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Education

NJ School District Hit With Ransomware-For-Bitcoins Scheme 167

Posted by timothy
from the so-is-there-a-downside? dept.
An anonymous reader sends news that unidentified hackers are demanding 500 bitcoins, currently worth about $128,000, from administrators of a New Jersey school district. Four elementary schools in Swedesboro-Woolwich School District, which enroll more than 1,700 students, are now locked out of certain tasks: "Without working computers, teachers cannot take attendance, access phone numbers or records, and students cannot purchase food in cafeterias. Also, [district superintendent Dr. Terry C. Van Zoeren] explained, parents cannot receive emails with students grades and other information." According to this blog post from security company BatBlue, the district has been forced to postpone the Common Core-mandated PARCC state exams, too. Small comfort: "Fortunately the Superintendent told CBS 3’s Walt Hunter the hackers, using a program called Ransomware, did not access any personal information about students, families or teachers." Perhaps the administrators can take heart: Ransomware makers are, apparently, starting to focus more on product support; payment plans are probably on the way.
Facebook

Facebook Sued For Alleged Theft of Data Center Design 74

Posted by timothy
from the architectural-plans-want-to-be-free dept.
itwbennett writes British engineering company BladeRoom Group says it contacted Facebook in 2011 about using its technique, which involves constructing data centers in a modular fashion from pre-fabricated parts. What happened next isn't clear, since much of the public version of BRG's lawsuit is redacted. But it claims Facebook ended up stealing its ideas and using them to build part of a data center in Lulea, Sweden, that opened last year. 'Facebook's misdeeds might never have come to light had it decided that simply stealing BRG's intellectual property was enough,' the company said in its lawsuit, filed Monday at the federal district court in San Jose, California. "Instead, Facebook went further when it decided to encourage and induce others to use BRG's intellectual property though an initiative created by Facebook called the 'Open Compute Project.'"
Businesses

Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear 633

Posted by timothy
from the wish-he-had-a-reality-show dept.
An anonymous reader writes According to BBC News, Jeremy Clarkson, longstanding main host for the automobile television show Top Gear, will not have his contract renewed. This decision came about two weeks after he was suspended due to an altercation with a Top Gear producer involving catering during filming for the show. Admittedly not the nerdiest news of the day, but it can be said that his thirteen-year run on the new format of Top Gear has interested many Slashdot users who love their cars and the entertainment that the show has brought to them.
The Media

NY Times: "All the News That Mark Zuckerberg Sees Fit To Print"? 79

Posted by timothy
from the who-do-you-trust-and-why dept.
theodp writes Two years ago, Politico caught Mark Zuckerberg's soon-to-be launched FWD.us PAC boasting how its wealthy tech exec backers would use their companies to 'control the avenues of distribution' for a political message in support of their efforts. Now, the NY Times is reporting that Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook, citing a source who said the Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal. Facebook declined to comment on specific discussions with publishers, but noted it had provided features to help publishers get better traction on Facebook, including tools unveiled in December that let them target their articles to specific groups of Facebook users. The new plan, notes the Times, is championed by Chris Cox, the top lieutenant to Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and a "major supporter" of FWD.us. Exploring Facebook's wooing of the media giants, the Christian Science Monitor asks if social media will control the future of news, citing concerns expressed by Fusion's Felix Salmon, who warns that as news sites sacrifice their brands to reach a wider audience, their incentives for accuracy and editorial judgment will disappear.
GNOME

GNOME 3.16 Released 180

Posted by timothy
from the gnome-3:16-signs-for-every-sporting-event dept.
kthreadd writes Version 3.16 of GNOME, the primary desktop environment for GNU/Linux operating systems has been released. Some major new features in this release include a overhauled notification system, an updated design of the calendar drop down and support for overlay scrollbars. Also, the grid view in Files has been improved with bigger thumbnail icons, making the appearance more attractive and the rows easier to read. A video is available which demonstrates the new version.
Transportation

Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident 727

Posted by timothy
from the that's-bad-news dept.
hcs_$reboot writes The Germanwings plane crash takes a scary turn. After a couple of days investigation, it appears that the co-pilot requested control of the aircraft about 20 minutes into the flight. The pilot then left the cockpit, leaving the co-pilot in full control of the plane. Then, the co-pilot manually and "intentionally" set the plane on the descent that drove it into the mountainside in the southern French Alps. Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a 28-year-old German national, could be heard breathing throughout the plane's descent and was alive at the point of impact, according to the prosecutor.
The Almighty Buck

Russian Official Proposes Road That Could Connect London To NYC 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-the-bathroom-before-you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes There's great news coming out of Russia for epic road trip lovers. Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin has proposed building a highway that would reach from London to Alaska via Russia, a 13,000-mile stretch of road. "This is an inter-state, inter-civilization, project," the Siberian Times quoted Yakunin. "The project should be turned into a world 'future zone,' and it must be based on leading, not catching, technologies."
Government

Amazon Blasts FAA On Drone Approvals, Regulations 60

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
itwbennett writes Late last week, Amazon was issued permission by the FAA to fly an experimental drone as part of its tests for a planned automatic delivery service but it came too late, Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon, told lawmakers on Tuesday. 'The UAS [unmanned aircraft system] approved last week by the FAA has already become obsolete,' he said. As a result, Amazon has filed for permission to fly a more advanced drone—one that is already being flown in several countries including the U.K., said Misener, who was speaking at a hearing of the Senate Committee on commerce, science and transportation.
Japan

Japan To Build 250-Mile-Long, Four Storey-High Wall To Stop Tsunamis 194

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-wake-zone dept.
An anonymous reader points out this daunting construction plan in Japan. "Japanese authorities have unveiled plans to build a giant 250-mile long sea barrier to protect its coastline from devastating tsunamis. According to the proposals, the £4.6bn ($6.8bn) barrier would reach 12.5m high in some places – stretching taller than a four storey building. It would be made out of cement – and actually be composed of a chain of smaller sea walls to make construction easier. The plan comes four years after a huge tsunami ravaged Japan's north-eastern coast."
United Kingdom

UK Setting Itself Up To Be More Friendly To Bitcoin Startups 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the anything-goes dept.
An anonymous reader writes While various states in the U.S. (most notably: New York) are trying to regulate every last aspect of Bitcoin, making it very difficult to innovate there, the UK appears to be going in the opposite direction. It's been setting up much more open regulations that would allow for greater freedom for Bitcoin startups to innovate without first having to ask for permission. In fact, the British government decided that what is most appropriate is to work with the digital currency community to develop a set of best practices for consumer protection and create a voluntary, opt-in regime. Hopefully other governments take note.
Businesses

RadioShack Puts Customer Data Up For Sale In Bankruptcy Auction 260

Posted by samzenpus
from the names-and-numbers dept.
itwbennett writes For years, RadioShack made a habit of collecting customers' contact information at checkout. Now, the bankrupt retailer is putting that data on the auction block. A list of RadioShack assets for sale includes more than 65 million customer names and physical addresses, and 13 million email addresses. Bloomberg reports that the asset sale may include phone numbers and information on shopping habits as well. New York's Attorney General says his office will take 'appropriate action' if the data is handed over.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives" 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-high-score dept.
Andreas Kolbe writes: Recently, "ArbCom", Wikipedia's highest court, banned an administrator account that for years had been manipulating the Wikipedia article of a bogus Indian business school – deleting criticism, adding puffery, and enabling the article to become a significant part of the school's PR strategy. Believing the school's promises and advertisements, families went to great expense to send sons and daughters on courses there – only for their children to find that the degrees they had gained were worthless. "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives," an Indian journalist quoted in the story says. India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.
Government

New Bill Would Repeal Patriot Act 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the would-also-bake-cookies-for-every-citizen dept.
schwit1 points out a new piece of bipartisan legislation that aims to repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, which the NSA has used to justify broad domestic surveillance. House Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced the bill yesterday, calling it the Surveillance State Repeal Act (PDF). Pocan said, "This isn't just tinkering around the edges. This is a meaningful overhaul of the system, getting rid of essentially all parameters of the Patriot Act." The bill also attempts to dramatically strengthen whistleblower protections, so situations like Edward Snowden's and Thomas Drake's don't happen in the future. This legislation is not expected to get the support of Congressional leaders, but supporters hope it will at least inspire some debate about several provisions of the Patriot Act coming up for renewal in June.
GNU is Not Unix

GNU Nano Gets New Stable Release 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the onward-and-upward dept.
jones_supa writes: GNU Nano 2.4.0 has been released as the first stable update to this UNIX command line text editor in a number of years. The release codenamed "Lizf" brings a wide variety of changes: full undo system, Vim-compatible file locking, linter support, formatter support, flexible syntax highlighting, and random bugfixes.
Censorship

Feds Attempt To Censor Parts of a New Book About the Hydrogen Bomb 339

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-do-that-on-bookovision dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The atom bomb — leveler of Hiroshima and instant killer of some 80,000 people — is just a pale cousin compared to the hydrogen bomb, which easily packs the punch of a thousand Hiroshimas. That is why Washington has for decades done everything in its power to keep the details of its design out of the public domain. Now William J. Broad reports in the NY Times that Kenneth W. Ford has defied a federal order to cut material from his new book that the government says teems with thermonuclear secrets. Ford says he included the disputed material because it had already been disclosed elsewhere and helped him paint a fuller picture of an important chapter of American history. But after he volunteered the manuscript for a security review, federal officials told him to remove about 10 percent of the text, or roughly 5,000 words. "They wanted to eviscerate the book," says Ford. "My first thought was, 'This is so ridiculous I won't even respond.'" For instance, the federal agency wanted him to strike a reference to the size of the first hydrogen test device — its base was seven feet wide and 20 feet high. Dr. Ford responded that public photographs of the device, with men, jeeps and a forklift nearby, gave a scale of comparison that clearly revealed its overall dimensions.

Though difficult to make, hydrogen bombs are attractive to nations and militaries because their fuel is relatively cheap. Inside a thick metal casing, the weapon relies on a small atom bomb that works like a match to ignite the hydrogen fuel. Today, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the only declared members of the thermonuclear club, each possessing hundreds or thousands of hydrogen bombs. Military experts suspect that Israel has dozens of hydrogen bombs. India, Pakistan and North Korea are seen as interested in acquiring the potent weapon. The big secret the book discusses is thermal equilibrium, the discovery that the temperature of the hydrogen fuel and the radiation could match each other during the explosion (PDF). World Scientific, a publisher in Singapore, recently made Dr. Ford's book public in electronic form, with print versions to follow. Ford remains convinced the book "contains nothing whatsoever whose dissemination could, by any stretch of the imagination, damage the United States or help a country that is trying to build a hydrogen bomb." "Were I to follow all — or even most — of your suggestions," says Ford, "it would destroy the book."
Software

MuseScore 2.0 Released 35

Posted by Soulskill
from the onward-and-upward dept.
rDouglass writes: MuseScore, the open source desktop application for music notation, has released version 2.0 for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. This release represents the culmination of four years of development, including technical contributions from over 400 people. In addition to a completely new UI, top features include linked parts (good for pieces with many instruments), guitar tablature, flexible chord symbols, and fret diagrams. The program integrates directly with the MuseScore.com online library of scores, and music written with the application can be displayed and played using the MuseScore mobile app.
Earth

Better Disaster Shelters than FEMA Trailers (Video) 78

Posted by Roblimo
from the they'd-better-have-internet-routers-built-in dept.
An aerospace engineer and Mississippi native named Michael McDaniel "watched helplessly as Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of people out of their homes and into crowded, poorly equipped 'shelters.'" This scenario led to Michael founding Reaction Housing and the creation of its first product, the Exo (as in exoskeleton) shelter. This company isn't holding its hand out for crowdfunding. It got $1.5 million in seed capital in March, 2014, later got another $10 million, and is now going into mass production of its Exo housing units.

Reaction Housing is not the only attempt to make post-disaster housing better, or at least less expensive, than the infamous FEMA trailers. A charity called ShelterBox in Lakewood Ranch, FL, fills boxes with everything a family or group of up to 10 people needs, including a heavy-duty tent, bedding, and kitchen supplies, in order to survive after a natural disaster. (Here's an interview video I shot in 2010 about ShelterBox.) Exo, ShelterBox or any one of dozens of other emergency housing alternatives are good to have around, ready to go, for the next Katrina, Sandy or Tsunami. High tech? Not necessarily, but technology has obviously made emergency housing faster and easier to erect than the "earthquake shacks" that were built in San Francisco to house people made homeless by the 1906 earthquake.
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: What Happened To Semantic Publishing? 68

Posted by timothy
from the you-might-enjoy dept.
An anonymous reader writes There has always been a demand for semantically enriched content, even long before the digital era. Take a look at the New York Times Index, which has been continuously published since 1913. Nowadays, technology can meet the high demands for "clever" content, and big publishers like the BBC and the NY Times are opening their data and also making a good use of it.

In this post, the author argues that Semantic Publishing is the future and talks about articles enriched with relevant facts and infoboxes with related content. Yet his example dates back to 2010, and today arguably every news website suggests related articles and provides links to external sources. This raises several questions: Why is there not much noise on this topic lately? Does this mean that we are already in the future of Online (Semantic) Publishing? Do we have all the tools now (e.g. Linked Data, fast NoSQL/Graph/RDF datastores, etc.) and what remains to be done is simply refinement and evolution? What is the difference in "cleverness" of content from different providers?
Government

$1B TSA Behavioral Screening Program Slammed As "Junk Science" 224

Posted by timothy
from the little-here-a-little-there dept.
schwit1 writes The Transportation Security Administration has been accused of spending a billion dollars on a passenger-screening program that's based on junk science. The claim arose in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has tried unsuccessfully to get the TSA to release documents on its SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques) program through the Freedom of Information Act. SPOT, whose techniques were first used in 2003 and formalized in 2007, uses "highly questionable" screening techniques, according to the ACLU complaint, while being "discriminatory, ineffective, pseudo-scientific, and wasteful of taxpayer money." TSA has spent at least $1 billion on SPOT. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2010 that "TSA deployed SPOT nationwide before first determining whether there was a scientifically valid basis for using behavior detection and appearance indicators as a means for reliably identifying passengers as potential threats in airports," according to the ACLU. And in 2013, GAO recommended that the agency spend less money on the program, which uses 3,000 "behavior detection officers" whose jobs is to identify terrorists before they board jetliners.
Networking

Facebook Engineering Tool Mimics Dodgy Network Connectivity 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the open-source-tools-for-pranks dept.
itwbennett writes: Facebook has released an open source application called Augmented Traffic Control that can simulate the connectivity of a cell phone accessing an app over a 2G, Edge, 3G, or LTE network. It can also simulate weak and erratic WiFi connections. The simulations can give engineers an estimate of how long it would take a user to download a file, for instance, given varying network connections. It can help engineers re-create problems that crop up only on very slow networks.