By msmash from Slashdot's winging-it department
On the sidelines of Gmail's big refresh push, Google also released a new app called Google Tasks. It's a simple app that aims to help users manage their work and home tasks. But it's being talked about for one more reason. From a blog post: Unlike most of their other apps, though, Tasks uses an inconsistent mix of Roboto, their old brand typeface, and Product Sans, their new one. The two faces don't look good together -- it's like when Apple shipped apps that used both Helvetica and Lucida Grande. According to their announcement of Product Sans and their new logo, the typeface was supposed to be used in promotional materials and lockups, but there's no mention of it being used for product UIs. In fact, the only other product I can find that has this same inconsistent mix is the new Gmail.com, also previewed today. It isn't just about what these typefaces look like, either, but how they're used. For example, when entering a new task, the name of the task is set in Product Sans; when it is added to the list, it becomes Roboto. Tapping on the task takes you to a details view where, now, the name of the task is in Product Sans. There are three options to add more information: if you want to add details, you'll do it in Roboto, but adding a due date will be in Product Sans. The "add subtasks" button -- well, text in the same grey as everything else except other buttons that are blue -- is set in Product Sans, but the tasks are set in Roboto.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's put-to-good-use department
Esther Schindler shares an article from Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Video may have killed the radio star, but other media certainly make old AM radio towers superfluous... maybe. "As once-loyal listeners tune away, most AM stations are barely holding onto life, slashing staff and budgets as deeply as they can while struggling to find a return to profitability," reports HPE. "Once upon a time, having a broadcast license of any kind was like having a permit to print money. In today's world, that's no longer true." But, with some 10,000 AM broadcast towers in the United States stretching high into the sky, there may be an opportunity for wireless carriers who don't want to argue with community opposition from neighborhoods where residents don't want yet another cell tower. The amount of money an AM station owner can pocket by sharing its tower with a wireless partner varies widely, depending on the tower's location, height, and several other factors. But it's certainly more income -- and a way to keep "old" technology from becoming obsolete. "Using an AM tower, which has very often been in place for many years, avoids many zoning and other permitting issues, versus going in and creating a new site for a tower," Behr explains. He says local residents, businesses, and officials rarely complain about an AM broadcast tower that suddenly begins serving as a cell site. "That tower was there before they were, and it doesn't bother them," Lawrence Behr, CEO of Greenville, North Carolina-based LBA Group, says. "Hanging a few things on it is rarely controversial, so that's a real good thing for AMs."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rising-costs department
A new report from NASA's inspector general, Paul Martin, finds that NASA will pay significantly more for commercial cargo delivery to the ISS in the 2020s rather than enjoying cost savings from maturing systems. "NASA will likely pay $400 million more for its second round of delivery contracts from 2020 to 2024 even though the agency will be moving six fewer tons of cargo," reports Ars Technica. "On a cost per kilogram basis, this represents a 14-percent increase." From the report: One of the main reasons for this increase, the report says, is a 50-percent increase in prices from SpaceX, which has thus far flown the bulk of missions for NASA's commercial cargo program with its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. This is somewhat surprising because, during the first round of supply missions, which began in 2012, SpaceX had substantially lower costs than NASA's other partner, Orbital ATK. SpaceX and Orbital ATK are expected to fly 31 supply missions between 2012 and 2020, the first phase of the supply contract. Of those, the new report states, SpaceX is scheduled to complete 20 flights at an average cost of $152.1 million per mission. Orbital ATK is scheduled to complete 11 missions at an average cost of $262.6 million per mission.
But that cost differential will largely evaporate in the second round of cargo supply contracts. For flights from 2020 to 2024, SpaceX will increase its price while Orbital ATK cuts its own by 15 percent. The new report provides unprecedented public detail about the second phase of commercial resupply contracts, known as CRS-2, which NASA awarded in a competitively bid process in 2016. SpaceX and Orbital ATK again won contracts (for a minimum of six flights), along with a new provider, Sierra Nevada Corp. and its Dream Chaser vehicle. Bids by Boeing and Lockheed Martin were not accepted.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's needle-in-the-haystack department
An anonymous reader shares a report from The New York Times: The Golden State Killer raped and murdered victims all across the state of California in an era before Google searches and social media, a time when the police relied on shoe leather, not cellphone records or big data. But it was technology that got him. The suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested by the police on Tuesday. Investigators accuse him of committing more than 50 rapes and 12 murders. Investigators used DNA from crime scenes and plugged that genetic profile into a commercial online genealogy database. They found distant relatives of Mr. DeAngelo's and traced their DNA to him.
"We found a person that was the right age and lived in this area -- and that was Mr. DeAngelo," said Steve Grippi, the assistant chief in the Sacramento district attorney's office. Investigators then obtained what Anne Marie Schubert, the Sacramento district attorney, called "abandoned" DNA samples from Mr. DeAngelo. "You leave your DNA in a place that is a public domain," she said. The test result confirmed the match to more than 10 murders in California. Ms. Schubert's office then obtained a second sample and came back with the same positive result, matching the full DNA profile. Representatives at 23andMe and other gene testing services denied on Thursday that they had been involved in identifying the killer.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's quantum-entanglement department
schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: For the first time, scientists have managed to show quantum entanglement -- which Einstein famously described as "spooky action at a distance" -- happening between macroscopic objects, a major step forward in our understanding of quantum physics. Quantum entanglement links particles in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances. On the surface, this powerful bond defies classical physics and, generally, our understanding of reality, which is why Einstein found it so spooky. But the phenomenon has since become a cornerstone of modern technology. Still, up until now quantum entanglement has only been demonstrated to work at the smallest of scales, in systems based on light and atoms, for example. Any attempt to increase the sizes has caused problems with stability, with the slightest of environmental disturbances breaking the connection. But new research changes all of this, by demonstrating that this "spooky action" can indeed be a reality between massive objects. We're not talking massive in the black hole sense but in the macroscopic sense -- two 15-micrometer-wide vibrating drum heads. And the next step will be to test whether those vibrations are being teleported between the two objects. The research has been published in the journal Nature.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's parental-guidance department
Google is announcing an expanded series of parental controls for its YouTube Kids application. "The new features will allow parents to lock down the YouTube Kids app so it only displays those channels that have been reviewed by humans, not just algorithms," reports TechCrunch. "And this includes both the content displayed within the app itself, as well as the recommended videos. A later update will allow parents to configure which videos and channels, specifically, can be viewed." From the report: The controls will be opt-in -- meaning parents will have to explicitly turn on the various settings within each child's profile in YouTube Kids' settings. [...] First, videos are uploaded to YouTube's main site. They're then filtered using machine learning techniques through a series of algorithms that determine if they should be added to YouTube Kids' catalog. But algorithms are not people, and they make mistakes. To fill in the gaps in this imperfect system, YouTube Kids relied on parents to flag suspect videos for review. YouTube employs a dedicated team of reviewers for YouTube Kids, but it doesn't say how many people are tasked with this job. This system, parents have felt for some time, just wasn't good enough. Now, parents will be able to toggle on a new setting for "Approved content only," which also disables search. A later version of YouTube Kids will go even further -- allowing parents to select individual videos or channels they approve of, for a truly handpicked selection. The new features in YouTube Kids will roll out over the course of the year, the company says, with everything but the explicit whitelisting option arriving this week.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's difficult-jobs department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: It is no secret that Tesla's Autopilot project is struggling. Last summer, we covered a report that Tesla was bleeding talent from its Autopilot division. Tesla Autopilot head Sterling Anderson quit Tesla at the end of 2016. His replacement was Chris Lattner, who had previously created the Swift programming language at Apple. But Lattner only lasted six months before departing last June. Now Lattner's replacement, Jim Keller, is leaving Tesla as well.
Keller was a well-known chip designer at AMD before he was recruited to lead Tesla's hardware engineering efforts for Autopilot in 2016. Keller has been working to develop custom silicon for Autopilot, potentially replacing the Nvidia chips being used in today's Tesla vehicles. When Lattner left Tesla last June, Keller was given broader authority over the Autopilot program as a whole. Keller's departure comes just weeks after the death of Walter Huang, a driver whose Model X vehicle slammed into a concrete lane divider in Mountain View, California. Tesla has said Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash. Tesla has since gotten into public feuds with both Huang's family and the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency investigating the crash. "Today is Jim Keller's last day at Tesla, where he has overseen low-voltage hardware, Autopilot software and infotainment," Tesla said in a statement to Electrek. "Prior to joining Tesla, Jim's core passion was microprocessor engineering, and he's now joining a company where he'll be able to once again focus on this exclusively."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's give-credit-where-credit-is-due department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Facebook took a step toward greater accountability this week, expanding the text of its community standards and announcing the rollout of a new system of appeals. Digital rights advocates have been pushing the company to be more transparent for nearly a decade, and many welcomed the announcements as a positive move for the social media giant. The changes are certainly a step in the right direction. Over the past year, following a series of controversial decisions about user expression, the company has begun to offer more transparency around its content policies and moderation practices, such as the "Hard Questions" series of blog posts offering insight into how the company makes decisions about different types of speech.
The expanded community standards released on Tuesday offer a much greater level of detail of what's verboten and why. Broken down into six overarching categories -- violence and criminal behavior, safety, objectionable content, integrity and authenticity, respecting intellectual property, and content-related requests -- each section comes with a "policy rationale" and bulleted lists of "do not post" items. Facebook's other announcement -- that of expanded appeals -- has received less media attention, but for many users, it's a vital development. In the platform's early days, content moderation decisions were final and could not be appealed. Then, in 2011, Facebook instituted a process through which users whose accounts had been suspended could apply to regain access. That process remained in place until this week.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's big-bet-on-brighter-future department
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spends a tiny fraction of his net worth to fund Blue Origin, the aerospace company he started in 2000. From a report: For a man worth $127 billion, that tiny fraction amounts to $1 billion a year, which he gets by liquidating Amazon stock, Bezos said at an Axel Springer awards event in Berlin, Germany, hosted by Business Insider's US editor-in-chief, Alyson Shontell. "The only way I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel," he said in an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Dopfner. "Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune." Bezos said he planned to continue funding the company through that annual tradition long into the future. Bezos famously has numerous projects. He runs Amazon, owns The Washington Post, and is working on turning a mansion in Washington, DC, into a single-family home, to name a few. None of these, he said, are as relevant or as worthy of his money as Blue Origin, which he called "the most important work I'm doing."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
The National Weather Service is choosing automated launchers over human employees to deploy weather balloons in Alaska. From a report: Last Thursday, just before 3 p.m., things began stirring inside the truck-size box that sat among melting piles of snow at the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska. Inside, software ran checks on instruments to measure atmospheric temperature, humidity, and pressure; a tray slid into place; and a nozzle began filling a large balloon with gas. Finally, the roof of the box yawned open and a weather balloon took off into the sunny afternoon, instruments dangling. The entire launch was triggered with the touch of a button, 5 kilometers away at an office of the National Weather Service (NWS). The flight was smooth, just one of hundreds of twice-daily balloon launches around the world that radio back crucial data for weather forecasts. But most of those balloons are launched by people; the robotic launchers, which are rolling out across Alaska, are proving to be controversial. NWS says the autolaunchers will save money and free up staff to work on more pressing matters. But representatives of the employee union question their reliability, and say they will hasten the end of Alaska's remote weather offices, where forecasting duties and hours have already been slashed. "The autolauncher is just another nail in their coffin," says Kimberly Vaughan, a union steward in Juneau. Once deployed across the state, the $1.2 million machines, built by Finnish company Vaisala, will save about 8 hours of forecaster time a day -- and about $1 million a year at NWS, Susan Buchanan, an NWS spokesperson says.Read Replies (0)