Archive for October, 2009

Contest To Hack Brazilian Voting Machines

October 30th, 2009 10:09 admin Comments off

An anonymous reader writes “Brazilian elections went electronic many years ago, with very fast results but a few complaints from losers, of course. Next month, 10 teams that accepted the challenge will have access to hardware and software (Google translation; original in Portuguese) for the amount of time they requested (from one hour to four days). Some will try to break the vote’s secrecy and some will try to throw in malicious code to change the entered votes without leaving traces.”

Android 2.0 — Competition Against the iPhone and the Rest

October 30th, 2009 10:05 admin View Comments

GMGruman writes “Every few months, it seems, there is a new ‘iPhone killer.’ Android 2.0, in the guise of the Motorola Droid, is the latest such ‘killer.’ But what will it really take to beat or match the iPhone (single page), and does Android or any other mobile OS have the right stuff? There’s a lot more to the answer than is usually discussed. This article takes a look at the strengths that may allow Droid and Android 2.0 to provide strong competition to devices like the iPhone and the Blackberry, as well as the obstacles it continues to face that could inhibit adoption.”

After 1 Year, Conficker Infects 7M Computers

October 30th, 2009 10:04 admin View Comments

alphadogg writes “The Conficker worm has passed a dubious milestone. It has now infected more than 7 million computers, security experts estimate. On Thursday, researchers at the volunteer-run Shadowserver Foundation logged computers from more than 7 million unique IP addresses, all infected by the known variants of Conficker. They have been able to keep track of Conficker infections by cracking the algorithm the worm uses to look for instructions on the Internet and placing their own ‘sinkhole’ servers on the Internet domains it is programmed to visit. Conficker has several ways of receiving instructions, so the bad guys have still been able to control PCs, but the sinkhole servers give researchers a good idea how many machines are infected.”

Wait For Windows 7 SP1, Support Firm Warns Users

October 30th, 2009 10:10 admin View Comments

CWmike writes “Users should wait for Microsoft to work out the bugs in Windows 7 before jumping on the new OS, computer support company Rescuecom said on Friday. ‘From the calls we’re getting, as well as our own experience in the past with all Microsoft’s operating systems, we’re recommending that people stick with their time-tested OS and wait for the dust to settle,’ said Josh Kaplan, president of Rescuecom. Citing a litany of reasons, ranging from the risk of losing data during an upgrade to tough economic times, Kaplan urged Windows users to put off upgrading to Windows 7 or buying a new PC with the operating system pre-installed. ‘There are some compelling reasons for both businesses and home users to move to Windows 7,’ Kaplan said, ‘so we’re saying “just wait for a bit.”‘ Upgrading an existing machine — whether it’s running the eight-year-old Windows XP or the much newer Vista — is particularly risky, he added, especially if users haven’t taken time to make a full backup before they migrate their machines. Some users have found that out first hand. Among the top subjects on Microsoft’s support forum is one that has put some PCs into an endless reboot loop when their owners tried to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. Microsoft has not yet come up with a solution that works for all the users who have reported the problem, sparking frustration.”

Installing Linux On Old Hardware?

October 30th, 2009 10:18 admin View Comments

cptdondo writes “I’ve got an old laptop that I’ve been trying to resurrect. It has a 486MHz CPU, 28 MB of RAM, a 720 MB HD, a 1.44MB floppy drive, and 640×480 VESA video. It does not have a CD drive, USB port, or a network port. It has PCMCIA, and I have a network card for that. My goal is to get a minimal GUI that lets me run a basic browser like Dillo and open a couple of xterms. I’ve spent the last few days trying to find a Linux distro that will work on that machine. I’ve done a lot of work on OpenWRT, so naturally I though that would work, but X appears to be broken in the recent builds — I can’t get the keyboard to work. (OK, not surprising; OpenWRT is made to run on WiFi Access Point hardware which doesn’t have a keyboard…) All of the ‘mini’ distros come as a live CD; useless on a machine without a CD-ROM. Ditto for the USB images. I’m also finding that the definition of a ‘mini’ distro has gotten to the point of ‘It fits on a 3GB partition and needs 128 MB RAM to run.’ Has Linux really become that bloated? Do we really need 2.2 GB of cruft to bring up a simple X session? Is there a distro that provides direct ext2 images instead of live CDs?”

Nokia’s N-Gage Service To End After 2010

October 30th, 2009 10:29 admin View Comments

negRo_slim writes “Who knew the N-Gage was still kicking? Well apparently it still is — however, it looks like 2010 will be the end. From the announcement: ‘While the site together with the N-Gage Arena and other community features will remain in operation throughout 2010, the Ovi Store will be the new central place for all the mobile games that Nokia and other publishers offer from this point forward. We will no longer publish new games for the N-Gage platform.’”

For a Real Blast, Strap a Nuclear Reactor to a Spaceship

October 30th, 2009 10:26 admin View Comments

humans-on-marsThe Russian space agency has proposed a powerful new way to get a spacecraft to Mars or beyond: just put a big ole nuclear reactor on board.

The head of the agency, Anatoly Perminov, just proposed this new class of nuclear-powered spaceships for manned missions to explore our solar system. “The project is aimed at implementing large-scale space exploration programs, including a manned mission to Mars, interplanetary travel, the creation and operation of planetary outposts” [AP], Perminov wrote in an online statement. He suggested that preliminary designs could be completed by 2012, and said it would then take about nine years and $600 million to build the spacecraft. Some experts call these numbers utterly unrealistic, but Russian President Dmitry Medvedev insists that the government is very serious about the project.

The idea of a nuclear-powered spacecraft is not entirely new. Some NASA space probes that venture into the outer reaches of the solar system (where solar panels are less effective) make use of a mild type of nuclear power, in which the gradual decay of radioactive plutonium isotopes generates electricity. But such systems can only produce a few hundred watts of electricity. In contrast, the craft that Perminov proposes would be powered by a nuclear fission reactor, where uranium atoms are split to produce energy. Perminov said the new nuclear-powered ship should have a megawatt-class nuclear reactor, as opposed to small nuclear reactors that powered some Soviet military satellites. The Cold War-era Soviet spy satellites had reactors that produced just a few kilowatts of power and had a life span of about a year [AP].

A megawatt-class manned spaceship is an ambitious idea, but Igor Lisov, a Russian aerospace expert, says he doesn’t believe it will ever be built. “Both the US and the USSR tried very hard to master this technology, but neither ever got to the point of building something that could be used,” he says. Environmentalists point to a long list of accidents with Soviet nuclear-powered satellites, including the crash of Kosmos-954 over northern Canada, which spread radioactive debris over a wide area [The Christian Science Monitor]. A nuclear-powered spacecraft would primarily pose an environmental threat if something went wrong during takeoff or re-entry into the atmosphere, but experts also worry about astronauts’ radiation exposure from the reactor.

Related Content:
80beats: More Plutonium, Please: DoE Promises to Cook Up More Spaceship Fuel
80beats: Would A Mission to Mars Drive Astronauts Insane? Six Earth-Bound Volunteers Aim to Find Out.
80beats: The Real Problem With a Human Trip to Mars: Radiation
80beats: Buzz Aldrin Speaks Out: Forget the Moon, Let’s Head to Mars
80beats: Russia Plans to Power Arctic Oil Drilling With Floating Nuclear Plants

Image: NASA
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Hunt For Earth-Like Planets Delayed

October 30th, 2009 10:44 admin View Comments

An anonymous reader sends along this excerpt from Nature News: “Kepler, NASA’s mission to search for planets around other stars, will not be able to spot an Earth-sized planet until 2011, according to the mission’s team. The delays are caused by noisy amplifiers in the telescope’s electronics. … The problem is caused by amplifiers that boost the signals from the charge-coupled devices that form the heart of the 0.95-metre telescope’s 95-million-pixel photometer, which detects the light emitted from the distant stars. Three of the amplifiers are creating noise that compromises Kepler’s view. The noise affects only a small portion of the data, Borucki says, but the team has to fix the software — it would be ‘too cumbersome’ to remove the bad data manually — so that it accounts for the noise automatically. He says that the fix should be in place by 2011.” Mindful of Halloween’s approach, NASA has put up a piece looking at some of the already-known exoplanets that wouldn’t be very friendly to human life.

3 Strikes — Denying Physics Won’t Save the Video Stars

October 30th, 2009 10:01 admin View Comments

Philip K D writes “Award-winning SF author and BoingBoing co-editor Cory Doctorow has an editorial in today’s Times of London. Doctorow elegantly eviscerates the basic injustice posed by the imminent Mandelson ’3 Strikes’ law in Britain. He makes the explicit observation: ‘The internet is an integral part of our children’s education; it’s critical to our employment; it’s how we stay in touch with distant relatives. It’s how we engage with government. It’s the single wire that delivers freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. It isn’t just a conduit for getting a few naughty free movies, it is the circulatory system of the information age.’ It is worth noting that Doctorow was influential in the creation of the Creative Commons. He has enjoyed considerable commercial success for his writings, owing in no small part on his insistence that his work be made available for unrestricted electronic distribution and copying.” In related news, the UK’s second-largest ISP, TalkTalk, is now threatening legal action if Mandelson’s plan goes through.

Bankrupt Spam King Is Ordered to Pay Facebook $711 Million

October 30th, 2009 10:27 admin View Comments

facebook-webThe self-proclaimed spam king of the Internet, Sam “Spamford” Wallace, was ordered to pay Facebook $711 million in civil damages for slinging spam on the social networking site. Wallace allegedly accessed Facebook accounts without obtaining permission, and used them to make bogus wall posts and spam the account holders’ friends. Those actions run afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which sets guidelines for commercial e-mails, which are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [PC World]. The judge also referred Wallace to the U.S. Attorney’s Office with a request that he be prosecuted for criminal contempt, which means he could actually face jail time if convicted.

If you’ve ever received an unsolicited email (and who hasn’t), chances are good that it came from Wallace’s company, Cyber Promotions, which was once the largest source of spam. So not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time Spamford has run afoul of the law. In May, 2008, MySpace won a $230 million judgment against Wallace for sending junk messages. Wallace was also fined $4 million by the Federal Trade Commission in 2006 for his excessive pop-up ads [CNN]. Officials at Facebook said they don’t expect to see much of the $711 million, seeing as how Wallace is bankrupt and may soon have to send out his spam as hand written letters from behind bars.

Related Content:
80beats: Happy 40th Birthday, Internet! (Um, Again.)
80beats: Twitter Security Breach Reveals Confidential Company Documents
80beats: Attack That Took Down Twitter May’ve Been Aimed at Just One Blogger

Image: flickr / benstein

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