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Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
An anonymous reader writes: A researcher at a high-profile Washington, D.C.-think tank, which receives funding from Google, was pushed out after criticizing the company. In June, Barry Lynn, who was a scholar at New America, posted a statement praising the European Union's record $2.7 billion fine against the company. Lynn ran a team, Open Markets, that researched competition policy and was increasingly critical of giants like Google and Amazon. Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt, criticized Lynn's statement to the think tank's CEO, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to The New York Times. Schmidt chaired New America until 2016. The think tank has received $21 million from Google and Schmidt's family's foundation since its founding in 1999. The statement reportedly disappeared from the think tank website but returned hours later. According to the Times, word of Schmidt's displeasure spread across the think tank. Slaughter fired Lynn days later, saying in an email obtained by the Times that "the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways." Slaughter told Lynn in an email that his firing was "in no way based on the content of your work," but said he was "imperiling the institution as a whole." Lynn told the Times he believed his dismissal was because he criticized Google.

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What We Get Wrong About Technology
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's think-about-it department:
Tim Harford, a columnist for the Financial Times, uses the example of Rachael and Rick Deckard from Blade Runner to explain how we humans, when asked about how new inventions might shape the future, often tend to leap to technologies that are sophisticated beyond comprehension. Also spoiler of the Blade Runner plot is ahead. He writes: So sophisticated is Rachael that she is impossible to distinguish from a human without specialised equipment; she even believes herself to be human. Los Angeles police detective Rick Deckard knows otherwise; in Rachael, Deckard is faced with an artificial intelligence so beguiling, he finds himself falling in love. Yet when he wants to invite Rachael out for a drink, what does he do? He calls her up from a payphone. There is something revealing about the contrast between the two technologies -- the biotech miracle that is Rachael, and the graffiti-scrawled videophone that Deckard uses to talk to her. It's not simply that Blade Runner fumbled its futurism by failing to anticipate the smartphone. That's a forgivable slip, and Blade Runner is hardly the only film to make it. It's that, when asked to think about how new inventions might shape the future, our imaginations tend to leap to technologies that are sophisticated beyond comprehension. We readily imagine cracking the secrets of artificial life, and downloading and uploading a human mind. Yet when asked to picture how everyday life might look in a society sophisticated enough to build such biological androids, our imaginations falter. Blade Runner audiences found it perfectly plausible that LA would look much the same, beyond the acquisition of some hovercars and a touch of noir.

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Facebook To Open New Office in Kendall Square, Adding Hundreds of Jobs
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department:
Facebook has a status update: The social network will open a new office in Cambridge next year and plans to hire more than 500 employees, bringing the Boston-based staff to 650. From a report: The company, which founder Mark Zuckerberg launched at Harvard before decamping for the West Coast, established its first Boston-based team nearly four years ago with a small group of employees sharing a workspace. Today, that team has grown to more than 100 people in a Kendall Square office, and space is getting tight, said Ryan Mack, who leads the Facebook Boston office. "We serve 2 billion people on Facebook," he said, "and we need to continue to scale." The new offices will occupy the top three floors of 100 Binney St., a new building designed by Elkus Manfredi that is scheduled to open early next year. Facebook will share the space with 300 Bristol-Myers Squibb employees.

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APFS Is Not Optional
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's of-course department:
From a new Apple knowledge base article: When you upgrade to macOS High Sierra, systems with all flash storage configurations are converted automatically. Systems with hard disk drives (HDD) and Fusion drives won't be converted to APFS. You can't opt-out of the transition to APFS.

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Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana Are Going To Work Together
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 06:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-together department:
Amazon and Microsoft announced on Wednesday that they've been working on a partnership to allow their respective voice assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to speak to one another. From a report: Starting later this year, owners of Amazon Echos and other Alexa-powered devices will be able to say: "Alexa, open Cortana" to start querying Microsoft's voice assistant. Owners of devices running Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system will be able to summon Alexa via Cortana in a similar manner. Why would customers want that -- especially with the relatively clunky nature of the necessary voice command? The companies say that each voice assistant has its strengths -- features like Microsoft Outlook and Exchange email integration for Cortana and smart-home controls or shopping for Alexa -- and that customers of both companies would benefit from an integration. It's not clear if the two assistants will share voice data in an effort to make each digital assistant smarter. But there is the hope that someday these artificial agents are intelligent enough to route requests to the best virtual assistant for the task without a specific "Alexa" or "Cortana" command.

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Large-Scale Dietary Study: Fats Good, Carbs Bad
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 06:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's food-for-thought department:
An anonymous reader quotes CBS:
New research suggests that it's not the fat in your diet that's raising your risk of premature death, it's too many carbohydrates -- especially the refined, processed kinds of carbs -- that may be the real killer... People with a high fat intake -- about 35 percent of their daily diet -- had a 23 percent lower risk of early death and 18 percent lower risk of stroke compared to people who ate less fat, said lead author Mahshid Dehghan. She's an investigator with the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario... At the same time, high-carb diets -- containing an average 77 percent carbohydrates -- were associated with a 28 percent increased risk of death versus low-carb diets, Dehghan said...
For this study, Dehghan and her colleagues tracked the diet and health of more than 135,000 people, aged 35 to 70, from 18 countries around the world, to gain a global perspective on the health effects of diet. Participants provided detailed information on their social and economic status, lifestyle, medical history and current health. They also completed a questionnaire on their regular diet, which researchers used to calculate their average daily calories from fats, carbohydrates and proteins. The research team then tracked the participants' health for about seven years on average, with follow-up visits at least every three years.

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Dealership Remotely Disables A Car Over A $200 Fee
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 02:10 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mobile-payments department:
An anonymous reader quotes the CBC:
A car dealership in Sherbrooke, Quebec, may have broken the law when it used a GPS device to disable the car of a client who was refusing to pay an extra $200 fee, say consumer advocates consulted by CBC News. Bury, Quebec resident Daniel Lallier signed a four-year lease for a Kia Forte LX back in May from Kia Sherbrooke. Two months later, the 20-year-old's grandmother offered to buy the car outright when he lost his job and couldn't make his weekly payments. After settling the balance and paying a $300 penalty, Lallier said, the dealership told him he would have to pay an additional $200 to remove a GPS tracker that had been installed on the car...
Lallier said there was no mention of the removal fee in the contract and he disputed having to pay it."I just find it absurd that over $13,000 was spent on this vehicle and we still have to pay $200 more to have their device removed," he told CBC. After Lallier refused to pay the fee, a mechanic notified him by text message that his car was being remotely disabled until the dealership recovered the device and $200 fee. "I went outside and tested my car, and it wouldn't work at all...and I got angry," Lallier said.
Lallier had finally started a new job and was headed to work, according to the CBC. The president of the Automobile Protection Association says the dealership's action was clearly illegal, since once the balance is paid off, "it's not your car anymore."

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South Korea Moves Towards The World's First 'Robot Tax'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 11:30 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's assessments-on-automation department:
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
It's being called the world's first robot tax. If it goes into effect, South Korea will be the first country to change its tax laws in recognition of the coming burden of mass robotic automation on low and middle-skill workers. The change proposed by the Moon Jae-in administration isn't a direct tax on robots. Rather, policymakers have proposed limiting tax incentives on investments in automation... Under existing law, South Korean companies that buy automation equipment, such as warehouse and factory robots, can deduct between three and seven percent of their investment. The current proposal, which seems likely to advance, is to reduce the deduction rate by up to two percentage points.
The move is evidently not an attempt to staunch companies from adopting automation technology. Rather, it is a kind of formal acknowledgment that unemployment is coming on a big enough scale to eat into South Korea's tax revenue. Policymakers are hoping that reducing the deduction incentives by a couple percentage points will offset the lost income tax and help keep the country's social services and welfare coffers filled.
The Korea Times, which broke the story, reminds readers that former U.S. treasury secretary Lawrence Summers has called robot taxes "profoundly misguided... A sufficiently high tax on robots would prevent them from being produced."

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Is Slashdot Blocked In Parts Of India?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 08:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's jungle-block department:
Long-time Slashdot reader davesag writes:
I'm a regular long-term Slashdot reader and have been living in Delhi for the last 9 months. As of last Friday 25th August the only way I can access Slashdot at all is via a VPN. It appears that Slashdot has joined the growing list of websites the Indian Government finds threatening.

The Indian Government is deeply paranoid over internet access, with many sites being blocked, jail sentences for viewing blocked URLs, and bans on open wifi networks.

In 2015 the Indian government blocked access to over 800 adult web sites, and earlier this month they reportedly blocked access to Archive.org.

"A block on Slashdot is over the top," davesag writes, "and makes me wonder what it is about this news site that the government here finds so terrifying."

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Domino's Market Tests A Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Car
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 07:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-more-tipping department:
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Someday soon your Domino's Pizza could be delivered to you -- without an actual delivery person. Ford and Domino's are testing out a specially-equipped Ford Fusion that comes not only with self-driving technology but also an oven. It sounds cool but there is a catch -- there's no one to walk the pizza to your front door and ring the bell. That's what Ford and Domino's say they're really testing. "How will customers react to coming outside to get their food?" Domino's president Russell Weiner said in a statement, "We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple."

During the testing phase, an engineer and a driver will be in the car -- but the windows will be heavily tinted so customers can't see them. And both have been instructed not to interact with people at all. Domino's wants to see how well customers deal with coming out and getting their own pie from what is, basically, a pizza ATM built into the car. To get their pizzas, customers will have to enter a number on the touchpad, then a back window will lower, revealing the pizza. Over the next five weeks, randomly selected customers around Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be offered the option of getting their pizza delivered by the hi-tech "driverless" car.

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Massive New Spambot Ensnares 711,000,000 Email Addresses
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 06:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's don't-reply-to-all department:
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
A huge spambot ensnaring 711 million email accounts has been uncovered. A Paris-based security researcher, who goes by the pseudonymous handle Benkow, discovered an open and accessible web server hosted in the Netherlands, which stores dozens of text files containing a huge batch of email addresses, passwords, and email servers used to send spam. Those credentials are crucial for the spammer's large-scale malware operation to bypass spam filters by sending email through legitimate email servers.
The spambot, dubbed "Onliner," is used to deliver the Ursnif banking malware into inboxes all over the world. To date, it's resulted in more than 100,000 unique infections across the world, Benkow told ZDNet. Troy Hunt, who runs breach notification site Have I Been Pwned, said it was a "mind-boggling amount of data." Hunt, who analyzed the data and details his findings in a blog post, called it the "largest" batch of data to enter the breach notification site in its history... Those credentials, he explained, have been scraped and collated from other data breaches, such as the LinkedIn hack and the Badoo hack, as well also other unknown sources.

The data includes information on 80 million email servers, and it's all used to identify which recipients have Windows computers, so they can be targeted in follow-up emails delivering Windows-specific malware.

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Researchers Find a Way To Disable Intel ME Component Courtesy of the NSA
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 06:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's inside-Intel department:
An anonymous reader writes:Researchers from Positive Technologies -- a provider of enterprise security solutions -- have found a way to disable the Intel Management Engine (ME), a much-hated component of Intel CPUs that many have called a secret backdoor, even if Intel advertised it as a "remote PC management" solution. People have been trying for years to find a way to disable the Intel ME component, but have failed all this time. This is because disabling Intel ME crashes computers, as Intel ME is responsible for the initialization, power management, and launch of the main Intel processor.

Positive Technologies experts revealed they discovered a hidden bit inside the firmware code, which when flipped (set to "1") will disable ME after ME has done its job and booted up the main processor. The bit is labelled "reserve_hap" and a nearby comment describes it as "High Assurance Platform (HAP) enable." High Assurance Platform (HAP) is an NSA program that describes a series of rules for running secure computing platforms. Researchers believe Intel has added the ME-disabling bit at the behest of the NSA, who needed a method of disabling ME as a security measure for computers running in highly sensitive environments.
The original submission linked to a comment with more resources on the "Intel CPU backdoor" controversy.

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The IRS Decides Who To Audit By Data Mining Social Media
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 04:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's peekaboo department:
In America the Internal Revenue Service used to pick who got audited based on math mistakes or discrepancies with W-2 forms -- but not any more. schwit1 shares an article from the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law describing their new technique:
The IRS is now engaging in data mining of public and commercial data pools (including social media) and creating highly detailed profiles of taxpayers upon which to run data analytics. This article argues that current IRS practices, mostly unknown to the general public, are violating fair information practices. This lack of transparency and accountability not only violates federal law regarding the government's data collection activities and use of predictive algorithms, but may also result in discrimination. While the potential efficiencies that big data analytics provides may appear to be a panacea for the IRS's budget woes, unchecked these activities are a significant threat to privacy [PDF]. Other concerns regarding the IRS's entrée into big data are raised including the potential for political targeting, data breaches, and the misuse of such information. While tax evasion cost the U.S.$3 trillion between 2000 and 2009, one of the report's authors argues that people should be aware âoethat what they say and do onlineâ could be used against them.

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Japan Activated Air Raid Sirens During North Korea's Missile Test Monday
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 03:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's missiles-of-August department:
"No country should have missiles flying over them like those 130 million people in Japan," the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said Monday. Though it was only a test, the scene on-the-ground is described by Slashdot reader AppleHoshi:
Our phones went crazy on receipt of an automated alert from the "J-Alert" system. Shortly afterwards, loudspeakers broadcast another alert (there are loudspeakers everywhere in Japan, to warn of earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons). As normal with any disaster situation in Japan, all of the available television channels immediately switched over to full-coverage mode, with a repetition of what the situation was ("There's a missile heading in the direction of north-central Japan") followed by basic instructions of what to do ("If it comes down in your area, try to extinguish any fires and immediately inform your local police and fire departments").

Shortly before twenty past six we got the news that the missile had over-flown northern Japan and landed in the Pacific, about 1,000 km [621 miles] from the coast of Hokkaido. The "all-clear" was broadcast over the local speakers a short while later. Strange as it may seem, this all had an air of normality about it. Japan gets more than it's fair share of natural disasters, so anyone living here gets plenty of exposure to this same routine. (It's just that the reason is usually an earthquake, typhoon or tsunami, rather than a megalomaniac).

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NASA's Plan To Stop A Supervolcano from Destroying The Earth's Climate
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 03:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-on-lava department:
Long-time walterbyrd shared a new article about NASA's contingency plan for "vast quantities of searing magma and clouds of fumes" erupting from a Wyoming supervolcano and slowly "burying much of the United States under a thick coat of ash and lava...enough to change the climate of the world for several centuries."
NASA believes the Yellowstone supervolcano is a greater threat to life on Earth than any asteroid. So it's come up with a plan to defuse its explosive potential... NASA scientists propose, a 10km [6.2 miles] deep hole into the hydrothermal water below and to the sides of the magma chamber. These fluids, which form Yellowstone's famous heat pools and geysers, already drain some 60-70 per cent of the heat from the magma chamber below. NASA proposes that, in an emergency, this enormous body of heated water can be injected with cooler water, extracting yet more heat. This could prevent the super volcano's magma from reaching the temperature at which it would erupt.
A member of NASA's Advisory Council on Planetary Defense told the BBC he'd concluded "the super volcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat."

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One Day Left To Comment on the FCC's Plan To Kill Net Neutrality
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 02:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speaking-up department:
An anonymous reader quote The Verge: After four months of debate, the FCC is nearly ready to stop accepting feedback on its proposal to kill net neutrality. Final comments are due this Wednesday, August 30th, by end-of-day Eastern time. Once the comment period closes, the FCC will review the feedback it received and use it as guidance to revise its proposal, which if passed, would reverse the Title II classification that guaranteed net neutrality just two years ago. The commission is supposed to factor in all of the feedback it received when writing its final draft, so if you do have strong feelings on the matter, it's worth leaving a comment...

To leave a comment, you'll have to go to this site, click "+ Express," and then fill out the form it opens up to. Make sure you leave the proceeding number "17-108" in place, as that's what ties it to the net neutrality proposal. Also, be aware that everything filed is public, so others will be able to see your name and address.
"ISPs shouldn't be gatekeepers," wrote the EFF in a tweet sharing tips on the way to write effective comments. The number of comments matter because "the commission will very likely have to defend its changes in court," according to the article. And the commission has now received a record 22 million filings -- nearly six times the previous record of 3.7 million comments (when the net neutrality rules were first implemented).

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Rural America Is Building Its Own Internet Because No One Else Will
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 02:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's diy department:
New submitter bumblebaetuna writes: In many cases, it's not financially viable for big internet service providers like Comcast and CharterSpectrum to expand into rural communities: They're not densely populated, and running fiber optic cable into rocky Appalachian soil isn't cheap. Even with federal grants designed to make these expansions more affordable, there are hundreds of communities across the US that are essentially internet deserts -- so many are building it themselves. But in true heartland, bootstrap fashion, these towns, hollows -- small rural communities located in the valleys between Appalachia hills -- and stretches of farmland have banded together to bring internet to their doors. They cobble together innovative and creative solutions to get around the financial, technological, and topological barriers to widespread internet.

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Bitcoin Foundation Boss Urges Cautious Investment
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's beware department:
The head of the Bitcoin Foundation, Llew Claasen, has urged people to invest "no more than they can afford" in the crypto-currency. From a report: He was speaking at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania about the potential for Bitcoin in Africa. Billions lack access to formal banking, but the uptake of mobile money means many are willing to embrace alternatives. Bitcoin had been adopted in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, he said. The digital currency had particular resonance in countries with volatile economies, he said. "It offers people a chance to protect their savings from government abuse of monetary policy. A lot of people in Zimbabwe are interested in it as an alternative financial system, but that is not an easy thing to do formally as we don't want to be perceived as wanting to disrupt economies," he told the BBC. The Washington-based Bitcoin Foundation is a non-profit organisation that promotes the use of Bitcoin around the world.

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Google To Comply With EU Search Demands To Avoid More Fines
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fire-control department:
Google will comply with Europe's demands to change the way it runs its shopping search service, a rare instance of the internet giant bowing to regulatory pressure to avoid more fines. From a report: The Alphabet unit faced a Tuesday deadline to tell the European Union how it planned to follow an order to stop discriminating against rival shopping search services in the region. A Google spokeswoman said it is sharing that plan with regulators before the deadline expires, but declined to comment further. The EU fined Google a record 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in late June for breaking antitrust rules by skewing its general search results to unfairly favor its own shopping service over rival sites. The company had 60 days to propose how it would "stop its illegal content" and 90 days to make changes to how the company displays shopping results when users search for a product. Those changes need to be put in place by Sept. 28 to stave off a risk that the EU could fine the company 5 percent of daily revenue for each day it fails to comply. "The obligation to comply is fully Google's responsibility," the European Commission said in an emailed statement, without elaborating on what the company must do to comply.

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In Our Cynical Age, No One Fails Anymore -- Everybody 'Pivots'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's where-we-are department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The "pivot" has assumed a peculiar place in our common lexicon. A word once used to describe a guard angling for position on the basketball court is now in wide circulation in politics and business. That's especially the case in Silicon Valley, where pivoting has become the new failure, a concept to describe a haphazard, practically madcap form of iterative development. With its sheen of management-speak, pivoting is well suited to our moment. And like any act of public relations, pivoting is also a performance. A key part of the act is acknowledging that you are doing it while trying to recast the effort as something larger, more sophisticated, highly planned. The pivot, though it arises from desperation, is nevertheless supposed to appear methodical. The word seems to have first gained currency in Silicon Valley through the efforts of Eric Ries, author of "The Lean Startup." Ries defines pivoting as "a change in strategy without a change in vision." Many successful start-ups now claim a pivot as their origin story. Slack began its life as a video-game company before realizing that its actual value might lie in a chat app the company used to communicate internally. The company is now considered to be worth at least $5 billion, putting it among the most successful pivoters of all time. (Other web staples -- YouTube, Groupon, Instagram -- began life in vastly different iterations before pivoting into their current forms.) There's a promise of technocratic efficiency with pivoting, that all you require is a good business plan, and perhaps another injection of venture capital, and you can transform yourself overnight.

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