How Cable Monopolies Hurt ISP Customers

“New York subscribers have had to overpay month after month for services that Spectrum deliberately didn’t provide,” reports Backchannel — noting these practices are significant because together Comcast and Charter (formerly Time Warner Cable) account for half of America’s 92 million high-speed internet connections. An anonymous reader quotes Backchannel:
Based on the company’s own documents and statements, it appears that just about everything it has been saying since 2012 to New York State residents about their internet access and data services is untrue…because of business decisions the company deliberately made in order to keep its capital expenditures as low as possible… Its marketing department kept sending out advertising claims to the public that didn’t match the reality of what consumers were experiencing or square with what company engineers were telling Spectrum executives. That gives the AG’s office its legal hook: Spectrum’s actions in knowingly saying one thing but doing another amount to fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive behavior under New York law…

The branding people went nuts, using adjectives like Turbo, Extreme, and Ultimate for the company’s highest-speed 200 or 300 Mbps download offerings. But no one, or very few people, could actually experience those speeds…because, according to the complaint, the company deliberately required that internet data connections be shared among a gazillion people in each neighborhood… [T]he lawsuit won’t by itself make much of a difference. But maybe the public nature of the attorney-general’s assault — charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct — will lead to a call for alternatives. Maybe it will generate momentum for better, faster, wholesale fiber networks controlled by cities and localities themselves. If that happened, retail competition would bloom. We’d get honest, straightforward, inexpensive service, rather than the horrendously expensive cable bundles we’re stuck with today.
The article says Spectrum charged 800,000 New Yorkers $10 a month for outdated cable boxes that “weren’t even capable of transmitting and receiving wifi at the speeds the company advertised customers would be getting,” then promised the FCC in 2013 that they’d replace them, and then didn’t. “With no competition, it had no reason to upgrade its services. Indeed, the company’s incentives went exactly in the other direction.”

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Slooh Observatory Is Webcasting Today's Rare 'Ring of Fire' Eclipse

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com
A solar eclipse and its spectacular “ring of fire” will be visible from the Southern Hemisphere this Sunday morning, but no matter what side of the equator you’re on, you can watch the spectacular event unfold online in a live broadcast from Slooh’s online observatory…beginning at 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT)… This type of eclipse is called an annular eclipse, meaning that the sun will remain visible as a bright ring around the moon…

Slooh will present the eclipse in live feeds from Chile and other locations. “During the broadcast, Slooh host Gerard Monteux will guide viewers on this journey across multiple continents and thousands of miles,” Slooh said in a statement. “He’ll be joined by a number of guests who will help viewers explore not only the science of eclipses, but also the fascinating legend, myth, and spiritual and emotional expression associated with these most awe-inspiring celestial events.”

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UK Police Arrest Suspect Behind Mirai Malware Attacks On Deutsche Telekom

An anonymous reader writes: “German police announced Thursday that fellow UK police officers have arrested a suspect behind a serious cyber-attack that crippled German ISP Deutsche Telekom at the end of November 2016,” according to BleepingComputer. “The attack in question caused over 900,000 routers of various makes and models to go offline after a mysterious attacker attempted to hijack the devices through a series of vulnerabilities…” The attacks were later linked to a cybercrime groups operating a botnet powered by the Mirai malware, known as Botnet #14, which was also available for hire online for on-demand DDoS attacks. “According to a statement obtained by Bleeping Computer from Bundeskriminalamt (the German Federal Criminal Police Office), officers from UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested a 29-year-old suspect at a London airport… German authorities are now in the process of requesting the unnamed suspect’s extradition, so he can stand trial in Germany. Bestbuy, the name of the hacker that took credit for the attacks, has been unreachable for days.”

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Professors Claim Passive Cooling Breakthrough Via Plastic Film

What if you could cool buildings without using electricity? charlesj68 brings word of “the development of a plastic film by two professors at the University of Colorado in Boulder that provides a passive cooling effect.”

The film contains embedded glass beads that absorb and emit infrared in a wavelength that is not blocked by the atmosphere. Combining this with half-silvering to keep the sun from being the source of infrared absorption on the part of the beads, and you have a way of pumping heat at a claimed rate of 93 watts per square meter.

The film is cheap to produce — about 50 cents per square meter — and could create indoor temperatures of 68 degrees when it’s 98.6 outside. “All the work is done by the huge temperature difference, about 290C, between the surface of the Earth and that of outer space,” reports The Economist.

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Did Silicon Valley Lose The Race To Build Self-Driving Cars?

schwit1 quotes Autoblog:

Up until very recently the talk in Silicon Valley was about how the tech industry was going to broom Detroit into the dustbin of history. Companies such as Apple, Google, and Uber — so the thinking went — were going to out run, out gun, and out innovate the automakers. Today that talk is starting to fade. There’s a dawning realization that maybe there’s a good reason why the traditional car companies have been around for more than a century.
Last year Apple laid off most of the engineers it hired to design its own car. Google (now Waymo) stopped talking about making its own car. And Uber, despite its sky high market valuation, is still a long, long way from ever making any money, much less making its own autonomous cars. To paraphrase Elon Musk, Silicon Valley is learning that “Making rockets is hard, but making cars is really hard.”

The article argues the big auto-makers launched “vigorous in-house autonomous programs” which became fully competitive with Silicon Valley’s efforts, and that Silicon Valley may have a larger role crunching the data that’s collected from self-driving cars. “Last year in the U.S. market alone Chevrolet collected 4,220 terabytes of data from customer’s cars… Retailers, advertisers, marketers, product planners, financial analysts, government agencies, and so many others will eagerly pay to get access to that information.”

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Scientists Teach Bees How To Play Soccer

Clint Perry, a biologist who studies the evolution of cognition in insects at Queen Mary University of London, and his colleagues have released the results of a creative new experiment in which they essentially taught bumblebees how to play “bee soccer.” “The insects’ ability to grasp this novel task is a big score for insect intelligence, demonstrating that they’re even more complex thinkers than we thought,” reports Smithsonian. From the report: For the study, published in the February 23 issue of Science, researchers gave a group of bees a novel goal (literally): to move a ball about half their size into a designated target area. The idea was to present them with a task that they would never have encountered in nature. Not only did the bees succeed at this challenge — earning them a sugary treat — but they astonished researchers by figuring out how to meet their new goal in several different ways. Some bees succeeded at getting their ball into the goal with no demonstration at all, or by first watching the ball move on its own. But the ones that watched other bees successfully complete the game learned to play more quickly and easily. Most impressively, the insects didn’t simply copy each other — they watched their companions do it, then figured out on their own how to accomplish the task even more efficiently using their own techniques. The results show that bees can master complex, social behaviors without any prior experience — which could be a boon in a world where they face vast ecological changes and pressures.

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Arizona Bill Would Make Students In Grades 4-12 Participate Once In An Hour of Code

theodp writes: Christopher Silavong of Cronkite News reports: “A bill, introduced by [Arizona State] Sen. John Kavanagh [R-Fountain Hills] would mandate that public and charter schools provide one hour of coding instruction once between grades 4 to 12. Kavanagh said it’s critical for students to learn the language — even if it’s only one session — so they can better compete for jobs in today’s world. However, some legislators don’t believe a state mandate is the right approach. Senate Bill 1136 has passed the Senate, and it’s headed to the House of Representatives. Kavanagh said he was skeptical about coding and its role in the future. But he changed his mind after learning that major technology companies were having trouble finding domestic coders and talking with his son, who works at a tech company.” According to the Bill, the instruction can “be offered by either a nationally recognized nonprofit organization [an accompanying Fact Sheet mentions tech-backed Code.org] that is devoted to expanding access to computer science or by an entity with expertise in providing instruction to pupils on interactive computer instruction that is aligned to the academic standards.”

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Al Gore Sells $29.5 Million In Apple Stock

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AppleInsider: A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday reveals Apple board member Al Gore this week sold 215,437 shares of Apple stock (APPL) worth about $29.5 million. Gore’s stock sale, which was accomplished in multiple trades ranging from $136.4 to $137.12 on Wednesday, nearly matches a $29.6 million purchase of Apple shares made in 2013. When Gore bought the stock batch more than four years ago, he exercised Apple’s director stock option to acquire 59,000 shares at a price of about $7.48 per share, costing him approximately $441,000. This was pre-split AAPL, so shares were valued at $502.68 each. Following today’s sale, Gore owns 230,137 shares of Apple stock worth $31.5 million at the end of trading on Friday.

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Java and Python FTP Attacks Can Punch Holes Through Firewalls

“The Java and Python runtimes fail to properly validate FTP URLs, which can potentially allow attackers to punch holes through firewalls to access local networks,” reports CSO Online. itwbennett writes: Last weekend security researcher Alexander Klink disclosed an interesting attack where exploiting an XML External Entity vulnerability in a Java application can be used to send emails. At the same time, he showed that this type of vulnerability can be used to trick the Java runtime to initiate FTP connections to remote servers. After seeing Klink’s exploit, Timothy Morgan, a researcher with Blindspot Security, decided to disclose a similar attack that works against both Java’s and Python’s FTP implementations. “But his attack is more serious because it can be used to punch holes through firewalls,” writes Lucian Constantin in CSO Online. “The Java and Python developers have been notified of this problem, but until they fix their FTP client implementations, the researcher advises firewall vendors to disable classic mode FTP translation by default…” reports CSO Online. “It turns out that the built-in implementation of the FTP client in Java doesn’t filter out special carriage return and line feed characters from URLs and actually interprets them. By inserting such characters in the user or password portions of an FTP URL, the Java FTP client can be tricked to execute rogue commands…”

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Are Your Slack Conversations Really Private and Secure?

An anonymous reader writes:
“Chats that seem to be more ephemeral than email are still being recorded on a server somewhere,” reports Fast Company, noting that Slack’s Data Request Policy says the company will turn over data from customers when “it is compelled by law to do so or is subject to a valid and binding order of a governmental or regulatory body…or in cases of emergency to avoid death or physical harm to individuals.” Slack will notify customers before disclosure “unless Slack is prohibited from doing so,” or if the data is associated with “illegal conduct or risk of harm to people or property.”

The article also warns that like HipChat and Campfire, Slack “is encrypted only at rest and in transit,” though a Slack spokesperson says they “may evaluate” end-to-end encryption at some point in the future. Slack has no plans to offer local hosting of Slack data, but if employers pay for a Plus Plan, they’re able to access private conversations.

Though Slack has 4 million users, the article points out that there’s other alternatives like Semaphor and open source choices like Wickr and Mattermost. I’d be curious to hear what Slashdot readers are using at their own workplaces — and how they feel about the privacy and security of Slack?

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