Science & Tech News

Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF. EFF Sues Them Back

Slashdot Updates - Sat, 04/15/2017 - 9:34am
"The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued an Australian company that it previously dubbed as a 'classic patent troll' in a June 2016 blog post entitled: Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer." An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Last year, that company, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove its post -- but EFF did not comply. In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still did not comply. The new lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, asks that the American court declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the U.S. GEMSA's attorneys reportedly threatened to have the EFF's post de-indexed from search engine listings -- on the basis of the Australian court order -- so now the EFF "seeks a court order declaring the Australian injunction 'repugnant' to the U.S. Constitution and unenforceable in the United States." The Register reports that GEMSA has already sued 37 companies, "including big-name tech companies Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Spotify, and eBay. In each case, GEMSA accused the company's website design of somehow trampling on the GUI patent without permission." But things were different after the EFF's article, according to Courthouse News. "GEMSA said the article made it harder to enforce its patents in the United States, citing its legal opponents' 'reduced interest in pursuing pre-trial settlement negotiations.'"

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Tiny Changes Can Cause An AI To Fail

Slashdot Updates - Sat, 04/15/2017 - 8:34am
Luthair writes: According to the BBC there is growing concern in the machine learning community that as their algorithms are deployed in the real world they can be easily confused by knowledgeable attackers. These algorithms don't process information in the same way humans do, a small sticker placed strategically on a sign could render it invisible to a self driving car. The article points out that a sticker on a stop sign "is enough for the car to 'see' the stop sign as something completely different from a stop sign," while researchers have created an online collection of images which currently fool AI systems. "In one project, published in October, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University built a pair of glasses that can subtly mislead a facial recognition system -- making the computer confuse actress Reese Witherspoon for Russell Crowe." One computer academic says that unlike a spam-blocker, "if you're relying on the vision system in a self-driving car to know where to go and not crash into anything, then the stakes are much higher," adding ominously that "The only way to completely avoid this is to have a perfect model that is right all the time." Although on the plus side, "If you're some political dissident inside a repressive regime and you want to be able to conduct activities without being targeted, being able to avoid automated surveillance techniques based on machine learning would be a positive use."

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17 Years Later, A New Season Of MST3K Premiers On Netflix

Slashdot Updates - Sat, 04/15/2017 - 7:34am
Launched in 1988, Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran for ten seasons on Comedy Central and The Sci-Fi Channel, with its last episode airing in August of 1999. But now Slashdot reader #5844 ewhac writes: 17 years later, Season 11 of MST3K debuted Friday on Netflix. A full season has been produced, including a stretch-goal Christmas special, funded by the highest-earning Kickstarter Film & Video campaign to date ($5.76 million) -- thousands of contributors are listed in the show's end credits, spread across all fourteen episodes. The show remains true to its low-budget roots, relying almost exclusively on models and practical effects, including a very inventive new door sequence. The backstory for the new season is very swiftly established in the opening to Experiment 1101, as Jonah Heston (played by co-producer Jonah Ray) is abducted by the evil mad scientist Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and her sidekick Max a/k/a TV's son of TV's Frank (Patton Oswalt). Together with Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn), and Crow (Hampton Yount), Jonah quips his way through a barrage of bad movies, including Reptilicus, Starcrash, The Loves of Hercules, and The Christmas That Almost Wasn't. In 2008 MST3K's original creator Joel Hodgson answered questions from Slashdot's readers, and said he was fascinated by the popularity of Creative Commons licenses. "For most of the public domain titles that we've used, it's a matter of the garbage not being taken out. Basically, they forgot to apply for a copyright so it in fact lapsed into the public domain."

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Remote-Access Router Exploit Finally Revealed

Slashdot Updates - Sat, 04/15/2017 - 6:34am
"Back in the days, Cisco fixed the vulnerability, but we are not sure about all other router vendors and models because there are too many of them," writes the DefenseCode team. Orome1 quotes a new report from Help Net Security: Back in January 2013, researchers from application security services firm DefenseCode unearthed a remote root access vulnerability in the default installation of some Cisco Linksys (now Belkin) routers. The flaw was actually found in Broadcom's UPnP implementation used in popular routers, and ultimately the researchers extended the list of vulnerable routers to encompass devices manufactured by the likes of ASUS, D-Link, Zyxel, US Robotics, TP-Link, Netgear, and others. Since there were millions of vulnerable devices out there, the researchers refrained from publishing the exploit they created for the flaw, but now, four years later, they've released their full research again, and this time they've also revealed the exploit. The researchers pointed out that most users don't update their router's firmware -- meaning many routers may still be vulnerable.

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Facebook Targets 30,000 Fake France Accounts Before Election

Slashdot Updates - Sat, 04/15/2017 - 5:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Facebook says it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France ahead of the country's presidential election, as part of a worldwide effort against misinformation. The company said Thursday it's trying to "reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts." It said its efforts "enabled us to take action" against the French accounts and that it is removing sites with the highest traffic. Facebook and French media are also running fact-checking programs in France to combat misleading information, especially around the campaign for the two-round April 23-May 7 presidential election. European authorities have also pressured Facebook and Twitter to remove extremist propaganda or other postings that violate European hate speech or other laws.

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G.SKILL Hits 4500MHz With All-New Trident Z DDR4-4333MHz 16GB Memory Kit

Slashdot Updates - Sat, 04/15/2017 - 2:00am
BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: G.SKILL is a respected RAM maker, and the company is constantly pushing the envelope. Today, it announced a new DDR4-4333MHz 16GB Memory Kit (2x8GB) -- the first ever. While that alone is very cool, the company is bragging about what it accomplished with it -- an overclock that hit 4500MHz using an Intel Core i5-7600K processor paired with an ASUS ROG Maximus IX Apex motherboard. Pricing and availability for this kit is unknown at this time. With that said, it will probably be quite expensive. What we do know, however, its that the insane overclock to 4500MHz is for real. This was achieved using timings of CL19-19-19-39 in dual channel, which resulted in read/write of 55/65GB/s and copy speed of 52GB/s.

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Scientists Win $2.6 Million For Star Trek Tricorder Device

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 11:00pm
The Qualcomm Foundation, along with the XPRIZE Foundation, "announced the winning team of its nearly four-year-long global competition to develop a functional, easily usable tricorder," reports Vocativ. The Pennsylvania-based Final Frontier Medical Devices team was the first place winner, receiving the top prize of $2.6 million, while Boston-based Dynamical Biomarkers nabbed $1 million. From the report: Led by Dr. Basil Harris, a Philadelphia emergency room physician, the team was mostly made out of family and friends Harris coaxed into volunteering their free time on the weekend. By contrast, Dynamical Biomarkers had 50 scientists and programmers, mostly paid, and was sponsored by the Taiwanese government and Taiwan-based cellphone company HTC. The device kit developed by Final Frontier, called DxtER, uses non-invasive sensors that collect data from the user and combines that with an AI frontloaded with information in the field of clinical emergency medicine to come with a diagnosis. The device currently operates on an iPad tablet, but future versions should work equally fine on a smartphone as well. The device, ideally, would allow patients to then send their readings to their doctors so they could collaborate on their health care. According to an interview Harris held with the Washington Post, DxtER can diagnose up to 34 medical conditions in its present design. The device developed by Dynamical Biomarkers could reach up to 50, team leader and Harvard Medical School professor Chung-Kang Peng, told the Post, given it surpasses the five-pound weight limit imposed by the competition guidelines.

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Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 7:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."

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US Navy Bans Vaping On Ships

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 5:05pm
The U.S. Navy announced today that it will no longer allow sailors to use electronic cigarettes on ships, following several reports of explosives and injuries. ABC News reports: Naval commanders said in a statement Friday that the temporary electronic cigarette policy aims to protect sailors and the fleet. It starts next month. Officials cited overheated batteries in vaping equipment as the problem. Explosions have led to fires, first-degree burns and facial disfigurement. During a recent eight-month stretch, 12 incidents put sailors out of work for a combined 77 days. Injuries also restricted some to light duty for a total of five months.

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FriendELEC Releases $40 NanoPi K2 Board That Competes With ODROID-C2, Raspberry Pi 3

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 4:35pm
DeathByLlama writes: The single board computer market, broken wide-open just a few years ago by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, continues to flourish today as FriendELEC releases their $40 NanoPi K2 board. This SBC packs a 1.5 GHz 64-bit quad core Amlogic S905 processor, and paired with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and the Mali-450MP GPU, it is able to stream 4K at 60 FPS. Add in gigabit ethernet, onboard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IR (and a remote!), eMMC compatibility, a familiar GPIO header, and a $40 price tag, and you end up with some stiff competition for other market leaders like Hardkernel's ODROID-C2 and Raspberry Pi's flagship Pi 3. The release is clearly in early phases with Ubuntu images and house-sold eMMC modules still on their way. It's amazing to see such strong competition in this market -- and with so many sub-$100, incredibly capable SBC options, which will choose?

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Zelda: Breath of the Wild Is Now the Fastest-Selling Nintendo Launch Title of All Time

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 4:05pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: It's no surprise that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch, a console that just had its strongest U.S. opening ever for the company. But managing to sell more copies than consoles that can actually play it? That's what's happened in the U.S., amazingly -- Nintendo just announced that it sold 906,000 Switch consoles in March along with 925,000 copies of Breath of the Wild. The Wii U version moved almost 460,000 units on top of that, making for total sales of over 1.3 million. Breath of the Wild is now the fastest-selling Nintendo launch title of all time and the fastest-selling Legend of Zelda game ever. Nintendo says it thinks the Switch attach rate of more than 100 percent might be explained by people who bought a limited edition version to collect and a regular version to actually play, though another possibility is that some bought the game before they could find the console itself in stock.

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Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 3:20pm
ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.

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Microsoft Confirms Only a Handful of Windows Phones Will Receive Windows 10 Creators Update

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 2:40pm
Windows Phone has less than a 1 percent market share in the mobile industry, but it is not completely dead, yet. In fact, if you own a relatively new Windows Phone, it may receive a new update that will give new life to it. Microsoft has confirmed today that only a subset of Windows Phone handsets will be getting the Windows 10 Creators Update when it begins rolling out on April 25. ZDNet reports: [Here's] Microsoft's list of supported phones: Alcatel IDOL 4S; Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL; HP Elite x3; Lenovo Softbank 503LV; MCJ Madosma Q601; Microsoft Lumia 550; Microsoft Lumia 640/640XL; Microsoft; Lumia 650; Microsoft Lumia 950/950 XL; Trinity NuAns Neo; VAIO VPB051. "Devices not on this list will not officially receive the Windows 10 Creators Update nor will they receive any future builds from our Development Branch that we release as part of the Windows Insider Program. However, Windows Insiders who have devices not on this list can still keep these devices on the Windows 10 Creators Update at their own risk knowing that it's unsupported," said Windows Insider chief Dona Sarkar in today's blog post. Microsoft attributed the short list of support phones to Insider feedback that indicated older phones might not be providing "the best possible experience" for customers. Microsoft also released a Fast Ring test build of Windows 10 Mobile for phones to Fast Ring Insiders today. That build number is 15204 and it includes a number of bug fixes. This is the first Redstone 3 build for Windows Phones. It's only available to Insider phone users of handsets that are on the list above.

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FDA Slams St. Jude Medical For Ignoring Security Flaws In Medical Devices

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 2:00pm
chicksdaddy quotes a report from The Security Ledger: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a letter of warning to medical device maker Abbott on Wednesday, slamming the company for what it said was a pattern of overlooking security and reliability problems in its implantable medical devices at its St. Jude Medical division and describing a range of the company's devices as "adulterated," in violation of the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Security Ledger reports. In a damning warning letter, the FDA said that St. Jude Medical knew about serious security flaws in its implantable medical devices as early as 2014, but failed to address them with software updates or by replacing those devices. The government found that St. Jude, time and again, failed to adhere to internal security and product quality guidelines, a lapse that resulted in at least one patient death. St. Jude Medical, which is now wholly owned by the firm Abbott, learned of serious and exploitable security holes in the company's "high voltage and peripheral devices" in an April, 2014 "third party assessment" commissioned by the company. But St. Jude "failed to accurately incorporate the findings of that assessment" in subsequent risk assessments for the affected products, including Merlin@home, a home-based wireless transmitter that is used to provide remote care for patients with implanted cardiac devices, the FDA revealed. Among the security flaws: a "hardcoded universal unlock code" for the company's implantable, high voltage devices. The report casts doubt on a defamation lawsuit St. Jude filed against the firm MedSec Holdings Ltd over its August, 2016 report that warned of widespread security flaws in St. Jude products, including Merlin@home. The MedSec report on St. Judes technology was released in conjunction with a report by the investment firm Muddy Waters Research, which specializes in taking "short" positions on firms. At the time, MedSec said that the security of the company's medical devices and support software was "grossly inadequate compared with other leading manufacturers," and represents "unnecessary health risks and should receive serious notice among hospitals, regulators, physicians and cardiac patients." St. Judes has called the MedSec allegations false, but it now appears that the company had heard similar warnings raised by its own third-party security auditor more than a year prior.

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NSA-Leaking Shadow Brokers Just Dumped Its Most Damaging Release Yet

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 1:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Shadow Brokers -- the mysterious person or group that over the past eight months has leaked a gigabyte worth of the National Security Agency's weaponized software exploits -- just published its most significant release yet. Friday's dump contains potent exploits and hacking tools that target most versions of Microsoft Windows and evidence of sophisticated hacks on the SWIFT banking system of several banks across the world. Friday's release -- which came as much of the computing world was planning a long weekend to observe the Easter holiday -- contains close to 300 megabytes of materials the leakers said were stolen from the NSA. The contents (a convenient overview is here) included compiled binaries for exploits that targeted vulnerabilities in a long line of Windows operating systems, including Windows 8 and Windows 2012. It also included a framework dubbed Fuzzbunch, a tool that resembles the Metasploit hacking framework that loads the binaries into targeted networks. Independent security experts who reviewed the contents said it was without question the most damaging Shadow Brokers release to date. One of the Windows zero-days flagged by Hickey is dubbed Eternalblue. It exploits a remote code-execution bug in the latest version of Windows 2008 R2 using the server message block and NetBT protocols. Another hacking tool known as Eternalromance contains an easy-to-use interface and "slick" code. Hickey said it exploits Windows systems over TCP ports 445 and 139. The exact cause of the bug is still being identified. Friday's release contains several tools with the word "eternal" in their name that exploit previously unknown flaws in Windows desktops and servers.

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The Great Japan Potato-Chip Crisis: Panic Buying, $12 Bags

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 12:40pm
Demand for potato chips has surged in Japan this week, with products on offer for 6 times their retail price online after Japanese snack company Calbee halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands. From a report: Calbee's pizza-flavored chips were going for about 1,250 yen ($12) on Yahoo Japan Corp.'s auction website Friday. One bag usually sells for less than 200 yen. Photos of near-empty shelves at their local supermarkets were trending on Twitter. The crunch came after Calbee warned on Monday that it will temporarily halt the sale of 15 types of potato chips due to a bad crop in Hokkaido, a key potato-producing region. The northern island was hit by a record number of typhoons last year. Calbee, which has a market value of 507.9 billion yen and is 20 percent-owned by PepsiCo Inc., has a 73 percent market share of potato chips. Potato chips are a big deal in Japan, a country also known for its senbei rice crackers and Pocky sticks. Calbee's potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks in a TV Asahi poll of 10,000 people and 13 confectionery makers last year, and the subject of a primetime show that lasted more than two hours.

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A New Survey Shows Consumers Are Not That Freaked Out By Tech

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 12:00pm
Lippincott, a global creative consultancy, asked 2,000 "leading edge" consumers in the U.S. whether they were excited to welcome our robot overlords or terrified of them. A report on FastCompany adds: Some of their findings go against conventional wisdom, like the belief that consumers are scared about the future. Turns out 80 percent said they are excited about changes in technology. Some 78 percent feel more powerful and in control of their lives thanks to the support from smart machines, artificial intelligence, and robotics. There is some anxiety about the incursion of tech into our lives, with over 40 percent reporting that they are scared about changes to the economy, society, culture, and the government. Despite that, 64 percent of them still expect that the world will be better in 10 years than it is today.

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Google Is Working On a Tool For Managing Job Applicants

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 11:20am
Google is quietly testing "Google Hire," a job applicant tracking system that appears to rival services like Greenhouse and Lever, Axios is reporting. From the report: The service lets employers post job listings, then accept and manage applications, according to job listing links spotted by Axios reader Colin Heilbut. So far, several tech companies seem to be using (or testing) Google Hire, including Medisas, Poynt, DramaFever, SingleHop, and CoreOS.

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Entire nervous system of an animal recorded for the first time

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 11:00am
Every neuron in a hydra has been seen firing. The breakthrough helps us understand basic behaviour and could lead to us unlocking the secrets of our own brains
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Google Kills Off Octane JavaScript Benchmark Due To 'Diminishing Returns and Over-Optimization'

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 10:41am
Google has announced that its widely used Octane JavaScript benchmark is being retired, with Google saying that it's no longer a useful way for browser developers to determine how best to optimize their JavaScript engines. From a report: Google goes as far as saying that developers were essentially cheating the system. It says that compiler optimizations needed to achieve high benchmark scores have become common and, in the real world, these optimizations translate into only very small improvements in webpage performance. In fact, in some instances it was found that tactics used to boost benchmark performance actually had a detrimental effect on real-world performance. Developers exploited known bugs in Octane to achieve higher scores than were warranted, and Google believes the time has now come to retire the system completely.

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