resources and put off proactive security defenses, including intrusion-detection mechanisms for Yahoo's production systems. [...] But during his tenure, Ms. Mayer also rejected the most basic security measure of all: an automatic reset of all user passwords, a step security experts consider standard after a breach. Employees say the move was rejected by Ms. Mayer's team for fear that even something as simple as a password change would drive Yahoo's shrinking email users to other services.

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