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BBC Micro Bit Mini-Computer To Expand Internationally With New Hardware ( 36

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.

Mark Zuckerberg Defends Peter Thiel's Trump Ties In Internal Memo ( 466

Soon after it was announced that Project Include, a community for building meaningful, enduring diversity and inclusion into tech companies, would no longer work with Y Combinator startups, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Thiel's status as a Facebook board member in a message to employees. "We can't create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate," Zuckerberg wrote. "There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia, or accepting sexual assault." The Verge reports: A screenshot of the memo was posted to Hacker News yesterday, and it later surfaced on Boing Boing. A Facebook spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the five-paragraph memo to The Verge. It appears to have been posted on Facebook for Work, the enterprise version of Facebook that the company recently made available to other companies. Thiel's endorsement of Trump has put those CEOs in a difficult position. On one hand he is a close adviser; on the other, his support for an erratic, racist demagogue has outraged many of their employees and partners. Like Y Combinator's Sam Altman before him, Zuckerberg defended the company's ties to Thiel by saying that the company has a moral obligation to consider a variety of viewpoints, no matter how abhorrent. "We care deeply about diversity," Zuckerberg wrote. "That's easy to do when it means standing up for ideas you agree with. It's a lot harder when it means standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints to say what they care about. That's even more important." Of course, as the designer Jason Putorti wrote on Medium this week, Thiel already has an outsized capacity to stand up for ideas he agrees with: he spent $1.25 million to promote them. Zuckerberg's memo reads as if he is defending Thiel's right to post on Facebook. In fact, the question is whether someone who promotes opposition to gender and racial equality should be allowed to serve as a steward for a company whose stated mission is to connect the world.
Portables (Apple)

Apple Rumored To Remove Old-School USB Ports On Next MacBook Pro ( 281

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: First the headphone jack, now the USB port? Rumor has it that Apple may get rid of the USB 3.0 port and the Magsafe port (where the charger plugs in) on the next generation of MacBooks. Japanese tech site Macotakara, which accurately predicted that Apple would kill the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, now also claims that the USB port is on the way out. The move would be similar to Apple's latest 12-inch MacBook and its streamlined profile. There's also word that Apple may discontinue the 11-inch MacBook Air to focus instead on the 13-inch laptop. Discontinuing the 11-inch MacBook Air would also potentially boost sales on the 12-inch MacBook. If these rumors are in fact true, then the new MacBooks will have only a USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports. Both of these ports are about the size of the part of an iPhone charger that plugs into the phone. But since most laptop accessories still plug in via the USB port, Apple owners might have to use an adaptor, or upgrade their technology. Meanwhile, the new MacBooks would likely be charged through the USB-C port or Thunderbolt 3 port. Currently, Apple already sells a USB-C dock with other USB and HDMI ports for $79. The USB-C port uses USB 3.1 Standard, according to PCWorld, which will connect to a wide variety of accessories, such as external hard drives, cameras, and printers. The USB 3.1 can also transfer data between the host computer and the peripheral accessories at a speed of 10 gigabits per second, which is twice as fast as the USB 3.0. Apple is expected to reveal the new Macs at an October 27th event in Cupertino, California.

RIP, David Bunnell, Founder of More Major Computer Magazines Than Anyone ( 25

Reader harrymcc writes: David Bunnell has passed away. He stumbled into a job at PC pioneer MITS in the 1970s and went on to create the first PC magazine and first PC conference -- and, later on, PC Magazine, PC World, Macworld, and Macworld Expo. He was a remarkable guy on multiple fronts. Harry McCracken, who edited some of those magazines, shared some thoughts about why Bunnell mattered so much in a post at Fast Company.

LeEco Who? Chinese Tech Giant Tries Its Luck In the US With 'More Products Than You've Ever Seen' ( 57

LeEco is often called the Netflix of China. Which is funny for two reasons: LeEco is bigger than Netflix, and it has been around for longer than the American on-demand movies and TV shows streaming service. Besides, LeEco runs a fleet of other businesses, including ecommerce portal, smartphones, TVs, and even an autonomous cars. A company executive said this month that this would be a better description of LeEco, "If you were to take Apple, Amazon, Paramount Pictures, Tesla, Uber and Netflix and combine all of those companies, you get what LeEco does in China" But you may not have heard much about LeEco, the company which was until earlier this year known as LeTv. But you will now, because the company today announced a range of products for the U.S. market. TechCrunch adds: Perhaps predictably, one of the first US-based offerings from the company often referred to as "the Netflix of China" will be a content platform. And, as with just about everything else at today's event, LeEco's coming out swinging. The list of partners for LeEco Live includes MGM, Lionsgate, Vice, Showtime, Sling and Magnolia Pictures, along with publication partners like Cosmopolitan and Esquire, to name but a few. From another CNET report, which lists the other things that LeEco announced today: UMax 85 TV is LeEco's flagship 4K smart television. It's 85 inches, comes with 4GB in RAM and 64GB in storage and supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It will cost $4,999. Super4 X65 TV is LeEco's second biggest 4K smart television at 65 inches and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. Super4 X55 TV is a 55-inch 4K smart television and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. Super4 X43 Pro TV is 43-inch 4K smart television and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. LeEco has an upcoming prototype VR headset; it will have a gyroscope, bluetooth headphones and USB Type-C. LeSee Pro is LeEco's self-driving concept car. It will be fully autonomous and will have a connected interior to let people stream movies, music and work documents. LeSee is LeEco's semi-autonomous vehicle (level 3). It is internet-connected and has streaming content in rear seats. LeEco first unveiled this car in April.

Your Dynamic IP Address Is Now Protected Personal Data Under EU Law ( 35

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.

Why Your Devices Are Probably Eroding Your Productivity ( 93

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."

Half of American Adults Are In a Face-Recognition Database ( 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Half of American adults are in a face-recognition database, according to a Georgetown University study released Wednesday. That means there's about 117 million adults in a law enforcement facial-recognition database, the study by Georgetown's Center on Privacy and Technology says. The report (PDF), titled "The Perpetual Line-up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America," shows that one-fourth of the nation's law enforcement agencies have access to face-recognition databases, and their use by those agencies is virtually unregulated. Where do the mug shots come from? For starters, about 16 states allow the FBI to use facial recognition to compare faces of suspected criminals to their driver's licenses or ID photos, according to the study. "In this line-up," the study says, "it's not a human that points to the suspect -- it's an algorithm." The study says 26 states or more allow police agencies to "run or request searches" against their databases or driver's licenses and ID photos. This equates to "roughly one in two American adults has their photos searched this way," according to the study. Many local police agencies also insert mug shots of people they arrest into searchable, biometric databases, according to the report. According to the report, researchers obtained documents stating that at least five "major police departments," including those in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles, "either claimed to run real-time face recognition off of street cameras, bought technology that can do so, or expressed an interest in buying it." The Georgetown report's release comes three months after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the FBI has access to as many as 411.9 million images as part of its face-recognition database. The study also mentioned that the police departments have little oversight of their databases and don't audit them for misuse: "Maryland's system, which includes the license photos of over two million residents, was launched in 2011. It has never been audited. The Pinellas Country Sheriff's Office system is almost 15 years old and may be the most frequently used system in the country. When asked if his office audits searches for misuse, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri replied, "No, not really." Despite assurances to Congress, the FBI has not audited use of its face recognition system, either. Only nine of 52 agencies (17%) indicated that they log and audit their officers' face recognition searchers for improper use. Of those, only one agency, the Michigan State Police, provided documentation showing that their audit regime was actually functional."
United States

Samsung is Setting Up Note 7 Exchange Booths at Airports Around the World ( 46

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung is setting up Galaxy Note 7 exchange booths in airports around the world, hoping to stop customers taking the dangerous device onto flights at the last minute. The first of these new "customer service points" appear to have been introduced in South Korean airports, but Samsung has confirmed the booths are opening in airports across Australia, with reports of the desks appearing in the US as well. The booths are located in "high-traffic terminals" before security screening, says Samsung, and allow Note 7 owners to swap their phone for an unspecified exchange device. According to a report from ABC7News in San Francisco -- where a Samsung exchange desk has appeared at the city's international airport -- employees for the tech company are on hand to help customers transfer their data onto a new phone.
The Internet

Say Hello To Branded Internet Addresses ( 146

On September 29, Google published a new blog which uses .google domain rather the standard .com. It seems the company may have inspired other companies to tout their brand names in the digital realm as well. According to a report on CNET, we have since seen requests for domain names such as .kindle, .apple, .ibm, .canon, and .samsung. And it's not just tech companies that are finding this very attractive, other domain requests include .ford, .delta, .hbo, .mcdonalds, and .nike. From the report: Approval, of course, is just a first step. It's not clear how enthusiastic most companies will be about the new names. So far, Google is the eager beaver. What's fun for Google is a daunting financial commitment to others. A $185,000 application fee and annual $30,000 operation fee will keep mom-and-pop shops away from their own domains. Still, plenty of businesses other than Google see the new domain names as a good investment. Branded domains can add distinction to an internet address, and renting out generic top-level domain (GTLD) names can potentially be a lucrative business. At a January auction, GMO Registry bid $41.5 million to win rights to sell .shop domain names. And in July, Nu Dot Co won .web with a bid of $135 million. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Where does all the money go? To a nonprofit organization called ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The organization oversees internet plumbing on behalf of companies, governments and universities, as well as the general public.

Project Include Drops Y Combinator As Peter Thiel Pledges $1.25 Million To Trump ( 608

Peter Thiel's support for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has given Silicon Valley a headache. This past weekend, Thiel donated $1.25 million to his campaign, which is driving away partners from Thiel's Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator. Today, Project Include, a community for building meaningful, enduring diversity and inclusion into tech companies, said that it would no longer work with Y Combinator startups. "Thiel's actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include," the group's co-founder, Ellen Pao, wrote in a Medium post. "Because of this continued connection to YC, we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC." The Verge reports: Founded in 2005, Y Combinator has incubated some of the biggest tech companies of the past decade, including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe. It faced a barrage of criticism over the weekend for refusing to dissociate itself from Thiel, who took an advisory role with the organization in 2015. In a series of tweets, YC's president stood by Thiel. "Cutting off opposing viewpoints leads to extremism and will not get us the country we want," Sam Altman wrote. "Diversity of opinion is painful but critical to the health of a democratic society. We can't start purging people for political support." In her post, Pao rejected the idea that Thiel's donation could be dismissed as political speech. "We agree that people shouldn't be fired for their political views, but this isn't a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence," she wrote. "Giving more power to someone whose ascension and behavior strike fear into so many people is unacceptable. His attacks on black, Mexican, Asian, Muslim, and Jewish people, on women, and on others are more than just political speech; fueled by hate and encouraging violence, they make each of us feel unsafe."
The Almighty Buck

It's Entirely Reasonable For Police To Swipe a Suspicious Gift Card, Says Court ( 203

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: A U.S. federal appeals court has found that law enforcement can, without a warrant, swipe credit cards and gift cards to reveal the information encoded on the magnetic stripe. It's the third such federal appellate court to reach this conclusion. Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the government in United States v. Turner, establishing that it was entirely reasonable for Texas police officers to scan approximately 100 gift cards found in a car that was pulled over at a traffic stop. Like the previous similar 8th Circuit case that Ars covered in June 2016, the defendants challenged the search of the gift cards as being unreasonable. (The second case was from the 3rd Circuit in July 2015, in a case known as U.S. v. Bah.) In this case, after pulling over the car and running the IDs of both men, police found that there was an outstanding warrant for the passenger, Courtland Turner. When Turner was told to get out of the car and was placed in the patrol car, the officer returned to the stopped car and noticed an "opaque plastic bag partially protruding from the front passenger seat," as if someone had tried to push it under the seat to keep it hidden. The cop then asked the driver, Broderick Henderson, what was in the bag. Henderson replied that they had bought gift cards. When the officer then asked if he had receipts for them, Henderson replied that they had "bought the gift cards from another individual who sells them to make money." Turner's lawyers later challenged the scanning, arguing that this "search" of these gift cards went against their client's "reasonable expectation of privacy," an argument that neither the district court nor the appellate court found convincing. The 5th Circuit summarized: "After conferring with other officers about past experiences with stolen gift cards, the officer seized the gift cards as evidence of suspected criminal activity. Henderson was ticketed for failing to display a driver's license and signed an inventory sheet that had an entry for 143 gift cards. Turner was arrested pursuant to his warrant. The officer, without obtaining a search warrant, swiped the gift cards with his in-car computer. Unable to make use of the information shown, the officer turned the gift cards over to the Secret Service. A subsequent scan of the gift cards revealed that at least forty-three were altered, meaning the numbers encoded in the card did not match the numbers printed on the card. The investigating officer also contacted the stores where the gift cards were purchased -- a grocery store and a Walmart in Bryan, Texas provided photos of Henderson and Turner purchasing gift cards."

Apple and Other Tech Companies Have Registered Their IP in Jamaica, Tonga, and Elsewhere For Years ( 42

Apple's product launches are notoriously secretive, but the Cupertino, California tech giant is sure to do one thing ahead of a big reveal: file trademark paperwork in Jamaica. From a Quartz report: It did this for Siri, the Apple Watch, macOS, and dozens of its major products months before the equivalent paperwork was lodged in the United States. Likewise, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft routinely file trademarks for their most important products in locales far flung from Silicon Valley and Seattle. These include Jamaica, Tonga, Iceland, South Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago -- places where trademark authorities don't maintain easily searchable databases. The tech giants are exploiting a US trademark-law provision that lets them effectively claim a trademark in secret. Under this provision, once a mark is lodged with an intellectual property office outside the US, the firm has six months to file it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When the firm does file in the US, it can point to its original application made abroad to show that it has a priority claim on the mark.

FTC Says It May Be Unable To Regulate Comcast, Google, and Verizon ( 86

The Federal Trade Commission is worried that it may no longer be able to regulate companies such as Comcast, Google, and Verizon unless a recent court ruling is overturned, ArsTechnica reports. From the article: The FTC on Thursday petitioned the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing in a case involving AT&T's throttling of unlimited data plans. A 9th Circuit panel previously ruled that the FTC cannot punish AT&T, and the decision raises questions about the FTC's ability to regulate any company that operates a common carrier business such as telephone or Internet service. While the FTC's charter from Congress prohibits it from regulating common carriers, the agency has previously exercised authority to regulate these companies when they offer non-common carrier services. But the recent court ruling said that AT&T is immune from FTC oversight entirely, even when it's not acting as a common carrier. It isn't clear whether the ruling sets an ironclad precedent preventing the FTC from regulating any company with a common carrier business.

More Unblocking Companies Give Up Their Fight Against Netflix ( 210

Earlier this year, Netflix announced it was going to block the VPN services that were circumventing the streaming service's geoblocking technology, and it seems in the months since many of the top VPN players have given up on finding ways to workaround Netflix's block tech. From a report on TechSpot (condensed): Australian company uFlix discovered that some of its users could no longer access Netflix. It said that a fix was coming soon, but, uFlix announced recently in a recent blog post that it has given up the fight. "As of today we are going to stop supporting Netflix as an unblocked channel. Unfortunately every time we set up a new network or find a workaround it is getting blocked within hours." Uflix isn't the only service to throw in the towel -- most of the other unblockers have quietly decided to stop trying to evade Netflix's geoblocks, as more customers complain they can no longer watch the streaming site. Popular VPN TorGuard had assured customers that the crackdown wouldn't affect them. But there is no mention of Netflix on TorGuard's website, and its shared Netflix server was taken offline four months ago.

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