By BeauHD from Slashdot's agenda-following department
chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Kremlin linked news sites like RT and Sputnik figure prominently in an online disinformation campaign portraying Syrian humanitarian workers ("White Helmets") as terrorists and crisis actors, according to an analysis (PDF) by researchers at University of Washington and Harvard. An online "echosystem" of propaganda websites including Russia backed news outlets Sputnik and RT is attacking the credibility of humanitarian workers on the ground in rebel occupied Syria, according to a new analysis by researchers at The University of Washington and Harvard University. Online rumors circulated through so called "alternative" media sites have attacked the Syrian Civil Defense (aka "White Helmets") as "crisis actors" and Western agents working on behalf of the U.S. and NATO. Statistical analysis of the online rumors reveal a tight network of websites sharing nearly identical content via Twitter and other social media platforms, wrote Kate Starbird. Starbird is an Assistant Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at University of Washington and a leading expert on so-called "crisis informatics." In activity reminiscent of the disinformation campaigns that roiled the U.S. Presidential election in 2016, articles by what Starbird describes as "a few prominent journalists and bloggers" writing for self described "alternative" news sites like 21stCenturyWire, GlobalResearch, MintPressNews, and ActivistPost are picked up by other, smaller and more niche websites including both left- and right-leaning partisan news sites, "clickbait sites," and conspiracy theory websites. Government funded media outlets from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia figure prominently in the Syrian disinformation campaign, Starbird's team found. In particular, "Russian government-funded media outlets (i.e. SputnikNews and RT) play a prominent and multi-faceted role within this ecosystem," she wrote.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's brain-in-a-jar department
Scientists will grow small amounts of tissue, known as brain organoids, from human stem cells that have been edited to contain "Neanderthalized" versions of several genes. "The lentil-sized organoids, which are incapable of thoughts or feelings, replicate some of the basic structures of an adult brain," reports The Guardian. "They could demonstrate for the first time if there were meaningful differences between human and Neanderthal brain biology." From the report: The latest work focuses on differences in three genes known to be crucial for brain development. Using the editing technique Crispr, changes have been introduced into human stem cells to make them closer to Neanderthal versions. The stem cells are coaxed using chemical triggers to become neurons, which spontaneously clump together and self-organize into miniature brain-like structures that grow to a few millimeters in diameter. The lack of any sensory input means the internal wiring is haphazard and varies from one blob to the next. The scientists will compare the Neanderthalized organoids and the fully human ones to assess the speed at which the stem cells divide, develop and organize into three-dimensional brain structures and whether the brain cells wire up differently. The work won't reveal which species is "smarter," but could hint at differences in the ability to plan, socialize and use language.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's harmonic-convergence department
Prolific technology leaker Evan Blass received a tip yesterday that Google could unveil a Pixel watch at its annual hardware event later this year. Wear OS didn't get any serious stage time at Google I/O this week, so it's likely to be covered in more detail at the next event. Furthermore, Qualcomm revealed on Tuesday that they are launching a new smartwatch system on a chip (SoC) this fall too. VentureBeat reports: WinFuture concurs that a Google smartwatch is coming, and adds that it will be available in three models, codenamed Ling, Triton, and Sardine. The German publication does not know how the three Pixel watches might differ (presumably either size, connectivity, or finish -- and of course, price).
This is not the first time we've heard about a potential "Pixel-branded watch." Still, this time around is hard to ignore when it comes from Blass, and just two days after Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm's senior director of wearables, told Wareable that Wear OS smartwatches from several partners would arrive by the holidays, preceded by new chips announced this fall "alongside a lead smartwatch." It all lines up.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-kid-on-the-block department
Thelasko shares a report from The Verge: This afternoon, SpaceX landed the most powerful version yet of its Falcon 9 rocket, after launching the vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The so-named Block 5 upgrade took off from the company's launchpad at Kennedy Space Center, sending a communications satellite into orbit for Bangladesh and then touched down on one of the company's drone ships in the Atlantic. It was the 25th successful rocket landing for SpaceX, and the 14th on one of the company's drone ships.
It also marks the first launch of the Block 5, the vehicle that will carry humans to space for NASA. The Block 5 is meant to be SpaceX's most reusable rocket yet, with many upgrades put in place that negate the need for extensive refurbishment between flights. In fact, the first Block 5 rockets will eventually be able to fly up to 10 times without the need for any maintenance after landings, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said during a pre-launch press conference. Ideally, once one of these rocket lands, SpaceX will turn it horizontal, attach a new upper stage and nose cone on top, turn it vertical on the launchpad, fill it with propellant, and then launch it again. Musk noted that the vehicles would need some kind of moderate maintenance after the 10-flight mark, but it's possible that each rocket could fly up to 100 times in total.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's love-hate-relationship department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Since acquiring Skype from private equity investors, Microsoft has refocused the online calling service on the corporate market, a change that has made Skype less intuitive and harder to use, prompting many Skypers to defect to similar services operated by Apple, Google, Facebook and Snap. The company hasn't updated the number of Skype users since 2016, when it put the total at 300 million. Some analysts suspect the numbers are flat at best, and two former employees describe a general sense of panic that they're actually falling. The ex-Microsofters, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential statistics, say that as late as 2017 they never heard a figure higher than 300 million discussed internally.
Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has repeatedly said he wants the company's products to be widely used and loved. By turning Skype into a key part of its lucrative Office suite for corporate customers, Microsoft is threatening what made it appealing to regular folks in the first place. [...] Focusing on corporations was a reasonable strategy and one shared by Skype's prior management. Originally [former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer] and company pledged to let Skype operate independently from Lync, Microsoft's nascent internet phone service for corporations. But two years later the company began merging the two into Skype for Business and folded that into Office. Today, Microsoft is using Skype for Business to help sell subscriptions to its cloud-based Office 365 and steal customers from Cisco. Microsoft has essentially turned Skype into a replacement for a corporate telephone system -- with a few modern features borrowed from instant messaging, artificial intelligence and social networking. In closing, Bloomberg argues "the complexity of the corporate software (security, search, and the ability to host town halls) crowds out the simplicity consumers prefer (ease-of-use and decent call quality)."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shot-in-the-foot department
At its Google I/O conference this week, YouTube announced a series of new controls that will allow users to set limits on their viewing, and then receive reminders telling them to "take a break." "The feature is rolling out now in the latest version of YouTube's app, along with others that limit YouTube's ability to send notifications, and soon, one that gives users an overview of their binge behavior so they can make better-informed decisions about their viewing habits," reports TechCrunch. From the report: With "Take a Break," available from YouTube's mobile app Settings screen, users can set a reminder to appear every 15, 30, 60, 90 or 180 minutes, at which point the video will pause. You can then choose to dismiss the reminder and keep watching, or close the app.
Also new is a feature that lets you disable notification sounds during a specified time period each day -- say, for example, from bedtime until the next morning. When users turn on the setting to disable notifications, it will, by default, disable them from 10 PM to 8 AM local time, but this can be changed. Combined with this is an option to get a scheduled digest of notifications as an alternative. And YouTube is preparing to roll out a "time watched profile" that will appear in the Account menu and display your daily average watch time, and how long you've watched YouTube videos today, yesterday and over the past week, along with a set of tools to help you manage your viewing habits.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's never-ending-quest department
Ever since astronomers started to detect planets beyond our solar system, they've been trying to find another world just like Earth. And few years ago, they announced that they'd found a planet that was the closest match yet -- Kepler-452b. Trouble is, some astronomers now say it's not possible to know for sure that this planet actually exists. From a report: "There's new information that we can now quantify which tells us something that we didn't know before," says Fergal Mullally, who used to be an astronomer on the science team for NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. In 2015, NASA declared that Kepler-452b was the first near-Earth-sized planet orbiting in the "habitable" zone around a star very similar to our sun. The space agency called it Earth's "bigger, older cousin," and scientists were so enthusiastic that one began quoting poetry at a news conference. The original science wasn't shoddy, Mullally says. It's just that, since then, researchers have learned more about the telescope's imperfections.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's game-changing department
"A former paperboy from Wisconsin passionate about maps led the team in the Air Force responsible for designing the navigation system we use everyday," writes Slashdot reader dkatana. IoT Times reports: At the IEEE honors ceremony today in San Francisco, Bradford Parkinson, a retired Air Force colonel who spent his life between maps and navigation systems, will be awarded the 2018 IEEE Medal of Honor, "For fundamental contributions to and leadership in developing the design and driving the early applications of the Global Positioning System." The current Global Positioning System (GPS) did not exist until 1995, just 22 years ago, and the engineer who led the project for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) was Mr. Parkinson.
Parkinson, whose first job was delivering newspapers, had a passion for maps. He used those maps when canoeing to navigate the lakes and streams of Minnesota, aided by a hand compass. When he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, he joined the Air Force to study navigation systems. In 1960, when his superiors saw his engineering potential, they sent him to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue graduate studies. He became a protegee of Charles Stark (Doc) Draper, the father of inertial navigation, who was teaching at MIT at the time. Draper was the lead engineer developing the computer systems for NASA's Apollo program. [...] It was in 1972 when his path on inertial navigation collided with satellite systems. He had been recently promoted to colonel when he received a call from another colonel who was part of the Air Force inertial guidance "mafia." He moved to Los Angeles and joined the group, a bunch of Air Force engineers from MIT. Then Parkinson asked to work on the Air Force 621B program, the genesis of GPS.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rise-of-the-machines department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Now that DeepMind has solved Go, the company is applying DeepMind to navigation. Navigation relies on knowing where you are in space relative to your surroundings and continually updating that knowledge as you move. DeepMind scientists trained neural networks to navigate like this in a square arena, mimicking the paths that foraging rats took as they explored the space. The networks got information about the rat's speed, head direction, distance from the walls, and other details. To researchers' surprise, the networks that learned to successfully navigate this space had developed a layer akin to grid cells. This was surprising because it is the exact same system that mammalian brains use to navigate. More DeepMind experiments showed that only the neural networks that developed layers that "resembled grid cells, exhibiting significant hexagonal periodicity (gridness)," could navigate more complicated environments than the initial square arena, like setups with multiple rooms. And only these networks could adjust their routes based on changes in the environment, recognizing and using shortcuts to get to preassigned goals after previously closed doors were opened to them. The study has been reported in the journal Science.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Two years ago, if you had asked experts to identify the most influential person in technology, you would have heard some familiar names: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Alibaba's Jack Ma or Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Today there is a new contender: Masayoshi Son. The founder of SoftBank, a Japanese telecoms and internet firm, has put together an enormous investment fund that is busy gobbling up stakes in the world's most exciting young companies. The Vision Fund is disrupting both the industries in which it invests and other suppliers of capital [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; an alternative source wasn't immediately available]. From a report: But even if the fund ends up flopping, it will have several lasting effects on technology investing. The first is that the deployment of so much cash now will help shape the industries of the future. Mr Son is pumping money into "frontier technologies" from robotics to the internet of things. He already owns stakes in ride-hailing firms such as Uber; in WeWork, a co-working company; and in Flipkart, an Indian e-commerce firm that was this week sold to Walmart. In five years' time the fund plans to have invested in 70-100 technology unicorns, privately held startups valued at $1bn or more. Its money, often handed to entrepreneurs in multiples of the amounts they initially demand and accompanied by the threat that the cash will go to the competition if they balk, gives startups the wherewithal to outgun worse-funded rivals. Mr Son's bets do not have to pay off for him to affect the race. Mr Son's second impact will be on the venture-capital industry. To compete with the Vision Fund's pot of moolah, and with the forays of other unconventional investors, incumbents are having to bulk up.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Probing the bowels of what he believed to be North Korean hacking architecture, American cybersecurity researcher Darien Huss found an outlier: iPhone software. It appeared at first glance to be a fairly mundane program, a mobile device management (MDM) tool. Such apps are typically used for businesses to remotely monitor and control employees' phones. But, according to Huss, it's most likely one of, if not the only, example of North Korean spyware for Apple's smartphone. It's unlikely the MDM app was anything other than malicious, said Huss, an employee of cybersecurity company Proofpoint. Tellingly, it was located on a server believed to contain other hacking tools, in particular those for Microsoft Windows, that he'd linked to one of the bigger North Korean hacking groups, the researcher explained to Forbes. If the iPhone tool is indeed a piece of spyware, Huss hasn't seen it used yet. He believes it's currently in development by that North Korean-linked hacker crew, though Proofpoint declined to provide additional details on his research.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Facebook is "very serious" about launching its own cryptocurrency, news outlet Cheddar reported Friday. It's not the first time the idea of a Facebook coin has been floated, but it seems more apparent now in wake of Facebook's reshuffled executive structure and newly formed blockchain group. From the report: Facebook started studying blockchain almost a year ago, when a member of its corporate development team, Morgan Beller, began looking at how the social platform could use the emerging technology. At the time, Beller was the only Facebook employee devoted to studying blockchain, the digital and decentralized ledger that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Her work was thrust into the spotlight this week when Facebook announced that the vice president in charge of the Messenger app, David Marcus, would lead a new team to "explore how to best leverage blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch."Read Replies (0)