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Apple

Treasure Trove of Internal Apple Memos Discovered in Thrift Store (gizmodo.com) 18

An anonymous reader shares a Gizmodo report: Peeking inside a book bin at a Seattle Goodwill, Redditor vadermeer caught an interesting, unexpected glimpse into the early days of Apple: a cache of internal memos, progress reports, and legal pad scribbles from 1979 and 1980, just three years into the tech monolith's company history. The documents at one point belonged to Jack MacDonald -- then the manager of systems software for the Apple II and III (in these documents referred to by its code name SARA). The papers pertain to implementation of Software Security from Apple's Friends and Enemies (SSAFE), an early anti-piracy measure. Not much about MacDonald exists online, and the presence of his files in a thrift store suggests he may have passed away, though many of the people included in these documents have gone on to long and lucrative careers. The project manager on SSAFE for example, Randy Wigginton, was Apple's sixth employee and has since worked for eBay, Paypal, and (somewhat tumultuously) Google. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also features heavily in the implementation of these security measures.
Google

Alphabet's Waymo Sues Uber For Allegedly Stealing Self-Driving Secrets (bloomberg.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: It took Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo seven years to design and build a laser-scanning system to guide its self-driving cars. Uber Technologies Inc. allegedly did it in nine months. Waymo claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that was possible because a former employee stole the designs and technology and started a new company. Waymo accuses several employees of Otto, a self-driving startup Uber acquired in August for $680 million, of lifting technical information from Google's autonomous car project. The "calculated theft" of Alphabet's technology earned Otto's employees more than $500 million, according to the complaint in San Francisco federal court. The claims in Thursday's case include unfair competition, patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation. Waymo was inadvertently copied on an e-mail from one of its vendors, which had an attachment showing an Uber lidar circuit board that had a "striking resemblance" to Waymo's design, according to the complaint. Anthony Levandowski, a former manager at Waymo, in December 2015 downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files, including the lidar circuit board designs, according to the complaint. He also allegedly created a domain name for his new company and confided in some of his Waymo colleagues of plans to "replicate" its technology for a competitor. Levandowski left Waymo in January 2016 and went on in May to form Otto LLC, which planned to develop hardware and software for autonomous vehicles.
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Should Be Liable For Accidents, Not the Passengers: UK Government (arstechnica.co.uk) 201

"Electric charging points at all major motorway services and petrol stations, and the occupants of a self-driving car aren't liable in the case of an accident -- those are two of the measures proposed by a new law that the UK government hopes will let us reap the rewards of improved transport technology over the next few years," reports Ars Technica. "These changes are part of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (VTAB), a draft law that is basically a shopping list of governmental desires." From the report: The first item on the bill involves automated vehicles, and how to ensure that the vehicle's owner (which may or may not be a driver) and potential accident victims are protected. The bill says that insurance companies must offer two types of protection: for when a vehicle is acting autonomously, but also if the human driver decides to takes control. Essentially, the government wants to make sure that an accident victim can always claim compensation from the insurance company, even if the car was acting autonomously. It would then be up for the insurance company to try and reclaim that money from the car maker through existing common law and product liability arrangements. In a somewhat rare display of tech savviness, there are two exemptions listed in the bill. If the vehicle owner makes unauthorized changes to the car's software, or fails to install a software update as mandated by their insurance policy, then the insurer doesn't have to pay. It isn't clear at this point which capabilities will be enough to classify a vehicle as "self-driving." The draft law asks the department for transport (DfT) to work it out, post haste, and then to determine which vehicles qualify for the new type of insurance. The planned law also outlines new governmental powers to improve the UK's electric charging infrastructure.
Wikipedia

Study Reveals Bot-On-Bot Editing Wars Raging On Wikipedia's Pages (theguardian.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new study from computer scientists has found that the online encyclopedia is a battleground where silent wars have raged for years. Since Wikipedia launched in 2001, its millions of articles have been ranged over by software robots, or simply "bots," that are built to mend errors, add links to other pages, and perform other basic housekeeping tasks. In the early days, the bots were so rare they worked in isolation. But over time, the number deployed on the encyclopedia exploded with unexpected consequences. The more the bots came into contact with one another, the more they became locked in combat, undoing each other's edits and changing the links they had added to other pages. Some conflicts only ended when one or other bot was taken out of action. The findings emerged from a study that looked at bot-on-bot conflict in the first ten years of Wikipedia's existence. The researchers at Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute in London examined the editing histories of pages in 13 different language editions and recorded when bots undid other bots' changes. While some conflicts mirrored those found in society, such as the best names to use for contested territories, others were more intriguing. Describing their research in a paper entitled Even Good Bots Fight in the journal Plos One, the scientists reveal that among the most contested articles were pages on former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, the Arabic language, Niels Bohr and Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the most intense battles played out between Xqbot and Darknessbot which fought over 3,629 different articles between 2009 and 2010. Over the period, Xqbot undid more than 2,000 edits made by Darknessbot, with Darknessbot retaliating by undoing more than 1,700 of Xqbot's changes. The two clashed over pages on all sorts of topics, from Alexander of Greece and Banqiao district in Taiwan to Aston Villa football club.
Privacy

Judge Rules Against Forced Fingerprinting (thestack.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: A federal judge in Chicago has ruled against a government request which would require forced fingerprinting of private citizens in order to open a secure, personal phone or tablet. In the ruling, the judge stated that while fingerprints in and of themselves are not protected, the government's method of obtaining the fingerprints would violate the Fourth and Fifth amendments. The government's request was given as part of a search warrant related to a child pornography ring. The court ruled that the government could seize devices, but that it could not compel people physically present at the time of seizure to provide their fingerprints "onto the Touch ID sensor of any Apple iPhone, iPad, or other Apple brand device in order to gain access to the contents of any such device." The report mentions that the ruling was based on three separate arguments. "The first was that the boilerplate language used in the request was dated, and did not, for example, address vulnerabilities associated with wireless services. Second, the court said that the context in which the fingerprints were intended to be gathered may violate the Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights of the building residents and their visitors, all of whom would have been compelled to provide their fingerprints to open their secure devices. Finally, the court noted that historically the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination, does not allow a person to circumvent the fingerprinting process." You can read more about the ruling via Ars Technica.
Microsoft

Microsoft Creates Skype Lite Especially For India (cnet.com) 42

There's a new Skype app in town, and it is made just for India. According to a report on CNET: Microsoft is the latest US tech giant to help keep Indians connected. Skype Lite is a new version of the company's popular video and voice-calling app that's "built in India." Skype Lite functions much like its big brother Skype, but it's designed to work well on low-speed, 2G networks, which are still prevalent in India and many developing nations. It uses less data and battery power than the fully fledged app, and at 13MB it's around a third of the download size. Skype Lite, available for Android, also uses India's controversial Aadhaar biometric authentication.
Google

Google Releases an AI Tool For Publishers To Spot and Weed Out Toxic Comments (bbc.com) 187

Google today launched a new technology to help news organizations and online platforms identify and swiftly remove abusive comments on their websites. The technology, called Perspective, will review comments and score them based on how similar they are to comments people said were "toxic" or likely to make them leave a conversation. From a report on BBC: The search giant has developed something called Perspective, which it describes as a technology that uses machine learning to identify problematic comments. The software has been developed by Jigsaw, a division of Google with a mission to tackle online security dangers such as extremism and cyberbullying. The system learns by seeing how thousands of online conversations have been moderated and then scores new comments by assessing how "toxic" they are and whether similar language had led other people to leave conversations. What it's doing is trying to improve the quality of debate and make sure people aren't put off from joining in.
AI

Microsoft Research Developing An AI To Put Coders Out of a Job (mspoweruser.com) 321

jmcbain writes: Are you a software programmer who voted in a recent Slashdot poll that a robot/AI would never take your job? Unfortunately, you're wrong. Microsoft, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, is developing such an AI. This software "can turn your descriptions into working code in seconds," reports MSPoweruser. "Called DeepCoder, the software can take requirements by the developer, search through a massive database of code snippets and deliver working code in seconds, a significant advance in the state of the art in program synthesis." New Scientist describes program synthesis as "creating new programs by piecing together lines of code taken from existing software -- just like a programmer might. Given a list of inputs and outputs for each code fragment, DeepCoder learned which pieces of code were needed to achieve the desired result overall." The original research paper can be read here.
Communications

Paralyzed Man Uses Brain Implant To Type Eight Words Per Minute (ieee.org) 40

A study published in the journal eLife describes three participants that broke new ground in the use of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) by people with paralysis. One of the participants, a 64-year-old man paralyzed by a spinal cord injury, "set a new record for speed in a 'copy typing' task," reports IEEE Spectrum. "Copying sentences like 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,' he typed at a relatively blistering rate of eight words per minute." From the report: This experimental gear is far from being ready for clinical use: To send data from their implanted brain chips, the participants wear head-mounted components with wires that connect to the computer. But Henderson's team, part of the multiuniversity BrainGate consortium, is contributing to the development of devices that can be used by people in their everyday lives, not just in the lab. "All our research is based on helping people with disabilities," Henderson tells IEEE Spectrum. Here's how the system works: The tiny implant, about the size of a baby aspirin, is inserted into the motor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement. The implant's array of electrodes record electrical signals from neurons that "fire" as the person thinks of making a motion like moving their right hand -- even if they're paralyzed and can't actually move it. The BrainGate decoding software interprets the signal and converts it into a command for the computer cursor. Interestingly, the system worked best when the researchers customized it for each participant. To train the decoder, each person would imagine a series of different movements (like moving their whole right arm or wiggling their left thumb) while the researchers looked at the data coming from the electrodes and tried to find the most obvious and reliable signal. Each participant ended up imagining a different movement to control the cursor. The woman with ALS imagined moving her index finger and thumb to control the cursor's left-right and up-down motions. Henderson says that after a while, she didn't have to think about moving the two digits independently. "When she became facile with this, she said it wasn't anything conscious; she felt like she was controlling a joystick," he says. The man with the spinal cord injury imagined moving his whole arm as if he were sliding a puck across a table. "Each participant settled on control modality that worked best," Henderson says. You can watch a video about the study here.
Data Storage

Sony Unveils World's Fastest SD Card (amateurphotographer.co.uk) 48

At CP+2017, Sony announced the SF-G UHS-II SD card that features read and write speeds of 300MB/s and 299 MB/s, respectively, which makes it the fastest SD card in the world. Amateur Photographer reports: Available in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB from March 2017, all versions of the cards are compatible with Sony's free file rescue software, for recovering lost content. Pricing has yet to be revealed. Alongside the SF-G series, Sony has also introduced a new memory card reader, the MRW-S1, due for release in April. It features an in-built SuperSpeed USB port for cable-free PC connection, so that your files can be copied faster than by using the slower SD slot on a PC. [From the press release:] "'As the continuous shooting of higher-resolution images and adoption of 4K video with DSLR and mirrorless camera increases, the inherent need for larger, faster and more reliable cards becomes apparent. Thanks to the SF-G series, we continue to show our commitment to providing a full range of extremely high performance media devices to professional photographers and enthusiasts, maximizing their camera performances,' said Romain Rousseau, European Product Marketing Manager."
Security

Software Vendor Who Hid 'Supply Chain' Breach Outed (krebsonsecurity.com) 51

tsu doh nimh writes: Researchers at RSA released a startling report last week that detailed a so-called "supply chain" malware campaign that piggybacked on a popular piece of software used by system administrators at some of the nation's largest companies. This intrusion would probably not be that notable if the software vendor didn't have a long list of Fortune 500 customers, and if the attackers hadn't also compromised the company's update servers -- essentially guaranteeing that customers who downloaded the software prior to the breach were infected as well. Incredibly, the report did not name the affected software, and the vendor in question has apparently chosen to bury its breach disclosure as a page inside of its site -- not linking to it anywhere. Brian Krebs went and dug it up. Spoiler: the product/vendor in question is EVlog by Altair Technologies Ltd.
Transportation

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Are Now Picking Up Passengers in Arizona (theverge.com) 119

Almost two months to the day after Uber loaded its fleet of self-driving SUVs into the trailer of a self-driving truck and stormed off to Arizona in a self-driving huff, the company is preparing to launch its second experiment (if you don't count the aborted San Francisco pilot) in autonomous ride-hailing. From a report on The Verge: What's different is that this time, Uber has the blessing from Arizona's top politician, Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, who is expected to be "Rider Zero" on an autonomous trip along with Anthony Levandowski, VP of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. [...] Starting today, residents of Tempe, Arizona, can hail a self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV on Uber's ride-sharing platform. All trips will include two Uber engineers in the front seats as safety drivers, in the event a human needs to take over control from the vehicle's software. Uber says it hopes to expand the coverage area to other cities in Arizona in the coming weeks.
Google

Google Releases Open Source File Sharing Project 'Upspin' On GitHub (betanews.com) 57

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, Google unveiled yet another way to share files. Called "Upspin," the open source project aims to make sharing easier for home users. With that said, the project does not seem particularly easy to set up or maintain. For example, it uses Unix-like directories and email addresses for permissions. While it may make sense to Google engineers, I am dubious that it will ever be widely used. "Upspin looks a bit like a global file system, but its real contribution is a set of interfaces, protocols, and components from which an information management system can be built, with properties such as security and access control suited to a modern, networked world. Upspin is not an "app" or a web service, but rather a suite of software components, intended to run in the network and on devices connected to it, that together provide a secure, modern information storage and sharing network," says Google. The search giant adds: "Upsin is a layer of infrastructure that other software and services can build on to facilitate secure access and sharing. This is an open source contribution, not a Google product. We have not yet integrated with the Key Transparency server, though we expect to eventually, and for now use a similar technique of securely publishing all key updates. File storage is inherently an archival medium without forward secrecy; loss of the user's encryption keys implies loss of content, though we do provide for key rotation."
Transportation

College Senior Turns His Honda Civic Into a Self-Driving Car Using Free Hardware, Software (technologyreview.com) 129

holy_calamity writes: University of Nebraska student Brevan Jorgenson swapped the rear-view mirror in his 2016 Honda Civic for a home-built device called a Neo, which can steer the vehicle and follow traffic on the highway. Jorgenson used hardware designs and open-source software released by Comma, a self-driving car startup that decided to give away its technology for free last year after receiving a letter asking questions about its functionality from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Jorgenson is just one person in a new hacker community trying to upgrade their cars using Comma's technology. "A Neo is built from a OnePlus 3 smartphone equipped with Comma's now-free Openpilot software, a circuit board that connects the device to the car's electronics, and a 3-D-printed case," reports MIT Technology Review. The report notes that Neodriven, a startup based in Los Angeles, has recently started selling a pre-built Neo device that works with Comma's Openpilot software, but it costs $1,495.
The Almighty Buck

Valve's Gabe Newell Says Only 30 SteamVR Apps Have Made $250,000+ (roadtovr.com) 149

New submitter rentarno writes: According to Valve President, Gabe Newell, only 30 virtual-reality apps on Steam (of some 1,000) have made more than $250,000. But that isn't stopping the company from throwing the bulk of their weight behind virtual reality; Valve recently confirmed that it's working on 3 full VR games. Valve still believes in a huge future for VR, even while things are slow to start. It'll take work to find and make the content that's great for VR, Newell says. "We got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR. It was kind of a novelty, purely a development milestone. There was absolutely nothing compelling about them. Nobody's going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies. You have to aspire and be optimistic that the unique characteristics of VR will cause you to discover a bunch of stuff that isn't possible on any of the existing platforms." How do you view the VR industry in early 2017? Do you think it shows promise or will eventually fail like 3D TV?
Transportation

UPS Develops 'Rolling Warehouse' System In Which Drones Are Launched From Atop Trucks (bloomberg.com) 40

mi writes: A Bloomberg article describes a test conducted by UPS on Monday, "launching an unmanned aerial vehicle from the roof of a UPS truck about a quarter-mile to a blueberry farm outside Tampa, Florida. The drone dropped off a package at a home on the property, and returned to the truck, which had moved about 2,000 feet." The company is looking to design a "rolling warehouse" system in which a drone is "deployed from the roof of a UPS truck and flies at an altitude of 200 feet to the destination." It returns after dropping off the package while the truck is already on its way to the next stop.
PHP

PHP Becomes First Programming Language To Add 'Modern' Cryptography Library In Its Core (bleepingcomputer.com) 202

An anonymous reader writes from a report via BleepingComputer: The PHP team has unanimously voted to integrate the Libsodium library in the PHP core, and by doing so, becoming the first programming language to support a modern cryptography library by default. Developers approved a proposal with a vote of 37 to 0 and decided that Libsodium will be added to the upcoming PHP 7.2 release that will be launched towards the end of 2017. Scott Arciszewski, the cryptography expert who made the proposal, says that by supporting modern crypto in the PHP core, the PHP team will force the WordPress team to implement better security in its CMS, something they avoided until now. Additionally, it will allow PHP and CMS developers to add advanced cryptography features to their apps that run on shared hosting providers, where until now they weren't able to install custom PHP extensions to support modern cryptography. Other reasons on why he made the proposal are detailed here. Arciszewski also says that PHP is actually "the first" programming language to support a "modern" cryptography library in its core, despite Erlang and Go including similar libraries, which he claims are not as powerful and up-to-date as PHP's upcoming Libsodium implementation.
Security

Netflix Just Announced a User Focused Security Application (netflix.com) 43

Moving beyond movies and TV shows (and their DVDs), Netflix announced on Tuesday Stethoscope, its "first project following a User Focused Security approach." From a company's blog post: The notion of "User Focused Security" acknowledges that attacks against corporate users (e.g., phishing, malware) are the primary mechanism leading to security incidents and data breaches, and it's one of the core principles driving our approach to corporate information security. [...] Stethoscope is a web application that collects information for a given user's devices and gives them clear and specific recommendations for securing their systems. If we provide employees with focused, actionable information and low-friction tools, we believe they can get their devices into a more secure state without heavy-handed policy enforcement. The company says Stethoscope tracks disk encryption, firewall, automatic updates, up-to-date OS/software, screen lock, jailbroken/rooted status, security software stack configurations of the device.
Microsoft

Microsoft Confirms Another 2017 Update After Windows 10 Creators Update (betanews.com) 74

Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: Windows 10 Creators Update is due to arrive in the spring, and at Microsoft Ignite in Australia, the company confirmed that a second major update is on the way later in the year. We don't know a great deal about this update, but it's likely to incorporate Project NEON design elements. While it is not a new revelation that a second big update is coming to Windows 10 in 2017, until now there has only been a passing reference to the second one from Microsoft.
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 33

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.

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