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Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware? 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the very-carefully dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity.

Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide verification software to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security. I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating, "...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." (Their phrasing, not mine.) Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately.
The Internet

As Big As Net Neutrality? FCC Kills State-Imposed Internet Monopolies 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-hurry-up-and-deploy-something,-my-city dept.
tedlistens writes: On Thursday, before it voted in favor of "net neutrality," the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to override state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that have barred local governments and public utilities from offering broadband outside the areas where they have traditionally sold electricity. Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance said the move was as important for internet competition as net neutrality: "Preventing big Internet Service Providers from unfairly discriminating against content online is a victory, but allowing communities to be the owners and stewards of their own broadband networks is a watershed moment that will serve as a check against the worst abuses of the cable monopoly for decades to come." The laws, like those in over a dozen other states, are often created under pressure from large private Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon, who consequently control monopolies or duopolies over high-speed internet in these places.
Privacy

NSA Spying Wins Another Rubber Stamp 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the once-more-unto-the-privacy-breach dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the National Journal: A federal court has again renewed an order allowing the National Security Agency to continue its bulk collection of Americans' phone records, a decision that comes more than a year after President Obama pledged to end the controversial program. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved this week a government request to keep the NSA's mass surveillance of U.S. phone metadata operating until June 1, coinciding with when the legal authority for the program is set to expire in Congress. The extension is the fifth of its kind since Obama said he would effectively end the Snowden-exposed program as it currently exists during a major policy speech in January 2014. Obama and senior administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they will not act alone to end the program without Congress.
Transportation

Hyperloop Testing Starts Next Year 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the series-of-tubes dept.
neanderslob writes: In 2013, Elon Musk told us about a theoretical transportation system he'd been thinking about for a while. It was called "hyperloop," and it was a tube-based system capable of sending people and things at speeds of up to 800mph. Now, a company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to start construction on an actual hyperloop next year. The idea is to build it to serve Quay Valley (a proposed 75,000-resident solar power city in Kings County, California). The project will be paid for with $100 million the company expects to raise through a direct public offering in the third quarter of this year. The track itself will be a 5-mile loop and won't reach anywhere close to the 800mph Musk proposed in his white paper — but it's a start.
Encryption

BlackPhone, In Wake of Gemalto Fallout, Receives $50 Million In Funding 53

Posted by timothy
from the small-steps dept.
An anonymous reader writes The BlackPhone, a $600-plus encrypted Android handset designed to keep the prying eyes of criminals and the government out of mobile communications, is now fully owned by Silent Circle thanks to the company raking in investment cash. Terms of the buyout deal with Spanish smartphone maker Geeksphone, the phone's hardware manufacturer, were not disclosed. Silent Circle said Thursday that it has raised $50 million and plans on showing off an encrypted 'enterprise privacy ecosystem' at World Mobile Congress next week. A BlackPhone tablet is on the way, too.
Education

Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook Press WA For $40M For New UW CS Building 101

Posted by timothy
from the why-not-build-10,000-garages? dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Nice computer industry you got there. Hate to see something bad happen to it." That's the gist of a letter sent by Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Code.org, and other tech giants earlier this week asking the WA State Legislature to approve $40M in capital spending to help fund a new $110M University of Washington computer science building ($70M will be raised privately). "As representatives of companies and businesses that rely on a ready supply of high quality computer science graduates," wrote the letter's 23 signatories, "we believe it is critical for the State to invest in this sector in a way that ensures its vibrancy and growth. Our vision is for Washington to continue to lead the way in technology and computer science, but we must keep pace with the vast demand." The UW Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering profusely thanked tech leaders for pressing for a new building, which UW explained "will accommodate a doubling of our enrollment." Coincidentally, the corporate full-press came not long after the ACM Education Council Diversity Taskforce laid out plans "to get companies to press universities to use more resources to create more seats in CS classes" to address what it called "the desperate gap between the rising demand for CS education and the too-few seats available.
Security

Fighting Scams Targeting the Elderly With Old-School Tech 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-back dept.
itwbennett writes Sharp is launching a pair of landline phones designed to counter a growing form of fraud in Japan that preys upon the elderly. The 'ore ore' ('it's me, it's me') fraudsters pretend to be grandchildren in an emergency and convince their victims to send money, generally via ATM. Sharp's new phones are designed to alert seniors to the dangers of unknown callers. When potential victims receive that are not registered in the internal memory of Sharp's new phones, their LED bars glow red and the phones go into anti-scam mode. An automated message then tells the caller that the call is being recorded and asks for the caller to state his or her name before the call is answered.
Businesses

Teamsters Seek To Unionize More Tech Shuttle Bus Drivers In Silicon Valley 290

Posted by samzenpus
from the shuttle-together dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about the effort to unionize shuttle drivers in Silicon Valley. "Shuttle bus drivers for five prominent tech companies will decide whether to unionize on Friday in a vote that has the potential to dramatically expand organized labor's territory in Silicon Valley and embolden others in the tech industry's burgeoning class of service workers to demand better working conditions. Drivers who ferry Yahoo, Apple, Genentech, eBay and Zynga workers -- all employed by contractor Compass Transportation -- will decide whether to join the Teamsters union in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Union leaders say they want to bring the drivers into the fold so they can negotiate better pay and benefits -- as well as relief from a split shift that has the drivers working morning and evening shifts with no pay in between. A contract the Teamsters struck over the weekend for Facebook's shuttle bus drivers, who work for Loop Transportation, offers a glimpse of what may be possible: paid sick and vacation time, full health care coverage and wages of up to $27.50 an hour."
Security

Schneier: Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not From Them 114

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Bruce Schneier has written another insightful piece about the how modern tech companies treat security. He points out that most organizations will tell you to secure your data while at the same time asking to be exempt from that security. Google and Facebook want your data to be safe — on their servers so they can analyze it. The government wants you to encrypt your communications — as long as they have the keys. Schneier says, "... we give lots of companies access to our data because it makes our lives easier. ... The reason the Internet is a worldwide mass-market phenomenon is that all the technological details are hidden from view. Someone else is taking care of it. We want strong security, but we also want companies to have access to our computers, smart devices, and data. We want someone else to manage our computers and smart phones, organize our e-mail and photos, and help us move data between our various devices. ... We want our data to be secure, but we want someone to be able to recover it all when we forget our password. We'll never solve these security problems as long as we're our own worst enemy.
China

It's Official: NSA Spying Is Hurting the US Tech Economy 266

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-to-blame dept.
An anonymous reader writes China is backing away from U.S. tech brands for state purchases after NSA revelations, according to Reuters. This confirms what many U.S. technology companies have been saying for the past year: the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. From the article: "A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee -- among others -- have been dropped from the Chinese government's list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list."
Patents

Jury Tells Apple To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Suit 186

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-remit-821,110-iphones dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Smartflash LLC has won a patent lawsuit against Apple over DRM and technology relating to the storage of downloaded songs, games, and videos on iTunes. Apple must now pay $532.9 million in damages. An Apple spokesperson did not hesitate to imply Smartflash is a patent troll: "Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented. We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system." The trial happened in the same court that decided Apple owed VirnetX $368 million over FaceTime-related patents back in 2012.
Programming

H-1B Visas Proving Lucrative For Engineers, Dev Leads 176

Posted by timothy
from the quick-get-the-pitchforks dept.
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Ever wanted to know how much H-1B holders make per year? Developer Swizec Teller, who is about to apply for an H-1B visa, took data from the U.S. Department of Labor and visualized it in a series of graphs that break down H-1B salaries on a state-by-state basis. Teller found that the average engineer with an H-1B makes $87,000 a year, a good deal higher than developers ($74,000) and programmers ($61,000) with the same visa. ("Don't call yourself a programmer," he half-joked on Twitter.) Architects, consultants, managers, administrators, and leads with H-1Bs can likewise expect six-figure annual salaries, depending on the state and company. Teller's site is well worth checking out for the interactive graphs, which he built with React and D3.js. The debate over H-1Bs is an emotional one for many tech pros, and research into the visa's true impact on the U.S. labor market wasn't helped by the U.S. Department of Labor's recent decision to destroy H-1B records after five years. "These are the only publicly available records for researchers to analyze on the demand by employers for H-1B visas with detail information on work locations," Neil Ruiz, who researches visa issues for The Brookings Institution, told Computerworld after the new policy was announced in late 2014.
Networking

UK Scientists Claim 1Tbps Data Speed Via Experimental 5G Technology 71

Posted by timothy
from the hefty-overages dept.
Mark.JUK writes A team of Scientists working at the University of Surrey in England claim to have achieved, via an experimental lab test, performance of 1Tbps (Terabit per second) over their candidate for a future 5G Mobile Broadband technology. Sadly the specifics of the test are somewhat unclear, although it's claimed that the performance was delivered by using 100MHz of radio spectrum bandwidth over a distance of 100 metres. The team, which forms part of the UK Government's 5G Innovation Centre, is supported by most of the country's major mobile operators as well as BT, Samsung, Fujitsu, Huawei, the BBC and various other big names in telecoms, media and mobile infrastructure. Apparently the plan is to take the technology outside of the lab for testing between 2016 and 2017, which would be followed by a public demo in early 2018. In the meantime 5G solutions are still being developed, with most in the early experimental stages, by various different teams around the world. Few anticipate a commercial deployment happening before 2020 and we're still a long way from even defining the necessary standard.
Google

Google Teams Up With 3 Wireless Carriers To Combat Apple Pay 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
HughPickens.com writes AP reports that in an effort to undercut Apple's hit service Apple Pay, Google is teaming up with three wireless carriers by building its payment service into Android smartphones sold by AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. Besides trying to make it more convenient to use Wallet, Google also is hoping to improve the nearly 4-year-old service. Toward that end, Google is buying some mobile payment technology and patents from Softcard, a 5-year-old venture owned by the wireless carriers. Financial terms weren't disclosed but Apple Pay's popularity probably helped forge the unlikely alliance between Google and the wireless carriers. Google traditionally has had a prickly relationship with the carriers, largely because it doesn't believe enough has been done to upgrade wireless networks and make them cheaper so more people can spend more time online.

The biggest challenge however is one that both Apple and Google face: Only a small fraction of the 10 million or so retail outlets in the U.S.–220,000 at last count–have checkout readers that can accept payments from either system. Both wallets use a radio technology called Near Field Communication to send payment, and it's expected to take years for most stores to be upgraded. What's at play? The big tech companies and carriers seem convinced that our phones will eventually replace our wallets. For carriers, that could make mobile wallet technology table stakes over the next few years as they compete for consumers.
Movies

The Imitation Game Fails Test of Inspiring the Next Turings 194

Posted by timothy
from the thought-he-was-great-in-wargames-though dept.
reifman writes In 'The Imitation Game': Can This Big Fat Cliche Win Best Picture?, reviewer Monica Guzman blasts the film for distorting history and missing the opportunity to inspire today's tech savvy, highly surveilled generation to follow in Turing's path: Instead of an inventor, it shows a stereotype. Instead of inspiring us to follow in the footsteps of a person who shaped technology, the film inspires us only to get out of the way of the next genius who can. The Imitation Game changed aspects of the real Alan Turing's personality to conform more closely to our idea of the solitary nerd. It falls in line with the tired idea that only outcasts could love computers...As for explaining the science behind Turing's code-breaking machine, the movie doesn't bother. if invention doesn't deserve top billing in this story, where the technology at its heart is not only historically significant but hugely resonant in our lives today, then I don't know where it would. The message of the movie is that the uncommon man can do amazing things, but the message we need is that the common man, woman, anybody can and should tinker with the technology that manages our whole world.