GNU is Not Unix

Talos Secure Workstation Is FSF-Certified — and $3100 7

jones_supa writes: These days, the motivation to use open source software for many people is to avoid backdoors placed by intelligence organizations and to avoid software that has hidden privacy-intruding characteristics. For the operating system and userspace software, open choices are already available. The last remaining island has been the firmware included in various ROM chips in a computer. Libreboot has introduced an open BIOS, but it is not available for newer systems featuring the Intel ME or AMD PSP management features. Talos' Secure Workstation fills this need, providing a modern system with 8-core POWER8 CPU, 132 GB RAM, and open firmware. The product is currently in a pre-release phase where Raptor Engineering is trying to understand if it's possible to do a production run of the machine. If you are interested, it's worth visiting the official website. Adds an anonymous reader about the new system, which rings in at a steep $3100: "While the engineers found solace in the POWER8 architecture with being more open than AMD/Intel CPUs, they still are searching for a graphics card that is open enough to receive the FSF Respect Your Freedom certification." Update: 02/08 18:44 GMT by T : See also Linux hacker and IBM employee Stewart Smith's talk from the just-completed linux.conf.au on, in which he walks through "all of the firmware components and what they do, including the boot sequence from power being applied up to booting an operating system."
Data Storage

NAND Flash Density Surpasses HDDs', But Price Is Still a Sticking Point (computerworld.com) 84

Lucas123 writes: With the introduction of 3D or stacked NAND flash memory, non-volatile memory has for the first time surpassed that of hard disk drives in density. This year, Micron revealed it had demonstrated areal densities in its laboratories of up to 2.77 terabits per square inch (Tbpsi) for its 3D NAND. That compares with the densest HDDs of about 1.3Tbpsi. While NAND flash may have surpassed hard drives in density, it doesn't mean the medium has reached price parity with HDDs — nor will it anytime soon. One roadblock to price parity is the cost of revamping existing or building new 3D NAND fabrication plant, which far exceeds that of hard drive manufacturing facilities, according to market research firm Coughlin Associates. HDD makers are also preparing to launch even denser products using technologies such as heat assisted magnetic recording.
Facebook

Why Facebook Really Shut Down Parse (medium.com) 24

New submitter isisilik writes: For those working in the 'aaS' business the Parse shutdown was the main topic of conversation this weekend. So why did Facebook decide to shut down their developer platform? The author claims that Facebook never wanted to host apps to begin with, they just wanted developers to use Facebook login. And he builds up a good case.
The Internet

India Blocks Facebook's Free Basics Internet Service (thestack.com) 94

An anonymous reader writes: India's leading telecom regulator, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), has today voted against differential pricing, ruling with immediate effect that all data prices must be equal, and that companies cannot offer cheaper rates than others for certain content. The call is a significant blow to Facebook's Free Basics (previously Internet.org) initiative and Airtel Zero – projects which work to make internet access more accessible by providing a free range of "basic" services. The watchdog confirmed that providers would no longer be able to charge for data based on discriminatory tariffs but instead that pricing must be "content agnostic." It added that fines of Rs. 50,000 – 50 Lakh would be enforced should the regulations be violated.
Space

SpaceX Sets Feb. 24th Target Date For Next Launch 37

Rei writes: After some consternation about the pacing of Falcon 9 upgrades, SpaceX has announced that it plans to launch again from Cape Canaveral with a target date of February 24th. While the primary mission will be to place the SES-9 communications satellite in orbit, this will also mark their fourth attempt to land the first stage on an autonomous drone ship, after their last launch touched down softly but fell over when one leg failed to latch. SpaceX is working to significantly accelerate the rate of production and launches — they are reportedly moving the factory from 6-8 cores produced per year to 18 at present, and expect to reach 30 by the end of the year. After the upcoming launch, they expect to launch one rocket every two to three weeks.
Mars

NASA Is Building a Virtual Mars For VR Viewing (unrealengine.com) 36

An anonymous reader writes: NASA will release a free virtual reality program this year that will simulate exploring the surface of Mars. "Players will be able to walk on the Red Planet as well as drive the Mars Rover..." reads the official announcement at UnrealEngine.com. The Mars 2030 Experience will be available on Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR, and will also "expand" to Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, with additional versions for Android and iOS devices, and it will even be streamed on Twitch. NASA plans to reveal more details at this year's South by Southwest conference in March.
China

Malware Targets Skype Users, Records Conversations (softpedia.com) 40

An anonymous reader writes: A new backdoor trojan is making the rounds, coming equipped with features that allow it to steal files, take screengrabs, and record Skype conversations. Currently detected targeting US organizations, researchers linked it to previous malware developed by a Chinese cyber-espionage group called Admin@338. Besides recording Skype conversations, the malware can also steal Office documents, and includes a complicated installation procedure that allows it to avoid antivirus software installed on the machine.
Government

North Korea Accused of Testing an ICBM With Missile Launch Into Space (examiner.com) 251

MarkWhittington writes: Reuters reported that North Korea launched a long-range missile that is said to have placed a satellite into space. The launch happened much to the consternation of North Korea's neighbors, South Korea and Japan, as well as the United States. Pyongyang claimed that the missile launch was part of that country's peaceful space program. But, other countries are pretty sure that the launch was a test of an ICBM capable of placing a nuclear weapon on any target in the world, particularly the United States.
Android

Report: Google Will Go In Big For VR Hardware This Year 49

The Financial Times reports that Google isn't going to let the VR hardware wars fall to the likes of Samsung and Oculus; instead, it's working on a (cardboard-free) VR headset of its own, to be released in conjunction with Android VR software intended not only to make Android more VR friendly in general but specifically to help developers reduce nausea-inducing lag. The report doesn't quite come out of the blue, considering that Google has shipped more than 5 million of its own Cardboard viewer already, and has several projects dealing with VR infrastructure, either directly (like Jump) or indrectly (like Project Tango). Google (or Alphabet) has proven itself a hardware behemoth, not just the "search giant" it's so often called in news stories, and of late seems to be more interested in making its footprint in hardware a bit firmer.
Transportation

Elon Musk's Next Great Idea? Electric Air Travel (bgr.com) 299

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from BGR: Elon Musk is changing the world one idea at a time. First, with Tesla, the man so many people call the real life Tony Stark has done an incredible job of bringing electric vehicles to the mainstream. Second, Musk has been doing an impressive job over at SpaceX in the realm of space travel. And third, Musk's effective rough draft of a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop is being contemplated and conceptualized in a very real way by some extremely smart people. So where does Musk go from here? Why, Mars of course. Recently, Musk said that he plans to unveil SpaceX's Mars roadmap next September. But on another front, Musk has also been thinking about developing an electric airplane capable of taking off and landing vertically. While answering a few questions during a Q&A session at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Award Ceremony last week, Musk was asked what his 'next great idea' was. The answer? Electric-powered air travel.
Firefox

Firefox Adopts a 6-8 Week Variable Release Schedule (mozilla.org) 223

AmiMoJo writes: Four years ago Mozilla moved to a fixed-schedule release model, otherwise known as the Train Model, in which we released Firefox every six weeks to get features and updates to users faster. Now Mozilla is moving to a variable 6-8 week cycle, with the same number of releases per year but some flexibility to 'respond to emerging user and market needs' and allow time for holidays. The new release schedule looks like this:
  • 2016-01-26 – Firefox 44
  • 2016-03-08 – Firefox 45, ESR 45 (6 weeks cycle)
  • 2016-04-19 – Firefox 46 (6 weeks cycle)
  • 2016-06-07 – Firefox 47 (7 weeks cycle)
  • 2016-08-02 – Firefox 48 (8 weeks cycle)
  • 2016-09-13 – Firefox 49 (6 weeks cycle)
  • 2016-11-08 – Firefox 50 (8 weeks cycle)
  • 2016-12-13 – Firefox 50.0.1 (5 week cycle, release for critical fixes as needed)
  • 2017-01-24 – Firefox 51 (6 weeks from prior release)

Power

Ask Slashdot: Surge Protection For International Travel? 117

New submitter gaiageek writes: As someone who has lost a laptop power supply (and thus use of the laptop) due to a late-night power surge while traveling in a developing country, I'm acutely aware of the need for surge protection when traveling abroad. While practically all laptop and phone power adapters these days are voltage auto-sensing 100V-240V compatible, most so-called "travel" surge protectors are restricted to either 110V or 220V. Given the space and weight constraints of carry-on only travel, I'd like to avoid having to carry two separate surge protectors knowing I may go from Central America (110V) to Southeast Asia (220V). Strangely, laptop specific surge protectors typically are 100V-240V compatible, but this doesn't provide protection for a phone or tablet that requires the original power supply (can't be charged from a notebook USB port).

Is there really no solution out there short using a 110V-240V notebook surge protector with an adapter to go from a "cloverleaf" notebook plug to a 5-15R (standard US) plug receptacle?
Social Networks

Facebook Knocks "Six Degrees of Separation" Down a Few Notches (i-programmer.info) 88

mikejuk writes: Six degrees of separation is the, already well established, idea that any individual is connected to any other via six network nodes. New research has discovered that the average between Facebook users is just three and a half: "We know that people are more connected today than ever before. Over the past five years, the global Facebook community has more than doubled in size. Today we're announcing that during that same time period, the degrees of separation between a typical pair of Facebook users has continued to decrease to 3.57 degrees, down from 3.74 degrees in 2011. This is a significant reflection of how closely connected the world has become." This may all be true and Facebook makes us better connected, but it leaves the question of the quality of the connections open. Are Facebook friends anything like real friends?
Businesses

Startup Uses Sensor Networks To Debug Science Experiments (xconomy.com) 18

gthuang88 writes: Environmental factors like temperature, humidity, or lighting often derail life science experiments. Now Elemental Machines, a startup from the founders of Misfit Wearables, is trying to help scientists debug experiments using distributed sensors and machine-learning software to detect anomalies. The product is in beta testing with academic labs and biotech companies. The goal is to help speed up things like biology research and drug development. Wiring up experiments is part of a broader effort to create "smart labs" that automate some of the scientific process.
Technology

World's Smallest Optical Switch Uses a Single Atom (gizmag.com) 38

Zothecula writes: The rapid and on-going development of micro-miniature optical electronic devices is helping to usher in a new era of photonic computers and light-based memories that promise super-fast processor speeds and ultra-secure communications. However, as these components are shrunk ever further, fundamental limits to their dimensions are dictated by the wavelength of light itself. Now researchers at ETH Zurich claim to have overcome this limitation by creating both the world's smallest optical switch using a single atom, and accompanying circuitry that appears to break the rules by being smaller than the wavelength of the light that passes through it.
Facebook

Study Finds Sleep Deprivation Increases Compulsive Facebook Usage (thestack.com) 50

An anonymous reader writes: A study at UC Irvine has taken a reverse approach to the customary interest in the relationship between technology and tiredness, finding that people who make themselves tired through excessive use of social media such as Facebook are considerably more likely to continue compulsive use of it and deepen their exhaustion. Lead researcher Gloria Mark says "If you're being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It's lightweight, it's easy, and you're tired."
Windows

Windows 10 Gets Core Console Host Enhancements (nivot.org) 239

x0n writes: As of Windows 10 TH2 (10.0.1058), the core console subsystem has support for a large number of ANSI and VT100 escape sequences. This is likely to prepare for full Open SSH server/client integration, which is already underway over on github. It looks like xterm is finally coming to Windows. OpenSSH was previously announced (last year) by the very forward-looking PowerShell team. The linked article provides some context, and explains that the console host isn't the same as either cmd.exe or powershell.exe, but there is a lot of overlap in functionality.
Displays

Unreal Engine Will Soon Allow Developers To Build Games Inside of VR (roadtovr.com) 34

An anonymous reader writes: Epic Games, the creators of Unreal Engine, has been a longstanding supporter of VR. They were on board way back when Oculus sparked the VR industry in 2012 with a Kickstarter that would snowball into a rekindling of consumer virtual reality. Having been one of the first major game engines to support VR headsets like the Rift, the company has been aggressively positioning Unreal Engine as the go-to tool for VR developers. Now they're taking a massive next step, showing the first look at bringing developers themselves inside of virtual reality to craft games with the full set of UE4 tools at their fingertips. That means that developers can place and manipulate objects from right within a world in progress; the video demo in the linked story is impressive.
Bitcoin

Ask Slashdot: Time To Get Into Crypto-currency? If So, Which? 259

Qbertino writes: With the ever-looming cyberpunk future in close proximity, I'm starting to wonder if it isn't time to get myself familiar with crypto currency as a means of trade. Bitcoin is all the hype, but the blockchain has flaws, in that it isn't as anonymous as one would hope for — you can track past transactions. Rumors of Bitcoin showing cracks are popping up and also there are quite a few alternatives out there. So I have some questions: Is getting into dealing with crypto currency worthwhile already? Is Bitcoin the way to go, or will it falter under wide use / become easily trackable once NSA and the likes adapt their systems to doing exactly that? What digital currency has the technical and mind-share potential to supersede bitcoin? Are there feasible cryptocurrencies that have the upsides of Bitcoin (such as a mathematical limit to their amount) but are fully anonymous in transactions? What do the economists and digi-currency nerds here have to contribute on that? What are your experiences with handling and holding cryptocurrency? And does Bitcoin own the market or is it still flexible enough for an technology upgrade?
Microsoft

Even With Telemetry Disabled, Windows 10 Talks To Dozens of Microsoft Servers (voat.co) 550

An esteemed reader writes: Curious about the various telemetry and personal information being collected by Windows 10, one user installed Windows 10 Enterprise and disabled all of the telemetry and reporting options. Then he configured his router to log all the connections that happened anyway. Even after opting out wherever possible, his firewall captured Windows making around 4,000 connection attempts to 93 different IP addresses during an 8 hour period, with most of those IPs controlled by Microsoft. Even the enterprise version of Windows 10 is checking in with Redmond when you tell it not to — and it's doing so frequently.

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