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The Meaning of AMP
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '17 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Last week, Ethan Marcotte, an independent web designer, shared how Google describes AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). People at Google says AMP "isn't a 'proprietary format'; it's an open standard that anyone can contribute to." But that definition, Marcotte argues, isn't necessarily an honest one. He writes: On the face of it, this statement's true. AMP's markup isn't proprietary as such: rather, all those odd-looking amp- tags are custom elements, part of the HTML standard. And the specification's published, edited, and distributed on GitHub, under one of the more permissive licenses available. So, yes. The HTML standard does allow for the creation of custom elements, it's true, and AMP's license is quite liberal. But spend a bit of time with the rules that outline AMP's governance. Significant features and changes require the approval of AMP's Technical Lead and one Core Committer -- and if you peruse the list of AMP's Core Committers, that list seems exclusively staffed and led by Google employees. Now, there's nothing wrong with this. After all, AMP is a Google-backed project, and they're free to establish any governance model they deem appropriate. But when I hear AMP described as an open, community-led project, it strikes me as incredibly problematic, and more than a little troubling. AMP is, I think, best described as nominally open-source. It's a corporate-led product initiative built with, and distributed on, open web technologies. Jeremy Keith, a web developer, further adds: If AMP were actually the product of working web developers, this justification would make sense. As it is, we've got one team at Google citing the preference of another team at Google but representing it as the will of the people. This is just one example of AMP's sneaky marketing where some finely-shaved semantics allows them to appear far more reasonable than they actually are. At AMP Conf, the Google Search team were at pains to repeat over and over that AMP pages wouldn't get any preferential treatment in search results ... but they appear in a carousel above the search results. Now, if you were to ask any right-thinking person whether they think having their page appear right at the top of a list of search results would be considered preferential treatment, I think they would say hell, yes! This is the only reason why The Guardian, for instance, even have AMP versions of their content -- it's not for the performance benefits (their non-AMP pages are faster); it's for that prime real estate in the carousel. The same semantic nit-picking can be found in their defence of caching. See, they've even got me calling it caching! It's hosting. If I click on a search result, and I am taken to page that has a URL beginning with https://www.google.com/amp/s/... then that page is being hosted on the domain google.com. That is literally what hosting means. Now, you might argue that the original version was hosted on a different domain, but the version that the user gets sent to is the Google copy. You can call it caching if you like, but you can't tell me that Google aren't hosting AMP pages. That's a particularly low blow, because it's such a bait'n'switch.

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Google Denies Demoting the Pirate Bay In Some Countries
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '17 at 07:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
An anonymous reader writes: Google and The Pirate Bay have had an interesting relationship over the years, to say the least. This week, users pointed out that The Pirate Bay can appear significantly lower down in search results (and definitely not on the first page), depending on which country you are searching in. We reached out to Google, and it denied the allegations that it was demoting the site. TorrentFreak first spotted the odd behavior. The publication used Chrome in incognito mode to search for "The Pirate Bay" in Google with different IP addresses to see where the site's thepiratebay.org domain showed up. An IP address in the U.K., for example, would result in The Pirate Bay showing up on the fifth or sixth page, while an IP address in the U.S. would bring back The Pirate Bay as the top result.

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Firefox To Get a Better Password Manager
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '17 at 07:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: Mozilla engineers have started work on a project named Lockbox that they describe as "a work-in-progress extension [...] to improve upon Firefox's built-in password management." Mozilla released the new extension for employee-use only at first, but users can install it by going to this or this links. Lockbox revamps Firefox's antiquated password management utility with a new user interface (UI). A new Firefox UI button is also included, in case users want to add a shortcut in their browser's main interface to open Lockbox without going through all the menu options. Support for a master password is included, helping users secure their passwords from unauthorized access by co-workers, family members, or others.

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Thousands of Videogame-Playing Soldiers Could Shape the Future of War
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '17 at 04:30 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-games department:
An anonymous reader quotes the Atlantic:
As far as video games go, Operation Overmatch is rather unremarkable. Players command military vehicles in eight-on-eight matches against the backdrop of rendered cityscapes -- a common setup of games that sometimes have the added advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars in development budgets. Overmatch does have something unique, though: its mission. The game's developers believe it will change how the U.S. Army fights wars. Overmatch's players are nearly all soldiers in real life. As they develop tactics around futuristic weapons and use them in digital battle against peers, the game monitors their actions.

Each shot fired and decision made, in addition to messages the players write in private forums, is a bit of information soaked up with a frequency not found in actual combat, or even in high-powered simulations without a wide network of players. The data is logged, sorted, and then analyzed, using insights from sports and commercial video games. Overmatch's team hopes this data will inform the Army's decisions about which technologies to purchase and how to develop tactics using them, all with the aim of building a more forward-thinking, prepared force... While the game currently has about 1,000 players recruited by word of mouth and outreach from the Overmatch team, the developers eventually want to involve tens of thousands of soldiers. This milestone would allow for millions of hours of game play per year, according to project estimates, enough to generate rigorous data sets and test hypotheses.

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Interviews: Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst Answers Your Questions
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '17 at 12:30 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's CentOS-and-systemd department:
You asked, he answered!

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary -- and the 23rd anniversary of the first release of Red Hat Linux -- here's a special treat. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on for his answers...

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Virtual Singer Uses Crowdsourced Songs To Become a Star In Japan
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 08:30 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Idoru department:
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg. [Alternate version here]:
During her 10-year career, she's released more than 100,000 songs in a variety of languages and opened shows for Lady Gaga. And yet Hatsune Miku, who boasts 2.5 million Facebook followers, doesn't actually exist -- at least not in the typical way we think of a flesh-and-blood diva. Miku is a computer-simulated pop star created more than a decade ago by Hiroyuki Ito, CEO of Crypton Future Media in Sapporo, Japan.

She started life as a piece of voice-synthesis software but since has evolved to become a singing sensation in her own right -- thanks to the creativity of her legions of fans. Crucial to Miku's success is the ability for devotees to purchase the Yamaha-powered Vocaloid software and write their own songs for the star to sing right back at them. Fans then can upload songs to the web and vie for the honor of having her perform them at "live" gigs, in which the computer-animated Miku takes center stage, surrounded by human guitarists, drummers and pianists.

Bloomberg's article includes some video clips of the virtual artist -- as well as her real-world fans.

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How Data Science Powered the Search for MH370
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 05:52 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's searching-for-signals department:
"In the absence of physical evidence, scientists are employing powerful computational tools to attempt to solve the greatest aviation mystery of our time: the disappearance of flight MH370." Slashdot reader Esther Schindler shared this article from HPE Insights:
Satellite communications provider Inmarsat announced it had found recorded signals in its archives that MH370 had sent for another six hours after it disappeared. The plane had been aloft and flying for that whole time -- but where had it gone? As Inmarsat scientists examined the signals, they saw that what they had was not data such as text messages or location information. Rather, the signals contained metadata: information about the signal itself. This was recorded as the satellite automatically contacted the plane's communications system every hour to see if it was still logged on. Bafflingly, whoever had taken the plane hadn't used the satcom system to communicate with the outside world, but had switched it off and then on again, leaving it able to exchange hourly "pings" with the satellite. Some of the metadata related to extremely subtle variations in the frequency of the signal. "We're talking about changes as big as one part in a billion," says Inmarsat scientist Chris Ashton.
< article continued at Slashdot's searching-for-signals department >

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Researchers Devise 2FA System That Relies On Taking Photos of Ordinary Objects
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 04:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's confirmation-Kodak department:
An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: Scientists from Florida International University and Bloomberg have created a custom two-factor authentication (2FA) system that relies on users taking a photo of a personal object. The act of taking the photo comes to replace the cumbersome process of using crypto-based hardware security keys (e.g., YubiKey devices) or entering verification codes received via SMS or voice call. The new system is named Pixie, and researchers argue it is more secure than the aforementioned solutions. Pixie works by requiring users to choose an object as their 2FA key. When they set up the Pixie 2FA protection, they take an initial photo of the object that will be used for reference. Every time users try to log into their account again, they re-take a photo of the same object, and an app installed on their phone compares the two photos... In automated tests, Pixie achieved a false accept rate below 0.09% in a brute force attack with 14.3 million authentication attempts. An Android app is available for testing here.

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Hewlett-Packard Historical Archive Destroyed In California Fires
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 03:12 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's out-of-print department:
An anonymous reader quotes the Press Democrat:
When deadly flames incinerated hundreds of homes in Santa Rosa's Fountaingrove neighborhood earlier this month, they also destroyed irreplaceable papers and correspondence held nearby and once belonging to the founders of Silicon Valley's first technology company, Hewlett-Packard. The Tubbs fire consumed the collected archives of William Hewlett and David Packard, the tech pioneers who in 1938 formed an electronics company in a Palo Alto garage with $538 in cash. More than 100 boxes of the two men's writings, correspondence, speeches and other items were contained in one of two modular buildings that burned to the ground at the Fountaingrove headquarters of Keysight Technologies. Keysight, the world's largest electronics measurement company, traces its roots to HP and acquired the archives in 2014 when its business was split from Agilent Technologies -- itself an HP spinoff.
The Hewlett and Packard collections had been appraised in 2005 at nearly $2 million and were part of a wider company archive valued at $3.3 million. However, those acquainted with the archives and the pioneering company's impact on the technology world said the losses can't be represented by a dollar figure... Karen Lewis, the former HP staff archivist who first assembled the collections, called it irresponsible to put them in a building without proper protection. Both Hewlett-Packard and Agilent earlier had housed the archives within special vaults inside permanent facilities, complete with foam fire retardant and other safeguards, she said. "This could easily have been prevented, and it's a huge loss," Lewis said.
Lewis has described the collection as "the history of Silicon Valley ... This is the history of the electronics industry." Keysight Technologies spokesman Jeff Weber said the company "is saddened by the loss of documents that remind us of our visionary founders, rich history and lineage to the original Silicon Valley startup."

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'Futurama' Stars Working On Kickstarter For Animated Webcomic Goblins
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 01:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's great-news-everyone department:
Long-time Slashdot reader wonkavader writes: Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, and Phil LaMarr from the Futurama cast are working on a Kickstarter campaign to animate the Goblins web-comic. Also involved are Matt King, Jim Cummings, Matthew Mercer, Steve Blum, and Jennifer Hale from World of Warcraft, Resident Evil, Cowboy Bebop, Mass Effect, Powerpuff Girls, and other stuff. It's surprising to see so many well-known voice people...
The writing for the show will be done by Matt King and Phil LaMarr along with the original Goblins creator, Tarol Hunt. They have an initial teaser trailer (or rather the 'animatic') which is definitely aimed at people who have already been following the comic. Last week Reddit hosted an AMA with some of the project's stars, including Phil LaMarr (Samurai Jack, Futurama), Matt Yang King (WoW, GI:Joe), Tarol Hunt and Danielle Stephens (Goblins Comic).

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John Mollo, Oscar-Winning 'Star Wars' Costume Designer, Dies At 86
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 01:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's galaxies-far-far-away department:
schwit1 quotes the Hollywood Reporter: John Mollo, the costume designer who brought to life Ralph McQuarrie and George Lucas' conceptual vision for Star Wars, has died. He was 86... "We discussed a few concepts when I joined the team, and George Lucas had a clear vision of what he was looking for. He liked the idea of the baddies having a fascist look about them, with the heroes reflecting the look of heroes of the American Wild West," he told www.starwarshelmets.com.
With McQuarrie's sketches and a meager budget of $1,173 for one costume, the London-born Mollo began shaping and fine-tuning Darth Vader's image through his knowledge of World War 1 trench armour and Nazi helmets, ultimately creating the look of one cinema's most memorable villains. His military influence is also visible in the regalia worn by the crew of the Death Star.
Working on Ridley Scott's Alien, " Molloâ(TM)s focus was to create used and well-worn clothing for the crew of the Nostromo on their long return trip to Earth as well as designing the patches and emblems emblazoned across their suits."

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Heathrow Airport Security Files Found on USB Stick In The Street
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 01:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's removable-storage-media department:
"The BBC is reporting a security probe after security data about Heathrow was discovered on a USB found on the street," writes long-time Slashdot readers Martin S. From the article:
The Sunday Mirror reported that the USB stick had 76 folders with maps, videos and documents, including details of measures used to protect the Queen. A man found it in west London and handed it into the paper, it said. Heathrow said all of its security plans had been reviewed and it was "confident" the airport was secure. "We have also launched an internal investigation to understand how this happened and are taking steps to prevent a similar occurrence in future," it said.

The Mirror reports that the USB stick was not encrypted and did not require a password, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader rastos1. Insiders "admitted it sparked a 'very, very urgent' probe, and that it posed 'a risk to national security'."

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SLAC Uses Nobel Prize-Winning Technique To Investigate Battery Fires
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 12:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fickle-fingers-of-failure department:
An anonymous reader quotes an announcement from SLAC:
Scientists from Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have captured the first atomic-level images of finger-like growths called dendrites that can pierce the barrier between battery compartments and trigger short circuits or fires... This is the first study to examine the inner lives of batteries with cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, a technique whose ability to image delicate, flash-frozen proteins and other "biological machines" in atomic detail was honored with the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry... The ability to see this level of detail for the first time with cryo-EM will give scientists a powerful tool for understanding how batteries and their components work at the most fundamental level and for investigating why high-energy batteries used in laptops, cell phones, airplanes and electric cars sometimes fail, the researchers said...
In cryo-EM, samples are flash-frozen by dipping them into liquid nitrogen, then sliced for examination under the microscope. You can freeze a whole coin-cell battery at a particular point in its charge-discharge cycle, remove the component you're interested in and see what is happening inside that component at an atom-by-atom scale. You could even create a stop-action movie of battery activity by stringing together images made at different points in the cycle... Zooming in, they used a different technique to look at the way electrons bounced off the atoms in the dendrite, revealing the locations of individual atoms in both the crystal and its solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) coating. When they added a chemical commonly used to improve battery performance, the atomic structure of the SEI coating became more orderly, and they think this may help explain why the additive works.

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While Equifax Victims Sue, Congress Limits Financial Class Actions
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 11:12 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cause-and-no-effect department:
An anonymous reader quotes a local NBC news report:
Stories are starting to pour in about those impacted by last month's massive Equifax data breach, which compromised the private information of more than 140 million people. Katie Van Fleet of Seattle says she's spent months trying to regain her stolen identity, and says it has been stolen more than a dozen times. "I kept receiving letters from Kohl's, from Macy's, from Home Depot, from Old Navy saying 'thank you for your application,'" she said to CNN affiliate KCPQ. But she says she's never applied for credit from any of those places. Instead, Van Fleet and her attorney Catherine Fleming say they believe her personal data was stolen during the massive Equifax security breach... Fleming has filed a class-action lawsuit against Equifax, saying they were negligent in losing private information on more than 140 million Americans... "Countless people, I mean, I've really, truly lost count, and the stories that like Katie's, the stories I hear are heart-wrenching," Fleming said.

But are things about to get worse? Marketwatch reports:
< article continued at Slashdot's cause-and-no-effect department >

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Portuguese ISP Shows What The Net Looks Like Without Net Neutrality
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 09:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's package-deals department:
"In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages," argues a California congressman -- retweeting a stunning graphic. An anonymous reader quotes BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow:
Since 2006, Net Neutrality activists have been warning that a non-Neutral internet will be an invitation to ISPs to create "plans" where you have to choose which established services you can access, shutting out new entrants to the market and allowing the companies with the deepest pockets to permanently dominate the internet... the Portuguese non-neutral ISP MEO has mistaken a warning for a suggestion, and offers a series of "plans" for its mobile data service where you pay €5 to access a handful of messaging services, €5 more to use social media; and €5 more for video-streaming services.
The congressman notes this arrangement offers "a huge advantage for entrenched companies, but it totally ices out startups trying to get in front of people, which stifles innovation."

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TechCrunch Argues Social Media News Feeds 'Need to Die'
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 09:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's funerals-for-feeds department:
"Feeds need to die because they distort our views and disconnect us from other human beings around us," argues TechCrunch's Romain Dillet:
At first, I thought I was missing out on some Very Important Content. I felt disconnected. I fought against my own FOMO. But now, I don't feel anything. What's going on on Instagram? I don't care. Facebook is now the worst internet forum you can find. Twitter is filled with horrible, abusive people. Instagram has become a tiny Facebook now that it has discouraged all the weird, funny accounts from posting with its broken algorithm. LinkedIn's feed is pure spam.
And here's what I realized after forgetting about all those "social" networks. First, they're tricking you and pushing the right buttons to make you check your feed just one more time. They all use thirsty notifications, promote contrarian posts that get a lot of engagement and play with your emotions. Posting has been gamified and you want to check one more time if you got more likes on your last Instagram photo. Everything is now a story so that you pay more attention to your phone and you get bored less quickly -- moving pictures with sound tend to attract your eyes... [F]inally, I realized that I was missing out by constantly checking all my feeds. By putting my phone on 'Do Not Disturb' for days, I discovered new places, started conversations and noticed tiny little things that made me smile.
He concludes that technology has improved the way we learn, communicate, and share information, "But it has gone too far...

"Forget about your phone for a minute, look around and talk with people next to you."

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Study Links Rapid Ice Sheet Melting With Distant Volcanic Eruptions
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 08:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fire-and-ice department:
schwit1 quotes UPI:
New research suggests volcanic eruptions can trigger periods of rapid ice sheet melting... "Over a time span of 1,000 years, we found that volcanic eruptions generally correspond with enhanced ice sheet melting within a year or so," Francesco Muschitiello, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said in a news release. The volcanoes of note weren't situated next-door, but thousands of miles from the ice sheet, a reminder of the unexpected global impacts of volcanic activity.

The new research -- detailed this week in the journal Nature Communications -- suggests ash ejected into the atmosphere by erupting volcanoes can be deposited thousands of miles away. When it's deposited on ice sheets, the dark particles cause the ice to absorb more thermal energy and accelerate melting... Some scientists have even suggested melting encouraged by volcanic eruptions could trigger even more eruptions, a positive feedback loop. As glaciers and ice sheets melt, pressure is relieved from the planet's crust, allowing magma to rise to the surface.

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Purism Now Offers Laptops with Intel's 'Management Engine' Disabled
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 07:12 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's AMT-away department:
"San Francisco company Purism announced that they are now offering their Librem laptops with the Intel Management Engine disabled," writes Slashdot reader boudie2. Purism describes Management Engine as "a separate CPU that can run and control a computer even when powered off."

HardOCP reports that Management Engine "is widely despised by security professionals and privacy advocates because it relies on signed and secret Intel code, isn't easily alterable, isn't fully documented, and has been found to be vulnerable to exploitation... In short, it's a tiny potentially hackable computer in your computer that you cannot totally control, nor opt-out of, but it can totally control your system."

Purism writes:
Disabling the Management Engine is no easy task, and it has taken security researchers years to find a way to properly and verifiably disable it. Purism, because it runs coreboot and maintains its own BIOS firmware update process, has been able to release and ship coreboot that disables the Management Engine from running, directly halting the ME CPU without the ability of recovery... "Disabling the Management Engine, long believed to be impossible, is now possible and available in all current Librem laptops. It is also available as a software update for previously shipped recent Librem laptops," says Todd Weaver, Founder & CEO of Purism.

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America's F-35s Can't Fly 22% of the Time, Repair Facilities Six Years Behind Schedule
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 05:52 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's plane-truths department:
"[N]early 200 F-35s might permanently remain unready for combat because the Pentagon would rather buy new aircraft than upgrade the ones the American people have already paid for," according to one defense news site. And now Bloomberg reports:
The Pentagon is accelerating production of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 jet even though the planes already delivered are facing "significantly longer repair times" than planned because maintenance facilities are six years behind schedule, according to a draft audit. The time to repair a part has averaged 172 days -- "twice the program's objective" -- the Government Accountability Office, Congress's watchdog agency, found. The shortages are "degrading readiness" because the fighter jets "were unable to fly about 22 percent of the time" from January through August for lack of needed parts.
The Pentagon has said soaring costs to develop and produce the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons system, have been brought under control, with the price tag now projected at $406.5 billion. But the GAO report raises new doubts about the official estimate that maintaining and operating them will cost an additional $1.12 trillion over their 60-year lifetime.
Slashdot reader schwit1 writes, "This is akin to buying an exotic car you can barely afford, without also budgeting for insurance, repairs, and tuneups."

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Apple Fires Engineer After His Daughter's iPhone X Video Goes Viral
Posted by News Fetcher on October 29 '17 at 03:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fired-for-filming-phones department:
"In a brutal reminder of the secrecy tech companies enforce on employees, Apple recently fired an employee after his daughter posted a video of the iPhone X," writes long-time Slashdot reader HockeyPuck. Engadget reports:
His daughter took down the video as soon as Apple requested it, but the takedown came too late to prevent the clip from going viral, leading to seemingly endless reposts and commentary... [I]t's important to stress that this wasn't a garden variety iPhone X. As an employee device, it had sensitive information like codenames for unreleased products and staff-specific QR codes. Combine that with Apple's general prohibition of recording video on campus (even at relatively open spaces like Caffe Macs) and this wasn't so much about maintaining the surprise as making sure that corporate secrets didn't get out. Apple certainly didn't want to send the message that recording pre-release devices was acceptable. All the same, it's hard not to sympathize -- the [radiofrequecy] engineer had poured his heart into the iPhone X, only to be let go the week before the handset reaches customers.
In a new follow-up video, the former Apple engineer's daughter says "I had no idea this was a violation," adding that her father "takes full reponsibility for letting me film his iPhone X." Here's some more quotes from her video.

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