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China Travel Firm Ctrip To Buy Skyscanner For $2.5 Billion
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '16 at 06:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's big-shark,-small-shark department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Ctrip.com International will buy British flight price-checking site Skyscanner for about S$ 2.5 billion, as China's largest online travel firm explores ways to expand beyond a home market it already dominates. The deal will allow Ctrip, whose growth has been tied to the sharp rise of Chinese tourism, to gain a strong foothold in Europe. Skyscanner, one of the region's larger flight-ticketing services, has more than 60 million monthly active users. Ctrip said it would be able to offer a more complete array of options combining air, rail and road travel. It announced the deal on Wednesday, alongside better-than-expected quarterly revenue and earnings. Its shares climbed almost 7 per cent in New York in after-hours trade.

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Google's DeepMind Made an AI Watch Close To 5000 Videos So That It Surpasses Humans in Lip-Reading
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '16 at 06:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's they-are-coming department:
A new AI tool created by Google and Oxford University researchers could significantly improve the success of lip-reading and understanding for the hearing impaired. In a recently released paper on the work, the pair explained how the Google DeepMind-powered system was able to correctly interpret more words than a trained human expert. From a report: To accomplish the task, a cohort of scientists fed thousands of hours of TV footage -- 5000 to be precise -- from the BBC to a neural network. It was made to watch six different TV shows, which aired between the period of January 2010 and December 2015. This included 118,000 difference sentences and some 17,500 unique words. To understand the progress, it successfully deciphered words with a 46.8 percent accuracy. The neural network had to recognize the same based on mouth movement analysis. The under 50 percent accuracy might seem laughable to you but let me put things in perspective for you. When the same set of TV shows were shown to a professional lip-reader, they were able to decipher only 12.4 percent of words without error. Thus, one can understand the great difference in the capability of the AI as compared to a human expert in that particular field.

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Android Malware Used To Hack and Steal Tesla Car
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '16 at 04:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader writes: By leveraging security flaws in the Tesla Android app, an attacker can steal Tesla cars. The only hard part is tricking Tesla owners into installing an Android app on their phones, which isn't that difficult according to a demo video from Norwegian firm Promon. This malicious app can use many of the freely available Android rooting exploits to take over the user's phone, steal the OAuth token from the Tesla app and the user's login credentials. This is possible because the Tesla Android app stores the OAuth token in cleartext, and contains no reverse-engineering protection, allowing attackers to alter the app's source code and log user credentials. The OAuth token and Tesla owner's password allow an attacker to perform a variety of actions, such as opening the car's doors and starting the motor.

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Virtual Reality is Pushing Gaming Into Another 'Golden Age': Xbox Co-founder
Posted by News Fetcher on November 25 '16 at 01:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's this-is-what-future-holds department:
From a CNBC report:The Xbox and PS2 were two of the most popular consoles ever and now gaming is entering "another golden age," according to Otto Berkes (a pioneer of the gaming industry), driven by virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). "One of the aspects of VR that has incredible potential is interaction and communication -- interacting with characters that are both artificial and virtual, being able to blur distance and geography, you can be anywhere and literally in any time," Berkes told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. "We're entering another golden age of interactive content development."

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Slashdot Asks: Will Farming Be Fully Automated in the Future?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 09:33 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-things department:
BBC has a report today in which, citing several financial institutions and analysts, it claims that in the not-too-distant future, our fields could be tilled, sown, tended and harvested entirely by fleets of co-operating autonomous machines by land and air. An excerpt from the article: Driverless tractors that can follow pre-programmed routes are already being deployed at large farms around the world. Drones are buzzing over fields assessing crop health and soil conditions. Ground sensors are monitoring the amount of water and nutrients in the soil, triggering irrigation and fertilizer applications. And in Japan, the world's first entirely automated lettuce farm is due for launch next year. The future of farming is automated. The World Bank says we'll need to produce 50% more food by 2050 if the global population continues to rise at its current pace. But the effects of climate change could see crop yields falling by more than a quarter. So autonomous tractors, ground-based sensors, flying drones and enclosed hydroponic farms could all help farmers produce more food, more sustainably at lower cost.What are your thoughts on this?

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Right-Wing and Fake News Writers Are Now Going After Elon Musk
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 08:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fake-news-war department:
Fake news galvanized US president-elect Donald Trump's supporters, and sullied his enemies. Now it may be Elon Musk's turn. Quartz adds: The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has his fair share of detractors, but a new era in a public relations battle to discredit him appears to be taking shape. Bloomberg reports that hard-right groups are lining up to back misleading websites and fake journalists who attack Musk's business empire. Many of the attacks on Musk begin with something factual: His businesses were built, legally, with the help of billions in government contracts and incentives for renewable energy and space transport. But they go on to accuse Musk of fraud and wasting taxpayer dollars; some compare him to a convicted felon. At least three conservative sites have run negative pieces about Musk -- by a nonexistent writer named "Shepard Stewart" -- that include "Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9" and "Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace." Two later retracted the stories. "There's a very obvious precedent" for this, says Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors. "That's Hillary Clinton." Musk tweeted this week, "Can anyone uncover who is really writing these fake pieces?"

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Finland Set To Become First Country To Ban Coal Use For Energy
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 05:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
Finland could become the first country to ditch coal for good. As part of a new energy and climate strategy due to be announced tomorrow, the government is considering banning the burning of coal for energy by 2030. From a New Scientist article: "Basically, coal would disappear from the Finnish market," says Peter Lund, a researcher at Aalto University, and chair of the energy programme at the European Academies' Science Advisory Council. The groundwork for the ban already seems to be in place. Coal use has been steadily declining in Finland since 2011, and the nation heavily invested in renewable energy in 2012, leading to a near doubling of wind power capacity the following year. It also poured a further $85 million into renewable power this past February. On top of this, Nordic energy prices, with the exception of coal, have been dropping since 2010. As a result of such changes, coal-fired power plants are being mothballed and shut all over Finland, leaving coal providing only 8 per cent of the nation's energy.

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Faraday Future's Factory Construction Paused; Shipping Timelines at Risk
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 02:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
Electric vehicle maker Faraday Future may not be able to make its first cars in time to hits its 2017 shipping deadlines, according to a new report by the Financial Times. From a report on TechCrunch: It's hard to ship a car when your factory itself isn't finished, is the main issue -- FF's Nevada-based manufacturing facility broke ground in April, but construction has since been paused because, according to state treasurer Dan Schwartz speaking to the FT, it hasn't paid bills owed by the company to its construction partner. The delay is temporary, according to comments made by general contractor Aecom, which is working with Faraday on the project, and construction will resume sometime in early 2017. That's going to push out the completion date considerably, and will make it quite difficult for FF to make its previously stated production timeline. FT also spoke to an anonymous former employee who said deliveries to customers within the 2017 timeframe were "not possible."

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Microsoft Set To Win EU Approval for LinkedIn Buy
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's all-good department:
Microsoft is set to gain EU approval for its $26 billion buy of professional social network LinkedIn with tweaks to concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns, three people close to the matter said on Wednesday. From a report on Reuters: Microsoft last week told the European Commission that it would still allow LinkedIn's rivals access to its software such as its Outlook program and give hardware makers the option of installing competing professional social networks on computers after the acquisition. The second plank of the concession is important because of the company's battle with the EU competition authority over the last decade and the policy of tying its products to block rivals, resulting in fines of more than 2.2 billion euros.

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Apple Releases macOS 10.12 Sierra Open Source Darwin Code
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's curious-case-of-apple department:
An anonymous reader writes:Apple has released the open source Darwin code for macOS 10.12 Sierra. The code, located on Apple's open source website, can be accessed via direct link now, although it doesn't yet appear on the site's home page. The release builds on a long-standing library of open source code that dates all the way back to OS X 10.0. There, you'll also find the Open Source Reference Library, developer tools, along with iOS and OS X Server resources. The lowest layers of macOS, including the kernel, BSD portions, and drivers are based mainly on open source technologies, collectively called Darwin. As such, Apple provides download links to the latest versions of these technologies for the open source community to learn and to use.

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Russian Hacker Conspiracy Theory is Weak, But the Case For Paper Ballots is Strong
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 10:53 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
On Wednesday, J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan's Center for Computer Security & Society and a respected voice in computer science and information society, said that the Clinton Campaign should ask for a recount of the vote for the U.S. Presidential election. Later he wrote, "Were this year's deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don't believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other." The Outline, a new publication by a dozen of respected journalists, has published a post (on Facebook for now, since their website is still in the works), in which former Motherboard's reporter Adrianne Jeffries makes it clear that we still don't have concrete evidence that the vote was tampered with, but why still the case for paper ballots is strong. From the article: Halderman also repeats the erroneous claim that federal agencies have publicly said that senior officials in Russia commissioned attacks on voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. In October, federal agencies attributed the Democratic National Committee email hack to Russia, but specifically said they could not attribute the state hacks. Claims to the contrary seem to have spread due to anonymous sourcing and the conflation of Russian hackers with Russian state-sponsored hackers. Unfortunately, the Russia-hacked-us meme is spreading fast on social media and among disaffected Clinton voters. "It's just ignorance," said the cybersecurity consultant Jeffrey Carr, who published his own response to Halderman on Medium. "It's fear and ignorance that's fueling that." The urgency comes from deadlines for recount petitions, which start kicking in on Friday in Wisconsin, Monday in Pennsylvania, and the following Wednesday in Michigan. There is disagreement about how likely it is that the Russian government interfered with election results. There is little disagreement, however, that our voting system could be more robust -- namely, by requiring paper ballot backups for electronic voting and mandating that all results be audited, as they already are in some states including California. Despite the 150,000 signatures collected on a Change.org petition, what happens next really comes down to the Clinton team's decision.

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Amazon Makes Good On Its Promise To Delete 'Incentivized' Reviews
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department:
Amazon is making good on its promise to ban "incentivized" reviews from its website, according to a new analysis of over 32,000 products and around 65 million reviews. From a TechCrunch article: The ban was meant to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews that had been plaguing the retailerâ(TM)s site, leading to products with higher ratings than they would otherwise deserve. Incentivized reviews are those where the vendor offers free or discounted products to reviewers, in exchange for recipients writing their "honest opinion" of the item in an Amazon review. However, data has shown that these reviewers tend to write more positive reviews overall, with products earning an average of 4.74 stars out of five, compared with an average rating of 4.36 for non-incentivized reviews. Over time, these reviews proliferated on Amazon, and damaged consumers' trust in the review system as a whole. And that can impact consumers' purchase decisions.

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Reddit CEO Admits To Editing User Comments Amid Pizzagate Malarkey
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 08:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's abusing-power department:
Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit, today admitted to editing several comments that criticized him on the site. He made the admission on Reddit, where he posts under the username Spez. CNET adds: Huffman got a lot of flak from members of the The_Donald, a subreddit for supporters of President-elect Donald Trump, after Reddit banned the Pizzagate subreddit. Pizzagate was dedicated to a debunked conspiracy theory linking Hillary Clinton to a paedophile ring. In response, he edited comments reading "fuck Spez" to instead be directed at moderators of the The_Donald subreddit. "I messed with the "fuck u/spez" comments, replacing "spez" with r/the_donald mods for about an hour. It's been a long week here trying to unwind the r/pizzagate stuff," he wrote. "As much as we try to maintain a good relationship with you all, it does get old getting called a pedophile constantly." Huffman added: "Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won't do this again."

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Personal Data For More Than 130,000 Sailors Hacked: U.S. Navy
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 08:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Hackers gained access to sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, for 134,386 current and former U.S. sailors, the U.S. Navy has said. According to Reuters: It said a laptop used by a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services employee working on a U.S. Navy contract was hacked. Hewlett Packard informed the Navy of the breach on Oct. 27 and the affected sailors will be notified in the coming weeks, the Navy said. "The Navy takes this incident extremely seriously - this is a matter of trust for our sailors," Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Admiral Robert Burke said in a statement.

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Google Sends State-Sponsored Hack Warnings To Journalists and Professors
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 06:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
An anonymous reader shares an IBTimes report: Numerous journalists and professors are taking to social media to report that they have received an alarming message regarding state-sponsored hacking when accessing their Gmail or other sites that use their Google account. Journalists who received the warning include Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, Politico's Julia Ioffe, GQ's special correspondent Keith Olbermann, Vox's Ezra Klein, Yahoo News' Garance Franke-Ruta, and one of President Barack Obama's former speechwriters, Jon Lovett. The warning says, "Google may have detected government-backed attackers trying to steal your password." These warnings are being sent by Google since 2012 but Twitter has erupted with a flurry of people in the media and academic community receiving this in the past 24 hours.

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Security Researchers Can Turn Headphones Into Microphones
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 05:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's proof-of-concept department:
As if we don't already have enough devices that can listen in on our conversations, security researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University have created malware that will turn your headphones into microphones that can slyly record your conversations. TechCrunch reports: The proof-of-concept, called "Speake(a)r," first turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either. The embedded chip does not allow users to properly prevent this hack which means your earbuds or nice cans could start picking up conversations instantly. In fact, even if you disable your microphone, a computer with a RealTek chip could still be hacked and exploited without your knowledge. The sound quality, as shown by this chart, is pretty much the same for a dedicated microphone and headphones. The researchers have published a video on YouTube demonstrating how this malware works.

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Nearly 40% of Americans Would Give Up Sex For Better Online Security, Survey Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 02:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's drastic-times-call-for-drastic-measures department:
A recent survey of over 2,000 adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Dashlane, a "leader in online identity and password management," found that nearly 40 percent of Americans would give up sex for an entire year if it meant they'd never have to worry about being hacked. Huffington Post reports: 40 percent of people also said they'd give up their favorite food for one month in the name of peace of mind online. If all of this sounds drastic, the truth is that it probably is. The single biggest thing people can do to help keep their online identity safe is probably the easiest -- a solid password. 10 years ago, anti-virus was the primary method of online security. But since the Internet has left the desktop and is on laptops, tablets, and cell phones, and since so many people now use the cloud for backing up their sensitive data, following proper password protocol is critical. Of course, having a solid password doesn't do a lot of good if you're giving it out to people. And nearly 50% of people have shared a password to an e-mail account or to an account like Netflix with a friend or had a friend share theirs (which is a surprisingly high number when you consider that 4 out of 10 people said that sharing an online social media password was more intimate than sex). A look at the password habits of Americans showed that about 30% have used a pet's name, almost 25% have used a family member's name, 21% a birthday, and 10% each have used an anniversary, a sports team, an address, or a phone number. So if you just know a few basic, personal details about someone, you've got a decent chance at cracking their password. The study also revealed some interesting data in that younger Americans (those age 18 to 34) who grew up online are far more trusting with passwords than older generations, and married people are less likely to part with passwords than single people.

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ESA: European Mars Lander Crash Caused By 1-Second Glitch
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '16 at 01:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-went-wrong department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: The European Space Agency (ESA) on Nov. 23 said its Schiaparelli lander's crash landing on Mars on Oct. 19 followed an unexplained saturation of its inertial measurement unit (IMU), which delivered bad data to the lander's computer and forced a premature release of its parachute. Polluted by the IMU data, the lander's computer apparently thought it had either already landed or was just about to land. The parachute system was released, the braking thrusters were fired only briefly and the on-ground systems were activated. Instead of being on the ground, Schiaparelli was still 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) above the Mars surface. It crashed, but not before delivering what ESA officials say is a wealth of data on entry into the Mars atmosphere, the functioning and release of the heat shield and the deployment of the parachute -- all of which went according to plan. In its Nov. 23 statement, ESA said the saturation reading from Schiaparelli's inertial measurement unit lasted only a second but was enough to play havoc with the navigation system. ESA said the sequence of events "has been clearly reproduced in computer simulations of the control system's response to the erroneous information." ESA's director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, David Parker, said in a statement that ExoMars teams are still sifting through the voluminous data harvest from the Schiaparelli mission, and that an external, independent board of inquiry, now being created, would release a final report in early 2017.

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Trump To Scrap NASA Climate Research In Crackdown On 'Politicized Science'
Posted by News Fetcher on November 23 '16 at 08:03 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-a-new-sheriff-in-town department:
dryriver quotes a report from The Guardian: Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by NASA as part of a crackdown on "politicized science," his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. Nasa's Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. This would mean the elimination of NASA's world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. [NASA's network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division's budget set to grow to $2 billion (PDF) next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8 billion in 2017.] Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be "a major setback if not devastating." "It could put us back into the 'dark ages' of almost the pre-satellite era," he said. "It would be extremely short sighted."

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Scientists Create Battery That Charges In Seconds and Lasts For Days
Posted by News Fetcher on November 23 '16 at 06:46 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's need-to-see-it-to-believe-it department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Telegraph: A new type of battery that lasts for days with only a few seconds' charge has been created by researchers at the University of Central Florida. The high-powered battery is packed with supercapacitors that can store a large amount of energy. It looks like a thin piece of flexible metal that is about the size of a finger nail and could be used in phones, electric vehicles and wearables, according to the researchers. As well as storing a lot of energy rapidly, the small battery can be recharged more than 30,000 times. Normal lithium-ion batteries begin to tire within a few hundred charges. They typically last between 300 to 500 full charge and drain cycles before dropping to 70 per cent of their original capacity. To date supercapacitors weren't used to make batteries as they'd have to be much larger than those currently available. But the Florida researchers have overcome this hurdle by making their supercapacitors with tiny wires that are a nanometer thick. Coated with a high energy shell, the core of the wires is highly conductive to allow for super fast charging. The battery isn't yet ready to be used in consumer devices, the researchers said, but it shows a significant step forward in a tired technology.

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