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Flickering Lights May Illuminate A Path To Alzheimer's Treatment
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '16 at 11:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rays-of-hope department:
Slashdot reader rpavlicek writes, "Research done by MIT late this year has shown that light signals can improve the brain's neuron gamma frequency which can reverse the effects of Alzheimer's disease (by removing brain plaque). Beneficial effects were found in both intercranial and optical stimuli." The Los Angeles Times reports:

New research demonstrates that, in mice whose brains are under attack by Alzheimer's dementia, exposure to lights that flicker at a precise frequency can right the brain's faulty signaling and energize its immune cells to fight off the disease... In mice, these effects were limited to the visual cortex. In humans with Alzheimer's, that's not one of the brain regions that gets gummed up early or significantly by amyloid plaques. But the authors of the new research held out hope that the light therapy might induce gamma oscillations, or their immune-boosting effect, more broadly in human brains, or that some change in delivery of the light might extend its effects to brain regions, such as the hippocampus, that are profoundly affected by Alzheimer's.
A startup has already approached the FDA seeking clinical trials, and the L.A. Times adds that "Even if the new research does not yield a treatment for Alzheimer's, it is expected to deepen understanding of a key player in the disease -- the brain's dedicated immune system -- and point to ways it can be used to fight the disease."

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The Recent Changes In Earth's Magnetic Field
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '16 at 10:32 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speaking-of-the-north-pole department:
Europe's Swarm constellation of satellites have documented bigger-than-expected changes that have been occurring in the Earth's magnetic field. Earlier this year SpaceWeather.com reported that the data show clearly that "the field has weakened by about 3.5% at high latitudes over North America, while it has strengthened about 2% over Asia. The region where the field is at its weakest -- the South Atlantic Anomaly -- has moved steadily westward and weakened further by about 2%. These changes have occurred over the relatively brief period between 1999 and mid-2016." Science writer Robert Zimmerman reports:
It was already known that the field has weakened globally by about 10% since the 19th century. These changes appear to be part of that generally weakening. Some scientists have proposed that this is the beginning of an overall flip of the magnetic field's polarity, something that happens on average about every 300,000 years and last occurred 780,000 years ago. At the moment, however, we have no idea if this theory is correct.

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Did Google.org Steal the Christmas Spirit?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '16 at 09:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's feeling-Grinchy department:
Google.org gives nonprofits roughly $100 million each year. But now the Register argues that festive giving "has become a 'Googlicious' sales push." Among other things, The Register criticizes the $30 million in grant funding that Google.org gave this Christmas "to nonprofits to bring phones, tablets, hardware and training to communities that can benefit from them most," some of which utilized the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose (which tacks a fee of at least $30 fee onto every donation). "The most critical learning resources that teachers need are often exercise books, pen and paper, but incentives built into the process steer educators to request and receive Google hardware, rather than humble classroom staples," claims the Register. theodp writes:

[O]ne can't help but wonder if Google.org's decision to award $18,130 to teachers at Timberland Charter Academy for Chromebooks to help make students "become 'Google'licious" while leaving another humbler $399 request from a teacher at the same school for basic school supplies -- pencils, paper, erasers, etc. -- unfunded is more aligned with Google's interests than the Christmas spirit. Google, The Register reminds readers, lowered its 2015 tax bill by $3.6 billion using the old Dutch Sandwich loophole trick, according to new regulatory filings in the Netherlands.

The article even criticizes the "Santa's Village" site at Google.org, which includes games like Code Boogie, plus a game about airport security at the North Pole. Their complaint is its "Season of Giving" game, which invites children to print out and color ornaments that represent charities -- including DonorsChoose.org. The article ends by quoting Slashdot reader theodp ("who documents the influence of Big Tech in education") as saying "Nothing says Christmas fun more than making ornaments to celebrate Google's pet causes..."

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China 'Smart Restaurant' Uses Facial Recognition To Make Meal Suggestions
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '16 at 05:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's how-about-chicken department:
An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch's report about Baidu's newest project:

The search giant sometimes referred to as the 'Google of China' partnered with KFC to open a new "smart restaurant" in Beijing, which employs facial recognition to make recommendations about what customers might order, based on factors like their age, gender and facial expression... image recognition hardware installed at the KFC will scan customer faces, seeking to infer moods, and guess other information including gender an age in order to inform their recommendation... And the setup also has built-in recognition, so if you're a return customer, it can 'remember' what you ordered before and suggest your past favorites.
Baidu has also worked on another KFC restaurant in Shanghai where the orders were taken by a voice-activated robot.

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Voice Is the Next Big Platform, But Amazon Already Owns It
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '16 at 01:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Alexa-crush-the-competition department:
Six million homes already have an Amazon device with it Alexa voice assistant -- about 5% of all households. But Backchannel argues that Amazon is already dominating the race to become the operating system for future voice-activated devices, with Forrester tech analyst James McQuivey pointing out that "having microphones in your environment is a lot more convenient than pulling out your phone."

The Alexa-enabled Echo is a true unicorn, one of those rare products that arrives every few years and fundamentally changes the way we live... After years of false starts, voice interface will finally creep into the mainstream as more people purchase voice-enabled speakers and other gadgets, and as the tech that powers voice starts to improve.

Despite competition from Google Home, and a rumored "Home Hub" from Microsoft, Amazon "has a two-year jump on its competition, having first introduced the Echo speaker in November 2014," notes the article, adding that Amazon also "opened its platform early to third-party developers." (Alexa now has more than 5,000 "skills".) They argue that Amazon is already winning the war of the operating systems by familiarizing consumers with "a new computing interface -- a voice devoid of a screen -- that will eventually grow to be more ubiquitous and more useful than our smartphones... Soon, you'll speak your wants into the air -- anywhere -- and a woman's warm voice with a mid-Atlantic accent will talk back to you, ready to fulfill your commands."

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Are Airlines Intentionally Overbooking Their Flights?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 08:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's that's-the-ticket department:
"if you sell one seat to two different people, and only one of them shows up, you get extra money," explains an article in Popular Mechanics shared by schwit1. Citing a recent TED-Ed video, they argue that the airlines' strategy for booking flights "makes perfect sense, just not for you."

The most frustrating part? This math could be tuned to ensure the maximum number of tickets sold with a near zero percent chance too many people show up. Instead, the most profitable solutions often involve a decent chance a few passengers getting screwed, because the extra ticket sales outweigh having to put someone up in a hotel now and then.

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'Star Wars' Actress Carrie Fisher 'Stable' After In-Flight Heart Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 07:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's may-the-force-be-with-her department:
!Best-known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens, actress Carrie Fisher is recovering from a "cardiac event" Friday. An anonymous reader quotes ABC:
Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press that she was "out of emergency" and stabilized at a Los Angeles hospital Friday afternoon... The 60-year-old "Star Wars" star experienced medical trouble during a flight from London and was treated by paramedics immediately upon landing in Los Angeles around noon Friday, according to reports citing unnamed sources.

Fisher reportedly remains in the intensive care unit while lots of celebrities are now wishing her a speedy recovery for Christmas, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams, as well as Star Trek actors William Shatner and George Takei. Many fans are using the hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithHer, and she's even receiving messages of support from the Twitter account set up for her therapy dog, Gary.

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Store Adds Donald Trump's Picture To $150,000 Gold-Encased iPhones
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 04:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Christmas-gift-ideas department:
An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report about an iPhone 7 "encased in solid gold, encrusted with diamonds and bearing the face of Donald Trump."
Priced around $151,000, it's just one example of the mind-blowing bling sold by Goldgenie, a store in the United Arab Emirates where the super rich do their shopping. "There are very wealthy, high-net-worth individuals all over the world and sometimes its very difficult to buy gifts for them because they have everything," said Frank Fernando, Goldgenie's managing director... But the phones are far from the most expensive item on sale. A gold-plated racing bike will set you back about $350,000.

If you're thinking no one would buy a $150,000 Trump phone, think again. In the last month, they've sold ten of them.

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US Court Demands Documents On AT&T/Police Collaboration
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 03:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's detailed-records-on-call-detail-records department:
"The federal government has not justified its excessive secrecy about the massive telephone surveillance program known as Hemisphere, a court ruled in an EFF Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on Thursday." schwit1 quotes the EFF announcement: As a result, the federal government must submit roughly 260 pages of previously withheld or heavily redacted records to the court so that it can review them and decide whether to make more information about Hemisphere public.
Hemisphere is a partnership between AT&T and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that allows police almost real-time access to telephone call detail records. The program is both extremely controversial -- AT&T requires police to hide its use from the public -- and appears to violate our First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Government lawyers had argued the disputed documents were restricted to use at the federal level, but the court remained unconvinced, especially "after EFF demonstrated that many of them appeared to have been given to state and local law enforcement."

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How Would You Generate C Code Using Common Lisp Macros?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 01:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's one-language-to-rule-them-all department:
Long-time Slashdot reader kruhft brings news about a new S-Expression based language transpiler that has the feel of C.
This structure allows for the creation of code generation macros using the full power of the host Common Lisp environment, a language designed for operating on S-Expressions, also known as Lists. It is unknown exactly what power might come about from this combination of low level processing with high level code generation.

This has prompted some discussion online about other attempts to convert Lisp to C -- raising several more questions. How (and why) would you convert your Lisp code into C, and what would then be the best uses for this capability?

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US Congressional Committee Concludes Encryption Backdoors Won't Work
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 12:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's talking-vs-unlocking department:
"Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest," reports a bipartisan committee in the U.S. Congress. Mark Wilson quotes Beta News:

The Congressional Encryption Working Group (EWG) was set up in the wake of the Apple vs FBI case in which the FBI wanted to gain access to the encrypted contents of a shooter's iPhone. The group has just published its end-of-year report summarizing months of meetings, analysis and debate. The report makes four key observations, starting off with: "Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest".

This is certainly not a new argument against encryption backdoors for the likes of the FBI, but it is an important one... The group says: "Congress should not weaken this vital technology... Cryptography experts and information security professionals believe that it is exceedingly difficult and impractical, if not impossible, to devise and implement a system that gives law enforcement exceptional access to encrypted data without also compromising security against hackers, industrial spies, and other malicious actors...

The report recommends that instead, Congress "should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies," adding "there is already substantial cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement." [PDF] It also suggests that analyzing the metadata from "our digital 'footprints'...could play a role in filling in the gap. The technology community leverages this information every day to improve services and target advertisements. There appears to be an opportunity for law enforcement to better leverage this information in criminal investigations."

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All Cyanogen Services Are Shutting Down
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 11:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's attention-open-source-developers department:
Long-time Slashdot reader Nemosoft Unv. writes: A very brief post on
Cyanogen's blog says it all really: "As part of the ongoing consolidation of Cyanogen, all services and Cyanogen-supported nightly builds will be discontinued no later than 12/31/16. The open source project and source code will remain available for anyone who wants to build CyanogenMod personally." Of course, with no focused team behind the CyanogenMod project it's effectively dead. Building an Android OS from scratch is no mean feat and most users won't be able to pull this off, let alone make fixes and updates. So what will happen next?

Cyanogen had already laid off 20% of its workforce in July, and in November announced they had "separated ties" with Cyanogen founder and primary contributor Steve Kondik. One Android site quoted Kondik as saying "what I was trying to do, is over" in a private Google+ community, and the same day Kondik posted on Twitter, "Time for the next adventure." He hasn't posted since, so it's not clear what he's up to now. But the more important question is whether anyone will continue developing CyanogenMod.

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Twitter Admits It Recently Overcharged For Ads
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 09:52 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's more-bad-news department:
An anonymous reader quotes a CBS report about more bad news for Twitter:
The microblogging service has acknowledged that it inadvertently overcharged some advertisers for video ads, capping off a year that has featured a failed sale of the company, the departure of six of its 10 top executives and a nearly 30% drop in its stock price. As Business Insider reported, a bug in a recent version of Twitter's Android App inflated some metrics by as much as 35% for video ad campaigns that ran between November 7 and December 12. The San Francisco-based company issued refunds to the affected advertisers, which in many cases were for minimal amounts of money, a person familiar with the situation said. "The impact was limited given this happened only on Android clients over the course of a month," the San Francisco-based company said in a statement. "This was a technical error, not a policy or definition issue, so it has been resolved."

One analyst told CBS, "I don't think this as fatal as it is embarrassing."

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GamerGate Critic Brianna Wu To Run For Congress
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 09:52 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's government-by-game-makers department:
"If you look at what our Congress is doing for tech, it's failing. It's putting all of us in danger," game developer Brianna Wu told CNN, adding "It's so imperative that people of my generation, native to technology, that we step up and make our voices known." An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report:
Wu says she is running for Congress in 2018. The co-founder and head of development at games firm Giant Spacekat hasn't announced which district she wants to represent in the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent alerting her potential opponent while she prepares. Wu, a Massachusetts Democrat, told CNNMoney she's building up a team of advisers and figuring out campaign logistics before announcing her candidacy next month... She said the election of President-elect Donald Trump spurred her to consider entering politics...

Wu "says her extensive technical knowledge and experience fighting the alt-right and harassment and will be advantageous for a Congressional representative."

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Python 3.6 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 08:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's batteries-included department:
On Friday, more than a year after Python 3.5, core developers Elvis Pranskevichus and Yury Selivanov announced the release of version 3.6. An anonymous reader writes:

InfoWorld describes the changes as async in more places, speed and memory usage improvements, and pluggable support for JITs, tracers, and debuggers. "Python 3.6 also provides support for DTrace and SystemTap, brings a secrets module to the standard library [to generate authentication tokens], introduces new string and number formats, and adds type annotations for variables. It also gives us easier methods to customize the creation of subclasses."
You can read Slashdot's interview with Python creator Guido van Rossum from 2013. I also remember an interview this July where Perl creator Larry Wall called Python "a pretty okay first language, with a tendency towards style enforcement, monoculture, and group-think...more interested in giving you one adequate way to do something than it is in giving you a workshop that you, the programmer, get to choose the best tool from."
Anyone want to share their thoughts today about the future of Python?

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World's Largest Hedge Fund To Replace Managers With Artificial Intelligence
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 05:41 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's emotionally-volatile department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's largest hedge fund is building a piece of software to automate the day-to-day management of the firm, including hiring, firing and other strategic decision-making. Bridgewater Associates has a team of software engineers working on the project at the request of billionaire founder Ray Dalio, who wants to ensure the company can run according to his vision even when he's not there, the Wall Street Journal reported. The firm, which manages $160 billion, created the team of programmers specializing in analytics and artificial intelligence, dubbed the Systematized Intelligence Lab, in early 2015. The unit is headed up by David Ferrucci, who previously led IBM's development of Watson, the supercomputer that beat humans at Jeopardy! in 2011. The company is already highly data-driven, with meetings recorded and staff asked to grade each other throughout the day using a ratings system called "dots." The Systematized Intelligence Lab has built a tool that incorporates these ratings into "Baseball Cards" that show employees' strengths and weaknesses. Another app, dubbed The Contract, gets staff to set goals they want to achieve and then tracks how effectively they follow through. These tools are early applications of PriOS, the over-arching management software that Dalio wants to make three-quarters of all management decisions within five years. The kinds of decisions PriOS could make include finding the right staff for particular job openings and ranking opposing perspectives from multiple team members when there's a disagreement about how to proceed. The machine will make the decisions, according to a set of principles laid out by Dalio about the company vision.

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GM Partners With Boston Startup WiTricity To Develop Wireless Charging Technology
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 02:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's with-our-powers-combined department:
Earlier this week, General Motors announced a partnership with Boston-area startup WiTricity to develop wireless charging pads for electric vehicles. Their goal is to develop a wireless "charging pad" that can be installed beneath a layer of concrete or other garage flooring material so that cars would simply need to be parked over the pad to automatically start charging. Electrek reports: "The electric vehicle has been recognized as central to the future of mobility, and GM has been a leader, making EVs accessible to the broader market. The convenience of wireless charging will help accelerate adoption even further," said Alex Gruzen, CEO of WiTricity, about the alliance. "Wireless charging for EVs, based on industry standards, is inevitable as we move toward a future of self-driving and autonomous vehicles, and this project brings us one step closer to realizing our vision of a world powered wirelessly." GM agreed to allow WiTricity to conduct tests on a Chevrolet Volt hybrid vehicle, "to show how well it would work integrated into a real car," according to Gruzen. Witricity claims that their system can achieve over 90% efficiency, which would make it at least as efficient as a plug-in charger. "Wireless charging is a technology that our customers have told us they are interested in," GM's executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles, Pamela Fletcher, said. "By testing the WiTricity prototype system, we can ensure that wireless charging systems will comply with proposed industry standards, which benefits the entire industry and consumers." The company has high hopes for their product. Gruzen envisions a future in which EV owners can send autonomous cars to charging stations remotely, a future that would only be possible with wireless charging stations.

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Researchers Send Information Using a Single Particle of Light
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '16 at 12:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's quantum-leap department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: According to research published Thursday in Science, physicists at Princeton University have designed a device that allows a single electron to pass its quantum information to a photon in what could be a big breakthrough for silicon-based quantum computers. The device designed by the Princeton researchers is the result of five years of research and works by trapping an electron and a photon within a device built by HRL laboratories, which is owned by Boeing and General Motors. It is a semi-conductor chip made from layers of silicon and silicon-germanium, materials that are inexpensive and already widely deployed in consumer electronics. Across the top of this wafer of silicon layers were laid a number of nanowires, each smaller than the width of a human hair, which were used to deliver energy to the chip. This energy allowed the researchers to trap an electron in between the silicon layers of the chip in microstructures known as quantum dots. The researchers settled on photons as the medium of exchange between electrons since they are less sensitive to disruption from their environment and could potentially be used to carry quantum information between quantum chips, rather than within the circuits on a single quantum chip. The ability to scale up this device would mean that photons could be used to pass quantum information from electron to electron in order to form the circuits for a quantum computer. "We now have the ability to actually transmit the quantum state to a photon," said Xiao Mi, a graduate student in Princeton's Department of Physics. "This has never been done before in a semiconductor device because the quantum state was lost before it could transfer its information."

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How Social Isolation Is Killing Us
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '16 at 08:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's forever-alone department:
schwit1 quotes a report from The New York Times: Social isolation is a growing epidemic (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) -- one that's increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they're lonely has
doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. About one-third of Americans older than 65 now
live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in
poorer health -- especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and
depression -- are more likely to feel lonely. Those
without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters. A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted
sleep patterns, altered
immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of
stress hormones. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent. Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age. Loneliness can
accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early:
Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as
obesity and smoking.

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U2F Security Keys May Be the World's Best Hope Against Account Takeovers
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '16 at 06:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-kid-on-the-block department:
earlytime writes: Large scale account hacks such as the billion user Yahoo breach and targeted phishing hacks of gmail accounts during the U.S. election have made 2016 an infamous year for web security. Along comes U2F/web-security keys to address these issues at a critical time. Ars Technica reports that U2F keys "may be the world's best hope against account takeovers": "The Security Keys are based on Universal Second Factor, an open standard that's easy for end users to use and straightforward for engineers to stitch into hardware and websites. When plugged into a standard USB port, the keys provide a 'cryptographic assertion' that's just about impossible for attackers to guess or phish. Accounts can require that cryptographic key in addition to a normal user password when users log in. Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and other sites have already implemented the standard into their platforms. After more than two years of public implementation and internal study, Google security architects have declared Security Keys their preferred form of two-factor authentication. The architects based their assessment on the ease of using and deploying keys, the security it provided against phishing and other types of password attacks, and the lack of privacy trade-offs that accompany some other forms of two-factor authentication." The researchers wrote in a recently published report: "We have shipped support for Security Keys in the Chrome browser, have deployed it within Google's internal sign-in system, and have enabled Security Keys as an available second factor in Google's Web services. In this work, we demonstrate that Security Keys lead to both an increased level of security and user satisfaction as well as cheaper support cost."

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