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Could VR Field Trips Replace the Real Thing?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 20 '17 at 12:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's digital-nature department:
turkeydance shares a report from RTV6, which cites a new editorial in the journal Science that explores the question, "Could VR field trips replace the real thing?" Virtual field trips have been around for a while, but they used to be pretty boring: some photos, some text -- basically a Wikipedia entry. But they've come a long way. Nearpod and Google Expeditions let students immerse themselves in places they couldn't normally visit, like Antarctica or even Mars. These virtual field trips are safer and easier to organize than real outings, and they might soon be cheaper, too. Douglas McCauley, assistant professor of ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says traditional field trips have already declined under budget constraints, so schools might be tempted to simply make a switch. McCauley says he's excited about the possibilities of VR. Taking students back to prehistoric times or forward to witness the results of climate change could be a powerful teaching tool.

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Senators Announce New Bill That Would Regulate Online Political Ads
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 08:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's publicly-available department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As tech companies face continued scrutiny over Russian activity on their ad platforms, Senators today announced legislation meant to regulate political ads on the internet. The new bill, called the Honest Ads Act, would require companies like Facebook and Google to keep copies of political ads and make them publicly available. Under the act, the companies would also be required to release information on who those ads were targeted to, as well as information on the buyer and the rates charged for the ads. The new rules would bring disclosure rules more in line with how political ads are regulated in mediums like print and TV, and apply to any platform with more than 50 million monthly viewers. The companies would be required to keep and release data on anyone spending more than $500 on political ads in a year. It's unclear how well the bill will fare. Companies like Facebook have been successfully fighting regulations for years. But this latest attempt has some bipartisan support: the act, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is also co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). "Americans deserve to know who's paying for the online ads," Klobuchar said at a press conference announcing the legislation.

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Denuvo's DRM Now Being Cracked Within Hours of Release
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 06:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's best-in-class department:
Denuvo, an anti-tamper technology and digital rights management scheme, isn't doing a very good job preventing PC games from being copied. According to Ars Technica, Denuvo releases are being publicly cracked within a day of their launch. From the report: This week's release of South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the latest to see its protections broken less than 24 hours after its release, but it's not alone. Middle Earth: Shadow of War was broken within a day last week, and last month saw cracks for Total War: Warhammer 2 and FIFA 18 the very same day as their public release. Then there's The Evil Within 2, which reportedly used Denuvo in prerelease review copies but then launched without that protection last week, effectively ceding the game to immediate potential piracy. Those nearly instant Denuvo cracks follow summer releases like Sonic Mania, Tekken 7, and Prey, all of which saw DRM protection cracked within four to nine days of release. But even that small difference in the "uncracked" protection window can be important for game publishers, who usually see a large proportion of their legitimate sales in those first few days of availability. The presence of an easy-to-find cracked version in that launch window (or lack thereof) could have a significant effect on the initial sales momentum for a big release. If Denuvo can no longer provide even a single full day of protection from cracks, though, that protection is going to look a lot less valuable to publishers.

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Verizon Loses 18,000 Pay TV Subscribers, Signals Delay For Live TV Streaming Service
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 06:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department:
Verizon announced on Thursday that its FiOS video service lost 18,000 net pay TV subscribers in the third quarter, compared with the addition of 36,000 subscribers in the year-ago period and 15,000 subscriber drop in the second quarter. Hollywood Reporter reports: The company said the drop in the latest quarter was "reflecting the ongoing shift from traditional linear video to over-the-top offerings." Verizon, led by chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam, ended the third quarter with a total of 4.6 million subscribers to its FiOS video service, which competes with cable and satellite TV companies. Asked about a planned over-the-top (OTT) TV service from Verizon, Ellis said that the company continues to feel that "there's an opportunity for us to play," but signaling a delay, he emphasized that the company "doesn't want to launch a me-too product." He didn't provide any guidance on when the OTT service would launch, saying that was still "TBD" (to be determined), or what content it could offer beyond saying it was likely to be built "around live programming." Verizon also reported Thursday that it added 66,000 net new FiOS broadband connections in the third quarter to end it with 5.8 million.

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How Google's Pixel 2 'Now Playing' Song Identification Works
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 05:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
An anonymous reader shares a report from VentureBeat, written by Emil Protalinski: The most interesting Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL feature, to me, is Now Playing. If you've ever used Shazam or SoundHound, you probably understand the basics: The app uses your device's microphone to capture an audio sample and creates an acoustic fingerprint to compare against a central song database. If a match is found, information such as the song title and artist are sent back to the user. Now Playing achieves this with two important differentiators. First, Now Playing detects songs automatically without you explicitly asking -- the feature works when your phone is locked and the information is displayed on the Pixel 2's lock screen (you'll eventually be able to ask Google Assistant what's currently playing, but not yet). Secondly, it's an on-device and local feature: Now Playing functions completely offline (we tested this, and indeed it works with mobile data and Wi-Fi turned off). No audio is ever sent to Google.

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Amazon Spends $350K On Seattle Mayor's Race
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 05:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's money-trail department:
reifman writes: Until this summer, Amazon had never contributed more than $15,000 to a city political campaign in Seattle, but this year's different. The company is a lead funder in the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's PAC which dropped $525,000 Monday on Jenny Durkan's PAC, the centrist business candidate. Her opponent Cary Moon is an advocate for affordable housing, which complicates Amazon's growth, and city-owned community broadband. Comcast and Century Link joined Amazon contributing $25,000 and $82,500 respectively to the Chamber's PAC. Amazon's $350,000 contribution represents .00014 of its CY 2016 net profit.

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Apple Watch's LTE Suspended In China Possibly Due To Government Security Concerns
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's security-concerns department:
The Apple Watch Series 3's best new feature has been mysteriously blocked in China. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, China has cut off the Apple Watch's LTE connectivity on Sept. 28 after brief availability from China Unicom. Industry analysts claim that the suspension is probably from governmental concerns about not being able to track and confirm users of the device. AppleInsider reports: Apple issued a brief statement confirming the situation, and referring customers to China Unicom. Neither China Unicom, nor Chinese regulators have made any statement on the matter. The issue may stem from the eSIM in the Apple Watch. Devices like the iPhone have state-owned telecom company-issued SIM cards -- and the eSIM is embedded in the device by Apple. "The eSIM (system) isn't mature enough yet in China," one analyst said. "The government still needs to figure out how they can control the eSIM." The LTE version of the Apple Watch had only a trial certificate to operate on the Chinese LTE network. An analyst who asked not to be identified expects that Ministry of Industry and Information Technology may take months to figure out how the government will deal with the eSIM, and issue a formal certificate for operation.

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Almost Half of Tech Workers Worry About Losing Their Jobs Because of Ageism, Says Survey
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's worry-wart department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from SiliconBeat: More than 40 percent of tech workers worry about losing their jobs because of age, a new survey shows. Jobs site Indeed also found that 18 percent of those who work in the tech industry worry "all the time" about losing their jobs because of ageism. The release of the survey Thursday comes amid other news about diversity -- or lack thereof -- in tech workplaces. Often when we report about diversity issues, readers wonder about older workers. The Indeed survey offers insight into the age of the tech workforce: It's young. Indeed concluded from surveying more than 1,000 respondents in September that the tech workforce is composed of about 46 percent millennials, with 36 percent of respondents saying the average employee age at their company is 31 to 35, and 17 percent saying that the average worker age at their company is 20 to 30. What about Generation X and baby boomers? Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the average age of employees at their company is 36 to 40, while 26 percent of respondents said the workers at their companies are 40 and older.

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Alphabet Invests $1 Billion In Lyft
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ride-hailing department:
Lyft announced Thursday that Google-parent Alphabet is leading a $1 billion financing round into the ride-hailing company. This ups Lyft's valuation from $7.5 billion to $11 billion. The funding is coming from CapitalG, one of Alphabet's investment firms. CNET reports: "CapitalG is honored to work with Lyft's compelling founders and strong leadership team," David Lawee, CapitalG partner, said in a statement. "Ridesharing is still in its early days and we look forward to seeing Lyft continue its impressive growth." Compared with Uber, Lyft has long been the small dog in the ride-hailing world. Before now, it's received $2.6 billion in venture funding, whereas Uber has received $12.9 billion and is valued at $68 billion. Alphabet's investment in Lyft could be a sore spot for rival Uber. Uber is currently locked in a legal battle with Waymo.

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Consumer Reports Expects Tesla's Model 3 To Have 'Average Reliability'
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 02:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's take-note department:
There may be only a few hundred Tesla Model 3s on the street, but Consumer Reports already has an opinion on the new car's dependability. From a report: "We are predicting that the Model 3 should have about average reliability," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. Average may irritate Tesla fans and the nearly 500,000 people who have reserved a Model 3, but Fisher believes people should understand what Consumer Reports expects from the new car. "We don't go around recommending that people buy cars that are below average, so if it is average or better, that is not a bad thing at all," said Fisher. "But let's be very clear, we are not giving it super high marks. We are saying it is basically par for the course." Consumer Reports has yet to buy a Model 3 and put it through a battery of tests, as the magazine does for dozens of vehicles. In addition, so few Model 3 cars have been delivered that Fisher and his team have yet to get a sense of how owners feel about their new Tesla.

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Canada's 'Super Secret Spy Agency' Is Releasing a Malware-Fighting Tool To the Public
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 02:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-greater-good department:
Matthew Braga, reporting for CBC News: Canada's electronic spy agency says it is taking the "unprecedented step" of releasing one of its own cyber defence tools to the public, in a bid to help companies and organizations better defend their computers and networks against malicious threats. The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) rarely goes into detail about its activities -- both offensive and defensive -- and much of what is known about the agency's activities have come from leaked documents obtained by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and published in recent years. But as of late, CSE has acknowledged it needs to do a better job of explaining to Canadians exactly what it does. Today, it is pulling back the curtain on an open-source malware analysis tool called Assemblyline that CSE says is used to protect the Canadian government's sprawling infrastructure each day. "It's a tool that helps our analysts know what to look at, because it's overwhelming for the number of people we have to be able to protect things," Scott Jones, who heads the agency's IT security efforts, said in an interview with CBC News. On the one hand, open sourcing Assemblyline's code is a savvy act of public relations, and Jones readily admits the agency is trying to shed its "super secret spy agency" reputation in the interest of greater transparency.

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Profile of William H. Alsup, a Judge Who Codes and Decides Tech's Biggest Cases
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's longreads department:
Sarah Jeong at The Verge has an interesting profile of William H. Alsup, the judge in Oracle v. Google case, who to many's surprise was able to comment on the technical issues that Oracle and Google were fighting about. Alsup admits that he learned the Java programming language only so that he could better understand the substance of the case. Here's an excerpt from the interview: On May 18th, 2012, attorneys for Oracle and Google were battling over nine lines of code in a hearing before Judge William H. Alsup of the northern district of California. The first jury trial in Oracle v. Google, the fight over whether Google had hijacked code from Oracle for its Android system, was wrapping up. The argument centered on a function called rangeCheck. Of all the lines of code that Oracle had tested -- 15 million in total -- these were the only ones that were "literally" copied. Every keystroke, a perfect duplicate. It was in Oracle's interest to play up the significance of rangeCheck as much as possible, and David Boies, Oracle's lawyer, began to argue that Google had copied rangeCheck so that it could take Android to market more quickly. Judge Alsup was not buying it. "I couldn't have told you the first thing about Java before this trial," said the judge. "But, I have done and still do a lot of programming myself in other languages. I have written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times or more. I could do it. You could do it. It is so simple." It was an offhand comment that would snowball out of control, much to Alsup's chagrin. It was first repeated among lawyers and legal wonks, then by tech publications. With every repetition, Alsup's skill grew, until eventually he became "the judge who learned Java" -- Alsup the programmer, the black-robed nerd hero, the 10x judge, the "master of the court and of Java."

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Doctors To Breathalyse Smokers Before Allowing Them NHS Surgery
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's controversial-moves department:
Smokers in Hertfordshire, a county in southern England, are to be breathalysed to ensure they have kicked the habit before they are referred for non-urgent surgery. From a report, shared by several readers: Smokers will be breath-tested before they are considered for non-urgent surgery, two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have decided. Patients in Hertfordshire must stop smoking at least eight weeks before surgery or it may be delayed. Obese patients have also been told they must lose weight in order to have non-urgent surgery. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said the plan seemed to be "against the principles of the NHS (the publicly funded national healthcare system for England)." A joint committee of the Hertfordshire Valleys and the East and North Hertfordshire CCGs, which made the decisions, said they had to "make best use of the money and resources available." Patients with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 must lose 15% of their weight and those with a BMI of over 30 must lose 10%, or reduce it to under a 40 BMI or a 30 BMI - whichever is the greater amount. The lifestyle changes to reduce weight must take place over nine months.

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Amazon Battles Google for Renewable Energy Crown
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's good-fights department:
Readers share a report: Even in the age of coal enthusiast President Donald Trump, clean-energy developers are finding plenty of interest in wind and solar power from businesses with sustainability targets, especially technology companies. That was on display in a video tweeted Thursday by Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, as he christened the 253-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm Texas in Scurry County. Amazon has bought more than 1.22 gigawatts of output to date from U.S. clean-energy projects, second only to Alphabet's Google, with 1.85 gigawatts. Corporations have agreed to buy 1.9 gigawatts of clean power in the U.S. this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and are on pace to match the 2.6 gigawatts signed last year.

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Discovery of 50km Cave Raises Hopes For Human Colonisation of Moon
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
New submitter Zorro shares a report: Scientists have fantasised for centuries about humans colonising the moon. That day may have drawn a little closer after Japan's space agency said it had discovered an enormous cave beneath the lunar surface that could be turned into an exploration base for astronauts. The discovery, by Japan's Selenological and Engineering Explorer (Selene) probe, comes as several countries vie to follow the US in sending manned missions to the moon. Using a radar sounder system that can examine underground structures, the orbiter initially found an opening 50 metres wide and 50 metres deep, prompting speculation that there could be a larger hollow. This week scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed the presence of a cave after examining the hole using radio waves. The chasm, 50km (31 miles) long and 100 metres wide, appears to be structurally sound and its rocks may contain ice or water deposits that could be turned into fuel, according to data sent back by the orbiter, nicknamed Kaguya after the moon princess in a Japanese fairytale. Jaxa believes the cave, located from a few dozen metres to 200 metres beneath an area of volcanic domes known as the Marius Hills on the moon's near side, is a lava tube created during volcanic activity about 3.5bn years ago.

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Japanese Metal Manufacturer Faked Specifications To Hundreds of Companies
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fake-it-till-you-make-it department:
schwit1 writes: Kobe Steel, a major Japanese supplier of steel and other metals worldwide, has admitted that it faked the specifications to metals shipped to hundreds of companies over the past decade.Last week, Kobe Steel admitted that staff fudged reports on the strength and durability of products requested by its clients -- including those from the airline industry, cars, space rockets, and Japan's bullet trains. The company estimated that four percent of aluminum and copper products shipped from September 2016 to August 2017 were falsely labelled, Automotive News reported.
But on Friday, the company's CEO, Hiroya Kawasaki, revealed the scandal has impacted about 500 companies -- doubling the initial count -- and now includes steel products, too. The practice of falsely labeling data to meet customer's specifications could date back more than 10 years, according to the Financial Times.For rockets the concern is less serious as they generally are not built for a long lifespan, but for airplanes and cars this news could be devastating, requiring major rebuilds on many operating vehicles.

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Turning the Optical Fiber Network Into a Giant Earthquake Sensor
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's in-quest-of-eureka department:
Tekla Perry writes: Researchers at Stanford have demonstrated that they can use ordinary, underground fiber optic cables to monitor for earthquakes, by using innate impurities in the fiber as virtual sensors. "People didn't believe this would work," said one of the researchers. "They always assumed that an uncoupled optical fiber would generate too much signal noise to be useful." They plan a larger test installation in 2018. Their biggest challenge, they say, will not be perfecting the algorithms but rather convincing telcos to allow the technology to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines. Meanwhile, the same data is being used for an art project that visualizes the activity of pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and fountains on the surface above the cables.

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Targeted Fuzzing Is Improving Linux Security, Linus Torvalds Says
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-trend department:
On the sidelines of announcing the fifth release candidate for the Linux kernel version 4.14, Linus Torvalds said fuzzing, which involves stress testing a system by generating random code to induce errors, is helping the community find and fix a range of security vulnerabilities. He wrote: The other thing perhaps worth mentioning is how much random fuzzing people are doing, and it's finding things. We've always done fuzzing (who remembers the old "crashme" program that just generated random code and jumped to it? We used to do that quite actively very early on), but people have been doing some nice targeted fuzzing of driver subsystems etc, and there's been various fixes (not just this last week either) coming out of those efforts. Very nice to see.

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Google Engineers Explore Ways To Stop In-Browser Cryptocurrency Miners in Chrome
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's brainstorming department:
An anonymous reader writes: Google Chrome engineers are considering adding a special browser permission that will thwart the rising trend of in-browser cryptocurrency miners. Discussions on the topic of in-browser miners have been going on the Chromium project's bug tracker since mid-September when Coinhive, the first such service, launched. "Here's my current thinking," Ojan Vafai, a Chrome engineering working on the Chromium project, wrote in one of the recent bug reports. "If a site is using more than XX% CPU for more than YY seconds, then we put the page into 'battery saver mode' where we aggressively throttle tasks and show a toast [notification popup] allowing the user to opt-out of battery saver mode. When a battery saver mode tab is backgrounded, we stop running tasks entirely. I think we'll want measurement to figure out what values to use for XX and YY, but we can start with really egregious things like 100% and 60 seconds. I'm effectively suggesting we add a permission here, but it would have unusual triggering conditions [...]. It only triggers when the page is doing a likely bad thing." An earlier suggestion had Google create a blacklist and block the mining code at the browser level. That suggestion was shut down as being too impractical and something better left to extensions.

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EU: No Encryption Backdoors But, Let's Help Each Other Crack That Crypto
Posted by News Fetcher on October 19 '17 at 08:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's evolving-thoughts department:
The European Commission has proposed that member states help each other break into encrypted devices by sharing expertise around the bloc. From a report: In an attempt to tackle the rise of citizens using encryption and its effects on solving crimes, the commission decided to sidestep the well-worn, and well-ridiculed, path of demanding decryption backdoors in the stuff we all use. Instead, the plans set out in its antiterrorism measures on Wednesday take a more collegiate approach -- by offering member states more support when they actually get their hands on an encrypted device. "The commission's position is very clear -- we are not in favour of so-called backdoors, the utilisation of systemic vulnerabilities, because it weakens the overall security of our cyberspace, which we rely upon," security commissioner Julian King told a press briefing. "We're trying to move beyond a sometimes sterile debate between backdoors or no backdoors, and address some of the concrete law enforcement challenges. For instance, when [a member state] gets a device, how do they get information that might be encrypted on the device." [...] Share the wealth. "Some member states are more equipped technically to do that [extract information from a seized device] than others," King said. "We want to make sure no member state is at a disadvantage, by sharing the tech expertise among the member states and reinforcing the support that Europol can offer."

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