By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
When the government eventually reopens, park experts warn reversing damage won't be as easy as throwing out the trash. From a report: National parks are America's public lands, but right now they're America's trashcans. That's because the U.S. federal government, embattled over funding for a border wall, has shut down, leaving national parks open and largely unattended. Since the shutdown began, brimming trashcans, overflowing toilets, and trespassing has been reported at many parks locations. "Never before have I seen the federal government tempt fate in national parks the way we are today," says Diane Regas, president of the Trust for Public Land. "It's not about what has happened already. It's about what could happen if you don't have the appropriate staffing."
According to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), staffing varies by park, but some 16,000 parks service employees are furloughed, leaving a small number active for policing and security. The government shut down three times in 2018, but only three days last January and less than a day that following February. As of Friday, the government had been partially shut down for 13 days.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Albums sold on vinyl and cassette both saw a growth in sales according to BuzzAngle Music's End-Year Report profiling U.S. music industry consumption for 2018. From a report: Vinyl sales grew by just shy of 12% from 8.6 to 9.7 million sales, while cassette sales grew by almost 19% from 99,400 to 118,200 copies sold in the US, The Verge reported. Sixty-six percent of those vinyl sales were of albums that are more than three years old and feature classic bands like The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd, reported BuzzAngle. Cassettes saw popularity in newer releases. CDs on the other hand have declined by 18.5% in popularity leading to a total decline in physical album sales of over 15%, reported The Verge. Meanwhile, audio streaming saw an increase of 41.8%, the largest of all music consumption.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
If the late 2018 deal that brought Apple Music to Amazon Echo speakers wasn't surprising enough, Samsung today announced a similar partnership with Apple for 2018 and 2019 Samsung Smart TVs: support for iTunes movies, iTunes TV shows, and AirPlay 2 will be coming in spring 2019. From a report: The deal is all but unprecedented for Apple, which has historically restricted playback of iTunes videos solely to its own devices, including Apple TVs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Macs, with no support for competing media players such as Roku, or various smart TV platforms. That said, PCs running iTunes have been able to play iTunes videos, and the company has allowed third-parties to license both AirPlay and AirPlay 2 for years. According to Samsung, a firmware update to 2018 Smart TVs will add a new iTunes Movies and TV Shows app in more than 100 countries. AirPlay 2 will become available on Samsung Smart TVs in 190 countries around the world. There are lots of unanswered questions about this iTunes deal. The Verge: Is Apple going to allow Samsung's smart TV tracking to snoop on iTunes viewers? Smart TVs are notorious for tracking what people watch, but Apple's entire brand is privacy. What usage data will Samsung see from the iTunes app?
Samsung smart TVs run Tizen, Samsung's wacky custom operating system. Is Apple building a Tizen iTunes app? Is there a Tizen team inside Apple? Or is Samsung building this app? Who will be in charge of updating it and fixing bugs? Smart TV apps are not known for being updated well or very often.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department
Google Drive has a pretty bad spam problem, and it seems Google doesn't care. Spammers can share files that automatically appear in your Drive, and there's no way to stop it. From a report: Google Drive's sharing system is the problem. Since it doesn't offer any sharing acceptance, all files and folders shared with your account are automatically available to you in Drive -- they just show up. To make matters worse, if you only have "View" permission, you can't remove yourself from the share. It's a mess. And to make matters even worse, this is far from a new problem, but Google still hasn't done anything to fix it.
Google got back to us with a statement saying that changes are coming to Drive's sharing features and they're"making it a priority." Here's the statement in full: "For the vast majority of users, the default sharing permissions in Drive work as intended. Unfortunately, this was not the case for this user and we sincerely apologize for her experience. In light of this issue, we are evaluating changes to our spam, abuse, and blocking features that will prevent this kind of activity from taking place on Drive. In the interim, users who are experiencing similar issues can remove themselves from the folder, and the folder should not reappear in either 'My Drive' or 'Shared with Me' unless they revisit it."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: AMD's early CES 2019 announcements brought us some updates on its laptop processors, which include a targeted attempt to capture some of the growing cheap Chromebook market, slightly faster mobile Ryzens and a promise to keep everyone's AMD laptop drivers up to date with the latest zero-day game-release optimizations. Sadly, the news didn't include the much-anticipated, high-performance 7-nanometer Navi GPUs or the rumored Ryzen 3000-series desktop CPUs -- hopefully, the company's just holding back that info for its CEO's keynote on Wednesday.
For the first time, AMD has gained a little bit of traction in Chromebooks with some partner announcements at CES such as the HP Chromebook 14 AMD and the Acer Chromebook 315. The announcements are in conjunction with the new A4-9120C and its sibling, the A6-9220C, which have slower CPU and GPU clock speeds than the 15-watt full-fat versions. That allows AMD to match the 6-watt target power draw of Intel's competing Celeron and Pentium models. AMD claims somewhat better performance on both Chrome OS and Android apps, which is possible given that their clock speeds are still faster despite the drop. Further reading: AMD at CES 2019: Ryzen Mobile 3000-Series Launched, 2nd Gen Mobile at 15W and 35W, and Chromebooks.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's next-billion-users department
Growing smartphone and internet penetration across many African countries saw global streaming companies make a deeper play for audiences here this year. From a report: Netflix signaled its interest in Africa by hiring a content producer for the region and took on the MultiChoice, the continental satellite TV giant owned by Naspers, Africa's most valuable company. The Los Gatos, California company spooked MultiChoice with everything from trolling online ads to billboards placed conspicuously close to their Johannesburg headquarters. MultiChoice has clearly taken notice and has called for Netflix to be regulated. No African regulator has shown the appetite to rein Netflix in, though. Indeed, Netflix has bolstered its library of African content with a first original movie from Nigeria's Nollywood movie industry and committed to producing its first original African series.
[...] Altogether, there's clearly a growing market as content consumption habits evolve among Africa's youth -- a majority of the continent's population. For example, Nigerians are already consuming more video on mobile devices than on television. Platforms like Tv2Go, which launched in South Africa in November, are experimenting with free mobile platforms, but may find that increasingly discerning streaming audiences need binge-worthy content to attract them.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Spending time looking at screens is not intrinsically bad for children's health, say the UK's leading children's doctors, who are advising parents to focus on ensuring their children get enough sleep, exercise and family interaction rather than clamping down on phones and laptops. From a report: The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has produced the first guidance for parents on how long children should spend on their laptops and phones, which throws the ball firmly back into the parents' court. Each family should decide what is best for its own members -- although all children would benefit from switching off the screen an hour before they go to bed to help them sleep. The college says the focus for parents should be on what the family is doing together, saying screen time is not an issue if parents have control over other aspects of their children's lives. The guidance appears to run counter to the thinking of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, a father of three young children, who has asked England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to draw up some rules on the use of social media.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lowering-the-boom department
The "Ocean Cleanup" project deployed a 2,000-foot floating debris trap in September near a drifting plastic patch in the Pacific Ocean that's twice as big as Texas. It broke.
An anonymous reader quotes NPR:
Invented by Boyan Slat when he was just 17, the barrier has so far done some of what it was designed to accomplish. It travels with wind and wave propulsion, like a U-shaped Pac-Man hungry for plastic. It orients itself in the wind and it catches and concentrates plastic, sort of. But as Slat, now 24, recently discovered with the beta tester for his design, plastic occasionally drifts out of its U-shaped funnel. The other issue with the beta tester, called System 001, is that last week, a 60-feet-long end section broke off.
The first issue, Slat said, was likely due to the device's speed. In a September interview with NPR, he said the device averages about four inches per second, which his team has now concluded is too slow. The break in the barrier was due to an issue with the material used to build it. "In principle, I think we are relatively close to getting it working," Slat said in an interview Saturday with NPR's Michel Martin. "It's just that sometimes the plastic is also escaping again. Likely what we have to do is we have to speed up the system so that it constantly moves faster than the plastic." For the material failure, Slat said his team will probably try to locally reinforce the system to combat the problem of material fatigue.
Slat's U-shaped plastic trap is now being towed the 800 miles back to Hawaii for repairs.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blame-for-bugs department
Why is Grindr being sued by Matthew Herrick, an aspiring actor working in a restaurant in New York? "His former partner created fake profiles on the app to impersonate Herrick and then direct men to show up at Herrick's home and the restaurant where he worked asking for sex, sometimes more than a dozen times per day."
But 14 police reports later, Herrick's lawsuit is now arguing that all tech companies should face greater accountability for what happens on their platforms, reports NBC News:
His lawsuit alleges that the software developers who write code for Grindr have been negligent, producing an app that's defective in its design and that is "fundamentally unsafe" and "unreasonably dangerous" -- echoing language that's more typically used in lawsuits about, say, a faulty kitchen appliance or a defective car part. If successful, the lawsuit could bring about a significant legal change to the risks tech companies face for what happens on their platforms, adding to growing public and political pressure for change. "This is a case about a company abdicating responsibility for a dangerous product it released into the stream of commerce," his lawsuit argues, adding: "Grindr's inaction enables the weaponization of its products and services...."
In court, Grindr is relying on the more sweeping defense allowed by the 1996 law known as the Communications Decency Act. The act's Section 230 has been interpreted by courts to immunize internet services from liability for content posted online by third parties -- whether ex-boyfriends or otherwise. That immunity, though, is subject to a raging debate about whether social media companies and other tech firms should be so free to introduce products without much forethought about the hazards they could create.... Herrick's case has drawn interest from the tech industry, its supporters and its critics who see his lawsuit as a test for a possible new legal theory for holding tech firms to account.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Ars-me-mateys department
The editors of Ars Technica have announced their annual "Deathwatch" list, identifying "companies, tech, and trends least likely to succeed in 2019." An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The past year has been an absolute freefall for Essential.... The market was ultimately not impressed with the Essential phone, and the fire sales started almost immediately. Only two months after launch, the phone got a permanent $200 price drop, to $499. November saw deals as low as $399. Eventually, the $700 phone was discounted all the way down to $224, thanks to a mix of poor sales and a lack of consumer confidence in the company. A poorly selling phone was one thing, but things really started to look bad for Essential in May, when it was announced the company had cancelled the second generation Essential Phone. The first device took such a toll on the company that it was considering selling itself, and suddenly the future of Essential was in doubt.
While the phone was dead, in May the company said it was focusing on an upcoming smart home product and operating system. But by October, it announced that it was cutting 30 percent of its staff, and the company was pivoting away from smart home products and would try building a phone again. It will re-sell you a missing headphone jack, though. Essential's next phone -- if the company lasts that long -- is supposedly "an AI Phone That Texts People for You" according to Bloomberg. That sounds awful. On top of all that, Essential's CEO and founder Rubin has been the subject of a major sexual misconduct controversy at Google.
They also write that 2019 "is going to probably determine whether Facebook's management team will continue as it is -- or whether there's a stockholder rebellion, or a government lawsuit, or some combination of both that drives CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others out."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's car-wars department
An anonymous reader quotes Electrek:
In what is quickly becoming a problem for some Tesla drivers, pickup truck drivers have again taken over a Supercharger station and yelled profanities in what appears to be an act of protest against Tesla. Earlier this month, we reported on a strange situation at Tesla's Hickory Supercharger in North Carolina where three large pickup trucks blocked access to the station and reportedly chanted "F*** Tesla"....
Now it looks like it's becoming a trend since another Reddit user spotted pickup truck drivers taking over another Tesla Supercharger. They reportedly were also yelling profanities to Tesla owners coming to charge at the Supercharger station.
Electrek also cites one Tesla owner's reports of being "coal rolled" -- intentionally targetted with extra black exhaust fumes from specially-modified engines.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's peak-AI department
johnnyb (Slashdot reader #4,816) writes:
Kurzweil's conception of "The Singularity" has been at the forefront of the media conception of artificial intelligence for many years now. But how close is that to reality? Will AI's be able to design ever-more-powerful AIs? Eric Holloway suggests that the power of AI has been fueled by Moore's law more than AI technology itself, and therefore hitting Moore's Wall will bring AI expansion to a fast halt.
Holloway calls that halt "peak AI...the point where a return on the investment in AI improvement is not worthwhile." He argues that humanity will reach that point, "perhaps soon...."
"So, returning to our original question, whether there is a path to Kurzweil's Singularity, we must conclude from our analysis that no such path exists and that unlimited self-improving AI is impossible."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's meals-on-wheels department
"General Motors is partnering with DoorDash to enable on-demand food deliveries via driverless cars," reports VentureBeat.
An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The duo announced that a pilot delivery program will kick off in San Francisco in "early 2019," and will involve both meals from restaurants and groceries.... Back in 2016, GM splashed out more than $1 billion to buy Cruise Automation, a startup that developed an autopilot system for existing cars. In the intervening months, the company has been doubling down on its autonomous car efforts, last year announcing a driverless car with no steering wheel or pedals, with plans to launch the vehicle sometime in 2019. Elsewhere, GM also revealed that it is investing $100 million into facilities for building self-driving cars, while Honda recently put $2 billion into GM's Cruise for a 5.7 percent stake....
GM and DoorDash haven't revealed the full extent of the pilot or what the next stage will be, but it did say that "select merchants" that are already using DoorDash in the San Francisco area are on board. The underlying purpose, it said, is to "test and improve" the efficiency of autonomous deliveries in the area. "We see autonomous vehicles playing a major role in the future of delivery as consumer behaviors continue to shift online, and we are confident Cruise's leading technology will help us scale to meet growing consumer demand," noted DoorDash CEO Tony Xu.Read Replies (0)