Geeky Stuff

Chinese Intelligence Compiles 'Vast Database' About Millions Around the World

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 18:34
Australia's national public broadcaster ABC reports: A Chinese company with links to Beijing's military and intelligence networks has been amassing a vast database of detailed personal information on thousands of Australians, including prominent and influential figures. A database of 2.4 million people, including more than 35,000 Australians, has been leaked from the Shenzhen company Zhenhua Data which is believed to be used by China's intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security. Zhenhua has the People's Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party among its main clients. Information collected includes dates of birth, addresses, marital status, along with photographs, political associations, relatives and social media IDs. It collates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even TikTok accounts, as well as news stories, criminal records and corporate misdemeanours. While much of the information has been "scraped," some profiles have information which appears to have been sourced from confidential bank records, job applications and psychological profiles. The company is believed to have sourced some of its information from the so-called "dark web". One intelligence analyst said the database was "Cambridge Analytica on steroids", referring to the trove of personal information sourced from Facebook profiles in the lead up to the 2016 US election campaign. But this data dump goes much further, suggesting a complex global operation using artificial intelligence to trawl publicly available data to create intricate profiles of individuals and organisations, potentially probing for compromise opportunities. Zhenhua Data's chief executive Wang Xuefeng, a former IBM employee, has used Chinese social media app WeChat to endorse waging "hybrid warfare" through manipulation of public opinion and "psychological warfare".... The database was leaked to a US academic, who worked with Canberra cyber security company Internet 2.0 and "was able to restore 10 per cent of the 2.4 million records for individuals... "Of the 250,000 records recovered, there are 52,000 on Americans, 35,000 Australians, 10,000 Indian, 9,700 British, 5,000 Canadians, 2,100 Indonesians, 1,400 Malaysia and 138 from Papua New Guinea."

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Is Momentum Growing for Universal Basic Incomes?

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 17:34
"A successful basic-income trial in Stockton, California, has inspired a chain of similar pilots in other cities," reports Business Insider: The city council of Saint Paul, Minnesota, voted to approve funding for a pilot there on Wednesday. The program is set to begin this fall and will give up to 150 low-income families $500 per month for up to 18 months — no strings attached... "I think there's a budding realization that not only is this a good thing for us to try, but that we may not have any other option," St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter said on a Wednesday press call... "We're obviously seeing an unprecedented crisis in our communities across our country," Carter said. "We're coming to a recognition that we don't have a funding problem. We have a priorities problem." Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced he was donating $3 million to a coalition of "Mayors for a Guaranteed Income." The group currently has 25 mayors -- two who are already overseeing pilot programs in their own cities -- while Chicago, Newark, and Atlanta "have created task forces to help design their programs," and the mayor of Pittsburgh would like to launch one of their own by the end of the year. In another article, Business Insider created a map showing the locations of 48 basic income programs that have happened around the world (based on data from the Stanford Basic Income Lab). But they also provide this summary of their current state: So is basic income the real deal or a pipe dream? The results are still unclear. Some, like the initial pilots for Uganda's Eight program, were found to result in significant multipliers on economic activity and well-being. Other programs, however, returned mixed results that made further experimentation difficult. Finland's highly-touted pilot program decreased stress levels of recipients across the board, but didn't positively impact work activity. The biggest difficulty has been in keeping programs going and securing funding. Ontario's three-year projects were prematurely cancelled in 2018 before they could be completed and assessed, and the next stages of Finland's program are in limbo. Likewise in the U.S., start-up incubator Y Combinator has been planning a $60M basic income study program, but can't proceed until funding is secured.

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You Can Microwave This Notebook When It's Full - Then Reuse It Again

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 16:34
A new product wants to upgrade the act of taking notes in a spiral-bound notebook — with the resuable "Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook": You can write on it using any Pilot Frixion pen, marker, or highlighter, and once you're done, you can scan the notes, doodles, and drawings into the Rocketbook app to store them in a cloud. Used up all of its pages? No problem. Make sure you've scanned all your notes, and then throw your notebook into the microwave. Yes, the microwave. Throwing it into the microwave will erase everything you've written from the notebook. To avoid getting into the science of it, let's just call it magic. The notebook's pages are designed with grids, so it's perfect for either writing or drawing, and they actually feel like real paper, so you'll still feel the joy of handwriting. That's really a thing. Ask anyone who journals. Inside the app, you can use the smart search to quickly find something in your notes, according to date or a search term.

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Could Smart Technology Help Save the World's Honey Bees?

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 15:34
CNN Business reports: Climate change, intensive agriculture, and the use of pesticides and fungicides in farming is ravaging the world's bees. Commercial beekeepers in the United States lost 44% of their managed colonies in 2019, according to research from the University of Maryland. Now, technology startups are developing smart devices that give beekeepers access to detailed information about the state of their hives, aiming to reduce losses and improve bee health. Among them is Ireland's ApisProtect, which has just launched a sensor that alerts beekeepers if there is a problem in their hives. The small internet-connected sensor is placed under the roof of the beehive and measures a number of metrics including temperature, humidity, sound and movement. Data from the sensor is sent via the cloud to ApisProtect's HQ in Cork, Ireland, where the data is processed, analyzed and then sent back to the beekeeper... With bees in demand for a booming pollination industry, there are a number of other startups promoting new technologies, including Pollenity in Bulgaria, Arnia in the United Kingdom and BeeHero in Israel.Pollenity was founded in 2015 by Sergey Petrov and has raised $1.2 million in funding. Its Beebot smart sensor device is aimed at small and hobbyist beekeepers, and it is also working with six universities from across Europe on an EU-funded research project called HIVEOPOLIS. The project aims to improve the welfare of bees by reinventing hives using a number of technologies, including a robot bee capable of "dancing" to direct the hive's swarm. "The robot bee will tell the other bees where to go to find nectar and pollen," Petrov says. "Not only will this direct them to certain fields for pollination but also navigate the bees away from dangerous areas, like where pesticides are being used."

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US Teens Are Being Paid to Spread Disinformation on Social Media

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 13:01
The Washington Post covered "a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia" during America's last presidential campaign in 2016. According to four people with knowledge of the effort, "Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages..." The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA's website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity. In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for "platform manipulation and spam." Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation... The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics. "In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money," said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab. "In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix...." The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort's leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work... The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — "thwarting the will of the American people," they alleged. The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point's co-founder Bill Montgomery in July... By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media. While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook's case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity. One parent even said their two teenagers had been posting the messages since June as "independent contractors" — while being paid less than minimum wage.

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Newly-Released Trove of Recordings from the 1980s Includes Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 09:34
"Steve Jobs is now known for revolutionizing just about every part of the tech world, but back in 1988, he was perhaps best known for getting fired," remembers SFGate: In his first product reveal since his dismissal from Apple in 1985, Jobs unveiled a new project called NeXT at a meeting of the Boston Computer Society. An audio recording of the event was unearthed and released as part of a trove of early tech recordings released by Charles Mann, as reported in an extensive feature by Fast Company... Computing advances included a UNIX operating system that allows multi-tasking, a one million pixel display, CD quality sound and a then unprecedented 256 MB of storage. The computer would be completely built by robots rather than a human assembly line, which he said resulted in a defect rate 10 times lower than its competitors. The partnership with academia makes even more sense once you consider the price-tag of $6,500. Fast Company's tech editor Harry McCracken was at the 1988 event, and quotes Jobs as saying "The Macintosh architecture is going to peak next year sometime. And that means that there's enough cracks in the wall already, and enough limitations to the architecture, that the Mac's pretty much going to be everything it's ever going to be sometime next year." Some clips are available on Soundcloud, but the full trove of tech recordings includes 200 full hours of audio and 16 more of video (available on a USB drive for $59.95) showing luminaries from the early days of personal technology. "In 1985, for instance, a month after Commodore announced its groundbreaking Amiga computer in New York City, president Tom Rattigan came to Boston to show it to BCS members and argue that it left the Mac in the dust." Other recordings include Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc, Osborne computer designer Adam Osborne, and investor Esther Dyson, McCracken writes: Jobs is on three recordings — one from his first Apple tenure, and two from NeXT. Bill Gates is on five. There are folks who were already legends (mobile-computing visionary Alan Kay, marketer extraordinaire Regis McKenna) and up-and-comers (budding PC tycoon Michael Dell, age 23). Everyone from Sony cofounder Akio Morita to psychedelics advocate and part-time technologist Timothy Leary is represented; just the Apple-related material, including CEO John Sculley talking about the company in the 21st century and Hypercard creator Bill Atkinson demoing his brainchild, is a feast... The audio of Jobs's NeXT demo at the BCS — and dozens of other recordings — exist solely because Mann realized more than 35 years ago that the talks going on at computer user-group meetings and conferences were history in the making... In May 1982, the BCS hosted Applefest, an Apple II-centric fair that featured already-iconic Apple cofounders Jobs and Wozniak as keynote speakers. In this excerpt, fielding a question from the audience, they talk about software copy protection. Woz does so from a technical bent; Jobs, who speaks of a future involving low prices and convenient electronic distribution, sounds like he was thinking about the App Store decades before it appeared. This is rare, rare stuff; if you know of even one other example of surviving audio or video of Jobs and Wozniak talking about Apple together, I'd love to hear about it.

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Last-Minute TikTok Deal Averts Shutdown

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 06:30
"President Donald Trump said Saturday he's given his 'blessing' to a proposed deal that would see the popular video-sharing app TikTok partner with Oracle and Walmart and form a U.S. company," reports CBS News: Mr. Trump has targeted Chinese-owned TikTok for national security and data privacy concerns in the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The president's support for a deal comes just a day after the Commerce Department announced restrictions that if put in place could eventually make it nearly impossible for TikTok's legions of younger fans to use the app. Mr. Trump said if completed the deal would create a new company likely to be based in Texas... TikTok said Oracle and Walmart could acquire up to a cumulative 20% stake in the new company in a financing round to be held before an initial public offering of stock, which Walmart said could happen within the next year. Oracle's stake would be 12.5%, and Walmart's would be 7.5%, the companies said in separate statements. The deal will make Oracle responsible for hosting all TikTok's U.S. user data and securing computer systems to ensure U.S. national security requirements are satisfied. Walmart said it will provide its ecommerce, fulfillment, payments and other services to the new company. "We are pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the U.S. administration and settle questions around TikTok's future in the U.S.," TikTok said in a statement. "According to a source close to the matter, ByteDance would keep the rest of the shares," reports a public TV station in Australia. "But since the Chinese company is 40 per cent owned by American investors, TikTok would eventually be majority American-owned." Today America's Treasury Department told CBS that the deal still needs to close with Oracle and Walmart, and those documents and conditions then need to be approved by government regulatory. But because of today's announcement, "the department said Saturday that it will delay the barring of TikTok from U.S. app stores until Sept. 27 at 11:59 p.m."

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New Reality Show's Prize? 10 Days on the International Space Station

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 03:35
CNN reports: A planned reality show will seek to give the winner of its on-air competition "the greatest prize ever given out on Earth" — a 10-day stay on the International Space Station... The production company's press release said that the team is "now looking for global brand and primary distribution partners." Space Hero is planning to open the application process for the show in the first half of 2021 before broadcasting begins in 2022, a spokesperson said via email Friday... Space Hero, which is headed by a former News Corp executive named Marty Pompadur, said it is working with Texas-based startup Axiom Space to coordinate the trip into orbit. Axiom was co-founded and led by Michael Suffredini, who led NASA's International Space Station Program from 2005 to 2015. The company plans to serve as a go-between for NASA, launch providers such as SpaceX and Boeing, and any private-sector individuals interested in booking rides to space for tourism, entertainment or other business purposes. Axiom has also said it can provide all the training necessary to prepare individuals for a trip to the ISS... Private citizens have visited the space station before: A company called Space Adventures previously organized eight trips to the International Space Station for ultra-wealthy travelers between 2001 and 2009 using Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Allowing tourists and other private citizens to make use of the space station — via SpaceX's or Boeing's new spacecraft — is part of NASA's goal of commercializing outer space. CNN notes that Axiom is also handling the training and coordination for that Tom Cruise movie that's going to be filmed in space.

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'At This Point, 5G is a Bad Joke'

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 01:49
An anonymous reader shared this skeptical opinion piece from Computerworld: Let's start with the name itself. There is no single "5G." There are, in fact, three different varieties, with very different kinds of performance... But, what most people want, what most people lust for is 1Gbps speeds with less than 10 milliseconds of latency... [T]o get that kind of speed you must have mmWave 5G — and it comes with a lot of caveats. First, it has a range, at best, of 150 meters. If you're driving, that means, until 5G base stations are everywhere, you're going to be losing your high-speed signal a lot. Practically speaking, for the next few years, if you're on the move, you're not going to be seeing high-speed 5G. And, even if you are in range of a 5G base station, anything — and I mean anything — can block its high-frequency signal. Window glass, for instance, can stop it dead. So, you could have a 5G transceiver literally on your street corner and not be able to get a good signal. How bad is this? NTT DoCoMo, Japan's top mobile phone service provider, is working on a new kind of window glass, just so their mmWave 5G will work. I don't know about you, but I don't want to shell out a few grand to replace my windows just to get my phone to work. Let's say, though, that you've got a 5G phone and you're sure you can get 5G service — what kind of performance can you really expect? According to Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler, you can expect to see a "diddly squat" 5G performance... ["roughly the same as on 4G LTE," while some places "actually have been slower."] It wasn't just him, since he lives in that technology backwater known as the San Francisco bay area. He checked with several national firms tracking 5G performance. They found that all three major U.S. telecom networks' 5G isn't that much faster than 4G. Indeed, OpenSignal reports that U.S. 5G users saw an average speed of 33.4Mbps. Better than 4G, yes, but not "Wow! This is great!" speeds most people seem to be dreaming of. It's also, I might add, much worse than any other country using 5G, with the exception of the United Kingdom.

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Oracle's Plan to Keep Java Developers from Leaving for Rust and Kotlin

Slashdot - Sun, 20/09/2020 - 00:39
ZDNet reports: Oracle has released version 15 of Java, the language created 25 years ago by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems, which Oracle snapped up in 2009 for about $7.4bn to gain what it said was the "most important software Oracle has ever acquired". Java 15, or Oracle Java Development Kit (JDK) 15, brings the Edwards-Curve digital signature algorithm, hidden classes, and former preview features that have been finalized, including text blocks, and the Z Garbage Collector, while the sealed-classes feature arrives and pattern matching and records emerge as a second preview... In July, Java fell out of RedMonk's top two positions for the first time since 2012 and now resides behind JavaScript and Python in terms of popularity. Tiobe in September ranked Java in second position, behind C and ahead of Python.... But Java is still hugely popular and widely used in the enterprise, according to Oracle, which notes it is used by over 69% of full-time developers worldwide... It counts Arm, Amazon, IBM, Intel, NTT Data, Red Hat, SAP and Tencent among its list of notable contributors to JDK 15. Oracle also gave a special mention to Microsoft and cloud system monitoring service DataDog for fixes... As part of Java's 25th anniversary, Oracle commissioned analyst firm Omdia to assess its six-month release strategy for Java and whether it would be enough to keep millions of Java developers away from memory-safe alternatives such as Kotlin, the language Google has endorsed for Android development, and Rust, a system programming language that was created at Mozilla. "In Omdia's opinion, the work Oracle began a few years ago in moving to a six-month update cycle and introducing a new level of modularity, puts the vendor in good stead with its constituency of approximately 12 million developers," Oracle said in its report on Omdia's analysis. "However, Oracle and the Java programming language need an ongoing series of innovative, must-have, and 'delightful' features that make the language even more user friendly and cloud capable. These will keep existing Java developers happy while steering potential Java developers away from newer languages like Rust and Kotlin."

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Should Employers Cut Your Salary If You Change Cities?

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 23:41
CNN reports: Stripe is paying employees $20,000 if they relocate from expensive cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and New York, where the company has offices. But workers who make the move will have to take a 10% pay cut. "Twitter Inc. and ServiceNow Inc. have all considered similar measures," reports Bloomberg. And Forbes notes that other companies are also grappling with similar policies: According to Bloomberg, "employees who worked at VMware's Palo Alto, California, headquarters and go to Denver, for example, must accept an 18% salary reduction. Leaving Silicon Valley for Los Angeles or San Diego means relinquishing 8% of their annual pay." Rich Lang, VMware's senior vice president of human resources, offered a positive alternative. When a person relocates and works remotely, they "could get a raise if they chose to move to a larger or more expensive city..." Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg forewarned his personnel, saying those who flee to lower-cost cities "may have their compensation adjusted based on their new locations." The chief executive added, "We'll adjust salary to your location at that point. There'll be severe ramifications for people who are not honest about this."

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Microsoft Submits Linux Kernel Patches to Make Linux Run as Root Partition on Hyper-V

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 22:34
"Microsoft has submitted a series of patches to Linux kernel developers," reports ZDNet, "requesting that Linux run as the root partition on the Hyper-V, its hypervisor software for running Windows and non-Windows instances on hardware." Microsoft "wants to create a complete virtualization stack with Linux and Microsoft Hypervisor", according to Microsoft principle software engineer Wei Liu. Liu has proposed an RFC or request for comment that for now merely implements what are only the "absolutely necessary components to get things running... There will be a subsequent patch series to provide a device node (/dev/mshv) such that userspace programs can create and run virtual machines. We've also ported Cloud Hypervisor over and have been able to boot a Linux guest with Virtio devices since late July." Cloud Hypervisor is an experimental open-source hypervisor implementation from Intel written in the Rust programming language. It's a virtual-machine monitor that runs on top of KVM, the Kernel-based Virtual Machine hypervisor in the Linux kernel that's designed for cloud workloads... Liu points out three more changes beyond amendments to the Hyper-V Top-Level Functional Specification. For example, Microsoft wants Linux to set up existing Hyper-V facilities differently. It also wants Linux kernel developers to change the kernel's behavior when accessing hardware memory in a way that affects driver access to the GPU and CPU that's being managed by an operating system memory manager. It's this issue that Microsoft engineers are least confident about and are asking for Linux developer support, according to Liu.... As Microsoft's executive VP of the cloud and enterprise group, Scott Guthrie, told ZDNet last year, Microsoft's shift to Linux and open source started over a decade ago when it open-sourced ASP.NET. "We recognized open source is something that every developer can benefit from. It's not nice, it's essential. It's not just code, it's community," explained Guthrie.

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European Spacecraft Flying Past Venus Will Now Look for Signs of Life

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 21:34
"Earlier this week, scientists announced the discovery of phosphine on Venus, a potential signature of life. Now, in an amazing coincidence, a European and Japanese spacecraft is about to fly past the planet — and could confirm the discovery," writes Forbes. Slashdot reader Iwastheone shares their report: BepiColombo, launched in 2018, is on its way to enter orbit around Mercury, the innermost planet of the Solar System. But to achieve that it plans to use two flybys of Venus to slow itself down, one on October 15, 2020, and another on August 10, 2021. The teams running the spacecraft already had plans to observe Venus during the flyby. But now, based on this detection of phosphine from telescopes on Earth, they are now planning to use both of these flybys to look for phosphine using an instrument on the spacecraft... As this first flyby is only weeks away, however, the observation campaign of the spacecraft is already set in stone, making the chance of a discovery slim. More promising is the second flyby next year, which will not only give the team more time to prepare, but also approach just 550 kilometers from Venus... If a detection can be made, it would provide independent verification of the presence of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. And for future missions planning to visit the planet, which alongside Rocket Lab's mission includes potential spacecraft from NASA, India, Russia, and Europe, that could be vital information.

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Where's the Yelp For Open-source Tools?

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 20:34
Esther Schindler (Slashdot reader #16,185), shares some thoughts from long-time tech reporter Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: We'd like an easy way to judge open-source programs. It can be done. But easily? That's another matter... Plenty of people have created systems to collect, judge, and evaluate open-source projects, including information about a project's popularity, reliability, and activity. But each of those review sites — and their methodologies — have flaws. The article looks at a variety of attempts, including freshmeat.net; Eric Raymond's attempt to revive Freecode; GitHub's star (which Docker's co-founder calls a "bullshit metric"); Synopsys's Black Duck Open Hub (formerly Ohloh); and even Google Trends. But it wraps up by pointing out that Brian Profitt, Red Hat's Open Source Program Office (OSPO) manager, is working with others on "Project CHAOSS," a new Linux Foundation project to make it easy to evaluate open-source projects. This pulled together Grimoirelab and similar programs, such as Augur and Red Hat's own Prospector... Its metrics include what kinds of contributions are being made; when the contributions are made; and who's making the contributions. All of which are vital to understanding the overall health of a project. CHAOSS is still a work in progress. Its official release is scheduled for February 2021... Ultimately, this data will be available to all, from end users to the project leads. "In fact, I hope this happens a lot, because we can refine our models more quickly," says Profitt.

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US Spy Plane Impersonates A Malaysian Aircraft

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 19:34
Popular Mechanics reports: A U.S. Air Force aircraft electronically impersonated a Malaysian plane while flying over the South China Sea this week. The RC-135W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft flew off China's Hainan island on Tuesday, coming within 55 miles of the Chinese mainland. The caper was outed on Twitter by a think tank operated by the Chinese government, which provided enough details for independent verification. The plane's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Mode-S number, a 24-bit identifier assigned to all aircraft and broadcast by onboard transponder, was AE01CE. The Mode S system provides big-picture situational awareness and improves aviation safety. At some point, the plane's Mode-S number suddenly changed, from AE01CE to 750548. That's the ICAO number for an unknown Malaysian aircraft... The RC-135W Rivet Joint is a converted Boeing 707 jetliner designed to collect electronic intelligence for later analysis... It's not clear why the RC-135W flew where it did. The flight probably coincided with Chinese military exercises, likely air or naval, or even a missile test. It's also worth pointing out that China's nuclear ballistic missile submarine force is based at Yulin on Hainan Island. It's also not clear why the RC-135W engaged in the deception. Steffan Watkins, a Canadian open source intelligence researcher, tells Popular Mechanics. "If the reconnaissance is happening outside sovereign airspace, there is no pressing need to engage in that sort of deception. It's perfectly legal, and done in plain sight off the coast of Russia, Syria, and Crimea all the time — literally, every day there are RC-135s off the coast of Russia, with their transponders on, and broadcasting exactly who they are. I can't explain the difference with China. Why the difference in emissions posture and obfuscation....?" The announcement is likely a warning to the Pentagon that the Chinese military sees through the deception, and that it's watching the watchers.

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Thieves' Guild: a BBS Game With the Best 1990s Pixel Graphics You've Never Seen

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 18:34
"The sky is clear, the breeze is strong. A perfect day to make the long sea voyage to Mythyn," writes BBS history blogger Josh Renaud. "You prepare your galley, hire a crew of sailors, and cast off. But a few hours into your trip, the dreaded words appear: 'Thou seest rippling waters...'" He's describing the beginning of a 27-year-old game that he'd been searching for since 2013. Slashdot reader Kirkman14 why the game is so special — and so rare: Thieves' Guild is a BBS door game for the Atari ST that came out in 1993. [A "door" connected the software running the dial-up Bulletin Board system to an external application.] What made Thieves' Guild unique was its graphical front-end client, which features dozens of eye-popping pixel art vignettes, along with simple animated sprites, sampled speech, and sound effects. As a BBS door game (strike 1) for the Atari ST (strike 2), not many people played this game or saw its front-end in the 90s. But it's worth re-discovering. The game was created by Paul Witte and Herb Flower who teamed up again in the early 2000s to produce the MMORPG "Linkrealms." The Pascal source code for several versions of Thieves' Guild, including an unreleased 1995 port for PC BBSes, has been rescued and published on GitHub.

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Russian Announces Plan to Independently Explore Venus

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 18:04
"Russia has announced an intention to independently explore Venus a day after scientists said there was a gas that could be present in the planet's clouds due to single-cell microbes," reports Euronews: The head of Russia's space corporation Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, told reporters that they would initiate a national project as "we believe that Venus is a Russian planet," according to the TASS news agency. In a statement, Roscosmos noted that the first missions to explore Venus were carried out by the Soviet Union. "The enormous gap between the Soviet Union and its competitors in the investigation of Venus contributed to the fact that the United States called Venus a Soviet planet," Roscosmos said. The Russians claim to have extensive material that suggests that some objects on the Venusian surface have changed places or could be alive, although these are hypotheses that have yet to be confirmed. The national project would be in addition to the "Venera-D" project that the Russians are working on with the US' National Aeronautics and Space Administration... Roscosmos said they would study the soil and atmosphere of the planet as well as the "evolutionary processes of Venus, which allegedly suffered a climatic catastrophe associated with the greenhouse effect."

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Microsoft Warns Workaround Preventing Lenovo ThinkPad BSOD Increases Risk

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 17:34
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: Microsoft has finally published a support document detailing its workaround for the August 2020 Patch Tuesday update for Windows 10 version 2004 that caused blue screens of deaths (BSODs) on newer Lenovo ThinkPads and broke Windows Hello biometric login... It's the same as Lenovo's earlier workaround but comes with a stern security warning from Microsoft. Microsoft also explains how Lenovo Vantage violates Microsoft's security controls in Windows. Users might bypass the BSOD screen, but they are endangering their computers by implementing the workaround, according to Microsoft. The workaround also affects some of Microsoft's latest security features for Windows 10, such as Hypervisor Code Integrity for shielding the OS from malicious drivers, as well as Windows Defender Credential Guard. "This workaround may make a computer or a network more vulnerable to attack by malicious users or by malicious software such as viruses. We do not recommend this workaround but are providing this information so that you can implement this workaround at your own discretion. Use this workaround at your own risk," Microsoft states.... The good news for affected ThinkPad users is that Microsoft and Lenovo are working together on a fix. However, Microsoft hasn't said when that will be available.

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At Least 10 Amazon Employees Took Bribes from Sellers, Indictment Alleges

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 16:34
CBS News reports: Six people allegedly conspired to bribe Amazon employees and contractors in order to gain a competitive advantage on the retailer's marketplace, federal prosecutors announced Friday. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, those charged posed as consultants and worked with third-party sellers whose products had previously been removed from Amazon Marketplace get the items back on the platform. The six then paid a total of more than $100,000 in bribes to least 10 Amazon employees in exchange for their restoring the banned products or services, the indictment alleges. The products included household goods, consumer electronics and dietary supplements, prosecutors said. "The ultimate victim from this criminal conduct is the buying public, who get inferior or even dangerous goods that should have been removed from the marketplace," U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a statement. "As the world moves increasingly to online commerce, we must ensure that the marketplace is not corrupted with unfair advantages obtained by bribes and kickbacks...." The six accused face up to five years in prison for commercial bribery and up to 20 years for wire fraud. One of the six actually worked for Amazon at the beginning of the scheme, according to the article, which notes that their tactics included temporarily suspending the accounts of competitors. One FBI agent in Seattle tells CBS, "What's equally concerning is that, not only did they attempt to increase sales of their own products, but they sought to damage and discredit their competitors."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Picture-In-Picture Mode On iOS 14 No Longer Working With YouTube's Mobile Website Unless You Pay For Premium

Slashdot - Sat, 19/09/2020 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MacRumors: Apple in iOS 14 added Picture in Picture to the iPhone, a feature designed to let you watch a video in a small screen on your device while you continue to do other things on the phone. The YouTube app doesn't support Picture in Picture, but up until yesterday there was a functional workaround that allowed videos from YouTube.com to be watched in Safari in Picture in Picture mode. As of today, that workaround is gone, and it's not clear if it's a bug or a deliberate removal. Attempting to use Picture in Picture on a video on the mobile YouTube website simply doesn't work. Tapping the Picture in Picture button when in full screen mode pops the video out for a second, but it immediately pops back into the website, so it can't be used as a Picture in Picture window. [...] Picture in Picture appears to work on the mobile YouTube website in Safari for those who are YouTube Premium subscribers, which suggests that the restriction is intentional and not a bug.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff
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