Quake rescuers ask people to open their wi-fi

_90923088_034949329-1Quake rescuers searching for survivors in the Italian quake have asked for people in the area to disable the passwords to their wi-fi.

The Italian Red Cross says residents’ home networks can assist with communications during the search for survivors.

On Wednesday a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy and killed more than 240 people.

More than 4,300 rescuers are looking for survivors believed to still be trapped in the rubble.

The Italian Red Cross posted a step-by-step guide which explains how local residents can switch off their wi-fi network encryption.

Image caption The Italian Red Cross has published a step-by-step guide on how to remove wi-fi passwords

Similar requests have been made by the National Geological Association and Lazio Region.

Normally opening a home wi-fi network is risky but added that those concerns are trivial in the context of the rescue operation. The risk is that a hacker might potentially has access to certain devices and files.

However that is nothing compared to the risk of people dying because rescuers can’t get a decent wi-fi signal. Besides what sort of psycho goes to a town like Amatrice so they can launch a cyber-attack on someone else.

Russian politician’s son convicted for hacking US restaurants

920x920The son of a Russian politician was convicted for trying to hack US businesses to steal and sell credit card numbers.

The scam apparently cost financial institutions more than $169 million, so he must have been pretty good at it.

Roman Seleznev, also known as “Track2,” was found guilty by a federal jury in Seattle on 38 of 40 counts including wire fraud and intentional damage to a protected computer following an eight-day trial, prosecutors said.

Seleznev hails from Vladivostok and was dragged from his home in the Maldives by US spooks in what he called a kidnapping.

Seleznev, the son of Valery Seleznev, a member of the Russian Parliament, is scheduled to be sentenced on December 2. His minimum sentence will be  four years in prison.

Browne said Seleznev, 32, plans to appeal and challenge what he called Seleznev’s illegal arrest in the Maldives and a ruling that allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence from a corrupted laptop seized at the time of his arrest.

“I don’t know of any case that has allowed such outrageous behaviour,” Browne said.

Prosecutors said that from October 2009 to October 2013, Seleznev hacked into retail point-of-sale systems and installed malware to steal credit card numbers from businesses, including restaurants and pizza parlours in Washington state. He will not get much sympathy there – many of them were forced to close after the hacks.

Seleznev sold the credit card information on various “carding” websites. Buyers in turn used the card numbers for fraudulent purchases, they said, causing 3,700 financial institutions to lose more than $169 million.

Valery Seleznev insisted his son did not know a thing about computers, although how he explained why all the stolen card details were found on his laptop is anyone’s guess. Instead of worrying about the crime he waded into the US government for ignoring international extradition arrangements. It seems that everyone is focusing on the method of arrest rather than the poor pizza shop owners who had to close because of his antics.


Princeton boffins come up with open source super-chip

mad scientistPrinceton University researchers have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a new open source computer chip that promises to boost the performance of data centres.

Dubbed “Piton” after the metal spikes driven by rock climbers into mountainsides to aid in their ascent the chip was shown off at the Hot Chips conference.

The Princeton researchers designed their chip specifically for massive computing systems. Piton could substantially increase processing speed while slashing energy usage. The chip architecture is scalable — designs can be built that go from a dozen to several thousand cores.

The architecture enables thousands of chips to be connected into a single system containing millions of cores.

David Wentzlaff, a Princeton assistant professor of electrical engineering and associated faculty in the Department of Computer Science said that Piton was based on a new thinking about computer architecture.  It was built specifically for data centers and the cloud.

“The chip we’ve made is among the largest chips ever built in academia and it shows how servers could run far more efficiently and cheaply.”

The current version of the Piton chip measures six millimetres by six millimetres and has 460 million transistors, each of which are as small as 32 nanometres.

The bulk of these transistors are contained in 25 cores. Most personal computer chips have four or eight cores.

In recent years companies and academic institutions have produced chips with many dozens of cores — but the readily scalable architecture of Piton can enable thousands of cores on a single chip with half a billion cores in the data centre, Wentzlaff said.

“What we have with Piton is really a prototype for future commercial server systems that could take advantage of a tremendous number of cores to speed up processing,” Wentzlaff said.

At a data centre, multiple users often run programs that rely on similar operations at the processor level. The Piton chip’s cores can recognise these instances and execute identical instructions consecutively, so that they flow one after another. Doing so can increase energy efficiency by about 20 percent compared to a standard core, the researchers said.

Piton chip parcels out when competing programs access computer memory that exists off of the chip so they do not clog the system. This approach can yield an 18 percent increase in performance compared to conventional means of allocation.

The Piton chip also gains efficiency by its cache memory management. In most designs, cache memory is shared across all of the chip’s cores. But when multiple cores access and modify the cache memory it is less efficient. Piton assigns areas of the cache and specific cores to dedicated applications. The researchers say the system can increase efficiency by 29 percent per chip.

Wentzlaff said. “We’re also happy to give out our design to the world as open source, which has long been commonplace for software, but is almost never done for hardware.”

Apple patents thief data capture

apple-dalek-2Fruity cargo cult Apple has patented the slightly legally dodgy technique of capturing the biometric data of those who steal its customer’s shiny toys.

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office , Apple’s invention has the catchy title “Biometric capture for unauthorised user identification”.

It uses the iPhone or iPad’s Touch ID module, camera and other sensors to capture and store information about a potential thief.

Apple’s patent is governed by device triggers, to also collect unauthorised user data. A single failed authentication triggers the immediate capture of fingerprint data and a picture of the user, but the device might be configured to evaluate the factors that ultimately trigger biometric capture based on a set of defaults defined by internal security protocols or the user.

However, the patent application mentions machine learning as a potential solution for deciding when to capture biometric data and how to manage it.

Other data can be used to augment the biometric information such as time stamps, device location, speed, air pressure, audio data and more, all collected and logged as background operations.

The unauthorized user’s data is then either stored locally on the device or sent to a remote server for further evaluation.

Basically the idea is that once someone has stolen your iPhone, that phone will turn against them and grass up any personal information it can find to the cops.

The danger for the thief is that the data they use could be grassing them up for other crimes and get them into an ocean of hot water.

Data based law investment is with us

stupid-lawyer1Two Harvard undergraduates have come up with an evil service which uses data to work out if a civil litigation is worthwhile fighting.

The process allows investors to cover the cost of a lawsuit in exchange for a share of the financial settlement which was what billionaire Peter Thiel did when he secretly funded a lawsuit from Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media.

The new start-up is called Legalist and uses an algorithm  to look at civil lawsuits to predict case outcomes and determine which civil lawsuits are worth investing in.

Legalist cofounder Eva Shang has received a $100,000 investment from Thiel’s foundation to build the startup. She told Business Insider that the Gawker lawsuit is something that the company would be staying away from. Instead, the company will be focusing on commercial and small-business lawsuits.

Legalist says it uses an algorithm of 58 different variables including, the presiding judge is and the number of cases the judge is currently working on. The algorithm has been fed cases dating back to 1989 and helps people figure out how long a case will last and the risks associated with it.

In a presentation at Y Combinator’s Demo Day on Tuesday, the founders claimed that the startup funded one lawsuit for $75,000 and expects a return of more than $1 million. Shang says the $1.40 is earned for every $1 spent in litigation financing, which can prove to be a profitable enterprise when you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So it looks like there will be a world where investors can invest in lawsuits and clean up.  Has the world gone stark raving mad? [Yes.ed]

HP hit with age discrimination suit

oldguyAn age discrimination suit is claiming that HP’s restructuring is being used to purge the organisation of old people.

Four former employees of Silicon Valley tech icon Hewlett-Packard have filed an age discrimination lawsuit alleging they were ousted amid a purge of older workers.

Hewlett-Packard began layoffs in 2012, before the company broke into HP Inc. and HP Enterprise last year, and have escalated the layoffs since, eventually hitting tens of thousands of workers.

However the complaint claims the goal of the changes was more to make the company younger.

“In order to get younger, HP intentionally discriminated against its older employees by targeting them for termination … and then systematically replacing them with younger employees. HP has hired a disproportionately large number of new employees under the age of 40 to replace employees aged 40 and older who were terminated,” the complaint said.

Arun Vatturi, 52, Sidney Staton, 54, have joined in the lawsuit with a former employee from Washington, 62, and from Texas, 63. The group is seeking class-action status for the court action and claims HP broke state and federal laws against age discrimination.

HP in 2012 announced it would cut 27,000 jobs. The company continued to announce layoffs, which to date total more than 80,000.

HP said: “Hewlett Packard Enterprise has a long-standing commitment to the principles of equal employment opportunity and age inclusion is no exception. The decision to implement a workforce reduction is always difficult, but we are confident that our decisions were based on legitimate factors unrelated to age.”

The lawsuit alleges that HP’s human resources department in 2013 issued written guidelines mandating that 75 percent of all external hires should be fresh from school or “early career” applicants.

Central to the lawsuit’s claims are statements attributed to Meg Whitman, who is now HP chairwoman and HP Enterprise CEO. She told a company meeting:

“We need to return to a labour pyramid … where you have a lot of early career people who bring a lot of knowledge who you’re training to move up through your organization, and then people fall out either from a performance perspective or whatever. And we put in place an informal rule to some extent which is, ‘Listen, when you are replacing someone, really think about the new style of IT skills.”

Blackberry cleared of fraud and being too positive

BlackberryA US appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit accusing BlackBerry of fraudulently inflating its stock price by painting an upbeat picture of the prospects for its BlackBerry Z10 smartphone line.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the lawsuit failed to state a plausible claim and sent it back to a lower court judge to reconsider whether to let the plaintiffs amend their complaint in light of what they said was new evidence.

BlackBerry launched its Z10 phone in January 2013 in a bid to recoup market share lost to Apple iPhone, and Samsung devices powered by Google Android.

While the BlackBerry Z10 had positive reviews, it had terrible sales and saw a $930 million writedown for unsold inventory. BlackBerry shares lost about one-sixth of their value that day.

As a result, the outfit ousted its chief executive officer, Thorsten Heins, less than two months later.

However the lawsuit alleged that BlackBerry attempted to conceal the poor performance of the Z10 in order to artificially inflate its stock price.

The 2nd Circuit upheld US District Judge Thomas Griesa’s March 2015 dismissal of the lawsuit for the failure to allege that BlackBerry and its executives knowingly misled investors.

The three judge appeals panel said the plaintiffs’ claims amounted to “fraud by hindsight” by saying that the defendants must have known the device would be unsuccessful.

The court said that the plaintiffs could try to persuade Griesa to let them amend their complaint in light of new legal developments and evidence that the plaintiffs said would support their claims.

If Griesa refuses to let the plaintiffs amend their complaint, he should explain his reasons, which he had not done before, the judges said.

Boffins come up with octobot

2016_rt_mw_octobot_001A team of Harvard boffins has invented the world’s first soft bodied robot which is modelled on an octopus.

Apparently designers have a lot to learn from cephalopods. They can squeeze themselves into and around nearly any obstacle.

The team built a robot with an exterior made of silicone. It uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel and when it washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot’s arms.

According to Nature magazine, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot’s eight arms and by flexing it is propelled through water.

At the moment the weak point is the fuel which lasts between four and eight minutes. It also has no sense of direction. The researchers are now working to add sensors to the robot, which would allow it to detect objects in its environment and navigate toward or away from them.

The scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance.

Woz says Apple needs to sort out Bluetooth

Wozniak_photoApple co-founder and all round nice bloke Steve Wozniak has warned Apple that its cunning plan to replace the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 is going to end in tears.

Jobs’ Mob thinks it is a super, cool idea to replace the jack with a Bluetooth connection. This will allow it to make the phone slimmer. However Woz thinks that the Bluetooth connection is not up to snuff and will cause problems.

Woz said that the loss of the 3.5mm earphone jack, is going to tick off a lot of people.

“I would not use Bluetooth … I don’t like wireless. I have cars where you can plug in the music, or go through Bluetooth, and Bluetooth just sounds so flat for the same music.”

Woz said he would probably use the adaptor to connect his existing earphones to his next iPhone, and said that, like many other users he is attached to the accessories that he uses alongside the phone.

“Mine have custom ear implants, they fit in so comfortably, I can sleep on them and everything. And they only come out with one kind of jack, so I’ll have to go through the adaptor,” he said.

“If there’s a Bluetooth 2 that has higher bandwidth and better quality, that sounds like real music, I would use it. But we’ll see. Apple is good at moving towards the future, and I like to follow that.

“I think USB-C is going to be the future,” he said.


Arista Networks loses appeal against Cisco’s trade ban

the Cisco kidThe U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC)  has upheld an import ban on Arista Networks ethernet switches which it thinks infringe Cisco’s patents.

The decision follows a complaint from  Cisco filed in December 2014 about the switches, which are used in computer data centres and servers.

In a blog post on the company’s website on Monday, Cisco general counsel Mark Chandler said the import ban was to start on Tuesday. The ITC said Arista infringed three Cisco patents relating to managing and securing communications networks. The ruling excludes the import of Arista’s network devices, including its 7000 series of switches, which generates most of that company’s product revenue. It also prevents the sale of domestic supplies of the imported products.

Arista’s general counsel, Marc Taxay, said the company has redesigned the software in its switches and believes it is in “full compliance” with the ITC’s orders.

“Our primary focus remains the continued supply of non-infringing products to our customers,” he said.

Arista also said it would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  Arista has not received approval from the ITC for the redesigned products.