By EditorDavid from Slashdot's barristers-vs-bloatware department
Leonovo will add $7.3 million into a $1M fund settling a class action lawsuit over their undisclosed pre-installation of Superfish's targeting adware on 28 different laptop models in 2014.
Within one year the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had warned that the adware made laptops vulnerable to SSL spoofing, allowing the reading of encrypted web traffic and the redirecting of traffic from official websites to spoofs, while according to Bloomberg the original software itself also "could access customer Social Security numbers, financial data, and sensitive heath information, the court said." An anonymous reader quotes Softpedia:
According to a "SuperFish Vulnerability" advisory published by Lenovo on their support website following the discovery of the pre-installed software by consumers, the VisualDiscovery comparison search engine software was designed to work in the background, intercepting HTTP(S) traffic with the help of a self-signed root certificate that allowed it to decrypt and monitor all traffic, encrypted or not.... "VisualDiscovery was installed on nearly 800,000 Lenovo laptops sold in the United States between September 1, 2014 and February 28, 2015," also states the settlement agreement. "On January 18, 2015, in response to mounting complaints about the effects of VisualDiscovery, Lenovo instructed Superfish to turn it off at the server level...."
Out of the 800,000 who bought the laptops that came with VisualDiscovery pre-installed, the 500,000 ones who registered their devices with Lenovo or bought them from retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon will be contacted directly by the Chinese company and informed about the settlement agreement. The rest of the customers who cannot be reached straightaway will be targeted by Lenovo using multiple online advertising platforms, from Google to Twitter and Facebook.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's little-bang-theory department
Chris Reeve writes: Wired Magazine is reporting that astronomers have since 2014 witnessed up to 100 possible instances of quasars transforming into galaxies over very short timespans, but the article leaves no hint of the trouble this spells for the Big Bang cosmology. The article begins, "Stephanie Lamassa did a double take. She was staring at two images on her computer screen, both of the same object — except they looked nothing alike... The quasar seemed to have vanished, leaving just another galaxy. That had to be impossible, she thought. Although quasars turn off, transitioning into mere galaxies, the process should take 10,000 years or more. This quasar appeared to have shut down in less than 10 years — a cosmic eyeblink."
What the Wired article fails to mention is that the short timespans vindicate the quasar ejection model proposed by Edwin Hubble's assistant, Halton Arp, who insisted that these objects must be considerably closer than the extreme distances inferred by their redshifts:
"The conclusion was very, very strong just from looking at this picture that these objects had been ejected from the central galaxy, and that they were initially at high redshift, and the redshift decayed as time went on. And therefore, we were looking at a physics that was operating in the universe in which matter was born with low mass and very high redshift, and it matured and evolved into our present form, that we were seeing the birth and evolution of galaxies in the universe."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's RISC-y-business department
"The Linux Foundation and RISC-V Foundation announced yesterday a joint collaboration project to promote open source development and commercial adoption of the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA)," reports TechRepublic:
Though some devices that integrate RISC-V will use real-time operating systems rather than Linux, the use of Linux in development will be instrumental as existing tools are being extended to support the RISC-V ISA when developing software on traditional computers. "This joint collaboration with the Linux Foundation will enable the RISC-V Foundation to offer more robust support and educational tools for the active RISC-V community, and enable operating systems, hardware implementations and development tools to scale faster," said Rick O'Connor, executive director of the RISC-V Foundation, in a press release.
In many ways, RISC-V is a hardware equivalent to the open source principles that guide the Linux project, as the ISA is open source, is not subject to patent encumbrances, and is available under the BSD license. [L]icensing fees for Arm or MIPS ISAs -- both of which are fundamentally RISC in principle -- can be avoided by using RISC-V.... As alternatives like Alpha, SuperH, MIPS, and even Intel's own Itanium processors have fallen by the wayside, organizations using those ISAs in their products have had difficult adjustment periods transitioning away, while patent encumbrances largely prevent third parties from continuing development or providing drop-in replacements for those technologies. RISC-V's open nature prevents these issues, as it is possible for any organization to extend or customize their own implementation, and any organization can produce their own RISC-V processors.
Manufacturers like how RISC-V CPUs aren't restricted to a single manufacturer, according to the article, which points out that NVIDIA and Western Digital have both announced plans to use RISC-V in some upcoming products.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's yours-and-miners department
"Bitcoin miners hit hard by the cryptocurrency's crash may be throwing in the towel," reports Bloomberg:
The Bitcoin network's hash rate, one way of gauging the computing power dedicated to mining the digital currency, dropped about 24 percent from an all-time high at the end of August through Nov. 24, according to Blockchain.com. While the decline may have partially resulted from miners switching to other cryptocurrencies, JPMorgan Chase & Co. says some in the industry are losing money after Bitcoin's price tumbled. "This suggests that prices have declined to a point where mining is becoming uneconomical for some," JPMorgan strategists led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou wrote in a Nov. 23 report, in reference to the falling hash rate...
The break-even cost to mine a single Bitcoin using Bitmain's Antminer S9 rig was estimated at $7,000 in a Nov. 16 report by Fundstrat Global Advisors, though the level is probably lower for some miners with access to cheap electricity and equipment... A big miner shakeout could be bad news for chipmakers including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Nvidia Corp. who supply the industry, along with mining-rig designers like Bitmain Technologies Ltd. that are pursuing initial public offerings.
The price of bitcoin dropped 37.4% just in the month of November -- its worst monthly decline in seven years, since August 2011 when it fell from roughly $8 to $4.80. And the decline in bitcoin also dragged down 24 of the top 25 largest cryptocurrencies, reports CoinDesk. "What's more, the average performance of the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization was -30 percent, while the average performance of all 25 was -37 percent..."
"The total capitalization of the cryptocurrency market has now lost over $690 billion and 83 percent of its value since reaching its all time high north of $820 billion this past January, according to CoinMarketCap."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's that's-a-lot-of-photons department
Astronomers have measured all the light from all the stars that have ever existed. "In total, the astronomers estimate, stars have radiated 4x1084 photons (a photon being the smallest unit of light)," reports The Guardian. "Or put another way: 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 photons." From the report: The astronomers based their calculation on measurements of the extragalactic background light (EBL), a cosmic fog of radiation that has been accumulating since stars first illuminated the dark, vast expanse of space. More than 90% of starlight ends up surviving in this dim backdrop of radiation. The latest observations, collected over nine years by Nasa's Fermi space telescope, use the light from blazars -- super-massive black holes that emit powerful jets of gamma rays -- as beacons to illuminate the cosmic fog.
In total, the team captured signals from 739 blazars -- some relatively close and some extremely distant, whose light was emitted in the ancient universe and has taken billions of years to arrive at Earth. Gamma-ray photons travelling through a fog of starlight have a high chance of being absorbed. So by taking blazars at different distances from the Earth and working out how much of their radiation had been lost along the way, the total starlight at different time periods could be ascertained. The researchers used a computer model to factor in the cosmic fog, which "is simultaneously being diluted as the universe expands and space itself is stretched out," the report mentions. "The measurements suggest that star formation peaked about 11 billion years ago and has been on the wane ever since. About seven new stars are created in our Milky Way galaxy every year."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's life-saving-tech department
Researchers in the Australian state of Tasmania are using a "virtual fence" system, consisting of alarm units mounted on posts along the side of a three-mile stretch of road, to reduce the number animals that get struck and killed by cars on a particularly deadly stretch of road. "These alarm units, around 80 feet apart, emit sounds and flashing lights to warn animals when a car is approaching," reports Digital Trends. "These do not distract drivers because the sound and light are directed to the edge of the road. They are also only loud and bright enough to be noticeable to wildlife in the immediate vicinity." From the report: "The virtual fence technology involves small devices, approximately the size of a mobile phone, mounted on a pole on the side of the road which are triggered by car headlights when they hit a sensor in the device," Samantha Fox, the researcher who led the project, told Digital Trends. "This sets off blue and yellow flashing lights and a high pitched siren. These together warn local wildlife that a car is coming, and give the animal time to move away from the road." Over the course of a three-year trial, the technology has reduced roadkill on one particular road by a massive 50 percent. On this stretch of road alone, this has meant saving the lives of around 200 animals, ranging from wombats to possums.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-in-peace department
George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, has passed away tonight at the age of 94. As The Washington Post reports, he was "the last veteran of World War II to serve as president, he was a consummate public servant and a statesman who helped guide the nation and the world out of a four-decade Cold War that had carried the threat of nuclear annihilation." From the report: Although Mr. Bush served as president three decades ago, his values and ethic seem centuries removed from today's acrid political culture. His currency of personal connection was the handwritten letter -- not the social media blast. He had a competitive nature and considerable ambition that were not easy to discern under the sheen of his New England politesse and his earnest generosity. He was capable of running hard-edge political campaigns, and took the nation to war. But his principal achievements were produced at negotiating tables.
Despite his grace, Mr. Bush was an easy subject for caricature. He was an honors graduate of Yale University who was often at a loss for words in public, especially when it came to talking about himself. Though he was tested in combat when he was barely out of adolescence, he was branded "a wimp" by those who doubted whether he had essential convictions. This paradox in the public image of Mr. Bush dogged him, as did domestic events. His lack of sure-footedness in the face of a faltering economy produced a nosedive in the soaring popularity he enjoyed after the triumph of the Persian Gulf War. In 1992, he lost his bid for a second term as president. Bush's spokesman Jim McGrath announced his death on Twitter, but didn't provide the case of death. In 2012, he announced that he had vascular Parkinsonism, which may have played a role in his passing.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's losses-and-gains department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: It's no secret that humans -- noisy, messy creatures that we are -- are vastly altering Earth's environments. But it's one thing to know this in the abstract, and another to see global changes laid out in detail, as they are in comprehensive new maps published this month in the International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. Developed by geoscientist Tomasz Stepinski and his team at the University of Cincinnati's Space Informatics Lab (SPI), the intricate visualizations reveal that 22 percent of Earth's total landmass was altered between 1992 and 2015, mostly by humans. The most common change was forest loss due to agricultural development, and the second most common was the reverse -- farms to forests. The swift urbanization of grasslands, forests, and farms was also reflected in the maps.
Stepinski and his colleagues used satellite data collected by the European Space Agency's Climate Change Initiative, which included geospatial maps of land cover designed to monitor climate change. The team broke these maps into 81-kilometer-squared tracts and created a legend of color-coded tiles based on nine broad types of transitions that occurred between 1992 and 2015 (agriculture gains in yellow, forest losses in maroon, etc). The tiles are shaded to reflect the degree of change, with the lightest shade corresponding to regions altered by less than 10 percent, and dark patches representing regions that shifted by 30 percent or more. On a broad scale, the maps emphasize the massive influence of human activity on the planet. But the project has also revealed granular details about specific locations.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's major-concessions department
According to a new report from The Associated Press, a number of China's government officials and entities have had access to the location data of "new energy vehicles" from many different manufacturers. "More than 200 manufacturers (both national and foreign) transmit the data to 'government-backed monitoring centers,' according to the report, including one called 'The Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center' and another known as the 'National Big Data Alliance of New Energy Vehicles,'" reports The Verge. From the report: Chinese officials told the AP that this data -- which includes the real-time location of cars, plus "dozens of other data points" -- is collected to "improve public safety" and "facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning." The officials say the data is also used to "prevent fraud" in the government's subsidy program for new energy vehicles, which offers steep discounts on clean cars. The monitoring systems have been in place since the beginning of 2017, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation from last year. Staffers at the data monitoring centers are able to look at a map, click on a car, and see things like make and model, mileage, and battery charge, according to the AP report.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's next-big-thing department
Airbnb is reportedly planning to distribute prototype buildings next year. Yesterday, Samara, a futures division of Airbnb meant to develop new products and services for the company, announced a new initiative called Backyard. The initiative is described in a press release as "an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes," with the first wave of test units going public in 2019. Fast Company reports: The name "Backyard" might imply that Airbnb just wants to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), those small cottages that sit behind large suburban houses and are often rented on Airbnb. [Airbnb chief product officer and cofounder Joe Gebbia] clarifies that is not the case. "The project was born in a studio near Airbnb headquarters," he says in an interview over email. "We always felt as if we were in Airbnb's backyard -- physically and conceptually -- and started referring to the project as such."
Backyard is poised to be much larger than ADUs, in Gebbia's telling. Yes, small prefabricated dwellings could be in the roadmap, but so are green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes. Think of Backyard as both a producer and a marketplace for selling major aspects of the home, in any shape it might come in. "Backyard investigates how buildings could utilize sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and gains vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time," Gebbia says. "Backyard isn't a house, it's an initiative to rethink the home. Homes are complex, and we're taking a broad approach -- not just designing one thing, but a system that can do many things."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-the-road department
According to 9to5Google, Google Hangouts for consumers will be shutting down sometime in 2020. The news shouldn't come as too much of a surprise since Google essentially stopped development on the app more than a year ago. Thankfully, there are plenty of other Google messaging apps available, such as Allo, Duo, and Android Messages. From the report: Last spring, Google announced its pivot for the Hangouts brand to enterprise use cases with Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, so the writing has been on the wall for quite some time regarding the Hangouts consumer app's demise. Meanwhile, Google has transitioned its consumer-facing messaging efforts to RCS 'Chat' and Android Messages following Allo's misadventures.
As mentioned, Hangouts as a brand will live on with G Suite's Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, the former intended to be a team communication app comparable to Slack, and the latter a video meetings platform. Meanwhile, Google Voice calling, which was at first independent and then long integrated into Hangouts, was moved back out to its own redesigned app earlier this year. Interestingly, despite its forthcoming axing, Hangouts was one of a few apps to get early support for Android Auto's new MMS and RCS functionality, alongside Android Messages and WhatsApp.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An estimated 4 billion people in the world lack a physical address. Researchers at the MIT Media Lab and Facebook are now proposing a new way to address the unaddressed: with machine learning. From a report: The team first trained a deep-learning algorithm to extract the road pixels from satellite images. Another algorithm connected the pixels together into a road network. The system analyzed the density and shape of the roads to segment the network into different communities, and the densest cluster was labeled as the city center. The regions around the city center were divided into north, south, east, and west quadrants, and streets were numbered and lettered according to their orientation and distance from the center.
When they compared their final results with a random sample of unmapped regions whose streets had been labeled manually, their approach successfully addressed more than 80% of the populated areas, improving coverage compared with Google Maps or OpenStreetMaps. This isn't the only way to automate the creation of addresses. The organization what3words generates a unique three-word combination for every 3-by-3-meter square on a global grid. The scheme has already been adopted in regions of South Africa, Turkey, and Mongolia by national package delivery services, local hospitals, and regional security teams. But Ilke Demir, a researcher at Facebook and one of the creators of the new system, says its main advantage is that it follows existing road topology and helps residents understand how two addresses relate to one another.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares an article: I don't use the phrase "Will do!" much in daily conversation, but lately it has been creeping into more and more of my e-mails. An editor asks me to get a draft back to her tomorrow? Will do! A friend heading back to Los Angeles from New York sends me a quick note telling me to enjoy living in the "best city in the world." Will do! The hosts of a panel I'm moderating need me to send over a three-line bio? Will do! "Will do!" is just one of many Smart Replies that Google now provides as a default feature in Gmail, there to assist you in your message composition unless you choose to manually turn them off. In October, the e-mail service, which one analytics firm suggests hosts about a quarter of all the e-mails sent worldwide, made this feature standard on its 1.4 billion active accounts, along with a menu of other innovations.
These include Smart Compose, a feature that finishes your sentences for you with the help of robot intelligence, and Nudges, a feature that bumps unanswered e-mails to the top of your in-box, making you feel increasingly guilty with every sign-in. As with many technological updates that are suddenly imposed on unsuspecting users, the new Gmail interface has been met with much annoyance. When my in-box started offering me Smart Replies, I felt a little offended. How dare it guess what I want to say, I thought. I -- a professional writer! -- have more to offer than just "Got it!" or "Love it!" or "Thanks for letting me know!" (Smart Replies are big on exclamation points.) I started to resent the A.I., which seemed to be learning my speech patterns faster than I could outsmart it. Just as I decided that I'd thwart the machine mind by answering my messages with "Cool!", the service started offering me several "Cool" varietals. Suddenly, I could answer with "Sounds cool" or "Cool, thanks" or the dreaded "Cool, I'll check it out!"Read Replies (0)