By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Qualcomm illegally suppressed competition in the market for smartphone chips by threatening to cut off supplies and extracting excessive licensing fees, a U.S. judge ruled, a decision that could force the company to overhaul its business practices. From a report: The decision issued late Tuesday night by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, caused Qualcomm shares to plunge 9.5 percent in early trading on Wednesday. "Qualcomm's licensing practices have strangled competition" in parts of the chip market for years, harming rivals, smartphone makers, and consumers, Koh wrote in a 233-page decision. She ordered the San Diego-based company to renegotiate licensing agreements at reasonable prices, without threatening to cut off supplies, and ordered that it be monitored for seven years to ensure its compliance. Qualcomm said it will immediately ask Koh to put her decision on hold, and also seek a quick appeal to the federal appeals court in California. "We strongly disagree with the judge's conclusions, her interpretation of the facts and her application of the law," general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's another-one-bites-the-dust department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The U.S. administration is considering limits to Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision's ability to buy U.S. technology, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, in a move that deepens worries about trade frictions between the world's two top economies. The move would effectively place Hikvision on a U.S. blacklist and U.S. companies may have to obtain government approval to supply components to Hikvision, the paper said. The U.S. Commerce Department blocked Huawei Technologies from buying U.S. goods last week, effectively banning U.S. companies from doing business with the Chinese firm, a major escalation in the trade war, saying Huawei was involved in activities contrary to national security.
Hikvision and Dahua Technology which produce audio-visual equipment that can be used for surveillance were specifically cited in a letter to Trump's top advisers last month, signed by more than 40 lawmakers. The lawmakers said China's actions in its western region of Xinjiang "may constitute crimes against humanity" and urged tighter U.S. export controls to ensure that U.S. companies are not assisting the Chinese government's crackdown there. The issue stems around the facilities in China that "U.N. experts describe as mass detention centers holding more than 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims," reports CNBC. "Beijing has said its measures in Xinjiang, which are also reported to include widespread surveillance of the population, are aimed at stemming the threat of Islamist militancy. The facilities or camps that have opened are vocational training centers, the government has said."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's grab-your-popcorn department
SpaceX is planning to launch test flights of its Starhopper test vehicle to a height of up to 16,400 feet. "The short tests, which will take place out of SpaceX's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, will send the rocket to just under 1,640 feet (500 meters) high for its low-altitude flights and up to 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) high for its high-altitude flights," reports The Verge, citing a modified application filed with the FCC. The heights match those that the company indicated in a similar filing last year. From the report: The Starhopper is a very basic version of Starship, the massive passenger rocket that SpaceX wants to build to send people to the Moon and Mars. In order to prepare for the first Starship's flight to space, SpaceX has been tinkering with the test Starhopper in Boca Chica. The vehicle boasts a similar structure to the final rocket, though it's slightly smaller in size. Starhopper's most important task is to test out the new, powerful Raptor engines that SpaceX has developed for the future deep-space rocket.
SpaceX fired up a Raptor engine on the bottom of the Starhopper for the first time in April. It only lifted a few inches since the vehicle was tethered to the ground. But now, SpaceX plans to perform what are known as "hop" tests with the vehicle (hence the nickname Starhopper), which will send the rocket to a low altitude above the Earth. The company will then attempt to touch the Starhopper back down on the ground with the vehicle's three landing legs. The idea is to test out the landing capabilities the rocket's going to use to touch down on Earth and other worlds. SpaceX performed similar tests with a vehicle known as Grasshopper back in 2012 and 2013 to try out the landing technique its Falcon 9 rockets now use.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's natural-processes department
Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains. The Associated Press reports: It allows licensed facilities to offer "natural organic reduction," which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows' worth of soil in a span of several weeks. Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated -- or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.
Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land. State law previously dictated that remains be disposed of by burial or cremation. The law, which takes effect in May 2020, added composting as well as alkaline hydrolysis, a process already legal in 19 other states. The latter uses heat, pressure, water and chemicals like lye to reduce remains.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's privacy-matters department
Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of the Auto Care Association, argues that car owners (or lessees) should be the only ones who can control their car's data. "He or she should be aware of the data the car transmits, have control over it and determine who can see it," Hanvey writes. Many have argued this position for the privacy angle, but Harvey takes a different facet of this conversation, pointing out that carmakers control our data to limit where we get repairs or services done. If policymakers don't act on behalf of consumers, Hanvey writes, car and truck owners may be forced to go to select service centers for repairs, circumventing the more than 180,000 independent repair shops across the country that have all the tools needed to work on today's newest cars, but lack access to the necessary diagnostic information needed to complete the job. An anonymous reader shares the report: Because of the increasing complexity of cars and the Internet of Things, data is critical to repair and service. When carmakers control the data, they can choose which service centers receive our information. They're more likely to share our data exclusively with their branded dealerships than with independent repair shops, which could have the edge in price and convenience. However, independent repair shops currently make 70 percent of outside warranty repairs throughout the country. There are more than 180,000 independent repair shops across the country; most have all the tools needed to work on today's connected and complex cars, and most of today's highly trained service technicians can perform anything from basic tuneups to sophisticated electronic diagnostics. But without access to car data, they're working blindfolded, unable to see the diagnostic information they need. The solution is simple. The only person who should control car data is the car owner (or lessee). He or she should be aware of the data the car transmits, have control over it and determine who can see it.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-get-out-and-about department
"Loneliness is rampant, and it's killing us," writes Kasley Killam for Scientific American. "Anywhere from one quarter to one half of Americans feel lonely a lot of the time, which puts them at risk for developing a range of physical and mental illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression." Killam surfaces several studies that found volunteering to be an effective strategy to help combat this widespread health problem. From the report: In a recent survey of over 10,000 people in the UK, two-thirds reported that volunteering helped them feel less isolated. Similarly, a 2018 study of nearly 6,000 people across the US examined widows who, unsurprisingly, felt lonelier than married adults. After starting to volunteer for two or more hours per week, their average level of loneliness subsided to match that of married adults, even after controlling for demographics, baseline health, personality traits, and other social involvement. These benefits may be especially strong the older you are and the more often you volunteer.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's streaming-vs-cable department
Netflix and other online video services have expanded their customer-satisfaction lead over cable and satellite TV, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found in its annual telecommunications report released today. Ars Technica reports: Streaming-video services averaged a score of 76 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, up from 75 last year. Meanwhile, the traditional subscription-TV industry's score remained unchanged at 62. "For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, not recovering enough to effectively compete with streaming services," the ACSI report said. "In 2018, subscription sales declined 3 percent to $103.4 billion. Customer service remains poor, and cord cutting is accelerating. As video-streaming services gain traction, a growing number of households may never subscribe to pay TV in the first place."
Pay-TV and broadband -- two services that are generally offered in bundles by the same companies -- each posted an industry average of 62, which is again in "last place among all  industries tracked by the ACSI," the report said. Pay-TV's satisfaction score peaked at 68 in 2013 and has dropped steadily since. Streaming services rated significantly higher than cable and satellite in many categories, including the ease of understanding bills, mobile app quality and reliability, and call-center satisfaction. Comcast remained near the bottom of pay-TV rankings with a score of 57, while AT&T's U-verse led the ranking despite dropping from 70 to 69. Coincidentally, AT&T's streaming service -- DirecTV Now -- also fell from 70 to 69. But while the AT&T U-verse TV score of 69 was good enough to lead all cable and satellite TV providers, the DirecTV Now score of 69 was in second-to-last place among streaming providers. Netflix took the top spot in streaming satisfaction by raising its score from 78 to 79.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's safety-first department
Chevrolet is introducing a feature, specifically for teen drivers, that will temporarily block the auto from shifting into gear if their seat belt isn't buckled. A message will alert the driver to buckle up in order to shift into gear. After 20 seconds, the vehicle will operate normally. NPR reports: The feature, which Chevrolet says is an industry first, will come standard in the 2020 models of the Traverse SUV, Malibu sedan and Colorado pickup truck. It will be part of the "Teen Driver" package, which can also be used to set speed alerts and a maximum speed, among other controls, and give parents "report cards" tracking a teen's driving behavior. Chevrolet explains how it works: "To use Teen Driver mode, a parent can enable the feature by creating a PIN in the Settings menu that allows them to register their teen's key fob. The Teen Driver settings are turned on only when a registered key fob is used to start the vehicle."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-to-worse department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vice: A collection of unelected lawyers [from the American Law Institute] this week is quietly pushing a new proposal that could dramatically erode your legal rights, leaving you at the mercy of giant corporations eager to protect themselves from accountability. Occasionally, this coalition (including all the members of the Supreme Court) meets to create "restatements," effectively an abridged synopsis or reference guide for the latest established precedents and legal trends. While restatements themselves aren't legally binding, they're very influential and often help shape judicial opinions. Seven years ago, the ALI began pondering a new restatement governing consumer contracts -- and your legal rights as a consumer. Today, the ALI meets to vote on the approval of this latest restatement. But a long line of legal experts have been blasting the group's updated language governing consumer contracts.
Specifically, they noted that the updated draft language proclaims that consumers would not need to read a contract to be bound by its terms. The draft states as long as consumers received "reasonable notice" and had "reasonable opportunity to review" it, the contract would be legally binding. Under this model, consumers wouldn't need to even understand the contract to be bound by it, a problem given data suggests such agreements are often incomprehensible to the average user. The language was problematic enough to result in a letter this week by 23 state attorneys general, criticizing the ALI's proposal as a major threat to consumer rights. "To call boilerplate language that consumers never read (or if they did read, could not understand) a 'contract' simply has the effect of locking consumers in to terms that are likely to be stacked against them," John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at consumer group Public Knowledge, said in an email.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's dystopian-devices department
Comcast is reportedly working on a device designed to closely monitor a user's health. "The device will monitor people's basic health metrics using ambient sensors, with a focus on whether someone is making frequent trips to the bathroom or spending more time than usual in bed," reports CNBC. "Comcast is also building tools for detecting falls, which are common and potentially fatal for seniors." The Verge reports: Many products on the market today already have the motion sensors, cameras, and other hardware that allow for what Comcast seems to be envisioning -- but not even Amazon or Google have directly sought to keep such a close eye on their customers' personal health with their respective Echo and Home devices. Comcast itself already offers home security services, and the company's much-touted X1 voice remote for its Xfinity cable platform has helped Comcast make advancements in recognizing and processing voice commands.
According to CNBC, Comcast's device won't offer functionality like controlling smart home devices, nor will it have the ability to search for answers to a person's questions on the internet. But it will reportedly "have a personality like Alexa" and be able to place calls to emergency services. In an email to The Verge, a Comcast spokesperson said the company's upcoming device "is NOT a smart speaker" and "is purpose-built to be a sensor that detects motion." It's said that Comcast aims to offer the device and a companion health tracking service to "at-risk people, including seniors and people with disabilities." The company is also in discussions with hospitals about potentially "using the device to ensure that patients don't end up back in the hospital after they've been discharged."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's self-regulation department
In a blog post, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Julie Brill says the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been very effective in changing the way that tech companies handle personal data, and feels the U.S. should enact something similar at the federal level. TechSpot reports: "[Companies] have adapted, putting new systems and processes in place to ensure that individuals understand what data is collected about them and can correct it if it is inaccurate and delete it or move it somewhere else if they choose," she wrote. Brill points out that the GDPR has inspired other countries to adopt similar regulations. She also pats her company on the back for being "the first company to provide the data control rights at the heart of GDPR to our customers around the globe, not just in Europe."
However, such self-regulation is not good enough. While some states such as California and Illinois have strong data protection laws in place, Brill feels the US needs something similar to the GDPR at the federal level. "No matter how much work companies like Microsoft do to help organizations secure sensitive data and empower individuals to manage their own data, preserving a strong right to privacy will always fundamentally be a matter of law that falls to governments," Brill states. "Despite the high level of interest in exercising control over personal data from U.S. consumers, the United States has yet to join the EU and other nations around the world in passing national legislation that accounts for how people use technology in their lives today." Brill suggests the federal government should enact regulation that models the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect next year.
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By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
As Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social platforms come under fire for enabling hateful speech, Microsoft is stepping up to thwart toxic comments among its 63 million Xbox live users. From a report: Microsoft needs to make sure Xbox players don't hear or see content that might turn off users, or scare younger players away. Microsoft is making these moves after the ascent of the Gamergate controversy, which led to people harassing and making threats against women. The changes follow Microsoft's recent update to its Xbox "community standards" for gameplay, which pointed out several practices that aren't acceptable. Now it's taking that a step further with moderation tools.
"This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games," Microsoft's executive vice president of gaming, Phil Spencer, said Monday. "We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019." Xbox Live has 63 million monthly active users, and the service includes groups where people can post content and submit comments, along with chat rooms. "Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety," he added.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Does the overcrowded and cut-throat music streaming business have room for an additional player? The world's most valuable startup certainly thinks so. From a report: Chinese conglomerate ByteDance, valued at more than $75 billion, is working on a music streaming service, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The company, which operates popular app TikTok, has held discussions with music labels in recent months to launch the app as soon as the end of this quarter, one of the sources said. The app will offer both a premium and an ad-supported free tier, one of the sources said. Bloomberg, which first wrote about the premium app, reported that ByteDance is targeting emerging markets with its new music app. Further reading: Chinese Video Sensation TikTok Surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in Downloads in October 2018.Read Replies (0)