Author Archives: msmash

YouTube is Down

YouTube is facing outage worldwide, users and web tracker DownDetector reported Tuesday evening. Users attempting to visit the site have reported seeing a blank website frame instead of the usual homepage. The YouTube app also showed the same problems. In a tweet, YouTube said it was working on resolving the issues.

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New York Attorney General Expands Inquiry Into Net Neutrality Comments

The New York attorney general subpoenaed more than a dozen telecommunications trade groups, lobbying contractors and Washington advocacy organizations on Tuesday, seeking to determine whether the groups sought to sway a critical federal decision on internet regulation last year by submitting millions of fraudulent public comments, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. From a report: Some of the groups played a highly public role in last year's battle, when the Republican-appointed majority on the Federal Communications Commission voted to revoke a regulation issued under President Barack Obama that classified internet service providers as public utilities. The telecommunications industry bitterly opposed the rules -- which imposed what supporters call "net neutrality" on internet providers -- and enthusiastically backed their repeal under President Trump. The attorney general, Barbara D. Underwood, last year began investigating the source of more than 22 million public comments submitted to the F.C.C. during the battle. Millions of comments were provided using temporary or duplicate email addresses, others recycled identical phrases, and seven popular comments, repeated verbatim, accounted for millions more.

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Facebook Plans Camera-Equipped TV Device, Report Says

Facebook is developing hardware for the TV, news outlet Cheddar reported Tuesday. From the report: The world's largest social network is building a camera-equipped device that sits atop a TV and allows video calling along with entertainment services like Facebook's YouTube competitor, according to people familiar with the matter. The project, internally codenamed "Ripley," uses the same core technology as Facebook's recently announced Portal video chat device for the home. Portal begins shipping next month and uses A.I. to automatically detect and follow people as they move throughout the frame during a video call. Facebook currently plans to announce project Ripley in the spring of 2019, according to a person with direct knowledge of the project. But the device is still in development and the date could be changed.

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Stephen Hawking Warns That AI and ‘Superhumans’ Could Wipe Humanity; Says There’s No God in Posthumous Book

Stephen Hawking says artificial intelligence will eventually become so advanced it will "outperform humans." The renowned physicist who died in March warns of both rises in advanced artificial intelligence and genetically-enhanced "superhumans" in a book published Tuesday. Hawking also weighed in on god, and aliens. From a report: According to an excerpt of the book "Brief Answers to the Big Questions" published by the U.K.'s Sunday Times, Hawking wrote AI could prove "huge" to humanity so long as restrictions are in place to control how quickly it grows. "While primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have proved very useful, I fear the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans," Hawking wrote. "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded." Hawking wrote about a need for serious research to explore what impact AI would have on humanity, from the workplace to the military, where he expressed concerns about sophisticated weapons systems "that can choose and eliminate their own targets." Hawking also wrote about advances to manipulating DNA, or what he calls "self-designed evolution. Early advances involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR include alerting DNA to create "low-fat" pigs. CNN: "There is no God. No one directs the universe," he writes in "Brief Answers to the Big Questions." "For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God," he adds. "I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature." "There are forms of intelligent life out there," he writes. "We need to be wary of answering back until we have developed a bit further." And he leaves open the possibility of other phenomena. "Travel back in time can't be ruled out according to our present understanding," he says. He also predicts that "within the next hundred years we will be able to travel to anywhere in the Solar System."

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Chrome 70 Won’t Ship With a Patch For Autoplay-Blocking Web Audio API Which Broke Web Apps and Games Earlier This Year

An anonymous reader shares a report: Earlier this year, Google made a seemingly crowd-pleasing tweak to its Chrome browser and created a crisis for web game developers. Its May release of Chrome 66 muted sites that played sound automatically, saving internet users from the plague of annoying auto-playing videos. But the new system also broke the audio of games and web art designed for the old audio standard -- including hugely popular games like QWOP, clever experiments like the Infinite Jukebox, and even projects officially showcased by Google. After a backlash over the summer, Google kept blocking autoplay for basic video and audio, but it pushed the change for games and web applications to a later version. That browser version, Chrome 70, is on the verge of full release -- but the new, autoplay-blocking Web Audio API isn't part of it yet. Google communications manager Ivy Choi tells The Verge that Chrome will start learning the sites where users commonly play audio, so it can tailor its settings to their preferences. The actual blocking won't start until Chrome 71, which is due in December.

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Chinese Phone Maker Huawei Launches Mate 20 Pro Featuring In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor, Two-Way Wireless Charging, 3 Rear Cameras and 4,200mAh Battery

Huawei's new Mate 20 Pro has a massive screen, three cameras on the back and a fingerprint scanner embedded in the display. From a report: The new top-end phone from the Chinese firm aims to secure its place at the top of the market alongside Samsung, having recently beaten Apple to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in August. The Mate 20 Pro follows Huawei's tried and trusted format for its Mate series: a huge 6.39in QHD+ OLED screen, big 4,200mAh battery and powerful new Huawei Kirin 980 processor -- Huawei's first to be produced at 7 nanometres, matching Apple's latest A12 chip in the 2018 iPhones. New for this year is an infrared 3D facial recognition system, similar to that used by Apple for its Face ID in the iPhone XS, and one of the first fingerprint scanners embedded in the screen that is widely available in the UK, removing the need for a fingerprint scanner on the back or a chin on the front. The Mate 20 Pro is water resistant to IP68 standards and has a sleek new design reminiscent of Samsung's S-series phones, with curved glass on the front and back. The back also has an new pattern etched into the glass, which is smooth to the touch but ridged when running your nail over it. On the back is a new version of Huawei's award-winning triple camera system using a 40-megapixel standard camera, an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom and new for this year is a 20-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera, replacing the monochrome sensor used on the P20 Pro. The Mate 20 Pro runs EMUI 9, which is based on Android 9 Pie. The variant with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is available for 899 Euro starting today.

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Slack Doesn’t Have End-to-End Encryption Because Your Boss Doesn’t Want It

Business communications service Slack, which has more than three million paying customers, offers a bouquet of features that has made it popular (so popular that is worth as much as $9 billion), but it lacks a crucial feature that some of its rivals don't: end-to-end encryption. It's a feature that numerous users have asked Slack to add to the service. Citing a former employee of Slack and the company's chief information security officer, news outlet Motherboard reported Tuesday that the rationale behind not including end-to-end encryption is very simple: bosses around the world don't want it. From the report: Work communication service Slack has decided against the idea of having end-to-end encryption due to the priorities of its paying customers (rather than those who use a free version of the service.) Slack is not a traditional messaging program -- it's designed for businesses and workplaces that may want or need to read employee messages -- but the decision still highlights why some platforms may not want to jump into end-to-end encryption. End-to-end is increasingly popular as it can protect communications against from interception and surveillance. "It wasn't a priority for exec [executives], because it wasn't something paying customers cared about," a former Slack employee told Motherboard earlier this year.

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Apple ‘Deeply Apologetic’ Over Account Hacks in China

Apple has issued an apology over the hacking of some Chinese accounts in phishing scams, almost a week after it emerged that stolen Apple IDs had been used to swipe customer funds. From a report: In its English statement Tuesday, Apple said it found "a small number of our users' accounts" had been accessed through phishing scams. "We are deeply apologetic about the inconvenience caused to our customers by these phishing scams," Apple said in its Chinese statement. The incident came to light last week when Chinese mobile-payment giants Alipay and WeChat Pay said some customers had lost money. The victims of the scams, Apple said Tuesday, hadn't enabled so-called two-factor authentication -- a setting that requires a user to log in with a password and a freshly-generated code to verify their identity.

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The New and Improved MacBook Keyboards Have the Same Old Problems

Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline: Apple never actually caved to user complaints that its top-of-the-line computers developed sticky or dead keyboards very easily, despite having now been served with several keyboard-related class action lawsuits. In June, the company offered to repair computers with these keyboards for free for four years following the date of purchase (the cost of being without their computer notwithstanding). It claimed only a "small percentage" of users were affected. I was one of them, several times, and there were many, many others. Compared to this time last year, its computer sales are down ten percent, and not a few people have been holding off on purchasing any computer from its line in fear of getting stuck with a keyboard that doesn't work. In July, Apple slightly redesigned the very low profile butterfly keyboard on its MacBooks and MacBook Pros, not because "a small percentage" of the previous version was rendered useless by a speck of dust, the company said, but to make it quieter; it even invited the tech press to try it out. iFixit teardowns of the hardware revealed that, in fact, Apple had added a silicone membrane under the keys that looks quite a bit like it's meant to keep dust and debris from lodging under the key and locking it up. Was that the idea? No, Apple unequivocally said. [...] But checking around online, it appears the new keyboards have the same old issues. They may be delayed, but they happen nonetheless. The MacRumors forum has a long thread about the the "gen 3 butterfly keyboard" where users have been sharing their experiences since Apple updated the design.

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99.7 Percent of Unique FCC Comments Favored Net Neutrality, Independent Analysis Finds

When a Stanford researcher removed all the duplicate and fake comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission last year, he found that 99.7 percent of public comments -- about 800,000 in all -- were pro-net neutrality. From a report: "With the fog of fraud and spam lifted from the comment corpus, lawmakers and their staff, journalists, interested citizens and policymakers can use these reports to better understand what Americans actually said about the repeal of net neutrality protections and why 800,000 Americans went further than just signing a petition for a redress of grievances by actually putting their concerns in their own words," Ryan Singel, a media and strategy fellow at Stanford University, wrote in a blog post Monday. Singel released a report [PDF] Monday that analyzed the unique comments -- as in, they weren't a copypasta of one or dozens of other letters -- filed last year ahead of the FCC's decision to repeal federal net neutrality protections. That's from the 22 million total comments filed, meaning that more than 21 million comments were fake, bots, or organized campaigns.

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US Voter Records From 19 States Is Being Sold on a Hacking Forum, Threat Intelligence Firms Say

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for ZDNet: The voter information for approximately 35 million US citizens is being peddled on a popular hacking forum, two threat intelligence firms have discovered. "To our knowledge this represents the first reference on the criminal underground of actors selling or distributing lists of 2018 voter registration data," said researchers from Anomali Labs and Intel471, the two companies who spotted the forum ad. The two companies said they've reviewed a sample of the database records and determined the data to be valid with a "high degree of confidence." Researchers say the data contains details such as full name, phone numbers, physical addresses, voting history, and other voting-related information. It is worth noting that some states consider this data public and offer it for download for free, but not all states have this policy.

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Jeff Bezos Predicts We’ll Have 1 Trillion Humans in the Solar System, and Blue Origin Wants To Help Get Us There

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos predicted Monday that we'll have one trillion humans in the solar system one day -- and he showed off how the rocket company plans to help get there. "I won't be alive to see the fulfillment of that long term mission," Bezos said at the Wired 25th anniversary summit in San Francisco. "We are starting to bump up against the absolute true fact that Earth is finite." From a report: Blue Origin's aim is to lower the cost of access to space, Bezos said. Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic are also eyeing commercial space travel. "The dynamism that I have seen over the last 20 years in the internet where incredible things have happened in really short periods of time," Bezos said. "We need thousands of companies. We need the same dynamism in space that we've seen online over the last 20 years. And we can do that." Further reading: Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth -- for Good.

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Winamp Media Player To Return as a Platform-Agnostic Audio Mobile App Next Year; Desktop Application Receives an Update

The charmingly outdated media player Winamp is being reinvented as a platform-agnostic audio mobile app that brings together all your music, podcasts, and streaming services to a single location. From a report: It's an ambitious relaunch, but the company behind it says it's still all about the millions-strong global Winamp community -- and as proof, the original desktop app is getting an official update as well. For those who don't remember: Winamp was the MP3 player of choice around the turn of the century, but went through a rocky period during Aol ownership and failed to counter the likes of iTunes and the onslaught of streaming services, and more or less crumbled over the years. The original app, last updated in 2013, still works, but to say it's long in the tooth would be something of an understatement (the community has worked hard to keep it updated, however). So it's with pleasure that I can confirm rumors that substantial updates are on the way. "There will be a completely new version next year, with the legacy of Winamp but a more complete listening experience," said Alexandre Saboundjan, CEO of Radionomy, the company that bought Winamp (or what remained of it) in 2014. "You can listen to the MP3s you may have at home, but also to the cloud, to podcasts, to streaming radio stations, to a playlist you perhaps have built. People want one single experience," he concluded. "I think Winamp is the perfect player to bring that to everybody. And we want people to have it on every device."

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Intel To Support 128GB of DDR4 on Core 9th Gen Desktop Processors

Ian Cutress, writing for AnandTech: One of today's announcements threw up an interesting footnote worthy of further investigation. With its latest products, HP announced that their mainstream desktop platforms would be shipped with up to 32GB of memory, which was further expandable up to 128GB. Intel has confirmed to us, based on new memory entering the market, that there will be an adjustment to the memory support of the latest processors. Normally mainstream processors only support 64GB, by virtue of two memory channels, two DIMMs per memory channel (2DPC), and the maximum size of a standard consumer UDIMM being 16GB of DDR4, meaning 4x16GB = 64GB. However the launch of two different technologies, both double height double capacity 32GB DDR4 modules from Zadak and G.Skill, as well as new 16Gb DDR4 chips coming from Samsung, means that technically in a consumer system with four memory slots, up to 128GB might be possible.

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Climate Change Will Cause Beer Shortages and Price Hikes, Study Says

A new study from Nature Plants has identified the one climate-related issue that can unite people from myriad political backgrounds -- beer. From a report: Led by Wei Xie, an agricultural scientist at Peking University, the paper finds that regions that grow barley, the primary crop used to brew beer, are projected to experience severe droughts and heat waves due to anthropogenic climate change. According to five climate models that used different projected temperature increases for the coming century, extreme weather events could reduce barley yields by 3 to 17 percent. Barley harvests are mostly sold as livestock fodder, so beer availability could be further hindered by the likely prioritization of grain yields to feed cattle and other farm animals, rather than for brewing beer. The net result will be a decline in affordable access to beer, which is the most commonly imbibed alcoholic beverage in the world. Within a few decades, this luxury may be out of reach for hundreds of millions of people, including those in affluent nations where breweries are a major industry. Price spikes are estimated to range from $4 to over $20 for a standard six-pack in nations like the US, Ireland, Denmark, and Poland.

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MIT Plans College For AI, Backed by $1 Billion

Every major university is wrestling with how to adapt to the technology wave of artificial intelligence -- how to prepare students not only to harness the powerful tools of A.I., but also to thoughtfully weigh its ethical and social implications. A.I. courses, conferences and joint majors have proliferated in the last few years. But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is taking a particularly ambitious step, creating a new college backed by a planned investment of $1 billion. Two-thirds of the funds have already been raised, M.I.T. said, in announcing the initiative on Monday. From a report: The linchpin gift of $350 million came from Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group, the big private equity firm. The college, called the M.I.T. Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, will create 50 new faculty positions and many more fellowships for graduate students. It is scheduled to begin in the fall semester next year, housed in other buildings before moving into its own new space in 2022. The goal of the college, said L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T., is to "educate the bilinguals of the future." He defines bilinguals as people in fields like biology, chemistry, politics, history and linguistics who are also skilled in the techniques of modern computing that can be applied to them. But, he said, "to educate bilinguals, we have to create a new structure."

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New Startup By a Trio of Doctors Uses Phone App To Collect Measures of People’s Cognition and Emotional Health and Attempts To Detect Signs of Depression

A startup founded in Palo Alto, California, by a trio of doctors, including the former director of the US National Institute of Mental Health, is trying to prove that our obsession with the technology in our pockets can help treat some of today's most intractable medical problems: depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse. MIT Technology Review: Mindstrong Health is using a smartphone app to collect measures of people's cognition and emotional health as indicated by how they use their phones. Once a patient installs Mindstrong's app, it monitors things like the way the person types, taps, and scrolls while using other apps. This data is encrypted and analyzed remotely using machine learning, and the results are shared with the patient and the patient's medical provider. The seemingly mundane minutiae of how you interact with your phone offers surprisingly important clues to your mental health, according to Mindstrong's research -- revealing, for example, a relapse of depression. With details gleaned from the app, Mindstrong says, a patient's doctor or other care manager gets an alert when something may be amiss and can then check in with the patient by sending a message through the app (patients, too, can use it to message their care provider).

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Personal Genomics is Booming, But There’s a Nationwide Shortage of Genetic Counselors Who Can Make Sense of that DNA Data

An anonymous reader shares a Wired report: When Dan Riconda graduated with a master's degree in genetic counseling from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988, the Human Genome Project was in its very first year, DNA evidence was just beginning to enter the courts, and genetic health tests weren't yet on the market. He found one of the few jobs doing fetal diagnostics for rare diseases, which often meant helping young families through the worst time in their lives. What a difference 30 years makes. Today, with precision medicine going mainstream and an explosion of apps piping genetic insights to your phone from just a few teaspoons of spit, millions of Americans are having their DNA decoded every year. That deluge of data means that genetic counselors -- the specialized medical professionals trained to help patients interpret genetic test results -- are in higher demand than ever. With two to three job openings for every new genetic counseling graduate, the profession is facing a national workforce shortage. [...] Pharmaceutical and lab testing firms are routinely hiring genetic counselors to make sure new screening technologies for these targeted drugs are developed in an ethical way. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the National Society for Genetic Counselors, a quarter of the workforce now works in one of these non-patient-facing jobs. A smaller study, published in August, found that one-third of genetic counselors had changed jobs in the past two years, nearly all of them from a hospital setting to a laboratory one.

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Many Pay High Investment Company Fees For Services They Don’t Use, Survey Shows

Penelope Wang, writing for Consumer Reports: If you are investing in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, you have a wide range of options to help manage your portfolio -- everything from traditional brokerages to mutual fund companies to online financial firms. But as consumers search for an investment company, many pay little attention to the fees they're being charged, according to a just-released Consumer Reports survey of more than 46,000 CR members. Four out of 10 surveyed said they weren't sure what they paid in fees. And of those who knew the costs, only 60 percent rated their investment company in our survey as Excellent or Very Good on the amount charged. "Hidden and confusing fees are proliferating across the marketplace, making it hard for consumers to know what they're getting for their money, and to comparison shop across providers," says Anna Laitin, director of financial policy at Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports. "It is concerning that so many investors don't know how much they are paying in fees and that many of those who do understand the fees don't appear to think they are getting their money's worth," she says.

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Twitter is Being Investigated Over Data Collection In Its Link-Shortening System

New submitter DavidDoherty writes: The Ireland Data Protection Commission is investigating Twitter because the company refused to provide their t.co (URL shortening service owned and used by Twitter) web link tracking data to UK professor, Michael Veale. "Their refusal to comply with the request is potentially a violation of the EU's allowance for requests under GDPR. The privacy expert said that Twitter refused to cite an exception to GDPR for requests that required 'disproportionate effort.'" By contrast, Veale believed that twitter was distorting the law in order to limit the information they handed over to the authorities. A new GDPR regulation, which was first enforced in May, requires that tech companies aim towards a more transparent relationship with user data and provide their customers with data privacy rights.

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UK Steps Towards Zero-Carbon Economy

The UK is taking a tentative step towards a radical "green" future with zero emissions of greenhouse gases. From a report: The government is formally seeking Climate Change Committee (CCC) guidance about how and when to make this leap. If it happens it would mark an extraordinary transformation of an economy built on burning fossil fuels. The decision was prompted by last week's UN report warning that CO2 emissions must be stopped completely to avoid dangerous climate disruption. Climate minister Claire Perry told BBC News: "The report was a really stark and sober piece of work -- a good piece of work. "Now we know what the goal is and we know what some of the levers are. But for me, the constant question is what is the cost and who's going to bear that, both in the UK and in the global economy. The question is: what does government need to do, where can the private sector come in, and what technologies will come through?" Ms Perry has declared this week to be Green GB Week, which aims to raise debate in society about how to tackle climate change while also growing the economy. The UK's current target is a reduction of 80% of emissions by 2050 based on 1990 levels. But the CCC is warning that the UK will drift further away from this goal unless new policies are introduced.

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US Senators Urge India To Soften Data Localization Stance

Two U.S. senators have called on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to soften India's stance on data localization, warning that measures requiring it represent "key trade barriers" between the two nations. From a report: In a letter to Modi dated Friday and seen by Reuters, U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner -- co-chairs of the Senate's India caucus that comprises over 30 senators -- urged India to instead adopt a "light touch" regulatory framework that would allow data to flow freely across borders. The letter comes as relations between Washington and New Delhi are strained over multiple issues, including an Indo-Russian defense contract, India's new tariffs on electronics and other items, and its moves to buy oil from Iran despite upcoming U.S. sanctions. Global payments companies including Mastercard, Visa and American Express have been lobbying India's finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India to relax proposed rules that require all payment data on domestic transactions in India be stored inside the country by October 15. The letter is most likely a last-ditch effort after the RBI told officials at top payment firms this week that the central bank would implement, in full, its data localization directive without extending the deadline, or allowing data to be stored both offshore as well as locally -- a practice known as data mirroring. "We see this (data localization) as a fundamental issue to the further development of digital trade and one that is crucial to our economic partnership," the U.S. senators said in the letter that has not been previously reported.

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Software Freedom Conservancy Shares Thoughts on Microsoft Joining Open Invention Network’s Patent Non-Aggression Pact

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it was joining the open-source patent consortium Open Invention Network (OIN). The press release the two shared this week was short on details on how the two organizations intend to work together and what does the move mean to, for instance, the billions of dollars Microsoft earns each year from its Android patents (since Google is a member of OIN, too.) Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit organization that promotes open-source software, has weighed in on the subject: While [this week's] announcement is a step forward, we call on Microsoft to make this just the beginning of their efforts to stop their patent aggression efforts against the software freedom community. The OIN patent non-aggression pact is governed by something called the Linux System Definition. This is the most important component of the OIN non-aggression pact, because it's often surprising what is not included in that Definition especially when compared with Microsoft's patent aggression activities. Most importantly, the non-aggression pact only applies to the upstream versions of software, including Linux itself. We know that Microsoft has done patent troll shakedowns in the past on Linux products related to the exfat filesystem. While we at Conservancy were successful in getting the code that implements exfat for Linux released under GPL (by Samsung), that code has not been upstreamed into Linux. So, Microsoft has not included any patents they might hold on exfat into the patent non-aggression pact. We now ask Microsoft, as a sign of good faith and to confirm its intention to end all patent aggression against Linux and its users, to now submit to upstream the exfat code themselves under GPLv2-or-later. This would provide two important protections to Linux users regarding exfat: (a) it would include any patents that read on exfat as part of OIN's non-aggression pact while Microsoft participates in OIN, and (b) it would provide the various benefits that GPLv2-or-later provides regarding patents, including an implied patent license and those protections provided by GPLv2 (and possibly other GPL protections and assurances as well).

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Our Reliance on Cellphones Began 35 Years Ago This Week

With 95% of Americans owning a cellphone, it can feel like we've been calling, texting, and tweeting on the go forever. But the infrastructure supporting our cellphones has actually not been around that long. From a report: While we're now on 4G networks, it was only 35 years ago this week that Ameritech (now part of AT&T) launched 1G, or the first commercial cell phone network. That network, called the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), went online on October 13, 1983, allowing people in the Chicago area to make and receive mobile calls for the first time. Ameritech president Bob Barnett, who made the first call, decided to make the historic moment count by ringing Alexander Graham Bell's grandson. A little more than a year later, UK's Vodafone hosted its first commercial call on New Year's Day. Israel's Pelephone followed suit in 1986, followed by Australia in 1987. Cellphone technology had been around for quite a while before that. AMPS was in development for around 15 years, and engineers made the first mobile call on a prototype network a decade before the first commercial network call. It took that long to troubleshoot the various hardware, software, and radio frequency issues associated with setting up a fully functional commercial network.

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Japanese Passport Now World’s Most Powerful

According to the Henley Passport Index, compiled by global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & PartnersCitizens, Japan now has the most powerful passport on the planet. From a report: Having gained visa-free access to Myanmar earlier this month, Japanese citizens can now enjoy visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a whopping 190 destinations around the world -- knocking Singapore, with 189 destinations, into second place. Germany, which began 2018 in the top spot, is now in third place with 188 destinations, tied with France and South Korea. Uzbekistan lifted visa requirements for French nationals on October 5, having already granted visa-free access to Japanese and Singaporean citizens in early February.

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The Magic Leap Con

Reader merbs shares a report about Magic Leap, a US-based startup valued at north of $6 billion and which counts Google, Alibaba, Warner Bros, AT&T, and several top Silicon Valley venture capital firms as its investors. The company, which held its first developer conference this week, announced that it is making its $2,295 AR headset available in more states in the United States. Journalist Brian Merchant attended the conference and shares the other part of the story. From a story: After spending two days at LEAPcon, I feel it is my duty -- in the name of instilling a modicum of sanity into an age where a company that has never actually sold a product to a consumer can be worth a billion dollars more than the entire GDP of Fiji -- to inform you that it is not. Magic Leap clearly wants its public launch to appear huge -- who wouldn't? In decidedly Magic Leapian fashion, the company covered an entire side of LA Mart, the 12-story building in downtown Los Angeles where the conference was to be held, with a psychedelic image of an astronaut and the tagline 'Free Your Mind'. In similarly Leapian fashion, the actual demos and keynote took place in the basement, where a wrong turn could land you in shipping and receiving and cell reception was nil. [...] You know that weird sensation when it feels like everyone around you is participating in some mild mass hallucination, and you missed the dosing? The old 'what am I possibly missing here' phenomenon? That's how I felt at LEAP a lot of the time, amidst crowds of people dropping buzzwords and acronym soup at light speed, and then again while I was reading reviews of the device afterwards -- somehow, despite years of failing to deliver anything of substance, lots of the press is still in Leap's thrall. Demo after demo, I felt like, sure, that was kind of neat. The games were charming, if often glitchy and simplistic, and yes, it might be helpful for architects to be able to blow up and walk around their designs. I liked the developers, who were smart and funny. Some of the graphics and interactions were very nicely rendered. But there wasn't anything -- besides a single demo, which I'll get to in a second -- that I'd feel compelled to ever do again. It felt genuinely crazy to me that people could get too excited about this, especially after years of decent VR and the Hololens, without having a distinct monetary incentive to do so. As many have noted, the hardware is still extremely limiting. The technology underpinning these experiences seems genuinely advanced, and if it were not for a multi-year blitzkrieg marketing campaign insisting a reality where pixels blend seamlessly with IRL physics was imminent, it might have felt truly impressive. (Whether or not it's advanced enough to eventually give rise to Leap's prior promises is an entirely open question at this point.) For now, the field of vision is fairly small and unwieldy, so images are constantly vanishing from view as you look around. If you get too close to them, objects will get chopped up or move awkwardly. And if you do get a good view, some objects appear low res and transparent; some looked like cheap holograms from an old sci-fi film. Text was bleary and often doubled up in layers that made it hard to read, and white screens looked harsh -- I loaded Google on the Helio browser and immediately had to shut my eyes. Further reading: Magic Leap is Pushing To Land a Contract With US Army To Build AR Devices For Soldiers To Use On Combat Missions, Documents Reveal.

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Patent Filings Reveal New Details About Microsoft’s Vision For a Foldable, Dual-Screen Surface Device

A patent application published this week by Microsoft adds more fuel to the fire about the possibility of a new hybrid dual-screen Microsoft Surface device that blurs the lines between phone and tablet. From a report: The patent filing is for a "hinged device" with a "first and second portion" that includes a "flexible display." It would sport a hinge in the middle, similar in appearance to the one on the Surface Book, as well as familiar smartphone components like a bezel and camera. The inventor listed on the document is Kabir Siddiqui, who has been named on previous patent documents related to a foldable Surface device. He's also credited with inventing features like the Surface kickstand and camera. The patents represent one of the clearest signs yet that Microsoft has shown interest in building a "new and disruptive" category that includes elements of a smartphone, tablet and computer all in one. Rumblings of a new Surface phone-like device, under the codename Andromeda, have persisted for years, though the company has yet to confirm such a plan.

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Silicon Valley’s Saudi Arabia Problem

An anonymous reader shares a report: Somewhere in the United States, someone is getting into an Uber en route to a WeWork co-working space. Their dog is with a walker whom they hired through the app Wag. They will eat a lunch delivered by DoorDash, while participating in several chat conversations on Slack. And, for all of it, they have an unlikely benefactor to thank: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Long before the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished, the kingdom has sought influence in the West -- perhaps intended, in part, to make us forget what it is. A medieval theocracy that still beheads by sword, doubling as a modern nation with malls (including a planned mall offering indoor skiing), Saudi Arabia has been called "an ISIS that made it." Remarkably, the country has avoided pariah status in the United States thanks to our thirst for oil, Riyadh's carefully cultivated ties with Washington, its big arms purchases, and the two countries' shared interest in counterterrorism. But lately the Saudis have been growing their circle of American enablers, pouring billions into Silicon Valley technology companies. While an earlier generation of Saudi leaders, like Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, invested billions of dollars in blue-chip companies in the United States, the kingdom's new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has shifted Saudi Arabia's investment attention from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has become one of Silicon Valley's biggest swinging checkbooks, working mostly through a $100 billion fund raised by SoftBank (a Japanese company), which has swashbuckled its way through the technology industry, often taking multibillion-dollar stakes in promising companies. The Public Investment Fund put $45 billion into SoftBank's first Vision Fund, and Bloomberg recently reported that the Saudi fund would invest another $45 billion into SoftBank's second Vision Fund. SoftBank, with the help of that Saudi money, is now said to be the largest shareholder in Uber. It has also put significant money into a long list of start-ups that includes Wag, DoorDash, WeWork, Plenty, Cruise, Katerra, Nvidia and Slack. As the world fills up car tanks with gas and climate change worsens, Saudi Arabia reaps enormous profits -- and some of that money shows up in the bank accounts of fast-growing companies that love to talk about "making the world a better place."

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Struggle With Statistics? Your ‘Fixed Mindset’ Might Be To Blame

A new study in Frontiers in Psychology examined why people struggle so much to solve statistical problems, particularly why we show a marked preference for complicated solutions over simpler, more intuitive ones. Chalk it up to our resistance to change. From a report: The study concluded that fixed mindsets are to blame: we tend to stick with the familiar methods we learned in school, blinding us to the existence of a simpler solution. Roughly 96 percent of the general population struggles with solving problems relating to statistics and probability. Yet being a well-informed citizen in the 21st century requires us to be able to engage competently with these kinds of tasks, even if we don't encounter them in a professional setting. "As soon as you pick up a newspaper, you're confronted with so many numbers and statistics that you need to interpret correctly," says co-author Patrick Weber, a graduate student in math education at the University of Regensburg in Germany. Most of us fall far short of the mark. Part of the problem is the counterintuitive way in which such problems are typically presented. Meadows presented his evidence in the so-called "natural frequency format" (for example, 1 in 10 people), rather than in terms of a percentage (10 percent of the population). That was a smart decision, since 1-in-10 a more intuitive, jury-friendly approach. Recent studies have shown that performance rates on many statistical tasks increased from four percent to 24 percent when the problems were presented using the natural frequency format.

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In an Open Letter, Microsoft Employees Urge the Company To Not Bid on the US Military’s Project JEDI

On Tuesday, Microsoft expressed its intent to bid on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract -- a contract that represents a $10 billion project to build cloud services for the Department of Defense. The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what technologies Microsoft would be building for the Department of Defense. At an industry day for JEDI, DoD Chief Management Officer John H. Gibson II explained the program's impact, saying, "We need to be very clear. This program is truly about increasing the lethality of our department." This has ruffled a few feathers inside the Redmond-based software giant. In an open letter published Saturday, an unspecified number of Microsoft employees stated their disapproval. They wrote: Many Microsoft employees don't believe that what we build should be used for waging war. When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of "empowering every person on the planet to achieve more," not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality. For those who say that another company will simply pick up JEDI where Microsoft leaves it, we would ask workers at that company to do the same. A race to the bottom is not an ethical position. Like those who took action at Google, Salesforce, and Amazon, we ask all employees of tech companies to ask how your work will be used, where it will be applied, and act according to your principles. We need to put JEDI in perspective. This is a secretive $10 billion project with the ambition of building "a more lethal" military force overseen by the Trump Administration. The Google workers who protested these collaborations and forced the company to take action saw this. We do too. So we ask, what are Microsoft's A.I. Principles, especially regarding the violent application of powerful A.I. technology? How will workers, who build and maintain these services in the first place, know whether our work is being used to aid profiling, surveillance, or killing? Earlier this year Microsoft published "The Future Computed," examining the applications and potential dangers of A.I. It argues that strong ethical principles are necessary for the development of A.I. that will benefit people, and defines six core principles: "fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent, and accountable." With JEDI, Microsoft executives are on track to betray these principles in exchange for short-term profits. If Microsoft is to be accountable for the products and services it makes, we need clear ethical guidelines and meaningful accountability governing how we determine which uses of our technology are acceptable, and which are off the table. Microsoft has already acknowledged the dangers of the tech it builds, even calling on the federal government to regulate A.I. technologies. But there is no law preventing the company from exercising its own internal scrutiny and standing by its own ethical compass. Further reading: Google Drops Out of Pentagon's $10 Billion Cloud Competition.

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Twitter and Salesforce CEOs Spat Over Who is Helping the Homeless More

The CEOs of two of the world's most prominent tech companies got into an online spat on Friday over who was doing the most to address homelessness. From a report: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were tweeting at each other about a proposed tax on high-earning San Francisco businesses. It would redirect millions of dollars to help thousands of people who live on the streets, including outside the headquarters of both companies. Benioff tweeted that he was in favor of the tax. Dorsey tweeted that he was not -- prompting a displeased response. "Hi Jack. Thanks for the feedback," Benioff quipped. "Which homeless programs in our city are you supporting? Can you tell me what Twitter and Square & you are in for & at what financial levels? How much have you given to heading home our $37M initiative to get every homeless child off the streets?" Benioff was referring to an initiative he is spearheading for homeless families. In May he announced that he and his wife would match a $1.5m donation from his company's philanthropic arm. In a second tweet, he alleged that Dorsey had failed to contribute to the city's homeless programs, public hospitals and public schools, despite earning billions and receiving a tax break to relocate in a deprived part of town. Dorsey did not respond.

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Cops Told ‘Don’t Look’ at New iPhones To Avoid Face ID Lock-Out

As Apple continues to update its iPhones with new security features, law enforcement and other investigators are constantly playing catch-up, trying to find the best way to circumvent the protections or to grab evidence. From a report: Last month, Forbes reported the first known instance of a search warrant being used to unlock a suspect's iPhone X with their own face, leveraging the iPhone X's Face ID feature. But Face ID can of course also work against law enforcement -- too many failed attempts with the 'wrong' face can force the iPhone to request a potentially harder to obtain passcode instead. Taking advantage of legal differences in how passcodes are protected, US law enforcement have forced people to unlock their devices with not just their face but their fingerprints too. But still, in a set of presentation slides obtained by Motherboard this week, one company specialising in mobile forensics is telling investigators not to even look at phones with Face ID, because they might accidentally trigger this mechanism. "iPhone X: don't look at the screen, or else... The same thing will occur as happened on Apple's event," the slide, from forensics company Elcomsoft, reads. Motherboard obtained the presentation from a non-Elcomsoft source, and the company subsequently confirmed its veracity. The slide is referring to Apple's 2017 presentation of Face ID, in which Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, tried, and failed, to unlock an iPhone X with his own face. The phone then asked for a passcode instead. "This is quite simple. Passcode is required after five unsuccessful attempts to match a face," Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft, told Motherboard in an online chat, pointing to Apple's own documentation on Face ID. "So by looking into suspect's phone, [the] investigator immediately lose one of [the] attempts."

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Google CEO Tells Senators That Censored Chinese Search Engine Could Provide ‘Broad Benefits’

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has refused to answer a list of questions from U.S. lawmakers about the company's secretive plan for a censored search engine in China. From a report: In a letter newly obtained by The Intercept, Pichai told a bipartisan group of six senators that Google could have "broad benefits inside and outside of China," but said he could not share details about the censored search engine because it "remains unclear" whether the company "would or could release a search service" in the country. Pichai's letter contradicts the company's search engine chief, Ben Gomes, who informed staff during a private meeting that the company was aiming to release the platform in China between January and April 2019. Gomes told employees working on the Chinese search engine that they should get it ready to be "brought off the shelf and quickly deployed." [...] In his letter to the senators, dated August 31, Pichai did not mention the word "censorship" or address human rights concerns. He told the senators that "providing access to information to people around the world is central to our mission," and said he believed Google's tools could "help to facilitate an exchange of information and learning." The company was committed to "promoting access to information, freedom of expression, and user privacy," he wrote, while also "respecting the laws of jurisdictions in which we operate."

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US Lawmakers Urge Canada To Snub China’s Huawei in Telecoms

Two leading U.S. lawmakers, both sharp critics of China, urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday to consider dropping China's Huawei Technologies from helping to build next-generation 5G telecommunications networks. From a report: Senators Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said they had "grave concern" about the prospects of Huawei equipment in Canada's 5G networks on the grounds that it would pose dangers for U.S. networks. "While Canada has strong telecommunications security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei," the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Trudeau. Warner and Rubio are on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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Apple Rebukes Australia’s ‘Dangerously Ambiguous’ Anti-Encryption Bill

Apple has strongly criticized Australia's anti-encryption bill, calling it "dangerously ambiguous" and "alarming to every Australian." From a report: The Australian government's draft law -- known as the Access and Assistance Bill -- would compel tech companies operating in the country, like Apple, to provide "assistance" to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in accessing electronic data. The government claims that encrypted communications are "increasingly being used by terrorist groups and organized criminals to avoid detection and disruption," without citing evidence. But critics say that the bill's "broad authorities that would undermine cybersecurity and human rights, including the right to privacy" by forcing companies to build backdoors and hand over user data -- even when it's encrypted. Now, Apple is the latest company after Google and Facebook joined civil and digital rights groups -- including Amnesty International -- to oppose the bill, amid fears that the government will rush through the bill before the end of the year. In a seven-page letter to the Australian parliament, Apple said that it "would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat." The company adds, "We appreciate the government's outreach to Apple and other companies during the drafting of this bill. While we are pleased that some of the suggestions incorporated improve the legislation, the unfortunate fact is that the draft legislation remains dangerously ambiguous with respect to encryption and security. This is no time to weaken encryption. Rather than serving the interests of Australian law enforcement, it will just weaken the security and privacy of regular customers while pushing criminals further off the grid."

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Movie Commentary Tracks Are Back

An anonymous reader shares a report: Last spring, long before Get Out's eventual Oscar win, the movie was released on home video with a commentary track from its writer-director. A decade ago, in the pre-streaming era, this wouldn't have been news: Back then, seemingly every movie got a commentary track, even Good Luck Chuck. Then the DVD market began to decline, and the commentary track went from a being standard-issue add-on to relative rarity. Even recent Best Picture nominees like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, and Spotlight were released sans tracks -- bad news for anyone looking for behind-the-scenes intel on Mark Ruffalo's little-Ceasar haircut. In the last few years, though, several high-profile films -- everything from Star Wars: The Last Jedi to Lady Bird to Get Out -- have been released with commentary tracks. That means you can spend your umpteenth viewing of Peele's film listening to him talk about how he modeled the opening credits on those of The Shining, or how the film's title was inspired by a routine from Eddie Murphy Delirious. For casual movie watchers, such details may not be too thrilling. But for film nerds who absorb behind-the-scenes trivia and how-we-made-it logistics, tracks like the one for Get Out remain the cheapest movie-making education available.

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The FBI Is Now Investigating Facebook’s Security Breach Where Attackers Accessed 30 Million Users’ Personal Information

An online attack that forced Facebook to log out 90 million users last month directly affected 29 million people on the social network [alternative source], the company said Friday as it released new details about the scope of an incident that has regulators and law enforcement on high alert. The company said the FBI is actively investigating the hack, and asked Facebook not to disclose any potential culprits. From a report: Through a series of interrelated bugs in Facebook's programming, unnamed attackers stole the names and contact information of 15 million users, Facebook said. The contact information included a mix of phone numbers and email addresses. An additional 14 million users were affected more deeply, by having additional details taken related to their profiles such as their recent search history, gender, educational background, geolocation data, birth dates, and lists of people and pages they follow. Facebook said last month that it detected the attack when it noticed an uptick in user activity. An investigation soon found that the activity was linked to the theft of security codes that, under normal circumstances, allow Facebook users to navigate away from the site while remaining logged in. The bugs that allowed the attack to occur gave hackers the ability to effectively take over Facebook accounts on a widespread basis, Facebook said when it disclosed the breach. The attackers began with a relatively small number of accounts that they directly controlled, exploiting flaws in the platform's "View As" feature to gain access to other users' profiles.

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FCC Tells Court It Has No ‘Legal Authority’ To Impose Net Neutrality Rules

The Federal Communications Commission opened its defense of its net neutrality repeal yesterday, telling a court that it has no authority to keep the net neutrality rules in place. From a report: Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC argued that broadband is not a "telecommunications service" as defined in federal law, and therefore it must be classified as an information service instead. As an information service, broadband cannot be subject to common carrier regulations such as net neutrality rules, Pai's FCC said. The FCC is only allowed to impose common carrier regulations on telecommunications services. "Given these classification decisions, the Commission determined that the Communications Act does not endow it with legal authority to retain the former conduct rules," the FCC said in a summary of its defense filed yesterday in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The FCC is defending the net neutrality repeal against a lawsuit filed by more than 20 state attorneys general, consumer advocacy groups, and tech companies. The FCC's opponents in the case will file reply briefs next month, and oral arguments are scheduled for February.

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Scientists Have Laid Out a Plan To Search For Life in the Universe

An anonymous reader shares a report: A blue-ribbon panel of researchers chaired by the University of Toronto's Barbara Sherwood Lollar assembled the report at the behest of the US Congress, which asked in a 2017 law that a "strategy for astrobiology" be developed to prioritize "the search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." The 196-page report does not offer easy access to ET, but the steady drumbeat of scientific advancement it documents suggests an increasingly sophisticated understanding of what we know -- and don't know -- about biology on our planet and beyond. Indeed, the recently gained knowledge it highlights is the front end of a wave: Only the Viking mission in the 1970s hunted rigorously for signs of life on other planets, and now the first new NASA mission to do so, the Europa lander, is being designed. In the past four years alone, scientists using data gathered by space probes on Mars discovered evidence of past surface water, the presence of nutrients and organic molecules, and methane gas in the atmosphere that varies by season. This doesn't mean life exists now on Mars, but it is helping contribute to an understanding of astrobiology as a discipline that looks at physical and chemical processes over time to determine if the conditions for life once existed or may do so in the future. Much work on astrobiology is Earth-focused; it is the only place we know life exists and thus is our guinea pig for detecting life from a distance. The Galileo space probe found signs of life on our planet in 1990. The report stressed that recent discoveries of life on Earth that exists without the sun's energy, deep under the ocean or the ground, should inform what we look for on other worlds. Scientists are expanding their understanding of habitability beyond a binary and into a spectrum, which may sound trite, but previous research relied on blunt instruments and blunter assumptions about alien life -- starting with the idea that it would appear on the surface.

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To Deter Foreign Hackers, Some States May Also Be Deterring Voters

A number of states are blocking web traffic from foreign countries to their voter registration websites, making the process harder for some U.S. citizens who live overseas to vote, despite the practice providing no real security benefits. From a report: On its face, the "geo-targeting" of foreign countries may seem like a solid plan: election officials around the country are concerned about foreign interference after Russia's efforts leading up to the 2016 election, so blocking traffic to election websites from outside the United States might seem like an obvious defense starting point. But cybersecurity experts and voting rights advocates say it's an ineffective solution that any hacker could easily sidestep using a virtual private network, or VPN, a commonly-used and easily-available service. Such networks allow for a computer user to use the Internet and appear in a different location than they actually are.

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Firefox Removes Core Product Support For RSS/Atom Feeds

Starting with Firefox 64, RSS/Atom feed support will be handled via add-ons, rather than in-product. Mozilla's Gijs Kruitbosch writes: After considering the maintenance, performance and security costs of the feed preview and subscription features in Firefox, we've concluded that it is no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of the product. While we still believe in RSS and support the goals of open, interoperable formats on the Web, we strongly believe that the best way to meet the needs of RSS and its users is via WebExtensions. With that in mind, we have decided to remove the built-in feed preview feature, subscription UI, and the "live bookmarks" support from the core of Firefox, now that improved replacements for those features are available via add-ons. By virtue of being baked into the core of Firefox, these features have long had outsized maintenance and security costs relative to their usage. Making sure these features are as well-tested, modern and secure as the rest of Firefox would take a surprising amount of engineering work, and unfortunately the usage of these features does not justify such an investment: feed previews and live bookmarks are both used in around 0.01% of sessions.

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Researchers Develop 3D Printed Objects That Can Track and Store How They Are Used

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed 3D printed assistive technology that can track and store their use -- without using batteries or electronics. From a blog post on University of Washington: Cheap and easily customizable, 3D printed devices are perfect for assistive technology, like prosthetics or "smart" pill bottles that can help patients remember to take their daily medications. But these plastic parts don't have electronics, which means they can't monitor how patients are using them. Now engineers at the University of Washington have developed 3D printed devices that can track and store their own use -- without using batteries or electronics. Instead, this system uses a method called backscatter, through which a device can share information by reflecting signals that have been transmitted to it with an antenna. "We're interested in making accessible assistive technology with 3D printing, but we have no easy way to know how people are using it," said co-author Jennifer Mankoff, a professor in the UW's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. "Could we come up with a circuitless solution that could be printed on consumer-grade, off-the-shelf printers and allow the device itself to collect information? That's what we showed was possible in this paper." The UW team will present its findings next week at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Berlin.

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Moons Can Have Their Own Moons and They Could Be Called Moonmoons

Two astronomers have asked a question for the ages: Can moons have moons? The delightful, if theoretical, answer is: Yes -- yes, they can. Sarah Laskow, writing for Atlas Obscura: As Gizmodo reports, this particular scientific inquiry began with a question from Juna Kollmeier's son. Kollemeier, who works at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, recruited Sean Raymond, of the University of Bordeaux, to help her answer the question. In a paper posted on arXiv [PDF], they lay out their case that moons can have moons. The conditions have to be right -- the primary moon has to be big enough and far away enough from the planet it's orbiting for the smaller, secondary moon to survive. But, even given these caveats, they found that moons in our very own solar system could theoretically have their own smaller moons. Two of Saturn's moons and one of Jupiter's are candidates. So is our favorite moon -- the Earth's moon. [...] One of the great challenges of talking about recursive places is deciding what call them. The prefix "sub-" can do a lot of work here: We can islands within islands "subislands," and in the arXiv paper, Kollmeier and Raymond call a moon's moon a "submoon." But there are other options. New Scientist notes that "moonmoon" has been put forth as a name for a moon's moon. For those of us who are less than fluent in meme culture: This is a reference to Moon Moon, sometimes described as the internet's derpiest wolf. Moon Moon was born in 2013, from a werewolf name generator, and soon started frolicking across Tumblr and all other places memes can be found.

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Boston Dynamics’ Robot Went From a Drunk Baby To a Nimble Ninja in a Matter of Years

In a new video from robotics company Boston Dynamics, which Alphabet sold to SoftBank last year, a robot is shown hopping over a log and then up a series of blocks, an activity called parkour. From a report: In previous videos, the robot did a backflip -- now it's leaping over obstacles and climbing up large, uneven stairs with fleet-footed ease. But Atlas wasn't always so graceful. In some of the first videos where Boston Dynamics' robots could walk upright, way back in 2015, Atlas lumbered through the woods, looking like it was narrowly avoiding falling with each step, rather than moving with any kind of purpose.

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Plex for Linux Now Available as a Snap

An anonymous reader shares a report: Today, a very popular app, Plex Media Server, gets the Snap treatment. In other words, you can install the media server program without any headaches -- right from the Snap store. "In adopting the universal Linux app packaging format, Plex will make its multimedia platform available to an ever-growing community of Linux users, including those on KDE Neon, Debian, Fedora, Manjaro, OpenSUSE, Zorin and Ubuntu. Automatic updates and rollback capabilities are staples of Snap software, meaning Plex users will always have the best and latest version running," says Canonical.

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The Cryptocurrency Industry is ‘On the Brink of an Implosion’, Research Says

Echoing sentiments of mainstream economists, Juniper Research is warning that many of the metrics in the cryptocurrency world are pointing to a market implosion. From a report: Industry bellwether Bitcoin had seen its daily transaction volumes fall from an average of around 360,000 a day in late 2017 to just 230,000 in September 2018. Meanwhile, daily transaction values were down from more than $3.7 billion to less than $670 million in the same period, Juniper said in the study, The Future of Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin & Altcoin Trends & Challenges 2018-2023. The market as a whole has contracted quickly as well. In the first quarter, cryptocurrency transactions totaled just over $1.4 trillion, compared with less than $1.7 trillion for 2017 as a whole, Juniper said. However, by the second quarter, transaction values had plummeted by 75 percent, with total market capitalization falling to just under $355 billion. "Based on activity during the first half of Q3, Juniper estimates a further 47 percent quarter-on-quarter drop in transaction values in that quarter," the researcher said in an accompanying white paper.

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President Trump Signs Music Modernization Act Into Law

President Donald Trump signed the Music Modernization Act (MMA) into law Thursday, officially passing what is arguably the most sweeping reform to copyright law in decades. From a report: The bill revamps Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act and aims to bring copyright law up to speed for the streaming era. These are the act's three main pieces of legislation: 1. The Music Modernization Act, which streamlines the music-licensing process to make it easier for rights holders to get paid when their music is streamed online. 2. The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act for pre-1972 recordings. 3. The Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act, which improves royalty payouts for producers and engineers from SoundExchange when their recordings are used on satellite and online radio (Notably, this is the first time producers have ever been mentioned in copyright law.). What does all this mean? First, songwriters and artists will receive royalties on songs recorded before 1972. Second, the MMA will improve how songwriters are paid by streaming services with a single mechanical licensing database overseen by music publishers and songwriters. The cost of creating and maintaining this database will be paid for by digital streaming services. Third, the act will take unclaimed royalties due to music professionals and provide a consistent legal process to receive them. Further reading: Billboard.

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Apache OpenOffice, the Schrodinger’s Application: No One Knows If It’s Dead or Alive, No One Really Wants To Look Inside

British IT news outlet The Register looks at the myriad of challenges Apache OpenOffice faces today. From the report: Last year Brett Porter, then chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, contemplated whether a proposed official blog post on the state of Apache OpenOffice (AOO) might discourage people from downloading the software due to lack of activity in the project. No such post from the software's developers surfaced. The languid pace of development at AOO, though, has been an issue since 2011 after Oracle (then patron of the project) got into a fork-fight with The Document Foundation, which created LibreOffice from the OpenOffice codebase, and asked developers backing the split to resign. Back in 2015, Red Hat developer Christian Schaller called OpenOffice "all but dead." Assertions to that effect have continued since, alongside claims to the contrary. Almost a year ago, Jim Jagielski, a member of the Apache OpenOffice Project Management Committee, insisted things were going well and claimed there was renewed interest in the project. For all the concern about AOO, no issues have been raised recently before the Apache Foundation board to suggest ongoing difficulties. The project is due to provide an update this month, according to a spokesperson for the foundation.

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Microsoft Tackles ‘Horrifying’ Bing Search Results

Microsoft has "taken action" to change its Bing search engine after it was found to give "horrifying" results for some terms. From a report: Journalist Chris Hoffman discovered Bing suggested racist topics when he looked up words such as "Jews", "Muslims" and "black people". Bing also ranked widely debunked conspiracy theories among the top suggestions for other words. Mr Hoffman said Microsoft had to do better at moderating its search system. In his investigation, Mr Hoffman looked up racially-themed terms and found that the majority of suggestions for further searches that accompanied results pointed people to racist sites or images. Racist memes and images were also returned for many of the words he tried. "We all know this garbage exists on the web, but Bing shouldn't be leading people to it with their search suggestions," wrote Mr Hoffman. It is believed that the suggestions for further searches connected to these terms have emerged from a combination of user activity and concerted action by far-right groups to skew responses. [...] Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft, said: "We take matters of offensive content very seriously and continue to enhance our systems to identify and prevent such content from appearing as a suggested search. As soon as we become aware of an issue, we take action to address it."

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Huge Reduction in Meat-Eating ‘Essential’ To Avoid Climate Breakdown

Huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system's impact on the environment. From a report: In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses. The research [PDF] also finds that enormous changes to farming are needed to avoid destroying the planet's ability to feed the 10 billion people expected to be on the planet in a few decades. Food production already causes great damage to the environment, via greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution. But without action, its impact will get far worse as the world population rises by 2.3 billion people by 2050 and global income triples, enabling more people to eat meat-rich western diets.

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MindBody-Owned FitMetrix Exposed Millions of User Records — Thanks To Servers Without Passwords

An anonymous reader writes: FitMetrix, a fitness technology and performance tracking company owned by gym booking giant Mindbody, has exposed millions of user records because it left several of its servers without a password. The company builds fitness tracking software for gyms and group classes -- like CrossFit and SoulCycle -- that displays heart rate and other fitness metric information for interactive workouts. FitMetrix was acquired by gym and wellness scheduling service Mindbody earlier this year for $15.3 million, according to a government filing. Last week, a security researcher found three FitMetrix unprotected servers leaking customer data. It isn't known how long the servers had been exposed, but the servers were indexed by Shodan, a search engine for open ports and databases, in September. The servers included two of the same ElasticSearch instances and a storage server -- all hosted on Amazon Web Service -- yet none were protected by a password, allowing anyone who knew where to look to access the data on millions of users. Bob Diachenko, Hacken.io's director of cyber risk research, found the databases containing 113.5 million records -- though it's not known how many users were directly affected. Each record contained a user's name, gender, email address, phone numbers, profile photos, their primary workout location, emergency contacts and more. Many of the records were not fully complete.

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The Long, Long History of Long, Long CVS Receipts

Why is a receipt for cough drops the height of a small child? Rachel Sugar, writing for Vox: CVS is a drugstore much like other drugstores, with one important difference: The receipts are very long. How long are the receipts? For at least a decade, concerned shoppers have dedicated themselves to this question, producing a robust body of phone-picture literature on the subject. You could not major in CVS receipt studies, probably, but you could minor. Not all CVS receipts are created equal. If you, a non-loyal shopper, mosey into CVS and buy some Tylenol and a package of seasonal candy, you will get a receipt that is unspectacular (read: a normal length). To get one of the iconically long CVS receipts, you need to use your ExtraCare card, which means you need to be an ExtraCare member. (You can join as long as you are willing to turn over your name and phone number in exchange for better deals.) People on the internet have documented this phenomenon with a vigor usually reserved for cats climbing in and out of boxes. On Twitter and on Instagram, shoppers stand next to their CVS receipts, which are often as tall as they are, and sometimes taller.

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Crew of ‘Soyuz’ Spacecraft Establish Contact After Failed Launch

A Russian-American space crew have been forced to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan after their Soyuz rocket suffered a failure shortly after launching from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in one of the most serious space incidents in recent years. From a report: The launch began as a routine affair. Missions bound for the International Space Station (ISS) have been conducted every few months for the past 20 years. But 119 seconds into Thursday's flight, mission controllers on the Nasa broadcast began to speak of a failure. Shaky footage from the capsule's cabin seen during the live broadcast appeared to show objects floating mid-launch. The crew told mission control they felt weightless, an indication of a problem during that stage of the flight. Agitated voices flooding the radio link between mission control and the capsule could be heard on the Nasa broadcast. Details and the exact sequence of events remain unclear, but shortly afterwards the crew initiated an abort and ejected their capsule from the rocket. Judging by the time at which the failure took place, it involved separation of the rocket's second stage -- just before the ship would have ignited the third stage for its final kick to exit the atmosphere. A commentator on Nasa's live broadcast later said that rescue teams had reached the capsule's landing site and the two-person crew were in "good condition."

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Mozilla Challenges Educators To Integrate Ethics Into STEM

Today, Mozilla, along with Omidyar Network, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, is launching a competition for professors and educators to effectively integrate ethics into computer science education at the undergraduate level. From a report: The context, called the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, will award up to $3.5 million over the next two years to proposals focused on how to make ethics relevant to young technologists. "You can't take an ethics course from 50 or even 25 years ago and drop it in the middle of a computer science program and expect it to grab people or be particularly applicable," Mitchell Baker, the founder and chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation, said. "We are looking to encourage ways of teaching ethics that make sense in a computer science program, that make sense today, and that make sense in understanding questions of data."

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Apple Plans To Give Away Original Content For Free To Device Owners as Part of New Digital TV Strategy, Report Says

Apple is planning a new digital video service that will provide original content free to its device owners, CNBC reported Wednesday. From the report: Apple is preparing a new digital video service that will marry original content and subscription services from legacy media companies, according to people familiar with the matter. Owners of Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV will find the still-in-the-works service in the pre-installed "TV" application, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details of the project are private. The product will include Apple-owned content, which will be free to Apple device owners, and subscription "channels" which will allow customers to sign up for online-only services, such as those from HBO and Starz. Apple plans to debut the revamped app early next year, the people said. As Bloomberg reported in May, the subscription channels will essentially copy Amazon's Prime Video Channel Subscriptions. Customers will be able to access all of their content from within the TV app so they won't need to download individual apps from multiple media providers.

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State Attorneys Urge FCC To Combat Neighborhood Spoofing

Attorneys general from 35 states are urging the Federal Communications Commission to allow telephone companies to block illegally manipulated calls that appear to come from consumers' neighborhoods. From a report: The rule change could help reduce "spoofed" calls from numbers with the same area code as the consumer, or even calls from the consumer's own number. Combating junk marketing calls has been a top consumer protection priority for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The FCC last November adopted a set of robocall rules that allowed telephone companies to proactively block calls from invalid, unassigned or unused numbers. The agency then sought public comments on empowering telephone companies further. The attorneys general want to the FCC to create new rules specifically targeting neighborhood spoofing, they said in comments filed Oct. 9 with the agency.

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Apple Said To Have ‘Dramatically Reduced’ Multi-Billion-Dollar iPhone Repair Fraud in China

From a report: Within the past four years, Apple has managed to "dramatically reduce" the rate of iPhone-related repair fraud in its retail stores in China, according to The Information's Wayne Ma. The report is based on interviews with more than a dozen former Apple employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. In 2013, Apple is said to have discovered a highly sophisticated fraud scheme in which organized thieves would buy or steal iPhones, remove valuable components like the processor or logic board, swap in fake components, and return the "broken" iPhones to receive replacements they could resell. From the report: "Thieves would stand outside stores with suitcases full of iPhones with some of the original components stripped out and replaced with inferior parts, two of the people said. The fraudsters would hire people to pretend to be customers to return them, each taking a device to stand in line at the Genius Bar, the people said. Once the phones were swapped, the actors would pass the new phones to the fraudsters and get paid for their time, the people said."

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BBC Had To Replace Live Broadcasts With Recorded Material on its TV News Channels For an Hour Today Because of a Technical Glitch

The BBC had to replace live broadcasts with recorded material on its TV news channels for about an hour on Wednesday following a technical glitch. BBC News reports: The News at Six was also presented from the BBC's Millbank studio instead of its usual home of New Broadcasting House. The issue affected OpenMedia, a new computer system rolled out across BBC News outlets over the past six months. OpenMedia supplier Annova has been helping to investigate the fault. Engineers believe they have now addressed the problem. BBC News Home Editor Mark Easton shared on social media that he was rushing across London to the Millbank studio.

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More Than One Third of Music Consumers Still Pirate Music

More than one-third of global music listeners are still pirating music, according to a new report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). From a report: While the massive rise in legal streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal was thought to have stemmed illegal consumption, 38% of listeners continue to acquire music through illegal means. The most popular form of copyright infringement is stream-ripping (32%): using easily available software to record the audio from sites like YouTube at a low-quality bit rate. Downloads through "cyberlocker" file hosting services or P2P software like BitTorrent came second (23%), with acquisition via search engines in third place (17%).

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Amazon Patents New Alexa Feature That Knows When You’re ill and Offers To Sell You Medicine

Amazon has patented a new version of its virtual assistant Alexa which can automatically detect when you're ill and offer to sell you medicine. From a report: The proposed feature would analyse speech and identify other signs of illness or emotion. One example given in the patent is a woman coughing and sniffling while she speaks to her Amazon Echo device. Alexa first suggests some chicken soup to cure her cold, and then offers to order cough drops on Amazon. If Amazon were to introduce this technology, it could compete with a service planned by the NHS. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this year that the NHS was working on making information from its NHS Choices online service available through Alexa. Amazon's system, however, doesn't need to ask people whether they're ill -- it would just know automatically by analyzing their speech. Adverts for sore throat products could be automatically played to people who sound like they have a sore throat, Amazon's patent suggests.

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New App Lets You ‘Sue Anyone By Pressing a Button’

Jason Koebler writes: Do Not Pay, a free service that launched in the iOS App store today, uses artificial intelligence to help people win up to $25,000 in small claims court. It's the latest project from 21-year-old Stanford senior Joshua Browder, whose service previously allowed people to fight parking tickets or sue Equifax; now, the app has streamlined the process. It's the "first ever service to sue anyone (in all 3,000 counties in 50 states) by pressing a button."

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Microsoft Joins Open Invention Network (OIN), Will Grant a Royalty-Free and Unrestricted License To Its Entire Patent Portfolio To All Other OIN Members

Microsoft said Wednesday it had joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent consortium. As part of it, the company has essentially agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members. From the press release: By joining OIN, Microsoft is demonstrating its commitment to open source software (OSS) and innovation through collaborative development. With more than 2,650 members [Editor's note: the members include Google, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE], including numerous Fortune 500 enterprises, OIN is the largest patent non-aggression community in history and represents a core set of community values related to open source licensing, which has become the norm. "Open source development continues to expand into new products and markets to create unrivaled levels of innovation. Through its participation in OIN, Microsoft is explicitly acknowledging the importance of open source software to its future growth," said Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network. "Microsoft's participation in OIN adds to our strong community, which through its breadth and depth has reduced patent risk in core technologies, and unequivocally signals for all companies who are using OSS but have yet to join OIN that the litmus test for authentic behavior in the OSS community includes OIN participation." Erich Andersen, Corporate Vice President and Chief IP Counsel at Microsoft, said, "Microsoft sees open source as a key innovation engine, and for the past several years we have increased our involvement in, and contributions to, the open source community. We believe the protection OIN offers the open source community helps increase global contributions to and adoption of open source technologies. We are honored to stand with OIN as an active participant in its program to protect against patent aggression in core Linux and other important OSS technologies." Further reading: Why Microsoft may be relinquishing billions in Android patent royalties.

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Android Creator Is Building an AI Phone That Texts People for You, Report Says

Andy Rubin, the creator of Android operating system, is not giving up on his Essential company. The consumer electronics startup is putting most projects aside to focus on development of a new kind of phone that will try to mimic the user and automatically respond to messages on their behalf, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the plans. From the report: The company paused development of a planned home speaker, months after canceling a different smartphone that had been in the works, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Sales of an earlier phone were disappointing, and the company is abandoning the effort partly because the product is too similar to others on the market. Essential had considered selling itself this year after a series of setbacks. The design of the new mobile device isn't like a standard smartphone. It would have a small screen and require users to interact mainly using voice commands, in concert with Essential's artificial-intelligence software. The idea is for the product to book appointments or respond to emails and text messages on its own, according to the people familiar with the plans. Users would also be able to make phone calls from the planned device.

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Fully Self-Driving Cars May Hit US Roads in Pilot Program: NHTSA

Fully self-driving cars may be on the fast lane to U.S. roads under a pilot program the Trump administration said on Tuesday it was considering, which would allow real-world road testing for a limited number of the vehicles. Reuters: Self-driving cars used in the program would potentially need to have technology disabling the vehicle if a sensor fails or barring vehicles from traveling above safe speeds, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a document made public Tuesday. NHTSA said it was considering whether it would have to be notified of any accident within 24 hours and was seeking public input on what other data should be disclosed including near misses. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation in 2017 to speed the adoption of self-driving cars, but the Senate has not approved it. Several safety groups oppose the bill, which is backed by carmakers. It has only a slender chance of being approved in 2018, congressional aides said.

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Uber CEO: We’re Going After Groceries Next

Uber is digging deeper into the business of food. From a report: Uber's restaurant delivery business "Eats" hit $6 billion in bookings earlier this year, growing over 200%, quickly becoming a crown jewel for the ride-sharing company. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said given the success in the delivery of food, the next logical step is to enter the grocery space. "We will move into grocery. That's fundamental. A lot more people will be eating at home. Right now we are busy with Eats, but you can see grocery as an adjacent business. We're thinking about Uber much more as a platform," he said at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit 2018 on Tuesday.

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Google Launches Third-Gen Chromecast With 60fps Video, Multiroom Audio Support

Alongside the new Pixel smartphones, and the Pixel Slate laptop-tablet hybrid, Google on Tuesday also announced a new version of its Chromecast streaming adapter, the third generation of the company's streaming device, which supports playback video at higher frame rates and can also stream multiroom audio. From a report: The new device goes on sale Tuesday in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Sweden. Stateside, the new Chromecast once again costs $35 -- the same as its predecessor. [...] The bigger changes are on the inside: The new Chromecast is 15% faster than the previous model, which allows it to stream 1080p HD video with a rate of up to 60 frames per second (fps). "Everything becomes much smoother," said Google Home product manager Chris Chan during a recent interview with Variety. He specifically cited the growth of 60fps content on YouTube as one of the reasons Google added the new feature.

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At Least Two US Attorneys General Are Investigating Google+ Breach

At least two U.S. states are investigating a breach at Alphabet's Google that may have exposed private profile data of at least 500,000 users to hundreds of external developers. From a report: The investigation follows Google's announcement on Monday that it would shut down the consumer version of its social network Google+ and tighten its data-sharing policies after a "bug" potentially exposed user data that included names, email addresses, occupations, genders and ages. "We are aware of public reporting on this matter and are currently undertaking efforts to gain an understanding of the nature and cause of the intrusion, whether sensitive information was exposed, and what steps are being taken or called for to prevent similar intrusions in the future," Jaclyn Severance, a spokeswoman for Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, told Reuters in an email. The New York Attorney General's office also said it was looking into the breach.

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German Art Activists Get Passport Using Digitally Altered Photo of Two Women Merged Together

An anonymous reader shares a report: Last month, an activist from the German art collective Peng! walked into her local government office in Berlin and applied for a new passport. "I probably have broken the law," the woman, a chemist living in the Western Saxony region, told Motherboard, "but our lawyers don't know which one." The woman applied for a passport using a photo of two separate people. Using specialized software created by Peng!, the collective merged the facial vectors from two different faces from two different images into one. Billie Hoffman (a pseudonym used by everyone in the Peng! Collective when talking to journalists), she told me how easy the whole process was: "Officials didn't mention fraud at any point." Hoffman's passport application was approved, and now she has an official German passport using the digitally altered photo. The photo is half her, half Federica Mogherini, an Italian politician who is the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. "The software calculated an authentic average of the faces and that's it," Hoffmann recalls. Hoffman's passport is part of an artwork called "Mask ID," a campaign that's encouraging ordinary citizens to "flood government databases with misinformation" and disrupt mass surveillance programs. Ironically, the project is funded by the Bundeskulturstiftung, the German Federal cultural fund, part one was recently on show in Hamburg accompanied by a photo booth where anyone could upload their image and create their own distorted passport picture in an attempt to confuse government surveillance and circumnavigate facial recognition software. "Passports are tools of oppression" another member of the collective who declined to give me their real name told me.

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21% of Large Employers Collect Health Information From Employees’ Mobile Apps or Wearable Devices, Report Says

An anonymous reader writes: The Kaiser Family Foundation's annual review of employer-based insurance shows that 21% of large employers collect health information from employees' mobile apps or wearable devices, as part of their wellness programs -- up from 14% last year. Wellness programs are voluntary, and so is contributing your health information to them. But among companies that offer a wellness program, just 9% of employers (including 35% of large employers) offer workers an incentive to participate.

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New Evidence of Hacked Supermicro Hardware Found in US Telecom: Bloomberg

A major U.S. telecommunications company discovered manipulated hardware from Super Micro Computer in its network and removed it in August, fresh evidence of tampering in China of critical technology components bound for the U.S., Bloomberg reported Tuesday. From the report: The security expert, Yossi Appleboum, provided documents, analysis and other evidence of the discovery following the publication of an investigative report in Bloomberg Businessweek that detailed how China's intelligence services had ordered subcontractors to plant malicious chips in Supermicro server motherboards over a two-year period ending in 2015. Appleboum previously worked in the technology unit of the Israeli Army Intelligence Corps and is now co-chief executive officer of Sepio Systems in Gaithersburg, Maryland. His firm specializes in hardware security and was hired to scan several large data centers belonging to the telecommunications company. Bloomberg is not identifying the company due to Appleboum's nondisclosure agreement with the client. Unusual communications from a Supermicro server and a subsequent physical inspection revealed an implant built into the server's Ethernet connector, a component that's used to attach network cables to the computer, Appleboum said.

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Google Unveils Pixel Slate, Its First Laptop-Tablet Hybrid in Three Years

In addition to announcing new flagship phones today, Google took the wraps off a new premium tablet called the Pixel Slate. It's a Chrome OS-powered slate with a 12.3-inch display that's supposed to be the sharpest in its class. Google claims this isn't just a laptop pretending to be a tablet or a phone pretending to be a computer. From a report: It has a resolution of 3,000 x 2,000 -- i.e., a pixel density of 293 ppi, which Google says is the highest for a premium 12-inch tablet. For reference, the Surface Pro 6 and iPad Pro (12.9 inch) come in at 267 ppi and 264 ppi, respectively. Google was able to make the screen so sharp because of an energy-efficient LCD technology called Low Temperature PolySilicon (LTPS), which let the company pack in more pixels without sacrificing size or battery. In fact, the Pixel Slate is supposed to last up to 12 hours on a charge, which is impressive for its skinny 7mm profile. [...] What stands out about the Pixel Slate is the version of Chrome OS it runs. When docked to a mouse or a keyboard accessory with a trackpad, it runs the regular desktop interface most people are familiar with by now. Disconnect peripherals, though, and it switches automatically to tablet mode, which is optimized for touch. In this profile, the home screen features icons for installed apps, much like the app drawer on Android phones. You can split the screen between up to two apps or drag and drop browser tabs to place them side by side. The Pixel Slate will be available with an Intel Celeron or Core M3, i5 or i7 processor, and 4GB to 16GB of RAM at a starting price of $599. The keyboard will cost an additional $200, should you wish to buy one, and the pen accessory will similarly cost $99.

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Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL Announced With Bigger Screens and Best Cameras Yet

Google on Tuesday unveiled the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, its latest flagship Android smartphones. "For life on the go, we designed the world's best camera and put it in the world's most helpful phone," said Google's hardware chief Rick Osterloh. From a report: The Pixel 3 starts at $799 for 64GB, with the 3 XL costing $899. Add $100 to either for the 128GB storage option. Core specs for both include a Snapdragon 845, 4GB RAM (there's no option for more), Bluetooth 5.0, and front-facing stereo speakers. Also inside is a new Titan M security chip, which Google says provides "on-device protection for login credentials, disk encryption, app data, and the integrity of the operating system." Preorders for both phones begin today, and buyers will get six months of free YouTube Music service. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL both feature larger screens than last year's models thanks to slimmed down bezels -- and the controversial notch in the case of the bigger phone. The 3 XL has a 6.3-inch display (up from six inches on the 2 XL), while the regular 3 has a 5.5-inch screen (up from five inches). Overall, though, the actual phones are very similar in size and handling to their direct predecessors. Google has stuck with a single rear 12.2-megapixel camera on both phones, continuing to resist the dual-camera industry trend. But it's a different story up front. Both the Pixel 3 and 3 XL have two front-facing cameras; one of them offers a wider field of view for getting more people or a greater sense of your surroundings into a selfie. [...] A new Top Shot option will select the best image from a burst series of shots. Like Samsung's Galaxy Note 9, it will weed out pictures that are blurry or snaps where someone blinked. Super Res Zoom uses multiple frames and AI to deliver a sharper final photo even without optical zoom. There's another interesting feature on the new Pixel handsets: To help you avoid calls from scammers, Google is adding Call Screen to the Pixel, a new option that appears when you receive a phone call. Whenever someone calls you, you can tap a "Screen call" button, and a robot voice will pick up. "The person you're calling is using a screening service, and will get a copy of this conversation. Go ahead and say your name, and why you're calling," the Google bot will say. As the caller responds, the digital assistant will transcribe the caller's message for you. If you need more information, you can use one of the feature's canned responses, which include, "Tell me more," and "Who is this?" There is an accept and reject call button that's on-screen, so you can hang up or take the call at any time.

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Physics Holds the Key To Performing the Flipping Water Bottle Trick

An anonymous reader shares a report: Think of how ice skaters extend their arms and legs to slow down rotation coming out of jumps or spins. It's the same principle: conservation of angular momentum. Once the bottle is set in motion, its angular momentum remains constant. But shifting how the mass inside (the water) is distributed increases the bottle's rotational inertia (how much force is required to start or keep it moving). This slows down the bottle's rotational speed. Physicists from the University of Twente in the Netherlands decided to analyze the underlying physics [of flipping a half-full bottle of water so it lands upright] more thoroughly in a series of rigorous experiments and develop a theoretical model. For the first version of the experiment, they used a partially filled water bottle. For the second version, they reduced the variables from the large number of water molecules in the bottle to just two tennis balls in a cylindrical container. In both cases, their measurements clearly showed the dramatic decrease of the container's rotational speed, resulting in a nearly vertical descent, so the bottle landed neatly and upright. Tracking the sloshing of the liquid and the changing positions of the tennis balls demonstrated the redistribution of mass, shifting the moment of inertia.

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Sony Says PlayStation 4 Successor is Coming, But Doesn’t Call it PS5 Yet

Sony's president has confirmed that the company is working on the next PlayStation, but stopped short of calling it "PlayStation 5." From a report: "At this point, what I can say is it's necessary to have a next-generation hardware," Kenichiro Yoshida told the Financial Times on Monday. He didn't give a sense of the form the next PlayStation might take, but FT sources suggested that it wouldn't be a major departure from the PS4 and that its fundamental architecture would be pretty similar. The report suggests Sony isn't quite ready to jump from consoles to cloud-based gaming, even as direct competitors such as Microsoft and potential ones like Google reveal game streaming services.

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Commissioning Misleading Core i9-9900K Benchmarks

On Monday, Intel unveiled the 9th Gen Core i9-9900K, which will rival AMD's Ryzen 2700X when it goes on sale in two weeks. We will soon be reading reviews of the 9th Gen Core i9-9900K, which Intel claims is the "world's best gaming processor," to see how exactly it fares against its AMD counterpart. But as reviewers test the new CPU and comply with an NDA/embargo (non-disclosure agreement) with Intel, which requires them to not share performance data of Intel's new CPU for another few days, surprisingly, one publication has already made a bold claim. In a story published this week, news outlet PCGamesN said, "Intel's Core i9 9900K is up to 50% faster than AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X in games." The publication cites data from an Intel-commissioned report [PDF] by third-party firm Principle Technologies to make the claim. TechSpot explains the issues with this: So Intel can go and publish their own "testing" done suspiciously through a third party ten days before reviews, while reviewers are prohibited from refuting the claims due to the NDA. First bad sign. Scrolling down PCGamesN says the following when looking over Intel's commissioned benchmarks. "But the real point of all this is for Intel to be able to hold out the 9900K as hands down the best gaming processor compared with the AMD competition, and in that it seems to have excelled. On some games, such as Civ 6 and PUBG, the performance delta isn't necessarily that great, but for the most part you're looking at between 30 and 50% higher frame rates from the 9900K versus the 2700X." Right away many of the results looked very suspect to me, having spent countless hours benchmarking both the 2700X and 8700K, I have a good idea of how they compare in a wide range of titles and these results looked very off. Having spotted a few dodgy looking results my next thought was, why is PCGamesN publishing this misleading data and why aren't they not tearing the paid benchmark report apart? Do they simply not know better? Over at the Principled Technologies website you can find the full report which states how they tested and the hardware used. Official memory speeds were used which isn't a particularly big deal, though they have gone out of their way to handicap Ryzen, or at the very least expose its weaknesses. Ryzen doesn't perform that well with fully populated memory DIMMs, two modules is optimal. However timings are also important and they used Corsair Vengeance memory without loading the extreme memory profile or XMP setting, instead they just set the memory frequency to 2933 and left the ridiculously loose default memory timings in place. These loose timings ensure compatibility so systems will boot up, but after that point you need to enable the memory profile. It's misleading to conduct benchmarks without executing this crucial step.

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Body Camera Maker Will Let Cops Live-Stream Their Encounters

tedlistens writes: Police officers wearing new cameras by Axon, the U.S.'s largest body camera supplier, will soon be able to send live video from their cameras back to base and elsewhere, potentially expanding police surveillance. Another feature of the new device -- set to be released next year -- triggers the camera to start recording and alerts command staff once an officer has fired their weapon, a possible corrective to the problem of officers forgetting to switch them on. (The initial price of $699 doesn't include other costs, like a subscription to Axon's Evidence.com data management system.) But adding new technologies to body camera video introduces new privacy concerns, say legal experts, who have cautioned that a network of live-streaming cameras risks turning officers into roving sentinels for a giant panopticon-like surveillance system. Harlan Yu, the executive director of Upturn, a Washington nonprofit consultancy that has studied body cameras, says that live-streaming could erode community trust and help enable more controversial technologies like real-time face recognition. "The capability to live stream all BWC footage back to a department- or precinct-wide command center... will further entrench body-worn cameras as tools for police surveillance of communities, rather than tools for transparency," he said.

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IBM Pushes Beyond 7 Nanometers, Uses Graphene To Place Nanomaterials on Wafers

An anonymous reader shares a report: Four years ago, IBM announced that it was investing $3 billion over the next five years into the future of nanoelectronics with a broad project it dubbed "7nm and Beyond." With at least one major chipmaker, GlobalFoundries, hitting the wall at the 7-nm node, IBM is forging ahead, using graphene to deposit nanomaterials in predefined locations without chemical contamination. In research described in the journal Nature Communications, the IBM researchers for the first time electrified graphene so that it helps to deposit nanomaterials with 97% accuracy. "As this method works for a wide variety of nanomaterials, we envision integrated devices with functionalities that represent the unique physical properties of the nanomaterial," said Mathias Steiner, manager at IBM Research-Brazil. "We also can envision on-chip light detectors and emitters operating within a distinct wavelength range determined by the optical properties of the nanomaterial." As an example, Steiner explained that if you wanted to modify the spectral performance of an optoelectronic device, you could simply replace the nanomaterial while keeping the manufacturing process flow the same. If you take the method one step further, you could assemble different nanomaterials in different places doing multiple passes of assembly to create on-chip light detectors operating in different detection windows at the same time.

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Hubble Telescope Hit By Mechanical Failure

The Hubble Space Telescope is operating with only essential functions after it lost one of the gyroscopes needed to point the spacecraft. From a report: The observatory, described as one of the most important scientific instruments ever created, was placed in "safe mode" over the weekend, while scientists try to fix the problem. Hubble had been operating with four of its six gyroscopes when one of them failed on Friday. The telescope was launched in 1990. After the gyro failure at the weekend, controllers tried to switch on a different one, but that was found to be malfunctioning. That leaves Hubble with only two fully functional gyros. At any given time, Hubble needs three of its gyroscopes to work for optimal efficiency.

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London’s Radio Pirates Changed Music. Then Came the Internet.

Earlier this month, The New York Times ran a story which looks at the ways a network of illegal radio stations changed British music, and wonders where young people are going to make culture now, now that the internet is killing off the pirate radio. An excerpt from the story: Ofcom, the British communications regulator, estimated there are now just 50 pirate stations in London, down from about 100 a decade ago, and hundreds in the 1990s, when stations were constantly starting up and shutting down. Ofcom considers this good news, because illegal broadcasters could interfere with radio frequencies used by emergency services and air traffic control, a spokesman said. But pirate radio stations also offered public services, of a different sort: They gave immigrant communities programming in their native languages, ran charity drives and created the first radio specifically for black Britons. Pirate radio was also the site of some of Britain's most important musical innovations, introducing pop to the airwaves in the 1960s and incubating the major underground British music trends of recent decades, up to and including dubstep and grime: Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Skepta all launched their careers on the pirates.

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Previously Hidden Text on a 500-Year-Old Map Reveals New Clues About the Cartographer’s Sources and Its Influences on Important Maps That Came Later

Greg Miller, writing for National Geographic: This 1491 map is the best surviving map of the world as Christopher Columbus knew it as he made his first voyage across the Atlantic. In fact, Columbus likely used a copy of it in planning his journey. The map, created by the German cartographer Henricus Martellus, was originally covered with dozens of legends and bits of descriptive text, all in Latin. Most of it has faded over the centuries. But now researchers have used modern technology to uncover much of this previously illegible text. In the process, they've discovered new clues about the sources Martellus used to make his map and confirmed the huge influence it had on later maps, including a famous 1507 map by Martin Waldseemuller that was the first to use the name "America."

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Chinese Police Get Power To Inspect ISPs

China has issued a new regulation setting out wide-ranging police powers to inspect internet service providers and users, as the government tightens its grip on the country's heavily restricted cyberspace. Local media reports: Under the new rule, effective from November 1, central and local public security authorities can enter the premises of all companies and entities that provide internet services and look up and copy information considered relevant to cybersecurity. The regulation was issued by the Ministry of Public Security last month and released on its website on Sunday. It comes more than a year after a controversial cybersecurity law was introduced that has caused widespread concern among foreign companies operating in China. Despite its broad scope, the legislation gives few details about implementation, making it all the more difficult for companies trying to avoid its repercussions. Analysts said the new regulation sheds some light on how the law will be implemented. "That's obviously how Chinese laws go. First there is a big concept, then there is a sweeping law, and then implementing regulations will come in to flesh out the details," said William Nee, a China expert with Amnesty International.

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Network Middleware Still Can’t Handle TLS Without Breaking Encryption

An academic study published last month shows that despite years worth of research into the woeful state of network traffic inspection equipment, vendors are still having issues in shipping appliances that don't irrevocably break TLS encryption for the end user. From a report: Encrypted traffic inspection devices (also known as middleware), either special hardware or sophisticated software, have been used in enterprise networks for more than two decades. System administrators deploy such appliances to create a man-in-the-middle TLS proxy that can look inside HTTPS encrypted traffic, to scan for malware or phishing links or to comply with law enforcement or national security requirements. [...] In the last decade, security researchers have looked closely at the issue of TLS inspection appliances that break or downgrade encryption. There has been much research on the topic, from research teams from all over the world. But despite years worth of warnings and research, some vendors still fail at keeping the proper security level of a TLS connection when relaying traffic through their equipment/software. Academic research [PDF] published at the end of September by three researchers from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, shows that network traffic inspection appliances still break TLS security, even today.

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Google Exposed Private Data of Hundreds of Thousands of Google+ Users and Then Opted Not To Disclose, Report Says

Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring, in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage, WSJ reported Monday, citing people briefed on the incident and documents. From the report: As part of its response to the incident, the Alphabet unit plans to announce a sweeping set of data privacy measures that include permanently shutting down all consumer functionality of Google+, the people said. The move effectively puts the final nail in the coffin of a product that was launched in 2011 to challenge Facebook and is widely seen as one of Google's biggest failures. A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source] when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google's legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger "immediate regulatory interest" and invite comparisons to Facebook's leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica. Update: In an announcement Monday, Google said it was shutting down Google+ for consumers: We are shutting down Google+ for consumers. Over the years we've received feedback that people want to better understand how to control the data they choose to share with apps on Google+. So as part of Project Strobe, one of our first priorities was to closely review all the APIs associated with Google+. This review crystallized what we've known for a while: that while our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds. Google+ still receives north of 200 million page views every month on the web, according to SimilarWeb, a third-party web analytics firm.

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Intel Debuts 9th-Gen Core Chips, Including Core i9 and X-Series Parts, With a Few Twists

Intel unveiled its 9th-generation Core desktop chips, with the notable omission of a key feature: Hyper-Threading, at least on all but the most exclusive Core i9-9900K for mainstream PCs. Hyper-Threading has also been reserved for a new iteration of Intel's X-series processors, which includes up to 18 cores and 36 threads. From a report: In a livestream Monday morning from its Fall Launch Event in New York, the company announced just a single Core i9 chip, the $488 Core i9-9900K. Later, the company privately revealed two others in the Core i7 and Core i5 families. Intel also announced a new series of X-class chips, ranging from 8 cores and 16 threads through 18 cores and 36 threads. Prices will range from $589 to $1,979. It's certainly fair to say that Intel surprised us all with the unexpected shift of its upcoming 28-core chip to the Xeon family, as well as the announcement of the X-series chips, too. And what's the deal with hyperthreading? Intel's announcement certainly adds some new topics to talk about in the months ahead. Part of the confusion was due to what Intel was expected to announce: a family of new 9th-gen chips, from Core i3s up through the Core i9, and how it did so. On the publicly available livestream, the company revealed only the presence of the Core i9-9900K, as well as the presence of the new X-series parts. Later, after the livestream had concluded, Intel fleshed out the remaining members of the K-series parts, and disclosed the price and performance of the X-series parts. However, Intel didn't even mention what many enthusiasts wanted to know: why only the i9-9900K, out of all of Intel's mainstream parts, boasts the Hyper-Threading feature. Further reading: Intel claims best gaming processor with 9th Gen Core unveiling.

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Sunglasses That Block All the Screens Around You

Scott Blew, an entrepreneur and engineer, recalled an article he'd recently read in WIRED about a new kind of film that blocked the light emitted from screens. He wondered if the same technology might work on a pair of glasses, to block the screens that seemed to be everywhere. From a report: He contacted Steelcase, the company that made the Casper screen-blocking film, and ordered a sample. Then he popped out the lenses in a pair of cheap sunglasses and replaced them with the film. Amazingly, it worked: Blew could look through the lenses and see everything -- except for screens, which turned black. Now, Blew and a small team are turning that concept into a real product. Their IRL Glasses, which launched on Kickstarter this week, block the wavelengths of light that comes from LED and LCD screens. Put them on and the TV in the sports bar seems to switch off; billboards blinking ahead seem to go blank. Within three days of launch, the project had surpassed its funding goal of $25,000.

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Tech Workers Now Want to Know: What Are We Building This For?

Across the technology industry, rank-and-file employees are demanding greater insight into how their companies are deploying the technology that they built. An anonymous reader shares a report: At Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, as well as at tech start-ups, engineers and technologists are increasingly asking whether the products they are working on are being used for surveillance in places like China or for military projects in the United States or elsewhere. That's a change from the past, when Silicon Valley workers typically developed products with little questioning about the social costs. It is also a sign of how some tech companies, which grew by serving consumers and businesses, are expanding more into government work. And the shift coincides with concerns in Silicon Valley about the Trump administration's policies and the larger role of technology in government. "You can think you're building technology for one purpose, and then you find out it's really twisted," said Laura Nolan, 38, a senior software engineer who resigned from Google in June over the company's involvement in Project Maven, an effort to build artificial intelligence for the Department of Defense that could be used to target drone strikes. All of this has led to growing tensions between tech employees and managers. In recent months, workers at Google, Microsoft and Amazon have signed petitions and protested to executives over how some of the technology they helped create is being used. At smaller companies, engineers have begun asking more questions about ethics.

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Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal+ Smart Speakers With Video Calling Feature

Facebook on Monday unveiled a pair of smart speakers, complete with cameras and microphones, for your home. From a report: The devices, Portal and Portal+, directly challenge Amazon, Google and Apple in the fast-growing smart-speaker market with a unique approach that will emphasize video calling. It's Facebook's first hardware product outside the Oculus line of virtual-reality devices. To start a video call, users can say "Hey Portal, call ..." followed by the name of a connection on Facebook's Messenger service. These calls include entertaining augmented-reality features that can outfit users with cat hats or turn their living rooms into animated night clubs. Another feature is Smart Camera, which uses artificial intelligence and the devices' cameras to perfectly frame users on video as they move around while on a call. [...] Besides video calls, the Portal devices can stream music from Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music and video from Facebook Watch. Not included at launch are services like Apple Music, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu or HBO Now. The devices come equipped with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant and the many skills available on that service, allowing them to ask questions like "What's the weather?" or "How are my teams doing?" [...] The company is taking preorders for the devices now and will begin shipping them early next month. The Portal, which features a 10-inch screen, is available for $199 while the Portal+, which has a long, 15.6-inch screen, is priced at $349. WashingtonPost reports that the device follows the person in their house: What's unique about Facebook's device is the tech it uses to make the video calls look good. Think of it as a personal cinematographer: A 12-megapixel camera -- equivalent to most phones -- identifies the shape of people within its 140-degree field of view and pans and zooms to make sure they're all always in the frame. You can wander around the room, do chores, Jazzercise, play with the kids or whatever. (Or, if you want, you can tap on the face of one person and the Portal camera will track just them.)

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Some Apple Watch Series 4 Models Are Frequently Crashing and Rebooting Due to a Daylight Saving Time Bug

Some Apple Watch Series 4 owners in Australia experienced crashes and reboots on Saturday due to a bug that surfaced because of the daylight saving time change. From a report: According to Reddit users hit by the Apple Watch bug, the root of the problem appears to be the Infograph Modular face's Activity complication, which displays a timeline graph with hourly data for the user's Move calories, Exercise minutes, and Stand hours. When daylight saving time (DST) lops an hour off the typical 24-hour day, the Activity complication is apparently unable to compute the change and draw the timeline graph with only 23 hours, which throws the Apple Watch into an endless reboot loop until the battery runs out.

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Microsoft Pulls Windows 10 October Update

Amid reports of users facing a number of issues after updating their computers to Windows 10 October 2018 Update, Microsoft said Saturday it was pausing the rollout of the latest version of its Windows 10 desktop operating system. ZDNet: In a support document updated today, October 6, the Redmond-based OS maker said it took this decision after users complained that v1809 had deleted files after the update. We have paused the rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (version 1809) for all users as we investigate isolated reports of users missing some files after updating. Microsoft employs a gradual rollout scheme, and not all Windows 10 users have received its latest bi-annual OS update. The October 2018 Update is no longer available for download, and Microsoft urges users who manually downloaded a Windows 10 installation package to wait until new installation media is available. "We will provide an update when we resume rolling out the Windows 10 October 2018 Update to customers," Microsoft said.

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Researchers Created ‘Quantum Artificial Life’ For the First Time

From a report: For the first time, an international team of researchers has used a quantum computer to create artificial life -- a simulation of living organisms that scientists can use to understand life at the level of whole populations all the way down to cellular interactions. With the quantum computer, individual living organisms represented at a microscopic level with superconducting qubits were made to "mate," interact with their environment, and "die" to model some of the major factors that influence evolution. The new research, published in Scientific Reports on Thursday, is a breakthrough that may eventually help answer the question of whether the origin of life can be explained by quantum mechanics, a theory of physics that describes the universe in terms of the interactions between subatomic particles. Modeling quantum artificial life is a new approach to one of the most vexing questions in science: How does life emerge from inert matter, such as the "primordial soup" of organic molecules that once existed on Earth?

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Ask Slashdot: Which Motherboard Manufacturer Provides the Best Support?

New submitter Hrrrg writes: A number of years ago, I built a computer with an Asus LGA 1150 Z87-Pro motherboard. Since the discovery of the Spectre and Meltdown CPU flaws, I was hoping for a BIOS update to address them. However, it seems that there will be no BIOS update forthcoming for this 5 year old motherboard. I would prefer not to repeat my mistake with future builds. Can you recommend another manufacturer that is doing better?

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The First Rule of Microsoft Excel — Don’t Tell Anyone You’re Good at It

An anonymous reader shares a report: When Anand Kalelkar started a new job at a large insurance company, colleagues flooded him with instant messages and emails and rushed to introduce themselves in the cafeteria. He soon learned his newfound popularity came with strings attached. Strings of code. Many of Mr. Kalelkar's co-workers had heard he was a wizard at Microsoft Excel and were seeking his help in taming unruly spreadsheets and pivot tables gone wrong. [...] Excel buffs are looking to lower their profiles. Since its introduction in 1985 by Microsoft Corp., the spreadsheet program has grown to hundreds of millions of users world-wide. It has simplified countless office tasks once done by hand or by rudimentary computer programs, streamlining the work of anyone needing to balance a budget, draw a graph or crunch company earnings. Advanced users can perform such feats as tracking the expenditures of thousands of employees. At the same time, it has complicated the lives of the office Excel Guy or Gal, the virtuosos whose superior skills at writing formula leave them fighting an endless battle against the circular references, merged cells and mangled macros left behind by their less savvy peers. "If someone tells you that they âjust have a few Excel sheets' that they want help with, run the other way," tweeted 32-year-old statistician Andrew Althouse. "Also, you may want to give them a fake phone number, possibly a fake name. It may be worth faking your own death, in extreme circumstances." The few Excel sheets in question, during one recent encounter, turned out to have 400 columns each, replete with mismatched terms and other coding no-nos, said Mr. Althouse, who works at the University of Pittsburgh. The project took weeks to straighten out.

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China’s Tencent Employs Facial Recognition To Detect Minors in Top-Grossing Mobile Game

AmiMoJo shares a report: Tencent Holdings, the world's top-grossing games publisher, will use facial recognition technology to detect minors amid tighter scrutiny by the Chinese government over concerns excessive video gaming is hurting public health. Tencent's blockbuster mobile title, Honour of Kings, will be the first to test the technology, with some 1,000 new users in Beijing and Shenzhen selected to verify their identities through camera checks, the company said in a statement. In mid-September, Tencent found that almost half of the 600 game-playing minors and their parents who took part in its survey doubted facial-recognition checks in games, according to the statement. Tencent said it hoped to see how to use facial recognition and unearth problems through the scheme.

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California Bans Default Passwords on Any Internet-Connected Device

In less than two years, anything that can connect to the internet will come with a unique password -- that is, if it's produced or sold in California. From a report: The "Information Privacy: Connected Devices" bill that comes into effect on January 1, 2020, effectively bans pre-installed and hard-coded default passwords. It only took the authorities about two weeks to approve the proposal made by the state senate. The new regulation mandates device manufacturers to either create a unique password for each device at the time of production or require the user to create one when they interact with the device for the first time. According to the bill, it applies to any connected device, which is defined as a "physical object that is capable of connecting to the Internet, directly or indirectly, and that is assigned an Internet Protocol address or Bluetooth address."

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Firefox To Support Google’s WebP Image Format For a Faster Web

Firefox has joined Google's WebP party, another endorsement for the internet giant's effort to speed up the web with a better image format. From a report: Google revealed WebP eight years ago and since then has built it into its Chrome web browser, Android phone software and many of its online properties in an effort to put websites on a diet and cut network data usage. But Google had trouble encouraging rival browser makers to embrace it. Mozilla initially rejected WebP as not offering enough of an improvement over more widely used image formats, JPEG and PNG. It seriously evaluated WebP but chose to try to squeeze more out of JPEG. But now Mozilla -- like Microsoft with its Edge browser earlier this week -- has had a change of heart. "Mozilla is moving forward with implementing support for WebP," the nonprofit organization said. WebP will work in versions of Firefox based on its Gecko browser engine, Firefox for personal computers and Android but not for iOS.

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A Look at Facebook’s Use of Systemd

At an event this month (you can find the video of it here), Davide Cavalca, a production engineer at Facebook, spoke about the growing adoption of systemd at the data centers of the company. From a report: Facebook continues making use of systemd's many features inside their data centers. Some of their highlights for systemd use in 2018 includes: Facebook's servers have been relying on systemd for about the past two years. Facebook is using CentOS 7 everywhere from hosts to containers. While relying on CentOS 7, Facebook backports a lot of packages including new systemd releases, Meson, other dependencies, and of course new Linux kernel releases. Facebook is working on "pystemd" as a Python (Cython) wrapper on top of SD-BUS.

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Secret Amazon Brands Are Quietly Taking Over Amazon.com

An anonymous reader shares a report: Arabella. Lark & Roe. Mae. NuPro. Small Parts. You might not know it from their names, but these brands all belong to Amazon. Amazon's private label business is booming, on pace to generate $7.5 billion this year and $25 billion by 2022, according to estimates from investment firm SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. To accelerate that growth, the company is inviting manufacturers to create products exclusively for its collection of private brands. The "Amazon Accelerator Program" is hiring a senior product manager for private brands, CNBC reported. The job listing invites applicants to "invent and Think Big to take an idea from concept to reality for Amazon customers." Duties include managing and planning inventory, identifying business opportunities, and working across a wide swath of Amazon divisions, including consumables, Prime Pantry, Prime Fresh, Prime Now, and Amazon Go. Another job listing spotted by CNBC, for a private brands program leader, notes that the "Private Brands team is rapidly expanding and is looking for an exceptional product leader to grow the business." Brands created through the accelerator will be exclusive to Amazon, but not owned by it, the company said. Further reading: Amazon is Stuffing Its Search Results Pages With Ads.

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The Software Side of China’s Supply Chain Attack

Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a story on Thursday which claimed that data center equipments run by Amazon Web Services and Apple were subject to surveillance from the Chinese government via a tiny microchip inserted during the equipment manufacturing process. Both Amazon and Apple have vehemently refuted Bloomberg's reporting. Bloomberg's reporters, who have spent more than a year on the story and have cited 17 sources for the claims they make in it, have doubled down. In a new story, the news outlet reports that Supermicro was the target of at least two additional forms of attack. This report claims that Facebook was aware of these attacks, too, which has confirmed it. From the story: The first of the other two prongs involved a Supermicro online portal that customers used to get critical software updates, and that was breached by China-based attackers in 2015. The problem, which was never made public, was identified after at least two Supermicro customers downloaded firmware -- software installed in hardware components -- meant to update their motherboards' network cards, key components that control communications between servers running in a data center. The code had been altered, allowing the attackers to secretly take over a server's communications, according to samples passed around at the time among a small group of Supermicro customers. One of these customers was Facebook. "In 2015, we were made aware of malicious manipulation of software related to Supermicro hardware from industry partners through our threat intelligence industry sharing programs," Facebook said in an emailed statement. "While Facebook has purchased a limited number of Supermicro hardware for testing purposes confined to our labs, our investigations reveal that it has not been used in production, and we are in the process of removing them." The victims considered the faulty code a serious breach. Further reading: Bloomberg's spy chip story reveals the murky world of national security reporting.

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Windows 10 October 2018 Update is Deleting User Data For Many

New submitter CaptainPhoton writes: I updated my test PC using the Windows 10 October Update (1809). That seemed safe enough, so I proceeded to upgrade my production PC. I just encountered an issue where everything in the Documents folder was deleted, even though I had clicked the option to keep my files. Everything else in my user profile remains intact. I am curious, how widespread is this issue? Has anyone else here encountered this issue? Some articles are starting to crop up acknowledging this failure. Citing complaints from several users, Windows Central reports: Sometimes, when you perform an upgrade to a new version of Windows 10, the setup may move the user files to the previous installation backup located inside the "Windows.old" folder. However, according to those users experiencing sudden data loss, they looked everywhere, and their personal files are nowhere to be found.

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Facebook Employees Outraged Over Exec’s Appearance at Kavanaugh Hearing

An anonymous reader writes: Hundreds of Facebook employees have reportedly expressed anger that an executive attended Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh's public hearing last week to support him, The Wall Street Journal reports. Joel Kaplan, Facebook's head of global policy, was at Kavanaugh's hearing because he is reportedly close friends with the Supreme Court Justice nominee. Outraged employees reportedly brought his appearance up during an internal question-and-answer session with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and have been expressing their concerns in internal discussion threads. On Friday, Zuckerberg said that "he wouldn't have made the same decision but the appearance didn't violate Facebook policies," the Journal reports.

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Robot Pioneer Rethink Shuts Down

Rethink Robotics led the way in building robots that could work safely alongside humans. But when it came to selling those robots, Boston-based Rethink came up second best. On Wednesday, without warning, Rethink shut its doors, after a deal to acquire the company fell through. From a report: "We thought that we had a deal that we were going to be able to close," said Rethink chief executive Scott Eckert. But the buyer backed out. Eckert declined to identify the company that had broken off the acquisition. Eckert said Rethink ran low on cash as sales of the company's Baxter and Sawyer robots fell short of expectations. "We got out a little early with a very, very innovative product, and unfortunately did not get the commercial success that we expected to get," he said. Rethink was a pioneer in developing collaborative robots, or "cobots," which are designed to work side-by-side with humans. Their software makes them easy to program, even by workers with no training in robotics, and they come with sensors and software to prevent them from accidentally harming nearby humans.

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Evidence is Mounting That a World the Size of Neptune Could be Orbiting a Giant Planet Far, Far Away

About 8,000 light-years away, a giant planet circles an aging star, marching once around its sun in a single Earth-year. But that planet, called Kepler 1625b, might not be traveling completely alone. From a report: Scientists now suspect the planet's skies are filled by an orbiting mega-moon, a stunningly large world the size of Neptune that may be the first moon spotted outside our solar system. Early hints of its existence surfaced in July 2017, when scientists tentatively announced that they'd found some evidence of an orbital companion for Kepler 1625b. But it wasn't until the Hubble Space Telescope aimed its eye at the faraway star a year ago that scientists were able to gather enough data to build the case for the so-called exomoon's presence. Now, the two scientists behind the discovery are hoping for independent confirmation of their finding to really shore up the extraordinary claim. "I'm confident that we've done a thorough job vetting this thing, but I also anticipate there will be things other folks come up with that we might not have considered," says Columbia University's Alex Teachey, who reports the purported alien moon this week in the journal Science Advances. "Whether those other ideas are fatal to the moon hypothesis or not, that remains to be seen." For now, MIT's Sara Seager says she's reserving judgment. "Exomoons are one of the key items remaining on exoplanet researchers' wish list," Seager says. "It's exciting to see the hunt for the first exomoon continue ... and with what would be a shockingly large moon, about the size and mass of Neptune."

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The EPA’s Bold New Idea Has Massive Implications For Public Health

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of radiation, carcinogens, and other toxic chemicals has been based on the cautious scientific reasoning that considers even slight exposure to toxins potentially risky to public health. From that premise, the EPA has assessed a wide range of pollution, including lung-clogging particulate matter, Superfund cleanup, water treatment, radiation exposure, and risk assessments for carcinogens like benzene. That time-honored approach may be changing because of easy-to-overlook phrasing within a paragraph buried in the proposed "Strengthening Transparency In Regulatory Science Rule," a regulation that will bar the EPA from considering a wide range of scientific studies in its rule-making. With a few sentences buried in the seven-page Federal Register text, the EPA is opening the door to a new scientific approach that -- in a worst-case scenario -- could further relax regulations because of the assumption that a little pollution is actually beneficial. Some scientists have considered the implications of this paragraph and described a whole array of potential problems to Mother Jones. Because the paragraph is written in incredibly vague language, most scientists were unable to explain which pollutants or regulations were the prime targets.

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Wide-Scale US Wind Power Could Cause Significant Warming, Study Says

XxtraLarGe shares a report: Wind power is booming in the United States. It's expanded 35-fold since 2000 and now provides 8% of the nation's electricity. The US Department of Energy expects wind turbine capacity to more than quadruple again by 2050. But a new study by a pair of Harvard researchers finds that a high amount of wind power could mean more climate warming, at least regionally and in the immediate decades ahead. The paper raises serious questions about just how much the United States or other nations should look to wind power to clean up electricity systems. The study, published in the journal Joule, found that if wind power supplied all US electricity demands, it would warm the surface of the continental United States by 0.24 C. That could significantly exceed the reduction in US warming achieved by decarbonizing the nation's electricity sector this century, which would be around 0.1 C. "If your perspective is the next 10 years, wind power actually has -- in some respects -- more climate impact than coal or gas," coauthor David Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard, said in a statement. "If your perspective is the next thousand years, then wind power is enormously cleaner than coal or gas."

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Facebook Bug Prevented Users From Deleting Their Accounts

Emil Protalinski, reporting for VentureBeat: Until just a few days ago, some Facebook users could not delete their accounts -- the option to do so simply didn't work. After VentureBeat reached out to Facebook regarding the issue, an engineer was able to squash the bug. Two weeks ago, I got an email from a VentureBeat reader who couldn't delete his Facebook account. He claimed there were others also having issues -- no matter what they tried, they simply could not delete Facebook. I didn't believe him at first. [...] I did my due diligence. The least I could do was help him delete his account. Upon request, the reader was gracious enough to let me log into his Facebook account so I could see for myself. No matter what I tried, and regardless of which browser I used, the Facebook help page for deleting your account would not load when logged into his account. The reporter contacted a Facebook spokesperson, who after looking into the matter concluded that a bug prevented some people with "a large number of posts" from deleting their accounts. Facebook says it has resolved the issue.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Says Giving Up Your Data For Better Services is ‘a Bunch of Bunk’

Apple chief executive Tim Cook urged consumers not to believe the dominant tech industry narrative that the data collected about them will lead to better services. From a report: In an interview with "Vice News Tonight" that aired Tuesday, Cook highlighted his company's commitment to user privacy, positioning Apple's business as one that stands apart from tech giants that compile massive amounts of personal data and sell the ability to target users through advertising. "The narrative that some companies will try to get you to believe is: I've got to take all of our data to make my service better," he said. "Well, don't believe them. Whoever's telling you that, it's a bunch of bunk." [...] Cook said in the interview that he is "exceedingly optimistic" that the topic of data privacy has reached an elevated level of public debate. "When the free market doesn't produce a result that's great for society you have to ask yourself what do we need to do. And I think some level of government regulation is important to come out on that."

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Israel Sends Nation-Wide Security Alert Following Reports About Hijacked WhatsApp Accounts

A wave of reports about hijacked WhatsApp accounts in Israel has forced the government's cyber-security agency to send out a nation-wide security alert on Tuesday, ZDNet has learned. From a report: The alert, authored by the Israel National Cyber Security Authority, warns about a relatively new method of hijacking WhatsApp accounts using mobile providers' voicemail systems. This new hacking method was first documented last year by Ran Bar-Zik, an Israeli web developer at Oath. The general idea is that users who have voicemail accounts for their phone numbers are at risk if they don't change that account's default password, which in most cases tends to be either 0000 or 1234. The possibility of an account takeover happens when an attacker tries to add a legitimate user's phone number to a new WhatsApp app installation on his own phone. Following normal security procedures, the WhatsApp service would then send a one-time code via SMS to that phone number. This would typically alert a user to an ongoing attack, but Bar-Zik argues that a hacker could easily avoid this by carrying out the attack during nighttime or when he is sure the user is away from his phone.

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Senate Passes Bill That Lets the Government Destroy Private Drones

On Thursday, the Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, which, among other things, renews funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and introduces new rules for airports and aircraft. But the bill, which now just needs to be signed by the president, also addresses drones. From a report: And while parts of the bill extend some aspects of drone use -- such as promoting drone package delivery and drone testing -- it also gives the federal government power to take down a private drone if it's seen as a "credible threat." The wording comes from another bill, the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, which was strongly supported by the Department of Homeland Security and absorbed into the FAA Reauthorization Act. In June, as part of its argument as to why it needed more leeway when it comes to drones, the agency said that terrorist groups overseas "use commercially available [unmanned aircraft systems] to drop explosive payloads, deliver harmful substances and conduct illicit surveillance," and added that the devices are also used to transport drugs, interfere with law enforcement and expolit unsecured networks. Video -- What Happens When a Drone Hits an Airplane Wing?

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Vice President Mike Pence Says Google Should Halt Dragonfly App Development

On Thursday, the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence weighed in on Dragonfly, a project run by Google to build a censored search engine app for China. He said Dragonfly app would make it easier to track someone's internet searches. From a report: Pence said in a speech that business leaders are now thinking twice before entering the Chinese market "if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing's oppression." He added, "More must follow suit. For example, Google should immediately end development of the 'Dragonfly' app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers."

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Average Time To Resolve Problems is Three Times Higher Than Customers Want

Businesses seem to be setting the bar for "good" customer service too low, according to a recent study, which could have significant business impact as the customer experience becomes even more vital as customers decide to buy. From a report: Boston, Mass.- based identity and access company LogMeIn recently released a study to analyze the business impact and consumer attitudes of today's customers and their journey to a sale. It surveyed over 5,000 respondents consisting of business leaders and consumers around the globe. Its 2018 AI Customer Experience study shows that over one-third of consumers were not impressed with their customer journey. Over four out of five (83 percent) of consumers citied an average or poor experience, saying that they had at least one issue while interacting with a brand. Conversely, 80 percent of businesses believe their customers would give them a favorable review -- even whilst admitting that less than half of customer queries are resolved during the first interaction. Two-thirds (68 percent) of business respondents agree that their agents struggle with the volume of customer enquiries, and 61 percent of consumers feel that it takes too long for an enquiry to be resolved.

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Amazon Offloaded Its Chinese Server Business Because it Was Compromised, Report Says

An anonymous reader shares a report: It looks like Amazon's move to sell off its physical server business in China last year was because the unit had been compromised by a Chinese government spying program. That's according to a report from Bloomberg which details how the Chinese government infiltrated a number of U.S. companies by sneaking tiny chips onto motherboards from Supermicro. They then became part of servers deployed by the companies giving remote operatives potential access to data. It's a huge story that includes a comparatively small but important passage shedding light on Amazon's China deal last November -- the U.S. firm sold the physical server business to local partner Beijing Sinnet for 2 billion yuan, or around $300 million. That transaction initially sparked reports that AWS would exit China, but Amazon later clarified it planned to continue to operate its cloud services in China. Selling the physical server business, it said, was down to the fact that "Chinese law forbids non-Chinese companies from owning or operating certain technology for the provision of cloud services." While it is correct that China did introduce cybersecurity laws that placed restrictions on overseas firms and appeared to give the government unprecedented access to data, the Bloomberg report claims that Amazon's China-based servers were in fact offloaded because they were plagued with compromised servers.

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China Infiltrated Apple, Amazon and Other US Companies Using Spy Chips on Servers, According To Bloomberg; Apple, and Amazon, Among Others Refute the Report

Data center equipment run by Amazon Web Services and Apple were subject to surveillance from the Chinese government via a tiny microchip inserted during the equipment manufacturing process, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported Thursday, citing 17 people at Apple, Amazon, and U.S. government security officials, among others. The compromised chips in question came from a server company called Supermicro that assembled machines used in the centers, the report added. The scrutiny of these chips, which were used for gathering intellectual property and trade secrets from American companies, have also been the subject of an ongoing top secret U.S. government investigation, which started in 2015, the news outlet reported. Amazon, which runs AWS, Apple, and Supermicro have disputed summaries of Bloomberg BusinessWeek's reporting. The report states that Amazon became aware of a Supermicro's tiny microchip nested on the server motherboards of Elemental Technologies, a Portland, Oregon based company, as part of a due diligence ahead of acquiring the company in 2015. Amazon acquired Elemental as it prepared to use its technologies for what is now known as Prime Video, its video streaming service. The report adds that Amazon informed the FBI of its findings. From the report: One official says investigators found that it eventually affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank, government contractors, and the world's most valuable company, Apple. Apple was an important Supermicro customer and had planned to order more than 30,000 of its servers in two years for a new global network of data centers. Three senior insiders at Apple say that in the summer of 2015, it, too, found malicious chips on Supermicro motherboards. Apple severed ties with Supermicro the following year, for what it described as unrelated reasons. [...] A U.S. official says the governmentâ(TM)s probe is still examining whether spies were planted inside Supermicro or other American companies to aid the attack. Some background on Supermicro, courtesy of Bloomberg: Today, Supermicro sells more server motherboards than almost anyone else. It also dominates the $1 billion market for boards used in special-purpose computers, from MRI machines to weapons systems. Its motherboards can be found in made-to-order server setups at banks, hedge funds, cloud computing providers, and web-hosting services, among other places. Supermicro has assembly facilities in California, the Netherlands, and Taiwan, but its motherboards -- its core product -- are nearly all manufactured by contractors in China. The company's pitch to customers hinges on unmatched customization, made possible by hundreds of full-time engineers and a catalog encompassing more than 600 designs.

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Psychedelic Mushrooms Are Closer To Medicinal Use

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have recommended that psilocybin, the active compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms, be reclassified for medical use, potentially paving the way for the psychedelic drug to one day treat depression and anxiety and help people stop smoking. The New York Times: The suggestion to reclassify psilocybin from a Schedule I drug, with no known medical benefit, to a Schedule IV drug, which is akin to prescription sleeping pills, was part of a review to assess the safety and abuse of medically administered psilocybin [Editor's note: the story may be paywalled; alternative source]. Before the Food and Drug Administration can be petitioned to reclassify the drug, though, it has to clear extensive study and trials, which can take more than five years, the researchers wrote. The analysis was published in the October print issue of Neuropharmacology, a medical journal focused on neuroscience. The study comes as many Americans shift their attitudes toward the use of some illegal drugs. The widespread legalization of marijuana has helped demystify drug use, with many people now recognizing the medicinal benefits for those with anxiety, arthritis and other physical ailments. Psychedelics, like LSD and psilocybin, are illegal and not approved for medical or recreational use. But in recent years scientists and consumers have begun rethinking their use to combat depression and anxiety.

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Brain Scans Can Detect Who Has Better Skills, Research Says

To gain new insight into how highly specialized workers learn skills or react to stressful situations, researchers are leveraging advanced scanning technologies to look at what's happening inside the brain. From a report: In the latest findings, a team of researchers studied surgeons as they performed surgical simulations and found they could identify novice from experienced surgeons by analyzing brain scans taken as the physicians worked [The story could be paywalled]. The researchers, who described their findings Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, said that the part of the brain involved in planning complex behaviors was more active in the novices. Skilled surgeons had more activity in the motor cortex, which is important for movement. The researchers, who developed a machine-learning system to analyze the scans, also showed that training resulted in a shift toward higher activity in the motor cortex. In total, the brains of roughly 30 surgeons and trainees were monitored while they performed pattern-cutting tasks that are part of professional tests for certifications. The brain-data metrics were more accurate than current professional tests used to assess the same manual skills, according to the study.

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Verizon is Offering Buyout Packages To as Many as 44,000 Management Employees; Some IT Employees Will Be Transferred To Indian Outsourcing Firm Infosys [Update]

Verizon Communications is offering buyout packages to as many as 44,000 management employees as part of a cost-cutting drive, potentially eliminating more than a fourth of its workforce. From a report: The offer, which excludes executives in sales or crucial company roles, is part of a four-year, $10 billion cost-reduction program that Chairman Lowell McAdam put in place last year. A Verizon spokesman declined to say how many of the 44,000 managers are expected to take the offer and leave the company. Update: The Wall Street Journal adds: Verizon notified many information technology employees that they were being transferred to Indian outsourcing giant Infosys as part of a $700 million outsourcing agreement. The pool of employees who either received the severance offer or are affected by the Infosys deal amounts to about 30% of the 153,100 employees that Verizon had globally at the end of June. "Strategically we are going to invest more in transforming the business versus running the business," materials detailing the outsourcing agreement said. As part of that pact, Verizon is transferring about 2,500 employees in the U.S. and overseas to Infosys. Those employees aren't eligible for severance payments and won't receive their 2018 bonus if they are offered a job at Infosys and don't accept it, according to materials given to the employees.

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Verizon is Offering Buyout Packages To as Many as 44,000 Management Employees, Potentially Eliminating More Than a Fourth of Its Workforce

Verizon Communications is offering buyout packages to as many as 44,000 management employees as part of a cost-cutting drive, potentially eliminating more than a fourth of its workforce. From a report: The offer, which excludes executives in sales or crucial company roles, is part of a four-year, $10 billion cost-reduction program that Chairman Lowell McAdam put in place last year. A Verizon spokesman declined to say how many of the 44,000 managers are expected to take the offer and leave the company.

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Leon Lederman, 96, Explorer and Explainer of the Subatomic World, Dies

Leon Lederman, whose ingenious experiments with particle accelerators deepened science's understanding of the subatomic world, died early Wednesday in Rexburg, Idaho. He was 96. From a report: His wife, Ellen Carr Lederman, confirmed the death, at a care facility. She and Dr. Lederman, who had long directed the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, had retired to eastern Idaho. Early in his career Dr. Lederman and two colleagues demonstrated that there are at least two kinds of particles called neutrinos (there are now known to be three), a discovery that was honored in 1988 with a Nobel Prize in Physics. He went on to lead a team at the Fermi laboratory, in Batavia, Ill., that found the bottom quark, another fundamental constituent of matter. For those baffled by such esoterica, Dr. Lederman was quick to sympathize. "'The Two Neutrinos' sounds like an Italian dance team," he remarked in his Nobel banquet speech. But he was determined to spread the word about the importance of the science he loved: "How can we have our colleagues in chemistry, medicine, and especially in literature share with us, not the cleverness of our research, but the beauty of the intellectual edifice, of which our experiment is but one brick?"

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Amazon Is Eliminating Bonuses, Stock Awards to Help Pay for Raises

Amazon is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for warehouse workers and other hourly employees after the company pledged this week to raise pay to at least $15 an hour, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. From a report: Warehouse workers for the e-commerce giant in the U.S. were eligible in the past for monthly bonuses that could total hundreds of dollars per month as well as stock awards, said two people familiar with Amazon's pay policies. The company informed those employees Wednesday that it's eliminating both of those compensation categories to help pay for the raises, the people said. Amazon received plaudits when it announced Monday that the company would raise its minimum pay. The pay increase warded off criticism from politicians and activists, and put the company in a good position to recruit temporary workers for the important holiday shopping season.

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Remote Access System Hacking Is No. 1 Patient Safety Risk

Hackers attacking healthcare through remote access systems and disrupting operations is the number one patient safety risk, according to the ECRI Institute's annual Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2019. From a report: ECRI Institute said it published 50 cybersecurity-related alerts and problem reports in the last 18 months, a major increase over the prior period. "Remote access systems are a common target because they are, by nature, publicly accessible. Intended to meet legitimate business needs, such as allowing off-site clinicians to access clinical data or vendors to troubleshoot systems installed at the facility, remote access systems can be exploited for illegitimate purposes," the report warned. The ECRI report [PDF] said that once hackers gain access through these systems, they can move around the network, install ransomware, steal or encrypt data, or hijack computer resources for cryptocurrency mining. "The consequences of an attack can be widespread and severe, making this a priority concern for all healthcare organizations," said ECRI Health Devices Program Executive Director David Jamison. "In critical situations, this could cause harm or death." The report recommended that healthcare organizations identify, protect, and monitor all remote access systems and points of entry, and adopt cybersecurity best practices, such as a strong password policy, maintaining and patching systems and software, and logging system access.

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Cities Will Sue FCC To Stop $2 Billion Giveaway To Wireless Carriers

Cities are planning to sue the Federal Communications Commission over its decision to preempt local rules on deployment of 5G wireless equipment. From a report: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes yesterday said their city intends to appeal the FCC order in federal court. Seattle will be coordinating with other cities on a lawsuit, they said. "In coordination with the overwhelming majority of local jurisdictions that oppose this unprecedented federal intrusion by the FCC, we will be appealing this order, challenging the FCC's authority and its misguided interpretations of federal law," they said in a press release. The FCC says its order will save carriers $2 billion, less than one percent of the estimated $275 billion it will take to deploy 5G across the country. In Oregon, the Portland City Council voted Tuesday to approve a lawsuit against the FCC, The Oregonian reported, saying the move "added Portland to a growing list of cities, primarily on the West Coast, that are preparing to fight" the FCC order. East Coast cities including New York City and Boston have also objected to the FCC decision. As we've previously reported, the FCC order drew opposition from rural municipalities as well.

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Wi-Fi Now Has Version Numbers, and Wi-Fi 6 Comes Out Next Year

The Wi-Fi Alliance said Wednesday it was rebranding the "802.11" Wi-Fi standards that have long served as a source of potential confusion for users. From now on, said the Wi-Fi Alliance, the current 802.11ac standard will be known as Wi-Fi 5, while its successor 802.11ax will be known as Wi-Fi 6. From a report: In the past, Wi-Fi versions were identified by a letter or a pair of letters that referred to a wireless standard. The current version is 802.11ac, but before that, we had 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11a, and 802.11b. It was not comprehensible, so the Wi-Fi Alliance -- the group that stewards the implementation of Wi-Fi -- is changing it. All of those convoluted codenames are being changed. Now, instead of wondering whether "ac" is better than "n" or if the two versions even work together, you'll just look at the number. Wi-Fi 5 is higher than Wi-Fi 4, so obviously it's better. And since Wi-Fi networks have always worked together, it's somewhat clearer that Wi-Fi 5 devices should be able to connect with Wi-Fi 4 devices, too. Now that the retroactive renaming is done, it's time for the future. If you've been closely following router developments over the past year (no judgments here), you'll know that the next generation of Wi-Fi is on the horizon, with the promise of faster speeds and better performance when handling a multitude of devices. It was supposed to be called 802.11ax, but now it'll go by a simpler name: Wi-Fi 6. The Wi-Fi Alliance says that it expects companies to adopt this numerical advertising in place of the classic lettered versions.

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Entire Broadband Industry Sues California To Stop Net Neutrality Law

Four lobby groups representing the broadband industry today sued California to stop the state's new net neutrality law. From a report: The lawsuit was filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of California by mobile industry lobby CTIA; cable industry lobby NCTA; telco lobby USTelecom; and the American Cable Association, which represents small and mid-size cable companies. Together, these four lobby groups represent all the biggest mobile and home Internet providers in the US and hundreds of smaller ISPs . Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile US, Sprint, Cox, Frontier, and CenturyLink are among the groups' members. "This case presents a classic example of unconstitutional state regulation," the complaint said. The California net neutrality law "was purposefully intended to countermand and undermine federal law by imposing on [broadband] the very same regulations that the Federal Communications Commission expressly repealed in its 2018 Restoring Internet Freedom Order." ISPs say the California law impermissibly regulates interstate commerce. "[I]t is impossible or impracticable for an Internet service provider ("ISP") offering BIAS to distinguish traffic that moves only within California from traffic that crosses state borders," the lobby groups' complaint said.

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Microsoft Now Has the Best Device Lineup in the Industry

An anonymous reader shares commentary on the new devices Microsoft unveiled Tuesday: At a low-key event held in a New York City warehouse, Microsoft unveiled its next iterations in the Surface lineup. Sitting in the audience, I saw the most coherent device strategy in the industry, from a company that's slowly built a hardware business from the ground up. The company took just an hour to unveil sweeping updates to its existing hardware, and what's clear after the dust has settled is that Microsoft's hardware division is a force to be reckoned with. Apple's dominance on the high-end laptop space looks shakier than ever, because Microsoft's story is incredibly compelling. Rather than building out a confusing, incompatible array of devices, Microsoft has taken the time to build a consistent, clear portfolio that has something to fit everyone across the board. [...] What's interesting about this is the Surface hardware is now incredibly consistent across the board, making it dead simple for consumers to choose a device they like. Each device offers high quality industrial design, with consistent input methods regardless of form factor, and a tight software story to boot. That matters. Every single one of these machines has a touchscreen, supports a high-quality stylus, and current generation chipsets. The only question is which device fits your lifestyle, and whether or not you want the faster model. The peripherals work across every machine, and Microsoft has clearly gone to lengths with Timeline and Your Phone to make the software as seamless as you'd expect in 2018. Microsoft, it seems, has removed all of the barriers to remaining in your 'flow.' Surface is designed to adapt to the mode you want to be in, and just let you do it well. Getting shit done doesn't require switching device or changing mode, you can just pull off the keyboard, or grab your pen and the very same machine adapts to you. It took years to get here, but Microsoft has nailed it. By comparison, the competition is flailing around arguing about whether or not touchscreens have a place on laptops. The answer? Just let people choose.

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Bill Gates-Backed Social Recommendation App Likewise Now Available for iOS and Android

Bill Gates is not giving up on saving the world, but he is helping launch a new social recommendation engine. Likewise, as the iOS and Android app is known, is designed to be a place to get trusted recommendations on everything from restaurants to books, movies and TV shows. From a report: It won't cure polio or fix the U.S. education system, but Likewise could fill a niche helping people keep track of the books and TV shows their friends recommend as well as to discover new places. The free app, which launches today, began as the brainchild of Larry Cohen, a longtime Gates aide who serves as CEO of Gates Ventures. The Microsoft co-founder is funding the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which has been working for nearly a year and has about 20 employees. "It's not the next Office, but there's a real need here," Cohen told Axios. Cohen is chairman of Likewise, with his onetime Microsoft colleague Ian Morris serving as CEO.

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The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job

Brian Merchant, writing for The Atlantic (condensed for space): In 2016, an anonymous confession appeared on Reddit: "From around six years ago up until now, I have done nothing at work." As far as office confessions go, that might seem pretty tepid. But this coder, posting as FiletOFish1066, said he worked for a well-known tech company, and he really meant nothing. He wrote that within eight months of arriving on the quality assurance job, he had fully automated his entire workload. When his bosses realized that he'd worked less in half a decade than most Silicon Valley programmers do in a week, they fired him. [...] About a year later, someone calling himself or herself Etherable posted a query to Workplace on Stack Exchange, one of the web's most important forums for programmers: "Is it unethical for me to not tell my employer I've automated my job?" The conflicted coder described accepting a programming gig that had turned out to be "glorified data entry" -- and, six months ago, writing scripts that put the entire job on autopilot. After that, "what used to take the last guy like a month, now takes maybe 10 minutes." The job was full-time, with benefits, and allowed Etherable to work from home. The program produced near-perfect results; for all management knew, their employee simply did flawless work. The post proved unusually divisive, and comments flooded in. Reactions split between those who felt Etherable was cheating, or at least deceiving, the employer, and those who thought the coder had simply found a clever way to perform the job at hand. [...] Call it self-automation, or auto-automation. At a moment when the specter of mass automation haunts workers, rogue programmers demonstrate how the threat can become a godsend when taken into coders' hands, with or without their employers' knowledge. Since both FiletOFish1066 and Etherable posted anonymously and promptly disappeared, neither were able to be reached for comment. But their stories show that workplace automation can come in many forms and be led by people other than executives.

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Cellphones Across the US Will Receive a ‘Presidential Alert’ at 2:18 pm Eastern Today

At 2:18 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, cellphones across the United States will emit the ominous ring of an emergency presidential alert. From a report: It will be the first nationwide test of a wireless emergency alert system, designed to warn people of a dire threat, like a terror attack, pandemic or natural disaster. There is no opting out, which has already prompted a lawsuit. "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System," it will read. "No action is needed." Two minutes later, televisions and radios will show test alerts. There is no notification plan for landlines. Officials say they believe that the wireless test will reach about 75 percent of the cellphones in the country, though they hope the number is higher. It could take up to 30 minutes for the alerts to be transmitted to all devices. Some things that could interfere: ongoing phone calls or data transmission, a device that is turned off or out of range, and smaller cellphone providers that are not participating in the program. The test, originally planned for last month but delayed by Hurricane Florence, is the culmination of many years of work. The federal government developed a system to issue the alerts, which are scripted in coordination with numerous government agencies. They are limited to 90 characters, but will be expanded to 360 in the future. The Communications Act of 1934 gives the president the power to use communications systems in case of an emergency, and a 2006 law called for the Federal Communications Commission to work with the wireless industry to transmit such messages.

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Amazon Announces New Fire TV Stick Featuring 4K Support, and All-New Alexa Voice Remote

Amazon is refreshing its Fire TV Stick to add support for Ultra HD and HDR in the new device. Engadget: With a base of active users that's 25 million strong, it's launching the Fire TV Stick 4K, delivering Ultra HD and HDR streaming through an HDMI dongle that costs a modest $50. The stealthy device isn't as affordable as Roku's $40 Premiere, but it's also billed as the first media stick to support Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision and HDR10+. You won't have to settle for lower-quality output just to save some cash or avoid using your TV's built-in apps. The device also ships with Amazon's newer Alexa Voice Remote (included with the Fire TV Cube), touting Bluetooth, "multidirectional" infrared and some much-needed buttons for power, volume and muting. You'll have more reason to use the remote, as well. Amazon noted that in-app Alexa control is coming to a number of more specialized video services, including AMC, HBO Now and Sony Crackle.

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Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Trio of Evolutionary Scientists

Three scientists have won the Nobel prize in chemistry for their work in harnessing evolution to produce new enzymes and antibodies. From a report: British scientist Sir Gregory P Winter and Americans Frances H Arnold and George P Smith will share the 9m Swedish kronor ($1 million) prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Half of the prize goes to Arnold, from the California Institute of Technology, for her work on directing the evolution of enzymes -- proteins that speed up chemical reactions. In a nutshell, Arnold introduced genetic mutations into enzymes, and then looked to see what effect the mutations had. She then selected the cases where a particular mutation proved useful -- for example, allowing the enzyme to work in a solvent it would otherwise not work in. Her work has made it possible to cut out the use of many toxic catalysts and has led to the development of enzymes for all manner of fields, including the development of biofuels and the production of pharmaceuticals. The other half of the award goes to Winter and Smith, for their work on "phage display of peptides and antibodies." A phage is a virus that can infect bacteria, "tricking" bacteria to reproduce it. Smith genetically engineered phages so that they would include a certain molecule on their outer capsule which allowed him to that encompasses out particular proteins crop up on the outer. Winter used this technology to develop new drugs that have transformed medicine, offering therapies for diseases ranging from cancer to autoimmune conditions. Arnold is only the fifth woman to be awarded the prize for Chemistry -- the last female scientist to scoop the award was Ada E. Yonath in 2009 who shared the prize for her work on understanding the structure of ribosomes: the protein-manufacturing structures inside cells.

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Some Apple Laptops Shipped With Intel Chips In ‘Manufacturing Mode’

An anonymous reader writes: Apple has quietly fixed a security issue affecting some laptops that shipped with Intel chips that were mistakenly left configured into "manufacturing mode." The issue was discovered by two security researchers bug hunting for security flaws in Intel's Management Engine. While digging around through the tens of ME configuration options, the two spotted a feature that they believed could lead to problems, if left enabled by accident on Intel chips. The configuration they eyed was named Manufacturing Mode, and it's an Intel ME option that desktop, server, laptop, or mobile OEMs can enable for Intel chips and use it for testing ME's remote management features. As the name implies, this configuration option should be enabled only on manufacturing lines to enable automated configuration and testing operations, but disabled before shipping the end product. Leaving an Intel ME chip in Manufacturing Mode allows attackers to change ME settings and disable security controls, opening a chip for other attacks. The two researchers said they only tested Lenovo and Apple laptops for the presence of Intel ME chips in Manufacturing Mode. Other laptops or computers may also be affected. Instructions on how to spot Intel ME chips in Manufacturing Mode and how to disable it are available here. Apple fixed the issue in June, with the release of macOS High Sierra 10.13.5, and Security Update 2018-003 for macOS Sierra and El Capitan.

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Microsoft Unveils Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6

Microsoft said Tuesday it was refreshing the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro lineups with new models that offer updated specs and a black color option. The price tags have changed slightly: the Surface Laptop 2 starts at $999 (same as the Surface Laptop) while the Surface Pro 6 starts at $899 (up $100 from its predecessor). From a report: Both devices come with 8th-generation Intel Core processors (upgradeable all the way up to quad-core) and start at 128GB of SSD storage (upgradable to 1TB). The Surface Laptop 2 starts at 8GB of RAM (upgradeable to 16GB) while the Surface Pro 6 still comes with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of RAM. Panos Panay, head of engineering for all of Microsoft's devices, said the Surface Laptop 2 is 85 percent faster than the original Surface Laptop. He also mentioned that the screen features more than 3.4 million pixels, a 1,500:1 contrast ratio, and happens to be the lightest touchscreen panel on the market. Panay said the Surface Pro 6 is 67 percent more powerful than its predecessor (which oddly enough was just called Surface Pro). Surface Pro 6 still gets 13.5 hours of battery life, weighs 1.7 pounds, and has a 267ppi screen with "the highest contrast ratio" Microsoft has ever delivered.

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Government of Canada’s Plan To Improve Cybersecurity? Be Less Attractive

darthcamaro writes: Though Justin Trudeau is the envy of many world leaders for his likeability, the head of of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security at the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE), which helps to protect federal government networks says that his agency is trying to make Canada less attractive -- to hackers. Speaking at the SecTor conference in Toronto Scott Jones said:"By doing the basics, you're making the adversaries that come after you deploy more advanced tools and techniques, and you just might not be worth the expense," Jones said. "My ultimate goal is to make Canada unattractive to cyber-criminals and data hackers, because our community is vigilant and engaged so much so that threat actors aren't enticed to even attack us."

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DARPA Is Researching Quantized Inertia, a Theory Many Think Is Pseudoscience

dmoberhaus writes: DARPA just awarded a $1.3 million contract to an international team of researchers to study quantized inertia or QI. This is a controversial theory that many physicists think is pseudoscience, but according to the physicist that created it, QI may be the foundation for light-powered space travel that could open the door for interstellar travel. Motherboard looks at the fact and fiction of QI, its relationship to the 'impossible' EmDrive being developed by NASA and how these physicists are going to create experimental light-powered engines. Quantized inertia (QI) is an alternative theory of inertia, a property of matter that describes an object's resistance to acceleration. QI was first proposed by University of Plymouth physicist Mike McCulloch in 2007, but it is still considered a fringe theory by many, if not most, physicists today. McCulloch has used the theory to explain galactic rotation speeds without the need for dark matter, but he believes it may one day provide the foundation for launching space vehicles without fuel. The DARPA grant will allow McCulloch and a team of collaborators from Germany and Spain to undertake a series of experiments that will apply QI in a laboratory setting for the first time.

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Ask Slashdot: Why Does Almost Nothing Come With a Proper Printed Manual Anymore?

OpenSourceAllTheWay writes: As someone who grew up with 1980s and 1990s computers and electronics and still has whole boxes of lovingly prepared printed computer, peripheral, game and software manuals from that era, I am continually surprised by how just many products ship without a proper printed manual these days. Case in point would be things like Android phones. Android has quite a few not-entirely-obvious functions built into it. And a lot of people aren't even aware they exist. No Android phone I've bought has ever had a printed manual included in its little product box. Not even a small one. Even expensive laptops ranging in price from 2,000 to 5,000 Dollars often come only with a few sheets of printed paper in the box -- warranty card, where to register the device, URL for downloading drivers and so on. Why is this? It can't be environmental concern -- the electronics devices themselves, when thrown away, are a hundred times (if not worse) more harmful to the environment than a little 50 to 100 page recycled paper booklet would be. So where are the manuals? Is it the cost of preparing the manuals? The cost of printing them? Is it a few grams of extra weight added to the product box? Is everyone supposed to look up everything online now, even in places where there is no internet connection? And why can't there be a print manual option -- e.g. pay 3 to 5 Dollars extra, and get a full, printed manual you can study on a couch?

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SuperSU, a Popular Root App For Android, Disappears From Google Play Store

Corbin Davenport, writing for AndroidPolice: For years, SuperSU was one of the most popular root applications for Android. Chainfire, the creator of SuperSU, handed over development to CCMT in 2015. He ended his involvement with the app last year, so CCMT has been in full control of it since then. For reasons currently unknown, SuperSU has now vanished from the Play Store. The app's Twitter and Google+ accounts for SuperSU haven't made a post since last year, the Facebook page has been inactive since March, and the official forum is currently offline. As such, it seems like the app was largely abandoned. The latest version available from APKMirror was published in January. Further reading: End of an era: Chainfire is halting development on all root-related apps.

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This Solar-Powered, ‘Low Tech’ Website Goes Offline When It’s Cloudy

An anonymous reader shares a report: Every website and product connected to the internet would not be able to exist without a vast network of wireless routers, fiber optic cables running underground and underwater, and data centers that house the servers which bring the internet to life. Data centers in the U.S. alone eat up 70 billion kilowatts of energy per year, according to a 2016 estimate from the Department of Energy -- that's 1.8 percent of all energy use across the country. The internet is not ethereal, and a new project from the blog Low-Tech Magazine aims to make that issue more tangible. Low-Tech Magazine -- a blog operated by Kris De Decker that has run on Wordpress since 2007 -- launched a "Low-Tech," solar version of the site that's designed from the ground-up to use as little energy as possible. (Check out the solar version of the site here.) In a Skype call with Motherboard, De Decker said that he doesn't think people don't care about how much energy it takes they use the internet, they just don't understand the extent of the problem. "There's this idea that the internet is immaterial, it's somewhere floating in clouds," he said. "Of course, it's a very material thing that uses resources, materials, energy -- and quite a lot actually."

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Netflix Eats Up 15% of All Internet Downstream Traffic Worldwide, Study Finds

When it comes to devouring bandwidth online, no company can hold a candle to Netflix. From a report: Netflix remains the 800-pound gorilla of the streaming world: Video from the service consumes a significant 15% of all internet bandwidth globally, the most of any single application. That's according to the latest Global Internet Phenomena Report from Sandvine, a vendor of bandwidth-management systems. Netflix was followed by HTTP media streams, representing 13.1% of all downstream traffic; YouTube (11.4%); web browsing (7.8%); and MPEG transport streams (4.4%). In the Americas, Netflix grabs an even bigger slice of the bandwidth pie, accounting for 19.1% of total downstream traffic. Here's an interesting wrinkle: In this Americas, Amazon Prime Video consumes more data (7.7% of downstream traffic) than YouTube (7.5%), per Sandvine. During peak evening hours, Netflix usage can spike as high as 40% of all downstream traffic on some wireline operator networks in the Americas, per the study, which remains consistent with past studies Sandvine has conducted. Further reading: File-sharing Site Openload Generates More Traffic Than Hulu or HBO Go, and the source study: Sandvine.

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California Governor Jerry Brown Signs a Bill That Bans Bots From Pretending To be Real People

California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill last week that bans automated accounts, more commonly known as bots, from pretending to be real people in pursuit of selling products or influencing elections. From a report: Automated accounts can still interact with Californians, according to the law, but they will need to disclose that they are bots. The law comes as concerns about social media manipulation remain elevated. With just more than a month to go before the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, social media companies have pledged to crack down on foreign interference. A big part of that effort has been targeting bots that spread misinformation and divisive political rhetoric. Twitter said it took down 9.9 million "potentially spammy or automated accounts per week" in May and has placed warnings on suspicious accounts. Dorsey has even publicly floated the idea that Twitter may try to identify bots and label them as such. Bots are also not limited to social media. Google caught the attention of the tech industry in May when it rolled out Google Duplex, a new voice assistant that could talk over the phone with humans to schedule appointments or make restaurant reservations -- complete with "ums," "ahs" and pauses just like a human.

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Hackers Are Selling Facebook Credentials on the Dark Web For $3

Hackers are selling Facebook logins for just $3 on the dark web, according to new research. From a report: The study by Money Guru found that Facebook logins can be bought for as little as 2.30 Pound ($3), with the report coming just hours after it was revealed that an enormous data breach has left at least 50 million Facebook accounts compromised. The research also found that hacked email logins are also being flogged on dark web marketplaces, which are easily accessible to anyone with the right browser and web addresses. Even financial data is being sold cheaply, with credit card information available for as little as $14 and debit card information for $19.50. The research was looking into the availability of logins for sale for the 26 most commonly used online accounts.

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Internet Archive Says It Has Restored 9 Million Broken Wikipedia Links By Directing Them To Archived Versions in Wayback Machine

Mark Graham, the Director of Wayback Machine at Internet Archive, announces: As part of the Internet Archive's aim to build a better Web, we have been working to make the Web more reliable -- and are pleased to announce that 9 million formerly broken links on Wikipedia now work because they go to archived versions in the Wayback Machine. For more than 5 years, the Internet Archive has been archiving nearly every URL referenced in close to 300 wikipedia sites as soon as those links are added or changed at the rate of about 20 million URLs/week. And for the past 3 years, we have been running a software robot called IABot on 22 Wikipedia language editions looking for broken links (URLs that return a '404', or 'Page Not Found'). When broken links are discovered, IABot searches for archives in the Wayback Machine and other web archives to replace them with. Restoring links ensures Wikipedia remains accurate and verifiable and thus meets one of Wikipedia's three core content policies: 'Verifiability.'

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Amazon Will Raise Its Minimum Wage To $15 For All 350,000 US Workers

Amazon said Tuesday it's raising the minimum wage for all 350,000 of its U.S. employees to $15, effective next month. From a report: The new pay threshold will go into effect Nov. 1 and impact all full-time, temporary and seasonal workers across the company's U.S. warehouse and customer service teams as well as Whole Foods, the company said in a blog post. It did not disclose what its current minimum pay wage is for U.S. workers, perhaps in part because there is not one set rate. "We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead," Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. "We're excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us." Alongside the cash compensation bump, Amazon said it will eventually eliminate its practice of granting stock to these workers and will instead institute a program that allows them to purchase Amazon stock through the company. The announcement comes as Amazon faces increased criticism over its pay and treatment of warehouse workers. Senator Bernie Sanders, in particular, has been relentless in his criticism of Amazon over the last few months, proposing a bill that would tax the company as a penalty for having workers who need food stamps and other public assistance to make ends meet.

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Physics Nobel Won By Laser Wizardry — Laureates Include First Woman in 55 Years

A trio of laser scientists have won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work using intense beams to capture superfast processes and to manipulate tiny objects. From a report: The laureates include Donna Strickland, who is the first woman to win the award in 55 years. Strickland, at the University of Waterloo, Canada, will share half the 9 million Swedish krona (US$1 million) prize with her former supervisor, Gerard Mourou, from the Ecole Polytechnique, in Palaiseau, France. The other half of the prize went to Arthur Ashkin, of Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey. Strickland and Mourou pioneered a way to produce the shortest, most intense pulses of light ever created, which are now used throughout science to unravel processes that previously appeared instantaneous, such as the motion of electrons within atoms, as well as in laser-eye surgery. Ashkin won the prize for his pioneering development of 'optical tweezers', beams of laser light that can grab and control microscopic objects such as viruses and cells. Further reading: The Guardian.

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Google Gets Into Game Streaming With Project Stream and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in Chrome

Earlier this year, we heard rumors that Google was working on a game-streaming service. It looks like those rumors were true. From a report: The company today unveiled "Project Stream," and while Google calls this a "technical test" to see how well game streaming to Chrome works, it's clear that this is the foundational technology for a game-streaming service. To sweeten the pot, Google is launching this test in partnership with Ubisoft and giving a limited number of players free access to Assassin's Creed Odyssey for the duration of the test. You can sign up for the test now; starting on October 5, Google will invite a limited number of participants to play the game for free in Chrome. As Google notes, the team wanted to work with a AAA title because that's obviously far more of a challenge than working with a less graphics-intense game. And for any game-streaming service to be playable, the latency has to be minimal and the graphics can't be worse than on a local machine.

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VideoLAN Announces Dav1d, a New Libre and Open Source AV1 Decoder

Jean-Baptiste Kempf, president of VideoLan and developer of VLC media player, made the following announced Monday: AV1 is a new video codec by the Alliance for Open Media, composed of most of the important Web companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft,...). AV1 has the potential to be up to 20% better than the HEVC codec, but the patents license is totally free, while HEVC patents licenses are insanely high and very confusing. The reference decoder for AV1 is great, but it's a research codebase, so it has a lot to improve. Therefore, the VideoLAN, VLC and FFmpeg communities have started to work on a new decoder, sponsored by the Alliance of Open Media. The goal of this new decoder is: be small, be as fast as possible, be very cross-platform, correctly threaded, libre and (actually) Open Source. Without further due, the code: https://code.videolan.org/videolan/dav1d Recommended: A talk during VDD 2018 conference about dav1d.

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Apple Watch Apps Instantly Went 64-Bit Thanks To Obscure Bitcode Option

Jeremy Horwitz, writing for VentureBeat: An obscure feature in Apple's Xcode development software enabled Apple Watch apps to make an instant transition from 32-bit to 64-bit last month, an unheralded win for Apple Watch developers inside and outside the company. The "Enable Bitcode" feature was introduced to developers three years ago, but the Accidental Tech Podcast suggests that it was quietly responsible for the smooth launch of software for the Apple Watch Series 4 last month. Support for Bitcode was originally added to Xcode 7 in November 2015, subsequently becoming optional for iOS apps but mandatory for watchOS and tvOS apps. Bitcode is an "intermediate representation" halfway between human-written app code and machine code. Rather than the developer sending a completely compiled app to the App Store, enabling Bitcode provides Apple with a partially compiled app that it can then finish compiling for whatever processors it wants to support. The report suggests that this change allowed Apple to avoid the great "appocalypse" which occurred when it decided to kill support for 32-bit apps on iOS.

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Facebook is Equipping K-8 Classrooms With Robot Sets To Boost Tech Diversity

Long time reader theodp writes: Facebook last week announced the launch of CodeFWD, "a free online education program created in partnership with [robotic toy maker] Sphero to increase the amount of underrepresented and female students interested in studying computer science." Sphero and CodeFWD are offering a free Sphero BOLT Power Pack (a classroom set of 15 robots valued at $2,499) for a select number of accepted applicants through the program. So, what do you need to begin CodeFWD by Facebook? "No experience necessary. No experience preferred ," explains the website. However, that's not to say CodeFWD is for all. "CodeFWD is intended for educators who are credentialed K-12 teachers or 501(c)(3) non-profit staff members in the United States," the website makes clear, adding that "given the limited supply of robots, we will evaluate the information you've provided and prioritize those applications that help us achieve the goal of expanding access to computer programming opportunities." And Facebook, being Facebook, adds that it wants some data out of the deal: "Please note that Facebook will have access to aggregate, anonymous usage data from Sphero, but will not have access to user-identifiable data collected by Sphero."

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Google Updates Chrome Web Store Review Process and Sets New Extension Code Requirements

Google is finally turning its attention to Chrome Web Store. On Monday, the company announced a range of big changes that would make the online store more secure for customers. From a report: The first two are happening now: Developers are being subjected to a more rigorous review process, and the Chrome Web Store no longer accepts obfuscated JavaScript files. In a couple of weeks, Chrome users will get the option to restrict host access for their extensions. And in 2019, two more changes will take effect: Chrome Web Store developer accounts will require 2-step verification, and Google will introduce manifest version 3 of the extensions platform. [...] Effective today, extensions that request powerful permissions will be subject to additional compliance review. Google doesn't offer much detail here, but it does say your extension's permissions should be as narrowly scoped as possible and all your code should be included directly in the extension package to minimize review time. If your extension uses remotely hosted code, Google will also be taking a closer look (and will monitor on an ongoing basis).

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For Now, at Least, the World Isn’t Making Enough Batteries

An anonymous reader shares a report: Evidence of the battery-powered era is all around us. Electric vehicles are cruising down our freeways. Household appliances thrum with stored solar energy that was until recently a daytime-only power source. Governments from California to China and South Korea -- even Donald Trump's Washington -- have taken steps that will make battery power more ubiquitous. There's just one hitch to this battery boom: The world isn't making nearly enough. All of the new demand from North America, Europe and Asia is constrained at the moment by a market that remains heavily dependent on a few producers. Data on the global supply of batteries is hard to come by, but close observers of the industry have noticed evidence of the shortfall. "We've never seen such demand," said Yayoi Sekine, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg NEF. "But the supply is struggling to keep up." Oddly, however, lithium-ion battery-rack prices have continued their annual decline, even in the face of constrained supply and expectations of ever-growing demand. To get a clear sense of the near future, consider battery-powered cars: Today, there are more than 3 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide; by 2025, Volkswagen AG alone plans to build as many as 3 million electric vehicles per year. Those vehicle batteries -- in addition to storage batteries for homes, businesses and utilities -- will have to come from somewhere.

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Cafe in Providence, Rhode Island Serves Free Coffee To Students Who Provide Personal Data; Participants May Receive Info From Cafe’s Corporate Sponsors

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: Shiru Cafe looks like a regular coffee shop. Inside, machines whir, baristas dispense caffeine and customers hammer away on laptops. But all of the customers are students, and there's a reason for that. At Shiru Cafe, no college ID means no caffeine. "We definitely have some people that walk in off the street that are a little confused and a little taken aback when we can't sell them any coffee," said Sarah Ferris, assistant manager at the Shiru Cafe branch in Providence, R.I., located near Brown University. Ferris will turn away customers if they're not college students or faculty members. The cafe allows professors to pay, but students have something else the shop wants: their personal information. To get the free coffee, university students must give away their names, phone numbers, email addresses and majors, or in Brown's lingo, concentrations. Students also provide dates of birth and professional interests, entering all of the information in an online form. By doing so, the students also open themselves up to receiving information from corporate sponsors who pay the cafe to reach its clientele through logos, apps, digital advertisements on screens in stores and on mobile devices, signs, surveys and even baristas. According to Shiru's website: "We have specially trained staff members who give students additional information about our sponsors while they enjoy their coffee." The source article additionally explores privacy aspects of the business. The cafe, which is owned by Japanese company Enrission, says it shares general, aggregate data such as student majors and expected graduation years.

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Use of the Internet and Smartphones is No Longer on the Rise in America

For years, the number of Americans who have reported using the internet, social media, and smartphones has been on a meteoric rise. But that rate has slowed to a near-stall. From a report: New data published this week by the Pew Research Center show that, since 2016, that number has plateaued, indicating those technologies have reached a saturation point among many groups of people. The percentage of Americans using smartphones (77%), the internet (88% to 89%), and social media (69%) has remained virtually unchanged during the last two years. "Put simply, in some instances there just aren't many non-users left," the report states. More than 90% of adults younger than 50 report they use the internet or own a smartphone. This number squares with some of the trends noticed earlier this year by Gartner, a global research firm. The fourth quarter of 2017 marked the first time since 2004 that the market for smartphones declined globally compared to the prior year. People are less frequently buying new phones.

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At a Workshop Last Week, a CERN Scientist Said ‘Physics Was Invented and Built by Men — Not By Invitation’; CERN Has Suspended the Scientist

New submitter ilguido writes: At a workshop organized by CERN, Prof Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University said that "physics was invented and built by men, it's not by invitation", BBC reported Monday. Strumia's presentation [Google Drive link] that supports the idea that "physics is not sexist against women[...], however the truth does not matter, because it is part of a political battle coming from outside" has already received a lot of criticism, with one female physicist defining Strumia's analysis as "simplistic, drawing on ideas that had long been discredited." In a statement on Sunday, CERN said, "It is unfortunate that one of the 38 presentations, by a scientist from one of the collaborating universities, risks overshadowing the important message and achievements of the event. CERN, like many members of the community, considers that the presentation, with its attacks on individuals, was unacceptable in any professional context and was contrary to the CERN Code of Conduct. It, therefore, decided to remove the slides from the online repository." On Monday, CERN said it has suspended the scientist from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week's event.

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HP Unveils Spectre Folio, a Convertible Laptop ‘Made of Leather’

HP announced Monday the Spectre Folio, a convertible laptop made of leather. From a report: Unveiled in an over-the-top press event in Manhattan today, that included such turns of phrase as "aluminum has become the gold standard," the device is a convertible laptop with a leather case. As HP put it at the event, "this isn't a PC that's wrapped in leather, it's a PC that's made of leather." So, what does that mean, exactly? Rather than covering the standard aluminum or plastic, the cow skin serves as both the chassis and hinge. The laptop has a 13.3 inch pen-enabled touch screen and an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor inside. There's 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage. The battery should get up to 18 hours of life on a charge, according to the company -- admittedly pretty solid. Price starts at $1,300 for the variant with the i5 processor.

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New Zealand Travelers Refusing Digital Search Now Face $5000 Customs Fine

Travelers in New Zealand who refuse to hand over their phone or laptop passwords to Customs officials can now be slapped with a $5000 fine. From a report: The Customs and Excise Act 2018 -- which comes into effect today -- sets guidelines around how Customs can carry out "digital strip-searches." Previously, Customs could stop anyone at the border and demand to see their electronic devices. However, the law did not specify that people had to also provide a password. The updated law makes clear that travelers must provide access -- whether that be a password, pin-code or fingerprint -- but officials would need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. "It is a file-by-file [search] on your phone. We're not going into 'the cloud.' We'll examine your phone while it's on flight mode," Customs spokesperson Terry Brown said. If people refused to comply, they could be fined up to $5000 and their device would be seized and forensically searched. Mr Brown said the law struck the "delicate balance" between a person's right to privacy and Customs' law enforcement responsibilities. "I personally have an e-device and it maintains all my records -- banking data, et cetera, et cetera -- so we understand the importance and significance of it."

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FBI Forced Suspect To Unlock His iPhone X Through Face ID

In what may be a world first, the FBI has forced a suspect to unlock his iPhone X using Apple's Face ID feature. From a report: Agents in Columbus, Ohio entered the home of 28-year-old Grant Michalski, who was suspected of child abuse, according to court documents spotted by Forbes. With a search warrant in hand, they forced him to put his face on front of the device to unlock it. They were then able to freely search for his photos, chats and any other potential evidence. The FBI started investigating Michalski after discovering his ad on Craigslist titled "taboo." Later, they discovered emails in which he discussed incest and sex with minors with another defendant, William Weekly.

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Netflix is Developing a Slate of Specials That Will Let Viewers Choose the Next Storyline in a TV Episode or Movie, Report Says

Netflix is about to let you decide how your favorite show will end, Bloomberg reported Monday. From the report: The streaming service is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the next storyline in a TV episode or movie, according to people familiar with the matter. The company expects to release the first of these projects before the end of this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are still private. Viewers will get to choose their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of "Black Mirror," the Emmy-winning science-fiction anthology series. The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers. The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December. The foray into choose-your-own-adventure programming represents a big bet on a nascent form of entertainment known as interactive TV. As Netflix expands around the world, it's looking for new ways to lure customers. By blending elements of video games with traditional television, the company could create a formula that can be applied to any number of series.

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An Open Source Resistance Takes Shape as Tech Giants Race To Map the World

Shadma Shaikh, reporting for FactorDaily: Chetan Gowda, 27, was speaking to a room full of students in IIIT Hyderabad for a workshop on OpenStreetMap for beginners organized by Swecha, a non-profit organization to support free software movement last month. There were close to 40 students in the room. Beginners often ask him: Why use open source maps when we already have Google Maps? For Gowda, it was the fact that Google Maps is a global, commercial product and did not capture local detail. Like the old banyan tree that was a major landmark in his hometown Hassan or public benches just outside the town where pedestrians could stop to catch a break or fire catchment areas in Bellandur lake in Bengaluru, India. "It was fascinating to add little but important details of my town to open maps," says Gowda who was introduced in 2013 to OSM or OpenStreetMap, a global community of mappers formed as a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world in 2004. Since then he has been an active contributor to OpenStreetMap and has conducted many workshops in colleges and institutes to induct more people in the community. Gowda has made 8500 edits in the OpenStreetMap, mainly covering areas in Bengaluru, Hassan and Hyderabad. Gowda and a few other contributors from India are part of a tiny yet growing resistance movement which doesn't want giant corporations to own all the mapping data. For the average consumer, this may not seem like a big deal. But mapping is big business. The market opportunity for suppliers of mapping to the autonomous car industry is going to be worth over $24 billion by 2050, according to one estimate [PDF]. And that's just one industry. A study commissioned by Google in 2015 estimated that industries that run on top of the Global Positioning Satellite Systems and mapping generate nearly $73 billion in annual revenue. Worldwide, that industry is was estimated to generate $150- $270 billion in revenues. Although new research isn't available, with growing smartphone usage and the birth of companies such as Uber and many others it is safe to assume that the industry has only grown bigger. All the more reason why map data can't be held by only a few companies. With Google Maps beginning to charge small and medium-sized businesses and indie developers more for access to its platform, many have started to explore and switch to open source alternatives of Maps, and commercial services such as Here Maps. Further reading: What OpenStreetMap Can Be, and Ten Years of Google Maps, From Slashdot to Ground Truth.

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James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo Win Nobel Prize For Medicine

An American and a Japanese scientist have won the 2018 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for discovery of a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment. The Institute -- 50 professors at the Stockholm facility -- chose the winners of the prize honoring research into the microscopic mechanisms of life and ways to fend off invaders that cut it short. From a report: James Allison and Tasuku Honjo will share the 9m Swedish kronor (roughly $1 million) prize, announced by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The two scientists have been awarded the prize for their discovery that the body's immune system can be harnessed to attack cancer cells. The immune system normally seeks out and destroys mutated cells, but cancer cells find sophisticated ways to hide from immune attacks, allowing them to thrive and grow. Many types of cancer do this by ramping up a braking mechanism that keeps immune cells in check. The discovery is transforming cancer treatments and has led to a new class of drugs that work by switching off the braking mechanism, prompting the immune cells to attack cancer cells. The drugs have significant side effects, but have been shown to be effective -- including, in some cases, against late-stage cancers that were previously untreatable. The physics prize is to be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday. No literature prize is being given this year.

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Trump Administration Prepares a Major Weakening of Mercury Emissions Rules

The Trump administration has completed a detailed legal proposal to dramatically weaken a major environmental regulation covering mercury, a toxic chemical emitted from coal-burning power plants, The New York Times reports, citing a person familiar with the matter. From the report: The proposal would not eliminate the mercury regulation entirely, but it is designed to put in place the legal justification for the Trump administration to weaken it and several other pollution rules, while setting the stage for a possible full repeal of the rule. Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who is now the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected in the coming days to send the proposal to the White House for approval. The move is the latest, and one of the most significant, in the Trump administration's steady march of rollbacks of Obama-era health and environmental regulations on polluting industries, particularly coal. The weakening of the mercury rule -- which the E.P.A. considers the most expensive clean air regulation ever put forth in terms of annual cost to industry -- would represent a major victory for the coal industry. Mercury is known to damage the nervous systems of children and fetuses.

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California Has a New Law: No More All-Male Boards

Companies headquartered in California can no longer have all-male boards. From a report: That's according to a new law, enacted Sunday, which requires publicly traded firms in the state to place at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019 -- or face a penalty. It also requires companies with five directors to add two women by the end of 2021, and companies with six or more directors to add at least three more women by the end of the same year. It's the first such law on the books in the United States, though similar measures are common in European countries. The measure was passed by California's state legislature last month. And it was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday, along with a trove of other bills that look to "protect and support women, children and working families," the governor's office said in a release. A majority of companies in the S&P 500 have at least one woman on their boards, but only about a quarter have more than two, according to a study from PwC.

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Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill To Restore Net Neutrality in California; the Trump Administration is Already Trying To Block It

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Sunday a bill to restore net neutrality protections that President Donald Trump's Federal Communications Commission killed late last year. From a report: The new law prohibits internet service providers, or ISPs, from blocking or slowing access to legal online content, demanding special fees from websites to prioritize their traffic or charging customers for special exemptions to caps on their data use. Brown signed the measure without comment, setting up almost certain showdowns with both ISPs and the FCC, which barred states from setting their own rules in its repeal last December of protections instituted during the administration of President Barack Obama. The U.S. Justice Department quickly filed a federal action in U.S. District Court in Sacramento to block the new law Sunday night. In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: "Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce -- the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy." Brown also signed A.B. 1999, which makes it easier for local governments to build community broadband and offer competitive high-speed fiber.

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Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill To Restore Net Neutrality in California

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Sunday a bill to restore net neutrality protections that President Donald Trump's Federal Communications Commission killed late last year. From a report: The new law prohibits internet service providers, or ISPs, from blocking or slowing access to legal online content, demanding special fees from websites to prioritize their traffic or charging customers for special exemptions to caps on their data use. Brown signed the measure without comment, setting up almost certain showdowns with both ISPs and the FCC, which barred states from setting their own rules in its repeal last December of protections instituted during the administration of President Barack Obama. The U.S. Justice Department quickly filed a federal action in U.S. District Court in Sacramento to block the new law Sunday night. In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: "Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce -- the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy." Brown also signed A.B. 1999, which makes it easier for local governments to build community broadband and offer competitive high-speed fiber.

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Cloudflare Launches a Low-Cost Domain Registrar, Which Will Also Offer Free Privacy To Customers

Cloudflare, which is celebrating its eighth birthday has announced yet another service: an at-cost domain registrar. From a report: While Cloudflare had already been handling domain registration through the company's Enterprise Registrar service, that service was intended for some of Cloudflare's high-end customers who wanted extra levels of security for their domain names. The new domain registrar business -- called Cloudflare Registrar -- will eventually be open to anyone, and it will charge exactly what it costs for Cloudflare to register a domain. As Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a blog post this week, "We promise to never charge you anything more than the wholesale price each TLD charges." That includes the small fee assessed by ICANN for each registration. Prince said that he was motivated to take the company into the registrar business because of Cloudflare's own experience with registrars and by the perception that many registrars are in the business mostly to up-sell things that require no additional effort. "All the registrar does is record you as the owner of a particular domain," Prince said. "That just involves sending some commands to an API. In other words, domain registrars are charging you for being a middle-man and delivering essentially no value to justify their markup." Charging overhead for that sort of service, Prince said, "seemed as nutty to us as certificate authorities charging to run a bit of math." (Cloudflare also provides free SSL certificates.)

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Physicists Investigate Why Matter and Antimatter Are Not Mirror Images

An anonymous reader shares a report: As mismatches go, it's a big one. When physicists bring the Standard Model of particle physics and Einstein's general theory of relativity together they get a clear prediction. In the very early universe, equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have come into being. Since the one famously annihilates the other, the result should be a universe full of radiation, but without the stars, planets and nebulae that make up galaxies. Yet stars, planets and nebulae do exist. The inference is that matter and antimatter are not quite as equal and opposite as the models predict. This problem has troubled physics for the past half-century, but it may now be approaching resolution. At CERN, a particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, three teams of researchers are applying different methods to answer the same question: does antimatter fall down, or up? Relativity predicts "down", just like matter. If it falls up, that could hint at a difference between the two that allowed a matter-dominated universe to form.

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FBI Solves Mystery Surrounding 15-Year-Old Fruitfly Mac Malware Which Was Used By a Man To Watch Victims Via their Webcams, and Listen in On Conversations

The FBI has solved the final mystery surrounding a strain of Mac malware that was used by an Ohio man to spy on people for 14 years. From a report: The man, 28-year-old Phillip Durachinsky, was arrested in January 2017, and charged a year later, in January 2018. US authorities say he created the Fruitfly Mac malware (Quimitchin by some AV vendors) back in 2003 and used it until 2017 to infect victims and take control off their Mac computers to steal files, keyboard strokes, watch victims via the webcam, and listen in on conversations via the microphone. Court documents reveal Durachinsky wasn't particularly interested in financial crime but was primarily focused on watching victims, having collected millions of images on his computer, including many of underage children. Durachinsky created the malware when he was only 14, and used it for the next 14 years without Mac antivirus programs ever detecting it on victims' computers. [...] Describing the Fruitfly/Quimitchin malware, the FBI said the following: "The attack vector included the scanning and identification of externally facing services, to include the Apple Filing Protocol (AFP, port 548), RDP or other VNC, SSH (port 22), and Back to My Mac (BTMM), which would be targeted with weak passwords or passwords derived from third party data breaches." In other words, Durachinsky had used a technique know as port scanning to identify internet or network-connected Macs that were exposing remote access ports with weak or no passwords.

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Wikimedia Endowment Gets New $1 Million Backing From Amazon

Amazon has donated $1 million to the Wikimedia Endowment, a fund supporting Wikipedia, the e-commerce giant said this week. From a report: The gift was intended to support Wikipedia and its nonprofit parent Wikimedia, which Amazon relies on for answers on its Alexa voice assistant. It was Amazon's first ever to the free online information and education organization. "We are grateful for Amazon's support, and hope this marks the beginning of a long-term partnership to supporting Wikipedia's future," Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said in a statement.

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Ubuntu Linux 18.10 Cosmic Cuttlefish Beta Now Available For Desktop, Cloud and Server Versions

Roughly three weeks ahead of the scheduled release of Ubuntu Linux 18.10 "Cosmic Cuttlefish", the latest major update for the popular Linux distro, beta of all of its flavors -- desktop, cloud and server -- is now available for download. From a report: Codenamed 'Cosmic Cuttlefish,' 18.10 continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution. The team has been hard at work through this cycle, introducing new features and fixing bugs," says Adam Conrad, Software Engineer, Canonical. Conrad further says, "This beta release includes images from not only the Ubuntu Desktop, Server, and Cloud products, but also the Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie, UbuntuKylin, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Studio, and Xubuntu flavours. The beta images are known to be reasonably free of showstopper CD build or installer bugs, while representing a very recent snapshot of 18.10 that should be representative of the features intended to ship with the final release expected on October 18th, 2018." Further reading: Canonical Shares Desktop Plans For Ubuntu 18.10.

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Linux Kernel Finally Nearing Support For The Apple Magic Trackpad 2, Thanks To a Google Employee

Michael Larabel, writing for Phoronix: Apple announced the Magic Trackpad 2 almost three years ago to the day while the mainline Linux kernel will finally be supporting this multi-touch device soon. The Magic Trackpad 2 is a wired/wireless touchpad with haptic feedback support and is a much larger touchpad compared to the original Magic Trackpad. There unfortunately hasn't been any mainline Linux kernel support for the Magic Trackpad 2, but some out-of-tree options. [...] However, as seen by this bug report there have been plenty of people since 2015 interested in using the Magic Trackpad 2 on Linux. Fortunately, Sean O'Brien of Google's Chrome OS team has been working on Magic Trackpad 2 support with a focus on getting it mainlined. The patch, which was also reviewed by other Google/ChromeOS developers, is now up to its third and perhaps final revision.

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MX Player, a Video App Used By More Than 175 Million Users, Debuts OTT Service. Android Enthusiasts Express Concern.

MX Player, a video app which has been downloaded more than 500 million times across the globe, kickstarted its OTT (online video streaming) service in India, one of its largest markets, this week. MX Player, which is popular worldwide, has earned a loyal user base over the years for being the app that can run any video file you throw at it, even if your smartphone, tablet, or Android TV box doesn't have high-end specs or updated software. It was acquired by Times Internet, an India-based conglomerate this June, and now the big giant is beginning to show what it intends to do with the app. From a report: [...] All of these titles, including those produced by Times Internet, are now available to MX Player users in India at no charge, Karan Bedi, CEO of MX Player, told VentureBeat in an interview. Like most of Times Internet's properties, which include several TV channels and newspapers, MX Player will count on ads to generate revenue. Betting on ad-driven business model, a popular path in developing markets, could help MX Player quickly convince its existing user base to give the streaming offerings a try as it begins to compete in the Indian market. Star India's ad-supported service Hotstar, which offers about 80 percent of its catalog to customers for free, currently leads the video streaming market in the country. Going forward, Bedi said, the company remains committed to making investments in what made MX Player so popular among customers: The ability to play a plethora of video files on low-end devices. The company won't be bringing its new streaming offerings to the paid version of the MX Player app, MX Pro, he said. Additionally, MX Player's streaming offerings are limited to India, one of its largest markets, for now, although Bedi said the company is working on the right content catalog for other regions. Over at Android sub-reddit, where this story has been discussed, dozens of users expressed their concerns on the direction MX Player appears to be headed.

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System76’s Much-Anticipated Open Source ‘Thelio’ Linux Computer Will Be Available To Pre-Order Starting Next Month, But Shipping Date and Specs Remain Unclear

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: When you buy a System76 computer today, you aren't buying a machine manufactured by the company. Instead, the company works with other makers to obtain laptops, which it then loads with a Linux-based operating system -- Ubuntu or its own Pop!_OS. There's nothing really wrong with this practice, but still, System76 wants to do better. The company is currently working to manufacture its own computers ("handcrafted") right here in the USA. By doing this, System76 controls the entire customer experience -- software, service, and hardware. This week, the company announces that the fruits of its labor -- an "open-source computer" -- will be available to pre-order in October. Now, keep in mind, this does not mean the desktop will be available next month. Hell, it may not even be sold in 2018. With that said, pre-ordering will essentially allow you to reserve your spot. To celebrate the upcoming computer, System76 is launching a clever animated video marketing campaign.

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New York’s Free LinkNYC Internet Kiosks Are Now Used By 5 Million Users, Who Have Participated in 1 Billion Sessions and Make 500,000 Phone Calls a Month

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2014, in a bid to replace the more than 11,000 aging payphones scattered across New York City's pedestrian walkways with more functional fixtures, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a competition -- the Reinvent Payphones initiative -- calling on private enterprises, residents, and nonprofits to submit designs for replacements. In the end, LinkNYC -- a plan proposed by consortium CityBridge -- secured a contract from the city, beating out competing proposals with electricity-generating piezoelectric pressure plates and EV charging stations. The plan was to spend $200 million installing as many as 10,000 kiosks, or Links, that would supply free, encrypted gigabit Wi-Fi to passers-by within 150 feet. They would have buttons that link directly to 911 and New York's 311 service and free USB charging stations for smartphones, plus wired handsets that would allow free calls to all 50 states and Washington, D.C. And perhaps best of all, they wouldn't cost the city a dime; advertising would subsidize expansion and ongoing maintenance. The Links wouldn't just get urbanites online and let them juice their phones, though. The idea was to engage users, too, principally with twin 55-inch high-definition displays and tethered Android tablets with map functions. Mike Gamaroff, head of innovation at Kinetic, characterized the Links in 2016 as "first and foremost a utility for the people of the city, that also doubles up as an advertising network." Two years after the deployment of prototypical kiosks in Manhattan, Intersection -- a part of the aforementioned CityBridge, which with Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes manages the kiosks -- is ready to declare them a success. The roughly 1,600 Links recently hit three milestones: 1 billion sessions, 5 million users, and 500,000 phone calls a month. Recommended reading: Free Municipal Wi-Fi May Be the Next Front In the War Against Privacy.

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Tim Berners-Lee Announces Solid, an Open Source Project Which Would Aim To Decentralize the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, thinks it's broken and he has a plan to fix it. The British computer scientist has announced a new project that he hopes will radically change his creation by giving people full control over their data. Tim Berners-Lee: This is why I have, over recent years, been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web. Solid changes the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. As we've all discovered, this hasn't been in our best interests. Solid is how we evolve the web in order to restore balance -- by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way. Solid is a platform, built using the existing web. It gives every user a choice about where data is stored, which specific people and groups can access select elements, and which apps you use. It allows you, your family and colleagues, to link and share data with anyone. It allows people to look at the same data with different apps at the same time. Solid unleashes incredible opportunities for creativity, problem-solving and commerce. It will empower individuals, developers and businesses with entirely new ways to conceive, build and find innovative, trusted and beneficial applications and services. I see multiple market possibilities, including Solid apps and Solid data storage. Solid is guided by the principle of "personal empowerment through data" which we believe is fundamental to the success of the next era of the web. We believe data should empower each of us. Imagine if all your current apps talked to each other, collaborating and conceiving ways to enrich and streamline your personal life and business objectives? That's the kind of innovation, intelligence and creativity Solid apps will generate. With Solid, you will have far more personal agency over data -- you decide which apps can access it. In an interview with Fast Company, he shared more on Solid and its creation: "I have been imagining this for a very long time," says Berners-Lee. He opens up his laptop and starts tapping at his keyboard. Watching the inventor of the web work at his computer feels like what it might have been like to watch Beethoven compose a symphony: It's riveting but hard to fully grasp. "We are in the Solid world now," he says, his eyes lit up with excitement. He pushes the laptop toward me so I too can see. On his screen, there is a simple-looking web page with tabs across the top: Tim's to-do list, his calendar, chats, address book. He built this app -- one of the first on Solid -- for his personal use. It is simple, spare. In fact, it's so plain that, at first glance, it's hard to see its significance. But to Berners-Lee, this is where the revolution begins. The app, using Solid's decentralized technology, allows Berners-Lee to access all of his data seamlessly -- his calendar, his music library, videos, chat, research. It's like a mashup of Google Drive, Microsoft Outlook, Slack, Spotify, and WhatsApp. The difference here is that, on Solid, all the information is under his control. Every bit of data he creates or adds on Solid exists within a Solid pod -- which is an acronym for personal online data store. These pods are what give Solid users control over their applications and information on the web. Anyone using the platform will get a Solid identity and Solid pod. This is how people, Berners-Lee says, will take back the power of the web from corporations. Starting this week, developers around the world will be able to start building their own decentralized apps with tools through the Inrupt site. Berners-Lee will spend this fall crisscrossing the globe, giving tutorials and presentations to developers about Solid and Inrupt. "What's great about having a startup versus a research group is things get done," he says. These days, instead of heading into his lab at MIT, Berners-Lee comes to the Inrupt offices, which are currently based out of Janeiro Digital, a company he has contracted to help work on Inrupt. For now, the company consists of Berners-Lee; his partner John Bruce, who built Resilient, a security platform bought by IBM; a handful of on-staff developers contracted to work on the project; and a community of volunteer coders. Later this fall, Berners-Lee plans to start looking for more venture funding and grow his team. The aim, for now, is not to make billions of dollars. The man who gave the web away for free has never been motivated by money. Still, his plans could impact billion-dollar business models that profit off of control over data. It's not likely that the big powers of the web will give up control without a fight.

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Netherlands Proposes Legislation To Ban Use Of Phones On Bicycles

The Dutch government is considering a proposal to ban the use of smartphones and other "mobile electronic devices" on bicycles. From a report: Infrastructure Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen published the draft legislation on Thursday, NL Times reports. If approved, it could go into effect in the summer of 2019. It is already illegal to use a phone while driving a motor vehicle in the Netherlands, the news site says. Offenders face a fine of more than $250. Biking is a widespread form of transportation in the Netherlands, and extending the telephone ban to bikes has been discussed for several years. In 2015, then-Infrastructure Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen concluded that it would be impossible to enforce a ban on phone use on bikes, according to a 2016 story from Dutch News. But the following year, the government began reconsidering its position.

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Google CEO Will Testify Before US House on Bias Accusations

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in November, following the midterm elections. He met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other senior Republicans Friday to discuss accusations that Google is biased against conservatives (a charge the company has denied). From a report: "I think we've really shown that there is bias, which is human nature, but you have to have transparency and fairness," McCarthy said. "As big tech's business grows, we have not had enough transparency and that has led to an erosion of trust and, perhaps worse, harm to consumers." Alphabet's Google unit has repeatedly denied accusations of bias against conservatives. Pichai left the meeting without comment. Pichai wrote in an internal email last week that suggestions that Google would interfere in search results for political reasons were "absolutely false. We do not bias our products to favor any political agenda." [...] Asked if Republicans will push to break up Google, McCarthy said: "I don"t see that." He said the hearing will look at privacy, bias issues, China and other matters.

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BitTorrent and Tron Hope Other Clients Will Embrace Blockchain-Powered ‘Paid’ Seeding

BitTorrent and Tron, following the acquisition, hope to successfully integrate blockchain technology with the popular file-sharing protocol. From a report: Both companies were built around decentralization, which makes for a good match. However, it doesn't stop there. BitTorrent and Tron plan to integrate blockchain technology into future releases of their torrent clients. In short, they want to make it possible for users to 'earn' tokens by seeding. At the same time, others can 'bid' tokens to speed up their downloads. The new plan is dubbed "Project Atlas" and BitTorrent currently has seven people working on it full-time. In theory, the incentives will increase total seeding capacity, improving the health of the torrent ecosystem. "By adding tokens we'll make it so that you can effectively earn per seeding and create incentives for users not only to seed longer but to dedicate more of their bandwidth and storage overall," Project Atlas lead Justin Knoll says. The idea to merge the blockchain with file-sharing technology isn't new. Joystream, previously implemented a similar idea and Upfiring is also working on incentivized sharing. BitTorrent itself also considered it before Tron came into the picture. "Even before the Tron acquisition, our R&D team was looking at ways to add blockchain based incentives to the protocol. Now with the addition of Tron's expertise, we can accelerate that effort," Knoll says. BitTorrent says it will start implementing the technology in its desktop clients, such as uTorrent. After that, it intends to bring it to mobile. The company is additionally encouraging developers of other BitTorrent clients to follow suit. "We'll release the details of our implementation and encourage third-party clients and the whole ecosystem to implement this," Knoll was quoted as saying.

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Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice, and They Might Shatter Modern Physics

There's something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it. From a report: Physicists don't know what it is exactly. But they do know it's some sort of cosmic ray -- a high-energy particle that's blasted its way through space, into the Earth, and back out again. But the particles physicists know about -- the collection of particles that make up what scientists call the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics -- shouldn't be able to do that. Sure, there are low-energy neutrinos that can pierce through miles upon miles of rock unaffected. But high-energy neutrinos, as well as other high-energy particles, have "large cross-sections." That means that they'll almost always crash into something soon after zipping into the Earth and never make it out the other side. And yet, since March 2016, researchers have been puzzling over two events in Antarctica where cosmic rays did burst out from the Earth, and were detected by NASA's Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) -- a balloon-borne antenna drifting over the southern continent. ANITA is designed to hunt cosmic rays from outer space, so the high-energy neutrino community was buzzing with excitement when the instrument detected particles that seemed to be blasting up from Earth instead of zooming down from space. Because cosmic rays shouldn't do that, scientists began to wonder whether these mysterious beams are made of particles never seen before. Since then, physicists have proposed all sorts of explanations for these "upward going" cosmic rays, from sterile neutrinos (neutrinos that rarely ever bang into matter) to "atypical dark matter distributions inside the Earth," referencing the mysterious form of matter that doesn't interact with light.

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Spotify Starts Cracking Down on Friends Who Share Family Plans

Spotify is emailing some users on family plans asking for their GPS locations in order to confirm that they live in the same location. From a report: Subscribers who don't confirm their home address could lose access to their plan, according to the email. The move is an apparent attempt by Spotify to crack down on groups of friends who save money on individual subscriptions by sharing discounted plans intended for families. The emails, which have been sent to a limited number of "Premium for Family" subscribers in at least the US and Germany, have been received with scorn by some who rightly point out that not all families live together. However, Spotify's small print does say that the family plan is available for "you and up to five people who reside at your same address." The amount of people subscribed to family plans suggests not all of them abide by Spotify's definition.

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Facebook Says it Has Discovered ‘Security Issue’ Affecting Nearly 50 Million Accounts, Investigation in Early Stages

Facebook shared the following security announcement Friday: On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 25, our engineering team discovered a security issue affecting almost 50 million accounts. We're taking this incredibly seriously and wanted to let everyone know what's happened and the immediate action we've taken to protect people's security. Our investigation is still in its early stages. But it's clear that attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook's code that impacted "View As", a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people's accounts. Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don't need to re-enter their password every time they use the app. Here is the action we have already taken. First, we've fixed the vulnerability and informed law enforcement. Second, we have reset the access tokens of the almost 50 million accounts we know were affected to protect their security. We're also taking the precautionary step of resetting access tokens for another 40 million accounts that have been subject to a "View As" look-up in the last year. As a result, around 90 million people will now have to log back in to Facebook, or any of their apps that use Facebook Login. After they have logged back in, people will get a notification at the top of their News Feed explaining what happened. Third, we're temporarily turning off the "View As" feature while we conduct a thorough security review. The company added it has yet to determine whether these impacted accounts were misused or any information was accessed. Senator Mark Warner has issued a stern reprimand to Facebook over the security incident revelation today. "This is another sobering indicator that Congress needs to step up and take action to protect the privacy and security of social media users. As I've said before -- the era of the Wild West in social media is over," he wrote.

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Trump Administration Sees a 7-Degree Rise in Global Temperatures By 2100

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century. From a report: A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe. But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet's fate is already sealed. The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump's decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

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Intel Addresses CPU Shortage: ‘Supply Is Undoubtedly Tight’

Intel interim CEO Bob Swan publicly addressed the company's CPU shortage issue for the first time since July, when he acknowledged that meeting additional demand would be Intel's "biggest challenge." From a report: In a message posted to Intel's website Friday, Swan said the "surprising return" to growth in the PC market "has put pressure on [the company's] factory network." He added, "We're prioritizing the production of Intel Xeon and Intel Core processors so that collectively we can serve the high-performance segments of the market. That said, supply is undoubtedly tight, particularly at the entry-level of the PC market." Intel partners and at least one distributor previously told CRN they were seeing a shortage of Intel's current generation, 14-nanometer CPUs, most notably in lower-end client processors.

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Researchers Refine a Device That Can Both Harvest and Store Solar Energy, and They Hope It Will One Day Bring Electricity To Rural and Underdeveloped Areas

An anonymous reader shares a report: The problem of energy storage has led to many creative solutions, like giant batteries. For a paper published today in the journal Chem, scientists trying to improve the solar cells themselves developed an integrated battery that works in three different ways. It can work like a normal solar cell by converting sunlight to electricity immediately, explains study author Song Jin, a chemist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It can store the solar energy, or it can simply be charged like a normal battery. It's a combination of two existing technologies: solar cells that harvest light, and a so-called flow battery. The most commonly used batteries, lithium-ion, store energy in solid materials, like various metals. Flow batteries, on the other hand, store energy in external liquid tanks. This means they are very easy to scale for large projects. Scaling up all the components of a lithium-ion battery might throw off the engineering, but for flow batteries, "you just make the tank bigger," says Timothy Cook, a University at Buffalo chemist and flow battery expert not involved in the study. "You really simplify how to make the battery grow in capacity," he adds. "We're not making flow batteries to power a cell phone, we're thinking about buildings or industrial sites.

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Green Bay Packers and Microsoft Win Domain Name Fight After Family Sought Cash, Tickets and Tablets

theodp writes: Last fall, Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers announced a $10 million partnership to build TitletownTech, "an innovation center focused on developing and advancing scalable, technology-enabled ventures," which aims to bring an economic boost to the area near Lambeau Field (Microsoft President Brad Smith hails from the region). Unfortunately for them, they failed to secure their venture's namesake domain name ahead of time. GeekWire reports on the fate of a Wisconsin family that was sitting on the coveted titletowntech.com domain name and offered to give it up in exchange for $750,000 cash, 8 lifetime Packers season tickets, 2 parking passes, and 8 Microsoft Surface Pro tablets (with lifetime MS-Office licenses). The family said the admittedly-ridiculous demand wasn't meant to be taken seriously but was intended to send a message after they received a suspicious $5,000 buyout offer from an anonymous "service" that the Packers engaged to try to recover the fumbled domain. Not amused, Green Bay Packers, Inc. flexed its legal muscle, filing a domain dispute complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which ordered the disputed domain name to be transferred to the team shortly after the USPTO issued a Notice of Allowance to the NFL team for a trademark on TitletownTech, leaving the Wisconsin family with zilch. And so the old titletowntech.com ("TitleTown Tech Solutions") was just a bad memory by the time Microsoft returned to Green Bay last week to give an update on the joint venture, including the news that Microsoft will play a key role in the leadership team at TitletownTech, which will also house its TEALS program employees. [...] And as for the domain name, the NFL franchise with more titles than any other team ultimately did what it has done for years -- win.

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Hacker Proclaims He’ll Live-Stream an Attempt To Delete Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Page This Sunday

An indie Taiwanese hacker has proclaimed he'll broadcast an attempt to wipe out Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook page this Sunday -- live. From a report: Self-professed bug bounty-hunter Chang Chi-yuan, who ferrets out software flaws in return for cash, says he'll live-stream an endeavor to delete the billionaire's account at 6 p.m. local time from his own Facebook page. He didn't get into details or respond to an online query. "Broadcasting the deletion of FB founder Zuck's account," the lanky youngster, who turns 24 this year based on past interviews, told his 26,000-plus followers on Facebook this week. "Scheduled to go live." Cyber-enthusiasts from India to the U.S. routinely expose loopholes in corporate websites and software, earning small financial rewards. It's unusual however for so-called white-hat hackers to do so in real time. Chang, a minor celebrity at home who's gone on talk shows to discuss his exploits, was reportedly sued by a local bus operator after infiltrating their systems and buying a ticket for just NT$1 (3 cents). He's published a gamut of claims -- none of which could be independently verified -- including attacks on Apple and Tesla. And his Facebook account was listed among eight "special contributors" in Line's 2016 bug-hunters' hall of fame.

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Alphabet Launches VirusTotal Enterprise

Google launched today a new set of services for enterprise customers of VirusTotal, a website that lets users test suspicious files and URLs against an aggregate of multiple antivirus scanning engines at the same time. From a report: This collection of new tools is part of the new VirusTotal Enterprise service, which Google described as "the most significant upgrade in VirusTotal's 14-year history." As the name implies, this new service is specifically aimed at enterprise customers and is an expansion of VirusTotal's current Premium Services. Google says VirusTotal Enterprise consists of existing VirusTotal capabilities, but also new functionality, such as improved threat detection and a faster search system that uses a brand new interface that unifies capabilities in VirusTotal's free and paid sites. "VirusTotal Enterprise allows users to search for malware samples (using VT Intelligence), hunt for future malware samples (using VT Hunt with YARA), analyze malware relationships (using VT Graph), and automate all these tasks with our API," Google said.

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SEC Charges Elon Musk With Fraud Over His Statements To Take Tesla Private

U.S. securities regulators have sued Elon Musk for allegedly making false statements related to his abandoned efforts to take Tesla Motors private. Bloomberg News broke the news Thursday, citing docket entry in Manhattan federal court. Last month, Musk had expressed his intentions to take Tesla private, and that he had secured the funding. Taking Tesla private, which would have helped the company avoid making short-term commitments and goals, would be the "best path forward," Musk had said at the time. Even as investors had shown agreement to Musk's move, a few days later, he announced that after further discussions, everyone believes that Tesla should remain public. Amid all of this, some argued that Musk made the "false" claim just to hurt short-sellers. From the lawsuit: This case involves a series of false and misleading statements made by Elon Musk, the Chief Executive Officer of Tesla, Inc. ("Tesla"), on August 7, 2018, regarding taking Tesla, a publicly traded company, private. Musk's statements, disseminated via Twitter, falsely indicated that, should he so choose, it was virtually certain that he could take Tesla private at a purchase price that reflected a substantial premium over Tesla stock's then-current share price, that funding for this multi-billion dollar transaction had been secured, and that the only contingency was a shareholder vote. In truth and in fact, Musk had not even discussed, much less confirmed, key deal terms, including price, with any potential funding source.

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Linux Now Dominates Azure

An anonymous reader shares a report: Three years ago, Mark Russinovich, CTO of Azure, Microsoft's cloud program, said, "One in four [Azure] instances are Linux." Then, in 2017, it was 40 percent Azure virtual machines (VM) were Linux. Today, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group, said in an interview, "Slightly over half of Azure VMs are Linux. That's right. Microsoft's prize cloud, Linux, not Windows Server, is now the most popular operating system. Windows Server isn't going to be making a come back. Every month, Linux goes up," Guthrie said. And it's not just Azure users who are turning to Linux. "Native Azure services are often running on Linux," Guthrie added. "Microsoft is building more of these services. For example, Azure's Software Defined Network (SDN) is based on Linux." It's not just on Azure that Microsoft is embracing Linux. "Look at our simultaneous release of SQL Server on Linux. All of our projects now run on Linux," Guthrie said.

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Moon is Stepping Stone, Not Alternative To Mars, NASA Chief Says

The moon has not superseded Mars as a human-spaceflight target, despite NASA's current focus on getting astronauts to Earth's nearest neighbor, agency officials stressed. From a report: The Red Planet remains the ultimate destination, and the moon will serve as a stepping stone along the way, Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, and Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said during congressional hearings Wednesday. "The moon is the proving ground, and Mars is the goal," Bridenstine said during testimony before the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, part of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. "The glory of the moon is that it's only a three-day journey home," Bridenstine added. "So, we can prove all of the technologies, we can reduce all of the risks, we can try all of the different maturations that are necessary to live and work on another world. And we can do it all at the moon, where, if there is a problem, if there is an emergency, we know that we can get people home." He cited NASA's Apollo 13 mission in 1970, which famously managed to make it safely back to Earth despite experiencing a serious problem on the way to the moon.

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Voting Machine Used in Half of US Is Vulnerable to Attack, Report Finds

Election machines used in more than half of U.S. states carry a flaw disclosed more than a decade ago that makes them vulnerable to a cyberattack, WSJ reported, citing a report which will be made public Thursday on Capitol Hill. From the report: The issue was found in the widely used Model 650 high-speed ballot-counting machine made by Election Systems & Software LLC, the nation's leading manufacturer of election equipment. It is one of about seven security problems in several models of voting equipment described in the report, which is based on research conducted last month at the Def Con hacker conference. The flaw in the ES&S machine stood out because it was detailed in a security report commissioned by Ohio's secretary of state in 2007, said Harri Hursti, an election-security researcher who co-wrote both the Ohio and Def Con reports. "There has been more than plenty of time to fix it," he said. While the Model 650 is still being sold on the ES&S website, a company spokeswoman said it stopped manufacturing the systems in 2008. The machine doesn't have the advanced security features of more-modern systems, but ES&S believes "the security protections on the M650 are strong enough to make it extraordinarily difficult to hack in a real world environment," the spokeswoman said via email. The machines process paper ballots and can therefore be reliably audited, she said. The Def Con report is the latest warning from researchers, academics and government officials who say election systems in the U.S. are at risk to tampering.

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CBS Shuts Down Stage 9, a Fan-Made Recreation of the USS Enterprise

An anonymous reader writes: For those unfamiliar with the project, Stage 9 is a beautiful virtual recreation of the Enterprise ship from Star Trek: The Next Generation for Windows, Mac and Linux. More experience than game, Stage 9 was built by fans over two years in the Unreal Engine. "There were two things that we were always pretty careful with," says project leader 'Scragnog'. "We made it as clear as we possibly could that this was NOT an officially licensed project. We had no affiliation with CBS or Paramount and the IP we were trying our hardest to treat with respect was not our own. We were fans, just creating fan art." In an announcement this week, Scragnog reminded fans that no one involved in the project was in it for any financial reason and everyone was well aware that throwing money into the mix could be a problem. However, the team says it has always known that they could be shut down at any time on the whim of a license holder because in this world, that's what can happen. Unfortunately, that day has come all too soon for the impressive project. Stage 9 was hit with an intellectual property complaint from CBS just over two weeks ago and has now been shut down. "This letter was a cease-and-desist order," Scragnog explains. "Over the next 13 days we did everything we possibly could to open up a dialog with CBS. The member of the CBS legal team that issued the order went on holiday for a week immediately after sending the letter through, which slowed things down considerably."

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Study Links Restricting Screen Time For Kids To Higher Mental Performance

Parents who possess the resolve to separate their children from their smartphones may be helping their kids' brainpower, a new study suggests. A report adds: Children who use smartphones and other devices in their free time for fewer than two hours a day performed better on cognitive tests assessing their thinking, language, and memory, according to a study published this week in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The study assessed the behavior of 4,500 children, ages 8 to 11, by looking at their sleep schedules, how much time they spent on screens and their amount of exercise, and analyzed how those factors impacted the children's mental abilities. The researchers compared the results with national guidelines for children's health. The guidelines recommend that children in that age group, get at least an hour of physical activity, no more than two hours of recreational screen time and nine to 11 hours of sleep per night. The researchers found that only 5 percent of children met all three recommendations. Sixty-three percent of children spent more than two hours a day staring at screens, failing to meet the screen-time limit.

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After Century of Removing Appendixes, Docs Find Antibiotics Can Be Enough

After more than a century of slicing tiny, inflamed organs from people's guts, doctors have found that surgery may not be necessary after all -- a simple course of antibiotics can be just as effective at treating appendicitis as going under the knife. From a report: The revelation comes from a large, randomized trial out of Finland, published Tuesday, September 25, in JAMA. Despite upending a long-held standard of care, the study's finding is not entirely surprising; it follows several other randomized trials over the years that had carved out evidence that antibiotics alone can treat an acute appendicitis. Those studies, however, left some dangling questions, including if the antibiotics just improved the situation temporarily and if initial drug treatments left patients worse off later if they did need surgery. The new JAMA study, with its full, five-year follow-up, effectively cauterised those remaining issues. Nearly two-thirds of the patients randomly assigned in the study to get antibiotics for an uncomplicated appendicitis didn't end up needing surgery in the follow-up time, the Finnish authors, based at the University of Turku, report. And those drug-treated patients that did end up getting an appendectomy later were not worse off for the delay in surgery. "This long-term follow-up supports the feasibility of antibiotic treatment alone as an alternative to surgery for uncomplicated acute appendicitis," the authors conclude. The finding suggests that many appendicitis patients could be spared the risks of surgical procedures, such as infections.

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Linus Torvalds On Linux’s Code of Conduct

Linus Torvalds oversees every line of code added to the Linux kernel, but in recent years the male-dominated community has become increasingly divided, reports BBC. Rows about sexism and rudeness led to the creation of a Code of Conflict (CoC) in 2015 which was short -- simply recommending people "be excellent to each other." That has now been replaced by a more detailed Code of Conduct -- which retains the acronym, but attempts to be more inclusive and eliminate insulting and derogatory comments and behaviour. Reader sinij writes: Recently Linux Community adopted a new controversial Code of Conduct authored by Contributor Covenant also known for authoring the Post-Meritocracy Manifesto. In an exclusive email interview with the BBC, Mr Torvalds shared his thoughts on his decision to temporarily step aside, the controversy behind the CoC, and the defects of the community he set up. His thoughts on CoC: The advantage of concentrating on technology is that you can have some mostly objective measures, and some basis for agreement, and you can have a very nice and healthy community around it all. I really am motivated by the technology, but the community around Linux has been a big positive too. But there are very tangible and immediate common goals in any technical project like Linux, and while there is occasionally disagreement about how to solve some particular issue, there is a very real cohesive force in that common goal of improving the project. And even when there are disagreements, people in the end often have fairly clear and objective measures of what is better. Code that is faster, simpler, or handles more cases naturally is just objectively 'better', without people really having to argue too much about it. In contrast, the arguments about behaviour never seem to end up having a common goal. Except, in some sense, the argument itself. Have you read the Twitter feeds and other things by the people who seem to care more about the non-technical side? I think your 'hyped stories' is about as polite as you can put it. It's a morass of nastiness. Instead of a 'common goal', you end up with horrible fighting between different 'in-groups'. It's very polarising, and both sides love egging the other side on. It's not even a 'discussion', it's just people shouting at each other. That's actually the reason I for the longest time did not want to be involved with the whole CoC discussion in the first place. That whole subject seems to very easily just devolve and become unproductive. And I found a lot of the people who pushed for a CoC and criticised me for cursing to be hypocritical and pointless. I could easily point you to various tweet storms by people who criticise my 'white cis male' behaviour, while at the same time cursing more than I ever do. So that's my excuse for dismissing a lot of the politically correct concerns for years. I felt it wasn't worth it. Anybody who uses the words 'white cis male privilege' was simply not worth my time even talking to, I felt. "And I'm still not apologising for my gender or the colour of my skin, or the fact that I happen to have the common sexual orientation. What changed? Maybe it was me, but I was also made very aware of some of the behaviour of the 'other' side in the discussion. Because I may have my reservations about excessive political correctness, but honestly, I absolutely do not want to be seen as being in the same camp as the low-life scum on the internet that think it's OK to be a white nationalist Nazi, and have some truly nasty misogynistic, homophobic or transphobic behaviour. And those people were complaining about too much political correctness too, and in the process just making my public stance look bad. And don't get me wrong, please -- I'm not making excuses for some of my own rather strong language. But I do claim that it never ever was any of that kind of nastiness. I got upset with bad code, and people who made excuses for it, and used some pretty strong language in the process. Not good behaviour, but not the racist/etc claptrap some people spout. So in the end, my 'I really don't want to be too PC' stance simply became untenable. Partly because you definitely can find some emails from me that were simply completely unacceptable, and I need to fix that going forward. But to a large degree also because I don't want to be associated with a lot of the people who complain about excessive political correctness.

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PlayStation 4 Changes Crossplay Policy, Begins Fortnite Testing

Sony announced this week a major policy shift regarding crossplay with other consoles. PlayStation 4 previously wouldn't allow online games to connect to Xbox One or Switch players. This week, Sony is starting a beta test for Fortnite crossplay. From a report: Crossplay between consoles once seemed like a fantasy, but Xbox One and Switch have enabled people to play together for games like Fortnite and Rocket League. PlayStation 4 would permit crossplay with PC players, but it refused to connect to other consoles. Sony's excuse stated that such crossplay would hamper its capability to deliver a consistent experience. But the decision drew criticism from PS4 fans, especially those that were angry when they tried to install Fortnite on their Switch and found out they couldn't carry over their PS4 progress.

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Mozilla Rolls Out Recovery Key Option For Firefox Accounts

Mozilla announced today a new recovery option for Firefox Accounts, the user system included inside the Firefox browser. ZDNet: Starting today, users can generate a one-time recover key that will be associated with their account, and which they can use to regain access to Firefox data if they ever forget their passwords. Firefox Accounts is included with all recent versions of the Firefox browser. Most users are familiar with it because of Firefox Sync, the system that synchronizes Firefox data such as passwords, browsing history, open tabs, bookmarks, installed add-ons, and general browser options between multiple Firefox instances. But while Sync does the actual synchronization, Firefox Accounts is at the core of Sync and is the system that manages the identities of Firefox users. Sync works by taking a user's Firefox account password and encrypting the user's browser data on the local computer.

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Ex-Google Employee Warns of ‘Disturbing’ China Plans

A former Google employee has warned of the firm's "disturbing" plans in China, in a letter to US lawmakers. BBC: Jack Poulson, who had been a senior researcher at the company until resigning in August, wrote that he was fearful of Google's ambitions. His letter alleges Google's work on a Chinese product -- codenamed Dragonfly -- would aid Beijing's efforts to censor and monitor its citizens online. Google has said its work in China to date has been "exploratory." Ben Gomes, Google's head of search, told the BBC earlier this week: "Right now all we've done is some exploration, but since we don't have any plans to launch something there's nothing much I can say about it." A report by news site The Intercept last week alleged Google had demanded employees delete an internal memo that discussed the plans. Google has not commented on the staff row, but said: "We've been investing for many years to help Chinese users, from developing Android, through mobile apps such as Google Translate and Files Go, and our developer tools." It added: "We are not close to launching a search product in China." Mr Poulson's letter details several aspects of Google's work that had been reported in the press but never officially confirmed by the company. It was submitted to the Senate Commerce Committee, which held a hearing on Wednesday in Washington DC. Google's chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, faced questions from Senator Ted Cruz about the company's intentions to launch a new search engine in China. He confirmed the existence of the project.

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Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access To Your Shadow Contact Information

Kashmir Hill, reporting for Gizmodo: Last week, I ran an ad on Facebook targeted at a computer science professor named Alan Mislove. Mislove studies how privacy works on social networks and had a theory that Facebook is letting advertisers reach users with contact information collected in surprising ways. I was helping him test the theory by targeting him in a way Facebook had previously told me wouldn't work. I directed the ad to display to a Facebook account connected to the landline number for Alan Mislove's office, a number Mislove has never provided to Facebook. He saw the ad within hours. One of the many ways that ads get in front of your eyeballs on Facebook and Instagram is that the social networking giant lets an advertiser upload a list of phone numbers or email addresses it has on file; it will then put an ad in front of accounts associated with that contact information. A clothing retailer can put an ad for a dress in the Instagram feeds of women who have purchased from them before, a politician can place Facebook ads in front of anyone on his mailing list, or a casino can offer deals to the email addresses of people suspected of having a gambling addiction. Facebook calls this a "custom audience." You might assume that you could go to your Facebook profile and look at your "contact and basic info" page to see what email addresses and phone numbers are associated with your account, and thus what advertisers can use to target you. But as is so often the case with this highly efficient data-miner posing as a way to keep in contact with your friends, it's going about it in a less transparent and more invasive way. [...] Giridhari Venkatadri, Piotr Sapiezynski, and Alan Mislove of Northeastern University, along with Elena Lucherini of Princeton University, did a series of tests that involved handing contact information over to Facebook for a group of test accounts in different ways and then seeing whether that information could be used by an advertiser. They came up with a novel way to detect whether that information became available to advertisers by looking at the stats provided by Facebook about the size of an audience after contact information is uploaded. They go into this in greater length and technical detail in their paper [PDF]. They found that when a user gives Facebook a phone number for two-factor authentication or in order to receive alerts about new log-ins to a user's account, that phone number became targetable by an advertiser within a couple of weeks. Officially, Facebook denies the existence of shadow profiles. In a hearing with the House Energy & Commerce Committee earlier this year, when New Mexico Representative Ben Lujan asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if he was aware of the so-called practice of building "shadow profiles", Zuckerberg denied knowledge of it.

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Facebook Executive Hits Back at WhatsApp Co-founder Brian Acton: ‘A Whole New Standard of Low-Class’

Facebook's David Marcus, who until recently ran the Facebook Messenger before starting the blockchain group earlier this year, is defending the company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg after a WhatsApp founder spoke critically of his experience at the company. Marcus: [...] On the business model. I was present in a lot of these meetings. Again, Mark protected WhatsApp for a very long period of time. And you have to put this in the context of a large organization with businesses knocking on our door to have the ability to engage and communicate with their customers on WhatsApp the same way they were doing it on Messenger. During this time, it became pretty clear that while advocating for business messaging, and being given the opportunity to build and deliver on that promise, Brian actively slow-played the execution, and never truly went for it. In my view, if you're passionate about a certain path -- in this case, letting businesses message people and charging for it -- and if you have internal questions about it, then work hard to prove that your approach has legs and demonstrate the value. Don't be passive-aggressive about it. And by the way the paid messaging that WhatsApp is rolling out now sounds pretty similar to metered messaging from my point of view... Lastly -- call me old fashioned. But I find attacking the people and company that made you a billionaire, and went to an unprecedented extent to shield and accommodate you for years, low-class. It's actually a whole new standard of low-class. I'll close by saying that as far as I'm concerned, and as a former lifelong entrepreneur and founder, there's no other large company I'd work at, and no other leader I'd work for. I want to work on hard problems that positively impact the lives of billions of people around the world. And Facebook is truly the only company that's singularly about people.

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Using Wi-Fi To Count People Through Walls

An anonymous reader shares a report: Whether you're trying to figure out how many students are attending your lectures or how many evil aliens have taken your Space Force brethren hostage, Wi-Fi can now be used to count them all. The system, created by researchers at UC Santa Barbara, uses a single Wi-Fi router outside of the room to measure attenuation and signal drops. From the release: "The transmitter sends a wireless signal whose received signal strength (RSSI) is measured by the receiver. Using only such received signal power measurements, the receiver estimates how many people are inside the room -- an estimate that closely matches the actual number. It is noteworthy that the researchers do not do any prior measurements or calibration in the area of interest; their approach has only a very short calibration phase that need not be done in the same area." This means that you could simply walk up to a wall and press a button to count, with a high degree of accuracy, how many people are walking around. The system can measure up to 20 people in its current form.

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In Senate Hearing, Tech Giants Push Lawmakers For Federal Privacy Rules

Another day, another hearing of tech giants in Congress. Wednesday's hearing at the Senate Commerce Committee with Apple, Amazon, Google and Twitter, alongside AT&T and Charter, marked the latest in a string of hearings in the past few months into all things tech: but mostly controversies embroiling the companies, from election meddling to transparency. This time, privacy was at the top of the agenda. The problem, lawmakers say, is that consumers have little of it. From a report: The hearing said that the U.S. was lagging behind Europe's new GDPR privacy rules and California's recently passed privacy law, which goes into effect in 2020, and lawmakers were edging toward introducing their own federal privacy law. AT&T, Apple, Charter and Google used their time in the Senate to call on lawmakers to introduce new federal privacy legislation. Tech companies spent the past year pushing back against the new state regulations, but have conceded that new privacy rules are inevitable. Now the companies realize that it's better to sit at the table to influence a federal privacy law than stand outside in the cold. In pushing for a new federal law, representatives from each company confirmed that they support the preemption of California's new rules -- something that critics oppose. AT&T's chief lawyer Len Cali said that a patchwork of state laws would be unworkable. Apple, too, agreed to support a privacy law, but noted as a company that doesn't hoard user data for advertising -- like Facebook and Google -- that any federal law would need to put a premium on protecting the consumer rather than helping companies make money. But Amazon's chief lawyer Andrew DeVore said that complying with privacy rules has "required us to divert significant resources to administrative tasks and away from invention."

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Google Promises Chrome Changes After Privacy Complaints

Google, on the defensive from concerns raised about how Chrome tracks its users, has promised changes to its web browser. From a report: Two complaints in recent days involve how Google stores data about browsing activity in files called cookies and how it syncs personal data across different devices. Google representatives said Monday and Tuesday there's nothing to be worried about but that they'll be changing Chrome nevertheless. "We've heard -- and appreciate -- your feedback from the last few days, and we'll be making some product changes," tweeted Parisa Tabriz, a security team leader at Google. Google added in a blog post Tuesday evening that it will add new options and explanations for its interface and reverse one Chrome cookie-hoarding policy that undermined people's attempts to clear those cookies.

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Study of 1.6 Million Grades Shows Little Gender Difference in Math and Science at School

A study of school grades of more than 1.6 million students shows that girls and boys perform similarly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. From a report: The research, published today in Nature Communications, also shows that girls do better than boys in non-STEM subjects. Our results provide evidence that large gaps in the representation of women in STEM careers later in life are not due to differences in academic performance. One explanation for gender imbalance in STEM is the "variability hypothesis." This is the idea that gender gaps are much larger at the tails of the distribution -- among the highest and lowest performers -- than in the middle.

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‘I Sold My Users’ Privacy To a Larger Benefit. I Made a Choice and a Compromise. And I Live With That Every Day’: WhatsApp Cofounder On Leaving Facebook

Brian Acton, a founder of WhatsApp, which he (along with the other founder) sold to Facebook for $19 billion four years ago, has grown tired of the social juggernaut. He left the company a year ago, and earlier this year, he surprised many when he tweeted "#DeleteFacebook", offering his support to what many described as a movement. He had started despising working at Facebook so much, that he left the company abruptly, leaving a cool $850M in unvested stock. He has also invested $50 million in encrypted chat app Signal. In an interview with Forbes, published Wednesday, Acton talked about his rationale behind leaving the company and what he thinks of Facebook now. From the story: Under pressure from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to monetize WhatsApp, he pushed back as Facebook questioned the encryption he'd helped build and laid the groundwork to show targeted ads and facilitate commercial messaging. Acton also walked away from Facebook a year before his final tranche of stock grants vested. "It was like, okay, well, you want to do these things I don't want to do," Acton says. "It's better if I get out of your way. And I did." It was perhaps the most expensive moral stand in history. Acton took a screenshot of the stock price on his way out the door -- the decision cost him $850 million. He's following a similar moral code now. He clearly doesn't relish the spotlight this story will bring and is quick to underscore that Facebook "isn't the bad guy." ("I think of them as just very good businesspeople.") But he paid dearly for the right to speak his mind. "As part of a proposed settlement at the end, [Facebook management] tried to put a nondisclosure agreement in place," Acton says. "That was part of the reason that I got sort of cold feet in terms of trying to settle with these guys." It's also a story any idealistic entrepreneur can identify with: What happens when you build something incredible and then sell it to someone with far different plans for your baby? "At the end of the day, I sold my company," Acton says. "I sold my users' privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day." Facebook, Acton says, had decided to pursue two ways of making money from WhatsApp. First, by showing targeted ads in WhatsApp's new Status feature, which Acton felt broke a social compact with its users. "Targeted advertising is what makes me unhappy," he says. His motto at WhatsApp had been "No ads, no games, no gimmicks" -- a direct contrast with a parent company that derived 98% of its revenue from advertising. Another motto had been "Take the time to get it right," a stark contrast to "Move fast and break things." Elsewhere in the story, Acton has also suggested he was used by Facebook to help get its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp past EU regulators that had been concerned it might be able to link accounts -- as it subsequently did.

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