IOS

Top iOS Apps of 2017: Bitmoji Beats Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger (cnn.com) 19

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Apple has unveiled its list of most downloaded iOS apps of the year, and topping the list is free custom emoji app Bitmoji... Bitmoji soared to the top of the list, thanks to an integration with Snapchat. (Snapchat's parent company acquired Bitmoji last year for an unknown amount)... Users must download the Bitmoji app to use it with Snapchat.

Fittingly, the main Snapchat app took second place, despite a tough year on Wall Street that was attributed to slow user growth. Snapchat was the most downloaded app of 2016. Google's YouTube took the number three spot this year, while Facebook's Messenger and Instagram placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

United States

FCC Refuses Records For Investigation Into Fake Net Neutrality Comments (variety.com) 97

"FCC general counsel Tom Johnson has told the New York State attorney general that the FCC is not providing information for his investigation into fake net-neutrality comments, saying those comments did not affect the review, and challenging the state's ability to investigate the feds." Variety has more: The FCC's general counsel, in a letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, also dismissed his concerns that the volume of fake comments or those made with stolen identities have "corrupted" the rule-making process... He added that Schneiderman's request for logs of IP addresses would be "unduly burdensome" to the commission, and would "raise significant personal privacy concerns."

Amy Spitalnick, Schneiderman's press secretary, said in a statement that the FCC "made clear that it will continue to obstruct a law enforcement investigation. It's easy for the FCC to claim that there's no problem with the process, when they're hiding the very information that would allow us to determine if there was a problem. To be clear, impersonation is a violation of New York law," she said... "The only privacy jeopardized by the FCC's continued obstruction of this investigation is that of the perpetrators who impersonated real Americans."

One of the FCC's Democratic commissioners claimed that this response "shows the FCC's sheer contempt for public input and unreasonable failure to support integrity in its process... Moreover, the FCC refuses to look into how nearly half a million comments came from Russian sources."
Bug

Microsoft's 'Malware Protection Engine' Had A Remote Code Execution Flaw (theregister.co.uk) 35

Slashdot reader Trax3001BBS shares an article from The Register: Microsoft posted an out-of-band security update Thursday to address a remote code execution flaw in its Malware Protection Engine. Redmond says the flaw, dubbed CVE-2017-11937, has not yet been exploited in the wild. Because it is an out-of-band critical fix, however, it should be installed as soon as possible. For most users, this will happen automatically.

The security hole is present in Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials, as well as Endpoint Protection, Forefront Endpoint Protection, and Exchange Server 2013 and 2016... According to Microsoft, the vulnerability can be triggered when the Malware Protection Engine scans a downloaded file to check for threats. In many systems this is set to happen automatically for all new files. By exploiting a memory corruption error in the malware scanning tool, the attack file would be able to execute code on the target machine with LocalSystem privileges.

Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 210

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
Power

China Has Launched the World's First All-Electric Cargo Ship (futurism.com) 140

slash.jit writes: China has launched the world's first all-electric cargo ship. It can travel 80 kilometers (approximately 50 miles) after being charged for 2 hours. As noted by Clean Technica, 2 hours is roughly the amount of time it would take to unload the ship's cargo while docked. Oh...and Ironically, the world's first all-electric cargo ship is being used to move coal.
China Daily reports that the 230 foot long vessel is equipped with a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery, a cheaper and cleaner power supply. And Clean Technica notes that that battery is comprised of 1,000 individual lithium-ion packs, while "Adding enough power to carry more cargo is simply a matter of adding more battery packs."
Bug

Google Glitch Took Thousands of Chromebooks Offline (geekwire.com) 73

Slashdot reader Bismillah was the first to notice stories about Chromebooks going offline. GeekWire reports: Tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of Google Chromebooks, widely prized by schools due to their low cost and ease of configuration, were reported to be offline for several hours on Tuesday. The apparent cause? A seemingly botched WiFi policy update pushed out by Google that caused many Chromebooks to forget their approved network connection, leaving students disconnected.
Google eventually issued a new network policy without the glitch -- but not everyone was satisfied. The Director of Technology at one school district complains Google waited three and a half hours before publicly acknowledging the problem -- adding that "manually joining a WiFi network on 10,000+ Chromebooks is a nightmare."
Debian

Updated Debian Linux 9.3 and 8.10 Released (debian.org) 49

An anonymous reader writes: The Debian project is pleased to announce the third update of its stable distribution Debian 9 (codename stretch). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories have already been published separately and are referenced where available. The Debian project also announces the tenth update of its oldstable distribution Debian 8 (codename jessie).

Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 9 or 8 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old jessie or stretch DVD/CD media. After installation, packages can be upgraded to the current versions using an up-to-date Debian mirror. This stable update adds a few important corrections to packages. New installation images will be available soon at the mirrors. Those who frequently install updates from security.debian.org won't have to update many packages, and most such updates are included in the point release. One can use the apt command or apt-get command to apply updates. A step-by-step update guide is posted here.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

"The FCC Still Doesn't Know How the Internet Works" (eff.org) 268

An anonymous reader writes: The EFF describes the FCC's official plan to kill net neutrality as "riddled with technical errors and factual inaccuracies," including, for example, a false distinction between "Internet access service" and "a distinct transmission service" which the EFF calls "utterly ridiculous and completely ungrounded from reality."

"Besides not understanding how Internet access works, the FCC also has a troublingly limited knowledge of how the Domain Name System (DNS) works -- even though hundreds of engineers tried to explain it to them this past summer... As the FCC would have it, an Internet user actively expects their ISP to provide DNS to them." And in addition, "Like DNS, it treats caching as if it were some specialized service rather than an implementation detail and general-purpose computing technique."

"There are at least two possible explanations for all of these misunderstandings and technical errors. One is that, as we've suggested, the FCC doesn't understand how the Internet works. The second is that it doesn't care, because its real goal is simply to cobble together some technical justification for its plan to kill net neutrality. A linchpin of that plan is to reclassify broadband as an 'information service,' (rather than a 'telecommunications service,' or common carrier) and the FCC needs to offer some basis for it. So, we fear, it's making one up, and hoping no one will notice."

"We noticed," their editorial ends, urging Americans "to tell your lawmakers: Don't let the FCC sell the Internet out."
Businesses

Patreon Hits Donors With New Fees, Angering Creators (venturebeat.com) 141

Patreon's changing their fee structure to make donors cover payment-processing fees (standardized to 2.9%) -- plus an additional 35 cents for every pledge. Long-time Slashdot reader NewtonsLaw reports that Patreon's users are furious: Despite Patreon's hype that this is a good thing for creators, few of these actually seem to agree and there's already a growing backlash on social media... many fear that their net return will be lower because the extra fees levied on patreons are causing them to either reduce the amount they pledge or withdraw completely... For those patrons supporting only a few creators the effect won't be large, but for those who make small donations to many creators this could amount to a hike of almost 40% in the amount charged to their credit cards. Without exception, all the content creators I have spoken to would have:

a) liked to have been consulted first

b) wanted the option to retain the old system where they bear the cost of the fees.

As a content creator, I've already seen quite a few of my patreons reducing their pledge and others canceling their pledges completely -- and I understand why they are doing that.

"Everyone hates Patreon's new fee," writes VentureBeat, adding "Many creators are saying it's unfair for patrons to have to pay transaction fees. In addition to that, most people support multiple creators and not just one, and they'll have to pay the extra fee for each pledge they make."

Tech journalist Bryan Lunduke is already soliciting suggestions on Twitter for an open source or Free Software solution that accepts donations from multiple payment systems, and while the change doesn't go into effect until December 18th, NewtonsLaw writes that "it's starting to look as if many content creators will be getting a slightly larger percentage of a much smaller amount as a result of this lunacy by Patreon -- something that will see them far worse off than the were before."
Technology

Sexual Harassment In Tech Is As Old As the Computer Age (ieee.org) 338

Tekla Perry writes: Historian Marie Hicks, speaking at the Computer History Museum talks about how women computer operators and programmers were driven out of the industry, gives examples of sexual harassment dating back to the days of the Colossus era, and previews her next research. "It's all a matter of power, Hicks pointed out -- and women have never had their share of it," reports IEEE Spectrum. "Women dominated computer programming in its early days because the field wasn't seen as a career, just a something someone could do without a lot of training and would do for only a short period of time. Computer jobs had no room for advancement, so having women 'retire' in their 20s was not seen as a bad thing. And since women, of course, could never supervise men, Hicks said, women who were good at computing ended up training the men who ended up as their managers. But when it became clear that computers -- and computer work -- were important, women were suddenly pushed out of the field."

Hicks has also started looking at the bias baked into algorithms, specifically at when it first crossed from human to computer. The first example she turned up had "something to do with transgender people and the government's main pension computer." She says that when humans were in the loop, petitions to change gender on national insurance cards generally went through, but when the computer came in, the system was "specifically designed to no longer accommodate them, instead, to literally cause an error code to kick out of the processing chain any account of a 'known transsexual.'"

Books

Reading Information Aloud To Yourself Improves Memory (qz.com) 53

According to a study in the journal Memory, reading aloud works by creating a "production effect" which cements information in your memory. Meanwhile, hearing words said in your own voice personalizes the references and enhances recollection, according to psychology professor Colin MacLeod and researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Quartz reports: The findings are based on a study of 95 students (75 of whom returned for a second session) at the University of Waterloo. The students were tested on their ability to recall written information inputted in four different ways -- reading silently, hearing someone else read, listening to a recording of oneself reading, and reading aloud in real time. They were tested on recollection of short, four-to-six letter words on a list of 160 terms. The results show that reading information aloud to oneself led to the best recall. Oral production is effective because it has two distinctive components, a motor or speech act and a personal auditory input, the researchers explain. "[The] results suggest that production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component. This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering," the study concludes. "We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice. When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember."
Earth

Toyota's New Power Plant Will Create Clean Energy From Manure (usatoday.com) 70

schwit1 shares a report from Futurism: Japanese automobile giant Toyota is making some exciting moves in the realm of renewable, clean energy. The company is planning to build a power plant in California that turns the methane gas produced by cow manure into water, electricity, and hydrogen. The project, known as the Tri-Gen Project, was unveiled at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show. The plant, which will be located at the Port of Long Beach in California, will be "the world's first commercial-scale 100% renewable power and hydrogen generation plant," writes USA Today. Toyota is expecting the plant to come online in about 2020.

The plant is expected to have the capability to provide enough energy to power 2,350 average homes and enough fuel to operate 1,500 hydrogen-powered vehicles daily. The company is estimating the plant to be able to produce 2.35 MW of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen each day. The facility will also be equipped with one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world. Toyota's North America group vice president for strategic planning, Doug Murtha, says that the company "understand[s] the tremendous potential to reduce emissions and improve society."

Bitcoin

People Who Can't Remember Their Bitcoin Passwords Are Really Freaking Out Now (slate.com) 196

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Slate: Bitcoin has had quite a week. On Thursday, the cryptocurrency surged past $19,000 a coin before dropping down to $15,600 by Friday midday. The price of a single Bitcoin was below $1,000 in January. Any investors who bought Bitcoins back in 2013, when the price was less than $100, probably feel pretty smart right now. But not all early cryptocurrency enthusiasts are counting their coins. Instead they might be racking their brains trying to remember their passwords, without which those few Bitcoins they bought as an experiment a few years ago could be locked away forever. That's because Bitcoin's decentralization relies on cryptography, where each transaction is signed with an identifier assigned to the person paying and the person receiving Bitcoin.

"I've tried to ignore the news about Bitcoin completely," joked Alexander Halavais, a professor of social technology at Arizona State University, who said he bought $70 of Bitcoin about seven years as a demonstration for a graduate class he was teaching at the time but has since forgotten his password. "I really don't want to know what it's worth now," he told me. "This is possibly $400K and I'm freaking the fuck out. I'm a college student so this would change my life lmao," wrote one Reddit user last week. The user claimed to have bought 40 bitcoins in 2013 but can't remember the password now. "A few years ago, I bought about 20 euros worth of bitcoin, while it was at around 300eur/btc.," lamented another Reddit user earlier this week. "Haven't looked at it since, and recently someone mentioned the price had hit 10.000usd. So, I decided to take a look at my wallet, but found that it wasn't my usual password. I have tried every combination of the password variations I usually use, but none of them worked."

The Almighty Buck

Insurers Are Rewarding Tesla Owners For Using Autopilot (reuters.com) 135

Britain's largest auto insurance company Direct Line is testing out an idea to let Tesla owners receive a 5% discount for switching on the car's autopilot system, seeking to encourage use of a system it hopes will cut down on accidents. Reuters reports: The move - confirmed by company representatives in response to Reuters' questions - is Tesla's only tie-up in the UK and comes at a time when the company is trying to convince insurers that its internet-connected vehicles are statistically safer. Direct Line said it was too early to say whether the use of the autopilot system produced a safety record that justified lower premiums. It said it was charging less to encourage use of the system and aid research.

"Crash rates across all Tesla models have fallen by 40 percent since the introduction of the autopilot system ... However, when owners seek to insure their Tesla vehicles, this is not reflected in the pricing of premiums," Daniel Pearce, Financial Analyst at GlobalData, said. Direct Line, which is enjoying soaring motor insurance prices in Britain, said it sets premiums for Tesla drivers based on the risk they present, including who is driving, their age, driving experience and claim history.

Security

Zero-Day iOS HomeKit Vulnerability Allowed Remote Access To Smart Accessories Including Locks (9to5mac.com) 35

Apple has issued a fix to a vulnerability that allowed unauthorized control of accessories, including smart locks and garage door openers. "Our understanding is Apple has rolled out a server-side fix that now prevents unauthorized access from occurring while limiting some functionality, and an update to iOS 11.2 coming next week will restore that full functionality," reports 9to5Mac. From the report: The vulnerability, which we won't describe in detail and was difficult to reproduce, allowed unauthorized control of HomeKit-connected accessories including smart lights, thermostats, and plugs. The most serious ramification of this vulnerability prior to the fix is unauthorized remote control of smart locks and connected garage door openers, the former of which was demonstrated to 9to5Mac. The issue was not with smart home products individually but instead with the HomeKit framework itself that connects products from various companies. The vulnerability required at least one iPhone or iPad on iOS 11.2, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, connected to the HomeKit user's iCloud account; earlier versions of iOS were not affected.
Security

'Process Doppelganging' Attack Bypasses Most Security Products, Works On All Windows Versions (bleepingcomputer.com) 125

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Yesterday, at the Black Hat Europe 2017 security conference in London, two security researchers from cyber-security firm enSilo have described a new code injection technique called "Process Doppelganging." This new attack works on all Windows versions and researchers say it bypasses most of today's major security products. Process Doppelganging is somewhat similar to another technique called "Process Hollowing," but with a twist, as it utilizes the Windows mechanism of NTFS Transactions.

"The goal of the technique is to allow a malware to run arbitrary code (including code that is known to be malicious) in the context of a legitimate process on the target machine," Tal Liberman & Eugene Kogan, the two enSilo researchers who discovered the attack told Bleeping Computer. "Very similar to process hollowing but with a novel twist. The challenge is doing it without using suspicious process and memory operations such as SuspendProcess, NtUnmapViewOfSection. In order to achieve this goal we leverage NTFS transactions. We overwrite a legitimate file in the context of a transaction. We then create a section from the modified file (in the context of the transaction) and create a process out of it. It appears that scanning the file while it's in transaction is not possible by the vendors we checked so far (some even hang) and since we rollback the transaction, our activity leaves no trace behind." The good news is that "there are a lot of technical challenges" in making Process Doppelganging work, and attackers need to know "a lot of undocumented details on process creation." The bad news is that the attack "cannot be patched since it exploits fundamental features and the core design of the process loading mechanism in Windows."
More research on the attack will be published on the Black Hat website in the following days.
Android

Google Puts Android Accessibility Crackdown On Hold (slashgear.com) 26

Last month, Google issued a warning to Android app developers that they will no longer be able to access Android accessibility service functions in their apps, unless they can demonstrate that those functions are specifically used to help users with "disabilities." Since a lot of password managers use the Accessibility API, as well as poplar apps like Tasker automation and Greenify battery saver, there was a large amount of backlash from developers and users alike. According to SlashGear, Google is putting the Android accessibility crackdown on hold. From the report: Google has now sent another email that basically says "we'll think about it." It is evaluating "responsible and innovative use" of those services on a case to case basis. It is also requiring developers to explicitly inform users why they are asking for accessibility permissions rather than just informing them. This, of course, puts a heavier burden on Google, as it has to be more involved in the screening of apps rather than just rely on good ol' machine learning and automation. Developers and users probably won't mind, if it means still having access to those features that make Android a platform above all the rest.
AI

Elon Musk Says Tesla Is Building Dedicated Chips For Autopilot (theregister.co.uk) 32

Elon Musk says Tesla is developing its own chip to run the Autopilot system in future vehicles from the firm. The news was revealed at a Tesla party that took place at the intelligence conference NIPS. Attendees at the party told The Register that Musk said, "I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips." From the report: Musk offered no details of his company's plans, but did tell the party that "Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world." "Jim" is Jim Keller, a well-known chip engineer who was lead architect on a range of silicon at AMD and Apple and joined Tesla in 2016. Keller later joined Musk on a panel discussing AI at the Tesla Party alongside Andrej Karpathy, Tesla's Director of AI and chaired by Shivon Zilis, a partner and founding member at Bloomberg Beta, a VC firm. Musk is well known for his optimism about driverless cars and pessimism about whether AI can operate safely. At the party he voiced a belief that "about half of new cars built ten years from now will be autonomous." He added his opinion that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will arrive in about seven or eight years.
Music

Apple Is Reportedly Buying Shazam For Nearly Half a Billion Dollars (phonedog.com) 59

Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, one of the most recognized services for music recognition. While the exact amount is unknown, the service may be purchased by Apple for around $400 million. PhoneDog reports: Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, say sources speaking to TechCrunch. The deal will reportedly be signed this week and could be announced as early as next Monday. A report from Recode echoes the news of Apple acquiring Shazam, adding that Shazam will likely be valued at around $400 million. Apple -- and other companies -- already offer a music recognition service, but Apple must see something in Shazam's services that it thinks can help improve its own music recognition if it's going to drop nearly half a billion dollars on this deal. Shazam is able to identify TV shows, films, and advertisements in addition to music, so perhaps Apple sees some benefit to these abilities, too.
Chrome

Chrome 63 Offers Even More Protection From Malicious Sites, Using Even More Memory (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: To further increase its enterprise appeal, Chrome 63 -- which hit the browser's stable release channel yesterday -- includes a couple of new security enhancements aimed particularly at the corporate market. The first of these is site isolation, an even stricter version of the multiple process model that Chrome has used since its introduction. Chrome uses multiple processes for several security and stability reasons. On the stability front, the model means that even if a single tab crashes, other tabs (and the browser itself) are unaffected. On the security front, the use of multiple processes makes it much harder for malicious code from one site to steal secrets (such as passwords typed into forms) of another. [...]

Naturally, this greater use of multiple processes incurs a price; with this option enabled, Chrome's already high memory usage can go up by another 15 to 20 percent. As such, it's not enabled by default; instead, it's intended for use by enterprise users that are particularly concerned about organizational security. The other new capability is the ability for administrators to block extensions depending on the features those extensions need to use. For example, an admin can block any extension that tries to use file system access, that reads or writes the clipboard, or that accesses the webcam or microphone. Additionally, Google has started to deploy TLS 1.3, the latest version of Transport Layer Security, the protocol that enables secure communication between a browser and a Web server. In Chrome 63, this is only enabled between Chrome and Gmail; in 2018, it'll be turned on more widely.

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