Geeky Stuff

Hacker Leaks Passwords For 900+ Enterprise VPN Servers

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 12:00
A hacker has published today a list of plaintext usernames and passwords, along with IP addresses for more than 900 Pulse Secure VPN enterprise servers. ZDNet reports: According to a review, the list includes: IP addresses of Pulse Secure VPN servers, Pulse Secure VPN server firmware version, SSH keys for each server, a list of all local users and their password hashes, admin account details, last VPN logins (including usernames and cleartext passwords), and VPN session cookies. Bank Security, a threat intelligence analyst specialized in financial crime [...] noted that all the Pulse Secure VPN servers included in the list were running a firmware version vulnerable to the CVE-2019-11510 vulnerability. Bank Security believes that the hacker who compiled this list scanned the entire internet IPv4 address space for Pulse Secure VPN servers, used an exploit for the CVE-2019-11510 vulnerability to gain access to systems, dump server details (including usernames and passwords), and then collected all the information in one central repository. Making matters worse, the list has been shared on a hacker forum that is frequented by multiple ransomware gangs. For example, the REvil (Sodinokibi), NetWalker, Lockbit, Avaddonm, Makop, and Exorcist ransomware gangs have threads on the same forum, and use it to recruit members (developers) and affiliates (customers). Many of these gangs perform intrusions into corporate networks by leveraging network edge devices like Pulse Secure VPN servers, and then deploy their ransomware payload and demand huge ransom demands. As Bank Security told ZDNet, companies have to patch their Pulse Secure VPNs and change passwords with the utmost urgency.

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Riot Games Addresses Burnout and Crunch By Giving Employees a Week Off

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 09:00
Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends and Valorant, will be giving employees the week of August 10th off to "disconnect, recharge, and reboot," the studio announced in a blog post published Tuesday. The Verge reports: Riot has recently expanded beyond its global smash hit League of Legends, including releasing auto battler Teamfight Tactics, Hearthstone-like card game Legends of Runeterra (which are both set in the League of Legends universe), and Valorant, a brand-new tactical shooter that takes cues from Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. But in an industry known for overwork and enforced overtime, referred to as "crunch," to ship and maintain games, Riot is giving employees a break to help with their health. "As game developers, we're all hyper aware of the effects of crunch and project-based deadlines," Riot said in its blog. "We owe it to ourselves and to you to prioritize our health as a team (well, many teams) so we can bring you new experiences long into the future." Riot also said it would be "shifting some patches and release timelines a bit" to accommodate the break and that "a few teams are also staggering their time off to make sure everything is running smoothly."

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Hackers Could Use IoT Botnets To Manipulate Energy Markets

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: At the Black Hat security conference on Wednesday, [researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology] will present their findings, which suggest that high-wattage IoT botnets -- made up of power-guzzling devices like air conditioners, car chargers, and smart thermostats -- could be deployed strategically to increase demand at certain times in any of the nine private energy markets around the US. A savvy attacker, they say, would be able to stealthily force price fluctuations in the service of profit, chaos, or both. The researchers used real, publicly available data from the New York and California markets between May 2018 and May 2019 to study fluctuations in both the "day-ahead market" that forecasts demand and the "real-time market," in which buyers and sellers correct for forecasting errors and unpredictable events like natural disasters. By modeling how much power various hypothetical high-wattage IoT botnets could draw, and crunching the market data, the researchers devised two types of potential attacks that would alter energy pricing. They also figured out how far hackers would be able to push their attacks without the malicious activity raising red flags. "Our basic assumption is that we have access to a high-wattage IoT botnet," says Tohid Shekari, a PhD candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology who contributed to the research, along with fellow PhD candidate Celine Irvine and professor Raheem Beyah. "In our scenarios, attacker one is a market player; he's basically trying to maximize his own profit. Attacker two is a nation-state actor who can cause financial damage to market players as part of a trade war or cold war. The basic part of either attack is to look at price-load sensitivity. If we change demand by 1 percent, how much is the price going to change as a result of that? You want to optimize the attack to maximize the gain or damage." An attacker could use their botnet's power to increase demand, for instance, when other entities are betting it will be low. Or they could bet that demand will go up at a certain time with certainty that they can make that happen. "The researchers caution that, based on their analysis, much smaller demand fluctuations than you might expect could affect pricing, and that it would take as few as 50,000 infected devices to pull off an impactful attack," the report adds. "Consumers whose devices are unwittingly conscripted into a high-wattage botnet would also be unlikely to notice anything amiss; attackers could intentionally turn on devices to pull power late at night or while people are likely to be out of the house. [...] The researchers calculated that market manipulation campaigns would cause, at most, a 7 percent increase in consumers' home electric bills, likely low enough to go unnoticed." The researchers say market manipulators could take home as much as $245 million a year, and cause as much as $350 million per year in economic damage.

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Honda Recalls 608,000 Vehicles For Faulty Software

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 04:03
Honda is recalling 608,000 vans and SUVs because of faulty software that can, among other things, cause the backup camera to fail and the driver display to malfunction or reboot. The recalls will begin on September 23rd. The Verge reports: Certain 2018-2020 Odysseys, 2019-2020 Passports, and 2019-2021 Pilots were outfitted with "[i]ncorrect instrument panel control module software" that can cause the display to not show critical information like speed, engine oil pressure, and gear selector position until the car is turned off and on again. The displays can also randomly reboot, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The malfunctioning software can also prevent the backup camera feed from showing up. Honda will notify owners, but they'll have to get the software reprogrammed by a dealer. No easy over-the-air software fix here. Another recall involves 500,000 of those same vehicles -- the 2019-2021 Pilots and the 2019-2020 Passports again, but only 2019-2020 Odysseys. These vehicles also have a problem with their "[i]ncorrect central network software programming" that can cause "several errors to occur that can delay or prevent the rearview camera image from displaying." The issue can also mess with the in-car audio. Owners of these cars will have the option of either downloading an over-the-air fix or visiting a dealer. Honda also announced two other recalls on Tuesday for some of these vehicles. Some 2019-2020 Odysseys were outfitted with faulty backup cameras that have developed distorted images over time, while 2018-2020 Odysseys may have a problem with the sliding door latching.

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Virtual House Hunting Gets a Pandemic Boost

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 03:25
Padraig Belton from the BBC writes about how house hunters are using virtual-reality headsets to tour homes in the age of coronavirus. From the report: It's not for everyone as, at the moment, house hunters have to use their own headsets. But Giles Milner, marketing director at estate agent Chestertons, says he will sometimes send buyers headsets for new-build properties, if a development has multiple near-identical apartments with some still being built. "Developers are often selling off-plan, and it's hard to sell a product just on a 2D floor plan," he says. "So developers these days have virtual tours budgeted in from the start." Once you have a headset, it's a fairly simple process to find a virtual property on the estate agent's website, using a hand controller to work a virtual keyboard. It's still a fairly limited option, at the moment just 8% of Zoopla's listings have an option for a virtual tour. But Zoopla says there was a surge of activity during the first month of lockdown, when virtual reality (VR) viewings of new-build properties tripled. [...] Virtual reality offers greater detail than the traditional photos on a website. It also saves time for estate agents and is safer for everyone: "The last thing you want is for your staff members to get struck down with Covid-19," Mr Shipside says. Growing adoption of VR viewing also makes life easier for clients moving internationally, when travel back and forth is hard. Buyers from mainland China looking at homes in Singapore have to observe the country's strict fortnight quarantine on nearly all arrivals. So it makes sense to treat buying a house "just like online shopping," says Christopher Wang, founder of Imme VR, a Singaporean virtual-reality property company. A coming use of all this technology is letting prospective sellers find their property's value without estate agents visiting. Another will be letting possible buyers see a property as if it had their furniture already installed in the home. Having this record of your property's contents and their condition is especially beneficial if you ever have to submit an insurance claim -- for something stolen, or fire or flood damage. Another use will be in getting quotes from builders. Instead of contractors measuring and taking photos, going away and coming back with bids, a digital twin could instead let more contractors bid on the work -- giving power to the homeowner.

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It's Official: EU Launches Antitrust Probe Into Google's Fitbit Takeover

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 02:45
It was rumored last week and now it's official: the European Commission announced it is launching an in-depth antitrust investigation into Google's $2.1 billion bid for Fitbit. CNN reports: The European Union's top antitrust regulator said it is concerned that the takeover would further strengthen Google's market position in online advertising by "increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalization of the ads it serves and displays." Google announced it was buying Fitbit, the world's leading maker of wearable fitness activity trackers, in November. The deal, worth about $2.1 billion, is one of Google's largest acquisitions and represents an important step for the company into smartwatches and other wearable devices. The Commission had already launched a preliminary investigation into the transaction. It said a commitment by Google not to use Fitbit data for advertising purposes was insufficient to address the concerns identified in the initial probe. The Commission's top antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager, said in a statement that the use of wearable devices by European consumers, as well as the data generated by them, is expected to grow significantly. "Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition," Vestager said. In a blog post, Google Senior Vice President for Devices and Services Rick Osterloh said the deal "is about devices, not data," a market he said is full of competition. "We've been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads," Osterloh said. "We recently offered to make a legally binding commitment to the European Commission regarding our use of Fitbit data. As we do with all our products, we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move or delete their data."

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Amazon's Engineers Are Building Robots In Their Garages

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 02:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: The next generation of Amazon's Scout bots -- the fully-electric autonomous delivery devices the company is hoping to deploy soon -- is currently being designed and built by a team of mechanical engineers in Seattle, and not in the most orthodox of settings. Instead of working in sleek labs, Amazon's engineers have effectively resorted to re-arranging their homes and garages to accommodate the development of the sophisticated piece of technology the Scout bot is promising to be. The cooler-sized bot is already deployed in a handful of US cities where it is being tested, albeit always accompanied by a human. And to make sure that Scout bots ever reach the next stage of development, Amazon's team had to work their way around the new restrictions suddenly imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, engineers need a lot more than a decent internet connection to be able to work remotely. In early March, therefore, Seattle-based Amazon mechanical engineer Jeff Gorges transformed his garage into an R&D lab of motors and wheels in anticipation of office closures. Since then, Gorges has been iterating the bot from his garage workbench, testing various new features by driving the device around his patio. The new Scout bot has now been assembled and debugged by Gorges, all from the comfort from his own home. Amazon's Canvas robotics team, which works on small autonomous carts that use spatial AI to move items through the company's fulfillment centers, moved their testing and manufacturing equipment from their office and lab space to several team members' homes. "With the new tools set up in their apartment living rooms, hardware engineers were able to build and assemble the sub-components for the carts, and then to pass the prototypes onto an R&D technician's home, who set up test and safety systems from his garage," reports ZDNet. "The robots were then sent to a computer vision scientist who worked on calibrating the devices' cameras by reconstructing the carts' future surroundings in the fulfillment center in 3D. All in all, six robots circulated through seven team members home, with precautions taken to disinfect the devices on each transition."

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Tesla's Touchscreen Wiper Controls Ruled Illegal In Germany

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 01:20
New submitter Rei_is_a_dumbass shares a report from Electrek: Tesla's wiper controls through its touchscreen have been ruled illegal in Germany after someone crashed their Model 3 while using them and fought a fine and driving ban through the court system. A Tesla Model 3 driver got into an accident while using the touchscreen to adjust the speed of the automatic windshield wipers. In Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, Tesla didn't install normal windshield wiper settings through a steering wheel stalk. Instead, the automaker is detecting the rain through its Autopilot cameras and automatically adjusting the speed based on the strength of the rainfall. If the driver wants to adjust the speed, they need to do it through the center touchscreen. The driver in Germany was adjusting those settings when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed. A local district court gave him a fine and a one-month driving ban and that's where the problem started for Tesla. He decided to fight the punishment -- bringing the case to the Higher Regional Court (OLG). "It comes as no surprise that enlightened Germans would be the first to rule Tesla's poly engineered cars a road hazard," adds Slashdot reader Rei_is_a_dumbass. "Touch screen interfaces have no place in cars."

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Disney+ Passes 60.5 Million Subs, Reaches 5-Year Streaming Goal In First Eight Months

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 00:40
In Disney's earnings call today, CEO Bob Chapek said there are now 60.5 million global subscribers to Disney+, reaching the 60 million-90 million range it told investors it would get to by 2024. Deadline reports: He also said today that Mulan, long in limbo amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will debut September 24 on Disney+ for $24.99, a new wrinkle for the streamer. Disney also announced it will launch a new streaming service internationally under its Star brand and using Disney's own content, starting in September. After rising from 54.5 million subscribers as of the beginning of May, Disney+ reached 57.5 million subscribers by the end of June before surpassing the 60M mark in the last couple of days. The overall results came up short of Wall Street analysts' expectations of a loss of 64 cents per share and total revenue of $12.4 billion. Disney has already reached its five-year target for Disney+ global subscribers less than nine months after launching the $7-a-month service. While it is a far more targeted offering than Amazon Prime Video or Hulu, it has quickly vaulted into the No. 2 spot in the subscription streaming game after Netflix, which has nearly 193 million global subscribers. When the company reported its last batch of quarterly results in May, Disney said it had 54.5 million Disney+ subscribers, up from 33.5 million as of March 28. Hulu, which Disney has controlled since the spring of 2019, had 32.1 million total subscribers at the end of the March quarter. Hulu, the company said in its fiscal third-quarter earnings report, now has 35.5 million subscribers to its on-demand service and live TV bundle combined, while ESPN+ is now at 8.5 million, more than triple its level a year ago.

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Twitter Faces FTC Probe, Likely Fine Over Use of Phone Numbers For Ads

Slashdot - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 00:04
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Twitter is facing a Federal Trade Commission probe and believes it will likely owe a fine of up to $250 million after being caught using phone numbers intended for two-factor authentication for advertising purposes. The company received a draft complaint from the FTC on July 28, it disclosed in its regular quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange commission. The complaint alleges that Twitter is in violation of its 2011 settlement with the FTC over the company's "failure to safeguard personal information." That agreement included a provision banning Twitter from "misleading consumers about the extent to which it protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information, including the measures it takes to prevent unauthorized access to nonpublic information and honor the privacy choices made by consumers." In October 2019, however, Twitter admitted that phone numbers and email addresses users provided it with for the purpose of securing their accounts were also used "inadvertently" for advertising purposes between 2013 and 2019. In the filing, Twitter estimates the "range of probable loss" it faces in the probe is between $150 million and $250 million, although it adds that "the matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome."

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Microsoft Goes Big in Security Bug Bounties: Its $13.7m is Double Google's 2019 Payouts

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 23:26
Microsoft has revealed it has awarded security researchers $13.7m for reporting bugs in Microsoft software since July last year. From a report: Microsoft's bug bounties are one of the largest source of financial awards for researchers probing software for flaws and, importantly, reporting them to the relevant vendor rather than selling them to cybercriminals via underground markets or exploit brokers who distribute them to government agencies. The Redmond company has 15 bug-bounty programs through which researchers netted $13.7m between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. That figure is triple the $4.4m it awarded in the same period the previous year. [...] Microsoft's total annual bug-bounty payouts are now much larger than Google's awards for security flaws in its software, which totaled $6.5m in calendar year 2019. That figure was double the previous year's payouts from the ad and search giant, which called it a "record-breaking year."

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Decades-Old Email Flaws Could Let Attackers Mask Their Identities

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 22:45
At the Black Hat security conference on Thursday, researchers will present "darn subtle" flaws in industry-wide protections used to ensure that emails come from the address they claim to. From a report: The study looked at the big three protocols used in email sender authentication -- Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) -- and found 18 instances of what the researchers call "evasion exploits." The vulnerabilities don't stem from the protocols themselves, but from how different email services and client applications implement them. Attackers could use these loopholes to make spearphishing attacks even harder to detect. "I think I'm a savvy, educated user and the reality is, no, that's actually not enough," says Vern Paxson, cofounder of the network traffic analysis firm Corelight and a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked on the study along with Jianjun Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at the International Computer Science Institute, and Jian Jiang, senior director of engineering at Shape Security. "Even users who are pretty savvy are going to look at the indicators that Gmail or Hotmail or others provide and be fooled," Paxson says. Think about when you hand a friend a birthday card at their party. You probably only write their first name on the outside of the envelope, and maybe underline it or draw a heart. If you mail that letter instead, though, you need the recipient's full name and detailed address, a stamp, and ultimately a postmark with a date on it. Sending email across the internet works similarly. Though email services only require you to fill out the "To" and "Subject" fields, there's a whole list of more detailed information getting filled out behind the scenes. Those industry-standard "headers," as they're known, include date and time sent and received, language, a unique identifier called a Message-ID, and routing information.

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Why the Pandemic Is So Bad in America

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 22:05
A virus has brought the world's most powerful country to its knees. From a report: A pandemic can be prevented in two ways: Stop an infection from ever arising, or stop an infection from becoming thousands more. The first way is likely impossible. There are simply too many viruses and too many animals that harbor them. Bats alone could host thousands of unknown coronaviruses; in some Chinese caves, one out of every 20 bats is infected. Many people live near these caves, shelter in them, or collect guano from them for fertilizer. Thousands of bats also fly over these people's villages and roost in their homes, creating opportunities for the bats' viral stowaways to spill over into human hosts. Based on antibody testing in rural parts of China, Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that studies emerging diseases, estimates that such viruses infect a substantial number of people every year. "Most infected people don't know about it, and most of the viruses aren't transmissible," Daszak says. But it takes just one transmissible virus to start a pandemic. Sometime in late 2019, the wrong virus left a bat and ended up, perhaps via an intermediate host, in a human -- and another, and another. Eventually it found its way to the Huanan seafood market, and jumped into dozens of new hosts in an explosive super-spreading event. The COVID-19 pandemic had begun. [...] Being prepared means being ready to spring into action, "so that when something like this happens, you're moving quickly," Ronald Klain, who coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014, told me. "By early February, we should have triggered a series of actions, precisely zero of which were taken." Trump could have spent those crucial early weeks mass-producing tests to detect the virus, asking companies to manufacture protective equipment and ventilators, and otherwise steeling the nation for the worst. Instead, he focused on the border. On January 31, Trump announced that the U.S. would bar entry to foreigners who had recently been in China, and urged Americans to avoid going there.

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Android's Nearby Share' File Sharing Feature is Finally Launching

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 21:26
It will finally be slightly easier to share files, images, links, and other content between Android devices. Google is launching a new Android feature called "Nearby Share" that enables direct sharing between any device running Android 6 and up. Nearby Share is already available on some Pixel and Samsung phones, and Google says it'll arrive on other devices "over the next few weeks." From a report: Nearby Share works very much like Apple's AirDrop feature for the iPhone: you simply select the Nearby Share button on the share menu and then wait for a nearby phone to appear. Then whatever thing you're sharing is sent directly over your transfer method of choice to the other phone. As with AirDrop, you can set your preferred visibility for Nearby Share to different levels of contacts: all, some, or stay hidden. Google says it's even possible to "send and receive files anonymously." (Welcome to AirSlothing, Android users.) Nearby Share also shares files directly via whatever method your two phones deem is fastest: "Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi," which Google says should allow it to work offline.

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Apple Marketing Chief Phil Schiller Steps Down From Role

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 20:46
Apple announced on Tuesday that longtime marketing boss Phil Schiller will step down from his role and be replaced by one of his deputies, Greg Joswiak, who now has Schiller's former title of vice president of worldwide marketing. From a report: Schiller will continue to work at Apple as an "Apple Fellow," the company said, and will continue his role as the boss of Apple's App Store and company events. Schiller will also continue to report to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Schiller has worked at Apple since 1987. "I'll keep working here as long as they will have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal projects I care deeply about," Schiller said in a statement. Schiller's departure from his formal role on Apple's leadership team comes following several other notable departures over the last couple years, including head of design Jony Ive, PR boss Steve Dowling and retail boss Angela Ahrendts. But Apple also made an addition to its exec team in that time period with John Giannandrea, the head of artificial intelligence.

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ByteDance CEO Says Trump's Real Goal Is To Kill Off TikTok

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 20:09
A U.S. investigation into ByteDance's TikTok is really intended to smother a Chinese-owned app that's become a sensation with Americans, founder Zhang Yiming told employees in China Tuesday. From a report: In his second missive to the troops in as many days, the billionaire entrepreneur said a government probe into the company's 2017 purchase of Musical.ly, -- TikTok's progenitor -- was intended to spur a complete shutout. Escalating U.S.-China tensions had prompted American politicians to warn that the app posed a potential national security threat and call for an investigation into whether U.S. user data was being shared with Beijing, accusations that ByteDance has repeatedly rejected. Beijing-based ByteDance has come under pressure from the White House and U.S. lawmakers to sell off its U.S. TikTok operations and now has until Sept. 15 to hold negotiations with Microsoft over such a deal. President Donald Trump said on Monday any sale of TikTok's American operations would have to include a substantial payment to the U.S., though it wasn't clear under what authority he can extract a payment. While a forced sale of TikTok to U.S. buyer is "unreasonable", it is still part of a legal process and the company has no choice but to abide by the law, Zhang said. "But this is not their goal, or even what they want. Their real objective is to achieve a comprehensive ban," he wrote.

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Firefox 79 Clears Redirect Tracking Cookies Every 24 Hours

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 19:23
An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today started rolling out Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) 2.0 in Firefox. While the company technically launched Firefox 79 for Windows, Mac, and Linux last week, it only unveiled its marquee feature today. Firefox 79 by default blocks redirect tracking, also known as bounce tracking, and adds a handful of new developer features. [...] Since enabling Enhanced Tracking Protection by default, Mozilla says it has blocked 3.4 trillion tracking cookies. But the company notes the ad industry has since created workarounds and new ways to collect user data as you browse the web.

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Google Play Music Shutdown Dates Set: Service To Be Replaced by YouTube Music by End of 2020

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 18:43
The last dance is looming for Google Play Music, the subscription service that will be fully subsumed into YouTube Music by December 2020, the internet company announced. From a report: In streamlining its music offerings, Google is coming down the home stretch of a months-long migration of users from Google Play Music -- which will start shutting down in September -- to the YouTube Music app. In May, the company launched a migration tool (available at music.youtube.com/transfer) that lets Google Play Music customers transfer their music libraries to YouTube Music. Starting in September 2020 in New Zealand and South Africa -- and in October for all other global markets -- users will no longer be able to stream from or use the Google Play Music app. However, according to Google, it will retain users' playlists, uploads, purchases, likes and other data until December 2020 to give them time to transfer to YouTube Music. After the end of the year, Google Play Music libraries will no longer be available.

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Stet!, the Hot New Language Game

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 18:03
The game Stet!, a spinoff of the book "Dreyer's English," is an excellent way to prepare for a copy-editing test and pairs well with a gin-and-tonic. Mary Norris, writing for The New Yorker: Nerdsday fell on a Tuesday this year, and I invited a friend over for a doubleheader: a round of Stet!, the new language game based on "Dreyer's English," followed by an episode of Mark Allen's "That Word Chat," a homespun Zoom talk show for editors, lexicographers, linguists, and others of the inky tribe. My friend was Merrill Perlman, who writes the column "Language Corner" for the Columbia Journalism Review, where her biographical note says that she has "managed copy desks across the newsroom at the New York Times." Although retired from full-time journalism, she continues to teach and serves on the board of ACES: The Society for Editing. Nitpickers by profession, we ran into a problem right away. The instructions for Stet! suggest that you "play with three or more players" (is that redundant?), and we had been unable, during the pandemic, to scare up a third nerd. The game of Stet! comprises two packs of cards with sentences on them, fifty of them Grammar cards with indisputable errors (dangling modifiers, stinking apostrophes, and homonyms, like horde/hoard and reign/rein) and fifty of them Style cards, on which the sentences are correct but pedestrian, and the object is to improve the sentence without rewriting it. There are trick cards with no mistakes on them. You might suspect that there is something wrong with (spoiler alert) "Jackson Pollock" or "asafetida" or "farmers market," but these are red herrings. If you believe that the sentence is perfect just as it is, you shout "Stet!," the proofreading term for "leave it alone" (from the Latin for "let it stand"), which is used by copy editors to protect an author's prose and by authors to protect their prose from copy editors. The game involves some role playing. If you use only the Grammar cards, the dealer is called the Copy Chief, as in "The Copy Chief shuffles the fifty Grammar cards." If you mix in the Style cards, the dealer is the Author, the players are Copy Editors (you can almost hear an author muttering, "Everyone is a copy editor"), and the deck is huge. I got the impression from the size of the cards, which are bigger than those in a tarot pack, that authors and copy editors have large, masculine hands. I personally wear a small-to-medium-sized disposable nitrile glove and could not riffle the deck with any kind of flair (or is it "flare"?). The sporting element in Stet! is slapping your hand on the carefully sanitized table when you spot the mistake or mistakes. Points are awarded based on the number of errors planted in a sentence. Most have just one, some have two, and there are a few three-pointers. Penalties are assessed for missing mistakes, but none for introducing an error, a cardinal sin in copy editing. (Perhaps the instructions could be refined to add a slap on the hand for this.) It takes five points to win a game, and the game goes fast. I won the first round handily, mostly because my opponent, the Copy Chief, kept forgetting to slap.

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Apple Updates the iMac With New Intel Processors and a Better Webcam

Slashdot - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 17:23
Apple is announcing updates for both the 27-inch and 21.5-inch iMacs. It's updating the processors inside to Intel's 10th Gen Comet Lake processors and also switching out the webcam to a higher-resolution 1080p HD sensor instead of the low-res 720p found in other Macs. From a report: SSDs are now standard across the line, and there will be a bunch of new configuration options -- including a "nano-texture" version with less reflective matte glass. The 27-inch iMac starts at $1,799, is available to order today, and will ship this week. The 21.5-inch iMac starts at $1,099 and will ship next week. Apple is also giving the iMac Pro a small spec bump, making the 10-core Intel chips the new baseline for $4,999 -- also shipping next week. (Oddly, the iMac Pro is not otherwise getting updated.) This is not the major redesign that has been rumored (and hoped for), nor is it the first ARM-based Mac. Instead, the 2020 iMacs look identical to the last generation, including the large black bezel all the way around the screen and the big metal chin at the bottom. Apple says that, as it noted at WWDC, it intends to support Intel-based Macs for many years to come. The webcam might be the biggest day-to-day upgrade for most users. It's 1080p, but Apple says that the new T2 chip enables some new features beyond the improved resolution like tone mapping, exposure control, and face detection. Apple says the improved camera features will work in any videoconferencing app, not just FaceTime.

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