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The Fake Town Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Mon, 2019-09-09 14:45
With a population of over 87,000, Lower Duck Pond is the largest, friendliest, and oddest city that's not on the map. The Outline: Located somewhere on a plane of nonexistence, the rapidly growing town of Lower Duck Pond rests, isolated, without even an official city map. Its locals don't get lost, though. They know their way around quite well and discuss their comings and goings through postings on the subreddit r/HaveWeMet. The community's 87,000-plus "residents" share constant chatter about which buildings in the area need repairs, which sandwich shops have been changing up their menu, and which streets need repaving. It's not unusual for newcomers to feel confused by the whirlwind of information and every resident's seemingly picture-perfect memory of their surroundings. It helps to remember that they're all pretending. Strange, new places do take some getting used to and it might take you a few minutes to get the hang of subreddit r/HaveWeMet's premise, where users roleplay as longtime neighbors in a non-existent town called "Lower Duck Pond." The joke's attracted over 87,000 users since the community started two years ago, making it the fastest-growing open-source fictional town on Earth. While the residents, streets, and buildings are fake, the absurdity, purity, and sense of community for its daily users has become very real. Reddit user u/Devuluh, who's really a sophomore computer science major named David (he declined to share his last name), started r/HaveWeMet in early 2017 when he was still in high school. The idea was to create an online space where everyone pretends to know each other. "The original idea for r/HaveWeMet was not a sub mimicking a fake town, but rather simply just people pretending to know each other, and later it evolved into much more than that," David told me. "If you want to have a deep involvement in r/HaveWeMet, it's almost necessary you get to know people's characters. Some even go as far as getting to know the members behind their characters, too. It's like one big universe created collaboratively, just through peoples' interactions with each other."

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Categories: Linux fréttir

How Apple Stacked the App Store With Its Own Products

Mon, 2019-09-09 14:00
Top spots in App Store search results are some of the most fought over real estate in the online economy. The store generated more than $50 billion in sales last year, and the company said two-thirds of app downloads started with a search. But as Apple has become one of the largest competitors on a platform that it controls, suspicions that the company has been tipping the scales in its own favor are at the heart of antitrust complaints in the United States, Europe and Russia. From a report: Apple's apps have ranked first recently for at least 700 search terms in the store, according to a New York Times analysis of six years of search results compiled by Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. Some searches produced as many as 14 Apple apps before showing results from rivals, the analysis showed. (Though competitors could pay Apple to place ads above the Apple results.) Presented with the results of the analysis, two senior Apple executives acknowledged in a recent interview that, for more than a year, the top results of many common searches in the iPhone App Store were packed with the company's own apps. That was the case even when the Apple apps were less relevant and less popular than ones from its competitors. The executives said the company had since adjusted the algorithm so that fewer of its own apps appeared at the top of search results. The Times's analysis of App Store data -- which included rankings of more than 1,800 specific apps across 13 keywords since 2013 -- illustrated the influence as well as the opacity of the algorithms that underpin tech companies' platforms. Those algorithms can help decide which apps are installed, which articles are read and which products are bought. But Apple and other tech giants like Facebook and Google will not explain in detail how such algorithms work -- even when they blame the algorithm for problems. [...] On Aug. 21, Apple apps ranked first in 735 of roughly 60,000 search terms tracked by Sensor Tower. Most of the tracked searches were obscure, but Apple's apps ranked first for many of the popular queries. For instance, for most of June and July, Apple apps were the top result for these search terms: books, music, news, magazines, podcasts, video, TV, movies, sports, card, gift, money, credit, debit, fitness, people, friends, time, notes, docs, files, cloud, storage, message, home, store, mail, maps, traffic, stocks and weather. In July this year, the company pushed some changes to its app store algorithm to handicap its apps to help other developers, it told The New York Times.

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Biohackers Use a Raspberry Pi to Implant a Networked Hard Drive

Mon, 2019-09-09 10:34
"Biohackers took one small but important step toward the science fiction dystopia depicted in William Gibson's Johnny Mnemonic," reports The Parallax, in an article shared by Slashdot reader Iwastheone: The Four Thieves Vinegar biohacking collective has not figured out how to precisely mimic the memory data transfer scenario Gibson conjured, but it has built a device to enable people to store and transfer data wirelessly in their bodies. Using off-the-shelf parts and focused efforts, the biohacking group has designed and built a networked hard drive, coated in a biosafe resin, to be subcutaneously implanted in the human body. It's powered by an external battery that connects to the device via an induction coil, and its storage capacity is limited only by the size of the microSD card it contains. Michael Laufer, who founded Four Thieves Vinegar, calls it the Pegleg. In the small hours of August 8, in an operating room within the small house, two patients received the second version of the Pegleg implant, which Laufer says is the world's first subcutaneous networked drive... To make Pegleg v2, Laufer and his team removed from the Raspberry Pi both Micro USB connectors (one for power, one for data), the Mini HDMI connector, and the camera connector. They then soldered on a second Wi-Fi chip to enable it to transfer data to another Pegleg and allow other devices to connect to it, as well as an induction coil to enable it to be powered by a wireless battery resting in a contiguous sports armband or pants pocket. They enabled Bluetooth for future functionality, inserted a 512GB microSD card for storage, and updated the firmware. Finally, they coated the hacked device in a biocompatible acrylic resin to prevent it from interacting with the recipient's body and to diffuse the heat it emanates. At 11:44 a.m. on the same day, Laufer -- an implant newbie who has three small tattoos but no piercings -- took a seat in the surgical room... During the procedure, Laufer passed out for a few seconds and vomited a little bit. But 32 minutes later, he had a functional "Pegleg" implant.

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Categories: Linux fréttir

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Limit the Charging Range of Your Batteries?

Mon, 2019-09-09 07:34
"If you're anything like me, you've got a slew of devices with lithium-based batteries in them," write long-time Slashdot reader weilawei: The conventional wisdom is to cycle them between 20 and 80% for a good compromise between usability and battery life. How then, do you automate the process to avoid over- or undercharging...? Do you remove and store your laptop battery at a medium charge when you run the laptop off an AC adapter? You can keep checking your battery icon until it hits 80% -- but it seems like there should be an automated solution. The original submission notes TLP Linux Advance Power Management project -- but what solutions are Slashdot's readers using? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. How can you limit the charging range of your batteries?

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New Windows 10 Update Bugs Include Orange Screenshots

Mon, 2019-09-09 05:08
An anonymous reader quotes MS Poweruser: Microsoft's latest Cumulative Update KB4512941 for Windows 10 May 2019 Update(1903) may be Microsoft's buggiest yet, with the update already known for being plagued with high CPU usage bugs* and crippled search. Now reports of a new bug are filtering in, with users reporting that their screenshots all have an orange tint, no matter which method or app they use to take them. The issue appears to be related to older video drivers, as updating drivers (or uninstalling KB4512941) appears to fix this problem. * Microsoft has told Forbes that the spike in CPU usage "only occurs on devices that have disabled searching the web using Windows Desktop Search" -- and that they're planning to release a fix for this update-related bug in mid-September.

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Chrome OS Bug Started Mistakenly Sending 'Final Update' Notifications

Mon, 2019-09-09 03:42
An anonymous reader quotes 9to5Google: Like it or not, Chromebooks do have something of an expiration date when you purchase them, namely that one day they'll stop receiving updates. Thankfully, that date is typically over five years after the Chromebook's original release. For some, however, Chrome OS has been wrongly indicating this week that their Chromebook has received its "final update" many years too early. Just like the Chrome browser on desktop and Android, Chrome OS has four different update "channels" -- Stable, Beta, Dev, and Canary. Each one of these after Stable trades a level of stability for more rapid updates, with Canary receiving highly unstable updates almost every day. People who are bold enough to put their Chromebook on Dev or Canary have been facing an interesting new issue for the past few days. Upon restarting their device, Chrome OS immediately displays a notification warning that "this is the last automatic software and security update for this Chromebook." Of course, if you're seeing this message this week, there's a decent chance that this is not actually the case. Instead, these final update warnings are caused by a bug in the most recent versions of Chrome OS.

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Australia Formally Censors Christchurch Attack Videos

Mon, 2019-09-09 01:42
"Australian internet service providers have been ordered to block eight websites hosting video of the Christchurch terrorist attacks," according to the Guardian. Slashdot reader aberglas shares their report: In March, shortly after the Christchurch massacre, Australian telecommunications companies and internet providers began proactively blocking websites hosting the video of the Christchurch shooter murdering more than 50 people or the shooter's manifesto. A total of 43 websites based on a list provided by Vodafone New Zealand were blocked. The government praised the internet providers despite the action being in a legally grey area by blocking the sites from access in Australia for people not using virtual private networks (VPNs) or other workarounds. To avoid legal complications the prime minister, Scott Morrison, asked the e-safety commissioner and the internet providers to develop a protocol for the e-safety commissioner to order the websites to block access to the offending sites. The order issued on Sunday covers just eight websites, after several stopped hosting the material, or ceased operating, such as 8chan. The order means the e-safety commissioner will be responsible for monitoring the sites. If they remove the material they can be unblocked. The blocks will be reviewed every six months. "The remaining rogue websites need only to remove the illegal content to have the block against them lifted," the e-safety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, said.

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Manjaro Linux Tries Forming A Company To Fund Full-Time Development

Sun, 2019-09-08 23:47
Forbes.com shares some big Linux news: Since 2011, Arch Linux-based Manjaro has focused on being a simple-to-use, accessible Linux desktop distribution with a friendly community... But as of today, Manjaro Linux is no longer just a Linux distribution -- it's officially transforming into a company with ambitious plans for its future. Say hello to Manjaro GmbH & Co. KG. The announcement happened just hours ago, via Manjaro developer Philip Müller. It's not the catchiest name, but the advantages to this move seem beneficial to the both the Manjaro project and the community using it. Müller says that for quite some time he's been researching "ways to secure the project in its current form and how to allow for activities which can't be undertaken as a 'hobby project.'" Crucially, he and the team wanted to reach new heights and be able to invest considerably more time into the project, without compromising the way its currently operating. To that end, the Manjaro team is announcing the formation of an established company, Manjaro GmbH & Co. KG, "to enable full-time employment of maintainers and exploration of future commercial opportunities." They'll also be taking on Blue Systems -- a German IT company specializing in Free and Libre software -- as an advisor. Additionally, the team will transfer the ownership of all donations -- and the allocation of donations -- to fiscal hosts CommunityBridge and OpenCollective, which will both secure donations and make their use transparent... At this stage is look like there's a distinction between what will change in the immediate future, and what the company will strive for. The biggest immediate change -- one that Manjaro supporters may applaud -- is that developers Philip Müller and Bernhard Landauer can now commit to the distribution in a full-time capacity, with an eye toward taking on even more employees down the road. "One of our main goals is to improve our infrastructure and continuously work on the essentials and requirements of our distro as a professional endeavor," writes Müller. "Our hope is to soon be able to include additional contributors on a paid basis."

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Purism Finally Starts Shipping Its Privacy-Focused 'Librem 5' Smartphone

Sun, 2019-09-08 22:34
"It's here! Purism announces shipment of the Librem 5," writes long-time Slashdot reader Ocean Consulting: Librem 5 is a landmark mobile device with a dedicated platform, runs PureOS Linux, and is the first mobile phone to seek hardware certification from the Free Software Foundation. Initially a crowd sourced funding campaign, the phone embraces principles of free software and user privacy. IP native communication is supported via Matrix. Privacy features include hardware kill switches for camera, microphone, cellular, wifi, Bluetooth and GPS. "The Librem 5 phone is built from the ground up to respect the privacy, security, and freedoms of society," reads the site's official announcement. "It is a revolutionary approach to solving the issues that people face today around data exploitation -- putting people in control of their own digital lives." They're adopting an "iterative" shipping schedule -- publishing a detailed schedule defining specific batches and their features with corresponding shipping dates. "Each iteration improves upon the prior in a rapid rolling release throughout the entire first version of the phone... As slots in a particular early batch free up, we will open it up for others in a later batch to join in, according to the date of the order."

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Spring Cyberattack on US Power Grid 'Probably Just Some Script Kiddie'

Sun, 2019-09-08 21:34
The electric utility non-profit NERC has posted a "Lessons Learned" document detailing a March 5th incident that Environment & Energy News calls "a first-of-its-kind cyberattack on the U.S. grid". While it didn't cause any blackouts -- it was at a "low-impact" control center -- NERC is now warning power utilities to "have as few internet facing devices as possible" and to use more than just a firewall for defense. puddingebola shared this report from Environment & Energy News: The cyberthreat appears to have been simpler and far less dangerous than the hacks in Ukraine. The March 5 attack hit web portals for firewalls in use at the undisclosed utility. The hacker or hackers may not have even realized that the online interface was linked to parts of the power grid in California, Utah and Wyoming. "So far, I don't see any evidence that this was really targeted," said Reid Wightman, senior vulnerability analyst at industrial cybersecurity firm Dragos Inc. "This was probably just an automated bot that was scanning the internet for vulnerable devices, or some script kiddie," he said, using a term for an unskilled hacker... In the March episode, a flaw in the victim utility's firewalls allowed "an unauthenticated attacker" to reboot them over and over again, effectively breaking them. The firewalls served as traffic cops for data flowing between generation sites and the utility's control center, so operators lost contact with those parts of the grid each time the devices winked off and on. The glitches persisted for about 10 hours, according to NERC, and the fact that there were issues at multiple sites "raised suspicion." After an initial investigation, the utility decided to ask its firewall manufacturer to review what happened, according to NERC, which led to the discovery of "an external entity" -- a hacker or hackers -- interfering with the devices. NERC stressed that "there was no impact to generation...." Wightman said the "biggest problem" was the fact that hackers were able to successfully take advantage of a known flaw in the firewall's interface. "The advisory even goes on to say that there were public exploits available for the particular bug involved," he said. "Why didn't somebody say, 'Hey, we have these firewalls and they're exposed to the internet -- we should be patching?'" Large power utilities are required to check for and apply fixes to sensitive grid software that could offer an entry point for hackers.

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Short Film 'The Comet' Uses Real Images From ESA's Rosetta Space Probe

Sun, 2019-09-08 20:34
Launched in 2004, the ESA's Rosetta space probe spent 10 years flying to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67p), circled it for two years, and then culminated its mission with a controlled hard landing. Now video artist Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl have teamed up to create The Comet, a 3 minute 25 second movie made from digitally-enhanced footage derived from the images the ESA released from the mission. "Watch the beauty of an active alien body, far out in the depths of our solar system." Syfy Wire calls it "a moving and stunning tribute to this mission... The comet is as alien a place as we have in the solar system." They also link to the ESA's trippy related video "Ambition" from 2014.

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Categories: Linux fréttir

'It's Not You. Software Has Gotten Far More Expensive'

Sun, 2019-09-08 19:34
A SaaS "price transparency" site at Capiche.com writes that "It's not just you: software has gotten far more expensive," citing their survey of 100 business applications. Software prices went up 62% on average over the past decade -- over three times faster than inflation, outpacing even rent and healthcare. Today's iPhone XR, by comparison, costs 25% more than 2009's iPhone 3GS (or 67% more if comparing the iPhone XS). Some apps went up far more drastically, though even if you removed the ones whose price went up more than 200%, software still on average went up 42% -- or over double the average inflation rate... [I]f you paid $9.99 a month for business software in 2009, there's a good chance you pay $16.18 for it today -- if not $19.78. Of the hundred business apps we surveyed, sixty-seven raised their prices an average of 98% in the decade between 2009 and 2019. Fourteen lowered their prices an average of 28%, and nineteen apps kept their prices the same... Notably, if the apps you used raised their prices, odds are their prices nearly doubled over the past decade. That's perhaps even more noticeable than if all of your apps went up a few percent... in an industry where we were long accustomed to getting more for less -- an industry where that still holds for most physical products -- software has gone up in price three times faster than inflation. That's hard to ignore. All of their data is available in a public spreadsheet on Google Sheets, and they ultimately argue that today free "most often a strategy, a means not an end. Apple gives away software to sell devices; Google gives away storage to get you to store more so you'll upgrade."

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Tesla Battery Researcher Unveils New Cell That Could Last 1 Million Miles

Sun, 2019-09-08 18:34
Long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills writes: Not just anybody but [lithium-ion battery pioneer] Jeff Dahn [et al.] released a paper detailing cells that "should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage." The new lithium-ion battery cell has a next-generation "single crystal" NMC cathode and a new advanced electrolyte, according to the site Electrotek. "We are talking about battery cells that last two to three times longer than Tesla's current battery cells."

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One of America's Biggest Markets for AI-Powered Security Cameras: Schools

Sun, 2019-09-08 17:34
New video analytics systems can "identify people, suspicious behavior and guns" in real-time, and the technology is being used by Fortune 500 companies, stadiums, retailers, and police departments, reports the Los Angeles Times. But schools are "among the most enthusiastic adopters," they note, citing an interview with Paul Hildreth, the "emergency operations coordinator" at an Atlanta school district A year after an expelled student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Broward County installed cameras from Avigilon of Canada throughout the district in February. Hildreth's Atlanta district will spend $16.5 million to put the cameras in its roughly 100 buildings in coming years. In Greeley, Colo., the school district has used Avigilon cameras for about five years, and the technology has advanced rapidly, said John Tait, security manager for Weld County School District 6... Schools are the largest market for video surveillance systems in the U.S., estimated at $450 million in 2018, according to IHS Markit, a London data and information services company. The overall market for real-time video analytics was estimated at $3.2 billion worldwide in 2018 -- and it's expected to grow to $9 billion by 2023, according to one estimate... Shannon Flounnory, executive director for safety and security for Fulton County Schools, said no privacy concerns have been heard there. "The events of Parkland kind of changed the game," he said. "We have not had any arguments or any pushback right now...." One company, Athena Security, has cameras that spot when someone has a weapon. And in a bid to help retailers, it recently expanded its capabilities to help identify big spenders when they visit a store... Both ZeroEyes and Athena Security in Austin, Texas, say their systems can detect weapons with more than 90% accuracy, but acknowledge their products haven't been tested in a real-life scenario. And both systems are unable to detect weapons if they're covered -- a limitation the companies say they are working to overcome.

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Categories: Linux fréttir

One of America's Biggest Market for AI-Powered Security Cameras: Schools

Sun, 2019-09-08 17:34
New video analytics systems can "identify people, suspicious behavior and guns" in real-time, and the technology is being used by Fortune 500 companies, stadiums, retailers, and police departments, reports the Los Angeles Times. But schools are "among the most enthusiastic adopters," they note, citing an interview with Paul Hildreth, the "emergency operations coordinator" at an Atlanta school district A year after an expelled student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Broward County installed cameras from Avigilon of Canada throughout the district in February. Hildreth's Atlanta district will spend $16.5 million to put the cameras in its roughly 100 buildings in coming years. In Greeley, Colo., the school district has used Avigilon cameras for about five years, and the technology has advanced rapidly, said John Tait, security manager for Weld County School District 6... Schools are the largest market for video surveillance systems in the U.S., estimated at $450 million in 2018, according to IHS Markit, a London data and information services company. The overall market for real-time video analytics was estimated at $3.2 billion worldwide in 2018 -- and it's expected to grow to $9 billion by 2023, according to one estimate... Shannon Flounnory, executive director for safety and security for Fulton County Schools, said no privacy concerns have been heard there. "The events of Parkland kind of changed the game," he said. "We have not had any arguments or any pushback right now...." One company, Athena Security, has cameras that spot when someone has a weapon. And in a bid to help retailers, it recently expanded its capabilities to help identify big spenders when they visit a store... Both ZeroEyes and Athena Security in Austin, Texas, say their systems can detect weapons with more than 90% accuracy, but acknowledge their products haven't been tested in a real-life scenario. And both systems are unable to detect weapons if they're covered -- a limitation the companies say they are working to overcome.

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Categories: Linux fréttir

YouTube's Fine Criticized As Proof US Government Is 'Not Serious' About Big Tech Crackdown

Sun, 2019-09-08 16:34
YouTube's $170 million fine for illegally collecting data on children "shows the US government is not serious about a Big Tech crackdown," argues an article at CNBC: The FTC's new settlement with YouTube over alleged violations of child privacy rules is just a fraction of the revenue its parent company generates in a single day. Shares of Google parent company Alphabet were up following news of the settlement, just like shares of Facebook after its record FTC fine. The action shows the U.S. government is not prepared for a Big Tech crackdown that will fundamentally alter the business. Momentum is building in Washington to crack down on Big Tech's most free-wheeling practices: the Department of Justice is conducting a broad review of tech companies in addition to a reported antitrust investigation of Google, and Facebook disclosed a new antitrust probe by the Federal Trade Commission in July. But the meager penalties imposed on these companies in recent years, when compared with their size, shows the U.S. government is not yet prepared to take actions that will fundamentally alter the industry... Wednesday's announcement marks the third agreement the FTC has reached with Google since 2011, when it charged the company with using "deceptive" privacy practices at the launch of its now-defunct social network. In 2012, the agency hit Google with a $22.5 million penalty, its highest ever for a violation of a commission order at the time, over charges that it misrepresented its ad-targeting practices to consumers. But in 2019, Google appears none the worse for wear. Google's stock price has grown more than 260% since the time of its historic 2012 FTC penalty and the company's now worth more than $800 billion. Revenue and profits have both more than doubled. The article also notes that "Despite the penalties and noise from politicians about cracking down, Facebook's stock is up more than 40% so far this year," arguing that "the agencies that have so far had the power to force Big Tech to make real changes have opted for more incremental adjustments." Long-time Slashdot reader AndrewFlagg has another suggestion: Stop the madness of fines. Just sentence the leadership to jail and prison time... Don't fine the companies. That just hurts the stockholders who really don't know whats going on in the board room...

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The Washington Post's Newest Product: Personalized Newsletters

Sun, 2019-09-08 15:34
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In 2011, there were four engineers in The Washington Post newsroom," notes Fred Ryan, CEO and Publisher of The Washington Post. "Today there are over 300." And just like fish gotta swim and birds gotta sing, engineers gotta engineer. Axios reports that as part of the Post's commitment to growing as a product and technology company under the guidance of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the Post will debut new personalized newsletters targeted to subscribers this September (not unlike what CmdrTaco was doing for WaPo cast-off Trove back in January of 2014). So, will personalized news turn out to be a better idea than targeted ads and targeted videos, or should we be prepared for more unintended consequences?

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MIT's Epstein-Funded Media Lab Accused of Faking Hydroponic Plant Experiments

Sun, 2019-09-08 14:34
An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: An ambitious project that purported to turn anyone into a farmer with a single tool is scraping by with smoke-and-mirror tactics, employees told Business Insider. The "personal food computer," a device that MIT Media Lab senior researcher Caleb Harper presented as helping thousands of people across the globe grow custom, local food, simply doesn't work, according to two employees and multiple internal documents that Business Insider viewed. One person asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation... Ahead of big demonstrations with MIT Media Lab funders, staff were told to place plants grown elsewhere into the devices, the insiders said. In other instances, devices delivered to local schools simply didn't work. "It's fair to say that of the 30-ish food computers we sent out, at most two grew a plant," one person said... One worker told the site that at one school the students "would joke that the plants they were growing in plastic cups were growing better than the ones in the personal food computers." That pilot program "ended shortly thereafter."

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Firefox Will Soon Encrypt DNS Requests By Default

Sun, 2019-09-08 13:34
This month Firefox will make DNS over encrypted HTTPS the default for the U.S., with a gradual roll-out starting in late September, reports Engadget: Your online habits should be that much more private and secure, with fewer chances for DNS hijacking and activity monitoring. Not every request will use HTTPS. Mozilla is relying on a "fallback" method that will revert to your operating system's default DNS if there's either a specific need for them (such as some parental controls and enterprise configurations) or an outright lookup failure. This should respect the choices of users and IT managers who need the feature turned off, Mozilla said. The team is watching out for potential abuses, though, and will "revisit" its approach if attackers use a canary domain to disable the technology. Users will be given the option to opt-out, explains Mozilla's official announcement. "After many experiments, we've demonstrated that we have a reliable service whose performance is good, that we can detect and mitigate key deployment problems, and that most of our users will benefit from the greater protections of encrypted DNS traffic." "We feel confident that enabling DNS-over-HTTPS by default is the right next step."

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'It Shouldn't Be This Hard To Responsibly Fly a Drone'

Sun, 2019-09-08 10:34
The B4UFLY app from America's Federal Aviation Administration tells you where you can and can't fly your drone. But a senior writer for IEEE Spectrum reports that in fact the app "ignores both local and national regulations," and concludes after some field-testing in Oregon that it's "in many situations, worse than useless." Buried in a PDF FAQ (now offline) about the app is this: "Additionally, there may be local laws or ordinances about flying unmanned aircraft affecting your intended flight that are not reflected in this app. It is the responsibility of the operator to know the rules and fly safely at all times." And oh boy is that a huge responsibility that the app itself doesn't even mention, and that enormous loophole means that the B4UFLY app's "good to go" indicator is not just meaningless but in fact giving you the wrong idea entirely.... You could argue that this is worse than no app at all, because the app is actively giving you bad information. You are not, in fact, good to go, and if you're already going, you should stop immediately... When the FAA itself presents the B4UFLY app as a tool that can be used so that "recreational flyers know whether it is safe to fly their drone," that's exactly what it should do. Instead, the app provides only one very limited kind of information about recreational drone safety, without telling the user that it's on them to somehow dig up all the rest of the information that may or may not affect their flight... At the absolute minimum, the B4UFLY app should not tell users that they're "good to go" unless they are flying from an area where drone use is explicitly permitted, like national forests. Anywhere else, users should be instructed to verify that their local laws allow drone use. Is that going to be a huge annoyance that drives users away from the app? Of course. But it's the truth, and if the FAA doesn't like that, they should work with local governments to put the necessary information into the app instead. This article inspired a suggestion from long-time Slashdot reader gurps_npc. "What should be done is that every park that is not too close to an airport or other forbidden zone should set aside a location and a time where they allow and encourage people to use drones."

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