An anonymous reader writes "Ben Kuchera at Polygon ponders the surveillance capabilities of our gaming consoles in light of recent NSA and GCHQ revelations. 'Xbox One Kinect can see in the dark. It can keep a moving human being in focus without motors. It knows how to isolate voices from background noise. The privacy implications of having a device that originally couldn't be removed pointed at your living room at all times was always kind of scary, and that fear has been at least partially justified.' Kuchera, like many of us, habitually disconnects cameras and microphones not currently in use. But he also feels a sense of inevitability about the whole thing: 'If the government wants this information they're going to get it, no matter what we do with our gaming consoles. It's important to pay attention to what our government is doing, but this issue is much bigger than our gaming consoles, and we open ourselves up to much greater forms of intrusion on a daily basis.'"
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An anonymous reader writes with more chilling news from the Snowden files. Quoting the Guardian: "GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. ... The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ's existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs." Remember, friends don't video conference with friends unless they're using SIP and TLS.
An anonymous reader writes "The Director of Sustainability for New York's MTA is calling out Google, Apple, and Yahoo for 'deliberately' building their campuses away from public amenities like restaurants, and public transportation. 'With very few honorable exceptions like Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who recently moved his company headquarters from suburban Henderson to downtown Las Vegas, tech companies seem not to have gotten the memo that suburbs are old and bad news,' he writes. Instead of launching their own bus services to ferry people from the city to their campuses, as the tech companies have done, the Googles and Apples of the world should 'locate themselves in existing urban communities. Ideally, in blighted ones,' says Dutta." Maybe cities just don't have the right mix of amenities, price, space, parking, and other factors to make them better places to put certain businesses.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Rachel Feltman reports that drones are being used to film ski and snowboarding events at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and unlike military drones, which often look like a remote-controlled airplane, the creature floating around Sochi resembles a huge flying spider. The legs of the flying spider hold the rotors that spin around to keep it airborne. The drone then has a flight deck that holds the flight control system with GPS for navigation, sensors and receivers. The camera can be mounted in the middle or suspended below the flight deck. A drone with mounted camera can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $37,000 for a top-of-the-line Ikarus from Britain's Heliguy, which is advising broadcast clients in Sochi on using drones. That compares with the cost of a few thousand dollars an hour to rent a helicopter with pilot, not including the camera crew and equipment. Cameraman Remo Masina says he can fly a drone at up to 40 mph while transmitting a high-definition, live image and says the chances of drone crashes are close to zero when a drone is handled by an experienced pilot, because the drones are programmed to return to base at the slightest problem — such as a low battery, rough winds or a malfunction. 'There have been mishaps, however. In one case last year, a drone filming an imitation version of Spain's running of the bulls in Virginia crashed and injured a few spectators.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), are leaning on the United States government to discourage India from allowing the production and sale of affordable generic drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. India is currently on the U.S. government's Priority Watch List — countries whose practices on protecting intellectual property Washington believes should be monitored closely. Last year Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the Indian Supreme court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. Western drugmakers Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche Holding, Sanofi, and others have a bigger share of the fast-growing drug market in India. But they have been frustrated by a series of decisions on patents and pricing, as part of New Delhi's push to increase access to life-saving treatments in a place where only 15 percent of 1.2 billion people are covered by health insurance. One would certainly understand and probably agree with the need for for cheaper drugs. But don't forget that big pharma, for all its problems still is the number one creator of new drugs. In 2012 alone, the U.S. government and private companies spent a combined $130 billion (PDF) on medical research."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Google, Yahoo, and other tech firms are offering some updated statistics about government requests for data. There's just one problem: under revised guidelines issued by the federal government, those companies can still only report a range, rather than a definitive number, for those requests. If that wasn't fuzzy enough, the range can only be reported after a six-month lag. Between January and June 2013, Google received between 0-999 FISA 'non-content' requests on 0-999 user accounts; it also fielded between 0-999 'content' requests for between 9000 and 9999 user accounts.Yahoo actually received a larger number of FISA queries than Google: for the first six months of 2013, the federal government made between 0-999 requests on between 30,000 and 30,999 user accounts hosted by the company. ... These companies have little choice but to advocate this new information release as a huge step forward for transparency. Unfortunately, restricting government data requests to a broad range isn't very helpful: for example, a range (rather than a single numerical value) makes it difficult to determine trends, such as whether government requests are gradually increasing over the long term."
benrothke writes "At first glance, The Art of the Data Center: A Look Inside the Worlds Most Innovative and Compelling Computing Environments appears like a standard coffee table book with some great visuals and photos of various data centers throughout the world. Once you get a few pages into the book, you see it is indeed not a light-read coffee table book, rather a insightful book where some of the brightest minds in the industry share their insights on data center design and construction." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
sciencehabit writes "The truth behind the mysterious underwater circles that periodically appear off the coast of Denmark has been discovered, and sadly it doesn't involve aliens, fairies, or the fabled lost city of Atlantis. In 2008, a tourist snapped photos of several large dark rings that appeared near the white cliffs of Denmark's island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. The circles, several as large as a tennis courts, sparked numerous theories of their origin—some more outlandish than others. In 2011, when the formations reappeared, scientists discovered they were actually round bands of marine eelgrass, similar to rings of mushrooms known as fairy rings. Because eelgrass usually grows as continuous underwater meadows, scientists were still baffled by the rims of lush eelgrass with barren cores. Now, researchers say they at last know the rings' true cause."
MAXOMENOS writes: "Last night Yahoo! announced via their Tumblr page that they had detected attacks against some Yahoo Mail accounts. They reset the passwords to all affected accounts, and advised users of good password practices. Quoting: 'Based on our current findings, the list of usernames and passwords that were used to execute the attack was likely collected from a third-party database compromise. We have no evidence that they were obtained directly from Yahoo's systems. Our ongoing investigation shows that malicious computer software used the list of usernames and passwords to access Yahoo Mail accounts. The information sought in the attack seems to be names and email addresses from the affected accounts' most recent sent emails.'"
New submitter fplatten writes "I think this is all you need to see to know what legacy Steve Ballmer has left at Microsoft, where its IE browser market share has collapsed from a high of 86% in 2002 to just 9% now. I guess this is just another in a long list of tech companies that failed to maintain its dominant market share. Also, IE may be the one product that never really deserved it, but just piggybacked on Windows, and users left in droves once decent (more secure) alternatives and standards became popular." Microsoft stockholders probably don't feel too badly about the Ballmer legacy overall, though -- browser choice is a pretty small arm of the octopus.
As the NSA metadata collection scandal has developed, a number of technology and communications companies have fought to increase the transparency of the data collection process by publishing reports on how much data government agencies are asking them for. These transparency reports have been limited, however, because most government requests are entwined with a gag order. In a speech two weeks back, President Obama said this would change, and now the Dept. of Justice has announced new, slightly relaxed rules about what information companies can share. According to an email from the U.S. Deputy Attorney General (PDF) to the General Counsel of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Yahoo, the companies can publish: how many Criminal Process requests they received, how many National Security Letters they received, how many accounts were affected by NSLs, how many Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders were received (both for communications content and 'non-content'), and how many customers were targeted by FISA requests. The companies still aren't allowed to give specific numbers, but they can report them in bands of 1,000 — for example, 0-999, 1,000-1,999, etc. Information requests for old services cannot be disclosed for at least six months. The first information requests for a new service cannot be disclosed for two years. The companies also have the option of lumping all the NSL and FISA requests together — if they do that, they can report in bands of 250 instead of 1,000.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "L. J. Rick reports at BBC that Babolat has released a tennis racket with gyroscopes, accelerometers, and a piezoelectric sensor in the handle that can assess your every shot, sensing where the ball strikes the racquet and the quality of the contact. ... The sensor can gather data such as ball speed, accuracy, and angle, and will pair the info with devices over Bluetooth or USB. 'We integrated sensors inside the handle of the racquet, but it does not change the specification. And these sensors will analyze your tennis game, so your swing — your motion — and all this information will be collected by the racquet,' says Gael Moureaux. The International Tennis Federation, aware of the growing influx of hi-tech equipment into the sport, has set up a program called Player Analysis Technology (PAT) to regulate such 'virtual coaches' as the Babolat racquet. The governing body wants to be calling the shots on where and how innovation can be used, as in the past it has found itself having to ban some products like the so-called 'spaghetti-strung' racquets (with double stringing that are already on the market and in use. In conjunction with its PAT approval program, the ITF has also brought in a new rule — Rule 31 — to reflect the growing use of connected equipment, and its possible role in tournament play. Approved devices need to be secure and protected against unauthorized access, to prevent 'sporting espionage' whereby data could be stolen. Knowing when an opponent's right hand gets tired during the second set would be a huge advantage. Despite the innovations, one trainer does not think he is in danger of being upstaged by a smart racquet. 'I think that it's great for feedback but you still need someone to analyze it,' says tennis coach says Nik Snapes. 'At the end of the day it's the practice and the ability of someone that makes the player, not necessarily the equipment in their hand.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Ten years ago today, six and half months after launch, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's six-wheeled, solar-powered Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars, tumbling into a previously unknown feature now referred to as the 'Eagle Crater'. Opportunity and its twin Rover Spirit, which had arrived three weeks earlier, proceeded to crawl over and through plains, craters, and sand dunes, collecting and analyzing soil and rock samples, and taking panoramic photos of their surroundings, blowing orders of magnitude past the original projected 90 day mission timeframe. Spirit's mission drew to a close after it became irretrievably bogged down in soft soil in 2009; scientists lost contact with the rover in early 2010. Meanwhile, Opportunity is still going strong, with scientists announcing new evidence this past week of an ancient mild watery environment conducive to microbial life. Several web sites have mined the NASA archives to assemble tributes commemorating 10 years of work from Opportunity: Time, space.com, Information Week/Techweb. There's also a bricks-and-mortar tribute; the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC has just opened an exhibit featuring photos sent by the two rovers."
schwit1 writes "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether police can search an arrested criminal suspect's cell phone without a warrant in two cases that showcase how the courts are wrestling to keep up with rapid technological advances. Taking up cases from California and Massachusetts arising from criminal prosecutions that used evidence obtained without a warrant, the high court will wade into how to apply older court precedent, which allows police to search items carried by a defendant at the time of arrest, to cell phones."
An anonymous reader writes "Reuters reports, 'In a study of adults who experienced psychosis for the first time, having smoked marijuana daily was linked to an earlier age of onset of the disorder.' ..."This is not a study about the association between cannabis and psychosis, but about the association between specific patterns of cannabis use ... and an earlier onset of psychotic disorders,' Dr. Marta Di Forti, who led the research at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, said in an email. Among more than 400 people in South London admitted to hospitals with a diagnosed psychotic episode, the study team found the heaviest smokers of high-potency cannabis averaged about six years younger than patients who had not been smoking pot. Psychosis is a general term for a loss of reality, and is associated with several psychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. ... "The thorny question is whether they might otherwise have developed the disease or would have not had mental illness. It's a distinction we haven't figured out yet," Compton said. ... It is still unclear whether there are safe levels of use for cannabis, she added. '"
itwbennett writes "On Tuesday, Yahoo delivered on a promise that it made in October to enable email encryption for everyone by default by January 8. While this is a great step, the company's HTTPS implementation appears to be inconsistent across servers and even technically insecure in some cases, according to Ivan Ristic, director of application security research at security firm Qualys. For example, some of Yahoo's HTTPS email servers use RC4 as the preferred cipher with most clients. 'RC4 is considered weak, which is why we advise that people either don't use it, or if they feel they must, use it as a last resort,' Ristic said."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In a keynote talk at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, David Pogue (Yahoo's freshly minted technology columnist) suggested that the new 'Yahoo Tech' Website — a key part of the company's latest rebranding — would be targeted at 'normal' people as opposed to 'gearheads.' Based on a map that flashed on the giant screen behind him, which showed the 'normals' clustered in the middle of the country and the 'gearheads' restricted to the coasts, it's clear that Yahoo has embraced a divisive strategy that tries to equate Yahoo's brands with some sort of mythical 'middlebrow' audience that exists within clearly defined borders. (During his presentation, Pogue also flashed a slide that made fun of competing tech-news brands: The Verge was rendered as 'The Urge,' for example, while Gizmodo became 'Gizmoody.') The problem is that rigid audience of 'normals' doesn't exist, at least not in the way that Yahoo envisions. Large numbers of well-educated technology consumers — 'gearheads,' in Pogue's parlance — exist all over the country; to say otherwise is like suggesting that Wyoming is 100 percent Republican, or that everybody who lives in Florida hates snow. In other words, Yahoo's approach to tech content isn't merely schismatic; it's willfully unaware of the variety that exists among technology fans."
wjcofkc writes "Thousands of users have been affected by malicious advertisements served by ads.yahoo.com. The attack, which lasted several days, exploited vulnerabilities in Java and installed malware. The Netherlands based Fox-IT estimates that the infection rate was at about 27,000 infections per hour. In response to the breach in security, Yahoo issued the following statement, 'At Yahoo, we take the safety and privacy of our users seriously. We recently identified an ad designed to spread malware to some of our users. We immediately removed it and will continue to monitor and block any ads being used for this activity.' While the source of the attack remains unknown, Fox-IT says it appears to be 'financially motivated.' The Washington Post cites this incident as a reminder that Java has become an Internet security menace."
An anonymous reader sends this report from Reuters: "The Pentagon repeatedly waived laws banning Chinese-built components on U.S. weapons in order to keep the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter program on track in 2012 and 2013, even as U.S. officials were voicing concern about China's espionage and military buildup. According to Pentagon documents reviewed by Reuters, chief U.S. arms buyer Frank Kendall allowed two F-35 suppliers, Northrop Grumman Corp and Honeywell International Inc, to use Chinese magnets for the new warplane's radar system, landing gears and other hardware. Without the waivers, both companies could have faced sanctions for violating federal law and the F-35 program could have faced further delays."
harrymcc writes "Over at TIME.com, I rounded up the year's dumbest moments in technology. Yes, the launch of Healthcare.gov is included, as are Edward Snowden's revelations. But so are a bunch of people embarrassing themselves on Twitter, both BlackBerry and Lenovo hiring celebrities to (supposedly) design products, the release of glitchy products ranging from OS X 10.9 Mavericks to the new Yahoo Mail, and much more." I can't think of anything dumber than the NSA's claims that metadata isn't data.