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Seth's Blog: Hardware is Sexy, But It's Software that Matters (

American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin argues that though hardware is nice and dandy, it is the software that matters. And not just software that runs on a computer, "but the metaphorical idea of rules and algorithms designed to solve problems and connect people," he writes. Godin has used the piece to note how Apple has increasingly grown focused on hardware, and as a result, it's not putting much effort to fixing its software. He writes, "Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and because it's free, no competitors. Keynote, a presentation program that hasn't been improved in years. iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty. iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon. No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc. Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade ago, but they've stopped. Think about how many leaps forward Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software over the last few decades. But it requires a significant commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the status quo and creating something new." From the article: Software can change faster than hardware, which means that in changing markets, bet on software. It's tempting to treat the user interface as a piece of fashion, some bling, a sort of jewelry. It's not. It's the way your user controls the tool you build. Change it when it stops working, not when you're bored with it. Every time you change the interface, you better have a really good reason.John Gruber disagrees. He writes: Software, in general, is much better than it used to be. Unlike 1995, we don't lose data due to bugs very often. (For me personally, I can't even remember the last time I lost data.) But our hardware is so much better than our software, the contrast is jarring. An iPhone is a nearly perfect object. Sleek, attractive, simple. The hardware is completely knowable -- there are only five buttons, each of them easily understood. iOS, however, is effectively infinite. The deeper our software gets, the less we know and understand it. It's unsettling.

Apple Releases iOS 10.1 With New Portrait Mode For iPhone 7 Plus ( 7

Apple has released iOS 10.1 to the public today for all iOS 10 users, and with it comes several new features, a long list of bug fixes, and various other under-the-hood improvements. One of the biggest new features introduced is a new "Portrait" mode, which uses the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus to create shallow depth of field portrait photos with plenty of background bokeh. MacRumors reports: To achieve the blurred look, the image signal processor in the device uses the wide-angle camera to create a depth map while the telephoto captures an image, dissecting the different layers of the photo to decide what to blur with an artful "bokeh" effect. It works on people, pets, and objects, but it does require good lighting to achieve the proper results. The update also [...] brings Transit directions to Japan for the first time. There have been some tweets to the Messages app. It's now possible to play Bubble and Screen effects in Messages with Reduce Motion enabled, something that wasn't previously possible. There's also a new option to replay Bubble and Screen effects. It's important to the note that the "Portrait" mode is still in beta, and will not work flawlessly. Mac Rumors has a full list of the changes made to iOS 10.1 embedded in their report, which you can view here.

Slashdot Asks: How Can We Prevent Packet-Flooding DDOS Attacks? ( 289

Just last month Brian Krebs wrote "What appears to be missing is any sense of urgency to address the DDoS threat on a coordinated, global scale," warning that countless ISPs still weren't implementing the BCP38 security standard, which was released "more than a dozen years ago" to filter spoofed traffic. That's one possible solution, but Slashdot reader dgallard suggests the PEIP and Fair Service proposals by Don Cohen: PEIP (Path Enhanced IP) extends the IP protocol to enable determining the router path of packets sent to a target host. Currently, there is no information to indicate which routers a packet traversed on its way to a destination (DDOS target), enabling use of forged source IP addresses to attack the target via packet flooding... Rather than attempting to prevent attack packets, instead PEIP provides a way to rate-limit all packets based on their router path to a destination.
I've also heard people suggest "just unplug everything," but on Friday the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Mim suggested another point of leverage, tweeting "We need laws that allow civil and/or criminal penalties for companies that sell systems this insecure." Is the best solution technical or legislative -- and does it involve hardware or software? Leave your best thoughts in the comments. How can we prevent packet-flooding DDOS attacks?

US Police Consider Flying Drones Armed With Stun Guns ( 142

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace tipped us off to news reports that U.S. police officials are considering the use of flying drones to taser their suspects. From Digital Trends: Talks have recently taken place between police officials and Taser International, a company that makes stun guns and body cameras for use by law enforcement, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. While no decision has yet been made on whether to strap stun guns to remotely controlled quadcopters, Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said his team were discussing the idea with officials as part of broader talks about "various future concepts."

Tuttle told the Journal that such technology could be deployed in "high-risk scenarios such as terrorist barricades" to incapacitate the suspect rather than kill them outright... However, critics are likely to fear that such a plan would ultimately lead to the police loading up drones with guns and other weapons. Portland police department's Pete Simpson told the Journal that while a Taser drone could be useful in some circumstances, getting the public "to accept an unmanned vehicle that's got some sort of weapon on it might be a hurdle to overcome."

The article points out that there's already a police force in India with flying drones equipped with pepper spray.

Researchers Predict Next-Gen Batteries Will Last 10 Times Longer ( 163

Lithium-metal electrodes could increase the storage capacity of batteries 10-fold, predict researchers at the University of Michigan, allowing electric cars to drive from New York to Denver without recharging. Using a $100 piece of technology, the team is now peeking inside charging batteries to study the formation of "dendrites," which consume liquid electrolytes and reduce capacity. Slashdot reader Eloking quotes New Atlas: Battery cells are normally tested through cycles of charge and discharge, testing the capacity and flow potential of the cells before being dissected. Dasgupta and his team...added a window to a lithium cell so that they could film the dendrites forming and deforming during charge and discharge cycles.
In a video interview they're reporting that dendrites can actually help a battery if they form a small, even "carpet" inside of the battery which "can keep more lithium in play." According to the article, "The future of lithium-ion batteries is limited, says University of Michigan researcher Neil Dasgupta, because the chemistry cannot be pushed much further than it already has. Next-generation lithium cells will likely use lithium air and lithium sulfur chemistries."

VeraCrypt Security Audit Reveals Many Flaws, Some Already Patched ( 71

Orome1 quotes Help Net Security: VeraCrypt, the free, open source disk encryption software based on TrueCrypt, has been audited by experts from cybersecurity company Quarkslab. The researchers found 8 critical, 3 medium, and 15 low-severity vulnerabilities, and some of them have already been addressed in version 1.19 of the software, which was released on the same day as the audit report [which has mitigations for the still-unpatched vulnerabilities].
Anyone want to share their experiences with VeraCrypt? Two Quarkslab engineers spent more than a month on the audit, which was funded (and requested) by the non-profit Open Source Technology Improvement Fund "to evaluate the security of the features brought by VeraCrypt since the publication of the audit results on TrueCrypt 7.1a conducted by the Open Crypto Audit Project." Their report concludes that VeraCrypt's security "is improving which is a good thing for people who want to use a disk encryption software," adding that its main developer "was very positive along the audit, answering all questions, raising issues, discussing findings constructively..."

Will Tesla Install Home Solar Panels To Charge Cars? ( 81

Earlier this week, Tesla signed a non-binding agreement to buy solar cells from a new Panasonic factory in Buffalo, New York -- but it's part of a much bigger maneuver. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "If all goes to plan, Tesla will be supplying customers with the solar panels that generate electricity that could then be used to charge the battery in their Tesla car or the battery in the Tesla Powerwall home energy storage system," reports the Christian Science Monitor. The Wall Street Journal reports that Musk's SolarCity "will sell, finance and install the panels."

But the Buffalo News suggests the deal is really "aimed squarely at skeptical shareholders" who may be leary of a proposed merger between Tesla and SolarCity," which one analyst calculates will require nearly $6 billion in extra capital. Panasonic could help shoulder the costs of the Buffalo factory, while also putting a more experienced manufacturer in charge of producing high-efficiency solar modules.

The Stack reports some shareholders have actually filed a lawsuit against the merger.

Mirai and Bashlight Join Forces Against DNS Provider Dyn ( 56

A second wave of attacks has hit dynamic domain name service provider Dyn, affecting a larger number of providers. As researchers and government officials race to figure out what is causing the outages, new details are emerging. Dan Drew, chief security officer at Level 3 Communications, says the attack is at least in part being mounted from a "botnet" of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. "We're seeing attacks coming from a number of different locations," Drew said. "An Internet of Things botnet called Mirai that we identified is also involved in the attack." Ars Technica reports: The botnet, made up of devices like home WiFi routers and internet protocol video cameras, is sending massive numbers of requests to Dyn's DNS service. Those requests look legitimate, so it's difficult for Dyn's systems to screen them out from normal domain name lookup requests. Earlier this month, the code for the Mirai botnet was released publicly. It may have been used in the massive DDoS attack against security reporter Brian Krebs. Mirai and another IoT botnet called Bashlight exploit a common vulnerability in BusyBox, a pared-down version of the Linux operating system used in embedded devices. Mirai and Bashlight have recently been responsible for attacks of massive scale, including the attacks on Krebs, which at one point reached a traffic volume of 620 gigabits per second. Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of the content delivery and DDoS protection service provider CloudFlare, said that the attack being used against Dyn is an increasingly common one. The attacks append random strings of text to the front of domain names, making them appear like new, legitimate requests for the addresses of systems with a domain. Caching the results to speed up responses is impossible. Prince told Ars: "They're tough attacks to stop because they often get channeled through recursive providers. They're not cacheable because of the random prefix. We started seeing random prefix attacks like these three years ago, and they remain a very common attack. If IoT devices are being used, that would explain the size and scale [and how the attack] would affect: someone the size of Dyn."

Prosecutors Say NSA Contractor Could Flee To Foreign Power ( 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: The NSA contractor accused of stealing a gargantuan amount of sensitive and classified data from the U.S. government was studying Russian before he was arrested and would be a "prime target" for foreign spies should he be released on bail, prosecutors argued ahead of a court hearing for Harold Martin, III, today. The government said it is "readily apparent to every foreign counterintelligence professional and nongovernmental actor that the Defendant has access to highly classified information, whether in his head, in still-hidden physical locations, or stored in cyberspace -- and he has demonstrated absolutely no interest in protecting it. This makes the Defendant a prime target, and his release would seriously endanger the safety of the country and potentially even the Defendant himself." Prosecutors noted that Martin purportedly communicated online "with others in languages other than English, including in Russian" and that he had downloaded information on the Russian language just a couple months before he was arrested in August. Martin's attorneys, however, said in their own court filing Thursday that there is still no evidence he "intended to betray his country" and argued that he was not a flight risk. All the talk of foreign spies and potential getaway plans, the defense said, were "fantastical scenarios." Martin's defense team said in part: "The government concocts fantastical scenarios in which Mr. Martin -- who, by the government's own admission, does not possess a valid passport -- would attempt to flee the country. Mr. Martin's wife is here in Maryland. His home is here in Maryland. He hash served this country honorably as a lieutenant in the United States Navy, and he has devoted his entire career to serving his country. There is no evidence he intended to betray his country. The government simply does not meet its burden of showing that no conditions of release would reasonably assure Mr. Martin's future appearance in court. For these reasons, and additional reasons to be discussed at the detention hearing, Mr. Martin should be released on conditions pending trial."

UPDATE 10/21/16: Slashdot reader chromaexursion writes: "Harold Martin was denied bail. The judge agreed the the prosecution in his decision."

First New US Nuclear Reactor In 20 Years Goes Live ( 341

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The Tennessee Valley Authority is celebrating an event 43 years in the making: the completion of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. In 1973, the TVA, one of the nation's largest public power providers, began building two reactors that combined promised to generate enough power to light up 1.3 million homes. The first reactor, delayed by design flaws, eventually went live in 1996. Now, after billions of dollars in budget overruns, the second reactor has finally started sending power to homes and businesses. Standing in front of both reactors Wednesday, TVA President Bill Johnson said Watts Bar 2, the first U.S. reactor to enter commercial operation in 20 years, would offer clean, cheap and reliable energy to residents of several southern states for at least another generation. Before Watts Bar 2, the last time an American reactor had fired up was in 1996. It was Watts Bar 1 -- and according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it cost $6.8 billion, far greater than the original price tag at $370 million. In the 2000s, some American power companies, faced with growing environmental regulations, eyed nuclear power again as a top alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and oil. A handful of companies, taking advantage of federal loan guarantees from the Bush administration, revived nuclear reactor proposals in a period now known as the so-called "nuclear renaissance." Eventually, nuclear regulators started to green light new reactors, including ones in Georgia and South Carolina. In 2007, the TVA resumed construction on Watts Bar 2, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The TVA originally said it would take five years to complete. The TVA, which today serves seven different southern states, relies on nuclear power to light up approximately 4.5 million homes. Watts Bar 2, the company's seventh operating reactor, reaffirms its commitment to nukes for at least four more decades, Johnson said Wednesday. In the end, TVA required more than five years to build the project. The final cost, far exceeding its initial budget, stood at $4.7 billion.

iPhone 7 Plus Qualcomm LTE Modem Significantly Outperforms Intel LTE Modem, Study Finds ( 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: With the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple elected to use LTE modems from two different sources, Qualcomm and Intel. The A1778 and A1784 iPhone models use a GSM-only Intel XMM7360 modem while the A1660 and 1661 iPhone models use a GSM/CDMA-compatible Qualcomm MDM9645M modem. Apple's decision has already caused some disappointment among customers because the GSM-only Intel modem is not compatible with as many carrier networks as the GSM/CDMA Qualcomm modem, and now independent testing conducted by Cellular Insights suggests there are some significant performance differences between the two modems, with the Qualcomm modem outperforming the Intel modem. Using an RS TS7124 RF Shielded Box, two RS CMW500, one RS CMWC controller, and four Vivaldi antennas, Cellular Insights created a setup to simulate LTE performance at different distances from a cellular tower using two iPhone 7 Plus devices, one with an Intel modem and one with a Qualcomm modem. The goal of the test was to measure the highest achievable LTE throughput starting at a Reference Signal Received Quality of -85dBm (a strong signal) and gradually reducing the power level to simulate moving away from a cellular tower where signal is weaker. Three LTE bands were tested: Band 12, Band 4 (the most common band in North America), and Band 7. In all three tests, both the iPhone 7 Plus models offered similar performance in ideal conditions, but as power levels decreased, Cellular Insights saw "unexplainable sharp dips in performance" in the Intel modem, finding a gap "north of 30%" in favor of the Qualcomm iPhone 7 Plus. In the charts, the Qualcomm modem maintains noticeably higher throughput speeds than the Intel modem as signal strength decreases. According to Cellular Insights, in every single test, the iPhone 7 Plus with a Qualcomm modem "had a significant performance edge" over the iPhone 7 Plus with an Intel modem.

Higher-End Smartphones Make You Happier, Says JD Power Study ( 126

A new J.D. Power study published Thursday found that users who pay more for their smartphones report higher satisfaction than those who pay less for their smartphones. The study also found that among ATT and Sprint customers, Samsung phones ranked highest in overall satisfaction, while T-Mobile and Verizon customers preferred Apple iPhones. Jessica Dolcourt via CNET writes about the other conclusions made by the J.D. Power study: - Customers of ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon (full-service carriers) report more satisfaction than customers on Boost Mobile, Cricket, MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile (co-contract carriers).
- Full-service customers pay an average of $361 for their phones compared with prepaid customers' $137 average.
-Customers who pay more for their phones report higher satisfaction.
- This is likely because high-cost phones perform better. (Editor's note: no duh)


Target Passes Walmart As Top US Corporate Installer of Solar Power ( 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Target is the top corporate installer of solar power in the USA with 147MW installed on 300 stores. Walmart is close behind with 140MW, while Ikea has installed solar on 90% of its retail locations. The Solar Energy Institute of America (SEIA) report shows over 1,000MW of solar installed in almost 2,000 unique installations by the largest corporate entities in the country. Additionally these groups have more than doubled their installation volume year on year, with 2015 seeing a total of 130MW, while 2016 is projected to be closer to 280MW. Big box retail locations offer some of the best potential spaces for solar power to be installed -- on top of square, flat structures and in previously built parking lots. The average size of an installation by a company in this group is about 500kW -- 75X the size of an average residential solar installation. The RE100 organization has signed up 81 global corporations (many on the SEIA list) who have pledged 100% renewable energy. "We're incredibly proud of the progress we've made in improving building efficiencies and reducing environmental impact. Our commitment to installing solar panels on 500 stores and distribution centers by 2020 is evidence of that progress" -- said John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target. The geographic breakdown of solar installations is based upon three main drivers -- good sunlight, expensive electricity and state level renewable mandates, with Southern California having all three. The northeast USA, with its expensive electricity and aggressive clean energy push, has been on par with California (50% of total solar) for commercial installations. A report put together by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) breaks down the various state level laws that support corporations going green -- and, without surprise, it becomes clear that the legal support of renewable energy is a definite driver.
PlayStation (Games)

Mark Cerny, Chief PlayStation Architect, Explains the PS4 Pro ( 71

Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro, which launches next month on November 10th, is the company's most powerful console that will be capable of outputting 4K and HDR content, including movies, TV shows and games. In an effort to find out how developers will make use of the console and whether or not the PS4 Pro will in any way undermine the audience of the current PS4, The Verge sat down with Mark Cerny, Sony's chief PlayStation architect, and asked him some questions. The Verge reports: The PS4 Pro is 2.28 times more powerful than its predecessor, but not everything will run in native 4K
Instead of using an entirely new GPU, Cerny said the PS4 Pro is using a "double-sauced one." In effect, the new console has a second, identical GPU configured next to the original, more than doubling the processing power of the Pro. While the standard PS4 produces 1.8 teraflops, the PS4 Pro achieves 4.2 teraflops. This is how the device can achieve native 4K and, in some cases, what Cerny said are results "extremely close to 4K." For select software, including games like adventure title Horizon Zero Dawn and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the PS4 Pro will use a crafty technique called checkerboard rendering to achieve 2160p resolution. Checkboard rendering changes the formation of pixels to achieve higher-fidelity graphics.

Standard PS4 games will play just the same unless devs patch them
For the more than 700 or so existing PS4 games, Cerny said the goal was to ensure those titles played smoothly no matter what. That's why the Pro incorporates an identical GPU. Because the new console has "the old GPU next to a mirror version of itself," Sony can support existing games with a simple trick: "We just turn off the second GPU," he said. Developers can patch these titles to boost graphics and performance in very subtle ways. But unless you have a 4K television, the difference will not be substantial.

Sony says it doesn't want games released solely for the PS4 Pro
When asked whether Sony would ever let a game run exclusively on the PS4 Pro, Cerny was blunt. "We're putting a very high premium on not splitting the user base in that fashion," he said. That doesn't rule out the possibility that, two or even three years down the line, a game comes out that relies so heavily on the hardware improvements of the Pro that it becomes unplayable on the standard PS4. Cerny wouldn't really speak much to that scenario, saying that Sony is asking developers to take advantage of the new console without leaving older hardware behind.
You can also watch Mark Cerny chat with PlayStation Blog's Sid Shuman about the creation of the PS4 Pro here on YouTube.
The Military

US Army 'Will Have More Robot Soldiers Than Humans' By 2025, Says Former British Spy ( 112

John Bassett, a British spy who worked for the agency GCHQ for nearly two decades, has told Daily Express that the U.S. was considering plans to employ thousands of robots by 2025. At a meeting with police and counter-terrorism officials in London, he said: "At some point around 2025 or thereabouts the U.S. army will actually have more combat robots than it will have human soldiers. Many of those combat robots are trucks that can drive themselves, and they will get better at not falling off cliffs. But some of them are rather more exciting than trucks. So we will see in the West combat robots outnumber human soldiers." Daily Express reports: Robotic military equipment is already being used by the U.S Navy and Air Force, in the shape of drones and autonomous ships. In April robotic warfare took a major leap forward after the U.S. Navy launched its very first self-piloting ship designed to hunt enemy submarines. Drones have been a feature of U.S. operations in the Middle East to disrupt terrorist groups. However, those aircrafts are still controlled by humans operating from bases in the U.S. Mr. Bassett also said artificial intelligence and robots technology would combine to create powerful fighting machines. The cyber security expert said: "Artificial intelligence, robotics in general, those will begin to mesh together."

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