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No One Wants To Buy Twitter
Posted by News Fetcher on October 16 '16 at 12:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's not-interested department:
At one point, it seemed that many were interested in purchasing the micro-blogging social platform (which now calls itself a news service) Twitter, but its fate is quickly drying up. Salesforce (which couldn't buy LinkedIn) showed the most interest in Twitter, but this week its CEO Marc Benioff said his company has "walked away" from making a bid to buy it. The Verge sums up the situation: If you're keeping track, that's now... pretty much everyone who's said they're not interested in buying Twitter. Neither Google nor Disney plan to bid on Twitter, despite reports saying both were interested. Recode says that Apple is likely also out of the picture. And Verizon immediately dismissed speculation that it was considering a bid. Facebook is also said to be uninterested, according to CNBC. And while Microsoft's name has been tossed around, no one seems to think the acquisition would make any sense for an increasingly enterprise-focused company.The situation is so bad that as soon as the news of Salesforce withdrawing its name from the bidding race broke, its stock quickly went up by 6 percent, while Twitter's stock registered a 6 percent drop.

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Transcripts of Clinton's Wall Street Talks Released in New Wikileaks Dump
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 09:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's shaking-things-up department:
Emily Stephenson and Luciana Lopez, reporting for Reuters: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's full remarks to several Wall Street audiences appeared to become public on Saturday when the controversial transparency group Wikileaks dumped its latest batch of hacked emails. The documents showed comments by Clinton during question-and-answer sessions with Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and Tim O'Neill, the bank's head of investment management, at three separate events in 2013 in Arizona, New York and South Carolina. Some excerpts of Clinton's speeches had already been released. For more than a week, Wikileaks has published in stages what it says are hacked emails from the account of John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman. Clinton came under fire for months for not releasing full details of her paid speeches to big business audiences, as opponents accused her of a cozy relationship with bankers and other members of the U.S. financial system.

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China Has Now Eclipsed The US in AI Research
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 08:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's race-for-AI department:
Earlier this week, the Obama administration discussed a new strategic plan aimed at fostering the development of AI-centered technologies in the United States. What's striking about it is, the Washington Post notes, although the United States was an early leader in deep-learning research (a subset of the overall branch of AI known as machine learning), China has effectively eclipsed it in terms of the number of papers published annually on the subject (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). From the report: The rate of increase is remarkably steep, reflecting how quickly China's research priorities have shifted. The quality of China's research is also striking. The chart narrows the research to include only those papers that were cited at least once by other researchers, an indication that the papers were influential in the field.

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CIA Prepping For Possible Cyber Strike Against Russia
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 05:53 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 400-pound-hacker department:
Slashdot reader schwit1 reports that the Obama administration "is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election," according to U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to NBC News:
Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging "clandestine" cyber operation designed to harass and "embarrass" the Kremlin leadership. The sources did not elaborate on the exact measures the CIA was considering, but said the agency had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation. Former intelligence officers told NBC News that the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vice President Joe Biden told "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd on Friday that "we're sending a message" to Putin and that "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact." When asked if the American public will know a message was sent, the vice president replied, "Hope not."

Not mounting a response would weaken U.S. credibility, one senior U.S. official said, while others said hundreds of millions of dollars has been allocated to the team mounting the attacks. Thursday US officials familiar with the investigation told CNN there was "mounting evidence" that Russia was supplying leaked emails to WikiLeaks, and last week in a conference call organized by the Clinton campaign, former Acting CIA Director Mike Morrell said it was "absolutely clear... WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2 are working with the Russians on this."

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Uber's Ad-Toting Drones Are Heckling Drivers Stuck in Traffic
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 04:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's bullying-humans department:
Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico city are lately seeing a fleet of sign-toting drones buzzing at them, saying (in Spanish) "Driving by yourself? This is why you can never see the volcanoes." (It's a reference to the smog that often hovers over the city and obscures two nearby peaks.) Turns out, it's an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber's big push into markets across Latin America. From an MIT Technology Review article: Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets.Umm, I get that Uber has self-driving cars now in Pittsburgh, but they don't fly (at least as of now). So wouldn't they be stuck in the traffic as well?

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Maths Becomes Biology's Magic Number
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 03:12 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's changing-patterns department:
In the middle of a discussion about the pros and cons of statins, Sir Rory Collins, the head of clinical trials at Oxford University, noted that If you want a career in medicine these days you're better off studying mathematics or computing than biology. A report on BBC adds: It is a nice one-liner, but I didn't think much more about it until a few days later, when I found myself sitting in a press conference to mark the launch of a new initiative on cancer. Rubbing shoulders on the panel with the director of the Institute of Cancer Research, Professor Paul Workman, was a scientist I didn't recognise, but it soon became clear this was exactly what Sir Rory had had in mind. Dr Andrea Sottoriva is an astrophysicist. He has spent much of his career searching for Neutrinos -- the elusive sub-atomic particles created by the fusion of elements in stars like our sun -- at the bottom of the ocean, and analysing the results of atom smashing experiments with the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Geneva. "My background is in computer science, particularly as it applies to particle physics," he told me when we met at the ICR's laboratories in Sutton. So why cancer? The answer can be summed up in two words: big data. What Dr Sottoriva brings to the fight against cancer is the expertise in mathematical modelling needed to mine the vast treasure trove of data the information revolution has brought to medicine. "The exciting thing is that we can apply all the new analytical techniques we've developed in physics to biology," he says. "So we have all these new quantitative technologies that allow us to process an enormous amount of data, and all of a sudden we can start to apply that to implement the paradigm of physics in biology."

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Silicon Valley Big Data Startup Palantir Responds To Labor Department's Discrimination Lawsuit
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 01:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's addressing-concerns department:
Silicon Valley's big data startup Palantir, founded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, has filed a response to the Department of Labor after the agency sued the company for discriminating against Asian job applicants. From a Fortune report: Palantir says that no discrimination took place and that the Labor Department's statistical analysis -- the basis for the recent suit -- is faulty. The suit, according to Palantir's 15-page response, wrongly suggests that the company "should have hired a workforce that matched the racial composition of the group of individuals whose resumes Palantir received, without regard to candidate qualifications." Palantir's response also points out that the suit addressed only three out of 44 job titles for which Palantir hired employees within the 18-month analysis period conducted by the Labor Department. What's more, says the response, 36% of those eventually hired across all the job openings within that timeframe were Asian -- a rate that exceeds the percentage of qualified Asian employees in the external labor market, according to stats from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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Instacart Reverses Course After Backlash From Shoppers Over Plans To Eliminate Tips
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 01:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's subject-to-shopper's-opinion department:
Instacart says it is adjusting planned changes to its pay structure for full-service shoppers. The change of heart comes after independent contractors threatened to boycott the grocery delivery startup's plans to replace tips with an optional 10 percent fee collected by the company. From a TechCrunch report: CEO Apoorva Mehta stressed that the decision came from customers looking to continue tipping, rather than complaints from shoppers, which he called a small group that was "very vocal" about the change. However, following removing tips, Instacart received some backlash from shoppers who said they were losing significant portions of their earnings. The backlash went so far as to inspire a boycott among some shoppers, though again Mehta said that this was not the primary cause for returning tipping. [...] Originally, the company sought to raise the overall earnings payout per delivery while removing tips, which was an attempt to make earnings more reliable instead of burst-y as a result of tips. Top shoppers, however, accustomed to getting larger tips because of their performance were concerned that they would lose a significant portion of their earnings. The vocal minority, it seems, was loud enough -- and perhaps so was the customer base -- that Instacart had to reverse course. Update: 10/15 21:25 GMT by M :Title updated to fix a typo. I regret the error.

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The Slashdot Interview With Security Expert Mikko Hypponen: 'Backupception'
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's slashdot-interviews department:
You asked, he answered! Mikko Hypponen, Chief Research Officer at security firm F-Secure, has answered a range of your questions. Read on to find his insight on the kind of security awareness training we need, whether anti-virus products are relevant anymore, and whether we have already lost the battle to bad guys. Bonus: his take on whether or not you should take backups of your data.

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The White House Open Sources President Obama's Facebook Messenger Bot To 'Bring the Gov't To You'
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 11:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's affinity-for-open-source department:
The White House has open sourced the code for President Obama's Facebook Messenger bot in a hope that this will help other governments and developers build similar services. These services will ideally foster similar connections with their citizens with significantly less upfront investment. From the official post: It's also an important part of furthering our mission to "meet the public where they are." Millions of people contact their friends and family using Facebook Messenger. Why shouldn't they be able to contact the White House, too? And President Obama really reads these messages. Since 2009, he's made it part of his daily routine to read 10 letters sent to him by citizens -- something he refers to as the best part of his day. [...] To be specific, we are open-sourcing a Drupal module, complete with easy steps and boiler plate code. This will enable Drupal 8 developers to quickly launch a Facebook Messenger bot. We also left a few lines in the repository describing our hopes for the future of the code and encouraging members of the developer community to get involved.

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Proud Cyborg Athletes Compete In The World's First Cybathlon
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 09:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I,-Cyborg department:
IEEE Spectrum reports:
Last Saturday, in a sold-out stadium in Zurich, Switzerland, the world's first cyborg Olympics showed the world a new science-fiction version of sports. At the Cybathlon, people with disabilities used robotic technology to turn themselves into cyborg athletes. They competed for gold and glory in six different events... [B]y skillfully controlling advanced technologies, amputees navigated race courses using powered prosthetic legs and arms. Paraplegics raced in robotic exoskeletons, bikes, and motorized wheelchairs, and even used their brain waves to race in the virtual world...

the_newsbeagle writes:
While the competitors struggled with mundane tasks like climbing stairs, those exertions underlined the point: "Like the XPrize Foundation, the Cybathlon's organizers wanted to harness the motivating power of competition to spur technology development...they hoped to encourage inventors to make devices that can eventually provide winning moves beyond the arena."

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EFF Co-Founder Announces Benefit Concert to Pay His Medical Bills
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 09:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's get-well,-John! department:
An anoymous Slashdot reader reports:
"I was dead for about 8 mins. on Wed. eve," EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow posted last year on Facebook. "total cardiac arrest...sad to report, no Ascending Light." The cyber-rights activist told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had gone "down the tunnel of eternity and it turned out to be a cheap carnival ride." He paused for a moment. "Probably not cheap, though."

Yesterday Barlow posted a Twitter update announcing a big benefit concert in Mill Valley, California to help pay his mounting medical bills on Monday, October 24th. Performers will include Bob Weir (also of The Grateful Dead), Jerry Harrison (of The Talking Heads), Lukas Nelson, Members of The String Cheese Incident, Sean Lennon and Les Claypool, plus 85-year-old folk singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott, as well as "special guests."
Barlow's family describes the last 18 months as a "medical incarceration" with "a dizzying array of medical events and complications" that has depleted his savings and insurance benefits. They've also set up a site for donations from "his fellow innovators, artists, cowboys, and partners-in-crime, to help us provide the quality of care necessary for Barlow's recovery."

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Scientific Breakthrough Increases Plant Yields By One Third
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 08:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's growth-industry department:
Slashdot reader schwit1 writes, "Plant scientists have found a way to encourage plants to better use atmospheric nitrogen, thus increasing yields by more than one third. The technique not only produces healthier plants and more seeds, it reduces the need for fertilizer, the overuse of which can be an environmental issue." From WSU News:

For years, scientists have tried to increase the rate of nitrogen [conversion] in legumes by altering...interactions that take place between the bacterioid and the root nodule cells. [Washington State University biologist Mechthild] Tegeder took a different approach: She increased the number of proteins that help move nitrogen from the rhizobia bacteria to the plant's leaves, seed-producing organs and other areas where it is needed. The additional transport proteins sped up the overall export of nitrogen from the root nodules.

This initiated a feedback loop that caused the rhizobia to start fixing more atmospheric nitrogen, which the plant then used to produce more seeds. "They are bigger, grow faster and generally look better than natural soybean plants," Tegeder said.

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California City Converts Its Street Lights Into A High-Speed IoT Backbone
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 06:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pier-to-pier department:
Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford describes how the city of Santa Monica installed its own high-speed IoT backbone on its street lights and traffic signals -- and why it's important.
Neutral "micro" cell sites can make very high-capacity wireless transmissions available, competitively, to everyone (and every sensor) nearby. This can and should cause an explosion of options and new opportunities for economic growth, innovation, and human flourishing in general... Very few American cities have carried out this transmogrification, but every single one will need to. Santa Monica...is a city that will be able to control its future digital destiny, because it is taking a comprehensive, competition-forcing approach to the transmission of data...

Cities that get control of their streetlights and connect them to municipally overseen, reasonably priced dark fiber can chart their own Internet of Things futures, rather than leave their destinies in the hands of vendors whose priorities are driven (rationally) by the desire to control whole markets and keep share prices and dividends high rather than provide public benefits.
Santa Monica's CIO warns that now telecoms "are looking for exclusive rights to poles and saying they can't co-locate [with their competitors]. They're all hiring firms to lock up their permits and rights to as many poles as possible, as quickly as possible, before governments can organize."

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Google Reveals It Received Secret FBI Subpoena
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 05:32 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's top-secret department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: Google revealed Wednesday it had been released from an FBI gag order that came with a secret demand for its customers' personal information. The FBI secret subpoena, known as a national security letter, does not require a court approval. Investigators simply need to clear a low internal bar demonstrating that the information is "relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." The national security letter issued to Google was mentioned without fanfare in Google's latest bi-annual transparency report, which includes information on government requests for data the company received from around the world in the first half of 2016. Google received the secret subpoena in first half of 2015, according to the report. An accompanying blog post titled "Building on Surveillance Reform," also identified new countries that made requests -- Algeria, Belarus, and Saudi Arabia among them -- and reveals that Google saw an increase in requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But Google in its short blog post did not publish the contents of the actual letter the way other companies, including Yahoo, have done in recent months. Asked about plans to release the national security letter, a Google spokesperson told The Intercept it will release it, though it wouldn't say when or in what form it will do so. Google hasn't previously published any national security letters, though it's possible gag orders for prior demands are still in place. It's also unclear why Google wouldn't immediately publish the document -- unless the gag is only partially lifted, or the company is involved in ongoing litigation to challenge the order, neither of which were cited as reasons for holding it back

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Netflix Is 12x As Popular As Its Streaming Competitors Among Younger Viewers, Says Survey
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '16 at 02:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's staggering-statistics department:
Investment bank Piper Jaffray released a survey Friday that reveals just how much U.S. teens love Netflix. Out of the 10,000 U.S. teens surveyed, 37% of them watched Netflix every single day, while only 3% of them watched Amazon Prime Video and Hulu each day, respectively. That means Netflix is over 12 times as popular in terms of daily use. Business Insider reports: At the top of the pack for general video consumption, after Netflix, came YouTube (26%), which inched over cable TV (25%). This continued an upward trend for YouTube and a downward one for cable. Last month, analysts at UBS said Amazon and Hulu were closing the gap with Netflix in overall consumer satisfaction in the U.S. Amazon and Netflix were in a dead heat at 58% and 59% respectively. Hulu still lagged a bit, but was close to Netflix at 53% of people "very satisfied."

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NASA Has No Plans To Buy More Soyuz Seats
Posted by News Fetcher on October 14 '16 at 11:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's space-taxi department:
schwit1 writes: Both Boeing and SpaceX better get their manned capsules working by 2019, because NASA at this point has no plans to buy more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules after the present contract runs out. Spaceflight Now reports: "Even as the commercial crew schedules move later into 2018, NASA officials say they are not considering extending the contract with Roscosmos -- the Russian space agency -- for more launches in 2019. The last Soyuz launch seats reserved for U.S. astronauts are at the end of 2018. It takes more than two years to procure components and assemble new Soyuz capsules, so Russia needed to receive new Soyuz orders from NASA by some time this fall to ensure the spacecraft would be ready for liftoff in early 2019." The second paragraph above notes that even if NASA decided it needed more Soyuz launches, it is probably too late to buy them and have them available by 2019. "A Soyuz is a complicated vehicle, and a complicated vehicle doesn't come into existence in a matter of days," said Kirk Shireman, NASA's space station program manager. "It takes over two years to build a Soyuz, so yes, at some point in time, building a new Soyuz vehicle is not an option. We're working with our Russian counterparts on exactly when that is. We have not crossed that date yet, but I believe the date is in sight. It will be this calendar year when we will cross the point where we won't be able to build a Soyuz in time for when our last seats that we've already procured expire," Shireman said.

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Non-Cable Internet Providers Offer Faster Speeds To the Wealthy
Posted by News Fetcher on October 14 '16 at 07:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's more-reasons-to-hate-ISPs department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When non-cable Internet providers -- outlets like ATT or Verizon -- choose which communities to offer the fastest connections, they don't juice up their networks so everyone in their service area has the option of buying quicker speeds. Instead, they tend to favor the wealthy over the poor, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. The Center's data analysis found that the largest non-cable Internet providers collectively offer faster speeds to about 40 percent of the population they serve nationwide in wealthy areas compared with just 22 percent of the population in poor areas. That leaves tens of millions of Americans with the choice of either purchasing an expensive connection from the only provider in their area -- typically a cable company -- or just doing the best they can with slower speeds. Middle-income areas don't fare much better, with a bit more than 27 percent of the population having access to a DSL provider's fastest speeds. The Center reached its conclusions by merging the latest Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data with income information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The non-cable Internet providers -- the four largest are ATT Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, CenturyLink Inc, and Frontier Communications Corp -- hook up customers over telephone wires that are Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL), or they use hybrid networks that include some fiber connections near (and sometimes directly to) homes. The Center included all types of connection in its analysis. These companies account for nearly 40 percent of the 92 million Internet connections nationwide. Cable companies, such as Comcast Corp and Charter Communications Inc, operate under a different set of conditions. These providers offer the same fast speeds to almost every community they serve, in part because of franchise agreements with local governments. But a previous Center investigation and other reports have shown that cable firms sometimes avoid lower-income or hard-to-reach areas based on how franchise agreements are written. Poor areas not served by the cable companies are not included in the Centerâ(TM)s analysis, which results in what seems like an equitable distribution of speeds across income levels. "Society said it did not matter if you could pay for electricity; we wanted everyone to have it. Society said we would not limit dial tone to those who could pay the most, we gave it to all," said telecommunications lawyer Gerard Lederer of Best Best and Krieger LCC in Washington, D.C., in an e-mail. "Broadband is quickly becoming that utility, and if applications only work at high speeds, then the universal availability of that speed must be the goal, otherwise you are providing everyone with water, just some of the water is not drinkable."

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Smartphones Are 'Contaminating' Family Life, Study Suggests
Posted by News Fetcher on October 14 '16 at 06:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's family-values department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets can be distracting from child-rearing, upending family routines and fueling stress in the home, a small, new study finds. Incoming communication from work, friends and the world at large is "contaminating" family mealtime, bedtime and playtime, said study lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky. She's an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her comments stem from her team's study involving interviews with 35 parents and caregivers of young children in the Boston area. "This tension, this stress, of trying to balance newly emerging technologies with the established patterns and rituals of our lives is extremely common, and was expressed by almost all of our participants," Radesky said. "We have to toggle between what might be stress-inducing or highly cognitively demanding mobile content and responding to our kids' behavior," she said. The result, said Radesky, is often a rise in parent-child tension and overall stress. Modern parents and caregivers interact with tablets, smartphones and other communication devices for about three hours a day, the study authors said in background notes. Radesky's team previously found that when parents used mobile devices during meals they interacted less with their children, and became stressed when children tried to grab their attention away from the device. The new study included 22 mothers, nine fathers and four grandmothers. Participants were between 23 and 55 years old (average age 36) and cared for toddlers or young children up to age 8. Roughly one-third were single parents, and nearly six in 10 were white. On the plus side, many parents said that mobile devices facilitated their ability to work from home. But that could fuel anxiety, too. Some said smartphones provided access to the outside world, and alleviated some of the boredom and stress of child-rearing. On the down side, caregivers described being caught in a tug-of-war between their devices and their children. The study findings were published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

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Hackers Hit 6,000 Sites On Active 18-Month Carding Spree
Posted by News Fetcher on October 14 '16 at 06:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shopping-spree department:
mask.of.sanity writes from a report via The Register: Hackers have installed skimming scripts on more than 6,000 online stores and are adding 85 each day in a wide-scale active operation that may have compromised hundreds of thousands of credit cards. The malware is infecting stores (full list) running vulnerable versions of the Magento ecommerce platform, and also compromised the U.S. National Republican Senatorial Committee store. "Given that there are [about] 5,900 other skimmed stores, and the malpractice has been going on since at least May last year, I would expect the number of stolen cards in the hundreds of thousands," said Dutch developer Willem de Groot. You can read his blog post to learn more.

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