ESR On Why the FCC Shouldn't Lock Down Device Firmware ( 143

An anonymous reader writes: We've discussed some proposed FCC rules that could restrict modification of wireless routers in such a way that open source firmware would become banned. Eric S. Raymond has published the comment he sent to the FCC about this. He argues, "The present state of router and wireless-access-point firmware is nothing short of a disaster with grave national-security implications. ... The effect of locking down router and WiFi firmware as these rules contemplate would be to lock irreparably in place the bugs and security vulnerabilities we now have. To those like myself who know or can guess the true extent of those vulnerabilities, this is a terrifying possibility. I believe there is only one way to avoid a debacle: mandated device upgradeability and mandated open-source licensing for device firmware so that the security and reliability problems can be swarmed over by all the volunteer hands we can recruit. This is an approach proven to work by the Internet ubiquity and high reliability of the Linux operating system."

Dell, EMC Said To Be In Merger Talks ( 96

itwbennett writes: According to a Wall Street Journal report (paywalled), Dell might buy some or all of storage giant EMC. (The grain of salt here is that the Journal's report cited unnamed sources, and cautioned that the companies might not finalize any agreement.) If the report has it right, though, "a total merger would be one of the biggest deals ever in the technology industry," writes Stephen Lawson for IDG, "with EMC holding a market value of about US$50 billion. It would also bring together two of the most important vendors to enterprise IT departments."

What Happened To the Martian Ocean and Magnetic Field? ( 134

schwit1 writes with this story at The Atlantic that explores what may have destroyed the Martian atmosphere and ocean. The question of whether there is life on Mars is woven into a much larger thatch of mysteries. Among them: What happened to the ancient ocean that once covered a quarter of the planet's surface? And, relatedly, what made Mars's magnetosphere fade away? Why did a planet that may have looked something like Earth turn into a dry red husk? “We see magnetized rocks on the Mars surface,” said Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator of the InSight mission to Mars, which is set to launch in March. “And so we know Mars had a magnetic field at one time, but it doesn't today. We would like to know the history—when that magnetic field started, when it may have shut down.”
United States

NSF Awards $74.5 Million To Support Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Research ( 8

aarondubrow writes: The National Science Foundation announced $74.5 million in grants for basic research in cybersecurity. Among the awards are projects to understand and offer reliability to cryptocurrencies; invent technologies to broadly scan large swaths of the Internet and automate the detection and patching of vulnerabilities; and establish the science of censorship resistance by developing accurate models of the capabilities of censors. According to NSF, long-term support for fundamental cybersecurity research has resulted in public key encryption, software security bug detection, spam filtering and more.
The Internet

Google's Effort To Speed Up the Mobile Web ( 91

An anonymous reader writes: Google has officially taken the wraps off its AMP project — Accelerated Mobile Pages — which aims to speed up the delivery of web content to mobile devices. They say, "We began to experiment with an idea: could we develop a restricted subset of the things we'd use from HTML, that's both fast and expressive, so that documents would always load and render with reliable performance?" That subset is now encapsulated in AMP, their proof-of-concept. They've posted the code to GitHub and they're asking for help from the open source community to flesh it out. Their conclusions are familiar to the Slashdot crowd: "One thing we realized early on is that many performance issues are caused by the integration of multiple JavaScript libraries, tools, embeds, etc. into a page. This isn't saying that JavaScript immediately leads to bad performance, but once arbitrary JavaScript is in play, most bets are off because anything could happen at any time and it is hard to make any type of performance guarantee. With this in mind we made the tough decision that AMP HTML documents would not include any author-written JavaScript, nor any third-party scripts." They're seeing speed boosts anywhere from 15-85%, but they're also looking at pre-rendering options to make some content capable of loading instantaneously. Their FAQ has a few more details.
The Almighty Buck

Researchers Unable To Replicate Findings of Published Economics Studies ( 206

An anonymous reader writes: Federal Reserve economists Andrew Chang and Phillip Li looked at 67 papers in 13 reputable academic journals. Their findings were shocking. Without the help of the authors, only a third of the results could be independently replicated. Even with the author's help, only about half, or 49%, could. Business Insider reports: "It's a pretty massive issue for economics, especially given the impact that the subject has on public policy. Li and Chang use a well-known paper by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff as an example. The study showed a significant growth drop-off once a country's national debts reached 90% of gross domestic product, but three years after being published the study was found to contain a significant Microsoft Excel error that changed the magnitude of the effect." With cancer studies and most recently psychology studies all having replication trouble, these economics papers have some company.

Prison Debate Team Beats Harvard's National Title Winners 191 writes: Lauren Gambino reports at The Guardian that months after winning this year's national debate championship, Harvard's debate team has fallen to a debate team of three inmates with violent criminal records. The showdown took place at the Eastern correctional facility in New York, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College, and where inmates have formed a popular debate club. The Bard prison initiative has expanded since 2001 to six New York correctional facilities, and aims to provide inmates with a liberal arts education so that when the students leave prison they are able to find meaningful work. A three-judge panel concluded that the Bard team had raised strong arguments that the Harvard team had failed to consider and declared the team of inmates victorious. "Debate helps students master arguments that they don't necessarily agree with," says Max Kenner. "It also pushes people to learn to be not just better litigators but to become more empathetic people, and that's what really speaks to us as an institution about the debate union."

The prison team has proven formidable in the past, beating teams from the US military academy at West Point and the University of Vermont. They lost a rematch against West Point in April, setting up a friendly rivalry between the teams. The competition against West Point has become an annual event, and the prison team is preparing for the next debate in spring. In the morning before the debate, team members talked of nerves and their hope that competing against Harvard—even if they lost—would inspire other inmates to pursue educations. "If we win, it's going to make a lot of people question what goes on in here," says Alex Hall, a 31-year-old from Manhattan convicted of manslaughter. "We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard."

Jimmy Wales and Former NSA Chief Ridicule Government Plans To Ban Encryption 175

Mickeycaskill writes: Jimmy Wales has said government leaders are "too late" to ban encryption which authorities say is thwarting attempts to protect the public from terrorism and other threats. The Wikipedia founder said any attempt would be "a moronic, very stupid thing to do" and predicted all major web traffic would be encrypted soon. Wikipedia itself has moved towards SSL encryption so all of its users' browsing habits cannot be spied on by intelligence agencies or governments. Indeed, he said the efforts by the likes of the NSA and GCHQ to spy on individuals have actually made it harder to implement mass-surveillance programs because of the public backlash against Edward Snowden's revelations and increased awareness of privacy. Wales also reiterated that his site would never co-operate with the Chinese government on the censorship of Wikipedia. "We've taken a strong stand that access to knowledge is a principle human right," he said. derekmead writes with news that Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors. The US is "better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption," he said during a panel on Tuesday.

Privately Funded Lunar Mission Set a Launch Date For 2017 50

merbs writes: If all goes according to plan, the world's first private lunar mission will be launched just two years from now. SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit, has secured a launch contract with Spaceflight Industries, and will aim to land a rover on the moon in the second half of 2017. It's the first such launch contract to be verified by the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition. Another group called Moon Express has signed a deal with New Zealand-based company, Rocket Lab, to launch and put a lander on the lunar surface 2017.
Hardware Hacking

Making Your Graphing Calculator a Musical Instrument 54

An anonymous reader writes: Thanks to a recently published open source music editor/sequencer, you can now create music on Texas Instruments graphing calculators. The complexity of the sound is impressive (video) for such a simple device, which does not feature any dedicated sound hardware. HoustonTracker 2 is open source, and is available for the TI-82, 83, 83Plus, and 84Plus.

'First, Let's Get Rid of All the Bosses' -- the Zappos Management Experiment 324

schnell writes: The New Republic is running an in-depth look at online shoe retailer's experiment in a new "boss-less" corporate structure. Three years ago the company introduced a management philosophy that came from the software development world called "Holacracy," in which there are no "people managers" and groups self-organize based on individual creativity and talents. (When the change was announced, 14% of the company's employees chose to leave; middle management openly rebelled, but perhaps surprisingly the tech organization was slowest to embrace the new idea). The article shows that in this radically employee-centric environment, many if not most employees are thrilled and fulfilled, while others worry that self-organization in practical terms means chaos and a Maoist culture of "coercive positivity." Is Zappos the future of the American workplace, a fringe experiment, or something in between?

eSports Now a Part of College Athletics 110

jyosim writes: The University of Cincinnati hosted what was possibly the largest-ever collegiate video-game tournament last weekend. At the university, the League of Legends club has become an official club sport, just like rugby or rowing. "What's happening with college e-sports right now is that we're seeing a formalization and institutionalization of what's always been present," said T.L. Taylor, a professor of comparative media studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Danish Bank Leaves Server In Debug Mode, Exposes Sensitive Data In JS Comments 41

An anonymous reader writes: Dutch IT security expert Sijmen Ruwhof has found a pretty big blunder on the part of Danske Bank, Denmark's biggest bank, which exposed sensitive user session information in the form of an encoded data dump, in their banking portal's JavaScript files. The data contained client IP addresses, user agent strings, cookie information, details about the bank's internal IT network, and more. He contacted the bank, who fixed the issue, but later denied it ever happened.

Europe Code Week 2015: Cocktails At Microsoft, 'Ode To Code' Robot Dancing 15

theodp writes: In case your invite to next week's Europe Code Week 2015 kickoff celebration at the Microsoft Centre in Brussels was lost in the e-mail, you can apparently still invite yourself. "Let's meet to celebrate coding as an empowering competence, key for maintaining our society vibrant and securing the prosperity of our European digital economy," reads the invite at the Microsoft and Facebook-powered All you Need is Code website. And to "keep raising awareness of the importance of computational thinking beyond Code Week," EU Code Week is also running an Ode to Code Video Contest, asking people to make short YouTube videos showing how the event's Ode to Code soundtrack causes uncontrollable robot dancing (video) and flash mobs (video). Things sure have changed since thirty years ago, when schoolchildren were provided with materials like The BASIC Book to foster computational thinking!

Wind Power Now Cheapest Energy In UK and Germany; No Subsidies Needed 415

Socguy writes: Bloomberg reports wind power has now crossed the threshold to become the cheapest source of energy in both the UK and Germany. This is notable because it's the first time this has occurred in a G7 country. In the U.S., wind and solar are still massively overshadowed by the power generated from fossil fuel plants, but the percentage is creeping up. It's gotten to the point where it's starting to affect the lifetime profitability of new plants.