Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. ×
Communications

Battle of the Carriers: T-Mobile's New Promotion Offers Three Unlimited Data Lines For $100 (theverge.com) 21

A battle is raging between telecommunications giants and the public is benefiting from it. In response to T-Mobile's "One" unlimited data plan announced in August, Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own a couple of weeks ago. This caused a ripple effect as Sprint and AT&T unveiled new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. The battle appears to show no signs of slowing as the carriers are continuing their efforts to win consumers over. Today, AT&T undercut Verizon and T-Mobile with newer unlimited data plans. The "Unlimited Choice" plan is the cheaper of the two new plans, featuring unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot for $60 per month. While it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option, it may not be as generous as T-Mobile's latest promotion. The company just announced a new promotion after AT&T's announcement that offers three unlimited data lines for $100. The Verge reports: In its continuing efforts to attract more sign-ups, T-Mobile's latest promotion offers an additional line for free for accounts with two or more lines. The offer works whether you want to add an extra phone line or a line for wearables or tablets. The deal is available for current and new customers -- the amount of data available to the free line will match up with whatever your current plan is for the other lines. If your plan does not have the same amount of data between devices, the free line will get whatever's the lowest of the bunch. Just two weeks ago, the company updated its T-Mobile One plan to include unlimited data for $100 a month between two lines. CEO John Legere said the free line promotion also applies this new plan. If you are confused about the four carriers' recent announcements, you are not alone. We have included related links below to help you make sense of each carrier's plans.
AI

In Twenty, Fifty Years, 'We May Be Entertaining AI', Says Netflix CEO (barrons.com) 79

"If you are starting to look ahead what do you see?" a journalist asked Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at the Mobile World Congress. An anonymous reader shares a report: Hastings cited the work of Charlie Booker on "Black Mirror," saying "He tells many strange and wonderful stories on tech," and that "what's amazing about tech is, it's very hard to predict." "What we do is try to learn and adapt," said Hastings. "Rather than commit to one particular point of view, we will adapt to that." "If it's contact lenses with amazing capabilities, at some point, we will adapt to that." Hastings said the Internet's importance in one sense is that watching things on streaming is "so easy and convenient," with the result that "a show like The Crown, which would have been a niche before, is spreading around the world." "I just can't emphasize enough how much it's just beginning," he repeated. But, pressed stock, what about ten years out or twenty years out? Hastings said at that point there will be "some serious virtual reality" to contend with. And past twenty years? "Over twenty to fifty years, you get into some serious debate over humans," mused Hastings. "I don't know if you can really talk about entertaining at that point. I'm not sure if in twenty to fifty years we are going to be entertaining you, or entertaining AIs."
Businesses

Scraping By On Six Figures? Tech Workers Feel Poor in Silicon Valley's Wealth Bubble (theguardian.com) 434

Big tech companies pay some of the country's best salaries. But workers claim the high cost of living in the Bay Area has them feeling financially strained, reports The Guardian. One Twitter employee cited in the story, who earns a base salary of $160,000 a year, said his earnings are "pretty bad", adding that he pays $3000 rent for a two-bedroom house in San Francisco. From the article: Silicon Valley's latest tech boom has caused rents to soar over the last five years. The city's rents, by one measure, are now the highest in the world. The prohibitive costs have displaced teachers, city workers, firefighters and other members of the middle class, not to mention low-income residents. Now techies, many of whom are among the highest 1 percent of earners, are complaining that they, too, are being priced out. The Twitter employee said he hit a low point in early 2014 when the company changed its payroll schedule, leaving him with a hole in his budget. "I had to borrow money to make it through the month." He was one of several tech workers, earning between $100,000 and $700,000 a year, who vented to the Guardian about their financial situation.
Canada

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 92

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
Transportation

'Uber Is Doomed', Argues Transportation Reporter (jalopnik.com) 299

When an Uber self-driving car ran a red light last year, they blamed and suspended the car's driver, even though it was the car's software that malfunctioned, according to two former employees, ultimately causing Uber cars to run six different red lights. But technical issues may be only the beginning. An anonymous reader writes: Jalopnik points out that in 2016 Uber "burned through more than $2 billion, amid findings that rider fares only cover roughly 40% of a ride, with the remainder subsidized by venture capitalists" (covering even less than the fares of government-subsidized mass transit systems). So despite Google's lawsuit and other recent bad publicity, "even when those factors are removed, it's becoming more evident that Uber will collapse on its own."

Their long analysis argues that the problems are already becoming apparent. "Uber, which didn't respond to questions from Jalopnik about its viability, recently paid $20 million to settle claims that it grossly misled how much drivers could earn on Craigslist ads. The company's explosive growth also fundamentally required it to begin offering subprime auto loans to prospective drivers without a vehicle."

Last month transportation industry analyst Hubert Horan calculated that Uber Global's losses have been "substantially greater than any venture capital-funded startup in history."
Google

Is Google's Comment Filtering Tool 'Vanishing' Legitimate Comments? (vortex.com) 96

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: Google has announced (with considerable fanfare) public access to their new "Perspective" comment filtering system API, which uses Google's machine learning/AI system to determine which comments on a site shouldn't be displayed due to perceived high spam/toxicity scores. It's a fascinating effort. And if you run a website that supports comments, I urge you not to put this Google service into production, at least for now.

The bottom line is that I view Google's spam detection systems as currently too prone to false positives -- thereby enabling a form of algorithm-driven "censorship" (for lack of a better word in this specific context) -- especially by "lazy" sites that might accept Google's determinations of comment scoring as gospel... as someone who deals with significant numbers of comments filtered by Google every day -- I have nearly 400K followers on Google Plus -- I can tell you with considerable confidence that the problem isn't "spam" comments that are being missed, it's completely legitimate non-spam, non-toxic comments that are inappropriately marked as spam and hidden by Google.

Lauren is also collecting noteworthy experiences for a white paper about "the perceived overall state of Google (and its parent corporation Alphabet, Inc.)" to better understand how internet companies are now impacting our lives in unanticipated ways. He's inviting people to share their recent experiences with "specific Google services (including everything from Search to Gmail to YouTube and beyond), accounts, privacy, security, interactions, legal or copyright issues -- essentially anything positive, negative, or neutral that you are free to impart to me, that you believe might be of interest."
Bug

Google Discloses Yet Another New Unpatched Microsoft Vulnerability In Edge/IE (bleepingcomputer.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Google has gone public with details of a second unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft products, this time in Edge and Internet Explorer, after last week they've published details about a bug in the Windows GDI (Graphics Device Interface) component... The bug, discovered by Google Project Zero researcher Ivan Fratric, is tracked by the CVE-2017-0037 identifier and is a type confusion, a kind of security flaw that can allow an attacker to execute code on the affected machine, and take over a device.

Details about CVE-2017-0037 are available in Google's bug report, along with proof-of-concept code. The PoC code causes a crash of the exploited browser, but depending on the attacker's skill level, more dangerous exploits could be built... Besides the Edge and IE bug, Microsoft products are also plagued by two other severe security flaws, one affecting the Windows GDI component and one the SMB file sharing protocol shipped with all Windows OS versions...

Google's team notified Microsoft of the bug 90 days ago, only disclosing it publicly on Friday.
Transportation

Did Silicon Valley Lose The Race To Build Self-Driving Cars? (autoblog.com) 126

schwit1 quotes Autoblog: Up until very recently the talk in Silicon Valley was about how the tech industry was going to broom Detroit into the dustbin of history. Companies such as Apple, Google, and Uber -- so the thinking went -- were going to out run, out gun, and out innovate the automakers. Today that talk is starting to fade. There's a dawning realization that maybe there's a good reason why the traditional car companies have been around for more than a century.

Last year Apple laid off most of the engineers it hired to design its own car. Google (now Waymo) stopped talking about making its own car. And Uber, despite its sky high market valuation, is still a long, long way from ever making any money, much less making its own autonomous cars. To paraphrase Elon Musk, Silicon Valley is learning that "Making rockets is hard, but making cars is really hard."

The article argues the big auto-makers launched "vigorous in-house autonomous programs" which became fully competitive with Silicon Valley's efforts, and that Silicon Valley may have a larger role crunching the data that's collected from self-driving cars. "Last year in the U.S. market alone Chevrolet collected 4,220 terabytes of data from customer's cars... Retailers, advertisers, marketers, product planners, financial analysts, government agencies, and so many others will eagerly pay to get access to that information."
Businesses

How Cable Monopolies Hurt ISP Customers (backchannel.com) 88

"New York subscribers have had to overpay month after month for services that Spectrum deliberately didn't provide," reports Backchannel -- noting these practices are significant because together Comcast and Charter (formerly Time Warner Cable) account for half of America's 92 million high-speed internet connections. An anonymous reader quotes Backchannel: Based on the company's own documents and statements, it appears that just about everything it has been saying since 2012 to New York State residents about their internet access and data services is untrue...because of business decisions the company deliberately made in order to keep its capital expenditures as low as possible... Its marketing department kept sending out advertising claims to the public that didn't match the reality of what consumers were experiencing or square with what company engineers were telling Spectrum executives. That gives the AG's office its legal hook: Spectrum's actions in knowingly saying one thing but doing another amount to fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive behavior under New York law...

The branding people went nuts, using adjectives like Turbo, Extreme, and Ultimate for the company's highest-speed 200 or 300 Mbps download offerings. But no one, or very few people, could actually experience those speeds...because, according to the complaint, the company deliberately required that internet data connections be shared among a gazillion people in each neighborhood... [T]he lawsuit won't by itself make much of a difference. But maybe the public nature of the attorney-general's assault -- charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct -- will lead to a call for alternatives. Maybe it will generate momentum for better, faster, wholesale fiber networks controlled by cities and localities themselves. If that happened, retail competition would bloom. We'd get honest, straightforward, inexpensive service, rather than the horrendously expensive cable bundles we're stuck with today.

The article says Spectrum charged 800,000 New Yorkers $10 a month for outdated cable boxes that "weren't even capable of transmitting and receiving wifi at the speeds the company advertised customers would be getting," then promised the FCC in 2013 that they'd replace them, and then didn't. "With no competition, it had no reason to upgrade its services. Indeed, the company's incentives went exactly in the other direction."
Open Source

Linus Torvalds On Git's Use Of SHA-1: 'The Sky Isn't Falling' (zdnet.com) 193

Google's researchers specifically cited Git when they announced a new SHA-1 attack vector, according to ZDNet. "The researchers highlight that Linus Torvald's code version-control system Git 'strongly relies on SHA-1' for checking the integrity of file objects and commits. It is essentially possible to create two Git repositories with the same head commit hash and different contents, say, a benign source code and a backdoored one,' they note." Saturday morning, Linus responded: First off - the sky isn't falling. There's a big difference between using a cryptographic hash for things like security signing, and using one for generating a "content identifier" for a content-addressable system like git. Secondly, the nature of this particular SHA1 attack means that it's actually pretty easy to mitigate against, and there's already been two sets of patches posted for that mitigation. And finally, there's actually a reasonably straightforward transition to some other hash that won't break the world - or even old git repositories...

The reason for using a cryptographic hash in a project like git is because it pretty much guarantees that there is no accidental clashes, and it's also a really really good error detection thing. Think of it like "parity on steroids": it's not able to correct for errors, but it's really really good at detecting corrupt data... if you use git for source control like in the kernel, the stuff you really care about is source code, which is very much a transparent medium. If somebody inserts random odd generated crud in the middle of your source code, you will absolutely notice... It's not silently switching your data under from you... And finally, the "yes, git will eventually transition away from SHA1". There's a plan, it doesn't look all that nasty, and you don't even have to convert your repository. There's a lot of details to this, and it will take time, but because of the issues above, it's not like this is a critical "it has to happen now thing".

In addition, ZDNet reports, "Torvalds said on a mailing list yesterday that he's not concerned since 'Git doesn't actually just hash the data, it does prepend a type/length field to it', making it harder to attack than a PDF... Do we want to migrate to another hash? Yes. Is it game over for SHA-1 like people want to say? Probably not."
Bug

Severe IE 11 Bug Allows 'Persistent JavaScript' Attacks (bleepingcomputer.com) 90

An anonymous reader writes: New research published today shows how a malicious website owner could show a constant stream of popups, even after the user has left his site, or even worse, execute any kind of persistent JavaScript code while the user is on other domains. In an interview, the researcher who found these flaws explains that this flaw is an attacker's dream, as it could be used for: ad fraud (by continuing to load ads even when the user is navigating other sites), zero-day attacks (by downloading exploit code even after the user has left the page), tech support scams (by showing errors and popups on legitimate and reputable sites), and malvertising (by redirecting users later on, from other sites, even if they leave the malicious site too quickly).

This severe flaw in the browser security model affects only Internet Explorer 11, which unfortunately is the second most used browser version, after Chrome 55, with a market share of over 10%. Even worse for IE11 users, there's no fix available for this issue because the researcher has decided to stop reporting bugs to Microsoft after they've ignored many of his previous reports. For IE11 users, a demo page is available here.

Social Networks

Are Your Slack Conversations Really Private and Secure? (fastcompany.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: "Chats that seem to be more ephemeral than email are still being recorded on a server somewhere," reports Fast Company, noting that Slack's Data Request Policy says the company will turn over data from customers when "it is compelled by law to do so or is subject to a valid and binding order of a governmental or regulatory body...or in cases of emergency to avoid death or physical harm to individuals." Slack will notify customers before disclosure "unless Slack is prohibited from doing so," or if the data is associated with "illegal conduct or risk of harm to people or property."

The article also warns that like HipChat and Campfire, Slack "is encrypted only at rest and in transit," though a Slack spokesperson says they "may evaluate" end-to-end encryption at some point in the future. Slack has no plans to offer local hosting of Slack data, but if employers pay for a Plus Plan, they're able to access private conversations.

Though Slack has 4 million users, the article points out that there's other alternatives like Semaphor and open source choices like Wickr and Mattermost. I'd be curious to hear what Slashdot readers are using at their own workplaces -- and how they feel about the privacy and security of Slack?
Education

Arizona Bill Would Make Students In Grades 4-12 Participate Once In An Hour of Code (azpbs.org) 142

theodp writes: Christopher Silavong of Cronkite News reports: "A bill, introduced by [Arizona State] Sen. John Kavanagh [R-Fountain Hills] would mandate that public and charter schools provide one hour of coding instruction once between grades 4 to 12. Kavanagh said it's critical for students to learn the language -- even if it's only one session -- so they can better compete for jobs in today's world. However, some legislators don't believe a state mandate is the right approach. Senate Bill 1136 has passed the Senate, and it's headed to the House of Representatives. Kavanagh said he was skeptical about coding and its role in the future. But he changed his mind after learning that major technology companies were having trouble finding domestic coders and talking with his son, who works at a tech company." According to the Bill, the instruction can "be offered by either a nationally recognized nonprofit organization [an accompanying Fact Sheet mentions tech-backed Code.org] that is devoted to expanding access to computer science or by an entity with expertise in providing instruction to pupils on interactive computer instruction that is aligned to the academic standards."
The Courts

Appeals Court: You Have the Right To Film the Police (arstechnica.com) 174

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A divided federal appeals court is ruling for the First Amendment, saying the public has a right to film the police. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in upholding the bulk of a lower court's decision against an activist who was conducting what he called a "First Amendment audit" outside a Texas police station, noted that this right is not absolute and is not applicable everywhere. The facts of the dispute are simple. Phillip Turner was 25 in September 2015 when he decided to go outside the Fort Worth police department to test officers' knowledge of the right to film the police. While filming, he was arrested for failing to identify himself to the police. Officers handcuffed and briefly held Turner before releasing him without charges. Turner sued, alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment right against unlawful arrest and detention and his First Amendment right of speech. The 2-1 decision Thursday by Judge Jacques Wiener is among a slew of rulings on the topic, and it provides fresh legal backing for the so-called YouTube society where people are constantly using their mobile phones to film themselves and the police. A dissenting appellate judge on the case -- Edith Brown Clement -- wrote Turner was not unlawfully arrested and that the majority opinion from the Texas-based appeals court jumped the gun to declare a First Amendment right here because one "is not clearly established."
Government

FCC To Halt Rule That Protects Your Private Data From Security Breaches (arstechnica.com) 119

According to Ars Technica, "The Federal Communications Commission plans to halt implementation of a privacy rule that requires ISPs to protect the security of its customers' personal information." From the report: The data security rule is part of a broader privacy rulemaking implemented under former Chairman Tom Wheeler but opposed by the FCC's new Republican majority. The privacy order's data security obligations are scheduled to take effect on March 2, but Chairman Ajit Pai wants to prevent that from happening. The data security rule requires ISPs and phone companies to take "reasonable" steps to protect customers' information -- such as Social Security numbers, financial and health information, and Web browsing data -- from theft and data breaches. The rule would be blocked even if a majority of commissioners supported keeping them in place, because the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau can make the decision on its own. That "full commission vote on the pending petitions" could wipe out the entire privacy rulemaking, not just the data security section, in response to petitions filed by trade groups representing ISPs. That vote has not yet been scheduled. The most well-known portion of the privacy order requires ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The opt-in rule is supposed to take effect December 4, 2017, unless the FCC or Congress eliminates it before then. Pai has said that ISPs shouldn't face stricter rules than online providers like Google and Facebook, which are regulated separately by the Federal Trade Commission. Pai wants a "technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world" based on the FTC's standards. According to today's FCC statement, the data security rule "is not consistent with the FTC's privacy standards."

Slashdot Top Deals