MikeatWired writes "It wasn't ever seriously in doubt, but the FBI yesterday acknowledged that it secretly took control of Freedom Hosting last July, days before the servers of the largest provider of ultra-anonymous hosting were found to be serving custom malware designed to identify visitors. Freedom Hosting's operator, Eric Eoin Marques, had rented the servers from an unnamed commercial hosting provider in France, and paid for them from a bank account in Las Vegas. It's not clear how the FBI took over the servers in late July, but the bureau was temporarily thwarted when Marques somehow regained access and changed the passwords, briefly locking out the FBI until it gained back control. The new details emerged in local press reports from a Thursday bail hearing in Dublin, Ireland, where Marques, 28, is fighting extradition to America on charges that Freedom Hosting facilitated child pornography on a massive scale. He was denied bail today for the second time since his arrest in July. On August 4, all the sites hosted by Freedom Hosting — some with no connection to child porn — began serving an error message with hidden code embedded in the page. Security researchers dissected the code and found it exploited a security hole in Firefox to identify users of the Tor Browser Bundle, reporting back to a mysterious server in Northern Virginia. The FBI was the obvious suspect, but declined to comment on the incident. The FBI also didn't respond to inquiries from WIRED today. But FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brooke Donahue was more forthcoming when he appeared in the Irish court yesterday to bolster the case for keeping Marque behind bars."
Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!
Nerval's Lobster writes "Massachusetts lawmakers have agreed to repeal a six-week-old tax on computer services that generated such outrage that even the governor who proposed the tax in January now opposes it. The 6.25 percent sales tax on 'computer system design services' was proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick in January, but got little notice before it was slipped in mid-July into a $500 million supplementary funding bill meant to pay for improvements in the state's public transportation system. It was passed by the legislature with almost no debate, was signed into law by the governor with little public outrage, and went into effect – theoretically – July 31. IT businesses in the state used social media, business associations and angry letters to both lawmakers and local media to describe problems with the tax and show their opposition. Confusion over what qualifies as a 'computer system design service' and how to actually implement the tax – which was supposed to generate $161 million in revenue for the state – has been such a challenge to implement that the state has yet to collect a dime. The main logistical problem is figuring out what is covered and what isn't: data access, data processing and 'information services,' for example, are not taxed, which exempts most hosting, cloud, outsourcing and remote-access monitoring or security services. Democratic leaders announced Sept. 12 they would support repeal of the tax, which could be completed within weeks. 'It is now evident that the impact of the tax is broader than any of us ever anticipated or intended,' according to Mass. Senate President Therese Murray at a press conference Sept. 12."
An anonymous reader writes "The Atlantic reports on a study into reversing the typical lecture/homework educational method. The study had students watch lecture videos at home, then use class time to work on activities. After three years of trials, the researchers found both a student preference for the new method and a 5% increase in exam scores. 'In 2012, that flipped model looked like this: At home, before class, students watched brief lecture modules, which introduced them to the day's content. They also read a textbook — the same, introductory-level book as in 2011 — before they arrived. When they got to class, Mumper would begin by asking them "audience response" questions. He'd put a multiple-choice question about the previous night's lectures on a PowerPoint slide and ask all the students to respond via small, cheap clickers. He'd then look at their response, live, as they answered, and address any inconsistencies or incorrect beliefs revealed. Maybe 50 percent of the class got the wrong answer to one of these questions: This gave him an opportunity to lecture just enough so that students could understand what they got wrong. Then, the class would split up into pairs, and Mumper would ask them a question which required them to apply the previous night's content... The pairs would discuss an answer, then share their findings with the class. At the end of that section, Mumper would go over any points relevant to the question which he felt the class failed to bring up.'"
dcblogs writes "Boulder Co. was recently ranked first in nation for its 'high-tech start-up density,' for cities of its size by the Kauffman Foundation. The ranking is based on a ratio of start-ups to population. But the tech community has left its downtown offices, some of which are flooded and others under threat. Normally there are 70 people working in Gnip's office, but Chris Moody, the CEO, in response to request from the city to get traffic off roads, closed the office. In another part of downtown, TeamSnap's building was flooding, and Dave DuPont, its CEO, said his only commute option was 'by boat.' The city's decision to ask businesses to close was a sign 'that the worse might still be in front us,' said Moody."
Dr. Richard Feynman's lectures on physics have been iconic standards of physics education for the past five decades. Videos of the series were put online at Microsoft Research a few years ago, but now the entirety of Volume 1 is available over simple HTML (mirror). In a letter to members of the Feynman Lectures Forum, editor Mike Gottlieb said, "It was an idea conceived many years ago, when through FL website correspondence I became aware of the many eager young minds who could benefit from reading FLP, who want to read it, but for economic or other reasons have no access to it, while at the same time I was becoming aware of the growing popularity of horrid scanned copies of old editions of FLP circulating on file-sharing and torrent websites. A free high-quality online edition was my proposed solution to both problems. All concerned agreed on the potential pedagogical benefits, but also had to be convinced that book sales would not be harmed. The conversion from LaTeX to HTML was expensive: we raised considerable funds, but ran out before finishing Volumes II and III, so we are only posting Volume I initially. (I am working on finishing Volumes II and III myself, as time permits, and will start posting chapters in the not-too-distant future, if all goes as planned.)"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "We all know the stereotype about tenured college professors: great researchers, lazy teachers. Now Jordan Weissmann writes in the Atlantic that a new study confirms the conventional knowlege that faculty who aren't on the tenure-track appear to do a better job at teaching freshmen undergraduates in their introductory courses than their tenured/tenure-track peers. 'Our results provide evidence that the rise of full-time designated teachers at U.S. colleges and universities may be less of a cause for alarm than some people think, and indeed, may actually be educationally beneficial.' Using the transcripts of Northwestern freshmen from 2001 through 2008, the research team focused on two factors: inspiration and preparation. The team began by asking if taking a class from a tenure or tenure-track professor in their first term later made students more likely to pursue additional courses in that field. That's the inspiration part. Next the researchers wanted to know if students who took their first course in a field from a tenure or tenure-track professor got better grades when they pursued more advanced coursework. That's the preparation part. Controlling for certain student characteristics, freshmen were actually about 7 percentage points more likely to take a second course in a given field if their first class was taught by an adjunct or non-tenure professor and they also tended to get higher grades in those future courses. The pattern held 'for all subjects, regardless of grading standards or the qualifications of the students the subjects attracted' from English to Engineering. The defining trend among college faculties during the past 20 years or so (40, if you really want to stretch back) has been the rise of the adjuncts. 'That said, there is something appealingly intuitive in these results,' concludes Weissmann. 'Professionals who are paid entirely to teach, in fact, make for better teachers. Makes sense, right?'"
McGruber writes "During Wednesday's TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Marissa Meyer was asked what would happen if Yahoo simply declined to cooperate with the NSA. She replied 'Releasing classified information is treason. It generally lands you incarcerated.' Meyer also revealed that the 2007 lawsuit against the Patriot Act had been filed by Yahoo: 'I'm proud to be part of an organization that from the very beginning in 2007, with the NSA and FISA and PRISM, has been skeptical and has scrutinized those requests. In 2007 Yahoo filed a lawsuit against the new Patriot Act, parts of PRISM and FISA, we were the key plaintiff. A lot of people have wondered about that case and who it was. It was us ... we lost. The thing is, we lost and if you don't comply it's treason.'"
GameboyRMH writes "A gear mechanism has been discovered [paywalled original paper here, for those with access] for the first time in nature in the nymph of the Issus, a small plant-hopping insect common in Europe. It uses the gears to synchronize the movement and power of its hind legs, forcing the legs to propel it in a straight line when jumping, which would otherwise be impossible for the insect if it had to control the timing and force of its leg muscles independently."
First time accepted submitter someSnarkyBastard writes "It has already been widely reported that the NSA has subverted several major encryption standards but I have not seen any mention of how this affects the FIPS 140-2 standard. Can we still trust these cyphers? They have been cleared for use by the US Government for Top-Secret clearance documents; surely the government wouldn't backdoor itself right?...Right?"
colinneagle writes with an interesting excerpt from Senate testimony offered yesterday, on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, from Stewart Baker. Baker formerly served as DHS Assistant Secretary and NSA General Counsel, and gave his opinion on the source of the real problems within the TSA, opining: "Unlike border officials, though, TSA ended up taking more time to inspect everyone, treating all travelers as potential terrorists, and subjecting many to whole-body imaging and enhanced pat-downs. We can't blame TSA for this wrong turn, though. Privacy lobbies persuaded Congress that TSA couldn't be trusted with data about the travelers it was screening. With no information about travelers, TSA had no choice but to treat them all alike, sending us down a long blind alley that has inconvenienced billions."
MojoKid writes "News from Intel (and Google) today includes an announcement that more Chromebooks are on their way to market packing Intel's Haswell processors. The new chips are designed to consume less power, thus preserving battery life for an all-day charge, while still offering better overall performance. Google notes that there are schools in over 20% of school districts across the country that now use Chromebooks, and with prices for some of the machines dipping as low as $199, deploying fleets of these machines in academia is an attractive option. What's interesting is the alignment between Intel and Google now, which should cause folks in Redmond to smart a bit, as yet another major competitor to the Windows operating system seems to clearly be coming into focus. Intel-Google partners including Acer, ASUS, HP, and Toshiba will be rolling out Chromebooks based on Haswell soon, and they'll collectively be sporting more variety of form factors."
awarrenfells writes "After a shareholder vote, Michael Dell is expected to buy out and take Dell Inc. private. This move comes in the wake of plans to move Dell into position as an enterprise computing provider, but some analysts state this move may have come too late, much of the target market being taken by IBM and HP already." Nerval's Lobster provides some more details at Slash Cloud: "[T]he final buyout price was $13.75 a share, which includes a 13-cent-a-share “special dividend.” All told, that puts the deal’s price at $24.9 billion. In order to reach this point, Dell and Silver Lake had to fend off activist investor Carl Icahn and investment firm Southeastern Asset Management, which made their own combined play for a restructured capitalization. In a series of public letters, Icahn argued that Dell’s privatization proposal undervalued the company, and—at least until the beginning of September—made it very clear that he was willing to fight things out in court. By convincing the shareholders that his plan is the best route forward, Dell avoids what could have devolved into a very protracted and messy battle. Michael Dell wants to focus the majority of the company’s efforts on services, essentially remaking it into a tech firm more along the lines of IBM."
Ellie K writes "After 500 years, Britain announced plans to fully privatize Royal Mail today. Shares of stock (common equity) will be offered to the public 'in coming weeks', according to Reuters. 10% of shares will be given to current Royal Mail employees, Deal size is estimated at $US 3 to 4.7 billion. Goldman Sachs and UBS were chosen as lead advisers." That doesn't mean you'll be able to buy a piece tomorrow, though; as the BBC's report notes, "The plans have provoked strong opposition from unions. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is currently balloting members on strike action. Ballot papers are due to go out on 20 September to 125,000 Royal Mail workers. The earliest possible strike date would be 10 October. Plans to privatise the 250-year-old postal service have been on successive governments' agendas since the early 1990s."
An anonymous reader writes "Financial markets experienced a series of computer glitches recently that brought operations to a halt. According to a researcher at the University of Miami, mobs of ultrafast robots, which trade and operate at speeds beyond human capability, may be responsible for these "flash freezes". From the article: '"Even though each trading algorithm/robot is out to gain a profit at the expense of any other, and hence act as a predator, any algorithm which is trading has a market impact and hence can become noticeable to other algorithms," said Neil Johnson, a professor of physics at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami (UM) and lead author of the new study. "So although they are all predators, some can then become the prey of other algorithms depending on the conditions. Just like animal predators can also fall prey to each other." When there's a normal combination of prey and predators, he says, everything is in balance. But once predators are introduced that are too fast, they create extreme events.'"
cartechboy writes "Stephen King has sold more than 300 million books of horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. The guy has written so many works, and words, that he actually needs a "continuity adviser" to fact check him when he picks old stories up as a new book. Enter Rocky Wood — who is the world-wide leading expert on Stephen King's work. So much so, that King hired Wood (who has authored a 6000+ page encyclopedia on CD-ROM on every single aspect of King's work — including 26,000 different King characters) to fact check himself when he writes."
Exxon has been charged with illegally dumping over 50,000 gallons of wastewater at a shale-gas drilling site in Pennsylvania. From the article: 'Exxon unit XTO Energy Inc. discharged the water from waste tanks at the Marquandt well site in Lycoming County in 2010, according to a statement on the website of Pennsylvania’s attorney general. The pollution was found during an unannounced visit by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The inspectors discovered a plug removed from a tank, allowing the wastewater to run onto the ground, polluting a nearby stream. XTO was ordered to remove 3,000 tons of soil to clean up the area. Wastewater discharged from natural-gas wells can contain chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum, the attorney general’s statement showed. “Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless,” the XTO unit said yesterday in a statement posted on its website. “There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO.”'
dp619 writes "Fighting against software patents (New Zealand has banned them) tends to blind FOSS communities to aspects of IP law that actually serve them well. While certainly not perfect, patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret law each has something to offer FOSS communities. Penn State law professor Clark Asay wrote a guest post for the Outercurve Foundation briefly describing some of the ways in IP law can help open source developers."
An anonymous reader writes "The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper is reporting that the NSA shares the raw intel collected on Americans with Israel. From the article: 'Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the U.S. government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis. ... The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing. The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies "pertaining to the protection of U.S. persons," repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights. But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive "raw Sigint" – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: "Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content."'
lpress writes "Google and MIT have both built open source MOOC platforms and offered innovative MOOCs. They have just announced the establishment of mooc.org, a non-profit organization that will provide a platform to develop, host, and research online courses. The devil is, no doubt, in the details, but this combination of MIT's educational expertise and reputation, Google's vast infrastructure, and the lofty goals of both organizations might turn out to be revolutionary." From Google's research weblog: "Google and edX have a shared mission to broaden access to education, and by working together, we can advance towards our goals much faster. In addition, Google, with its breadth of applicable infrastructure and research capabilities, will continue to make contributions to the online education space, the findings of which will be shared directly to the online education community and the Open edX platform." Course Builder will continue to be maintained for the time being, but eventually Google will "provide an upgrade path to Open edX and MOOC.org from Course Builder."
Esther Schindler writes "You've written some code, you think it would be useful to the world, and you'd like to give back to the open source world. But how do you do it? Andy Lester provides a checksheet for developers for how to release an open source project and get it noticed. For instance: Before you release the project to the wild, write some documentation, create a mailing list, create an issue tracker, and so on. 'Users require releases of your software. It’s a disservice to your users to point at the Git repo and say “Just pull from the master branch and install it.” Users don’t want to have to use version control just to get a release of the code. Create a proper tarball (.tar.gz) that is easily downloadable by anyone. Announce each release. Your announcements should not assume that the reader is familiar with your project.' You think he's missing anything?"
Researchers taking advantage of retreating ice shelves in Antarctica have discovered evidence of life that's been sealed away for nearly 100,000 years. Lake Hodgson on the Antarctic Peninsula, once covered by over 400 meters of ice, is now obscured only by a thin layer three to four meters thick. Scientists carefully drilled through the ice and took samples (abstract) from the layers of mud at the bottom (as much as 93 meters below the lake's surface). "The top few centimetres of the core contained current and recent organisms which inhabit the lake but once the core reached 3.2 m deep the microbes found most likely date back nearly 100,000 years. ... Some of the life discovered was in the form of Fossil DNA showing that many different types of bacteria live there, including a range of extremophiles which are species adapted to the most extreme environments. These use a variety of chemical methods to sustain life both with and without oxygen. One DNA sequence was related to the most ancient organisms known on Earth and parts of the DNA in twenty three percent has not been previously described."
cold fjord notes that the X Prize Foundation has opened up a new mission: to quantify the acidification of the world's oceans, excerpting from a description on Nature's blog of the project's focus: "Scientists who study ocean acidification must confront a fundamental problem: It is hard to measure exactly how much the ocean's pH is changing. Today's sensors don't work well at depth or over long periods of time, and they are too expensive to deploy widely. That is where the US$2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health X Prize comes in. The 22-month competition will award two $1 million prizes, one to the best low-cost sensor and one to the most accurate. The competition's organizers decided to award two prizes because the two goals present different engineering challenges. ... As carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere, ocean water takes up some of the gas and becomes more acidic. This can harm shell-building marine life like coral, whose calcium carbonate skeletons dissolve in the increasingly acidic water. All of this research is bedeviled by the simple lack of technology to monitor ocean pH in real time across the world."
judgecorp writes "Britain's Channel 4 screened Blackout, a drama about a cyber-attack which crashes the national power grid. The show was silly enough, with a strong message about the dangers of lighting candles in such a situation, but the Twitter responses were even better. The show terrified some viewers who apparently didn't realise that their TV screen was powered by the grid."
CNN reports that at least for now we may be able to set aside the question of whether and under what authority the U.S. should intervene militarily in Syria, a question that's dominated the news for the last few weeks. From the report: "Facing the threat of a U.S. military strike, the country's leaders Tuesday reportedly accepted a Russian proposal to turn over its chemical weapons. ... The development, reported by Syrian state television and Russia's Interfax news agency, came a day after the idea bubbled up in the wake of what appeared to be a gaffe by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. It quickly changed the debate in Washington from 'Should the U.S. attack?' to 'Is there a diplomatic way out of this mess?' Syrian Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Tuesday his country had agreed to the Russian proposal after what Interfax quoted him as calling 'a very fruitful round of talks' with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday. Details of such a transfer have yet to be worked out, such as where the arms would go, who would safeguard them and how the world could be sure Syria had handed over its entire stockpile of chemical weapons."
onehitwonder writes "Newly released documents reveal how the government uses border crossings to seize and examine travelers' electronic devices instead of obtaining a search warrant to take them, according to The New York Times' Susan Stellin. The documents reveal what had been a mostly secretive process that allows the government to create a travel alert for a person (regardless of whether they're a suspect in an investigation), then detain that individual at a border crossing and confiscate or copy any electronic devices that person is carrying. The documents come courtesy of David House, a fund-raiser for the legal defense of Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning." A post at the ACLU blog (besides being free of NYT paywall headaches) gives more details, and provides handy links the documents themselves.
New submitter mwissel writes "The German Federal Police ('Bundespolizei') had sent out an helicopter in late August to fly over the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt and take photos from only 60 meters height — reportedly to search for spy antennae and other espionage related equipment on the building rooftops. A government spokesmen more or less confirmed the purpose of the flight, and it is said that Merkel's chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, gave the order. This is remarkable, because Pofalla so far stood out with a very U.S.-friendly attitude in the debate around NSA surveillance programs. There was, of course, no word about any findings. It also remains unclear whether this was just plain provocation or a PR-stunt for the upcoming federal elections in Germany on September 22nd."
benrothke writes "It has been about 8 years since my friend Richard Bejtlich's (note, that was a full disclosure 'my friend') last book Extrusion Detection: Security Monitoring for Internal Intrusions came out. That and his other 2 books were heavy on technical analysis and real-word solutions. Some titles only start to cover ground after about 80 pages of introduction. With this highly informative and actionable book, you are already reviewing tcpdump output at page 16. In The Practice of Network Security Monitoring: Understanding Incident Detection and Response, Bejtlich takes the approach that your network will be attacked and breached. He observes that a critical part of your security posture must be that of network security monitoring (NSM), which is the collection and analysis of data to help you detect and respond to intrusions." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
Bennett Haselton writes: "The ongoing case of New York Times reporter James Risen -- whom the U.S. Department of Justice wants to force to testify against one of his sources for leaking classified CIA information -- brings up a more general question about the Fifth Amendment: Why are criminal defendants allowed to remain silent, but not third-party witnesses like Risen?" You'll find the rest of Bennett's story below.
Lasrick writes "This is an excellent analysis of exactly what the problems are at Fukushima, and what risks are posed to the public. From the article: 'The operator of Fukushima Daiichi, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), has worked hard and has indeed contained most of the significant contamination carried by water used to cool the plant’s damaged reactor cores. Still, a series of events—including significant leakage from tanks built to hold radioactive water—has eroded public confidence. To address the water challenges, an improved water management plan should be created to deal with all levels of contamination, from slightly contaminated groundwater to highly radioactive cooling water flowing out of the damaged cores. This plan needs to build on the many good Tepco efforts of the past two years, but it should also incorporate new technologies that improve water cleanup performance and increase processing capacities. Importantly, this plan needs to include a new level of transparency for and outreach to the Japanese public, so citizens can understand and have confidence in the ultimate solution to the Fukushima water problem, which will almost certainly require the release of water—treated so it conforms to Japanese and international radioactivity standards—into the sea.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Last night's episode of Breaking Bad was one of the most intense in series history, but for those who haven't seen it yet, don't worry, I won't be putting out any spoilers. You see, today's Breaking Bad news has nothing to do with Walter White's slow transformation into Scarface, but rather with a legal suit filed against Apple by a Breaking Bad fan. In a lawsuit that many saw coming, an Ohio man named Noam Lazebnik recently filed a class action suit against Apple upon finding out that the $22.99 he forked over for a 'Season Pass' of Breaking Bad was only good for the first 8 episodes of the show's final season."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "It should come as no surprise to Bitcoin users that despite the pseudonymity the cryptocurrency offers, its transactions can be tracked. But University of California at San Diego researcher Sarah Meiklejohn proved that privacy problem more clearly than ever by showing a reporter that she could detect a specific point in Bitcoin's blockchain record of transactions where he had spent Bitcoins in exchange for marijuana on the Silk Road, the most popular online Bitcoin-based black market for drugs. To simulate a law enforcement subpoena, the reporter for Forbes began by giving Meiklejohn a Bitcoin address associated with Forbes' account. But with just that information, Meiklejohn was able to draw on a "clustering" analysis she had performed to identify Silk Road addresses and match them with the one used in the .3 BTC drug buy. She admits that a user who took more efforts to obscure his or her Bitcoin address through a laundering service or other unidentified Bitcoin wallets would be harder to track."
bricko writes "There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, the equivalent of almost a million square miles. In a rebound from 2012's record low an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia's northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin. The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, forcing some ships to change their routes. A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century." "Some scientsts" in this case do not include Dana Nuccitelli, who blogs cogently in reaction at The Guardian that the 60 percent increase observed in Arctic ice is "technically true, [but] also largely irrelevant." He has no kind words for the analysis in the Daily Mail (and similar report in The Telegraph), and writes "In short, this year's higher sea ice extent is merely due to the fact that last year's minimum extent was record-shattering, and the weather was not as optimal for sea ice loss this summer. However, the long-term trend is one of rapid Arctic sea ice decline, and research has shown this is mostly due to human-caused global warming." If you want to keep track of the ice yourself, Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis offers frequent updates.
New submitter santosh.k83 writes with this snippet: "TorrentFreak has learned that VPN provider iPredator is already blocked under the 'adult filter' of some, if not all, mobile providers. TorrentFreak has seen communication between the mobile provider GiffGaff and iPredator which makes it clear that the VPN's website is blocked because it allows kids to bypass the age restrictions. Based on the above it is safe to say that censorship is a slippery slope, especially without any oversight. VPNs are used for numerous purposes and bypassing age restrictions is certainly not the most popular one. If this holds up then proxy services and even Google's cache may soon be banned under the same guise."
dreamstateseven writes "Canadian Bitcoin enthusiasts will be able to exchange Canadian cash for the digital currency through a kiosk that's similar to an ATM. Bitcoiniacs says it has ordered five Bitcoin kiosks from a Las Vegas-based company called RoboCoin and intends to roll them out across Canada in the coming months, with the first machine expected to land in Vancouver in early October. The kiosks allow users to select how much money they would like to spend, insert cash into the machine and then scan a QR code on their phone to transfer the Bitcoins to their wallet."
Ars Technica reviewer Casey Johnston gives a mildly positive review to the Oyster book-rental app (and associated site), which intentionally tries to be for books what Netflix has become for movies: a low-price, subscription-based, data-sifting source of first resort. For $10 a month, users can read any of the books in Oyster's catalog (in the range of 100,000, and growing), and their reading habits are used to suggest new books of interest (with some bum steers, it seems, at present). It's iOS-only for now, with an Android version expected soon. I've only grudgingly moved more and more of my reading to tablets, but now am glad I have; still, I don't like the idea of having my books disappear if I don't pay a continuing subscription.
McGruber writes "The NY Times reports how the alumni of distant also-ran social network Myspace have created an impressive number of spinoff internet companies. These companies have so significantly changed the Los Angeles area's tech scene that the area has been dubbed the 'Silicon Beach.' The article also provides details about the demise of Myspace under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. When YouTube launched in February 2005, many at Myspace wanted to introduce a similar feature. Travis Katz, who had joined Myspace as general manager of international business just after the acquisition, said he remembered telling News Corporation representatives that they would need to hire 40 developers immediately and 200 the next year. 'That was much faster than anything they were accustomed to,' Mr. Katz said. 'They said, "We're going to do a hiring freeze for six months and take a deep breath and determine then what we really need." But we couldn't wait six months. In six months, YouTube went from two million to 80 million users.'"
CNET's Steve Guttenberg ("The Audiophiliac") profiles prolific audio engineer and general music industry do-it-all Steve Albini; Albini (who's worked on literally thousands of albums with musicians across a wide range of genres) has interesting things to say about compression, the rise of home-recording ("The majority of recordings will be crappy, low-quality recordings, but there will always be work for engineers who can do a good job, because there will always be people who appreciate good sound."), and why he still prefers to record to analog tape. (Note: Albini is justly famous not just for his production work, but in particular for his essay "The Problem with Music.")
An anonymous reader writes with a report from Spiegel Online that the U.S. government "has the capability of tapping user data from the iPhone, [and] devices using Android as well as BlackBerry, a system previously believed to be highly secure. The United States' National Security Agency intelligence-gathering operation is capable of accessing user data from smart phones from all leading manufacturers. ... The documents state that it is possible for the NSA to tap most sensitive data held on these smart phones, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been." As a bonus, the same reader points out a Washington Post report according to which "The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency's use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans' communications in its massive databases ... In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."
TechRadar reports today the first major public-facing move that Microsoft has made with its newly acquired Nokia devices business: "The headline-making Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone-cum-camera is now available for $100 less in the United States, potentially a sign that Microsoft is already ringing the changes at Nokia. The Microsoft Store stateside is now selling the 41-megapixel Windows Phone 8 handset for $199 (around £127, AU$216) on a two-year contract, compared with Nokia's lofty $299 (around £191, AU$325) launch price. The price is being matched by the AT&T network, but Microsoft is going one better (for a limited time) and chucking in the camera grip accessory for everyone who picks up the device. Early indications are that the heavily-hyped Lumia 1020 hasn't been flying off the shelves, so perhaps this price cut can offer Microsoft a boost in the early stages of its Nokia stewardship."
An anonymous reader writes "Just days after Intel added XMir support to their Linux graphics driver so it would work with the in-development the X11 compatibility layer to the Mir display server premiering with Ubuntu 13.10, Intel management has rejected the action and had the XMir patch reverted. There's been controversy surrounding Mir with it competing with Wayland and the state of the display server being rather immature and its performance coming up short while it will still debut in Ubuntu 13.10. Intel management had to say, "We do not condone or support Canonical in the course of action they have chosen, and will not carry XMir patches upstream." As a result, Canonical will need to ship their own packaged version of the Intel (and AMD and Nouveau drivers) with out-of-tree patches."
Yahoo has joined the ranks of large online businesses like Google and Facebook who have made it a practice to disclose the number and kind (if not all the details) of requests they've received from government agencies for user data. Its first report (you can read it here) lists "12,444 requests from U.S. authorities relating to a total of 40,322 user accounts." Those numbers are only part of the story, though: at the bottom of the linked report, note this disclaimer from Yahoo: "The numbers reported above include all types of government data requests such as criminal law enforcement requests and those under U.S. national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letters (NSLs), if any were received. The U.S. Government does not permit us to disclose additional details regarding the number of requests, if any, under national security authorities at this time, or even to separate them in aggregate from other requests. Additionally, the government would not authorize us to separate NSLs from other government data requests or to express the NSLs that we have received, if any, as a range from 0 to 1,000—even though the government allowed other providers to do so in the past."
dryriver writes with this excerpt from a thought-provoking report at the BBC: "China's Education Ministry says that about 400 million people — or 30% of the population — cannot speak the country's national language. Of the 70% of the population who can speak Mandarin, many do not do it well enough, a ministry spokeswoman told Xinhua news agency on Thursday. The admission from officials came as the government launched another push for linguistic unity in China. China is home to thousands of dialects and several minority languages. These include Cantonese and Hokkien, which enjoy strong regional support. Mandarin — formally called Putonghua in China, meaning 'common tongue' — is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. The Education Ministry spokeswoman said the push would be focusing on the countryside and areas with ethnic minorities."
A week ago, we posted news that federal prosecutors were seeking jail time for Chad Dixon, an Indiana man who made money teaching others how to pass polygraph examinations. Now, reader Frosty Piss writes that Dixon "was sentenced Friday to eight months in prison. Prosecutors described Chad Dixon as a 'master of deceit.' Prosecutors, who had asked for almost two years in prison, said Dixon crossed the line between free speech protected under the First Amendment and criminal conduct when he told some clients to conceal what he taught them while undergoing government polygraphs. Although Dixon appears to be the first charged publicly, others offering similar instruction say they fear they might be next. 'I've been worried about that, and the more this comes about, the more worried I am,' said Doug Williams, a former police polygraphist in Oklahoma who claims to be able to teach people to beat what he now considers a 'scam' test."
An anonymous reader writes "Using a Lego Mindstorms set, a Mac, and optical character recognition, Austrian professor Peter Purgathofer created a makeshift ebook copier. From the article: 'It's sort of a combination of high tech meets low. The scanning is done by way of the Mac's iSight camera. The Mindstorms set does two things: Hits the page-advance button on the Kindle (it appears to be an older model, like the one in the picture above), then mashes the space bar on the Mac, causing it to take a picture.' Purgathofer calls the creation a 'reflection on the loss of long established rights.' Check out the Vimeo video for a demonstration."
Frosty P writes "Congressman Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, has proposed legislation (summary, full text) that would prohibit the agency from installing 'back doors' into encryption, the electronic scrambling that protects e-mail, online transactions and other communications. Representative Holt, a physicist, said Friday that he believed the NSA was overreaching and could hurt American interests, including the reputations of American companies whose products the agency may have altered or influenced. 'We pay them to spy,' Mr. Holt said. 'But if in the process they degrade the security of the encryption we all use, it's a net national disservice.'"
v3rgEz writes "Cambridge Consultants has rigged together about a hundred motion-triggered cameras around Kenyan watering holes to help catch and dissuade elephant poachers. 'The challenge was to create a remote monitoring system that was robust enough to withstand extreme weather conditions and animal attacks and could be easily hidden in any surroundings – all within the available budget,' according to one of the projects leads. And to help make sure all those cameras are being monitored, the team has released an iOS app that lets users review, tag, and flag images, tracking what kinds of animals pass by and keeping an eye open for any human predators on the prowl."
Eloquence writes "Three years ago, Musopen raised nearly $70,000 to create public domain recordings of works by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, and others. Now they're running a new campaign with a simple but ambitious objective: 'To preserve indefinitely and without question everything Chopin created. To release his music for free, both in 1080p video and 24 bit 192kHz audio. This is roughly 245 pieces.'" Adds project organizer aarondunn: "His music will be made available via an API powered by Musopen so anyone can come up with ways to explore and present Chopin's life."
cold fjord writes "Another NSA story? The Wall Street Journal reports, 'The U.S. has intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy and other American interests in Baghdad in the event of a strike on Syria ... U.S. officials said they are on alert for Iran's fleet of small, fast boats in the Persian Gulf ... U.S. officials also fear Hezbollah could attack the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. While the U.S. has moved military resources in the region for a possible strike, it has other assets in the area that would be ready to respond to any reprisals by Syria, Iran or its allies. ... Israel has so far been the focus of concerns about retaliation from Iran and its Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah. The commander-in-chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said last week that an attack on Syria would lead to the "destruction of Israel." ... The Iranian message, intercepted in recent days, came from Qasem Soleimani, the head of Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, and went to Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups in Iraq, according to U.S. officials.' What's interesting is this Washington Post story from 2011: Iran's Quds Force was blamed for attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq."
itwbennett writes "The federal judge presiding over the U.S. electronic books case against Apple has barred the company from striking deals that would ensure that it could undercut prices of other retailers in the e-book market and also prohibited Apple from letting any one publisher know what deals the company is striking up with other publishers. For its part, Apple said it plans to appeal the ruling (PDF), denying that it conspired to fix ebook pricing. Meanwhile, Amazon is alerting customers of their potential payout, which could be as much as $3.82 for every eligible Kindle book."