Wikipedia

Reluctant Wikipedia Lifts Lid On $2.5M Internet Search Engine Project (theregister.co.uk) 25

The Wikimedia Foundation has finally disclosed details of its controversial Knowledge Engine grant -- and it confirms that Wikipedia is getting seriously into search, despite Jimmy Wales' categorical denial that WMF is "doing a Google." After a Wikipedia signpost article, and coverage at El Reg this week, the WMF caved and posted the Knight Foundation's approval of the $250,000 grant. The grant provides seed money for stage one of the Knowledge Engine, described as "a system for discovering reliable and trustworthy information on the Internet." The discovery stage includes an exploration of prototypes of future versions of Wikipedia.org which are "open channels" rather than an encyclopedia, analyzing the query-to-content path, and embedding the Wikipedia Knowledge Engine "via carriers and Original Equipment Manufacturers."
Education

Brown CS Department Hiring Student Diversity, Inclusion Advocates 82

theodp writes: Brown University's Department of Computer Science is seeking to hire student advocates for diversity and inclusion as part of its new action plan to increase diversity. The new hires, who will also serve as members of the CS Diversity Committee, will support students, plan inclusion activities, and educate TAs on issues of diversity. Also on the diversity front, Brown touted last weekend's Hack@Brown, the school's annual student hackathon, as being "unlike any other hackathon" -- welcoming, inclusive, and inviting to students of all experience levels." A cynic might point out that Hack@Brown's tech giant sponsors boast track records that are quite the opposite. By the way, Brown@Hackathon certainly upped the ante on conference Codes of Conduct, warning that those anonymously-charged with making others feel uncomfortable on the basis of "gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof)" will be "expelled from the event without travel reimbursement at the discretion of the event organizers." Brown explained that travel reimbursements were provided to promote "economic diversity", ensuring that students who couldn't otherwise afford to get to and from Providence could attend the Ivy League event. Hey, what "economically diverse" kid wouldn't want to go to a conference where rubbing someone the wrong way could leave them stranded in Rhode Island!
AI

Google Brain Researchers Make Significant Progress On Language Modeling (arxiv.org) 32

New submitter integralclosure writes: Using neural networks, Google Brain researchers have significantly improved a computer's ability to model English (achieving extremely low perplexity score on a large dataset). Using the model they were able to generate random sentences, such as the following: 'Yuri Zhirkov was in attendance at the Stamford Bridge at the start of the second half but neither Drogba nor Malouda was able to push on through the Barcelona defence.' The sentences are generally coherent and mostly grammatically correct. Advances seem to be a replay of neural networks' dominance in the Imagenet competition.
Firefox

Pwn2Own 2016 Won't Attack Firefox (Because It's Too Easy) (eweek.com) 266

darthcamaro writes: For the last decade, the Pwn2own hacking competition has pitted the world's best hackers against web browsers to try and find zero-day vulnerabilities in a live event. The contest, which is sponsored by HPE and TrendMicro this year, is offering over half a million dollars in prize money, but for the first time, not a penny of that will directed to Mozilla Firefox. While Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Apple Safari are targets, Firefox isn't because it's apparently too easy and not keeping up with modern security: "'We wanted to focus on the browsers that have made serious security improvements in the last year,' Brian Gorenc, manager of Vulnerability Research at HPE said."
United Kingdom

Google Settles Decade-Long Tax Dispute In UK (thestack.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Alphabet, Inc., parent company to Google, has agreed to pay $185 million to settle UK taxes going back to 2005. The company has also agreed to adopt a new approach to taxes in the UK going forward. While this is a sizeable figure, many believe it is too little, and constitutes a sweetheart deal between the government and Google. Matt Brittin, the President of EMEA Business and Operations for Google, was a participant in a televised hearing today in which UK lawmakers questioned the $185 million settlement. He stated, "We find ourselves in the position where we are paying the tax that the tax authorities told us to pay."
EU

Google Expands 'Right To Be Forgotten' To All Global Search Results (thestack.com) 93

An anonymous reader writes: Google has confirmed that it will be updating its 'right to be forgotten' so that any hidden content under the ruling is removed from all versions of its search engine in countries where it has been approved. Until now Google had only been removing results from the originating country and European versions of its search engine, such as google.co.uk and google.de. The EU had previously asked for an extension of the rule to include all versions of Google. Last year, French data protection authority CNIL threatened the tech giant with a sanction should it not remove data from all of its global platforms – such as google.com – in addition to its European sites. Now, Google's new extension of the 'right to be forgotten' is expected to come into force over the next few weeks.
Facebook

France Launches Second Salvo Against Facebook (liberation.fr) 84

Eunuchswear writes: After Mondays decision by the French CNIL (National Center for Computers and Freedom) that Facebook must stop tracking non-users, the DGCCRF (General Direction for Competition, Consumption and Repression of Fraud), has ruled that Facebooks terms of use are abusive and must be changed within 60 days." The linked story is in French, but for those of us who don't speak the language, Google translate works. Here's the DGCCRF's Facebook page.
Networking

Facebook Developing Radio Wave Mesh To Connect Offline Areas (thestack.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: As part of its wider Internet.org initiative to deliver connectivity to poor and rural communities, Facebook is actively developing a new network technology which uses millimetre wave bands to transmit data. Facebook engineer Sanjai Kohli filed two patents which outlined a 'next generation' data system, which would make use of millimetre wave technology deployed as mesh networks. Kohli's patents detailed a type of centralised, cloud-based routing system which 'dynamically adjusts route and frequency channel assignments, transmit power, modulation, coding, and symbol rate to maximize network capacity and probability of packet delivery, rather than trying to maximize the capacity of any one link.'
Security

Trane Takes 2 Years To Remove Hard-Coded Root Passwords From IoT Thermostat (softpedia.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: It took 22 months for Trane to patch three security bugs in its ComfortLink II XL950 smart Wi-Fi thermostat product, the ComfortLink II XL950, a modern IoT device along the lines of Google Nest, which offers a simple way to manage your apartment's or building's internal temperature. Researchers contacted Trane about their three issues in April 2014, the company fixed the RCE flaws in April 2015 and recently released a firmware update at the end of January to fix the last issue. During all this time, the company barely answered emails and continued to sell an exposed product.
Government

Putin's Internet Czar Wants To Ban Windows On Government PCs 307

SmartAboutThings writes: The Russian government is allegedly looking to ban Microsoft's Windows operating system, increase taxes on foreign technology companies, develop its homegrown OS and encourage local tech companies to grow. All these proposals comes from German Klimenko, Vladimir Putin's new 'internet czar, as Bloomberg describes him. In a 90-minute interview, Klimenko said forcing Google and Apple to pay more taxes and banning Microsoft Windows from government computers are necessary measures, as he is trying to raise taxes on U.S. companies, thus helping local Russian competitors such as Yandex and Mail.ru.
AI

NHTSA Gives Green Light To Self-Driving Cars 220

New submitter tyme writes: Reuters reports that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told Google that it would recognize the artificial intelligence in a self-driving car as the "driver" (rather than any of the occupants). The letter also says that NHTSA will write safety rules for self-driving cars in the next six months, paving the way for deployment of self-driving cars in large numbers.
Advertising

Google Display Ads Going All-HTML, Will Ban Flash In 2017 (arstechnica.com) 84

Google has announced its plan for display ads to go 100% HTML 5, in hopes of reaching the widest possible audience across screens. Starting on June 30, 2016, Google will no longer accept new Flash display ads from advertisers. And on January 2, 2017, even old Flash display ads will be blocked. This move comes as no surprise, as Google has been nudging its advertisers to stop using Flash. In fact, Google is not the only one moving away from Flash in favor of HTML. Steve Jobs hated Flash, and even Adobe itself has dropped Flash for Adobe Animate.
Advertising

Adblock Fast Returns To Google Play a Week After Being Pulled 53

An anonymous reader writes: A week ago, Google suddenly removed Adblock Fast from its Android app store. Today, the ad blocker has been reinstated, enabling Samsung users to download it once again from Google Play. Late last month, the browser preinstalled on Samsung's Android phones gained support for content-blocking plugins, and the first plugin to support the functionality was a free and open-source solution called Adblock Fast. Rocketship Apps, the maker of Adblock Fast, uploaded the Android plugin on January 29, but Google rejected an app update on February 1. The app hit Google Play's top spot for free, new productivity apps on February 2, and was pulled by Google on the same day.
Google

Google Working On Wireless Charging For Self-Driving Cars (inhabitat.com) 60

MikeChino writes: New FCC filings suggest that Google is currently installing wireless charging systems for self-driving cars at its headquarters in Mountain View. The documents suggest that the systems will be installed by Hevo Power and Momentum Dynamics. Both companies offer technology that can wirelessly charge an electric car via plates that are embedded in the ground.
Security

Researcher Finds Tens of Software Products Vulnerable To Simple Bug (softpedia.com) 162

An anonymous reader writes: There's a German security researcher that is arduously testing the installers of tens of software products to see which of them are vulnerable to basic DLL hijacking. Surprisingly, many companies are ignoring his reports. Until now, only Oracle seems to have addressed this problem in Java and VirtualBox. Here's a short (probably incomplete) list of applications that he found vulnerable to this attack: Firefox, Google Chrome, Adobe Reader, 7Zip, WinRAR, OpenOffice, VLC Media Player, Nmap, Python, TrueCrypt, and Apple iTunes. Mr. Kanthak also seems to have paid special attention to antivirus software installers. Here are some of the security products he discovered vulnerable to DLL hijacking: ZoneAlarm, Emsisoft Anti-Malware, Trend Micro, ESET NOD32, Avira, Panda Security, McAfee Security, Microsoft Security Essentials, Bitdefender, Rapid7's ScanNowUPnP, Kaspersky, and F-Secure.
Advertising

Adblock Plus Maker Seeks Deal With Ad Industry Players (yahoo.com) 356

An anonymous reader writes with Yahoo's report that the makers of Adblock Plus are "looking to reach out to advertisers and identify an 'acceptable' level and form of advertising on the net." That involves convincing advertisers to conform to the company's own guidelines for advertising, or an alternative path much disliked by some of the software's users — to pay the company to ignore ads that don't meet those guidelines. From the article: Big websites can pay a fee not to be blocked. And it is these proceeds that finance the Cologne-based company and its 49-strong workforce. While Google and Amazon have paid up, others refuse. Axel Springer, which publishers Germany's best-selling daily Bild, accuses [Adblock Plus maker] Eyeo of racketeering. "We believe Eyeo's business model is against the law," a spokesman for Springer told AFP. "Clearly, Eyeo's primary aim is to get its hands on a share of the advertising revenues." Ultimately, such practices posed a threat to the professional journalism on the web, he suggested, an argument Eyeo rejects.
Mars

NASA Is Building a Virtual Mars For VR Viewing (unrealengine.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: NASA will release a free virtual reality program this year that will simulate exploring the surface of Mars. "Players will be able to walk on the Red Planet as well as drive the Mars Rover..." reads the official announcement at UnrealEngine.com. The Mars 2030 Experience will be available on Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR, and will also "expand" to Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, with additional versions for Android and iOS devices, and it will even be streamed on Twitch. NASA plans to reveal more details at this year's South by Southwest conference in March.
Android

Report: Google Will Go In Big For VR Hardware This Year 51

The Financial Times reports that Google isn't going to let the VR hardware wars fall to the likes of Samsung and Oculus; instead, it's working on a (cardboard-free) VR headset of its own, to be released in conjunction with Android VR software intended not only to make Android more VR friendly in general but specifically to help developers reduce nausea-inducing lag. The report doesn't quite come out of the blue, considering that Google has shipped more than 5 million of its own Cardboard viewer already, and has several projects dealing with VR infrastructure, either directly (like Jump) or indrectly (like Project Tango). Google (or Alphabet) has proven itself a hardware behemoth, not just the "search giant" it's so often called in news stories, and of late seems to be more interested in making its footprint in hardware a bit firmer.
Security

Avast SafeZone Browser Lets Attackers Access Your Filesystem (softpedia.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: Just two days after Comodo's Chromodo browser was publicly shamed by Google Project Zero security researcher Tavis Ormandy, it's now Avast's turn to be publicly scorned for failing to provide a "secure" browser for its users. Called SafeZone, and also known as Avastium, Avast's custom browser is offered as a bundled download for all who purchase or upgrade to a paid version of Avast Antivirus 2016. This poor excuse of a browser was allowing attackers to access files on the user's filesystem just by clicking on malicious links. The browser wouldn't even have to be opened, and the malicious link could be clicked in "any" browser.

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