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Canada

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 107

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
Google

Google Assistant To Be Available On Older Versions of Android Soon (zdnet.com) 26

Matthew Miller, writing for ZDNet: Google has announced that Google Assistant is coming to smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, starting this week. The Google Assistant will begin rolling out this week to English users in the US, followed by English in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as German speakers in Germany. Google continue to add more languages in the future.
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 33

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Sued By Over 300 Former Employees (mobilesyrup.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: BlackBerry is facing a class-action lawsuit from more than 300 former employees across Canada, according to a news release from law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP. The Waterloo, Ontario-based tech company is accused of denying employees their termination entitlements by transferring them to a partner company and, once they had accepted employment there, handed them resignation letters. The former employees were then allegedly given their final date of work. "BlackBerry's actions amount to a termination of the employees' employment," the law firm said. "This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination."
AT&T

AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers (phonedog.com) 62

Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.
Canada

Canada Remains a 'Safe Haven' For Online Piracy, Rightsholders Claim (torrentfreak.com) 134

The MPAA, RIAA and other entertainment industry groups are calling out Canada, claiming that it remains a "safe haven" for copyright infringers and pirate sites, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: One of the main criticisms is that, despite having been called out repeatedly in the past, the country still offers a home to many pirate sites. "For a number of years, extending well into the current decade, Canada had a well-deserved reputation as a safe haven for some of the most massive and flagrant Internet sites dedicated to the online theft of copyright material," IIPA writes. Another disturbing development, according to IIPA, is the emergence of stand-alone BitTorrent applications that allow users to stream content directly through an attractive and user-friendly interface, hinting at Popcorn Time. In addition to the traditional pirate sites that remain in Canada, IIPA reports that several websites offering modified game console gear have also moved there in an attempt to escape liability under U.S. law.
Facebook

Facebook Is Closing 200 of Its 500 VR Demo Stations At Best Buy Stores Across US (businessinsider.com) 128

According to Business Insider, "Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the U.S." The reason has to do with "store performance," as multiple Best Buy pop-ups told Business Insider that "it was common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration." From their report: Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert confirmed the closings and said they were due to "seasonal changes." "We're making some seasonal changes and prioritizing demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets," she said. "You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the U.S. and Canada." "We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo," she continued. "We're going to find opportunities to do regular events and pop ups in retail locations and local communities throughout the year." Best Buy spokeswoman Carly Charlson said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers, which cost $600 and $200 respectively. Multiple "Oculus Ambassador" workers BI spoke with said that, at most, they would sell a few Oculus headsets per week during the holiday season, and that foot traffic to their pop-ups decreased drastically after Christmas. "There'd be some days where I wouldn't give a demo at all because people didn't want to," said one worker at a Best Buy in Texas who asked to remain anonymous. Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.
Chrome

Google Quietly Makes 'Optional' Web DRM Mandatory In Chrome (boingboing.net) 95

JustAnotherOldGuy quotes a report from Boing Boing: The World Wide Web Consortium's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is a DRM system for web video, being pushed by Netflix, movie studios, and a few broadcasters. It's been hugely controversial within the W3C and outside of it, but one argument that DRM defenders have made throughout the debate is that the DRM is optional, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. That's not true any more. Some time in the past few days, Google quietly updated Chrome (and derivative browsers like Chromium) so that Widevine (Google's version of EME) can no longer be disabled; it comes switched on and installed in every Chrome instance. Because of laws like section 1201 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (and Canada's Bill C11, and EU implementations of Article 6 of the EUCD), browsers that have DRM in them are risky for security researchers to audit. These laws provide both criminal and civil penalties for those who tamper with DRM, even for legal, legitimate purposes, and courts and companies have interpreted this to mean that companies can punish security researchers who reveal defects in their products. Further reading: Boing Boing and Hacker News.
Canada

Canadian Police Identify Suspect From Remotely-Accessed Stolen Laptop (cochraneeagle.com) 74

An anonymous reader writes: Last week a security consultant remotely logged into his stolen laptop, and gathered clues from a Facebook profile. Though it didn't provide the suspect's real name, the consultant shared the profile online, and says he's now receiving tips from other crime victims who are scouring through the profile's friends list. And according to a local newspaper, the Canadian police say they've now identified a suspect, although "there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we can lay charges."

But despite this apparent victory, one officer is also warning the public against sharing a suspect's identity on social media, according to the paper, "after the social media post may have wrongly identified a suspect."

"When you get to public shaming, I urge caution..." the police officer tells the newspaper. "As a person that gets stuff stolen, I understand the want to publicly shame someone... Give us all the info, and we will follow up once we have the evidence."
Crime

Geek Avenges Stolen Laptop By Remotely Accessing Thief's Facebook Account (hothardware.com) 377

An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Stu Gale, who just so happens to be a computer security expert, had the misfortune of having his laptop stolen from his car overnight. However, Gale did have remote software installed on the device which allowed him to track whenever it came online. So, he was quite delighted to see that a notification popped up on one of his other machines alerting him that his stolen laptop was active. Gale took the opportunity to remote into the laptop, only to find that the not-too-bright thief was using his laptop to login to her Facebook account.

The thief eventually left her Facebook account open and left the room, after which Gale had the opportunity to snoop through her profile and obtain all of her private information. "I went through and got her phone numbers, friends list and pictures..." Given that Gale was able to see her phone numbers listed on Facebook, he sent text messages to all of those numbers saying that he was going to report her to the police. He also posted her info to a number of Facebook groups, which spooked the thief enough to not only delete her Facebook account, but also her listed phone numbers.

In 2008 Slashdot ran a similar story, where it took several weeks of remote monitoring before a laptop thief revealed his identity. (The victim complained that "It was kind of frustrating because he was mostly using it to watch porn.") But in this case, Gale just remotely left a note on the laptop -- and called one of the thief's friends -- and eventually turned over all the information to the police, who believe an arrest will follow.

Gale seems less confident, and tells one Calgary newspaper "I'm realistic. I'm not going to see that computer again. But at least I got some comic relief."
Government

CIA Releases 13M Pages of Declassified Documents Online (bbc.com) 88

About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online. The records include UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists. From a report on BBC: The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA. The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files. They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland. The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.
Earth

US Puts Bumblebee On the Endangered Species List For First Time (npr.org) 130

For the first time for a bumblebee and a bee species in the U.S., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the bumblebee an endangered species. The protected status goes into effect on February 10, and includes requirements for federal protections and the development of a recovery plan. NPR reports: "Today's Endangered Species listing is the best -- and probably last -- hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee," NRDC Senior Attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement from the Xerces Society, which advocates for invertebrates. "Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers." Large parts of the Eastern and Midwestern United States were once crawling with these bees, Bombus affinis, but the bees have suffered a dramatic decline in the last two decades due to habitat loss and degradation, along with pathogens and pesticides. Indeed, the bee was found in 31 states and Canadian provinces before the mid- to late-1990s, according to the final rule published in the Federal Register. But since 2000, it has been reported in only 13 states and Ontario, Canada. It has seen an 88 percent decline in the number of populations and an 87 percent loss in the amount of territory it inhabits. This means the species is vulnerable to extinction, the rule says, even without further habitat loss or insecticide exposure. Canada designated the species as endangered in 2012.
Businesses

Amazon Just Got Slapped With a $1 Million Fine For Misleading Pricing (recode.net) 159

Some deals are too good to be true. And, for Amazon, they will cost the company. From a report on Recode: A Canadian enforcement agency announced today that Amazon Canada will pay a $1 million fine for what could be construed as misleading pricing practices. The investigation centered on the practice of Amazon displaying its prices compared to higher "list prices" -- suggested manufacturer prices (MSRPs) designed as marketing gimmicks to make people think they are getting a deal, even though it's often the case that no shopper ever pays that price. "The Bureau's investigation concluded that these claims created the impression that prices for items offered on www.amazon.ca were lower than prevailing market prices," Canada's Competition Bureau said in a statement. "The Bureau determined that Amazon relied on its suppliers to provide list prices without verifying that those prices were accurate."
Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
Earth

Living Near Heavy Traffic Increases Risk of Dementia, Study Finds (theguardian.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: People living near a busy road have an increased risk of dementia, according to research that adds to concerns about the impact of air pollution on human health. Roughly one in 10 cases of Alzheimer's in urban areas could be associated with living amid heavy traffic, the study estimated -- although the research stopped short of showing that exposure to exhaust fumes causes neurodegeneration. Previously, scientists have linked air pollution and traffic noise to reduced density of white matter (the brain's connective tissue) and lower cognition. A recent study suggested that magnetic nano-particles from air pollution can make their way into brain tissue. The latest study, published in The Lancet, found that those who live closest to major traffic arteries were up to 12% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia -- a small but significant increase in risk. The study, which tracked roughly 6.6 million people for more than a decade, could not determine whether pollution is directly harmful to the brain. The increased dementia risk could also be a knock-on effect of respiratory and cardiac problems caused by traffic fumes or due to other unhealthy life-style factors associated with living in built-up urban environments. The study tracked all adults aged between 20 and 85 living in Ontario, Canada from 2001 to 2012, using postcodes to determine a person's proximity to major roads. The cohort's medical records were examined to see who went on to develop dementia, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. Over the study period, more than 243,000 people developed dementia, 31,500 people developed Parkinson's disease and 9,250 people developed multiple sclerosis. The scientists found no link between living near a road and Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis, but dementia was slightly more common in people living close to busy roads and the risk dropped off gradually in less built-up areas. Those living within 50 meters of a busy road had a 7% higher risk in developing dementia, the risk was 4% higher risk at 50-100 meters, 2% higher risk at 101-200 meters and there was no increase in risk in those living more than 200 meters away. Those who lived in a major city, within 50 meters of a major road and who did not move house for the duration of the study had the highest risk at 12%.
Star Wars Prequels

Iconic Star Wars Actress Carrie Fisher Dies at 60 (people.com) 456

Carrie Fisher, the actress, author and screenwriter who brought a rare combination of nerve, grit and hopefulness to her most indelible role, as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" film franchise, died on Tuesday morning at the age of 60. From a report: "It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning," reads the statement. Fisher was flying from London to Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 23, when she went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics removed her from the flight and rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was treated for a heart attack. She later died in the hospital. The daughter of renowned entertainers Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Fisher was brought up in the sometimes tumultuous world of film, theater and television. Escaping Hollywood in 1973, the star enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, where she spent over a year studying acting. Just two years later, though, the bright lights of Hollywood drew her back, and Fisher made her film debut in the Warren Beatty-led Shampoo. Her role in Star Wars would follow in 1977 -- and she detailed the experience, including her on-set affair with costar Harrison Ford, in her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist. She was only 19 when the first installment of the beloved sci-fi franchise was filmed. Fisher's fans, family, and colleagues have paid their tribute to the actress The Guardian has published an intense tribute to Fisher in an article titled "The loss of Carrie Fisher is felt by all who love Hollywood, warmth and wit".

From BBC's obituary of Fisher: She was a self-confessed bookworm as a child reading poetry and classical literature. Her high school education was disrupted by the lure of the stage when she appeared in the musical Irene alongside her mother, and she never graduated. She moved to London where she enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama before returning to the US and attending the Sarah Lawrence arts college near New York. Having managed to kick drugs and alcohol, she was rushed to hospital in 1985 after accidentally taking an overdose of sleeping pills and prescription drugs. The episode formed the basis for her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Postcards from the Edge, in which she satirised her own dependence on drugs and the sometimes difficult relationship she had with her mother. Three years later Fisher adapted it into a screenplay, and it was made into a film starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, and Dennis Quaid. Fisher -- who had bipolar disorder -- also wrote and frequently talked in public about her years of drug addiction and mental illness. Carrie Fisher's fame as an actress rested on just one role, but it was a role in one of the best known and most successful film franchises in cinema history. She was remarkably frank about the personal difficulties she had fought and overcome. "There's a part of me that gets surprised when people think I am brave to talk about what I've gone through," she once said. "I was brave to last through it." The world is poorer without you, Fisher. Rest in peace.
Canada

Canada's CRTC Declares Broadband Internet Access a Basic Service (www.cbc.ca) 48

New submitter jbwiebe quotes a report from CBC.ca: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service. In a ruling handed down today, the national regulator ordered the country's internet providers to begin working toward boosting internet service and speeds in rural and isolated areas. With today's ruling, CRTC has set new targets for internet service providers to offer customers in all parts of the country download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 10 Mbps, and to also offer the option of unlimited data. The CRTC estimates two million Canadian households, or roughly 18 per cent, don't have access to those speeds or data. The CRTC's goal is to reduce that to 10 per cent by 2021. To achieve that, the CRTC will require providers pay into a fund that's set to grow to $750 million over five years. The companies will be able to dip into that fund to help pay for the infrastructure needed to extend high-speed service to areas where it is not currently available. The fund is similar to one that subsidized the expansion of local landline telephone service in years past. Providers used to pay 0.53 per cent of their revenues, excluding broadband, into that fund. Now they'll pay the same rate on all revenues, including broadband.
Earth

Obama Blocks Offshore Drilling In Atlantic, Arctic Areas (npr.org) 338

Before the new administration takes over next month, President Obama took new action Wednesday to place large sections of the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans off limits to oil drilling. NPR reports: The Arctic protections are a joint partnership with Canada. "These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth," the White House said in a statement. "They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region's harsh conditions is limited," the White House added. "By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region -- at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels." Obama's action designates 31 Atlantic canyons "off limits to oil and gas exploration and development activity," totaling 3.8 million acres, according to the administration. It provides the same protections to much of the Arctic's waters, covering the "vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas," totaling 115 million acres. Canada is doing the same to "all Arctic Canadian waters," the joint statement adds. Obama took these actions by invoking a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the president the authority to withdraw lands from oil and gas leases.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Unveils Autonomous Vehicle Hub In Canada (venturebeat.com) 37

BlackBerry's Unix-like OS, QNX, is already in millions of cars. But today they're expanding their facility in Ottawa "to focus on developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology," according to Reuters. And one analyst says "If they can prove that they have the whole package and the security, they could absolutely dominate the market." After a detour where QNX's industrial-focused software was used to reinvent the now-discarded BlackBerry phone operating system, BlackBerry is focused on how its embedded software interacts with the explosion of sensors, cameras and other components required for a car to drive itself... "What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows you to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner," said Sebastian Fischmeister, a University of Waterloo associate professor who has worked with QNX since 2009.
Instead of focussing on AI, BlackBerry wants "a niche role as a trusty sidekick," Reuters reports, adding that besides a recent deal with Ford, BlackBerry is also holding advanced discussions with "more than one or two" major automakers, according to the head of the company.
Medicine

RIP Dr. Henry Heimlich, Inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver (bbc.com) 51

tomhath quotes the BBC: Dr Heimlich died at the age of 96. He invented the lifesaving technique, which uses abdominal thrusts to clear a person's airway, in 1974. In May he used the technique himself to save a woman at his retirement home. He dislodged a piece of meat with a bone in it from the airway of an 87-year-old woman, telling the BBC: "I didn't know I really could do it until the other day."

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