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Updated: 7 min 18 sec ago

Slashdot Asks: Would You Pay For Android Updates?

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 3:30pm
It's no secret that most Android OEMs could do better when it comes to seeding out updates for their existing devices. A report on Bloomberg earlier this week claimed that Google plans to publicly name and shame the OEMs who are too slow at updating their devices. An HTC executive who didn't want to be identified told Slashdot on Thursday that it is not the right way to approach the problem. But that's only one part of the problem. The other issue is that almost every Android OEM partner -- including Google itself -- only provides support to their devices for 18-24 months. Vlad Savov of The Verge in a column today urges Android OEMs to perhaps charge its users if that is what it takes for them to offer support to their devices for a longer period of time and in a timely manner. He writes: I've been one of the many people dissatisfied with the state of Android software updates, however I can't in good conscience direct my wrath at the people manufacturing the devices. Price and spec competition is so intense right now that there's literally no option to disengage: everyone's been sucked into the whirlpool of razor-thin profit margins, and nobody can afford the luxury of dedicating too many resources to after-sales care. The question that's been bugging me lately is, if we value Android updates as highly as we say we do, why don't we pay for them? The situation can't be fixed by manufacturers -- most of them are barely breaking even -- or by Google, which is doing its best to improve things but ultimately relies on carriers and device makers to get the job done. Carriers will most certainly not be the solution, given how they presently constitute most of the problem (just ask AT&T Galaxy S6 owners) -- so like it or not, the best chance for substantial change comes from us, the users. What I'm proposing is a simple crowdfunding operation. I'm skeptical about this, because I don't think it is in an OEM's best interest to serve its existing users for long -- how else they will convince customers to purchase their new devices? A newer software version is after all one of the ultimate selling points of a new phone. So I don't think an OEM will take up on such an offer. What do you folks think?

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Facebook Begins Tracking Non-Users Around the Internet

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 2:50pm
Amar Toor, reporting for The Verge: Facebook will now display ads to web users who are not members of its social network, the company announced Thursday, in a bid to significantly expand its online ad network. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook will use cookies, "like" buttons, and other plug-ins embedded on third-party sites to track members and non-members alike (Editor's note: link swapped with a non-paywall source). The company says it will be able to better target non-Facebook users and serve relevant ads to them, though its practices have come under criticism from regulators in Europe over privacy concerns. Facebook began displaying a banner notification at the top of its News Feed for users in Europe today, alerting them to its use of cookies as mandated under an EU directive.Mark Wilson of BetaNews adds that Facebook has outlined these changes in its cookies policy page. As part of which, the company is now allowing Facebook users to opt-out of the ad scheme by making changes to their Facebook settings. For users that don't have a Facebook account, they can opt-out through Digital Advertising Alliance in the United States and Canada, and the European Interactive Digital Adverting Alliance in Europe.

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China Unveils 'Straddling Bus' Design To Beat Traffic Jams

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 2:05pm
An anonymous reader writes: A Beijing company has unveiled spectacularly futuristic designs for a pollution-busting, elevated bus capable of gliding over the nightmarish mega-jams for which urban China has become notorious. The "straddling bus," which owes more to Blade Runner than China's car-clogged highways, is supported by two legs that run along rails laid along the roadside. Those legs allow the Transit Explore Bus, or TEB's giant frame to glide high above the gridlock at speeds of up to 60km per hour. Equally, vehicles that are less than two metres high will be able to drive freely underneath the bus, even when it is stationary. "The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space," Song Youzhou, the project's chief engineer, told Xinhua, China's official news agency. Song claimed his buses, capable of transporting up to 1,400 commuters, could be produced for 20% of the price of an underground train and rolled out far more quickly since the supporting infrastructure was relatively simple. One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, he said.You can watch the concept video here. Interestingly a very similar -- if not the exact same -- concept has come out of China before. Not sure what kind of developments have been made in the six years since then.

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Secret Text In Senate Bill Would Give FBI Warrantless Access To Email Records

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 1:00pm
mi quotes a report from The Intercept: A provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate's annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals' email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers using those beloved 'National Security Letters' -- without a warrant and in complete secrecy. [The spy bill passed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with the provision in it. The lone no vote came from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who wrote in a statement that one of the bill's provisions "would allow any FBI field office to demand email records without a court order, a major expansion of federal surveillance powers." If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI's already highly controversial national security letters. The FBI is currently allowed to get certain types of information with NSLs -- most commonly, information about the name, address, and call data associated with a phone number or details about a bank account. The FBI's power to issue NSLs is actually derived from the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- a 1986 law that Congress is currently working to update to incorporate more protections for electronic communications -- not fewer. The House unanimously passed the Email Privacy Act in late April, while the Senate is due to vote on its version this week. "NSLs have a sordid history. They've been abused in a number of ways, including targeting of journalists and use to collect an essentially unbounded amount of information," Andrew Crocker, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote. One thing that makes them particularly easy to abuse is that recipients of NSLs are subject to a gag order that forbids them from revealing the letters' existence to anyone, much less the public.]

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Mars Is Coming Out Of An Ice Age

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 10:00am
Taco Cowboy quotes a report from Reuters: An analysis of radar images that peered inside the polar ice caps of Mars shows that Earth's neighbor is coming out of an ice age that is part of an ongoing cycle of climate change, scientists said on Thursday. Using images taken by satellites orbiting Mars, the researchers determined that about 20,872 cubic miles (87,000 cubic km) of ice has accumulated at its poles since the end of the ice age, mostly in the northern polar cap. Scientists are keenly interested in piecing together the climate history of Mars, which contains strong evidence that oceans and lakes once pooled on its surface, bolstering the prospects for life. From the perspective of an Earthling, every day on Mars may feel like an ice age. According to NASA, temperatures on Mars may hit a high at noon at the equator in the summer of roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), or a low of about minus-225 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-153 degrees Celsius) at the poles. The Martian ice began its retreat about 370,000 years ago, marking the end of the last ice age, according to the research published in the journal Science

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Apple Not Allowed To Open Stores In India

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 7:00am
ffkom writes: Reuters reports: "India has said Apple Inc must meet a rule obliging foreign retailers to sell at least 30 percent locally-sourced goods if it wishes to open stores in the country, a senior government official told Reuters. A change in legislation last year exempted foreign retailers selling high-tech goods from the rule, which states 30 percent of the value of goods sold in the store should be made in India. However, Apple's products were not considered to be in this category, said the official, who has direct knowledge of the matter." Now just imagine what Apple stores in the U.S. would look like if 30% of their offerings had to be made in the US... "They did ask for a waiver but didn't provide any material on record to justify it. The decision was taken only after a thorough examination of their application," the source said. Apple planned to open at least three stores in India by the end of 2017. Separate sources said Apple talked with the Indian government about a relaxation of the rule before it filed an application to open stores in the country in January. In a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled), one of India's government officials said, "We are sticking to the old policy. We want local sourcing for job creation. You can't have a situation where people view India only as a market. Let them start doing some manufacturing here." Currently, Apple sells its products "through a network of Indian-owned distribution companies and retailers."

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Patent Troll VirnetX Wants To Ban FaceTime and iMessage, Increase Damages Award By $190M

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, patent troll VirnetX won a court battle with Apple to the tune of $625 million. Now, the company wants to increase the damages award by $190 million. Law360 reports: "At a post-trial hearing Wednesday, Texas technology company VirnetX argued that although an injunction blocking Apple's popular video chatting and messaging features, along with a virtual private network on demand feature, may seem like a harsh remedy, it is necessary because of the irreparable harm Apple's infringement caused the company. VirnetX also asked the court to increase the jury's damages award by at least $190 million, arguing that Apple has been the 'poster child' for unreasonable litigation tactics." VirnetX also wants the court to block FaceTime and iMessage entirely. "Meanwhile, Apple argued that in light of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decisions rejecting the four patents-in-suit, an injunction would be inappropriate, as would any ongoing royalty based on FaceTime, iMessage and virtual private network on demand features. The tech giant also sought a mistrial based on a purportedly inappropriate argument to the jury and argued that the company is entitled to a judgment of non infringement, despite the jury verdict, based on VirnetX's allegedly insufficient evidence," reports Law360.

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Anonymous Hackers Turned Stock Analysts Are Targeting US, Chinese Corporations

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 1:15am
An anonymous reader writes: A smaller group of Anonymous, called Anonymous Analytics, reached the conclusion that DDoSing is stupid and never fixes anything, so they decided to use their hacking skills and stock market knowledge to make a difference in another way. For the past years, the group has been compiling market reports on U.S. and Chinese companies and publishing their results. Their reports have been noticed by the stock market, who recently started to react to their findings. The most obvious case was of Chinese lottery machine maker REXLot. The hackers discovered that REXLot inflated its revenue and the amount of cash on its balance sheet, based on the amount of interest earned. "The group published its findings on June 24, 2015, and REXLot stock price plummeted from 0.485 Hong Kong dollar per share to 0.12, before trading was suspended [for ten months]. REXLot rejoined the market on April 18, 2016, this year, but even after submitting a 53-page report, the company stock fell again by 50 percent," reports Softpedia. Anonymous Analytics then published two more reports on the company, urging the market to sell, and two days later, Reuters reported that REXLot did not have enough cash to make due bond payments, which meant the company had to sell assets to repay bonds. Other companies on which the group published market reports include Qihoo 360 and Western Union.

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Smartphone Surveillance Tech Used To Target Anti-Abortion Ads At Pregnant Women

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 12:35am
VoiceOfDoom writes: Rewire reports: "Last year, an enterprising advertising executive based in Boston, Massachusetts, had an idea: Instead of using his sophisticated mobile surveillance techniques to figure out which consumers might be interested in buying shoes, cars, or any of the other products typically advertised online, what if he used the same technology to figure out which women were potentially contemplating abortion, and send them ads on behalf of anti-choice organizations?" Regardless of one's personal stance on the pro-choice/anti-abortion debate, the unfettered use of tracking and ad-targeting technology which makes this kind of application possible is surely a cause for concern. In Europe, Canada and many other parts of the world, the use of a person's data in this way would be illegal thanks to strict privacy laws. Is it time for the U.S. to consider a similar approach to protect its citizens? Google has been reportedly tracking users on around 80 percent of all 'Top 1 Million' domains. Facebook is doing something similar. A recent report shows that Facebook uses smartphone microphones to identify the things users are listening to or watching based on the music and TV shows its able to identify. Facebook says the feature must be turned on, and that "it's only active when you're writing a status update."

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Scott Walker Rents Out Email and Donor Lists To Pay Campaign Debt

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 11:50pm
An anonymous reader writes: In an effort to pay off his hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt racked up from his failed presidential run, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is renting out his email and donor lists to other candidates. Wisconsin Gazette reports: "The campaign owed $1.2 million at the end of 2015 and has paid off about $308,000 since then, according to campaign finance records. The bulk of those payments have been made possible by income from Granite Lists, a New Hampshire-based company that rents out Republican donor lists. Granite Lists has paid more than $172,000 to Walker's campaign since it ended in September. In April alone, Granite Lists brought the campaign nearly $50,000, comprising most of the total $70,930 the campaign brought in that month. In addition to flat-rate charges, candidates can set up revenue-sharing agreements, where some of the proceeds they obtain from donors are diverted back to the list owner. Candidates can also pay a flat rate of $10,500 to email Walker's entire 675,000-person email list and $7,000 to email the 225,000 donors and presidential sign-ups, according to Granite Lists website. [Granite Lists] calls Walker's donor file 'one of the hottest donor lists to hit the market in years.'"

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Antibiotic-Resistant E Coli Reaches The US For The First Time

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 11:05pm
New submitter maharvey writes: A woman in Pennsylvania has contracted a strain of E Coli that is unaffected by all known legal antibiotics, including the antibiotics of last resort. We have had bacteria that were resistant, but this is the first bacteria that is completely immune. Such bacteria were known in China, but since the woman has not traveled recently it means she contracted it in the wild in the USA. This is a major step toward the terrifying post-antibiotic world.

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Study: '50% of Misogynistic Tweets From Women'

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 10:20pm
An anonymous reader writes: A study performed by researchers behind the Internet campaign "Reclaim," suggests that half of all misogynistic tweets posted on Twitter come from women. The campaign is designed to show the public the impact of hate speech and abuse on social media. They have opened an online forum to discuss ways to make the internet less aggressive, sexist, racist and homophobic. For the study, thinktank Demos counted the number of uses of "slut" and "whore" were used on Twitter to indicate misogyny. They analyzed 1.5 million tweets sent by UK Twitter users over a three-week period and used its own Natural Language Processing tool to filter the tweets in order to determine whether they were used aggressively, conversationally, or for self-identification. Demos found 6,500 unique users being targeted by 10,000 explicitly aggressive and misogynistic tweets. Internationally, they recorded more than 200,000 aggressive tweets using the same terms that were sent to 80,000 people in the same three-week period. It claims it found 50 percent of the abusive tweets to have come from women. BBC also notes a study performed in 2014 from cosmetics firm Dove that found over five million negative tweets were posted about beauty and body image. Four out of five of those tweets were sent by women.

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Millennials Value Speed Over Security, Says Survey

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 9:35pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Dot: Millennials stand apart from other Americans in preferring faster Internet access to safer Internet access, according to a new survey. When digital-authentication firm SecureAuth asked people from all age groups whether they would rather be safer online or browse faster online, 57 percent of Americans chose security and 43 percent chose speed. But among millennials, the results were almost reversed: 54 percent chose speed over security. Young people are also more willing than the overall population to share sensitive information over public Wi-Fi connections, which are notoriously insecure as they allow anyone on the network to analyze and intercept passing traffic. While a clear majority (57 percent) of Americans told SecureAuth that they transmitted such information over public Wi-Fi, nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) of millennials said they did so. A surprising 44 percent of millennials believe their data is generally safe from hackers, and millennials are more likely than members of other age groups to share account passwords with friends. Americans overall are paying more attention to some aspects of digital security. An October 2015 study by the wireless industry's trade group found that 61 percent of Americans use passwords on their smartphones and 58 percent use them on their tablets, compared to 50 percent and 48 percent, respectively, in 2012. The recent study lines up with a report published on May 24 that found that the elderly use more secure passwords than millennials.

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Android Is 'Fair Use' As Google Beats Oracle In $9 Billion Lawsuit

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 8:50pm
infernalC writes: Ars Technica is reporting that the verdict is in, and that the jury decided that Google's duplication of several Java interfaces is fair use. Ars Technica writes that Google's Android OS does not infringe upon Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use." The jury unanimously answered "yes" in response to whether or not Google's use of Java APIs was a "fair use" under copyright law. The trial is now over, since Google won. "Google's win somewhat softens the blow to software developers who previously thought programming language APIs were free to use," Ars Technica writes. "It's still the case that APIs can be protected by copyright under the law of at least one appeals court. However, the first high-profile attempt to control APIs with copyright law has now been stymied by a "fair use" defense." The amount Oracle may have asked for in damages could have been as much as $9 billion.

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Consumer Campaigners Read T&C Of Their Mobile Phone Apps To Prove a Point

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 8:05pm
From a BBC report: Norwegians have spent more than 30 hours reading out terms and conditions from smartphone apps in a campaign by the country's consumer agency. The average Norwegian has 33 apps, the Norwegian Consumer Council says, whose terms and conditions together run longer than the New Testament. To prove the "absurd" length, the council got Norwegians to read each of them out in real time on their website. The reading finished on Wednesday, clocking in at 31:49:11. Some of the world's most popular apps were chosen, including Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Angry Birds. Finn Myrstad from the Norwegian Consumer Council, said: "The current state of terms and conditions for digital services is bordering on the absurd."

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A Third Of New Cellular Customers Last Quarter Were Cars

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 7:25pm
Ina Fried, reporting for Recode: With the U.S. smartphone market saturated, most of the growth in the cellular industry is actually coming from other kinds of devices including tablets, machine-to-machine connections and lots and lots of cars. In the first quarter, for example, the major carriers actually added more connected cars (Editor's note: amounting to a 32 percent capture) as new accounts than they did phones.

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Slashdot Asks: Should It Be Legal To Resell E-Books, Software, and Other Digital Goods?

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 6:45pm
There's no one stopping you from selling the CDs and DVDs that you buy, so why can't you do the same with e-books, music albums, movies, and other things you've downloaded? Ars Technica reports about a Dutch second-hand e-book platform called Tom Kabinet which has been "at a war" with Dutch Publishers Association (NUV) over this issue. This is seen as a threat to the entire book industry. German courts have suggested that the practice of reselling e-books should be stopped, whereas Dutch courts don't necessarily see it as an issue. What's your view on this?

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Microsoft and Facebook Building Underwater Transatlantic 'MAREA' Data Cable

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 6:05pm
An anonymous reader writes: On Thursday, Microsoft and Facebook announced a partnership to build a transatlantic subsea data cable. Called 'MAREA' (Editor's note: it is Spanish for "tide"), it will connect the United States to Europe. More specifically, it will connect the State of Virginia to the country of Spain. The project will begin this August, with a targeted completion date of October 2017.Microsoft says: "MAREA will be the highest-capacity subsea cable to ever cross the Atlantic -- featuring eight fiber pairs and an initial estimated design capacity of 160Tbps. The new 6,600 km submarine cable system, to be operated and managed by Telxius, will also be the first to connect the United States to southern Europe: from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain and then beyond to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This route is south of existing transatlantic cable systems that primarily land in the New York/New Jersey region. Being physically separate from these other cables helps ensure more resilient and reliable connections for our customers in the United States, Europe, and beyond." The fact that these two giants felt the need to have their own cables indicates how much data they intend to move. Wired has an in-depth piece on it (though the publication blocks users with adblockers).

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E-Cigs Are Exploding In Vapers' Faces At An Alarming Rate

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 5:25pm
E-cigs are becoming increasingly popular, but are they safe enough? BuzzFeed News is reporting about accidents where e-cigs have exploded in vapers' faces. The report claims that these incidents are occurring at an alarming rate. From the report (condensed): Across the country, defective e-cigarettes -- the nicotine delivery machines that have taken over every strip mall and sidewalk, seemingly overnight -- are creating hundreds of victims like Cavins (a 63-year-old Orange, California-based family therapist who lost an eye after an e-cig device exploded in his face), people whose lives are suddenly and horrifyingly changed when their devices blow up. They are people like Thomas Boes, whose vape exploded while he was driving outside San Diego and struck him with such force that two of the three teeth he lost lodged in his upper palate; Kenneth Barbero, whose exploding device ripped a hole in his tongue; and Marcus Forzani, a 17-year-old whose left leg was charred from his calf to his thigh after a vape battery exploded in his pocket. An unpublished FDA analysis found 66 reports of e-cigarette overheating, fires, and explosions in 2015 and the first month of 2016, a number the agency calls "an underestimate of actual events."

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Virtual Assistants Such As Amazon's Echo Break US Child Privacy Law, Experts Say

Thu, 26/05/2016 - 4:45pm
Mark Harris, reporting for The Guardian: An investigation by the Guardian has found that despite Amazon marketing the Echo to families with young children, the device is likely to contravene the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), set up to regulate the collection and use of personal information from anyone younger than 13. Along with Google, Apple and others promoting voice-activated artificial intelligence systems to young children, the company could now face multimillion-dollar fines. "This is part of the initial wave of marketing to children using the internet of things," says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocacy group that helped write the law. "It is exactly why the law was enacted in the first place, to protect young people from pervasive data collection."

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