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Google Brain Creates Technology That Can Zoom In, Enhance Pixelated Images
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 03:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's zooming-progression department:
Google Brain has created new software that can create detailed images from tiny, pixelated images. If you've ever tried zooming in on an image, you know that it generally becomes more blurry. You'd just get larger pixels and not a clear image. Google's new software effectively extracts details from a few source pixels to enhance pixelated images. Softpedia reports: For instance, Google Brain presented some 8x8 pixel images which it then turned into some pretty clear photos where you can actually tell facial features apart. What is this sorcery, you ask? Well, it's Google combining two neural networks. The first one, the conditioning network, works to map the 8x8 pixel source image against other high-resolution images. Basically, it downsizes other high-res images to the same 8x8 size and tries to make a match on the features. Then, the second network comes into play, called the prior network. This one uses an implementation of PixelCNN to add realistic, high-res details to that 8x8 source image. If the networks know that one particular pixel could be an eye, when you zoom in, you'll see the shape of an eye there. Or an eyebrow, or a mouth, for instance. The technology was put to the test and it was quite successful against humans. Human observers were shown a high-resolution celebrity face vs. the upscaled image resulted from Google Brain. Ten percent of the time, they were fooled. When it comes to the bedroom images used by Google for the testing, 28 percent of humans were fooled by the computed image.

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Iris Scans and Fingerprints Could Be Your Ticket On British Rail
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 03:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cost-of-convenience department:
Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Rail passengers could use fingerprints or iris scans to pay for tickets and pass through gates, under plans announced by the UK rail industry. In its current form, the mobile technology is intended to allow passengers to travel without tickets, instead using Bluetooth and geolocation technology to track a passenger's movements and automatically charge their travel account at the end of the day for journeys taken. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators and Network Rail, said further development could see passengers identified using biometric technology in a way similar to the facial-recognition schemes used at some UK airports to speed up border checks. The RDG said more than 200 research, design and technology projects have been identified to increase the railways' capacity and improve customer service. Other projects include new seat designs that could improve train capacity by up to 30 percent and folding seats that could boost space during peak times, including tables that could fold into seats.

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Apple's Ultra Accessory Connector Dashes Any Hopes of a USB-C iPhone
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 02:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's boulevard-of-broken-dreams department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Among all the iPhone 8 concepts and daydreams, my favorite scenario has always been to see Apple replacing its proprietary Lightning connector with the USB-C one that's taken over the entire rest of the smartphone world. Apple is already a strong proponent of USB-C, having moved to it aggressively with the new MacBook Pros in October, but the company also maintains Lightning for its iPhones and iPads -- which creates a lot of headaches for people desiring universal accessories that work with everything inside the Cupertino ecosystem. Alas, after yesterday's revelation of a new Ultra Accessory Connector (UAC), which is intended to ameliorate some of the pain of having both USB-C and Lightning devices, it looks like the dream of a USB-C iPhone will forever remain just that. The UAC connector is going to be used as an intermediary in headphone wires, splitting them in half so that the top part can be universal, and the bottom can be either a Lightning, USB-C, USB-A, or a regular old 3.5mm analog plug. The intent is to restore some of the universality of wired headphones -- which, until not too long ago, all terminated in a 3.5mm connector (or 6.35mm on non-portable hi-fi models designed for at-home listening). With UAC, a headphone manufacturer can issue multiple cable terminations very cheaply, making both the headphones and any integrated electronics, like a digital-to-analog converter or built-in microphone, compatible across devices with different ports. Why this matters with regard to the iPhone's sole remaining port is simple: if Apple was planning to switch its mobile devices to USB-C, it wouldn't have bothered with creating a Made for iPhone standard for UAC. It would have just made the port change.

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Nintendo's Engineers Have Embraced Unreal Engine
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 02:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department:
Tom Regan, writing for Engadget: If there's one thing that Nintendo has struggled with, it's enticing third-party developers to create games for its consoles. But according to VentureBeat, the company is looking to change that with the advent of the new Switch. At an investor Q&A session, Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that Nintendo engineers have been learning how to use third-party development tools like the Unreal Engine. It's not much of a surprise, given that the Switch, like the Wii U before it, supports the Unreal Engine. But the fact that Miyamoto has opened up on the subject shows that Nintendo may be softening its sometimes frosty stance on third-party developers. That relationship has never been too friendly, with former president Hiroshi Yamauchi saying in 2000 that third-parties are "not helping the industry at all."

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You Can Make Any Number Out of Four 4s Because Math Is Amazing
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's math-is-amazing department:
Andrew Moseman, writing for Popular Mechanics: Here's a fun math puzzle to brighten your day. Say you've got four 4s -- 4, 4, 4, 4 -- and you're allowed to place any normal math symbols around them. How many different numbers can you make? According to the fantastic YouTube channel Numberphile, you can make all of them. Really. You just have to have some fun and get creative. When you first start out, the problem seems pretty simple. So, for example, 4 - 4 + 4 - 4 = 0. To make 1, you can do 4 / 4 + 4 - 4. In fact, you can make all the numbers up to about 20 using only the basic arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. But soon that's not enough. To start reaching bigger numbers, the video explains, you must pull in more sophisticated operations like square roots, exponents, factorials (4!, or 4 x 3 x 2 x 1), and concatenation (basically, turning 4 and 4 into 44).

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A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
Jugal K Patel, writing for the NYTimes: A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica's fourth-largest ice shelf has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break. The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable to warming temperatures. Since December, the crack has grown by the length of about five football fields each day (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The crack in Larsen C now reaches over 100 miles in length, and some parts of it are as wide as two miles. The tip of the rift is currently only about 20 miles from reaching the other end of the ice shelf. Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, the break will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, according to Project Midas, a research team that has been monitoring the rift since 2014. Because of the amount of stress the crack is placing on the remaining 20 miles of the shelf, the team expects the break soon.

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Microsoft Debuts Customizable Speech-To-Text Tech, Releases Some Cognitive Services Tools To Developers
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 11:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's open-to-all department:
Microsoft is readying three of its 25 Cognitive Services tools for wider release to developers. From a report on GeekWire: Microsoft's AI and Research Group, a major new engineering and research division formed last year inside the Redmond company, is debuting a new technology that lets developers customize Microsoft's speech-to-text engine for use in their own apps and online services. The new Custom Speech Service is set for release today as a public preview. Microsoft says it lets developers upload a unique vocabulary -- such as alien names in Human Interact's VR game Starship Commander -- to produce a sophisticated language model for recognizing voice commands and other speech from users. It's the latest in a series of "cognitive services" from Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, a 5,000-person division led by Microsoft Research chief Harry Shum. The company says it has expanded from four to 25 cognitive services in the last two years, including 19 in preview and six that are generally available.

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Slashdot Asks: Your Favorite Podcasts? And Why?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 11:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what-we-listen-to department:
Are podcasts finally starting to go mainstream? Are they the future of radio? Who knows. Over the weekend, a reader asked us if we listen to podcasts -- and if yes, which ones? I started listening to podcasts five years ago, and I try to listen to one podcast every day. Here are some of the podcasts I have subscribed to (though I rarely manage to listen to all of them, each week): The New York Times' new podcast The Daily, Bloomberg's Decrypted, WSJ's Media Mix, The Information's 411, The Economist's The Week Ahead, The Economist's Babbage, Financial Times' Tech Tonic, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, The New Yorker's Radio Hour, The Accidental Tech Podcast, John Gruber's The Talk Show, Slate's Audio Book Club, and Kara Swisher's Recode Decode. What are your favorite podcasts and why? Also, when do you listen to them -- at work /during commute / before bed / weekend or some other time?

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Movie Industry Wants Irish ISPs To Block Pirate Movie Streaming Portals
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's blockade-brigade department:
The Motion Picture Association is trying to have three popular streaming portals blocked by Irish Internet providers. In a new court case, the movie studios describe movie4k.to, primewire.ag and onwatchseries.to as massive copyright infringement hubs, with each offering thousands of infringing movies. From a TorrentFreak report: RTE reports that the MPA's fresh blocking demands are targeting a total of eight ISPs -- Eir, Sky Ireland, Vodafone Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland, Three Ireland, Digiweb, Imagine Telecommunications and Magnet Networks. Based on yesterday's hearing it appears to be only a matter of time before the three sites will be blocked. None of the ISPs have raised principle objections against a court determination in this case. That said, reports suggest that there are still a few finer details that have to be worked out, which could include issues regarding costs and the technical implementation.

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SpaceX Plans to Start Launching Rockets Every Two To Three Weeks
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-fast department:
Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks, its fastest rate since starting launches in 2010, once a new launch pad is put into service in Florida next week. From a report: The ambitious plan comes only five months after a SpaceX rocket burst into flames on the launch pad at the company's original launch site in Florida. SpaceX, controlled by billionaire Elon Musk, has only launched one rocket since then, in mid-January. "We should be launching every two to three weeks," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in an interview on Monday.

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If You Owned a PC With a DVD Drive You Might Be Able To Claim $10
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 08:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's collect-what-you're-owed department:
If you owned a PC with a DVD drive more than 10 years ago, you're probably owed $10. From a report on The Verge: A class-action lawsuit is now accepting claims after Sony, NEC, Panasonic, and Hitachi-LG were accused of inflating the prices of optical drives sold to PC makers like Dell and HP. If you bought a PC with a DVD drive between April 1st 2003 and December 31st 2008, you'll be able to claim $10 for each drive as part of the class-action lawsuit. It appears you don't need to provide any proof of purchase -- the settlement administrators are simply collecting names, email addresses, and the number of drives owned at the moment. You'll need to submit a claim before July 1st, and the money won't be released until other defendants in the litigation have settled.

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'Fundraising Rounds Are Not Milestones'
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 08:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's wisdom department:
Michael Seibel, a partner at Y Combinator, writes in a blog post: I'd like to make the point that success isn't the same as raising a round of financing. Quite the opposite: raising a round should be a byproduct of success. Using fundraising itself as a benchmark is dangerous for the entire community because it encourages a culture of optimizing for short term showmanship instead of making something people want and creating lasting value. I believe founders, investors, and the tech press should fundamentally change how they think about fundraising. By deemphasizing investment rounds we would have more opportunity to celebrate companies who develop measurable milestones of value creation, focus on serving a customer with a real need, and generate sustainable businesses with good margins.

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Facebook Shareholders Urge Company To Replace Mark Zuckerberg With 'Independent' Board Chair
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 07:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's could-do-without-Mark department:
An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report: Facebook is being pressured by a group of shareholders seeking the removal of company chief executive Mark Zuckerberg from the board of the directors. A proposal has been put forward claiming that an independent chairperson would be better able to "oversee the executives of the company, improve corporate governance, and set a more accountable, pro-shareholder agenda." The idea for Zuckerberg's board ousting comes from Facebook shareholders who are members of the consumer watchdog group SumOfUs. The organization bills itself as an online community that campaigns to hold corporations accountable on a variety of global issues such as climate change, workers' rights, discrimination, human rights, corruption, and corporate power grab.

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Intel's Atom C2000 Chips Are Bricking Products -- And It's Not Just Cisco Hit
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 07:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fault-in-our-chips department:
Thomas Claburn, reporting for The Register: Intel's Atom C2000 processor family has a fault that effectively bricks devices, costing the company a significant amount of money to correct. But the semiconductor giant won't disclose precisely how many chips are affected nor which products are at risk. In its Q4 2016 earnings call earlier this month, chief financial officer Robert Swan said a product issue limited profitability during the quarter, forcing the biz to set aside a pot of cash to deal with the problem. "We were observing a product quality issue in the fourth quarter with slightly higher expected failure rates under certain use and time constraints, and we established a reserve to deal with that," he said. "We think we have it relatively well-bounded with a minor design fix that we're working with our clients to resolve." Coincidentally, Cisco last week issued an advisory warning that several of its routing, optical networking, security and switch products sold prior to November 16, 2016 contain a faulty clock component that is likely to fail at an accelerated rate after 18 months of operation. Cisco at the time declined to name the supplier of that component.

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FBI Will Revert To Using Fax Machines, Snail Mail For FOIA Requests
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 05:41 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's read-the-fine-print department:
blottsie writes: Starting next month, the FBI will no longer accept Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests via email. Instead, the U.S. agency will largely require requests be made via fax machine or the U.S. Postal Service. [The FBI will also accept a small number of requests via an online portal, "provided users agree to a terms-of-service agreement and are willing to provide the FBI with personal information, including a phone number and physical address."] The Daily Dot reports: "It's a huge step backwards for the FBI to switch from a proven, ubiquitous, user-friendly technology like email to a portal that has consistently shown problems, ranging from restricting how often citizens can access their right to government oversight to legitimate privacy concerns," says Michael Morisy, co-founder of MuckRock, a nonprofit that has helped people file over 28,271 public records requests at more than 6,690 state, federal, and local agencies. "Given that email has worked well for millions of requests over the years, this seems like a move designed to reduce participation and transparency, and we hope that the FBI will reverse course," Morisy added.

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Scientists Have Invented Paper That You Can Print With Light, Erase With Heat, and Reuse 80 Times
Posted by News Fetcher on February 07 '17 at 02:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Jack-of-all-trades department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Nearly 1% of carbon emissions annually can be attributed to paper production, even though we recycle much of the paper we produce. Yadong Yin has a solution. He and his colleagues at the University of California at Riverside have invented a type of paper that can be printed on using just light, erased by heating, and reused up to 80 times. Yin created nanoparticles, which are a million times smaller than the thickness of human hair, with the dye Prussian blue, or its chemical analogues, and titanium oxide, which is commonly used in white wall paint. This mixture is then applied to normal paper. When the coating is exposed to ultraviolet light, electrons from titanium oxide move to the dye in the nanoparticle. This addition of electrons makes the blue dye turn white. Focusing the ultraviolet light into shapes, you can print white words on a blue background -- or blue words on a white background, which are easier to read. If left alone, the paper reverts to its original state in five days. That process can be accelerated by heating the paper to 120 C (250 F) for 10 minutes.

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Dozens of Popular iOS Apps Vulnerable To Intercept of TLS-Protected Data
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 11:40 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-practices department:
Researchers at Sudo Security Group Inc. discovered seventy-six popular applications in Apple's iOS App Store that had implemented encrypted communications with their back-end services in such a way that user information could be intercepted by a man-in-the-middle attack. According to Ars Technica, the applications could be fooled by a forged certificate sent back by a proxy, allowing their Transport Layer Security to be unencrypted and examined as it is passed over the internet. From their report: The discovery was initially the result of bulk analysis done by Sudo's verify.ly, a service that performs bulk static analysis of application binaries from Apple's App Store. Will Strafach, president of Sudo, verified the applications discovered by the system were vulnerable in the lab, using a network proxy configured with its own Secure Socket Layer certificate. In the post about his findings being published today, Strafach wrote: "During the testing process, I was able to confirm 76 popular iOS applications allow a silent man-in-the-middle attack to be performed on connections which should be protected by TLS (HTTPS), allowing interception and/or manipulation of data in motion. According to Apptopia estimates, there has been a combined total of more than 18,000,000 (Eighteen Million) downloads of app versions which are confirmed to be affected by this vulnerability." The data exposed by the vulnerability in each of the applications varied in sensitivity. For just less than half -- 33 of the applications -- the risk was relatively low, as most of the data was "partially sensitive analytics data," Strafach said. These apps included a number of third-party "uploader" apps for Snapchat (which exposed Snapchat usernames and passwords) and the Vice News app, among others. In 24 cases, the exposed data included login credentials or session tokens that would allow an attacker to hijack the account associated with the application, though those accounts were not tied to highly sensitive data. However, the remaining 19 applications left sensitive data exposed to attack. In these cases, Strafach "confirmed ability to intercept financial or medical service login credentials and/or session authentication tokens for logged in users."

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Scientists Discover Evidence of a 'Lost Continent' Under the Indian Ocean
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 08:40 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lost-and-found department:
Scientists at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa say they've discovered evidence of a "lost continent" beneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. According to EarthSky, the evidence of the "lost continent" may be leftover from the breakup of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, which started to break up around 200 million years ago. The evidence itself "takes the form of ancient zircon minerals found in much-younger rocks." From the report: Geologist Lewis Ashwal of Wit University led a group studying the mineral zircon, found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions. Zircon minerals contain trace amounts of radioactive uranium, which decays to lead and can thus be accurately dated. Ashwal and his colleagues say they've found remnants of this mineral far too old to have originated on the relatively young island of Mauritius. They believe their work shows the existence of an ancient continent, which may have broken off from the island of Madagascar, when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean. Ashwal explained in a statement: "Earth is made up of two parts -- continents, which are old, and oceans, which are "young." On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed. Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years. The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent." The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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French Politician Uses Hologram To Hold Meetings In Two Cities At the Same Time
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-places-at-once department:
neutrino38 writes: The French presidential election is approaching fast. One of the candidates, Jean-Luc Melanchon, used a hologram to hold two public meetings at once. With a political program that is mostly socialist and very left leaning, some people pointed out that he used private innovation to stand out from the crowd. Reuters notes that this is "not the first politician to employ such technology," adding that "in 2014, then-Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan used a huge hologram of himself to attract wider support, while India's Narendra Modi trounced the opposition with a campaign that included holograms of his speeches in villages across the country." You can watch part of one of Melanchon's virtual meetings here.

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DC Inauguration Protestors Are Being Hit With Facebook Data Searches
Posted by News Fetcher on February 06 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's data-mining department:
During the protests over the inauguration of Donald Trump, more than 230 protestors were arrested -- many of which were charged with rioting and had their phones seized by Washington, D.C., police. One of the individuals who was arrested received an email from Facebook's "Law Enforcement Response Team," which begs the question: Did D.C. police ask Facebook to reveal information about this arrestee? CityLab reports: In an emailed response to CityLab's request for more information, Rachel Reid, a spokesperson for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, responded that "MPD does not comment on investigative tactics." The District of Columbia United States Attorney's Office -- the agency leading the prosecution of Inauguration protesters -- has not yet responded to CityLab's inquiry. CityLab also asked Facebook about the email. "We don't comment on individual requests," company spokesperson Jay Nancarrow said. He referred CityLab to the site's law enforcement guidelines page and to its Government Requests Report database, where the public can see how many legal processes it receives from countries worldwide. According to this database, U.S. law enforcement requested information on the accounts of 38,951 users over January to June of 2016, and they received some type of data in 80 percent of cases. Which "legal process" authorities sent to Facebook for information on the protester matters considerably in terms of how much data they can seize for investigation. According to Facebook's legal guidelines, a search warrant, for example, could allow Facebook to give away content data including "messages, photos, videos, timeline posts, and location information." A subpoena or a court order would give authorities less information, but would still include the individual's "name, length of service, credit card information, email address(es), and a recent login/logout IP address(es)."

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