By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Vice's Motherboard: I'm waiting for the subway when the phone rings. On the other end of the line an angry woman is shouting at me about her Facebook account. I hang up. A few hours later, I'm walking to get some lunch when someone calls. "I forgot my Facebook password," the man says. I sigh, and -- once again -- explain that I can't help. [...] This keeps happening. In the last three days, I've gotten more than 80 phone calls. Just today, in the span of eight minutes, I got three phone calls from people looking to talk to Facebook. I didn't answer all of them, and some left voicemails.
Initially, I thought this was some coordinated trolling campaign. As it turns out, if you Googled "Facebook phone number" on your phone earlier this week, you would see my cellphone as the fourth result, and Google has created a "card" that pulled my number out of the article and displayed it directly on the search page in a box. The effect is that it seemed like my phone number was Facebook's phone number, because that is how Google has trained people to think. Considering that on average, according to Google's own data, people search for "Facebook phone numberâ tens of thousands of times every month, I got a lot of calls.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Trees in urban streets grow more quickly but die faster than those in rural forests, resulting in a net loss of carbon storage from city planting initiatives, new research shows. From a report: Researchers led by Ian Smith of Boston University, US, found that street trees in Boston grow nearly four times faster than those in forest stands nearby in rural Massachusetts. However, mortality rates of street trees are more than double those in rural forests, with young and very large trees most at risk. The findings have implications for urban greening programs, suggesting that planting initiatives alone are insufficient to meet municipal carbon storage, canopy cover and biomass goals. Many cities are embracing greening initiatives to improve urban sustainability and reduce the environmental impacts of urbanisation, the researchers write. "However, cities have been dramatically understudied by ecologists," they add. "Despite the widely espoused benefits of urban trees, the role of urban vegetation in the carbon cycle remains uncertain." Street trees take many years to pay their way on carbon costs.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Chris Hughes helped Mark Zuckerberg transform Facebook from a dorm-room project into a real business. Now, he's calling for the company to be broken up. From a report: "The Facebook that exists today is not the Facebook that we founded in 2004," Chris Hughes, who started Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in their Harvard dorm, told NBC News following the publication of his op-ed article on the same topic. "And the one that we have today I think is far too big. It's far too powerful. And most importantly, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is not accountable," Hughes said of his former business partner, whom he still called a "friend." "I have been friends with Mark and a lot of the other folks at Facebook for a long time. And you know, who knows? We may still be friends, we may not be friends. There are some kinds of friends that you can have disagreements with. And then there are some friends that you can't," Hughes said.
According to CNBC estimates, Zuckerberg and a small group of insiders control almost 70 percent of all voting shares in Facebook. Zuckerberg personally controls nearly 60 percent. If he quit as CEO tomorrow, he would still control the company through his stock ownership. But Hughes said there's one power Zuckerberg won't exercise. "I don't think that Mark Zuckerberg can fix Facebook," Hughes said. "I think only government can -- by making the market more competitive, by breaking it up, and by creating these privacy restrictions." Hughes called for the government to step in and take several drastic actions: First, reversing the mergers with Instagram and WhatsApp, which he said the FTC "incorrectly approved," spinning them out as private companies that would compete with Facebook. Second, creating a new agency to regulate technology in addition to the FTC.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's FCC-inaction department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has rejected a request to have the FCC investigate Frontier Communications' business practices in Minnesota, despite evidence that the company has failed to properly maintain its telecom network. An investigation by the Minnesota Commerce Department already found that Frontier's network has "frequent and lengthy" phone and Internet outages, that Frontier has failed to provide refunds or bill credits to customers even when outages lasted for months, that Frontier is guilty of frequent billing errors that caused customers to pay for services they didn't order, and that it has failed to promptly provide telephone service to all customers who request it. When we wrote about the investigation in January, Frontier said it "strongly disagrees" with the findings but did not dispute any of the specific allegations.
The Minnesota Attorney General's office is investigating whether Frontier violated state consumer-protection laws, and the state's two U.S. senators asked Pai to have the FCC investigate as well. When Pai wrote back to the senators, he said that he has asked his staff to "monitor" the state investigation but made no commitment to have the FCC investigate, too. Pai's response and the senators' letter were posted on the FCC's website this week. "For a chairman who is so concerned with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse, it's baffling that the commission tasked with overseeing billions of dollars in public money is declining to investigate the more than a thousand allegations of poor service by a company that receives that public money to provide those services," U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) told Ars in a statement today. (The Minnesota investigation was based partly on more than 1,000 consumer complaints and statements.)Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
Google announced today it's making a change to how its Play Store app ratings work. "[I]nstead of giving developers the choice of when ratings will reset, it will begin to weight app ratings to favor those from more recent releases," reports TechCrunch. Milena Nikolic, an engineering director leading Google Play Console, said that soon the average rating calculation for apps will be updated for all Android apps on Google Play.
"With this update, users will be able to better see, at a glance, the current state of the app -- meaning, any fixes and changes that made it a better experience over the years will now be taken into account when determining the rating," reports TechCrunch. "On the flip side, however, this change also means that once high-quality apps that have since failed to release new updates and bug fixes will now have a rating that reflects their current state of decline." In response to the announcement, Slashdot reader shanen writes: Basically I regard this as a good news story, though in relative terms. Of course the old data should get discounted if newer data is available. Too bad today's Google is certain to mangle the implementation, probably claiming they need more layers of secrecy to prevent more clever gaming of the new ratings system. However, the change I REALLY want to see would be more exposure of the developers' financial models for the apps. Following the money really works.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
How does a half-inch beetle find fires 80 miles away? Why, it's called "stochastic resonance" of course! Slashdot reader bodog shares an excerpt from a report via Scientific American: The fire chaser beetle, as its name implies, spends its life trying to find a forest fire (because freshly burnt trees are fire chaser beetle baby food). [T]hey can sense fires from distances over which car stereos are hard pressed to pick up FM radio. In fact, because the infrared emission of a burning oil tank of known volume (in this case, 750,000 barrels) can be calculated with reasonable certainty, scientists that studied the Coalinga oil tank explosion have inferred the beetles can detect infrared radiation intensities so low that they are buried in the thermal noise around them. But ... how?
The heat eyes on the sides of fire chaser beetles are filled with about 70 infrared sensilla. Inside each sensillum is a hair-like sensor (called a dendritic tip in the diagram above) that physically deforms when the sensillum expands in response to heat, triggering a neural response. [...] A signal picked up by more than one of them can be summed up and amplified by the neurons that wire the [70-90] array. As a result, the heat eye can detect softer signals than a single sensor could.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department
The remaining nuclear reactor still operating at Three Mile Island in South-central Pennsylvania will shut down by September 30th, Exelon announced Wednesday. The decision to close the reactor comes 40 years after the nation's worse commercial nuclear accident. NPR reports: The company says the plant has been losing money for years. The nuclear industry generally has struggled to compete with less expensive electricity generated from natural gas and renewable energy. Exelon first announced it would close two years ago unless lawmakers stepped in to keep it open. It then campaigned to save the plant by seeking a subsidy from Pennsylvania's legislature. The company argued that, in light of climate change and efforts to address it, the plant deserves compensation for the carbon-free electricity it produces.
That argument has worked in other states, including Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. But in Pennsylvania, the state's powerful natural gas industry opposed it, along with industrial users and consumer advocates, calling the proposal a "bailout." When it became clear the subsidy legislation wouldn't pass within the next month Exelon decided to retire the plant, which was licensed to operate for 15 more years. Exelon says it will offer positions elsewhere in the company to employees who are willing to relocate. But the plant also employed thousands of contract workers during refueling and maintenance outages. On March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island Generating Station Unit 2 "suffered a partial meltdown after a pump stopped sending water to the stream generators that removed heat from the reactor core," reports NPR. "The accident was the start of a backlash against the nuclear industry that halted its growth for decades."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's just-the-beginning department
Augmented reality is coming to Google Search, allowing you to "check out a pair of shoes in the 'real world' while you're shopping online or put an animated shark in your living room," reports The Verge. From the report: At I/O, Google offered a few different examples of how its AR search options might work. If you search for musculature, for instance, you can get a model of human muscles -- which you can either examine as an ordinary 3D object on your screen or overlay on a camera feed, letting you "see" the object in the real world. If you're looking at shopping results, you can preview a piece of clothing with your existing wardrobe.
3D AR objects will start showing up in search results later this year, and developers can add support for their own objects by adding "just a few lines of code." It's apparently already working with NASA, New Balance, Samsung, Target, Volvo, and other groups to add support for their 3D models.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's highly-sensitive-information department
Mossab Hussein, a security researcher at SpiderSilk, has discovered that a development lab used by Samsung engineers was leaking highly sensitive source code, credentials and secret keys for several internal projects -- including its SmartThings platform. TechCrunch reports: The electronics giant left dozens of internal coding projects on a GitLab instance hosted on a Samsung-owned domain, Vandev Lab. The instance, used by staff to share and contribute code to various Samsung apps, services and projects, was spilling data because the projects were set to "public" and not properly protected with a password, allowing anyone to look inside at each project, access and download the source code. Hussein said one project contained credentials that allowed access to the entire AWS account that was being used, including more than 100 S3 storage buckets that contained logs and analytics data.
Many of the folders, he said, contained logs and analytics data for Samsung's SmartThings and Bixby services, but also several employees' exposed private GitLab tokens stored in plaintext, which allowed him to gain additional access from 42 public projects to 135 projects, including many private projects. Samsung told him some of the files were for testing but Hussein challenged the claim, saying source code found in the GitLab repository contained the same code as the Android app, published in Google Play on April 10. The app, which has since been updated, has more than 100 million installs to date.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's surprise-results department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reason: In a surprise turn of events, a Denver ballot initiative to effectively decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms, previously thought to have failed, now appears to have narrowly passed after all. This would make the Mile High City the first in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin. If the unofficial final tally holds, Denver law enforcement will be directed to treat psychedelic mushrooms owned for personal possession as the lowest enforcement priority. The initiative will not legalize commercial sales. "After trailing in results postings Tuesday night and early Wednesday, final unofficial results just posted show a reversal of fortune -- with Initiative 301 set to pass with nearly 50.6 percent of the vote," The Denver Post reports. "The total stands at 89,320 votes in favor and 87,341 against -- a margin of 1,979 votes. Denver Elections expects to continue accepting military and overseas ballots, but typically those numbers are small." Reason's Jacob Sullem points out that this decriminalization will have only a modest real-world impact, as Denver has only prosecuted a handful of psilocybin cases over the past few years.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind-operations department
In what is being called "the single most significant law enforcement disruption of the darknet to date" by U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, the Justice Department has shut down a major directory of dark web drug marketplaces and arrested the alleged owners. NBC News reports: DeepDotWeb was a regular searchable website that provided a directory with direct access to a host of darknet marketplaces selling illegal narcotics including fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and meth. The website also provided access to marketplaces for firearms, including assault rifles, and for malicious software and hacking tools. The alleged owners, Tal Prihar, 37, and Michael Phan, 34, both from Israel, were arrested Monday, Prihar in France and Phan in Israel, where they remain in custody. They each face a single count of money laundering conspiracy in the U.S. Phan also faces charges in Israel.
Prihar and Phan allegedly received kickback payments through bitcoin when someone purchased an item on the darknet sites found through the directory, earning more than $15 million in fees since October 2013, according to prosecutors. These "referral bonuses" allegedly came from darknet marketplaces including AlphaBay Market, Agora Market, Abraxas Market, Dream Market, Valhalla Market, Hansa Market, TradeRoute Market, Dr. D's, Wall Street Market and Tochka Market. The closing of a directory like DeepDotWeb is significant, Brady said, because it should stifle hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal purchases.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Windows-apps-or-bust department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: When Microsoft launched UWP in 2015, officials promised that the platform would provide apps with better performance and security because they'd be distributable and updatable from the Microsoft Store. Developers would be able to use a common set of programming interfaces across Windows 10, Windows Phone, HoloLens and more, officials said, when selling the UWP vision. The downside: UWP apps would work on Windows 10-based devices only. Developers would have to do work to get their apps to be UWP/Store-ready. And Win32 apps wouldn't get UWP features like touch and inking. Arguably, [Kevin Gallo, Corporate Vice President of the Windows Developer Platform] told me, "we shouldn't have gone that way," meaning creating this schism. But Microsoft execs -- including Gallo -- continue to maintain that UWP is not dead. Over the past year or so, Microsoft has been trying to undo some of the effects of what Gallo called the "massive divide" between Win32 and UWP by adding "modern desktop" elements to Win32 apps.
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