By msmash from Slashdot's inside-the-world's-most-valuable-company department
Readers share a column: Apple is no longer the king of the smartphone camera, but that's just a small component of a company in (highly profitable) stagnation. It wasn't that long ago that anyone who cared about taking great photos on their phone was destined to buy an iPhone (whether they wanted it or not) just by sheer brilliance of its miniaturized camera tech. But something happened over the last 18 months that's changed the dynamic for consumers in the market: Samsung and especially Google have started producing handsets that equal or surpass Apple's devices with their picture-taking quality. [...] But Google is not Facebook, and while I give up some of my data to the company, what I get in return has sizable value -- apps I use for hours every day, predictive services that actually work, photo processing that means I'm less likely to miss an important moment. To be clear: the stuff Google and Amazon are doing right now isn't just cool and doesn't solely serve their corporate interests -- it matters in very real ways to consumers, with touchpoints they encounter every day where Apple can't even get a word in edgewise. [...] Coming in second in the camera space alone might not be that big of an issue, but Apple has also had significant problems with its hardware recently -- not just with quality control, but in pure design terms as well (who could have predicted that in 2018 people would be touting Microsoft as the industry leader in design?). Siri continues to be a running joke among most people I know -- tech enthusiasts and average users alike. Apple's iCloud efforts have amounted to little more than a "hard disk in the sky" (a famous Jobsian turn of phrase). And is it the best experience for consumers to be forced into Apple Mail, Apple Maps, iTunes, Apple Music, and Apple Photos at every turn? Can you honestly say they're the best at what they do?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department
Scientists in Chicago are trying to create the embryo of the first quantum internet. If they succeed, the researchers will produce one, 30-mile piece of a far more secure communications system with the power of fast quantum computing. From a report: The key was the realization of an unused, 30-mile-long fiber optic link connecting three Chicago-area research institutions -- Argonne National Lab, Fermi Lab and the University of Chicago. This led to the idea to combine efforts and use the link for what they call the Chicago Quantum Exchange.
David Awschalom, an Argonne scientist and University of Chicago professor who is the project's principal investigator, tells Axios that the concept is difficult to grasp, even for experts. MIT Technology Review elaborates: The QKD approach used by Quantum Xchange works by sending an encoded message in classical bits while the keys to decode it are sent in the form of quantum bits, or qubits. These are typically photons, which travel easily along fiber-optic cables. The beauty of this approach is that any attempt to snoop on a qubit immediately destroys its delicate quantum state, wiping out the information it carries and leaving a telltale sign of an intrusion. The initial leg of the network, linking New York City to New Jersey, will allow banks and other businesses to ship information between offices in Manhattan and data centers and other locations outside the city. However, sending quantum keys over long distances requires "trusted nodes," which are similar to repeaters that boost signals in a standard data cable. Quantum Xchange says it will have 13 of these along its full network. At nodes, keys are decrypted into classical bits and then returned to a quantum state for onward transmission. In theory, a hacker could steal them while they are briefly vulnerable.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's no-hard-feelings department
Both Amazon and Apple are taking retributive measures against Bloomberg, which in a report earlier this month alleged that some motherboards used by these companies were hacked by China. From a report: Amazon pulled its fourth quarter advertisements on Bloomberg's website, a move some within the media giant think is retribution for its controversial story alleging that Chinese spies hacked into the online retailer's servers. According to a source in position to know, Amazon's digital media buyer, Initiative, informed Bloomberg's sales staff on October 16 that it would cancel its ad buys for the fourth quarter due to budget cuts. Internally, the source said, the staff received that decision, made only eight days after a previous communication with Initiative confirming that the ads would run, as a direct response to Amazon's displeasure over the October 4 story. (Amazon announced Thursday that its marketing expenses for Q3 2018 were 3.3 billion dollars, up more than 800 million dollars from the year before.) [...] According to multiple sources, Bloomberg was not invited to Apple's fall product event next week in Brooklyn. Further reading: In an Unprecedented Move, Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls For Bloomberg To Retract Its Chinese Spy Chip Story.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
tedlistens writes: As law enforcement investigates possible mail bombs sent to prominent Democratic Party figures and liberal activists, the tools available at their disposal include digital images and delivery metadata commonly associated with mail sent in the United States. The U.S. Postal Service regularly photographs the front and back of every piece of U.S. mail, or about 150 billion parcels, envelopes, and postcards every year. A longstanding practice known as the "mail cover" program enables law enforcement to obtain address information and images of the outsides of mail as part of an investigation without the need for a warrant through the Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Postal Service's policing arm. According to a report from CBS News, authorities are currently using "data analytics" to spot similar packages to those identified as containing bombs. Images of packages shared with the press show a common return address, using the misspelled name of Representative and former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Postal Inspection Service doesn't generally comment on its investigative techniques. As part of the mail cover program, mail is routinely digitally photographed as part of the sorting process and even available for recipients to digitally preview in some areas. Apart from threats like bombs, the department says its main focus is on mail theft, fraud, and narcotics cases.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's look-at-the-evidence department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Evidence that an entire class of pesticides threatens the health of children and pregnant women is now so arresting that the substances should be banned, an expert panel of toxicologists has said. Exposure to organophosphates (OPs) increases the risk of reduced IQs, memory and attention deficits, and autism for prenatal children, according to the paper, published in Plos Medicine. More than 10,000 tonnes of OP pesticides are sprayed in 24 European countries each year and usage is higher in the US, where the Trump administration is appealing against a federal court ban on chlorpyrifos, one of the most popular agricultural insecticides.
Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the paper's lead author and director of the UC Davis environmental health sciences centre, said: "We have compelling evidence from dozens of human studies that exposures of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides put children and fetuses at risk for developmental problems that may last a lifetime. By law, the EPA cannot ignore such clear findings: It's time for a ban not just on chlorpyrifos, but all organophosphate pesticides." Bruce Lanphear, one of the paper's co-authors, said: "We found no evidence of a safe level of organophosphate pesticide exposure for children. Well before birth, organophosphate pesticides are disrupting the brain in its earliest stages, putting them on track for difficulties in learning, memory and attention, effects which may not appear until they reach school-age. Government officials around the world need to listen to science, not chemical lobbyists."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's business-as-usual department
Bismillah writes: China Telecom is up to no good with Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) shenanigans researchers have discovered. The state-owned telco is hijacking and rerouting internet traffic to China via it's U.S. and Canadian points of presence (PoPs). As for how the researchers came to their conclusion, they reportedly "built a route tracing system that monitors BGP announcements and which picks up on patterns suggesting accidental or deliberate hijacks and discovered multiple attacks by China Telecom over the past few years," reports iTNews.
In one example occurring in 2016, "China Telecom diverted traffic between Canada and Korean government networks to its PoP in Toronto," the report says. "From there, traffic was forwarded to the China Telecom PoP on the U.S. West Coast and sent to China, and finally delivered to Korea. Normally, the traffic would take a shorter route, going between Canada, the U.S. and directly to Korea." The telecommunications company is able to reroute the traffic by announcing fake routes via the BGP, which "governs data flow between Autonomous Systems, the large networks operated by telcos, internet providers and corporations."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's why-insurance-exists department
A new study from AAA highlights the high repair costs associated with cars that have advanced safety technology. "[S]eemingly small damages to a vehicle's front end can incur costs nearing $3,000," CNET reports. From the report: The study looked at three solid sellers in multiple vehicle segments, including a small SUV, a midsize sedan and a pickup truck. It looked at repair costs using original equipment list prices and an established average for technician labor rates.
Let's use AAA's examples for some relatable horror stories. Mess up your rear bumper? Well, if you have ultrasonic parking sensors or radar back there, it could cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 to fix. Knock off a side mirror equipped with a camera as part of a surround-view system? $500 to $1,100. Windshields are especially tricky. People who own cars with windshields that have embedded heating elements already have to pony up hundreds of dollars to replace what you might think is just a piece of glass. Factor complex camera systems (like autobrake) into the mix, and not only do folks get hit with the windshield replacement, they possibly have to find a trained professional to recalibrate all that tech behind it.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's knowledge-is-power department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: If you haven't heard, universities around the world are offering their courses online for free (or at least partially free). These courses are collectively called MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. In the past six years or so, over 800 universities have created more than 10,000 of these MOOCs. And I've been keeping track of these MOOCs the entire time over at Class Central, ever since they rose to prominence.
In the past four months alone, 190 universities have announced 600 such free online courses. I've compiled a list of them and categorized them according to the following subjects: Computer Science, Mathematics, Programming, Data Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, Education & Teaching, Health & Medicine, Business, Personal Development, Engineering, Art & Design, and finally Science. The full list is available in the report. If you need help signing up, there's a report for that too.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's someone-got-ripped-off department
A portrait created by artificial intelligence fetched $432,500 at Christie's in New York on Thursday, the first time a computer-generated artwork was offered by a major auction house. Bloomberg reports: The print on canvas, titled "Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy," depicts a blurry and unfinished image of a man. Displayed in a gilded wooden frame, it was estimated to fetch $7,000 to $10,000 and offered as the final lot at Christie's auction of prints and multiples. The work was the brainchild of Obvious Art, a Paris-based collective, with help from an algorithm known as GAN (Generative Adversarial Network). "We fed the system with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century to the 20th," collective member Hugo Caselles-Dupre told Christie's. The piece sparked a bidding war among five parties that lasted about seven minutes, with an anonymous phone buyer prevailing, said Christie's spokeswoman Jennifer Cuminale.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's poor-choices department
The New York Times has revealed new details on the circumstances that surrounded Andy Rubin's departure from Google in 2014. According to the report, Google "investigated sexual misconduct claims against Rubin, which revolved around an incident in which he allegedly coerced another Google employee into 'performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013,'" The Verge reports. "Despite reportedly finding the claims credible -- to the point that Page decided Rubin needed to go -- Google gave him a $90 million exit package. The last $2 million of that agreement will be paid out next month." From the report: Before that payout, and during the initial stages of its investigation in 2014, Google awarded Rubin "a stock grant worth $150 million." The move gave Rubin, at that time a highly-valued executive at the company, major financial incentive for sticking around after he'd moved on from Android to focus his efforts on a robotics unit. The Times says it's unclear whether Page or Google's leadership committee knew about the misconduct allegations when they approved that huge grant. But they certainly did when reaching the $90 million figure as Rubin headed out the door, and Page offered public praise for Rubin in announcing his departure. After he left, Google proceeded to invest in his VC, Playground Ventures. And the company even allowed him to delay paying back a $14 million loan it'd given him "to buy a beach estate in Japan." In a statement to the New York Times, Google said: "[W]e investigate and take action, including termination. In recent years, we've taken a particularly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority. We're working hard to keep improving how we handle this type of behavior." UPDATE: Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees Thursday in response to the report, saying 48 employees have been fired for sexual misconduct over the last two years.Read Replies (0)