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  • Comcast Ghost-Writes Politician's Letters To Support Time Warner Mega-Merger

    WheezyJoe writes: As the FCC considers the merger between Comcast/Universal and Time-Warner Cable, which would create the largest cable company in the U.S. and is entering the final stages of federal review, politicians are pressuring the FCC with pro-merger letters actually written by Comcast. According to documents obtained through public records requests, politicians are passing letters nearly word-for-word written by Comcast as their own. "Not only do records show that a Comcast official sent the councilman the exact wording of the letter he would submit to the FCC, but also that finishing touches were put on the letter by a former FCC official named Rosemary Harold, who is now a partner at one of the nation's foremost telecom law firms in Washington, DC. Comcast has enlisted Harold to help persuade her former agency to approve the proposed merger."

    Ars Technica had already reported that politicians have closely mimicked Comcast talking points and re-used Comcast's own statements without attribution. The documents revealed today show just how deeply Comcast is involved with certain politicians, and how they were able to get them on board.

    152 comments | yesterday

  • Twitter Moves To Curb Instagram Links

    Hammeh writes According to a report on Mashable, Twitter have sent out messages to some of their high profile users prompting them to share images using Twitter's own service rather than Instagram links. The news comes 2 years since Instagram pulled support for Twitter cards and has been part of the continuing battle between the two social networks. With Instagram now having overtaken Twitter in terms of users, this may be a move to try and use high profile users to show off Twitter's own image and content tools.

    114 comments | 2 days ago

  • Data Encryption On the Rise In the Cloud and Mobile

    dkatana writes: Overall, demand for encryption is growing. Cloud encryption services provider CipherCloud recently received a $50 million investment by Deutsche Telekom, which the company said positions it for "explosive growth" this year. The services are designed to allow corporations to benefit from the cost savings and elasticity of cloud-based data storage, while ensuring that sensitive information is protected.

    Now, both Apple and Google are providing full encryption as a default option on their mobile operating systems with an encryption scheme they are not able to break themselves, since they don't hold the necessary keys.

    Some corporations have gone as far as turning to "zero-knowledge" services, usually located in countries such as Switzerland. These services pledge that they have no means to unlock the information once the customer has entered the unique encryption keys. This zero-knowledge approach is welcomed by users, who are reassured that their information is impossible to retrieve — at least theoretically — without their knowledge and the keys.

    83 comments | 4 days ago

  • Canonical Launches Internet-of-Things Version of Ubuntu Core

    darthcamaro writes: Ubuntu Linux isn't just for desktops, servers and the cloud anymore. Mark Shuttleworth wants Ubuntu to be the operating system of choice for the Internet of Things too. The new Snappy Ubuntu Core is targeted at device developers and it's the basis for an entire new division of Canonical Inc. The promise of Snappy Ubuntu Core is also one of security, protecting the devices of the world, by keeping them updated. "With Snappy there is also a division of responsibilities for updating that can also help protect IoT devices and users. So we could deliver an update for a Heartbleed or Shellshock vulnerability, completely independently of the lawnmower control app that would come from the lawnmower company," Shuttleworth said.

    43 comments | about a week ago

  • Would You Rent Out Your Unused Drive Space?

    Press2ToContinue writes "There is a new idea out there, proposed by Shawn Wilkinson, Tome Boshevski & Josh Brandof, that if you have unused disk space on your HD that you should rent it out. It is a great idea and the concept may have a whole range of implementations. The 3 guys describe their endeavor as: "Storj is a peer-to-peer cloud storage network implementing end-to-end encryption would allow users to transfer and share data without reliance on a third party data provider. The removal of central controls would eliminate most traditional data failures and outages, as well as significantly increasing security, privacy, and data control. A peer-to-peer network and basic encryption serve as a solution for most problems, but we must offer proper incentivisation for users to properly participate in this network."

    331 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Options For Cheap Home Automation?

    New submitter goose-incarnated writes I'm looking at cheap and simple home automation. Unfortunately I'm not too clued up on what my options are. There are such a wide array of choices, none of which seem (to me) to be either cheap or simple. I'd like to: Turn switches on/off (lights, wall sockets, general relays, etc); Read the status of on/off switches; Read analog samples (for example, temperature sensors); 'Program' switches based on analog samples/existing switches (for example, program a relay to come on at 30C and go off at 25C, thereby controlling the temperature); Similarly, program switches to go on/off at certain times; Record the samples of analog or digital inputs for a given time . I'd like to do the above using smartphone+bluetooth (for when I'm in the vicinity of the room), or smartdevice+WiFi (for when I'm in the house, somewhere), or even in a pinch, using HTTP to access a server at home from 600km away (which is what I'm willing to do). I'm definitely not willing to stream all my requests/data/responses through a third-party so third party cloud subscription solutions, even if free, are out of the question. Finally (because I know the Slashdot crowd likes a challenge :-)), I'd like something that is easily reprogrammable without having to compile code, then reflash a device, etc. What languages for embedded devices exist for home automation programming, if any. A quick google search reveals nothing specially made for end-users to reprogram their devices, but, like I said above, I'm clueless about options.

    189 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Study: 15 Per Cent of Business Cloud Users Have Been Hacked

    An anonymous reader writes Recent research has identified that only one in ten cloud apps are secure enough for enterprise use. According to a report from cloud experts Netskope, organizations are employing an average of over 600 business cloud apps, despite the majority of software posing a high risk of data leak. The company showed that 15% of logins for business apps used by organizations had been breached by hackers. Over 20% of businesses in the Netskope cloud actively used more than 1,000 cloud apps, and over 8% of files in corporate-sanctioned cloud storage apps were in violation of DLP policies, source code, and other policies surrounding confidential and sensitive data. Google Drive, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Gmail were among the apps investigated in the Netskope research.

    72 comments | about three weeks ago

  • The Luxury of a Bottomless Bucket of Bandwidth For Georgia Schools

    Lemeowski writes: The IT departments at all the University System of Georgia institutions have a luxury that most CIOs could only dream of — access to about 2,800 miles of free fiber and a private cloud that they an always count on. The private cloud configuration allows the perk of not focusing on bandwith. "Our local CIOs even take some pleasure in telling telecom company representatives, 'If you can beat free, then I'm willing to listen.' That tends to shut down most conversations,"writes USG CIO Curt Carver, who explains how the technology is now becoming an educational equalizer across the state. In 2015, Georgia school districts are expected to have a 33-fold increase in bandwdith available to them through the program. "This will help to flatten the state. No more haves or have-nots in terms of bandwidth going into the school districts."

    117 comments | about three weeks ago

  • How Civilizations Can Spread Across a Galaxy

    New submitter kanweg writes: If you look at the Milky Way at night, it appears not much is changing. But over time, stars get closer and further to each other. Coryn Bailer-Jones, an astrophysicist at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, found that of 14 stars coming within three light-years of Earth, the closest encounter is likely to be HIP 85605, which now lies some 16 light years away in the constellation of Hercules. It will get a close as the Oort cloud.

    This could be a (very long-term) method for human or alien civilizations to practice star hopping. Why travel 16 light-years through space when you can just wait until a star with a suitable planet gets close enough that you only have to cover the last stretch with an artificial spaceship? Take your time for a thoughtful response; it will take another 250,000 to 470,000 year before the close encounter.

    272 comments | about three weeks ago

  • 2015 Means EU Tax Increase On Cloud Storage, E-books and Smartphone Applications

    schwit1 writes With the new year, a change in fiscal rules in the European Union is increasing the tax on many purchases of digital content like e-books and smartphone applications. Under the new rules, first approved in 2008, the tax rate on digital services like cloud storage and movie streaming will be determined by where consumers live, and not where the company selling the product has its European headquarters. Tax experts say Europe's revamped rules could add up to an extra $1 billion in annual tax revenue for European governments.

    164 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Best Options For a Standalone Offline Printing Station?

    An anonymous reader writes My father is considering a Chromebook, but there is a problem: He occasionally wants to print. Chrome OS only talks to physical printers by Google Cloud Print, so the printer has to be online one way or another. But my father wants to surf over 3G, so he has no network infrastructure. Now what are the best options for a standalone printing station that works offline? I have a Raspberry Pi and a small touch display that I could spare, how about I prepared some scripts and called that the dedicated printing computer? Then what printers have ARM drivers available? Does anybody know a consumer-grade or small-office-grade printer that can print ordinary PDF docs directly from flash drives or memory cards? I have looked, but could not find one yet. The devices I found that print PDF docs directly only do so if the docs were made by the (proprietary) printer-related software or the printer itself. There are ways to turn PDF docs into series of JPG files. A lot of ordinary printers can print JPG files directly from flash media, should my father stick with this option? Also, what are secondary options in case the offline printing station does not work out? Should he consider buying a 3G-capable WiFi router (there are enough available) and set up a home network, then use Google Cloud Print? Should I just send my father to a copy shop? Or should he simply forget about the Chromebook and get an ordinary laptop with a common OS that can talk to printers by USB?

    190 comments | about a month ago

  • Gmail Access Starts To Come Back In China, State-Run Paper Blames Google

    An anonymous reader writes Basic access to Gmail is starting to come back online in China on Tuesday after going down on Friday. The state-run Global Times China did not explain what caused the four-day outage, despite the fact that the government clearly implemented the block, and instead pointed to Google's unwillingness to obey Chinese law. All of Google's products have been severely disrupted in China since June. While users in Chinaare not able to access Gmail via the website, email protocols such as IMAP, SMTP, and POP3 had been accessible. The Great Firewall of China started blocking the IP addresses used by Gmail for these protocols, leaving users in China with no way of sending or receiving emails.

    45 comments | about a month ago

  • PlayStation Game-Streaming Service Comes To Samsung Smart TVs In 2015

    An anonymous reader writes Sony and Samsung are jointly launching the PlayStation Now game streaming service on select Samsung Smart TVs next year. The service will allow users to play PlayStation games without the need of a gaming console. From the article: "...Sony says some 200 PlayStation 3 games will be available to stream, and that the service runs at full functionality, specifically mentioning things like trophies, online multiplayer and cloud-saves for game-progress. Sound familiar? It should because that's how the service works on Bravia TVs and PlayStation game consoles. What's more, all you'll need is one of Sony's DualShock 4 gamepads to control the action."

    43 comments | about a month ago

  • Goodbye, Alek's Internet-Controlled Christmas Lights for Celiac Research

    Alek Komarnitsky, Colorado (and the Internet's) own Clark Griswold, has decided to retire as his own props master, programmer, best boy, and effects specialist. After 10 years of increasingly elaborate set-ups, Alek's decided to go out with a bang, with his largest-yet rooftop display of open-source powered, remotely controllable, internet-connected Christmas lights. (This year, he even matches the fictional Griswold's 25,000 lights, but truth tops fiction, with live webcams, animated props, and more.) We talked with Alek last year, too; but now he's got a full decade's worth of reminiscing about his jest-made-real hobby as That Guy With the Lights, and some advice for anyone who'd like to take on a project like this.

    Alek has managed to stay on good terms with his neighbors, despite the car and foot traffic that his display has drawn, and kept himself from serious harm despite a complex of minor, overlapping risks including ladders, squirrels, a fair amount of electricity and (the most dangerous, he says) wind. The lights are what the world sees, but the video capture and distribution to the vast online audience is an equal part of the work. Alek has learned a lot along the way about automation, logistics, wireless networking, and the importance of load balancing. It's always possible the lights will return in some form, or that someone will take up the mantle as Blinkenlights master, but this tail end of 2014 (and the first day of 2015) is your last good chance to tune in and help toggle some of those lights. (The display operates from 1700-2200 Mountain time.) Alternate Video Link Update: 12/22 22:50 GMT by T : Note: Alek talks about the last year here.

    21 comments | about a month ago

  • North Korea Denies Responsibility for Sony Attack, Warns Against Retaliation

    jones_supa writes: A North Korean official said that the secretive regime wants to mount a joint investigation with the United States to identify who was behind the cyber attack against Sony Pictures. An unnamed spokesman of the North Korean foreign ministry was quoted by the country's state news agency, KCNA, describing U.S. claims they were behind the hack as "slander." "As the United States is spreading groundless allegations and slandering us, we propose a joint investigation with it into this incident," the official said, according to Agence France-Presse. Both the FBI and President Barack Obama have said evidence was uncovered linking the hack to to North Korea, but some experts have questioned the evidence tying the attack to Pyongyang. Meanwhile, reader hessian notes that 2600: The Hacker Quarterly has offered to let the hacker community distribute The Interview for Sony. It's an offer Sony may actually find useful, since the company is now considering releasing the movie on a "different platform." Reader Nicola Hahn warns that we shouldn't be too quick to accept North Korea as the bad guy in this situation: Most of the media has accepted North Korea's culpability with little visible skepticism. There is one exception: Kim Zetter at Wired has decried the evidence as flimsy and vocally warns about the danger of jumping to conclusions. Surely we all remember high-ranking, ostensibly credible, officials warning about the smoking gun that comes in the form of a mushroom cloud? This underscores the ability of the agenda-setting elements of the press to frame issues and control the acceptable limits of debate. Some would even say that what's happening reveals tools of modern social control (PDF). Whether or not they're responsible for the attack, North Korea has now warned of "serious consequences" if the U.S. takes action against them for it.

    236 comments | about a month ago

  • Extracting Data From the Microsoft Band

    An anonymous reader writes The Microsoft Band, introduced last month, hosts a slew of amazing sensors, but like so many wearable computing devices, users are unable to access their own data. A Brown University professor decompiles the app, finds that the data is transmitted to the Microsoft "cloud", and explains how to intercept the traffic to retrieve the raw minute-by-minute data captured by the Band.

    51 comments | about a month ago

  • The Joys and Hype of Hadoop

    theodp writes "Investors have poured over $2 billion into businesses built on Hadoop," writes the WSJ's Elizabeth Dwoskin, "including Hortonworks Inc., which went public last week, its rivals Cloudera Inc. and MapR Technologies, and a growing list of tiny startups. Yet companies that have tried to use Hadoop have met with frustration." Dwoskin adds that Hadoop vendors are responding with improvements and additions, but for now, "It can take a lot of work to combine data stored in legacy repositories with the data that's stored in Hadoop. And while Hadoop can be much faster than traditional databases for some purposes, it often isn't fast enough to respond to queries immediately or to work on incoming information in real time. Satisfying requirements for data security and governance also poses a challenge."

    55 comments | about a month ago

  • NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration

    An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a study out of NASA exploring the idea that manned missions to Venus are possible if astronauts deploy and live in airships once they arrive. Since the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, and the surface temperate is over 450 degrees C, the probes we've sent to Venus haven't lasted long. The Venera 8 probe sent back data for only 50 minutes after landing. Soviet missions in 1985 were able to get much more data — 46 hours worth — by suspending their probes from balloons. The new study refines that concept: "At 50 kilometers above its surface, Venus offers one atmosphere of pressure and only slightly lower gravity than Earth. Mars, in comparison, has a "sea level" atmospheric pressure of less than a hundredth of Earth's, and gravity just over a third Earth normal. The temperature at 50 km on Venus is around 75 C, which is a mere 17 degrees hotter than the highest temperature recorded on Earth.

    The defining feature of these missions is the vehicle that will be doing the atmospheric exploring: a helium-filled, solar-powered airship. The robotic version would be 31 meters long (about half the size of the Goodyear blimp), while the crewed version would be nearly 130 meters long, or twice the size of a Boeing 747. The top of the airship would be covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels, with a gondola slung underneath for instruments and, in the crewed version, a small habitat and the ascent vehicle that the astronauts would use to return to Venus's orbit, and home."

    200 comments | about a month ago

  • ODF Support In Google Drive

    An anonymous reader writes: Google's Chris DiBona told a London conference last week that ODF support was coming next year, but today the Google Drive team unexpectedly launched support for all three of the main variants — including long-absent Presentation files. You can now simply open ODT, ODS and ODP files in Drive with no fuss. It lacks support for comments and changes but at least it shows progress towards full support of the international document standard, something conspicuously missing for many years.

    40 comments | about a month ago

  • In IT, Beware of Fad Versus Functional

    Lemeowski writes: Cloud, big data, and agile were three of the technology terms that were brandished the most by IT leaders in 2014. Yet, there could be a real danger in buying into the hype without understanding the implications of the technologies, writes Pearson CTO Sven Gerjets. In this essay, Gerjets warns that many IT executives drop the ball when it comes to "defining how a new technology approach will add value" to their organization. He says: "Yes, you can dive into an IT fad without thinking about it, but I can promise you'll look back and be horrified someday. The only time you can fully adopt some of these new methods is when you are starting from scratch. Most of us don't have that luxury because we are working with legacy architectures and technical debt so you have to play hand you've been dealt, communicate well, set clear and measurable outcomes, and use these fads to thoughtfully supplement the environment you are working in to benefit the ecosystem."

    153 comments | about a month ago

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