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Thursday January 03, 2019 @ 01:49:27 AM mt

Hackers Are Taking Over Chromecasts To Promote a YouTube Channel




In what is being referred to as CastHack, hackers j3ws3r and HackerGiraffe are promoting Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg by forcing TVs to display a message encouraging people to subscribe to his YouTube channel. "The hack takes advantage of a router setting that makes smart devices, like Chromecasts and Google Homes, publicly viewable on the internet," reports The Verge. "The attackers are then able to gain control of the devices and broadcast videos on a connected TV." From the report: A website for the attack claims to count the number of TVs forced to show the PewDiePie message and currently says more than 3,000 have been affected. While it's not clear that this is an accurate number (it has reset several times), a number of people posted on Reddit that the video had appeared on their TV. Google tells The Verge it has received reports from people who had "an unauthorized video played on their TVs via a Chromecast device," but said the issue was the result of router settings. Both HackerGiraffe and Google told The Verge the best way for affected users to fix the issue is to turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on their routers. The two hackers said they were behind a hack in November that forced printers around the world to print out sheets of paper telling people to subscribe to PewDiePie.

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Thursday January 03, 2019 @ 01:49:22 AM mt

Ajit Pai Thanks Congress For Helping Him Kill Net Neutrality Rules




FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today thanked Congress for preventing the U.S. government from enforcing net neutrality rules. "The Pai-led Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules, but the repeal could have been reversed by Congress if it acted before the end of its session," reports Ars Technica. "Democrats won a vote to reverse the repeal in the Senate but weren't able to get enough votes in the House of Representatives before time ran out." From the report: "I'm pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation," Pai said in a statement marking the deadline passage today. Pai claimed that broadband speed improvements and new fiber deployments in 2018 occurred because of his net neutrality repeal -- although speeds and fiber deployment also went in the right direction while net neutrality rules were in place. "Over the past year, the Internet has remained free and open," Pai said, adding that "the FCC's light-touch approach is working." Pai didn't mention a recent case in which CenturyLink temporarily blocked its customers' Internet access in order to show an ad or a recent research report accusing Sprint of throttling Skype (which Sprint denies).

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Thursday January 03, 2019 @ 01:49:16 AM mt

Wireless 'Pacemaker For the Brain' Could Offer New Treatment For Neurological Disorders




Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new neurostimulator that can listen to and stimulate electric current in the brain at the same time, potentially delivering fine-tuned treatments for patients with diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson's. Science Daily reports: The device, named the WAND, works like a "pacemaker for the brain," monitoring the brain's electrical activity and delivering electrical stimulation if it detects something amiss. These devices can be extremely effective at preventing debilitating tremors or seizures in patients with a variety of neurological conditions. But the electrical signatures that precede a seizure or tremor can be extremely subtle, and the frequency and strength of electrical stimulation required to prevent them is equally touchy. It can take years of small adjustments by doctors before the devices provide optimal treatment. WAND, which stands for wireless artifact-free neuromodulation device, is both wireless and autonomous, meaning that once it learns to recognize the signs of tremor or seizure, it can adjust the stimulation parameters on its own to prevent the unwanted movements. And because it is closed-loop -- meaning it can stimulate and record simultaneously -- it can adjust these parameters in real-time. WAND can record electrical activity over 128 channels, or from 128 points in the brain, compared to eight channels in other closed-loop systems. To demonstrate the device, the team used WAND to recognize and delay specific arm movements in rhesus macaques. The device is described in a study that appeared in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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Thursday January 03, 2019 @ 01:49:09 AM mt

Apple Says It Could Miss 9 Billion In iPhone Sales Due To Weak Demand




An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Apple CEO Tim Cook published a letter to investors today warning of weaker than expected first-quarter earnings, citing "fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated." The weakened demand came primarily from China, although Cook notes that "in some developed markets, iPhone upgrades also were not as strong as we thought they would be." In his letter, Cook offers several explanations for the lower earnings guidance: earlier launch timing of the iPhone XS and XS Max compared to the iPhone X, the strength of the US dollar, supply constraints due to the number of new products Apple released in the fall, and overall economic weakness in some markets. But the core issue remains simple: people just aren't buying as many new iPhones as Apple hoped. All in all, Apple's revised Q1 guidance forecast is dropping by up to $9 billion in revenue compared to its original estimate.

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Thursday January 03, 2019 @ 01:49:04 AM mt

China Successfully Lands Spacecraft On Far Side of the Moon




State news agency Xinhua reports that China has successfully landed its Chang'e 4 spacecraft on the far side of the moon on Thursday morning, Beijing time, becoming the first country in history to touch the lunar surface unseen by those on Earth. CNBC reports: The Chang'e 4 mission launched in early December. It took the spacecraft three days to travel to the moon, where it spent the last few weeks in orbit preparing for touch down on the Von Karman crater. The crater is a relatively flat spot on the moon's far side. "China's Chang'e-4 probe softlands on Moon's far side," the state news agency tweeted on Thursday. Citing the China National Space Administration, Xinhua said the space probe, made up of a lander and a rover, "landed at the preselected landing area on the far side of the moon at 10:26 a.m. Beijing Time." Landing on the far side is a technical challenge, as there is no direct way to communicate with the spacecraft as it nears its target. China put a relay satellite in orbit around the moon in May to overcome that communication challenge. The far side of the moon has been seen and mapped before, even by astronauts of the Apollo missions. But the successful landing of Chang'e 4 represents the first time any spacecraft has touched down on the moon's far side.

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Thursday January 03, 2019 @ 01:48:59 AM mt

NASA Releases First Clear Images of Distant Kuiper Belt Object




NASA's New Horizons team has released the promised first images from its history-making flyby of (486958) 2014 MU69. "The snapshots, captured from as close at 17,000 miles away, show that the 21-mile-long Kuiper Belt object is a 'contract binary' where two spheres slowly collided and fused with each other," reports Engadget. "The two may have linked up '99 percent of the way' to the start of the Solar System, Johns Hopkins University APL said." From the report: Capturing a true representation of 2014 MU69 is difficult, at least with the initial batch of pictures. There's a visible light camera onboard the New Horizons Probe (shown on the left), but the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (center) is much sharper. To create an accurate image (on the right), scientists had to produce a composite. Higher-resolution pictures and additional scientific data will keep flowing over the "next weeks and months," the New Horizons team said.

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Wednesday January 02, 2019 @ 05:01:36 PM mt

Tesla Will Cut Prices To Combat Tax Credit Phase Out




Tesla is cutting its car prices in the United States by $2,000 to combat a cut in a federal tax credit for its buyers. "Tesla triggered the tax credit phase-out in July when it became the first car maker in the United States to sell more than 200,000 plug-in vehicles," reports CNN. "The government designed the credit to be phased out for each automaker once it reaches that milestone." From the report: Before that benchmark, Tesla buyers were entitled to a tax credit of $7,500 for purchasing a plug-in electric car. But as of January 1, Tesla buyers will only get half that credit, or $3,750, for the next six months. The credit falls to $1,875 in July, and then disappears in 2020. The tax credit phase-out comes just as Tesla was preparing to sell a $35,000 version of its Model 3 sedan, the first time it will be taking aim at the price-conscious mass market. CEO Elon Musk said in an interview on "60 Minutes" that he expects the lower-priced version of the Model 3 to be available in five to six months. Tesla also reported strong production and sales for the just completed fourth quarter. Total sales were up 8% and Model 3 sales were up even more, about 13%, to 63,150 vehicles. That works out to an average of about 4,900 Model 3s per week in the quarter, putting it in range of its goal of 5,000 Model 3's a week.

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Wednesday January 02, 2019 @ 05:01:23 PM mt

Iran Extends Social Media Crackdown With Move To Bar Instagram




An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Authorities in Iran are preparing to block access to Instagram, extending their crackdown on social media to the only major platform still freely available. The National Cyberspace Council approved steps toward blocking the service, Javad Javidnia, deputy for cyberspace affairs at the public prosecutor's office, was cited as saying by the semi-official Donya-e Eqtesad newspaper. Instagram would join Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Telegram in being banned in the Islamic Republic, ostensibly for reasons of national security. Despite the restrictions, Iranians including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif continue to use the services, which are widely accessible via proxy servers. Rouhani's verified Twitter account has over 800,000 followers. Javidnia said efforts to filter Instagram hadn't worked. While judicial and political officials involved were yet to reach a consensus on barring the site, the prosecutor can take a unilateral decision to do so, he said.

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Wednesday January 02, 2019 @ 03:44:30 PM mt

Almost a Third of New Cars Sold In Norway Last Year Were Pure Electric




An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Almost a third of new cars sold in Norway last year were pure electric, a new world record as the country strives to end sales of fossil-fueled vehicles by 2025. In a bid to cut carbon emissions and air pollution, Norway exempts battery-driven cars from most taxes and offers benefits such as free parking and charging points to hasten a shift from diesel and petrol engines. The independent Norwegian Road Federation (NRF) said on Wednesday that electric cars rose to 31.2 percent of all sales last year, from 20.8 percent in 2017 and just 5.5 percent in 2013, while sales of petrol and diesel cars plunged. The sales figures consolidate Norway's global lead in electric car sales per capita, part of an attempt by Western Europe's biggest producer of oil and gas to transform to a greener economy. For comparison, electric cars had a 2.2 percent share in China in 2017 and 1.2 percent in the United States, according to IEA data.

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Wednesday January 02, 2019 @ 03:44:24 PM mt

Oregon Unconstitutionally Fined a Man 500 for Saying 'I am an Engineer' Federal Judge Rules




A federal district court has ruled that the state of Oregon illegally infringed on a man's First Amendment rights for fining him $500 because he wrote "I am an engineer" in a 2014 email to the state's Engineering Board. The court ruled that the provision in the law he broke is unconstitutional, which opens the door for people in the state to legally call themselves "engineers." Motherboard reports: This dystopian saga dates back to 2013, when Mats Jarlstrom's wife, while driving, was caught by a red light camera near their home in Beaverton, Oregon. Rather than pay the red light camera fine, Jarlstrom, an electrical engineer, spent months researching the specifics of yellow light timing and red light cameras, and learned that his wife had likely been ticketed for running a yellow light. Jarlstrom began sharing his findings on his personal website, at conferences, and even got featured on 60 Minutes. He also wrote several emails to the Oregon Board of Engineers explaining what he had found. In the email, he noted that he was an "engineer." Rather than looking into whether traffic light timing should be changed, however, the board sent Jarlstrom a warning -- and then a $500 fine for the crime of "practicing engineering without being registered." Jarlstrom had violated one of Oregon's "Title Laws," which states that "no persons may ... hold themselves out as an 'engineer'" unless they are an "individual who is registered in this state and holds a valid certificate to practice engineering in this state." Jarlstrom has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and spent his career working in electronics, but wasn't board certified. He sued the state's engineering board and, last week, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Oregon ruled that the state's law is unconstitutional. The judge wrote: "The statutes prohibit truthfully describing oneself as an 'engineer,' in any context. This restriction clearly controls and suppresses protected speech, and enforcement of the statute against protected speech is not a hypothetical threat. The term 'engineer,' standing alone, is neither actually nor inherently misleading. Courts have long recognized that the term 'engineer' has a generic meaning separate from 'professional engineer' and that the term has enjoyed 'widespread usage in job titles in our society to describe positions which require no professional training.'" "The judge ordered that the word 'engineer' be struck from Oregon's law, which is 'substantially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment' and specifically noted that Jarlstrom may describe himself publicly and privately using the word 'engineer' and that he may continue to talk about traffic light timing publicly," reports Motherboard.

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