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Updated: 2 min 6 sec ago

Amateur Scientist Builds Thermite Grenade Cannon

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 10:47pm
YouTube personality Colin Furze has built a homemade cannon which he's filmed launching grenades filled with thermite, "an especially nasty chemical composition made of metal power and oxide that burns as hot as 2,500 degrees Celsius." Furze once co-hosted Sky1's program Gadget Geeks, and he's since made a new career demonstrating strange science projects on YouTube. Furze's other homemade devices have included a rocket-powered go-kart and a knife that can also toast bread while it's cutting.

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Free Wi-Fi Program in Los Angeles Fails to Provide Free Wi-Fi

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 10:00pm
The Los Angeles Time found no internet connectivity in 24 public locations, despite a three-year, $500,000 grant to provide them with free Wi-Fi service. Investigations both last year and again in March found that none of the 18+ locations checked were able to successfully connect to the internet, prompting a PUC investigation that confirmed only two of the hotspots were working. The grant was part of a $315 million state-wide program using surcharges on utility bills to promote high-quality communication services, though in Los Angeles most of the money for "underserved" areas was being directed to outreach and education. The Wi-Fi company's executive director said maintaining their networks had proved to be difficult, though one economist argued it would've been more productive to give net-access subsidies directly to the poor, a program the FCC recently voted to expand.

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The Music Industry Is Begging the US Government To Change Its Copyright Laws

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 9:10pm
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Verge: Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, deadmau5, and dozens of other musicians are asking the U.S. government to revamp the Digital Millennium Copyright act (DMCA), the piece of law that governs access to copyrighted work on the internet. Musicians, managers, and "creators" from across the industry co-signed petitions sent to the U.S. Copyright Office arguing that tech companies -- think YouTube and Tumblr, sites with vast reserves of content that infringes on some copyright -- have "grown and generated huge profits" on the backs of material that's illegally hosted. "The growth and support of technology companies should not be at the expense of artists and songwriters," reads the letter signed by Aguilera, Perry, and their peers. "The tech companies who benefit from the DMCA today were not the intended protectorate when it was signed into law two decades ago."

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Security Gaps Found in Massive Visa Database

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 8:20pm
Mike Levine and Justin Fishel, reporting for ABC News: Cyber-defense experts found security gaps in a State Department system that could have allowed hackers to doctor visa applications or pilfer sensitive data from the half-billion records on file, according to several sources familiar with the matter -- though defenders of the agency downplayed the threat and said the vulnerabilities would be difficult to exploit. Briefed to high-level officials across government, the discovery that visa-related records were potentially vulnerable to illicit changes sparked concern because foreign nations are relentlessly looking for ways to plant spies inside the United States, and terrorist groups like ISIS have expressed their desire to exploit the U.S. visa system, sources added.

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UK Pharma Giant GSK Won't Patent Its Drugs in Poorer Countries

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 7:40pm
Glyn Moody, reporting for Ars Technica: The UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced that it will not be routinely patenting its drugs around the world. Instead of applying for patents on its medicines in all regions, it will now take into account the economic development of the country before deciding whether to seek monopoly protection there. As a result, a poorer country can encourage local manufacturers to create cheaper generic versions of GSK's products, and thus provide them to a greater number of its population, potentially saving many lives. Specifically, GSK says: "For Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Low Income Countries (LICs), GSK will not file patents for its medicines, so as to give clarity and confidence to generic companies seeking to manufacture and supply generic versions of GSK medicines in those countries." Might sound weird but, this makes economic sense for GlaxoSmithKline. Applying for and defending a patent could cost a huge chunk of money. Then there are application and overhead expenses when selling a drug to different markets.

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Astronomers Find Rare Triple-Star Planet

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 7:00pm
Phys.org is reporting the discovery of a rare planet with three different stars in its sky, two distant stars orbiting each other and a closer third star which would appear 40 times as large as our sun. Two robotically controlled telescopes -- one in Arizona, one in South Africa -- determined the gas giant planet KELT-4Ab was orbiting two separate stars which had always appeared to be one. The brighter third star will make it easier to study both the star itself and the nearby planet. "Known planets with three stars appearing in their sky are rare," reports Phys.org," adding "this new discovery is just the fourth, and it has caused excitement in the space community because it is the closest one yet, allowing for a better look than has been possible with the other finds." "The environment in which this planet exists is quite spectacular," add Maciej Konacki from the California Institute of Technology, telling Space.com that "With three suns, the sky view must be out of this world -- literally and figuratively."

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How To Hack an Election

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 6:20pm
"For eight years, Andres Sepulveda, now 31, says he traveled the continent rigging major political campaigns..." writes Bloomberg, citing elections in Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Venezuela. Sepulveda says he was bankrolled by a political consultant in Miami, and his services involved everything from phone tapping and cracking donor databases to managing thousands of fake Twitter profiles. While Sepulveda wasn't always successful, in 2012, "He led a team of hackers that stole campaign strategies, manipulated social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices, all to help Pena Nieto, a right-of-center candidate, eke out a victory." Now serving 10 years in prison in Colombia, Sepulveda is telling his story in hopes of a reduced sentence - and to warn the public that hackers are affecting modern elections, and that specialized skills will be need to stop them. "On the question of whether the U.S. presidential campaign is being tampered with, he is unequivocal. 'I'm 100 percent sure it is'."

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Anonymous's War on Trump Described as Successful and Disastrous

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 5:21pm
CitizensForTrump.com and the Trump Hotel Collection site reportedly went offline Friday, seeming to confirm threats made by the hacktivist collective Anonymous. But TechInsider is reporting that "The 'total war' that Anonymous declared earlier this month against Donald Trump has devolved into a war among hackers fighting within the group and pro-Trump supporters who are trolling them within their chat rooms." They describe two warring factions within the group's anti-Trump movement, also quoting CloudFlare's CEO as saying denial of service attacks "are sort of the functional equivalent of a caveman with a club." But while Trump has warned that law enforcement officials are pursuing the attackers, one Anonymous member unequivocally announced that still more attacks were planned. "This is NOT the last time you hear of this operation. We will be watching, and will act when the time is right."

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Refrigerator-Sized Machine Can Print Pills on Demand

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 5:00pm
MIT Researchers have created a new "Pharmacy on Demand" prototype that can produce 1,000 doses of medication every 24 hours. Their new system "can be easily transported in case of outbreaks, supply shortage or if a manufacturing plant shuts down," notes the Daily Mail, and the on-demand technology can address many of the challenges in supplying medications, for example regions without facilities for storing pills. "The dosages don't have to have long-term stability," says the head of MIT's Chemistry department. "People line up, you make it, and they take it." The DARPA-funded researchers produced Valium, Prozac, Benadryl, and lidocaine, and demonstrated that "Within a few hours we could change from one compound to the other." The machine can also switch to a different drug type within a few hours, making it economical to produce drugs needed by only a small number of patients.

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US Military Invests in $320M 'Smart Fabric' Project

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 4:00pm
The U.S. Department of Defense is investing in a $320 million project to create "smart garments" that can protect soldiers while monitoring their environment -- for example, uniforms that can change color or become invisible to night-vision goggles. Other possibilities include tents which generate electricity, uniforms which detect chemical or nuclear contamination, and parachutes that can detect tearing, according to Phys.org. "Key to the plan is a technical ingredient: embedding a variety of tiny semiconductors and sensors into fabrics that can see, hear, communicate, store energy, warm or cool a person or monitor the wearer's health," reports the New York Times, calling it "a new frontier for the Internet of Things." The Pentagon is joining more than 30 universities, 49 companies (including Intel) and the state governments of Massachusetts and Georgia, and they're hoping the "Advanced Functional Fabrics of America" project establishes two dozen incubators for startups and creates 50,000 jobs over the next 10 years by streamlining the implementation of the smart fabrics in America's textile mills.

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Grieving Father is Begging Apple to Unlock His Dead Son's iPhone

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 3:41pm
"A grieving father is begging Apple to allow him access to the photos stored on his dead son's iPhone," reports Time. In September Leonardo Fabbretti's adopted son died of bone cancer at age 13, and the father believes that two months of photographs are still stored on his son's iPhone. Last fall Apple staff attempted to retrieve the photos from their cloud-storage service, but the iPhone hadn't been synced before the 13-year-old's death. "Don't deny me the memories of my son," the father writes in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook. The father's letter tells Apple that "Although I share your philosophy in general, I think Apple should offer solutions for exceptional cases like mine," according to a British newspaper, while 88% of respondents in their online poll believed that Apple should unlock the phone.

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Users Find Renting a Movie On iTunes Frees Up Space On iPhone, iPad

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 3:40pm
An anonymous reader writes: Many, if not all, believe that 16GB storage on their iPhone and iPad is not sufficient. Apple insists that users with 16GB variant iDevice can always save files to the cloud. At any rate, several users have found an interesting way to free up storage space on their iPhone and iPad. The trick is to rent a movie from iTunes (on your mobile device) that is larger than the storage you have available. If you have 500MB free, for instance, you could try and rent Bridge of Spies, which is a 5.79GB download, according to an article on BetaNews. "When you click Rent, a loading symbol will appear but then you'll receive a message informing you that "there is not enough available storage" to download the film, and you'll be given the option of managing your storage in Settings. Tap the Settings button, and -- ta-da! -- you should see the amount of free storage you now have is much greater than before. Repeating the process will free up even more space."

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On Cybersecurity, Execs Are Burying Their Heads In the Sand

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 3:00pm
An anonymous reader writes shares a report on BizJournals: Despite increased spending on cybersecurity, most executives are unprepared, even willfully ignorant, of the threats that could damage their businesses. A survey of 1,530 C-level executives across of range of industries found a widespread feeling that cybersecurity is an "IT problem," even as CEOs personally shoulder the consequences for breaches. "The Target breach was one of the more significant ones: Executives can be held accountable," says David Damato, chief security officer at Tanium. "But there's still that disconnect. Executives still struggle with: 'What should I be looking for?'"

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Oculus 'Always On' Services and Privacy Policy May Be a Cause for Concern

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 2:00pm
Will Mason, reporting for Upload VR: It turns out when you install the software to run Facebook's Oculus Rift, it creates a process with full system permissions called "VRServer_x64.exe." This process is always on, and regularly sends updates back to Facebook's servers. The process' main purpose is to help detect when the Rift is turned on and on your face so that it can launch Oculus Home, but the further reaching implications of it are potentially much more salacious. Digging into the Oculus Rift's Privacy Policy reveals that Facebook is not the only company that is able to collect your data, as under the policy "third parties may also collect information about you through the Services," this includes entities on the "related companies" list. The company plans to utilize your data to, among other things, "market to you." Surprised?

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Uber CEO Faces Class-Action Lawsuit Over Price Fixing

Sat, 02/04/2016 - 1:01pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick will go to court over price fixing claims after he initially tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. U.S. district court judge in New York ruled Kalanick has to face the class of passengers alleging that he conspired with drivers to set fares using an algorithm, including hiking rates during peak hours with so-called surge pricing. According to Reuters, district court judge Jed Rakoff ruled the plaintiffs "plausibly alleged a conspiracy" to fix pricing and that the class action could also pursue claims the set rates led to the demise [of] other services, like Sidecar.

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