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Mozilla

Mozilla Has Stopped All Commercial Development On Firefox OS -- Explains What It Plans To Do With Code Base (google.com) 1

Mozilla announced last year that Firefox OS initiative of shipping phones with commercial partners did not bring the returns it sought. The company earlier this year hinted that it intends to shut the project. It is now sharing how it will deal with Firefox OS code base going forward. From their post: We would stop our efforts to build and ship smartphones through carrier partners and pivot our efforts with Firefox OS to explore opportunities for new use cases in the world of connected devices. Firefox OS was transitioned to a Tier 3 platform from the perspective of support by Mozilla's Platform Engineering organization. That meant as of January 31, 2016 no Mozilla Platform Engineering resources would be engaged to provide ongoing support and all such work would be done by other contributors. For some period of time that work would be done by Mozillaâ(TM)s Connected Devices team. We had ideas for other opportunities for Firefox OS, perhaps as a platform for explorations in the world of connected devices, and perhaps for continued evolution of Firefox OS TV. To allow for those possibilities, and to provide a stable release for commercial TV partners, development would continue on a Firefox OS 2.6 release. In parallel with continued explorations by the Connected Devices team, we recognized there was interest within the Mozilla community in carrying forward work on Firefox OS as a smartphone platform, and perhaps even for other purposes. A Firefox OS Transition Project was launched to perform a major clean-up of the B2G code bringing it to a stable end state so it could be passed into the hands of the community as an open source project. In the spring and summer of 2016 the Connected Devices team dug deeper into opportunities for Firefox OS. They concluded that Firefox OS TV was a project to be run by our commercial partner and not a project to be led by Mozilla. Further, Firefox OS was determined to not be sufficiently useful for ongoing Connected Devices work to justify the effort to maintain it. This meant that development of the Firefox OS stack was no longer a part of Connected Devices, or Mozilla at all. Firefox OS 2.6 would be the last release from Mozilla. Today we are announcing the next phase in that evolution. While work at Mozilla on Firefox OS has ceased, we very much need to continue to evolve the underlying code that comprises Gecko, our web platform engine, as part of the ongoing development of Firefox. In order to evolve quickly and enable substantial new architectural changes in Gecko, Mozilla's Platform Engineering organization needs to remove all B2G-related code from mozilla-central. This certainly has consequences for B2G OS. For the community to continue working on B2G OS they will have to maintain a code base that includes a full version of Gecko, so will need to fork Gecko and proceed with development on their own, separate branch.
AI

Why Data Is the New Coal (theguardian.com) 22

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Guardian: "Is data the new oil?" asked proponents of big data back in 2012 in Forbes magazine. By 2016, and the rise of big data's turbo-powered cousin deep learning, we had become more certain: "Data is the new oil," stated Fortune. Amazon's Neil Lawrence has a slightly different analogy: Data, he says, is coal. Not coal today, though, but coal in the early days of the 18th century, when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine. A Devonian ironmonger, Newcomen built his device to pump water out of the south west's prolific tin mines. The problem, as Lawrence told the Re-Work conference on Deep Learning in London, was that the pump was rather more useful to those who had a lot of coal than those who didn't: it was good, but not good enough to buy coal in to run it. That was so true that the first of Newcomen's steam engines wasn't built in a tin mine, but in coal works near Dudley. So why is data coal? The problem is similar: there are a lot of Newcomens in the world of deep learning. Startups like London's Magic Pony and SwiftKey are coming up with revolutionary new ways to train machines to do impressive feats of cognition, from reconstructing facial data from grainy images to learning the writing style of an individual user to better predict which word they are going to type in a sentence.
Privacy

Facebook Told To Stop Taking Data From German WhatsApp Users (bloomberg.com) 23

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: Facebook, already under scrutiny in the U.S. and the European Union for revisions to privacy policies for its WhatsApp messaging service, was ordered by Hamburg's privacy watchdog to stop processing data of German users of the chat service. In a renewed clash with the social-network operator, Johannes Caspar, one of Germany's most outspoken data protection commissioners, ordered Facebook to delete any data it already has. The news comes as EU privacy regulators, who previously expressed concerns about the policy shift, meet in Brussels to discuss their position. There's no legal basis for Facebook to use information of WhatsApp customers, Caspar said Tuesday. "This order protects the data of about 35 million WhatsApp users in Germany," Caspar said. "It has to be their decision as to whether they want to connect their account with Facebook. Therefore, Facebook has to ask for their permission in advance. This has not happened."
Piracy

YouTube-MP3 Ripping Site Sued By IFPI, RIAA and BPI (torrentfreak.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Two weeks ago, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published research which claimed that half of 16 to 24-year-olds use stream-ripping tools to copy music from sites like YouTube. The industry group said that the problem of stream-ripping has become so serious that in volume terms it had overtaken downloading from 'pirate' sites. Given today's breaking news, the timing of the report was no coincidence. Earlier today in a California District Court, a huge coalition of recording labels sued the world's largest YouTube ripping site. UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Records and several others claim that YouTube-MP3 (YTMP3), owner Philip Matesanz, and Does 1-10 have infringed their rights. The labels allege that YouTube-MP3 is one of the most popular sites in the entire world and as a result its owner, German-based company PMD Technologies UG, is profiting handsomely from their intellectual property. YouTube-MP3 is being sued for direct, contributory, vicarious and inducement of copyright infringement, plus circumvention of technological measures. Among other things, the labels are also demanding a preliminary and permanent injunction forbidding the Defendants from further infringing their rights. They also want YouTube-MP3's domain name to be surrendered. "YTMP3 rapidly and seamlessly removes the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube that YTMP3's users access, converts those audio tracks to an MP3 format, copies and stores them on YTMP3's servers, and then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the United States, enabling its users to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets, or smartphones," the complaint reads. "Defendants are depriving Plaintiffs and their recording artists of the fruits of their labor, Defendants are profiting from the operation of the YTMP3 website. Through the promise of illicit delivery of free music, Defendants have attracted millions of users to the YTMP3 website, which in turn generates advertising revenues for Defendants," the labels add.
NASA

Jupiter's Moon Europa May Have Water Plumes That Rise Up About 125 Miles (npr.org) 55

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope released new images Monday, which will be published in The Astrophysicial Journal later this week, that show what appears to be plumes of water vapor erupting out of the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The discovery is especially intriguing as it means that the ocean below Europa's surface could be probed without having to drill through miles of ice. NPR reports: Europa is one of the most intriguing places in the solar system because it's thought to have a vast subterranean ocean with twice as much water as Earth's oceans. This saltwater ocean is a tempting target for astrobiologists who want to find places beyond Earth that could support life. The trouble with exploring this ocean is that the water is hidden beneath an icy crust that's miles thick. But if plumes are indeed erupting from Europa, a spacecraft could potentially fly through them and analyze their chemistry -- much like NASA's Cassini probe did recently when it sped close to Enceladus, a moon of Saturn that has small geysers. Scientists used Hubble to watch Europa's silhouette as the moon moved across Jupiter's bright background. They looked, in ultraviolet light, for signs of plumes coming from the moon's surface. They did this 10 separate times over a period of 15 months, and saw what could be plumes on three occasions. NASA says the plumes are estimated to rise up about 125 miles, and presumably material then rains back down onto Europa's surface. Using Hubble in a different way, scientists previously saw hints that salty water occasionally travels up to the moon's surface. In 2012, the telescope detected evidence of water vapor above Europa's south polar region, suggesting the existence of plumes that shoot out into space. The agency's Juno spacecraft is currently in orbit around Jupiter, but it isn't slated to take any observations of Europa.
Space

SpaceX Tests Its Raptor Engine For Future Mars Flights (techcrunch.com) 82

Thelasko writes: Elon Musk is preparing to unveil his plans to colonize Mars at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress tomorrow. As a tease to his lecture, he has released some details about the Raptor engine on Twitter, including pictures. Mr. Musk states that, "Production Raptor coal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tons) at 300 bar." He goes on to note that the specific impulse spec is at Mars ambient pressure. The Raptor interplanetary engine is designed for use with Space X's Mars Colonial Transporter craft. Musk notes that the "chamber pressure runs three times what's present in the Merlin engine currently used to power Falcon 9," according to TechCrunch. "Merlin has specific impulse of 282 seconds (311 seconds in the vacuum of space), and a relatively paltry 654 kilonewton (0.6 MN) at sea level, or 716 kN (0.7 MN) in a vacuum. You can view a picture of the "Mach diamonds" here, which are visible in the engine's exhaust.
Medicine

Roller Coasters Could Help People Pass Kidney Stones, Says Study (nbcnews.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Two researchers who took science to the amusement park say they've found that a thrilling roller coaster ride just might help people shake out pesky kidney stones. Dr. David Wartinger of Michigan State University said he'd heard patient after patient tell him about how they had passed kidney stones after riding one particular ride: the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World in Orlando. He and a colleague, Dr. Marc Mitchell, had also seen some media reports about people who passed kidney stones while bungee jumping and riding roller coasters. So they decided to leave East Lansing to head to Orlando in the name of medical research. To simulate the human body as best they could, they made an artificial human kidney model out of clear silicone gel and loaded it up with real human kidney stones. They rode the roller coaster holding their kidney contraption between them in a backpack positioned at kidney height. They took 20 rides and noted what happened to each kidney stone. Riding in the back of the roller coaster train seemed to really knock the kidney stones out, they reported in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. "Front seating on the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of four of 24," they wrote. "Rear seating on the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of 23 of 36." They mainly tested the one roller coaster ride, and it's a fairly simple one. "The Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster is not a terribly dynamic ride," Wartinger said. "It's not very fast. It is not very tall. It makes sharp left and right turns that have some vibration." Wartinger suspects many different thrill rides would have the same effect. "It's not like there anything unique about this one coaster," he said. The pair have now run their test 200 more times and say the findings are consistent. Now they want to try other amusement park rides.
The Courts

US Department of Labor Is Suing Peter Thiel's Startup 'Palantir' For Discriminating Against Asians (reuters.com) 292

Palantir Technologies is a secretive start-up in Silicon Valley that specializes in big data analysis. It was founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel, Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Nathan Gettings, and is backed by the FBI and CIA as it "helps government agencies track down terrorists and uncover financial fraud," according to Reuters. Today, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it discriminated against Asian job applicants. Reuters reports: The lawsuit alleges Palantir routinely eliminated Asian applicants in the resume screening and telephone interview phases, even when they were as qualified as white applicants. In one example cited by the Labor Department, Palantir reviewed a pool of more than 130 qualified applicants for the role of engineering intern. About 73 percent of those who applied were Asian. The lawsuit, which covers Palantir's conduct between January 2010 and the present, said the company hired 17 non-Asian applicants and four Asians. "The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion," said the lawsuit, which was filed with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. The majority of Palantir's hires as engineering interns, as well as two other engineering positions, "came from an employee referral system that disproportionately excluded Asians," the lawsuit said. Palantir denied the allegations in a statement and said it intends to "vigorously defend" against them. The lawsuit seeks relief for persons affected, including lost wages.
Earth

Study: Earth Is At Its Warmest In 120,000 Years (washingtonpost.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: As part of her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University, Carolyn Snyder, now a climate policy official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created a continuous 2 million year temperature record, much longer than a previous 22,000 year record. Snyder's temperature reconstruction, published Monday in the journal Nature, doesn't estimate temperature for a single year, but averages 5,000-year time periods going back a couple million years. Snyder based her reconstruction on 61 different sea surface temperature proxies from across the globe, such as ratios between magnesium and calcium, species makeup and acidity. But the further the study goes back in time, especially after half a million years, the fewer of those proxies are available, making the estimates less certain, she said. These are rough estimates with large margins of errors, she said. But she also found that the temperature changes correlated well to carbon dioxide levels. Temperatures averaged out over the most recent 5,000 years -- which includes the last 125 years or so of industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases -- are generally warmer than they have been since about 120,000 years ago or so, Snyder found. And two interglacial time periods, the one 120,000 years ago and another just about 2 million years ago, were the warmest Snyder tracked. They were about 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the current 5,000-year average. Snyder said if climate factors are the same as in the past -- and that's a big if -- Earth is already committed to another 7 degrees or so (about 4 degrees Celsius) of warming over the next few thousand years. "This is based on what happened in the past, Snyder noted. "In the past it wasn't humans messing with the atmosphere."
Republicans

Trump Takes On 'Crooked Hillary' With Snapchat Geofilter (arstechnica.com) 104

In an effort to appeal to more young voters, U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has unveiled a "geofilter" ad campaign for Snapchat that slaps on the banner phrase "Donald J. Trump vs. Crooked Hillary" to a user's photo and video Snaps. Ars Technica reports: "The ad rolled out to American Snapchat users today, just ahead of the 2016 presidential election's first major debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton (the debate starts tonight at 9pm EDT). The ad joins the usual geofilter available to Snapchat users, which usually list the name of a city or a nearby event as determined by GPS and time information. The campaign differs from the deluge of text, photo, and video ads that politicans have relied on in recent years, as it doesn't publish or display to the public without a personal photo or video attached. While other political campaigns have paid for geofilter ad campaigns on Snapchat in the past, including Clinton and Bernie Sanders, those have been timed and targeted for smaller-scale events like political conventions and primary voting periods. In a statement to CNN, the Clinton campaign said that Trump was "throwing his money into a fire pit," and it pointed out the ad's potential for backfiring, since "given Trump's deep unpopularity with young voters, [the ad's phrasing] will be used mainly at [his] own expense."
Security

Windows 10 Will Soon Run Edge In a Virtual Machine To Keep You Safe (arstechnica.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Microsoft has announced that the next major update to Windows 10 will run its Edge browser in a lightweight virtual machine. Running the update in a virtual machine will make exploiting the browser and attacking the operating system or compromising user data more challenging. Called Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge, the new capability builds on the virtual machine-based security that was first introduced last summer in Windows 10. Windows 10's Virtualization Based Security (VBS) uses small virtual machines and the Hyper-V hypervisor to isolate certain critical data and processes from the rest of the system. The most important of these is Credential Guard, which stores network credentials and password hashes in an isolated virtual machine. This isolation prevents the popular MimiKatz tool from harvesting those password hashes. In turn, it also prevents a hacker from breaking into one machine and then using stolen credentials to spread to other machines on the same network. Credential Guard's virtual machine is very small and lightweight, running only a relatively simple process to manage credentials. Application Guard will go much further by running large parts of the Edge browser within a virtual machine. This virtual machine won't, however, need a full operating system running inside it -- just a minimal set of Windows features required to run the browser. Because Application Guard is running in a virtual machine it will have a much higher barrier between it and the host platform. It can't see other processes, it can't access local storage, it can't access any other installed applications, and, critically, it can't attack the kernel of the host system. In its first iteration, Application Guard will only be available for Edge. Microsoft won't provide an API or let other applications use it. As with other VBS features, Application Guard will also only be available to users of Windows 10 Enterprise, with administrative control through group policies. Administrators will be able to mark some sites as trusted, and those sites won't use the virtual machine. Admins also be able to control whether untrusted sites can use the clipboard or print.
Math

Researcher Modifies Sieve of Eratosthenes To Work With Less Physical Memory Space (scientificamerican.com) 67

grcumb writes: Peruvian mathematician Harald Helfgott made his mark on the history of mathematics by solving Goldbach's weak conjecture, which states that every odd number greater than 7 can be expressed as the sum of three prime numbers. Now, according to Scientific American, he's found a better solution to the sieve of Eratosthenes: "In order to determine with this sieve all primes between 1 and 100, for example, one has to write down the list of numbers in numerical order and start crossing them out in a certain order: first, the multiples of 2 (except the 2); then, the multiples of 3, except the 3; and so on, starting by the next number that had not been crossed out. The numbers that survive this procedure will be the primes. The method can be formulated as an algorithm." But now, Helfgott has found a method to drastically reduce the amount of RAM required to run the algorithm: "Now, inspired by combined approaches to the analytical 100-year-old technique called the circle method, Helfgott was able to modify the sieve of Eratosthenes to work with less physical memory space. In mathematical terms: instead of needing a space N, now it is enough to have the cube root of N." So what will be the impact of this? Will we see cheaper, lower-power encryption devices? Or maybe quicker cracking times in brute force attacks? Mathematician Jean Carlos Cortissoz Iriarte of Cornell University and Los Andes University offers an analogy: "Let's pretend that you are a computer and that to store data in your memory you use sheets of paper. If to calculate the primes between 1 and 1,000,000, you need 200 reams of paper (10,000 sheets), and with the algorithm proposed by Helfgott you will only need one fifth of a ream (about 100 sheets)," he says.
Government

ISP To FCC: Using The Internet Is Like Eating Oreos (consumerist.com) 178

New submitter Rick Schumann shares with us a report highlighting an analogy presented by an ISP that relates Double Stuf Oreos to the internet. Specifically, that Double Stuf Oreos cost more than regular Oreos, and therefore you should pay more for internet: The Consumerist reports: "Ars Technica first spotted the crumbly filing, from small (and much-loathed) provider Mediacom. Mediacom's comment is in response to the same proceeding that Netflix commented on earlier this month. However, while Netflix actually addressed data and the ways in which their customers use it, Mediacom went for the more metaphor-driven approach. The letter literally starts out under the header, 'You Have to Pay Extra For Double-Stuffed,' and posits that you, the consumer, are out for a walk with $2 in your pocket when you suddenly develop a ferocious craving for Oreo cookies." Of course their analogy is highly questionable, since transmitting data over a network doesn't actually consume anything, now does it? You eat the cookie, the cookie is gone, but you transmit data over a network, the network is still there and can transmit data endlessly. Mediacom's assertion that the Internet is like a cookie you eat, is like saying copying a file on your computer somehow diminishes or degrades the original file, which of course is ridiculous.
Mozilla

Mozilla's Proposed Conclusion: Game Over For WoSign and Startcom? (google.com) 104

Reader Zocalo writes: Over the last several months Mozilla has been investigating a large number of breaches of what Mozilla deems to be acceptable CA protocols by the Chinese root CA WoSign and their perhaps better known subsidiary StartCom, whose acquisition by WoSign is one of the issues in question. Mozilla has now published their proposed solution (GoogleDocs link), and it's not looking good for WoSign and Startcom. Mozilla's position is that they have lost trust in WoSign and, by association StartCom, with a proposed action to give WoSign and StartCom a "timeout" by distrusting any certificates issued after a date to be determined in the near future for a period of one year, essentially preventing them issuing any certificates that will be trusted by Mozilla. Attempts to circumvent this by back-dating the valid-from date will result in an immediate and permanent revocation of trust, and there are some major actions required to re-establish that trust at the end of the time out as well.
This seems like a rather elegant, if somewhat draconian, solution to the issue of what to do when a CA steps out of line. Revoking trust for certificates issued after a given date does not invalidate existing certificates and thereby inconvenience their owners, but it does put a severe -- and potentially business-ending -- penalty on the CA in question. Basically, WoSign and StartCom will have a year where they cannot issue any new certificates that Mozilla will trust, and will also have to inform any existing customers that have certificate renewals due within that period they cannot do so and they will need to go else where -- hardly good PR!

What does Slashdot think? Is Mozilla going too far here, or is their proposal justified and reasonable given WoSign's actions, making a good template for potential future breaches of trust by root CAs, particularly in the wake of other CA trust breaches by the likes of CNNIC, DigiNotar, and Symantec?

Bitcoin

Japanese To Pay Utility Bills Using Bitcoin (thestack.com) 30

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Japanese citizens will soon be able to pay their utility bills using bitcoin. The facility is being provided by Coincheck Denki, a new service offered by the Japanese bitcoin company, which will be available to users in November. Coincheck outlined the new plan on its website. Also called 'Coincheck Electricity,' it will allow users to pay their electricity bills directly from their Coincheck bitcoin wallet. It also offers a discount plan for heavy users of electricity, with 4-6% of the total bill discounted for heavy users of electricity who pay in bitcoin. Coincheck's parent company, Reju Press, initially partnered with Mitsuwa Inc., to create the bitcoin payment system. Coincheck now works with Mitsuwa subsidiary E-Net Inc., and has formed a partnership with Marubeni Power Retail Corporation, which operates power plants in 17 locations in central Japan. Marubeni has offices in 66 countries worldwide, although no plans have been announced to take the bitcoin payment option outside of Japan. While the initial bitcoin payment rollout is for electricity bills, Coincheck plans to expand its offerings to bitcoin payment for 'life infrastructure,' to include payment of gas, water and mobile phone bills. It may even partner with landlords to allow customers of Coincheck to pay rent using bitcoin. The bitcoin payment plan will be rolled out in Chubu, Kanto (including Tokyo) and Kansai regions to start, with additional areas to be added sequentially. The company hopes to offer bitcoin payment options to one million electric customers within the first year.

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