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Samsung Is Delaying the 'Voice' Part of Its New Bixby Voice Assistant
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 02:23 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's delayed-until-further-notice department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: A much-touted feature of Samsung's next smartphones isn't going to work as advertised when the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ launch April 21. Samsung said it's delaying the launch of voice-command capabilities for its Bixby voice assistant in English, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Although some of its features will still work, the report said, Bixby -- Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri -- won't be able to respond to any user voice commands, perhaps until as late as May. The Korean-language version of Bixby will have all of its features at launch, the Journal report said. The reason this is a big deal is because Samsung has touted Bixby as a big new feature for the Galaxy S8. Not only is it baked into the software, but it features a dedicated Bixby button on the lefthand side of the phone. The new assistant is designed to "perform almost every task that the app normally supports using touch," according to PhoneDog. "It'll be able to understand the current context and the state of the app that you're in without interrupting the work that you're doing," and will be able to "understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning you don't have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant."

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AI Wins $290,000 in Chinese Poker Competition
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 02:23 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's piece-of-cake department:
An AI program has beaten a team of six poker players at a series of exhibition matches in China. From a report on BBC: The AI system, called Lengpudashi, won a landslide victory and $290,000 in the five-day competition. It is the second time this year that an AI program has beaten competitive poker players. An earlier version of the program, known as Libratus, beat four of the world's best poker pros during a 20-day game in January.

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Japan Automakers Look To Robots To Keep Elderly On the Move
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 01:03 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's genuine-need department:
Japanese automakers are looking beyond the industry trend to develop self-driving cars and turning their attention to robots to help keep the country's rapidly graying society on the move. From a report: Toyota said it saw the possibility of becoming a mass producer of robots to help the elderly in a country whose population is ageing faster than the rest of the world as the birthrate decreases. The country's changing demographics place its automakers in a unique situation. Along with the issues usually associated with falling populations such as labor shortages and pension squeezes, Japan also faces dwindling domestic demand for cars. Toyota, the world's second largest automaker, made its first foray into commercializing rehabilitation robots on Wednesday, launching a rental service for its walk assist system, which helps patients to learn how to walk again after suffering strokes and other conditions.

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Employees in the Dark About Data Retention Policy
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 01:03 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's troubling-situation department:
An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews article: A new study reveals that over half of office-based employees say their companies don't have written policies on data retention or personal use of work devices, or if they do, they aren't aware of them. The study conducted by Harris Poll for e-discovery company kCura reveals communication habits that could put organizations at risk of incurring increased data retention and discovery costs in today's increasingly litigious business environment. "Complete bans on the personal use of work devices would be difficult -- if not impossible -- to implement, and could be harmful to employee morale. However, companies do need to implement reasonable policies to mitigate risk," the report adds.

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Microsoft Edge Beats Chrome By Over Three Hours In New Battery Usage Test
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 11:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's browsers-war department:
An anonymous reader writes: With the launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update and Edge 40 (EdgeHTML 15), Microsoft has released a new battery usage test that, naturally, trashes the company's competition. This new test shows that Edge uses less power than both Chrome 57 and Firefox 52, and is bound to draw a response from its competition, especially Google, who doesn't like it when Microsoft takes a jab at Chrome's efficiency. The same thing happened last year, in June, when a similar test showcasing Edge's longer battery life was met with responses from both Google and Opera. The most recent tests were performed for the launch of Windows 10 Creators Update. Two tests were carried out until a laptop's battery gave out. For each browser, a minimum of 16 iterations were recorded per test. The first test measured normal browsing performance and the second ran a looped Vimeo fullscreen video. In the normal browsing performance test, Microsoft claims Edge used 31% less power than Chrome 57, and 44% less power than Firefox 52. In the second test, Edge played a looped Vimeo video in fullscreen for 751 minutes (12:31:08), while Chrome lasted 557 minutes (9:17:03) and Firefox for only 424 minutes (7:04:19). That's a whopping three hours over Chrome, and five hours above Firefox.

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Dozens Of Canonical Employees Resign As Ubuntu Switches To GNOME, Shuttleworth Returns As CEO
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 11:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's aftermath department:
Alexander J Martin, reporting for The Register: More than 80 Canonical workers are facing the axe as founder Mark Shuttleworth has taken back the role of chief executive officer. The number, revealed today by The Reg, comes as Shuttleworth assumed the position from CEO of eight years Jane Silber, previously chief operating officer. The Reg has learned 31 or more staffers have already left the Ubuntu Linux maker ahead of Shuttleworth's rise, with at least 26 others now on formal notice and uncertainty surrounding the remainder. One individual has resigned while others, particularly in parts of the world with more stringent labour laws (such as the UK), are being left in the dark. The details come after The Reg revealed plans for the cuts as a commercial get-fit programme instituted by Shuttleworth. The Canonical founder is cutting numbers after an external assessment of his company by potential new financial backers found overstaffing and that projects lacked focus.

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For Programmers, the Ultimate Office Perk is Avoiding the Office Entirely
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 10:24 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-things-are-moving department:
From a report on Quartz: Over the past decade, designers and engineers have invented dozens of new tools to keep us connected to the office without actually going there. Unsurprisingly, those same engineers have been among the first to start using them in large numbers. More programmers are working from home than ever and, among the most experienced, some are even beginning to demand it. In 2015, an estimated 300,000 full-time employees in computer science jobs worked from home in the US. Although not the largest group of remote employees in absolute numbers, that's about 8% of all programmers, which is a significantly larger share than in any other job category, and well above the average for all jobs of just under 3%. [...] Programmers not only work from home more often than other employees, when they do they are more likely to work all day at home. From 2012 to 2015, the average full-time programmer who worked from home said they spent an average of five and a half hours doing so. That's an 92% increase in the average time spent at home from 2003 to 2005, and nearly double the average for all jobs.

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Silicon Valley Kicks Off Fight On Net Neutrality
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 10:24 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's in-my-best-interest department:
Web companies met with FCC Ajit Pai on Tuesday and urged him not to gut the net neutrality rules that protect their traffic, a week after he met with broadband providers that have tried to kill the Obama-era regulations. From a report: The Internet Association, a trade group representing companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, stressed the importance of defending current net neutrality rules in a meeting with Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday. "The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online," the group said in the meeting, according to a filing with the FCC. "Existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept in tact." The net neutrality rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, are intended to keep the internet open and fair. The rules prevent internet providers from playing favorites by deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps. This is the first face-to-face encounter between the tech association and the new FCC head. It comes on the heels of reports Pai met with the telecom industry to discuss changing how the rules are enforced, potentially weakening them.

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We Tracked Every Dollar 235 US Households Spent for a Year, and Found Widespread Financial Vulnerability
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 09:05 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's economics-and-society department:
Income inequality in the United States is growing, but the most common economic statistics hide a significant portion of Americans' financial instability by drawing on annual aggregates of income and spending. An article on the Harvard Business Review adds: Annual numbers can hide fluctuations that determine whether families have trouble paying bills or making important investments at a given moment. The lack of access to stable, predictable cash flows is the hard-to-see source of much of today's economic insecurity. We came to understand this after analyzing the U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD), an unprecedented study to collect detailed cash flow data for U.S. households. From 2012 to 2014 we set up research sites in 10 communities across the country. The USFD research team engaged 235 households that were willing to let us track their financial lives for a full year. We tried to record every single dollar the households earned, spent, saved, borrowed, and shared with others. [...] Our first big finding was that the households' incomes were highly unstable, even for those with full-time workers. We counted spikes and dips in earning, defined as months in which a household's income was either 25% more or 25% less than the average. It turned out that households experienced an average of five months per year with either a spike or dip. In other words, incomes were far from average almost half of the time. Income volatility was more extreme for poorer families, but middle class families felt it too.

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The First Manned Space Flight Was the Rocket Designer's Victory as Much as Yuri Gagarin's
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 09:04 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's credit-where-it's-due department:
From an article on the Smithsonian magazine: On this day in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. And given the risks inherent to early spaceflight, he certainly deserves his place in history. But what about the man who designed the rocket that got Gagarin there? His name was Sergei Korolev, and his influence on the Soviet space program stretched much farther than Gagarin's 108 minutes of fame -- the time it took to make a single orbit of Earth. The flight of Vostok 1, Gagarin's craft, "was a defining moment of the 20th century and opened up the prospect of interplanetary travel for our species," writes Robin McKie for The Guardian. For Gagarin, it was the moment that made him a famous figurehead for the Soviet Union. As Gagarin toured the globe, the space program's chief designer remained at home and unknown. That Sergei Korolev ran the Soviet Union's rocket program wasn't revealed until after his death. "Gagarin became the face of Soviet space supremacy," McKie writes, "while Korolev was the brains. The pair made a potent team and their success brought fame to one and immense power to the other. Neither lived long enough to enjoy those rewards, however."

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How Google Book Search Got Lost
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 07:33 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's endangered-specimen department:
Google Books was the company's first moonshot. But 15 years later, the project is stuck in low-Earth orbit, argues an article on Backchannel. From the article: When Google Books started almost 15 years ago, it also seemed impossibly ambitious: An upstart tech company that had just tamed and organized the vast informational jungle of the web would now extend the reach of its search box into the offline world. By scanning millions of printed books from the libraries with which it partnered, it would import the entire body of pre-internet writing into its database. [...] Two things happened to Google Books on the way from moonshot vision to mundane reality. Soon after launch, it quickly fell from the idealistic ether into a legal bog, as authors fought Google's right to index copyrighted works and publishers maneuvered to protect their industry from being Napsterized. A decade-long legal battle followed -- one that finally ended last year, when the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the Authors Guild and definitively lifted the legal cloud that had so long hovered over Google's book-related ambitions. But in that time, another change had come over Google Books, one that's not all that unusual for institutions and people who get caught up in decade-long legal battles: It lost its drive and ambition. Google stopped updating Books blog in 2012, and folded it into the main Google Search blog. The author reports that Google still has people working on Book Search, and they are adding new books, but the pace is rather slower.

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BlackBerry Awarded $815 Million in Arbitration Case Against Qualcomm
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 07:33 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's big-win department:
BlackBerry, the former smartphone maker, was awarded $814.9m in an arbitration decision against Qualcomm over a dispute relating to royalty payments. The two companies entered into arbitration talks in February about Qualcomm's "agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the parties," BlackBerry said in a statement. From a report: BlackBerry argued that it was overpaying Qualcomm in royalty payments. Last April, BlackBerry and Qualcomm entered discussions to settle the dispute and analyze an existing "agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the two parties." Despite the dispute, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said Wednesday that the companies "continue to be valued technology partners." He said BlackBerry will continue to collaborate with Qualcomm, specifically for security in the auto industry and in application-specific integrated circuits.

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Are Chromebooks Responsible For PC Market Growth?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 06:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's idc-vs-gartner department:
From a report on The Verge: IDC claims the PC market is "up slightly," recording its first growth in five years. It's a tiny growth of just 0.6 percent, but it's a flattening of the market that Microsoft and its PC maker partners have been looking for after years of decline. While percentage growth looks good on paper, it doesn't always tell the whole story. Over at Gartner, another market research firm that tracks PC sales, the story is a little different. Gartner claims PC shipments declined 2.4 percent in the recent quarter. There's a good reason for the disparity between IDC and Gartner's figures, and it involves Chromebooks. IDC's data includes Chromebooks and excludes Windows tablets, even machines with a detachable keyboard like the Surface Pro. Gartner counts Windows-based tablets as PCs and excludes Chromebooks or any non-Windows-based tablets. Without IDC providing the exact split of Chromebooks sold vs. Windows- and macOS-based machines, it's impossible to know exactly how well Google's low-cost laptops are selling. However, IDC also claims that Chromebooks are doing well with businesses. The US commercial PC market "came out strong mostly backed by growth of Chromebooks," says IDC. Gartner has no opinion on Chromebooks as the company refuses to track them as PCs.

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Tennessee Could Give Taxpayers America's Fastest Internet For Free, But It Gave Comcast and AT&T $45 Million Instead
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 06:13 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's broadband-competition department:
Chattanooga, Tennessee is home to some of the fastest internet speeds in the United States, offering city dwellers Gbps and 10 Gpbs connections. Instead of voting to expand those connections to the rural areas surrounding the city, which have dial up, satellite, or no internet whatsoever, Tennessee's legislature voted to give Comcast and AT&T a $45 million taxpayer handout. Motherboard reports: The situation is slightly convoluted and thoroughly infuriating. EPB -- a power and communications company owned by the Chattanooga government -- offers 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, and 10 Gpbs internet connections. A Tennessee law that was lobbied for by the telecom industry makes it illegal for EPB to expand out into surrounding areas, which are unserved or underserved by current broadband providers. For the last several years, EPB has been fighting to repeal that state law, and even petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to try to get the law overturned. This year, the Tennessee state legislature was finally considering a bill that would have let EPB expand its coverage (without providing it any special tax breaks or grants; EPB is profitable and doesn't rely on taxpayer money). Rather than pass that bill, Tennessee has just passed the "Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017," which gives private telecom companies -- in this case, probably AT&T and Comcast -- $45 million of taxpayer money over the next three years to build internet infrastructure to rural areas.

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Investigation Finds Inmates Built Computers, Hid Them In Prison Ceiling
Posted by News Fetcher on April 12 '17 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Hogan's-Heroes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from WRGB: The discovery of two working computers hidden in a ceiling at the Marion Correctional Institution prompted an investigation by the state into how inmates got access. In late July, 2015 staff at the prison discovered the computers hidden on a plywood board in the ceiling above a training room closet. The computers were also connected to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's network. Authorities say they were first tipped off to a possible problem in July, when their computer network support team got an alert that a computer "exceeded a daily internet usage threshold." When they checked the login being used, they discovered an employee's credentials were being used on days he wasn't scheduled to work. That's when they tracked down where the connection was coming from and alerted Marion Correctional Institution of a possible problem. Investigators say there was lax supervision at the prison, which gave inmates the ability to build computers from parts, get them through security checks, and hide them in the ceiling. The inmates were also able to run cabling, connecting the computers to the prison's network. Furthermore, "investigators found an inmate used the computers to steal the identify of another inmate, and then submit credit card applications, and commit tax fraud," reports WRGB. "They also found inmates used the computers to create security clearance passes that gave them access to restricted areas."

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Glowing Bacteria Detect Buried Landmines
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '17 at 11:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pro-biotics department:
sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: More than 100 million landmines lay hidden in the ground around the world, but glowing bacteria may help us find them, according to a new study. The approach relies on small quantities of vapor released from the common explosive TNT. Previously, researchers engineered E. coli to glow green upon detection of DNT, a byproduct of TNT. In a study published in Nature Biotechnology today, the same team reports on a small field test with mines buried in sand and soil, whose triggering mechanisms were removed. The scientists loaded about 100,000 DNT-detecting bacterial cells into a single bead made of polymers derived from seaweed and sprinkled these beads over the landmine site at night. Twenty-four hours later, they used a laser to remotely detect and quantify fluorescing bacteria from 20 meters away, mapping the location of the landmines.

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US Dismantles Forensic Science Commission
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '17 at 08:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's in-house department:
hondo77 writes a report via Washington Post: Thought the Trump Administration's war on science was just about climate change? Think again. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers," reports Washington Post. The National Commission on Forensic Science, "jointly led by Justice and the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has prompted several changes," including "new accrediting and ethical codes for forensic labs and practitioners" and the FBI abandoning "its four-decade-long practice of tracing bullets to a specific manufacturer's batch through chemical analyses after its method were scientifically debunked." "The availability of prompt and accurate forensic science analysis to our law enforcement officers and prosecutors is critical to integrity in law enforcement, reducing violent crime, and increasing public safety," Sessions said in the statement. "We applaud the professionalism of the National Commission on Forensic Science and look forward to building on the contributions it has made in this crucial field."

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Firefox To Let Users Control Memory Usage
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '17 at 07:20 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fine-tuned-machine department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Mozilla engineers are working on a new section in the browser's preferences that will let users control the browser's performance. Work on this new section started last Friday when an issue was opened in the Firefox bug tracker. Right now, the Firefox UI team has proposed a basic sketch of the settings section and its controls. Firefox developers are now working to isolate or implement the code needed to control those settings [1, 2, 3]. According to the current version of the planned Performance settings section UI, users will be able to control if they use UI animations (to be added in a future Firefox version), if they use page prefetching (feature to preload links listed on a page), and how many "content" processes Firefox uses (Firefox currently supports two processes [one for the Firefox core and one for content], but this will expand to more starting v54).

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Scientists Prove Your Phone's PIN Can Be Stolen Using Its Gyroscope Data
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '17 at 07:20 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's less-secure-than-previously-thought department:
A team of scientists at Newcastle University in the UK managed to reveal a user's phone PIN code using its gyroscope data. "In one test, the team cracked a passcode with 70 percent accuracy," reports Digital Trends. "By the fifth attempt, the accuracy had gone up to 100 percent." From the report: It takes a lot of data, to be sure. The Guardian notes users had to type 50 known PINs five times before the researchers' algorithm learned how they held a phone when typing each particular number. But it highlights the danger of malicious apps that gain access to a device's sensors without requesting permission. The risk extends beyond PIN codes. In total, the team identified 25 different smartphone sensors which could expose compromising user information. Worse still, only a small number -- such as the camera and GPS -- ask the user's permission before granting access to that data. It's precise enough to track behavior. Using an "orientation" and "emotion trace" data, the researchers were able to determine what part of a web page a user was clicking on and what they were typing. The paper has been published in International Journal of Information Security.

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Alphabet Wants Its Lawsuit Against Uber To Play Out Publicly
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '17 at 04:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sit-back-and-relax department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: The company filed an opposition request late last night to Uber's motion for arbitration. If the case went to arbitration, an alternate form for dispute resolution, it would remain in private. Alphabet self-driving subsidiary Waymo "has not consented to arbitrate this dispute with Uber," the new filing said, "and Waymo cannot be coerced into arbitration simply because the trade secrets that Uber stole and that Uber is using in Uber's self-driving cars happen to come from former Waymo employees. That is not the law." Alphabet alleges that its proprietary self-driving technology is being used by the ride-hailing company illegally. The Google parent company claims that Uber's self-driving head at the center of the case, Anthony Levandowski, stole 14,000 files from Alphabet, where he worked on self-driving technology before leaving to launch autonomous truck startup Otto. Uber acquired Otto in August. Alphabet alleged the files Levandowski stole include designs for Alphabet's lidar -- light detection and ranging -- technology. Lidar is a key component to most self-driving systems. Legal arguments aside, there are questions surrounding what might motivate each company's position on openness of proceedings. Alphabet's opposition suggested Uber is seeking to delay proceedings, including a hearing on an injunction Alphabet wants against Uber and to prevent public access to proceedings. "Uber does not like what the public is learning through this litigation about Uber's illegal and unfair competition," the latest filing said.

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