Democrats

'There Will Be a [Senate] Vote' To Reinstate Net Neutrality, Schumer Says (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will force a vote on a bill that would reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules. Legislation to reverse the repeal "doesn't need the support of the majority leader," Schumer said during a press conference Friday, according to The Hill. "We can bring it to the floor and force a vote. So, there will be a vote to repeal the rule that the FCC passed." The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal its own net neutrality rules last week, and the repeal will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. But Congress can overturn agency actions by invoking the Congressional Review Act (CRA), as it did earlier this year in order to eliminate consumer broadband privacy protections. A successful CRA vote in this case would invalidate the FCC's net neutrality repeal and prevent the FCC from issuing a similar repeal in the future. This would force the FCC to maintain the rules and the related classification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. A CRA vote lets Congress "undo regulations with a simple majority," without the possibility of a filibuster, as a Washington Post story said in February. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced a plan to file the CRA resolution last week. "It's in our power to do that and that's the beauty of the CRA rule," Schumer said. "Sometimes we don't like them, when they used it to repeal some of the pro-environmental regulations, but now we can use the CRA to our benefit, and we intend to."
Software

'The Year That Software Bugs Ate the World' (fastcompany.com) 32

FastCompany's harrymcc writes: It's not like there's ever a year that isn't rife with stories about buggy software. But 2017 seems to have had an unusually rich supply of software flaws that fouled up major products -- from Twitter to iOS 11 to the Google Pixel 2 -- in ways that were very noticeable and sometimes even funny. Sample this: A nagging flaw in Google's Play Services software for Android causes Gmail to demand access to "body sensors" before it will let users send email. Android Police's Artem Russakovskii discovers that his Mini is recording audio 24/7 and storing it on Google's servers. I rounded up a bunch of them over at Fast Company.
Businesses

Kaspersky Lab Sues Trump Administration Over Software Ban (reuters.com) 74

Moscow-based anti-virus company Kaspersky Lab sued the Trump administration in U.S. federal court on Monday, arguing that the American government has deprived it of due process rights by banning its software from U.S. government agencies. From a report: The lawsuit is the latest effort by Kaspersky Lab to push back on allegations that the company is vulnerable to Kremlin influence. The Department of Homeland Security in September issued a directive to U.S. civilian agencies ordering them to remove Kaspersky Lab from their computer networks within 90 days. The order came amid mounting concern among U.S. officials that the software could enable Russian espionage and threaten national security. The ban was codified last week when President Donald Trump signed legislation banning Kasperky Lab from use across civilian and military agencies.
Google

Google's Record Fine of $2.8 Billion Was a 'Deterrent,' EU Says (bloomberg.com) 41

The European Union was aiming for a "deterrent effect" on Google and other technology giants when it ordered the Android-maker to pay 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for breaching antitrust law over how it displays shopping ads. From a report: Regulators weighed "the need to ensure that the fine has a sufficiently deterrent effect not only on Google and Alphabet but also on undertakings of a similar size and with similar resources," the European Commission said in a 215-page document laying out details of its seven-year investigation into the company. The "particularly large" revenue of Google's parent, Alphabet, also determined the size of the fine, the EU said. The penalty, levied in June, was more than double an earlier 1 billion-euro fine on Intel and came with a threat of more daily fines for Google if it didn't comply with an order to offer equal treatment to rival shopping-comparison services. Big numbers for big technology names have been a theme for EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who ordered Apple Inc. to pay back some 13 billion euros in taxes last year.
Government

Ban Sale of Mini Mobiles, Says Justice Minister (cnet.com) 107

Online retail companies should ban the sale of mini mobile phones designed to be smuggled into prisons, said justice secretary David Lidington on Monday. From a report: Often marketed as "Beat the Boss phones", the tiny feature phones can be bought for around $25 to $40 online on sites including Amazon, Ebay and Gumtree. On the inside, they can change hands for up to $670. The phones, which can be as small as lipsticks, are popular with prison inmates due to their discreet size and lack of metal, which allows them to beat metal detectors. Mobile phones are banned in prisons, in part because they allow inmates to continue criminal activities while they're locked up. But around 20,000 phones and SIM cards were seized by prison guards in 2016, with mini mobiles making up around a third of these.
Japan

Japan Opens First Drive-through Funeral Service (japantimes.co.jp) 58

A funeral home with a drive-thru window opened in Nagano Prefecture on Sunday, allowing mourners to pay their respects without getting out of the car. From a report: The operator of the Aishoden funeral home in Ueda said the service is the first of its kind in Japan. It is primarily aimed at allowing seniors and the disabled to attend funerals but may also be used in the future by people short on time. During a tour Saturday, residents lined up to get a look at the innovative facility, which allows drive-thru mourners to stop their cars next to a window and enter their names and addresses on a device handed over by a waiting receptionist.
China

China Blocks Foreign Companies From Mapping Its Roads for Self-Driving Cars (thedrive.com) 79

The Chinese government is blocking foreign companies from mapping its roads in great detail, according to a Financial Times (paywalled) report. The restrictions, which reportedly do not apply to Chinese firms, are being instituted in the name of national security. China is concerned about spying. From a report: China has restricted the recording of geographic information for more than a decade because it believes giving other countries access to that information constitutes a security risk. Geographic surveys can't be performed without permission from the government, and many digital cameras don't record GPS coordinates for geotagging, as they do in other countries, according to Fortune.
Twitter

Twitter Rolls Out Stricter Rules On Abusive Content (apnews.com) 195

Twitter has begun enforcing stricter policies on violent and abusive content like hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user profiles. From a report: The new guidelines, which were first announced one month ago, were put into place Monday. Monitors at the company will weigh hateful imagery in the same way they do graphic violence and adult content. If a user wants to post symbols or images that might be considered hateful, the post must be marked "sensitive media." Other users would then see a warning that would allow them to decide whether to view the post. Twitter is also prohibiting users from abusing or threatening others through their profiles or usernames. While the new guidelines became official on Monday, the social media company continues to work out internal monitoring tools and it is revamping the appeals process for banned or suspended accounts. But the company will also begin accepting reports from users.
Opera

Opera Software Changes Name To Otello Corporation (reuters.com) 44

Opera Software has changed its name to Otello Corporation, it said in a statement on Monday. From a report: Otello owns companies that develop software for advertising, telecoms, games and other online business. The name changes does not affect Opera Software AS or the Opera and Opera Mini internet browsers, all of which Otello sold in 2016, Opera Software AS said in a separate statement.
Microsoft

Microsoft Disables Word DDE Feature To Prevent Further Malware Attacks (bleepingcomputer.com) 74

An anonymous reader writes: As part of the December 2017 Patch Tuesday, Microsoft has shipped an Office update that disables the DDE feature in Word applications, after several malware campaigns have abused this feature to install malware. DDE stands for Dynamic Data Exchange, and this is an Office feature that allows an Office application to load data from other Office applications. For example, a Word file can update a table by pulling data from an Excel file every time the Word file is opened. DDE is an old feature, which Microsoft has superseded via the newer Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) toolkit, but DDE is still supported by Office applications.

The December Patch Tuesday disables DDE only in Word, but not Excel or Outlook. The reason is that several cybercrime and spam groups have jumped on this technique, which is much more effective at running malicious code when compared to macros or OLE objects, as it requires minimal interaction with a UI popup that many users do not associate with malware. For Outlook and Excel, Microsoft has published instructions on how users can disable DDE on their own, if they don't want this feature enabled.

United States

America's 'Rent Crisis' May Be Ending (fortune.com) 426

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: A new study suggests that nearly a decade of housing shortages and rising rents in the U.S. may be reversing course... From 2010 to 2016, America added nearly a million renter households a year. But the census showed a decline in that growth rate in 2016, and some early 2017 data shows an actual decline in renters so far in 2017. Recent census data also shows a rise in vacancy rates.

According to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, that's because foreclosure numbers have declined and young homebuyers are re-entering the market. Home ownership in the U.S. took a big hit from the foreclosure crisis and Great Recession of 2007-2012, while the rental market struggled to meet the new demand. Other insights in the report mostly follow from that shifting reality. Rents are increasing more slowly. Fewer renter households are "cost-burdened," or paying more than 30% of their income in rent, than they were two years ago.

The report also predicts that many high-income households may continue renting rather than buying a home. But it'd be interesting to hear how that compares to Slashdot readers around the world. Are you renting or buying -- and if renting, do you feel that your rent is too high?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Ask Slashdot: What's The Worst IT-Related Joke You've Ever Heard? 493

dryriver writes: In just about any field of employment -- whether you're a 3D artist, a pastry chef or a lawyer -- there's an abundance of jokes related to the profession, or to situations commonly encountered during that profession. Some are pretty good, some so-so, and some are very, very bad.

What I want to know is, what are the absolute WORST computer or IT related jokes you've either heard from someone, found on the internet or possibly even invented yourself? And since this is Slashdot, feel free to throw in science-related jokes as well, provided that they are just as bad as the computer or IT jokes.

Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the worst IT (or science)-related joke you've ever heard?
Star Wars Prequels

Ajit Pai Taunts Net Neutrality Critics. Mark Hamill Taunts Ajit Pai (mashable.com) 283

An anonymous reader writes: Just days before voting to repeal net neutrality regulations, FCC chairman Ajit Pai introduced a comedy video at the annual gathering of the Federal Communications Bar Association -- and it offered its own self-disparaging version of Pai's tenure as a Verizon attorney in 2003. "We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman," says a real-world Verizon executive appearing in the videotaped skit. "That sounds awesome," Pai responds.

And the day of the vote Pai also appeared in another trying-to-be-funny video on the conservative site The Daily Caller demonstrating "seven things you can still do on the internet after net neutrality." In the first image he's holding a fidget spinner and dressed as Santa Claus, and the unmistakably patronizing video reminds critics that they can still upload photos of their meals to Instagram and "post photos of cute animals, like puppies." He also demonstrated that net neutrality critics can still stay part of their favorite fan communities -- by showing himself holding a light saber. And this unexpectedly drew the wrath of Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who responded on Twitter by calling him "Ajit 'Aren't I Precious?' Pai."

Hamill also added that "you are profoundly unworthy 2 wield a lightsaber. A Jedi acts selflessly for the common man, NOT lie 2 enrich giant corporations." When U.S. Senator Ted Cruz responded -- likening government overreach to Darth Vader and urging Hamill to "reject the dark side" -- Hamill responded again, complaining that the Senator was "smarm-splaining." Hamill also added, "you'd have more credibility if you spelled my name correctly. I mean IT'S RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU! Maybe you're just distracted from watching porn at the office again."

The Houston Chronicle reports that the newest meme on Twitter is now Pai's over-sized coffee mug stamped with the logo for Reese's Peanut Butter cups, "which he occasionally sipped from during the widely-criticized reversal." The Dangerous Minds site notes that some angry net neutrality supporters have even taken their complaints to Reese's Facebook page, adding "Perhaps these protester's pleas to the candy company are simply a misguided hope that someone, ANYONE will listen to their frustration."

"Clearly, the FCC wasn't listening to the estimated 83% of Americans who support net neutrality."
Intel

Can Intel's 'Management Engine' Be Repurposed? 121

Long-time Slashdot reader iamacat writes: Not a day goes by without a story about another Intel Management Engine vulnerability. What I get is that a lot of consumer PCs can access network and run x86 code on top of UNIX-like OS such as Minix even when powered off.

This sounds pretty useful for tasks such as running an occasional use Plex server. Like I can have a box that draws very little power when idle. But when an incoming connection is detected, it can power itself and the media drive on and serve the requested content.

The original submission ends with an interesting question. "if Intel ME is so insecure, how do I exploit it for practically useful purposes?"
Books

A Book Recommendation for Bill Gates: The Story of PLATO 56

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: This holiday season, many Slashdot readers are likely to find gifts under the tree because of Bill Gates' book picks. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it seems that turnabout is fair play -- what book recommendations do you have for Bill?

At the top of my pick list for personalized learning advocate Gates would be Brian Dear's remarkable The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, with its tale of how a group of visionary engineers and designers -- some of them only high school students -- created a shockingly little-known computer system called PLATO in the late 1960s and 1970s that was decades ahead of its time in experimenting with how people could learn, engage, communicate, and play through connected terminals and computers. After all, "we can't move forward," as Audrey Watters argued in The Hidden History of Ed-Tech, "til we reconcile where we've been before."

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