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The Internet

Kickstarter Bets On 'Wired' Arduino-Compatible IoT Platform 52

L-One-L-One writes: Most IoT home projects today are based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and friends. But this is not always the ideal solution: you end up swapping batteries frequently, which becomes annoying quite quickly. You also have to deal with signal strength issues and interferences. To address this problem, a new Kickstarter campaign called NoCAN is proposing an Arduino-compatible internet-of-things platform based on wired connections that combine networking and power in one cable. The platform uses a set of cheap Arduino-compatible nodes controlled through a Raspberry Pi. The network uses CAN-bus and offers a publish/subscribe mechanism like MQTT and over-the-network firmware updates. It can also be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. Even with such features, can it succeed in going against the all-wireless trend? We'll know in a few weeks.
The Almighty Buck

Google To Invest $550 Million In Chinese E-Commerce Giant JD.com (yahoo.com) 24

hackingbear shares a report from Yahoo News: Google will invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce powerhouse JD.com, part of the U.S. internet giant's efforts to expand its presence in fast-growing Asian markets and battle rivals including Amazon.com. The two companies described the investment announced on Monday as one piece of a broader partnership that will include the promotion of JD.com products on Google's shopping service. This could help JD.com expand beyond its base in China and Southeast Asia and establish a meaningful presence in U.S. and European markets. For JD.com, the Google deal shows its determination to build a set of global alliances as it seeks to counter Alibaba, which has been more focused on forging domestic retail tie-ups.
Android

Android Messages Will Now Let You Send Texts From Your Computer (www.blog.google) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google is beginning to roll out desktop browser support for Android Messages, allowing people to use their PC for sending messages and viewing those that have been received on their Android smartphone. Google says the feature is starting to go out to users today and continuing for the rest of the week. Text, images, and stickers are all supported on the web version.

To get started, the Android Messages website has you scan a QR code using the Android Messages mobile app, which creates a link between the two. In today's blog post, Google also goes over numerous other recent improvements to Android Messenger including built-in GIF search, support for smart replies on more carriers, inline link previews, and easy copy/paste for two-factor authentication messages.

Security

The 'World's Worst' Smart Padlock Is Even Worse Than Previously Thought (sophos.com) 110

Last week, cybersecurity company PenTest Partners managed to unlock TappLock's smart padlock within two seconds. They "found that the actual code and digital authentication methods for the lock were basically nonexistent," reports The Verge. "All someone would need to unlock the lock is its Bluetooth Low Energy MAC address, which the lock itself broadcasts." The company also managed to snap the lock with a pair of 12-inch bolt cutters.

Today, Naked Security reports that it gets much worse: "Tapplock's cloud-based administration tools were as vulnerable as the lock, as Greek security researcher Vangelis Stykas found out very rapidly." From the report: Stykas found that once you'd logged into one Tapplock account, you were effectively authenticated to access anyone else's Tapplock account, as long as you knew their account ID. You could easily sniff out account IDs because Tapplock was too lazy to use HTTPS (secure web connections) for connections back to home base -- but you didn't really need to bother, because account IDs were apparently just incremental IDs anyway, like house numbers on most streets. As a result, Stykas could not only add himself as an authorized user to anyone else's lock, but also read out personal information from that person's account, including the last location (if known) where the Tapplock was opened.

Incredibly, Tapplock's back-end system would not only let him open other people's locks using the official app, but also tell him where to find the locks he could now open! Of course, this gave him an unlocking speed advantage over Pen Test Partners -- by using the official app Stykas needed just 0.8 seconds to open a lock, instead of the sluggish two seconds needed by the lock-cracking app.

Google

Google Is Training Machines To Predict When a Patient Will Die (bloomberg.com) 111

A newly developed tool by Google can forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die. Google documented some of this tool's abilities in May; in one instance, Google's tool estimated, by taking 175,639 data points into consideration, that a particular patient's odds at dying during her stay at the hospital was 19.9 percent, up from 9.3 percent that the hospital's computers had estimated. Now Bloomberg reports what Google intends to do with this new tool next. From the report: Google's next step is moving this predictive system into clinics, AI chief Jeff Dean told Bloomberg News in May. Dean's health research unit -- sometimes referred to as Medical Brain -- is working on a slew of AI tools that can predict symptoms and disease with a level of accuracy that is being met with hope as well as alarm. Inside the company, there's a lot of excitement about the initiative.

"They've finally found a new application for AI that has commercial promise," one Googler says. Since Alphabet's Google declared itself an "AI-first" company in 2016, much of its work in this area has gone to improve existing internet services. The advances coming from the Medical Brain team give Google the chance to break into a brand new market -- something co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have tried over and over again. Software in health care is largely coded by hand these days. In contrast, Google's approach, where machines learn to parse data on their own, "can just leapfrog everything else," said Vik Bajaj, a former executive at Verily, an Alphabet health-care arm, and managing director of investment firm Foresite Capital. "They understand what problems are worth solving," he said. "They've now done enough small experiments to know exactly what the fruitful directions are."
The report adds that, among other things, Google's tool has the ability to sift through notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts.
The Internet

Gmail Proves That Some People Hate Smart Suggestions (techcrunch.com) 178

Citing a number of complaints following Google's Gmail makeover, TechCrunch's Romain Dillet makes the case for why some users don't want smart suggestions in the email service: There's a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don't want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter. A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That's why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing. But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking.

VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google's order.

Google

Diversity At Google Hasn't Changed Much Over the Last Year (cnet.com) 408

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

"Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

The Almighty Buck

Venmo Is Going All In On Mobile Payments (appleinsider.com) 52

Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited."

The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

Open Source

Why OpenStreetMap Should Be a Priority for the Open Source Community (linuxjournal.com) 120

"Despite its low profile, OpenStreetMap is arguably one of the most important projects for the future of free software," argues Glyn Moody, author of Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution, in a new Linux Journal article shared by long-time Slashdot reader carlie: The rise of mobile phones as the primary computing device for billions of people, especially in developing economies, lends a new importance to location and movement. Many internet services now offer additional features based on where users are, where they are going and their relative position to other members of social networks. Self-driving cars and drones are two rapidly evolving hardware areas where accurate geographical information is crucial. All of those things depend upon a map in critical ways, and they require large, detailed datasets. OpenStreetMap is the only truly global open alternative to better-known, and much better-funded geodata holdings, such as Google Maps.

The current dominance of the latter is a serious problem for free software -- and freedom itself. The data that lies behind Google Maps is proprietary. Thus, any open-source program that uses Google Maps or other commercial mapping services is effectively including proprietary elements in its code. For purists, that is unacceptable in itself. But even for those with a more pragmatic viewpoint, it means that open source is dependent on a company for data that can be restricted or withdrawn at any moment....

Although undoubtedly difficult, creating high-quality map-based services is a challenge that must be tackled by the Open Source community if it wants to remain relevant in a world dominated by mobile computing. The bad news is that at the moment, millions of people are happily sending crucial geodata to proprietary services like Waze, as well as providing free bug-fixes for Google Maps. Far better if they could be working with equal enthusiasm and enjoyment on open projects, since the resulting datasets would be freely available to all, not turned into corporate property. The good news is that OpenStreetMap provides exactly the right foundation for creating those open map-based services, which is why supporting it must become a priority for the Open Source world.

Crime

Two Teenaged Gamers Plead 'Not Guilty' For Fatal Kansas Swatting Death (reuters.com) 148

Two more men entered pleas in federal court for their roles in a SWAT call that led to a fatal police shooting in Kansas: not guilty. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita, Kansas, and Casey Viner, 18, from a suburb of Cincinnati, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and remained free on $10,000 bond, court records showed. Both of the suspects live with their parents, local media reported. In the so-called "swatting" incident, in which someone falsely reports an emergency requiring a police response, Viner got upset at Gaskill over a video game they played online, federal prosecutors said, and Viner contacted a known "swatter"...and asked him to make the false report to police at an address that had been provided by Gaskill. Viner did not know that Gaskill no longer lived at the address, but Gaskill knew, prosecutors said.

After media reports of the shooting, Gaskill urged [swatter Tyler] Barriss to delete their communications and Viner wiped his phone, according to the indictment... Barriss and Viner face federal charges of conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud. Viner and Gaskill were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Gaskill was also charged with wire fraud and additional counts of obstruction of justice.

In a jailhouse interview in January, Barriss told a local news team that "Whether you hang me from a tree, or you give me 5, 10, 15 years... I don't think it will ever justify what happened... I hope no one ever does it, ever again. I hope it's something that ceases to exist."

In April, while still in jail, Barriss gained access to the internet then posted "All right, now who was talking shit? >:) Your ass is about to get swatted."
Security

17 Backdoored Images Downloaded 5 Million Times Removed From Docker Hub (bleepingcomputer.com) 36

An anonymous reader writes: "The Docker team has pulled 17 Docker container images that have been backdoored and used to install reverse shells and cryptocurrency miners on users' servers for the past year," reports Bleeping Computer. "The malicious Docker container images have been uploaded on Docker Hub, the official repository of ready-made Docker images that sysadmins can pull and use on their servers, work, or personal computers." The images, downloaded over 5 million times, helped crooks mine Monero worth over $90,000 at today's exchange rate. Docker Hub is now just the latest package repository to feature backdoored libraries, after npm and PyPl. Docker Hub is now facing criticism for taking months to intervene after user reports, and then going on stage at a developer conference and claiming they care about security.
Communications

Guy Robs Someone At Gunpoint For Domain Name, Gets 20 Years In Jail (vice.com) 134

Yesterday, 43-year-old Iowa man Sherman Hopkins Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to rob a domain name from another man at gunpoint in 2017. As Motherboard reports, "this may be the first time someone has attempted to steal a domain name at gunpoint." From the report: Last June, Hopkins broke into the home of 26 year-old Ethan Deyo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa one afternoon and demanded that Deyo to log on to his computer to transfer the domain name for "doitforstate.com" to another account. According to Deyo's bio on his personal website, he is a web entrepreneur who previously worked for the web hosting service GoDaddy. After seeing Hopkins enter the apartment, Deyo locked himself into his room and Hopkins kicked in the door. Hopkins kicked in the door and "pistol-whipped" Deyo, held a gun to his head and used a stun gun on him during the encounter. While he attempted to wrestle the gun away from Hopkins, Deyo was shot in the leg, but he eventually gained control of the firearm and shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest. It's unclear why Hopkins wanted the domain name or who he was transferring the domain name to.
Businesses

The Most Remote Island in the World is Home to Seals, Seabirds, and an Internet Top-Level Domain (ieee.org) 90

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bouvet Island has little to offer. The most remote island in the world is fewer than 20 square miles in size, and it's almost entirely covered by a glacier. Long ago, it was an active volcano, but those fiery days have long since passed. Now, it's home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, a Norwegian research station, and its own top-level internet domain.

Top-level domains serve as part of the Internet's architecture. Aside from generic domains like .com and .edu, every country has a specific two-letter domain assigned to it. The United Kingdom, for example, uses .uk; Japan uses .jp. The United States has .us, though it's not widely used. The original idea was that each country could manage the websites registered by individuals and organizations within its borders by issuing them websites that use their country-specific domain.

But here's the weird thing about Bouvet Island having its own top-level domain: It's uninhabited. It's always been uninhabited. Located in the southern Atlantic, the closest land to Bouvet Island is the coast of Antarctica, 1,100 miles to the south. The closest inhabited land is the island Tristan da Cunha, a British overseas territory located 1,400 miles to the north (Interestingly enough, Tristan da Cunha does not have its own top-level domain).

The Internet

South Africans in Cape Town and Johannesburg Pay Much More For Internet Usage Than New Yorkers (qz.com) 63

South Africa may have some of the world's cheapest cities to live in, but using the internet in Cape Town and Johannesburg is surprisingly expensive by global standards. From a report: South Africans living in the country's two major cities spend more on their monthly internet costs than people living in New York, Tokyo, and even the perennially expensive Zurich, according to a report by Deutsche Bank. When comparing life in the global financial capitals, most other things, from rent to the cost of a cappuccino, were far cheaper in Johannesburg and Cape Town, making the cost of getting online even more of a shock to the pocket. Out of 50 cities surveyed, Joburgers spent the second most on monthly internet, beaten only by oil-rich Dubai. The amount shelled out by Capetonians ranked seventh behind Dublin, San Francisco, and Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, according to the report, which compared daily prices and living standards of cities around the world.
Communications

Comcast Says It Isn't Throttling Heavy Internet Users Anymore (cnet.com) 176

Comcast, which has been throttling speeds to slow down heavy internet users since 2008, has had a change of heart. From a report: Comcast has deactivated this "congestion management" system, according to an announcement this week. "As reflected in a June 11, 2018 update to our XFINITY Internet Broadband Disclosures, the congestion management system that was initially deployed in 2008 has been deactivated. As our network technologies and usage of the network continue to evolve, we reserve the right to implement a new congestion management system if necessary in the performance of reasonable network management and in order to maintain a good broadband Internet access service experience for our customers, and will provide updates here as well as other locations if a new system is implemented."
China

China's Surveillance State Will Soon Track Cars (wsj.com) 113

China is establishing an electronic identification system to track cars nationwide, according to a report on WSJ, which cites records and people briefed on the matter. From a report: Under the plan being rolled out July 1, a radio-frequency identification chip for vehicle tracking will be installed on cars when they are registered. Compliance will be voluntary this year but will be made mandatory for new vehicles at the start of 2019, the people said. Authorities have described the plan as a means to improve public security and to help ease worsening traffic congestion, documents show, a major concern in many Chinese cities partly because clogged roads contribute to air pollution. But such a system, implemented in the world's biggest automotive market, with sales of nearly 30 million vehicles a year, will also vastly expand China's surveillance network, experts say. That network already includes widespread use of security cameras, facial recognition technology and internet monitoring.
Social Networks

Turkey Bans Periscope (stockholmcf.org) 87

stikves writes: According to online reports, a recent court order has banned Periscope across Turkey. The cited reason is the alleged violation of copyrights of a local company named "Periskop." This adds to the list of online services no longer available in Turkey, including Wikipedia, PayPal and WordPress, among others. While access from Turkey to the domain periscope.tv and to the Twitter account "periscopeco" is banned, users can still access Periscope services under the name Scope TR and Twitter account "scopetr." Lawyers from Twitter, Apple and Google requested rejection of the case, "saying it was impossible for a company like Twitter, operating in the U.S., to be aware of the existence of the same brand name in Turkey," reports Stockholm Center for Freedom.
The Internet

'Netflix and Alphabet Will Need To Become ISPs, Fast' (techcrunch.com) 328

Following the recent official repeal of net neutrality and approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, an anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Danny Crichton. Crichton discusses the options Alphabet, Netflix and other video streaming services have on how to respond: For Alphabet, that will likely mean a redoubling of its commitment to Google Fiber. That service has been trumpeted since its debut, but has faced cutbacks in recent years in order to scale back its original ambitions. That has meant that cities like Atlanta, which have held out for the promise of cheap and reliable gigabit bandwidth, have been left in something of a lurch. Ultimately, Alphabet's strategic advantage against Comcast, AT&T and other massive ISPs is going to rest on a sort of mutually assured destruction. If Comcast throttles YouTube, then Alphabet can propose launching in a critical (read: lucrative) Comcast market. Further investment in Fiber, Project Fi or perhaps a 5G-centered wireless strategy will be required to give it to the leverage to bring those negotiations to a better outcome.

For Netflix, it is going to have to get into the connectivity game one way or the other. Contracts with carriers like Comcast and AT&T are going to be more challenging to negotiate in light of today's ruling and the additional power they have over throttling. Netflix does have some must-see shows, which gives it a bit of leverage, but so do the ISPs. They are going to have to do an end-run around the distributors to give them similar leverage to what Alphabet has up its sleeve. One interesting dynamic I could see forthcoming would be Alphabet creating strategic partnerships with companies like Netflix, Twitch and others to negotiate as a collective against ISPs. While all these services are at some level competitors, they also face an existential threat from these new, vertically merged ISPs. That might be the best of all worlds given the shit sandwich we have all been handed this week.

Advertising

Facebook May Ban Bad Businesses From Advertising (theverge.com) 111

Facebook will now let you file a complaint about businesses you've had a problem with if you bought something after clicking on one of their ads. If enough people complain about a business, it could lead to Facebook banning the company from running ads. The Verge reports: The new policy is rolling out globally starting today, and it's meant to help Facebook fight back against another type of advertising abuse on its platform. Facebook says it's trying to combat "bad shopping experiences," which can cost customers and make them frustrated with Facebook, too. Facebook is particularly interested in a few problem areas: shipping times, product quality, and customer service. This isn't just a matter of misleading advertising: if a company regularly provides bad service, products that don't meet buyers' expectations, or just frustrates consumers, they risk getting in trouble with the platform.

It appears that Facebook will send notifications to users to ask about their experience if it detects that they've purchased something after clicking on an ad. You'll also be able to find those companies and leave feedback on the Ads Activity page. Facebook says it will inform businesses about negative feedback and try to pinpoint problems that a large number of customers are having. If customer feedback doesn't improve after a warning, Facebook will eventually start to limit how many ads a company can run. If it continues long enough, they can be banned.

Television

The Internet Is Finally Going To Be Bigger Than TV Worldwide (qz.com) 60

According to estimates from media agency Zenith, next year, for the first time, people will spend more time using the internet than watching TV. People will spend an average of 170.6 minutes a day, or nearly three hours, using the internet in 2019. That's a tad more than the 170.3 minutes they're expected to spend watching TV. Quartz reports: Zenith measured media by how they are transmitted or distributed, such as broadcasts via TV signals and newspapers in print. Watching videos on the web through platforms like Netflix and YouTube, or reading a newspaper's website, counted as internet consumption. Nearly one-quarter of all media consumption across the globe will be through mobile this year, up from 5% in 2011. The average person will spend a total of about eight hours per day consuming media in its many forms this year, Zenith forecasts.

In some parts of the world, TV will remain on top -- for now. Zenith forecasted media consumption through 2020 and did not expect the internet to overtake TV in Europe, Latin America, and the whole of North America in that time. In the U.S., it was projected to surpass TV in the U.S. in two years.

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