By BeauHD from Slashdot's short-of-funds department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday the state will not complete a $77.3 billion planned high-speed rail project, but will finish a smaller section of the line. "The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency," Newsom said in his first State of the State Address Tuesday to lawmakers. "Right now, there simply isn't a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to (Los Angeles). I wish there were," he said. Newsom said the state will complete a 110-mile (177 km) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. In March 2018, the state forecast the costs had jumped by $13 billion to $77 billion and warned that the costs could be as much as $98.1 billion.
California planned to build a 520-mile system in the first phase that would allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour in the traffic-choked state from Los Angeles to San Francisco and begin full operations by 2033. Newsom said he would not give up entirely on the effort. "Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it," he said. "And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
dryriver writes: A lot of people seem to think it's O.K. to buy electronics made in China. We get to buy products considerably cheaper than we otherwise would, and China by all accounts is growing, developing, and modernizing as a nation due to all the cool stuff they now make for the world. There is only one problem with that reasoning. 21st Century China has an atrocious human rights record, and almost all human rights watchdogs report that China is becoming more and more repressive each year. Freedom House put it this way in 2018: "It's worth noting that, in its attitude toward political dissent, the Chinese Communist Party has proven much harsher than the old Soviet regime of the Brezhnev era. Modern Chinese sentences are longer, the prospects for early release are far worse, and the Chinese authorities are generally unmoved by pleas for leniency from foreign diplomats." Basically, consumer dollars from around the world are not gradually creating a gentler, freer, more prosperous and more modern China at all. They are making the Chinese Communist Party richer, stronger, bolder and more aggressive and repressive in every respect. To the question: knowing what the human rights situation is in China, and that consumer dollars and euros flowing into the country from abroad is making things worse, not better, is it at all ethical to buy electronics or IT products manufactured in China?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's attack-and-destroy department
Hackers have breached the severs of email provider VFEmail.net and wiped the data from all its US servers, destroying all US customers' data in the process. From a report: The attack took place yesterday, February 11, and was detected after the company's site and webmail client went down without notice. "At this time, the attacker has formatted all the disks on every server," the company said yesterday. "Every VM is lost. Every file server is lost, every backup server is lost. This was more than a multi-password via SSH exploit, and there was no ransom. Just attack and destroy," VFEmail said. The company's staff is now working to recover user emails, but as things stand right now, all data for US customers appears to have been deleted for good and gone into /dev/null.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Video game publisher Ubisoft is working with Mozilla to develop an AI coding assistant called Clever-Commit, head of Ubisoft La Forge Yves Jacquier announced during DICE Summit 2019 on Tuesday. From a report: Clever-Commit reportedly helps programmers evaluate whether or not a code change will introduce a new bug by learning from past bugs and fixes. The prototype, called Commit-Assistant, was tested using data collected during game development, Ubisoft said, and it's already contributing to some major AAA titles. The publisher is also working on integrating it into other brands. "Working with Mozilla on Clever-Commit allows us to support other programming languages and increase the overall performances of the technology. Using this tech in our games and Firefox will allow developers to be more productive as they can spend more time creating the next feature rather than fixing bugs. Ultimately, this will allow us to create even better experiences for our gamers and increase the frequency of our game updates," said Mathieu Nayrolles, technical architect, data scientist, and member of the Technological Group at Ubisoft Montreal.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's oooops department
Reader McGruber writes: The Washington Post has an amusing story about phone scammer Keniel A. Thomas, who made the mistake of calling William H. Webster. Thomas told 90-year-old Webster that he had won $72 million and a new Mercedes Benz in the Mega Millions lottery, but that he needed to send $50,000 in taxes and fees to get his money. Thomas also told Webster he'd done his research on the top winner. "You're a great man," the scammer cajoled. "You was a judge, you was an attorney, you was a basketball player, you were in the U.S. Navy, homeland security. I know everything about you. I even seen your photograph, and I seen your precious wife."
Thomas's research didn't turn up everything. He didn't learn that the man he was calling was the former director of the FBI and the CIA, the only person ever to hold both jobs. And he didn't know that Webster would call him back the next day with the FBI listening in. Thomas was arrested in late 2017, after he landed in New York on a flight from Jamaica. He pleaded guilty in October and faced a prison term of 33 to 41 months under federal sentencing guidelines. But with Webster and his wife in the courtroom, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on Friday added another 2 years to Thomas's sentence, giving him nearly six years to serve. Howell said that the scam qualified as "organized criminal activity" and that Thomas posed "a threat to a family member of the victim."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
A Beijing-based online education start-up has developed an artificial intelligence-powered maths app that can check children's arithmetic problems through the simple snap of a photo. Based on the image and its internal database, the app automatically checks whether the answers are right or wrong. From a report: Known as Xiaoyuan Kousuan, the free app launched by the Tencent Holdings-backed online education firm Yuanfudao, has gained increasing popularity in China since its launch a year ago and claims to have checked an average of 70 million arithmetic problems per day, saving users around 40,000 hours of time in total. Yuanfudao is also trying to build the country's biggest education-related database generated from the everyday experiences of real students. Using this, the six-year-old company -- which has a long line of big-name investors including Warburg Pincus, IDG Capital and Matrix Partners China -- aims to reinvent how children are taught in China. "By checking nearly 100 million problems every day, we have developed a deep understanding of the kind of mistakes students make when facing certain problems," said Li Xin, co-founder of Yuanfudao -- which means "ape tutor" in Chinese -- in a recent interview. "The data gathered through the app can serve as a pillar for us to provide better online education courses."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's for-those-keeping-the-count department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung's mobile internet browser, if you ask its users, is pretty great. A lot of folks even say it's better than Chrome. That appreciation has manifested in the app hitting a very exclusive Play Store milestone: Samsung Internet Browser now has more than one billion installs. That impressive figure puts the browser's install base ahead of those of Firefox and Opera combined. Now, there are a couple of caveats here: for one, Samsung's browser comes pre-loaded on Samsung devices, of which each activation counts as an "install." What's more, both Firefox's and Opera's Play Store listings report that each browser has "100,000,000+" installs, which, because of the somewhat silly way figures are reported on Android's app marketplace, means their combined installs total anywhere between 200 million and 999,999,998. Still, though, Samsung's browser is on more devices than the both of 'em.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's internet-of-crap department
The fleets of electric scooters that have inundated cities are alarming enough as is. Now add cybersercurity concerns to the list: Researchers from the mobile security firm Zimperium are warning that Xiaomi's popular M365 scooter model has a worrying bug. From a report: The flaw could allow an attacker to remotely take over any of the scooters to control crucial things like, ahem, acceleration and braking. Rani Idan, Zimperium's director of software research, says he found and was able to exploit the flaw within hours of assessing the M365's security. His analysis found that the scooters contain three software components: battery management, firmware that coordinates between hardware and software, and a Bluetooth module that lets users communicate with their scooter via a smartphone app. The latter leaves the devices woefully exposed.
Idan quickly found that he could connect to the scooter via Bluetooth without being asked to enter a password or otherwise authenticate. From there, he could go a step further and install firmware on the scooter without the system checking that this new software was an official, trusted Xiaomi update. This means that an attacker could easily put malware on a scooter, giving herself full command over it. "I was able to control any of the scooter features without authentication and install malicious firmware," Idan says. "An attacker could brake suddenly, or accelerate a person into traffic, or whatever the worst case scenario you can imagine."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
The subject under debate was whether the government should subsidize preschools. But the real question was whether a machine called IBM Debater could out-argue a top-ranked human debater. The answer, on Monday night, was no. CNET: Harish Natarajan, the grand finalist at the 2016 World Debating Championships, swayed more among an audience of hundreds toward his point of view than the AI-powered IBM Debater did toward its. Humans, at least those equipped with with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge universities, can still prevail when it comes to the subtleties of knowledge, persuasion and argument. It wasn't a momentous headline victory like we saw when IBM's Deep Blue computers beat the best human chess player in 1997 or Google's AlphaGo vanquish the world's best human players of the ancient game of Go in 2017. But IBM still showed that artificial intelligence can be useful in situations where there's ambiguity and debate, not just a simple score to judge who won a game. "What really struck me is the potential value of IBM Debater when [combined] with a human being," Natarajan said after the debate. IBM's AI was able to dig through mountains of information and offer useful context for that knowledge, he said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's number-crunching department
Reddit's latest funding round values its users at a lower price than any other social network. "The company announced Monday it had raised $300 million in its Series D investment round at a valuation of $3 billion," reports CNBC. "CNBC previously reported the company's annual revenue topped $100 million, according to sources familiar with the matter, and at 330 million monthly active users (MAUs), this would make Reddit's average revenue per user (ARPU) about $0.30." From the report: That estimate would make Reddit's ARPU significantly lower than other social networks, even those with similar MAUs. Twitter, for example, reported 321 MAUs for its latest quarterly report, and with annual revenue of about $3.04 billion in 2018, that would make its ARPU about $9.48. Facebook reported 2.32 billion MAUs in its latest report and ARPU of $7.37. Snap does not report global MAUs, but reported $2.09 ARPU in its latest quarterly report.
Pinterest, which has yet to go public but is preparing for an IPO this year, says on its website it has 250 million monthly users. Pinterest declined to comment on their revenue, but a September article in The New York Times said the company was on track to top $700 million in revenue for 2018. That would bring its ARPU to about $2.80. While Reddit's value per user is much lower than its peers, it is betting its access to a valuable demographic will appeal to advertisers and potentially even draw their dollars from larger rivals like Facebook and Google. The company said half of its MAUs are between the ages of 18 and 24.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's good-news-for-people-who-like-bad-news department
For those hoping the next iPhone would ditch the Lightning port in favor of the more versatile USB-C port, you'll surely be disappointed by the latest rumor. "Japanese site Macotakara says that not only will the 2019 iPhone use Lightning, Apple will also continue to bundle the same 5W charger and USB-A to Lightning cable in the box," reports 9to5Mac. "This is seen as a cost saving measure. It seems that customers wanting faster iPhone charge times will still have to buy accessories, like the 12W iPad charger." From the report: The site explains that Lightning port is not going anywhere and Apple is resistant to changing the included accessories to maintain production costs. Apple can benefit from huge economies of scale by selling the same accessories for many generation. As such, Apple apparently will keep bundling Lightning EarPods, Lightning to USB-A cable, and the 5W USB power adaptor, with the 2019 iPhone lineup. This is disappointing as Apple began shipping an 18W USB-C charger with its iPad Pro line last fall, and many expected that accessory to become an iPhone standard too. Even if the iPhone keeps the Lightning port, Lightning can support fast-charging over the USB Type-C protocol. It's not clear if the cost savings of this decision would be passed on to consumers with lower cost 2019 iPhone pricing.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unregulated-industries department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: The Food and Drug Administration on Monday warned 12 sellers of dietary supplements to stop claiming their products can cure diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to cancer to diabetes. At the same time, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency's commissioner, suggested that Congress strengthen the F.D.A.'s authority over an estimated $40 billion industry, which sells as many as 80,000 kinds of powders and pills with little federal scrutiny. These products range from benign substances like vitamin C or fish oil to more risky mineral, herbal and botanical concoctions that can be fatal.
"People haven't wanted to touch this framework or address this space in, really, decades, and I think it's time we do it," Dr. Gottlieb said in an interview. He is particularly concerned about supplements that purport to cure diseases for which consumers should seek medical attention. "We know there are effective therapies that can help patients with Alzheimer's," he said. "But unproven supplements that claim to treat the disease but offer no benefits can prevent patients from seeking otherwise effective care." The companies included TEK Naturals, Pure Nootropics and Sovereign Laboratories. In a letter to TEK Naturals, the F.D.A. and the Federal Trade Commission chastised the company for marketing Mind Ignite as a product "clinically shown to help diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's and even dementia."Read Replies (0)