By BeauHD from Slashdot's that's-a-lot-of-zeros department
"Ireland's government has fully recovered more than [$16 billion] in disputed taxes and interest from Apple, which it will hold in an escrow fund pending its appeal against a European Union tax ruling," reports The Guardian. From the report: The European commission ruled in August 2016 that Apple had received unfair tax incentives from the Irish government. Both Apple and Dublin are appealing against the original ruling, saying the iPhone maker's tax treatment was in line with Irish and EU law. Ireland's finance ministry, which began collecting the back taxes in a series of payments in May, estimated last year the total amount could have reached -- [$17.5 billion] including EU interest. In the end the amount was [$15.2 billion] in back taxes plus [$1.4 billion] interest.
For its part, the commission said it would scrap its lawsuit against Ireland, which it initiated last year because of delays in recovering the money. "In light of the full payment by Apple of the illegal state aid it had received from Ireland, commissioner (Margrethe) Vestager will be proposing to the college of commissioners the withdrawal of this court action," the commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said. Ireland's finance ministry said its appeal had been granted priority status and is progressing through the various stages of private written proceedings before the general court of the European Union (GCEU), Europe's second highest court. The matter will likely take several years to be settled by the European courts, it added.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sorting-hat department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A new study has sifted through some of the largest online data sets of personality quizzes and identified four distinct "types" therein. The new methodology used for this study -- described in detail in a new paper in Nature Human Behavior -- is rigorous and replicable, which could help move personality typing analysis out of the dubious self-help section in your local bookstore and into serious scientific journals. What's new here is the identification of four dominant clusters in the overall distribution of traits. [Paper co-author William Revelle (Northwestern University)] prefers to think of them as "lumps in the batter" and suggests that a good analogy would be how people tend to concentrate in cities in the United States. The Northwestern researchers used publicly available data from online quizzes taken by 1.5 million people around the world. That data was then plotted in accordance with the so-called Big Five basic personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The Big Five is currently the professional standard for social psychologists who study personality. (Here's a good summary of what each of those traits means to psychologists.) They then applied their algorithms to the resulting dataset. Here are the four distinct personality clusters that the researchers ended up with:
Average: These people score high in neuroticism and extraversion, but score low in openness. It is the most typical category, with women being more likely than men to fit into it.
Reserved: This type of person is stable emotionally without being especially open or neurotic. They tend to score lower on extraversion but tend to be somewhat agreeable and conscientious.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's take-that-Apple department
schwit1 shares a report from The Wall Street Journal: Google is making a major push into the auto industry, partnering with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to use the tech company's Android OS to power media displays (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) that will eventually be sold in millions of cars world-wide. The auto-making alliance, which together sells more vehicles than any other auto maker, is picking Google to provide the operating system for its next-generation infotainment system, marking a major victory for the Silicon Valley tech giant, which has spent more than a decade trying to replicate the success it has had with the smartphone in the car. The alliance, which last year sold a combined 10.6 million vehicles globally, will debut the new system in 2021, giving drivers better integration of Google's maps, app store and voice-activated assistant from the vehicle's dashboard, the companies said. The move comes as other auto makers have been reluctant to cede control of this space to tech rivals, in part because they see the technology as generating valuable consumer data that can be turned into new revenue streams. Slashdot reader schwit1 adds: "But can I get it unlocked and can it be turned off, like this traveling telescreen?Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's apples-and-androids department
According to "several real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks," the new iPhone XS and XS Max, equipped with the world's first 7-nanometer A12 Bionic processor, are the world's fastest smartphones, reports Tom's Guide. They even significantly outperform Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chip. From the report: Geekbench 4 is a benchmark that measures overall performance, and no other phone comes close to Apple's new handsets on this test. The iPhone Xs notched 11,420, and the iPhone Xs Max hit 11,515. The older iPhone X scored 10,357, so that's about an 11 percent improvement. There's a lot more distance between the new iPhones and Android flagships. The fastest Android phone around, the OnePlus 6, scored 9,088 on Geekbench 4 with its 8GB of RAM, while the Galaxy Note 9 reached 8,876.
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By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department
Security researchers have found evidence that a piece of malware peddled as "lawful intercept" software to government agencies has been deployed against victims located in 45 countries, a number that far outweighs the number of known operators, meaning that some of them are conducting illegal cross-border surveillance. The findings come from a report published by Citizen Lab, a digital rights watchdog at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. ZDNet: The malware, known as Pegasus (or Trident), was created by Israeli cyber-security firm NSO Group and has been around for at least three years -- when it was first detailed in a report over the summer of 2016. The malware can operate on both Android and iOS devices, albeit it's been mostly spotted in campaigns targeting iPhone users primarily. On infected devices, Pegasus is a powerful spyware that can do many things, such as record conversations, steal private messages, exfiltrate photos, and much much more. Citizen Lab's researchers explained how they were able to arrive at the conclusion. They said they identified 1,091 IP addresses that matched their fingerprint for NSO's spyware. Then, they clustered the IP addresses into 36 separate operators with traces in 45 countries where these government agencies "may be conducting surveillance operations" between August 2016 and August 2018. Motherboard adds: Some of the countries where the researchers spotted Pegasus in democratic countries, such as the United States, France, and the UK, but there's also countries with questionable human rights records such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Mexico, Turkey, and Yemen. There's a caveat though. In some cases, the researchers aren't sure if the traces they found indicate an infection -- thus a target that may have been hacked from a foreign country -- or an operator. [...] "I can only hope that our research is causing these companies to think twice about sales where there is the potential for spyware abuse, causing potential customers to think twice about being associated with a company dealing with repressive governments, and causing potential investors to think twice about the inherently risky business of selling spyware to dictators." The report includes a corroboration of sorts from security firm Lookout, which noted that it had detected "three digits" Pegasus infections around the world.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's some-leeway department
Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, has been a controversial project since its debut. Critics say AMP is a Google-specific project and it is creating a walled-garden, which would only serve Google's best interests. On its part, Google has insisted that AMP's mission is to benefit the open web, and that many who contribute to AMP are non-Googlers. On Tuesday, Google announced that it would be giving up some control of how the code behind AMP is managed. A report adds: It plans to move the AMP Project to a "new governance model," which is to say that decisions about the code will be made by a committee that includes non-Googlers. Until now, final decisions about AMP's code have been made by Malte Ubl, the tech lead for the AMP Project at Google. A model with a single person in charge is not actually all that rare in open source. That person is often cheekily referred to as the BDFL, or "benevolent dictator for life." Ubl's been that person for AMP, but, he writes, "we've found that it doesn't scale to the size of the AMP Project today. Instead, we want to move to a model that explicitly gives a voice to all constituents of the community, including those who cannot contribute code themselves, such as end-users." [...] Google has already signed up non-Google people for the Advisory Committee, which will include representatives from The Washington Post, AliExpress, eBay, Cloudflare, and Automattic (which makes WordPress). Ubl says that it will also include "advocates for an open web," including "Leonie Watson of The Paciello Group, Nicole Sullivan of Google / Chrome, and Terence Eden." Of course, as anybody who's taken part in a committee knows, it's neither a fun solution nor a guarantee that a single company or person won't dominate it. But it's a step in the right direction, and Google is encouraging people to comment on the plan at the AMP Contributor Summit on September 25th.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
Rice University is "dramatically expanding" its financial aid offerings, promising full scholarships to undergrads whose families have income under $130,000. NPR reports: The school says it wants to reduce student debt -- and make it easier for students from low-income families to attend. "Talent deserves opportunity," Rice President David Leebron said while announcing the plan on Tuesday. The full scholarships are earmarked for students whose families have income between $65,000 and $130,000. Below that level, the university will not only cover tuition but also provide grants to cover students' room and board, along with any other fees. Another part of the program will help students whose family income surpasses the maximum: If their family's income is between $130,000 and $200,000, they can still get grants covering at least half of their tuition.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's times,-they-are-changin' department
At the 70th Emmy Awards, broadcast TV was almost shut out as Netflix and HBO battled each other. The Hollywood Reporter: This year, longtime Emmy nominations leader HBO was out-nominated by Netflix. Netflix then won the most Emmys on the main telecast, with seven noms to HBO's six. But earlier, HBO won one more award than Netflix at the Creative Arts Awards ceremonies, 17 to 16. So by the time the curtain came down on the 70th Emmy Awards, technically -- and sort of poetically -- Netflix and HBO had fought to a draw. Almost all of the major content providers left with several wins to celebrate. [...] All in all, it was a terrible night for broadcast networks -- even as NBC aired the show and two stars of the network, Saturday Night Live's Michael Che and Colin Jost, hosted. SNL won the variety sketch award for the second year in a row, and ABC's The Oscars won for best direction of a variety show (that award's winner, Glenn Weiss, stole the night with his on-stage marriage proposal), but other than that, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and PBS had nothing -- nothing -- to show for their work of the past year. The times have certainly changed.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Over on the EEVblog, someone noticed an interesting chip that's been apparently flying under our radar for a while. This is an ARM processor capable of running Linux. It's hand-solderable in a TQFP package, has a built-in Mali GPU, support for a touch panel, and has support for 512MB of DDR3. If you do it right, this will get you into the territory of a BeagleBone or a Raspberry Pi Zero, on a board that's whatever form factor you can imagine. Here's the best part: you can get this part for $1 USD in large-ish quantities. A cursory glance at the usual online retailers tells me you can get this part in quantity one for under $3. This is interesting, to say the least. The chip in question, the Allwinner A13, is a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor. While it's not much, it is a chip that can run Linux in a hand-solderable package. There is no HDMI support, you'll need to add some more chips (that are probably in a BGA package), but, hey, it's only a dollar. If you'd like to prototype with this chip, the best options right now are a few boards from Olimex, and a System on Module from the same company. That SoM is an interesting bit of kit, allowing anyone to connect a power supply, load an SD card, and get this chip doing something. Currently, there aren't really any good solutions for a cheap Linux system you can build at home, with hand-solderable chips.Read Replies (0)
'It's Always DRM's Fault'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
A social media post from Anders G da Silva, who accused Apple of deleting movies he had purchased from iTunes, went viral earlier this month. There is more to that story, of course. In a statement to CNET, Apple explained that da Silva had purchased movies while living in Australia, with his iTunes region set to "Australia." Then he moved to Canada, and found that the movies were no longer available for download -- due, no doubt, to licensing restrictions, including restrictions on Apple itself. While his local copies of the movies were not deleted, they were deleted from his cloud library. Apple said the company had shared a workaround with da Silva to make it easier for him to download his movies again. Public Knowledge posted a story Tuesday to weigh in on the subject, especially since today is International Day Against DRM. From the post: To that rare breed of person who carefully reads terms of service and keeps multiple, meticulous backups of important files, da Silva should have expected that his ability to access movies he thought he'd purchased might be cut off because he'd moved from one Commonwealth country to another. Just keep playing your original file! But DRM makes this an unreasonable demand. First, files with DRM are subject to break at any time. DRM systems are frequently updated, and often rely on phoning home to some server to verify that they can still be played. Some technological or business change may have turned the most carefully backed-up and preserved digital file into just a blob of unreadable encrypted bits. Second, even if they are still playable, files with DRM are not very portable, and they might not fit in with modern workflows. To stay with the Apple and iTunes example, the old-fashioned way to watch a movie purchased from the iTunes Store would be to download it in the iTunes desktop app, and then watch it there, sync it to a portable device, or keep iTunes running as a "server" in your home where it can be streamed to devices such as the Apple TV. But this is just not how things are done anymore. To watch an iTunes movie on an Apple TV, you stream or download it from Apple's servers. To watch an iTunes movie on an iPhone, same thing. (And because this is the closed-off ecosystem of DRM'd iTunes movies, if you want to watch your movie on a Roku or an Android phone, you're just out of luck.) [...] My takeaway is that, if a seller of DRM'd digital media uses words like "purchase" and "buy," they have at a minimum an obligation to continue to provide additional downloads of that media, in perpetuity. Fine print aside, without that, people simply aren't getting what they think they're getting for their money, and words like "rent" and "borrow" are more appropriate. Of course, there is good reason to think that even then people are not likely to fully understand that "buying" something in the digital world is not the same as buying something in the physical world, and more ambitious measures may be required to ensure that people can still own personal property in the digital marketplace. See the excellent work of Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz on this point. But the bare minimum of "owning" a movie would seem to be the continued ability to actually watch it.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's review-of-reviews department
Which smartphone takes the best photos? For years, the unequivocal answer to that question has been the iPhone. Apple has, for years, taken pride in the pictures its iPhones are able to capture. And rightly so. But over the years, the competition has been catching up, and now it feels like it has stolen that crown from the iPhone. Here's a review of various reviews of the iPhones. The Verge, reviewing the iPhone 6 launched in 2014: There's one feature that stands out, though, the one that most strongly makes the iPhone 6's case as the best smartphone on the planet: the camera. A year later, The Verge reviews the iPhone 6s: But these improvements aren't dramatic, since the previous rear camera was already terrific. Still, the new rear camera will maintain the iPhone's position as the best smartphone camera around. In another review, it said: I noticed slightly better macro performance and slightly better bokeh in a few shots, but Apple's been taking iPhone 6 photos and blowing them up to put on billboards for a year, so the bar is pretty damn high. Let's put it this way: the iPhone 6S is the best camera most people will ever own, but it's not going to keep anyone out of the market for a mirrorless rig. The camera review of the iPhone 7 Plus: This all adds up to a decent improvement, but the iPhone 6S was already operating at the top of the scale, bested only recently by the latest cameras in the Galaxy S7 and Note 7. In low light, that faster lens and optical image stabilization means that the 7 significantly outperforms the 6S. But compared to the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 7 is a step improvement, not a major leap. The camera review of the last year's iPhone 8 Plus: Over the past year, the S8 and Pixel pulled ahead of the iPhone 7 in various tests. Apple told me they don't look at benchmarks closely, but the images from the iPhone 8 camera definitely look more like Apple's competitors than before. Like Samsung, iPhone images are now more saturated by default, although Apple says it's still aiming for realism instead of the saturated colors and smoothing of the S8. And HDR is just on all the time, like the Pixel -- you can't turn it off, although you can set it to save a non-HDR image as well. We ran around shooting with an iPhone 8, a Pixel XL, and S8, and iPhone 7 on auto, and the iPhone 8 produced the most consistent and richest images of the group, although the Pixel was the clear winner several times, especially in extreme low light. The camera review of the $1,000 iPhone X, which was also launched last year: Now that we have an iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2, we're going to do a super in-depth camera comparison, but here's what I can tell you right now: the iPhone X has basically the same cameras as the iPhone 8, and the photos look almost exactly the same. And at the end of the day, I tend to prefer the photos from the Pixel 2 XL. And now, the camera review of the iPhone XS and XS Max, which The Verge published Tuesday (video): The camera upgrades in the XS over the X are significant. But I'm just going to come out and say this: I don't think the iPhone XS has better cameras than the [Google] Pixel 2 ... and Pixel 3 comes out in just a few weeks. Don't get me wrong, it's a really good camera, and I think people are going to like the photos it takes. But the Pixel 2 is the standard to beat and the iPhone XS doesn't do it for me.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Nintendo announced Tuesday that its paid Nintendo Switch Online service will launch "later this evening," and that to prepare for the launch it will be taking the Switch eShop offline starting at 8 p.m. ET. From a report: It's expected to be unavailable for up to three hours, it said, putting the launch of Switch Online about 11 p.m. Tuesday night. Nintendo Switch Online comes with a seven-day free trial for all Nintendo Account holders. The official website for the service notes that it will cost $4 for a month, $8 for three months and $20 for a year. A family membership, which supports up to seven others in a family group, will run for $35 for a year. The Nintendo Switch Online service, which will be free to users to try for seven days, will be required for console owners to access any internet-enable features, including multiplayer and cloud saves. It will also grant them the ability to play 20 different Nintendo Entertainment System games at launch, although Nintendo hasn't revealed the entire lineup yet.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's times,-they-are-changin' department
Following Linus Torvalds' public apology for his behavior over the years, the Linux Community said it will be adopting a new "Code of Conduct", which pledges to make "participation in our project and our community a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of age, body size, disability, ethnicity, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression, level of experience, education, socio-economic status, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pretending-it-doesn't-exist department
Two separate reports are saying Apple's yet-to-be-released AirPower charger is facing overheating issues. The product, designed to simultaneously charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods, was announced more than a year ago at Apple's 2017 iPhone event. Apple has yet to provide any additional information on AirPower, even during its iPhone event last week. The company even appears to have wiped all mention of it from its website. CNBC reports: Tech writer Sonny Dickson, who has a track record of accurately reporting on Apple, said over the weekend that Apple has struggled with heat management, which affects accuracy and charging speed. Dickson thinks it's unlikely Apple will make its end-of-year release deadline. Daring Fireball's John Gruber said something similar. Gruber said the charging pad, which uses a multi-coil design, is "getting too hot -- way too hot."
"There are engineers who looked at AirPower's design and said it could never work, thermally. ... I think they've either had to go completely back to the drawing board and start over with an entirely different design, or they've decided to give up and they just don't want to say so," Gruber said. Apple gave a broad timeline for AirPower's launch, saying it would go on sale in 2018. So it is still possible it can work out any issues before the end of the year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's more-competition-the-better department
Saudi Arabia is investing more than $1 billion in Lucid Motors, an electric car startup that may give Tesla a run for their money. CNN reports: Lucid is planning a new high-performance electric car. It said the investment from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund announced Monday will allow it to finish engineering on its first car, the Lucid Air, as well as build a factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, and begin to sell the car by 2020. Saudi Arabia is already a big investor in Tesla. Last month Tesla CEO Elon Musk disclosed that the Saudis had taken nearly a 5% stake in his electric car company. Musk said that the Saudis had been urging him for almost two years to take Tesla private, offering to provide funds necessary to do so. (Musk announced the plan to go private in August but quickly dropped the idea.) Saudi Arabia is investing in electric vehicles to diversify away from its dependence on oil. Lucid's Chief Technology Officer, Peter Rawlinson, was formerly a vice president and chief vehicle engineer at Tesla. He helped design the Model S, the company's breakthrough car. He left Tesla in 2012, shortly after the Model S went into production.Read Replies (0)