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Microsoft Raises UK Cloud, Software Prices 22% After Brexit-Fuelled Pound Drop ( 195

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft is to substantially increase its prices for software and cloud services prices offered in British pounds in order to accommodate the sharp drop in the currency against the US dollar in recent weeks. Beginning in January 2017 on-premises enterprise software prices will go up by 13 percent and most enterprise cloud prices will increase by 22 percent, bringing them into line with euro prices. Microsoft said it isn't planning to change its prices for consumer software and cloud services. The value of the pound has fallen by about 18 percent since the EU referendum on 23 June.

Climate Change Could Cross Key Threshold in a Decade, Scientists Say ( 339

The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. But the planet is already two-thirds of the way to that lower and safer goal, and could begin to pass it in about a decade, according to Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre. Reuters reports: With world emissions unlikely to slow quickly enough to hit that target, it will probably be necessary to remove some carbon pollution from the atmosphere to stabilize the planet, scientists said. That could happen by planting forests or by capturing and then pumping underground emissions from power plants. But other changes -- such as reducing food waste and creating more sustainable diets, with less beef and fewer imported greenhouse vegetables -- could also play a big role in meeting the goal, without so many risks, he said.

Internet is Becoming Unreadable Because of a Trend Towards Lighter, Thinner Fonts ( 314

An anonymous reader writes: The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. Award winning blogger Kevin Marks, founder of Microformats and former vice president of web services at BT, decided to look into the trend after becoming concerned that his eyesight was failing because he was increasingly struggling to read on screen text. He found a 'widespread movement' to reduce the contrast between the words and the background, with tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter all altering their typography. True black on white text has a contrast ratio of 21:1 -- the maximum which can be achieved. Most technology companies agree that it is good practice for type to be a minimum of 7:1 so that the visually-impaired can still see text. But Mr Marks, found that even Apple's own typography guidelines, which recommended 7:1 are written in a contrast ratio of 5.5:1.

A New Attack Allows Intercepting Or Blocking Of Every LTE Phone Call And Text ( 79

All LTE networks and devices are vulnerable to a new attack demonstrated at the Ruxon security conference in Melbourne. mask.of.sanity shared this article from The Register: It exploits LTE fall-back mechanisms designed to ensure continuity of phone services in the event of emergency situations that trigger base station overloads... The attacks work through a series of messages sent between malicious base stations spun up by attackers and targeted phones. It results in attackers gaining a man-in-the-middle position from where they can listen to calls or read SMS, or force phones back to 2G GSM networks where only voice and basic data services are available...

[Researcher Wanqiao] Zhang says the attacks are possible because LTE networks allow users to be handed over to underused base stations in the event of natural disasters to ensure connectivity. "You can create a denial of service attack against cellphones by forcing phones into fake networks with no services," Zhang told the conference. "You can make malicious calls and SMS and...eavesdrop on all voice and data traffic."


A British Supercomputer Can Predict Winter Weather a Year In Advance ( 175

The national weather service of the U.K. claims it can now predict the weather up to a year in advance. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: The development has been made possible thanks to supercomputer technology granted by the UK Government in 2014. The £97 million high-performance computing facility has allowed researchers to increase the resolution of climate models and to test the retrospective skill of forecasts over a 35-year period starting from 1980... The forecasters claim that new supercomputer-powered techniques have helped them develop a system to accurately predict North Atlantic Oscillation -- the climatic phenomenon which heavily impacts winters in the U.K.
The researchers apparently tested their supercomputer on 36 years worth of data, and reported proudly that they could predict winter weather a year in advance -- with 62% accuracy.

Cisco Develops System To Automatically Cut-Off Pirate Video Streams ( 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Pirate services obtain content by capturing and restreaming feeds obtained from official sources, often from something as humble as a regular subscriber account. These streams can then be redistributed by thousands of other sites and services, many of which are easily found using a simple search. Dedicated anti-piracy companies track down these streams and send takedown notices to the hosts carrying them. Sometimes this means that streams go down quickly but in other cases hosts can take a while to respond or may not comply at all. Networking company Cisco thinks it has found a solution to these problems. The company's claims center around its Streaming Piracy Prevention (SPP) platform, a system that aims to take down illicit streams in real-time. Perhaps most interestingly, Cisco says SPP functions without needing to send takedown notices to companies hosting illicit streams. "Traditional takedown mechanisms such as sending legal notices (commonly referred to as 'DMCA notices') are ineffective where pirate services have put in place infrastructure capable of delivering video at tens and even hundreds of gigabits per second, as in essence there is nobody to send a notice to," the company explains. "Escalation to infrastructure providers works to an extent, but the process is often slow as the pirate services will likely provide the largest revenue source for many of the platform providers in question." To overcome these problems Cisco says it has partnered with Friend MTS (FMTS), a UK-based company specializing in content-protection. Among its services, FMTS offers Distribution iD, which allows content providers to pinpoint which of their downstream distributors' platforms are a current source of content leaks. "Robust and unique watermarks are embedded into each distributor feed for identification. The code is invisible to the viewer but can be recovered by our specialist detector software," FMTS explains. "Once infringing content has been located, the service automatically extracts the watermark for accurate distributor identification." According to Cisco, FMTS feeds the SPP service with pirate video streams it finds online. These are tracked back to the source of the leak (such as a particular distributor or specific pay TV subscriber account) which can then be shut-down in real time.
United Kingdom

UK Government Proposes Minimum 10Mbps Broadband For Poor ( 79

An anonymous reader writes: The UK's Local Government Association (LGA) is proposing a social tariff to ensure that minimum broadband access of at least 10 Mbps is available to all UK citizens at an affordable price. Last November, Parliament announced that it would begin work on a Universal Service Obligation (USO), which would grant all citizens the right to request broadband service with a minimum 10Mbps. At the time, Prime Minister David Cameron said, "Access to the Internet shouldn't be a luxury; it should be a right -- absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain." Research by Ofcom in 2014 showed "marked relationships between socio-economic deprivation and [poor] broadband availability in cities". Similar results have been found in rural areas, which means that the demand for increasing broadband service to a minimum level may be high among people with lower incomes.

'Adding a Phone Number To Your Google Account Can Make it Less Secure' ( 105

You may think that adding a backup phone number to your account will make it prone to hack, but that is not always the case. Vijay Pandurangan, EIR at Benchmark (and formerly with Eng Site Lead at Twitter) argues that your phone number is likely the weakest link for many attackers (at least when they are trying to hack your Google account). He has shared the story of his friend who had his Google account compromised. The friend in this case, let's call him Bob, had a very strong password, a completely independent recovery email, hard-to-guess security questions, and he never logged in from unknown devices. Though Bob didn't have multi-factor authentication enabled, he did add a backup phone number. On October 1, when Bob attempted to check his email, he discovered that he was logged out of his Gmail account. When he tried to login, he was told that his password was changed less than an hour ago. He tried calling Verizon, and discovered that his phone service was no longer active, and that the attacker had switched his service to an iPhone 4. "Verizon later conceded that they had transferred his account despite having neither requested nor being given the 4-digit PIN they had on record." The attacker reset Bob's password and changed the recover email, password, name on the account, and enabled two-factor authentication. He got his account back, thanks to support staff and colleagues at Google, but the story illustrates how telco are the weakest link. From the article: Using a few old Google accounts, I experimented with Google's account recovery options and discovered that if a Google account does not have a backup phone number associated with it, Google requires you to have access to the recovery email account OR know the security questions in order to take over an account. However, if a backup phone number is on the account, Google allows you to type in a code from an SMS to the device in lieu of any other information. There you have it: adding a phone number reduces the security of your account to the lowest of: your recovery email account, your security questions, your phone service, and (presumably) Google's last-ditch customer service in case all other options fail. There are myriad examples of telcos improperly turning over their users' accounts: everything from phone hacking incidents in the UK to more recent examples. Simply put, telcos can be quite bad at securing your privacy and they should not be trusted. Interestingly, it appears that if two-factor-auth via SMS is enabled, Google will not allow your password to be reset unless you can also answer a security question in addition to having access to a phone number.

KickassTorrents Lawyer: 'Torrent Sites Do Not Violate Criminal Copyright Laws' ( 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Lawyers representing Artem Vaulin have filed their formal legal response to prosecutors' allegations of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, among other charges. Vaulin is the alleged head of KickassTorrents (KAT). KAT was the world's largest BitTorrent distribution site before it was shuttered by authorities earlier this year. Vaulin was arrested in Poland, where he now awaits extradition to the United States. "Vaulin is charged with running today's most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a July 2016 statement. The defense's new 22-page court filing largely relies on the argument that there is no such thing as secondary criminal copyright infringement. While secondary copyright infringement as a matter of civil liability was upheld by the Supreme Court in MGM v. Grokster in 2005, Vaulin and his associates have been charged criminally. "The fundamental flaw in the government's untenable theory of prosecution is that there is no copyright protection for such torrent file instructions and addresses," [the brief's author, Ira Rothken,] argued in his Monday motion to dismiss the charges against Vaulin. "Therefore, given the lack of direct willful copyright infringement, torrent sites do not violate criminal copyright laws." "The extradition procedures have formally been started by the US in Poland," Rothken told Ars. "We are in a submissions or briefing period, and our Polish team is opposing extradition." Rothken also said that he has yet to be allowed to meet or speak directly with his client. For now, Rothken has been required to communicate via his Polish counterpart, Alek Kowzan. "Maybe they are afraid that Artem's extradition defense will be enhanced if American lawyers can assist in defending against the US extradition," Rothken added. No hearings before US District Judge John Z. Lee have been set.

Hotspot Vigilantes Are Trying to Beam the Internet To Julian Assange ( 241

Ecuadorian government said earlier this week that it did cut off Julian Assange's internet connection. They noted that Assange's continued interference in the U.S. election campaign was the reason why they decided to disconnect Assange from the internet. But it appears some people are going to great lengths to beam internet connectivity to Mr. Assange. This week 4chan urged people to head to the embassy to set up mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, and many are doing just that. From a Motherboard report:"We are now calling all BRITS to get their ass down to the embassy and stand around in mass, taking shifts with wifi-hotspots on hand!" reads the post. "Give Assange constant network and morale support all while streaming it live for the world to see." Are people actually going to try this? Motherboard UK visited the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed political asylum since August 2012, today to find out. Admittedly, on a late October afternoon, things were rather quiet on the street outside the embassy. Nevertheless, I found my guy. "Marco" was loitering outside the embassy, turning on and off his mobile hotspot. I approached him, and while tentative at first, Marco finally started explaining how he was hoping to aid Assange.
The Military

US Army 'Will Have More Robot Soldiers Than Humans' By 2025, Says Former British Spy ( 113

John Bassett, a British spy who worked for the agency GCHQ for nearly two decades, has told Daily Express that the U.S. was considering plans to employ thousands of robots by 2025. At a meeting with police and counter-terrorism officials in London, he said: "At some point around 2025 or thereabouts the U.S. army will actually have more combat robots than it will have human soldiers. Many of those combat robots are trucks that can drive themselves, and they will get better at not falling off cliffs. But some of them are rather more exciting than trucks. So we will see in the West combat robots outnumber human soldiers." Daily Express reports: Robotic military equipment is already being used by the U.S Navy and Air Force, in the shape of drones and autonomous ships. In April robotic warfare took a major leap forward after the U.S. Navy launched its very first self-piloting ship designed to hunt enemy submarines. Drones have been a feature of U.S. operations in the Middle East to disrupt terrorist groups. However, those aircrafts are still controlled by humans operating from bases in the U.S. Mr. Bassett also said artificial intelligence and robots technology would combine to create powerful fighting machines. The cyber security expert said: "Artificial intelligence, robotics in general, those will begin to mesh together."

BBC Micro Bit Mini-Computer To Expand Internationally With New Hardware ( 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The Micro Bit mini-computer is to be sold across the world and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions. The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC. About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year. Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intended to co-ordinate a wider rollout. "Our goal is to go out and reach 100 million people with Micro Bit, and by reach I mean affect their lives with the technology," said the foundations' new chief executive Zach Shelby. "That means [selling] tens of millions of devices... over the next five to 10 years." His organization plans to ensure Micro Bits can be bought across Europe before the end of the year and is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand. Next, in 2017, the foundation plans to target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware. TrixX adds: The makers of the BBC micro:bit have announced that they are releasing the full specs for the device under an open license, (SolderPad License, similar to Apache License but for hardware). This means that anyone can legally use the specs and build their own device, or fork the reference design GitHub repo and design their derivatives.

Donald Trump Running Insecure Email Servers ( 434

Donald Trump has slammed Hillary Clinton for using private email servers numerous times, but it turns out his inboxes aren't that secure either. From a report on The Register: Security researcher Kevin Beaumont discovered the Trump organization uses a hopelessly outdated and insecure internet setup. Servers on the Trump Organization's domain,, are using outdated software, run Windows Server 2003 and the built-in Internet Information Server 6 web server. Microsoft cut off support for this technology in July 2015, leaving the systems unpatched for the last 15 months. In addition, Beaumont said he'd found that emails from the Trump Organization failed to support two-factor authentication. That's particularly bad because the Trump Organization's web-based email access page relies on an outdated March 2015 build of Microsoft Exchange 2007, he says. "Windows Server 2003, IIS 6 and Exchange 2003 went end of life years ago. There are no security fixes. They don't have basics down," the UK-based researcher concludes. Beaumont's findings are based simply on inspecting publicly available information rather than actively scanning for vulnerabilities or attempting to gain access to insecure systems, a point lost on Trump supporters who have reported him to the Feds.
Operating Systems

OMGUbuntu: 'Why Use Linux?' Answered in 3 Short Words ( 267

Linux-focused blog OMGUbuntu's Joey-Elijah Sneddon shared a post today in which he is trying to explain why people should Linux. He stumbled upon the question when he typed "Why use" and Google suggested Linux as one of the most frequent questions. From the article: The question posed is not one that I sincerely ask myself very often. The answer has, over the years, become complicated. It's grown into a bloated ball of elastic bands, each reason stretched around and now reliant on another. But I wanted to answer. Helpfully, my brain began to spit out all the predictable nouns: "Why use Linux? Because of security! Because of control! Because of privacy, community, and a general sense of purpose! Because it's fast! Because it's virus free! Because I'm dang-well used to it now! Because, heck, I can shape it to look like pretty much anything I want it to using themes and widgets and CSS and extensions and blingy little desktop trinkets!"

Your Dynamic IP Address Is Now Protected Personal Data Under EU Law ( 37

Europe's top court has ruled that dynamic IP addresses can constitute "personal data," just like static IP addresses, affording them some protection under EU law against being collected and stored by websites. ArsTechnica UK adds: But the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) also said in its judgment on Wednesday that one legitimate reason for a site operator to store them is "to protect itself against cyberattacks." The case was referred to the CJEU by the German Federal Court of Justice, after an action brought by German Pirate Party politician Patrick Breyer. He asked the courts to grant an injunction to prevent websites that he consults, run by federal German bodies, from collecting and storing his dynamic IP addresses. Breyer's fear is that doing so would allow the German authorities to build up a picture of his interests. Site operators argue that they need to store the data in order to prevent "cybernetic attacks and make it possible to bring criminal proceedings" against those responsible, the CJEU said.
The Internet

Ecuador Acknowledges Limiting Julian Assange's Web Access ( 412

Alexandra Valencia, reporting for Reuters: Ecuador's government acknowledged on Tuesday it had partly restricted internet access for Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks who has lived in the South American country's London embassy since mid-2012. WikiLeaks said Assange lost connectivity on Sunday, sparking speculation Ecuador might have been pressured by the United States due to the group's publication of hacked material linked to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In a statement, Ecuador's leftist government said WikiLeaks' decision to publish documents impacting the U.S. election campaign was entirely its own responsibility, and the South American country did not cede to pressure from other nations. "In that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in its UK Embassy," it added in a statement. "The Ecuador government respects the principle of non-intervention in other countries' affairs, it does not meddle in election processes underway, nor does it support any candidate specially."

Why Your Devices Are Probably Eroding Your Productivity ( 99

University of California, San Francisco neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and California State University, Dominguez Hills professor emeritus Larry Rosen explain in their book "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World" why people have trouble multitasking, and specifically why one's productivity output is lowered when keeping up with emails, for example. Lesley McClurg writes via KQED Science: When you engage in one task at a time, the prefrontal cortex works in harmony with other parts of the brain, but when you toss in another task it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. The process of splitting our attention usually leads to mistakes. In other words, each time our eyes glance away from our computer monitor to sneak a peak at a text message, the brain takes in new information, which reduces our primary focus. We think the mind can juggle two or three activities successfully at once, but Gazzaley says we woefully overestimate our ability to multitask. In regard to answering emails, McClurg writes: Gazzaley stresses that our tendency to respond immediately to emails and texts hinders high-level thinking. If you're working on a project and you stop to answer an email, the research shows, it will take you nearly a half-hour to get back on task. "When a focused stream of thought is interrupted it needs to be reset," explains Gazzaley. "You can't just press a button and switch back to it. You have to re-engage those thought processes, and recreate all the elements of what you were engaged in. That takes time, and frequently one interruption leads to another." In other words, repetitively switching tasks lowers performance and productivity because your brain can only fully and efficiently focus on one thing at a time. Plus, mounting evidence shows that multitasking could impair the brain's cognitive abilities. Stanford researchers studied the minds of people who regularly engage in several digital communication streams at once. They found that high-tech jugglers struggle to pay attention, recall information, or complete one task at a time. And the habit of multitasking could lower your score on an IQ test, according to researchers at the University of London. The saving grace is that we don't need to ditch technology as "there's a time and place for multitasking," according to Gazzaley. "If you're in the midst of a mundane task that just has to get done, it's probably not detrimental to have your phone nearby or a bunch of tabs open. The distractions may reduce boredom and help you stay engaged. But if you're finishing a business plan, or a high-level writing project, then it's a good idea to set yourself up to stay focused."
The Almighty Buck

Americans Work 25% More Than Europeans, Study Finds ( 403

Americans are addicted to their jobs. U.S. workers not only put in more hours than workers do almost anywhere else. They're also increasingly retiring later and taking fewer vacation days, reports Bloomberg. From the article: A new study tries to measure precisely how much more Americans work than Europeans do overall. The answer: The average person in Europe works 19 percent less than the average person in the U.S. That's about 258 fewer hours per year, or about an hour less each weekday. Another way to look at it: U.S. workers put in almost 25 percent more hours than Europeans. Hours worked vary a lot by country, according to the unpublished working paper by economists Alexander Bick of Arizona State University, Bettina Bruggemann of McMaster University in Ontario, and Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln of Goethe University Frankfurt. Swiss work habits are most similar to Americans', while Italians are the least likely to be at work, putting in 29 percent fewer hours per year than Americans do.

Millimeter-wave 5G Modem Coming Mid-2018 With 5Gbps Peak Download ( 39

Qualcomm is promising to launch its first 5G modem in 2018, even though basic standards for 5G have yet to be established, nor even which part of the radio spectrum it will use. From an ArsTechnica report: Dubbed the Snapdragon X50, the San Diego chipmaker says its new modem will be able to deliver blindingly fast peak download speeds of around 5Gbps. The X50 5G will at first operate with a bandwidth of about 800MHz on the 28GHz millimetre wave (mmWave in Qualcomm jargon) spectrum, a frequency that's also being investigated by Samsung, Nokia, and Verizon. However, the powers that be have far from settled on this area of the spectrum, with 73GHz also being mooted. In the UK, Ofcom is investigating several bands in a range between 6GHz and 100GHz. As the industry as a whole is a long way from consensus, this could be Qualcomm's bid to get the final frequency locked down well before 2020 -- the year that 5G is expected to reach any kind of consumer penetration. "The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase," said Qualcomm exec veep Cristiano Amon. "Utilising our long history of LTE and Wi-Fi leadership, we are thrilled to deliver a product that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality. This shows that we're not just talking about 5G, we're truly committed to it."

Russia Today: NatWest To Close Russian Channel's UK Bank Accounts ( 130

According to the editor-in-chief of state-run broadcaster Russia Today (RT), NatWest bank froze its account. Margarita Simonyan said, "They've closed our accounts in Britain. All our accounts. 'The decision is not subject to review.' Praise be to freedom of speech!" The Guardian adds: Russia has angrily accused Britain of trampling on freedom of speech after NatWest said it was closing down the bank accounts of the Kremlin TV channel Russia Today (RT). Russian MPs, the foreign ministry and human rights officials all condemned the move, and said the UK government was guilty of violating press freedom and of double standards. Simonyan said she had received a letter out of the blue from NatWest saying that it was pulling the plug on the broadcaster's accounts from mid-December. "We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities," it said.

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