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Microsoft

Vivaldi CEO: Stop Your Anti-Competitive Practices With Edge, Microsoft! (betanews.com) 102

Reader Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft is no stranger to pissing people off, particularly when it comes to Windows 10. There have been endless cries about forced updates, complaints about ads, moaning about privacy, and now the CEO of Vivaldi has lashed out at the company for its anti-competitive practices with Microsoft Edge. Jon von Tetzchner says that Microsoft has forgotten about the "actual real-life people that use technology in their daily lives." He takes particular umbrage at Windows 10's continued insistence of resetting the default browser to Edge. Indicating that his patience has now run out, von Tetzchner points to a 72-year-old friend who was confused by the change and unable to reverse things. He says that Microsoft is failing to respect the decisions made by users, and this is something that needs to stop.
AI

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Acquires and Will Free Up Science Search Engine Meta (techcrunch.com) 53

tomhath quotes a report from TechCrunch: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's $45 billion philanthropy organization is making its first acquisition in order to make it easier for scientists to search, read and tie together more than 26 million science research papers. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is acquiring Meta, an AI-powered research search engine startup, and will make its tool free to all in a few months after enhancing the product. Meta's AI recognizes authors and citations between papers so it can surface the most important research instead of just what has the best SEO. It also provides free full-text access to 18,000 journals and literature sources. Meta co-founder and CEO Sam Molyneux writes that "Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta's data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world."
Businesses

China Unseats US As Global Investment Leader In Financial Technology: Report (fortune.com) 99

Paul Fernhout writes: China has unseated North America as the global investment leader in financial technology, or "fintech," according to Citigroup's latest report on "digital disruption." The researchers attribute the power shift to the rise of what they term "Chinese dragons," an industry term for the biggest upstarts in Asia. Think of Ant Financial, the payments spinout of Alibaba, as well as Lu.com, JD Finance, and Qufenqi, emerging eastern juggernauts that are generally less familiar to consumers in the west. China accounted for more than half of all fintech investments globally in the first nine months of last year, the report said. Specifically in terms of venture capital, the country more than doubled its worldwide share of the investment category, rising to 46% of the global total versus just 19% the same period in 2015. The U.S., meanwhile, sunk to 41% of the global total from 56% during the same period in 2015, putting it behind China.
Math

Cervical Cancer Just Got Much Deadlier -- Because Scientists Fixed a Math Error (arstechnica.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Cervical cancer is 77 percent more deadly for black women and 44 percent more deadly for white women than previously thought, researchers report today in the journal Cancer. But the lethal boosts aren't from more women actually dying than before -- they're from scientists correcting their own calculation error. In the past, their estimates didn't account for women who had undergone hysterectomies -- which almost always removes the cervix, and with it the risk of getting cervical cancer. We don't include men in our calculation because they are not at risk for cervical cancer and by the same measure, we shouldn't include women who don't have a cervix," Anne F. Rositch, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins told The New York Times. For the study, the researchers looked at national cervical cancer mortality data collected between 2000 to 2012. They also looked into national survey data on the prevalence of hysterectomies. Then, they used those figures to adjust the number of women at risk of dying of cervical cancer. The researchers found that black women have a mortality rate of 10.1 per 100,000. For white women, the rate is 4.7 per 100,000. Past estimates had those rates at 5.7 and 3.2, respectively. The new death rate for black women in the US is on par with that of developing countries. Though the new study wasn't designed to address racial disparities, experts speculate that the large difference reflects unequal access to preventative medicine and quality healthcare.
Transportation

South Korea Developing 'Near-Supersonic' Train Similar To Hyperloop (huffingtonpost.co.uk) 93

The South Korean government plans to unveil a high-speed train that can travel at near-supersonic speeds capable of cutting a five hour journey to just 30 minutes. It's reminiscent of the Hyperloop, a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation that propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed. Huffington Post UK reports: According to the Korea Railroad Research Institute, it plans to unveil a "hyper tube" format train in the "not too distant" future. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, the government-owned organization said: "We hope to create an ultra-fast train, which will travel inside a state-of-the-art low-pressure tube at lightning speeds, in the not-too-distant future. To that end, we will cooperate with associated institutes as well as Hanyang University to check the viability of various related technologies called the hyper-tube format over the next three years." While this sounds very similar to the low-pressure concept designed initially by Tesla founder Elon Musk it seems as though the KRRI wants to go even further and create a system that will leave Hyperloop looking like a Hornby set. By throwing all their resources at the project, South Korea is hoping to skip past maglev, a still-new propulsion system that uses electromagnets to actually levitate trains above the air. While this removes some of the friction that comes with using conventional wheels, it still doesn't remove the brick wall of friction that is air itself. By building a low-pressure tube however and placing the train inside it you can effectively create a train that could travel at eye-watering speeds.
United States

Yahoo Sale To Verizon Delayed After Hack Disclosures (securityweek.com) 10

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: Yahoo said Monday that the closing of a $4.8 billion deal to sell its core internet assets to U.S. telecom titan Verizon has been delayed several months. A close originally set for this quarter has been pushed into next quarter, and has been thrown into doubt following disclosures of two huge data breaches. Yahoo announced in September that hackers in 2014 stole personal data from more than 500 million of its user accounts. It admitted another cyberattack in December, this one dating from 2013, affecting over a billion users. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into whether Yahoo should have informed investors sooner about the two major data breaches.
Communications

Apple Investigating Issue With AirPods Randomly Disconnecting During Calls (macrumors.com) 92

According to MacRumors, Apple is investigating multiple reports from iPhone owners of AirPods randomly disconnecting and reconnecting during calls. While the issue doesn't appear to be widespread, it appears to be a big enough problem to attract Apple's attention. One of the main reasons why the AirPods were so late to the market was because Apple needed more time to ensure the earpieces had reliable connectivity. Specifically, they were delayed to ensure both earpieces receive audio at the same time. MacRumors reports: A MacRumors forum thread and a long thread on Apple's Support Communities website have been generated by AirPods users who are regularly experiencing Bluetooth connection dropouts during phone calls, despite the fact that the wireless earphones almost never lose their connection when used to listen to music or anything else. MacRumors forum member protobiont wrote: "I've had this happen on two phone calls today. I am talking and suddenly the audio switches to the phone, I hear the Airpod connect tones and the audio switches back. This will repeat itself a few times, which is quite distracting during a phone call." At present, the issue appears to be limited to iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus devices, with several users reporting no such problems after upgrading to an iPhone 7. MacRumors was also unable to replicate the problem on Apple's latest handset. Initial reports suggested the dropout issue only occurs if users also have an Apple Watch paired to their iPhone, but MacRumors was able to replicate the problem with a Fitbit Blaze, suggesting a more general conflict when other Bluetooth devices are also connected. Unpairing and then repairing the AirPods does not appear to solve the problem, neither does rebooting nor resetting the iPhone. Until Apple offers a solution, users are advised to use only one AirPod for conducting calls, as the dropouts only seem to occur when both earpieces are in use.
Security

Ransomware Infects All St Louis Public Library Computers (theguardian.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Libraries in St Louis have been bought to a standstill after computers in all the city's libraries were infected with ransomware, a particularly virulent form of computer virus used to extort money from victims. Hackers are demanding $35,000 (£28,000) to restore the system after the cyberattack, which affected 700 computers across the Missouri city's 16 public libraries. The hackers demanded the money in electronic currency bitcoin, but, as CNN reports, the authority has refused to pay for a code that would unlock the machines. As a result, the library authority has said it will wipe its entire computer system and rebuild it from scratch, a solution that may take weeks. On Friday, St Louis public library announced it had managed to regain control of its servers, with tech staff continuing to work to restore borrowing services. The 16 libraries have all remained open, but computers continue to be off limits to the public. Spokeswoman Jen Hatton told CNN that the attack had hit the city's schoolchildren and its poor worst, as many do not have access to the internet at home. "For many [...] we're their only access to the internet," she said. "Some of them have a smartphone, but they don't have a data plan. They come in and use the wifi." As well as causing the loans system to seize up, preventing borrowers from checking out or returning books, the attack froze all computers, leaving no one able to access the four million items that should be available through the service. The system is believed to have been infected through a centralized computer server, and staff emails have also been frozen by the virus. The FBI has been called in to investigate.
Government

Yahoo Faces SEC Probe Over Data Breaches (wsj.com) 18

New submitter Linorgese quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: paywalled; alternate source): U.S. authorities are investigating whether Yahoo Inc.'s two massive data breaches should have been reported sooner to investors, according to people familiar with the matter, in what could prove to be a major test in defining when a company is required to disclose a hack. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had begun an investigation into a 2013 data breach that involved more than 1 billion users' accounts. That followed Yahoo's disclosure that a 2014 intrusion involved about 500 million accounts. As part of its investigation, the SEC last month requested documents from Yahoo, the Journal said, citing persons familiar with the situation. The agency has been seeking a model case for cybersecurity rules it issued in 2011, legal experts told the Journal. In a November 2016 SEC filing, Yahoo noted that it was cooperating with the SEC, Federal Trade Commission and other federal, state, and foreign governmental officials and agencies including "a number of State Attorneys General, and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York." When Yahoo reported the 2014 breach it said that evidence linked it to a state-sponsored attacker. It has not announced a suspected responsibility for the larger 2013 intrusion, but the company has said it does not believe the two breaches are linked.
Movies

FBI Is Probing Sundance Cyberattack That Forced Box Office To Close (hollywoodreporter.com) 35

Over the weekend, the Sundance Film Festival was hacked. "Sundance Film Festival has been subject to a cyberattack, causing network outages that have shut down our box office," said a spokesperson for the festival. "No further information about the attack is available at this time, but our team is working hard to get our system back up and running as soon as possible. All screenings will still take place as planned." According to The Hollywood Reporter, the FBI is now investigating the hack and is working with Sundance officials to identify the culprit. From their report: Although the festival was able to get its ticketing systems back online within an hour of the Saturday breach, multiple other denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Sundance's IT infrastructure followed. A DDoS attack works by flooding the bandwidth or resources of a targeted server. A Sundance Film Festival rep offers the following statement: "The FBI is reviewing the case. At this point, we do not have any reason to believe the cyberattack was targeted towards a specific film. No artist or customer information was compromised." At the time of the hack, the festival offered little in the way of explanation of what happened, but hinted that filmmakers at the annual celebration of independent cinema may have been the target. One producer of a Sundance documentary critical of the Russian government believes his film could have played a role in the attack. "There's been speculation that our film may have sparked retribution," Icarus consulting producer Doug Blush tells THR. "It does not paint a flattering picture of [president Vladimir] Putin." Icarus, which made its world premiere at the festival the day before the hack, centers on a Russian doctor who oversaw and then spoke out about Russia's widespread state-sponsored sports doping. The Bryan Fogel-helmed film, which is being pitched to distributors, has played throughout the weekend in Park City at screenings for both press-and-industry and the public. Icarus isn't the only Sundance film that could antagonize the Russian government and Putin. Evgeny Afineevsky's Cries From Syria -- one of several docs tackling the war-torn nation -- also takes a critical look at Putin and Russia's military intervention in Syria. Cries From Syria made its world premiere at Sundance on Sunday, the day after the initial box-office cyberattack.
Communications

AT&T Offering Day Pass For International Travelers (cnet.com) 94

Starting Friday, AT&T customers who travel abroad can sign up for a new International Day Pass plan. Instead of paying by the minute, message or megabyte, the plan lets you pay a $10-a-day flat free so you can talk and text "all you want" and also access your data plan as though you're in the states. From a report: AT&T said the new plan is available for customers traveling to more than 100 countries listed here. To use the new plan, customers just need to add it once and it will automatically kick in each time they travel to a supported country, until it's removed.
Android

Google Voice Receives First Update in Five Years (zdnet.com) 80

Google Voice hasn't seen a lot of love or attention since it launched with some fanfare in 2009, but surprisingly Google wants people to know that it still cares about the communication app. In a new sprawling release -- the first of its kind in years -- Google has revamped all versions of its Voice app and site with a clean, modern look, new features, and, perhaps the best news of all, the promise of regular updates. From a report: Google is finally adding two features Google Voice users have long missed out on: MMS support for photo messaging and group chats. Previously workarounds were required to send and receive picture messages, and group chats were flat out not possible.
Technology

Alexa and Google Assistant Have a Problem: People Aren't Sticking With Voice Apps They Try (recode.net) 190

Amazon Echo and Google Home were the breakaway hits of the holiday shopping season. But both devices -- and the voice technologies that power them -- have some major hurdles to overcome if they want to keep both consumers and software developers engaged. From a report on Recode: That's one of the big takeaways from a new report that an industry startup, VoiceLabs, released on Monday. For starters, 69 percent of the 7,000-plus Alexa "Skills" -- voice apps, if you will -- have zero or one customer review, signaling low usage. What's more, when developers for Alexa and its competitor, Google Assistant, do get someone to enable a voice app, there's only a 3 percent chance, on average, that the person will be an active user by week 2, according to the report. (There are outliers that have week 2 retention rates of more than 20 percent.) For comparison's sake, Android and iOS apps have average retention rates of 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively, one week after first use. "There are lots of [voice] apps out there, but they are zombie apps," VoiceLabs co-founder Adam Marchick said in an interview.
Transportation

When Their Shifts End, Uber Drivers Set Up Camp in Parking Lots Across the US (bloomberg.com) 626

A feature report on Bloomberg today illustrates the lives of several Uber drivers, who find shelter in car parking at nights when it's too pricey and tiring to go home. An excerpt from the story: In Chicago, Walter Laquian Howard sleeps most nights at the "Uber Terminal." "I left my job thinking this would work, and it's getting harder and harder," Howard said. "They have to understand that some of us have decided to make this a full-time career." Howard has been parking and sleeping at the 7-Eleven four to five nights a week since March 2015, when he began leasing a car from Uber and needed to work more hours to make his minimum payments. Now that it's gotten cold, he wakes up every three hours to turn on the heater. He's rarely alone. Most nights, two to three other ride-hailing drivers sleep in cars parked next to his. It's safe, he said, and the employees let the drivers use the restroom. Howard has gotten to know the convenience store's staff -- Daddy-O and Uncle Mike -- over the past two years while driving for this global ride-hailing gargantuan, valued at $69 billion. "These guys have become my extended family," said Howard, 53. "It's my second home. We have this joke that I'm the resident. I keep asking them: 'Hey, did my mail come in yet?'"
Oracle

Oracle Lays Off More Than 1,000 Employees (zdnet.com) 161

An anonymous reader writes: According to the Mercury News, Oracle is laying off approximately 450 employees in its Santa Clara hardware systems division. Reports at The Layoff, a discussion board for technology business firings, claim about 1,800 employees company-wide are being pink-slipped. Oracle claims the company isn't closing the Santa Clara facility with this reduction in force. Instead, "Oracle is refocusing its Hardware Systems business, and for that reason, has decided to lay off certain of its employees in the Hardware Systems Division."
Security

Android Device's Pattern Lock Can Be Cracked Within Five Attempts, Researchers Show (phys.org) 139

The popular Pattern Lock system used to secure millions of Android phones can be cracked within just five attempts -- and more complicated patterns are the easiest to crack, security experts reveal. From a research paper: Pattern Lock is a security measure that protects devices, such as mobile phones or tablets, and which is preferred by many to PIN codes or text passwords. It is used by around 40 percent of Android device owners. In order to access a device's functions and content, users must first draw a pattern on an on-screen grid of dots. If this matches the pattern set by the owner then the device can be used. However, users only have five attempts to get the pattern right before the device becomes locked. New research from Lancaster University, Northwest University in China, and the University of Bath, which benefitted from funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), shows for the first time that attackers can crack Pattern Lock reliably within five attempts by using video and computer vision algorithm software. By covertly videoing the owner drawing their Pattern Lock shape to unlock their device, while enjoying a coffee in a busy cafe; for example, the attacker, who is pretending to play with their phone, can then use software to quickly track the owner's fingertip movements relative to the position of the device. Within seconds the algorithm produces a small number of candidate patterns to access the Android phone or tablet.
Google

More People Than Ever Are Using DuckDuckGo; Site Says It Observed 14M Searches in One Day This Month (betanews.com) 175

An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews article: A lot of people are more privacy aware than they have been in the past, and are wary of entrusting everything they search for to Google. That's where privacy-focused sites like DuckDuckGo come in. Its growth since it launched 8 years ago has been nothing short of staggering, with the number of searches skyrocketing since 2013, when Edward Snowden first revealed how the US government was spying on its people. The search site says it has to date served up over 10 billion anonymous searches, with 4 billion of those occurring in the last year alone, and the company says it is growing faster than ever. On January 10 2017, the site received in excess of 14 million private searches.
Chrome

Every Upcoming Chromebook Will Run Android Apps (laptopmag.com) 69

Google announced last year that it will be bringing Android apps to Chromebooks. The company has now announced that moving forward all the new Chromebooks will have access to the Google Play Store, the marquee store for Android apps. From a report: The news comes from a single line of text in Google's list of Chromebooks that can support the programs: "All Chromebooks launching in 2017 and after as well as the Chromebooks listed below will work with Android apps in the coming future." We knew this would eventually come, and now isn't terribly surprising timing. There are more Chromebooks with touchscreens than ever, including the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA and Samsung's upcoming Chromebook Plus and Pro, all of which were announced at CES in Las Vegas.
Businesses

Sprint Purchases 33 Percent Stake in Tidal For $200 Million (billboard.com) 63

Sprint has acquired a 33 percent stake in Jay Z's music streaming service Tidal, the two companies announced today. From a report: A source familiar with the matter tells Billboard that the purchase was for $200 million and that Jay and each of the company's two dozen artist-owners will remain part owners. As part of the deal, Tidal will become available to Sprint's 45 million retail customers, while the companies will partner for exclusives from its artists, according to a press release.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Three States Propose DMCA-Countering 'Right To Repair' Laws (ifixit.org) 206

Automakers are using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to shut down tools used by car mechanics -- but three states are trying to stop them. An anonymous reader quotes IFixIt.Org: in 2014, Ford sued Autel for making a tool that diagnoses car trouble and tells you what part fixes it. Autel decrypted a list of Ford car parts, which wound up in their diagnostic tool. Ford claimed that the parts list was protected under copyright (even though data isn't creative work) -- and cracking the encryption violated the DMCA. The case is still making its way through the courts. But this much is clear: Ford didn't like Autel's competing tool, and they don't mind wielding the DMCA to shut the company down...

Thankfully, voters are stepping up to protect American jobs. Just last week, at the behest of constituents, three states -- Nebraska, Minnesota, and New York -- introduced Right to Repair legislation (more states will follow). These 'Fair Repair' laws would require manufacturers to provide service information and sell repair parts to owners and independent repair shops.

Activist groups like the EFF and Repair.org want to "ensure that repair people aren't marked as criminals under the DMCA," according to the site, arguing that we're heading towards a future with many more gadgets to fix. "But we'll have to fix copyright law first."

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