Encryption

Justice Department: Default Encryption Has Created a 'Zone of Lawlessness'

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-would-you-call-this-zone-that's-allegedly-associated-with-danger? dept.
Jason Koebler writes: Leslie Caldwell, an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said Tuesday that the department is "very concerned" by the Google's and Apple's decision to automatically encrypt all data on Android and iOS devices.

"We understand the value of encryption and the importance of security," she said. "But we're very concerned they not lead to the creation of what I would call a 'zone of lawlessness,' where there's evidence that we could have lawful access through a court order that we're prohibited from getting because of a company's technological choices.
Space

We May Have Jupiter To Thank For the Nitrogen In Earth's Atmosphere 5

Posted by Soulskill
from the jupiter-never-forgets-our-birthday dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Nitrogen makes up about 78% of the Earth's atmosphere. It's also the 4th most abundant element in the human body. But where did all the nitrogen on Earth come from? Scientists aren't sure, but they have a new theory. Back when the solar system was just a protoplanetary disk, the ice orbiting the early Sun included ammonia, which has a nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. But there needed to be a way for the nitrogen to get to the developing Earth. That's where Jupiter comes in. During its theorized Grand Tack, where it plunged into the inner solar system and then retreated outward again, it created shock waves in the dust and ice cloud surrounding the sun. These shock waves caused gentle heating of the ammonia ice, which allowed it to melt and react with chromium-bearing metal to form a mineral called carlsbergite. New research (abstract) suggests this mineral was then present when the Earth's accretion happened, supplying much of the nitrogen we would eventually need for life.
Handhelds

The iPad Is 5 Years Old This Week, But You Still Don't Need One 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the interactive-chopping-boards dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Five years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad and insisted that it would do many things better than either a laptop or a smartphone. Will Oremus writes at Future Tense that by most standards, the iPad has been a success, and the tablet has indeed emerged as a third category of computing device. But there's another way of looking at the iPad. According to Oremus, Jobs was right to leave out the productivity features and go big on the simple tactile pleasure of holding the Internet in your hands.

But for all its popularity and appeal, the iPad never has quite cleared the bar Jobs set for it, which was to be "far better" at some key tasks than a laptop or a smartphone. The iPad may have been "far better" when it was first released, but smartphones have come a long way. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and their Android equivalents are now convenient enough for most mobile computing tasks that there's no need to carry around a tablet as well. That helps explain why iPad sales have plateaued, rather than continuing to ascend to the stratospheric levels of the iPhone. "The iPad remains an impressive machine. But it also remains a luxury item rather than a necessity," concludes Oremus. "Again, by most standards, it is a major success. Just not by the high standards that Jobs himself set for it five years ago."
Censorship

Facebook Censoring Images of the Prophet Muhammad In Turkey 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-complaints dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Immediately following the Charlie Hebdo attack, Mark Zuckerberg said, "... this is what we all need to reject — a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world. I won't let that happen on Facebook. I'm committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence." Now, Facebook has begun censoring images of the prophet Muhammad in Turkey. According to the Washington post, "It's an illustration, perhaps, of how extremely complicated and nuanced issues of online speech really are. It's also conclusive proof of what many tech critics said of Zuckerberg's free-speech declaration at the time: Sweeping promises are all well and good, but Facebook's record doesn't entirely back it up." To be fair to Zuckerberg and Facebook, the company must obey the law of any country in which it operates. But it stands in stark contrast to the principles espoused by its founder.
Bug

Security-Focused BlackPhone Was Vulnerable To Simple Text Message Bug 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody's-perfect dept.
mask.of.sanity sends this report from El Reg: The maker of BlackPhone – a mobile marketed as offering unusually high levels of security – has patched a critical vulnerability that allows hackers to run malicious code on the handsets. Attackers need little more than a phone number to send a message that can compromise the devices via the Silent Text application.

The impact of the flaw is troubling because BlackPhone attracts what hackers see as high-value victims: those willing to invest AU$765 (£415, $630) in a phone that claims to put security above form and features may well have valuable calls and texts to hide from eavesdroppers.
Businesses

Comcast Pays Overdue Fees, Offers Freebies For TWC Merger Approval 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the bought-and-paid-for dept.
WheezyJoe writes: In seeking more support for its mega-merger with Time-Warner Cable, Comcast has been going across the country giving local governments a chance to ask for favors in exchange for approving a franchise transfer. In Minneapolis, this turned up an unpaid bill of $40,000 in overdue franchise fees, so Comcast will have to pay the city money it already owed in order to get the franchise transfer. Comcast will also throw in $50,000 worth of free service and equipment.

"Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions (PDF) the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner," Minnesota Public Radio reported. The article notes that getting any kind of refund out of a cable company is not easy.

Part of the deal with Minneapolis involves the spinoff of a new cable company called GreatLand Connections that will serve 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast, including Minnesota. After the deal, Comcast's franchises in those areas would be transferred to GreatLand. Such goodwill concessions may seem impressive as Comcast seeks to foster goodwill, but one wonders how Comcast/Time Warner will behave after the merger.
Communications

How One Small Company Blocked 15.1 Million Robocalls Last Year 92

Posted by Soulskill
from the napalm-solves-many-problems dept.
TechCurmudgeon sends this excerpt from an article at Wired: Aaron Foss won a $25,000 cash prize from the Federal Trade Commission for figuring out how eliminate all those annoying robocalls that dial into your phone from a world of sleazy marketers. ... Using a little telephone hackery, Foss found a way of blocking spammers while still allowing the emergency alert service and other legitimate entities to call in bulk. Basically, he re-routed all calls through a service that would check them against a whitelist of legitimate operations and a blacklist of spammers, and this little trick was so effective, he soon parlayed it into a modest business. Last year, his service, called Nomorobo, blocked 15.1 million robocalls.
Businesses

Apple Posts $18B Quarterly Profit, the Highest By Any Company, Ever 292

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
jmcbain writes: Yesterday, Apple reported its financial results for the quarter ending December 27, 2014. The company posted $18 billion in profit (on $74 billion in revenue), the largest quarterly profit by any company, ever. The previous record was $16 billion by Russia's Gazprom (the largest natural gas extractor in the world) in 2011. Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones last quarter, along with 5.5 million Macs and 21.4 million iPads.
Android

Embedded Linux Conference Headlined By Drones 17

Posted by Soulskill
from the penguins-can-fly dept.
DeviceGuru writes: The Linux Foundation has released the full agenda for its annual North American Embedded Linux Conference + Android Builders Summit, which takes place Mar. 23-25 in San Jose, Calif. The ELC, which this year is titled Drones, Things, and Automobiles, increasingly reflects new opportunities for Linux in areas such as drones, robots, automotive computers, IoT gizmos, 3D sensing, modular phones, and much more. For those worried that ELC is skimping on the basics as it explores the more colorful sides of Linux, worry not, as there are still plenty of sessions on booting, trace analysis, NAND support, PHY frameworks, power management, defragmenting, systemd, device tree, and toolchain.
Programming

Computer Chess Created In 487 Bytes, Breaks 32-Year-Old Record 130

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-small-or-go-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The record for smallest computer implementation of chess on any platform was held by 1K ZX Chess, which saw a release back in 1983 for the Sinclair ZX81. It uses just 672 bytes of memory, and includes most chess rules as well as a computer component to play against. The 32-year-old record has been beaten this week by the demoscene group Red Sector Inc. They have implemented a fully-playable version of chess called BootChess in just 487 bytes (readme file including source code).
Wireless Networking

FCC Prohibits Blocking of Personal Wi-Fi Hotspots 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-be-a-jerk-marriott dept.
alphadogg writes: The FCC on Tuesday warned that it will no longer tolerate hotels, convention centers or others intentionally interfering with personal Wi-Fi hotspots. This issue grabbed headlines last fall when Marriott International was fined $600,000 for blocking customer Wi-Fi hotspots, presumably to encourage the guests to pay for pricey Internet access from the hotel.
Windows

Latest Windows 10 Preview Build Brings Slew of Enhancements 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the lots-to-break-and-lots-to-fix dept.
Deathspawner writes: Following its huge Windows 10 event last Wednesday, Microsoft released a brand-new preview build to the public, versioned 9926. We were told that it'd give us Cortana, Microsoft's AI assistant, as well as a revamped Start menu and updated notifications pane. But as it turns out, that's not even close to summing up all that's new with this build. In fact, 9926 is easily the most substantial update rolled out so far in the beta program, with some UI elements and integral Windows features seeing their first overhaul in multiple generations.
Science

Engineers Develop 'Ultrarope' For World's Highest Elevator 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-when-super-rope-just-doesn't-cut-it dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Halfway up the Shard, London's tallest skyscraper, you are asked to step out of the elevator at the transfer floor, or "sky lobby," a necessary inconvenience in order to reach the upper half of the building, and a symptom of the limits of elevators today. To ascend a mile-high (1.6km) tower using the same technology could necessitate changing elevators as many as 10 times. Elevators traveling distances of more than 500m [1,640 ft] have not been feasible because the weight of the steel cables themselves becomes so great. Now, after nine years of rigorous testing, Kone has released Ultrarope — a material composed of carbon-fiber covered in a friction-proof coating that weighs a seventh of the steel cables, making elevators of up to 1km (0.6 miles) in height feasible to build.

Kone's creation was chosen to be installed in what's destined to become the world's tallest building, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. When completed in 2020, the tower will stand a full kilometer in height, and will boast the world's tallest elevator at 660m (2,165ft). A 1km-tall tower may seem staggering, but is this the build-able limit? Most probably not, according to Dr. Sang Dae Kim. "With Kingdom Tower we now have a design that reaches around 1 km in height. Later on, someone will push for 1 mile, and then 2 km," says Kim. He adds that, technically speaking, 2 km might be possible at the current time. Anything higher would require new materials and building techniques.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Makes a Great Software Developer? 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the highlander-style-combat dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: What does it take to become a great — or even just a good — software developer? According to developer Michael O. Church's posting on Quora (later posted on LifeHacker), it's a long list: great developers are unafraid to learn on the job, manage their careers aggressively, know the politics of software development (which he refers to as 'CS666'), avoid long days when feasible, and can tell fads from technologies that actually endure... and those are just a few of his points. Over at Salsita Software's corporate blog, meanwhile, CEO and founder Matthew Gertner boils it all down to a single point: experienced programmers and developers know when to slow down. What do you think separates the great developers from the not-so-fantastic ones?
Space

Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the fault-in-our-stars dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A new study confirms the potential hazard of nearby gamma-ray bursts. It quantifies the probability of an event near Earth, and more generally in the Milky Way and other galaxies over time: "[Evolved] life as it exists on Earth could not take place in almost any galaxy that formed earlier than about five billion years after the Big Bang." This could explain the Fermi's paradox, or why we don't see billion-year-old civilizations all around us.