By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Firefox browser made by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, was born as "Phoenix." It rose from the ashes of Netscape Navigator, slain by Microsoft's Internet Explorer. In 2012 Mozilla created Firefox OS, to rival Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems. Unable to compete with the duopoly, Mozilla killed the project. Another phoenix has arisen from it [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. KaiOS, an operating system conjured from the defunct software, powered 30m devices in 2017 and another 50m in 2018. Most were simple flip-phones sold in the West for about $80 apiece, or even simpler ones which Indians and Indonesians can have for as little as $20 or $7, respectively.
Smartphones start at about $100. The company behind the software, also called KaiOS and based in Hong Kong, designed it for smart-ish phones -- with an old-fashioned number pad and long battery life, plus 4G connectivity, popular apps such as Facebook and modern features like contactless payments, but not snazzy touchscreens. Most such devices are found in India. Reliance Jio, a network that has upended the local mobile industry with heavily discounted 4G data plans, sells subsidised, Jio-branded phones that use KaiOS software. Google, which invested $22m in Kaios last year, prioritises getting people in emerging markets online, where it can sell their attention to advertisers, over getting them onto Android smartphones. Smart-ish phones help with this.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Michael Leggett is even more annoyed with Gmail than you are. "It's like Lucky Charms got spewed all over the screen," he says to me, as he scrolls through his inbox. It's true. Folders, contacts, Google apps like Docs and Drive -- and at least half a dozen notifications -- all clutter Gmail at any given moment. And of course, there's that massive Gmail logo that sits in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Just in case you forgot that you just typed "gmail.com" into your browser bar three seconds ago. "Go look at any desktop app and tell me how many have a huge fucking logo in the top left," rants Leggett. "C'mon. It's pure ego, pure bullshit. Drop the logo. Give me a break."
Rather than sit there and stew, Leggett decided to do something about it: He created a free Chrome extension called Simplify, where all the extraneous folders and functions overloading Gmail seem to melt away, leaving you with a calm screen and nothing but your messages. It's understatedly beautiful, and every button just seems like it's in the right place. In fact, it feels a little too good for some random free Chrome extension made by some random developer. Let's just say that Leggett was highly qualified for the job. You see, Leggett was actually the lead designer for Gmail from 2008 to 2012. He also cofounded the since-discontinued Inbox, which attempted to reimagine Gmail for the modern era.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Go to an activist, technologist, or journalist gathering, and you may find a free pile of Google's security keys, dubbed Titan. These are small devices a Gmail user can plug into their computer via USB to make their account much harder to hack. The keys don't just work with Google accounts; Twitter and other large sites now support hardware security tokens too. But if you're an activist inside Iran, Sudan, Syria, Cuba, the region of Crimea, or North Korea, Google probably won't give you a Titan key. Google bars nonprofits and other groups from providing these tools, or promoting the availability of any Google product to activists in those countries, according to two independent sources familiar with Google's approach and a legal document viewed by Motherboard.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tightening-the-bolts department
Slashdot reader The Snazster shares a report from ScienceDaily, reporting on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University: New measurements from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope confirm that the Universe is expanding about 9% faster than expected based on its trajectory seen shortly after the big bang, astronomers say. The new measurements, published April 25 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, reduce the chances that the disparity is an accident from 1 in 3,000 to only 1 in 100,000 and suggest that new physics may be needed to better understand the cosmos.
In this study, [Adam Riess, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, Nobel Laureate and the project's leader] and his SH0ES (Supernovae, H0, for the Equation of State) Team analyzed light from 70 stars in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, with a new method that allowed for capturing quick images of these stars. The stars, called Cepheid variables, brighten and dim at predictable rates that are used to measure nearby intergalactic distances. The usual method for measuring the stars is incredibly time-consuming; the Hubble can only observe one star for every 90-minute orbit around Earth. Using their new method called DASH (Drift And Shift), the researchers using Hubble as a "point-and-shoot" camera to look at groups of Cepheids, thereby allowing the team to observe a dozen Cepheids in the same amount of time it would normally take to observe just one. [...] As the team's measurements have become more precise, their calculation of the Hubble constant has remained at odds with the expected value derived from observations of the early universe's expansion by the European Space Agency's Planck satellite based on conditions Planck observed 380,000 years after the Big Bang.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: The celestial phenomenon known as STEVE is likely caused by a combination of heating of charged particles in the atmosphere and energetic electrons like those that power the aurora, according to new research. In a new study, scientists found STEVE's source region in space and identified two mechanisms that cause it. Last year, the obscure atmospheric lights became an internet sensation. Typical auroras, the northern and southern lights, are usually seen as swirling green ribbons spreading across the sky. But STEVE is a thin ribbon of pinkish-red or mauve-colored light stretching from east to west, farther south than where auroras usually appear. Even more strange, STEVE is sometimes joined by green vertical columns of light nicknamed the "picket fence."
Authors of a new study published in AGU's journal Geophysical Research Letters analyzed satellite data and ground images of STEVE events and conclude that the reddish arc and green picket fence are two distinct phenomena arising from different processes. The picket fence is caused by a mechanism similar to typical auroras, but STEVE's mauve streaks are caused by heating of charged particles higher up in the atmosphere, similar to what causes light bulbs to glow. "Aurora is defined by particle precipitation, electrons and protons actually falling into our atmosphere, whereas the STEVE atmospheric glow comes from heating without particle precipitation," said Bea Gallardo-Lacourt, a space physicist at the University of Calgary and co-author of the new study. "The precipitating electrons that cause the green picket fence are thus aurora, though this occurs outside the auroral zone, so it's indeed unique."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's surprise-findings department
UCLA professor Yang Yang's lab chock-full of coffee drinkers spent several years searching for a stability-enhancing additive to turn famously unstable perovskite PV cells into a useful product. Then, on a lark, Yang's graduate student Rui Wang suggested they try adding caffeine to the mix. To the team's surprise, caffeine produced longer lasting and more powerful solar cells. IEEE Spectrum reports: The work, completed with collaborators at Hong Kong-based PV firm Solargiga Energy Holdings and two Chinese universities, appears today in energy research journal Joule. Caffeine's calming effect starts during the creation of perovskite crystals. "Without caffeine, the crystallization process will just take 2 seconds, but with caffeine it will take 1 to 2 minutes," says Yang. The more deliberate growth process yields a perovskite material with larger grains of defect-free crystal. They are more stable mechanically and better at moving the charges created from incoming photons.
Caffeine also stabilizes perovskite PV cells during operation because each caffeine molecule can bind to two lead atoms at the boundaries of the crystal grains. This dual molecular lock ties the grains together and, Yang believes, hinders the movement of ions that threaten to reshape the crystal into a weaker pattern. The lab's best caffeine-treated cell captures incoming light with an efficiency of 19.8 percent, up from 17 percent for untreated cells, and retains 86 percent of its output after operating for 1,300 grueling hours at 85C. That's remarkable endurance compared with that of the lab's untreated cells, whose output plummeted by 40 percent after just 175 hours. Still, Yang says they need materials that hold it together through at least one to two years of accelerated testing to provide confidence that they can pump out power for several decades on a rooftop.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sinking-ship department
The New York State attorney general's office plans to open an investigation into Facebook's unauthorized collection of more than 1.5 million users' email address books, according to The New York Times, citing two people briefed on the matter. From the report: The inquiry concerns a practice unearthed in April in which Facebook harvested the email contact lists of a portion of new users who signed up for the network after 2016, according to the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the inquiry had not been officially announced. Those lists were then used to improve Facebook's ad-targeting algorithms and other friend connections across the network.
"Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers' information while at the same time profiting from mining that data," said Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, in a statement. "It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers' personal information." The attorney general's investigation will focus on how the practice came about, and whether or not the email contact collection spread to hundreds of millions more people across the social network, according to the two people. Nearly 2.4 billion people use Facebook each month, with 1.56 billion people visiting the site at least once every day.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's internet-2.0 department
dryriver writes: Imagine for a second that a second, smaller internet infrastructure is built parallel to, but separate from, the regular internet. Lets call this the SafeNet. The SafeNet, which does not allow anonymous use, is not intended for general purpose use like watching Youtube videos, downloading a Steam game, or going on Facebook. Rather, it is a safer, more policed mini-internet that you access through a purpose-built terminal device and use for security critical tasks like online banking, stock trading, medical data transfer and sending confidential business emails, text messages or documents or other things that you don't trust the general internet with.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's useless-policies department
Microsoft is dropping its 60-day password expiration policy starting with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update. "Once removed, the preset password expiration settings should be replaced by organizations with more modern and better password-security practices such as multi-factor authentication, detection of password-guessing attacks, detection of anomalous log on attempts, and the enforcement of banned passwords lists (such as Azure AD's password protection currently available in public preview)," reports Bleeping Computer. From the report: Microsoft's Aaron Margosis states that the password expiration mechanism which requires periodic password changes is in itself a flawed defense method given that, once a password is stolen, mitigation measures should be taken immediately instead of waiting for it to expire as per the set expiration policy. In addition, the soon to be removed policies are "a defense only against the probability that a password (or hash) will be stolen during its validity interval and will be used by an unauthorized entity."
The removal of the password-expiration policies without the addition of other password-oriented security configurations does not directly translate into a decrease in security but, instead, it simply stands as proof that security-conscious organizations need to implement extra measures to enforce their users' security. As Microsoft further detailed, "to try to avoid inevitable misunderstandings, we are talking here only about removing password-expiration policies -- we are not proposing changing requirements for minimum password length, history, or complexity."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's literal-moves department
LG, the South Korean electronics and phone company, is relocating their mobile production facility in South Korea for the year, and focusing instead on one of its plants in Haiphong, Vietnam. CNET reports: Though LG overall is profiting, its mobile division posted a $172 million loss in the second quarter of 2018. And while smartphone sales are down globally, things are especially difficult for LG. Its last couple of flagship phones didn't take off, and it still must compete against bigger companies like Samsung, Huawei and Apple, too. With the relocation, the company does not plan to downsize its phone business, however. The move is to make LG "much more competitive for the global market," said LG senior director of global corporate communications Ken Hong. "Korea will continue to be the hub for smartphone R&D, design, quality assurance, etc." As reported by Reuters, the factory in South Korea mostly makes premium phone models, which would include devices like the LG G8 ThinQ or the upcoming V50 ThinQ, and manufactures about 10% to 20% of LG's total smartphones. In addition to South Korea and Vietnam, the company also has factories in China, Brazil and India.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's public-safety department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. mobile industry's top lobbying group is opposing a proposed California state law that would prohibit throttling of fire departments and other public safety agencies during emergencies. As reported yesterday by StateScoop, wireless industry lobby group CTIA last week wrote to lawmakers to oppose the bill as currently written. CTIA said the bill's prohibition on throttling is too vague and that it should apply only when the U.S. president or California governor declares emergencies and not when local governments declare emergencies.
The group's letter also suggested that the industry would sue the state if the bill is passed in its current form, saying the bill would result in "serious unintended consequences, including needless litigation." "[T]he bill's vague mandates, problematic emergency trigger requirement, and failure to include notification requirements could work to impede activities by first responders during disasters," CTIA wrote. The group said that it "must oppose AB 1699 unless it is amended to address the foregoing concerns." CTIA represents Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and other carriers. Despite CTIA's opposition, the bill proposed by State Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County) sailed through an Assembly committee yesterday. The Committee on Communications and Conveyance voted 12-0 to advance the bill, Levine's chief of staff, Terry Schanz, told Ars today. A committee analysis of the bill says that CTIA was the only organization to register opposition. The next stop for the bill is an April 30 hearing with the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee. It is in response to Verizon throttling an "unlimited" data plan used by Santa Clara firefighters last year during the state's largest-ever wildfire.Read Replies (0)