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Always Have A Square to Spare

Some aspects of humanity affect all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it’s getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, getting a flat tire on the way to work, or upgrading a Linux package which somehow breaks the entire installation, some experiences are truly universal. Among these is pulling a few squares of toilet paper off the roll, only to have the entire roll unravel with an overly aggressive pull. It’s possible to employ a little technology so that none of us have to go through this hassle again, though.

[William Holden] and [Eric Strebel] have decided to tackle this problem with an innovative bearing of sorts that replaces a typical toilet paper holder. Embedded in the mechanism is a set of magnetic discs which provide a higher resistance than a normal roll holder would. Slowly pulling out squares of paper is possible, but like a non-Newtonian fluid becomes solid when a higher force is applied, the magnets will provide enough resistance when a higher speed tug is performed on the toilet paper. This causes the paper to tear rather than unspool the whole roll, and also allows the user to operate the toilet paper one-handed.

This is a great solution to a problem we’ve all faced but probably forgot about a minute after we experienced it. And, it also holds your cell phone to keep it from falling in the toilet! If you’d like to check out their Kickstarter, they are trying to raise money to bring the product to market. And, if you want to upgrade your toilet paper dispenser even further, there’s also an IoT device for it as well, of course.

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Source:: Hackaday

Mark Zuckerberg’s Mentor ‘Shocked and Disappointed’ — But He Has a Plan

Early Facebook investor Roger McNamee published a scathing 3,000-word article adapted from his new book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. Here’s just one example of what’s left him “shocked and disappointed”:
Facebook (along with Google and Twitter) has undercut the free press from two directions: it has eroded the economics of journalism and then overwhelmed it with disinformation. On Facebook, information and disinformation look the same; the only difference is that disinformation generates more revenue, so it gets better treatment…. At Facebook’s scale — or Google’s — there is no way to avoid influencing the lives of users and the future of nations. Recent history suggests that the threat to democracy is real. The efforts to date by Facebook, Google and Twitter to protect future elections may be sincere, but there is no reason to think they will do anything more than start a game of whack-a-mole with those who choose to interfere. Only fundamental changes to business models can reduce the risk to democracy.
Google and Facebook “are artificially profitable because they do not pay for the damage they cause,” McNamee argues, adding that some medical researchers “have raised alarms noting that we have allowed unsupervised psychological experiments on millions of people.”

But what’s unique is he’s offering specific suggestions to fix it.

“I want to set limits on the markets in which monopoly-class players like Facebook, Google and Amazon can operate. The economy would benefit from breaking them up. A first step would be to prevent acquisitions, as well as cross subsidies and data sharing among products within each platform.”
“Another important regulatory opportunity is data portability, such that users can move everything of value from one platform to another. This would help enable startups to overcome an otherwise insurmountable barrier to adoption.”
“Given that social media is practically a public utility, I think it is worth considering more aggressive strategies, including government subsidies.”
“There need to be versions of Facebook News Feed and all search results that are free of manipulation.”
“I would like to address privacy with a new model of authentication for website access that permits websites to gather only the minimum amount of data required for each transaction…. it would store private data on the device, not in the cloud. Apple has embraced this model, offering its customers valuable privacy and security advantages over Android.”
“No one should be able to use a user’s data in any way without explicit, prior consent. Third-party audits of algorithms, comparable to what exists now for financial statements, would create the transparency necessary to limit undesirable consequences.”
“There should be limits on what kind of data can be collected, such that users can limit data collection or choose privacy. This needs to be done immediately, before new products like Alexa and Google Home reach mass adoption.”

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Source:: Slashdot

Are You Ready For DNS Flag Day?

Long-time Slashdot reader syn3rg quotes the DNS Flag Day page:

The current DNS is unnecessarily slow and suffers from inability to deploy new features. To remediate these problems, vendors of DNS software and also big public DNS providers are going to remove certain workarounds on February 1st, 2019. This change affects only sites which operate software which is not following published standards. Are you affected?
The site includes a form where site owners can test their domain — it supplies a helpful technical report about any issues encountered — as well as suggestions for operators of DNS servers and DNS resolvers, researchers, and DNS software developers. The Internet Systems Consortium blog also has a list of the event’s supporters, which include Google, Facebook, Cisco, and Cloudflare, along with some history. “Extension Mechanisms for DNS were specified in 1999, with a minor update in 2013, establishing the ‘rules of the road’ for responding to queries with EDNS options or flags. Despite this, some implementations continue to violate the rules.

“DNS software developers have tried to solve the problems with the interoperability of the DNS protocol and especially its EDNS extension by various workarounds for non-standard behaviors… These workarounds excessively complicate DNS software and are now also negatively impacting the DNS as a whole. The most obvious problems caused by these workarounds are slower responses to DNS queries and the difficulty of deploying new DNS protocol features. Some of these new features (e.g. DNS Cookies) would help reduce DDoS attacks based on DNS protocol abuse….

“Our goal is a reliable and properly functioning DNS that cannot be easily attacked.”

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Source:: Slashdot

MIDI Association Announces MIDI 2.0 Prototyping

MIDI was introduced at the 1983 NAMM show as a means to connect various electronic instruments together. Since then, our favorite five-pin DIN has been stuffed into Radio Shack keyboards, MPCs, synths, eurorack modules, and DAWs. The standard basically hasn’t changed. Sure, we have MIDI SysEx messages to configure individual components of a MIDI setup, but at its core, MIDI hasn’t changed since it was designed as a current-loop serial protocol for 8-bit microcontrollers running at 1 MHz.

Now, ahead of the 2019 NAMM show, the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) in conjunction with AMEI, Japan’s MIDI Association, are announcing MIDI 2.0. The new features include, “auto-configuration, new DAW/web integrations, extended resolution, increased expressiveness, and tighter timing”. It will retain backwards-compatibility with MIDI 1.0 devices.

The new initiative, like the release of the first MIDI spec, is a joint venture between manufacturers of musical instruments. The company lineup on this press release is as follows: Ableton/Cycling ’74, Art+Logic, Bome Software, Google, imitone, Native Instruments, Roland, ROLI, Steinberg, TouchKeys, and Yamaha.

This is not an official announcement of the MIDI 2.0 specification. This is the ‘prototyping’ phase, where manufacturers implement the MIDI 2.0 spec as envisioned, write some documentation, figure out what the new logo will look like, and design a self-certification process. Prototyping is expected to continue through 2019, when the final MIDI 2.0 spec will be released on the MIDI Association website.

As far as hardware hackers are concerned, there shouldn’t be any change to your existing MIDI implementation, provided you’re not doing anything new. It should be backwards compatible, after all. The new spec will allow for increased range in expression and ‘tighter’ timing, which might be an indication that the baud rate of MIDI (31,250 baud +/- 1%) may change. There’s some interesting things in store for the last old-school physical layer in existence, and we can’t wait to see what comes out of it.

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Source:: Hackaday

Boo, the ‘world’s cutest dog,’ has died, and family is ‘heartbroken’ – CNET

The fluffy social-media celeb was the star of a calendar and a book and appeared on national talk shows. …read more

Source:: CNet

Venezuela’s Government Blocks Access To Wikipedia

Haaretz (with contributions from Reuters and the Associated Press) reports:
According to NetBlocks, a digital rights group that tracks restrictions to the internet, as of 12 January, Venezuela largest telecommunications provider CANTV has prevented access to Wikipedia in all languages. The internet observatory told Haaretz the ban was discovered by attempting “to access Wikipedia and other services 60,000 times from 150 different points in the country using multiple providers.”
Roughly 16 million people have access to the internet in the South American country ravaged by poverty and now facing a political crisis as leader Nicolas Maduro attempts to cling to power following a highly contested re-election last year. Wikipedia receives on average 60 million views from the country every month.
According to NetBlocks, the ban was likely imposed after a Wikipedia article listed newly-appointed National Assembly president Juan Guaidà as âoepresident number 51 of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,â ousting Maduro from his presidential status on Wikipedia… Alp Toker, the head of NetBlocks, explained to Haaretz that the block followed a string of controversial edits on the Spanish-language article for Guaido as well as other related articles.

Long-time Slashdot reader williamyf identifies himself as “a Venezuelan in Venezuela.” He reports that “The method used seems to be to intercept the SSL handshake and not a simple DNS block,” adding “the situation is developing.”
In May of last year the government declared a “state of emergency” that authorized the government to police the internet and filter content, rights activists reported Monday. They added that now Venezuela’s new leaders plan to introduce legislation requiring messaging service providers to censor content, and implementing other so-called “content security” measures.

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Source:: Slashdot

Is US Surveillance Technology Propping Up Authoritarian Regimes?

A senior policy analyst from a non-partisan national security think tank — and one of their cybersecurity policy fellows — sound a dire warning in an op-ed shared by Slashdot reader schwit1:
From facial recognition software to GPS trackers to computer hacking tools to systems that monitor and redirect flows of Internet traffic, contemporary surveillance technologies enable “high levels of social control at a reasonable cost,” as Nicholas Wright puts it in Foreign Affairs. But these technologies don’t just aid and enable what Wright and other policy analysts have called “digital authoritarianism.” They also promote a sovereign and controlled model of the Internet, one characterized by frequent censorship, pervasive surveillance and tight control by the state. The United States could be a world leader in preventing the spread of this Internet model, but to do so, we must reevaluate the role U.S. companies play in contributing to it….

On one hand, the United States cares deeply about protecting a global and open Internet… On the other hand, American companies are selling surveillance technology that undermines this mission — contributing to the broader spread of digital authoritarianism that the United States claims to fight. (This also implicates allies such as Britain, whose companies have also sold surveillance technology to oppressive regimes.) We won’t be able to allay this situation until the United States updates its approach to exporting surveillance technology. Of course, this must be done carefully. But digital authoritarianism is spreading, and U.S. companies need to stop helping it.-

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Source:: Slashdot

Somewhere Down in Africa Toto is Playing on Loop

Amidst the vast expanse of sand dunes in the Namib desert, there now exists a sound installation dedicated to pouring out the 1982 soft rock classic “Africa” by Toto. Six speakers connected to an MP3 player all powered by a few solar powered USB battery packs, and it is literally located somewhere down in Africa (see lyrics). The whole project, known as TOTO FOREVER, was the creation of film director [Max Siedentopf] who himself grew up in Namibia.

“I set up a sound installation which pays tribute to probably the most popular song of the last four decades…and the installation runs on solar batteries to keep Toto going for all eternity.”

Max Siedentopf, Creator of TOTO FOREVER

[Siedentopf] certainly chose a song that resonates with people on a number of levels. Toto’s “Africa” was one of the most streamed songs on YouTube in 2017 with over 369 million plays. The song continues to reach a new generation of fans as it has also been the subject of a number of internet memes. Though those local to the sound installation have had some less than positive things to say. [Siedentopf] told BBC, “Some [Namibians] say it’s probably the worst sound installation ever. I think that’s a great compliment.”

The idea of the installation “lasting for all eternity” will certainly be difficult to achieve since the components most certainly lack any serious IP rating. The audio player itself appears to be a RHDTShop mp3 player that according to its Amazon listing page, has three to four hours of battery life per charge. Considering the size of those solar cells the whole thing will probably be dead in a week or two (it is in a desert after all), but no one can deny the statement TOTO FOREVER makes. Below is some footage of the art piece in action taken by the artist himself.

via BBC

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Source:: Hackaday

Prize-winning underwater photos will make you want to learn to dive – CNET

Move over, Aquaman: These astonishing ocean images rule the seas. …read more

Source:: CNet

Paddle through 16 breathtaking and prize-winning underwater photos – CNET

From curious seals to graceful devil rays, the creatures of the sea posed for some spectacular shots. …read more

Source:: CNet

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