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Volkswagen Agrees To Record $14.7B Settlement Over Emissions Cheating
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-face-the-consequences department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Volkswagen's deliberate cheating on emissions tests will cost it a record $14.7 billion. And that's just the start of its problems. The settlement is only a preliminary step in the case; the automaker still faces possible criminal charges, as well as civil penalties for Clean Air Act violations. The Department of Justice is investigating possible criminal charges against both the company and individuals, said Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Up to $10 billion of the funds will be paid out to owners of the 487,000 affected diesel cars in the U.S., sold under the VW or luxury Audi brands. How much an owner gets will depend on whether an owner chooses to fix their car or just have VW buy it back -- they have until May 2018 to decide. Repurchasing the cars will cost VW between $12,500 to $44,000 per car. The $14.7 billion settlement estimate assumes that all the cars are repurchased. Owners who elect to get their vehicles fixed will also get a cash payment of between $5,100 and $10,000 to compensate them for the lost value of the cars, as well as for Volkswagen's deceptive promise of "clean diesel." Most of the buyers paid extra for a car with a diesel engine. In addition to the customer payments, Volkswagen will pay $2.7 billion for environmental cleanup and $2 billion to promote zero-emission vehicles. The clean up money will be used by individual states to cut other diesel emissions by replacing older, government-owned trucks, buses and other diesel engines now in use. Volkswagen is betting big on electric vehicles after this emissions scandal. It plans to deliver 30 electric plug-in models by 2025.

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Tesla Owner Makes 'Solid Metal Snake' Self-Charging System That Elon Musk Promised
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's DIY department:
An anonymous reader writes: Nearly two years ago, Elon Musk teased us with a robotic snake that would automatically plug-in and charge your Model S. Well, many months have passed and there has yet to be an official "solid metal snake" available for Tesla owners. So, one Tesla owner decided to make his own autonomous charging station, as spotted by Electrek, that will automatically guide the Model S's charging cable into the waiting receptacle with no human intervention required. The inventor Deepak Mital posted a video showing how it works, and while it's incredibly slow, it does work. Compared to the demo video of the system teased by Elon Musk last year, this version appears much less threatening. Mital calls it the "Evtron," which is controlled with a Raspberry Pi and swings from one side to another before sliding forward to make the connection with the car.

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Florida Man Sues Apple For $10+ Billion, Says He Invented iPhone Before Apple
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 04:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Florida-man department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via MacRumors: A Florida resident that goes by the name of Thomas S. Ross has filed a lawsuit against Apple this week, claiming that the iPhone, iPad, and iPod infringe upon his 1992 invention of a hand-drawn "Electronic Reading Device" (ERD). The court filing claims the plaintiff was "first to file a device so designed and aggregated," nearly 15 years before the first iPhone. MacRumors reports: "Between May 23, 1992 and September 10, 1992, Ross designed three hand-drawn technical drawings of the device, primarily consisting of flat rectangular panels with rounded corners that "embodied a fusion of design and function in a way that never existed prior to 1992." Ross applied for a utility patent to protect his invention in November 1992, but the application was declared abandoned in April 1995 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after he failed to pay the required application fees. He also filed to copyright his technical drawings with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2014. While the plaintiff claims that he continues to experience "great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money," he has demanded a jury trial and is seeking restitution no less than $10 billion and a royalty of up to 1.5% on Apple's worldwide sales of infringing devices." MacRumors commenter Sunday Ironfoot suggests this story may be "The mother of all 'Florida Man' stories." Apple has been awarded a patent today that prohibits smartphone users from taking photos and videos at concerts, movies theaters and other events where people tend to ignore such restrictions.

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RIP Xbox Fitness: Users Will Soon Lose Access To Workout Videos They Bought
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 04:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's processing-your-return department:
insitus quotes a report from Ars Technica: Xbox users who purchased training videos through the Xbox Fitness app probably thought they were buying a workout program they'd be able to use regularly for the life of the Xbox One, at the very least. Instead, those videos will soon be completely unavailable to those who paid for them up front, according to a "sunset" plan announced by Microsoft yesterday evening. Xbox Fitness first launched in late 2013 with the console, offering a Kinect-powered health app that uses the 3D camera to evaluate users' form as they perform the exercises demoed by on-screen video trainers. The app, which provided 30 basic routines for free with an Xbox Live Gold account, will be coming to an end on December 15. The paid content associated with the app will also no longer be available for purchase, and those who purchased it previously will be able to use it for over one more year before the app becomes completely unavailable to download or use on July 1, 2017. What some have found especially upsetting with the news is that Microsoft has yet to announce any plans to compensate users who have paid for content or to provide downloadable versions of paid workouts that can be used after the phase-out date. Thus, many upset users have taken to the sunset announcement post and various other outlets to speak their mind on the situation. "I bought 140$+ worth of content just this year... I don't want a refund, I want to be able to continue to use what I PAID for !!!!!!!!!!!" Xbox Live user QuickSilver wrote.

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DoNotPay Bot Has Beaten 160,000 Traffic Tickets -- and Counting
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 04:32 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's fighting-the-good-fight department:
Khari Johnson, writing for VentureBeat:A bot made to challenge traffic tickets has been used more than 9,000 times by New Yorkers, according to DoNotPay maker Joshua Browder. The bot was made available to New Yorkers in March. In recent years and decades, residents of The Big Apple have seen a persistent increase in traffic fines. A record $1.9 billion in traffic fines was issued by the City of New York in 2015. Since the first version of the bot was released in London last fall, 160,000 of 250,000 tickets have been successfully challenged with DoNotPay, Browder said. "I think the people getting parking tickets are the most vulnerable in society," said Browder. "These people aren't looking to break the law. I think they're being exploited as a revenue source by the local government." Browder, who's 19, hopes to extend DoNotPay to Seattle this fall.

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Micro-Camera Can Be Injected With A Syringe -- May Pose Surveillance Concerns
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 04:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's minimally-invasive department:
Taco Cowboy quotes a report from ABC Online: German engineers have created a camera no bigger than a grain of salt that could change the future of health imaging -- and clandestine surveillance. Using 3D printing, researchers from the University of Stuttgart built a three-lens camera, and fit it onto the end of an optical fiber the width of two hairs. Such technology could be used as minimally-intrusive endoscopes for exploring inside the human body, the engineers reported in the journal Nature Photonics. The compound lens of the camera is just 100 micrometers (0.1 millimeters) wide, and 120 micrometers with its casing. It could also be deployed in virtually invisible security monitors, or mini-robots with "autonomous vision." The compound lens can also be printed onto image sensor other than optical fibers, such as those used in digital cameras. The researchers said it only took a few hours to design, manufacture and test the camera, which yielded "high optical performances and tremendous compactness." They believe the 3D printing method -- used to create the camera -- may represent "a paradigm shift."

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Researchers Find Game-Changing Helium Reserve In Tanzania
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 01:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's party-balloons department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via CNN: Helium is an incredibly important element that is used in everything from party balloons to MRI machines -- it's even used for nuclear power. For many years, there have been global shortages of the element. For example, Tokyo Disneyland once had to suspend sales of its helium balloons due to the shortages. The shortages are expected to come to an end now that researchers from Oxford and Durham universities have discovered a "world-class" helium gas field in Tanzania's East African Rift Valley. They estimate that just one part of the reserve in Tanzania could be as large as 54 billion cubic feet (BCf), which is enough to fill more than 1.2 million medical MRI scanners. "To put this discovery into perspective, global consumption of helium is about 8 billion cubic feet (BCf) per year and the United States Federal Helium Reserve, which is the world's largest supplier, has a current reserve of just 24.2 BCf," said University of Oxford's Chris Ballentine, a professor with the Department of Earth Sciences. "Total known reserves in the USA are around 153 BCf. This is a game-changer for the future security of society's helium needs and similar finds in the future may not be far away," Ballentine added.

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Apple Patents a Way To Keep People From Filming At Concerts and Movie Theaters
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 01:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's remote-control department:
An anonymous reader writes: Apple has patented a system that prohibits smartphone users from taking photos and videos at concerts, movie theaters and other events where people tend to ignore such restrictions. The patent has been award to Apple today and was first spotted by Patently Apple. QZ reports: "It outlines a system which would allow venues to use an infrared emitter to remotely disable the camera function on smartphones. According to the patent, infrared beams could be picked up by the camera, and interpreted by the smartphone as a command to block the user from taking any photos or videos of whatever they're seeing. The patent also outlines ways that infrared blasters could actually improve someone's experience at a venue. For example, the beams could be used to send information to museum-goers by pointing a smartphone camera at a blaster placed next to a piece of art." The report also mentions that the patent could in theory be used to help police limit smartphone filming of acts of brutality, or help a government shut off filming in certain locations. Last week, SlashGear reported that Alicia Keys is the latest musician to ban cellphones at her events.

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Let's Stop Freaking Out About Artificial Intelligence
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 12:21 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's futurology department:
Former Google CEO, and current Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google X founder Sebastian Thrun in an op-ed on Fortune Magazine have shared their views on artificial intelligence, and what the future holds for this nascent technology. "When we first worked on the AI behind self-driving cars, most experts were convinced they would never be safe enough for public roads. But the Google Self-Driving Car team had a crucial insight that differentiates AI from the way people learn. When driving, people mostly learn from their own mistakes. But they rarely learn from the mistakes of others. People collectively make the same mistakes over and over again," they wrote. The two also talked about an artificial intelligence apocalypse, adding that while it's unlikely to happen, the situation is still worth considering. They wrote:Do we worry about the doomsday scenarios? We believe it's worth thoughtful consideration. Today's AI only thrives in narrow, repetitive tasks where it is trained on many examples. But no researchers or technologists want to be part of some Hollywood science-fiction dystopia. The right course is not to panic - it's to get to work. Google, alongside many other companies, is doing rigorous research on AI safety, such as how to ensure people can interrupt an AI system whenever needed, and how to make such systems robust to cyberattacks.It's a long commentary, but worth a read.

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Here's How Pinterest Plans to Get You To Shop More
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 12:21 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's shop-more department:
Pinterest is figuring out new ways to bolster its revenue. On Tuesday, the social media company announced a range of new e-commerce features that will encourage its users (the service attracts more than 100 million users every month) to purchase items directly from its website. One of the biggest features is visual search for products, which will allow users to take a picture of an object and then see similar items to buy on Pinterest. The company has also announced a shopping bag that can be accessed on its mobile apps and website. From a Fortune report:Merchants will be able to create dedicated pages displaying all the merchandise being sold through Pinterest and, like Amazon, will suggest items that a user might want to buy. [...] The company wants to make it increasingly easier for people to buy items on its site. If Pinterest does have ambitions of becoming more of an e-commerce destination, it makes sense for Pinterest to start emulating moves made early on by e-commerce giant Amazon, such as personalization and recommended items. The key to personalization for Amazon has been the trove of data it has accumulated in order to recommend more products to its users. Pinterest said that its users are currently pinning four million items per day, and this data could be key to providing users with more personalized recommendations.

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US Healthcare Records Offered For Sale Online
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 10:51 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader writes:Three U.S. healthcare organisations are reportedly being held to ransom by a hacker who stole data on hundreds of thousands of patients. The hacker has also put the 650,000 records up for sale on dark web markets where stolen data is traded. Prices for the different databases range from $100,000 to $411,000. Buyers have already been found for some of the stolen data, the hacker behind the theft told news site Motherboard. No information about the size of the ransom payment sought by the data thief has emerged, although he did say it was "a modest amount compared to the damage that will be caused to the organisations when I decide to publicly leak the victims."

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China Tells App Developers To Increase User Monitoring
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 10:51 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's in-other-news department:
An anonymous reader writes: The Cyberspace Administration of China has imposed new regulation for the mobile app community, requiring that developers keep a close watch over users and keep a record of their activities. However, the proposed legislation would also prevent apps from requesting unnecessary access to users' contacts, camera, microphone and other spurious installation requests. The regulator introduced the new laws in the name of cracking down on illegal use of mobile platforms for the distribution of pornography, fraud and the spread of 'malicious' content.

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Airbnb Has Sued Its Hometown Of San Francisco
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 09:32 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's family-matters department:
Robert Mclean, reporting for CNN:Airbnb is taking its hometown to federal court. The company has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco, objecting to short-term rental rule changes approved by its Board of Supervisors. A new ordinance set to take effect in late July would require all Airbnb hosts to register with the city. If they do not, Airbnb would be fined up to $1,000 a day for each listing, putting the burden on the company to make sure each listing is legal. But the city's $50 registration process is analog enough to turn off many hosts. It can't be completed online and requires submitting all the documents in person. Airbnb contends the new rule violates the Communications Decency Act, Stored Communications Act and the First Amendment.

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Microsoft To Make Saying No To Windows 10 Update Easier
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 09:32 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's day-late-and-a-dollar-short department:
Less than a week after a California-based woman won $10,000 lawsuit against Microsoft over Windows 10 upgrades, the Redmond-based company has announced it will make it easier for users to say no to Windows 10 updates. The company plans to change the Windows 10 update prompt to make it clearer and easier for Windows 7 and Windows 8.x users to schedule or reject upgrading to Windows 10. ZDNet reports:Microsoft officials said late on June 27 that the new update experience -- with clearer "upgrade now, schedule a time, or decline the free offer" -- will start rolling out this week. Microsoft also will revert to making clicking on the Red X at the corner of the Windows 10 update box dismiss the update, rather than initiate it, as it has done for the past several weeks. Microsoft officials said they are making the change "in response to customer feedback."

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How Sony, Microsoft, and Other Gadget Makers Violate Federal Warranty Law
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 08:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's topsy-turvy-world department:
Reader citadrianne shares a Motherboard article: There are big "no trespassing" signs affixed to most of our electronics. If you own a gaming console, laptop, or computer, it's likely you've seen one of these warnings in the form of a sticker placed over a screw or a seam: "Warranty void if removed." In addition, big manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, and Apple explicitly note or imply in their official agreements that their year-long manufacturer warranties -- which entitle you to a replacement or repair if your device is defective -- are void if consumers attempt to repair their gadgets or take them to a third party repair professional. What almost no one knows is that these stickers and clauses are illegal under a federal law passed in 1975 called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act . To be clear, federal law says you can open your electronics without voiding the warranty, regardless of what the language of that warranty says.

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Facebook Backtracks, Now Says It Is Not Using Your Phone's Location To Suggest Friends
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 08:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's something's-fishy department:
A report on Fusion on Monday, which cited a number of people, claimed that Facebook was using its users' phone location to suggest people to them. The publication also noted the privacy implications of this supposed feature. At the time of publishing, Facebook had noted that location was indeed one of the signals it looks into when suggesting new friends. But the social juggernaut has since backtracked on its statement with new assurances that it is not using anyone's location. In a statement to Slashdot, the company said:We're not using location data, such as device location and location information you add to your profile, to suggest people you may know. We may show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you are part of, contacts you've imported and other factors.

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Google Partners With LyricFind To Display Songs Lyrics In Search Results
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 08:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's saved-you-a-click department:
Google has signed a multi-year licensing deal with LyricFind, a Toronto-based firm that provides lyrics of songs. As a result of the collaboration, users will now see song lyrics directly in the search results, both the companies have announced. From a BillBoard report:A query for the lyrics to a specific song will pull up the words to much of that song, freeing users from having to click through to another website. Google rolled out the lyrics feature in the U.S. today (June 27), though it has licenses to display the lyrics internationally as well. While the terms of the deal weren't disclosed, LyricFinder Chief Executive and co-founder Darryl Ballantyne projects publishers and songwriters seeing "millions" of dollars in additional revenue from this arrangement.The move comes six years after Microsoft partnered with LyricFind to display lyrics on Bing.com (Archived link).

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Activision Abuses DMCA To Take Knock Indie Game Entirely Off Steam
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 06:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's topsy-turvy-world department:
Reader He Who Has No Name writes: We've seen brain-dead, overzealous, and entirely over-automated DMCA takedown requests bring down music and videos, but this may be the first case of an entire video game being knocked out. Earlier today David Prassel, creator of Trek Industries and developer of the not-without-controversy ORION: Dino Horde / Prelude and the early-access Guardians of ORION, posted that his current project had been entirely removed from Steam after a questionable DMCA allegation from Activision. Prassel explains further, "We've made Steam our primary platform, but this has put a definite scare into us going forward considering our entire livelihood can be pulled without a moment's notice, without any warning or proper verification. I cannot even confirm that the representative from Activision is a real person as absolutely no results pop up in any of my searches." Image comparisons against at least two of the weapon models claimed to be infringing were posted by Prassel and in at least one thread on a forum. What's more, it appears Activision is alleging not a vertex-for-vertex and texel-for-texel theft and duplication of the Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3 2D -- 3D art assets, but in fact an infringing artistic similarity and design of separately created art content -- something that the DMCA does not cover (and which more would likely fall under copyright or possibly trade dress). Since this takedown falls directly in the middle of the Steam Summer Sale -- which probably is not a coincidence -- it will profoundly impact Trek Industry's potential sales.Polygon has more details.

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Judge Dismisses Movie Piracy Case, IP-Address Doesn't Prove Anything
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 05:22 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lack-of-evidence department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: In what's believed to be a first of its kind ruling, a federal court in Oregon has dismissed a direct infringement complaint against an alleged movie pirate from the outset. According to the judge, linking an IP-address to a pirated download is not enough to prove direct copyright infringement. In the Oregon District Court, Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman recently recommended dismissal of a complaint filed by the makers of the Adam Sandler movie The Cobbler. According to the Judge both claims of direct and indirect infringement were not sufficient for the case to continue. What's unique in this case, is that the direct infringement claims were dismissed sua sponte, which hasn't happened before. To prove direct infringement copyright holders merely have to make it "plausible" that a defendant, Thomas Gonzales in this case, is indeed the copyright infringer. This is traditionally done by pointing out that the IP-address is directly linked to the defendant's Internet connection, for example. However, according to Judge Beckerman this is not enough. In response to community backlash, Oculus has decided to change its DRM policy (again) to allow HTC Vive games to play on the Oculus Rift virtual-reality system.

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AI Downs 'Top Gun' Pilot In Dogfights
Posted by News Fetcher on June 28 '16 at 02:42 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rise-of-the-machines department:
schwit1 writes from a report via Daily Mail: [Daily Mail reports:] "The Artificial intelligence (AI) developed by a University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate was recently assessed by retired USAF Colonel Gene Lee -- who holds extensive aerial combat experience as an instructor and Air Battle Manager with considerable fighter aircraft expertise. He took on the software in a simulator. Lee was not able to score a kill after repeated attempts. He was shot out of the air every time during protracted engagements, and according to Lee, is 'the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI I've seen to date.'" And why is the US still throwing money at the F35, unless it can be flown without pilots. The AI, dubbed ALPHA, features a genetic fuzzy tree decision-making system, which is a subtype of fuzzy logic algorithms. The system breaks larger tasks into smaller tasks, which include high-level tactics, firing, evasion, and defensiveness. It can calculate the best maneuvers in various, changing environments over 250 times faster than its human opponent can blink. Lee says, "I was surprised at how aware and reactive it was. It seemed to be aware of my intentions and reacting instantly to my changes in flight and my missile deployment. It knew how to defeat the shot I was taking. It moved instantly between defensive and offensive actions as needed."

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