20 May 2018

feedSlashdot

People Hate Canada's New 'Amber Alert' System

The CBC reports: When the siren-like sounds from an Amber Alert rang out on cellular phones across Ontario on Monday, it sparked a bit of a backlash against Canada's new mobile emergency alert system. The Ontario Provincial Police had issued the alert for a missing eight-year-old boy in the Thunder Bay region. (The boy has since been found safe)... On social media, people startled by the alerts complained about the number of alerts they received and that they had received separate alerts in English and French... Meanwhile, others who were located far from the incident felt that receiving the alert was pointless. "I've received two Amber Alerts today for Thunder Bay, which is 15 hours away from Toronto by car," tweeted Molly Sauter. "Congrats, you have trained me to ignore Emergency Alerts...." The CRTC ordered wireless providers to implement the system to distribute warnings of imminent safety threats such as tornadoes, floods, Amber Alerts or terrorist threats. Telecom companies had favoured an opt-out option or the ability to disable the alarm for some types of alerts. But this was rejected by the broadcasting and telecommunications regulator. Individuals concerned about receiving these alerts are left with a couple of options: they can turn off their phone -- it will not be forced on by the alert -- or mute their phone so they won't hear it. Long-time Slashdot reader knorthern knight complains that the first two alerts-- one in English, followed by one in French -- were then followed by a third (bi-lingual) alert advising recipients to ignore the previous two alerts, since the missing child had been found.

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20 May 2018 7:34am GMT

Did Google's Duplex Testing Break the Law?

An anonymous reader writes: Tech blogger John Gruber appears to have successfully identified one of the restaurants mentioned in a post on Google's AI blog that bragged about "a meal booked through a call from Duplex." Mashable then asked a restaurant employee there if Google had let him know in advance that they'd be receiving a call from their non-human personal assistant AI. "No, of course no," he replied. And "When I asked him to confirm one more time that Duplex had called...he appeared to get nervous and immediately said he needed to go. He then hung up the phone." John Gruber now asks: "How many real-world businesses has Google Duplex been calling and not identifying itself as an AI, leaving people to think they're actually speaking to another human...? And if 'Victor' is correct that Hong's Gourmet had no advance knowledge of the call, Google may have violated California law by recording the call." Friday he added that "This wouldn't send anyone to prison, but it would be a bit of an embarrassment, and would reinforce the notion that Google has a cavalier stance on privacy (and adhering to privacy laws)." The Mercury News also reports that legal experts "raised questions about how Google's possible need to record Duplex's phone conversations to improve its artificial intelligence may come in conflict with California's strict two-party consent law, where all parties involved in a private phone conversation need to agree to being recorded." For another perspective, Gizmodo's senior reviews editor reminds readers that "pretty much all tech demos are fake as hell." Speaking of Google's controversial Duplex demo, she writes that "If it didn't happen, if it is all a lie, well then I'll be totally disappointed. But I can't say I'll be surprised."

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20 May 2018 4:34am GMT

Repo Men Scan Billions of License Plates -- For the Government

The Washington Post notes the billions of license plate scans coming from modern repo men "able to use big data to find targets" -- including one who drives "a beat-up Ford Crown Victoria sedan." It had four small cameras mounted on the trunk and a laptop bolted to the dash. The high-speed cameras captured every passing license plate. The computer contained a growing list of hundreds of thousands of vehicles with seriously late loans. The system could spot a repossession in an instant. Even better, it could keep tabs on a car long before the loan went bad... Repo agents are the unpopular foot soldiers in the nation's $1.2 trillion auto loan market... they are the closest most people come to a faceless, sophisticated financial system that can upend their lives... Derek Lewis works for Relentless Recovery, the largest repo company in Ohio and its busiest collector of license plate scans. Last year, the company repossessed more than 25,500 vehicles -- including tractor trailers and riding lawn mowers. Business has more than doubled since 2014, the company said. Even with the rising deployment of remote engine cutoffs and GPS locators in cars, repo agencies remain dominant. Relentless scanned 28 million license plates last year, a demonstration of its recent, heavy push into technology. It now has more than 40 camera-equipped vehicles, mostly spotter cars. Agents are finding repos they never would have a few years ago. The company's goal is to capture every plate in Ohio and use that information to reveal patterns... "It's kind of scary, but it's amazing," said Alana Ferrante, chief executive of Relentless. Repo agents are responsible for the majority of the billions of license plate scans produced nationwide. But they don't control the information. Most of that data is owned by Digital Recognition Network (DRN), a Fort Worth company that is the largest provider of license-plate-recognition systems. And DRN sells the information to insurance companies, private investigators -- even other repo agents. DRN is a sister company to Vigilant Solutions, which provides the plate scans to law enforcement, including police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both companies declined to respond to questions about their operations... For repo companies, one worry is whether they are producing information that others are monetizing.

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20 May 2018 1:34am GMT

19 May 2018

feedOSNews

Inside the 76477 Space Invaders sound effect chip

The 76477 Complex Sound Generation chip (1978) provided sound effects for Space Invaders and many other video games. It was also a popular hobbyist chip, easy to experiment with and available at Radio Shack. I reverse-engineered the chip from die photos and found some interesting digital circuitry inside. Perhaps the most interesting is a shift register based white noise generator, useful for drums, gunshots, explosions and other similar sound effects. The chip also uses a digital mixer to combine the chip's different sound generators. An unusual feature of the chip is that it uses Integrated Injection Logic (I2L), a type of digital logic developed in the 1970s with the goal of high-density, high-speed chips.

19 May 2018 8:39pm GMT

feedArs Technica

Blunder burns unicorn attack that exploited Windows and Reader

Clicking on a PDF was all it took to infect older versions of Windows.

19 May 2018 6:00pm GMT

FCC investigates site that let most US mobile phones’ location be exposed

Wyden: mobile phone companies', contractors' view of security is "negligent."

19 May 2018 3:15pm GMT

A dozen years after near-death, Star Trek’s future may be stronger than ever

2005's Enterprise finale stopped ~18 years of Trek on TV-how did today's renaissance occur?

19 May 2018 2:00pm GMT

18 May 2018

feedOSNews

iOS developers form union to pressure Apple

A number of prominent third-party iOS developers have formed a union to put pressure on Apple to change several App Store policies. We believe that people who create great software should be able to make a living doing it. So we created The Developers Union to advocate for sustainability in the App Store. Today, we are asking Apple to publicly commit - by the tenth anniversary of the App Store this July - to allowing free trials for all apps in the App Stores before July 2019. After that, we'll start advocating for a more reasonable revenue cut and other community-driven, developer-friendly changes. I've railed against the long-term sustainability of the application store model for years now, long before it became en vogue in wider developer circles. I absolutely love the idea of independent developers forming a union - even if it's not a literal union - as a means to put pressure on Apple, Google, and other owners of application stores to take better care of developers. At the same time, I fear that they are too late - the vast majority of the App Store's revenue comes from crappy pay-to-win mobile games, not from well-made, lovingly crafted applications. I simply don't think these developers are important enough to a bean-counting bottom-liner like Tim Cook.

18 May 2018 10:25pm GMT

Google's Duplex will warn that calls are recorded

Since Google revealed a robo-caller that sounds eerily human earlier this month, the company has faced plenty of questions about how it works. Employees got some answers this week. On Thursday, the Alphabet Inc. unit shared more details on how the Duplex robot-calling feature will operate when it's released publicly, according to people familiar with the discussion. Duplex is an extension of the company's voice-based digital assistant that automatically phones local businesses and speaks with workers there to book appointments. At Google’s weekly TGIF staff meeting on Thursday, executives gave employees their first full Duplex demo and told them the bot would identify itself as the Google assistant. It will also inform people on the phone that the line is being recorded in certain jurisdictions, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private matters. A Google spokesman declined to comment. This is a good step, and while the technology is awesome, I'm still quite reluctant about whether or not we really need this. Aside from the very legitimate use cases for people with disabilities, to whom this technology could be life-changing, I'm wondering just what regular users get out of it.

18 May 2018 10:17pm GMT

19 Jan 2018

feedEcoGeek

A series of other thoughts about NAIAS 2018

Let's start out with my in-the-moment string of notes during the Press Preview at this year's NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show). This covers the main ideas about this year's program at the time. I'll add a few more comments and expanded thoughts at the end. Not sure if it's an actual color trend, but there's a […]

19 Jan 2018 5:32am GMT

10 Jan 2017

feedEcoGeek

The Surprising Green Lining at 2017 NAIAS

For an EcoGeek, there were many surprises at the 2017 edition of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). We've been watching the emphasis on green cars decline for a number of years. Some of that is in the mainstreaming of more efficient vehicles, with increased fuel efficiency standards, greater numbers of hybrid vehicles, and […]

10 Jan 2017 2:42pm GMT

19 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Who killed Cyanogen?

Well, it's hanging on in there, but why didn't it conquer the world?

Analysis Does European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager's team pay close attention to the tech news? If not, perhaps they should.…

19 Oct 2016 10:24am GMT

17 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Bits of Google's dead Project Ara modular mobe live on in Linux 4.9

Linus Torvalds teaches devs a lesson with early rc1 release

Google may have killed off its modular smartphone Project Ara idea, but some of the code that would have made it happen looks like coming to the Linux Kernel.…

17 Oct 2016 6:58am GMT

BART barfs, racers crash, and other classic BSODs

Your weekly Windows entertainment large and small

This week's worldwide BSOD roundup starts with what looks to your writer like a virtualisation launch bug. Submitter Alexander tells us it came from Peterborough Station, in Cambridgeshire.…

17 Oct 2016 6:28am GMT

31 Mar 2016

feedEcoGeek

Flow Batteries for Household Power Storage

Residential power storage options are starting to get more competitive with a flow battery being introduced to the market in Australia. Flow batteries have been something we've looked at for grid-scale storage, and the research into the technology has been making advances. But it has been primarily a utility-scale technology. However, the technology has been […]

31 Mar 2016 5:45pm GMT

10 Nov 2011

feedLifehacker

Today’s Lifehacker Workout: The Deck of Cards [Video]

Click here to read Today’s Lifehacker Workout: The Deck of Cards

It's Wednesday, which means another Deck of Cards workout, the fun yet challenging segment of our group exercise program, The Lifehacker Workout. More »


10 Nov 2011 1:15am GMT

iPad Home Screens, Remote Troubleshooting, and Gmail Tasks [From The Tips Box]

Click here to read iPad Home Screens, Remote Troubleshooting, and Gmail Tasks

Readers offer their best tips for previewing your iPad home screen from another app, troubleshooting your friends and family's computers from far away, and accessing Google Tasks in the new Gmail layout. More »


10 Nov 2011 1:00am GMT

Facebook Brings Back the Old "Most Recent" News Feed Option (But It's Kind of Hidden) [Updates]

Click here to read Facebook Brings Back the Old "Most Recent" News Feed Option (But It's Kind of Hidden)

Facebook recently changed its layout, no longer allowing you to choose between "top stories" and "most recent" stories. Due to user outcry, however, they announced today that they'll be changing it back, though you might not notice it at first. Here's how it works. More »


10 Nov 2011 12:30am GMT

06 Nov 2011

feedPlanet Arch Linux

Tyrs a Microblogging Client based on Ncurses

Tyrs is a microblogging client, supporting Twitter and Status.net (identi.ca), it's based on console using the NCurses module from Python. The release of the 0.5.0 version is a good excuse to introduce Tyrs. Tyrs aims to get a good interaction with a fairly intuitive interface that can provide support ncurses. Tyrs tries also not to [...]

06 Nov 2011 9:43pm GMT

05 Nov 2011

feedPlanet Arch Linux

Pulling strings

After one year of managing a network of 10 servers with Cfengine I'm currently building two clusters of 50 servers with Puppet (which I'm using for the first time), and have various notes to share. With my experience I had a feeling Cfengine just isn't right for this project, and didn't consider it seriously. These servers are all running Debian GNU/Linux and Puppet felt natural because of the good Debian integration, and the number of users whom also produced a lot of resources. Chef was out of the picture soon because of the scary architecture; CouchDB, Solr and RabbitMQ... coming from Cfengine this seemed like a bad joke. You probably need to hire a Ruby developer when it breaks. Puppet is somewhat better in this regard.

Puppet master needs Ruby, and has a built-in file server using WEBrick. My first disappointment with Puppet was WEBrick. Though PuppetLabs claim you can scale it up to 20 servers, that proved way off, the built-in server has problems serving as little as 5 agents/servers, and you get to see many dropped connections and failed catalog transfers. I was forced to switch to Mongrel and Nginx as frontend very early in the project, on both clusters. This method works much better (even though Apache+Passenger is the recommended method now from PuppetLabs), and it's not a huge complication compared to WEBrick (and Cfengine which doesn't make you jump through any hoops). Part of the reason for this failure is my pull interval, which is 5 minutes with a random sleep time of up to 3 minutes to avoid harmonics (which is still a high occurrence with these intervals and WEBrick fails miserably). In production a customer can not wait on 30/45 minute pull intervals to get his IP address whitelisted for a service, or some other mundane task, it must happen within 10 minutes... but I'll come to these kind of unrealistic ideas a little later.

Unlike the Cfengine article I have no bootstrapping notes, and no code/modules to share. By default the fresh started puppet agent will look for a host called "puppet" and pull in what ever you defined to bootstrap servers in your manifests. As for modules, I wrote a ton of code and though I'd like to share it, my employer owns it. But unlike Cfengine v3 there's a lot of resources out there for Puppet which can teach you everything you need to know, so I don't feel obligated to even ask.

Interesting enough, published modules would not help you get your job done. You will have to write your own, and your team members will have to learn how to use your modules, which also means writing a lot of documentation. Maybe my biggest disappointment is getting disillusioned by most Puppet advocates and DevOps prophets. I found articles and modules most of them write, and experiences they share have nothing to do with the real world. It's like they host servers in a magical land where everything is done in one way and all servers are identical. Hosting big websites and their apps is a much, much different affair.

Every customer does things differently, and I had to write custom modules for each of them. Just between these two clusters a module managing Apache is different, and you can abstract your code a lot but you reach a point where you simply can't push it any more. Or if you can, you create a mess that is unusable by your team members, and I'm trying to make their jobs better not make them miserable. One customer uses an Isilon NAS, the other has a content distribution network, one uses Nginx as a frontend, other has chrooted web servers, one writes logs to a NFS, other to a Syslog cluster... Now imagine this on a scale with 2,000 customers and 3 times the servers and most of the published infrastructure design guidelines become laughable. Instead you find your self implementing custom solutions, and inventing your own rules, best that you can...

I'm ultimately here to tell you that the projects are in a better state then they would be with the usual cluster management policy. My best moment was an e-mail from a team member saying "I read the code, I now understand it [Puppet]. This is fucking awesome!". I knew at that moment I managed to build something good (or good enough), despite the shortcomings I found, and with nothing more than using PuppetLabs resources. Actually, that is not completely honest. Because I did buy and read the book Pro Puppet which contains an excellent chapter on using Git for collaboration on modules between sysadmins and developers, with proper implementation of development, testing and production (Puppet)environments.

05 Nov 2011 11:17pm GMT

Jshon

Creating json is now ten times easier.

05 Nov 2011 3:10am GMT

01 Jan 2009

feedLinux.com :: Features

A new year, a new Linux.com

Many of you have commented that our NewsVac section hasn't been refreshed since the middle of last month. Others have noticed that our story volume has dropped off. Changes are coming to Linux.com, and until they arrive, you won't see any new stories on the site.

01 Jan 2009 2:00pm GMT

31 Dec 2008

feedLinux.com :: Features

Android-powered G1 phone is an enticing platform for app developers

The free and open source software community has been waiting for the G1 cell phone since it was first announced in July. Source code for Google's Android mobile platform has been available, but the G1 marks its commercial debut. It's clearly a good device, but is it what Linux boosters and FOSS advocates have long been anticipating?

31 Dec 2008 2:00pm GMT

30 Dec 2008

feedLinux.com :: Features

Municipalities open their GIS systems to citizens

Many public administrations already use open source Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to let citizens look at public geographic data trough dedicated Web sites. Others use the same software to partially open the data gathering process: they let citizens directly add geographic information to the official, high-quality GIS databases by drawing or clicking on digital maps.

30 Dec 2008 2:00pm GMT