An anonymous reader writes: Immediately following the Charlie Hebdo attack, Mark Zuckerberg said, "... this is what we all need to reject — a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world. I won't let that happen on Facebook. I'm committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence." Now, Facebook has begun censoring images of the prophet Muhammad in Turkey. According to the Washington post, "It's an illustration, perhaps, of how extremely complicated and nuanced issues of online speech really are. It's also conclusive proof of what many tech critics said of Zuckerberg's free-speech declaration at the time: Sweeping promises are all well and good, but Facebook's record doesn't entirely back it up." To be fair to Zuckerberg and Facebook, the company must obey the law of any country in which it operates. But it stands in stark contrast to the principles espoused by its founder.
An anonymous reader writes: Internet connections remain illegal for Cuban households, but many of the country's citizens still want to tap into the power of networked information exchange. A group of tech-savvy young Cubans has set up a network comprising thousands of computers to serve as their own miniature version of the internet. They use chat rooms, play games, and connect to organize real-life activities. Cuban law enforcement seems willing to tolerate it (so far), but the network polices itself so as not to draw undue attention.
One of the engineers who helped build the network said, "We aren't anonymous because the country has to know that this type of network exists. They have to protect the country and they know that 9,000 users can be put to any purpose. We don't mess with anybody. All we want to do is play games, share healthy ideas. We don't try to influence the government or what's happening in Cuba ... We do the right thing and they let us keep at it."
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a detailed, global strategy for ridding ourselves of mass surveillance. They stress that this must be an international effort — while citizens of many countries can vote against politicians who support surveillance, there are also many countries where the citizens have to resort to other methods. The central part of the EFF's plan is: encryption, encryption, encryption. They say we need to build new secure communications tools, pressure existing tech companies to make their products secure against everyone, and get ordinary internet-goers to recognize that encryption is a fundamental part of communication in the surveillance age.
They also advocate fighting for transparency and against overreach on a national level. "[T]he more people worldwide understand the threat and the more they understand how to protect themselves—and just as importantly, what they should expect in the way of support from companies and governments—the more we can agitate for the changes we need online to fend off the dragnet collection of data." The EFF references a document created to apply the principles of human rights to communications surveillance, which they say are "our way of making sure that the global norm for human rights in the context of communication surveillance isn't the warped viewpoint of NSA and its four closest allies, but that of 50 years of human rights standards showing mass surveillance to be unnecessary and disproportionate."
MojoKid writes: In Microsoft's latest Windows 10 preview build released last week, Cortana made an entrance, but the much-anticipated Spartan browser did not. However, little did we realize that some of Spartan made the cut, in the form of an experimental rendering engine hidden under IE's hood. Microsoft has separated its Trident rendering engine into two separate versions: one is for Spartan, called EdgeHTML, while the other remains under its legacy naming with Internet Explorer. The reason Microsoft doesn't simply forego the older version is due to compatibility concerns. If you're running the Windows 10 9926 build, chances are good that you're automatically taking advantage of the new EdgeHTML engine in IE. To check, you can type 'about:flags' into the address bar. "Automatic" means that the non-Spartan Trident engine will be called-upon only if needed. In all other cases, you'll be taking advantage of the future Spartan web rendering engine. Performance-wise, the results with IE are like night and day in certain spots. Some of the improvements are significant. IE's Sunspider result already outperforms the competition, but it has been further improved. And with Kraken, the latency with the Spartan-powered Trident engine dropped 40%. Similar results are seen with a boost in the Octane web browser test as well.
An anonymous reader writes Engadget takes a look at Ford's new Research and Innovation Center located in Palo Alto. The company hopes to use the new facility to speed the development of projects such as autonomous cars and better natural voice recognition. From the article: "This isn't Ford's first dance with the Valley — it actually started its courtship several years ago when it opened its inaugural Silicon Valley office in 2012. The new center, however, is a much bigger effort, with someone new at the helm. That person is Dragos Maciuca, a former Apple engineer with significant experience in consumer electronics, semiconductors, aerospace and automotive tech. Ford also hopes to build a team of 125 professionals under Maciuca, which would make the company one of the largest dedicated automotive research teams in the Valley."
MojoKid writes After last Wednesday's Windows 10 event, early adopters and IT types were probably anxious for Microsoft to release the next preview build. Fortunately, it didn't take long as it came out on Friday, and it's safe to say that it introduced even more than many were anticipating (but still no Spartan browser). However, in case you missed it, DirectX 12 is actually enabled in this Windows 10 release, though unfortunately we'll need to wait for graphics drivers and apps that support it, to take advantage of DX 12 features and performance enhancements.
An anonymous reader writes After unveiling its new Project Spartan browser for Windows 10, Microsoft is now offering more details. The company confirmed that Windows 10 will also include Internet Explorer for enterprise sites, though it didn't say how exactly this will work. Spartan comes with a new rendering engine, which doesn't rely on the versioned document modes the company has historically used. It also provides compatibility with the millions of existing enterprise websites specifically designed for Internet Explorer by loading the IE11 engine when needed. In this way, the browser uses the new rendering engine for modern websites and the old one for legacy purposes.
Nerval's Lobster writes The average technology professional made $89,450 in 2014, according to Dice's latest salary survey. When it comes to salaries, however, not all states and cities are created equal. Those tech pros living and working in Silicon Valley are the highest-paid in the country, with an average annual salary of $112,610—but that salary grew only 4 percent year-over-year, lagging behind cities such as Portland and Seattle. Dice has built an interactive map that shows where people are making the most (and least). As you click around, note how salary growth is particularly strong in parts of the West, the Northeast, and the South, while remaining stagnant (and even regressing) in some middle states. If anything, the map reinforces what many tech pros have known for years: that more cities and regions are becoming hubs of innovation.
An anonymous reader writes with news that a journalist linked to Anonymous, Barret Brown, has been sentenced. "Barrett Brown, a journalist formerly linked to the hacking group Anonymous, was sentenced Thursday to over five years in prison, or a total of 63 months. Ahmed Ghappour, Brown's attorney, confirmed to Ars that Brown's 28 months already served will count toward the sentence. That leaves 34 months, or nearly three years, left for him to serve. In April 2014, Brown took a plea deal admitting guilt on three charges: "transmitting a threat in interstate commerce," for interfering with the execution of a search warrant, and to being "accessory after the fact in the unauthorized access to a protected computer." Brown originally was indicted in Texas federal court in December 2012 on several counts, including accusations that he posted a link from one Internet relay chat channel, called #Anonops, to another channel under his control, called #ProjectPM. The link led to private data that had been hijacked from intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Statfor."
dcblogs (1096431) writes The Senate's two top Republican critics of temporary worker immigration, specifically the H-1B and L-1 visas, now hold the two most important immigration posts in the Senate. They are Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who heads the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and his committee underling, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was appointed by Grassley on Thursday to head the immigration subcommittee. Sessions was appointed one week after accusing the tech industry of perpetuating a "hoax" by claiming there is a shortage of qualified U.S. tech workers. "The tech industry's promotion of expanded temporary visas — such as the H-1B — and green cards is driven by its desire for cheap, young and immobile labor," wrote Sessions, in a memo he sent last week to fellow lawmakers. Sessions, late Thursday, issued a statement about his new role as immigration subcommittee chairman, and said the committee "will give voice to those whose voice has been shut out," and that includes "the voice of the American IT workers who are being replaced with guest workers."
Today, the conclusion of my talk with Jim Blasko (here's part 1), who encourages you to go start your own crypto currency, because it's a fun exercise and because every entrant adds new ideas to the mix. As you'd expect, he's bullish about both his own Unbreakable Coin and cryptocurrencies more generally; how any given given currency performs, though, is an open question: U.S. dollars, Euros, or Yen may not go experience any meteoric rises, but their stability, even with inflation, is a nice feature, and so is their worldwide convertibility.
Regulation, speculation, fraud, and cultural fashions all play a role in making new currencies risky; reader mbkennel yesterday asked an insightful question: "Are you up to loaning bitcoin or something less popular for 10 years?" Confidence in any given currency can be tested with the terms current holders are willing to accept to make loans payable in that same currency. (On the other hand, if large companies will accept it in payment, they've probably got an idea that a given currency will be around next month or next year.) If you've bought any form of crypto currency, what's been your experience, and what do you expect in 10 years? (Alternate Video Link)
An anonymous reader writes: VentureBeat is running an indictment of the tech industry's penchant for laying off huge numbers of people, which they say is responsible for creating a culture of "disposable employees." According to recent reports, layoffs in the tech sector reached over 100,000 last year, the highest total since 2009. Of course, there are always reasons for layoffs: "Companies buy other companies and need to rationalize headcount. And there's all that disruption. Big companies, in particular, are seeing their business models challenged by startups, so they need to shed employees with skills they no longer need, and hire people with the right skills."
But the article argues that this is often just a smokescreen. "The notion here is that somehow these companies are backed into a corner, with no other option than to fire people. And that's just not true. These companies are making a choice. They're deciding that it's faster and cheaper to chuck people overboard and find new ones than it is to retrain them. The economics of cutting rather than training may seem simple, but it's a more complex calculation than most people believe. ... Many of these companies are churning through employees, laying off hundreds on one hand, while trying to hire hundreds more."
AmiMoJo writes: On Friday, developer and doxing victim Zoe Quinn launched an online "anti-harassment task force" toolset, staffed by volunteers familiar with such attacks, to assist victims of a recent swell of "doxing" and "swatting" attacks. The Crash Override site, built by Quinn and game developer Alex Lifschitz, offers free services from "experts in information security, white hat hacking, PR, law enforcement, legal, threat monitoring, and counseling" for "victims of online mob harassment."
They have already managed to preemptively warn at least one victim of a swatting attempt in Enumclaw, Washington. As a result, the police department's head e-mailed the entire department to ask any police sent to the address in question to "knock with your hand, not your boot."
Las Vegas seems an appropriate place for cryptocurrency businesses to emerge, both because the coins themselves are so volatile that some gambling instinct may be required, and because Vegas is a high-tech outpost with lower taxes and lower rents than many other West Coast hot-spots, well-suited to risky startups with ambition but without huge venture backing.Jim Blasko moved there to work on low-voltage engineering for Penn & Teller, and is a qualified Crestron programmer, too (useful in a town that looks from the air like one giant light-show), but has shifted to a quite different endeavor, or rather a complex of them — all related to cryptocurrency. I ran into Blasko during this month's CES, at a forum with several other cryptocoin startups, and the next day we met to talk about just how hard (or easy) it is to get into this world as an entrepreneur.
Blasko has some advice for anyone who'd like to try minting a new cryptocurrency. Making your own coin, he says, is the easy part: anyone can clone code from an existing entrant, like Bitcoin, and rename the result — and that's exactly what he did. The hard work is what comes after: making worthwhile changes, building trust, and making it tradeable. Blasko's done the legwork to get his own currency, which he's bravely called "Unbreakable Coin," listed on exchanges like Cryptsy, and is working on his own auction site as well. He's also got an interesting idea for cryptocoin trading cards, and had a few prototypes on hand. (Part 1 is below; Part 2 to follow.) Alternate Video Link
BarbaraHudson writes: The Independent lists the most popular passwords for 2014, and once again, "123456" tops the list, followed by "password" and "12345" at #3 (lots of Spaceballs fans out there?) . "qwerty" still makes the list, but there are some new entries in the top 25, including "superman", "batman", and "696969". The passwords used were mostly from North American and Western European leaks.
wiredmikey writes "Using Apple's voice-activated Siri function, security researchers have managed to steal sensitive information from iOS smartphones in a stealthy manner. Luca Caviglione of the National Research Council of Italy and Wojciech Mazurczy of the Warsaw University of Technology warn that malicious actors could use Siri for stealthy data exfiltration by using a method that's based on steganography, the practice of hiding information. Dubbed "iStegSiri" by the researchers, the attack can be effective because it doesn't require the installation of additional software components and it doesn't need the device's alteration. On the other hand, it only works on jailbroken devices and attackers somehow need to be able to intercept the modified Siri traffic. The attack method involves controlling the "shape" of this traffic to embed sensitive data from the device. This covert channel could be used to send credit card numbers, Apple IDs, passwords, and other sensitive information from the phone to the criminal mastermind, researchers said in their paper.
MojoKid writes You have to hand it to Elon Musk, who has occasionally been referred to as a real life "Tony Stark." The man helped to co-found PayPal and Tesla Motors. Musk also helms SpaceX, which just recently made its fifth successful trip the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule. The secondary mission of the latest ISS launch resulted in the "successful failure" of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk described as a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) event. In addition to his Hyperloop transit side project, Musk is eyeing a space-based Internet network that would be comprised of hundred of micro satellites orbiting roughly 750 miles above Earth. The so-called "Space Internet" would provide faster data speeds than traditional communications satellites that have a geosynchronous orbit of roughly 22,000 miles. Musk hopes that the service will eventually grow to become "a giant global Internet service provider," reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections. And this wouldn't be a Musk venture without reaching for some overly ambitious goal. The satellite network would truly become a "Space Internet" platform, as it would form the basis for a direct communications link between Earth and Mars. It's the coming thing.
dcblogs writes The White House order last week lifting economic sanctions against Cuba specifically singles out technology, from telecommunication networks to consumer tech. There's much potential and many obstacles. Cuba has an educated population craving technology, but it has little income for new tech. The Cuban government wants to trade with the U.S., but is paranoid about the outside world and has limited Internet access to 5% to 10% of the population, at best. "The government has been very reluctant to have open Internet access," said Harley Shaiken, chairman of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. But "there is real hunger for technology," and with the easing of the embargo, the government "will be facing new pressures," he said. The country needs a complete technology upgrade, including to its electric grid, and the money to finance these improvements. "Markets like Cuba, which will require a wholesale construction of new infrastructure, don't come along often, if ever," said Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, a tech industry trade group. "The flood of companies lining up to get in should be quite substantial," he said. Cuba has a population of about 11 million, about the same size as the Dominican Republic, which spends about $1 billion annually on technology and related services, according to IDC. But capital spending today on IT in Cuba may be no more than $200 million annually.