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Submission + - Activists Call for General Strike on the Tor Network (

derekmead writes: Some Tor users are very unhappy with the way the project has been run in recent months, and are calling for a blackout on September 1st. They are asking users to not use Tor, for developers to stop working on Tor, and for those who run parts of the network's infrastructure to shut it down. The disgruntled users feel that Tor can no longer be fully trusted after a brief hiring of an ex-CIA official and the internal sexual misconduct investigation against activist Jacob Appelbaum.

Submission + - SPAM: First Vape Company Folds Due to New Regulations

derekmead writes: Many people have been predicting for months that the dawn of serious federal regulations on vaping would be a death knell for many companies. On Monday, the first casualty emerged.

8BitVape is an e-liquid manufacturer based in the United Kingdom, but it’s unique in that it allows customers to order completely customized juices. Vapers choose from five different bottle sizes, seven different nicotine strengths, and can mix and match any of the company’s 108 flavors. Customers can also share their creations with the site’s online community, and if others order it, the creator gets discounts on future offers. It’s sort of a bridge between buying premixed juices and making your own. Fancy a zero nicotine, pineapple-peppermint-champagne blend for some reason? You can have it.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - Google's Lawyers Tried to Explain APIs to a Jury Using a Physical Filing Cabinet (

derekmead writes: The second trial in Oracle v. Google started this week. There are a lot of reasons to pay attention to this trial, which will determine whether Google’s use of the Java APIs in Android was a fair use. For one thing, an immensely contentious issue in software copyright law is about to come to a head. And if that’s not the kind of thing that usually gets your attention, there’s 9 freaking billion dollars at stake.

Yet during opening arguments, Robert Van Nest, the lead attorney for Google, trotted out a literal actual physical filing cabinet labeled “java.lang” for the benefit of the jury. Van Nest is trying to explain what an Application Programing Interface (API) is to the jury. In many ways, making sure everyone understands what an API is, is the key to the entire case—it has been from the beginning, since the first trial in 2012.

Submission + - What an API Is and Why It's Worth Fighting For (

derekmead writes: On Monday, Google and Oracle will officially enter the next stage in a six-year war over Google's usage of the Java programming language in constructing the Android operating system. Here, at the United States District Court in San Francisco, where the case began in 2011, a jury will hear arguments as to whether or not Google's usage of the Java API constitutes fair use.

The Java API is interesting and unique. It's basically just a Library of Babel of different functions, classes, and data structures that the language provides to programmers to use in their code. It’s huge.

We can as programmers just use Java's own implementations by referencing the Java core API, but we can also use someone else's implementation as well, or we can even write our own. We just have to make sure that the result meets the same specifications given by the Java API. This is what Google did, roughly: It used an implementation of the Java API not sanctioned by Oracle/Sun. So, the question is whether or not that constitutes copyright infringement.

Submission + - The Small Town Judge Who Sees a Quarter of the Nation's Patent Cases (

derekmead writes: Since taking the bench in 2011—moving literally across the street from his law office into the district courthouse—Judge Rodney Gilstrap has become one of the most influential patent litigation judges in the country. In 2015, there were 5,819 new patent cases filed in the US; 1,686 of those ended up in front of Judge Gilstrap. That’s more than a quarter of all cases in the country; twice as many as the next most active patent judge.

This busy patent docket didn’t blossom overnight, and it’s not some strange coincidence. Due to some unique rules around intellectual property filings, patent holders can often file their lawsuits at any district court in the country, even if neither the plaintiff nor the defendant is based there. By introducing a list of standing court orders and local regulations, the Eastern District of Texas (and, in particular, Gilstrap’s division of Marshall) has become the court of choice for many plaintiffs, especially non-practicing entities, often referred to as patent trolls.

Submission + - Journalists Should Not Be Afraid of Using Hacked Data (

derekmead writes: We are in the age of massive, informative data breaches. From Italian surveillance company Hacking Team, to extra-marital affairs site Ashley Madison, and perhaps Mossack Fonseca, the company at the centre of the Panama Papers, journalists are increasingly being presented with opportunities to uncover significant stories using data that has been illegally pulled from databases or servers by hackers.

In parallel, commentators have claimed that some stories gleaned from dumps have little public interest. The BBC has asked me why I reported on the contents of emails from a data breach. As hacked caches become a much more common source for important stories, maybe it’s time for journalists, and readers, to assess what is really being asked when a media outlet dives into a freshly released dump.

Submission + - Why Hasn't Spotify Fixed Its 9,999 Song Library Limit? (

derekmead writes: Spotify has raised another billion dollars in funding, and everyone wants to know what the music streaming giant is going to do with it. Peter Kafka's prediction that the company will dive deep into video makes sense, but I've got another suggestion for what to do with that unfathomable amount of money: Why not fix the service's most asinine limitation?

Users are only allowed to save—not download locally, but "save," as in bookmark—9,999 songs to their personal library. Spotify won't even let me bookmark new music that's already on its servers, despite users complaining about it for years. Spotify bills itself as THE music library, one that can replace just about everything else you have. Sure, access is the new ownership, but you think you'd at least be able to bookmark a few more songs.

Submission + - Engineers Devise a Way to Harvest Wind Energy from Trees (

derekmead writes: Harvesting electrical power from vibrations or other mechanical stress is pretty easy.Turns out all it really takes is a bit of crystal or ceramic material and a couple of wires and, there you go, piezoelectricity. As stress is applied to the material, charge accumulates, which can then be shuttled away to do useful work. The classic example is an electric lighter, in which a spring-loaded hammer smacks a crystal, producing a spark.

Another example is the heart of a piezoelectric system described in a new paper in the Journal of Sound and Vibration courtesy of engineers at Ohio State's Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research. The basic idea behind the energy harvesting platform: exploit the natural internal resonances of trees within tiny artificial forests capable of generating enough voltage to power sensors and structural monitoring systems.

Submission + - Wolves Have Different 'Howling Dialects,' Machine Learning Finds (

derekmead writes: Differentiating wolf howls with human ears can prove tricky, so researchers have turned to computer algorithms to suss out if different wolf species howl differently. They think that understanding wolf howls could help improve wolf conservation and management programs.

In a study published in the journal Behavioural Processes, a group of international researchers describe using machine learning for the first time to analyse 2,000 wolf howls gathered from both wild and domesticated wolves and their subspecies from around the world.

Submission + - Researchers Uncover the Genetic Roots Behind Rare Vibration Allergy (

derekmead writes: A team of National Health Institute researchers has for the first time uncovered the genetic roots of one of the strangest allergies: vibrations. The vibration allergy, which is just as it sounds, may be quite rare, but understanding it more completely may yield important insights into the fundamental malfunctioning of immune cells in the presence of allergens. The group's findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine .

In addition to being uncommon, the vibration allergy is not very dangerous. In most cases, the allergic response is limited to hives—the pale, prickly rash most often associated with allergic and autoimmune reactions. Other less common symptoms include headaches, blurry vision, fatigue, and flushing. The triggering vibrations are everyday things: jogging, jackhammering, riding a motorcycle, towel drying. Symptoms appear within a few minutes of exposure and are gone usually within an hour.

Submission + - The FBI's 'Unprecedented' Hacking Campaign Targeted Over a Thousand Computers (

derekmead writes: In order to fight what it has called one of the largest child pornography sites on the dark web, the FBI hacked over a thousand computers, according to court documents reviewed by Motherboard and interviews with legal parties involved.

Just a month after launch, a bulletin board called Playpen had nearly 60,000 member accounts. By the following year, this number had ballooned to almost 215,000, with over 117,000 total posts, and an average of 11,000 unique visitors each week. Many of those posts, according to FBI testimony, contained some of the most extreme child abuse imagery one could imagine, and others included advice on how sexual abusers could avoid detection online.

But after Playpen was seized, it wasn't immediately closed down, unlike previous dark web sites that have been shuttered by law enforcement. Instead, the FBI ran Playpen from its own servers in Newington, Virginia, from February 20 to March 4, reads a complaint filed against a defendant in Utah. During this time, the FBI deployed what is known as a network investigative technique (NIT), the agency's term for a hacking tool.

Submission + - The Guardians of London's Black Cab 'Knowledge' (

derekmead writes: Twenty-five thousand streets, 100,000 landmarks, 320 main routes criss-crossing the most congested city in Europe, all committed to memory. This is what it takes to drive one of London’s iconic black taxis.

Since 1865, London taxi drivers have had to pass “the Knowledge of London,” a gruelling training course that requires knowing every street within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross, the junction that intersects Whitehall and the Strand in the centre of the city. When a passenger hails a taxi and gives a destination, the driver will know where it is and the best way to get there, all without consulting a map or satnav. In addition to road names and directions, the driver will be familiar with every major point of interest.

The closure of the city's largest Knowledge school, whose doors have seen around a third of the city’s taxi drivers pass through, raises questions about the enduring relevance of the Knowledge in an age of satnavs and Uber. Could technology mean the Knowledge becomes a lost art?

Submission + - The 'Game of Drones' Is a Live War Game Every Politician Should Play (

derekmead writes: The Caprican-Haderach contest did not, in fact, take place in a distant land or on one of Frank Herbert’s planets in Dune, as the names of the actors might suggest. It was one scenario in a two-day war game organized by the Center for a New American Security, a national security think tank in Washington, DC.

The “Game of Drones” was designed to explore the different ways that drones could be used for tactical and strategic effect in a conflict.

The summit sought to address whether shooting down a drone might escalate tensions between countries or whether drones changed the character of a conflict by giving actors capabilities they didn’t have before. As more and more state and non-state actors acquire drones, the war game illustrated how drones could be used in .

Submission + - Digital Noise Is Creeping Out Our Brains' Fear Network (

derekmead writes: There are a lot of noises that make us nervous. They can be inorganic and deliberate, such as the theme from Jaws, or organic and random like a blood-curdling scream or a piece of malfunctioning machinery. Hearing them makes us uneasy.

The heater is about to burst. The engine is melting. The plane is rattling apart. Or so we think.

It’s not entirely clear why we do this. Something happens in our heads when we hear things that unsettle or frighten us. But exactly how does it all kick in, and how might this complex, primal auditory fear circuit be evolving in an age awash in digital noise?

Submission + - FCC Passes Landmark Reform of 'Egregious' Prison Phone Charges (

derekmead writes: The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to crack down on exorbitant prison phone rates, in a landmark victory for criminal justice reform advocates who have long criticized what they call abusive and predatory practices by phone companies.

The new FCC rules cap the cost of prison phone calls at 11 cents a minute for debit or prepaid calls in state and federal prisons, and reduce the cost of most inmate calls from $2.96 to $1.65 for a 15-minute in-state call, and from $3.15 to $1.65 for a 15-minute long distance call. The new policy also cracks down on excessive service fees and so-called “flat-rate calling,” in which inmates are charged a flat rate for a call up to 15 minutes regardless of the actual call duration.

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