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Wearables Still Slow To Catch On in the United States
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '17 at 09:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's slow-pace department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The use of wearable technology devices -- like watches, glasses and fitness tracking bracelets -- will grow 11.9 percent next year, eMarketer predicts, with the growth rate continuing to slow compared to previous years. Smartwatches will drive the bulk of wearables growth, but the number of people who use wearable technology will still be less than 20 percent of the population. Experts suggest wearable adoption will slow due to cost and unmet user expectations. Still, others, like analyst firm IDC, predict that U.S. wearable use will continue to climb, doubling in size by devices shipped 2021, just at a slower pace.

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Security Firm Keeper Sues News Reporter Over Vulnerability Story
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '17 at 07:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's when-in-a-hole,-stop-digging department:
Zack Whittaker, writing for ZDNet: Keeper, a password manager software maker, has filed a lawsuit against a news reporter and its publication after a story was posted reporting a vulnerability disclosure. Dan Goodin, security editor at Ars Technica, was named defendant in a suit filed Tuesday by Chicago-based Keeper Security, which accused Goodin of "false and misleading statements" about the company's password manager. Goodin's story, posted December 15, cited Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy, who said in a vulnerability disclosure report he posted a day earlier that a security flaw in Keeper allowed "any website to steal any password" through the password manager's browser extension.

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Where in the World is Mars' Water?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '17 at 07:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
An anonymous reader shares an Axios report: In the beginning, Mars was a water world. But at some point in Mars' distant past, much of that water disappeared, leaving behind polar ice caps and a complex geology. Figuring out just where it went has been a major priority for scientists -- life as we know it can't exist without water, and any future settlers would need a steady supply. A new study, published Wednesday in Nature, suggests that much of what remains might in inaccessible. Some went into space, but even more of it may have sunk into the ground like a sponge, only to become bound up in minerals deep within the planet. "Mars, by virtue of its chemistry, was doomed from the start," study author Jon Wade, of Oxford University, tells Axios.

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Windows 10 Facial Recognition Feature Can Be Bypassed with a Photo
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '17 at 06:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-is-hard department:
Windows Hello, the face scanning security feature in Windows 10, has been defeated with the use of a printed out picture. From a report: In a report published yesterday, German pen-testing company SySS GmbH says it discovered that Windows Hello is vulnerable to the simplest and most common attack against facial recognition biometrics software -- the doomsday scenario of using a printed photo of the device's owner. Researchers say that by using a laser color printout of a low-resolution (340x340 pixels) photo of the device owner's face, modified to the near IR spectrum, they were able to unlock several Windows devices where Windows Hello had been previously activated. The attack worked even if the "enhanced anti-spoofing" feature had been enabled in the Windows Hello settings panel, albeit for these attacks SySS researchers said they needed a photo of a higher resolution of 480x480 pixels (which in reality is still a low-resolution photo). [...] Microsoft released updates earlier this month to patch the vulnerability.

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Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook To Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '17 at 06:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's machine-bias department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProPublica: Verizon is among dozens of the nation's leading employers -- including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself -- that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found. The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook's business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers. Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to "aid" or "abet" age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

Facebook defended the practice. "Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work," said Rob Goldman, a Facebook vice president. The revelations come at a time when the unregulated power of the tech companies is under increased scrutiny, and Congress is weighing whether to limit the immunity that it granted to tech companies in 1996 for third-party content on their platforms.

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FDA Approves First-Ever Gene Therapy For Inherited Form of Blindness
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '17 at 03:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department:
schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: In a historic move, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a pioneering gene therapy for a rare form of childhood blindness, the first such treatment cleared in the United States for an inherited disease. The approval signals a new era for gene therapy, a field that struggled for decades to overcome devastating setbacks but now is pushing forward in an effort to develop treatments for haemophilia, sickle-cell anaemia, and an array of other genetic diseases. Yet the products, should they reach patients, are likely to cost as much as $1 million for both eyes.

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Walmart Is Planning a Store Without Cashiers
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '17 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's next-gen-shopping department:
According to Recode, Walmart's startup incubator is experimenting with a cashier-less store concept called Project Kepler, which "aims to reimagine the in-store shopping experience with the help of technologies like computer vision." The goal is reportedly the "creation of physical stores that would operate without checkout lines or cashiers -- in a similar fashion to Amazon's futuristic Amazon Go store." From the report: The Project Kepler project focused on the future of in-store shopping is being led by Mike Hanrahan, the co-founder and former chief technology officer for Jet.com, multiple sources tell Recode. It is located in Hoboken, N.J., where Jet is based. A Project Kepler job listing for a "computer vision engineer" says that the role will involve creating a "best-in-class consumer experience in the physical retail space." Amazon's Go concept uses a combination of sensors and cameras to track what each store shopper takes off of shelves so it can automatically bill them for their purchase without their having to stop to pay on the way out. The store's launch has been severely delayed, however, with reports that the technology did not work well when the store was crowded. Walmart is envisioning a similar system that would potentially eliminate the need for cashiers in stores outfitted with the technology. Walmart has more than two million employees worldwide, many of whom work at checkout.

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Amazon Tries To Figure Out the Packaging Box Problem It Created
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 11:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's a-middleground department:
Have you noticed that your tiniest ecommerce items, which used to be shipped in a box, are now arriving in a padded envelope? WSJ reports: Amazon is trying to ship each order in one correctly sized package instead of multiple boxes, responding to rising shipping costs and consumers' concern about the environmental impact (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled) and general nuisance of all that cardboard. That means adding bubble envelopes, tweaking algorithms and negotiating with manufacturers to make smaller packaging specifically for online sales, not store shelves. [...] This year, Amazon added machines in its warehouses that create padded mailers on demand to fit smaller items, all of which used to go into the company's smallest-sized box. Almost half of all of Amazon's products fit into the new mailers and poly bags, says Kim Houchens, director of customer packaging experience. Her team has been working to improve algorithms that help decide which size box and how many items should be packed together in each shipment. The algorithms use machine learning to test out new combinations -- for example, shipping a breakable item in a smaller box with less cushioning. The algorithm can scan customer reviews and other data to see if it worked and adjust as needed.

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A Federal Ban On Making Lethal Viruses Is Lifted
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 08:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's twelve-monkeys department:
schwit1 shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Federal officials on Tuesday ended a moratorium imposed three years ago on funding research that alters germs to make them more lethal. Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine. Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine. Critics say these researchers risk creating a monster germ that could escape the lab and seed a pandemic. Now, a government panel will require that researchers show that their studies in this area are scientifically sound and that they will be done in a high-security lab. The pathogen to be modified must pose a serious health threat, and the work must produce knowledge -- such as a vaccine -- that would benefit humans. Finally, there must be no safer way to do the research. "We see this as a rigorous policy," Dr. Collins said. "We want to be sure we're doing this right."
"Now where are those twelve monkeys?" adds schwit1.

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NASA Advances Missions To Land a Flying Robot on Titan or Snatch a Piece of a Comet
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 06:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department:
Sarah Kaplan, writing for the Washington Post: NASA's newest mission will either land a quadcopter-like spacecraft on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan or collect a sample from the nucleus of a comet. (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.) The two proposals were selected from a group of 12 submitted to the New Frontiers program, which supports mid-level planetary science missions. The first, called Dragonfly, would be an unprecedented project to send a flying robot to an alien moon. Equipped with instruments capable of identifying large organic molecules, the quadcopter would be able to fly to multiple locations hundreds of miles apart to study the landscape on Titan. This large, cold moon of Saturn features a thick atmosphere and lakes and rivers of liquid methane, and scientists believe that a watery ocean may lurk beneath its frozen crust. [...] The Comet Astrobiology Exploration SAmple Return, or CAESAR, mission would circle back to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which was visited by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft from 2014 to 2016. After rendezvousing with the Mount Fuji-size space rock, CAESAR would suck up a sample from its surface and send it back to Earth, where it would arrive in November 2038 (mark your calendars!).

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Youbit Shuts Down Cryptocurrency Exchange After Second Hack, Files For Bankruptcy
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
phalse phace writes: After experiencing another hack, South Korean crypto-currency exchange Youbit has closed their doors and is filing for bankruptcy. BBC reports: "Youbit, which lets people buy and sell bitcoins and other virtual currencies, has filed for bankruptcy after losing 17% of its assets in the cyber-attack. It did not disclose how much the assets were worth at the time of the attack. In April, Youbit, formerly called Yapizon, lost 4,000 bitcoins now worth $73 million to cyberthieves. South Korea's Internet and Security Agency (Kisa) which investigates net crime, said it had started an enquiry into how the thieves gained access to the exchange's core systems. Kisa blamed the earlier attack on Youbit on cyber-spies working for North Korea. Separate, more recent, attacks on the Bithumb and Coinis exchanges, have also been blamed on the regime. No information has been released about who might have been behind the latest Youbit attack. In a statement, Youbit said that customers would get back about 75% of the value of the crypto-currency they have lodged with the exchange."

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The People Who Read Your Airline Tweets
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 04:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's other-side-of-those-tweets department:
From a piece on The Atlantic: At first, the idea of a company directly tweeting at its customers was very strange. Nowadays, people have gotten used to having back-and-forths with customer service representatives. In any given hour, JetBlue makes public contact with 10, 15, 20 different people. American Airlines receives 4500 mentions an hour, 70 to 80 percent of them on Twitter. Both companies staff their social teams with long-time employees who are familiar with the airlines' systems. Both hire internally out of the "reservations" team, so they know how to rebook flights and make things happen. At American, the average social-media customer-support person has been at the company for 17 years. Every major airline has a team like this. Southwest runs what it calls a "Listening Center." American Airlines calls it their "social-media hub" in Fort Worth, Texas. Alaska has a "social care" team in Seattle that responds to the average tweet for help in two minutes and 34 seconds, according to a report by Conversocial. Most of the time, it's a worthy, but low-profile job. But not always. This is the strangest thing about people tweeting with airlines: They're just a routine part of how the business works now. Tweets and Facebook posts go out via a social-media team and a customer-service team responds to the incoming problems, snark, and jokes.

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Magic Leap Finally Unveils Mixed-Reality Goggles
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's secretive-start-up department:
Joosy writes: After raising $1.9 billion dollars, Magic Leap finally shows off it's "mixed-reality" goggles. Was the wait worth it? Rolling Stone gets a look: "The revelation, the first real look at what the secretive, multi-billion dollar company has been working on all these years is the first step toward the 2018 release of the company's first consumer product. It also adds some insight into why major companies like Google and Alibaba have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Magic Leap, and why some researchers believe the creation could be as significant as the birth of the Internet." Brian Crecente recalls his first experience with Magic Leap's technology: "This first, oversized demo dropped me into a science-fiction world, playing out an entire scene that was, in this one case, augmented with powerful, hidden fans, building-shaking speakers and an array of computer-controlled, colorful lighting. It was a powerful experience, demonstrating how a theme park could potentially craft rides with no walls or waits. Most importantly, it took place among the set-dressing of the stage -- the real world props that cluttered the ground and walls around me -- and while it didn't look indistinguishable from reality, it was close. To see those creations appearing not on the physical world around me, as if it were some sort of animated sticker, but in it, was startling..."

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Cable TV's Password-Sharing Crackdown Is Coming
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pay-per-view department:
Charter Communications' CEO, Tom Rutledge, is leading an industrywide effort to crack down on password sharing. It's a growing problem that could cost pay-TV companies millions of subscribers -- and billions of dollars in revenue -- when they can least afford it. Bloomberg reports: Cable and satellite carriers in North America have lost 3 million customers this year alone. But the prevalence of password sharing suggests many of those customers, and possibly many more, are watching popular shows like "The Walking Dead" for free, robbing pay-TV providers and programmers of paying subscribers and advertising dollars. Most pay-TV companies only require users to re-enter their passwords for each device once a year. During contract negotiations this fall, Charter urged Viacom Inc., home of Comedy Central and MTV, to help limit illicit password swapping. The cable company wants programmers to restrict the number of concurrent streams on their apps and force legitimate subscribers to log in more often, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. ESPN, meanwhile, has reduced the number of simultaneous streams that it allows on its app to five from 10 and is considering cutting that to three, Connolly said. ESPN wants to work more closely with distributors to validate subscribers when there are high volumes of streaming on its app outside the cable company's territory.

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Firefox Prepares To Mark All HTTP Sites 'Not Secure' After HTTPS Adoption Rises
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's secretly-configured department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: The increased adoption of HTTPS among website operators will soon lead to browsers marking HTTP pages as "Not Secure" by default, and Mozilla is taking the first steps. The current Firefox Nightly Edition (version 59) includes a secret configuration option that when activated will show a visible visual indicator that the current page is not secure. In its current form, this visual indicator is a red line striking through a classic lock that's normally used to signal the presence of encrypted HTTPS pages. According to Let's Encrypt, 67% of web pages loaded by Firefox in November 2017 used HTTPS, compared to only 45% at the end of last year.

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Ask Slashdot: Do You Print Too Little?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-of-ink department:
shanen writes: How many of you don't print much these days? What is the best solution to only printing a few pages every once in a while? Here are some dimensions of the problem...

Inexpensive printers: The cost of new printers is quite low, but how long can the printer sit there without printing before it dies? Lexmark and HP used to offer an expensive solution with integrated ink cartridges that also included new print heads, but... Should I just buy a cheap Canon or Epson and plan to throw it away in a couple of years, probably after printing less than a 100 pages?

Printing services: They're mostly focused on photos, but there are companies where you can take your data for printing. My main concerns here are actually with the costs and the tweaks. Each print is expensive because you are covering their overhead way beyond the cost of the printing itself. Also, most of the time my first print or three isn't exactly what I want. It rarely comes out perfectly on paper the first time.

Social printing: For example, are any of you sharing one printer with your neighbors via Wi-Fi? Do you just sneak a bit of personal printing onto a printer at your office? Do you travel across town to borrow your brother-in-law's printer?

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PSA: Spotify Now Available As a Snap For Linux
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 02:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's come-and-get-it department:
BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Speaking of Spotify, the most popular streaming music service in the world has long supported Linux-based operating systems. Installing the official app was not an easy affair, however. Today this changes, as installation gets much simpler. You see, Spotify is now officially available as a Snap for easy installation on any Snap-supporting operating systems such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Canonical, the creator of both Ubuntu and Snaps, explains, "Snaps are containerized software packages designed to work perfectly and securely in any Linux environment. As well as supporting all major Linux systems from a single build, snaps can be also updated or rolled back automatically to ensure that users are always benefiting from the latest version of the application. Since their launch last year, close to 2,500 snaps have been released by developers as they adopt the format for its reliability and security."

Jamie Bennett, VP of Engineering, Devices & IoT, Canonical says, "In launching their own snap, Spotify has ensured that their users in the Linux ecosystem are now able to enjoy the latest version of their leading music streaming application as soon as it's released regardless of which distribution they are using. We're glad to welcome Spotify to the snaps ecosystem and look forward to unveiling more leading snaps in 2018."

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Apple Confirms iPhone With Older Batteries Will Take Hits On Performance
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 12:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's opaque-business-decisions department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Reddit users have noticed that Apple appears to be slowing down old iPhones that have low-capacity batteries. While many iPhone users have experienced perceived slowdowns due to iOS updates over the years, it appears that there's now proof Apple is throttling processor speeds when a battery capacity deteriorates over time. Geekbench developer John Poole has mapped out performance for the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 over time, and has come to the conclusion that Apple's iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2.0 updates introduce this throttling for different devices. iOS 10.2.1 is particularly relevant, as this update was designed to reduce random shutdown issues for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. Apple's fix appears to be throttling the CPU to prevent the phone from randomly shutting down. Geekbench reports that iOS 11.2.0 introduces similar throttling for low iPhone 7 low-capacity batteries.

When reached for comment, Apple basically confirmed the findings to The Verge, but disputes the assumed intention: "Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components. Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We've now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future."

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Ubuntu 17.10 Temporarily Pulled Due To A BIOS Corrupting Problem
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 10:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's call-IT department:
An anonymous reader writes: Canonical has temporarily pulled the download links for Ubuntu 17.10 "Artful Aardvark" from the Ubuntu website due to ongoing reports of some laptops finding their BIOS corrupted after installing this latest Ubuntu release. The issue is appearing most frequently with Lenovo laptops but there are also reports of issues with other laptop vendors as well. This issue appears to stem from the Intel SPI driver in the 17.10's Linux 4.13 kernel corrupting the BIOS for a select number of laptop motherboards. Canonical is aware of this issue and is planning to disable the Intel SPI drivers in their kernel builds. Canonical's hardware enablement team has already verified this works around the problem, but doesn't provide any benefit if your BIOS is already corrupted.

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Bitcoin's Rise May Reflect a Monumental Transfer of Trust From Human Institutions Backed By Gov't To Systems Reliant on Well-Tested Code, Says Tim Wu
Posted by News Fetcher on December 20 '17 at 10:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's perspective department:
Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia, writing for the New York Times: Yet as Bitcoin continues to grow, there's reason to think something deeper and more important is going on. Bitcoin's rise may reflect, for better or worse, a monumental transfer of social trust: away from human institutions backed by government and to systems reliant on well-tested computer code. It is a trend that transcends finance: In our fear of human error, we are putting an increasingly deep faith in technology (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled). What gives the Bitcoin bubble significance is that, like '90s tech, it is part of something much larger than itself. More and more we are losing faith in humans and depending instead on machines. The transformation is more obvious outside of finance. We trust in computers to fly airplanes, help surgeons cut into our bodies and simplify daily tasks, like finding our way home. In this respect, finance is actually behind: Where we no longer feel we can trust people, we let computer code take over. Bitcoin is part of this trend. It was, after all, a carnival of human errors and misfeasance that inspired the invention of Bitcoin in 2009, namely, the financial crisis. Banks backed by economically powerful nations had been the symbol of financial trustworthiness, the gold standard in the post-gold era. But they revealed themselves as reckless, drunk on other people's money, holding extraordinarily complex assets premised on a web of promises that were often mutually incompatible. To a computer programmer, the financial system still looks a lot like untested code with weak debugging that puts way too much faith in the idea that humans will behave properly. As with any bad software, it can be expected to crash when conditions change.

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