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China Plans 600 MPH Train To Rival Elon Musk's Hyperloop
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's near-ground-flight department:
In addition to relaunching the world's fastest bullet train, China is working on developing technology similar to Elon Musk's Hyperloop, which will allow passengers to travel at speeds up to 4,000 km/h (~2,500 mph). The first stage of the company's plan, however, will be to create a network of these "flying trains" operating at 1,000 km/h (~600 mph). Shanghaiist reports: Earlier today, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), one of the nation's major space contractors, announced that it had begun research and development into a new, futuristic type of transport which would operate via supersonic "near ground flight." The system would presumably be similar to that of the Hyperloop, proposed earlier this decade by Elon Musk, in which capsules would fly at ultrafast speeds down reduced-pressure tubes, dramatically reducing travel times. Of course, the CASIC isn't looking to reach speeds of 4,000 km/h right away. The first stage of the company's plan will be to create an intercity network of these "flying trains" operating at 1,000 km/h. In the second phase, this network would be extended and the max speed of the pods increased to 2,000 km/h. Finally, in the third stage, the speed would be boosted all the way up to 4,000 km/h -- five times the speed of civil aviation aircraft today.

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Kansas City Was First To Embrace Google Fiber, Now Its Broadband Future Is 'TBD'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's only-time-will-tell department:
Five years after the opportunity arose in 2011 for Kansas City to become the first community to pilot Google Fiber, expansion of the gigabit per second service has come to a screeching halt. Kaleigh Rogers from Motherboard writes about how Kansas City's broadband future is "to be determined." From the report: Thousands of customers in KC who had pre-registered for guaranteed service when Fiber made it to their neighborhood were given their money back earlier this year, and told they may never get hooked up. Fiber cycled through two CEOs in the last 10 months, lost multiple executives, and has started laying off employees. Plans to expand Fiber to eight other American cities halted late last year, leaving the fate of the project up in the air. I recently asked Rachel Hack Merlo, the Community Manager for Google Fiber in Kansas City, about the future of the expanding the project service there, and she told me it was "TBD." Kansas City expected to become Google's glittering example of a futuristic gig-city: Half a decade later, there are examples of how Fiber benefitted KC, and stories about how it fell short. Thousands of customers will likely never get the chance to access the infrastructure they rallied behind, and many communities are still without any broadband access at all. Many are now left wondering: is that it?

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Best Buy Will Now Send a Salesperson To Your House To Sell You Things
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's couch-potato department:
An anonymous reader writes: Starting next month, Best Buy will launch a free service where salespeople will come to your house to make recommendations about gadgets and services to try and sell you stuff. The service has been in testing in five markets and will be expanded to more cities around the U.S., according to the Associated Press. The Verge reports: "Best Buy has found that shoppers spend more money when at home than in store. CEO Hubert Joly says the in-house service is one way the company will open up 'latent' customer demand. Sales associates are responsible for promoting the service -- when customers ask about certain products, the salesperson will suggest an in-home visit. The topics discussed during the home visits usually involve recommendations for products and gadgets, and other services. Best Buy says the salespeople working in the in-home service receive hourly rates, or a salary, and not commissions. The company already operates a 'Geek Squad' facility, but that's a paid service that offers repairs and installations."

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Official Blade Runner 2036 Short Film Bridges the Gap Between the Sequel and the Original
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's explainer department:
Between the events of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, much has happened in the dystopian, neo-Los Angeles future, including the era of replicant prohibition. To help bridge the first Blade Runner, which was released in 1982, with Blade Runner 2049, director Luke Scott has created a short film (YouTube) that examines Niander Wallace's role in the decision to overturn the prohibition ruling. From an article, shared by several readers: As explained by Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve in the introduction for this video, he invited a few filmmakers to create three shorts that set the stage for his film. Blade Runner 2036: Nexus Dawn was directed by Luke Scott, and it reveals that Replicant technology was outlawed in the intervening years. That can't be considered too much of a surprise, considering the Replicants of 2019 were able to elude conventional detection. The short officially introduces Jared Leto's Niander Wallace, as he makes a personal request to repeal the anti-Replicant laws. In reality, Wallace had no intention of abiding by those rules, and he's already created at least one new Replicant whom he describes as an "angel." Intriguingly, Wallace argues that the new Replicants are necessary for humanity's survival in the off-world colonies, and he promises that his Replicants will never rebel and will only obey. But we've heard that promise before! And it never ends well.

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PayPal Debuts a Credit Card That Offers 2% Cash Back
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's further-expansion department:
PayPal is turning to its old nemesis, plastic, to help it expand beyond the digital realm. From a report: The online payments venture is introducing a credit card that offers customers 2 percent cash back on purchases -- one of the industry's highest rebate rates -- with no annual fee. The rewards will appear in users' online wallets and can be spent immediately on additional PayPal purchases or transferred to a bank. The move is part of Chief Executive Officer Dan Schulman's effort to transform PayPal from a payments button on websites into a versatile financial tool for everyday use, even in brick-and-mortar stores. He's forged 24 deals over the past 18 months with technology and financial companies including Apple, Visa and JPMorgan Chase, looking to make PayPal ubiquitous in the lives of its 210 million customers. The company already tested the card with some of them.

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Coders In Wealthy and Developing Countries Lean on Different Programming Languages
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's data-is-beautiful department:
Stack Overflow data scientist David Robinson published an interesting observation: There exists a small but meaningful divide between the programming technologies used in wealthy countries and those used in developing countries. From a report: To be sure, programmers everywhere tend to build things with the same tools, which makes sense because software is a global industry. The first is in data science, which tends to employ the programming languages Python and R. "Python is visited about twice as often in high-income countries as in the rest of the world, and R about three times as much," Robinson writes. "We might also notice that among the smaller tags, many of the greatest shifts are in scientific Python and R packages such as pandas, numpy, matplotlib and ggplot2. This suggests that part of the income gap in these two languages may be due to their role in science and academic research. It makes sense these would be more common in wealthier industrialized nations, where scientific research makes up a larger portion of the economy and programmers are more likely to have advanced degrees." C and C++ use is similarly skewed toward wealthy countries. This is likely for a similar reason. These are languages that are pushed in American universities. They also tend to be used in highly specialized/advanced programming fields like embedded software and firmware development where you're more likely to find engineers with advanced degrees.

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Mathematicians Race To Debunk German Man Who Claimed To Solve The 'P Versus NP' Problem
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's let-the-debate-begin department:
A German man -- Norbert Blum -- who claimed to have solved the P vs NP problem is seeing several challenges to his solution. From a report: Numerous mathematicians have begun to raise questions about whether the German mathematician solved it at all. Since Blum's paper was published, mathematicians and computer scientists worldwide have been racking their brains as to whether the Bonn-based researcher has, in fact, solved this Millennium Prize Problem. After an initially positive reaction, such as the one from Stanford mathematician Reza Zadeh, doubts are beginning to arise about whether Blum's reasoning is correct. In a forum for theoretical mathematics, a user named Mikhail reached out to Alexander Razborov -- the author of the paper on which Blum's proof is based -- to ask him about Blum's paper. Razborov purports to have discovered an error in Blum's paper: Blum's main argument contradicts one of Razborov's key assumptions. And mathematician Scott Aaronson, who is something of an authority in the math community when it comes to P vs. NP, said he would be willing to bet $200,000 that Blum's mathematical proof won't endure. "Please stop asking," Aaronson writes. If the proof hasn't been refuted, "you can come back and tell me I was a closed-minded fool." In the week since Aaronson's initial blog post, other mathematicians have begun trying to poke holes in Blum's proof. Dick Lipton, a computer science professor at Georgia Tech, wrote in a blog post that Blum's proof "passes many filters of seriousness," but suggested there may be some problems with it. A commenter on that blog post, known only as "vloodin," noted that there was a "single error on a subtle point" in the proof; other mathematicians have since chimed in and confirmed vloodin's initial analysis, and so the emerging consensus among many mathematicians is that a solve for P vs. NP remains elusive.

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China Regulator To Review Apple Antitrust Complaint
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's terse-relationship department:
China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce is reviewing an antitrust complaint accusing Apple of abusing its dominant position in smartphone applications, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. From the report: The regulator is studying the information following a complaint filed on behalf of developers before deciding if a formal investigation is necessary, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter isn't public. The review is preliminary and Chinese antitrust agencies usually review such information before deciding whether a official probe is needed. Beijing-based law firm Daxiao, or Dare & Sure, said earlier this month it filed complaints on the developers' behalf to the SAIC and the National Development and Reform Commission. The lawyers accused Apple of removing apps without a proper explanation and taking an excessive 30 percent cut of in-app transactions, it said in an Aug. 8 statement. The law firm now represents close to 50 developers, producing games and a number of other apps, according to Lin Wei, managing partner of Dare & Sure.

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FDA Issues Recall of 465,000 St. Jude Pacemakers To Patch Security Holes
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's your-worst-fear department:
In what may be a first, patients with heart conditions that are using particular pacemaker brands will have to visit their doctors for firmware updates to keep their embedded devices safe from tampering. From a report: It seems such an odd concept at first, but with many kinds of pacemakers now "smarter," with connections to mobile devices and diagnostic systems, the avenue has been carved for these medical devices to potentially be tampered with, should a threat actor choose. In particular, Abbott's pacemakers, formerly of St. Jude Medical, have been "recalled" by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a voluntary basis. The devices must be given a firmware update to protect them against a set of critical vulnerabilities, first reported by MedSec, which could drain pacemaker battery life, allow attackers to change programmed settings, or even change the beats and rhythm of the device. On Tuesday, the FDA issued a security advisory, warning that the pacemakers must be recalled -- and as they are embedded within the chests of their users, this requires a home visit or trip to the hospital to have the software patch applied.

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Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
An anonymous reader writes: A researcher at a high-profile Washington, D.C.-think tank, which receives funding from Google, was pushed out after criticizing the company. In June, Barry Lynn, who was a scholar at New America, posted a statement praising the European Union's record $2.7 billion fine against the company. Lynn ran a team, Open Markets, that researched competition policy and was increasingly critical of giants like Google and Amazon. Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt, criticized Lynn's statement to the think tank's CEO, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to The New York Times. Schmidt chaired New America until 2016. The think tank has received $21 million from Google and Schmidt's family's foundation since its founding in 1999. The statement reportedly disappeared from the think tank website but returned hours later. According to the Times, word of Schmidt's displeasure spread across the think tank. Slaughter fired Lynn days later, saying in an email obtained by the Times that "the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways." Slaughter told Lynn in an email that his firing was "in no way based on the content of your work," but said he was "imperiling the institution as a whole." Lynn told the Times he believed his dismissal was because he criticized Google.

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What We Get Wrong About Technology
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's think-about-it department:
Tim Harford, a columnist for the Financial Times, uses the example of Rachael and Rick Deckard from Blade Runner to explain how we humans, when asked about how new inventions might shape the future, often tend to leap to technologies that are sophisticated beyond comprehension. Also spoiler of the Blade Runner plot is ahead. He writes: So sophisticated is Rachael that she is impossible to distinguish from a human without specialised equipment; she even believes herself to be human. Los Angeles police detective Rick Deckard knows otherwise; in Rachael, Deckard is faced with an artificial intelligence so beguiling, he finds himself falling in love. Yet when he wants to invite Rachael out for a drink, what does he do? He calls her up from a payphone. There is something revealing about the contrast between the two technologies -- the biotech miracle that is Rachael, and the graffiti-scrawled videophone that Deckard uses to talk to her. It's not simply that Blade Runner fumbled its futurism by failing to anticipate the smartphone. That's a forgivable slip, and Blade Runner is hardly the only film to make it. It's that, when asked to think about how new inventions might shape the future, our imaginations tend to leap to technologies that are sophisticated beyond comprehension. We readily imagine cracking the secrets of artificial life, and downloading and uploading a human mind. Yet when asked to picture how everyday life might look in a society sophisticated enough to build such biological androids, our imaginations falter. Blade Runner audiences found it perfectly plausible that LA would look much the same, beyond the acquisition of some hovercars and a touch of noir.

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Facebook To Open New Office in Kendall Square, Adding Hundreds of Jobs
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department:
Facebook has a status update: The social network will open a new office in Cambridge next year and plans to hire more than 500 employees, bringing the Boston-based staff to 650. From a report: The company, which founder Mark Zuckerberg launched at Harvard before decamping for the West Coast, established its first Boston-based team nearly four years ago with a small group of employees sharing a workspace. Today, that team has grown to more than 100 people in a Kendall Square office, and space is getting tight, said Ryan Mack, who leads the Facebook Boston office. "We serve 2 billion people on Facebook," he said, "and we need to continue to scale." The new offices will occupy the top three floors of 100 Binney St., a new building designed by Elkus Manfredi that is scheduled to open early next year. Facebook will share the space with 300 Bristol-Myers Squibb employees.

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APFS Is Not Optional
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's of-course department:
From a new Apple knowledge base article: When you upgrade to macOS High Sierra, systems with all flash storage configurations are converted automatically. Systems with hard disk drives (HDD) and Fusion drives won't be converted to APFS. You can't opt-out of the transition to APFS.

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Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana Are Going To Work Together
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 06:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-together department:
Amazon and Microsoft announced on Wednesday that they've been working on a partnership to allow their respective voice assistants, Alexa and Cortana, to speak to one another. From a report: Starting later this year, owners of Amazon Echos and other Alexa-powered devices will be able to say: "Alexa, open Cortana" to start querying Microsoft's voice assistant. Owners of devices running Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system will be able to summon Alexa via Cortana in a similar manner. Why would customers want that -- especially with the relatively clunky nature of the necessary voice command? The companies say that each voice assistant has its strengths -- features like Microsoft Outlook and Exchange email integration for Cortana and smart-home controls or shopping for Alexa -- and that customers of both companies would benefit from an integration. It's not clear if the two assistants will share voice data in an effort to make each digital assistant smarter. But there is the hope that someday these artificial agents are intelligent enough to route requests to the best virtual assistant for the task without a specific "Alexa" or "Cortana" command.

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Large-Scale Dietary Study: Fats Good, Carbs Bad
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 06:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's food-for-thought department:
An anonymous reader quotes CBS:
New research suggests that it's not the fat in your diet that's raising your risk of premature death, it's too many carbohydrates -- especially the refined, processed kinds of carbs -- that may be the real killer... People with a high fat intake -- about 35 percent of their daily diet -- had a 23 percent lower risk of early death and 18 percent lower risk of stroke compared to people who ate less fat, said lead author Mahshid Dehghan. She's an investigator with the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario... At the same time, high-carb diets -- containing an average 77 percent carbohydrates -- were associated with a 28 percent increased risk of death versus low-carb diets, Dehghan said...
For this study, Dehghan and her colleagues tracked the diet and health of more than 135,000 people, aged 35 to 70, from 18 countries around the world, to gain a global perspective on the health effects of diet. Participants provided detailed information on their social and economic status, lifestyle, medical history and current health. They also completed a questionnaire on their regular diet, which researchers used to calculate their average daily calories from fats, carbohydrates and proteins. The research team then tracked the participants' health for about seven years on average, with follow-up visits at least every three years.

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Dealership Remotely Disables A Car Over A $200 Fee
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '17 at 02:10 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mobile-payments department:
An anonymous reader quotes the CBC:
A car dealership in Sherbrooke, Quebec, may have broken the law when it used a GPS device to disable the car of a client who was refusing to pay an extra $200 fee, say consumer advocates consulted by CBC News. Bury, Quebec resident Daniel Lallier signed a four-year lease for a Kia Forte LX back in May from Kia Sherbrooke. Two months later, the 20-year-old's grandmother offered to buy the car outright when he lost his job and couldn't make his weekly payments. After settling the balance and paying a $300 penalty, Lallier said, the dealership told him he would have to pay an additional $200 to remove a GPS tracker that had been installed on the car...
Lallier said there was no mention of the removal fee in the contract and he disputed having to pay it."I just find it absurd that over $13,000 was spent on this vehicle and we still have to pay $200 more to have their device removed," he told CBC. After Lallier refused to pay the fee, a mechanic notified him by text message that his car was being remotely disabled until the dealership recovered the device and $200 fee. "I went outside and tested my car, and it wouldn't work at all...and I got angry," Lallier said.
Lallier had finally started a new job and was headed to work, according to the CBC. The president of the Automobile Protection Association says the dealership's action was clearly illegal, since once the balance is paid off, "it's not your car anymore."

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South Korea Moves Towards The World's First 'Robot Tax'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 11:30 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's assessments-on-automation department:
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
It's being called the world's first robot tax. If it goes into effect, South Korea will be the first country to change its tax laws in recognition of the coming burden of mass robotic automation on low and middle-skill workers. The change proposed by the Moon Jae-in administration isn't a direct tax on robots. Rather, policymakers have proposed limiting tax incentives on investments in automation... Under existing law, South Korean companies that buy automation equipment, such as warehouse and factory robots, can deduct between three and seven percent of their investment. The current proposal, which seems likely to advance, is to reduce the deduction rate by up to two percentage points.
The move is evidently not an attempt to staunch companies from adopting automation technology. Rather, it is a kind of formal acknowledgment that unemployment is coming on a big enough scale to eat into South Korea's tax revenue. Policymakers are hoping that reducing the deduction incentives by a couple percentage points will offset the lost income tax and help keep the country's social services and welfare coffers filled.
The Korea Times, which broke the story, reminds readers that former U.S. treasury secretary Lawrence Summers has called robot taxes "profoundly misguided... A sufficiently high tax on robots would prevent them from being produced."

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Is Slashdot Blocked In Parts Of India?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 08:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's jungle-block department:
Long-time Slashdot reader davesag writes:
I'm a regular long-term Slashdot reader and have been living in Delhi for the last 9 months. As of last Friday 25th August the only way I can access Slashdot at all is via a VPN. It appears that Slashdot has joined the growing list of websites the Indian Government finds threatening.

The Indian Government is deeply paranoid over internet access, with many sites being blocked, jail sentences for viewing blocked URLs, and bans on open wifi networks.

In 2015 the Indian government blocked access to over 800 adult web sites, and earlier this month they reportedly blocked access to Archive.org.

"A block on Slashdot is over the top," davesag writes, "and makes me wonder what it is about this news site that the government here finds so terrifying."

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Domino's Market Tests A Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Car
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 07:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-more-tipping department:
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Someday soon your Domino's Pizza could be delivered to you -- without an actual delivery person. Ford and Domino's are testing out a specially-equipped Ford Fusion that comes not only with self-driving technology but also an oven. It sounds cool but there is a catch -- there's no one to walk the pizza to your front door and ring the bell. That's what Ford and Domino's say they're really testing. "How will customers react to coming outside to get their food?" Domino's president Russell Weiner said in a statement, "We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple."

During the testing phase, an engineer and a driver will be in the car -- but the windows will be heavily tinted so customers can't see them. And both have been instructed not to interact with people at all. Domino's wants to see how well customers deal with coming out and getting their own pie from what is, basically, a pizza ATM built into the car. To get their pizzas, customers will have to enter a number on the touchpad, then a back window will lower, revealing the pizza. Over the next five weeks, randomly selected customers around Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be offered the option of getting their pizza delivered by the hi-tech "driverless" car.

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Massive New Spambot Ensnares 711,000,000 Email Addresses
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '17 at 06:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's don't-reply-to-all department:
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
A huge spambot ensnaring 711 million email accounts has been uncovered. A Paris-based security researcher, who goes by the pseudonymous handle Benkow, discovered an open and accessible web server hosted in the Netherlands, which stores dozens of text files containing a huge batch of email addresses, passwords, and email servers used to send spam. Those credentials are crucial for the spammer's large-scale malware operation to bypass spam filters by sending email through legitimate email servers.
The spambot, dubbed "Onliner," is used to deliver the Ursnif banking malware into inboxes all over the world. To date, it's resulted in more than 100,000 unique infections across the world, Benkow told ZDNet. Troy Hunt, who runs breach notification site Have I Been Pwned, said it was a "mind-boggling amount of data." Hunt, who analyzed the data and details his findings in a blog post, called it the "largest" batch of data to enter the breach notification site in its history... Those credentials, he explained, have been scraped and collated from other data breaches, such as the LinkedIn hack and the Badoo hack, as well also other unknown sources.

The data includes information on 80 million email servers, and it's all used to identify which recipients have Windows computers, so they can be targeted in follow-up emails delivering Windows-specific malware.

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