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)
By msmash from Slashdot's browser-updates department
Mozilla today launched Firefox 67 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. From a report: The 10th release since Mozilla's big Firefox Quantum launch in November 2017 doubles down on performance and privacy. Firefox 67 includes deprioritizing least commonly used features, suspending unused tabs, faster startup, blocking of cryptomining and fingerprinting, Private Browsing improvements, voice input in the Android search widget, and more. [...] Firefox 67 is better at performing tasks at the optimal time, resulting in faster "painting" of the page. Specifically, the browser deprioritizes least commonly used features and delays set Timeout to prioritize scripts for things you need. Mozilla says Instagram, Amazon, and Google searches now execute between 40% and 80% faster. Firefox also now scans for alternative style sheets after page load and doesn't load the auto-fill module unless there is a form to complete. Next, Firefox 67 detects if your computer's memory is running low (under 400MB) and suspends unused tabs. If you do click on a tab that you haven't used or looked at in a while, it will reload where you left off. Finally, Firefox 67 promises faster startup for users that customized their browser with an add-on.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-in-a-name department
secwatcher writes: There was a lot more to the name game behind choosing titles for ZombieLoad, Spectre and Meltdown than picking cool and edgy attack titles. If you have ever wondered why they were named what they were, Threatpost tracked down one of the researchers behind the naming convention (and discovery) and found out. Much like the funky titles of advanced persistent threat groups, these speculative execution attacks, which impact Intel CPUs, are often named to reflect the impact behind the vulnerabilities, their attributes and how the attack processes work. "We always try to come up with names that somehow resemble the nature of the attack," Daniel Gruss, a security researcher from the Graz University of Technology and one of the founders of the ZombieLoad flaw, told Threatpost in a recent podcast interview. When it comes to ZombieLoad, "the nature of the attack is also something which fits the name very well," said Gruss. That's because the attack relies on the processor sending multiple load requests out to load data (instead of loading data once), as a result of the chip carrying out processes that will work in the most optimistic, opportunistic way, said Gruss.
Spectre and Meltdown, for their part, have their own history behind their names. The idea for naming Spectre after a ghost -- also known by its logo, of a malevolent-looking ghost with a stick in its hand -- came from from Paul Kocher, one of the collaborating researchers who discovered the flaw. "The reasoning behind the name was that Spectre is ... it's not a nice spectre," Gruss told Threatpost. Meltdown, meanwhile, was so named because the vulnerability "melts security boundaries which are normally enforced by the hardware." But beyond that, unlike Spectre, the attack can be fixed and won't haunt users for years to come, said Gruss.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's word-of-wisdom department
Tim Cook told graduates at Tulane University that his "generation has failed" them by fighting more than making change on issues including immigration, criminal justice and, pointedly, climate change. From a report: "We've been too focused on the fight and not enough on the progress," the Apple chief executive said Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. "You don't need to look far to find an example of that failure." He was referring to the Superdome, which sheltered thousands from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He then criticized, without naming, politicians who raise doubts about climate change or its cause, a group that includes President Donald Trump.
"I don't think we can talk about who we are as a people and what we owe to one another without talking about climate change," he said. Cook, 58, said the solution to climate change won't be found based on whose side wins or loses an election. "It's about who has won life's lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue and who stands to lose everything," he said. "I challenge you to look for those who have the most to lose and find the real, true empathy that comes from something shared," Cook said. "When you do that, the political noise dies down."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's future-of-work department
As automation changes the way factories operate, some U.S. companies are training workers in programming and robotics, letting machinists get a taste of coding. From a report: Competition from China was among the reasons Drew Greenblatt, chief executive of manufacturing firm Marlin Steel Wire Products, purchased $2 million worth of robots in the past 15 months. The Baltimore-based maker of wire baskets is training employees on operating the robots and using laser-cutting software. The company's machinists develop code so robots can make parts to specifications, replacing several workers who physically created parts. Other employees use collaborative software to interact with customers on real-time design changes, helping the company manufacture higher-quality steel products, charge more for them and create unique intellectual property, he said. Marlin Steel is on track to generate $8 million in revenue this year, up from about $5 million the previous year.
[...] Radwell International, a manufacturing and repair firm based in Willingboro, N.J., identified workers with an aptitude for learning and decent knowledge of processes and systems and trained them in skills such as programming on Visual Basic to build software tools to handle tasks like purchasing. Radwell IT staff who learned Python, a programming language used widely in artificial intelligence and data science, built an AI system to sort incoming parts. The system helps recognize parts based on rough contours, differentiating a circuit breaker from a motor. The staff is now developing a machine-vision-based AI system to recognize parts. Employees are also being trained on manufacturing techniques like 3-D printing to make replacement parts for customers.Read Replies (0)