Government

Travelers' Electronics At US Airports To Get Enhanced Screening, TSA Says (arstechnica.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Aviation security officials will begin enhanced screening measures of passengers' electronics at US airports, the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday. Travelers must remove electronics larger than a mobile phone from their carry-on bags and "place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image," the TSA announced amid growing fears that electronic devices can pose as homemade bombs. The TSA was quick to point out that the revised security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in the TSA Precheck program.

"Whether you're flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone," TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia said. "It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats."

Security

Motorcycle Gang Busted For Hacking and Stealing Over 150 Jeep Wranglers (bleepingcomputer.com) 83

An anonymous reader writes: "The FBI has arrested members of a motorcycle gang accused to have hacked and stolen over 150 Jeep Wranglers from Southern California, which they later crossed the border into Mexico to have stripped down for parts," reports Bleeping Computer. What stands apart is how the gang operated. This involved gang members getting the Jeep Wrangler VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), accessing a proprietary Jeep database, and getting two codes needed to create a duplicate replacement key. Gang members used one code to cut the key, while they used the second code while stealing the car, connecting a handheld programming computer to the car, and programming the replacement key's chip, synchronizing it to the car's dashboard. All of this took under 2 minutes and was also possible because Jeep Wranglers allow thieves to pop the hood from the outside of the car and disable the alarm even before using their non-authenticated replacement key. Officials say that all the database queries for the stolen VIN codes came from a Jeep dealer in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Court documents don't say if the dealer cooperated or gang members hacked its system. The motorcycle gang's name was Hooligans and the sub-unit that stole the Jeeps was named Dirty 30.
Software

The World Video Game Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees (polygon.com) 73

Dave Knott writes: The 2017 World Video Game Hall of Fame inductees have been announced. The Hall Of Fame "recognizes individual electronic games of all types -- arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile -- that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general." The 2017 inductees are: Donkey Kong, Halo: Combat Evolved, Pokemon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II. These four titles join the inaugural 2015 class, which included Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Doom and World of Warcraft, and the 2016 class which included Grand Theft Auto 3, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, The Sims, Sonic the Hedgehog and Space Invaders.
Nintendo

Nintendo Announces 2DS XL (theguardian.com) 52

The future for Nintendo is the Switch, or is it? Nintendo continues to keep things interesting. From a report: The ever-unpredictable hardware veteran has announced the Nintendo 2DS XL, a new version of the 2DS, which was itself a refreshed version of the 3DS. Featuring two enlarged displays, 4.88in on top and 4.18in on the bottom, and a clamshell design, the new format is lighter than the 3DS XL and of course lacks that machine's stereoscopic capabilities. Available in black and turquoise or white and orange and with built-in NFC support for amiibo cards and figures, it's a fully featured member of the extended 3DS family, even boasting the secondary C-pad nub like the New 3DS XL. It is priced at $150.
Portables

Can Crowdfunding Bring Back The Netbook? (salon.com) 243

"The mini-laptop's market niche got swamped by the iPad and the phablet," writes Salon, since the stripped-down hardware of tablets made them cheaper to produce. But now netbooks could be making a grassroots-fueled comeback, "thanks to the lower costs in electronics manufacturing and the fact that individual investors can come together to crowdfund projects." An anonymous reader quotes Salon: Michael Mrozek, the Germany-based creator of creator of the DragonBox Pyra, says "I never understood why they were gone in the first place. I have no idea why you would use a tablet. I tried one, and it's awkward to use it for anything else than browsing the Web"... He has already managed to raise several hundred thousand dollars through a private pre-order system set up on his geek's paradise online store. Once those initial orders have been filled, Mrozek said he will probably start up a mainstream crowdfunding campaign for his Linux handheld... "The niche was always there, but thanks to the Internet and crowdfunding, it's easy to reach everyone who's interested in such a device so even a niche product still gets you enough users to sell it. That wasn't possible 10 years ago."
Meanwhile, in just under two weeks Planet Computer raised $446,000 on Indiegogo, more than double the original $200,000 goal for their netbook-like Gemini computer (with a keyboard designed by the creator of the original Psion netbook). Planet's CEO Janko Mrsic-Flogel says "It's a bit like Volkswagen bringing back the Beetle," and predicts that the worldwide demand for netbooks could reach 10 million a year.
Businesses

Indiegogo Halted Retro Computer Campaign (bbc.com) 42

An anonymous reader shares a report on BBC: Crowdfunding platform Indiegogo intervened to stop a handheld retro computer console campaign from acquiring further funding, the BBC has learned. The Spectrum ZX Vega+, backed by Sir Clive Sinclair, had achieved its original crowdfunding target. But then Indiegogo halted further fundraising because of delivery delays and a lack of communication to backers. The project's organizers had asked the BBC not to reveal the development. The BBC understands no consoles have been delivered to backers, despite a pledge last month that they would "ship after 20 Feb 2017." And the company behind the project -- Retro Computers Limited -- suggested these details might put its team at risk.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Owners Complain About Dead Pixels, Nintendo Says They're 'Normal' (theguardian.com) 241

Nintendo says the dead or stuck pixels Switch owners are complaining about are "normal" and not defects. "New Switch players have taken to online discussion boards, including a 2,000-comment strong Reddit post, to complain of screen issues distracting play, unbecoming of a $300 handheld gaming machine," reports The Guardian. From the report: In a support document entitled "There are black or bright dots on the Nintendo Switch screen that do not go away, or there are dark or light patches on the screen," Nintendo said: "Small numbers of stuck or dead pixels are a characteristic of LCD screens. These are normal and should not be considered a defect." Customers wishing to swap their Switch consoles with defective screens will get no support from Nintendo. A similar issue happened with the Nintendo DS at launch in the U.S., but the Japanese gaming company eventually relented after complaints from buyers, begrudgingly offering replacements under warranty. Nintendo also warned users that using the Switch near an aquarium or within a meter of another wireless device, including laptops, wireless headsets, wireless printers, microwaves, cordless phones or even USB-3.0 compatible devices "such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc," might cause the Joy-Con controllers to disconnect from the Switch.
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If All Software Ran On All Platforms? 383

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: We live in a computing world where the OS you use -- Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, others -- often determines what software can and cannot be run on a given electronic device. (Let us pretend for a moment that emulators and other options don't exist). What if -- magically -- such a thing as as Universally Compatible Software Application were possible. Software, in other words, that is magically capable of running on any electronic device equipped with enough CPU, GPU and memory capacity to run the software in a usable way.

Example: 3D CAD software that runs on Windows 14, Playstation 7, an Android Smartphone, Nintendo's latest handheld gaming device and an Ubuntu PC in exactly the same way with no compatibility problems whatsoever occurring. What would and would not change in such a computing world?

He also asks an even more important question: will this ever be possible or feasible from a technical standpoint? So leave your best answers in the comments. Will it ever be possible to run all software on all platforms -- and what would happen if we could?
Government

UK: New Drivers Caught Using a Phone Will Lose Their License (bbc.com) 180

Under new rules in England, Scotland and Wales, drivers caught using a phone within two years of passing their test will have their license revoked. BBC reports: Penalties for using a phone at the wheel double from March 1 to six points and a 200 British pound fine. New drivers who get six points or more must retake their practical and theory. More experienced drivers can be banned if they get 12 points in three years. Can I check social media or texts if I'm queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights? No -- a hand held phone cannot be used, even if stopped at lights. Texting and scrolling social media (even if the phone is mounted on a hands-free holder) is distracting and dangerous. It doesn't come under the handheld mobile phone law but the police may decide to charge you with a number of other offenses. Can I use my phone to listen to music, play podcasts or watch video clips? You can't watch video clips -- not even if your phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. You can use your phone to listen to music and podcasts but only if your phone is in a hands-free holder or connected by Bluetooth. However, just as you can be distracted by the noise of a car radio, if it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police. Can I use my phone's sat nav? Yes -- as long as the phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. If it's in your hands, it's illegal. However, if you are distracted by the sat nav and it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police.
Medicine

Researchers Develop Compact Breathalyzer That Detects the Flu (digitaltrends.com) 39

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have created a prototype breathalyzer-style device capable of detecting the influenza virus in its early stages -- before you start to show symptoms. "What I have created -- together with my research team and research collaborators working on this project -- is a single exhale, portable, handheld, potentially wireless, battery-operated, inexpensive, breathalyzer that relies on gas-selective sensing elements, and which detects the presence and monitors the concentration of biomarkers in breath that signal a disease," Perena Gouma, a professor in the university's Materials Science and Engineering Department, told Digital Trends. From the report: The specific biomarkers the breathalyzer looks for include traces of nitric oxide and ammonia, both of which can be measured using smart sensors. "This particular breathalyzer detects flu virus infection," she continued. "This is expected to be a personalized diagnostics tool available over the counter and it will allow the individuals to monitor their health, with the option of sharing the data obtained with their physician in real time." Gouma has previously developed other breathalyzers, for everything from asthma detection and diabetes monitoring to determining an endpoint for hemodialysis, the process of filtering waste products from the blood. The neat thing about breathalyzers, Gouma said, is that the technology involved can be easily modified to detect different diseases simply by changing the sensors. In this example, for instance, it could be upgraded to instead test for Ebola. As for when this technology may be available, Gouma said the team needs to carry out clinical trials, "but we are already exploring our options for commercializing this tool."
Medicine

Scientists Create Electronic Glasses That Can Automatically Focus On Whatever You're Looking At (engadget.com) 120

mmell writes: University of Utah scientists have created a prototype electronic lens which uses several technologies to customize the lens optics focusing on whatever the wearer is looking at. [Just like] the "oil lenses" in Frank Herbert's Dune series of novels, the electronic lens (a transparent LCD) can have its index of refractivity modified by application of a small electric current. While I can conceive many uses for this technology (in spacecraft instruments, webcams/Handycams, handheld binoculars and telescopes for example), these were developed as a replacement for the progressive lenses -- a.k.a. bifocals -- which are worn by many with less than perfect eyesight. Many eyeglass wearers don't tolerate bifocals well and I wonder if the adaptive optics in this prototype could relieve them of the need to carry multiple pairs of glasses? Whether they prove cost effective for the role of eyeglasses or not (and I can see no reason why they shouldn't), the applications for this technology seem quite diverse and potentially even revolutionary. I wonder how long it will be before these are more than just a prototype?
Nintendo

Don't Call Switch a Tablet, Also It's Not Here To Oust the 3DS, Says Nintendo (cnet.com) 116

An anonymous reader shares a report on CNET: Don't call the new Nintendo Switch a tablet. And don't assume the shape-shifting device for gamers will replace the company's popular 3DS handheld, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in an interview with CNET. With its latest gadget, Nintendo is playing to win the same game it has for decades: the one that takes place in your living room. "The form factor may be that it looks like [a tablet]," he said. "But...it's a home console that you can take with you and play anywhere with anyone." [...] "With Zelda, with Kart, with Xenoblade, I think the initial consumer for Switch will be more young adults with disposable incomes, given the price points and the large library," Fils-Aime said. That doesn't mean Nintendo is ditching its core audience. The company will continue to skew toward a younger crowd with the 3DS. "In the end, we want people of all ages engaging with Mario and Zelda and the content that's available across both platforms," Fils-Aime said.
Iphone

Family Sues Apple For Not Making Thing It Patented (nymag.com) 455

An anonymous reader writes: A lawsuit filed against Apple last week argues that, by not actually making a product that it patented, the company is partly responsible for an automobile accident. According to Jalopnik, James and Bethany Modisette are suing the tech company after a car crash two years ago that killed one of their daughters and injured the rest of the family. The driver of the car who hit them had been using Apple's FaceTime video chat at the time. The patent in question was first applied for in 2008, and describes "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles," such as texting or video chatting. The complaint cites Apple's "failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology" -- in other words, lack of the program's inclusion -- as a "substantial factor" in the crash.
Bug

Nintendo Offers Up To $20,000 To Hack the 3DS (silicon.co.uk) 45

Mickeycaskill writes: Nintendo will pay up to $20,000 for system and software vulnerabilities in the Nintendo 3DS family of handheld gaming consoles. The company is looking to prevent activities such as piracy, cheating and the circulation of inappropriate content to children. The stated goal is to "provide a secure environment for our customers so that they can enjoy our games and services. In order to achieve this goal, Nintendo is interested in receiving vulnerability information that researchers may discover regarding Nintendo's platforms." Silicon.co.uk reports: "Rewards will range from $100 to $20,000, with one given per 'qualifying piece of vulnerability information.' Hackers looking to claim a reward will have to provide Nintendo with either a proof-of-concept or a piece of functional exploit code in order to qualify."
Transportation

'DroneGun' Can Take Down Aircraft From Over 1.2 Miles Away (thenextweb.com) 147

The more drones being sold around the world increases the likelihood of them being used as part of a criminal act. For example, ISIS has been using drones in Iraq to carry and drop explosives. In an effort to protect consumers, an Australian and U.S. company called DroneShield has announced a product called the DroneGun. The DroneGun "allows for a controlled management of drone payload, such as explosives, with no damage to common drone models or the surrounding environment," the maker says on its website, "due to the drones generally responding via a vertical controlled landing on the spot, or returning back to the starting point (assisting to track the operator)." The Next Web reports: DroneGun, a handheld anti-drone device, has a range of 1.2 miles. It also looks like an unlockable item in a first-person shooter. The "gun" uses a jammer to disable electronic communication across the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz frequencies. Blocking these frequencies cuts off communication between the drone and pilot (or GPS) and forces it to land safely or return to its operator -- which assists in tracking the offending party. At 13 pounds, it's a bit cumbersome, but still capable of being operated by one person. It's also mostly a point-and-shoot device and doesn't require specialized training to use. DroneGun isn't approved for use in the United States -- thanks, FCC. If approved the device could provide a useful tool for taking down drones at airports, over crowded spaces, and in war zones.
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
Businesses

Barnes & Noble Announces A New $50 Android Tablet (teleread.org) 41

Next Friday Barnes & Noble will release a $50 Android tablet, competing against Amazon's tablets with a more-open version of Android. Long-time Slashdot reader Robotech_Master writes: The specs are similar to slightly better than the $50 Fire, but the kicker is this tablet will ship with plain-vanilla Marshmallow Android 6.0 and the Google Play utilities -- unlike the Fire, which limits its users to only those apps Amazon deems suitable to offer. Might this be enough to rescue the ailing Nook brand?
If you truly care about your app ecosystem, this would at least save you the trouble of having to root your tablet just to install apps from the Google Play Store.
Medicine

A USB Stick Can Show HIV Test Results In Under 30 Minutes (qz.com) 52

Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a USB stick that can measure the presence and amount of HIV in a person's blood in under 30 minutes and with 95% accuracy. The USB stick should help make testing easier in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV is a serious problem and where many people live in rural regions hours or days travel away from hospitals or clinics. Also, traditional HIV testing can take days to show results, whereas the USB stick can show results in minutes. Quartz reports: The new diagnostic tool, co-created by the university and biotech company DNA Electronics, requires simply putting a single drop of blood onto a designated spot on the USB stick. The device contains a mechanism that can detect if there's any HIV genetic material -- RNA -- in the drop of blood, and if so, how much. Then, when the stick is connected to a laptop or handheld device, the data are automatically delivered to an app where the patient can quickly read his or her results. One of the most effective HIV treatments currently, called anti-retroviral treatment, reduces virus levels to near zero. However, in some cases, the virus may develop a resistance to medication or therapy, causing the virus to resurface. To catch such developments early, patients can use the devices for monitoring purposes. "The disposable test could be used by HIV patients to monitor their own treatment and help patients in remote regions of the world, where more standard HIV tests are inaccessible," the authors of the study write. For now, it's still in the proof-of-concept stage, and years away from hitting the market.
Hardware Hacking

How I Freed My Android Tablet: A Journey in Reverse Engineering (www.thanassis.space) 79

Slashdot reader ttsiod is an embedded software engineer at the European Space Agency, and shares this story about his quest to "dominate" his new tablet: Just like it's predecessor, I wanted to run a Debian chroot inside it -- that would allow me to apt-get install and run things like Privoxy, SSH SOCKS/VPN tunnels, Flask mini-servers, etc; and in general allow me to stay in control. But there was no open-source way to do this... and I could never trust "one-click roots" that communicate with servers in China... It took me weeks to reverse engineer my tablet -- and finally succeed in becoming root. The journey was quite interesting, and included both hardware and software tinkering. I learned a lot while doing it -- and wanted to share the experience with my fellow Slashdotters...
He writes that "I trust Debian. Far more than I trust the Android ecosystem," and describes everything from how he probed the boot process and created his own boot image to hunting for a way "to tell SELinux to get off my lawn".
Microsoft

Steve Ballmer Says Smartphones Came Between Him and Bill Gates (fortune.com) 114

Steve Ballmer once said Apple's iPhone would flop because it cost too much -- though he now admits that he failed to anticipate carriers subsidizing the cost of the phone. But that was only the beginning. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The former CEO of Microsoft says he and Gates drifted apart over Microsoft's move into the hardware business in the early 2010s, according to Bloomberg. Ballmer says he was the one who pushed for Microsoft to design smartphones and tablets at a time when Apple was already well established. He says Gates and the board seemed reluctant to do so. "There was a fundamental disagreement about how important it was to be in the hardware business," Ballmer told Bloomberg. "I had pushed Surface. The board had been a little -- little reluctant in supporting it. And then things came to a climax around what to do about the phone business."
Microsoft eventually took a $900 million write down for its first tablet, the Surface RT -- plus most of the value of their $9.5 billion acquisition of Nokia Oyj's handset unit as Microsoft pushed into hardware. "Ballmer's only regret: not doing it sooner," Bloomberg reports, adding that Surface is now profitable and this year will generate more than $4 billion in sales.

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