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IT

Ask Slashdot: Remote Support For Disconnected, Computer-Illiterate Relatives 266

Posted by samzenpus
from the help-me-please dept.
An anonymous reader writes I use email to communicate with my folks overseas. Their ISP only allows dial-up access to their email account (there is no option of changing ISP), that can receive messages no larger than 1MB nor hold more than 15MB (no hope of changing that either). They are computer-illiterate, click on everything they receive, and take delight on sending their information to any Nigerian prince that contacts them, "just in case this one is true". Needless to say, their PC is always full of viruses and spyware. In my next yearly visit, instead of just cleaning it up, I'd like to gift them with some "hardened" PC to use for email only that would hopefully last the year before someone has to fix it. So far, these are the things I have in mind:
  • Some kind of linux distro, or maybe even mac. Most viruses over there are windows only and propagate via Autorun.inf or by email attachments, not having Windows could prevent both.
  • Some desktop environment that hides anything unrelated to connecting to the net and accessing their account (dial-up software, email client, web browser, exchanging files between their hard disk/email attachments and USB drives). By "hide", I just want the rest to be out of the way, but not entirely removed, so that if necessary, I can guide them over the phone. For this, Ubuntu's Unity seems like a particularly bad solution, but a Gnome desktop with non-removable desktop shortcuts (is this possible?) for the file manager, browser, email client and dial-up program could work. An android system is unlikely to work (they have no wifi, and they were utterly confused with Android's UI).
  • This could be a life saver: some kind of extension to the email client that executes commands on specially formatted emails (e.g., signed with my private key), so that I can do some basic diagnostics or install extra software if I have to. This las point is important: they currently rely on acquaintances who may not be competent (they can't evaluate that) if something happens between my visits. They, most likely, wont know how to deal with anything non-windows, so all tech support would fall on me. (This is the reason I haven't moved them from windows yet.)
  • Another very useful extension would be something to automatically re-assemble attachments split into several emails, to overcome the 1MB message limit.

Does any of that exist? If I have to build that system myself (or parts of it), do you have other suggestions? For the inevitable and completely reasonable suggestion of getting someone competent for tech support: I've tried that too. The competent ones don't last beyond the third visit.

Software

Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the hubs-to-control-your-hubs dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Household devices are getting smarter these days: the so-called internet of things is bringing software-controlled thermostats, lighting, and other appliances into the mainstream. Many companies are fighting for a piece of the pie, but Logitech is taking a different approach. They're mostly known for computer peripherals, but they also make multi-function remote controls, and now they're trying to build remotes that will control all of a home's smart devices. "Logitech doesn't want to own the device, it wants to own the app experience. But to do that, it had to build a software overlay and a controller that would convince people to put it in their homes. So it's offering a $100 hub that combines IR, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and RF that will let you use the Logitech Harmony app to control gear that uses those protocols. This means if you have a SmartThings, a Peq or a Lutron hub, the Wi-Fi in the Logitech device will let you control the others' gear from Logitech, which so far seems to have a much nicer interface." They've worked out partnerships with a lot of companies that are big in the home, like Nest, Honeywell, and Philips, all of whom seem to want this extra layer of control for the user.
Open Source

Digia Spins Off Qt As Subsidiary 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the musical-overlords dept.
DeviceGuru writes: Following through on an announcement from August, Digia has spun off a subsidiary called The Qt Company to unify Qt's commercial and open source efforts, and debuted a low-cost plan for mobile developers. The Linux-oriented Qt cross-platform development framework has had a tumultuous career, having been passed around Scandinavia over the years from Trolltech to Nokia and then from Nokia to Digia. Yet, Qt keeps rolling along in both commercial and open source community versions, continually adding support for new platforms and technologies, and gaining extensive support from mobile developers. Now Qt is its own company, or at least a wholly owned subsidiary under Digia. Finland-based Digia has largely been involved with the commercial versions of Qt since it acquired the platform from Nokia in 2012, but it has also sponsored the community Qt Project as a relatively separate project. Now, both efforts are being unified under one roof at The Qt Company and the new QT.io website, says Digia. Meanwhile, Digia will focus on its larger enterprise software business.
Privacy

FBI Completes New Face Recognition System 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-know-what-you-did-last-summer dept.
Advocatus Diaboli writes: According to a report from Gizmodo, "After six years and over one billion dollars in development, the FBI has just announced that its new biometric facial recognition software system is finally complete. Meaning that, starting soon, photos of tens of millions of U.S. citizen's faces will be captured by the national system on a daily basis. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will logs all of those faces, and will reference them against its growing database in the event of a crime. It's not just faces, though. Thanks to the shared database dubbed the Interstate Photo System (IPS), everything from tattoos to scars to a person's irises could be enough to secure an ID. What's more, the FBI is estimating that NGI will include as many as 52 million individual faces by next year, collecting identified faces from mug shots and some job applications." Techdirt points out that an assessment of how this system affects privacy was supposed to have preceded the actual rollout. Unfortunately, that assessment is nowhere to be found.

Two recent news items are related. First, at a music festival in Boston last year, face recognition software was tested on festival-goers. Boston police denied involvement, but were seen using the software, and much of the data was carelessly made available online. Second, both Ford and GM are working on bringing face recognition software to cars. It's intended for safety and security — it can act as authentication and to make sure the driver is paying attention to the road.
Communications

Browser To Facilitate Text Browsing In Emergencies 40

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-want-to-upgrade-flash-now dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Programmers at Fast Company are developing the Cosmos browser to allow text browsing from Android phones when networks are buckling under the load of local disasters. A common phenomenon when disaster strikes is the overloading of cell and data networks by massively increased traffic. The Cosmos browser is intended to facilitate using SMS text messages, which often still get through in such circumstances. To quote one developer, "We want this to be a way for people to get information when they're in dire need of it." Sort of a Lynx comes to Android affair. The Smithsonian contemplates the possibilities, here."
Open Source

New Release of MINIX 3 For x86 and ARM Is NetBSD Compatible 91

Posted by timothy
from the big-and-fancy dept.
An anonymous reader writes MINIX 3 is a small POSIX-compliant operating system aimed at high reliability (embedded) applications. A major new version of MINIX 3 (3.3.0) is now available for download at www.minix3.org. In addition to the x86, the ARM Cortex A8 is now supported, with ports to the BeagleBoard and BeagleBones available. Finally, the entire userland has been redone in 3.3.0 to make it NetBSD compatible, with thousands of NetBSD packages available out of the box. MINIX 3 is based on a tiny (13 KLoC) microkernel with the operating system running as a set of protected user-mode processes. Each device driver is also a separate process. If a driver fails, it is automatically and transparently restarted without rebooting and without applications even noticing, making the system self-healing. The full announcement, with links to the release notes and notes on installation, can be found at the Minix Google Groups page.
Open Source

Industry-Based ToDo Alliance Wants To Guide FOSS Development 54

Posted by timothy
from the high-standards-for-free-stuff dept.
jralls (537436) writes The New York Times broke a story [Monday] (paywalled if you look at more than 10 stories a month) about ToDo, "an open group of companies who run open source programs" who are seeking to "committed to working together in order to overcome" the challenges of using FOSS, "including ensuring high-quality and frequent releases, engaging with developer communities, and using and contributing back to other projects effectively." The more militant among us will read that as "It's not enough getting a free ride off of developers building great software, we want to shove our roadmap down their throats and get them to work harder for us — without having to pay for it, of course." That might be a bit harsh, but none of the companies on the page are exactly well known for cooperating with the projects they use, with Google being one of the worst offenders by forking both Linux and WebKit.
KDE

KDevelop 4.7.0 Released 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
KDE Community (3396057) writes "KDevelop team is proud to announce the final release of KDevelop 4.7.0. This release is special, as it marks the end of the KDE4 era for us. As such, KDevelop 4.7.0 comes with a long-term stability guarantee. The CMake support was improved and extended to ensure that all idioms needed for KF5 development are available. The unit test support UI was polished and several bugs fixed. In the same direction, some noteworthy issues with the QtHelp integration were addressed. KDevelop's PHP language support now handles namespaces better and can understand traits aliases. Furthermore, some first fruits of the Google summer of code projects are included in this release. These changes pave the path toward better support for cross compile toolchains. Feature-wise, KDevelop now officially supports the Bazaar (bzr) version control system. On the performance front, it was possible to greatly reduce the memory footprint when loading large projects with several thousand files in KDevelop. Additionally, the startup should now be much faster."
Government

City of Turin To Switch From Windows To Linux and Save 6M Euros 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the frugal-tux dept.
jrepin writes: The municipality of Turin in Italy hopes to save 6 million Euro over five years by switching from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux in all of its offices. The move will mean installing the open source operating system on 8,300 PCs, which will generate an immediate saving of roughly €300 per machine (almost €2.5m altogether, made up from the cost of Windows and Office licences) — a sum that will grow over the years as the need for the renewal of proprietary software licences vanishes, and the employees get used to the new machines.
Patents

Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the system-and-method-for-smacking-trolls dept.
walterbyrd writes: In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent, many in the tech industry hoped it would be the beginning of sweeping changes to how the patent system handles software. Just a few months later, lower courts are making it happen. Quoting Vox: "By my count there have been 10 court rulings on the patentability of software since the Supreme Court's decision — including six that were decided this month. Every single one of them has led to the patent being invalidated. This doesn't necessarily mean that all software patents are in danger — these are mostly patents that are particularly vulnerable to challenge under the new Alice precedent. But it does mean that the pendulum of patent law is now clearly swinging in an anti-patent direction. Every time a patent gets invalidated, it strengthens the bargaining position of every defendant facing a lawsuit from a patent troll." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on alleged corruption in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Networking

Ask Slashdot: Advice On Building a Firewall With VPN Capabilities? 238

Posted by timothy
from the thick-pipes-and-sturdy-valves dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I currently connect to the internet via a standard router, but I'm looking at bulking up security. Could people provide their experiences with setting up a dedicated firewall machine with VPN capabilities? I am a novice at Linux/BSD, so would appreciate pointers at solutions that require relatively little tweaking. Hardware-wise, I have built PC's, so I'm comfortable with sourcing components and assembling into a case. The setup would reside in my living room, so a quiet solution is required. The firewall would handle home browsing and torrenting traffic. Some of the questions knocking around in my head: 1. Pros and cons of buying an off-the-shelf solution versus building a quiet PC-based solution? 2. Software- versus hardware-based encryption — pros and cons? 3. What are minimum requirements to run a VPN? 4. Which OS to go for? 5. What other security software should I include for maximum protection? I am thinking of anti-virus solutions."
Microsoft

Windows Tax Shot Down In Italy 418

Posted by timothy
from the note-that-it's-not-a-tax dept.
An anonymous reader writes Italy's High Court has struck a blow to the practice of forcing non-free software on buyers of PCs and laptops. According to La Repubblica, the court ruled on Thursday that a laptop buyer was entitled to receive a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows license on his computer. The judges sharply criticised the practice of selling PCs only together with a non-free operating system as "a commercial policy of forced distribution". The court slammed this practice as "monopolistic in tendency." It also highlighted that the practice of bundling means that end users are forced into using additional non-free applications due to compatibility and interoperability issues, whether they wanted these programs or not. "This decision is both welcome and long overdue", said Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "No vendor should be allowed to cram non-free software down the throats of users."
Crime

Turning the Tables On "Phone Tech Support" Scammers 208

Posted by timothy
from the mouthwatering-shadenfreude dept.
mask.of.sanity writes A security pro has released a Metasploit module that can take over computers running the Ammyy Admin remote control software popular among "Hi this is Microsoft, there's a problem with your computer" tech support scammers. The hack detailed in Matthew Weeks' technical post works from the end-user, meaning victims can send scammers the hijacking exploit when they request access to their machines. Victims should provide scammers with their external IP addresses rather than their Ammyy identity numbers as the exploit was not yet built to run over the Ammyy cloud, according to the exploit readme. This is much more efficient than just playing along but "accidentally" being unable to follow their instructions.
Data Storage

The State of ZFS On Linux 366

Posted by Soulskill
from the ready-for-the-big-show dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Richard Yao, one of the most prolific contributors to the ZFSOnLinux project, has put up a post explaining why he thinks the filesystem is definitely production-ready. He says, "ZFS provides strong guarantees for the integrity of [data] from the moment that fsync() returns on a file, an operation on a synchronous file handle is returned or dirty writeback occurs (by default every 5 seconds). These guarantees are enabled by ZFS' disk format, which places all data into a Merkle tree that stores 256-bit checksums and is changed atomically via a two-stage transaction commit.. ... Sharing a common code base with other Open ZFS platforms has given ZFS on Linux the opportunity to rapidly implement features available on other Open ZFS platforms. At present, Illumos is the reference platform in the Open ZFS community and despite its ZFS driver having hundreds of features, ZoL is only behind on about 18 of them."
Linux

Learning About Enea's Real Time Linux Embedded OS (Video) 27

Posted by Roblimo
from the not-quite-real-time-but-almost dept.
Jon Aldama is the Product Marketing Manager for Enea A.B., but he prides himself on being a developer first and a marketer second -- a point he stresses early in today's video. Enea is behind Operating System Embedded, whose Wikipedia page, some say, "appears to be written like an advertisement," which an unkind person could also say about the Enea A.B. Wikipedia page. In any case, Enea works with the Linux Foundation's Yocto Project workgroup, whose main webpage says, "It's not an embedded Linux distribution – it creates a custom one for you." This is all open source, which Jon says is a big corporate principle at Enea -- and he should know, since his previous job was as an Open Source Compliance Officer and Software Analyst at Ericsson. (Alternate Video Link)
Google

Google Hangouts Gets Google Voice Integration And Free VoIP Calls 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the dial-g-for-google dept.
sfcrazy writes Google will integrate Voice and Hangouts with the launch of its redesigned Hangouts apps for Android and iOS, as well as on the web. Amit Fulay, Product Manager at Google says, "Starting today you can make voice calls from Hangouts on Android, iOS and the web. It's free to call other Hangouts users, it's free to call numbers in the U.S. and Canada, and the international rates are really low. So keeping in touch is easier and more affordable than ever."
Software

Ask Slashdot: What Smartwatch Apps Could You See Yourself Using? 471

Posted by Soulskill
from the an-app-that-gives-it-infinite-battery-life dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's official: the smartwatch wars have begun. Apple's announcement of the Apple Watch added a contender to the race already shaping up between the Pebble watch, the Moto 360, and others. Personally, my doubts about wanting one were put to rest when I learned of the health-related features. Smartwatches will be able to track your movements and pulse rate, calculate how many calories you burn, and coach you continuously to improve your fitness.

If you have one or plan on buying one, what apps or functions do you see yourself getting the most use from? If you're still skeptical, what would it take? (If an app developer sees your requirements here on Slashdot, your wish might come true.)
Transportation

Text While Driving In Long Island and Have Your Phone Disabled 363

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-about-a-self-destruct-feature dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A District Attorney in Long Island, NY is stepping up efforts to combat distracted driving. Kathleen Rice says motorists who are caught texting while driving should have hardware or apps installed on their phone to prevent them from using it at all while driving. She likened such barriers to the ignition interlock devices that prevent people convicted of drunk driving from using their cars unless they're sober. "Hardware and software solutions that block texting during driving are currently produced by various manufacturers and software developers, and are constantly under development. The DA's office does not endorse any particular company and is in the process of reviewing specific solutions based on their features and services. Critical features include security measures to make the solutions tamper-proof, and data integrity measures to ensure accurate reporting to courts, law enforcement, parents, and guardians." New York is one of many states who already have laws banning all handheld use while driving.
Transportation

Toyota and Tesla May Work Together Again 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-don't-call-it-TnT dept.
cartechboy writes: Tesla and Toyota have already worked together a few times. The factory in which Tesla builds the electric Model S? It bought that from Toyota. The Toyota RAV4 EV? The battery and software tuning was done by Tesla. Now it sounds like Tesla and Toyota might have another significant project in the pipeline in the next two or three years. Tesla CEO Musk said such a project could be "on a much higher volume level" than the firm's last project with Toyota, the RAV4 EV. Toyota currently has a 2.4 percent stake in Tesla Motors and has sold 2,130 RAV4 EVs through August. For its part, Toyota has no comment regarding Musk's statements about the future project. Given Toyota's stance on electric cars, Musk's comment is a bit confusing. So what exactly will this joint project be?
Iphone

Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments 730

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-can-the-hype-stop-now dept.
Today at Apple's September press conference, they announced the new iPhone 6 models. There are two of them — the iPhone 6 is 4.7" at 1334x750, and the iPhone 6 Plus is 5.5" at 1920x1080. Both phones are thinner than earlier models: 5S: 7.6mm, 6: 6.9mm, 6 Plus: 7.1mm. The phones have a new-generation chip, the 64-bit A8. Apple says the new phones have a 25% faster CPU, 50% faster GPU, and they're 50% more energy efficient (though they were careful to say the phones have "equal or better" battery life to the 5S). Apple upgrade the phones' wireless capabilities, moving voice calls to LTE and also enabling voice calls over Wi-Fi. The phones ship on September 19th, preceded by the release of iOS 8 on September 17th.

Apple also announced its entry into the payments market with "Apple Pay." They're trying to replace traditional credit card payments with holding an iPhone up to a scanner instead. It uses NFC and the iPhone's TouchID fingerprint scanner. Users can take a picture of their credit cards, and Apple Pay will gather payment information, encrypt it, and store it. (Apple won't have any of the information about users' credit cards or their purchases, and users will be able to disable the payment option through Find My iPhone if they lose the device.) Apple Pay will work with Visa, Mastercard, and American Express cards to start. 220,000 stores that support contactless payment will accept Apple Pay, and many apps are building direct shopping support for it. It will launch in October as an update for iOS 8, and work only on the new phones.

Apple capped off the conference with the announcement of the long-anticipated "Apple Watch." Their approach to UI is different from most smartwatch makers: Apple has preserved the dial often found on the side of analog watches, using it as a button and an input wheel. This "digital crown" enables features like zoom without obscuring the small screen with fingers. The screen is touch-sensitive and pressure sensitive, so software can respond to a light tap differently than a hard tap. The watch runs on a new, custom-designed chip called the S1, it has sensors to detect your pulse, and it has a microphone to receive and respond to voice commands. It's powered by a connector that has no exposed contacts — it magnetically seals to watch and charges inductively. The Apple Watch requires an iPhone of the following models to work: 6, 6Plus, 5s, 5c, 5. It will be available in early 2015, and will cost $349 for a base model.

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