Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopeful-but-doubtful dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a detailed, global strategy for ridding ourselves of mass surveillance. They stress that this must be an international effort — while citizens of many countries can vote against politicians who support surveillance, there are also many countries where the citizens have to resort to other methods. The central part of the EFF's plan is: encryption, encryption, encryption. They say we need to build new secure communications tools, pressure existing tech companies to make their products secure against everyone, and get ordinary internet-goers to recognize that encryption is a fundamental part of communication in the surveillance age.

They also advocate fighting for transparency and against overreach on a national level. "[T]he more people worldwide understand the threat and the more they understand how to protect themselves—and just as importantly, what they should expect in the way of support from companies and governments—the more we can agitate for the changes we need online to fend off the dragnet collection of data." The EFF references a document created to apply the principles of human rights to communications surveillance, which they say are "our way of making sure that the global norm for human rights in the context of communication surveillance isn't the warped viewpoint of NSA and its four closest allies, but that of 50 years of human rights standards showing mass surveillance to be unnecessary and disproportionate."
News

Davos 2015: Less Innovation, More Regulation, More Unrest. Run Away! 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes: Growing income inequality was one of the top four issues at the 2015 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, ranking alongside European adoption of quantitative easing and geopolitical concerns. Felix Salmon, senior editor at Fusion, said there was a consensus that global inequality is getting worse, fueling overriding pessimism at the gathering. The result, he said, could be that the next big revolution will be in regulation rather than innovation. With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people's mind, the world's super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. "I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway," he said. Looking at studies like NASA's HANDY and by KPMG, the UK Government Office of Science, and others, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, warns that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a "perfect storm" within about fifteen years.
Education

Why Coding Is Not the New Literacy 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the pants-are-the-new-shirts dept.
An anonymous reader writes: There has been a furious effort over the past few years to bring the teaching of programming into the core academic curricula. Enthusiasts have been quick to take up the motto: "Coding is the new literacy!" But long-time developer Chris Granger argues that this is not the case: "When we say that coding is the new literacy, we're arguing that wielding a pencil and paper is the old one. Coding, like writing, is a mechanical act. All we've done is upgrade the storage medium. ... Reading and writing gave us external and distributable storage. Coding gives us external and distributable computation. It allows us to offload the thinking we have to do in order to execute some process. To achieve this, it seems like all we need is to show people how to give the computer instructions, but that's teaching people how to put words on the page. We need the equivalent of composition, the skill that allows us to think about how things are computed."

He further suggests that if anything, the "new" literacy should be modeling — the ability to create a representation of a system that can be explored or used. "Defining a system or process requires breaking it down into pieces and defining those, which can then be broken down further. It is a process that helps acknowledge and remove ambiguity and it is the most important aspect of teaching people to model. In breaking parts down we can take something overwhelmingly complex and frame it in terms that we understand and actions we know how to do."
Businesses

Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers 247

Posted by Soulskill
from the there-is-no-entertainment-except-through-us dept.
RogueyWon writes: For the last several days, some users of Ubisoft's uPlay system have been complaining that copies of games they purchased have been removed from their libraries. According to a statement issued to a number of gaming websites, Ubisoft believes that the digital keys revoked have been "fraudulently obtained." What this means in practice is unclear; while some of the keys may have been obtained using stolen credit card details, others appear to have been purchased from unofficial third-party resellers, who often undercut official stores by purchasing cheaper boxed retail copies of games and selling their key-codes online, or by exploiting regional price differences, buying codes in regions where games are cheaper to sell them elsewhere in the world. The latest round of revocations appears to have triggered an overdue debate into the fragility of customer rights in respect of digital games stores.
Government

Comcast Ghost-Writes Politician's Letters To Support Time Warner Mega-Merger 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-the-money-lies dept.
WheezyJoe writes: As the FCC considers the merger between Comcast/Universal and Time-Warner Cable, which would create the largest cable company in the U.S. and is entering the final stages of federal review, politicians are pressuring the FCC with pro-merger letters actually written by Comcast. According to documents obtained through public records requests, politicians are passing letters nearly word-for-word written by Comcast as their own. "Not only do records show that a Comcast official sent the councilman the exact wording of the letter he would submit to the FCC, but also that finishing touches were put on the letter by a former FCC official named Rosemary Harold, who is now a partner at one of the nation's foremost telecom law firms in Washington, DC. Comcast has enlisted Harold to help persuade her former agency to approve the proposed merger."

Ars Technica had already reported that politicians have closely mimicked Comcast talking points and re-used Comcast's own statements without attribution. The documents revealed today show just how deeply Comcast is involved with certain politicians, and how they were able to get them on board.
Software

Windows 10 IE With Spartan Engine Performance Vs. Chrome and Firefox 106

Posted by Soulskill
from the attempting-to-battle-back dept.
MojoKid writes: In Microsoft's latest Windows 10 preview build released last week, Cortana made an entrance, but the much-anticipated Spartan browser did not. However, little did we realize that some of Spartan made the cut, in the form of an experimental rendering engine hidden under IE's hood. Microsoft has separated its Trident rendering engine into two separate versions: one is for Spartan, called EdgeHTML, while the other remains under its legacy naming with Internet Explorer. The reason Microsoft doesn't simply forego the older version is due to compatibility concerns. If you're running the Windows 10 9926 build, chances are good that you're automatically taking advantage of the new EdgeHTML engine in IE. To check, you can type 'about:flags' into the address bar. "Automatic" means that the non-Spartan Trident engine will be called-upon only if needed. In all other cases, you'll be taking advantage of the future Spartan web rendering engine. Performance-wise, the results with IE are like night and day in certain spots. Some of the improvements are significant. IE's Sunspider result already outperforms the competition, but it has been further improved. And with Kraken, the latency with the Spartan-powered Trident engine dropped 40%. Similar results are seen with a boost in the Octane web browser test as well.
Censorship

Police Organization Wants Cop-Spotting Dropped From Waze App 277

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-report-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Register reports on a request from the US National Sheriffs' Association, which "wants Google to block its crowd-sourced traffic app Waze from being able to report the position of police officers, saying the information is putting officer's lives at risk." From the article: "'The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action,' AP reports Sheriff Mike Brown, the chairman of the NSA's technology committee, told the association's winter conference in Washington....Brown called the app a 'police stalker,' and said being able to identify where officers were located could put them at personal risk. Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said his members had concerns as well. 'I can think of 100 ways that it could present an officer-safety issue,' Pasco said. 'There's no control over who uses it. So, if you're a criminal and you want to rob a bank, hypothetically, you use your Waze.'"
Portables

Getting Charged Up Over Chargers at CES (Video) 20

Posted by Roblimo
from the slip-me-some-of-that-juice-Bruce dept.
First we look at Skiva Technology and their Octofire 8-port USB charger that pulled in nearly five times the requested amount from a Kickstarter campaign. (The 'pulled in X times the requested Kickstarter amount' is becoming a common product boast, isn't it?) Then, for MacBook owners who are tired of having their chargers or charger cords break, we take a brief look at the Juiceboxx Charger Case. These two power-oriented products and WakaWaka, which we posted about on January 9, are just a tiny, random sample of the many items in this category that were on display at CES 2015. Timothy was the only Slashdot person working CES, so it's shocking that he managed to cover as many (hopefully interesting) products as he did, considering that even the biggest IT journo mills don't come close to total coverage of the overwhelming muddle CES has become in recent years. (Alternate Video Link)
United States

Plan C: The Cold War Plan Which Would Have Brought the US Under Martial Law 240

Posted by samzenpus
from the gentlemen-you-can't-fight-in-here-this-is-the-war-room dept.
v3rgEz writes with this story of a top secret Cold War plan which would have brought the U.S. under martial law. Starting on April 19, 1956, the federal government practiced and planned for a near-doomsday scenario known as Plan C. When activated, Plan C would have brought the United States under martial law, rounded up over ten thousand individuals connected to 'subversive' organizations, implemented a censorship board, and prepared the country for life after nuclear attack. There was no Plan A or B....Details of this program were distributed to each FBI field office. Over the following months and years, Plan C would be adjusted as drills and meetings found holes in the defensive strategy: Communications were more closely held, authority was apparently more dispersed, and certain segments of the government, such as the U.S. Attorneys, had trouble actually delineating who was responsible for what. Bureau employees were encouraged to prepare their families for the worst, but had to keep secret the more in-depth plans for what the government would do if war did break out. Families were given a phone number and city for where the relocated agency locations would be, but not the exact location.
Bug

NVIDIA GTX 970 Specifications Corrected, Memory Pools Explained 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the under-the-hood dept.
Vigile writes Over the weekend NVIDIA sent out its first official response to the claims of hampered performance on the GTX 970 and a potential lack of access to 1/8th of the on-board memory. Today NVIDIA has clarified the situation again, this time with some important changes to the specifications of the GPU. First, the ROP count and L2 cache capacity of the GTX 970 were incorrectly reported at launch (last September). The GTX 970 has 52 ROPs and 1792 KB of L2 cache compared to the GTX 980 that has 64 ROPs and 2048 KB of L2 cache; previously both GPUs claimed to have identical specs. Because of this change, one of the 32-bit memory channels is accessed differently, forcing NVIDIA to create 3.5GB and 0.5GB pools of memory to improve overall performance for the majority of use cases. The smaller, 500MB pool operates at 1/7th the speed of the 3.5GB pool and thus will lower total graphics system performance by 4-6% when added into the memory system. That occurs when games request MORE than 3.5GB of memory allocation though, which happens only in extreme cases and combinations of resolution and anti-aliasing. Still, the jury is out on whether NVIDIA has answered enough questions to temper the fire from consumers.
Businesses

Virgin Galactic Dumps Scaled Composites For Spaceship Two 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the seeing-other-people dept.
PvtVoid writes Virgin Galactic, following an aggressive schedule to build a replacement for the Spaceship Two which crashed in October, is doing so without partner Scaled Composites, according to the Los Angeles Times. Kevin Mickey, the president of Scaled Composites, confirmed this week that his company would no longer be involved in testing. He said Scaled would still work as a consultant to Virgin Galactic.
Cellphones

Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-your-own dept.
itwbennett writes The promise of modular smartphones like Google's Project Ara is that buyers will be able to upgrade components at will — and now Finnish company Circular Devices has come up with a use for discarded computing modules, which they're calling Puzzlecluster. Drawings of the Puzzlecluster architecture show a chassis with slots for the reused modules, which can then be interconnected with others to create the cluster. Just one unit could also be used as a desktop computer."
Space

"Once In a Lifetime" Asteroid Sighting Monday Night 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-the-show dept.
An anonymous reader writes Tonight, Asteroid 2004 BL86 will make a pass by the Earth at just 745,000 miles away. This should offer stargazers a great opportunity to see the half-kilometer space rock. CNN has some tips on the best method and time to look. From the article: "The best chance for viewing will be from 8 p.m. ET Monday to 1 a.m. ET Tuesday. Asteroid 2004 BL86 is large, and it will brighten, but nonetheless will not be observable with the naked eye. Some astronomy websites say a pair of binoculars could do the trick, but Sky & Telescope recommends at least a 3- or 4-inch diameter telescope. 'One good technique for fast-movers like 2004 BL86 is to identify and lock onto a star along its path,' Sky & Telescope senior editor Kelly Beatty says. 'Then just watch at the time that the asteroid is predicted to pass by that particular star.'"
Transportation

Germany Plans Highway Test Track For Self-Driving Cars 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-mutter-no-hands dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about a new project to test autonomous vehicles in Germany. "The German government wants to convert part of the A9 Autobahn in Bavaria into a test-field for advanced car technology. The project is key to ensuring the country's 'digital sovereignty,' according to its transport minister. The track, part of the 'Digitales Testfeld Autobahn' project, would be launched this year, Alexander Dobrindt said on Monday in an interview (in German) with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. The plan involves equipping the road with infrastructure to allow cars to communicate with each other and the road's own sensors to provide necessary data on traffic. 'Cars with assisted driving and later fully-automated cars will be able to drive there,' Dobrindt said. Germany, a major European car producer, wants to have robotic car technology that's not dependent on foreign companies, the minister said. Domestic producers 'won't rely on Google' he stressed."
Windows

Windows 10: Charms Bar Removed, No Start Screen For Desktops 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
jones_supa writes Late last week, Microsoft pushed out a new build (9926) of Windows 10 to those of you who are running the Technical Preview. The latest version comes with many new features, some easily accessible, others bubbling under, but two big changes are now certain: the Charms bar is dead, and Start Screen for large devices is no more. Replacing the Charms bar is the Action Center, which has many of the same shortcuts as the Charms bar, but also has a plethora of other information too. Notifications are now bundled into the Action Center and the shortcuts to individual settings are still easily accessible from this window. The Start Screen is no longer present for desktop users, the options for opening it are gone. Continuum is the future, and it has taken over what the Start Screen initiated with Windows 8.