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Submission + - Neuroscience Does Not Compute (economist.com)

mspohr writes: The Economist has an interesting story about two neuroscientists/engineers who decided to test the methods of neuroscience using a 6502 processor. Their results are published in the PLOS Computational Biology journal.
Neuroscientists explore how the brain works by looking at damaged brains and monitoring inputs and outputs to try to infer intermediate processing. They did the same with the 6502 processor which was used in early Atari, Apple and Commodore computers.
What they discovered was that these methods were sorely lacking in that they often pointed in the wrong direction and missed important processing steps.

Submission + - Zuckerberg sues hundreds of Hawaiians to force property sales to him. (msn.com)

mmell writes: Apparently, owning 700 acres of land in Hawaii isn't enough — Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has filed suit to force owners of several small parcels of land to sell to the highest bidder. The reason? These property owners are completely surrounded by Zuckerberg's land holdings and therefore have lawful easement to cross his property in order to get to theirs.

Many of these land owners have held their land for generations, but seemingly Mr. Zuckerberg can not tolerate their presence so close to his private little slice of paradise. Landowners such as these came to own their land when their ancestors were "given" the land as Hawaiian natives.

If successful in his "quiet title" court action, Mr. Zuckerberg will finally have his slice of Hawaii's beaches and tropical lands without having to deal with the pesky presence of neighbors who were on his land before he owned it. Who knew that Hawaiians were just another kind of Native Americans?

Submission + - The Mind-Reading Gadget for Dogs that Got Funded, but Didn't Get Built (ieee.org)

the_newsbeagle writes: Crowdfunding campaigns that fail to deliver may be all too common, but some flameouts merit examination. Like this brain-scanning gadget for dogs, which promised to translate their barks into human language. It's not quite as goofy as it sounds: The campaigners planned to use standard EEG tech to record the dogs' brainwaves, and said they could correlate those electrical patterns with general states of mind like excitement, hunger, and curiosity.

The campaign got a ton of attention in the press and raised twice the money it aimed for. But then the No More Woof team seemed to vanish, leaving backers furious. This article explains what went wrong with the campaign, and what it says about the state of neurotech gadgets for consumers.

Submission + - Google Uses Its Search Engine to Hawk Its Products (wsj.com)

schwit1 writes: A Wall Street Journal analysis found that ads for products sold by Google and its sister companies appeared in the most prominent spot in 91% of 25,000 recent searches related to such items; and 43% of the time, the top two ads both were for Google-related products.

The analysis, run by search-ad-data firm SEMrush, examined 1,000 searches each on 25 terms, from "laptops" to "speakers" to "carbon monoxide detectors." SEMrush ran the searches Dec. 1 on a desktop computer, blocking past web-surfing history that could influence results.

The results show how Google uses its dominant search engine to boost other parts of its business and give it an edge over competitors, which include some of its biggest advertising customers.

A Google spokesman said the company has "consciously and carefully designed" its marketing programs not to affect other advertisers.

The Journal's analysis highlights a rarely discussed apparent conflict of interest in the $187 billion digital-advertising industry: The leading sellers of online ad space, including Google, Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp., also compete with their customers for that space.

Google searches for "phones" virtually always began with three consecutive ads for Google's Pixel phones. All 1,000 searches for "laptops" started with a Chromebook ad. "Watches" began with an Android smartwatch ad 98% of the time. And "smoke detector" led with back-to-back ads for internet-connected alarms made by Nest, a company owned by Google parent Alphabet. In all instances, the stores these ads pointed to were also owned by Alphabet.

Submission + - Alberta Man Turns Table on Laptop Thief (nationalpost.com)

jbwiebe writes: Cochrane’s Stu Gale couldn’t believe his eyes when a notification popped up on his computer telling him someone had logged on to his recently stolen laptop.

The B.C.-based 51-year-old computer security and automation expert couldn’t let the opportunity to try to find out something about the apparent thief pass him by, so he attempted to remotely log on to the pilfered laptop.

Submission + - How the Human Brain Decides What Is Important and What's Not (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: A new study in Neuroscience News sheds light on how we learn to pay attention in order to make the most of our life experiences.

"The Wizard of Oz told Dorothy to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” in an effort to distract her, but a new Princeton University study sheds light on how people learn and make decisions in real-world situations.

The findings could eventually contribute to improved teaching and learning and the treatment of mental and addiction disorders in which people’s perspectives are dysfunctional or fractured."

Submission + - EFF sets out privacy and security plans for the first 100 days under Trump (betanews.com) 1

Mark Wilson writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has set out its plans for the first 100 days under Trump, during which time it says it will continue to fight for the rights of internet and technology users.

The digital rights group has already drawn up a wishlist for covering its privacy and security dreams for 2017, but the 100-day plan sees the EFF setting out its agenda for the first few months under Trump. Having claimed that "our civil liberties need an independent defense force" and that "free speech and the rights to privacy, transparency, and innovation won’t survive on their own", EFF is prepared to go to court — again — to hold the new administration to account when necessary.

The group plans to continue its fight against "wrongful surveillance and censorship orders", and says that it will make full use of Freedom of Information Act requests to "force transparency on our secretive government". This is something that will be happening right from the get-go: "we intend to wield this tool from the earliest days of Trump's presidency".

Submission + - Online Security: Dumb WhatsApp Scam Spreads Malware - Beware

jamilnaws writes: Dumb WhatsApp Scam Spreads Malware, Touting 'Free Internet' Without Wi-Fi: Beware

A pretty dumb WhatsApp scam is making rounds in chain mail form, promising "free internet" without Wi-Fi on an invite-only basis.

First of all, the scam is quite dumb to begin with because the only way to use WhatsApp without Wi-Fi is to have a cellular data connection and WhatsApp cannot offer data — it's just an app, not a provider.

Secondly, the scam is spreading because it prompts victims to forward the message to 13 friends or five groups on WhatsApp to activate the "free internet."

How It Works

"As usual, the message spreads via WhatsApp groups or comes from a friend who 'recommends' the service — often unaware of it. In this case, you receive a special invitation with a link," explains the WeLiveSecurity blog of antivirus and security firm ESET.

"You can already get Internet Free Without WI-FI with Whatsapp, and it is by means of invitations, here I give you an invitation," reads the poorly written message.

Upon clicking on the included link, users are taken to a website mimicking the WhatsApp domain. It detects the device's language based on the browser settings and invites users to pass along the invitation to more people, ensuring that the scam keeps spreading.

The message also shows fake reviews from fake users, claiming to be incredibly satisfied with this amazing offer. Those users don't even exist, much like this "free internet" invite-only deal. Don't fall for it, or you'll get more than you bargained for — and not in a good way.

Surprise! Malware

After sharing the message with at least 13 people or five groups, users who have fallen victim to this sham end up on various sites where a number of malicious actions can wreak havoc.

According to WeLiveSecurity, such actions range from subscriptions to premium and expensive SMS services to installing third-party apps on the device, of course aiming to generate some money for the scammer on the victims' expense.

Victims will see various offers, but they obviously will not get any "free internet." The only way to use WhatsApp to communicate with people is to have an active internet connection, be it cellular data or Wi-Fi, and the scam does absolutely nothing to change this reality.

At best, victims waste their time and end up disappointed that the magical chain message didn't work. At worst, they end up with malicious software on their phones.

How To Avoid Such Scams

First of all, keep in mind that any message that shows up out of the blue, poorly written and making seemingly attractive promises are most likely fake, part of a scam. Raising awareness regarding these scams plays a crucial role in limiting their damage and slowing their spread rate.

If you've received this "free internet" offer or some other dubious message that looks like a scam, warn the sender and your friends so that they're aware it's a scam. Moreover, reporting the fraud is also important and it's not that big of a hassle — just flag it in your browser as you'd normally report any phishing campaign.

Submission + - FTC Dismantles Two Huge Robocall Organizations

Trailrunner7 writes: Continuing its campaign against phone fraud operations, the FTC has dismantled two major robocall organizations that the commission alleges were making hundreds of millions of calls over the course of several years to consumers who were on the Do Not Call registry.

The FTC filed complaints against two separate groups of defendants, the leaders of which have both been involved in previous legal actions for robocalling operations. The defendants each controlled several different corporate entities that were involved in selling home security systems, extended auto warranties, and other products through repeated automated phone calls. Many of the calls were to numbers on the DNC list, a violation of the telemarketing regulations.

The two main defendants in the complaints are Justin Ramsey and Aaron Michael Jones, and in separate actions, they and many of their co-defendants have agreed to court-ordered bans on robocall activities and financial settlements. The FTC alleges that Ramsey directed an operation that made millions of robocalls a month.

Submission + - Squirrel 'Threat' to Critical Infrastructure

randomErr writes: The real threat to global critical infrastructure is not enemy states or organisations but squirrels. Cris Thomas has been tracking power cuts caused by animals since 2013. His Cyber Squirrel 1 project was set up to counteract what he called the "ludicrousness of cyber-war claims by people at high levels in government and industry", he told the audience at the Shmoocon security conference in Washington. Squirrels topped the list with 879 "attacks", followed by birds with 434 attacks and then snakes at 83 attacks.

Submission + - SPAM: It Can Power a Small Nation. But This Wind Farm in China Is Mostly Idle.

schnell writes: The New York Times reports on a massive wind farm in remote Gansu province that boasts more than 7,000 wind turbines but whose capacity goes more than 60% unused. The wind farm epitomizes China's struggles in its efforts to become a world renewable energy leader: the Chinese economy is slumping, leading to decreased energy demand; the country lacks the infrastructure to haul power from remote wind-producing regions to industrial centers; and government policies continue to favor the domestic coal industry. China has 92,000 wind turbines, more than double the US's capacity, but China generates only 3.3% of its electricity from wind compared to 4.7% in the United States.

Submission + - Gambler Phil Ivey Sued For Being Too Good (thefederalist.com) 2

schwit1 writes: “The Borgata alleged that Ivey’s actions, which the casino agreed to in advance, constitute cheating. In fact, they merely constitute a gambler getting a legitimate advantage over the casino. In this age of cozy cooperation between the state and the gaming industry, that’s something that’s just not allowed.”

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