Geek Stuff

Jide Remix Mini Android PC to ship in October

Liliputing -

Google Android is an operating system that was originally designed for smartphones, but these days it also supports tablets, TVs, smartwatches, and more. It’s not really designed to replace a desktop operating system like Windows or Ubuntu, but there have been a number of attempts to modify the open source Android operating system to make […]

Jide Remix Mini Android PC to ship in October is a post from: Liliputing

In Hawaii, a 6-Person Crew Begins a Year-Long Mars Isolation Experiment

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The BBC reports that six volunteers have begun a planned year-long stint "without fresh air, fresh food or privacy" in a NASA simulation of what life might be like for a group of Mars colonists. The volunteers are to spend the next 12 months in the dome (11 meters in diameter, 6 meters high), except for space-suited out-of-dome excursions, where they will eat space-style meals, sleep on tiny cots, and keep up a science schedule. The current mission is the fourth (and longest yet) from the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; you can read more about this mission's crew here.

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A Courtroom Victory For Microsoft In Cellphone-Related Patent Suit

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Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has been cleared of patent infringement by the US International Trade Commission. The case dates back to 2007 when InterDigital Inc claimed Microsoft infringed its patents, and there were calls for a ban on the import of handsets. InterDigital Inc has been battling in court for eight years, initially trying to claim royalties on phones made by Nokia, now transferred to Microsoft. As well as blocking the call for an import ban, the ITC stated that Microsoft did not infringe patents relating to the way mobiles make calls. In short Microsoft is in the clear and InterDigital's rights have not been violated.

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Minix unveils a mini PC with Intel Braswell

Liliputing -

Tiny PC maker Minix has been offering Android-powered TV boxes for a few years, and at the start of 2015 the company launched a model with an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor and support for Windows. Now Minix plans to launch a new model with a more powerful processor based on Intel’s Braswell architecture. The new Minix […]

Minix unveils a mini PC with Intel Braswell is a post from: Liliputing

Arro Taxi App Arrives In NYC As 'Best Hope' Against Uber

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An anonymous reader writes with a report at The Stack that "New York City cabs have begun testing a new app-based taxi system in an attempt to win back customers lost to Uber and Lyft." The app is called Arro, and is being trialled in about 7,000 New York cabs. It sticks with metered prices, rather than the demand-based price increases that Uber institutes for times of peak demand. With so many cabs on the road already, the makers boast that Arro will outpace Uber soon. At least based on my limited experience with each, real competition with Uber or Lyft would require some seminars on good customer service.

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John Conway: All Play and No Work For a Genius

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An anonymous reader points out Quanta's spotlight piece on mathematician John Conway, whose best known mathematical contribution is probably his "Game of Life," which has inspired many a screensaver and more than a few computer science careers. From the article: Based at Princeton University, though he found fame at Cambridge (as a student and professor from 1957 to 1987), John Horton Conway, 77, claims never to have worked a day in his life. Instead, he purports to have frittered away reams and reams of time playing. Yet he is Princeton's John von Neumann Professor in Applied and Computational Mathematics (now emeritus). He's a fellow of the Royal Society. And he is roundly praised as a genius. "The word 'genius' gets misused an awful lot," said Persi Diaconis, a mathematician at Stanford University. "John Conway is a genius. And the thing about John is he'll think about anything. He has a real sense of whimsy. You can't put him in a mathematical box."

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How Close Are We, Really, To Nuclear Fusion?

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StartsWithABang writes: The ultimate dream when it comes to clean, green, safe, abundant energy is nuclear fusion. The same process that powers the core of the Sun could also power everything on Earth millions of times over, if only we could figure out how to reach that breakeven point. Right now, we have three different candidates for doing so: inertial confinement, magnetic confinement, and magnetized target fusion. Recent advances have all three looking promising in various ways, making one wonder why we don't spend more resources towards achieving the holy grail of energy.

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Kenya's iHub Creates Accelerator Program For Tech-Hardware Entrepreneurs

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An anonymous reader writes: The iHub in Nairobi has long been at the epicentre of tech developments in Africa, and has been lauded by both Barack Obama and Satya Nadella in recent weeks. It currently has about 3000 software devs registered as members, but since last year has been building a makerspace for hardware entrepreneurs, too. Gearbox, as its called, it's just launched its first incubation program with the backing of Village Capital, offering $100,000 in investment opportunities for 12 entrepreneurs through a three month program. According to the organisers, it's the first of its kind on the continent. (It's certainly not the first hackerspace in Africa, though -- even in 2012, there were quite a few.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Look At the World's First Virtual Reality Theme Park

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redletterdave writes: The Void is the first company to create a virtual reality theme park, where virtual experiences are layered on top of physical, real world environments. Tech Insider was the first media outlet to visit The Void's headquarters in Utah, filming the company's first creations. These experiences are still far from final, but the footage is impressive and entertaining. This is not Lazer Tag.

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Croatian Party Advocates Government Adoption of Open Source

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An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, Croatian political party Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) published a new policy that encourages the government to pursue open source solutions, addresses the dangers of vendor lock-in, and insists on open document standards. Best of all, they did it the open source way. In this article on Opensource.com, Croatian startup founder Josip Almasi highlights some of the policy's implications, as well as why it could matter in the upcoming election.

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Harshest Penalty for Alleged Rapist Was For Using a Computer To Arrange Contact With Teen

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An anonymous reader writes: Today in a nationally publicized case, an alleged rapist from a fairly elite boarding school was convicted of a number of related misdemeanors, but the jury did not find him guilty of rape. According to the New York Times, his lone felony conviction was "using a computer to lure a minor." In effect, a criminal was convicted of multiple misdemeanors, including sexual penetration of a child, but the biggest penalty he faces is a felony record and years in jail because he used a computer to contact the child, rather than picking her up at a coffee shop, meeting her at a party, or hiring a fifteen-year-old prostitute. Prosecutors have these "using a computer" charges as an additional quiver in their bow, but should we really be making it a felony to use a computer for non-computer-related crime when there is no underlying felony conviction?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Uber Hires Hackers Who Remotely Killed a Jeep

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An anonymous reader writes: The past several weeks have been rife with major vulnerabilities in modern cars, but none were so dramatic as when Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek tampered with the systems on a moving Jeep Cherokee. Now, Miller and Valasek have left their jobs to join a research laboratory for Uber. It's the same lab that became home for a number of autonomous vehicle experts poached from Carnegie Mellon University. From the article: "As Uber plunges more deeply into developing or adapting self-driving cars, Miller and Valasek could help the company make that technology more secure. Uber envisions autonomous cars that could someday replace its hundreds of thousands of contract drivers. The San Francisco company has gone to top-tier universities and research centers to build up this capability."

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Amazon Developing TV Series Based On Galaxy Quest

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An anonymous reader writes: Entertainment Weekly reports that Amazon Studios is developing a TV show based on Galaxy Quest, the 1999 film that parodied classic sci-fi shows like Star Trek. In the movie, actors for a Trek-like show were conscripted by real aliens to help run a starship and negotiate peace with a mortal enemy. The actors had no idea what to do, of course, and ended up getting help from the most rabid fans of their show. The new TV show is still in early stages of development. It's unlikely that the original Galaxy Quest cast will return — it starred Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Sam Rockwell, to name a few. However, several important members of the production crew will return: "The film's co-writer Robert Gordon will pen the script and executive produce the pilot. The film's director Dean Parisot will direct and executive produce. And executive producers Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein are on board as well." The show is a ways off, yet — they haven't even been greenlit for a pilot episode — but it'd be a welcome addition to today's sci-fi TV offerings

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Appeals Court Falls for Government’s Shell Game in NSA Spying Case

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s opinion today in Klayman v. Obama is highly disappointing and, worse, based on a mistaken concern about the underlying facts. The court said that since the plaintiffs' phone service was provided by one subsidiary of Verizon—Verizon Wireless—rather than another—Verizon Business—they couldn't prove that they had standing to sue. The court sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Richard Leon to give the Klayman plaintiffs an opportunity to prove that their records were in fact collected. The appeals court did not rule one way or the other of the constitutionality of the mass collection program.

As an initial matter, recent releases by the government make clear that the plaintiffs' records were in fact collected. Earlier this month, in response to a Freedom of Information request from the New York Times, the government released documents confirming that it does indeed collect bulk telephone records from Verizon Wireless under Section 215. Specifically, the formally-released documents reference orders to Verizon Wireless as of September 29, 2010, when they had to report a problem to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

This should mean that the plaintiffs records were collected, at least as of 2010, but likely long before and after. The government should give up its shell game here and admit the time frame that it collected the Klayman plaintiffs records, along with all other Verizon Wireless customers.

But more importantly, the government’s telephone records collection was, by design, a mass collection program. Famously, then NSA Director Keith Alexander told Congress that "you need the haystack to find the needle." Admittedly then, the records of millions of innocent Americans were collected.

Yet despite this, the court allowed itself to be blinded. The court declined to consider the critically important questions of whether the U.S. Constitution allows the government to secretly shift from targeted to mass surveillance of the telephone calls (and associations) of Americans. It surrendered its role to ensure that the law is justly interpreted and applied and that the government act within the Constitution. Instead, it endorsed the government’s argument that no public, adversarial court can review its actions unless those seeking review can prove with some certainty that they were one of the millions whose records were collected. The court thus joined the government in requiring that one challenging the mass collection perform an almost impossible task—proving the still secret details of an admitted mass surveillance program in order to have a court determine whether it is constitutional.

The ruling is a letdown, especially since the court seemed interested in addressing the underlying questions about the government's ability to collect the records during the oral argument in November 2014, in which I was allowed to participate on behalf of EFF and the ACLU. We'll have a later post explaining likely future steps in the case and how this fits in with the passage of USA FREEDOM Act. EFF will continue to fight to hold the NSA accountable for mass collection of Americans' private information. Our phone and Internet networks should be protected from unfettered government spying.

Related Issues: NSA SpyingRelated Cases: Klayman v. Obama
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The future has arrived: you can finally play a banana piano

Liliputing -

A Raspberry Pi project has crossed over the line of innovative idea and into the forest of weird. Thanks to a recent addition to the accessory line for Raspberry Pi that Adafruit offers, one man has turned a bowl full of fruit into a MIDI keyboard, complete with multiple sound effects and adjustable tones. With […]

The future has arrived: you can finally play a banana piano is a post from: Liliputing

Symantec Researchers Find 49 New Modules of Regin Spying Tool

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itwbennett writes: Security researchers from Symantec have identified 49 more modules (bringing the total number found so far to 75) of the sophisticated Regin cyberespionage platform that many believe is used by the U.S. National Security Agency and its close allies. Some of the modules implement basic malware functions, while other modules are much more specialized and built with specific targets in mind. 'One module was designed to monitor network traffic to Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) web servers, another was observed collecting administration traffic for mobile telephony base station controllers, while another was created specifically for parsing mail from Exchange databases,' the Symantec researchers said in an updated version of their white paper (PDF) published Thursday.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Russia's Wikipedia Ban Buckles Under HTTPS Encryption

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Dueling forces of encryption and government censorship came to a head in Russia this week in the form of an order to block Wikipedia. One Wikipedia article in particular (about charas hashish) was deemed to run afoul of the country's restrictions on content related to drugs. This is just the latest in a deeply troubling campaign of censorship—but because the Wikimedia Foundation uses HTTPS-encrypted connections for all of its sites, the government was left with only the option of ordering the entire site blocked, or leaving the offending page accessible.

The Russian Wikipedia article on charas hashish.

That's because HTTPS encryption protects not just the contents of the communications between browsers and the web sites they're visiting, but also the specific pages on those sites—in other words, everything "after the slash" in a URL.

Contrast that to when you visit an unencrypted site, like a New York Times article: that connection can be monitored by your ISP, the network operator (like your employer, if you're on a work network), or even others on the same wireless connection. There are obvious privacy implications here—after all, that's a lot of people that can look over your shoulder—but also, if you combine that eavesdropping ability with a governmental power to mandate blocks, the result is censorship that can be very granular. Visits to a particular page can be identified and blocked; even keywords in the text of a web page can trigger censorship.

That leads to the argument that granular censorship is preferable in certain cases, because more material is allowed to stay up and accessible. A major counter-argument to that point has long been that blocking large chunks of the Internet is more disruptive, and not as easily enforced, and so less likely to happen at all. Extreme censorship measures are more visible: they encourage residents in those countries to note the existence of censorship, and learn about and adopt censorship circumvention technologies, which are in may cases also more secure against government snooping, and nudges governments away from blocking altogether.

These two arguments were both set forward when the Wikimedia Foundation was considering implementing HTTPS across all its sites. Ultimately, the policy preferred by supporters of the second argument prevailed, and Wikimedia adopted full HTTPS. This week's example of Wikipedia in Russia is one of the first few test cases of governments forced into an all-or-nothing blocking choice; fortunately, it provides at least anecdotal evidence that the theory works. After just a few hours of blocks, Russia reverted its policy, claiming the material had been taken down. (It hadn't, according to Wikipedia editors, though the title and URL of the page had been changed.)

This isn't the first time censorship efforts have been dialed back in the face of HTTPS leading to governments conspicuously overblocking. The government of China briefly suspended access to Github over a handful of software repositories, but relented in the face of public pushback. Similarly, the government of Iran has only occasionally blocked Google services, despite its now-discontinued Reader serving as a proxy for unfiltered news from the open web.

The case for news sites to adopt this kind of encryption, then, is obvious. Unfortunately, for a handful of reasons, the major outlets have been slow to do so. Independent publications like Techdirt and The Intercept were early adopters; The Washington Post became the first major general news organization to do so earlier this summer.

Of course, while HTTPS encryption and other censorship-resistant technologies can help, it would be an oversimplification to boil these issues down to purely technical questions. Countries can block foreign sites en mass, and encourage self-censoring domestic alternatives to emerge. Local sites are much more vulnerable not only to government demands to remove data, but more insidious forms of control. For instance, , Russia has also instituted a data retention mandate for sites, set to go into effect on September 1, which includes provisions that will oblige foreign sites to store their logs on local servers, or risk blocking.

Encrypting traffic on the wire is important, but it matters far less if law enforcement can demand you keep—and hand over—access records.That's one reason we oppose data retention mandates where they're proposed—including, recently, in Paraguay and Peru. It's also an important reminder to encourage more users to learn how to use anonymity software, like Tor, to better protect themselves from data collection. But the same calculus may well operate with Russia's data retention bill. Will Russia consistently enforce compliance, or will the economic and popular cost of blocking major websites stay their hand? Will foreign companies, out of fear of being locked out of Russia's market, decide to hand over their users' data to the Russian authorities? Or will they stand firm as Wikipedia did with https, and see the authorities blink?

Online censorship and surveillance are just one element in a pattern of human rights abuses. Web site operators and members of the online community bear an important responsibility to encourage the kinds of security measures that can protect people—and when facing off against invasive measures, may have more power than they realize.

Related Issues: InternationalEncrypting the Web
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Ten Dropbox Engineers Build BSD-licensed, Lossless 'Pied Piper' Compression Algorithm

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An anonymous reader writes: In Dropbox's "Hack Week" this year, a team of ten engineers built the fantasy Pied Piper algorithm from HBO's Silicon Valley, achieving 13% lossless compression on Mobile-recorded H.264 videos and 22% on arbitrary JPEG files. Their algorithm can return the compressed files to their bit-exact values. According to FastCompany, "Its ability to compress file sizes could actually have tangible, real-world benefits for Dropbox, whose core business is storing files in the cloud."The code is available on GitHub under a BSD license for people interested in advancing the compression or archiving their movie files.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NoBitcoinLicense.org: The Fastest, Most Impactful Tool to Fight the California Virtual Currency License

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Californians, please help us stop A.B. 1326 

We’re deeply concerned about A.B. 1326, a misguided virtual currency licensing proposal moving quickly through the California legislature. We’ve blogged about the problems with the bill, urged supporters to send emails to their legislators, and released a coalition letter from 17 companies and nonprofits to educate lawmakers about the issues with the proposed license. 

Today, we’re proud to join friends at Taskforce.is and Fight for the Future in announcing a new campaign to stop the virtual currency license: No Bitcoin License.

No Bitcoin License is hosted by Taskforce.is and uses CallPower technology to connect you to your state senator. If you are in California, just visit the website, enter your phone number, and you’ll be connected to your lawmaker’s office. There’s a super short script on the site for you to follow.

Visit No Bitcoin License.

Phone calls can make a huge difference in campaigns like this. State senators get contacted far less often than you would think. Even just 10 calls to a single state senator’s office can be highly influential. 

That means your decision to pick up the phone could be exactly what we need to slow down this bill, or stop it altogether.

Why should you care?

  • A.B. 1326 is so vague that it’s hard to know which companies and businesses it will affect;
  • A.B. 1326 is technically inaccurate;
  • Bitcoin experts haven’t had adequate opportunity to weigh in on the bill because there hasn’t been even one full informational hearing to discuss the merits of the proposal;
  • The bill grants sweeping authority to the Commission of Business Oversight to reject license applications—including provision license applications—without administrative appeal;
  • A.B. 1326 would implicate video game currencies and smart contracts; and
  • The bill's focus on a single technology, Bitcoin, will be illogical and ill-suited if applied to other virtual currencies, and thus threatens to chill innovation around current and future alternative virtual currencies. 

Worst of all, passing this bill now locks California into an early stage in the development of virtual currency technology, before we have a good sense of where the technology and its uses are headed.

We still have a chance to stop this bill. If you’re in California, please speak out. And if you’re not in California, please help spread the word. 

Visit No Bitcoin License.


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Orange Pi PC is a $15 single-board computer

Liliputing -

Sure, with a $35 price tag, the Raspberry Pi 2 is pretty cheap. Want something even cheaper? The makers of last year’s Orange Pi are back, and this time they’re offering a $15 single-board computer called the Orange Pi PC. It’s a tiny PC with an Alwinner H3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and support for Android or […]

Orange Pi PC is a $15 single-board computer is a post from: Liliputing

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