Microsoft's Mission To Reignite the PC Sector ( 90 writes: Sales of personal computers have been declining for so long — 14 consecutive quarters — that it's hard remember a time when PCs ruled the tech world. Now Nick Wingfield writes in the NY Times that Microsoft is leading the way on a mission to re-ignite the PC market by taking the once-unthinkable step of competing with its hardware partners. This week, Microsoft dived even further into the business with a laptop device, the Surface Book. The stated reason that Microsoft got into the PC hardware business three years ago, with the original Surface, was not to put PC companies out of business — but to better illustrate the capabilities of its software, providing devices that would inspire PC makers to be more innovative.

One of the most remarkable things about Microsoft's growing presence in the hardware business is that it has not led to open revolt among its partners. Initially, many of them were not happy about Microsoft's moves, complaining in private. "It's positioned as a laptop, very squarely against the MacBook Pro as an example. But that could also be extended to a Dell XPS 13, or an HP x360," says Patrick Moorhead. One reason there hasn't been more pushback from OEMs is that Microsoft's Surface business is still relatively small. Another is that the money Microsoft has poured into marketing Surface has raised the broader profile of Windows PCs. While Microsoft obviously risks alienating its partners, it's doing so with a much bigger fight in mind. "Right now Microsoft really believes that it has to have a combined hardware, software, and services play to go up against the likes of Apple," says Moorhead. "That's why it's doing this. That's why it's taking such an aggressive stance now, moving to laptops."

Operating Systems

NetBSD 7.0 Released ( 35

An anonymous reader writes: After three years of development and over a year in release engineering, NetBSD 7.0 has been released. Its improvements include added support for many new ARM boards including the Raspberry Pi 2, major improvements to its multiprocessor-compatible firewall NPF, kernel scripting in Lua, kernel mode-setting for Intel and Radeon graphics chips, and a daemon called blacklistd(8) which integrates with numerous network daemons and shields them from flood attempts.

First Successful Collision Attack On the SHA-1 Hashing Algorithm ( 69

Artem Tashkinov writes: Researchers from Dutch and Singapore universities have successfully carried out an initial attack on the SHA-1 hashing algorithm by finding a collision at the SHA1 compression function. They describe their work in the paper "Freestart collision for full SHA-1". The work paves the way for full SHA-1 collision attacks, and the researchers estimate that such attacks will become reality at the end of 2015. They also created a dedicated web site humorously called The SHAppening.

Perhaps the call to deprecate the SHA-1 standard in 2017 in major web browsers seems belated and this event has to be accelerated.


Apple Approves, Then Removes In-App Ad Blocker ( 75

Mickeycaskill writes: Apple has pulled a number of applications from the App Store, most notably the "Been Choice" ad blocker, because of concerns the methods they employ to rid adverts could compromise sensitive user data. iOS 9 allows for the installation of applications that block adverts in Safari, but other apps like Been Choice go one step further and let users remove adverts from applications – including Apple News. Been Choice routes traffic through a VPN to filter out adverts in some applications, but it this technique has attracted the attention of Apple, which is concerned user data could be exposed. Apple says it is working with developers to get their apps back up and Been is refining its application for resubmission. In any case, Been says users must opt-in for in-app ad blocking and that no data is stored on its servers.

Emissions Scandal Expands: Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi ( 345

An anonymous reader writes: Volkswagen has taken some serious heat for deliberately circumventing emissions tests with "defeat devices" in some of their vehicles. While no other cars have been found to use specific devices to fool tests in the same way, we're now learning that many manufacturers still mysteriously perform worse in the real world. Last week, the Guardian revealed that diesel cars from Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat, Volvo, and Renault emitted significantly more pollution in realistic driving conditions than the tests supposedly allow. Now, we learn that vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi emit substantially more than they should as well. For example: "Mercedes-Benz's diesel cars produced an average of 0.406g/km of NOx on the road, at least 2.2 times more than the official Euro 5 level and five times higher than the Euro 6 level. Honda's diesel cars emitted 0.484g/km of NOx on average, between 2.6 and six times the official levels." This provides clear evidence that the automotive industry is designing its cars to follow the letter of the law (passing tests), but not the spirit (actually reducing pollution).

Iran-Based Hacking Crew Uses Fake LinkedIn Profiles In Espionage Attacks ( 40

An anonymous reader writes: The Iranian hacker group Cleaver has been directing a cyber spying campaign at bodies in the Middle East across a network of fake LinkedIn accounts. It is thought that the threat actors were using the professional platform to gather intelligence using six 'leader' profiles, each with over 500 connections, and a collection of 'supporter' accounts. According to Dell researchers, recruitment advertisements and skill endorsements from 'supporter' accounts were used to boost credibility. Perhaps they're after the New Yorker crowd, too.

World's First 5G Field Trial Delivers Speeds of 3.6Gbps Using Sub-6GHz 54

Mark.JUK writes: Global Chinese ICT firm Huawei and Japanese mobile giant NTT DOCOMO today claim to have conducted the world's first large-scale field trial of future 5th generation (5G) mobile broadband technology, which was able to deliver a peak speed of 3.6Gbps (Gigabits per second). Previous trials have used significantly higher frequency bands (e.g. 20-80GHz), which struggle with coverage and penetration through physical objects. By comparison Huawei's network operates in the sub-6GHz frequency band and made use of several new technologies, such as Multi-User MIMO (concurrent connectivity of 24 user devices in the macro-cell environment), Sparse Code Multiple Access (SCMA) and Filtered OFDM (F-OFDM). Assuming all goes well then Huawei hopes to begin a proper pilot in 2018, with interoperability testing being completed during 2019 and then a commercial launch to follow in 2020. But of course they're not the only team trying to develop a 5G solution.

Google Helped Cause the Mysterious Increase In 911 Calls SF Asked It To Solve ( 152

theodp writes: Android users have long complained publicly that it's way too easy to accidentally dial 911. So it's pretty astonishing that it took a team of Google Researchers and San Francisco Department of Emergency Management government employees to figure out that butt-dialing was increasing the number of 911 calls. The Google 9-1-1 Team presented its results in How Googlers helped San Francisco Use Data Science to Understand a Surge in 911 Calls, a Google-sponsored presentation at the Code for America Summit, and in San Francisco's 9-1-1 Call Volume Increase, an accompanying 26-page paper.

Mozilla Sets Out Its Proposed Principles For Content Blocking ( 279

Mark Wilson writes: With Apple embracing ad blocking and the likes of AdBlock Plus proving more popular than ever, content blocking is making the headlines at the moment. There are many sides to the debate about blocking ads — revenue for sites, privacy concerns for visitors, speeding up page loads times (Google even allows for the display of ads with its AMP Project), and so on — but there are no signs that it is going to go away. Getting in on the action, Mozilla has set out what it believes are some reasonable principles for content blocking that will benefit everyone involved. Three cornerstones have been devised with a view to ensuring that content providers and content consumers get a fair deal, and you can help to shape how they develop.

SIgn Of the Times: Calif. Privacy Protections Signed Into Law 41

The EFF reports a spot of bright news from California: Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act. CalECPA, says the organization, "protects Californians by requiring a warrant for digital records, including emails and texts, as well as a user's geographical location. These protections apply not only to your devices, but to online services that store your data. Only two other states have so far offered these protections: Maine and Utah." The ACLU provides a fact sheet (PDF) about what the bill entails, which says: SB 178 will ensure that, in most cases, the police must obtain a warrant from a judge before accessing a person's private information, including data from personal electronic devices, email, digital documents, text messages, and location information. The bill also includes thoughtful exceptions to ensure that law enforcement can continue to effectively and efficiently protect public safety in emergency situations. Notice and enforcement provisions in the bill provide proper transparency and judicial oversight to ensure that the law is followed.

Complex Living Brain Simulation Replicates Sensory Rat Behaviour ( 49

New submitter physick writes: The Blue Brain project at EPFL, Switzerland today published the results of more than 10 years work in reconstructing a cellular model of a piece of the somatosensory cortex of a juvenile rat. The paper in Cell describes the process of painstakingly assembling tens of thousands of digital neurons, establishing the location of their synapses, and simulating the resulting neocortical microcircuit on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. “This is a first draft reconstruction of a piece of neocortex and it’s beautiful,” said Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. “It’s like a fundamental building block of the brain.”

How Analog Tide Predictors Changed Human History ( 35

szczys writes: You'd think Tide prediction would be quite easy, it comes in, it goes out. But of course it's driven by gravity between the moon and earth and there's a lot more to it. Today, computer models make this easy, but before computers we used incredible analog machines to predict the tides. The best of these machines were the deciding factor in setting a date for the Allies landing in Europe leading to the end of the second world war. From the Hackaday story: "In England, tide prediction was handled by Arthur Thomas Doodson from the Liverpool Tidal Institute. It was Doodson who made the tidal predictions for the Allied invasion at Normandy. Doodson needed access to local tide data, but the British only had information for the nearby ports. Factors like the shallow water effect and local weather impact on tidal behavior made it impossible to interpolate for the landing sites based on the port data. The shallow water effect could really throw off the schedule for demolishing the obstacles if the tide rose too quickly. Secret British reconnaissance teams covertly collected shallow water data at the enemy beaches and sent it to Doodson for analysis. To further complicate things, the operatives couldn’t just tell Doodson that the invasion was planned for the beaches of Normandy. So he had to figure it out from the harmonic constants sent to him by William Ian Farquharson, superintendent of tides at the Hydrographic Office of the Royal Navy. He did so using the third iteration of Kelvin’s predictor along with another machine. These were kept in separate rooms lest they be taken out by the same bomb.

In Midst of a Tech Boom, Seattle Tries To Keep Its Soul 366 writes: Nick Wingfield has an interesting article in the NYT about how Seattle, Austin, Boulder, Portland, and other tech hubs around the country are seeking not to emulate San Francisco where wealth has created a widely envied economy, but housing costs have skyrocketed, and the region's economic divisions have deepened with rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco at more than $3,500 a month, the highest in the country. "Seattle has wanted to be San Francisco for so long," says Knute Berger. "Now it's figuring out maybe that it isn't what we want to be." The core of the debate is over affordable housing and the worry that San Francisco is losing artists, teachers and its once-vibrant counterculture. "It's not that we don't want to be a thriving tech center — we do," says Alan Durning. "It's that the San Francisco and Silicon Valley communities have gotten themselves into a trap where preservationists and local politics have basically guaranteed buying a house will cost at least $1 million. Already in Seattle, it costs half-a-million, so we're well on our way."

Seattle mayor Ed Murray says he wants to keep the working-class roots of Seattle, a city with a major port, fishing fleet and even a steel mill. After taking office last year, Murray made the minimum-wage increase a priority, reassured representatives of the city's manufacturing and maritime industries that Seattle needed them., and has set a goal of creating 50,000 homes — 40 percent of them affordable for low-income residents — over the next decade. "We can hopefully create enough affordable housing so we don't find ourselves as skewed by who lives in the city as San Francisco is," says Murray. "We're at a crossroads," says Roger Valdez. "One path leads to San Francisco, where you have an incredibly regulated and stagnant housing economy that can't keep up with demand. The other path is something different, the Seattle way."

University of Cape Town Team Breaks World Water Rocketry Record ( 35

New submitter Cycliclogic writes: A team of engineers based at the University of Cape Town recently had their record breaking flights of their water powered rocket Ascension III ratified by the Water Rocket Achievement World Record Association. This record is for a single stage rocket power purely on pressurized water. Two launches must be completed within two hours, the record being set at the mean above-ground altitude of the two flights. The record now stands at a whopping 2723 Feet (830m). You can watch videos of the launches here. (Warning: they're loud.)

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal ( 464

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."

Former Reuters Media Editor Found Guilty of Helping Anonymous Hack Into LA Times ( 36

An anonymous reader writes: Prolific tweeter and former Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys, charged with computer hacking under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, was found guilty today on all counts and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced in January. Wired reports: "According to authorities, during a recorded FBI interview with Keys in October 2012 at his home, prior to his indictment, he admitted to his involvement in the hacking of the L.A. Times, and to sending a series of disparaging, sometimes threatening e-mails to a former employer. Keys waived his Miranda rights at the time of the interview and was concerned that the case not be publicized, apparently believing he might get off as a cooperating witness."

Volvo Will Accept Liability For Self-Driving Car Crashes ( 202

An anonymous reader writes: Volvo has announced it will accept "full liability" for accidents when one of its cars is driving autonomously. It joins Mercedes and Google in this claim, hoping to convince regulators that it's worthwhile to allow testing of such vehicles on public roads. Volvo's CTO said, "Everybody is aware of the fact that driverless technology will never be perfect — one day there will be an accident. So the question becomes who is responsible and we think it's unrealistic to put that responsibility on our customers." Of course, this is limited to flaws in the self-driving system. If the driver does something inappropriate, or if another vehicle causes the accident, then they're still liable. It's also questionable how the courts would treat a promise for liability, but presumably this can be cleared up with agreements when customers start actually using the technology.

MIT Master's Program To Use MOOCs As 'Admissions Test' ( 108

jyosim writes: In what could usher a new way of doing college admissions at elite colleges, MIT is experimenting with weighing MOOC performance as proof that students should be accepted to on-campus programs. The idea is to fix the "inexact science" of sorting through candidates from all over the world. And it gives students a better sense of what they're getting into: "When you buy a car, you take a test drive. Wouldn't it be a great value for prospective students to take a test course before they apply?" said one academic blogger.

Enlightenment Mysteriously Drops Wayland Support 130

jones_supa writes: According to Enlightenment 0.19.12's release notes, it's an important release that fixes over 40 issues, which is quite something, considering that previous versions had only a few improvements, with most of them being minor. However, the big news is that 0.19.12 drops support for the Wayland display server. Unfortunately, the Enlightenment developers have omitted to mention why they decided to remove any form of support for Wayland from this release, and if it will return in upcoming releases of the software.

ESR On Why the FCC Shouldn't Lock Down Device Firmware ( 143

An anonymous reader writes: We've discussed some proposed FCC rules that could restrict modification of wireless routers in such a way that open source firmware would become banned. Eric S. Raymond has published the comment he sent to the FCC about this. He argues, "The present state of router and wireless-access-point firmware is nothing short of a disaster with grave national-security implications. ... The effect of locking down router and WiFi firmware as these rules contemplate would be to lock irreparably in place the bugs and security vulnerabilities we now have. To those like myself who know or can guess the true extent of those vulnerabilities, this is a terrifying possibility. I believe there is only one way to avoid a debacle: mandated device upgradeability and mandated open-source licensing for device firmware so that the security and reliability problems can be swarmed over by all the volunteer hands we can recruit. This is an approach proven to work by the Internet ubiquity and high reliability of the Linux operating system."