Is Google Home Fit For Elderly and Disabled Users? ( 93

Chances are either you or someone you know received a Google Home over the holidays. Not only are they being marketed heavily by Google but they seem to have appeared in almost every "Holiday Gift Guide" on the internet. Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein brings up an interesting dilemma: is Google Home fit for the elderly? Weinstein writes: You cannot install or routinely maintain Google Home units without a smartphone and the Google Home smartphone app. There are no practical desktop based and/or remotely accessible means for someone to even do this for you. A smartphone on the same local Wi-Fi network as the device is always required for these purposes. This means that many elderly persons and individuals with physical or visual disabilities -- exactly the people whose lives could be greatly enhanced by Home's advanced voice query, response, and control capabilities -- are up the creek unless they have someone available in their physical presence to set up the device and make any ongoing configuration changes. Additionally, all of the "get more info" links related to Google Home responses are also restricted to the smartphone Home app.

Can We Get Global Broadband From Low-Earth Orbit Satellites? ( 134

"The internet is unavailable to and/or unaffordable by about 50% of the world population," writes Larry Press (formerly of IBM), who's now an information systems professor at California State University. But he's also long-time Slashdot reader lpress, and reports on new efforts to bring cheap high-speed internet to the entire world. SpaceX, Boeing, OneWeb, Telesat, and Leosat are investing in very large projects to deliver global, high-speed Internet service [using low-earth orbit satellites]. This could be a significant option for developing nations, rural areas of developed nations, long-haul links, Internet of things, and more by the mid-2020s.
Parts of Alaska could see internet-via-satellite as soon as 2020, according to Larry's article, which adds that the technology could even be used to bring high-speed internet access to ships at sea.

Ubuntu 17.10 Temporarily Pulled Due To A BIOS Corrupting Problem ( 167

An anonymous reader writes: Canonical has temporarily pulled the download links for Ubuntu 17.10 "Artful Aardvark" from the Ubuntu website due to ongoing reports of some laptops finding their BIOS corrupted after installing this latest Ubuntu release. The issue is appearing most frequently with Lenovo laptops but there are also reports of issues with other laptop vendors as well. This issue appears to stem from the Intel SPI driver in the 17.10's Linux 4.13 kernel corrupting the BIOS for a select number of laptop motherboards. Canonical is aware of this issue and is planning to disable the Intel SPI drivers in their kernel builds. Canonical's hardware enablement team has already verified this works around the problem, but doesn't provide any benefit if your BIOS is already corrupted.

'Productivity Is Dangerous' ( 233

Vincent Bevins, writing for The Outline: So every morning, I get messages asking me to click through to articles like "How I Optimized My Morning Routine To Get More Done Than ever -- before 8 a.m.!" The people posting links like this have a sickness, and we need to stop it before it gets out of hand. Of course, if you actually click through to this trash, it's a bit shocking to see what they actually do. Some guy is proud that he set aside his social life so that he could unleash four extremely psychologically damaging apps on the world by the age of 30. Or it's like, "Congratulate Lisa on her new job as advertising director for Nestle in Africa." Here's a productivity idea: Just, fucking, don't make shitty apps, or do advertising for Nestle, or really for anything. I often see shit like, "Ten Habits I Have QUIT to Get More Done," and I think, "Maybe quit writing posts like this." If you're waking up at 4 a.m. to write 1,000 words about how you write 1,000 words every day, what are you actually getting done? Just stay in bed. Whenever I am back in the Protestant centers of modern capitalism (New York or London, basically), it's especially jarring to remember what it feels like to treat being busy as if it were a virtue.

Why Linux HDCP Isn't the End of the World ( 136

"There is no reason for the open-source community to worry..." writes Daniel Stone, who heads the graphics team at open-source consultancy Collabora. mfilion quotes Recently, Sean Paul from Google's ChromeOS team, submitted a patch series to enable HDCP support for the Intel display driver. HDCP is used to encrypt content over HDMI and DisplayPort links, which can only be decoded by trusted devices... However, if you already run your own code on a free device, HDCP is an irrelevance and does not reduce freedom in any way....

HDCP support is implemented almost entirely in the hardware. Rather than adding a mandatory encryption layer for content, the HDCP kernel support is dormant unless userspace explicitly requests an encrypted link. It then attempts to enable encryption in the hardware and informs userspace of the result. So there's the first out: if you don't want to use HDCP, then don't enable it! The kernel doesn't force anything on an unwilling userspace.... HDCP is only downstream facing: it allows your computer to trust that the device it has been plugged into is trusted by the HDCP certification authority, and nothing more. It does not reduce user freedom, or impose any additional limitations on device usage.


An Anonymous Bitcoin Millionaire Is Donating Their Fortune To Charities ( 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Tis the season for giving, and one Bitcoin investor claims to be giving away the majority of their cryptocurrency holdings after experiencing an incredible year. The unnamed donor has set up a fund to hand out $86 million worth of Bitcoin to various charities, and they've already started listing the donations and providing receipts. If this whole thing works out, you can just call this mystery person the Bitcoin Bill Gates. So far, The Pineapple Fund claims to have distributed just over $6.5 million in Bitcoin between eight charities. Its website provides links to the blockchain transactions under the name of each charity. These transactions are in a public ledger, but the sender and recipient are only identified by a long string of digits. We contacted the Electronic Freedom Foundation to ask if the two transactions that were purportedly sent to the activist group were indeed legitimate. A spokesperson confirmed via email that the EFF has "been in touch with the Pineapple Fund and are in the process of receiving the donation." The anonymous founder writes: "Sometime around the early days of bitcoin, I saw the promise of decentralized money and decided to mine/buy/trade some magical internet tokens. The expectation shattering returns of bitcoin over many years has lead to an amount far more than I can spend. What do you do when you have more money than you can ever possibly spend? Donating most of it to charity is what I'm doing. For reference, The Pineapple Fund is bigger than the entire market cap of bitcoin when I got in, and one of the richest 250 bitcoin addresses today."

Chrome 64 Beta Adds Sitewide Audio Muting, Pop-Up Blocker, Windows 10 HDR Video ( 43

Chrome 64 is now in beta and it has several new features over version 63. In addition to a stronger pop-up blocker and support for HDR video playback when Windows 10 is in HDR mode, Chrome 64 features sitewide audio muting to block sound when navigating to other pages within a site. 9to5Google reports: An improved pop-up blocker in Chrome 64 prevents sites with abusive experiences -- like disguising links as play buttons and site controls, or transparent overlays -- from opening new tabs or windows. Meanwhile, as announced in November, other security measures in Chrome will prevent malicious auto-redirects. Beginning in version 64, the browser will counter surprise redirects from third-party content embedded into pages. The browser now blocks third-party iframes unless a user has directly interacted with it. When a redirect attempt occurs, users will remain on their current page with an infobar popping up to detail the block. This version also adds a new sitewide audio muting setting. It will be accessible from the permissions dropdown by tapping the info icon or green lock in the URL bar. This version also brings support for HDR video playback when Windows 10 is in HDR mode. It requires the Windows 10 Fall Creator Update, HDR-compatible graphics card, and display. Meanwhile, on Windows, Google is currently prototyping support for an operating system's native notification center. Other features include a new "Split view" feature available on Chrome OS. Developers will also be able to take advantage of the Resize Observer API to build responsive sites with "finger control to observe changes to sizes of elements on a page."
Social Networks

Facebook Admits that Some Social Media Use Can Be Harmful ( 63

In a new installment of its "Hard Questions" series, Facebook acknowledged on Friday that social media can have negative effects on people, depending on how they use it. From a report: This might be the first public acknowledgment from the company that its product -- and category in general -- can have detrimental effects on people. Facebook is also addressing the topic shortly after two former executives publicly criticized the company for what they described as exploiting human psychology. Passive use of social media -- reading information without interacting with others -- makes people feel worse. Clicking on more links or "liking" more posts than the average user also leads to worse mental health, according to one study.

Google Is Using Light Beam Tech To Connect Rural India To the Internet ( 67

Google is preparing to use light beams to bring rural areas of the planet online after it announced to a planned rollout in India. From a report: The firm is working with a telecom operator in Indian state Andhra Pradesh, home to over 50 million people, to use Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC), a technology that uses beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances. Now partner AP State FiberNet will introduce 2,000 FSOC links starting from January to add additional support to its network backbone in the state. The Google project is aimed at "critical gaps to major access points, like cell-towers and WiFi hotspots, that support thousands of people," Google said. The initiative ties into a government initiative to connect 12 million households to the internet by 2019, the U.S. firm added.
The Internet

Zimbabwe's Internet Went Down for About Five Hours. The Culprit Was Reportedly a Tractor. ( 63

Zimbabweans lost internet access en masse on Tuesday when a tractor reportedly cut through key fiber-optic cables in South Africa and another internet provider experienced simultaneous issues with its primary internet conduits. From a report: The outage began shortly before noon local time and persisted for more than five hours, affecting not only citizens' day-to-day internet usage but businesses that rely upon web access. And while five internet-free hours might sound unfathomable to those of us accustomed to having the web constantly at our fingertips, large-scale internet outages -- from inadvertent lapses caused by ship anchors to government-calculated blackouts designed to showcase political power -- do happen, and maybe more frequently than you'd thought. According to local news sources, a tractor in South Africa damaged cables belonging to Liquid Telecom, which has an 81.5 percent market share of Zimbabwe's international-equipped internet bandwidth as of the second quarter of 2017 and leases capacity to other internet providers. In a bad coincidence, city council employees in Kuwadzana, a suburb of Zimbabwe's capitol city of Harare, cut an additional TelOne cable around the same time. (According to NewsDay Zimbabwe, it was an accident. The company blamed "faults that occurred on our main links through South Africa and Botswana" in a statement.)
Operating Systems

ReactOS 0.4.7 Released ( 94

jeditobe writes: OSNews reports that the latest version of ReactOS has been released: "ReactOS 0.4.7 has been released, and it contains a ton of fixes, improvements, and new features. Judging by the screenshots, ReactOS 0.4.7 can run Opera, Firefox, and Mozilla all at once, which is good news for those among us who want to use ReactOS on a more daily basis. There's also a new application manager which, as the name implies, makes it easier to install and uninstall applications, similar to how package managers on Linux work. On a lower level, ReactOS can now deal with Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, BtrFS, ReiserFS, FFS, and NFS partitions." General notes, tests, and changelog for the release can be found at their respective links. A less technical community changelog for ReactOS 0.4.7 is also available. ISO images are ready at the ReactOS Download page.

FBI Failed To Notify 70+ US Officials Targeted By Russian Hackers ( 94

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: The FBI failed to notify scores of U.S. officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the targets were in the Kremlin's crosshairs, The Associated Press has found. Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting.

"It's utterly confounding," said Philip Reiner, a former senior director at the National Security Council, who was notified by the AP that he was targeted in 2015. "You've got to tell your people. You've got to protect your people." The FBI declined to answer most questions from AP about how it had responded to the spying campaign... A senior FBI official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, declined to comment on timing but said that the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks... A few more were contacted by the FBI after their emails were published in the torrent of leaks that coursed through last year's electoral contest. But to this day, some leak victims have not heard from the bureau at all.

Here's an interesting statistic from the AP's analysis. "Out of 312 U.S. military and government figures targeted by Fancy Bear, 131 clicked the links sent to them."

Spam Is Back ( 154

Jon Christian, writing for The Outline: For a while, spam -- unsolicited bulk messages sent for commercial or fraudulent purposes -- seemed to be fading away. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act mandated unsubscribe links in email marketing campaigns and criminalized attempts to hide the sender's identity, while sophisticated filters on what were then cutting-edge email providers like Gmail buried unwanted messages in out-of-sight spam folders. In 2004, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told a crowd at the World Economic Forum that "two years from now, spam will be solved." In 2011, cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs noted that increasingly tech savvy law enforcement efforts were shutting down major spam operators -- including, alleged to be a major hub in a Russian digital criminal organization that was responsible for an estimated fifth of the world's spam. These efforts meant that the proportion of all emails that are spam has slowly fallen to a low of about 50 percent in recent years, according to Symantec research.

But it's 2017, and spam has clawed itself back from the grave. It shows up on social media and dating sites as bots hoping to lure you into downloading malware or clicking an affiliate link. It creeps onto your phone as text messages and robocalls that ring you five times a day about luxury cruises and fictitious tax bills. Networks associated with the buzzy new cryptocurrency system Ethereum have been plagued with spam. Facebook recently fought a six-month battle against a spam operation that was administering fake accounts in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Last year, a Chicago resident sued the Trump campaign for allegedly sending unsolicited text message spam; this past November, ZDNet reported that voters were being inundated with political text messages they never signed up for. Apps can be horrid spam vectors, too. Repeated mass data breaches that include contact information, such as the Yahoo breach in which 3 billion user accounts were exposed, surely haven't helped. Meanwhile, you, me, and everyone we know is being plagued by robocalls.


Google Will Stop Letting Sites Use AMP Format To Bait and Switch Readers ( 57

"Google today announced a forthcoming update to its Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, web format that aims to discourage website owners from misusing the service," reports The Verge. "The company says that, starting in February 2018, AMP pages must contain content nearly identical to that of the standard page they're replicating." From the report: Currently, because AMP pages load faster and more clutter-free versions of a website, they naturally contain both fewer ads and less links to other portions of a site. That's led some site owners to publish two versions of a webpage: a standard page and an AMP-specific one that acts a teaser of sorts that directs users to the original. That original page, or canonical page in Google parlance, is by nature a slower loading page containing more ads and with a potentially lower bounce rate, which is the percentage of viewers who only view one page before leaving. Now, Google is cracking down on that behavior. "AMP was introduced to dramatically improve the performance of the web and deliver a fast, consistent content consumption experience," writes Ashish Mehta, an AMP product manager. "In keeping with this goal, we'll be enforcing the requirement of close parity between AMP and canonical page, for pages that wish to be shown in Google Search as AMPs."
The Military

North Korean Hackers Are Targeting US Defense Contractors ( 146

chicksdaddy quotes Security Ledger: North Korean hackers have stepped up their attacks on U.S. defense contractors in an apparent effort to gain intelligence on weapon systems and other assets that might be used against the country in an armed conflict with the United States and its allies, The Security Ledger is reporting. Security experts and defense industry personnel interviewed by The Security Ledger say that probes and attacks by hacking groups known to be associated with the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have increased markedly as hostilities between that country and the United States have ratcheted up in the last year. The hacking attempts seem to be aimed at gaining access to intellectual property belonging to the companies, including weapons systems deployed on the Korean peninsula.

"As the situation between the DPRK and the US has become more tense, we've definitely seen an increase in number of probe attempts from cyber actors coming out of the DPRK," an official at an aerospace and defense firm told Security Ledger. The so-called "probes" were targeting the company's administrative network and included spear phishing attacks via email and other channels. The goal was to compromise computers on the corporate network... So far, the attacks have targeted "weakest links" within the firms, such as Human Resources personnel and general inquiry mailboxes, rather than targeting technical staff directly. However, experts who follow the DPRK's fast evolving cyber capabilities say that the country may have more up their sleeve.

CNBC also reports that America's congressional defense committees have authorized a last-minute request for $4 billion in extra spending for "urgent missile defeat and defense enhancements to counter the threat of North Korea."

Other countries newly interested in purchasing missile defense systems include Japan, Sweden, Poland, and Saudi Arabia.

Twitter Exploit Let Two Pranksters Post 30,000-Character Tweet ( 65

sqorbit writes: Two German twitter users were able to post a 30,000-character tweet, blowing way past the 280-character limit it is testing for select users. The accounts were banned for a brief period of time but are now back online after they apologized. The original 30,396-character tweet has been archived and can be viewed here. The two pranksters exploited "a rule Twitter made in 2016 that links would no longer count in the 140-character limit," reports The Daily Dot. "Yes, this is just one big web address with a URL code hidden deep in the large block of text."

Apple Wins $120 Million From Samsung In Slide-To-Unlock Patent Battle ( 72

Apple has finally claimed victory over Samsung to the count of $120 million. "The Supreme Court said today that it wouldn't hear an appeal of the patent infringement case, first decided in 2014, which has been bouncing through appeals courts in the years since," reports The Verge. From the report: The case revolved around Apple's famous slide-to-unlock patent and, among others, its less-famous quick links patent, which covered software that automatically turned information like a phone number into a tappable link. Samsung was found to have infringed both patents. The ruling was overturned almost two years later, and then reinstated once again less than a year after that. From there, Samsung appealed to the Supreme Court, which is where the case met its end today. Naturally, Samsung isn't pleased with the outcome. "Our argument was supported by many who believed that the Court should hear the case to reinstate fair standards that promote innovation and prevent abuse of the patent system," a Samsung representative said in a statement. The company also said the ruling would let Apple "unjustly profit" from an invalid patent.

Popular Firefox Bookmark Syncing Add-On Starts Losing... Bookmarks ( 67

A popular Firefox browser add-on that saves and syncs bookmarks has started to lose those bookmarks instead, users are complaining. From a report: According to user reports -- and your reporter's own experience -- the problems arose when Xmarks updated the add-on to version, the first version to work on the new WebExtensions API, Firefox's new add-on technology. Since then, Firefox users have reported a wide range of problems, but among which the biggest was the fact that Xmarks was not syncing bookmarks as it should. The problems did not manifest the same way for all users. Some users said the add-on stopped syncing new bookmarks altogether, some reported corrupted links, others said they lost all bookmarks, while other reported that only a small portion of new bookmark URLs was being added to their Xmarks account.

'Panama Papers' Group Strikes Again with 'Paradise Papers' ( 402

Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed tipped us off to a new document leak that's just revealed massive tax havens used by the world's most wealthy and powerful people. An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times. The project has been called the Paradise Papers.
It's the same group responsible for the Panama Papers, and the Guardian reports that in these 13.4 million new files, journalists have discovered:
  • "Aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, including Nike and Apple."

"The publication of this investigation, for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years, comes at a time of growing global income inequality," reports the Guardian. "Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore -- €600 billion in the last year alone -- the leading economist Gabriel Zucman will reveal in a study to be published later this week. "Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality," he said."


HTTP 103 - An HTTP Status Code for Indicating Hints ( 50

The Internet Task Engineering Group (IETF) has approved the new HTTP status code 103. The new status code is intended to "minimize perceived latency." From the circular: It is common for HTTP responses to contain links to external resources that need to be fetched prior to their use; for example, rendering HTML by a Web browser. Having such links available to the client as early as possible helps to minimize perceived latency. The "preload" ([Preload]) link relation can be used to convey such links in the Link header field of an HTTP response. However, it is not always possible for an origin server to generate the header block of a final response immediately after receiving a request. For example, the origin server might delegate a request to an upstream HTTP server running at a distant location, or the status code might depend on the result of a database query. The dilemma here is that even though it is preferable for an origin server to send some header fields as soon as it receives a request, it cannot do so until the status code and the full header fields of the final HTTP response are determined. [...] The 103 (Early Hints) informational status code indicates to the client that the server is likely to send a final response with the header fields included in the informational response. Typically, a server will include the header fields sent in a 103 (Early Hints) response in the final response as well. However, there might be cases when this is not desirable, such as when the server learns that they are not correct before the final response is sent. A client can speculatively evaluate the header fields included in a 103 (Early Hints) response while waiting for the final response. For example, a client might recognize a Link header field value containing the relation type "preload" and start fetching the target resource. However, these header fields only provide hints to the client; they do not replace the header fields on the final response. Aside from performance optimizations, such evaluation of the 103 (Early Hints) response's header fields MUST NOT affect how the final response is processed. A client MUST NOT interpret the 103 (Early Hints) response header fields as if they applied to the informational response itself (e.g., as metadata about the 103 (Early Hints) response).

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