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Earth

The Americas Are Now Officially 'Measles-Free' (theverge.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Americas are now free of measles and we have vaccines to thank, the Pan American Health Organization said earlier this week. This is the first region in the world to be declared measles-free, despite longtime efforts to eliminate the disease entirely. The condition -- which causes flu-like symptoms and a blotchy rash -- is one of the world's most infectious diseases. It's transmitted by airborne particles or direct contact with someone who has the disease and is highly contagious, especially among small children. To be clear, there are still people with measles in the Americas, but the only cases develop from strains picked up overseas. Still, the numbers are going down: in the U.S. this year, there have been 54 cases, down from 667 two years ago. The last case of measles that developed in the Americas was in 2002. (It took such a long time to declare the region measles-free because of various bureaucratic issues.) Health officials say that credit for this victory goes to efforts to vaccinate against the disease. Though the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for all children and required by many states, anti-vaxxers have protested it due to since-discredited claims that vaccines can cause autism. NPR interviewed Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of GAVI, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve and provide vaccine and immunization coverage to children in the world's poorest countries. She says that 90 to 95 percent of people in a given region need to be vaccinated in order to stop transmission in a region. The rate worldwide is about 80 percent for measles, which means that 20 percent of people around the world are not covered.
Businesses

D-Wave's 2,000-Qubit Quantum Annealing Computer Now 1,000x Faster Than Previous Generation (tomshardware.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: D-Wave, a Canadian company developing the first commercial "quantum computer," announced its next-generation quantum annealing computer with 2,000 qubits, which is twice as many as its previous generation had. One highly exciting aspect of quantum computers of all types is that beyond the seemingly Moore's Law-like increase in number of qubits every two years, their performance increases much more than just 2x, unlike with regular microprocessors. This is because qubits can hold a value of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two, making quantum systems able to deal with much more complex information. If D-Wave's 2,000-qubit computer is now 1,000 faster than the previous 1,000-qubit generation (D-Wave 2X), that would mean that, for the things Google tested last year, it should now be 100 billion times faster than a single-core CPU. The new generation also comes with control features, which allows users to modify how D-Wave's quantum system works to better optimize their solutions. These control features include the following capabilities: The ability to tune the rate of annealing of individual qubits to enhance application performance; The ability to sample the state of the quantum computer during the quantum annealing process to power hybrid quantum-classical machine learning algorithms that were not previously possible; The ability to combine quantum processing with classical processing to improve the quality of both optimization and sampling results returned from the system. D-Wave's CEO, Vern Brownell, also said that D-Wave's quantum computers could also be used for machine learning task in ways that wouldn't be possible on classical computers. The company is also training the first generation of programmers to develop applications for D-Wave quantum systems. Last year, Google said that D-Wave's 1,000 qubit computer proved to be 100 million times faster than a classical computer with a single core: "We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1,000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 10^8 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core," said Hartmut Neven, Google's Director of Engineering.
Education

The Ig Nobel Awards Celebrate Their 26th First Annual Awards Ceremony (improbable.com) 35

Thursday Harvard's Sanders Theatre hosted the 26th edition of the humorous research awards "that make people laugh, then think...intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." One of this year's winners actually lived as a goat, wearing prosthetic extensions on his arms and legs so he could travel the countryside with other goats. Long-time Slashdot reader tomhath writes: The Journal of Improbable announced these winners:

REPRODUCTION PRIZE [EGYPT] -- The late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [NEW ZEALAND, UK] -- Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes, and Shelagh Ferguson, for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective...

PEACE PRIZE [CANADA, USA] -- Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'...

PERCEPTION PRIZE [JAPAN] -- Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

The Improable Research site lists the rest of this year's 10 winners, as well as every winner for the previous 25 years.
Hardware

At Least 26 Claimed Galaxy Note 7 Fire Reports Were Untrue, Samsung Says (zdnet.com) 106

Lately, a lot of behind the scene conversations have been suggesting that perhaps the Note 7 battery explosion fiasco has been blown out of the proportion. There's no evidence of any of that, so we won't discuss it any further, but amid all of this, Samsung has confirmed that at least 26 explosion reports that circulated everywhere were hoaxes. From a ZDNet report:Out of the 26 reports, the South Korean tech giant said that in 12 cases they found no fault with the devices. In seven cases, the reported victim could not be reached and in another seven incidents, the consumer cancelled the report or alleged that they threw away the device. In the US, where 1 million devices were recalled, nine such cases were reported. There were three in South Korea, two in France, and one each from the UK, Canada, Singapore, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, Croatia, Romania, Iraq, Lebanon, the UAE, and Czech Republic. In Korea, a worker at a convenience store alleged online that their phone exploded but Samsung said the person was currently unreachable. The user in Canada used a picture they found of the Note 7 catching fire and posed it as their own, the company said, and in Singapore, a user claimed they threw the handset out of their car when it caught fire but could not show proof.Makes you think doesn't it?
Communications

Quantum Teleportation Achieved Over 7km of Cable (sciencealert.com) 189

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert: Quantum teleportation just moved out of the lab and into the real world, with two independent teams of scientists successfully sending quantum information across several kilometers of optical fiber networks in Calgary, Canada, and Hefei, China. Quantum teleportation relies on a strange phenomenon called quantum entanglement. Basically, quantum entanglement means that two particles are inextricably linked, so that measuring the state of one immediately affects the state of the other, no matter how far apart the two are -- which led Einstein to call entanglement "spooky action at a distance." In the latest experiments, both published in Nature Photonics (here and here), the teams had slightly different set-ups and results. But what they both had in common is the fact that they teleported their information across existing optical fiber networks -- which is important if we ever want to build useable quantum communication systems. To understand the experiments, Anil Ananthaswamy over at New Scientist nicely breaks it down like this: picture three people involved -- Alice, Bob, and Charlie. Alice and Bob want to share cryptographic keys, and to do that, they need Charlie's help. Alice sends a particle to Charlie, while Bob entangles two particles and sends just one of them to Charlie. Charlie then measures the two particles he's received from each of them, so that they can no longer be differentiated -- and that results in the quantum state of Alice's particle being transferred to Bob's entangled particle. So basically, the quantum state of Alice's particle eventually ends up in Bob's particle, via a way station in the form of Charlie. The Canadian experiment followed this same process, and was able to send quantum information over 6.2 km of Calgary's fiber optic network that's not regularly in use.
Science

Oldest-Ever Proteins Extracted From 3.8-Million-Year-Old Ostrich Shells (sciencemag.org) 70

Slashdot reader sciencehabit writes: Scientists have smashed through another time barrier in their search for ancient proteins from fossilized teeth and bones, adding to growing excitement about the promise of using proteins to study extinct animals and humans that lived more than 1 million years ago. Until now, the oldest sequenced proteins are largely acknowledged to come from a 700,000-year-old horse in Canada's Yukon territory, despite claims of extraction from much older dinosaurs. Now geneticists report that they have extracted proteins from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich egg shells in Laetoli, Tanzania, and from the 1.7-million-year-old tooth enamel of several extinct animals in Dmanisi, Georgia...extinct horses, rhinos, and deer,
This raises the inevitable question. If we ever could clone a prehistoric species...should we?
Privacy

Woman Sues Sex Toy App For Secretly Capturing Sensitive Information (ctvnews.ca) 211

A woman in Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of a smartphone-enabled vibrator, alleging their devices "secretly collect and transmit 'highly sensitive' information." CTV News reports: The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month in an Illinois court, explains that to fully operate the device, users download the We-Connect app on a smartphone, allowing them and their partners remote control over the Bluetooth-equipped vibrator's settings... The suit alleges that unbeknownst to its customers, Standard Innovation designed the We-Connect app to collect and record intimate and sensitive data on use of the vibrator, including the date and time of each use as well as vibration settings...

It also alleges the usage data and the user's personal email address was transmitted to the company's servers in Canada. The statement of claim alleges the company's conduct demonstrates "a wholesale disregard" for consumer privacy rights and violated a number of state and federal laws.

Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson argues that "It kind of has to share that information if it's going to be remotely controlled by someone else." But the woman's lawsuit claims she wouldn't have bought the device if she'd known that while using it, the manufacturer "would monitor, collect and transmit her usage information."
Intel

Windows 10 Haters: Try Linux On Kaby Lake Chips With Dell's New XPS 13 (pcworld.com) 234

Attention Linux enthusiasts. Your OS of your choice can finally work on laptops with Intel's Kaby Lake chips. Dell is releasing three new models of slick XPS 13 Developer Edition that will be available with Ubuntu OS and 7th Generation Core processors in the U.S. and Canada starting on Oct. 10, reports PCWorld. From the article:Prices for XPS 13 DE will start at $949. Dell also announced the XPS 13 model with Kaby Lake and Windows 10, which will ship on Oct. 4 starting at $799. Dell didn't share details on what version of Ubuntu desktop OS will be preloaded. It officially supports Ubuntu 14.04 in existing laptops, but could pre-load version 16.04 on the new XPS 13 DE. Dell has remained committed to Linux while major PC vendors shift to Windows 10 on PCs. Intel made a major commitment to supporting Windows 10 with its new Kaby Lake chips but hasn't talked much about Linux support. XPS 13 DE is perhaps the sexiest and thinnest Linux laptop available, with an edge-to-edge screen being a stand-out feature. It is the latest in Dell's Project Sputnik line of laptops, and it is targeted at computer enthusiasts who want a Windows or Mac alternative. A knock against Linux is that the OS has lagged behind Windows on driver development and on supporting the latest technologies like USB-C ports, 4K screens, and Thunderbolt. Project Sputnik started four years ago as an effort between Dell and the open-source community to bridge that gap, and since then, the resulting laptops have achieved cult status among Linux enthusiasts. A Dell XPS 13 with a Core i5 chip will have a full HD screen, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Another configuration will have a 3200 x 1800-pixel screen, Core i5, and a 256GB SSD. A fully loaded model will have a Core i7 chip, a 512GB SSD, 16GB of RAM, and a 3200 x 1800-pixel screen.
Canada

Canadian Telecoms Will Try to Justify Their 'Ripoff' TV Plans Today (vice.com) 141

Starting today, Canada's top telecom companies will have to answer to the government for "skinny" TV packages -- more popularly known as "ripoff" by Canadians. Motherboard reports: In 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that companies must offer a $25 "skinny" cable package, partly to benefit people earning a lower income. However, additional fees and installation charges added up so that the packages often cost a lot more than that -- in some cases, up to $100 per month. In response, Canadians called bullshit and complained to the CRTC en masse. Over two days of hearings beginning on Wednesday, Canada's top cable providers will have to prove that their skinny plans are in compliance with the CRTC's standards and that their packages meet the "spirit" of the skinny initiative. These hearings are part of the regulator's annual broadcasting license renewal process, meaning that if the companies aren't compliant, they could theoretically lose their license to operate in Canada.
NASA

Isolated NASA Team Ends Year-Long Mars Simulation In Hawaii (bbc.com) 176

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: A team of six people have completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in near isolation for a year. Since August 29th, 2015, the group lived in close quarters in a dome, without fresh air, fresh food or privacy... Having survived their year in isolation, the crew members said they were confident a mission to Mars could succeed. "I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic," Cyprien Verseux, a crew member from France, told journalists. "I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome."

The team consisted of a French astro-biologist, a German physicist and four Americans -- a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist... the six had to live with limited resources, wear a space-suit when outside the dome, and work to avoid personal conflicts. They each had a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms. Provisions included powdered cheese and canned tuna.

Democrats

US Patients Battle EpiPen Prices And Regulations By Shopping Online (cnn.com) 396

"The incredible increase in the cost of EpiPens, auto-injectors that can stop life-threatening emergencies caused by allergic reactions, has hit home on Capitol Hill," reports CNN. Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar reports that the argument "has now turned into civil war in the US Senate": One senator's daughter relies on Epi-Pen, while another senator's daughter is CEO of Mylan, the single company that is licensed to sell these injectors in the US. On the worldwide market there is no monopoly on these devices... Is it finally time to allow Americans to go online and fill their prescriptions on the world market?
Time reports some patients are ordering cheaper EpiPens from Canada and other countries online, "an act that the FDA says is technically illegal and potentially dangerous." But the FDA also has "a backlog of about 4,000 generic drugs" awaiting FDA approval, reports PRI, noting that in the meantime prices have also increased for drugs treating cancer, hepatitis C, and high cholesterol. In Australia, where the drug costs just $38, one news outlet reports that the U.S. "is the only developed nation on Earth which allows pharmaceutical companies to set their own prices."
Android

Opera Brings Its Free VPN Service To Android (techcrunch.com) 26

Frederic Lardinois, writing for TechCrunch: Earlier this year, Opera launched its free and unlimited VPN service for iOS; today it is bringing the same functionality to Android. Like the iOS version, the Android app is based on Opera's acquisition of SurfEasy in 2015 and allows you to surf safely when you are on a public network. While Opera's marketing mostly focuses on safety, Opera VPN also allows you to appear as if you are in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore and The Netherlands, so it's also a way to route around certain geo-restrictions without having to opt for a paid service. In addition to its VPN features, the service also allows you to block ad trackers. Somewhat ironically, though, the app itself will show you some pretty unintrusive ads. "The Opera VPN app for Android sets itself apart from other VPNs by offering a completely free service; without a data limit, no log-in required, advanced Wi-Fi protection features and no need for a subscription," says Chris Houston, the president of Opera's SurfEasy VPN division, in today's announcement.
Canada

Ashley Madison Security Protocols Violated Canada, Austrialia Privacy Laws (www.cbc.ca) 29

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said Tuesday that the Canada-based online dating and social networking service Ashely Madison used inadequate privacy and security technology while marketing itself as a discreet and secure way for consenting adults to have affairs. CBC.ca reports: "In a report Tuesday, the privacy watchdog says the Toronto-based company violated numerous privacy laws in Canada and abroad in the era before a massive data breach exposed confidential information from their clients to hackers. The hack stole correspondence, identifying details and even credit card information from millions of the site's users. The resulting scandal cost the company about a quarter of its annual revenues from irate customers who demanded refunds and cancelled their accounts. Working with a similar agency in Australia, the privacy group says the company knew that its security protocols were lacking but didn't do enough to guard against being hacked. The company even adorned its website with the logo of a 'trusted security award' -- a claim the company admits it fabricated." The report found that "poor habits such as inadequate authentication processes and sub-par key and password management practices were rampant at the company" and that "much of the company's efforts to monitor its own security were 'focused on detecting system performance issues and unusual employee requests for decryption of sensitive user data.'" What's more is that Ashley Madison continued to store personal information of its users even after some of which had deleted or deactivated their account(s). These people then had their information included in databases published online after the hack.
AI

Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working (theverge.com) 191

The U.S. will phase out private prisons, a move made possible by fewer and shorter sentences for drug offenses, reports the BBC. But when it comes to reducing arrests for violent crimes, police officers in Chicago found themselves resorting ineffectively to a $2 million algorithm which ultimately had them visiting people before any crime had been committed. schwit1 quotes Ars Technica: Struggling to reduce its high murder rate, the city of Chicago has become an incubator for experimental policing techniques. Community policing, stop and frisk, "interruption" tactics --- the city has tried many strategies. Perhaps most controversial and promising has been the city's futuristic "heat list" -- an algorithm-generated list identifying people most likely to be involved in a shooting.

The hope was that the list would allow police to provide social services to people in danger, while also preventing likely shooters from picking up a gun. But a new report from the RAND Corporation shows nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, it indicates that the list is, at best, not even as effective as a most wanted list. At worst, it unnecessarily targets people for police attention, creating a new form of profiling.

The police argue they've updated the algorithm and improved their techniques for using it. But the article notes that the researchers began following the "heat list" when it launched in 2013, and "found that the program has saved no lives at all."
Businesses

Malware Infected All Eddie Bauer Stores In US, Canada (krebsonsecurity.com) 50

New submitter alir1272 quotes a report from Krebs On Security: Clothing store chain Eddie Bauer said today it has detected and removed malicious software from point-of-sale systems at all of its 350+ stores in North America, and that credit and debit cards used at those stores during the first six months of 2016 may have been compromised in the breach. The acknowledgement comes nearly six weeks after Krebs On Security first notified the clothier about a possible intrusion at stores nationwide. "The company emphasized that this breach did not impact purchases made at the company's online store eddiebauer.com," reports Krebs On Security.
AT&T

AT&T Is Boosting Data Plans, Dropping Overage Fees (reuters.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: ATT Inc, the No. 2 U.S wireless provider, said on Wednesday that it would roll out a new data plan that does away with overage fees and reduces data speeds for wireless customers who surpass their data allowance. Beginning Sunday, customers can choose the new Mobile Share Advantage plan and pay for extra data, if needed, or work with slower data speeds instead of paying for overages, the company said in a statement. Its current plan includes a $5 data overage charge per 300 megabytes on its 300-megabyte plan and $15 per 1 gigabyte on other plans. ATT has also revised prices and data bucket sizes. For instance, its larger 25-gigabyte plan now costs $190 per month for four smartphone lines. It previously cost $235. All the new plans include an access charge of $10 to $40 per month for each device, ATT said. The new plans will continue to have features such as unlimited text and talk and rollover data. Plans above 10 gigabytes also include unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada and no roaming charges in Mexico. Last month, Verizon introduced a new "Safety Mode" for its data plans that similarly throttles customers who exceed their monthly allotment to avoid overages. While Verizon charges customers on lower tier plans for the feature, ATT notes that it does not apply any extra charges.
Canada

Canada's Police Chiefs Want New Law To Compel People To Reveal Passwords (www.cbc.ca) 209

Reader DaveyJJ writes: CBC is reporting that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, has passed a resolution calling for a legal measure to unlock digital evidence, saying criminals increasingly use encryption to hide illicit activities. The chiefs are recommending new legislation that would force people to hand over their electronic passwords with a judge's consent. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Joe Oliver is using the usual scare tactics "child-molesters and mobsters live in the 'dark web'" in his statement today to drum up public support in his poorly rationalized privacy-stripping recommendation. A few years ago, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that police must have a judge's order to request subscriber and customer information from ISPs, banks and others who have online data about Canadians. I guess that ruling isn't sitting too well with law enforcement and Canada's domestic spy agencies.
Blackberry

Canadian Fined For Not Providing Border Agents Smartphone Password (www.cbc.ca) 276

Reader da_foz writes: A Canadian was reentering Canada when he was arrested and charged with hindering or obstructing border officials. At the time traces of cocaine were found on his bags and he was carrying $5,000 in cash. He provided his smartphone to border agents as requested, however refused to provide the password. Canada Border Services Agency officials asked for Philippon's smartphone and its password. From a report: "He handed over his BlackBerry but refused to disclose the code to access the phone. Philippon was arrested and charged under the federal Customs Act, accused of hindering or obstructing border officials." It is unclear if he provided the password while agreeing to the fine.
Canada

Local Canadian Police Station Admits To Owning Stingray Surveillance Device (vice.com) 43

The Edmonton Police Service has admitted to Motherboard that it owns a Stingray and that it used the [surveillance] device in the past during investigations. After Vancouver cops admitted to using the phone tracker to investigate an abduction in 2007, Motherboard called up other local police stations in Canada to ask if they had also previously used one. As you can imagine, the other stations kept mum. In the US, Stingrays are a regular part of government and law enforcement agencies' surveillance arsenal. But Vancouver's and Edmonton's police services are the first law enforcement offices in Canada to confirm that they've used the device. Motherboard adds: According an emailed statement from police spokesperson Anna Batchelor, Edmonton's cops have "used the device in the past during investigations," but would not release any additional details in order to "to protect [Edmonton Police Service] operations." Until now, the only law enforcement in the country known to use the devices was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the country's analogue to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. These suitcase-sized surveillance tools have been used in the past by the Vancouver and Toronto police, but the Vancouver police have said they borrowed the Stingray from the RCMP, and in Toronto an RCMP technician was on hand, at least in that incident. The Edmonton police's comment to Motherboard is the first time a local police department in Canada has publicly admitted to owning a Stingray device.
Communications

This Is What the World's Spies Used Instead of MSN Messenger (vice.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: What do spies use to chat online? A terribly ugly Windows programme. At least, that's what the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (made up of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) was using back in 2003, according to a newly released Snowden document. "The Five-Eyes SIGINT [signals intelligence] Directors will soon be using a new tool to enhance their collaboration on subjects ranging from current intelligence objectives to future collection planning," reads an issue of SID Today, the NSA's internal newsletter, dating from September 2003. InfoWorkSpace (IWS), as the tool is called, allowed text chat, audio conferencing, shared screen views, and virtual whiteboards, the newsletter explains. It adds that, at the time, some 4,000 NSA and Five Eyes employees were already using IWS to work on a number of topics, such as international terrorism, real-time collection coordination, and Operation Enduring Freedom, the term given to operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The newsletter announcement refers to SIGINT Directors gaining access to the tool. Another Snowden document published by The Intercept notes that senior officials held their first virtual meeting with IWS around December 2003, but that "GCHQ was unable to attend due to a computer failure."

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