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The New Yorker on Linus Torvalds

20 September 2018 - 10:31am
Linus Torvalds announced on Sunday that he was sorry for how he treated the community over the years. Torvalds, 48, said he planned to make some changes to how he conducted himself, and on that part, he said he would be taking some time off from Linux kernel development work. The New Yorker has published a story on Torvalds today in which it notes that it reached out to Torvalds days before he made the big announcement. From the story, which may be paywalled for some readers: Torvalds's decision to step aside came after The New Yorker asked him a series of questions about his conduct for a story on complaints about his abusive behavior discouraging women from working as Linux-kernel programmers. In a response to The New Yorker, Torvalds said, "I am very proud of the Linux code that I invented and the impact it has had on the world. I am not, however, always proud of my inability to communicate well with others -- this is a lifelong struggle for me. To anyone whose feelings I have hurt, I am deeply sorry." Torvalds's response was conveyed by the Linux Foundation, which supports Linux and other open-source programming projects and paid Torvalds $1.6 million in annual compensation as of 2016. The foundation said that it supported his decision and has encouraged women to participate but that it has little control over how Torvalds runs the coding process. "We are able to have varying degrees of impact on these outcomes in newer projects," the statement said. "Older more established efforts like the Linux kernel are much more challenging to influence." Linux's elite developers, who are overwhelmingly male, tend to share their leader's aggressive self-confidence. There are very few women among the most prolific contributors, though the foundation and researchers estimate that roughly ten per cent of all Linux coders are women. "Everyone in tech knows about it, but Linus gets a pass," Megan Squire, a computer-science professor at Elon University, told me, referring to Torvalds's abusive behavior. "He's built up this cult of personality, this cult of importance."

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Gunman Shoots 4 at Middleton Software Company; Dies in Shootout With Police

20 September 2018 - 10:00am
Several Slashdot readers shared this report overnight: A gunman shot four people, none fatally, at his Middleton, Wisconsin workplace Wednesday morning before he was killed in a shootout with police, Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke said. Authorities had not released the man's name or age, but police said he was from Madison and worked at WTS Paradigm, a software company at 1850 Deming Way where the shooting occurred. Police said a motive for the shooting was not yet known. Foulke said the shooter had been in the building before he began shooting at fellow employees around 10:29 a.m. One of the four people injured was just grazed by a bullet police say was fired from a handgun. Citing UW Health, a local NBC affiliate reported that two victims are in serious condition and one is in critical condition. "In a situation like this, you learn how great a community really is," WTS Marketing Manager Ryan Mayrand said. "We cannot thank the Middleton Police Department, the Dane County Sheriff's Office and other emergency personnel enough for their amazing response."

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US Senate Staff Targeted By State-Backed Hackers, Senator Says

20 September 2018 - 9:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS NewsHour: Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a Wednesday letter to Senate leaders that his office discovered that "at least one major technology company" has warned an unspecified number of senators and aides that their personal email accounts were "targeted by foreign government hackers." Similar methods were employed by Russian military agents who leaked the contents of private email inboxes to influence the 2016 elections. Wyden did not specify the timing of the notifications, but a Senate staffer said they occurred "in the last few weeks or months." But the senator said the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, which oversees Senate security, informed legislators and staffers that it has no authority to help secure personal, rather than official, accounts. "This must change," Wyden wrote in the letter. "The November election grows ever closer, Russia continues its attacks on our democracy, and the Senate simply does not have the luxury of further delays."

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California May Ban Terrible Default Passwords On Connected Devices

20 September 2018 - 6:00am
According to Engadget, the California Senate has sent Governor Jerry Brown draft legislation that would require manufacturers to either have to use unique preprogrammed passwords or make you change the credentials the first time you use it. "Companies will also have to 'equip the device with a reasonable security feature or features that are appropriate to the nature and function of the device,'" reports Engadget. From the report: If Brown signs the bill into law, it will take effect at the beginning of 2020. But critics claim the wording is vague and doesn't go far enough in ensuring manufacturers don't include unsecured features. "It's like dieting, where people insist you should eat more kale, which does little to address the problem you are pigging out on potato chips," Robert Graham of Errata Security said in a blog post. "The key to dieting is not eating more but eating less." Given the huge number of connected devices available, it's also not clear how the state plans to enforce and regulate the rules.

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Facebook Could Face EU Sanctions If It Doesn't Change Its TOS

20 September 2018 - 3:00am
According to Reuters, Facebook could face sanctions for not complying with the European Union's consumer rules. "Back in February, the company was told to change its users terms and conditions to recently updated EU standards, but it has yet to do so," The Verge reports. From the report: In February, Facebook changed its terms of service, but to EU officials, it wasn't enough. "While Google's latest proposals appear to be in line with the requests made by consumer authorities, Facebook and, more significantly, Twitter, have only partially addressed important issues about their liability and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination," the European Commission stated in a press release at the time. As detailed back in February, authorities want Facebook to better protect consumers' rights, including the ability to withdraw from an online purchase, sue in Europe and not in California where Facebook is based. The EU also wants more consumer-friendly rules around the social media platform's legal liability when its service performs poorly. According to Reuters, Facebook's non-compliance contrasts with Airbnb's obedience, as the rental platform adjusted its terms of service recently after being asked to do so back in July. Airbnb is now more transparent about pricing details and has better terms for consumers using its platform in the EU.

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AI Could Devastate the Developing World

19 September 2018 - 11:30pm
Kai-Fu Lee, Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and author of "AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order," reports of the devastating impacts artificial intelligence could have on the developing world. An anonymous reader shares the report from Bloomberg: In recent decades, China and India have presented the world with two different models for how such countries can climb the development ladder. In the China model, a nation leverages its large population and low costs to build a base of blue-collar manufacturing. It then steadily works its way up the value chain by producing better and more technology-intensive goods. In the India model, a country combines a large English-speaking population with low costs to become a hub for outsourcing of low-end, white-collar jobs in fields such as business-process outsourcing and software testing. If successful, these relatively low-skilled jobs can be slowly upgraded to more advanced white-collar industries. Both models are based on a country's cost advantages in the performance of repetitive, non-social and largely uncreative work -- whether manual labor in factories or cognitive labor in call centers. Unfortunately for emerging economies, AI thrives at performing precisely this kind of work. Without a cost incentive to locate in the developing world, corporations will bring many of these functions back to the countries where they're based. That will leave emerging economies, unable to grasp the bottom rungs of the development ladder, in a dangerous position: The large pool of young and relatively unskilled workers that once formed their greatest comparative advantage will become a liability -- a potentially explosive one. Increasing desperation in the developing world will contrast with a massive accumulation of wealth among the AI superpowers. AI runs on data and that dependence leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of consolidation in industries: The more data you have, the better your product. The better your product, the more users you gain. The more users you gain, the more data you have. Lee says the best thing emerging economies can do is to "recognize that the traditional paths to economic development -- the China and India models -- are no longer viable." Countries with "less-educated workers" are advised to build up human-centered service industries. "At the same time, developing countries need to carve out their own niches within the AI landscape," Lee writes. "... governments need to fund the AI education of their best and brightest students, with the goal of building local companies that employ AI."

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Humans Simply 'Hardwired' For Laziness, Study Says

19 September 2018 - 10:05pm
Zorro shares a report from Study Finds: [...] A new study shows we may just have to chalk it up to our brains simply being hardwired to prefer hanging on the couch instead of the chin-up bar. Researchers from the University of British Columbia and University of Geneva sought to better understand the brain chemistry behind what they refer to as the "exercise paradox." This happens when people pledge to engage in regular physical fitness, but instead find themselves becoming less active. "Conserving energy has been essential for humans' survival, as it allowed us to be more efficient in searching for food and shelter, competing for sexual partners, and avoiding predators," explains Matthew Boisgontier, a postdoctoral researcher in UBC's brain behavior lab at the department of physical therapy, and senior author of the study, in a UBC release. So Boisgontier and his co-authors recruited 29 young adults who wanted to improve the level of exercise in their lives to take part in a computerized test. The test required them to move a human figure on the screen either towards images of physical activities or away from images of sedentary activities that would randomly appear, and then again vice versa. Participants were hooked up to an electroencephalograph to monitor their brain activity during the exercise. The results showed that participants tended to move towards the active images or away from the sedentary ones at the fastest rates. "We found that participants took 32 milliseconds less to move away from the sedentary image, which is considerable for a task like this," says study co-author Boris Cheval, of the University of Geneva, in a university release, adding that this finding went against the so-called exercise paradox.

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Evernote Slashes 15 Percent of Its Workforce

19 September 2018 - 9:25pm
Evernote, one of the most popular productivity apps on the market, is struggling to stay on top of the charts. TechCrunch, after reporting two weeks that the company "lost several of its most senior executives," is reporting that Evernote's CEO Chris O'Neill on Tuesday laid off 54 people -- roughly 15 percent of the company's workforce. O'Neill said it is now focusing its efforts around specific functions, including product development and engineering. From the report: We've just been in touch with Evernote. It pointed us to a newly posted piece by O'Neill in which he outlines the company's strategy going forward, which includes to "operate with a more focused leadership team," to "operate more efficiently," and to "double down on product development -- both quality and velocity." As for its funding situation, an Evernote representative insists that things are far from dire. The company is not fundraising, says this person; further, we're told Evernote has $30 million on its balance sheet and will exit the year without burning cash. This comes after "a person who tipped TechCrunch off to the executive departments two weeks ago characterized Evernote as 'in a death spiral,' saying that user growth and active users have been flat for the last six years and that the company's enterprise product offering hasn't caught on."

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Zaif Cryptocurrency Exchange Suffers $60 Million Hack

19 September 2018 - 8:45pm
Hackers were able to steal $60 million worth of company and user funds belonging to the Zaif Japanese cryptocurrency exchange. The breach occurred last week, but the company discovered the hack on Monday, September 17. An anonymous reader shares the report from ZDNet: Investigators are still gathering details, but Zaif said the hack took place on September 14, between 17:00 and 19:00 local time, when the attacker siphoned off three types of cryptocurrencies from the company's "hot wallets." [A "hot wallet" is a term used to describe a cryptocurrency addresses with light security measures where a cryptocurrency exchange keeps funds for immediate transactions, such as cryptocurrency-to-cryptocurrency or cryptocurrency-to-fiat (and vice versa) operations.] Zaif says the hacker stole Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and MonaCoin from its hot wallet, all three worth 6.7 billion Japanese yen (roughly $59.67 million) when combined. Of the 6.7 billion stolen yen, 2.2 billion yen -- 32 percent -- were Zaif funds, while 4.5 billion yen were customer funds. Zaif plans to secure a 5 billion yen loan to pay back affected customers.

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John Hancock Will Include Fitness Tracking In All Life Insurance Policies

19 September 2018 - 8:03pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: John Hancock, one of the oldest and largest North American life insurers, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones, the company said on Wednesday. The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada's Manulife Financial, marks a major shift for the company, which unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of its life coverage. Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app. In theory, everybody wins, as policyholders are incentivized to adopt healthy habits and insurance companies collect more premiums and pay less in claims if customers live longer.

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Alibaba To Set Up New Chip Company Amid Fear of US Tech Dependency

19 September 2018 - 7:20pm
hackingbear shares a report from CNN: China's biggest tech firm announced Wednesday that the new [semiconductor] business will develop artificial intelligence chips for cloud computing, internet-connected devices and other sectors. Alibaba's chief technology officer, Jeff Zhang, said the e-commerce company's advantages in algorithms and data put it in "a unique position to lead real technology breakthroughs in disruptive areas, such as quantum and chip technology." "The market for chips is controlled by America ... and suddenly if they stop selling, what that means, you understand," Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma told university students in Tokyo in April. "That's why China, Japan and any country -- you need core technologies." Ma's remarks came shortly after the U.S. Commerce Department blocked American companies from selling parts to ZTE, a Chinese tech company that relied on U.S. suppliers, including chipmakers, to manufacture smartphones and telecommunications equipment. Slashdot reader hackingbear adds: "The since-lifted ban woke up China to the (political) risks of dependence on American technologies, just like the U.S. is afraid of dependency on Chinese rare earth products which account for ~80% of world's supplies."

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'WaitList.dat' Windows File May Be Secretly Hoarding Your Passwords, Emails

19 September 2018 - 6:40pm
A file named WaitList.dat, found only on touchscreen-capable Windows PCs, may be collecting your sensitive data like passwords and emails. According to ZDNet, in order for the file to exist users have to enable "the handwriting recognition feature that automatically translates stylus/touchscreen scribbles into formatted text." From the report: The handwriting to formatted text conversion feature has been added in Windows 8, which means the WaitList.dat file has been around for years. The role of this file is to store text to help Windows improve its handwriting recognition feature, in order to recognize and suggest corrections or words a user is using more often than others. "In my testing, population of WaitList.dat commences after you begin using handwriting gestures," [Digital Forensics and Incident Response expert Barnaby Skeggs] told ZDNet in an interview. "This 'flicks the switch' (registry key) to turn the text harvester functionality (which generates WaitList.dat) on." "Once it is on, text from every document and email which is indexed by the Windows Search Indexer service is stored in WaitList.dat. Not just the files interacted via the touchscreen writing feature," Skeggs says. Since the Windows Search Indexer service powers the system-wide Windows Search functionality, this means data from all text-based files found on a computer, such as emails or Office documents, is gathered inside the WaitList.dat file. This doesn't include only metadata, but the actual document's text. "The user doesn't even have to open the file/email, so long as there is a copy of the file on disk, and the file's format is supported by the Microsoft Search Indexer service," Skeggs told ZDNet. "On my PC, and in my many test cases, WaitList.dat contained a text extract of every document or email file on the system, even if the source file had since been deleted," the researcher added. Furthermore, Skeggs says WaitList.dat can be used to recover text from deleted documents.

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'I'm Admin. You're Admin. Everyone is Admin.' Remote Access Bug Turns Western Digital My Cloud Into Everyone's Cloud

19 September 2018 - 6:00pm
Researchers at infosec shop Securify revealed this week a vulnerability, designated CVE-2018-17153, which allows an unauthenticated attacker with network access to the device to bypass password checks and login with admin privileges. From a report:This would, in turn, give the attacker full control over the NAS device, including the ability to view and copy all stored data as well as overwrite and erase contents. If the box is accessible from the public internet, it could be remotely pwned, it appears. Alternatively, malware on a PC on the local network could search for and find a vulnerable My Cloud machine, and compromise it. According to Securify, the flaw itself lies in the way My Cloud creates admin sessions that are attached to an IP address. When an attacker sends a command to the device's web interface, as an HTTP CGI request, they can also include the cookie username=admin -- which unlocks admin access. Thus if properly constructed, the request would establish an admin login session to the device without ever asking for a password. In other words, just tell it you're the admin user in the cookie, and you're in. The researcher told TechCrunch that he reported the vulnerability to Western Digital last year, but the company "stopped responding."

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Despite Data Caps and Throttling, Industry Says Mobile Can Replace Home Internet

19 September 2018 - 5:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T and Verizon are trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission that mobile broadband is good enough for Internet users who don't have access to fiber or cable services. The carriers made this claim despite the data usage and speed limitations of mobile services. In the mobile market, even "unlimited" plans can be throttled to unusable speeds after a customer uses just 25GB or so a month. Mobile carriers impose even stricter limits on phone hotspots, making it difficult to use mobile services across multiple devices in the home. The carriers ignored those limits in filings they submitted for the FCC's annual review of broadband deployment.

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Alibaba's Jack Ma Backs Down From Promise To Trump To Bring 1 Million Jobs to the US

19 September 2018 - 4:40pm
Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba, has abandoned a promise to create one million new jobs in the US, in a sign of the threat that rising trade tensions with China pose to some of US President Donald Trump's key economic goals. From a report: "The promise was made on the premise of friendly US-China partnership and rational trade relations," Ma told Chinese news site Xinhua on Wednesday. "That premise no longer exists today, so our promise cannot be fulfilled." Ma, who recently announced that he will step down as Alibaba chairman within a year, added that the company would "not stop working hard to contribute to the healthy development of China-US trade." Ma's comments come on the heels of a new round of tariffs this week from both China and the U.S. that will affect billions of dollars worth of goods as the two countries have failed to reach a deal to resolve the Trump administration's concerns about China's trade practices.

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Times Newer Roman is a Font Designed To Make Your Essays Look Longer

19 September 2018 - 4:05pm
Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge: Times Newer Roman, a font from internet marketing firm MSCHF (which you may remember from the Tabagotchi Chrome extension). Times Newer Roman looks a lot like the go-to academic font, but each character is subtly altered to be 5 to 10 percent wider, making your essays look longer without having to actually make them longer. According to Times Newer Roman's website, a 15-page, single-spaced document in 12 point type only requires 5,833 words, compared to 6,680 for the standard Times New Roman. (That's 847 words you don't need to write, which is more than twice the length of this post!)

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Amazon is Reportedly Planning Up To 3,000 Cashierless Stores By 2021

19 September 2018 - 3:34pm
Amazon is planning to open 3,000 of its cashierless stores by 2021, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, planning a major push into retail as it continues to scale its online platform. CNBC: The e-commerce giant currently has three locations open in Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered, and just this past week opened a location in Chicago. Bloomberg adds: Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos sees eliminating meal-time logjams in busy cities as the best way for Amazon to reinvent the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, where most spending still occurs. But he's still experimenting with the best format: a convenience store that sells fresh prepared foods as well as a limited grocery selection similar to 7-Eleven franchises, or a place to simply pick up a quick bite to eat for people in a rush, similar to the U.K.-based chain Pret a Manger, one of the people said. [...] Adding 3,000 convenience stores would make AmazonGo among the biggest chains in U.S. The internet giant is considering plans to have about 10 locations open by the end of this year, about 50 locations in major metro areas in 2019, and then as many as 3,000 by 2021, said the people, who requested anonymity discussing internal plans. Opening multiple locations in proximity, like it's doing in Seattle, could also help Amazon reduce costs by centralizing food production in one kitchen serving many stores. The U.S. currently has 155,000 convenience stores, with 122,500 of them combined with gas stations, according to industry group NACS. Non-fuel purchases at convenience stores totaled $233 billion in 2016, with cigarettes and other tobacco products the best-selling items.

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Reimagining of Schrodinger's Cat Breaks Quantum Mechanics -- and Stumps Physicists

19 September 2018 - 3:25pm
In a multi-'cat' experiment, the textbook interpretation of quantum theory seems to lead to contradictory pictures of reality, physicists claim. New submitter Lanodonal shares a report: In the world's most famous thought experiment, physicist Erwin Schrodinger described how a cat in a box could be in an uncertain predicament. The peculiar rules of quantum theory meant that it could be both dead and alive, until the box was opened and the cat's state measured. Now, two physicists have devised a modern version of the paradox by replacing the cat with a physicist doing experiments -- with shocking implications. Quantum theory has a long history of thought experiments, and in most cases these are used to point to weaknesses in various interpretations of quantum mechanics. But the latest version, which involves multiple players, is unusual: it shows that if the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, then different experimenters can reach opposite conclusions about what the physicist in the box has measured. This means that quantum theory contradicts itself. The conceptual experiment has been debated with gusto in physics circles for more than two years -- and has left most researchers stumped, even in a field accustomed to weird concepts. "I think this is a whole new level of weirdness," says Matthew Leifer, a theoretical physicist at Chapman University in Orange, California. The authors, Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, posted their first version of the argument online in April 2016. The final paper [PDF] appears in Nature Communications on 18 September.

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Cloudflare Wants Internet Route Leaks To Be a Thing of the Past

19 September 2018 - 2:45pm
Cloudflare wants routing issues to be a thing of the past by deploying a new feature to try to stop route leaks and hijacks in their tracks. From a report: Cloudflare told TechCrunch that rolling out resource public key infrastructure (RPKI) to all of its customers for free will make it far more difficult to reroute traffic -- either by accident or deliberately. RPKI, in a nutshell, helps to ensure that traffic goes to the right place through a route that's verified as legitimate and correct by using cryptographically signed certificates. "When two networks connect with each other -- say, AT&T and Verizon -- they announce the set of IP addresses for which they should be sent traffic," said Nick Sullivan, Cloudflare's head of cryptography. "The RPKI is a security framework to make sure a network announces only its legitimate IP addresses." Cloudflare's push in the right direction follows an effort by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, which last week published its first draft of a new standard, which incorporates RPKI as one of three components that will help prevent route leaks and hijacks. A possible approval is expected in the coming weeks.

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Box-Office Giant Ticketmaster Recruits Pros For Secret Scalper Program

19 September 2018 - 2:05pm
Box-office giant Ticketmaster is recruiting professional scalpers who cheat its own system to expand its resale business and squeeze more money out of fans, a CBC News/Toronto Star investigation reveals. The report adds: In July, the news outlets sent a pair of reporters undercover to Ticket Summit 2018, a ticketing and live entertainment convention at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Posing as scalpers and equipped with hidden cameras, the journalists were pitched on Ticketmaster's professional reseller program. Company representatives told them Ticketmaster's resale division turns a blind eye to scalpers who use ticket-buying bots and fake identities to snatch up tickets and then resell them on the site for inflated prices. Those pricey resale tickets include extra fees for Ticketmaster. "I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred accounts," one sales representative said. "It's not something that we look at or report." CBC shared its findings with Alan Cross, a veteran music journalist and host of the radio program The Ongoing History of New Music, who suspects the ticket-buying public will be far from impressed: "This is going to be a public relations nightmare." He said there have been "whispers of this in the ticket-selling community, but it's never been outlined quite like this before."

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