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Bitcoin

Bitcoin Not Money, Rules Miami Judge In Dismissing Laundering Charges (miamiherald.com)

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Miami Herald: Bitcoin does not actually qualify as money, a Miami-Dade judge ruled Monday in throwing out criminal charges against a Miami Beach man charged with illegally selling the virtual currency. The defendant, Michell Espinoza, was charged with illegally selling and laundering $1,500 worth of Bitcoins to undercover detectives who told him they wanted to use the money to buy stolen credit-card numbers. But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler ruled that Bitcoin was not backed by any government or bank, and was not "tangible wealth" and "cannot be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars." "The court is not an expert in economics, however, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, the Bitcoin has a long way to go before it the equivalent of money," Pooler wrote in an eight-page order. The judge also wrote that Florida law -- which says someone can be charged with money laundering if they engage in a financial transaction that will "promote" illegal activity -- is way too vague to apply to Bitcoin. "This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning," she wrote. Espinoza's case is believed to be the first money-laundering prosecution involving Bitcoin.
Censorship

Facebook Admits Blocking WikiLeaks' DNC Email Links, But Won't Say Why (thenextweb.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has admitted it blocked links to WikiLeaks' DNC email dump, but the company has yet to explain why. WikiLeaks has responded to the censorship via Twitter, writing: "For those facing censorship on Facebook etc when trying to post links directly to WikiLeaks #DNCLeak try using archive.is." When SwiftOnSecurity tweeted, "Facebook has an automated system for detecting spam/malicious links, that sometimes have false positives. /cc," Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos replied with, "It's been fixed." As for why there was a problem in the first place, we don't know. Nate Swanner from The Next Web writes, "It's possible its algorithm incorrectly identified them as malicious, but it's another negative mark on the company's record nonetheless. WikiLeaks is a known entity, not some torrent dumping ground. The WikiLeaks link issue has reportedly been fixed, which is great -- but also not really the point. The fact links to the archive was blocked at all suggests there's a very tight reign on what's allowed on Facebook across the board, and that's a problem." A Facebook representative provided a statement to Gizmodo: "Like other services, our anti-spam systems briefly flagged links to these documents as unsafe. We quickly corrected this error on Saturday evening."
China

China Bans Internet News Reporting As Media Crackdown Widens (bloomberg.com) 50

Earlier this month we learned that China had banned the use of social media as a news source. The local government feared that if news outlets were to report using signals coming from social media, there was a chance that fake, non-credible, and rumors would slip through the filter. It was absurd, to say the least, considering the government itself has been reportedly caught of posting a copious amount of misleading information on domestic social media platforms. In the latest wrinkle to the whole situation, the world's largest nation is now banning internet news reporting. Long time reader schwit1 shares a Bloomberg report on the same: China's top internet regulator ordered major online companies including Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to stop original news reporting, the latest effort by the government to tighten its grip over the country's web and information industries. The Cyberspace Administration of China imposed the ban on several major news portals, including Sohu.com Inc. and NetEase Inc., Chinese media reported in identically worded articles citing an unidentified official from the agency's Beijing office. The companies have "seriously violated" internet regulations by carrying plenty of news content obtained through original reporting, causing "huge negative effects," according to a report that appeared in The Paper on Sunday. The agency instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle "current-affairs news" operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent, according to people familiar with the situation. Like its peers, Asia's largest internet company had developed a news operation and grown its team. Henceforth, they and other services can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media, the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is politically sensitive.
Yahoo!

Once Valued at $125B, Yahoo's Web Assets To Be Sold To Verizon For $4.83B, Companies Confirm 173

The reports were spot on. Verizon Communications on Monday announced that it plans to purchase Yahoo's Web assets for a sum of $4.83 billion in cash. The multi-billion dollars deal will get Verizon Yahoo's core internet business and some real estate. The announcement also marks a remarkable fall for the Silicon Valley web pioneer, which once had a market capitalization of more than $125 billion. For Verizon, the deal adds another piece to the mammoth digital media and advertising empire it owns. The deal is expected to close early 2017. CNBC reports: The transaction is seen boosting Verizon's AOL internet business, which the company acquired last year for $4.4 billion, by giving it access to Yahoo's advertising technology tools, as well as other assets such as search, mail, messenger and real estate. It also marks the end of Yahoo as an operating company, leaving it only as the owner of a 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, as well as its 15 percent interest in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. In December, Yahoo scrapped plans to spin off its Alibaba stake after investors worried about whether that transaction could have been carried out on a tax-free basis. It instead decided to explore a sale of its core assets, spurred on by activist hedge fund Starboard Value. Forbes has called it one of the "saddest $5B deals in tech history."Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who was expected to leave -- or get fired -- said she intends to stay. "For me personally, I'm planning to stay," Mayer said in a note on Yahoo's Tumblr page. "I love Yahoo, and I believe in all of you. It's important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter."
Privacy

Glassdoor Exposes 600,000 Email Addresses (siliconbeat.com) 91

A web site where users anonymously review their employer has exposed the e-mail addresses -- and in some cases the names -- of hundreds of thousands of users. An anonymous reader quotes an article from Silicon Beat: On Friday, the company sent out an email announcing that it had changed its terms of service. Instead of blindly copying email recipients on the message, the company pasted their addresses in the clear. Each message recipient was able to see the email addresses of 999 other Glassdoor users...

Ultimately, the messages exposed the addresses of more than 2 percent of the company's users... Last month, the company said it had some 30 million monthly active users, meaning that more than 600,000 were affected by the exposure... Although the company didnâ(TM)t directly disclose the names of its users, many of their names could be intuited from their email addresses. Some appeared to be in the format of "first name.last name" or "first initial plus last name."

A Glassdoor spokesperson said "We are extremely sorry for this error. We take the privacy of our users very seriously and we know this is not what is expected of us. It certainly isn't how we intend to operate."
Advertising

Google Tests Ads That Load Faster and Use Less Power (bbc.co.uk) 117

Slashdot reader Big Hairy Ian quotes a report from the BBC: Google says it has found a way to make ads load faster on web pages viewed on smartphones and tablets. The company said the ads would also be less taxing on the handsets' processors, meaning their batteries should last longer. The technique is based on work it has already done to make news publishers' articles load more quickly. But it is still in development, and one expert said Google still had questions to answer. The California-based company's online advertising revenue totalled $67.4 billion last year...
The technique limits the scope of JavaScript, and "provides its own activity measurement tools, which are said to be much more efficient," according to article. A Google software engineer explains that this technique "only animates things that are visible on the screen," and throttles animation to fewer frames per second for weaker devices -- or disables the animations altogether. "This ensures that every device gets the best experience it can deliver and makes sure that ads cannot have a negative impact on important aspects of the user experience such as scrolling."
Republicans

Avast Suckers GOP Delegates Into Connecting To Insecure Wi-Fi Hotspots (theregister.co.uk) 109

Avast conned more than 1,200 people into connecting to fake wi-fi hotspots set up near the Republican convention and the Cleveland airport, using common network names like "Google Starbucks" and "Xfinitywifi" as well as "I vote Trump! free Internet". An anonymous reader quotes this report from The Register: With mobile devices often set to connect to known SSIDs automatically, users can overlook the networks to which they are connecting... Some 68.3 percent of users' identities were exposed when they connected, and 44.5 per cent of Wi-Fi users checked their emails or chatted via messenger apps... In its day-long experiment Avast saw more than 1.6Gbps transferred from more than 1,200 users.
Avast didn't store the data they collected, but they did report statistics on which sites were accessed most frequently. "5.1 percent played Pokemon Go, while 0.7 percent used dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, OKCupid, Match and Meetup, and 0.24 percent visited pornography sites like Pornhub."
Communications

Tinder Scam Promises Account Verification, But Actually Sells Porn (csoonline.com) 29

itwbennett writes: Tinder users should be on the lookout for Tinder profiles asking them to get "verified" and then sending them a link to a site called "Tinder Safe Dating." The service asks for credit card information, saying this will verify the user's age. Once payment information has been captured, the user is then signed up for a free trial of porn, which will end up costing $118.76 per month unless the service is cancelled. In Tinder's safety guidelines, the company warns users to avoid messages that contain links to third-party websites or ask money for an address.
Businesses

Comcast To Offer Pay-As-You-Go TV, Broadband Service (dslreports.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Comcast plans to roll-out prepaid cable TV and internet services later this year in portions of Illinois and four other states. According to a company announcement, Comcast's Xfinity Prepaid Services lets users sign up for TV or internet services and renew service for seven or 30 days at a time -- instead of paying by the month. A one-time setup fee of $80 includes equipment and 30 days of service, with users paying $15 for an additional seven days and $45 for an additional 30 days. "We want to create an easy, pay-as-you-go option for people who want more flexibility and predictability when buying our services," said Marcien Jenckes, Executive Vice President, Consumer Services, Comcast Cable. "And our partnership with Boost Mobile will give Xfinity Prepaid customers even more places where they can conveniently sign-up and pay-as-they-go."
Government

Edward Snowden At Comic-Con: 'I Live a Surprisingly Free Life' (theguardian.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Guardian: Director Oliver Stone talked to whistleblower Edward Snowden in front of an audience at a question and answer session on Thursday evening. He compared Snowden's anxiety over his own appearance in his Snowden biopic film "Snowden" to that of Donald Trump, who was cut from one of his films six years before. Snowden replied: "I'd like to avoid that association." At the event, Snowden did also shed some light on his personal life, years after his revelation of the NSA's secret surveillance of the American public's internet activity resulted in criminal charges under the Espionage Act that led to his exile in Russia. "I can confirm that I am not living in a box," Snowden said. "I actually live a surprisingly free life. This was not the most likely outcome. I didn't actually expect to make it out of Hawaii. I thought it was incredibly risky. I had a lot of advantages in doing what I did; I worked for the CIA on the human intelligence side, I worked for the NSA on the signals intelligence side, and I taught counterintelligence. This is not something that's covered that well in the media. I was about as well placed as anybody could be, and I still thought I was going to get rolled up at the airport and that there were going to be knocks on the doors of the journalists." When asked what he thought about Gordon-Levitt's performance in the film where he plays Edward Snowden, Snowden responded: "This is one of the things that's kind of crazy and surreal about this kind of experience: I don't think anybody looks forward to having a movie made about themselves, especially someone who is a privacy advocate. Some of my family members have said, 'He sounds just like you!' I can't hear it myself but if he can pass the family test he's doing all right." Snowden agreed to participate on the film because he thought it could raise awareness in ways his own advocacy could not. Snowden was also in the news recently for developing a way for potentially imperiled smartphone users to monitor whether their devices are making any potentially compromising radio transmissions.
Businesses

MasterCard Is Buying the Core of the British Payments Infrastructure (fortune.com) 27

Mastercard has agreed to purchase a controlling stake in VocalLink, the payments processor that handles most payroll and household bill processing in the UK. The American payment giant will be paying up to $1.14 billion. Fortune reports: According to MasterCard MA, the deal would create "the first true combination of the traditional person-to-merchant cards business with a clearing business." That is, of course, presuming it clears regulatory scrutiny. VocaLink runs Link, the network that provides interoperability between British ATMs, as well as BACS, the clearing house for payments between bank accounts, and Faster Payments, the inter-bank transfer system for Internet and telephone-based payments.FastCompany explains what this could mean for MasterCard users.
Businesses

Google Fiber Reminds People It's a 'Real Business' (dslreports.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: While Google Fiber gets a massive amount of media hype (justly based on its disruptive speed and price point), the reality is that despite numerous city "launches" -- not that many people can actually get the service. But while many ISPs and analysts have dismissed Google Fiber as an adorable experiment that will never impact them, many of these folks have been forced to changing their tune as Google Fiber's list of planned launch cities grows larger. In a profile piece over at USAToday, the company once again notes that while Google Fiber may have begun as a PR exercise, it's now dead serious about being a large, nationwide disruptive kick in the ass for incumbent broadband providers. "It is indeed a real business, and it's serving to increase competition as well, and that's something that we don't mind," Google Fiber boss and former Qualcomm exec Dennis Kish tells the paper. "We think it's healthy for the market and for consumers."
Yahoo!

Verizon Nears Deal to Acquire Yahoo (bloomberg.com) 70

Verizon Communications is nearing a deal to buy Yahoo, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter. While nothing is official yet, the publication claims that Verizon is discussing a price close to $5 billion for Yahoo's core Internet business. The report adds that Yahoo's patents are not part of the discussion, and it's unclear whether the two companies are considering Yahoo's real estate. "The companies may be ready to announce the deal in the coming days, the people said," the report adds. Interestingly, CNBC, citing its own sources, is independently reporting the same thing.
Communications

McDonald's 'Make Burger History' Site Hijacked With Offensive Burger Ideas (stuff.co.nz) 186

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Stuff.co.nz: McDonald's New Zealand has been left with egg on its face after a raft of bad-taste burger suggestions customers forced it to quickly take down its new design-your-own-burger website. The company launched its "Make Burger History" site this week, as part of a new promotion where customers can "build your own unique burger" and get free fries and a medium soft drink. "Just come in to a participating 'Create Your Taste' McDonald's and order your Creation at the self ordering kiosk," McDonald's promised. But its failure to consider what pranksters might dream up online has left the company red-faced, with the website overrun by racist, homophobic and otherwise offensive suggestions. The page now redirects to the McDonald's homepage. The burger concepts ranged from the mild, such as "Bag of Lettuce" (literally just a pile of lettuce leaves) and "The Carbonator" (seven burger buns, no filling), to X-rated, including "Girth" (a stack of seven undressed burger patties) and "Ron's Creamy Surprise" (a pile of mayonnaise, best left unexplained). But many went totally tasteless, creating burgers with names like "Mosque at Ground-Zero," "Rektal Prolapse" and "Toddler Body Bag," some of which ended up on the website's front page before it was shut down entirely overnight.
Facebook

Facebook Took Its Giant Internet Drone On Its First Test Flight (fastcompany.com) 43

An anonymous reader writes: A year ago, Facebook unveiled Aquila, its effort to put giant drones in the skies to beam Internet connectivity to areas in the developing world without mobile broadband Internet. Today, the company announced it has completed the first full-scale test of its Aquila drone, after months of testing one-fifth-size models. On June 28, the experimental aircraft (featuring a V-shaped wingspan the width of a Boeing 737) took off from the Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Arizona, and flew for 96 minutes at low altitude, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg and many others watched in the dawn sunlight.. Possibly years of work remain before Facebook's connectivity effort fully takes off, according to a head engineer, including figuring out how to keep the drones aloft for hours at a time, and how to effectively send Internet with lasers.Quartz points out that Facebook may not have been given the permission to test the drones. From the article:Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized its regulations for flying commercial drones in the US. These regulations, which require commercial drones to be kept within the line of sight of the person flying the drone, and that the drones be kept below 400 feet, do not go into effect until August. Prior to these regulations, any company wishing to fly or test drones outdoors in the US required an exemption from the FAA, called a Section 333. Quartz checked with the FAA last year to ask whether Facebook had one of these exemptions, and was told it did not. (We've asked the FAA again, and Facebook, to see if the company has since received permission to fly drones in the US.) The FAA has started to fine some companies that operate drones commercially without an exemption, including a nearly $2 million fine for a company that was flying drones over people in New York and Chicago without permission.
Businesses

Tesla's 'Master Plan, Part Deux' Includes Trucks, Buses and Ride-Sharing (latimes.com) 171

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Los Angeles Times: After teasing Part 2 of his "master product plan" for over a week, Elon Musk finally delivered. Los Angeles Times reports: "In a blog post published on the automaker's website, Musk introduced a multiyear, four-pronged strategy that includes new kinds of Tesla vehicles, expanded solar initiatives, updates on Tesla's 'autopilot' technology and a ride-sharing program. Commercial trucks, buses, a 'future compact SUV' and a 'new kind of pickup truck' will be added to Tesla's fleet of electric cars. A heavy-duty truck called the Tesla Semi and a shrunken bus that Musk called a 'high passenger density urban transport' vehicle are in early development stages 'and should be ready for unveiling next year,' he said. The smaller bus would be designed without a center aisle, with seats close to the entrances, and would be able to automatically pace themselves with traffic, the post said. The bus driver would become a 'fleet manager.' Musk also used the master plan to defend his bid for rooftop solar power provider SolarCity and said he aims to make Tesla's Autopilot robotic driver-assist system 10 times safer than cars that humans drive manually. Musk also plans to move Tesla into the popular ride-sharing business, not only with an Uber-like fleet but also with an app that lets Tesla owners rent out their vehicles when they're not using them, perhaps defraying a portion of their auto loans. This will happen, he said, 'when true self-driving is approved by regulators,' a turn of events that's at least several years away."
The Almighty Buck

How The Internet Helps Sex Workers Keep Customers Honest (qz.com) 145

HughPickens.com writes: Mid-range prostitution is a relatively new market, enabled by technology. Before the internet, it was hard for escorts to find customers: They had to either walk the streets searching for customers, rely on word-of-mouth, or work with agencies. The internet changed all that as Allison Schrager writes at Quartz that if you work at Goldman Sachs in NYC and you want to tie up a woman and then have sex with her, you'll first have to talk to Rita. Rita will "insist on calling your office, speaking to the switchboard operator, and being patched through to your desk. Then she will want to check out your profile on the company website and LinkedIn. She'll demand you send her message from your work email, and require a scan of either your passport or driver's license." Though some escorts rely on sex work-specific sites that maintain "bad date" lists of potentially dangerous clients, others make use of more mainstream sources to gather information about and verify the identities of potential johns. Rita is addressing a problem that every business, both legal and illegal, has. Before the internet, more commerce occurred locally -- customers knew their merchants or service providers and went back to them repeatedly. As technology has expanded our transactional networks, it must also offer new ways of building trust and reputation. "The lesson here is that, while you'd think all the technological options for finding customers would make Rita's job as a madam obsolete, it has actually made her services more critical," says Schrager. "One step ahead of the mainstream economy, Rita's thriving business shows that some jobs won't disappear. They just need to be recast in a way that capitalizes on what made them valuable in the first place."
Crime

Feds Seize KickassTorrents Domains and Arrest Owner In Poland (arstechnica.com) 300

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Federal authorities announced on Wednesday the arrest of the alleged mastermind of KickassTorrents (KAT), the world's largest BitTorrent distribution site. As of this writing, the site is still up. Prosecutors have formally charged Artem Vaulin, 30, of Ukraine, with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Like The Pirate Bay, KAT does not host individual infringing files but rather provides links to .torrent and .magnet files so that users can download unauthorized copies of TV shows, movies, and more from various BitTorrent users. According to a Department of Justice press release sent to Ars Technica, Vaulin was arrested on Wednesday in Poland. The DOJ will shortly seek his extradition to the United States. "Vaulin is charged with running today's most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials," Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said in the statement. "In an effort to evade law enforcement, Vaulin allegedly relied on servers located in countries around the world and moved his domains due to repeated seizures and civil lawsuits. His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run, but they cannot hide from justice." KickassTorrents added a dark web address last month to make it easier for users to bypass blockades installed by ISPs.
Advertising

China Bans Ad Blocking (adexchanger.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes: Two weeks ago, China released its first ever set of digital ad regulations that impacted Chinese market leaders like Baidu and Alibaba. "But hidden among (the new regulations) is language that would seem to all but ban ad blocking," wrote Adblock Plus (ABP) operations manager Ben Williams in a blog post Wednesday. The new regulations prohibit "the use of network access, network devices, applications, and the disruption of normal advertising data, tampering with or blocking others doing advertising business (or) unauthorized loading the ad." There is also a clause included that addresses tech companies that "intercept, filter, cover, fast-forward and [impose] other restrictions" on online ad campaigns. ABP general counsel Kai Recke said in an email to AdExchanger that the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) has much more control over the market than its otherwise equal U.S. counterpart, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). "After all it looks like the Chinese government tries to get advertising more under their control and that includes that they want to be the only ones to be allowed to remove or alter ads," said Recke. "Ad-block users are a distinct audience and they require a distinct strategy and ways to engage them," said ABP CEO Till Faida at AdExchanger's Clean Ads I/O earlier this year. "They have different standards they've expressed for accessing them, and advertising has to reflect that."
The Internet

Engineer Gets Tired Of Waiting For Telecom Companies To Wire His town -- So He Does It Himself (backchannel.com) 106

Gurb, 75 kilometers north of Barcelona, is a quiet farming community of 2,500. It has suddenly become a popular place, thanks to being the birthplace of Guifi.net, one of the world's "most important experiments in telecommunications." It was built by an engineer who got tired of waiting for Telefonica, the Spanish telecom giant, to provide internet access to the people of his community. At first he wanted an internet access for himself, but it soon became clear that he also wanted to help his neighbors. Guifi has grown from a single wifi node in 2004, to 30,000 working nodes today, including some fiber connections, with thousands more in the planning stages. An article on Backchannel today documents the tale of Guifi. From the article: The project is a testament to tireless efforts -- in governance, not just in adding hardware and software -- by Ramon Roca (the engineer who started it) and his colleagues. They've been unwavering in their commitment to open access, community control, network neutrality, and sustainability. In 2004, he bought some Linksys WiFI hackable routers with a mission to get himself and his neighbors connected to the Internet. This is how he did it: Roca turned on a router with a directional antenna he'd installed at the top of a tall building near the local government headquarters, the only place in town with Internet access -- a DSL line Telefonica had run to municipal governments throughout the region. The antenna was aimed, line of sight, toward Roca's home about six kilometers away. Soon, neighbors started asking for connections, and neighbors of neighbors, and so on. Beyond the cost of the router, access was free. Some nodes were turned into "supernodes" -- banks of routers in certain locations, or dedicated gear that accomplishes the same thing -- that could handle much more traffic in more robust ways. The network connected to high-capacity fiber optic lines, to handle the growing demand, and later connected to a major "peering" connection to the global Internet backbone that provides massive bandwidth. Guifi grew, and grew, and grew. But soon it became clear that connecting more and more nodes wasn't enough, so he created a not-for-profit entity, the Guifi.net Foundation. The foundation, thanks to its cause and a cheerful community, has received over a million Euros to date -- from various sources including several levels of government. But as the article notes, a million Euros is a drop in the bucket next to the lavish subsidies and favors that state-approved monopolies such as Telefonica have enjoyed for decades. The article adds: The Guifi Foundation isn't the paid provider of most Internet service to end-user (home and business) customers. That role falls to more than 20 for-profit internet service providers that operate on the overall platform. The ISPs share infrastructure costs according to how much demand they put on the overall system. They pay fees to the foundation for its services -- a key source of funding for the overall project. Then they offer various kinds of services to end users, such as installing connections -- lately they've been install fiber-optic access in some communities -- managing traffic flows, offering email, handling customer and technical support, and so on. The prices these ISPs charge are, to this American (Editor's note: the author is referring to himself) who's accustomed to broadband-cartel greed, staggeringly inexpensive: 18 to 35 Euros (currently about $26-$37) a month for gigabit fiber, and much less for slower WiFi. Community ownership and ISP competition does wonders for affordability. Contrast this with the U.S. broadband system, where competitive dial-up phone access -- phone companies were obliged to let all ISPs use the lines as the early commercial Internet flourished in the 1990s -- gave way to a cartel of DSL and cable providers. Except in a few places where there's actual competition, we pay way more for much less.Read the story in its entirety here.

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