• Saturday 01 July 2017 - 12:00
    "If you don't feel rejuvenated and keen to face Monday after two work-free days, there might be a reason: You're doing your weekend wrong," an anonymous reader writes, citing a Quartz article. From the article: According to University of Calgary sociologist Robert Stebbins, most leisure falls into two categories: casual and serious. Casual leisure pursuits are short lived, immediately gratifying, and often passive; they include activities like drinking, online shopping, and binge-watching. These diversions provide instant hedonic pleasure -- quite literally, actually, as all these pastimes cause the brain to release dopamine and provide instant soothing comfort. In a culture where many people exist all week in an amped-up, overworked state, casual weekend leisure easily becomes the default for quick decompression. But serious leisure is a far more beneficial pursuit. Serious leisure activities provide deeper fulfillment, and -- to invoke a fuzzy '70s word -- "self-actualization." Self-actualization is the pinnacle of human development, according to humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow, who describes it as "the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming." In other words, getting self-actualized is the whole point of life, and passive, hedonistic leisure (fun and occasionally necessary as it might be) won't get you there. Instead, the weekend goal should be "eudaimonic" happiness, which is a sense of well-being that arises from meaningful, challenging activities that cause you to grow as a person. This means spending the weekend on serious leisure activities that require the regular refinement of skills: your barbershop-quartet singing, your stamp collecting, or slightly less dorky, but still equally in-depth, projects. You pursue serious leisure with the earnest tenor of a professional, even if the pursuit is amateur.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 09:51

    VeraCrypt 1.20 featuring 64-bit optimization, support for Secure Desktop for password entry on Windows, and more, was released on June 29, 2017.

    The encryption software was one of the programs that came to life after the developers of the open source encryption software TrueCrypt stopped development under mysterious circumstances.

    VeraCrypt is based on TrueCrypt source code, and compatible with encrypted containers and drives as a consequence.

    The software is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, and also open source.

    VeraCrypt 1.20

    veracrypt 1.20

    The new VeraCrypt 1.20 comes with 64-bit processor optimizations for all supported operating systems. The developers have improved the implementation for Sha-512 and Sha256 which results in a 33% speed increase on 64-bit systems. Additionally, a 64-bit optimized assembly implementation of Twofish and Camelia is included in VeraCrypt 1.20 which makes Camelia 2.5 times faster if AES-NI is supported by the processor, or 30% faster if it is not.

    Other major changes for all operating systems include the use of Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) for improved security, and the integration of a local HTML user guide instead of a PDF document.

    The Windows version of VeryCrypt 1.20 has received quite a few changes of its own on top of that. It supports Secure Desktop for password entry in the new version which isolates the dialog from the rest of the desktop and other processes on the operating system.

    veracrypt secure desktop

    The feature is not enabled by default, and VeryCrypt users need to enable it before they can make use of this. This is done under Settings > Preferences > Use Secure Desktop for password entry.

    The option is available as a command line parameter as well. Use /secureDesktop yes to enable the feature.

    Other major changes on Windows include support for the ReFS file system on Windows 10 when normal volumes are created, and the use of enhanced NX pool under Windows 8 or newer for additional driver security.

    The new version fixes some performance regressions as well: the performance impact of checks for disconnected network drives has been reduced, and a high CPU usage case was fixed when mounting favorites.

    The handling of EFI systems has been improved on top of all that. Windows users may edit the EFI configuration file manually. The developers fixed a bug in the EFI system description when using the EFI Rescue Disk, and fixed an incorrect warning about Windows not installed on boot time with EFI system encryption.

    The changes are smaller in the Mac OS X and Linux versions of the application.  The minimum version of Mac OS X has been raised to OS X 10.7 for instance, and both Linux and Mac versions check TrueCryptMode in the password dialog when they are opening containers with the .tc extension.

    The project moved away from CodePlex as Microsoft plans to shut the site down this year. The main address of the VeryCrypt project is https://www.veracrypt.fr/ now.

    Downloads are provided on CodePlex and SourceForge. The Windows version is not listed right now as a download option, but it can be downloaded from third-party sites such as MajorGeeks.

    There was a forum thread on SourceForge about issues with 32-bit versions of VeraCrypt 1.20 on Windows, and it may have been pulled because of that. No confirmation has been given though.

    Now You: which encryption software do you use, and why?

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader.

    The post VeraCrypt 1.20: 64-bit optimization, new home appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 09:00
    An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, Nike was one of the biggest holdouts against Amazon.com, refusing to provide its sneakers and athletic clothing for sale on the hulking e-commerce site. Its products were so cool, the company reasoned, it didn't need or want the help. Recently, Nike reversed course. Behind that decision lies a dramatic shift in the balance of power between brands and Amazon (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; syndicated source). For decades, big consumer brands carefully controlled which retailers could sell their wares and at what prices. And for years, Amazon left the brands alone. Lately, the explosion of third-party sellers on the site has led to authentic goods from companies such as Nike, Chanel, The North Face, Patagonia and Urban Decay being sold on Amazon even though they don't authorize the sales, undercutting their grip on pricing and distribution. Even though Nike didn't send Amazon its products either directly or through approved wholesalers, Nike is the most purchased apparel brand on the site, according to a Morgan Stanley survey. A recent search for Nike products on Amazon turned up roughly 73,000 items. These days, there are so many third-party resellers, who generally are allowed to resell goods they have lawfully acquired at whatever price they want, that companies see few ways to stop them.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 06:46

    LibreOffice is probably the most popular alternative to Microsoft Office, and comes preinstalled on many GNU/Linux distributions, however, it's also available for nearly every major free and non-free OS out there...And it seems that they are looking for a new Mascot!

    In an article posted on June 28, The LibreOffice Design Team announced a contest that they have opened to the public, asking for people to submit designs for the new mascot. On top of the obvious reward of having your design potentially chosen, there are also three prizes available for potential submissions:

    • Slimbook KATANA Intel i5

    • Nextcloud box with Raspberry Pi 3

    • Nitrokey Pro 3

    In the original article, the Design Team states that there are some metaphors that they believe might be suitable for LibreOffice and for the mascot, to give some ideas. However, they are also open to others.

    LibreOffice Contest

    "We have started by asking on the mailing lists some input about the concepts associated with LibreOffice.

    • Freedom/Openness

      • Dove like bird, through occupied by Apache OpenOffice (and disliked by some)

      • Hummingbird: Light, free, fast, with colors that remember also the LibreOffice colors

      • Dragonfly: is a beautiful animal with many colors which we can find all over the world, is a fast and agile flier with a robust body, and a symbol of courage, strength, and happiness (unfortunately, the dragonfly is used at DragonFly BSD and Opera Dragonfly)

    • Speed/Improvement

      • Fast birds, smart and not aggressive, hunter

      • Bird of prey (raptor)

      • Pegasus, Phoenix

      • a Gazelle

    • Intelligence

      • Owl: known for wisdom since the Greek goddess Athena, whose pet was an owl

      • Beaver (Castor canadensis): beavers are ingenious builders who can change the course of rivers, they are powerful patient doers despite their size, who can modify their living space in a few days

    • Cuteness / Seven lives

      • Louse/Virus: it irritates sometimes, but you can’t get rid of

      • Tardigrade (‘pudgy wudgie’): also known as water bears, they are adorable, and also perhaps the most indestructible creatures known to man

      • Rock-hopper penguin: it’s very cute with orangey-red-yellow tufts out of jet-black ears, they are impressively determined, despite the comedy-value of the way they waddle and bounce they achieve incredible feats of athleticism such as jumping higher than their own height from a standing start "

    The Design Team went on to give a couple of methods in how you can submit your designs, "To share your proposal please use our Nextcloud instance https://nextcloud.documentfoundation.org/s/l58GED3Ngq92Rge with a clear identification of <date>_<author>_<name>.png (e.g. 20170629_htietze_grumpycat.png), or submit your artwork per E-mail to contest@libreoffice.org. You can submit as many ideas as you want, but we may refuse input in case of very close designs."

    So, to those of you with artistic talent, here is a rather exciting opportunity that you should jump on! The contest is open until August 31, so you have about a month to start designing and sending in your ideas.

    For more information, please see the article posted by The LibreOffice Design Team and the best of luck to any of you who decide to take part in this exciting opportunity!

    Ghacks needs you. You can find out how to support us here or support the site directly by becoming a Patreon. Thank you for being a Ghacks reader.

    The post LibreOffice starts a mascot design contest! appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 06:30

    Even though the internet is largely populated by cat videos and memes, it also has some intelligent stuff. But you need to know where to find it, if you want the web to boost your brain and not blast it. A while back, we compiled a mega-list of 35 brainy sites for you to read more intelligent content. This new list has only five more, but we find ourselves going back to them a lot. Don’t miss out on these. 1. Wait But Why (Web): Intelligent Yet Funny This has fast become one of my favorite sites on the internet....

    Read the full article: 5 Intelligent Sites to Boost Your Brain

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 05:30
    Social media companies face fines of up to 50m Euro ($57m) if they persistently fail to remove illegal content from their sites under a new law passed in Germany. From a report: The German parliament on Friday approved the bill aimed at cracking down on hate speech, criminal material and fake news on social networks -- but critics warn it could have drastic consequences for free speech online. Germany has some of the world's toughest laws covering defamation, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, with prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities. The measure requires social media platforms to remove obviously illegal hate speech and other postings within 24 hours after receiving a notification or complaint, and to block other offensive content within seven days. The German justice minister, Heiko Maas, who was the driving force behind the bill, said: "Freedom of speech ends where the criminal law begins."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 04:39

    Yeah, yeah, before you rush to the comments and start justifying this by saying that Europe doesn't respect free expression in the same way the US does, let's just say while that may be true, this is still bad: Germany has moved forward with a plan to fine internet companies which don't quickly censor the internet. Censor what, though? Three loosely defined (and easily abused) categories: hate speech, criminal material and fake news.

    Social media companies face fines of up to €50m (£43m) if they persistently fail to remove illegal content from their sites under a new law passed in Germany

    The German parliament on Friday approved the bill aimed at cracking down on hate speech, criminal material and fake news on social networks – but critics warn it could have drastic consequences for free speech online.

    And, yes, again Europe has very different standards for free expression -- and Germany, in particular, has a long history of trying to suppress what it considers "bad" speech regarding some of its historical actions (Godwin'd!). Even so, this is dangerous and will be abused to stifle all sorts of important expression:

    The German justice minister, Heiko Maas, who was the driving force behind the bill, said: “Freedom of speech ends where the criminal law begins.” Maas said official figures showed the number of hate crimes in Germany increased by more than 300% in the last two years.

    Even accepting that free speech ends where criminal law begins, that doesn't justify fining the platforms. If people are posting "illegal" content, go after them for breaking the law. Don't go after the tools they use. By putting massive liability risks on platforms, those platforms will almost certainly overcompensate and over censor to avoid any risk of liability. That means a tremendous amount of what should be protected speech gets silence, just because these companies don't want to get fined. Even worse, the big platforms can maybe hire people to handle this. The littler platforms? They basically can't risk operating in Germany any more. Berlin is a hotbed of startups, but this is going to seriously harm many of them.

    The new law also has an even weirder provision, putting liability not just on the platforms, but on individual employees at online platforms who are designated the Chief Censors for that platform:

    Aside from the hefty fine for companies, the law also provides for fines of up to €5m for the person each company designates to deal with the complaints procedure if it doesn’t meet requirements.

    Who the hell is going to want that job? Make one mistake in failing to censor something, and you may be bankrupted.

    Just a little while ago we wrote about how difficult it can be for a platform to be calling the shots on what's worth censoring and what's not. Since there's so much content, the analysis of each piece of content needs to be standardized in a manner that tends to be absurd. It appears that those supporting this law don't have any interest in the realities involved, but think that by passing this legislation, they've waved a magic wand. Yes, putting liability onto platforms (and employees) will likely lead to greater suppression of speech people dislike -- but also of important and necessary speech. There appears to have been no effort to consider how dangerous that might turn out to be.

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  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 04:30
    An anonymous reader shares a report: Limited partners in venture capital funds are having conversations about how to prevent themselves from investing in the next Binary Capital, the Silicon Valley firm that has collapsed over allegations that one of its co-founders sexually harassed female entrepreneurs. This includes the largest LP trade group -- the Institutional Limited Partners Association -- which tells Axios that it is planning to address these issues this summer, as part of the development of its new ILPA Principles 3.0 document. Silicon Valley, and venture capital in particular, has swept sexual harassment under the rug for decades. Binary Capital, coming on top of the situation at Uber, has grabbed that rug and begun to shake it vigorously.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 03:25
    US authorities intercepted and recorded millions of phone calls last year under a single wiretap order, authorized as part of a narcotics investigation, ZDNet's Zack Whittaker reports. From the article: The wiretap order authorized an unknown government agency to carry out real-time intercepts of 3.29 million cell phone conversations over a two-month period at some point during 2016, after the order was applied for in late 2015. The order was signed to help authorities track 26 individuals suspected of involvement with illegal drug and narcotic-related activities in Pennsylvania. The wiretap cost the authorities $335,000 to conduct and led to a dozen arrests. But the authorities noted that the surveillance effort led to no incriminating intercepts, and none of the handful of those arrested have been brought to trial or convicted.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 02:45
    Facebook has completed a second test of a solar-powered drone -- called Aquila -- designed to bring internet access to remote parts of the world. From a report: Facebook plans to develop a fleet of drones powered by sunlight that will fly for months at a time, communicating with each other through lasers and extending internet connectivity to the ground below. The company called the first test, in June 2016, a success after it flew above the Arizona desert for 1 hour and 36 minutes, three times longer than planned. It later said the drone had also crashed moments before landing and had suffered a damaged wing.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 02:05
    Japan plans to put a man on the moon around 2030, according to a new proposal by the government's Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). From a report: It is the first time JAXA has revealed an intention to send Japanese astronauts beyond the International Space Station, and it will mostly likely be part of an international mission, the agency said. The announcement from Japan is just the latest in a series of ambitious space exploration plans by Asian countries, with the increasing competition for space-related power and prestige in the region echoing that of the Cold War space race of the mid-20th century. In December 2016, China announced plans to land a rover on Mars by 2020 as well as a manned mission to the Moon at some point in the future.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 01:41

    Ars Live is filmed by Chris Schodt and produced by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

    In our latest episode of Ars Technica Live, Ars editors Annalee Newitz and Joe Mullin talked to UC Santa Cruz sociology professor Lindsey Dillon about how the Trump Administration has been removing scientific and environmental data from the Web. Lindsey is part of a group called Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI), which is working on ways to rescue that data and make it available to the public.

    Lindsey told us how EDGI got started in November 2016, within days of the presidential election. Its founders are scientists and academics whose main goal was to make sure that researchers and citizens would continue to have access to data about the environment. They organized data rescue events around the country, where volunteers identified vulnerable climate information on websites for several government agencies, including the EPA, DOE, and even NASA. The Internet Archive helped by creating digital records of all the at-risk pages.

    Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 01:38

    Buying a new computer is exciting. It’s blazingly fast, junk-free, and packed with the latest hardware. But that’s where the excitement ends. Once you power it up for the first time, you’ll quickly realize you’ve taken on a mammoth task. It can take days – if not weeks – to get it set up exactly the way you want. You probably have masses of apps, files, and settings, all of which need to be painstakingly reviewed, moved, and reconfigured. It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of doing everything manually, why not try and move your entire operating system...

    Read the full article: How to Move a Full Operating System From an Old PC to a New One

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 01:20
    From a Motherboard article: Jailbreaking is the art of hacking into Apple's ultra-secure iOS operating system and unlocking it -- and thus allowing users to customize the phone, and write or install any software unimpeded by Apple's restrictions. At the time I met with Todesco (a person who offered jailbreaking service), in December 2016, there was no known jailbreak (for the iPhone 7) -- no public knowledge of this hack -- for the latest iOS version that was installed on my iPhone (iOS 10.2). The world's first jailbreaking step-by-step procedure, discovered in 2007, was posted online for all to see. Subsequent jailbreaks were used by millions of people. At one point, there was even a website -- called jailbreakme.com -- that was free for all to use and jailbroke your phone simply by visiting it. [...] Ten years after the iPhone hit the sleek tables of Apple Stores worldwide, and the first-ever jailbreak, that Wild West is gone. There's now a professionalized, multi-million dollar industry of iPhone security research. It's a world where jailbreaking itself -- at least jailbreaking as we've come to know it -- might be over.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 00:40
    Analyst Ben Thompson on the European Commission's $2.7 billion fine levied on Google for anti-competitive behavior: The United States and European Union have, at least since the Reagan Administration, differed on this point: the U.S. is primarily concerned with consumer welfare, and the primary proxy is price. In other words, as long as prices do not increase -- or even better, decrease -- there is, by definition, no illegal behavior. The European Commission, on the other hand, is explicitly focused on competition: monopolistic behavior is presumed to be illegal if it restricts competitors which, in the theoretical long run, hurts consumers by restricting innovation.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 00:33

    When a lawyer sends a demand to another lawyer, the one doing the sending had better be on top of their law game. Otherwise, things will go badly. And when they go badly, they end up being discussed here.

    Conservative blogger (and lawyer) Scott Johnson got hit with a subpoena ordering him to preserve evidence possibly relevant to a legal challenge of Trump's travel ban from a courtroom halfway across the country. The advance subpoena informed Johnson of his pending obligation to preserve (with production expected later) certain notes pertaining to certain blog posts pertaining to his attendance of a reception for conservative writers held by Trump at the White House.

    The problem with the proposed subpoena and evidentiary preservation demands is they weren't actually, you know, legal.

    On June 10, I was served with a letter and draft subpoena from Tana Lin of the Keller Rohrback law firm’s Seattle office alerting me to my “document preservation obligations with respect to documents that are relevant or potentially relevant to this litigation.” Lin represents plaintiffs in Doe v.Trump, venued before Judge James Robart in the federal district court for the Western District of Washington.

    Though the lawsuit had been stayed, pending a recently issued ruling from the Ninth Circuit in the parallel Hawaii v. Trump “travel ban” case, Judge Robart authorized Lin to notify me of the lawsuit and seek my confirmation by June 15 that I would preserve potentially relevant documents until such time as she sends me a formal subpoena or the lawsuit is formally resolved.

    The "potentially relevant documents" included any notes Johnson might have taken during this meeting and specifically referenced the same notebook Johnson referenced in his detailed post about the reception. To wit:

    Although there was some degree of difficulty writing while standing, I took notes on the questions and Trump’s answers in my new notebook from CVS.

    Johnson -- who knows a few things about federal procedures -- immediately fired a letter back to Tana Lin, telling her she had the wrong statute.

    The final sentence of your letter in bold type cites Rule 34(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 34(a) applies to a “party” to litigation. I am not a party. I am a “nonparty.” As such, Rule 34(c) would apply to me. Unless I am missing something, I find your instruction to me that I am “required” to do anything under Rule 34(a) highly misleading.

    He also informed her the correct statute wasn't going to be of much help either.

    Rule 34(c) cross references Rule 45. As a distant nonparty to the litigation, Rule 45 gives me certain rights once you serve me with a valid subpoena. Yet the draft subpoena you have served on me is a nullity.


    Once I have objected to the subpoena under Rule 45, the rule would require you to seek an order enforcing compliance in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. I understand that Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has joined you in the litigation. Perhaps you can assign enforcement of the subpoena to Ms. Swanson. I’m sure Minnesota taxpayers would enjoy the opportunity to see up close and personal how she is expending the resources of her office to hound a journalist for his utterly superfluous notes in the service of your litigation.

    Lin called the reference to the wrong statute a "typo," but it really makes no difference which statute was cited: Johnson is a private individual who just happened to be invited to a reception thrown by the president. It's not like he had some preexisting obligation to retain the notebook for X number of years just in case someone might need it for future litigation. As he points out, he's not a government agency. He took notes for a planned blog post. He had no "duty" to preserve them then and there's not much in the proposed subpoena showing any legal reason why he can't throw them out now.

    What's concerning about this -- no matter which side of the travel ban you come down on -- is that litigants fighting an executive order somehow feel private non-parties should be compelled to turn over their private notes on the off-chance there might be something damning hidden in them. Johnson calls it "harassment" and he's not wrong. This is no different than anyone in any situation using the weight of the government to compel journalists to produce information about sources and contacts when they're not party to ongoing lawsuits or expected to serve as witnesses.

    Beneath it all is a lawyer who slid a subpoena request past an inattentive judge, citing statutes that don't say what she thinks they say. That's a lot of power to be wielding badly, considering it's mostly bad things that wait for those who reject a judge's advances.

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  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 00:06

    Enlarge / President Trump signs an executive order to create the National Space Council. (credit: White House)

    Earlier Friday, Ars exclusively reported on the imminent announcement of a reinstated National Space Council by President Donald Trump. And indeed, the executive order signing ceremony took place on Friday afternoon at the White House before the president departed to New Jersey for the holiday weekend.

    This event was highly anticipated because it signaled the deeper involvement of Vice President Mike Pence in the setting of national space policy. The new council's tasks include the coordination of military, civil, and commercial space activities and the establishment of broader goals for the United States in space.

    The formation of the space council should also provide some clarity on the extent to which the Trump administration, which sees one of its mandates as making the US government function more like a business, applies that methodology to the US civil space program.

    Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Saturday 01 July 2017 - 00:00
    Should you ever travel to one of the many uninhibited islands that dot the most remote reaches of Earth's oceans, chances are you'll find plastic bottles littering the shore. The Guardian reports: A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20 percent by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change. New figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade. The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised "on the go" culture to China and the Asia Pacific region. More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International's global packaging trends report. Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. But as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans, are failing to keep up.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 23:20
    A British-based luxury phone maker which made its name selling $50,000 smartphones decked out in alligator leather and titanium and fitted with sapphire screens, has applied to the courts to be placed in administration after running of out money to pay staff and suppliers, (paywalled) reports British outlet The Times. In a witness statement filed in the High Court in London yesterday, the report adds, the company's last remaining director Jean-Charles Charki, said that Vertu was insolvent and unable to meet its June 30 payroll obligations of about 500,000 euros. From an earlier report: According to a juicy new report in the Telegraph, employees are worried about the future of the company after noticing that production had been running at reduced capacity. Employees are apparently worried about their unpaid wages, as well as pension contributions taken out of their paychecks without being added into the company's retirement fund. Sources inside the company also told the Telegraph that Vertu has unpaid debts with suppliers such as Qualcomm and Microsoft, and bills from waste management, pest control, and other property services.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 23:00

    Fidget spinners are everywhere. You probably own one, your kids probably own them, and even your pets have developed opposable thumbs overnight in order to get a piece of the action. And now, just as the craze is peaking, there are reports of fidget spinners exploding. Because of course. Fidget spinners have been around for a long time, with similar devices to the one everyone owns today invented in 1993. However, it took until 2017 for fidget spinners to become a craze, and now, months after schoolchildren started playing with them, their stock is dwindling in value. Bluetooth-enabled Fidget Spinners...

    Read the full article: PSA: Some Fidget Spinners Are Exploding

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 22:40
    An anonymous reader shares a report on The Outline: It seems like ever since "bootylicious" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 2004, dictionaries have been trying to play catch up to ever-evolving languages of slang, especially when it comes to words originating with African Americans and other communities of color. User-generated definitions found on websites like Urban Dictionary and Genius are also giving them some competition. But in fact, lexicographers have always intended the dictionary to be more of an archive than an authority. The purpose of the dictionary has always been to record how language is being used, but the internet has allowed publishers and lexicographers to communicate that purpose differently, explained Kory Stamper, lexicographer and author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, to The Outline. "I think people assume that because dictionaries are dusty books that the language is this dusty book or that language is only what you find in the dictionary," Stamper said. "And to be able to say, 'No, language is always on the move and here's how it's moving,' really mirrors the way that we can interact with people online." Thanks to the internet, it's now easier for lexicographers to access more written materials and take note of the ways people are using and producing language. And as a result, dictionaries are updated more frequently and more robustly than they were in the days of print-only source material. "Woke" was just one of 1200 new additions to the OED this quarter alone. But even with all the technology afforded to them, lexicographers still walk a fine line between including words that are well-known enough without being too obscure. "We joke around that when we add new words we want 50 percent of the people who see that new word to say, 'Oh my gosh that's not in the dictionary yet?'" said Stamper, who writes for Merriam-Webster. "And then we want the other half of people to go, 'I don't even know what this word is. Why are you adding it to the dictionary?'"

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 22:34

    Two years ago, Techdirt wrote about an industry study of Spain's "Google tax", which requires a Web site to pay for sending traffic to publishers when it quotes snippets of their texts. Just as everyone who actually understands the Internet predicted, Spain's new law had a disastrous effect on the publishing industry there, especially on smaller companies. Despite that unequivocal evidence, the law is still in place, and it's a further sign of how pointless it is that only now has the Spanish Center for Reprographic Rights (Cedro) finally managed to sign up its first deal with a news aggregator, called Upday (original in Spanish). Cedro is claiming that this "pioneering" move possesses a "strategic importance" because it recognizes the rights of those whose publications appear elsewhere as snippets.

    The fact that it has taken so long to find anyone willing to accept that point is bad enough, but it gets worse. Upday operates across Europe, and was launched in Spain at the beginning of March this year. It turns out to be a partnership between Axel Springer and Samsung. As Techdirt readers may recall, the giant publishing group Axel Springer is one of the biggest supporters of the Google tax in Germany. Initially, it tried to take a hard line against the US search company. But Axel Springer was soon forced to back down humiliatingly and offer Google a free license to post snippets from its publications. A two-week experiment without search engine leads caused Web traffic to Axel Springer's sites to plunge.

    So, far from being a "pioneering" move that validates the whole snippet tax approach in Spain, Upday's deal with Cedro is simply a key German supporter of this daft idea trying to give the impression that the moribund Spanish Google tax is still twitching somewhat. It's pretty clear why Axel Springer and Cedro would be keen to do that now, after years of nothing happening in Spain. The European Union is currently revising the main EU Copyright Directive. Article 11 of the proposed text is an EU-wide version of the snippet tax, despite the fact that the idea has failed miserably everywhere that it has been tried. The agreement between Upday and Cedro will presumably be used as "evidence" that the Google tax is "working" in Spain. The fact that it is a "circular" deal between German and Spanish supporters of the idea proves the exact contrary.

    Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 22:10

    Enlarge (credit: Congressman Ted Yoho)

    There's widespread agreement that bees around the world are in trouble. A few years back, domestic honeybee nests started experiencing mass die-offs, and problems were found in wild bees as well. What hasn't been clear is what the cause might be. Viruses, fungi, and pesticides have all been floated as possible causes, but definitive evidence has been hard to come by; a number of scientists have suggested that there might be multiple contributing factors.

    Nevertheless, suspicions focused on a specific class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. The EU has already placed restrictions on their use, and it's considering a near-total ban.

    If you read the headlines this week, it would appear that a new study completely justifies that decision. Funded in part by two insecticide manufacturers, a team of independent researchers purportedly tied neonicotinoids to bee colony health. But a quick look at the underlying data shows that the situation is far more complex. And a second paper, with more robust results, supports the idea that these insecticides are merely one of a number of factors contributing to bees' problems.

    Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 22:00

    Netflix is bringing back Sense8 after passionate pleas from fans. The good news is Sense8 will be back with a two-hour special designed to wrap up all the loose ends. The bad news is that will then be the end of Sense8, with Netflix declining to renew the series for another season. Netflix was once the home of lots of old shows that had previously aired elsewhere. Now, things are changing, with Netflix culling much of the filler in favor of making its own original shows. This was all going rather swimmingly thank you very much, until Netflix started cancelling...

    Read the full article: Netflix Brings Sense8 Back for One Final Episode

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 22:00
    Eugene Wei, head of video at Oculus (Formerly with Flipboard, Hulu, and Amazon) writes about how information gets distributed now, and things that were commonly known in specific circles are becoming more widely known. From his article: The internet gave everyone a megaphone, and these days that can feel like that Chinese proverb, you know the one. Perhaps the truth was better kept in the hands of a limited set of responsible stewards, but that age of the expert has passed, and that system had its own issues. As every Death Star reminds us each time they're blown up, concentrating power in a small area has its own unique vulnerability. We live in the age of distributed truth, and it's an environment in which fake news can spread like mold when in viral form. But the same applies to the truth, and if there's one lesson on how to do your part in an age of distributed truth, it's to speak the truth and to support those who do. It may be exhausting work -- is it really necessary to point out the emperor is buck naked? -- but it's the best we can do for now. In this age, the silent majority is no majority at all.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 21:46

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | ljhimages)

    AT&T is denying that its contracts include "forced arbitration" clauses, even though customers must agree to the clauses in order to obtain Internet or TV service.

    "At the outset, no AT&T customer is ever 'forced' to agree to arbitration," AT&T Executive VP Tim McKone wrote in a letter to US senators today. "Customers accept their contracts with AT&T freely and voluntarily; no one 'forces' them to obtain AT&T wireless service, DirecTV programming, or other products and services."

    AT&T was responding to concerns raised by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who previously alleged that AT&T's use of forced arbitration clauses has helped the company charge higher prices than the ones it advertises to customers.

    Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 21:30

    How long have you been saying you wanted to learn to program? It’s time to stop saying and start doing! Today, we’re looking at 10 discounted online course and eBook bundles that’ll teach you the skills you need to launch a career as a programmer. The Crash Course Coding Bundle ($39) This bundle comes with eight courses that’ll teach you all sorts of programming languages. There are classes on C programming, Java, Perl, Python, internet of things, and much more. You’re looking at 63 hours of content that’ll get you comfortable with lots of different programming skills. The Complete Programming Language...

    Read the full article: 10 Discounted Course Bundles That’ll Teach You to Program

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 21:20
    Reader harrisonweber shares a report: This morning AMD introduced their Ryzen PRO processors for business and commercial desktop PCs. The new lineup of CPUs includes the Ryzen 3 PRO, Ryzen 5 PRO and Ryzen 7 PRO families with four, six, or eight cores running at various frequencies. A superset to the standard Ryzen chips, the PRO chips have the same feature set as other Ryzen devices, but also offer enhanced security, 24 months availability, a longer warranty and promise to feature better chip quality. The AMD Ryzen PRO lineup of processors consists of six SKUs that belong to the Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 families targeting different market segments and offering different levels of performance. As one would expect, the Ryzen 7 PRO models are aimed at workstation applications and thus have all eight cores with simultaneous multithreading enabled, the Ryzen 5 PROmodels are designed for advanced mainstream desktops and therefore have four or six cores with SMT, whereas the Ryzen 3 PRO models are aimed at office workloads that work well on quad-core CPUs without SMT. The specifications of the Ryzen 7 PRO and the Ryzen 5 PRO resemble those of regular Ryzen processors. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 3 PRO are the first chips from the Ryzen 3 lineup and thus give us a general idea what to expect from such products: four cores without SMT operating at 3.1-3.5 GHz base frequency along with 2+8 MB of cache.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 21:00

    Third-party party Twitter apps, like Twitterrific, Tweetbot, and Fenix, have gotten quite popular. But these apps can never surpass the official app, because Twitter doesn’t allow third-party apps to have more than 100,000 users. That’s not the only bad thing about third-party Twitter apps. Many of Twitter’s newest features introduced just aren’t available outside of the official app. Read on to find out what you’ll lose if you intend to use one of these apps as your primary Twitter client. 1. Twitter Polls In 2015, Twitter introduced polls. The feature is simple: just click the poll button when creating a new...

    Read the full article: 4 Features You Lose With a Third-Party Twitter Client

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 20:59

    Leaked NSA exploits have now been the basis for two massive cyberattacks. The first -- Wannacry -- caught hospitals and other critical infrastructure across several nations in the crossfire, using a tool built on the NSA's ETERNALBLUE exploit backbone. The second seems to be targeting Ukraine, causing the same sort of havoc but with a couple of particularly nasty twists.

    This one, called Petya, demanded ransom from victims. Things went from bad to worse when email provider Posteo shut down the attacker's account. Doing so prevented affected users from receiving decryption keys, even if they paid the ransom.

    It soon became apparent it didn't matter what Posteo did, no matter how clueless or ill-advised. There was no retrieving files even if ransoms were paid. Two separate sets of security researchers examined the so-called ransomware and discovered Petya is actually a wiper. Once infected, victims' files are as good as gone. No amount of bitcoin is going to reverse the inevitable. The ransomware notices were only there to draw attention to the infection and away from the malware's true purpose.

    Both cases are considered to be attacks by nation states. Inconsistently-applied patches -- most of them released with zero information by Microsoft -- have led to an insane amount of damage.

    Through it all, the NSA -- whose tools were leaked -- has remained consistently silent. There's been no indication if the agency is working to mitigate the ongoing threat or whether it's far more concerned with discovering who left behind the malware toolkit first exposed by the ShadowBrokers.

    It's unlikely we'll hear much being said publicly by the agency, but Rep. Ted Lieu has sent a letter to NSA chief Mike Rogers demanding answers. The letter [PDF] points out both attacks have been based on NSA exploits (ETERNALBLUE and ETERNALROMANCE). Lieu also states he fears the attacks seen in the past few weeks are only the "tip of the iceberg." The agency's refusal to discuss the attacks apparently isn't going to fly anymore.

    Lieu makes two requests: the first is for the agency to see if it has some sort of magic "OFF" switch just laying around.

    My first and urgent request is that if the NSA knows how to stop this global malware attack, or has information that can help step the attack, NSA should immediately disclose it. If the NSA has a kill switch for this new malware attack, the NSA should deploy it now.

    It's far more likely the NSA has information it would rather not share than it is the agency has a way to shut down this attack, much less prevent future variations on its ETERNAL theme. But that's directly related to the second part of Lieu's request: work with companies whose software is being exploited to prevent further attacks. If the NSA still has security holes it's hoping won't be patched anytime soon, the current situation would seem to call for a rethink of its exploit-hoarding M.O.

    What may be in order is the NSA stepping up and playing defense. It has stated a desire to be a larger cog in the US cyberwar machinery, but often seems more interested in playing offense than pitching in to help on the defensive end. That may need to change quickly if the NSA isn't going to be seen as more of a problem than a solution.

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  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 20:50

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Spencer Platt)

    Verizon Wireless said it is disconnecting a small group of customers who use vast amounts of data in rural areas where Verizon relies on roaming agreements with smaller network operators.

    "Earlier this month we notified a small group of customers who are out of contract and primarily use mobile data on other wireless companies’ networks that we won’t be their service provider after July 30, 2017," a Verizon spokesperson told Ars today. "This only affects a few people who primarily roam on other networks and does not affect customers who primarily use Verizon's own network."

    The customers who are affected "are using vast amounts of data—some as much as a terabyte or more a month—outside of our network footprint," the company said. Verizon gave the customers several weeks' notice so they have time to port their numbers to new providers. Verizon provided no option to switch to different plans.

    Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 20:40
    Sony said this week it will begin pressing vinyl records again, ending an almost three-decade hiatus. A dramatic increase in demand for vinyl music in recent years prompted the move, the company said. From a report: After a 28-year hiatus, Sony announced this week that it plans to open a new facility in Japan dedicated to pressing vinyl records. It's a back-to-the-future announcement at a time when the true digital music revolution -- downloaded and streaming via always-on Internet connectivity -- has quickly grown to dominate listening habits. According to Japan's recording industry association, the country produced nearly 200 million records per year in the mid-1970s. That's unlikely to return. But while many of us have been content to wirelessly download our music, a surprising number of people are going to the store -- or Amazon.com, let's be honest -- and purchasing a vinyl record, sleeve and all.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 20:26

    Enlarge / US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (credit: Gage Skidmore)

    US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have been making some headlines for publicly rejecting the conclusions of climate science. But in between wrongly claiming that climate scientists just don’t know how much of a contribution humans make to recent global warming (answer: roughly 100 percent), they have also been parroting a new line—that climate science needs a “red team” to take on the scientific consensus.

    On Friday, E&E News reported that these aren’t empty words. The EPA intends to “organize a specific process in which these individuals... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science," according to an administration official.

    The “red team” concept refers to exercises in which one team is formed with the goal of shooting down the blue team’s conclusions or pursuing off-the-wall ideas. Since people like Scott Pruitt assert that the cause of climate change is fundamentally unknown, they argue that it would be perfectly reasonable to gather up some scientists who think humans are the cause together with some who disagree and let them duke it out.

    Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 20:00

    Desktop PC towers have come a long way since the days of gray plastic towers hidden under desks. Alongside cases which fulfill different functions, PC cases have evolved a sense of aesthetics, with glass panels proudly showing off components, and strong futuristic designs taking center stage on any proud geek’s desk. LED installations are becoming ever more common. A simple 12v RGB strip can be bought for as little as $1 per meter and will light up the inside of a case (along with almost anything else) perfectly well. However, we want to do something a little more special than...

    Read the full article: Add Wi-Fi Controlled Lighting to Your Computer With NodeMCU

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 19:38

    It appears that many people don't remember this, but the RIAA used to be a major force in protecting free speech and the First Amendment. It had many good reasons to do so, after all, since free speech is very important to all of the artists that the RIAA's labels work with. Artistic expression -- especially in the musical realm -- has frequently come under attack by politicians and, for decades, the RIAA was actually a really important player in standing up for the First Amendment. See, for example, this 1992 article in the LA Times from then RIAA President Jason Berman, in which he lists out all the ways that the RIAA has been fighting censorship. Yes, these are all specific in protecting musicians, but they were some really important First Amendment arguments to be made in these areas:

    • In 1990, the RIAA kept lyric labeling legislation off the books in 22 states by implementing a state government relations program that became the RIAA's second-highest-funded program, dedicated a full-time RIAA executive, consumed more than 80% of the association's public relations efforts, mobilized grass-roots campaigns involving local retailers, artists, legislators and consumers and brought expert witnesses to testify before state legislatures.
    • Again in 1991, the efforts of the RIAA's state government relations program defeated similar legislation in more than a dozen states.
    • This year, the program has been broadened by recruiting local legislative councils in 14 states resulting in defeated measures in New York, West Virginia, Arizona, Illinois and Missouri while the battle continues in Massachusetts, Louisiana and Michigan.
    • Throughout all of this activity, we've been a key player in opposing a federal bill creating third-party liability for sexual violence alleged to have been caused by music and other forms of entertainment.
    • We are a founding member and the principal funder for Rock the Vote, the music industry grass-roots organization aimed at defeating censorship and promoting participation by young people in the democratic process.
    • We formed the Coalition Against Lyric Legislation, an organization comprising more than 60 groups rallying to fight freedom of expression.
    • In addition to our amicus brief on behalf of 2 Live Crew, which raised the key issues leading to their exoneration in the 11th Circuit appeal, we contributed to the cost of the defense in the case, and have also committed legal and financial assistance to retailers in Nebraska and Florida.
    • Finally, we are proud to stand with the Washington Music Industry Coalition to seek a judicial declaratory ruling that the recently enacted erotic music statute is unconstitutional and should be stricken from the books.
    And that's just one article -- the first I found via a quick Google search. If you were interested in these issues in the 1980s, the RIAA was very involved in protecting the First Amendment.

    So it's fairly ridiculous (if entirely expected) that the modern RIAA is destroying that historic legacy of protecting free speech by now cheering on global internet censorship. As we've discussed, Canada recently launched a horrific attack on free speech, by saying that it can issue injunctions blocking entire sites globally on mere accusations of infringement. Let's repeat that: the Canadian court is saying that, even before a trial has determined if there is actual infringement, it can order sites (in this case Google) to block entire websites (not just pages involved in the infringement) -- and that it can do so globally. As we pointed out, this precedent is horrifying. What will happen when China demands all stories about Tiananmen Square be blocked globally? Or what happens when Saudi Arabia or Iran demands that pages supporting democratic reforms or LGBTQ rights must be taken down globally?

    And yet, rather than condemn an overly broad ruling that will lead to global censorship, the RIAA sullied its own historical legacy and cheered on this global censorship ruling, claiming that it was "a win."

    And, yes, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why the RIAA is so wishy-washy on free speech. Those earlier issues involved protecting musicians. Now, with the internet, it wants to stomp out free speech on the off chance that some of it might infringe copyrights and make RIAA members' business models somewhat trickier. But that's sad. A principled organization should stand up for what's right -- and not what's politically expedient. And, really, this ruling will almost certainly come back to bite the RIAA as well. Not only will it lead to new, helpful, innovative platforms facing global censorship, is it that hard to believe that some countries may try to censor RIAA-connected artists, using this ruling as precedent?

    These days, the bosses at the RIAA have got so much "piracy-on-the brain" that they seem completely unable to (1) stick to a principled position on the First Amendment or (2) see how cheering on global censorship might come back to bite them as well.

    Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 19:33

    Learn how to unlock all of Windows 10's secrets and capabilities and earn CPD credits while doing so with the Windows 10 CPD Professional Certification Bundle. Pay what you want and you get access to two courses teaching you all about Skype and the Windows Apps Store. If you beat the average price, you unlock 6 more courses covering Office 365, File Explorer, OneDrive, the Hub, Cortana, Edge, and more. You'll be a Windows 10 expert in no time.

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  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 19:15

    Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we're back before the holiday weekend with new deals to share. In the midst of your Fourth of July festivities, you can snag some great deals, including a Dell XPS 8910 Core i5-powered desktop for $479, an XPS 13 laptop with a Core i7 CPU and 8GB of RAM for $1,099, and $10 Amazon credits for Prime members and first-time Prime Video streamers.

    Check out the rest of the deals, including some pre-Prime Day savings, below.


    Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 19:00

    Snapchat is a wonderful medium for sharing your life’s story with the world in 10-second bits. But if you’re a lurker, someone who uses Snapchat more as a source of entertainment, you know how confusing it can be to get around the app. It’s filled with features, but they’re not laid out in a logical manner. Some are straight up hidden behind the long press and swipe gestures. If you use Snapchat for viewing or creating content, these tips and tricks will improve your experience. 1. Enable Ghost Mode Snapchat records your location when you post a snap. Some features,...

    Read the full article: New to Snapchat? These 10 Tips and Tricks Will Help You Out

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:46

    Enlarge / Martin Shkreli outside federal court in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday, June 29, 2017. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

    During Martin Shkreli’s federal trial this week for alleged securities and wire fraud, a former investor explained how she got involved with the now-infamous ex-pharmaceutical CEO and what followed. In short, she testified that she was swindled by Shkreli after he made big promises to overcharge vulnerable patients.

    As lawyers painted dueling pictures of Shkreli as a con-man and a “strange” yet brilliant financial mind, the investor, Sarah Hassan, laid out a story from 2010 that started with buzz in the hedge-fund world. She described a smooth-talking Shkreli, false name-dropping, and a winning business plan of sticking it to patients with rare diseases.

    After investing $300,000 in one of the hedge funds Shkreli managed at the time, Hassan put in another $150,000 into Shkreli’s then-new pharmaceutical company Retrophin. According to the New York Times, she described his successful business pitch like this: “You can make a lot of money on orphan drugs because the price per patient is quite high.”

    Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:45

    The need for secure, anonymous connections to the Internet has increased considerably in the past few years, as more and more users come to realize the importance of not being seen and followed online. We’ve compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network service providers — grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. We’ll be updating the list regularly, so leave your feedback in the comments for services we should add (or even remove). These VPNs offer solutions that will mask your online presence to keep you safe. But remember, VPNs might not be as...

    Read the full article: The Best VPN Services

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:40

    (credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ra_o/7487556500/)

    Germany has passed a law that creates tight deadlines in which social media websites must remove hate speech. These platforms now face massive fines if they don't comply.

    Within 24 hours, websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube must remove postings of hate speech or other material that's "obviously illegal" under German law. If content has been flagged as offensive but isn't obviously illegal, it must be examined within seven days, according to a BBC report on the law.

    Failure to comply could lead to fines that start at 5 million euros and range up to 50 million euros, or about $57 million.

    Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:30


    When you write about the game industry for a while, you end up writing about fan game projects that have been shut down by the original publishers with depressing frequency. Everyone from Square Enix to Blizzard to Nintendo (especially Nintendo) has sent cease-and-desist letters to passionate fans over games based on the companies' popular properties. The companies often cite the need to protect their legal copyrights to characters and related works.

    So it's nice when we're occasionally able to write about a fan game that actually gets some level of tacit approval from the developer of the original title. That's what is happening with Installation 01, a Halo fan-game project being built in Unity in order to recapture the classic feel of Halo 2 and Halo 3 for Windows, Mac, and Linux players. Apparently, the team behind that game has worked out an arrangement to continue development without any legal trouble from the Halo-makers at 343 Industries or its corporate parent Microsoft.

    The Installation 01 team wrote in a community update this week that they have been "maintaining a level of contact with 343 Industries over the past several months," eventually culminating in a meet-and-greet to talk about details of the project and its legal status. After what the team calls an "incredibly informational and very positive" phone call, they say, "We have been ensured that Installation 01 is not under imminent legal threat, provided we remain non-commercial in nature and scope and continue to follow Microsoft’s Game Content Usage Rules to the letter."

    Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:27

    ProPublica recently obtained some internal documents related to Facebook's hate speech moderation. Hate speech -- as applied to Facebook -- isn't a statutory term. Much of what Facebook removes is still protected speech. But Facebook is a private company and is able to remove whatever it wants without acting as a censorial arm of the government.

    That being said, there's a large number of government officials around the planet who feel Facebook should be doing more to remove hate speech -- all of it based on very subjective views as to what that term should encompass.

    It's impossible to make everyone happy. So, Facebook has decided to apply a set of rules to its moderation that appear to lead to completely wrong conclusions about what posts should be removed. A single image included in the ProPublica article went viral. But the explanation behind it did not. The rules Facebook uses for moderation lead directly to increased protections for a historically well-protected group.

    [If you can't read/see the image, the slide says "Which of the below subsets do we protect?" with the choices being "female drivers," "black children," and "white men." The answer -- to the great internet consternation of many -- is: "white men."]

    Given Facebook's general inability to moderate other forms of "offensiveness" (mainly female breasts) without screwing it all up, the answer to this quiz question seems like more Facebook moderation ineptitude. But there's more to it than this one question. The rest of the quiz is published at ProPublica and it shows the "white men" answer is, at least, internally consistent with Facebook's self-imposed rules.

    Facebook must define "hate speech" before it can attempt to moderate it, since there are no statutes (at least in the United States) that strictly apply to this content. Here's how Facebook defines it:

    Protected category + attack = hate speech

    These are the protected categories:

    • Sex
    • Race
    • Religious affiliation
    • Ethnicity
    • National origin
    • Sexual orientation
    • Gender identity
    • Serious disability/disease

    Here's what's not considered "protected" by Facebook:

    • Social class
    • Occupation
    • Continental origin
    • Political ideology
    • Appearance
    • Religions
    • Age
    • Countries

    "White men" have both race and sex going for them. Any "attack" on white men can be deleted by Facebook. "Black children" only have race. Age is not a protected category. An attack on black men would be deleted but black children are, apparently, fair game. The same goes for white children. In the category "female drivers," only the "female" part is considered protected.

    The quiz goes on to explain other facets of hate speech moderation. Calling for acts of physical violence against protected categories is hate speech. If any component of the group targeted is "unprotected," the call for violence will be allowed to stay online. The rules also cover "degrading generalization," "dismissive" speech, cursing, and slurs. If any of these target a protected class (or quasi-protected class, i.e., migrants whose nationality may be in flux), moderators can take down the posts. The QPCs have only slightly more protection than entirely unprotected classes, so they can receive more posted abuse before hate speech protections kick in.

    These rules lead to all sorts of things that seem unfair, if not completely wrong:

    In the wake of a terrorist attack in London earlier this month, a U.S. congressman wrote a Facebook post in which he called for the slaughter of “radicalized” Muslims. “Hunt them, identify them, and kill them,” declared U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Louisiana Republican. “Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”

    Higgins’ plea for violent revenge went untouched by Facebook workers who scour the social network deleting offensive speech.

    But a May posting on Facebook by Boston poet and Black Lives Matter activist Didi Delgado drew a different response.

    “All white people are racist. Start from this reference point, or you’ve already failed,” Delgado wrote. The post was removed and her Facebook account was disabled for seven days.

    Religions are unprotected. Races are. That's why this happens. At best, it would seem like both should be taken down, or the less violent of the two remain intact. But that's not the way the rules work. People who criticize Facebook's moderation efforts are asking for something worse than is already in place. To right the perceived wrongs of everything listed above, the rules would have to be replaced by subjectivity -- setting up every moderator, all over the world, with their own micro-fiefdom to run as they see fit. If people don't like it now, just wait until thousands of additional biases are injected into the mix.

    That's the other issue: Facebook is a worldwide social platform. Protecting white men may seem pointless here in the US, but the United States isn't the only country with access to Facebook.

    “The policies do not always lead to perfect outcomes,” said Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook. “That is the reality of having policies that apply to a global community where people around the world are going to have very different ideas about what is OK to share.”

    This is the unfortunate byproduct of a job that's impossible to do to everyone's satisfaction. Blanket rules may seem dumb on a case-by-case basis, but the alternative would be even worse. If a company is going to proactively protect sexes and races, it's inevitably going to have to stand up for white men, even if the general feeling is white men are in no need of extra protection.

    Permalink | Comments | Email This Story
  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:20

    Enlarge / Monalisa Perez (left), seen here the day before the shooting of her boyfriend, Pedro Ruiz III (right). (credit: YouTube)

    A Minnesota woman has been charged with manslaughter after she shot and killed her boyfriend as part of the pair’s attempt to become YouTube celebrities.

    According to court documents, Monalisa Perez called 911 on June 26 at around 6:30pm local time to say that she had shot Pedro Ruiz III. The two had set up two video cameras to capture Perez firing the gun at Ruiz while he held a book in front of his chest. Ruiz apparently convinced Perez that the book would stop the bullet from a foot away. The gun, a Desert Eagle .50 caliber pistol, was not hindered by the book.

    Ruiz, who was found with a single gunshot in his chest, was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:15

    We’ve argued before that online anonymity is important. And, as the notion of privacy gets trampled on with each passing year, online privacy will only become more important. You’d be surprised by what someone can do with just your IP address. Which is why many people use fake IP addresses. To be clear, “fake IP address” is a bit of a misnomer that implies creating a new one out of thin air. That’s not possible. The best you can do is hide your IP address behind someone else’s already-existing IP address. This means you can’t truly be anonymous on the...

    Read the full article: How to Use a Fake IP Address & Mask Yourself Online

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:12

    Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence visited airmen and women at Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever AFB, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado, last week. (credit: U.S. Air Force/Christopher DeWitt)

    Later today, the White House is expected to announce that President Trump has signed an executive order to reinstate the National Space Council. This should finally kick off the much-anticipated formulation of a space policy from the Trump administration, which will encompass military, civil, and commercial interests. The new council, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has the potential to do a great deal of good—or it could further muddy the waters of what already is kind of a mess.

    Space policy experts are hoping for the former. "I think bringing back the National Space Council could be an improvement, but it's not guaranteed," Brian Weeden, a technical adviser to the Secure World Foundation, told Ars. "Much depends on what the Council will focus on and how it interacts with the other inter-agency processes," he said. Weeden's organization promotes sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space.


    The key member of the council will be its chairman, Pence, who has shown a burgeoning interest in space matters. In early June, the vice president visited Johnson Space Center in Houston to address NASA's newest class of astronaut candidates. And last week, Pence visited two key space command facilities in Colorado, Schriever Air Force Base, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. Two sources have also told Ars that he will visit NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida next week.

    Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 18:00

    Over fifty years after it began, the future Star Trek imagined is happening — there are gadgets and tools readily available that can do almost everything Star Trek technology could do (and more). While you probably won’t be flying around in the USS Enterprise anytime soon, there are plenty of products available that can have you feeling like a member of the crew as you interact with your own home! For those of you who’ve ever dreamed of using holodecks, replicators, universal translators, or just having the lights turn on automatically when you get home, your time has come. These smart home devices may not...

    Read the full article: Make Your Home Feel Like Star Trek With These Gadgets

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 17:28

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Steven Puetzer)

    More than 10.6 million US households have no access to wired Internet service with download speeds of at least 25Mbps, and an additional 46.1 million households live in areas with just one provider offering those speeds, a new analysis has found. That adds up to more than 56 million households lacking any high-speed broadband choice over wired connections. Even when counting access to fixed wireless connections, there are still nearly 50 million households with one 25Mbps provider or none at all.

    The data comes from a report by researchers who evaluated Federal Communications Commission data in order to shed more light on broadband deployment, or lack thereof. The FCC's own reports on this data show the percentage of developed census blocks that have ISPs offering broadband at various speeds. The researchers attempted to improve upon that analysis by comparing the census block information to household data from the US Census Bureau's 2015 American Community Survey in order to determine how many homes have or don't have high-speed broadband access.

    "We believe that looking at the household access counts is a better measure of access because many un/under-served census blocks are in very remote areas with few households," they wrote. (The report was written by Hal Singer of Economists Incorporated and Ed Naef and Alex King of CMA Strategy Consulting.)

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  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 17:00

    Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are more popular than ever. They are an important weapon in the ongoing fight against cyber-snooping and can even unlock some geo-blocked apps and websites. Different VPN providers specialize in different areas; it can be difficult to choose the right supplier for your needs. But once you’ve selected your provider, you still have decisions to make. Specifically, how do you know which VPN client to use? Should you use your VPN provider’s proprietary app, or a flexible solution that can connect to several different services? If you’re not sure where to turn, keep reading for the best...

    Read the full article: These Are the Best Free Mac VPN Clients

  • Friday 30 June 2017 - 16:41

    Enlarge (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

    Ten years ago this week—on June 29, 2007—many waited (in line or online) for the first iPhone's formal release. This week as the device turns 10, we're examining its impact and revisiting the phone that changed it all. As such, we wanted to resurface this trip down iPhone review memory lane. This piece first ran on January 9, 2017 (ten years after Steve Jobs first unveiled his now signature product to the world).

    Ten years ago, Steve Jobs hopped onstage at the 2007 MacWorld conference and announced a much-anticipated product that would come to totally eclipse the Mac. It was an iPod, a phone, and an Internet device. It was the first iPhone, and whether you like Apple and its products or not, it drastically altered the face of computing.

    Apple stopped attending MacWorld in 2009 (the conference ended entirely in 2015) and Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, but the iPhone is still here and so are we. We've reviewed every single iPhone that Apple has released, and as we did when the iPad turned five, we'll walk down memory lane with both the benefit of hindsight and the stuff we thought at the time.

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