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Updated: 34 min 20 sec ago

After a Year of Secret Field-Testing, Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here

5/20/2015 9:45am
An anonymous reader writes: Today, an Icelandic prosthetic-maker announced that two amputees have been testing brain-controlled bionic legs for over a year. The devices respond to impulses in the subjects' residual limbs, via sensors that were implanted in simple, 15-minute-long procedures. "When the electrical impulse from his brain reaches the base of his leg, a pair of sensors embedded in his muscle tissue connect the neural dots, and wirelessly transmit that signal to the Proprio Foot. Since the command reaches the foot before the wearer's residual muscles actually contract, there's no unnatural lag between intention and action." This is a huge step forward (sorry) for this class of bionics. It may seem like a solved problem based on reports and videos from laboratories, but it's never been exposed to real world use and everyday wear and tear like this.

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'Logjam' Vulnerability Threatens Encrypted Connections

5/20/2015 9:02am
An anonymous reader writes: A team of security researchers has revealed a new encryption vulnerability called 'Logjam,' which is the result of a flaw in the TLS protocol used to create encrypted connections. It affects servers supporting the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, and it's caused by export restrictions mandated by the U.S. government during the Clinton administration. "Attackers with the ability to monitor the connection between an end user and a Diffie-Hellman-enabled server that supports the export cipher can inject a special payload into the traffic that downgrades encrypted connections to use extremely weak 512-bit key material. Using precomputed data prepared ahead of time, the attackers can then deduce the encryption key negotiated between the two parties." Internet Explorer is the only browser yet updated to block such an attack — patches for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are expected soon. The researchers add, "Breaking the single, most common 1024-bit prime used by web servers would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to 18% of the Top 1 Million HTTPS domains. A second prime would allow passive decryption of connections to 66% of VPN servers and 26% of SSH servers. A close reading of published NSA leaks shows that the agency's attacks on VPNs are consistent with having achieved such a break." Here is their full technical report (PDF).

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AP Computer Science Education Scalability: Advantage, Rupert Murdoch?

5/20/2015 8:20am
theodp writes: Code.org's AP Computer Science offering won't be going mainstream until the 2016-2017 school year. In the meantime, NewsWorks' Avi Wolfman-Arent reports that Rupert Murdoch's Amplify MOOC just wrapped up its second year of offering AP Computer Science A. And unlike Microsoft TEALS, Google CS First, and Code.org — programs constrained by the number of volunteers, teacher and classroom availability, professional development requirements, and money — Murdoch's AP CS MOOC holds the promise of open-access, unlimited-enrollment, learn-anywhere-and-anytime classes, a la Coursera, Udacity and EdX. So, did Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and their leaders place a $30 million bet on the wrong horse when it comes to AP Computer Science scalability? And, even if they've got a more scalable model, will Murdoch's Amplify and schools be willing to deal with higher MOOC failure rates, and allow large numbers of students to try — and possibly drop or fail — AP CS without economic or academic consequences?

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US Levels Espionage Charges Against 6 Chinese Nationals

5/20/2015 7:36am
Taco Cowboy writes: The U.S. government has indicted five Chinese citizens and arrested a Chinese professor on charges of economic espionage. The government alleges that they took jobs at two small, American chipmakers — Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions — in order to steal microelectronics designs. "All of them worked, the indictment contends, to steal trade secrets for a type of chip popularly known as a “filter” that is used for acoustics in mobile telephones, among other purposes. They took the technology back to Tianjin University, created a joint venture company with the university to produce the chips, and soon were selling them to both the Chinese military and to commercial customers." It's interesting to note that the Reuters article keeps mentioning how this technology — used commonly as an acoustic filter — has "military applications." It's also interesting to look at another recent case involving Shirrey Chen, a hydrologist who was mysteriously arrested on suspicion of espionage, but then abruptly cleared five months later. One can't help but wonder what's driving the U.S.'s new strategy for tackling economic espionage.

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Australian Law Could Criminalize the Teaching of Encryption

5/20/2015 5:00am
New submitter petherfile writes: According to Daniel Mathews, new laws passed in Australia (but not yet in effect) could criminalize the teaching of encryption. He explains how a ridiculously broad law could effectively make any encryption stronger than 512 bits criminal if your client is not Australian. He says, "In short, the DSGL casts an extremely wide net, potentially catching open source privacy software, information security research and education, and the entire computer security industry in its snare. Most ridiculous, though, are some badly flawed technicalities. As I have argued before, the specifications are so imprecise that they potentially include a little algorithm you learned at primary school called division. If so, then division has become a potential weapon, and your calculator (or smartphone, computer, or any electronic device) is a potential delivery system for it."

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Tweets To Appear In Google Search Results

5/20/2015 2:15am
mpicpp writes with news that Google will now begin showing tweets alongside search results. Mobile users searching via the Android/iOS apps or through the browser will start seeing the tweets immediately, while the desktop version is "coming shortly." The tweets will only be available for the searches in English to start, but Twitter says they'll be adding more languages soon.

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Jason Scott of Textfiles.com Wants Your AOL & Shovelware CDs

5/20/2015 12:19am
eldavojohn writes: You've probably got a spindle in your closet, or a drawer layered with them: the CD-ROM discs that were mailed to you or delivered with some hardware that you put away "just in case." Now, of course, the case for actually using them is laughable. Well, a certain eccentric individual named Jason Scott has a fever — and the only cure is more AOL CDs. But his sickness doesn't stop there, "I also want all the CD-ROMs made by Walnut Creek CD-ROM. I want every shovelware disc that came out in the entire breadth of the CD-ROM era. I want every shareware floppy, while we're talking. I want it all. The CD-ROM era is basically finite at this point. It's over. The time when we're going to use physical media as the primary transport for most data is done done done. Sure, there's going to be distributions and use of CD-ROMs for some time to come, but the time when it all came that way and when it was in most cases the only method of distribution in the history books, now. And there were a specific amount of CD-ROMs made. There are directories and listings of many that were manufactured. I want to find those. I want to image them, and I want to put them up. I'm looking for stacks of CD-ROMs now. Stacks and stacks. AOL CDs and driver CDs and Shareware CDs and even hand-burned CDs of stuff you downloaded way back when. This is the time to strike." Who knows? His madness may end up being appreciated by younger generations!

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Survey: 2/3 of Public Sector Workers Wouldn't Report a Security Breach

5/19/2015 10:23pm
An anonymous reader sends news of a survey of workers in the public sector conducted by Daisy Group, a British IT firm, which found that 64% of them would stay quiet about a security breach they noticed. The survey also found that 5% of workers admitted to disabling the password protection features on their work devices, and 20% said they don't update their passwords regularly. Daisy Group's Graham Harris said, "When it comes to data security, all too often organisations focus purely on IT processes and forget about the staff that will be using them. Human error is one of, if not the most likely source for data security issues, and fear of reprisal is a powerful force." 16% of respondents said they didn't know if data protection was an important part of their company's security practices.

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Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour

5/19/2015 8:12pm
HughPickens.com writes: Jennifer Medina reports at the NY Times that the council of the nation's second-largest city voted by a 14-1 margin to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Los Angeles and its almost 4 million residents represent one of the biggest victories yet for those pushing wage increases across the country. Proponents hope it will start to reverse the earning gap in the city, where the top 7% of households earn more than the bottom 67%. Detractors point out the direct cost increase to businesses, which could total as much as a billion dollars per year. If a business can't handle the increased cost, the employees this measure was designed to help will lose their jobs when it folds. An editorial from the LA Times says it's vital for other cities nearby to increase their minimum wage, too, else businesses will gradually migrate to cheaper locations. They add, "While the minimum wage hike will certainly help the lowest-wage workers in the city, it should not be seen as the centerpiece of a meaningful jobs creation strategy. The fact is that far too many jobs in the city are low-wage jobs — some 37% of workers currently earn less than $13.25 an hour, according to the mayor's estimates — and even after the proposed increase, they would still be living on the edge of poverty."

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Energy Dept. Wants Big Wind Energy Technology In All 50 US States

5/19/2015 7:30pm
coondoggie writes: Bigger wind turbines and towers are just part of what the U.S. needs in order to more effectively use wind energy in all 50 states.That was the thrust of a wind energy call-to-arms report called "Enabling Wind Power nationwide" issued this week by the Department of Energy. They detail new technology that can reach higher into the sky to capture more energy and more powerful turbines to generate more gigawatts. These new turbines are 110-140 meters tall, with blades 60 meters long. The Energy Department forecasts strong, steady growth of wind power across the country, both on land and off shore.

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Google Offers Cheap Cloud Computing For Low-Priority Tasks

5/19/2015 6:48pm
jfruh writes: Much of the history of computing products and services involves getting people desperate for better performance and faster results to pay a premium to get what they want. But Google has a new beta service that's going in the other direction — offering cheap cloud computing services for customers who don't mind waiting. Jobs like data analytics, genomics, and simulation and modeling can require lots of computational power, but they can run periodically, can be interrupted, and can even keep going if one or more nodes they're using goes offline.

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Choosing the Right IDE

5/19/2015 6:03pm
Nerval's Lobster writes: Modern software development often requires working with multiple tools in a variety of languages. The complexity can give even the most skilled developer a nasty headache, which is why many try to rely on Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) to accomplish most of the work; in addition to source-code editors and automation, some even feature intelligent code completion. With so much choice out there, it's hard to settle on an IDE, so we interviewed several developers, who collectively offered up a list of useful questions to ask when evaluating a particular IDE for use. But do developers even need an IDE at all? When you go to smaller, newer developer shops, you're seeing a lot more standalone editors and command-line tools; depending on what you do, you might just need a good editor, and to master the command-line tools for the languages you use. What IDE do you prefer, if any, and why?

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Software Glitch Caused Crash of Airbus A400M Military Transport Aircraft

5/19/2015 5:20pm
An anonymous reader writes: A software glitch caused the crash of an Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, claims German newspaper Der Spiegel (Google translation). The accident, which happened in Seville on the vehicle's first production test flight on 9 May, killed four crew members. Airbus is investigating the system controlling the aircraft's engines. The early suspicions are that it was an installation problem, rather than a design problem.

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Bitcoin Arrives At NYSE, Startup Aims To Tackle Micropayments and Easy Mining

5/19/2015 4:37pm
itwbennett writes: A startup company whose backers include Qualcomm, Cisco Systems and a former ARM executive, and which reportedly has raised "well north of $116 million" has just come out of stealth mode. The first thing to know about the company, which calls itself 21, is that it has designed an embedded chip for bitcoin mining. The details aren't entirely clear, but the plan seems to be to get its bitcoin mining chip embedded into millions of smartphones and tablets, and for those devices to work collectively to mine new currency. But the company has larger ambitions: It sees its chip as a way to solve the problem of micro payments and it could also be used to pay for the chips themselves. This was followed by news that the New York Stock Exchange will begin tracking and showing Bitcoin's dollar value. Reader Lashdots adds a link to an article describing how Silicon Valley finally joined the rush to invest in Bitcoin-related businesses.

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Marvel's Female Superheroes Are Gradually Becoming More Super

5/19/2015 3:55pm
New submitter RhubarbPye writes: A new study shows an increasing trend in the power and significance of female superhero characters in the Marvel comic book universe. Several criteria were used to examine the trend, including cover art, dialog, and the actual superpowers. Over 200 individual comic books from Marvel's 50+ year history were compared for the study. What's of particular interest is the study's author is a 17-year-old high school student from Ohio.

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Learn About The Technology Education And Literacy in Schools Program (Video)

5/19/2015 3:14pm
The Technology Education And Literacy in Schools program (TEALS to its friends) started with one volunteer, a Berkeley CS grad named Kevin Wang who taught high school for a while, then went to Microsoft for a much higher salary than he got from teaching. But before long, he was getting up early and teaching a first period computer science class at a Seattle-area high school that was (sort of) on his way to work. Then some other local high schools came to him and wanted similar programs. Kevin's a smart guy, but not smart enough to be in four places at once, so he recruited coworkers to join him as volunteer computer science educators. Today (as this is being written) TEALS is in 130 high schools and has 475 volunteers in multiple states. Kevin works full time on the program, sponsored by Microsoft, but 78% of the volunteers now come from other companies. TEALS has stuck with Kevin's original 1st period (usually somewhere between 7:30 and 9:30) schedule not just because it's convenient for many of the volunteers, but because (contrary to teen-nerd stereotypes) 60% of their students are in after-school sports and 20% are in band. The program is growing steadily and they're looking for more volunteers. We'll have another video with Kevin tomorrow, and that's when the transcript of both videos will appear. Meanwhile, you can read the TEALS FAQ and see how you might fit in with this group or one of many other similar ones either as a volunteer, as a student or as a teacher or school administrator interested in giving your students at least a basic grounding in Computer Science. (Coincidentally, today's 'Ask Slashdot' is about tech skills for HS students -- an unintentional but excellent tie-in.)

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Why Apple Ditched Its Plan To Build a Television

5/19/2015 2:25pm
Apple has been rumored to be developing their own line of HDTVs for years, but a new report from the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) says while those plans did exist, they've been abandoned. Apple began pondering the idea of jumping into the television market roughly a decade ago, as iTunes started hosting video content. The AppleTV made a foray into living rooms in 2007, and other devices reached the prototype stage. The company continued to do research and work on their ideas, but eventually gave up more than a year ago. Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through the set, they said. Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn't consider any of those features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co. Apple typically likes to enter a new product area with innovative technology and easier-to-use software.

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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Skills Do HS Students Need To Know Now?

5/19/2015 1:43pm
heybiff writes: During summer months I deliver brief tech workshops to high school students as part of an enrichment program. Almost all of the students are average students pulled from non-magnet comprehensive high schools throughout our city. Make no mistake — these are not the students who have a love of technology and coding; many were coerced by excited parents or guidance counselors. After doing this for almost 10 years, I have found students have become considerably more comfortable with technology, and confident in their use, especially with smartphones and tablets being ubiquitous. Unfortunately, I also see a lot of basic knowledge and tech skills all but nonexistent. Moreover, students seem unaware that the tech they use daily even has any usefulness for academic activities. So what I put to you fellow Slashdotters is: What do students today realistically have to know to be successful in school? Which tech skills are still important and necessary, and which are gone the way of the typewriter? What misconceptions or outright lies have become so ingrained in young people's use of technology that they need to be addressed? Finally, the program puts laptops in students' hands, to give them a kickstart in being successful; what skills do they need to get the most out of the new hardware they were just given?

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Yubikey Neo Teardown and Durability Review

5/19/2015 12:34pm
An anonymous reader writes: Folks at HexView (disclaimer: I contract for the company) took apart Yubikey Neo and found out that, while the key uses solid hardware to ensure secure identity management, its physical anti-tamper measures and durability could be improved. The tear-down analysis is short, but to the point, and offers some very nice close-ups of the internals. One example of the design shortcomings they've identified: Contrary to Yubico's claims, Yubikey appears to be quite destructable. Do not push on it when you touch the sensor while the key is plugged in to a USB port. The point where it bends the most happens to be the point where USB vias are located and through which NFC antenna loop goes. To make things worse, the injection molding hole right next to the connector makes this area even more susceptible to bending.

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AMD Details High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) DRAM, Pushes Over 100GB/s Per Stack

5/19/2015 11:52am
MojoKid writes: Recently, a few details of AMD's next-generation Radeon 300-series graphics cards have trickled out. Today, AMD has publicly disclosed new info regarding their High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) technology that will be used on some Radeon 300-series and APU products. Currently, a relatively large number of GDDR5 chips are necessary to offer sufficient capacity and bandwidth for modern GPUs, which means significant PCB real estate is consumed. On-chip integration is not ideal for DRAM because it is not size or cost effective with a logic-optimized GPU or CPU manufacturing process. HBM, however, brings the DRAM as close to possible to the logic die (GPU) as possible. AMD partnered with Hynix and a number of companies to help define the HBM specification and design a new type of memory chip with low power consumption and an ultra-wide bus width, which was eventually adopted by JEDEC 2013. They also develop a DRAM interconnect called an "interposer," along with ASE, Amkor, and UMC. The interposer allows DRAM to be brought into close proximity with the GPU and simplifies communication and clocking. HBM DRAM chips are stacked vertically, and "through-silicon vias" (TSVs) and "bumps" are used to connect one DRAM chip to the next, and then to a logic interface die, and ultimately the interposer. The end result is a single package on which the GPU/SoC and High Bandwidth Memory both reside. 1GB of GDDR5 memory (four 256MB chips), requires roughly 672mm2. Because HBM is vertically stacked, that same 1GB requires only about 35mm2. The bus width on an HBM chip is 1024-bits wide, versus 32-bits on a GDDR5 chip. As a result, the High Bandwidth Memory interface can be clocked much lower but still offer more than 100GB/s for HBM versus 25GB/s with GDDR5. HBM also requires significantly less voltage, which equates to lower power consumption.

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