By EditorDavid from Slashdot's spirt-of-America department
An anonymous reader quotes CNET:
Massachusetts plans to protect net neutrality by naming and shaming internet service providers that don't adhere to open internet principles. Lawmakers in the state Senate have proposed a bill (S2160) that would create an "internet service provider registry" to track whether broadband and wireless providers adhere to policies that keep the internet open and neutral.
In the wake of the FCC's repeal of net neutrality, more than half the states in the union are considering their own, state-level net neutrality rules. Some states are tackling the problem with legislation (California, Oregon, Washington), while others (like Montana) are signing executive orders banning state agencies from doing business with ISPs that behave anti-competitively... when the FCC repealed net neutrality, it included a provision attempting to "pre-empt" (read: ban) states from protecting consumers. As a result, large ISPs have threatened to sue any states that stand up for consumer welfare, and at least one ISP (Charter Spectrum) has tried to use the repeal to wiggle out of state lawsuits for terrible broadband. Charter's efforts on that front have failed, and the the FCC's authority to tell states what to do has been highly contested.
Still, Massachusetts thought it might be a better idea to try and publicly shame ISPs into behaving.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unhappy-anniversaries department
"It's been a year since Equifax doxed the nation of America through carelessness, deception and greed, lying about it and stalling while the problem got worse and worse," writes Cory Doctorow. Equifax's new CSO says they've spent over $200 million on security upgrades, in work being overseen by auditor from eight different states. An anonymous reader quotes Doctorow's response:
This all sounds very good and all, but it's still monumentally unfair. The penalty for Equifax's recklessness should have been the corporate death penalty: charter revoked, company shut down, assets sold to competitors... The fact that Equifax's investors and execs kept all the money they made by risking all America with shoddy security, and that no one went to jail for a monumental act of corporate recklessness, is a moral hazard, virtually guaranteeing that Equifax's competitors will not take the care they owe to the people on whom they have amassed nonconsensual, potentially life-destroying dossiers.
Equifax's CEO and several top officials did leave the company, notes Government Technology -- but that's about it.
Thus far, no financial punishment has been imposed on Equifax itself. Despite contentious hearings, no Congressional action has been taken. A few months later, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tabled action against the company. And while the Federal Trade Commission said it opened an investigation into the Equifax breach in September, the agency has since named as chief of its consumer protection division a lawyer who has represented Equifax. This past week, Equifax asked a federal judge to reject the claims from 46 banks and credit unions for payment of damages because of the massive data breach. The companies claimed that Equifax owes them for all the costs they incurred protecting data after the breach was revealed, costs that could easily run into many millions of dollars....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's giving-a-dam department
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants to spend $3 billion to pump back the water that's flowing through Hoover Dam -- so it can flow through again later, during periods of peak energy demand. This generates a net profit for the dam's operators -- the pumping stations are powered by cheap solar and wind energy, while the dams are currently operating at just 20% of their capacity. An anonymous reader quotes Clean Technica:
The problem is that California has so much renewable energy available now, thanks in large measure to aggressive state mandated policies, that much of it is "constrained." That's utility industry speak for having to give it away or simply let it go to waste. In some cases, utilities in California actually pay other utility companies to take the excess electricity off their hands.
Why not store it all in some of Elon Musk's grid scale batteries? Simply put, pumped hydroelectric storage is cheaper than battery storage, at least for now. Lazard, the financial advisory and asset management firm, estimates utility scale lithium-ion batteries cost 26 cents per kilowatt-hour compared with 15 cents for pumped hydro storage. "Hoover Dam is ideal for this," Kelly Sanders, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California tells the New York Times. "It's a gigantic plant. We don't have anything on the horizon as far as batteries of that magnitude."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's going-to-the-Opera department
An anonymous reader quotes CNET:
Opera, an underdog in a browser market dominated by Google's Chrome, raised $115 million in an initial public offering Friday. The company sold 9.6 million American depositary shares at $12 each, the high end of the $10-to-$12 range it expected for the IPO. When the stock started trading more broadly at about 7:30 a.m. PT, it rose as high as 28 percent above that before settling in at a 10 percent rise, to $13.24, during midday trading.... In fact, Opera raised a big notch more, because at the same time as the IPO, it also secured a $60 million private funding round from Tospring Technology, also known as Bitmain, which makes Bitcoin mining computers, IDG Capital Fund and IDG Capital Investors. And the financial firms underwriting the IPO had an option to release another 15 percent of shares -- 1.44 million. "It gets us roughly up to $190 million," Chief Financial Officer Frode Jacobsen said....
In the first three months of 2018, Opera reported net income of $6.6 million on revenue of $39.4 million. The company makes money through partnerships with search engines, including Google and Yandex, that pay for search traffic it sends their way and through advertising deals like promoting websites on the browser's bookmarking, or speed dial, page. Opera has 264 million monthly active users on smartphones and 57 million on personal computers, Opera said in regulatory filings. Starting in 2017, it built an AI-powered news service into its browser and now offers it as a standalone app called Opera News. That has 90 million monthly users. The news app and service has been responsible for the turnaround in Opera's recent financial fortunes, Jacobsen said.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's up-up-and-away department
First World View hung Google SVP Alan Eustace at the end of a balloon and then dropped him 135,908 feet back to Earth. Then, it sent a KFC chicken sandwich to the edge of space. Now, World View has figured out how to get high-altitude balloons to sail winds in the stratosphere and travel for thousands of miles. They're being used to take detailed pictures of the Earth, send communications to far off places and learn more about the weather.
This strange company was founded by two people who lived in Biosphere 2, and they say they're doing all this balloon work to get people to think differently about the planet. In a few years, they plan to send people up to the edge of space in a capsule and let them hang out for a couple hours, while they sip cocktails and reflect on life or something like that.
The flights would cost $75,000 per person -- the money from KFC is already being used to build new software (along with sensors, and of course, durable balloons). Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
Since the Zinger, it's conducted more than 50 flights, primarily for the U.S. government, and kept its balloons up in the air for many days at a time. "People want us to do things like sit over the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and look for pirates," says Taber MacCallum, co-founder and chief technology officer. The company plans to start flying for commercial clients early next year. "Basically, our mission is to take over the stratosphere," he says.
Interestingly, Elon Musk also asked MacCallum's first company to design a greenhouse for Mars.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's another-aspect department
Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes:
YouTube very quietly made a very cool and rather major improvement in their video players today... YouTube is now adjusting the YT player size to match videos' native aspect ratios. This is a big deal, and very much welcome.
YouTube provided some before-and-after screenshots Friday, and acknowledged that "We launched this update on mobile awhile back (both Android and iOS) so this change also aligns the desktop and mobile viewing experiences."
Until now YouTube forced all videos into a 16:9 ratio by windowboxing them, meaning surround them with black vertical or horizontal bars like the old days of watching widescreen movies on VHS. In that sense, this isn't a huge change -- white space instead of black -- although the location of player controls moves to fit the video's size... The aspect adjustments are apparently automatic, retroactive to all uploaded video, and if there's a way to turn the feature off in Creator Studio it's non-obvious... Update 7/27/18 7:48pm: A YouTube spokesperson has since clarified to Gizmodo that currently there is no way to disable this feature.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's government-shut-downs department
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
The German state of Lower Saxony is set to follow Munich in migrating thousands of official computers away from Linux to Microsoft's Windows. As initially reported by Heise, the state's tax authority has 13,000 workstations running OpenSuse -- which it adopted in 2006 in a well-received migration from Solaris -- that it now wants to migrate to a "current version" of Windows, presumably Windows 10.
The authority reasons that many of its field workers and telephone support services already use Windows, so standardisation makes sense. An upgrade of some kind would in any case be necessary soon, as the PCs are running OpenSuse versions 12.2 and 13.2, neither of which is supported anymore.
According to the Lower Saxony's draft budget, €5.9m is set aside for the migration in the coming year, with a further €7m annually over the following years; it's not yet clear how many years the migration would take... Munich's shift away from LiMux -- the city's own Ubuntu-based distribution -- is expected to cost more than €50m overall, involving the deployment of around 29,000 Windows-based computers.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department
At least two malls in Calgary are using facial recognition technology to track shoppers' ages and genders without first obtaining their consent. "A visitor to Chinook Center in south Calgary spotted a browser window that had seemingly accidentally been left open on one of the mall's directories, exposing facial-recognition software that was running in the background of the digital map," reports CBC.ca. "They took a photo and posted it to the social networking site Reddit on Tuesday." From the report: The mall's parent company, Cadillac Fairview, said the software, which they began using in June, counts people who use the directory and predicts their approximate age and gender, but does not record or store any photos or video from the directory cameras. Cadillac Fairview said the software is also used at Market Mall in northwest Calgary, and other malls nationwide. Cadillac Fairview said currently the only data they collect is the number of shoppers and their approximate age and gender, but most facial recognition software can be easily adapted to collect additional data points, according to privacy advocates. Under Alberta's Personal Information Privacy Act, people need to be notified their private information is being collected, but as the mall isn't actually saving the recordings, what they're doing is legal. It's not known how many other Calgary-area malls are using the same or similar software and if they are recording the data.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's holding-on-for-life department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Earlier this month, in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences, a team of Russian scientists announced they had apparently discovered ancient nematode worms that were able to resurrect themselves after spending at least 32,000 years buried in permafrost. The discovery, if legitimate, would represent the longest-surviving return from the cold ever seen in a complex, multi-celled organism, dwarfing even the tardigrade. The worms were found among more than 300 samples of frozen soil pulled from the Kolyma River Lowlands in Northeastern Siberia by the researchers. Two of the samples held the worms, with one from a buried squirrel burrow dating back 32,000 years and one from a glacier dating back 40,000 years. After isolating intact nematodes, the scientists kept the samples at 68 degrees Fahrenheit and left them surrounded by food in a petri dish, just to see what would happen. Over the next few weeks, they gradually spotted flickers of life as the worms ate the food and even cloned new family members. These cloned worms were then cultured separately, and they too thrived.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
Facebook is reportedly rolling out its "downvote" button to a wider group of users in the United States. "The feature began appearing on the service's mobile app without a formal company announcement -- and we only found out about it by browsing on our phones," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The feature appears to currently be limited to "public" posts. Should your account be flagged for this week's test, every comment in a thread will include a numeric value and small up- and down-arrows connected to that number. Upon the first display of this Reddit-like change, the Facebook app will offer guidance: "Support comments that are thoughtful, and demote ones that are uncivil or irrelevant."
This is in addition to the site's long-running "emotion" interface, which lets users tap "like" or emoji-styled buttons. These icons and numbers still attach to posts as they've done for years. Now an additional value based on up- and down-votes, appears as well, and these values are separate. Meaning, if you tap the "like" button and down-vote on the same comment, those actions don't cancel each other out. As of press time, these up- and down-vote numbers are not visible if your account is not flagged for the test. We have not yet seen this feature go live on any versions of the Facebook Android app.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's are-you-a-cop department
"BuzzFeed has this story about proposals to make social media bots identify themselves as fake people," writes an anonymous Slashdot reader. "[It's] based on a paper by a law professor and a fellow researcher." From the report: General concerns about the ethical implications of misleading people with convincingly humanlike bots, as well as specific concerns about the extensive use of bots in the 2016 election, have led many to call for rules regulating the manner in which bots interact with the world. "An AI system must clearly disclose that it is not human," the president of the Allen Institute on Artificial Intelligence, hardly a Luddite, argued in the New York Times. Legislators in California and elsewhere have taken up such calls. SB-1001, a bill that comfortably passed the California Senate, would effectively require bots to disclose that they are not people in many settings. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced a similar bill for consideration in the United States Senate.
In our essay, we outline several principles for regulating bot speech. Free from the formal limits of the First Amendment, online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have more leeway to regulate automated misbehavior. These platforms may be better positioned to address bots' unique and systematic impacts. Browser extensions, platform settings, and other tools could be used to filter or minimize undesirable bot speech more effectively and without requiring government intervention that could potentially run afoul of the First Amendment. A better role for government might be to hold platforms accountable for doing too little to address legitimate societal concerns over automated speech. [A]ny regulatory effort to domesticate the problem of bots must be sensitive to free speech concerns and justified in reference to the harms bots present. Blanket calls for bot disclosure to date lack the subtlety needed to address bot speech effectively without raising the specter of censorship.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's raking-it-in department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A U.S. jury awarded International Business Machines Corp. $83.5 million after finding that Groupon Inc. infringed four of its e-commerce patents. Friday's verdict cements the prowess of IBM's portfolio of more than 45,000 patents and is a boon to its intellectual-property licensing revenue, which brought in $1.19 billion in 2017. The jury in Wilmington, Delaware, sided with the argument of IBM's lawyers, who had said Groupon was trying to portray IBM as claiming to have patented the Internet and had called that effort "a smoke screen." As they began the trial, IBM's lawyers said Groupon built its online coupon business on the back of IBM's e-commerce inventions without permission.
[T]he patents at issue don't protect IBM's products or services, said David Hadden, Groupon's lawyer. IBM never used the patents and instead relies on its huge portfolio to extract money from other companies, he said. Two of the patents, one of which expired in 2015, came out of the Prodigy online service, which started in the late 1980s and predated the web. Another, which expired in 2016, is related to preserving information in a continuing conversation between clients and servers. The fourth patent is related to authentication and expires in 2025, the latest among the case's patents. IBM stressed throughout the trial that a range of companies have paid for licenses to use its patents. Tech giants such as Amazon, Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have paid from $20 million to $50 million each in cross-licensing agreements, allowing them access to IBM's cadre of more than 45,000 patents.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's well-that-escalated-quickly department
Yesterday, it was reported that Charter Communications could lose its license in New York because of its failure to meet merger-related broadband deployment commitments. Today, according to Ars Technica, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to revoke its approval of Charter Communications' 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC). "The PSC said it is ordering Charter to sell the former TWC system that it purchased in New York, and it's 'bring[ing] an enforcement action in State Supreme Court to seek additional penalties for Charter's past failures and ongoing non-compliance," reports Ars. From the report: Charter has repeatedly failed to meet deadlines for broadband expansions that were required in exchange for merger approval, state officials said. The PSC has steadily increased the pressure on Charter with fines and threats, but Charter never agreed to changes demanded by state officials. As a result of today's vote, "Charter is ordered to file within 60 days a plan with the Commission to ensure an orderly transition to a successor provider(s)," the PSC's announcement said. "During the transition process, Charter must continue to comply with all local franchises it holds in New York State and all obligations under the Public Service Law and the Commission regulations. Charter must ensure no interruption in service is experienced by customers, and, in the event that Charter does not do so, the Commission will take further steps, including seeking injunctive relief in Supreme Court in order to protect New York consumers." The five types of misconduct that the commission cited to support its decision include: the company's repeated failures to meet deadlines; Charter's attempts to skirt obligations to serve rural communities; unsafe practices in the field; its failure to fully commit to its obligations under the 2016 merger agreement; and the company's purposeful obfuscation of its performance and compliance obligations to the Commission and its customers.Read Replies (0)