Math

Mathematicians Uncomfortable With Ties To NSA, But Not Pulling Back 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the goose-that-lays-the-golden-ovoid dept.
An anonymous reader writes: When we talk about how the NSA operates, it's typically about the policymakers and what the agency should or should not do. It's worth remembering that the NSA is built upon the backs of world-class mathematicians, whom they aggressively recruit to make all their underlying surveillance technology work. A new piece in Science discusses how the relationship between mathematicians and the NSA has changed following the Snowden leaks (PDF). But as Peter Woit points out, these ethical conundrums are not actually spurring any change. This is perhaps due to the NSA's generous funding of mathematics-related research.

The article talks about the American Mathematical Society, which until recently was led by David Vogan: "...after all was said and done, no action was taken. Vogan describes a meeting about the matter last year with an AMS governing committee as 'terrible,' revealing little interest among the rest of the society's leadership in making a public statement about NSA's ethics, let alone cutting ties. Ordinary AMS members, by and large, feel the same way, adds Vogan, who this week is handing over the presidency to Robert Bryant, a mathematician at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. For now, U.S. mathematicians aren't willing to disown their shadowy but steadfast benefactor."
Wireless Networking

US Wireless Spectrum Auction Raises $44.9 Billion 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-wireless-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The FCC's recent wireless spectrum auction closed on Thursday, and the agency has raked in far more money than anyone expected. Sales totaled $44.89 billion, demonstrating that demand for wireless spectrum is higher than ever. The winners have not yet been disclosed, but the FCC will soon make all bidding activity public. "The money will be used to fund FirstNet, the government agency tasked with creating the nation's first interoperable broadband network for first responders, to finance technological upgrades to our 911 emergency systems, and to contribute over $20 billion to deficit reduction. In addition, the auction brought 65 Megahertz of spectrum to market to fuel our nation's mobile broadband networks. The wireless industry estimates that for every 10 Megahertz of spectrum licensed for wireless broadband, 7,000 American jobs are created and U.S. gross domestic product increases by $1.7 billion."
Science

The Gap Between What The Public Thinks And What Scientists Know 414

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-do-you-know? dept.
First time accepted submitter burtosis writes Despite similar views about the overall place of science in America, the general public and scientists often see science-related issues through a different lens, according to a new pair of surveys by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). From FiveThirtyEight: "The surveys found broad support for government to spend money on science, but that doesn't mean the public supports the conclusions that scientists draw. The biggest gap between scientists and the public came on issues that may elicit fear: the safety of genetically modified (or GMO) foods (37 percent of the public said GMOs were safe, compared to 88 percent of scientists) and the use of pesticides in agriculture (28 percent of the public said foods grown with pesticides were safe to eat, versus 68 percent of scientists). There was also disagreement over the cause of climate change (50 percent of the public said it is mostly due to human activity, compared to 87 percent of scientists). Here’s a full list, via Pew Research Center, of the scientific issues the survey asked about."
Crime

Why ATM Bombs May Be Coming Soon To the United States 361

Posted by samzenpus
from the almost-worth-the-troub;e dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nick Summers has an interesting article at Bloomberg about the epidemic of 90 ATM bombings that has hit Britain since 2013. ATM machines are vulnerable because the strongbox inside an ATM has two essential holes: a small slot in front that spits out bills to customers and a big door in back through which employees load reams of cash in large cassettes. "Criminals have learned to see this simple enclosure as a physics problem," writes Summers. "Gas is pumped in, and when it's detonated, the weakest part—the large hinged door—is forced open. After an ATM blast, thieves force their way into the bank itself, where the now gaping rear of the cash machine is either exposed in the lobby or inside a trivially secured room. Set off with skill, the shock wave leaves the money neatly stacked, sometimes with a whiff of the distinctive acetylene odor of garlic." The rise in gas attacks has created a market opportunity for the companies that construct ATM components. Several manufacturers now make various anti-gas-attack modules: Some absorb shock waves, some detect gas and render it harmless, and some emit sound, fog, or dye to discourage thieves in the act.

As far as anyone knows, there has never been a gas attack on an American ATM. The leading theory points to the country's primitive ATM cards. Along with Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, and not many other countries, the U.S. doesn't require its plastic to contain an encryption chip, so stealing cards remains an effective, nonviolent way to get at the cash in an ATM. Encryption chip requirements are coming to the U.S. later this year, though. And given the gas raid's many advantages, it may be only a matter of time until the back of an American ATM comes rocketing off.
Books

Book Review: Designing and Building a Security Operations Center 29

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes Many organizations are overwhelmed by the onslaught of security data from disparate systems, platforms and applications. They have numerous point solutions (anti-virus, firewalls, IDS/IPS, ERP, access control, IdM, single sign-on, etc.) that can create millions of daily log messages. In addition to directed attacks becoming more frequent and sophisticated, there are regulatory compliance issues that place increasing burden on security, systems and network administrators. This creates a large amount of information and log data without a formal mechanism to deal with it. This has led to many organizations creating a security operations center (SOC). A SOC in its most basic form is the centralized team that deals with information security incidents and related issues. In Designing and Building a Security Operations Center, author David Nathans provides the basics on how that can be done. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review
Programming

The American App Economy Is Now "Bigger Than Hollywood" 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the there's-an-app-for-that dept.
Lemeowski writes Technology business analyst Horace Deidu found an interesting nugget while closely examining an Apple press release from earlier this year: "The iOS App Store distributed $10 billion to developers in 2014, which, Deidu points out, is just about as much as Hollywood earned off U.S. box office revenues the same year." That means the American app industry is poised to eclipse the American film industry. Additionally, Apple says its App Store has created 627,000 jobs, which Deidu contrasts with the 374,000 jobs Hollywood creates
Businesses

Comcast Pays Overdue Fees, Offers Freebies For TWC Merger Approval 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the bought-and-paid-for dept.
WheezyJoe writes: In seeking more support for its mega-merger with Time-Warner Cable, Comcast has been going across the country giving local governments a chance to ask for favors in exchange for approving a franchise transfer. In Minneapolis, this turned up an unpaid bill of $40,000 in overdue franchise fees, so Comcast will have to pay the city money it already owed in order to get the franchise transfer. Comcast will also throw in $50,000 worth of free service and equipment.

"Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions (PDF) the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner," Minnesota Public Radio reported. The article notes that getting any kind of refund out of a cable company is not easy.

Part of the deal with Minneapolis involves the spinoff of a new cable company called GreatLand Connections that will serve 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast, including Minnesota. After the deal, Comcast's franchises in those areas would be transferred to GreatLand. Such goodwill concessions may seem impressive as Comcast seeks to foster goodwill, but one wonders how Comcast/Time Warner will behave after the merger.
Businesses

Apple Posts $18B Quarterly Profit, the Highest By Any Company, Ever 519

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
jmcbain writes: Yesterday, Apple reported its financial results for the quarter ending December 27, 2014. The company posted $18 billion in profit (on $74 billion in revenue), the largest quarterly profit by any company, ever. The previous record was $16 billion by Russia's Gazprom (the largest natural gas extractor in the world) in 2011. Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones last quarter, along with 5.5 million Macs and 21.4 million iPads.
The Almighty Buck

Valve's Economist Yanis Varoufakis Appointed Greece's Finance Minister 327

Posted by timothy
from the finger-on-all-the-buttons dept.
eldavojohn writes A turnover in the Greek government resulted from recent snap elections placing SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) in power — just shy of an outright majority by two seats. Atheist, and youngest Prime Minister in Greek history since 1865, Alexis Tsipras has been appointed the new prime minister and begun taking immediate drastic steps against the recent austerity laws put in place by prior administrations. One such step has been to appoint Valve's economist Yanis Varoufakis to position of Finance Minister of Greece. For the past three years Varoufakis has been working at Steam to analyze and improve the Steam Market but now has the opportunity to improve one of the most troubled economies in the world.
Businesses

Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers 462

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

Comcast Ghost-Writes Politician's Letters To Support Time Warner Mega-Merger 179

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

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

Winklevoss Twins Plan Regulated Bitcoin Exchange 79

Posted by timothy
from the trust-us-there-are-two-of-us dept.
itwbennett writes They of the square jaws and famous dispute with Mark Zuckerberg over the origins of Facebook, are also believed to be among the largest holders of Bitcoin in the world. Now they want to launch a regulated Bitcoin exchange—named Gemini, of course. To bolster confidence, they said they have formed a relationship with a chartered bank in the state of New York. "This means that your money will never leave the country," the twins wrote in a blog post. "It also means that U.S. dollars on Gemini will be eligible for FDIC insurance and held by a U.S.-regulated bank.
Programming

By the Numbers: The Highest-Paying States For Tech Professionals 136

Posted by timothy
from the where-are-you-now? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes The average technology professional made $89,450 in 2014, according to Dice's latest salary survey. When it comes to salaries, however, not all states and cities are created equal. Those tech pros living and working in Silicon Valley are the highest-paid in the country, with an average annual salary of $112,610—but that salary grew only 4 percent year-over-year, lagging behind cities such as Portland and Seattle. Dice has built an interactive map that shows where people are making the most (and least). As you click around, note how salary growth is particularly strong in parts of the West, the Northeast, and the South, while remaining stagnant (and even regressing) in some middle states. If anything, the map reinforces what many tech pros have known for years: that more cities and regions are becoming hubs of innovation.
Security

Made-In-Nigeria Smart Cards To Extend Financial Services To the Poor 40

Posted by timothy
from the all-you-need-is-this-card dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "A new factory producing smart cards opened in Lagos this week, promising to open up access to financial services to many poor Africans and other inhabitants of the Global South. The cards can be used by people without traditional bank accounts to access the worldwide credit card and smart phone infrastructure." From the article: Preliminary estimates indicate that there are currently about 150 million active SIM cards, 110 million biometric ID cards and 15 million credit and debit cards in Nigeria, [Nigerian president Goodluck] Jonathan said. As more financial-inclusion schemes, requiring more bank cards, are rolled out and different Nigerian states implement ID projects, the numbers of smart cards in use are expected to experience double-digit growth, he said.
Verizon

Verizon About To End Construction of Its Fiber Network 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the you're-stuck-with-comcast dept.
WheezyJoe writes: If you've been holding out hope that FiOS would rescue you from your local cable monopoly, it's probably time to give up. Making good on their statements five years ago, Verizon announced this week it is nearing "the end" of its fiber construction and is reducing wireline capital expenditures while spending more on wireless.

The expense of replacing old copper lines with fiber has allegedly led Verizon to stop building in new regions and to complete wiring up the areas where it had already begun. The fiber network was profitable, but nowhere near as profitable as their wireless network. So, if Verizon hasn't started in your neighborhood by now, they never will, and you'd best ignore all those ads for FiOS.
Bitcoin

Jim Blasko Explains 'Unbreakable Coin' (Video 2 of 2) 39

Posted by timothy
from the is-it-cryptocurrency-or-cryptic-currency? dept.
Today, the conclusion of my talk with Jim Blasko (here's part 1), who encourages you to go start your own crypto currency, because it's a fun exercise and because every entrant adds new ideas to the mix. As you'd expect, he's bullish about both his own Unbreakable Coin and cryptocurrencies more generally; how any given given currency performs, though, is an open question: U.S. dollars, Euros, or Yen may not go experience any meteoric rises, but their stability, even with inflation, is a nice feature, and so is their worldwide convertibility.

Regulation, speculation, fraud, and cultural fashions all play a role in making new currencies risky; reader mbkennel yesterday asked an insightful question: "Are you up to loaning bitcoin or something less popular for 10 years?" Confidence in any given currency can be tested with the terms current holders are willing to accept to make loans payable in that same currency. (On the other hand, if large companies will accept it in payment, they've probably got an idea that a given currency will be around next month or next year.) If you've bought any form of crypto currency, what's been your experience, and what do you expect in 10 years? (Alternate Video Link)
Robotics

DARPA Wants Atlas Robot To Go Wireless 19

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-mobility-to-kill-all-humans dept.
mikejuk writes: Atlas is a humanoid robot, one of the most advanced in the world. But it's always had cables that provided it with power and made it look a little like a dog on a leash. It was designed to provide a hardware platform for teams competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge — a competition designed to encourage the construction of an effective disaster response robot. DARPA now says the finals of the challenge later in the year will require that the robots be completely wireless.

Power will be supplied by an onboard 3.7 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. That battery will drive a variable-pressure pump which operates all of the hydraulic systems. The pump makes ATLAS much quieter, but introduces a complication for the teams: it can be run at low pressure to save power and then switched to high pressure to get harder work done. Managing power consumption will be a very difficult task, but DARPA has also upped the prize money to $3.5 million in total.
Bitcoin

Jim Blasko Explains BitCoin Spinoff 'Unbreakable Coin' (Video 1 of 2) 55

Posted by timothy
from the yet-another-cryptocurrency dept.
Las Vegas seems an appropriate place for cryptocurrency businesses to emerge, both because the coins themselves are so volatile that some gambling instinct may be required, and because Vegas is a high-tech outpost with lower taxes and lower rents than many other West Coast hot-spots, well-suited to risky startups with ambition but without huge venture backing.Jim Blasko moved there to work on low-voltage engineering for Penn & Teller, and is a qualified Crestron programmer, too (useful in a town that looks from the air like one giant light-show), but has shifted to a quite different endeavor, or rather a complex of them — all related to cryptocurrency. I ran into Blasko during this month's CES, at a forum with several other cryptocoin startups, and the next day we met to talk about just how hard (or easy) it is to get into this world as an entrepreneur.

Blasko has some advice for anyone who'd like to try minting a new cryptocurrency. Making your own coin, he says, is the easy part: anyone can clone code from an existing entrant, like Bitcoin, and rename the result — and that's exactly what he did. The hard work is what comes after: making worthwhile changes, building trust, and making it tradeable. Blasko's done the legwork to get his own currency, which he's bravely called "Unbreakable Coin," listed on exchanges like Cryptsy, and is working on his own auction site as well. He's also got an interesting idea for cryptocoin trading cards, and had a few prototypes on hand. (Part 1 is below; Part 2 to follow.) Alternate Video Link
The Almighty Buck

Star Trek Continues Kickstarter 2.0 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-boldly-make-some-more-episodes dept.
The Real Dr John writes Vic Mignogna and crew have launched their second Kickstarter campaign to produce 2 or more additional episodes of Star Trek Continues, a fan-based web series finishing up the 5 year mission of the original Star Trek television series. The first Kickstarter campaign raised enough money for 4 episodes, 3 of which have already been aired. Depending on how much funding they get this time, they plan to produce up to 4 additional episodes.
Programming

Interviews: Alexander Stepanov and Daniel E. Rose Answer Your Questions 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
samzenpus (5) writes "Alexander Stepanov is an award winning programmer who designed the C++ Standard Template Library. Daniel E. Rose is a programmer, research scientist, and is the Chief Scientist for Search at A9.com. In addition to working together, the duo have recently written a new book titled, From Mathematics to Generic Programming. Earlier this month you had a chance to ask the pair about their book, their work, or programming in general. Below you'll find the answers to those questions."