Author Archives: BeauHD

Ex-CIA Employee Charged In Major Leak of Agency Hacking Tools

schwit1 shares a report from The Washington Post: Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a former CIA employee with violations of the Espionage Act (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) and related crimes in connection with the leak last year of a collection of hacking tools that the agency used for spy operations overseas. Joshua Adam Schulte, who worked for a CIA group that designs computer code to spy on foreign adversaries, was charged in a 13-count superseding indictment with illegally gathering and transmitting national defense information and other related counts in connection with what is considered to be one of the most significant leaks in CIA history. The indictment accused Schulte of causing sensitive information to be transmitted to an organization, which is not named in the indictment but is thought to be WikiLeaks.

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Shots Fired Again Between CPU Vendors AMD and Intel

Highdude702 shares a report from Tom's Hardware: AMD's feud with Intel took an interesting turn today as the company announced that it would swap 40 Core i7-8086K's won from Intel's sweepstakes with a much beefier Threadripper 1950X CPU. At Computex 2018, Intel officially announced it was releasing the Core i7-8086K, a special edition processor that commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 8086, which debuted as the first x86 processor on June 8, 1978. Now AMD is offering to replace 40 of the winners' chips with its own 16-core 32-thread $799 Threadripper processors, thus throwing a marketing wrench into Intel's 40th-anniversary celebration. AMD has a list of the complete terms and conditions on its site. But it is also noteworthy that "winners" of AMD's competing sweepstakes will have to pony up for a much more expensive X399 motherboard with the TR4 socket, which currently retail for more than $300, instead of Intel's less-expensive 300-series motherboards. Regardless, those who do swap their Intel Core silicon for an AMD Threadripper chip will gain 10 cores and quad-channel memory, not to mention quite a bit of resale value. In response, Slashdot reader Highdude702 said: "AMD is shooting back at Intel like its easy for them, even though 40 out of 8086 is kind of stingy. They are acting like they have the horsepower now. I believe it is going to be an interesting time for consumers and enthusiasts coming soon. Maybe we will even get better prices." Intel responded via its official verified "Intel Gaming" Twitter account, tweeting: ".@AMDRyzen, if you wanted an Intel Core i7-8086K processor too, you could have just asked us. :) Thanks for helping us celebrate the 8086!"

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Kickstarter Bets On ‘Wired’ Arduino-Compatible IoT Platform

L-One-L-One writes: Most IoT home projects today are based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and friends. But this is not always the ideal solution: you end up swapping batteries frequently, which becomes annoying quite quickly. You also have to deal with signal strength issues and interferences. To address this problem, a new Kickstarter campaign called NoCAN is proposing an Arduino-compatible internet-of-things platform based on wired connections that combine networking and power in one cable. The platform uses a set of cheap Arduino-compatible nodes controlled through a Raspberry Pi. The network uses CAN-bus and offers a publish/subscribe mechanism like MQTT and over-the-network firmware updates. It can also be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. Even with such features, can it succeed in going against the all-wireless trend? We'll know in a few weeks.

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Elon Musk Emails Employees About ‘Extensive and Damaging Sabotage’ By Employee

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email to all employees on Monday morning about a factory fire, and seemed to reference possible sabotage. Now, CNBC has learned that Musk also sent an e-mail to all employees at Tesla late on Sunday night alleging that he has discovered a saboteur in the company's ranks. Musk said this person had conducted "quite extensive and damaging sabotage" to the company's operations, including by changing code to an internal product and exporting data to outsiders. In the email, Musk said "the investigation will continue in depth this week" to "figure out if [the saboteur] was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations [that want Tesla to disappear]." You can read the full email via CNBC's report.

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Senate Votes To Reinstate ZTE Ban That’s Nearly Shut Down the Company

The U.S. Senate has voted to reinstate a ban on ZTE that prevents the Chinese telecom company from buying U.S. components and using U.S. software. As The Verge notes, "it's still not clear if the reversal will make it into law: it has to clear a conference with the House, and then avoid a veto from President Trump, who advocated for cutting a deal that would lift the ban." From the report: ZTE was hit with the trade ban by the U.S. Commerce Department in April after failing to following through with a punishment for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea. That ban essentially shut down ZTE, which relies on U.S. parts like Qualcomm processors. Shortly thereafter, Trump said he would cut a deal to revive the company, and a deal was reached -- with additional penalties that the department said were uniquely stringent -- earlier this month. But senators on both sides of the aisle immediately threatened to stop the deal and reinstate the ban, citing ZTE as a national security risk. And ultimately, a bipartisan group worked to get legislation introduced. The Senate voted 85 to 10 in support of reinstating the ban. It was included as an amendment on the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has already moved through the House.

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The Supreme Court Will Decide If Apple’s App Store Is a Monopoly

The Supreme Court will review a 2011 class-action lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of operating an illegal monopoly by not allowing iPhone users to download mobile apps outside of its own App Store, reducing consumer choice. The case, being referred to as Apple Inc. v. Pepper., could have wide-reaching implications for consumers as well as other companies like Amazon. Wired reports: The dispute is over whether Apple, by charging app developers a 30 percent commission fee and only allowing iOS apps to be sold through its own store, has inflated the price of iPhone apps. Apple, supported by the Trump administration, argues that the plaintiffs in the case -- iPhone consumers -- don't have the right to sue under current antitrust laws in the U.S. The case marks a rare instance in which the court has agreed not only to hear an antitrust case, but also one where no current disagreement exists in the circuit courts. The outcome could change decades of antitrust legal precedent -- either strengthening or weakening consumer protections against monopolistic power. The case also represents a huge source of revenue for Apple; the company raked in an estimated $11 billion last year in App Store commissions alone. The lawsuit centers around another Supreme Court case from 1977, Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, "which established what is known as the Illinois Brick Doctrine," reports Wired. "That rule says you can't sue for antitrust damages if you're not the direct purchaser of a good or service."

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iOS 12 Will Automatically Share Your iPhone Location With 911 Centers

Apple has revealed a new feature that's coming to the next version of iOS. With iOS 12, iPhone owners will be able to automatically share their location data when they dial 911. PhoneDog reports: Apple explains that it'll use RapidSOS's IP-based data pipeline to securely share an iPhone owner's HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) info when they call 911 call centers. This system will integrate with many 911 call centers' existing software. HELO data estimates a 911 caller's location data using cell towers as well as features like GPS and Wi-Fi access points. Apple began using HELO in 2015, but by utilizing RapidSOS's tech, too, it should make it much easier and faster for a 911 call center to locate a caller.

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Android Messages Will Now Let You Send Texts From Your Computer

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google is beginning to roll out desktop browser support for Android Messages, allowing people to use their PC for sending messages and viewing those that have been received on their Android smartphone. Google says the feature is starting to go out to users today and continuing for the rest of the week. Text, images, and stickers are all supported on the web version. To get started, the Android Messages website has you scan a QR code using the Android Messages mobile app, which creates a link between the two. In today's blog post, Google also goes over numerous other recent improvements to Android Messenger including built-in GIF search, support for smart replies on more carriers, inline link previews, and easy copy/paste for two-factor authentication messages.

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The ‘World’s Worst’ Smart Padlock Is Even Worse Than Previously Thought

Last week, cybersecurity company PenTest Partners managed to unlock TappLock's smart padlock within two seconds. They "found that the actual code and digital authentication methods for the lock were basically nonexistent," reports The Verge. "All someone would need to unlock the lock is its Bluetooth Low Energy MAC address, which the lock itself broadcasts." The company also managed to snap the lock with a pair of 12-inch bolt cutters. Today, Naked Security reports that it gets much worse: "Tapplock's cloud-based administration tools were as vulnerable as the lock, as Greek security researcher Vangelis Stykas found out very rapidly." From the report: Stykas found that once you'd logged into one Tapplock account, you were effectively authenticated to access anyone else's Tapplock account, as long as you knew their account ID. You could easily sniff out account IDs because Tapplock was too lazy to use HTTPS (secure web connections) for connections back to home base -- but you didn't really need to bother, because account IDs were apparently just incremental IDs anyway, like house numbers on most streets. As a result, Stykas could not only add himself as an authorized user to anyone else's lock, but also read out personal information from that person's account, including the last location (if known) where the Tapplock was opened. Incredibly, Tapplock's back-end system would not only let him open other people's locks using the official app, but also tell him where to find the locks he could now open! Of course, this gave him an unlocking speed advantage over Pen Test Partners -- by using the official app Stykas needed just 0.8 seconds to open a lock, instead of the sluggish two seconds needed by the lock-cracking app.

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Google Maps Removes Uber Integration

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in January 2017, Google and Uber teamed up to put a cool feature in Google Maps: You could search for, book, and pay for an Uber all directly from Google Maps. You didn't even need the Uber app installed. Now, 18 months later, the feature is dead. Google posted a new support page (first spotted by Android Police) that flatly states, "You can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps." The feature would have you search for a location in Google Maps and ask for directions like normal, but instead of choosing walking, driving, biking, or mass transit directions, a tab for ride-sharing would allow you to book a ride directly. The ride-sharing tab still exists, but instead of booking an Uber, it just gives you an estimate and offers to kick you out to the Uber app.

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President Trump Directs Pentagon To Create New ‘Space Force’ Military Branch

Gunfighter shares a report from Defense News: President Donald Trump on Monday appeared to sign an executive order directing the Pentagon to create a new "Space Force," a move that could radically transform the U.S. military by pulling space functions variously owned by the Air Force, Navy and other military branches into a single independent service. "I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces," Trump said during a meeting of the National Space Council. "That's a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important," Trump added. "General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out, I would be very greatly honored." Dunford responded in the affirmative, telling Trump, "We got you." The oddity of Trump's statement was that it was followed up with a White House readout that "contained no language related to the creation of a new military branch, leaving open the question of whether Trump has actually issued formal guidance to the military," reports Defense News. It is believed that Trump still needs the support of Congress to actually establish a space force.

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Dutch Town Uses High-Tech Streetlights To Keep Their Bats Happy

Since streetlights disturb bats' internal sensors and rhythms and affect their feeding patterns, inner compasses, and general nocturnal behaviors, the Dutch town of Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop is taking action. The town is using special streetlights that emit a red color and use a wavelength that doesn't interfere with a bat's internal compass and lets them feed undisturbed. The Next Web reports: The lights [developed by Signify and the University of Wageningen and other NGO's active in conservation], being both beneficial for bats and humans alike, are also proving to be extremely energy saving, and is therefore also a big plus for the environment and the town's carbon footprint. The lights are connected LED lights that can be controlled remotely. This means that if there is one particular neighborhood in need of more or less light, this can be adjusted as needed. Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop, due to their specific natural surroundings, is keen on being a sustainable town. The town and its surrounding area are part of the nature-protection network Natura 2000, which protects breeding and nesting areas for rare and threatened species all over Europe.

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New Commercial Amiga 500 Game Released

Mike Bouma writes: Pixelglass, known for their "Giana Sisters SE" game, has released a worthy new game for the Amiga 500, called "Worthy." Here's a description of this cute action puzzler: "Assume the role of a fearless boy and collect the required number of diamonds in each stage in order to win the girl's heart! Travel from maze to maze, kill the baddies, avoid the traps, collect beers (your necessary 'fuel' to keep you going), find the diamonds, prove to her you're WORTHY!" Time to dust off that classic Amiga or alternatively download a digital copy and use an UAE emulator for your platform of choice. Have a look at the release trailer.

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Man Reports PillCam Stuck In His Gut For Over 12 Weeks

A Portland man appears to have a pill-sized camera stuck in his gut. That man is me... Let me explain. For the average Joe, the following statement might sound a bit peculiar: I have swallowed a pill-sized camera a number of times. You see, I have Crohn's Disease (CD) in the small intestine -- a 20 foot-long portion of the gastrointestinal tract that runs between the stomach and the large intestine (colon). A "PillCam" is the most non-invasive, detailed method to survey this area as it doesn't require a scope up the rectum or down the esophagus, nor does it require any tissue slicing. It's also one of the safest procedures available -- the retention rate is as low as 1%. Unfortunately, this most recent capsule endoscopy resulted in my admission to the 1% club. On March 27th, 2018, I swallowed the PillCam that is currently lodged in my small intestine. If you do the math, that's more than 82 days ago (over 12 weeks). After hiking Smith Rock and summiting Black Butte a couple weeks later, I thought for sure the pill would have exited. It didn't, as evident by the follow-up X-ray. It can be difficult to find research on such a what-if scenario that happens to so few, but I did manage to find a Motherboard article telling the story of Scott Willis, a CD patient that had a PillCam lodged in his gut for eight weeks. One of the key differences between him and me is that he had a partial block and endured more symptoms, prompting him to schedule a procedure to get it out quicker. I'm relatively symptom free. We have tried upping the dose of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and help the pill pass through the strictured areas, but that didn't seem to work. Most recently, I had two double-balloon enteroscopy procedures done within a week apart. They were able to locate the PillCam during the second procedure, but weren't able to retrieve it without risking the scope itself becoming stuck. The next step is to try again via the esophagus. The potential issue/complication here is the location. As my doctors warned, the PillCam is stuck 15 feet down and the scope is only 20 feet in length. There's little wiggle room if the pill is slightly further down the GI tract than estimated. I am sharing this story with the Slashdot community for two reasons. First, those entrenched in the world of cyborgs and/or modern-day medical procedures may find this experience particularly interesting. Second, the more people who know about the procedures and complications of Crohn's Disease the better. For those interested, I'll update this post after the next procedure. Have you or someone you know experienced a capsule endoscopy? Please share what you feel comfortable with.

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Gaming Companies Remove Analytics App After Massive User Outcry

An anonymous reader writes: "Several gaming companies have announced plans to remove support for an analytics app they have bundled with their games," reports Bleeping Computer. "The decision to remove the app came after several Reddit and Steam users noticed that many game publishers have recently embedded a controversial analytics SDK (software development kit) part of recent updates to their games. The program bundled with all these games, and at the heart of all the recent controversy, is RedShell, an analytics package provided by Innervate, Inc., to game publishers." The app is intended to collect information about the source of new game installs, and details about the gamer. Following a massive user outcry in the past two weeks, several game makers have given in to pressure and are removing this SDK. Game makers and games who announced they were removing RedShell include Bethesda (Elder Scrolls), All Total War games, Warhammer games, Magic the Gathering Arena, and more. [This Google Docs spreadsheet and Reddit thread have a list of games containing RedShell.]

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Fake Earthquake Detected In Mexico City After Player’s Goal In World Cup Match

According to officials in Mexico, an artificial earthquake was reported in Mexico City that was possibly caused by "massive jumps during the goal from the Mexico national soccer team" on Sunday. KABC reports: Hirving Lozano scored the lone goal in the 35th minute, picking up Javier Hernandez's pass inside the penalty area and beating Mesut Ozil before shooting past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from 10 yards. The goal decided the match -- a match Germany didn't expect to lose. Mexico upset Germany, the defending champion, 1-0. The loss meant Germany became the third defending champion in the last 16 years to lose its opening match at the World Cup. "Two monitoring stations in Mexico City picked up the temblor the same time Lozano scored, 35 minutes into the match," reports USA Today. "Seismologists in Chile also said that their instruments detected an artificial temblor at the same time."

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Gmail Proves That Some People Hate Smart Suggestions

Citing a number of complaints following Google's Gmail makeover, TechCrunch's Romain Dillet makes the case for why some users don't want smart suggestions in the email service: There's a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don't want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter. A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That's why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing. But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking. VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google's order.

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Diversity At Google Hasn’t Changed Much Over the Last Year

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. "Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

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Venmo Is Going All In On Mobile Payments

Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited." The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

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Sony’s PlayStation 5 Will Launch In 2020 Powered By An AMD Navi GPU, Says Report

According to a new report from WCCFtech, citing "sources familiar with the entire situation," Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5 for short) will launch in 2020 and be powered by AMD's Navi GPU chip. "While it was previously reported that the much-anticipated console will be using AMD's Ryzen CPU tech, it looks like the chip maker will have some involvement in the PS5's graphics chip, too," reports The Inquirer. From the report: The report also suggests this is the reason behind AMD not announcing a new GPU at Computex this year, because it has found custom-applications for consoles a much more financially attractive space. "Here is a fun fact: Vega was designed primarily for Apple and Navi is being designed for Sony - the PS5 to be precise," the report states, right before going on to explain AMD's roadmap for Navi and how it's dependent on Sony. "This meant that the graphics department had to be tied directly to the roadmap that these semi-custom applications followed. Since Sony needed the Navi GPU to be ready by the time the PS5 would launch (expectedly around 2020) that is the deadline they needed to work on." It's anyone's guess as to when the successor to the PlayStation 4 will be launched. While the source for this report is seen as reputable in the games industry, last month the head of PlayStation business said the next console is three years off.

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Studies Find Evidence That Meditation Is Demotivating

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by behavioral scientists Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack: The practical payoff of mindfulness [meditation] is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience. But on the face of it, mindfulness might seem counterproductive in a workplace setting. To test this hunch, we recently conducted five studies, involving hundreds of people, to see whether there was a tension between mindfulness and motivation. As we report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, we found strong evidence that meditation is demotivating. Some of the participants in our studies were trained in a few of the most common mindfulness meditation techniques. They were instructed by a professional meditation coach to focus on their breathing or mentally scan their bodies for physical sensations, being gently reminded throughout that there was no right or wrong way to do the exercise. Other participants were led through a different exercise. Some were encouraged to let their thoughts wander; some were instructed to read the news or write about recent activities they had done. Then we gave everyone a task to do. Among those who had meditated, motivation levels were lower on average. Those people didn't feel as much like working on the assignments, nor did they want to spend as much time or effort to complete them. Meditation was correlated with reduced thoughts about the future and greater feelings of calm and serenity -- states seemingly not conducive to wanting to tackle a work project. The studies also found that meditation "neither benefited nor detracted from a participant's quality of work." Furthermore, Vohs and Hafenbrack found that a financial bonus for outstanding performance did not overcome the demotivating effect of mindfulness. "While the promise of material rewards will always be a useful tool for motivating employees, it is no substitute for internal motivation," the report reads.

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Was the Stanford Prison Experiment a Sham?

Frosty Piss writes: The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1971 by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power by focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. In the study, volunteers were randomly assigned to be either "guards" or "prisoners" in a mock prison, with Zimbardo serving as the superintendent. The results seemed to show that the students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers' request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. After Berkeley graduate Douglas Korpi appeared to have a nervous breakdown while playing the role of an inmate, the experiment was shut down. There's just one problem: Korpi's breakdown was a sham. Dr. Ben Blum took to Medium to publish his claims. "Blum's expose -- based on previously unpublished recordings of Zimbardo, a Stanford psychology professor, and interviews with the participants -- offers evidence that the 'guards' were coached to be cruel," reports New York Post. "One of the men who acted as an inmate told Blum he enjoyed the experiment because he knew the guards couldn't actually hurt him." "There were no repercussions. We knew [the guards] couldn't hurt us, they couldn't hit us. They were white college kids just like us, so it was a very safe situation," said Douglas Korpi, who was 22-years-old when he acted as an inmate in the study. The Berkeley grad now admits the whole thing was fake. Zimbardo also "admitted that he was an active participant in the study, meaning he had influence over the results," reports New York Post. According to an audio recording from the Stanford archive, you can hear Zimbardo encouraging the guards to act "tough."

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US Government Finds New Malware From North Korea

Days after the historic North Korea-United States summit, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Thursday warning of a new variant of North Korean malware to look out for. Called Typeframe, the malware is able to download and install additional malware, proxies and trojans; modify firewalls; and connect to servers for additional instructions. Engadget reports: Since last May, the DHS has issued a slew of alerts and reports about North Korea's malicious cyber activity. The department also pointed out that North Korea has been hacking countries around the world since 2009. And of course, don't forget that the U.S. also labeled that country as the source of Wannacry cyberattack, which notably held data from the UK's National Health Service hostage, and wreaked havoc across Russia and Ukraine. CNN was first to report the news.

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Machine Figures Out Rubik’s Cube Without Human Assistance

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: [Stephen McAleer and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine] have pioneered a new kind of deep-learning technique, called "autodidactic iteration," that can teach itself to solve a Rubik's Cube with no human assistance. The trick that McAleer and co have mastered is to find a way for the machine to create its own system of rewards. Here's how it works. Given an unsolved cube, the machine must decide whether a specific move is an improvement on the existing configuration. To do this, it must be able to evaluate the move. Autodidactic iteration does this by starting with the finished cube and working backwards to find a configuration that is similar to the proposed move. This process is not perfect, but deep learning helps the system figure out which moves are generally better than others. Having been trained, the network then uses a standard search tree to hunt for suggested moves for each configuration. The result is an algorithm that performs remarkably well. "Our algorithm is able to solve 100% of randomly scrambled cubes while achieving a median solve length of 30 moves -- less than or equal to solvers that employ human domain knowledge," say McAleer and co. That's interesting because it has implications for a variety of other tasks that deep learning has struggled with, including puzzles like Sokoban, games like Montezuma's Revenge, and problems like prime number factorization. The paper on the algorithm -- called DeepCube -- is available on Arxiv.

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We’re All Getting Dumber, Says Science

dryriver shares a report from Fast Company: Researchers at Norway's Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research now have scientific proof of something we've long suspected -- we're all getting dumber. In their paper, "Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused," which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg report that IQ scores have been steadily dropping since the 1970s. The study consisted of analyzing 730,000 IQ test results gleaned from young men entering Norway's compulsory military service from 1970 to 2009. They found that scores declined by an average of seven points per generation, a reversal of the so-called "Flynn effect" where IQ was seen to be rising during the first part of the 20th century. The decline may be due to environmental factors, but because the researchers couldn't find consistent trends among families, Bratsberg and Rogeberg discounted factors like parental education, family size, increased immigration, and genetics as significant causes.

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$950 Million Large Hadron Collider Upgrade ‘Could Upend Particle Physics’

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A massive project to supercharge the world's largest particle collider launched on Friday in the hope that the beefed-up machine will reveal fresh insights into the nature of the universe. The approximately $950 million Swiss franc mission will see heavy equipment, new buildings, access shafts and service tunnels installed, constructed and excavated at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the particle physics laboratory on the edge of Geneva. The upgrade will make the collider far more sensitive to subtle quirks in the laws of physics, and physicists hope these anomalies will pry open the door to entirely new theories of the universe. If the upgrade goes to plan, the proton beams in the souped-up accelerator, known as the high-luminosity LHC, or HL-LHC, will be so intense that the number of collisions in the machine will be five to 10 times greater than today. The upgrade is expected to take eight years. While new magnets and beam instruments will be installed when the LHC is switched off for two years in 2019, most of the required equipment will be fitted in a longer shutdown from 2024 to 2026, when the revamped machine will switch back on again.

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The Most Important Study of the Mediterranean Diet Has Been Retracted

Zorro shares a report from Quartz: In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a landmark study that found that people put on a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower chance of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease than people on a low-fat diet. It received massive media and public attention when released, and since has been cited by 3,268 other scientific papers. The study had tremendous impact on the field of nutrition and health science. Yesterday (June 13), however, the journal retracted the study -- providing a new reason for skepticism about how effective the now-popular Mediterranean diet really is. The reasons for the withdrawal are complicated, having to do with the methodology of the study. As Alison McCook of the Retraction Watch blog writes for NPR, this retraction is the result of the work of John Carlisle, a British anesthesiologist and self-taught statistician. Carlisle has spent recent years analyzing over 5,000 published randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of medical science research) to see how likely they were to have actually been properly randomized. In 2017, he reported his results: at least 2% of the studies were problematic. One was the 2013 NEJM article on the Mediterranean diet.

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17 Backdoored Images Downloaded 5 Million Times Removed From Docker Hub

An anonymous reader writes: "The Docker team has pulled 17 Docker container images that have been backdoored and used to install reverse shells and cryptocurrency miners on users' servers for the past year," reports Bleeping Computer. "The malicious Docker container images have been uploaded on Docker Hub, the official repository of ready-made Docker images that sysadmins can pull and use on their servers, work, or personal computers." The images, downloaded over 5 million times, helped crooks mine Monero worth over $90,000 at today's exchange rate. Docker Hub is now just the latest package repository to feature backdoored libraries, after npm and PyPl. Docker Hub is now facing criticism for taking months to intervene after user reports, and then going on stage at a developer conference and claiming they care about security.

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Guy Robs Someone At Gunpoint For Domain Name, Gets 20 Years In Jail

Yesterday, 43-year-old Iowa man Sherman Hopkins Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to rob a domain name from another man at gunpoint in 2017. As Motherboard reports, "this may be the first time someone has attempted to steal a domain name at gunpoint." From the report: Last June, Hopkins broke into the home of 26 year-old Ethan Deyo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa one afternoon and demanded that Deyo to log on to his computer to transfer the domain name for "doitforstate.com" to another account. According to Deyo's bio on his personal website, he is a web entrepreneur who previously worked for the web hosting service GoDaddy. After seeing Hopkins enter the apartment, Deyo locked himself into his room and Hopkins kicked in the door. Hopkins kicked in the door and "pistol-whipped" Deyo, held a gun to his head and used a stun gun on him during the encounter. While he attempted to wrestle the gun away from Hopkins, Deyo was shot in the leg, but he eventually gained control of the firearm and shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest. It's unclear why Hopkins wanted the domain name or who he was transferring the domain name to.

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Time Warner Deal Aftermath: AT&T Is About To Give Free TV To Its Wireless Customers

AT&T completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner yesterday and we're already starting to see some exclusive deals offered to its customers. CNBC reports that the company "will be launching a 'very, very skinny bundle' of television programming free to its mobile customers." From the report: "We will be launching, and you're going to hear more about this next week, a product called 'AT&T Watch TV,'" Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It will be the Turner content. It will not have sports. It'll be entertainment-centered." AT&T's unlimited wireless customers will get the service for free, Stephenson said, "or you can buy it for $15 a month on any platform." The service will be ad-supported, and AT&T will be ramping up an advertising platform, he said. He added that the company expects in coming weeks to make smaller acquisitions to enable those ad efforts. CNBC is also reporting that Time Warner is changing its name to WarnerMedia, and Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin is departing the company.

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Verizon’s New Phone Plan Proves It Has No Idea What ‘Unlimited’ Actually Means

Verizon has unveiled its third "unlimited" smartphone plan that goes to show just how meaningless the term has become in the U.S. wireless industry. "In addition to its Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited plans, Verizon is now adding a premium Above Unlimited plan to the mix, which offers 75GB of 'unlimited' data per month (as opposed to the 22GB of 'unlimited' data you get on less expensive plans), along with 20GB of 'unlimited' data when using your phone as a hotspot, 500GB of Verizon cloud storage, and five monthly international Travel Passes, which are daily vouchers that let you use your phone's wireless service abroad the same as if you were in the U.S.," reports Gizmodo. Are you confused yet? From the report: And as if that wasn't bad enough, Verizon has also updated its convoluted sliding pricing scheme that adjusts based on how many phones are on a single bill. For families with four lines of service, the Above Unlimited cost $60 per person, but if you're a single user the same service costs $95, which really seems like bullshit because if everything is supposed to be unlimited, it shouldn't really make a difference how many people are on the same bill. As a small concession to flexibility, Verizon says families with multiple lines can now mix and match plans instead of having to choose a single plan for every line, which should allow families to choose the right service for an individual person's needs and help keep costs down. The new Above Unlimited plan and the company's mix-and-match feature arrives next week on June 18th.

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Some Prominent Tech Companies Are Paying Big Money To Kill a California Privacy Initiative

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As data-sharing scandals continue to mount, a new proposal in California offers a potential solution: the California Consumer Privacy Act would require companies to disclose the types of information they collect, like data used to target ads, and allow the public to opt out of having their information sold. Now, some of tech's most prominent companies are pouring millions of dollars into an effort to to kill the proposal. In recent weeks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber have all made substantial contributions to a group campaigning against the initiative, according to state disclosure records. The $195,000 contributions from Amazon and Microsoft, as well as $50,000 from Uber, are only the latest: Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon have each contributed $200,000 to block the measure, while other telecom and advertising groups have also poured money into the opposition group. After Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on privacy during congressional hearings, Facebook said it would no longer support the group. Google did not back down, and the more recent contributions suggest other companies will continue fighting the measure.

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Uber Seeks Patent For AI That Determines Whether Passengers Are Drunk

In an effort to "reduce undesired consequences," Uber is seeking a patent that would use artificial intelligence to separate sober passengers from drunk ones. The pending application details a technology that would be used to spot "uncharacteristic user activity," including passenger location, number of typos entered into the mobile app, and even the angle the smartphone is being held. CNET reports: Uber said it had no immediate plans to implement the technology described in the proposed patent, pointing out the application was filed in 2016. "We are always exploring ways that our technology can help improve the Uber experience for riders and drivers," a spokesperson said. "We file patent applications on many ideas, but not all of them actually become products or features."

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MIT’s AI Uses Radio Signals To See People Through Walls

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new piece of software that uses wifi signals to monitor the movements, breathing, and heartbeats of humans on the other side of walls. While the researchers say this new tech could be used in areas like remote healthcare, it could in theory be used in more dystopian applications. Inverse reports: "We actually are tracking 14 different joints on the body [...] the head, the neck, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists, the hips, the knees, and the feet," Dina Katabi, an electrical engineering and computer science teacher at MIT, said. "So you can get the full stick-figure that is dynamically moving with the individuals that are obstructed from you -- and that's something new that was not possible before." The technology works a little bit like radar, but to teach their neural network how to interpret these granular bits of human activity, the team at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) had to create two separate A.I.s: a student and a teacher. [T]he team developed one A.I. program that monitored human movements with a camera, on one side of a wall, and fed that information to their wifi X-ray A.I., called RF-Pose, as it struggled to make sense of the radio waves passing through that wall on the other side. The research builds off of a longstanding project at CSAIL lead by Katabi, which hopes to use this wifi tracking to help passively monitor the elderly and automate any emergency alerts to EMTs and medical professionals if they were to fall or suffer some other injury. For more information, a press release and video about the software are available.

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China’s Ambitions To Power the World’s Electric Cars Took a Huge Leap Forward This Week

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Future Mobility Corporation (FMC), the Chinese parent company behind electric car start-up Byton, has placed an order for a paint shop capable of handling 150,000 cars per year, German supplier Duerr said on Wednesday. China's Byton, a newcomer headed by the former head of BMW's i8 program, has already released plans for a premium electric SUV vehicle, the latest in a series of China-backed electric autonomous prototypes. Byton has financial backing from Chinese state-owned carmaker FAW Group and the country's dominant battery producer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL) This is just one of the stories this week relating to China and the electric car industry. MIT Technology Review adds: In a public offering on June 11 in Shenzhen, battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) raised nearly $1 billion to fund ambitious expansion plans, and its stock has been shooting up every day since. Thanks largely to the company's new plants, China will be making 70 percent of the world's electric-vehicle batteries by 2021, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Just seven years later, CATL has built up the biggest lithium-ion manufacturing facilities in the world, according to BNEF. The company can crank out around 17 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion cells annually, placing it just ahead of Korea's LG Chem, the Tesla and Panasonic partnership, and China's electric-vehicle giant BYD. Flush with capital from its offering, CATL plans to build two new plants and expand existing facilities, pushing its capacity to nearly 90 gigawatt-hours by 2020. [...] Notably, it's the only Chinese battery company so far to line up deals to supply foreign automakers, including BMW, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

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Turkey Bans Periscope

stikves writes: According to online reports, a recent court order has banned Periscope across Turkey. The cited reason is the alleged violation of copyrights of a local company named "Periskop." This adds to the list of online services no longer available in Turkey, including Wikipedia, PayPal and WordPress, among others. While access from Turkey to the domain periscope.tv and to the Twitter account "periscopeco" is banned, users can still access Periscope services under the name Scope TR and Twitter account "scopetr." Lawyers from Twitter, Apple and Google requested rejection of the case, "saying it was impossible for a company like Twitter, operating in the U.S., to be aware of the existence of the same brand name in Turkey," reports Stockholm Center for Freedom.

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‘Netflix and Alphabet Will Need To Become ISPs, Fast’

Following the recent official repeal of net neutrality and approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, an anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Danny Crichton. Crichton discusses the options Alphabet, Netflix and other video streaming services have on how to respond: For Alphabet, that will likely mean a redoubling of its commitment to Google Fiber. That service has been trumpeted since its debut, but has faced cutbacks in recent years in order to scale back its original ambitions. That has meant that cities like Atlanta, which have held out for the promise of cheap and reliable gigabit bandwidth, have been left in something of a lurch. Ultimately, Alphabet's strategic advantage against Comcast, AT&T and other massive ISPs is going to rest on a sort of mutually assured destruction. If Comcast throttles YouTube, then Alphabet can propose launching in a critical (read: lucrative) Comcast market. Further investment in Fiber, Project Fi or perhaps a 5G-centered wireless strategy will be required to give it to the leverage to bring those negotiations to a better outcome. For Netflix, it is going to have to get into the connectivity game one way or the other. Contracts with carriers like Comcast and AT&T are going to be more challenging to negotiate in light of today's ruling and the additional power they have over throttling. Netflix does have some must-see shows, which gives it a bit of leverage, but so do the ISPs. They are going to have to do an end-run around the distributors to give them similar leverage to what Alphabet has up its sleeve. One interesting dynamic I could see forthcoming would be Alphabet creating strategic partnerships with companies like Netflix, Twitch and others to negotiate as a collective against ISPs. While all these services are at some level competitors, they also face an existential threat from these new, vertically merged ISPs. That might be the best of all worlds given the shit sandwich we have all been handed this week.

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Spanish Soccer League App In Google Play Wants To Use Phone Mics To Enforce Copyrights

The official app for the Spanish soccer league La Liga, which has more than 10 million downloads from Google Play, was recently updated to seek access to users' microphone and GPS settings. "When granted, the app processes audio snippets in an attempt to identify public venues that broadcast soccer games without a license," reports Ars Technica. From the report: According to a statement issued by La Liga officials, the functionality was added last Friday and is enabled only after users click "eyes" to an Android dialog asking if the app can access the mic and geolocation of the device. The statement says the audio is used solely to identify establishments that broadcast games without a license and that the app takes special precautions to prevent it from spying on end users. [La Liga's full statement with the "appropriate technical measures to protect the user's privacy" is embedded in Ars' report.] [E]ven if the app uses a cryptographic hash or some other means to ensure that stored or transmitted audio fragments can't be abused by company insiders or hackers (a major hypothetical), there are reasons users should reject this permission. For one, allowing an app to collect the IP address, unique app ID, binary representation of audio, and the time that the audio was converted could provide a fair amount of information over time about a user. For another, end users frequenting local bars and restaurants shouldn't be put in the position of policing the copyrights of sports leagues, particularly with an app that uses processed audio from their omnipresent phone.

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Laptops With 128GB of RAM Are Here

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Brace yourself for laptops with 128GB of RAM because they're coming. Today, Lenovo announced its ThinkPad P52, which, along with that massive amount of memory, also features up to 6TB of storage, up to a 4K, 15.6-inch display, an eighth-gen Intel hexacore processor, and an Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics card. The ThinkPad also includes two Thunderbolt three ports, HDMI 2.0, a mini DisplayPort, three USB Type-A ports, a headphone jack, and an Ethernet port. The company hasn't announced pricing yet, but it's likely going to try to compete with Dell's new 128GB-compatible workstation laptops. The Dell workstation laptops in question are the Precision 7730 and 7530, which are billed as "ready for VR" mobile workstations. According to TechRadar, "These again run with either 8th-gen Intel CPUs or Xeon processors, AMD Radeon WX or Nvidia Quadro graphics, and the potential to specify a whopping 128GB of 3200MHz system memory."

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Chile Becomes First Country In Americas To Ban Plastic Bags

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Eyewitness News: Chile's Senate has passed a bill that will prohibit the use of plastic bags in stores, with a vote in their House of Representatives overwhelmingly in favor of the measure, with 134 supporting the bill and one abstention. According to The Independent, the new law would give large retailers one year to phase out the use of plastic bags, and smaller businesses two years. This makes Chile the first country in the Americas to ban plastic bags, and officially recognize how important such a ban would be in the effort to reduce unnecessary single-use plastic waste. At first, the measure was only meant to ban plastic bags in Patagonia, but it was approved by both the senate and president for the entire country. The Association of Plastic Industries registered Chile as using 3,400 million plastic bags per year, or 200 per person. Telesur reports that the Minister of the Environment, Marcela Cubillos, said the country needs a larger cultural change for people to start replacing plastic with reusable bags.

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Facebook May Ban Bad Businesses From Advertising

Facebook will now let you file a complaint about businesses you've had a problem with if you bought something after clicking on one of their ads. If enough people complain about a business, it could lead to Facebook banning the company from running ads. The Verge reports: The new policy is rolling out globally starting today, and it's meant to help Facebook fight back against another type of advertising abuse on its platform. Facebook says it's trying to combat "bad shopping experiences," which can cost customers and make them frustrated with Facebook, too. Facebook is particularly interested in a few problem areas: shipping times, product quality, and customer service. This isn't just a matter of misleading advertising: if a company regularly provides bad service, products that don't meet buyers' expectations, or just frustrates consumers, they risk getting in trouble with the platform. It appears that Facebook will send notifications to users to ask about their experience if it detects that they've purchased something after clicking on an ad. You'll also be able to find those companies and leave feedback on the Ads Activity page. Facebook says it will inform businesses about negative feedback and try to pinpoint problems that a large number of customers are having. If customer feedback doesn't improve after a warning, Facebook will eventually start to limit how many ads a company can run. If it continues long enough, they can be banned.

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The Internet Is Finally Going To Be Bigger Than TV Worldwide

According to estimates from media agency Zenith, next year, for the first time, people will spend more time using the internet than watching TV. People will spend an average of 170.6 minutes a day, or nearly three hours, using the internet in 2019. That's a tad more than the 170.3 minutes they're expected to spend watching TV. Quartz reports: Zenith measured media by how they are transmitted or distributed, such as broadcasts via TV signals and newspapers in print. Watching videos on the web through platforms like Netflix and YouTube, or reading a newspaper's website, counted as internet consumption. Nearly one-quarter of all media consumption across the globe will be through mobile this year, up from 5% in 2011. The average person will spend a total of about eight hours per day consuming media in its many forms this year, Zenith forecasts. In some parts of the world, TV will remain on top -- for now. Zenith forecasted media consumption through 2020 and did not expect the internet to overtake TV in Europe, Latin America, and the whole of North America in that time. In the U.S., it was projected to surpass TV in the U.S. in two years.

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Solar Has Overtaken Gas, Wind As Biggest Source of New US Power

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter. The growth came even as tariffs on imported panels threatened to increase costs for developers. Giant fields of solar panels led the growth as community solar projects owned by homeowners and businesses took off. Total installations this year are expected to be 10.8 gigawatts, or about the same as last year, according to GTM. By 2023, annual installations should reach more than 14 gigawatts.

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Seattle Repeals Tax That Upset Amazon

Last month, the Seattle City Council introduced a new tax that would charge firms $275 per worker a year to fund homelessness outreach services and affordable housing. This greatly upset Amazon, Seattle's biggest private sector employer, which threatened to move jobs out of the city. Today, The Associated Press reports that Seattle leaders have repealed the tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks after they fought the measure. From the report: The City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to reverse a tax that it unanimously approved just a month ago to help provide services in the city. The Seattle region has one of the highest homelessness numbers in the U.S. Amazon, Starbucks and other businesses sharply criticized the tax as misguided. The online retailer, the city's largest employer, even temporarily halted construction planning on a new high-rise building near its Seattle headquarters in protest. Mayor Jenny Durkan and a majority of the council have said they scrapped the tax to avoid a costly political fight as a coalition of businesses moved to get a referendum overturning the tax on the November ballot.

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Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations For 59 Languages To Its Translate App

Google is rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps. Some of the supported languages include Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Korean (TechCrunch has a full list of the languages in their report). From the report: In the past, running these deep learning models on a mobile device wasn't really an option since mobile phones didn't have the right hardware to efficiently run them. Now, thanks to both advances in hardware and software, that's less of an issue and Google, Microsoft and others have also found ways to compress these models to a manageable size. In Google's case, that's about 30 to 40 megabytes per language. Users will see the updated offline translations within the next few weeks.

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Sony Is Blocking Fortnite Cross-Play Between PS4, Nintendo Switch Players

Earlier today, Nintendo announced during its E3 press conference that Epic Games' Fortnite would be coming to the Switch console. Unfortunately, when Epic Games PR representative Nick Chester confirmed cross-play compatibility, the PS4 wasn't on the list. The Switch version of Fortnite will only support cross-play with Xbox One, PC, Mac, and mobile. The Verge reports: That aligns with past cross-play implementations between Xbox One, PS4, PC, and mobile, with Sony blocking other console platforms from playing with its own. You can cross-play between PS4, mobile, and PC. Unfortunately, this also suggests that PS4 players of Fortnite won't be able to log in to their Epic accounts on the Switch, meaning you won't be able to have any weekly progress carry over or gain access to any of your skins or emotes. This is because your Epic account is tied up with your PSN username in most cases. For instance, you can't log in to an Epic account tied to PSN on the Xbox One version of Fortnite, and it sounds like the same will be true for the Switch.

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UK Watchdog Issues $334K Fine For Yahoo’s 2014 Data Breach

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Yahoo's U.K. limb has finally been handed a $334,300 (250,000 GBP) fine for the 2014 cyber attack that exposed data of half a million Brit users. Today, the Information Commissioner's Office issued Yahoo U.K. Services Ltd a $334,300 (250,000 GBP) fine following an investigation that focused on the 515,121 U.K. accounts that the London-based branch of the firm had responsibility for. The ICO said "systemic failures" had put user data at risk as the U.K. arm of Yahoo did not take appropriate technical and organizational measures to prevent a data breach of this size. In particular, the watchdog said there should have been proper monitoring systems in place to protect the credentials of Yahoo employees who could access customer's data, and to ensure that instructions to transfer very large quantities of personal data from Yahoo's servers would be flagged for investigation. It also noted that, as a data controller, Yahoo U.K. services Ltd had a responsibility to ensure its processors -- in this case Yahoo, whose U.S. servers held the data on U.K. users -- complied with data protection standards.

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Apple Tries To Stop Developers Sharing Data On Users’ Friends

Apple has updated its App Store guidelines to close a loophole that let app makers store and share data without many people's consent. The practice has "been employed for years," reports Bloomberg. "Developers ask users for access to their phone contacts, then use it for marketing and sometimes share or sell the information -- without permission from the other people listed on those digital address books." From the report: As Apple's annual developer conference got underway on June 4, the Cupertino, California-based company made many new pronouncements on stage, including new controls that limit tracking of web browsing. But the phone maker didn't publicly mention updated App Store Review Guidelines that now bar developers from making databases of address book information they gather from iPhone users. Sharing and selling that database with third parties is also now forbidden. And an app can't get a user's contact list, say it's being used for one thing, and then use it for something else -- unless the developer gets consent again. Anyone caught breaking the rules may be banned. While Apple is acting now, the company can't go back and retrieve the data that may have been shared so far. After giving permission to a developer, an iPhone user can go into their settings and turn off apps' contacts permissions. That turns off the data faucet, but doesn't return information already gathered.

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KDE Plasma 5.13 Released

jrepin writes: KDE unveils the final release of Plasma 5.13, the free and open-source desktop environment. Members of the Plasma team have focused on optimizing startup and minimizing memory usage. Plasma Browser Integration is a suite of new features which make Firefox, Chrome and Chromium-based browsers work with your desktop. For example, downloads are now displayed in the Plasma notification popup, and the Media Controls Plasmoid can mute and skip videos and music playing from within the browser. Browser tabs can be opened directly using KRunner via the Alt-Space keyboard shortcut. System Settings design has been improved further. Window manager gained much-improved effects for blur and desktop switching. Wayland work continued, with the return of window rules, and initial support for screencasts and desktop sharing. You can view the changelog here.

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Senate Will Try To Reverse ZTE Deal Via a Must-Pass Defense Bill

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate leaders agreed Monday to include language in the annual defense spending bill that would reverse the Trump administration's decision to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE after it was caught violating the terms of a 2017 penalty agreement by making illegal sales to Iran and North Korea. The language will be part of an amendment in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, a $716 billion defense policy bill, H.R. 5515 (115). If the Senate amendment becomes law, it would automatically reinstate the seven-year prohibition until Trump has certified to Congress that ZTE has met certain conditions. It also would ban all U.S. government agencies from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment and/or services from ZTE, a second Chinese telecommunications firm, Huawei, or any subsidiaries or affiliates of those two companies. The amendment language "prohibits the federal government from doing business with ZTE or Huawei or other Chinese telecom companies" and puts the company back on the sanctions list and "holds ZTE accountable for violating their previous commitment," Cotton said. The senators supporting the amendment include Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer and two Republican Senators -- Sen Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "I and obviously every other senator believes the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for their behavior," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told reporters after Ross briefed senators on the department's latest ZTE action. "They're a repeat bad actor that should be put out of business. For eight years, ZTE was able to run wild and be able to become the fourth-largest telecom company in the world." If the Senate amendment becomes law, "I would expect there wouldn't be a ZTE," Cotton added.

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Facebook Offers Nearly 500 Pages of Answers To Congress’ Questions From Zuckerberg’s Testimony

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: Facebook pledged to continue refining its privacy practices and investigating its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica in nearly 500 pages of new information supplied to Congress and published Monday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) -- though the social giant sidestepped some of lawmakers' most critical queries. Much as it did during the hearing, Facebook told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee that it is reviewing all apps available on its platform that had access to large queries of data, a process that already has resulted in 200 suspensions. Facebook did acknowledge that its consultants embedded in 2016 presidential campaigns, including President Trump's team, "did not identify any issues involving the improper use of Facebook data in the course of their interactions with Cambridge Analytica." In another exchange, Facebook said it had provided "technical support and best practices guidance to advertisers, including Cambridge Analytica, on using Facebook's advertising tools." Facebook also pointed to new tools meant to address its privacy practices, including a feature called Clear History, which "will enable people to see the websites and apps that send us information when they use them, delete this information from their accounts, and turn off our ability to store it associated with their accounts going forward," the company said. The social network did continue to sidestep many of the lawmakers' questions and concerns. The Washington Post provides a couple examples: "Delaware Sen. Christopher A. Coons (Del.), for example, probed whether Facebook had ever learned of any application developer 'transferring or selling user data without user consent' and in violation of Facebook's policies. In response, Facebook only committed in writing that it would 'investigate all apps that it had access to large amounts of data.'" Facebook also didn't address Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy's concerns. He asked Facebook to detail if the Obama campaign in 2012 had violated "any of Facebook's policies, and thereby get banned from the platform." Facebook said: "Both the Obama and Romney campaigns had access to the same tools, and no campaign received any special treatment from Facebook." You can view the nearly 500 pages of new information here.

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Honeybees Seem To Understand the Notion of Zero, Study Finds

A new study published in the journal Science finds honeybees are able to understand the concept of zero numerosity, joining the ranks of dolphins, parrots, and primates. Sci-News.com reports: The study authors set out to test the honeybee on its understanding, marking individual honeybees for easy identification and luring them to a specially-designed testing apparatus. The bees were trained to choose an image with the lowest number of elements in order to receive a reward of sugar solution. For example, the bees learned to choose three elements when presented with three vs. four; or two elements when presented with two vs. three. When the scientists periodically tested the bees with an image that contained no elements versus an image that had one or more, the bees understood that the set of zero was the lower number -- despite never having been exposed to an "empty set."

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Mars Opportunity Rover Is In Danger of Dying From a Dust Storm

According to NASA, the Mars Opportunity rover is currently trying to survive an intensifying dust storm on the red planet. "The storm's atmospheric opacity -- the veil of dust blowing around, which can blot out sunlight -- is now much worse than a 2007 storm that Opportunity weathered," reports NASA. "The previous storm had an opacity level, or tau, somewhere above 5.5; this new storm had an estimated tau of 10.8 as of Sunday morning." Engadget reports: The storm was first detected on Friday June 1st by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at which point the rover's team was notified because of the weather event's proximity to Opportunity. The rover uses solar panels, so a dust storm could have an extremely negative impact on Opportunity's power levels and its batteries. By Wednesday June 6th, Opportunity was in minimal operations mode because of sharply decreasing power levels. The brave little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign. It means there's still enough charge left in the batteries to communicate with home, despite the fact that the storm is continuing to worsen.

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Experimental Spit Test Could Identify Men Most At Risk of Prostate Cancer

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: A test developed by scientists in the U.K. and U.S. might someday be able to pinpoint the men most likely to get prostate cancer. A new study published Monday in Nature Genetics suggests the test can detect the one percent of men who are genetically most vulnerable to developing prostate cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths among American men. The international research team used a new DNA analysis technique to peer into the genes of more than 70,000 people enrolled in previous studies. Some 45,000 of the subjects had already developed prostate cancer, while 25,000 hadn't. So the researchers compared the two groups, singling out any inherited genetic variations that might have contributed to their cancer risk. According to the authors, they managed to find 63 new variants never before associated with prostate cancer. These results were then integrated with nearly a hundred genetic variants linked to prostate cancer previously found among 60,000 people to create a total genetic risk score. And finally, the researchers devised a test that uses a person's saliva to detect these more than 150 variants. In the U.S., people over the age of 50 are generally screened for prostate cancer via the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Those with a certain high level of PSA should be screened annually, while everyone else is advised to be screened every two years. But the saliva test could reveal especially high-risk people who need annual screening regardless of their PSA level, while ruling out low-risk people who don't need annual screening based on their genetic risk and PSA scores. Those people would only need screenings every two, five, and maybe even 10 years.

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Inventor Says Google Is Patenting His Public Domain Work

Rob Riggs writes: Jarek Duda, the inventor of a compression technique called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS), dedicated the invention to the public domain. Since 2014, Facebook, Apple, and Google have all created software based on his breakthrough. Google is now trying to patent a video encoding scheme using the compression technique. The inventor is fighting Google in the European courts and has won a preliminary ruling. The fight's not over and Google is also seeking a patent with the USPTO. A Google spokesperson says Duda came up with a theoretical concept that isn't directly patentable, "while Google's lawyers are seeking to patent a specific application of that theory that reflects additional work by Google's engineers," reports Ars Technica. "But Duda says he suggested the exact technique Google is trying to patent in a 2014 email exchange with Google engineers."

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Sweden Tries To Halt Its March To Total Cashlessness

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A key committee of Swedish lawmakers wants to force the country's biggest banks to handle cash in an effort to halt the nation's march toward complete cashlessness. Parliament's Riksbank committee, which is in the process of reviewing the central bank law, proposed making it mandatory for banks to offer cash withdrawals and handle daily receipts. The requirement would apply to banks that provide checking accounts and have more than 70 billion kronor ($8 billion) in deposits from the Swedish public, according to a report. The lawmakers said there needs to be "reasonable access to those services in all of Sweden," and that 99 percent of Swedes should have a maximum distance of 25 kilometers (16 miles) to the nearest cash withdrawal. The requirement doesn't state how banks should offer those services, and lenders can choose whether to use a third party, machines or over-the-counter services. The move is a response to Sweden's rapid transformation as it becomes one of the most cashless societies in the world. That's led to concerns that some people are finding it increasingly difficult to cope without access to mobile phones or bank cards. There are also fears around what would happen if the digital payments systems suddenly crashed.

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Apple’s App Store Officially Bans Cryptocurrency Mining

Apple has updated the App Store's Review Guidelines to explicitly ban on-device mining across any type of app, and all of Apple's platforms. The new section 3.1.5 (b), titled Cryptocurrencies, provides five clear rules for what will and won't be allowed in macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS apps going forward. VentureBeat reports: The upshot of the new rules is that while Apple will permit cryptocurrencies to exist on its platforms, it's adding requirements to stop scammers and individuals from exploiting App Store customers, while making explicit that it's blocking developers from eating Apple device processing power for mining activities. As AppleInsider notes, the Review Guidelines were previously less concerned with cryptocurrencies, allowing an app to facilitate crypto and ICO transactions if it complied with the laws in the app's distributed territories. Since the App Store is virtually the only place to acquire software for iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, Apple TVs, and Apple Watches, Apple's decision will effectively end crypto mining on those devices. On macOS, however, users will continue to be able to acquire apps outside of the Mac App Store, enabling mining and other activities to continue without Apple's seal of approval.

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Police Departments Are Training Dogs To Sniff Out Thumb Drives

A CNET report provides some insight on an elite K-9 search class that trains dogs to sniff out electronics, including phones, hard drives and microSD cards smaller than your thumb. From the report: Only one out of every 50 dogs tested qualifies to become an electronic storage detection, or ESD, dog, says Kerry Halligan, a K-9 instructor with the Connecticut State Police. That's because it's a lot harder to detect the telltale chemical in electronics than it is to sniff out narcotics, bombs, fire accelerants or people, she says. But Labrador retrievers like Harley, with their long snouts and big muzzles, can pick up even the faintest olfactory clues. These tech-seeking dogs are helping law enforcement find child pornography stashed in hidden hard drives, uncover concealed phones, nab white-collar evidence kept on hard drives and track calls stored on SIM cards. The most famous case occurred in 2015, when a Labrador retriever named Bear found a hidden flash drive containing child pornography in the home of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle. The district attorney called the discovery vital to Fogle's conviction.

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Tanzania Orders All Unregistered Bloggers To Take Down Their Sites

The state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered all unregistered bloggers and online forums on Monday to suspend their websites immediately or face criminal prosecution. Several sites, including popular online discussion platform Jamiiforums, have reportedly shut down to avoid prosecution. Reuters reports: Regulations passed in March made it compulsory for bloggers and owners of other online forums such as YouTube channels to register with the government and pay up to $900 for a license. Per capita income in Tanzania is slightly below $900 a year. Digital activists say the law is part of a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015. Government officials argue the new rules are aimed at tackling hate speech and other online crimes, including cyberbullying and pornography. "All unregistered online content providers must be licensed before June 15. Starting from today June 11 until June 15, they are prohibited from posting any new content on their blogs, forums or online radios and televisions," the regulator said in a statement on Monday. The statement said legal action would be taken against any unregistered websites posting new content. Anyone convicted of defying the new regulations faces a fine of at least 5 million shillings ($2,200), imprisonment for a minimum 12 months, or both.

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Wells Fargo Bans Cryptocurrency Purchases On Its Credit Cards

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Wells Fargo customers hoping to use their credit cards to buy Bitcoin will have to look elsewhere. While putting a prohibition on such cryptocurrency purchases for now, Wells Fargo "will continue to evaluate the issue as the market evolves," Shelley Miller, a spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. Wells Fargo joins Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, which limited cryptocurrency purchases on their credit cards in February, citing market volatility and credit risks. Lenders have said they're worried they'd be left on the hook if a borrower lost money on a digital currency bet and couldn't repay. A study conducted by LendEDU last year found that roughly 18 percent of Bitcoin investors used a credit card to fund the purchases. Of those, 22 percent couldn't pay off their balance after buying the digital coin.

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Linux Foundation Celebrates Microsoft’s GitHub Acquisition

The Linux Foundation has endorsed Microsoft's acquisition of GitHub. In a blog post, Jim Zemlin, the executive director at the Linux Foundation, said: "This is pretty good news for the world of Open Source and we should celebrate Microsoft's smart move." The Verge reports: 10 years ago, Zemlin was calling for Microsoft to stop secretly attacking Linux by selling patents that targeted the operating system, and he also poked fun at Microsoft multiple times over the years. "I will own responsibility for some of that as I spent a good part of my career at the Linux Foundation poking fun at Microsoft (which, at times, prior management made way too easy)," explains Zemlin. "But times have changed and it's time to recognize that we have all grown up -- the industry, the open source community, even me." Nat Friedman, the future CEO of GitHub (once the deal closes), took to Reddit to answer questions on the company's plans. "We are not buying GitHub to turn it into Microsoft; we are buying GitHub because we believe in the importance of developers, and in GitHub's unique role in the developer community," explains Friedman. "Our goal is to help GitHub be better at being GitHub, and if anything, to help Microsoft be a little more like GitHub."

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Two Quantum Computing Bills Are Coming To Congress

Quantum computing has made it to the United States Congress. "Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world, and we cannot afford to fall behind," said Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) in a statement passed to Gizmodo. "We must act now to address the challenges we face in the development of this technology -- our future depends on it." From the report: The bill introduced by Harris in the Senate focuses on defense, calling for the creation of a consortium of researchers selected by the Chief of Naval Research and the Director of the Army Research Laboratory. The consortium would award grants, assist with research, and facilitate partnerships between the members. Another, yet-to-be-introduced bill, seen in draft form by Gizmodo, calls for a 10-year National Quantum Initiative Program to set goals and priorities for quantum computing in the US; invest in the technology; and partner with academia and industry. An office within the Department of Energy would coordinate the program. Another group would include members from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, the office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate research and education activity between agencies. Furthermore, the draft bill calls for the establishment of up to five Quantum Information Science research centers, as well as two multidisciplinary National Centers for Quantum Research and Education.

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New Horizons Spacecraft Wakes Up To Prepare For Historic Flyby of Distant Object

jwhyche writes: The New Horizons space probe has been in hibernation mode since Dec. 21. On June 5th, the spacecraft exited hibernation mode and began preparing for its next encounter. The spacecraft is currently 3.7 billion miles from Earth and will be spending the next few months preparing for its flyby of a small Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule (officially 2014 MU69). The craft is expected to pass by Ultima Thule during the New Year's holiday.

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Facebook Gave Some Developers Access To Users’ Friends After Policy Changed

Facebook granted a select group of companies special access to its users' records even after the point in 2015 that the company has claimed it stopped sharing such data with app developers. USA Today reports: According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited court documents, unnamed Facebook officials and other unnamed sources, Facebook made special agreements with certain companies called "whitelists," which gave them access to extra information about a user's friends. This includes data such as phone numbers and "friend links," which measure the degree of closeness between users and their friends. These deals were made separately from the company's data-sharing agreements with device manufacturers such as Huawei, which Facebook disclosed earlier this week after a New York Times report on the arrangement. Facebook said following the WSJ report it inked deals with a small number of developers that gave them access to users' friends after the more restrictive policy went into effect.

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Can Washington State Finally Put a Price On Carbon?

jwhyche writes: Beth Brunton walks around Seattle with a magenta umbrella. At 75 degrees and there not being a cloud in the sky, it gets peoples attention. What she is attempting to do is get people to sign a petition supporting Initiative 1631, known as the "Protect Washington Act." If this was to pass, Washington state would become the first state to adopt anything like a carbon tax. "The initiative proposes a 'fee on pollution' that would put a $15 charge on each metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted in Washington starting in 2020," reports Wired. "That charge would rise by $2 plus inflation every year until the state meets its climate goals, which include cutting its carbon footprint 36 percent below 2005 levels by 2035. The revenue raised would go toward investing in clean energy; protecting the air, water, and forests; and helping vulnerable communities prepare for wildfires and sea-level rise." The report mentions Washington's previous attempt at a "carbon tax" initiative, which was ultimately rejected. It would have initially charged businesses $25 per metric ton of emissions before ramping up over time.

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Intel: We ‘Forgot’ To Mention 28-Core, 5GHz CPU Demo Was Overclocked

At Computex earlier this week, Intel showed off a 28-core processor running at 5GHz, implying that it would be a shipping chip with a 5.0GHz stock speed. Unfortunately, as Tom's Hardware reports, "it turns out that Intel overclocked the 28-core processor to such an extreme that it required a one-horsepower industrial water chiller." From the report: We met with the company last night, and while Intel didn't provide many details, a company representative explained to us that "in the excitement of the moment," the company merely "forgot" to tell the crowd that it had overclocked the system. Intel also said it isn't targeting the gaming crowd with the new chip. The presentation did take place in front of a crowd of roughly a hundred journalists and a few thousand others, not to mention a global livestream with untold numbers watching live, so perhaps nerves came into play. In the end, Intel claims the whole fiasco is merely the result of a flubbed recitation of pre-scripted lines, with the accidental omission of a single word: "Overclocked." Maybe that's the truth, but there's a lot of room for debate considering how convenient an omission this is.

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Bloomberg’s Inside Look At Tesla’s Model 3 Factory

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from an exclusive inside look at Tesla's Model 3 factory in Fremont, California: On the Model 3 body line on a Tuesday afternoon in early June, everything is still. Tesla is just coming off a week of downtime during which workers added a new production line, improved ventilation after a fire in the paint shop, and overhauled machines across the factory. But even after the changes, there are kinks to work out. Suddenly, dozens of robots snap into frenzied action, picking up door panels, welding window pillars, taking measurements, and on and on. This robotic dance is a visceral representation of what Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has dubbed "Alien Dreadnought," a code name for the factory that evokes an early 20th century warship, but with extraterrestrials. The stakes couldn't be higher for Tesla, which is sprinting to produce the Model 3 in quantities great enough to turn a profit. But so far, the plant's choreography has been choppy. The flow at the factory in Fremont, California, is constantly interrupted while robots and humans are trained, retrained, or swapped out. If Tesla can't make this dance work, it will be remembered as a lesson in the dangers of irrational exuberance for automation. Success, on the other hand, could transform the car industry.

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First 3D Printed Houses For Rent Will Be Built In the Netherlands This Year

Since there aren't enough construction workers in the country to keep up with housing demands, the city of Eindhoven in The Netherlands is turning to robots for help. The city will soon boast the world's first commercially-developed 3D-printed homes, a endeavor known as Project Milestone. The project is being handled by Dutch construction company Van Wijnen and researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology. Quartz reports: Construction on the first home begins this year and five houses will be on the rental market by 2019, project organizers say. Within a week of releasing images of the new homes, 20 families expressed interest in dwelling in these postmodern pods, according to the project website. the project website. "The first aim of the project is to build five great houses that are comfortable to live in and will have happy occupants," developers say. Beyond that, they hope to promote 3D concrete printing science and technology so that printed housing "will soon be a reality that is widely adopted." The "printer" in this case is a big robotic arm that will shape cement of a light, whipped-cream consistency, based on an architect's design. The cement is layered for strength. The project developers say that the consistency of this concrete and the precision of the printer will make it possible to mix and use only as much cement as is needed, which makes it environmentally-friendly and less expensive than classic construction methods. The printer and unique cement will also allow them to create unusual forms that challenge conventional notions of home design.

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Senator Makes Amtrak Hire Ticket Agents Because 30 Percent of His State Lacks Internet

McGruber writes: Joe Manchin, the senior Senator from West Virginia, has inserted language in the FY19 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill that will force Amtrak to employ at least one ticketing agent in every state that it serves. His reasoning? "Amtrak has told me that most of their sales are now online, but West Virginians buy far more tickets at the Charleston station than most places around the country. That's not surprising, as nearly 30% of West Virginia is without internet access, and mobile broadband access is also difficult in my state's rugged, mountainous terrain, making online ticket sales difficult." Manchin continued: "Our population includes many working class families and elderly residents who are less likely to have a credit card or another means to purchase tickets remotely, but rely heavily on the train as an alternative to driving or flying. Although Matt Crouch's job was terminated today, once the bill is passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President, Amtrak will have to reinstate a position in the state and I will do everything over the next few months to make sure that happens."

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Ubisoft CEO: Cloud Gaming Will Replace Consoles After the Next Generation

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Better start saving up for that PlayStation 5, Xbox Two, or Nintendo Swatch (that last follow-up name idea is a freebie, by the way). That generation of consoles might be the last one ever, according to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. After that, he predicts cheap local boxes could provide easier access to ever-evolving high-end gaming streamed to the masses from cloud-based servers. "I think we will see another generation, but there is a good chance that step-by-step we will see less and less hardware," Guillemot said in a recent interview with Variety. "With time, I think streaming will become more accessible to many players and make it not necessary to have big hardware at home. There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us."

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Should Apple Let Competitors Use FaceTime?

In 2010, Steve Jobs first introduced FaceTime and promised it would become an open industry standard that could be used by Apple's competitors -- not just Apple. Well, eight years later and that still hasn't happened. CNET's Sean Hollister provides a theory as to why that is: There's also an ongoing lawsuit to consider -- as Ars Technica documented in 2013, Apple was forced to majorly change how FaceTime works to avoid infringing on the patents of a company called VirnetX. Instead of letting phones communicate directly with each other, Apple added "relay servers" to help the phones connect. Presumably, someone would have to pay for those servers, and/or figure out a way for them to talk to Google or Microsoft or other third-party servers if FaceTime were going to be truly open. But that doesn't make a broken promise less frustrating. Particularly now that Apple could potentially fix annoying business video calls as well. A Skype-killing video chat service that worked on Mac, iOS *and* Windows, Android and the open web? That's something I bet companies would be happy to pay for, too.

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Suicide Rates Are Up 30 Percent Since 1999, CDC Says

New submitter Austerity Empowers writes: Amidst all the name calling and straw man arguments about the overall health of America, sometimes it helps to look at data from people who sacrificed everything based on their perception of reality. Whatever politics you subscribe to, the feeling of hopelessness is evidently real, and frightening. NBC News: "Suicide rates are up by 30 percent across the nation since 1999, federal health officials reported Thursday. And only about half the people who died by suicide had a known mental health condition, even though depression had been thought to be the major cause of suicide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. While many cases of mental illness may have been diagnosed, the CDC also noted that relationship stress, financial troubles and substance abuse were contributing to the trends."

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Justice Department Seizes Reporter’s Phone, Email Records In Leak Probe

According to The New York Times, the Department of Justice seized a New York Times reporter's phone and email records this year in an effort to probe the leaking of classified information, the first known instance of the DOJ going after a journalist's data under President Trump. The Hill reports: The Times reported Thursday that the DOJ seized years' worth of records from journalist Ali Watkins's time as a reporter at BuzzFeed News and Politico before she joined The Times in 2017 as a federal law enforcement reporter, according to the report Thursday. Watkins was alerted by a prosecutor in February that the DOJ had years of records and subscriber information from telecommunications companies such as Google and Verizon for two email accounts and a phone number belonging to her. Investigators did not receive the content of the records, according to The Times. The newspaper reported that it learned of the letter on Thursday.

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Sucking CO2 From Air Is Cheaper Than Scientists Thought

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: While avoiding the worst dangers of climate change will likely require sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky, prominent scientists have long dismissed such technologies as far too expensive. But a detailed new analysis published today in the journal Joule finds that direct air capture may be practical after all. The study concludes it would cost between $94 and $232 per ton of captured carbon dioxide, if existing technologies were implemented on a commercial scale. One earlier estimate, published in Proceedings of the National Academies, put that figure at more than $1,000 (though the calculations were made on what's known as an avoided-cost basis, which would add about 10 percent to the new study's figures). Crucially, the lowest-cost design, optimized to produce and sell alternative fuels made from the captured carbon dioxide, could already be profitable with existing public policies in certain markets. The higher cost estimates are for plants that would deliver compressed carbon dioxide for permanent underground storage. David Keith, a Harvard physics professor and lead author of the paper, is also the founder of Carbon Engineering, "a Calgary-based startup that has spent the last nine years designing, refining, and testing a direct air capture pilot plant in Squamish, B.C.," reports MIT. "Carbon Engineering plans to combine the carbon captured at its plants with hydrogen to produce carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, a process the pilot facility has already been performing." The company has secured $30 million, but is seeking additional funds to build a larger facility that will begin selling fuels. CNBC notes that Carbon Engineering is owned by several private investors, including Bill Gates.

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Can An ‘OS For Electricity’ Double the Efficiency of the Grid?

New submitter mesterha shares an "interesting article [from Vox] on how to optimize our use of electricity": Waste on the grid is the result of poor power quality, which can be ameliorated through digital control. Real-time measurement makes that possible. 3DFS technology, which the company conceives of as an "operating system for electricity," can not only track what's happening on the electricity sine wave from nanosecond to nanosecond, it can correct the sine wave from microsecond to microsecond, perfectly adapting it to the load it serves, eliminating waste." "They claim energy reduction of around 15% but anticipate their AI tuning can get eventually get 30%," writes Slashdot reader mesterha. "Seems too good to be true, but it has the support of publications like Popular Mechanics." [3DFS won one of Popular Mechanics' "breakthrough awards" in 2017.]

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Severe Firmware Vulnerabilities Found In Popular Supermicro Server Products

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Security researchers have uncovered vulnerabilities affecting the firmware of the very popular Supermicro enterprise-line server products. These vulnerabilities affect both older and newer models of Supermicro products, but the vendor is working on addressing the issues. These vulnerabilities do not put the safety of Supermicro products at direct risk, as they can only be exploited via malicious software/code (aka malware) already running on a system. Nevertheless, exploiting these vulnerabilities allows the malware to obtain an almost permanent foothold on infected systems by gaining the ability to survive server OS reinstalls by hiding in the hardware's firmware. Technical details are available in an Eclypsium blog post, while a list of affected servers is available here.

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French School Students To Be Banned From Using Mobile Phones

The lower house of parliament in France has passed what it called a "detox" law for a younger generation increasingly addicted to screens. As a result, French school students will be banned from using mobile phones anywhere on school grounds starting in September. The Guardian reports: The new law bans phone-use by children in school playgrounds, at breaktimes and anywhere on school premises. Legislation passed in 2010 already states children should not use phones in class. During a parliamentary debate, lawmakers from Macron's La Republique En Marche party said banning phones in schools meant all children now had a legal "right to disconnect" from digital pressures during their school day. Some in Macron's party had initially sought to go even further, arguing that adults should set an example and the the ban should be extended to all staff in schools, making teachers surrender their phones on arrival each morning. But Macron's education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, brushed this aside, saying it wasn't necessary to extend the ban to teachers and staff.

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‘Pirates’ Tend To Be the Biggest Buyers of Legal Content, Study Shows

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: According to a paywalled survey of 1,000 UK residents by anti-piracy outfit MUSO first spotted by Torrent Freak, 60 percent of those surveyed admitted that they had illegally streamed or downloaded music, film, or TV shows sometime in the past. But the study also showed that 83 percent of those questioned try to find the content they are looking for through above board services before trying anything else. And while the study found that 86 percent of survey takers subscribe to a streaming subscription service like Netflix, that total jumped to 91 percent among those that admit to piracy. The survey found that the top reason that users pirate is the content they were looking for wasn't legally available (34 percent) was too cumbersome or difficult to access (34 percent), or wasn't affordable (35 percent). "The entertainment industry tends to envisage piracy audiences as a criminal element, and writes them off as money lost -- but they are wrong to do so," MUSO executive Paul Briley said of the study's findings. "The reality is that the majority of people who have gone through the effort of finding and accessing such unlicensed content are, first and foremost, fans -- fans who are more often than not trying to get content legally if they can," Briley added.

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Internal Microsoft Poll Shows Employees Are Less Satisfied With Pay

According to an annual companywide survey, obtained by CNBC, Microsoft employees said they're less fairly paid in 2018 than they were in any of the past three years. When asked if "total compensation (base pay, bonus, equity) is competitive compared to similar jobs at other companies," only 61 percent said it was, down from 65 percent in 2017 and 67 percent each of the two prior years. From the report: Additionally, just 62 percent of the employees agreed that "people are rewarded according to their job performance," down from 63 percent last year and 64 percent in 2016. Those two questions received some of the lowest scores on the survey. The company said that 86 percent of Microsoft's employees participated. The results, shared by Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan in April, are a further indication of the challenge that Microsoft and other tech companies face in hiring and retaining top talent. Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, is just a few miles from Amazon's home and isn't far from the Seattle offices of Google, Facebook and a growing number of start-ups. Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said the company takes the issue "seriously," and that it will work to ensure a more balanced pay structure.

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Ticketfly Says 27 Million Accounts Compromised During ‘Malicious’ Attack

Earlier this month, we reported of a "cyber incident" that compromised the systems of Ticketfly, a large ticket distribution service. We have now learned that roughly 27 million user accounts were compromised during the attack. The information includes names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers; thankfully, no credit/debit card info and passwords were stolen. Billboard reports: Ticketfly's website is fully back online a week after being targeted by what it describes as a "malicious cyber attack," though its mobile app for iOS remains offline "as we continue to prioritize bringing up the most critical parts of the platform first." Following the hack, the company rolled out a network of temporary venue and promoter websites so that events, including Riot Fest and Celebrate Brooklyn, could continue selling tickets. The "vast majority" of the temporary sites are now live, the firm said. All passwords for both ticket buyers and venue/promoter clients were reset following the hack, though they found no evidence that they were accessed. "It is possible, however, that hashed values of password credentials could have been accessed," the site warned. "Hashing is a way of scrambling a piece of data, making it generally incomprehensible."

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Google Promises Its AI Will Not Be Used For Weapons

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Google, reeling from an employee protest over the use of artificial intelligence for military purposes, said Thursday that it would not use A.I. for weapons or for surveillance that violates human rights (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). But it will continue to work with governments and the military. The new rules were part of a set of principles Google unveiled relating to the use of artificial intelligence. In a company blog post, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive, laid out seven objectives for its A.I. technology, including "avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias" and "be socially beneficial." Google also detailed applications of the technology that the company will not pursue, including A.I. for "weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people" and "technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms of human rights." But Google said it would continue to work with governments and military using A.I. in areas including cybersecurity, training and military recruitment. "We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use. How A.I. is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come," Mr. Pichai wrote.

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70 Long-Lost Japanese Video Games Discovered In a 67GB Folder of ROMs On a Private Forum

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Until yesterday, rare Japanese PC game Labyrinthe, developed by Caravan Interactive, was long thought to be lost forever. That is until the almost mythical third game in the already obscure Horror Tour series was found on a 67GB folder of ROMs on a private forum. Other rare games from the folder are expected to become public soon. According to a YouTuber called Saint, who posted a video of him playing the game and a link to download it on Mega, Labyrinthe and as many as 70 other rare or never-before-released Japanese titles have been circulating in a file sharing directory on a private torrent site. Labyrinthe, alongside other rare titles including Cookie's Bustle, Yellow Brick Road and Link Devicer 2074 were in a folder called "DO NOT UPLOAD." Members of the private forum hesitated to upload Labyrinthe in the fear that the private collector would take down the folder and leave the collection out of reach once again. This hesitation demonstrates the often tense relationship between game preservationists and private collectors. According to a screenshot uploaded by Saint, the private collector threatened to pull the entire folder of content from the directory and stop uploading games altogether if anyone leaked Labyrinthe. In uploading the game to Mega, it's possible the folder will be pulled from the internet. But in doing so, the person advanced the interests of game preservationists worldwide by leaking the this game and others.

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‘Solo’ Will Lose $50+ Million In First Defeat For Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Empire

Zorro shares a report from The Hollywood Reporter: To borrow one of Han Solo's lines from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, "That's not how the Force works!" It's an apt way to sum up the troubled performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story. In one of the biggest box-office surprises in recent times, Solo is badly underperforming and will become the first of the Star Wars movies made by Disney and Lucasfilm to lose money. Wall Street analyst Barton Crockett says Solo will lose more than $50 million. Industry financing sources, however, say that figure could come in at $80 million or higher, although no one knows the exact terms of Disney's deals for home entertainment and television, among other ancillary revenues.

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Scientists May Have Discovered a New Fundamental Particle: Sterile Neutrino

Artem Tashkinov writes: It needs more sigmas, but Fermilab boffins in America are carefully speculating that they may have seen evidence of a new fundamental particle: the sterile neutrino. The suggestion follows tests conducted by the MiniBooNE (Mini Booster Neutrino Experiment) instrument, located near Chicago. Its mission is to detect neutrino mass through their oscillations. In the Standard Model of physics, neutrinos, like all particles, are initially assumed to be massless, but some observations, like neutrino oscillation, suggest there's mass there. The experiment that possibly detected sterile neutrinos collected 15 years of data from its commissioning in 2002, and the results have only now reached pre-press outlet arXiv. Over 15 years, MiniBooNE detected a few hundred more electron neutrinos than were predicted in Standard Model theory. The extra particles suggests there is a fourth, heavier flavor. The findings bring the MiniBooNE team tantalizingly close to a "result" -- it's a 4.8 sigma result, when "discovery" demands 5 sigma.

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tvOS 12 Brings Dolby Atmos Support, Zero Sign-In, and TV App Improvements

If you're using an Apple TV as your main streaming box, you will be happy to know several big improvements are coming to the platform. Macworld reports of what's new in tvOS 12: With tvOS 12, Dolby Atmos comes to the Apple TV 4K. All you need for full 3D immersive audio is an Atmos-supporting sound bar or receiver. This makes Apple TV 4K the only streaming media box to be certified for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. One of the best features of tvOS 11 is called Single Sign-on. You add your TV provider's login information to your Apple TV device. If an app supports Single Sign-on, you can log in with your TV provider with just a few taps. It's a big step forward, but still a little bit of a pain. With tvOS 12, Apple makes the whole process totally seamless with Zero Sign-on. Here's how it works: If your TV provider is your Internet provider (a very common occurrence here in the United States), and your Apple TV is connected to the Internet through that provider, you sign in automatically to any Apple TV app your provider gives you access to. Just launch the app, and you're signed in, no passwords or configuration needed at all. Apple's breathtaking 4K video screensavers, called "Aerials," is one of those minor delights that Apple TV 4K users can't get enough of. In tvOS 12, they get better. You can tap the remote to see the location at which the Aerial was filmed. A new set of Aerials is the star of the show, however. Called "Earth," these are stunning videos from space, taken by astronauts at the International Space Station. Furthermore, the TV app will provide live content from select TV providers; Charter Spectrum will support the app with live channels and content later this year. Apple is also now allowing third-party home control systems' remotes to control your Apple TV (including Siri).

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Google’s Lens AI Camera Is Now a Standalone App

Google Lens is now available as an app in the Play Store for devices with Android Marshmallow and above. The app is designed to bring up relevant information using visual analysis. Android Police reports: When you open the app, it goes right into a live viewfinder with Lens looking for things it can ID. Like the Assistant version of Lens, you can tap on items to get more information (assuming Google can figure out what they are) and copy text from documents. However, I've noticed that copying text doesn't work on the OnePlus 6 right now. It works fine with the built-in Lens version. Some users are reporting that it's not working properly on some devices, so keep that mind if you decide to give it a whirl.

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Qualcomm Unveils Snapdragon 850 Platform Targeted For Windows 10 PCs

MojoKid writes: Qualcomm's Always-Connected Windows 10 PC initiative with Microsoft kicks into another gear this morning with the announcement of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 Mobile Platform for Windows 10 PCs. Based on what looks to be an optimized version of the Snapdragon 845 specifically tuned for laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles, the Snapdragon 850 promises a 30 percent boost in system-wide performance versus the previous generation Snapdragon 835 platform, while its integrated Snapdragon X20 LTE modem promises peak speeds of 1.2Gbps. When it comes to battery life, Qualcomm says that PCs running the Snapdragon 850 will be able to top 25 hours of runtime. Qualcomm also notes it will have many more OEM partners and a lot more device options to choose from (hopefully at lower price points) this time around. Couple that with Microsoft's new support for the ARM64 SDK in Windows 10, and things could get interesting for this new class of machine. No word on availability just yet, beyond the note that devices will be available in market later this year.

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Washington Sues Facebook, Google For Failure To Disclose Political Ad Spending

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information -- such as the advertiser's address -- as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state's attorney general. Washington law requires that "political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided." Specifically, "documents and books of account" must be made available for public inspection during the campaign and for three years following; these must detail the candidate, name of advertiser, address, cost and method of payment, and description services rendered. Bob Ferguson, Washington's attorney general, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that both Facebook and Google "failed to obtain and maintain" this information.

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Flight-Sim Maker Threatens Legal Action Over Reddit Posts Discussing DRM

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today's controversy begins with a Reddit thread that noted FlightSimLabs' A320 add-on installing "cmdhost.exe" files in the "system32" and "SysWOW64" folders inside the Windows directory. The strange filename and location -- which seems designed to closely match those of actual Windows system files -- made some Reddit users suspicious, especially given FlightSimLabs history of undisclosed installations. FlightSimLabs responded on Facebook last Thursday by saying that the files came from third-party e-commerce service eSellerate and were designed to "reduce the number of product activation issues people were having." This system has been acknowledged in the FlightSimLabs forums in the past, and it apparently passes all major antivirus checks. The "controversy" over these files might well have died down after that response. But then FlightSimLabs' Simon Kelsey sent a message to the moderators of the flightsim subreddit, gently reminding them of "Reddit's obligation as a publisher... to ensure that any libelous content is taken down as soon as you become aware of it." While ostensibly welcoming "robust fair comment and opinion," the message also warns that "ANY suggestion that our current or future products pose any threat to users is absolutely false and libelous." That warning extends to the company's previous password-extractor controversy, with Kelsey writing, "ANY suggestion that any user's data was compromised during the events of February is entirely false and therefore libelous." "I would hate for lawyers to have to get involved in this, and I trust that you will take appropriate steps to ensure that no such libel is posted," Kelsey concludes. A follow-up message from Kelsey reiterated the same points and noted that FlightSimLabs has reported specific comments and demanded they be removed as libelous.

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Hawaii Passes Law To Make State Carbon Neutral By 2045

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: In a little less than three decades, Hawaii plans to be carbon neutral -- he most ambitious climate goal in the United States. Governor David Ige signed a bill today committing to make the state fully carbon neutral by 2045, along with a second bill that will use carbon offsets to help fund planting trees throughout Hawaii. A third bill requires new building projects to consider how high sea levels will rise in their engineering decisions. The state is especially vulnerable to climate change -- sea level rise, for example, threatens to cause $19 billion in economic losses -- and that's one of the reasons that the new laws had support. Transportation is a challenge -- while the state is planning for a future where cars run on renewable electricity, it also relies heavily on planes and ships, which will take longer to move to electric charging, and which Hawaii can't directly control. "Those are global transportation networks that don't have easy substitutes right now," Glenn says. "That's one of the reasons why we really want to pursue the carbon offset program, because we know we're going to continue to be dependent on shipping and aviation, and if they continue to burn carbon to bring us our tourists and our goods and our supplies and our food, then we want to try to have a way to sequester the impact we're causing by importing all this stuff to our islands." The government plans to sell carbon offsets to pay to plant native trees, which can help absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. The state is also working to become more self-sufficient. The governor aims to double local food production by 2030; right now, around 90% of what residents and tourists eat in Hawaii -- 6 million pounds of food a day -- comes from somewhere else, on planes or ships.

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No More ‘Miracles From Molecules’: Monsanto’s Name Is Being Retired

Flexagon writes: Germany's Bayer announced today that in its link-up with Monsanto, it's retiring the "Monsanto" name, and with it the name of the company that originally sponsored Disneyland's "Adventure Thru Inner Space" attraction. The $63 billion takeover will wrap up on Thursday. "Bayer will remain the company name. Monsanto will no longer be a company name. The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio," it said. The decision to retire the name is a smart business move. "These days Monsanto is shorthand for, as NPR's Dan Charles has put it, 'lots of things that some people love to hate': Genetically modified crops, which Monsanto invented," reports NPR. "Seed patents, which Monsanto has fought to defend. Herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup, which protesters have sharply criticized for its possible health risks. Big agriculture in general, of which Monsanto was the reviled figurehead."

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‘Carbon Bubble’ Could Spark Global Financial Crisis, Study Warns

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The existence of a "carbon bubble" -- assets in fossil fuels that are currently overvalued because, in the medium and long-term, the world will have to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- has long been proposed by academics, activists and investors. The new study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that a sharp slump in the value of fossil fuels would cause this bubble to burst, and posits that such a slump is likely before 2035 based on current patterns of energy use. Crucially, the findings suggest that a rapid decline in fossil fuel demand is no longer dependent on stronger policies and actions from governments around the world. Instead, the authors' detailed simulations found the demand drop would take place even if major nations undertake no new climate policies, or reverse some previous commitments. That is because advances in technologies for energy efficiency and renewable power, and the accompanying drop in their price, have made low-carbon energy much more economically and technically attractive.

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Tesla Faces Accelerating Rate of Model 3 Refunds

According to new U.S. data from analytics company Second Measure, Tesla is facing an accelerated rate of Model 3 refunds. As of the end of April, some 23 percent of all Model 3 deposits in the U.S. had been refunded. "Model 3 deposits are fully refundable up until the customer configures a car by selecting features and paying an additional fee of $2,500," notes Second Measure. "After configuration, vehicles are typically delivered in just a few weeks." Recode reports: These cancellations aren't necessarily bad for Tesla, since its production rate is nowhere near as high as it needs to be to fulfill the more than 450,000 reservations it still has. Last quarter, it delivered just 8,180 Model 3s. Presumably, potential Tesla customers could make a deposit again when production is more regular. The potential longer-term harm would be in alienating them so that they choose a different brand of car altogether. About 60 percent of Model 3 reservations so far in the U.S. were made back in April 2016, when Tesla first began taking deposits. About 18 percent of the total refunds on the Model 3 happened this past April, the largest share out of any month, according to Second Measure. That's when Musk explained that Model 3s would be delayed six to nine months. A Tesla spokesperson said that Second Measure's data does not align with its internal data, but would not be more specific as to how far off it is. But the analytics company's numbers did match up to Tesla's numbers last August, "when CEO Elon Musk disclosed that there were 455,000 net reservations out of 518,000 gross reservations, suggesting 63,000 cancelations and a 12 percent cancellation rate," reports TechCrunch.

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SpaceX Delays Plans To Send Space Tourists To Circle Moon

SpaceX will reportedly no longer be sending a pair of space tourists to circle the moon this year. The flight was scheduled for late 2018, but has been delayed, according to The Wall Street Journal. The reason for the delay is unclear. CNET reports: The flight was announced in February 2017, with SpaceX saying that two unidentified private citizens had put down a "significant deposit" for the trip and that other flight teams had expressed interest in taking a similar journey. The plan was for the tourists to fly on a Dragon Crew spacecraft launched from Earth by a Falcon Heavy rocket. "SpaceX is still planning to fly private individuals on a trip around the moon and there is growing interest from many customers," company spokesman James Gleeson wrote in a statement. "Private spaceflight missions, including a trip around the moon, present an opportunity for humans to return to deep space and to travel faster and farther into the solar system than any before them, which is of course an important milestone as we work toward our ultimate goal to help make humanity multi-planetary."

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Japan May Be First Country To Have Self-Driving Cars

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Outline: The Olympic Games are an international muscle-flexing competition, where countries show off their technological, architectural, and (oh yeah) athletic prowess to the rest of the world. Now, according to Reuters, Japan is promising a public system of self-driving cars in time for the for the 2020 Olympics, which it's hosting in Tokyo. Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that the investment company SoftBank Group is investing $2.25 billion in order to develop the Cruise, the self driving car acquired by General Motors back in 2016. The country's goal is to have a fully functioning self-driving car system in time for the 2020 Olympics, and a more developed, privatized commercial self-driving car system by 2022. The Cruise has been tested in the U.S. since 2017, but Abe said that it would also be tested on Japanese roads by the end of this fiscal year.

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Micron, Samsung, Hynix Investigated By China Over Antitrust Violations

hackingbear shares a report from Yahoo Finance: Micron Technology Inc., the largest U.S. maker of computer memory chips, said Chinese regulatory authority representatives visited its offices in that country, potentially opening another front in a growing trade dispute between the world's two largest economies. Chinese media reported that Samsung and SK Hynix also received visits from local regulators seeking information. Micron got about half of its sales from China last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. China has been spending heavily on attempts to boost its domestic supply of semiconductors and lessen a bill that has exceeded the cost of oil imports. "In 2015, Qualcomm, another U.S. chip giant currently under antitrust investigation in Europe, paid near $1 billion to settle its antitrust matter in China," notes Slashdot reader hackingbear.

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Apple CarPlay Will Now Support Third-Party Navigation and Mapping Apps

Apple today announced that it will now let third-party navigation and mapping apps work with CarPlay starting with iOS 12. "Up to now, Apple only allowed its own mapping app, Maps, to work over CarPlay, but now you can use Waze, Google Maps, Here, or whatever other app you might want to use to get from A to B," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The change marks a big shift for Apple, which is well known for favoring its own native apps and generally a more tightly controlled ecosystem on iOS and across devices. But Maps hasn't been the most popular mapping app by some measure, even for users of iOS. This is in a sense is a tacit acknowledgement that iPhone owners are using a wide variety of other services, and so to get CarPlay used more, this needed to be enabled. It's not clear why Apple didn't extend third-party support for other mapping and navigation apps until now. Perhaps it was to sweeten the deal for more people to use its own Maps app.

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watchOS 5 Brings Automatic Workout Detection, Walkie-Talkie Mode, Podcast App To Apple Watch

At WWDC 2018, Apple announced several new features in watchOS 5 that will be coming to the Apple Watch later this year. Digital Trends summarizes all the big new additions including more watch faces and improved health tracking features: Apple is putting a huge emphasis on ensuring fitness tracking data is accurate in WatchOS 5. The company studied more than seven terabytes of fitness data from more than 12,000 participants to make sure its tracking measurements are on point. You'll also find a new competition mode on WatchOS 5. The mode allows you to enter a seven-day competition with a friend. WatchOS 5 also features new fitness modes. The Yoga mode will track your activity via the heart rate monitor while the Hiking mode will use your pace and elevation to better determine the number of calories burned. The Running mode now offers a custom pace alert, tracks your cadence and will even provide time data on the previous mile run. Finally, you'll see new start and end workout alerts. WatchOS 5 also brings several awesome communications improvements. First off is the new Walkie-Talkie mode. With Walkie-Talkie, you can add friends to your Apple Watch and communicate with them directly by tapping the Talk button within the Walkie-Talkie app. Your Siri watch face will also get a huge update as well. The new Siri watch face will provide more information on your favorite sports teams, offer commute and traffic information, as well as heart rate. Also available in watchOS 5 are Siri Shortcuts, an official Podcast app, and WebKit, which will let you view webpages from Messages or emails. You will also no longer need to say "Hey Siri" to activate Siri. Now you can simply raise your wrist to your mouth and Siri will automatically be listening. Note: The original Apple Watch won't get watchOS 5's new features. You will need a Series 1 or newer timepiece.

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Nvidia Launches AI Computer To Give Autonomous Robots Better Brains

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: At Computex 2018, Nvidia unveiled two new products: Nvidia Isaac, a new developer platform, and the Jetson Xavier, an AI computer, both built to power autonomous robots. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said Isaac and Jetson Xavier were designed to capture the next stage of AI innovation as it moves from software running in the cloud to robots that navigate the real world. The Isaac platform is a set of software tools that will make it simpler for companies to develop and train robots. It includes a collection of APIs to connect to 3D cameras and sensors; a library of AI accelerators to keep algorithms running smoothly and without lag; and a new simulation environment, Isaac Sim, for training and testing bots in a virtual space. Doing so is quicker and safer than IRL testing, but it can't match the complexity of the real world. But the heart of the Isaac platform is Nvidia's new Jetson Xavier computer, an incredibly compact piece of hardware that's comprised of a number of processing components. These include a Volta Tensor Core GPU, an eight-core ARM64 CPU, two NVDLA deep learning accelerators, and processors for static images and video. In total, Jetson Xavier contains more than 9 billion transistors and delivers over 30 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of compute. And it consumes just 30 watts of power, which is half of the electricity used by the average light bulb. The cost of one Jetson Xavier (along with access to the Isaac platform) is $1,299, and Huang claims the computer provides the same processing power as a $10,000 workstation "AI, in combination with sensors and actuators, will be the brain of a new generation of autonomous machines," said Huang. "Someday, there will be billions of intelligent machines in manufacturing, home delivery, warehouse logistics and much more."

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Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access To Data On Users and Friends

According to a report from The New York Times, Facebook formed data-sharing partnerships with Apple, Samsung, and dozens of other device makers, allowing them to access vast amounts of its users' personal information (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers -- including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung -- over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, "like" buttons and address books. But the partnerships, whose scope has not previously been reported, raise concerns about the company's privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users' friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found. Most of the partnerships remain in effect, though Facebook began winding them down in April.

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American Tech Giants Are Making Life Tough For Startups

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Economist: Venture capitalists, such as Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures, who was an early investor in Twitter, now talk of a "kill-zone" around the giants. Once a young firm enters, it can be extremely difficult to survive. Tech giants try to squash startups by copying them, or they pay to scoop them up early to eliminate a threat. The idea of a kill-zone may bring to mind Microsoft's long reign in the 1990s, as it embraced a strategy of "embrace, extend and extinguish" and tried to intimidate startups from entering its domain. But entrepreneurs' and venture capitalists' concerns are striking because for a long while afterwards, startups had free rein. [...] Venture capitalists are wary of backing startups in online search, social media, mobile and e-commerce. It has become harder for startups to secure a first financing round. According to Pitchbook, a research company, in 2017 the number of these rounds were down by around 22% from 2012 (see chart). The wariness comes from seeing what happens to startups when they enter the kill-zone, either deliberately or accidentally. Snap is the most prominent example; after Snap rebuffed Facebook's attempts to buy the firm in 2013, for $3 billion, Facebook cloned many of its successful features and has put a damper on its growth. A less known example is Life on Air, which launched Meerkat, a live video-streaming app, in 2015. It was obliterated when Twitter acquired and promoted a competing app, Periscope. Life on Air shut Meerkat down and launched a different app, called Houseparty, which offered group video chats. This briefly gained prominence, but was then copied by Facebook, seizing users and attention away from the startup. The Economist goes on to state three reasons why the kill-zone is likely to stay: "First, the giants have tons of data to identify emerging rivals faster than ever before. Recruiting is a second tool the giants will use to enforce their kill zones. A third reason that startups may struggle to break through is that there is no sign of a new platform emerging which could disrupt the incumbents, even more than a decade after the rise of mobile."

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Programmer Creates Bee Counter Using a Raspberry Pi

Programmer Mat Kelsey created a bee counter to see exactly how many bees are hanging out in his hives. "His system, which uses a Raspberry Pi and a machine learning algorithm that recognizes the number of individual bees entering a hive, is used to see bee trends over time and see just how the bees are faring," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The system looks at sets of pictures of the hive door taken every 10 seconds. It then extrapolates out the background, assesses the objects that have moved in the frame, and then counts the things that are likely to be bees. It's a fascinating problem to solve since the bees are constantly moving and because it can also ignore bees that are coming out of the hive. You can download the source on Github and check out his detailed blog post here. Given the need for bee protection as we enter an era of colony collapses, tools like this one are wildly important. Plus it's cool to see a Raspberry Pi do something so complex.

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Russian Scientists Upgrade Nuclear Battery Design To Increase Power Output

schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: A team of Russian researchers have put a new spin on technology that uses the beta decay of a radioactive element to create differences in voltage. The devices are made of stacks of isotope of nickel-63 sandwiched between a pair of special semiconducting diodes called a Schottky barrier. This barrier keeps a current headed one way, a feature often used to turn alternating currents into direct ones. Finding that the optimal thickness of each layer was just 2 micrometers, the researchers were able to maximize the voltage produced by every gram of isotope. Nickel-63 has a half-life of just over 100 years, which in an optimized system like this adds up to 3,300 milliwatt-hours of energy per gram: ten times the specific energy of your typical electrochemical cell. It's a significant step up from previous nickel-63 betavoltaic devices, and while it isn't quite enough to power your smart phone, it does bring it into a realm of being useful for a wide variety of tasks.

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Dolby Looking To Monopolize Consumer Audio By Restricting Its Codec

Audiofan writes from a report via Audioholics, written by Gene DellaSala: Variety is said to be the spice of life. Why only eat cherry Starbursts when you can sample orange, watermelon, lemon, etc? The same applies to multi-channel surround sound upmixers. But the folks at Dolby apparently want you to eat only one flavor. Their flavor. Dolby recently issued a mandate to all of their Atmos licensee partners to restrict usage of third-party upmixers with any Dolby signals including 5.1/7.1 DD, DD+, TrueHD and Atmos. That means if you're running a DTS Soundbar, it won't process a Dolby signal, or no dice if you want to use the Auro-Matic Upmixer for a native Dolby signal. Is Dolby doing this to protect their IP or to monopolize consumer audio like they tried to do with their patented Atmos-enabled speaker? The copy of the mandate that was sent to all of Dolby's licensee partners has the following guidelines: Native Dolby Atmos content shall NOT be up-mixed, surround or height virtualized by any 3rd party competitor upmixer (ie. DTS or Auro-3D); Channel-Based DD/DD+, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and 7.1 codecs shall not be height virtualized by any 3rd party upmixer (ie. DTS). (This implies height virtualization without height speakers. DTS has this capability but Auro-3D does not). Audioholics notes the company will however "permit third party upmixing and/or surround virtualization of channel-based codecs that support Dolby Atmos rendering as long as the third party doesn't license their own upmixing technologies to third parties." As for why Dolby is issuing this mandate to its licensees, it may come down to two reasons: control quality of content so that their upmixer is only used with their software; put an end to Auro-3D and strike a blow to DTS.

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Uber Facing Ban In Turkey After Erdogan Backs Taxis

An anonymous reader quotes a report from SBS: Uber faces being banned in Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the ride-hailing app was "finished" on Saturday following an intense lobbying campaign from Istanbul taxi drivers. Erdogan's comments, in a late-night speech Friday in Istanbul, came after the government agreed new rules that are expected to severely complicate Uber's operations in Turkey. Drivers of Istanbul's yellow taxis have over the last months waged an intense campaign to have Uber banned, saying the company is eating into their business without having a proper legal basis for work. "This thing emerged called Uber or Muber or whatever," said Erdogan. "But this issue is now finished. It's over now. Our Prime Minister (Minali Yildirim) made the announcement. We have our system of taxis," he said. "Yildirim's government last month issue a directive sharply hiking fines and threatened to blacklist companies whose vehicles illegally work as taxis," reports SBS.

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Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant Are Coming To Xbox One

According to Windows Central, the Xbox One will soon support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which should provide a decent alternative to Kinect for controlling your console via voice commands. Microsoft stopped manufacturing the Kinect in October of last year. From the report: This picture comes to us from a reliable source who is familiar with Amazon and Microsoft's efforts to link Alexa and Cortana. In upcoming Xbox One builds, the Kinect & Devices menu should have a new "Digital Assistants" section, which lets you enable Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana, for use on your Xbox One. It then directs you to install the Xbox skills app for those respective platforms to get connected. The full range of features for those assistants remains unknown, but it could bring back many of the voice-assisted features abandoned Kinect users are yearning for.

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Smartphone Shipments Declined For the First Time In 2017

2017 was the first year that smartphone unit shipments didn't grow, according to a new Internet Trends report. "Shipments actually declined by 0.5 percent, as IDC noted in February," reports The Verge. "In 2016, shipments were lukewarm at 2 percent yearly growth, but this downturn is significant." From the report: Among smartphone shipments, Android and iOS have all but completely pushed out every other mobile operating system. And despite the growing price of today's top flagship devices, the average selling price of a smartphone has steadily fallen over the years. As more of the world now owns smartphones, growth has basically stalled. Similarly, internet user growth has only grown 7 percent in 2017, compared to 12 percent in 2016. More people are accessing the internet than ever, on an average of 5.9 hours a day. And they're browsing on mobile, indicating that they're just holding onto older models of phones instead of buying new ones.

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Microsoft Is Said to Have Agreed to Acquire Coding Site GitHub

Bloomberg reports: Microsoft Corp. has agreed to acquire GitHub Inc., the code repository company popular with many software developers, and could announce the deal as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the matter. GitHub preferred selling the company to going public and chose Microsoft partially because it was impressed by Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Terms of the agreement weren't known on Sunday. GitHub was last valued at $2 billion in 2015. GitHub is an essential tool for coders. Many corporations, including Microsoft and Alphabet Inc.'s Google, use GitHub to store their corporate code and to collaborate. It's also a social network of sorts for developers. While GitHub's losses have been significant -- it lost $66 million over three quarters in 2016 -- it had revenue of $98 million in nine months of that year. On Friday, it was reported that Microsoft was in talks with GitHub about an acquisition. Now it seems like it's actually happening. Update: Our sister site, SourceForge, has weighed in.

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How Microbes Survive Clean Rooms and Contaminate Spacecraft

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Rakesh Mogul, a Cal Poly Pomona professor of biological chemistry, was the lead author of an article in the journal Astrobiology that offers the first biochemical evidence explaining the reason the contamination persists. To figure out how the spacecraft microbiome survives in the cleanroom facilities, the research team analyzed several Acinetobacter strains that were originally isolated from the Mars Odyssey and Phoenix spacecraft facilities. They found that under very nutrient-restricted conditions, most of the tested strains grew on and biodegraded the cleaning agents used during spacecraft assembly. The work showed that cultures grew on ethyl alcohol as a sole carbon source while displaying reasonable tolerances towards oxidative stress. This is important since oxidative stress is associated with desiccating and high radiation environments similar to Mars. The tested strains were also able to biodegrade isopropyl alcohol and Kleenol 30, two other cleaning agents commonly used, with these products potentially serving as energy sources for the microbiome.

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Microsoft Sticks With Controversial ‘GVFS’ Name Despite Backlash

New submitter DuroSoft writes: It has been over a year since Microsoft unveiled its open source GVFS (Git Virtual File System) project, designed to make terabyte-scale repositories, like it's own 270GB Windows source code, manageable using Git. The problem is that the GNOME project already has a virtual file system by the name of GVfs that has been in use for years, with hundreds of threads on Stack Overflow, etc. Yet Microsoft's GVFS has already surpassed GVfs in Google and is causing confusion. To make matters worse, Microsoft has officially refused to change the name, despite a large public backlash on GitHub and social media, and despite pull requests providing scripts that can change the name to anything Microsoft wants. Is this mere arrogance on Microsoft's part, laziness to do a quick Google search before using a name, or is it something more sinister?

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Meet Norman, the Psychopathic AI

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a psychopathic algorithm named Norman, as part of an experiment to see what training artificial intelligence on data from "the dark corners of the net" would do to its world view. Unlike most "normal" algorithms by AI, Norman does not have an optimistic view of the world. BBC reports: The software was shown images of people dying in gruesome circumstances, culled from a group on the website Reddit. Then the AI, which can interpret pictures and describe what it sees in text form, was shown inkblot drawings and asked what it saw in them. These abstract images are traditionally used by psychologists to help assess the state of a patient's mind, in particular whether they perceive the world in a negative or positive light. Norman's view was unremittingly bleak -- it saw dead bodies, blood and destruction in every image. Alongside Norman, another AI was trained on more normal images of cats, birds and people. It saw far more cheerful images in the same abstract blots. The fact that Norman's responses were so much darker illustrates a harsh reality in the new world of machine learning, said Prof Iyad Rahwan, part of the three-person team from MIT's Media Lab which developed Norman. "Data matters more than the algorithm. "It highlights the idea that the data we use to train AI is reflected in the way the AI perceives the world and how it behaves."

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New York’s Last Remaining Independent Bookshops

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Guardian, written by Hermione Hoby: Michael Seidenberg, pictured kingly in his throne of a wicker chair, feet spread, pipe in mouth, is one of around 50 New York indie booksellers featured in a series of portraits by Philippe Ungar and Franck Bohbot, a pair of bibliophilic Frenchmen who met and befriended each other in Brooklyn. The two, writer and photographer respectively, have taken great pleasure in traveling across the city, to neighborhoods in every borough, to meet and photograph booksellers in their habitats. Despite their diversity, the way their distinct personalities and passions are reflected and amplified in their shops, they are all, says Ungar, "looking for the same thing -- a generous vision of sharing culture". Ungar mentions Corey Farach, owner of the scruffy, adored and longstanding feminist bookshop Bluestockings. Farach, as Ungar recounts with admiration, encourages those people who can't afford to buy a $40 book to take a seat, make themselves comfortable, and just read it in the shop. "That is to me," says Ungar, "the spirit of the indie booksellers." Because, as he sees it, "a bookstore is much more than a bookstore, it's much more than selling books. It's a public shelter. Whoever you are, you don't have to buy anything, they won't ask you for your ID. You're free -- you can stay for hours and browse. There's a generosity, an optimism. And that's what we wanted to enhance." "[I]ndie bookshops are outposts of idealism," writes Hoby. "And if they seem like the most romantic places in the city, it might be down to this -- to the way their owners and customers might all be engaged in the same project, a kind of sanctuary building in the unsheltered world." She goes on to mention Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, "a small space crammed with vintage titles," as well several closed bookshops "which have fallen to astronomically rising rents." "Three Lives & Company [...] narrowly escaped closure in 2016 after an upswell of neighborhood support," writes Hoby. The group that owns the building decided to "provide it with stability," given how well-loved it is in the West Village.

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Snapchat’s CEO On Facebook’s Long History of Copying His Company’s Products

Earlier this week, Snap's CEO Evan Spiegel publicly addressed Facebook's long-standing practice of copying his company's products, joking that Facebook should model Snap's approach to collecting less information about its users. "We would really appreciate it if they copied our data protection practices also," Spiegel said on Tuesday night at the Code Conference in Southern California. The Verge reports: Interviewer Kara Swisher asked Spiegel how he felt about Facebook's decision to copy key Snapchat innovations including ephemeral 24-hour stories and augmented reality lenses. Spiegel first said that his wife, Miranda Kerr, cared more about it than he did. Snap collects less data on users than Facebook does, though it does still allow advertisers to target ads based on demographic criteria that the company gathers. It has never offered a full-featured API that allows users to give away their friends' information, as Facebook once did. Spiegel went on to say that he looked at Facebook's copying as a designer. "If you design something that is so simple and so elegant, that the only thing other people can do is copy it exactly [...] that as a designer is really is the most fantastic thing in the world," Spiegel said.

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Judge Rules Amazon Isn’t Liable For Damages Caused By a Hoverboard It Sold

Earlier this week, a judge in Tennessee ruled that Amazon isn't liable for damages caused by a hoverboard that spontaneously exploded and burned down a family's house, even though they bought it on Amazon's website. "The plaintiff claimed that Amazon didn't properly warn her about the dangers they knew existed with the product, but the judge didn't agree," reports CNBC. At the time, hoverboards were all the rage; Amazon sold almost 250,000 of them over a 30-day period. The plaintiff claims the company had an obligation to warn customers properly about the dangers it knew existed. "[The plaintiff] bought the hoverboard on Amazon, the receipt came from Amazon, the box had an Amazon label and all the money was in Amazon's hands," adds CNBC. "[The plaintiff] has been unable to find the Chinese manufacturer of the device." From the report: It's the latest legal victory for Amazon, which has for years fended off litigation related to product quality and safety by arguing that, for a big and growing part of its business, it's just a marketplace. There are buyers on one end and sellers on the other -- the argument goes -- and Amazon connects them through a popular portal, facilitating the transaction with a sophisticated logistics system. The courts are reinforcing the power of Amazon's business model as the ultimate middleman. But for American consumers, there's growing cause for concern. [...] But if Amazon isn't liable when faulty products sold through its website cause personal injuries and property damage, customers are often left with no recourse. That's because it's frequently impossible for consumers to figure out who manufactured the defective product and hold that party responsible.

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California’s Efforts To Restrict Elon Musk’s Flamethrowers Go Down In Flames

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A California state bill that would have more heavily regulated the use of flamethrowers has now effectively fizzled out in a legislative committee. In light of this development, there's nothing to stop Boring Company customers in California from receiving the company's sold-out flamethrowers. On May 26, the day after the bill died in committee, CEO Elon Musk tweeted: "About to ship. @BoringCompany holding flamethrower pickup parties in a week or so, then deliveries begin. Check https://www.boringcompany.com/... for details." After Musk said he would be selling a flamethrower dubbed "Not a Flamethrower" to get around customs, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) authored a bill that would have imposed more restrictions on their acquisition and use. "I honestly thought it was a joke when I saw the news about this," the assemblyman said in a statement at the time. "This product, in the wake of California's deadliest wildfire year in state history, is incredibly insensitive, dangerous, and most definitely not funny." He added: "There are many times in which technology and inventions benefit society but are not made available to the public. We don't allow people to walk in off the street and purchase military grade tanks or armor-piercing ammunition... I cannot even begin to imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike."

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Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Atlantic, written by Alexis C. Madrigal: No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering -- built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture -- is gone. There are many reasons for the slow erosion of this commons. The most important aspect is structural: There are simply more communication options. Text messaging and its associated multimedia variations are rich and wonderful: words mixed with emoji, Bitmoji, reaction gifs, regular old photos, video, links. Texting is fun, lightly asynchronous, and possible to do with many people simultaneously. It's almost as immediate as a phone call, but not quite. You've got your Twitter, your Facebook, your work Slack, your email, FaceTimes incoming from family members. So many little dings have begun to make the rings obsolete. But in the last couple years, there is a more specific reason for eyeing my phone's ring warily. Perhaps 80 or even 90 percent of the calls coming into my phone are spam of one kind or another. [...] There are unsolicited telemarketing calls. There are straight-up robocalls that merely deliver recorded messages. There are the cyborg telemarketers, who sit in call centers playing prerecorded bits of audio to simulate a conversation. There are the spam phone calls, whose sole purpose seems to be verifying that your phone number is real and working.

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German Spy Agency Can Keep Tabs On Internet Hubs, Federal Court Rules

Earlier this week, a federal court in Germany threw out a challenge by the world's largest internet hub, the De-Cix exchange, against the tapping of its data flows by the BND foreign intelligence service. What this means is that the country's spy agency can continue to monitor major internet hubs if Berlin deems it necessary for strategic security interests. From a report: The operator had argued the agency was breaking the law by capturing German domestic communications along with international data. However, the court in the eastern city of Leipzig ruled that internet hubs "can be required by the federal interior ministry to assist with strategic communications surveillance by the BND." De-Cix says its Frankfurt hub is the world's biggest internet exchange, bundling data flows from as far as China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, which handles more than six terabytes per second at peak traffic. De-Cix Management GmbH, which is owned by eco Association, the European internet industry body, had filed suit against the interior ministry, which oversees the BND and its strategic signals intelligence. It said the BND, a partner of the US National Security Agency (NSA), has placed so-called Y-piece prisms into its data-carrying fibre optic cables that give it an unfiltered and complete copy of the data flow. The surveillance sifts through digital communications such as emails using certain search terms, which are then reviewed based on relevance.

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Is Pluto Actually a Mash-Up of a Billion Comets?

Scientists from the Southwest Research Institute suggest Pluto may be a comet, as opposed to a planet or dwarf planet. According to a study published in the journal Icarus, Pluto could be made up of billions of comets all mashed together. Smithsonian reports: Scientists had long believed the dwarf planet Pluto was formed the way planets come to be: they start as swirling dust that's gradually pulled together by gravity. But with the realization that Pluto was a Kuiper belt dwarf planet, researchers began speculating about the origins of the icy world. The researchers turned to Sputnik Planitia -- the western lobe of the massive heart-shaped icy expanse stamped on Pluto's side -- for the task. As Christopher Glein, lead author of the paper and researcher at the Southwest Research Institute, explains to [Popular Science editor Neel V. Patel], the researchers used the data from New Horizons on this icy expanse to estimate the amount of nitrogen on Pluto and the amount that's escaped from its atmosphere. Glein explains the conclusions in a statement: "We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the [Sputnik Planitia] glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta." The report goes on to mention a few caveats. "For one, researchers aren't sure that comet 67P has an average comet composition," reports Smithsonian. "For another, New Horizons only captured information about Pluto at a specific point in time, which means nitrogen rates could have changed over the last billions of years. [T]here's also still the possibility Pluto formed from cold ices with a chemical composition to that of the sun."

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Google Quits Selling Tablets

Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the "tablets" heading from its Android page. It was there yesterday, but it's gone today. TechCrunch reports: Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They've also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn't come as much surprise that the company is bowing out. Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. Google's exit doesn't mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They'll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon and a couple of others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn't selling them, it probably isn't prioritizing them as far as features and support. Android Police was first to break the news.

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Apple May Introduce a Triple-Camera iPhone This Year

A rumor from The Korea Herald suggests that Apple may be planning on introducing its first triple camera smartphone this year with the rumored 6.5-inch iPhone. The rumor comes buried in a piece mostly about Samsung, which is also expected to introduce a triple-camera smartphone with next year's S10. The Next Web reports: To be clear, this isn't the first time we've heard word of a triple camera iPhone, but the three previous reports have pointed to a 2019 release, according to MacRumors. One of these reports was from Ming Chi Kuo, an Apple analyst who has a solid track record. The fact that's it's mentioned offhandedly in the Korea Herald report makes me think the date may have been a mistake. No matter how good AI and processing get, there's only so much you can do within the physical constraints of a small smartphone sensor. In theory, using multiple cameras and combining the information with some smart processing could help you somewhat replicate the image quality of a larger sensor.

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YouTube’s Top Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down En Masse

Polygon reports of several prominent YouTube creators who are struggling with burnout. The cause can be attributed to "constant changes to the platform's algorithm, unhealthy obsessions with remaining relevant in a rapidly growing field and social media pressures [that] are making it almost impossible for top creators to continue creating at the pace both the platform and audience want," reports Polygon. From the report: Three weeks ago, Bobby Burns, a YouTuber with just under one million subscribers, sat down on a rock in Central Park to talk about a recent mental health episode. One week ago, Elle Mills, a creator with more than 1.2 million subscribers, uploaded a video that included vulnerable footage during a breakdown. Six days ago, Ruben "El Rubius" Gundersen, the third most popular YouTuber in the world with just under 30 million subscribers, turned on his camera to talk to his viewers about the fear of an impending breakdown and his decision to take a break from YouTube. Burns, Mills and Gundersen aren't alone. Erik "M3RKMUS1C" Phillips (four million subscribers), Benjamin "Crainer" Vestergaard (2.7 million subscribers) and other top YouTubers have either announced brief hiatuses from the platform, or discussed their own struggles with burnout, in the past month. Everyone from PewDiePie (62 million subscribers) to Jake Paul (15.2 million subscribers) have dealt with burnout. Lately, however, it seems like more of YouTube's top creators are coming forward with their mental health problems. In closing, Polygon's Julia Alexander writes: "YouTube offers no clear support system for creators, nor is it clear if the company has offered professional help to some of its top creators who've made their burnout public. Instead, YouTube's only direct reaction is a playlist dedicated to burnout and mental health. The creators are essentially working until they no longer physically can, and apologizing to their fans after believing they've failed. Polygon has reached out to YouTube for more information about services that are provided to creators. The only way to beat burnout is to take breaks. Unfortunately, for many YouTubers, those breaks are rarely planned."

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Apple Is Reportedly Eyeing the Ad Business

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The Wall Street Journal has published a new report detailing one thing we might expect to see on stage at WWDC next week: a digital ad platform expansion. According to the Journal, Apple has been in talks with major apps including Snapchat and Pinterest about the project: "Over the past year, Apple has met with Snap Inc., Pinterest Inc. and other companies about participating in an Apple network that would distribute ads across their collective apps, the people said. Apple would share revenue with the apps displaying the ads, with the split varying from app to app, they said." The report adds that the new ad effort would expand on the "nearly $1 billion" business of search ads, which it introduced to the App Store in 2016. In addition to app ads being display in search results in the App Store, developers could include advertisements in search results within their own apps: "Under the concept discussed internally and raised with potential partners, users searching in Pinterest's app for 'drapes' might turn up an ad distributed by Apple for an interior-design app, or Snap users searching for 'NFL' might see an ad for a ticket-reseller app, one of the people said."

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Trump Orders a Lifeline For Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants

According to The New York Times, President Trump has ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to "prepare immediate steps" to stop the closure of unprofitable coal and nuclear plants around the country. From the report: Under one proposal outlined in the memo, which was reported by Bloomberg, the Department of Energy would order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants for two years, using emergency authority that is normally reserved for exceptional crises like natural disasters. That idea triggered immediate blowback from a broad alliance of energy companies, consumer groups and environmentalists. On Friday, oil and gas companies joined with wind and solar organizations in a joint statement condemning the plan, saying that it was "legally indefensible" and would force consumers to pay more for electricity. The administration has also discussed invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, which allows the federal government to intervene in private industry in the name of national security. (Harry S. Truman used the law to impose price controls on the steel industry during the Korean War.) If the Trump administration were to invoke these two statutes, the move would almost certainly be challenged in federal court by natural gas and renewable energy companies, which could stand to lose market share. Such an intervention could cost consumers between $311 million to $11.8 billion pear year, according to a preliminary estimate (PDF) by Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation.

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Cost To Build a Tesla Model 3 Is $28,000, German Engineers Say

Rei writes: An interesting report came out the other day from Germany, where an engineering firm purchased four Tesla Model 3s on the grey market to study on behalf of an anonymous major German auto manufacturer. Among their key findings: due in part to a huge reduction in cobalt in the batteries (2.8% in the cathodes versus a typical 8%) and a number of simplifications, the parts cost of a Model 3 (in units of 10,000 vehicles per week) is estimated at $18,000, along with $10,000 in production costs. Note that the teardown was for the long-range version with the premium upgrades package. On Reddit, users with access to the full report added further details. The 75kWh battery is 40% of the components cost ($7,200); the interior is completely symmetric (facilitating RHD); there are only 4 kinds of screws used in the underbody (a typical German luxury manufacturer uses 40); many parts of the car are designed specifically so as to be easier for robots to grab; and the battery pack is harder to remove than on the S/X (e.g. not battery swap capable). After studying the individual components, they concluded that German EV manufacturers would not be capable of producing a similar vehicle at this point in time. Asked on Twitter whether Musk agreed with their price conclusions at a rate of 10,000 vehicles per week, Musk replied: "Definitely." That said, Tesla is still in the process of moving from 3,500 to 5,000-6,000 per week by the end of this quarter, and is not expected to reach 10,000 vehicles per week until next year.

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Microsoft Is Talking About Acquiring GitHub, Says Report

The Welcome Rain shares a report from ZDNet: Microsoft officials have been talking to GitHub about possibly acquiring the company, according to a June 1 report in Business Insider. BI claims that the two have discussed the possibility of an acquisition on an on-and-off-again basis over the years "but in the last few weeks talks have grown more serious." BI is citing unnamed "people close to the companies" as its sources. "This isn't as surprising as it would have been ten or more years ago," writes The Welcome Rain. "Microsoft is investing a lot in git, including GVFS, a Git Virtual File System to help Git work with very large codebases. What might this mean for the future of Github?"

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Three US States Will Spend $1.3 Billion To Build More Electric Vehicle Charging

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Three U.S. states announced major investments in charging infrastructure for electric cars on Thursday. In total, California, New York, and New Jersey will put $1.3 billion on the table in the coming years to help chip away at one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of widespread EV adoption. California's Public Utilities Commission approved up to $738 million worth of projects over the next five years, the agency announced. Southern California Edison and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will spend up to $343 million and $236 million, respectively, to build charging infrastructure that will support thousands of medium or heavy-duty vehicles at around 1,500 locations throughout the state. PG&E will spend another $22 million building 234 DC fast-charging stations at around 50 different sites throughout the state. In New York, the governor's office announced a pledge of up to $250 million through 2025 to its electric vehicle expansion initiative, EVolve NY. The New York Power Authority will work with the private sector to install up to 200 DC fast chargers "along key interstate corridors" with the goal of making them available every 30 miles, and it will also bring them to urban areas as well, including at or near New York City's two major airports. Meanwhile, New Jersey's biggest utility owner Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) announced a $300 million pledge to build out up to 50,000 charging stations along highways, in residential areas, and at workplaces.

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Leaked Emails Show Google Expected Military Drone AI Work To Grow Exponentially

In March, Google secretly signed an agreement with the Pentagon to provide cutting edge AI technology for drone warfare, causing about a dozen Google employees to resign in protest and thousands to sign a petition calling for an end to the contract. Google has since tried to quash the dissent, claiming that the contract was "only" for $9 million, according to the New York Times. Internal company emails obtained by The Intercept tell a different story: The September emails show that Google's business development arm expected the military drone artificial intelligence revenue to ramp up from an initial $15 million to an eventual $250 million per year. In fact, one month after news of the contract broke, the Pentagon allocated an additional $100 million to Project Maven [the endeavor designed to help drone operators recognize images captured on the battlefield]. The internal Google email chain also notes that several big tech players competed to win the Project Maven contract. Other tech firms such as Amazon were in the running, one Google executive involved in negotiations wrote. (Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.) Rather than serving solely as a minor experiment for the military, Google executives on the thread stated that Project Maven was "directly related" to a major cloud computing contract worth billions of dollars that other Silicon Valley firms are competing to win. The emails further note that Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing arm of Amazon, "has some work loads" related to Project Maven.

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NASA Spacecraft Finds Methane Ice Dunes On Pluto

Scientists say they have found evidence of dunes of frozen methane on Pluto, suggesting that the distant world is more dynamic than previously thought. The research has been published in the journal Science. BBC reports: The findings come from analysis of the startling images sent back by Nasa's New Horizons mission, which flew close to Pluto in July 2015. In their study, the researchers explain how they studied pictures of a plain known as Sputnik Planitia, parts of which are covered with what look like fields of dunes. They are lying close to a range of mountains of water ice 5km high. The scientists conclude that the dunes are 0.4-1km apart and that they are made up of particles of methane ice between 200-300 micrometers in diameter -- roughly the size of grains of sand. "The methane grains could have been lofted into the atmosphere by the melting of surrounding nitrogen ice or blown down from nearby mountains," the researchers write in the journal Science. "Understanding how dunes form under Pluto conditions will help with interpreting similar features found elsewhere in the solar system."

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Now Even Russian Lawmakers Want a Piece of Mark Zuckerberg

PolygamousRanchKid shares a report from Quartz: In an ironic twist in the saga of Facebook's troubles, Russian lawmakers have declared that they, too, would like to question Mark Zuckerberg. According to the Moscow Times, senator Anton Belyakov yesterday offered to invite the Facebook CEO to address the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. "After all, he spoke about information security, not giving access to personal data, preventing the dissemination of harmful content," Belyakov reportedly said, referring to Zuckerberg's meetings with the U.S. Congress and European Parliament. Another reason for those meetings was to discuss whether the social network facilitated Russian meddling in foreign elections. The U.S. company is in trouble with Russian authorities for disobeying a 2015 law that requires it to store the data of Russian citizens on the country's soil. In April, the state communications watchdog threatened that if Facebook didn't comply, it would face the same fate as LinkedIn, which was banned in the country last year. Much to the chagrin of UK politicians, he (Zuckerberg) has not agreed to multiple calls, and even a mild threat, to testify in front of a UK parliamentary committee.

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DeepMind Used YouTube Videos To Train Game-Beating Atari Bot

Artem Tashkinov shares a report from The Register: DeepMind has taught artificially intelligent programs to play classic Atari computer games by making them watch YouTube videos. Exploration games like 1984's Montezuma's Revenge are particularly difficult for AI to crack, because it's not obvious where you should go, which items you need and in which order, and where you should use them. That makes defining rewards difficult without spelling out exactly how to play the thing, and thus defeating the point of the exercise. For example, Montezuma's Revenge requires the agent to direct a cowboy-hat-wearing character, known as Panama Joe, through a series of rooms and scenarios to reach a treasure chamber in a temple, where all the goodies are hidden. Pocketing a golden key, your first crucial item, takes about 100 steps, and is equivalent to 100^18 possible action sequences. To educate their code, the researchers chose three YouTube gameplay videos for each of the three titles: Montezuma's Revenge, Pitfall, and Private Eye. Each game had its own agent, which had to map the actions and features of the title into a form it could understand. The team used two methods: temporal distance classification (TDC), and cross-modal temporal distance classification (CDC). The DeepMind code still relies on lots of small rewards, of a kind, although they are referred to as checkpoints. While playing the game, every sixteenth video frame of the agent's session is taken as a snapshot and compared to a frame in a fourth video of a human playing the same game. If the agent's game frame is close or matches the one in the human's video, it is rewarded. Over time, it imitates the way the game is played in the videos by carrying out a similar sequence of moves to match the checkpoint frame. In the end, the agent was able to exceed average human players and other RL algorithms: Rainbow, ApeX, and DQfD. The researchers documented their method in a paper this week. You can view the agent in action here.

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Arm Unveils Next-Gen 76-Series Mobile CPU, GPU Cores

MojoKid writes: Last week, Arm showed off its new Machine Learning Processor design, but today it has lifted the veil on its next-generation Cortex and Mali CPU, GPU, and VPU architectures, destined for 2019 smartphones and mobile devices. The Arm Cortex-A76 CPU, Mali-G76 GPU, and Mali-V76 VPU designs all step up performance and efficiency over previous generation designs, though there are architectural and layout changes and more advanced manufacturing processes. Arm believes its A76 core, which can be clocked at 3GHz+ when produced on a 7nm process, can perform within 10 percent of an Intel Skylake core within the same thermal constraints, but at approximately half the footprint. The Mali-G76 improves density and energy efficiency by 30 percent over the previous generation G72, while providing a 2.7x uplift in machine learning workloads. And the Mali-V76 VPU improves on the recently announced V52 by adding support for 8K UltraHD content, among many other improvements.

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America’s Teens Are Choosing YouTube Over Facebook

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Three years ago, Facebook was the dominant social media site among U.S. teens, visited by 71 percent of people in that magic, trendsetting demographic. Not anymore. Now only 51 percent of kids ages 13-17 use Facebook, according to Pew Research Center. The world's largest social network has finally been eclipsed in popularity by YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook Inc.-owned Instagram. Alphabet Inc.'s YouTube is the most popular, used by 85 percent of teens, according to Pew. Instagram is slightly more popular than Snapchat overall, Pew said, with 72 percent of respondents saying they use the photo-sharing app, compared with Snapchat's 69 percent. But Snap Inc. is holding its own, despite Instagram's frequent parroting of its features. About one-third of the survey's respondents said they visit Snapchat and YouTube most often, while 15 percent said Instagram is their most frequent destination. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of teens said Facebook is their most-used online platform. The Pew analysis was based on a survey of 1,058 parents who have a teenager from 13 to 17, as well as interviews with 743 teens themselves. The survey also found that 99% of teens own a smartphone or have access to one, and 45% said they're online "on a near-constant basis."

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AT&T Wants To Settle With FTC To Avoid Unlimited Data Throttling Lawsuit

AT&T has given up its years-long quest to cripple the Federal Trade Commission's authority to regulate broadband providers. "Just weeks ago, AT&T said it intended to appeal its loss in the case to the U.S. Supreme Court before a deadline of May 29," reports Ars Technica. "But today, AT&T informed (PDF) court officials that it has decided not to file a petition to the Supreme Court and did not ask for a deadline extension." From the report: AT&T had been trying to limit the FTC's authority since October 2014, when the FTC sued AT&T for promising unlimited data to wireless customers and then throttling their speeds by as much as 90 percent. With AT&T having ruled out a Supreme Court appeal, the FTC can finally pursue its case against AT&T and try to secure refunds for affected customers. AT&T's decision also means that traditional phone companies will have to face some net neutrality oversight from the FTC after the Federal Communications Commission finalizes its net neutrality repeal. AT&T said it will try to settle the case with the FTC instead of going to trial. AT&T's decision might indicate that it is already having settlement talks with the agency. "We have decided not to seek review by the Supreme Court, to focus instead on negotiating a fair resolution of the case with the Federal Trade Commission," AT&T said in a statement to Ars. The FTC is barred from regulating common carriers, and AT&T has long been a common carrier for its mobile voice and landline phone services. AT&T previously argued that the FTC can't regulate any product offered by AT&T, whether it is or isn't a common carrier service. Though ultimately unsuccessful, AT&T's attempt to deny the FTC's authority to regulate any aspect of its business has delayed the throttling case for years.

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Canon Has Sold Its Last Film Camera

As spotted by PetaPixel, Canon this week announced with no fanfare that it's sold its last film camera. TechCrunch reports: The model in question is the EOS-1V, which, incidentally, the company actually stopped making a full eight years ago. Since it has simply been selling out the rest of its stock, which, it seems, has finally depleted. It's less of a bang than a prolonged whimper, but it's the end of an era, nonetheless, marking the first time Canon hasn't offered a film camera since the 30s, when its parent company started offering a device called the "Kwanon." Those who are feeling suddenly nostalgic, you can likely pick one up used fairly easily (though this news might bump up their premium a bit), and I'm sure the inevitable Kickstarter project to revive the technology can't be too far off, because that's how these things go now. Canon will continue to offer repair on the EOS-1V until October 31, 2025, "though that could end as early as 2020 for some, if parts and inventory run out sooner," adds TechCrunch.

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Google’s In-House Incubator Made a Waze-Like App For the New York City Subway

Google's in-house startup incubator Area 120 has developed a new app to help New York City subway commuters avoid delays. An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The app, called Pigeon, is live on Apple's App Store, but access is still limited to those with an invitation code. Its developers say the app can help commuters choose routes that avoid delays and crowds other users report. Google Maps and the MTA's own website already provide information on what trains aren't working. But Pigeon will also allow users to post specific comments and note annoying incidents, such as loud street performers. It sounds more like a social media app for New Yorkers to commiserate on their miserable commutes. After you download Pigeon, it'll prompt you to allow location services multiple times. Once inside the app, there are cute pigeons all over the subway map, but tapping on them right away doesn't seem to do anything. The app's functionality is extremely reliant on what people report (hence the large purple Report button at the bottom of the screen). Pigeon's traffic reports sound just like Google's Waze app but exclusively for the New York subway system.

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Google Promises Ethical Principles To Guide Development of Military AI

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google is drawing up a set of guidelines that will steer its involvement in developing AI tools for the military, according to a report from The New York Times. What exactly these guidelines will stipulate isn't clear, but Google says they will include a ban on the use of artificial intelligence in weaponry. The principles are expected to be announced in full in the coming weeks. They are a response to the controversy over the company's decision to develop AI tools for the Pentagon that analyze drone surveillance footage. Internal emails obtained by the Times show that Google was aware of the upset this news might cause. Chief scientist at Google Cloud, Fei-Fei Li, told colleagues that they should "avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI" when announcing the Pentagon contract. "Weaponized AI is probably one of the most sensitized topics of AI -- if not THE most. This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google," said Li. But Google never ended up making the announcement, and it has since been on the back foot defending its decision. The company says the technology it's helping to build for the Pentagon simply "flags images for human review" and is for "non-offensive uses only." The contract is also small by industry standards -- worth just $9 million to Google, according to the Times.

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Microsoft Is Now More Valuable Than Alphabet

Microsoft has surged 40 percent over the past 12 months to become more valuable than Alphabet. "As of Tuesday's close, Microsoft was worth $749 billion and Alphabet's market capitalization stood at $739 billion," reports CNBC. From the report: Microsoft's latest rally has been sparked by growth in its cloud computing business, which is bigger than Google's though it still trails Amazon Web Services. In March, Microsoft reorganized its Windows and Devices Group and moved its engineering resources into other units, including one focusing on cloud and artificial intelligence. Both Microsoft and Alphabet beat analysts' expectations in the first quarter. Microsoft still trails behind Apple's market valuation of $923 billion and Amazon's $782 billion market cap.

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China Overtakes US For Healthy Lifespan, WHO Data Finds

According to World Health Organization data, China has overtaken the United States in healthy life expectancy at birth for the first time. The data from 2016 finds Chinese newborns can look forward to 68.7 years of healthy life ahead of them, compared with 68.5 years for American babies. "American newborns can still expect to live longer overall -- 78.5 years compared to China's 76.4 -- but the last 10 years of American lives are not expected to be healthy," reports Reuters. From the report: The United States was one of only five countries, along with Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where healthy life expectancy at birth fell in 2016, according to a Reuters analysis of the WHO data, which was published without year-on-year comparisons in mid-May. The best outlook was for Singaporean babies, who can count on 76.2 years of health on average, followed by those in Japan, Spain and Switzerland. The United States came 40th in the global rankings, while China was 37th. In terms of overall life expectancy China is also catching up with the United States, which Reuters calculations suggest it is on course to overtake around 2027. Meanwhile U.S. life expectancy is falling, having peaked at 79 years in 2014, the first such reversal for many years.

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AI Better Than Dermatologists At Detecting Skin Cancer, Study Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: For the first time, new research suggests artificial intelligence may be better than highly-trained humans at detecting skin cancer. A study conducted by an international team of researchers pitted experienced dermatologists against a machine learning system, known as a deep learning convolutional neural network, or CNN, to see which was more effective at detecting malignant melanomas. The results? 'Most dermatologists were outperformed by the CNN,' the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Annals of Oncology. Fifty-eight dermatologists from 17 countries around the world participated in the study. More than half of the doctors were considered expert level with more than five years' experience. Nineteen percent said they had between two to five years' experience, and 29 percent had less than two years' experience. At first look, dermatologists correctly detected an average of 87 percent of melanomas, and accurately identified an average of 73 percent of lesions that were not malignant. Conversely, the CNN correctly detected 95 percent of melanomas. The study has been published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

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Face Recognition Is Now Being Used In Schools

Presto Vivace shares a report from The Intercept: Officials at the Lockport, New York, school district have purchased face recognition technology as part of a purported effort to prevent school shootings. Starting in September, all 10 of Lockport District's school buildings, just north of Buffalo, will be outfitted with a surveillance system that can identify faces and objects. The software, known as Aegis, was developed by SN Technologies Corp., a Canadian biometrics firm that specifically advertises to schools. It can be used to alert officials to whenever sex offenders, suspended students, fired employees, suspected gang members, or anyone else placed on a school's "blacklist" enters the premises. Aegis also sends alerts any time one of the "top 10" most popular guns used in school shootings appears in view of a camera. The district is spending most of its recent $4 million state "Smart School" grant on these and other enhancements to its security systems, including bullet-proof greeter windows and a mass notification system, according to the Niagra Gazette. Slashdot reader Presto Vivace adds: "This is why municipal elections are so important. Just because this stuff is on the market, does not mean your local school system has to buy it." The report notes that "all the major school shootings in the last five years in the U.S. have been carried out by current students or alumnae of the school in question." These students wouldn't have their face entered into the face recognition system's blacklist. Furthermore, "Most shooters don't brandish their guns before opening fire; and by the time they do, an object-detection algorithm that could specify the exact type of weapon they're firing would not be of much use," reports The Intercept. "... the technology would give a school, at best, only a few extra seconds in response time to a shooting."

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Great Barrier Reef Has Died Five Times In Last 30,000 Years, Study Says

schwit1 quotes a report from Newsweek: You may well have heard that Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef is dying as warmer and more acidic waters bleach the system's vibrant coral reefs. In fact, a heat wave killed nearly a third of the system's corals in 2016. Now, scientists writing in the journal Nature Geoscience have discovered the reef has bounced back from near-extinction five times in the last 30,000 years. The current stresses, however, are probably far more intense than those felt in the past. Low sea levels 30,000 and 22,000 years ago killed coral by air exposure. The remaining reef shifted seaward and eventually bounced back. Rising sea levels -- like those we see today -- killed off the coral twice between 13,000 and 17,000 years ago. This time, coral inched close to land to survive. The reef system, the scientists think, migrated up to 60 inches a year in the face of a changing environment. The last of the five great die-offs occurred about 10,000 years ago, and was likely caused by a huge influx of sediment, a reduction in water quality and a general sea level rise. The reef system may be due for another die-off sometime in the next few thousand years "if it follows its past geological pattern," study author Jody Webster told AFP. "But whether human-induced climate change will hasten that death remains to be seen."

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Hacker Gets Super NES Games Running On Unmodified NES

The latest project from Tom "Tom7" Murphy is an unmodified NES running Super NES games. "Murphy breaks down this wizardry in a pair of detailed videos laying out his tinkering process," reports Ars Technica. "Though the NES hardware itself is untouched, the cartridge running this reverse emulation is a heavily customized circuit board (ordered from China for about $10), with a compact, multi-core Raspberry Pi 3 attached to handle the actual Super NES emulation." From the report: The Pi essentially replaces the PPU portion of the cartridge, connecting to the NES via a custom-coded EEPROM chip that tells the system how to process and display what would normally be an overwhelming stream of graphical data coming from the miniature computer. Only the CIC "copyright" chip from the original cartridge remains unmodified to get around the hardware's lockout chip. Murphy -- you may remember him from previous efforts to teach an AI how to play NES games -- says that the Raspberry Pi actually has too much latency to effectively "stream" tile-by-tile graphical instructions to the NES' cartridge CPU. By the time the Pi manages to "discharge" a set of instruction bits (only 180ns after they were generated), the NES itself has already moved on to the next part of its read-write cycle. Murphy used a one-cycle delay to compensate for this latency, essentially guessing where the fairly predictable PPU would be writing to next and just sending data to that location ahead of time. That process works pretty well but results in the persistent flickering and graphical noise you see throughout his video demonstrations.

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California Begins Trial Rollout of Digital License Plates

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Car and Driver: California is taking its first steps toward America's first digital license plate. Using display technology akin to the e-ink used in the Amazon Kindle, a Foster City, California, outfit called Reviver Auto has come up with a digital plate that is now available on a limited basis in California, with the first fleet trial taking place on a fleet of 24 City of Sacramento -- owned Chevrolet Volt cars wearing plates supplied at no cost by Reviver. The new monochrome units -- which were also just rolled out in Dubai -- comply with reflectivity standards and are GPS enabled, allowing owners to track a stolen vehicle or at least its plate. Owners accustomed to an otherwise-paperless lifestyle will appreciate that, thanks to the Reviver's Rplate Pro, registration can be paid via the internet, assuring that one never has to make a last-minute trip to the DMV's no-appointment Hell Line. It should also be a boon to companies with large fleets. What's more, it's easy to upgrade to a special-interest plate if one chooses to do so.

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Windows 10 Pro Is a Dead End For the Enterprise, Gartner Says

A prominent Gartner analyst argues that Windows 10 Pro is a dead end for enterprises, citing recent changes by Microsoft to the Windows 10 support schedule. "[We] predict that Microsoft will continue positioning Windows [10] Pro as a release that is not appropriate for enterprises by reducing [...] support and limiting access to enterprise management features," Stephen Kleynhans, a research vice president at Gartner and one of the research firm's resident Windows experts, said in a report he co-authored. Computerworld reports: Last year, the Redmond, Wash. developer announced a six-month support extension for Windows 10 1511, the November 2015 feature upgrade, "to help some early enterprise adopters that are still finishing their transition to Windows as a service." In February, Microsoft added versions 1609, 1703 and 1709 -- released in mid-2016, and in April and October of 2017, respectively -- to the extended support list, giving each 24 months of support, not the usual 18. There was a catch: Only Windows 10 Enterprise (and Windows 10 Education, a similar version for public and private school districts and universities) qualified for the extra six months of support. Users running Windows 10 Pro were still required to upgrade to a successor SKU (stock-keeping unit) within 18 months to continue receiving security patches and other bug fixes. Another component of Microsoft's current Windows 10 support strategy, something the company has labeled "paid supplemental servicing," was also out of bounds for those running Windows 10 Pro. The extra support, which Microsoft will sell at an undisclosed price, is available only to Enterprise and Education customers. Paid supplemental servicing adds 12 months to the 18 months provided free of charge.

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Qualcomm Launches a New Chip Specifically For Standalone AR, VR Devices

Yesterday at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California, Qualcomm announced a new chip specifically designed for standalone augmented reality and virtual reality devices: the Snapdragon XR1. Ars Technica reports: The company is staying tight-lipped on technical details about the new SoC for the time being. Qualcomm says the SoC will use a Kryo CPU and Adreno GPU, as Qualcomm chips typically do, but exactly how those and the rest of the XR1's building blocks will be configured isn't yet clear. That said, Qualcomm is slotting the XR1 below its existing Snapdragon 845 -- the chip powering most of the year's highest-end smartphones -- in terms of memory bandwidth and GPU power. It is primarily aiming XR1 devices at "lean back" experiences like 360-degree video viewing, at least to start. Even still, the company says the XR1 can output video up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, that it'll keep motion-to-photon latency "well below" 20 milliseconds (so as to prevent nausea and motion sickness), and that it can handle both 3DoF and 6DoF tracking for headsets and accompanying controllers if needed. (Devices with the latter allow users to replicate a fuller range of movement in a virtual space.) Qualcomm is talking up the chip's power management and 3D-audio abilities and its support for always-on voice assistance as well.

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California Senate Votes To Restore Net Neutrality

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The California Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would reinstate the net neutrality regulations repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in December. The bill, S.B. 822, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), was introduced in March and passed through three committees, all along party-lines. The bill was approved 23-12 and will now head to the state Assembly. The bill would reinstate rules similar to those in the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order. It forbids ISPs from throttling or blocking online content and requires them to treat all internet traffic equally. But the bill also takes the original rules further by specifically banning providers from participating in some types of "zero-rating" programs, in which certain favored content doesn't contribute to monthly data caps. If the bill goes on to pass in the Assembly, providers will no longer be able to obtain government contracts in the state of California without obeying the regulations.

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More Firms Used Facebook To Block Older Job Seekers, Lawsuit Alleges

A proposed class-action lawsuit alleging Facebook's ad placement tools facilitate discrimination against older job-seekers has been expanded to identify additional companies. "When Facebook's own algorithm disproportionately directs ads to younger workers at the exclusion of older workers, Facebook and the advertisers who are using Facebook as an agent to send their advertisements are engaging in disparate treatment," a communications union alleged in the amended complaint, citing a legal test for employment discrimination, filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court. The union added claims under California's fair employment and unfair competition statutes to the lawsuit, which was initially filed in December. Chicago Tribune reports: The Communications Workers of America is suing on behalf of union members and other job seekers who allegedly missed out on employment opportunities because companies used Facebook's ad tools to target people of other ages. The original filing named defendants are Amazon.com Inc., Cox Media Group, Cox Communications Inc. and T-Mobile, as well as what the union estimates to be hundreds of employers and employment agencies who used Facebook's tools to filter out older job hunters when seeking to fill positions. The amended filing adds Ikea, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the University of Maryland Medical System to its list of companies who allegedly used Facebook's tools to filter by age. Those three entities, as well as Facebook, aren't named defendants in the lawsuit. The union alleged in its amended lawsuit that Facebook also uses age-filtering in ads intended to find its own new employees. In January, the union filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint about the alleged practice, according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg News. The CWA says it has filed similar claims against dozens of companies, and that the agency has asked those employers, and Facebook, to respond to the allegations. An EEOC spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the existence of any complaints.

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Game Livestreaming Explodes, But Women Are Less Likely To Be Paid Than Men

A new study by game research firm SuperData Research and payment company PayPal found that eSports and game videos are driving explosive growth in livestreams. But PayPal also found a gender imbalance in pay. Women are less likely to be paid for their streams than men. VentureBeat reports: PayPal said that 34 percent of livestream viewers in the U.S. have spent more than $50 on livestream content in the past few months. But despite the growth in spending, almost half of women content creators (43 percent globally, 47 percent in the U.S.) don't get paid for what they create. The U.S. had the largest gender pay gap of the countries surveyed: Almost half as many men (24 percent) do not get paid for content they create. Globally, active paying gamers polled shop across 14 different gaming platforms and nearly 30 different storefronts over the last three months, an incredible variety. In the U.S., respondents surveyed purchased from 26 different gaming storefronts -- the third most in the world, behind Russia (27), and Australia and Canada (28 each). While Steam is highly popular among millennials globally (31 percent buy from Steam), GameStop was resoundingly popular, with 45 percent of U.S. millennial respondents reporting shopping there for gaming content. In most countries, in-game spending is within a few dollars of average spend on full games. Surprisingly, in-game spending is skewing higher among older U.S. players: those aged 35-and-over have spent $50 on average, compared to $40 for those aged 18 to 34. Meanwhile, younger gamers are spending more in full-game downloads: $63, versus $48 for gamers 35-and-over.

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Sonic and Ultrasonic Attacks Damage Hard Drives and Crash OSes

Dan Goodin reports via Ars Technica: Attackers can cause potentially harmful hard drive and operating system crashes by playing sounds over low-cost speakers embedded in computers or sold in stores, a team of researchers demonstrated last week. The attacks use sonic and ultrasonic sounds to disrupt magnetic HDDs as they read or write data. The researchers showed how the technique could stop some video-surveillance systems from recording live streams. Just 12 seconds of specially designed acoustic interference was all it took to cause video loss in a 720p system made by Ezviz. Sounds that lasted for 105 seconds or more caused the stock Western Digital 3.5 HDD in the device to stop recording altogether until it was rebooted. The device uses flash storage to house its firmware, but by default it uses a magnetic HDD to store the large quantities of video it records. The attack used a speaker hanging from a ceiling that rested about four inches above the surveillance system's HDD. The researchers didn't remove the casing or otherwise tamper with the surveillance system. The technique was also able to disrupt HDDs in desktop and laptop computers running both Windows and Linux. In some cases, it even required a reboot before the PCs worked properly. The paper titled "Blue Note: How Intentional Acoustic Interference Damages Availability and Integrity in Hard Disk Drives and Operating Systems" can be found here (PDF).

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De Beers To Sell Diamonds Made In a Lab

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: De Beers, which almost single-handedly created the allure of diamonds as rare, expensive and the symbol of eternal love, now wants to sell you some party jewelry that is anything but. The company announced today that it will start selling man-made diamond jewelry at a fraction of the price of mined gems, marking a historic shift for the world's biggest diamond miner, which vowed for years that it wouldn't sell stones created in laboratories. The strategy is designed to undercut rival lab-diamond makers, who having been trying to make inroads into the $80 billion gem industry. De Beers will target younger spenders with its new diamond brand and try to capture customers that have been resistant to splurging on expensive jewelry. The company is betting that it can split the market -- with mined gems in luxury settings and engagement rings at the top, and lab-made fashion jewelry aimed at millennials at the bottom. "Lab grown are not special, they're not real, they're not unique. You can make exactly the same one again and again," Bruce Cleaver, chief executive officer of De Beers, said in an interview Tuesday. De Beers says the man-made diamonds will not compete with mined stones. It's so adamant about this that it will not grade them in the traditional way. "We're not grading our lab-grown diamonds because we don't think they deserve to be graded," Cleaver said. "They're all the same." As for pricing, "The lab diamonds from De Beers will sell for about $800 a carat," reports Bloomberg. "A 1-carat man-made diamond sells for about $4,000 and a similar natural diamond fetches roughly $8,000."

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Imgur Launches Video

The online image sharing community Imgur is launching video after years of hosting still images and GIFs on its platform. "This is a monumental shift for our future, and it furthers our commitment to becoming the world's greatest community powered entertainment destination," the company said in its blog post. The Verge reports: Roy Sehgal, Imgur COO, tells The Verge that the company is "breaking the sound barrier to make Imgur an even better community-powered entertainment experience." Videos play everywhere you can use Imgur (on both mobile and desktop), but so far, only iOS users are able to upload them. The feature is expected to come soon to other platforms. Imgur has also told TechCrunch that it plans to add video editing tools in the future. Videos will thankfully have sound off by default but you can click or tap to play the audio. You can search for videos with the hashtag #unmuted. Like GIFs, videos on the Imgur platform are meant to be short and have a limit of 30 seconds. And Imgur is likely going to use the opportunity to insert video ads to help make the service more profitable.

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HoloLens Can Act As Eyes For Blind Users and Guide Them With Audio Prompts, New Research Shows

New research shows that Microsoft's HoloLens augmented-reality headset works well as a visual prosthesis for the vision impaired, not relaying actual visual data but guiding them in real time with audio cues and instructions. TechCrunch reports: The researchers, from Caltech and University of Southern California, first argue that restoring vision is at present simply not a realistic goal, but that replacing the perception portion of vision isn't necessary to replicate the practical portion. After all, if you can tell where a chair is, you don't need to see it to avoid it, right? Crunching visual data and producing a map of high-level features like walls, obstacles and doors is one of the core capabilities of the HoloLens, so the team decided to let it do its thing and recreate the environment for the user from these extracted features. They designed the system around sound, naturally. Every major object and feature can tell the user where it is, either via voice or sound. Walls, for instance, hiss (presumably a white noise, not a snake hiss) as the user approaches them. And the user can scan the scene, with objects announcing themselves from left to right from the direction in which they are located. A single object can be selected and will repeat its callout to help the user find it. That's all well for stationary tasks like finding your cane or the couch in a friend's house. But the system also works in motion. The team recruited seven blind people to test it out. They were given a brief intro but no training, and then asked to accomplish a variety of tasks. The users could reliably locate and point to objects from audio cues, and were able to find a chair in a room in a fraction of the time they normally would, and avoid obstacles easily as well. Then they were tasked with navigating from the entrance of a building to a room on the second floor by following the headset's instructions. A "virtual guide" repeatedly says "follow me" from an apparent distance of a few feet ahead, while also warning when stairs were coming, where handrails were and when the user had gone off course. All seven users got to their destinations on the first try, and much more quickly than if they had had to proceed normally with no navigation.

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Russia Demands Apple Remove Telegram From Russian App Store

The Russian government is asking Apple to help it block Telegram by removing it from the country's App Store. Mac Rumors reports: A Russian court in April ordered carriers and internet providers in the country to block Telegram back in April, after Telegram refused to provide Russia with backdoor access to user messages. Despite issuing the block order back in April, Russia has only been able to disrupt Telegram's operations in the country by 15 to 30 percent. Given the government's inability to block the app, Roskomnadzor, the division of the government that controls media and telecommunications, has demanded that Apple remove the Telegram app from the Russian App Store. The group first asked Apple to remove the app in April, but is appealing to Apple again. "In order to avoid possible action by Roskomnadzor for violations of the functioning of the above-mentioned Apple Inc. service, we ask you to inform us as soon as possible about your company's further actions to resolve the problematic issue," the regulator wrote. Roskomnadzor has given Apple one month to remove the Telegram app from the App Store. Roskomnadzor's director Alexander Zharov said he did not want to "forecast further actions" should Apple not comply with the request following the 30 day period.

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Lawyers Are Sending Mobile Ads To Patients Sitting In Emergency Rooms

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Patients sitting in emergency rooms, at chiropractors' offices and at pain clinics in the Philadelphia area may start noticing on their phones the kind of messages typically seen along highway billboards and public transit: personal injury law firms looking for business by casting mobile online ads at patients. The potentially creepy part? They're only getting fed the ad because somebody knows they are in an emergency room. The technology behind the ads, known as geofencing, or placing a digital perimeter around a specific location, has been deployed by retailers for years to offer coupons and special offers to customers as they shop. Bringing it into health care spaces, however, is raising alarm among privacy experts. Law firms and marketing companies from Tennessee to California are also testing out the technology in hospital settings. "Is everybody in an emergency room going to need an attorney? Absolutely not," Kakis says. "But people that are going to need a personal injury attorney are more than likely at some point going to end up in an emergency room." The advertisers identify someone's location by grabbing what is known as "phone ID" from Wi-Fi, cell data or an app using GPS. Once someone crosses the digital fence, Kakis says, the ads can show up for more than a month -- and on multiple devices.

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Canadian Hacker Sentenced To 5 Years For Yahoo Security Breach

The computer hacker who worked with Russian spies was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday for his role in a massive security breach at Yahoo. "U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria also fined Karim Baratov $250,000 during a sentencing hearing in San Francisco," The Associated Press reports. From the report: Baratov, 23, pleaded guilty in November to nine felony hacking charges. He acknowledged in his plea agreement that he began hacking as a teen seven years ago and charged customers $100 per hack to access web-based emails. Prosecutors allege he was "an international hacker for hire" who indiscriminately hacked for clients he did not know or vet, including dozens of jobs paid for by Russia's Federal Security Service. Baratov, who was born in Kazakhstan but lived in Toronto, Canada, where he was arrested last year, charged customers to obtain another person's webmail passwords by tricking them to enter their credentials into a fake password reset page. Prosecutors said Russian security service hired Baratov to target dozens of email accounts using information obtained from the Yahoo hack. "Deterrence is particularly important in a case like this," the judge said during the hearing. He rejected prosecutors call for a prison sentence of nearly 10 years, noting Baratov's age and clean criminal record prior to his arrest. Baratov has been in custody since his arrest last year. He told the judge Tuesday that his time behind bars has been "a very humbling and eye-opening experience." He apologized to those he hacked and promised "to be a better man" and obey the law upon his release. The judge said it is likely Baratov will be deported once he is released from prison.

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People Are Using Venmo To Spy On Cheating Spouses

According to MarketWatch's Leslie Albrecht, people are using the peer-to-peer payment app Venmo to find out if their spouse is cheating. Some are even saying the app is more effective than Facebook at this sort of investigation. "What you're seeing on Instagram or Facebook is what they want you to see," said Abby Faber, a 19-year-old freshman at Indiana University. "They're edited pictures that they put up. But with Venmo, it's very normal casual interactions. It's what they were doing and spending money on." From the report: Some users seem to forget that their transactions are public by default, and their payment activity provides an unfiltered paper trail of what's really happening in their lives. In [Faber's] case, she checked up on her ex-boyfriend and saw he was spending money on pizza and the popular video game Fortnite -- and making regular payments to one girl, who Faber guessed is his new hook-up. Venmo has had a social component since it launched in 2009. Users see a feed of both their own friends' payments and total strangers' activity every time they open the app, and it's easy to look up users. Exact amounts aren't listed, but you can see who's paying who and which words or emoji they use to describe the payment. The social feed is Venmo's "secret sauce," said Erin Mackey, a spokeswoman for Venmo and its parent company PayPal. In fact, it's usually the reason people are logging on. "Our most active users check Venmo daily and the average user checks Venmo two to three times per week -- and it's not for payments, but to see what their friends and family are doing." The report mentions a settlement Venmo reached with the FTC last year over its public-by-default social component. The FTC accused (PDF) Venmo of "misleading" users about the fact that they needed to change two separate privacy settings to make their transactions completely private. "Venmo reached a settlement with the FTC, and a company spokesperson noted that users now have three options for controlling who can see their payments," reports MarketWatch.

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Why Thousands of AI Researchers Are Boycotting the New Nature Journal

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Guardian, written by Neil Lawrence, the founding editor of the freely available journal Proceedings of Machine Learning Research: Machine learning has demonstrated that an academic field can not only survive, but thrive, without the involvement of commercial publishers. But this has not stopped traditional publishers from entering the market. Our success has caught their attention. Most recently, the publishing conglomerate Springer Nature announced a new journal targeted at the community called Nature Machine Intelligence. The publisher now has 53 journals that bear the Nature name. Should we be concerned? What would drive authors and readers towards a for-profit subscription journal when we already have an open model for sharing our ideas? Academic publishers have one card left to play: their brand. The diversity and quantity of academic research means that it is difficult for a researcher in one field to rate the work in another. Sometimes a journal's brand is used as a proxy for quality. When academics look for promotion, having papers in a "brand-name journal" can be a big help. Nature is the Rolex of academic publishing. But in contrast to Rolex, whose staff are responsible for the innovation in its watches, Nature relies on academics to provide its content. We are the watchmakers, they are merely the distributors. Many in our research community see the Nature brand as a poor proxy for academic quality. We resist the intrusion of for-profit publishing into our field. As a result, at the time of writing, more than 3,000 researchers, including many leading names in the field from both industry and academia, have signed a statement refusing to submit, review or edit for this new journal. We see no role for closed access or author-fee publication in the future of machine-learning research. We believe the adoption of this new journal as an outlet of record for the machine-learning community would be a retrograde step.

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How Canada Ended Up As An AI Superpower

pacopico writes: Neural nets and deep learning are all the rage these days, but their rise was anything but sudden. A handful of determined researchers scattered around the globe spent decades developing neural nets while most of their peers thought they were mad. An unusually large number of these academics -- including Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun and Richard Sutton -- were working at universities in Canada. Bloomberg Businessweek has put together an oral history of how Canada brought them all together, why they kept chasing neural nets in the face of so much failure, and why their ideas suddenly started to take off. There's also a documentary featuring the researchers and Prime Minster Justin Trudeau that tells more of the story and looks at where AI technology is heading -- both the good and the bad. Overall, it's a solid primer for people wanting to know about AI and the weird story of where the technology came from, but might be kinda basic for hardcore AI folks.

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Most MoviePass Subscribers Have Gone To a Movie They Normally Would’ve Ignored

Extremist surveyed 1,311 current self-reporting MoviePass subscribers and found that 82% of subscribers have gone to a movie they normally would have ignored. 13% of respondents said "No," while 5% were "Not Sure." From the report: While theaters are only reporting a slight uptick in foot traffic since MoviePass got popular, there is no denying that there are now more butts in seats of movies that otherwise might not get as much foot traffic. Perhaps the real winner in a world with MoviePass is the box office rake for "bad" movies. If you are a MoviePass subscriber, have you noticed yourself attending movies you otherwise wouldn't pay directly to see?

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Companies Are Using California Homes As Batteries To Power the Grid

"Companies like Tesla and SunRun are starting to bid on utility contracts that would allow them to string together dozens or hundreds of systems that act as an enormous reserve to balance the flow of electricity on the grid," reports Quartz. "Doing so would accelerate the grid's transformation from 20th century hub-and-spoke architecture to a transmission network moving electricity among thousands or millions of customers who generate and store their own power." From the report: In theory, networked home-solar-and-battery systems, acting in coordination over a single geographical area, could replace things like natural gas "peaker" plants need to help support the grid on a moment's notice. But it's an open question whether it makes financial sense. Kamath says renewable mandates could keep home solar-storage solutions for the grid going for a while, but the idea will have to prove itself on the market, perhaps by aggregating large areas, if it wants to seriously compete with existing energy assets. SunRun told investors in 2017 that its pilot programs suggest it could competitively generate $2,000 worth of services by managing electricity flow back to the grid. The company has recently dropped its combative stance with utilities dragging their feet on accepting home solar. Instead, it's pursuing cooperation with the utilities now, in hopes of selling them home-based power. That would allow it grab a chunk of the billions being spent on modernizing the grid. "We don't want to be in a position of building two competing infrastructures," SunRun's Jurich said.

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A Middle-Aged Writer’s Quest To Start Learning To Code For the First Time

OpenSourceAllTheWay writes: The Economist's 1843 magazine details one middle-aged writer's (Andrew Smith) quest to learn to code for the first time, after becoming interested in the "alien" logic mechanisms that power completely new phenomena like crypto-currency and effectively make the modern world function in the 21st Century. The writer discovers that there are over 1,700 actively used computer programming languages to choose from, and that every programmer that he asks "Where should someone like me start with coding?" contradicts the next in his or her recommendation. One seasoned programmer tells him that programmers discussing what language is best is the equivalent of watching "religious wars." The writer is stunned by how many of these languages were created by unpaid individuals who often built them for "glory and the hell of it." He is also amazed by how many people help each other with coding problems on the internet every day, and the computer programmer culture that non-technical people are oblivious of. Eventually the writer finds a chart of the most popular programming languages online, and discovers that these are Python, Javascript, and C++. The syntax of each of these languages looks indecipherable to him. The writer, with some help from online tutorials, then learns how to write a basic Python program that looks for keywords in a Twitter feed. The article is interesting in that it shows what the "alien world of coding" looks like to people who are not already computer nerds and in fact know very little about how computer software works. There are many interesting observations on coding/computing culture in the article, seen through the lens of someone who is not a computer nerd and who has not spent the last two decades hanging out on Slashdot or Stackoverflow.

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Eric Schmidt Says Elon Musk Is ‘Exactly Wrong’ About AI

At the VivaTech conference in Paris, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt was asked about Elon Musk's warnings about AI. He responded by saying: "I think Elon is exactly wrong. He doesn't understand the benefits that this technology will provide to making every human being smarter. The fact of the matter is that AI and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity." TechCrunch reports: He acknowledged that there are risks around how the technology might be misused, but he said they're outweighed by the benefits: "The example I would offer is, would you not invent the telephone because of the possible misuse of the telephone by evil people? No, you would build the telephone and you would try to find a way to police the misuse of the telephone." After wryly observing that Schmidt had just given the journalists in the audience their headlines, interviewer (and former Publicis CEO) Maurice Levy asked how AI and public policy can be developed so that some groups aren't "left behind." Schmidt replied that government should fund research and education around these technologies. "As [these new solutions] emerge, they will benefit all of us, and I mean the people who think they're in trouble, too," he said. He added that data shows "workers who work in jobs where the job gets more complicated get higher wages -- if they can be helped to do it." Schmidt also argued that contrary to concerns that automation and technology will eliminate jobs, "The embracement of AI is net positive for jobs." In fact, he said there will be "too many jobs" -- because as society ages, there won't be enough people working and paying taxes to fund crucial services. So AI is "the best way to make them more productive, to make them smarter, more scalable, quicker and so forth."

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Google Zooms By Amazon In Smart Speaker Shipments, Report Says

A new report released this week says that Google has surpassed Amazon in global smart speaker shipments in the first quarter of 2018. "[Research firm Canalys] says Google shipped 3.2 million Google Home and Home Mini speakers over the course of the quarter," reports Ars Technica. "Amazon, meanwhile, is said to have shipped 2.5 million Echo speakers." From the report: According to the report, Google jumped from taking 19.3 percent of smart speaker shipments in Q1 2017 to 36.2 percent this past quarter. Amazon accounted for a whopping 79.6 percent of shipments in the year-ago quarter but fell to 27.7 percent in Q1 2018, the report says. Now, it appears the Home has reached a point of parity with the Echo; this report would mark the first time Google has overtaken Amazon in total shipments. Canalys credits Google's rise in part to retailers and channel operators "prioritizing" the Home over the Echo, given that Amazon is one of its biggest competitors in retail at large. A couple of caveats: neither Amazon nor Google breaks out quarterly sales figures for each device family, so Canalys' figures likely aren't 100-percent exact. It's also worth noting that "shipments" are not the same as "sales," so it's possible that deals and discounts on the devices have affected the figures to an extent.

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All Major ISPs Have Declined In Customer Satisfaction, Says Study

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index survey finds that Verizon FiOS has been rated the highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 70 out of 100. But, as DSLReports notes, that's nothing to write home about since that score was a one point decline from one year earlier. Furthermore, the industry average was 64 points, which is not only a decline from last year but lower than most of the other industries the group tracks. From the report: According to the ACSI, high prices and poor customer service continues to plague an U.S. broadband industry with some very obvious competitive shortcomings. "According to users, most aspects of ISPs are getting worse," the ACSI said. "Courtesy and helpfulness of staff has waned to 76 and in-store service is slower (74). Bills are more difficult to understand (-3 percent to 71), and customers aren't happy with the variety of plans available (-3 percent to 64)." Not a single ISP tracked by the firm saw an improvement in customer satisfaction scores. The worst of the worst according to the ACSI is Mediacom, which saw a 9% plummet year over year to a score of 53, which is lower than most airlines, banks, and even the IRS according to the report. Charter Spectrum and Suddenlink also saw 8% declines in satisfaction year over year, and despite repeated claims that customer service is now its top priority, Comcast saw zero improvement in broadband satisfaction and a slight decline in pay TV satisfaction.

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FBI Tells Router Users To Reboot Now To Kill Malware Infecting 500,000 Devices

The FBI is advising users of consumer-grade routers and network-attached storage devices to reboot them as soon as possible to counter Russian-engineered malware that has infected hundreds of thousands devices. Ars Technica reports: Researchers from Cisco's Talos security team first disclosed the existence of the malware on Wednesday. The detailed report said the malware infected more than 500,000 devices made by Linksys, Mikrotik, Netgear, QNAP, and TP-Link. Known as VPNFilter, the malware allowed attackers to collect communications, launch attacks on others, and permanently destroy the devices with a single command. The report said the malware was developed by hackers working for an advanced nation, possibly Russia, and advised users of affected router models to perform a factory reset, or at a minimum to reboot. Later in the day, The Daily Beast reported that VPNFilter was indeed developed by a Russian hacking group, one known by a variety of names, including Sofacy, Fancy Bear, APT 28, and Pawn Storm. The Daily Beast also said the FBI had seized an Internet domain VPNFilter used as a backup means to deliver later stages of the malware to devices that were already infected with the initial stage 1. The seizure meant that the primary and secondary means to deliver stages 2 and 3 had been dismantled, leaving only a third fallback, which relied on attackers sending special packets to each infected device. The redundant mechanisms for delivering the later stages address a fundamental shortcoming in VPNFilter -- stages 2 and 3 can't survive a reboot, meaning they are wiped clean as soon as a device is restarted. Instead, only stage 1 remains. Presumably, once an infected device reboots, stage 1 will cause it to reach out to the recently seized ToKnowAll.com address. The FBI's advice to reboot small office and home office routers and NAS devices capitalizes on this limitation. In a statement published Friday, FBI officials suggested that users of all consumer-grade routers, not just those known to be vulnerable to VPNFilter, protect themselves. The Justice Department and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have also issued statements advising users to reboot their routers as soon as possible.

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Apple Will Report Government Requests To Remove Apps From the App Store

In its bi-annual transparency report today, Apple said that it will soon start reporting government requests to take down apps from the App Store. These requests will relate to alleged legal and/or policy provision violations, Apple says. The Verge reports: These numbers will tell us just how often governments are trying to block access to certain apps, and how many of those orders are actually obeyed. Google doesn't yet report these numbers specifically for the Play Store. As for takedown requests over the last year, governments around the world sent requests for information on 29,718 devices. Data was provided in 79 percent of cases. Governments also requested information on 3,358 Apple accounts, and data was provided in 82 percent of cases.

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Birds Had To Relearn Flight After Meteor Wiped Out Dinosaurs, Fossil Records Suggest

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Birds had to rediscover flight after the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs, scientists say. The cataclysm 66 million years ago not only wiped out Tyrannosaurus rex and ground-dwelling dinosaur species, but also flying birds, a detailed survey of the fossil record suggests. As forests burned around the world, the only birds to survive were flightless emu-like species that lived on the ground. The six to nine-mile-wide meteor struck the Earth off the coast of Mexico, releasing a million times more energy than the largest atomic bomb. Hot debris raining from the sky is thought to have triggered global wildfires immediately after the impact. It took hundreds or even thousands of years for the world's forests of palms and pines to recover. Fossil records from New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, all show evidence of mass deforestation. They also reveal that birds surviving the end of the Cretaceous period had long sturdy legs made for living on the ground. They resembled emus and kiwis, said the researchers whose findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.

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A Star Wars Boba Fett Movie Is In the Works

"Logan" director James Mangold is reportedly directing a "Star Wars" standalone movie centered on the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Variety reports: The untitled movie will be a part of the studio's Star Wars Anthology films, which are being spun off as origin stories. The first anthology film was 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," followed by "Solo: A Star Wars Story," starring Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo. "Solo" began opening in previews on Thursday night in North America, with forecasts of an debut weekend of $130 million to $150 million. Boba Fett debuted in 1980's "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" and re-appeared in 1983's "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" as a mercenary for the Galactic Empire. Jeremy Bulloch played the character in the two movies and Jason Wingreen provided Fett's voice. Here's a video highlighting all the scenes starring Boba Fett in the Star Wars trilogy. Do you think it's wise to produce a movie around a character who's had such few scenes, relative to the others?

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Facebook Accused of Conducting Mass Surveillance Through Its Apps

A court case in California alleges that Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones. The Guardian reports: The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years. The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes. "Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users' location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls," one court document says. But all details about the mass surveillance scheme have been redacted on Facebook's request in Six4Three's most recent filings. Facebook claims these are confidential business matters. It has until next Tuesday to submit a claim to the court for the documents to remain sealed from public view.

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Is Cockroach Milk the Ultimate Superfood?

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Global News: It may not be everyone's cup of milk, but for years now, some researchers believe insect milk, like cockroach milk, could be the next big dairy alternative. A report in 2016 found Pacific Beetle cockroaches specifically created nutrient-filled milk crystals that could also benefit humans, the Hindustan Times reports. Others report producing cockroach milk isn't easy, either -- it takes 1,000 cockroaches to make 100 grams of milk, Inverse reports, and other options could include a cockroach milk pill. And although it has been two years since the study, some people are still hopeful. Insect milk, or entomilk, is already being used and consumed by Cape Town-based company Gourmet Grubb, IOL reports. Jarrod Goldin, [president of Entomo Farms which launched in 2014], got interested in the insect market after the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation in 2013 announced people around the world were consuming more than 1,900 insects. As his brothers were already farming insects for fishing and reptile use, Goldin thought it would be a smart business opportunity to focus on food. Goldin adds studies have shown cricket powder can be a high source of protein and B12. The PC version his company produces has 13 grams of protein per every 2 1/2 tbsps. Toronto-based registered dietitian Andy De Santis says for protein alternatives, insects are definitely in the playing field. According to ScienceAlert, Diploptera punctate is the only known cockroach to give birth to live young and has been shown to pump out a type of "milk" containing protein crystals to feed its babies. "The fact that an insect produces milk is pretty fascinating -- but what fascinated researchers is the fact that a single one of these protein crystals contains more than three times the amount of energy found in an equivalent amount of buffalo milk (which is also higher in calories than regular cow's milk)." Researchers are now working to replicate the crystals in the lab. They are working with yeast to produce the crystal in much larger quantities -- "making it slightly more efficient than extracting crystals from cockroach's guts," reports ScienceAlert.

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Samsung Must Pay Apple $539 Million For Infringing iPhone Design Patents, Jury Finds

Samsung must pay Apple $539 million for infringing five patents with Android phones it sold in 2010 and 2011, a jury has found in a legal fight that dates back seven years. "The unanimous decision, in the U.S. District Court in San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley, is just about halfway between what the two largest mobile phone makers had sought in a high-profile case that reaches back to 2011," reports CNET. From the report: The bulk of the damages payment, $533,316,606, was for infringing three Apple design patents. The remaining $5,325,050 was for infringing two utility patents. Samsung already had been found to infringe the patents, but this trial determined some of the damages. The jury's rationale isn't clear, but the figure is high enough to help cement the importance of design patents in the tech industry. Even though they only describe cosmetic elements of a product, they clearly can have a lot of value. Samsung showed its displeasure and indicated the fight isn't over. "Today's decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages. We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers," Samsung said.

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Vevo To Shut Down Site, Giving In To YouTube Empire

Vevo, the video-hosting service founded in 2009 as a joint venture between the big three record companies, is shutting down. The company announced in a blog post Thursday that it is shuttering its mobile apps and website, and that "going forward, Vevo will remain focused on engaging the biggest audiences and pursuing growth opportunities." Vevo is almost entirely succumbing to YouTube. Rolling Stone reports: The major record labels set up Vevo -- an abbreviation for "video evolution" -- in 2009 as a designated streaming service for music videos that would ideally bring in greater revenue from more high-end advertisers. Via a distribution deal with YouTube, it received a cut of revenue from putting its music videos on the Google-owned site. But YouTube's might has grown: The video-streaming service recently took Vevo's branding off its music videos, while also securing permission under a new licensing deal to sell Vevo's clips directly to advertisers, cutting out the smaller company's sales force. Though Vevo has been trying to peel away from its dependence on YouTube by touting its own suite of apps and offerings for years, it seems those efforts haven't been met with much success. "Our catalog of premium music videos and original content will continue to reach a growing audience on YouTube and we are exploring ways to work with additional platforms to further expand access to Vevo's content," the company said in its blog post. Vevo users on its website and Android, iOS and Windows Mobile apps will receive a tool to migrate their playlists to YouTube.

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Android Creator Puts Essential Up For Sale, Cancels Next Phone

Bloomberg reports that Andy Rubin's Essential Products business is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone. The news comes several months after numerous reports suggested that the Essential Phone's sales were tepid. From the report: The startup has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise on a potential sale and has received interest from at least one suitor, the people said. Essential is now actively shopping itself to potential suitors, one of the people said. The startup, part of Rubin's incubator Playground Global, has raised about $300 million from several investors, including Amazon, Tencent, and Redpoint Ventures. It was valued at $900 million to $1 billion about a year ago, according to an analysis by Equidate, which runs a market for private company stock. The startup has spent more than $100 million on developing its first products, about a third of the money it raised to build the company, the people said. Current discussions are focused on a sale of the entire company, including its patent portfolio, hardware products like the original smartphone, an upcoming smart home device and a camera attachment for the phone. Essential's engineering talent, which includes those hired from Apple and Alphabet's Google, would likely be part of a deal. The company hasn't yet made a final decision on a sale, the people said.

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Newest NOAA Weather Satellite Suffers Critical Malfunction

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released some bad news yesterday: the GOES-17 weather satellite that launched almost two months ago has a cooling problem that could endanger the majority of the satellite's value. GOES-17 is the second of a new generation of weather satellite to join NOAA's orbital fleet. Its predecessor is covering the U.S. East Coast, with GOES-17 meant to become "GOES-West." While providing higher-resolution images of atmospheric conditions, it also tracks fires, lightning strikes, and solar behavior. It's important that NOAA stays ahead of the loss of dying satellites by launching new satellites that ensure no gap in global coverage ever occurs. Several weeks ago, it became clear that the most important instrument -- the Advanced Baseline Imager -- had a cooling problem. This instrument images the Earth at a number of different wavelengths, including the visible portion of the spectrum as well as infrared wavelengths that help detect clouds and water vapor content. The infrared wavelengths are currently offline. The satellite has to be actively cooled for these precision instruments to function, and the infrared wavelengths only work if the sensor stays below 60K -- that's about a cool -350F. The cooling system is only reaching that temperature 12 hours a day. The satellite can still produce visible spectrum images, as well as the solar and lightning monitoring, but it's not a glorious next-gen weather satellite without that infrared data.

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First Cuba, Now China? A Worker In US Embassy In China Experienced ‘Abnormal’ Sounds, Brain Damage

amxcoder writes: An American citizen working at a U.S. consulate located in the Chinese city of Guangzhou has reported experiencing "abnormal" sounds (and pressures) for the past several months, starting in late 2017 until April of 2018. Upon medical evaluation, the worker has been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury symptoms. The U.S. embassy is conducting an investigation into the issue, and is issuing warnings to all U.S. citizens in China. The symptoms and several other similarities has drawn comparison to a similar event last year in a different U.S. embassy in Cuba. Officials can not link the two events together at this point, but the U.S. State Department is working with Chinese authorities to investigate the issue further. As a result of the Cuba acoustic "attacks," the U.S. government in October expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the U.S. for what it said was Cuba's failure to protect staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana. Staff there reported symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive issues. Canadian personnel also reported similar health symptoms.

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YouTube Is Messing With the Order of Videos In Some User Feeds

YouTube is testing non-chronological subscription feeds to try and serve you content that it thinks you'll want to see at the top. The problem with this is that the subscription feed exists because users subscribed to content that they want to see. If they don't, they will unsubscribe, thereby removing unwanted content from the feed. Gizmodo reports: YouTube confirmed the test on Twitter after some users noticed the change and inquired as to why the heck their subscription feed was no longer in chronological order. YouTube must have missed the memo about how users react when platforms mess with the order of the sacred feed. Here's YouTube's how-to and troubleshooting Twitter account explained the test: "Just to clarify. We are currently experimenting with how to show content in the subs feed. We find that some viewers are able to more easily find the videos they want to watch when we order the subs feed in a personalized order vs always showing most recent video first." Weird, considering YouTube already offers recommended videos based on your viewing habits and subscribed channels in its sidebar.

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Uber’s Self-Driving Car Saw Pedestrian 6 Seconds Before Fatal Strike, Says Report

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Arizona Daily Star: The autonomous Uber SUV that struck and killed an Arizona pedestrian in March spotted the woman about six seconds before hitting her, but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled, according to federal investigators. In a preliminary report on the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that emergency braking is not enabled while Uber's cars are under computer control, "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior." Instead, Uber relies on a human backup driver to intervene. The system, however, is not designed to alert the driver. The report comes a day after Uber announced it will be ending it's self-driving vehicle testing in Arizona. The full NTSB report is available here.

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Gamers Involved In Fatal Wichita ‘Swatting’ Indicted On Federal Charges

bricko shares a report from Kansas: A federal grand jury has indicted the man accused in Wichita's fatal swatting as well as the two gamers involved in the video game dispute that prompted the false emergency call. The 29-page indictment was unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. It charges 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, who is facing state court charges including involuntary manslaughter, with false information and hoaxes, cyberstalking, threatening to kill another or damage property by fire, interstate threats, conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud, according to federal court records. One of the gamers -- 18-year-old Casey S. Viner of North College Hill, Ohio -- is charged with several counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The other gamer -- 19-year-old Shane M. Gaskill of Wichita -- is charged with several counts of obstruction of justice, wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

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Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 710 Platform For Midrange Android Phones

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: Today Qualcomm announces a new entry to the Snapdragon lineup with the first 700-series SoC platform. The Snapdragon 710 is a direct successor to the Snapdragon 660 but comes with a new branding more worthy of the increased performance characteristics of the SoC. The big IP blocks found on the Snapdragon 710 are very much derivatives of what's found on the flagship Snapdragon 845. On the CPU side we see the same 2.2GHz maximum clock on the big cores, but the Kryo 360 Cortex A75 based CPUs are microarchitectural upgrade over last year's A72 based Kryo 260. The little cores are also based on the newer Cortex A55's and are clocked at up to 1.7GHz. The performance improvements are quoted as an overall 20% uplift in SPECint2000 and 25% faster performance in Octane and Kraken versus the SD660. The SoC now also uses the new system cache first introduced in the Snapdragon 845 -- although I'm expecting a smaller, yet unconfirmed 1MB size in the SD710. The 700-series SoC platform sports the new 600 series Adreno GPUs. They have an expected frequency of around 750MHz and up to 35% higher performance versus the Adreno 512 in the SD660. "In terms of connectivity the new SoC implements an X15 modem which is capable of UE Category 15 in the downstream with up to 800Mbps in 4x carrier aggregation and up to UE Category 7 in the upload with up to 2x CA and 256 QAM," reports AnandTech. "The new chipset now also offers 2x2 802.11ac digital backend for Wi-Fi -- however it'll still need an external discrete analog RF frontend."

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Ariane Chief Seems Frustrated With SpaceX For Driving Down Launch Costs

schwit1 shares a report from Ars Technica: Like United Launch Alliance, the [France-based] Ariane Group faces pricing pressure from SpaceX, which offers launch prices as low as $62 million for its Falcon 9 rocket. It has specifically developed the Ariane 6 rocket to compete with the Falcon 9 booster. But there are a couple of problems with this. Despite efforts to cut costs, the two variants of the Ariane 6 will still cost at least 25 percent more than SpaceX's present-day prices. Moreover, the Ariane 6 will not fly until 2020 at the earliest, by which time Falcon 9 could offer significantly cheaper prices on used Falcon 9 boosters if it needed to. (The Ariane 6 rocket is entirely expendable). With this background in mind, the chief executive of Ariane Group, Alain Charmeau, gave an interview to the German publication Der Spiegel. The interview was published in German, but a credible translation can be found here. During the interview, Charmeau expressed frustration with SpaceX and attributed its success to subsidized launches for the U.S. government. When pressed on the price pressure that SpaceX has introduced into the launch market, Charmeau's central argument is that this has only been possible because, "SpaceX is charging the U.S. government 100 million dollar per launch, but launches for European customers are much cheaper." Essentially, he says, launches for the U.S. military and NASA are subsidizing SpaceX's commercial launch business. However, the pay-for-service prices that SpaceX offers to the U.S. Department of Defense for spy satellites and cargo and crew launches for NASA are below those of what other launch companies charge. And while $100 million or more for a military launch is significantly higher than a $62 million commercial launch, government contracts come with extra restrictions, reviews, and requirements that drive up this price.

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Money’s Better Than E-Cigs Or Nicotine Gum At Helping Smokers Quit, Says Study

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Providing free electronic cigarettes or other stop-smoking products to employees to get them to give up real cigarettes is less effective than the threat of taking away a cash reward for quitting, according to a new study that weighs the effectiveness of a variety of workplace incentive programs. The findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, call into question the claims by e-cigarette enthusiasts that the devices may be better than traditional quit aids at helping smokers to stop. The study is also significant because it may be the first to look at programs to get all smoking employees to quit, whether or not they've decided they want to do so. The results show that if the motivation isn't there, neither are the positive results. 9.5 percent of participants who got the free smoking cessation products plus a cash reward ($100 for the first month, an additional $200 at the three-month mark and $300 if they stayed smoke-free for six months) for staying away from tobacco quit.

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FBI Seizes Control of Russian Botnet

The Daily Beast reports that the FBI has seized control of a key server in the Kremlin's global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers. "The move positions the bureau to build a comprehensive list of victims of the attack, and short-circuits Moscow's ability to reinfect its targets," writes Kevin Poulsen. From the report: The FBI counter-operation goes after "VPN Filter," a piece of sophisticated malware linked to the same Russian hacking group, known as Fancy Bear, that breached the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. On Wednesday security researchers at Cisco and Symantec separately provided new details on the malware, which has turned up in 54 countries including the United States. VPN Filter uses known vulnerabilities to infect home office routers made by Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR, and TP-Link. Once in place, the malware reports back to a command-and-control infrastructure that can install purpose-built plug-ins, according to the researchers. One plug-in lets the hackers eavesdrop on the victim's Internet traffic to steal website credentials; another targets a protocol used in industrial control networks, such as those in the electric grid. A third lets the attacker cripple any or all of the infected devices at will.

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Google and LG Unveil World’s Highest-Resolution OLED On-Glass VR Display

A couple months ago, Road to VR reported that Google and LG were planning to reveal the "world's highest-resolution OLED on-glass display" for virtual-reality headsets on May 22nd. Well, that day has arrived and the two companies unveiled that very display. Android Authority reports: As expected, the 4.3-inch OLED 18MP display has a resolution of 4,800 x 3,840. The display has a pixel density of 1,443PPI and a 120Hz refresh rate. Google and LG referred to it as the "world's highest-resolution OLED on-glass display." For comparison's sake, the HTC Vive has two 3.6-inch displays with resolutions of 1,200 x 1,080. The higher-end HTC Vive Pro has two 3.5-inch displays with resolutions of 1,600 x 1,440. The Vive Pro maxes out at 615PPI, making this new LG panel about 57% better than HTC's best offering. However, there's already one display that's better than anything on offer, and that's your own vision. A person with great vision sees in an estimated resolution of 9,600 x 9,000 with a PPI density of 2,183. In other words, this new display from Google and LG is about half as good as our own eyes. Unfortunately, there are no plans to use them in any consumer products yet. Google rep Carlin Verri told 9to5Google that the companies started this project to push the industry forward.

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ACLU Sues ICE For License Plate Reader Contracts, Records

An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for records about the agency's use of license plate reader technology, after ICE apparently failed to turn over records following multiple requests. In December, ICE purchased access to two databases of ALPR data, the complaint reads. One of those databases is managed by Vigilant Solutions, which has contracts with more than two dozen Bay Area law enforcement agencies. "We believe the other is managed by Thomson Reuters," ACLU laywer Vasudha Talla said. The ACLU and other privacy advocates have expressed concern about how this data will be stored and used for civil immigration enforcement. The ACLU filed two requests under the Freedom of Information Act in March seeking records from ICE, including contracts, memos, associated communications, training materials and audit logs. Since then, ICE has not provided any records, the ACLU said in the complaint, which was filed Tuesday morning in the Northern District Court for the Northern District of California. "The excessive collection and storing of this data in databases -- which is then pooled and shared nationally -- results in a systemic monitoring that chills the exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and association, as well as essential tasks such as driving to work, picking children up from school, and grocery shopping," the complaint said. "We have essentially two concerns: one that is general to ALPR databases, and one that's specific to this situation with ICE," Talla said. "The ACLU has done a lot of work around surveillance technology and ALPR, and we're generally concerned about the aggregation of all this data about license plates paired with a time and location, stretching back for so many months and years."

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Comcast Confirms Plan To Buy 21st Century Fox and Control of Hulu

Comcast is reportedly preparing an offer to buy major portions of 21st Century Fox, which would give it majority control of Hulu and other media properties. Ars Technica reports: Walt Disney Company already has a $52.4 billion all-stock deal to buy the 21st Century Fox properties. But Comcast was rumored to be lining up $60 billion in financing in order to make a hostile bid for the Fox assets, and Comcast's announcement today confirms it. Comcast "is considering, and is in advanced stages of preparing, an offer for the businesses that Fox has agreed to sell to Disney," Comcast's announcement said. Comcast is working on the offer in preparation for shareholder meetings in which the Disney/Fox deal will be considered. The Fox properties for sale do not include assets such as the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and Fox Broadcasting Company. Those properties would be spun off into a company being referred to as "New Fox," and Comcast would acquire 21st Century Fox after the spinoff. The Fox sale to either Disney or Comcast would include 21st Century Fox's film and television studios; cable entertainment networks; the Fox Sports Regional Networks; and international properties including Star in India and Fox's 39-percent ownership of Sky across Europe. The sale would also include Fox's 30-percent stake in Hulu, the popular online video streaming service. Comcast already owns 30 percent of Hulu, so a deal with Fox would give the nation's largest cable company majority control over the online video provider.

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Elon Musk To Fight Fake News, Rate Journalists’ Credibility Via a Site Called ‘Pravda’

Elon Musk took to Twitter today to announce his next project: a site called "Pravda" that ranks journalists' credibility and fights fake news. "Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication," tweeted Musk. "Thinking of calling it Pravda..." Musk continued: "Even if some of the public doesn't care about the credibility score, the journalists, editors & publications will. It is how they define themselves." A subsequent Twitter poll (exposed to mostly Musk followers) reveals that most people believe "this would be good." Accredited journalist Mark Harris replied to the Tesla and SpaceX CEO with a copy of a Statement and Designation by Foreign Corporation form that names the Pravda Corp. "Er, he's not kidding folks," Harris tweeted. "I noticed that one of Musk's agents had incorporated Pravda Corp in California back in October last year. I was wondering what it was all about..." GeekWire has catalogued a string of replies between Musk and Twitter users who are supportive/unsupportive of his plans.

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Uber Shutting Down Self-Driving Operations In Arizona After Fatal Crash

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Arizona Republic: Uber is shutting down its self-driving car tests in Arizona, where one of the cars was involved in a fatal crash with a pedestrian in March, the company said Wednesday. The company notified about 300 Arizona workers in the self-driving program that they were being terminated just before 9 a.m. Wednesday. The shutdown should take several weeks. Test drivers for the autonomous cars have not worked since the accident in Tempe, but Uber said they continued to be paid. The company's self-driving trucks have also been shelved since the accident. Uber plans to restart testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh once federal investigators conclude their inquiry into the Tempe crash. The company also said it is having discussions with California leaders to restart testing.

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Microsoft Also Has An AI Bot That Makes Phone Calls To Humans

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: At an AI event in London today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off the company's Xiaoice (pronounced "SHAO-ICE") social chat bot. Microsoft has been testing Xiaoice in China, and Nadella revealed the bot has 500 million "friends" and more than 16 channels for Chinese users to interact with it through WeChat and other popular messaging services. Microsoft has turned Xiaoice, which is Chinese for "little Bing," into a friendly bot that has convinced some of its users that the bot is a friend or a human being. "Xiaoice has her own TV show, it writes poetry, and it does many interesting things," reveals Nadella. "It's a bit of a celebrity." While most of Xiaoice's interactions have been in text conversations, Microsoft has started allowing the chat bot to call people on their phones. It's not exactly the same as Google Duplex, which uses the Assistant to make calls on your behalf, but instead it holds a phone conversation with you. "One of the things we started doing earlier this year is having full duplex conversations," explains Nadella. "So now Xiaoice can be conversing with you in WeChat and stop and call you. Then you can just talk to it using voice." (The term "full duplex" here refers to a conversation where both participants can speak at the same time; it's not a reference to Google's product, which was named after the same jargon.)

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People Are Losing Faith In Self-Driving Cars Following Recent Fatal Crashes

oldgraybeard shares a report from Mashable: A new survey (PDF) released Tuesday by the American Automobile Association found that 73 percent of American drivers are scared to ride in an autonomous vehicle. That figure is up 10 percent from the end of last year. The millennial demographic has been the most affected, according to the survey of more than 1,000 drivers. From that age group, 64 percent said they're too afraid to ride in an autonomous vehicle, up from 49 percent -- making it the biggest increase of any age group surveyed. "There are news articles about the trust levels in self-driving cars going down," writes oldgraybeard. "As a technical person, I have always thought the road to driverless cars would be longer than most were talking about. What are your thoughts? As an individual with eye problems, I do like the idea. But technology is not as good as some think." The Mashable article also references a separate study from market research company Morning Consult "showing increased fear about self-driving vehicles following the deadly March crashes in the Bay Area and Arizona." Another survey from car shopping site CarGurus set to be released Wednesday found that car owners aren't quite ready to trade their conventional vehicles for self-driving ones. "Some 84 percent of the 1,873 U.S. car owners surveyed in April said they were unlikely to own a self-driving car in the next five years," reports Mashable. "79 percent of respondents said they were not excited about the new technology."

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Tesla’s Promised $35,000 Model 3 Is Still a Long Way Off

When the Model 3 was first unveiled, it was pitched as an EV for the masses that would have a reasonable $35,000 price. Two years later and we still don't have a clear timeline as to when the $35,000 Model 3 will ship. In fact, Elon Musk last weekend unveiled the pricing and specs of a newer, more expensive Model 3 with AWD. It will cost $78,000. Engadget reports: CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted that the $35,000 Model 3 now won't ship until three to six months after Tesla achieves its 5,000 vehicle-per-week production goal. The reason for the new delay in the base model is simple: If the company was to ship it now, it would lose money on every vehicle and "die," as Musk put it. If Tesla had hit its initial forecasts and was producing 5,000 vehicles a week by January, the base, $35,000 Model 3 probably wouldn't have been delayed by so much. One potential problem for Tesla, as the WSJ points out, is that many of the 500,000 buyers who laid down a $1,000 deposit did so expecting to buy a $35,000 car, not a $49,000 one. When they get a letter saying the time has come to configure their EVs, quite a few might decide to back out, which could impact Tesla's already precarious cash flow situation.

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Giant Predatory Worms Are Invading France

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: In a Peer J study published on May 22, "Giant worms chez moi!" zoologist Jean-Lou Justine of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, entomologist colleagues, and Pierre Gros, outline a discovery that "highlights an unexpected blind spot of scientists and authorities facing an invasion by conspicuous large invasive animals." About 100 citizen scientists ultimately contributed to the assessment of this alien invasion, identifying five giant predatory worm species in France that grow up to 10 inches long. The study relied on contributors' worm sightings, reported "mainly by email, sometimes by telephone." Researchers requested photographs and details about locality. In 2013, the Washington Post reports, "a group of terrorized kindergartners claimed they saw a mass of writhing snakes in their play field." These were giant flatworms! The study concludes that the alien creatures appear to reproduce asexually. They prey on other, smaller earthworms, stunning them with toxins. "The planarian also produces secretions from its headplate and body that adhere it to the prey, despite often sudden violent movements of the latter during this stage of capture," researcher note. In other words, the hammerheads produce a substance that allows them to stick to victims while killing them. The study points out that invasive alien flatworms have been spotted in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Australia. But the five species of hammerhead flatworms invading France are giants, growing up to 27 centimeters.

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FBI Repeatedly Overstated Encryption Threat Figures To Congress, Public

mi shares a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000. Over a period of seven months, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray cited the inflated figure as the most compelling evidence for the need to address what the FBI calls "Going Dark" -- the spread of encrypted software that can block investigators' access to digital data even with a court order. "The FBI's initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,'' the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. The bureau said the problem stemmed from the use of three distinct databases that led to repeated counting of phones. Tests of the methodology conducted in April 2016 failed to detect the flaw, according to people familiar with the work.

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FBI Reportedly Overstated Encryption Threat Figures To Congress, Public

mi shares a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000. Over a period of seven months, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray cited the inflated figure as the most compelling evidence for the need to address what the FBI calls "Going Dark" -- the spread of encrypted software that can block investigators' access to digital data even with a court order. "The FBI's initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,'' the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. The bureau said the problem stemmed from the use of three distinct databases that led to repeated counting of phones. Tests of the methodology conducted in April 2016 failed to detect the flaw, according to people familiar with the work.

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Google Launches YouTube Music Service With Creepy AI To Predict Listening Habits

Audiofan writes: Will the new YouTube Music streaming service provide the soundtrack to your life? Google believes that its ability to harness the power of artificial intelligence will help the new service catch up to its rivals in the music streaming business. Google's latest attempt to compete with Spotify and Apple Music may finally have what it takes if it doesn't creep users out in the process. While the service officially rolls out on Tuesday, May 22nd, only some users will be able to use it at launch. What separates YouTube's music streaming service from the competition is its catalog of remixes, live versions, and covers of official versions of songs. It also uses the Google Assistant to make music recommendations based on everything it knows (and can learn) about you and your listening habits. "When you arrive at the gym, for example, YouTube Music will offer up a playlist of hard-hitting pump-up jams (if that's your thing)," reports Audioholics. "Late at night, softer tunes will set a more relaxing mood." YouTube Music is free with ads, but will cost $9.99 for ad-free listening. There is also YouTube Premium, which will cost $11.99 per month, and will include both the ad-free music service and the exclusive video content from the now-defunct YouTube Red.

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Razer Slims Down Blade, Debuts MacOS-Compatible eGPU Enclosure

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today, Razer debuted big updates to its Razer Blade laptop, focusing on design and performance to usher the gaming notebook into 2018. While the new Blade still looks unmistakably "Razer," its design has changed dramatically for the better. Razer upped the screen size from 14 inches to 15.6 inches, reducing the surrounding bezels to just 4.9mm so that the device fits in with the other nearly bezel-less ultrabooks popular today. Razer is offering 1080p 60Hz or 144Hz panels, along with a 4K touchscreen option as well. The larger display panel makes the laptop slightly heavier than its predecessor, and it's a bit wider overall, too (4.7 pounds and 9.3 inches, respectively). However, the slimmer bezels, sharper edges, and aluminum unibody make the new Razer Blade look like a clear upgrade from the previous model. Another new addition to the Razer lineup is the Core X, a Thunderbolt 3 external graphics enclosure with space for large, three-slot wide graphics cards. The Core X joins the Core V2 graphics enclosure as one of Razer's solutions for gamers who want to add desktop-like graphics power to their laptops -- and it's more affordable than the V2 as well. While it's a bit stockier than Razer's existing enclosure, the Core X has an aluminum body with open vents to properly handle heat, regardless of the task at hand. The Core X connects to a compatible notebook through one Thunderbolt 3 port, providing eGPU access and 100W of power thanks to its 650 ATX power supply. It's both cheaper and seemingly easier to use than the V2, but that comes with some compromises: the Core X doesn't have Chroma lighting, and it lacks USB and Ethernet ports. Some other specs of the new Blade include a Intel Core i7-8750H processor, Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 with Max-Q graphics, up to 32GB of RAM, up to 2TB of PCIe-based SSD, and 80Whr battery. There are three USB-A 3.1 ports, one proprietary charging port, one Thunderbolt 3 port, a Mini DisplayPort, and an HDMI port.

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European Lawmakers Asked Mark Zuckerberg Why They Shouldn’t Break Up Facebook

European lawmakers questioned Mark Zuckerberg in Brussels today for almost an hour and a half, asking him to address concerns about the Cambridge Analytica data leak and Facebook's potential monopoly. German MEP Manfred Weber asked whether the Facebook CEO could name a single European alternative to his "empire," which includes apps like WhatsApp and Instagram in addition to Facebook. "I think it's time to discuss breaking up Facebook's monopoly, because it's already too much power in only one hand," said Weber. "So I ask you simple, and that is my final question: can you convince me not to do so?" Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt then chimed in and asked whether Facebook would cooperate with European antitrust authorities to determine whether the company was indeed a monopoly, and if it was, whether Facebook would accept splitting off WhatsApp or Messenger to remedy the problem. The Verge reports: The panel's format let Zuckerberg selectively reply to questions at the end of the session, and he didn't address Verhofstadt's points. Instead, he broadly outlined how Facebook views "competition" in various spaces. "We exist in a very competitive space where people use a lot of different tools for communication," said Zuckerberg. "From where I sit, it feels like there are new competitors coming up every day" in the messaging and social networking space. He also said that Facebook didn't hold an advertising monopoly because it only controlled 6 percent of the global advertising market. (It's worth noting: this is still a huge number.) And he argued that Facebook promoted competition by making it easier for small businesses to reach larger audiences -- which is basically unrelated to the question of whether Facebook itself is a monopoly.

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SpaceX Flies Satellites For Iridium, NASA In 10th Launch of 2018

SpaceX launched a total of seven satellites for Iridium and NASA, reusing part of a previously flown rocket for its 10th mission of 2018. "Five Iridium NEXT satellites were launched as part of the company's campaign to replace the world's largest commercial satellite network," reports Bloomberg. "SpaceX's mission also includes launching twin satellites for the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO)," which will "measure the distribution of the Earth's mass" and "monitor changes in ice sheets, glaciers and sea level." From the report: The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast about 12:47 p.m. local time. The GRACE-FO satellites deployed roughly 11 minutes after launch, while the Iridium satellites are due to be released roughly an hour after the launch. SpaceX won't attempt to recover the first stage of the rocket, which flew in January during the Zuma mission, according to a SpaceX press kit. CBS News has some additional details about the GRACE-FO satellites. They were reportedly "designed to fly in tandem 137 miles apart in a 305-mile orbit around Earth's poles," reports CBS News. "Using a microwave tracking system, the distance between the two 1,300-pound satellites can be measured to within the diameter of a red blood cell. By precisely measuring the distance between the satellites, scientists can determine how much mass is below the flight path and then calculate the contribution of water, creating global maps every 30 days." UPDATE: SpaceX has confirmed that all five Iridium satellites have been successfully deployed.

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Creeping Lava Now Threatens Major Hawaiian Power Plant

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Molten lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has entered the grounds of Puna Geothermal Venture, a geothermal power plant that provides about 25 percent of the Big Island's power. The 38 Megawatt Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) power plant, which is located in the east rift zone of the Kilauea volcano, was shut down soon after the eruptions began on May 3. Yesterday, lava from Fissure 22 came to within 820 feet (250 meters) of the plant's nearest well pad before stalling, as Reuters reports. Overnight, workers managed to cap the 11th and final well at the facility in anticipation of the lava eventually reaching the facility, and to prevent the uncontrollable release of toxic gases. Mercifully, the lava flow stopped at a ridge near the PGV plant, but as the events of the past two weeks have shown, Mount Kilauea is in an extremely volatile state. The HCCD said Fissure 22 is producing most of the lava feeding the flows, so the situation near the power plant remains precarious.

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3D Headphone Startup ‘Ossic’ Closes Abruptly, Leaving Crowdfunders Hanging

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Ossic raised more than $3.2 million in crowdfunding for its Ossic X, which it touted as the "first 3D audio headphones calibrated to you." But after delivering devices to only about 80 investors who'd paid at least $999 to for the "Developer/Innovator" rewards level on Kickstarter, Ossic announced Saturday it had run out of money -- leaving the more than 10,000 other backers with nothing but lighter wallets. Ossic, which The San Diego Union-Tribune notes was founded by former Logitech engineers Jason Riggs and Joy Lyons, had excited gamers, audiophiles and other sound consumers by creating headphones that used advanced 3D audio algorithms, head-tracking technology and individual anatomy calibration to "deliver incredibly accurate 3D sound to your ears," according to its funding campaign on Kickstarter. In less than two months in 2016, it was able to raise $2.7 million from more than 10,000 backers on Kickstarter. It raised another $515,970 on Indiegogo. "This was obviously not our desired outcome," the company said in a statement. "To fail at the five-yard line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities."

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Asteroid From Another Star System Found Orbiting Wrong Way Near Jupiter

Astronomers have spotted an asteroid orbiting our sun in the opposite (retrograde) direction to the planets. The 2-mile-wide asteroid, known as 2015 BZ509, is the first "interstellar immigrant" from beyond our solar system to remain, according to the study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The Guardian reports: Further work on the asteroid revealed it takes the same length of time to orbit the sun as the planet Jupiter at a similar average distance, although in the opposite direction and with a different shaped path, suggesting the two have gravitational interactions. But unpicking quite where the asteroid came from was challenging. Asteroids that orbit the sun on paths that take them between the giant planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune -- are known as centaurs, and it is thought that many might come from distant bands of material within the solar system such as the scattered disk or the Oort cloud. Several, like BZ509, are known to have retrograde paths, although how they ended up on such orbits is unclear. But there was a clue there was something unusual about BZ509: while previous studies suggested retrograde centaurs stay gravitationally "tied" to planets for 10,000 years at most, recent work had suggested this asteroid's orbit had been linked to Jupiter for far longer, probably as a result of the planet's mass and the way both take the same time to orbit the sun. The discovery provides vital clues as to the asteroid's origins. [Dr Fathi Namouni from the Observatory de la Cote d'Azur said] that the model suggests the most likely explanation is that the asteroid was captured by Jupiter as it hurtled through the solar system from interstellar space. "It means it is an alien to the solar system," he said.

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