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Facebook sued by Russian firm linked to election meddling – CNET November 20, 2018

The company says it’s legitimate news agency. Facebook sued by Russian firm linked to election meddling – CNET Source: CNet

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Facebook sued by Russian firm linked to election meddling – CNET

The company says it’s legitimate news agency. Facebook sued by Russian firm linked to election meddling – CNET
Source: CNet

Facebook blames outage on 'server configuration' – CNET

The social network along with its apps such as Instagram were down for hours Tuesday. Facebook blames outage on 'server configuration' – CNET
Source: CNet

While Facebook says human trafficking on its site is not allowed, it took weeks to remove a viral post that led to the auction of a child bride in South Sudan (Reuters)

Reuters:

While Facebook says human trafficking on its site is not allowed, it took weeks to remove a viral post that led to the auction of a child bride in South Sudan  —  JUBA/NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The auction of a South Sudanese girl for marriage on Facebook could spur other families …

While Facebook says human trafficking on its site is not allowed, it took weeks to remove a viral post that led to the auction of a child bride in South Sudan (Reuters)
Source: Tech Meme

Black Friday 2018 Best Buy phone deals available now: iPhone XS, Pixel 3, Note 9, Moto G6 and more – CNET

If you’re in the market for a shiny new phone, Best Buy has some great deals for Black Friday. Black Friday 2018 Best Buy phone deals available now: iPhone XS, Pixel 3, Note 9, Moto G6 and more – CNET
Source: CNet

Uber partners with MV Transportation, a paratransit service provider, to improve access to wheelchair-friendly rides in six North American markets (Megan Rose Dickey/TechCrunch)


Megan Rose Dickey / TechCrunch:

Uber partners with MV Transportation, a paratransit service provider, to improve access to wheelchair-friendly rides in six North American markets  —  Uber has long received flack for its lack of widely available wheelchair accessible rides.  Today, Uber is taking steps to ensure riders …

Uber partners with MV Transportation, a paratransit service provider, to improve access to wheelchair-friendly rides in six North American markets (Megan Rose Dickey/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

Critics argue that the FCC should classify text messaging as a telecommunications service so that phone companies can't discriminate against messages (Colin Lecher/The Verge)


Colin Lecher / The Verge:

Critics argue that the FCC should classify text messaging as a telecommunications service so that phone companies can’t discriminate against messages  —  Consumer advocacy group opposes the move  —  The FCC unveiled two proposals today to battle the scourge of phone spam …

Critics argue that the FCC should classify text messaging as a telecommunications service so that phone companies can't discriminate against messages (Colin Lecher/The Verge)
Source: Tech Meme

To help block robocalls and spam texts, the FCC proposes classifying text messaging as an information service and making a database of reassigned phone numbers (Jon Fingas/Engadget)


Jon Fingas / Engadget:

To help block robocalls and spam texts, the FCC proposes classifying text messaging as an information service and making a database of reassigned phone numbers  —  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is continuing his seemingly relentless quest to rid the US of robocalls.

To help block robocalls and spam texts, the FCC proposes classifying text messaging as an information service and making a database of reassigned phone numbers (Jon Fingas/Engadget)
Source: Tech Meme

The FCC has a new plan to combat unwanted robocalls and spammy texts

But critics say it could lead to censorship of legitimate messages. The FCC has a new plan to combat unwanted robocalls and spammy texts
Source: Washington Post Tech

Design software company Autodesk says it is acquiring PlanGrid, a provider of cloud-based construction software, for $875M (Kia Kokalitcheva/Axios)

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Kia Kokalitcheva / Axios:

Design software company Autodesk says it is acquiring PlanGrid, a provider of cloud-based construction software, for $875M  —  Autodesk has agreed to acquire Plangrid, a startup that makes cloud-based construction software, for $875 million net of cash.  —  Why it matters …

Design software company Autodesk says it is acquiring PlanGrid, a provider of cloud-based construction software, for 5M (Kia Kokalitcheva/Axios)
Source: Tech Meme

Black Friday 2018 game console deals: PS4 and Xbox One for $200, Xbox One X for $400 and more – CNET

Black Friday is the best time to buy a new gaming console, and this year’s deals have begun. Black Friday 2018 game console deals: PS4 and Xbox One for 0, Xbox One X for 0 and more – CNET
Source: CNet

Black Friday 2018 kitchen and appliance deals: $40 off Instant Pot, $100 off Vitamix products and more – CNET

Upgrade your cooking game or make laundry day more fun with our favorite deals on kitchen gadgets and large appliances. Black Friday 2018 kitchen and appliance deals: off Instant Pot, 0 off Vitamix products and more – CNET
Source: CNet

Black Friday Google Assistant deals: $119 Ecobee Smart Thermostat and $119 Philips Hue starter kit live now, $25 Home Mini speaker coming soon – CNET

Shop smarter this holiday season with these deals on Google-Assistant-enabled devices for your home. Black Friday Google Assistant deals: 9 Ecobee Smart Thermostat and 9 Philips Hue starter kit live now, Home Mini speaker coming soon – CNET
Source: CNet

FCC to release broadband speed report on Wednesday – CNET

The Federal Communications Commission will once again tell you if you’re getting what you paid for from your broadband provider. FCC to release broadband speed report on Wednesday – CNET
Source: CNet

Sorry to Bother You is like Get Out, only weirder and wilder – CNET

Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson star in this stylish, scathing and surreal assault on modern capitalism. Sorry to Bother You is like Get Out, only weirder and wilder – CNET
Source: CNet

Growing trade tensions between US and China could endanger Nvidia's access to its Chinese customers, who accounted for 20% of the company's revenue last year (Wall Street Journal)


Wall Street Journal:

Growing trade tensions between US and China could endanger Nvidia’s access to its Chinese customers, who accounted for 20% of the company’s revenue last year  —  Nvidia sells lots of artificial-intelligence chips in China.  That creates a dilemma as the company tries to navigate political and trade tensions.

Growing trade tensions between US and China could endanger Nvidia's access to its Chinese customers, who accounted for 20% of the company's revenue last year (Wall Street Journal)
Source: Tech Meme

PlayVS, which brings esports infrastructure to high schools in the US, raises $30.5M Series B after raising a $15M Series A in June 2018 (Jordan Crook/TechCrunch)


Jordan Crook / TechCrunch:

PlayVS, which brings esports infrastructure to high schools in the US, raises $30.5M Series B after raising a $15M Series A in June 2018  —  PlayVS, the company bringing esports infrastructure to high schools across the country, has today announced the close of a $30.5 million Series B financing.

PlayVS, which brings esports infrastructure to high schools in the US, raises .5M Series B after raising a M Series A in June 2018 (Jordan Crook/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

Scratch-Building A Supersized Laser Cutter

Now that 3D printers have more or less hit the mass market, hackers need a new “elite” tool to spend their time designing and fiddling with. Judging by the last couple of years, it looks like laser cutters will be taking over as the hacker tool du jour; as we’re starting to see more and more custom builds and modifications of entry-level commercial models. Usually these are limited to relatively small and low powered diode lasers, but as the following project shows, that’s not always the case.

This large format laser cutter designed and built by [Rob Chesney] is meticulously detailed on his blog, as well as in the in the video after the break. It’s made up of aluminium profile and a splattering of ABS 3D printed parts, and lives in an acrylic enclosure that’s uniquely isolated from the laser’s internal gantry. All told it cost about $2,000 USD to build, but considering the volume and features of this cutter that’s still a very fair price.

[Rob] carefully planned every aspect of this build, modeling the entire machine in CAD before actually purchasing any hardware. Interestingly enough his primary design constraint was the door to his shed: he wanted to build the largest possible laser cutter that could still be carried through it. That led to the final machine’s long and relatively shallow final dimensions. The design was also guided by a desire to minimize material waste, so when possible parts were designed to maximize how many could be cut from a one meter length of aluminum extrusion.

The laser features a movable Z axis that’s similar in design to what you might see in a Prusa-style 3D printer, with each corner of the gantry getting an 8 mm lead screw and smooth rod which are used in conjunction to lift and guide. All of the lead screws are connected to each other via pulleys and standard GT2 belt, but as of this version, [Rob] notes the Z axis must be manually operated. In the future he’ll be able to add in a stepper motor and automate it easily, but it wasn’t critical to get the machine running.

He used 3D printed parts for objects which had a relatively complex geometry, such as the laser tube holders and Z axis components, but more simplistic brackets were made out of cut acrylic. In some components, [Rob] used welding cement to bond two pieces of acrylic and thereby double the thickness. Large acrylic panels were also used for the laser’s outer enclosure, which was intentionally designed as a separate entity from the laser itself. He reasoned that this would make assembly easier and faster, as the enclosure would not have to be held to the same dimensional tolerances as it would have been if it was integrated into the machine.

[Rob] gives plenty of detail about all the finer points of water cooling, laser control electronics, aligning the mirrors, and really anything else you could possibly want to know about building your own serious laser cutter. If you’ve been considering building your own laser and have anything you’re curious or unsure about, there’s a good chance he addresses it in this build.

Short of having the fantastically good luck to find a laser cutter in the trash that you can refurbish, building your own machine may still be the best upgrade path if you outgrow your eBay K40.

Scratch-Building A Supersized Laser Cutter
Source: HackADay

Somali Workers in Minnesota Force Amazon to Negotiate

Labor organizers and researchers said they had not heard of Amazon previously coming to the table after worker pressure, even for private discussions. Somali Workers in Minnesota Force Amazon to Negotiate
Source: NY Times Tech

LinkedIn launches Student Voices, its take on Snapchat Stories, for US colleges, and says it plans Stories-like features aimed at other sets of users too (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)


Josh Constine / TechCrunch:

LinkedIn launches Student Voices, its take on Snapchat Stories, for US colleges, and says it plans Stories-like features aimed at other sets of users too  —  No app is safe from the Stories plague  —  The social media singularity continues with the arrival of Snapchat Stories-style slideshows …

LinkedIn launches Student Voices, its take on Snapchat Stories, for US colleges, and says it plans Stories-like features aimed at other sets of users too (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

Gorgeous Bartop Arcade Build is a Cut Above

At this point we’ve seen a good number of desktop-sized arcade cabinets, and while they’ve naturally all been impressive in their own ways, they do tend to follow a pretty familiar formula. Cut the side panels out of MDF (or just buy a frame kit), stick a Raspberry Pi and an old LCD monitor in there, and then figure out how to control the thing. Maybe a couple strategically placed stickers and blinking LEDs to add a few extra horsepower, but nothing too surprising.

[Andy Riley] had seen plenty of builds like that, and he wasn’t having any of it. With the heart of an old laptop and bones made of IKEA cutting boards, his build is proof positive that there’s always more than one way to approach a problem that most would consider “solved” already. From the start, he set out to design and build a miniature arcade cabinet that didn’t look and feel like all the other ones he’d seen floating around online, and we think you’ll agree he delivered in a big way.

Powering the arcade with an old laptop is really a brilliant idea, especially since you can pick up older models for a song now that they’re considered nearly disposable by many users. As long as it doesn’t have a cracked display, you’ll get a nice sized LCD panel and potentially a rather powerful computer to drive it. Certainly the graphical capabilities of even the crustiest of used laptops will run circles around the Raspberry Pi, and of course it opens the possibility of playing contemporary PC games. As [Andy] shows in his detailed write-up, using a laptop does take more custom work than settling for the Pi, but we think the advantages make a compelling case for putting in the effort.

Of course, that’s only half the equation. Arguably the most impressive aspect of this build is the cabinet itself, which is made out of a couple IKEA bamboo cutting boards. [Andy] used his not inconsiderable woodworking skills, in addition to some pretty serious power tools, to turn the affordable kitchen accessories into a furniture-grade piece that really stands out from the norm. Even if you aren’t normally too keen on working with dead trees, his step-by-step explanations and pictures are a fascinating look at true craftsman at work.

If you’re more concerned with playing Galaga than the finer points of varnish application, you can always just turbocharge the old iCade and be done with it. But we think there’s something to be said for an arcade cabinet that could legitimately pass as a family heirloom.

Gorgeous Bartop Arcade Build is a Cut Above
Source: HackADay

Microsoft now supports standards-based FIDO2 security key devices, letting Windows 10 users access their Microsoft Account without entering username or password (Kyle Wiggers/VentureBeat)


Kyle Wiggers / VentureBeat:

Microsoft now supports standards-based FIDO2 security key devices, letting Windows 10 users access their Microsoft Account without entering username or password  —  Passwords aren’t as effective a means as preventing account break-ins as they might seem.  Three out of four people use duplicate passwords …

Microsoft now supports standards-based FIDO2 security key devices, letting Windows 10 users access their Microsoft Account without entering username or password (Kyle Wiggers/VentureBeat)
Source: Tech Meme

The ‘Neo-Banks’ Are Finally Having Their Moment

High fees and low interest rates have provided an opening for a new generation of finance start-ups to compete with the big banks. The ‘Neo-Banks’ Are Finally Having Their Moment
Source: NY Times Tech

Agora, which helps developers integrate voice and video into their apps via APIs, raises $70M Series C led by Coatue Management (Catherine Shu/TechCrunch)


Catherine Shu / TechCrunch:

Agora, which helps developers integrate voice and video into their apps via APIs, raises $70M Series C led by Coatue Management  —  Agora, a developer of cloud communication APIs, will create products for new markets and verticals after raising a $70 million Series C led by Coatue Management.

Agora, which helps developers integrate voice and video into their apps via APIs, raises M Series C led by Coatue Management (Catherine Shu/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

There’s a Coursera class to help your clueless boss figure out AI


Andrew Ng is best known for his work at Google, where he helped establish the Google Brain program, and as the Chief Scientist at Baidu. But his impact in the field of artificial intelligence is probably most profound through his work at Coursera, an online learning center he co-founded. Ng teaches several free or affordable Coursera courses on a variety of topics related to machine learning and artificial intelligence. And if you, or someone you’re forced to work with, doesn’t know the difference between ML and AI you should send them to the newest course he’s added: AI For Everyone.…

This story continues at The Next Web

There’s a Coursera class to help your clueless boss figure out AI
Source: The Next Web

Radical new 3D body scanner delivers first human images – CNET

See through a whole person in three dimensions. Radical new 3D body scanner delivers first human images – CNET
Source: CNet

Microsoft Office 365 still locks out people who use multifactor authentication, Azure back – CNET

Microsoft is working on a problem that prevents multifactor authentication users from logging in. Microsoft Office 365 still locks out people who use multifactor authentication, Azure back – CNET
Source: CNet

Black Friday 2018 deals on storage: Samsung EVO 1TB for $130, 256GB USB drive for $55 and more – CNET

Here’s a list of the top storage deals as they are revealed for the biggest shopping day of the year. Black Friday 2018 deals on storage: Samsung EVO 1TB for 0, 256GB USB drive for and more – CNET
Source: CNet

The Linux Throwie: A Non-Spacefaring Satellite

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Throwies occupy a special place in hardware culture — a coin cell battery, LED, and a magnet that can be thrown into an inaccessible place and stick there as a little beacon of colored light. Many of us will fondly remember this as a first project. Alas, time marches inevitably on, and launching cheerful lights no longer teaches me new skills. With a nod to those simpler times, I’ve been working on the unusual idea of building a fully functional server that can be left in remote places and remain functional, like a throwie (please don’t actually throw it). It’s a little kooky, yet should still deliver a few years of occasional remote access if you leave it somewhere with sunlight.

A short while ago, I described the power stages for this solar-powered, cloud accessible Linux server. It only activates on demand, so a small solar cell and modest battery are sufficient to keep the whole show running.

Where we left off, I had a solar cell that could charge a battery, and provide regulated 12v and 5v output. For it to be a functional device, there are three high level problems to solve:

  1. It must be possible to set up the device without direct physical access
  2. You must be able to remotely turn it on and off as needed.
  3. It needs to be accessible from the Internet.

The funny thing is, this hardware reminds me of a satellite. Of course it’s not meant to go into space, but I do plan to put it somewhere not easy to get to again, it runs off of solar power, and there’s a special subsystem (ESP8266) to tend the power, check for remote activation, and turn the main computer (Raspberry Pi 3) on and off as necessary. This sounds a lot like space race tech, right?

As I have a bit more code than usual to share with you today, I’ll discuss the most interesting parts, and provide links to the full firmware files at the end of the article.

Device Setup

Device setup is a good place to start, and it has two components: the operating system on the Raspberry Pi 3 (in this case Raspbian Stretch Lite), and the low-power systems that control whether the Raspberry Pi 3 is turned on or off. In both cases, we handle this by scanning for a wireless network with known SSID (say from your mobile phone).

In Raspbian, this is pretty easy – we open up /etc/network/interfaces and set the priority of our configuration network to a high number:


network={
ssid = "setup network name"
psk = "setup network password"
priority = 999
}

For our power control hardware, there is a module available in NodeMCU called ‘end user setup’ that allows you to connect to the ESP8266 remotely, scan for networks, and connect to one of them, saving the credentials. All we need to do is selectively run a program containing it when a certain hotspot is in range:


function listap()
dofile('setup.lua')
end

scan_cfg = {}
scan_cfg.ssid = "setup network name"
scan_cfg.show_hidden = 1
wifi.sta.getap(scan_cfg, 1, listap)

Then in setup.lua, we run end user setup. This causes the ESP8266 to act as a hotspot named ‘SetupGadget’ followed by a few hex digits:


enduser_setup.start(
function()
print("Connected to wifi as:" .. wifi.sta.getip())
end,
function(err, str)
print("enduser_setup: Err #" .. err .. ": " .. str)
end
)

tmr.alarm(1,1000, 1, function() if wifi.sta.getip()==nil then print(" Wait for IP address!") else print("New IP address is "..wifi.sta.getip()) tmr.stop(1) node.dsleep(2000000) end end)

With this set up, we can connect the server and controlling hardware to a new wireless network without direct physical access. Solar power requires light, this is likely going to be on my roof, and I don’t relish the idea of climbing up to get it any time I need to reset my home WiFi password. If you have a really tall roof, build yourself a directional waveguide antenna — I’ve been able to get a range of over 100 meters this way, through several concrete buildings. There’s also Brian Benchoff’s 3D-printable ESP8266 dish antenna.

Remote Power Control

Next, we need to be able to remotely turn the server on or off. We’ll do this with MQTT pointed at a domain name that resolves to a cloud VPS. The only thing you’ll need on that VPS is the mosquito MQTT broker, so no sense in paying for a high-end server. Note that there are ways to implement some basic security here, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll leave that as an exercise for you to explore on your own.

Note that our hardware is only active occasionally – I’ve set it to wake up every 15 minutes or so to check the MQTT broker. To make sure it receives messages, the sender needs to set the “retain” flag when sending the activation command. This guarantees that the message will be there when the ESP8266 wakes up and checks for new messages, as long as we don’t replace it with some other retained message. A short example in Python for an MQTT broker at domain.com, and topic solarserver:


import paho.mqtt.client as mqtt #import the client
broker_address="domain.com"
client = mqtt.Client("P1") #create new instance
client.connect(broker_address, port=1883) #connect to broker
client.publish("solarserver", payload="activate", qos=0, retain=True)

On our ESP8266, we check for the command ‘activate’ and then run a program that turns on the Raspberry Pi 3:


ClientID = 'Node001'
m = mqtt.Client(ClientID, 120)

m:connect("domain.com", 1883, 0, function(client)
print("connected")
client:subscribe("/solarserver", 0, function(client) print("subscribe success") end)
end)

m:on("message", function(client, topic, data)
print(topic .. ":" )
if data ~= nil then
print(data)
if data == "activate" then
dofile('active.lua')
m:close()
end

end
end)

The program ‘active.lua’ raises a GPIO high to enable the 5v line to the Raspberry Pi 3, and monitors the battery voltage. If the battery voltage drops too low, or a shutdown command is received, it will cut power (shutting down first is a good idea).

Digging Deeper Into SSH Tunnels

What good does it do us though, if we can turn the device on but not access it? As I plan to move this device around for software demos, it would be great if I didn’t have to worry too much about firewalls, routers, and other drudgery that it might be behind. This is where we explore reverse SSH tunnels.

Normally, you establish an SSH connection because you want secure shell access to a remote machine, and have a certificate or username+password pair along with the address of the machine. In this situation, the address of the client and state of its network (the routers it is behind and so on) is not usually important, but the address of the server is assumed to be known and all port forwarding and firewall settings configured to accept the traffic.

In a reverse SSH connection, the server initiates a connection to the client that is used to allow the client to connect back to the server. On initiating the connection from server to client, you specify a port. When logged into the client, you use SSH to log in to localhost on that port, and the traffic will be sent to the server, allowing you to log in.

We’ll need to automate this process for it to be useful. The first step is to create a user (your_username in this example) with restricted access on your VPS. Our server will be automatically logging in to it, doing this with the root account is probably a terrible idea if you have anything there you remotely value. Note the password for this new user.

Next we power on the Raspberry Pi 3 (we’ll assume you use Raspbian Lite here), set a new root password, install autossh to manage the connection, create a new user (same name as the VPS user) with a certificate, and finally copy that certificate using SSH-copy-id to our VPS:


$apt-get install autossh
$useradd -m -s /bin/bash your_username
$su – your_username
$ssh-keygen -t ed25519
$ssh-copy-id your_username@(VPS IP address) -p 22

Then we run raspi-config to enable the SSH server and have that user automatically logged in at boot. Now we’re set up to log in to our VPS over SSH with certificates instead of a username+password pair, which is easier to automate. Let’s establish a reverse SSH tunnel from our Raspberry Pi 3 to test it:


$autossh -M 0 your_username@(VPS IP address) -p 22 -N -R 8081:localhost:22 -vvv

If that succeeds, you ought to be able to establish an SSH connection to your Raspberry Pi from your VPS via the command:


$ssh your_username@localhost -p 8081

Assuming that works as intended, we move on to creating a service that establishes that connection a few seconds after the network interfaces go up. We’ll do this with systemctl, but first we need to create a short shell script for systemctl to call. Create a file autossh.sh, make it executable (e.g. with chmod), and populate it with:


sleep 15
autossh -M 0 your_username@(VPS IP address) -p 22 -N -R 8081:localhost:22 -vvv

The ‘sleep 15’ waits for 15 seconds after network interfaces go up during boot. Without this, I found that the script runs slightly too early, and I cannot resolve the VPS host. There are more elegant ways to fix this, but this was the easiest. Now we create the service that runs this script with:


$systemctl edit --force --full autoautossh.service

We then enter the following, then save the file:


[Unit]
Description=My Script Service
Wants=network-online.target
After=network-online.target

[Service]
Type=simple
User=pi
WorkingDirectory=/home/your_username
ExecStart=/bin/bash /home/your_username/autossh.sh

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Then we enable it and test it. After the second command, the reverse SSH tunnel should be operational and you can try it – if it doesn’t work now, it won’t work on boot either:


$systemctl enable autoautossh.service
$systemctl start autoautossh.service

If you have access now, then it ought to automatically establish the reverse SSH tunnel after boot, and also automatically re-establish it if it gets broken. If you’re having trouble with poor network connections, you might investigate Mosh as an alternative to SSH.

The case should probably be white, given that it’s going to be sitting in the sun a lot. Two solar panels fit nicely, so now it uses 0.6W of solar panels. Hot glue is to fill the small gap between the panels and the case, and for cosmetic effect, of course.

At this point, you’re more or less done: just plug the 5V output of your power stages into your Raspberry Pi and put it in a weatherproof box. When you send a retained message ‘activate’ to your MQTT topic, the server will turn on within 15 minutes or so. I recommend testing it and listening to the MQTT topic a while to make sure it all works as expected and so that you have an idea how long the battery lasts.

As promised, here is the full firmware source code. Dig through it an leave any questions you have in the comments section below. I’d also love to hear what you’d use a Linux throwie for?

The Linux Throwie: A Non-Spacefaring Satellite
Source: HackADay

Sony Digital Paper is $100 off for Black Friday – CNET

This is the lowest price on Sony’s cool-but-pricey Digital Paper notepads. Sony Digital Paper is 0 off for Black Friday – CNET
Source: CNet

After announcing it four months ago, Facebook is rolling out its "how long do I spend on Facebook" dashboard, but its insights are not very specific (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)


Josh Constine / TechCrunch:

After announcing it four months ago, Facebook is rolling out its “how long do I spend on Facebook” dashboard, but its insights are not very specific  —  15 weeks after Facebook announced its “Your Time On Facebook” tool that counts how many minutes you spend on the app, the feature is finally rolling out around the world.

After announcing it four months ago, Facebook is rolling out its "how long do I spend on Facebook" dashboard, but its insights are not very specific (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)
Source: Tech Meme

Kodak-licensed ICO allegedly owes developers over $100K in unpaid invoices


It seems there is yet another massive internal strife brewing up in the blockchain space. KodakOne – a cryptocurrency project that promised to bring photographers a new stream of revenue – purportedly owes thousands of dollars in outstanding invoices to contractors the firm recruited to build the platform. In a series of email exchanges reviewed by Hard Fork, a group of contractors has accused KodakOne for failing to pay up their contracting fees in the agreed timeframe. The contractors are collectively seeking to receive over $125,000 in accumulated invoices, according to an email sent by a UK-based law firm on…

This story continues at The Next Web

Kodak-licensed ICO allegedly owes developers over 0K in unpaid invoices
Source: The Next Web

How to Get the Most Out of Black Friday (Even if You’re Not Into Tech)

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be known for hot gadgets and electronics, but there are great deals on other things, too. Here are a few to watch out for. How to Get the Most Out of Black Friday (Even if You’re Not Into Tech)
Source: NY Times Tech

An entrepreneur’s guide to Ottawa, Canada


If you’re not from Canada, you might be surprised to learn that the capital of the Great White North isn’t Toronto. It’s Ottawa. This is one mistake that any Canadian would tell you they’ve heard more times than they’d like to admit. Yet, in many ways, it could be argued that the same misunderstanding goes for the country’s tech capital as well. Time and time again, Toronto beats out Ottawa on global and national rankings for best tech hub — with Ottawa, in some cases, failing to even make the list. But while Toronto’s tech ecosystem is undeniably worth boasting…

This story continues at The Next Web

An entrepreneur’s guide to Ottawa, Canada
Source: The Next Web

State regulator orders fraudulent Russian cryptocurrency out of North Dakota


Financial regulators of North Dakota have ordered a dodgy Russian cryptocurrency company to cease and desist operations in the state, after discovering it had impersonated a bank in Liechtenstein to falsely market an initial coin offering (ICO). In a statement released Monday, state securities chairman Karen Tyler explains how the scammers assumed the identity of Union Bank AG, using its reputation to issue and market a fake version of the banks’ proposed cryptocurrency bearing the exact same name – Union Bank Payment Coin (USPC). Authorities say the issuers of the fake USPC directly copied the style and content of Union Bank AG’s website to increase…

This story continues at The Next Web

State regulator orders fraudulent Russian cryptocurrency out of North Dakota
Source: The Next Web

Sources: US DOJ probe into cryptocurrency manipulation has homed in on Bitcoin, Tether, and Bitfinex, and whether traders artificially inflated Bitcoin's price (Bloomberg)


Bloomberg:

Sources: US DOJ probe into cryptocurrency manipulation has homed in on Bitcoin, Tether, and Bitfinex, and whether traders artificially inflated Bitcoin’s price  —  – DOJ investigating whether Tether was used to prop up Bitcoin  — U.S. case part of broader review of possible coin manipulation

Sources: US DOJ probe into cryptocurrency manipulation has homed in on Bitcoin, Tether, and Bitfinex, and whether traders artificially inflated Bitcoin's price (Bloomberg)
Source: Tech Meme

Windows 10: Now it's tap or look to sign in to Outlook, Office 365, OneDrive, Skype

Microsoft takes another big step in its mission for password-less sign-in for Windows 10. Windows 10: Now it's tap or look to sign in to Outlook, Office 365, OneDrive, Skype
Source: ZDNet Microsoft

20 Years Ago, Construction Began on the International Space Station

On Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to serve as a temporary control module for the nascent International Space Station. This October 2018 photo shows the station today, fully complete. 20 Years Ago, Construction Began on the International Space Station
Source: NASA

In an updated statement, Tumblr says an audit found child porn images were slipping through detection tools, leading to removal from App Store (Jon Porter/The Verge)


Jon Porter / The Verge:

In an updated statement, Tumblr says an audit found child porn images were slipping through detection tools, leading to removal from App Store  —  Blames an ‘industry database’ that failed to filter prohibited content  —  Tumblr says that child pornography was the reason for its app’s sudden disappearance from the iOS App Store.

In an updated statement, Tumblr says an audit found child porn images were slipping through detection tools, leading to removal from App Store (Jon Porter/The Verge)
Source: Tech Meme

From 2011 to 2016, the FCC released an annual report comparing advertised broadband speeds with actual speeds but has not released one in two years (Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica)


Jon Brodkin / Ars Technica:

From 2011 to 2016, the FCC released an annual report comparing advertised broadband speeds with actual speeds but has not released one in two years  —  FCC is still measuring in-home speeds—but hasn’t released report in two years.  —  Nearly two years have passed since …

From 2011 to 2016, the FCC released an annual report comparing advertised broadband speeds with actual speeds but has not released one in two years (Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica)
Source: Tech Meme

Despite low attendance, inaugural esports event gives a preview of D.C.’s gaming potential

Congress Height’s new state-of-the-art Entertainment and Sports Arena rocked with a rambunctious, concert-like atmosphere last weekend. Flashing lights and smoke effects enveloped the floor in color,… Despite low attendance, inaugural esports event gives a preview of D.C.’s gaming potential
Source: Washington Post Tech

Rapid-Fire Hail Of Chopstick Arrows Makes Short Work Of Diminutive Foes

Many Hackaday readers may also be familiar with the Discworld series of fantasy novels from [Terry Pratchett], and thus might recognise a weapon referred to as the Piecemaker. A siege crossbow modified to launch a hail of supersonic arrows, it was the favoured sidearm of a troll police officer, and would frequently appear disintegrating large parts of the miscreants’ Evil Lairs to comedic effect.

Just as a non-police-officer walking the streets of Ank-Morpork with a Piecemaker might find swiftly themselves in the Patrician’s scorpion pit, we’re guessing ownership of such a fearsome weapon might earn you a free ride in a police car here on Roundworld. But those of you wishing for just a taste of the arrow-hail action needn’t give up hope, because [Turnah81] has made something close to it on a smaller scale. His array of twelve mousetrap-triggered catapults fires a volley of darts made from wooden kebab skewers in an entertaining fashion, and has enough force to penetrate a sheet of cardboard.

He refers to a previous project with a single dart, and this one is in many respects twelve of that project in an array. But in building it he solves some surprisingly tricky engineering problems, such as matching the power of multiple rubber bands, or creating a linkage capable of triggering twelve mousetraps (almost) in unison. His solution, a system of bent coat-hanger wires actuated by the falling bar of each trap, triggers each successive trap in a near-simultaneous crescendo of arrow firepower.

On one hand this is a project with more than a touch of frivolity about it. But the seriousness with which he approaches it and sorts out its teething troubles makes it an interesting watch, and his testing it as a labour-saving device for common household tasks made us laugh. Take a look, we’ve put the video below the break.

Rapid-Fire Hail Of Chopstick Arrows Makes Short Work Of Diminutive Foes
Source: HackADay

We’re giving away 5 free tickets to our blockchain event, Hard Fork Decentralized


Our blockchain and cryptocurrency event is coming up on December 12-14 in London! It’s fast approaching, and we couldn’t be more excited – so for loyal readers of Hard Fork, we’re giving away five free tickets. Enter our lottery here. Together with our lineup of speakers (including Thomas Power, Kavita Gupta, and Mustafa Al-Bassam) Hard Fork Decentralized will answer the unanswered questions about the industry – from scalability to diversity, and everything in between. The concept is simple: leading industry companies will host their own ‘decentralized’ events, all across the city. Your free festival ticket will include: – Access to…

This story continues at The Next Web

We’re giving away 5 free tickets to our blockchain event, Hard Fork Decentralized
Source: The Next Web

Sources: Samsung plans to release a variant of the Galaxy S10 next spring that will have six cameras, 5G, and a 6.7" screen (Timothy W. Martin/Wall Street Journal)


Timothy W. Martin / Wall Street Journal:

Sources: Samsung plans to release a variant of the Galaxy S10 next spring that will have six cameras, 5G, and a 6.7″ screen  —  The tech giant’s response to sales slump is flagship phones packed with bigger screens and extra cameras  —  SEOUL— Samsung Electronics Co. is planning …

Sources: Samsung plans to release a variant of the Galaxy S10 next spring that will have six cameras, 5G, and a 6.7" screen (Timothy W. Martin/Wall Street Journal)
Source: Tech Meme

Review: The Spyro Reignited trilogy is delightful, gorgeous, and really frustrating


After a lengthy delay, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy finally hit shelves last week. I’ve been playing it nonstop ever since, and as a longtime fan of the little purple guy, I’m more than satisfied with it, though admittedly it does come with a few control issues.   We all go into a game review with a little bias — we’re human, not score-spitting automatons. But I’m going into this with more personal history than usual. Spyro was to me what Mario and Sonic were to most of my friends, and I spent more hours of my young life than I can recall…

This story continues at The Next Web

Review: The Spyro Reignited trilogy is delightful, gorgeous, and really frustrating
Source: The Next Web

The Princess Bride performed live — in a VR app – CNET

As Inigo Montoya might say: Prepare to die, virtually. The Princess Bride performed live — in a VR app – CNET
Source: CNet

Uber adds more wheelchair-accessible vehicles to its fleet – CNET

Wait times are said to be less than 15 minutes in certain cities. Uber adds more wheelchair-accessible vehicles to its fleet – CNET
Source: CNet

Flagging Down Aliens with World’s Biggest Laser Pointer

As you’re no doubt aware, humans are a rather noisy species. Not just audibly, like in the case of somebody talking loudly when you’re in a movie theater, but also electromagnetically. All of our wireless transmissions since Marconi made his first spark gap broadcast in 1895 have radiated out into space, and anyone who’s got a sensitive enough ear pointed into our little corner of the Milky Way should have no trouble hearing us. Even if these extraterrestrial eavesdroppers wouldn’t be able to understand the content of our transmissions, the sheer volume of them would be enough to indicate that whatever is making all that noise on the third rock orbiting Sol can’t be a natural phenomena. In other words, one of the best ways to find intelligent life in the galaxy may just be to sit around and wait for them to hear us.

Of course, there’s some pesky physics involved that makes it a bit more complicated. Signals radiate from the Earth at the speed of light, which is like a brisk walk in interstellar terms. Depending on where these hypothetical listeners are located, the delay between when we broadcast something and when they receive it can be immense. For example, any intelligent beings that might be listening in on us from the closest known star, Proxima Centauri, are only just now being utterly disappointed by the finale for “How I Met Your Mother“. Comparatively, “Dallas” fans from Zeta Reticuli are still on the edge of their seats waiting to find out who shot J.R.

But rather than relying on our normal broadcasts to do the talking for us, a recent paper in The Astrophysical Journal makes the case that we should go one better. Written by James R. Clark and Kerri Cahoy,  “Optical Detection of Lasers with Near-term Technology at Interstellar Distances” makes the case that we could use current or near-term laser technology to broadcast a highly directional beacon to potentially life-harboring star systems. What’s more, it even theorizes it would be possible to establish direct communications with an alien intelligence simply by modulating the beam.

A Laser to Rival the Sun

At interstellar distances, it’s very difficult to discern a planet from the star it’s orbiting. This is why we’ve only been able to directly image a small number of exoplanets; the only reason we know they are there is by watching for dips in the light output of their host star. The same is of course true in reverse. An alien intelligence that has a telescope pointed towards our solar system is really just going to be looking at our sun. That means any laser we fire out into space with the intention of getting somebody’s attention would need to appear brighter than the sun, otherwise it would be like somebody on the Moon trying to get our attention with a flashlight.

This would require a laser in the megawatt range that could be fired continuously or at least in bursts of several seconds. Admittedly it’s a pretty tall order, but not beyond our current level of technology. The US Air Force explored using an aircraft mounted megawatt laser as an anti-missile weapon in the mid-1990’s, which culminated with the development of the Boeing YAL-1. In 2010 the YAL-1 demonstrated it was possible to track and destroy ballistic missiles during their boost phase using its chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), though ultimately the project was canceled due to the tremendous costs involved in building and maintaining an operational fleet of the aircraft.

Regardless of its failings as a practical weapon, Clark and Cahoy cite the YAL-1 as proof that a similar laser could be constructed for interstellar communication. If the military can develop a megawatt laser that can fire for long enough to destroy a missile while still being small and light enough to mount in a modified 747, there’s no technical reason it couldn’t be done in an observatory on the ground.

As an added bonus, the COIL technology pioneered by the Air Force produces an infrared beam with a frequency of 1315 nm. This is particularly advantages for signaling purposes as our sun doesn’t produce much light at this wavelength, so the laser’s beam intermixed with light from the sun would be seen from a distant observer’s perspective as a star with a wildly fluctuating spectral output; an anomaly no alien astronomer could ignore.

Bringing it into Focus

As Clark and Cahoy explain, the megawatt class laser is only half the puzzle; it would still need similarly supersized optics to deliver the beam with the optimal divergence. But even here the hardware they have in mind, namely a 30 m to 45 m telescope, isn’t beyond our reach. The paper specifically mentions that the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory (TMT) currently in the planning phases and scheduled to be operational by 2030 could provide adequate beam characteristics if it were paired with a 2 MW laser.

Artist’s impression of TMT primary mirror

Somewhat counterintuitively, the paper argues that a tightly focused beam is not the ideal choice for flagging down our celestial neighbors. For one, such a beam would need to be aimed and tracked with exceptionally high accuracy to hit a target tens or even hundreds of light-years away. More importantly, our ability to detect distant planets is still too rough to produce models of their orbits with sufficient accuracy; we simply don’t know where to aim the laser.

The solution is a beam that has a large enough divergence to compensate for our poor aim. In fact, Clark and Cahoy suggest a beam wide enough to illuminate large swath’s of a star system could be ideal in some scenarios. Multiple planets within a star’s habitable zone would be able to see our laser at the same time, greatly reducing the amount of repositioning we’d have to do on our end.

Against the Odds

Of course, there’s still plenty of variables in play that make such an attempt a very literal shot in the dark. For instance we can fire our laser towards Gliese 667, where Kepler previously detected a planet within its habitable zone, but its possible that the organisms who reside on that planet are insectoids with no appreciable technology. So whether it’s a rerun of “I Love Lucy” or a blast of infrared light from across the cosmos, they aren’t likely to pay it much mind and we come away with no more knowledge of our place in the universe than we had before.

But paling in comparison to technological or logistical hurdles is the most obvious problem: the economics of such a system. If even the United States Air Force didn’t think it was cost effective to continue operating a megawatt laser that proved it could destroy incoming ballistic missiles, who would possibly pick up the tab for an even more powerful and elaborate long-shot that arguably has no practical function other than to placate our yearning for exploration? Missions to the Moon or Mars can be argued to have practical benefits to mankind that offset their multi-billion dollar price tags, but shining a monstrous laser into the eyes of alien creatures that may or may not even exist for nearly the same price is a much tougher sell.

In the end, James R. Clark and Kerri Cahoy make a compelling and well-reasoned argument for interstellar laser communications. That the idea could work, and that it’s within humanity’s capabilities to bring such a system online within the next few decades is difficult to refute. But like so many great ideas, it seems unlikely it will ever see the light of day without the sort of concerted global effort that to date we’ve been largely unable to muster.

Flagging Down Aliens with World’s Biggest Laser Pointer
Source: HackADay

Here are 5 Mac apps to get the most out of your MacBook


For just over $100, you can pick up five fantastic apps that’ll have your Mac purring like an Italian sports car…even if it rolled off the assembly line back when “The Lego Movie” was a new release.

Here are 5 Mac apps to get the most out of your MacBook
Source: The Next Web

Monopoly: Game of Thrones update plays theme song while you conquer – CNET

Hopefully it won’t cause any mini Red Weddings. Monopoly: Game of Thrones update plays theme song while you conquer – CNET
Source: CNet

Valve is discontinuing its Steam Link hardware, which allowed users to stream games from PC to other devices like the TV (Sean Hollister/The Verge)


Sean Hollister / The Verge:

Valve is discontinuing its Steam Link hardware, which allowed users to stream games from PC to other devices like the TV  —  We hardly knew ye  —  Why am I sad that a tiny black puck which streamed games over a Wi-Fi network will soon disappear from shelves around the world?

Valve is discontinuing its Steam Link hardware, which allowed users to stream games from PC to other devices like the TV (Sean Hollister/The Verge)
Source: Tech Meme