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Submission + - Researcher Turns HDD Into Rudimentary Microphone (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Speaking at a security conference, researcher Alfredo Ortega has revealed that you can use your hard disk drive (HDD) as a rudimentary microphone to can pick up nearby sounds. This is possible because of how hard drives are designed to work. Sounds or nearby vibrations are nothing more than mechanical waves that cause HDD platters to vibrate. By design, a hard drive cannot read or write information to an HDD platter that moves under vibrations, so the hard drive must wait for the oscillation to stop before carrying out any actions.

Because modern operating systems come with utilities that measure HDD operations up to nanosecond accuracy, Ortega realized that he could use these tools to measure delays in HDD operations. The longer the delay, the louder the sound or the intense the vibration that causes it. These read-write delays allowed the researcher to reconstruct sound or vibration waves picked up by the HDD platters. A video demo is here.

"It's not accurate yet to pick up conversations," Ortega told Bleeping Computer in a private conversation. "However, there is research that can recover voice data from very low-quality signals using pattern recognition. I didn't have time to replicate the pattern-recognition portion of that research into mine. However, it's certainly applicable."

Furthermore, the researcher also used sound to attack hard drives. Ortega played a 130Hz tone to make an HDD stop responding to commands. "The Linux kernel disconnected it entirely after 120 seconds," he said. There's a video of this demo on YouTube.

Submission + - Process against Facebook starts today in Brussels (deredactie.be)

Koen Lefever writes: In Brussels, the process between the Privacy Committee of the Belgian Federal government and Facebook has started today. The committee thinks that Facebook needs to be clearer about which data it collects and what it does with it. The so-called 'social plug-ins', 'cookies' and 'pixels' are technologies that allow Facebook to monitor surfing behaviour. According to the Privacy Committee, Facebook still too often collects data without the user being aware of it. According to the Privacy Committee, Facebook also tracks people who do not have a Facebook profile via certain cookies.

Comment Re:How can this be? - because model is wrong. (Score 1) 123

instead of studying drugs only prior to approval, drug efficacy, should, as a matter of course be studied all the time (even long after it is approved.) Do you want a sample of a few hundred people? or a few million? Information about who (in an anonymized way) is getting what combinations of drugs should be raw data for regulators, and researchers to mine. Big Pharma should contribute to the cost of the monitoring. One has to test for basic lack of danger to get into the market, fine, but keep testing afterward... phase V surveillance should be much more universal and rigourous, and not left upto vendors. There is also the issue of "off-label" prescriptions. If such prescriptions really are helpful, then long term comprehensive surveillance should demonstrate an effect, and make it easier to add a recommendation. If people want to know what drug combinations are being prescribed together, in order to prioritize which grouping to study.

Comment uh... raspberry pi. (Score 1) 134

I have four or five of these... got some for lots of people. I think there might be some firmware blobs required, but it's open source enough for me. To play with, it needs to be cheap enough to break without heartbreak, and it needs a community, and pi has all that, and third party hardware packages also. It runs plain vanilla debian, and so dead easy to work with, build your projects in python. Latest generation gets you wifi & bluetooth built in, so a lot of options for control and i/o.

Comment Re:Time for Finesse (Score 1) 143

The net inherited neutrality from well established international treaties governing the global telephone system, not sure how the FCC can dump it without breaking those treaties and pissing off every other nation on earth? Regardless of who owns the wires, the telephone system is global public infrastructure (much of it was originally funded and built by various governments). If they want to stay hooked up to that global infrastructure then they should follow the established rules and stop pleading for special treatment for their lackluster regional networks. The place to lobby for a change to the rules is somewhere like the WTO, or whatever organisation monitors the existing treaties, not a parochial bureaucracy such as the FCC. Problem for the US phone companies is that they cannot bully or bribe the WTO into doing their bidding for them.

Comment Re:Insanity - continue the class war at home (Score 1) 268

They are talking about training disadvantaged inner city youth to become coders. The idea is to make home-grown cheap labour to replace the foreign cheap labour, getting them off welfare, and having them help pay taxes. It's a good idea, but it means competition from poor people for what used to be high paying jobs. The idea is to make "coding" be a job for people with High School, or at most a trade school education, and avoid the expensive university investment, so the kids can afford to work for less.

It makes sense, it's just not good news for people hoping for a good income from such work. The rich started the war with off-shoring, and now they are recruiting the poor to make them allies in crushing the middle class. I'm not even remotely a communist, but in this case, the shoe kinda fits, you know?

Comment Re:It's Project MISmanagement mostly (Score 1) 176

The worst time to plan a project is at the beginning. You have zero information. You don't know if your goals are reasonable/achievable/desirable. You don't know if you will need to "pivot", you don't much of anything. The way to minimize project and time risk is to know a lot before you commit to a deliverable. Too often, when people talk about "project" and they focus on cost or schedule, it drives all out all exploration, and you end up on a death march towards goals set when you knew nothing.

Most PM methodologies encourage up-front planning, which is hard work and next to useless. Plan a little bit, do a little bit, see how things are going, rinse, lather, repeat. Many projects start out with grandiose goals, when no-one can say anything sensible. It's fine to make a grand plan, but figure out a small step that will increase knowledge about validity of the grand plan, and hopefully be independently useful. Plan that small step. Do that. One small step at a time, you make progress.

PM sorely tempts people into becoming schedule box-tickers, and tsk, tskers. The mortal enemy of PM's is usually "risk", it's all about mitigating or eliminating risks. When you eliminate risk, you eliminate opportunities. If you get obsessed with risk, it crushes exploration, and prevents you from learning what you actually should be doing. When you put too much detail in the plan, people become slaves to decisions made when you knew less.

Ideally, a PM methodology should understand that things go in phases, and when you learn methodologies, you hear about how they ought to be used, but often the hierarchy thinks that by controlling budgets and schedules they are "managing", but all they are managing is "budgets" and "schedules", which doesn't necessarily achieve any business goals.

The PM methodology that seemed closest to encouraging this sort of iteration is PRINCE II*, with it's explicit staging, and explicit re-appraisal at each stage. Start with a stage that involves exploring assumptions, and validating them, perhaps fleshing out the business case, and sharpening the objectives. So you go through the first stage, and you look at what you know and does the eventual goal still look reasonable? yes? ok: Plan next stage (not whole project, just one stage at a time.)

The ideas in PRINCEII are fundamentally good, but there is a huge risk in that organizations may turn any methodology into a counter-productive, soul crushing, box ticking train wreck. That's actually one of the primary, and most difficult, risks to mitigate.

*yes, biased, I took the course, and got PRINCE II practitioner certified a decade ago. Fwiw, took other courses related to PMBOC, and have seen other methods, lots of waterfalls, so my sample size is at least >1.

Comment Re:Because - strangest presentation tool. (Score 1) 284

I actually was fairly happy to do a presentation with a single dia diagram, and a script that extracted lines starting with a tag, and indicating which layers to include. Stuck that in a Makefile, and when I run it, it gives me a series of .png's. weird, yes, but actually pretty functional.

Comment Re:Power source (Score 1) 76

The sources were quoting what the refineries reported they use to refine a gallon of gas, somewhere between four and six kilowatts in addition to any eating of their own dog food. If they weren't making gasoline, that fuel would be available for electric generation, and the difference is even greater. Here's a nerdier link. There are even worse examples, such as getting oil from Alberta's Oil sands, which apparently requires 300 KWh to heat enough material to produce a barrel of crude oil, or about 7 Kwh per gallon of crude, which gets you less than half that after refining. so then we are talking about 14 Kwh to get the oil sand into crude, then another 7 Kwh to refine it, and then add in the transportation.

Comment Re:Power source (Score 1) 76

It depends on whether the same grid refines oil to make gasoline. Switching to Electric might reduce total electrical needs because refining a gallon of gas, in addition to other inputs, requires between four and six kilowatts. And EV like the hyundai ionic uses less than 300 watts/km. so that corresponds to perhaps as much as 20 kilometers, and a small three wheel EV to go further still. Robert Llewellyn's Volt for Oil puts it nicely. Original sources for this information is the Oil companies themselves in various regulatory filings.

Comment Re: Theorem (Score 1) 64

I'm pushing 60, life has taught me to "never say never". Douglas Hofstadter makes a good argument that artificial consciousness is possible and provides the mathematical framework to back it up, I first read his book in the late 1980's while studying for my Math degree, probably before your time. Also most of my projects in the 30yrs since then have been on time and budget. ;)

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