By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares commentary on the new devices Microsoft unveiled Tuesday: At a low-key event held in a New York City warehouse, Microsoft unveiled its next iterations in the Surface lineup. Sitting in the audience, I saw the most coherent device strategy in the industry, from a company that's slowly built a hardware business from the ground up. The company took just an hour to unveil sweeping updates to its existing hardware, and what's clear after the dust has settled is that Microsoft's hardware division is a force to be reckoned with. Apple's dominance on the high-end laptop space looks shakier than ever, because Microsoft's story is incredibly compelling. Rather than building out a confusing, incompatible array of devices, Microsoft has taken the time to build a consistent, clear portfolio that has something to fit everyone across the board. [...] What's interesting about this is the Surface hardware is now incredibly consistent across the board, making it dead simple for consumers to choose a device they like. Each device offers high quality industrial design, with consistent input methods regardless of form factor, and a tight software story to boot. That matters. Every single one of these machines has a touchscreen, supports a high-quality stylus, and current generation chipsets. The only question is which device fits your lifestyle, and whether or not you want the faster model. The peripherals work across every machine, and Microsoft has clearly gone to lengths with Timeline and Your Phone to make the software as seamless as you'd expect in 2018. Microsoft, it seems, has removed all of the barriers to remaining in your 'flow.' Surface is designed to adapt to the mode you want to be in, and just let you do it well. Getting shit done doesn't require switching device or changing mode, you can just pull off the keyboard, or grab your pen and the very same machine adapts to you. It took years to get here, but Microsoft has nailed it. By comparison, the competition is flailing around arguing about whether or not touchscreens have a place on laptops. The answer? Just let people choose.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Bill Gates is not giving up on saving the world, but he is helping launch a new social recommendation engine. Likewise, as the iOS and Android app is known, is designed to be a place to get trusted recommendations on everything from restaurants to books, movies and TV shows. From a report: It won't cure polio or fix the U.S. education system, but Likewise could fill a niche helping people keep track of the books and TV shows their friends recommend as well as to discover new places. The free app, which launches today, began as the brainchild of Larry Cohen, a longtime Gates aide who serves as CEO of Gates Ventures. The Microsoft co-founder is funding the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which has been working for nearly a year and has about 20 employees. "It's not the next Office, but there's a real need here," Cohen told Axios. Cohen is chairman of Likewise, with his onetime Microsoft colleague Ian Morris serving as CEO.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Brian Merchant, writing for The Atlantic (condensed for space): In 2016, an anonymous confession appeared on Reddit: "From around six years ago up until now, I have done nothing at work." As far as office confessions go, that might seem pretty tepid. But this coder, posting as FiletOFish1066, said he worked for a well-known tech company, and he really meant nothing. He wrote that within eight months of arriving on the quality assurance job, he had fully automated his entire workload. When his bosses realized that he'd worked less in half a decade than most Silicon Valley programmers do in a week, they fired him. [...] About a year later, someone calling himself or herself Etherable posted a query to Workplace on Stack Exchange, one of the web's most important forums for programmers: "Is it unethical for me to not tell my employer I've automated my job?" The conflicted coder described accepting a programming gig that had turned out to be "glorified data entry" -- and, six months ago, writing scripts that put the entire job on autopilot. After that, "what used to take the last guy like a month, now takes maybe 10 minutes." The job was full-time, with benefits, and allowed Etherable to work from home. The program produced near-perfect results; for all management knew, their employee simply did flawless work. The post proved unusually divisive, and comments flooded in. Reactions split between those who felt Etherable was cheating, or at least deceiving, the employer, and those who thought the coder had simply found a clever way to perform the job at hand. [...] Call it self-automation, or auto-automation. At a moment when the specter of mass automation haunts workers, rogue programmers demonstrate how the threat can become a godsend when taken into coders' hands, with or without their employers' knowledge. Since both FiletOFish1066 and Etherable posted anonymously and promptly disappeared, neither were able to be reached for comment. But their stories show that workplace automation can come in many forms and be led by people other than executives.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's issued-in-public-interest department
At 2:18 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, cellphones across the United States will emit the ominous ring of an emergency presidential alert. From a report: It will be the first nationwide test of a wireless emergency alert system, designed to warn people of a dire threat, like a terror attack, pandemic or natural disaster. There is no opting out, which has already prompted a lawsuit. "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System," it will read. "No action is needed." Two minutes later, televisions and radios will show test alerts. There is no notification plan for landlines. Officials say they believe that the wireless test will reach about 75 percent of the cellphones in the country, though they hope the number is higher. It could take up to 30 minutes for the alerts to be transmitted to all devices. Some things that could interfere: ongoing phone calls or data transmission, a device that is turned off or out of range, and smaller cellphone providers that are not participating in the program. The test, originally planned for last month but delayed by Hurricane Florence, is the culmination of many years of work. The federal government developed a system to issue the alerts, which are scripted in coordination with numerous government agencies. They are limited to 90 characters, but will be expanded to 360 in the future. The Communications Act of 1934 gives the president the power to use communications systems in case of an emergency, and a 2006 law called for the Federal Communications Commission to work with the wireless industry to transmit such messages.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's upping-the-ante department
Amazon is refreshing its Fire TV Stick to add support for Ultra HD and HDR in the new device. Engadget: With a base of active users that's 25 million strong, it's launching the Fire TV Stick 4K, delivering Ultra HD and HDR streaming through an HDMI dongle that costs a modest $50. The stealthy device isn't as affordable as Roku's $40 Premiere, but it's also billed as the first media stick to support Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision and HDR10+. You won't have to settle for lower-quality output just to save some cash or avoid using your TV's built-in apps. The device also ships with Amazon's newer Alexa Voice Remote (included with the Fire TV Cube), touting Bluetooth, "multidirectional" infrared and some much-needed buttons for power, volume and muting. You'll have more reason to use the remote, as well. Amazon noted that in-app Alexa control is coming to a number of more specialized video services, including AMC, HBO Now and Sony Crackle.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
Three scientists have won the Nobel prize in chemistry for their work in harnessing evolution to produce new enzymes and antibodies. From a report: British scientist Sir Gregory P Winter and Americans Frances H Arnold and George P Smith will share the 9m Swedish kronor ($1 million) prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Half of the prize goes to Arnold, from the California Institute of Technology, for her work on directing the evolution of enzymes -- proteins that speed up chemical reactions. In a nutshell, Arnold introduced genetic mutations into enzymes, and then looked to see what effect the mutations had. She then selected the cases where a particular mutation proved useful -- for example, allowing the enzyme to work in a solvent it would otherwise not work in. Her work has made it possible to cut out the use of many toxic catalysts and has led to the development of enzymes for all manner of fields, including the development of biofuels and the production of pharmaceuticals. The other half of the award goes to Winter and Smith, for their work on "phage display of peptides and antibodies." A phage is a virus that can infect bacteria, "tricking" bacteria to reproduce it. Smith genetically engineered phages so that they would include a certain molecule on their outer capsule which allowed him to that encompasses out particular proteins crop up on the outer. Winter used this technology to develop new drugs that have transformed medicine, offering therapies for diseases ranging from cancer to autoimmune conditions. Arnold is only the fifth woman to be awarded the prize for Chemistry -- the last female scientist to scoop the award was Ada E. Yonath in 2009 who shared the prize for her work on understanding the structure of ribosomes: the protein-manufacturing structures inside cells.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-is-better-than-one department
A new encryption bill that's expected to be passed in Australia is facing strong opposition from tech heavyweights. A new group called "Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet" has been formed by Australian industry, technology, and human rights groups to persuade the country from passing the bill, reports ZDNet. "The membership of the new alliance consists of Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Access Now, Ai Group, Australian Information Industry Association, Amnesty International Australia, AMTA, Blueprint for Free Speech, members of Communications Alliance sans NBN, DIGI, Digital Rights Watch, Future Wise, Hack for Privacy, Human Rights Law Centre, Internet Australia, IoT Alliance Australia, and Liberty Victoria." The Guardian also notes that Google and Facebook are part of the group. From the report: The Bill is currently before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, with a minuscule three-week window for submissions closing on Friday, October 12 and a hearing set for Friday, October 19. The proposed legislation would allow the nation's police and anti-corruption forces to ask, before forcing, internet companies, telcos, messaging providers, or anyone deemed necessary, to break into whatever content interception agencies want access to.
"This Bill stands to have a huge impact on millions of Australians, so it is crucial that lawmakers reject this proposal in its present form before we sleepwalk into a digital dystopia," said board member of Digital Rights Watch and alliance spokesperson Lizzie O'Shea. "The rushed processes coupled with the lack of transparency can only mean that expert opinions from Australia and abroad are being disregarded, and deep concerns about privacy erosion and lack of judicial review have simply been tossed aside."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-something-out-there department
Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet, dubbed "the Goblin," in the outer reaches of the Solar System that never gets any closer to the Sun than 6 billion miles. Some experts say its orbital configuration points to the existence of Planet Nine, a hypothetical planet in our Solar System that is estimated to be about 10 times the mass of Earth. Gizmodo reports: The Goblin, or 2015 TG38 as it's more formally called, is what's known as an extreme trans-Neptunian object, or ETNO. As the moniker implies, these objects, of which there are potentially thousands, are located well beyond the orbit of Neptune. The researchers who discovered the object, a team led by Scott Sheppard from the Carnegie Institution for Science and Chadwick Trujillo from Northern Arizona University, estimate that the Goblin is around 185 miles (300 kilometers) in diameter. At this size, it could very well be sphere-like in shape. Its mean distance from the Sun is about 80 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun. That's 7.45 billion miles, or 12 billion kilometers.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's climate-consensus department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new study led by UC San Diego's Katharine Ricke published in Nature Climate Change found that not only is the global social cost of carbon dramatically higher than the federal estimate ($37 per ton) -- probably between $177 and $805 per ton, most likely $417 -- but that the cost to America is around $50 per ton. That's the second-highest in the world behind India's $90, and is also higher than the current federal estimate for the global social cost of carbon. That's a remarkable conclusion worth repeating. Ricke's team found that the cost of carbon pollution to just the United States is probably higher than its government's current estimate of costs to the entire world. And the actual global cost is more than 10 times higher than the federal estimate. [The Guardian's Dana Nuccitelli] asked Ricke to describe her team's approach in this study: To calculate social cost of carbon, you need to answer four questions in sequence:
1. How would the economy change with no climate change (including GHG emissions)?
2. How does the Earth system respond to emissions of carbon dioxide?
3. How does the economy respond to changes in the Earth system?
4. How should we value losses today vs. in (for example) 100 years?
The team answered these questions using four "modules": a socio-economic module to answer the first question, a climate module to address the second, a damages module to investigate the third, and a discounting module to tackle the fourth.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's nickeled-and-dimed department
Echoing a similar study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, a new study finds the median hourly pay with tip for Uber drivers in the U.S. is $14.73, which includes tips and excludes expenses like insurance, gas and car depreciation incurred while working. The study was conducted by Ridester, a publication that focuses on the ride-hail industry. Recode reports: Using Ridester's low-end estimate of $5 per hour in vehicle costs, drivers would bring in $9.73 per hour and potentially much less. That implies a driver working 40 hours per week would make an annual salary of almost $31,000 before vehicle expenses, and about $20,000 after expenses (but still before taxes). That's below the poverty threshold for a family of three. It's also a far cry from the $70,000 to $90,000 Uber once claimed its drivers made in major markets.
The study, which was conducted this summer, asked drivers for a screenshot of their Uber app's earnings page from their last full day driving. The 719 valid screenshots they used show how many hours the drivers worked and how much they were paid after Uber's cut. It doesn't factor in other costs like taxes or healthcare. And -- worth noting -- the study only represents drivers who were motivated enough to send in their data and isn't necessarily representative of the geographical distribution of Uber drivers.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
A new study from network equipment company Sandvine finds that BitTorrent usage and piracy is increasing after years of declines. The reason appears to be due to "an increase in exclusivity deals that force subscribers to hunt and peck among a myriad of streaming services to actually find the content they're looking for," reports Motherboard. From the report: Sandvine's new Global Internet Phenomena report offers some interesting insight into user video habits and the internet, such as the fact that more than 50 percent of internet traffic is now encrypted, video now accounts for 58 percent of all global traffic, and Netflix alone now comprises 15 percent of all internet downstream data consumed. But there's another interesting tidbit buried in the firm's report: after years of steady decline, BitTorrent usage is once again growing.
According to Sandvine, file-sharing accounts for 3 percent of global downstream and 22 percent of upstream traffic, with 97% of that traffic in turn being BitTorrent. While BitTorrent is often used to distribute ordinary files, it remains the choice du jour for those looking to distribute and trade copyrighted content online, made easier via media PCs running Kodi and select plugins. Back in 2011, Sandvine stated that BitTorrent accounted for 52.01% of upstream traffic on fixed broadband networks in North America. By 2015, BitTorrent's share of upstream traffic on these networks had dipped to 26.83 percent, largely thanks to the rise in quality, inexpensive streaming alternatives to piracy. But Sandvine notes that trend is now reversing slightly, with BitTorrent's traffic share once again growing worldwide. That's especially true in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, where BitTorrent now accounts for 32% of all upstream network traffic.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department
Mike Bouma shares the announcement from Hyperior Entertainment, which holds exclusive rights to AmigaOS: The new, cleaned-up, polished Amiga operating system for your 68K machine fixes all the small annoyances that have piled up over the years. Originally intended as a bug-fix release, it also modernizes many system components previously upgraded in OS 3.9. Contrary to its modest revision number, AmigaOS 3.1.4 is arguably as large an upgrade as OS 3.9 was, and surpasses it in stability and robustness. Over 320K of release notes cover almost every aspect of your favorite classic AmigaOS -- from bootmenu to datatypes. Some of the highlights mentioned include: Over 20 Kickstart ROM modules and many more disk-based core OS components were fixed, updated, or added; Support for large hard disks; A modernized Workbench; and A colorful, professionally designed icon set is included, along with the traditional four-color icons.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's commence-panic department
bestweasel writes: The Hollywood Reporter highlights an academic paper which finds that half of the criticism aimed at director Rian Johnson over Star Wars: The Last Jedi was politically motivated. From the report: [Researcher Morten Bay's paper] titled Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, examines the online response to the movie that has come to be considered controversial amongst the larger fanbase of the franchise. Bay suggests that reputation may not be earned, and instead "finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments." He continues, "The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation." The paper analyzes in depth the negative online reaction, which is split into three different camps: those with a political agenda, trolls and what Bay calls "real fantagonists," which he defines as genuine Star Wars fans disappointed in the movie. His findings are fascinating; "Overall, 50.9% of those tweeting negatively [about the movie] was likely politically motivated or not even human," he writes, noting that only 21.9% of tweets analyzed about the movie had been negative in the first place. "A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls," Bay writes of the negative tweets. In response to a tweet announcing the release of the paper, Last Jedi director Rian Johnson shared the tweet, adding, "Looking forward to reading it, but what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's keep-em-coming department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla has now confirmed the official record production numbers of 80,000 vehicles. The automaker has also confirmed Q3 deliveries of 83,500 vehicles. Yesterday, Electrek reported the production numbers, which Tesla has now confirmed to be exactly 53,239 Model 3 vehicles and 26,903 Model S and X vehicles. Tesla elaborated on the Model 3 production ramp-up: "During Q3, we transitioned Model 3 production from entirely rear wheel drive at the beginning of the quarter to almost entirely dual motor during the last few weeks of the quarter. This added significant complexity, but we successfully executed this transition and ultimately produced more dual motor than rear wheel drive cars in Q3. In the last week of the quarter, we produced over 5,300 Model 3 vehicles, almost all of which were dual motor, meaning that we achieved a production rate of more than 10,000 drive units per week." Tesla delivered a total of 83,500 vehicles during the third quarter: 55,840 Model 3, 14,470 Model S, and 13,190 Model X. Here's what Tesla had to say about the Model 3 deliveries: "Our Q3 Model 3 deliveries were limited to higher-priced variants, cash/loan transactions, and North American customers only. There remain significant opportunities to grow the addressable market for Model 3 by introducing leasing, standard battery and other lower-priced variants of the car, and by starting international deliveries."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
Microsoft today announced that the Windows 10 October 2018 update is now available. While the update is fairly minor, it does offer a number of interesting new features. TechCrunch reports: The most interesting of these is probably the new "Your Phone" app, which allows you to text from your PC using an Android phone that also runs Microsoft's mobile companion app. In later iterations, that app will also sync notifications to your desktop, but for now, that's not an option. There also are tools for continuing your workflow as you switch from your phone to PC (or vice versa). These features work for iOS users, too. As far as syncing between devices goes, it's worth noting that the update also will allow you to share your clipboard between PCs.
Since everybody likes a dark mode these days, the Windows 10 File Explorer now also includes a dark theme. There's also a revamped search experience, as well as a new screenshot tool. While the release includes plenty of other tweaks, both in terms of functionality and design, the most anticipated feature, Sets, didn't make it into this release. Sets is probably the biggest change to the overall Windows user experience since the release of Windows 10, so maybe it's no surprise that Microsoft is trying to perfect this. And perfection takes a while. ZDNet has highlighted many of the "smaller" new features, such as the improved Windows search functionality, battery details for Bluetooth devices, and a built-in Clipboard manager that can sync clips across devices signed into the same Microsoft account.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader writes: Apple has quietly fixed a security issue affecting some laptops that shipped with Intel chips that were mistakenly left configured into "manufacturing mode." The issue was discovered by two security researchers bug hunting for security flaws in Intel's Management Engine. While digging around through the tens of ME configuration options, the two spotted a feature that they believed could lead to problems, if left enabled by accident on Intel chips. The configuration they eyed was named Manufacturing Mode, and it's an Intel ME option that desktop, server, laptop, or mobile OEMs can enable for Intel chips and use it for testing ME's remote management features. As the name implies, this configuration option should be enabled only on manufacturing lines to enable automated configuration and testing operations, but disabled before shipping the end product. Leaving an Intel ME chip in Manufacturing Mode allows attackers to change ME settings and disable security controls, opening a chip for other attacks. The two researchers said they only tested Lenovo and Apple laptops for the presence of Intel ME chips in Manufacturing Mode. Other laptops or computers may also be affected. Instructions on how to spot Intel ME chips in Manufacturing Mode and how to disable it are available here. Apple fixed the issue in June, with the release of macOS High Sierra 10.13.5, and Security Update 2018-003 for macOS Sierra and El Capitan.Read Replies (0)