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Russia's Anti-VPN Law Goes Into Effect
Posted by News Fetcher on November 01 '17 at 05:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: A Russian law that bans the use or provision of virtual private networks (VPNs) will come into effect Wednesday. The legislation will require ISPs to block websites that offer VPNs and similar proxy services that are used by millions of Russians to circumvent state-imposed internet censorship. It was signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 29 and was justified as a necessary measure to prevent the spread of extremism online. Its real impact, however, will be to make it much harder for ordinary Russians to access websites ISPs are instructed to block connections to by Russian regulator Roskomnadzor, aka the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. The law is just one part of a concerted effort by the Russian government to restrict access to information online. While Russia does not appear to be going the same route as China -- which has a country wide, constantly maintained censorship apparatus, known as the Great Firewall of China -- it is clearly following its lead. At the same time as Putin signed the VPN legislation, he signed another that will come into effect in January. That law, like a similar one passed by the Chinese government earlier this year, will require operators of messaging services to verify their users' identities through phone numbers. And it will require operators to introduce systems to cut off any users that are deemed by the Russian government to be spreading illegal content.

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NVIDIA-Powered Neural Network Produces Freakishly Natural Fake Human Photos
Posted by News Fetcher on November 01 '17 at 02:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's machine-rendered department:
MojoKid writes: NVIDIA released a paper recently detailing a new machine learning methodology for generating unique and realistic looking faces using a generative adversarial network (GAN). The result is the ability to artificially render photorealistic human faces of "unprecedented quality." NVIDIA achieves this by using an algorithm that pairs two neural networks -- a generator and a discriminator -- that compete against each other. The generator starts from a low resolution image and builds upon it, while the discriminator assesses the results, sort of like a constant critic, pointing out where things have gone wrong. The GAN is not a new technology, but where NVIDIA differentiates is through the progressive training method it developed. NVIDIA took a database of photographs of famous people and used that to train its system. By working together, the neural networks were able to produce fake images that are nearly indistinguishable from real human photographs, and a little creepy too.

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Entrepreneurial Space Age Began In 2009, Says Report
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 11:40 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sky's-the-limit department:
"In July 2009, SpaceX launched its first commercial payload -- a 50kg Earth observation satellite for Malaysia -- which flew into space aboard a privately developed rocket," reports Ars Technica. "According to a new space investment report that will be published Tuesday by the Space Angels, an angel fund and a venture capital fund focused on space, which marked a key inflection point between the "governmental" space age and the "entrepreneurial" space age." From the report: "With that launch, SpaceX significantly lowered the barriers to entry in the space industry," the fund's chief executive, Chad Anderson, writes in the new report. "By vertically integrating, the company was able to drastically reduce the cost to get to orbit. But what deserves at least as much credit is their decision to publish their pricing, which fundamentally changed the way we do business in space. This transparency enabled would-be space entrepreneurs to develop a business plan and raise equity financing based on those cost assumptions." From 2009 through September 2017, the report finds that $12 billion in equity investments have been made in space, with annual amounts increasing significantly in 2015 and beyond to more than $2 billion per year. At $10 billion, launch services, landers, and satellites have accounted for the bulk of this investment since 2009. Aside from the SpaceX launch that year, other data supports the year 2009 as the beginning of an entrepreneurial space age in which the private sector began making investments to return profits from space-based activities. About 250 space ventures have received non-government equity funding, the report states, and, of those, 88 percent have been funded since 2009.

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MIT Researchers Trained AI To Write Horror Stories Based On 140,000 Reddit Posts
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 07:40 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's machines-with-brains department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Shelley is an AI program that generates the beginnings of horror stories, and it's trained by original horror fiction posted to Reddit. Designed by researchers from MIT Media Lab, Shelley launched on Twitter on Oct. 21. Shelley, named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, is interactive. After the program tweets a few opening lines, it asks people on Twitter to continue the story, and if the story is popular, it responds to those responses. Using information from 140,000 stories from Reddit's r/nosleep, Shelley produces story beginnings that range in creepiness, and in quality. There's some classic "scary stuff," like a narrator who thinks she's alone and then sees eyes in the dark, but also premises one can only imagine are Reddit-user-inspired, like family porn.

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We May Not Have Enough Minerals To Even Meet Electric Car Demand
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 05:02 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's supply-and-demand department:
Citing two reports from Reuters and Bloomberg, Jalopnik reports on the scarcity of metals necessary for electric cars. From the report: [W]hile demand for nickel keeps increasing, half the world's nickel supply is too low in quality to use for car batteries. All of which is going to have seismic effect on the world's suppliers. In short: There will be winners and losers, and the winners will be the ones with the highest-grade stuff -- not unlike, I suppose, the illicit drugs market. "Some of the biggest producers of the higher-grade ores, including BHP Norilsk Nickel, Vale and Sumitomo Corp, are moving quickly to take advantage and seal long-term supply deals with battery producers," reports Reuters. "Among those losing out would be lower-grade nickel mines like Cerro Matoso in Columbia, owned by South32 Ltd and Glencore's Koniambo in New Caledonia, as well as Anglo American's mines in Brazil producing ferronickel."

What of cobalt? Bloomberg sent a writer and photographer to Cobalt, Ontario, about 300 miles north of Toronto, to find out. The town, which began life as a silver town, also is believed to have some cobalt, though no one's really found much yet. The search for a new source of cobalt isn't taking place in just Cobalt, Ontario, of course, as mining companies worldwide try to capitalize on the our electric car future. But the search is ramping up as the world's biggest source of cobalt -- the Democratic Republic of Congo, where about half of all cobalt comes from -- is increasingly unstable, making car manufacturers nervous and cobalt all the more valuable.

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Colorado Taking Steps To Get Its Own Hyperloop
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 05:02 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easy-as-1-2-3 department:
According to USA Today, Colorado's transportation department is looking at the possibility of a Rocky Mountain hyperloop to curb traffic woes. You could travel from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, a distance of about 125 miles with Denver in the middle, in less than 20 minutes. From the report: After partnering with Virgin Hyperloop One, one of the companies racing to develop the super-speed technology that essentially would transport vehicles and people pods on electric skates in a big pneumatic tube, Colorado Department of Transportation officials plan to spend the next nine months crunching the numbers to determine what it might take to bring this type of transit to Colorado. Above-ground routes are cheaper to build. But Musk's Boring Co., another company testing the technology, has been focusing on hyperloop transportation in tunnels. The proposed Rocky Mountain hyperloop would be centered at Denver International Airport and stretch about 100 miles north to Cheyenne, Wyo.; about 125 miles south to Pueblo, Colo.; and about 100 miles west to Vail, Colo. It carries a hefty $24 billion price tag. State transportation officials estimated it would need an initial investment of $3 billion just to get the first 40 miles from the airport north to Greeley, Colo., completed. Why a hyperloop? State officials estimate Colorado's population will grow by nearly 50% in the next 20 years.

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Verizon Wants To Ban States From Protecting Your Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 03:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's privacy-matters department:
DSLReports that Verizon sent a letter and white paper last week to the FCC, insisting that "the FCC has ample authority to pre-empt state efforts to protect consumer privacy, and should act to prevent states from doing so." Verizon's letter reads in part: "Allowing every State and locality to chart its own course for regulating broadband is a recipe for disaster. It would impose localized and likely inconsistent burdens on an inherently interstate service, would drive up costs, and would frustrate federal efforts to encourage investment and deployment by restoring the free market that long characterized Internet access service." From the report: But there's several things Verizon is ignoring here. One being that the only reason states are trying to pass privacy laws is because Verizon lobbyists convinced former Verizon lawyer and FCC boss Ajit Pai that it was a good idea to kill the FCC's relatively modest rules. It's also worth noting that ISPs like Verizon (and the lawmakers paid to love them) have cried about protecting "states rights" when states try to pass protectionist laws hamstringing competitors, but in this case appears eager to trample those same state rights should states actually try and protect consumers. Verizon makes it abundantly clear it's also worried that when the FCC votes to kill net neutrality rules later this year, states will similarly try to pass their own rules protecting consumers, something Verizon clearly doesn't want. "States and localities have given strong indications that they are prepared to take a similar approach to net neutrality laws if they are dissatisfied with the result of the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding," complains Verizon, again ignoring that its lawsuits are the reason that's happening.

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AMD, Which Lost Over $2.8 Billion In 5 Years, Takes a Hit After New Report
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 03:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's microprocessor-momentum department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Monday, AMD's stock price plunged nearly 9 percent after a report by Morgan Stanley, a major investment bank, which found that "microprocessor momentum" has slowed. According to CNBC, a new report by analyst Joseph Moore found that "cryptocurrency mining driven sales for AMD's graphics chips will decline by 50 percent next year or a $250 million decline in revenue. He also forecasts video game console demand will decline by 5.5 percent in 2018." As per AMD's own SEC filings, the company lost over $2.8 billion from 2012 through 2016. However, new releases from AMD suggest that it may be on something of a resurgent track. As Ars reported last month, AMD's Ryzen and Threadripper processors re-established AMD's chips as competitive with Intel's.

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Apple Uses Machine Learning To Chronicle All the Bra Pics On Your iPhone
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 02:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-not-polite-to-stare department:
New submitter bumblebaetuna shares a report from Motherboard: It's already well known that iOS 11 included some advanced updates to the phone's artificial intelligence, and this includes improving the photo app's ability to identify and categorize what is in each of your photos. There are thousands of objects the phone can identify, ranging from "abacus" to "zucchini." Weirdly, despite not having categories for, say, "nude," or "underwear," there are multiple categories for bra: brassiere, bandeau, bandeaus, bra, bras, and brassieres. Searching for this folder in your photos app may reveal an unexpected surprise. Though there are some pretty archaic terms like "homburg," "habiliment," and "danseuse," the "bra" category is unusual compared to the other quotidian labels the app slaps on your photos, and is as risque as the terms get.

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Vendor Tracks LinkedIn Profile Changes To Alert Client Employers
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 02:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department:
dcblogs shares a report from TechTarget: IT managers have long had the ability and right to monitor employee behavior on internal networks. Now, HR managers are getting similar capabilities thanks to cloud-based services -- but for tracking employee activity outside of their employer's network. A controversy and court fight is swelling over its potential impact on employee privacy. A San Francisco-based startup, hiQ Labs Inc., offers products based on its analysis of publicly available LinkedIn data. One is Keeper, which identifies employees at risk of being recruited away, and another is Skill Mapper, which analyzes employee skills. The profile data is collected by software bots. The clients of hiQ's service may learn whether a LinkedIn member is a flight risk thanks to an individual risk score: high (red), medium (yellow) or low (green), according to court papers. LinkedIn is in court fighting this, but so far it's losing. A federal judge recently took exception to the use of the CFAA in this case "to punish hiQ for accessing publicly available data." The judge warned such an interpretation "could profoundly impact open access to the internet."

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New VibWrite System Uses Finger Vibrations To Authenticate Users
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 01:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's smooth-vibrations department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Rutgers engineers have created a new authentication system called VibWrite. The system relies on placing an inexpensive vibration motor and receiver on a solid surface, such as wood, metal, plastic, glass, etc.. The motor sends vibrations to the receiver. When the user touches the surface with one of his fingers, the vibration waves are modified to create a unique signature per user and per finger. Rutgers researchers say that VibWrite is more secure when users are asked to draw a pattern or enter a code on a PIN pad drawn on the solid surface. This also generates a unique fingerprint, but far more complex than just touching the surface with one finger. During two tests, VibWrite verified users with a 95% accuracy and a 3% false positive rate. The only problem researchers encountered in the live trials was that some users had to draw the pattern or enter the PIN number several times before they passed the VibWrite authentication test. Besides improvements to the accuracy with which VibWrite can detect finger vibrations, researchers also plan to look into how VibWrite will behave in outdoor environments to account for varying temperatures, humidity, winds, wetness, dust, dirt, and other conditions. This new novel user authentication system is described in full in a research paper entitled "VibWrite: Towards Finger-input Authentication on Ubiquitous Surfaces via Physical Vibration."

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Apple Limits Lengthy iPhone X Testing for Most Reviewers
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's something's-amiss department:
Tripp Mickle, reporting for the Wall Street Journal: Apple departed from its traditional preview strategy for what it bills as its most important new iPhone in years, prioritizing early access to the iPhone X for YouTube personalities and celebrities over most technology columnists who traditionally review its new products. Apple provided the iPhone X to a small number of traditional testers for about a week, while limiting most others, The Wall Street Journal included, to a single day with the device before reviews could be published (alternative source). About a half-dozen personalities on Alphabet's YouTube video service were granted time with the device before its release. The change in strategy meant the iPhone X, which hits stores Friday, got less testing than most of its predecessors before reviews could be published. Crash reviewers largely echoed those sentiments, adding the caveat that they could discover issues after they spend more time with the device. Most pledged full reviews for later in the week. The review strategy is "unusual," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. "It's possible Apple wanted some reviews out early and those would be the more enthusiastic ones." He said YouTube reviewers tend to be more positive when given early access to devices, and that most reviews aren't overly negative. "Unless Apple felt like there would be some bad elements in the reviews, why would you hold back?" Mr. Dawson asked. "Why would you be selective about who gets it first?"

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The Future of Work Might Not Be So Bleak
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's future-of-jobs department:
From a report, shared by readers: That said, technology can also favor standard salaried employment. The economists George Baker and Thomas Hubbard, for example, have noted how onboard computers could change U.S. trucking. By monitoring behavior, they would solve a moral hazard problem: Drivers have little incentive to be as careful with company trucks as they would with their own. As a result, more drivers could become employees of companies that buy and maintain fleets, rather than going it alone. They wouldn't have to invest in their own vehicles, which makes them vulnerable to recessions by putting their savings in the same sector as their labor; and they wouldn't be out of pocket and out of work when their trucks broke down. More generally, conventional jobs have a lot of advantages. First, a single worker or group of workers might lack the capital needed to set up a business, or prefer to avoid the stress and risk of running one (consider doctors or dentists who choose to be employees of a medical clinic). Second, business owners might not want their employees to have other bosses -- particularly if the work involves confidential information or team projects that require undivided time and attention. Third, reputations based on ratings might not be reliable: The economist Diane Coyle has shown that the quality of individual consultants can be hard to monitor, at least immediately, whereas a traditional consultancy may be more efficient at "guaranteeing" quality. In short, I believe that salaried employment will not disappear, although it might become less prevalent over time.

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Google Docs Is Randomly Flagging Files for Violating Its Terms of Service
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's worst-nightmare department:
Louise Matsakis, writing for Motherboard: Google Docs, the collaborative, cloud-based word processing software, appears to be randomly flagging files for supposedly "violating" Google's Terms of Service. A member of Motherboard's team, as well as numerous users on Twitter, report that their documents are being locked for no apparent reason. Once a document is flagged, the owner of that document can no longer share it with other users. Users who have already been shared on a document that's been flagged are kicked out and can no longer access it. When a draft Motherboard article was locked on Monday morning, a message took over the screen that read "This item has been flagged as inappropriate and can no longer be shared." It's not clear why this is happening, but it may be the result of a glitch in the system Google uses to monitor Google Docs. DownDetector is currently reporting Google Drive problems in the US and Europe, which may be part of the problem.

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Game Studio CCP Scales Back Virtual Reality Development
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's dispatch department:
Developer CCP Games has significantly cut the time and money it is investing in virtual-reality based games. From a report: The Iceland-based studio is best known for sci-fi title Eve Online but has also created several VR-centred games. Spaceship dog-fighting simulator Eve Valkyrie helped launch the Oculus Rift headset and CCP also made the Sparc VR ball-tossing game for the PlayStation. CCP boss Hilmar Petursson said the company would re-invest in VR when market conditions improved. The move was a "blow to the viability of VR as a major gaming platform," said Adam Smith on the Rock, Paper Shotgun gaming news website, adding that Valkyrie was one of the few games that tempted him to try VR. The changes come just over a month after CCP overhauled Valkyrie in a bid to get more people playing it. CCP has cut its investment in VR as part of a broader restructuring effort. The structural changes mean more focus on PC and mobile games, it said in a statement. It is closing its Atlanta, US, office and selling off the development studio it maintains in Newcastle. The VR development work done at both locations will move to London.

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Three Women Suing Microsoft for Bias Want To Add 8,630 Peers
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
A reader shares a report: A lawsuit accusing Microsoft of discriminating against women in technical and engineering roles is poised to grow a lot bigger if it wins class-action status. With the technology sector awash in challenges to white male dominance, the three women spearheading the case against Microsoft told a Seattle federal judge they want to represent about 8,630 peers who have worked for the company since 2012. The women said their expert consultants have determined that discrimination at the Redmond, Washington-based company cost female employees more than 500 promotions and $100 million to $238 million in pay, according to Oct. 27 court filings. They also accused the software maker of maintaining "an abusive, toxic 'boy's club' atmosphere, where women are ignored, abused, or degraded." Microsoft said it strongly disagrees with the allegations, saying the filings "mischaracterize data and other information."

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Jimmy Wales' WikiTribune is Already Biased
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's holding-accountable department:
Earlier this year, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, said he would be launching a neutral news service with "no other agenda than this: the ultimate arbiter of the truth is the facts of reality." On Monday, a pilot version of WikiTribune went live. Adrianne Jeffries of The Outline argues that WikiTribune is already doing things that it said it wouldn't: As of this writing, WikiTribune's homepage featured a hodgepodge of news aggregation. The "editor's choice" module points to a news roundup that includes Paul Manafort's indictment, the Catalonian independence movement. [...] These stories are all sourced to fairly mainstream news outlets, including some that are on Wikipedia's preferred sources list such as CNN and Reuters, and some that are not, such as Politifact and "Spanish media." I admire what Wales is trying to do here. [...] But WikiTribune is bullshit. It's not new -- it is the same kind of news aggregation that exists all over the web. It is not better -- comparable summarizing and linking can be found on many websites, while original reporting of those same stories, often supplemented by linking to other reporting, can be found at CNN, Reuters, The New York Times, and the BBC, which WikiTribune uses as its primary sources. And finally, and most importantly, it is not neutral. The existence of the "Editor's choice" module, which highlights some stories over others, is not neutral; neither is the "Good reads" section, which does the same thing. The Manafort story includes a section, "Highlights from the indictment," which is not neutral -- someone had to decide which parts of the indictment were more significant than others. There is no such thing as an objective highlight. It is true that the wording of the story does not include adjectives, except when it quotes from the indictment ("lavish lifestyle," "false and misleading statements"), but this is standard newswriting, as one would get from the AP or the New York Times.

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Microsoft Engineer Installs Google Chrome During Presentation After Edge Freezes
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's bloopers department:
A reader shares a report: We've seen lots of blunders on stage, and still happen occasionally, but this must be the best of all. A Microsoft engineer downloaded, installed, and started using Google Chrome during a live presentation after Microsoft Edge, the default Windows 10 browser, stopped responding in the middle of a demo. In just a few words, Microsoft Edge froze while the engineer was working with virtual machines in the browser, and judging from how fast he proceeded to downloading Google Chrome, this wasn't the first time it happened. Because, you know, sometimes reloading the page or restarting the browser does help, but you can't risk hitting the same error twice, right? "I love it when demos break," he said. "So while we're talking here, I'm gonna go install Chrome," he continued before he started laughing, with many people in the audience cheering. "And we're going to not make Google better," he added when unchecking the box to send usage statistics and crash reports to Google, as if this made things less worse. "We're going to do this again, I'm sorry about this. The age of these machines are [sic] wacked down a little bit, there are some things that just don't work."

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'Daylight Savings' Is Grammatically Incorrect
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-to-ponder department:
A reader shares a report: We talk about time like it's money, and that may explain why we say "Daylight Savings Time," capitalizing the concept to emphasize its awesomeness. After all, who wouldn't want to be able to save hours like cash? The phrase "Daylight Savings Time," though commonly used in Australia, Canada, and the US, is technically incorrect. Time and Date, a website devoted to all things chronological, posits that the plural "savings" became popular because it's used in everyday contexts, like "savings account." The grammatically correct usage is "daylight saving time." The expression is singular and not capitalized, according to the US Government Publishing Office style guide. The GPO provides the guidance, "d.s.t., daylight saving (no 's') time."

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HTTP 103 - An HTTP Status Code for Indicating Hints
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '17 at 06:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
The Internet Task Engineering Group (IETF) has approved the new HTTP status code 103. The new status code is intended to "minimize perceived latency." From the circular: It is common for HTTP responses to contain links to external resources that need to be fetched prior to their use; for example, rendering HTML by a Web browser. Having such links available to the client as early as possible helps to minimize perceived latency. The "preload" ([Preload]) link relation can be used to convey such links in the Link header field of an HTTP response. However, it is not always possible for an origin server to generate the header block of a final response immediately after receiving a request. For example, the origin server might delegate a request to an upstream HTTP server running at a distant location, or the status code might depend on the result of a database query. The dilemma here is that even though it is preferable for an origin server to send some header fields as soon as it receives a request, it cannot do so until the status code and the full header fields of the final HTTP response are determined. [...] The 103 (Early Hints) informational status code indicates to the client that the server is likely to send a final response with the header fields included in the informational response. Typically, a server will include the header fields sent in a 103 (Early Hints) response in the final response as well. However, there might be cases when this is not desirable, such as when the server learns that they are not correct before the final response is sent. A client can speculatively evaluate the header fields included in a 103 (Early Hints) response while waiting for the final response. For example, a client might recognize a Link header field value containing the relation type "preload" and start fetching the target resource. However, these header fields only provide hints to the client; they do not replace the header fields on the final response. Aside from performance optimizations, such evaluation of the 103 (Early Hints) response's header fields MUST NOT affect how the final response is processed. A client MUST NOT interpret the 103 (Early Hints) response header fields as if they applied to the informational response itself (e.g., as metadata about the 103 (Early Hints) response).

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