By BeauHD from Slashdot's worst-nightmares department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Nick Winke, a photographer in the Pacific northwest, was perusing internet forums when he came across a complaint that alarmed him: On certain Samsung Electronics Co. smartphones, users aren't allowed to delete the Facebook app. Winke bought his Samsung Galaxy S8, an Android-based device that comes with Facebook's social network already installed, when it was introduced in 2017. He has used the Facebook app to connect with old friends and to share pictures of natural landscapes and his Siamese cat -- but he didn't want to be stuck with it. He tried to remove the program from his phone, but the chatter proved true -- it was undeletable. He found only an option to "disable," and he wasn't sure what that meant.
A Facebook spokesperson said the disabled version of the app acts like it's been deleted, so it doesn't continue collecting data or sending information back to Facebook. But there's rarely communication with the consumer about the process. The Menlo Park, California-based company said whether the app is deletable or not depends on various pre-install deals Facebook has made with phone manufacturers, operating systems and mobile operators around the world over the years, including Samsung. Facebook, the world's largest social network, wouldn't disclose the financial nature of the agreements, but said they're meant to give the consumer "the best" phone experience right after opening the box.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's now-we're-talking department
MojoKid writes: Dell just unveiled its latest desktop-replacement class notebook, the new Alienware Area-51m. Unlike most other notebooks, however, the Area-51m is actually packing an array of desktop-class hardware. Intel's Core i9-9900K is an available CPU option, for example, and NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 2080 will be offered in the machine as well. The Area-51m also supports up to 64GB of RAM via quad SO-DIMM slots, multiple NVMe M.2 solid state drives and a SATA drive can be installed, and numerous 17.3" display options will be available as well, including a 144Hz IPS G-SYNC model. The Alienware Area-51m is also upgradeable, thanks to the use of socketed desktop processors and a custom GPU module. The machine will be available starting January 29th in two color options, Lunar Light and Dark Side of the Moon.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's surprise-surprise department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: AT&T is preparing for yet another significant round of layoffs according to internal documents obtained by Motherboard. The staff reductions come despite billions in tax breaks and regulatory favors AT&T promised would dramatically boost both investment and job creation. A source at AT&T who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly told Motherboard that company leadership is planning what it's calling a "geographic rationalization" and employment "surplus" reduction that will consolidate some aspects of AT&T operations in 10 major operational hubs in New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Washington State, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Washington, DC. A spokesperson for AT&T confirmed to Motherboard that it is planning to "adjust" its workforce.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's ask-and-you-shall-receive department
Bell Canada is asking customers for permission to track everything they do with their home and mobile phones, internet, television, apps or any other services they get through Bell or its affiliates. "In return, Bell says it will provide advertising and promotions that are more 'tailored' to their needs and preferences," reports CBC.ca. From the report: "Tailored marketing means Bell will be able to customize advertising based on participant account information and service usage patterns, similar to the ways that companies like Google and others have been doing for some time," the company says in recent notices to customers. If given permission, Bell will collect information about its customers' age, gender, billing addresses, and the specific tablet, television or other devices used to access Bell services. It will also collect the "number of messages sent and received, voice minutes, user data consumption and type of connectivity when downloading or streaming." "Bell's marketing partners will not receive the personal information of program participants; we just deliver the offers relevant to the program participants on their behalf," the company assures customers. Teresa Scassa, who teaches law at the University of Ottawa and holds the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, says Bell customers who opt into Bell's new program could be giving away commercially valuable personal information with little to no compensation for increased risks to their privacy and security. "Here's a company that's taking every shred of personal information about me, from all kinds of activities that I engage in, and they're monetizing it. What do I get in return? Better ads? Really? That's it? What about better prices?" Toronto-based consultant Charlie Wilton, whose firm has advised Bell and Rogers in the past, says: "I mean, in a perfect world, they would give you discounts or they would give you points or things that consumers would more tangibly want, rather than just the elimination of a pain point -- which is what they're offering right now."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's best-of-the-best department
According to U.S. News and World Report's annual best jobs rankings, software developer is the top pick for the new year. "The publication's Best Jobs of 2019 list takes seven factors into account, including median salary, employment rate and stress level," reports USA Today. "The median salary for a software developer is $101,790, and the unemployment rate is 1.9 percent, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics." From the report: Though software developers have neither the highest median salary nor lowest unemployment rate on the U.S. News Best Jobs of 2019 list, the position's projected increase in demand -- roughly 30 percent between 2016 and 2026 -- and average stress levels helped it land the top spot, said Rebecca Koenig, careers reporter at U.S. News and World Report. "Unlike some other jobs that do pretty well on the list, which are very demanding, software developer tends not to be a really stressful profession," Koenig said. Here are the Top 10, in order: 1. Software Developer
3. Physician assistant
5. (tie) Orthodontist
6. (tie) Nurse anesthetist
7. Nurse practitioner
9. (tie) Obstetrician and gynecologist
9. (tie) Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
9. (tie) Prosthodontist
9. (tie) PhysicianRead Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's food-tech department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Popular Science: During a press event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Impossible Foods showed off its new plant-based ground beef replacement by offering a selection of foods from traditional sliders to the ambitious tartare. Thanks to a change in formula, the new Impossible Burger 2.0 goes beyond simple patties and aims to take on ground beef with every recipe, from lasagna to tacos. The first tastes are very promising. Back in 2016, the original Impossible Burger debuted as a veggie burger that could almost pass as beef. Its meaty secret was a molecule called heme, which contains iron and is largely responsible for the flavors we associate with cooked flesh. But, according to Impossible CEO Pat Brown, it requires a protein to bind it. The original Impossible Burger used wheat protein, which worked, but had some drawbacks. First, it meant the Impossible Burger wasn't gluten-free, but it also put some limitations on the meat's form factor. The wheat worked for burger patties that stayed in a relatively static shape, but it couldn't crumble or take on other shapes -- like meatballs -- without losing its integrity. The solution was a switch to soy.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
Google has removed 85 Android apps from the official Play Store that security researchers from Trend Micro deemed to contain a common strain of adware. "The 85 apps had been downloaded over nine million times, and one app, in particular, named 'Easy Universal TV Remote,' was downloaded over five million times," reports ZDNet. From the report: While the apps were uploaded on the Play Store from different developer accounts and were signed by different digital certificates, they exhibited similar behaviors and shared the same code, researchers said in a report published today. But besides similarities in their source code, the apps were also visually identical, and were all of the same types, being either games or apps that let users play videos or control their TVs remotely.
The first time users ran any of the apps, they would proceed to show fullscreen ads in different steps, asking and reasking users to press various buttons to continue. If the user was persistent and stayed with the app until it reached a menu page, every menu button push would trigger yet another fullscreen ad, over and over again until the app would suddenly crash, hiding its original app icon. But despite the crash, unbeknownst to the user, the app would continue to run in the phone's background, showing new fullscreen ads ever 15 or 30 minutes, generating profits for the fraudsters until users either removed the apps or reset devices to factory settings as a last resort. You can view a list of the 85 adware apps via this PDF file.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's glitch-in-the-matrix department
A new program at DARPA is aimed at creating a machine learning system that can sift through the innumerable events and pieces of media generated every day and identify any threads of connection or narrative in them. It's called KAIROS: Knowledge-directed Artificial Intelligence Reasoning Over Schemas. From a report: "Schema" in this case has a very specific meaning. It's the idea of a basic process humans use to understand the world around them by creating little stories of interlinked events. For instance when you buy something at a store, you know that you generally walk into the store, select an item, bring it to the cashier, who scans it, then you pay in some way, and then leave the store. This "buying something" process is a schema we all recognize, and could of course have schemas within it (selecting a product; payment process) or be part of another schema (gift giving; home cooking).
Although these are easily imagined inside our heads, they're surprisingly difficult to define formally in such a way that a computer system would be able to understand. They're familiar to us from long use and understanding, but they're not immediately obvious or rule-bound, like how an apple will fall downwards from a tree at a constant acceleration. And the more data there are, the more difficult it is to define. Buying something is comparatively simple, but how do you create a schema for recognizing a cold war, or a bear market? That's what DARPA wants to look into.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. case against the chief financial officer of China's Huawei Technologies, who was arrested in Canada last month, centers on the company's suspected ties to two obscure companies. One is a telecom equipment seller that operated in Tehran; the other is that firm's owner, a holding company registered in Mauritius. U.S. authorities allege CFO Meng Wanzhou deceived international banks into clearing transactions with Iran by claiming the two companies were independent of Huawei, when in fact Huawei controlled them. Huawei has maintained the two are independent: equipment seller Skycom Tech Co Ltd and shell company Canicula Holdings Ltd. But corporate filings and other documents found by Reuters in Iran and Syria show that Huawei, the world's largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment, is more closely linked to both firms than previously known.
The documents reveal that a high-level Huawei executive appears to have been appointed Skycom's Iran manager. They also show that at least three Chinese-named individuals had signing rights for both Huawei and Skycom bank accounts in Iran. Reuters also discovered that a Middle Eastern lawyer said Huawei conducted operations in Syria through Canicula. Huawei, U.S. authorities assert, retained control of Skycom, using it to sell telecom equipment to Iran and move money out via the international banking system. As a result of the deception, U.S. authorities say, banks unwittingly cleared hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions that potentially violated economic sanctions Washington had in place at the time against doing business with Iran.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
When you link your checking account to Venmo or use it to buy bitcoin, a startup called Plaid is likely facilitating the connection with your bank. You punch in your user name and password; Plaid checks those credentials with the financial institution and, if they're accurate, passes banking information back to the app. That's it.
From a report: This kind of software has been around for decades. But in the last year, Plaid has captured investors' attention. The San Francisco startup was the subject of a bidding war among venture capitalists and at least one tech company, ultimately resulting in a $250-million investment last month. That money will partly go toward the acquisition of one of its biggest competitors. Plaid announced Tuesday it was buying New York-based Quovo Inc. The deal could be worth about $200 million after performance bonuses, said three people familiar with the transaction, who asked not to be identified because terms of the deal were private.
Since starting Plaid in 2012, Zach Perret has sold the startup's nine lines of code to some of the most popular finance apps. Robo-advisor startup Betterment, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc.'s Venmo and stock-trading app Robinhood Markets Inc. have all used Plaid. Meanwhile, Quovo specializes in wealth management and brokerages. "This represents the merging of two complementary but both very important businesses," said Perret, Plaid's chief executive. Plaid is now valued at roughly $3 billion.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Intel announced a major rethink of its chip design back in December, just before it finally delivers 10nm chips for PCs and laptops. At CES 2019 this week, Intel is demonstrating its first Ice Lake 10nm processor that's based on its new Sunny Cove microarchitecture. From a report: Intel is building in Thunderbolt 3, Wi-Fi 6, and DL Boost (deep learning boost) into these Ice Lake chips for laptops and PCs to take advantage of. Intel is now promising that PC makers will have devices with Ice Lake processors on shelves by the end of 2019. At its CES keynote today, Intel demonstrated ODM systems from Pegatron and Wistron, and Dell even joined Intel on stage to show off an Ice Lake-powered XPS laptop that will be available later this year. Dell didn't show the device powered on, but it appeared to be a 2-in-1 device that looked similar to the XPS 13. Intel is also looking to the future, too. The chip giant is planning to use Foveros 3D chip stacking technology to build future chips, a method that allows Intel's chip designers to stack extra processing power on top of an already-assembled chip die. These "chiplets" can be stacked atop one another to form a processor that includes graphics, AI processing, and more.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's blade-runner-is-here department
T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are selling access to their customers' location data, and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country, an investigation by news outlet Motherboard has found. From the report: Nervously, I gave a bounty hunter a phone number. He had offered to geolocate a phone for me, using a shady, overlooked service intended not for the cops, but for private individuals and businesses. Armed with just the number and a few hundred dollars, he said he could find the current location of most phones in the United States. The bounty hunter sent the number to his own contact, who would track the phone. The contact responded with a screenshot of Google Maps, containing a blue circle indicating the phone's current location, approximate to a few hundred metres. [...] The bounty hunter did this all without deploying a hacking tool or having any previous knowledge of the phone's whereabouts. Instead, the tracking tool relies on real-time location data sold to bounty hunters that ultimately originated from the telcos themselves, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, a Motherboard investigation has found. These surveillance capabilities are sometimes sold through word-of-mouth networks.
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By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Ryne Hager, writing for AndroidPolice: Late last year, Google decided it was time to crack down on apps requesting SMS and call log permissions. Ostensibly, exceptions would be granted for categories including backups and automation, but as of now, there are still gaps which cover legitimate use cases. While some popular apps like Tasker have successfully secured exemptions, others like Cerberus have not. Instead, they've decided to strip out those permissions or risk facing the wrath of Google's upcoming January 9th banhammer, killing associated functionality and disappointing millions of long-time users to adhere to the Play Store's new policy.
The Play Console support page for the applicable set of permissions notifies developers that they can submit what is effectively an application for an exemption, categories for which are listed on the same page. (And that list of exceptions has grown since the original announcement.) Nonetheless, a further set of prohibitions are also included in the form itself, which explicitly preclude support for phone security/device location apps like Cerberus.Read Replies (0)