Geek Stuff

The EU Has a Plan To Break Up Google

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader points out a report at the Financial Times (paywalled) which says the European Parliament is preparing to call for the break-up of Google. According to the draft seen by the FT, a potential solution to ongoing anti-trust concerns with Google is "unbundling search engines from other services." The article notes, "The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits. Unbundling cannot be excluded, said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Top NSA Official Raised Alarm About Metadata Program In 2009

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader sends this report from the Associated Press: "Dissenters within the National Security Agency, led by a senior agency executive, warned in 2009 that the program to secretly collect American phone records wasn't providing enough intelligence to justify the backlash it would cause if revealed, current and former intelligence officials say. The NSA took the concerns seriously, and many senior officials shared them. But after an internal debate that has not been previously reported, NSA leaders, White House officials and key lawmakers opted to continue the collection and storage of American calling records, a domestic surveillance program without parallel in the agency's recent history.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Several Linux distros borrow Google’s Material Design ideas

Liliputing -

Google introduced a new design language with Android 5.0 called Material Design. It relies on vivid colors, a lot of white space, and animations designed to make different on-screen elements feel like real materials. For instance, switching between two screens in an app is meant to feel like sliding one sheet of paper over another. […]

Several Linux distros borrow Google’s Material Design ideas is a post from: Liliputing

Obama's Immigration Order To Give Tech Industry Some, Leave 'Em Wanting More

Slashdot -

theodp writes: "The high-tech industry," reports the Washington Post's Nancy Scola, "will have at least two things to be happy about in President Obama's speech outlining executive actions he'll take on immigration. The president plans to grant the tech industry some, but not nearly all, of what it has been after in the immigration debate. The first is aimed at increasing the opportunity for foreign students and recent graduates from U.S. schools to work in high-tech jobs in the United States. And the second is aimed at making it easier for foreign-born entrepreneurs to set up shop in the United States. According to the White House, Obama will direct the Department of Homeland Security to help students in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — by proposing, per a White House fact sheet released Thursday night, to "expand and extend" the controversial Optional Practical Training program that now allows foreign-born STEM students and recent graduates remain in the United States for up to 29 months. The exact details of that expansion will be worked out by the Department of Homeland Security as it goes through a rulemaking process."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Alienware Alpha (Dell’s littlest gaming PC) now shipping

Liliputing -

Dell introduced a small form-factor gaming desktop PC called the Alienware Alpha this summer, and now it’s shipping. Originally designed to be a Steam Machine running Valve’s Linux-based Steam operating system, the Alienware Alpha is currently shipping with Windows. You can thank Valve’s decision to delay launch of Steam OS until 2015 for that. Prices for […]

Alienware Alpha (Dell’s littlest gaming PC) now shipping is a post from: Liliputing

How to install XBMC/Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Stick

Liliputing -

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a $39, pocket-sized device that you can plug into the HDMI port of your TV to stream music, movies, TV shows, and other media from the internet. It supports a handful of popular media streaming services including Netflix, YouTube, and of course Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Music, and […]

How to install XBMC/Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Stick is a post from: Liliputing

CERN Releases LHC Data

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Ever wished you had access to CERN's LHC data to help with your backyard high-energy physics research? Today you're in luck. CERN has launched its Open Data Portal, which makes experimental data produced by the Large Hadron Collider open to the public. "The first high-level and analyzable collision data openly released come from the CMS experiment and were originally collected in 2010 during the first LHC run. This data set is now publicly available on the CERN Open Data Portal. Open source software to read and analyze the data is also available, together with the corresponding documentation. The CMS collaboration is committed to releasing its data three years after collection, after they have been thoroughly studied by the collaboration." You can read more about CERN's commitment to "Open Science" here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

Slashdot -

merbs writes: Harvard has long been home to one of the fiercest advocates for climate engineering. This week, Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences published a research announcement headlined "Adjusting Earth's Thermostat, With Caution." That might read as oxymoronic — intentionally altering the planet's climate has rarely been considered a cautious enterprise — but it fairly accurately reflects the thrust of several new studies published by the Royal Society, all focused on exploring the controversial field of geoengineering.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Deals of the Day (11-21-2014)

Liliputing -

Black Friday may be a week away, but Amazon is running 8 days of deals… starting with some great bargains on notebooks and tablets. Some of Amazon’s best deals today include deep discounts on Asus Chromebooks and tablets, HP notebooks and 2-in-1s, and more. Don’t feel like spending any money at all today? Hit up […]

Deals of the Day (11-21-2014) is a post from: Liliputing

Windows Kernel Version Bumped To 10.0

Slashdot -

jones_supa writes: In Windows, the kernel version number is once again in sync with the product version. Build 9888 of Windows 10 Technical Preview is making the rounds in a private channel and the kernel version has indeed been bumped from 6.4 to 10.0. Version 6.x has been in use since Windows Vista. Neowin speculates that this large jump in version number is likely related to the massive overhaul of the underlying components of the OS to make it the core for all of Microsoft's products. The company is working to consolidate all of its platforms into what's called OneCore, which, as the name implies, will be the one core for all of Microsoft's operating systems. It will be interesting to see if this causes any software comparability issues with legacy applications.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Buy a Chromebook, get 1TB of cloud storage for 2 years

Liliputing -

Google has been offering 100GB of free cloud storage to customers who buy Chromebooks fro a while. Now the company is stepping up its game: if you buy an eligible Chromebook between now and January 1st you’ll get 1TB of Google Drive storage space for free. That’s a pretty good deal when you consider that […]

Buy a Chromebook, get 1TB of cloud storage for 2 years is a post from: Liliputing

Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Hackable Car?

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: When looking for a new (or used) car, I have readily available information regarding features, maintenance history, and potential issues for that specific model or generation. What I would really like is a car that is readily hackable on the convenience-feature level. For example, if I want to install a remote starter, or hack the power windows so holding 'up' automatically rolls it up, or install a readout on the rear of the car showing engine RPMs, what make/model/year is the best pick? Have any of you done something similar with your vehicle? Have you found certain models to be ideal or terrible for feature hacking?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Telecoms Fulfilled 90+ Illegitimate Subpoenas from New Mexico

EFF's Deeplinks -

New Mexico law is so devoid of any established authority for this practice, a reasonable prosecutor, upon the exercise of diligent research could determine that the practice was very probably unlawful.

- Judge John Paternoster, Eighth Judicial District of New Mexico

The National Security Agency isn’t the only agency that’s willing to flout the laws of the land in order to obtain your telephone records. As we’re learning from a case out of New Mexico, local prosecutors may be to willing to ignore rights enshrined in the Constitution for an unfair advantage in criminal cases.

The case at hand involves the office of the District Attorney for the Eight District of New Mexico, which covers three counties in Northern New Mexico, including Taos. D.A. Donald Gallegos and one of his subordinates are facing disciplinary charges after they were caught issuing at least 91 bogus subpoenas to eight telephone companies for customer call records. 

The subpoenas came to light during the prosecution of a 2013 armed robbery at an electric cooperative. Suspecting it was an inside job, the Taos police department worked with the prosecutor’s office to begin issuing subpoenas to telecoms for records related to dozens of phone records. Several batches of subpoenas were discovered related to other cases.

The problem is the District Attorney had no authority to issue “stand-alone subpoenas” under court rules, state law, or the New Mexico Constitution [PDF, PDF]. Prosecutors are only allowed to subpoena records when they represent a party in a case, (i.e. a grand jury has been convened or a criminal case has been filed) and they cannot use subpoenas during the police investigative process. Instead the prosecutor attached a generic case number—the kind usually reserved for miscellaneous court matters, such as bond forfeitures and oaths of office—not cellphone records requests.

The subpoenas weren’t signed by a judge or authorized by a grand jury. They weren’t even the right form [PDF] for issuing requests for records. As such, the subpoenas did not include the "essential" language alerting the recipient of remedies and protective measures. Rather, the documents threatened contempt of court sanctions for any telephone provider that failed to hand over the records.

Judge John Paternoster threw out the indictment of one of the robbery suspects in April due to “gross prosecutorial misconduct,” issuing the following damning conclusions [PDF]: 

A stand-alone subpoena, in improper form, issued and signed by a prosecutor in aid of police investigation, before a criminal cause is properly commenced, as in the instant facts is simply without precedent, analogy or lawful authority in New Mexico law.

And

The subpoenas in question were issued by the prosecutor without any judicial oversight, and allowed the police to obtain evidence during a criminal investigation without meeting the requirements of Article II 10 of the Constitution of New Mexico.

And

It is objectively unreasonable for the prosecutor to believe that his conduct was lawful.

And

The prosecutor had no reasonable basis in law for issuing the subpoenas and had no reasonable basis in law to present the evidence to the grand jury, and therefore acted in objective bad faith, and tainted the grand jury with evidence.

Judicial smackdowns don’t come much harder than that. The district attorney is appealing, but at the same time the oversight body authorized by the New Mexico Supreme Court to review allegations of attorney misconduct has completed its own investigation. The Disciplinary Board is now pursuing formal professional misconduct charges against the lawyers [PDF, PDF].

That process will play out over the next few months, but in the meantime there’s another piece of the puzzle worth addressing. If the subpoenas were so obviously illegal, why didn’t a single one of the telecommunications company question their legitimacy?

According to the filings, eight telecommunications providers complied with the questionable subpoenas and handed over customer call records. They are:

Verizon AT&T (Cingular)
T-Mobile
CommnetCricket (since acquired by AT&T)Level 3 CommunicationsMetroPCSSprint/Nextel

As we told each of these providers in a letter [PDF], EFF strongly believes that part of a telecommunication company’s cost of doing business in any particular state is to ensure that local law enforcement requests for customer data comply with state law. That is particularly true when state laws, such as New Mexico’s, contain stronger legal protections than those that exist under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or the federal Stored Communications Act.

We are asking the involved companies to take a few concrete actions in response to the bad-subpoena scandal:

First, they should go back and review all subpoenas that the district attorney’s issued, determine if other subpoenas it received were similarly defective and release the actual numbers of subpoenas they processed that may have been illegal.

Second, they should review their own legal process to identify how the company’s legal compliance team assesses the validity of subpoenas under state law. Then they should institute new polices to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

Finally, they should confirm whether the customers targeted by the subpoenas were informed of the existence of these subpoenas. If not, customers should be informed immediately.

So far, T-Mobile is the only provider to respond to our letter. While Senior Corporate Counsel Patricia Cauldwell indicated they were unaware of the controversy until we brought it to their attention, she argued that T-Mobile acted in good faith and defended the company’s practice of rejecting requests when they appear to be defective.  

“[W]e would not expect to see a prosecutor in New Mexico use subpoenas like these again in a criminal investigation before convening a grand jury and we expect that the judicial system in New Mexico is well capable of correcting the problem,” Cauldwell wrote.

We’re not convinced that’s a safe bet. The telecommunications industry is very well aware that the public is becoming more and more skeptical of how these companies interact with intelligence and law enforcement agencies.  But for all the NSA and FBI’s questionable practices, local law enforcement agencies are just as prone to shenanigans.

Phone companies need to not only tell cops to come back with a warrant or subpoena, but come back with one that’s actually legal.

Files:  5-511_nmra.pdf 5-511_subpoena_form.pdf 2014.10.01_specification_of_charges_d_gallegos.pdf 2014.10.01_specification_of_charges_e_chavez.pdf 2014.04.08_decision_on_mtn_to_quash.pdf 2013nmconst.pdf letter_from_the_electronic_frontier_foundation_regarding_new_mexico_subpoenas.pdfRelated Issues: Know Your RightsCell Tracking
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Culberson As Chair of NASA Fundng Subcommittee Makes Europa Mission More Likely

Slashdot -

MarkWhittington writes: As many have expected, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) has been elevated to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science. The subcommittee has charge of NASA funding, something of keen interest for the congressman, whose Houston district is close to the Johnson Spaceflight Center. Moreover, Culberson's enthusiasm for space exploration goes far beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative. Culberson is a champion of a mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice-covered moon that is thought to conceal an ocean of water, warmed by tidal forces, which might contain life. Using the heavy-lift Space Launch System, NASA could launch a large-scale probe to study Europa and ascertain whether it harbors alien life or not. Culberson's elevation makes such a mission far more likely to occur.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Imp mini PC is a tiny, ARM-based Ubuntu computer

Liliputing -

Want a small, low-power desktop computer that runs Ubuntu Linux, but don’t want to go through the hassle of installing and configuring the operating system yourself? A company called Imp wants to deliver a tiny desktop with an ARM-based CPU, 2GB of RAM, and open source software. They’re launching a crowdfunding campaign to fund the project […]

Imp mini PC is a tiny, ARM-based Ubuntu computer is a post from: Liliputing

It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Software engineers understand the pace of writing code, but frequently managers don't. One line of code might take 1 minute, and another line of code might take 1 day. But generally, everything averages out, and hitting your goals is more a function of properly setting your goals than of coding quickly or slowly. Sprint.ly, a company than analyzes productivity, has published some data to back this up. The amount of time actually developing a feature was a small and relatively consistent portion of its lifetime as a work ticket. The massively variable part of the process is when "stakeholders are figuring out specs and prioritizing work." The top disrupting influences (as experienced devs will recognize) are unclear and changing requirements. Another big cause of slowdowns is interrupting development work on one task to work on a second one. The article encourages managers to let devs contribute to the process and say "No" if the specs are too vague. Is there anything you'd add to this list?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Google Launches Service To Replace Web Ads With Subscriptions

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Everyone understands by now that ads fund most of the sites on the web. Other sites have put up paywalls or started subscription bonuses, with varying success. Google, one of the web's biggest ad providers, saw a problem with that: it's a huge pain for readers to manage subscriptions for all the sites they visit — often more trouble than it's worth. And, since so few people sign up, the subscription fees have to be pretty high. Now, Google has launched a service called Contributor to try to fix this situation. The way Contributor works is this: websites and readers can opt in to the service (and sites like Imgur, The Onion, and ScienceDaily already have). Readers then pay a fee of $1-3 per month (they get to choose how much) to gain ad-free access to all participating sites. When the user visits one of the sites, instead of showing a Google ad, Google will just send a small chunk of that subscription money to the website instead.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Parkinson’s disease body illusion

Raspberry Pi -

Transports is an interactive installation from Analogue, a theatre/art group, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, which creates the illusion that the viewer is experiencing Parkinson’s symptoms. As in the rubber hand illusion, the mind is tricked into believing that the user’s hand is the hand shown in some point-of-view video; while a glove with motors makes them feel the tremors associated with the disease.

The whole setup is controlled by a Raspberry Pi. The installation takes the user through a number of everyday tasks from the perspective of Andrew, a man in his thirties with Parkinson’s, who is about to give a speech at a friend’s wedding. Andrew’s experience is informed by a body of first-person data that Analogue collected from the blogs of people dealing with Parkinson’s, and interviews with patients.

This installation isn’t being exhibited as public art at the moment; instead, it’s being used to raise awareness and promote empathy among health professionals and carers. Psychology students are also using it; and there are plans to refine the whole thing by using Oculus Rift or a similar VR headset, and by shrinking the apparatus on the glove.

You can read more about Transports at Analogue’s site, or at the New Scientist.

Aereo Files For Bankruptcy

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: After losing its Supreme Court case in June and briefly attempting to transform itself into a cable company, Aereo is now filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their service worked by letting people stream over-the-air television to their internet-connected devices. The content industry pushed back, and though Aereo argued its way through several lower courts, they say, "The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo's technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








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