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Boeing's First Autonomous Air Taxi Flight Ends In Fewer Than 60 Seconds

1 hour 10 min ago
Boeing has completed the first flight of its autonomous air taxi Tuesday at a small airport outside Washington, D.C. "The flight lasted less than a minute, according to Boeing, and it didn't actually go anywhere," reports CNN. "Instead, it hovered above the runway. Boeing declined to share how high above the ground it flew." From the report: But Boeing is hailing the achievement as a milestone for its NeXt division, which develops autonomous airplanes. The flying car prototype is 30 feet long and 28 feet wide. It's designed to fly up to 50 miles at a time. Boeing and its competitors such as Airbus are betting that small, self-flying airplanes -- technically dubbed electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) -- will revolutionize transportation, especially in urban areas. Boeing believes the vehicles, more commonly referred to as air taxis or flying cars, will be a solution to traffic congestion.

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Weird Orbits of Distant Objects Can Be Explained Without Invoking a 'Planet Nine'

4 hours 10 min ago
schwit1 shares a report from Space.com: The weirdly clustered orbits of some far-flung bodies in our solar system can be explained without invoking a big, undiscovered "Planet Nine," a new study suggests. The shepherding gravitational pull could come from many fellow trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) rather than a single massive world, according to the research. "If you remove Planet Nine from the model, and instead allow for lots of small objects scattered across a wide area, collective attractions between those objects could just as easily account for the eccentric orbits we see in some TNOs," study lead author Antranik Sefilian, a doctoral student in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University in England, said in a statement. The duo's modeling work suggests that the strength-in-numbers explanation does indeed work -- if the mass of the Kuiper Belt, the ring of bodies beyond Neptune, is a few to 10 times that of Earth. This is a pretty big "if," given that most estimates peg the Kuiper Belt's mass at less than 10 percent that of Earth (and one recent study put the figure at 0.02 Earth masses). But other solar systems are known to harbor massive disks of material in their outer reaches, Sefilian and Touma noted. And our failure to spot one around our own sun doesn't mean it doesn't exist, they stressed. The new study has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

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Emulator Project Aims To Resurrect Classic Mac Apps, Games Without the OS

7 hours 40 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica, written by Sean Gallagher: Want to be able to run classic Mac OS applications compiled for the Motorola 68000 series of processors on your ever-so-modern Mac OS X machine? Or maybe you'd rather run them on a Raspberry Pi, or an Android device for that matter? There's an emulation project that's trying to achieve just that: Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS). Advanced Mac Substitute is an effort by long-time Mac hacker Josh Juran to make it possible to run old Mac OS software (up to Mac OS 6) without a need for an Apple ROM or system software. Other emulators out there for 64000 Mac applications such as Basilisk II require a copy of MacOS installation media -- such as install CDs from Mac OS 7.5 or Mac OS 8. But AMS uses a set of software libraries that allow old Mac applications to launch right within the operating environment of the host device, without needing to have a full virtual hardware and operating system instance behind them. And it's all open source. I got a demo of AMS from Juran at Shmoocon in Washington, DC, this past weekend. He showed me an early attempt at getting the game LoadRunner to work with the emulator -- it's not yet interactive. A version of the project, downloadable from Github, includes a "Welcome" screen application (a sort of Mac OS "hello world"), Mac Tic-Tac-Toe, and an animation of NyanCat. Applications are launched from the command line for now and are executed by the emulation software, which interprets the system and firmware calls. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of work to be done. While AMS works on Mac OS X up to version 10.12 -- both on Intel and PowerPC versions of the operating system -- the code currently won't compile on MacOS Mojave. And the Linux implementation of AMS does not yet support keyboard input. I was unable to get the front end to execute at all on Debian 9 on Intel.

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Julian Assange Launches Legal Challenge Against Trump Administration

8 hours 40 min ago
SonicSpike shares a report from The Guardian: Julian Assange, the fugitive WikiLeaks founder whose diplomatic sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy appears increasingly precarious, is launching a legal challenge against the Trump administration. Lawyers for the Australian activist have filed an urgent application to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) aimed at forcing the hand of U.S. prosecutors, requiring them to "unseal" any secret charges against him. The legal move is an attempt to prevent Assange's extradition to the U.S. at a time that a new Ecuadorian government has been making his stay in the central London apartment increasingly inhospitable. The 1,172-page submission by Assange's lawyers calls on the U.S. to unseal any secret charges against him and urges Ecuador to cease its "espionage activities" against him. Baltasar Garzon, the prominent Spanish judge who has pursued dictators, terrorists and drug barons, is the international coordinator of Assange's legal team. He has said the case involves "the right to access and impart information freely" that has been put in "jeopardy." The Trump administration is refusing to reveal details of charges against Assange despite the fact that sources in the U.S. Department of Justice have confirmed to the media that they exist under seal. The application alleges that U.S. prosecutors have begun approaching people in the U.S., Germany and Iceland and pressed them to testify against Assange in return for immunity from prosecution. Those approached, it is said, include people associated with WikiLeaks' joint publications with other media about U.S. diplomacy, Guantanamo Bay and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Social Media Stars Agree To Declare When They Post Ads For Products

9 hours 20 min ago
"Britain's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has threatened prominent social media stars with heavy fines or prison time if they advertise commercial products on social media without making it clear that they are doing so in exchange for financial rewards," writes Slashdot reader dryriver. The BBC reports: Sixteen social media stars including singers Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora, models Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Alexa Chung, and vlogger Zoella have agreed to change how they post online. They will have to clearly state if they have been paid or received any gifts or loans of products they endorse. It follows warnings from the Competition and Markets Authority that their posts could break consumer law. Online endorsements can boost brands but can also mislead, said the CMA. The CMA has not made a finding on whether the influencers named breached consumer law, but said all of them volunteered to change their practices following an investigation. However, if they fail to comply with the agreement reached with the CMA, they could be taken to court and face heavy fines or prison sentences of up to two years.

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How Web Apps Can Turn Browser Extensions Into Backdoors

10 hours 48 sec ago
"Threatpost has a link to some recent research about ways web pages can exploit browser extensions to steal information or write files," writes Slashdot reader jbmartin6. "Did we need another reason to be deeply suspicious of any browser extension? Not only do they spy on us for their makers, now other people can use them to spy on us as well. The academic paper is titled 'Empowering Web Applications with Browser Extensions' (PDF)." From the report: "An attacker [uses] a script that is present in a web application currently running in the user browser. The script either belongs to the web application or to a third party. The goal of the attacker is to interact with installed extensions, in order to access user sensitive information. It relies on extensions whose privileged capabilities can be exploited via an exchange of messages with scripts in the web application," researchers wrote. They added, "Even though content scripts, background pages and web applications run in separate execution contexts, they can establish communication channels to exchange messages with one another... APIs [are used] for sending and receiving (listening for) messages between the content scripts, background pages and web applications." The researcher behind the paper focused on a specific class of web extension called "WebExtensions API," a cross-browser extensions system compatible with major browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Microsoft Edge. After analyzing 78,315 extensions that used the specific WebExtension API, it found 3,996 that were suspicious. While it seems voluminous, they noted that research found a small number of vulnerable extensions overall, and that concern should be measured. However, "browser vendors need to review extensions more rigorously, in particular take into consideration the use of message passing interfaces in extensions."

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Comcast Lowered Cable Investment Despite Net Neutrality Repeal

10 hours 40 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast's cable division spent 3 percent less on capital expenditures last year, despite promises that the repeal of net neutrality rules would boost broadband network investment. Comcast's cable division spent $7.95 billion on capital expenditures during calendar year 2017, but that fell to $7.72 billion in the 12 months ending on December 31, 2018. Comcast's overall capital expenditures went up 2.3 percent, from $9.6 billion in 2017 to $9.8 billion in 2018. But that company-wide capital expenditure number includes the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, which spent $1.7 billion in 2018, a 15.2 percent increase, "primarily reflecting investment at Theme Parks," Comcast said. The cable capital expenditure statistic thus provides a more accurate picture of whether Comcast increased or decreased investment in its broadband network. Cable capital expenditures as a percentage of Comcast's cable revenue dropped from 15 percent in 2017 to 14 percent in 2018. Comcast's network spending should have risen in 2018 if predictions from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Comcast had been correct. Pai's net neutrality repeal took effect in June 2018. But the vote to repeal net neutrality rules was in December 2017, and Pai claimed in February 2018 that the repeal was already causing increased broadband investment. While Comcast's cable capital expenditures did rise year over year in the fourth quarter, from $2.15 billion to $2.32 billion, it wasn't enough to offset the full-year decline. Ars Technology also notes: "The corporate tax cut implemented as 2018 began also didn't stop job cuts at Comcast and AT&T, despite promises that the tax cut would create new jobs."

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Should Lawmakers Be Able To Hold Hearings, Debate and Vote On Legislation Virtually From Their District Offices?

11 hours 20 min ago
Applehu Akbar shares an old report raising a very good question for today's Congress: why not use today's videoconferencing tech to allow representatives to perform most Congressional activity from their home districts?" The ability to "work from home" would be especially beneficial during a government shutdown, like the one we're currently in, where money is tight and Congressional members are "sick and tired of Washington and don't want to show up anymore to vote." Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar writes: Because Congress people serve short terms and campaign largely on constituent service, they have to spend a large percentage of their time shuttling between home and Washington. Virtualizing most of their Washington presence would save fuel and energy while giving them more time with their constituents. In addition, there could be a long-term societal benefit in making Congress less vulnerable to lobbyist influence by keeping them out of the Beltway. Pearce told The Hill in a statement back in 2013: "Thanks to modern technology, members of Congress can debate, vote, and carry out their constitutional duties without having to leave the accountability and personal contact of their congressional districts. Keeping legislators closer to the people we represent would pull back Washington's curtain and allow constituents to see and feel, first-hand, their government at work. Corporations and government agencies use remote work technology; it's time that Congress does the same."

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Says Biometrics May Defeat Bots

12 hours 48 sec ago
Trailrunner7 shares a report from Duo Security: From the beginning, Twitter's creators made the decision not to require real names on the service. It's a policy that's descended from older chat services, message boards and Usenet newsgroups and was designed to allow users to express themselves freely. Free expression is certainly one of the things that happens on Twitter, but that policy has had a number of unintended consequences, too. The service is flooded with bots, automated accounts that are deployed by a number of different types of users, some legitimate, others not so much. Many companies and organizations use automation in their Twitter accounts, especially for customer service. But a wide variety of malicious actors use bots, too, for a lot of different purposes. Governments have used bots to spread disinformation for influence campaigns, cybercrime groups employ bots as part of the command-and-control infrastructure for botnets, and bots are an integral part of the cryptocurrency scam ecosystem. This has been a problem for years on Twitter, but only became a national and international issue after the 2016 presidential election. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said this week that he sees potential in biometric authentication as a way to help combat manipulation and increase trust on the platform. "If we can utilize technologies like Face ID or Touch ID or some of the biometric things that we find on our devices today to verify that this is a real person, then we can start labeling that and give people more context for what they're interacting with and ideally that adds some more credibility to the equation. It is something we need to fix. We haven't had strong technology solutions in the past, but that's definitely changing with these supercomputers we have in our pockets now," Dorsey said. Jordan Wright, an R&D engineer at Duo Labs writes: "I think it's a step in the right direction in terms of making general authentication usable, depending on how it's implemented. But I'm not sure how much it will help the bot/automation issue. There will almost certainly need to be a fallback authentication method for users without an iOS device. Bot owners who want to do standard authentication will use whichever method is easiest for them, so if a password-based flow is still offered, they'd likely default to that." "The fallback is the tricky bit. If one exists, then Touch ID/Face ID might be helpful in identifying that there is a human behind an account, but not necessarily the reverse -- that a given account is not human because it doesn't use Touch ID," Wright adds.

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Microsoft's Bing Search Engine Goes Offline In China

Thu, 24/01/2019 - 00:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from France 24: The Microsoft-run search engine Bing was unavailable in mainland China late Wednesday, raising concerns among some social media users that it could be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors. Attempting to open cn.bing.com results in an error message, though users can still access Bing's international site using a virtual private network (VPN), which allows people to circumvent China's "Great Firewall" of censorship. It is not clear whether or not Bing has joined China's long list of prohibited websites or if its China service is experiencing technical difficulties. On Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media site, people complained about the lack of access, with some speculating that Bing too had been "walled off." Others aired their dissatisfaction about having to use Baidu, China's largest domestic search service. "I can't open Bing, but I don't want to use Baidu -- what to do?" wrote one user. "Bing is actually dead -- is this to force me to use Baidu??" said another, cursing. Update January 24, 00:10 GMT: Microsoft says it is aware that some users are unable to access Bing in China and says it is investigating the matter.

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YouTube TV Opens To the Whole US

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 23:50
Google is today expanding its premium YouTube TV streaming service to the majority of locations in the U.S., with the rest to follow shortly. From a report: At launch, YouTube TV was available through mobile apps in five markets. In the nearly two years since its introduction, it has arrived on the big screen via apps for Android TV and Xbox, as well as Apple TV and Roku, and expanded to 100 U.S. markets, covering 85 percent of households. Now it's landing in an additional 95 markets, which will extend this coverage to 98 percent of households. Other markets not yet covered will soon be added to the mix.

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Record Number of Americans See Climate Change As a Current Threat

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 23:06
An anonymous reader shares a report: More Americans are very worried about global warming and say the issue is personally important to them than ever before, according to a new poll released Tuesday. The polling may indicate that extreme weather events -- coupled with a series of grim scientific findings -- over the past year are starting to change peoples' minds about climate change, which could have significant implications for any significant climate legislation passing Congress. The key finding from the new survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication is that Americans increasingly view global warming as a present-day threat to them, rather than an issue that will affect future generations. Nearly half of Americans (46%) said they personally experienced the effects of global warming -- a 15-point spike since March 2015.

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France Will Hack Its Enemies Back, Its Defense Secretary Says

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 22:25
France's defence secretary Florence Parly had a declaration to make this week: "Cyber war has begun." And she said the Euro nation's military will use its "cyber arms as all other traditional weapons... to respond and attack," as well as setting up a military bug bounty program. From a report: Parly made her pledges during a speech to the Forum International de Cybersecurite (FIC) in the northern French town of Lille. Her speech was on a topic that most Western countries shy away from addressing directly in public. "The cyber weapon is not only for our enemies," said France's defence secretary this afternoon, speaking through a translator. "No. It's also, in France, a tool to defend ourselves. To respond and attack." Her remarks will be seen as moving the debate about offensive cyber capabilities -- not just so-called "active defence" but using infosec techniques as another weapon in the arsenal of state-on-state warfare -- to a new level.

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Microsoft Fights Fake News With NewsGuard Integration in Its Mobile Edge Browser

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 21:30
In a bid to fight fake news read while on your phone, Microsoft's mobile Edge browser on Android and iOS now includes the NewsGuard extension. From a report: The addition needs to be toggled on within the Edge settings menu to be enabled. Once it is, Edge will display a small shield icon next to the site's URL in the search bar: a green shield with a checkmark for a trusted news site, and a red shield with an exclamation point inside of it for a site that NewsGuard believes isn't always accurate. (Some sites haven't been evaluated, and these will simply show a gray shield.)

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Google Commits $3.1 Million and Free Cloud APIs To Wikimedia

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 20:50
Google is expanding its support of Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikipedia, as the search giant chases the next billion users. From a report: At World Economic Forum this week, Google committed to offer Wikipedia an additional $3.1 million, along with providing several of its machine learning tools to the editors of Wikipedia at no cost, the companies said. Google.org, thanks in part to contributions from employees, will be giving $1.1 million to the Wikimedia Foundation and $2 million to the Wikimedia Endowment, an independent fund that supports Wikipedia and other long-term Wikimedia projects. As part of the announcement, the companies said they will be expanding Project Tiger, a joint initiative they launched in 2017 to increase the number of articles in underrepresented languages in India. They intend to provide editors with resources and insights to create new Wikipedia articles across 10 languages in India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The initiative is being rebranded as GLOW, which is supposed to stand for Growing Local Language Content on Wikipedia.

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Why Free Software Evangelist Richard Stallman is Haunted by Stalin's Dream

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 20:10
Richard Stallman recently visited Mandya, a small town about 60 miles from Bengaluru, India, to give a talk. On the sidelines, Indian news outlet FactorDaily caught up with Stallman for an interview. In the wide-ranging interview, Stallman talked about companies that spy on users, popular Android apps, media streaming and transportation apps, smart devices, DRM, software backdoors, subscription software, and Apple and censorship. An excerpt from the interview: If you are carrying a mobile phone, it is always tracking your movements and it could have been modified to listen to the conversations around you. I call this product Stalin's dream. What would Stalin have wanted to hand out to every inhabitant of the former Soviet Union? Something to track that person's movements and listen to the person's conservations. Fortunately, Stalin could not do it because the technology didn't exist. Unfortunately for us, now it does exist and most people have been pressured or lured into carrying around such a Stalin's dream device, but not me. I am suspicious of new digital technology. I expect it to have new malicious functionalities. It has happened so many times that I have learned to expect this, so I have always checked before I start using some new digital technology. I asked to find out what is nasty about it and I found out these two things. It was something like 20 years ago, and I decided it was my duty as a citizen to refuse, regardless of whatever convenience it might offer me. To surrender my freedom in this way was failing to defend a free society. This is why I do not have a portable phone. I refuse to carry a portable phone. I never have one and unless things change, I never will. I do use portable phones, lots of different ones. If I needed to call someone right now, I would ask one of you, "Could you please make a call for me?" If I am on a bus and it is late and I need to tell somebody that I am going to arrive late, there is always some other passenger in the bus who will make a call for me or send a text for me. Practically speaking, it is not that hard.

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New Ransomware Strain is Locking Up Bitcoin Mining Rigs in China

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 19:30
A new strain of ransomware has been observed targeting Bitcoin mining rigs. ZDNet reports: At the time of writing, most of the infections have been reported in China, the country where most of the world's cryptocurrency mining farms are located. Named hAnt, this new ransomware strain was first seen in August of last year, but a new wave of infections has been reported hitting mining farms earlier this month. Most of the infected mining rigs are Antminer S9 and T9 devices, used for Bitcoin mining, but there have also been reports of hAnt infecting Antminer L3 rigs, used for mining Litecoin. In rare instances, Avalon Miner equipment (used for Bitcoin), were also reported as infected, but in much smaller numbers.

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Hebei, a Northern Chinese Province, Unveils an App That Triggers a Notification When You're Near Someone in Debt

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 18:53
China is gearing up to launch a social credit system in 2020, giving all citizens an identity number that will be linked to a permanent record. Like a financial score, everything from paying back loans to behaviour on public transport will be included. One aspect of this social credit system is a new app in the northern province of Hebei. From a report: According to the state-run newspaper China Daily, the Hebei-based app will alert people if there are in 500 metres of someone in debt. It's like being on Oxford Street and being able to work out everyone around you who was in debt. According to the financial charity, the Money Charity, the average UK household debt (including mortgages) was $76,000, in June last year. That's a lot of notifications.

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Meizu Unveils a Smartphone That Does Not Have Any Port, or a SIM Card Slot, or a Button, or Speaker Grill

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 18:05
Phone maker Meizu has announced a new phone called "Zero," which doesn't have a headphone jack, or a charging port, or a physical SIM card slot, or any buttons, or a speaker grill. From a report: It doesn't even come with a SIM card slot and buttons you'd usually see on a phone -- the only elements that disturb the surface of its all-display, 7.8mm-thick ceramic unibody are its 12MP and 20MP rear cameras and two pinholes. One is a microphone, while the other is for hard resets. To make up for the lack of ports, Meizu Zero will support Bluetooth 5.0 and a wireless USB connectivity that will reportedly be able to transfer files as fast as the USB 3.0 standard can. Zero's 5.99-inch QHD OLED screen will act as some sort of a giant speaker and earpiece replacement. It does have a big enough bezel for a 20MP front camera, but its fingerprint reader is completely on-screen. The device, which is powered by a Snapdragon 845 processor, relies on 18W wireless charging due to the lack of a charger port. And it may not have the usual physical buttons, but it does have pressure-sensing ones with haptic feedback on its borders.

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Europe Plans To Drill the Moon For Oxygen and Water by 2025

Wed, 23/01/2019 - 17:22
The European Space Agency hopes to be mining the moon for water and oxygen in six years' time. From a report: The agency took a big step toward this ambition by signing a deal with launch provider ArianeGroup on Monday. The one-year contract will see the company examine the possibility of mining regolith -- lunar soil and rock fragments that can yield oxygen and water, which could be very handy if you're trying to put a base on the moon. The mission would use an Ariane 64 launch vehicle. The European Space Agency (ESA) has already directed ArianeGroup, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran, to develop the craft, and its first test flight is anticipated in 2020. As for the lunar lander, that would come from the German startup PTScientists (which entertainingly stands for "Part-Time Scientists") -- the same outfit that aims to put the first mobile network on the moon.

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