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How Open Source Software Helps The Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 11:34
Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler quotes Hewlett Packard Enterprise: When you handle trillions of dollars a year in transactions and manage the largest known vault of gold in the world, security and efficiency are top priorities. Open source reusable software components are key to the New York Fed's successful operation, explains Colin Wynd, vice president and head of the bank's Common Service Organization... The nearly 2,000 developers across the Federal Reserve System used to have a disparate set of developer tools. Now, they benefit from a standard toolset and architecture, which also places limits on which applications the bank will consider using. "We don't want a third-party application that isn't compatible with our common architecture," said Wynd. One less obvious advantage to open source adoption is in career satisfaction and advancement. It gives developers opportunities to work on more interesting applications, said Wynd. Developers can now take on projects or switch jobs more easily across Federal Reserve banks because the New York Fed uses a lot of common open source components and a standard tool set, meaning retraining is minimal if needed at all." Providing training in-house also creates a more consistent use of best practices. "Our biggest headache is to prove to groups that an application is secure, because we have to defend against nation state attacks."

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Startup Plans To Clean Up Cigarette Butts Using Crows

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 10:34
AmiMoJo writes: A startup in the Netherlands is developing the "Crowbar," a bird feeder that takes discarded cigarette butts as payment for dispensing food. A camera recognises cigarette filters and rejects any other objects placed in the Crowbar. The idea isn't entirely original, a gentleman in the US has already built a similar device and trained crows to deposit coins. The hope is that crows will be able to keep cities clean, sort through refuse and perform other tasks for our mutual benefit. Popular Mechanics notes that crows "are some of the smartest animals in the world," suggesting this means "we could harness their abilities for the greater good of our planet."

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Microsoft Employees Can Now Work In Treehouses

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 09:34
Microsoft's campus now features three outdoor treehouses for its employees. An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: More than 12 feet off the ground, the treehouses feature charred-wood walls, skylights, at least one gas fireplace, Wi-Fi and hidden electrical outlets. Employees can even grab a bite at an outdoor extension of the indoor cafeteria. The "more Hobbit than HQ" treehouses are designed by Pete Nelson of the TV show "Treehouse Masters" and are part of Microsoft's growing "outdoor districts..." The company touts the professional benefits of working in nature -- greater creativity, focus and happiness -- but honestly, the treehouses are just plain cool. Microsoft touts a Harvard physician who believes nature "stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response, which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improved immune response." There's a short video on the "Working at Microsoft" channel on YouTube, but I'm curious what Slashdot readers think about working outdoors. Or, in a tree...

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Dutch Police Build a Pokemon Go-Style App For Hunting Wanted Criminals

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 08:34
"How can the police induce citizens to help investigate crime? By trying to make it 'cool' and turning it into a game that awards points for hits," reports CSO. mrwireless writes: Through their 'police of the future' innovation initiative, and inspired by Pokemon Go, the Dutch police are building an app where you can score points by photographing the license plates of stolen cars. When a car is reported stolen the app will notify people in the neighbourhood, and then the game is on! Privacy activists are worried this creates a whole new relationship with the police, as a deputization of citizens blurs boundaries, and institutionalizes 'coveillance' -- citizens spying on citizens. It could be a slippery slope to situations that more resemble the Stasi regime's, which famously used this form of neighborly surveillance as its preferred method of control. CSO cites Spiegel Online's description of the unofficial 189,000 Stasi informants as "totally normal citizens of East Germany who betrayed others: neighbors reporting on neighbors, schoolchildren informing on classmates, university students passing along information on other students, managers spying on employees and Communist bosses denouncing party members." The Dutch police are also building another app that allows citizens to search for missing persons.

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Toshiba's Fast-Charging Battery Could Triple the Range of Electric Vehicles

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 07:34
Big Hairy Ian quotes New Atlas: A key focus of electric vehicle (EV) makers is maximizing the range users can get from each charge, and for that reason new battery technologies are poised to play a huge part in driving their adoption. Toshiba has developed a new fast-charging battery it claims could allow EVs to travel three times as far as they do now, and then be fully recharged again in a matter of minutes. Toshiba's SCiB (Super Charge ion Battery) has been around in various forms since 2007, with its chief claim to fame an ability to charge to 90 percent of capacity in just five minutes. It also boasts a life-span of 10 years and high levels of safety, and has found its way into a number of notable EVs, including Mitsubishi's i MiEV and Honda's Fit EV. The current SCiB uses lithium titanium oxide as its anode, but Toshiba says it has now come up with a better way of doing things. The next-generation SCiB uses a new material for the anode called titanium niobium oxide, which Toshiba was able to arrange into a crystal structure that can store lithium ions more efficiently. So much so, that the energy density has been doubled. Toshiba calls the battery "a game changing advance that will make a significant difference to the range and performance of EV," and hopes to put it "into practical application" in 2019.

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Tesla Just Fired Hundreds Of Workers

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 06:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup: Tesla fired hundreds of workers this week, including engineers, managers and factory workers, even as the company struggles to expand its manufacturing and product line... The company said this week's dismissals were the result of a company-wide annual review, and insisted they were not layoffs. Some workers received promotions and bonuses, and the company expects to hire for the "vast majority" of new vacancies, a spokesman said. "As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures," a spokesman said. "Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world." "Tesla has a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board in November for charges that company supervisors and security guards harassed workers distributing union literature," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, adding that "Openly pro-union workers were among those fired this week. Some believe they were targeted." Tesla denies this, and says that they've generally boosted morale this week -- by rewarding higher-performing employees.

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Russia Reportedly Used Pokemon Go In an Effort To Inflame Racial Tensions

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 05:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Russia's far-ranging campaign to promote dissension in the United States reportedly included an effort to weaponize Pokemon Go. CNN reported that in July 2016, a Tumblr page linked to Russia's now-notorious Internet Research Agency promoted a contest encouraging people sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement to play the game near famous sites of police brutality. Players were told to change their characters' names to the victims of those incidents -- an apparent effort to inflame racial tensions. The Tumblr page was linked to Do Not Shoot Us, a multi-platform campaign designed to mimic aspects of Black Lives Matter. (As CNN notes, the name plays on "hands up, don't shoot," one of the movement's slogans.) Do Not Shoot Us included a website, donotshoot.us, along with related pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The Facebook page was one of 470 pages that were removed after the company determined that it was linked to Russian groups attempting to interfere in US politics.

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Google Slashes Prices of Its USB-C Headphone Dongle Following Minor Outrage

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 02:00
At its hardware event last week, Google unveiled its two new flagship smartphones: the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. While these devices feature high-end specifications and the latest version of Android, they both lack headphone jacks, upsetting many consumers who still rely heavily on wired headphones. To add insult to injury, Google announced a USB-C adapter for a whopping price of $20 -- that's $11 more than Apple's Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. This resulted in some minor outrage and caused Google to rethink its decision(s). As reported by 9to5Google, Google decided to slash the price of the dongle by over 50%. It is now priced at a more reasonable $9.

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Microwave Tech Could Produce 40TB Hard Drives In the Near Future

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 23:00
Western Digital has announced a potential game changer that promises to expand the limits of traditional HDDs to up to 40TBs using a microwave-based write head, and the company says it will be able to the public in 2019. Gizmodo reports: Western Digital's new approach, microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR), can utilize the company's existing production chain to cram a lot more storage onto a 3.5-inch disk. In a technical overview, Western Digital says it has managed to overcome the biggest issue with traditional HDD drive storage -- the size of the write head. These days, an average hard drive maxes out in the 10-14TB range. But by integrating a new write head, "a spin torque oscillator," microwaves can create the energy levels necessary for copying data within a lower magnetic field than was ever previously possible. There's a more thorough white paper for those who want to dive in. According to Western Digital, MAMR has "the capability to extend areal density gains up to 4 Terabits per square inch." By the year 2025, it hopes to be packing 40TBs into the same size drive it offers today.

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Magic Mushrooms 'Reboot' Brain In Depressed People, Study Suggests

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 19:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Magic mushrooms may effectively "reset" the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests. Psychedelics have shown promising results in the treatment of depression and addictions in a number of clinical trials over the last decade. Imperial College London researchers used psilocybin -- the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms -- to treat a small number of patients with depression, monitoring their brain function, before and after. Images of patients' brains revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and lasting reductions in depressive symptoms and participants in the trial reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment. Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial, who led the study, said: "We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments. Several of our patients described feeling 'reset' after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been 'defragged' like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt 'rebooted.' Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary 'kick start' they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a 'reset' analogy. Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy." The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

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Latest iOS Update Shows Apple Can Use Software To Break Phones Repaired By Independent Shops

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 18:05
The latest version of iOS fixes several bugs, including one that caused a loss of touch functionality on a small subset of phones that had been repaired with certain third-party screens and had been updated to iOS 11. "Addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 6S displays because they were not serviced with genuine Apple parts," the update reads. "Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts. See support.apple.com for more information." Jason Koebler writes via Motherboard: "This is a reminder that Apple seems to have the ability to push out software updates that can kill hardware and replacement parts it did not sell iPhone customers itself, and that it can fix those same issues remotely." From the report: So let's consider what actually happened here. iPhones that had been repaired and were in perfect working order suddenly stopped working after Apple updated its software. Apple was then able to fix the problem remotely. Apple then put out a warning blaming the parts that were used to do the repair. Poof -- phone doesn't work. Poof -- phone works again. In this case, not all phones that used third party parts were affected, and there's no reason to think that, in this case, Apple broke these particular phones on purpose. But there is currently nothing stopping the company from using software to control unauthorized repair: For instance, you cannot replace the home button on an iPhone 7 without Apple's proprietary "Horizon Machine" that re-syncs a new home button with the repaired phone. This software update is concerning because it not only undermines the reputation of independent repair among Apple customers, but because it shows that phones that don't use "genuine" parts could potentially one day be bricked remotely.

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Over 500 Million PCs Are Secretly Mining Cryptocurrency, Researchers Reveal

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 17:25
Ad blocking firm AdGuard has found that over 500 million people are inadvertently mining cryptocurrencies through their computers after visiting websites that are running background mining software. The company found 220 popular websites with an aggregated audience of half a billion people use so-called crypto-mining scripts when a user opens their main page. Newsweek reports: The mining tool works by hijacking a computer's central processing unit (CPU), commonly referred to as "the brains" of a computer. Using part of a computer's CPU to mine bitcoin effects the machine's overall performance and will slow it down by using up processing power. The researchers found that bitcoin browser mining is mostly found on websites "with a shady reputation" due to the trouble such sites have with earning revenue through advertising. However, in the future it could become a legitimate and ethical way of making money if the website requests the permission of the visitor first. "220 sites may not seem like a lot," the researchers wrote in a blogpost detailing their discovery. "But CoinHive was launched less than one month ago on September 14. The growth has been extremely rapid: from nearly zero to .22 percent of Alexa's top 100,000 websites. "This analysis well illustrates the whole web, so it's safe to say that one of every forty websites currently mines cryptocurrency (namely Monero) in the browsers their users employ."

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Samsung Electronics CEO Resigns Over 'Unprecedented Crisis'

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 17:05
According to BBC, Samsung Electronics chief executive Kwon Oh-hyun has resigned, saying the company is in an "unprecedented crisis." It's the latest management upheaval at the firm after the heir of the entire Samsung Group was imprisoned for corruption in August. From the report: Mr Kwon is one of three co-chief executives of Samsung Electronics. His resignation comes on the same day the firm forecast record quarterly profits, citing higher memory chip prices. Mr Kwon said he had been thinking about his departure "for quite some time" and could "no longer put it off." "As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that time has now come for the company [to] start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry," he said in a statement. He will remain on the board of Samsung Electronics until March 2018.

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Steve Wozniak Announces Tech Education Platform 'Woz U'

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 16:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder who changed the world alongside Steve Jobs, has today announced the launch of Woz U. According to the release, Woz U will start as an online learning platform focused on both students and companies that will eventually hire those students. Woz U is based out of Arizona, and hopes to launch physical locations for learning in more than 30 cities across the globe. At launch, the curriculum will center around computer support specialists and software developers, with courses on data science, mobile applications and cybersecurity coming in the future. Alongside the education platform, Woz U will also offer platforms for tech companies to recruit, train and retain their workforce through on-site customized programs and subscription-based curricula. There also will be a platform for K-12 students, which will be distributed to school districts, that will offer STEAM programs to identify talent and nudge those individuals into a tech-based career. And if that weren't enough, Woz U will eventually introduce an accelerator program "to identify and develop elite tech talent." Woz U also has an app on the App Store that will help people understand which field of tech they're best suited for, so they can set up their curriculum accordingly. Pricing has yet to be announced.

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Apple To Ditch Touch ID Altogether For All of Next Year's iPhones

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 16:05
Earlier this week, a report said that Apple is planning to equip next year's iPad Pro with the hardware necessary for Face ID. Now, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, it appears the company is taking that one step further with its 2018 iPhones. All of the iPhones Apple plans to produce next year will reportedly abandon the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in favor of facial recognition. Mac Rumors reports: According to Kuo, Apple will embrace Face ID as its authentication method for a competitive advantage over Android smartphones. Kuo has previously said that it could take years for Android smartphone manufacturers to produce technology that can match the TrueDepth camera and the Face ID feature coming in the iPhone X. Face ID, says Kuo, will continue to be a major selling point of the new iPhone models in 2018, with Apple planning to capitalize on its lead in 3D sensing design and production. Kuo's prediction suggests that all upcoming 2018 iPhones will feature a full-screen design with minimal bezels like the iPhone X, meaning no additional models with the iPhone 8/iPhone 8 Plus design would be produced. That would spell the end of the line for Touch ID in the iPhone, which has been available as a biometric authentication option since 2013.

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IRS Suspends $7 Million Contract With Equifax After Malware Discovered

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 15:20
After malware was discovered on Equifax's website again, the IRS decided late Thursday that it would temporarily suspend the agency's $7.1 million data security contract with the company. CBS News reports: In September, Equifax revealed that it had exposed 143 million consumer files -- containing names, addresses, Social Security numbers and even bank account information -- to hackers in an unprecedented security lapse. The number of consumer potentially affect by the data breach was later raised to 145.5 million. The company's former CEO blamed a single careless employee for the entire snafu. But even as he was getting grilled in Congress earlier this month, the IRS was awarding the company with a no-bid contract to provide "fraud prevention and taxpayer identification services." "Following new information available today, the IRS temporarily suspended its short-term contract with Equifax for identity proofing services," the agency said in a statement. "During this suspension, the IRS will continue its review of Equifax systems and security." The agency does not believe that any data the IRS has shared with Equifax to date has been compromised, but the suspension was taken as "a precautionary step."

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Dutch Privacy Regulator Says Windows 10 Breaks the Law

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 14:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The lack of clear information about what Microsoft does with the data that Windows 10 collects prevents consumers from giving their informed consent, says the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA). As such, the regulator says that the operating system is breaking the law. To comply with the law, the DPA says that Microsoft needs to get valid user consent: this means the company must be clearer about what data is collected and how that data is processed. The regulator also complains that the Windows 10 Creators Update doesn't always respect previously chosen settings about data collection. In the Creators Update, Microsoft introduced new, clearer wording about the data collection -- though this language still wasn't explicit about what was collected and why -- and it forced everyone to re-assert their privacy choices through a new settings page. In some situations, though, that page defaulted to the standard Windows options rather than defaulting to the settings previously chosen. In the Creators Update, Microsoft also explicitly enumerated all the data collected in Windows 10's "Basic" telemetry setting. However, the company has not done so for the "Full" option, and the Full option remains the default. The DPA's complaint doesn't call for Microsoft to offer a complete opt out of the telemetry and data collection, instead focusing on ensuring that Windows 10 users know what the operating system and Microsoft are doing with their data. The regulator says that Microsoft wants to "end all violations," but if the software company fails to do so, it faces sanctions.

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Woz Wants To Retrain You For a Career in Tech

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 14:00
Steve Wozniak wants you to work in tech, and he's going to help you do it. From a report: The Apple co-founder is launching Woz U, a digital institute aimed at helping folks not only figure out what type of tech job they might be best at, but train for it. "People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can't do it. I know they can, and I want to show them how," Wozniak said in a statement Friday. Woz U starts off as online programs, but there are plans to build campuses in 30 cities around the world. Those cities will be announced within the next 60 days, Shelly Murphy, corporate relations for Woz U told CNET. In a press statement, Wozniak said Woz U will start as an online learning platform focused on both students and companies that will eventually hire those students. Woz U is based out of Arizona, and hopes to launch physical locations for learning in more than 30 cities across the globe. At launch, the curriculum will center around computer support specialists and software developers, with courses on data science, mobile applications and cybersecurity coming in the future.

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Google is Essentially Building an Anti-Amazon Alliance, and Target is the Latest To Join

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 13:20
Google and the country's biggest brick-and-mortar retailers have one main problem in common: Amazon. Now both sides are acting like they are serious about working together to do something about it. From a report: On Thursday, Target and Google announced that they are expanding what was a years-old delivery partnership from a small experiment in a handful of cities to the entire continental U.S. The expansion will allow Target to become a retail partner in Google's voice-shopping initiative, which lets owners of the Google Home "smart" speaker order items through voice commands like owners of the Echo can do from Amazon. The announcement comes seven weeks after Walmart inked a similar deal with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of products through the service. Other big-box retailers like Home Depot are also on board. Voice commerce was the core of these recent announcements, and it may someday become popular for types of shopping like reordering household staples. But that's not what is most interesting here to me. Instead, it's the promise that Target is also beginning to work with Google "to create innovative digital experiences using ... other cutting-edge technologies to elevate Target's strength in style areas such as home, apparel and beauty."

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Why China is Winning the Clean Energy Race

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:40
An anonymous reader shares a report: U.S. politicians have been warning for years that America couldn't let China win the clean energy race. That's exactly what has happened, with the trends most stark in electric cars, solar and nuclear energy. Why it matters: Building for the last decade, these trends have accelerated in the last couple of years. Politicians and business leaders said America's dominance in this space would bring jobs to the U.S. and security to our clean-energy resources, and now both of those goals are at risk. Why China is doing this: It needs to literally energize its 1.4 billion people, both how they travel and how they power their homes. Its leadership feels compelled to do it in a cleaner way than the U.S. did. Air pollution is at dangerously high levels across many of China's cities. People are seeing and feeling health repercussions of China's dependence on fossil fuel-fired cars and power plants in an acute way. Traditional air pollution, not climate change, is a big driver.

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