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Grubhub Drivers Are Contractors—Not Employees—Judge Rules

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 09:24 AM PST

In what is believed to be the first gig economy case to be fully decided on the merits, Grubhub has beaten back a labor lawsuit filed by one of its former drivers.

In a court opinion released Thursday by US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, "the Court finds that Grubhub has satisfied its burden of showing that Mr. Lawson was properly classified as an independent contractor."

Both sides had agreed that Judge Corley, rather than a jury, would decide the case in her San Francisco federal courtroom. She heard closing arguments in late October 2017.

[...] Part of what may have doomed Lawson's own case was that, in Judge Corley's estimation, in addition to working for other gig economy companies while simultaneously working for Grubhub, he was fundamentally "not credible."

[...] Lawson, by his own admission, "gamed the app" by scheduling himself for a work shift (a "block" in company parlance) but received few, if any, actual delivery orders by putting his phone in airplane mode, among other tactics.

"Mr. Lawson's claimed ignorance of his dishonest conduct is not credible," Judge Corley wrote. "Mr. Lawson would remember if after he filed this lawsuit against Grubhub he cheated Grubhub. If he had not moved his smart phone to airplane mode, intentionally toggled available late, or deliberately engaged in other conduct to get paid for doing nothing he would have denied doing so at trial. But he did not."

[...] Michael LeRoy, a professor of labor law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Ars that the case has "limited precedential value."

"Going forward," he emailed, "lawyers who bring these types of lawsuits should have reservations about pushing too far or long with a plaintiff who can be shown to cheat and who gives sworn deposition or trial testimony that is not credible."

Ars Technica

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A Former Apple Intern Reportedly Leaked iOS Source Code to the Jailbreaking Community

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 07:15 AM PST

A former Apple intern has been blamed for a leak of iOS source code. The intern reportedly distributed it to five friends in the iOS jailbreaking community, and the code eventually spread out of this group:

Earlier this week, a portion of iOS source code was posted online to GitHub, and in an interesting twist, a new report from Motherboard reveals that the code was originally leaked by a former Apple intern.

According to Motherboard, the intern who stole the code took it and distributed it to a small group of five friends in the iOS jailbreaking community in order to help them with their ongoing efforts to circumvent Apple's locked down mobile operating system. The former employee apparently took "all sorts of Apple internal tools and whatnot," according to one of the individuals who had originally received the code, including additional source code that was apparently not included in the initial leak.

The DMCA notice GitHub received from Apple that resulted in the takedown of the ZioShiba/iBoot repository.

Leak of iBoot Code to GitHub Could Potentially Help iPhone Jailbreakers.

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Japan Raps Coincheck, Orders Broader Checks After $530 Million Cryptocurrency Theft

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 05:17 AM PST

Japanese authorities said on Monday they would investigate all cryptocurrency exchanges in the country for security gaps and ordered Coincheck to raise its standards after hackers stole $530 million of digital money from the Tokyo-based exchange.

The theft - one of the world's biggest cyberheists - highlights the vulnerabilities in trading an asset that policymakers are struggling to regulate, as well as the broader risks for Japan as it aims to leverage the fintech industry to stimulate economic growth.

The Financial Services Agency (FSA) on Monday ordered improvements to operations at Coincheck, which on Friday suspended trading in all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin after hackers stole 58 billion yen ($534 million) of NEM coins, among the most popular digital currencies in the world.

Coincheck said on Sunday it would repay about 90 percent, though it has yet to figure out how or when.

[...] Japan started to require cryptocurrency exchange operators to register with the government only in April 2017, allowing pre-existing operators such as Coincheck to continue offering services ahead of formal registration.

The FSA has registered 16 cryptocurrency exchanges so far, and another 16 are still awaiting clearance. Coincheck's application was made in September.


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VLC 3.0.0 Released, With Better Hardware Decoding and Support for HDR, 360-Degree Video, Chromecast

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 02:56 AM PST

VideoLAN has released version 3.0.0 of the VLC media player for Windows, Linux, BSD, Android, and macOS. The new version is billed as enabling hardware decoded playback of 4K, 8K, and 360-degree video (in a demonstration video, VLC 3.0.0 is shown playing 8K 48fps 360-degree video on a Samsung Galaxy S8).

3.0.0 adds support for (not exhaustive):

Linux/BSD default video output is now OpenGL, instead of Xvideo.

The 3.0.x branch of VLC will be maintained as long-term support versions and will be the last releases on Windows XP (with significant limitations), Vista, macOS 10.7, 10.8 & 10.9, iOS 7 & 8, Android 2.x, 3.x, 4.0.x & 4.1.x, and the last to run on compilers before gcc 5.0 and clang 3.4, or equivalent.

From VLC Android developer Geoffrey Métais's blog post about the release, which discusses why Chromecast support took so long to add, as well as other missing features that have now been added to the Android version:

Chromecast support is everywhere and VLC took years to get it, right, but there are plenty of good reasons for it:

First of all, VideoLAN is a nonprofit organization and not a company. There are few developers paid for making VLC, most of them do it in their free time. That's how you get VLC for free and without any ads!

Also, VLC is 100% Open Source and Chromecast SDK isn't: We had to develop our very own Chromecast stack by ourselves. This is also why there is no voice actions for VLC (except with Android Auto), [and] we cannot use Google Play Services.

Furthermore, Chromecast is not designed to play local video files: When you watch a Youtube video, your phone is just a remote controller, nothing more. Chromecast streams the video from youtube.com. That's where it becomes complicated, Chromecast only supports very few codecs number, let's say h264. Google ensures that your video is encoded in h264 format on youtube.com, so streaming is simple. With VLC, you have media of any format. So VLC has to be a http server like youtube.com, and provide the video in a Chromecast compatible format. And of course in real time, which is challenging on Android because phones are less powerful than computers.

At last, VLC was not designed to display a video on another screen. It took time to properly redesign VLC to nicely support it. The good news is we did not make a Chromecast specific support, it is generic renderers: in the next months we can add UPnP support for example, to cast on any UPnP box or TV!

Also at The Verge and Tom's Hardware.

Related: Stable Release of VLC 1.0 for Android
VLC 2.0 for Android Released
EU Offers Cash Bounties to Improve the Security of VLC Media Player
Google Won't Take Down Pirate VLC With 5M Downloads (Update: They Have Taken it Down)

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The House That Spied on Me

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 12:35 AM PST

Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu, over at Gizmodo, write about wiring Kashmir's apartment with as many "smart" gadgets as possible and then observing the data flow. Some of the telemetry streams are not encrypted, some are. Both are observable by the companies they report to, but even those that are encrypted still tell the network in between a lot about the inhabitants of the house and their activities based on when they happen and their volume.

In December, I converted my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco into a "smart home." I connected as many of my appliances and belongings as I could to the internet: an Amazon Echo, my lights, my coffee maker, my baby monitor, my kid's toys, my vacuum, my TV, my toothbrush, a photo frame, a sex toy, and even my bed.

[...] What our experiment told us is that all the connected devices constantly phone home to their manufacturers. You won't be aware these conversations are happening unless you're technically savvy and monitoring your router like we did. And even if you are, because the conversations are usually encrypted, you won't be able to see what your belongings are saying. When you buy a smart device, it doesn't just belong to you; you share custody with the company that made it.

That's not just a privacy concern. It also means that those companies can change the product you bought after you buy it. So your smart speaker can suddenly become the hub of a social network, and your fancy smart scale can have one of its key features taken away in a firmware update.

Usability was another aspect. She had no less than 14 different "apps" on her smartphone as well as several voice activated devices that still had comprehension difficulties.

The House That Spied on Me

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Police May Have Caught the Los Angeles Venmo Scammer

Posted: 10 Feb 2018 10:14 PM PST

Police have arrested a man named Andy Mai in connection with a string of Venmo scams against LA-area resellers, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records. Andy Mai faces six charges of grand theft, filed on January 25th. On Wednesday, Mai posted a $145,000 bond, pleading not guilty to all charges. He is next scheduled to appear in court on February 26th. Detectives on the case said the investigation was still ongoing, and declined to comment further.

In November, The Verge traced more than $125,000 in scams perpetrated under the name Andy Mai, exploiting a poorly understood feature of Venmo's payment system. Arranging to buy iPhones, cameras, and other big-ticket items on Venmo, the scammer would pay with fraudulent funds that disappeared from seller's accounts after 24 hours. When Venmo reversed the charges, sellers were left with no money and no goods, often out tens of thousands of dollars. Venmo advises users never to purchase goods from strangers using Venmo, but few are aware of the restriction, which proved crucial to the scammer's success. In recent weeks, a number of the victims have received official notifications of court proceedings.

Venmo.com: "Venmo is a free digital wallet that lets you make and share payments with friends. You can easily split the bill, cab fare, or much more."

Coverage on The Verge

Related Links:

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Apple's "HomePod" Sinks Users Deeper Into a Walled Garden

Posted: 10 Feb 2018 07:53 PM PST

The HomePod is the point of no return for Apple fans

The notion of Apple's "walled garden" ecosystem of products precedes even the iPhone. For as long as the company has existed, Apple products have worked best with other Apple products and that's been that. But the new HomePod speaker, which is going on sale today, ratchets this commitment up another notch. If you thought you were locked inside the Apple ecosystem before, buying a HomePod is like adding an iron ball to those chains.

The HomePod costs $349. That's a high price for the vast majority of people, and it pretty much guarantees that you'll be using the HomePod as the primary listening device in your home. The HomePod has voice control for music playback, but you'll have to be tapping into Apple's own Apple Music, iTunes tracks, or iTunes Match to take full advantage of Siri. Alternatively, you can use AirPlay from an Apple device, which gets you access to services like Spotify but with drastically simplified play / pause voice control. In any and all cases, to get the most out of the HomePod, you absolutely must have a subscription to an Apple music service and an iOS device to set the speaker up.

[...] Apple's HomePod is, by all accounts, a superb speaker that sets a new benchmark for sound quality in its size and price class. But it is also brazenly hostile to any hardware or service not made by Apple. If you decide to buy one, do so with the full awareness of how deeply ensconced inside the Apple bubble you will be.

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After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?

Posted: 10 Feb 2018 05:32 PM PST

An op-ed written by Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA, suggests cancelling the Space Launch System in favor of Falcon Heavy and BFR:

SpaceX could save NASA and the future of space exploration

The successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is a game-changer that could actually save NASA and the future of space exploration. [...] Unfortunately, the traditionalists at NASA — and their beltway bandit allies — don't share this view and have feared this moment since the day the Falcon Heavy program was announced seven years ago.

The question to be answered in Washington now is why would Congress continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars a year on a government-made rocket that is unnecessary and obsolete now that the private sector has shown they can do it for a fraction of the cost? [...] Once operational, SLS will cost NASA over $1 billion per launch. The Falcon Heavy, developed at zero cost to the taxpayer, would charge NASA approximately $100M per launch. In other words, NASA could buy 10 Falcon Heavy launches for the coat of one SLS launch — and invest the remainder in truly revolutionary and meaningful missions that advance science and exploration.

While SLS may be a "government-made rocket", the "beltway bandits", also known as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, are heavily involved in its development. The United Launch Alliance (Boeing + Lockheed Martin) have also shown that they can build their own expensive rocket: the Delta IV Heavy, which can carry less than half the payload to LEO of Falcon Heavy while costing over four times as much per launch.

NASA's marketing of how many elephants, locomotives and airplanes could be launched by various versions of SLS is a perfect example of the frivolity of developing, building and operating their own rocket. NASA advertises that it will be able to launch 12.5 elephants to LEO on Block I SLS, or 2.8 more elephants than the Falcon Heavy could launch. But if we are counting elephants — the planned Block II version of SLS could launch 30 elephants, while SpaceX's BFR could launch 34. Talk about significant.

Wait, what? 70 metric tons (SLS Block 1) / 63.8 metric tons (Falcon Heavy) = ~1.09717868339. 1.097 * (12.5 - 2.8) = ~10.6 elephants lifted by SLS Block 1 versus 9.7 for Falcon Heavy.

NASA documents list 12 elephants for SLS Block 1 (70 metric tons), and 22 for SLS Block 2 (130 metric tons). The author might have lifted some numbers from a Business Insider article that (incorrectly) estimates that 12.5 elephants can be lifted by Falcon Heavy, while SLS Block 2 can lift 30 elephants, and 34 for BFR. Perhaps we are dealing with a mix of adult and juvenile elephants?

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Stand-Alone System to Produce Drinking Water by Means of Solar Energy

Posted: 10 Feb 2018 03:11 PM PST

Researchers from the University of Alicante's research group in applied electrochemistry and electrocatalysis have developed a stand-alone system for desalinating and treating water through electrodialysis. The system is directly powered by solar energy and can be applied in off-grid areas.

Designed only for desalinating water, this is a sustainable, eco-friendly technology, as its energy is supplied by solar photovoltaic panels in a CO2-free process, thus not contributing to climate change.

According to research group director Vicente Montiel, "the new system requires no batteries and has none of the economic and environmental costs involved in managing empty batteries. Furthermore, it can be adapted and applied for treating water of many different origins, such as seawater, wells containing brackish water, treatment plants, industrial processes, etc., which makes it particularly well-suited to remote, off-grid areas." In this sense, this equipment can be employed to obtain clean water for human consumption, irrigation, street cleaning and others, both when there is no energy grid available and after natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods or fires.

Montiel also points out that "the technology we designed can be a potential solution to drought, just like osmosis plants."

The research group already has a pilot and demonstration plant able to generate a cubic metre of drinking water every day. They are looking for companies interested in the commercial exploitation of the technology through licence and/or technical cooperation agreements.

Science Daily

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Russian Nuclear Scientists Caught Using Supercomputers To Mine Cryptocurrency

Posted: 10 Feb 2018 01:34 PM PST

Well, we've seen past stories on viruses co-opting Raspberry Pi units to mine cryptocurrency, and websites mining a few coins on their viewers' systems, but it took some crafty boffins in Russia to really give the issue some scale. International Business Times has the story, dated 9 Feb 2018...

Russian security officials arrested a number of scientists working at a secret Russian nuclear weapons facility for allegedly using lab equipment to mine for cryptocurrencies, according to Russia's Interfax News Agency.

[The facility's computers are] supposed to be isolated; they are kept disconnected from the internet in order to prevent any outside intrusion or hacking efforts. That was violated by the engineers who decided to use the supercomputer rigs to mine for cryptocurrency.

Mining for cryptocurrency requires a considerable amount of processing power—something the average computer might struggle to provide but a supercomputer designed for work on nuclear weapons surely has the capacity for.

The story does not specify the cryptocurrency or cryptocurrencies the scientists were trying to mine, nor whether any mining was successful.

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An AI Reads Privacy Policies so You Don't Have to

Posted: 10 Feb 2018 11:57 AM PST

You don't read privacy policies. And of course, that's because they're not actually written for you, or any of the other billions of people who click to agree to their inscrutable legalese. Instead, like bad poetry and teenagers' diaries, those millions upon millions of words are produced for the benefit of their authors, not readers—the lawyers who wrote those get-out clauses to protect their Silicon Valley employers.

But one group of academics has proposed a way to make those virtually illegible privacy policies into the actual tool of consumer protection they pretend to be: an artificial intelligence that's fluent in fine print. Today, researchers at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne (EPFL), the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan announced the release of Polisis—short for "privacy policy analysis"—a new website and browser extension that uses their machine-learning-trained app to automatically read and make sense of any online service's privacy policy, so you don't have to.

Details at Wired

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