By BeauHD from Slashdot's nothing-is-free department
Slate's Rachel Withers argues that "tech companies that profit from Wikipedia's extensive database owe Wikimedia a much greater debt." Amazon's Alexa, for example, uses Wikipedia "without credit, contribution, or compensation." The Google Assistant also sources Wikipedia, but they credit the encyclopedia -- and other sites -- when it uses it as a resource. From the report: Amazon recently donated $1 million to the Wikimedia Endowment, a fund that keeps Wikipedia running, as "part of Amazon's and CEO Jeff Bezos' growing work in philanthropy," according to CNET. It's being framed as a "gift," one that -- as Amazon puts it -- recognizes their shared vision to "make it easier to share knowledge globally." Obviously, and as alluded to by CNET, $1 million is hardly a magnanimous donation from Amazon and Bezos, the former a trillion-dollar company and the latter a man with a net worth of more than $160 billion. But it's not just the fact that this donation is, in the scheme of things, paltry. It's that this "endowment" is dwarfed by what Amazon and its ilk get out of Wikipedia -- figuratively and literally. Wikipedia provides the intelligence behind many of Alexa's most useful skills, its answers to everything from "What is Wikipedia?" to "What is Slate?" (meta).
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's do-it-yourself department
U.S. PIRG -- a non-profit that uses grassroots methods to advocate for political change -- found that 90 percent of manufacturers it contacted claimed that a third party repair would void its warranty. "PIRG researched the warranty information of 50 companies in the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) -- an industry group of notorious for lobbying to protect is repair monopolies -- and found that 45 of them claimed independent repair would void their warranty," Motherboard reports. From the report: PIRG poured over the documentation for 50 companies such as Bissell, Whirlpool, and Panasonic to document their warranty policies. When it couldn't find clear language about warranty and repair, it reached out to the companies via their customer service lines. The overwhelming majority of the companies told PIRG that independent repair would void the warranty.
The 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act states that no manufacturer who charges more than $5 for a product can put repair restrictions on a product they're offering a warranty on. In May, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, HTC, Hyundai, and ASUS for violating the act by threatening to void the warranties of customers who repaired their own devices. Within 30 days, many of the companies had complied and changed the language on their websites around independent repair. It was a step in the right direction, but the PIRGs survey of the AHAM members shows that there's still a lot of work to do.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easy-peasy department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Over the past six months a small, publicly available genealogy database has become the go-to source for solving cold case crimes. The free online tool, called GEDmatch, is an ancestry service that allows people to submit their DNA data and search for relatives -- an open access version of AncestryDNA or 23andMe. Since April, investigators have used GEDmatch to identify victims, killers, and missing persons all over the U.S. in at least 19 cases, many of them decades old, according to authors of a report published today in Science. The authors predict that in the near future, as genetic genealogy reports gain in popularity, such tools could be used to find nearly any individual in the U.S. of European descent.
GEDmatch holds the genetic data of only about a million people. But cold case investigators have been exploiting the database using a genomic analysis technique called long-range familial search. The technique allows researchers to match an individual's DNA to distant relatives, such as third cousins. Chances are, one of those relatives will have used a genetic genealogy service. More than 17 million people have participated in these services -- a number that has grown rapidly over the last two years. AncestryDNA and 23andMe hold most of those customers. A genetic match to a distant relative can fairly quickly lead investigators to the person of interest. In a highly publicized case, GEDmatch was used earlier this year to identify the "Golden State Killer," a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s, but was never caught. In April, investigators were able to use a genealogy database to narrow down DNA data from crime scenes and identify the "Golden State Killer," a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's expect-the-unexpected department
Yesterday, at a routine vote on regulations for self-driving cars, members of the European Peoples' Party voted down a clause that would protect a vehicle's telemetry so that it couldn't become someone's property. The clause affirmed that "data generated by autonomous transport are automatically generated and are by nature not creative, thus making copyright protection or the right on data-bases inapplicable." Boing Boing reports: This is data that we will need to evaluate the safety of autonomous vehicles, to fine-tune their performance, to ensure that they are working as the manufacturer claims -- data that will not be public domain (as copyright law dictates), but will instead be someone's exclusive purview, to release or withhold as they see fit. Who will own this data? It's unlikely that it will be the owners of the vehicles.
It's already the case that most auto manufacturers use license agreements and DRM to lock up your car so that you can't fix it yourself or take it to an independent service center. The aggregated data from millions of self-driving cars across the EU aren't just useful to public safety analysts, consumer rights advocates, security researchers and reviewers (who would benefit from this data living in the public domain) -- it is also a potential gold-mine for car manufacturers who could sell it to insurers, market researchers and other deep-pocketed corporate interests who can profit by hiding that data from the public who generate it and who must share their cities and streets with high-speed killer robots.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's hold-my-beer department
Two astronomers have asked a question for the ages: Can moons have moons? The delightful, if theoretical, answer is: Yes -- yes, they can. Sarah Laskow, writing for Atlas Obscura: As Gizmodo reports, this particular scientific inquiry began with a question from Juna Kollmeier's son. Kollemeier, who works at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, recruited Sean Raymond, of the University of Bordeaux, to help her answer the question. In a paper posted on arXiv [PDF], they lay out their case that moons can have moons. The conditions have to be right -- the primary moon has to be big enough and far away enough from the planet it's orbiting for the smaller, secondary moon to survive. But, even given these caveats, they found that moons in our very own solar system could theoretically have their own smaller moons. Two of Saturn's moons and one of Jupiter's are candidates. So is our favorite moon -- the Earth's moon. [...] One of the great challenges of talking about recursive places is deciding what call them. The prefix "sub-" can do a lot of work here: We can islands within islands "subislands," and in the arXiv paper, Kollmeier and Raymond call a moon's moon a "submoon." But there are other options. New Scientist notes that "moonmoon" has been put forth as a name for a moon's moon. For those of us who are less than fluent in meme culture: This is a reference to Moon Moon, sometimes described as the internet's derpiest wolf. Moon Moon was born in 2013, from a werewolf name generator, and soon started frolicking across Tumblr and all other places memes can be found.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easier-said-than-done department
DARPA, the research arm of the U.S. military, has a new Machine Common Sense (MCS) program that will run a competition that asks AI algorithms to make sense of questions with common sense answers. For example, here's one of the questions: "A student puts two identical plants in the same type and amount of soil. She gives them the same amount of water. She puts one of these plants near a window and the other in a dark room. The plant near the window will produce more (A) oxygen (B) carbon dioxide (C) water." MIT Technology Review reports: A computer program needs some understanding of the way photosynthesis works in order to tackle the question. Simply feeding a machine lots of previous questions won't solve the problem reliably. These benchmarks will focus on language because it can so easily trip machines up, and because it makes testing relatively straightforward. Etzioni says the questions offer a way to measure progress toward common-sense understanding, which will be crucial. [...] Previous attempts to help machines understand the world have focused on building large knowledge databases by hand. This is an unwieldy and essentially never-ending task. The most famous such effort is Cyc, a project that has been in the works for decades. "The absence of common sense prevents an intelligent system from understanding its world, communicating naturally with people, behaving reasonably in unforeseen situations, and learning from new experiences,"https://www.darpa.mil/ Dave Gunning, a program manager at DARPA, said in a statement issued this morning. "This absence is perhaps the most significant barrier between the narrowly focused AI applications we have today and the more general AI applications we would like to create in the future."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's small-steps department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Today, a very popular app, Plex Media Server, gets the Snap treatment. In other words, you can install the media server program without any headaches -- right from the Snap store. "In adopting the universal Linux app packaging format, Plex will make its multimedia platform available to an ever-growing community of Linux users, including those on KDE Neon, Debian, Fedora, Manjaro, OpenSUSE, Zorin and Ubuntu. Automatic updates and rollback capabilities are staples of Snap software, meaning Plex users will always have the best and latest version running," says Canonical.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Echoing sentiments of mainstream economists, Juniper Research is warning that many of the metrics in the cryptocurrency world are pointing to a market implosion. From a report: Industry bellwether Bitcoin had seen its daily transaction volumes fall from an average of around 360,000 a day in late 2017 to just 230,000 in September 2018. Meanwhile, daily transaction values were down from more than $3.7 billion to less than $670 million in the same period, Juniper said in the study, The Future of Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin & Altcoin Trends & Challenges 2018-2023. The market as a whole has contracted quickly as well. In the first quarter, cryptocurrency transactions totaled just over $1.4 trillion, compared with less than $1.7 trillion for 2017 as a whole, Juniper said. However, by the second quarter, transaction values had plummeted by 75 percent, with total market capitalization falling to just under $355 billion. "Based on activity during the first half of Q3, Juniper estimates a further 47 percent quarter-on-quarter drop in transaction values in that quarter," the researcher said in an accompanying white paper.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-happened-to-it department
British IT news outlet The Register looks at the myriad of challenges Apache OpenOffice faces today. From the report: Last year Brett Porter, then chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, contemplated whether a proposed official blog post on the state of Apache OpenOffice (AOO) might discourage people from downloading the software due to lack of activity in the project. No such post from the software's developers surfaced. The languid pace of development at AOO, though, has been an issue since 2011 after Oracle (then patron of the project) got into a fork-fight with The Document Foundation, which created LibreOffice from the OpenOffice codebase, and asked developers backing the split to resign. Back in 2015, Red Hat developer Christian Schaller called OpenOffice "all but dead." Assertions to that effect have continued since, alongside claims to the contrary. Almost a year ago, Jim Jagielski, a member of the Apache OpenOffice Project Management Committee, insisted things were going well and claimed there was renewed interest in the project. For all the concern about AOO, no issues have been raised recently before the Apache Foundation board to suggest ongoing difficulties. The project is due to provide an update this month, according to a spokesperson for the foundation.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department
An anonymous reader writes: FitMetrix, a fitness technology and performance tracking company owned by gym booking giant Mindbody, has exposed millions of user records because it left several of its servers without a password. The company builds fitness tracking software for gyms and group classes -- like CrossFit and SoulCycle -- that displays heart rate and other fitness metric information for interactive workouts. FitMetrix was acquired by gym and wellness scheduling service Mindbody earlier this year for $15.3 million, according to a government filing. Last week, a security researcher found three FitMetrix unprotected servers leaking customer data. It isn't known how long the servers had been exposed, but the servers were indexed by Shodan, a search engine for open ports and databases, in September. The servers included two of the same ElasticSearch instances and a storage server -- all hosted on Amazon Web Service -- yet none were protected by a password, allowing anyone who knew where to look to access the data on millions of users. Bob Diachenko, Hacken.io's director of cyber risk research, found the databases containing 113.5 million records -- though it's not known how many users were directly affected. Each record contained a user's name, gender, email address, phone numbers, profile photos, their primary workout location, emergency contacts and more. Many of the records were not fully complete.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's great-mysteries-of-life department
Why is a receipt for cough drops the height of a small child? Rachel Sugar, writing for Vox: CVS is a drugstore much like other drugstores, with one important difference: The receipts are very long. How long are the receipts? For at least a decade, concerned shoppers have dedicated themselves to this question, producing a robust body of phone-picture literature on the subject. You could not major in CVS receipt studies, probably, but you could minor. Not all CVS receipts are created equal. If you, a non-loyal shopper, mosey into CVS and buy some Tylenol and a package of seasonal candy, you will get a receipt that is unspectacular (read: a normal length). To get one of the iconically long CVS receipts, you need to use your ExtraCare card, which means you need to be an ExtraCare member. (You can join as long as you are willing to turn over your name and phone number in exchange for better deals.) People on the internet have documented this phenomenon with a vigor usually reserved for cats climbing in and out of boxes. On Twitter and on Instagram, shoppers stand next to their CVS receipts, which are often as tall as they are, and sometimes taller.Read Replies (0)