Author Archives: msmash

Zuckerberg Doesn’t Care About Publishers; Media Firms That Don’t Work With Us Will End Up ‘In Hospice’: Facebook Executive

Olivia Solon, writing for The Guardian: A senior Facebook executive told Australian media companies that if they didn't cooperate with the social network, their businesses would die. According to a report by The Australian, Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of news partnerships, told a group of more than 20 broadcasters and publishers that she wanted to help media companies develop sustainable business models through the platform. "We will help you revitalise journalism ... in a few years the reverse looks like I'll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a hospice," she said, in comments corroborated by five people who attended the meeting in Sydney on Tuesday. The Australian also reported that Brown said that Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, "doesn't care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes," although both Facebook and Brown vehemently deny this comment was made, referring to a transcript they have from the meeting. Facebook would not release the transcript from the meeting.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Internet Engineering Task Force Releases the Final Version of TLS 1.3; Newest Chrome and Firefox Versions Already Support a Draft Version of It

The encryption that protects your browser's connection to websites is getting a notch faster and a notch safer to use. From a report: That's because the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) on Friday finished a years-long process of modernizing the technology used to secure website communications. You may never have heard of Transport Layer Security -- TLS for short -- but version 1.3 is now complete and headed to websites, browsers and other parts of the internet that rely on its security. "Publishing TLS 1.3 is a huge accomplishment. It is one the best recent examples of how it is possible to take 20 years of deployed legacy code and change it on the fly, resulting in a better internet for everyone," said Nick Sullivan, head of cryptography for Cloudflare, which helps customers distribute their websites and other content around the world, in a blog post. TLS 1.3 brings some significant improvements over TLS 1.2, which was finished 10 years ago. Perhaps first on the list is that it'll mean websites load faster. Setting up an encrypted connection on the web historically has caused delays since your browser and the website server must send information back and forth in a process called a handshake. The slower your broadband or the more congested your mobile network is, the more you'll notice these delays. Firefox and Chrome already support a draft version of TLS 1.3.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple Asked Developers To Adopt Subscriptions and Hike App Prices, Report Says

Apple invited a group of app developers to a secret April 2017 meeting in New York's Tribeca district, asking them to move from selling apps at low prices to renting app access through subscriptions, Business Insider reports. From a story: This change is intended to keep users paying for apps "on a regular basis, putting money into developer coffers on a regular schedule," the report claims.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

IBM Promised Its AI Platform Watson Would Be a Big Step Forward in Treating Cancer. But After Pouring Billions Into the Project, the Diagnosis is Gloomy.

Can Watson cure cancer? That's what IBM asked soon after its AI system beat humans at the quiz show "Jeopardy!" in 2011. Watson could read documents quickly and find patterns in data. Could it match patient information with the latest in medical studies to deliver personalized treatment recommendations? "Watson represents a technology breakthrough that can help physicians improve patient outcomes," said Herbert Chase, a professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University, in a 2012 IBM press release. Six years and billions of dollars later, the diagnosis for Watson is gloomy [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. WSJ: More than a dozen IBM partners and clients have halted or shrunk Watson's oncology-related projects. Watson cancer applications have had limited impact on patients, according to dozens of interviews with medical centers, companies and doctors who have used it, as well as documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In many cases, the tools didn't add much value. In some cases, Watson wasn't accurate. Watson can be tripped up by a lack of data in rare or recurring cancers, and treatments are evolving faster than Watson's human trainers can update the system. Dr. Chase of Columbia said he withdrew as an adviser after he grew disappointed in IBM's direction for marketing the technology. No published research shows Watson improving patient outcomes. IBM said Watson has important cancer-care benefits, like helping doctors keep up with medical knowledge.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US House Candidates Vulnerable To Hacks, Researchers Say

About 30 percent of House candidates running for office this year have significant cybersecurity issues with their campaign websites, according to a new study. Reuters: The research was unveiled on Sunday at the annual Def Con security conference in Las Vegas, where some attendees have spent three days hacking into voting machines to highlight vulnerabilities in technology running polling operations. A team of four independent researchers led by former National Institutes for Standards and Technology security expert Joshua Franklin concluded that the websites of nearly one-third of U.S. House candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, are vulnerable to attacks. NIST is a U.S. Commerce Department laboratory that provides advice on technical issues, including cyber security. Using automated scans and test programs, the team identified multiple vulnerabilities, including problems with digital certificates used to verify secure connections with users, Franklin told Reuters ahead of the presentation. The warnings about the midterm elections, which are less than three months away, come after Democrats have spent more than a year working to bolster cyber defenses of the party's national, state and campaign operations.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Mining Town Where People Live Under the Earth

Claire Reilly, writing for CNET: After spending a night in an underground rock cave in the middle of the Australian desert, I learned three things: The silence is deafening. Your eyes never adjust to the darkness. And if nobody brushes the ceiling before you arrive, that clump of dirt is going to scare the living hell out of you when it drops on your face at 2 a.m. I've flown 1,200 miles for the privilege of sleeping in a hole in Coober Pedy. There's no Wi-Fi down here. The glare of my MacBook feels obnoxious in the subterranean stillness. The TV plays ads for a "local" cleaning service from the next town over, but that just happens to be 400 miles away. Australia is a country defined by "the tyranny of distance," but traveling to the underground opal mining town of Coober Pedy feels like taking a holiday on Mars. In the middle of the South Australian desert and an eight hour drive in either direction from the nearest capital city (Adelaide to the south or Alice Springs to the north), Coober Pedy is off the grid and mostly hidden underground. More than half the residents live buried in the bedrock in cavelike homes called "dugouts" in order to escape freezing winters, scorching summers and the occasional cyclone. Often, the only sign you're walking on someone's roof is the air vent that's sprouted up next to your boots. While first nation peoples have lived in the central Australian desert for thousands of years, the Coober Pedy we know today wouldn't exist without opals. Miners rushed here in the 1920s, enduring extreme conditions to hunt for the multicolored gems, digging, bulldozing and eventually blasting out earth in a bid to find the elusive seam that would make them rich. Living in Coober Pedy is not just about surviving. It's about carving out a way of life in one of the harshest environments on the planet. [...] "It's not like we're living thousands of kilometers under the ground," he tells me. "It's pretty similar to living in a normal house." Sam's family, who live in a dugout close to Crocodile Harry's, have solar panels for power -- but those generate only enough electricity for a few hours a day. Diesel handles the rest, he says. "We have to rely on tourists to pay for our fuel," he says. "Gasoline is valuable out here. Fuel is really expensive." That means no fridge running all day and night -- they keep nonperishable food and get the rest from town every day. Otherwise, life is pretty similar to what other 18-year-olds in the city experience. Sam says he can still charge his phone and use the TV "for a bit." "We have internet when the generator's on. Dad's got an Xbox but we don't even try to use the solar for that."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Flourishing Business of Fake YouTube Views

An anonymous reader shares a report: Martin Vassilev makes a good living selling fake views on YouTube videos. Working from home in Ottawa, he has sold about 15 million views so far this year, putting him on track to bring in more than $200,000, records show. Mr. Vassilev, 32, does not provide the views himself. His website, 500Views.com, connects customers with services that offer views, likes and dislikes generated by computers, not humans. When a supplier cannot fulfill an order, Mr. Vassilev -- like a modern switchboard operator -- quickly connects with another. "I can deliver an unlimited amount of views to a video," Mr. Vassilev said in an interview. "They've tried to stop it for so many years, but they can't stop it. There's always a way around." [...] Just as other social media companies have been plagued by impostor accounts and artificial influence campaigns, YouTube has struggled with fake views for years. The fake-view ecosystem of which Mr. Vassilev is a part can undermine YouTube's credibility by manipulating the digital currency that signals value to users. While YouTube says fake views represent just a tiny fraction of the total, they still have a significant effect by misleading consumers and advertisers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google DeepMind’s AI Beats Doctors at Spotting Eye Disease in Scan

DeepMind, Google's artificial intelligence business, is planning clinical trials of technology that can help diagnose eye disease by analyzing medical images after early tests showed its results were more accurate than human doctors. From a report: Published in the scientific journal Nature, the study claims that DeepMind, in partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, has trained its algorithms to detect over 50 sight-threatening conditions to the same accuracy as expert clinicians. It is also capable of correctly recommending the most appropriate course of action for patients and prioritise those in most urgent need of care. In a project that began two years ago, DeepMind trained its machine learning algorithms using thousands of historic and fully anonymized eye scans to identify diseases that could lead to sight loss. According to the study, they can now do so with 94 percent accuracy, and the hope is that they could eventually be used to transform how eye exams are conducted around the world. You might be wondering why we need AI to do this job that has up until now been carried out by medical staff. But diagnosing eye diseases from ocular scans is incredibly time-consuming for doctors due to their complexity. Due to the aging global population, eye disease is also becoming more prevalent not less, increasing the burden on healthcare systems.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hackers Who Attended Black Hat and DefCon Conferences Say Hotel Security Personnel and Las Vegas Strip Demanded Access To Their Rooms

More than two dozen hackers and security experts who attended security events last week say security personnel at the Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Aria, Cromwell, Tuscany, Linq, or Mirage hotels had entered their rooms. Security news site The Parallax reports: Except for Tuscany, which is independent, all of these hotels are owned by either Caesars Entertainment or MGM Resorts International. And of the three hotel companies, only Caesars returned a request for comment. Richard Broome, executive vice president of communications and government relations for Caesars Entertainment, whose Caesars Palace is co-hosting DefCon this year with the Flamingo, said that following the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history last year, "periodic" hotel room checks are now standard operating procedure in Las Vegas. On October 1, 2017, from his room at the Mandalay Bay, Stephen Paddock used semiautomatic weapons he'd outfitted with bump stocks to kill 58 people and wound at least 527 others attending a gated country music concert on the Strip below. [...] Two apparent Caesars security officers wearing hotel name tags displaying only the first names "Cynthia" and "Keith," respectively, as well as sheriff's style badges that looked like they came out of a Halloween costume kit, visited my room while I was writing this story. Cynthia told me that they are instructed to refer to the front desk guests who decline to allow their room to be searched. After Cynthia and Keith declined to disclose their last names to me, I asked what they intended to do in the room. They told me that they would enter it, type a code into the room's phone line to signal that it's been checked, and then do a visual spot check. When I asked what they would be looking for, Cynthia replied, "WMDs -- that sort of thing." Other conference attendees reported similar but less pleasant interactions. Katie Moussouris, CEO of Luta Security, wrote on Twitter that two hotel security personnel were "banging" on her room door and "shouted" at her. She also said the hotel's security team supervisor "dismissed" her concerns over how the hotel was treating single, female travelers. Google security engineer Maddie Stone tweeted that a man wearing a light-blue shirt and a walkie-talkie entered her Caesars Palace room with a key, but without knocking, while she was getting dressed. "He left when I started screaming," she wrote, adding that a hotel manager, upon her request, said Caesars would look into whether the man was actually an employee. Stone tweeted that she left DefCon early because of the incident.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Many Google Services on Android Devices and iPhones Store Location Data, Even if Location Sharing is Disabled From Privacy Settings: AP

Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to. An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so. The Associated Press reports that it has confirmed its findings with computer science researchers at Princeton. From the report: For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a "timeline" that maps out your daily movements. Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects -- such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you "pause" a setting called Location History. Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you've been. Google's support page on the subject states: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored." That isn't true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like "chocolate chip cookies," or "kids science kits," pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude -- accurate to the square foot -- and save it to your Google account. The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google's Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search. Storing location data in violation of a user's preferences is wrong, said Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission's enforcement bureau.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Saudi Fund in Talks to Invest in Tesla Buyout Deal, Report Says

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is in talks that could see it becoming a significant investor in Tesla as part of Elon Musk's plan to take the electric car maker private, Bloomberg reported Sunday, citing a person with direct knowledge of the fund's plans. From the report: The Public Investment Fund, which has built up a stake just shy of 5 percent in Tesla in recent months, is exploring how it can be involved in the potential deal, the person said on condition of anonymity. Discussions began before the controversial Aug. 7 tweet by Musk, who is Tesla's co-founder and chief executive officer, saying he was weighing a plan to take the company private. The PIF sees its investment in Tesla as a strategic way for the world's biggest crude producer to hedge against oil, the person said. The Saudi fund hasn't made any firm decisions on whether to increase its stake, or by how much, but talks are ongoing, the person said. It wasn't immediately clear how much the fund would invest in Tesla.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Small Team of Student AI Coders Beats Google’s Machine-Learning Code

Students from Fast.ai, a small organization that runs free machine-learning courses online, just created an AI algorithm that outperforms code from Google's researchers, per an important benchmark. From a report: Fast.ai's success is important because it sometimes seems as if only those with huge resources can do advanced AI research. Fast.ai consists of part-time students keen to try their hand at machine learning -- and perhaps transition into a career in data science. It rents access to computers in Amazon's cloud. But Fast.ai's team built an algorithm that beats Google's code, as measured using a benchmark called DAWNBench, from researchers at Stanford. This benchmark uses a common image classification task to track the speed of a deep-learning algorithm per dollar of compute power. Google's researchers topped the previous rankings, in a category for training on several machines, using a custom-built collection its own chips designed specifically for machine learning. The Fast.ai team was able to produce something even faster, on roughly equivalent hardware.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Millions of Android Devices Are Vulnerable Right Out of the Box

Security meltdowns on your smartphone are often self-inflicted: You clicked the wrong link, or installed the wrong app. But for millions of Android devices, the vulnerabilities have been baked in ahead of time, deep in the firmware, just waiting to be exploited. Who put them there? Some combination of the manufacturer that made it, and the carrier that sold it to you. From a report: That's the key finding of new analysis from mobile security firm Kryptowire, which details troubling bugs preloaded into 10 devices sold across the major US carriers. Kryptowire CEO Angelos Stavrou and director of research Ryan Johnson will present their research, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, at the Black Hat security conference Friday. The potential outcomes of the vulnerabilities range in severity, from being able to lock someone out of their device to gaining surreptitious access to its microphone and other functions. They all share one common trait, though: They didn't have to be there. [...] "The problem is not going to go away, because a lot of the people in the supply chain want to be able to add their own applications, customize, add their own code. That increases the attack surface, and increases the probability of software error," Stavrou says. "They're exposing the end user to exploits that the end user is not able to respond to." Security researchers found 38 different vulnerabilities that can allow for spying and factory resets loaded onto 25 Android phones. That includes devices from Asus, ZTE, LG and the Essential Phone, which are distributed by carriers like Verizon or AT&T.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Pirate Bay Turns 15

Sometime about 15 years ago, a group of hackers and activists launched The Pirate Bay, a notorious torrent search engine. TorrentFreak: While the exact launch date is a bit of a mystery, even to the site's founders, August 10 was previously chosen as its anniversary. What we do know is that the site was brought online in 2003 by now-disbanded pro-culture organization Piratbyran, which is Swedish for Bureau of Piracy. The group was formed by political activists and hackers in the same year, many of whom had already launched other web projects challenging political, moral, and power structures. One of the group's unwritten goals was to offer a counterweight to the propaganda being spread by local anti-piracy outfit Antpiratbyran. With BitTorrent as the up-and-coming file-sharing technology, they saw fit to start their own file-sharing site to promote sharing of information. The Pirate Bay first came online in Mexico where Gottfrid Svartholm, aka Anakata, hosted the site on a server owned by the company he was working for at the time. After a few months, the site moved to Sweden where it was hosted on a Pentium III 1GHz laptop with 256MB RAM.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Nintendo’s Offensive, Tragic, and Totally Legal Erasure of ROM Sites

"The damage that removing ROMs from the internet could do to video games as a whole is catastrophic." From a report: In July, Nintendo sued two popular ROM sites, LoveROMS and LoveRetro.co, for what it called "brazen and mass-scale infringement of Nintendo's intellectual property rights." Both sites have since shut down. On Wednesday, another big, 18-year-old ROM site, EmuParadise, said it would no longer be able to allow people to download old games due to "potentially disastrous consequences." Nintendo owns the intellectual property for its games, and when people pirate them instead of buying a Nintendo Super NES Classic Edition or a downloading a copy from one of its digital storefronts, it can argue it's losing money. According to Nintendo's official site, ROMs and video game emulation also represent "the greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers," and "have the potential to significantly damage" tens of thousands of jobs. Even when a Nintendo game isn't for sale, it's still the company's intellectual property, and it can enforce its copyright if it wants. But the damage that removing ROMs from the internet could do to video games as a whole is catastrophic. Many game developers and people who have otherwise made video games a major part of their lives, especially those who grew up in low-income households or outside a Western country, wouldn't have been inspired to take that path if it wasn't for ROMs. Entire chapters of video game history would be lost if ROMs and emulation didn't preserve games where publishers failed to. And perhaps most importantly, denying people access to ROMs makes the process of educating them in game development much more difficult, potentially hobbling future generations of video game makers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Some Engineers Are Turning Down Tech Recruiters in Silicon Valley Over Concerns About Corporate Value

Tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have faced growing internal unrest from employees who raise ethical concerns about how the companies deploy their high-tech services and products. That chorus of dissent is now growing louder as outside engineers voice their concerns to recruiters working for those tech companies. An anonymous reader shares a report: The protests of tech workers have proven persuasive because Silicon Valley firms compete fiercely to recruit and retain relatively scarce engineering talent. For example, Google's leadership sought to reassure employees by declaring it would not renew its Pentagon contract and by issuing a set of ethical principles for future uses of Google-developed technologies. By the same logic, engineers who are approached by tech recruiters also have leverage. "I might be a one-off example, but it could be different if Amazon gets a lot of people emailing them saying, 'Hey I won't work for you because of this,'" Geiduschek, a software engineer at Dropbox, who declined a job offer from Amazon, says. Jackie Luo, a software engineer at Square, took a similar stance with a tech recruiter who sought to interest her in a career with Google. The recruiter happened to contact Luo when she was reading about Google's plans to re-enter the Chinese market with a censored version of the company's Internet search engine. [...] Individual engineers such as Luo and Geiduschek seem to be responding to tech recruiters through their own initiative rather than as part of any larger movement. Meanwhile, some tech employees have joined organized efforts, such as the #TechWontBuildIt movement spearheaded by the labor advocacy group Tech Workers Coalition.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook, Still on a Mission To Bring People Online, Announces Connectivity

The social network's initiatives to connect people to the internet, including Internet.org and new data analytics tools, are now part of Facebook Connectivity. From a report: A half decade after launching Internet.org, seen by many as the coming-out party for Facebook's connectivity programs, the company said it's shaking up its efforts to bring internet access to the 4 billion people who still don't have it. On Friday, Facebook rounded up all its disparate broadband and infrastructure projects and housed them under a new umbrella organization called Facebook Connectivity. "There's no silver bullet for connecting the world," Yael Maguire, vice president of engineering for Facebook Connectivity, said in an interview Thursday. "There isn't going to be a magic technology or business plan or single regulatory policy change that's going to change this. We really believe that it is a wide and diverse set of efforts that's required to do this." The Connectivity group houses projects including Terragraph, which aims to connect high-density urban areas; OpenCellular, an open-source platform working on rural connectivity; and the Telecom Infra Project, a joint initiative with the wireless industry for creating faster networks. Facebook said the umbrella will also include Internet.org, which drew controversy with its Free Basics product that offered a pared-down version of the internet in emerging markets. While Internet.org has been synonymous with Facebook's connectivity efforts for the past five years, the new Connectivity brand may signal the company trying to distance itself from the backlashes surrounding Internet.org.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ethiopia is Blocking the Internet Again To Stifle Unrest in Its Troubled Eastern Region

Ethiopia's government has regressed to an old habit: shutting down the internet. From a report: Reports show the internet has been blocked in the eastern cities of Jijiga, Dire Dawa, and Harar following violence and simmering political tensions. Over the past weekend, federal troops were deployed to the eastern Somali regional state, leading to a standoff with local police, lootings, and death. The region's leader Abdi Mohamoud Omar, better known as Abdi Iley, was forced to resign and replaced by his finance minister Ahmed Abdi Mohammed. Following the unrest, officials cut off internet access to the region, with no explanation from either the ministry of communications or the sole mobile operator and internet provider Ethio Telecom. The move is indicative of an old Ethiopian government trick, blocking the internet or access to specific social media sites like Facebook and Twitter during anti-government protests or unease.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

‘It’s Time to End the Yearly Smartphone Launch Event’

Owen Williams, writing for Motherboard: Thursday, at a flashy event in New York, Samsung unveiled yet another phone: the Galaxy Note 9. Like you'd expect, it's rectangular, it has a screen, and it has a few cameras. While unveiling what it hopes will be the next hit, it unknowingly confirmed something we've all been wondering: the smartphone industry is out of ideas. Phones are officially boring: the only topic that's up for debate with the Galaxy Note 9 is the lack of the iconic notch found on the iPhone X, and that it has a headphone jack. The notch has been cloned by almost every phone maker out there, and the headphone jack is a commodity that's unfortunately dying. However, the fact that we're comparing phones with or without a chunk out of the screen or a hole for your headphones demonstrates just how stuck the industry is. It's clear that there's nothing really to see here. Yeah, the Note is a big phone, and it has a larger battery too. It's in different colors, it's faster than last year, and it has wireless charging. Everything you see here is from a laundry list of features that other smartphone manufacturers also have, and the lack of differentiation becomes clearer every year. It's the pinnacle of technology, and it's a snooze-fest. This isn't exclusively a Samsung problem: Every manufacturer from Apple to Xiaomi faces the same predicament. The iPhone's release cycle that Apple trained the world to be accustomed to, with splashy yearly releases and million-dollar keynotes, is clearly coming to an end as consumers use their existing phones for longer every year.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hollywood Goes Open Source: Academy Teams Up With Linux Foundation To Launch Academy Software Foundation

Hollywood now has its very own open source organization: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has teamed up with the Linux Foundation to launch the Academy Software Foundation, which is dedicated to advance the use of open source in film making and beyond. From a report: The association's founding members include Animal Logic, Autodesk, Blue Sky Studios, Cisco, DNEG, DreamWorks, Epic Games, Foundry, Google Cloud, Intel, SideFX, Walt Disney Studios and Weta Digital. Together, they want to promote open source, help studios and others in Hollywood with open source licensing issues and manage open source projects under the helm of the Software Foundation. The cooperation between the Academy and the Linux Foundation began a little over two years ago, when the Academy's Science and Technology Council began to look into Hollywood's use of open source software. "It's the culmination of a couple of years of work," said Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) head Rob Bredlow in an interview with Variety this week. One of the findings of that investigation: Almost everyone in Hollywood is using open source software in one way or another. An internal survey found that 80 percent of all companies were using open source. "It's a really big component of the motion picture industry," Bredlow said. Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin argued that this kind of cooperation could be transformative for Hollywood. "I've seen this movie before in other industries," he punned, explaining that automotive companies had seen huge benefits from working together on open source projects.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

EPA Staff Objected To Agency’s New Rules on Asbestos Use, Internal Emails Show

Top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency pushed through a measure to review applications for using asbestos in consumer products, and did so over the objections of E.P.A.'s in-house scientists and attorneys, internal agency emails show. From a report: The clash over the proposal exposes the tensions within the E.P.A. over the Trump administration's efforts to roll back environmental rules and rewrite other regulations that industries have long fought. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral and known carcinogen, was once common in insulation and fireproofing materials, but today most developed countries ban it. The United States still allows limited use in products including gaskets, roofing materials and sealants. The proposed new rule would create a new process for regulating uses of asbestos, something the E.P.A. is obliged to do under a 2016 amendment to a toxic substances law.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

An Internal Note Shows Facebook Learned a Way To Target High Schoolers Through a Viral Polling App It Acquired Last Year: Report

Facebook bought TBH last October and eventually shut it down, but an internal note, obtained by BuzzFeed News, shows that the company learned a way to target high schoolers through the viral polling app. From a report: When Facebook purchased TBH last October it got more than just a viral polling app that amassed 2.5 million daily users, mostly teens, a few months after launch. The social network also acquired a carefully honed growth strategy targeted toward high school kids. An internal document from Facebook, obtained by BuzzFeed News, shows TBH's leadership explaining a well-tested method the startup used to attract teens at individual high schools to download its app. The note provides a window into Facebook's growth-at-any-costs mentality and the company's efforts to keep a key demographic engaged as its popularity among teens declines and it simultaneously runs out of people in the connected world to bring to its platform. In the confidential memo, TBH's founders told their new colleagues of "a psychological trick" that they employed to acquire teenage users en masse -- a combination of scraping Instagram for high schoolers' accounts, playing to youthful curiosity, and taking advantage of class dismissal hours.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Artificial Intelligence is Coming for Hiring, and It Might Not Be That Bad

Even with all of its problems, AI is a step up from the notoriously biased recruiting process, a report argues. From the report: Artificial intelligence promises to make hiring an unbiased utopia. There's certainly plenty of room for improvement. Employee referrals, a process that tends to leave underrepresented groups out, still make up a bulk of companies' hires. Recruiters and hiring managers also bring their own biases to the process, studies have found, often choosing people with the "right-sounding" names and educational background. Across the pipeline, companies lack racial and gender diversity, with the ranks of underrepresented people thinning at the highest levels of the corporate ladder. "Identifying high-potential candidates is very subjective," said Alan Todd, CEO of CorpU, a technology platform for leadership development. "People pick who they like based on unconscious biases." AI advocates argue the technology can eliminate some of these biases. Instead of relying on people's feelings to make hiring decisions, companies such as Entelo and Stella.ai use machine learning to detect the skills needed for certain jobs. The AI then matches candidates who have those skills with open positions. The companies claim not only to find better candidates, but also to pinpoint those who may have previously gone unrecognized in the traditional process.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Blockchain Hype May Have Peaked, But IBM is Still a Believer

Blockchain euphoria is giving way to blockchain fatigue: Despite the hype, only 1% of executives in a survey reported deploying the technology at their firms. And while corporate management remains bullish about distributed ledgers, mentions of "blockchain" are on the decline during earnings conference calls. But IBM, which has roots going back more than 100 years, still thinks the technology that underpins bitcoin has untapped potential. From a report: Blockchain is a kind of tamper-proof database for keeping track of just about anything. IBM has around 1,600 employees working on such projects, and is leading other technology companies in terms of headcount and investment, according to Marie Wieck, general manager for IBM Blockchain. The Armonk, New York-based company thinks promising uses include supply chains and finance. And while the public's love affair with blockchain is showing signs of dissipating, Wieck still thinks the technology could be as transformative for businesses processes as the internet has been for personal ones.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Airbus’ Solar-Powered Zephyr Smashes Flight Duration Record on Maiden Outing

A solar-powered aircraft from the European aerospace giant Airbus has completed a maiden flight lasting 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes. In doing so, the production model unmanned solar-powered aircraft set the record for the longest flight ever made by any aircraft. From a report: Originally built by British defence company Qinetiq and now owned by Airbus, the Zephyr aircraft is designed to soar through the stratosphere for months at a time by drawing on the power of the sun. It is similar to Facebook's now defunct Aquila aircraft in this sense, and is hoped to one day provide satellite-like services with the flexibility of an unmanned drone. The latest version of the Zephyr weighs just 75 kg (165 lb), but is able to carry up to five times its own weight. Flying above weather and other air traffic at 70,000 ft (21,300 m), the aircraft can be controlled from the ground and has the potential to carry all kinds of payloads, be they to collect high-resolution imagery, provide voice communications or, as was the idea with Aquila, beam internet service to underserved areas. [...] It took off from Arizona on the 11th of July and has only now come down to Earth, a total of 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes later. This was the first outing for the production model Zephyr S, and the team is already setting its sights on its next voyage.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US Scientist Who Edited Human Embryos With CRISPR Responds To Critics

Facing criticism from fellow scientists, the researcher behind the world's largest effort to edit human embryos with CRISPR is vowing to continue his efforts to develop what he calls "IVF gene therapy." MIT Technology Review: Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, drew global headlines last August when he reported successfully repairing a genetic mutation in dozens of human embryos, which were later destroyed as part of the experiment. The laboratory findings on early-stage embryos, he said, had brought the eventual birth of the first genetically modified humans "much closer" to reality. The breakthrough drew wide attention, including from critics who quickly pounced, calling it biologically implausible and potentially the result of careless errors and artifacts. Today, those critics are getting an unusual hearing in the journal Nature, which is publishing two critiques of the Oregon research as well as a lengthy reply from Mitalipov and 31 of his coworkers in South Korea, China, and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The scientific sparring centers on CRISPR's well-known tendency to introduce unseen damage into a cell's DNA. [...] Mitalipov remains intent on proving that CRISPR can work safely on embryos. In an interview, Mitalipov said he believes it will take five to 10 years before the process is ready to attempt in an IVF center. The revolutionary medical technology being pursued is a way to adjust an embryo's DNA to remove disease risks. It is sometimes called germline gene editing because any DNA fixes a baby is born with would then be passed down to future generations through that person's germ cells, the egg or sperm. For its initial research, the Oregon team recruited women around Portland and paid them $5,000 each to undergo an egg retrieval. With those eggs the team created more than 160 embryos for CRISPR experiments. Mitalipov said his Oregon center continues to obtain eggs in an ongoing effort to confirm his results and extend them in new directions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Intel Announces the ‘World’s Densest’ SSD

Intel has unveiled its new 3D NAND solid-state drive (SSD) "ruler" form factor storage for data-center servers. From a report: The chip giant first set out this form factor a year ago, based on the Enterprise & Datacenter Storage Form Factor (EDSFF) standard for server makers to cut cooling costs and offer a more efficient format than SSDs in the classic 2.5 inch size. Intel describes the new ruler-shaped Intel SSD DC P4500, which is 12 inches by 1.5 inches, and a third of an inch thick, as the world's densest SSD. Server makers can jam up to one petabyte (PB) -- or a thousand terabytes (TB) -- of data into 1U server racks by lining up 32 of these 32TB Intel rulers together. So, instead of the decades-old 2.5-inch square SSD drives inherited from and designed for disk-based storage, Intel now has long and skinny sticks, thanks to flash. The new shape allows it to optimize SSD storage density, cooling, and power for data centers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Warning Over ‘Panic’ Hacks on Cities

Security flaws have been found in major city infrastructure such as flood defences, radiation detection and traffic monitoring systems. A team of researchers found 17 vulnerabilities, eight of which it described as "critical." From a report: The researchers warned of so-called "panic attacks," where an attacker could manipulate emergency systems to create chaos in communities. The specific flaws uncovered by the team have been patched. "If someone, supervillain or not, were to abuse vulnerabilities like the ones we documented in smart city systems, the effects could range from inconvenient to catastrophic," wrote Daniel Crowley, from IBM's cyber research division, X-Force Red. "While no evidence exists that such attacks have taken place, we have found vulnerable systems in major cities in the US, Europe and elsewhere." The team plans to explain the vulnerabilities at Black Hat -- a cyber-security conference -- on Thursday.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

VP Pence Lays Out Trump’s Vision For Establishing a US Space Force

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday laid out details for President Donald Trump's proposed new branch of the U.S. military responsible for protecting national security in outer space. From a report: In a speech at the Pentagon, Pence said the new Space Force would be established by 2020. "As President Trump has said, in his words, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space -- we must have American dominance in space. And so we will," Pence said. "Space is, in his words, a war-fighting domain just like land and air and sea." He added, "History proves that peace only comes through strength, and in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead." The Space Force would ultimately become the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and would be equal to the other five, Pence said. The Department of Defense has prepared a report laying out the phases of creating the new branch, which will ultimately have to be reviewed and approved by Congress.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Samsung Announces $1,000 Galaxy Note 9 Smartphone With Last-Gen Android Software Out-of-the-Box

The Galaxy Note 9 touts a slightly larger 6.4-inch end-to-end screen, a 4,000mAh battery that promises "all-day" use, and a minimum 128GB of storage -- there's also a 512GB version that, with 512GB microSD cards, can give you a full terabyte of space. It runs Android 8.1 Oreo -- not Android Pie, which Google and Essential rolled out to some of their devices earlier this month. Engadget: Samsung is also bringing over welcome improvements from the Galaxy S9 family, including stereo speakers and the variable aperture f/1.5-2.4 primary camera (there's a second camera on the back, of course). This year, though, the most conspicuous change revolves around the S Pen. This is Samsung's first S Pen to incorporate Bluetooth, and that lets you do a whole lot more than doodle on the screen. You can use it as a remote control for selfies and presentations, and Samsung is providing a toolkit to let app developers use the pen for their own purposes. And no, you don't need to load it with batteries or plug it into a charger -- it'll top up just by staying in your phone. The base model of the Note 9, featuring 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, is priced at $999. The other variant will set you back by $1,250. Preorders begin on August 10th, and the phone will be available on August 24th at all major carriers or direct (and unlocked) from Samsung. CNET writes about the camera sensors on the new handset: The Galaxy Note 9 keeps the same hardware setup as the Galaxy S9 Plus. That is, dual 12-megapixel cameras on the back, one of them that automatically changes aperture when it detects the need for a low-light shot. (Samsung calls this dual aperture, and it's also on both S9 phones.) There's also an 8-megapixel front-facing camera for your selfies. What's different is AI software that analyzes the scene and quickly detects if you're shooting a flower, food, a dog, a person. There are 20 options the Note 9's been trained on, including snowflakes, cityscapes, fire, you get it. Then, the camera optimizes white balance, saturation and contrast to make photos pop.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Amazon AI Researchers Release a Dataset of 400,000 Transliterated Names To Aid the Development of Natural-Language-Understanding Systems

New submitter georgecarlyle76 writes: Amazon AI researchers have publicly released a dataset of almost 400,000 transliterated names, to aid the development of natural-language-understanding systems that can search across databases that use different scripts. They describe the dataset's creation in a paper [PDF] they're presenting at COLING, together with experiments using the dataset to train different types of machine learning models.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Amazon India Chief Tells Employees To Maintain ‘Work-Life Harmony’, No Emails and Phone Calls After Office Hours

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon gets trashed on the international stage pretty often for its inhumane work conditions in its warehouses. However, it seems the Indian arm of the company is trying to do better, at least according to the latest announcement from Country Head Amit Agarwal. According to Business Standard, in an email to senior staff members this week, Agarwal has reportedly asked employees to leave themselves enough time to spend at home, and maintain a healthy "work-life harmony." He's told employees to stop taking calls and emails after hours, and specifically that, "No business decision should be made between 6 pm and 8 am." It's still unclear whether this decision comes from Agarwal or from the company's global leadership. Likely the latter, considering there's been no such chatter for US employees. It'll also be interesting to see how long this plan will hold, given the sheer size of the e-commerce portal. In the email, Agarwal also said that responding to emails while on vacation is "not cool."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Bug Hunter Urges Apple To Change Its iOS Security Culture; Asks Tim Cook To Donate $2.45 Million To Amnesty For His Unpaid iPhone Bug Bounties

secwatcher writes: Prolific Google bug hunter Ian Beer ripped into Apple on Wednesday, urging the iPhone maker to change its culture when it comes to iOS security. The Verge: "Their focus is on the design of the system and not on exploitation. Please, we need to stop just spot-fixing bugs and learn from them, and act on that," he told a packed audience. Per Beer, Apple researchers are not trying to find the root cause of the problems. "Why is this bug here? How is it being used? How did we miss it earlier? What process problems need to be addressed so we could [have] found it earlier? Who had access to this code and reviewed it and why, for whatever reason, didn't they report it?" He said the company suffers from an all-too-common affliction of patching an iOS bug, but not fixing the systemic roots that contribute to the vulnerability. In a provocative call to Apple's CEO Tim Cook, Beer directly challenged him to donate $2.45 million to Amnesty International -- roughly the equivalence of bug bounty earnings for Beer's 30-plus discovered iOS vulnerabilities.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Samsung To Spend Over $22 Billion on AI, Auto Tech and 5G

The Samsung conglomerate said it will invest more than $22 billion over the next three years to target such areas as artificial intelligence and auto-technology components, as it seeks out growth drivers beyond phones and memory chips. From a report: The bulk of the spending will be earmarked for Samsung Electronics, the conglomerate's crown jewel. The company is the world's No. 1 maker of smartphones, semiconductors and televisions and last year put more toward capital expenditures than any other publicly traded company. Samsung ïsaid it would invest heavily in four key areas through 2020. Auto tech, artificial intelligence and new fifth-generation, or 5G, cellular technology [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source] -- all of which that fall under Samsung's umbrella -- will draw funding, as will its nascent drug companies specializing in contract manufacturing and biosimilar medications. Samsung, South Korea's largest business empire, spans 62 affiliates as diverse as life insurance and theme parks.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New York City Just Voted To Cap Uber and Lyft Vehicles and Require Drivers To Be Paid a Minimum Wage

New York City Council passed regulations on ride-hail companies on Wednesday, capping the number of vehicles on the road for one year and requiring that drivers to be paid a minimum wage. From a report: Council Speaker Corey Johnson said earlier that the regulations are intended to protect drivers, fairly regulate the industry and reduce congestion. The year-long cap on new licenses for ride-hailing vehicles will take place while the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) studies the effects of ride-hail service in the city. The cap would not apply to new wheelchair-accessible vehicles or new vehicles serving an area demonstrating need in a way that does not increase congestion. App-based ride services account for 80,000 vehicles in New York City, and provide 17 million rides per month, according to a study by The New School for the TLC. The surge in ridership coincided with increased resident frustration with the local subway system. With the move on Wednesday, New York City, the largest American market for Uber, has become the first major American city to restrict the number of ride-hail vehicles and to establish pay rules for drivers. In a statement issued moments ago, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said," Our city is directly confronting a crisis that is driving working New Yorkers into poverty and our streets into gridlock. The unchecked growth of app-based for-hire vehicle companies has demanded action -- and now we have it."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

P2P Piracy is Alive and Growing, Research Suggests

From a report: In recent years Hollywood and other entertainment sources have focused their enforcement efforts on pirate streaming sites and services. According to several reports, streaming sites get more traffic than their P2P counterparts, with the latter being almost exclusively BitTorrent related. While the rise of online streaming sites can't be denied, a new research report from anti-piracy outfit Irdeto shows that P2P remains very relevant. In fact, it's still the dominant piracy tool in many countries. Irdeto researched site traffic data provided by an unnamed web analytics partner. The sample covers web traffic to 962 piracy sites in 19 countries where P2P was most used. This makes it possible to see how P2P site visits compare to those of pirate streaming sites.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Freelance Platform Upwork’s Opt-in Service Tracks Freelancers By Capturing Screenshots, Webcam Photos and Measuring Clicks and Keystrokes Frequency

Caroline O'Donovan, reporting for BuzzFeed News: To convince workers to join the unstable and unreliable world of freelance work, startups and platforms often promise freedom and flexibility. But on the digital freelance platform Upwork, company software tracks hundreds of freelancers while they work by saving screenshots, measuring the frequency of their clicks and keystrokes, and even sometimes taking webcam photos of the workers. Upwork, which hosts "millions" of coding and design gigs, guarantees payment for freelancers, even if the clients who hired them refuse to pay. But in order to get the money, freelancers have to agree in advance to use Upwork's digital Work Diary, which counts keystrokes to measure how "productive" they are and takes screenshots of their computer screens to determine whether they're actually doing the work they say they're doing. Upwork's tracker isn't automatically turned on for all gigs on the platform. Some freelancers like it because it guarantees payment, but others find it unnerving. [...] Upwork maintains that freelancers don't have to use the time tracker if it makes them uncomfortable. [...] But while Work Diary may be opt-in on its surface, Microsoft Research's Mary Gray said freelancers may not feel like they really have a choice.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

People Still Don’t Like Their Cable Companies, ConsumerReports’ Telecom Survey Finds

Larger cable providers once again take a beating for perceived value -- even when it comes to bundled plans. ConsumerReports: Unhappy with your pay-TV company? You're not alone. Dissatisfaction with the perceived value of pay-TV service was once again high among the 176,000 members who participated in Consumer Reports' latest telecommunications survey. When we asked for feedback on their experiences with pay TV, home internet, home telephone service, and bundled plans, they shared their displeasure. In fact, most of the larger cable companies -- Optimum (Cablevision), Comcast, and Spectrum (Charter, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks) -- earned low scores in multiple categories, settling into the bottom half of the 25 providers in CR's new telecom service ratings. Only 38 percent of pay-TV subscribers were highly satisfied with their service, meaning they were "very" or "completely" happy with the offerings. Armstrong, a smaller cable company that operates in Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, earned the second-place slot behind Google Fiber, in part due to favorable scores for technical support, reliability, and customer service. Verizon and the two satellite-TV companies -- AT&T's DirecTV and Dish Network -- also rated better than Cox Communications, Comcast, Spectrum, and Optimum. Top-rated EPB, a municipal broadband service run as a public utility in Chattanooga, Tenn., was one of the few bright spots for internet service. It was the only company to receive a top mark for value. It also got top marks for speed and reliability. Google Fiber was a close second in the ratings, the only other company to get a favorable mark for value. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents who have a bundled plan -- TV, internet, and phone -- said they got a special promotional price when they signed up. And 45 percent were still enjoying that rate when they answered our survey.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New Facial Recognition Tool, Designed For Research Purposes, Tracks Targets Across Different Social Networks

Researchers at Trustwave on Wednesday released a new open-source tool called Social Mapper, which uses facial recognition to track subjects across social media networks. Designed for security researchers performing social engineering attacks, the system automatically locates profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks based on a name and picture. Unlike tools such as Geofeedia that require access to certain APIs, Social Mapper performs automated manual searches in an instrumented browser window. The Verge: Those searches can already be performed manually, but the automated process means it can be performed far faster and for many people at once. "Performing intelligence gathering online is a time-consuming process," Trustwave explained in a post this morning. "What if it could be automated and done on a mass scale with hundreds or thousands of individuals?"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

When Working in Virtual Reality Makes You Sick

Virtual reality is a modern-day beacon of escapism -- a way to fully immerse yourself in other worlds -- and it's seeing unprecedented applications. The market, no surprise, is exploding, with some industry groups estimating a $60 billion global market by 2022. As business booms, however, people who are using the tech are reporting a growing number of physical side effects -- like VR arm, but worse: eye strain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and even dissociative experiences. From a report: VR companies recommend that people take frequent breaks and moderate their VR time when they're first starting out. "As you become accustomed to the virtual reality experience, you can begin increasing the amount of time you use Daydream View," reads one line of the health and safety information included with Google's VR platform. But what happens when it's your job to build these escapist technologies? The potential health risks for everyday consumers are compounded for those who make VR products for a living. When VR bigwig Jeremy Bailenson founded Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, in 2003, two items were even more important than the VR equipment he was using: "We had to keep a bucket in the lab and a mop nearby," Bailenson says. Today, he institutes a strict 20-minute limit on headset time for people in his lab. These health effects produce unique challenges for VR developers. "We have to understand not just the good but also the downsides of this technology. There a lot of questions we need to answer," Bailenson says. "The whole point of VR is it takes you out of your space, but you can't be doing that for many hours a day." [...] Suddenly rotating around a virtual environment using handled controllers or quickly looking left and right in the VR space without any concomitant physical movement in the real world tend to physically affect Jonathan Yomayuza, VR technical director at the Emblematic Group, a creative firm based in Southern California. [...] The feeling Yomayuza describes is common among people who work with or use VR.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Podcasting is Not Walled (Yet)

Rakhim Davletkaliyev, a software developer, writer and podcaster, recently launched two new podcasts. One of the things he was asked by people following the launches was "but how do I subscribe, it's not on iTunes/Google Podcasts?" He writes: Podcasts are simply RSS feeds with links to media files (usually mp3s). A podcast is basically a URL. And podcast clients are special browsers. They check that URL regularly and download new episodes if the content of the URL changes (new link added). That's it, no magic, no special membership or anything else required. The technology is pretty "stupid" in a good way. Ever since tech companies started waging war against RSS, podcast distribution became visually RSS-free. What do you do to subscribe? Easy, just search in the app! For the majority of iOS users that app is Apple Podcasts, and recently Google made their own "default client" for Android -- Google Podcasts. It looks like podcast clients are similar to web browsers and just provide a way to consume content, but the underlying listings make them very different. Corresponding services are actually isolated catalogs. When you perform a search on Apple Podcasts, you aren't searching for podcasts. You are searching for Apple-approved podcasts. And if the thing you're looking for is not there, then... well, you get nothing. Most Podcast clients still accept RSS. Apple Podcasts, iTunes, PocketCasts, OverCast, PodcastAddict. Google Play Music doesn't say anything explicitly, but you can just put RSS URL into the search field and it works. For now. I won't be surprised if these apps gradually and silently remove this feature.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cybersecurity’s Insidious New Threat: Workforce Stress

This week's Black Hat event will highlight job-related stress and mental health issues in the cyber workforce. From a report: The thousands of cybersecurity professionals gathering at Black Hat, a massive conference held in the blistering heat of Las Vegas every summer, are encountering a different type of session this year. A new "community" track is offering talks on a range of workplace issues facing defenders battling to protect the world from a hacking onslaught. With titles like "Mental Health Hacks: Fighting Burnout, Depression and Suicide in the Hacker Community" and "Holding on for Tonight: Addiction in Infosec," several of the sessions will address pressures on security teams and the negative impact these can have on workers' wellbeing. "A lot of people in this space feel strongly about wanting to protect their users," says Jamie Tomasello of Duo Security, who is one of the speakers. "Where this becomes challenging is when people are under sustained high stress. That increases the risk of depression and mental illness." The impact on cyber defenders' lives is deeply concerning, as are the broader implications for security. In spite of a push for greater automation, many tasks in cyber defense are still labor intensive. Workers experiencing mental health issues are more likely to make mistakes and to have performance issues that require colleagues to pick up the slack, increasing the likelihood they will make errors too.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

LibreOffice 6.1 Released

The Document Foundation said on Wednesday it is releasing LibreOffice 6.1, the latest major update to its productivity suite. It is available to download for Linux, Windows, and macOS platforms. The new version offers, among other features, Colibre, a new icon theme for Windows based on Microsoft's icon design guidelines, which it says, makes the office suite visually appealing for users coming from the Microsoft environment. The Document Foundation also reworked the image handling feature on LibreOffice to make it "significantly faster and smoother thanks to a new graphic manager and an improved image lifecycle, with some advantages also when loading documents in Microsoft proprietary formats." Other new features and changes include: The reorganization of Draw menus with the addition of a new Page menu, for better UX consistency across the different modules. A major improvement for Base, only available in experimental mode: the old HSQLDB database engine has been deprecated, though still available, and the new Firebird database engine is now the default option (users are encouraged to migrate files using the migration assistant from HSQLDB to Firebird, or by exporting them to an external HSQLDB server). Significant improvements in all modules of LibreOffice Online, with changes to the user interface to make it more appealing and consistent with the desktop version. An improved EPUB export filter, in terms of link, table, image, font embedding and footnote support, with more options for customizing metadata. Online Help pages have been enriched with text and example files to guide the users through features, and are now easier to localize. LibreOffice 6.1's new features have been developed by a large community of code contributors: 72% of commits are from developers employed by companies sitting in the Advisory Board like Collabora, Red Hat and CIB and by other contributors such as SIL and Pardus, and 28% are from individual volunteers. In addition, there is a global community of individual volunteers taking care of other fundamental activities such as quality assurance, software localization, user interface design and user experience, editing of help system text and documentation, plus free software and open document standards advocacy at a local level. You can read the full changelog here. Here's a video that walks through the new features and changes that LibreOffice is receiving with v6.1.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Big Money, Big Dreams, Big Expectations and a Lot of Hype: Magic Leap One AR Headset Goes on Sale for $2,295 in Certain US Markets

After earning the moniker "tech's most secretive startup" from Wired and telling Forbes in 2016 it was going to ship its system "soon-ish," the company is finally releasing the $2,295 Magic Leap One. For now, it will be available for purchase in limit U.S. markets. CNET: It includes a high-powered, moon pie-shaped computer called the Lightpack, a handheld remote called Control and a steampunk-inspired headset with round lenses and patented optics. That's called Lightwear. There's just one thing: Regular folks like us aren't the intended audience. At least not yet. This "Creator Edition," says CEO Abovitz, is part of a "controlled market release" in just a handful of cities in the United States for the developers and creative types Magic Leap will woo this year and next. The goal: for those makers to dream up the experiences (aka content) it needs to convince us to become Leapers. The company is already showing investors and partners prototypes of its smaller (and hopefully less expensive) Magic Leap Two and Magic Leap Three, but won't say when they'll be released. Magic Leap, valued at $6.3 billion as of two months ago, counts Google, Alibaba, Warner Bros, AT&T, and several top Silicon Valley venture capital firms and about a dozen other big names as its investors. More about the product going on sale here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Europe’s Heatwave is Forcing Nuclear Power Plants To Shut Down

Europe's heatwave -- which led to wildfires in Greece and Sweden, droughts in central and northern parts, and made the normally green UK look brown from space -- is forcing nuclear plants to shut down or curtail the amount of power they produce, local media reports. From a report: French utility EDF shut four reactors at three power plants on Saturday, Swedish utility Vattenfall shut one of two reactors at a power plant earlier last week, and nuclear plants in Finland, Germany, and Switzerland have cut back the amount of power they produce. Thermal power plants, such as nuclear or coal, use high-temperature steam to turn turbines, which convert heat energy into electricity. In the process, the steam's temperature falls, so it can no longer be used to move the turbine again. [...] Europe's heatwave, however, hasn't just increased air temperatures but also water temperatures.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Only a Small Percentage of Users Buy Stuff Through Alexa, Report Claims

Analysts have been aggressively optimistic in their predictions about the growth of consumer shopping via virtual assistants like Amazon's Alexa, but a new report claims that only a small fraction of Alexa device owners shop with voice commands. And most of those who do only try it once or stick to a limited range of products. From a report: Two people who have been briefed on Amazon's "internal figures" told tech business publication The Information that only around 2 percent of people who own Alexa-equipped devices like those in Amazon's Echo line have ever made a purchase with Alexa. Of that 2 percent, about 90 percent tried it once and did not attempt it again after that, one of The Information's sources said. And even those users who regularly use Alexa to shop mainly do so for small purchases like household supplies.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Popular Subscription Email Service Newton Mail Is Being Discontinued

An anonymous reader shares a report: CloudMagic, the makers of Newton, today announced that Newton Mail is being discontinued. The company is no longer allowing new users to purchase Newton Mail which costs $100 a year, and existing users will be provided with refunds. For those using the monthly subscription plan, it will immediately stop automatically renewing. And for those on the yearly subscription, you will be given a refund on a pro-rata basis. "We explored various business models but couldn't successfully figure out profitability & growth over the long term. It was hard; the market for premium consumer mail apps is not big enough, and it faces stiff competition from high-quality free apps from Google, Microsoft, and Apple," said Rohit Nadhani, the founder and CEO of CloudMagic. All of that makes sense -- when we have companies like Microsoft and Google making brilliant free email clients like Outlook Mobile and Inbox, there really is no space for paid apps like Newton on the market.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Elon Musk Says He’s Considering Taking Tesla Private; Tesla Suspends Shares As It is Expected To Make an Announcement

Elon Musk said he's thinking about taking Tesla private. More specifically, he said he may buy back the company for $71.3 billion (at a share price of $420), and already has the funding to do so. From a report: Musk, the CEO and largest shareholder of the electric car maker, said on Twitter on Tuesday that he has secured funding from a private buyer. He implied that the funding values the company at $420 a share. The stock had been worth about $342 a share before Musk's tweet, and shares quickly jumped as high as $371. The stock had climbed slightly earlier in the day after the Financial Times reported that Saudi Arabia has quietly built a big stake in Tesla. Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. About an hour and 20 minutes after the Musk tweet, trading in Tesla stock was suspended because the company was expected to release news. TechCrunch: Musk's hope, he later tweeted, is that "all current investors remain with Tesla even if we're private. Would create special purpose fund enabling anyone to stay with Tesla. Already do this with Fidelity's SpaceX investment." Musk, who said he would stay on as CEO, also seems willing to have a provision for retail investors, who have held Tesla shares prior to Dec. 31, 2016, to convert their shares into private shares. Musk, in response to a tweet, said he's "super appreciative of Tesla shareholders" and "will ensure their prosperity in any scenario." Musk has publicly mused about taking Tesla private before, saying in a 2017 Rolling Stone profile: "I wish we could be private with Tesla," Musk murmurs as they exit. "It actually makes us less efficient to be a public company." Analysts speaking to Reuters said they believe Musk is serious. George Galliers of Evercore ISI, said, "I can't believe this is something to bluff or make fun of. Given his historic frustration with short sellers, analysts and certain parts of the press, it is perhaps also not surprising that he has given consideration to taking the company private."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Defense Department Has Produced the First Tools For Catching Deepfakes

Fake video clips made with artificial intelligence can also be spotted using AI -- but this may be the beginning of an arms race. From a report: The first forensics tools for catching revenge porn and fake news created with AI have been developed through a program run by the US Defense Department. Forensics experts have rushed to find ways of detecting videos synthesized and manipulated using machine learning because the technology makes it far easier to create convincing fake videos that could be used to sow disinformation or harass people. The most common technique for generating fake videos involves using machine learning to swap one person's face onto another's. The resulting videos, known as "deepfakes," are simple to make, and can be surprisingly realistic. Further tweaks, made by a skilled video editor, can make them seem even more real. Video trickery involves using a machine-learning technique known as generative modeling, which lets a computer learn from real data before producing fake examples that are statistically similar. A recent twist on this involves having two neural networks, known as generative adversarial networks, work together to produce ever more convincing fakes. The tools for catching deepfakes were developed through a program -- run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- called Media Forensics. The program was created to automate existing forensics tools, but has recently turned its attention to AI-made forgery.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mozilla Debuts Firefox Extension that Recommends Content Based on Your Browsing Activity

Mozilla on Tuesday began testing a Firefox extension that shows you its best guesses for what you want to see on the web. From a report: The Advance web extension is available for anyone from today and can analyze content on current active web pages to recommend related tidbits you may want to "read next" from other websites. It will also surface recommendations based on your recent browsing history in a "for you" section. With the extension installed, you just browse the web as you normally would and the little sidebar will show things that are relevant to what you've been looking at. The extension is powered by Laserlike, a VC-funded, machine learning-powered "interest search engine" that delivers personalized content. As such, Laserlike will receive users' browsing history -- something Mozilla wants people to understand before they install the extension. But the company has also built in some tools to boost control and data transparency.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

West Virginia To Introduce Mobile Phone Voting For Midterm Elections

West Virginians serving overseas will be the first in the country to cast federal election ballots using a smartphone app, a move designed to make voting in November's election easier for troops living abroad. But election integrity and computer security experts expressed alarm at the prospect of voting by phone, and one went so far as to call it "a horrific idea." CNN: The state's decision to pioneer mobile voting comes even as the United States grapples with Russian interference in its elections. A recent federal indictment outlined Russia's attempts to hack US voting infrastructure during the 2016 presidential race, and US intelligence agencies have warned of Russian attempts to interfere with the upcoming midterm election. Still, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and Voatz, the Boston company that developed the app, insist it is secure. Anyone using it must first register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification and a selfie-style video of their face, then upload them via the app. Voatz says its facial recognition software will ensure the photo and video show the same person. Once approved, voters can cast their ballot using the Voatz app.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Palm-branded Smartphones Could Return This Year

Palm's smartphone return appears to still be on track for 2018. From a report: Last year, an executive at TCL confirmed that the dearly departed mobile brand would be making a comeback as part of the smartphone conglomerate's portfolio, and with a little under five months left in the year, the 'PVG100' has hit the FCC and WiFi alliance. The handset was spotted by Android Police, but we don't really have much more to go on than a name and a couple of WiFi bands. As the site notes, however, the absence of 5GHz support leads one to surmise that this won't exactly be a barn-burning flagship. The handset also looks to be running Android 8.1 -- not really a surprise, given that Android Pie is still limited to Pixel and a smattering of other devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

92 Percent of Enterprises Struggle To Integrate Security Into DevOps

A large majority of organizations are struggling to implement security into their DevOps processes, despite saying they want to do so, according to a new report. From a report: The study commissioned by application security specialist Checkmarx looks at the biggest barriers to securing software today depending on where organizations sit on the DevOps maturity curve. The report finds 96 percent of respondents believe it is 'desirable' or 'highly desirable' for developers to be properly trained on how to produce secure code. As developers take responsibility for the security of their software, respondents believe it is more important to educate developers and empower them than it is to educate other stakeholders in the organization like ops specialists and security specialists. However, 41 percent agree that defining clear ownership and responsibility in relation to software security remains a big challenge, and just 11 percent say they have adequately addressed the need for developer education. Software security is a boardroom issue according to 57 percent of respondents, it's a matter of business risk.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Let’s Encrypt Is Now Officially Trusted by All Major Root Certificates

Let's Encrypt has announced that it is now directly trusted by all major root certificates including those from Microsoft, Google, Apple, Mozilla, Oracle, and Blackberry. With this announcement, Let's Encrypt is now directly trusted by all major browsers and operating systems. From a report: While Let's Encrypt has already been trusted by almost all browsers, it was done so through intermediate certificate that were cross-signed by IdenTrust. As IdenTrust was directly trusted by all major browser vendors and operating systems, it also allowed Let's Encrypt to be trusted as well. With Let's Encrypt now being directly trusted, if there is ever a problem with IdenTrust and they themselves become untrusted, Let's Encrypt users will still be able to function properly.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Touch Bar Could Replace the Keyboard on Future Macbooks

Apple's new patent applications hint at more touch-sensitive surfaces and virtual keyboards. From a report: In the wake of user complaints and multiple lawsuits concerning problems with the "butterfly switch" keyboard Apple has used in its laptops since 2016, the company may be developing new user interfaces that depend less on moving mechanical parts. The company has filed three new keyboard-related patents, Mashable reported on Monday. One of the patent applications describes a laptop with a digital panel where a keyboard traditionally sits. This could be interpreted as a plan to replace the conventional keyboard with technology similar to the Touch Bar -- the row of virtual, customizable buttons that Apple debuted on the Macbook Pro in 2016. The patent also includes information about sensors and haptics embedded beneath the envisioned digital panel, which would allow it to detect and respond to user inputs such as keystrokes, taps and clicks.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Verizon Didn’t Bother To Write a Privacy Policy For Its ‘Privacy Protecting’ VPN

Jason Koebler writes: Verizon is rolling out a new Virtual Private Network service called Safe Wi-Fi it developed in conjunction with McAfee. According to Verizon, the $4 per month service "protects your privacy and blocks ad tracking, creating a secure Wi-Fi connection anywhere in the world." But the company didn't even write a privacy policy for the product: Verizon's terms of service directs all of its VPN users to the general McAfee privacy policy governing all of its products. That policy, in turn, states that McAfee and Verizon have the right to collect an ocean of data on the end user, including carrier data, Bluetooth device IDs, mobile device ID, mobile advertising identifiers, MAC address, IMEI data, and more. The policy explicitly says that browsing history can be used to help target ads at you.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cramming Software With Thousands of Fake Bugs Could Make It More Secure, Researchers Say

It sounds like a joke, but the idea actually makes sense: More bugs, not less, could theoretically make a system safer. From a report: Carefully scatter non-exploitable decoy bugs in software, and attackers will waste time and resources on trying to exploit them. The hope is that attackers will get bored, overwhelmed, or run out of time and patience before finding an actual vulnerability. Computer science researchers at NYU suggested this strategy in a study published August 2, and call these fake-vulnerabilities "chaff bugs." Brendan Dolan-Gavitt, assistant professor at NYU Tandon and one of the researcher on this study, told me in an email that they've been working on techniques to automatically put bugs into programs for the past few years as a way to test and evaluate different bug-finding systems. Once they had a way to fill a program with bugs, they started to wonder what else they could do with it. "I also have a lot of friends who write exploits for a living, so I know how much work there is in between finding a bug and coming up with a reliable exploit -- and it occurred to me that this was something we might be able to take advantage of," he said. "People who can write exploits are rare, and their time is expensive, so if you can figure out how to waste it you can potentially have a great deterrent effect." Brendan has previously suggested that adding bugs to experimental software code could help with ultimately winding up with programs that have fewer vulnerabilities.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Lenovo To Make Its BIOS/UEFI Updates Easier For Linux Users Via LVFS

An anonymous reader shares a report: Lenovo is making it easier for their customers running Linux to update their firmware now on ThinkPad, ThinkStation, and ThinkCenter hardware. Lenovo has joined the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) and following collaboration with the upstream developers is beginning to roll-out support for offering their device firmware on this platform so it can be easily updated by users with the fwupd stack. Kudos to all involved especially with Lenovo ThinkPads being very popular among Linux users.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Begins Rolling Out Android Pie To Select Handsets

Google on Monday announced that the 'P' in Android P stands for Android Pie, succeeding Android Oreo. It also pushed the source code of the latest version to the Android Android Open Source Project (AOSP). The latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 9.0 Pie, is also starting to roll out today as an over-the-air update to Pixel phones, the company said. From a report: If you don't have a Pixel phone, you won't be getting Android Pie for a while (if at all). During the beta testing phase, Android P was made available on the Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Nokia 7 Plus, Oppo R15 Pro, Vivo X21, OnePlus 6, and Essential PH-1. [...] Google wants you to know that Android Pie includes a "heaping helping of artificial intelligence baked in to make your phone smarter, simpler, and more tailored to you." Android Pie offers of a slew of new features including built-in support for display cutouts (read: notches), a tweaked Quick Settings panel, a notification drawer with rounded corners, messages in notifications when replying inline, smart replies in notifications, a consistent UI for fingerprint authentication, privacy enhancements to limit what apps can do in the background, Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness features (courtesy of Google DeepMind), App Actions for predicting what the user will do next, App Slices for surfacing an app's user interface inside the Google app's search results and inside Google Assistant, a BiometricPrompt API for a system-managed dialog to prompt the user for any supported type of biometric authentication, and multi-camera APIs that let you access streams simultaneously from two or more physical cameras.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Pentagon Restricts Use of Fitness Trackers, Other Devices

Military troops and other defense personnel at sensitive bases or certain high-risk warzone areas won't be allowed to use fitness tracker or cellphone applications that can reveal their location, according to a new Pentagon order. From a report: The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, stops short of banning the fitness trackers or other electronic devices, which are often linked to cellphone applications or smart watches and can provide the users' GPS and exercise details to social media. It says the applications on personal or government-issued devices present a "significant risk" to military personnel so those capabilities must be turned off in certain operational areas. Under the new order, military leaders will be able to determine whether troops under their command can use the GPS function on their devices, based on the security threat in that area or on that base. "These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DOD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission," the memo said. Zack Whittaker, a security reporter at TechCrunch, said, DoD's statement today appears to be a response to the revelation that fitness tracker app Polar was exposing locations of spies and military personnel.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Thunderbird v60.0 Email Client Released

Thunderbird version 60, featuring a number of new features and changes, is now available as a direct download from thunderbird.net, the email client vendor said. The changelog: When writing a message, a delete button now allows the removal of a recipient. This delete button is displayed when hovering the To/Cc/Bcc selector. Many improvements to attachments handling during compose: Attachments can now be reordered using a dialog, keyboard shortcuts, or drag and drop. The "Attach" button moved to the right to be above the attachment pane. The access key of the attachment pane (e.g. Alt+M, may vary depending on localization, Ctrl+M on Mac) now also works to show or hide the pane. The attachment pane can also be shown initially when composing a new message. Right-click on the header to enable this option. Hiding a non-empty attachment pane will now show a placeholder paperclip to indicate the presence of attachments and avoid sending them accidentally. "Edit Template" command. This also solves various problems when saving as template (duplicates created, message ID lost). "New Message from Template" command. Allow changing the Spellcheck Language from status bar. Light and Dark themes. WebExtension themes are now enabled in Thunderbird. A default startup directory in the address book window can now be configured. Individual feed update interval. Read the full-change log here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Why iPhone and Android Phone Prices Will Get Even Higher

Critics scoffed Apple when the company priced the iPhone X at $1,000. But the way the market has responded to it, there is a good chance that the upcoming flagship smartphones from Apple and those of its rivals -- Samsung, Google, and HTC -- will be pricier. From a column: The critics were wrong. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in July that the iPhone X had outsold every other Apple device in each week since it went on sale Nov. 3, 2017. With strong iPhone X sales, Apple proved that mainstream buyers are willing to pay almost as much, if not more, for their cell phones as they would for a powerful laptop. And with rumors of an even pricier 2018 iPhone X Plus-style phone coming down the pike this September, Apple's moves to usher in the era of the $1,000 phone may just be getting underway. Apple isn't alone in boosting mobile phone prices ever higher. Creeping prices on high-end handsets from Samsung, Huawei and even "value" darling OnePlus signal that price hikes are here to stay. In just two years, the cost of Samsung's Galaxy phone for US buyers has spiked 15.1 percent from the Galaxy S7 in 2016 to this year's Galaxy S9, while the Huawei P series has climbed 33 percent since 2016 -- and that doesn't even account for the existence of a "Pro" model. [...] The trend of increasingly costly handsets in the top tier underscores the cell phone's importance as an everything-device for communication, work, photography and entertainment. And as processing power, camera technology, battery life and internet data speeds improve generation after generation, the value people attach to a phone is sure to swell.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook Has Asked Large US Banks To Share Detailed Financial Information About Customers as it Seeks To Boost User Engagement [Update]

Facebook wants your financial data. The social media giant has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. From the report: Facebook increasingly wants to be a platform where people buy and sell goods and services, besides connecting with friends. The company over the past year asked JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup and U.S. Bancorp USB to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger, said people familiar with the matter. Facebook has talked about a feature that would show its users their checking-account balances, the people said. It has also pitched fraud alerts, some of the people said. Data privacy is a sticking point in the banks' conversations with Facebook, according to people familiar with the matter. The talks are taking place as Facebook faces several investigations over its ties to political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which accessed data on as many 87 million Facebook users without their consent. Update: Shares of Facebook surged nearly 3% following the report. A paywall free, alternative source of this story. Update 2 (18:10 GMT): Talking to TechCrunch, Facebook has, in part, denied WSJ's report. TechCrunch: Facebook spokesperson Elisabeth Diana tells TechCrunch it's not asking for credit card transaction data from banks and it's not interested in building a dedicated banking feature where you could interact with your accounts. It also says its work with banks isn't to gather data to power ad targeting, or even personalize content such as what Marketplace products you see based on what you buy elsewhere.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Public Documents Reveal How the Branches of the US Military Are Instructed To Harness Internet Culture To Advance Their Own Messaging

An anonymous reader shares a report: It's common practice for brands or government agencies to use social media marketing tactics -- such as recognizing internet holidays like #WorldEmojiDay, #NationalDogDay, or #HumpDay using emojis, or generally speaking in a more conversational, down-to-earth tone -- in order to spread their messaging and communicate with the public. However, the stakes behind military Twitter accounts are fundamentally different than that of, say, the Department of the Interior. These accounts aren't just encouraging people to go to national parks; they're propagandizing and idealizing military valor in order to normalize their actions, elicit acceptance from the public, and recruit new members. The report adds that the government organizations maintain social media handbooks to encourage curators to "create a voice and be authentic." In the recent months, many branches of the military have been criticized for insensitive tweets.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

To Gain Foothold in India, Apple Plans To Open Stores, Offer Deals All Year Around, and Fix Services: Report

Apple has long struggled to gain market share in India, the world's second largest smartphone market. But now, it apparently plans to change that. Before we get into it, here is some disclaimer: Rumors of Apple's intentions to improve its presence in India are nearly as old as Apple's existence. From Bloomberg: Instead of officially lowering its prices, Apple is in talks with retailers and banks to offer holiday deals all year round, according to people familiar with the plans. Those people say Apple is also asking some individual stores to more than quadruple sales targets, to 40 or 50 iPhones a week, and plans to cut off retailers that consistently fail to hit the mark. Retail sales staff will be trained to teach customers how to use their devices, and Apple intends to overhaul in-store branding and product displays. Executives would conduct daily conference calls with stores to gauge progress. Apple hopes to start opening stores in India next year and eventually set up three in New Delhi, Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore), and Mumbai, according to the people familiar with the company's plans. The government has long required foreign companies opening shops to manufacture 30 percent of their products locally, but it said in January that businesses can reduce that requirement by sourcing more Indian goods for their global operations. Apple now builds some of its India-aimed iPhone SE and 6s models in Bengaluru; it's unclear whether the company plans to take advantage of the revised policy or try to hit the 30 percent mark. The report adds that Apple has India in its mind as it revamps many of its services.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Children Learn Best When Their Bodies Are Engaged in the Living World. We Must Resist the Ideology of Screen-Based Learning

Nicholas Tampio, associate professor of political science at Fordham University in New York, writing for Aeon magazine: As a parent, it is obvious that children learn more when they engage their entire body in a meaningful experience than when they sit at a computer. If you doubt this, just observe children watching an activity on a screen and then doing the same activity for themselves. They are much more engaged riding a horse than watching a video about it, playing a sport with their whole bodies rather than a simulated version of it in an online game. Today, however, many powerful people are pushing for children to spend more time in front of computer screens, not less. Philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have contributed millions of dollars to 'personal learning', a term that describes children working by themselves on computers, and Laurene Powell Jobs has bankrolled the XQ Super School project to use technology to 'transcend the confines of traditional teaching methodologies'. Policymakers such as the US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos call personalised learning 'one of the most promising developments in K-12 education', and Rhode Island has announced a statewide personalised learning push for all public school students. Think tanks such as the Brookings Institution recommend that Latin-American countries build 'massive e-learning hubs that reach millions'. School administrators tout the advantages of giving all students, including those at kindergarten, personal computers. Many adults appreciate the power of computers and the internet, and think that children should have access to them as soon as possible. Yet screen learning displaces other, more tactile ways to discover the world. Human beings learn with their eyes, yes, but also their ears, nose, mouth, skin, heart, hands, feet. The more time kids spend on computers, the less time they have to go on field trips, build model airplanes, have recess, hold a book in their hands, or talk with teachers and friends. In the 21st century, schools should not get with the times, as it were, and place children on computers for even more of their days. Instead, schools should provide children with rich experiences that engage their entire bodies.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

‘Why Liberal Arts and the Humanities Are as Important as Engineering’

Engineering professor Vivek Wadha writes: A technological shift is in progress that will change the rules of innovation. A broad range of technologies, such as computing, artificial intelligence, digital medicine, robotics and synthetic biology, are advancing exponentially and converging, making amazing things possible. With the convergence of medicine, artificial intelligence and sensors, we can create digital doctors that monitor our health and help us prevent disease; with the advances in genomics and gene editing, we have the ability to create plants that are drought resistant and that feed the planet; with robots powered by artificial intelligence, we can build digital companions for the elderly. Nanomaterial advances are enabling a new generation of solar and storage technologies that will make energy affordable and available to all. Creating solutions such as these requires a knowledge of fields such as biology, education, health sciences and human behavior. Tackling today's biggest social and technological challenges requires the ability to think critically about their human context, which is something that humanities graduates happen to be best trained to do. An engineering degree is very valuable, but the sense of empathy that comes from music, arts, literature and psychology provides a big advantage in design. A history major who has studied the Enlightenment or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire gains an insight into the human elements of technology and the importance of its usability. A psychologist is more likely to know how to motivate people and to understand what users want than is an engineer who has only worked in the technology trenches. A musician or artist is king in a world in which you can 3D-print anything that you can imagine.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Security Researchers Express Concerns Over Mozilla’s New DNS Resolution For Firefox

With their next patch Mozilla will introduce two new features to their Firefox browser they call "DNS over HTTPs" (DoH) and Trusted Recursive Resolver (TRR). Mozilla says this is an additional feature which enables security. Researchers think otherwise. From a report: So let's get to the new Firefox feature called "Trusted Recursive Resolver" (TRR). When Mozilla turns this on by default, the DNS changes you configured in your network won't have any effect anymore. At least for browsing with Firefox, because Mozilla has partnered up with Cloudflare, and will resolve the domain names from the application itself via a DNS server from Cloudflare based in the United States. Cloudflare will then be able to read everyone's DNS requests. From our point of view, us being security geeks, advertising this feature with slogans like "increases security" is rather misleading because in many cases the opposite is the case. While it is true that with TRR you may not expose the websites you call to a random DNS server in an untrustworthy network you don't know, it is not true that this increases security in general. It is true when you are somewhere in a network you don't know, i. e. a public WiFi network, you could automatically use the DNS server configured by the network. This could cause a security issue, because that unknown DNS server might have been compromised. In the worst case it could lead you to a phishing site pretending to be the website of your bank: as soon as you enter your personal banking information, it will be sent straight to the attackers. But on the other hand Mozilla withholds that using their Trusted Recursive Resolver would cause a security issue in the first place for users who are indeed in a trustworthy network where they know their resolvers, or use the ISP's default one. Because sharing data or information with any third party, which is Cloudflare in this case, is a security issue itself.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Vint Cerf on Differential Traceability on the Internet

Addressing the bad behaviors on the Internet, that range from social network bullying and misinformation to email spam, distributed denial of service attacks, direct cyberattacks against infrastructure, malware propagation, identity theft, and a host of other ills require a wide range of technical and legal considerations, says Vint Cerf, even as he steers clear that he supports encryption. But is there a way to bring more accountability and traceability on our actions on the internet without compromising our privacy? He has a proposition: What is of interest to me is a concept to which I was introduced at the Ditchley workshop, specifically, differential traceability. The ability to trace bad actors to bring them to justice seems to me an important goal in a civilized society. The tension with privacy protection leads to the idea that only under appropriate conditions can privacy be violated. By way of example, consider license plates on cars. They are usually arbitrary identifiers and special authority is needed to match them with the car owners (unless, of course, they are vanity plates like mine: "Cerfsup"). This is an example of differential traceability; the police department has the authority to demand ownership information from the Department of Motor Vehicles that issues the license plates. Ordinary citizens do not have this authority. In the Internet environment there are a variety of identifiers associated with users (including corporate users). Domain names, IP addresses, email addresses, and public cryptography keys are examples among many others. Some of these identifiers are dynamic and thus ambiguous. For example, IP addresses are not always permanent and may change (for example, temporary IP addresses assigned at Wi-Fi hotspots) or may be ambiguous in the case of Network Address Translation. Information about the time of assignment and the party to whom an IP address was assigned may be needed to identify an individual user. There has been considerable debate and even a recent court case regarding requirements to register users in domain name WHOIS databases in the context of the adoption of GDPR. If we are to accomplish the simultaneous objectives of protecting privacy while apprehending those engaged in harmful or criminal behavior on the Internet, we must find some balance between conflicting but desirable outcomes.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Security World Hits Las Vegas For a Week of Hacking, Cracking, Fun

About a quarter of a century ago, a handful of hackers decided to have a party in a cheap hotel, and had a whale of a time. Fast forward to 2018, and that get-together has grown into events that will see an estimated 30,000 people converge on Las Vegas for the biggest security shindig in the world -- the combination of Black Hat USA, DEF CON and BSidesLV. From a report: While that first gathering morphed into the DEF CON hacking conference, the biggest event is Black Hat USA, which began on Saturday, and runs through until Thursday, August 9. This is the flashy corporate brother of DEF CON, and features four days of security training, a one-day invite-only CISO summit day (from which press are strictly barred) and two days of briefings featuring everything from government agents to hardcore hackers talking about the tricks of the trade. Although they have a shared origin -- DEF CON founder Jeff Moss also set up Black Hat USA -- these days, DEF CON and Black Hat USA are run and operated separately. We've previously described the behind-the-scenes and arduous task of setting up and maintaining computer networks for attendees of hacker conventions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Nonmonetary Incentives and the Implications of Work as a Source of Meaning

From a research paper [PDF]: Many workers care about more than financial compensation in their job. Nonmonetary incentives often matter, too. A firm's mission and the design of one's job can create meaning and purpose for employees. As a result, firms will have reason to care about meaning of work. We believe economists can usefully contribute to the debate about the implications of meaningful work. We are not arguing that financial compensation is unimportant. Lazear (in this volume) provides an excel- lent review of monetary incentives in certain organizations. But we believe that in order to manage modern organizations and understand the future of work, studying workers' nonmonetary motives will be crucial.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Traders Are Talking Up Cryptocurrencies, Then Dumping Them, Costing Others Millions

Dozens of trading groups are manipulating the price of cryptocurrencies on some of the largest online exchanges, generating at least $825 million in trading activity over the past six months -- and hundreds of millions in losses for those caught on the wrong side, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. From a report: In a review of trading data and online communications among traders between January and the end of July, the Journal identified 175 "pump and dump" schemes involving 121 different digital coins, which show a sudden rise in price and an equally sudden fall minutes later. A pump-and-dump scheme is one of the oldest types of market fraud: Traders talk up the price of an asset before dumping it for a profit and leaving fooled investors with shrunken shares. The Securities and Exchange Commission regularly brings civil cases alleging pump and dumps using publicly traded stocks. Manipulations of cryptocurrencies are no different, but regulators have yet to bring a case in the more opaque market for them. The SEC declined to comment.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Wells Fargo Says Hundreds of Customers Lost Homes After Computer Glitch

Hundreds of people had their homes foreclosed on after software used by Wells Fargo incorrectly denied them mortgage modifications. From a report: The embattled bank revealed the issue in a regulatory filing this week and said it has set aside $8 million to compensate customers affected by the glitch. [...] Wells Fargo said the computer error affected "certain accounts" that were undergoing the foreclosure process between April 2010 and October 2015, when the issue was corrected. About 625 customers were incorrectly denied a loan modification or were not offered one even though they were qualified, according to the filing. In about 400 cases, the customers were ultimately foreclosed upon.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Have Smartphones Killed the Art of Conversation?

An anonymous reader shares a report: Not quite, but it's certainly more than a blip in the cultural history of communication: in 2017, for the first time, the number of voice calls -- remember, those things you did with your actual voice on your actual phone -- fell in the UK. Meanwhile, internet addiction keeps growing, presumably because we haven't quite worked out what to do with all those hours we're saving on talking. More than three-quarters (78%) of British adults own a smartphone, and we check them on average every 12 minutes. That adds up to 24 hours a week online via our phones -- much of that time swallowed up by modern-style chat on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, with some left over for texting. It has taken a toll on talking, sure, but few smartphone users might claim to feel less connected as a result. Now, the idea of ringing someone for "a chat" has a quaint, retro quality. I can, and will, talk you under the table, but phone calls are a luxury usually reserved for about five people: my mum, my sister, two best friends and my editor, obviously. Even then, I'm rubbish at picking up. Much is made about smartphones leading to dumber conversation -- amid claims that the art of chatter has been lost. Arguably, however, conversation has simply been rebooted and reconfigured. Take the myriad ways in which we can and do communicate now. It's a given that I will spend an embarrassing portion of my day glued to a screen (It's work!) and much of that will be chatting (again, it's work!).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Avast Pulls the Latest Version of CCleaner Following Privacy Controversy

Piriform, the maker of CCleaner, has pulled v5.45 of its suite from the website after users expressed concerns over the privacy changes in the application, the company, which was acquired by Avast last year, said. In v5.45, the company made it impossible to disable "active monitoring", and the privacy settings had been removed for free customers. Additionally, as BetaNews reported earlier this week, Avast also made it impossible for users to quit the software. Addressing these concerns, Avast said, "Today we have removed v5.45 and reverted to v5.44 as the main download for CCleaner while we work on a new version with several key improvements." The company added: We're currently working on separating out cleaning functionality from analytics reporting and offering more user control options which will be remembered when CCleaner is closed. We're also creating a factsheet to share which will outline the data we collect, for which purposes and how it is processed. [...] As stated before, we'll split cleaning alerts (which don't send any data) from UI trend data (which is anonymous and only there to measure the user experience) and provide a separate setting for each in the user preferences. Some of these features run as a separate process from the UI: we'll restore visibility of this in the notifications area, and you'll be able to close it down from that icon menu as before. We understand the importance of this to you all. This work is our number 1 priority and we are taking the time to get it right in the next release. There are numerous changes required, so that does mean it will take weeks, not days. While we work on this, we have removed version 5.45 and reinstated version 5.44. According to stats shared by the company, CCleaner has been downloaded over two billion times. In a week, it is estimated to see five million downloads.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microfilm Lasts Half a Millennium

Millions of publications -- not to mention spy documents -- can be read on microfilm machines. But people still see these devices as outmoded and unappealing. From a report: I recently acquired a decommissioned microfilm reader. My university bought the reader for $16,000 in 1998, but its value has depreciated to $0 in their official bookkeeping records. Machines like it played a central role in both research and secret-agent tasks of the last century. But this one had become an embarrassment. The bureaucrats wouldn't let me store the reader in a laboratory that also houses a multimillion-dollar information-display system. They made me promise to "make sure no VIPs ever see it there." After lots of paperwork and negotiation, I finally had to transport the machine myself. Unlike a computer -- even an old one -- it was heavy and ungainly. It would not fit into a car, and it could not be carried by two people for more than a few feet. Even moving the thing was an embarrassment. No one wanted it, but no one wanted me to have it around either. And yet the microfilm machine is still widely used. It has centuries of lasting power ahead of it, and new models are still being manufactured. It's a shame that no intrigue will greet their arrival, because these machines continue to prove essential for preserving and accessing archival materials. [...] Microfilm's decline intensified with the development of optical-character-recognition (OCR) technology. Initially used to search microfilm in the 1930s, Emanuel Goldberg designed a system that could read characters on film and translate them into telegraph code. Further reading: 'You Had to Be There': As Technologies Change Ever Faster, the Knowledge of Obsolete Things Becomes Ever Sweeter.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Chip Giant TSMC Struggles With Virus Infections at its Factories

Many of the tech products launching this fall might have just run into production setbacks. From a report: Giant chip manufacturer TSMC has warned that several of its fabrication plants suffered virus infections on August 3rd, disrupting production. Some of these plants recovered in a "short period of time," it said, but others wouldn't resume business as usual for "one day." The company dismissed claims that this was a hack, but didn't initially provide details about the virus or the potential infection path. TSMC promised more information on August 6th.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Venezuelan President Survives Drone Assassination Attempt

The Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, has survived an apparent assassination attempt involving drones that exploded close to him while he was speaking at an event in Caracas. State television showed Maduro abruptly cutting short his speech during a celebration of the National Guard's 81st anniversary. From a report: In a tweet, the president of Venezuela's National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, called the incident at the military parade a "terrorist attack against the president and the high military command blaming the opposition for the violence." Venezuela's international government broadcaster, TeleSUR, said on Twitter that the Venezuelan government confirmed an attempted attack on Maduro. Venezuela's vice president for communications, Jorge Rodriguez, later addressed the nation on live TV at the request of Maduro. He said people heard explosions that corresponded to drones and heard drones detonate near a parade for the occasion.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Iconic Planet-Hunting Kepler Telescope Wakes Up, Phones Home

Kepler, which has discovered about 70 percent of the 3,800 known exoplanets to date, woke up from a four-week hibernation yesterday and has begun beaming data home, just as planned, NASA officials announced today. From a report: Kepler had been sleeping in an attempt to save thruster fuel, which is running very low. Mission team members wanted to make sure the spacecraft had enough propellant left to orient its antenna toward Earth for yesterday's data dump. Far-flung NASA spacecraft send information back to mission controllers via the agency's Deep Space Network (DSN), a system of radio dishes around the globe. The sun-orbiting Kepler's latest allotted DSN window opened yesterday, agency officials have said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Windows 10 Buggy Updates? Our Patching is Simple, Regular, and Consistent, Says Microsoft

Microsoft has declined to comment on an expert's many complaints about the quality of its recent patches and cadence of Windows 10 feature updates. Earlier, Susan Bradley, a Microsoft MVP who for the past 18 years has volunteered her time helping Windows users, took a survey of over 1,800 respondents regarding the Windows 10 Update experience. She then sent an open letter to Microsoft [OneDrive link] executives summarizing the results of this survey and providing thoroughly researched material regarding the poor update experience Windows 10 users have been experiencing. In return, Microsoft argued in a blog that it gives admins all the tools they need to test and provide feedback before it releases Patch Tuesday updates. From a report: Microsoft's John Wilcox, who helps promote why organizations should move to Windows 10's Windows-as-a-service model has, at the behest of Windows pros, offered an explanation of its monthly Windows 10 quality update servicing cadence and terminology. As noted by ZDNet's Ed Bott recently, IT admins who'd spent years learning about Windows Update needed to "prepare to do some unlearning" due to the many changes introduced by Microsoft's shift to a Windows 10-as-a-service model. "With Windows 10, Microsoft has completely rewritten the Windows Update rulebook. For expert users and IT pros accustomed to having fine-grained control over the update process, these changes might seem wrenching and even draconian," he noted. [...] Wilcox outlines that Microsoft's guiding principles to its monthly Windows service updates are built around being "simple and predictable", "agile", and "transparent." Wilcox doesn't directly address patching expert Bradley's major complaints about Microsoft's patches of late, but said Microsoft's predictability meant IT managers should be able to handle its "simple, regular and consistent patching cadence."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Windows 10 Buggy Updates? Our Patching is Simple, Regular, and Consistent Says Microsoft

Microsoft has declined to comment on an expert's many complaints about the quality of its recent patches and cadence of Windows 10 feature updates. Earlier, Susan Bradley, a Microsoft MVP who for the past 18 years has volunteered her time helping Windows users, took a survey of over 1,800 respondents regarding the Windows 10 Update experience. She then sent an open letter to Microsoft [OneDrive link] executives summarizing the results of this survey and providing thoroughly researched material regarding the poor update experience Windows 10 users have been experiencing. In return, Microsoft argued in a blog that it gives admins all the tools they need to test and provide feedback before it releases Patch Tuesday updates. From a report: Microsoft's John Wilcox, who helps promote why organizations should move to Windows 10's Windows-as-a-service model has, at the behest of Windows pros, offered an explanation of its monthly Windows 10 quality update servicing cadence and terminology. As noted by ZDNet's Ed Bott recently, IT admins who'd spent years learning about Windows Update needed to "prepare to do some unlearning" due to the many changes introduced by Microsoft's shift to a Windows 10-as-a-service model. "With Windows 10, Microsoft has completely rewritten the Windows Update rulebook. For expert users and IT pros accustomed to having fine-grained control over the update process, these changes might seem wrenching and even draconian," he noted. [...] Wilcox outlines that Microsoft's guiding principles to its monthly Windows service updates are built around being "simple and predictable", "agile", and "transparent." Wilcox doesn't directly address patching expert Bradley's major complaints about Microsoft's patches of late, but said Microsoft's predictability meant IT managers should be able to handle its "simple, regular and consistent patching cadence."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

High Speed Internet Is Causing Widespread Sleep Deprivation, Study Finds

A study, published Friday in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization and funded by the European Research Council, suggests that high speed internet access is causing people to lose up to 25 minutes of sleep per night compared to those without high speed internet. From a report: It's the first study to causally link broadband access to sleep deprivation. The so-called "digitalization of the bedroom," defined by our inability to part with our phones/laptops/televisions before bed, has already been linked to various sleep disorders. [...] As the researchers found, high speed internet access "promotes excessive electronic media use," which has already been shown to have detrimental effects on sleep duration and quality. The effects of high speed internet access were particularly noticeable in younger age demographics.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cameroon Innovator Beats Internet Shutdown With SMS App

An anonymous reader shares a report: Hampered by an internet shutdown in Cameroon's troubled English-speaking regions in January 2017, Zuo Bruno, a young ethical hacker, was inspired to develop a car-tracking application using SMS. The application named Zoomed, whose adoption has been fast in Cameroon, is now on the verge of spreading across the continent. Cameroon has been interrupting internet intermittently in those regions over the last 20 months in an attempt to stifle dissent following mass protests by English-speaking teachers and lawyers which erupted in 2016, first tampered with internet connectivity on Jan. 17, 2017. The internet shutdown lasted 94 days. The internet was again plug off in October same year, taking the duration of the shutdown to a record 230 days, according to Access Now. [...] The Zoomed app does car-tracking based solely on specific SMS commands which gives it an advantage in a continent where shaky internet connection and low penetration makes internet-based solutions less effective. Bruno prices it at FCFA 120,000 ($ 212) and takes less than an hour to get the app installed into an auto-mobile.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Is in China Cloud Talks With Tencent, Others, Report Says

Google wants to get back into China, and is laying the groundwork for a key part of the initiative: bringing its cloud business to the world's second-largest economy. Bloomberg: The internet giant is in talks with Tencent Holdings, Inspur Group and other Chinese companies to offer Google cloud services in the mainland, according to people familiar with the discussions. They asked not to be identified discussing private matters. The talks began in early 2018 and Google narrowed partnership candidates to three firms in late March, according to one of the people. Trade tensions between China and the U.S. now loom over the effort. It's unclear if the plans will proceed, this person said. The goal is to run Google internet-based services -- such as Drive and Docs -- via the domestic data centers and servers of Chinese providers, similar to the way other U.S. cloud companies access that market. In most of the rest of the world, Google Cloud rents computing power and storage over the internet, and sells a collection of workplace productivity apps called G Suite that are run on its own data centers. China requires digital information to be stored in the country and Google has no data centers in the mainland, so it needs partnerships with local players. Further reading: Google Plans To Launch Censored Search Engine In China, Leaked Documents Reveal.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

New Starbucks Partnership With Microsoft Allows Customers To Pay For Frappuccinos With Bitcoin

Earlier this week, Nestle said it was jumping on the blockchain bandwagon, today, Starbucks said it is ready to top that. From a report: The Seattle-based coffee giant is working with Microsoft and a leading global exchange on a new digital platform that will allow consumers to use bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies at Starbucks. Starbucks along with Intercontinental Exchange, Microsoft and BCG, among others, is working to launch a new company called Bakkt that will enable consumers and institutions to buy, sell, store and spend cryptocurrencies on the global network by November. The platform with convert bitcoin and other cryptocoins into U.S. dollars that can be used to buy a Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew, Matcha Lemonade or anything else at Starbucks. Starbucks has consistently been at the forefront of embracing new technologies. For instance, it added support for mobile payments in 2011. In May, it was estimated that Starbucks' mobile payment solution is more popular than those of Apple and Google. In a statement, Maria Smith, vice president of partnerships and payments for Starbucks, "As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks. As a leader in Mobile Pay to our more than 15 million Starbucks Rewards members, Starbucks is committed to innovation for expanding payment options for our customers."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NASA Unveils the Astronauts Who Will Relaunch Human Space Flights From US Soil

NASA on Friday announced the crews of the first flights from U.S. soil since the space shuttle retired in 2011, an elite group of astronauts that the agency hopes will help open a new era of space travel. From a report: The crews would fly on spacecraft developed not by NASA but by two corporations, SpaceX and Boeing, which are under contract to provide a taxi-like service to the International Space Station. On the first human test flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, NASA selected astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Mann will join Boeing executive Chris Ferguson. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley would fly on the first human test flight of SpaceX's Dragon capsule. On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing. NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins would fly Dragon's first operational mission to the space station.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How Criminals Recruit Telecom Employees To Help Them Hijack SIM Cards

An anonymous reader writes: Sources who work for some of America's major cellphone carriers tell us how criminals are trying to recruit them to get help hacking victims. Normally, criminals approach them online, offering to pay them in Bitcoin (the equivalent of $100 for example). In exchange, the employee has to log into a company portal and process a so-called SIM swap. From the report: How criminals find the employees in the first place can vary. Some SIM hijackers I spoke to told me they approach them through shared friends in real life, others told me they just comb LinkedIn, Reddit or social media sites. AT&T and Sprint did not respond to requests for comment about whether or not it had any knowledge of insiders helping criminals. A T-Mobile spokesperson said in a statement that the company is "aware of these ongoing and ever-changing attempts to take advantage of consumers across the wireless industry and we'll keep fighting to ensure our customers' safety." A Verizon spokesperson said the company doesn't share details of internal security processes or investigations, but the company "has systems in place that work to detect employee/vendor misconduct."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Scientists Stunned as Medical Non-Profit Group Abruptly Ends Research Grants

A major US non-profit group focused on improving child health has abruptly terminated US$3 million in research grants -- leaving nearly 40 scientists confused, angry and scrambling to secure new funding. From a report: On 24 July, 37 grant recipients received an e-mail from the March of Dimes Foundation in New York City informing them that their 3-year grants had been cut off, retroactively, starting on 30 June. Many of the researchers were only a year into their projects, and had had just enough time to hire and train staff, purchase supplies and generate preliminary results. Now, several say that they might need to lay off employees, euthanize lab animals and shelve their research projects if they cannot find other funding -- fast. The March of Dimes, which is supported largely by individual donations, made the decision to revoke the grants because of a budget shortfall, says Kelle Moley, the group's chief scientific officer. "I know this is harsh news," Moley says. "As a former grantee, this would be devastating to me as well." That is small consolation to many researchers whom Nature spoke to.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

AMD Creates Quad Core Zen SoC with 24 Vega CUs for Chinese Consoles

An anonymous reader shares a report: AMD has cornered the x86 console market with its handy semi-custom mix of processors and graphics. While we slowly await the next generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony, today AMD and Zhongshan Subor announced that a custom chip has been made for a new gaming PC and an upcoming console for the Chinese market. The announcement states that a custom chip has been created for Subor that is based on four Zen cores running at 3.0 GHz and 24 compute units of Vega running at 1.3 GHz. The chip is supported by 8GB of GDDR5 memory, which the press release states is also embedded onto the chip, however it is likely to actually be on the package instead. [...] Assuming that this custom chip is a single chip design, with CPU and GPU, this means that AMD is handily gaining custom contracts and designing custom chip designs for its customers, even for consoles that won't have the mass western appeal such as the Xbox or Playstation.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google-backed Kotlin Gains Adoption in Open Source Android Apps; Scientists Say It Has Improved Code Quality

Kotlin, which Google blessed last year as an alternative to Java for programming Android apps, has already made its way into almost 12 per cent of open source Android apps, and in so doing has elevated their code quality. From a report: So we're told by computer scientists Bruno Gois Mateus and Matias Martinez, affiliated with University of Valenciennes in France, who observed that Google at the end of 2017 said Kotlin had infiltrated more than 17 per cent of Android apps developed with its IDE, Android Studio 3.0. Kotlin is an open source statically typed programing language that targets the JVM, Android, JavaScript (transpiling to ES5.1) and native platforms (via LLVM). JetBrains, the company that created it, contends Kotlin is more concise and more type-safe than Java. It estimates that apps written in Kotlin require about 40 per cent less code than they would with Java. With fewer lines of code, in theory, one can expect fewer bugs. In a paper distributed through pre-print service ArXiv, "An Empirical Study on Quality of Android Applications written in Kotlin language," Mateus and Martinez describe how they gathered 925 apps from the open source F-Droid repository, measured the amount of Kotlin code in each, and analyzed the code for "smells" as an indicator of code quality.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Software Can Model How a Wildfire Will Spread

The rapid flames that roached densely populated areas in Mati, a seaside resort near Athens on July 23, could have been avoided. Gavriil Xanthopoulos, a wildfire expert at Greece's Ministry of Rural Development and Food, believes the unfortunate incident could have been averted if proper use had been made in advance of fire-simulation software [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. From a report: Fed with data on the area's vegetation, building materials, paved surfaces, paths to the sea and weather patterns, such software would have suggested, he says, those places where trees and brush should have been removed, roads widened and evacuation paths built -- not to mention how zoning laws could have been better devised in the face of fire risk. Greece, Dr Xanthopoulos laments, has been slow to adopt such software. Others are not so dilatory. America's Forest Service, for instance, uses a model developed by Esri, a geographic-information firm in Redlands, California, to assess fire risk. This model feeds on data on the distribution and types of trees, bushes and other vegetable ground cover, and on construction materials used in an area. These data are collected mainly by satellites and aircraft, but rangers and crews of firefighters contribute detail from the ground. According to Chris Ferner, a wildland-fire technology specialist at Esri, even entering the diameters of tree trunks and the sites of clogged culverts (which alter patterns of water flow) is grist to the software's accuracy. Once a piece of fire-forecasting software such as Esri's knows how much inflammable stuff there is on the land, it can bring in data on rainfall, snowfall, sunshine, temperature and the like, to work out how this might change in the future, as well as how much moisture the vegetation holds. It can also take into account past fires and the lie of the land.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Nestle Experiments with Tracking Gerber Baby Food on the Blockchain

Nestle SA is putting some of its Gerber baby food products on a food-tracking blockchain to test whether the technology can trace the fruits and vegetables that go into its purees and squeezable pouches. From a report: Nestle's effort is part of a wider food-industry exercise aimed at improving food recalls by using the technology behind bitcoin to trace a worldwide ingredient supply chain. Food recalls can diminish consumer confidence and lead to lost sales. News of tainted baby food hits an especially sensitive nerve -- stakes that in part prompted Nestle to choose a popular variety of its Gerber linefor its blockchain test, said Chris Tyas, global head of supply chain at the Swiss company. Nestle offers more than 2,000 brands, including Haagen-Dazs, Stouffer's and Poland Spring. Nestle also sees the move as a way to generate customer trust everyday and during recalls. "People want to know, quite rightly, where ingredients they give to their baby have come from," he said. "We wanted a product in which trust meant something."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

As Google Maps Renames Neighborhoods, Residents Fume

An anonymous reader shares a report: For decades, the district south of downtown and alongside San Francisco Bay here was known as either Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was suddenly rebranded on Google Maps to a name few had heard: the East Cut. The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google's map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too. Real-estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term. "It's degrading to the reputation of our area," said Tad Bogdan, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. In a survey of 271 neighbors that he organized recently, he said, 90 percent disliked the name. The swift rebranding of the roughly 170-year-old district is just one example of how Google Maps has now become the primary arbiter of place names. With decisions made by a few Google cartographers, the identity of a city, town or neighborhood can be reshaped, illustrating the outsize influence that Silicon Valley increasingly has in the real world.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Browser Firm That Required Users To Confirm Their Real Life Identity Shut Down After Its Employees Were Threatened

New submitter nleskovic shares a report: When Authenticated Reality launched last year, it seemed that the company had struck gold in terms of market demand and fit. The Austin-based startup had developed a Web browser that would require users to prove they are who they say they are. Users would have to sign up for an account -- scanning their driver's license and taking a photo -- in order to download the browser, which would sit "on top" of the Internet, said Chris Ciabarra, Authenticated Reality's co-founder, in an interview last year. "Everybody knows who everybody is," he said. So, when Facebook announced this week that its site was, once again, home to inauthentic pages and accounts designed to influence the outcome of the upcoming midterm Congressional elections, I contacted Ciabarra to find out how the company was doing. But, he said Wednesday that he had shut down the startup just a month after its debut. He said people who had heard about Authenticated Reality from media reports were visiting the firm's offices in California and threatening employees. (The addresses were listed on the website.) "It was getting kind of scary," he told me. "They were thinking we were taking their freedom away because they had to sign up using a driver's license. They thought we were trying to follow them."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

White House Proposal Rolls Back Fuel Economy Standards, No Exception For California

The Trump administration has proposed a rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards, while simultaneously taking aim at California's unique ability to set more stringent rules. From a report: Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency called for the fuel economy standards for new vehicles to ratchet up over time. The increasingly strict standards were designed to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. On Thursday, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a new proposed rule that would instead freeze the standards at their 2020 levels for six years. "Cars and trucks are just part of the basic fiber of the American economy and the American experience, so we take what we're doing very, very seriously," Bill Wehrum, EPA assistant administrator, told reporters on Thursday. The agencies say that increasing fuel efficiency requirements contributes to an increase in the cost of new cars and trucks, which may discourage consumers from buying new vehicles. Because newer vehicles have advanced safety features, the administration argues, increasing fuel economy requirements therefore harms highway safety, as well as having economic effects.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Number of Mobile Calls Drops For the First Time

The number of voice calls made on mobile phones in the UK fell for the first time ever in 2017 -- despite the fact we seem hooked on our devices. From a report: That is according to the latest report from telecoms regulator Ofcom, which charts what it describes as a decade of digital dependence. A total of 78% of all adults now own a smartphone. On average, people check them once every 12 minutes during their waking hours, the study claims. Two in five adults look at their phone within five minutes of waking, while a third check their phones just before falling asleep, according to the report. A high percentage (71%) say they never turn off their phones and 78% say they could not live without it.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley

Kara Swisher, writing for The New York Times: I kept pressing Mr. Zuckerberg on how he personally felt about the damage his creation had done. [Editor's note: Ms. Swisher is referring to her recent interview with Mark Zuckerberg.] Was he beginning to understand the power that he held, and that the world that he controlled was not such a rosy place? Facebook was "probably," he admitted, "too focused on just the positives and not focused enough on some of the negatives." Fair enough. But it was impossible to get him to acknowledge any personal pain as both the creator and the destroyer. "I mean, my emotion is feeling a deep sense of responsibility to try to fix the problem," said Mr. Zuckerberg. "In running a company, if you want to be innovative and advance things forward, I think you have to be willing to get some things wrong. But I don't think it is acceptable to get the same things wrong over and over again." It was a classic Silicon Valley engineer's roll-up-your-sleeves answer, which leaves many cold when it comes to, say, the manipulation of democracy. Fending off bad actors like the Russians has been and will be increasingly expensive; it may even be impossible. But Facebook could have done much more than it did, and it certainly needs to do more than it's doing. Mr. Zuckerberg is now trying to fend off talk in Washington of regulating his company like the thing he once told me it was: a utility. He has also spent the last month meeting over dinners with a range of academic experts on free speech, propaganda and more to try to understand where to go from here. Call it the education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley, but on the world's dime. How much that has -- and will -- cost is probably immeasurable.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple Becomes the First $1 Trillion US Company in History

Apple became the first $1 trillion publicly listed U.S. company on Thursday, crowning a decade-long rise fueled by its ubiquitous iPhone that transformed it from a niche player in personal computers into a global powerhouse spanning entertainment and communications. Reuters: The tech company's stock jumped 2.8 percent, bringing its gain to about 9 percent since Tuesday when it reported June-quarter results above expectations and said it bought back $20 billion of its own shares. "Apple's $1 trillion cap is equal to about 5 percent of the total gross domestic product of the United States in 2018," David Kass, professor of finance at the University of Maryland, told The Washington Post. "That puts this company in perspective." The company's fortunes were turbocharged by the launch of personal gadgets such as the iPod in 2001 and the iPhone in 2007. Since then 18 different iPhones have been launched and more than 1.2 billion of the devices have been sold. Brad Stone, writing for Bloomberg: As critics enjoy pointing out, the company under Cook has failed to come up with another iPhone-type hit. But that's like saying da Vinci never came up with another Mona Lisa-type painting. The release of the iPhone is up there with the founding of Standard Oil as one of the greatest business moves of all time. And while the iPhone has altered daily life so much that no one remembers life before it, Apple has also persuaded customers to embrace other inventions they never knew they wanted, such as connected watches that buzz and beep (to cure the distraction of the phone, Apple says) and wireless dongles that hang ridiculously from their ears. Apple isn't alone on this mountaintop. Amazon.com, Alphabet, and Microsoft are likely at some point to pinwheel across the $1 trillion finish line, too, and they're almost as good as Apple at manufacturing customer desire. No one told Amazon they needed a speaker they could talk to, or Google a self-driving car, or Microsoft a ... OK, it's been a while since Microsoft has driven civilians wild with desire.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The 2018 Top Programming Languages, According To IEEE

New submitter rfengineer shares a report: Welcome to IEEE Spectrum's fifth annual interactive ranking of the top programming languages. Because no one can peer over the shoulders of every coder out there, anyone attempting to measure the popularity of computer languages must rely on proxy measures of relative popularity. In our case, this means combining metrics from multiple sources to rank 47 languages. But recognizing that different programmers have different needs and domains of interest, we've chosen not to blend all those metrics up into One Ranking to Rule Them All. [...] Python has tightened its grip on the No. 1 spot. Last year it came out on top by just barely beating out C, with Python's score of 100 to C's 99.7. But this year, there's a wider gap between first and second place, with C++ coming in at 98.4 for the No. 2 slot (last year, Java had come third with a score of 99.4, while this year its fallen to 4th place with a score of 97.5). C has fallen to third place, with a score of 98.2.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple Removing iOS and Mac Apps from Affiliate Program

In a post, Apple announced the following changes: With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program. Starting on October 1st, 2018, commissions for iOS and Mac apps and in-app content will be removed from the program. All other content types (music, movies, books, and TV) remain in the affiliate program. Stephen Hackett, a long time Apple blogger and podcaster, said, "This is not totally surprising after Apple cut the rate for in-app purchases last year. However, this is going to hurt a lot of people in the media ecosystem around Apple." The post includes thoughts of several developers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Fields Medals Awarded To 4 Mathematicians

Every four years, at an international gathering of mathematicians, the subject's youngest and brightest are honored with the Fields Medal, often described as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. The New York Times: This year's recipients, announced on Wednesday at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rio de Janeiro, include one of the youngest ever: Peter Scholze, a professor of mathematics at the University of Bonn who is 30 years old. Two weeks ago, Peter Woit, a professor at Columbia University who blogs about mathematics and physics, was among those who anticipated that Dr. Scholze would receive the medal. Dr. Woit said Dr. Scholze was "by far the most talented arithmetic geometer of his generation." By custom, Fields medals are bestowed to mathematicians 40 years old or younger. That means Dr. Scholze would have still been eligible for another two rounds of medals. The medal, first awarded in 1936, was conceived by John Charles Fields, a Canadian mathematician. The youngest winner, Jean-Pierre Serre in 1954, was 27. The other Fields medalists this year are Caucher Birkar, 40, of the University of Cambridge in England; Alessio Figalli, 34, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich; and Akshay Venkatesh, 36, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Stanford University in California. Peter Scholze's award cites "the revolution that he launched in arithmetic geometry," the study of shapes that arise from the rational-number solutions to polynomial equations (like xy3 + x2 = 1 or x2 â" y3z = 3). More about him here. As a mathematician, Caucher Birkar has helped bring order to the infinite variety of polynomial equations -- those equations that consist of different variables raised to various powers. No two equations are exactly alike, but Birkar has helped reveal that many can be neatly categorized into a small number of families. [As a reader pointed out, Birkar's award was stolen within minutes of him receiving it.] Once a classics student with no particular affinity for mathematics, Alessio Figalli has gone on to shake the venerable mathematical discipline of analysis, which concerns the properties of certain types of equations. Figalli's results have provided a refined mathematical understanding of everything from the shape of crystals to weather patterns, to the way ice melts in water. Akshay Venkatesh, a former prodigy who struggled with the genius stereotype, has won a Fields Medal for his "profound contributions to an exceptionally broad range of subjects in mathematics."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Bacteria Becoming Resistant To Hospital Disinfectants, Warn Scientists

Hospitals will need to use new strategies to tackle bacteria experts have warned, after finding a type of hospital superbug is becoming increasingly tolerant of alcohol -- the key component of current disinfectant hand rubs. From a report: Handwashes based on alcohols such as isopropanol have become commonplace as a method of infection control. But while the move has been linked to benefits, including a fall in rates of hospital infections of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), new research suggests it might also have had unexpected consequences. Scientists say they have discovered that superbugs known as vancomycin-resistant enterococci, or VRE, appear to be becoming more tolerant to alcohol.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Earth Overshoot Day Came Early This Year. That’s a Bad Thing.

An anonymous reader shares a report: Earth's resources are limited. We only have so much water and food, let alone oil and gold. But humans are using more than Earth has to offer, and have been since 1970. In 2018, it's predicted we will use the equivalent of 1.7 Earths worth of resources -- which is, oh, almost a whole Earth more than we have. And the date at which we've consumed more than one Earth in a given year is called... Earth Overshoot Day. In the 1960s, our consumption was almost perfectly synched to the Earth's resources, with humanity consuming one year's worth of Earth's resources in one year. But by 1971, that number slid backward, and has been sliding ever since. This year, 2018, saw the earliest Earth Overshoot Day yet: one Earth's worth of resources gobbled up by Aug. 1. (Last year, it happened on Aug. 2.) This doesn't mean that we've run out of clean water or timber today, and will have to live on scraps until New Year; it's that by exceeding the Earth's resources in August, we're bankrupting our future by consuming materials that are better off preserved for days to come.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Windows 10 Continues To Close in On Windows 7

An anonymous reader writes: NetMarketShare reports on the state of the desktop operating system market on the first day of each month. [...] In July, [the market share of] Windows 10 went from 35.71 percent to 36.58 percent, an increase of 0.87 percentage points. That's down from the 0.97 percentage points it grew in June, but shows that the OS is still packing on share at a steady rate. In July, Windows 7 lost 0.51 percentage points and now sits on 41.23 percent, just 4.65 percentage points ahead of the newer OS.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US Indicts Ukrainian Hackers Who Stole Millions of Credit and Debit Card Numbers

Three Ukrainians associated with the hacking group FIN7 have been arrested in Europe in connection with hacks of more than 100 U.S. companies that led to tens of millions of dollars in losses, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing U.S. officials and court documents. From the report: Fin7 has been linked to breaches affecting hotels bearing the name of U.S. President Donald Trump, Whole Foods, Chipotle, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, according to cyber security firm Trend Micro. The suspects, Fedir Hladyr, Dmytro Fedorov and Andrii Kolpakov, were arrested in Europe between January and June of this year, the Justice Department said on Wednesday. Hladyr is in U.S. custody and U.S. authorities are seeking extradition of the other two, the department said. The three were arrested in connection with computer hacks to steal customer payment card data and other information from more than 100 U.S. companies, the department said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Senate Rejects New Money For Election Security

The Republican-controlled Senate has defeated a push by Democrats to set aside an additional $250 million for states to upgrade their voting systems to protect against hacking and other cyberattacks. From a report: An amendment offered by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy received 50 yes votes, 10 short of the 60 needed for approval. Leahy said securing U.S. elections and "safeguarding our democracy" is not a partisan issue. He said the Senate "must send a clear message to Russia and other foreign adversaries that tampering in our elections will not be tolerated. The president will not act. This duty has fallen to us." A similar effort was also rejected in the House.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Hacker Broke Into a Few of Reddit’s Systems and Managed To Access Some User Data, Company Says

A hacker broke into a few of Reddit's systems and managed to access some user data, including some current email addresses and a 2007 database backup containing old salted and hashed passwords, Reddit said Wednesday. From the announcement: Since then we've been conducting a painstaking investigation to figure out just what was accessed, and to improve our systems and processes to prevent this from happening again. Reddit says the incident occurred between June 14 and June 18 when the hacker "compromised a few of our employees' accounts with our cloud and source code hosting providers." Interestingly, even as Reddit employees maintain 2FA on their accounts, the attacker managed to get access to their data. "We learned that SMS-based authentication is not nearly as secure as we would hope, and the main attack was via SMS intercept," the company said. The company says it has a reason to believe the attacker had access to the following data: All Reddit data from 2007 and before including account credentials and email addresses. What was accessed: A complete copy of an old database backup containing very early Reddit user data -- from the site's launch in 2005 through May 2007. In Reddit's first years it had many fewer features, so the most significant data contained in this backup are account credentials (username + salted hashed passwords), email addresses, and all content (mostly public, but also private messages) from way back then. How to tell if your information was included: We are sending a message to affected users and resetting passwords on accounts where the credentials might still be valid. If you signed up for Reddit after 2007, you're clear here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook’s New Message to WhatsApp: Make Money

Deepa Seetharaman, writing for WSJ: Four years after Facebook bought WhatsApp for $22 billion, it is formally starting the messaging app on a new mission: bringing in revenue. WhatsApp on Wednesday detailed plans to sell advertisements and charge big companies that want to reach their customers through its service [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled: alternative source], launching its first major revenue streams as growth at Facebook's main app is starting to decelerate. The measures are aimed at connecting businesses with WhatsApp's user base of roughly 1.5 billion accounts, WhatsApp executives said. The announcements follow disagreements between Facebook leaders and WhatsApp's co-founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, over how to monetize the popular, free service. Mr. Koum and Mr. Acton resisted efforts to put ads in WhatsApp, and over the past year both men have decided to leave Facebook and the messaging app they started in 2009 -- a breakup that was the subject of a Page One article in The Wall Street Journal in June. [...] Next year, WhatsApp plans to show ads in its Status feature, company officials told the Journal. Status allows users to post montages of text, photos and video that appear for 24 hours -- similar to an Instagram tool called Stories. About 450 million people use WhatsApp Status, compared with about 400 million who use Instagram Stories, which already shows ads.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Alaskan Town Finds Solace in Typewriters Following Last Week’s BitPaymer Ransomware Infection

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: On Monday, officials from Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su), a borough part of the Anchorage Metropolitan Statistical Area, said they are still recovering from a ransomware infection that took place last week, on July 24. The ransomware infection crippled the Borough's government networks and has led to the IT staff shutting down a large swath of affected IT systems. [...] Officials said they were planning to clean and reinstall 650 desktop computers and servers located on the parts of the Mat-Su network believed to be affected. [...] "Without computers and files, Borough employees acted resourcefully," said Mat-Su Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan last week. "They re-enlisted typewriters from closets, and wrote by hand receipts and lists of library book patrons and landfill fees at some of the 73 different buildings." Mat-Su IT Director Eric Wyatt identified the "virus" as the BitPaymer ransomware earlier this week, the report said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Call Me, Comrade: The Surprise Rise of North Korean Smartphones

Tia Han, reporting for NK News: 2018 marks the tenth year that cellphones have been legally available in North Korea. The number of users has been growing significantly since then, but overall use remains low: according to the country's state-run Sogwang outlet in January, more than 3.5 million -- out of a population of 25 million -- have mobile subscriptions. "We started providing the 3G service in December 2008, so this year marks the 10th year of the service," Han Jong Nye, from the Arirang Information and Technology Center in Future Scientist Street in Pyongyang, was quoted as having said in Sogwang in January. "The demand for mobile phones is growing larger and larger." [...] North Korean mobile users cannot access the worldwide internet, of course: use is limited to the country's state-run intranet. Reports suggest various kinds of applications are now accessible for mobile users -- from games to shopping -- several state-run North Korean outlets have reported on their recent technological development, often with a great deal of emphasis on their local origins. State media suggests that North Koreans are playing games, reading books, listening to music, doing karaoke, learning to cook, and even increasing crop output on their smartphones. [...] Since the majority of smartphone users do not have an access to the internet, according to one expert, users have to go to a technology service center where technicians install apps to their cell phone. "Most mobile users do not have data service even if they buy a smartphone, so they have to be happy with pre-loaded apps such as games and dictionaries," Yonho Kim, a non-resident fellow at Korea Economic Institute, told NK News.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft Launches Pilot Program To Provide Cybersecurity Protection To Political Campaigns and Election Authorities

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft has launched a pilot program aimed at providing cybersecurity protection for political campaigns and election authorities. The pilot program -- named AccountGuard -- was launched at the end of July, Bleeping Computer has learned, and was set in motion for the 2018 US midterm elections. According to the pilot's website, AccountGuard "provides additional security and threat monitoring for Microsoft accounts belonging to participating US campaigns, political committees, campaign tech vendors, and their staff, who are likely to be at a higher risk in the lead up to elections." Microsoft is now running a website where participants in the 2018 US midterm elections can sign up for this increased protection. According to the portal, participation is offered on a non-partisan basis and is by invitation only. Users from the following organizations are eligible to participate: (1) US-based political campaigns (2) US-based political committees (3) Select campaign technology vendors (4) Select individuals may also participate, if invited by eligible campaigns and affiliated organizations Last month, Microsoft said they had detected and helped block hacking attempts -- the first known example of cyber interference in the midterm elections -- against three congressional candidates this year. On Tuesday, Facebook said it was blocking more than two dozen pages that it believed were part of an ongoing political influence campaign.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

SamSam Ransomware Crew Made Nearly $6 Million From Ransom Payments

The SamSam ransomware, which if you remember was at play in an attack in Atlanta city earlier this year, has earned its creator(s) more than $5.9 million in ransom payments since late 2015, BleepingComputer reported Tuesday, citing what it called the most comprehensive report ever published on SamSam's activity. The report, it said, contains information since the ransomware's launch in late 2015 and up to attacks that have happened earlier this month. BleepingComputer: Compiled by UK cyber-security firm Sophos, the 47-page report is a result of researchers collecting data from past attacks, talking to victims, and data-mining public and private sources for SamSam samples that might have slipped through the cracks. In addition, Sophos researchers also partnered with blockchain & cryptocurrency monitoring firm Neutrino to track down transfers and relations between the different Bitcoin addresses the SamSam crew has used until now. By tracking all the Bitcoin addresses researchers were able to find, Sophos says it identified at least 233 victims who paid a ransom to the SamSam crew, of which, 86 went public with the fact that they paid the ransom, allowing Sophos to create profiles about each of these victims. Researchers say that based on the data of these 86 victims, they were able to determine that around three-quarters of those who paid were located in the US, with some scattered victims located in the UK, Belgium, and Canada.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

DHS Forms New Cyber Hub To Protect Critical US Infrastructure

The Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday the creation of a new center aimed at guarding the nation's banks, energy companies and other industries from major cyberattacks that could cripple critical infrastructure. From a report: The launch of the National Risk Management Center was unveiled by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a government-hosted cyber summit in New York City, at which Vice President Mike Pence and several other cabinet secretaries are expected to speak. In prepared remarks, Ms. Nielsen said that cyber threats now posed a greater threat to the country than physical attacks. DHS was founded 15 years ago to prevent another Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Nielsen said, but "today I believe the next major attack is more likely to reach us online than on an airplane." The center's creation was motivated by a growing recognition in government that sophisticated cyberattacks, particularly those deployed by foreign adversaries, can not only harm a company or industry but can cause systemic failure across society, Chris Krebs, DHS's top cyber official, said in an interview.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Report Reveals Numerous Cases of Amazon Workers Being Treated in Ways That Leave Them Homeless, Unable To Work or Bereft of Income After Workplace Accidents

Several readers have shared a report: Vickie Shannon Allen, 49, started working at Amazon as a counter in a fulfillment warehouse at Haslet, Texas, in May 2017. At first, like many employees, Allen was excited by the idea of working for one of the fastest growing corporations in the world. That feeling dissipated quickly after a few months. [...] Nor is Allen alone. A Guardian investigation has revealed numerous cases of Amazon workers suffering from workplace accidents or injuries in its gigantic warehouse system and being treated in ways that leave them homeless, unable to work or bereft of income. Allen's story began on 24 October last year when she injured her back counting goods on a workstation that was missing a brush guard, a piece of safety equipment meant to prevent products from falling onto the floor. She used a tote bin to try to compensate for the missing brush guard, and hurt her back while counting in an awkward position. The injury was the beginning of an ongoing ordeal she is still working to amend at Amazon. Over the course of a few weeks, Amazon's medical triage area gave her use of a heating pad to use on her back, while Amazon management sent her home each day without pay until Allen pushed for workers compensation. "I tried to work again, but I couldn't stretch my right arm out and I'm right-handed. So I was having a hard time keeping up. This went on for about three weeks," Allen said. Despite not getting paid, Allen was spending her own money to drive 60 miles one way to the warehouse each day just to be sent home. Once on workers compensation, Allen started going to physical therapy. In January 2018, she returned to work and injured herself again on the same workstation that still was not fixed.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions

An anonymous reader shares a report: In August 22, 2001, Jerome Jacobson, director of security for a subcontracting company called Simon Marketing, was arrested along with eight co-conspirators for orchestrating a massive scheme to defraud McDonald's Monopoly promotion out of more than $24 million. Jeff Maysh of The Daily Beast tells the inside story in 8,800 words. Between 1989 and 2001, "Uncle Jerry" used his position as the head of the McDonald's Monopoly account to steal winning "pieces" worth between $10,000 and $1 million. He proceeded to gift the pieces to family members and a growing network of associates -- which included "mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, convicts, drug traffickers, and even a family of Mormons" -- in exchange for a cut of the laundered winnings. A former police officer known for his attention to detail, Jacobson was personally responsible for overseeing the printing of paper game pieces, cutting out the winning tickets, and transporting them to McDonald's packaging factories throughout the country. Read the full story here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Chromebooks Don’t Suffer From Bad User Experiences Found on Windows and Mac Computers, Google Says

Kevin C. Tofel, writing for About Chromebooks: Having worked for a Google Chrome Marketing team over an 18 month period, I never saw a project that aggressively goes after Windows and Mac computers like the one that was published today [Editor's note: the video is unlisted, but accessible]. [...] As someone who has used (and often still does use) other platforms, I can't really disagree with the point of this video. For too long, computer users have had to deal with cryptic errors, updates that can take hours to install and the dreaded blue screen of death / spinning beach ball. Granted, some of my personal experience with those issues was when I was in corporate IT for 15 years; that career ended for me (by choice) back in 2007. And clearly, all desktop / laptop platforms have improved since then. Even so, Google is highlighting the modern approach of Chromebooks with this short video and that's an important point.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Bans Android Phones From Having Three or More Notches

Google is building official notch support into Android P, but it's laying out some ground rules first: two notches is the limit. From a report: In a blog post for developers yesterday, Android UI product manager Megan Potoski wrote that Google is working with device partners "to mandate a few requirements" for app compatibility purposes. Among those are limits on notches. The mandate says that Android P phones can't have "more than two cutouts on a device." Only one notch is allowed per side, and notches are only allowed on the top and bottom edges -- not the left and right.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook Has Identified Ongoing Political Influence Campaign: NYT

Facebook is preparing to announce that it has identified a coordinated political influence campaign, with dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November's midterm elections, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing three people briefed on the matter. From the report: In a series of briefings on Capitol Hill this week, the company told lawmakers that it detected the influence campaign as part of its investigations into election interference. It has been unable to tie the accounts to Russia, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russia was possibly involved, according to two of the officials. Facebook is expected to announce its findings on Tuesday afternoon. The company has been working with the F.B.I. to investigate the activity. Like the Russian interference campaign in 2016, the recently detected campaign dealt with divisive social issues.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook Has Identified Ongoing Political Influence Campaign

Facebook is preparing to announce that it has identified a coordinated political influence campaign, with dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November's midterm elections, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing three people briefed on the matter. From the report: In a series of briefings on Capitol Hill this week, the company told lawmakers that it detected the influence campaign as part of its investigations into election interference. It has been unable to tie the accounts to Russia, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russia was possibly involved, according to two of the officials. Facebook is expected to announce its findings on Tuesday afternoon. The company has been working with the F.B.I. to investigate the activity. Like the Russian interference campaign in 2016, the recently detected campaign dealt with divisive social issues. Update: Facebook has confirmed the story, adding: Today we removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook because we don't want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they're doing. We're still in the very early stages of our investigation and don't have all the facts -- including who may be behind this. But we are sharing what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week. We will update this post with more details when we have them, or if the facts we have change. It's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past. We believe this could be partly due to changes we've made over the last year to make this kind of abuse much harder.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Concert Ticket Retailer AXS Collects Personally Identifiable Data Through Its App, Which is Mandatory To Download, and Sells It To 3rd Party Without Anonymizing

AXS, a digital marketplace operated by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), is the second largest presenter of live events in the world after Live Nation Entertainment (i.e. Ticketmaster). Paris Martineau of The Outline reports that the company forces customers to download a predatory app which goes on to snatch up a range of personally identifiable data and sells it to a range of companies, including Facebook and Google, without ever anonymizing or aggregating them. From the report: The company requires users to download an app to use any ticket for a concert, game, or show bought through AXS, and it doesn't come cheap. AXS uses a system called Flash Seats, which relies on a dynamically generated barcode system (read: screenshotting doesn't work) to fight off ticket scalping and reselling. [...] Here's a brief overview of all of the information that can be collected from just the mobile app alone, nearly all of which is shared with third parties without being anonymized or aggregated: first and last name, precise location (as determined by GPS, WiFi, and other means), how often the app is used, what content is viewed using the app, which ads are clicked, what purchases are made (and not made), a user's personal advertising identifier, IP address, operating system, device make and model, billing address, credit card number, security code, mailing address, phone number, and email address, among many others. [...] AXS also shares the personal data collected on its customers with event promoters and other clients, none of whom are bound even by this (extremely lax) privacy policy.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

France Bans Smartphones in School

When French students return to school in September they'll have to leave one of their most prized possessions at home -- their smartphone. From a report: French lawmakers on Monday passed legislation banning students as old as 15 from bringing smartphones and tablets to school or having them turned off at least, according to the Agence France-Presse. Officials in support of the new rule described the policy as a way to shield children from addictive habits and to safeguard the sanctity of the classroom. "We know today that there is a phenomenon of screen addiction, the phenomenon of bad mobile phone use," education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told French news channel BFMTV, according to CNN. "Our main role is to protect children and adolescents. It is a fundamental role of education, and this law allows it." The law, however, does make exceptions for educational use, extra-curricular actives and for students with disabilities, the AFP reports. French high schools can choose to impose a less stringent ban on Internet-connected devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

With Financial Aid Declining, Many College Students Don’t Have Enough Money To Eat, Studies Show, Even Though About 40 Percent Are Also Working

As students enter college this fall, many will hunger for more than knowledge. Up to half of college students in recent published studies say they either are not getting enough to eat or are worried about it. From a report: This food insecurity is most prevalent at community colleges, but it's common at public and private four-year schools as well. Student activists and advocates in the education community have drawn attention to the problem in recent years, and the food pantries that have sprung up at hundreds of schools are perhaps the most visible sign. Some schools nationally also have instituted the Swipe Out Hunger program, which allows students to donate their unused meal plan vouchers, or "swipes," to other students to use at campus dining halls or food pantries. That's a start, say analysts studying the problem of campus hunger, but more systemwide solutions are needed. "If I'm sending my kid to college, I want more than a food pantry," says Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia, and founder of the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. [...] According to a survey of UC Berkeley students, 38 percent of undergraduates and 23 percent of graduate students deal with food insecurity at some point during the academic year, Ruben Canedo, a university employee who chairs the campus's basic needs committee, says.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple May Include Support For a Second SIM Card in New iPhones

Could Apple be planning on support for dual SIM cards with the new iPhone? It's possible. From a report: 9to5Mac was taking iOS 12 developer beta 5 out for a test drive and noticed something interesting in diagnostic report generation. There are clearly references to a "second SIM status." iPhones currently support eSIMs along with normal SIMs, so this could be nothing. But the diagnostic report also references "second SIM tray status," which signals that Apple could be planning on including support for a second physical SIM card with new iPhones.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Human Bankers Are Losing To Robots as Nordea Sets a New Standard

Something interesting happened in Swedish finance last quarter. The only big bank that managed to cut costs also happens to be behind one of the industry's boldest plans to replace humans with automation. From a report: Nordea Bank AB, whose Chief Executive Officer Casper von Koskull says his industry might only have half its current human workforce a decade from now, is cutting 6,000 of those jobs. Von Koskull says the adjustment is the only way to stay competitive in the future, with automation and robots taking over from people in everything from asset management to answering calls from retail clients. While many in the finance industry have struggled to digest that message, the latest set of bank results in Sweden suggests that executives in one of the planet's most technologically advanced corners are drawing inspiration from Nordea. At SEB AB, CEO Johan Torgeby now says that "whatever can be automated will be automated."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The World’s Largest Solar Farm Rises in the Remote Egyptian Desert

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 1913 on the outskirts of Cairo, an inventor from Philadelphia named Frank Shuman built the world's first solar thermal power station, using the abundant Egyptian sunshine to pump 6,000 gallons of water a minute from the Nile to irrigate a nearby cotton field. World War I and the discovery of cheap oil derailed Shuman's dream of replicating his "sun power plant" on a grand scale and eventually producing enough energy to challenge the world's dependence on coal. More than a century later, that vision has been resurrected. The world's largest solar park, the $2.8-billion Benban complex, is set to open next year 400 miles south of Cairo in Egypt's Western Desert. It will single-handedly put Egypt on the clean energy map. That is no small feat for a country that's been hobbled by its longtime addiction to cheap, state-subsidized fossil fuels and currently gets more than 90% of its electricity from oil and natural gas. [...] The Benban complex, which will be operated by major energy companies from around the world, is expected to generate as much as 1.8 gigawatts of electricity, or enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. It will consist of 30 separate solar plants, the first of which began running in December, and employ 4,000 workers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mozilla Is Rebranding Firefox and Wants Your Feedback

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla is rebranding Firefox. The company is asking for feedback on the new look, which will try to cover the various Firefox offerings. For most people, Firefox refers to a browser, but the company wants the brand to encompass all the various apps and services that the Firefox family of internet products cover, "from easy screenshotting and file sharing to innovative ways to access the internet using voice and virtual reality." The fox with a flaming tail "doesn't offer enough design tools to represent this entire product family," Mozilla believes.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ubuntu Linux-based Distro Lubuntu To No Longer Focus on Old Hardware

Lubuntu, a popular Ubuntu flavor, has gained traction over the years for supporting older hardware. As Brian Fagioli writes at BetaNews, one of the focuses of the Lubuntu developers is to support aging computers. However, that is about to change. He adds: When Lubunu 18.10 is released in October 2018, it will ditch LXDE for the newer LXQt. Despite it also being a desktop environment that is easy on resources, the Lubuntu developers are planning to drop their focus on old hardware after the transition. "[...] Our main focus is shifting from providing a distribution for old hardware to a functional yet modular distribution focused on getting out of the way and letting users use their computer. In essence, this is leveraging something we have always done with Lubuntu; providing an operating system which users can use to revive their old computers, but bringing this to the age of modern computing," says Simon Quigley of Lubuntu team.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Terraforming Might Not Work on Mars, New Research Says

Mars might not have the right ingredients to terraform into our planetary home away from home -- even with the recent discovery of liquid water buried near its south pole. From a report: Research published Monday in Nature Astronomy puts a kibosh on the idea of terraforming Mars. At the heart of the study is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is abundant on Mars -- its thin atmosphere is made of the stuff, and the white stuff we often see on the surface is dry ice, not snow. CO2 is even trapped in the rocks and soil. That abundance has long fueled visions of a fantasy future where all that trapped carbon dioxide is released, creating a thicker atmosphere that warms the planet. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has even proposed nuking Mars to make this happen. But in this new study, veteran Mars expert Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado Boulder and Christopher S. Edwards of Northern Arizona University, surveyed how much carbon dioxide is available for terraforming the Red Planet. They combined Martian CO2 observations from various missions -- NASA's MAVEN atmospheric probe, the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, as well as NASA's Odyssey and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The results throw shade on the dreams of futurists.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cops Accuse 20-Year-Old College Student of Stealing More Than $5 Million in Bitcoin by Hijacking Phone Numbers

California authorities say a 20-year-old college student hijacked more than 40 phone numbers to steal $5 million in Bitcoin, including some from cryptocurrency investors at a blockchain conference Consensus. Motherboard, which broke the story citing court documents: This is the first reported case of an alleged hacker who was using SIM swapping (also known as SIM hijacking or Port Out Scam) specifically to target people in the blockchain and cryptocurrency worlds. Joel Ortiz was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport on his way to Europe, according to sources close to the investigation, who said Ortiz was flashing a Gucci bag as part of a recent spending spree they believe was financed by the alleged crimes. He is facing 28 charges: 13 counts of identity theft, 13 counts of hacking, and two counts of grand theft, according to the complaint filed against him on the day before his arrest.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

More Than Half the Reviews For Certain Popular Products on Amazon Are Questionable, Outside Auditors Say. Amazon Disputes Those Estimates.

NPR has an interesting story, full of anecdotes, that looks into several growing marketplaces where reviews for Amazon products are bought and paid for. From the story: "Our approximation is that less than 1 percent of reviews are inauthentic," says Sharon Chiarella, vice president of community shopping at Amazon. She adds that "sometimes individual products have more suspicious activity." [...] Chiarella says the lawsuits give the company the opportunity to subpoena bad actors to get data from them. "That allows us to identify more bad actors and spider out from there and train our algorithms," she says. But this has led to a sort of digital cat-and-mouse game. As Amazon and its algorithms get better at hunting them down, paid reviewers employ their own evasive maneuvers. Travis, the teenage paid reviewer, explained his process. He's a member of several online channels where Amazon sellers congregate, hawking Ethernet cables, flashlights, protein powder, fanny packs -- any number of small items for which they want favorable reviews. If something catches Travis' attention, he approaches the seller and they negotiate terms. Once he buys the product and leaves a five-star review, the seller will refund his purchase, often adding a few dollars "commission" for his trouble. He says he earns around $200 a month this way. The sellers provide detailed instructions, to avoid being detected by Amazon's algorithms, Travis says. For example, he says, "Order here at the Amazon link. Don't clip any coupons or promo codes. [Wait 4 to 5 days] after receiving [the item]." This last instruction is especially important, Travis adds. "If you review too soon after receiving it'll look pretty suspicious."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

More Than 60% of Tech Workers Feel They’re Underpaid

gollum123 writes: Tech workers are the envy of labor market -- they earn some of the highest starting salaries and often command top-notch benefits. But money doesn't always buy satisfaction. Entrepreneur reports that tech workers in major American cities earn an average of $135,000 and yet, a survey of 6,000 tech workers conducted by workplace app Blind and reported by Quartz found that over 60 percent feel they aren't being paid enough. The survey also breaks down how tech workers feel about their pay by company. The five tech companies with the highest percentage of employees who felt they were underpaid shared one important characteristic: They were all founded before 1998. Cisco, Intel, Expedia, VMware and Microsoft employees were the most likely to say that they did not make enough money. Cisco had the highest percentage of dissatisfied employees, with 80 percent telling Blind that they did not feel adequately compensated. Facebook employees, on the other hand, were the most like to say that they are overpaid, with 13.8 percent saying that they felt their employer was overly generous.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Fake News ‘Crowding Out’ Real News

The volume of disinformation on the internet is growing so big that it is starting to crowd out real news, the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman has said. From a report: Tory MP Damian Collins said people struggle to identify "fake news." MPs in their committee report [PDF] said the issue threatens democracy and called for tougher social network regulation. The government said it plans to introduce a requirement for electoral adverts to have a "digital imprint". This would mean that all political communications carried online would need to clearly identify who they were published by. Labour said the government "needs to wake up to the new challenges we face and finally update electoral laws". The report follows the Cambridge Analytica data scandal earlier this year. The London-based data analytics firms and tech giant Facebook were at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data - and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Several Small Countries and Territories Have Passed Laws, or Have Legislation in the Works, To Make Themselves More Welcoming To Cryptocurrency Companies

The race is on to become the go-to destination for cryptocurrency companies that are looking for shelter from regulatory uncertainty in the United States and Asia, the New York Times reports. From the report: In Malta, the government passed three laws on July 4 so companies can easily issue new cryptocurrencies and trade existing ones. In Bermuda this year, the legislature passed a law that lets start-ups doing initial coin offerings apply to the minister of finance for speedy approval. "We are 65,000 people, and 20 square miles, but we have a very advanced economy," the premier of Bermuda, E. David Burt, said in an interview at a cryptocurrency conference in May in New York, where he was trying to pitch companies on the island's charms. "We want to position Bermuda as the incubator for this industry." The competition for cryptocurrency companies is part of a broader rush by governments to figure out how to approach a new industry that took on outsize prominence over the last year. Becoming a crypto center has many potential upsides, including jobs and tax revenue. But the drive to be a crypto nexus also comes with significant risk. Hackings and scams have followed the industry everywhere it has gone. They have been aided by the underlying technology introduced by Bitcoin, known as the blockchain, which was built to make it possible to send money without requiring approval from government agencies or existing financial institutions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

DARPA Has an Ambitious $1.5 Billion Plan To Reinvent Electronics

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds a range of blue-sky research efforts relevant to the US military, last year launched a $1.5 billion, five-year program known as the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) to support work on advances in chip technology. It has now unveiled the first set of research teams selected to explore unproven but potentially powerful approaches that could revolutionize US chip development and manufacturing. From a report: The ERI's budget represents around a fourfold increase in DARPA's typical annual spending on hardware. Initial projects reflect the initiative's three broad areas of focus: chip design, architecture, and materials and integration. One project aims to radically reduce the time it takes to create a new chip design, from years or months to just a day, by automating the process with machine learning and other tools so that even relatively inexperienced users can create high-quality designs. "No one yet knows how to get a new chip design completed in 24 hours safely without human intervention," says Andrew Kahng of the University of California, San Diego, who's leading one of the teams involved. "This is a fundamentally new approach we're developing." William Chappell, the head of the DARPA office that manages the ERI program, said, "We're trying to engineer the craft brewing revolution in electronics." The agency hopes that the automated design tools will inspire smaller companies without the resources of giant chip makers, just as specialized brewers in the US have innovated alongside the beer industry's giants.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

What OpenStreetMap Can Be

An anonymous reader shares a blog post on OpenSourceMap: Most OSM commentary focuses on unimportant minutiae (layers, for goodness' sake, as if it's still 2004) without seeking to examine what makes OSM unique -- and whether that's still relevant in a rapidly changing market. Could OSM become a dead-end curio while Google, Apple, and an increasingly self-sufficient Mapbox hare off in another, common direction? OSM's continuing differentiation from Google/Apple boils down to two points. First, a non-commercial imperative. Google and Apple (and Mapbox, TomTom, HERE) are beholden to their shareholders and investors. They do what makes them money, which means car navigation. (Once human-controlled, now, increasingly, self-guided. When people ask "How far ahead of Apple is Google Maps?", what they usually mean is "Who will get to self-driving cars first?") OSM, however, isn't ruled by shareholder value, but by the preoccupations of its contributor base. (We'll come onto that demographic later.) Whether that's a good thing depends on what you want from a map. But it's clearly a point of differentation. Second, ground truthed local knowledge. Surveying by locals is the gold standard of OSM, building a rich, intricate compilation of contributors' preoccupations. The painstaking human curation of areas and topics remains unique to OSM. Neither of these are under threat from Google/Apple. Outsourced quick-fire digitisation of Street View-type imagery in cheap labour countries doesn't give you this. Nor does image recognition. OSM's points of differentation remain clear. In OSM's early days, commentators used the phrase "democratising mapmaking," and it remains true. You choose what to map; and you choose how to use the map. You participate. Other maps are a one-way street: sure, you can contribute (actively through map corrections, or passively through using a mobile app that phones home), but the provider chooses what you get back.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Teen Allegedly Broke Into a Couple’s Home To Ask For Their WiFi Password, Police Say

A 17-year-old has been accused of breaking into a couple's home in Northern California and asking for their WiFi password, hours after he had asked nearby neighbors for theirs, authorities said. From a report: Police in Palo Alto said the teen, whose name has not been released, went to a home in Silicon Valley late Saturday and asked to use the residents' WiFi network "because he was out of data," before stealing their bicycle. Then just after midnight Sunday, police said, he broke into a nearby home, woke up a sleeping couple and asked them for their password. The male resident "pushed him down the hallway and out the front door of the house before calling police," police said in a statement. Palo Alto Police Sgt. Dan Pojanamat told The Washington Post on Friday that it's unclear whether the juvenile suspect was really seeking WiFi access or whether it was simply an excuse, saying that "the real issue is the fact that he entered a house that was occupied."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

‘Blood Moon’, the Longest Total Lunar Eclipse of the Century, Underway

Skywatchers are being treated to the longest "blood moon" eclipse of the 21st Century. From a report: As it rises, during this total eclipse, Earth's natural satellite turns a striking shade of red or ruddy brown. The "totality" period, when light from the Moon is totally obscured, will last for one hour, 43 minutes. At least part of the eclipse is visible from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, most of Asia and South America. On the same night and over the coming days, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth since 2003 - visible as a "bright red star" where skies are clear. Here's a live feed, provided by NASA.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

State Governments Warned of Malware-Laden CD Sent Via Snail Mail From China

Security reporter Brian Krebs writes: Several U.S. state and local government agencies have reported receiving strange letters via snail mail that include malware-laden compact discs (CDs) apparently sent from China, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. This particular ruse, while crude and simplistic, preys on the curiosity of recipients who may be enticed into popping the CD into a computer. According to a non-public alert shared with state and local government agencies by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), the scam arrives in a Chinese postmarked envelope and includes a "confusingly worded typed letter with occasional Chinese characters."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

MoviePass Having Outage Issues Because It Couldn’t Pay Its Bills

Popular movie-ticked subscription service MoviePass experienced an outage on Thursday, still ongoing for some, which the company attributed to "technical issues with our card-based check-in process," on its Twitter feed. But its SEC filing Thursday indicated that the problem was really cash flow. From a report: The filing by its parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics, explained an emergency loan the company had taken out: The $5.0 million cash proceeds received from the Demand Note will be used by the Company to pay the Company's merchant and fulfillment processors. If the Company is unable to make required payments to its merchant and fulfillment processors, the merchant and fulfillment processors may cease processing payments for MoviePass. ("MoviePass"), which would cause a MoviePass service interruption. Such a service interruption occurred on July 26, 2018. Such service interruptions could have a material adverse effect on MoviePass' ability to retain its subscribers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature

xanthos writes: A fascinating article in Quanta magazine introduces us to Cohl Furey and the eight dimensional mathematics called octonions that she is using to model the interactions of strong and electromagnetic forces. "Proof surfaced in 1898 that the reals, complex numbers, quaternions and octonions are the only kinds of numbers that can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. The first three of these "division algebras" would soon lay the mathematical foundation for 20th-century physics, with real numbers appearing ubiquitously, complex numbers providing the math of quantum mechanics, and quaternions underlying Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity. This has led many researchers to wonder about the last and least-understood division algebra. Might the octonions hold secrets of the universe?" "In her most recent published paper she consolidated several findings to construct the full Standard Model symmetry group for a single generation of particles, with the math producing the correct array of electric charges and other attributes for an electron, neutrino, three up quarks, three down quarks and their anti-particles. The math also suggests a reason why electric charge is quantized in discrete units -- essentially, because whole numbers are."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Trump Administration is Talking To Facebook and Google About Potential Rules For Online Privacy

The Trump administration is crafting a proposal to protect Web users' privacy, aiming to blunt global criticism that the absence of strict federal rules in the United States has enabled data mishaps at Facebook and others in Silicon Valley. From a report: Over the past month, the Commerce Department has been huddling with representatives of tech giants such as Facebook and Google, Internet providers including AT&T and Comcast, and consumer advocates [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], according to four people familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak on the record. The government's goal is to release an initial set of ideas this fall that outlines Web users' rights, including general principles for how companies should collect and handle consumers' private information, the people said. The forthcoming blueprint could then become the basis for Congress to write the country's first wide-ranging online-privacy law, an idea the White House recently has said it could endorse. "Through the White House National Economic Council, the Trump Administration aims to craft a consumer privacy protection policy that is the appropriate balance between privacy and prosperity," Lindsay Walters, the president's deputy press secretary, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with Congress on a legislative solution consistent with our overarching policy."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Executive Warns of Face ID Bias

Facial recognition technology does not yet have "the diversity it needs" and has "inherent biases," a top Google executive has warned. From a report: The remarks, from the firm's director of cloud computing, Diane Greene, came after rival Amazon's software wrongly identified 28 members of Congress, disproportionately people of colour, as police suspects. Google, which has not opened its facial recognition technology to public use, was working on gathering vast sums of data to improve reliability, Ms Greene said. However, she refused to discuss the company's controversial work with the military. "Bad things happen when I talk about Maven," Ms Greene said, referring to a soon-to-be abandoned project with the US military to develop artificial intelligence technology for drones. After considerable employee pressure, including resignations, Google said it would not renew its contract with the Pentagon after it lapses some time in 2019. The firm has not commented on the deal since, only to release a set of "AI principles" that stated it would not use artificial intelligence or machine learning to create weapons.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Now LinkedIn Will Let You Leave Voicemail Messages

LinkedIn has been trying to make its business networking platform more like Facebook of late, with features like presence, and Google-like smart replies. Now, it's introducing voice messages just like Facebook and Facebook-owned WhatsApp. From a report: "Whether you're responding while walking or multitasking, or need to give an in-depth explanation, voice messages let you more easily and quickly communicate in your own voice with your connections," LinkedIn said in a blog. Personally, I loathe having to open voice messages on WhatsApp and have never received one on Facebook Messenger, but for the sender, at least, such services can be helpful if they're on the go and can't stop to type a message. And that's LinkedIn's justification for releasing the feature. LinkedIn thinks its new option will be a time-saver for users who find typing laborious in some situations. On the downside, this feature could rapidly become a real pain for those who already get bombarded with written messages from strangers promoting products and services on LinkedIn Messages.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A New Study Says Services Like UberPool Are Making Traffic Worse

The explosive growth of Uber and Lyft has created a new traffic problem for major U.S. cities and ride-sharing options such as UberPool and Lyft Line are exacerbating the issue by appealing directly to customers who would otherwise have taken transit, walked, biked or not used a ride-hail service at all, according to a new study. From a report: The report by Bruce Schaller, author of the influential study, "Unsustainable?", which found ride-hail services were making traffic congestion in New York City worse, constructs a detailed profile of the typical ride-hail user and issues a stark warning to cities: make efforts to counter the growth of ride-hail services, or surrender city streets to fleets of private cars, creating a more hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists and ultimately make urban cores less desirable places to live. Schaller concludes that where private ride options such as UberX and Lyft have failed on promises to cut down on personal driving and car ownership -- both of which are trending up -- pooled ride services have lured a different market that directly competes with subway and bus systems, while failing to achieve significantly better efficiency than their solo alternatives. The result: more driving overall. Ride sharing has added 5.7 billion vehicle miles to nine major urban areas over six years, the report says, and the trend is "likely to intensify" as the popularity of the services surges.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How Many Computers Does the World Need?

An anonymous reader shares a report: It is almost a decade since Rick Rashid, then head of research at Microsoft, posed that question and ventured his own answer: no more than a few, at least to handle the vast majority of the planet's digital workload. Back then, he thought, it was possible to discern the emergence of a small group of companies that would run those computers. The give-away was that a fifth of all the servers sold in the world were already being purchased by a clutch of US tech groups that included Amazon, Google and Microsoft. [...] Of course, "how many" is a trick question when it comes to the distributed computing systems being built by today's tech giants. There are many nodes to these octopus-like systems, each with its own silicon brain and information-processing capabilities. But they are connected to a greater whole. One sign of just how far their tentacles are starting to reach came this week with Google's announcement that it has designed an AI chip to run in smartphones and other devices. Google's TPUs -- processors that are optimised to both train deep-learning algorithms and then apply them to make inferences from new data -- are already a key part of its data centre infrastructure. The new low-power version of the TPU can make inferences in "edge" devices, far from the computing core, and will be an important element in making sense of the world's data. [...] The rise of the global computers raises many questions, but two stand out: will they comprise a truly competitive market, or come to look like the more Balkanised "platform" markets in the consumer world? And what will it mean for so much computing power to be concentrated in a handful of private companies? The good news is that the cloud landscape is shaping up to be a competitive one, at least if competition can be said to truly exist between oligarchs.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Police Are Seeking More Digital Evidence From Tech Companies

U.S. law enforcement agencies are increasingly asking technology companies for access to digital evidence on mobile phones and apps, with about 80 percent of the requests granted, a new study found. From a report: The report released Wednesday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found local, state and federal law enforcement made more than 130,000 requests last year for digital evidence from six top technology companies -- Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Verizon' media unit Oath and Apple. If results from telecom and cable providers Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast are added in, the number jumps to more than 660,000. The requests covered everything from the content of communications to location data and names of particular users. "The number of law enforcement requests, at least as directed at the major U.S.-based tech and telecom companies, has significantly increased over time," the Washington-based think tank found. "Yet, the response rates have been remarkably consistent."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Slack is Buying HipChat and Stride From Atlassian

Atlassian is selling its corporate chat software to rival Slack Technologies and taking a small stake in the startup, as they face greater competition from Microsoft. From a report: Slack will pay an undisclosed amount over the next three years to acquire Atlassian's HipChat and Stride products, chief executives from both companies said. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield described both the payment and the investment by Atlassian in his company as "nominal" in financial terms but important strategically. He declined to elaborate on the former. The deal gives Slack, valued at north of $5 billion, more customers, most of whom pay a monthly service fee, and allows Atlassian to exit a business that failed to generate as much demand as expected. Combining the two businesses bolsters Slack at a time when Microsoft is pushing a rival product called Teams to some 135 million Office cloud customers. Microsoft introduced a free version of Teams this month in a bid to lure people who don't subscribe to Office 365.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft Discovers Supply Chain Attack at Unnamed Maker of PDF Software

Microsoft said today that hackers compromised a font package installed by a PDF editor app and used it to deploy a cryptocurrency miner on users' computers. From a report: The OS maker discovered the incident after its staff received alerts via the Windows Defender ATP, the commercial version of the Windows Defender antivirus. Microsoft employees say they investigated the alerts and determined that hackers breached the cloud server infrastructure of a software company providing font packages as MSI files. These MSI files were offered to other software companies. One of these downstream companies was using these font packages for its PDF editor app, which would download the MSI files from the original company's cloud servers during the editor's installation routine.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Scientists Perfect Technique To Create Most Dense, Solid-State Memory in History that Could Soon Exceed the Capabilities of Current Hard Drives By 1,000 Times

New submitter weedjams shares a report: Scientists at the University of Alberta have demonstrated a new data storage technique that stores zeroes and ones by the presence (or absence) of individual hydrogen atoms. The resulting storage density is an unparalleled 1.2 petabits per square inch -- 1,000 times greater than current hard disk and solid state drives, and 100 times greater than Blu-rays. The researchers, led by PhD student Roshan Achal and physics professor Robert Wolkow, built on a technique previously developed by Walkow that used the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to remove or replace individual hydrogen atoms resting on a silicon substrate. The inconceivably small dimensions (a hydrogen atom is only half a nanometer in diameter) allow for an astounding data storage density of 1.1 petabits (138 terabytes) per square inch. By comparison, a Blu-ray disk can "only" store about 12 terabits of data in the same area (one hundredth the data density), while both traditional magnetic hard drives and solid-state drives store somewhere in the region of 1.5 terabits per square inch (a thousandth of the density). This development, says Achal, could allow you to store the entire iTunes library of 45 million songs on the surface of a US quarter-dollar coin. Achal and his team demoed the technology by creating a 192-bit cell, which they used to store a simple rendition of the Super Mario Bros video game theme song. To show the rewrite capabilities, the scientists also created an 8-bit memory cell which they used to store the letters of the alphabet one by one, represented via their respective ASCII code. Further reading: ScienceDaily, and Nature.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Search Now Provides More Details on Local Events

Google is quickly turning its event info from a nice-to-have extra into a major feature. From a report: If you're searching from your phone, you'll now find key details for events without having to jump to websites or apps. If it's a concert, for example, you'll find out where and when it's taking place, directions and other details. You can either jump to a ticket service if you're sold on the idea or save an event for later. And if you're not sure what to look for, you'll get some help there as well. The For You tab includes both personalized event suggestions as well as popular and trending events. If you're big on food festivals, you may see the latest barbecue appear front and center.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

DRAM Industry Likely To Face Oversupply in 2019

While the global DRAM market still remains robust currently, the recent capacity ramps by Micron Technology and the planned kick-off of commercial production by China-based Fujian Jin Hua Integrated Circuit and Innotron Memory (previously known as Hefei ChangXin) could lead to oversupply for the memory in 2019, Taiwanese newspaper DigiTimes reported Thursday, citing industry sources. From the report: Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix would be forced to overhaul their current profit-oriented business strategy as both firms believe that the booming memory market, which has continued for 2-3 years, is likely to be over by the end of 2018, according to a Korea-based Digital Times report. Although Samsung and SK Hynix both stated, at their latest investors conferences, respectively, that they will continue to ramp up capacities for memory chips, the aggressive moves by rival companies have made the two companies hesitate, said the report. Samsung has seen its share in the DRAM market continue to dive after hitting a high of 50.2% in the third quarter of 2016 as rivals including Micron have jacked up their revenues and profits. Notably, Micron has ramped up its operating margin to as high as 50% so far in 2018 compared to 20% at the end of 2016. Additionally, Samsung saw its share in the market drop to 44.4% in the first quarter of 2018, while Micron managed to ramp up its share to 23.1%, according to IHS Markit. The global DRAM market is expected to reach a peak of US$104 billion in 2018, before contracting by 1.8% and 2.6%, respectively, in 2019 and 2020, according to an industry estimate.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft Says Price Increases Coming For Office 2019 and Windows 10 Enterprise Users

Microsoft has price increases in store for some of its Office and Windows customers as of October 1, 2018. From a report: In a July 25 blog post, Microsoft officials acknowledged the coming increases. Office 2019, the next on-premises version of Office clients and servers which Microsoft is currently testing ahead of its launch later this year, will see increases of 10 percent over current on-premises pricing. This price increase is for commercial (business) customers) and will affect Office client, Enterprise Client Access License (CAL), Core CAL and server products, officials said. Microsoft also is rejiggering how it refers to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and related pricing. As of October, Microsoft will be using the E3 name for the per-user version (not the per-device one). Windows 10 Enterprise E3 per User will be rechristened "Windows 10 Enterprise E3." And the current Windows 10 Enterprise E3 per Device will be renamed "Windows 10 Enterprise." According to Microsoft's blog post, the price of Windows 10 Enterprise will be raised to match the price of Windows 10 Enterprise E3. Windows 10 Enterprise E3 costs $84 per user per year.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Star Spotted Speeding Near Black Hole at Centre of Milky Way

Astronomers have observed a star speeding close to the massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way for the first time. From a report: The observations, made using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, tracked a star called S2 as it passed through the extreme gravitational field at the heart of our galaxy. As the star approached its nearest point to the black hole on 19 May, it was accelerated to mind-boggling speeds, causing it to be subject to effects predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity. Astronomers had been tracking the star and preparing to make the observations for the past 16 years -- the time taken for the star to complete a single elliptical orbit of the black hole. "We have been preparing intensely for this event over several years, as we wanted to make the most of this unique opportunity to observe general relativistic effects," said Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany, who led the international team. The findings can be found here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Windows 10 To Use Machine Learning in Latest Attempt To Make Reboots Less Annoying

The next semi-annual update to Windows 10 will use machine learning models to make automatic rebooting for updates a bit less annoying. From a report: Currently, Windows will detect if you're away from your system (mouse and keyboard idle and not playing video or anything comparable) and perform its reboots during those idle moments. However, at the moment, the system doesn't distinguish between briefly stepping away from the machine to grab a cup of coffee and being away for hours because you've left the office or gone to bed. This has provoked some amount of complaining due to the updates interrupting work. With the new predictive system, Windows will try to distinguish between these two cases, and it will avoid the update if the absence is expected to be short.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google To Stop Supporting Public URL Submissions To Its Search Index

Google announced this week that it is discontinuing the public method of submitting URLs to its search index. The "addurl" page, which is still listed in this help document, now redirects to the Google Search Console login page. From a report: Google Webmasters said, "We've had to drop the public submission feature." The company did not say why it was necessary to drop it. Maybe it has to do with spam issues or abuse. Google added, "... but we continue to welcome your submissions using the usual tool in Search Console and through sitemaps directly." The last time Google updated the submit content tool was back in 2012, when it moved it to the classic Google Webmaster Tools URL. Google says webmasters should submit content only through Search Console's Fetch as Google tool or via sitemaps.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Amazon’s Facial Recognition Wrongly Identifies 28 Lawmakers, ACLU Says

Representative John Lewis of Georgia and Representative Bobby L. Rush of Illinois are both Democrats, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights leaders. But facial recognition technology made by Amazon, which is being used by some police departments and other organizations, incorrectly matched the lawmakers with people who had been arrested for a crime, the American Civil Liberties Union reported on Thursday morning. From a report: The errors emerged as part of a larger test in which the civil liberties group used Amazon's facial software to compare the photos of all federal lawmakers against a database of 25,000 publicly available mug shots. In the test, the Amazon technology incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress with people who had been arrested, amounting to a 5 percent error rate among legislators. The test disproportionally misidentified African-American and Latino members of Congress as the people in mug shots. "This test confirms that facial recognition is flawed, biased and dangerous," said Jacob Snow, a technology and civil liberties lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. Nina Lindsey, an Amazon Web Services spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company's customers had used its facial recognition technology for various beneficial purposes, including preventing human trafficking and reuniting missing children with their families. She added that the A.C.L.U. had used the company's face-matching technology, called Amazon Rekognition, differently during its test than the company recommended for law enforcement customers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mozilla to Remove Support for Built-In Feed Reader From Firefox

An anonymous reader shares a report: Mozilla engineers are preparing to remove one of the Firefox browser's oldest features -- its built-in support for RSS and Atom feeds, and inherently, the "Live Bookmarks" feature. All Firefox users are probably well accustomed to this feature, albeit not many have ever used it. This feature powers the browser's ability to detect when users are accessing an RSS/Atom feed and then show a special page that lets them subscribe to the feed with a custom feed reader or the browser's built-in "Live Bookmarks" feature. [...] In a recent discussion on the company's bug tracker, Mozilla engineers said they plan to remove feed support sometime later this year, with the release of Firefox 63 or Firefox 64 --scheduled for October and December, respectively.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Chrome Extensions, Android and iOS Apps Caught Collecting Browsing Data

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for Bleeping Computer: An investigation by AdGuard has revealed a common link between several Chrome and Firefox extensions and Android and iOS apps that were caught collecting highly personal user data through various shady tactics. The common link between all extensions and mobile apps is a company named Big Star Labs. AdGuard estimates these apps had been installed on around 11 million devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Senator Asks US Agencies To Remove Flash From Government Websites

An anonymous reader writes: In a letter sent today, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asked officials from three government agencies (NIST, NSA, DHS) to come up with solutions and procedures that mandate the removal of Adobe Flash content from all US government websites by August 1, 2019. The Senator is urging US government officials to act in light of Adobe's Flash end-of-life date scheduled for the end of 2020, after which Adobe announced it would cease to provide any technical support for the software. Senator Wyden is hoping to avoid a situation like the one of Windows XP, which US government agencies still use, despite Microsoft retiring the operating system back in 2014. Besides removing Flash from its websites, the Senator would also want Flash removed from computer of employees by the same August 1, 2019 deadline.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Putin’s Soccer Ball for Trump Had Transmitter Chip, Logo Indicates

Russian President Vladimir Putin's gift of a soccer ball to U.S. President Donald Trump last week set off a chorus of warnings -- some of them only half in jest -- that the World Cup souvenir could be bugged. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham even tweeted, "I'd check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House." It turns out they weren't entirely wrong. From a report: Markings on the ball indicate that it contained a chip with a tiny antenna that transmits to nearby phones. But rather than a spy device, the chip is an advertised feature of the Adidas AG ball. Photographs from the news conference in Helsinki, where Putin handed the ball to Trump, show it bore a logo for a near-field communication tag. During manufacturing, the NFC chip is placed inside the ball under that logo, which resembles the icon for a WiFi signal, according to the Adidas website. The chip allows fans to access player videos, competitions and other content by bringing their mobile devices close to the ball. The feature is included in the 2018 FIFA World Cup match ball that's sold on the Adidas website for $165 (reduced to $83 in the past week).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

About Half of Google’s Workers Are Contractors Who Don’t Receive the Same Benefits as Direct Employees

Every day, tens of thousands of people stream into Google offices wearing red name badges. They eat in Google's cafeterias, ride its commuter shuttles and work alongside its celebrated geeks. But they can't access all of the company's celebrated perks. They aren't entitled to stock and can't enter certain offices. Many don't have health insurance. Bloomberg: Before each weekly Google all-hands meeting, trays of hors d'oeuvres and, sometimes, kegs of beer are carted into an auditorium and satellite offices around the globe for employees, who wear white badges. Those without white badges are asked to return to their desks. Google's Alphabet employs hordes of these red-badged contract workers in addition to its full-fledged staff. They serve meals and clean offices. They write code, handle sales calls, recruit staff, screen YouTube videos, test self-driving cars and even manage entire teams -- a sea of skilled laborers that fuel the $795 billion company but reap few of the benefits and opportunities available to direct employees. Earlier this year, those contractors outnumbered direct employees for the first time in the company's twenty-year history, according to a person who viewed the numbers on an internal company database. It's unclear if that is still the case. Alphabet reported 89,058 direct employees at the end of the second quarter. The company declined to comment on the number of contract workers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

MPAA Seeks Stronger Actions To Fight Streaming Video Piracy

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is stepping into the online video piracy debate and calling for criminal charges against violators, as well as strong coordination between a broad range of online service providers. From a report: The association's recommendations came in response to a call from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) call for comments regarding internet policy concerns. On July 17, the MPAA issued a 40-page document advocating a modernization of online policies in response to rampant illicit activity. While a range of commercial offerings help studios and sports leagues battle online piracy, anyone who has a friend with a Kodi box knows that unrestricted access to popular shows and movies is only a few taps away. The MPAA notes that 6.5 million homes in North America are equipped with a Kodi box, and the North American piracy ecosystem generates $840 million per year.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

‘No, Amazon Cannot Replace Libraries’

Over the weekend, Forbes published an article titled "Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money," in which the author Panos Mourdoukoutas argued that libraries are no longer important to the community as the result of alternative "third places" like Starbucks, and "no shortage of places to hold community events," as well as streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and the rise of e-books that have "turned physical books into collector's items, effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services." The article did not bode well with many, including several librarians. Forbes has since taken down the article. From a report: Hundreds of Twitter users took to the platform to share both their anger with the piece and their love for libraries. People seemed to especially take issue with the author picking Amazon --notorious for its horrible treatment of employees, and accusations of ruining the cities it opens warehouses in -- as a potential replacement. Obviously, as the outrage from these users demonstrates, libraries are beloved and important in communities. Mourdoukoutas's argument that libraries are becoming less useful is patently false, in a way that's fairly obvious. But the notion that libraries aren't worth their value to taxpayers -- one that fails to take into account the financial returns of a library and expenses of buying these items on one's own -- fails to address the vast importance a library has on its community as a physical space open to anyone in the public. Most of the utilities of libraries are quite obvious, like how they're essential to lowering the barrier of entry on activities that may be cost prohibitive. But many of us aren't aware of the impact our libraries have on our own communities, nor the programs they offer.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Launches Its Own Physical Security Key

An anonymous reader writes: Google launched its own Titan Security Key on Wednesday, a small USB device which includes firmware developed by the omnipresent tech giant itself. This comes days after Google said its workforce has been phish-proof for more than a year thanks to security keys distributed to its 85,000 employees. The new key means new competition for Yubikey manufacturer Yubico which confirmed it is not involved with Google's new key. The product is available now to Google Cloud customers and will eventually be available to general customers, the company announced Wednesday at its Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco. CNET, which tested the device, adds: It'll come in a bundle with both the USB and Bluetooth versions for $50, or you can buy one or the other for about $20 to $25 each, Brand said. The set of security keys should work on any device with a USB port or a Bluetooth connection.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Toronto Created More Tech Jobs Than San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington Combined Last Year

Toronto's tech scene is so hot the city created more jobs than the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle and Washington, D.C., combined last year, while leapfrogging New York in a ranking of "talent markets." From a report: Toronto was the fastest-growing tech-jobs market in 2017, according to CBRE Group's latest annual survey, released Tuesday. The city saw 28,900 tech jobs created, 14 percent more than in 2016, for a total of more than 241,000 workers, up 52 percent over the past five years, CBRE said. Downtown, tech accounted for more than a third of demand for office space. Canada's biggest city took fourth place in "tech talent," a broad measure of competitiveness, pushing New York down a notch and coming in just after the Bay Area, Seattle and the U.S. capital. CBRE ranked 50 markets across North America, using measures such as talent supply, concentration, education and cost as well as outlooks for job and rent growth for both offices and apartments. The real estate services firm cited some 5 million technology workers in the U.S. and more than 830,000 in Canada, across all sectors.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

7 PM and 2 AM Are Peak Demand Times For Pizza, Study of Internet Traffic Finds

Seven o'clock in the evening is a global sweet spot for wanting to order take-away food, says an international study of internet traffic. From a report: Academics have examined patterns of looking for food online, such as pizza or Chinese meals, across the UK, US, Canada, Australia and India. They found that a similar "twin peaks" pattern appeared in all countries - at 7pm in the evening and then at 2am. The study suggests ancient "foraging" behaviour has now switched online. This big data research from biologists at the University of Aberdeen, to be published by the Royal Society, has tracked how the search for food takes place online. You can find the study here.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Evidence Detected of Lake Beneath the Surface of Mars

For decades Mars has teased scientists with whispers of water's presence. Now they have some solid evidence. From a report: The Italian Space Agency announced Wednesday that researchers have detected signs of a large, stable body of liquid water locked away beneath a mile of ice near Mars' south pole. The observations were recorded by the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument -- Marsis for short. "Marsis was born to make this kind of discovery, and now it has," says Roberto Orosei, a radioastronomer at the National Institute for Astrophysics, who led the investigation. His team's findings, which appear in this week's issue of Science, raise tantalizing questions about the planet's geology -- and its potential for harboring life. CNN elaborates: Between May 2012 and December 2015, MARSIS was used to survey the Planum Australe region, which is in the southern ice cap of Mars. It sent radar pulses through the surface and polar ice caps and measured how the radio waves reflected back to Mars Express. Those pulses reflected 29 sets of radar samples that created a map of drastic change in signal almost a mile below the surface. It stretched about 12.5 miles across and looked very similar to lakes that are found beneath Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets on Earth. The radar reflected the feature's brightness, signaling that it's water. "We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars," the authors wrote in the study.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Has Made YouTube Slower on Edge and Firefox, Mozilla Alleges

Usama Jawad, writing for Neowin: Early last year, YouTube received a design refresh with Google's own Polymer library which enabled "quicker feature development" for the platform. Now, a Mozilla executive is claiming that Google has made YouTube slower on Edge and Firefox by using this framework. In a thread on Twitter, Mozilla's Technical Program Manager has stated that YouTube's Polymer redesign relies heavily on the deprecated Shadow DOM v0 API, which is only available in Chrome. This in turn makes the site around five times slower on competing browsers such as Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox. Further reading: Safari Users Unable to Play Newer 4K Video On YouTube in Native Resolution.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google is Building ‘Virtual Agents’ To Handle Call Centers’ Grunt Work

Google is officially building AI technology to replace some of the work in call centers, the company announced at its Cloud Next conference today, confirming earlier reports. From a report: The software is called Contact Center AI, and Google is working with at least a dozen partners, such as Cisco and Vonage, to install "virtual agents" that will be the first to pick up the phone when a customer is routed to a call center. When the customer asks something that the AI can't do, it will automatically forward the call to a human, according to a blog post by Google Cloud chief scientist Fei-Fei Li. Li writes that new AI shares some underlying technology as Google Duplex, the AI service showed off earlier this year that emulates a human voice to call restaurants and make reservations. This means that with Contact Center AI, it's unlikely a customer would know they're talking to a robot unless it was disclosed at the beginning of the call.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

In Encryption Push, Chrome Flags HTTP Sites as ‘Not Secure’

On Tuesday, Chrome started marking sites that don't use HTTPS as "not secure." From a report: First announced two years ago, Google said it would flag any site that still uses unencrypted HTTP to deliver its content in the latest version of Chrome, out Tuesday. It's part of the company's years-long effort effort to gradually nudge more webmasters and site owners into adopting HTTPS, a secure encryption standard for data in transit. Any site that doesn't load with green padlock or a "secure" message in the browser's address bar will be flagged -- and shamed -- as insecure. [...] According to nightly data compiled by security experts Troy Hunt and Scott Helme, roughly 100 of the top 500 websites are still serving their pages over unencrypted HTTP -- all of which will today be flagged as "insecure." Many of those sites -- like Baidu, JD.com, and Google.cn -- are Chinese language sites, but many popular Western sites -- including BBC.com, DailyMail.co.uk, and Fedex.com -- are HTTP. Of the top million sites, a little over half do not redirect to HTTPS. Chrome 68 also brings with it Page Lifecycle API, and the Payment Handler API. From a report: The Payment Handler API builds on the Payment Request API, which helped users check out online. The new API enables web-based payment apps to facilitate payments directly within the Payment Request experience, as seen above. As with every version, Chrome 68 includes an update to the V8 JavaScript engine: version 6.8. It reduces memory consumption as well as includes improvements to array destructuring, Object.assign, and TypedArray.prototype.sort. Check out the full list of changes for more information.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple Confirms MacBook Pro Thermal Throttling, Issues Software Fix

An anonymous reader shares a report: For a week, we have been seeing reports that the newly released MacBook Pros run hot, which all kicked off after this video by Dave Lee. They run so hot, in fact, that the very fancy 8th Gen Intel Core processors inside them were throttled down to below their base speed. Apple has acknowledged that thermal throttling is a real issue caused by a software bug, and it's issuing a software update today that is designed to address it. The company also apologized, writing, "We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems." Apple claims that it discovered the issue after further testing in the wake of Lee's video, which showed results that Apple hasn't seen in its own testing. In a call with The Verge, representatives said that the throttling was only exhibited under fairly specific, highly intense workloads, which is why the company didn't catch the bug before release. The bug affects every new generation of the MacBook Pro, including both the 13-inch and 15-inch sizes and all of the Intel processor configurations. It does not affect previous generations.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cord-Cutting Keeps Churning: US Pay-TV Cancelers To Hit 33 Million in 2018 (Study)

Millions of Americans have already scrapped traditional pay-TV service, and the exodus is expected to continue apace in 2018. From a report: This year, the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. -- consumers who have ever cancelled traditional pay-TV service and do not resubscribe -- will climb 32.8%, to 33.0 million adults, according to new estimates from research firm eMarketer. That's compared with a total of 24.9 million cord-cutters as of the end of 2017, which was up 43.6% year over year (and an upward revision from eMarketer's previous 22 million estimate). That said, even as the traditional pay-TV universe shrinks, the number of viewers accessing over-the-top, internet-delivered video services keeps growing. About 147.5 million people in the U.S. watch Netflix at least once per month, according to eMarketer's July 2018 estimates. That's followed by Amazon Prime Video (88.7 million), Hulu (55 million), HBO Now (17.1 million) and Dish's Sling TV (6.8 million).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

As Computer Vendors Focus On Making Their Laptops Thinner and Lighter, They Are Increasingly Neglecting Performance Needs of Their Customers

Owen Williams, writing for Motherboard: The pursuit of thinner, lighter laptops, a trend driven by Apple, coinciding with laptops replacing desktops as our primary devices means we have screwed ourselves out of performance -- and it's not going to get better anytime soon. Thermal throttling is not something that Apple alone suffers from: every laptop out there will face thermal constraints at some point, but whether or not that's perceivable depends on a number of different variables including form factor and cooling capacity. When you're shopping for a laptop, you'll notice that manufacturers like Apple use phrases like "Turbo Boost" and "Up to 4.8 GHz" without really explaining what that means. The 4.8 GHz processor clock speed, which Apple quotes for the 15-inch MacBook Pro, is a 'best case' processor speed that's only achieved in short bursts when your computer requests it, subject to a number of conditions. If you're playing a game like Fortnite, for example, the game will request your processor provide faster performance, and the processor will attempt to increase its operating frequency gradually to deliver the maximum available performance within the thermal envelope of your machine. That maximum is restricted by both power and thermal limits, which is where we run into issues: laptops tend to get hot because they're thinner, with limited space to dissipate that heat through the use of fans and heatsinks.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hackers Breached Virginia Bank Twice in Eight Months, Stole $2.4M

Brian Krebs reports: Hackers used phishing emails to break into a Virginia bank in two separate cyber intrusions over an eight-month period, making off with more than $2.4 million total. Now the financial institution is suing its insurance provider for refusing to fully cover the losses. According to a lawsuit filed last month in the Western District of Virginia, the first heist took place in late May 2016, after an employee at The National Bank of Blacksburg fell victim to a targeted phishing email. The email allowed the intruders to install malware on the victim's PC and to compromise a second computer at the bank that had access to the STAR Network, a system run by financial industry giant First Data that the bank uses to handle debit card transactions for customers. That second computer had the ability to manage National Bank customer accounts and their use of ATMs and bank cards.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

GCHQ Spy Agency Given Illegal Access To Citizens’ Data

The British government broke the law by allowing spy agencies to amass data on UK citizens without proper oversight from the Foreign Office, an independent tribunal has ruled. From a report: GCHQ, the UK's electronic surveillance agency, was given vastly increased powers to obtain and analyze citizens' data after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, on the condition that it agreed to strict oversight from the foreign secretary. But according to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, an independent court that was set up by the government to investigate unlawful intrusion by public bodies in the UK, the Foreign Office on several occasions gave GCHQ an effective "carte blanche" to demand data from telecoms and internet companies [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], which could include visited websites, location information and email contacts. In a judgment published on Monday, the tribunal said: "In cases in which ... the foreign secretary made a general direction which applied to all communications through the networks operated by the [communications service provider], there had been an unlawful delegation of the power. "The lack of legal control on the discretion of [GCHQ] is compounded in those cases where the specific requirement was not communicated in writing."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

EU Slaps $130 Million Fine on Four Electronics Firms For Fixing Online Prices

The European Commission imposed a fine of 111 million euros ($130 million) on four consumer electronic firms Tuesday, for fixing prices on their resold items. From a report: Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer all limited the ability of online retailers to price items as they saw fit. The four manufacturers apparently threatened or sanctioned the online retailers who wouldn't comply with their price suggestions. "These well-known manufacturers of consumer electronics, they put pressure on online retailers to maintain higher prices. They did so during a period from 2011 and 2015," Margrethe Vestager, the European competition commissioner, said in a press conference Tuesday. "As a result of the actions taken by these four companies, millions of European consumers faced higher prices for kitchen appliances, hair dryers, notebook computers, headphones and many other products," Vestager said, adding that this behavior is "illegal under EU antitrust rules."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

WhatsApp Balks at India’s Demand To Break Encryption

An anonymous reader shares a report: As WhatsApp scrambles to figure out technology solutions to address some of the problems its service has inadvertently caused in developing markets, India's government has proposed one of its own: bring traceability to the platform so false information can be traced to its source. But WhatsApp indicated to VentureBeat over the weekend that complying with that request would undermine the service's core value of protecting user privacy. "We remain deeply committed to people's privacy and security, which is why we will continue to maintain end-to-end encryption for all of our users," the company said. The request for traceability, which came from India's Ministry of Electronics & IT last week, was more than a suggestion. The Ministry said Facebook-owned WhatsApp would face legal actions if it failed to deliver. "When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action," the government said. India is WhatsApp's largest market, with more than 250 million users. The country is struggling to contain the spread of fake news on digital platforms. Hoax messages and videos on the platform have incited multiple riots, costing more than two dozen lives in the country this year alone. Allowing message tracing, though, would likely undo the privacy and security that WhatsApp's one billion users worldwide expect from the service. Bringing traceability and accountability to WhatsApp would mean breaking end-to-end encryption on the platform, the company told VentureBeat.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Video Shows All-White Redesigns For Gmail, Google Photos, and More

An anonymous reader shares a report: This year, Google is pushing out a major revamp to its Material Design guidelines. The new design language is slowly creeping across Google's portfolio, and so far we've seen big changes for Gmail.com, early builds of Chrome, and for Android P. The Android side of things has so far only been the base operating system, but now a new Google design video has surfaced that shows off new designs for Gmail, Google Photos, Google Trips, and Google Drive. [...] The Gmail screens strip the app of its trademark red UI elements and give us a white bottom bar and white background. The phone inbox shows attached documents and even has large thumbnails for images. The message screen appears to show attachments on a horizontal scrolling carousel, which looks a lot like the horizontally scrolling news articles in the Google Feed. This screen again places the important controls down at the bottom of the screen, where a bottom bar houses the usual "Mark as Read," "Delete," "Archive," and "Reply All" buttons. We even get to see the compose screen for a second, which shows previous replies above your compose field.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

None of Google’s 85,000 Employees Have Been Phished in More Than a Year After Company Required Them to Use Physical Security Keys For 2FA

Google has not had any of its 85,000+ employees successfully phished on their work-related accounts since early 2017, when it began requiring all employees to use physical Security Keys in place of passwords and one-time codes, the company told KrebsOnSecurity. From the report: Security Keys are inexpensive USB-based devices that offer an alternative approach to two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires the user to log in to a Web site using something they know (the password) and something they have (e.g., a mobile device). A Google spokesperson said Security Keys now form the basis of all account access at Google. "We have had no reported or confirmed account takeovers since implementing security keys at Google," the spokesperson said. "Users might be asked to authenticate using their security key for many different apps/reasons. It all depends on the sensitivity of the app and the risk of the user at that point in time." The basic idea behind two-factor authentication is that even if thieves manage to phish or steal your password, they still cannot log in to your account unless they also hack or possess that second factor.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Visualizing the Best and Worst Paid Jobs in the Tech Sector

An anonymous reader writes: We often associate the tech sector with high-paying jobs and cool offices, but it turns out that the grass is not always green on the other side. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, personal finance site HowMuch has created a graph that showcases the 15 best and worst paid jobs in the technology industry.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mobile Photography Set For Major Quality Bump With Sony’s 48-Megapixel Sensor

Smartphone camera sensors and lenses have to operate in a very tight space, but they continue to close the gap on full-size digital cameras year after year. Sony's new IMX586 sensor boasts a 48-megapixel resolution, the highest yet for a mobile sensor, and should be coming to a phone near you soon. From a report: That increased resolution shrinks the pixel size down to 0.8 microns, which would usually lead to lower sensitivity and poor light collection. However, thanks to some smart technology called a Quad Bayer array -- where neighboring pixels are intelligently combined -- Sony says the effective pixel size is 1.6 microns. The bigger the pixel size, the better the light capture and low-light performance. In comparison, the Google Pixel 2 -- one of the best photo-taking phones on the market right now -- has a camera with a 1.4-micron pixel size. On paper, that means Sony has managed to produce a sensor that combines a huge amount of detail with excellent light capture and low noise levels as well. We'll have to wait until the sensor is actually on the market to know for sure, but the signs are good.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple Seemingly Unable To Recover Data From 2018 MacBook Pro With Touch Bar When Logic Board Fails

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2016, when Apple introduced the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models, the repair experts at iFixit discovered the notebooks have non-removable SSDs, soldered to the logic board, prompting concerns that data recovery would not be possible if the logic board failed. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. Apple has a special tool for 2016 and 2017 models of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that allows Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers to recover user data when the logic board fails, but the SSD is still intact. [...] But, unfortunately, it appears the tool will not work with the latest models. Last week, iFixit completed a teardown of the 2018 MacBook Pro, discovering that Apple has removed the data recovery connector from the logic board on both 13-inch and 15-inch models with the Touch Bar, suggesting that the Customer Data Migration Tool can no longer be connected. MacRumors contacted multiple reliable sources at Apple Authorized Service Providers to learn more, and based on the information we obtained, it does appear that the tool is incompatible with 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models. Multiple sources claim that data cannot be recovered if the logic board has failed on a 2018 MacBook Pro. If the notebook is still functioning, data can be transferred to another Mac by booting the system in Target Disk Mode, and using Migration Assistant, which is the standard process that relies on Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple’s iPhones Trail Samsung, Google Devices in Internet Speeds

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple's iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and $1,000 iPhone X trail the latest smartphones from Samsung Electronics and Alphabet's Google in download speeds, according to data from Ookla, a company that provides the most popular online service for measuring the speed of an internet connection with its Speedtest app and website. Faster internet data means that users can load websites and start watching movies more quickly, make crisper video calls and get higher-quality video. [...] Ookla's data are important because they are created by users -- not in a corporate lab -- and encompass the range of random real-world conditions that affect performance like distance from cellular towers and network congestion. Ookla said it hosts millions of tests a day and has done 20 billion in total. [...] The speed-test data, reviewed by Bloomberg, show that Samsung's Galaxy S9 phones had an average download speed -- across carriers in the U.S. -- of 38.9 megabits per second, based on about 102,000 tests over the past three months. The larger model, the S9+, delivered speeds of 38.4 Mbps, according to a sample size of about 169,000 phone connections. The iPhone X on average downloaded data at 29.7 Mbps, based on a 603,000 tests. The iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8 were close behind with speeds of 29.4 Mbps and 28.6 Mbps, respectively.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Academics Publish New Software-Level Protections Against Spectre and Rowhammer Attacks

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Academics from multiple universities have announced fixes for two severe security flaws known as Spectre and Rowhammer. Both these fixes are at the software level, meaning they don't require CPU or RAM vendors to alter products, and could, in theory, be applied as basic software patches. The first of these new mitigation mechanisms was announced on Thursday, last week. A research team from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire says it created a fix for Spectre Variant 1 (CVE-2017-5753), a vulnerability discovered at the start of the year affecting modern CPUs. Their fix uses ELFbac, an in-house-developed Linux kernel patch that brings access control policies to runtime virtual memory accesses of Linux processes, at the level of ELF binary executables. [...] The second fix for a major flaw announced last week came on Saturday from the Systems and Network Security Group at VU Amsterdam. Researchers announced a new technique called ZebRAM that they said is a comprehensive software protection against Rowhammer attacks.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Scientists Take Step Toward Creating Artificial Embryos

An international team of scientists has moved closer to creating artificial embryos after using mouse stem cells to make structures capable of taking a crucial step in the development of life. From a report: Experts said the results suggested human embryos could be created in a similar way in future -- a step that would allow scientists to use artificial embryos rather than real ones to research the very earliest stages of human development. The team, led by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a professor at Britain's Cambridge University, had previously created a simpler structure resembling a mouse embryo in a lab dish. That work involved two types of stem cells and a three-dimensional scaffold on which they could grow. But in new work published on Monday in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the scientists developed the structures further -- using three types of stem cells -- enabling a process called gastrulation, an essential step in which embryonic cells begin self-organizing into a correct structure for an embryo to form.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

There is No Guarantee That the Products You Recycle Are Actually Recycled, the UK Watchdog Warns

An anonymous reader shares a report: The National Audit Office (NAO) says over half of the packaging reported as recycled is actually being sent abroad to be processed. As a result, it says, the government has little idea of whether the recyclables are getting turned into new products, buried in landfill or burned. While an illusion of success has been created by the UK's system for recycling packaging, the NAO says, the reality may be quite different. Its report finds that: The government has turned a blind eye to underlying problems with the waste system. Firms may be over-stating the amount they are recycling. The Environment Agency has only carried out 40% of the recycling checks it planned to.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

SpaceX Enters a New Stage of Reusability

SpaceX will now be attempting to land and reuse all of the rockets it launches. Over the weekend, SpaceX launched and successfully landed its second Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida. An anonymous reader writes: The landing of this vehicle, designed with reusability in mind, marks the beginning of a completely recyclable era of rockets for the company. The Block 5 can be used hundreds of times if recovered successfully. Now that the company has transitioned to this more reusable model, recovery will be an even more crucial part of the launch. In a two week period, it's planning five recoveries. Mashable: The landing marks one of the first landings and launches of the company's newest, upgraded Falcon 9 rockets, called Block 5. Before this launch, SpaceX got rid of a backlog of their Block 4 rockets by launching without landing them back on Earth. That type of launch without landing is the traditional way of getting things to orbit, but SpaceX managed to change that. The whole point in the company's rocket landings hinge on the fact that it could reduce the cost of flying to orbit. By reusing rocket stages for multiple launches, it could drive down the exorbitant cost of flying to space for companies and nations around the world. SpaceX has been killing it the past couple years. The company -- founded by Elon Musk -- launched 18 times in 2017.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

France’s Atos Boosts US Presence With $3.4 Billion Syntel Acquisition

French IT services company Atos is boosting its North American operations with a $3.4 billion cash deal to buy Michigan-based IT services provider Syntel. From a report: Atos, which provides IT services to sectors ranging from aerospace to retail, said the deal, announced Sunday, to buy Syntel will strengthen its activities in banking, finance and insurance and allow it to provide complete IT solutions to its U.S. customers. "[The deal] will significantly enhance [the Business & Platform Solutions Division's] growth and profitability profile through an extended digital services offering, cutting-edge India-based delivery platforms, as well as revenue and cost synergies," Atos Chief Executive Thierry Breton said in a statement.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Government Spells Out Plans For UK-Wide Full Fibre By 2033

The UK government has set out a plan to roll out full fibre networks across all of the UK within 15 years by introducing laws to speed up the installation of fibre and subsidizing investment in very rural areas. From a report: The proposal comes as part of a new national telecoms strategy drawn up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Under its targets, all of the UK will have full-fibre broadband coverage by 2033, replacing the copper wire network that currently delivers the service. It proposes legislation to encourage more private infrastructure investment. Earlier this month, research was published indicating that the UK has slipped from 31st to 35th place in the global broadband league tables, behind 25 other European countries. The data was collected by M-Lab, a partnership between Google Open Source Research and Princeton University's PlantLab, and the results compiled by UK broadband comparison site Cable.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Lawmakers, Lobbyists and the Administration Join Forces To Overhaul the Endangered Species Act

An anonymous reader shares a report: The Endangered Species Act, which for 45 years has safeguarded fragile wildlife while blocking ranching, logging and oil drilling on protected habitats, is coming under attack from lawmakers, the White House and industry on a scale not seen in decades, driven partly by fears that the Republicans will lose ground in November's midterm elections. In the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have been either introduced or voted on in Congress or proposed by the Trump administration. The actions included a bill to strip protections from the gray wolf in Wyoming and along the western Great Lakes; a plan to keep the sage grouse, a chicken-size bird that inhabits millions of oil-rich acres in the West, from being listed as endangered for the next decade; and a measure to remove from the endangered list the American burying beetle, an orange-flecked insect that has long been the bane of oil companies that would like to drill on the land where it lives. [...] The new push to undo the wildlife protection law comes as Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress, and is led by a president who has made deregulation -- the loosening of not only environmental protections but banking rules, car fuel efficiency standards and fair housing enforcement -- a centerpiece of his administration.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

IoT Security Flaw Leaves 496 Million Devices Vulnerable At Businesses, Report Says

Nearly a half-billion Internet of Things devices are vulnerable to cyberattacks at businesses worldwide because of a 10-year-old security flaw, according to a new report from a security software vendor. From a report: The report was published Friday by Armis, a provider of Internet of Things security software for enterprises that focuses on detecting threats in IoT devices at workplaces. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has previously made security disclosures, including the BlueBorne malware attack that impacted 5 billion IoT devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

China’s JD.com Plans Move Into Europe

Chinese e-commerce company JD.com plans to expand in Europe and aims to have finalized its strategy for entering the market by the end of the year, its chief executive told a German newspaper. Reuters: China's second largest e-commerce business also wants to open an office in Germany by the end of 2018, the Handelsblatt daily cited Richard Liu as saying. "For me it's no longer just about selling products from Germany in China. I would also like to sell products in Europe," Liu told the paper. "We have just got to clarify the details." Further reading: JD.com is expanding its consumer base with drone delivery and local recruits who can exploit villages' tight-knit social networks to drum up business.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Hidden Environmental Cost of Amazon Prime’s Free, Fast Shipping

Amazon's Prime Day shopping spree offers free, fast shipping -- but experts say there's a hidden environmental cost that doesn't show up on the checkout page. From a report: Expedited shipping means your packages may not be as consolidated as they could be, leading to more cars and trucks required to deliver them, and an increase in packaging waste, which researchers have found is adding more congestion to our cities, pollutants to our air, and cardboard to our landfills. Free and fast shipping has always been a Prime membership's marquee perk -- one that's drawn in over 100 million subscribers who pay $119 annually. A 2017 study by UPS found that nearly all (96%) US customers had made a purchase on a marketplace like Amazon or Walmart, and over half (55%) said free or discounted shipping was the primary reason. [...] That convenience is encouraging people in the US to buy more, and to make more individual purchases rather than placing a single order for several items. "There are more sales in lower-price products online than there have been in stores," Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at the NPD Group, told BuzzFeed News. And all of those transactions are negatively impacting our planet, according to Miguel Jaller, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Davis: "People are consuming more. There's more demand created by the availability of these cheap products and cheap delivery options."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Tests Curvy Chrome Tabs With Material Design Overhaul

Google is trying out a new Chrome interface that for the first time in a decade presents a very different look for the tabs and address bar at the top of the widely used web browser, CNET reports. It adds: Since its public debut in 2008, Chrome has featured a trapezoidal tab for each website you have open. But tabs now look very different on Chrome Canary -- a very rough-around-the-edges version used to test changes before they reach a broader audience. The active tab has a slope-shouldered look with curved corners. The grayed-out inactive tabs merge with the the browser itself and are separated only by thin vertical lines. In addition, the address bar's text box is a gray oval against a white backdrop, instead of a round-cornered white rectangle with a hairline border.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Comic Book Publishers, Faced With Flagging Sales, Look To Streaming

Comic book publishers are facing a growing crisis: Flagging interest from readers and competition from digital entertainment are dragging down sales. Hoping to reverse the trend, publishers are creating their own digital platforms to directly connect with readers and encourage more engagement from fans. From a report: One of the biggest direct-to-consumer efforts is DC Universe, a platform from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Studios that will offer streaming content, including original and classic TV series. DC Universe is "a huge opportunity" that offers "ultimate creative control," said Jim Lee, a co-publisher of DC Entertainment. "It allows you to look at wider adaptations of the source material." [...] The Walt Disney Company, which owns Marvel Entertainment, said last year that it would create a streaming platform that would include Marvel movies like "The Avengers" and "Guardians of the Galaxy." Smaller comic book publishers are testing their own direct-to-consumer platforms. Image Comics, the publisher of popular titles like The Walking Dead and Saga, started a direct-to-consumer platform in 2015 to sell comic book subscriptions and apparel.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Open Gov’t Advocates Fear that Private Messaging Apps Are Being Misused by Public Officials To Conduct Business in Secret

The proliferation of digital tools that make text and email messages vanish may be welcome to Americans seeking to guard their privacy. But open government advocates fear they are being misused by public officials to conduct business in secret and evade transparency laws. From a report: Whether communications on those platforms should be part of the public record is a growing but unsettled debate in states across the country. Updates to transparency laws lag behind rapid technological advances, and the public and private personas of state officials overlap on private smartphones and social media accounts. "Those kind of technologies literally undermine, through the technology itself, state open government laws and policies," said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. "And they come on top of the misuse of other technologies, like people using their own private email and cellphones to conduct business." Some government officials have argued that public employees should be free to communicate on private, non-governmental cellphones and social media platforms without triggering open records requirements.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Boston Dynamics Is Gearing Up To Produce Thousands of Robot Dogs

Boston Dynamics, maker of uncannily agile robots, is poised to bring its first commercial product to market -- a small, dog-like robot called the SpotMini. From a report: The launch was announced in May, and founder Marc Raibert recently said that by July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini at the rate of around 1,000 units per year. The broader goal, as reported by Inverse, is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications. The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

People Like Getting Thank You Notes, Research Finds

From a report: O.K., it's not that surprising. But what did surprise two psychologist as they attempted to get to bottom of why so few people actually send thank yous is that many people totally "miscalibrate" the effect of an appreciative email. They underestimate the positive feelings it will bring. "They think it's not going to be that big a deal," said Amit Kumar, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies well-being. They also overestimate how insincere the note may appear and how uncomfortable it will make the recipient feel, their study found. But after receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were "ecstatic," scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they'd evoke a 3. To be clear -- the notes in question were not your typical "thanks for the Amazon gift card." Rather, the 100 or so participants in each of the four experiments were asked to write a short "gratitude letter" to a person who had affected them in some way. Sample letters included missives of appreciation to fellow students and friends who offered guidance through the college admissions process, job searches and tough times. In lab experiments, Dr. Kumar observed that it took most subjects less than five minutes to write the letters. Further reading: Finding Emails With Certain Variation Of Thank You Vastly Improves Response Rate, Study Finds; and Apparently, People Say 'Thank You' To Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Rome’s Subway Expansion Reveals Artifacts From The Ancient Past

All roads may lead to Rome, but once you get there, good luck taking the subway. The sprawling metropolis is expanding its mass transit system -- a sluggish process made even slower as workers keep running into buried ancient ruins. From a report: "I found some gold rings. I found glasswork laminated in gold depicting a Roman god, some amphoras," says Gilberto Pagani, a bulldozer operator at the Amba Aradam metro stop, currently under construction not far from the Colosseum. Pagani is part of an archaeological team at the site, a certified archaeological construction worker trained to excavate, preserve and build in cities like Rome, with thousands of years of civilization buried beneath the surface. The presence of ancient artifacts underground is a daunting challenge for urban developers. For archaeologists, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. "I think it's the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me, professionally speaking," says Simona Morretta, the state archaeologist in charge of the Amba Aradam site. "Because you never get the chance in a regular excavation to dig so deep. That's how we've found architectural complexes as important as this."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.