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Updated: 2 hours 34 min ago

Why Free Software Evangelist Richard Stallman is Haunted by Stalin's Dream

2 hours 48 min ago
Richard Stallman recently visited Mandya, a small town about 60 miles from Bengaluru, India, to give a talk. On the sidelines, Indian news outlet FactorDaily caught up with Stallman for an interview. In the wide-ranging interview, Stallman talked about companies that spy on users, popular Android apps, media streaming and transportation apps, smart devices, DRM, software backdoors, subscription software, and Apple and censorship. An excerpt from the interview: If you are carrying a mobile phone, it is always tracking your movements and it could have been modified to listen to the conversations around you. I call this product Stalin's dream. What would Stalin have wanted to hand out to every inhabitant of the former Soviet Union? Something to track that person's movements and listen to the person's conservations. Fortunately, Stalin could not do it because the technology didn't exist. Unfortunately for us, now it does exist and most people have been pressured or lured into carrying around such a Stalin's dream device, but not me. I am suspicious of new digital technology. I expect it to have new malicious functionalities. It has happened so many times that I have learned to expect this, so I have always checked before I start using some new digital technology. I asked to find out what is nasty about it and I found out these two things. It was something like 20 years ago, and I decided it was my duty as a citizen to refuse, regardless of whatever convenience it might offer me. To surrender my freedom in this way was failing to defend a free society. This is why I do not have a portable phone. I refuse to carry a portable phone. I never have one and unless things change, I never will. I do use portable phones, lots of different ones. If I needed to call someone right now, I would ask one of you, "Could you please make a call for me?" If I am on a bus and it is late and I need to tell somebody that I am going to arrive late, there is always some other passenger in the bus who will make a call for me or send a text for me. Practically speaking, it is not that hard.

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New Ransomware Strain is Locking Up Bitcoin Mining Rigs in China

3 hours 28 min ago
A new strain of ransomware has been observed targeting Bitcoin mining rigs. ZDNet reports: At the time of writing, most of the infections have been reported in China, the country where most of the world's cryptocurrency mining farms are located. Named hAnt, this new ransomware strain was first seen in August of last year, but a new wave of infections has been reported hitting mining farms earlier this month. Most of the infected mining rigs are Antminer S9 and T9 devices, used for Bitcoin mining, but there have also been reports of hAnt infecting Antminer L3 rigs, used for mining Litecoin. In rare instances, Avalon Miner equipment (used for Bitcoin), were also reported as infected, but in much smaller numbers.

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Hebei, a Northern Chinese Province, Unveils an App That Triggers a Notification When You're Near Someone in Debt

4 hours 5 min ago
China is gearing up to launch a social credit system in 2020, giving all citizens an identity number that will be linked to a permanent record. Like a financial score, everything from paying back loans to behaviour on public transport will be included. One aspect of this social credit system is a new app in the northern province of Hebei. From a report: According to the state-run newspaper China Daily, the Hebei-based app will alert people if there are in 500 metres of someone in debt. It's like being on Oxford Street and being able to work out everyone around you who was in debt. According to the financial charity, the Money Charity, the average UK household debt (including mortgages) was $76,000, in June last year. That's a lot of notifications.

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Meizu Unveils a Smartphone That Does Not Have Any Port, or a SIM Card Slot, or a Button, or Speaker Grill

4 hours 53 min ago
Phone maker Meizu has announced a new phone called "Zero," which doesn't have a headphone jack, or a charging port, or a physical SIM card slot, or any buttons, or a speaker grill. From a report: It doesn't even come with a SIM card slot and buttons you'd usually see on a phone -- the only elements that disturb the surface of its all-display, 7.8mm-thick ceramic unibody are its 12MP and 20MP rear cameras and two pinholes. One is a microphone, while the other is for hard resets. To make up for the lack of ports, Meizu Zero will support Bluetooth 5.0 and a wireless USB connectivity that will reportedly be able to transfer files as fast as the USB 3.0 standard can. Zero's 5.99-inch QHD OLED screen will act as some sort of a giant speaker and earpiece replacement. It does have a big enough bezel for a 20MP front camera, but its fingerprint reader is completely on-screen. The device, which is powered by a Snapdragon 845 processor, relies on 18W wireless charging due to the lack of a charger port. And it may not have the usual physical buttons, but it does have pressure-sensing ones with haptic feedback on its borders.

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Europe Plans To Drill the Moon For Oxygen and Water by 2025

5 hours 36 min ago
The European Space Agency hopes to be mining the moon for water and oxygen in six years' time. From a report: The agency took a big step toward this ambition by signing a deal with launch provider ArianeGroup on Monday. The one-year contract will see the company examine the possibility of mining regolith -- lunar soil and rock fragments that can yield oxygen and water, which could be very handy if you're trying to put a base on the moon. The mission would use an Ariane 64 launch vehicle. The European Space Agency (ESA) has already directed ArianeGroup, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran, to develop the craft, and its first test flight is anticipated in 2020. As for the lunar lander, that would come from the German startup PTScientists (which entertainingly stands for "Part-Time Scientists") -- the same outfit that aims to put the first mobile network on the moon.

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Hiring Based on Skills Instead of College Degrees is Vital for the Future, IBM CEO Says

6 hours 17 min ago
What does the future of getting a job in the tech industry look like? According to the CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, it's important that tech companies focus on hiring people with valuable skills, not just people with college degrees. From a report: Rometty made the comments yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The CEO said that technology's fast-moving pace here in the 21st century makes it harder for people to find jobs and has led to disillusionment with the future. "With the new technologies that are out there, I think there is a huge inclusion problem, meaning there's a large part of society that does not feel this is going to be good for their future," Rometty said. "Forget about whether it is or it isn't or what we believe. Therefore they feel very disenfranchised." [...] "So when it comes to education and skills, I think the government can't solve it alone," Rometty said. "I think businesses have to believe I'll hire for skills, not just their degrees or their diplomas. Because otherwise we'll never bridge this gap." "All of us are full of companies with university degrees, PhDs, you've got to make room for everyone in society in these jobs," Rometty said as other business leaders on the panel nodded their heads. She added, "We have a very serious duty about this. Because these technologies are changing faster with times than their skills are going to change. So it is causing this skill crisis. [...] We have to have a new paradigm. You would have to have new pathways that don't all include college education and you would have to have respect for that job -- not blue collar or white collar, I call it new collar."

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More Than Half of PC Applications Installed Worldwide Are Out-of-Date

6 hours 58 min ago
Avast's PC Trends Report 2019 found [PDF] that users are making themselves vulnerable by not implementing security patches and keeping outdated versions of popular applications on their PCs. From a news report: The applications where updates are most frequently neglected include Adobe Shockwave (96%), VLC Media Player (94%) and Skype (94%). The report, which uses anonymized and aggregated data from 163 million devices across the globe, also found that Windows 10 is now installed on 40% of all PCs globally, which is fast approaching the 43% share held by Windows 7. However, 15% of all Windows 7 users and 9% of all Windows 10 users worldwide are running older and no longer supported versions of their product, for example, the Windows 7 Release to Manufacturing version from 2009 or the Windows 10 Spring Creators Update from early 2017.

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Netflix Becomes First Streaming Company To Join the MPAA

7 hours 58 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Netflix has joined the membership ranks of the Motion Picture Association of America alongside the six major Hollywood studios, the top lobbying group said Tuesday, The unprecedented move -- coming on the same day that the streamer landed its first Oscar nomination for best picture -- was endorsed by Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. It is the first time in history that a non-studio has been granted entry. It also is a defining moment for MPAA chairman-CEO Charles Rivkin 18 months into his tenure. The Netflix-MPAA union coincides with the streamer becoming a card-carrying member of the Oscar race after securing an unprecedented 15 nominations on Tuesday morning. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Sarandos are intent on upping the company's profile as a legitimate force in the movie business, and joining the MPAA will further that goal. Additionally, once Fox is merged with Disney, the MPAA will have one less member, meaning a loss of as much as $10 million to $12 million in annual dues. Sources say the MPAA is courting other new members as well (Amazon could be a candidate). Prior to joining the MPAA, Netflix "departed from the Internet Association -- a major industry trade group representing tech companies including Google, Amazon, and Facebook," Engadget notes. "Netflix had been a member of the internet association since 2013."

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