Tech News Feed

German Test Reveals That Magnetic Fields Are Pushing the EM Drive

SlashDot - Mon, 2018-05-21 23:30
"Researchers in Germany have performed an independent, controlled test of the infamous EM Drive with an unprecedented level of precision," writes PvtVoid. "The result? The thrust is coming from interactions with the Earth's magnetic field." From the report: Instead of getting ahold of someone else's EM drive, or Mach-effect device, the researchers created their own, along with the driving electronics. The researchers used precision machining and polishing to obtain a microwave cavity that was much better than those previously published. If anything was going to work, this would be the one. The researchers built up a very nice driving circuit that was capable of supplying 50W of power to the cavity. However, the amplifier mountings still needed to be worked on. So, to keep thermal management problems under control, they limited themselves to a couple of Watts in the current tests. The researchers also inserted an enormous attenuator. This meant that they could, without physically changing the setup, switch on all the electronics and have the amplifiers working at full noise, and all the power would either go to the EM drive or be absorbed in the attenuator. That gives them much more freedom to determine if the thrust was coming from the drive or not. Even with a power of just a couple of Watts, the EM-drive generates thrust in the expected direction (e.g., the torsion bar twists in the right direction). If you reverse the direction of the thruster, the balance swings back the other way: the thrust is reversed. Unfortunately, the EM drive also generates the thrust when the thruster is directed so that it cannot produce a torque on the balance (e.g., the null test also produces thrust). And likewise, that "thrust" reverses when you reverse the direction of the thruster. The best part is that the results are the same when the attenuator is put into the circuit. In this case, there is basically no radiation in the microwave cavity, yet the WTF-thruster thrusts on. So, where does the force come from? The Earth's magnetic field, most likely. The cables that carry the current to the microwave amplifier run along the arm of the torsion bar. Although the cable is shielded, it is not perfect (because the researchers did not have enough mu metal). The current in the cable experiences a force due to the Earth's magnetic field that is precisely perpendicular to the torsion bar. And, depending on the orientation of the thruster, the direction of the current will reverse and the force will reverse. The researchers' conclude by saying: "At least, SpaceDrive [the name of the test setup] is an excellent educational project by developing highly demanding test setups, evaluating theoretical models and possible experimental errors. It's a great learning experience with the possibility to find something that can drive space exploration into its next generation."

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Here's What To Know About The New Spectre Chip Flaw

PCMag News - Mon, 2018-05-21 22:27
On Monday, tech vendors made a public a new variant of the Spectre vulnerability, which affects most modern computer chips. But for now, the danger appears to be low.

Sony's smaller, cheaper Digital Paper tablet reaches the US

Engadget - Mon, 2018-05-21 22:21
Was your heart aflutter when you heard that Sony was releasing a smaller version of its Digital Paper E Ink tablet? If you live in the US, you can satisfy your heart's desire... well, almost. Sony has started pre-orders for the 10.3-inch model (the...

Comcast Website Bug Leaks Xfinity Customer Data

SlashDot - Mon, 2018-05-21 22:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A bug in Comcast's website used to activate Xfinity routers can return sensitive information on the company's customers. The website, used by customers to set up their home internet and cable service, can be tricked into displaying the home address where the router is located, as well as the Wi-Fi name and password. Two security researchers, Karan Saini and Ryan Stevenson, discovered the bug. Only a customer account ID and that customer's house or apartment number is needed -- even though the web form asks for a full address. ZDNet obtained permission from two Xfinity customers to check their information. We were able to obtain their full address and zip code -- which both customers confirmed. The site returned the Wi-Fi name and password -- in plaintext -- used to connect to the network for one of the customers who uses an Xfinity router. The other customer was using his own router -- and the site didn't return the Wi-Fi network name or password.

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Toughest (And Weakest) Phones Currently On the Market

SlashDot - Mon, 2018-05-21 21:30
New submitter Daneel Olivaw R. shares a report from Tom's Guide: To measure each phone's toughness, [Tom's Guide] dropped it from both 4 and 6 feet onto wood and concrete. After each test, we recorded the damage to the phone. If a phone was rendered unusable -- the screen totally shattered, for instance -- then we stopped dropping it. [More details on the testing process can be found here.] Each drop was worth a maximum of 5 points; if a phone made it through all of the rounds unscathed, it would earn 35 points. The more severe the damage per drop was, the more points were deducted. If a phone was rendered unusable after a given drop, it would earn no points, and would not undergo any subsequent test. In total, there were seven tests. [...] If a phone died in the 6-foot edge drop, it was penalized an extra 10 percent. If it died in the 6-foot face drop, it was penalized 5 percent. And if it died when dropped into the toilet, it lost 2.5 percent. We then divided the total score by 3.5, to put it on a 10-point scale. Here are the scores of each device: Motorola Moto Z2 Force - Toughness score: 8.5/10 LG X Venture - Toughness score: 6.6/10 Apple iPhone X - Toughness score: 6.2/10 LG V30 - Toughness score: 6/10 Samsung Galaxy S9 - Toughness score: 6/10 Motorola Moto G5 Plus - Toughness score: 5.1/10 Apple iPhone 8 - Toughness score: 4.9/10 Samsung Galaxy Note 8 - Toughness score: 4.3/10 OnePlus 5T - Toughness score: 4.3/10 Huawei Mate 10 Pro - Toughness score: 4.3/10 Google Pixel 2 XL - Toughness score: 4.3/10 iPhone SE - Toughness score: 3.9/10

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Comcast’s mesh Wi-Fi system, xFi Pods, launches nationwide

TechCrunch - Mon, 2018-05-21 21:00

Comcast today is officially launching its own Wi-Fi extender devices called xFi Pods that help to address problems with weak Wi-Fi signals in parts of a customer’s home due to things like the use of building materials that disrupt signals, or even just the home’s design. The launch follows Comcast’s announcement last year that it was investing in the mesh router maker Plume, which offers plug-in “pods” that help extend Wi-Fi signals.

The company said that it would launch its own xFi pods that pair with Comcast’s gateways to its own customers as a result of that deal.

Those pods were initially available in select markets, including Boston, Chicago and Denver, ahead of today’s nationwide launch.

The pods themselves are hexagon-shopped devices that plug in to any electrical outlet in the home, and then pair with Comcast’s xFi Wireless Gateway or the xFi Advanced Gateway to help Wi-Fi signals extend to the hard-to-reach areas of the home.

The pods work with the Comcast Gateways to continuously monitor and optimize the Wi-Fi connections, Comcast explains, while its cloud-based management service evaluates the home’s Wi-Fi environment to make sure all the connected devices are using the best signal bands and Wi-Fi channels. Plus, the devices are smart enough to self-monitor their own performance, diagnose issues and “heal” themselves, as needed, says Comcast.

However, early reviews of Plume’s pods were mixed. CNET said the system was slow and the pods were too expensive, for example. But Engadget found the system had the lowest latency, compared with competitors, and helped devices roam more easily and accurately.

Comcast has addressed some of the earlier complaints. The pods are now much more affordable, for starters. While they’ve been selling on the Plume website for $329 for a six-pack, Comcast’s six-pack is $199. A three-pack is also available for $119, instead of the $179 when bought directly from Plume.

More importantly, perhaps, is that Comcast’s system is different from the pods featured in earlier reviews.

While Plume technology is a component of the new pods, they are not Plume devices, Comcast tells TechCrunch. Instead, Comcast licensed the Plume technology, then reconfigured some aspects of it in order to integrate xFi. It also designed its own pods in-house.

In addition, Comcast’s engineers developed new firmware and new software in-house to make it easy to pair the pods with a Comcast Gateway.

The Comcast xFi pods can be bought from its own website, the xFi app and in some Xfinity retail stores.

The xFi app (for iOS and Android) is also how customers can manage and view the connection status of the pods.

Comcast says it will make buying pods even easier later this year by offering a monthly payment plan.

The company has been upgrading its Wi-Fi offering in recent months as a means of staying competitive. Last year it launched the Xfinity xFi platform to help customers better manage their home Wi-Fi network with features like device monitoring, troubleshooting, “bedtime” schedules for families, internet pause and other parental controls.

Comcast declined to say how many pods were sold in its first trial markets, only that the response so far has been positive and boosted the company’s Net Promoter Score as a result.

Image credits: Comcast

Uber sued by former engineer for sexual harassment - CNET

CNET News - Mon, 2018-05-21 21:00
Inappropriate comments and touching are some of what the female engineer says she endured while working at the ride-hailing company.

Comcast gets into mesh Wi-Fi with xFi pods - CNET

CNET News - Mon, 2018-05-21 21:00
Extend the reach of your Wi-Fi with Comcast's new plug-in extenders.

Comcast is now selling mesh WiFi 'pods' to its internet customers

Engadget - Mon, 2018-05-21 21:00
It's been about a year since Comcast started revamping its Xfinity home internet services under the xFi brand. As part of the changes the company has been making, it started testing a simple way to build an in-home mesh network. After partnering with...

Boeing's Folding Wingtips Get the FAA Green Light

SlashDot - Mon, 2018-05-21 20:50
Boeing received FAA approval today for its folding wingtips, which will let the planes stop at airport gates big enough to accommodate typical 777 models. "Once the 777X lands, the wingtips will rotate until they point upwards," reports Engadget. "Bloomberg notes that the plane will be the only commercial model in widespread use to have such a feature." From the report: The 777X's wingtips are so novel that U.S. regulators had to draw up new standards for them. The agency was concerned that the wingtips could cause safety issues -- some plane crashes occurred after pilots did not secure flaps on wings before takeoff. The FAA required Boeing to have several warning systems to make sure pilots won't attempt a takeoff before the wingtips are locked in the correct position. The FAA also wanted assurances that there was no way the tips would rotate during flight, and that the wings could handle winds of up to 75 miles per hour while on the ground. The new wings are made from carbon-fiber composites that are stronger and lighter than the metal Boeing uses in other wings. That lets the company increase the wings' width by 23 feet to 235 feet, which makes flying more efficient. These are the widest wings Boeing has attached to a plane, surpassing the 747-8's 224 feet. However, it doesn't hold the record for a commercial plane: the Airbus A380 has a 262-foot-wide wing, which forced some airports to install gates specifically to accommodate it.

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

What's on TV: 'The Matrix' 4K, Michelle Wolf and 'Detroit: Become Human'

Engadget - Mon, 2018-05-21 20:48
This week the NBA and NHL playoffs get ready to jump to their final rounds, but the big release is an old one: The Matrix in 4K on Ultra HD Blu-ray and streaming. Netflix drops in WHCD comedian Michelle Wolf with a new weekly show Sunday morning, aft...

Google and Microsoft Disclose New CPU Flaw, and the Fix Can Slow Machines Down

SlashDot - Mon, 2018-05-21 20:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Microsoft and Google are jointly disclosing a new CPU security vulnerability that's similar to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws that were revealed earlier this year. Labelled Speculative Store Bypass (variant 4), the latest vulnerability is a similar exploit to Spectre and exploits speculative execution that modern CPUs use. Browsers like Safari, Edge, and Chrome were all patched for Meltdown earlier this year, and Intel says "these mitigations are also applicable to variant 4 and available for consumers to use today." However, unlike Meltdown (and more similar to Spectre) this new vulnerability will also include firmware updates for CPUs that could affect performance. Intel has already delivered microcode updates for Speculative Store Bypass in beta form to OEMs, and the company expects them to be more broadly available in the coming weeks. The firmware updates will set the Speculative Store Bypass protection to off-by-default, ensuring that most people won't see negative performance impacts. "If enabled, we've observed a performance impact of approximately 2-8 percent based on overall scores for benchmarks like SYSmark 2014 SE and SPEC integer rate on client 1 and server 2 test systems," explains Leslie Culbertson, Intel's security chief. As a result, end users (and particularly system administrators) will have to pick between security or optimal performance. The choice, like previous variants of Spectre, will come down to individual systems and servers, and the fact that this new variant appears to be less of a risk than the CPU flaws that were discovered earlier this year.

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A possible Lando movie, Boss Key productions shuts down and Lethal Weapon drama (Stream Economy, Ep. 4) - CNET

CNET News - Mon, 2018-05-21 19:56
Plus, a field trip to RuPaul's DragCon LA and yet another rant from our resident curmudgeon, Mark Serrels.

Genealogy database used to identify suspect in 1987 homicide - CNET

CNET News - Mon, 2018-05-21 19:37
Investigators in Washington state used the same technique that identified the suspected Golden State Killer.

Amazon is in talks to resurrect 'The Expanse'

Engadget - Mon, 2018-05-21 19:31
Just because Syfy dropped The Expanse doesn't mean the cult sci-fi hit has met its end. Sources talking to Deadline, Variety and Hollywood Reporter have all claimed that Amazon is in discussions to resurrect The Expanse for a fourth season. Neither...

US Treasury Secretary Calls For Google Monopoly Probe

SlashDot - Mon, 2018-05-21 19:30
After a 60 Minutes episode that focused on Google and its effective search monopoly, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called for large tech companies to be investigated for potential antitrust violations. Asked whether Google was abusing its market dominance as a monopoly, Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday "these are issues that the Justice Department needs to look at seriously," and argued that it was important to "look at the power they have" noting that companies like Google "have a greater and greater impact on the economy." The Register reports: Mnuchin's willingness to directly criticize Google and other tech companies and argue that they should be under investigation is just the latest sign that Washington DC is serious about digging in the market power of Big Internet. It is notable that it was 20 years ago, almost to the day, that America finally dealt with another tech antitrust problem when the Justice Department and 20 state attorneys general filed suit -- on May 18, 1998 -- against what was then the most powerful tech company in the country: Microsoft.

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Comcast is leaking the names and passwords of customers’ wireless routers

TechCrunch - Mon, 2018-05-21 19:27

Comcast has just been caught in a major security snafu: revealing the passwords of its customers’ Xfinity-provided wireless routers in plaintext on the web. Anyone with a subscriber’s account number and street address number will be served up the wi-fi name and password via the company’s Xfinity internet activation service.

Security researchers Karan Saini and Ryan Stevenson reported the issue to ZDnet.

The site is meant to help people setting up their internet for the first time: ideally, you put in your data, and Comcast sends back the router credentials while activating the service.

The problem is threefold:

  1. You can “activate” an account that’s already active
  2. The data required to do so is minimal and it is not verified via text or email
  3. The wireless name and password are sent on the web in plaintext

This means that anyone with your account number and street address number (e.g. the 1425 in “1425 Alder Ave,” no street name, city, or apartment number needed), both of which can be found on your paper bill or in an email, will instantly be given your router’s SSID and password, allowing them to log in and use it however they like or monitor its traffic. They could also rename the router’s network or change its password, locking out subscribers.

This only affects people who use a router provided by Xfinity/Comcast, which comes with its own name and password built in, though it also returns custom SSIDs and passwords, since they’re synced with your account and can be changed via app and other methods.

What can you do? While this problem is at large, it’s no good changing your password — Comcast will just provide any malicious actor the new one. So until further notice all of Comcast’s Xfinity customers with routers provided by the company are at risk.

One thing you can do for now is treat your home network as if it is a public one — if you must use it, make sure encryption is enabled if you conduct any private business like buying things online. What will likely happen is Comcast will issue a notice and ask users to change their router passwords at large.

Another is to buy your own router — this is a good idea anyway, as it will pay for itself in a few months and you can do more stuff with it. Which to buy and how to install it, however, are beyond the scope of this article. But if you’re really worried, you could conceivably fix this security issue today by bringing your own hardware to the bargain.

I’ve contacted the company for comment and will update when I hear back.

UK Parliament lists over 50 questions to ask Zuckerberg in Brussels - CNET

CNET News - Mon, 2018-05-21 19:01
The Facebook CEO has repeatedly snubbed invitations to give evidence in London, but British politicians aren't giving up without a fight.

Amazon reportedly in talks to save The Expanse - CNET

CNET News - Mon, 2018-05-21 18:59
After being cancelled by Syfy, there's new hope that The Expanse will come back for a fourth season.

Intel details fourth Spectre-style CPU security flaw

Engadget - Mon, 2018-05-21 18:51
Intel said it was scrambling to find more Spectre-like processor security flaws, and unfortunately it just found one. The company (along with Google and Microsoft) has disclosed a fourth exploit (simply titled Variant 4) that once again uses specula...

Pages