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Seattle To Remove Controversial City Spying Network After Public Backlash
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 06:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
schwit1 shares a report from Activist Post: Following years of resistance from citizens, the city of Seattle has decided to completely remove controversial surveillance equipment -- at a cost of $150,000. In November 2013, Seattle residents pushed back against the installation of several mesh network nodes attached to utility poles around the downtown area. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and privacy advocates were immediately concerned about the ability of the nodes to gather user information via the Wi-Fi connection. The Seattle Times reports on the latest developments: "Seattle's wireless mesh network, a node of controversy about police surveillance and the role of federal funding in city policing, is coming down. Megan Erb, spokeswoman for Seattle Information Technology, said the city has budgeted $150,000 for contractor Prime Electric and city employees to remove dozens of surveillance cameras and 158 'wireless access points' -- little, off-white boxes with antennae mounted on utility poles around the city."

< article continued at Slashdot's cease-and-desist department >

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Trump Administration Wants To Fire 248 Forecasters At the National Weather Service
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's drain-the-swamp department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: After a year that saw over $300 million in damages from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters. The idea, which is part of the 2019 fiscal budget proposal and caught the agency by surprise, is being derided by the NWS's labor union, which says the cuts will impact the reliability of future weather forecasts and warnings. All totaled, the Weather Service faces cuts of $75 million in the initial proposal. Some or all of those cuts could be jettisoned before the bill is voted upon. "We can't take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do -- there simply will not be the staff available on duty to issue the forecasts and warnings upon which the country depends," said Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. Further reading: The Washington Post

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Google Is Adding Snapchat-Style Stories To Mobile Search Results
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's follow-the-trends department:
Google is rolling out tappable, visual stories that incorporate text, images, and videos in the style made popular by Snapchat. "It started widely testing the multimedia format, called AMP stories, today (Feb. 13) in an effort to help publishers engage more with readers on mobile," reports Quartz. Google announced the feature in a developer blog post. From the report: Users can now find Google stories in search results -- in a box called "visual stories" -- when they search on mobile at g.co/ampstories for the names of publishers that have begun using the format, such as CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media, and the Washington Post brands. Google worked with those publishers to develop the format. Desktop users can also get a taste of stories through Google's Accelerate Mobile Pages site. When a user selects a story, like Cosmopolitan magazine's piece on apple cider vinegar, it displays in a full-screen, slideshow format, similar to those on Snapchat and Instagram.

The multimedia format is part of Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, a competitor to Facebook's Instant Articles that helps load pages faster on mobile devices. Like AMP, the AMP story format is open-sourced, so anyone can use it. However, Google is reportedly only displaying stories from a select group of publishers, including those it partnered with on the development, on its own site at the moment. The company said it plans to bring AMP stories to more Google products in the future, and expand the ways they appear in Google search.

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Huawei Got People To Write Fake Reviews For An Unreleased Phone
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 04:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-for-sale department:
As spotted by 9to5Google, Huawei has apparently posted fake reviews on Best Buy for its new Mate 10 Pro, which is available for pre-order in the U.S. despite not having any deals with U.S. carriers. "The fake reviews, which are exclusively on the Best Buy website, are likely the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook," reports The Verge. From the report: On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. "Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page," the post states. On the Best Buy site, there are currently 108 reviews for the phone, 103 of which were written on or after January 31st, the day Huawei posted the contest. Many of the comments directly reference not having any actual hands-on experience with the product itself, but give the phone a five star rating. "I can't wait to get my hands on this phone and demonstrate how amazing it is to people," reads one. "This device looks exciting and beautiful and it would be amazing to have a chance to beta test it," another reads. It seems Huawei is betting that loads of high ratings early on will make people trust the product and lead to higher sales. That's all well and good except that these types of reviews are strictly against Best Buy policy, as 9to5Google points out. "Huawei's first priority is always the consumer and we encourage our customers to share their experiences with our devices in their own voice and through authentic conversation," a Huawei representative told The Verge in a statement. "While there are reviews from beta testers with extensive knowledge of the product, they were in no way given monetary benefits for providing their honest opinions of the product. However, we are working to remove posts by beta testers where it isn't disclosed they participated in the review program."

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Trump's Infrastructure Plan Has No Dedicated Money For Broadband
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 04:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pool-of-money department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President Trump's new 10-year plan for "rebuilding infrastructure in America" doesn't contain any funding specifically earmarked for improving Internet access. Instead, the plan sets aside a pool of funding for numerous types of infrastructure projects, and broadband is one of the eligible categories. The plan's $50 billion Rural Infrastructure Program lists broadband as one of five broad categories of eligible projects.

Eighty percent of the program's $50 billion would be "provided to the governor of each state." Governors would take the lead in deciding how the money would be spent in their states. The other 20 percent would pay for grants that could be used for any of the above project categories. Separately, broadband would be eligible for funding from a proposed $20 billion Transformative Projects Program, along with transportation, clean water, drinking water, energy, and commercial space. Trump's plan would also add rural broadband facilities to the list of eligible categories for Private Activity Bonds, which allow private projects to "benefit from the lower financing costs of tax-exempt municipal bonds." The plan would also let carriers install small cells and Wi-Fi attachments without going through the same environmental and historical preservation reviews required for large towers.

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Many ID-Protection Services Fail Basic Security
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 02:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Paul Wagenseil, writing for Tom's Guide: For a monthly fee, identity-protection services promise to do whatever they can to make sure your private personal information doesn't fall into the hands of criminals. Yet many of these services -- including LifeLock, IDShield and Credit Sesame -- put personal information at risk, because they don't let customers use two-factor authentication (2FA). This simple security precaution is offered by many online services. Without 2FA, anyone who has your email address and password -- which might be obtained from a data breach or a phishing email -- could log in to the account for your identity-protection service and, depending on how the service protects them, possibly steal your bank-account, credit-card and Social Security numbers.

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Facebook is Pushing Its Data-tracking Onavo VPN Within Its Main Mobile App
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 02:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's creepier-by-the-day department:
TechCrunch reports: Onavo Protect, the VPN client from the data-security app maker acquired by Facebook back in 2013, has now popped up in the Facebook app itself, under the banner "Protect" in the navigation menu. Clicking through on "Protect" will redirect Facebook users to the "Onavo Protect -- VPN Security" app's listing on the App Store. We're currently seeing this option on iOS only, which may indicate it's more of a test than a full rollout here in the U.S. Marketing Onavo within Facebook itself could lead to a boost in users for the VPN app, which promises to warn users of malicious websites and keep information secure as you browse. But Facebook didn't buy Onavo for its security protections. Instead, Onavo's VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps' new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more. Further reading: Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Download Onavo, Facebook's Vampiric VPN Service (Gizmodo).

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Porsche Is 3D Printing Hard-To-Find Parts For The 959 And Other Classics
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-idea department:
Porsche Classic, Porsche's classic cars division, has turned to 3D printing obscure parts that people might need on occasion. From a report: They already have about 52,000 parts available, but for the truly arcane ones, it's cheaper to 3D print them than make the specialized tools to create them over again. In addition to that 959 lever, Porsche is also 3D printing eight other parts. They are made from steel and alloy and the plastics are made using an selective laser sintering printer, which Porsche describes as: "A process where the material is heated to just below melting point and the remaining energy is applied through a laser to fuse the plastic powder at a selected point." So there you have it! The next time something is busted on your 959 or 356, don't cry and abandon the car, stalled on the side of the road. Call up Porsche. They'll science something for you.

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Google Launches AMP For Email To Bring Web-like Actionable Content To Gmail
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's but-why department:
Google today announced an extension of the AMP (accelerated mobile pages) program to include another popular communications medium. From a report: The internet giant unveiled the Gmail developer preview of AMP for email, a web-like experience designed to make emails more engaging and interactive. One of the key benefits of AMP for email will be that content within an email can be updated, and recipients will be able to browse email content much like they would a web page. So an email from Pinterest, for example, could contain actionable content, allowing users to Pin content to their own Pinterest account without leaving Gmail. Or they could complete a form to arrange a meeting, fill in a questionnaire, and do just about anything -- all from within the email itself. It's clear that marketers will be a major target audience here.

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LoopX Startup Pulls ICO Exit Scam and Disappears with $4.5 Million
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 12:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A cryptocurrency startup named LoopX has pulled an exit scam after collecting around $4.5 million from users during an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) held in the recent weeks. The LoopX team disappeared out of the blue at the start of the week when it took down its website and deleted its Facebook, Telegram, and YouTube channels without any explanation. People who invested in the startup are now tracking funds move from account to account in a BitcoinTalk forum thread, and banding together in the hopes of filing a class action lawsuit.

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Countries that Are Most Highly Invested in Automation
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 12:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A report by the International Federation of Robotics looks at the countries that are most highly invested in manufacturing automation. The countries with the ten highest densities of robots are, in order: South Korea (631 per 10,000 workers), Singapore (488), Germany (309), Japan (303), Sweden (223), Denmark (211), United States (189), Italy (185), Belgium (184), and Taiwan (177). Overall, the automation of production is accelerating around the world: 74 robot units per 10,000 employees (up from 66 in 2015) is the new average of global robot density in the manufacturing industries.

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'Troll' Loses Cloudflare Lawsuit, Has Weaponized Patent Invalidated
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 10:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's bye-bye-blackbird department:
A federal judge in San Francisco has unequivocally ruled against a non-practicing entity that had sued Cloudflare for patent infringement. From a report: The judicial order effectively ends the case that Blackbird -- which Cloudflare had dubbed a "patent troll" -- had brought against the well-known security firm and content delivery network. "Abstract ideas are not patentable," US District Judge Vincent Chhabria wrote in a Monday order. The case revolved around US Patent No. 6,453,335, which describes providing a "third party data channel" online. When the case was filed in May 2017, the invention claims it can incorporate third-party data into an existing Internet connection "in a convenient and flexible way."

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Bill Gates: Tech Companies Inviting Government Intervention
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 10:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
In an interview with Axios on Tuesday, Bill Gates warned Apple and other tech giants that they risk the kind of nightmarish government intervention that once plagued his Microsoft if they act arrogantly. Axios reports: The big picture: "The companies need to be careful that they're not ... advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we've come to count on." Asked if he sees instances of that now, Gates replied: "Oh, absolutely." Why it matters: With the Big Tech companies feeling they're suddenly drawing unfair scrutiny, this is Microsoft's co-founder saying they're bringing some of the problems on themselves, by resisting legitimate oversight.

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The Most Popular Linux Desktop Programs
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 09:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-hot-these-days department:
The most recent Linux Questions poll results are in. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, writing for ZDNet: LinuxQuestions, one of the largest internet Linux groups with 550,000 members, has just posted the results from its latest survey of desktop Linux users. In the always hotly-contested Linux desktop environment survey, the winner was the KDE Plasma Desktop. It was followed by the popular lightweight Xfce, Cinnamon, and GNOME. If you want to buy a computer with pre-installed Linux, the Linux Questions crew's favorite vendor by far was System76. Numerous other computer companies offer Linux on their PCs. These include both big names like Dell and dedicated small Linux shops such as ZaReason, Penguin Computing, and Emperor Linux. Many first choices weren't too surprising. For example, Linux users have long stayed loyal to the Firefox web browser, and they're still big fans. Firefox beat out Google Chrome by a five-to-one margin. And, as always, the VLC media player is far more popular than any other Linux media player. For email clients, Mozilla Thunderbird remains on top. That's a bit surprising given how Thunderbird's development has been stuck in neutral for some time now. When it comes to text editors, I was pleased to see vim -- my personal favorite -- win out over its perpetual rival, Emacs. In fact, nano and Kate both came ahead of Emacs.

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US Senators Voice Concern Over Chinese Access To Intellectual Property
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 09:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday they were concerned about what they described as China's efforts to gain access to sensitive U.S. technologies and intellectual property through Chinese companies with government ties. From a report: Senator Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, cited concerns about the spread of foreign technologies in the United States, which he called "counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors. The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms (companies) like Huawei and ZTE that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government," Burr said. Senator Mark Warner, the committee's Democratic vice chairman, said he had similar concerns. "I'm worried about the close relationship between the Chinese government and Chinese technology firms, particularly in the area of commercialization of our surveillance technology and efforts to shape telecommunications equipment markets," Warner said.

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YouTube CEO: Facebook Should 'Get Back To Baby Pictures'
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 08:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's free-advice department:
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki won't divulge her biggest fear about competing with Facebook, but she will give them some free advice. From a report: "They should get back to baby pictures," Wojcicki said Monday at the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, California. Video has been an obsession for Facebook, as it tries to swipe the most advertising dollars migrating off television before YouTube can get them. Facebook has been aggressively advancing the number of clips and live streams that bubble up to the top of your News Feed and has rolled out a central hub for TV-like programming called Watch. "You always have to take competition seriously. You don't win by looking backwards; you win by looking at your customers and looking forward," she said.

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Microsoft: We're Developing Blockchain ID System Starting With Our Authenticator App
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 08:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's embracing-the-cool department:
Microsoft has revealed its plans to use blockchain distributed-ledger technologies to securely store and manage digital identities, starting with an experiment using the Microsoft Authenticator app. From a report: Microsoft reckons the technology holds promise as a superior alternative to people granting consent to dozens of apps and services and having their identity data spread across multiple providers. It highlights that with the existing model people don't have control over their identity data and are left exposed to data breaches and identity theft. Instead, people could store, control and access their identity in an encrypted digital hub, Microsoft explained. To achieve this goal, Microsoft has for the past year been incubating ideas for using blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies to create new types of decentralized digital identities.

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In the Wake of Fake News, Several Universities Including MIT and Harvard Introduce New Course On Ethics and Regulation of AI
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 06:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's before-it's-too-late department:
The medical profession has an ethic: First, do no harm. Silicon Valley has an ethos: Build it first and ask for forgiveness later. Now, in the wake of fake news and other troubles at tech companies, universities that helped produce some of Silicon Valley's top technologists are hustling to bring a more medicine-like morality to computer science, the New York Times reporter. From the report: This semester, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are jointly offering a new course on the ethics and regulation of artificial intelligence. The University of Texas at Austin just introduced a course titled "Ethical Foundations of Computer Science" -- with the idea of eventually requiring it for all computer science majors. And at Stanford University, the academic heart of the industry, three professors and a research fellow are developing a computer science ethics course for next year. They hope several hundred students will enroll. The idea is to train the next generation of technologists and policymakers to consider the ramifications of innovations -- like autonomous weapons or self-driving cars -- before those products go on sale.

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Comcast Sues Vermont Over Conditions On New License Requiring the Company To Expand Its Network
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 05:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's here-we-go-again department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VTDigger: Cable television giant Comcast is suing the Vermont Public Utility Commission over the panel's decision to require the company to expand its network and step up support for community access TV if it wants to continue doing business in Vermont. A key issue is the services Comcast must provide to local community access systems that carry municipal government and school board meetings and other local events. The 26 community access systems have been pushing -- against resistance by Comcast -- for high-definition video, greater ability to operate from remote locations, and inclusion in the interactive program guides that Comcast customers can use to decide what to watch. The PUC -- formerly known as the Public Service Board -- in January issued a new 11-year permit for Comcast to operate in Vermont. In July the panel rejected the company's request to drop some of the conditions attached to the permit.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Comcast argued that the PUC "exceeded its authority under federal and Vermont law" by imposing "numerous conditions on Comcast's continued cable operations in the state that are arbitrary, unprecedented and will ultimately harm local cable subscribers by resulting in millions of dollars in increased cable costs." It said the commission "did so despite overwhelming record evidence that Vermont cable subscribers do not want to incur any additional costs or fees for the kinds of conditions imposed" in the commission's January order.

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Amazon Is Designing Custom AI Chips For Alexa
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '18 at 02:40 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's do-it-yourself department:
According to a report (paywalled) from The Information, Amazon is designing a custom artificial intelligence chip that would power future Echo devices and improve the quality and response time of its Alexa voice assistant. "The move closely followers rivals Apple and Google, both of which have already developed and deployed custom AI hardware at various scales," reports The Verge. From the report: While Amazon is unlikely to physically produce the chips, given its lack of both fabrication experience and a manufacturing presence in China, the news does pose a risk to the businesses of companies like Nvidia and Intel. Both companies have shifted large portions of their chipmaking expertise to AI and the future of the burgeoning field, and both make money by designing and manufacturing chips for companies like Apple, Amazon, and others. Amazon, which seeks to stay competitive in the smart home hardware market and in the realm of consumer-facing AI products, has nearly 450 people with chip expertise on staff, reports The Information, thanks to key hires and acquisitions the e-commerce giant has made in the last few years. The plan is for Amazon to develop its own AI chips so Alexa-powered products in its ever-expanding Echo line can do more on-device processing, instead of having to communicate with the cloud, a process that increases response rate times.

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