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Will the T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Be Bad For Consumers?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 03:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's he-said-she-said department:
On Sunday, T-Mobile and Sprint said that they have agreed to a $26.5 billion merger, creating a wireless giant to compete against industry leaders AT&T and Verizon. While a new website has been set up by the companies to help quell consumers' and regulators' fears by promising new jobs, improved broadband service, and increased competition, Motherboard's Karl Bode cites previous telecommunications mergers and Wall Street analysts to argue against the merger. From the report: The two companies attempted to merge in 2014 but had their efforts blocked by regulators who were justly worried about the deal's impact on overall competition. As Canadian wireless users can attest, the reduction of major wireless competitors from four to three only reduces the overall incentive for wireless carriers to engage in real price competition. That was the central point repeatedly made by regulators when they prohibited AT&T from gobbling up T-Mobile back in 2011. Even with four competitors, the industry frequently does its best to avoid genuine price competition, and industry watchers have noted that the overall volume of quality promotions for wireless consumers had been dropping so far in 2018. After regulators blocked the AT&T merger, T-Mobile wound up being a largely positive impact on the sector, forcing its competitors to adopt more consumer-friendly policies like eliminating long-term contracts and early termination fees. However, even with T-Mobile intact, price competition in the sector tends to be theatrical in nature.

< article continued at Slashdot's he-said-she-said department >

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Facebook Is Investigating a Claim That an Employee Used His Position To Stalk Women
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 03:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's god-mode department:
Facebook is investigating a claim that an employee potentially used access granted by their job to stalk women online, the social media giant confirmed in a statement to Motherboard on Monday. From the report: "Although we can't comment on any individual personnel matters, we are aware of the situation and investigating," a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email. The claim came from Jackie Stokes, founder of Spyglass Security, in a tweet posted Monday. "I've been made aware that a security engineer currently employed at Facebook is likely using privileged access to stalk women online. I have Tinder logs. What should I do with this information?" Stokes' tweet read. In a follow-up tweet, Stokes wrote multiple senior Facebook employees had reached out over the claim. Stokes told Motherboard in a Twitter direct message that she provided the relevant details to Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer.

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Chinese Government Admits Collection of Deleted WeChat Messages
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 01:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's questionable-data-collection-tactics department:
The South China Morning Post reported over the weekend that Chinese authorities have the capability of retrieving deleted messages from the WeChat app. The newspaper noted that an anti-corruption commission in Hefei province posted Saturday to social media that it has "retrieved a series of deleted WeChat conversations from a subject" as part of an investigation. TechCrunch reports: The post was deleted Sunday, but not before many had seen it and understood the ramifications. Tencent, which operates the WeChat service used by nearly a billion people (including myself), explained in a statement that "WeChat does not store any chat histories -- they are only stored on users' phones and computers." The technical details of this storage were not disclosed, but it seems clear from the commission's post that they are accessible in some way to interested authorities, as many have suspected for years. The app does, of course, comply with other government requirements, such as censoring certain topics.

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WhatsApp Founder Plans To Leave After Broad Clashes With Parent Facebook
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 01:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-luck department:
Elizabeth Dwoskin, reporting for Washington Post: The billionaire chief executive of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is planning to leave the company after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service's strategy and Facebook's attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption, according to people familiar with internal discussions. Koum, who sold WhatsApp to Facebook for more than $19 billion in 2014, also plans to step down from Facebook's board of directors, according to these people. The date of his departure isn't known. He has been informing senior executives at Facebook and WhatsApp of his decision, and in recent months has been showing up less frequently to WhatsApp's offices on Facebook's campus in Silicon Valley, according to the people. The independence and protection of its users' data is a core tenet of WhatsApp that Koum and his co-founder, Brian Acton, promised to preserve when they sold their tiny startup to Facebook. It doubled down on its pledge by adding encryption in 2016. The data clash took on additional significance in the wake of revelations in March that Facebook had allowed third parties to mishandle its users' personal information. The move comes weeks after Brian Acton, the other co-founder of WhatsApp, urged people to delete their Facebook accounts.

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Senate Democrats Plan To Force Vote On Net Neutrality
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 01:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's mark-your-calendar department:
Senator Edward J. Markey tweeted earlier today that Democrats will force a floor vote to restore net neutrality rules on May 9th. "[Democrats] had the signatures in favor of restoring the rules since January, along with a companion House bill (with 80 co-sponsors)," reports Engadget. "Senator Edward J. Markey also introduced a formal Congressional Review Act 'resolution of disapproval' in February." From the report:
Of course, this last-ditch attempt to save net neutrality can only help congressional supporters of as they move into mid-term elections. "We're in the homestretch in the fight to save net neutrality," Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "Soon, the American people will know which side their member of Congress is on: fighting for big corporations and ISPs or defending small business owners, entrepreneurs, middle-class families and every-day consumers." Still, even if the Senate passes the Democrat's proposal, notes Politico, it's unlikely it would get through the House or avoid a Trump veto. Also taking place on May 9, net neutrality activists and websites like Etsy, Tumblr, Postmates, Foursquare and Twilio will post "red alerts" to protest the FCC's effort to roll back net neutrality protections.

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AI Researchers Revolt Against a New Paywalled Nature Journal
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's no-thank-you department:
More than 2,000 researchers, including several employees of Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Netflix and other companies, have signed an open letter to revolt against Nature Machine Intelligence, a proposed new paywalled (closed-access) journal from Nature Publishing Group. The researchers said they won't "submit to, review, or edit" anything for the new publication. Nature Publishing Group has responded to the protest saying it is "providing a service -- for those who are interested -- by connecting different fields, providing an outlet for interdisciplinary work and guiding a rigorous review process." The open letter, posted on Oregon State University's site, adds: We see no role for closed access or author-fee publication in the future of machine learning research and believe the adoption of this new journal as an outlet of record for the machine learning community would be a retrograde step. In contrast, we would welcome new zero-cost open access journals and conferences in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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Comcast Won't Give New Speed Boost To Internet Users Who Don't Buy TV Service
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 12:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sneaky-bastards department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last week, Comcast announced speed increases for customers in Houston and the Oregon/SW Washington areas. The announcement headlines were "Comcast increases Internet speeds for some video customers." Customers with 60Mbps Internet download speeds are being upped to 150Mbps; 150Mbps subscribers are going to 250Mbps; and 250Mbps subscribers are getting a raise to 400Mbps or 1Gbps. Comcast says speed increases will kick in automatically without raising the customers' monthly bills -- but only if they subscribe to certain bundles that include both Internet and TV service. "Cord cutters are not invited to the [speed increase] party," the Houston Chronicle wrote. "Only those who bundle Internet with cable television and other services... will see their speeds go up at no extra charge." Presumably, Internet-only customers can get the new speeds by paying more or by bundling their Internet subscriptions with video.

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On This Day 25 Years Ago, the Web Became Public Domain
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 11:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's anniversary-celebrations department:
On April 30, 1993, CERN -- the European Organization for Nuclear Research -- announced that it was putting a piece of software developed by one of its researchers, Tim Berners-Lee, into the public domain. That software was a "global computer networked information system" called the World Wide Web, and CERN's decision meant that anyone, anywhere, could run a website and do anything with it. From a report: While the proto-internet dates back to the 1960s, the World Wide Web as we know it had been invented four year earlier in 1989 by CERN employee Tim Berners-Lee. The internet at that point was growing in popularity among academic circles but still had limited mainstream utility. Scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf had developed Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which allowed for easier transfer of information. But there was the fundamental problem of how to organize all that information. In the late 80s, Berners-Lee suggested a web-like system of mangement, tied together by a series of what he called hyperlinks. In a proposal, Berners-Lee asked CERN management to "imagine, then, the references in this document all being associated with the network address of the thing to which they referred, so that while reading this document you could skip to them with a click of the mouse." Four years later, the project was still growing. In January 1993, the first major web browser, known as MOSAIC, was released by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne. While there was a free version of MOSAIC, for-profit software companies purchased nonexclusive licenses to sell and support it. Licensing MOSAIC at the time cost $100,000 plus $5 each for any number of copies.

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'Red Alert' Protest For Net Neutrality Starts May 9
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 11:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Net neutrality activists and websites like Etsy, Tumblr, Postmates, Foursquare and Twilio will post "red alerts" starting May 9 to protest the FCC's effort to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections. From a report: This latest protest, announced Monday, is set to coincide with the next step in an ongoing process in the Senate to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to halt the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules. On May 9, senators will present a petition to force a vote on a resolution to undo the FCC's net neutrality rollback. The CRA gives Congress 60 legislative days in which to roll back the FCC's decision. The countdown for the rollback effort began in February when the FCC published its order in the Federal Register to repeal the rules. Further reading: 100 US Mayors Sign Pledge To Defend Net Neutrality Against Crooked ISPs.

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Pristine Lakes Are Filled With Toxins
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Much of the focus on plastic pollution centres on our oceans. Emerging evidence shows it's also a problem in freshwater, which may even be the source. From a report: "Freshwater systems are increasingly studied but still at a much smaller scale than oceans," says Filella. This may simple be due to the fact that initial studies focused on the ocean -- and so research proposals and grants followed suit. It didn't take long for the Geneva team to find what they were looking for. Filella and colleagues collected over 3,000 samples. They went on to analyse 670 of these, revealing some worrying results. Many of these samples contained hazardous and toxic elements including cadmium, mercury and lead -- in some cases in "very high concentrations", as outlined in a 2018 paper in the journal Frontiers of Environmental Science. A large proportion of these toxic elements are now banned or restricted. This "reflected the age and residence time of the plastic stock in the lake," says Filella: the plastic waste has been building up over several decades. And as we know, plastic can take hundreds of years to degrade. [...] Lake Geneva is not an outlier. Other lakes show similar levels of pollution. Italy's Lake Garda, for example, also has high levels of plastic waste. A sample from the northern part of the lake contained 1,000 large plastic particles and 450 smaller particles (microplastics) per square metre. [...] It is now becoming clearer that much of the plastic that ends up in the ocean starts off in freshwater bodies in the first place -- estimates suggest it could be as much as 70-80%.

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As Controversy Swirls, Facebook Dials Down the Swagger On Its Developer Conference
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's existential-crisis department:
In the recent years, Facebook has used its developer conference -- F8 -- as an opportunity to showcase the most bleeding technologies: Type with your brain. 'Hear' with your skin. And in the event of an emergency, a helicopter to the rescue with some free internet access. But that was a different time. In the recent months, the company has faced backlash for Cambridge Analytica scandal, and reportedly delayed plans to launch a Amazon Echo-like speaker. But perhaps the biggest surprise for developers came this month when Facebook deprecated APIs to limit the amount of data developers had access to -- forcing many to seriously rethink their business model as their existence revolved around access to users' data. So how does the company plan to cherish its developer ecosystem at the two-day long F8 conference starting tomorrow? The Verge reports: The bruising series of events leading up to F8 is expected to produce a more muted affair than in previous years. (Much of the event had to be reworked in recent weeks after the company began shutting down APIs, people familiar with the matter told The Verge.) On one hand, the event, which takes places Tuesday and Wednesday in San Jose, is still very much on. Facebook says it's the biggest F8 ever, with more than 50 sessions available to a record crowd of 5,000 attendees. But the company acknowledges that the event comes at a time when Facebook is radically rethinking its relationship with those developers. [...] It remains to be see whether the company will get a warm reception from partners who have been blindsided by the changes. Justin Krause runs a startup named Pod that builds a smart calendar app for iOS. Until this month, the app integrated with Facebook to put events from the social app onto your calendar. Then, in the wake of this month's Congressional hearings, Facebook revoked Pod's access to the calendar API without warning. "They didn't announce that they were revoking this data or send errors -- they just started sending empty lists, silently," Krause said. [...] In any case, it promises to be Facebook's strangest developer conference ever -- it's the only one to be held in the midst of a massive API shutdown.

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USB 3.2 Work Is On The Way For The Linux 4.18 Kernel: Report
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 08:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: USB 3.2 was announced last summer as an incremental update to the USB standard to double the bandwidth for existing USB Type-C cables. We haven't seen much in the way of USB 3.2 mentions in the Linux kernel yet but then again we haven't really seen USB 3.2 devices yet. USB 3.2 brings a multi-lane operation mode for hosts and devices using existing Type-C cables as well as a minor update to the USB hub specification. USB 3.2 allows for new 10 Gbit/s and 20 Gbit/s rates using two lanes, USB 3.2 Gen 1x2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, respectively. It looks like kernel developers are now working on getting their USB 3.2 Linux support in order. We were tipped off that as of last week there are some USB 3.2 patches queued in the usb-next tree maintained by Greg Kroah-Hartman's.

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Stack Overflow Admits It Hasn't Been Welcoming To 'Newer Coders, Women, People of Color, and Others'; Outlines How It Plans To Change That
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 08:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's kudos-to-you department:
Paul Fernhout writes: Jay Hanlon, executive vice president of culture and experience at Stack Overflow, penned a column on the company's blog last week in which he admitted the "painful truth" that "too many people experience Stack Overflow as a hostile or elitist place, especially newer coders, women, people of color, and others in marginalized groups." Hanlon, added, "our employees and community have cared about this for a long time, but we've struggled to talk about it publicly or to sufficiently prioritize it in recent years. And results matter more than intentions." The post adds: "Now, that's not because most Stack Overflow contributors are hostile jerks. The majority of them are generous and kind. Sure, a few are... just generous, I guess? But our active users regularly express their frustration that we haven't done more to make outsiders feel more welcome. The real problem isn't the community -- it's us: We trained users to tell other users what they're doing wrong, but we didn't provide new folks with the necessary guidance to do it right. We failed to give our regular users decent tools to review content and easily find what they're looking for. We sent mixed messages over the years about whether we're a site for "experts" or for anyone who codes."

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China is Now Monitoring Employees' Brainwaves and Emotions
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 07:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's topsy-turvy-world department:
From a report: The Orwellian-as-all-get-out practice is being conducted using "emotional surveillance technology" by both businesses in China and the country's military, reports the South China Morning Post. The tech uses small wireless sensors embedded in employees' hats that can monitor brainwaves. That brainwave data is then analyzed by AI to tell when an employee is tired, anxious, or even full of rage. One company using the brain-monitoring tech says profits have increased by $315 million since rolling it out way back in 2014. Other uses of the tech include monitoring drivers of trains to tell if they've fallen asleep or are at risk of doing so. It's important to note the technology cannot read people's thoughts.

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Twitter Sold Data Access To Cambridge Analytica-Linked Researcher
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 07:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's me-too department:
Facebook is clearly the company most affected by the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal, but that doesn't leave other social networks completely unscathed. Bloomberg: Twitter sold data access to the Cambridge University academic who also obtained millions of Facebook users' information that was later passed to a political consulting firm without the users' consent. Aleksandr Kogan, who created a personality quiz on Facebook to harvest information later used by Cambridge Analytica, established his own commercial enterprise, Global Science Research (GSR). That firm was granted access to large-scale public Twitter data, covering months of posts, for one day in 2015, according to Twitter. "In 2015, GSR did have one-time API access to a random sample of public tweets from a five-month period from December 2014 to April 2015," Twitter said in a statement to Bloomberg. "Based on the recent reports, we conducted our own internal review and did not find any access to private data about people who use Twitter." The company has removed Cambridge Analytica and affiliated entities as advertisers. Twitter said GSR paid for the access; it provided no further details.

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Talent War in Silicon Valley Demands High Salary
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 04:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's money-power department:
An anonymous reader writes: Employees at Google's parent company Alphabet earned "a median pay package of more than $197,000" in 2017, around 18% lower than Facebook's median salary of $240,000, the Wall Street Journal reports. Per the Journal, this illustrates the competitive "talent war in Silicon Valley, where talented engineers are in limited supply." These two salaries were more than $100,000 above Amazon's median pay, which sat at $28,446. The median price for a home in Silicon Valley is upwards of $1 million, in Seattle the median home price is just under $800,000.

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Long Prison Sentence for Man Who Hacked Jail Computer System To Bust Out Friend
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 03:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-luck department:
A judge sentenced a Michigan man to 87 months -- 7 years 3 months -- in prison for hacking into a county jail's computer system and modifying prisoner records in an attempt to get an inmate released early. From a report: The man, Konrads Voits, 27, of Ypsilanti, will also serve three years of supervised release and will have to pay $235,488 in restitution to Washtenaw County, the cost of investigating and addressing the hack. Voits prison sentence stems from his actions in the spring of last year. According to his guilty plea, Voits admitted that between January and March 2017, he engaged in a social engineering campaign to hack into the Washtenaw County Jail's computer system. Initially, he engaged in a spear-phishing campaign. He sent emails to county jail employees, luring them on the "ewashtenavv.org" domain, a carbon copy of the county's official website of "ewashtenaw.org."

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Digital and Analog Audio's Curious Coexistence
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '18 at 12:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Steve Guttenberg, writing for CNET: It's a funny thing, the ongoing turntable sales surge shows no signs of slowing down, but nearly all new music is recorded digitally. It seems like a contradiction, turntables and LPs are purely analog in nature, but nearly all new (not remastered LPs) made over the last 30+ years were recorded, mixed, and mastered from digital sources. Older, pre 1980 LPs were made in an all-analog world. Today's LPs are hybrids of a sort, the grooves are still analog, but the music was probably made in the digital domain. Be that as it may, LPs, regardless of vintage, can sound great. While pre-1980s records may be richer in tone and warmth, there are lots of more recent albums that sound just as good or better. In other words vinyl's sound quality or lack thereof has mostly to do with the quality of the original recording, and the choices made by the recording, mixing, and mastering engineers. Despite the overwhelming number of digital recordings, there is still a tiny percentage of all-analog recordings being made. To cite one mostly analog studio, the legendary Electrical Audio, which owner Steve Albini told me records and mixes around 70 percent of all of its sessions on tape.

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All Indian Villages Now Have Access To Electricity
Posted by News Fetcher on April 29 '18 at 09:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: All Indian villages now have access to electricity. Manipur's Leisang village became the last non-electrified inhabited village to join India's mainline supply network at 5.30pm on Saturday, an important milestone in the country's journey towards universal electricity access. This means that all 597,464 inhabited villages in the country now have access to power, fulfilling a promise the Prime Minister had made on August 15, 2015, when he announced that all unelectrified villages would get power over the next 1,000 days. The last inhabited village to be powered through the off-grid system -- isolated supply networks, mostly with solar power plants -- was Pakol, also in Manipur, a small state in Eastern India. While basic infrastructure such as distribution transformer and lines need to be set up in inhabited localities, including Dalit hamlets, a village is considered electrified if 10 per cent of its households and public places such as schools, panchayat office and health centre have access to electricity.

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Wages Aren't the Only Reason Teachers Are Striking
Posted by News Fetcher on April 29 '18 at 09:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's pressing-issues department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Schools in 39 of 50 states have seen decreases in funding for instructional materials for their students, according to data from the Urban Institute. These conditions have sparked a wave of teacher activism across the country. Educators have had to pay for supplies themselves to provide new materials for students at times. Teachers' salaries aren't enough to pay for materials, either. In some cases they have to pay for materials for dozens of children. Teachers are having to teach students with materials that are defective, outdated and inefficient because of a lack of funding going to state education budgets -- particularly in Republican states.

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