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Submission + - California's bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun (latimes.com)

schwit1 writes: California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by the Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.

The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.

Submission + - Parents View New Peanut Guidelines With Guilt and Skepticism (nytimes.com) 1

schwit1 writes: When Nicole Lepke’s son was born, she listened to her pediatrician and kept peanuts away until the age of 2, but the toddler still developed a severe peanut allergy when he finally tried them.

Now, 12 years later, health experts have reversed their advice on peanuts, urging parents to begin feeding foods containing peanut powder or extract during infancy in hopes of reducing a child’s risk for allergy.

The about-face on peanuts has stunned parents around the country who are coping with the challenges of severe peanut allergies. Like many parents, Ms. Lepke is now plagued with guilt. By restricting peanuts early, did she inadvertently cause the very allergy she was trying to prevent?

Submission + - WhatsApp end-to-end encryption backdoor leaves messages open to interception (betanews.com)

Mark Wilson writes: Facebook has long-claimed that its WhatsApp messaging service is completely secure and messages cannot be intercepted thanks to its use of end-to-end encryption. But researchers have unearthed a serious security flaw that makes it possible to read encrypted messages.

Based on Open Whisper Systems' Signal Protocol, the unique security keys used to implement end-to-end encryption should keep messages secure. But WhatsApp can force offline users to generate new keys and this could allow Facebook — and third parties — to read messages.

The problem is a serious one, as WhatsApp's supposed security has earned it a good deal of respect, and it is a communication tool that those who wish to remain anonymous have come to rely upon. Tobias Boelter, a security researcher at the University of California, discovered the security problem. He says: "If WhatsApp is asked by a government agency to disclose its messaging records, it can effectively grant access due to the change in keys".

Submission + - Google's New Compression Tool Uses 75% Less Bandwidth (thenextweb.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Google just released an image compression technology called RAISR (Rapid and Accurate Super Image Resolution) designed to save your precious data without sacrificing photo quality. Claiming to use up to 75 percent less bandwidth, RAISR analyzes both low and high-quality versions of the same image. Once analyzed, it learns what makes the larger version superior and simulates the differences on the smaller version. In essence, it’s using machine learning to create an Instagram-like filter to trick your eye into believing the lower-quality image is on par with its full-sized variant. Unfortunately for the majority of smartphone users, the tech only works on Google+ where Google claims to be upscaling over a billion images a week. If you don’t want to use Google+, you’ll just have to wait a little longer. Google plans to expand RAISR to more apps over the coming months. Hopefully that means Google Photos.

Submission + - Open Source Codec Encodes Voice Into Only 700 Bits Per Second (rowetel.com)

Bruce Perens writes: David Rowe VK5DGR has been working on ultra-low-bandwidth digital voice codecs for years, and his latest quest has been to come up with a digital codec that would compete well with single-sideband modulation used by ham contesters to score the longest-distance communications using HF radio. A new codec records clear, but not hi-fi, voice in 700 bits per second, that's 88 bytes per second. Connected to an already-existing Open Source digital modem, it might beat SSB.

Obviously there are other uses for recording voice at ultra-low-bandwidth. Many smartphones could record your voice for your entire life using their existing storage. A single IP packet could carry 15 seconds of speech. Ultra-low-bandwidth codecs don't help conventional VoIP, though. The payload size for low-latency voice is only a few bytes, and the packet overhead will be at least 10 times that size.

Submission + - Researchers warn of fingerprint theft from V sign (japantimes.co.jp)

AmiMoJo writes: The V sign, made by holding up two parted fingers and commonly called the peace sign in Japan, may allow fingerprints to be copied from photographs, researchers warn. Research by a team at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII) were able to copy fingerprints based on photos taken by a digital camera three meters away from the subject.

Submission + - R.I.P. Google Hangouts API

BarbaraHudson writes: Once again we're seeing the hazards of developing using a 3rd party service API. Google will be discontinuing support for Google Hangouts API going forward (no surprise there). Google Hangouts is now so insignificant that the cancellation didn't even rate an official blog post. As reported by techcrunch

Google today quietly revealed that it will shut down the Hangouts API, preventing new apps from being built and shutting off existing apps on April 25th. There was no blog post about this, just an updated FAQ and email notification to developers active on the API, forwarded to us by one of these devs.

Submission + - TV News Broadcast Accidentally Activates Alexa, Initiates Orders (cw6sandiego.com)

ShaunC writes: Amazon's Echo digital assistant is supposed to make our lives easier, but one recent incident is causing headaches for some Echo owners. In San Diego, TV news anchor Jim Patton was covering a separate story about a child who accidentally ordered a doll house using her family's Echo. Commenting on the story, Patton said "I love the little girl, saying 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.'" Viewers across San Diego reported that in response to the news anchor's spoken words, their own Echo devices activated and tried to order doll houses from Amazon. Amazon says that anyone whose Echo inadvertently ordered a physical item can return it at no charge.

Submission + - Chinese rocket fails to put two satellites into correct orbits (spaceflightnow.com)

schwit1 writes: Tracking data suggests that two Earth-observation satellites launched today by China’s Long March 2D rocket were placed in the wrong orbits.

The two SuperView 1, or Gaojing 1, satellites are flying in egg-shaped orbits ranging from 133 miles (214 kilometers) to 325 miles (524 kilometers) in altitude at an inclination of 97.6 degrees. The satellites would likely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere within months in such a low orbit, and it was unclear late Wednesday whether the craft had enough propellant to raise their altitudes.

The high-resolution Earth-observing platforms were supposed to go into a near-circular orbit around 300 miles (500 kilometers) above the planet to begin their eight-year missions collecting imagery for Siwei Star Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., a government-owned entity.


Submission + - Android Ransomware Infects Smart TV, LG Refuses to Help (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: An LG smart TV owner was infected with Android ransomware. The user says he tried to reset the TV to factory settings, but the reset procedure available in online documentation didn't work. When the software engineer contacted LG, the company told him to visit one of their service centers, where one of its employees could reset his TV.

This angered the user because factory reset procedures shouldn't be secret, but also because the service center visit implied a $340 bill. The ransomware asked the user to pay $500 to unlock his TV, which means he would be better if he bought a new TV altogether, seeing as the infected TV was already a few years old.

Submission + - Creepy Website IknowWhatYouDownload Makes Your Torrenting History Open To All (iknowwhatyoudownload.com) 2

dryriver writes: The highly invasive and possibly Russian owned and operated website http://iknowwhatyoudownload.co... immediately shows the bittorent download history for your IP address when you land on it. What's more, it also shows the torrenting history of any specific IP address you enter, and also of IP addresses similar to your's, so you can see what others near you — perhaps the nice neighbours in the house next door — have downloaded when they thought nobody was looking. Upon clicking on somebody else's IP link in my range, for example, I found that the person had downloaded a tremendous amount of Porn content of a certain rather embarrassing type in what they thought was the privacy of their own home. The website highlights XXX content in bright red on its download list, a feature that appears explicitly designed to embarrass people who torrent porn. There is also a nasty little "Track Downloads" feature that lets you send a "trick URL" to somebody else. When they click on the URL — thinking its something cool on Facebook, Twitter or the general internet — THEY see what they URL promised, but YOU get sent their entire torrenting history, including anything embarrassing or otherwise compromising content they may have downloaded in private. A website this malicious and invasive can only have been built by the big content producers to deter people from downloading piratedcontent methinks. The website appears to offer an API, customized download reports and more to interested parties in the hopes of generating big cash from making other people's torrenting activities public. I wonder how long it takes before some teenager commits suicide or similar because his school friends sent him a "trick URL" from this site that outed him/her as downloading gay porn or similar.

Submission + - Aircraft Entertainment Systems Hacks are Back (threatpost.com)

msm1267 writes: Researchers at IOActive today disclosed vulnerabilities in Panasonic Avionics In-Flight Entertainment Systems that were reported to the manufacturer close to two years ago. The flaws could be abused to manipulate in-flight data shown to passengers, or access personal information and credit card data swiped at the seat for premium entertainment or Internet access.

Given that the firmware is customizable and used by dozens airlines in hundreds of aircraft models, the researchers said it’s almost impossible to determine whether the vulnerabilities no longer exist across the board.

IOActive said that segmentation between aircraft control and information services that oversee avionics and operational control of a plane should isolate these vulnerabilities to passenger entertainment domains. Whether an attacker could cross those domains and affect critical avionics systems would depend on specific devices and configurations, IOActive said, given that a physical path could exist that connects those systems through satellite communications terminals that provide in-flight updates to critical systems. The concern is that whether in some configurations, IFEs would share access to these devices and provide the physical path an attacker would need to reach critical systems.

As for the vulnerabilities in passenger systems, IOActive said there is a lack of authentication and encryption between an on-board server and clients at passenger seats. This could allow an attacker on board to send commands to the IFE system to manipulate what's displayed to passengers, or read payment card data swiped at seats.

Submission + - Adobe Releases Flash Player 24 for Linux Four Years After the Last Major Update (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Adobe released today Flash Player 24 for Linux, after previously abandoning the application without explanation in 2012. The NPAPI architecture of Flash Player for Linux is now on par with Windows and Mac releases on version 24, after spending the last few years stuck at version 11.2 and only receiving small patches and security fixes, but no new features.

Today's Flash Player 24 for Linux release comes after Adobe teased its release on August 31, and later released a Beta version (v23) in October. Despite updating Flash Player for Linux to the same version number as its Windows and Mac alternatives, the Linux variant still lags behind on features. While Flash Player 24 includes all the security features included in the Windows and Mac versions, the Linux version doesn't support accelerated GPU 3D acceleration and video DRMs. If users need these features, Adobe says users should use Chrome for Linux, where Google's own port, the Pepper Flash plugin (PPAPI architecture) supports them.

Submission + - Deep probe of antimatter puts Einstein's special relativity to the test (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: After decades of effort, physicists have probed the inner working of atoms of antihydrogen—the antimatter version of hydrogen—by measuring for the first time a particular wavelength of light that they absorb. The advance opens the way to precisely comparing hydrogen and antihydrogen and, oddly, testing the special theory of relativity—Albert Einstein’s 111-year-old theory of how space and time appear to observers moving relative to one another, which, among other things, says that nothing can move faster than light.

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