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Software

Indian State Saves $45 Million As Schools Switch To Open Source Software (factordaily.com) 36

From a report: The Kerala government has made a saving of Rs 300 crore ($45 million) through introduction and adoption of Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) in the school education sector, said a state government official on Sunday. IT became a compulsory subject in Kerala schools from 2003, but it was only in 2005 that FOSS was introduced in a phased manner and started to replace proprietary software. The decision made by the curriculum committee to implement it in the higher secondary sector has also been completed now. "It's not the cost saving that matters more, but the fact that the Free Software license enables not only teachers and students but also the general public an opportunity to copy, distribute and share the contents and use it as they wish," K. Anwar Sadath, executive director IT@School said.
Hardware Hacking

Open Source Car-Hacking Tool Successfully Crowdfunded (kickstarter.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes: Two geeks are crowdfunding an open source car hacking tool that will allow builders to experiment with diagnostics, telematics, security, and prototyping. "Cars have become complicated and expensive to work with," they explain on a Kickstarter page. "Macchina wants to use open source hardware to help break down these barriers and get people tinkering with their cars again." After years developing a beta prototype, they announced a tiny plug-and-play device/development platform (that can also be hardwired under the hood) on an Arduino Due board with a 32-bit ARM microcontroller. They almost immediately reached their $25,000 funding goal, and with 24 days left to go they've already raised $41,672, and they're now also selling t-shirts to benefit the EFF's "Right to Repair" activism.

Challenging "the closed, unpublished nature of modern-day car computers," their M2 device ships with protocols and libraries "to work with any car that isn't older than Google." With catchy slogans like "root your ride" and "the future is open," they're hoping to build a car-hacking developer community, and they're already touting the involvement of Craig Smith, the author of the Car Hacker's Handbook from No Starch Press.

"The one thing that all car hobbyists can agree on is that playing with cars isn't cheap," argues the campaign page. "Open source hardware is the answer!"
The Military

The US Department Of Defense Announces An Open Source Code Repository (defense.gov) 42

"The Pentagon is the latest government entity to join the open-source movement," writes NextGov. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The Defense Department this week launched Code.mil, a public site that will eventually showcase unclassified code written by federal employees. Citizens will be able to use that code for personal and public projects... The Defense Department's Digital Service team, whose members are recruited for short-term stints from companies including Google and Netflix, will be the first to host its code on the site once the agreement is finalized... "This is a direct avenue for the department to tap into a worldwide community of developers to collectively speed up and strengthen the software development process," a DOD post announcing the initiative said. The Pentagon also aims to find software developers and "make connections in support of DOD programs that ultimately service our national security."
Interestingly, there's no copyright protections on code written by federal employees, according to U.S. (and some international) laws, according to the site. "This can make it hard to attach an open source license to our code, and our team here at Defense Digital Service wants to find a solution. You can submit a public comment by opening a GitHub issue on this repository before we finalize the agreement at the end of March."
Earth

Professors Claim Passive Cooling Breakthrough Via Plastic Film (sciencemag.org) 188

What if you could cool buildings without using electricity? charlesj68 brings word of "the development of a plastic film by two professors at the University of Colorado in Boulder that provides a passive cooling effect." The film contains embedded glass beads that absorb and emit infrared in a wavelength that is not blocked by the atmosphere. Combining this with half-silvering to keep the sun from being the source of infrared absorption on the part of the beads, and you have a way of pumping heat at a claimed rate of 93 watts per square meter.
The film is cheap to produce -- about 50 cents per square meter -- and could create indoor temperatures of 68 degrees when it's 98.6 outside. "All the work is done by the huge temperature difference, about 290C, between the surface of the Earth and that of outer space," reports The Economist.
Botnet

UK Police Arrest Suspect Behind Mirai Malware Attacks On Deutsche Telekom (bleepingcomputer.com) 26

An anonymous reader writes: "German police announced Thursday that fellow UK police officers have arrested a suspect behind a serious cyber-attack that crippled German ISP Deutsche Telekom at the end of November 2016," according to BleepingComputer. "The attack in question caused over 900,000 routers of various makes and models to go offline after a mysterious attacker attempted to hijack the devices through a series of vulnerabilities..." The attacks were later linked to a cybercrime groups operating a botnet powered by the Mirai malware, known as Botnet #14, which was also available for hire online for on-demand DDoS attacks.

"According to a statement obtained by Bleeping Computer from Bundeskriminalamt (the German Federal Criminal Police Office), officers from UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested a 29-year-old suspect at a London airport... German authorities are now in the process of requesting the unnamed suspect's extradition, so he can stand trial in Germany. Bestbuy, the name of the hacker that took credit for the attacks, has been unreachable for days."

United States

The Videogame Industry Is Fighting 'Right To Repair' Laws (vice.com) 237

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: The video game industry is lobbying against legislation that would make it easier for gamers to repair their consoles and for consumers to repair all electronics more generally. The Entertainment Software Association, a trade organization that includes Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, as well as dozens of video game developers and publishers, is opposing a "right to repair" bill in Nebraska, which would give hardware manufacturers fewer rights to control the end-of-life of electronics that they have sold to their customers...

Bills making their way through the Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Illinois statehouses will require manufacturers to sell replacement parts and repair tools to independent repair companies and consumers at the same price they are sold to authorized repair centers. The bill also requires that manufacturers make diagnostic manuals public and requires them to offer software tools or firmware to revert an electronic device to its original functioning state in the case that software locks that prevent independent repair are built into a device. The bills are a huge threat to the repair monopolies these companies have enjoyed, and so just about every major manufacturer has brought lobbyists to Nebraska, where the legislation is currently furthest along... This setup has allowed companies like Apple to monopolize iPhone repair, John Deere to monopolize tractor repair, and Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to monopolize console repair...

Motherboard's reporter was unable to get a comment from Microsoft, Apple, and Sony, and adds that "In two years of covering this issue, no manufacturer has ever spoken to me about it either on or off the record."
Open Source

GitHub Invites Contributions To 'Open Source Guides' (infoq.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes InfoQ: GitHub has recently launched its Open Source Guides, a collection of resources addressing the most common scenarios and best practices for both contributors and maintainers of open source projects. The guides themselves are open source and GitHub is actively inviting developers to participate and share their stories... "Open source is complicated, especially for newcomers. Experienced contributors have learned many lessons about the best way to use, contribute to, and produce open source software. Everyone shouldn't have to learn those lessons the hard way."

Making a successful first contribution is not the exclusive focus of the guides, though, which also strives to make it easier to find users for a project, starting a new project, and building healthy open source communities. Other topics the guides dwell on are best practices, getting financial support, metrics, and legal matters.

GitHub's Head of Open Source says the guides create "the equivalent of a water cooler for the community."
Open Source

Linus Torvalds On Git's Use Of SHA-1: 'The Sky Isn't Falling' (zdnet.com) 190

Google's researchers specifically cited Git when they announced a new SHA-1 attack vector, according to ZDNet. "The researchers highlight that Linus Torvald's code version-control system Git 'strongly relies on SHA-1' for checking the integrity of file objects and commits. It is essentially possible to create two Git repositories with the same head commit hash and different contents, say, a benign source code and a backdoored one,' they note." Saturday morning, Linus responded: First off - the sky isn't falling. There's a big difference between using a cryptographic hash for things like security signing, and using one for generating a "content identifier" for a content-addressable system like git. Secondly, the nature of this particular SHA1 attack means that it's actually pretty easy to mitigate against, and there's already been two sets of patches posted for that mitigation. And finally, there's actually a reasonably straightforward transition to some other hash that won't break the world - or even old git repositories...

The reason for using a cryptographic hash in a project like git is because it pretty much guarantees that there is no accidental clashes, and it's also a really really good error detection thing. Think of it like "parity on steroids": it's not able to correct for errors, but it's really really good at detecting corrupt data... if you use git for source control like in the kernel, the stuff you really care about is source code, which is very much a transparent medium. If somebody inserts random odd generated crud in the middle of your source code, you will absolutely notice... It's not silently switching your data under from you... And finally, the "yes, git will eventually transition away from SHA1". There's a plan, it doesn't look all that nasty, and you don't even have to convert your repository. There's a lot of details to this, and it will take time, but because of the issues above, it's not like this is a critical "it has to happen now thing".

In addition, ZDNet reports, "Torvalds said on a mailing list yesterday that he's not concerned since 'Git doesn't actually just hash the data, it does prepend a type/length field to it', making it harder to attack than a PDF... Do we want to migrate to another hash? Yes. Is it game over for SHA-1 like people want to say? Probably not."
United States

Garmin Engineer Shot And Killed By Man Yelling 'Get Out Of My Country!' (theverge.com) 1021

lxw56 writes: Garmin engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot and killed at a local bar in Olathe, Kansas, the U.S. headquarters of Garmin. Co-worker Alok Madasani was also injured along with bystander Ian Grillot, who attempted to help the men. "The suspect in the shooting, Adam Purinton, was drinking at the bar in Olathe, Kansas, at about 7:15 p.m. that night," reports The Verge. "A witness said he yelled 'get out of my country' to two of the victims, reportedly saying the men, believed to originally be from India, were 'Middle Eastern.'" In 2015, Garmin employed 2,700 workers in Olathe and has plans to double this number, which the article notes has led to "increasing diversity" in the community.
Businesses

Al Gore Sells $29.5 Million In Apple Stock (appleinsider.com) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AppleInsider: A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday reveals Apple board member Al Gore this week sold 215,437 shares of Apple stock (APPL) worth about $29.5 million. Gore's stock sale, which was accomplished in multiple trades ranging from $136.4 to $137.12 on Wednesday, nearly matches a $29.6 million purchase of Apple shares made in 2013. When Gore bought the stock batch more than four years ago, he exercised Apple's director stock option to acquire 59,000 shares at a price of about $7.48 per share, costing him approximately $441,000. This was pre-split AAPL, so shares were valued at $502.68 each. Following today's sale, Gore owns 230,137 shares of Apple stock worth $31.5 million at the end of trading on Friday.
Education

Arizona Bill Would Make Students In Grades 4-12 Participate Once In An Hour of Code (azpbs.org) 141

theodp writes: Christopher Silavong of Cronkite News reports: "A bill, introduced by [Arizona State] Sen. John Kavanagh [R-Fountain Hills] would mandate that public and charter schools provide one hour of coding instruction once between grades 4 to 12. Kavanagh said it's critical for students to learn the language -- even if it's only one session -- so they can better compete for jobs in today's world. However, some legislators don't believe a state mandate is the right approach. Senate Bill 1136 has passed the Senate, and it's headed to the House of Representatives. Kavanagh said he was skeptical about coding and its role in the future. But he changed his mind after learning that major technology companies were having trouble finding domestic coders and talking with his son, who works at a tech company." According to the Bill, the instruction can "be offered by either a nationally recognized nonprofit organization [an accompanying Fact Sheet mentions tech-backed Code.org] that is devoted to expanding access to computer science or by an entity with expertise in providing instruction to pupils on interactive computer instruction that is aligned to the academic standards."
Earth

Scientists Teach Bees How To Play Soccer (smithsonianmag.com) 74

Clint Perry, a biologist who studies the evolution of cognition in insects at Queen Mary University of London, and his colleagues have released the results of a creative new experiment in which they essentially taught bumblebees how to play "bee soccer." "The insects' ability to grasp this novel task is a big score for insect intelligence, demonstrating that they're even more complex thinkers than we thought," reports Smithsonian. From the report: For the study, published in the February 23 issue of Science, researchers gave a group of bees a novel goal (literally): to move a ball about half their size into a designated target area. The idea was to present them with a task that they would never have encountered in nature. Not only did the bees succeed at this challenge -- earning them a sugary treat -- but they astonished researchers by figuring out how to meet their new goal in several different ways. Some bees succeeded at getting their ball into the goal with no demonstration at all, or by first watching the ball move on its own. But the ones that watched other bees successfully complete the game learned to play more quickly and easily. Most impressively, the insects didn't simply copy each other -- they watched their companions do it, then figured out on their own how to accomplish the task even more efficiently using their own techniques. The results show that bees can master complex, social behaviors without any prior experience -- which could be a boon in a world where they face vast ecological changes and pressures.
The Courts

ZeniMax Files Injunction To Stop Oculus From Selling VR Headsets (gamespot.com) 77

ZeniMax, the parent company of Fallout and Skyrim developer Bethesda, has filed for an injunction against virtual-reality company Oculus over the recent stolen technology case. The company had accused Oculus of stealing VR-related code, and was subsequently awarded $500 million by a Dallas court earlier this month. ZeniMax has now filed additional papers against Oculus, requesting that Oculus' products using the stolen code be removed from sale. GameSpot reports: Specifically, ZeniMax is seeking to block sales of its mobile and PC developer kits, as well as technology allowing the integration of Oculus Rift with development engines Unreal and Unity, reports Law360. If the injunction isn't granted, ZeniMax wants a share of "revenues derived from products incorporating its intellectual properties," suggesting a 20 percent cut for at least 10 years. ZeniMax argues the previous settlement of $500 million is "insufficient incentive for [Oculus] to cease infringing." Oculus, meanwhile, says that "ZeniMax's motion does not change the fact that the [original] verdict was legally flawed and factually unwarranted. We look forward to filing our own motion to set aside the jury's verdict and, if necessary, filing an appeal that will allow us to put this litigation behind us," the virtual reality company stated.
Displays

Slashdot Asks: Are Curved TVs Worth It? (cnet.com) 175

New submitter cherishjoo shares a report written by David Katzmaier via CNET: When the first curved TVs appeared more than three years ago I asked whether they were a gimmick. As a TV reviewer I had to give the curve a fighting chance, however, so I took a curved Samsung home to live with my family for awhile, in addition to subjecting it to a full CNET review. In the end, I answered my own question with the headline "Great picture quality, but the curved screen is a flat-out gimmick." Since then most of the video geeks I know, including just about everybody I hear from on Twitter, Facebook and article comments, pooh-poohs curved TV screens as a useless distraction. A curved TV takes the traditional flat screen and bends it along a gentle arc. The edges end up a bit closer, ostensibly providing a slight wraparound effect. Curved TV makers, citing huge curved screens like IMAX, call their sets more "immersive" than their flat counterparts, but in my experience that claim doesn't hold water at in-home (as opposed to theatrical) screen sizes and viewing distances. The only real image-quality benefit I saw to the curve was a reduction in reflections in some cases. That benefit wasn't worth the slight geometric distortions introduced by the curve, not to mention its awkwardness when hung on the wall. That said, the curve doesn't ruin an otherwise good picture. In TVs, assuming similar prices, curved vs. flat boils down to a choice of aesthetics. As Katzmaier mentioned, curved TVs have been on the market for several years now, and while manufacturers continue to produce them, the verdict on whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is still murky. Here's our question for you: Are curved televisions worth the inflated price tag? If you are in the market for a new TV, does the fact that the display is curved entice you or steer you away?
AI

Americans Believe Robots Will Take Everyone Else's Job, But Theirs Will Be Safe, Study Says (cnbc.com) 353

An anonymous reader shares a CNBC report: You may accept, by now, that robots will take over lots of jobs currently held by human workers. But you probably believe they won't be taking yours. Though other industries are in danger, your position is safe. That's according to a report released by LivePerson, a cloud-based messaging company which surveyed 2,000 U.S.-based consumers online in January. Their researchers find that only three percent of respondents say they experience fear about losing their job to a robot once a week. By contrast, more than 40 percent of respondents never worry about it. And a whopping 65 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat agree that other industries will suffer because of automation, but theirs will be fine.
Businesses

Panasonic Wants Employees To Relax, Limits Work Days To 11 hours (cnet.com) 146

Japan is notorious for its long working hours, which have been blamed for a national health crisis known as "karoshi" -- death from overwork. From a report on CNET: Panasonic hopes to curb this, instructing its 100,000-ish employees to work no later than 8 p.m. each day, reports Asahi Shimbun. This hour reduction still enables a 55-hour working week, but the directive from Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga also limited overtime to 80 hours a month.
Earth

Life Expectancy Set To Hit 90 In South Korea, Study Predicts (nature.com) 107

According to a study published in the journal The Lancet, researchers have predicted that South Korea will likely become the first country where the average life expectancy will exceed 90 years. The researchers led by public-health researcher Majid Ezzati at Imperial College London used data from the World Health Organization and a suite of 21 statistical models they developed to figure out how life expectancy will change in 35 developed countries by 2030. Nature reports: Life expectancy is expected to increase in all 35 countries, in keeping with steady progress in recent decades, the team found. But it is South Korean women who will be living longest by 2030: there is a nearly 60% chance that their life expectancy at birth will exceed 90 years by that time, the team calculates. Girls born in the country that year can expect to live, on average, to nearly 91, and boys to 84, the highest in the world for both sexes. The nation's rapid improvement in life expectancy -- the country was ranked twenty-ninth for women in 1985 -- is probably down to overall improvements in economic status and child nutrition, the study notes, among other factors. South Koreans also have relatively equal access to health care, lower blood pressure than people in Western countries and low rates of smoking among women. As for the United States, the life expectancy is "predicted to be among the lowest of these countries by 2030; 80 for men (similar to the Czech Republic) and 83 for women (similar to Mexico)."
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Should Be Liable For Accidents, Not the Passengers: UK Government (arstechnica.co.uk) 245

"Electric charging points at all major motorway services and petrol stations, and the occupants of a self-driving car aren't liable in the case of an accident -- those are two of the measures proposed by a new law that the UK government hopes will let us reap the rewards of improved transport technology over the next few years," reports Ars Technica. "These changes are part of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (VTAB), a draft law that is basically a shopping list of governmental desires." From the report: The first item on the bill involves automated vehicles, and how to ensure that the vehicle's owner (which may or may not be a driver) and potential accident victims are protected. The bill says that insurance companies must offer two types of protection: for when a vehicle is acting autonomously, but also if the human driver decides to takes control. Essentially, the government wants to make sure that an accident victim can always claim compensation from the insurance company, even if the car was acting autonomously. It would then be up for the insurance company to try and reclaim that money from the car maker through existing common law and product liability arrangements. In a somewhat rare display of tech savviness, there are two exemptions listed in the bill. If the vehicle owner makes unauthorized changes to the car's software, or fails to install a software update as mandated by their insurance policy, then the insurer doesn't have to pay. It isn't clear at this point which capabilities will be enough to classify a vehicle as "self-driving." The draft law asks the department for transport (DfT) to work it out, post haste, and then to determine which vehicles qualify for the new type of insurance. The planned law also outlines new governmental powers to improve the UK's electric charging infrastructure.
Wikipedia

Study Reveals Bot-On-Bot Editing Wars Raging On Wikipedia's Pages (theguardian.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new study from computer scientists has found that the online encyclopedia is a battleground where silent wars have raged for years. Since Wikipedia launched in 2001, its millions of articles have been ranged over by software robots, or simply "bots," that are built to mend errors, add links to other pages, and perform other basic housekeeping tasks. In the early days, the bots were so rare they worked in isolation. But over time, the number deployed on the encyclopedia exploded with unexpected consequences. The more the bots came into contact with one another, the more they became locked in combat, undoing each other's edits and changing the links they had added to other pages. Some conflicts only ended when one or other bot was taken out of action. The findings emerged from a study that looked at bot-on-bot conflict in the first ten years of Wikipedia's existence. The researchers at Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute in London examined the editing histories of pages in 13 different language editions and recorded when bots undid other bots' changes. While some conflicts mirrored those found in society, such as the best names to use for contested territories, others were more intriguing. Describing their research in a paper entitled Even Good Bots Fight in the journal Plos One, the scientists reveal that among the most contested articles were pages on former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, the Arabic language, Niels Bohr and Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the most intense battles played out between Xqbot and Darknessbot which fought over 3,629 different articles between 2009 and 2010. Over the period, Xqbot undid more than 2,000 edits made by Darknessbot, with Darknessbot retaliating by undoing more than 1,700 of Xqbot's changes. The two clashed over pages on all sorts of topics, from Alexander of Greece and Banqiao district in Taiwan to Aston Villa football club.
Earth

World's Only Sample of Metallic Hydrogen Has Been Lost (ibtimes.co.uk) 273

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: A piece of rare meta poised to revolutionize modern technology and take humans into deep space has been lost in a laboratory mishap. The first and only sample of metallic hydrogen ever created on earth was the rarest material on the planet when it was developed by Harvard scientists in January this year, and had been dubbed "the holy grail of high pressure physics." The metal was created by subjecting liquid hydrogen to pressures greater that those at the center of the Earth. At this point, the molecular hydrogen breaks down and becomes an atomic solid. Scientists theorized that metallic hydrogen -- when used as a superconductor -- could have a transformative effect on modern electronics and revolutionize medicine, energy and transportation, as well as herald in a new age of consumer gadgets. Sadly, an attempt to study the properties of metallic hydrogen appears to have ended in catastrophe after one of the two diamonds being used like a vice to hold the tiny sample was obliterated. The metal was being held between two diamonds at a pressure of around 71.7 million pounds per square inch -- more than a third greater than at the Earth's core. According to The Independent, one of these diamonds shattered while the sample was being measured with a laser, and the metal was lost in the process.

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