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Businesses

SAS Mocked For Recommending 60% Proprietary Software, 40% Open Source (infoworld.com) 68

This week SAS wrote that open source technology "has its own, often unexpected costs," recommending organizations maintain a balance of 60% proprietary software to 40% open software. An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: How they arrived at this bizarre conclusion is hard to fathom, except that SAS sells more than $1 billion worth of proprietary software every year and presumably would like to continue, despite a clear trend toward open-source-powered analytics... In a Burtch Works survey of over 1,100 quant pros, 61.3% prefer open source R or Python to SAS, and only 38.6% opting for SAS, with that percentage growing for open source options every year.

Worse for SAS, a variety of open source data infrastructure and analytics tools threaten to encroach on its bastions in data management, business intelligence, and analytics... Nearly all innovation in data infrastructure is happening in open source, not proprietary software. That's a tide SAS can try to fight with white papers, but it would do better to join by embracing open source in its product suite.

"In the paper, SAS correctly argues that open source versus proprietary software is not an either/or decision..." writes InfoWorld, but they note that the report also "put the percentage of open source adopters at a mere 25%, which is pathetically wrong." The article suggests a hope that the report "is the product of a rogue field marketing team, and not the company's official position." Adobe's vice president of mobile commented on Twitter, "I just wonder who in their marketing dept thought this was a good idea."
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux 17.04 'Zesty Zapus' Final Beta Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 74

BrianFagioli writes: The final beta of Ubuntu 17.04 'Zesty Zapus' became available for download Thursday. While it is never a good idea to run pre-release software on production machines, Canonical is claiming that it should be largely bug free at this point. In other words, if you understand the risks, it should be a fairly safe. Home users aside, this is a good opportunity for administrators to conduct testing prior to the official release next month.

"The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce the final beta release of the Ubuntu 17.04 Desktop, Server, and Cloud products. Codenamed 'Zesty Zapus', 17.04 continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution," says Adam Conrad, Canonical. "The team has been hard at work through this cycle, introducing new features and fixing bugs."

Security

Anti-Virus Vendors Scramble To Patch Hijacking Exploit Involving Microsoft Tool (securityweek.com) 36

"A zero-day attack called Double Agent can take over antivirus software on Windows machines," Network World reported Wednesday. wiredmikey writes: The attack involves the Microsoft Application Verifier, a runtime verification tool for unmanaged code that helps developers find subtle programming errors in their applications... [The exploit] allows a piece of malware executed by a privileged user to register a malicious DLL for a process associated with an antivirus or other endpoint security product, and hijack its agent.
Patches were released by Malwarebytes, AVG, and Trend Micro, the security researchers told BleepingComputer earlier this week. Kaspersky Lab told ZDNet "that measures to detect and block the malicious scenario have now been added to all its products," while Norton downplayed the exploit, saying the attack "would require physical access to the machine and admin privileges to be successful," with their spokesperson "adding that it has deployed additional detection and blocking protections in the unlikely event users are targeted."

BetaNews reports that the researchers "say that it is very easy for antivirus producers to implement a method of protection against this zero-day, but it is simply not being done. 'Microsoft has provided a new design concept for antivirus vendors called Protected Processes...specially designed for antivirus services...the protected process infrastructure only allows trusted, signed code to load and has built-in defense against code injection attacks.'"
Crime

Indiana's Inmates Could Soon Have Access To Tablets (abc57.com) 117

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC57 News in South Bend, Indiana: Indiana is looking to help offenders who are behind bars. Soon, each inmate in the Hoosier state could have their own tablet. The Indiana Department of Correction says the tablet will help inmates stay connected with their families and improve their education. Offenders will be able to use the tablets to access any classwork, self-help materials or entertainment. Officials expect to use entertainment, like music or movies, to reward good behavior. The proposal was first filed in January. Apple iPad's or kindles won't be used. Instead, a company that makes tablets specifically for prisons or jails will be hired. One San Francisco based-company they may consider, Telmate, has a device that is used in more than 20 states, including some jails in Marshall County. INDOC is hoping a vendor will front the costs of the entertainment apps so taxpayers won't have to. INDOC also says it wants to avoid charging inmate fees because charging fees that they can't afford would defeat the purpose of the system. If the company selected pays, the vendor would be reimbursed and still earn a profit.
Bitcoin

Venezuelan Developers Are Using Bitcoin, Rare Pepe Trading Cards To Fight Against a Dismal Economy (cryptoinsider.com) 86

According to Crypto Insider, Venezuelan developers have been selling "rare pepes" -- trading cards that contain unique illustrations and photoshops of the character Pepe the Frog. While the trading cards started out as nothing more than a joke, many of them have been traded for thousands of dollars on the Counterparty platform, which is built on top of Bitcoin, and have provided a way for many developers to sustain themselves in Venezuela's poor economy. From the report: The basic idea behind the issuance of rare pepes on top of the Counterparty platform is that it enables scarcity in a digital world. Each rare pepe card is linked to a little bit of bitcoin through a practice known as coin coloring. Whoever owns the private keys associated with the address where the bitcoins that represent a specific rare pepe card is located is the one who owns that particular trading card. Now, a group of developers in Venezuela are building games similar to Hearthstone and Pokemon where the rare pepe trading cards will play an integral role. If you go to rarepepe.party right now, you're mainly presented with a video of what the first game based on the Rare Pepe digital trading cards will look like. The concept is similar to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering where players essentially do battle with their opponents via characters on trading cards, which have specific stats and features. In this case, the characters are various rare pepes. With many rare pepes already released (you can view them in the official rare pepe directory), the developers behind Rare Pepe Party are attempting to provide a use case for these new trading cards. While some rare pepe cards already have stats on them, the developer who chatted with Crypto Insider says those stats may not mean much when it's time to play the game. While rare pepes are nothing more than fun and games for much of the developed world, they're a matter of survival in Venezuela. "We're based in Venezuela, and our business has been saved by bitcoin many times," said the developer. The developer claims roughly 80 percent of the offices around the area where Rare Pepe Party is being developed have shut down over the past year. The biggest businesses on their street have also dropped as much as 90 percent of their employees.
Software

FedEx Will Pay You $5 To Install Flash (theregister.co.uk) 89

FedEx's Office Print department is offering customers $5 to enable Adobe Flash in their browsers. Why would they do such a thing you may ask? It's because they want customers to design posters, signs, manuals, banners and promotional agents using their "web-based config-o-tronic widgets," which requires Adobe Flash. The Register reports: But the web-based config-o-tronic widgets that let you whip and order those masterpieces requires Adobe Flash, the enemy of anyone interested in security and browser stability. And by anyone we mean Google, which with Chrome 56 will only load Flash if users say they want to use it, and Microsoft which will stop supporting Flash in its Edge browser when the Windows 10 Creators Update debuts. Mozilla's Firefox will still run Flash, but not for long. The impact of all that Flash hate is clearly that people are showing up at FedEx Office Print without the putrid plug-in. But seeing as they can't use the service without it, FedEx has to make the offer depicted above or visible online here. That page offers a link to download Flash, which is both a good and a bad idea. The good is that the link goes to the latest version of Flash, which includes years' worth of bug fixes. The bad is that Flash has needed bug fixes for years and a steady drip of newly-detected problems means there's no guarantee the software's woes have ended. Scoring yourself a $5 discount could therefore cost you plenty in future.
Businesses

Uber Manager Told Female Engineer That 'Sexism is Systemic in Tech' (theguardian.com) 249

Sam Levin, writing for The Guardian: Uber is facing yet another discrimination scandal after a manager who was recruiting a female engineer defended the company by saying "sexism is systemic in tech." On 14 March, an engineering manager at Uber tried to recruit Kamilah Taylor, a senior software engineer at another Silicon Valley company, for a developer position at the San Francisco ride-hailing startup, which is struggling to recover from a major sexual harassment controversy. Taylor, who provided copies of her LinkedIn messages with the Guardian, responded by saying: "In light of Uber's questionable business practices and sexism, I have no interest in joining." Taylor was stunned by the reply she received from Uber. The manager, who is a woman, wrote: "I understand your concern. I just want to say that sexism is systemic in tech and other industries. I've met some of the most inspiring people here."
Google

The Days of Google Talk Are Over (techcrunch.com) 67

The days of Google Talk are quickly coming to an end. An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: As the company announced today, the messaging service that allowed Gmail users to talk to each other since it launched in 2005, will now be completely retired. Even while Google pushed Hangouts as its consumer messaging service (before Allo, Duo, Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet) over the last few years, it still allowed die-hard Gtalk users (and there are plenty of them) to stick to their preferred chat app. Over the next few days, these users will get an "invite" to move to Hangouts. After June 26, that switch will be mandatory.
Software

Blinking Cursor Devours CPU Cycles in Visual Studio Code Editor (theregister.co.uk) 221

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: Microsoft describes Visual Studio Code as a source code editor that's "optimized for building and debugging modern web and cloud applications." In fact, VSC turns out to be rather inefficient when it comes to CPU resources. Developer Jo Liss has found that the software, when in focus and idle, uses 13 percent of CPU capacity just to render its blinking cursor. Liss explains that the issue can be reproduced by closing all VSC windows, opening a new window, opening a new tab with an empty untitled file, then checking CPU activity. For other macOS applications that present a blinking cursor, like Chrome or TextEdit, Liss said, the CPU usage isn't nearly as excessive. The issue is a consequence of rendering the cursor every 16.67ms (60 fps) rather than every 500ms.
Businesses

App That Lets People Make Personalized Emojis Is the Fastest Growing App In Past Two Years (axios.com) 36

From a report on Axios: Bitmoji is the fastest-growing app in America, per comScore, with a more than 5000 percent increase in monthly unique visitors over the past two years. E-commerce apps OfferUp and Letgo are the 2nd and 3rd fastest-growing apps. The findings from comScore's latest study highlight three of the fastest-growing mobile market trends:

E-commerce: Letgo (3), OfferUp (2), Flipp (4), Venmo (5) and Wish (7), are facilitating real-world marketplace transactions.

Travel: Uber (6), Waze (8) and Lyft (9) all help users travel from one point to another via auto.

Social connectivity: Tinder (10), Bitmoji (1) and GroupMe (11) all facilitate gatherings and social interaction.
FastCompany wrote a profile of Bitmoji and why so many people seem to be a big fan of it.
Cellphones

Feds: We're Pulling Data From 100 Phones Seized During Trump Inauguration (arstechnica.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In new filings, prosecutors told a court in Washington, DC that within the coming weeks, they expect to extract all data from the seized cellphones of more than 100 allegedly violent protesters arrested during the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Prosecutors also said that this search is validated by recently issued warrants. The court filing, which was first reported Wednesday by BuzzFeed News, states that approximately half of the protestors prosecuted with rioting or inciting a riot had their phones taken by authorities. Prosecutors hope to uncover any evidence relevant to the case. Under normal judicial procedures, the feds have vowed to share such data with defense attorneys and to delete all irrelevant data. "All of the Rioter Cell Phones were locked, which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data," Jennifer Kerkhoff, an assistant United States attorney, wrote. Such phone extraction is common by law enforcement nationwide using hardware and software created by Cellebrite and other similar firms. Pulling data off phones is likely more difficult under fully updated iPhones and Android devices.
Businesses

Intel Creates AI Group, Aims For More Focus (zdnet.com) 11

Intel's artificial intelligence efforts have been scattered over many different units but are now being united into a single operating group. The Artificial Intelligence Products Group will focus on the development of chips and software products tied to machine learning, algorithms, and deep learning. From a report: The company has been repositioning via acquisitions to focus on Internet of Things to autonomous vehicles. The upshot is that Intel is trying to build a data center to IoT stack powered by its processors. In a blog post, Rao outlined how the Artificial Intelligence Products Group will work across multiple units. Part of the group's remit will be to bring AI costs down and forge standards. Rao said the group will combine engineering, labs, software, and hardware from its portfolio.
Software

Researchers Develop App That Accurately Determines Sperm Quality (scientificamerican.com) 101

New submitter omaha393 writes: A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School have developed a point-of-care microfluidic detector capable of determining sperm quality using the simple device and a standard smartphone. Typical male fertility screens require a team of trained laboratory professionals and a screening process taking days to weeks and incurring high costs. The alternative home sperm measuring kits rely on chemical probes and only give measurements of quantity, not quality.The new method offers an easier, cheaper approach, with processing time taking about 5 seconds with no sample processing or wash steps required. The team found their device meets WHO guidelines with 98% accuracy of sperm quality measurements and is comparable to clinical results. The new device uses 35 microliters of sample to accurately measure both concentration and motility at a manufacturing cost of less than $5 per device. The device must still undergo FDA evaluations before being available to consumers, and the technology has yet to be named. The results of the study were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Further reading: NPR, Ars Technica, Scientific American
DRM

W3C Erects DRM As Web Standard (theregister.co.uk) 240

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has formally put forward highly controversial digital rights management as a new web standard. "Dubbed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), this anti-piracy mechanism was crafted by engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, and has been in development for some time," reports The Register. "The DRM is supposed to thwart copyright infringement by stopping people from ripping video and other content from encrypted high-quality streams." From the report: The latest draft was published last week and formally put forward as a proposed standard soon after. Under W3C rules, a decision over whether to officially adopt EME will depend on a poll of its members. That survey was sent out yesterday and member organizations, who pay an annual fee that varies from $2,250 for the smallest non-profits to $77,000 for larger corporations, will have until April 19 to register their opinions. If EME gets the consortium's rubber stamp of approval, it will lock down the standard for web browsers and video streamers to implement and roll out. The proposed standard is expected to succeed, especially after web founder and W3C director Sir Tim Berners-Lee personally endorsed the measure, arguing that the standard simply reflects modern realities and would allow for greater interoperability and improve online privacy. But EME still faces considerable opposition. One of its most persistent vocal opponents, Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that EME "would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity." He is referring to the most recent controversy where the W3C has tried to strike a balance between legitimate security researchers investigating vulnerabilities in digital rights management software, and hackers trying to circumvent content protection. The W3C notes that the EME specification includes sections on security and privacy, but concedes "the lack of consensus to protect security researchers remains an issue." Its proposed solution remains "establishing best practices for responsible vulnerability disclosure." It also notes that issues of accessibility were ruled to be outside the scope of the EME, although there is an entire webpage dedicated to those issues and finding solutions to them.
GNOME

GNOME 3.24 Released (softpedia.com) 114

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: GNOME 3.24 just finished its six-month development cycle, and it's now the most advanced stable version of the modern and popular desktop environment used by default in numerous GNU/Linux distributions. It was developed since October 2016 under the GNOME 3.23.x umbrella, during which it received numerous improvements. Prominent new features of the GNOME 3.24 desktop environment include a Night Light functionality that promises to automatically shift the colors of your display to the warmer end of the spectrum after sunset, and a brand-new GNOME Control Center with redesigned Users, Keyboard and Mouse, Online Accounts, Bluetooth, and Printer panels. As for the GNOME apps, we can mention that the Nautilus file manager now lets users browse files as root (system administrator), GNOME Photos imitates Darktable's exposure and blacks adjustment tool, GNOME Music comes with ownCloud integration and lets you edit tags, and GNOME Calendar finally brings the Week view. New apps like GNOME Recipes are also part of this release. The full release notes can be viewed here. Softpedia notes in conclusion: "As mentioned before, it will take at least a couple of weeks for the new GNOME 3.24 packages to land on the stable repositories of your favorite distro, which means that you'll most probably be able to upgrade from GNOME 3.22 when the first point release, GNOME 3.24.1, is out on April 12, 2017."
Software

Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware (vice.com) 496

Tractor owners across the country are reportedly hacking their John Deere tractors using firmware that's cracked in Easter Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums. The reason is because John Deere and other manufacturers have "made it impossible to perform 'unauthorized' repair on farm equipment," which has obviously upset many farmers who see it "as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time," reports Jason Koebler via Motherboard. As is the case with most modern-day engineering vehicles, the mechanical problems experienced with the newer farming tractors are often remedied via software. From the report: The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn't be anything a farmer could do about it. A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment [...] arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and "authorized" repair shops can work on newer tractors. "If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it," Kevin Kenney, a farmer and right-to-repair advocate in Nebraska, told me. "You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanic -- he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can't drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part." "What you've got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market," he added.
Medicine

Satellite Navigation 'Switches Off' Parts of Brain Used For Navigation, Study Finds (scientificamerican.com) 158

A new study published today in the journal Nature Communications reveals some of the drawbacks of using satellite navigation (SatNav) technology. After scanning the brains of 24 volunteers as they explored a simulation through the streets of London's Soho district, researchers from the University of London found that listening to a satellite navigation's instructions "switches off" activity in parts of the brain used for navigation. Scientific American reports: The researchers found that a brain structure called the hippocampus, which is involved in both memory and spatial navigation, appears to encode two different maps of the environment: One tracks the distance to the final destination as the crow flies and is encoded by the frontal region of the hippocampus, the other tracks the "true path" to the goal and is encoded by its rear region. During the navigation tasks, the hippocampus acts like a flexible guidance system, flipping between these two maps according to changing demands. Activity in the hippocampal rear region acts like a homing signal, increasing as the goal gets closer. Analysis of the brain-scanning data revealed activity in the rear right of the hippocampus increased whenever the participants entered a new street while navigating. It also varied with the number of new path options available. The more alternatives there were, the greater the brain activity. The researchers also found that activity in the front of the hippocampus was associated with a property called centrality, defined by the proximity of each new street to the center of the network. Further, they observed activity in the participants' prefrontal cortices when they were forced to make a detour and had to replan their route -- and this, too, increased in relation to the number of options available. Intriguingly, when participants followed SatNav instructions, however, brain activity in these regions "switched off." Together, the new findings suggest the rear portion of the hippocampus reactivates spatial memories of possible navigation paths, with more available paths evoking more activity, and that the prefrontal cortex may contribute to path-planning by searching though different route options and selecting the best one.
Businesses

Walmart Unveils 'Store No. 8' Tech Incubator In Silicon Valley (bloomberg.com) 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is creating a technology-startup incubator in Silicon Valley to identify changes that will reshape the retail experience, including virtual reality, autonomous vehicle and drone delivery and personalized shopping. The incubator will be called Store No. 8, a reference to a Wal-Mart location where the company experimented with new store layouts. Marc Lore, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart's e-commerce operations, announced the incubator Monday at the ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas. The world's biggest retailer has been overhauling its online team to better challenge Amazon.com Inc. with greater selection and lower prices. Lore founded Jet.com, which Wal-Mart purchased in September for about $3.3 billion in pursuit of Amazon in the e-commerce race. Lore said Wal-Mart has an advantage over "pure play" e-commerce companies because of its large network of stores that attract shoppers for such items as fresh food. The incubator will partner with startups, venture capitalists and academics to promote innovation in robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to Wal-Mart. The goal is to have a fast-moving, separate entity to identify emerging technologies that can be developed and used across Wal-Mart.
Advertising

Google Wants To Create Promotions That Aren't Ads For Its Voice-Controlled Assistant (businessinsider.in) 49

Earlier this month, some Google Home users noticed what appeared to be audio ads for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" movie. After some intense backlash, the company released a statement claiming that the ad was not an ad, but that it was simply "timely content" that Disney didn't pay for. Google's UK director of agencies, Matt Bush, has since spoken out about the company's plans with advertising via the voice-controlled Assistant. Business Insider reports: Bush explained Google isn't looking to offer brand integrations in voice for the time being, since it didn't have enough data to come up with an ad product that adds value for consumers. "We want businesses to have a phenomenal mobile experience and then building on that have a phenomenal voice experience," Bush told Business Insider at Advertising Week Europe. "That might not be, in the early instances, anything that has to do with commercials at all. It might just be something something that adds value to the consumer without needing to be commercialized." Bush explained that the consumer experience with voice is very different from that of text search because the use cases for voice navigation differ depending on the device the function is used on and the context the user finds themselves in. "We don't want to start putting in commercial opportunities that we think users don't want to interact with," Bush said "We don't want anything to come in-between the user and their access to the information they're actually looking for. If a brand can add value in that space, fantastic." Bush cited mobile search ads as successful executions of using context and personal user insights, but voice promotions are unlikely to take the same form. "It's unlikely to be what you see from search as it currently stands, where you might have three or four ads as the top results of a search," he said.
Google

Burglars Can Easily Make Google Nest Security Cameras Stop Recording (helpnetsecurity.com) 71

Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: Google Nest's Dropcam, Dropcam Pro, Nest Cam Outdoor and Nest Cam Indoor security cameras can be easily disabled by an attacker that's in their Bluetooth range. The vulnerabilities are present in the latest firmware version running on the devices (v5.2.1). They were discovered by researcher Jason Doyle last fall, and their existence responsibly disclosed to Google, but have still not been patched. The first two flaws can be triggered and lead to a buffer overflow condition if the attacker sends to the camera a too-long Wi-Fi SSID parameter or a long encrypted password parameter, respectively. Triggering one of these flaws will make the devices crash and reboot. The third flaw is a bit more serious, as it allows the attacker to force the camera to temporarily disconnect from the wireless network to which it is connected by supplying it a new SSID to connect to. If that particular SSID does not exist, the camera drops its attempt to associate with it and return to the original Wi-Fi network, but the whole process can last from 60 to 90 seconds, during which the camera won't be recording. Nest has apparently already prepared a patch but hasn't pushed it out yet. (It should be rolling out "in the coming days.")

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