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Businesses

Oracle Buys Dyn DNS Provider (techcrunch.com) 117

Oracle announced today it is buying DNS provider Dyn, a company that was in the press lately after it was hit by a large-scale DDoS attack in October that resulted in many popular websites becoming inaccessible. From a TechCrunch report:Oracle plans to add Dyn's DNS solution to its bigger cloud computing platform, which already sells/provides a variety of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) products. Oracle and Dyn didn't disclose the price of the deal but we are trying to find out. Dan Primack reports that it's around $600 million. We've also asked for a comment from Oracle about Dyn's recent breach, and whether the wheels were set in motion for this deal before or after the Mirai botnet attack in October.
Databases

MongoDB CEO Claims They're Luring Customers From Oracle (diginomica.com) 153

"MongoDB is increasingly encroaching on Oracle's database lead -- with enterprises becoming more and more confident with the maturing NoSQL technology," according to Diginomica, citing this new interview with CEO Dev Ittycheria: 30% of our business is migration off existing workloads to us. Two years ago it was 5%. Ditching Oracle and others, but mainly Oracle... one of the nice benefits of being in this market is that Oracle has done a great job of alienating its customer base... if there are performance reasons, regulatory reasons, developer demand -- [people] will change... We have grown business by 2.5X over last two years. And our employee base has pretty much doubled.
One reason he cites is Oracle's higher prices on their top-line products, saying MongoDB's new customers include "a large bank, whose logo you would recognize instantly [with] a very sophisticated equities trading platform." Ittycheria says MongoDB is now a nine-figure business, and after they launched their new database-as-a-service product Atlas last June, "the growth in that business has been off the charts."
Privacy

A $5 Tool Called PoisonTap Can Hack Your Locked Computer In One Minute (vice.com) 172

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A new tool makes it almost trivial for criminals to log onto websites as if they were you, and get access to your network router, allowing them to launch other types of attacks. Hackers and security researchers have long found ways to hack into computers left alone. But the new $5 tool called PoisonTap, created by the well-known hacker and developer Samy Kamkar, can even break into password-protected computers, as long as there's a browser open in the background. Kamkar explained how it works in a blog post published on Wednesday. And all a hacker has to do is plug it in and wait. PoisonTap is built on a Raspberry Pi Zero microcomputer. Once it's plugged into a USB port, it emulates a network device and attacks all outbound connections by pretending to be the whole internet, tricking the computer to send all traffic to it. Once the device is positioned in the middle like this, it can steal the victim's cookies, as long as they come from websites that don't use HTTPS web encryption, according to Kamkar. Security experts that reviewed Kamkar's research for Motherboard agreed that this is a novel attack, and a good way to expose the excessive trust that Mac and Windows computers have in network devices. That's the key of PoisonTap's attacks -- once what looks like a network device is plugged into a laptop, the computer automatically talks to it and exchanges data with it.
Government

FCC Abides By GOP Request To Stop What It's Doing, Deletes Everything From Meeting Agenda (arstechnica.com) 119

One day after republicans from the house and senate sent letters to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging him to avoid passing regulations before Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Wheeler appears to have complied with the request. The FCC today "announced the deletion of all items that were originally scheduled to be presented and voted on at tomorrow's meeting." Ars Technica reports: Before the change, the agenda included votes on price caps for "special access" business data services; Universal Service funding to expand mobile broadband networks; wireless roaming obligations; and requirements for audio description of TV programming for blind and visually impaired people. The only item not deleted from tomorrow's meeting is part of the "consent agenda," which means it is routine and wasn't going to be presented individually. Of the major items, the business data services proposal had received the most attention. These are dedicated wireline circuits provided by traditional phone companies like AT&T and Verizon; the services supply bandwidth for cellular data networks, indirectly affecting the price consumers pay for wireless service. The business data services are also used by banks and retailers to connect ATM machines and credit card readers, by government and corporate users to connect branch offices and data centers, and to support public safety operations and health care facilities. The now-deleted agenda item would have phased in price cap decreases of 11 percent over three years to account for "over a decade of efficiency gains" since the last price cap adjustment.
Desktops (Apple)

Microsoft Announces Visual Studio For Mac (venturebeat.com) 83

On the sidelines of major announcements such as Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation, and Google joining the .NET Foundation, at its Connect(); 2016 developer conference, Microsoft also announced that it bringing Visual Studio for rival platform Mac. The company also announced a preview of the next version of SQL Server, and a preview of Azure App Service support for containers. From a Venture Beat report:"We want to help developers achieve more and capitalize on the industry's shift toward cloud-first and mobile-first experiences using the tools and platforms of their choice," Microsoft Cloud and enterprise executive vice president Scott Guthrie said in a statement. "By collaborating with the community to provide open, flexible, and intelligent tools and cloud services, we're helping every developer deliver unprecedented levels of innovation." The fact that Microsoft is bringing its IDE to macOS would have arguably been the biggest news of the day, had the company not leaked the information itself earlier this week. Still, a preview of Visual Studio for Mac is now available, letting developers write cloud, mobile, and macOS apps on Apple's desktop operating system using .NET and C#. It's a big deal, given that Microsoft once made a point of locking in developers by only offering its tools on Windows. This has changed over time, with a big highlight in April 2015 when Microsoft launched Visual Studio Code, its cross-platform code editor, for Windows, Mac, and Linux.More info on Microsoft releasing SQL Server Preview for Ubuntu and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Microsoft

Google Joins Microsoft's .NET Foundation (venturebeat.com) 93

Emil Protalinski, writing for VentureBeat:As part of its slew of announcements at its Connect(); 2016 developer event in New York City today, Microsoft unveiled that Google is joining the .NET Foundation. Specifically, Google is becoming a member of the Technical Steering Group, which Microsoft says "reinforces the vibrancy of the .NET developer community" and also underlines "Google's commitment to fostering an open platform that supports businesses and developers who have standardized on .NET." [...] So what does Google joining actually mean? In short, Google will help steer the future of .NET in a way that is "similar to an open standard," Xamarin cofounder and Microsoft's current vice president of mobile developer tools, Nat Friedman, told VentureBeat. Google's decision is being driven by its enterprise business (Google Cloud) and the desire to keep up with businesses adopting public and hybrid clouds. The company sees the move as part of its commitment to open-source technology, which benefits all enterprises, and cross-platform development that gives developers and IT professionals access to the best tools.
Medicine

Chemical Traces On Your Phone Reveal Your Lifestyle, Scientists Say (theguardian.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists say they can deduce the lifestyle of an individual, down to the kind of grooming products they use, food they eat and medications they take, from chemicals found on the surface of their mobile phone. Experts say analysis of someone's phone could be a boon both to healthcare professionals, and the police. "You can narrow down male versus female; if you then figure out they use sunscreen then you pick out the [people] that tend to be outdoorsy -- so all these little clues can sort of narrow down the search space of candidate people for an investigator," said Pieter Dorrestein, co-author of the research from the University of California, San Diego. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the U.S. and Germany describe how they swabbed the mobile phone and right hand of 39 individuals and analyzed the samples using the highly sensitive technique of mass spectrometry. The results revealed that each person had a distinct "signature" set of chemicals on their hands which distinguished them from each other. What's more, these chemicals partially overlapped with those on their phones, allowing the devices to be distinguished from each other, and matched to their owners. Analysis of the chemical traces using a reference database allowed the team to match the chemicals to known substances or their relatives to reveal tell-tale clues from each individual's life -- from whether they use hair-loss treatments to whether they are taking antidepressants.
Businesses

Charter Customer Sues Over Hidden Fees, Claims 'Massive Billing Fraud' (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A Charter customer has sued the cable company, alleging that it falsely advertises a lower price than it actually charges and falsely tells customers that extra fees tacked onto their bills are mandated by the government. The complaint, filed in California State Superior court in San Diego, takes aim at the "Broadcast TV" and "Sports Programming" surcharges that are added to customers' bills despite not being included in the advertised rate. "Charter is committing massive billing fraud by disguising price increases above the advertised and promised service package price in the form of the bogus 'Broadcast TV and Sports Programming Surcharges' line item on customer bills," said the lawsuit filed last week by Michael Song. The plaintiff is a subscriber in California, where Charter, the second largest cable company in the US after Comcast, operates via its newly acquired Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary. Song is paying an extra $8.75 a month from those two fees combined. In addition to subtracting the fees from the advertised price, Charter falsely tells customers that it collects the fees to comply with government mandates, the lawsuit says. A Charter/TWC bill from last month is included in the complaint, and it says, "TWC imposes surcharges to recover costs of complying with its governmental obligations." Song's complaint also has a transcript of a chat with a Charter customer service agent, who claimed that Charter pays the broadcast fee back to the government. The customer service agent apparently has only a limited grasp of English, but the chat transcript helps illustrate one of the ways in which customers are being misinformed about their bills. Song's lawsuit repeatedly refers to the Broadcast TV and Sports Programming surcharges as "bogus" and "hidden," since they subtract a portion of the standard monthly charges from the "services" section of the bill.
Operating Systems

Samsung Really, Really Wants Developers To Build Tizen Apps (theinquirer.net) 122

Samsung wants developers to build apps for its homegrown Tizen mobile operating system, and it is offering cash prizes to do so. From a report on The Inquirer:The firm has launched the Tizen Mobile App Incentive Programme, which offers devs whose apps feature in the top 100 most downloaded rankings (can't be that hard, surely) a $10,000 reward. The firm will pay up to $1m a month from February to September 2017, Samsung said, making a total of $9m up for grabs. Developers will be able to sign up for the Tizen incentive programme from January 2017, and the firm explained that applications must be developed using the Tizen SDK and aimed at the Tizen-powered Samsung Z1, Z2 and Z3.
Desktops (Apple)

Microsoft is Bringing Visual Studio To Mac (techcrunch.com) 133

Microsoft will finally bring Visual Studio, a "true mobile-first, cloud-first development tool for .NET and C#," to Mac later this month, the company has said. From a report on TechCrunch:The IDE is very similar to the one found on Windows. In fact, that is presumably the point. By making it easy for OS X users to switch back and forth between platforms, Microsoft is able to ensure coders can quickly become desktop agnostic or, barring that, give Windows a try again. From the release: "At its heart, Visual Studio for Mac is a macOS counterpart of the Windows version of Visual Studio. If you enjoy the Visual Studio development experience, but need or want to use macOS, you should feel right at home. Its UX is inspired by Visual Studio, yet designed to look and feel like a native citizen of macOS. And like Visual Studio for Windows, it's complemented by Visual Studio Code for times when you don't need a full IDE, but want a lightweight yet rich standalone source editor.
Movies

More Code In Movies: Nmap Meets Snowden (nmap.org) 73

After Saturday's story about the code samples in the new movie Arrival, an anonymous reader reminded us of this classic essay at Nmap.org: For reasons unknown, Hollywood has decided that Nmap is the tool to show whenever hacking scenes are needed... While Nmap had been used in some previous obscure movies, it was The Matrix Reloaded which really turned Nmap into a movie star!
Nmap.org has a tradition -- the first person to notify them when new Nmap appears in a new movie wins a signed copy of Nmap Network Scanning "or a T-shirt of your choice from the Zero Day Clothing Nmap Store." (The site adds that "movie script writers, artists, and digital asset managers are also welcome to email Fyodor for advice.") And Nmap.org just added another film, Oliver Stone's new movie about Edward Snowden. In one early scene, Snowden is given a network security challenge at a CIA training class which is expected to take 5 to 8 hours. But with the help Nmap and a custom Nmap NSE script named ptest.nse, Snowden stuns the professor by completing everything in 38 minutes!
According to the site, even the movie's trailer features Nmap. Anybody else have their own favorite stories about code in the movies?
Java

Java's Open Sourcing Still Controversial Ten Years Later (infoworld.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Sun Microsystems officially open-sourced Java on November 13, 2006... "The source code for Java was available to all from the first day it was released in 1995," says [Java creator James] Gosling, who is now chief architect at Liquid Robotics. "What we wanted out of that was for the community to help with security analysis, bug reporting, performance enhancement, understanding corner cases, and a whole lot more. It was very successful." Java's original license, Gosling says, allowed people to use the source code internally but not redistribute. "It wasn't 'open' enough for the 'open source' crowd," he says... While Gosling has taken Oracle to task for its handling of Java at times, he sees the [2006] open-sourcing as beneficial. "It's one of the most heavily scrutinized and solid bodies of software you'll find. Community participation was vitally important..."

A former Oracle Java evangelist, however, sees the open source move as watered down. "Sun didn't open-source Java per se," says Reza Rahman, who has led a recent protest against Oracle's handling of enterprise Java. "What they did was to open-source the JDK under a modified GPL license. In particular, the Java SE and Java EE TCKs [Technology Compatibility Kits] remain closed source."

Rahman adds that "Without open-sourcing the JDK, I don't think Java would be where it is today."
Movies

How Stephen Wolfram Devised Interstellar Travel (And Code Samples) For 'Arrival' (backchannel.com) 102

The new movie "Arrival" depicts first contact with aliens, and its producers faced the question of how interstellar spacecraft would actually work. They turned to futurist Stephen Wolfram, who came up with an answer overnight, and also tasked his son with writing much of the computer code seen on displays in the movie. Slashdot reader mirandakatz brings us Wolfram's story: Christopher was well aware that code shown in movies often doesn't make sense (a favorite, regardless of context, seems to be the source code for nmap.c in Linux). But he wanted to create code that would make sense, and would actually do the analyses that would be going on in the movie... For instance, there's a nice shot of rearranging alien "handwriting," in which one sees a Wolfram Language notebook with rather elegant Wolfram Language code in it. And, yes, those lines of code actually do the transformation that's in the notebook. It's real stuff, with real computations being done...

For the movie, I wanted to have a particular theory for interstellar travel. And who knows, maybe one day in the distant future it'll turn out to be correct. But as of now, we certainly don't know. In fact, for all we know, there's just some simple "hack" in existing physics that'll immediately make interstellar travel possible.

Wolfram's theory posited that space is just one of the attributes emerging from a low-level network of nodes, where long-range connections occasionally break out of three-dimensional space altogether. His 6,900-word essay (originally published on his blog) also suggests film-making has "some structural similarities" with software development -- and grapples with the question of how we'd actually communicate with aliens once they've arrived.
Programming

'Here Be Dragons': The Seven Most Vexing Problems In Programming (infoworld.com) 497

InfoWorld has identified "seven of the gnarliest corners of the programming world," which Slashdot reader snydeq describes as "worthy of large markers reading, 'Here be dragons.'" Some examples:
  • Multithreading. "It sounded like a good idea," according to the article, but it just leads to a myriad of thread-managing tools, and "When they don't work, it's pure chaos. The data doesn't make sense. The columns don't add up. Money disappears from accounts with a poof. It's all bits in memory. And good luck trying to pin down any of it..."
  • NP-complete problems. "Everyone runs with fear from these problems because they're the perfect example of one of the biggest bogeymen in Silicon Valley: algorithms that won't scale."

The other dangerous corners include closures, security, encryption, and identity management, as well as that moment "when the machine runs out of RAM." What else needs to be on a definitive list of the most dangerous "gotchas" in professional programming?


Movies

IMDb Sues California To Overturn Law Forcing Them To Remove Actors' Ages (theguardian.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is suing California over a law forcing the website to remove the ages of actors on request, saying it is unconstitutional. California passed a law in September ruling that "a commercial online entertainment employment service provider" would be required to remove details of the age of any of its subscribers within five days, on the request of the subscriber. The law was intended to fight age discrimination in the film industry and had been campaigned for by actors' groups. The president of the union Sag-Aftra wrote in August that actors "face blatant age discrimination every day as websites routinely used for casting talent force birth dates and ages on casting decision-makers without their even realizing it." However, IMDb's suit (pdf) claims that the law "does not advance, much less achieve" the goal of reducing age discrimination, and that it violates both the first amendments and commerce clause of the U.S. constitution. IMDb also claims it separately violates federal law "because it imposes liability on IMDb based on factual content that is lawfully posted by its users." The website criticizes the state of California for passing the law, saying it has "chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information." IMDb says it is being unfairly targeted and that the law does not deal with the main cause of age discrimination. The case claims the law is both too broad -- as it includes all film professionals, rather than just those who could expect to be the target of age discrimination such as actors -- and too narrow, as it fails to impose the same restrictions on the "myriad other sources of the same information," such as Wikipedia, Google or specialist websites that list the birthdays of famous people. IMDb also says that subscribers to its paid professional service, IMDb Pro, have been able to edit or remove biographical details about themselves on the site since 2010.

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