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The Almighty Buck

Revealed: How One Amazon Kindle Scam Made Millions of Dollars (zdnet.com) 5

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt with us from a report via ZDNet that summarizes a catfishing scheme designed to deceive Amazon users into buy low-quality ebooks: Emma Moore is just one of hundreds of pseudonyms employed in a sophisticated "catfishing" scheme run by Valeriy Shershnyov, whose Vancouver-based business hoodwinks Amazon customers into buying low-quality ebooks, which have been boosted on the online marketplace by an unscrupulous system of bots, scripts, and virtual servers. Catfishing isn't new -- it's been well documented. Some scammers buy fake reviews, while others will try other ways to game the system. Until now, nobody has been able to look inside at how one of these scams work -- especially one that's been so prolific, generating millions of dollars in royalties by cashing in on unwitting buyers who are tricked into thinking these ebooks have some substance. Shershnyov was able to stay in Amazon's shadows for two years by using his scam server conservatively so as to not raise any red flags. What eventually gave him away weren't customer complaints or even getting caught. It was good old-fashioned carelessness. He forgot to put a password on his server.
Government

Edward Snowden Makes 'Moral' Case For Presidential Pardon (theguardian.com) 387

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Edward Snowden has set out the case for Barack Obama granting him a pardon before the U.S. president leaves office in January, arguing that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by U.S. and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off. Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited. "Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists -- for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things," he said. "I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [U.S.] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result." In his wide-ranging interview, Snowden insisted the net public benefit of the NSA leak was clear. "If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off," he said. But Snowden still wants to return to the U.S. and seems confident, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that it will happen. "In the fullness of time, I think I will end up back home," he said.
Books

Amazon Adds Audiobooks and Podcasts To Prime Membership (fortune.com) 60

If you're one of the 63 million Amazon Prime members out there, you may be happy to hear that Amazon will now grant you unlimited access to podcasts and audiobooks from Audible. Fortune reports: With Tuesday's news, Prime members will now be able to stream a rotating selection of more than 50 audiobooks. Prime members will also have free access to Amazon's newly launched on-demand audio service from Audible Channels, which provides ad-free podcasts and other audio content. Audible released the service in July, and is charging non-Prime members $4.95 each month to access the selection of podcasts. In addition to podcasts, Channels also includes access to audio versions of articles from major publications, comedy shows, short fiction, and more. Fingers crossed they have some engaging technology books in their rotating selection...
Books

MIT Invented A Camera That Can Read Closed Books (gizmodo.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: In a breakthrough that will appeal to both spies and those who work with priceless but frail historical documents, researchers at MIT have developed a camera that uses terahertz radiation to peer at the text on pages of a book, without it having to be open. Terahertz radiation falls somewhere between the microwave and infrared spectrums, and the research team, including Barmak Heshmat, Ramesh Raskar, and Albert Redo Sanchez from MIT, and Justin Romberg and Alireza Aghasi from Georgia Tech, chose that particular flavor of radiation because of how it reacts with different chemicals. Different chemicals produce a distinct frequency as they react with different terahertz frequencies, which can be measured and distinguished. In this instance, it allows the researchers to tell the different between ink and blank paper. Complex algorithms and software is required to translate the frequencies being bounced back to the camera, allowing it to distinguish letters on a page. But it also relies on how far the short bursts of terahertz radiation are traveling, by precisely timing how long it takes to reach the 20-micrometer-thick air gaps between pages of a book, it's able to calculate when it moves from page to page. The report adds, "the researchers feel their system could be a fantastic tool for museums or other facilities who want to explore and catalog historical documents, without actually having to touch or open them, and risk damage."
Books

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Technology Books and Novels? 175

It can be a nonfiction book, or a fictional narrative where technology plays a key role. I recently started to read 'The Rise of the Robots' by Martin Ford. It talks about how robots are threatening mass unemployment more than they ever did before. I also found Andrew Blum's 'Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet' quite insightful. I would like to read 'The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers'.

What are some of your favorite tech-centric books? And which book are you currently reading, or recently finished?
Chrome

Google Uses Surface Books To Show Off Chrome Battery Improvements (windowscentral.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Google has posted a new video showing how much it has improved battery life while using Chrome on Windows. It demonstrated those changes in a video that featured the web browser on Microsoft's Surface Book notebooks. The video test was based on running a Vimeo video on Chrome 46, which was released in 2015, and the same video running on Chrome 53, which was released last week. The Surface Book with Chrome 46 ran out of battery power after 8 hours and 27 minutes, while the same notebook running Chrome 53 shut down in 10 hours and 39 minutes, or over 2 hours later. Chrome 53 also features Material Design, a user interface that "makes more liberal use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows." You can force the update to Chrome 53 by navigating to the about section of Chrome.
Earth

World Map Shows Countries Requiring Open Source Software (networkworld.com) 32

"Europe and South America are the biggest hotspots for open-source use in government," reports Network World, while Bulgaria requires all software written for the government to be FOSS. Slashdot reader alphadogg quotes their report: It's become increasingly common over the past decade or so to see laws being passed to either mandate the use of open-source software or, at the very least, encourage people in government who make procurement decisions to do so. Here's a map of the status of open-source laws around the world.
Books

No, the Internet Has Not Killed the Printed Book - Most People Still Prefer Them (nytimes.com) 140

Daniel Victor, writing for The New York Times: Even with Facebook, Netflix and other digital distractions increasingly vying for time, Americans' appetite for reading books -- the ones you actually hold in your hands -- has not slowed in recent years (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Sixty-five percent of adults in the United States said they had read a printed book in the past year, the same percentage that said so in 2012. When you add in ebooks and audiobooks, the number that said they had read a book in printed or electronic format in the past 12 months rose to 73 percent, compared with 74 percent in 2012. Twenty-eight percent said they had opted for an ebook in the past year, while 14 percent said they had listened to an audiobook. Lee Rainie, the director of internet, science and technology research for Pew Research, said the study demonstrated the staying power of physical books. "I think if you looked back a decade ago, certainly five or six years ago when ebooks were taking off, there were folks who thought the days of the printed book were numbered, and it's just not so in our data," he said. The 28 percent who said they had read an ebook in the past year has remained relatively steady in the past two years, but the way they are consuming ebooks is changing.
Education

Now Arriving On the New York Subway: Free E-Books, Timed For Your Commute (betanews.com) 44

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews:Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York has announced a new promotion called "Subway Reads," which leverages the free Wi-Fi connectivity provided at the NYC subway. This initiative will help straphangers get some relief from the other nonsense by enabling them to bury themselves in a free Penguin Random House e-book short or excerpt. "As part of 'Subway Reads', Penguin Random House created a special platform to offer subway customers free access to five full-length e-shorts, including High Heat, a Jack Reacher novella by Lee Child; F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic short story, The Diamond As Big As The Ritz; 3 Truths and A Lie, a short story by Lisa Gardner; The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe; and At the Reunion Buffet by Alexander McCall Smith," says the New York State Government.Sounds like a good thing. What's your thought?
Books

Belgians Are Hunting Books, Instead Of Pokemon (reuters.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report:Inspired by the success of Pokemon Go, a Belgian primary school headmaster has developed an online game for people to search for books instead of cartoon monsters, attracting tens of thousands of players in weeks. While with Pokemon Go, players use a mobile device's GPS and camera to track virtual creatures around town, Aveline Gregoire's version is played through a Facebook group called "Chasseurs de livres" ("Book hunters"). Players post pictures and hints about where they have hidden a book and others go to hunt them down. Once someone has finished reading a book, they "release" it back into the wild. "While I was arranging my library, I realized I didn't have enough space for all my books. Having played Pokemon Go with my kids, I had the idea of releasing the books into nature," Gregoire told Reuters. Though it was only set up a few weeks ago, more than 40,000 people are already signed up to Gregoire's Facebook group.
Crime

US Unveils Charges Against KickassTorrents, Names Two More Defendants (arstechnica.com) 110

A total of three men are said to be operators of file-sharing site KickassTorrents (KAT), according to U.S. prosecutors. Last month, federal authorities arrested the 30-year-old Ukrainian mastermind of KAT, Artem Vaulin, and formally charged him with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Two other Ukrainians were named in the new indictment (PDF): Levgen (Eugene) Kutsenko and Oleksander (Alex) Radostin. While only Vaulin has been arrested, bench warrants have been issue for the arrest of all three men. Ars Technica reports: "Prosecutors say the three men developed and maintained the site together and used it to 'generate millions of dollars from the unlawful distribution of copyright-protected media, including movies, [...] television shows, music, video games, computer software, and electronic books.' They gave out 'Reputation' and 'User Achievement' awards to users who uploaded the most popular files, including a special award for users who had uploaded more than 1,000 torrents. The indictment presents a selection of the evidence that the government intends to use to convict the men, and it isn't just simple downloads of the copyrighted movies. The government combed through Vaulin's e-mails and traced the bitcoins that were given to him via a 'donation' button."
The Almighty Buck

Wild Abuse Allegations Taint Indiegogo Helmet Maker Skully (digitaltrends.com) 84

Skully raised $2.4 million on Indiegogo in 2014 to manufacture motorcycle helmets with built-in Augmented Reality. Now they're filing for bankruptcy, and informing customers that refunds are unlikely on their $1,500 pre-ordered helmets. But a lawsuit filed by Skully bookkeeper Isabelle Faithhauer "claims the Wellers used the funds raised by the Indiegogo campaign and a secondary $11 million round of funding in 2015 as their personal 'piggy banks' to buy several motorcycles, two Dodge Vipers, groceries, and so on," according to a Digital Trends article shared by KingGypsy: The Wellers took trips to Bermuda and Hawaii using company funds, she said, went to strip clubs, rented a Lamborghini, and paid for personal housekeeping services on the company credit card, as well as paying out funds ranging from $500 to $80,000. Lastly, she claims that the Wellers asked her to fudge the books to obscure the expenses. Faithhauer claims that when accountants came calling with questions about the expenses, she was up front about what was going on. She says that when she took a pre-approved vacation to Disneyland in December of 2015, she was fired upon her return and offered a severance package, which the suit calls "hush money." She declined the offer.
"Following her termination at Skully, Faithhauer claims that when she found a new job, her new employer contacted the Wellers at Skully and were told she could not be trusted with confidential information. She was fired from that job as well."
DRM

EFF Asks FTC To Demand 'Truth In Labeling' For DRM (techdirt.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: Interesting move by Cory Doctorow and the EFF in sending some letters to the FTC making a strong case that DRM requires some "truth in labeling" details in order to make sure people know what they're buying. The argument is pretty straightforward (PDF): "The legal force behind DRM makes the issue of advance notice especially pressing. It's bad enough when a product is designed to prevent its owner from engaging in lawful, legitimate, desirable conduct -- but when the owner is legally prohibited from reconfiguring the product to enable that conduct, it's vital that they be informed of this restriction before they make a purchase, so that they might make an informed decision. Though many companies sell products with DRM encumbrances, few provide notice of these encumbrances. Of those that do, fewer still enumerate the restrictions in plain, prominent language. Of the few who do so, none mention the ability of the manufacturer to change the rules of the game after the fact, by updating the DRM through non-negotiable updates that remove functionality that was present at the time of purchase." In a separate letter (PDF) from EFF, along with a number of other consumer interest groups, but also content creators like Baen Books, Humble Bundle and McSweeney's, they suggest some ways that a labeling notice might work.
Books

CP/M Creator Gary Kildall's Memoirs Released As Free Download (ieee.org) 157

An anonymous reader writes from IEEE Spectrum: The year before his death in 1994, Gary Kildall -- inventor of the early microcomputer operating system CP/M -- wrote a draft of a memoir, "Computer Connections: People, Places, and Events in the Evolution of the Personal Computer Industry." He distributed copies to family and friends, but died before realizing his plans to release it as a book. This week, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, with the permission of Kildall's children, released the first section and it is available for a free download. The rest of it, which they say did not reflect his true self, will not be made public.
United Kingdom

British Newspaper Fooled By Online Harry Potter/Pokemon Go Hoax (snopes.com) 36

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "The creators behind Pokemon Go are developing a new Harry Potter version of the app, according to reports," claimed The Metro -- citing as their source the web site "Hello Giggles". But that site's source -- as well as the source for an inaccurate article in Yahoo! Style -- was the infamous JTXH, a parody news sites created three months ago, whose other false scoops have included "NASA to make announcement involving 'religious' implications" and "Denny's waitress assaulted by Muslims for serving bacon during Ramadan".
From Snopes.com: There is no real radio or television outlet with the call letters JTXH; that identifier is purely the province of a fake news web site masquerading as a legitimate news outlet. JTXH News has previously published fabricated clickbait stories such as "Bernie campaign caught distributing LSD to youth" and "Chick-Fil-A is considering banning anyone who 'can't figure out their gender.'"

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