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On iFixit and the Right To Repair ( 74

Jason Koebler writes: Motherboard sent a reporter to the Electronics Reuse Convention in New Orleans to investigate the important but threatened world of smartphone and electronics repair. As manufacturers start using proprietary screws, offer phone lease programs and use copyright law to threaten repair professionals, the right-to-repair is under more threat than ever. "That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don't sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn't just annoying, it's an environmental disaster, [iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens] says. Recent shifts to proprietary screws, the ever-present threat of legal action under a trainwreck of a copyright law, and an antagonistic relationship with third-party repair shops shows that the anti-repair culture at major manufacturers isn't based on negligence or naiveté, it's malicious."

UK Mobile Operator Could Block Ads At Network Level ( 61

Mickeycaskill writes: UK network operator EE says it is investigating the possibility of blocking adverts at a network level, allowing customers to limit the types and frequency of adverts they see in browsers and applications. The move is likely to concern digital publishers, many of whom rely on advertising revenue to fund their content. Ad blockers have become more popular in recent times, with many users employing them to save battery life, consume less data and protect against malvertising attacks. EE CEO Olaf Swantee said, "We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile. For EE, this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive. This is an important debate that needs to happen soon."

Video High-Security, Open-Source Router is a Hit on Indiegogo (Video) 68

The device is called the Turris Omnia, and its Indiegogo page says it's a "hi-performance & open-source router." Their fundraising goal is $100,000. So far, 1,191 backers have pledged $248,446 (as of the moment this was typed), with 49 days left to go. They've shipped 2,000 pieces so far but, says interviewee Ondej Filip, "95% of them are in the Czech Republic."

This is not only an open-source project, but non-profit as well. A big motive for it is heightened security, as the interview (and transcript) make clear. It's also apparent that the hardware here is overkill for a router; it can run a complete Linux distro, no problem, so it can function as a server, not just as a router. Interested? You might want to put a reservation in soon. This isn't the cheapest router (or even server) out there, but a lot of people obviously think a Turris Omnia, with its crypto security, automatic updates, and server functions would be nice to have.
The Internet

One Family Suffering Through Years-Long Trolling Campaign ( 191

blottsie writes: Since 2010, the Straters have been under assault from an online campaign of ever-increasing harassment — prank deliveries, smear attacks, high-profile hacks, and threats of violence against schools and law enforcement officials in their name — and it's slowly torn them apart. Masterminding it all is a teenage Lizard Squad hacker from Finland, at war with their son, Blair, over a seemingly minor dispute. "When the family started getting notices about their utilities being disconnected, they realized things were escalating out of control. Utility provider Commonwealth Edison once called the house to iron out the details about a request to have the power turned off after a supposed move. Something similar happened with their trash service. On Halloween 2013, Comcast shut off their cable and Internet service."

How Black Friday and Cyber Monday Are Losing Their Meaning ( 115 writes: Brad Tuttle reports at Money Magazine that while the terms "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" are more ubiquitous than ever, the importance of the can't-miss shopping days is undeniably fading. Retailers seem to want it both ways: They want shoppers to spend money long before these key shopping events, and yet they also want shoppers to turn out in full force to make purchases over the epic Black Friday weekend. When they use the "Cheap Stuff!" card day after day and week after week, the deals on any single day stop seeming special. Add to that the trend of manufacturers creating stripped-down versions of their electronics to sell on Black Friday, and consumers have less reason than ever to flood retail stores.

The true story behind Black Friday is not as sunny as retailers might have you believe. Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the bedlam in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache. Sometime in the late 1980s, however, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers. The result was the "red to black" concept of the holiday mentioned earlier, and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when America's stores finally turned a profit.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 180

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.
The Military

Turkey Downs Allegedly Intruding Russian Fighter Near Syria Border ( 482

jones_supa writes: Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter near the Syrian border on Tuesday after repeated warnings over airspace violations. Moscow said it could prove the jet had not left Syrian air space. Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames in a woodland area. Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed. A Syrian rebel group sent a video to Reuters that appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground and an official from the group said he was dead. This is the first time a NATO member's armed forces have downed a Russian military aircraft since the 1950s. The Guardian is following the developments with live updates. Also covered by the BBC, which notes Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only "terrorists", but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups. Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria's president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft. Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.

BBC World Service To Provide Radio For North Korea and Eritrea ( 61

Ewan Palmer writes: The BBC World service has announced it will expand to serve the worst countries for press freedom as part of a plan to reach a global audience of 500 million. The British government announced its "single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed" and promised to invest more than $128 million by 2017/18 to the service. Along with improvements in countries such as Thailand, Russia and Somalia, they will launch radio services in North Korea and Eritrea who, according to Reporters Without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom index, are the two worst performing countries in the world when ranked on a number of criteria including media independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.

Axel Springer Goes After iOS 9 Ad Blockers In New Legal Battlle ( 197

An anonymous reader writes: Germany's Axel Springer, owner of newspapers like Bild and Die Welt, is pursuing legal action against the developers of Blockr, an ad blocker for iOS 9. Techcrunch reports: "In October, Axel Springer forced visitors to Bild to turn off their ad blockers or pay a monthly fee to continue using the site. Earlier this month, the publisher reported the success of this measure, saying that the proportion of readers using ad blockers dropped from 23% to the single digits when faced with the choice to turn off the software or pay. 'The results are beyond our expectations,' said Springer chief exec Mathias Döpfner at the time. 'Over two-thirds of the users concerned switched off their adblocker.' He also noted that the website received an additional 3 million visits from users who could now see the ads in the first two weeks of the experiment going live."
The Almighty Buck

Cuban Talks Trash At Intel Extreme Masters, Drops $30K of F-Bombs For Charity ( 51

MojoKid writes: Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban isn't known for holding his tongue, even when their are fines involved. If you thought that might change in the eSports arena, you'd be mistaken. The billionaire trash talker dropped a couple of f-bombs at the Intel Extreme Masters tournament in San Jose this past weekend, and he'll have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for doing so. Not that he minds. In fact, after being informed on stage during a post-match interview that he was was being fined $15,000 for dropping an f-bomb, and that the funds would go to charity, he promptly asked if he'd be hit with another one if he did it again. His intentional outburst meant that he'd be on the hook for $30,000, all of which will go to the Cybersmile Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides expert help and advice for cyberbullying victims and their families. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also squared off on opposing teams in a game of League of Legends.

With $160 Billion Merger, Pfizer Moves To Ireland and Dodges Taxes ( 338

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: In a $160 billion dollar acquisition, drug company Allergan, a small company based in Ireland, "purchased" Pfizer, allowing the drug producing giant to move to Ireland and lower its tax rate from about 25 percent to 17-18 percent. Ars reports: "Such inversions, which are said to cost the American government billions in lost tax revenue, have drawn scorn from the Obama Administration and the Treasury Department. Last year, President Obama referred to the deals as 'unpatriotic' loopholes and proposed to close them. And last week, the Treasury announced new rules to make such deals more difficult. But Pfizer’s reverse-inversion skirts the rules, in part by keeping ownership split somewhat evenly between the two companies. After the deal is complete, current shareholders of Allergan, which has the majority of its operations in the US, will own 44 percent of the mega company. The remaining 56 percent will be owned by current Pfizer shareholders."

NASA Contracting Development of New Ion/Nuclear Engines ( 70

schwit1 writes: NASA has awarded three different companies contracts to develop advanced ion and nuclear propulsion systems for future interplanetary missions, both manned and unmanned. These are development contacts, all below $10 million. However, they all appeared structured like NASA's cargo and crew contracts for ISS, where the contractor does all of the development and design, with NASA only supplying some support and periodic payments when the contractor achieves agreed-upon milestones. Because of this, the contractors will own the engines they develop, and will be able to sell them to other customers after development, thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.
The Almighty Buck

"Clock Boy" Ahmed Mohamed Seeking $15 Million In Damages 739

phrackthat writes: The family of Ahmed Mohamed, the boy who was arrested in Irving, Texas has threatened to sue the school and the city of Irving if they do not pay him $15 million as compensation for his arrest. To refresh the memories of everyone, Ahmed's clock was a clock he disassembled then put into a pencil case that looked like a miniature briefcase. He was briefly detained by the Irving city police to interview him and determine if he intended for his clock to be perceived as a fake bomb. He was released to his parents later on that day and they publicized the matter and claimed Ahmed was arrested because of "Islamophobia".

Nearly 35,000 Comment On New Federal STEM OPT Extension Rule ( 55

theodp writes: Computerworld reports that the comments are in on the Department of Homeland Security's new proposed rule to extend OPT for international STEM students from 29 months to at least 36 months. The majority of the comments received by DHS support extending the program, CW notes, which is probably not surprising. Rather than choosing to "avoid the appearance of improper influence" by declining to respond to a "We the People" petition protesting a pending U.S. Federal judge's ruling that threatens to eliminate OPT STEM extensions altogether in February, the White House informed the 100k petition signers that they had the President's support, and pointed to the comment site for the proposed DHS OPT STEM rule workaround. Like the "We the People" petitioners, it's unclear whether the DHS commenters might represent corporate, university, and/or student interests, although a word cloud of the top 100 names of commenters (which accounted for 17,000+ comments) hints that international students are well-represented. By the way, in rejecting the 'emergency changes' that were enacted by DHS in 2008 to extend OPT for STEM students without public comment, Judge Ellen Huvelle said, "the 17-month duration of the STEM extension appears to have been adopted directly from the unanimous suggestions by Microsoft and similar industry groups."

Pesticides Turn Bumblebees Into Poor Pollinators ( 93

MTorrice writes about a new study that suggests neonicotinoids, one of the most widely used insecticides in the world, turn bumblebees into poor pollinators, leading to lower yields of apples and other plants. Chemical & Engineering News reports: "Neonicotinoid pesticides have been blamed for declines in bee populations worldwide. The chemicals don't kill bees, instead neonicotinoids impair the insects' abilities to learn, navigate, forage for nectar, and reproduce, according to studies published over the past several years. Now, researchers report that bees exposed to the pesticides also become less effective pollinators for crops. The study is the first to demonstrate that neonicotinoids can decrease the quality of a food crop by affecting bee pollination. About 30% of our food comes from crops, including fruits, nuts, seeds, and oils, that depend on insect pollinators, according to Dara A. Stanley of Royal Holloway, University of London, who led the new study. 'Basically,' she says, 'you can't have a balanced diet without insect pollination.'"

Whistleblowers: How NSA Created the 'Largest Failure' In Its History ( 116

An anonymous reader writes: Former NSA whistleblowers contend that the agency shut down a program that could have "absolutely prevented" some of the worst terror attacks in memory. According to the ZDNet story: "Weeks prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, a test-bed program dubbed ThinThread was shut down in favor of a more expensive, privacy-invasive program that too would see its eventual demise some three years later -- not before wasting billions of Americans' tax dollars. Four whistleblowers, including a congressional senior staffer, came out against the intelligence community they had served, after ThinThread. designed to modernize the agency's intelligence gathering effort, was cancelled. Speaking at the premier of a new documentary film A Good American in New York, which chronicles the rise and demise of the program, the whistleblowers spoke in support of the program, led by former NSA technical director William Binney."
United States

US and China Setting Up "Space Hotline" ( 15

Taco Cowboy writes: Washington and Beijing have established an emergency 'space hotline' to reduce the risk of accidental conflict. Several international initiatives are already in train to seal a space treaty to avoid a further build-up of weapons beyond the atmosphere. However, security experts say the initiatives have little chance of success. A joint Russia-China proposal wending its way through the UN was not acceptable to the US. An EU proposal, for a "code of conduct" in space, was having diplomatic "difficulties" but was closer to Washington's position.

Mozilla Is Removing Tab Groups and Complete Themes From Firefox ( 311

An anonymous reader writes: As part of Mozilla's "Go Faster" initiative for Firefox, the company is removing features that aren't used by many and require a lot of technical effort to continually improve. VentureBeat learned that the first two features to get the axe are tab groups and complete themes. Dave Camp, Firefox’s director of engineering, said, "Tab Groups was an experiment to help users deal with large numbers of tabs. Very few people chose to use it, so we are retiring it because the work required to maintain it is disproportionate to its popularity."
The Military

Satellite Wars ( 98

schwit1 writes: Sixty years after the space race began, an orbital arms race is again in development. Military officials from the U.S., Europe and Asia confirm in private what the Kettering Group and other amateur stargazers have been watching publicly. Almost every country with strategically important satellite constellations and its own launch facilities is considering how to defend — and weaponize — their extraterrestrial assets. "I don't think there is a single G7 nation that isn't now looking at space security as one of its highest military priorities and areas of strategic concern," says one senior European intelligence official.

The U.S. is spending billions improving its defenses — primarily by building more capacity into its constellations and improving its tracking abilities. A $900m contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin in 2014 to develop a radar system capable of tracking objects as small as baseballs in space in real time. But there are also hints that the U.S. may be looking to equip its satellites with active defenses and countermeasures of their own, such as jamming devices and the ability to evade interceptions. A purely offensive anti-satellite program is in fast development as well. High-energy weapons and maneuverable orbiters such as space planes all open the possibility of the U.S. being able to rapidly weaponize the domain beyond the atmosphere, should it feel the need to do so.