Businesses

HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman To Step Down (reuters.com) 97

Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Meg Whitman is stepping down as chief executive officer. Reuters reports: Whitman engineered the biggest breakup in corporate history during her 6 year tenure at the helm, creating HPE and PC-and-printer business HP Inc from parent Hewlett Packard Co in 2015. Whitman will be succeeded by the company's president, Antonio Neri, who takes over from Feb. 1. "Now is the right time for Antonio and a new generation of leaders to take the reins of HPE," Whitman said in a statement. Whitman, who will continue as a board member, had been steering the company towards areas such as networking, storage and technology services.
Power

UCLA Researchers Use Solar To Create and Store Hydrogen (phys.org) 61

UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars. Phys.Org reports: The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt -- elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel. Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device's power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen. The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen -- a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research. The technology is described in the journal Energy Storage Materials.
Cloud

Amazon Launches a Cloud Service For US Intelligence Agencies (cnbc.com) 55

Amazon Web Services on Monday introduced cloud service for the CIA and other members of the U.S. intelligence community. From a report: The launch of the so-called AWS Secret Region comes six years after AWS introduced GovCloud, its first data center region for public sector customers. AWS has since announced plans to expand GovCloud. The new Secret Region signals interest in using AWS from specific parts of the U.S. government. In 2013 news outlets reported on a $600 million contract between AWS and the CIA. That event singlehandledly helped Amazon in its effort to sign up large companies to use its cloud, whose core services have been available since 2006.
Transportation

DJI Threatens Researcher Who Reported Exposed Cert Key, Credentials, and Customer Data (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: DJI, the Chinese company that manufactures the popular Phantom brand of consumer quadcopter drones, was informed in September that developers had left the private keys for both the "wildcard" certificate for all the company's Web domains and the keys to cloud storage accounts on Amazon Web Services exposed publicly in code posted to GitHub. Using the data, researcher Kevin Finisterre was able to access flight log data and images uploaded by DJI customers, including photos of government IDs, drivers licenses, and passports. Some of the data included flight logs from accounts associated with government and military domains.

Finisterre found the security error after beginning to probe DJI's systems under DJI's bug bounty program, which was announced in August. But as Finisterre worked to document the bug with the company, he got increasing pushback -- including a threat of charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. DJI refused to offer any protection against legal action in the company's "final offer" for the data. So Finisterre dropped out of the program and published his findings publicly yesterday, along with a narrative entitled, "Why I walked away from $30,000 of DJI bounty money."

The company says they're now investigating "unauthorized access of one of DJI's servers containing personal information," adding that "the hacker in question" refused to agree to their terms and shared "confidential communications with DJI employees."
Patents

EFF Beats 'Stupid' Patent Troll In Court (courthousenews.com) 69

An Australian court can't make a California advocacy group take down a web page, a U.S. federal judge just ruled on Friday. Even if that web page calls a company's patents "stupid." Courthouse News reports: San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation sued Global Equity Management, or GEMSA, in April, claiming the Australian firm exploited its home country's weaker free speech protections to secure an unconstitutional injunction against EFF. Kurt Opsahl, EFF's deputy executive director and general counsel, hailed the ruling as a victory for free speech. "We knew all along the speech was protected by the First Amendment," Opsahl said in a phone interview Friday. "We were pleased to see the court agree." Opsahl said the ruling sends a strong message EFF and other speakers can weigh in on important topics, like patent reform, without fear of being muzzled by foreign court orders.

The dispute stems from an article EFF published in June 2016, featuring GEMSA in its "Stupid Patent of the Month" series. The GEMSA patent is for a "virtual cabinet" to store data. In the article, EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer called GEMSA a "classic patent troll" that uses its patent on graphic representations of data storage to sue "just about anyone who runs a website." The article also says GEMSA "appears to have no business other than patent litigation."

The judge granted EFF a default judgment, saying the Australian court's injunction was not only unenforceable in the United States but also "repugnant" to the U. S. Constitution.
Android

OnePlus 5T Featuring 6-inch AMOLED Display, 3.5mm Headphone Jack Launched (wired.com) 54

Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus, which has been lauded by consumers for offering phones with top-of-the-line specs at a reasonably affordable price range, on Thursday at an event in New York announced its newest flagship smartphone. Called the OnePlus 5T, the handset sports a 6.01-inch AMOLED screen (screen resolution 1080 x 2160) manufactured by Samsung in a body that is roughly of the same size as the 5.5-inch display-clad predecessor OnePlus 5. The secret sauce is, much like Samsung, LG and Apple, OnePlus has moved to a near bezel-less design. The company is not getting rid of the fingerprint scanner though, which it has pushed to the back side. The front-facing camera, additionally, OnePlus says, can be used to unlock the device. Other features include a 3,300mAh battery with the company's proprietary Dash Charge fast-charging tech (no wireless charging support -- the company says at present wireless charging doesn't really add much value to the device), top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with Adreno 540, 6GB of RAM with 64GB of storage (there is another variant of the phone which offers 8GB of RAM with 128GB of space). As for camera, we are looking at a dual 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel setup in the back. One more thing: the phone has a headphone jack and it runs Android 7.1 out of the box. The OnePlus 5T will go on sale in Europe, India, and the United States starting November 21st, with the base model priced at Euro 499, INR 32,999, and $499, respectively. The high-end variant is priced at Euro 559, INR 37,999, and $559. Wired has more details.
Earth

New Study Suggests We Don't Understand Supervolcanoes (sciencealert.com) 105

Better microsampling (and analysis) are revealing "previously obscured" clues about how super-hot molten lava behaves, according to a Science Alert article shared by schwit1: "The older view is that there's a long period with a big tank of molten rock in the crust," says geoscientist Nathan Andersen from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "A new view is that magma is stored for a long period in a state that is locked, cool, crystalline, and unable to produce an eruption. That dormant system would need a huge infusion of heat to erupt." Such a huge infusion of heat is what's thought to have unleashed a violent supereruption in California some 765,000 years ago... [A]s awesomely destructive as the supereruption was, lingering evidence from the aftermath can tell us about the magma conditions deep underground before the top blew so spectacularly.

Specifically, an analysis of argon isotopes contained in crystals from the Bishop Tuff -- the large rocky outcrop produced when the Long Valley Caldera was created -- shows the magma from the supereruption was heated rapidly, not slowly simmered. Geologically speaking, that is -- meaning the heating forces that produced the supereruption occurred over decades, or perhaps a couple of centuries. (A long time for people, sure, but a blink of an eye in the life-time of a supervolcano.) The reasoning is that argon quickly escapes from hot crystals, so it wouldn't have a chance to accumulate in the rock if the rock were super-heated for a long time... Unfortunately, while scientists are doing everything they can to read the signs of volcanic supereruptions -- something NASA views as more dangerous than asteroid strikes -- the reality is, the new findings don't bring us any closer to seeing the future.

"This does not point to prediction in any concrete way," warns geologist Brad Singer, "but it does point to the fact that we don't understand what is going on in these systems, in the period of 10 to 1,000 years that precedes a large eruption."
Businesses

iPhone X Costs Apple $370 in Materials: IHS Markit (ihsmarkit.com) 120

Engineers at marketing research firm IHS Markit cracked open the base version iPhone X, which Apple is selling at $999, this week. After preliminary physical dissection, the firm estimated that the iPhone X carries a bill of materials of $370. From their findings: With a starting price of $999, the iPhone X is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, the 8 Plus 256 GB. As another point of comparison, Samsung's Galaxy S8 with 64 GB of NAND memory has a BOM of $302 and retails at around $720. "Typically, Apple utilizes a staggered pricing strategy between various models to give consumers a tradeoff between larger and smaller displays and standard and high-density storage," said Wayne Lam, principal analyst for mobile devices and networks at IHS Markit. "With the iPhone X, however, Apple appears to have set an aspirational starting price that suggests its flagship is intended for an even more premium class of smartphones." The teardown of the iPhone X revealed that its IR camera is supplied by Sony/Foxconn while the silicon is provided by ST Microelectronics. The flood illuminator is an IR emitter from Texas Instruments that's assembled on top of an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detector from ST Microelectronics. Finisar and Philips manufacture the dot projector. IHS Markit puts the rollup BOM cost for the TrueDepth sensor cluster at $16.70.
Music

A Global Shortage of Magnetic Tape Leaves Cassette Fans Reeling (wsj.com) 276

A reader shares a report: Steve Stepp and his team of septuagenarian engineers are using a bag of rust, a kitchen mixer larger than a man and a 62-foot-long contraption that used to make magnetic strips for credit cards to avert a disaster that no one saw coming in the digital-music era. The world is running out of cassette tape (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). National Audio Co., where Mr. Stepp is president and co-owner, has been hoarding a stockpile of music-quality, an-eighth of an inch-wide magnetic tape from suppliers that shut down in the past 15 years after music lovers ditched cassettes. National Audio held on. Now, many musicians are clamoring for cassettes as a way to physically distribute their music. The company says it has less than a year's supply of tape left. So it is building the first manufacturing line for high-grade ferric oxide cassette tape in the U.S. in decades. If all goes well, the machine will churn out nearly 4 miles of tape a minute by January. And not just any tape. "The best tape ever made," boasts Mr. Stepp, 69 years old. "People will hear a whole new product."
Bug

Google Explains Tuesday's Drive, Docs Bug That Marked Some Files As Violating Terms of Service (9to5google.com) 97

On Tuesday, Google's cloud-based word processing software was randomly flagging files for supposedly "violating" Google's Terms of Service, resulting in some users not being able to access or share their files. Google today explained the issue and addressed concerns that arose. 9to5Google reports: Several users on Tuesday morning reported no longer being able to open certain files they were working on in Docs, while others were locked out mid-edit. "On Tuesday, October 31, we mistakenly blocked access to some of our users' files, including Google Docs," Google said in a blog post. "This was due to a short-lived bug that incorrectly flagged some files as violating our terms of service (TOS)." Afterwards, Google provided a comment to Gizmodo noting that a code push made earlier that morning was at fault and that full access had been restored to users hours after the bug first arose. Today's clarification goes on to explain how that error on Tuesday caused Drive to "misinterpret" responses from the antivirus system designed to protect against malware, phishing, and spam. As a result, Docs "erroneously mark[ed] some files as TOS violations, thus causing access denials for users of those files."
Cellphones

Razer Unveils Gaming Smartphone With 120Hz UltraMotion Display, 8GB RAM and No Headphone Jack (cnet.com) 168

Computer hardware company Razer has unveiled its first smartphone. While the design doesn't appear to be up to par with the competition, it does pack some impressive specifications under the hood. The Razer Phone features a 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution display, Snapdragon 835 chipset with 8GB of RAM, 12-megapixel dual camera with a wide-angle lens and 2x optical zoom, 4,000mAh battery, dual front-facing stereo speakers, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat running out of the box. While there is a microSD card slot for expandable storage, there is no headphone jack, no waterproofing, and no wireless charging. The device also won't support CDMA carriers like Verizon or Sprint. CNET reports: [W]here most new flagship phones are shiny rounded rectangles with curved screens, the Razer Phone is unabashedly a big black brick. It flaunts sharp 90-degree corners instead of curved edges. You can even stand the phone on end. The 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution screen is flat as a pancake, and you'll find giant bezels above and below that screen, too -- just when we thought bezels were going out of style. When the Razer Phone ships Nov. 17 for $699 or £699 -- no plans for Australia at launch -- the company says it'll be the first phone with a display that refreshes 120 times per second, like a high-end PC gaming monitor or Apple's iPad Pro. And combined with a dynamic refresh technique Razer's calling Ultramotion (think Nvidia G-Sync), it can mean beautiful, butter-smooth scrolling down websites and apps, and glossy mobile gameplay.
AI

Seagate's New 'SkyHawk AI' Disk Drive Is Just a Slightly Higher Speced Version of Its Predecessor (theregister.co.uk) 57

ourlovecanlastforeve shares a report from The Register, where Chris Mellor takes a look at Seagate's recently launched "SkyHawk" and "SkyHawk AI" HDDs. After closer inspection, Mellor concludes that the "AI" variant has a more buzz-worthy name and "slightly higher numbers on the specs" than its "SkyHawk" brethren. From the report: Seagate has bolted "AI" to its SkyHawk disk drive brand, saying it's better suited for next-generation deep learning and video analytics. The marketing department breathlessly describes it as "the first drive created specifically for artificial intelligence (AI) enabled video surveillance solutions." Sai Varanasi, VP product line management, burbled in the same fashion: "We are excited to introduce smart, purpose-built SkyHawk AI solutions that expand the design space for our customers and partners, allowing them to implement next-generation deep learning and video analytics applications." How so? Seagate says the new drive's "high throughput and enhanced caching deliver low latency and excellent random read performance to quickly locate and deliver video images and footage analysis." Both SkyHawk and SkyHawk AI have a 256MB cache buffer and 4.16ms average latency. Where it does differ from SkyHawk is having a higher 550TB/year workload and 2 million hours mean-time-before-failure rating, compared to 180TB/year and a million hours. It's been given a five-year limited warranty and a two-year Seagate Rescue Services contract is included with the drive. In other words the SkyHawk AI is more robust than the standard SkyHawk and transfers data 1.9 per cent faster. Otherwise it seems identical.
Data Storage

US Voting Server At Heart of Russian Hack Probe Mysteriously Wiped (theregister.co.uk) 431

A computer at the center of a lawsuit digging into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election has been wiped. "The server in question is based in Georgia -- a state that narrowly backed Donald Trump, giving him 16 electoral votes -- and stored the results of the state's vote-management system," reports The Register. "The deletion of its filesystem data makes analysis of whether the system was compromised impossible to ascertain." From the report: There is good reason to believe that the computer may have been tampered with: it is 15 years old, and could be harboring all sorts of exploitable software and hardware vulnerabilities. No hard copies of the votes are kept, making the electronic copy the only official record. While investigating the Kennesaw State University's Center for Election Systems, which oversees Georgia's voting system, last year, security researcher Logan Lamb found its system was misconfigured, exposing the state's entire voter registration records, multiple PDFs with instructions and passwords for election workers, and the software systems used to tally votes cast. Despite Lamb letting the election center knows of his findings, the security holes were left unpatched for seven months. He later went public after the U.S. security services announced there had been a determined effort by the Russian government to sway the presidential elections, including looking at compromising electronic voting machines.

In an effort to force the state to scrap the system, a number of Georgia voters bandied together and sued. They asked for an independent security review of the server, expecting to find flaws that would lend weight to their argument for investment in a more modern and secure system. But emails released this week following a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that technicians at the election center deleted the server's data on July 7 -- just days after the lawsuit was filed. The memos reveal multiple references to the data wipe, including a message sent just last week from an assistant state attorney general to the plaintiffs in the case. That same email also notes that backups of the server data were also deleted more than a month after the initial wipe -- just as the lawsuit moved to a federal court. It is unclear who ordered the destruction of the data, and why, but they have raised yet more suspicions of collusion between the Trump campaign team, the Republican Party, and the Russian government.

Privacy

Dell Lost Control of Key Customer Support Domain for a Month in 2017 (krebsonsecurity.com) 73

Brian Krebs reports: A web site set up by PC maker Dell to help customers recover from malicious software and other computer maladies may have been hijacked for a few weeks this summer by people who specialize in deploying said malware, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. There is a program installed on virtually all Dell computers called "Dell Backup and Recovery Application." It's designed to help customers restore their data and computers to their pristine, factory default state should a problem occur with the device. That backup and recovery program periodically checks a rather catchy domain name -- DellBackupandRecoveryCloudStorage.com -- which until recently was central to PC maker Dell's customer data backup, recovery and cloud storage solutions. Sometime this summer, DellBackupandRecoveryCloudStorage.com was suddenly snatched away from a longtime Dell contractor for a month and exposed to some questionable content. More worryingly, there are signs the domain may have been pushing malware before Dell's contractor regained control over it.
Japan

The Factory Where Robots Build Robots (bloomberg.com) 59

turkeydance shared Bloomberg's profile of Fanuc, a secretive Japanese company with 40,000-square-foot factories "where robots made other robots in the dark...stopping only when no storage space remains." About 80% of the company's assembly work is automated, and its robots then go on to assemble and paint cars, build motors, and make electrical components. "King of them all is the Robodrill, which plays first violin in one of the great symphonies of modern production: machining the metal casing for Apple Inc.'s iPhones..." With 40% profit margins, the robot vendor has become a $50 billion company controlling most of the world's market for factory automation and industrial robotics, Bloomberg reports: In fact, Fanuc might just be the single most important manufacturing company in the world right now, because everything Fanuc does is designed to make it part of what every other manufacturing company is doing... The company even profits from its competitors' sales, because more than half of all industrial robots are directed by its numerical-control software. Between the almost 4 million CNC systems and half-million or so industrial robots it has installed around the world, Fanuc has captured about one-quarter of the global market, making it the industry leader over competitors such as Yaskawa Motoman and ABB Robotics in Germany, each of which has about 300,000 industrial robots installed globally. Fanuc's Robodrills now command an 80 percent share of the market for smartphone manufacturing robots.
Fanuc's clients include Amazon and Tesla, but U.S. orders "are dwarfed by those from China -- some 90,000 units, almost a third of the world's total industrial robot orders last year."
Botnet

2 Million IoT Devices Enslaved By Fast-Growing BotNet (bleepingcomputer.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Since mid-September, a new IoT botnet has grown to massive proportions. Codenamed IoT_reaper, researchers estimate its current size at nearly two million infected devices. According to researchers, the botnet is mainly made up of IP-based security cameras, routers, network-attached storage (NAS) devices, network video recorders (NVRs), and digital video recorders (DVRs), primarily from vendors such as Netgear, D-Link, Linksys, GoAhead, JAWS, Vacron, AVTECH, MicroTik, TP-Link, and Synology.

The botnet reuses some Mirai source code, but it's unique in its own right. Unlike Mirai, which relied on scanning for devices with weak or default passwords, this botnet was put together using exploits for unpatched vulnerabilities. The botnet's author is still struggling to control his botnet, as researchers spotted over two million infected devices sitting in the botnet's C&C servers' queue, waiting to be processed. As of now, the botnet has not been used in live DDoS attacks, but the capability is in there.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Dyn DDoS attack, the article points out, adding that "This week both the FBI and Europol warned about the dangers of leaving Internet of Things devices exposed online."
Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 91

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Puts Desktop Brains in a Laptop Body (wired.com) 141

David Pierce, writing for Wired: As Microsoft went to create the Surface Book 2, the company once again tried to bust categories. The result is the most combinatory device Microsoft's made yet. It's a laptop (screens measure 13 or 15 inches; there's a keyboard and trackpad) -- and it's also a tablet (the screen detaches, you can use a pen, everything's touch-friendly), and it's also a desktop. A stupendously powerful one, at that: It runs on Intel's new eighth-generation quad-core processors, in either a Core i5 or Core i7 version. The higher-end models come with Nvidia's GeForce discrete graphics, up to 16 gigs of RAM, and as much as 1 terabyte of solid storage. All that in a fanless body that gets up to 17 hours of battery life, and weighs about 3.5 pounds for the smaller model or 4.2 pounds for the larger. What does all that mean? Microsoft claims the smaller model is three times more powerful than the last Surface Book, and the 15-inch runs five times as fast. Those are meaningless comparisons, but the point holds. This thing screams. More useful are the comparisons to Apple's latest MacBook Pros: Microsoft claims up to 70 percent more battery life, and double the performance of Apple's laptops.
Data Storage

Microwave Tech Could Produce 40TB Hard Drives In the Near Future (gizmodo.com) 151

Western Digital has announced a potential game changer that promises to expand the limits of traditional HDDs to up to 40TBs using a microwave-based write head, and the company says it will be able to the public in 2019. Gizmodo reports: Western Digital's new approach, microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR), can utilize the company's existing production chain to cram a lot more storage onto a 3.5-inch disk. In a technical overview, Western Digital says it has managed to overcome the biggest issue with traditional HDD drive storage -- the size of the write head. These days, an average hard drive maxes out in the 10-14TB range. But by integrating a new write head, "a spin torque oscillator," microwaves can create the energy levels necessary for copying data within a lower magnetic field than was ever previously possible. There's a more thorough white paper for those who want to dive in. According to Western Digital, MAMR has "the capability to extend areal density gains up to 4 Terabits per square inch." By the year 2025, it hopes to be packing 40TBs into the same size drive it offers today.

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