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The Courts

Czech Judge Cuts Deal With Software Pirate: Get 200K YouTube Views Or Pay Huge Fine 93

An anonymous reader writes: A judge allowed a software pirate to make a anti-piracy PSA and get away from paying a $373,000 / €351,000 fine he owed Microsoft and other software manufacturers. The only condition was that his video should get over 200,000 views on YouTube. From the BBC's coverage of the trial's unusual outcome: [The defendant, known only as Jakub F] came to the out-of-court settlement with a host of firms whose software he pirated after being convicted by a Czech court. In return, they agreed not to sue him. ... The firms, which included Microsoft, HBO Europe, Sony Music and Twentieth Century Fox, estimated that the financial damage amounted to 5.7m Czech Crowns (£148,000). But the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represented Microsoft, acknowledged that Jakub could not pay that sum. Instead, the companies said they would be happy to receive only a small payment and his co-operation in the production of the video. In order for the firms' promise not to sue to be valid, they said, the video would have to be viewed at least 200,000 times within two months of its publication this week. ... But, if the video did not reach the target, the spokesman said that — "in theory" — the firms would have grounds to bring a civil case for damages."

Blue Origin "New Shepherd" Makes It To Space... and Back Again ( 121

Geoffrey.landis writes: Blue Origin's "New Shepherd" suborbital vehicle made its first flight into space (defined as 100 km altitude)... and successfully landed both the capsule (by parachute) and the booster rocket (vertical landing under rocket power). This is the first time that a vehicle has made it into space and had all components fully recovered for reuse since the NASA flights of the X-15 in the 1960s. Check out the videos at various places on the web.

Disney IT Workers Prepare To Sue Over Foreign Replacements ( 262

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: At least 23 former Disney IT workers have filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over the loss of their jobs to foreign replacements. This federal filing is a first step to filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination. These employees are arguing that they are victims of national origin discrimination, a complaint increasingly raised by U.S. workers who have lost their jobs to foreign workers on H-1B and other temporary visas. Disney's layoff last January followed agreements with IT services contractors that use foreign labor, mostly from India. Some former Disney workers have begun to go public (video) over the displacement process
Social Networks

EFF launches Site To Track Censored Content On Social Media ( 39

Mark Wilson writes: There are many problems with the censoring of online content, not least that it can limit free speech. But there is also the question of transparency. By the very nature of censorship, unless you have been kept in the loop you would simply not know that anything had been censored. This is something the Electronic Frontier Foundation wants to change, and today the digital rights organization launches to blow the lid off online censorship. The site, run by EFF and Visualizing Impact, aims to reveal the content that is censored on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube — not just the 'what' but the 'why'. If you find yourself the subject of censorship, the site also explains how to lodge an appeal.

YouTube Defending Select Videos Against DMCA Abuse 56

Galaga88 writes: It's not a complete solution, but YouTube is going to begin stepping up to defend select videos in court on fair use terms, including covering court costs. Will this help stem the tide of bad DMCA takedown requests, or just help the select few YouTube doesn't want to lose? From the blog post linked: We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns. With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them. ... In addition to protecting the individual creator, this program could, over time, create a “demo reel” that will help the YouTube community and copyright owners alike better understand what fair use looks like online and develop best practices as a community.

ISIS Help Desk Assists In Covering Tracks ( 145

An anonymous reader writes: The ISIS terror group appears to have 5 to 6 members offering 24-hour support on how to encrypt communications, hide personal details and use apps like Twitter while avoiding surveillance. It's kind of like a 'help desk,' though not an actual call center hiding in the hills. It is a group of IT specialists answering questions from locations spread out all over the world, according to Aaron Brantly at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. It has been find out that the advice is largely being relayed on an ISIS channel on Telegram, a messaging app that has become popular among members of the group because it allows for special secret chats. The jihadi help desk has lengthy training manuals, and Brantly has reviewed over 300 pages of training documents and roughly 25 YouTube videos that provide tips to evade intelligence agencies and law enforcement.
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Battlefront Released ( 126

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday marked the release of Star Wars Battlefront, EA DICE's attempt to resurrect a Star Wars video game series that had great success a decade ago, but gradually petered out over the course of several years. Early reviews for the game are mixed. Games Radar's video review gives it a lot of credit for being incredibly faithful to the feeling of Star Wars. Polygon's review praises the game's accessibility and its broad variety of PvP options, but acknowledges that it had to trade complexity to get there. Giant Bomb's review is much more blunt: "Slick production values, solid controls, and tons of fan service can't make up for mediocre progression and a lack of content." Many reviews rate the graphics highly, and performance is solid even on consoles. It's worth noting that user ratings on Metacritic come in significantly lower than critics' ratings, with the most common complaint being about the dearth of content.

Anonymous Takes Down Thousands of ISIS-Related Twitter Accounts In a Day ( 318

BarbaraHudson writes: Softpedia is reporting that Anonymous, along with social media users, have identified several thousand Twitter accounts allegedly linked to ISIS members. "Besides scanning for ISIS Twitter accounts themselves, the hacking group has also opened access to the [takedown operation] site to those interested. Anyone who comes across ISIS social media accounts can easily search the database and report any new terrorists and supporters. The website is called #opIceISIS [slow right now, but it does load] and will index ISIS members based on their real name, location, picture, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts." Anonymous crowdsourcing their operations... welcome to the brave new world, ISIS. An article at The Independent reminds everyone that this information has not been independently confirmed, and that Anonymous is certainly capable of misidentifying people. It's also worth exploring the question of why Twitter hasn't already disabled these accounts, and why intelligence agencies haven't done anything about them, if they're so easy to find.

Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools? 168

theodp writes: A year after it paid $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft, Microsoft has announced a partnership with that makes a Minecraft-themed introduction to programming a signature tutorial of this year's Hour of Code, which hopes to reach 200 million schoolchildren next month in what the Microsoft-funded nonprofit is billing as the largest learning event in history. "A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a press release, which also notes that "Microsoft is gifting Windows Store credit to every educator who organizes an Hour of Code event worldwide." Of the Minecraft tutorial, CEO Hadi Partovi gushed, "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."
The Military

Anonymous Vows Revenge For ISIS Paris Attacks 488

An anonymous reader writes: As usual, Anonymous members are quicker to respond to threats than investigators and have announced #OpParis as revenge for the Paris attacks. Their action is similar to #OpISIS from this spring, launched after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Previously Anonymous ousted thousands of ISIS Twitter accounts in #OpISIS. In a more conventional response, the government of France has been bombarding ISIS positions in Syria with airstrikes, and hunting for suspect Salah Abdeslam in connection with Friday's killings.
Christmas Cheer

'Twas the Week Before the Week of Black Friday 146

theodp writes: It's almost time for America's answer to the Running of the Bulls (YouTube), kids. So, if you're dreaming of a cheap tech Christmas, it's time to peruse the 2015 Black Friday ads and make your game plan. Get lucky at Best Buy this year, and you could score a $299.99 Dell 15.6" touchscreen laptop (i3, 8GB memory, 1 TB HD), a $399.99 Microsoft 10.8" Surface 3 (Atom x7, 2GB memory, 64GB storage), $899.99 MacBook Pro 13.3" laptop (i5, 4GB memory, 500MB HD), $99 Acer 11.6" Chromebook (Celeron, 2GB memory, 16GB storage), or, for those on a tight budget, a $34.99 7" Amazon Fire tablet. Fight the crowds at Walmart, and you could snag a $199 HP 15.6" laptop (Celeron, 4GB memory, 500GB drive) or $199 iPad mini 2. And for stay-at-home shoppers, Dell's Windows 10 price-breakers include a $149.99 14" laptop (Celeron, 2GB memory, 32GB storage) and a $229 15.6" laptop (i3, 4GB memory, 500MB HD). So, in your experience, has Black Friday been like a claw machine — suckering you with big prizes, but never delivering — or have you actually walked away with a great deal?

Google's New About Me Tool Is the Anti-Google+ 54

An anonymous reader writes: Google has launched a new tool called About me that lets you see, edit, and remove the personal information that the company's services show to other users. Google confirmed to VentureBeat that the feature started rolling out to users this week. Google's various products and services (Gmail, Hangouts, Google Maps, Inbox, Google Play, YouTube, Google+, and so on) sometimes ask you to share certain personal information. These details are then shown to other users who interact with you or search for you. Until now, all of this was stored in Google+, assuming you created an account. But Google+ is no longer a requirement for Google's services, and so the company needs a new solution, and ideally one that isn't public by default.

Head of Indonesia's Anti-Drug Agency Proposes Using Crocodiles To Guard Prisons 83 writes: BBC reports that Budi Waseso, the head of Indonesia's anti-drugs agency has proposed building a prison island guarded by crocodiles to house death-row drug convicts and says crocodiles make better guards than humans — because they cannot be bribed. "We will place as many crocodiles as we can there," says Waseso. "You can't bribe crocodiles. You can't convince them to let inmates escape." Waseso says only traffickers would be kept in the jail, to stop them from mixing with other prisoners and potentially recruiting them to drug gangs. The plan, reminiscent of James Bond's "Live and Let Die" movie escape, is still in the early stages, and neither the location or potential opening date of the jail have been decided. Anti-drugs agency spokesman Slamet Pribadi confirmed authorities were mulling the plan to build "a special prison for death row convicts" Indonesia already has some of the toughest anti-narcotics laws in the world, including death by firing squad for traffickers, and sparked international uproar in April when it put to death seven foreign drug convicts, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Despite the harsh laws, Indonesia's corrupt prison system is awash with drugs, and inmates and jail officials are regularly arrested for narcotics offences.

Viewing Data Harvested From Smart TVs Used To Push Ads To Other Screens? ( 148

chicksdaddy writes: In the latest episode of EULA overreach, electronics maker Vizio Holdings has been called out by the non profit investigative reporting outfit ProPublica for an on-by-default feature on its smart TVs called "Smart Interactivity" that analyzes both broadcast and streamed content viewed using the device. ProPublica noted that the company's privacy policy failed to clearly describe the tracking behavior, which included the collection of information such as the date, time, channel and whether the program was viewed live or recorded.

According to ProPublica, the monitoring of viewing information through IP addresses, while it does not identify individuals, can be combined with other data available in commercial databases from brokers such as Experian, creating a detailed picture of an individual or household. Vizio has since updated its privacy policy with a supplement that explains how "Smart Interactivity" works.

The bigger issue may be what that updated privacy policy reveals. As The Security Ledger notes, the updated Vizio privacy policy makes clear that the company will combine "your IP address and other Non-Personal Information in order to inform third party selection and delivery of targeted and re-targeted advertisements." Those advertisements "may be delivered to smartphones, tablets, PCs or other internet-connected devices that share an IP address or other identifier with your Smart TV."

In other words, TV viewing patterns will be used to serve ads to any device user who happens to be connected to the same network as the Vizio Smart TV — an obvious problem for households with a mix of say... adults and children?! Vizio does provide instructions for disabling the Smart Interactivity features and says that "connected" features of the device aren't contingent on monitoring. That's better than some other vendors. In 2014, for example, LG used a firmware update for its smart televisions to link the "smart" features of the device to viewer tracking and monitoring. Viewers who applied the update, but refused to consent to monitoring were not able to use services like Netflix and YouTube.


Before Barbie's Brainy Makeover, Mattel Execs Met With White House, Google 125

theodp writes: Mattel came under fire last November over its portrayal of Computer Engineer Barbie as incompetent. But the toymaker is now drawing kudos for its new Imagine the Possibilities Barbie ad campaign (video), which shows little girls pretending to be professionals in real-life settings, including a college professor lecturing students about the brain. Ad Age, however, is cynical of the empowering spin on Barbie, which it says "comes across as a manipulative way to silence criticism." Interestingly, some of that criticism may have come from the White House.

WH Visitor Records show that Barbie's brainy makeover came after Mattel execs — Evelyn Mazzocco, Julia Pistor, Heather Lazarus — were summoned to the White House last April to meet with the White House Council on Women and Girls. A little Googling suggests other attendees at the sit-down included representatives of the nation's leading toy makers (Disney Consumer, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, American Girl), media giants (Disney Channels, Viacom, TIME, Scholastic, Univision, Participant Media, Cartoon Network, Netflix), retailers (Walmart, Target), educators, scientists, the U.S. Dept. of Education (including the Deputy Director of Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative), philanthropists (Rockefeller, Harnisch Foundations) — and Google. Representing Google was CS Education in Media Program Manager Julie Ann Crommett, who has worked with Disney to shape programming to inspire girls to pursue CS in conjunction with the search giant's $50 million Made With Code initiative.

The April White House meeting appears to be a reschedule of a planned March meeting that was to have included other Mattel execs, including Stephanie Cota, Venetia Davie, and Lori Pantel, to whom the task of apologizing for Computer Engineer Barbie fell last November. For the first time in over a decade, Barbie was no longer the most popular girls' toy last holiday season, having lost her crown to Disney Princesses Elsa and Anna, who coincidentally teamed up with Google-backed last December to "teach President Obama to code" at a widely-publicized White House event.

Ocean-Mapping Robots Could Help Uncover Mysteries of the Deep Blue ( 21

An anonymous reader writes: A swarm of pumpkin-shaped robots is being developed to map oceans, gathering maritime data for use in tourism, reef monitoring and anti-terrorism among other applications. The Eve robot – or Ellipsodial Vehicle for Exploration – was created by Sampriti Bhattacharyya, a robotics engineer at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT). Inspired by the loss of the Malaysia Airlines plane, the scientist envisions her yellow robots travelling below the water's surface, using their sensors to detect and monitor underwater happenings – both individually and collaboratively.

Google-Supported CodeGirl Documentary Makes "Exclusive YouTube Premiere" 289

theodp writes: As part of our Made with Code and media perception initiatives," wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki over at the Official Google Blog, "I'm excited that we're supporting award-winning documentary filmmaker Lesley Chilcott — of An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman [and] fame — on her next film, CodeGirl. Until November 5 Lesley's film will be available for free on YouTube, before its theatrical debut in the next few weeks." Microsoft is pretty jazzed about the movie too, as is Al Gore. Decidedly less excited about CodeGirl is film critic Inkoo Kang, who writes, "CodeGirl, a chronicle of this year's Technovation contest, is just as well-intentioned as its subject. It coasts for as long as it can on the feel-good fuel of watching smart, earnest girls talk about creating an app, but with virtually no tension, context, narrative or characterization driving the story, the documentary grows to feel like a parent describing their daughter's involvement in an international competition. The girls' achievements are impressive, but you definitely don't want to hear about them for nearly two hours.
Emulation (Games)

Hacking Jules Coaxes Android Wear To Run Nintendo 64 and PSP Emulators ( 37

Espectr0 writes: YouTube user Hacking Jules would like you to see his collection of game emulators running on Android Wear. He manages to play classic 3D Mario and Zelda games running in a Nintendo 64 emulator on the original LG G-Watch, while also running Monster Hunter on the PPSSPP emulator.As the linked article admits, this is a work of passion rather than practicality -- if you actually want to play those games enjoyably, don't trade your console or conventional emulator for a smart watch.

Revisiting Why Johnny Can't Code: Have We "Made the Print Too Small"? 270

theodp writes: In What is Computer Science?, the kickoff video for Facebook's new TechPrep diversity initiative, FB product manager Adriel Frederick explains how he was hooked-on-coding after seeing the magic of a BASIC PRINT statement. His simple BASIC example is a nice contrast to the more complicated JavaScript and Ruby examples that were chosen to illustrate Mark Zuckerberg's what-is-coding video for schoolkids. In How to Teach Your Baby to Read, the authors explain, "It is safe to say that in particular very young children can read, provided that, in the beginning, you make the print very big." So, is introducing coding to schoolkids with modern programming languages instead of something like BASIC (2006) or even (gasp!) spreadsheets (2002) the coding equivalent of "making the print too small" for a child to see and understand?