Space

How the Voyager Golden Record Was Made (newyorker.com) 2

Fascinating article on The New Yorker about how the Voyager Golden Record was made: The Voyagers' scientific mission will end when their plutonium-238 thermoelectric power generators fail, around the year 2030. After that, the two craft will drift endlessly among the stars of our galaxy -- unless someone or something encounters them someday. With this prospect in mind, each was fitted with a copy of what has come to be called the Golden Record. Etched in copper, plated with gold, and sealed in aluminum cases, the records are expected to remain intelligible for more than a billion years, making them the longest-lasting objects ever crafted by human hands. We don't know enough about extraterrestrial life, if it even exists, to state with any confidence whether the records will ever be found. They were a gift, proffered without hope of return. I became friends with Carl Sagan, the astronomer who oversaw the creation of the Golden Record, in 1972. He'd sometimes stop by my place in New York, a high-ceilinged West Side apartment perched up amid Norway maples like a tree house, and we'd listen to records. Lots of great music was being released in those days, and there was something fascinating about LP technology itself. A diamond danced along the undulations of a groove, vibrating an attached crystal, which generated a flow of electricity that was amplified and sent to the speakers. At no point in this process was it possible to say with assurance just how much information the record contained or how accurately a given stereo had translated it. The open-endedness of the medium seemed akin to the process of scientific exploration: there was always more to learn.
Apple

Apple Looks For Exceptional Engineer With a Secret Job Posting (9to5mac.com) 28

An anonymous reader writes: A hidden Apple website that hosts a job description and invitation to apply for an important position has recently been discovered. The posting describes a role that should be filled by a "talented engineer" who will develop a critical infrastructure component for the company's ecosystem. Discovered late yesterday by ZDNet's Zach Whittaker, the secret posting was found at us-west-1.blobstore.apple.com (now pulled). The posting stated how critical the role is, the scale of the work, key qualifications, and a description of the type of employee Apple is looking for. In the "How Critical?" section Apple says that the engineer will be working on developing infrastructure that will deal with millions of drives, tens of thousands of servers, and Exabytes of data.
Businesses

The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps (torrentfreak.com) 37

Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: When we were browsing through the "top free" apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted "free movies" including various Hollywood blockbusters such as "Wonder Woman," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and "The Mummy." Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped past Microsoft's screening process. However, the 'problem' doesn't appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews. Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go. The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as "Free Movies HD," "Free Movies Online 2020," and "FreeFlix HQ," came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.
Microsoft

Microsoft Speech Recognition Now As Accurate As Professional Transcribers (techcrunch.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Microsoft announced today that its conversational speech recognition system has reached a 5.1% error rate, its lowest so far. This surpasses the 5.9% error rate reached last year by a group of researchers from Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research and puts its accuracy on par with professional human transcribers who have advantages like the ability to listen to text several times. Both studies transcribed recordings from the Switchboard corpus, a collection of about 2,400 telephone conversations that have been used by researchers to test speech recognition systems since the early 1990s. The new study was performed by a group of researchers at Microsoft AI and Research with the goal of achieving the same level of accuracy as a group of human transcribers who were able to listen to what they were transcribing several times, access its conversational context and work with other transcribers.
AI

Elon Musk Backs Call For A Global Ban On Killer Robots (cnn.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Tesla boss Elon Musk is among a group of 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies who are calling on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. "Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the experts warn in an open letter released Monday...

"Unlike other potential manifestations of AI, which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability," said Ryan Gariepy, the founder of Clearpath Robotics and the first person to sign the letter. More than a dozen countries -- including the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain -- are currently developing autonomous weapons systems, according to Human Rights Watch.

Television

Plex Responds, Will Allow Users To Opt Out Of Data Collection (www.plex.tv) 67

stikves writes: This weekend Plex had announced they were implementing a new privacy policy, including removing the ability for opting out of data collection and sharing. Fortunately the backlash here, on their forums, Reddit, and other placed allowed them to offer a more sensible state, including bringing back opt-out, and anonymity of some of the data.
Plex CEO Keith Valory wrote Saturday that some information must be transferred just to provide the service -- for example, servers still check for updates, they have to determine whether a user has a premium Plex Pass, and "we have to provide accurate reporting to licensors for things like trailers and extras, photo tagging, lyrics, licensed codecs and so on... [W]e came to the conclusion that providing an 'opt out' in the set-up gives a false sense of privacy and feels disingenuous on our part. That is, even if you opted out, there is still a bunch of data we are collecting that we tried to call out as exceptions." But to address concerns about data collection, Plex will make new changes to their privacy policy: [I]n addition to providing the ability to opt out of crash reporting and marketing communications, we will provide you the ability to opt out of playback statistics for personal content on your Plex Media Server, like duration, bit rate, and resolution in a new privacy setting... we are going to "generalize" playback stats in order to make it impossible to create any sort of "fingerprint" that would allow anyone to identify a file in a library... Finally, in the new privacy tab in the server settings we will provide a full list of all product events data that we collect... Our intention here is to provide full transparency. Users will have one place where they can see what data is being collected and where they can opt out of playback data that they are not comfortable with."
And he emphasized that "we will never sell or share data related to YOUR content libraries."
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Teach Programming To Schoolchildren? 267

Slashdot reader SPopulisQR writes: A new school year is approaching and I wanted to ask what are appropriate programming languages for children of various ages. Specifically, 1) what coding languages should be considered, and 2) are there are any self-guided coding websites that can be used by children to learn coding using guidance and help online? Let's say the ages are 8 and 12.
I know there's lots of opinions about CS education (and about whether or not laptops increase test scores). So leave your own best thoughts in the comments. How can you teach programming to schoolchildren?
Yahoo!

Alleged Yahoo Hacker Will Be Extradited To The US (tucson.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: A Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails agreed Friday to forgo his extradition hearing and go face the charges in the United States. Karim Baratov was arrested in Hamilton, Ontario, in March under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others, including two alleged officers of Russia's Federal Security Service. They are accused of computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.

An extradition hearing for the 22-year-old Baratov had been scheduled for early September, but he signed documents before a Canadian judge Friday agreeing to waive it. His lawyer, Amedeo DiCarlo, said that does not amount to an admission of guilt... U.S. law enforcement officials call Baratov a "hacker-for-hire" paid by members of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, considered the successor to the KGB of the former Soviet Union.

Yahoo also believes that attack -- which breached at least 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014 -- was perpetrated by "a state-sponsored actor." The CBC reports that Baratov lives alone in a large, new house in an expensive subdivision. "His parents either bought him the house," one neighbor told the CBC, "or he's getting money somewhere else, because he doesn't seem to work all day; he just drives up and down the street."

The CBC also reports that Baratov's Facebook page links to a Russian-language site "which claims to offer a number of services, including servers for rent in Russia, protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and domain names in China."
Censorship

50,000 Users Test New Anti-Censorship Tool TapDance (www.cbc.ca) 156

The CBC reports: What if circumventing censorship didn't rely on some app or service provider that would eventually get blocked but was built into the very core of the internet itself? What if the routers and servers that underpin the internet -- infrastructure so important that it would be impractical to block -- could also double as one big anti-censorship tool...? After six years in development, three research groups have joined forces to conduct real-world tests.
An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week, Professor Eric Wustrow, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, presented An ISP-Scale Deployment of TapDance at the USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet. TapDance is an anti-censorship, circumvention application based on "refraction networking" (formerly known as "decoy routing") that has been the subject of academic research for several years. Now, with integration with Psiphon, 50,000 users, a deployment that spans two ISPs, and an open source release, it seems to have graduated to the real world.
"In the long run, we absolutely do want to see refraction networking deployed at as many ISPs that are as deep in the network as possible," one of the paper's authors told the CBC. "We would love to be so deeply embedded in the core of the network that to block this tool of free communication would be cost-prohibitive for censors."
Bug

Bug In Lowe's Site Sold Goods For Free. Couple Arrested For Exploiting It (bleepingcomputer.com) 191

An anonymous reader writes: A couple from the Brick Township in New Jersey stands accused of using a flaw in the Lowes online portal to receive goods for free at their home. According to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, the couple tried to steal goods worth $258,068.01, but only managed to receive approximately $12,971.23 worth of merchandise. Officers executing a search warrant said the residence resembled "more of a warehouse than a home." Investigators said they recovered enough merchandise to fill an 18-foot trailer. Most items were in their original packaging and still had their price tags. Police say one of the suspects posted ads for some of the stolen goods on a Facebook group used to buy and sell used objects. The suspect was selling most of the items at half the price offered on the Lowes website. Authorities did not provide in-depth technical details but revealed the flaw resided in the site's gift card module.
One of the suspects' lawyer argued that his client didn't have the skills to penetrate the security on the web site of a Fortune 500 company -- and insisted instead that his client just had a really special knack for finding good deals.
Crime

FBI Accepts New Evidence in 46-Year-Old D.B. Cooper Case (dailymail.co.uk) 103

An anonymous reader quotes the Daily Mail: The FBI is looking at an 'odd bit of buried foam' as possible evidence in the cold case investigation into criminal mastermind D.B. Cooper, according to private investigators. The potential evidence was handed over to authorities last week by the team of sleuths who believe the foam made up a part of Cooper's parachute backpack, the New York Daily News reports. Cooper, one of the 20th century's most compelling masterminds, hijacked a Boeing 727 at Seattle-Tacoma airport in 1971 and held its crew and passengers hostage with a bomb. Once his demand of $200,000 cash -- the equivalent of $1,213,226 today -- was reached and transferred onto the plane, Cooper had the crew take off before he parachuted out over the dense Pacific Northwest woods and disappeared.

The discovery of the foam comes just weeks after the FBI uncovered what is believed to be part of Cooper's parachute strap, which private investigators claim could lead authorities to his stolen fortune. In addition, the FBI also received three 'unknown' pieces of fabric that were found close to where the alleged parachute strap was located.

The 40-member cold case team is being overseen by a former FBI supervisor. At one point they essentially crowdsourced the investigation by requesting help from the general public, and the team now says they've found a credible source -- providing information substantiated by FBI field notes -- which has led them to this new evidence.
Java

Red Hat Gives Ceylon To The Eclipse Foundation (eclipse.org) 89

An anonymous reader writes: Some media outlets called Ceylon an attempted "Java killer" when Gavin King first unveiled his secret two-year development project in 2011. In 2013 Red Hat finally released version 1.0 of the modern, modular statically-typed programming language for the Java and JavaScript virtual machines. After another four years, "Ceylon has a small but very active and enthusiastic community of developers and users, and indeed is the fruit of the hard work of a large number of contributors over the years," says a project proposal page at Eclipse.org seeking "to further grow our community... a key strategy to achieve that would be to move Ceylon from Red Hat to a vendor-neutral foundation."

That project has now been approved, and the "Eclipse Ceylon" project has been created. It includes the Ceylon distribution and its SDK, plus the Java2Ceylon converter and the Ceylon Herd project's server (and related services) for Ceylon module sharing. There's also three IDEs (and their code-formatting and functionality-sharing modules).

Back in 2011 InfoWorld predicted that instead of becoming a Java killer, "it is more likely Ceylon will join a growing list of new languages resting atop the JVM, while the Java language and platform will continue on as staples of enterprise computing."
Classic Games (Games)

'Wing Commander' Music Composer Runs Kickstarter Campaign (kickstarter.com) 37

DMJC writes: George Oldziey, the music composer from Wing Commander 3 and 4, is running a Kickstarter campaign to re-orchestrate the music from the venerable series. The Kickstarter is in its final week and has approximately $2000 left to go before it reaches it's goal.
Oldziey shares some history on his web site: In 2014 I launched a Kickstarter campaign to document the music I created for the Wing Commander games in the way I had originally imagined it: for full orchestra and chorus. 588 generous supporters helped me reach my goal! In late 2014 I traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia, where the 95-piece Slovak National Symphony Orchestra and the 40-voice Lucina Chorus recorded this music under my supervision.
But last November -- and again in June -- Oldziey unsuccessfully tried raising funds on Kickstarter to record more of his Wing Commander music with a full orchestra. So this month's campaign sets a more modest goal of raising $15,000 "as a foundation and springboard from which to build with a more open ended crowdfunding campaign." It'll fund the creation of digital MIDI tracks for the new orchestral music plus a recording of the "jazzy bar music" from Wing Commander 3 (which will both be released as digital downloads and on CD). "Future campaign(s) will tackle the goal of getting a live orchestra to record everything..." Oldziey writes, adding this campaign "builds an exciting foundation to build on -- with some cool music to enjoy in the mean time!"

Two people have already pledged $600 to claim one of five high-end premiums in which George composes one minute of unique music just for them, and two more pledged $300 to attend the "jazzy bar music" recording session in Austin, Texas.
Security

Researchers Win $100,000 For New Spear-Phishing Detection Method (bleepingcomputer.com) 28

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has awarded this year's Internet Defense Prize worth $100,000 to a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, who came up with a new method of detecting spear-phishing attacks in closely monitored enterprise networks. The team created a detection system -- called DAS (Directed Anomaly Scoring) -- that identifies uncommon patterns in emails communications. They trained DAS by having it analyze 370 million emails from one single large enterprise with thousands of employees, sent between March 2013 and January 2017.

"Out of 19 spearphishing attacks, our detector failed to detect 2 attacks," the research team said. "Our detector [also] achieved an average false positive rate of 0.004%," researchers added, pointing out that this is almost 200 times better than previous research.

Honorable mentions went two other projects, one for using existing static analysis techniques to find a large number of vulnerabilities in Linux kernel drivers, and another for preventing specific classes of vulnerabilities in low-level code.

Music

Jonathan Coulton's New Dystopian Album Becomes a Graphic Novel (jonathancoulton.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes NPR's report on one of Slashdot's long-time favorite musicians: In April, musician Jonathan Coulton released Solid State, a sci-fi concept album that represented a significant departure -- both from Coulton's wry, bright, tuneful back catalog and from any conventional understanding of what a sci-fi concept album sounds like... On first listen, with its shout-outs to futurist Ray Kurzweil, comment-section trolls, thinkpiece-gluts, and hack memes, Solid State seems a caustic critique of the internet -- which would be, as Coulton notes, "a little-off brand for me." Spend a bit more time with it, however, and its muted, melancholy songs reveal their true target: the toxic culture of glibness and hot takes that's leaching from the internet into every aspect of our lives.

The album features multiple perspectives and timelines, but its soundscape is allusive and impressionistic, resisting strict narrative. For that, Coulton turned to writer Matt Fraction and artist Albert Monteys, who with Coulton's input have taken some of the album's words, images and thematic preoccupations and crafted a graphic novel set largely in a future that will seem familiar to any reader of science fiction: a corporate-owned dystopia where humans have become dutiful, unthinking, unfeeling worker bees attending to menial tasks amid a culture engineered to keep them unthinking and unfeeling...These three creators believe that the roots of this dystopic future are all around us, but we're collectively choosing to ignore them in precisely the same way we blithely click past online Terms and Conditions agreements without bothering to read them.

The official music video for one of the songs takes the form of a text adventure.

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