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The Courts

Taxi Owners Sue NYC Over Uber, While Court Overrules Class-Action Appeal (thestack.com) 210

An anonymous reader writes: Taxi owners in New York have filed a lawsuit against cab-hailing app giant Uber, citing damaged revenues and a hefty fall in value of NYC's 'medallion' business. The case against the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission claims that the regulators have unfairly permitted Uber to steal away business from the regulated cab industry. Getting away without regulation has enabled Uber drivers to compete directly, and drown out official taxi companies. A further lawsuit case hovering over Uber this week, is its request to immediately appeal an order approving class certification filed by its own drivers. The appeal was denied by a U.S. court yesterday.
The Internet

US Rep. Joe Barton Has a Plan To Stop Terrorists: Shut Down Websites (arstechnica.com) 275

Earthquake Retrofit writes: In an FCC oversight hearing, U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) asked Chairman Tom Wheeler if it's possible to shut down websites used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. He said, "Isn't there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they've declared war against us, our way of life, they've threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation." Wheeler pointed out that the legal definition of "lawful intercept" did not support such actions, but added that Congress could expand the law to validate the concept. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is exploring the idea of using the recent terror attacks in France as ammunition to force tech companies away from end-to-end encryption. "Lawmakers said it was time to intensify discussions over what technology companies such as Apple and Google could do to help unscramble key information on devices such as iPhones and apps like WhatsApp, where suspected terrorists have communicated."

Anonymous Takes Down Thousands of ISIS-Related Twitter Accounts In a Day (softpedia.com) 318

BarbaraHudson writes: Softpedia is reporting that Anonymous, along with social media users, have identified several thousand Twitter accounts allegedly linked to ISIS members. "Besides scanning for ISIS Twitter accounts themselves, the hacking group has also opened access to the [takedown operation] site to those interested. Anyone who comes across ISIS social media accounts can easily search the database and report any new terrorists and supporters. The website is called #opIceISIS [slow right now, but it does load] and will index ISIS members based on their real name, location, picture, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts." Anonymous crowdsourcing their operations... welcome to the brave new world, ISIS. An article at The Independent reminds everyone that this information has not been independently confirmed, and that Anonymous is certainly capable of misidentifying people. It's also worth exploring the question of why Twitter hasn't already disabled these accounts, and why intelligence agencies haven't done anything about them, if they're so easy to find.

Google's Chromebit Micro-Computer Launches (techcrunch.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes: Back in March, Google announced the Chromebit, a small computer crammed into an HDMI stick that runs Chrome OS. The device, built by Asus, has now launched for $85. It weighs 75 grams, runs on a Rockchip ARM processor, and includes a USB port. It has 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, and connects via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. According to Tech Crunch, the Chromebit is not particularly fast, but it's usable for basic tasks. "As long as the work only involves web apps (or maybe a remote connection to a more fully-featured machine), the Chromebit is up for the job and can turn any screen into a usable desktop."

Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools? 168

theodp writes: A year after it paid $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft, Microsoft has announced a partnership with Code.org that makes a Minecraft-themed introduction to programming a signature tutorial of this year's Hour of Code, which hopes to reach 200 million schoolchildren next month in what the Microsoft-funded nonprofit is billing as the largest learning event in history. "A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a press release, which also notes that "Microsoft is gifting Windows Store credit to every educator who organizes an Hour of Code event worldwide." Of the Minecraft tutorial, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi gushed, "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."

FCC Clarifies: It's Legal To Hack Your Router (betanews.com) 85

Mark Wilson writes with an update to an earlier report that the wording of new FCC regulations could mean that it would be illegal to modfiy the software running on wireless routers by installing alternative firmwares. Instead, The commission has now acknowledged that there was more than a little confusion from people who believed that manufacturers would be encouraged to prevent router modifications. The FCC wants to make it clear that most router hacking is fine and will remain fine. With a few exceptions, that is. In a blog post entitled Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates, Julius Knapp from the FCC tries to clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.
Christmas Cheer

'Twas the Week Before the Week of Black Friday 145

theodp writes: It's almost time for America's answer to the Running of the Bulls (YouTube), kids. So, if you're dreaming of a cheap tech Christmas, it's time to peruse the 2015 Black Friday ads and make your game plan. Get lucky at Best Buy this year, and you could score a $299.99 Dell 15.6" touchscreen laptop (i3, 8GB memory, 1 TB HD), a $399.99 Microsoft 10.8" Surface 3 (Atom x7, 2GB memory, 64GB storage), $899.99 MacBook Pro 13.3" laptop (i5, 4GB memory, 500MB HD), $99 Acer 11.6" Chromebook (Celeron, 2GB memory, 16GB storage), or, for those on a tight budget, a $34.99 7" Amazon Fire tablet. Fight the crowds at Walmart, and you could snag a $199 HP 15.6" laptop (Celeron, 4GB memory, 500GB drive) or $199 iPad mini 2. And for stay-at-home shoppers, Dell's Windows 10 price-breakers include a $149.99 14" laptop (Celeron, 2GB memory, 32GB storage) and a $229 15.6" laptop (i3, 4GB memory, 500MB HD). So, in your experience, has Black Friday been like a claw machine — suckering you with big prizes, but never delivering — or have you actually walked away with a great deal?
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Undervalued, Livable American Tech Towns? 464

An anonymous reader writes: I've been working in tech as a software developer for about 15 years. As I've gotten older I'm starting to see the appeal of living in a city that's not crazily blown out and expensive like most established tech markets (think San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Los Angeles, etc.). Are there are any good tech job markets that are normal, affordable, livable, American cities, or am I forever doomed to be subjected to the rat race found in these overheated and overcrowded markets? Lots of cities have at least some vibrant tech scene; Omaha, NE, Raleigh, NC, and Ann Arbor, MI are three that spring to mind, but everyone's tastes and tolerances will vary. What do you find in your neck of the woods? (Even if it's one of those "crazily blown out" examples.)

Dubai Buys Commercial Jetpacks For Firefighters (martinjetpack.com) 91

_Sharp'r_ writes: Want to fly a jetpack? Join the fire department in Dubai. In a skyscraper filled city where cops drive Ferraris and Lamborghinis, it was actually cheaper to buy twenty $150K jetpacks (plus two simulators) for fire rescue rather than find 2700 ft ladders. Slashdot has had stories about these coming for five years. A VR-headset based jetpack flight-simulator for the masses would be fun, too, even better if the object were to put out fires in skyscrapers..

Ad Networks Using Inaudible Sound To Link Phones, Tablets and Other Devices (arstechnica.com) 223

ourlovecanlastforeve writes with a link to Ars Technica's report of a new way for ads to narrow in on their target: high-pitched sounds that can make ad tracking cross devices and contexts. From the article: The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can't be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.

Hour of Code 2015 Star Wars Tutorial: Spare the IF Statement, Spoil the Child? 156

theodp writes: Teaching U.S. K-12 kids their programming fundamentals in past Hours of Code were an IF-fy Bill Gates and a LOOP-y Mark Zuckerberg. Interestingly, the new signature tutorial — Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code — created by Lucasfilm and Code.org ("in a locked room with no windows") for this December's Hour of Code, eschews both IF statements and loops. The new learn-to-code tutorial instead elects to show students "events" after they've gone through the usual move-up-down-left-right drills. With the NY Times and National Center for Women & Information Technology recently warning against putting Star Wars in the CS classroom ("Attracting more female high school students to computer science classes might be as easy as tossing out the Star Wars posters," claimed an Aug. 29th NCWIT Facebook post), the theme of the new tutorial seems an odd choice for Code.org, whose stated mission includes "increasing [CS] participation by women." But if Star Wars is, as some suggest, more aimed at boys, perhaps Code.org has something up its sleeve for girls (a la last year's Disney Princesses) with another as yet unannounced signature tutorial that it teased would be "just as HUGE" as the Star Wars one. Any guesses on what that might be?

Boot Camps Introducing More Women To Tech (dice.com) 196

Nerval's Lobster writes: A new study from Course Report suggests that boot camps are introducing more women to the tech-employment pipeline. Data for the study came from 769 graduates from 43 qualifying coding schools (a.k.a. boot camps). Some 66 percent of those graduates reported landing a full-time job that hinged on skills learned at the boot camp. Although the typical "bootcamper" is 31 years old, with 7.6 years of work experience, relatively few had a job as a programmer before participating in a boot camp. Perhaps the most interesting data-point from Course Report, though, is that 36 percent of "bootcampers" are women, compared to 14.1 percent coming into the tech industry via undergraduate programs. Bringing more women and underrepresented groups into the tech industry is a stated goal of many companies. Over the past few years, these companies' diversity reports have bemoaned how engineering and leadership teams skew overwhelmingly white and male. Proposed strategies for the issue include adjusting how companies recruit new workers; boot camps could also quickly deepen the pool of potential employees with the right skills.

Paper Retracted After Anti-Immigrant Scientist Bans Use of His Software (sciencemag.org) 418

sciencehabit writes: An 11-year-old research paper describing Treefinder, a computer program used by evolutionary biologists, has been retracted after the program's developer banned its use in European countries he deemed too friendly to refugees. In September, German scientist Gangolf Jobb announced on his website that researchers in eight European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, were no longer allowed to use Treefinder, which builds phylogenetic trees from sequence data. The move sparked outrage among some scientists, and now, BMC Evolutionary Biology has pulled the 2004 paper describing the software because the license change 'breaches the journal's editorial policy on software availability.'

Bluetooth 2016 Roadmap Brings Fourfold Range Increase and Mesh Networking (thestack.com) 29

An anonymous reader writes: The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced its roadmap for Bluetooth Smart in 2016, promising a fourfold range increase in the low-energy, IoT-oriented version of the protocol, along with dedicated mesh networking, a 100% increase in speed and no extra consumption of energy. The last set of upgrades to the protocol offered direct access to the internet and security enhancements. Since Bluetooth must currently contend with attacks on everything from cars to toilets, the increased range means that developers may not be able to rely on 'fleeting contact' as a security feature quite as much.

Tech Pros' Struggle For Work-Life Balance Continues (dice.com) 195

Nerval's Lobster writes: Work-life balance among technology professionals is very much in the news following a much-discussed New York Times article about workday conditions at Amazon. That piece painted a picture of a harsh workplace where employees literally cried at their desks. While more tech companies are publicly talking about the need for work-life balance, do the pressures of delivering revenues, profits, and products make much of that chatter mere lip-service? Or are companies actually doing their best to ensure their workers are treated like human beings with lives outside of work?

New Book Sold Out Offers a Look At the H-1B Debate 331

theodp writes: The New York Post has published an excerpt from Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires and Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels Are Screwing America's Best and Brightest Workers, a new book on the H-1B debate from conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin and programmer-turned-attorney John Miano. "Sold Out," notes a Computerworld review, "clearly has a point a view about the program (crapweasels, for instance), but it backs up its assertions and gives H-1B supporters a high threshold to cross. A serious argument in defense of the visa program requires explaining how America gains when a U.S. worker is replaced by a foreign visa holder hired to do the exact same job. If you are going to justify the H-1B program, then you have to defend firms that force their employees (no severance otherwise) to train their replacements. That may be the point here. This book lays bare the replacement process, the broad use of the H-1B visa by the IT offshore outsourcing industry, and the lobbying effort in Washington to minimalize the visa's use in displacing U.S. workers." With anecdotes like "how Microsoft wined and dined the Bush administration to expand the foreign worker supply through administrative fiat to circumvent public disclosure and congressional debate," the book seeks out a broader audience than just those already familiar with the H-1B issue.

App Companies Propose New Model For Worker Benefits (cio.com) 113

itwbennett writes: In late October, four delivery drivers for the app-based Amazon Prime Now service filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the company misclassifies its workers as contractors. In June, the California Labor Commission ruled that Uber drivers are employees, not contractors. Now, worker advocacy groups, companies offering services through apps (including Lyft, Etsy, Care.com, and Instacart), a variety of policy experts, and venture capitalists are proposing a new model for worker benefits that will be "portable" across the number of jobs they do in the new on-demand economy. "Self-employed workers choosing to engage in flexible work may also encounter unforeseen work disruptions or other hardships without the protections and benefits that may be provided through full time employment," the group said in a statement posted on Medium.

2016 Presidential Candidate Security Investigation (infosecinstitute.com) 97

New submitter Fryan writes: InfoSec Institute has assessed the security posture of 16 of the presidential candidates' websites. This is an indicator of the level of security awareness the candidate and the campaign staff has. The recent breaches and security lapses of high profile individuals highlight the absolute need for everyone to take security awareness seriously. The hacking of the Director of the CIA's (John Brennan) personal email account, and the storage of classified emails on a personal email server with Hillary Clinton, show how damaging a lack of basic good security hygiene can be. In this survey (of only the best known presidential candidates, not the scads of others), the authors give both their highest grade (an A) and lowest (a D) for candidates still in the race to two Republicans, Ben Carson and Jim Gilmore, respectively; surprising for a tech-focused campaign, Lawrence Lessig (who has ended his candidacy since the survey began) ranked even lower, with a D-.

Speaking of presidential candidates, the fourth Republican debate, hosted by Fox Business, will kick off about an hour after this post goes live (9:00 PM Eastern, 0200 GMT). Feel free to discuss it alongside the security report.