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Communications

Ask Slashdot: Could We Build A Global Wireless Mesh Network? 134

An anonymous reader wants to start a grassroots effort to build a self-organizing global radio mesh network where every device can communicate with every other device -- and without any central authority. There is nothing in the rules of mathematics or laws of physics that prevents such a system. But how would you break the problem up so it could be crowdfunded and sourced? How would you build the radios? And what about government spectrum rules... How would you persuade governments to allow for the use of say, 1%, of the spectrum for an unlicensed mesh experiment? In the U.S. it would probably take an Act of Congress to overrule the FCC but a grassroots effort with potential for major technology advances backed by celebrity scientists might be enough to tilt the issue but would there be enough motivation?
Is this feasible? Would it amass enough volunteers, advocates, and enthusiastic users? Would it become a glorious example of geeks uniting the world -- or a doomed fantasy with no practical applications. Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Could we build a global wireless mesh network?
Censorship

Wikipedia Is Being Blocked In Turkey (turkeyblocks.org) 87

Nine hours ago, Ilgaz wrote: The Turkey Blocks monitoring network has verified restrictions affecting the Wikipedia online encyclopedia in Turkey. A block affecting all language editions of the website [was] detected at 8:00AM local time Saturday 29 April. The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country.
stikves added Access to Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey as a result of "a provisional administrative order" imposed by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (BTK)... Turkey Blocks said an administrative blocking order is usually expected to precede a full court blocking order in coming days. While the reason for the order was unknown early on Saturday, a statement on the BTK's website said: "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651, ADMINISTRATION MEASURE has been taken for this website (wikipedia.org) according to Decision Nr. 490.05.01.2017.-182198 dated 29/04/2017 implemented by Information and Communication Technologies Authority."
The BBC adds reports from Turkish media that authorities "had asked Wikipedia to remove content by writers 'supporting terror.'"
Input Devices

Computer Pioneer Harry Huskey Dies At Age 101 (bbc.co.uk) 46

Big Hairy Ian quotes the BBC: Engineer Harry Huskey, who helped build many of the first ever computers, has died aged 101. Dr. Huskey was a key member of the team that built the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) which first ran in February 1946. ENIAC is widely considered to be one of the first electronic, general purpose, programmable computers. Dr. Huskey also helped complete work on the Ace -- the Automatic Computing Engine -- designed by Alan Turing.
U.C. Santa Cruz also remembers Huskey's work on the Bendix G-15 in 1954, "a 950-pound predecessor to today's laptops" which is sometimes hailed as the first personal computer (since it didn't require a separate technician to run) -- though each one cost over $50,000. The idea of an "electronic brain" was still so new, it led Huskey to an appearance on Groucho Marx's radio show You Bet Your Life, where Groucho warned him that "They're pretty tricky those machines! I wouldn't trust 'em... They'll turn on your like a mad dog, doctor!"
Businesses

Should Banks Let Ancient Programming Language COBOL Die? (thenextweb.com) 372

COBOL is a programming language invented by Hopper from 1959 to 1961, and while it is several decades old, it's still largely used by the financial sector, major corporations and part of the federal government. Mar Masson Maack from The Next Web interviews Daniel Doderlein, CEO of Auka, who explains why banks don't have to actively kill COBOL and how they can modernize and "minimize the new platforms' connections to the old systems so that COBOL can be switched out in a safe and cheap manner." From the report: According to [Doderlein], COBOL-based systems still function properly but they're faced with a more human problem: "This extremely critical part of the economic infrastructure of the planet is run on a very old piece of technology -- which in itself is fine -- if it weren't for the fact that the people servicing that technology are a dying race." And Doderlein literally means dying. Despite the fact that three trillion dollars run through COBOL systems every single day they are mostly maintained by retired programming veterans. There are almost no new COBOL programmers available so as retirees start passing away, then so does the maintenance for software written in the ancient programming language. Doderlein says that banks have three options when it comes to deciding how to deal with this emerging crisis. First off, they can simply ignore the problem and hope for the best. Software written in COBOL is still good for some functions, but ignoring the problem won't fix how impractical it is for making new consumer-centric products. Option number two is replacing everything, creating completely new core banking platforms written in more recent programming languages. The downside is that it can cost hundreds of millions and it's highly risky changing the entire system all at once. The third option, however, is the cheapest and probably easiest. Instead of trying to completely revamp the entire system, Doderlein suggests that banks take a closer look at the current consumer problems. Basically, Doderlein suggests making light-weight add-ons in more current programming languages that only rely on COBOL for the core feature of the old systems.
China

Netflix Is Now In China Via a Deal With iQiyi (techcrunch.com) 18

randomErr writes: Last year, Netflix tried to go into China but ran into regulatory issues. So Netflix has entered into a licensing deal with iQiyi. iQiyi was founded in 2010 by Baidu in a very similar way that Google owns YouTube. What Netflix content will be shown and how the subscription service will work has yet to be announced.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales is Launching an Online Publication To Fight Fake News (cnn.com) 189

Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia, is launching a new online publication which will aim to fight fake news by pairing professional journalists with an army of volunteer community contributors. The news site is called Wikitribune. From a report: "We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events," the publication's website states. The site will publish news stories written by professional journalists. But in a page borrowed from Wikipedia, internet users will be able to propose factual corrections and additions. The changes will be reviewed by volunteer fact checkers. Wikitribune says it will be transparent about its sources. It will post the full transcripts of interviews, as well as video and audio, "to the maximum extent possible." The language used will be "factual and neutral."
Botnet

Developer of BrickerBot Malware Claims He Destroyed Over Two Million Devices (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: In an interview today, the author of BrickerBot, a malware that bricks IoT and networking devices, claimed he destroyed over 2 million devices, but he never intended to do so in the first place. His intentions were to fight the rising number of IoT botnets that were used to launch DDoS attacks last year, such as Gafgyt and Mirai. He says he created BrickerBot with 84 routines that try to secure devices so they can't be taken over by Mirai and other malware. Nevertheless, he realized that some devices are so badly designed that he could never protect them. He says that for these, he created a "Plan B," which meant deleting the device's storage, effectively bricking the device. His identity was revealed after a reporter received an anonymous tip about a HackForum users claiming he was destroying IoT devices since last November, just after BrickerBot appeared. When contacted, BrickerBot's author revealed that the malware is a personal project which he calls "Internet Chemotherapy" and he's "the doctor" who will kill all the cancerous unsecured IoT devices.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia's 'Ban' of 'The Daily Mail' Didn't Really Happen (theoutline.com) 70

Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that editors at Wikipedia had "voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website," calling the publication "generally unreliable." Two months later, not only previous Daily Mail citations on Wikipedia pages are still alive, several new ones have also appeared since. So what's going on? The Outline has the story: There are no rules on Wikipedia, just guidelines. Of Wikipedia's five "pillars," the fifth is that there are no firm rules. There is no formal hierarchy either, though the most dedicated volunteers can apply to become administrators with extra powers after being approved by existing admins. But even they don't say what goes on the site. If there's a dispute or a debate, editors post a "request for comment," asking whoever is interested to have their say. The various points are tallied up by an editor and co-signed by four more after a month, but it's not a vote as in a democracy. Instead, the aim is to reach consensus of opinion, and if that's not possible, to weigh the arguments and pick the side that's most compelling. There was no vote to ban the Daily Mail because Wikipedia editors don't vote. (emphasis ours.) So what happened? The article adds: In this case, an editor submitted a broader request for comment about its [the Daily Mail's] general reliability. Seventy-seven editors participated in the discussion and two thirds supported prohibiting the Daily Mail as a source, with one editor and four co-signing editors (more than usual) chosen among administrators declaring that a consensus, though further discussion continued on a separate noticeboard, alongside complaints that the debate should have been better advertised. Though it's discouraged, the Daily Mail can be (and still is) cited. An editor I met at a recent London "Wikimeet" said he'd used the Daily Mail as a source in the last week, as it was the only source available for the subject he was writing about.
Earth

Physicists Detect Whiff of New Particle At the Large Hadron Collider (sciencemag.org) 180

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: For decades, particle physicists have yearned for physics beyond their tried-and-true standard model. Now, they are finding signs of something unexpected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's biggest atom smasher at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. The hints come not from the LHC's two large detectors, which have yielded no new particles since they bagged the last missing piece of the standard model, the Higgs boson, in 2012, but from a smaller detector, called LHCb, that precisely measures the decays of familiar particles. The latest signal involves deviations in the decays of particles called B mesons -- weak evidence on its own. But together with other hints, it could point to new particles lying on the high-energy horizon. "This has never happened before, to observe a set of coherent deviations that could be explained in a very economical way with one single new physics contribution," says Joaquim Matias, a theorist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. B mesons are made of fundamental particles called quarks. Familiar protons and neutrons are made of two flavors of quarks, up and down, bound in trios. Heavier quark flavors -- charm, strange, top, and bottom -- can be created, along with their antimatter counterparts, in high-energy particle collisions; they pair with antiquarks to form mesons. In their latest result, reported today in a talk at CERN, LHCb physicists find that when one type of B meson decays into a K meson, its byproducts are skewed: The decay produces a muon (a cousin of the electron) and an antimuon less often than it makes an electron and a positron. In the standard model, those rates should be equal, says Guy Wilkinson, a physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and spokesperson for the 770-member LHCb team. The new data suggest the bottom quark might morph directly into a strange quark -- a change the standard model forbids -- by spitting out a new particle called a Z9 boson. That hypothetical cousin of the Z boson would be the first particle beyond the standard model and would add a new force to theory. The extra decay process would lower production of muons, explaining the anomaly.
Programming

'Pragmatic Programmer' Author Andy Hunt Loves Arduino, Hates JavaScript (bestprogrammingbooks.com) 185

Andy Hunt is one of the 17 software developers who wrote the Agile Manifesto, and he co-authored The Pragmatic Programmer. Now Slashdot reader cerberusss writes: In an interview with Best Programming Books, Andy Hunt mentions he "hates languages that introduce accidental complexity, such as JavaScript -- what a nightmare of pitfalls for newbies and even seasoned developers... My go-to languages are still Ruby for most things, or straight C for systems programming, Pi or Arduino projects." Furthermore, he mentions that "I tend to do more experimenting and engineering than pure code writing, so there's occasionally some soldering involved ;). Code is just one tool of many."
Andy writes that he also likes Elixir, talks about Agile, reveals how he survived his most challenging project, and says the biggest advancement in programming has been the open source movement. ("Imagine trying to study chemistry, but the first half of the elements were patent-protected by a major pharma company and you couldn't use them...") And he also answered an interesting follow-up question on Twitter: "Do you feel validated in an age of Node and GitHub? Some of your best chapters (scripting and source control) are SOP now!"

Andy's reply? "We've made some great progress, for sure. But there's much to be done still. E.g., You can't ship process."
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
Microsoft

New Processors Are Now Blocked From Receiving Updates On Old Windows (arstechnica.com) 238

halfEvilTech writes: Last year, Microsoft announced they were planning on blocking OS updates on newer Intel CPU's, namely the 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors. Ars Technica reports: "Now, the answer appears to be 'this month.' Users of new processors running old versions of Windows are reporting that their updates are being blocked. The block means that systems using these processors are no longer receiving security updates." While Windows 7 has already ended mainstream support, the same can't be said for Windows 8.1 which is still on mainstream support until January of next year.
Advertising

Burger King Runs Ad Triggering Google Home Devices; Google Shuts It Down (theverge.com) 191

Burger King unveiled a new advertisement earlier today designed to trigger users' Google Home devices. The ad specifically used the Google Home trigger phrase "Okay, Google" to ask "What is the Whopper burger?," thus triggering the Google Assistant to read off the top result from Wikipedia. But less than three hours after Burger King launched the ad, Google disabled the functionality. The Verge reports: As of 2:45PM ET, Google Home will no longer respond when prompted by the specific Burger King commercial that asks "What is the Whopper burger?" It does, however, still respond with the top result from Wikipedia when someone else (i.e., a real user) other than the advertisement asks the same question. Google has likely registered the sound clip from the ad to disable unwanted Home triggers, as it does with its own Google Home commercials.
Earth

Large Near-Earth Astroid Will Fly Past Earth On April 19 (phys.org) 44

William Robinson quotes a report from Phys.Org: A relatively large (650 meters) near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The asteroid will approach Earth from the direction of the sun and will become visible in the night sky after April 19. It is predicted to brighten to about magnitude 11, when it could be visible in small optical telescopes for one or two nights. For comparison, Chelyabinsk meteor was 20m. Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week, but this upcoming close approach is the closest by any known asteroid of this size, or larger, since asteroid Toutatis , a 3.1-mile (five-kilometer) asteroid, which approached within about four lunar distances in September 2004. The April 19 encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to study this asteroid, and astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible.
The Courts

DMCA 'Safe Harbor' Up In the Air For Online Sites That Use Moderators (arstechnica.com) 96

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's so-called 'safe harbor' defense to infringement is under fire from a paparazzi photo agency," reports Ars Technica. "A new court ruling says the defense may not always be available to websites that host content submitted by third parties." The safe harbor provision "allow[s] websites to be free from legal liability for infringing content posted by their users -- so long as the website timely removes that content at the request of the rights holder," explains Ars. From the report: [A] San Francisco-based federal appeals court is ruling that, if a website uses moderators to review content posted by third parties, the safe harbor privilege may not apply. That's according to a Friday decision in a dispute brought by Mavrix Photographs against LiveJournal, which hosts the popular celebrity fan forum "Oh No they Didn't." The site hosted Mavrix-owned photos of Beyonce Knowles, Katy Perry, and other stars without authorization. LiveJournal claimed it was immune from copyright liability because it removed the photos. Mavrix claimed that the site's use of voluntary moderators removed the safe-harbor provision. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Mavrix to a degree, but the court wants to know how much influence the moderators had on what was and was not published. With that, the court sent the case back to a lower court in Los Angeles to figure that out, perhaps in a trial. The highly nuanced decision overturned a lower court ruling that said LiveJournal was protected by safe harbor. The lower court said LiveJournal does not solicit any specific infringing material from its users or edit the content of its users' posts.
Earth

There's an Earth-like Planet With an Atmosphere Just 39 Light-years Away (washingtonpost.com) 149

Artem Tashkinov quotes a report from Washington Post: There are a lot of good reasons to be captivated by the exoplanet GJ 1132b. Located in the constellation Vela, it's a mere 39 light-years from Earth -- just a hop, skip and a jump in galactic terms. It's similar to Earth in terms of size and mass, and it dances in a close-in orbit around its star, a dimly burning red dwarf. And, astronomers recently discovered, it has an atmosphere. The finding, published in the Astronomical Journal, is the first detection of an atmosphere around a terrestrial "Earth-like" planet orbiting a red dwarf star -- and it suggests there could be millions more. Although the researchers call the planet "Earth-like," the term is only applicable in its broadest sense. GJ 1132b is so close to its sun that it more likely resembles Venus than Earth. Astronomers estimate its average temperature to be about 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's without taking into account the potential greenhouse effect of its atmosphere. It is also probably tidally locked, meaning that gravity keeps one side of the planet constantly facing the star, while the other is cast in permanent shadow. GJ 1132b would not make a cozy home for life -- at least, not life as we know it.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

London Police Ink Shadowy Deal With Industry On Website Takedowns (eff.org) 23

AmiMoJo writes: The EFF is warning about unregulated activity against websites by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) of the City of London Police. A program called RogueBlock accepts notifications from IP holders, which the PIPCU then acts on, giving private companies legal jurisdiction over the entire internet, with appeals in the case of malicious reports and mistakes being extremely difficult to make. For example, Spanish sports streaming site Rojadirecta had its domain name seized by the U.S. government for over a year, despite the site being lawful in its native Spain. The EFF terms this kind of activity "Shadow Regulation."
Space

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Begins Its Final Mission Before Plunging Into Saturn (popsci.com) 86

NASA has announced that their Cassini spacecraft will begin its final mission before slamming into Saturn on April 23rd. The "final mission" consists of a series of dives through a 1,500-mile-wide gap between Saturn and its rings. "No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we'll attempt to boldly cross 22 times," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "What we learn from Cassini's daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end." The spacecraft will then dive into the gas giant's atmosphere, where it will "break apart, melt, vaporize, and become a part of the very planet it left Earth 20 years ago to explore," Cassini project manager Earl Maize said. Popular Science explains in its report why Cassini has to die: Some space probes are allowed to keep orbiting their targets in perpetuity after their mission ends -- like the Dawn spacecraft at the dwarf planet Ceres. But things are a lot more complicated around Saturn. Whereas Ceres is essentially just a really big rock with no moons, Saturn has 62 satellites, at last count. The gravitational push and pull from those moons -- especially the largest, Titan -- wreak havoc on Cassini's trajectory, which it normally corrects by burning fuel. But the spacecraft's fuel is running out, and ultimately its fate is sealed by its own discoveries; scientists don't want to risk the spacecraft crashing into Titan and Enceladus, which may be capable of supporting life. Although Cassini launched 20 years ago, experiments on the Space Station have suggested microbes can survive for years in the extreme temperatures, radiation, and airless vacuum of space. If NASA were to accidentally put water bears on Enceladus, the tiny Earthlings could potentially wipe out any native lifeforms that the moon may harbor, and/or complicate the search for those alien organisms later. This is why Cassini must die now, while NASA can still control its last swan dive.
IBM

How the IBM 1403 Printer Hammered Out 1,100 Lines Per Minute (ieee.org) 174

schwit1 quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: The IBM 1460, which went on sale in 1963, was an upgrade of the 1401 [which was one of the first transistorized computers ever sold commercially]. Twice as fast, with a 6-microsecond cycle time, it came with a high-speed 1403 Model 3 line printer. The 1403 printer was incredibly fast. It had five identical sets of 48 embossed metal characters like the kind you'd find on a typewriter, all connected together on a horizontal chain loop that revolved at 5.2 meters per second behind the face of a continuous ream of paper. Between the paper and the character chain was a strip of ink tape, again just like a typewriter's. But rather than pressing the character to the paper through the ink tape, the 1403 did it backward, pressing the paper against the high-speed character chain through the ink tape with the aid of tiny hammers. Over the years, IBM came out with eight models of the 1403. Some versions had 132 hammers, one for each printable column, and each was individually actuated with an electromagnet. When a character on the character chain aligned with a column that was supposed to contain that character, the electromagnetic hammer for that column would actuate, pounding the paper through the ink tape and into the character in 11 microseconds. With all 132 hammers actuating and the chain blasting along, the 1403 was stupendously noisy [...] The Model 3, which replaced the character chain with slugs sliding in a track driven by gears, took just 55 milliseconds to print a single line. When printing a subset of characters, its speed rose from 1,100 lines per minute to 1,400 lines per minute.
Data Storage

'Arctic World Archive' Will Keep the World's Data Safe In an Arctic Mineshaft (theverge.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Norway's famous doomsday seed vault is getting a new neighbor. It's called the Arctic World Archive, and it aims to do for data what the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has done for crop samples -- provide a remote, impregnable home in the Arctic permafrost, safe from threats like natural disaster and global conflicts. But while the Global Seed Vault is (partially) funded by charities who want to preserve global crop diversity, the World Archive is a for-profit business, created by Norwegian tech company Piql and Norway's state mining company SNSK. The Archive was opened on March 27th this year, with the first customers -- the governments of Brazil, Mexico, and Norway -- depositing copies of various historical documents in the vault. Data is stored in the World Archive on optical film specially developed for the task by Piql. (And, yes, the company name is a pun on the word pickle, as in preserving-in-vinegar.) The company started life in 2002 making video formats that bridged analog film and digital media, but as the world went fully digital it adapted its technology for the task of long-term storage. As Piql founder Rune Bjerkestrand tells The Verge: "Film is an optical medium, so what we do is, we take files of any kind of data -- documents, PDFs, JPGs, TIFFs -- and we convert that into big, high-density QR codes. Our QR codes are massive, and very high resolution; we use greyscale to get more data into every code. And in this way we convert a visual storage medium, film, into a digital one." Once data is imprinted on film, the reels are stored in a converted mineshaft in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The mineshaft (different to the one used by the Global Seed Vault) was originally operated by SNSK for the mining of coal, but was abandoned in 1995. The vault is 300 meters below the ground and impervious to both nuclear attacks and EMPs. Piql claims its proprietary film format will store data safely for at least 500 years, and maybe as long as 1,000 years, with the assistance of the mine's climate.

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