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NASA

NASA Awards $127 Million Contract For Refueling Mission Spacecraft (gizmodo.com) 9

Satellites cost millions of dollars to be launched into space and there's no guarantee that they will work without electrical or mechanical problems once in orbit. NASA has recently announced that it will award a $127 million contract to a company that aims to use a robotic spacecraft to fix satellites in space, thus potentially saving millions of dollars in the long-run by fixing satellites that would otherwise be "expensive e-waste." Gizmodo reports: NASA has just announced that it will award a $127 million contract to the California-based satellite company Space Systems/Loral for Restore-L, a robotic spacecraft capable of grasping, refueling and relocating a satellite in low Earth orbit, in addition to testing technologies for future missions. SSL has three years to build the bot, which is projected to launch in 2020. Without the ability to refuel, a satellite's lifespan is restricted by the amount of propellant engineers can pack in its tank at launch. That lifespan can be cut even shorter should the spacecraft encounter any electrical or mechanical problems on orbit. As more and more satellites reach the end of their operational lifespans, government agencies and private companies have been working to remedy this problem by developing robots that can give satellites a tune-up in zero-gravity. DARPA, for instance, recently launched a program aimed at designing robots capable of servicing satellites at the hard-to-reach but highly-desirable perch of geosynchronous orbit, 22,000 miles above Earth. NASA's Satellite Servicing Division, meanwhile, has a handful of on-orbit repair and refueling technology demonstrators in the works, including a robotic arm with the same range of motion as a human arm, a navigation system designed to help robots rendezvous with moving objects in space, and Restore-L, which combines these and other capabilities into a multi-purpose space mechanic. For now, Restore-L's primary goal is to refuel Landsat 7, a critical Earth-monitoring satellite operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. If successful, the spacecraft may be modified for all sorts of other useful tasks, from mopping up the ever-growing halo of space junk encircling our planet, to servicing exciting new science missions like the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which will grab a multi-ton boulder from the surface of an asteroid and tow it back to orbit around the Moon.
Businesses

T-Mobile CFO: Less Regulation, Repeal of Net Neutrality By Trump Would Be 'Positive For My Industry' (tmonews.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter spoke at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York City, and he touched a bit on President-elect Donald Trump and what his election could mean for the mobile industry. Carter expects that a Trump presidency will foster an environment that'll be more positive for wireless. "It's hard to imagine, with the way the election turned out, that we're not going to have an environment, from several aspects, that is not going to be more positive for my industry," the CFO said. He went on to explain that there will likely be less regulation, something that he feels "destroys innovation and value creation." Speaking of innovation, Carter also feels that a reversal of net neutrality and the FCC's Open Internet rules would be good for innovation in the industry, saying that it "would provide opportunity for significant innovation and differentiation" and that it'd enable you to "do some very interesting things."
Patents

Supreme Court Rules For Samsung in Smartphone Fight With Apple (reuters.com) 95

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with Samsung in its high-profile patent dispute with Apple over design of the iPhone. The justices said Samsung may not be required to pay all the profits it earned from 11 phone models because the features at issue are only a tiny part of the devices. From a report on Reuters: The justices in their 8-0 ruling sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. The decision gives Samsung another chance to try to get back a big chunk of the money it paid Apple in December following a 2012 jury verdict that it infringed Apple's iPhone patents and mimicked its distinctive appearance in making the Galaxy and other competing devices. The court held that a patent violator does not always have to fork over its entire profits from the sales of products using stolen designs, if the designs covered only certain components and not the whole thing.
United States

China Chases Silicon Valley Talent Who Are Worried About Trump Presidency (cnbc.com) 364

China is trying to capitalize on President-elect Donald Trump's hardline immigration stance and vow to clamp down on a foreign worker visa program that has been used to recruit thousands from overseas to Silicon Valley. From a report on CNBC: Leading tech entrepreneurs, including Robin Li, the billionaire CEO of Baidu, China's largest search engine, see Trump's plans as a huge potential opportunity to lure tech talent away from the United States. The country already offers incentives of up to $1 million as signing bonuses for those deemed "outstanding" and generous subsidies for start-ups. Meanwhile, the Washington Post last month reported on comments made by Steve Bannon, who is now the president-elect's chief strategist, during a radio conversation with Trump in Nov. 2015. Bannon, the former Breitbart.com publisher, indicated that he didn't necessarily agree with the idea that foreign talent that goes to school in America should stay in America. "When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think ...," Bannon said, trailing off. "A country is more than an economy. We're a civic society."
The Almighty Buck

Interns At Tech Companies Are Better Paid Than Most American Workers (qz.com) 155

According to a survey conducted by Jesse Collins, a senior at Purdue University and former Yelp intern, interns at tech companies make much more money on an annualized basis than workers in the vast majority of other occupations. From a report on Quartz: About 300 of the nearly 600 people who responded to the survey said they had received internship offers from big companies like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Goldman Sachs for 2017. On average, the internship recipients said they would be paid $6,500 per month, the equivalent of $78,000 per year (the survey is still open, so results may change). Many also said they would receive more than $1,000 worth of stipends per month for housing and travel or signing bonuses. Internships typically run for a summer, but we've annualized the numbers. If the average intern who responded to Collins' survey were to work for a year, he would make $30,000 more than the average annual income for all occupations in the U.S., which is $48,000. Of the 1,088 occupation categories within which the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks average income, workers in only about 200 of them on average make more money in a year than the intern would.
Google

New Google Trusted Contacts Service Shares User Location In Real Time (onthewire.io) 88

Reader Trailrunner7 writes: Google has spent a lot of time and money on security over the last few years, developing new technologies and systems to protect users' devices. One of the newer technologies the company has come up with is designed to provide security for users themselves rather than their laptops or phones.

On Monday Google launched a new app for Android called Trusted Contacts that allows users to share their locations and some limited other information with a set of close friends and family members. The system is a two-way road, so a user can actively share her location with her Trusted Contacts, and stop sharing it at her discretion. But, when a problem or potential emergency comes up, one of those contacts can request to get that user's location to see where she is at any moment. The app is designed to give users a way to reassure contacts that they're safe, or request help if there's something wrong.

Businesses

Amazon Unveils 'Self-driving' Brick-and-Mortar Convenience Store (seattletimes.com) 118

Amazon announced Monday it has built a convenience store in downtown Seattle that deploys a gaggle of technologies similar to those used in self-driving cars to allow shoppers to come in, grab items and walk out without going through a register (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). From a report on Seattle Times: The 1,800 square-foot store, officially dubbed "Amazon Go," is the latest beach in brick-and-mortar retail stormed by the e-commerce giant, which already has bookstores and is working on secretive drive-through grocery locations. It's clearly a sign that Amazon sees a big opportunity in revolutionizing the staid traditions of Main Street commerce. Located on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Blanchard Street, the store is open to Amazon employees participating in a testing program. It is expected to be open to the public in early 2017.
Facebook

Tech Billionaires Award Top Scientists $25 Million In 'Breakthrough' Prizes (fortune.com) 55

Tonight at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Morgan Freeman emceed a glamorous, Oscars-style celebration that recognizes scientific achievements with money from tech billionaires. An anonymous reader writes: Donors for the Breakthrough Prize included Google's Sergey Brin, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and his wife Cathy Zhang, and billionaire venture capitalist Yuri Milner, according to an article in Fortune. TechCrunch has a list of the winners, which included Princeton math professor Jean Bourgain, who won a $3 million prize "for his many contributions to high-dimensional geometry, number theory, and many other theoretical contributions."

Three more physics researchers -- two from Harvard, and one from U.C. Santa Barbara -- will share a $3 million prize recognizing "meaningful advances in string theory, quantum field theory, and quantum gravity." And another $1 million prize honored the leaders of three teams responsible for "collaborative research on gravitational waves and its implications for physics and astronomy," with another $2 million to be shared among the 1,012 members of their research groups.

17-year-old Deanna See from Singapore also won the $250,000 "Breakthrough Junior Challenge" prize -- and more money for her teachers and school -- for her video about antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Google has created a special page where you can read more about some of the other winners.
Microsoft

How Microsoft Lost In Court Over Windows 10 Upgrades (digitaltrends.com) 121

In June a California woman successfully sued Microsoft for $10,000 over forced Windows 10 upgrades, and she's now written a 58-page ebook about her battle (which she's selling for $9.99). But an anonymous Slashdot reader shares another inspiring story about a Texas IT worker and Linux geek who got Microsoft to pay him $650 for all the time that he lost. "Worley built a Windows 7 machine for his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's Disease, [customized] to look like Windows XP, an operating system his grandfather still remembered well..." writes Digital Trends. "But thanks to Microsoft's persistent Windows 10 upgrade program, Worley's grandfather unknowingly initiated the Win 10 upgrade by clicking the 'X' to close an upgrade window." After Worley filed a legal "Notice of Dispute," Microsoft quickly agreed to his demand for $650, which he donated to a non-profit focusing on Alzheimer's patients.

But according to the article, that's just the beginning, since Worley now "hopes people impacted by the forced Windows 10 upgrade will write a complaint to Microsoft demanding a settlement for their wasted time and money in repairing the device," and on his web page suggests that if people don't need the money, they should give it to charities fighting Alzheimer's. "If Microsoft isn't going to wake up and realize that lobbing intentionally-tricky updates at people who don't need and can't use them actively damages not only the lives of the Alzheimer's sufferer, but those of their whole family, then let's cure the disease on Microsoft's dime so their tactics and those of companies that will follow their reckless example aren't as damaging."

Worley suggests each Notice of Dispute should demand at least $50 per hour from Microsoft, adding "If recent history holds steady they might just write you a check!"
United States

Sysadmin Gets Two Years In Prison For Sabotaging ISP (bleepingcomputer.com) 131

After being let go over a series of "personal issues" with his employer, things got worse for 26-year-old network administrator Dariusz J. Prugar, who will now have to spend two years in prison for hacking the ISP where he'd worked. An anonymous reader writes: Prugar had used his old credentials to log into the ISP's network and "take back" some of the scripts and software he wrote... "Seeking to hide his tracks, Prugar used an automated script that deleted various logs," reports Bleeping Computer. "As a side effect of removing some of these files, the ISP's systems crashed, affecting over 500 businesses and over 5,000 residential customers."

When the former ISP couldn't fix the issue, they asked Prugar to help. "During negotiations, instead of requesting money as payment, Prugar insisted that he'd be paid using the rights to the software and scripts he wrote while at the company, software which was now malfunctioning, a week after he left." This tipped off the company, who detected foul play, contacted the FBI and rebuilt its entire network.

Six years later, Prugar was found guilty after a one-week jury trial, and was ordered by the judge to pay $26,000 in restitution to the ISP (which went out of business in October of 2015). Prugar's two-year prison sentence begins December 27.
Security

Crooks Need Just Six Seconds To Guess A Credit Card Number (independent.co.uk) 108

schwit1 quotes The Independent: Criminals can work out the card number, expiration date, and security code for a Visa debit or credit card in as little as six seconds using guesswork, researchers have found... Fraudsters use a so-called Distributed Guessing Attack to get around security features put in place to stop online fraud, and this may have been the method used in the recent Tesco Bank hack...

According to a study published in the academic journal IEEE Security & Privacy, fraudsters could use computers to systematically fire different variations of security data at hundreds of websites simultaneously. Within seconds, by a process of elimination, the criminals could verify the correct card number, expiration date and the three-digit security number on the back of the card.

One of the researchers explained this attack combines two weaknesses into one powerful attack. "Firstly, current online payment systems do not detect multiple invalid payment requests from different websites... Secondly, different websites ask for different variations in the card data fields to validate an online purchase. This means it's quite easy to build up the information and piece it together like a jigsaw puzzle."
Businesses

Survey Says: Elon Musk Is Most Admired Tech Leader, Topping Bezos and Zuckerberg (teslarati.com) 119

First Round Capital conducted a poll of 700 tech company founders and found Elon Musk to be the most admired leader in the technology industry. Elon Musk received 23 percent of the votes; 10 percent said Amazon's Jeff Bezos, 6 percent said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and 5 percent wrote in Steve Jobs. First Round writes: "We launched State of Startups to capture what it means to be an entrepreneur. We asked the leaders of venture-backed companies about everything from the fundraising environment to their working relationships with their co-founders to their office's price per square foot. [...] Once again, we asked founders to write in which current tech leader they admire the most and we tallied 125 names. The Tesla and SpaceX leader held firm at the top spot (23%)..." Teslarati reports: While the survey did not ask respondents to explain their choice, it is safe to assume that Elon's propensity for setting lofty and visionary goals, and then being able to execute on them, is one trait admired most by tech founders. Most recently, Musk moved the scheduled start of production for the upcoming Model 3 midsize sedan forward by a full two years. Tesla also recently celebrated a record-setting third quarter and has been moving aggressively to close the second half of this year with 50,000 cars delivered. The company has announced a series of sweeteners to motivate people to order and take delivery of new vehicles before the end of the year. Unlimited Supercharger access for long distance travel and a, then, upcoming price hike on its entry level Model S 60, announced by the Palo Alto-based electric car maker and energy company, were incentives to stimulate sales. With plans to increase annual vehicle production by a factor of ten to twenty-fold by the end of the decade, send humans to mars and transform the energy sector, Musk's innovative solutions to rewrite humanity as we know it joins an elite rank held by few genius inventors and industrialists who have gone on to change the world.
Security

Hackers Steal $31 Million at Russia's Central Bank (cnn.com) 78

The Bank of Russia has confirmed Friday that hackers have stolen 2 billion rubles ($31 million) from correspondent accounts at the Russian central bank. Central bank security executive Artiom Sychev said it could've been much worse as hackers tried to steal 5 billion rubles, but the central banking authority managed to stop them. CNNMoney reports: Hackers also targeted the private banks and stole cash from their clients, the central bank reported. The central bank did not say when the heist occurred or how hackers moved the funds. But so far, the attack bears some similarity to a recent string of heists that has targeted the worldwide financial system. Researchers at the cybersecurity firm Symantec have concluded that the global banking system has been under sustained attack from a sophisticated group -- dubbed "Lazarus" -- that has been linked to North Korea. But it's unclear who has attacked Russian banks this time around. Earlier Friday, the Russian government claimed it had foiled an attempt to erode public confidence in its financial system. Russian's top law enforcement agency, the FSB, said hackers were planning to use a collection of computer servers in the Netherlands to attack Russian banks. Typically, hackers use this kind of infrastructure to launch a "denial of service" attack, which disrupts websites and business operations by flooding a target with data. The FSB said hackers also planned to spread fake news about Russian banks, sending mass text messages and publishing stories on social media questioning their financial stability and licenses to operate.
AI

Stephen Hawking: Automation and AI Is Going To Decimate Middle Class Jobs (businessinsider.com) 468

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: In a column in The Guardian, the world-famous physicist wrote that "the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining." He adds his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned about the effects that technology will have on workforce in the coming years and decades. The fear is that while artificial intelligence will bring radical increases in efficiency in industry, for ordinary people this will translate into unemployment and uncertainty, as their human jobs are replaced by machines. Automation will, "in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world," Hawking wrote. "The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive." He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: "We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent." Combined with other issues -- overpopulation, climate change, disease -- we are, Hawking warns ominously, at "the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity." Humanity must come together if we are to overcome these challenges, he says.
AT&T

FCC Calls Out AT&T, Verizon For 'Zero Rating' Their Own Video Apps (zdnet.com) 56

U.S. regulators are calling out AT&T and Verizon for exempting their own video apps from data caps on customers' smartphones. The FCC has sent letters to the country's biggest wireless carriers saying the way they handle the practice, known as "zero rating," can hurt competition and consumers. From a report on ZDNet: AT&T launched DirecTV Now earlier this week. AT&T Mobility customers can stream video data over LTE without impacting their data allowance. Verizon offers something similar with its go90 service. AT&T and Verizon don't see any wrongdoing. In a statement Friday, AT&T said exempting services like DirecTV Now from data caps saves customers money. Verizon said its practices are good for consumers and comply with regulations. "We will provide the FCC with additional information on why the government should not take away a service that saves consumers money," AT&T wrote in a statement Friday. The FCC hasn't released any official ruling on "zero rating," just guidance. It said on Thursday a similar letter was sent to AT&T in November, but the FCC didn't like AT&T's original response.
United States

US Economy Added 178,000 Jobs in November; Unemployment Rate Drops To 4.6 Percent (washingtonpost.com) 529

The U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent from 4.9 percent the previous month, according to new government data released (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source) Friday morning. From a report on the Washington Post: Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected U.S. employers to create 180,000 new jobs last month -- roughly in line with the average number added in the first 11 months of the year. The first release after a contentious election in which the candidates disputed the health and direction of the economy, the data showed a job market that is continuing to steadily strengthen from the recession. The unemployment rate fell to levels not seen since August 2007, before a bubble in the U.S. housing market began to burst. The fall was driven partly by the creation of new jobs, and partly by people retiring and otherwise leaving the labor force. The labor force participation rate ticked down to 62.7 percent. Average hourly earnings declined by 3 cents to $25.89. The decrease pared back large gains seen in October, but over the year average hourly earnings are still up 2.5 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
The Almighty Buck

South Korea To Kill the Coin in Path Towards 'Cashless Society' (cnbc.com) 258

The central bank in South Korea, one of the world's most technologically advanced and integrated nations, is taking a major step in getting rid of coins in the nation in what is an attempt to become a cashless society. The first step is to get rid of the metal, a feat authorities hope to achieve by 2020. From a report on FT: The Bank of Korea on Thursday announced it will step up its efforts to reduce the circulation of coins, the highest denomination of which is worth less than $0.50. As part of the plan it wants consumers to deposit loose change on to Korea's ubiquitous "T Money" cards -- electronic travel passes that can be used to pay for metro fares, taxi rides and even purchases in 30,000 convenience stores. The proposals are just the latest step for a nation at the forefront of harnessing technology to make citizens' lives more convenient. Online shopping is the norm, as are mobile payments for the country's tech-savvy millennials. South Korea is already one of the least cash-dependent nations in the world. It has among the highest rates of credit card ownership -- about 1.9 per citizen -- and only about 20 percent of Korean payments are made using paper money, according to the BoK. But while convenience is at the crux of the central bank's plan, there are other considerations. The BoK spends more than $40m a year minting coins. There are also costs involved for financial institutions that collect, manage and circulate them.
Businesses

Cyanogen Inc and CyanogenMod Creator Steve Kondik Part Ways (ndtv.com) 74

bulled writes: In the middle of a press release discussing the move of employees from Seattle to California, Cyanogen Inc notes that it has parted ways with Steve Kondik. It is unclear what this means for the future of CyanogenMod. NDTV reports: "Kondik took to the official CyanogenMod developer Google+ community recently where he voiced what he thought were the reasons behind Cyanogen's plight and blamed Kirt McMaster, Cyanogen's Co-Founder. 'I've been pretty quiet about the stuff that's been going on but I'm at least ready to tell the short version and hopefully get some input on what to do next because CM is very much affected,' wrote Kondik in a private Google+ community first reported by Android Police. According to Kondik's version, Cyanogen's turmoil is way far from being over. He claimed that Cyanogen had seen success thanks to the efforts by the community and the company. Though, this also changed how the company worked. Explaining how it all started to come down, Kondik wrote, 'Unfortunately once we started to see success, my co-founder apparently became unhappy with running the business and not owning the vision. This is when the 'bullet to the head' and other misguided media nonsense started, and the bad business deals were signed. Being second in command, all I could do was try and stop it, do damage control, and hope every day that something new didn't happen. The worst of it happened internally and it became a generally shitty place to work because of all the conflict. I think the backlash from those initial missteps convinced him that what we had needed to be destroyed. By the time I was able to stop it, I was outgunned and outnumbered by a team on the same mission.' Kondik also seemingly confirmed a report from July which claimed Cyanogen may pivot to apps. He further wrote, 'Eventually I tried to salvage it with a pivot that would have brought us closer to something that would have worked, but the new guys had other plans. With plenty of cash in the bank, the new guys tore the place down and will go and do whatever they are going to do. It's probably for the best and I wish them luck, but what I was trying to do, is over.'"
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Exchange Ordered To Give IRS Years of Data On Millions of Users (gizmodo.com) 203

Last month, instead of asking for data relating to specific individuals suspected of a crime, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanded America's largest Bitcoin service, Coinbase, to provide the identities of all of the firm's U.S. customers who made transactions over a three year period because there is a chance they are avoiding paying taxes on their bitcoin reserves. On Wednesday, a federal judge authorized a summons requiring Coinbase to provide the IRS with those records. Gizmodo reports: Covering the identities and transaction histories of millions of customers, the request is believed to be the largest single attempt to identify tax evaders using virtual currency to date. As a so-called "John Doe" summons, the document targets a particular group or class of taxpayers -- rather than individuals -- the agency has a "reasonable basis" to believe may have broken the law. According to The New York Times, the IRS argued that two cases of tax evasion involving Coinbase combined with Bitcoin's "relatively high level of anonymity" serve as that basis. "There is no allegation in this suit that Coinbase has engaged in any wrongdoing in connection with its virtual currency exchange business," said the Justice Department on Wednesday. "Rather, the IRS uses John Doe summonses to obtain information about possible violations of internal revenue laws by individuals whose identities are unknown." In a statement, Coinbase vowed to fight the summons, which the company's head counsel has previously characterized as a "every, very broad" fishing expedition.
Mozilla

Mozilla Puts New Money To Use Fighting For 'Internet Health' (cnet.com) 110

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET: Mozilla is marshaling public support for political positions, like backing net neutrality, defending encryption and keeping government surveillance from getting out of hand, says Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla's chief legal and business officer. The organization is funding the efforts with revenue from Firefox searches, which has jumped since 2014 when it switched from a global deal with Google to a set of regional deals. Mozilla brought in $421 million in revenue last year largely through partnerships with Yahoo in the US, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China, according to tax documents released alongside Mozilla's 2015 annual report on Thursday. Pushing policy work brings new challenges well beyond traditional Mozilla work competing against Google's Chrome browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. They include squaring off against the incoming administration of Donald Trump.

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