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Nintendo Reportedly Plans Smaller and Cheaper Switch For This Year
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pocket-friendly department:
According to a report from Nikkei, Nintendo is developing a smaller and cheaper version of the Switch focused on portability, and without some of the features in the original console. "A rumor in October suggested Nintendo was developing a new Switch, but instead of improving on the existing model, it's just as likely the company is looking for ways to streamline the system," notes Engadget. From the report: As Ars Technica speculates, the console's plastic dock could be the first thing to go. It's available separately for $90, and there are also cheaper ways to get your Switch to output to a TV (it's relying on a USB-C connection, after all). Nintendo could conceivably move towards a smaller and cheaper screen, and potentially even make the controller a physical part of the console, instead of the removable Joy-Cons. It also wouldn't be out of character for Nintendo to break existing functionality with a console revamp -- the 2DS was a cheaper spin on the 3DS that was still very playable without 3D.

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University of Columbia Researchers Translate Brain Signals Directly Into Speech
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 11:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's medical-advances department:
dryriver writes: There is good news for people who have limited or no ability to speak, due to having suffered a stroke for example. Researchers at Columbia University have managed to turn brain signals in the auditory cortex of test subjects into somewhat intelligible speech using a vocoder-like system with audio output cleaned up by neural networks. The findings have been published in the journal Nature. Here's an excerpt from the Zuckerman Institute's press release, which contains example audio of a number sequence being turned into robotic speech: "In a scientific first, Columbia neuroengineers have created a system that translates thought into intelligible, recognizable speech. By monitoring someone's brain activity, the technology can reconstruct the words a person hears with unprecedented clarity. This breakthrough, which harnesses the power of speech synthesizers and artificial intelligence, could lead to new ways for computers to communicate directly with the brain. It also lays the groundwork for helping people who cannot speak, such as those living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or recovering from stroke, regain their ability to communicate with the outside world."

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Scientists Create Super-Thin 'Sheet' That Could Charge Our Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's energy-harvesting department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created super-thin, bendy materials that absorb wireless internet and other electromagnetic waves in the air and turn them into electricity. The lead researcher, Tomas Palacios, said the breakthrough paved the way for energy-harvesting covers ranging from tablecloths to giant wrappers for buildings that extract energy from the environment to power sensors and other electronics. Details have been published in the journal Nature. Palacios and his colleagues connected a bendy antenna to a flexible semiconductor layer only three atoms thick. The antenna picks up wifi and other radio-frequency signals and turns them into an alternating current. This flows into the molybdenum disulphide semiconductor, where it is converted into a direct electrical current. [M]olybdenum disulphide film can be produced in sheets on industrial roll-to-roll machines, meaning they can be made large enough to capture useful amounts of energy.

Ambient wifi signals can fill an office with more than 100 microwatts of power that is ripe to be scavenged by energy-harvesting devices. The MIT system has an efficiency of between 30% and 40%, producing about 40 microwatts when exposed to signals bearing 150 microwatts of power in laboratory tests. "It doesn't sound like much compared with the 60 watts that a computer needs, but you can still do a lot with it," Palacios said. "You can design a wide range of sensors, for environmental monitoring or chemical and biological sensing, which operate at the single microwatt level. Or you could store the electricity in a battery to use later."

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Giving the Humble Stethoscope an AI Upgrade Could Save Millions of Kids
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
the_newsbeagle writes: The stethoscope is a ubiquitous medical tool that has barely changed since it was invented in the early 1800s. But now a team of engineers, doctors, and public health researchers have come together to reinvent the tool using adaptive acoustics and AI. Their motivation is this statistic: Every year, nearly 1 million kids die of pneumonia around the world, with most deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The death toll is highest among children under the age of 5. The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University, designed a smart stethoscope for use by unskilled workers in noisy medical clinics. It uses a dynamic audio filtering system to remove ambient noise and distracting body sounds while not interfering with the subtle sounds from the lungs. And it uses AI to analyze the cleaned-up signal and provide a diagnosis.

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Second China-Bound Apple Car Worker Charged With Data Theft
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's here-we-go-again department:
schwit1 shares a report from Bloomberg: An Apple hardware engineer was charged by the U.S. with stealing the iPhone maker's driverless car secrets for a China-based company, the second such case since July amid an unprecedented crackdown by the Trump administration on Chinese corporate espionage. Jizhong Chen was seen by a fellow Apple employee taking photographs Jan. 11 with a wide-angle lens inside a secure work space that houses the company's autonomous car project, about six months after he signed a strict confidentiality oath when he was hired, according to a criminal complaint in federal court in San Jose, California. Prosecutors said Chen admitted to taking the photos and backing up some 2,000 files to his personal hard drive, including manuals and schematics for the project, but didn't tell Apple he had applied for a job with a China-based autonomous vehicle company.

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Tesla Reports Second-Consecutive Profit; CFO Retires Again
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's full-steam-ahead department:
Rei writes: Yesterday, Tesla reported their 4th quarter earnings, representing their second consecutive profit. While earnings per share missed analyst expectations ($1.93 vs. $2.20), revenue beat expectations by around $100 million and free cash flow ($910 million) was more than double the First Call consensus of $395 million. Model 3 margins were maintained at an impressive 20% level despite significant reductions in the average sale price in Q4; labor hours fell by 20% in Q4 and 65% in the second half of 2018 alone. With $3.7 billion in the bank, Tesla is now well positioned to repay its $920 million March convertible bond obligations in cash. Severance costs and an increase in inventory in transit due to shipments to Europe and China are expected to hurt Tesla's profits in Q1, but guidance for Q2 onward in 2019 is strong. Highlights planned for 2019 include introduction of faster V3 Supercharging early in the year, Model Y and pickup unveiling in the middle of the year, base Model 3 unveiling in the middle of the year, and full-vehicle production in the under-construction Shanghai Gigafactory by the end of the year -- the first wholly foreign-owned auto plant in China, which has seen extensive governmental support. Despite a generally positive earnings report and conference call, the atmosphere was soured by the news that Tesla's 11-year Tesla veteran CFO Deepak Ahuja was re-retiring. Having previously retired in 2015, Deepak returned to Tesla in 2017 to replace outgoing CFO Jason Wheeler. Ahuja will remain with the company for several months as CFO and then become a senior advisor, while his protege Zach Kirkhorn fills his role. The market reacted negatively to the news, with Tesla trading down 4.5% premarket.

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Windows Setup Error Messages Will Soon Actually Help Fix Problems
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-about-time department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The next major Windows release, the Windows 10 April 2019 Update (codenamed 19H1), is going to offer some significant improvements [to error messages]. Microsoft described them on its Windows Insider webcast, and they were spotted initially by WinFuture. Currently, the best case during installation is something like this screen.

The message says that an incompatible application is detected, and a Knowledge Base article is referenced. It turns out that most Windows users don't know what "KBxxxxxxx" actually means, and the article isn't hyperlinked to make accessing it any easier. Issues detected through the other setup experience aren't much better. Windows will offer to uninstall problem applications, but often the better solution is to upgrade the application in question. The new setup process aims to be both more informative and more useful. The general approach is to allow decisions to be made within the setup program where possible and to put meaningful descriptions in the error messages, rather than leaving people with just a KB number to go on. Further, the "learn more" links will take you directly to the relevant Knowledge Base article, rather than hoping that end users know what "KBxxxxxxxx" means. Third-party developers will also be able to provide information about upgrades and updates when applicable to resolving compatibility issues.

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H-1B Visa Lottery Will Now Favor Masters, Doctorate Degree Holders
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tougher-restrictions department:
McGruber shares a report from The San Francisco Chronicle: The Department of Homeland Security announced a rule change Wednesday that will transform the lottery that decides who gets the 85,000 H-1B visas granted to for-profit companies every year. Previously, an initial lottery granted 20,000 visas only to those holding advanced degrees granted by U.S. institutions -- master's degrees or doctorates -- and then a general lottery granted 65,000 visas to all qualified applicants. The Department of Homeland Security switched the order of these lotteries, it said in a notice of the final rule change, which will bolster the odds for highly educated foreign nationals. The change reduces the likelihood that people with just a bachelor's degree will win in the general lottery, said Lisa Spiegel, an attorney at Duane Morris in San Francisco and head of the firm's immigration group. The program shift could hurt technology staffing companies, also known as outsourcers, who have a reputation for flooding the lottery with applications. Three Indian firms -- Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro -- often account for a majority of the H-1B applications, an analysis of government data shows.

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Hacker Spoke To Baby and Hurled Obscenities At Couple Using Nest Camera, Dad Says
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unseen-intruders department:
pgmrdlm shares a report from CBS News: An Illinois couple said a hacker spoke to their baby through one of their Nest security cameras and then later hurled obscenities at them, CBS station WBBM-TV reports. Arjun Sud told the station he was outside his 7-month-old son's room Sunday outside Chicago and he heard someone talking. "I was shocked to hear a deep, manly voice talking," Sud said. "My blood ran cold." Sud told WBBM-TV he thought the voice was coming over the baby monitor by accident. But it returned when he and his wife were downstairs. The voice was coming from another of the many Nest cameras throughout the couple's Lake Barrington house. "Asking me, you know, why I'm looking at him -- because he saw obviously that I was looking back -- and continuing to taunt me," Sud said. Later that night, Arjun Sud noticed the Nest thermostat they have upstairs had been raised to 90 degrees. He suspected the hacker was behind that too. Nest's parent company, Google, said in a statement that Nest's system was not breached. Google said the recent incidents stem from customers "using compromised passwords exposed through breaches on other websites."

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Fake News Sites Are Changing Their Domain Name To Get Around Facebook Fact-Checkers
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sneaky-bastards department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: In order to avoid Facebook's fact checking system, the site formerly known as YourNewsWire, one of the most well-known purveyors of fake news online, has simply rebranded. The site now goes by News Punch and posts fake news content similar to what it published under their former name, according to a report by Poynter. YourNewsWire co-founders Sinclair Treadway and Sean Adl-Tabatabai, who reside in California, founded the site in 2014. The two completely migrated the website from the "yournewswire.com" domain name to "newspunch.com" in November 2018. Treadway told Bloomberg at the time that they move was made due to declining revenue thanks to Facebook's fact-checking system. Under this program, fact-checking outlets like Snopes are able to mark content posted on Facebook as false, which in turn decreases the site's reach on Facebook. According to the investigation, the workaround has been a success. Content that Poynter itself had found to be previously marked false on "yournewswire.com" was ported over to the "newspunch.com" domain. When shared on Facebook, that same fake news content that now lived on "newspunch.com" was not marked as false under the fact-checking program. Facebook is reportedly rolling out features to thwart the site's workaround.

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UltraViolet Digital Movie Locker is Shutting Down
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 03:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
UltraViolet, one of the entertainment industry's first attempts at creating a comprehensive digital locker service, is shutting down on July 31st. Users should link their libraries to the service of at least one retailer which can then be used to access their films and TV shows after the shutdown. From a report: UltraViolet's days were numbered ever since Disney, the only major Hollywood studio not to join, launched its expanded Movies Anywhere locker service in 2017. Not only did it offer broad studio support, but it could also be connected to major digital retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, unlike UltraViolet. Additional resources: How to safeguard your UltraViolet library.

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Apple Blocks Google From Running Its Internal iOS Apps
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 03:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's No-Mercy-Inc department:
Apple has now shut down Google's ability to distribute its internal iOS apps, following a similar shutdown that was issued to Facebook earlier this week. From a report: A person familiar with the situation tells The Verge that early versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, and other pre-release beta apps have stopped working today, alongside employee-only apps like a Gbus app for transportation and Google's internal cafe app.

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Prisons Across the US Are Quietly Building Databases of Incarcerated People's Voice Prints
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
In New York and other states across the country, authorities are acquiring technology to extract and digitize the voices of incarcerated people into unique biometric signatures, known as voice prints. From a report: Prison authorities have quietly enrolled hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people's voice prints into large-scale biometric databases. Computer algorithms then draw on these databases to identify the voices taking part in a call and to search for other calls in which the voices of interest are detected. Some programs, like New York's, even analyze the voices of call recipients outside prisons to track which outsiders speak to multiple prisoners regularly.

Corrections officials representing the states of Texas, Florida, and Arkansas, along with Arizona's Yavapai and Pinal counties; Alachua County, Florida; and Travis County, Texas, also confirmed that they are actively using voice recognition technology today. And a review of contracting documents identified other jurisdictions that have acquired similar voice-print capture capabilities: Connecticut and Georgia state corrections officials have signed contracts for the technology

Authorities and prison technology companies say this mass biometric surveillance supports prison security and fraud prevention efforts. But civil liberties advocates argue that the biometric buildup has been neither transparent nor consensual. Some jurisdictions, for example, limit incarcerated people's phone access if they refuse to enroll in the voice recognition system, while others enroll incarcerated people without their knowledge. Once the data exists, they note, it could potentially be used by other agencies, without any say from the public.

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Amazon Begins Pulling Products From Its India Site as Local Government's Strict New Policies Go Into Effect
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-India department:
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon and Walmart have been dealt a big blow in India, one of their most important markets, after the local government today declined a request to extend the deadline for the implementation of revised rules regarding how foreign ecommerce platforms sell goods and conduct business in the country. The local government, which revised its ecommerce policies late December, prohibit Amazon and Flipkart from selling goods from companies in which they have a stake. The two companies were hoping the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the government agency that issued the revised policies, would extend the February 1 deadline. But efforts to gain more time were unsuccessful. (At around 6:50 p.m. local time -- 8.20 a.m. Pacific, the government said it won't be extending the deadline.)

Under the current laws, foreign-owned ecommerce companies are not allowed to sell directly to customers (in other words, to operate under an inventory-based model of ecommerce). Instead, they can only provide a marketplace that acts as "an information technology platform" and serves as a facilitator between "buyer and seller." To bypass this restriction, both Amazon and Flipkart, which sold a majority stake to Walmart last year, have acquired stakes in some of the biggest third-party sellers in the country. For instance, Amazon owns stake in parent companies of Cloudtail India and Appario Retail, while Flipkart until recently controlled WS Retail, the largest seller on its platform. The local government's revised policies fixed that loophole. Starting at 1.30 am Friday local time, several Amazon-owned products, including select Echo smart speakers, as well as some travel bags, batteries, and chargers under Basics brand, have become unavailable on Amazon's website.

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Many Windows 10 Users Unable To Connect To Windows Update Service
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening? department:
For the past two days, some Windows 10 users from around the world have been reporting that they are unable to connect to Windows Update. When they attempt to do so, Windows 10 will complain that they are unable to connect to the update service. From a report: We first learned about this problem yesterday when our member Opera contacted us stating that they, and many others, were having issues connecting to Windows Update. When they tried updating, Windows would report that it could not connect to the update service. The wording of the error, shown below, indicates that this is an Internet connectivity issue, but others are not so sure. "We couldn't connect to the update service. We'll try again later, or you can check now. If it still doesn't work, make sure you're connected to the Internet" Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer as to what is causing this issue and some feel it is related to a botched Windows Defender update and others state that this could be a DNS issue.

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Engineers Create a Robot That Can 'Imagine' Itself
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Columbia Engineering researchers have made a major advance in robotics by creating a robot that learns what it is, from scratch, with zero prior knowledge of physics, geometry, or motor dynamics. Initially the robot does not know if it is a spider, a snake, an arm -- it has no clue what its shape is. After a brief period of "babbling," and within about a day of intensive computing, their robot creates a self-simulation. The robot can then use that self-simulator internally to contemplate and adapt to different situations, handling new tasks as well as detecting and repairing damage in its own body. From a report: The work is published today in Science Robotics. To date, robots have operated by having a human explicitly model the robot. "But if we want robots to become independent, to adapt quickly to scenarios unforeseen by their creators, then it's essential that they learn to simulate themselves," says Hod Lipson, professor of mechanical engineering, and director of the Creative Machines lab, where the research was done.

< article continued at Slashdot's how-about-that department >

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Criminals Are Tapping Into the Phone Network Backbone to Empty Bank Accounts
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Sophisticated hackers have long exploited flaws in SS7, a protocol used by telecom companies to coordinate how they route texts and calls around the world. Those who exploit SS7 can potentially track phones across the other side of the planet, and intercept text messages and phone calls without hacking the phone itself. From a report: This activity was typically only within reach of intelligence agencies or surveillance contractors, but now Motherboard has confirmed that this capability is much more widely available in the hands of financially-driven cybercriminal groups, who are using it to empty bank accounts. So-called SS7 attacks against banks are, although still relatively rare, much more prevalent than previously reported. Motherboard has identified a specific bank -- the UK's Metro Bank -- that fell victim to such an attack. The news highlights the gaping holes in the world's telecommunications infrastructure that the telco industry has known about for years despite ongoing attacks from criminals. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the defensive arm of the UK's signals intelligence agency GCHQ, confirmed that SS7 is being used to intercept codes used for banking.

"We are aware of a known telecommunications vulnerability being exploited to target bank accounts by intercepting SMS text messages used as 2-Factor Authentication (2FA)," The NCSC told Motherboard in a statement. "Some of our clients in the banking industry or other financial services; they see more and more SS7- based [requests],â Karsten Nohl, a researcher from Security Research Labs who has worked on SS7 for years, told Motherboard in a phone call. "All of a sudden you have someone's text messages."

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New Security Flaw Impacts 5G, 4G, and 3G Telephony Protocols
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
A new vulnerability has been discovered in the upcoming 5G cellular mobile communications protocol. Researchers have described this new flaw as more severe than any of the previous vulnerabilities that affected the 3G and 4G standards. From a report: Further, besides 5G, this new vulnerability also impacts the older 3G and 4G protocols, providing surveillance tech vendors with a new flaw they can abuse to create next-gen IMSI-catchers that work across all modern telephony protocols. This new vulnerability has been detailed in a research paper named "New Privacy Threat on 3G, 4G, and Upcoming5G AKA Protocols," published last year.

According to researchers, the vulnerability impacts AKA, which stands for Authentication and Key Agreement, a protocol that provides authentication between a user's phone and the cellular networks. The AKA protocol works by negotiating and establishing keys for encrypting the communications between a phone and the cellular network.

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Locast, a Free App Streaming Network TV, Would Love to Get Sued
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 11:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Want to watch the Super Bowl and other network TV for free? A start-up called Locast will let you, and (so far) the big broadcasters aren't trying to stop it. From a report: On the roof of a luxury building at the edge of Central Park, 585 feet above the concrete, a lawyer named David Goodfriend has attached a modest four-foot antenna that is a threat to the entire TV-industrial complex. The device is there to soak up TV signals coursing through the air -- content from NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS and CBS. Once plucked from the ether, the content is piped through the internet and assembled into an app called Locast. It's a streaming service, and it makes all of this network programming available to subscribers in ways that are more convenient than relying on a home antenna: It's viewable on almost any device, at any time, in pristine quality that doesn't cut in and out. It's also completely free.

If this sounds familiar, you might be thinking of Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed start-up that in 2012 threatened to upend the media industry by capturing over-the-air TV signals and streaming the content to subscribers for a fee -- while not paying broadcasters a dime. NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox banded together and sued, eventually convincing the Supreme Court that Aereo had violated copyright law. The clear implication for many: If you mess with the broadcasters, you'll file for bankruptcy and cost your investors more than $100 million.

< article continued at Slashdot's how-about-that department >

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Mozilla Writes To European Commission About Facebook's Lack of Ad Transparency
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Mark Wilson writes: Facebook has been no stranger to controversy and scandal over the years, but things have been particularly bad over the last twelve months. The latest troubles find Mozilla complaining to the European Commission about the social network's lack of transparency, particularly when it comes to political advertising. Mozilla's Chief Operating Officer, Denelle Dixon, has penned a missive to Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. She bemoans the fact that Facebook makes it impossible to conduct analysis of ads, and this in turn prevents Mozilla from offering full transparency to European citizens -- something it sees as important in light of the impending EU elections.

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