Friday, 30 September 2016

More than 400 malicious apps infiltrate Google Play

Amazon adds Twitch perks to $99/year Prime subscription

Tracking the eruptions of a star that’s shed 15 times the mass of the Sun

BMW will make an electric Mini and an electric X3 SUV after all

Tiny NES has tiny cord, great graphics

DEA has kratom users holding their breath, lawmakers write more letters

Did attackers take down Newsweek because of an anti-Trump story?

Tracking Google’s 10/4 event: Everything from Google I/O is finally ready

Leaker fined $1.2 million for uploading screener of The Revenant

How weak DNA evidence railroaded—and then rescued—Amanda Knox

Download some more games for your Nintendo DSi before it’s too late

<i>ArtStyle: Pictobits</i> is one of the many DSiWare games that will soon no longer be available on their original hardware.

ArtStyle: Pictobits is one of the many DSiWare games that will soon no longer be available on their original hardware.

If you have an old Nintendo DSi or DSi XL lying around, you might want to dig it out today for one final trip to the online store. That's because today marks your last chance to add funds to purchase downloadable games that will soon be lost down digital gaming's ever-expanding memory hole.

After 5pm PDT today, you will no longer be able to purchase the virtual "DSiWare points" currency used to download digital games on DSi systems. Points purchased today (or previously) can still be spent on new games until March 31, 2017; that will also be the last day to redownload games you've previously purchased.

Games already downloaded to a DSi will still work after that date, and you can even transfer those DSiWare purchases over to a newer 3DS to keep them consolidated on fresher hardware. The vast majority of the DSiWare library will also still be available through the DSiWare section of the Nintendo 3DS eShop, so this isn't exactly the end of the line for the hundreds of titles made for Nintendo's first portable digital storefront. (If you're looking for some good DSiWare download recommendations, NeoGAF has a robust crowdsourced list going.)

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Humans’ murder rates explained by primate ancestors, controversial study says

The Waylens Horizon is a dashcam for the driving enthusiast

AT&T to end targeted ads program, give all users lowest available price

Researchers ask federal court to unseal years of surveillance records

Nintendo’s Japan-only Mini Famicom lets you out-hipster gaming friends

Behold the Mini Famicom.

Sure, you might think you're the most hip, cool, finger-on-the-pulse of gaming kinda guy having pre-ordered Nintendo's upcoming emulation box, the Nintendo Classic Mini NES. But after you've invited everyone round to fawn over the detail in the Mini NES cartridge slot, served a few light beverages, and began to feel really good about your choices in life, along comes your older, beardier, always-slightly-more-trendy friend. Tucked under his arm, just in sight, is Nintendo's Japan-only Nintendo Classic Mini: Family Computer, otherwise known as the Mini Famicom.

Distraught, you begin talking about how your Mini NES comes with 30 built-in games in a vain attempt to cushion the blow, but to no avail. The Mini Famicom with its Japan-exclusive games and import-only cachet has stolen your thunder. Oh yes, check and mate my friend. You've been well and truly out-hipstered.

And why not? Just look at how much more exciting the Mini Famicom is with its chintzy red finish. It even has hard-wired controllers, just like on the original Japanese Famicom that was released way back in 1983 (two years before it was released in the US, and three before Europe). Also like the original, the Mini Famicom is functionally identical to the Mini NES, containing 30 emulated versions of classic 8-bit Famicom/NES games that it spits out over a modern HDMI cable in glorious HD. Multiple display modes—including one that simulates old CRT screens—and save states are also part of the package.

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Amazon reveals Twitch’s first currency, gambling systems

Rosetta finishes slow descent to comet’s surface Friday morning [Updated]

Livestream of tonight's festivities.

Update: And it's all over. Mission managers confirmed that the mission ended at 7:19am ET (12:19pm GMT) with the loss of Rosetta’s signal after the spacecraft impacted the comet. A great mission has just come to a conclusion.

Original post: It's time for Europe's comet probe, Rosetta, to die. At 4:48pm ET Thursday, the spacecraft fired its thruster for 208 seconds, setting Rosetta on course for a controlled descent to the surface of its comet on Friday morning at approximately 7:20am ET (12:20pm UK).

In accord with the spacecraft's descent to the surface, the European Space Agency will provide live coverage via Livestream about an hour before the landing time. The live video will feature status updates from mission controllers live from the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.

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Google rebrands: Apps for Work are G Suite, enterprise platform is Google Cloud

DOJ OIG Report on Use of Section 215

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Justice has released an unclassified version of a report on the FBI's use of Section 215 from 2012-2014. The classified version of the report was provided to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, House Committee on the Judiciary, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2016 as required under the USA FREEDOM Act, along with select members of Congressional oversight committees. The report is also available here.


A Review of the FBI s Use of Section 215 Orders for Business Records in 2012 through 2014 (PDF)

A Review of the FBI s Use of Section 215 Orders for Business Records in 2012 through 2014 (Text)

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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Wireless Emergency Alerts of the Future Will Support Clickable Links

On Thursday, the Federal Communication adopted new rules to bolster the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, best known as that loud noise your phone makes when there’s a flood in your general area. Launched in 2012, WEA got renewed attention, both positive and negative, with the less than stellar alert that was sent out after the Chelsea bombing in New York:

WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.

The new rules were actually proposed last November, even though the timing makes it easy to think that they’re a response to the widespread ridicule of the Chelsea alert. The modifications are as follows:

  • The maximum length has been increased from rom 90 characters to 360 (only for LTE and future networks)
  • “Participating wireless providers” must support the addition of embedded phone numbers and URLs, so you can just click to see a photo and/or call the police.
  • The same providers must send the alerts to more specific geographic areas, as the current implementation often leads to users getting largely irrelevant information.
  • Support for Spanish-language alerts.

The new rules also establish a new type of alerts dubbed “Public Safety Messages,” which explain “essential, recommended actions that can save lives or property.” The examples given are the locations of emergency shelters and orders to boil water in the event of contamination.

There is also a pledge to “make it easier for state and local authorities to test WEA, train personnel, and raise public awareness about the service,” but the FCC doesn’t explain how this is being done.

Various technology companies and wireless carriers had objected to these changes. Apple, for example, expressed concern that “long alerts may inundate the user with information, leading to less user comprehension and increasing the likelihood of user opt-out.” On the Spanish language front, Apple’s letter implies that the FCC wants handset manufacturers to do machine translation on the device, saying that “iOS does not include an in-device functionality that automatically translates WEA messages.” Besides,” Apple claims, alerts should have “accurate and reliable translations, which are best provided by the alert originator.”

AT&T, the second largest wireless carrier in the US behind Verizon Wireless, said that it was “agreeable to moving ahead with a time-limited trial on its wireless network for purposes of determining whether embedded URLs result in unmanageable congestion when included in Amber Alerts.” However, the note added that the change “will affect 4G phones only and not 3G handsets,” which is reflected in the new rules.

All in all, it appears to be a positive change. Here’s to hoping it’s used as little as possible.

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You Can Now Make $1.5 Million For Jailbreaking The iPhone

If you’re a hacker or security researcher who’s good at finding bugs and exploits for the iPhone, there’s probably never been a better time to turn your work into a whole lot of money.

On Thursday, a company that offers bounties for all kinds of unknown exploits in computer systems, known as “zero-days,” increased the payout for anyone who can find a way to jailbreak the iPhone from afar to a whopping $1.5 million. The company, which is called Zerodium, became famous last year when it offered $1 million challenging researchers and bug hunters to find a way to hack the iPhone remotely.

“We want to attract more suppliers as we can afford to buy multiple iOS exploit chains,” Chaouki Bekrar, the founder of Zerodium and a well-known zero-day merchant, told Motherboard in an online chat. “We are backed by big buyers and customers, our zero-day acquisition budget is a kind of unlimited.”

Read more: Government Hackers Caught Using Unprecedented iPhone Spy Tool

Zerodium’s increased payout comes just a few weeks after Apple announced a long-awaited bug bounty program, promising rewards of up to $250,000 to security researchers who find and report bugs to the company. (Apple declined to comment for this article.)

“Now that Apple has a well-paying bug bounty, companies like Zerodium will have to pay more to convince researchers to sell their bugs rather than responsibly disclosing them to Apple,” iOS security researcher and jailbreaker C0deH4cker told Motherboard in a chat.

The iPhone is widely regarded as the most secure mobile phone in the world, so it’s only natural that companies or government agencies are willing to pay big bucks to get around its air-tight security measures.

Despite its higher payouts, some researchers might not want to send their bugs and exploits to Zerodium for moral reasons.

“I would rather responsibly disclose iOS vulnerabilities I find to Apple than sell them,“ C0deH4cker said. “If I were to sell a “remote jailbreak” (which is just a euphemism for “complete remote takeover”) to a company like Zerodium, the security vulnerabilities will not get fixed. Also, I would have no idea what my exploits would be used for or who the final buyer would be, such as a domestic or foreign government agency. That’s where the balance of morals and money comes in.“

Other than Zerodium and Apple, another firm, Exodus Intelligence, has attracted attention by offering $500,000 for iPhone exploits the week after Apple launched its bug bounty program. But $1.5 might be above market rate.

“Jailbreaks are just too valuable to give away for free because they have been known to go for more than $500,000,” Ryan Duff, a security researcher and former member of US Cyber Command, told Motherboard last week.

Moreover, these kind of exploits aren’t that easy to come by. Yes, the iPhone 7 has already been jailbroken by a 19-year-old working by himself, but it takes time, money, and a talent to find exploits that would qualify for Zerodium’s bug bounty. Also, in the case of the young hacker, his jailbreak was local, and not remote.

“Figure it takes at least 25% of the total payout amount as upfront investment to find a vulnerability and write an exploit,” Dan Guido, the founder of security firm Trail of Bits, told me. “So you have to spend $375k speculating that you will be able to write the full jailbreak. And it's real speculation. You might spend that much doing the research and come up empty handed.”

Yet, for the chance of getting $1.5 million, the risk might be worth it.

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Canada Is Now Prescribing Heroin to Fight Addiction

Heroin addicts in Canada can now get their fix with a doctor's prescription. As of September 13, doctors who apply for a permit from Canada's Special Access Program can prescribe diacetylmorphine, or pharmaceutical grade heroin, to severely addicted patients.

Canada has been especially progressive in legislation that oversees addiction, treating it as an illness rather than a moral failure. In 2003, Vancouver became home to the first ever SIF, or supervised injection facility, where heroin users can bring their own stash and shoot up with sterile needles in a clean, safe environment.

And the policies could pave the way for global changes. Now, New York's city council just approved a study of supervised injection facilities in the city, while in Ithaca the mayor also proposed to open a SIF.

Not just any heroin user can go to a doctor to request a prescription under Canada's new program. The Canadian government requires that doctors at Vancouver's Crosstown Clinic need to verify that "traditional options have been tried and proven ineffective" in getting the patient to quit his or her habit, as the Washington Post reported.That means other addiction treatment methods, such as rehabilitation or prescribing methadone, must have failed first.

"Canada is taking steps to move forward drug policies that are rooted in science and evidence-based practices."

Though patients must meet fairly high demands, including going to the clinic two to three times a day for injections, the program's dropout rate is low. With a prescription, and an accurate notion of the quality and dose they're using, patients can administer heroin in a supervised medical facility to get their fix. The idea is that incrementally, patients will work with a physician to decrease their dose and eventually break the habit.

"Canada is taking steps to move forward drug policies that are rooted in science and evidence-based practices," Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of VOCAL-NY, a nonprofit advocate for low-income New Yorkers affected by strict drug law enforcement, told Motherboard. She said Canada's new policy is promising, focused more on restorative rather than punitive measures, unlike the American Drug War.

Canada's policy recognizes the physical need that addicts have, as well, she said. "Withdrawal is really real and can have really detrimental effects on people's bodies. This is a method to combat that and help people in a way that's more medically sound." And experts say it's not realistic to go from all to nothing overnight, especially when addicts have a build up of the drug in their bodies. Moreover, if they quit cold turkey and their tolerance plummets, they're more vulnerable to overdose if they relapse and try to shoot up what used to be their regular dose.

Between 2005 and 2008, researchers at the Providence Healthcare Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver conducted the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), a trial in which the clinic gave prescription heroin to patients. After a year, as compared to patients treating their addiction with methadone, 62 percent of patients were more likely to stay in treatment, and 40 percent were less likely to take illegal drugs or commit crimes to support their drug habit.

In a follow up trial between 2011 and 2015, Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness, researchers treated patients either with heroin, or hydromorphone, three times a day at the clinic.

Together, these pioneering studies made possible Canada's new legislation, acknowledging that incremental reductions in heroin use works better for some patients than do other methods. The new policy is, of course, controversial. "Our policy is to take heroin out of the hands of addicts and not put it in their arms," said Colin Carrie, a conservative member of the Canadian Parliament, who opposes the policy.

Read more: How Ketamine Infusions Saved My Life

But for supporters, this policy provides what for many is a last resort. Scott MacDonald, lead physician at the Crosstown Clinic, supports the policy, told the Post that many of his patients are long-term users who have tried and failed to quit with other treatments. "Our goal is to get people into care," said MacDonald.

By gradually reducing dose, providing a clean fix, and supervising for overdoses, Canada's new policy just might save lives.

from Canada Is Now Prescribing Heroin to Fight Addiction

A Theory On Why Birds Don't Crash Into Each Other

Starling murmurations are one of the most underappreciated feats of nature. Hundreds, if not thousands, of birds will flock together across the sky, creating an undulating mass of feathers in flight. Their movements are seemingly random, yet none of them ever collide, as if their complex dance had been cleverly choreographed.

Murmurations are an extreme example of birds’ uncanny knack for synchronized flight. You’ve probably seen the iconic V-formation of migrating geese, or the graceful soaring of seabirds over water. But one thing that’s continued to stump biologists is how, exactly, airborne birds manage to avoid crashing into one another.

A starling murmuration. Image: Flickr/Donald Macauley

“Birds must have been under strong evolutionary pressure to establish basic rules and strategies to minimise the risk of collision in advance,” said Mandyam Srinivasan, a professor of visual and sensory neuroscience at the University of Queensland, in a statement.

The mechanics of bird flight fascinated Srinivasan, so he decided to conduct a series of traffic experiments using budgerigars, or common pet parakeets, to model their aerial patterns. What he observed was an unwavering predilection for veering right, which was able to keep traffic flowing smoothly, so to speak. No crashes occurred over the course of 102 flights.

Could the riddle behind synchronized bird flight really be this simple?

According to Srinivasan, “no previous studies have ever examined what happens when two birds fly towards each other.” He and two other colleagues used high-speed cameras to record the flights of 10 budgerigars released from opposite ends of a tunnel. The team’s findings were published this week in PLOS One, and concluded that budgerigars use a two-pronged technique for achieving crash-free flight.

First, they’ll veer right when confronted by another bird mid-air. Second, they’ll choose to fly higher or lower than the other bird, “according to a preset preference.” What influences a budgerigar’s altitude bias, we still don’t know. But the authors theorized that social hierarchy might have something to do with it.

“It might be that their position in the group hierarchy determines their flight height. This is a question for further research,” Srinivasan added.

Still, while these findings offer a fascinating glimpse into budgerigar flight, they don’t explain the aerial mechanics of all birds. Parakeets exhibit different social structure than, say, starlings or albatross, so it’s difficult to conclude what role behavior plays in synchronized flight across the avian spectrum. It’s also unclear whether pet budgerigars were used for this study, which raises questions over how flight patterns may differ between wild and captive individuals.

Previous investigations into bird flight have produced equally remarkable conclusions, however. For example, Andrea Cavagna, a physicist at the National Research Council of Italy, found that starlings developed a buddy-system for controlling the movement of murmurations. In a split-second, one individuals can signal many, steering the mass away from a predator or around obstacles.

Another study, led by David Williams of the University of Washington, suggested that pigeons navigate their surroundings using various flight postures, determined by the positioning of their wings. By manipulating the aerodynamics of their bodies, pigeons are able to zip around chaotic environments, such as busy cities, at incredibly high speeds.

Pigeons folding their wings to squeeze between obstacles. GIF: Ariah Kidder

Srinivasan’s research was conducted in partnership with Boeing Defence Australia, and could be used to improve anti-crash systems on jets, airplanes, or even drones. “As air traffic becomes increasingly busy, there is a pressing need for robust automatic systems for manned and unmanned aircraft, so there are real lessons to be learned from nature,” he said.

“While we can’t say how birds solve the problem of switching to different altitudes, we can propose some simple strategies for autopilot systems and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent head-on collisions.”

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A Japanese TV Show Wants Teens to Vote for Their Idols with Cryptocurrency

Japanese teens love their idols. And not in the way that kids in North America fawn over celebrities like Beyoncé—there’s an entire industry consisting of young women in “idol groups” with names like C-ute designed to cultivate and sustain dedicated (and lucrative) fandoms.

BitGirls is the latest attempt at tapping into this market, but with a twist: the company behind it is Tech Bureau Corp., a Japanese firm that runs a cryptocurrency exchange, and the BitGirls—minor internet celebrities Maya Sano, Chika Yuki, and Kaori Asakura, according to the show’s site—will compete in a talent show where fans can vote for their favourite contestant by purchasing digital tokens.

Every BitGirl has their own virtual currency (so far there’s the Chikarin, the Sanoyama, and the Kaori), and in order to buy into their favourite BitGirl’s cult of celebrity, the young fans who typically make up the target market for idol girl groups will have to literally buy in.

This is complete evil genius and here’s why.

From left: Kaori Asakura, Chika Yuki, Maya Sano. Screengrab: BitGirls

Each girl’s coin is what’s known as a “token,” which are easily created in minutes on the bitcoin blockchain and have very little to no value when they get started. However, as soon as people start buying up the coins, trading them, and if businesses start accepting them, they can become quite valuable.

Now, imagine that a large group of teens start buying up an initially worthless token (or numerous ones, if they want to vote for a different girl week-to-week) so that its value skyrockets. Now, the people voting for their favourite idols have a real monetary investment in their fandom instead of just an emotional one.

“For a certain number of fans, yes,” Takao Asayama, CEO of Tech Bureau Corp., wrote me in an email when I asked if the goal was to lock fans into financial relationships with their idols.

“This will also allow fans to switch their investment target to other members, just like what you do with cryptocurrency trading,” he continued. “Some of the more enthusiastic fans will be locked to gain their voting tokens as a dividend, and also to keep the market cap of their favorite BitGirl high.”

The largest shareholders of each girl’s coin will be added to a “rich list,” according to the white paper, where they will be given “virtual corporate titles” like vice president. Coin-hoarding teens would, for all intents and purposes, be the fictional VP or senior manager of not just a digital token but, by way of voting power on the show, a real human being.

This could engender some strange future scenarios: unpopular girls’ coins would be worth less than those of the stars of the show, turning BitGirls into a speculation market for celebrity as fans can buy up shares in the lagging contestants in the hopes that they become more popular.

How it works. Screengrab: BitGirls white paper

This also ties fans’ financial fates to the fate of the show itself.

“As the BitGirls show becomes more popular, so does its market cap,” the BitGirls white paper states. “If there are scandals or other negative news about the show the price of [the coins] could sell off really hard.”

Besides being a genius way to lock kids financially into a potentially long-term financial relationship with their idols, this idea could have interesting effects on the usual American Idol-style TV voting system.

As the girls’ coins rise in value, week-by-week voting decisions will have increasingly higher stakes as there’s more money on the line, and could also even things out for contestants if fans continually buy lower-value tokens as the star’s tokens rise in cost.

“If you want to support your favorite BitGirl more,” Asayama wrote, “you could strategically purchase unpopular BitGirl's [currency] for a cheap price to receive more voting tokens, with a risk of supporting a competitor BitGirl's market cap. This system will help unpopular BitGirl's demand at certain level, and keep this whole game more fun.”

Since the voting will take place on the bitcoin blockchain, it can also be watched live and stored for posterity, so that users can look back at the voting decisions of others.

Long-time fans will also be rewarded over newer ones with troves of valuable coins, much in the same way that early adopters of bitcoin are sitting pretty now that the currency has risen in value from the days when a single pizza was purchased for 10,000 coins—a sum that would now be worth more than $6 million.

BitGirls will premier on local Tokyo station Tokyo MX on October 21, and will be broadcast every Friday.

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Can Money Buy You the Perfect Diet?

For the past 15 years—around the time I started making conscious choices about what to eat—food has been a source of stress, joy and medicine.

Like 30 million other people in the US, I struggled with an eating disorder when I was growing up. I spent years counting calories and miles, and watching my weight drop and rise drastically on the scale. There are months I don’t remember because I was starving, and others where I succumbed to out-of-control hunger. My quest for the perfect diet—one that was both nourishing and ethical—felt far out of reach.

I’ve always thought that some of this disconnect came from living an urban life, far from the food system. Even back in the mid-19th century, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offend the imagination.” So he moved from Concord, Massachusetts to rural Walden and grew everything he ate himself. Clean eating was not invented by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Plated Sakara meals. Image: Ankita Rao

But in cities like New York—between Instagramming our prettiest meals and finding the cheapest brand of quinoa—we can’t necessarily do that. I’m surrounded by markets, restaurants and knowledge, but not always the time or money to choose the foods that nutritionists promise will make me thrive.

The only people who can do that might be the wealthy, who can pay for private chefs, or one of the many high-end meal planning services, to circumvent the decision fatigue that hits me at the grocery store. So after years of dissecting this relationship between my plate, body, and the environment, I decided to outsource my internal conflict: by paying someone to give me organic, locally grown, customized meals.


Choosing a meal service is harder than picking a movie on Netflix. The food industry continues to reinvent ways to save time, populating the spectrum between fast food and a personal chef.

After a few days of research, I settled on Sakara, a service that has been applauded by the likes of Lena Dunham, Victoria’s Secret models, and apparently, men on Wall Street. People just like me.

The website, splashy and white, promised locally sourced, plant-based meals, and it cost $420 for five days, about four times as much as I spend on my weekly meals. It was clear to me that I wasn’t just subscribing to a food service, I was signing up for a lifestyle, an aesthetic.

Meeting the founders of Sakara, Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise, at their headquarters in SoHo was further confirmation—they’re both vibrant and trendy, accustomed to picture-perfect poses with plates of their food. The two friends from Sedona, Arizona started the company in 2012. Tingle was exhausted from her unhealthy life working on Wall Street. And DuBoise, who went to nutrition school while modeling and acting on the side, had struggled with body image issues for years. “One extreme is birthday cake in the office, and drinks after work, and the other is water fasting,” Tingle said.

DuBoise and Tingle at the Sakara office in SoHo. Image: Ankita Rao

On the Sunday night before my week of Sakara started, I got a branded refrigerated bag delivered to my door with two days of the mostly vegan meals. I also got a little bottle of “night water” and “morning water” each day, infused with “superfoods” like chlorella and rose. I was officially, as the company calls it, “on Sakara”.

The timing of my trial was impeccable—I had just moved into a new apartment and had yet to buy a pot, let alone a fork. When I opened the first meal, a dairy-free yogurt with dried fruit compote, I had to scoop it out with my fingertips. (No silver spoon here.)

Almost all of the Sakara lunches and dinners were technically salads, some with accompaniments like zaatar bread and hummus. And almost all of them were delicious—the soba noodle salad with kimchi is astringent perfection, and the dark chocolate granola is the stuff of addiction.

Meanwhile, I was digesting the company’s Cosmo-mag messaging. Most Sakara meals were inscribed with words like “sexy” and “young” listed on the label like ingredients. Youth, I knew, was something rich people have taken on as a hobby. But equating nourishment with beauty was suspect.

“Sexy is like a code word for powerful,” Tingle explained. “What surprises me the most is that most people don’t even know what that feels like.”

I’m not sure if I felt sexy or powerful eating Sakara meals, though I did feel relieved. Having fresh, pristine vegetables delivered to my door, without needing to chop, store and get mad when my spinach wilts, was a beautiful thing. And Sakara sources from farmers in the region, so I didn’t feel terrible that it all came in plastic (compostable) boxes.

Sakara meals come in individual boxes and jars. Image: Courtesy of Sakara

But I did hit some technical difficulties. For one, I wasn’t full. I snack a lot normally, but these meals did not stick to my bones. I asked DuBoise and Tingle whether all of their clients—from the Victoria’s Secret models to 6-foot-tall finance guys—got the same amount of food, and they assured me it was enough.

“My husband and I eat this and we’re both full,” DuBoise told me. “The difference in the amount of calories we need, from male to female, is so small and incremental.” (It’s actually about 130 calories more for every 10 pounds of body weight).

I also felt uncomfortable with the pre-determined meal plan. I wanted this service to take the guesswork and stress out of my daily decisions, but the food I wanted to eat didn’t always coincide with what was in front of me. And the lack of choice was compounded by my once-threatened relationship with food. When you’re recovering from years of feeling guilty about food, any hint of rules or restrictions are a trigger.

Sakara, I was told repeatedly, is not a diet but a lifestyle. And for DuBoise, who struggled with disordered eating for years, it’s a lifestyle that has helped her heal. But for me, having three sealed, plastic boxes of meals every day, felt like giving the keys of my body to a stranger. And I wasn’t sure why people, regardless of their wealth, or the quality of the program, were willing to give that up in exchange for more time.


“No superfood is going to save you from anything,” said Krishnendu Ray, author and chair of the food studies department at New York University.

After my week of Sakara I was back in my normal cooking routine (i.e. make a huge amount of food on Sunday and get sick of it by Thursday), and spending less than $100 on a week of groceries. But my normal diet felt inadequate now that I knew what all the beautiful people were eating, and I wondered if I needed to go foraging for some edible flowers.

Ray put an end to that. An expert on the intersection of food and culture, he said that wealthy Americans are obsessed with longevity, and the perfect diet. “It creates a massive individualization, an absurd search for another form of narcissism of ‘how can I live well forever,'" he said.

Ray, on the far left, preparing food during a course with his students in Sydney, Australia. Image: Courtesy of Krishnendu Ray

That narcissism can take a toll on our entire food system. Ray said the conceptual problem with high-end food services, like Sakara or Provenance Meals, is that the consumers who can afford to spend $100 a day on healthy, fresh and environmentally-conscious food feel less responsibility to demand that all of our food should fit these guidelines. Our policies then suffer, and we continue to rely on imported and processed food, which has made us less healthy and less food secure. He calls it a “social eating disorder.”

“There’s hyperconsciousness about what I eat, and no concern about what others are forced to eat,” he said. Think of food deserts, the low-resource neighborhoods bereft of fresh produce. Or the dismal state of our public school lunches.

“The ugly side about this consciousness about good food is leading the upper class to be obsessed about what they eat—kale, quinoa—almost like a magical thing they want to surround themselves with to be healthy and protect themselves," Ray said.

Low access food areas. Image: USDA

There’s also the question of outsourcing the entire process of selecting your food. Tingle and DuBoise spent a lot of time studying food and cooking meals until they figured out a balance that worked for them. They went to workshops in ayurveda, an ancient Indian science that views food as medicine, and DuBoise has a degree in nutrition. And they’re capitalizing on what I feel: that not everyone has the time or energy to do that legwork.

But maybe, Ray said, there’s a compromise. Maybe, instead of stressing ourselves out about antioxidants and the perfect diet, we need to raise people in a society that places inherent value on understanding our place in the food cycle. And what better place to do that, he said, than the public school system.


On a sunny Wednesday morning, right on the cusp of fall, I visited a particularly aromatic classroom in Harlem to see how this could work. Two teachers, Leonisa Johnson and Jen Holder, were preparing whole grain pasta and vegetables at PS7.

This is Edible Schoolyard NYC, a non-profit program that runs in six schools across New York. The programming, which includes gardening, cooking and community farmers markets, reaches about 2,800 children across the city, most of whom live in low-income neighborhoods.

“We want the kids to be open tasters, open minded,” Holder told me as she divvied up bell peppers. “It helps give students options when they’re older.”

A few minutes later, a dozen eighth graders tumbled into the classroom in typical middle schooler fashion. A girl with a big, sweeping ponytail laughed about a kid who had cried in an earlier class. A couple of self-conscious boys in sweatshirts stood quietly around their workstations.

The garden at PS7. Image: Julian Hibbard/Edible Schoolyard NYC

Johnson and Holder got to work teaching the lesson: a tomato sauce with summer vegetables. And the next half an hour was a flurry of grating tomatoes, chopping garlic, heating up saucepans and stirring, stirring, and stirring.

At the end of the lesson the students spread out tablecloths and ladled the pasta and sauce into their plates. One of the boys put a flowery table setting in front of the girls, while a girl pulled out her phone and sent a Snapchat photo of the meal to a friend.

As they were eating, I asked the kids a little bit about what they were learning, and how it translated at home. “I’m the only one in my house who cooks breakfast,” said a boy named Zack. Another student, Jalen, said he didn’t like some vegetables before he made them in the classroom.

After the classroom, I walked through the garden, where kids help plant seeds and grow vegetables and herbs. Later that day there would be a farm stand, where kids helped organize and sell the produce.

Edible Schoolyard NYC is clearly exposing kids to both a skill, and a food cycle, that they might not otherwise learn amid the concrete jungle. And an independent analysis from Columbia University’s Teachers College proved that it impacts the kids’ food choices for the better. As Ray hypothesized, this is exactly what could combat our the disconnect that I grew up with regarding food. But education isn’t immune to financial constraints.

Teachers explain the lessons to students in small groups. Image: Julian Hibbard/Edible Schoolyard NYC

“Food is central to this community, but not everyone has the time to cook and eat together,” said Annette Slonim, the coordinator of PS7’s Edible Schoolyard NYC program. She told me that some of the kids at the school came from unstable homes, sometimes living in homeless shelters, or with parents who worked long hours.

It struck me that this idea of not having enough time was all-pervasive, sneaking its way through every socioeconomic class, and threatening the time we would normally use to prepare food. The difference was that one class could afford to pay their way out of the dilemma.

“We’re in a time famine,” Ray agreed. “And what you need for good attention to food is a little more time.”

That solution could come through a combination of policy and culture. On the one hand, Ray pointed out, we could have better labor regulations that incentivize people to only work a certain number hours a day. In Austria, for example, people get 35 days off of work every year, compared to 16 here in the US.

So we’re not fighting for access to good food, but we’re also not fighting for more time to cook it ourselves.


Which brings me to the simple act of cooking.

Shortly after my week of Sakara I was cooking in my new kitchen. I cut up tomatoes, onions, ginger and garlic. I soaked dried kidney beans, and then boiled them and drained them. I added garam masala, red chili powder, salt, turmeric and coriander seeds from this round, steel box that my aunt brought me when she came to visit my new apartment. And I put it all in a slow cooker and let it steep overnight.

From the turmeric under my fingernails, to the scent of the rajma cooking in my kitchen, I instantly felt at home. I was raised in a household where eating was communal, and had the luxury of eating with my family every night. And while I’ve been on my own, or on the road, for the past 10 years, I’ve always been drawn to the home-cooked meal, even if that home isn’t my own.

My spice box. Image: Ankita Rao

Ray takes this one step further. For him, cooking has been transformative. He told me that when he moved to the US from India, he was also moving away from a lifestyle where the women at home cooked all the meals, which is par for the course across the world, including the US. As a single father in New York he now cooks almost every day with his son.

“Cooking is caregiving,” he said. “I have to take care of someone’s life. His good health depends on me.”

When we outsource all of our meals to someone else, even if that someone else knows more about nutrition than we do, we might lose something more important than time. We might lose our connection to the people around us. Or the connection to the earth that grows our food. And that’s something we carry within our bodies, our social and personal eating disorders.

Tingle and DuBoise, having spent so much timing cooking themselves, seem to know that. And Sakara reflects the depth of their knowledge. DuBoise said she doesn’t want Sakara to be a crutch, but rather a reference point for people who don’t know what, or how, to eat.

But I’m not sure when that knowledge was actually lost. Maybe somewhere between industrialization, and our endless ambition, and Snapchatting avocado toast at brunch. Or maybe it is just about how we spend our time, whether it’s in our hands or dictated by our work and culture.

And I know that for me, there won’t be a replacement, or a shortcut, for choosing, or cooking my own food. Because even though my diet is far less ideal than one that experts can make for me, it’s a reflection of this imperfect journey with my body. And we’ve made it this far intact.

Luxury Week is a series about our evolving views of what constitutes luxury. Follow along here.

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from Can Money Buy You the Perfect Diet?

How 1.5 Million Connected Cameras Were Hijacked to Make an Unprecedented Botnet

Last week, hackers forced a well-known security journalist to take down his site after hitting him for more than two days with an unprecedented flood of traffic.

That cyberattack was powered by something the internet had never seen before: an army made of more than one million hacked Internet of Things devices.

The hackers, whose identity is still unknown at this point, used not one, but two networks—commonly referred to as “botnets” in hacking lingo—made of around 980,000 and 500,000 hacked devices, mostly internet-connected cameras, according to Level 3 Communications, one of the world’s largest internet backbone providers. The attackers used all those cameras and other unsecured online devices to connect to the journalists’ website, pummeling the site with requests in an attempt to make it collapse.

These botnets were allegedly behind the staggering and crippling distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) to, the website of the independent journalist Brian Krebs, who has a long history of exposing DDoS-wielding cybercriminals. The digital assault surpassed 660 Gbps of traffic, making it one of the largest recorded in history in terms of volume.

Read more: The Internet of Things Will Turn Large-Scale Hacks into Real World Disasters

Level 3 has been tracking one of the botnets used against Krebs for about a month, and last week the company saw that hackers used that botnet, along with another smaller one, against Krebs.

“They’re still using it against Krebs,” Dale Drew, chief security officer at Level 3 Communications, told Motherboard on Wednesday. “As of this morning.”

Security researchers and internet defenders are still looking into the attacks and trying to track who’s behind them, but people who’ve been working to protect websites against large denial of service (DDoS) attacks such as this one all agree this was was unprecedented both because of its shocking size and because of the use of what could be called a Botnet of Things.

“This was the biggest attack we’ve ever seen,” Martin McKeay, the senior security advocate for Akamai, the company that was providing protection to Krebs when the attack started last week, told me.

At this point, however, it’s unclear if the attackers used the full power of the two botnets or just a portion of it. Drew said that the hackers used around 1.2 million nodes of the total 1.5 million-strong botnets against Krebs. But McKeay, who declined to go into the details of the attacks citing company policies toward customers, said that “nothing” Akamai saw suggests those numbers are “possible.” (Akamai, which was providing Krebs with pro-bono protection, decided to let him go when it became too costly to hold off the barrage of traffic.)

“This was the biggest attack we’ve ever seen.”

The attack against Krebs, along with other similar attacks launched across the internet in the last few weeks, might signal the beginning of a new era where criminals use easily hackable Internet of Things devices to censor websites or launch malware attacks—a nightmare scenario that some saw as inevitable.

“We’re starting to see the first consequences of these poorly secured devices and the damage they can do when they are compromised,” said Matthew Prince, the founder of Cloudflare, a company that offers DDoS protection. “I don’t know that many other organizations have seen the full capabilities of this botnet pointed at them. But of course it’s inevitable. Whenever the attack on Krebs is over, anyone else on the internet is vulnerable to having this type of attack pointed at them.”

The DDoS attack on Krebs was unusual not just because of the sheer size and volume, but because most of the traffic used in was direct. In last few years, hackers have launched large DDoS attacks by tricking faulty servers into boosting their malicious traffic. In these attacks, the servers generate multiple response packet for each packet sent in. They are known as amplification or reflection attacks and essentially give hackers more firepower than they actually have.

In this case, however, whoever is behind the attack really had all that firepower.

“The attackers were not just sending garbage traffic that was easy to tell it didn’t belong there,” Prince said, “but they were sending relatively legitimate requests.”


According to Level 3, the larger botnet used against Krebs is made mostly of internet-connected security cameras made by DAHUA Technology, an American manufacturer of cameras and DVRs. Level 3 had already revealed the existence of the 1 million-strong botnet in late August.

Drew explained that the hackers found a vulnerability, which affects most of DAHUA’s cameras, that allows anyone to take full control of the devices’ underlying Linux operating system just by typing a random username with too many characters.

The hackers then planted malware on the devices to turn them into bots and use them for both DDoS attacks as well as for extortion campaigns using ransomware., Drew said. The malware targets specifically Linux devices and is part of a family that previously went by the names Lizkebab, BASHLITE, Torlus and gafgyt, according to Level 3 and others who have been investigating the attacks.

“These cameras are going to be exposed for quite some time.”

The hackers used the latest iteration of that malware family, now called Mirai, according to Marshal Webb, the chief technology officer of BackConnect, an anti-DDoS firm.

Mirai appears to be spreading fast. A security researcher put online six virtual machines designed to look like ADSL routers running Linux operating systems just like the ones targeted by Mirai—in other words, a set of honeypots.

It took only an average of 15 minutes for these to get hit with Mirai malware, the researcher, who asked to be referred to as “Jack B.” to protect his real identity, told me in an online chat. (If you didn't just say "holy shit," you probably should have.)

DAHUA did not respond to a request for comment. But Drew said that the company has been notified of the vulnerability and is working on a fix. The problem, he said, is that there’s no way for DAHUA to remotely fix the flaw, and customers’ will have to download new firmware and update the cameras themselves.

“These cameras are going to be exposed for quite some time,” Drew said.

The botnet is not just made of DAHUA devices though. Researchers I spoke to also listed other embedded devices such as home routers, and Linux servers.

A small sample of IoT devices that participated in this weekend

John Graham-Cumming September 26, 2016


The very nature of this kind of attack, whose bogus traffic comes from several sources, makes it hard to pinpoint and unmask who’s really behind the keyboard.

In the last few weeks, whoever is behind the attack on Krebs appears to have used the same botnet or botnets in similar attacks against other targets, such as the official site of the Rio Olympics, which was hit with a DDoS clocking in at 540 Gbps, according to Arbor Networks.

That attack used a form of traffic designed to look like Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) data packets, an unusual choice of protocol for a DDoS attack. The hackers behind the Krebs attack, as the journalist himself reported, also used GRE traffic.

Also last week, French hosting provider OVH quietly reported of a series of large DDoS attacks, some recording as much as 900 Gbps and 1 Tbps.

OVH declined to comment, and at this point, it’s unclear if the attacks on Krebs and OVH are connected.

Some circumstantial evidence seems to point in the direction of groups like Lizard Squad and PoodleCorp, who’ve made a name for themselves using DDoS attacks to disrupt mostly gaming platforms and websites in the past,

Mirai, the malware allegedly used to build the massive million-strong botnet, for one, is a successor of IoT-infecting malware used by Lizard Squad in the past. But anyone could be using the malware’s new iterations.

During the attack last week, a hacker who goes by the name “BannedOffline” on Twitter hinted he was part of the attack in a series of tweets.

Me waiting to ddos ケモンマス September 22, 2016

But the hacker said he was only one of many attackers.

“I'm not the only one who doesn't like [Krebs] or his site,” BannedOffline told me in an online chat. “No one likes him lol. At least in the hacker community.”

A hacker who goes by the name Cripthepoodle, and who claimed to be once part of PoodleCorp, said the group was behind the attack.

"They love causing as much as chaos as they can,” Cripthepoodle told me.

Last week, when Krebs disclosed that his site was temporarily shutting down, PoodleCorp seemed to poke fun at him in a now-deleted tweet send by its semi-official Twitter account. Of course, this is most likely a jab at Krebs, who regularly reports and exposes hacktivist groups.

Whoever is behind these attacks, in any case, is likely being hunted not just by researchers, but also law enforcement. (The FBI declined to comment on whether the bureau is investigating these attacks.)

The attack on Krebs’ website was so powerful, according to Prince and Level 3, that it congested some internet routes, spilling over the effects of the DDoS to some parts of the internet. While this might not have been noticed by people watching Netflix or checking their email, it was certainly noticed by internet service providers and likely the authorities.

“When you launch an attack which is large enough that it starts to impact internet infrastructure, it’s not long before you get caught,” Prince said.

Even if the hackers behind the attacks get caught, these massive DDoS attacks wielding infected Internet of Things could just be the first in a long series, as other criminals will see them as an inspiration.

“I’m certain that there are other smart 15-year-old kids rounding up botnets of CCTV cameras that they can compromise and control,” Prince said.

Or, as Akamai’s Mckeay put it, this is “a bad sign for the internet.”

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from How 1.5 Million Connected Cameras Were Hijacked to Make an Unprecedented Botnet

Congress Got Its Ass in Gear to Fight Zika, Help Louisiana, and Fix Flint Pipes

In a rare moment of efficiency, Congress just approved much-needed funding for three of the biggest public health crises in the country this year: Zika, Flint, Michigan’s tainted water, and the Louisiana floods. Apparently when it rains for public health funding, it pours.

After months of squabbling, Congress made a decision Wednesday that was so obvious even Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agreed on it: releasing funds to fight Zika. As part of a short-term spending bill that needed to pass to keep the government funded through December 9 (they’re really just doing the bare minimum at this point, huh?), $1.1 billion was earmarked to fight the spread of the mosquito-spread Zika virus, which has been spreading through south Florida and Puerto Rico for months.

President Obama requested $1.9 billion for Zika prevention way back in February but when Congress dragged its feet, the White House independently shuffled some funds around to free up some cash for the disease—partly from leftover funding to fight Ebola that we didn’t use. Florida Governor Rick Scott also set aside state funding to help curb the spread of Zika.

Lawmakers were in disagreement over how much money to set aside for the infectious virus, which can cause birth defects in pregnant women, but there were also other barriers to getting this bill passed.

This summer, a bill that would have released $1.1 billion for Zika barred some Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving funds, despite the fact that the disease can be sexually transmitted and is most dangerous for pregnant women. Democratic Congress members couldn’t get behind that, so it never passed—and caused a lot of fighting. This time around, the Planned Parenthood restrictions were lifted, allowing the funds to be used in whatever way is most effective for fighting this disease.

But Zika isn’t the only public health scare that needed attention. Though it’s overdue, the Washington Post reported that Congress also authorized $170 million to help Flint, Michigan replace corroded water-supply pipes after it was revealed the city’s water was tainted with lead. Though it won’t cover the total cost of replacing the pipes, it’s a boost to Michigan’s state funding and will also help provide health services to victims of lead poisoning from drinking the tainted water.

It also provides $500 million in disaster relief funding, the bulk of which is expected to be used to help victims of the massive flooding in Louisiana this summer, which killed 13 people and left thousands homeless. The money could be used to help rebuild homes or infrastructure, and the state could receive additional funds when Congress returns after the election. Though it won’t provide immediate relief, it’s the first step toward helping the victims get their lives back together.

Many of these funds have been needed for months to help prevent and recover from major health crises, so the fact that Congress could finally get along long enough to pass the bill is great news. Now that that’s settled, Congress can get back to the important stuff, like campaigning for re-election.

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from Congress Got Its Ass in Gear to Fight Zika, Help Louisiana, and Fix Flint Pipes

FCC Postpones Vote on Set-Top Box Reform in a Blow to Chairman Wheeler

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday postponed a vote on its highly-anticipated proposal to increase competition in the video “set-top box” market after the chairman of the agency failed to secure the necessary votes to approve the plan.

The delay amounts to a humbling setback for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who had made reforming the $20 billion set-top box market a centerpiece of his pro-consumer agenda. With 40 days to go before a presidential election that will determine the makeup of the FCC going forward, the fate of the reform measure is now in doubt.

As recently as Thursday morning, the vote was still scheduled, but Wheeler was ultimately unable to come to an agreement with his fellow Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who had previously raised concerns about his plan, and who represents the key swing vote at the five-member agency.

“Commissioner Rosenworcel came to Chairman Wheeler’s office with a bunch of edits on the order, and those edits were unacceptable to his office,” according to a person familiar with the matter. “And that led to an impasse. As of 8 a.m. this morning the vote was on, and then by 9 a.m. the vote was pulled.”

Wheeler’s proposal would have required cable and satellite operators to provide software “apps” allowing consumers to access content like ESPN or HBO on the device of their choice, including Android, iOS, and Amazon phones and tablets, without the need for a clunky set-top box. Millions of pay-TV subscribers pay an average of $231 dollars per month to rent these antiquated set-top devices, pouring an estimated $20 billion annually into the coffers of Big Cable.

“We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country,” Chairman Wheeler said in a statement.

The delay underscores the ferocity of the opposition to Wheeler’s proposal from the cable industry, which doesn’t want to give up its set-top box cash-cow, and Hollywood, which raised concerns that the plan could undermine the intellectual property rights of content creators. Dozens of lawmakers had urged the FCC to delay the vote, in order to address concerns over the legality of Wheeler’s proposal.

I am extremely disappointed that the majority of the FCC Commissioners have not yet come to an agreement.

Sen. Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who has fought to increase competition in the pay-TV video market for more than two decades, blasted the FCC’s failure to approve the set-top box reform measure.

“Today’s vote delay is an unequivocal loss for the tens of millions of Americans across the country who are forced to spend their hard-earned money on overpriced set-top box leases that cost them hundreds of dollars a year,” Sen. Markey said in an emailed statement. “I am extremely disappointed that the majority of the FCC Commissioners have not yet come to an agreement to provide relief for consumers for these bloated set-top box rental fees and certainty to companies who wish to innovate with new products.”

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 included a mandate requiring federal regulators to ensure a competitive marketplace for video navigation devices. But over the ensuing two decades, the FCC has failed to carry out this mandate, thanks to sustained pushback from the cable industry and its political allies.

Not surprisingly, cable giant Comcast practically gloated at the FCC’s failure to vote on the proposal. “The FCC made the right decision this morning to delay its vote on the set-top box item,” David L. Cohen, Comcast’s top tech policy honcho, said in a statement. “Heavy-handed government regulation, based on questionable legal authority in a fast-moving marketplace will stop the apps revolution dead in its tracks, and delay consumer choice.”

Public interest groups, meanwhile, were dismayed by the FCC’s failure to act.

“This issue has been under consideration at the FCC for two years now, and the benefit of further delay is unclear,” John Bergmayer, senior counsel at Public Knowledge, the DC-based consumer advocacy group that has championed the set-top box reform proposal, said in a statement.

“Opponents of unlocking the box will continue to shift from one manufactured concern to another in an attempt to keep consumers renting the controlled, locked-down set-top box, costing consumers billions and holding back innovation and video competition,” Bergmayer added.

Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, another DC-based public interest group, said the decision to push back the vote “shows the substantial obstacles to making any progressive communications policy that benefits diverse content creators and paying customers alike in the face of organized opposition from monopolies and corporate lobbyists.”

“Unlocking the box is a chance to curb cable’s gatekeeping power and confront the lack of competition that has allowed companies to rip people off for far too long,” Wood said. “But now that the vote has been delayed, the FCC should focus on strengthening this proposal — and that means standing up to an industry that will never stop trying to kill competition and keep prices high.”

The set-top box reform measure could be brought up at the next FCC open meeting, if Wheeler obtains the necessary votes. Or the measure could be placed into what’s known at the FCC as “circulation,” and be voted on at any time. But it’s worth noting that “circulation” is viewed by many telecom policy experts as a kind of “purgatory,” where politically sensitive items go to die.

This story has been updated with additional information since its original publication.

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from FCC Postpones Vote on Set-Top Box Reform in a Blow to Chairman Wheeler

​I Am Zelda

What do asteroid defense, inquillines, and Seth Rogen's dog have in common? This. -the Ed

I am Seth Rogen’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and I’m obsessed with the words “inquiline” and “harlequin.” Seth Rogen and I have had a 15-year close relationship. I showed up one day and Seth Rogen won me over.

I haven’t always had my obsession with the two words. It began when Seth Rogen—“Dad”—started bringing me every morning to a hip coffee place that plays hip music at a deafening volume at 6:00 a.m. when it opens and already there are lots of other Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in line with their dads.

The change in my routine was annoying, not least because I’d just learned how to break down and reassemble a cam shaft; in fact, I’d received delivery of the one-push air initials adjuster valve on the afternoon before Dad totally disrupted my routine.

Also, I’d just scored some platinum-level data about “inquiline.” I’d tapped into a network of inquilines who are exploiting their status as inquilines to mount an effective defense of the planet Earth in the event that a Potentially Hazardous Object/Asteroid (PHO/A) breaks loose and passes through a gravitational keyhole and everyone sits up because now the PHO/A isn’t merely keeping us guessing.

I obsess about the two words and I obsess about the consequences of the failure of the network. What if the inquilines should fail, a PHO/A breaks loose, bull’s eye, airburst, crater. What We Want to Avoid—the title on a scary picture Dad once showed me. I ponder the strangeness of the tragedy of our lives ending together, at the same apocalyptic instant, Dad’s and mine. Sometimes I ponder the imponderable cosmic strangeness of our lives not ending together. The tragic strangeness of the fact that we are best friends, yet our lifespans don’t align: the sadness and strangeness of one best friend’s lifespan not measuring up to the other best friend’s lifespan, not even close.

The inquilines could be living…anywhere. Possibly there are inquilines living inside the food truck parked outside the coffee place, inquilines defending the planet Earth from inside the food truck. The food truck that just showed up out of nowhere one day and which now blasts totally non-hip music in enigmatic defiance of the music from the coffee place. Possibly just one inquiline lives inside the food truck, a tone-deaf inquiline.


I’m waiting in line with Seth, Dad, we’re chatting about avoiding the keyhole. Also, I’m hiding in my mouth a nugget of sashimi that I found under a leaf along the curb. I’m kind of nodding innocently while Dad tells a joke about a shunt radiator and a kinetic interceptor.

Then: in struts a harlequin, statuesque, lean, muscular, towering on stilts, or maybe leather boots with 20” heels.

Harlequins mostly reside in warehouses. They must, because of their size. The average gargantuan harlequin is continually tormented by an unspeakable sense of loss. Peacefully they slumber in their warehouses, tormented and huge and humble and reconciled to their torment.

Dad takes one look and cracks a joke about being in over his head, then he does his signature laugh, and he hoists me up into his arms so I can get a better view…and as the harlequin struts past I get a perfect view of its slobbering mouth and huge ugly slobbery gums and I observe, and this is sick, a HUGE chunk of sashimi hidden behind its teeth. Only the moment I recognize that it’s sashimi I recognize that it’s not actually sashimi but, and this is really sick, a live opossum, resembling sashimi but definitely a bright-eyed and alert opossum, dug in and comfortably reclining between the harlequin’s gums and rows of teeth.


But the moment I think I recognize it’s an opossum, I realize I’m mistaken. And also I immediately understand how I could’ve made the mistake. It’s not an opossum at all, it’s Henry.

The Henry. Everyone knows Henry. Henry taught Dad everything he knows about The Internationale, the unofficial anthem of the socialist movement throughout the world. Henry knows everything. Inside Henry is a precise and exhaustive mental map of the shelves of The Record Collector, the vast holdings of The Record Collector. Everyone knows The Record Collector.

No one knows Henry. Where does Henry go each evening when The Record Collector shuts its doors? Another enigma I often ponder, a truly baffling enigma, maybe the most baffling of all enigmas known to man, because Henry is The Record Collector. Or is it Sandy who is The Record Collector?

Dad and I walk past Henry at least once a week, and after we’re safely out of earshot, Dad will say something like, “Dude, did you notice anything off about Henry today?” And I’ll say something like, “He didn’t look as alert and bright-eyed as usual?” Or, “Whoa, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Henry looking quite that alert and bright-eyed.”

But it’s definitely Henry, tucked in there between the gums and teeth of the harlequin, comfortable and settled in, as at home as at his customary post on the kitchen-island stool in the doorway of the storefront.

And at the very same instant that I recognize it’s Henry, Dad recognizes that it’s Henry. Dad nearly drops me and he blurts out, “Henry!” Henry smiles at Dad from within the gaping mouth of the harlequin, and says to Dad, “You should stop by soon, did you know we have over 500,000 record albums?” Which is more than a little strange because we stroll past Henry at least once a week and of course we know that there are a lot of record albums.

But then again, now it’s starting to make sense. Because suppose you asked Henry to calculate the approach asymptote of a certain PHO/A in the b plane, he would rattle it right off. Or better yet, suppose Henry was in the middle of explaining the details of a cam shaft workaround and you interrupted him and asked him to do the calculation, he’d rattle it right off and flow back into the workaround without missing a beat.

You could ask Henry the exact location, on the shelves, of Ashford & Simpson’s Gimme Something Real, Warner Bros., 1973, and he would walk you back to the exact location on the shelves while simultaneously calculating the required impactor mass for a given intercept trajectory to deflect a PHO/A given the radial vector of the PHO/A and the time between perturbation of the PHO/A and its predicted Earth collision.

Henry is the harlequin’s inquiline. Of course! Now we know where Henry spends his hours when he’s not at his customary post. Two words I’ve been obsessed with have just docked.

Dad says, “What are you doing in there, Henry, coordinating a defense of the planet Earth?” and he gives his signature laugh, Dad does. Needless to say, in the 15 years I’ve lived with Dad, we’ve grown close, and have few secrets from each other.

Anyway, after this brief exchange, the harlequin takes its place in line, which to do it executes a maneuver on a massive scale, revolves all the way around, a wide 360-degree turn. The harlequin is so huge that everyone at work on their screenplays must pull their tables toward their bellies—a dreadful screech. The harlequin’s gargantuan slobbery open mouth ends up adjacent to my front paws. Now I have a clear view of the other side of the mouth and the space between the opposite gums and rows of teeth.


If this were a different kind of story, the screenwriters would see both sides of the mouth, too. They’d see that on one side the mouth Henry is reclining and smiling, between the gums and teeth, bright and alert. And on the other side of the mouth is Sandy, reclining, between the opposite gums and teeth, Sandy with his big bushy beard: Sandy, whom everyone knows. And now the mystery is fully solved: this is where Henry and Sandy go when they close up the store each afternoon and crouch down on their hands and knees to fit their keys into the two locks, the locks at ankle height.

But this is not that kind of story. It’s a story about the defense of the planet Earth.

from ​I Am Zelda

House Science Committee now wants to see SEC’s e-mails, too

Microsoft merges Bing, Cortana, and Research to make 5,000-strong AI division

Microsoft wants to "democratize artificial intelligence" and bring AI to systems that everyone uses. So to reflect that desire, the company is shaking up its organization. The company is creating a new group, the AI and Research Group, by combining the existing Microsoft Research group with the Bing and Cortana product groups, along with the teams working on ambient computing (a world in which everything around us is computerized and connected and responsive to our presence), robotics, and the Information Platform Group (which covered both Bing advertising and natural user interfaces).

Together, the new AI and Research Group will have some 5,000 engineers and computer scientists. It will be lead by 20-year Microsoft veteran Harry Shum, who was previously the Executive Vice President of Technology and Research. It makes AI into a fourth engineering group, alongside Windows, Office, and Azure.

Microsoft has been pushing more intelligent services. For consumers, these include Skype Translator, Cortana, and, rather less successfully, its Tay chatbot. And the Cortana Intelligence Suite for businesses and developers has provided the option to add machine learning, image recognition, and similar capabilities to various applications. Uber is a recent client of this: it's using Microsoft's facial recognition service to ensure that drivers are using their own accounts, requiring them to take a selfie at the start of each session which is then compared to one on file. Earlier this week, the company also demonstrated the use of reprogrammable chips to accelerate AI-style neural net workloads on its Azure cloud computing service to perform high-speed text translation.

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from Microsoft merges Bing, Cortana, and Research to make 5,000-strong AI division

Can you trademark an offensive name or not? US Supreme Court to decide

Going to Mars is (relatively) easy; coming back is where it gets tricky

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Dealmaster: Get the new Amazon Fire TV Stick and a $10 credit for $40

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we have a number of deals to share today. We have an early deal on the new Amazon Fire TV Stick—now you can preorder the streaming device, which features an updated processor and an included Alexa-enabled remote, and get a $10 Amazon credit, two months of Hulu, and one month of Sling TV for just $40. This is a steal for everything that you're getting, especially considering the original Fire TV Stick was incredibly popular. With the new model, you'll get more power and the flexibility of using the remote with Alexa voice-controlled features.

Check out the full list of deals below, too.


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from Dealmaster: Get the new Amazon Fire TV Stick and a $10 credit for $40

“Patents are bulls–t,” says Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng

(video link)

Lee Cheng is one of the few attorneys to fight back against patent trolls and prevail. And at the latest Ars Live event, we talked to him about his most famous case, how people can fight patent trolls today, and what the future of patent abuse will look like in coming decades. His answers, as expected, were incredibly candid and hilarious.

In 2007, a patent troll known as Soverain had already gotten millions of dollars out of The Gap and Amazon for their online shopping cart patent when they hit Newegg with a suit. Cheng's colleagues in the legal community said you'd better just pay up—this patent is legit. Cheng didn't see it that way. Newegg had just reached a billion in sales, and he thought this piece of litigation would be the first of many lawsuits brought by companies that wanted a piece of Newegg's success. And sure enough, soon after the shopping cart claim, Newegg was hit with patent claims on several aspects of online search. Cheng decided he wasn't going to lie down and take it. He thought he could win on appeal if he could just make it through the courts in the Eastern District of Texas, where 40 percent of patent infringement claims are brought.

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from “Patents are bulls–t,” says Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng

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Sony Xperia X Compact review: Small Android is still good, but not much better

Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

Sony's Xperia X Compact is basically the newest version of the Z5 Compact that hit the US earlier this year. But just because it's a newer version of the (comparatively) tiny handset doesn't mean it's an upgrade in every way. Sony is pushing the camera sensors in the X Compact and the flagship-level XZ, as well as new features like five-axis image stabilization and HDR photo mode. Sony knows cameras, so we know the shooter in the X Compact will at least be competent. However, it has to be good enough to encourage photography buffs to shell out $499 for this unlocked handset while delivering solid performance across the board as well.

Look and feel

The X Compact is cut from the same cloth as the Z5 Compact. It's a little brick-like handset that measures 5.0 x 2.56 x 0.37-inches, and its diminutiveness at first struck me as cute, but then became somewhat frustrating. My daily smartphone is an iPhone 6—not even the big 6 Plus—and everything about the X Compact felt small to me. I became frustrated with things like the onscreen keyboard in particular; my fingers would often miss keys or hit the wrong ones while typing out messages at my normal texting speed. But size is a matter of taste, and the X Compact's smallness is part of the point—I like something a little bigger, but if you want a smaller Android phone, this is still one of just a few options.

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from Sony Xperia X Compact review: Small Android is still good, but not much better

Garmin wants your kids to get off the couch with its $80 Vivofit Jr tracker

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Exceptional Access: The Devil is in the Details

Author’s note: Despite appearing under my byline, this post actually represents the work of a larger group. The Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity” group includes Harold Abelson, Ross Anderson, Steven M. Bellovin, Josh Benaloh, Matt Blaze, Whitfield Diffie, John Gilmore, Matthew Green, Susan Landau, Peter G. Neumann, Ronald L. Rivest, Jeffrey I. Schiller, Bruce Schneier, Michael A. Specter, and Daniel J.Weitzner, who jointly authored the report last year.


In August, Matt Tait reported in Lawfare on Apple's announcement of a system (Cloud Key Vault) that lets iPhone users store information on Apple servers, protected by a Hardware Security Module (HSM) in such a way that no one besides the user can gain access (not even Apple itself). According to Tait, that reopens the "going dark" debate over giving law enforcement exceptional access to stored information; he claims that it circumvents many of the objections raised by the security and privacy communities. As authors of a report, Keys Under Doormats, which studied the vulnerabilities of exceptional access systems, we commented earlier on Lawfare that Cloud Key Vault does not actually provide exceptional access.

Tait has now replied by suggesting that a modification of Apple’s system could do so. His suggestion is that the phone would contain a packet of information enabling decryption of its contents at Apple. Tait has proposed a new special device (the “AKV vault”) to handle this decryption function. When law enforcement obtains an encrypted phone, it would extract the information packet and take it to Apple for decryption.  

One of the important features of Apple’s original proposal is that only the end-user can use it to recover her device. It's thus of limited value to law enforcement or hackers. But turn this CKV into Tait’s AKV, and it immediately becomes a target. The AKV can instantly break any device to which you have physical access. State level actors can be expected to coerce an AKV technician to obtain such a prize. What’s more, once an AKV has been built, a government can coerce Apple to hand one over and use it to break phones in their possession, or break into it to extract the master keys. And history shows that the security provided by HSMs is rarely perfect. 

This leads to the issue of jurisdiction. If the AKV is located in the United States, does that mean that only the U.S. Government gets access to any device while the government of China will not? Will China insist that devices sold in China use an AKV in China?

These arguments should sound familiar, as they are some of the arguments we have been making all along. Apple’s CKV is certainly an interesting development, but because it doesn’t provide exceptional access, it doesn’t have the hard problems around  jurisdiction and control. But introduce exceptional access, that pesky “back door” and the problems come back. The fundamental issues have not changed.

With security architectures, the devil is in the details. We encourage Tait and others to explore his suggestion to specify an exceptional access architecture in enough detail to be rigorously evaluated by the security community.

from Exceptional Access: The Devil is in the Details