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Power

Why Apple Just Invested in Wind Turbines In China (cnn.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes CNN Money: Apple's latest deal in China doesn't have anything to do with smartphones. The tech giant is investing in the Chinese wind power industry, turning to the world's most populous country to help it achieve its goal of getting 100% of its energy from renewable sources. The iPhone maker struck a deal this week to buy a 30% stake in three subsidiaries of Goldwind, China's biggest wind-turbine manufacturer... it's Apple's largest clean energy project to date and the first of its kind in the wind power sector, Lisa Jackson, vice president of Apple's environment initiatives, told state-run newspaper China Daily...

Environmental group Greenpeace has warned that electronics manufacturing uses a lot of energy in China, drawing on the country's high number of polluting coal power stations. Apple's moves into renewable energy are an attempt to compensate for this... The new wind project will add 285 megawatts of clean energy to China's grid, which Apple says will offset some of the other sources used by its operations and those of its immediate suppliers Foxconn, Lens, Catcher and Solvay.

Businesses

Struggling Workers Found Sleeping In Tents Behind Amazon's Warehouse (thecourier.co.uk) 125

"At least three tents have been spotted in woodland beside the online retail giant's base," reports a Scottish newspaper -- hidden behind trees, but within sight of Amazon's warehouse, and right next to a busy highway. An anonymous reader writes: Despite Scotland's "bitterly cold winter nights" -- with lows in the 30s -- the tent "was easier and cheaper than commuting from his home," one Amazon worker told the Courier. (Though yesterday someone stole all of his camping equipment.) Amazon charges its employees for shuttle service to the fulfillment center, which "swallows up a lot of the weekly wage," one political party leader told the Courier, "forcing people to seek ever more desperate ways of making work pay.

"Amazon should be ashamed that they pay their workers so little that they have to camp out in the dead of winter to make ends meet..." he continued. "They pay a small amount of tax and received millions of pounds from the Scottish National Party Government, so the least they should do is pay the proper living wage." Though the newspaper reports that holiday shopping has created 4,000 temporary jobs in the small town of Dunfermline, "The company came under fire last month from local activists who claimed that agency workers are working up to 60 hours per week for little more than the minimum wage and are harshly treated."

Amazon responded, "The safety and well-being of our permanent and temporary associates is our number one priority."
Role Playing (Games)

Analysts Tout 'State of The Developer' Survey By Awarding RPG Characters (amazon.com) 19

An anonymous reader writes: Analysts at VisionMobile have begun conducting this year's "State of the Developer" Survey -- their perennial assessment of salaries, skills, and tools -- but this time with a twist. "Based on your responses, you'll find out what kind of character you'd be in a fantasy world: A mage? A fighter? A dragon slayer?" according to a blog post publicizing the event by Amazon's manager of developer marketing. "As in previous years, you'll also receive your personal Developer Scorecard showing how you compare to other developers in your country, a free copy of the final State of the Developer Nation report, and a chance to win some cool prizes."
The survey presents a map of seven "kingdoms" -- IoT, Mobile, Desktop, Backend, Web, Machine learning, and AR/VR -- and invites developers to complete their "quest," awarding virtual badges and real-world prizes, which include an Oculus Rift headset, a Surface Pro 3, an Apple Watch, and a Pixel Phone. Along your "journey," a developer owl even dispatches encouraging geeky jokes. (Like "Whenever I see a door that says 'push', I always pull first, to avoid conflicts.")
Crime

Inside the NYPD's Attempt To Build Community Trust Through Twitter (backchannel.com) 35

mirandakatz writes: When the NYPD rolled out its Twitter presence a couple years back, it didn't go so smoothly: the @NYPDNews account tweeted a request: 'Do you have a photo with a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD,' and by midnight the same day, more than 70,000 people had responded decrying police brutality. At Backchannel, Susan Crawford looks at the department's attempt to use Twitter to rebuild community trust, noting that while the NYPD has a long ways to go, any opening up of communication is an improvement on the traditionally tight-lipped culture.
They're currently reaching about 10% of the city's population, tweeting pictures of "wanted" suspects and sharing information on recent criminal activity, as the police commissioner describes shifting their mindset from "warrior" to guardian.
Open Source

Fedora-based Linux Distro Korora (Version 25) Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 21

BrianFagioli writes: If you want to use Fedora but do not want to spend time manually installing packages and repos, there is a solid alternative -- Korora. Despite the funny-sounding name, it is a great way to experience Fedora in a more user-friendly way. Wednesday, version 25, code-named 'Gurgle', became available for release.
Government

FBI Relents, Confirms Previously-Denied UFO Investigation (muckrock.com) 57

Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: A Freedom of Information Act request for FBI files on a figure at the center of dozens of 20th century conspiracy theories reveals a rare glimpse into the Bureau's real-life "X-Files" -- which the agency had long maintained don't exist. And while there's no evidence yet of Mulder or Scully, the files do include a story of flying saucers and secret assassins stranger than anything on the show.
Specifically the documents detail the FBI's 1947 investigation into "flying discs" reported by early conspiracy theorist Fred Lee Crisman, describing "the Maury Island Incident" (picked up by U.S newspapers) which helped popularize the legend of UFO witnesses being detained by "men in black". Ironically, Crisman was later linked to one of the CIA's anti-Castro groups, connecting him another popular topic for conspiracy theorists: the assassination of President Kennedy.
Botnet

A 'Turkish Hacker' Is Giving Out Prizes For DDoS Attacks (csoonline.com) 29

Security firm Forcepoint has discovered a DDoS competition which requires participants install a DDoS software which contains a backdoor. An anonymous reader quotes CSO: A hacker in Turkey has been trying to encourage distributed denial-of-attacks by making it into a game, featuring points and prizes for attempting to shut down political websites... Users that participate will be given a tool known as Balyoz, the Turkish word for Sledgehammer, that can be used to launch DDoS attacks against a select number of websites... The attack tool involved is designed to only harass 24 political sites related to the Kurds, the German Christian Democratic Party -- which is led by Angela Merkel -- and the Armenian Genocide, and others... Forcepoint noticed that the DDoS attack tool given to the participants also contains a backdoor that will secretly install a Trojan on the computer.
Transportation

The DEA Has Been Secretly Paying Transport Employees To Search Travelers' Bags (economist.com) 117

There's a new reason you can be stopped by airport security: because the security officer who flagged you "was being secretly paid by the government...to uncover evidence of drug smuggling." schwit1 quotes The Economist: For years, officials from the Department of Justice testified, the DEA has paid millions of dollars to a variety of confidential sources to provide tips on travellers who may be transporting drugs or large sums of money. Those sources include staff at airlines, Amtrak, parcel services and even the Transportation Safety Administration...

According to [a DOJ] report, airline employees and other informers had an incentive to search more travellers' bags, since they received payment whenever their actions resulted in DEA seizures of cash or contraband. The best-compensated of these appears to have been a parcel company employee who received more than $1 million from the DEA over five years. One airline worker, meanwhile, received $617,676 from 2012 to 2015 for tips that led to confiscations. But the DEA itself profited much more from the program. That well-paid informant got only about 12% of the amount the agency seized as a result of the his tips.

The DEA had paid out $237 million to over 9,000 informants over five years towards the end of 2015, according to the report. The Economist writes that "travelers no doubt paid the price in increased searches," adding that the resulting searches were all probably illegal.
Bug

5-Year-Old Critical Linux Vulnerability Patched (threatpost.com) 53

msm1267 quotes Kaspersky Lab's ThreatPost: A critical, local code-execution vulnerability in the Linux kernel was patched more than a week ago, continuing a run of serious security issues in the operating system, most of which have been hiding in the code for years. Details on the vulnerability were published Tuesday by researcher Philip Pettersson, who said the vulnerable code was introd in August 2011.

A patch was pushed to the mainline Linux kernel December 2, four days after it was privately disclosed. Pettersson has developed a proof-of-concept exploit specifically for Ubuntu distributions, but told Threatpost his attack could be ported to other distros with some changes. The vulnerability is a race condition that was discovered in the af_packet implementation in the Linux kernel, and Pettersson said that a local attacker could exploit the bug to gain kernel code execution from unprivileged processes. He said the bug cannot be exploited remotely.

"Basically it's a bait-and-switch," the researcher told Threatpost. "The bug allows you to trick the kernel into thinking it is working with one kind of object, while you actually switched it to another kind of object before it could react."
Transportation

Uber Asks Everyone To Stop Making It The New Tinder (sfgate.com) 122

Ride-sharers have been using Uber and Lyft "carpool" apps to meet dates -- and now Uber's trying to stop it. An anonymous reader quotes SFGate: This week Uber updated their community guidelines to discourage passengers from using the ride-sharing app as a hook-up opportunity. Some Uber and Lyft riders have been using the car-pooling option as a way to meet or hook up with others. But Uber is not pleased and has advised users to not flirt or touch passengers. "It's OK to chat with other people in the car. But please don't comment on someone's appearance or ask whether they are single," Uber's guidelines state.
Their new policy now specifically states that "Uber has a no sex rule. That's no sexual conduct between drivers and riders, no matter what."
Windows

New Bug In Windows 10 Anniversary Update Brings Wi-Fi Disconnects (infoworld.com) 131

Some Windows 10 PCs are now experiencing sudden drops in their Wi-Fi connections, with the Network Diagnostics tool reporting "Wi-Fi doesn't have a valid IP configuration." An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard: I've heard from many people who blame the Wi-Fi disconnect on Friday's KB 3201845, the patch (which still isn't documented on the Win10 update history site) that brings version 1607 up to build 14393.479. It's unlikely that the new patch brought on the bug because the large influx of complaints started on December 7 -- two days before the patch...

Speculation at this point says the disconnect results when a machine performs a fast startup, setting the machine's IP address to 169.x.x.x. It's an old problem, but somehow it's come back in spades in the past two days. I have no idea what triggered the sudden outbreak, as there were no Win10 1607 patches issued on December 6, 7 or 8.

Microsoft acknowledged the problem Thursday, recommending customers try restarting their PCs (or performing a clean start). Woody writes that it looks like Microsoft's latest Windows 10 patch "didn't cause the bug. But the patch didn't fix it, either."
Botnet

US Think Tank Wants To Regulate The Design of IoT Devices For Security Purposes (theregister.co.uk) 78

New submitter mikehusky quotes a report from The Register: Washington D.C. think tank the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology is calling for regulation on "negligence" in the design of internet-of-things (IoT) devices. If the world wants a bonk-detecting Wi-Fi mattress, it must be a malware-free bonk-detecting Wi-Fi mattress. The report adds: "Researchers James Scott and Drew Spaniel point out in their report Rise of the Machines: The Dyn Attack Was Just a Practice Run [PDF] that IoT represents a threat that is only beginning to be understood. The pair say the risk that regulation could stifle market-making IoT innovation (like the Wi-Fi cheater-detection mattress) is outweighed by the need to stop feeding Shodan. 'Regulation on IoT devices by the United States will influence global trends and economies in the IoT space, because every stakeholder operates in the United States, works directly with United States manufacturers, or relies on the United States economy. Nonetheless, IoT regulation will have a limited impact on reducing IoT DDoS attacks as the United States government only has limited direct influence on IoT manufacturers and because the United States is not even in the top 10 countries from which malicious IoT traffic originates.' State level regulation would be 'disastrous' to markets and consumers alike. The pair offer their report in the wake of the massive Dyn and Mirai distributed denial of service attacks in which internet of poorly-designed devices were enslaved into botnets to hammer critical internet infrastructure, telcos including TalkTalk, routers and other targets."
Transportation

Autonomous Shuttle Brakes For Squirrels, Skateboarders, and Texting Students (ieee.org) 68

Tekla Perry writes: An autonomous shuttle from Auro Robotics is picking up and dropping off students, faculty, and visitors at the Santa Clara University Campus seven days a week. It doesn't go fast, but it has to watch out for pedestrians, skateboarders, bicyclists, and bold squirrels (engineers added a special squirrel lidar on the bumper). An Auro engineer rides along at this point to keep the university happy, but soon will be replaced by a big red emergency stop button (think Staples Easy button). If you want a test drive, just look for a "shuttle stop" sign (there's one in front of the parking garage) and climb on, it doesn't ask for university ID.
Power

'Star In a Jar' Fusion Reactor Works, Promises Infinite Energy (space.com) 333

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: For several decades now, scientists from around the world have been pursuing a ridiculously ambitious goal: They hope to develop a nuclear fusion reactor that would generate energy in the same manner as the sun and other stars, but down here on Earth. Incorporated into terrestrial power plants, this "star in a jar" technology would essentially provide Earth with limitless clean energy, forever. And according to new reports out of Europe this week, we just took another big step toward making it happen. In a study published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Communications, researchers confirmed that Germany's Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) fusion energy device is on track and working as planned. The space-age system, known as a stellerator, generated its first batch of hydrogen plasma when it was first fired up earlier this year. The new tests basically give scientists the green light to proceed to the next stage of the process. It works like this: Unlike a traditional fission reactor, which splits atoms of heavy elements to generate energy, a fusion reactor works by fusing the nuclei of lighter atoms into heavier atoms. The process releases massive amounts of energy and produces no radioactive waste. The "fuel" used in a fusion reactor is simple hydrogen, which can be extracted from water. The W7-X device confines the plasma within magnetic fields generated by superconducting coils cooled down to near absolute zero. The plasma -- at temperatures upwards of 80 million degrees Celsius -- never comes into contact with the walls of the containment chamber. Neat trick, that. David Gates, principal research physicist for the advanced projects division of PPPL, leads the agency's collaborative efforts in regard to the W7-X project. In an email exchange from his offices at Princeton, Gates said the latest tests verify that the W7-X magnetic "cage" is working as planned. "This lays the groundwork for the exciting high-performance plasma operations expected in the near future," Gates said.
Communications

Silly Putty Makes For Super-Sensitive Sensors (popsci.com) 33

Jonathan Coleman's research group at Trinity College Dublin discovered that Silly Putty "becomes an incredibly sensitive strain detector that can track blood pressure, heart rate, and even a spider's footsteps" when mixed with graphene. Popular Science reports: That graduate student, Connor Boland -- who has since earned his doctorate -- made a batch of graphene in water and added the Silly Putty polymer. As he mixed them, the graphene sheets stuck to the polymer, creating a black goo the researchers dubbed "g-putty." When they ran an electrical current through the g-putty -- graphene-infused polymers can conduct electricity -- they discovered an extraordinary sensitivity. "If you touch it even with the slightest pressure or deformation, the electrical resistance will change significantly," Coleman says. "Even if you stretch or compress the Silly Putty by one percent of its normal size, the electrical resistance will change by a factor of five. And that's a huge change." That change makes g-putty about 500 times more sensitive than other deformation-detecting materials, which would respond to a similar compression with a mere one-percent change in electrical resistance. The results were published in the journal Science.

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