Dupple writes "After settling with the FTC, Google is under pressure again regarding user privacy. From the BBC: 'A group of Apple's Safari web browser users has launched a campaign against Google over privacy concerns. They claim that Google bypassed Safari's security settings to install cookies which tracked their movements on the internet. Between summer 2011 and spring 2012 they were assured by Google this was not the case, and believed Safari's settings to be secure. Judith Vidal-Hall, former editor of Index On Censorship magazine, is the first person in the UK to begin legal action. 'Google claims it does not collect personal data but doesn't say who decides what information is "personal,"' she said. 'Whether something is private or not should be up to the internet surfer, not Google. We are best placed to decide, not them.'"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
SternisheFan writes "Airline safety inspectors have found no faults with the battery used on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, Japan's transport ministry has said. The battery was initially considered the likely source of problems on 787s owned by two Japanese airlines. The world's entire fleet of 50 787s has been grounded while inspections are carried out. Attention has now shifted to the electrical system that monitors battery voltage, charging and temperature. Transport ministry official Shigeru Takano said 'we have found no major quality or technical problem' with the lithium-ion batteries. Shares in GS Yuasa, which makes the batteries, jumped 5% on the news. 'We are looking into affiliated parts makers,' he said. 'We are looking into possibilities.'"
The recipient of nineteen honorary doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents, Ray Kurzweil's accolades are almost too many to list. A prolific inventor, Kurzweil created the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments. His book, The Singularity Is Near, was a New York Times best seller. and is considered one of the best books about futurism and transhumanism ever written. Mr. Kurzweil was hired by Google in December as Director of Engineering to "work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing." He has agreed to take a short break from creating and predicting the future in order to answer your questions. As usual, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.
theodp writes "On Saturday, questions for MIT's Aaron Swartz investigation were posted on Slashdot with the hope that MIT'ers might repost some to the MIT Swartz Review site. So it's good to see that MIT's Hal Abelson, who is leading the analysis of MIT's involvement in the matter, is apparently open to this workaround to the ban on questions from outsiders. In fact, on Sunday Abelson himself reposted an interesting question posed by Boston College Law School Prof. Sharon Beckman: 'What, if anything, did MIT learn from its involvement in the federal prosecution of its student David LaMacchia back in 1994?' Not much, it would appear. LaMacchia, an apparent student of Abelson's whose defense team included Beckman, was indicted in 1994 and charged with the 'piracy of an estimated million dollars' in business and entertainment computer software after MIT gave LaMacchia up to the FBI. LaMacchia eventually walked from the charges, thanks to what became known as the LaMacchia Loophole, which lawmakers took pains to close. 'MIT collaborated with the FBI to wreck LaMacchia's life,' defense attorney Harvey Silverglate charged in 1995 after a judge dismissed the case. 'I hope that this case causes a lot of introspection on the part of MIT's administration. Unfortunately, I doubt it will.'"
bargainsale writes with an account at Ars Technica of "the inspiring story of Newegg vs the patent troll. Perhaps the system does work after all." Newegg's lawyer Lee Cheng has some choice words for the business model employed by Soverain Software, the patent troll which tried, with some success, to exact money from online retailers for using online shopping carts. Newegg has prevailed, though, and Soverain's claims are toast. From Ars: "The ruling effectively shuts down dozens of the lawsuits Soverain filed last year against Nordstrom's, Macy's, Home Depot, Radioshack, Kohl's, and many others (see our chart on page 2). All of them did nothing more than provide shoppers with basic online checkout technology. Soverain used two patents, numbers 5,715,314 and 5,909,492, to claim ownership of the "shopping carts" commonly used in online stores. In some cases, it wielded a third patent, No. 7,272,639."
rtfa-troll writes "The Register tells us that Microsoft has begun squabbling with PC manufacturers over the reasons behind the failure of Windows 8. Microsoft is 'frustrated with major OEMs who didn't build nearly enough touch systems.' PC manufacturers have hit back, saying that they 'would have been saddled with the costs of a huge pile of unsold units,' claiming that customers actually avoided higher-end touch products which were available and instead bought lower-end, cheaper laptops while 'Microsoft is not blaming itself for' the failure of its own touch device, the Surface RT. The PC manufacturers' claims that touch is the problem seem to be backed by reviews, and some educational rants from users and opinions from user interface design experts. However, Microsoft sees this differently. Microsoft is planning to strike back at the PC vendors in February with Surface Pro; with a shorter battery life and much heavier than a normal tablet, this is being seen as a direct competitor to traditional laptops. By using its desktop operating system franchise as a lever, Microsoft will be able to enter the lower-specification end of the laptop market with a cost advantage which make make life difficult for former partners such as HP and Dell. We've discussed previously how some PC manufactures such as Dell have failed in generational change whilst others have diversified to survive market changes; Samsung with Android and the (still) bestselling Chromebook. ASUS with their successful Nexus tablets. We also discussed the ergonomic problems which are claimed to make touch screens unsuitable for PC use."
hypnosec writes "The Raspberry Pi Foundation has released OpenArena – a multiplayer first person shooter game based on Quake III — for the Raspberry Pi. Available as a free download, the game has been rated 'Adults Only' because of the blood and guns. The open-source game is powered by the 'ioquake3' fork of the engine that Quake III runs on id's Tech 3 engine. Modifications have been made to the gameplay by removing the copyrighted material and adding new free content."
theodp writes "Explaining that it believes 'the most important questions are the ones that will come from the MIT community,' MIT announced that it won't be accepting questions from outsiders for its President-ordered 'review' of the events that preceded the suicide of Aaron Swartz. But if you feel the 25 questions asked thus far don't cover all the bases, how about posting additional ones in the comments where MIT'ers can see them and perhaps repost to the MIT site some that they feel deserve answers? Do it soon — MIT President Rafael Reif will be returning any day now from Davos, where he sat on a panel with Bill Gates, who coincidentally once found himself in hot water over unauthorized computer access. 'They weren't sure how mad they should be about it,' Gates explained in a 2010 interview, 'because we hadn't really caused any damage, but it wasn't a good thing. Computer hacking was literally just being invented at the time, and so fortunately we got off with a bit of a warning.'" Related: text has been published of public domain advocate Carl Malamud's remarks at Swartz's memorial. Quoting: "Aaron wasn't a lone wolf, he was part of an army, and I had the honor of serving with him for a decade. Aaron was part of an army of citizens that believes democracy only works when the citizenry are informed, when we know about our rights—and our obligations."
Tyketto writes "Referencing a decision outlined in the Federal Register, Tech News Daily has published an article noting that the window to unlock your new mobile phone in the U.S. is closing. 'In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed. But the library provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.' While this doesn't apply to phones purchased before the window closes, this means that after 1/26/13, for any new mobile phone you purchase, you'll have to fulfill your contract, or break the law to unlock it." It will still be perfectly legal to purchase an unlocked phone, which many carriers offer. This change removes the exemption for buying a new phone under contract (and thus, at a discount) and then unlocking it.
waderoush writes "Engineers and hackers don't think much about tax policy, but there's a bizarre development in California that they should know about, since it could reduce the pool of angel-investment money available for tech startups. Under a tax break available since the 1990s, startup founders and other investors in California were allowed to exclude or defer their gains when they sold stock in California-based small businesses. Last year, a California appeals court ruled that the tax break was unconstitutional, since it discriminated against investors in out-of-state companies. Now the Franchise Tax Board, California's version of the IRS, has issued a notice saying how it intends to implement the ruling — and it's a doozie. Not only is the tax break gone, but anyone who claimed an exclusion or deferral on the sale of small-business stock since 2008 is about to get a big retroactive tax bill. Investors, entrepreneurs, and even the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit are up in arms about the FTB's notice, saying that it goes beyond the court's intent and that it will drive investors out of the state. This Xconomy article takes an in-depth look at the history of the court case, the FTB's ruling, and the reaction in the technology and investing communities."
Orome1 writes "Barracuda Networks has released firmware updates that remove SSH backdoors in a number of their products and resolve a vulnerability in Barracuda SSL VPN that allows attackers to bypass access restrictions to download potentially insecure files, set new admins passwords, or even shut down the device. The backdoor accounts are present on in all available versions of Barracuda Spam and Virus Firewall, Web Filter, Message Archiver, Web Application Firewall, Link Balancer, Load Balancer, and SSL VPN appliances." Here's Barracuda's tech note about the exploitable holes.
Virtucon writes "Ars technica has an interesting article on how Google is handling requests from law enforcement for access to Gmail accounts. With the recent Petraeus scandal where no criminal conduct was found, it seems that they're re-enforcing their policies and standing up for their users. 'In order to compel us to produce content in Gmail we require an ECPA search warrant,' said Chris Gaither, Google spokesperson. 'If they come for registration information, that's one thing, but if they ask for content of email that's another thing.'"
Un pobre guey writes "'To understand the impact technology is having on middle-class jobs in developed countries, the AP analyzed employment data from 20 countries; tracked changes in hiring by industry, pay and task; compared job losses and gains during recessions and expansions over the past four decades; and interviewed economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, entrepreneurs and people in the labor force who ranged from CEOs to the unemployed.' Their findings: Technology has consistently reduced the number of manufacturing jobs for 30 years; people with repetitive jobs have been easy to replace in the past, and task jugglers like managers and supervisors will be likely targets in the future; companies in the S&P 500 have expanded their business and increased profits, but reduced staffing, thanks to tech; and startups are launching much more easily these days. The response to the article includes the dutifully repeated bad-government-is-at-fault and don't-worry-it's-like-the-Industrial-Revolution memes. But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?"
theodp writes "There's a funny thing about the estimated $1.7 trillion that American companies say they have indefinitely invested overseas,' reports the WSJ's Kate Linebaugh (reg. or the old Google trick). 'A lot of it is actually sitting right here at home.' And if tech companies like Google and Microsoft want to keep more than three-quarters of the cash owned by their foreign subsidiaries at U.S. banks, held in U.S. dollars or parked in U.S. government and corporate securities, Linebaugh explains, this money is still overseas in the eyes of the IRS and isn't taxed as long as it doesn't flow back to the U.S. parent company. Helping corporations avoid the need to tap their foreign-held cash are low interest rates at home, which have allowed U.S. companies to borrow cheaply. Oracle, for instance, raised $5 billion last year, paying an interest rate roughly two-thirds of a percentage point above the low post-crash Treasury yield, about 2.5% at the time (by contrast, grad students and parents pay 6.8%-7.9% for Federal student loans). Were the funds it manages to keep in the hands of its foreign subsidiaries brought home and subjected to U.S. income tax, Oracle estimated it could owe Uncle Sam about $6.3 billion."
An anonymous reader writes with more news about the no-poach agreements that seemed to plague tech companies. From the article: "Steve Jobs threatened patent litigation if Palm wouldn't agree to stop hiring Apple employees, says former Palm CEO Edward Colligan in a statement dated August 7th, 2012. The allegation is backed up by a trove of recently-released evidence that shows just how deeply Silicon Valley's no-hire agreements pervaded in the mid-2000s. Apple, Google, Intel, and others are the focus of a civil lawsuit into the 'gentleman's agreements,' in which affected employees are fighting for class action status and damages from resulting lost wages, potentially reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars."