DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Could We Build A Global Wireless Mesh Network? 49

An anonymous reader wants to start a grassroots effort to build a self-organizing global radio mesh network where every device can communicate with every other device -- and without any central authority. There is nothing in the rules of mathematics or laws of physics that prevents such a system. But how would you break the problem up so it could be crowdfunded and sourced? How would you build the radios? And what about government spectrum rules... How would you persuade governments to allow for the use of say, 1%, of the spectrum for an unlicensed mesh experiment? In the U.S. it would probably take an Act of Congress to overrule the FCC but a grassroots effort with potential for major technology advances backed by celebrity scientists might be enough to tilt the issue but would there be enough motivation?
Is this feasible? Would it amass enough volunteers, advocates, and enthusiastic users? Would it become a glorious example of geeks uniting the world -- or a doomed fantasy with no practical applications. Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Could we build a global wireless mesh network?
Networking

Russian-Controlled Telecom Hijacks Traffic For Mastercard, Visa, And 22 Other Services (arstechnica.com) 39

An anonymous reader quotes the security editor at Ars Technica: On Wednesday, large chunks of network traffic belonging to MasterCard, Visa, and more than two dozen other financial services companies were briefly routed through a Russian government-controlled telecom under unexplained circumstances that renew lingering questions about the trust and reliability of some of the most sensitive Internet communications.

Anomalies in the border gateway protocol -- which routes large-scale amounts of traffic among Internet backbones, ISPs, and other large networks -- are common and usually the result of human error. While it's possible Wednesday's five- to seven-minute hijack of 36 large network blocks may also have been inadvertent, the high concentration of technology and financial services companies affected made the incident "curious" to engineers at network monitoring service BGPmon. What's more, the way some of the affected networks were redirected indicated their underlying prefixes had been manually inserted into BGP tables, most likely by someone at Rostelecom, the Russian government-controlled telecom that improperly announced ownership of the blocks.

AI

Amazon's Alexa Can Now Whisper, Bleep Out Swear Words, and Change Its Pitch (theverge.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amazon is trying to make its Alexa voice assistant sound more humanlike. Up until now, the female-sounding voice maintained an even, monotone cadence whenever speaking, but with Amazon's new Speech Synthesis Markup Language that the company introduced this week, Alexa can whisper, vary its speaking speed, and bleep out words. Developers can also add pauses, change the pronunciation of a word, spell a word out, add audio snippets, and insert special words and phrases into their skill. The Verge notes that "the language markups are [only] available to developers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany." Amazon will also be hosting a webinar on May 18th on the new code.
Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Wirelessly Charging Your iPhone Via Wi-Fi Routers (appleinsider.com) 136

According to AppleInsider, "Apple is experimenting with medium- to long-distance wireless charging technologies that could one day allow users to charge up their iPhones with nothing more than a Wi-Fi router." From the report: Detailed in Apple's patent application for "Wireless Charging and Communications Systems With Dual-Frequency Patch Antennas" is a method for transferring power to electronic devices over frequencies normally dedicated to data communications. In its various embodiments, the invention notes power transfer capabilities over any suitable wireless communications link, including cellular between 700 MHz and 2700 MHz, and Wi-Fi operating at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. More specifically, the document's claims apply to millimeter wave 802.11ad spectrum channels currently in use by the WiGig standard, which operates over the 60 GHz frequency band. Theoretically, the proposal opens the door to wire-free charging from in-home Wi-Fi routers to cellular nodes and even satellite signals. Of course, amplitude in a wireless system is normally a function of distance. Like conventional wireless charging techniques, Apple's design requires two devices -- a transmitter and receiver -- to function. Each device contains one or more antennas coupled to wireless circuitry capable of making phase and magnitude adjustments to transmitted and received signals. Such hardware can be employed in dynamic beam steering operations.
The Almighty Buck

Apple Is In Talks To Launch Its Own Venmo (recode.net) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: The company has recently held discussions with payments industry partners about introducing its own Venmo competitor, according to multiple sources familiar with the talks. The service would allow iPhone owners to send money digitally to other iPhone owners, these people said. One source familiar with the plans told Recode they expect the company to announce the new service later this year. Another cautioned that an announcement and launch date may not yet be set. The new Apple product would compete with offerings from big U.S. banks as well as PayPal, its millennial-popular subsidiary Venmo, as well as Square Cash in the increasingly competitive world of digital money-transfers. Apple has also recently held discussions with Visa about creating its own pre-paid cards that would run on the Visa debit network and which would be tied to the new peer-to-peer service, sources told Recode. People would be able to use the Apple cards to spend money sent to them through the new service, without having to wait for it to clear to their bank account.
Privacy

'World's Most Secure' Email Service Is Easily Hackable (vice.com) 77

Nomx, a startup that offers an email client by the same name, bills itself as the maker of the "world's most secure email service." The startup goes on to suggest that "everything else is insecure." So it was only a matter of time before someone decided to spend some time on assessing how valid Nomx's claims are. Very misleading, it turns out. From a report on Motherboard: Nomx sells a $199 device that essentially helps you set up your own email server in an attempt to keep your emails away from mail exchange (or MX) -- hence the brand name -- servers, which the company claims to be inherently "vulnerable." Security researcher Scott Helme took apart the device and tried to figure out how it really works. According to his detailed blog post, what he found is that the box is actually just a Raspberry Pi with outdated software on it, and several bugs. So many, in fact, that Helme wrote Nomx's "code is riddled with bad examples of how to do things." The worst issue, Helme explained, is that the Nomx's web application had a vulnerability that allowed anyone to take full control of the device remotely just by tricking someone to visit a malicious website. "I could read emails, send emails, and delete emails. I could even create my own email address," Helme told Motherboard in an online chat. A report on BBC adds: Nomx said the threat posed by the attack detailed by Mr Helme was "non-existent for our users." Following weeks of correspondence with Mr Helme and the BBC Click Team, he said the firm no longer shipped versions that used the Raspberry Pi. Instead, he said, future devices would be built around different chips that would also be able to encrypt messages as they travelled. "The large cloud providers and email providers, like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail - they've already been proven that they are under attack millions of times daily," he said. "Why we invented Nomx was for the security of keeping your data off those large cloud providers. To date, no Nomx accounts have been compromised."
China

Chinese, European Space Agencies In Talks To Build a Moon Base (techcrunch.com) 88

ESA's Pal Hvistendahl has confirmed via Bloomberg that Chinese and European space agencies are talking with one another about plans to build a base on the moon. The discussions "involve working together to build a human-occupied 'moon village' from which both agencies can potentially launch Mars missions, conduct research, and possibly explore commercial mining and tourism projects," reports TechCrunch. From the report: China's upcoming projects in space include a mission to collect samples from the moon via an uncrewed craft by the end of this year, and to also launch an exploratory mission to the far side of the moon next year, with the similar aim of returning samples for study. The ESA's collaboration with China thus far include participating in the study of those returned samples, and potentially sending a European astronaut to the Chinese space station (which is currently unoccupied) at some future date.
Government

FCC Announces Plan To Reverse Title II Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 201

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Federal Communications Commission is cracking open the net neutrality debate again with a proposal to undo the 2015 rules that implemented net neutrality with Title II classification. FCC chairman Ajit Pai called the rules "heavy handed" and said their implementation was "all about politics." He argued that they hurt investment and said that small internet providers don't have "the means or the margins" to withstand the regulatory onslaught. "Earlier today I shared with my fellow commissioners a proposal to reverse the mistake of Title II and return to the light touch framework that served us so well during the Clinton administration, Bush administration, and first six years of the Obama administration," Pai said today. His proposal will do three things: first, it'll reclassify internet providers as Title I information services; second, it'll prevent the FCC from adapting any net neutrality rules to practices that internet providers haven't thought up yet; and third, it'll open questions about what to do with several key net neutrality rules -- like no blocking or throttling of apps and websites -- that were implemented in 2015. Pai will publish the full text of his proposal tomorrow, and it will be voted on by the FCC on May 18th.
Medicine

An Artificial Womb Successfully Grew Baby Sheep -- and Humans Could Be Next (theverge.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop -- much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus -- but right now, it has only been tested on sheep. The Biobag may not look much like a womb, but it contains the same key parts: a clear plastic bag that encloses the fetal lamb and protects it from the outside world, like the uterus would; an electrolyte solution that bathes the lamb similarly to the amniotic fluid in the uterus; and a way for the fetus to circulate its blood and exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. Flake and his colleagues published their results today in the journal Nature Communications.
AT&T

AT&T Brings Fiber To Rich Areas While the Rest Are Stuck On DSL, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 166

According to a new study from UC Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, AT&T has been focused on deploying fiber-to-the-home in the higher-income neighborhoods of California, giving wealthy people access to gigabit internet while others are stuck with DSL internet that doesn't even meet state and federal broadband standards. Ars Technica reports: California households with access to AT&T's fiber service have a median income of $94,208, according to "AT&T's Digital Divide in California," in which the Haas Institute analyzed Federal Communications Commission data from June 2016. The study was funded by the Communications Workers of America, an AT&T workers' union that's been involved in contentious negotiations with the company. By contrast, the median household income is $53,186 in California neighborhoods where AT&T provides only DSL, with download speeds typically ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps. At the low end, that's less than 1 percent of the gigabit speeds offered by AT&T's fiber service. The median income in areas with U-verse VDSL, which ranges from 12Mbps to 75Mbps, is $67,021. In 4.1 million California households, representing 42.8 percent of AT&T's California service area, AT&T's fastest speeds fell short of the federal broadband definition of 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads, the report said.
Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer Will Make $186 Million on Yahoo's Sale To Verizon (cnbc.com) 156

Vindu Goel, reporting for the NYTimes: Yahoo shareholders will vote June 8 on whether to sell the company's internet businesses to Verizon Communications for $4.48 billion. A yes vote, which is widely expected, would end Marissa Mayer's largely unsuccessful five-year effort to restore the internet pioneer to greatness. But Ms. Mayer, the company's chief executive, will be well compensated for her failure. Her Yahoo stock, stock options and restricted stock units are worth a total of $186 million, based on Monday's stock price of $48.15, according to data filed on Monday in the documents sent to shareholders about the Verizon deal. That compensation, which will be fully vested at the time of the shareholder vote, does not include her salary and bonuses over the past five years, or the value of other stock that Ms. Mayer has already sold. All told, her time at Yahoo will have netted her well over $200 million, according to calculations based on company filings.
Businesses

Square Said To Acquire Team From Struggling Social App Yik Yak (bloomberg.com) 15

According to Bloomberg, Square has acquired the engineering team of Yik Yak for "less than $3 million." From the report: The payments processor paid less than $3 million for between five and ten of Yik Yak's engineers, according to the person. Atlanta-based Yik Yak's Chief Executive Officer Tyler Droll will not join Square, the person added, asking not to be identified talking about a private matter. Atlanta-based Yik Yak, which started in 2013, created a smartphone app that allowed people to contribute to anonymous chat groups in a narrow geographical radius -- like college campuses.
The Internet

Verizon's $70 Gigabit Internet Is Half the Price of Older 750Mbps Tier (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon is now selling what it calls "FiOS Gigabit Connection" for $69.99 a month in a change that boosts top broadband speeds and makes lower prices available to many Internet subscribers. Actual bandwidth will be a bit lower than a gigabit per second, with "downloads as fast as 940Mbps and uploads as fast as 880Mbps," Verizon's announcement today said. The gigabit service is available in most of Verizon's FiOS territory, specifically to "over 8 million homes in parts of the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Providence and Washington, D.C. areas," Verizon said. Just three months ago, Verizon boosted its top speeds from 500Mbps to 750Mbps. The standalone 750Mbps Internet service cost $150 a month, more than twice the price of the new gigabit tier. Existing customers who bought that 750Mbps plan "will automatically receive FiOS Gigabit Connection and will see their bills lowered," Verizon said. It's not clear whether they will get their price lowered all the way to $70. It's important to note that the $70 price is only available to new customers, and it's a promotional rate that will "increase after promo period." Additionally, Verizon will charge you a $10 per month router charge unless you pay $150 for the Verizon router, plus other taxes and fees.
The Internet

America's Most-Hated ISP Is Now Hated By Fewer People (oregonlive.com) 97

"Comcast's customer service may actually be improving," writes an Oregon newspaper. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In the second year of Comcast's broad customer service overhaul, complaints to Oregon cable regulators are down 25%. They've also declined 40% since 2014. Complaints are falling nationally, too, according to the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. Its most recent report showed a surge in Comcast subscriber satisfaction... Two years ago, Comcast made Oregon the test bed for its customer service push, responding both to disparaging headlines and the prospect of growing competition from other telecom companies and from streaming video services.

The company is adding Apple-style retail stores around the metro area and introduced innovations to help consumers understand what they're paying for and when technicians will arrive for service calls. It's rolling out new tools nationally to help them improve their home Wi-Fi, and diagnosing problems before customers call to complain... For example, if several subscribers in the same neighborhood use the company's tool for testing internet speeds, that triggers an alert at Comcast to look for a problem in the local network. The company redesigned its bills to make it clearer what customers subscribe to, and what it costs, in hopes of reducing confusion and calls. And Comcast has a robust social media presence, fielding complaints on Twitter.

The article points out that Comcast's satisfaction scores are still below-average for cable TV providers, "and well below the median among internet service providers. And that's a low bar -- the telecom sector is among the most complained about under ACSI's rankings." Their figures show that the only ISPs in America with a lower score for customer satisfaction are Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and MediaCom.
Education

Slashdot Asks: What Was Your First Programming Language? (stanforddaily.com) 630

This question was inspired by news that Stanford's computer science professor Eric Roberts will try JavaScript instead of Java in a new version of the college's introductory computer programming course. The Stanford Daily reports: When Roberts came to Stanford in 1990, CS106A was still taught in Pascal, a programming language he described as not "clean." The department adopted the C language in 1992. When Java came out in 1995, the computer science faculty was excited to transition to the new language. Roberts wrote the textbooks, worked with other faculty members to restructure the course and assignments and introduced Java at Stanford in 2002... "Java had stabilized," Roberts said. "It was clear that many universities were going in that direction. It's 2017 now, and Java is showing its age." According to Roberts, Java was intended early on as "the language of the Internet". But now, more than a decade after the transition to Java, Javascript has taken its place as a web language.
In 2014 Python and Java were the two most commonly-taught languages at America's top universities, according to an analysis published by the Communications of the ACM. And Java still remains the most-commonly taught language in a university setting, according to a poll by the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. In a spreadsheet compiling the results, "Python appears 60 times, C++ 54 times, Java 84 times, and JavaScript 28 times," writes a computing professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, adding "if Java is dying (or "showing its age"...) it's going out as the reigning champ."

I'm guessing Slashdot's readers have their own opinions about this, so share your educational experiences in the comments. What was your first programming language?
The Internet

Apple Hires Top Google Satellite Executives For New Hardware Team (theverge.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google's spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.'s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. With the recruits, Apple is bringing into its ranks two experts in the demanding, expensive field of satellite design and operation. At the moment, these endeavors typically fall into two fields: satellites for collecting images and those for communications. In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It's unclear if those talks will result in a deal. At the annual Satellite 2017 conference in Washington D.C. last month, industry insiders said Boeing's project was being funded by Apple, Tim Farrar, a satellite and telecom consultant at TMF Associates Inc., wrote in a recent blog. A Boeing spokesman declined to comment.
The Internet

Trump's FCC Votes To Allow Broadband Rate Hikes Will Deprive More Public Schools From Getting Internet Access (theoutline.com) 257

The FCC voted on Thursday to approve a controversial plan to deregulate the $45 billion market for business-to-business broadband, also known as Business Data Services (BDS), by eliminating price caps that make internet access more affordable for thousands of small businesses, schools, libraries and hospitals. The Outline adds: The price caps were designed to keep phone and, later, broadband, access cheap for community institutions like schools, hospitals, libraries, and small businesses. Now, there will be no limit. A spokesperson for the trade association Incompas, which advocates for competition among communications providers, told The Outline that the increase is expected to be at least 25 percent across the board. Low-income schools already don't have enough money; according to a report last year in The Atlantic, schools in high-poverty districts, where the property taxes are lower, spend 15.6 percent less per student than schools in low-poverty districts. If internet costs go up by 25 percent, it may make more sense to cut that budget item, or, for schools that still don't have internet, never add it at all. Add it to the list of things that well-funded schools in already-rich neighborhoods get that schools in low-income neighborhoods don't. New textbooks. Gyms. Advanced Placement classes that let students earn college credits. Computers. Internet access.
Communications

Inside Elon Musk's New Company Neuralink Which Aims To Fight Brain Conditions And Help Humanity Survive in the Age of AI (waitbutwhy.com) 63

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has confirmed plans for his newest company, called Neuralink Corp, revealing he will be the chief executive of a startup that aims to merge computers with brains so humans could one day engage in "consensual telepathy." In an interview with explainer website Wait But Why (36,000-word), Musk said Neuralink aims to implant tiny brain electrodes that first would be used to fight brain conditions but later help humanity avoid subjugation at the hands of intelligent machines. From the report: "There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing," Musk said. "That's what language is, your brain has executed a compression algorithm on thought, on concept transfer. If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person." Musk says he expects the project to take eight to 10 years before being usable by people with no disability. He anticipates tons of regulatory challenges in his way.
Television

FCC Takes First Step Toward Allowing More Broadcast TV Mergers (theverge.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In a divided vote today, the Federal Communications Commission took steps that could lead to more consolidation among TV broadcasters, reducing the number of sources of local news. Today's changes revolve around the media ownership cap -- a limit on how many households a TV or radio broadcaster is allowed to reach. The rules are meant to promote diversity of media ownership, giving consumers access to different content and viewpoints. The cap currently prevents a company from reaching no more than 39 percent of U.S. households with broadcast TV. Large broadcasters hate the cap because it prevents them from getting even bigger. And since Trump took office and Ajit Pai was named chairman of the FCC, they've been lobbying to have it revised. The FCC's vote today starts to do that. First, it reinstates a rule known as the "UHF discount," which lets broadcasters have a bigger reach in areas where they use a certain type of technology. And second, it starts plans to revisit and raise the media ownership cap.
Communications

Microsoft's Skype Is Most Used Messaging Service For Cyber Criminals, Study Finds (securityledger.com) 57

chicksdaddy quotes a report from The Security Ledger: Cyber criminals lurk in the dark recesses of the internet, striking at random and then disappearing into the virtual ether. But when they want to talk shop with their colleagues, they turn to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and its Skype communications tools, according to an analysis by the firm Flashpoint. Mentions of different platforms were used as a proxy for gauging interest in and use of these messaging services. Flashpoint analysts looked, especially, for invitations to continue conversation outside of cyber criminal marketplaces, like references to ICQ accounts or other platforms. The survey results show that, out of a population of around 80 instant messenger platforms and protocols, a short list of just five platforms accounts for between 80% and 90% of all mentions within the cyber underground. Of those, Microsoft's Skype was the chat king. It ranked among the top five platforms across all language groups. That, despite the platform's lack of end-to-end encryption or forward secrecy features and evidence, courtesy of NSA hacker Edward Snowden, that U.S. spies may have snooped on Skype video calls in recent years, The Security Ledger reports. The conclusion: while security is a priority amongst thieves, it isn't the sole concern that cyber criminals and their associates have. In fact, sophisticated hacking communities like those in Russia to continue to rely on legacy platforms like ICQ when provably more secure alternatives exist. The reason? Business. "These cyber criminals have a lot of different options that they're juggling and a lot of factors that weigh on their options," said Leroy Terrelonge III, the Director of Middle East and Africa Research at Flashpoint. "We might suspect that cyber criminals use the most secure means of communication all the time, that's not what our research showed."

Slashdot Top Deals