By EditorDavid from Slashdot's giving-a-hoot department
An anonymous reader writes: Google's employees started a group called GCat Rescue that traps feral cats and puts them up for adoption. (Though "less-friendly adult cats are neutered and released... The cats that are released are implanted with tracking chips, and an ear is notched so they can be identified.") A public records request discovered that city employees kept catching the Google-chipped cats in a nearby wildlife and recreation area that was home to the very last 50 burrowing owls in Silicon Valley — which California has officially designated a species of "special concern". Someone had apparently even installed a cat-feeding station next to a designated owl-nesting area.
The local Audubon Society has been asking Google to review their cat-feeding stations since 2012, but environmental groups told the Times Google was "consistenty unhelpful" on the cat issue. "They told us it was something their employees were doing and they couldn't interfere," said a board member with a group trying to protect the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. "One of the cats was trapped, turned over to the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority, released to Google, trapped again in the park and released again to Google," the Times reports, adding that "In August, it was found dead in the park."
"Like so many stories these days about Big Tech, this is a tale about how attempts to do good often produce unexpected consequences, and how even smart people (especially, perhaps, smart people) can be reluctant to rethink their convictions." The Times reports that a "final victory is at hand" for the cats, since last year was the first time in 20 years that no owl fledglings were observed in the park -- though "as recently as 2011, there were 10." But the number of cat sightings was 318.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's failure-to-launch department
"Attention geeks living in their parents' basements!" writes PolygamousRanchKid , sharing this story from NPR:
The promise of adventure didn't do it. Neither did the lure of independence, or the weight of his 30 years. Instead, it took a judge to pry Michael Rotondo from his parents' home. The couple won an eviction order against their son, after a judge argued with Rotondo for 30 minutes. "I don't see why they can't just, you know, wait a little bit for me to leave the house," Rotondo told Donald Greenwood, a justice on the Onondaga County Supreme Court... Christina and Mark Rotondo resorted to legal action after a series of notes to their son (starting on Feb. 2) failed to get him to move out of their home in Camillus, New York, a town west of Syracuse. Those notes followed discussions that began last October. The notes to Michael Rotondo ranged from orders to leave and encouragement to get a job, to offers of more than $1,000 and help in finding a place... The notes escalated into a formally worded notice for Rotondo to leave that set a 30-day deadline -- which lapsed on March 15... In a legal filing cited by CNYCentral, Rotondo said that in the eight years he has lived at his parents' house, he "has never been expected to contribute to household expenses, or assisted with chores and the maintenance of the premises," and that those conditions are simply part of an informal agreement. When he was in his early 20s, Rotondo briefly lived on his own, but he moved back in with his parents after losing a job... The case is being seen as an extreme example of a growing trend. As NPR reported in 2016, a Pew study found that, "For the first time in more than 130 years, Americans ages 18-34 are more likely to live with their parents than in any other living situation."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's thanks-for-the-memories department
An anonymous reader quotes Eurogamer:
Atari co-founder Ted Dabney has died, according to a close friend. Historian Leonard Herman, who told Dabney's story in an article for Edge magazine published in 2009, announced Dabney's death in a post on Facebook... Dabney, who was born in San Francisco in 1937, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late 2017, and, according to friends, decided against treatment after being told he had eight months to live.
In 1971 Dabney co-founded Atari predecessor Syzygy with Nolan Bushnell and developed Computer Space, the world's first commercially available arcade video game. In 1972 the pair co-founded Atari, and Computer Space was used for the basis of Pong, the video game that made the company its early-days millions. Dabney later left the company after a falling out with Bushnell.
"Nolan was not being the kind of person that I enjoyed being around any more..." Dabney remembered in a 2012 interview with the Computer History Museum. He added with a laugh that "Nolan had told me that if I didn't sell out he would transfer all the assets to another corporation and leave me with nothing anyway. So, you know, might as well sell out."
After the falling out Dabney still helped Bushnell launch Pizza Time Theater (the predecessor of Chuck E. Cheese's), later working at major tech companies like Raytheon, Fujitsu, and Teledyne, before finally buying a grocery store in California's Sierra mountains (where "my wife did all the work"). He eventually retired to northern Washington at the age of 69.
"Ted Dabney was an integral part of the early video game industry, and he literally assembled some of the hardware from which this industry was built with his own two hands," remembers Kotaku, adding "Not many people can lay claim to that kind of legacy."
Share your own favorite memories of Atari and Ted Dabney in the comments.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's talking-about-your-generation department
"Automation taking jobs is only one symptom of a larger problem," argues an anonymous Slashdot reader, sharing a link to this excerpt from Steven Brill's new book Tailspin, which seeks to identify "the people and forces behind America's fifty-year fall -- and those fighting to reverse it." The excerpt has this intriguing title: "How Baby Boomers Broke America."
As my generation of achievers graduated from elite universities and moved into the professional world, their personal successes often had serious societal consequences. They upended corporate America and Wall Street with inventions in law and finance that created an economy built on deals that moved assets around instead of building new ones. They created exotic, and risky, financial instruments, including derivatives and credit default swaps, that produced sugar highs of immediate profits but separated those taking the risk from those who would bear the consequences. They organized hedge funds that turned owning stock into a minute-by-minute bet rather than a long-term investment... Regulatory agencies were overwhelmed by battalions of lawyers who brilliantly weaponized the bedrock American value of due process so that, for example, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule protecting workers from a deadly chemical could be challenged and delayed for more than a decade and end up being hundreds of pages long. Lawyers then contested the meaning of every clause while racking up fees of hundreds of dollars per hour from clients who were saving millions of dollars on every clause they could water down...
< article continued at Slashdot's talking-about-your-generation department
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speaking-of-self-driving-cars department
An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:
Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 5.3 million vehicles in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until the cars, SUVs and trucks can be fixed with a software update. Fiat Chrysler says the condition can occur if the cruise control accelerates at the same time an electrical short-circuit happens. But the brakes are designed to overpower the engine and the vehicles could still be stopped...
In the complaint filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an owner from Olathe, Kansas, said a 2017 Dodge Journey SUV rental vehicle was being driven about 70 miles per hour with the cruise control on when the windshield wipers came on by themselves and the throttle locked up. The owner, who was not identified in the agency's complaint database, wrote that the cruise control would not disengage by tapping the brakes or turning off the button. The driver was able to slam on the brakes and get the SUV to the side of the road. "It was still running at an engine speed to support 70 mph and fighting the brakes," the driver wrote. The engine stop button also wouldn't work, but the driver was able to halt the SUV and shift into park while the brakes "smoked significantly."
The recall "includes 15 Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler and Ram models from six model years" which have automatic transmissions and gas engines, according to the Associated Press -- 4.8 million in America, plus another 490,000 in Canada and "an undetermined number" in other countries.
You can check if your vehicle is affected by this (or any other) recall by entering its VIN number at NHTSA.gov. U.S. safety officials suggest checking whether your vehicle has been recalled "at least twice per year."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's broadcasting-yourself department
An anonymous reader quotes Variety:
Two 18-year-old French citizens have been arrested in Paris and charged with crimes related to the hack of Vevo's YouTube accounts last month that resulted in pro-Palestine messages being posted on several popular videos, according to prosecutors... Authorities allege the duo gained access to the YouTube account maintained by Vevo, to alter the content of multiple music videos, including Luis Fonsi's "Despacito" -- the most-viewed music video on YouTube in 2017, which recently surpassed 5 billion views.
The hackers also targeted videos by Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Chris Brown and Shakira, replacing their thumbnail images, video titles and descriptions. Vevo has since removed all changes the hackers made on its YouTube videos... Paris prosecutors charged Gabriel K.A.B. and with five criminal counts and Nassim B. with six counts, including "fraudulently modifying data contained in an automated data processing system."
Last month Fortune published quotes from a Twitter user who claimed responsibility for the attacks.
"Its just for fun i just use script 'youtube-change-title-video' and i write 'hacked' don t judge me i love youtube."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Alexa,-stop-spying-on-me department
Amazon has issued the following statement about why their Alexa device recorded a woman's private conversation and then emailed it to one of her friends:
Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa." Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a "send message" request. At which point, Alexa said out loud "To whom?" At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, "[contact name], right?" Alexa then interpreted background conversation as "right." As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.
This apparently didn't satisfy the woman whose conversation was recorded, according to the Mercury News:
Now her family has unplugged all the devices, and although Amazon offered to "de-provision" the devices of their communications features so they could keep using them to control their home, Danielle and her family reportedly want a refund instead.
When reached Friday, an Amazon spokeswoman would not comment about whether the company will issue a refund.
Other smart home speakers carry similar privacy risks. Last year, for example, Google had to release a patch for its Home Mini speakers after some of them were found to be recording everything.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's just-in-time department
An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld:
Oracle plans to drop from Java its serialization feature that has been a thorn in the side when it comes to security. Also known as Java object serialization, the feature is used for encoding objects into streams of bytes... Removing serialization is a long-term goal and is part of Project Amber, which is focused on productivity-oriented Java language features, says Mark Reinhold, chief architect of the Java platform group at Oracle.
To replace the current serialization technology, a small serialization framework would be placed in the platform once records, the Java version of data classes, are supported. The framework could support a graph of records, and developers could plug in a serialization engine of their choice, supporting formats such as JSON or XML, enabling serialization of records in a safe way. But Reinhold cannot yet say which release of Java will have the records capability. Serialization was a "horrible mistake" made in 1997, Reinhold says. He estimates that at least a third -- maybe even half -- of Java vulnerabilities have involved serialization. Serialization overall is brittle but holds the appeal of being easy to use in simple use cases, Reinhold says.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's toil-and-trouble department
"We are now officially in a tech bubble larger than March of 2000," argues Keith Wright, instructor of accounting and information services at the Villanova School of Business. An anonymous reader quotes his commentary on CNBC:
In case you missed it, the peak in the tech unicorn bubble already has been reached. And it's going to be all downhill from here. Massive losses are coming in venture capital-funded start-ups that are, in some cases, as much as 50 percent overvalued... 76% of the companies that went public last year were unprofitable on a per-share basis in the year leading up to their initial offerings, according to data compiled by Jay Ritter, a professor at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business, and recently featured in the New York Times. This is the largest number since the peak of the dot-com boom in 2000, when 81 percent of newly public companies were unprofitable...
Several financial models project that up to 80 percent of unicorn companies are set to fail within two years. Uber, the highest-valued private technology company, has rapidly growing revenue but remains highly unprofitable. With revenue of $6.5 billion in 2016, it still registered a net loss of $2.8 billion. The truth is, when a unicorn is overvalued, it doesn't take long for the market to discover this fact.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's game-over department
An anonymous reader writes:
18-year-old Casey Viner, who instigated the 911 call which led to a fatal shooting in Wichita (hiring Tyler Barriss to perform the actual call), is in big trouble. "If convicted on the 10 counts he faces, Viner could spend almost the rest of his life in prison and pay a $1,000,000 fine," reports a local Cincinnati news site. Ironically, Viner's father is a corporal with the county sheriff's department.
The 19-year-old intended target for the SWAT attack had supplied a real address in Wichita for a house where he used to live. But in an eerie coincidence, ten days before the fatal shooting in Wichita, Cincinnati police had responded to a similar SWAT call which had sent them to a house where Viner used to live. The local police said "the facts and circumstances and the verbiage were very, very similar."
25-year-old Tyler Barriss also faces a life sentence for false information which resulted in a death -- as well as several local charges. And Thursday a federal grand jury also indicted Barriss "for a threat that caused an evacuation of a high-profile FCC hearing" into net neutrality regulations just two weeks before the fatal Wichita shooting, "and another threat eight days later that targeted FBI headquarters."
Barriss's lawyer insists that his client wasn't responsible for the Wichita death, blaming instead a "gung-ho, crazy cop."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's see-and-spray department
Rick Schumann writes:
A Swiss company called ecoRobotix is betting the agricultural industry will be willing to welcome their solar-powered weed-killing autonomous robot, in an effort to reduce the use of herbicides by up to a factor of 20 and perhaps even eliminate the need for herbicide-resistant GMO crops entirely.
The 'see-and-spray' robot goes from plant to plant, visually differentiating the actual crops and weeds, and squirting the weeds selectively and precisely with weed killer, as opposed to the current technique of using large quantities of weed killer like Monsantos' Roundup to spray entire crops.
Weeds are already becoming resistant to such glyphosate-based herbicides after "more than 20 years of near-ubiquitous use," reports Reuters. (The head of one pesticide company's science division concedes that "That was probably a once-in-a-lifetime product.") But AI-based precision spraying "could mean established herbicides whose effect has worn off on some weeds could be used successfully in more potent, targeted doses."
Meanwhile, another Silicon Valley startup has built a machine using on-board cameras to distinguish weeds from crops -- and was recently acquired by the John Deere tractor company. Reuters calls these companies the "new breed of AI weeders that investors say could disrupt the $100 billion pesticides and seeds industry."
The original submission asks: Should we welcome our weed-killing robotic overlords?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's liberty,-happiness,-and-the-pursuit-of-life department
schwit1 shared this article from the Washington Post:
The House on Tuesday passed "right to try" legislation that would allow people with life-threatening illnesses to bypass the Food and Drug Administration to obtain experimental medications, ending a drawn-out battle over access to unapproved therapies. President Trump is expected to quickly sign the measure, which was praised by supporters as a lifeline for desperate patients but denounced by scores of medical and consumer groups as unnecessary and dangerous...
The FDA would be largely left out of the equation under the new legislation and would not oversee the right-to-try process. Drug manufacturers would have to report "adverse events" -- safety problems, including premature deaths -- only once a year. The agency also would be restricted in how it used such information when considering the experimental treatments for approval. Patients would be eligible for right-to-try if they had a "life-threatening illness" and had exhausted all available treatment options. The medication itself must have completed early-stage safety testing, called Phase 1 trials, and be in active development with the goal of FDA approval.
One Congressman opposing the bill argued that eliminating FDA oversight would "provide fly-by-night physicians and clinics the opportunity to peddle false hope and ineffective drugs to desperate patients," noting that the bill is opposed by over 100 patient advocacy and consumer groups.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Redmond-goes-to-Langley department
wyattstorch516 shared this story from the AP: Microsoft Corp. said it's secured a lucrative cloud deal with the intelligence community that marks a rapid expansion by the software giant into a market led by Amazon.com Inc. The deal, which the company said Wednesday is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, allows 17 intelligence agencies and offices to use Microsoft's Azure Government, a cloud service tailored for federal and local governments, in addition to other products Microsoft already offers, such as its Windows 10 operating system and word processing programs.
The cloud agreement gives Microsoft more power to make its case to the Pentagon as it goes up against competitors like International Business Machines Corp., Oracle Corp. and Amazon for the agency's winner-take-all cloud computing contract for up to 10 years.
That contract is expected to be worth billions of dollars, according to the article, adding that "the Defense Department has said it intends to move the department's technology needs -- 3.4 million users and 4 million devices -- to the cloud to give it a tactical edge on the battlefield and strengthen its use of emerging technologies."
One Microsoft executive said this week's deal reinforces "the fact that we are a solid cloud platform that the federal government can put their trust in."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sunshine-state department
"Companies like Tesla and SunRun are starting to bid on utility contracts that would allow them to string together dozens or hundreds of systems that act as an enormous reserve to balance the flow of electricity on the grid," reports Quartz. "Doing so would accelerate the grid's transformation from 20th century hub-and-spoke architecture to a transmission network moving electricity among thousands or millions of customers who generate and store their own power." From the report: In theory, networked home-solar-and-battery systems, acting in coordination over a single geographical area, could replace things like natural gas "peaker" plants need to help support the grid on a moment's notice. But it's an open question whether it makes financial sense. Kamath says renewable mandates could keep home solar-storage solutions for the grid going for a while, but the idea will have to prove itself on the market, perhaps by aggregating large areas, if it wants to seriously compete with existing energy assets.
SunRun told investors in 2017 that its pilot programs suggest it could competitively generate $2,000 worth of services by managing electricity flow back to the grid. The company has recently dropped its combative stance with utilities dragging their feet on accepting home solar. Instead, it's pursuing cooperation with the utilities now, in hopes of selling them home-based power. That would allow it grab a chunk of the billions being spent on modernizing the grid. "We don't want to be in a position of building two competing infrastructures," SunRun's Jurich said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's gotta-start-somewhere department
By BeauHD from Slashdot's only-time-will-tell department
At the VivaTech conference in Paris, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt was asked about Elon Musk's warnings about AI. He responded by saying: "I think Elon is exactly wrong. He doesn't understand the benefits that this technology will provide to making every human being smarter. The fact of the matter is that AI and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity." TechCrunch reports: He acknowledged that there are risks around how the technology might be misused, but he said they're outweighed by the benefits: "The example I would offer is, would you not invent the telephone because of the possible misuse of the telephone by evil people? No, you would build the telephone and you would try to find a way to police the misuse of the telephone."
After wryly observing that Schmidt had just given the journalists in the audience their headlines, interviewer (and former Publicis CEO) Maurice Levy asked how AI and public policy can be developed so that some groups aren't "left behind." Schmidt replied that government should fund research and education around these technologies. "As [these new solutions] emerge, they will benefit all of us, and I mean the people who think they're in trouble, too," he said. He added that data shows "workers who work in jobs where the job gets more complicated get higher wages -- if they can be helped to do it." Schmidt also argued that contrary to concerns that automation and technology will eliminate jobs, "The embracement of AI is net positive for jobs." In fact, he said there will be "too many jobs" -- because as society ages, there won't be enough people working and paying taxes to fund crucial services. So AI is "the best way to make them more productive, to make them smarter, more scalable, quicker and so forth."Read Replies (0)