Submission + - Coping with Spectre and Meltdown: What sysadmins are doing

Esther Schindler writes: In technical terms, Spectre and Meltdown are a security pain in the butt. In day-to-day terms, though, they're a serious distraction. Before you left on the holiday break, after all, you had a nice sensible To Do list for the projects you wanted to tackle after the new year.

Ha ha ha.

Instead, sysadmins have spent their time trying to keep up with the nature of the problem and its fixes (will it REALLY slow down computers that much? how can you tell that to the users?), and apply patches. Or, more specifically:

Ron, an IT admin, summarizes the situation succinctly: “More like applied, applied another, removed, I think re-applied, I give up, and have no clue where I am anymore.”

Feel like you're alone? Here's what other sysadmins have done so far, as well as their current plans and long-term strategy, not to mention how to communicate progress to management.

Submission + - ... so maybe we shouldn't be building this! (

wisebabo writes: This follows my previous submission

This is why we can't have nice things

Editors, feel free to combine the two submissions. If we've decided, against recent bad experience, that the human race would not be unduly affected by mis-information then let's go ahead and build this! This is the first fully assembled dish for the Square Kilometer Array; built in China but to be installed in South Africa and Australia. Hopefully, we won't be getting interstellar spam or worse but even if so at least we'll be constructing the world's largest (in combination) radio telescope. That's gotta be good for astronomy! :) Now, if only we weren't so gullible, I'd say let's open the messages that we could receive. Let's hope the aliens are nice like say Canadians as opposed to Russians. By the way, can any radio antenna experts please explain the non-circular shape of the main dish?

Submission + - Solar-powered rover hits 5,000th Martian dawn (

schwit1 writes: "Five thousand sols after the start of our 90-sol mission, this amazing rover is still showing us surprises on Mars," said Opportunity Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

A Martian "sol" lasts about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, and a Martian year lasts nearly two Earth years. Opportunity's Sol 1 was landing day, Jan. 25, 2004 (that's in Universal Time; it was Jan. 24 in California). The prime mission was planned to last 90 sols. NASA did not expect the rover to survive through a Martian winter. Sol 5,000 will begin early Friday, Universal Time, with the 4,999th dawn a few hours later. Opportunity has worked actively right through the lowest-energy months of its eighth Martian winter.

Submission + - Facebook's Very Revealing Text Messaging Privacy Fail (

Lauren Weinstein writes: As I’ve frequently noted, one of the reasons that it can be difficult to convince users to provide their phone numbers for account recovery and/or 2-step, multiple-factor authentication/verification login systems, is that many persons fear that the firms involved will abuse those numbers for other purposes.

In the case of Google, I’ve emphasized that their excellent privacy practices and related internal controls (Google’s privacy team is world class), make any such concerns utterly unwarranted.

Such is obviously not the case with Facebook.

Submission + - Salon Magazine Mines Monero On Your Computer If You Use An Adblocker (

dryriver writes: The BBC reports: News organisations have tried many novel ways to make readers pay — but this idea is possibly the most audacious yet. If a reader chooses to block its advertising, US publication Salon will use that person's computer to mine for Monero, a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin. Creating new tokens of a cryptocurrency typically requires complex calculations that use up a lot of computing power. Salon told readers: "We intend to use a small percentage of your spare processing power to contribute to the advancement of technological discovery, evolution and innovation." The site is making use of CoinHive, a controversial mining tool that was recently used in an attack involving government websites in the UK, US and elsewhere. However, unlike that incident, where hackers took control of visitors' computers to mine cryptocurrency, Salon notifies users and requires them to agree before the tool begins mining.

Submission + - Learning to Program is Getting Harder

theodp writes: While Google suggests that parents and educators are to blame for why kids can't code, Allen Downey argues that learning to program is getting harder. Downey writes: "The fundamental problem is that the barrier between using a computer and programming a computer is getting higher. When I got a Commodore 64 (in 1982, I think) this barrier was non-existent. When you turned on the computer, it loaded and ran a software development environment (SDE). In order to do anything, you had to type at least one line of code, even if all it did was another program (like Archon). Since then, three changes have made it incrementally harder for users to become programmers: 1) Computer retailers stopped installing development environments by default. As a result, anyone learning to program has to start by installing an SDE — and that's a bigger barrier than you might expect. Many users have never installed anything, don't know how to, or might not be allowed to. Installing software is easier now than it used to be, but it is still error prone and can be frustrating. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn system administration first. 2) User interfaces shifted from command-line interfaces (CLIs) to graphical user interfaces (GUIs). GUIs are generally easier to use, but they hide information from users about what's really happening. When users really don't need to know, hiding information can be a good thing. The problem is that GUIs hide a lot of information programmers need to know. So when a user decides to become a programmer, they are suddenly confronted with all the information that's been hidden from them. If someone just wants to learn to program, they shouldn't have to learn operating system concepts first. 3) Cloud computing has taken information hiding to a whole new level. People using web applications often have only a vague idea of where their data is stored and what applications they can use to access it. Many users, especially on mobile devices, don't distinguish between operating systems, applications, web browsers, and web applications. When they upload and download data, they are often confused about where is it coming from and where it is going. When they install something, they are often confused about what is being installed where. For someone who grew up with a Commodore 64, learning to program was hard enough. For someone growing up with a cloud-connected mobile device, it is much harder." So, with the Feds budgeting $200 million a year for K-12 CS at the behest of U.S. tech leaders, can't the tech giants at least put a BASIC on every phone/tablet/laptop for kids?

Submission + - Twitter kills its Mac app, and that's a good thing (

BrianFagioli writes: Today, Twitter officially kills the Mac app. Without warning, the company pulled the app from the Mac App Store and issued the following tweet.

âoeWe're focusing our efforts on a great Twitter experience that's consistent across platforms. So, starting today the Twitter for Mac app will no longer be available for download, and in 30 days will no longer be supported.

For the full Twitter experience on Mac, visit Twitter on web.â

If you already have the app installed on your Mac, you can continue using it for the next month. After that, you will have to make a decision — access Twitter with your web browser or opt for a third-party app. Two such popular apps are Tweetbot ($10) and Twitterrific ($20).

Submission + - Coffee Beans Are Good for Birds, Fancy Brew or Not (

Zorro writes: Birds are not as picky about their coffee as people are.

Although coffee snobs prefer arabica beans to robusta, a new study in India found that growing coffee does not interfere with biodiversity — no matter which bean the farmer chooses.

In the Western Ghats region of India, a mountainous area parallel to the subcontinent’s western coast, both arabica and robusta beans are grown as bushes under larger trees — unlike in South America, where the coffee plants themselves grow as large as trees, said Krithi Karanth, who helped lead the study, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Submission + - The Future of Free and Open-Source Maps

Grady Martin writes: Former OpenStreetMap contributer and Google Summer of Code mentor Serge Wroclawski has outlined "why OpenStreetMap is in serious trouble," citing unclear usage policies, poor geocoding (address-to-coordinate conversion), and a lack of a review model as reasons for the project's decline in quality. Perhaps more interesting, however, are the problems purported to stem from OpenStreetMap's power structure:

In the case of OpenStreetMap, there is a formal entity which owns the data, called the OpenStreetMap Foundation. But at the same time, the ultimate choices for the website, the geographic database and the infrastructure are not under the direct control of the Foundation, but instead rest largely on one individual, who (while personally friendly) ranges from skeptical to openly hostile to change.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Could Linux Ever Become Fully Win/Mac Software Compatible? 1

dryriver writes: Linux has been around for a long time now. A lot of work has gone into it, it has evolved nicely and it dominates in the server space. Computer literate people with some tech skills also like to use it as their desktop OS. Its free and open source. Its not vendor-locked, full of crapware or tied to any walled garden. Its fast and efficient. But most "everyday computer users" or "casual computer buyers" still feel they have to choose either a Windows PC or an Apple device as the platform they will do their computing on. This binary choice exists largely because of very specific commercial software and games available for these OSs that is not available for Linux. Here is the question: Could Linux ever be made to become fully compatible with all Windows and Mac software? What I mean is a Linux distro that lets you successfully install/run/play just about anything significant that says "for Windows 10" or "for OSX" under Linux, without any sort of configuring or crazy emulation orgies being needed? Macs and PCs run on the exact same Intel/AMD/Nvidia hardware as Linux. Same mobos, same CPUs and GPUs, same RAM and storage devices. Could Linux ever be made to behave sufficiently like those two OSs so that a computer buyer could "go Linux" without any negative consequences like not being able to run essential Windows/Mac software at all? Or is Linux being able to behave like Windows and OSX simply not technically doable because Windows and OSX are just too damn complex to mimic successfully?

Submission + - Bitcoin Mining Equipment in Brooklyn is Causing Interference to T-Mobile (

penciling_in writes: The Federal Communications Commission has sent a letter to an individual in Brooklyn, New York, alleging that a device in the individual's residence (Antminer s5) used to mine Bitcoin is generating spurious radiofrequency emissions, causing interference to a portion of T-Mobile's mobile telephone and broadband network. The letter states the FCC received a complaint from T-Mobile concerning interference to its 700 MHz LTE network in Brooklyn, New York. In response to the complaint, agents from the Enforcement Bureau's New York Office confirmed by using direction finding techniques that radio emissions in the 700 MHz band were, in fact, emanating from the user's residence in Brooklyn. The accused party is 20 days to respond to the warning and told they are in violation of federal laws.

Submission + - U.S. indicts 13 Russian nationals, three entities in alleged election meddling (

schwit1 writes: A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities and charged them with trying to sway the election in favor of President Trump, according to court documents.

The indictment was sought through special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been tasked with investigating Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the election and any possible ties to the Trump campaign.

Submission + - Federal Judge Says Embedding a Tweet Can Be Copyright Infringement (

An anonymous reader writes: Rejecting years of settled precedent, a federal court in New York has ruled [PDF] that you could infringe copyright simply by embedding a tweet in a web page. Even worse, the logic of the ruling applies to all in-line linking, not just embedding tweets. If adopted by other courts, this legally and technically misguided decision would threaten millions of ordinary Internet users with infringement liability.

This case began when Justin Goldman accused online publications, including Breitbart, Time, Yahoo, Vox Media, and the Boston Globe, of copyright infringement for publishing articles that linked to a photo of NFL star Tom Brady. Goldman took the photo, someone else tweeted it, and the news organizations embedded a link to the tweet in their coverage (the photo was newsworthy because it showed Brady in the Hamptons while the Celtics were trying to recruit Kevin Durant). Goldman said those stories infringe his copyright.

Submission + - Blaming YouTube or the FBI for Yesterday's School Shooting Tragedy Is Wrong (

Lauren Weinstein writes: Before the blood had even dried in the classrooms of the Florida high school that was the venue for yet another mass shooting tragedy, authorities and politicians were out in force trying to assign blame everywhere.
That is, everywhere except for the fact that a youth too young to legally buy a handgun was able to legally buy an AR-15 assault-style weapon that he used to conduct his massacre.

Much of the misplaced blame this time is being lobbed at social media. The shooter, whom we now know had mental health problems but apparently had never been adjudicated as mentally ill, had a fairly rich social media presence, so the talking heads are blaming firms like YouTube and agencies like the FBI for not “connecting the dots” to prevent this attack.

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