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An anonymous reader writes "Now that Google's modular phone effort, Project Ara, looks a bit less like vaporware, people are starting to figure out its implications for the future of cellphones. One fascinating possibility is that it could transform the cellphone purchasing process into something resembling desktop computer purchasing. Enthusiasts could search out the individual parts they like the best and assemble them into cellphone Voltron. People who just want a decent phone with no hassle could look at pre-built offerings — and not just from Apple, Samsung, and the like. It could open up a whole new group of phone 'manufacturers.' Of course, this comes with drawbacks, too — if you think fragmentation is bad now, imagine trying to support thousands of different hardware combinations."
An anonymous reader writes "Today BioWare announced a new game in its popular Dragon Age RPG series titled Inquisition. The game will follow the story of an Inquisitor trying to rally the world against the magic-laden forces spewing from rifts opening to another place. The game's creative director, Mike Laidlaw, says players will be able to watch the world descend into chaos, and then deal with the burdens of power as they rally forces in opposition. BioWare is also taking the opportunity to fix all of the things they broke in Dragon Age 2: 'Top-down tactical view is back. Playable races are back. The game seems to have more of an emphasis on challenge thanks to non-regenerative health.' The game will launch on October 7th for the PC, PS3/4, and Xbox 360/One."
Daniel_Stuckey writes: "Silk Road, the online marketplace notable for selling drugs and attempting to operate over Tor, was shut down last October. Its successor, Silk Road 2.0 survived for a few months before suffering a security breach. In total, an estimated $2.7 million worth of Bitcoin belonging to users and staff of the site was stolen. Some in the Silk Road community suspected that the hack might have involved staff members of the site itself, echoing scams on other sites. Project Black Flag closed down after its owner scampered with all of their customers' Bitcoin, and after that users of Sheep Marketplace had their funds stolen, in an incident that has never been conclusively proven as an inside job or otherwise. Many site owners would probably have given up at this point, and perhaps attempted to join another site, or start up a new one under a different alias. Why would you bother to pay back millions of dollars when you could just disappear into the digital ether? But Silk Road appears to be trying to rebuild, and to repay users' lost Bitcoins."
alphadogg writes: "Apple is making a billion dollar bet on sapphire as a strategic material for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and perhaps an iWatch. Exactly what the company plans to do with the scratch-resistant crystal – and when – is still the subject of debate. Apple is creating its own supply chain devoted to producing and finishing synthetic sapphire crystal in unprecedented quantities. The new Mesa, Arizona plant, in a partnership with sapphire furnace maker GT Advanced Technologies, will make Apple one of the world's largest sapphire producers when it reaches full capacity, probably in late 2014. By doing so, Apple is assured of a very large amount of sapphire and insulates itself from the ups and downs of sapphire material pricing in the global market."
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. general population is often the butt of jokes with regard to their understanding of science. A survey by the Associated Press now shows just how arbitrary and erratic the public's dissent can be. 'The good news is that more than 80 percent of those surveyed are strongly confident that smoking causes cancer; only four percent doubt it. Roughly 70 percent accepted that we have a genome and that mental illness is seated in the brain; about 20 percent were uncertain on these subjects, and the doubters were few. But things go downhill from there. Only about half of the people accepted that vaccines are safe and effective, with 15 percent doubting. And that's one of the controversial topics where the public did well. As for humanity's role in climate change, 33 percent accepted, 28 percent were unsure, and 37 percent fell in the doubter category. For a 4.5-billion-year-old Earth and a 13.8-billion-year-old Big Bang, acceptance was below 30 percent. Fully half of the public doubted the Big Bang (PDF).'"
An anonymous reader writes "Andrew Kelley was a big fan of the Amarok open source music player. But a few years ago, its shortcomings were becoming more annoying and the software's development path no longer matched with the new features he wanted. So he did what any enterprising hacker would do: he started work on a replacement. Three and a half years later, his project, Groove Basin, has evolved into a solid music player, and it's still under active development. Kelley has now posted a write-up of his development process, talking about what problems he encountered, how he solved them, and how he ended up contributing code to libav."
theodp writes: "You may recall that inBloom is a data initiative that sought to personalize learning. GeekWire's Tricia Duryee now reports that inBloom, which was backed by $100 million from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, is closing up shop after parents worried that its database technology was violating their children's privacy. According to NY Times coverage (reg.), the inBloom database tracked 400 different data fields about students — including family relationships ('foster parent' or 'father's significant other') and reasons for enrollment changes ('withdrawn due to illness' or 'leaving school as a victim of a serious violent incident') — that parents objected to, prompting some schools to recoil from the venture. In a statement, inBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger said that personalized learning was still an emerging concept, and complained that the venture had been 'the subject of mischaracterizations and a lightning rod for misdirected criticism.' He added, 'It is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole.' [Although it was still apparently vulnerable to Heartbleed.] Gates still has a couple of irons left in the data-driven personalized learning fire via his ties to Code.org, which seeks 7 years of participating K-12 students' data, and Khan Academy, which recently attracted scrutiny over its data-privacy policies."
Details have leaked about the next iteration of Intel's Thunderbolt connector. The good news: bandwidth will double, going up to about 40Gbps from its current 20. Power usage will drop by half, and it'll support PCI-e 3.0. The bad news: it uses a redesigned connector, and will rely on adapters for backward compatibility. From the article:
"Doubling the available bandwidth will enable next-generation Thunderbolt controllers to drive two 4K displays simultaneously, where current controllers can only drive one. The new controllers will allegedly be compatible with a variety of other protocols as well, including DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0, and HDMI 2.0. Intel will offer two different versions of the controller—a version that uses four PCI Express lanes to drive two Thunderbolt ports and an "LP" (presumably "Low Power") version that uses two PCI Express lanes to drive one port."
Trailrunner7 writes: "Apple has fixed a serious security flaw present in many versions of both iOS and OS X and could allow an attacker to intercept data on SSL connections. The bug is one of many the company fixed Tuesday in its two main operating systems, and several of the other vulnerabilities have serious consequences as well, including the ability to bypass memory protections and run arbitrary code. The most severe of the vulnerabilities patched in iOS 7.1.1 and OSX Mountain Lion and Mavericks is an issue with the secure transport component of the operating systems. If an attacker was in a man-in-the-middle position on a user's network, he might be able to intercept supposedly secure traffic or change the connection's properties."
hypnosec writes: "National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has removed the much-criticized Dual_EC_DRBG (Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator) from its draft guidance on random number generators following a period of public comment and review. The revised document retains three of the four previously available options for generating pseudorandom bits required to create secure cryptographic keys for encrypting data. NIST recommends that people using Dual_EC_DRBG should transition to one of the other three recommended algorithms as quickly as possible."
An anonymous reader writes "Despite the high news coverage that large breaches receive, and despite tales told by their friends about losing their laptops for a few days while a malware infection is cleared up, employees generally believe they are immune to security risks. They think those types of things happen to other, less careful people. Training users how to properly create and store strong passwords, and putting measures in place that tell individuals the password they've created is 'weak' can help change behavior. But how do we embed this training in our culture?"
Yesterday AT&T announced it would examine 100 cities and municipalities in the U.S., including 21 metropolitan areas, for introduction of gigabit fiber. Taken on its face, the announcement is the company's response to Google Fiber. But many were quick to note AT&T has promised nothing. Karl Bode at DSLReports went so far as to call AT&T's announcement a giant bluff.
"Ever since Google Fiber came on the scene, AT&T's response has been highly theatrical in nature. What AT&T would have the press and public believe is that they're engaged in a massive new deployment of fiber to the home service. What's actually happening is that AT&T is upgrading a few high-end developments where fiber was already in the ground (these users were previously capped at DSL speeds) and pretending it's a serious expansion of fixed-line broadband. It's not. At the same time AT&T is promising a massive expansion in fixed line broadband, they're telling investors they aren't spending much money on the initiative, because they aren't. AT&T's focus is on more profitable wireless. 'Gigapower' is a show pony designed to help the company pretend they're not being outmaneuvered in their core business by a search engine company."
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Last month, a report suggested that Austin has the highest salaries for tech workers (after factoring in the cost of living), followed by Atlanta, Denver, Boston, and Silicon Valley. Now, a new report (yes, from Dice, because it gathers this sort of data from tech workers) suggests that more tech people are earning six figures a year than ever. Some 32 percent of full-time tech pros took home more than $100,000 in 2013, according to the findings, up from 30 percent in 2012 and 26 percent in 2011. For contractors, the data is even better: In 2013, a staggering 54 percent of them earned more than $100,000 a year, up from 51 percent the previous year and 50 percent in 2011. How far that money goes depends on where you live, of course, but it does seem like a growing number of the world's tech workers are earning a significant amount of cash."
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Ask most people why they won't consider an electric car, and they talk about range anxiety. And I can easily imagine why 84 miles of range isn't enough. Now it sounds like Nissan is listening, as well as watching Tesla's success. The company plans to boost the Leaf electric car's driving range with options for larger battery packs. Not long ago Nissan surveyed Tesla Model S owners, and they probably heard loud and clear that longer driving range is very, very important. So it looks like the Leaf might get up to 150 miles of range, possibly by the 2016 model year. The range increase will come from a larger battery pack, possibly 36 or 42 kWh, and more energy-dense cells. Either way, clearly Nissan is looking to expand the appeal of the world's best-selling electric car, and increasing its driving range is pretty clearly a key to doing so. I just wish Nissan would ditch the weird styling while they're at it."
In N+1 magazine, David Auerbach explains what it was like in the "Chat Wars" of the late '90s, when he was the youngest person on the team developing Microsoft's brand-new messaging app, in the face of America Online's AIM, the 900-pound gorilla in the room. Auerbach explains how he used a network analyzer to fake out AOL's servers into letting Microsoft's client connect to AIM as well.
"AOL could only block Messenger if they could figure out that the user was using Messenger and not AIM. As long as Messenger sent exactly the same protocol messages to the AOL servers, AOL wouldn’t be able to detect that Messenger was an impostor. So I took the AIM client and checked for differences in what it was sending, then changed our client to mimic it once again. They’d switch it up again; they knew their client, and they knew what it was coded to do and what obscure messages it would respond to in what ways. Every day it’d be something new. At one point they threw in a new protocol wrinkle but cleverly excepted users logging on from Microsoft headquarters, so that while all other Messenger users were getting an error message, we were sitting at Microsoft and not getting it. After an hour or two of scratching our heads, we figured it out."
Eventually, though, AOL introduced x86 assembly code into the login protocol, and that not only stymied the MSM team, but led to some interesting warfare of its own. Auerbach's story sheds a lot of light on both good and bad aspects of corporate culture at the start of the 21st century, at Microsoft as well as other companies.
An anonymous reader writes "The embattled founder of VK, Russia's largest social networking site, said this week that the company is now 'under the complete control' of two oligarchs with close ties to President Vladimir Putin. In a VK post published Monday, Pavel Durov said he's been fired as CEO of the website, claiming that he was pushed out on a technicality, and that he only heard of it through media reports."
ananyo (2519492) writes "Overall working hours have fallen over the past century. But the rich have begun to work longer hours than the poor. In 1965 men with a college degree, who tend to be richer, had a bit more leisure time than men who had only completed high school. But by 2005 the college-educated had eight hours less of it a week than the high-school grads. Figures from the American Time Use Survey, released last year, show that Americans with a bachelor's degree or above work two hours more each day than those without a high-school diploma. Other research shows that the share of college-educated American men regularly working more than 50 hours a week rose from 24% in 1979 to 28% in 2006, but fell for high-school dropouts. The rich, it seems, are no longer the class of leisure. The reasons are complex but include rising income inequality but also the availability of more intellectually stimulating, well-remunerated work." (And, as the article points out, "Increasing leisure time [among less educated workers] probably reflects a deterioration in their employment prospects as low-skill and manual jobs have withered.")
New submitter Burphytez (3625571) writes with this excerpt of a Reuters story, as carried by the Chicago Tribune: "Video streaming service Netflix Inc said it intends to raise the monthly subscription price for new customers by $1 or $2 a month to help the company buy more movies and TV shows and improve service for its 48 million global subscribers. Investors welcomed the announcement by Netflix, which had suffered from a consumer exodus and stock plunge after it announced an unpopular price increase in July 2011. The company's shares jumped 6.7 percent in after-hours trading to $371.97, after the company released plans for a price hike and posted a rise in first-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations."
An anonymous reader writes with news about a scam with a twist. The scammers purchased login details to internal Comcast systems from an employee using them to lower the bills of Comcast customers, for a price. "Alston Buchanan, the mastermind of a two-man scam to lower the bills of Comcast customers for a price, pleaded guilty last week and awaits sentencing. His accomplice, Richard Justin Spraggins, who also pleaded guilty in February, will serve 11-23 months in prison and pay Comcast $66,825. Their operation purportedly cost Comcast $2.4 million, and Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customers. However, the allegedly huge financial loss went undetected until a Comcast customer reported his/her suspicions to Comcast customer service."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Hasani Gittens reports that as miraculous as it was that a 16-year-old California boy was able to hitch a ride from San Jose to Hawaii and survive, it isn't the first time a wheel-well stowaway has lived to tell about it. The FAA says that since 1947 there have been 105 people who have tried to surreptitiously travel in plane landing gear — with a survival rate of about 25 percent. But agency adds that the actual numbers are probably higher, as some survivors may have escaped unnoticed, and bodies could fall into the ocean undetected. Except for the occasional happy ending, hiding in the landing gear of a aircraft as it soars miles above the Earth is generally a losing proposition. According to an FAA/Wright State University study titled 'Survival at High Altitudes: Wheel-Well Passengers,' at 20,000 feet the temperature experienced by a stowaway would be -13 F, at 30,000 it would be -45 in the wheel well — and at 40,000 feet, the mercury plunges to a deadly -85 F (PDF). 'You're dealing with an incredibly harsh environment,' says aviation and security expert Anthony Roman. 'Temperatures can reach -50 F, and oxygen levels there are barely sustainable for life.' Even if a strong-bodied individual is lucky enough to stand the cold and the lack of oxygen, there's still the issue of falling out of the plane. 'It's almost impossible not to get thrown out when the gear opens,' says Roman.
So how do the lucky one-in-four survive? The answer, surprisingly, is that a few factors of human physiology are at play: As the aircraft climbs, the body enters a state of hypoxia—that is, it lacks oxygen—and the person passes out. At the same time, the frigid temperatures cause a state of hypothermia, which preserves the nervous system. 'It's similar to a young kid who falls to the bottom of an icy lake," says Roman. "and two hours later he survives, because he was so cold.'"