Intel

Can Intel's 'Management Engine' Be Repurposed? 9

Long-time Slashdot reader iamacat writes: Not a day goes by without a story about another Intel Management Engine vulnerability. What I get is that a lot of consumer PCs can access network and run x86 code on top of UNIX-like OS such as Minix even when powered off.

This sounds pretty useful for tasks such as running an occasional use Plex server. Like I can have a box that draws very little power when idle. But when an incoming connection is detected, it can power itself and the media drive on and serve the requested content.

The original submission ends with an interesting question. "if Intel ME is so insecure, how do I exploit it for practically useful purposes?"
Books

A Book Recommendation for Bill Gates: The Story of PLATO 25

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: This holiday season, many Slashdot readers are likely to find gifts under the tree because of Bill Gates' book picks. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it seems that turnabout is fair play -- what book recommendations do you have for Bill?

At the top of my pick list for personalized learning advocate Gates would be Brian Dear's remarkable The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, with its tale of how a group of visionary engineers and designers -- some of them only high school students -- created a shockingly little-known computer system called PLATO in the late 1960s and 1970s that was decades ahead of its time in experimenting with how people could learn, engage, communicate, and play through connected terminals and computers. After all, "we can't move forward," as Audrey Watters argued in The Hidden History of Ed-Tech, "til we reconcile where we've been before."
United States

Power Outage Strands Thousands at US Airport. 600 Flights Cancelled (cnn.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: A power outage at the world's busiest airport left thousands of passengers stranded in dark terminals and in planes sitting on the tarmac, amid a nationwide ground stop. Incoming and outgoing flights at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were halted indefinitely as crews worked to restore power, leading to hundreds of flight delays and cancellations. Atlanta is the heart of the US air transport system, and what happens there has the potential to ripple through the country.

More than 600 flights to and from Atlanta have been canceled, including 350 departures, according to Flightradar24... Flights headed to Atlanta are being held on the ground at their departure airport. Inbound flights to Atlanta are being diverted, US Customs and Border Protection said. Departures from the airport are delayed because electronic equipment is not working in the terminals, the FAA said. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Some people stranded in the dark terminals used their cellphones as flashlights, one passenger told CNN. "There were a few emergency lights on, but it was really dark -- felt totally apocalyptic."
Google

Google Reveals the Most-Trending Searches of 2017 (google.com) 33

"Google's annual list of the most popular searches is here, offering a peek into what people are really thinking about," writes CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: This year, you wanted to know more about one of the most powerful storms on record, the devastating Hurricane Irma. But you were also curious about [hip hop artist] Cardi B. and Unicorn Frappuccinos... Like 2017 itself, this year's top searches skew a little darker than usual, but are punctuated with some whimsy and positive moments. The top trending searches in the U.S. were Irma, Matt Lauer, Tom Petty, the Super Bowl and the Las Vegas shooting.

To determine the most popular trending searches, Google looked at its trillions of queries, filtered out spam and repeats, and identified searches that had the highest uptick in traffic compared with the previous year. It breaks them into categories like news, memes, and recipes (beef stroganoff was a hit).

Surprisingly there were more searches for 'iPhone 8" than for 'iPhone X," though those were the top two most-searched consumer technology products. (Followed by Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X.) Other top searches this year included "What is net neutrality?" as well as questions about what bitcoin is, how to buy it, and the latest bitcoin prices. And one of the 10 most-searched phrases of the year was "fidget spinner."

Google uploaded an inspiring video to YouTube stating "This year more than ever we asked how." To dramatic music, the examples it gives include "How to calm a dog during a storm," "How to help Puerto Rico," "How to make a protest sign" -- and "How to move forward."
Crime

Stolen Car Recovered With 11,000 More Miles -- and Lyft Stickers (sfgate.com) 66

The San Francisco Bay Area has more car thefts than any region in America, according to SFGate.com. A National Insurance Crime Bureau report found that between 2012 and 2014, there were an average of 30,000 car thefts a year just in the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward. But one theft took a strange turn. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Cierra and Josh Barton purchased a new Honda HR-V at the beginning of summer. It was stolen while parked in front of their Livermore apartment complex at the end of August. Four months later, Hayward police called the Bartons to say they had recovered the vehicle... What they found, to their surprise, was a car in relatively good shape -- a few dents, a rattling hood. But in the back and front windows were Lyft stickers, Cierra Barton said.

The odometer had spiked from 2,000 miles to more than 13,000. And in the back seat, Cierra said she found a pillow, a jacket and a stuffed animal. "It wasn't burned out, it wasn't gutted, but it appeared to be have been used as a Lyft," she said. That, Cierra added, was even worse than she imagined. "Not only did someone steal our car, they made money off it!"

Lyft says that "Given the information provided, we are unable to match this vehicle to any Lyft accounts in the area," adding they "stand ready to assist law enforcement in any investigation."
Television

What's The Best TV Show About Working in Tech? (gizmodo.com) 115

An anonymous reader writes: Recently Gizmodo hailed "the best show ever made about Silicon Valley", asking its readers one question: why didn't you watch it? They're talking about AMC's Halt and Catch Fire, which their Senior Reviews Editor says "discovered the fascinating, frustrating human side to the soulless monsters who built Silicon Valley." Unfortunately, "nobody watched it. The show never cracked a million live viewers after the pilot episode. It sat firmly on the bubble every season, getting greenlit only by the grace of AMC."

Today Netflix is making that show's fourth (and final) season available -- but is it the best show about working in tech? What about Mr. Robot, Silicon Valley, or The IT Crowd -- or that short-lived X-Files spin-off, The Lone Gunmen?

Has there ever been a good show about geeks -- besides those various PBS documentaries? Leave your own answers in the comments.

What's the best TV show about working in tech?
Facebook

Former Exec Who Said Facebook Was 'Destroying Society' Still Loves Facebook (gizmodo.com) 35

Remember that former Facebook exec who felt "tremendous guilt" about creating tools "that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works"? He's now walking back his criticism -- at least somewhat. Gizmodo reports: Palihapitiya said that he believes that "Facebook is a force for good in the world," and went on to express his belief that the social network is really trying to make its platform less of a hellish garbage fire of misinformation and election interference. "Facebook has made tremendous strides in coming to terms with its unforeseen influence and, more so than any of its peers, the team there has taken real steps to course correct," he wrote in the post... Facebook is certainly trying to soothe naysayers who think the platform might be rotting the brains of our youth -- a viewpoint that Sean Parker, Facebook's first president, essentially expressed last month... For Palihapitiya's part, Thursday night's statement wasn't a total reversal of his original claims, but seemingly an apologetic gesture toward Facebook (or perhaps friends still working at the company). Yes, social media has the capacity to utterly destroy us, but can't you see that Facebook is trying to be better?
His post argues social media platforms "have been used and abused in ways that we, their architects, never imagined.

"Much blame has been thrown and guilt felt, but the important thing is what we as an industry do now to ensure that our impact on society continues to be a positive one."
Earth

Flat Earther Now Wants To Launch His Homemade Rocket From a Balloon (themaineedge.com) 221

A Maine alternative newsweekly just interviewed self-taught rocket scientist "Mad" Mike Hughes, who still believes that the earth is a flat, Frisbee-shaped disc. ("Think about this. Australia -- which is supposedly on the other side of the planet -- is upside down yet they're holding the waters in the ocean. Now how is that happening?") And Mike's got a new way to prove it after his aborted launch attempt in November. An anonymous reader writes: "One thing I want to clarify is that this rocket was never supposed to prove that the Earth is flat," Hughes tells an interviewer. "I was never going to go high enough to do that." But he will prove it's flat -- with an even riskier stunt. "I have a plan to go 62 miles up to the edge of space. It's going to cost $1.8 million and that could happen within 10 months."

"I'm going to have a balloon built at about $250,000 with $100,000 worth of hydrogen in it. It will lift me up about 20 miles... If I'm unconscious, they can use the controls to bring the balloon back." But if he's still conscious? "Then I'll fire a rocket through the balloon that will pull me up by my shoulders through a truss for 42 miles at 1.5 g's."

It's an awesome plan "if I don't burn up coming back through the atmosphere."

The interviewer asks Hughes a reasonable question. "Wouldn't it be cheaper and less deadly to just try to drill through the Earth to the other side to prove your point?"

"You can't," Hughes answers. "That's another fallacy. The deepest hole ever drilled is seven-and-a-half miles and it was done in Russia. It took 12 years. You cannot drill through this planet. It dulls every drill bit. All the stuff that you learned in school -- that the core is molten nickel -- it's all lies. No one knows what's in the center of the Earth or how deep it is. I'm no expert at anything, but I know that's a fact."
Microsoft

Microsoft Releases a Preview of OpenSSH Client and Server For Windows 10 (servethehome.com) 119

kriston (Slashdot user #7,886) writes: Microsoft released a preview of the OpenSSH server and client for Windows 10. Go to Settings, Apps & Features, and click "Manage optional features" to install them. The software only supports AES-CTR and chacha20 ciphers and supports a tiny subset of keys and KEXs, but, on the other hand, a decent set of MACs.

It also says that it doesn't use the OpenSSL library. That's the really big news, here. I understand leaving out arcfour/RC4 and IDEA, but why wouldn't MSFT include Blowfish, Twofish, CAST, and 3DES? At least they chose the CTR versions of these ciphers. (Blowfish isn't compromised in any practical way, by the way). I prefer faster and less memory- and CPU-intensive ciphers.

Still, it's a good start. The SSH server is compelling enough to check out especially since I just started using X2GO for remote desktop access which requires an SSH server for its file sharing feature.

United States

Trump Administration Prohibits CDC Policy Analysts From Using the Words 'Science-Based' (washingtonpost.com) 354

Long-time Slashdot reader hey! writes: On Friday the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration has forbidden the Centers for Disease Control from using seven terms in certain documents: "science-based", "evidence-based", "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," and "fetus".

It's important to note that the precise scope and intent of the ban is unknown at present. Scientific and medical personnel as of now have not been affected, only policy analysts preparing budgetary proposals and supporting data that is being sent to Congress. So it is unclear the degree to which the language mandates represent a change in agency priorities vs. a change in how it presents itself to Congress. However banning the scientifically precise term "fetus" will certainly complicate budgeting for things like Zika research and monitoring.

According to the Post's article, "Instead of 'science-based' or 'evidence-based,' the suggested phrase is 'CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

The New York Times confirmed the story with several officials, although "a few suggested that the proposal was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans."
Microsoft

Windows 10 Bundled a Password Manager with a Security Flaw (bleepingcomputer.com) 45

An anonymous reader writes: A Google security researcher has found and helped patch a severe vulnerability in Keeper, a password manager application that Microsoft has been bundling with some Windows 10 distributions this year... "This is a complete compromise of Keeper security, allowing any website to steal any password," Tavis Ormandy, the Google security researcher said, pointing out that the password manager was still vulnerable to a same vulnerability he reported in August 2016, which had apparently been reintroduced in the code.

Based on user reports, Microsoft appears to have been bundling Keeper as part of Windows 10 Pro distributions since this past summer.

The article reports that Keeper issued a fix -- browser extension version 11.4 -- within less than 24 hours.
Microsoft

Do More People Use Firefox Than Edge and IE Combined? (computerworld.com) 124

A funny thing happened when Net Applications' statistics began excluding fake traffic from ad-defrauding bots. Computerworld reports: Microsoft's Edge browser is less popular with Windows 10 users than earlier thought, if revised data from a U.S. analytics vendor can be believed. According to Net Applications of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Edge has been designated the primary browser by fewer than one in six Windows 10 users for more than a year and a half. That's a significant downgrading of Edge's user share statistics from the browser's portrayal before this month...

By comparing Edge's old and new shares, it was evident that as much as half of the earlier Edge traffic had been faked by bots. The portion of Edge's share credited to bots fluctuated month to month, but fell below 30% in only 4 of the 19 months for which Net Applications provided data... Microsoft's legacy browser, Internet Explorer (IE) also was revealed as a Potemkin village. Under the old data regime, which included bots, IE's user share was overblown, at times more than double the no-bots reality. Take May 2016 as an example. With bots, Net Applications pegged IE at 33.7%; without bots, IE's user share dwindled to just 14.9%. Together, IE and Edge - in other words, Microsoft's browsers - accounted for only 16.3% of the global user share last month using Net Applications' new calculations... In fact, the combined IE and Edge now face a once unthinkable fate: falling beneath Mozilla's Firefox.

StatCounter's stats on browser usage already show more people have already been using Firefox than both of Microsoft's browsers combined -- in 12 of the last 13 months.
AI

Artificial Intelligence Is Killing the Uncanny Valley and Our Grasp On Reality (wired.com) 175

rickih02 writes: In 2018, we will enter a new era of machine learning -- one in which AI-generated media looks and sounds completely real. The technologies underlying this shift will push us into new creative realms. But this boom will have a dark side, too. For Backchannel's 2018 predictions edition, Sandra Upson delves into the future of artificial intelligence and the double edged sword its increasing sophistication will present. "A world awash in AI-generated content is a classic case of a utopia that is also a dystopia," she writes. "It's messy, it's beautiful, and it's already here."
"The algorithms powering style transfer are gaining precision, signalling the end of the Uncanny Valley -- the sense of unease that realistic computer-generated humans typically elicit..." the article argues.

"But it's not hard to see how this creative explosion could all go very wrong."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How Can Programmers Explain Their Work To Non-Programmers? 312

Slashdot reader Grady Martin writes: I disrespect people who describe their work in highfalutin terms... However, describing my own work as "programming solutions to problems" is little more than codifying what just about anyone can perceive through intuition. Case in point: Home for the holidays, I was asked about recent accomplishments and attempted to explain the process of producing compact visualizations of branched undo/redo histories.

Responses ranged from, "Well, duh," to, "I can already do that in Word"...

It's the "duh" that I want to address, because of course an elegant solution seem obvious after the fact: Such is the nature of elegance itself. Does anyone have advice on making elegance sound impressive?

An anonymous Slashdot reader left this suggestion for explaining your work to non-programmers. "Don't. I get sick when I hear the bullshit artists spew crap out of their mouth when they have no idea wtf they're talking about. Especially managers..."

But how about the rest of you? How can programmers explain their work to non-programmers?
The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin Jumps Another 10% in 24 Hours, Sets New Record at $19,000 (arstechnica.com) 214

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Bitcoin's price set a new record on Saturday as the virtual currency rose above $19,000 for the first time on the Bitstamp exchange. The gains came just hours after the currency crossed the $18,000 mark. Bitcoin's value has doubled over the last three weeks, and it's up more than 20-fold over the last year.

Bitcoin's value keeps rising despite a growing chorus of experts who say the currency value is an unsustainable bubble. One CNBC survey this week found that 80 percent of Wall Street economists and market strategists saw bitcoin's rise as a bubble, compared to just two percent who said the currency's value was justified. Another survey reported by The Wall Street Journal this week found that 51 out of 53 economists surveyed thought bitcoin's price was an unsustainable bubble.

Less than a month ago, Bitcoin was selling for $8,000.
Stats

'State of JavaScript' Survey Results: Good News for React and TypeScript (sdtimes.com) 85

"The JavaScript world is richer and messier than ever," reports this year's annual "State of JavaScript" survey, which collected data from over 28,000 developers on everything from favorite frameworks to flavors of JavaScript. SD Times reports: "A few years back, a JavaScript survey would've been a simple matter. Question 1: are you using jQuery? Question 2: any comments? Boom, done!," the developers wrote. "But as we all know, things have changed. The JavaScript ecosystem is richer than ever, and even the most experienced developer can start to hesitate when considering the multitude of options available at every stage"...

On the front end, React remains the dominant framework. However, the survey found interest in Vue is steadily increasing, while Angular is losing steam. Developers are at a 3.8 [on a scale up to 5] when it comes to their overall happiness with front-end tools. On the back end, Express is by far the most popular contender with Koa, Meteor and Hapi slowly making their way behind Express. For testing, Jest and Enzyme stand out with high satisfaction ratings.

In 2016 only 9,000 developers responded for the survey, which had ultimately announced that "Depending on who you ask, right now JavaScript is either turning into a modern, reliable language, or a bloated, overly complex dependency hell. Or maybe both?"

InfoWorld notes that this year more than 28% of the survey's respondent's said they'd used TypeScript, Microsoft's typed superset of JavaScript, and that they'd use it again. And while React was the most popular framework, the second most-popular framework was "none," with 9,493 JavaScript developers saying they didn't use one.
The Military

The US Military Admits It Spent $22 Million Investigating UFOs (boston.com) 143

Long-time Slashdot reader Joosy writes, "Until 2012 the Pentagon had a program, the 'Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program', that tracked unidentified flying objects." An anonymous reader writes: The Pentagon finally acknowledged the existence of the $22 million program today to the New York Times, while also claiming that they closed the program five years ago. "But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties."

Over the years the program "produced documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift. Officials with the program have also studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and U.S. military aircraft." But ultimately, a Pentagon spokesman said, "It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding, and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change."

AI

Predictive Keyboard Tries To Write a New Harry Potter Chapter (cnet.com) 62

Long-time Slashdot reader Baron_Yam writes, "Some AI news items are amusing. This is one of those." ProKras reports: What do you get when a predictive keyboard app tries to write a new Harry Potter story? Apparently, you get Chapter 13 from Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash.

The folks at Botnik Studios trained their keyboard using all 7 Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. They used one set of training data for narration and another for dialogue. Then a bunch of team members got together in a chat room and pitched the best (worst?) lines created using the keyboard, and Botnik editors assembled them into a cohesive(ish) chapter of a story.

The results are about as ridiculous as you might imagine. For example, at one point Ron Weasley "saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione's family. Ron's Ron shirt was just as bad as Ron himself." It is never explained how Hermonie knew that the password to a certain locked door was "BEEF WOMEN," nor why "the pig of Hufflepuff pulsed like a large bullfrog." Maybe that was covered in Chapter 12.

Google

Google News Will Purge Sites Masking Their Country of Origin (bloomberg.com) 148

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Google moved to strip from its news search results publications that mask their country of origin or intentionally mislead readers, a further step to curb the spread of fake news that has plagued internet companies this year. To appear in Google News results, websites must meet broad criteria set out by the company, including accurately representing their owners or primary purposes. In an update to its guidelines released Friday, the search giant added language stipulating that publications not "engage in coordinated activity to mislead users."

Additionally the new rules read: "This includes, but isn't limited to, sites that misrepresent or conceal their country of origin or are directed at users in another country under false premises." A popular tactic for misinformation campaigns is to pose as a credible U.S. news outlet. Russian Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed organization, used that technique to reach an audience of nearly 500,000 people, spread primarily through Twitter accounts, Bloomberg reported earlier.

China

Facial Recognition Algorithms -- Plus 1.8 Billion Photos -- Leads to 567 Arrests in China (scmp.com) 159

"Our machines can very easily recognise you among at least 2 billion people in a matter of seconds," says the chief executive and co-founder of Yitu. The South China Morning Post reports: Yitu's Dragonfly Eye generic portrait platform already has 1.8 billion photographs to work with: those logged in the national database and you, if you have visited China recently... 320 million of the photos have come from China's borders, including ports and airports, where pictures are taken of everyone who enters and leaves the country. According to Yitu, its platform is also in service with more than 20 provincial public security departments, and is used as part of more than 150 municipal public security systems across the country, and Dragonfly Eye has already proved its worth. On its very first day of operation on the Shanghai Metro, in January, the system identified a wanted man when he entered a station. After matching his face against the database, Dragonfly Eye sent his photo to a policeman, who made an arrest. In the following three months, 567 suspected lawbreakers were caught on the city's underground network. The system has also been hooked up to security cameras at various events; at the Qingdao International Beer Festival, for example, 22 wanted people were apprehended.

Whole cities in which the algorithms are working say they have seen a decrease in crime. According to Yitu, which says it gets its figures directly from the local authorities, since the system has been implemented, pickpocketing on Xiamen's city buses has fallen by 30 per cent; 500 criminal cases have been resolved by AI in Suzhou since June 2015; and police arrested nine suspects identified by algorithms during the 2016 G20 summit in Hangzhou. Dragonfly Eye has even identified the skull of a victim five years after his murder, in Zhejiang province.

The company's CEO says it's impossible for police to patrol large cities like Shanghai (population: 24,000,000) without using technology.

And one Chinese bank is already testing facial-recognition algorithms hoping to develop ATMs that let customers withdraw money just by showing their faces.

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