By BeauHD from Slashdot's positive-updates department
Australia's Great Barrier Reef appears to be showing signs of recovery after a massive coral bleaching event in 2016 and 2017. Stuff.co.nz reports: The nonprofit Reef & Rainforest Research Centre has reported signs of recovery due to a milder 2017-18 summer, as well as cooperation among science, industry, and government in supporting the reef's recovery, according to the report issued on Wednesday by the Queensland State Government. The RRRC, in cooperation with the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, conducted detailed surveys at key tourism dive sites around the city of Cairns in 2016 and 2017 and says certain reefs that were strongly affected in the bleaching event are showing significant signs of improvement.
Coral bleaching occurs in multiple stages, according to RRRC Managing Director Sheriden Morris, ranging from the equivalent of a mild sunburn to coral mortality. "When a reef is reported as 'bleached' in the media, that often leaves out a critical detail on how severe that bleaching is, at what depth the bleaching has occurred and if it's going to cause permanent damage to the coral at that site," Morris said in the statement, adding that the Barrier Reef "has significant capacity to recover from health impacts like bleaching events." Reports that the entire reef is dead due to severe bleaching are "blatantly untrue," Morris said. Still, he warns that the recovery is "contingent on environmental conditions" and that the reef "may suffer further bleaching events as the climate continues to warm."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-creepy-at-all department
Rachel Metz reports via MIT Technology Review: Imagine a box, similar to a Wi-Fi router, that sits in your home and tracks all kinds of physiological signals as you move from room to room: breathing, heart rate, sleep, gait, and more. Dina Katabi, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, built this box in her lab. And in the not-so-distant future, she believes, it will be able to replace the array of expensive, bulky, uncomfortable gear we currently need to get clinical data about the body. Speaking at MIT Technology Review's EmTech conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, Katabi said the box she's been building for the last several years takes advantage of the fact that every time we move -- even if it's just a teeny, tiny bit, such as when we breathe -- we change the electromagnetic field surrounding us.
Her device transmits a low-power wireless signal throughout a space the size of a one- or two-bedroom apartment (even through walls), and the signal reflects off people's bodies. The device then uses machine learning to analyze those reflected signals and extract physiological data. So far, it has been installed in over 200 homes of both healthy people and those with conditions like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, depression, and pulmonary diseases, she said. Katabi cofounded a startup called Emerald Innovations to commercialize the technology and has already made the device available to biotech and pharmaceutical companies for studies.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's only-time-will-tell department
Three years ago, Apple introduced 3D Touch for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, a pressure-sensitive feature that uses capacitive sensors integrated into the smartphone's display to sense three degrees of pressure in a user's touch and respond differently based on the amount of pressure exerted. It's a neat idea as it has allowed users to interact with the user interface in a completely new way. Now, with the release of the new iPhone XR, Apple seems to be on the way to phasing it out. The Verge reports: While both the new iPhone XS and XS Max include 3D Touch, Apple has chosen not to include the feature on the iPhone XR. Yes, that phone is cheaper, and Apple had to strip out some features, but 3D Touch has been included on iPhones in that price range since it was introduced not too long ago, so this feels less like necessary cost savings and more like planned omission. There have always been a few core problems with 3D Touch. For one, its use often amounted to the right click of a mouse, which is funny coming from the company that famously refused to put a dedicated right button on its mice or trackpads. And selecting from those right click options was rarely faster or a substantially more useful way of getting something done than just tapping the button and manually navigating to where you needed to go. People also didn't know the feature was there. The iPhone did little to train users on 3D Touch. And even the people who knew it was there had no way to tell which icons supported it without just 3D pressing everything to see what happened.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's antivirus-software-required department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Users of Kodi, a popular media player and platform designed for TVs and online streaming, have been the targets of a malware campaign, ZDNet has learned from cyber-security firm ESET. According to a report that will be published later today and shared with ZDNet in advance, the company's malware analysts have uncovered that at least three popular repositories of Kodi add-ons have been infected and helped spread a malware strain that secretly mined cryptocurrency on users' computers. ESET researchers say they found malicious code hidden in some of the add-ons found on three add-on repositories known as Bubbles, Gaia, and XvBMC, all offline at the time of writing, after receiving copyright infringement complaints. Researchers said that some of the add-ons found on these repositories would contain malicious code that triggered the download of a second Kodi add-on, which, in turn, would contain code to fingerprint the user's OS and later install a cryptocurrency miner. While Kodi can run on various platforms, ESET says that the operators of this illicit cryptocurrency mining operation only delivered a miner for Windows and Linux users. The crooks reportedly mined for Monero, infecting over 4,700 victims and generating over 62 Monero coins, worth today nearly $7,000.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's roadblocks department
John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers (a trade association and lobby group of automobile manufacturers), said at an Axios event Thursday that it's "critically important" that Congress pass federal legislation on autonomous vehicles. A year ago, the House approved the Self Drive Act, but it has yet to be passed by the Senate. Axios adds: This delay is set against a growing fear in Washington, Silicon Valley and the auto industry that the U.S. will fall dangerously behind in autonomous vehicle standards and policies while China and Europe leap ahead. "My fear is we fall behind with the rest of the world," said, Congressman Robert Latta (R-Ohio), chairman of the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee. As breakthroughs are happening on the mechanical, computer and engineering levels with regard to autonomous vehicles, "time is running out" on moving policy forward, he added.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's candid-camera department
A number of Slashdot users have shared a leaked Google video from Breitbart, revealing the candid reactions of company executives to Donald Trump's unexpected victory in 2016. The Guardian summarizes: In an hour-long conversation, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, chief executive Sundar Pichai, and executives Kent Walker, Ruth Porat and Eileen Noughton offered their reflections on the election, sought to reassure employees about issues such as immigration status and benefits for same-sex partners, and answered questions on topics ranging from filter bubbles and political polarization to encryption and net neutrality. The executives' reactions ranged from the emotional to the philosophical to the purely pragmatic. Porat appeared near tears in discussing her open support for Hillary Clinton and her father, who was a refugee. Walker discussed global political trends toward nationalism, populism and xenophobia. Pichai noted that the company was already "thoughtfully engaging" with Trump's transition team. While Breitbart argues the video shows evidence of Google's inherent bias against Republicans, Google says the executives are simply sharing their "personal views" and that it has no political bias. It does beg the question, should politics be discussed in the workplace? Longtime Slashdot reader emil writes in response to the video: [...] Disregarding the completely inappropriate expression of partisan views in the workplace, the video claims that "history is our side." These executives appear to have forgotten the incredible tumult in the distant past of the U.S. The last election was not an electoral tie that was thrown into the house of representatives (as was the election of 1800). The last election did not open a civil war as happened in 1861 when Lincoln took office. The last election did not open war with Great Britain, and will likely not precipitate a new set of proposed constitutional amendments to curb presidential power as did either of James Madison's terms in office (War of 1812, Hartford Convention). There may be a time for tears, and a time for hugs, but that time cannot be in the workplace. Most Fortune 500 employees took the news of the latest president elect with quiet perseverance in their professional settings regardless of their leanings, and it is time for Google to encourage the same. "At a regularly scheduled all-hands meeting, some Google employees and executives expressed their own personal views in the aftermath of a long and divisive election season," Google said in a statement. "For over 20 years, everyone at Google has been able to freely express their opinions at these meetings. Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products. To the contrary, our products are built for everyone, and we design them with extraordinary care to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without regard to political viewpoint."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Facebook is trying to speed up the time it takes to roll out new software updates and debug any issues in them with a new tool called SapFix that its engineers are building. From a report: SapFix, which is still under development, is designed to generate fixes automatically for specific bugs before sending them to human engineers for approval. Facebook, which announced the tool today ahead of its Scale conference in San Jose, California, for developers building large-scale systems and applications, calls SapFix an "AI hybrid tool." It uses artificial intelligence to automate the creation of fixes for bugs that have been identified by its software testing tool Sapienz, which is already being used in production. SapFix will eventually be able to operate independently from Sapienz, but for now it's still a proof-of-concept that relies on the latter tool to pinpoint bugs first of all. SapFix can fix bugs in a number of ways, depending on how complex they are, Facebook engineers Yue Jia, Ke Mao and Mark Harman wrote in a blog post announcing the tools. For simpler bugs, SapFix creates patches that revert the code submission that introduced them. In the case of more complicated bugs, SapFix uses a collection of "templated fixes" that were created by human engineers based on previous bug fixes.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department
RoccamOccam writes: WebRender, an experimental GPU-based renderer for web content, written in Rust, is now enabled by default for Firefox Nightly users on desktop Windows 10 with Nvidia GPUs. The announcement was made on the mailing list.
Lin Clark provides an excellent overview of WebRender and, states, "with WebRender, we want apps to run at a silky smooth 60 frames per second (FPS) or better no matter how big the display is or how much of the page is changing from frame to frame. And it works. Pages that chug along at 15 FPS in Chrome or today's Firefox run at 60 FPS with WebRender.
In describing the WebRender approach Clark, asks, "what if we removed this boundary between painting and compositing and just went back to painting every pixel on every frame? This may sound like a ridiculous idea, but it actually has some precedent. Modern day video games repaint every pixel, and they maintain 60 frames per second more reliably than browsers do. And they do it in an unexpected way instead of creating these invalidation rectangles and layers to minimize what they need to paint, they just repaint the whole screen."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's soul-searching department
A senior Google research scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China. The Intercept: Jack Poulson worked for Google's research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company's search systems. In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China's authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31. He told The Intercept in an interview that he believes he is one of about five of the company's employees to resign over Dragonfly. He felt it was his "ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments," he said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's further-developments department
Loon, the former Google X project and now independent Alphabet company, has developed an antenna system that could create a far greater ground coverage than previously possible. From a report: According to Loon each of its balloons, from 20km (12.4 miles) above earth, can cover an area of about 80km (49.7 miles) in diameter and serve about 1,000 users on the ground using an LTE connection. However, Loon balloons need a backhaul connection from an access point on the ground and without that connection the balloons can't provide connectivity to users on the ground. But on Tuesday the company revealed it had sent data across a network of seven balloons from a single ground connection spanning a distance of 1,000 kilometers, or about 621 miles. It also achieved its longest ever point-to-point link, sending data between two balloons over a distance of 600km (373 miles). The tests were carried out across California and Nevada, with the balloons punting data packets between each other from "desert to mountains and back again", according to Loon.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's good-deeds department
Rick Schumann writes: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie on Thursday announced a $2 billion philanthropic effort aimed at helping homeless families and starting preschools in low-income communities. Bezos, believed to be the world's richest man, with a net worth of more than $160 billion, announced the new program on Twitter. "We're excited to announce the Bezos Day One Fund," he wrote. The fund will be split between the Day 1 Families Fund, which Bezos wrote will "issue annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families." The Day 1 Academies Fund "will launch and operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities," Bezos said. Bezos said that the preschools will be directly operated by the organization and "use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon." "Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession," Bezos wrote. "The child will be the customer." Bezos quoted the poet William Butler Yeats: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department
Four major US carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon -- are joining forces to launch a single sign-on service for smartphones. From a report: The service, called Project Verify, authenticates app logins so that users don't need to memorize passwords for all their apps. The companies say their solution verifies users through their phone number, phone account type, SIM card details, IP address, and account tenure. Essentially, your phone serves as the verification method with details that are hard to spoof. Users have to manually grant apps permission to use Verify, and it works similarly to how you might log into some services through Gmail or Facebook instead of using a unique account password. Of course, these apps also have to choose to work with Verify, and the program hasn't listed any partners or when it intends to launch. The service can serve as your two-factor authentication method, too, instead of an emailed or texted code that can be intercepted. Users might not be totally safe if their phone is stolen. The Verify program automatically logs users in, so long as they have access to their phone's home screen and apps. More details on Krebs on Security blog.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's wait-what department
Python creator Guido van Rossum retired in July, but he's been pulled back in to resolve a debate about politically incorrect language. The Register reports: Like other open source communities, Python's minders have been asked whether they really want to continue using the terms "master" and "slave" to describe technical operations and relationships, given that the words remind some people of America's peculiar institution, a historical legacy that fires political passions to this day. Last week Victor Stinner, a Python developer who works for Red Hat, published four pull requests seeking to change "master" and "slave" in Python documentation and code to terms like "parent," "worker," or something similarly anodyne. "For diversity reasons, it would be nice to try to avoid 'master' and 'slave' terminology which can be associated to slavery," he explained in his bug report, noting that there have been complaints but they've been filed privately -- presumably to avoid being dragged into a fractious flame war. And when Python 3.8 is released, there will be fewer instances of these terms.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's judgement-arrives department
GCHQ's methods in carrying out bulk interception of online communications violated privacy and failed to provide sufficient surveillance safeguards, the European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled in a test case judgment. From a report: But the Strasbourg court found that GCHQ's regime for sharing sensitive digital intelligence with foreign governments was not illegal. It is the first major challenge to the legality of UK intelligence agencies intercepting private communications in bulk, following Edward Snowden's whistleblowing revelations. The long-awaited ruling is one of the most comprehensive assessments by the ECHR of the legality of the interception operations operated by UK intelligence agencies. The case was brought by a coalition of 14 human rights groups, privacy organisations and journalists, including Amnesty International, Liberty, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch. In a statement, published on Amnesty's website, Lucy Claridge, Amnesty International's Strategic Litigation Director, said, today's ruling "represents a significant step forward in the protection of privacy and freedom of expression worldwide. It sends a strong message to the UK Government that its use of extensive surveillance powers is abusive and runs against the very principles that it claims to be defending." He added: This is particularly important because of the threat that Government surveillance poses to those who work in human rights and investigative journalism, people who often risk their own lives to speak out. Three years ago, this same case forced the UK Government to admit GCHQ had been spying on Amnesty -- a clear sign that our work and the people we work alongside had been put at risk. The judges considered three aspects of digital surveillance: bulk interception of communications, intelligence sharing and obtaining of communications data from communications service providers. By a majority of five to two votes, the Strasbourg judges found that GCHQ's bulk interception regime violated article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees privacy, because there were said to be insufficient safeguards, and rules governing the selection of "related communications data" were deemed to be inadequate, The Guardian newspaper reported. Commenting on the ruling, Snowden, wrote, "For five long years, governments have denied that global mass surveillance violates of your rights. And for five long years, we have chased them through the doors of every court. Today, we won. Don't thank me: thank all of those who never stopped fighting."Read Replies (0)