By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Kashmir Hill, reporting at Gizmodo: The visitors started coming in 2013. The first one who came and refused to leave until he was let inside was a private investigator named Roderick. He was looking for an abducted girl, and he was convinced she was in the house. John S. and his mother Ann live in the house, which is in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa and next to Johannesburg. They had not abducted anyone, so they called the police and asked for an officer to come over. Roderick and the officer went through the home room by room, looking into cupboards and under beds for the missing girl. Roderick claimed to have used a "professional" tracking device "that could not be wrong," but the girl wasn't there. This was not an unusual occurrence. John, 39, and Ann, 73, were accustomed to strangers turning up at their door accusing them of crimes; the visitors would usually pull up maps on their smartphones that pointed at John and Ann's backyard as a hotbed of criminal activity.
[...] The outline of this story might sound familiar to you if you've heard about this home in Atlanta, or read about this farm in Kansas, and it is, in fact, similar: John and Ann, too, are victims of bad digital mapping. There is a crucial difference though: This time it happened on a global scale, and the U.S. government played a key role. [...] Technologist Dhruv Mehrotra crawled MaxMind's free database for me and plotted the locations that showed up most frequently. Unfortunately, John and Ann's house must have just missed MaxMind's cut-off for remediation. Theirs was the 104th most popular location in the database, with over a million IP addresses mapped to it.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
In a wide-ranging interview, Nilay Patel of The Verge speaks with Bill Baxter, chief technology officer of Vizio, about what the company thinks of some TV vendors adding support for Apple's AirPlay 2, and other things. A remarkable exchange on the business of data collection and selling: Nilay Patel: I guess I have a philosophical question. You guys are committed to low price points and you often beat the industry at those price points. Can you hit those price points without the additional data collection that TV does if you don't have an ad business or a data business on top of the TV?
Bill Baxter: So that's a great question. Actually, we should have a beer and have a long, long chat about that. So look, it's not just about data collection. It's about post-purchase monetization of the TV. This is a cutthroat industry. It's a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it's pretty ruthless. You could say it's self-inflicted, or you could say there's a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don't need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost.
And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years -- the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, "I love Vizio TVs, I have one" and it's 11 years old. I'm like, "Dude, that's not even full HD, that's 720p." But they do last a long time and our strategy -- you've seen this with all of our software upgrades including AirPlay 2 and HomeKit -- is that we want to make things backward compatible to those TVs. So we're continuing to invest in those older TVs to bring them up to feature level comparison with the new TVs when there's no hardware limitation that would otherwise prevent that.
< article continued at Slashdot's how-about-that department
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By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
merbs writes: Automation is too often presented as a faceless, monolithic phenomenon -- but it's a human finger that ultimately pulls the trigger. Someone has to initiate the process that automates a task or mechanizes a production line. To write or procure the program that makes a department or a job redundant. And that's not always an executive, or upper-, or even middle management -- in fact, it's very often not. Sometimes it's a junior employee, or a developer, even an intern.
In a series of interviews with coders, technicians, and engineers who've automated their colleagues out of work -- or, in one case, been put in a position where they'd have to do so and decided to quit instead -- I've attempted to produce a snapshot of life on the messy front lines of modern automation. (Some names have been changed to protect the identities of the automators.) We've heard plenty of forecasting about the many jobs slated to be erased, and we've seen the impacts on the communities that have lost livelihoods at the hands of automation, but we haven't had many close up looks at how all this unfolds in the office or the factory floor.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fresh-coat-of-paint department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced a fully-managed document database service, building the Amazon DocumentDB (with MongoDB compatibility) to support existing MongoDB workloads. The cloud giant said developers can use the same MongoDB application code, drivers, and tools as they currently do to run, manage, and scale workloads on Amazon DocumentDB. Amazon DocumentDB uses an SSD-based storage layer, with 6x replication across three separate Availability Zones. This means that Amazon DocumentDB can failover from a primary to a replica within 30 seconds, and supports MongoDB replica set emulation so applications can handle failover quickly. Each MongoDB database contains a set of collections -- similar to a relational database table -- with each collection containing a set of documents in BSON format. Amazon DocumentDB is compatible with version 3.6 of MongoDB and storage can be scaled from 10 GB up to 64 TB in increments of 10 GB. The new offering implements the MongoDB 3.6 API that allows customers to use their existing MongoDB drivers and tools with Amazon DocumentDB. In a separate report, TechCrunch's Frederic Lardinois says AWS is "giving open source the middle finger" by "taking the best open-source projects and re-using and re-branding them without always giving back to those communities." "The wrinkle here is that MongoDB was one of the first companies that aimed to put a stop to this by re-licensing its open-source tools under a new license that explicitly stated that companies that wanted to do this had to buy a commercial license," Frederic writes. "Since then, others have followed." "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so it's not surprising that Amazon would try to capitalize on the popularity and momentum of MongoDB's document model," MongoDB CEO and president Dev Ittycheria told us. "However, developers are technically savvy enough to distinguish between the real thing and a poor imitation. MongoDB will continue to outperform any impersonations in the market."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's never-coming-down department
Global Energy Transmission (GET) co-founder William Kallamn says his wireless tech company has found a way to create a "power cloud" that can charge a drone while it's in flight. "The system comprises a ground-based power station with a frame of wires positioned in a roughly circular shape," reports Futurism. "When turned on, this creates an electromagnetic field in the air near the station. A drone equipped with a special antennae charges by flying into the range of the power cloud." From the report: Eight minutes of charge time translates to 30 minutes of flight. One of GET's power stations and two customized drones, each capable of carrying 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds), currently costs $120,000. It's hard to overstate the potential for drones to change our world, but for seemingly every positive use for the machines (package delivery, search and rescue operations), there's a negative one to consider (military weaponry, citizen surveillance). So, sure, a drone that never needs to land would be amazingly beneficial for moviemaking and sports coverage -- two uses Kallman notes in [an interview with entertainment vlogger David Fordham] -- but it's hard to imagine military or government officials wouldn't be highly interested in GET's drone charging tech as well.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's old-vs-young department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Older Americans are disproportionately more likely to share fake news on Facebook, according to a new analysis by researchers at New York and Princeton Universities. Older users shared more fake news than younger ones regardless of education, sex, race, income, or how many links they shared. In fact, age predicted their behavior better than any other characteristic -- including party affiliation. Today's study, published in Science Advances, examined user behavior in the months before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In early 2016, the academics started working with research firm YouGov to assemble a panel of 3,500 people, which included both Facebook users and non-users. On November 16th, just after the election, they asked Facebook users on the panel to install an application that allowed them to share data including public profile fields, religious and political views, posts to their own timelines, and the pages that they followed. Users could opt in or out of sharing individual categories of data, and researchers did not have access to the News Feeds or data about their friends. About 49 percent of study participants who used Facebook agreed to share their profile data. Researchers then checked links posted to their timelines against a list of web domains that have historically shared fake news, as compiled by BuzzFeed reporter Craig Silverman. Later, they checked the links against four other lists of fake news stories and domains to see whether the results would be consistent. Across all age categories, sharing fake news was a relatively rare category. Only 8.5 percent of users in the study shared at least one link from a fake news site. Users who identified as conservative were more likely than users who identified as liberal to share fake news: 18 percent of Republicans shared links to fake news sites, compared to less than 4 percent of Democrats. The researchers attributed this finding largely to studies showing that in 2016, fake news overwhelmingly served to promote Trump's candidacy. But older users skewed the findings: 11 percent of users older than 65 shared a hoax, while just 3 percent of users 18 to 29 did. Facebook users ages 65 and older shared more than twice as many fake news articles than the next-oldest age group of 45 to 65, and nearly seven times as many fake news articles as the youngest age group (18 to 29). As for why, researchers believe older people lack the digital literacy skills of their younger counterparts. They also say that people experience cognitive decline as they age, making them likelier to fall for hoaxes.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-news-for-people-who-like-good-news department
During a small press gathering at CES in Las Vegas today, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said the company doesn't have any plans to resurrect the Shield Tablet, which launched in 2014, was last refreshed in 2015 and officially discontinued last year. "Shield TV is still unquestionably the best Android TV in the world," he said. "We have updated the software now over 30 times. People are blown away by how much we continue to enhance it." And more (unspecified) enhancements are coming, he said. TechCrunch reports: On the mobile side, though, the days of the Shield Tablet are very much over, especially now that the Nintendo Switch, which uses Nvidia's Tegra chips, has really captured that market. "We are really committed to [Shield TV], but on mobile devices, we don't think it's necessary," Huang said. "We would only build things not to gain market share. Nvidia is not a "take somebody else's market share company.' I think that's really angry. It's an angry way to run a business. Creating new markets, expanding the horizon, creating things that the world doesn't have, that's a loving way to build a business."
He added that this is the way to inspire employees, too. Just copying competitors and maybe selling a product cheaper, though, does nothing to motivate employees and is not what Nvidia is interested in. Of course, Huang left the door open to a future tablet if it made sense -- though he clearly doesn't think it does today. He'd only do so, "if the world needs it. But at the moment, I just don't see it. I think Nintendo did such a great job."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's across-the-universe department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced that Chrome's ad blocker is expanding across the globe starting on July 9, 2019. As with last year's initial ad blocker rollout, the date is not tied to a specific Chrome version. Chrome 76 is currently scheduled to arrive on May 30 and Chrome 77 is slated to launch on July 25, meaning Google will be expanding the scope of its browser's ad blocker server-side. Google last year joined the Coalition for Better Ads, a group that offers specific standards for how the industry should improve ads for consumers. In February, Chrome started blocking ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that display non-compliant ads, as defined by the coalition. When a Chrome user navigates to a page, the browser's ad filter checks if that page belongs to a site that fails the Better Ads Standards. If so, network requests on the page are checked against a list of known ad-related URL patterns and any matches are blocked, preventing ads from displaying on the page. Because the Coalition for Better Ads announced this week that it is expanding its Better Ads Standards beyond North America and Europe to cover all countries, Google is doing the same. In six months, Chrome will stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly display "disruptive ads."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flip-of-a-switch department
With signs that the New York trial of notorious Mexican drug lord and alleged mass murderer Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is entering its end phase, prosecutors on Tuesday played copies of what they said were audio recordings of Guzman the FBI obtained "after they infiltrated his encrypted messaging system" with the help of Colombian and former cartel systems engineer Cristian Rodriguez, Reuters reported. Gizmodo reports: As has been previously reported by Vice, Colombian drug lord Jorge Cifuentes testified that Rodriguez had forgot to renew a license key critical to the communications network of Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel in September 2010, forcing cartel leaders to temporarily rely on conventional cell phones. Cifuentes told the court he considered Rodriguez "an irresponsible person" who had compromised their security, with a terse phone call played by prosecutors showing Cifuentes warned the subordinate he was in "charge of the system always working."
But on Tuesday it was revealed that the FBI had lured Rodriguez into a meeting with an agent posing as a potential customer much earlier, in February 2010, according to a report in the New York Times. Later, they flipped Rodriguez, having him transfer servers from Canada to the Netherlands in a move masked as an upgrade. During that process, Rodriguez slipped investigators the network's encryption keys. The communications system ran over Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), with only cartel members able to access it. Getting through its encryption gave authorities access to roughly 1,500 of Guzman's and other cartel members' calls from April 2011 to January 2012, the Times wrote, with FBI agents able to identify ones placed by the drug lord by "comparing the high-pitched, nasal voice on the calls with other recordings of the kingpin, including a video interview he gave to Rolling Stone in October 2015."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's stinky-times department
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there's a 1.4 billion-pound cheese surplus. "The glut, which at 900,000 cubic yards is the largest in U.S. history, means that there is enough cheese sitting in cold storage to wrap around the U.S. Capitol," reports NPR. Americans managed to consume nearly 37 pounds per capita in 2017, but that wasn't enough to reduce the surplus. From the report: The stockpile started to build several years ago, in large part because the pace of milk production began to exceed the rates of consumption, says Andrew Novakovic, professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University. Over the past 10 years, milk production has increased by 13 percent because of high prices. But what dairy farmers failed to realize was that Americans are drinking less milk. According to data from the USDA, Americans drank just 149 pounds of milk per capita in 2017, down from 247 pounds in 1975.
Suppliers turn that extra milk into cheese because it is less perishable and stays fresh for longer periods. But Americans are turning their noses up at those processed cheese slices and string cheese -- varieties that are a main driver of the U.S. cheese market -- in favor of more refined options, Novakovic tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson. Despite this shift, sales of mozzarella cheese, the single largest type of cheese produced and consumed in the U.S., remain strong, he says. Novakovic also notes that imported cheeses tend to cost more, so when people choose those, they buy less cheese overall. The growing surplus of American-made cheese and milk means that prices are declining. The current average price of whole milk is $15.12 per 100 pounds, which is much lower than the price required for dairy farmers to break even.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-to-expect department
Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC's Mad Money host Jim Cramer that the company will announce new "services" this year, suggesting that Apple might be planning to launch its long-awaited TV service in the first half of 2019. "While Cook didn't say what kind of services -- Cramer was asking whether Apple had any tricks up its services sleeve, including healthcare or mobile payments -- it's the long-awaited TV service that has recently seen all the pieces fall into place," notes The Verge. From the report: Here at CES 2019, there's been a series of surprise announcements from TV manufacturers that are suddenly supporting Apple's AirPlay 2 and HomeKit features to allow you to cast content directly from your iPhone, iPad and Mac -- including TVs running rival operating systems from Google and Samsung. New TVs from rival Samsung will actually support iTunes, too, letting you access your movies and TV shows there as well. It wouldn't be a stretch to think Apple might be priming the pump with those hardware manufacturers for the upcoming TV service, too.
Then, there's content: We reported last June how Apple has been spending over $1 billion on original TV content with no obvious place for users to watch it. Another report suggested that some of those original shows were slated to debut as soon as this March. And another still claimed that those shows might be free for people who own Apple devices. But even if the TV service is one of the "services" Cook mentioned, it's not clear what other services Apple might be talking about.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening?! department
Astronomers have detected 13 high-speed bursts of radio waves coming from deep space -- including one that regularly repeats. While the exact sources remain unknown, the new bevy of mysterious blasts does offer fresh clues to where and why such flashes appear across the cosmos. From a report: Fast radio bursts, as they are known to scientists, are among the universe's most bizarre phenomena. Each burst lasts just thousandths of a second, and they all appear to be coming from far outside our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Since these bursts were discovered in 2007, their cause has remained a puzzle. Based on estimations of the known range of their frequencies and an understanding of activity in the universe, scientists expect that nearly a thousand of them happen every day. But to date, only a handful have been found.
Now, a team using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, has announced the additional 13 new detections, including an especially rare repeating burst. Until now, only one other repeating fast radio burst was known to exist. "The repeater," as it being called, and its 12 counterparts came from a region of space some 1.5 billion light-years away, the team reports today in the journal Nature. All 13 new bursts have the lowest radio frequency yet detected, but they were also brighter than previously seen fast radio bursts, leading the team to think the low frequency has something to do with the sources' environment.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
A feature of the Google search engine lets threat actors alter search results in a way that could be used to push political propaganda, oppressive views, or promote fake news. From a report: The feature is known as the "knowledge panel" and is a box that usually appears at the right side of the search results, usually highlighting the main search result for a very specific query. For example, searching for Barack Obama would bring a box showing information from Barack Obama's Wikipedia page, along with links to the former president's social media profiles. But Wietze Beukema, a member of PwC's Cyber Threat Detection & Response team, has discovered that you can hijack these knowledge panels and add them to any search query, sometimes in a way that pushes legitimate search results way down the page, highlighting an incorrect result and making it look legitimate. The way this can be done is by first searching for a legitimate item, and pressing the "share" icon that appears inside a knowledge panel.Read Replies (0)