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Communications

T-Mobile Kicks Off Industry Robocall War With Network-Level Blocking and ID Tools (venturebeat.com) 74

T-Mobile is among the first U.S. telecom companies to announce plans to thwart pesky robocallers. From a report on VentureBeat: The move represents part of an industry-wide Robocall Strike Force set up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year to combat the 2 billion-plus automated calls U.S. consumers deal with each month. Other key members of the group include Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Verizon. T-Mobile's announcement comes 24 hours after the FCC voted to approve a new rule that would allow telecom companies to block robocallers who use fake caller ID numbers to conceal their true location and identity. From a report on WashingtonPost: The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed new rules (PDF) that would allow phone companies to target and block robo-calls coming from what appear to be illegitimate or unassigned phone numbers. The rules could help cut down on the roughly 2.4 billion automated calls that go out each month -- many of them fraudulent, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "Robo-calls are the No. 1 consumer complaint to the FCC from members of the American public," he said, vowing to halt people who, in some cases, pretend to be tax officials demanding payments from consumers, or, in other cases, ask leading questions that prompt consumers to give up personal information as part of an identity theft scam.
IBM

IBM, Remote-Work Pioneer, is Calling Thousands Of Employees Back To the Office (qz.com) 300

An anonymous reader shares a report: Less than a year into her tenure as IBM's chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso prepared to make an announcement that she knew would excite some of her 5,500 new employees, but also, inevitably, inspire resignation notices from others. In a video message, Peluso explained the "only one recipe I know for success." Its ingredients included great people, the right tools, a mission, analysis of results, and one more thing: "really creative and inspiring locations." IBM had decided to "co-locate" the US marketing department, about 2,600 people, which meant that all teams would now work together, "shoulder to shoulder," from one of six different locations -- Atlanta, Raleigh, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Employees who worked primarily from home would be required to commute, and employees who worked remotely or from an office that was not on the list (or an office that was on the list, but different than the one to which their teams had been assigned) would be required to either move or look for another job. Similar announcements had already been made in other departments, and more would be made in the future. At IBM, which has embraced remote work for decades, a relatively large proportion of employees work outside of central hubs. (By 2009, when remote work was still, for most, a novelty, 40% of IBM's 386,000 global employees already worked at home). [...] "When you're playing phone tag with someone is quite different than when you're sitting next to someone and can pop up behind them and ask them a question," Peluso says. Not all IBM employees see it that way.
Transportation

UK Flight Ban On Devices To Be Announced (bbc.com) 248

The UK is due to announce a cabin baggage ban on laptops, tablets and DVD players on certain passenger flights, after a similar US move. From a report on BBC: It is understood the UK restrictions may differ from the US Department of Homeland Security's ban, although details have not yet been released. Flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries are subject to the US announcement. US officials said bombs could be hidden in a series of devices. BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said the expected move was "obviously part of coordinated action with the US." The attempted downing of an airliner in Somalia last year was linked to a laptop device, and it appears the security precautions are an attempt to stop similar incidents, our correspondent added.
Power

John Goodenough's Colleagues Are Skeptical of His New Battery Technology (qz.com) 248

Earlier this month, a research team led by John Goodenough announced that they had created a new fast charging solid-state battery that can operate in extreme temperatures and store five to ten times as much energy as current standard lithium-ion batteries. The announcement was big enough to have Google's Eric Schmidt tweeting about it. However, there are some skeptics, including other leading battery researchers. "For his invention to work as described, they say, it would probably have to abandon the laws of thermodynamics, which say perpetual motion is not possible," reports Quartz. "The law has been a fundamental of batteries for more than a century and a half." Quartz reports: Goodenough's long career has defined the modern battery industry. Researchers assume that his measurements are exact. But no one outside of Goodenough's own group appears to understand his new concept. The battery community is loath to openly challenge the paper, but some come close. "If anyone but Goodenough published this, I would be, well, it's hard to find a polite word," Daniel Steingart, a professor at Princeton, told Quartz. Goodenough did not respond to emails. But in a statement released by the University of Texas, where he holds an engineering chair, he said, "We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today's batteries. Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted." In addition, Helena Braga, the paper's lead author, in an exchange of emails, insisted that the team's claims are valid. For almost four decades, Goodenough has dominated the world of advanced batteries. If anyone could finally make the breakthrough that allows for cheap, stored electricity in cars and on the grid, it would figure to be him. Goodenough invented the heart of the battery that is all but certainly powering the device on which you are reading this. It's the lithium-cobalt-oxide cathode, invented in 1980 and introduced for sale by Sony in 1991. Again and again, Goodenough's lab has emerged with dramatic discoveries confirming his genius. It's what is not stated in the paper that has some of the battery community stumped. How is Goodenough's new invention storing any energy at all? The known rules of physics state that, to derive energy, differing material must produce differing eletro-chemical reactions in the two opposing electrodes. That difference produces voltage, allowing energy to be stored. But Goodenough's battery has pure metallic lithium or sodium on both sides. Therefore, the voltage should be zero, with no energy produced, battery researchers told Quartz. Goodenough reports energy densities multiple times that of current lithium-ion batteries. Where does the energy come from, if not the electrode reactions? That goes unexplained in the paper.
Businesses

Ebay: Yes, Speedy Shipping Really Is a Thing With Us (cnet.com) 62

Fast shipping is -- finally -- no longer all about Amazon. From a report on CNET: On Monday, eBay announced it will offer a new guaranteed-delivery program in the US starting this summer, pledging deliveries in three or fewer days for more than 20 million products. For the first time, Ebay's shoppers will be able to filter searches to see only items guaranteed to arrive in one, two or three days. "We know we need to continue to up our game on shipping," Hal Lawton, eBay's senior vice president of North America, said in an interview. [...] It's worth noting, though, that this Ebay announcement doesn't actually speed up deliveries on the site. Many professional sellers on Ebay have already been providing these faster deliveries, in some cases for years. Ebay, which says 63 percent of packages sold through its site arrive in three days or less, has been offering customers more conservative delivery estimates because it doesn't ship directly.
Cellphones

Class-Action Lawsuit Targets LG Over Legendary G4, V10 Bootloop Issues (arstechnica.com) 31

For those affected by LG's infamous bootloop issue with the G4 and V10, you might find some joy in this: several (upset) owners of these devices have lodged a proposed class-action lawsuit in a California federal court. They claim that a repeating bootloop issue "renders the phones inoperable and unfit for any use." In other words: bricked. Ars Technica reports: Thousands of complaints about the G4 have been highlighted on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. There was even an online petition to "launch a replacement program for defective LG G4s." Not to be outdone, the V10 has been the subject of many online complaints as well. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday said that LG replaced his G4 two times and that his third G4 constantly freezes. The new phone, says the suit, is "manifesting signs of the bootloop defect and is unmerchantable." A year ago, LG acknowledged the problem with the G4 and said it was the result of "loose contact between components." The company began offering replacement devices and fixes. The suit said that even after the January 2016 announcement, "LG continued to manufacture LG Phones with the bootloop defect." The suit claims that both models' processors were inadequately soldered to the motherboard, rendering them "unable to withstand the heat." Initially, the phones begin to freeze, suffer slowdowns, overheat, and reboot at random. Eventually, the suit says, they fail "entirely."
Google

You Can Now Send, Request Money In Gmail On Android (techcrunch.com) 38

While Google Wallet has been integrated into Gmail on the web since 2013, it has yet to be available for mobile users. Today, Google is officially rolling out the new integration so that users of the Gmail app on Android will be able to send or request money with anyone -- even those who don't have a Gmail email address. TechCrunch reports: The user experience has been designed to make exchanging money as easy as attaching a file, Google explains in its announcement. To access the new feature, you tap the attachment icon (the paperclip), then choose either send or request money, depending on your needs. A pop-up window appears where you can input the amount and add a note, and send. The entire process takes place in the Gmail app -- you don't have to have Google Wallet installed. In addition, recipients can configure it so the money they receive through Gmail goes directly into their bank account. There are no fees involved, notes Google. The goal, seemingly, is to take on quick payment apps like PayPal, Venmo or Square Cash, by offering a feature to move money right within Gmail's app. This could be useful for those times where the money is already a topic of an email conversation -- like when you're planning a trip with friends, or getting the family to go in together on a gift for your parents, for example.
Facebook

Facebook and Instagram Ban Developers From Using Data For Surveillance (theguardian.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook and Instagram have banned developers from using their data for surveillance with a new privacy policy that civil rights activists have long sought to curb spying by law enforcement. Following revelations last year that police departments had gained special access to the social networks to track protesters, Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced on Monday that it had updated its rules to state that developers could not "use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance." The American Civil Liberties Union obtained government records last year revealing that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had provided users' data to a software company that aids police surveillance programs and had helped law enforcement monitor Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The ACLU found that the social networking sites had given "special access" to Geofeedia, a controversial startup that has partnered with law enforcement to track streams of user content. "Our goal is to make our policy explicit," Facebook said in its announcement on Monday. "Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply."
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation Now Will Bring PS4 Games to your PC (engadget.com) 84

You could soon play PlayStation 4 exclusives like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us Remastered on your PC. From a report on Engadget: Sony is bringing the PS4 catalog to its streaming game service PlayStation Now, the company said today in a blog post. The announcement is light on details, but we know that every game in the service, including PS4 games, will be part of a single PS Now subscription.
Debian

Debian Update: Stretch Frozen, Bug-Squashing Parties Planned (phoronix.com) 55

"Debian project leader Mehdi Dogguy has written a status update concerning the work going on for the first two months of 2017," reports Phoronix. An anonymous reader quotes their report: So far this year Debian 9.0 Stretch has entered its freeze, bug squashing parties are getting underway for Stretch, the DebConf Committee is now an official team within Debian, a broad Debian Project roadmap is in the early stages of talk, and more.
Bug-Squashing Parties have been scheduled this week in Germany and Brazil, with at least two more happening in May in Paris and Zurich, and for current Debian contributors, "Debian is willing to reimburse up to $100 (or equivalent in your local currency) for your travel and accommodation expenses for participating in Bug Squashing Parties..." writes Dogguy, adding "If there are no Bug Squashing Parties next to your city, can you organize one?"
Privacy

Notepad++ Update Fixes 'CIA Hacking' Issue (archive.org) 82

Free software Notepad++ (released under the GNU General Public License) received a new update this week which was announced under the headline "Fix CIA Hacking Notepad++ Issue". The CIA documents in WikiLeaks' 'Vault 7' included a "Notepad++ DLL Hijack" document which affected the popular Windows editor for text and source code. "It's not a vulnerability/security issue in Notepad++, but for remedying this issue, from this release (v7.3.3) forward, notepad++.exe checks the certificate validation in scilexer.dll before loading it," reads the announcement. From the Notepad++ web site: If the certificate is missing or invalid, then it just won't be loaded, and Notepad++ will fail to launch. Checking the certificate of DLL makes it harder to hack.

Note that once users' PCs are compromised, the hackers can do anything on the PCs. This solution only prevents from Notepad++ loading a CIA homemade DLL. It doesn't prevent your original notepad++.exe from being replaced by modified notepad++.exe while the CIA is controlling your PC.

The update also includes "a lot of enhancements and bug-fixes," and if no critical issues are found, "Auto-updater will be triggered in few days."
Network

T-Mobile Raises Deprioritization Threshold To 30GB (tmonews.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile's new deprioritization threshold is 30GB of usage in a single billing cycle. While T-Mo didn't make an official announcement about the change, you can see in this cached page that the network management policy says 28GB: "Based on network statistics for the most recent quarter, customers who use more than 28GB of data during a billing cycle will have their data usage prioritized below other customers' data usage for the remainder of the billing cycle in times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources." Navigating to the webpage today now says 30GB. What this change means is that if you use more than 30GB of data in one billing cycle, your data usage will be prioritized below others for the remainder of that billing cycle. The only time that you're likely to see the effects of that, though, is when you're at a location on the network that is congested, during which time you may see slower speeds. Once you move to a different location or the congestion goes down, your speeds will likely go back up. And once the new billing cycle rolls around, your usage will be reset.
China

China Developing Manned Space Mission To the Moon 149

China is building a manned spacecraft capable of sending astronauts to the moon as well as near-Earth orbit flight, according to Chinese state media. From a report on CNBC: The official newspaper of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China cited system chief architect Zhang Bainan who claimed the craft is being designed to carry as many as six astronauts. The newspaper, Science and Technology Daily, quoted Zhang Bainan as saying China wished to catch up with international standards of space exploration. The fresh announcement follows a separate Chinese ambition to bring back samples from the moon before the end of this year.
Republicans

GOP Senators' New Bill Would Let ISPs Sell Your Web Browsing Data (arstechnica.com) 300

Yesterday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and 23 Republican co-sponsors introduced a resolution that would overturn new privacy rules for internet service providers. "If the Federal Communications Commission rules are eliminated, ISPs would not have to get consumers' explicit consent before selling or sharing web browsing data and other privacy information with advertisers and other third parties," reports Ars Technica. "The measure would use lawmakers' power under the Congressional Review Act to ensure that the FCC rulemaking 'shall have no force or effect.' The resolution would also prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future." From the report: Flake's announcement said he's trying to "protect consumers from overreaching Internet regulation." Flake also said that the resolution "empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared," but he did not explain how it will achieve that. The privacy order had several major components. The requirement to get the opt-in consent of consumers before sharing information covered geo-location data, financial and health information, children's information, Social Security numbers, Web browsing history, app usage history, and the content of communications. This requirement is supposed to take effect on December 4, 2017. The rulemaking had a data security component that required ISPs to take "reasonable" steps to protect customers' information from theft and data breaches. This was supposed to take effect on March 2, but the FCC under newly appointed Chairman Ajit Pai halted the rule's implementation. Another set of requirements related to data breach notifications is scheduled to take effect on June 2. Flake's resolution would prevent all of those requirements from being implemented. He said that this "is the first step toward restoring the [Federal Trade Commission's] light-touch, consumer-friendly approach." Giving the FTC authority over Internet service providers would require further FCC or Congressional action because the FTC is not allowed to regulate common carriers, a designation currently applied to ISPs.
Google

Google AMP Is Rolling Out For 1 Billion People In Asia-Pacific Region (meshrepublic.com) 48

meshrepublic shares a report: As per the latest announcement, Google AMP is rolling out for 1 billion people in Asia Pacific. Baidu and Sogou, which account for around 90% of the search market in China, made the announcement on the opening day of the first AMP developer conference which is taking place in New York. Also, Yahoo Japan will connect to AMP pages from their Search results. This will bring all the benefits of AMP to their 58m daily users in Japan. With the addition of these search giant's, means, a billion more people will be using Google Accelerated Mobile Pages. Per Google research, 70 percent of conventional mobile pages take seven to 10 seconds for visual page content to load. By comparison, AMP pages' load in less than one second, on average.
Firefox

Developer Proclaims Death of Cyberfox Web Browser (ghacks.net) 52

In a forum entitled "Cyberfox and its future direction," the lead developer of Cyberfox proclaimed the death of their web browser. The lead developer, Toady, writes: "Over the years the Cyberfox project has grown immensely and its thanks to all the amazing support of our users and has been an amazing couple of years this however has demanded far more of my time causing me to drop allot of projects and passions id like to pursue, the time factor this project has demanded has also take a toll lifestyle wise as have the changes made by Mozilla requiring more and more time to maintain so its come to a point where i recently had to assess the direction of this project and the direction i wish to head for the future. This has being no easy choice and the last few months allot of thinking about the direction of this project has taken place." He continues, "This project has been amazing no one could ask for a better project or community sadly as much as i love this project my heart is no longer fully in it, dreams of pursuing game development were pushed aside and lifestyle steadily declined ultimately slowly coming to this point where changes and choices have to be made ones that will affect this project and the future of what i have spent all these years building." Ghacks Technology News reports: The death of Cyberfox, or more precisely, the announcement of end of life for the web browser may come as a shock to users who run it. It should not be too much of a surprise though for users who keep an eye on the browser world and especially Mozilla and Firefox. Mozilla announced major changes to Firefox, some of which landed already, some are in process, and others are announced for 2017. [Some of the critical changes:] Multi-process Firefox is almost done, plugins are out except for Flash and Firefox ESR, Windows XP and Vista users are switched to Firefox ESR so that the operating systems are supported for eight additional releases, and WebExtensions will replace all other add-on systems of the browser. That's a lot of change, especially for projects that are maintained by a small but dedicated group of developers such as Cyberfox. The author of Cyberfox made the decision to switch the browser's release channel to Firefox 52.0 ESR. This means that Cyberfox will be supported with security updates for the next eight release cycles, but new features that Mozilla introduces in Firefox Stable won't find their way into the browser anymore. UPDATE 3/07/17: We have updated the headline to clarify that Cyberfox, specifically, is the browser that will be coming to an end. We have also added an excerpt from the developer's post. Toady clarified at the end of his post: "The largest factor was lifestyle a nicer way of saying health issues without making it to personalized."
Education

University of California, Berkeley, To Delete Publicly Available Educational Content (insidehighered.com) 337

In response to a U.S. Justice Department order that requires colleges and universities make website content accessible for citizens with disabilities and impairments, the University of California, Berkeley, will cut off public access to tens of thousands of video lectures and podcasts. Officials said making the videos and audio more accessible would have proven too costly in comparison to removing them. Inside Higher Ed reports: Today, the content is available to the public on YouTube, iTunes U and the university's webcast.berkeley site. On March 15, the university will begin removing the more than 20,000 audio and video files from those platforms -- a process that will take three to five months -- and require users sign in with University of California credentials to view or listen to them. The university will continue to offer massive open online courses on edX and said it plans to create new public content that is accessible to listeners or viewers with disabilities. The Justice Department, following an investigation in August, determined that the university was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The department reached that conclusion after receiving complaints from two employees of Gallaudet University, saying Berkeley's free online educational content was inaccessible to blind and deaf people because of a lack of captions, screen reader compatibility and other issues. Cathy Koshland, vice chancellor for undergraduate education, made the announcement in a March 1 statement: "This move will also partially address recent findings by the Department of Justice, which suggests that the YouTube and iTunes U content meet higher accessibility standards as a condition of remaining publicly available. Finally, moving our content behind authentication allows us to better protect instructor intellectual property from 'pirates' who have reused content for personal profit without consent."
Government

US Suspends 'Expedited' H-1B Visas (sfgate.com) 295

"Starting April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions," read Friday's announcement, which says the suspension "may last up to 6 months." Slashdot reader elrous0 sees it as part of the "ongoing efforts to curb abuses in the controversial H-1B program." The San Francisco Chronicle reports: While it could be difficult to divorce the move Friday from the Trump administration's broader immigration crackdown, some experts believed the agency's decision to be apolitical. "It has everything to do with an understaffed, overworked, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services," said Jason Finkelman, an Austin, Texas, immigration attorney, adding that the wait time for an H-1B visa in California is currently about eight months. However, Vivek Wadhwa, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus in NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, said the suspension seems like a message from the government that you "can't buy your way into America."
Whatever the motivation, Engadget believes this will impact large tech companies. "Financial Times quotes a lawyer saying that 'close to 100 percent' of applications from companies like Microsoft utilize the option."
Microsoft

Microsoft Finally Releases A Beta Version of Skype For Linux (betanews.com) 66

"We want to create a Linux version of Skype that is as feature rich as the existing Skype on desktop and mobile platforms," read Thursday's announcement from Microsoft's Skype team. "Today, we're pleased to announce that we are ready to take the next step and promote Skype for Linux from Alpha to Beta." They're promising more than just better performance and bug fixes. "We have been listening to you and added in some of your top requests." Slashdot reader BrianFagioli shares the list:
  • One-to-one video calls can be made from Linux to Skype users on the latest versions of Skype for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac.
  • Calls to mobiles and landlines with Skype credit.
  • Linux users can now view shared screens from other Skype desktop clients (Windows 7.33 and above, Mac 7.46 and above).
  • Unity launcher now shows the number of unread conversations.
  • Online contacts in contact list now include Away and Do Not Disturb statuses.

Privacy

White House Supports Renewal of Spy Law Without Reforms (reuters.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The Trump administration does not want to reform an internet surveillance law to address privacy concerns, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday, saying it is needed to protect national security. The announcement could put President Donald Trump on a collision course with Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats have advocated curtailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year. The FISA law has been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the agency carried out widespread monitoring of emails and other electronic communications. Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.

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