Oggi e' 23.02.2019
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  • Once Hailed As Unhackable, Blockchains Are Now Getting Hacked
    schwit1 shares a report from MIT Technology Review: Early last month, the security team at Coinbase noticed something strange going on in Ethereum Classic, one of the cryptocurrencies people can buy and sell using Coinbase's popular exchange platform. Its blockchain, the history of all its transactions, was under attack. An attacker had somehow gained control of more than half of the network's computing power and was using it to rewrite the transaction history. That made it possible to spend the same cryptocurrency more than once -- known as "double spends." The attacker was spotted pulling this off to the tune of $1.1 million. Coinbase claims that no currency was actually stolen from any of its accounts. But a second popular exchange, Gate.io, has admitted it wasn't so lucky, losing around $200,000 to the attacker (who, strangely, returned half of it days later). Just a year ago, this nightmare scenario was mostly theoretical. But the so-called 51% attack against Ethereum Classic was just the latest in a series of recent attacks on blockchains that have heightened the stakes for the nascent industry. [...] In short, while blockchain technology has been long touted for its security, under certain conditions it can be quite vulnerable. Sometimes shoddy execution can be blamed, or unintentional software bugs. Other times it's more of a gray area -- the complicated result of interactions between the code, the economics of the blockchain, and human greed. That's been known in theory since the technology's beginning. Now that so many blockchains are out in the world, we are learning what it actually means -- often the hard way.

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  • YouTube Is Heading For Its Cambridge Analytica Moment
    Earlier this week, Disney, Nestle and others pulled its advertising spending from YouTube after a blogger detailed how comments on Google's video site were being used to facilitate a "soft-core pedophilia ring." Some of the videos involved ran next to ads placed by Disney and Nestle. With the company facing similar problems over the years, often being "caught in a game of whack-a-mole to fix them," Matt Rosoff from CNBC writes that it's only a matter of time until YouTube faces a scandal that actually alienates users, as happened with Facebook in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. From the report: To be fair, YouTube has taken concrete steps to fix some problems. A couple of years ago, major news events were targets for scammers to post misleading videos about them, like videos claiming shootings such as the one in Parkland, Florida, were staged by crisis actors. In January, the company said it would stop recommending such videos, effectively burying them. It also favors "authoritative" sources in search results around major news events, like mainstream media organizations. And YouTube is not alone in struggling to fight inappropriate content that users upload to its platform. The problem isn't really about YouTube, Facebook or any single company. The problem is the entire business model around user-generated content, and the whack-a-mole game of trying to stay one step ahead of people who abuse it. [T]ech platforms that rely on user-generated content are protected by the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which says platform providers cannot be held liable for material users post on them. It made sense at the time -- the internet was young, and forcing start-ups to monitor their comments sections (remember comments sections?) would have exploded their expenses and stopped growth before it started. Even now, when some of these companies are worth hundreds of billions of dollars, holding them liable for user-generated content would blow up these companies' business models. They'd disappear, reduce services or have to charge fees for them. Voters might not be happy if Facebook went out of business or they suddenly had to start paying $20 a month to use YouTube. Similarly, advertiser boycotts tend to be short-lived -- advertisers go where they get the best return on their investment, and as long as billions of people keep watching YouTube videos, they'll keep advertising on the platform. So the only way things will change is if users get turned off so badly that they tune out. Following Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, people deleted their accounts, Facebook's growth largely stalled in the U.S., and more young users have abandoned the platform. "YouTube has so far skated free of any similar scandals. But people are paying closer attention than ever before, and it's only a matter of time before the big scandal that actually starts driving users away," writes Rosoff.

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  • Apple To Close Retail Stores In the Patent Troll-Favored Eastern District of Texas
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Apple has confirmed its plans to close retail stores in the Eastern District of Texas -- a move that will allow the company to better protect itself from patent infringement lawsuits, according to Apple news sites 9to5Mac and MacRumors which broke the news of the stores' closures. Apple says that the impacted retail employees will be offered new jobs with the company as a result of these changes. The company will shut down its Apple Willow Bend store in Plano, Texas as well as its Apple Stonebriar store in Frisco, Texas, MacRumors reported, and Apple confirmed. These stores will permanently close up shop on Friday, April 12. Customers in the region will instead be served by a new Apple store located at the Galleria Dallas Shopping Mall, which is expected to open April 13. "The Eastern District of Texas had become a popular place for patent trolls to file their lawsuits, though a more recent Supreme Court ruling has attempted to crack down on the practice," the report adds. "The court ruled that patent holders could no longer choose where to file." One of the most infamous patent holding firms is VirnetX, which has won several big patent cases against Apple in recent years. A spokesperson for Apple confirmed the stores' closures, but wouldn't comment on the company's reasoning: "We're making a major investment in our stores in Texas, including significant upgrades to NorthPark Center, Southlake and Knox Street. With a new Dallas store coming to the Dallas Galleria this April, we've made the decision to consolidate stores and close Apple Stonebriar and Apple Willow Bend. All employees from those stores will be offered positions at the new Dallas store or other Apple locations."

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  • A Philosopher Argues That an AI Can't Be an Artist
    Sean Dorrance Kelly, a philosophy professor at Harvard, writes for MIT Technology Review: Human creative achievement, because of the way it is socially embedded, will not succumb to advances in artificial intelligence. To say otherwise is to misunderstand both what human beings are and what our creativity amounts to. This claim is not absolute: it depends on the norms that we allow to govern our culture and our expectations of technology. Human beings have, in the past, attributed great power and genius even to lifeless totems. It is entirely possible that we will come to treat artificially intelligent machines as so vastly superior to us that we will naturally attribute creativity to them. Should that happen, it will not be because machines have outstripped us. It will be because we will have denigrated ourselves. [...] My argument is not that the creator's responsiveness to social necessity must be conscious for the work to meet the standards of genius. I am arguing instead that we must be able to interpret the work as responding that way. It would be a mistake to interpret a machine's composition as part of such a vision of the world. The argument for this is simple. Claims like Kurzweil's that machines can reach human-level intelligence assume that to have a human mind is just to have a human brain that follows some set of computational algorithms -- a view called computationalism. But though algorithms can have moral implications, they are not themselves moral agents. We can't count the monkey at a typewriter who accidentally types out Othello as a great creative playwright. If there is greatness in the product, it is only an accident. We may be able to see a machine's product as great, but if we know that the output is merely the result of some arbitrary act or algorithmic formalism, we cannot accept it as the expression of a vision for human good.

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  • 'Netflix Is the Most Intoxicating Portal To Planet Earth'
    Instead of trying to sell American ideas to a foreign audience, it's aiming to sell international ideas to a global audience. From an op-ed: In 2016, the company expanded to 190 countries, and last year, for the first time, a majority of its subscribers and most of its revenue came from outside the United States. To serve this audience, Netflix now commissions and licenses hundreds of shows meant to echo life in every one of its markets and, in some cases, to blend languages and sensibilities across its markets. In the process, Netflix has discovered something startling: Despite a supposed surge in nationalism across the globe, many people like to watch movies and TV shows from other countries. "What we're learning is that people have very diverse and eclectic tastes, and if you provide them with the world's stories, they will be really adventurous, and they will find something unexpected," Cindy Holland, Netflix's vice president for original content, told me. The strategy may sound familiar; Hollywood and Silicon Valley have long pursued expansion internationally. But Netflix's strategy is fundamentally different. Instead of trying to sell American ideas to a foreign audience, it's aiming to sell international ideas to a global audience. A list of Netflix's most watched and most culturally significant recent productions looks like a Model United Nations: Besides Ms. Kondo's show, there's the comedian Hannah Gadsby's "Nanette" from Australia; from Britain, "Sex Education" and "You"; "Elite" from Spain; "The Protector" from Turkey; and "Baby" from Italy. I'll admit there's something credulous and naive embedded in my narrative so far. Let me get this straight, you're thinking: A tech company wants to bring the world closer together? As social networks help foster misinformation and populist fervor across the globe, you're right to be skeptical. But there is a crucial difference between Netflix and other tech giants: Netflix makes money from subscriptions, not advertising.

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  • Linus Torvalds on Why ARM Won't Win the Server Space
    Linus Torvalds: I can pretty much guarantee that as long as everybody does cross-development, the platform won't be all that stable. Or successful. Some people think that "the cloud" means that the instruction set doesn't matter. Develop at home, deploy in the cloud. That's bullshit. If you develop on x86, then you're going to want to deploy on x86, because you'll be able to run what you test "at home" (and by "at home" I don't mean literally in your home, but in your work environment). Which means that you'll happily pay a bit more for x86 cloud hosting, simply because it matches what you can test on your own local setup, and the errors you get will translate better. This is true even if what you mostly do is something ostensibly cross-platform like just run perl scripts or whatever. Simply because you'll want to have as similar an environment as possible. Which in turn means that cloud providers will end up making more money from their x86 side, which means that they'll prioritize it, and any ARM offerings will be secondary and probably relegated to the mindless dregs (maybe front-end, maybe just static html, that kind of stuff). Guys, do you really not understand why x86 took over the server market? It wasn't just all price. It was literally this "develop at home" issue. Thousands of small companies ended up having random small internal workloads where it was easy to just get a random whitebox PC and run some silly small thing on it yourself. Then as the workload expanded, it became a "real server". And then once that thing expanded, suddenly it made a whole lot of sense to let somebody else manage the hardware and hosting, and the cloud took over. Do you really not understand? This isn't rocket science. This isn't some made up story. This is literally what happened, and what killed all the RISC vendors, and made x86 be the undisputed king of the hill of servers, to the point where everybody else is just a rounding error. Something that sounded entirely fictional a couple of decades ago. Without a development platform, ARM in the server space is never going to make it. Trying to sell a 64-bit "hyperscaling" model is idiotic, when you don't have customers and you don't have workloads because you never sold the small cheap box that got the whole market started in the first place.

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  • Norwich's Fortnite Live Festival Was a Complete Disaster
    An anonymous reader shares a report: A festival designed to recreate Fortnite on the outskirts of Norwich has, somewhat predictably, not lived up to expectations. Event organisers flogged 2500 tickets to kids and parents. Entry cost upwards of $15 and unlimited access wristbands a further $26. In return, families got what amounted to a few fairground attractions. Photos from the event show a climbing wall for three people, archery for four people, and four go-karts. An attraction dubbed a "cave experience" was a lorry trailer with tarpaulin over it. An indoors area where you could play actual Fortnite was probably the best thing there -- although it cost money to access and you had to queue to do so. So much for free-to-play. And all of that was if you could actually get into the event to start with. Hundreds of people were left queuing for hours due to staff shortages.

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