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What 420,000 insecure devices reveal about Web security | CNET News

What 420,000 insecure devices reveal about Web security | CNET News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A researcher used a simple, binary technique to take control of more than 420,000 insecure devices including Webcams, routers, and printers running on the Internet -- and says that's just a hint of the potential for real trouble to get started.

 

In a Seclists posting yesterday, the researcher, Gordon Lyon, describes how he was able to take control of open, embedded devices on the Internet. He did so by using either empty or default credentials such as "root:root" or "admin:admin", indicating how a surprisingly large number of devices connected to the Web have no security to safeguard against a possible takeover.

 

By taking control of the devices, the researcher effectively established a botnet -- which he called "Carna" -- and surveyed the Internet. Botnets are often with more nefarious activities, such as spamming, distributed denial-of-service attacks, and credit card and identity theft. After concluding his research, Lyon said, he shut the botnet down, quipping that "no devices were harmed during this experiment."

 

And in a low-key way, he warned of the dangers revealed in his exploration:

 

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Net Neutrality On The Ropes In Europe As Some EU Members Wimp Out On Real Rules | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Net Neutrality On The Ropes In Europe As Some EU Members Wimp Out On Real Rules | Karl Bode | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

While net neutrality may have recently found its way into the Merriam Webster dictionary, it still hasn't managed to find its way to Europe. Most assumed that the EU would have passed net neutrality protections long before the States, so the FCC beating the EU to the punch surprised more than a few people. That was especially true if you'd been watching some of rhetoric coming out of the EU over the last few years. Like that of former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, for example, who urged startups to flock to Europe after Verizon defeated the FCC's original, wimpy neutrality rules last year:

Watching US #netneutrality news. Maybe I shd invite newly disadvantaged US startups to EU, so they have a fair chance http://t.co/tB2A9EXgKd
— Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU) January 15, 2014

That was then, this is now. The U.S. now has some tough net neutrality rules thanks to a new consumer friendly FCC Boss. Meanwhile, Kroes' new job is trying to lure startups to The Netherlands, ironically as the net neutrality rules she championed (sometimes inconsistently) remain bogged down in committee at the EU she left behind.


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New York State Reverses Decision, Requires Full Environmental Review of Tar Sands-by-Rail Facility | Justin Mikulka | DeSmog Blog

New York State Reverses Decision, Requires Full Environmental Review of Tar Sands-by-Rail Facility | Justin Mikulka | DeSmog Blog | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In what came as a welcome surprise to activists in Albany, New York, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reversed an earlier decision and now will require a full environmental review for a proposed tar sands oil heating facility at the Port of Albany.

“It is good for New York State that the DEC came to a proper decision in one of the most important environmental matters facing the state. We look forward to participating with the state on a full public safety and environmental review that is robust and protective of our communities and our waterways,” said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay.

Riverkeeper is one of many groups fighting the plan by Global Partners to add tar sands oil to the Bakken oil it is already moving down and along the Hudson River in large amounts, efforts highlighted in this recent New York Times Op-Doc.

Riverkeeper also recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Transportation’s recent new oil-by-rail regulations.

Albany has become the largest distribution hub for crude oil on the East Coast due to its rail access and its port on the Hudson River and this transformation happened with so little fanfare that the local community was initially unaware of what the DEC had permitted.

There were no ribbon cutting ceremonies or big public announcements made by local government officials who were aware of what was happening. The mayor of Albany could be found cutting ribbons for the opening of Subway shops or bars, but not a word about the 2.8 billion gallons a year of oil that were permitted to arrive in Albany by train by the DEC.

And then the first oil tanker that was filled with 12 million gallons of Bakken oil loaded from rail cars and sent off down the Hudson promptly ran around. Luckily no oil was spilled and, as a result, local people began to ask questions just as Bakken trains began to derail and explode with alarming frequency, as noted in this short documentary about the risks posed by oil trains to Albany and the Hudson.


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Caterpillar, Honeywell bet against the grid in emerging economies | Barbara Grady | GreenBiz.com

Caterpillar, Honeywell bet against the grid in emerging economies | Barbara Grady | GreenBiz.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

More than a billion people around the globe lack access to electricity. When it gets dark, many use kerosene lanterns or open fires to provide light and heat — dangerous options that can jeopardize health and shorten lives.

But new microgrid technologies that are disrupting utility industries in the developed world are also opening up the possibility of bringing electricity to the 19 percent of the world’s population without it. And with electricity, advocates say, come more resilient communities and economic drivers like computer use and industrial machinery.

Big industrial players also see a burgeoning business opportunity. Worldwide energy demand will grow by a third during the next 20 years — and 90 percent of that growth will come from the developing world, according to the International Energy Agency.

Caterpillar Inc. this month launched a strategic alliance with First Solar to develop photovoltaic microgrids for remote the towns, mines, islands and industrial facilities in areas now without electricity. First Solar will provide the design and the solar panels while Caterpillar provides component manufacturing and its vast distribution network.

“Hybrid microgrids are following the same trends as the telecommunications industry," said Rick Rathe, general manager of microgrids within Caterpillar’s Electric Power Division. "In many developing countries, a large portion of the population never had access to a phone. Now, while there still is no large central telecommunications infrastructure even an electric utility, many people have mobile phones or even smart phones."

Moving into the realm of electricity, he adds that, "Hybrid microgrids are enabling the same thing to happen for electricity availability.”


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France passed law making rooftop solar or gardens mandatory on new commercial buildings | Walter Einenkel | Daily Kos

France passed law making rooftop solar or gardens mandatory on new commercial buildings | Walter Einenkel | Daily Kos | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Two months ago, France passed a law that requires the rooftops of new commercial buildings to be partially (at least) covered by solar panels or plants. The law, passed back in March, was a compromise with French environmentalists and more conservative* members of society.

The law approved by parliament was more limited in scope than initial calls by French environmental activists to make green roofs that cover the entire surface mandatory on all new buildings.

The Socialist government convinced activists to limit the scope of the law to commercial buildings.

This isn't a first. Places like Australia and Germany already have green roofs as a part of their urban landscape. Toronto has had by-laws since 1998 mandating green rooftops.


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Wi-Fi access point scans can betray a person's location | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com

Wi-Fi access point scans can betray a person's location | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Many Android applications collect information on Wi-Fi access points, which researchers contend can be used to figure out where a person is more than 90 percent of the time.

The privacy implications of Wi-Fi access point scanning is often overlooked but presents a risk if the information is abused, according to the study, written by the Technical University of Denmark, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Copenhagen.

Wi-Fi information isn’t considered location data, and Android applications such as Candy Crush Saga, Pandora and Angry Birds routinely collect it.

“This makes it possible for third party developers to collect high-resolution mobility data under the radar, circumventing the policy and the privacy model of the Android ecosystem,” wrote Sune Lehmann, an associate professor at DTU Informatics at the Technical University of Denmark, in a blog post.

The study said it wasn’t suggesting that Candy Crush Saga, Pandora and Angry Birds collected Wi-Fi scans for location purposes but that they would, in theory, have the ability to do so.

Location data is seen as valuable for purposes such as advertising, where context-specific ads can be shown as a person moves into a certain area. But that sort of tracking has raised privacy concerns over how users are notified that the tracking is taking place and if they can opt out.


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Research community looks to SDN to help distribute data from the Large Hadron Collider | John Dix | NetworkWorld.com

Research community looks to SDN to help distribute data from the Large Hadron Collider | John Dix | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

When the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) starts back up in June, the data collected and distributed worldwide for research will surpass the 200 petabytes exchanged among LHC sites the last time the collider was operational.


Network challenges at this scale are different from what enterprises typically confront, but Harvey Newman, Professor of Physics at Caltech, who has been a leader in global scale networking and computing for the high energy physics community for the last 30 years, and Julian Bunn, Principal Computational Scientist at Caltech, hope to introduce a technology to this rarified environment that enterprises are also now contemplating: Software Defined Networking (SDN).


Network World Editor in Chief John Dix recently sat down with Newman and Bunn to get a glimpse inside the demanding world of research networks and the promise of SDN.


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Buildings in Yellowstone Park to be powered by used EV batteries | Jaclyn Brandt | Smart Grid News

Buildings in Yellowstone Park to be powered by used EV batteries | Jaclyn Brandt | Smart Grid News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Toyota and the National Park Service have teamed up to install a distributed energy system at Yellowstone National Park. The installation combines solar power generation with reused hybrid electric vehicle (EV) batteries to bring power to the park's ranger station and education center for the first time.

The project includes 208 used Camry Hybrid nickel-metal hydride battery packs, which were recovered from car dealers across the United States.

"Toyota's innovative response to solve a difficult problem has helped Yellowstone move closer to its goal of becoming the greenest park in the world," said Steve Iobst, acting superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, in a statement.


The hybrid batteries will provide 85 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to the park, and according to Toyota, will provide more than enough power for the five buildings they will power. It will include a 40-kilowatt (kW) solar system producing around 67,900 kWh annually -- as well as a 40 kW propane backup generator onsite for emergency use only. The 208 battery packs will be arranged in four arrays of 52 -- each which will provide 375 volts.


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Scientists trace cancer-causing chemical in drinking water back to methadone | Nsikan Akpan | PBS News Hour

Scientists trace cancer-causing chemical in drinking water back to methadone | Nsikan Akpan | PBS News Hour | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Like death and taxes, at some point in life, drinking someone else’s human waste becomes inevitable.

When water flows from the many pipes of our homes, the first stop is a wastewater treatment factory, where most hazardous chemicals and microbes are removed. In an ideal scenario, city planners have geographically positioned wastewater facilities so that none of the drainage flows into another’s city’s drinking water supply. But if you live downstream from any population, then you’re likely drinking someone’s wastewater, says Arizona State University environmental engineer Paul Westerhoff.

Enter methadone. Methadone is the latest member of an infamous club. Like birth control hormones and the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, methadone leaks into waterways and poses a health risk when it filters into our drinking water, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

But unlike some forms of pharmaceutical pollution, the danger of methadone waste doesn’t come from the drug itself, but from a chemical reaction with a common wastewater disinfectant. The product of this reaction is the carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine or “NDMA” for short. The World Health Organization describes NDMA as “clearly carcinogenic” due to its ability to cause stomach and colon cancer after ingestion.


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'Sleeper' ransomware laid dormant on victim PCs until this week | Colin Neagle | NetworkWorld.com

'Sleeper' ransomware laid dormant on victim PCs until this week | Colin Neagle | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A new strain of ransomware that had laid dormant on infected devices suddenly "woke up" at midnight on Monday, May 25, security firm KnowBe4 said in an alert issued today.

Ransomware encrypts all the files on the devices it infects and demands a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key to give the content back to the original owner.

KnowBe4 CEO Stu Sjouwerman says this new strain of malware, dubbed Locker, is "very similar to CryptoLocker," the first successful modern form of ransomware that was released in late 2013 and was thwarted last year. Locker is a "sleeper" strain of malware, meaning that victims may have unintentionally downloaded it earlier, but that their devices were not encrypted until the ransomware was activated earlier this week.

PC help site Bleeping Computer has seen hundreds of reported Locker victims worldwide already, and believes it has a large installed base, KnowBe4 said in its alert. Sjouwerman says some reports indicate that the ransomware could have originated in a "compromised MineCraft installer."

Once Locker encrypts an infected device's files, it issues a warning against users and IT professionals who might try to find another way around paying the ransom:

"Warning any attempt to remove damage or even investigate the Locker software will lead to immediate destruction of your private key on our server!" the notice reads.


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Global mobile broadband market sees vast majority of Indian users finding 2G unaffordable | Companies & Markets

Global mobile broadband market sees vast majority of Indian users finding 2G unaffordable | Companies & Markets | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Indian 2G mobile broadband market customers feel that the technology is far too expensive, with 88% of users agreeing. A further 53% do not find that 2G mobile broadband actually adds any value to their device.


Ericsson Consumer Lab recently discovered Indian mobile broadband preferences, with the company finding a number of major issues and challenges that are preventing a major area of the global mobile broadband market from growing at the fastest rate.

"When consumers are confident in their understanding of what is offered, they tend to perceive better value from it. In fact, they consume twice as much data compared to users who find it difficult to understand their plan," according to Ajay Gupta, Vice-President and Head of Strategy and Marketing, Ericsson India. "Understanding the main aspects that are valued by customers can help service providers differentiate their offerings and improve consumer experience which would help increase consumer loyalty. Personalization is being positively viewed and increasingly demanded by consumers."

Many mobile broadband users in India report problems around coverage, especially in urban parts, alongside widespread failures when trying to access mobile smartphone apps that use data. E-commerce is showing major growth in the global mobile broadband market, with the Indian region being no different with 58% of users not currently accessing E-commerce services stating they would do so within six months.

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California Plans to Offer Free Solar Panels to Its Poorest Citizens | Rafi Schwartz | Good.is

California Plans to Offer Free Solar Panels to Its Poorest Citizens | Rafi Schwartz | Good.is | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

While the sun may shine on each and every one of us equally, so far solar power has largely been a much less democratic affair. As solar energy panels become more and more efficient, their application, per a 2013 Center for American Progress study, remains mostly limited to middle-class homes with a median income of between $40-90,000. But a new plan in California will bring free solar power to its poorest citizens, saving each of them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in electrical costs.

According to The SFGate, the initiative will be led by Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit solar power firm based out of Oakland. Using nearly $15 million dollars raised through California’s cap-and-trade laws, which require companies to purchase “credits” for each ton of carbon dioxide they produce, the firm will provide over 1,600 free solar panel systems by the end of 2016, according to a Grid Alternatives release. The program was first introduced by California State Senator Kevin de León, who spoke at a recent solar panel installation event, saying:


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Which Country Will Be First to Go Completely Underwater Due to Climate Change? | Cole Mellino | AlterNet.org

Which Country Will Be First to Go Completely Underwater Due to Climate Change? | Cole Mellino | AlterNet.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

It’s not just low-lying island nations either. “A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast,” says National Geographic. “More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London.”

VICE’s season premiere this year covered how sea level rise will devastate coastal communities, specifically focusing on Bangladesh, home to more than 150 million people.

And The Miami New Times recently reported that a Dutch sea level expert, Henk Ovink, is calling Miami, Florida “the new Atlantis” because “Miami will no longer be a land city, but a city in the sea.”

Sea level rise is caused by thermal expansion (when water warms up, it rises), melting glaciers and polar ice caps, and ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica — all of which are caused by climate change, according to National Geographic.

Last week, NASA scientists reported that a massive ice shelf in West Antarctica will be gone in a few years. Which raises the question: What happens if all the world’s ice melts? Julia Wilde at Discovery News explains what will happen as more and more of the world’s ice melts.


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T-Mobile activates 900MHz band for LTE in Amsterdam; Utrecht to follow this month | TeleGeography.com

T-Mobile Netherlands (T-Mobile NL) has announced that it has switched on its 900MHz Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in Amsterdam, augmenting its existing 1800MHz 4G coverage. The use of 900MHz spectrum is expected to eliminate capacity issues in busy locations, as well as improving indoor coverage.

Going forward, 900MHz 4G will be introduced in Utrecht by the end of the month, with Rotterdam set to follow by mid-June and The Hague in early July. 4G LTE at 900MHz should be offered across the whole of the Randstad (the conurbation consisting of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht and the surrounding areas) by mid-August this year.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, T-Mobile expects to offer nationwide coverage (95% of the population) via its LTE network by October 2015.

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Norway to pull $900bn oil fund out of coal | The Local

Norway to pull $900bn oil fund out of coal | The Local | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Norway’s parliament has unanimously agreed that the country’s $900bn oil fund should radically reduce its investments in coal producers and coal-burning utilities to help limit climate change.


The agreement,  reached at a meeting of the Norwegian parliament’s finance committee on Wednesday evening, will require Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages the fund, to sell shares in all companies in its portfolio which generate more than 30 percent of their revenues or 30 percent of their power production from coal. 
 
According to Norwegian Finance Minister Siv Jensen, the ban could apply to as many as 75 companies in which the fund has invested some 35 billion kroner ($4.5 billion). Companies sitting above the threshold include power companies RWE, SSE and Duke Energy. 
 
"Investing in coal companies poses both a climate risk and a future economic risk," the seven parties said in a statement announcing the move. 
 
"This is a great victory for the climate," said Torstein Svedt Solberg from Norway's Labour Party, who acted as the rapporteur for the negotiations. "Coal is in class of its own and is the source responsible for the largest emissions of greenhouse gases."
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According to Norwegian Finance Minister Siv Jensen, the ban could apply to as many as 75 companies in which the fund has invested some 35 billion kroner ($4.5 billion). Companies sitting above the threshold include power companies RWE, SSE and Duke Energy.  "Investing in coal companies poses both a climate risk and a future economic risk," the seven parties said in a statement announcing the move.  "This is a great victory for the climate," said Torstein Svedt Solberg from Norway's Labour Party, who acted as the rapporteur for the negotiations. "Coal is in class of its own and is the source responsible for the largest emissions of greenhouse gases." 
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Japan: UQ Communications has 10m WiMAX subscribers | TeleGeography.com

Japanese broadband provider UQ Communications, KDDI’s WiMAX joint venture with Intel Capital, has announced that it has passed the ten million subscriber milestone on 30 April 2015.


The operator disclosed that subscriber uptake has increased at a rapid pace following the introduction of its WiMAX 802.16m network, dubbed ‘WiMAX2+’, for smartphones in May 2014.


Further, UQ Communications stated that it has expanded the area of mobile internet coverage in Japan, while also increasing the download bandwidth speed of the WiMAX2+ service to 220Mbps with the ‘Ya-Baisoku’ service.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in July 2011 UQ Communications achieved downlink transmission speeds of over 100Mbps in what it described as the world’s first WiMAX2 field trial.


The pilot, which was held in Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, was staged in cooperation with Samsung Electronics and used 20MHz of spectrum in the 2.6GHz band. IEEE802.16m is approved as an IMT-Advanced technology by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

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MA: Cape Wind looks to extend state OK of electrical lines | Christine Legere | Cape Cod Times

MA: Cape Wind looks to extend state OK of electrical lines | Christine Legere | Cape Cod Times | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

After being plagued by major, some say fatal, setbacks over the past several months, Cape Wind is still struggling to hold the ground the offshore-wind energy developer had previously gained.

On April 7, Cape Wind Vice-President Dennis Duffy submitted a written request for a two-year extension of state approvals for 18 miles of transmission lines that will run underwater from the off-shore turbines through Nantucket Sound and Lewis Bay, and then underground from West Yarmouth to a Barnstable electrical switching station.

The extension would allow some time for the resolution of pending legal cases, and give Cape Wind the chance to finalize financing, update its construction schedule and obtain equipment necessary for the project, Duffy wrote in the letter.

But the extension request, like almost everything else the company has tried to do since the project was first proposed in 2001, is being challenged by opponents of the project.

Past approval for the lines and transmission facilities was set to expire May 15. The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board has temporarily extended the approval date while it considers the request for a formal extension, Duffy said.

The anti-Cape Wind group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, has meanwhile submitted a lengthy letter to the state urging denial of the requested extension. Cape Wind has until June 4 to produce its response.

“Essentially, the Energy Facilities Siting Board’s test is that transmission lines should not be built unnecessarily,” Alliance President Audra Parker said. “All the setbacks make construction of this project highly unlikely.”


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Keep in mind the principal funder of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is William Koch, the younger brother of Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries.

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Smartphone location tracking via Wi-Fi signals, motion sensors | Ms. Smith | NetworkWorld.com

Smartphone location tracking via Wi-Fi signals, motion sensors | Ms. Smith | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Here are two research papers about tracking people via their smartphones that might momentarily make you want to toss your phone into a lake. Both show a 90% or above accuracy in tracking people via their phones' Wi-Fi connections or motion sensors.

Tracking Human Mobility using WiFi signals (pdf) makes the case for Wi-Fi scans to be considered "a highly sensitive type of data" that "should be considered location data."

Using just one GPS observation per day per person allows us to estimate the location of, and subsequently use, Wi-Fi access points to account for 80% of mobility across a population. These results reveal a great opportunity for using ubiquitous Wi-Fi routers for high-resolution outdoor positioning, but also significant privacy implications of such side-channel location tracking.

Researchers Piotr Sapiezynski, Arkadiusz Stopczynski, Radu Gatej and Sune Lehmann point out that "large companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Skyhook, combine Wi-Fi access points with GPS data to improve positioning, a practice known as 'wardriving'." The actual "how" is "proprietary to large companies." They added, "Predictability and stability of human mobility are also exploited by commercial applications such as intelligent assistants." They used Google Now as an example of an app "which learns users' habits to, among other services, conveniently provide directions to the next inferred location."

In the Android ecosystem, location permission is separate from the permission for "Wi-Fi connection information." Yet the researchers found that inferring location can be accomplished using only a small percentage of Wi-Fi access points (AP) seen by a device; it's one way an app can inexpensively convert the APs into users' locations. "The impact is amplified by the fact that apps may passively obtain results of scans routinely performed by Android system every 15-60 seconds. Such routine scans are even run when the user disables Wi-Fi."


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Google introduces Android Pay, a replacement for its wallet app on mobile | Ben Popper | The Verge

Another year, another attempt by Google to get mobile payments right. Today, at its I/O developer conference, the company unveiled a new app, called Android Pay, that will take the place of Google Wallet on your phone.

Android Pay will power in-app and tap-to-pay purchases on mobile devices. Google Wallet will stick around, but it will power Play Store purchases outside Android, say on the web, and facilitate peer-to-peer payments you can make through the app and on services like Gmail. Confused? Let the new branding wash over you, and stop worrying so much.

The history of Google’s work on mobile payments has always embodied this frustrating mix of promising ambition and confusingly fraught execution. Android smartphones had near field communication (NFC) and card emulation years before the competition. But relationships with the carriers and manufacturers that distribute Android devices kept Google Wallet from realizing its full potential. Google also had a tough time getting major banks and credit cards to participate. That allowed Apple to swoop in late and capture a great deal of momentum in the market, with CEO Tim Cook claiming that it is now larger than all its major competitors combined.

Google is hopeful that this will change now that Softcard is dead. The carrier-backed payment effort folded earlier this year, with Google purchasing some of its technology. At the time, Softcard advised all its users to download Google Wallet as a replacement. Those carriers will now simply preinstall Android Pay instead. It remains to be seen if swapping the word "wallet" for "pay" will give Android users the awareness and confidence they need to actually start shopping with their phones in the wild. Google is planning to make merchant's reward programs work with Android Pay, a move it hopes will boost engagement. And it has gotten the major financial players to play ball this time.


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India’s coastal villages map out disasters strategy | Sharada Balasubramanian | Climate News Network

India’s coastal villages map out disasters strategy | Sharada Balasubramanian | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

It has been over a decade since the devastating tsunami struck southeast Asia, but the horrific memories remain as vivid as ever for people in the coastal villages of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Now, in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and also two cyclones, local people are benefiting from the Indian government’s encouragement of international co-operation in helping vulnerable communities, and have produced a hazard map as a precaution against future disasters.

Vikas Shankar, from the fishing village of Sulerikattukuppam, remembers clearly the moment the tsunami struck.“I was engrossed in playing cricket when I saw water entering the village,” he says. “I thought it was just another day when the sea poured in. Then, suddenly, I saw my mother caught in a whirlpool and realised something was seriously wrong.”

His mother, Tilakavathy, survived the tsunami’s fury, but recalls: “I thought this was really the end of the world.”


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TX: Fracking To Resume In Denton After State Prohibits City Fracturing Bans | Jim Malewitz | KERA News

TX: Fracking To Resume In Denton After State Prohibits City Fracturing Bans | Jim Malewitz | KERA News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Nearly seven months after voters made it the first Texas town to ban hydraulic fracturing, Denton is poised to be fracked again.

Vantage Energy plans to resume fracking operations at eight gas wells in the North Texas city on June 1, the Colorado-based operator has told city officials, and it plans to frack at least eight more wells later in the year – flouting the town’s seven-month-long ban on the controversial technique of blasting apart shale to bolster petroleum production.

But the city won’t stand in the company’s way, Denton officials announced Friday, saying a new state law – House Bill 40 — forbids them from enforcing the ban.

“The hydraulic fracturing ban has, in our opinion, been rendered unenforceable by the State of Texas in HB 40,” the city said in a news release. “The City of Denton, however, will continue to regulate other surface activities related to drilling operations per our existing oil and gas well drilling ordinance.”

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law on Monday, pre-empting all local efforts to regulate a wide variety of drilling-related activities.

Intended to clarify where local control ends and Texas law begins, HB 40, which cruised through the Legislature, was the most prominent of the flurry of measures filed in response to Denton’s vote to ban hydraulic fracturing within city limits.

Nearly 59 percent of voters supported the ban last November, though oil and gas interests vastly outspent the ban’s backers.

There are rumblings about town that some Denton residents — unhappy with the city’s decision to stand down — plan to protest around the Vantage well sites, but Cathy McMullen, a home health nurse who organized the push against fracking, said she did not blame city officials.

“Really, their heart’s in the right place," she said. “They’re upset about it, but there’s just nothing they can do.”


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The current weather extremes in Texas are climate change’s calling card | Clara Chaisson | onEarth.org

The current weather extremes in Texas are climate change’s calling card | Clara Chaisson | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported last Thursday that Texas was finally free of extreme drought. After five debilitating dry years, it was great news. But what the weekend then brought—torrential rainfall and flash flooding that left at least 17 dead and numerous people missing in Texas and Oklahoma—seemed like a very cruel joke (one that still isn’t over). By yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott had declared disasters in 37 counties.

El Niño is partially to blame for the soaking, because its warm waters drive rain in the southern United States. But this oscillation between extreme dry and extreme rainfall is also indicative of climate change. As Eric Holthaus of Slate reports, “A steadily escalating whipsaw between drought and flood is one of the most confident predictions of an atmosphere with enhanced evaporation rates—meaning, global warming.”


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Rwanda hosts the Africa Broadband and Universal Service Funds Forum | Marc Mcihone | AfricaBrains.net

Rwanda hosts the Africa Broadband and Universal Service Funds Forum | Marc Mcihone | AfricaBrains.net | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

This year’s Africa Broadband and Universal Service Funds (USF) forum has brought together Government Ministries, policymakers, regulatory authorities, telecom providers, international organizations, Universal Service Fund Managers and other broadband stakeholders from all over Africa in Kigali for a 3-day forum from 6-8 May 2015.

The Intel forum hosted in collaboration with Rwanda’s Ministry of ICT will have a special focus on the broadband implementation plan in various African countries, as well as challenges and solutions to obstacles in program development, implementation and operations.

The Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana speaking to the press stressed that “Rwanda is one of largest broadband adopters on the continent; we are here to learn about what is it we can do to further accelerate the growth of ICT uptake and impact also how we use ICT to drive ICT for entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Ralph Corey, Director within the World Ahead Program at Intel says, “as the world becomes more dependent on information and communication technology (ICT), broadband Internet access and usage is increasingly becoming recognized as essential to economic growth and the provision of education, healthcare, and other basic services. Despite this growing acceptance however, developing countries continue to struggle to find affordable and sustainable ways to provide widespread access to digital devices and broadband connections, especially in rural and remote areas.”

“USFs play an important role in the transition of developing countries to full broadband-enabled societies. This primarily includes the transformation of education systems through technology, and sustained job creation in industries that benefit from having access to information and global markets,” says Corey.


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Obama Drills a Hole in His Climate Policy | Eugene Robinson | Truthdig.com

Obama Drills a Hole in His Climate Policy | Eugene Robinson | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Here are two facts that cannot be reconciled: The planet has experienced the warmest January-through-March on record, and the Obama administration has authorized massive new oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

“Climate change can no longer be denied ... and action can no longer be delayed,” President Obama said in an Earth Day address in the Everglades. Indeed, Obama has been increasingly forceful in raising the alarm about heat-trapping carbon emissions. “If we don’t act,” he said in Florida, “there may not be an Everglades as we know it.”

Why, then, would the Obama administration give Royal Dutch Shell permission to move ahead with plans for Arctic offshore drilling? Put simply, if the problem is that we’re burning too much oil, why give the green light to a process that could produce another million barrels of the stuff per day, just ready to be set alight?

Please hold the pedantic lectures about how the global oil market works: Demand will be met, if not by oil pumped from beneath the Arctic Ocean then by oil pumped from somewhere else. By this logic, the administration’s decision is about energy policy—promoting U.S. self-sufficiency and creating jobs—rather than climate policy. The way to reduce carbon emissions, according to this view, is by cutting demand, not by restricting supply.

But we are told by scientists and world leaders, including Obama, that climate change is an urgent crisis. And on the global scale—the only measure that really matters—the demand-only approach isn’t working well enough. More than two decades after the first international summit on climate change, carbon emissions have continued to rise steadily.


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The anatomy of a flooding disaster in Wimberley, Texas | Andrew Freedman | Mashable.com

The anatomy of a flooding disaster in Wimberley, Texas | Andrew Freedman | Mashable.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The town of Wimberley is located on some of the most beautiful land in all of Texas known as Texas Hill Country, which was named for the rolling hills and gentle creeks that comprise the landscape.

“It’s a great location, if you don’t want to go to one of the beaches here in Texas it really is one of the best getaway locations in Texas,” says Victor Murphy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Dallas.


To meteorologists like Murphy, though, Texas Hill Country is known by another name: "Flash Flood Alley." This area is the most flash flood-prone in the state, and among the most flood-prone areas in the country.

Much like other flash flood-prone communities across the country,
the geography in this region can rapidly transform the rivers and creeks in Hill Country into raging tidal surges of water, mud and debris that is capable of taking out entire homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

This is what happened on Saturday night into Sunday morning, when an extraordinary downpour dumped about 6 inches of rain upstream in just four hours upstream of Wimberley, along the Blanco River, the water ran off the hillsides that were already saturated from weeks of heavy rainfall.


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Sen. Mary Landrieu, After Pushing for Keystone XL, Joins TransCanada Lobbying Firm | Lee Fang | The Intercept

Sen. Mary Landrieu, After Pushing for Keystone XL, Joins TransCanada Lobbying Firm | Lee Fang | The Intercept | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The law firm Van Ness Feldman announced today that former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who lost her reelection bid last year, will be joining the company to help run its lobbying division and focus on energy issues.

Landrieu joins the firm after pushing aggressively for energy-related policy goals that overlapped with Van Ness Feldman’s clients. In November of last year, Landrieu helped force a vote to approve the Keystone XL, the controversial tar sands pipeline owned by Transcanada, a firm represented by Van Ness Feldman.

Landrieu also worked to expedite the approval of liquified natural gas export terminals, another contentious issue. Landrieu sponsored legislation to expedite the LNG approval process and specifically pushed for individual projects, including the Sempra Cameron LNG facility in Louisiana. Van Ness Feldman has a large practice on LNG issues and lobbied for approval of several LNG export terminals, including the Sempra facility touted by Landrieu.

“I am proud to join Van Ness Feldman,” Landrieu said in a statement released by the firm. “I have always respected the firm and worked closely with them during my 18 years in the Senate,” she noted. “Their substantive and sophisticated approach to important public policy issues in the areas of energy, the environment and natural resources was a major factor in my decision-making process.”


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