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Did John Deere Just Swindle California's Farmers Out of Their Right to Repair?
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

An anonymous reader quotes a new Wired opinion piece by Kyle Wiens and Elizabeth Chamberlain from iFixit: A big California farmers' lobbying group just blithely signed away farmers' right to access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software. As an organization representing 2.5 million California agriculture jobs, the California Farm Bureau gave up the right to purchase repair parts without going through a dealer. Farmers can't change engine settings, can't retrofit old equipment with new features, and can't modify their tractors to meet new environmental standards on their own. Worse, the lobbyists are calling it a victory.... John Deere and friends had already made every single "concession" earlier this year... Just after the California bill was introduced, the farm equipment manufacturers started circulating a flyer titled "Manufacturers and Dealers Support Commonsense Repair Solutions." In that document, they promised to provide manuals, guides, and other information by model year 2021. But the flyer insisted upon a distinction between a right to repair a vehicle and a right to modify software, a distinction that gets murky when software controls all of a tractor's operations. As Jason Koebler of Motherboard reported, that flyer is strikingly similar -- in some cases, identical word-for-word -- to the agreement the Farm Bureau just brokered... Instead of presenting a unified right-to-repair front, this milquetoast agreement muddies the conversation. More worryingly, it could cement a cultural precedent for electronics manufacturers who want to block third-party repair technicians from accessing a device's software.

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New Custom Linux Distro is Systemd-Free, Debian-Based, and Optimized for Windows 10
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

An anonymous reader quotes MSPowerUser: Nearly every Linux distro is already available in the Microsoft Store, allowing developers to use Linux scripting and other tools running on the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Now another distro has popped up in the Store, and unlike the others it claims to be specifically optimised for WSL, meaning a smaller and more appropriate package with sane defaults which helps developers get up and running faster. WLinux is based on Debian, and the developer, Whitewater Foundry, claims their custom distro will also allow faster patching of security and compatibility issues that appear from time to time between upstream distros and WSL... Popular development tools, including git and python3, are pre-installed. Additional packages can be easily installed via the apt package management system... A handful of unnecessary packages, such as systemd, have been removed to improve stability and security. The distro also offers out of the box support for GUI apps with your choice of X client, according to the original submission. WLinux is open source under the MIT license, and is available for free on GitHub. It can also be downloaded from Microsoft Store at a 50% discount, with the development company promising the revenue will be invested back into new features.

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Mystery Solved: FBI Closed New Mexico Observatory to Investigate Child Porn
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

"The mysterious 11-day closure of a New Mexico solar observatory stemmed from an FBI investigation of a janitor suspected of using the facility's wireless internet service to send and receive child pornography, federal court documents showed..." An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: In July, FBI agents investigating child sexual exploitation traced the location of several IP addresses linked to child pornography activity to the observatory, according to a 39-page search warrant application. During an interview with federal authorities on Aug. 21, the facility's chief observer said he had found, on a number of occasions, the same laptop hidden and running in various seldom-used offices around the observatory. He described the contents of the laptop as "not good," according to court documents. A federal agent immediately went to the observatory, located deep within Lincoln National Forest, and took the laptop into evidence... Aside from continuing to "feverishly" search the facility, the documents state that the janitor said, "it was only a matter of time before the facility 'got hit,'" and that he "believed there was a serial killer in the area, and that he was fearful that the killer might enter the facility and execute someone." In response to the janitor's behavior, the management of the observatory, without input from the FBI, shut it down and evacuated its personnel. The facility's cleaning contract with the janitor's parents was also terminated. The warrant application specified that the janitor "has a key to the building and unlimited access to the building, and is familiar with which offices are used only a handful of times a year." It also says that the janitor was the only person in the facility at the time of the alleged downloads.

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'Bombe' Replica Code-Breaking WW2 Computer Was Used To Decipher Message Scrambled By An Enigma Machine
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Computer historians have staged a re-enactment of World War Two code-cracking at Bletchley Park. A replica code-breaking computer called a Bombe was used to decipher a message scrambled by an Enigma machine. Held at the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), the event honored Polish help with wartime code-cracking. Enigma machines were used extensively by the German army and navy during World War Two. This prompted a massive effort by the Allies to crack the complex method they employed to scramble messages. That effort was co-ordinated via Bletchley Park and resulted in the creation of the Bombe, said Paul Kellar who helps to keep a replica machine running at the museum. Renowned mathematician Alan Turing was instrumental in the creation of the original Bombe. For its re-enactment, TNMOC recruited a team of 12 and used a replica Bombe that, until recently, had been on display at the Bletchley Park museum next door. The electro-mechanical Bombe was designed to discover which settings the German Enigma operators used to scramble their messages. As with World War Two messages, the TNMOC team began with a hint or educated guess about the content of the message, known as a "crib," which was used to set up the Bombe. The machine then cranked through the millions of possible combinations until it came to a "good stop," said Mr Kellar. This indicated that the Bombe had found key portions of the settings used to turn readable German into gobbledygook. After that, said Mr Kellar, it was just a matter of time before the 12-strong team cracked the message.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Streaming Accounts For 75 Percent of Music Industry Revenue In the US
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Mallory Locklear reporting via Engadget: The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has released music industry revenue statistics for the first half of 2018 in the U.S., and on average, revenue growth has slowed. While overall revenue was up 10 percent compared to the same time last year, clocking in at $4.6 billion, that rate is only around half of the increase observed between the first halves of 2016 and 2017. Streaming revenue growth slowed as well, though it was still up 28 percent compared to last year. Notably, streaming accounted for the vast majority of revenue so far this year, with 75 percent of overall revenue coming from streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. The numbers also show that more people continue to join paid subscription services, with subscription rates growing by about one million per month. But while streaming revenue is still on an upward trend, the news isn't so good for digital downloads and CD sales. Digital downloads have only made up 12 percent of overall revenue so far this year, down from 19 percent last year, and CD sales saw a whopping 41 percent drop in revenue. To compare, during the same time last year, CD sales were only down three percent from the year before. Vinyl revenue, however, is up 13 percent.

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