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Netflix Launches Fast.com To Show How Fast Your Internet Connection Really Is

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 10:22
Paul Sawers, writing for VentureBeat (condensed): Netflix really wants to show you how fast (or slow) your Internet connection is, and to do so it has launched a new website at Fast.com that conveys the real-time speed of your connection to the Web. It's designed to give people "greater insight and control of their Internet service." Netflix said it was for: Providing a website featuring non-downloadable software for testing and analyzing the speed of a user's Internet connection, as well as downloadable computer software for testing and analyzing the speed of a user's Internet connection.Compared to Speedtest.net, Fast.com doesn't offer any details on how fast is your upload speeds, what's the ping time, and any detail on location and ISP. However, it's seemingly faster, and automatically detects your download speeds when you visit the website.

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Wikipedia Editor Says Site's Toxic Community Has Him Contemplating Suicide

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 09:45
An anonymous reader writes: A longtime Wikipedia editor wrote an email to a large public mailing list Tuesday, saying he was contemplating suicide due to online abuse by his fellow Wikipedians. "Nobody on Wikipedia seems to be kind," he wrote. "You are all so busy power tripping that you forget there is a real, live person on the other side." He lamented that obstructionism by other editors stopped him from contributing to the site's "great mission -- one I feel so keenly." The email was sent to the Wikimedia-L mailing list, which is one of the largest community-run Wikimedia mailing lists and has hundreds of subscribers. The editor was upset after an ongoing disagreement with other editors on the "talk" pages of an article about a local politician. The debate devolved into name-calling, the editor wrote, and eventually he was completely banned from editing the site he had devoted so much time to.

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Nokia Announces Return To Smartphone, Tablet Markets

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 09:00
Nokia is making a return to phones and tablets. The Finnish company on Wednesday announced that it will license its brand and IP to a newly created company called HMD global. The company in question, Nokia says, will produce and sell a range of Android smartphones and tablets. The company has also inked a deal with Microsoft to acquire the rights to use Nokia brand name on feature phones and also utilize some design elements. Nokia veteran Arto Nummela will assume the CEO position when the deal is closed, which is expected to happen by the end of June. Microsoft announced today that it has sold the remainings of Nokia's feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn. As part of the deal, FIH Mobile paid a sum of $350 million to Microsoft. Interestingly, HMD global and FIH Mobile already have a collaborative agreement in place to support the building of a global business for Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets. Nokia says it will set mandatory brand requirements and performance-related provisions for the new devices.

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Developer Of Anonymous Tor Software Dodges FBI, Leaves US

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: FBI agents are currently trying to subpoena one of Tor's core software developers to testify in a criminal hacking investigation, CNNMoney has learned. But the developer, who goes by the name Isis Agora Lovecruft, fears that federal agents will coerce her to undermine the Tor system -- and expose Tor users around the world to potential spying. That's why, when FBI agents approached her and her family over Thanksgiving break last year, she immediately packed her suitcase and left the United States for Germany. "I was worried they'd ask me to do something that hurts innocent people -- and prevent me from telling people it's happening," she said in an exclusive interview with CNNMoney. Earlier in the month, Tech Dirt reported the Department of Homeland Security wants to subpoena the site over the identity of a hyperbolic commenter.

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Backblaze Releases Billion-Hour Hard Drive Reliability Report

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 05:00
jones_supa writes: The storage services provider Backblaze has released its reliability report for Q1/2016 covering cumulative failure rates of mechanical hard disk drives by specific model numbers and by manufacturer. The company noted that as of this quarter, its 60,000 drives have cumulatively spun for over one billion hours (100,000 years). Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) is the clear leader here, with an annual failure rate of just 1% for three years running. The second position is also taken by a Japanese company: Toshiba. Third place goes to Western Digital (WD), with the company's ratings having improved in the past year. Seagate comes out the worst, though it is suspected that much of that rating was warped by the company's crash-happy 3 TB drive (ST3000DM001). Backblaze notes that 4 TB drives continue to be the sweet spot for building out its storage pods, but that it might move to 6, 8, or 10 TB drives as the price on the hardware comes down.

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Employers Struggle To Find Workers Who Can Pass A Drug Test

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 02:00
HughPickens.com writes: Jackie Calmes writes in the NYT that all over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: the struggle to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test. The hurdle partly stems from the growing ubiquity of drug testing, at corporations with big human resources departments, in industries like trucking where testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons, and increasingly at smaller companies. But data suggests employers' difficulties also reflect an increase in the use of drugs, especially marijuana -- employers' main gripe -- and also heroin and other opioid drugs much in the news. Data on the scope of the problem is sketchy because figures on job applicants who test positive for drugs miss the many people who simply skip tests they cannot pass. But Quest Diagnostics, which has compiled employer-testing data since 1988, documented a 10% increase in one year in the percentage of American workers who tested positive for illicit drugs -- up to 4.7 percent in 2014 from 4.3 percent in 2013. With the software industry already plagued by a shortage of skilled workers, especially female programmers, some software companies think now would be the wrong time to institute drug testing for new employees, a move that would further limit the available talent pool. "The acceptability of at least marijuana has shifted dramatically over the last 20 years," says Carl Erickson. "If the standard limits those that have used marijuana in the last week, you're surely going to be limiting your pool of applicants." Erickson's decision not to drug test stems from a low risk of workplace injury for his workers combined with an unwillingness to pry into the personal lives of his employees. "My perspective on this is if they want to share their recreational habits with me, that's their prerogative, but I'm sure as hell not going to put them in a position to have to do it."

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Copyright Trolls Rightscorp Are Teetering On The Verge Of Bankruptcy

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 22:30
JustAnotherOldGuy writes: Rightscorp, the copyright trolls whose business model was convincing ISPs to freeze their customers' Internet access in response to unsubstantiated copyright accusations, and then ransom those connections back for $20 each, will be out of money by the end of this quarter. Despite a massive courtroom win against Cox Cable in 2015 (and a counterbalancing gigantic fine for its robocalls), the company couldn't win a technology cat-and-mouse game against its prey -- the wily file-sharers who switched to VPNs and other anonymizing technologies. For the moment, the company is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. It raised $500,000 on February 22, the company reported, but it needs another $1 million to stay afloat. It has only enough cash on hand to continue "into the second quarter of 2016," according to the company's latest financial report.

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Iraq Shuts Down Internet In Entire Country To Prevent Exam Cheating

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 20:50
An anonymous reader writes: The Iraqi government has ordered ISPs to shut down Internet access in the entire country to prevent exam cheating for Iraq's official exams for secondary and high schools. This is the second year in a row when Iraq does this, after the same thing happened in 2015. Companies like Akamai and Dyn also noted the government's poor decision on Twitter. It appears that Iraqi officials never heard of signal jammers and video cameras to combat exam cheating. The country's Internet went dark May 14-16th, between 05:00 AM and 08:00 AM GMT. An Iraqi ISP leaked on Facebook the content of an email it received from state officials.

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Live-Action Tetris Movie Secures $80 Million Funding, Plans To Be Part Of A Trilogy

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 20:10
An anonymous reader writes: In 2014, Threshold Entertainment announced it would be producing a live-action film based on the Russian stacking game Tetris. Today, Threshold Entertainment announced it had secured $80 million in funding for the project. Threshold's Larry Kasanoff has worked on the Mortal Kombat film in 1995, which grossed $70 million. Media mogul Bruno Wu, will serve as co-producer on the film ensuring that the movie will be able to sustain any unplanned budget overruns. According to Deadline, the film is planned for a 2017 release with Chinese locations and a Chinese case. However, Kasanoff notes "the goal is to make world movies for the world market." What's more is that the movie could be the basis of a trilogy, the producer says, with a plot that's "not at all what you think; it will be a cool surprise." Kasanoff told the Wall Street Journal that "this isn't a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We're not giving feet to the geometric shapes... What you [will] see in Tetris is the teeny tip of an iceberg that has intergalactic significance."

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Connecting Everyone To Internet 'Would Add $6.7 Trillion To Global Economy'

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 19:30
An anonymous reader writes: A report, titled Connecting the world: Ten mechanisms for global inclusion, and prepared for Facebook by PwC, says that global economic output would increase by $6.7 trillion if internet access was brought to the 4.1 billion people in the world who do not currently have it. It's estimated that this would raise 500 million people out of poverty. The company behind the report says affordability, rather than infrastructure, is the main barrier to internet adoption in most areas. More than 90% of people live in areas where the infrastructure exists to get them online, but most of them can't afford to do so. The report describes a 500MB data plan that costs more than 5% of one's monthly income as "unaffordable." Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Philippines, for example, would need to cut the price of internet access by over 90% in order for 80% of their populations to get online. Improved technology, or even installing existing technology in developing nations, will be sufficient in bringing much of this cost reduction. Facebook's Internet.org project, aimed at partnering carriers in developing nations to give low-cost internet access, has been criticized for allowing users to access some websites, like Wikipedia and Facebook, without paying for the data they use. Others say such an approach is worth it in the long run. "The important thing here is to get things moving," says Jonathan Tate, technology consulting leader at PwC. The report' authors estimate that the last 500 million people to get online won't be able to rely on piecemeal improvements. Instead, they'll need new "disruptive technologies" being created by companies like Google, with its Project Loon plan to mount internet access points on balloons, and Facebook, with its solar-powered, laser-armed 4G drone called Aquila.

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Genetically Modified Crops Are Safe, Report Says

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 18:50
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Genetically modified crops on the market are not only safe, but appear to be good for people and the environment, experts determined in a report released Tuesday. "The committee delved into the relevant literature, heard from 80 diverse speakers, and read more than 700 comments from members of the public to broaden its understanding of issues surrounding GE crops," the report reads. Panel members read more than 900 reports. A lot of concern centered on health effects. The committee determined the following: there is no evidence of large-scale health effects on people from genetically modified foods; there is some evidence that crops genetically engineered to resist bugs have benefited people by reducing cases of insecticide poisoning; genetically engineered crops to benefit human health, such as those altered to produce more vitamin A, can reduce blindness and deaths due to vitamin A deficiency; using insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant crops did not damage plant or insect diversity and in some cases increased the diversity of insects; sometimes the added genes do leak out to nearby plants -- a process called gene flow -- but there is no evidence it has caused harm; in general, farmers who use GM soybean, cotton, and corn make more money but it does depend on how bad pests are and farming practices; GM crops do reduce losses to pests, and if farmers use insect-resistant crops but don't take enough care, sometimes pest insects develop resistance. The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have put the evidence up on a website for skeptics of the report. The report also includes a 'Summarized Comments Received from Members of the Public' section for people to look up the facts to answer their concerns.

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Google Unveils 'Gigapixel' Camera To Preserve and Archive Art

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 18:10
An anonymous reader writes: The Google Institute has developed an ultra-high resolution gigapixel Art Camera which can automatically recompose images into single works of extraordinary detail. The first thousand images are released today, and include works by Rembrandt and Van Gogh. A gigapixel contains over one billion pixels, providing a level of detail unavailable even to the naked eye. The Art Camera has increased the number of available gigapixel art images from 200 to 1000 since 2011. The Art Camera consists of a robot camera that automatically takes hundreds of high resolution close-up photos of the details of an image, using laser and sonar technology to ensure that each image is in focus. Software is then used to take the hundreds of individual close-up pictures and combine them into one whole image. With this technology, one can view photos produced by classical artists from a computer or mobile device without needing to travel around the world to do so. These digital gigapixel images are intended to be available for viewing and studying for years. In the future, we may see Google use machine-learning algorithms to analyze influential classical painters and create new masterpieces.

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Firefox Tops Microsoft Browser Market Share For First Time

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 17:30
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: For the first time, Firefox has pulled ahead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Edge browsers. Mozilla's Firefox grabbed 15.6 percent of worldwide desktop browser usage in April, according to the latest numbers from Web analytics outfit StatCounter. Google Chrome continues to dominate two thirds of the market. StatCounter, which analyzed data from three million websites, found that Firefox's worldwide desktop browser usage last month was 0.1 percent ahead of the combined share of Internet Explorer and Edge at 15.5 percent. Firefox has reportedly been losing market share over the last three months, but Microsoft's Edge and Internet Explorer browsers appear to be declining faster. Last week, Mozilla launched Test Pilot, a program for trying out experimental Firefox features. They've also been fighting the FBI in court for details about a vulnerability in the Tor Browser hack, which may affect the company since the Tor browser is partially based on the Firefox browser code.

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Theoretical Breakthrough Made In Random Number Generation

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 16:50
msm1267 quotes a report from Threatpost: Two University of Texas academics have made what some experts believe is a breakthrough in random number generation that could have longstanding implications for cryptography and computer security. David Zuckerman, a computer science professor, and Eshan Chattopadhyay, a graduate student, published a paper in March that will be presented in June at the Symposium on Theory of Computing. The paper describes how the academics devised a method for the generation of high quality random numbers. The work is theoretical, but Zuckerman said down the road it could lead to a number of practical advances in cryptography, scientific polling, and the study of other complex environments such as the climate. "We show that if you have two low-quality random sources -- lower quality sources are much easier to come by -- two sources that are independent and have no correlations between them, you can combine them in a way to produce a high-quality random number," Zuckerman said. "People have been trying to do this for quite some time. Previous methods required the low-quality sources to be not that low, but more moderately high quality. We improved it dramatically." The technical details are described in the academics' paper "Explicit Two-Source Extractors and Resilient Functions."

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SourceForge Tightens Security With Malware Scans

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 16:10
Christine Hall at FOSS Force reports: It appears as if the new owners at SourceForge are serious about fixing the mistakes made by the sites previous owners. FOSS Force has just learned that as of today, the software repository used by many free and open source projects is scanning all hosted projects for malware. Projects that don't make the grade will be noticeably flagged with a red warning badge located beside the project's download button. According to a notice posted on the SourceForge website this afternoon, the scans look for "adware, viruses, and any unwanted applications that may be intentionally or inadvertently included in the software package." Account holders with projects flagged as containing malware will be notified by SourceForge. In today's announcement, SourceForge said that a thousand or so of the sites most popular projects [representing 84% of all SourceForge traffic] have so far been scanned, with scans continuing to eventually include "every last project, even dating back years." As the site hosts somewhere around 500,000 projects, this first scanning is expected to take several weeks. The company also says that beginning immediately, all new projects will be scanned during the uploading process. This latest move is in keeping with promises made to the community when the new owners, SourceForge Media, took control of SourceForge and Slashdot on January 28, 2016.

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It's Trivially Easy To Identify You Based On Records of Your Calls and Texts

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 15:30
Reader erier2003 shares an article on Daily Dot: Contrary to the claims of America's top spies, the details of your phone calls and text messages -- including when they took place and whom they involved -- are no less revealing than the actual contents of those communications. In a study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford University researchers demonstrated how they used publicly available sources -- like Google searches and the paid background-check service Intelius -- to identify "the overwhelming majority" of their 823 volunteers based only on their anonymized call and SMS metadata. The results cast doubt on claims by senior intelligence officials that telephone and Internet "metadata" -- information about communications, but not the content of those communications -- should be subjected to a lower privacy threshold because it is less sensitive. Contrary to those claims, the researchers wrote, "telephone metadata is densely interconnected, susceptible to reidentification, and enables highly sensitive inferences."IEEE has more details.

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Microsoft Releases Big 'Convenience Rollup' Update For Windows 7

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 14:50
Microsoft has released a "convenience rollup" update for Windows 7 computers. The update to the nearly seven-year-old operating system brings with it a number of security fixes and patches that Microsoft labels as "recommended." Mary Jo Foley, reporting for ZDNet: The convenience rollup -- officially known as Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup -- isn't Service Pack 2 for Windows 7, but it's the next best thing. The new Windows 7 convenience rollup is cumulative back to Service Pack 1, which Microsoft released in 2011. (Editor's note, the convenience rollup consists of all security and non-security fixes all through April 2016.) It doesn't include updates to IE 11 (which are released separately) or updates to .NET releases. But it does include core Windows fixes, security fixes and hot fixes.Microsoft says that convenience rollup package is completely optional. "Install this one update, and then you only need new updates released after April 2016."

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