Author Archives: msmash

Oracle’s CTO: No Way a ‘Normal’ Person Would Move To AWS

Amazon may have turned off its Oracle data warehouse in favor of Amazon Web Services database technology, but no one else in their right mind would, Oracle's outspoken co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison says. From a report: "We have a huge technology leadership in database over Amazon," Ellison said on a conference call following the release of Oracle's second quarter financial results. "In terms of technology, there is no way that... any normal person would move from an Oracle database to an Amazon database." During last month's AWS re:Invent conference, AWS CTO Werner Vogels gave an in-the-weeds talk explaining why Amazon turned off its Oracle data warehouse. In a clear jab at Oracle, Vogels wrote off the "90's technology" behind most relational databases. Cloud native databases, he said, are the basis of innovation. The remarks may have gotten under Ellison's skin. Moving from Oracle databases to AWS "is just incredibly expensive and complicated," he said Monday. "And you've got to be willing to give up tons of reliability, tons of security, tons of performance... Nobody, save maybe Jeff Bezos, gave the command, 'I want to get off the Oracle database." Ellison said that Oracle will not only hold onto its 50 percent relational database market share but will expand it, thanks to the combination of Oracle's new Generation 2 Cloud infrastructure and its autonomoius database technology. "You will see rapid migration of Oracle from on-premise to the Oracle public cloud," he said. "Nobody else is going to go through that forced march to go on to the Amazon database."

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AT&T Opens 5G Network in 12 US Cities, Announces Pricing For First 5G Mobile Device and Service

AT&T said Tuesday its network is now live in parts of 12 cities across the United States, with the first mobile 5G device arriving on Friday, December 21. From a report: According to an AT&T spokesperson, the company's 5G network is already up and running in parts of the previously promised dozen cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco. However, the first consumer device that will be able to access that network, Netgear's Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, will become available just ahead of the Christmas holiday. The company also revealed that it will be using the name "5G+" for the part of its network that will use millimeter wave spectrum and technologies, and it said the Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot will run on that 5G+ network. [...] AT&T's 5G pricing is also interesting. Like Verizon, AT&T is offering an initial promotion that makes the hardware and 5G service cheap up front, with new pricing set to follow later. Early adopters from the consumer, small business, and business markets will be able to "get the mobile 5G device and wireless data at no cost for at least 90 days," AT&T says, with new pricing beginning in spring 2019. At that point, the Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot will cost $499 outright, with 15GB of 5G service priced at $70 per month, which AT&T calls "comparable" to its current $50 monthly charge for 10GB of 4G data.

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Sphero Discontinues Its BB-8, R2-D2, and Other Licensed Disney Products

Sphero's hinted that it's getting out of the licensed product game, but this week CEO Paul Berberian confirmed that the company is clearing out its remaining licensed inventory and won't be restocking the supply. From a report: That means the company won't be producing any more BB-8s, R2-D2s, Lightning McQueen cars, or talking Spider-Mans. The listings for all the toys list them as "legacy products" that are no longer in production. App support will continue for "at least two years, if not longer," Berberian says. The Disney partnership lasted three years, but ultimately, the licensed toy business required more resources than it was worth, Berberian tells The Verge. These toys sold well when released with a movie, but interest waned over time as the movie became more distant, he says. Still, the company sold "millions" of BB-8s, although company data shows that the toys weren't used much after initial play time and eventually sat on shelves.

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Former NASA Engineer Designed Glitter Bomb Trap To Avenge Amazon Delivery Theft Victims

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. But for Mark Rober, it's much sweeter served smart, smelly and covered in glitter. From a report: The former NASA engineer-turned-YouTube star has received plaudits online after designing a booby trap to avenge all those who've fallen victim to a new wave of neighborhood crime: doorstep delivery theft. Rober spent six months combining GPS tracking, cameras, fart spray and glitter in an elaborate and amusing mechanism after discovering thieves had stolen an Amazon delivery from his doorstep. In a video posted on his channel, the 38-year-old, who helped design the U.S. space agency's Curiosity Rover, said his engineering experience left him well-placed to "take a stand" after dismissive police left him feeling "powerless." "If anyone was going to make a revenge ... package and over-engineer the crap out of it, it was going to be me," said Rober, who spent nine years with NASA.

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Taiwan To Shut Down 3G Networks By Year End

Consumers in Taiwan will only be able to use 4G services from 2019 as the government will shut down 3G services by the end of the year, according to a Sina news report on Monday, citing local Taiwan media reports. From a report: Although the vast majority of the population in Taiwan have shifted to 4G networks, there are still around 200,000 consumers using 3G. This has prompted local carriers to roll out incentives and promotions to get 3G users to shift onto the latest 4G plans. Taiwan's latest move to shut down 3G networks follows its earlier decision to remove all 2G networks on July 1, 2017, as local regulators and telecom operators continue to actively push for the development of 4G network coverage. As of March this year, the number of 4G users has already exceeded the population in Taiwan, said the report. The number of 3G users has declined to some 228,000 people in mid-November from 5.5 million in 2017.

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Spam Calls Jumped Over 300% Globally in 2018

An anonymous reader shares a report: According to the yearly report published by Stockholm-based phone number-identification service Truecaller, spam calls grew by 300 percent year-over-year in 2018. The report also found that telecom operators themselves are much to blame. Between January and October of this year, Truecaller said, users worldwide received about 17.7 billion spam calls. That's up from some 5.5 billion spam calls they received last year. One of the most interesting takeaways from the report is a sharp surge in spam calls users received in Brazil this year, making it the most spammed country in the world. According to Truecaller, an average user in Brazil received over 37 spam calls in a month, up from some 20 spam calls during the same period last year. According to the report, telecom operators (at 32 percent) remained the biggest spammers in Brazil. The report also acknowledged the general election as an event that drove up spam calls in the country. As in Brazil, Indians were bombarded by telecom operators (a whopping 91 percent of all spam calls came from them) and service providers trying to sell them expensive plans and other offerings. Spam calls received by users in the U.S. were down from 20.7 calls in a month to 16.9, while users in the U.K. saw a drop in their monthly dose of spam calls from 9.2 to 8.9. [...] Truecaller also reported that scam calls subjecting victims to fraud attempts and money swindling are still a prevalent issue. One in every 10 American adults lost money from a phone scam, according to a yearly report the firm published in April this year.

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Hyped AR Tech Firm Blippar Collapses Into Administration

One of the great hopes of the UK tech sector, Blippar, has collapsed into administration over a funding row. BBC News reports: The augmented reality firm was co-founded by Ambarish Mitra, and its technology was used in a partnership with the BBC's Planet Earth II series. Blippar was one of the UK's tech "Unicorns" -- start-up businesses that are worth $1bn or more. Mr Mitra became a brand ambassador for the UK to promote British innovation around the world. He claimed to have founded his business from a Delhi slum, leading him to be dubbed a "real-life Slumdog Millionaire". However, the Financial Times ran a profile disputing many of Mr Mitra's claims about his birth and his business development. It seemed to be one of the brightest stars in London's tech firmament, raising big sums from American and Malaysian backers who bought into the message that augmented reality was the next big thing. So why has the Blippar bubble burst? A few years ago it did appear to have something groundbreaking -- you could point its phone app at everyday objects and they would animate into action, give you useful information or serve up an advert. But the business appeared to depend on a very fickle set of customers -- advertising agencies wanting to use its augmented reality tools in their campaigns. Not only are much bigger firms offering similar technology but big brands seem to have concluded that it's a gimmick whose time may already have passed. What's more Blippar suffered from a lack of focus, trying out a range of ideas -- making an app for Google Glass, opening a Silicon Valley office, launching a facial recognition service.

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux Comes To Windows 10 in the Form of WLinux Enterprise

Mark Wilson writes: Earlier in the year open-source software startup Whitewater Foundry brought WLinux to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Not content with creating the first native Linux distribution for WSL, the company has now gone a step further, targeting enterprise users with WLinux Enterprise. Whitewater Foundry says that WLinux Enterprise is the first product to support the industry-standard Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Windows Subsystem for Linux.

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Lawmakers Push To Create a Three-Digit Suicide Hotline Number

In a letter addressed to the FCC, Senator Ron Wyden urged commissioners to create a three-digit, 911-style suicide hotline number. The Oregon senator cites the CDC's report that more than 40,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. From a report: "I write on behalf of those struggling with mental health issues, our veterans struggling with PTSD and for those impacted by the tragedy of suicide," Wyden writes. "I urge you to designate a 3-digit code as a Behavioral Health and Suicide Crisis Lifeline. Thank you for your consideration." While The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline launched an 800 line in 2004, many believe the number is too long and cumbersome for those reaching out in their time of need. The letter floats the idea of using 611. The call echoes a similar push last week by Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Chris Stewart to designate the number, which is currently used to report phone service problems by some U.S. and Canadian carriers.

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Former Edge Browser Intern Alleges Google Sabotaged Microsoft’s Browser

Joshua Bakita, a former software engineering intern on the Edge team at Microsoft, says one of the reasons why Microsoft had to ditch EdgeHTML rendering engine in Edge browser and switch to Chromium was to keep up with the changes (some of which were notorious) that Google pushed to its sites. These changes were designed to ensure that Edge and other browsers could not properly run Google's sites, he alleged. Responding to a comment, he wrote: "For example, they may start integrating technologies for which they have exclusive, or at least 'special' access. Can you imagine if all of a sudden Google apps start performing better than anyone else's?" This is already happening. I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn't keep up. For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update). Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome's dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life. What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower. Now while I'm not sure I'm convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced -- and they're the ones who looked into it personally. To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further. And this is only one case.

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Twitter Warns of Suspicious Traffic Coming From China and Russia

Suspicious traffic to a Twitter user forum appears to be part of a government-backed activity coming from China and Russia, a Twitter spokesman told Reuters Monday. The company said it is yet to determine the reason for the activity, but is choosing to notify users out of an abundance of caution. Additionally: Twitter bug leaks phone number country codes.

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MIPS Goes Open Source

Junko Yoshida, writing for EETimes: Without question, 2018 was the year RISC-V genuinely began to build momentum among chip architects hungry for open-source instruction sets. That was then. By 2019, RISC-V won't be the only game in town. Wave Computing (Campbell, Calif.) announced Monday (Dec. 17) that it is putting MIPS on open source, with MIPS Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) and MIPS' latest core R6 available in the first quarter of 2019. Art Swift, hired by Wave this month as president of its MIPS licensing business, described the move as critical to accelerate the adoption of MIPS in an ecosystem. Going open source is "a big plan" that Wave CEO Derek Meyer, a MIPS veteran, has been quietly fostering since Wave acquired MIPS Technologies in June, explained Swift. Swift himself is a MIPS alumnus who worked at the company as a vice president of marketing and business development for four years. Wave, which styles itself as a tech startup poised to bring "AI and deep learning from the datacenter to the edge," sees MIPS as a key to advancing Wave's AI into a host of uses and applications. Included in MIPS instruction sets are extensions such as SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) and DSP. Swift promised that MIPS will bring to the open-source community "commercial-ready" instruction sets with "industrial-strength" architecture. "Chip designers will have opportunities to design their own cores based on proven and well tested instruction sets for any purposes," said Swift.

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Cement is the Source of About 8% of the World’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet. But, while cement -- the key ingredient in concrete -- has shaped much of our built environment, it also has a massive carbon footprint. From a report: Cement is the source of about 8% of the world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world -- behind China and the US. It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%). Cement industry leaders were in Poland for the UN's climate change conference -- COP24 -- to discuss ways of meeting the requirements of the Paris Agreement on climate change. To do this, annual emissions from cement will need to fall by at least 16% by 2030.

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CenturyLink Blocked Its Customers’ Internet Access in Order To Show an Ad

CenturyLink briefly disabled the Internet connections of customers in Utah last week and allowed them back online only after they acknowledged an offer to purchase filtering software. From a report: CenturyLink falsely claimed that it was required to do so by a Utah state law that says ISPs must notify customers "of the ability to block material harmful to minors." In fact, the new law requires only that ISPs notify customers of their filtering software options "in a conspicuous manner"; it does not say that the ISPs must disable Internet access until consumers acknowledge the notification. The law even says that ISPs may make the notification "with a consumer's bill," which shouldn't disable anyone's Internet access. Coincidentally, CenturyLink's blocking of customer Internet access occurred days before the one-year anniversary of the Federal Communications Commission repeal of net neutrality rules, which prohibited blocking and throttling of Internet access. "Just had CenturyLink block my Internet and then inject this page into my browser... to advertise their paid filtering software to me," software engineer and Utah resident Rich Snapp tweeted on December 9. "Clicking OK on the notice then restored my Internet... this is NOT okay!"

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Google’s Secret China Project ‘Effectively Ended’ After Internal Confrontation: Report

Less than five months after Google's plan to build a censored search engine and other tools for the Chinese market became public, the company has "effectively ended" the project, reports The Intercept. From the report: Google has been forced to shut down a data analysis system it was using to develop a censored search engine for China after members of the company's privacy team raised internal complaints that it had been kept secret from them, The Intercept has learned. The internal rift over the system has had massive ramifications, effectively ending work on the censored search engine, known as Dragonfly, according to two sources familiar with the plans. The incident represents a major blow to top Google executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, who have over the last two years made the China project one of their main priorities. The dispute began in mid-August, when the The Intercept revealed that Google employees working on Dragonfly had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine, which was designed to block out broad categories of information related to democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest, in accordance with strict rules on censorship in China that are enforced by the country's authoritarian Communist Party government.

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Norway is Entering a New Era of Climate-Conscious Architecture

The European Union has a target of making all new buildings zero-energy by 2020, but in Norway, carbon neutrality isn't enough. From a report: A consortium in Oslo made up of architects, engineers, environmentalists, and designers is creating energy-positive buildings in a country with some of the coldest and darkest winters on Earth. "If you can make it in Norway, you can make it anywhere," says Peter Bernhard, a consultant with Asplan Viak, one of the Powerhouse alliance members. Bernhard says Powerhouse began in 2010 with a question: Is it possible to not only eliminate the carbon footprint of buildings, but to also use them as a climate-crisis solution? It was a lofty goal. According to the European Commission, buildings account for 40 percent of energy usage and 36 percent of carbon-dioxide emissions in the EU. But after undertaking several energy-positive projects -- building a new Montessori school, retrofitting four small office buildings, building a few homes, and breaking ground on two new office buildings -- Powerhouse has found the answer to the 2010 question to be an emphatic "Yes." In 2019, the collective's biggest project to date will open to the public: Powerhouse Brattorkaia, in the central Norwegian city of Trondheim.

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California Requires New City Buses To Be Electric by 2029

California has became the first state to mandate a full shift to electric buses on public transit routes, flexing its muscle as the nation's leading environmental regulator and bringing battery-powered, heavy-duty vehicles a step closer to the mainstream. From a report: Starting in 2029, mass transit agencies in California will only be allowed to buy buses that are fully electric under a rule adopted by the state's powerful clean air agency. The agency, the California Air Resources Board, said it expected that municipal bus fleets would be fully electric by 2040. It estimated that the rule would cut emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases by 19 million metric tons from 2020 to 2050, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road. Environmental groups said the new regulation was an important step in cutting tailpipe emissions, which are a major contributor to global warming and California's notorious smog.

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More than Half of Americans Say They Didn’t Get a Pay Raise this Year

Although the economy saw new peaks in 2018, not all Americans report reaping the benefits. An anonymous reader shares a report: The majority of workers say they saw no salary increases this year, according to a new survey. More than 60% of Americans said they didn't get a pay raise at their current job or get a better-paying job in the last 12 months, according to a survey released Wednesday from finance site Bankrate.com. Meanwhile, executives have seen a surge in compensation, according to an August study from the Economic Policy Institute. The average chief executive officer at the 350 largest firms in the U.S. received $18.9 million in compensation in 2017, the study showed, a 17.6% increase over 2016. Despite those disparities, 91% of Americans say they have the same or greater confidence in the job market than they did one year ago, according to Bankrate.com.

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Amazon Wants To Curb Selling ‘CRaP’ Items it Can’t Profit On, Like Bottled Water and Snacks: Report

Amazon is rethinking its strategy around some items it sells which it calls internally "Can't realize a profit" -- or "CRaP" for short, according to the Wall Street Journal. From the report: Inside Amazon, the items are known as CRaP, short for "Can't Realize a Profit." Think bottled beverages or snack foods [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. The products tend to be priced at $15 or less, are sold directly by Amazon, and are heavy or bulky and therefore costly to ship -- characteristics that make for thin or nonexistent margins. Now, as Amazon focuses more on its bottom line in addition to its rapid growth, it is increasingly taking aim at CRaP products, according to major brand executives and people familiar with the company's thinking. In recent months, it has been eliminating unprofitable items and pressing manufacturers to change their packaging to better sell online, according to brands that sell on Amazon and consultants who work with them. One example: bottled water from Coca-Cola Co. Amazon used to have a $6.99 six-pack of Smartwater as the default order on some of its Dash buttons, a small device that allows for automatic reordering with a single press. But in August, after working with Coca-Cola to change how it ships and sells the water, Amazon notified Dash customers it was changing that default item to a 24-pack for $37.20.

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Emergence of Lab-Grown Meat Poses New Questions for Religious Leaders

Lab-grown meat is becoming closer to a reality. But this new technology poses new questions for people who typically avoid meat for religious or ethical reasons. An anonymous reader shares a report: Lab-grown meat has sparked a debate among rabbis in Israel about whether cell-cultured is the same as conventional meat and should fall under the same guidelines for keeping kosher. "There is a disagreement about it and there is a conversation. Also, definitely, there are new questions about lab-meat," says Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, an expert on kosher tradition and bioethics. WSJ has posted a video in which you can hear more from Rabbi Cherlow.

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What Are Silicon Valley’s Highest-Paying Tech Jobs?

An anonymous reader writes: Job-search site Indeed crunched its Silicon Valley hiring numbers for 2018, looking at tech job searches, salaries, and employers, and found that engineers who combine tech skills with business skills as directors of product management earn the most, with an average salary of US $186,766. Last year, the gig came in as number two, at $173,556. Also climbing up the ranks, and now in the number two spot with an average annual salary of $181,100, is senior reliability engineer. Application security engineer is third at $173,903. Neither made the top 20 in 2017. And while it seems that machine learning engineers have been getting all the love in 2018, those jobs came in eighth place, at $159,230. That's still a bit of a leap from last year, when the job made its first appearance on Indeed's top 20 highest-paying jobs in the 13th spot at $149,519. This year's top 20 is below; last year's numbers are here. Further reading: 'Blockchain Developer' is the Fastest-Growing US Job (LinkedIn study).

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Regular Windows 10 Users Who Manually Look For Updates May End Up Downloading Beta Code, Microsoft Says

In addition to relying on Windows Insiders, employees, and willing participants for testing updates, Microsoft is pushing patches before they are known to be stable to regular users too if they opt to click the "check for updates" button on their own, the company said. From a report: In a blog post by Michael Fortin, Corporate Vice President for Windows, it is made clear that home users are intentionally being given updates that are not necessarily ready for deployment. Many power users are familiar with Patch Tuesday. On the second Tuesday of each month, Microsoft pushes out a batch of updates at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time on this day containing security fixes, bug patches, and other non-security fixes. Updates pushed out as part of Patch Tuesday are known as "B" release since it happens during the second week of the month. During the third and fourth weeks of the month are where things begin to get murky. Microsoft's "C" and "D" releases are considered previews for commercial customers and power users. No security fixes are a part of these updates, but for good reasoning. Microsoft has come out to directly say that some users are the guinea pigs for everyone else. In some fairness to Microsoft, C and D updates are typically only applied when a user manually checks for updates by clicking the button buried within Settings. However, if end users really wanted to be a part of testing the latest features, the Windows Insider Program is designed exactly for that purpose. Further reading: Windows 10's 'Check for updates' button may download beta code.

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Boeing 737 Passenger Jet Damaged in Possible Midair Drone Hit

Grupo Aeromexico SAB is investigating whether a drone slammed into a Boeing Co. 737 jetliner as the aircraft approached its destination in Tijuana, Mexico, on the U.S. border. From a report: Images on local media showed considerable damage to the nose of the 737-800, which was operating Wednesday as Flight 773 from Guadalajara. In a cabin recording, crew members can be heard saying they heard a "pretty loud bang" and asking the control tower to check if the nose was damaged. The collision happened shortly before landing. "The exact cause is still being investigated," Aeromexico said in a statement. "The aircraft landed normally and the passengers' safety was never compromised." The potential drone strike stoked fears that the rising use of uncrewed aircraft will endanger planes filled with passengers. While most nations prohibit drones from flying in pathways reserved for airliners, the millions of small consumer devices that have been purchased around the world can't be tracked on radar, making it difficult for authorities to enforce the rules. In addition, many users don't know the rules or don't follow them.

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In Booming Job Market, Workers Are ‘Ghosting’ Their Employers

A notorious millennial dating practice is starting to creep into the workplace: ghosting. Employers are noticing with increasing frequency that workers are leaving their jobs by simply not showing up and cutting off contact with their companies [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; syndicated source]. From a report: "A number of contacts said that they had been 'ghosted,' a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact," the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December's Beige Book, which tracks employment trends. National data on economic "ghosting" is lacking. The term, which usually applies to dating, first surfaced in 2016 on Dictionary.com. But companies across the country say silent exits are on the rise. Analysts blame America's increasingly tight labor market. Job openings have surpassed the number of seekers for eight straight months, and the unemployment rate has clung to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent since September. Janitors, baristas, welders, accountants, engineers -- they're all in demand, said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Ball State University in Indiana. More people may opt to skip tough conversations and slide right into the next thing.

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A New Engine Could Bring Back Supersonic Air-Travel

An anonymous reader shares a report (may be paywalled): Every morning, time once was, a giant roar from Heathrow Airport would announce the departure of flight BA001 to New York. The roar was caused by the injection into the aircraft's four afterburners of the fuel which provided the extra thrust that it needed to take off. Soon afterwards, the pilot lit the afterburners again -- this time to accelerate his charge beyond the speed of sound for the three-and-a-half hour trip to JFK. The plane was Concorde. Supersonic passenger travel came to an end in 2003. The crash three years earlier of a French Concorde had not helped, but the main reasons were wider. One was the aircraft's Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus engines, afterburners and all, which gobbled up too much fuel for its flights to be paying propositions. The second was the boom-causing shock wave it generated when travelling supersonically. That meant the overland sections of its route had to be flown below Mach 1. For the Olympus, an engine optimised for travel far beyond the sound barrier, this was commercial death. That, however, was then. And this is now. Materials are lighter and stronger. Aerodynamics and the physics of sonic booms are better understood. There is also a more realistic appreciation of the market. As a result, several groups of aircraft engineers are dipping their toes back into the supersonic pool. Some see potential for planes with about half Concorde's 100-seat capacity. Others plan to start even smaller, with business jets that carry around a dozen passengers. The chances of such aircraft getting airborne have recently increased substantially.

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Facebook Says A Bug May Have Exposed The Unposted Photos Of Millions Of Users

A day after hosting a pop-up store in New York City's Bryant Park to explain how privacy is the "foundation of the company," Facebook disclosed that a security flaw potentially exposed the public and private photos of as many as 6.8 million users to developers. From a report: On Friday, the Menlo Park, California-based company said in a blog post that it discovered a bug in late September that gave third-party developers the ability to access users' photos, including those that had been uploaded to Facebook's servers but not publicly shared on any of its services. The security flaw, which exposed photos for 12 days between Sept. 13 and Sept. 25, affected up to 1,500 apps from 876 developers, according to Facebook. "We're sorry this happened," Facebook said in the post. "Early next week we will be rolling out tools for app developers that will allow them to determine which people using their app might be impacted by this bug. We will be working with those developers to delete the photos from impacted users." Facebook has not yet responded to questions about whether company representatives staffing its privacy pop-ups yesterday were aware of this security flaw as they were meeting with reporters and customers to discuss privacy.

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Hiding in Plain Sight: The YouTubers’ Crowdfunding Piracy

Some YouTube channels are publishing full-length episodes of TV shows, rights of which they obviously do not own, and on top of this, they are trying to crowdfund their piracy efforts by asking viewers to donate some cash. From a report: YouTube creators asking for money is nothing new, be it through the site's built-in membership features or third-party services such as Patreon. But trying to profit off someone else's intellectual property isn't the same as asking for support on an original video they've created. The person who runs the Kitchen Nightmares Hotel Hell and Hell's Kitchen channel did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Engadget, but their Patreon page (named YoIUploadShows) isn't coy. "Hey! It's not as easy as you might think to make my content, I have to look for the best quality episodes I can find, download them, convert them, edit them, render them and upload them," YoIUploadShows' Patreon page reads. "This can sometimes take at least a few hours. Especially because the downloads are usually slow and the rendering itself can take a couple hours, because I started making all my uploads in HD instead of 480p to give them a little extra clarity." It's not easy, folks, so for that he or she "would really appreciate the extra support if you have any money to spare :)"

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Chinese Hackers Breach US Navy Contractors

Chinese hackers are breaching Navy contractors to steal everything from ship-maintenance data to missile plans, triggering a top-to-bottom review of cyber vulnerabilities, WSJ reported Friday, citing officials and experts. From the report: A series of incidents in the past 18 months has pointed out the service's weaknesses, highlighting what some officials have described as some of the most debilitating cyber campaigns linked to Beijing. Cyberattacks affect all branches of the armed forces but contractors for the Navy and the Air Force are viewed as choice targets for hackers seeking advanced military technology, officials said. Navy contractors have suffered especially troubling breaches over the past year, one U.S. official said. The data allegedly stolen from Navy contractors and subcontractors often is highly sensitive, classified information about advanced military technology, according to U.S. officials and security researchers. The victims have included large contractors as well as small ones, some of which are seen as lacking the resources to invest in securing their networks. One major breach of a Navy contractor, reported in June, involved the theft of secret plans to build a supersonic anti-ship missile planned for use by American submarines, according to officials.

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We Might Not Have Enough Materials for All the Solar Panels and Wind Turbines We Need, an Analysis Finds

An anonymous reader writes: Plenty of high-tech electronic components, like solar panels, rechargeable batteries, and complex circuits require specific rare metals. These can include magnetic neodymium, electronic indium, and silver, along with lesser-known metals like praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium. These metals are mined in large quantities in countries around the world, and they make their way into the supply chains of all sorts of electronics and renewables companies. A group of researchers from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure determined how many of these important metals will be required by 2050 in order to make enough solar panels and wind turbines to effectively combat climate change. With plenty of countries, states, cities, and companies pledging to go 100 percent renewable by 2050, the number of both solar panels and wind turbines is expected to skyrocket. According to the analysis, turbines and solar panels might be skyrocketing a bit too much. Demand for some metals like neodymium and indium could grow by more than a dozen times by 2050, and there simply might not be enough supply to power the green revolution.

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Imax is Shutting Down Its VR Business, Closing Remaining Three VR Centers in Q1

Imax is making its exit from virtual reality (VR) official: The company notified shareholders with a SEC filing this week that it will close down its remaining three VR centers, and write off "certain VR content investments." From a report: A company spokesperson confirmed the planned closures and shared the following statement with Variety: "With the launch of the IMAX VR centre pilot program our intention was to test a variety of different concepts and locations to determine which approaches work well. After a trial period with VR centres in multiplexes, we have decided to conclude the IMAX VR centre pilot program and close the remaining three locations in Q1 2019." The company previously closed four of its seven VR centers, including most recently its sole European outpost in Manchester. Imax launched Imax VR in early 2017 with a flagship location adjacent to the Grove mall in Los Angeles. At the time, the expansion into VR was billed as an experiment, and a way for Imax to determine whether VR could be the next big thing for the company. [...] Imax also set up a $50 million VR content fund, and got CAA, China Media Capital, and the Raine Group to co-produce VR experiences. Further reading: The virtual reality dream is dying.

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A Corporate-issued Laptop Stolen From a Lenovo Employee in September Contained Unencrypted Payroll Data on APAC Staff

A corporate-issued laptop lifted from a Lenovo employee in Singapore contained a cornucopia of unencrypted payroll data on staff based in the Asia Pacific region, news outlet The Register reports. From the report: Details of the massive screw-up reached us from Lenovo staffers, who are simply bewildered at the monumental mistake. Lenovo has sent letters of shame to its employees confessing the security snafu. "We are writing to notify you that Lenovo has learned that one of our Singapore employees recently had the work laptop stolen on 10 September 2018," the letter from Lenovo HR and IT Security, dated 21 November, stated. "Unfortunately, this laptop contained payroll information, including employee name, monthly salary amounts and bank account numbers for Asia Pacific employees and was not encrypted." Lenovo employs more than 54,000 staff worldwide, the bulk of whom are in China.

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Sting on Amazon Booksellers Aims To Weed Out Counterfeit Textbooks, But Small Sellers Getting Hurt

Amazon upended the book industry more than two decades ago by bringing sales onto the web. Now, during the heart of the holiday shopping season, the company is wreaking havoc on used booksellers who have come to rely on Amazon for customers. From a report: In the past two weeks, Amazon has suspended at least 20 used book merchants for allegedly selling one or more counterfeit textbooks. They all received the same generic email from Amazon informing them that their account had been "temporarily deactivated" and reminding them that "the sale of counterfeit products on Amazon is strictly prohibited." [...] The crackdown on textbook sellers stands out at a time when Amazon is dramatically stepping up its broader anti-counterfeiting efforts, suspending third-party sellers across all its popular categories. Unlike most suspensions, which tend to occur after complaints from consumers or from brand owners who are monitoring the site for counterfeits, these booksellers got caught up in what appears to be a coordinated sting operation.

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Windows Server 2019 Officially Supports OpenSSH For the First Time

Microsoft said in 2015 that it would build OpenSSH, a set of utilities that allow clients and servers to connect securely, into Windows, while also making contributions to its development. Neowin: Since then, the company has delivered on that promise in recent releases of Windows 10, being introduced as a feature-on-demand in version 1803. However, Windows Server hadn't received the feature until now, at least not in an officially supported way -- Windows Server version 1709 included it as a pre-release feature. But that's finally changed, as Microsoft this week revealed that Windows Server 2019, which was made available (again) in November, includes OpenSSH as a supported feature.

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ASUS CEO Resigns as Company Shifts Mobile Focus To Power Users

Earlier today, ASUS announced that long-time CEO Jerry Shen is stepping down ahead of "a comprehensive corporate transformation" -- part of which involving a new co-CEO structure, as well as a major shift in mobile strategy to focus on gamers and power users. From a report: In other words, we'll be seeing more ROG Phones and maybe fewer ZenFones, which is a way to admit defeat in what ASUS chairman Jonney Shih described as a "bloody battlefield" in his interview with Business Next. During his 11 years serving as CEO, Shen oversaw the launch of the PadFone series, Transformer series, ZenBook series and ZenFone series. Prior to that, Shen was also credited as the main creator of the Eee PC, the small machine that kickstarted the netbook race in 2006.

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The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign To Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules

When the Trump administration laid out a plan this year that would eventually allow cars to emit more pollution, automakers, the obvious winners from the proposal, balked. The changes, they said, went too far even for them. But it turns out that there was a hidden beneficiary of the plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation's oil industry. From an investigation by The New York Times: In Congress, on Facebook and in statehouses nationwide, Marathon Petroleum, the country's largest refiner, worked with powerful oil-industry groups and a conservative policy network financed by the billionaire industrialist Charles G. Koch to run a stealth campaign to roll back car emissions standards, a New York Times investigation has found. The campaign's main argument for significantly easing fuel efficiency standards -- that the United States is so awash in oil it no longer needs to worry about energy conservation -- clashed with decades of federal energy and environmental policy. "With oil scarcity no longer a concern," Americans should be given a "choice in vehicles that best fit their needs," read a draft of a letter that Marathon helped to circulate to members of Congress over the summer. Official correspondence later sent to regulators by more than a dozen lawmakers included phrases or sentences from the industry talking points, and the Trump administration's proposed rules incorporate similar logic. The industry had reason to urge the rollback of higher fuel efficiency standards proposed by former President Barack Obama. A quarter of the world's oil is used to power cars, and less-thirsty vehicles mean lower gasoline sales.

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Data-Wiping Malware Shamoon Destroys Files At Italian Oil and Gas Company; Other Energy Companies Operating in the Middle East Warned of Cyber Attacks

An anonymous reader writes: A new variant of the Shamoon malware was discovered on the network of an Italian and UAE oil and gas companies. While the damage at the UAE firm is currently unknown, the malware has been confirmed to have destroyed files on about ten percent of the Italian company's PC fleet. Shamoon is one of the most dangerous strains of malware known to date. It was first deployed in two separate incidents that targeted the infrastructure of Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's largest oil producer, in 2012 and 2016. During those incidents, the malware wiped files and replaced them with propaganda images (burning US flag, body of Alan Kurdi). The 2012 attack was devastating in particular, with Shamoon wiping data on over 30,000 computers, crippling the company's activity for weeks. Historically, the malware has been tied to the Iranian regime, but it's unclear if Iranian hackers were behind this latest attacks. This new Shamoon version was revealed to the world when an Italian engineer uploaded the malware on VirusTotal, triggering detections at all major cyber-security firms across the globe.

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Quantum Network Joins Four People Together For Encrypted Messaging

An anonymous reader shares a report: The quantum internet is starting small, but growing. Researchers have created a network that lets four users communicate simultaneously through channels secured by the laws of quantum physics, and they say it could easily be scaled up. Soren Wengerowsky at the University of Vienna and his colleagues devised a network that uses quantum key distribution (QKD) to keep messages secure [the link is paywalled]. The general principle of QKD is that two photons are entangled, meaning their quantum properties are linked. Further reading: Nature.

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The Painful, Costly Journey of Returned Goods — and How You End Up Purchasing Some of Them Again

Buyers return a huge number of packages they buy from Amazon and other e-commerce sites, so much so that retailers are sometimes left with little choice but to get rid of large swaths of inventory at a cost. Last year, customers in the U.S. returned about $351 billion worth of items that they had purchased from brick-and-mortar retailers and online stores, according to estimates by National Retail Federation. CNBC: There's a good chance that the $100 printer, the $300 wide-screen monitor, or the $170 router you recently bought from Amazon weren't supplied to the e-commerce giant by their original manufacturers. In fact, the order may have been fulfilled by someone like Casey Parris, who resells items that customers previously returned to retailers. Based in Florida, Parris spends about five hours each day visiting thrift stores and scanning auction and liquidation websites for interesting items, he told CNBC. Sometimes he finds auto parts, other times it's a pair of sneakers, and occasionally he purchases printer cartridges -- all with the goal of reselling them. Walter Blake, who lives in Michigan, does the same. For years, he's been selling electronic items on Amazon that he acquires from a network of places. Blake and Parris are part of a growing cottage industry where dealers acquire discarded items at very low prices, only to resell some of them back on Amazon and eBay at a premium.

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Virgin Galactic Successfully Reaches Space

The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to space and back. From a report: The firm's SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin. It marked the plane's fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm's space programme. Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space. He founded the commercial spaceflight company in 2004, shortly after Mr Musk started SpaceX and Jeff Bezos established Blue Origin. In 2008, Virgin Galactic first promised sub-orbital spaceflight trips for tourists would be taking place "within 18 months". It has since regularly made similar promises to have space flights airborne in the near future.

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Ranks of Crypto Users Swelled in 2018 Even as Bitcoin Tumbled

It turns out that cryptocurrency enthusiasts were committed well beyond the HODL rallying call that urged them to hold on during this year's digital-asset market collapse. From a report: The number of verified users of cryptocurrencies almost doubled in the first three quarters of the year even as the market bellwether Bitcoin tumbled almost 80 percent, according to a study from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. Users climbed from 18 million to 35 million this year. The figures may provide a silver lining. If user numbers continue to increase even in a deep market downturn, that could signal that an eventual recovery could be coming -- a crucial finding at a time when some critics predict that the value of cryptocurrencies will go down to zero.

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‘Blockchain Developer’ is the Fastest-Growing US Job

"Blockchain developer" is the top emerging job in the U.S. -- according to data published in LinkedIn's 2018 U.S. Emerging Jobs report. From a report: [...] Using data gleaned from the LinkedIn Economic Graph, which serves as a "digital representation of the global economy" by analyzing the skills and job openings from across 590 million members and 30 million companies, LinkedIn found that "blockchain developers" has grown 33-fold in the past four years. In this case, "emerging jobs" refers to the growth of specific job titles on LinkedIn profiles in the period between 2014 and 2018. It's worth noting here that "blockchain" didn't appear anywhere in the top 20 emerging jobs in 2017, while "machine learning engineer" topped the list last year -- it's in second place this year.

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Ethereum Thinks it Can Change the World. It’s Running Out of Time To Prove It.

The blockchain system has daunting technical problems to fix. But first, its disciples need to figure out how to govern themselves. From a report: The handful of idealistic researchers, developers, and administrators in charge of maintaining its software are under increasing pressure to overcome technical limitations that stymie the network's growth. At the same time, well-funded competitors have emerged, claiming that their blockchains perform better. Crackdowns by regulators, and a growing understanding of how far most blockchain applications are from ready for prime time, have scared many cryptocurrency investors away: Ethereum's market value in dollars has fallen more than 90% since its peak last January. The reason Devcon (the annual "family reunion" organized by the Ethereum Foundation; this year's edition was held in October) feels so upbeat despite these storm clouds is that the people building Ethereum have something bigger in mind -- something world-changing, in fact. Yet to achieve its goal, this ragtag community needs to crack a problem as complicated as any of the toe-curling technical challenges it faces: how to govern itself. It must find a way to organize a scattered global network of contributors and stakeholders without sacrificing "decentralization" -- the principle, which any cryptocurrency community strives for, that no one entity or group should be in control.

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In a Test, 3D Model of a Head Was Able To Fool Facial Recognition System of Several Popular Android Smartphones

Forbes magazine tested four of the most popular handsets running Google's operating systems and Apple's iPhone to see how easy it'd be to break into them with a 3D-printed head. All of the Android handsets opened with the fake. Apple's phone, however, was impenetrable. From the report: For our tests, we used my own real-life head to register for facial recognition across five phones. An iPhone X and four Android devices: an LG G7 Linq, a Samsung S9, a Samsung Note 8 and a OnePlus 6. I then held up my fake head to the devices to see if the device would unlock. For all four Android phones, the spoof face was able to open the phone, though with differing degrees of ease. The iPhone X was the only one to never be fooled. There were some disparities between the Android devices' security against the hack. For instance, when first turning on a brand new G7 Linq, LG actually warns the user against turning facial recognition on at all. No surprise then that, on initial testing, the 3D-printed head opened it straightaway. [...] The OnePlus 6 came with neither the warnings of the other Android phones nor the choice of slower but more secure recognition.

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Apple To Build $1B Austin Campus, Add Thousands of Jobs in US Expansion

Apple said Thursday it plans to invest $1 billion building a new corporate campus in Austin, Texas, that could eventually create 15,000 jobs. From a report: The iPhone maker will also set up new offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, Los Angeles County, as well as expanding operations in Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado, according to the press release. The Austin campus will be located less than a mile away from Apple's existing facilities in the Texas city, which already employ 6,200 people (its largest group of employees outside Cupertino). The new area will initially hold 5,000 employees, with capacity to grow to 15,000 over time.

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‘Cryptocurrencies Are Like Lottery Tickets That Might Pay Off in Future’

With the price of bitcoin down 80% from its peak a year ago, and the larger cryptocurrency market in systemic collapse, has "peak crypto" come and gone? From a column: Perhaps, but don't expect to see true believers lining up to have their cryptocurrency tattoos removed just yet. At a recent conference I attended, the overwhelming sentiment was that market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies could explode over the next five years, rising to $5-10tn. For those who watched the price of bitcoin go from $13 in December 2012 to roughly $4,000 today, this year's drop from $20,000 was no reason to panic. It is tempting to say, "Of course the price is collapsing." Regulators are gradually waking up to the fact that they cannot countenance large expensive-to-trace transaction technologies that facilitate tax evasion and criminal activity. At the same time, central banks from Sweden to China are realising that they, too, can issue digital currencies. As I emphasised in my 2016 book on the past, present, and future of currency, when it comes to new forms of money, the private sector may innovate, but in due time the government regulates and appropriates. But as I also pointed out back then, just because the long-term value of bitcoin is more likely to be $100 than $100,000 does not necessarily mean that it definitely should be worth zero. The right way to think about cryptocurrency coins is as lottery tickets that pay off in a dystopian future where they are used in rogue and failed states, or perhaps in countries where citizens have already lost all semblance of privacy. It is no coincidence that dysfunctional Venezuela is the first issuer of a state-backed cryptocurrency (the "petro").

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New LG Gram is the Lightest 17-inch Laptop Ever at Just 3 Pounds

LG has unveiled two new laptops in its Gram lineup in advance of CES in Las Vegas next month, and the Gram 17 looks like a stunner. LaptopMag: It weighs just 3 pounds, which is crazy light for a notebook with a 17-inch display. That's the same weight as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. A typical 17-inch laptop weighs 6 to 6.5 pounds, so getting such a big screen in such a lightweight package is definitely no small feat. Does that mean the specs skimpy? Nope. LG says the 15 x 10.5 x 0.7-inch Gram 17 packs a 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8565U, up to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. (There's also a slot for an additional SSD). The Gram 17's 72W battery is rated for up to 19.5 hours of usage, which we will obviously put to the test once we get our hands on the laptop. Other highlights include a sharp 2560 x 1600 pixel display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, a fingerprint reader and a chassis that's rated MIL-STD-810G for durability. LG's website lists a suggested price of $1,699.99 for the LG Gram 17.

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Europe — not the US or China — Publishes the Most AI Research Papers

The popular narrative around artificial intelligence research is that it's mainly a war between China and the United States. Not so fast, says Europe. From a report: New data released today (Dec. 12; PDF file) by the AI Index, a project to track the advancement of artificial intelligence, shows a trend of Europe releasing more papers than either the US or China. The data was assembled from Scopus, a citation database owned by scientific publishing company Elsevier. If the current trend continues, China will soon overtake Europe in the number of papers published. The number of papers out of China grew 17% in 2017, compared to a 13% increase in the US, and 8% in Europe. Europe boasts top universities doing work in AI, such as Oxford, University College London, and ETH Zurich, in addition to being home to branches of tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Alphabet's DeepMind operates out of London, and French president Emmanuel Macron has been particularly bullish on AI in Europe. Since being elected in 2017, he has already laid out initiatives to bolster the amount of research and corporate AI stationed in France. [...] The AI Index report credits the huge 70% increase in Chinese AI papers in 2008 to a government program promoting long-term research in artificial intelligence through 2020.

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Intel Unveils Roadmaps For Core Architecture and Atom Architecture

Intel on Wednesday surprised a number of people when it shared not one roadmap on CPUs, but two. AnandTech: For the high performance Core architecture, Intel lists three new codenames over the next three years. To be very clear here, these are the codenames for the individual core microarchitecture, not the chip, which is an important departure from how Intel has previously done things. Sunny Cove, built on 10nm, will come to market in 2019 and offer increased single-threaded performance, new instructions, and 'improved scalability'. Willow Cove looks like it will be a 2020 core design, most likely also on 10nm. Intel lists the highlights here as a cache redesign (which might mean L1/L2 adjustments), new transistor optimizations (manufacturing based), and additional security features, likely referring to further enhancements from new classes of side-channel attacks. Golden Cove rounds out the trio, and is firmly in that 2021 segment in the graph. Process node here is a question mark, but we're likely to see it on 10nm and or 7nm. Golden Cove is where Intel adds another slice of the serious pie onto its plate, with an increase in single threaded performance, a focus on AI performance, and potential networking and AI additions to the core design. Security features also look like they get a boost. The lower-powered Atom microarchitecture roadmap is on a slower cadence than the Core microarchitecture, which is not surprising given its history. The upcoming microarchitecture for 2019 is called Tremont, which focuses on single threaded performance increases, battery life increases, and network server performance. Based on some of the designs later in this article, we think that this will be a 10nm design. Following Tremont will be Gracemont, which Intel lists as a 2021 product. Beyond this will be a future 'mont' core (and not month as listed in the image).

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Intel Reveals 10nm Sunny Cove CPU Cores That Go Deeper, Wider, and Faster

Long criticized for reusing old cores in its recent CPUs, Intel on Wednesday showed off a new 10nm Sunny Cove core that will bring faster single-threaded and multi-threaded performance along with major speed bumps from new instructions. From a report: Sunny Cove, which many believe will go into Intel's upcoming Ice Lake-U CPUs early next year, will be "deeper, wider, and smarter," said Ronak Singhal, director of Intel's Architecture Cores Group. Singhal said the three approaches should boost the performance of Sunny Cove CPUs. By doing "deeper," Sunny Cove cores find greater opportunities for parallelism by increasing the cache sizes. "Wider" means the new cores will execute more operations in parallel. Compared to the Skylake architecture (which is also the basis of Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake chips), the chip goes from a 4-wide design to 5-wide. Intel says Sunny Cove also increases performance in specialized tasks by adding new instructions that will improve the speed of cryptography and AI and machine learning.

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FreeBSD 12 Released

New submitter vivekgite writes: The 12th version of the FreeBSD has been released, bringing support for updated hardware. Some of the highlights include: OpenSSL has been updated to version 1.1.1a (LTS). Unbound has been updated to version 1.8.1, and DANE-TA has been enabled by default. OpenSSH has been updated to version 7.8p1. Additonal capsicum(4) support has been added to sshd(8). Clang, LLVM, LLD, LLDB, compiler-rt and libc++ has been updated to version 6.0.1. The vt(4) Terminus BSD Console font has been updated to version 4.46. The bsdinstall(8) utility now supports UEFI+GELI as an installation option. The VIMAGE kernel configuration option has been enabled by default. The NUMA option has been enabled by default in the amd64 GENERIC and MINIMAL kernel configurations. The netdump(4) driver has been added, providing a facility through which kernel crash dumps can be transmitted to a remote host after a system panic. The vt(4) driver has been updated with performance improvements, drawing text at rates ranging from 2- to 6-times faster. Various improvements to graphics support for current generation hardware. Support for capsicum(4) has been enabled on armv6 and armv7 by default. The UFS/FFS filesystem has been updated to consolidate TRIM/BIO_DELETE commands, reducing read/write requests due to fewer TRIM messages being sent simultaneously. The NFS version 4.1 server has been updated to include pNFS server support. The pf(4) packet filter is now usable within a jail(8) using vnet(9). The bhyve(8) utility has been updated to add NVMe device emulation. The bhyve(8) utility is now able to be run within a jail(8). Various Lua loader(8) improvements. KDE has been updated to version 5.12.

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The Record For High-Temperature Superconductivity Has Been Smashed Again

Chemists have found a material that can display superconducting behavior at a temperature warmer than it currently is at the North Pole. The work brings room-temperature superconductivity tantalizingly close. From a report: The work comes from the lab of Mikhail Eremets and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. Eremets and his colleagues say they have observed lanthanum hydride (LaH10) superconducting at the sweltering temperature of 250 K, or -23C. That's warmer than the current temperature at the North Pole. "Our study makes a leap forward on the road to the room-temperature superconductivity," say the team. (The caveat is that the sample has to be under huge pressure: 170 gigapascals, or about half the pressure at the center of the Earth.)

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Linux Kernel Developers Discuss Dropping x32 Support

An anonymous reader shared a report: It was just several years ago that the open-source ecosystem began supporting the x32 ABI, but already kernel developers are talking of potentially deprecating the support and for it to be ultimately removed.. [...] While the x32 support was plumbed through the Linux landscape, it really hasn't been used much. Kernel developers are now discussing the future of the x32 ABI due to the maintenance cost involved in still supporting this code but with minimal users. Linus Torvalds is in favor of sunsetting x32 and many other upstream contributors in favor of seeing it deprecated and removed.

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Comcast Rejected by Small Town — Residents Vote For Municipal Fiber Instead

A small Massachusetts town has rejected an offer from Comcast and instead plans to build a municipal fiber broadband network. From a report: Comcast offered to bring cable Internet to up to 96 percent of households in Charlemont in exchange for the town paying $462,123 plus interest toward infrastructure costs over 15 years. But Charlemont residents rejected the Comcast offer in a vote at a special town meeting Thursday. "The Comcast proposal would have saved the town about $1 million, but it would not be a town-owned broadband network," the Greenfield Recorder reported Friday. "The defeated measure means that Charlemont will likely go forward with a $1.4 million municipal town network, as was approved by annual town meeting voters in 2015." About 160 residents voted, with 56 percent rejecting the Comcast offer, according to news reports.

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Facebook is Starting To Test Search Ads in its Search Results and Marketplace

It's an ad duopoly battle. From a report: Facebook is starting to test search ads in its search results and Marketplace, directly competing with Google's AdWords. Facebook first tried Sponsored Results back in 2012 but eventually shut down the product in 2013. Now it's going to let a small set of automotive, retail, and ecommerce industry advertisers show users ads on the search results page on mobile in the US and Canada. They'll be repurposed News Feed ads featuring a headline, image, copy text, and a link in the static image or carousel format that can point users to external websites. Facebook declined to share screenshots as it says the exact design is still evolving. Facebook may expand search ads to more countries based on the test's performance.

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Google CEO Admits Company Must Better Address the Spread of Conspiracy Theories on YouTube

Google CEO Sundar Pichai admitted today that YouTube needs to do better in dealing with conspiracy content on its site that can lead to real-world violence. From a report: During his testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, the exec was questioned on how YouTube handles extremist content that promotes conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and, more recently, a Hillary Clinton-focused conspiracy theory dubbed Frazzledrip. According to an article in Monday's Washington Post, Frazzledrip is a variation on Pizzagate that began spreading on YouTube this spring. In a bizarre series of questions, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) asked Pichai if he knew what Frazzledrip was. Pichai replied that he was "not aware of the specifics about it." Raskin went on to explain that the recommendation engine on YouTube has been suggesting videos that claim politicians, celebrities and other leading figures were "sexually abusing and consuming the remains of children, often in satanic rituals." He said these new conspiracist claims were echoing the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy, which two years ago led to a man firing shots into a Washington, D.C. pizzeria, in search of the children he believed were held as sex slaves by Democratic Party leaders.

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What Student Developers Want in a Job

Organizations desperate for software engineering talent tend to follow similar plays when it comes to attracting student developers about the enter the workforce, including offering perks like free food, beer, and ping pong. However, student developers have a much stronger appetite for other workplace elements when making employment decisions, according to a Tuesday report from HackerRank. From a news writeup: The three most important criteria students look for in job opportunities are professional growth and learning (58%), work/life balance (52%), and having interesting problems to solve (46%), according to a survey of 10,350 student developers worldwide. These far outpaced compensation (18%) and perks (11%), which they view as "nice to haves" rather than deal breakers, the survey found. For many student developers, a computer science degree is not enough to teach them the skills they will need in the workforce, the report found. Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they rely partially on self-teaching to learn to code, and 27% say they are totally self-taught. Only 32% said they were entirely taught at school, the survey found.

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New Firefox Suggests Ways To Get More Out of the Web

Starting Tuesday, Firefox will nudge you to try out options designed to make the web more interesting, more useful or more productive. From a report: Mozilla's new Firefox 64 keeps an eye on what you're up to and prompts you to try extensions and features that could help you with that activity, the browser maker said. For example, if you open the same tab lots of times, it could suggest you pin it to your tab strip for easier future access. Other suggestions include installing the Facebook Container extension to curtail the social network's snooping, a Google Translate extension to tap into Google's service, and the Enhancer for YouTube extension to do things like block ads and control playback on Google's video site. The feature could help you customize Firefox more to your liking -- something that could help you stick with the browser in the face of Google Chrome's dominance. And that, in turn, could help Mozilla pursue its push toward a privacy-respecting web that's not just effectively controlled by Chrome.

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Evelyn Berezin, Who Built the First True Word Processor, Has Died at 93

An anonymous reader shares a report: Evelyn Berezin, a computer pioneer who emancipated many a frazzled secretary from the shackles of the typewriter nearly a half-century ago by building and marketing the first computerized word processor, died on Saturday in Manhattan. She was 93. In an age when computers were in their infancy and few women were involved in their development, Ms. Berezin (pronounced BEAR-a-zen) not only designed the first true word processor; in 1969, she was also a founder and the president of the Redactron Corporation, a tech start-up on Long Island that was the first company exclusively engaged in manufacturing and selling the revolutionary machines.

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Why I’m Usually Unnerved When Modern SSDs Die on Us

Chris Siebenmann, a Unix Systems Administrator at University of Toronto, writes about the inability to figure out the bottleneck when an SSD dies: What unnerves me about these sorts of abrupt SSD failures is how inscrutable they are and how I can't construct a story in my head of what went wrong. With spinning HDs, drives might die abruptly but you could at least construct narratives about what could have happened to do that; perhaps the spindle motor drive seized or the drive had some other gross mechanical failure that brought everything to a crashing halt (perhaps literally). SSDs are both solid state and opaque, so I'm left with no story for what went wrong, especially when a drive is young and isn't supposed to have come anywhere near wearing out its flash cells (as this SSD was). (When a HD died early, you could also imagine undetected manufacturing flaws that finally gave way. With SSDs, at least in theory that shouldn't happen, so early death feels especially alarming. Probably there are potential undetected manufacturing flaws in the flash cells and so on, though.) When I have no story, my thoughts turn to unnerving possibilities, like that the drive was lying to us about how healthy it was in SMART data and that it was actually running through spare flash capacity and then just ran out, or that it had a firmware flaw that we triggered that bricked it in some way.

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Doom Turns 25: The FPS That Wowed Players, Gummed Up Servers, and Enraged Admins

On December 10, 1993, after a marathon 30-hour coding session, the developers at id Software uploaded the first finished copy of Doom for download, the game that was to redefine first-person shooter (FPS) genre. Hours later IT admins wanted id's guts for garters. The Register: Doom wasn't the first FPS game, but it was the iPhone of the field -- it took parts from various other products and packaged them together in a fearsomely addictive package. Admins loathed it because it hogged bandwidth for downloading and was designed to allow network deathmatches, so millions of users immediately took up valuable network resources for what seemed a frivolous pursuit to some curmudgeonly BOFHs. The game was an instant hit -- so much so that within hours of its release admins were banning it from servers to try and cope with the effects of thousands, and then millions of people playing online. It spawned remakes and follow-up games, its own movie (don't bother) and even a glowing endorsement from Bill Gates.

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What it’s Like To Work in the Biggest Building in the World

To build a fleet of giant airliners requires a building just as big. Boeing's Everett Factory, built to construct the famous 747, is the biggest enclosed structure in the world. BBC Future: When you're building some of the world's biggest airliners, you need an equally outsized building. When Boeing decided to build the 747 -- a plane so big it would become known around the world as the jumbo jet -- they had to build a factory large enough to build several of them at the same time. If you've ever seen a 747 from close quarters you'll know just how giant Boeing's jumbo is. So it's no surprise the factory which ended up building has to be very big indeed. How big? Try the biggest enclosed building in the world. Boeing started work on the Everett factory in 1967, just as the Boeing 747 project was starting to gather pace. Bill Allen, Boeing's charismatic chief, had realised the company would need a huge amount of space if they were going to build an airliner big enough to carry 400 passengers. They chose an area of woodland some 22 miles (35km) north of Seattle, near an airport that had served as a fighter base during World War Two. [...] Today, the Everett factory easily dwarfs any other building in the world by volume, with the Guinness Book of Records reporting that it occupies 72 million cubic feet (13.3 million cubic metres). [...] Each shift has as many as 10,000 workers, and there are three shifts each day. Over the course of 24 hours, the factory has a population only a little less than the Australian city of Alice Springs. Reese has worked for Boeing for 38 years -- 11 of them running the factory tours -- but says he can still remember his first impression of the factory. "It was very awe-inspiring the first time -- and I would have to say every day since, too. It changes constantly. Each day there's something new." The Everett factory is so big that there's a fleet of some 1,300 bicycles on hand to help cut travel time. It has its own fire station and medical services on station, and an array of cafes and restaurants to feed the thousands of workers.

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Scientists Identify Vast Underground Ecosystem Containing Billions of Micro-organisms

The Earth is far more alive than previously thought, according to "deep life" studies that reveal a rich ecosystem beneath our feet that is almost twice the size of that found in all the world's oceans. From a report: Despite extreme heat, no light, minuscule nutrition and intense pressure, scientists estimate this subterranean biosphere is teeming with between 15bn and 23bn tonnes of micro-organisms, hundreds of times the combined weight of every human on the planet. Researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory say the diversity of underworld species bears comparison to the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands, but unlike those places the environment is still largely pristine because people have yet to probe most of the subsurface. "It's like finding a whole new reservoir of life on Earth," said Karen Lloyd, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "We are discovering new types of life all the time. So much of life is within the Earth rather than on top of it." The team combines 1,200 scientists from 52 countries in disciplines ranging from geology and microbiology to chemistry and physics. A year before the conclusion of their 10-year study, they will present an amalgamation of findings to date before the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting opens this week.

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What is the Future of Office Spaces?

An anonymous reader shares a World Economic Forum report: A lot of us spend long stretches in the office, but outdated design could be damaging our wellbeing and mental health. What's more, it's killing our productivity. One study found that office workers spend more time sitting than pensioners, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and even cancer. That's why forward-looking designers are finding ways to build spaces that heal rather than hurt us. Going beyond the already ubiquitous standing desks and social "breakout sofas," the office of the future is healthy, harmonious and happy. Here's how it's beginning to take shape.

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Start-Ups Aren’t Cool Anymore

A lack of personal savings, competition from abroad, and the threat of another economic downturn make it harder for Millennials to thrive as entrepreneurs. From a story: Research suggests entrepreneurial activity has declined among Millennials. The share of people under 30 who own a business has fallen to almost a quarter-century low, according to a 2015 Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data. A survey of 1,200 Millennials conducted in 2016 by the Economic Innovation Group found that more Millennials believed they could have a successful career by staying at one company and attempting to climb the ladder than by founding a new one. Two years ago, EIG's president and co-founder, John Lettieri, testified before the U.S. Senate, "Millennials are on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in recent history." Some of the reasons have been well-documented. The romantic view of entrepreneurship involves angel investors and venture capital funds, but in fact, the ordinary entrepreneur is more likely to fund a start-up using personal savings -- something underemployed Millennials simply could not build as they entered the workforce during or in the immediate wake of the Great Recession. Funding from friends and family is the next most common source, but this personal network could not help much during the most recent economic downturn, when so much home equity was underwater. Student debt worsened the underlying economic problems. According to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, between 2004 and 2014, the number of student borrowers rose by 89 percent. Lately, though, it seems that even those who might typically have access to other forms of funding, like venture capital, are having a hard time getting investors' attention. As Matt Krisiloff, a former director at the Y Combinator start-up accelerator in Silicon Valley, tweeted, "Start-ups are a lot less cool than they used to be." Michael Sadler, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, is concerned about the rising concentration of start-up investment in just a few super-performing regions such as Austin, New York, and Silicon Valley. As with American politics, it appears the geography of U.S. venture capital and economic growth has become increasingly polarized.

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Google Will Shut Down Google+ Four Months Early After Second Data Leak

Google+ has suffered another data leak, and Google has decided to shut down the consumer version of the social network four months earlier than it originally planned. From a report: Google+ will now close to consumers in April, rather than August. Additionally, API access to the network will shut down within the next 90 days. According to Google, the new vulnerability impacted 52.5 million users, who could have had profile information like their name, email address, occupation, and age exposed to developers, even if their account was set to private. Apps could also access profile data that had been shared with a specific user, but was not shared publicly.

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Video Games Won’t Be Part of the Paris Olympics

The Olympic Games regularly add new events, but officials aren't quite ready to embrace eSports. From a report: This weekend, the International Olympic Committee met for the 7th Olympic Summit, where competitive video gaming was among the topics of discussion. The verdict? It's still "premature" to discuss including them in the Olympic games. That's bound to be disappointing to supporters, who had hoped for a breakthrough in the 2024 Paris games. Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic committee, is a proponent of bringing video games to the Olympics.

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Nasa’s Voyager 2 Probe ‘Leaves the Solar System’

The Voyager 2 probe, which left Earth in 1977, has become the second human-made object to leave our Solar System. From a report: It was launched 16 days before its twin craft, Voyager 1, but that probe's faster trajectory meant that it was in "the space between the stars" six years before Voyager 2. The news was revealed at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Washington. And chief scientist on the mission, Prof Edward Stone, confirmed it. He said both probes had now "made it into interstellar space" and that Voyager 2's date of departure from the Solar System was 5 November 2018. On that date, the steady stream of particles emitted from the Sun that were being detected by the probe suddenly dipped. This indicated that it had crossed the "heliopause" -- the term for the outer edge of the Sun's protective bubble of particles and magnetic field. And while its twin craft beat it to this boundary, the US space agency says that Voyager 2 has a working instrument aboard that will provide "first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space".

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Qualcomm Says It Won Case Banning Sale of Older iPhones in China

Qualcomm says it has won a ruling in China against Apple that bans the sale of some iPhone models in that country. From a report: The Fuzhou Intermediate People's Court ruled that Apple is infringing two Qualcomm patents and issued injunctions against the sale of the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, the San Diego, California-based chipmaker said in a statement Monday. The most recent models introduced in September, the iPhone XS, XR and XS Max, are not covered by the ban.

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UK Just Banned the National Health Service From Buying Any More Fax Machines

The UK's NHS will be banned from buying fax machines from next month -- and has been told by the government to phase out the machines entirely by 31 March 2020. From a report: More than 9,000 fax machines are in use by the NHS, a July survey found. All will be replaced by email, according to a report from the BBC. The shift, ordered by UK health secretary Matt Hancock, is intended to improve patient safety and make communications more secure. Rebecca McIntyre, a cognitive behavioral therapist, told the BBC that using fax machines made it difficult to ensure patient's information was actually sent to the right place, and that it wasn't being seen by non-authorized people. "You would not believe the palaver we have in the work place trying to communicate important documents to services (referrals etc)," she said. "We constantly receive faxes meant for other places in error but this is never reported." Further reading: The Fax is Not Yet Obsolete.

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Driveway Encounter With Microsoft’s President Led To $25 Million For Code.org

Long time reader theodp writes: At Monday's kickoff event with Melinda Gates for Computer Science Education Week 2018, Microsoft President Brad Smith revealed how a 2013 driveway encounter led to Microsoft's decision to commit $25 million to Code.org, whose CEO Hadi Partovi happens to live next door to Smith. "At the top of the hill, we share a common driveway," Smith said. "I can't even drive into the garage at night if he is standing in the way. Well, actually I can, but running him over is not the right path." Five years ago, Smith recalled, Partovi was in his driveway (King of the Hill-inspired artist's impression), "and he said, 'I have an idea [for then-nascent Code.org]. There is an important problem that we can help solve, because for too many people they look at these opportunities in computer science, and they don't appreciate that in truth anybody can aspire to be the next Melinda Gates or the next Bill Gates or the next Jeff Bezos or the next Sheryl Sandberg or Mark Zuckerberg. What they need, what they deserve, is the opportunity to learn this fundamental field.'" Earlier this year, Code.org celebrated its 5th anniversary and thanked Microsoft and other tech donors for making it possible for the nonprofit to change U.S. K-12 public education. Smith also announced Monday that Microsoft would invest an additional $10 million in Code.org to help expand the tech-bankrolled nonprofit's work. "The renewed partnership," Microsoft explained, "will focus on ensuring that by 2020 every state will have passed policies to expand access to computer science and every school in the U.S. will have access to Code.org professional development."

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Netflix’s Biggest Competition Isn’t Sleep — It’s YouTube

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings loves to identify sleep as the biggest competition of its service. "Sometimes employees at Netflix think, 'Oh my god, we're competing with FX, HBO, or Amazon, but think about it. If you didn't watch Netflix last night: What did you do? There's such a broad range of things that you did to relax and unwind, hang out, and connect -- and we compete with all of that," he once said. "You get a show or a movie you're really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep," he added. Turns out, Hastings does not need to look that far for competition. From a report: Despite Netflix and Amazon investing billions of dollars in producing original content, they are struggling to make inroads in emerging markets. YouTube, on the other hand, is growing rapidly, becoming a daily habit for even new internet users. In India, for instance, YouTube reaches 245 million unique users each month, or 85 percent of all internet users in the country, the company told VentureBeat. About 60 percent of all YouTube traffic in India comes from outside of its six major cities. [Globally, YouTube has 1.9 billion monthly active users.] As consumption on YouTube grows, creators are also finding loyal audiences. In India alone, YouTube now has more than 600 channels with more than 1 million subscribers, up from 20 channels in 2016. Record label T-Series, which is fighting with PewDiePie for the title of most-subscribed YouTube channel, took 10 years to get to its first 10 million subscribers. In the last two years, it has grown to 60 million subscribers. Globally, YouTube says the number of channels with more than 1 million subscribers has grown by 75 percent this year. Globally, YouTube told VentureBeat that 75 percent of the platform's watch time occurs on a mobile device. The average watch time for a mobile user is 60 minutes per day. Or in other words, this is the time a user could have spent watching Netflix. According to eMarketer's estimates, an average user would spend about 86 minutes per day watching digital videos on streaming services this year.

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Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret

Dozens of companies use smartphone locations to help advertisers and even hedge funds. They say it's anonymous, but the data shows how personal it is. From a report: The millions of dots on the map trace highways, side streets and bike trails -- each one following the path of an anonymous cellphone user. One path tracks someone from a home outside Newark to a nearby Planned Parenthood, remaining there for more than an hour. Another represents a person who travels with the mayor of New York during the day and returns to Long Island at night. [...] An app on the device gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States -- about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times -- a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company -- reveals people's travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day.

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Global Carbon Emissions Jump To All-Time High in 2018

Global carbon emissions will jump to a record high in 2018, according to a report, dashing hopes a plateau of recent years would be maintained. It means emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts urgently needed, say scientists, to fight climate change. From a report: The rise is due to the growing number of cars on the roads and a renaissance of coal use and means the world remains on the track to catastrophic global warming. However, the report's authors said the emissions trend can still be turned around by 2020, if cuts are made in transport, industry and farming emissions. The research by the Global Carbon Project was launched at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where almost 200 nations are working to turn the vision of tackling climate change agreed in Paris in 2015 into action. The report estimates CO2 emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018, sharply up on the plateau from 2014-16 and 1.6% rise in 2017. Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, with emissions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in India by 6.3% in 2018. The EU's emissions are near flat, but this follows a decade of strong falls. "The global rise in carbon emissions is worrying, because to deal with climate change they have to turn around and go to zero eventually," said Prof Corinne Le Quere, at the University of East Anglia,who led the research published in the journal Nature. "We are not seeing action in the way we really need to. This needs to change quickly."

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Alexa is Implementing Self-Learning Techniques To Better Understand Users

In a developer blog post published this week, Alexa AI director of applied science Ruhi Sarikaya detailed the advances in machine learning technologies that have allowed Alexa to better understand users through contextual clues. From a report: According to Sarikaya, these improvements have played a role in reducing user friction and making Alexa more conversational. Since this fall, Amazon has been working on self-learning techniques that teach Alexa to automatically recover from its own errors. The system has been in beta until now, and it launched in the US this week. It doesn't require any human annotation, and, according to Sarikaya, it uses customers' "implicit or explicit contextual signals to detect unsatisfactory interactions or failures of understanding." The contextual signals range from customers' historical activity, preferences, and what Alexa skills they use to where the Alexa device is located in the home and what kind of Alexa device it is. For example, during the beta phase, Alexa learned to understand a customer's mistaken command of "Play 'Good for What'" and correct them by playing Drake's song "Nice for What."

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The Electric Airplane Revolution May Come Sooner Than You Think

An anonymous reader shares a report: An all-electric mini-airliner that can go 621 miles on one charge and replace many of the turboprops and light jets in use now -- flying almost as far and almost as fast but for a fraction of the running costs -- could be in service within three years. But this isn't another claim by another overoptimistic purveyor of electric dreams. It's using current technology, and the first planes are being built right now. In fact, the process of gaining certification from aviation regulators for what would be the world's first electric commuter plane has already started. The pressurised Alice from Israeli company Eviation is a graceful-looking composite aircraft with one propeller at the rear and another at the end of each wing, placed to cut drag from wingtip vortices. Each is driven by a 260 kW electric motor, and they receive power from a 900 kWh lithium ion battery pack. Alongside its 650 mile range, the pressurised $3 million-plus Alice can carry nine passengers and two crew, and cruise at 276 mph -- up there with the speed of the turboprops that are widely used in the commuter role, if not anywhere near that of jets. But crucially, says Eviation chief executive Omer Bar-Yohay, "operating costs will be just 7 to 9 cents per seat per mile," or about $200 an hour for the whole aircraft, against about $1,000 for turboprop rivals.

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Japan is Giving Away Free Houses

There are some 8 million abandoned homes -- or akiya -- in Japanese suburbia, according to The Japan Times . And if you've got a visa allowing you to live in Japan, some of them can be yours for free or very low prices, and the government may give you a subsidy to renovate one. From a report: There are even databases devoted to helping people find these homes, known as "akiya banks." What's driving the government to give away homes? In part, it has to do with Japan's aging population: According to the World Bank, the country's population decreased by -0.2% in 2017 alone, while China and the U.S. slowly grew 0.6% and 0.7% respectively. There are simply fewer people in Japan than there once were -- roughly 1.3 million fewer people than in 2010 by one count [paywall].

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China Forms New Body To Review Ethics Risks of Video Games

China has established a new body that reviews ethical issues in video gaming, marking the country's latest attempt to tighten control over the world's biggest games market. From a report: The recently formed Online Games Ethics Committee has so far evaluated an initial batch of 20 video game titles, according to a report on Friday from state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). This was the first time the committee's existence was made public. Without elaborating, the CCTV report said the ethics committee rejected nine games for publication in the domestic market, while ruling that certain content be modified in the 11 other games that were reviewed. The report neither revealed which government department the ethics committee was directly under nor identified the 20 games that the body processed. The creation of the Online Games Ethics Committee has come amid concerns over internet addiction, childhood myopia and unsuitable content in China's US$38 billion video games market, which has led Beijing to tighten its control over the industry and freeze the approval of new titles this year.

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Scientists Say Most Diverse Coral Site Ever Seen on Great Barrier Reef Discovered

In a space no longer than 500 metres, researchers say they recorded at least 195 different species of corals. From a report: A team of researchers says it has discovered the most diverse coral site ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef. Great Barrier Reef Legacy, a non-profit organisation that conducts research trips on the reef, and scientist Charlie Veron, known as the godfather of coral, have identified the site on the outer reef. In a space no longer than 500 metres, the researchers say they recorded at least 195 different species of corals on a research expedition last month. The group first stumbled upon the site on a voyage last year, and returned in November to conduct studies. "I've spent eight years working on the Great Barrier Reef in just about every nook and cranny," Veron said. "I thought there would be nothing new for me on the Great Barrier Reef." Veron returned with the group to record the corals and will write a paper on the site. He said it was located in a general area that had been affected by widespread coral bleaching and coral mortality and it would take further work to assess why this particular spot had survived so far. It also appeared to have been unaffected by cyclones and other factors such as crown of thorns that threaten coral health.

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‘What Straight-A Students Get Wrong’

From a story: Year after year, I watch in dismay as students obsess over getting straight A's. Some sacrifice their health; a few have even tried to sue their school after falling short. All have joined the cult of perfectionism out of a conviction that top marks are a ticket to elite graduate schools and lucrative job offers. I was one of them. I started college with the goal of graduating with a 4.0. It would be a reflection of my brainpower and willpower, revealing that I had the right stuff to succeed. But I was wrong. The evidence is clear: Academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence. Across industries, research shows that the correlation between grades and job performance is modest in the first year after college and trivial within a handful of years. For example, at Google, once employees are two or three years out of college, their grades have no bearing on their performance. Academic grades rarely assess qualities like creativity, leadership and teamwork skills, or social, emotional and political intelligence. Yes, straight-A students master cramming information and regurgitating it on exams. But career success is rarely about finding the right solution to a problem -- it's more about finding the right problem to solve.

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Alibaba Already Has a Voice Assistant Way Better Than Google’s

Like Google's Duplex, Chinese internet giant Alibaba has its own humanlike voice assistant capable of making restaurant reservations and salon appointments. But unlike Google, which has rolled out the feature to select audience, Alibaba's offering already has a wider reach. And it's smart, too. From a report: On December 2 at the 2018 Neural Information Processing Systems conference, one of the largest annual gatherings for AI research, Alibaba demoed the AI customer service agent for its logistics company Cainiao. Jin Rong, the dean of Alibaba's Machine Intelligence and Technology Lab, said the agent is already servicing millions of customer requests a day. The pre-recorded demo call involved the agent asking a customer where he wanted his package delivered. In the back-and-forth exchange, the agent successfully navigated several conversational elements that demonstrated the breadth of its natural-language capabilities. Take this exchange at the beginning of the call, translated from Mandarin: Agent: Hello, I am Cainiao's voice assistant. I am -- Customer: Hello. A: Yes, hi, you have package scheduled for morning delivery to 588 Culture West Road. Is it convenient for you to receive? C: Who are you? A: I am Cainiao's voice assistant. I'd like to confirm your morning delivery to 588 Culture West Road. Does that work for you? C: I'm not home in the morning. A: Then do you have another address that you'd like to use? Within 30 seconds, the agent has smoothly handled three common, and tricky, conversational ingredients: interruption, nonlinear conversation, and implicit intent. Interruption is self-explanatory: the agent can respond to the customer's interruption and continue relaying relevant information without starting over or skipping a beat.

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Can the US Stop China From Controlling the Next Internet Age?

Tech executives worry China will turn to tit-for-tat arrests of Americans in response to the detention of Meng Wanzhou. And the worries don't stop there. Kara Swisher, writing at The New York Times: Imagine, if you will (and you should), a big American tech executive being detained over unspecified charges while on a trip to Beijing. That is exactly what a number of Silicon Valley executives told me they are concerned about after the arrest this week of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom company Huawei, in Canada at the behest of United States officials. "It's worrisome, because it's an escalation we did not need," one executive said, referring to the already tense trade talks between the two countries. "What China will do, given all the existing tensions, is anyone's guess." No one I spoke to would talk on the record, out of fear of antagonizing either side and also because no one knows exactly what is happening. But many expressed worry about the possibility of tit-for-tat arrests. While everyone focuses on the drama of the arrest -- Ms. Meng was grabbed while changing planes at the airport -- and its effect on the trade talks and stock prices, to my mind there is a much more important fight brewing, and it is about tech hegemony. Specifically, who will control the next internet age, and by whose rules will it be run? Until recently, that answer was clearly the United States, from which the Internet sprang, wiring the world together and, in the process, resulting in the greatest creation of power and wealth in history. While China has always had a strong technology sector, in recent years it has significantly escalated its investment, expertise and innovation, with major support from the government. That hand-in-glove relationship creates obvious issues, and the Trump administration is right to stop pretending that China does not present a threat both from security and innovation perspectives. Further reading: China summons U.S. ambassador, warns Canada of 'grave consequences' if Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is not released.

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Google Just Can’t Get the Message

It's been a rough week or so to be invested in a Google messaging service, hell it's been a rough decade to be invested in a Google messaging service. Phandroid: The latest victims are Allo, which will be going away in March of 2019, and "Hangouts Classic" which has a more nebulous end of life forecast. These products join the host of other Google messaging casualties over the years, Google Wave, Google+ Huddles, Google+ Hangouts, Google Spaces, to name a few. Now if this left us with an entirely clear picture of Google's messaging strategy going forward that would be something, but the reality is that the company still has 5 such apps with at least some overlapping functionality. The 5 survivors are Duo (Video), Messages (Text), Hangouts Chat (Enterprise Text), Hangouts Meet (Enterprise Video), and Google Voice (Voice and Text). Why am I including two enterprise-focused products in a discussion about consumer messaging? Because the head of those products, Scott Johnston, indicated that "Hangouts (Classic) users will be migrated to Chat and Meet." This was corroborated by an official blog post from Google's VP of Consumer Communications Products, Matt Klainer, who similarly put no definite timeline on this migration. This is a problem that Google themselves seemed ready to settle once and for all almost exactly 2 and a half years ago when they announced Allo and Duo at Google I/O 2016, this was going to be the two-pronged answer to messaging on Android. But it became clear reasonably quickly that Allo wasn't going to hold up its end of the bargain, it saw limited adoption and within two years of launch, Google has now admitted that it shifted resources away from Allo and instead was focused on bringing the relevant features into Messages.

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As We Forge the Web of Tomorrow, We Need a Set of Guiding Principles That Can Define the Kind of Web We Want, Says Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee, writing for The New York Times: All technologies come with risks. We drive cars despite the possibility of serious accidents. We take prescription drugs despite the danger of abuse and addiction. We build safeguards into new innovations so we can manage the risks while benefiting from the opportunities. The web is a global platform -- its challenges stretch across borders and cultures. Just as the web was built by millions of people collaborating around the world, its future relies on our collective ability to make it a better tool for everyone. As we forge the web of tomorrow, we need a set of guiding principles that can define the kind of web we want. Identifying these will not be easy -- any agreement that covers a diverse group of countries, cultures and interests will never be. But I believe it's possible to develop a set of basic ideals that we can all agree on, and that will make the web work better for everyone, including the 50 percent of the world's population that has yet to come online. Governments, companies and individuals all have unique roles to play. The World Wide Web Foundation, an organization I founded in 2009 to protect the web as a public good, has drawn up a set of core principles outlining the responsibilities that each party has to protect a web that serves all of humanity. We're asking everyone to sign on to these principles and join us as we create a formal Contract for the Web in 2019. The principles specify that governments are responsible for connecting their citizens to an open web that respects their rights.

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The Friendship That Made Google Huge

Coding together at the same computer, Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat changed the course of the company -- and the Internet. An anonymous reader writes: The New Yorker has profiled Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat, two of Google's most storied developers and to date, the company's only Senior Fellows, the highest level Google awards to engineers. The article dives into some of Dean and Ghemawat's successes at Google but focuses on their deep and collaborative friendship -- particularly exploring the power of programming with a partner. "I don't know why more people don't do it," Ghemawat explains. As Dean points out, all you need to do is "find someone that you're gonna pair-program with who's compatible with your way of thinking, so that the two of you together are a complementary force."

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Freshwater is Getting Saltier, Threatening People and Wildlife

Salts that de-ice roads, parking lots and sidewalks keep people safe in winter. But new research shows they are contributing to a sharp and widely rising problem across the U.S. From a report: At least a third of the rivers and streams in the country have gotten saltier in the past 25 years. And by 2100, more than half of them may contain at least 50 percent more salt than they used to. Increasing salinity will not just affect freshwater plants and animals but human lives as well -- notably, by affecting drinking water. Sujay Kaushal, a biogeochemist at the University of Maryland, College Park, recounts an experience he had when visiting relatives in New Jersey. When getting a drink from the tap, "I saw a white film on the glass." After trying to scrub it off, he found, "it turned out to be a thin layer of salt crusting the glass." When Kaushal, who studies how salt invades freshwater sources, sampled the local water supply he found not just an elevated level of the sodium chloride, widely used in winter to de-ice outdoor surfaces, but plenty of other salts such as sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride. He also found similar concentrations of these chemicals in most rivers along the east coast, including the Potomac, which provides drinking water for Washington, D.C. Where did all of it come from? De-icing salts, Kaushal determined, are part of the problem, slowly corroding our infrastructure.

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The Future of Television? Binge-Watching is Only the Beginning

With providers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, and more creative risks, network leaders are placing bets on how audience experience will evolve [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. From a report: "What might we see coming down the road?" says Beau Willimon, creator of The First, Hulu's sci-fi drama starring Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone. "Perhaps like [the characters] in my new show, we're all wearing augmented reality glasses, and we're experiencing television shows in a more intimate way -- a way that feels much more experiential than simply watching it on a rectangle." [...] Television, as most people have known it for most of their lives, is no more. "At some point you'll get to a place where thinking about television from a linear standpoint will be like dial-up internet," says Hulu CEO Randy Freer. "It's a great time for content; not a great time for cable networks. I think what will happen is: Cable networks that have been able to create brands for themselves will have an opportunity to expand and figure out how they present to consumers." Cable networks with a clear identity have a critical advantage in a subscription-based world, while networks with less-defined name recognition -- those that have been just another channel in the cable lineup -- will likely find it hard to entice the growing ranks of broadband-only consumers to buy an a la carte monthly subscription service. HBO is moving into the new era. "In the domestic market of the United States, where there is a surfeit of content more than ever, I personally think that brands matter more than ever," says HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler.

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Electron and the Decline of Native Apps

SwiftOnSecurity, regarding Microsoft's switch to Chromium as Windows's built-in rendering engine: This isn't about Chrome. This is about ElectronJS. Microsoft thinks EdgeHTML cannot get to drop-in feature-parity with Chromium to replace it in Electron apps, whose duplication is becoming a significant performance drain. They want to single-instance Electron with their own fork. Electron is a cancer murdering both macOS and Windows as it proliferates. Microsoft must offer a drop-in version with native optimizations to improve performance and resource utilization. This is the end of desktop applications. There's nowhere but JavaScript. John Gruber of DaringFireball: I don't share the depth of their pessimism regarding native apps, but Electron is without question a scourge. I think the Mac will prove more resilient than Windows, because the Mac is the platform that attracts people who care. But I worry. In some ways, the worst thing that ever happened to the Mac is that it got so much more popular a decade ago. In theory, that should have been nothing but good news for the platform -- more users means more attention from developers. The more Mac users there are, the more Mac apps we should see. The problem is, the users who really care about good native apps -- users who know HIG violations when they see them, who care about performance, who care about Mac apps being right -- were mostly already on the Mac. A lot of newer Mac users either don't know or don't care about what makes for a good Mac app.

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If Your Gmail Inbox Is Being Flooded With Promo Emails, You’re Not Alone

Gmail users are reporting that promotional emails (meant to showcase deals, offers, and other marketing emails) from companies are ending up in their main "Primary" inbox (meant for person-to-person conversations and messages that don't appear in other tabs.). The company says it is working on a fix. From a report: Google told BuzzFeed News it's working on a fix, but it did not specify when users should expect inboxes to go back to normal. In a statement, a spokesperson said, "We are aware of an issue in Gmail causing certain promotional email to be incorrectly categorized. We are rolling out a fix shortly."

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UPS Tries Delivery Tricycles As Seattle’s Traffic Doom Looms

An anonymous reader shares a report: Pushing the cargo bike across a rain-soaked parking lot at a UPS distribution center in Seattle, where the shipper showed off its newest delivery vehicle, I had a realization once the pedal assist kicked in. "Yep, this will totally work," I thought. Bike messengers have long known cycling is the fastest way to get around traffic-choked cities. More commuters are getting it too. Now UPS is giving it a shot: The 111-year-old delivery service has started moving packages around Seattle by electric tricycle, in a yearlong pilot. The vehicle in question was designed and built by Truck Trike in Portland, Oregon. When the rider starts to pedal, human power pushes the front hub. With a thumb throttle, the rider can draw power from a pair of battery packs in the base of the trike to rear hub motors for the back two wheels, with enough juice for 12 to 18 miles of range. The extra power comes in handy because the trailer, made by Portland's Silver Eagle, can fit as many as 40 packages, or about 350 pounds worth of stuff. For UPS the move is pretty spot on, because while the Emerald City is always congested, it's less than two months from what its traffic engineers call the "period of maximum constraint." That ominous-sounding constrained period arrives on February 4, when the Alaskan Way Viaduct elevated highway along the waterfront is torn down and the 2-mile tunnel Seattle dug to replace it comes online. Crews are finishing the ramps that connect the tunnel to surface roads, and for three weeks, the city won't have a road to get through downtown on the city's waterfront side. To dodge the traffic horror show, Seattleites are planning vacations, renting Airbnbs to stay downtown, anything to avoid driving, including working from home.

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California Gives Final OK To Require Solar Panels On New Houses

Solar panels will be a required feature on new houses in California, after the state's Building Standards Commission gave final approval to a housing rule that's the first of its kind in the United States. From a report: Set to take effect in 2020, the new standard includes an exemption for houses that are often shaded from the sun. It also includes incentives for people to add a high-capacity battery to their home's electrical system, to store the sun's energy. "These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country," said commissioner Kent Sasaki, according to The Mercury News. "[It's] the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels." The rule marks a new phase in California's environmental policies, which have often set trends and established standards nationwide. The state has set the goal of drawing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources and sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The solar panels rule was initially endorsed as part of the state's Green Building Standards Code by the California Energy Commission back in May.

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AI as Talent Scout: Unorthodox Hires, and Maybe Lower Pay

An anonymous reader shares a report: One day this fall, Ashutosh Garg, the chief executive of a recruiting service called Eightfold.ai, turned up a resume that piqued his interest. It belonged to a prospective data scientist, someone who unearths patterns in data to help businesses make decisions, like how to target ads. But curiously, the resume featured the term "data science" nowhere. Instead, the resume belonged to an analyst at Barclays who had done graduate work in physics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Though his profile on the social network LinkedIn indicated that he had never worked as a data scientist, Eightfold's software flagged him as a good fit. He was similar in certain key ways, like his math and computer chops, to four actual data scientists whom Mr. Garg had instructed the software to consider as a model. The idea is not to focus on job titles, but "what skills they have," Mr. Garg said. "You're really looking for people who have not done it, but can do it." The power of such technology will be immediately apparent to any employer scrambling to fill jobs in a tight labor market -- not least positions for data scientists, whom companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are competing to attract. Thanks to services like Eightfold, which rely on sophisticated algorithms to match workers and jobs, many employers may soon have access to a universe of prospective workers -- even for hard-to-fill roles -- whom they might not otherwise have come across.

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EU Governments Agree To Tougher Stance On E-evidence

EU governments agreed on Friday to toughen up draft rules allowing law enforcement authorities to get electronic evidence directly from tech companies such as Facebook and Google stored in the cloud in another European country. From a report: The move underlines the growing trend in Europe to rein in tech giants whether on the regulatory front or the antitrust front. The e-evidence proposal also came in the wake of recent deadly terrorist attacks in Europe, pressure on tech companies to do more to cooperate with police investigations and people's growing tendency to store and share information on WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber, Skype, Instagram and Telegram. The European Commission, the EU executive, came up with the draft legislation in April, which includes a 10-day deadline for companies to respond to police requests or 6 hours in emergency cases, and fines up to 2 percent of a company's global turnover for not complying with such orders. The proposal covers telecoms services providers, online marketplaces and internet infrastructure services providers and applies to subscriber data and other data on access, transactional and content.

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Chinese Mobile App Companies Are a National Security Risk, Says a Top Democrat

Chinese mobile app companies pose the same national security risk to the US as telecom giants like Huawei and ZTE, Sen. Mark Warner said in an interview. From a report: Recent US legislation largely banned Huawei and ZTE from use by the government and its contractors, due to concerns about surveillance and other national security risks. Now Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is signaling that Chinese app developers may face similar scrutiny from lawmakers, corporate America, and the intelligence community. Warner's comments follow a recent BuzzFeed News report that popular apps from China's Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech were exploiting user permissions to engage in a form of ad fraud. Eight Android apps with more than 2 billion total downloads were said to be engaging in a form of app-install ad fraud. Google subsequently removed two of the apps from the Play store and said it continues to investigate. Cheetah and Kika deny engaging in app-install fraud. "Under Chinese law, all Chinese companies are ultimately beholden to the Communist Party, not their board or shareholders, so any Chinese technology company -- whether in telecom or mobile apps -- should be seen as extensions of the state and a national security risk," Warner said in an interview this week with BuzzFeed News. Further reading: Sen. Warner calls for US cyber doctrine, new standards for security.

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The FTC’s Top Consumer Protection Official Can’t Go After Facebook — or 100 Other Companies

The Federal Trade Commission's top consumer protection official is prohibited from handling the cases involving 120 different companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Uber, according to financial disclosure documents published by Public Citizen this week. From a report: Andrew Smith, who heads the FTCs Consumer Protection Bureau, would be in charge of handling investigations into some of the country's largest companies and any consumer protection violations that may occur. But due to his conflicts of interest, Smith is barred from participating in any investigations involving the companies he previously provided legal services for. "It's a big world out there, and the FTC has very broad jurisdictions," Smith said to The Verge. "There are plenty of investigations that I'm involved in." Smith was approved by a 3-2 Republican majority in May.

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Millions of Smartphones in 11 Countries Were Taken Offline Yesterday by an Expired Certificate

Ericsson has confirmed that a fault with its software was the source of yesterday's massive network outage, which took millions of smartphones offline across the UK and Japan and created issues in almost a dozen countries. From a report: In a statement, Ericsson said that the root cause was an expired certificate, and that "the faulty software that has caused these issues is being decommissioned." The statement notes that network services were restored to most customers on Thursday, while UK operator O2 said that its 4G network was back up as of early Friday morning. Although much of the focus was paid to outages on O2 in the UK and Softbank in Japan. Ericsson later confirmed to Softbank that issues had simultaneously affected telecom carriers who'd installed Ericsson-made devices across a total of 11 countries. Softbank said that the outage affected its own network for just over four hours.

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Your Apple Products Are Getting More Expensive. Here’s How They Get Away With It.

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple has never made cheap stuff. But this fall many of its prices increased 20 percent or more. The MacBook Air went from $1,000 to $1,200. A Mac Mini leaped from $500 to $800. It felt as though the value proposition that has made Apple products no-brainers might unravel. For some perspective, we charted out the past few years of prices on a few iconic Apple products. Then we compared them with other brands and some proprietary data about Americans' phone purchase habits from mobile analytics firm BayStreet Research. What we learned: Being loyal to Apple is getting expensive. Many Apple product prices are rising faster than inflation -- faster, even, than the price of prescription drugs or going to college. Yet when Apple offers cheaper options for its most important product, the iPhone, Americans tend to take the more expensive choice. So while Apple isn't charging all customers more, it's definitely extracting more money from frequent upgraders. [...] Apple says prices go up because it introduces new technologies such as Face ID and invests in making products that last a long time. Yet it has clearly been feeling price discomfort from some quarters. This week, amid reports of lagging sales that took its stock far out of the trillion-dollar club, it dedicated its home page to a used-car sales technique that's uncharacteristic for an aspirational luxury brand. It offered a "limited-time" deal to trade in an old iPhone and get a new iPhone XR for $450, a $300 discount.

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Snapdragon 8cx Gives Windows Its Most Extreme Arm Chip Yet

Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform, a new flagship "Extreme" chipset for Windows on Arm notebooks, tablets, and 2-in-1s that promises more connectivity, more power, and battery life in excess of 25 hours. From a report: The new platform also debuts Qualcomm's new nomenclature for that ecosystem of devices, borrowing technologies from Snapdragon for smartphones but shaping them for ultraportable computing. It comes twelve months after Qualcomm announced its first Windows on Arm products. At last year's Snapdragon Summit, partners ASUS and HP revealed a Windows 10 notebook and 2-in-1, respectively, each running Microsoft's software on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. The Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform won't replace the 850 -- or, indeed, be called the Snapdragon 1000 or Snapdragon 8180 as the rumors suggested -- but instead sit above it in the Windows on Arm ecosystem. Described as "a new tier of premium computing" by Qualcomm's Miguel Nunes, senior director of product management, ahead of the Snapdragon Summit 2018 at which SlashGear is Qualcomm's guest, it was also developed from the ground up with computing in mind. Its predecessors were, of course, mobile chipsets coopted into laptop use.

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Intel Optimistic About Its Next-Gen 7nm Process Technology

From a report: Originally planned to enter mass production in the second half of 2016, Intel's 10 nm process technology is still barely used by the company today. Currently the process is used to produce just a handful of CPUs, ahead of an expected ramp to high-volume manufacturing (HVM) only later in 2019. Without a doubt, Intel suffered delays on its 10 nm process by several years, significantly impacting the company's product lineup and its business. Now, as it turns out, Intel's 10 nm may be a short-living node as the company's 7 nm tech is on-track for introduction in accordance with its original schedule. For a number of times Intel said that it set too aggressive scaling/transistor density targets for its 10 nm fabrication process, which is why its development ran into problems. Intel's 10 nm manufacturing tech relies exclusively on deep ultraviolet lithography (DUVL) with lasers operating on a 193 nm wavelength. To enable the fine feature sizes that Intel set out to achieve on 10 nm, the process had to make heavy usage of mutli-patterning. According to Intel, a problem of the process was precisely its heavy usage of multipatterning (quad-patterning to be more exact).

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Facebook Will Bring Political Ad Transparency Tools To India Ahead of 2019 Elections

As India inches closer to its general elections, Facebook announced today that it is bringing transparency to political ads on its platform in the country early next year. From a report: This would make India the fourth market -- after the U.S., Brazil, and the U.K. -- where Facebook offers users a disclaimer on political ads. Facebook began offering users in the U.S. information about the buyer of a political ad as part of a series of changes last year to fight misinformation and foreign meddling in elections. [...] Facebook said Thursday that it will also maintain an online searchable Ad Library, as it has in other markets, which will document all the ads related to politics from a particular advertiser alongside other information such as range of impressions, demographics that saw the ad, and the budget that went behind an individual ad. India, which is Facebook's largest market, could be the biggest test yet for whether the company has learned from its recent mistakes.

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Microsoft Is Embracing Chromium, Bringing Edge To Windows 7, Windows 8, and Mac

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today embraced Google's Chromium open source project for Edge development on the desktop. The company also announced Edge is coming to all supported versions of Windows and to macOS. Microsoft wants to make some big changes, which it says will happen "over the next year or so." The first preview builds of the Chromium-powered Edge will arrive in early 2019, according to Microsoft. And yes, this means Chrome extension support.

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Motion Impossible: Tom Cruise Declares War on TV Frame Interpolation

An anonymous reader shares a report: At 9:46 last night, Tom tweeted an 87-second video in which he and his go-to director Christopher McQuarrie explained the concept of video interpolation and why it is the death of all good things. Video interpolation, they explained, is a digital video effect used to improve the quality of high-definition sport. "The unfortunate effect is that it makes most movies look like they were shot on high-speed video rather than film," said Cruise. "This is sometimes referred to as the 'soap-opera effect'." They explained that most HD televisions come with video interpolation switched on by default, they explained how to switch it off, and then they both nodded with total sincerity. Now, it's worth noting that Tom Cruise is by no means the first film-maker to rail against motion smoothing. Back when he was still the Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn tweeted that he, Edgar Wright, Rian Johnson and Matt Reeves were also peeved about the default nature of video interpolation, to which Reed Morano replied that she started a petition to fix the issue a number of years ago, to little avail. Why did it fail? Possibly because none of these people are Tom Cruise. Because Tom Cruise has made a career of total commitment. Take him to a premiere and he'll spend hours on the red carpet, shaking every single hand until everyone's happy. Put him in a movie with helicopters in it and he'll teach himself to fly a helicopter to the level of a veteran stunt coordinator. Break his ankle on the side of a building, and he'll stagger out of frame on his ruined legs rather than blow a shot.

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Microsoft’s Designers Are Now Working Together on the Future of Windows, Office and Surface

Microsoft has changed the way it approaches design. The new Office icons unveiled this week are the first glimpse at a far bigger design overhaul that's going on inside the company. Windows is also getting its own icon changes, but the bigger change is a collaborative effort going on between the Windows, Office, and Surface teams. From a report: "This is definitely a cross company effort," explains Jon Friedman, Microsoft's head of Office design, in an interview with The Verge. The company's design leaders -- Friedman with Office, Albert Shum on the Windows side, and Ralf Groene for Surface -- all work together now. "We operate like an internal open source team," Friedman says. "So we're all openly sharing our design work, critiquing the work, working on it together. What we've found is that the best way to develop our Fluent Design system is to truly open source it internally. What's happened is that we're getting the best of everyone's work that way."

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Opinion: 5G Has an Exciting Future When It Comes To Dedicated Mobile Apps But Will Do Little To Improve Our General Browsing Experiences.

Charlie Osborne, writing for ZDNet: However, there is a problem that no-one is talking about: the conflict between the rapid acceleration of wireless technologies and politics which is, unwittingly, going to render some of these improvements potentially pointless. In the UK and across Europe, there are two laws of particular interest: the EU's 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the so-called Cookie Law, passed in 2012. Ever heard someone expel a breath and a long list of expletives while they are attempting to look something up, book a service, or fact-check through the Internet on their smartphone? The likelihood is, they've come across both regulations in full force, stirring up annoyance and a rapid, frustrated smashing of fingers to screen as pop-ups scream for consent, T&Cs demand acceptance, and visitors must go through tick-lists of what data they are happy to be collected and in what manner. The EU's GDPR, which enforced data reform, protection, and collection changes across Europe, has resulted in a plethora of pop-ups which delight in lecturing visitors on data collection practices. Combine these two well-meaning regulations and you have a melting pot of sheer frustration when it comes to mobile browsing. When you are forced to stop and be lectured by pop-ups at every turn which must be manually shut down, one by one, it really doesn't matter how quickly you were brought to the page in the first place.

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Facebook Employees Are So Paranoid They’re Using Burner Phones To Talk To Each Other

Facebook's reputation has only continued to get more sullied in recent weeks, and it's taking a toll on employees. According to a new report, things over at the old FB are, well, kind of grim. From the report: "People now have burner phones to talk shit about the company -- not even to reporters, just to other employees," one former employee said. Another described the current scene as a "bunker mentality," meaning that after nearly two years of continuous bad press some people are, to borrow a phrase, leaning in as hard as they can to cope. "It's otherwise rational, sane people who're in Mark's orbit spouting full-blown anti-media rhetoric, saying that the press is ganging up on Facebook," said the former employee. Further reading: Facebook Employees Are Calling Former Colleagues To Look For Jobs Outside the Company and Asking About the Best Way To Leave.

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Hackers Behind Breach at Hotel Group Marriott Left Clues Suggesting They Were Working For Chinese Government Intelligence Gathering Operation, Report Says

Marriott said last week that a hack that began four years ago had exposed the records of up to 500 million customers in its Starwood hotels reservation system. Private investigators looking into the breach have found hacking tools, techniques and procedures previously used in attacks attributed to Chinese hackers, Reuters reported, citing three sources who were not authorized to discuss the company's private probe into the attack. From the report: That suggests that Chinese hackers may have been behind a campaign designed to collect information for use in Beijing's espionage efforts and not for financial gain, two of the sources said. While China has emerged as the lead suspect in the case, the sources cautioned it was possible somebody else was behind the hack because other parties had access to the same hacking tools, some of which have previously been posted online.

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Microsoft’s New Study Finds 162.8 Million People in the US Do Not Use the Internet at Broadband Speeds, Up From FCC’s 24.7 Million Estimate

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new study by Microsoft researchers casts a light on the actual use of high-speed internet across the country, and the picture it presents is very different from the F.C.C. numbers. Their analysis, presented at a Microsoft event on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., suggests that the speedy access is much more limited than the F.C.C. data shows. Over all, Microsoft concluded that 162.8 million people do not use the internet at broadband speeds, while the F.C.C. says broadband is not available to 24.7 million Americans. The discrepancy is particularly stark in rural areas. In Ferry County, for example, Microsoft estimates that only 2 percent of people use broadband service, versus the 100 percent the federal government says have access to the service. [...] Accurate measurements on the reach of broadband matter because the government's statistics are used to guide policy and channel federal funding for underserved areas. "It's a huge problem," said Phillip Berenbroick, a telecommunications expert at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit technology policy group. "The result is that we're not getting broadband coverage and funding to areas that really need it."

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Facebook Used Its VPN App To Track Competitors, Documents Reveal

Newly public documents reveal just how paranoid Facebook was of its potential competitors and shines new light on some of the company's most important acquisitions. From a report: The internal documents, made public as part of a cache of documents released by UK lawmakers, show just how close an eye the social network was keeping on competitors like WhatsApp and Snapchat, both of which became acquisition targets. The documents, which are labeled "highly confidential," show slides from an internal presentation in 2013 that compares Facebook's reach to competing apps, including WhatsApp and Snapchat. While Facebook and Instagram lead in marketshare, it's clear why Facebook may have viewed Snapchat and WhatsApp as potential threats. [...] Facebook's presentation relied on data from Onavo, the virtual private network (VPN) service which Facebook also acquired several months later. Facebook's use of Onavo, which has been likened to "corporate spyware," has itself been controversial.

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Americans Are Moving Less Than Ever, and It’s Bad For the Economy

An anonymous reader writes: The best job for someone is not always in the area where they live. Often times, the job that will pay them most, and make the best use of their skills means moving to another city, state or country. Though making the choice to move can be difficult emotionally, it is extremely good for economic growth. Productive people make productive economies. Unfortunately for the US economy, people don't move they like they used to. According to recently released data from the US Census, only 10.1% of adults moved homes from August 2017 to August 2018. This is the lowest rate of moving since the government began collected data in 1948. The census tracks moves within counties, within states, or across states, and no matter how you look at it, moving rates are way down from just 15 years ago. For example, from 2002 to 2003, 2.8% of Americans moved across state lines. From 2017 to 2018, it was just 1.5%.

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Bizarre ‘Dark Fluid’ With Negative Mass Could Dominate the Universe

One of the most galling mysteries in physics is that of the dark matter and dark energy. Scientists believe that together, these could account for up to 95 percent of the total mass in the universe. Now, a researcher at the University of Oxford says a new theory could explain all that "dark phenomena." From a report: The two mysterious dark substances can only be inferred from gravitational effects. Dark matter may be an invisible material, but it exerts a gravitational force on surrounding matter that we can measure. Dark energy is a repulsive force that makes the universe expand at an accelerating rate. The two have always been treated as separate phenomena. But my new study, published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, suggests they may both be part of the same strange concept -- a single, unified "dark fluid" of negative masses. Negative masses are a hypothetical form of matter that would have a type of negative gravity -- repelling all other material around them. Unlike familiar positive mass matter, if a negative mass was pushed, it would accelerate towards you rather than away from you. Negative masses are not a new idea in cosmology. Just like normal matter, negative mass particles would become more spread out as the universe expands -- meaning that their repulsive force would become weaker over time. However, studies have shown that the force driving the accelerating expansion of the universe is relentlessly constant. This inconsistency has previously led researchers to abandon this idea. If a dark fluid exists, it should not thin out over time. In the new study, I propose a modification to Einstein's theory of general relativity to allow negative masses to not only exist, but to be created continuously. "Matter creation" was already included in an early alternative theory to the Big Bang, known as the Steady State model. The main assumption was that (positive mass) matter was continuously created to replenish material as the universe expands. We now know from observational evidence that this is incorrect. However, that doesn't mean that negative mass matter can't be continuously created. I show that this assumed dark fluid is never spread too thinly. Instead it behaves exactly like dark energy.

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Internal Emails Show Facebook Weighing the Privacy Risks of Quietly Collecting Call and Text Records From Its Android Users — Then Going Ahead Anyway

Earlier this year, many Android users were shocked to discover that Facebook had been collecting a record of their call and SMS history, as revealed by the company's data download tool. Now, internal emails released by the UK Parliament show how the decision was made internally. From a report: According to the emails, developers knew the data was sensitive, but they still pushed to collect it as a way of expanding Facebook's reach. The emails show Facebook's growth team looking to call log data as a way to improve Facebook's algorithms as well as to locate new contacts through the "People You May Know" feature. Notably, the project manager recognized it as "a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective," but that risk seems to have been overwhelmed by the potential user growth. Initially, the feature was intended to require users to opt in, typically through an in-app pop-up dialog box. But as developers looked for ways to get users signed up, it became clear that Android's data permissions could be manipulated to automatically enroll users if the new feature was deployed in a certain way.

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We’re No Longer in Smartphone Plateau. We’re in the Smartphone Decline.

The days of double-digit smartphone growth are over -- and the next decade may start to see smartphone sales decline. A report adds: From roughly 2007 until 2013, the smartphone market grew at an astonishing pace, posting double-digit growth year after year, even during a global recession. They were the good years, the type that would inspire a Scorsese montage: millions and then billions of smartphones going out; billions and then trillions of dollars in rising company valuations; every year new models of phones hitting the market, held up triumphantly at events that were part sales pitch, part tent revival. (To nail the Scorsese effect, imagine "Jumpin' Jack Flash" playing while you think about it.) But just like every Scorsese movie, the party ends. Smartphone growth began to slow starting in 2013 or 2014. In 2016, it was suddenly in the single digits, and in 2017 global smartphone shipments, for the first time, actually declined -- fewer smartphones were sold than in 2017 than in 2016. Every smartphone manufacturer is now facing a world where, at best, they can hope for single-digit growth in smartphone sales -- and many seem to be preparing for a world where they face declines.

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Samsung Caught (Again) Using DSLR Photo To Advertise Smartphone Camera

An anonymous reader writes: Over at DIYPhotography (which we spotted via Daring Fireball), writer and photographer Dunja Djudjic says that she caught Samsung Malaysia using one of her photos to advertise the portrait mode capabilities of the Galaxy A8 Star, a midrange phone that came out over the summer. Djudjic suspects that Samsung licensed the picture from her through the photo site EyeEm, so payment isn't necessarily a problem. But Djudjic does say that the photo wasn't taken with an A8 Star. Instead, it was taken with an (unnamed) DSLR she owns. Samsung doesn't state outright that the photo was taken on the A8 Star, but it's certainly implied by the page it's on, which is meant to illustrate the phone's capabilities. The page doesn't note that the images are simulated, and after showing Djudjic's photo, it proceeds to show the A8's dual rear cameras, implying a connection.

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Google’s ‘Shadow Workforce’ of Contractors Demands Higher Wages, Equal Benefits in a Letter To CEO Sundar Pichai

Members of Google's "shadow workforce" of temporary workers and contractors is demanding higher wages and equal benefits to full employees in an open letter addressed to CEO Sundar Pichai. From a report, submitted by an anonymous reader: It's the latest in a series of public stands made by Google employees against aspects of the company culture. A coordinated walkout by employees around the globe protesting discrimination and sexual harassment at Google led the company to end forced arbitration for claims. Last month, several hundred employees signed onto a letter protesting the company's censored search efforts in China. A Bloomberg report in July said Alphabet had more contractors than direct employees this year, for the first time ever. Google's mission is to 'organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.' But the company fails to meet this standard within its own workplace. Google routinely denies [temporary, vendor, and contract workers] access to information that is relevant to our jobs and our lives," the letter published Wednesday says. The latest letter is signed only by "TVCs at Google" and does not indicate the number of employees backing the effort. Google did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

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Qualcomm: 5G Android Flagship Phones Will Storm the 2019 Holidays

Get ready for lots of 5G phones in time for the holidays next year. From a report: The first devices for the fast, next-generation network will hit the market in early 2019. Samsung, for one, said it will have a phone for Verizon, AT&T and other networks in the first half of the year. By the holidays next year, every flagship handset -- at least when it comes to those running Google's Android software and using Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor -- will tap into 5G, said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. "When we get to exactly this time of year one year from now ... we will see every [handset maker] on the Android ecosystem, their flagship across all US carriers will be a 5G device," he told CNET in an interview Tuesday at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii. "Every Android vendor is working on 5G right now."

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Russian Internet Giant Yandex Launches Its First Smartphone

Russia's Yandex has launched its first ever smartphone as the company seeks to leverage its dominant position in apps and services into hardware sales. Yandex, which runs the most popular search engine in Russia, hopes its Yandex.Phone will bind users closer to its suite of products, from food delivery and taxi hailing apps to marketplace and music streaming platforms, as competition rises for online services. From a report: The Yandex.Phone is a 5.65-inch Android-powered phone that will cost 17,990 rubles ($270) when it goes on sale tomorrow. In terms of specifications, Yandex.Phone is a fairly mid-range device, sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, and a 16-megapixel / 5-megapixel dual rear camera. In place of Google Assistant, which is standard on most Android phones, the company is also pushing its own intelligent assistant, Alice. This isn't the first piece of Yandex hardware to sport Alice since it was unveiled in 2017 -- earlier this year, Yandex launched a $160 smart speaker that also included the virtual assistant. It's not entirely clear what the default apps on the phone will be, but judging by the official photos it seems pretty clear Yandex is positioning its own services at the forefront of the device and favoring its own search engine. That said, Google's apps are also bundled.

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Australia Set To Spy on WhatsApp Messages With Encryption Law

Australia is set to give its police and intelligence agencies the power to access encrypted messages on platforms such as WhatsApp, becoming the latest country to face down privacy concerns in the name of public safety. From a report: Amid protests from companies such as Facebook and Google, the government and main opposition struck a deal on Tuesday that should see the legislation passed by parliament this week. Under the proposed powers, technology companies could be forced to help decrypt communications on popular messaging apps, or even build new functionality to help police access data. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the legislation is needed to help foil terrorist attacks and organized crime. Critics say it is flawed and could undermine security across the Internet, jeopardizing activities from online voting to market trading and data storage.

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Microsoft Launches Visual Studio 2019 Preview 1 For Windows and Mac; Open-Sources WPF, Forms and WinUI

An anonymous reader writes: At its Microsoft Connect(); 2018 virtual event today, Microsoft announced the initial public preview of Visual Studio 2019 -- you can download it now for Windows and Mac. Separately, .NET Core 2.2 has hit general availability and .NET Core 3.0 Preview 1 is also available today. At the event today, Microsoft also made some open-source announcements, as is now common at the company's developer shindigs. Microsoft open-sourced three popular Windows UX frameworks on GitHub: Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Forms, and Windows UI XAML Library (WinUI). Additionally, Microsoft announced the expansion of the .NET Foundation's membership model.

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Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon 855 and Its New Under-display Fingerprint Sensor

Qualcomm announced its new flagship 855 mobile platform today. While the company didn't release all of the details yet, it stressed that the 855 is "the world's first commercial mobile platform supporting multi-gigabit 5G." From a report: The 855 also features a new multi-core AI engine that promises up to 3x better AI performance compared to its previous mobile platform, as well as specialized computer vision silicon for enhanced computational photography (think something akin to Google's Night Light) and video capture. The company also briefly noted that the new platform has been optimized for gaming. The product name for this is "Snapdragon Elite Gaming," but details remain sparse. Qualcomm also continues to bet on AR (or "extended reality" as the company brands it).

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Kubernetes’ First Major Security Hole Discovered

Kubernetes has become the most popular cloud container orchestration system by far, so it was only a matter of time until its first major security hole was discovered. And the bug, CVE-2018-1002105, aka the Kubernetes privilege escalation flaw, is a doozy. It's a CVSS 9.8 critical security hole. From a report: With a specially crafted network request, any user can establish a connection through the Kubernetes application programming interface (API) server to a backend server. Once established, an attacker can send arbitrary requests over the network connection directly to that backend. Adding insult to injury, these requests are authenticated with the Kubernetes API server's Transport Layer Security (TLS) credentials. Can you say root? I knew you could. Worse still, "In default configurations, all users (authenticated and unauthenticated) are allowed to perform discovery API calls that allow this escalation." So, yes, anyone who knows about this hole can take command of your Kubernetes cluster.

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Microsoft is Working On a New Iteration of Windows To Take On ChromeOS, Report Says

Petri's Brad Sams writes: For more than a year, we have been hearing about Windows Core OS and how it is a modern version of Windows. As Microsoft continues to build out the platform, it's time to take a look at what the secret project actually includes and how the company is positioning the platform. In Microsoft's feverish attempts to shove out insider builds at an impressive rate, the company doesn't always do a great job at scrubbing the finer details from the builds. Because of this, and some help from a couple insiders, I have been able to piece together what Lite is and where it's headed. Microsoft is working on a new version of Windows that may not actually be Windows. It's currently called Lite, based on documentation found in the latest build, and I can confirm that this version of the OS is targeting Chromebooks. In fact, there are markings all over the latest release of the insider builds and SDK that help us understand where this OS is headed. If you have heard this before, it should sound a lot like Windows 10 S and RT; Windows 10 Lite only runs PWAs and UWP apps and strips out everything else. This is finally a truly a lightweight version of Windows that isn't only in the name. This is not a version of the OS that will run in the enterprise or even small business environments and I don't think you will be able to 'buy' the OS either; OEM only may be the way forward.

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House GOP Campaign Committee Says Its Emails Were Hacked During 2018 Campaign

The National Republican Congressional Committee was hacked this election cycle, it admitted Tuesday afternoon. From a report: "The NRCC can confirm that it was the victim of a cyber intrusion by an unknown entity. The cybersecurity of the Committee's data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter," NRCC spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement. "To protect the integrity of that investigation, the NRCC will offer no further comment on the incident." The major breach included thousands of emails from four senior aides, according to Politico, which first reported the hacks. An outside vendor noticed and alerted the committee in April. The committee then launched an internal investigation and alerted the FBI.

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The New Word Processor Wars: A Fresh Crop of Productivity Apps Are Trying To Reinvent Our Workday

Nearly 30 years after Microsoft Office came on the scene, it's in the DNA of just about every productivity app. Even if you use Google's G Suite or Apple's iWork, you're still following the Microsoft model. But that way of thinking about work has gotten a little dusty, and new apps offering a different approach to getting things done are popping up by the day. GeekWire: There's a new war on over the way we work, and the old "office suite" is being reinvented around rapid-fire discussion threads, quick sharing and light, simple interfaces where all the work happens inside a single window. In recent years, the buzzwords in tech have been "AI" and "mobile." Today, you can add "collaboration" to that list -- these days, everybody wants to build Slack-like communication into their apps. For notes and docs, there's Quip, Notejoy, Slite, Zenkit, Notion and Agenda. For spreadsheets, there's Bellevue, Wash.-based Smartsheet, as well as Airtable, Coda and, although it's a very different take on the spreadsheet, Trello. The list goes on seemingly ad infinitum, largely thanks to the relative ease with which developers can launch software in the cloud. "Work has totally changed," said Aaron Levie, the co-founder and CEO of Box, the online storage company that is building its strategy around unifying data and messaging from a dizzying mix of cloud apps. "Employees were lucky to have two, three, five modern applications in the 90s. Now they have almost unlimited ways of being productive."

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‘YouTube Music is a Bad Product in Desperate Need of Improvement Before Anyone Will Care To Use It’

Andrew Martonik, writing for AndroidCentral: YouTube Music as a service has been around for about three years now, though it really only existed in earnest once the revamped version of the YouTube Music app and dedicated website, as we know it today, launched in May. Whether you look at it as three years or just six months old, one thing is clear: YouTube Music isn't finished yet, is filled with issues and is incredibly frustrating to use on a daily basis considering it costs the industry-standard $10 per month. YouTube Music is so unfinished and lacking features that I question whether Google has any intentions of following through with its vision of replacing Google Play Music entirely. Put simply, I can't believe Google thinks anyone will pay $10 per month for it when all signs point to Google itself not caring about YouTube Music's success. YouTube Music effectively doesn't work with Google Home. [...] YouTube Music also still doesn't work with Android Auto, which is just as inexcusable as not working with Google Home.

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Google Personalizes Search Results Even When You’re Logged Out, a DuckDuckGo Study Finds

According to a new study conducted by Google competitor DuckDuckGo, it does not seem possible to avoid personalization when using Google search, even by logging out of your Google account and using the private browsing "incognito" mode. From a report: DuckDuckGo conducted the study in June of this year, at the height of the US midterm election season. It did so with the ostensible goal of confirming whether Google's search results exacerbate ideological bubbles by feeding you only information you've signaled you want to consume via past behavior and the data collected about you. It's not clear whether that question can be reliably answered with these findings, and it's also obvious DuckDuckGo is a biased source with something to gain by pointing out how flawed Google's approach may be. But the study's findings are nonetheless interesting because they highlight just how much variance there are in Google search results, even when controlling for factors like location.

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China Set To Launch First-Ever Spacecraft to the Far Side of the Moon, Will Attempt To Grow Plant There

AmiMoJo writes: Later this week, China plans to launch its Chang'e-4 spacecraft to the far side of the lunar surface. The aim is to land a rover on the dark side of the moon for the first time. Blocked from direct communication with the Earth, the lander and rover will depend on China's Queqiao communication satellite launched in May. If the landing is successful, the mission's main job will be to investigate this side of the lunar surface, which is peppered with many small craters. The lander will also conduct the first radio astronomy experiments from the far side of the Moon -- and the first investigations to see whether plants will grow in the low-gravity lunar environment. The ultimate goal of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) is to create a Moon base for future human exploration there, although it has not announced when that might happen. Chang'e-4 will be the country's second craft to 'soft' land on the lunar surface, following Chang'e-3's touchdown in 2013.

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Fortnite Dev Launches Epic Games Store That Takes Just 12% of Revenue

The 30/70 revenue-sharing split that turned into something of an industry standard is on the ropes. From a report: Epic Games, the developer responsible for the Fortnite phenomenon, is launching its own game store. And like with its asset store for developers, Epic is planning to take a 12-percent cut of revenues. This will leave 88 percent for the people who actually make the games. "As a developer ourselves, we have always wanted a platform with great economics that connects us directly with our players," Sweeney explained in a statement. "Thanks to the success of Fortnite, we now have this and are ready to share it with other developers."

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Microsoft is Building a Chromium-powered Web Browser That Will Replace Edge on Windows 10: Report

Microsoft is throwing in the towel with Edge and is building a new web browser for Windows 10, this time powered by Chromium, news blog Windows Central reported Monday. From the report: Microsoft's Edge web browser has seen little success since its debut on Windows 10 back in 2015. Built from the ground up with a new rendering engine known as EdgeHTML, Microsoft Edge was designed to be fast, lightweight, and secure, but launched with a plethora of issues which resulted in users rejecting it early on. Edge has since struggled to gain any traction, thanks to its continued instability and lack of mindshare, from users and web developers. Because of this, I'm told that Microsoft is throwing in the towel with EdgeHTML and is instead building a new web browser powered by Chromium, a rendering engine first popularized by Google's Chrome browser. Codenamed Anaheim, this new web browser for Windows 10 will replace Edge as the default browser on the platform. It's unknown at this time if Anaheim will use the Edge brand or a new brand, or if the user interface between Edge and Anaheim is different. One thing is for sure, however; EdgeHTML in Windows 10's default browser is dead.

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Search Engine DuckDuckGo Removes ‘Pirate’ Site Bangs To Avoid Liability

DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine, offers a variety of useful features such as instant answers and bangs. The latter are particularly useful for people who want to use DuckDuckGo to search directly on other sites. Typing '!yt keyword', for instance, will do a direct search on YouTube, while '!w keyword' goes to Wikipedia. This library of bangs has been around for a long time and has grown to more than 10,000 over the years. From a report: However, a few days ago, roughly 2,000 of these were removed. Interestingly, this included many bangs that link to torrent sites, such as The Pirate Bay, 1337x and RARBG. Similarly, bangs for OpenSubtitles, Sci-Hub and LibGen are gone too. Initially, it was unclear what had happened, but after people started asking questions on Reddit, DuckDuckGo staff explained that this was part of a larger cleanup operation. DuckDuckGo went through its bangs library and removed all non-working versions, as well as verbose ones that were not actively used. In addition, many pirate site bangs were deleted as these are no longer"permitted." "Bangs had been neglected for some time, and there were tons of broken ones. As part of the bang clean-up, we also removed some that were pointing to primarily illegal content," DuckDuckGo staffer Tagawa explains. The search engine still indexes the sites in question but it feels that offering curated search shortcuts for these sites in their service might cause problems. "It may not seem like so at first blush, but it is very different legally if it is a bang vs. in the search results because the bangs are added to the product by us explicitly, and can be interpreted legally as an editorial decision that is actively facilitating that site and its content," the staff wrote.

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Facebook Employees Are Calling Former Colleagues To Look For Jobs Outside the Company and Asking About the Best Way To Leave

An anonymous reader shares a report: Six former Facebook employees who left the company within the last two years told CNBC they've experienced a rise in contact from current company employees to inquire about opportunities or ask for job references. [...] The shift could be an early warning of recruiting and retention challenges for Facebook after a turbulent year. In 2018, the company has faced public questioning at multiple congressional hearings, scandals around third-party abuse of user data and public relations practicesand flat or declining user growth in key markets. It's also seen its stock drop nearly 40 percent from July. The stories from former employees are only anecdotal at this point, and there's no firm data showing a significant uptick in departures or employee dissatisfaction.

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Blockchain Study Finds 0% Success Rate and Vendors Don’t Call Back When Asked For Evidence

Though Blockchain has been touted as the answer to everything, a study of 43 solutions advanced in the international development sector has found exactly no evidence of success. From a report: Three practitioners including erstwhile blockchain enthusiast John Burg, a Fellow at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), looked at instances of the distributed crypto ledger being used in a wide range of situations by NGOs, contractors and agencies. But they drew a complete blank. "We found a proliferation of press releases, white papers, and persuasively written articles," Burg et al wrote. "However, we found no documentation or evidence of the results blockchain was purported to have achieved in these claims. We also did not find lessons learned or practical insights, as are available for other technologies in development." Blockchain vendors were keen to puff the merits of the technology, but when the three asked for proof of success in the field, it all went very quiet. "We fared no better when we reached out directly to several blockchain firms, via email, phone, and in person. Not one was willing to share data on program results, MERL [monitoring, evaluation, research and learning] processes, or adaptive management for potential scale-up. Despite all the hype about how blockchain will bring unheralded transparency to processes and operations in low-trust environments, the industry is itself opaque." Burg was an enthusiastic advocate for blockchain until recently -- as he explained in this Medium post.

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SpaceX Launches More Than 60 Small Satellites Into Orbit

SpaceX notched its 19th launch of the year Monday, lofting 64 small spacecraft from 34 organizations into low Earth orbit. A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central coast at about 10:34 a.m. local time. The customer was Spaceflight Industries, a Seattle-based company that organized the launch on behalf of several clients. From a report: The Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission includes 15 microsats and 49 cubesats from commercial and government entities, including universities, startups and a middle school, according to the SpaceX press kit. The payloads -- which vary from technology demonstrations and imaging satellites to educational-research endeavors -- are from 17 countries, including the U.S., Brazil, India and South Korea. SpaceX said a series of six deployments would occur about 13 to 43 minutes after takeoff, then Spaceflight would command its own deployment sequences over a period of six hours. The Falcon 9's first stage has flown twice before: in May 2018 and again in August. SpaceX recovered it Monday on "Just Read the Instructions," a droneship in the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX also attempted to recover the rocket's fairing, which encloses the payload, with Mr. Steven, a boat designed to capture it in a massive net.

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Microsoft Adds Real-Time Captions and Subtitles To Skype — PowerPoint To Follow

Skype is getting real-time captions and subtitles, and PowerPoint will have these features, too, next year. From a report: Ostensibly an accessibility feature (and launched on United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities), the new option means that Skype will be able to use voice recognition to show you the text of what is being said in a voice or video call. Microsoft will also bring the same feature to PowerPoint next year. Microsoft promises that live captions and subtitles are "optimized to be fast, continuous, and contextually updated as people speak", and in the current incarnation they will automatically scroll during a call. In a future update, however, it will be possible to manually scroll through subtitles and take advantage of additional viewing options.

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Despite CRISPR Baby Controversy, Harvard University Will Begin Gene-Editing Sperm

Even as a furious debate broke out in China over gene-edited babies, some scientists in the US are also hoping to improve tomorrow's children. From a report: [...] Amid the condemnation, though, it was easy to lose track of what the key experts were saying. Technology to alter heredity is for real. It is improving very quickly, it has features that will make it safe, and much wider exploratory use to create children could be justified soon. That was the message delivered at a gene-editing summit in Hong Kong on Wednesday, by Harvard Medical School dean George Daley, just ahead of He's own dramatic appearance on the stage (see video starting at 1:15:30). Astounding some listeners, the Harvard doctor and stem-cell researcher didn't condemn He but instead characterized the Chinese actions as a wrong turn on the right path (see video). "The fact that it is possible that the first instance of human germ-line editing came forward as a misstep should in no way lead us to stick our heads in the sand," Daley said. "It's time to ... start outlining what an actual pathway for clinical translation would be."

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It’s the Beginning of the End of Satellite TV in the US

An anonymous reader shares a report: "We've launched our last satellite," John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, said in a meeting with analysts on Nov. 29. The AT&T executive effectively declared the end of the satellite-TV era with that statement. AT&T owns DirecTV, the US's largest satellite company -- and second largest TV provider overall, behind Comcast. DirecTV will continue offering satellite-TV service -- it had nearly 20 million satellite video subscribers as of September, per company filings. But the company will focus on growing its online video business instead, Donovan said. It has a new set-top box, where people can get the same TV service they'd get with satellite, through an internet-connected box they can install themselves. It expects that box to become a greater share of its new premium-TV service installations in the first half of 2019. It also sells cheaper, TV packages with fewer channels through its DirecTV Now and WatchTV streaming services, which work with many smart TVs and streaming media players like Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices. The practice of getting TV through satellite dishes propped up in backyards and perched on rooftops first took hold in the US in the last 1970s and early 1980s, after TV networks like HBO and Turner Broadcasting System started sending TV signals to cable providers via satellites. People in areas without cable or broadcast TV began putting up their own dishes to receive the TV signals, and that grew into a TV business of its own.

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Mapping the Spectral Landscape of IPv6 Networks

Trailrunner7 writes: Like real estate, we're not making any more IPv4 addresses. But instead of trying to colonize Mars or build cities under the sea, the Internet's architects developed a separate address scheme with an unfathomably large pool of addresses. IPv6 has an address space of 2^128, compared to IPv4's 2^32, and as the exhaustion of the IPv4 address space began to approach, registries started allocating IPv6 addresses and there now are billions of those addresses active at any given time. But no one really knows how many or where they are or what's behind them or how they're organized. A pair of researchers decided to tackle the problem and developed a suite of tools that can find active IPv6 addresses both in the global address space and in smaller, targeted networks. Known as ipv666, the open source tool set can scan for live IPv6 hosts using a statistical model that the researchers built. The researchers, Chris Grayson and Marc Newlin, faced a number of challenges as they went about developing the ipv666 tools, including getting a large IPv6 address list, which they accumulated from several publicly available data sets. They then began the painful process of building the statistical model to predict other IPv6 addresses based on their existing list. That may seem weird, but IPv6 addresses are nothing at all like their older cousins and come in a bizarre format that doesn't lend itself to simple analysis or prediction. Grayson and Newlin wanted to find as many live addresses as possible and ultimately try to figure out what the security differences are between devices on IPv4 and those on IPv6.

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Apple Will Wait Until at Least 2020 To Release a 5G iPhone: Report

Apple plans to hold off until at least 2020 before offering an iPhone that can connect to the next generation of high-speed phone services coming next year, Bloomberg reported Monday. From the report: The delay may make it easier for rivals like Samsung Electronics to win over consumers to phones that connect to 5G networks, which will provide a leap forward in mobile data speeds when they are introduced in 2019. As with 3G and 4G, the two previous generations of mobile technology, Apple will wait as long as a year after the initial deployment of the new networks before its main product gets the capability to access them, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the company's plans. Apple's previous calculations -- proven correct -- were that the new networks and the first versions of rival smartphones would come with problems such as spotty coverage, making consumers less compelled to immediately make the jump. This time, 5G boosters argue the switch is a much bigger speed upgrade, making Apple's decision to wait riskier. The networks will open the floodgates to new types of mobile computing, 5G advocates say.

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Who’d Go To University Today?

Are students being short-changed by their $60,000 degree courses? And does a university education in 2018 represent good value for money? A slew of recent government and think-tank reports aim to tackle these questions. And the answers they give are not encouraging. From a report: The Public Accounts Committee announced this month that the value of the UK's student-loan system is falling. Last year, the government sold a tranche of the student-loan book at a major loss. The portfolio had a face value of $4.4 billion, but was sold for just $2.1 billion: a return of 48p in the pound, according to the public-spending watchdog. Clearly, the current method of funding higher education represents a bad deal for the taxpayer. But do universities offer good value for students? Not when you consider the fact less than half the money that students pay in tuition fees is actually spent on teaching, according to a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute. The rest of the money from tuition fees goes into other services and parts of the administration. These include admissions procedures, marketing, vice-chancellor pay and programmes to boost access for poorer students, as well as therapeutic services like mental-health provision and exam-stress counselling. Universities today have far too much bureaucracy, fat-cat VC's salaries are far too high, and a great deal of what administrators spend money on is a hindrance to education. University bureaucracy is often at the forefront of coddling students, encouraging them to see exams and hard work as threats to their mental health. It is troubling to see that students are not only plunging themselves into debt at such a young age, but also that much of that debt does not go towards their actual education.

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New Male Contraceptive Gel Enters Clinical Trials

The first clinical trial is underway to test a new male contraceptive that could be a game changer for preventing pregnancy. From a report: "(It's) a combination of two horomones: Progestin, which is the typical horomone that is found in female contraceptive pills, which they put in there to suppress sperm production, to trick the body, and testosterone, which is the male sex horomone so that there's normal circulating levels of testosterone that men don't lose their libido or sexual function or have any changes in mood," said CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula. The National Institutes of Health is enrolling about 420 couples to use an experimental gel that has been in development for more than 10 years. If proven effective, it would be the first hormonal birth control for men. The gel is applied to the back and shoulders. Researchers found that testosterone, once absorbed through the skin, stays in the system longer than testosterone taken in pill form does. Male volunteers will use the gel every day for four to 12 weeks.

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Steam is Finally Coming To China But Chinese Gamers Don’t Want It

Valve officially announced this week the arrival of Steam China in Shanghai. But Chinese gamers are telling the PC gaming platform to "get lost!" From a report: One of the most upvoted comments wrote, "Steam China get out of China." It's important to point out that gamers are directing their anger at Steam China, not Steam. In fact, Chinese gamers love Steam... the global version of it, anyway. There are an estimated 30 million Chinese users playing games on the platform -- games which otherwise aren't officially available in China. But that's exactly why they fear the launch of Steam China, which is a joint venture between Valve and Chinese company Perfect World. Gamers worry that not only will Steam China be a heavily censored platform with a much smaller lineup of titles; worse yet, it might also be the trigger for the government to ban the global version of Steam.

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Why It’s Easier To Make Decisions For Someone Else

Evan Polman, writing for HBR: In my research with Yi Liu and Yongfang Liu of East China Normal University in China and Jiangli Jiao of Xinjiang Normal University in China, we looked at how people make decisions for themselves and for others. We were interested in the process and quantity of information a decision maker uses when choosing for others versus choosing for the self. We wanted to know: Is more information searched in the process when people choose for others versus for themselves, and does the way they evaluate that information change based on whom they are choosing for? To test our hypotheses, we performed eight studies with over a thousand participants. Throughout the series of randomized tests, participants were given a list of restaurants, or job options, or dating profiles -- each with detailed information and then participants were asked to make choices for themselves or for someone else based on that information. What we found was two-fold: Not only did participants choose differently when it was for themselves rather than for someone else, but the way they chose was different. When choosing for themselves, participants focused more on a granular level, zeroing in on the minutiae, something we described in our research as a cautious mindset. Employing a cautious mindset when making a choice means being more reserved, deliberate, and risk averse. Rather than exploring and collecting a plethora of options, the cautious mindset prefers to consider a few at a time on a deeper level, examining a cross-section of the larger whole. Upon reflection, these results should feel familiar. Think about the most recent time you asked for a raise. Many people are initially afraid to ask (employing a cautious mindset); however, these same people are often very supportive in recommending to others (such as their friends or colleagues) that they ask (employing an adventurous mindset). When people recommend what others should do, they come up with ideas and choices and solutions that are more optimistic and action-oriented, focus on more positive information and imagine more favorable consequences. Meanwhile, when making their own choices, people tend to envision everything that could go wrong, leading to doubt and second-guesses.

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WhatsApp Faces Misinformation Problem in Nigeria, Reports Say

Fake news is being spread on WhatsApp in some of Africa's most populous countries, according to two new reports, raising concerns over coming elections in Nigeria. From a report: Photoshopped images and false claims about politicians have been circulating on the Facebook-owned messaging service in Nigeria, which holds election in February next year, according to a report from The Poynter Institute on Friday. Many of the false claims are in local languages and exploit ethnic friction. One set of false claims focuses on how politicians will address clashes between a group of semi-nomadic herdsmen and farmers, Poynter said. Another rumor claimed a presidential candidate couldn't enter the US because of a corruption charge, Poynter reported.

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Italian Bioengineer Develops 3D-Printed Vegan Steak From Plant-Based Proteins

Italian bioengineer Giuseppe Scionti from Spanish startup Novameat has invented the "world's first" 3D-printed meat-free steak made from vegetable proteins, which mimics the texture of beef. From a report: Vegan ingredients such as rice, peas and seaweed, which provide the amino acids needed for a healthy diet, are turned into a food paste that is 3D-printed to form a raw, steak-like substance. Despite an abundance of meat-free products already on the market that taste similar to animal meats, Scionti found that these are limited to imitation burgers, chicken nuggets or meatballs. None of the offerings reproduce a piece of "fibrous flesh" such as steak or chicken breast. In an effort to reduce the impact of animal agriculture and to improve people's nutrition, the Milanese researcher set out to create a plant-based alternative to "fleshy" meat products.

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Prison Inmates Catfished $560,000 Out of Military Service Members in Sextortion Scam, NCIS Says

Hundreds of military service members reportedly got caught up in a sextortion scam run by prison inmates using cellphones, according to a release issued by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). From a report: Military agents from multiple criminal investigation groups have served summons and issued warrants for arrests related to the scheme. According to the NCIS, South Carolina and North Carolina prison inmates, assisted by outside accomplices, sought out service members through dating sites and social media, then took on false identities, feigned romantic interest, and exchanged photos. Once the inmates had successfully catfished their targets, they would then pose as the father of the fake persona, insisting their child was underage and that the target had therefore committed a crime by exchanging photos. In some situations, the "father" claimed he wouldn't press charges if the target gave him money. Sometimes the catfisher would pose as law enforcement requesting money for the family.

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Twitter User Hacks 50,000 Printers To Tell People To Subscribe To a YouTube Channel

An anonymous reader writes: A Twitter user using the pseudonym of @TheHackerGiraffe has hacked over 50,000 printers to print out flyers telling people to subscribe to PewDiePie's YouTube channel. The message the printers received was a simple one. It urged people to subscribe to PewDiePie's YouTube channel in order for PewDiePie -- a famous YouTuber from Sweden, real name Felix Kjellberg -- to keep the crown of most subscribed to YouTube channel. If this sounds ...odd... it's because over the past month, an Indian record label called T-Series has caught up andsurpassed PewDiePie, once considered untouchable in terms of YouTube followers. The Swedish Youtube star made a comeback after his fans banded together in various social media campaigns, but T-Series is catching up with PewDiePie again.

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The Latest Crop of Instagram Influencers? Medical Students.

An anonymous reader shares a report: Celebrity physicians often catapult to fame via their mastery of traditional media, like television or radio or books or magazines, and we're used to seeing medical advice and expertise there. What you may have yet to encounter, or haven't fully noticed yet, is the growing group of current medical students who are perhaps on track to achieve even greater fame, through their prodigious and aggressive use of social media, particularly Instagram. Even before receiving their medical degrees, these future doctors are hard at work growing their audiences (many have well into the thousands of followers), arguably in ways even more savvy than the physicians on social media today. I first learned of the medical student Instagram influencer community a few months ago, when a friend shared links to a few of these accounts with me, asking if this is what medical school was really like. Curated and meticulously organized, these accounts posted long reflections after anatomy lab sessions, video stories of students huddled around a defibrillator during a CPR training session, pictures of neat study spaces featuring board-prep textbooks next to cups of artisan coffee, and 5 a.m. selfies taken in the surgery locker-room before assisting with a C-section. Initially, I cringed. Sure, they looked vaguely familiar -- they were (literally) rose-tinted, glamorized snapshots of relatable moments dispersed over the past few years of my life. But interspersed, and even integrated, into those relatable moments were advertisements and discount codes for study materials and scrub clothing brands. Something about that, in particular, felt impulsively antithetical to my (perhaps wide-eyed) interpretation of medicine's ideals, of service to others over self-promotion. Sufficiently intrigued, I fell into a digital rabbit hole that surfaced dozens of fellow med students moonlighting as social media influencers, and the partnerships grew ever more questionable. Some accounts featured sponsored posts advertising watches and clothes from Lululemon; another linked back to a personal blog that included a page that allowed followers to "shop my Instagram." A popular fitness-oriented account, hosted by an aspiring M.D., promoted protein powder and pre-workout supplements. A future dermatologist showcased skin care products. Another future M.D.'s account highlights the mattresses, custom maps, furniture rental services, and food brand that, according to the posts, help her seamlessly live the life of a third-year med student.

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Amazon Tests Its Cashierless Technology for Bigger Stores

Online giant tries to overcome challenges caused by retail spaces with higher ceilings, more products. From a report: Amazon.com is testing its cashierless checkout technology for bigger stores [alternative source] , according to people familiar with the matter. If successful, the strategy would further challenge brick-and-mortar retailers racing to make their businesses more convenient. The online retail giant is experimenting with the technology in Seattle in a larger space formatted like a big store, the people said. The systems track what shoppers pick from shelves and charges them automatically when they leave a store. Although the technology functions well in its current small-store format, it is harder to use it in bigger spaces with higher ceilings and more products, one of the people said, meaning it could take time to roll out the systems at more larger stores. It is unclear whether Amazon intends to use the technology for Whole Foods, although that is the most likely application if executives can make it work, according to the people. Amazon has previously said it has no plans to add the technology to Whole Foods.

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Proposed Regulations Would Allow the Majority of US Homes To Be Bought and Sold Without Being Appraised by a Human

Federal regulators have proposed loosening real-estate appraisal requirements to enable a majority of U.S. homes to be bought and sold without being evaluated by a licensed human appraiser [the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. That potentially opens the door for cheaper, faster, but largely untested property valuations based on computer algorithms. From a report: The proposal was made earlier this month by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance. and the Federal Reserve. It would increase to $400,000, from $250,000, the value of homes that can be bought and sold without a tape-measure-toting appraiser visiting a property. More than two-thirds of U.S. homes sell for $400,000 or less, according to U.S. Census data and the National Association of Realtors. If the regulators' proposal had been in force last year, about 214,000 additional home sales, or some $68 billion worth, could have been made without an appraisal, regulators said in their 69-page proposal. Some worry, though, that dropping appraisal requirements would introduce new risks into the $10.7 trillion market for home loans. "We still would prefer a human being doing the appraisal," said Lima Ekram, a mortgage-backed securities analyst at Moody's Investors Service. One issue: Automated valuations done by computers are largely unregulated. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul required regulators to propose quality control standards for so-called automated valuation models, but they have yet to do so.

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Trump Agrees Not To Raise Tariff Levels on Chinese Goods; China Agrees To US Purchases. Two Sides To Start Broader Negotiations.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to keep their trade war from escalating with a promise to temporarily halt the imposition of new tariffs [the link may be paywalled; alternative source], as the world's two largest economies negotiate a lasting agreement. China also agreed to further marketing opening, its foreign minister said. In a statement, White House said the U.S. had agreed not to increase tariffs on Chinese goods to 25% on Jan. 1. From a report: The truce between the U.S. and China emerged after a highly anticipated dinner Saturday between Trump and Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. The leaders agreed to stop the introduction of new tariffs and intensify their trade talks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters hours later in Buenos Aires. The White House called the meeting "highly successful," saying the U.S. will leave existing tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods at 10 percent and refrain from raising that rate to 25 percent as planned on Jan. 1. In exchange, the U.S. wants an immediate start to talks on Trump's biggest complaints about Chinese trade practices: intellectual property theft, non-tariff barriers and cyber theft. After 90 days, if there's no progress on structural reform, the U.S. will raise those tariffs to 25 percent, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. China also agreed to boost its purchases of agricultural and industrial goods to reduce its trade imbalance with the U.S., she said.

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Researchers Are Proposing a New Way To Generate Street Addresses by Extracting Roads From Satellite Images

An estimated 4 billion people in the world lack a physical address. Researchers at the MIT Media Lab and Facebook are now proposing a new way to address the unaddressed: with machine learning. From a report: The team first trained a deep-learning algorithm to extract the road pixels from satellite images. Another algorithm connected the pixels together into a road network. The system analyzed the density and shape of the roads to segment the network into different communities, and the densest cluster was labeled as the city center. The regions around the city center were divided into north, south, east, and west quadrants, and streets were numbered and lettered according to their orientation and distance from the center. When they compared their final results with a random sample of unmapped regions whose streets had been labeled manually, their approach successfully addressed more than 80% of the populated areas, improving coverage compared with Google Maps or OpenStreetMaps. This isn't the only way to automate the creation of addresses. The organization what3words generates a unique three-word combination for every 3-by-3-meter square on a global grid. The scheme has already been adopted in regions of South Africa, Turkey, and Mongolia by national package delivery services, local hospitals, and regional security teams. But Ilke Demir, a researcher at Facebook and one of the creators of the new system, says its main advantage is that it follows existing road topology and helps residents understand how two addresses relate to one another.

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Trump Admin Takes First Steps To Overhaul H-1B Visa That Tech Companies Use To Hire Internationally

President Donald Trump's immigration authorities are moving to enact broad changes to a visa that allows American companies to bring international workers to the country. From a report: On Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security released a proposed rule that takes the first steps toward overhauling the H-1B visa. The new rule would prioritize applications for workers with advanced degrees from American universities. The policy would also change the application process companies go through when they want to secure H-1B visas for foreign talent. Instead of completing a petition for the new employee, companies would register for free online to enter what's been described as the "H-1B lottery." Immigration law caps the number of regular H-1B visas that can be awarded each year at 65,000. An additional 20,000 may be awarded to workers with master's degrees and PhDs. Under the new system, USCIS would review all applications, including those for workers with advanced degrees, during a registration period before the actual petitions are filed.

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Gmail Smart Replies and the Ever-Growing Pressure to Email Like a Machine

An anonymous reader shares an article: I don't use the phrase "Will do!" much in daily conversation, but lately it has been creeping into more and more of my e-mails. An editor asks me to get a draft back to her tomorrow? Will do! A friend heading back to Los Angeles from New York sends me a quick note telling me to enjoy living in the "best city in the world." Will do! The hosts of a panel I'm moderating need me to send over a three-line bio? Will do! "Will do!" is just one of many Smart Replies that Google now provides as a default feature in Gmail, there to assist you in your message composition unless you choose to manually turn them off. In October, the e-mail service, which one analytics firm suggests hosts about a quarter of all the e-mails sent worldwide, made this feature standard on its 1.4 billion active accounts, along with a menu of other innovations. These include Smart Compose, a feature that finishes your sentences for you with the help of robot intelligence, and Nudges, a feature that bumps unanswered e-mails to the top of your in-box, making you feel increasingly guilty with every sign-in. As with many technological updates that are suddenly imposed on unsuspecting users, the new Gmail interface has been met with much annoyance. When my in-box started offering me Smart Replies, I felt a little offended. How dare it guess what I want to say, I thought. I -- a professional writer! -- have more to offer than just "Got it!" or "Love it!" or "Thanks for letting me know!" (Smart Replies are big on exclamation points.) I started to resent the A.I., which seemed to be learning my speech patterns faster than I could outsmart it. Just as I decided that I'd thwart the machine mind by answering my messages with "Cool!", the service started offering me several "Cool" varietals. Suddenly, I could answer with "Sounds cool" or "Cool, thanks" or the dreaded "Cool, I'll check it out!"

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NIST’s New Atomic Clock Is So Precise Our Ability To Measure Gravity Constrains Its Accuracy

dmoberhaus writes: Researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed an atomic clock that is so precise that our models of Earth's gravity aren't accurate enough to keep up with it. As detailed in a paper published this week in Nature, the atomic clock could pave the way for creating an unprecedented map of the way the Earth's gravity distorts spacetime and even shed light on the development of the early universe. "The level of clock performance being reported is such that we don't actually know how to account for it well enough to support the level of performance the clock achieves," Andrew Ludlow, a physicist at NIST and the project lead on the organization's new atomic clock, told me on the phone. "Right now the state of the art techniques aren't quite good enough so we're limited by how well we understand gravity on different parts of the Earth."

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Does Google Harm Local Search Rivals? EU Antitrust Regulators Ask

EU antitrust regulators have asked Google's rivals if the internet search giant unfairly demotes local search competitors, according to a questionnaire seen by Reuters, a move which could lead to a fourth case against the Alphabet unit. From a report: Google has been fined a total 6.76 billion euros ($7.7 billion) in the last 17 months for favoring its comparison shopping service and for using its dominant Android mobile operating system to reinforce its search engine market power. The European Commission, which took the world's most popular internet search engine to task for these two anti-competitive practices, is wrapping up a third case which involves Google's AdSense advertising service. The EU competition authority's interest in local search services followed a complaint by U.S. search and advertising company Yelp and rivals in the travel, restaurant and accommodation industries. Further reading: In an Open Letter To EU's Competition Commissioner, 14 European Shopping Comparison Services Say Google is Not Making the Search For Products Fairer.

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Facebook Quietly Hired Republican Strategy Firm Targeted Victory

Facebook is still reeling from the revelation that it hired an opposition research firm with close ties to the Republican party, but its relationship with Definers Public Affairs isn't the company's only recent contract work with deeply GOP-linked strategy firms. TechCrunch reports: According to sources familiar with the project, Facebook also contracted with Targeted Victory, described as "the GOP's go-to technology consultant firm." Targeted Victory worked with Facebook on the company's Community Boost roadshow, a tour of U.S. cities meant to stimulate small business interest in Facebook as a business and ad platform. The ongoing Community Boost initiative, announced in late 2017, kicked off earlier this year with stops in cities like and Topeka, Kansas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Facebook also worked with Targeted Victory on the company's ad transparency efforts. Over the last year, Facebook has attempted to ward off regulation from Congress over ad disclosure, even putting forth some self-regulatory efforts to appease legislators.

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Companies ‘Can Sack Workers For Refusing To Use Fingerprint Scanners’

Businesses using fingerprint scanners to monitor their workforce can legally sack employees who refuse to hand over biometric information on privacy grounds, the Fair Work Commission has ruled. From a report: The ruling, which will be appealed, was made in the case of Jeremy Lee, a Queensland sawmill worker who refused to comply with a new fingerprint scanning policy introduced at his work in Imbil, north of the Sunshine Coast, late last year. Fingerprint scanning was used to monitor the clock-on and clock-off times of about 150 sawmill workers at two sites and was preferred to swipe cards because it prevented workers from fraudulently signing in on behalf of their colleagues to mask absences. The company, Superior Woods, had no privacy policy covering workers and failed to comply with a requirement to properly notify individuals about how and why their data was being collected and used. The biometric data was stored on servers located off-site, in space leased from a third party. Lee argued the business had never sought its workers' consent to use fingerprint scanning, and feared his biometric data would be accessed by unknown groups and individuals.

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After Months of Heated Argument, Apple Permits Indian Telecom Regulator To Release Anti-Spam App, TRAI DND, On App Store

After months of back and forth, Apple has permitted Indian telecom regulator TRAI to release its anti-spam app on the App Store. The app, called TRAI DND - Do Not Disturb, went live on the iPhone app store on Friday. The free app, a version of which has existed on Android platform since 2016, allows customers to block unsolicited texts and calls from marketers, a rampant issue that continues to plague customers in India. The app has been the subject of months-long, heated argument between Apple and TRAI. Apple had argued that the app, which by design accesses message and call logs of a user, violates its privacy policy. The company, however, had agreed to provide some help to the regulator to tap into new iOS features to build the "Do Not Disturb" app. In response, R.S. Sharma, who heads the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, had threatened to take legal action against Apple. "This is unjust, it shows the approach and attitude of this company," he told Reuters in March. Further reading: Apple approves Indian government's Do Not Disturb app, avoiding iPhone ban.

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Apple Reportedly Cuts Over 700 Apps from Chinese App Store

Apple has reportedly removed 718 apps from the Chinese App Store in the last few days. From a report: The iPhone maker swept out the apps because their developers pushed updates without its permission, The Telegraph reported, citing local reports. Apple warned developers against updating iOS apps without its permission in early 2017. The banned apps included Sogou's search engine and maps, online retailer Pinduodo and car sharing service Togo Car.

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NYC Politician Wants To Ban Cashless Restaurants

If New York City Council Member Ritchie J. Torres has his way, the growing trend of cashless restaurants -- establishments that accept payment only in plastic and digital forms -- will be snuffed out. From a report: Torres plans to introduce legislation before his fellow city council members that, if passed, would levy fines on any local businesses that refused to accept paper currency. "I started coming across coffee shops and cafes that were exclusively cashless and I thought: But what if I was a low-income New Yorker who has no access to a card?" he says in a Q&A with Grub Street. "I thought about it more and realized that even if a policy seems neutral in theory, it can be racially exclusionary in practice. Therein lies the problem with card-only policies. I see it as a way to gentrify the marketplace." Torres believes the cashless business model is inherently classist and racist, as it excludes anyone who might not be able to afford smartphones loaded with digital currency such as Apple Pay or qualify for credit cards, let alone the roughly 22 million Americans who do not have bank accounts. "If you're intent on a cashless business model, it will have the effect of excluding lower-income communities of color from what should be an open and free market," he tells Grub Street. In 2009 Wall Street Journal story, Tony Zazula, co-owner of now-shuttered Commerce in New York City, explained, pretty much, yes, that's right.

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Intel Publishes Its First Modern Windows Driver for PCs

Intel has published its first Modern Windows Driver for several of its modern integrated GPUs, representing a new way for graphics drivers to be pushed to your PC -- and something to keep an eye on until the new driver infrastructure settles in. From a report: Modern Windows Drivers, also known as Universal Windows Drivers, are a new feature of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update that takes advantage of the UWP infrastructure within Windows 10. As Microsoft explains it, a Modern Windows Driver is a "single driver package that runs across multiple different device types, from embedded systems to tablets and desktop PCs." The first Intel driver to take advantage of this is labeled UWD 25.20.100.6444. Microsoft doesn't intend for you to do anything different to obtain the new Modern drivers. If you own a prebuilt PC, the PC maker will continue to be the first place you should check for updated drivers, according to an Intel FAQ. That's because the universal driver includes a base driver, plus optional component packages and an optional hardware support app. The latter two are written by the system builder or OEM, while the former is written by the GPU maker itself.

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Marriott Says 500 million Starwood Guest Records Stolen in Massive Data Breach

An anonymous reader writes: Starwood Hotels has confirmed its hotel guest database of about 500 million customers has been stolen in a data breach. The hotel and resorts giant said in a statement filed with U.S. regulators that the "unauthorized access" to its guest database was detected on or before September 10 -- but may have dated back as far as 2014. "Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014," said the statement. "Marriott recently discovered that an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information, and took steps towards removing it." Specific details of the breach remain unknown. We've contacted Starwood for more and will update when we hear back. The company said hat it obtained and decrypted the database on November 19 and "determined that the contents were from the Starwood guest reservation database." Some 327 million records contained a guest's name, postal address, phone number, date of birth, gender, email address, passport number, Starwood's rewards information (including points and balance), arrival and departure information, reservation date, and their communication preferences.

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In China, Your Car Could Be Talking To the Government

schwit1 shares a report: More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners' knowledge. The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs. But other countries that are major markets for electronic vehicles -- the United States, Japan, across Europe -- do not collect this kind of real-time data. And critics say the information collected in China is beyond what is needed to meet the country's stated goals. It could be used not only to undermine foreign carmakers' competitive position, but also for surveillance -- particularly in China, where there are few protections on personal privacy. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has unleashed a war on dissent, marshalling big data and artificial intelligence to create a more perfect kind of policing, capable of predicting and eliminating perceived threats to the stability of the ruling Communist Party.

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When the Internet Archive Forgets

A reminder that Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, which many people assume keeps a permanent trail and origin of web-content, has little feasible choice but to comply with DMCA takedown notices. As a result of which, a portion of the archive of things people submit to the website continues to quietly fade away. Gizmodo: Over the last few years, there has been a change in how the Wayback Machine is viewed, one inspired by the general political mood. What had long been a useful tool when you came across broken links online is now, more than ever before, seen as an arbiter of the truth and a bulwark against erasing history. That archive sites are trusted to show the digital trail and origin of content is not just a must-use tool for journalists, but effective for just about anyone trying to track down vanishing web pages. With that in mind, that the Internet Archive doesn't really fight takedown requests becomes a problem. That's not the only recourse: When a site admin elects to block the Wayback crawler using a robots.txt file, the crawling doesn't just stop. Instead, the Wayback Machine's entire history of a given site is removed from public view. In other words, if you deal in a certain bottom-dwelling brand of controversial content and want to avoid accountability, there are at least two different, standardized ways of erasing it from the most reliable third-party web archive on the public internet. For the Internet Archive, like with quickly complying with takedown notices challenging their seemingly fair use archive copies of old websites, the robots.txt strategy, in practice, does little more than mitigating their risk while going against the spirit of the protocol. And if someone were to sue over non-compliance with a DMCA takedown request, even with a ready-made, valid defense in the Archive's pocket, copyright litigation is still incredibly expensive. It doesn't matter that the use is not really a violation by any metric. If a rightsholder makes the effort, you still have to defend the lawsuit.

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Microsoft’s Surface Roadmap Reportedly Includes Ambient Computing and a Modular All-in-One PC

Journalist Brad Sams is releasing a book chronicling the company's Surface brand: Beneath a Surface. VentureBeat writes: While you'll want to read all 26 chapters to get the juicy details, the last one includes Microsoft's hardware roadmap for 2019, and even a part of 2020 -- spanning various Surface products and even a little Xbox. Here's a quick rundown of Microsoft's current Surface lineup plans: Spring 2019: A new type of Surface-branded ambient computing device designed to address "some of the common frustrations of using a smartphone," but that isn't itself a smartphone. Q4 2019: Surface Pro refresh with USB-C (finally), smaller bezels, rounded corners, and new color options. Q4 2019: AMD-based Surface Laptop -- Microsoft is exploring using the Picasso architecture. Late 2019: Microsoft's foldable tablet Andromeda could be larger than earlier small form factor prototypes for a pocketable device with dual screens and LTE connectivity. Q1 2020: Surface Book update that might include new hinge designs (high-end performance parts may delay availability). 2020: A Surface monitor, and the modular design debuted for Surface Hub 2 could make its way to Surface Studio. The idea is to bring simple upgrades to all-in-one PCs, rather than having to replace the whole computer. GeekWire adds: A pair of new lower-cost devices Xbox One S devices could come next year. Sams reports that one of the models may be all digital, without a disc drive.

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At an All-Hands Meeting, Uber CEO Said The Company Deserves Some Fault After Its Self-Driving Car Killed a Pedestrian

During an all-hands meeting at Uber earlier this week, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and the head of the self-driving car unit, Eric Meyhofer, were questioned by employees over the culture at the self-driving unit. An anonymous reader writes: They asked about allegations of infighting and dysfunction in the unit prior to a tragic accident that killed a pedestrian, based on Business Insider's newly published investigation. (The investigation found that engineers were pressured to "tune" the self-driving car for a smoother ride in preparation of a big year-end demonstration of their progress, but that meant not allowing the car to respond to everything it saw, real or not.) What followed was a strange couple of minutes in which the executives told odd stories and quoted wrong statistics leading up to Khosrowshahi admitting, several times, "we have screwed up." [...] Khosrowshahi showed his support of his senior leader by saying some negative things about Business Insider. And then he said, "we did screw up" and that "we are radically changing how we develop, how we test, etcetera. So we've gone through changes. We have screwed up." Sources tell Business Insider that Khosrowshahi had not been paying much attention to the self-driving car unit in his first year because he was so busy fighting fires with Uber's main business, but that this is changing now. On Tuesday, Khosrowshahi indicated as much saying, "A year forward from all the controversy that we saw last year, we are better, stronger. And I think ATG is going through that same journey," he said.

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Mass Router Hack Exposes Millions of Devices To Potent NSA Exploit

More than 45,000 Internet routers have been compromised by a newly discovered campaign that's designed to open networks to attacks by EternalBlue, the potent exploit that was developed by, and then stolen from, the National Security Agency and leaked to the Internet at large, researchers say. From a report: The new attack exploits routers with vulnerable implementations of Universal Plug and Play to force connected devices to open ports 139 and 445, content delivery network Akamai said in a blog post. As a result, almost 2 million computers, phones, and other network devices connected to the routers are reachable to the Internet on those ports. While Internet scans don't reveal precisely what happens to the connected devices once they're exposed, Akamai said the ports --which are instrumental for the spread of EternalBlue and its Linux cousin EternalRed -- provide a strong hint of the attackers' intentions. The attacks are a new instance of a mass exploit the same researchers documented in April. They called it UPnProxy because it exploits Universal Plug and Play -- often abbreviated as UPnP -- to turn vulnerable routers into proxies that disguise the origins of spam, DDoSes, and botnets.

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China Halts Work by Team on Gene-Edited Babies

China's government ordered a halt Thursday to work by a medical team that claimed to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies, as a group of leading scientists declared that it's still too soon to try to make permanent changes to DNA that can be inherited by future generations. AP reports: Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping told state broadcaster CCTV that his ministry is strongly opposed to the efforts that reportedly produced twin girls born earlier this month. Xu called the team's actions illegal and unacceptable and said an investigation had been ordered, but made no mention of specific actions taken. Researcher He Jiankui claims to have altered the DNA of the twins to try to make them resistant to infection with the AIDS virus. Mainstream scientists have condemned the experiment, and universities and government groups are investigating. His experiment "crossed the line of morality and ethics adhered to by the academic community and was shocking and unacceptable," Xu said. A group of leading scientists gathered in Hong Kong this week for an international conference on gene editing, the ability to rewrite the code of life to try to correct or prevent diseases.

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I’ve Got a Bridge To Sell You. Why AutoCAD Malware Keeps Chugging On

Criminal hackers continue to exploit a feature in Autodesk's widely used AutoCAD program in an attempt to steal valuable computer-assisted designs for bridges, factory buildings, and other projects, researchers say. From a report: The attacks arrive in spear-phishing emails and in some cases postal packages that contain design documents and plans. Included in the same directory are camouflaged files formatted in AutoLISP, an AutoCAD-specific dialect of the LISP programming language. When targets open the design document, they may inadvertently cause the AutoLISP file to be executed. While modern versions of AutoCAD by default display a warning that a potentially unsafe script will run, the warnings can be disregarded or suppressed altogether. To make the files less conspicuous, the attackers have set their properties to be hidden in Windows and their contents to be encrypted. The attacks aren't new. Similar ones occurred as long ago as 2005, before AutoCAD provided the same set of robust defenses against targeted malware it does now. The attacks continued to go strong in 2009. A specific campaign recently spotted by security firm Forcepoint was active as recently as this year and has been active since at least 2014, an indication that malware targeting blueprints isn't going away any time soon. [...] Forcepoint said it has tracked more than 200 data sets and about 40 unique malicious modules, including one that purported to include a design for Hong Kongâ(TM)s Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

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Bloomberg is Still Reporting on Challenged Story Regarding China Hardware Hack

Erik Wemple, writing for The Washington Post: According to informed sources, Bloomberg has continued reporting the blockbuster story that it broke on Oct. 4, including a very recent round of inquiries from a Bloomberg News/Bloomberg Businessweek investigative reporter. In emails to employees at Apple, Bloomberg's Ben Elgin has requested "discreet" input on the alleged hack. "My colleagues' story from last month (Super Micro) has sparked a lot of pushback," Elgin wrote on Nov. 19 to one Apple employee. "I've been asked to join the research effort here to do more digging on this ... and I would value hearing your thoughts (whatever they may be) and guidance, as I get my bearings." One person who spoke with Elgin told the Erik Wemple Blog that the Bloomberg reporter made clear that he wasn't part of the reporting team that produced "The Big Hack." The goal of this effort, Elgin told the potential source, was to get to "ground truth"; if Elgin heard from 10 or so sources that "The Big Hack" was itself a piece of hackery, he would send that message up his chain of command. The potential source told Elgin that the denials of "The Big Hack" were "100 percent right." According to the potential source, Elgin also asked about the possibility that Peter Ziatek, senior director of information security at Apple, had written a report regarding a hardware hack affecting Apple. In an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog, Ziatek says that he'd never written that report, nor is he aware of such a document. Following the publication of Bloomberg's story, Apple conducted what it calls a "secondary" investigation surrounding its awareness of events along the lines of what was alleged in "The Big Hack." That investigation included a full pat-down of Ziatek's own electronic communications. It found nothing to corroborate the claims in the Bloomberg story, according to Ziatek.

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Fed Says Millennials Are Just Like Their Parents. Only Poorer

Millennials, long presumed to have less interest in the nonstop consumption of goods that underpins the American economy, might not be that different after all, a new study from the Federal Reserve says. From a report: Their spending habits are a lot like the generations that came before them, they just have less money at this point in their lives, the Fed study found. The group born between 1981 and 1997 has fallen behind because many of them came of age during the financial crisis. "We find little evidence that millennial households have tastes and preference for consumption that are lower than those of earlier generations, once the effects of age, income, and a wide range of demographic characteristics are taken into account," wrote authors Christopher Kurz, Geng Li and Daniel J. Vine. Their findings [PDF] are grounded in an analysis of spending, income, debt, net worth, and demographic factors among different generations. The conclusion that millennials aren't all that different also holds for the researchers' more granular examination of expenditures on cars, food, and housing. "It primarily is the differences in average age and then differences in average income that explain a large and important portion of the consumption wedge between millennials and other cohorts," they conclude. So much for the young folks favoring "experiences" over tangible goods.

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New Parents Complain Amazon Baby-Registry Ads Are Deceptive

Unwanted gifts arrive after friends click on promotions tucked into wish lists. From a report: Kima Nieves recently received two Aveeno bath-time sets and a box of Huggies diapers through her baby registry on Amazon. The only problem? The new mother didn't ask for the products, or even want them. Instead, Johnson & Johnson and Kimberly-Clark each paid Amazon.com hefty sums to place those sponsored products onto Ms. Nieves's and other consumers' baby registries. The ads look identical to the rest of the listed products in the registry, except for a small gray "Sponsored" tag. Unsuspecting friends and family clicked on the ads and purchased the items, assuming Ms. Nieves had chosen them. "Very sneaky," said the 28-year-old health-care analyst from Fredericksburg, Va. "That's friends' and family's money going somewhere we didn't approve of." Amazon in recent years has charged into advertising, building the third-largest digital ad business in the U.S. after Alphabet's Google and Facebook, according to eMarketer. Its ad revenue is on pace to double this year, to $5.8 billion, eMarketer estimates. As Amazon has monetized more space on its website, shoppers are increasingly encountering sponsored ads. Amazon is "starting to see how far they can push things," said Harry Brignull, a U.K.-based consultant who specializes in spotting web-design tactics that get people to click on something. Amazon's sponsored ads have appeared in its baby registries for more than a year. Responding to a Wall Street Journal inquiry about the ads, an Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment on criticism that the ads are deceptive, but said the retailer is now phasing out the sponsored listings. "We're constantly experimenting with new ways to improve the shopping experiences for customers," she said.

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How Restaurants Got So Loud

An anonymous reader shares a report: Other sounds that reach 70 decibels include freeway noise, an alarm clock, and a sewing machine. But it's still quiet for a restaurant. Others I visited in Baltimore and New York City while researching this story were even louder: 80 decibels in a dimly lit wine bar at dinnertime; 86 decibels at a high-end food court during brunch; 90 decibels at a brewpub in a rehabbed fire station during Friday happy hour. Restaurants are so loud because architects don't design them to be quiet. Much of this shift in design boils down to changing conceptions of what makes a space seem upscale or luxurious, as well as evolving trends in food service. Right now, high-end surfaces connote luxury, such as the slate and wood of restaurants including The Osprey in Brooklyn or Atomix in Manhattan. This trend is not limited to New York. According to Architectural Digest, mid-century modern and minimalism are both here to stay. That means sparse, modern decor; high, exposed ceilings; and almost no soft goods, such as curtains, upholstery, or carpets. These design features are a feast for the eyes, but a nightmare for the ears. No soft goods and tall ceilings mean nothing is absorbing sound energy, and a room full of hard surfaces serves as a big sonic mirror, reflecting sound around the room. The result is a loud space that renders speech unintelligible. Now that it's so commonplace, the din of a loud restaurant is unavoidable. That's bad for your health -- and worse for the staff who works there. But it also degrades the thing that eating out is meant to culture: a shared social experience that rejuvenates, rather than harms, its participants.

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The FTC Says It Will Investigate Loot Boxes

The Federal Trade Commission this week agreed to investigate video game loot boxes, accepting an official request by Senator Maggie Hassan. In a Congressional oversight committee hearing yesterday, FTC chairman Joe Simons affirmed Sen. Hassan's request that loot boxes be investigated. From a report: During her turn to ask questions at the hearing, Hassan cited a recent report by Great Britain's Gambling Commission that found 31% of children in the country had at one point or another paid money to open a loot box, a well as moves by Belgium (which prompted Square Enix to pull three mobile games from the country), Japan, and other countries to limit how loot boxes can be used in games. "Given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games," Hassan said. "Would you commit to undertaking this project and keeping this committee informed about it?" In response, Simons said "yes," but declined to go into any more detail about the FTC's current position on loot boxes and whether they constitute a form of gambling. Despite vocal criticism from Hassan and a few others on the topic, regulators have not been jumping to get involved in the debate.

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Amazon Unveils Elastic Inference, FSx for Windows File Server, Inferentia, Self-driving Racing League DeepRacer, SageMaker Ground Truth, and Outposts

Amazon Web Services announced a slew of new or updated offerings at its cloud-computing conference in Las Vegas, seeking to maintain its lead in the market for internet-based computing. Following is a rundown. Amazon Elastic Inference is a new service that lets customers attach GPU-powered inference acceleration to any Amazon EC2 instance and reduces deep learning costs by up to 75 percent. From a report: "What we see typically is that the average utilization of these P3 instances GPUs are about 10 to 30 percent, which is pretty wasteful with elastic inference. You don't have to waste all that costs and all that GPU," AWS chief executive Andy Jassy said onstage at the AWS re:Invent conference earlier today. "[Amazon Elastic Inference] is a pretty significant game changer in being able to run inference much more cost-effectively." While the majority of workloads in the cloud are Linux-based, Amazon Web Services (AWS) CEO Andy Jassy said he is well aware that Windows is still significant, and as a result his company launched a new fully managed Windows file system built on native Windows file servers. From a report: "What we were hoping to do was make this Windows file system work as part of EFS -- would have been much easier for us to layer on another file system ... because it's much easier if you're trying to build a business at scale," he explained. However, he said customers wanted a native Windows file system and they "weren't being flexible." "So we changed our approach," he continued. Inferentia is company's own dedicated machine learning chip. From a report: "Inferentia will be a very high-throughput, low-latency, sustained-performance very cost-effective processor," AWS CEO Andy Jassy explained during the announcement. Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research, says that while Amazon is far behind, this is a good step for them as companies try to differentiate their machine learning approaches in the future. Inferentia supports popular frameworks like INT8, FP16 and mixed precision. What's more, it supports multiple machine learning frameworks, including TensorFlow, Caffe2 and ONNX. TechCrunch writes about SageMaker Ground Truth: You can't build a good machine learning model without good training data. But building those training sets is hard, often manual work, that involves labeling thousand and thousands of images, for example. With SageMaker, AWS has been working on a service that makes building machine learning models a lot easier. But until today, that labeling task was still up to the user. Now, however, the company is launching SageMaker Ground Truth, a training set labeling service. Using Ground Truth, developers can point the service at the storage buckets that hold the data and allow the service to automatically label it. What's nifty here is that you can both set a confidence level for the fully automatic service or you can send the data to human laborers. GeekWire writes about the self-driving racing league and DeepRacer : Amazon Web Services chief and big sports fan Andy Jassy on Wednesday in Las Vegas unveiled a first-of-its-kind global autonomous racing league called AWS DeepRacer. The league features AWS DeepRacer, a 1/18th scale radio-controlled, self-driving four-wheel race car designed to help developers learn about reinforcement learning, a type of machine learning feature found in Amazon SageMaker. It features an Intel Atom processor; a 4-megapixel camera with 1080p resolution; multiple USB ports; and a 2-hour battery. And OutPosts: Starting next year, AWS will allow customers to order the same hardware that it uses to power its cloud services to run in their own data centers through a service called AWS Outposts. Building on its partnership with VMware, AWS Outposts will allow customers to enjoy a consistent set of hardware, software and services across their own servers and cloud servers, said AWS CEO Andy Jassy. Customers will have two options: they can run VMware Cloud on AWS on AWS Outposts, or they can run something called "AWS native" to enable this hybrid cloud setup. AWS will "deliver racks, install them, and then we'll do all the maintenance and repair on them," Jassy said.

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Google Has a Plan To Eliminate Mosquitoes Around the World

Zorro shares a report: Silicon Valley researchers are attacking flying bloodsuckers in California's Fresno County. It's the first salvo in an unlikely war for Google parent Alphabet: eradicating mosquito-borne diseases around the world. A white high-top Mercedes van winds its way through the suburban sprawl and strip malls as a swarm of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes shoot out of a black plastic tube on the passenger-side window. These pests are tiny and, with a wingspan of just a few millimeters, all but invisible. "You hear that little beating sound?" says Kathleen Parkes, a spokesperson for Verily Life Sciences, a unit of Alphabet. She's trailing the van in her car, the windows down. "Like a duh-duh-duh? That's the release of the mosquitoes." Jacob Crawford, a Verily senior scientist riding with Parkes, begins describing a mosquito-control technique with dazzling potential. These particular vermin, he explains, were bred in the ultra-high-tech surroundings of Verily's automated mosquito rearing system, 200 miles away in South San Francisco. They were infected with Wolbachia, a common bacterium. When those 80,000 lab-bred Wolbachia-infected, male mosquitoes mate with their counterpart females in the wild, the result is stealth annihilation: the offspring never hatch. Better make that 79,999. "One just hit the windshield," says Crawford. Mosquito-borne disease eradication is serious stuff for Alphabet, though it is just one of many of the company's forays into health care and life sciences.

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Amazon Enters Blockchain Market With Cloud-Computing Services

Amazon.com is jumping on the blockchain wave with new cloud services that help customers build the technology needed to record transactions. From a report: Amazon Web Services Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy on Wednesday announced Amazon Managed Blockchain, a new service underpinning blockchain networks that record millions of transactions. The company spent the past year studying the needs of customers interested in blockchain solutions before creating the new products, Jassy said. The service can be used to manage peer-to-peer payments, process loans and help businesses transact with distributors and suppliers, Jassy said. AWS announced a string of other new or updated cloud offerings, seeking to maintain its lead in the market for internet-based computing. The company also announced a new service called Amazon Quantum Ledger Database or QLDB, which is a fully managed ledger database with a central trusted authority. The service, which is launching into preview today, offers an append-only, immutable journal that tracks the history of all changes, Amazon said. And all the changes are cryptographically chained and verifiable.

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Nike and Boeing Are Paying Sci-Fi Writers To Predict Their Futures

Brian Merchant, writing for Medium : In 2017, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the professional services firm that advises 440 of the Fortune 500 companies, published a blueprint for using science fiction to explore business innovation. The same year, the Harvard Business Review argued that "business leaders need to read more science fiction" in order to stay ahead of the curve. "We're already seeing science fiction become reality today," said Google's then-CEO Eric Schmidt in 2012. "Think back to Star Trek, or my favorite, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- much of what those writers imagined is now possible," he said, ticking off auto-translation, voice recognition, and electronic books. Jeff Bezos' product design team built the Kindle to spec from Neal Stephenson's book The Diamond Age. (Stephenson himself is the chief future at the multibillion-dollar-valued Magic Leap.) Josh Wolfe, a managing partner at Lux Capital, is pouring millions of dollars into companies building what he explicitly describes as "the sci-fi future." "I'm looking for things that feel like they were once written about in science fiction," he told Fortune. "The gap between 'sci-fi,' -- that which was once imagined -- and 'sci-fact,' that which becomes manifest and real, is shrinking." A number of companies, along with a loose constellation of designers, marketers, and consultants, have formed to expedite the messy creative visualization process that used to take decades. For a fee, they'll prototype a possible future for a client, replete with characters who live in it, at as deep a level as a company can afford. They aim to do what science fiction has always done -- build rich speculative worlds, describe that world's bounty and perils, and, finally, envision how that future might fall to pieces. Alternatively referred to as sci-fi prototyping, futurecasting, or worldbuilding, the goal of these companies is generally the same: help clients create forward-looking fiction to generate ideas and IP for progress or profit. Each of the biggest practitioners believe they have their own formulas for helping clients negotiate the future. And corporations like Ford, Nike, Intel, and Hershey's, it turns out, are willing to pay hefty sums for their own in-house Minority Reports.

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CeBIT, World’s Largest IT Conference, Canned

Despite turning the trade fair into a fun fair, organizers could not save the beloved but struggling trade fair. CeBIT once boasted 850,000 visitors a year, but that heyday has long since passed. An anonymous reader shares a report: Organizers announced on Wednesday that the world's largest IT conference will be no more. CeBIT, held every year in Hanover, Germany, has been canceled for 2019 facing declining visitor numbers and decreases in exhibition space rentals. "There will be no more CeBIT in Germany in the future," said Onuora Ogbukagu of Deutsche Messe AG, which ran the trade fair that hosted the likes of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and data privacy advocate Edward Snowden. CeBIT was once considered the best barometer of technological trends, and during the dot-com boom in the late 90s and early 2000s, it boasted some 850,000 visitors a year. However, that number has been declining for years, despite cultivating a 'fun fair' atmosphere. The news was met with an outpouring of gratitude for the conference-meets-festival on social media, with many calling it the "end of an era."

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TSMC, a Company Few Americans Know, is About To Dethrone Intel

For more than 30 years, Intel has dominated chipmaking, producing the most important component in the bulk of the world's computers. That run is now under threat from a company many Americans have never heard of. From a report: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was created in 1987 to churn out chips for companies that lacked the money to build their own facilities. The approach was famously dismissed at the time by Advanced Micro Devices founder Jerry Sanders. "Real men have fabs," he quipped at a conference, using industry lingo for factories. These days, ridicule has given way to envy as TSMC plants have risen to challenge Intel at the pinnacle of the $400 billion industry. AMD recently chose TSMC to make its most advanced processors, having spun off its own struggling factories years before. TSMC's threat to Intel reflects a sea change in chipmaking that's seen one company after another hire TSMC to manufacture the chips they design. Hsinchu-based TSMC has scores of customers, including tech giants Apple and Qualcomm, second-tier players like AMD, and minnows such as Ampere Computing. The explosion of components built this way has given TSMC the technical know-how needed to churn out the smallest, most efficient and powerful chips in the highest volumes. "It's a once-in-a-50-year situation," said Renee James, the former No. 2 at Intel who heads startup Ampere. Her company is less than two years old and yet it's going after Intel's dominant server chip business. That Ampere thinks it can compete is a testament to stumbles by Intel, and TSMC's ability to benefit from those mistakes. It's been a decade since Intel faced major competition and its 90 percent revenue share in computer processing will again deliver record results this year. But some on Wall Street are concerned, and rivals are emboldened, because TSMC has a real chance to replace Intel as the best chipmaker in the business. Last year, the Taiwanese company amassed a bigger market value than its U.S. rival for the first time.

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Real Life Ads Are Taking Scary Inspiration From Social Media

Advertisements in the real world are becoming more technologically sophisticated, integrating facial recognition, location data, artificial intelligence, and other powerful tools that are more commonly associated with your mobile phone. Welcome to the new age of digital marketing. From a report: During this year's Fashion Week in New York, a digital billboard ad for New Balance used A.I. technology to detect and highlight pedestrians wearing "exceptional" outfits. A billboard advertisement for the Chevy Malibu recently targeted drivers on Interstate 88 in Chicago by identifying the brand of vehicle they were driving, then serving ads touting its own features in comparison. And Bidooh, a Manchester-based startup that admits it was inspired by Minority Report, is using facial recognition to serve ads through its billboards in the U.K. and other parts of Europe as well as South Korea. According to its website, Bidooh allows advertisers to target people based on criteria like age, gender, ethnicity, hair color, clothing color, height, body shape, perceived emotion, and the presence of glasses, sunglasses, beards, or mustaches. We've been on the path here since at least a decade ago when the New York Times reported that some digital billboards were equipped with small cameras that could analyze a pedestrian's facial features to serve targeted ads based on gender and approximate age. Things have progressed as you'd expect: In 2016, another Times report described how Clear Channel Outdoor Americas had partnered with companies including AT&T to track people via their mobile phones. The ads could determine the gender and average age of people passing different billboards and determine whether they visited a store after seeing an ad.

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EU Aims To Be ‘Climate Neutral’ By 2050

AmiMoJo writes: The European Union says it is aiming to become the first major economy to go 'climate neutral' by 2050. Under the plan, emissions of greenhouse gases after that date would have to be offset by planting trees or by burying them underground. Scientists say that net-zero emissions by 2050 are needed to have a fighting chance of keeping global temperatures under 1.5C this century. The EU says the move will also cut premature air pollution deaths by 40%. The EU says that this can be done with existing technologies such as solar and wind energy which would have to be ramped up to provide 80% of electricity. Energy efficiency measures such as home insulation would also need to be boosted to reduce energy consumption by half by the middle of the century.

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Microsoft Warns Of Two Apps That Installed Root Certificates Then Leaked the Private Keys

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for ZDNet: Microsoft has issued a security advisory this week warning that two applications accidentally installed two root certificates on users' computers, and then leaked the private keys for all. The software developer's mistake means that malicious third-parties can extract the private keys from the two applications and use them to issue forged certificates to spoof legitimate websites and software publishers for years to come. The two applications are HeadSetup and HeadSetup Pro, both developed by German audio hardware company Sennheiser. The software is used to set up and manage softphones -- software apps for making telephone calls via the Internet and a computer, without needing an actual physical telephone. The issue with the two HeadSetup apps came to light earlier this year when German cyber-security firm Secorvo found that versions 7.3, 7.4, and 8.0 installed two root Certification Authority (CA) certificates into the Windows Trusted Root Certificate Store of users' computers but also included the private keys for all in the SennComCCKey.pem file.

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Amazon Web Services Introduces its Own Custom-Designed ARM Server Processor, Promises 45 Percent Lower Costs For Some Workloads

After years of waiting for someone to design an ARM server processor that could work at scale on the cloud, Amazon Web Services just went ahead and designed its own. From a report: Vice president of infrastructure Peter DeSantis introduced the AWS Graviton Processor Monday night, adding a third chip option for cloud customers alongside instances that use processors from Intel and AMD. The company did not provide a lot of details about the processor itself, but DeSantis said that it was designed for scale-out workloads that benefit from a lot of servers chipping away at a problem. The new instances will be known as EC2 A1, and they can run applications written for Amazon Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu. They are generally available in four regions: US East (Northern Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), and Europe (Ireland). Intel dominates the market for server processors, both in the cloud and in the on-premises server market. AMD has tried to challenge that lead over the years with little success, although its new Epyc processors have been well-received by server buyers and cloud companies like AWS. John Gruber of DaringFireball, where we first spotted this story, adds: Makes you wonder what the hell is going on at Intel and AMD -- first they missed out on mobile, now they're missing out on the cloud's move to power-efficient ARM chips.

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The App Destroying Iran’s Currency

Iranians are using the messaging app Telegram to spread fake news about the rial -- and make a profit for themselves. From a report: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani owes his re-election in large part to the messaging app Telegram. During Iran's 2017 presidential election, Iranians relied on the app as a rare source of uncensored news about the race, in which Rouhani was not the candidate most favored by hard-liners. Just one year later, Telegram may end up becoming Rouhani's downfall. The app is at the center of Iran's accelerating currency crash. The Iranian rial was generally acknowledged to have been on a stable path until May, when U.S. President Donald Trump exited the Iran nuclear deal. Prior to the U.S. withdrawal, one U.S. dollar was worth around 37,000 rials; immediately afterwards, a single dollar jumped to around 44,000 rials. The rial has continued to slump ever since, dropping to 50,000 to the dollar, and then 80,000 rials, and then 190,000 during Rouhani's speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September. Right now, it is at 120,500 rials. But it isn't just U.S. sanctions and the fundamental weaknesses of the Iranian economy that have contributed to Iran's currency freefall. It's also the deliberate circulation of rumors and fake news on Telegram by Iranian currency traders and middlemen out to make a profit.

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YouTube Will Remove All Pop-up Annotations on January 15

Early last year, YouTube announced that it would be retiring annotations, those boxes that pop up during a video with links and additional information. It discontinued the annotations editor in May of last year and soon all existing annotations will be going away as well. From a report: The company added an update to the help page announcing the end of its annotations editor, saying, "We will stop showing existing annotations to viewers starting January 15, 2019. All existing annotations will be removed."

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CO2 Emissions Rose for the First Time in 4 Years

Human emissions of carbon dioxide have gone up for the first time since 2013, according to the UN's ninth annual Emissions Gap Report, meaning the world isn't on track to mitigate the worst of climate change's already disastrous effects. From the report: The report, published on Tuesday, says that while carbon emissions stayed relatively level between 2014 and 2016, carbon emissions in 2017 went up by 1.2 percent. Composed by climate scientists using the most up-to-date scientific data, the report aims to determine whether we're on track to meet the goals set by international climate agreements, such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The "emissions gap" is the difference between how low our emissions need to be, and where they actually are. The UN report concludes that the world isn't hitting the emissions targets necessary to curb warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. While the goal is not impossible, it's unlikely to be met under current political conditions, which have rendered us unable to take significant action against climate change for more than half a century. "According to the current policy and [Nationally Determined Contributions] scenarios, global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020," the report reads. "As the emissions gap assessment shows, this original level of ambition needs to be roughly tripled for the 2C scenario and increased around fivefold for the 1.5C scenario."

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5G Will Cover Roughly 1.5 Billion People By 2024, Researchers Say

By the end of 2025, 5G will reach more than 40 percent of the world's population and cover 1.5 billion people, according to the latest mobility report [PDF] from telecommunications company Ericsson, which says its networks currently carry nearly half the world's mobile traffic. From the report: 5G, short for fifth-generation network technology, promises a massive boost in speed and responsiveness. Industry watchers expect the first 5G smartphones to come out in the first half of next year. Researchers forecast that mobile data consumption will reach more than 21GB per month by 2024, which is nearly four times the consumption in 2018. 5G networks will carry 25 percent of global mobile data traffic, according to Ericsson. North America and North East Asia are expected to lead the 5G rollout, followed by Western Europe.

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A UK Commons Committee Chair Says He’s Seen Evidence a Facebook Engineer Flagged Russian Entities Pulling Billions of Points of Data Every Day in 2014

A UK Commons committee chair claims a seized trove of Facebook documents reveals that a company engineer flagged Russian "entities" were using a Pinterest API to pull billions of points of Facebook data every day in 2014. From a report: Damian Collins appeared to use parliamentary privilege to outline the detail from the sealed documents, during a fiery session of questioning of Facebook executive Richard Allan before the first sitting of the "international grand committee on disinformation and fake news" in London on Tuesday. The most contentious moment came during an exchange between Allan and the chair of the committee over what's alleged to be in a set of documents that are subject to the protective order of a California court. During the questioning of Allan on Tuesday, Collins said the emails would not be released. But he did outline details from an alleged incident which, if true, would raise further questions about how Facebook responded to learning about data being taken from the platform. "An engineer at Facebook notified the company in October 2014 that entities with Russian IP addresses have been using a Pinterest API key to pull over 3 billion data points a day," Collins said. "Now was that reported to any external body at the time?" Allan dismissed the claim by focusing on the source of the information, Six4Three, labelling it a "hostile litigant." Further reading: Facebook Exec Admits Zuckerberg Not Appearing Before UK Parliament Doesn't Look Great (CNBC); 'The Problem is Facebook,' Lawmakers From Nine Countries Tell Zuckerberg's Accountability Stand-in (TechCrunch); and "When You Get That Wealthy, You Start to Buy Your Own Bullshit": The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg (VanityFair).

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The Police in UK Want AI To Stop Violent Crime Before it Happens

Police in the UK want to predict serious violent crime using artificial intelligence, New Scientist is reporting. The idea is that individuals flagged by the system will be offered interventions, such as counseling, to avert potential criminal behavior. From the report: However, one of the world's leading data science institutes has expressed serious concerns about the project after seeing a redacted version of the proposals. The system, called the National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS), uses a combination of AI and statistics to try to assess the risk of someone committing or becoming a victim of gun or knife crime, as well as the likelihood of someone falling victim to modern slavery. West Midlands Police is leading the project and has until the end of March 2019 to produce a prototype. Eight other police forces, including London's Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police, are also involved. NDAS is being designed so that every police force in the UK could eventually use it. Police funding has been cut significantly over recent years, so forces need a system that can look at all individuals already known to officers, with the aim of prioritizing those who need interventions most urgently, says Iain Donnelly, the police lead on the project.

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Uber has Cracked Two Classic ’80s Video Games by Giving an AI Algorithm a New Type of Memory

An algorithm that remembers previous explorations in Montezuma's Revenge and Pitfall! could make computers and robots better at learning how to succeed in the real world. From a report: A new kind of machine-learning algorithm just mastered a couple of throwback video games that have proved to be a big headache for AI. Those following along will know that AI algorithms have bested the world's top human players at the ancient, elegant strategy game Go, one of the most difficult games imaginable. But two pixelated classics from the era of 8-bit computer games -- Montezuma's Revenge and Pitfall! -- have stymied AI researchers. There's a reason for this seeming contradiction. Although deceptively simple, both Montezuma's Revenge and Pitfall! have been immune to mastery via reinforcement learning, a technique that's otherwise adept at learning to conquer video games. DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet focused on artificial intelligence, famously used it to develop algorithms capable of learning how to play several classic video games at an expert level. Reinforcement-learning algorithms mesh well with most games, because they tweak their behavior in response to positive feedback -- the score going up. The success of the approach has generated hope that AI algorithms could teach themselves to do all sorts of useful things that are currently impossible for machines. The problem with both Montezuma's Revenge and Pitfall! is that there are few reliable reward signals. Both titles involve typical scenarios: protagonists explore blockish worlds filled with deadly creatures and traps. But in each case, lots of behaviors that are necessary to advance within the game do not help increase the score until much later. Ordinary reinforcement-learning algorithms usually fail to get out of the first room in Montezuma's Revenge, and in Pitfall! they score exactly zero.

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‘General Motors, Sears and Toys R Us: Layoffs Across America Highlight Our Shredding Financial Safety Net’

New submitter Bruce Henry shares a story: Today's aging workforce faces an uncertain future. The announcement this week that General Motors will lay off 15 percent of its salaried workforce and shutter multiple plants in North America was a sobering reminder of how far the American worker has fallen. Unlike most large private sector corporations today, thousands of employees at GM still enjoy some union benefits. The company has reportedly set aside $2 billion for layoffs and buyouts. It's not much, but it's something -- many workers, if they are laid off en masse, will be far less lucky. Some older Americans are lucky enough to have been grandfathered into generous pension plans and others hope social security and personal savings will be enough to sustain themselves. But for millions of younger people, the outlook is bleaker -- an ever-diminishing social safety net, with retirement dependent almost entirely on how well they manage savings. Two-thirds of millennials have nothing saved for retirement. The private sector pension as we once knew it is all but dead. Public sector pensions, meanwhile, are under attack at the state level. "Companies don't offer pensions anymore. Social security, when it was established, was meant to be one leg of a stool," says Gerald Friedman, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "One leg would be the private pension through employment, a second leg personal savings, and a third leg social security. Social security is now the only source of income of a lot elderly have." What, if anything, are our politicians doing about this? Progressives rail against President Donald Trump, but real retirement security has not been a big enough part of the conversation on either side of the political spectrum. Millions of Americans are in danger of entering their final decades unable to afford ballooning medical bills and cost-of-living expenses. This is a huge problem, and one that liberals in particular should have capitalized on this election cycle.

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China is Planning To Build a Deep Sea Base For Unmanned Submarine Science and Defense Operations in the South China Sea

Urged by China President Xi Jinping to dare to do something that has never been done before, scientists say challenges could give China huge technology lead. From a report: China is planning to build a deep sea base for unmanned submarine science and defence operations in the South China Sea, a centre that might become the first artificial intelligence colony on Earth, officials and scientists involved in the plan said. The project -- named in part after Hades, the underworld of Greek mythology -- was launched at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing this month after a visit to a deep sea research institute at Sanya, Hainan province, by Chinese President Xi Jinping in April. Xi urged the scientists and engineers to dare to do something that has never been done before. "There is no road in the deep sea, we do not need to chase [after other countries], we are the road," he said. The idea of an outpost for deep sea exploration has been a favourite of scientists, engineers and fiction writers for hundreds of years, while the Greek allegory of Atlantis has inspired many "city beneath the sea" stories. The Hadal zone that would be home to the base is the deepest part of an ocean -- typically a V-shape abyss -- at a depth of 6,000 to 11,000 metres (19,685 to 36,100 feet). The project will cost Chinese taxpayers 1.1 billion yuan (US$160 million), the scientists said. That is half as much again as the cost of the FAST radio telescope -- the world's largest -- in Guizhou province, southwest China.

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Half of all Phishing Sites Now Have the Padlock

You may have heard you should look for the padlock symbol at the top of a website before entering your password or credit card information into an online form. It's well-meaning advice, but new data shows it isn't enough to keep your sensitive information secure. From a report: Recent data from anti-phishing company PhishLabs shows that 49 percent of all phishing sites in the third quarter of 2018 bore the padlock security icon next to the phishing site domain name as displayed in a browser address bar. That's up from 25 percent just one year ago, and from 35 percent in the second quarter of 2018. This alarming shift is notable because a majority of Internet users have taken the age-old "look for the lock" advice to heart, and still associate the lock icon with legitimate sites. A PhishLabs survey conducted last year found more than 80% of respondents believed the green lock indicated a website was either legitimate and/or safe. In reality, the https:// part of the address (also called "Secure Sockets Layer" or SSL) merely signifies the data being transmitted back and forth between your browser and the site is encrypted and can't be read by third parties. The presence of the padlock does not mean the site is legitimate, nor is it any proof the site has been security-hardened against intrusion from hackers.

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Google Workers Sign Letter Seeking End To China Search Project

A group of Google employees have put their name to a public letter calling on the company to abandon its plans for a Chinese search product that censors results. From a report: Project Dragonfly, as the initiative is known, would enable state surveillance at a time when the Chinese government is expanding controls over the population, according to the letter signed by at least 10 workers, predominately software engineers and researchers. The document also called on management to commit to transparency, be accountable and provide clear communication. Ever since plans for Dragonfly emerged in August, Google parent Alphabet has been riven by internal dissent at the prospect of a search engine bending to Beijing's censorship. It was that sort of government control that prompted co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to effectively pull out of China in 2010 when it decided to stop removing controversial links from web queries. "We refuse to build technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be," the Google workers wrote in the letter. "Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions."

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Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe Government Climate Report Finding in a New Low

President Donald Trump on Monday rejected a central conclusion of a dire report on the economic costs of climate change released by his own administration. Associated Press reports: But economists said the National Climate Assessment's warning of hundreds of billions of dollars a year in global warming costs is pretty much on the money. Just look at last year with Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma, they said. Those three 2017 storms caused at least $265 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The climate report, quietly unveiled Friday, warned that natural disasters are worsening in the United States because of global warming. It said warming-charged extremes "have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration." The report noted the last few years have smashed U.S. records for damaging weather, costing nearly $400 billion since 2015. "The potential for losses in some sectors could reach hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of this century," the report said. It added that if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue at current levels, labor costs in outdoor industries during heat waves could cost $155 billion in lost wages per year by 2090. The president said he read some of the report and "it's fine" but not the part about the devastating economic impact. "I don't believe it," Trump said, adding that if "every other place on Earth is dirty, that's not so good."

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Amazon Opens Up Its Internal Machine Learning Training To Everyone

Amazon announced Monday that it's making the machine learning courses it uses to train its engineers available to everybody for free. The course is tailored to four major groups -- developers, data scientists, data platform engineers and business professionals -- and it offers both foundational level lessons as well as more advanced instruction.

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NASA’s InSight Successfully Lands on Mars

NASA's latest Mars lander, InSight, successfully touched down on the surface of the Red Planet moments ago, surviving an intense plunge through the Martian atmosphere. From a report: It marks the eighth picture-perfect landing on Mars for NASA, adding to the space agency's impressive track record of putting spacecraft on the planet. And now, InSight's two-year mission has begun, one that entails listening for Marsquakes to learn about the world's interior. After six and a half months of traveling through space, InSight hit the top of Mars' atmosphere a little before 3PM ET. It then made a daring descent to the surface, performing a complex multi-step routine that slowed the lander from more than 12,000 miles per hour to just 5 miles per hour before it hit the ground. To get to the surface safely, InSight had to autonomously deploy a supersonic parachute, gather radar measurements, and ignite its thrusters all at the right time. Altogether, the landing took just under seven minutes to complete, prompting the nickname "seven minutes of terror." "InSight's view is a flat, smooth expanse called Elysium Planitia, but its workspace is below the surface, where it will study Mars' deep interior," Nasa posted Monday, sharing the first photo after the landing.

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The People of Ohio Can Now Pay Their Taxes in Bitcoin

Starting this week, businesses in Ohio will be able to pay taxes in bitcoin through a new platform, OhioCrypto.com, a first in the US. From a report: For many enthusiasts, part of the appeal of crypto has been the very fact that these currencies are not backed by governments. That makes it harder for politicians to manipulate currencies to their own ends, they say. But for the same reason, states have sought to sideline cryptocurrencies, comfortable to dismiss bitcoin as a passing fad. So Ohio, and its treasurer Josh Mandel, see embracing them as a way to signal that the state is tech-savvy and forward-thinking. "I do see [bitcoin] as a legitimate form of currency," Mandel told (paywall) the Wall Street Journal.

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Facebook Watch, a YouTube Competitor, is Pivoting To Older Audiences as Teens Tune Out and Publishers Balk

As Facebook struggles to find an audience for its YouTube competitor, Watch, the company has been talking to some media companies about focusing its efforts on audiences 30 years and older instead of teens and younger millennials. From a report: The move signals more troubles for Facebook's video ambitions. Expansion in video, messaging, and Stories are key for the future of Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a call with analysts in October.

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Amazon May Be Hiding Its Plans To Test New Wireless Tech By Masquerading as a Massage Spa

Wave723 writes: What do a Silicon Valley massage spa, a local community college, and a Californian plastics manufacturer have in common? They will soon be testing hundreds of cutting-edge wireless devices, according to an application for an experimental permit filed last week with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If that sounds unlikely, it is. It seems much more likely that the new devices will actually be tested at three nearby Amazon facilities. These include two buildings belonging to the company's secretive Lab126 research division, and one of the retailer's largest fulfillment centers in the state. On November 19, a company called Chrome Enterprises LLC sought permission to test up to 450 prototype devices using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), a new technology that aims to deliver ultra-fast wireless broadband over shared radio frequencies. In particular, CBRS opens access to a radio frequency band (3.5 Gigahertz) that the FCC had previously set aside for military use, and makes it so that the military can share that band with anyone who buys a router or phone that supports the service, or has a cell phone plan with a carrier that has paid for a sliver of the band.

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US Top Court Leans Toward Allowing Apple App Store Antitrust Suit

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday appeared open to letting a lawsuit proceed against Apple that accused it of breaking federal antitrust laws by monopolizing the market for iPhone software applications and causing consumers to overpay. From a report: The nine justices heard an hour of arguments in an appeal by the Cupertino, California-based technology company of a lower court's decision to revive the proposed class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in California in 2011 by a group of iPhone users seeking monetary damages. The lawsuit said Apple violated federal antitrust laws by requiring apps to be sold through the company's App Store and then taking a 30 percent commission from the purchases. The case may hinge on how the justices will apply one of its past decisions to the claims against Apple. That 1977 ruling limited damages for anti-competitive conduct to those directly overcharged rather than indirect victims who paid an overcharge passed on by others.

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