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Robotics

US Military Using $600K 'Drone Buggies' To Patrol Camps In Africa (cnbc.com) 6

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The U.S. military is using an unmanned robotic vehicle to patrol around its camps in the Horn of Africa. The remote controlled vehicle is the result of a 30-year plan after military chiefs approved the concept of a robotic security system in 1985. Now the Mobile Detection Assessment and Response System, known as MDARS, are carrying out patrols in the east African country of Djibouti, under the control of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The area is known as home to a number of hostile militant groups including the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. An operator sits in a remote location away from the vehicle watching the terrain via a camera link which is fixed to the chassis. U.S. military software engineer Joshua Kordanai said in a video presentation that the vehicle drives itself, freeing the remote operator to monitor video. "The vehicle has an intruder detection payload, consisting of radar, a night vision camera, a PTZ [pan-tilt-zoom] camera and two-way audio, so the system will be able to detect motion," he added. One report prices the cost of an earlier version of the military 'drone buggy' at $600,000 each.
The Courts

Judge Rules Political Robocalls Are Protected By First Amendment (onthewire.io) 59

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A federal judge has ruled that robocalls made on behalf of political candidates are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be outlawed. The decision came in a case in Arkansas, where political robocalls had been illegal for more than 30 years. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Leon Holmes ruled that banning political robocalls amounts to an infringement of free speech protections and also constitutes prior restraint of speech. Political campaigns have been using robocalls for decades, and some states have sought to ban them, arguing that they are intrusive and violate recipients' privacy. In the Arkansas case, the state attorney general put forward both of these arguments, and also argued that the calls can tie up phone lines, making them unusable in an emergency. Holmes said in his decision that there was no evidence that political robocalls prevent emergency communications, and also said that the Arkansas statute should have banned all robocalls, not just commercial and political ones. "The statute at issue here imposes a content-based restriction on speech; it is not one of the rare cases that survives strict scrutiny. The state has failed to prove that the statute at issue advances a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest," Holmes wrote.
Microsoft

Slashdot Asks: Free Upgrade To Windows 10 Ends Today: What's Your Thought On This? 266

Exactly one year ago, Microsoft released Windows 10 to the general public. The latest version of company's desktop operating system brought with it Cortana, and Windows Hello among other features. While users have lauded Windows 10 for performance improvements, the Redmond-based company's aggressive upgrade tactics have spoiled the experience for many. Whether it was installing Windows 10 on computers without users' consent, or eating up tons of bandwidth for users who couldn't afford it, or whether it was deceptive dialog boxes, Microsoft definitely deserves a lot of blame -- and rightfully, a bunch of lawsuits. But many of these things, hopefully, will end today -- July 29, 2016 (or to be exact, Saturday morning 5:59am EDT / 2:59am PDT) Today is officially the last day when eligible Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers could be upgraded to Windows 10 for free of charge. After this, an upgrade to Windows 10 will set you back by at least $119.
We asked you a couple of weeks ago whether or not would you recommend someone to update their computer to Windows 10, and the vast majority of you insisted against it. What's your thought on this now? Those who opt out of updating to Windows 10 will also miss the Anniversary Update -- and its features -- which Microsoft plans to release on August 2 for free of charge.
Security

WhatsApp Isn't Fully Deleting Its 'Deleted' Chats (theverge.com) 45

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp retains and stores chat logs even after those messages have been deleted, according to iOS researcher Jonathan Zdziarski. The Verge reports: Examining disk images taken from the most recent version of the app, Zdziarski found that the software retains and stores a forensic trace of the chat logs even after the chats have been deleted, creating a potential treasure trove of information for anyone with physical access to the device. The same data could also be recoverable through any remote backup systems in place. In most cases, the data is marked as deleted by the app itself -- but because it has not been overwritten, it is still recoverable through forensic tools. Zdziarski attributed the problem to the SQLite library used in coding the app, which does not overwrite by default. WhatsApp was applauded by many privacy advocates for switching to default end-to-end encryption through the Signal protocol, a process that completed this April. But that system only protects data in transit, preventing carriers and other intermediaries from spying on conversations as they travel across the network.
Chrome

Ask Slashdot: Best Browser Extensions -- 2016 Edition 142

Reader LichtSpektren writes: Almost eleven years ago, Slashdot featured an Ask titled "Favorite Firefox Extensions?". I thought it might be worthwhile to ask the question again (Editor's note: we couldn't agree more!), but expand the query to all web browsers now that there's more choices available.

Right now my main browser is Firefox, which I use with uBlock Origin, Disconnect, HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger, NoScript, Self-Destructing Cookies, Decentraleyes, Privacy Settings, and Clean Links. (N.B. the first four of these are also available in Chromium-based browsers.) I use Chrome as a secondary browser, with the first four of the aforementioned extensions, plus also Clear Cache and occasionally Flashcontrol.

This one has nothing to do with security or privacy, but Reedy on Chromium is a really nice tool for speed reading.

What do you use?
Let's get this going.
Facebook

Facebook Offering Refunds For Kids' In-App Purchases (pcmag.com) 19

Parents who found themselves with hefty bills after their kids made in-app purchases -- mainly via the now-defunct Facebook Credits -- can now request a refund from Facebook. PCMag reports: The news comes as part of a settlement for a class-action lawsuit brought against the social network in February 2012, and covers those who made any kind of purchase through their Facebook accounts between February 2008 and March 2015. Facebook maintained that it did nothing wrong, as those purchasing digital currency received what they paid for. But California's Family Code stipulates that minors can void contracts they make at any point when they're under 18 years of age. In other words, the legislation is designed to prevent other entities from preying on minors who don't otherwise understand the ramifications of their actions -- like tapping repeatedly on an in-app item to acquire it.
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Transparent Should Companies Be When Operational Technology Failures Happen? 87

New submitter supernova87a writes: Last week, Southwest Airlines had an epic crash of IT systems across their entire business when "a router failure caused the airlines' systems to crash [...] and all backups failed, causing flight delays and cancellations nationwide and costing the company probably $10 million in lost bookings alone." Huge numbers of passengers, crew, and airplanes were stranded as not only reservations systems, but scheduling, dispatch, and other critical operational systems had to be rebooted over the course of 12 hours. Passenger delays, which directly attributable to this incident, continued to trickle down all the way from Wednesday to Sunday as the airline recovered. Aside from the technical issues of what happened, what should a public-facing company's obligation be to discuss what happened in full detail? Would publicly talking about the sequence of events before and after failure help restore faith in their operations? Perhaps not aiming for Google's level of admirable disclosure (as in this 18-minute cloud computing outage where a full post-mortem was given), should companies aim to discuss more openly what happened and how they recovered from system failures?
Television

The Mojave Desert: Home of the New Machine Movement (bloomberg.com) 44

pacopico writes: Most people think of the Mojave Desert as a wasteland located somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. For decades, though, Mojave has served as something of an engineering playground for people in the automotive and aerospace industries. Bloomberg has produced a documentary that looks at what's taking place with these engineers in 2016. There's a dude trying to make a flying car, Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, a group called Hackrod using artificial intelligence software to make a car chassis, and the hacker George Hotz taking his self-driving car along the Las Vegas strip for the first time. One of the cooler parts of the show has a team of students from UCSD sending up a rocket with a 3D printed engine -- the first time any university team had pulled something like this off. Overall, it's a cool look at the strange desert rat tinkerers.
Earth

Study: Astronauts Who Reach Deep Space 'Far More Likely To Die From Heart Disease' (independent.co.uk) 148

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Astronauts who venture into deep space appear to be much more likely to die from heart disease, according to a new study. In another sign that leaving planet Earth is fraught with danger and a potential blow to hopes of establishing a colony on Mars, researchers discovered deep space radiation appears to damage the body's cardiovascular system. They reported that three out of the seven dead Apollo astronauts died as a result of a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke. Although the numbers are small, that rate of 43 percent is four to five times higher than found among astronauts who flew in low Earth orbit or who did not actually go into space, according to a paper in the journal Scientific Reports. In an attempt to test whether the higher numbers of cardiovascular deaths were simply a statistical blip or a genuine sign of the effect of traveling into deep space, the scientists exposed mice to the same type of radiation that the astronauts would have experienced. After six months, which is the equivalent of 20 human years, the mice showed damage to arteries that is known to lead to the development of cardiovascular disease in humans.
The Almighty Buck

Dark Patterns Across the Web Are Designed To Trick You 118

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Harry Brignell has posted a 30-minute video documenting dark patterns, deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces (not exclusive to the internet) that trick users into setting up recurring payments, purchasing items added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through pre-checked forms on Facebook games for example. Basically, they're tactics used by online services to get users to do things they wouldn't normally do. Yael Grauer has written an in-depth report on Ars Technica about dark patterns, where he discusses Brignull's work with UX designers and business executives: "Klein [Principal at Users Known and author of UX for Lean Startups] believes many of the worst dark patterns are pushed by businesses, not by designers. 'It's often pro-business at the expense of the users, and the designers often see themselves as the defender or advocate of the user,' she explained. And although Brignull has never been explicitly asked to design dark patterns himself, he said he has been in situations where using them would be an easy solution -- like when a client or boss says they really need a large list of people who have opted in to marketing e-mails. 'The first and easiest trick to have an opt-in is to have a pre-ticked checkbox, but then you can just get rid of that entirely and hide it in the terms of conditions and say that by registering you're going to be opted in to our e-mails,' Brignull said. 'Then you have a 100-percent sign-up rate and you've exceeded your goals. I kind of understand why people do it. If you're only thinking about the numbers and you're just trying to juice the stats, then it's not surprising in the slightest.' 'There's this logical positivist mindset that the only things that have value are those things that can be measured and can empirically be shown to be true, and while that has its merits it also takes us down a pretty dark place,' said digital product designer Cennydd Bowles, who is researching ethical design. 'We start to look at ethics as pure utilitarianism, whatever benefits the most people. Yikes, it has problems.'" Brignull's website has a number of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces.
Television

Apple's Rigid Negotiating Tactics Cost Us 'Skinny Bundles' For Apple TV, Says Report (thenextweb.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the reason we don't have actual TV channels on the Apple TV is because the company tried to strong-arm networks -- and failed. Apple's Senior Vice President Eddy Cue is said to have taken the wrong approach. In one meeting, he reportedly told TV executives that "time is on my side." Cue is also accused of bluffing executives by claiming other networks -- specifically Disney and Fox -- were already signed up. The company also refused to show off the Apple TV interface, or "sketch it on the back of a napkin," as one media executive requested. Cue also tried to strike hard bargains, says WSJ. He reportedly asked that Disney put off the royalties Apple would have to pay for several years. Those 'skinny bundles' we heard so much about were what Apple was planning to build its TV experience around, too. In 2015, a bundle consisting of Fox, ESPN and Disney content was conceptualized (and priced at $30), but no agreements were ever signed. In an effort to create more original programming, Apple is scheduled to release its 'Planet of the Apps' TV show about app developers next year.
The Courts

UK Judge Calls For An Online Court Without Lawyers To Cut Costs 86

mi writes from a report via The Times: A senior judge has called for the establishment of an online court (Warning: source may be paywalled) that does not have lawyers and can deal with claims of up to 25,000 British Pound (around $32,850). The proposal is the centerpiece of a package of reforms to the civil justice system, drawn up by Lord Justice Briggs, a Court of Appeal judge. Just how exactly will this court ensure no one is, in fact, a trained professional on the internet, where no one knows who you really are, is not explained. We discussed the idea last year. Apparently, it is still alive. The judge's report says this computer court would provide "effective access to justice without having to incur the disproportionate cost of using lawyers." The Law Gazette reported earlier in June that Briggs has mused about a three-stage process -- triage, conciliation and final judgement -- in which there might be some lawyer involvement.
Bitcoin

North Korea Is Blackmailing Top South Korean Online Retailer For $2.66 Million (softpedia.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: South Korea says that North Korea is behind a data breach that occurred last May, where hackers stole details about 10 million user accounts from Interpark.com, one of the country's biggest shopping portals. The hackers later tried to extort Interpark management by requesting for 3 billion won ($2.66 million / 2.39 million euros), otherwise they were going to release the data on the internet. [The hackers wanted the money transferred to their accounts as Bitcoin.] Authorities say they tracked the source of the hack to an IP in North Korea, previously used in other attacks on South Korean infrastructure. "Besides the evidence related to the IP addresses and the techniques used in the attacks, investigators also said that the emails Interpark management received, written in the Korean language, contained words and vocabulary expressions that are only used in the North," reports Softpedia.
Businesses

Microsoft To Lay Off Another 2,850 People In the Next 12 Months (businessinsider.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Business Insider: Microsoft is planning to lay off 2,850 more employees in the next 12 months or so, according to Microsoft's full 10-K report it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Part of the document reads: "In addition to the elimination of 1,850 positions that were announced in May 2016, approximately 2,850 roles globally will be reduced during the year as an extension of the earlier plan, and these actions are expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2017." Business Insider reports: "The first 1,850 layoffs mentioned here were mainly from Microsoft's struggling smartphone business, including 1,350 employees in Finland working at what was once Nokia world headquarters. These layoffs also included people in Microsoft's salesforce, which was recently reorganized and saw the departure of COO Kevin Turner. In total, Microsoft laid off 7,400 employees in its last fiscal year, which ended on June 30th, 2016. The new layoffs are a continuation of the same plan, and include the sales group as well as others. About 900 people affected by the new layoffs were already informed during the sales reorganization, according to a person familiar with Microsoft's plans."
Businesses

Samsung Beat Apple In Smartphone Shipments, Profit Surges To 2-Year High (thehindu.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier reports speculated this to be true, but now it's official: Samsung has beat Apple in smartphone shipments to lift the company to its most profitable quarter in over two years. The Hindu reports: "Riding on the strong sales of its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones, Samsung Electronics on Thursday declared 8.14 trillion won ($7billion) year on-year operating profit -- 18 percent in the second quarter results. Touted as bad news for Apple that saw a 15 percent decline in iPhone sales in its second quarter results announced this week, Samsung saw substantial earnings improvement led by sales of its flagship products such as Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. A streamlined mid-to low-end smartphone lineup also contributed to improved profitability for the company. According to Samsung, it shipped about 90 million handsets in the April-June period with smartphones making up more than 80 per cent of the total, the Korea Herald reported. Samsung's second-quarter smartphone shipments are estimated at about 72 million units, almost doubling Apple's iPhone shipments of 40.4 million units during the same period."
Crime

Gary Johnson: I'd Consider Pardoning Snowden, Chelsea Manning (vocativ.com) 220

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Vocativ: [Vocativ reports:] "The U.S.'s most popular third-party presidential candidate says he would 'consider' pardoning the highest profile convicts of computer-related crimes in the country, including Chelsea Manning, Ross Ulbricht, and Jeremy Hammond. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, also reiterated his possible willingness to pardon Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency analyst who gave a cache of agency documents to journalists in 2013." "Having actually served as a governor and administered the power to grant pardons and clemency, Gary Johnson is very conscious and respectful of the need for processes for using that authority," Joe Hunter, Johnson's communications director, told Vocativ in a statement. "However, he has made it clear on numerous occasions that he would 'look seriously at' pardoning Edward Snowden, based on public information that Snowden's actions did not cause actual harm to any U.S. intelligence personnel. Likewise, he has said he would look favorably on pardoning Ross Ulbricht, consistent with his broader and long-standing commitment to pardon nonviolent drug offenders, whistleblowers, and others imprisoned under unjust and ill-advised laws," Hunter said. When Vocativ asked specifically about Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, Barrett Brown, and Matthew Keys, Hunter responded: "The same goes for the other individuals you have mentioned -- and hundreds, if not thousands, like them. Gov. Johnson finds it to be an outrage that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the developed world, and announced in 2012 that, as President, he would promptly commence the process of pardoning nonviolent offenders who have done no real harm to others." The Green Party candidate Jill Stein has also shared her thoughts on pardoning Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Not only would she pardon Snowden, but she said she would appoint him to her cabinet.
Democrats

WikiLeaks Releases Hacked Voicemails From DNC Officials (thenextweb.com) 162

An anonymous reader writes: Late Wednesday afternoon as the Democratic National Convention was in full swing, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks decided to follow through with an earlier statement by publishing hacked voicemails of top democratic officials. There are 29 leaked recordings, which are identified by phone number and total about 14 minutes combined. Many of the voicemails are messages of callers leaving their numbers in hopes of being called back. Others are from voters upset that the DNC was giving too much support to Sanders. The Hill reports that "One caller with an Arizona area code called to blast the DNC for putting Sanders surrogate Cornel West on the platform drafting committee. 'I'm furious for what you are doing for Bernie Sanders,' another caller says in a message. 'He's getting way too much influence. What I see is the Democratic Party bending over backwards for Bernie,' adds the caller, who threatens to leave the party if the DNC doesn't stop 'coddling' the Vermont senator."
Google

Google Launches Docs and Sheets Add-ons For Android 12

An anonymous reader writes: Google today announced the launch of new add-ons for the Android versions of Google Docs and Google Sheets. Those services have offered integrations with third-party tools on the web, and now a similar capability is coming to Google's mobile operating system. There's now a dedicated section for add-ons for Docs and Sheets in the Google Play Store, Google Apps product manager Saurabh Gupta wrote in a blog post. Nine add-ons are available for Android as of today: AppSheet, DocuSign, EasyBib, Google Classroom, PandaDoc, ProsperWorks CRM, Scanbot, Teacher Aide, and Zoho CRM. The DocuSign add-on, for example, lets you sign or send a file in Google Docs or Sheets through DocuSign. Generally these services are meant for a work context, but it's possible that developers will build more consumer-oriented add-ons, too.
Windows

Microsoft Faces Two New Lawsuits Over Aggressive Windows 10 Upgrade Tactics 103

Microsoft is facing two more lawsuits over its Windows 10 upgrade tactics. The first lawsuit comes from U.S. District Court in Florida, where the company has been accused of violating "laws governing unsolicited electronic advertisements" The suit, PCWorld reports, says Microsoft's tactics are against the FTC's rules on deceptive and unfair practices. The second lawsuit was filed last month in Haifa, Israel alleging that Microsoft installed Windows 10 on users' computer without their consent. It's similar to another recent lawsuit that was filed against Microsoft in which the Redmond company had to pay a sum of $10,000. The company, however, believes that these new lawsuits won't succeed. In a statement to The Seattle Times, the company said:We believe the plaintiffs' claims are without merit and we are confident we'll be successful in court.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Disable Policies In Windows 10 Pro With Anniversary Update (ghacks.net) 510

Reader BobSwi writes: More changes in the Windows Anniversary update, due August 2nd, are being discovered. After yesterday's news about Cortana not able to be turned off in the Windows Anniversary update, certain registry entries and group policies have been found to be updated with a note stating that they only apply to Enterprise and Education editions. Win 10 Pro users will no longer be able to turn off policies such as the Microsoft Consumer Experience, Show Windows Tips, Do not display the lock screen, and Disable all apps from the Windows Store.

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