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51st Known Mersenne Prime Number Found
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 04:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's prime-of-your-life department:
chalsall (Slashdot reader #185), writes:
The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) has discovered the largest known prime number, 2^82,589,933-1, having 24,862,048 digits. A computer volunteered by Patrick Laroche from Ocala, Florida made the find on December 7, 2018.
GIMPS has been on amazing lucky streak, finding triple the expected number of new Mersenne primes -- a dozen in the last fifteen years.
"This anomaly is not necessarily evidence that existing theories on the distribution of Mersenne primes is incorrect," notes GIMPSS. "However, if the trend continues it may be worth further investigation. " They also report that the newly-discovered prime number "is more than one and a half million digits larger than the previous record prime number" -- and it's one of just 51 known Mersenne prime numbers ever discovered. "GIMPS, founded in 1996, has discovered the last 17..."

Patrick Laroche is one of thousands of volunteers using GIMPS' free software to hunt for prime numbers -- and is now eligible for a $3,000 "research discovery award," the group writes at mersenne.org. "GIMPS' next major goal is to win the $150,000 award administered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation offered for finding a 100 million digit prime number" -- of which $50,000 will be awarded to the discoverer, with another $50,000 going to a 501(c)(3) mathematics-related charity selected by GIMPS, and $50,000 retained by GIMPS to cover expenses and fund other awards.

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Kansas is Trying to Unload $10M in Unused Computer Equipment
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 03:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-in-Kansas-any-more department:
An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer's administration is seeking a way to donate or sell at a steep discount as much as $10 million in unused computer equipment that has been stored in a state office building since 2016. The state still owes $2 million on the equipment, which it bought in 2016 as part of a failed plan to develop a centralized storage system, call Kansas GovCloud, for computer information. That idea was canceled by state IT officials who said it was too expensive. Instead, the state contracts with an outside company to store data on remote servers.
Attempts to sell the equipment failed to attract bidders, leading to discussions about finding someone to take the equipment before its value dropped to the level of scrap metal, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said the state allocated $17 million, including $10 million for the equipment, before dropping the storage idea. Selling it for pennies on the dollar or donating it to someone has merit, he said. "The point is, equipment after a while just becomes obsolete. If somebody can use it, great. If you can get some money out of it, fine," Holland said.

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What Happens After Surprising DNA Test Results?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 01:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 23-and-you department:
schwit1 shared an interesting article from Bloomberg:
Though genetic tests are frequently marketed as family-friendly entertainment, they sometimes wind up surfacing life-altering surprises. And when those surprises show up in someone's test results, the first move is often a call to customer service.... At 23andMe, those types of calls are so frequent that preparing for them is integrated into the company's months-long training program.... "We always try to steer the conversation toward the data, tell them that this is science," said Kent Hillyer, head of customer care for the genetic-testing firm 23andMe...
Lindsay Grove, a customer-care representative at 23andMe, still remembers one call in particular years later, a dad who took the test only to find out that his child was not, in fact, his child. At first, like most, he was just trying to figure out whether the results were accurate. So Grove explained the science behind the data. The customer then became somber and quiet. He questioned whether he should talk to his wife, and, if he did, how.... "That process of figuring out what to do next is very difficult for customers...."
Such emotional calls can take a toll on employees, too. That's perhaps inevitable when technology interfaces with such sensitive, personal information.... At 23andMe, Hillyer often encourages representatives to go for a walk after an intense call, or cracks open a bottle of wine to help them decompress. "We kind of do these internal therapy sessions,'' he said. "Here, maybe more so than most places, you have to be really supportive of each other."

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Rare Amiga Bought on eBay For $2,500
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 01:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
Long-time Slashdot reader Mike Bouma shared Eurogamer's report about a rare Amiga 3000 auctioned on eBay:
Mike Clarke, who worked at legendary UK game company Psygnosis from 1992 to 1999 doing audio work, rescued this particular Amiga 3000 from destruction after it had been placed down in a corridor, ready to be thrown out. Over 20 years later, Clarke is selling it on eBay... According to Clarke, this Amiga 3000 was first used by artist Jeff Bramfitt, who scratched his initials in the top of the case in pen "just in case someone took it off his desk".
Bramfitt used the machine to work on the title screens for Carthage, Infestation, Shadow of the Beast 2 and more classic Amiga games, but its headline claim to fame is it was used to create the original Amiga Lemmings intro and logo. Lemmings, which came out for the Amiga in 1991, was developed by DMA Design (now Rockstar North) and published by Psygnosis before the latter was bought by Sony. Later, it was used for Microcosm (3DO, Mega-CD), Scavenger IV (aka Novastorm, Mega-CD, FM Towns), and unreleased games such as No Escape, a tie-in with the Ray Liotta film, aka Penal Colony for Mega-CD.
Files for all of these games and more remain on this Amiga 3000's hard drive. "I think the above games were all in 1993, which was a very busy year because we got bought by Sony and alongside working on games by third-party developers, Sony pushed all of these film licenses onto us and gave us almost no time to make them," Clarke said. This Amiga 3000 is not without its problems, however. The floppy drive doesn't work anymore and the hard drive is "temperamental", which means you might have issues booting the thing up.
After 16 bids, the Amiga sold for £1,850 -- about $2,300 USD -- plus another £170 ($215 USD) for shipping.

< article continued at Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department >

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Self-Driving Car Company Zoox Is Now Allowed to Carry Passengers
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 12:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's taken-for-a-ride department:
The AP reports that self-driving cars have reached a new milestone in California:
The Public Utilities Commission granted Zoox the first permit to ferry riders in autonomous vehicles under a pilot program. But Zoox can't charge for the service and a backup driver must be in the car. Under the program, Zoox will submit information to the commission on the number of passenger miles traveled in the test cars and any incidents that occur, along with pollution and safety data.

There was no immediate word on when Silicon Valley-based Zoox would start its service, which would likely be confined to the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 60 companies have California permits to test autonomous vehicles. But so far they can only carry employees and researchers.

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A Delivery Robot Spontaneously Burst Into Flames
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 11:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you're-fired department:
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo shares this article from the Verge:
An autonomous food delivery robot burst into flames on a Berkeley, California walkway, as first reported by The Daily Californian. Kiwi, the startup that makes and manages the one hundred-strong fleet of robots, issued a statement to say that the fire was quickly extinguished by a passerby before the city's fire department arrived and doused the machine in foam.... It said that it believed the fire was caused by human error, when a faulty battery was manually inserted into the robot, eventually causing thermal runaway -- the same issue that resulted in the recall of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 phones. Kiwi says that a new piece of software will "rigorously monitor the state of each battery" to prevent anything like this from happening again.

Kiwi said the incident resulted in "some smoke and minor flames." But video captured of the event shows the robot engulfed in the kind of fiercely burning fireball typically associated with battery fires.
Though no one was hurt, Kiwi's fleet of 100 delivery robots was still deactivated while the company investigated the fiery wreck.

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Price Of Bitcoin Rises 27%, While Price of Bitcoin Cash Triples
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 09:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's downs-and-ups department:
A Bloomberg columnist asks whether this week's rise in bitcoin's price is a turning point -- or just a "dead cat bounce"?
After hitting a year's low of about $3,143, down about 80 percent from January highs, Bitcoin has risen 27 percent this week. Short-sellers are closing their positions, while fans smell fresh opportunity. Even more eye-watering market moves are happening elsewhere in the digital currency's ecosystem. Bitcoin Cash, a spin-off intended to be more usable as a payments mechanism, has almost tripled this week from about $80 to $225. That this is happening at the same time as a U.S. stock-market selloff will no doubt warm the hearts of crypto-evangelists, who believe their currencies offer genuine alternatives for where to put money in times of trouble....
A cursory glance at the price of Bitcoin Cash over the past year shows that it has fallen about 95 percent from its December 2017 record. So, anyone refusing to crystallize their losses this year has seen their 98-percent loss narrow over the past few days to, well, 95 percent. Celebrating now is like the Monty Python knight calling it a draw after losing all his limbs. It's not entirely clear either what kind of investor has the appetite, let alone the resources, to make meaningful bets on digital currencies today after a boom-and-bust cycle driven entirely by speculative hype rather than the adoption of Bitcoin in the real world. The long-awaited wave of money from Wall Street looks as far away as ever. So we're probably getting back to more natural territory for crypto: True believers and small-time gamblers.

Their conclusion? "One still can't rule out that these particular crypto-cats are dead."

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Oracle Releases Major Version 6.0 of VirtualBox With Many New Features
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 09:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's free-and-open-source-hosted-hypervisors department:
What's new with Oracle's free and open-source hosted hypervisor? Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed writes: Oracle has released major version 6.0 of VirtualBox with a variety of new features, including support for exporting a virtual machine to the Oracle Cloud; improved HiDPI and scaling (with better detection and per-machine configuration); a UI rework with simpler application and virtual machine set-up; a new file manager that allows control of the guest file system; a 3D graphics support update for Windows guests; VMSVGA 3D graphics device emulation on Linux and Solaris guests; surround speaker setups used by Windows 10 Build 1809; a new 'vboximg-mount' utility on Apple hosts to access the content of guest disks on the host; Hyper-V as the fallback execution core on Windows hosts to avoid inability to run VMs at reduced performance; and support for Linux Kernel 4.20 .

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Tim May, Father of 'Crypto Anarchy,' Is Dead At 67
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 08:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sad-news department:
Tim May, co-founder of the influential Cypherpunks mailing list and a significant influence on both bitcoin and WikiLeaks, passed away in mid-December at his home in Corralitos, California. The news was announced last Saturday on a Facebook post written by his friend Lucky Green. Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes Reason:

In his influential 1988 essay, "The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto," May predicted that advances in computer technology would eventually allow "individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other" anonymously and without government intrusion. "These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation [and] the ability to tax and control economic interactions," he wrote... Running 497 words, it was his most influential piece of writing... May became convinced that public-key cryptography combined with networked computing would break apart social power structures...
In September 1992, May and his friends Eric Hughes and Hugh Daniels came up with the idea of setting up an online mailing list to discuss their ideas. Within a few days of its launch, a hundred people had signed up for the Cypherpunks mailing list. (The group's name was coined by Hughes' girlfriend as a play on the "cyberpunk" genre of fiction.) By 1997, it averaged 30 messages daily with about 2,000 subscribers. May was its most prolific contributor. May and Hughes, along with free speech activist John Gilmore, wore masks on the cover of the second issue of Wired magazine accompanying a profile by journalist Steven Levy, who described the Cypherpunks as "more a gathering of those who share a predilection for codes, a passion for privacy, and the gumption to do something about it...."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was an active reader and participant on the list, contributing his first posts in 1995 under the name "Proff."

< article continued at Slashdot's sad-news department >

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Apple Spins 'Real Artists Ship' Into 'Share Your Gifts'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 05:41 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sharing-is-caring department:
theodp writes: "Have you ever made something wonderful but were too afraid to share it?" asks Apple's heartwarming "Share Your Gifts" 2018 holiday ad, which features a girl who keeps her creations secret, until they're let out into the world by her dog and enjoyed by everyone around her. Arguably deserving writing credit for the ad is the late Steve Jobs, who thirty-five years ago preached a similar "Real Artists Ship" message to the original Mac team as he led them on a holiday "death march" to get their creation out into the world. Andy Hertzfeld recalls: "The software team worked hard over the Christmas break of 1983. [...] By the first week of January, the software team was working around the clock, testing and fixing problems that were found. [...] Randy Wigginton brought in a gigantic bag of chocolate covered espresso beans, which, along with medicinal quantities of caffeinated beverages, helped us forgo sleep entirely for the last couple of days." Seeing Apple spin "Real Artists Ship" into "Share Your Gifts" -- which Adweek honored as the 9th Best Commercial of 2018 -- would no doubt be appreciated by master of Reality Distortion Jobs.

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Logitech Will Restore Third-Party Harmony Home Automation
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 03:00 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's about-face department:
After issuing a firmware update that reportedly cut off local access for Harmony Hubs, Logitech says it will offer yet another update to undo the move and restore local network control. The Verge reports: While Logitech originally defended its move to make the Harmony Hub unresponsive to third-party home automation software -- arguing that the private APIs were never meant to be used for anything except setting up the Harmony Hub for the first time, and that keeping them around meant maintaining a security hole -- Logitech has now relented, saying it's "working to provide a solution for those who still want access despite the inherent security risks involved." That solution is basically an about-face: Logitech will undo the change it made in the first place by restoring access to XMPP local controls with a new update, so that third-party home automation software like Home Assistant can see and operate the Hub over your local network. Logitech's calling it a "XMPP beta program" for now, and says it'll make the update available to all Harmony customers in January as well.

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FCC Fines Swarm $900,000 For Unauthorized Satellite Launch
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 12:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-it-is-to-get-permission department:
Swarm Technologies will pay a $900,000 fine for launching and operating four small experimental communications satellites that risked "satellite collisions" and threatened "critical commercial and government satellite operations," the FCC said on Thursday. "The California-based start-up founded by former Google and Apple engineers in 2016 also agreed to enhanced FCC oversight and a requirement of pre-launch notices to the FCC for three years," reports Reuters. From the report: Swarm launched the satellites in India last January after the FCC rejected its application to deploy and operate them, citing concerns about the company's tracking ability. It said Swarm had unlawfully transmitted signals between earth stations in the state of Georgia and the satellites for over a week. The investigation also found that Swarm performed unauthorized weather balloon-to-ground station tests and other unauthorized equipment tests prior to the satellites' launch. Swarm aims to provide low-cost space-based internet service and plans eventually to use a constellation of 100 satellites.

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Scientists Find a Brain Circuit That Could Explain Seasonal Depression
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 08:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Just in time for the winter solstice, scientists may have figured out how short days can lead to dark moods. Two recent studies suggest the culprit is a brain circuit that connects special light-sensing cells in the retina with brain areas that affect whether you are happy or sad. When these cells detect shorter days, they appear to use this pathway to send signals to the brain that can make a person feel glum or even depressed. The research effort began in the early 2000s, when [Samer Hattar, an author of the mouse study and chief of the section on light and circadian rhythms at the National Institute of Mental Health] and David Berson, a professor of neuroscience at Brown University, were studying cells in the retina. At the time, most scientists thought that when light struck the retina, only two kinds of cells responded: rods and cones. But Hattar and Berson thought there were other light-sensitive cells that hadn't been identified. The skeptics stopped laughing when the team discovered a third kind of photoreceptor that contained a light-sensitive substance called melanopsin not found in rods and cones. These receptors responded to light but weren't part of the visual system.

< article continued at Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department >

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An Amoeba-Based Computer Found Solutions To 8-City Traveling Salesman Problem
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's low-energy-biological-computers department:
dmoberhaus shares a report from Motherboard: A team of Japanese researchers from Keio University in Tokyo have demonstrated that an amoeba is capable of generating approximate solutions to a remarkably difficult math problem known as the "traveling salesman problem." The traveling salesman problem goes like this: Given an arbitrary number of cities and the distances between them, what is the shortest route a salesman can take that visits each city and returns to the salesman's city of origin. As these Japanese researchers demonstrated, a certain type of amoeba can be used to calculate nearly optimal solutions to the traveling salesman problem for up to eight cities. Even more remarkably, the amount of time it takes the amoeba to reach these nearly optimal solutions grows linearly, even though the number of possible solutions increases exponentially. The reason this amoeba is considered especially useful in biological computing is because it can extend various regions of its body to find the most efficient way to a food source and hates light.

< article continued at Slashdot's low-energy-biological-computers department >

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More Companies Are Trying a Four-Day Work Week
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's work-smarter-not-harder department:
Companies around the world have cut their work week down to just four days and found that it leads to higher productivity, more motivated staff and less burnout. Reuters highlights some of those companies: "It is much healthier and we do a better job if we're not working crazy hours," said Jan Schulz-Hofen, founder of Berlin-based project management software company Planio, who introduced a four-day week to the company's 10-member staff earlier this year. In New Zealand, trust company Perpetual Guardian reported a fall in stress and a jump in staff engagement after it tested a 32-hour week earlier this year. Lucie Greene, trends expert at consultancy J. Walter Thompson, said there was a growing backlash against overwork, underlined by a wave of criticism after Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted that "nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week. People are starting to take a step back from the 24-hour digital life we have now and realize the mental health issues from being constantly connected to work," Greene said.

Schulz-Hofen, a 36-year-old software engineer, tested the four-day week on himself after realizing he needed to slow down following a decade of intense work launching Planio, whose tools allowed him to track his time in detail. "I didn't get less work done in four days than in five because in five days, you think you have more time, you take longer, you allow yourself to have more interruptions, you have your coffee a bit longer or chat with colleagues," Schulz-Hofen said. "I realized with four days, I have to be quick, I have to be focused if I want to have my free Friday." Schulz-Hofen and his team discussed various options before settling on everybody working Monday to Thursday. They rejected the idea of flexible hours because it adds administrative complexity, and were against a five-day week with shorter hours as it is too easy for overwork to creep back in.

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Sneaky Mac Malware Went Undetected By AV Providers For Four Month
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sharing-is-caring department:
Four months after a mysterious group was outed for a digital espionage operation that used novel techniques to target Mac users, its macOS malware samples continued to go undetected by most antivirus providers, a security researcher reported on Thursday. Ars Technica reports: Windshift is what researchers refer to as an APT -- short for "advanced persistent threat" -- that surveils individuals in the Middle East. The group operated in the shadows for two years until August, when Taha Karim, a researcher at security firm DarkMatter, profiled it at the Hack in the Box conference in Singapore. Slides, a brief description, and a report from Forbes are here, here and here, respectively.

On Thursday, Mac security expert Patrick Wardle published an analysis of Meeting_Agenda.zip, a file Karim had said installed the rare Mac malware. To Wardle's surprise, results from VirusTotal at the time showed that only two antivirus providers -- Kaspersky and ZoneAlarm -- detected the file as malicious. Wardle then used a feature that searched VirusTotal for related malicious files and found four more. Three of them weren't detected by any AV providers, while one was detected by only two providers. The reason the findings were so surprising is that Apple had already revoked the cryptographic certificate the developers used to digitally sign their malware. That meant Apple knew of the malware. In fairness, the control servers the malware contacts are no longer available on the Internet. That means any infected computers aren't in danger of being surveilled. Also in fairness, the number of detections has slowly risen in the day since Wardle published his analysis.

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Big Ben Brought Back To Life Through Snapchat AR Lens
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tech-to-the-rescue department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: It's not a great time to visit the UK as a tourist. Besides all the Brexit nonsense and the December weather, one of our greatest tourist spots is under scaffolding and silent. Poor old Big Ben (and its Elizabeth Tower) are undergoing refurbishment at the moment, so there's not much to see if you want to snap a photo of the famous view. Snapchat's decided the way to fix this is with a Westminster-specific Snapchat Lens. When you activate the lens and point the Snap camera at the tower, the scaffolding peels back and Large Benjamin is there in all his glory again. Eitan Pilipski, VP of the Snap Camera Platform, said in a statement: "We are thrilled to unwrap Big Ben for our Snapchat community in London. This holiday, we wanted to showcase the imaginative power of Snap's Augmented Reality experiences by deconstructing the scaffolding around Big Ben -- at least for a few special moments. We believe that every great AR experience reveals new possibilities. Our goal was to bring together the most cutting edge mapping and imaging technologies to create the kind of unique, location-specific experience that only Snap -- and perhaps Father Christmas -- can deliver."

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JD.com's Billionaire CEO Will Not Be Charged With Sexual Assault
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's evidence-lacking department:
In September, JD.com's billionaire founder, Richard Liu, was accused of rape nearly four months ago by a young Chinese student at the University of Minnesota. He was reportedly in Minneapolis for his studies since he is a doctoral student at the university. According to The New York Times, "the Hennepin County attorney's office said that it did not find enough evidence to pursue a sexual assault case against Mr. Liu (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source)." From the report: The office of the Hennepin County Attorney said that it did not find enough evidence to pursue a case against Mr. Liu, a 45-year-old internet tycoon who was arrested by Minneapolis police in the early morning of Sept. 1 but was released within hours and allowed to return to China. The decision could bring Mr. Liu, who founded and leads the e-commerce behemoth JD.com, back to a more visible role at the company. JD.com's stock has slumped since the accusations were revealed, and Mr. Liu, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, has skipped several public engagements.

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YouTuber Admits Aspects of Viral HomePod Glitter Bomb Video Were Faked
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's A-for-effort department:
New submitter ArchieBunker writes: A viral video featuring a booby-trapped HomePod box that pranked package thieves with a glitter bomb has been criticized for faking some of the reactions of the would-be "thieves," who were in fact acquaintances of friends of the video's creator. The video, "Package Thief vs. Glitter Bomb Trap" by former NASA engineer Mark Rober, featured the creation of a device constructed inside a HomePod box that spread out glitter once the HomePod box was opened, with four smartphones used to film the event and subsequent reactions from all angles. Clips were shown of people claimed to be package thieves, opening the box and being covered with glitter, before throwing the contraption away.

< article continued at Slashdot's A-for-effort department >

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AT&T Will Put a Fake 5G Logo On Its 4G LTE Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '18 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's intentionally-confusing department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: AT&T customers will start to see a 5G logo appear in the corner of their smartphone next year -- not because they're using a 5G phone connected to a 5G network, but because AT&T is going to start pretending its most advanced 4G LTE tech is 5G. According to FierceWireless, AT&T will display an icon reading "5G E" on newer phones that are connected to LTE in markets where the carrier has deployed a handful of speed boosting -- but still definitively 4G -- technologies. The "E," displayed smaller than the rest of the logo, refers to "5G Evolution," the carrier's term for networks that aren't quite 5G but are still faster than traditional LTE. AT&T pulled the same stunt during the transition to LTE. "The company rolled out a speed-boosting 3G tech called HSPA+, then got all of its phone partners -- even Apple -- to show a '4G' logo when on that kind of connection," reports The Verge.

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