By msmash from Slashdot's don't-be-evil department
Commenting on the record $5 billion fine on Google by the European Commission, privacy focused search engine DuckDuckGo said this week it welcomes the decision as it has "felt [Google's] effects first hand for many years and has led directly to us having less market share on Android vs iOS and in general mobile vs desktop." The company said: Up until just last year, it was impossible to add DuckDuckGo to Chrome on Android, and it is still impossible on Chrome on iOS. We are also not included in the default list of search options like we are in Safari, even though we are among the top search engines in many countries. The Google search widget is featured prominently on most Android builds and is impossible to change the search provider. For a long time it was also impossible to even remove this widget without installing a launcher that effectively changed the whole way the OS works. Their anti-competitive search behavior isn't limited to Android. Every time we update our Chrome browser extension, all of our users are faced with an official-looking dialogue asking them if they'd like to revert their search settings and disable the entire extension. Google also owns http://duck.com and points it directly at Google search, which consistently confuses DuckDuckGo users. "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is google," wrote security researcher Mikko Hypponen, summing up the story.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Hashflare, one of the largest bitcoin mining companies, said on Friday it is disabling its SHA-256 hardware and also discontinuing support for mining services on the active SHA-256 contracts. The move comes as Hashflare continues to struggle with generating revenues, the company said, putting the blame on market fluctuations. In an email to active customers, the company added: For over a month our users encountered a situation when the payouts were lower than the maintenance fees, resulting in zero accruals to the balance. As of 18.07.2018, the payouts were lower than maintenance for 28 consecutive days. BTC mining continues being unprofitable, in light of which we would like to inform you that on 18.07.2018 we were forced to start disabling SHA hardware and today, on 20.07.2018, stop the mining service of active SHA-256 contracts in accordance with clause 5.5 of our Terms of Service, which are required to be accepted when creating a purchase and are the basis of concluding the contract. We expect that the cryptocurrency market situation will stabilize in the nearest future and we will be able to offer our users new advantageous solutions. Customers are ostensibly furious.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-luck department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Inside a sealed clean room near Toulouse, France, Maurice Sylvestre points out something called SuperCam. Sylvestre is outfitted in Tyvex and hairnets, necessary to keep out dust, skin particles, and dirt that could mar the super-smooth surface of his device. SuperCam sits underneath a ventilator hood, glimmering inside a golden-metallic housing. The device is designed to scan the Martian surface with a camera, laser, and spectrometer in hopes of finding organic compounds that could be related to early life on Mars. In two years, this 12-pound, microwave oven-sized unit will blast off as part of the Mars 2020 mission, a spacecraft/lander/rover combo by NASA and its partners that will replace the long-serving Curiosity mission. Sylvestre is a planetary scientist at France's Institute for Research and Planetary Astronomy, and deputy principal investigator for SuperCam. But he's an international collaborator: Over the years, he's worked on missions to Saturn, the moon, and Mars with NASA colleagues. Sylvestre's lab is currently building an instrument similar to SuperCam that will fly to Mercury on the European-Japanese BepiColombo mission, as well as one called Eclair that is part of a joint French-Chinese satellite. Notably, that makes him one of a small number of planetary scientists who are working with China to boost their science, while doing his best to keep Western technology from getting pilfered. It's a tightrope that not everyone is willing to walk. "We are careful what we are doing," Sylvestre says. "We understand the security issues. We understand that we should be careful and not be too naive. But at the same time I feel the idea of planetary exploration is for everyone." Working with both NASA and China may seem like a contradiction, or even a conflict. The two superpowers are butting heads on trade, military, and cybersecurity issues. Congress has banned NASA officials and NASA money from going to China. That might be because of a recent history of Chinese espionage targeting US military, aerospace, and technological secrets.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
In Singapore's worst cyber attack, hackers have stolen the personal particulars of 1.5 million patients. Of these, 160,000 people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and a few ministers, had their outpatient prescriptions stolen as well. From a report: The hackers infiltrated the computers of SingHealth, Singapore's largest group of healthcare institutions with four hospitals, five national speciality centres and eight polyclinics. Two other polyclinics used to be under SingHealth. At a multi-ministry press conference on Friday, the authorities said PM Lee's information was "specifically and repeatedly targeted." The 1.5 million patients had visited SingHealth's specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics from May 1, 2015, to July 4, 2018. Their non-medical personal data that was illegally accessed and copied included their names, IC numbers, addresses, gender, race and dates of birth.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's work-less-get-more department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The New Zealand company behind a landmark trial of a four-day working week has concluded it an unmitigated success, with 78% of employees feeling they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance, an increase of 24 percentage points. Two-hundred-and-forty staff at Perpetual Guardian, a company which manages trusts, wills and estate planning, trialled a four-day working week over March and April, working four, eight-hour days but getting paid for five. Jarrod Haar, professor of human resource management at Auckland University of Technology, found job and life satisfaction increased on all levels across the home and work front, with employees performing better in their jobs and enjoying them more than before the experiment. Work-life balance, which reflected how well respondents felt they could successfully manage their work and non-work roles, increased by 24%. In November last year just over half (54%) of staff felt they could effectively balance their work and home commitments, while after the trial this number jumped to 78%. Staff stress levels decreased by 7 percentage points across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by 5 percentage points.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's checking-boxes department
Los Angeles startups Arrivo and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have reportedly secured financing from Chinese state-backed companies. "Lining up potential funding helps solve one of the biggest obstacles for hyperloop systems: They will be extremely expensive to build," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Arrivo, founded by a former senior engineer at Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said it secured a $1 billion credit line with Genertec America Inc., a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned entity based in Beijing that has helped finance and build high-speed rail and other infrastructure projects in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere. The credit line will go to backers of a future project using Arrivo technology, not to the startup itself. [The Genertec debt could be used to construct a project using the company's technology anywhere in the world, not necessarily in China.] Separately, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies said it plans to work on a 10-kilometer test track in Tongren, part of China's Guizhou province, at an initial cost of about $300 million. State entity Tongren Transportation & Tourism Investment Group will provide half the funds and seek private investors for the other half, HyperloopTT said. The precise route is yet to be determined.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sit-back-relax-and-let-it-do-its-thing department
A team of researchers at Glasgow University have built a robot that uses machine learning to run and analyze its own chemical reaction. The system is able to figure out every reaction that's possible from a given set of starting materials. Ars Technica reports: Most of its parts are dispersed through a fume hood, which ensures safe ventilation of any products that somehow escape the system. The upper right is a collection of tanks containing starting materials and pumps that send them into one of six reaction chambers, which can be operated in parallel. The outcomes of these reactions can then be sent on for analysis. Pumps can feed samples into an IR spectrometer, a mass spectrometer, and a compact NMR machine -- the latter being the only bit of equipment that didn't fit in the fume hood. Collectively, these can create a fingerprint of the molecules that occupy a reaction chamber. By comparing this to the fingerprint of the starting materials, it's possible to determine whether a chemical reaction took place and infer some things about its products.
All of that is a substitute for a chemist's hands, but it doesn't replace the brains that evaluate potential reactions. That's where a machine-learning algorithm comes in. The system was given a set of 72 reactions with known products and used those to generate predictions of the outcomes of further reactions. From there, it started choosing reactions at random from the remaining list of options and determining whether they, too, produced products. By the time the algorithm had sampled 10 percent of the total possible reactions, it was able to predict the outcome of untested reactions with more than 80-percent accuracy. And, since the earlier reactions it tested were chosen at random, the system wasn't biased by human expectations of what reactions would or wouldn't work. The research has been published in the journal Nature.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's keyboard-anatomy department
iFixit tore apart the new 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard to see how well the silicone membrane works to protect the butterfly mechanism from dust and debris. After showering a 2017 and 2018 MacBook Pro in dust particles, the repair site found the newer generation holds up surprisingly well. 9to5Mac reports: As shown in the photo, the blue paint particles coat the outside of the keycaps and the edges of the membrane, but the silicon covers stop most of the particles from getting into the key mechanism -- which is what causes the sticky key issues on the previous models. However, the silicon covers have to have holes in them to allow the keycap clips to attach. Naturally, dust can and will get through these holes over time. iFixit placed some sand particles into the "danger zones" of the keycaps, and confirmed the keys will break/become-unreliable when that happens, just like the second-generation butterfly keys. The non-cocooned 2017 keyboard was "almost immediately flooded" in the particles, unsurprisingly. Clearly, the 2018 model is greatly improved in regard to reliability, but it remains to be seen just how much better it is in real-world use. Over time, you only need a couple specks of dust to get in the keycaps and the keys will get stuck. It's just the chances of dust getting in are greatly reduced with the 2018 models.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's holding-on-for-life department
Best Buy is turning to in-home consultants to help distinguish it from Amazon. The advisors act as "personal chief technology officers," helping people make their homes smart or merely more functional. "Unlike the Geek Squad and blue shirts working in stores, they'll be paid an annual salary instead of an hourly wage," reports Bloomberg. "Their house calls are free and can last as long as 90 minutes. [...] They're supposed to establish long-term relationships with their customers rather than chase one-time transactions." From the report: With more than 1,000 big-box stores in North America and about 125,000 employees, Best Buy was supposed to have succumbed to the inevitable. "Everyone thought we were going to die," says Hubert Joly, who was hired as chief executive officer in August 2012 after profits shrunk about 90 percent in one quarter and his predecessor resigned amid an investigation into his relationship with an employee. Instead, Best Buy has become an improbable survivor led by an unlikely boss.
The in-home advisors went national in September. When one of the trainees at the session in Minneapolis asked Joly how big he hoped the program could become, he said: "I don't have a specific goal. I don't think it would be helpful. McKinsey never had a goal of how many clients. It was how good was the work." Another employee said: "This is why Amazon can't compete with us. They can't dispatch an army of in-home agents." Joly wasn't as sure. "Amazon is an amazing company," he replied. "They kill companies. Maybe they will do this. But we have an incredible opportunity. If someone wants to copy, that's fine." Amazon has started offering free smart-home consultations and installations. It doesn't have a chain of big-box stores in which to meet customers, but that didn't bother investors. Best Buy's stock dropped 6.3 percent when Amazon announced its plans a year ago.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's persistent-perpetrators department
Zorro shares a report from Defense One: Four days before U.S. and Russian leaders met in Helsinki, hackers from China launched a wave of brute-force attacks on internet-connected devices in Finland, seeking to gain control of gear that could collect audio or visual intelligence, a new report says. Traffic aimed at remote command-and-control features for Finnish internet-connected devices began to spike July 12, according to a July 19 report by Seattle-based cybersecurity company F5.
China generally originates the largest chunk of such attacks; in May, Chinese attacks accounted for 29 percent of the total. But as attacks began to spike on July 12, China's share rose to 34 percent, the report said. Attacks jumped 2,800 percent. The China-based hackers' primary target was SSH (or Secure Shell) Port 22 -- not a physical destination but a specific set of instructions for routing a message to the right destination when the message hits the server. "SSH brute force attacks are commonly used to exploit systems and [internet of things, or IOT] devices online," the report says. "SSH is often used by IoT devices for 'secure' remote administration." The report notes that attack traffic came from the U.S., France, and Italy as well, but the U.S. and French traffic kept with its averages. "Russian attack traffic dropped considerably from third, its usual spot, to fifth," reports Defense One. "German attack traffic jumped."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's practice-makes-perfect department
The Verge's Dieter Bohn set out to review Acer's Chromebook Tab 10 tablet, but ended up sharing his impressions of using Chrome OS instead. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from his review: If you're not familiar with Chrome OS, you should know that there are three different tracks you can run Chrome OS on. There's "Stable," which is what most people should use. It's the build I mostly used while testing this device and coming to the conclusions you see above. Then there's "Beta," which is a little on the edge but has been pretty solid for me. Lots of people run it to get slightly earlier access to new features. But because I wanted to see what the future of Chrome looks like, I also looked at the "Developer" build. Most people shouldn't do this. It's buggy and maybe a little less secure. Here be monsters. On a tablet, Chrome OS looks and feels a lot like it does when you have a keyboard. There's a button to get to your apps, a task bar along the bottom, and a system menu in the lower-right corner. In the Developer build, you'll find more squarish tabs and a system menu that's been "Android-ified," so it looks like the Quick Settings you'd see on an Android phone.
< article continued at Slashdot's practice-makes-perfect department
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
FCC commissioners unanimously voted on a Hearing Designation Order (HDO) to send the proposed sale of Tribune Media properties to Sinclair to a judge, where the merger is expected to cease. Engadget reports: Earlier this week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai raised "serious concerns" about Sinclair's selloff of 21 stations it had proposed in order to remain under station ownership limits post-merger. Had Sinclair declined to sell off some stations, its 173 broadcast stations in 81 markets, combined with Tribune's 42 stations in 33 markets would reach 72 percent of U.S. TV households. The FCC's National TV Ownership rule "does not limit the number of TV stations a single entity may own nationwide so long as the station group collectively reaches no more than 39 percent of all U.S. TV households." But the rule is more flexible for stations that broadcast using UHF frequencies. Pai, who has been accused of aiding the merger by relaxing the ownership regulations, said Monday that Sinclair's plan would allow the company "to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law." He noted that, "When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's never-gonna-give-you-up department
It's not a secret that Microsoft hasn't been winning the hearts and minds of consumers lately. Killing off products like the Groove Music service, Microsoft Band fitness tracker, and Windows Phone have left many questioning whether Microsoft's grand plan is to simply focus on business users and leave consumers to its competitors. But at the company's Inspire partner show this week, Microsoft execs told partners that Redmond isn't giving up on consumers. From a report: Yusuf Mehdi -- whose new title as of June 2018 became corporate vice president of Modern Life and Devices -- led a session at the partner show in Las Vegas, Nev., where he outlined the company's vision for what officials plan to christen "Modern Life Services." Microsoft's core value proposition is productivity, he said. Microsoft is targeting so-called "professional consumers" with these services, Mehdi said. Microsoft officials believe because the company already "owns the work calendar with Outlook," that it has a foothold in working to blur the line between consumer and commercial activities. What, exactly, will qualify as a Modern Life Service? Mostly they will be apps, services, and features that Microsoft already makes available or soon will in Windows, Outlook, and PowerPoint, but which officials will attempt to position as well suited to the needs of professional consumers on Windows PCs, iPhones and Android phones.Read Replies (0)