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Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore
Posted by News Fetcher on June 02 '18 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's telephone-culture-or-there-lack-of department:
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Atlantic, written by Alexis C. Madrigal: No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering -- built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture -- is gone. There are many reasons for the slow erosion of this commons. The most important aspect is structural: There are simply more communication options. Text messaging and its associated multimedia variations are rich and wonderful: words mixed with emoji, Bitmoji, reaction gifs, regular old photos, video, links. Texting is fun, lightly asynchronous, and possible to do with many people simultaneously. It's almost as immediate as a phone call, but not quite. You've got your Twitter, your Facebook, your work Slack, your email, FaceTimes incoming from family members. So many little dings have begun to make the rings obsolete.

But in the last couple years, there is a more specific reason for eyeing my phone's ring warily. Perhaps 80 or even 90 percent of the calls coming into my phone are spam of one kind or another. [...] There are unsolicited telemarketing calls. There are straight-up robocalls that merely deliver recorded messages. There are the cyborg telemarketers, who sit in call centers playing prerecorded bits of audio to simulate a conversation. There are the spam phone calls, whose sole purpose seems to be verifying that your phone number is real and working.

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German Spy Agency Can Keep Tabs On Internet Hubs, Federal Court Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on June 02 '18 at 02:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hide-and-seek department:
Earlier this week, a federal court in Germany threw out a challenge by the world's largest internet hub, the De-Cix exchange, against the tapping of its data flows by the BND foreign intelligence service. What this means is that the country's spy agency can continue to monitor major internet hubs if Berlin deems it necessary for strategic security interests. From a report: The operator had argued the agency was breaking the law by capturing German domestic communications along with international data. However, the court in the eastern city of Leipzig ruled that internet hubs "can be required by the federal interior ministry to assist with strategic communications surveillance by the BND." De-Cix says its Frankfurt hub is the world's biggest internet exchange, bundling data flows from as far as China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, which handles more than six terabytes per second at peak traffic.

De-Cix Management GmbH, which is owned by eco Association, the European internet industry body, had filed suit against the interior ministry, which oversees the BND and its strategic signals intelligence. It said the BND, a partner of the US National Security Agency (NSA), has placed so-called Y-piece prisms into its data-carrying fibre optic cables that give it an unfiltered and complete copy of the data flow. The surveillance sifts through digital communications such as emails using certain search terms, which are then reviewed based on relevance.

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Is Pluto Actually a Mash-Up of a Billion Comets?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 11:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's which-one-is-it department:
Scientists from the Southwest Research Institute suggest Pluto may be a comet, as opposed to a planet or dwarf planet. According to a study published in the journal Icarus, Pluto could be made up of billions of comets all mashed together. Smithsonian reports: Scientists had long believed the dwarf planet Pluto was formed the way planets come to be: they start as swirling dust that's gradually pulled together by gravity. But with the realization that Pluto was a Kuiper belt dwarf planet, researchers began speculating about the origins of the icy world. The researchers turned to Sputnik Planitia -- the western lobe of the massive heart-shaped icy expanse stamped on Pluto's side -- for the task. As Christopher Glein, lead author of the paper and researcher at the Southwest Research Institute, explains to [Popular Science editor Neel V. Patel], the researchers used the data from New Horizons on this icy expanse to estimate the amount of nitrogen on Pluto and the amount that's escaped from its atmosphere.

Glein explains the conclusions in a statement: "We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the [Sputnik Planitia] glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta." The report goes on to mention a few caveats. "For one, researchers aren't sure that comet 67P has an average comet composition," reports Smithsonian. "For another, New Horizons only captured information about Pluto at a specific point in time, which means nitrogen rates could have changed over the last billions of years. [T]here's also still the possibility Pluto formed from cold ices with a chemical composition to that of the sun."

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Google Quits Selling Tablets
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 07:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department:
Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the "tablets" heading from its Android page. It was there yesterday, but it's gone today. TechCrunch reports: Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They've also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn't come as much surprise that the company is bowing out.

Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. Google's exit doesn't mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They'll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon and a couple of others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn't selling them, it probably isn't prioritizing them as far as features and support. Android Police was first to break the news.

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Apple May Introduce a Triple-Camera iPhone This Year
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's all-the-better-to-see-you-with department:
A rumor from The Korea Herald suggests that Apple may be planning on introducing its first triple camera smartphone this year with the rumored 6.5-inch iPhone. The rumor comes buried in a piece mostly about Samsung, which is also expected to introduce a triple-camera smartphone with next year's S10. The Next Web reports: To be clear, this isn't the first time we've heard word of a triple camera iPhone, but the three previous reports have pointed to a 2019 release, according to MacRumors. One of these reports was from Ming Chi Kuo, an Apple analyst who has a solid track record. The fact that's it's mentioned offhandedly in the Korea Herald report makes me think the date may have been a mistake. No matter how good AI and processing get, there's only so much you can do within the physical constraints of a small smartphone sensor. In theory, using multiple cameras and combining the information with some smart processing could help you somewhat replicate the image quality of a larger sensor.

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YouTube's Top Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down En Masse
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's burnout-paradise department:
Polygon reports of several prominent YouTube creators who are struggling with burnout. The cause can be attributed to "constant changes to the platform's algorithm, unhealthy obsessions with remaining relevant in a rapidly growing field and social media pressures [that] are making it almost impossible for top creators to continue creating at the pace both the platform and audience want," reports Polygon. From the report: Three weeks ago, Bobby Burns, a YouTuber with just under one million subscribers, sat down on a rock in Central Park to talk about a recent mental health episode. One week ago, Elle Mills, a creator with more than 1.2 million subscribers, uploaded a video that included vulnerable footage during a breakdown. Six days ago, Ruben "El Rubius" Gundersen, the third most popular YouTuber in the world with just under 30 million subscribers, turned on his camera to talk to his viewers about the fear of an impending breakdown and his decision to take a break from YouTube. Burns, Mills and Gundersen aren't alone. Erik "M3RKMUS1C" Phillips (four million subscribers), Benjamin "Crainer" Vestergaard (2.7 million subscribers) and other top YouTubers have either announced brief hiatuses from the platform, or discussed their own struggles with burnout, in the past month. Everyone from PewDiePie (62 million subscribers) to Jake Paul (15.2 million subscribers) have dealt with burnout. Lately, however, it seems like more of YouTube's top creators are coming forward with their mental health problems. In closing, Polygon's Julia Alexander writes: "YouTube offers no clear support system for creators, nor is it clear if the company has offered professional help to some of its top creators who've made their burnout public. Instead, YouTube's only direct reaction is a playlist dedicated to burnout and mental health. The creators are essentially working until they no longer physically can, and apologizing to their fans after believing they've failed. Polygon has reached out to YouTube for more information about services that are provided to creators. The only way to beat burnout is to take breaks. Unfortunately, for many YouTubers, those breaks are rarely planned."

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Apple Is Reportedly Eyeing the Ad Business
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's passive-income department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The Wall Street Journal has published a new report detailing one thing we might expect to see on stage at WWDC next week: a digital ad platform expansion. According to the Journal, Apple has been in talks with major apps including Snapchat and Pinterest about the project: "Over the past year, Apple has met with Snap Inc., Pinterest Inc. and other companies about participating in an Apple network that would distribute ads across their collective apps, the people said. Apple would share revenue with the apps displaying the ads, with the split varying from app to app, they said."

The report adds that the new ad effort would expand on the "nearly $1 billion" business of search ads, which it introduced to the App Store in 2016. In addition to app ads being display in search results in the App Store, developers could include advertisements in search results within their own apps: "Under the concept discussed internally and raised with potential partners, users searching in Pinterest's app for 'drapes' might turn up an ad distributed by Apple for an interior-design app, or Snap users searching for 'NFL' might see an ad for a ticket-reseller app, one of the people said."

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Trump Orders a Lifeline For Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 03:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire department:
According to The New York Times, President Trump has ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to "prepare immediate steps" to stop the closure of unprofitable coal and nuclear plants around the country. From the report: Under one proposal outlined in the memo, which was reported by Bloomberg, the Department of Energy would order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants for two years, using emergency authority that is normally reserved for exceptional crises like natural disasters. That idea triggered immediate blowback from a broad alliance of energy companies, consumer groups and environmentalists. On Friday, oil and gas companies joined with wind and solar organizations in a joint statement condemning the plan, saying that it was "legally indefensible" and would force consumers to pay more for electricity.

The administration has also discussed invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, which allows the federal government to intervene in private industry in the name of national security. (Harry S. Truman used the law to impose price controls on the steel industry during the Korean War.) If the Trump administration were to invoke these two statutes, the move would almost certainly be challenged in federal court by natural gas and renewable energy companies, which could stand to lose market share. Such an intervention could cost consumers between $311 million to $11.8 billion pear year, according to a preliminary estimate (PDF) by Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation.

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Cost To Build a Tesla Model 3 Is $28,000, German Engineers Say
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 03:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cheaper-by-the-dozen department:
Rei writes: An interesting report came out the other day from Germany, where an engineering firm purchased four Tesla Model 3s on the grey market to study on behalf of an anonymous major German auto manufacturer. Among their key findings: due in part to a huge reduction in cobalt in the batteries (2.8% in the cathodes versus a typical 8%) and a number of simplifications, the parts cost of a Model 3 (in units of 10,000 vehicles per week) is estimated at $18,000, along with $10,000 in production costs. Note that the teardown was for the long-range version with the premium upgrades package.

On Reddit, users with access to the full report added further details. The 75kWh battery is 40% of the components cost ($7,200); the interior is completely symmetric (facilitating RHD); there are only 4 kinds of screws used in the underbody (a typical German luxury manufacturer uses 40); many parts of the car are designed specifically so as to be easier for robots to grab; and the battery pack is harder to remove than on the S/X (e.g. not battery swap capable). After studying the individual components, they concluded that German EV manufacturers would not be capable of producing a similar vehicle at this point in time. Asked on Twitter whether Musk agreed with their price conclusions at a rate of 10,000 vehicles per week, Musk replied: "Definitely." That said, Tesla is still in the process of moving from 3,500 to 5,000-6,000 per week by the end of this quarter, and is not expected to reach 10,000 vehicles per week until next year.

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Microsoft Is Talking About Acquiring GitHub, Says Report
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's symbiotic-relationships department:
The Welcome Rain shares a report from ZDNet: Microsoft officials have been talking to GitHub about possibly acquiring the company, according to a June 1 report in Business Insider. BI claims that the two have discussed the possibility of an acquisition on an on-and-off-again basis over the years "but in the last few weeks talks have grown more serious." BI is citing unnamed "people close to the companies" as its sources. "This isn't as surprising as it would have been ten or more years ago," writes The Welcome Rain. "Microsoft is investing a lot in git, including GVFS, a Git Virtual File System to help Git work with very large codebases. What might this mean for the future of Github?"

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Three US States Will Spend $1.3 Billion To Build More Electric Vehicle Charging
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's high-rollers department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Three U.S. states announced major investments in charging infrastructure for electric cars on Thursday. In total, California, New York, and New Jersey will put $1.3 billion on the table in the coming years to help chip away at one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of widespread EV adoption. California's Public Utilities Commission approved up to $738 million worth of projects over the next five years, the agency announced. Southern California Edison and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will spend up to $343 million and $236 million, respectively, to build charging infrastructure that will support thousands of medium or heavy-duty vehicles at around 1,500 locations throughout the state. PG&E will spend another $22 million building 234 DC fast-charging stations at around 50 different sites throughout the state.

In New York, the governor's office announced a pledge of up to $250 million through 2025 to its electric vehicle expansion initiative, EVolve NY. The New York Power Authority will work with the private sector to install up to 200 DC fast chargers "along key interstate corridors" with the goal of making them available every 30 miles, and it will also bring them to urban areas as well, including at or near New York City's two major airports. Meanwhile, New Jersey's biggest utility owner Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) announced a $300 million pledge to build out up to 50,000 charging stations along highways, in residential areas, and at workplaces.

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Tesla Starts To Release Its Cars' Open-Source Linux Software Code
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 12:52 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
An anonymous reader writes: Tesla cars are powered not only by batteries but by open-source software. Until recently, though, Tesla hasn't lived up to its obligations under open-source licenses, but now Tesla is finally releasing some of its Linux source code for the Model S and X cars. The Tesla GitHub repository contains the code for the Model S/X 2018.12 software release. Specifically, it holds the system image on the Tesla Autopilot platform, the kernel sources for its underlying hardware, and the code for its Nvidia Tegra-based infotainment system. Tesla will release additional open-source code for other systems in their cars soon. According to Tesla, "Work is underway on preparing sources in other areas as well, together with a more coordinated information page. We wanted to let you know about this material as it is available now while work continues on the other parts." The electric car thought-leader will also update its code as updated software releases are made.

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Top US Antitrust Official Uncertain of Need For Four Wireless Carriers
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 12:52 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The head of the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, declined on Friday to support the Obama administration's firm backing of the need for four U.S. wireless carriers. Asked about T-Mobile's plan to buy Sprint for $26 billion, Delrahim declined to reiterate the view of President Barack Obama's enforcers, who had said that four wireless carriers were needed. Instead, Delrahim told reporters, "I don't think there's any magical number that I'm smart enough to glean." He also said the department would look at the companies' arguments that the proposed merger was needed for them to build the next generation of wireless, referred to as 5G, but that they had to prove their case.

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Google Plans Not To Renew its Contract for Project Maven, a Controversial Drone AI Imaging Program
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's peace-out department:
Kate Konger, reporting for Gizmodo: Google will not seek another contract for its controversial work providing artificial intelligence to the U.S. Department of Defense for analyzing drone footage after its current contract expires. Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said. The meeting, dubbed Weather Report, is a weekly update on Google Cloud's business. Google would not choose to pursue Maven today because the backlash has been terrible for the company, Greene said, adding that the decision was made at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work. The company plans to unveil new ethical principles about its use of AI next week.

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Thousands of Organizations Are Exposing Sensitive Data Via Google Groups Lists, Researchers Find
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department:
Brian Krebs reports: Google is reminding organizations to review how much of their Google Groups mailing lists should be public and indexed by Google.com. The notice was prompted in part by a review that KrebsOnSecurity undertook with several researchers who've been busy cataloging thousands of companies that are using public Google Groups lists to manage customer support and in some cases sensitive internal communications. Google Groups is a service from Google that provides discussion groups for people sharing common interests. Because of the organic way Google Groups tend to grow as more people are added to projects -- and perhaps given the ability to create public accounts on otherwise private groups -- a number of organizations with household names are leaking sensitive data in their message lists. Many Google Groups leak emails that should probably not be public but are nevertheless searchable on Google, including personal information such as passwords and financial data, and in many cases comprehensive lists of company employee names, addresses and emails. Google has outlined instructions on how to secure the discussion boards.

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Visa Card Payment Systems Go Down Across Europe
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 10:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's outage-report department:
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: The Visa card payment system is currently down across Europe. Users across the continent have reported problems during the day when attempting to make payments using their Visa cards. A Visa spokesperson confirmed the outage but did not reveal any other details, such as its cause or its scale. Bank social media accounts also confirmed the outage and informed customers of the issue. Users across the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, and Hungary have confirmed problems with payments, but the problems are believed to affect all European countries.

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Facebook Is Killing Off Trending As It Tries To Revamp Newsfeed
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 10:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's good-riddance department:
Mark Wilson writes: Facebook has announced plans to kill off the Trending feature of its newsfeed. The social network says that this is to "make way for future news experiences." Over the years, Facebook has experimented endlessly with the presentation of news, and has faced criticism for failing to weed out "fake news" and also accusations of liberal bias. Now the company wants to find new ways to help people find news that matters to them, ensuring that it comes from reliable sources.

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Intel Wants PCs To Be More Than Just 'Personal Computers'
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-that-means department:
An anonymous reader shares a report "What people need from a PC, what they expect is really more diverse than ever," Intel's Client Computing head Gregory Bryant said in an interview. "We're going to embark on a journey to transform the PC from a personal computer to a personal contribution platform... The platform where people focus and can do their most meaningful work." Bryant says Intel will focus on five key areas to reframe its vision of PCs: Uncompromised performance (of course); improved connectivity with 5G on the horizon; a dramatic increase in battery life; developing more adaptable platforms that go beyond 2-in-1s and convertibles; and a push towards more intelligent machines with AI and machine learning integration. Admittedly, many of those points aren't exactly new for Intel, and they also fall in line with where the computing industry is going.

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Now Fighting for Top Tech Talent: Makers of Turbines, Tools and Toyotas
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
The tussle over technology talent is reaching far beyond Silicon Valley. From a report: Firms from industrial giants to car makers are rethinking the way they recruit as they compete with each other and traditional technology outfits for people with expertise in high-tech fields like machine learning, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. For some positions that Siemens AG needs to fill, there may be a universe of fewer than 2,000 qualified people in the U.S., said Michael Brown, vice president of talent acquisition in the Americas for the German industrial conglomerate that makes everything from gas turbines to mammography machines. "The question is how many of those are looking for a job?" Mr. Brown said. Finding the right potential candidates on sites like LinkedIn isn't easy because "they're tired of being found." Siemens has 377,000 employees world-wide and about 50,000 in the U.S. At the moment, it has about 1,500 open jobs across America, most of which require some software or science-related background. Employers are handicapped by several factors, data show and recruiters say: Cutting-edge skills are evolving faster than universities can train people, the supply of talented young workers entering these fields isn't satisfying the huge demand for them, and mobility -- a worker's willingness to uproot their life for a job in a new place -- has declined. The odds of luring rare, coveted candidates away from their current job or city are long, Mr. Brown said.

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Signs of Sophisticated Cellphone Spying Found Near White House, US Officials Say
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '18 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A federal study found signs that surveillance devices for intercepting cellphone calls and texts were operating near the White House and other sensitive locations in the Washington area last year. From a report: A Department of Homeland Security program discovered evidence of the surveillance devices, called IMSI catchers, as part of federal testing last year, according to a letter from DHS to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on May 22. The letter didn't specify what entity operated the devices and left open the possibility that there could be alternative explanations for the suspicious cellular signals collected by the federal testing program last year. The discovery bolsters years of independent research suggesting that foreign intelligence agencies use sophisticated interception technology to spy on officials working within the hub of federal power in the nation's capital. Experts in surveillance technology say that IMSI catchers -- sometimes known by one popular brand name, StingRay -- are a standard part of the tool kit for many foreign intelligence services, including for such geopolitical rivals as Russia and China.

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