China

China's Censors Can Now Erase Images Mid-Transmission (wsj.com) 90

Eva Dou, reporting for WSJ: China's already formidable internet censors have demonstrated a new strength -- the ability to delete images in one-on-one chats as they are being transmitted, making them disappear before receivers see them. The ability is part of a broader technology push by Beijing's censors to step up surveillance and get ahead of activists and others communicating online in China (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Displays of this new image-filtering capability kicked into high gear last week as Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo lay dying from liver cancer and politically minded Chinese tried to pay tribute to him, according to activists and a new research report. Wu Yangwei, a friend of the long-jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said he used popular messaging app WeChat to send friends a photo of a haggard Mr. Liu embracing his wife. Mr. Wu believed the transmissions were successful, but he said his friends never saw them. "Sometimes you can get around censors by rotating the photo," said Mr. Wu, a writer better known by his pen name, Ye Du. "But that doesn't always work." There were disruptions on Tuesday to another popular messaging app, Facebook's WhatsApp, with many China-based users saying they were unable to send photos and videos without the use of software that circumvents Chinese internet controls. Text messages appeared to be largely unaffected.
Cellphones

Researchers Have Developed A Battery-Free Mobile Phone (hothardware.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes HotHardware: Researchers from the University of Washington are looking to make batteries a thing of the past when it comes to mobile phones. The team has developed a phone that uses "almost zero power" according to associate professor Shyam Gollakota, who co-authored a paper which detailed the breakthrough... The researchers designed the phone to harvest microwatts of power from RF signals transmitted from a base station that is 31 feet away. Additional power is harnessed via ambient light through the use of miniature photodiodes that are about the size of a grain of rice. While in use, the phone consumes about 3.5 microwatts of power and is capable of communicating with a custom base station that is up to 50 feet away to send and receive calls... The phone ditches the traditional analog-to-digital converter, which turns your voice into data, in favor of a system that uses the vibrations from a microphone or speaker to perform the same task. An antenna then converts that motion into radio signals in such a way that very little power is consumed.
There's two drawbacks. First, modern smartphones "need a lot more than a 3.5-microwatt power budget for blazing fast processor, copious amounts of RAM and internal storage, and power-hungry displays." And more importantly, "you have to press a button to switch between transmissions and listening modes with the phone."
Security

Ukrainian Banks, Electricity Firm Hit by Fresh Cyber Attack; Reports Claim the Ransomware Is Quickly Spreading Across the World (vice.com) 109

A massive cyber attack has disrupted businesses and services in Ukraine on Tuesday, bringing down the government's website and sparking officials to warn that airline flights to and from the country's capital city Kiev could face delays. Motherboard reports that the ransomware is quickly spreading across the world. From a report: A number of Ukrainian banks and companies, including the state power distributor, were hit by a cyber attack on Tuesday that disrupted some operations (a non-paywalled source), the Ukrainian central bank said. The latest disruptions follow a spate of hacking attempts on state websites in late-2016 and repeated attacks on Ukraine's power grid that prompted security chiefs to call for improved cyber defences. The central bank said an "unknown virus" was to blame for the latest attacks, but did not give further details or say which banks and firms had been affected. "As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations," the central bank said in a statement. BBC reports that Ukraine's aircraft manufacturer Antonov, two postal services, Russian oil producer Rosneft and Danish shipping company Maersk are also facing "disruption, including its offices in the UK and Ireland."

According to local media reports, the "unknown virus" cited above is a ransomware strain known as Petya.A. Here's how Petya encrypts files on a system (video). News outlet Motherboard reports that Petya has hit targets in Spain, France, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries as well. From the report: "We are seeing several thousands of infection attempts at the moment, comparable in size to Wannacry's first hours," Costin Raiu, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told Motherboard in an online chat. Judging by photos posted to Twitter and images provided by sources, many of the alleged attacks involved a piece of ransomware that displays red text on a black background, and demands $300 worth of bitcoin. "If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they are encrypted," the text reads, according to one of the photos. "Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don't waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service."
Businesses

Samsung Begins Production For Its First Internet of Things-optimised Exynos Processor (zdnet.com) 50

An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung Electronics has launched the Exynos i T200, its first processor optimised for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the company has announced. The South Korean tech giant said the chip has upped security and supports wireless connections, with hopes of giving it an advantage in the expanding IoT market. The Exynos i T200 applies Samsung's 28-nanometer High-K Metal Gate process and has multiple cores, with the Cortex-R4 doing the heavy lifting and an independently operating Cortex-M0+ allowing for multifunctionality. For example, if applied to a refrigerator, Cotext-R4 will run the OS and Cotex-M0+ will power LED displays on the doors.
Power

Domestic Appliances Guzzle Far More Energy Than Advertised, Says EU Survey (theguardian.com) 205

Chrisq writes: An EU study has found that many electronic devices and appliances use more energy in real-world conditions than in the standard EU tests. Often the real world figures are double those in the ratings. Sometimes this is achieved by having various optional features switched off during the test. For example, switching on modern TV features such as "ultra-high definition" and "high-dynamic range" in real-world test cycles boosted energy use in four out of seven televisions surveyed -- one by more than 100%. However some appliances appear to have "defeat devices" built in, with some Samsung TVs appearing to recognize the standard testing clip: "The Swedish Energy Agency's Testlab has come across televisions that clearly recognize the standard film (IEC) used for testing," says the letter, which the Guardian has seen. "These displays immediately lower their energy use by adjusting the brightness of the display when the standard film is being run. This is a way of avoiding the market surveillance authorities and should be addressed by the commission."
Displays

Xerox Alto Designer, Co-Inventor Of Ethernet, Dies at 74 (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Charles Thacker, one of the lead hardware designers on the Xerox Alto, the first modern personal computer, died of a brief illness on Monday. He was 74. The Alto, which was released in 1973 but was never a commercial success, was an incredibly influential machine... Thomas Haigh, a computer historian and professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, wrote in an email to Ars, "Alto is the direct ancestor of today's personal computers. It provided the model: GUI, windows, high-resolution screen, Ethernet, mouse, etc. that the computer industry spent the next 15 years catching up to. Of course others like Alan Kay and Butler Lampson spent years evolving the software side of the platform, but without Thacker's creation of what was, by the standards of the early 1970s, an amazingly powerful personal hardware platform, none of that other work would have been possible."
In 1999 Thacker also designed the hardware for Microsoft's Tablet PC, "which was first conceived of by his PARC colleague Alan Kay during the early 1970s," according to the article. "I've found over my career that it's been very difficult to predict the future," Thacker said in a guest lecture in 2013. "People who tried to do it generally wind up being wrong."
EU

Museum of Failure Opens In Sweden (failuremag.com) 253

Slashdot reader swellconvivialguy writes: A new museum in Helsingborg displays more than 70 failed products and objects, including the Apple Newton, Google Glass, Sony Betamax, Harley-Davidson perfume, and the Donald Trump board game. According to curator Samuel West, "none of the companies that I contacted wanted to cooperate. I approached quite a few innovation directors and asked them for examples of failure that they've learned from. I thought it would be easy to get them to collaborate but none of them -- zero -- choose to cooperate."
The curator urges people to accept failure -- "as an essential aspect of progress and innovation."
Displays

Apple Announces New 10.5-Inch iPad Pro With Narrower Side Bezels, 120Hz Refresh Rate Display (9to5mac.com) 93

At WWDC 2017 today, Apple unveiled a brand new iPad Pro with a 10.5-inch display and 40% narrower bezels. The new iPad features a 50% brighter True Tone display and "ProMotion" technology which increase refresh rates up to 120hz. 9to5Mac reports: The new iPad Pro includes dynamic refresh rate adjustments, screens move from 24hz to 48hz to 120hz. This maximizes battery life and performance, when you need it. The A10x Fusion chip improves CPU and GPU by at least 40%. Cameras have also been upgraded with the same sensor as the iPhone 7 on the back and the front. Apple demoed a photo app called "Affinity Photo," to demonstrate the 120hz refresh rates. Apple says new iPad Pro performance compares favorably with a desktop computer. This includes incredibly fast selections and fluid Apple Pencil interactions. Both iPad models start with 64GB of memory and maxes out to 500GB at the high-end. There are also several new software features for iPad, coming this fall with iOS 11: A new customizable Dock that provides quick access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen; Improved multitasking, including a redesigned app switcher that brings Spaces to iOS, making it easier to move between apps or pairs of active apps, used in Split View and now Slide Over; Multi-Touch Drag and Drop, which is available across the system to move text, photos and files from one app to another, anywhere on the screen; A new document scanner in Notes, which lets users easily scan single or multi-page documents, removes shadows and uses powerful image filters to enhance readability; and Deeper integration with Apple Pencil, with support for inline drawing to write along text in Notes and Mail, Instant Markup to easily sign documents, annotate PDFs or draw on screenshots, and a new Instant Notes feature, which opens Notes from the Lock Screen by simply tapping Apple Pencil on the display. New searchable handwriting makes it easy to search for handwritten text or characters.
Privacy

Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election (theintercept.com) 456

Russian hacking groups played a larger role in the 2016 election than anyone realized, according to a highly-classified NSA document published today in The Intercept. The document reveals that a Russian intelligence operation sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials days before the election, which ran through a hack of a U.S. voting software supplier. The Russian cyber espionage operation was functional for months before the 2016 U.S. election. From the report: It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document: "Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors ... executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. ... The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to ... launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations." This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: "We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so." Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with "patriotic leanings" may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.
Businesses

Movie Studios Are Blaming Rotten Tomatoes For Killing Movies No One Wants To See (qz.com) 316

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch were never going to be critical darlings. Both movies led the domestic box office to its worst Memorial Day weekend showing in nearly 20 years. Quartz adds: In the fallout, are Hollywood producers blaming the writers? The actors? Themselves? (Of course not.) No, they are blaming Rotten Tomatoes. They say the movie-review site, which forces critics to assign either a rotten or fresh tomato to each title when submitting reviews, regardless of the nuances of their critiques, poisoned viewers against the films before they were released. "Insiders close to both films blame Rotten Tomatoes, with Pirates 5 and Baywatch respectively earning 32% and 19% Rotten. The critic aggregation site increasingly is slowing down the potential business of popcorn movies. Pirates 5 and Baywatch aren't built for critics but rather general audiences, and once upon a time these types of films -- a family adventure and a raunchy R-rated comedy -- were critic-proof. Many of those in the industry severely question how Rotten Tomatoes computes the its ratings, and the fact that these scores run on [the movie-ticket buying site] Fandango (which owns RT) is an even bigger problem," Deadline reported. [...] The site has a separate score that measures audience reception, which it displays next to the critic rating. And quite a few smell what The Rock is cooking -- 70% of Baywatch viewers on Rotten Tomatoes said they liked it. But the critic score is what many people look to when deciding whether to spend their hard-earned money at the cinema. Also read: Hollywood Producer Blames Rotten Tomatoes For Convincing People Not To See His Movie.
Displays

UCF Research Could Bring 'Drastically' Higher Resolution To Your Phone and TV (ucf.edu) 108

New submitter cinemetek quotes a report from University of Central Florida: Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a new color changing surface tunable through electrical voltage that could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones and other devices. Current LCD's are made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels that display different colors. With current technology, each of these pixels contain three subpixels -- one red, one green, one blue. UCF's NanoScience Technology Center (Assistant Professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin) have come up with a way to tune the color of these subpixels. By applying differing voltages, they are able to change the color of individual subpixels to red, green or blue -- the RGB scale -- or gradations in between. By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three. Three times as many pixels means three times the resolution. That would have major implications for not only TVs and other general displays, but augmented reality and virtual-reality headsets that need very high resolution because they're so close to the eye.
Displays

New Evidence of a Decline In Electricity Use By U.S. Households (wordpress.com) 318

There's some surprising news from the Energy Institute at the University of California's business school. America's households are using less electricity than they did five years ago. So what is different? Energy-efficient lighting. Over 450 million LEDs have been installed to date in the United States, up from less than half a million in 2009, and nearly 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are even more common, with 70%+ of households owning some CFLs. All told, energy-efficient lighting now accounts for 80% of all U.S. lighting sales.

It is no surprise that LEDs have become so popular. LED prices have fallen 94% since 2008, and a 60-watt equivalent LED lightbulb can now be purchased for about $2. LEDs use 85% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, are much more durable, and work in a wide-range of indoor and outdoor settings.

"I would add LED TVs replacing LCD, Plasma and CRTs," writes Slashdot reader schwit1.
Advertising

Billboards Target Lawmakers Who Voted To Let ISPs Sell User Information (theverge.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: When Congress voted in March to block FCC privacy rules and let internet service providers sell users' personal data, it was a coup for the telecom industry. Now, the nonprofit, pro-privacy group Fight for the Future is publicizing just how much the industry paid in an attempt to sway those votes. The group unveiled four billboards, targeting Reps. Marsha Blackburn and John Rutherford, as well as Sens. Jeff Flake and Dean Heller. All four billboards, which were paid for through donations, were placed in the lawmakers' districts. "Congress voting to gut Internet privacy was one of the most blatant displays of corruption in recent history," Fight for the Future co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng said in a statement on the project. The billboards accuse the lawmakers of betraying their constituents, and encourage passersby to call their offices.
Security

A Sophisticated Grey Hat Vigilante Protects Insecure IoT Devices (arstechnica.com) 143

Ars Technica reports on Hajime, a sophisticated "vigilante botnet that infects IoT devices before blackhats can hijack them." Once Hajime infects an Internet-connected camera, DVR, and other Internet-of-things device, the malware blocks access to four ports known to be the most widely used vectors for infecting IoT devices. It also displays a cryptographically signed message on infected device terminals that describes its creator as "just a white hat, securing some systems." But unlike the bare-bones functionality found in Mirai, Hajime is a full-featured package that gives the botnet reliability, stealth, and reliance that's largely unparalleled in the IoT landscape...

Hajime doesn't rashly cycle through a preset list of the most commonly used user name-password combinations when trying to hijack a vulnerable device. Instead, it parses information displayed on the login screen to identify the device manufacturer and then tries combinations the manufacturer uses by default... Also, in stark contrast to Mirai and its blackhat botnet competitors, Hajime goes to great lengths to maintain resiliency. It uses a BitTorrent-based peer-to-peer network to issue commands and updates. It also encrypts node-to-node communications. The encryption and decentralized design make Hajime more resistant to takedowns by ISPs and Internet backbone providers.

Pascal Geenens, a researcher at security firm Radware, watched the botnet attempt 14,348 hijacks from 12,000 unique IP addresses around the world, and says "If Hajime is a glimpse into what the future of IoT botnets looks like, I certainly hope the IoT industry gets its act together and starts seriously considering securing existing and new products. If not, our connected hopes and futures might depend on...grey hat vigilantes to purge the threat the hard way."

And long-time Slashdot reader The_Other_Kelly asks a good question. "While those with the ability and time can roll their own solutions, what off-the-shelf home security products are there, for non-technical people to use to protect their home/IoT networks?"
Nintendo

Nintendo Announces 2DS XL (theguardian.com) 52

The future for Nintendo is the Switch, or is it? Nintendo continues to keep things interesting. From a report: The ever-unpredictable hardware veteran has announced the Nintendo 2DS XL, a new version of the 2DS, which was itself a refreshed version of the 3DS. Featuring two enlarged displays, 4.88in on top and 4.18in on the bottom, and a clamshell design, the new format is lighter than the 3DS XL and of course lacks that machine's stereoscopic capabilities. Available in black and turquoise or white and orange and with built-in NFC support for amiibo cards and figures, it's a fully featured member of the extended 3DS family, even boasting the secondary C-pad nub like the New 3DS XL. It is priced at $150.
Android

Samsung Will Fix the Galaxy S8 Red Tint Issue With a Software Update (xda-developers.com) 31

When the Galaxy S8 and S8+ first launched, several users reported a red tint to the displays. But then a few days passed and more reports emerged about the issue being widespread, especially in South Korea where many owners are facing this issue. According to XDA Developers, Samsung is aware of the issue and will be issuing a software update to fix it. From the report: Some thought this was just the nature of OLED technology. Because it's organic, it is expected to have some sort of variance from one device to another. We've seen this time and time again on Samsung devices, and others which are using AMOLED panels that were sourced from Samsung. This is generally not a widespread issue though and most of the time the difference is rather small. For whatever reason though, this doesn't seem to be the case with the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+. This new OTA update to fix the red tint issue is said to be coming next week at the end of April, and Samsung assures their customers that there isn't a problem with the phone itself.
Displays

Religion Meets Virtual Reality: Christianity-Themed VR Demo Scheduled For Easter (nbcnews.com) 90

"Anyone looking to experience God in a brand new way will soon have his or her chance -- virtually," writes NBC News, reporting on "a new immersive faith-based virtual reality experience...part of a larger project created by L. Michelle Media called Mission VR." An anonymous reader writes: The company was founded "to create a signature virtual reality environment -- a faith world of sorts -- where dynamic, never before seen, Christian lifestyle stories and experiences could have a home." Demos have been timed to coincide with this weekend's Easter celebration, while the official launch happens later this spring. Viewers will apparently experience biographical stories combining VR applications and YouTube videos to showcase the power of belief. "Up until now, we've only been able to watch Christianity from a third person perspective -- preached sermons, music videos, interviews, even reality shows..." says the founder of Mission VR. "This is the future of Christian programming."
But one reverend told NBC that VR worlds could be dangerous because they "may take people from community and from the incarnational aspects of Christian life... [W]e always run a very serious risk that the medium overtakes the message... What we must do is guard against the use of technology through market logic where people become brands and all things spiritual become commoditized."
Google

Google Tackles Fake News With Global Fact-Checking Rollout (betanews.com) 230

Google is calling on fact-checking organizations to help it bust fake news -- but it's starting in a small way. From a report: Google's Fact Check feature is not new, but today the search giant is rolling out the feature around the world. A global rollout is important if such a tool is to have any real impact. It's all well and good have reports fact-checked on one side of the world, but it's of little use if the same fake stories remain unquestioned and untested elsewhere. Google is doing its part by making the Fact Check label available in Google News everywhere, and spreading it into search results in all languages as well. The Fact Check label has been around since October, providing an at-a-glance way to determine whether or not a particular story has been verified as true. Google admits that it will not be possible to fact-check every single search result it displays, and the company points out that it is not responsible for the actual fact-checking process.
Software

Uber Said To Use 'Sophisticated' Software To Defraud Drivers, Passengers (arstechnica.com) 168

A class-action lawsuit against Uber alleges that Uber has "devised a 'clever and sophisticated' scheme in which it manipulates navigation data used to determine 'upfront' rider fare prices while secretly short-changing the driver," reports Ars Technica. "When a rider uses Uber's app to hail a ride, the fare the app immediately shows to the passenger is based on a slower and longer route compared to the one displayed to the driver. The software displays a quicker, shorter route for the driver. But the rider pays the higher fee, and the driver's commission is paid from the cheaper, faster route, according to the lawsuit." From the report: This latest lawsuit (PDF) claims that Uber implemented the so-called "upfront" pricing scheme in September and informed drivers that fares are calculated on a per-mile and per-minute charge for the estimated distance and time of a ride. "However, the software that calculates the upfront price that is displayed and charged to the Users calculates the expected distance and time utilizing a route that is often longer in both distance and time to the one displayed in the driver's application," according to the suit. In the end, the rider pays a higher fee because the software calculates a longer route and displays that to the passenger. Yet the driver is paid a lower rate based on a quicker route, according to the suit. Uber keeps "the difference charged to the User and the fare reported to the driver, in addition to the service fee and booking fee disclosed to drivers," according to the suit.
Cellphones

Scientists Invent Smartphone Screen Material That Can Repair Its Own Scratches (ibtimes.co.uk) 55

drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Researchers say they have developed a new material that could pave the way for self-repairing smartphones, robots and other electronic devices. Scientists from the American Chemical Society claim that the material, which can stretch up to 50 times its usual size, is able to heal itself "like nothing has happened" even when cut in two. The material is flexible, transparent and shares similar properties to human skin. When exposed to electrical signals, a current is generated that creates a chemical bonding reaction between molecules. The most obvious applications for electronics devices seems to be self-healing displays, although lead researcher Dr Chao Wang is also exploring the possibility of a self-healing lithium-ion battery. While the technology is similar to the hydrogen-infused rear cover found on the LG G Flex, which allows for small scratches to be healed, the material developed by the American Medical Society is a completely new innovation that can "automatically stitch itself back together" within one day of being sliced into pieces. The team will present its research at a Tuesday meeting of the American Chemical Society, according to Business Insider.

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