Bitcoin

Ask Slashdot: Time To Get Into Crypto-currency? If So, Which? 101

Qbertino writes: With the ever-looming cyberpunk future in close proximity, I'm starting to wonder if it isn't time to get myself familiar with crypto currency as a means of trade. Bitcoin is all the hype, but the blockchain has flaws, in that it isn't as anonymous as one would hope for — you can track past transactions. Rumors of Bitcoin showing cracks are popping up and also there are quite a few alternatives out there. So I have some questions: Is getting into dealing with crypto currency worthwhile already? Is Bitcoin the way to go, or will it falter under wide use / become easily trackable once NSA and the likes adapt their systems to doing exactly that? What digital currency has the technical and mind-share potential to supersede bitcoin? Are there feasible cryptocurrencies that have the upsides of Bitcoin (such as a mathematical limit to their amount) but are fully anonymous in transactions? What do the economists and digi-currency nerds here have to contribute on that? What are your experiences with handling and holding cryptocurrency? And does Bitcoin own the market or is it still flexible enough for an technology upgrade?
Botnet

Online Museum Displays Decades of Malware (thestack.com) 36

An anonymous reader writes: archive.org has launched a Museum of Malware, which devotes itself to a historical look at DOS-based viruses of the 1980s and 1990s, and gives viewers the opportunity to run the viruses in a DOS game emulator, and to download 'neutered' versions of the code. With an estimated 50,000 DOS-based viruses in existence by the year 2000, the Malware Museum's 65 examples should be seen as representative of an annoying, but more innocent era of digital vandalism.
Communications

Receiving Real-Time Imagery From Russia's Meteor-M N2 Satellite 26

An anonymous reader writes: The Meteor-M N2 is a low orbit Russian weather satellite which broadcasts live weather satellite images, similar to the APT images produced by the NOAA satellites. But Meteor digital images are however much better as they are transmitted as a digital signal with an image resolution 12x greater than the aging analog NOAA APT signals. Radio enthusiasts are receiving images with hacked cheap digital TV dongles. There is even the AMIGOS project which stands for Amateur Meteor Images Global Observation System: users around the world can contribute Meteor images through the internet to create worldwide real-time coverage.
Businesses

Price Dispute Means 800k Customers Lose TV Channels In Sweden (telecompaper.com) 164

Z00L00K writes: Due to a conflict between the cable operators and the channel providers, 800,000 to 900,000 customers will lose some of the most-viewed TV channels in Sweden, among them Eurosport, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Additional customers in Norway will also lose channels. This is caused by a considerable hike in price for the channels from the provider Discovery Networks. However the amount of money involved is still kept secret for negotiation and business reasons. "Telenor Broadcast arm Canal Digital said Discovery Networks has told it that it will withdraw its channels from Canal Digital Sweden and sister company Bredbandsbolaget from 01 February. This follows Discovery's attempts to raise prices and pay for a number of channels that viewers had not chosen. This will affect their approximately 800,000 customers while a new contract is negotiated. Telenor Sweden customers will not able to watch Kanal 5 or the other Discovery channels until a deal is reached." Considering that Sweden has a population of almost 10 million the impact is noticeable.
Graphics

In Memoriam: VGA (hackaday.com) 406

szczys writes: VGA is going away. It has been for a long time but the final nails in the coffin are being driven home this year. It was the first standard for video, and is by far the longest-lived port on the PC. The extra pins made computers monitor-aware; allowing data about the screen type and resolution to be queried whenever a display was connected. But the connector is big and looks antiquated. There's no place for it in today's thin, design minded devices. It is also a mechanism for analog signaling in our world that has embraced high-speed digital for ever increasing pixels and integration of more data passing through one connection. Most motherboards no longer have the connector, and Intel's new Skylake processors have removed native VGA functionality. Even online retailers have stopped including it as a filter option when choosing hardware.
Communications

Jailbreak Turns Cheap Walkie-Talkie Into DMR Police Scanner 82

An anonymous reader writes: Last Shmoocon, famous reverse engineer Travis Goodspeed presented his jailbreak of the Chinese MD380 digital handheld radio. The hack has since been published at GitHub with all needed source code to turn a cheap digital radio into the first hardware scanner for DMR digital mobile radio: a firmware patch for promiscuous mode that puts all talk groups through the speaker including private calling. In the U.S. the competing APCO-25 is a suite of standards for digital radio communications for federal users, but a lot of state/county and local public safety organizations including city police dispatch channels are using the Mototrbo MotorolaDMR digital standard.

Newegg Sues Patent Troll After Troll Dropped Its Own Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 172

WheezyJoe writes: Not satisfied that a patent troll dropped its lawsuit against them, Newegg has sued the troll. So-called "patent holding company" Minero Digital sought to exact royalty payments on a wide range of USB hubs, suing, among others, Newegg's subsidiary Rosewill. But the "non-practicing entity" dropped its East Texas lawsuit against Rosewill within days of getting a call from the Newegg's lawyer. However, Minero dismissed its Texas lawsuit "without prejudice", meaning it can refile the case at a time of its choosing. So, Newegg filed its own lawsuit against Minero in Los Angeles federal court, asking a judge to lay down a ruling that Minero's case against Rosewill is baseless. Says Newegg's Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng, "Minero's case does not have merit, and its patent is not only expired but would suck even if it wasn't expired. Now that they have started the litigation, it would be irresponsible for Newegg to not finish it."
Movies

Hollywood Turning Against Digital Effects (newyorker.com) 232

An anonymous reader writes: One of the easiest complaints to lob at a modern film is that the special effects look bad. It's been over two decades since Jurassic Park; the novelty is finally wearing off. The New Yorker puts it this way: "It's as if directors—especially the reboot generation—have finally become self-conscious about CGI; 2015 was the year they got embarrassed by the digital miracles of the movies." Both the new Star Wars film and Mad Max: Fury Road were lauded for their use of "practical effects" — not abandoning CGI entirely, but using it to embellish scenes, rather than creating them from whole cloth. "Movies are a faddish, self-quoting business. At one time, the stark lighting effects of the German Expressionists were the visual rage. Later, it was the helicopter shot or the zoom. Any new tool, once used promiscuously, becomes a cliché. As time goes by, a director rediscovers the tool, and what was once cliché becomes an homage to a distant and more cultured time. This is what has happened to the last, pre-digital wave of effects. They are now happily vintage." It also counts as marketing, when you consider that audiences are turned off by too much CGI: "Touting your movie's wood, concrete, and steel is an implicit promise of restraint. I didn't go totally wild, the filmmaker is telling the audience, not like Peter Jackson did in the Hobbit trilogy."
Businesses

A.I. Startups Building Bots For Businesses (xconomy.com) 25

gthuang88 writes: Virtual digital assistants are gaining popularity with the rise of Siri, Google Now, and Facebook's M service. Now startups are using related artificial intelligence techniques to solve business problems. Talla is building an interactive bot on Slack and HipChat for handling workflows in recruiting and human resources. The software uses natural language processing, word vectors, and some deep learning. Other startups, such as Gamalon, DataRobot, and Sentenai, are focused on probabilistic programming, data science, and machine learning for the Internet of things. Working with private data sets and business apps could help these startups avoid competing with the big players, at least for now.
Businesses

Tech's Big 5 -- Here to Stay? (nytimes.com) 250

schwit1 tips a piece at the NY Times about the most entrenched companies in consumer technology: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. The article makes the case that these five have a such a strong grip on the modern tech industry that they're destined to stick around for the foreseeable future. From the article: Tech people like to picture their industry as a roiling sea of disruption, in which every winner is vulnerable to surprise attack from some novel, as-yet-unimagined foe. ... But for much of the last half-decade, most of these five giants have enjoyed a remarkable reprieve from the boogeymen in the garage. And you can bet on them continuing to win. So I’m coining them the Frightful Five. .... Though competition between the five remains fierce — and each year, a few of them seem up and a few down — it’s becoming harder to picture how any one of them, let alone two or three, may cede their growing clout in every aspect of American business and society. ... In various small and large ways, the Frightful Five are pushing into the news and entertainment industries; they’re making waves in health care and finance; they’re building cars, drones, robots and immersive virtual-reality worlds. Why do all this? Because their platforms — the users, the data, and all the money they generate — make these far-flung realms seem within their grasp."
Privacy

Senior Homeland Security Official Says Internet Anonymity Should Be Outlawed (dailydot.com) 532

Patrick O'Neill writes: A senior Homeland Security official recently argued that Internet anonymity should outlawed in the same way that driving a car without a license plate is against the law. "When a person drives a car on a highway, he or she agrees to display a license plate," Erik Barnett, an assistant deputy director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and attache to the European Union at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote. "The license plate's identifiers are ignored most of the time by law enforcement. Law enforcement will use the identifiers, though, to determine the driver's identity if the car is involved in a legal infraction or otherwise becomes a matter of public interest. Similarly, should not every individual be required to display a 'license plate' on the digital super-highway?"
Businesses

Before I Can Fix This Tractor, We Have To Fix Copyright Law (slate.com) 279

Gr8Apes writes: How many people does it take to fix a tractor? When the repair involves a tractor's computer, it actually takes an army of copyright lawyers, dozens of representatives from U.S. government agencies, an official hearing, hundreds of pages of legal briefs, and nearly a year of waiting. Waiting for the Copyright Office to make a decision about whether people like me can repair, modify, or hack their own stuff. why do people need to ask permission to fix a tractor in the first place? It's required under the anti-circumvention section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Even unlocking your cellphone required an act of Congress to make it legal.
The Almighty Buck

World Bank Says Internet Technology May Widen Inequality (nytimes.com) 133

HughPickens.com writes: Somini Sengupta writes in the NY Times that a new report from the World Bank concludes that the vast changes wrought by Internet technology have not expanded economic opportunities or improved access to basic public services but stand to widen inequalities and even hasten the hollowing out of middle-class employment. "Digital technologies are spreading rapidly, but digital dividends — growth, jobs and services — have lagged behind," says the bank in a news release announcing the report. "If people have the right skills, digital technology will help them become more efficient and productive, but if the right skills are lacking, you'll end up with a polarized labor market and more inequality," says Uwe Deichmann. Those who are already well-off and well-educated have been able to take advantage of the Internet economy, the report concludes pointedly, but despite the expansion of Internet access, 60 percent of humanity remains offline. According to the report, in developed countries and several large middle-income countries, technology is automating routine jobs, such as factory work, and some white-collar jobs. While some workers benefit, "a large share" of workers get pushed down to lower-paying jobs that cannot be automated. "What we're seeing is not so much a destruction of jobs but a reshuffling of jobs, what economists have been calling a hollowing out of the labor market. You see the share of mid-level jobs shrinking and lower-end jobs increasing."

The report adds that in the developing world digital technologies are not a shortcut to development, though they can accelerate it if used in the right way. "We see a lot of disappointment and wasted investments. It's actually quite shocking how many e-government projects fail," says Deichmann. "While technology can be extremely helpful in many ways, it's not going to help us circumvent the failures of development over the last couple of decades. You still have to get the basics right: education, business climate, and accountability in government."

Businesses

Al Jazeera America Terminates All TV and Digital Operations (theintercept.com) 276

waspleg writes: Executives of Al Jazeera America (AJAM) held a meeting at 2 p.m. Eastern Time to tell their employees that the company is terminating all news and digital operations in the U.S. as of April 2016, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs. AJAM has been losing staggering sums of money from the start. That has become increasingly untenable as the network's owner and funder, the government of Qatar, is now economically struggling due to low oil prices. The decision was made recently to terminate AJAM, which allows the network to terminate all of its cumbersome distribution contracts with cable companies, and re-launch its successful Al Jazeera English inside the U.S.
Privacy

Algorithms Claimed To Hunt Terrorists While Protecting the Privacy of Others (vice.com) 81

An anonymous reader sends this report from Motherboard: Computer scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed an algorithmic framework for conducting targeted surveillance of individuals within social networks while protecting the privacy of untargeted digital bystanders. ... The algorithms are based on a few basic ideas. The first is that every member of a network (a graph) comes with a sequence of bits indicating their membership in a targeted group. If say, the number two bit was set in your personal privacy register, then you might be part of the “terrorist” target population. For an algorithm searching a network for targets, it doesn’t just get to ask to reveal every network member’s bits. It has a budget of sorts, where it can only reveal so many bits and no more. The algorithms work to optimize this scenario such that as many bits-of-interest are revealed as possible. It does this optimization via a notion known as a statistic of proximity (SOP), which is a quantification of how close a given graph node is to a targeted group of nodes. This is what guides the search algorithms.
Hardware

Graphene Flakes Facilitate Neuromorphic Chips (ieee.org) 22

An anonymous reader writes: One of the hot areas of semiconductor research right now is the creation of so-called neuromorphic chips — processors whose transistors are networked in such a way to imitate how neurons interact. "One way of building such transistors is to construct them of lasers that rely on an encoding approach called "spiking." Depending on the input, the laser will either provide a brief spike in its output of photons or not respond at all. Instead of using the on or off state of the transistor to represent the 1s and 0s of digital data, these neural transistors rely on the time intervals between spikes." Now, research published in Nature Scientific Reports has shown how to stabilize these laser spikes, so that they're responsive at picosecond intervals. "The team achieved this by placing a tiny piece of graphene inside a semiconductor laser. The graphene acts as a 'saturable absorber,' soaking up photons and then emitting them in a quick burst. Graphene, it turns out, makes a good saturable absorber because it can take up and release a lot of photons extremely fast, and it works at any wavelength; so lasers emitting different colors could be used simultaneously, without interfering with each other—speeding processing."
Encryption

French Conservatives Push Law To Ban Strong Encryption (dailydot.com) 246

Patrick O'Neill writes: The French parliament this week will examine a bill that would require tech manufacturers of computers, phones, and tablets to build backdoors into any encryption on the device. The anti-encryption bill is being presented by 18 conservative members of the National Assembly as part of a large "Digital Republic" bill. According to the article, The new French bill briefly praises encryption’s role in protecting user data but immediately pivots to criticizing the effects of strong encryption on state security forces. "France must take the initiative and force device manufacturers to take into consideration the imperative of access for law enforcement officers, under the control of a judge and only in the case of an investigation, to those devices," the legislation reads, according to a translation by Khalil Sehnaoui, a Middle-East security specialist and founder of Krypton Security. "The goal is to avoid that individual encryption systems delay the advancement of an investigation."
Music

David Bowie Dies At Age 69 (bbc.co.uk) 296

echo-e writes: Renowned singer David Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer. His latest album, Blackstar, was only just released on Friday — his birthday. His last live show was in 2006. Bowie rose to fame in the 1970s, and he is known for hits such as Under Pressure, Let's Dance, and Space Oddity. He also appeared in handful of films, such as Labyrinth in 1986. Bowie was also notable for being one of the few musicians to immediately see the value and staying power of MP3s and the digital distribution of music. If anything, he was overly optimistic about it. In 2002, he said, "I don't even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don't think it's going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way. The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it's not going to happen. I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing."

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