Microsoft Announces Windows 10

Microsoft has announced that its newest operating system, Windows 10, will run on devices ranging from PCs to game consoles and mobiles devices when released by the end of 2015. Microsoft will release the OS’s technical preview for laptops and PCs later this week, with a server version to follow at an undisclosed time in the near future.  Microsoft officials say they skipped from the current Windows 8 to Windows 10 to reflect how different the two operating systems will be. “Windows 10 will be our most comprehensive platform ever,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s chief of operating systems. Longtime Windows users will see the return of the Start Menu, which Microsoft removed from Windows 8. Some of the newer features are rough, such as Continuum, which allows the operating system to reconfigure from a keyboard-and-mouse oriented input to touch-capable tiles for tablets and phones. (BBC – 1)(BBC – 2)(ReadWrite)(Microsoft TechNet)

US Agency Orders Airplane Cockpit Technology Retrofits

US airlines must replace or modify the cockpit-display units in 1,326 Boeing 737 and 777 jets during the next five years to prevent signal interference that could cause screens to go blank, according to a new US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) directive. The agency says its tests showed that Wi-Fi signals could interfere with Honeywell Phase 3 cockpit displays, which show essential aircraft information such as airspeed, altitude, and heading. However, Honeywell says that in 2012, it fixed the only known problem of this type, which occurred during a test while an aircraft was on the ground. Virgin Australia, Air France, Ryanair, and Honeywell have opposed to the new FAA rules, saying Wi-Fi signals are not sufficiently strong to disrupt the cockpit display’s operations. The FAA estimates that mandated retrofits will cost roughly $13.8 million. (BBC)(Engadget)(Reuters)(The Federal Register)

OpenVPN Might Be Vulnerable to Shellshock Bug

New information shows that virtual-private-network servers based on the popular open source OpenVPN may be vulnerable to attacks exploiting Shellshock and related flaws. Fredrik Strömberg, cofounder of the commercial VPN service Mullvad, noted, “OpenVPN has a number of configuration options that can call custom commands during different stages of the [VPN] tunnel session.” “Many of these commands are called with environmental variables set, some of which can be controlled by the client.” Hackers exploiting Shellshock could use this to infect systems with malware. The Shellshock vulnerability is in versions 1.14 through 4.3 of the GNU Bourne Again Shell—known as Bash—the command-line shell used in many Linux and Unix operating systems, as well as Mac OS X Mavericks, and some Windows and IBM products. Numerous Internet-connected devices, Web servers, and online services run on Linux distributions that use Bash. If a system has a vulnerable Bash version as its default shell, hackers could attack it via malicious Web requests, telnet communications, or other programs that use Bash to execute scripts. They could then run deep-level shell commands on target devices. Researchers say hackers could exploit many possible remote attack vectors, including the OpenVPN server’s authentication capabilities. Vendors continue issuing Shellshock patches for their vulnerable products. (PC World)(ZD Net)(Threatpost)

New Social Network Takes on Facebook

A new social network originally intended for use by about 90 friends is now open to others and has generated considerable interest in what industry observers call an anti-Facebook backlash. The invitation-only Ello website -- https://ello.co/   —which has gained attention in part because it has no advertisements—is now receiving roughly 31,000 requests an hour from people wanting to join. Ello CEO and cofounder Paul Budnitz opened the site, which is still in beta, to those beyond his immediate circle of 90 friends on 7 August, but the site is still in beta. The site is spare and white, with plenty of space given to photographs. Ello plans to eventually sell users access to special features, which it has yet to develop, to generate revenue. (BBC)(TIME)(Bloomberg Businessweek)

US Agency Investigates Bitcoin Hardware Provider

The US Federal Trade Commission is asking a federal judge to grant a preliminary injunction against Butterfly Labs, which would place the Bitcoin-mining-hardware manufacturer in a court-appointed receivership and extend a temporary restraining order filed by the agency. The injunction alleges that Butterfly Labs used customer-ordered machines to mine bitcoins before shipping them, saying the practice was part of their testing, allowing the company to pocket Bitcoins that should have gone to its customers. The FTC says it is also investigating three of the company’s directors for spending company money on personal products and services while not fulfilling orders, thereby taking what amounts to interest-free loans from customers. Butterfly Labs is currently working under a temporary restraining order. The court previously allowed the FTC to seize Butterfly Labs’ assets and close its operations before the case goes to court. (Ars Technica)(CoinDesk)

 

Robots Test Authenticity of Thai Food

A robot able to discern the subtleties of authentic Thai food is being demonstrated by Thailand’s government. The e-delicious system has multiple sensors that send data to a computer with algorithms that determine a food’s chemical signature and thereby identify its aromatic and flavor attributes. The system compares this information to a “gold standard” that 120 taste testers have approved. For example, Thai green curry must have a specific balance of basil, curry paste, and coconut cream to be deemed authentic. The government will award dishes passing the e-delicious’ testing a seal of approval. Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was removed from office in May by a military coup, conceptualized the e-delicious after experiencing poor Thai food in other countries. The government established the Thai Delicious committee and the National Innovation Agency funded the project.  Two robots have been built to date. (BBC)(United Press International)

Chinese Government Censors Websites Following Hong Kong Unrest

Following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the Chinese government has blocked users in Hong Kong and China from websites showing and search results linking to images and reports related to the events. News outlets say this may be an attempt by the government to keep unrest from spreading to mainland China. The content blocked reportedly included some results on the Baidu search engine, and some images on Instagram and the Sina Weibo microblogging site, according to the BBC’s Beijing bureau. “It’s commonplace for China's internet censors to go into overdrive during politically sensitive events,” according to BBC Beijing correspondent Celia Hatton. Activists are reportedly using the Firechat messaging application—which works via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, not the Internet—to circumvent censors. (BBC)(PC World)

 

Cisco Invests $1 Billion in Cloud-Based Capabilities

Cisco Systems plans to invest $1 billion in its cloud infrastructure over the next two years. The company’s Intercloud network links datacenters and cloud providers worldwide, and is designed to help businesses process and manage data. The company says the money, provided through Cisco Capital, will be used to finance its customers’ and partners’ migration to “Cisco-powered clouds.” Cisco now has 30 cloud partners, including telecommunications service providers Deutsche Telekom and BT, system-integration company NTT DATA, and datacenter vendor Equinix. These partners give Intercloud access to 250 datacenters in 50 countries. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)(Cisco @ Marketwatch)

 

Crowdfunding Campaign Aids Ailing Hacker

A crowdfunding campaign launched by an anonymous fan is designed to assist legendary phone hacker John Draper—otherwise known as Captain Crunch—with bills from an extended hospital stay and ongoing medical problems. They have extended the QiKfunder fundraiser after surpassing its original $5,000 goal. Draper, 71, is widely acknowledged as being among the first phone phreaks to hack US phone networks. Draper’s initial claim to infamy was discovering a toy whistle given as a prize in Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes emitted a tone at 2.6 KHz, the frequency AT&T used to reset its trunk lines. Using the tone allowed phone phreakers—considered the forerunners of PC hackers—to make free long-distance calls. He shared what he knew with Apple cofounders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who considered him to be a pivotal influence on them. Draper went on to work for Apple, writing the EasyWriter word-processing program, and then for other Silicon Valley tech firms. In the 1970s, he served prison time for phone fraud. (BBC)(Reddit)(Ars Technica)(Gizmodo)

New Security Program Offers Keyless Cloud Security

A vendor has released a new open source security program designed to let users securely access cloud-computing resources without placing their private encryption/decryption keys in the cloud. CloudFlare’s Keyless SSL enables users to secure Web assets in the cloud by storing the private keys on an internal, rather than a public-facing, server. Typically, the private key resides on the same cloud-based server that handles Web traffic. Problems with this were underscored by the Heartbleed bug, which let hackers access private-key information. With CloudFlare’s Keyless SSL system, private SSL keys are maintained on customers’ hardware, not in CloudFlare’s network. Key-signing requests are conveyed—and the signing takes place—via an encrypted tunnel to the customer’s server. The key is thus never seen. CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince said companies, particularly financial institutions, expressed security concerns about using cloud services. (Bloomberg)(InfoWorld)

 

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