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Earth

World's Largest Solar Power Plant Planned For Chernobyl Nuclear Wasteland (electrek.co) 8

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Electrek: Chernobyl, the world's most famous and hazardous nuclear meltdown, is being considered for the world's largest solar power plant. Even though nearly 1,600 square miles of land around Chernobyl has radiation levels too high for human health, Ukraine's ecology minister has said in a recent interview that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have expressed interest in Chernobyl's solar potential. Electrek reports: "According to PVTech, the Ukrainian government is pushing for a 6 month construction cycle. Deploying this amount of solar power within such a time frame would involve significant resources being deployed. The proposed 1GW solar plant, if built today, would be the world's largest. There are several plans for 1GW solar plants in development (Egypt, India, UAE, China, etc) -- but none of them have been completed yet. One financial benefit of the site is that transmission lines for Chernobyl's 4GW nuclear reactor are still in place. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has stated they would be interested in participating in the project, 'so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction.'"
NASA

Class of Large But Very Dim Galaxies Discovered (nature.com) 29

schwit1 writes from a report via Nature: Astronomers have now detected and measured a new class of large but very dim galaxy that previously was not expected to exist. Nature reports: "'[Ultradiffuse]' galaxies came to attention only last year, after Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto in Canada built an array of sensitive telephoto lenses named Dragonfly. The astronomers and their colleagues observed the Coma galaxy cluster 101 megaparsecs (330 million light years) away and detected 47 faint smudges. 'They can't be real,' van Dokkum recalls thinking when he first saw the galaxies on his laptop computer. But their distribution in space matched that of the cluster's other galaxies, indicating that they were true members. Since then, hundreds more of these galaxies have turned up in the Coma cluster and elsewhere. Ultradiffuse galaxies are large like the Milky Way -- which is much bigger than most -- but they glow as dimly as mere dwarf galaxies. It's as though a city as big as London emitted as little light as Kalamazoo, Michigan." More significantly, they have now found that these dim galaxies can be as big and as massive as the biggest bright galaxies, suggesting that there are a lot more stars and mass hidden out there and unseen than anyone had previously predicted.
Power

A Look Inside Tesla's $5 Billion Gigafactory (cnet.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: A joint effort between Tesla and Panasonic, the Gigafactory is a $5 billion project that will create the world's premier battery manufacturing facility. The Gigafactory will not only be physically larger than any other cell-packing plant on the planet, it'll produce more batteries than the entire industry did back in 2013. That's a lot of batteries, enough to meet Tesla's 500,000-per-year manufacturing goals -- and potentially even more. When completed, the factory will cover five million square feet of the desert floor just outside of Reno, Nevada. Right now, the uncompleted but already-operational factory sits on 800,000 square feet. Over the next four years the building will grow and grow again, swelling to its full size while production dials up simultaneously. The roof will be covered in solar panels, with the goal of producing enough electricity to power the entire thing. Tesla is already assembling Powerwall units here, but the first Model 3 battery packs are expected to roll off the line by the middle of next year. From there, Tesla will have to scale quickly to meet the company's Model 3 production goals for 2018. And, once the company does, the cost savings will begin. The "Tesla Gigafactory Tour" video can also be viewed on YouTube via Roadshow.
Communications

Snowden Questions WikiLeaks' Methods of Releasing Leaks (pcworld.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, has censured WikiLeaks' release of information without proper curation. On Thursday, Snowden, who has embarrassed the U.S. government with revelations of widespread NSA surveillance, said that WikiLeaks was mistaken in not at least modestly curating the information it releases. "Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake," Snowden said in a tweet. WikiLeaks shot back at Snowden that "opportunism won't earn you a pardon from Clinton [and] curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows." The whistleblowing site appeared to defend itself earlier on Thursday while referring to its "accuracy policy." In a Twitter message it said that it does "not tamper with the evidentiary value of important historical archives." WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 previously unseen DNC emails last week, which suggest that committee officials had favored Clinton over her rival Senator Bernie Sanders. The most recent leak consists of 29 voicemails from DNC officials.
Democrats

Clinton Campaign Breached By Hackers 167

An anonymous reader writes: Hillary Clinton's campaign network was breached by hackers targeting several large Democratic organizations, Reuters reports. Clinton's campaign spokesperson Nick Merrill confirmed the hack in a statement. 'An analytics data program maintained by the DNC, and used by our campaign and a number of other entities, was accessed as part of the DNC hack. Our campaign computer system has been under review by outside security experts. To date, they have found no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised,' he said.

The hack follows on the heels of breaches at the Democratic National Committee and at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee earlier this year. More than 19,000 emails from DNC officials were published on WikiLeaks just prior to the Democratic National Convention, casting a shadow over the proceedings. Some security experts and U.S. officials have attributed the breaches to Russian operatives, although the origin of the email leak is less certain.
Microsoft

Court Ruling Shows The Internet Does Have Borders After All (csoonline.com) 33

itwbennett writes: Microsoft's recent victory in court, when it was ruled that the physical location of the company's servers in Ireland were out of reach of the U.S. government, was described on Slashdot as being "perceived as a major victory for privacy." But J. Trevor Hughes, president and CEO of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) has a different view of the implications of the ruling that speaks to John Perry Barlow's vision of an independent cyberspace: "By recognizing the jurisdictional boundaries of Ireland, it is possible that the Second Circuit Court created an incentive for other jurisdictions to require data to be held within their national boundaries. We have seen similar laws emerge in Russia -- they fall under a policy trend towards 'data localization' that has many cloud service and global organizations deeply concerned. Which leads to a tough question: what happens if every country tries to assert jurisdictional control over the web? Might we end up with a fractured web, a 'splinternet,' of lessening utility?"
Security

SwiftKey Bug Leaked Email Addresses, Phone Numbers To Strangers (theverge.com) 25

An anonymous reader writes: After many users reported receiving predictions meant for other users, such as email addresses and phone numbers, SwiftKey has suspended part of its service. The service responsible for the bug was SwiftKey's cloud sync service. The Verge reports that one user, an English speaker, was getting someone else's German suggestions, while someone received NSFW porn search suggestions. The Telegraph also reports, "One SwiftKey user, who works in the legal profession and ask to remain anonymous, found out their details had been compromised when a stranger emailed them to say that a brand new phone had suggested their email address when logging into an account online. 'A few days ago, I received an email from a complete stranger asking if I had recently purchased and returned a particular model of mobile phone, adding that not one but two of my email addresses (one personal and one work address) were saved on the phone she had just bought as brand-new,' said the user." SwiftKey released an official statement today about the issue but said that it "did not pose a security issue."
Facebook

Instagram Will Soon Allow Users To Filter Comments (bbc.co.uk) 14

Instagram has had enough of questionable, offensive comments. The company announced Friday that it will soon give users the ability to make the choice about what's acceptable and what's not, reports BBC. From an article: The first will let people hide certain words, phrases or emoji icons from their feed. The second will go further in allowing users to block comments entirely, on a post by post basis. Verified accounts will be able use these new tools first before they are rolled out to everyone, Newsbeat has learned. Accounts which get lots of comments will get access in the next couple of weeks.
Businesses

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Becomes World's Third Richest Person (bbc.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Strong earnings from Amazon and a boost to the company's stock have made its founder, Jeff Bezos, the world's third richest person, according to Forbes. Mr Bezos owns 18% of Amazon's shares, which rose 2% in trading on Thursday. Forbes estimated his fortune to be $65.3 billion (49.5 billion British Pound). Amazon's revenue beat analysts' expectations, climbing 31% from last year to $30.4 billion in the second quarter. Profit for the e-commerce giant was $857 million, compared with $92 million in 2015. According to Forbes estimates, Mr Bezos's fortune is only surpassed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, worth $78 billion (59 billion British Pound), and the $73.1 billion (55 billion British Pound) fortune of Zara founder Amancio Ortega. Amazon had developed a reputation for announcing little or no profit each quarter, but appeared to hit a turning point last year and has seen improving earnings since. Amazon shares have spiked 50% since February. BBC's report includes some bullet points about Bezos. He was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1964. He studied at Princeton University and worked on Wall Street. In 1994, he launched Amazon as an online book retailer. A lifelong Star Trek fan, Bezos launched Blue Origin spaceflight and aerospace firm in 2000, and more than a decade later, he purchased The Washington Post newspaper in 2013.
Robotics

US Military Using $600K 'Drone Buggies' To Patrol Camps In Africa (cnbc.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The U.S. military is using an unmanned robotic vehicle to patrol around its camps in the Horn of Africa. The remote controlled vehicle is the result of a 30-year plan after military chiefs approved the concept of a robotic security system in 1985. Now the Mobile Detection Assessment and Response System, known as MDARS, are carrying out patrols in the east African country of Djibouti, under the control of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The area is known as home to a number of hostile militant groups including the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. An operator sits in a remote location away from the vehicle watching the terrain via a camera link which is fixed to the chassis. U.S. military software engineer Joshua Kordanai said in a video presentation that the vehicle drives itself, freeing the remote operator to monitor video. "The vehicle has an intruder detection payload, consisting of radar, a night vision camera, a PTZ [pan-tilt-zoom] camera and two-way audio, so the system will be able to detect motion," he added. One report prices the cost of an earlier version of the military 'drone buggy' at $600,000 each.
The Courts

Judge Rules Political Robocalls Are Protected By First Amendment (onthewire.io) 146

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A federal judge has ruled that robocalls made on behalf of political candidates are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be outlawed. The decision came in a case in Arkansas, where political robocalls had been illegal for more than 30 years. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Leon Holmes ruled that banning political robocalls amounts to an infringement of free speech protections and also constitutes prior restraint of speech. Political campaigns have been using robocalls for decades, and some states have sought to ban them, arguing that they are intrusive and violate recipients' privacy. In the Arkansas case, the state attorney general put forward both of these arguments, and also argued that the calls can tie up phone lines, making them unusable in an emergency. Holmes said in his decision that there was no evidence that political robocalls prevent emergency communications, and also said that the Arkansas statute should have banned all robocalls, not just commercial and political ones. "The statute at issue here imposes a content-based restriction on speech; it is not one of the rare cases that survives strict scrutiny. The state has failed to prove that the statute at issue advances a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest," Holmes wrote.
Microsoft

Slashdot Asks: Free Upgrade To Windows 10 Ends Today: What's Your Thought On This? 427

Exactly one year ago, Microsoft released Windows 10 to the general public. The latest version of company's desktop operating system brought with it Cortana, and Windows Hello among other features. While users have lauded Windows 10 for performance improvements, the Redmond-based company's aggressive upgrade tactics have spoiled the experience for many. Whether it was installing Windows 10 on computers without users' consent, or eating up tons of bandwidth for users who couldn't afford it, or whether it was deceptive dialog boxes, Microsoft definitely deserves a lot of blame -- and rightfully, a bunch of lawsuits. But many of these things, hopefully, will end today -- July 29, 2016 (or to be exact, Saturday morning 5:59am EDT / 2:59am PDT) Today is officially the last day when eligible Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers could be upgraded to Windows 10 for free of charge. After this, an upgrade to Windows 10 will set you back by at least $119.
We asked you a couple of weeks ago whether or not would you recommend someone to update their computer to Windows 10, and the vast majority of you insisted against it. What's your thought on this now? Those who opt out of updating to Windows 10 will also miss the Anniversary Update -- and its features -- which Microsoft plans to release on August 2 for free of charge.
Security

WhatsApp Isn't Fully Deleting Its 'Deleted' Chats (theverge.com) 59

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp retains and stores chat logs even after those messages have been deleted, according to iOS researcher Jonathan Zdziarski. The Verge reports: Examining disk images taken from the most recent version of the app, Zdziarski found that the software retains and stores a forensic trace of the chat logs even after the chats have been deleted, creating a potential treasure trove of information for anyone with physical access to the device. The same data could also be recoverable through any remote backup systems in place. In most cases, the data is marked as deleted by the app itself -- but because it has not been overwritten, it is still recoverable through forensic tools. Zdziarski attributed the problem to the SQLite library used in coding the app, which does not overwrite by default. WhatsApp was applauded by many privacy advocates for switching to default end-to-end encryption through the Signal protocol, a process that completed this April. But that system only protects data in transit, preventing carriers and other intermediaries from spying on conversations as they travel across the network.
Chrome

Ask Slashdot: Best Browser Extensions -- 2016 Edition 165

Reader LichtSpektren writes: Almost eleven years ago, Slashdot featured an Ask titled "Favorite Firefox Extensions?". I thought it might be worthwhile to ask the question again (Editor's note: we couldn't agree more!), but expand the query to all web browsers now that there's more choices available.

Right now my main browser is Firefox, which I use with uBlock Origin, Disconnect, HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger, NoScript, Self-Destructing Cookies, Decentraleyes, Privacy Settings, and Clean Links. (N.B. the first four of these are also available in Chromium-based browsers.) I use Chrome as a secondary browser, with the first four of the aforementioned extensions, plus also Clear Cache and occasionally Flashcontrol.

This one has nothing to do with security or privacy, but Reedy on Chromium is a really nice tool for speed reading.

What do you use?
Let's get this going.
Facebook

Facebook Offering Refunds For Kids' In-App Purchases (pcmag.com) 21

Parents who found themselves with hefty bills after their kids made in-app purchases -- mainly via the now-defunct Facebook Credits -- can now request a refund from Facebook. PCMag reports: The news comes as part of a settlement for a class-action lawsuit brought against the social network in February 2012, and covers those who made any kind of purchase through their Facebook accounts between February 2008 and March 2015. Facebook maintained that it did nothing wrong, as those purchasing digital currency received what they paid for. But California's Family Code stipulates that minors can void contracts they make at any point when they're under 18 years of age. In other words, the legislation is designed to prevent other entities from preying on minors who don't otherwise understand the ramifications of their actions -- like tapping repeatedly on an in-app item to acquire it.
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Transparent Should Companies Be When Operational Technology Failures Happen? 91

New submitter supernova87a writes: Last week, Southwest Airlines had an epic crash of IT systems across their entire business when "a router failure caused the airlines' systems to crash [...] and all backups failed, causing flight delays and cancellations nationwide and costing the company probably $10 million in lost bookings alone." Huge numbers of passengers, crew, and airplanes were stranded as not only reservations systems, but scheduling, dispatch, and other critical operational systems had to be rebooted over the course of 12 hours. Passenger delays, which directly attributable to this incident, continued to trickle down all the way from Wednesday to Sunday as the airline recovered. Aside from the technical issues of what happened, what should a public-facing company's obligation be to discuss what happened in full detail? Would publicly talking about the sequence of events before and after failure help restore faith in their operations? Perhaps not aiming for Google's level of admirable disclosure (as in this 18-minute cloud computing outage where a full post-mortem was given), should companies aim to discuss more openly what happened and how they recovered from system failures?
Television

The Mojave Desert: Home of the New Machine Movement (bloomberg.com) 46

pacopico writes: Most people think of the Mojave Desert as a wasteland located somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. For decades, though, Mojave has served as something of an engineering playground for people in the automotive and aerospace industries. Bloomberg has produced a documentary that looks at what's taking place with these engineers in 2016. There's a dude trying to make a flying car, Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, a group called Hackrod using artificial intelligence software to make a car chassis, and the hacker George Hotz taking his self-driving car along the Las Vegas strip for the first time. One of the cooler parts of the show has a team of students from UCSD sending up a rocket with a 3D printed engine -- the first time any university team had pulled something like this off. Overall, it's a cool look at the strange desert rat tinkerers.
Earth

Study: Astronauts Who Reach Deep Space 'Far More Likely To Die From Heart Disease' (independent.co.uk) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Astronauts who venture into deep space appear to be much more likely to die from heart disease, according to a new study. In another sign that leaving planet Earth is fraught with danger and a potential blow to hopes of establishing a colony on Mars, researchers discovered deep space radiation appears to damage the body's cardiovascular system. They reported that three out of the seven dead Apollo astronauts died as a result of a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke. Although the numbers are small, that rate of 43 percent is four to five times higher than found among astronauts who flew in low Earth orbit or who did not actually go into space, according to a paper in the journal Scientific Reports. In an attempt to test whether the higher numbers of cardiovascular deaths were simply a statistical blip or a genuine sign of the effect of traveling into deep space, the scientists exposed mice to the same type of radiation that the astronauts would have experienced. After six months, which is the equivalent of 20 human years, the mice showed damage to arteries that is known to lead to the development of cardiovascular disease in humans.
The Almighty Buck

Dark Patterns Across the Web Are Designed To Trick You 121

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Harry Brignell has posted a 30-minute video documenting dark patterns, deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces (not exclusive to the internet) that trick users into setting up recurring payments, purchasing items added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through pre-checked forms on Facebook games for example. Basically, they're tactics used by online services to get users to do things they wouldn't normally do. Yael Grauer has written an in-depth report on Ars Technica about dark patterns, where he discusses Brignull's work with UX designers and business executives: "Klein [Principal at Users Known and author of UX for Lean Startups] believes many of the worst dark patterns are pushed by businesses, not by designers. 'It's often pro-business at the expense of the users, and the designers often see themselves as the defender or advocate of the user,' she explained. And although Brignull has never been explicitly asked to design dark patterns himself, he said he has been in situations where using them would be an easy solution -- like when a client or boss says they really need a large list of people who have opted in to marketing e-mails. 'The first and easiest trick to have an opt-in is to have a pre-ticked checkbox, but then you can just get rid of that entirely and hide it in the terms of conditions and say that by registering you're going to be opted in to our e-mails,' Brignull said. 'Then you have a 100-percent sign-up rate and you've exceeded your goals. I kind of understand why people do it. If you're only thinking about the numbers and you're just trying to juice the stats, then it's not surprising in the slightest.' 'There's this logical positivist mindset that the only things that have value are those things that can be measured and can empirically be shown to be true, and while that has its merits it also takes us down a pretty dark place,' said digital product designer Cennydd Bowles, who is researching ethical design. 'We start to look at ethics as pure utilitarianism, whatever benefits the most people. Yikes, it has problems.'" Brignull's website has a number of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces.
Television

Apple's Rigid Negotiating Tactics Cost Us 'Skinny Bundles' For Apple TV, Says Report (thenextweb.com) 105

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the reason we don't have actual TV channels on the Apple TV is because the company tried to strong-arm networks -- and failed. Apple's Senior Vice President Eddy Cue is said to have taken the wrong approach. In one meeting, he reportedly told TV executives that "time is on my side." Cue is also accused of bluffing executives by claiming other networks -- specifically Disney and Fox -- were already signed up. The company also refused to show off the Apple TV interface, or "sketch it on the back of a napkin," as one media executive requested. Cue also tried to strike hard bargains, says WSJ. He reportedly asked that Disney put off the royalties Apple would have to pay for several years. Those 'skinny bundles' we heard so much about were what Apple was planning to build its TV experience around, too. In 2015, a bundle consisting of Fox, ESPN and Disney content was conceptualized (and priced at $30), but no agreements were ever signed. In an effort to create more original programming, Apple is scheduled to release its 'Planet of the Apps' TV show about app developers next year.

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