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Slashdot  
Sun, 01 Mar 2015 13:39:18 GMT
News for nerds, stuff that matters

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Xfce 4.12 Released - Sun, 01 Mar 2015 13:27:00 GMT2015-03-01T13:27:00Z
motang writes: After two years of hard work (and much to the dismay of naysayers who worried the project has been abandoned), the Xfce team has announced the release of Xfce 4.12. Highlights include improvements to the window switcher dialog, intelligent hiding of the panel, new wallpaper settings, better multi-monitor support, improved power settings, additions to the file manager, and a revamped task manager. Here is a quick tour, the full changelog, and the download page. I have been running it since Xubuntu 15.04 beta 1 was released two days ago. It is much improved over 4.10, and the new additions are great."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware? - Sun, 01 Mar 2015 10:37:00 GMT2015-03-01T10:37:00Z
An anonymous reader writes: In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity. Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide verification software to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security. I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating, "...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." (Their phrasing, not mine.) Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Genetic Data Analysis Tools Reveal How US Pop Music Evolved - Sun, 01 Mar 2015 07:28:00 GMT2015-03-01T07:28:00Z
KentuckyFC writes: The history of pop music is rich in anecdotes, folklore and controversy. But despite the keen interest, there is little in the form of hard evidence to back up most claims about the evolution of music. Now a group of researchers have used data analysis tools developed for genomic number crunching to study the evolution of U.S. pop music. The team studied 30-second segments of more than 17,000 songs that appeared on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 between 1960 and 2010. Their tools categorized the songs according to harmonic features such as chord changes as well as the quality of timbre such as whether guitar-based, piano-based orchestra-based and so on. They then used a standard algorithm for discovering clusters within networks of data to group the songs into 13 different types, which turned out to correspond with well known genres such as rap, rock, country and so on. Finally, they plotted the change in popularity of these musical types over time. The results show a clear decline in the popularity of jazz and blues since 1960. During the same period, rock-related music has ebbed and flowed in popularity. By contrast, rap was rare before 1980 before becoming the dominant musical style for 30 years until declining in the late 2000s. The work answers several important question about the evolution of pop music, such as whether music industry practices have led to a decline in the cultural variety of new music, and whether British bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones triggered the 1964 American music revolution [spoiler: no in both cases].

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Foxconn Factories' Future: Fewer Humans, More Robots - Sun, 01 Mar 2015 04:33:00 GMT2015-03-01T04:33:00Z
jfruh writes: Foxconn, which supplies much of Apple's manufacturing muscle and has been criticized for various labor sins, is now moving to hire employees who won't complain because they're robots. The company expects 70 percent of its assembly line work to be robot-driven within three years.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Uber Discloses Database Breach, Targets GitHub With Subpoena - Sun, 01 Mar 2015 01:30:00 GMT2015-03-01T01:30:00Z
New submitter SwampApe tips news that Uber has revealed a database breach from 2014. The company says the database contained names and diver's license numbers of their drivers, about 50,000 of which were accessed by an unauthorized third party. As part of their investigation into who was behind the breach, Uber has filed a lawsuit which includes a subpoena request for GitHub. "Uber's security team knows the public IP address used by the database invader, and wants to link that number against the IP addresses and usernames of anyone who looked at the GitHub-hosted gist in question – ID 9556255 – which we note today no longer exists. It's possible the gist contained a leaked login key, or internal source code that contained a key that should not have been made public."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Oracle Sues 5 Oregon Officials For 'Improper Influence' - Sun, 01 Mar 2015 00:33:00 GMT2015-03-01T00:33:00Z
SpzToid writes: Following up on an earlier Slashdot story, the Oracle Corporation has filed a rather timely suit against five of former governor John Kitzhaber's staff for their "improper influence" in the decision to shutter the Cover Oregon healthcare website, while blaming Oracle to defuse the political consequences. Oracle argues the website was ready to go before the state decided to switch to the federal exchange in April. "The work on the exchange was complete by February 2014, but going live with the website and providing a means for all Oregonians to sign up for health insurance coverage didn't match the former-Governor's re-election strategy to 'go after' Oracle," Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement. Kitzhaber resigned last week amid criminal probes into an influence-peddling scandal involving allegations that his fiancée used her position in his office for personal gain.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










As Big As Net Neutrality? FCC Kills State-Imposed Internet Monopolies - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 23:28:00 GMT2015-02-28T23:28:00Z
tedlistens writes: On Thursday, before it voted in favor of "net neutrality," the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to override state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that have barred local governments and public utilities from offering broadband outside the areas where they have traditionally sold electricity. Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance said the move was as important for internet competition as net neutrality: "Preventing big Internet Service Providers from unfairly discriminating against content online is a victory, but allowing communities to be the owners and stewards of their own broadband networks is a watershed moment that will serve as a check against the worst abuses of the cable monopoly for decades to come." The laws, like those in over a dozen other states, are often created under pressure from large private Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon, who consequently control monopolies or duopolies over high-speed internet in these places.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Under US Pressure, PayPal Stops Working With Mega - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 22:34:00 GMT2015-02-28T22:34:00Z
New submitter seoras sends news that PayPal is now refusing to handle payments for Mega, Kim Dotcom's cloud storage service. A report (PDF) issued in September of last year claimed Mega and other "cyberlocker" sites made a great deal of illicit money off piracy. Mega disputes this, of course, and says the report caused U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to pressure credit card companies to stop working with Mega. Those companies then pressured PayPal to stop as well. The hosting company claims, "MEGA provided extensive statistics and other evidence showing that MEGA’s business is legitimate and legally compliant. After discussions that appeared to satisfy PayPal’s queries, MEGA authorised PayPal to share that material with Visa and MasterCard. Eventually PayPal made a non-negotiable decision to immediately terminate services to MEGA."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










One Astronomer's Quest To Reinstate Pluto As a Planet - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 21:32:00 GMT2015-02-28T21:32:00Z
sarahnaomi writes: Most of us grew up believing that tiny, distant Pluto was the outermost planet in our solar system. Then, one day, the scientific powers that be decreed that it wasn't. But it seems the matter is far from settled. David Weintraub—who describes Pluto's exile as a stunt organized by a "very small clique of Pluto-haters"—would have the dwarf world rejoin the ranks of our Solar System's fully-fledged planets today. But solid evidence that Pluto deserves the title may come in July, when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft slingshots around the icy rock and sends us back a detailed picture of its composition. Pluto's planethood was revoked by majority vote on the final day of the 2006 IAU conference. Over 2,500 astronomers attended the meeting throughout the week, but only 394 votes ultimately decided Pluto's fate: 237 in favor of demoting the planet and 157 against.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Blu-Ray Players Hackable Via Malicious Discs - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 20:29:00 GMT2015-02-28T20:29:00Z
An anonymous reader writes: Some Blu-Ray disc interactive features use a Java variant for UIs and applications. Stephen Tomkinson just posted a blog discussing how specially created Blu-Ray discs can be used to hack various players using exploits related to their Java usage. He hacked one Linux-based, network-connected player to get root access through vulnerabilities introduced by the vendor. He did the same thing against Windows Blu-Ray player software. Tomkinson was then able to combine both, along with detection techniques, into a single disc.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Mysterious Siberian Crater Is Just One of Many - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 19:31:00 GMT2015-02-28T19:31:00Z
New submitter Sardaukar86 sends this excerpt from a Washington Post report: In the middle of last summer came news of a bizarre occurrence no one could explain. Seemingly out of nowhere, a massive crater appeared in one of the planet's most inhospitable lands. Early estimates said the crater, nestled in a land called "the ends of the Earth" where temperatures can sink far below zero, yawned nearly 100 feet in diameter. The saga deepened. The Siberian crater wasn't alone. There were two more, ratcheting up the tension in a drama that hit its climax as a probable explanation surfaced. Global warming had thawed the permafrost, which had caused methane trapped inside the icy ground to explode. Now, however, researchers fear there are more craters than anyone knew — and the repercussions could be huge. Russian scientists have now spotted a total of seven craters, five of which are in the Yamal Peninsula. Two of those holes have since turned into lakes. And one giant crater is rimmed by a ring of at least 20 mini-craters, the Siberian Times reported.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Ask Slashdot: Whiteboard Substitutes For Distributed Teams? - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 18:25:00 GMT2015-02-28T18:25:00Z
DoofusOfDeath writes I work on a fully distributed software development team with 5-10 people. Normally it's great, but when we're doing heavy design work, we really need to all be standing in front of a whiteboard together. This is expensive and time consuming, because it involves airplanes and hotels. Conference calls, editing shared Google docs, etc. just don't seem to be the same. Have people found any good tools or practices to replace standing in front of a real whiteboard?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Google Taking Over New TLDs - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 17:27:00 GMT2015-02-28T17:27:00Z
bobo the hobo writes: In the corner of the internet where people care about DNS, there is a bit of an uproar at Google's application for over a hundred new top-level domains, including .dev, .lol, .app, .blog, .cloud and .search. Their application includes statements such as: "By contrast, our application for the .blog TLD describes a new way of automatically linking new second level domains to blogs on our Blogger platform – this approach eliminates the need for any technical configuration on the part of the user and thus makes the domain name more user friendly." They also mention limiting usage of .dev to Google only: "Second-level domain names within the proposed gTLD are intended for registration and use by Google only, and domain names under the new gTLD will not be available to the general public for purchase, sale, or registration. As such, [Google's shell company] intends to apply for an exemption to the ICANN Registry Operator Code of Conduct as Google is intended to be the sole registrar and registrant."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 16:29:00 GMT2015-02-28T16:29:00Z
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










NSA Spying Wins Another Rubber Stamp - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 15:32:00 GMT2015-02-28T15:32:00Z
schwit1 sends this report from the National Journal: A federal court has again renewed an order allowing the National Security Agency to continue its bulk collection of Americans' phone records, a decision that comes more than a year after President Obama pledged to end the controversial program. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved this week a government request to keep the NSA's mass surveillance of U.S. phone metadata operating until June 1, coinciding with when the legal authority for the program is set to expire in Congress. The extension is the fifth of its kind since Obama said he would effectively end the Snowden-exposed program as it currently exists during a major policy speech in January 2014. Obama and senior administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they will not act alone to end the program without Congress.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Hyperloop Testing Starts Next Year - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 14:30:00 GMT2015-02-28T14:30:00Z
neanderslob writes: In 2013, Elon Musk told us about a theoretical transportation system he'd been thinking about for a while. It was called "hyperloop," and it was a tube-based system capable of sending people and things at speeds of up to 800mph. Now, a company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to start construction on an actual hyperloop next year. The idea is to build it to serve Quay Valley (a proposed 75,000-resident solar power city in Kings County, California). The project will be paid for with $100 million the company expects to raise through a direct public offering in the third quarter of this year. The track itself will be a 5-mile loop and won't reach anywhere close to the 800mph Musk proposed in his white paper — but it's a start.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black? - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 13:31:00 GMT2015-02-28T13:31:00Z
HughPickens.com writes Color scientists already have a word for it: Dressgate. Now the Washington Post reports that a puzzling thing happened on Thursday night consuming millions — perhaps tens of millions — across the planet and trending on Twitter ahead of even Jihadi John's identification. The problem was this: Roughly three-fourths of people swore that this dress was white and gold, according to BuzzFeed polling but everyone else said it's dress was blue. Others said the dress could actually change colors. So what's going on? According to the NYT our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under widely different lighting conditions. This ability is called color constancy. But the photograph doesn't give many clues about the ambient light in the room. Is the background bright and the dress in shadow? Or is the whole room bright and all the colors are washed out? If you think the dress is in shadow, your brain may remove the blue cast and perceive the dress as being white and gold. If you think the dress is being washed out by bright light, your brain may perceive the dress as a darker blue and black. According to Beau Lotto, the brain is doing something remarkable and that's why people are so fascinated by this dress. "It's entertaining two realities that are mutually exclusive. It's seeing one reality, but knowing there's another reality. So you're becoming an observer of yourself. You're having tremendous insight into what it is to be human. And that's the basis of imagination." As usual xkcd has the final word. It would make the comments more informatively scannable if you include your perceived color pair in the title of any comments below.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










We Stopped At Two Nuclear Bombs; We Can Stop At Two Degrees. - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 10:43:00 GMT2015-02-28T10:43:00Z
Lasrick writes Dawn Stover writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that climate change is irreversible but not unstoppable. She describes the changes that are happening already and also those likely to happen, and compares what is coming to the climate of the Pliocene: 'Even if countries reduce emissions enough to keep temperatures from rising much above the internationally agreed-upon "danger" threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (which seems increasingly unlikely), we can still look forward to conditions similar to those of the mid-Pliocene epoch of 3 million years ago. At that time, the continents were in much the same positions that they are today, carbon dioxide levels ranged between 350 and 400 ppm, the global average temperature was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than it is today (but up to 20 degrees higher than today at the northernmost latitudes), the global sea level was about 25 meters higher, and most of today's North American forests were grasslands and savanna.' Stover agrees with two scientists published in Nature Geoscience that 'Future warming is therefore driven by socio-economic inertia," and points the way toward changing a Pliocene future.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










BlackPhone, In Wake of Gemalto Fallout, Receives $50 Million In Funding - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 07:48:00 GMT2015-02-28T07:48:00Z
An anonymous reader writes The BlackPhone, a $600-plus encrypted Android handset designed to keep the prying eyes of criminals and the government out of mobile communications, is now fully owned by Silent Circle thanks to the company raking in investment cash. Terms of the buyout deal with Spanish smartphone maker Geeksphone, the phone's hardware manufacturer, were not disclosed. Silent Circle said Thursday that it has raised $50 million and plans on showing off an encrypted 'enterprise privacy ecosystem' at World Mobile Congress next week. A BlackPhone tablet is on the way, too.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Twitter Adds "Report Dox" Option - Sat, 28 Feb 2015 05:01:00 GMT2015-02-28T05:01:00Z
AmiMoJo writes Twitter announced that its abuse-report system, which was recently refined to simplify and shorten the reporting process, has now expanded to allow users to report content such as self-harm incidents and "the sharing of private and confidential information" (aka doxing). The announcement, posted by Twitter Vice President of User Services Tina Bhatnagar, explained that December's report-process update was met with a "tripling" of the site's abuse support staff, which has led to a quintupling of abuse report processing. Chat logs recently revealed how Twitter is used by small groups to create vast harassment campaigns, thanks to sock puppet account and relative anonymity.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.












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