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Posts from June, 2014

How Apple Can Take Its Headphones To the Next Level

Jun 30

redletterdave (2493036) writes “Apple is one of the biggest headphone makers in the world thanks to those signature white earbuds that have shipped with every iPod, iPhone, and iPad since 2001. But even two years after earbuds became ‘EarPods,’ the design could still be improved — and competitors are taking notice. Amazon recently unveiled a new pair of in-ear headphones that are magnetic, tangle-free and $5 cheaper than Apple’s $30 EarPods, while smaller startups are promoting their own wireless and customizable 3D-printed earbuds. But Apple has an ace up its sleeve, in the form of patents for a set of headphones with ‘one or more integrated physiological sensors’ designed to help users keep track of their body stats.”

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NASA Successfully Tests ‘Flying Saucer’ Craft, New Parachute

Jun 30

As reported by the Associated Press, via the Washington Post, an update on the promised (and now at least mostly successful) new disc-shaped craft and parachute technology intended for a NASA mission to Mars, though applicable to other space missions as well: A saucer-shaped NASA vehicle launched by balloon high into Earth’s atmosphere splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, completing a successful test on Saturday of technology that could be used to land on Mars. Since the twin Viking spacecraft landed on the red planet in 1976, NASA has relied on the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers after piercing through the thin Martian atmosphere. The $150 million experimental flight tested a novel vehicle and a giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts. Despite small problems like the giant parachute not deploying fully, NASA deemed the mission a success. … [T]he parachute unfurled — if only partially — and guided the vehicle to an ocean splashdown about three hours later. At 110 feet in diameter, the parachute is twice as big as the one that carried the 1-ton Curiosity rover through the Martian atmosphere in 2011. Coatta said engineers won’t look at the parachute problem as a failure, but as a way to learn more and apply that knowledge during future tests. … A ship was sent to recover a “black box” designed to separate from the vehicle and float. Outfitted with a GPS beacon, the box contains the crucial flight data that scientists are eager to analyze. “That’s really the treasure trove of all the details,” Coatta said. “Pressure, temperature, force. High-definition video. All those measurements that are really key to us to understanding exactly what happens throughout this test.”

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Tom’s Hardware: Microsoft Smartband Coming In October With 11 Sensors

Jun 30

New submitter TuxHiggs (2691251) writes “Last month, Forbes wrote that Microsoft was preparing a cross-platform smartwatch with the ability to continuously track your heart rate and sync the data to your devices. A trusted source with knowledge of the development has verified some of that information and provided Tom’s Hardware with additional details about the device. The source confirmed previous rumors that the device is cross-platform compatible, and added there would be open APIs as well. The source also confirmed that the display is on the inside of the wrist as opposed to the outside. Design-wise, Microsoft has gone with a slim band design that is said to resemble a thinner, flatter version of the Nike Fuelband. While details about the hardware are scant, the source did reveal that there are 11 sensors under the hood and a mix of chips, including some from TI and Atmel. Finally, the release for this device is apparently set for October.”

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Update Your Shelf: BitLit Offers Access To Ebook Versions of Books You Own

Jun 30

First time accepted submitter Peter Hudson (3717535) writes Cory Doctorow writes on boingboing.net “BitLit works with publishers to get you free or discounted access to digital copies of books you own in print: you use the free app for Android and iOS to take a picture of the book’s copyright page with your name printed in ink, and the publisher unlocks a free or discounted ebook version. None of the Big Five publishers participate as yet, but indies like O’Reilly, Berrett-Koehler, Red Wheel Weiser, Other Press, Greystone, Coach House, Triumph, Angry Robot, Chicago Review, Dundurn, and PM Press (publishers of my book The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow) are all in.”

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Secret of the Banjo’s Unique Sound Discovered By Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist

Jun 30

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes The banjo is a stringed instrument that produces a distinctive metallic sound often associated with country, folk and bluegrass music. It is essentially a drum with a long neck. Strings are fixed at the end of the neck, stretched across the drum and fixed on the other side. They are supported by a bridge that sits on the drum membrane. While the instrument is straightforward in design and the metallic timbre easy to reproduce, acoustics experts have long puzzled over exactly how the instrument produces its characteristic tones. Now David Politzer, who won the Nobel prize for physics in 2004, has worked out the answer. He says the noise is the result of two different kinds of vibrations. First there is the vibration of the string, producing a certain note. However, the drum also vibrates and this pushes the bridge back and forth causing the string to stretch and relax. This modulates the frequency of the note. When frequency of this modulation is below about 20 hertz, it creates a warbling effect. Guitar players can do the same thing by pushing a string back and forth after it is plucked. But when the modulating frequency is higher, the ear experiences it as a kind of metallic crash. And it is this that gives the banjo its characteristic twang. If you’re in any doubt, try replacing the drum membrane with a piece of wood and the twang goes away. That’s because the wood is stiffer and so does not vibrate to the same extent. Interesting what Nobel prize-winning physicists do in their spare time.

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Are the Hard-to-Exploit Bugs In LZO Compression Algorithm Just Hype?

Jun 30

NotInHere (3654617) writes In 1996, Markus F. X. J. Oberhumer wrote an implementation of the Lempel–Ziv compression, which is used in various places like the Linux kernel, libav, openVPN, and the Curiosity rover. As security researchers have found out, the code contained integer overflow and buffer overrun vulnerabilities, in the part of the code that was responsible for processing uncompressed parts of the data. Those vulnerabilities are, however, very hard to exploit, and their scope is dependent on the actual implementation. According to Oberhumer, the problem only affects 32-bit systems. “I personally do not know about any client program that actually is affected”, Oberhumer sais, calling the news about the possible security issue a media hype.

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KeyStore Vulnerability Affects 86% of Android Devices

Jun 30

jones_supa (887896) writes “IBM security researchers have published an advisory about an Android vulnerability that may allow attackers to obtain highly sensitive credentials, such as cryptographic keys for some banking services and virtual private networks, and PINs or patterns used to unlock vulnerable devices. It is estimated that the flaw affects 86 percent of Android devices. Android KeyStore has a little bug where the encode_key() routine that is called by encode_key_for_uid() can overflow the filename text buffer, because bounds checking is absent. The advisory says that Google has patched only version 4.4 of Android. There are several technical hurdles an attacker must overcome to successfully perform a stack overflow on Android, as these systems are fortified with modern NX and ASLR protections. The vulnerability is still considered to be serious, as it resides in one of the most sensitive resources of the operating system.”

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Cracking Atlanta Subway’s Poorly-Encrypted RFID Smart Cards Is a Breeze, Part II

Jun 30

McGruber (1417641) writes In December 2013, Slashdot reported the arrest of seven metro Atlanta residents for allegedly selling counterfeit MARTA Breeze cards, stored-value smart cards that passengers use as part of an automated fare collection system on Atlanta’s subway. Now, six months later (June 2014), the seven suspects have finally been indicted. According to the indictment, the co-conspirators purchased legitimate Breeze cards for $1, then fraudulently placed unlimited or monthly rides on the cards. They then sold the fraudulent cards to MARTA riders for a discounted cash price. Distributors of the fraudulent cards were stationed at several subway stations. The indictment claims that the ring called their organization the “Underground Railroad.”

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Ask Slashdot: SIM-Card Solutions In North America?

Jun 30

An anonymous reader writes I’ll be returning to North America for July for the first time in a few years, and I’m curious how the phone carrier market compares with the rest of the world. My last time in the U.S., I had to pick up a disposable phone with all kinds of unnecessary environmental waste (charger, packaging, etc.), and *still* had to register it with another domestic (!) phone number and credit card. I don’t think I could get a SIM card there without a contract. Anywhere else I travel, picking up a new SIM card with pre-loaded credit is trivially easy. In my last trip to the UK, I just put GBP 10 into a vending machine at the airport and picked up a loaded SIM card for my phone which aldready has my contacts and settings. No ID, no name, no hassle. What are the best options for me in North America (U.S. *and* Canada)?

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Microsoft Suspending "Patch Tuesday" Emails

Jun 29

New submitter outofluck70 (1734164) writes Got an email today from Microsoft, text is below. [Note: text here edited for formatting and brevity; see the full text at seclists.org.] They are no longer going to send out emails regarding patches, you have to use RSS or keep visiting their security sites. They blame “governmental policies” as the reason. What could the real reason be? Anybody in the know? From the email: “Notice to IT professionals: As of July 1, 2014, due to changing governmental policies concerning the issuance of automated electronic messaging, Microsoft is suspending the use of email notifications that announce the following: Security bulletin advance notifications; Security bulletin summaries; New security advisories and bulletins; Major and minor revisions to security advisories and bulletins. In lieu of email notifications, you can subscribe to one or more of the RSS feeds described on the Security TechCenter website.” WindowsIT Pro blames Canada’s new anti-spam law.

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