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Emacs and Vim Combined In New 'Spacemacs' Distro
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 06:59 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bastard-offspring department:
Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino brings news of a new text editor offering what he calls "a modern, hipster-compliant makeover" of both Emacs and Vim:
As a classic, perhaps the classic GNU project, Emacs has been marred by abysmal branding and marketing...that has improved slightly but might still leave some people unsatisfied [and] has also been engulfed in an eternal war with Vim, the editor of the beast. Mope no further, salvation is nigh! Spacemacs is a new Emacs distribution that aims to combine all the goodies of Emacs and Vim and then some...

Version .2 of Spacemacs was released this week "with more than 1700 commits since the last major version released in January 2016." With nearly 500 contributors on GItHub, Spacemacs plans to be "crowd-configured" with "curated packages tuned by power users," and is offering features like a real-time display of available key bindings, a simple query system for layers and packages, and of course, a clearly defined set of conventions.

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WikiLeaks Releases Paid Clinton Speech Excerpts, And Threatens To Expose Google
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 04:19 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's political-hacks department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the Independent:

Wikileaks has dumped thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, which includes apparent excerpts from Ms Clinton's paid, closed-door speeches to Wall Street executives after leaving her position as Secretary of State. In the excerpts, flagged in a 25 January email, Ms Clinton apparently suggested that Wall Street insiders were best qualified to regulate the banking industry and also included her apparent admission of the need for money from banking executives for political fundraising...

"Earlier today, the US government removed any reasonable doubt that the Kremlin has weaponized WikiLeaks to meddle in our election and benefit Donald Trump's candidacy," said Clinton campaign spokesperson Glen Caplin. "We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by Julian Assange who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton."

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the Daily Mail's article about what's coming up next:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised to release information on subjects including the U.S. election and Google [and] warned that the so called 'October Surprise' will expose Google. Assange did not reveal what type of information would be leaked about the tech giant, but his 2014 book could provide a clue. In it, he wrote: "(Eric) Schmidt's tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of U.S. power structures..."

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Baidu's Voice Recognition Software Is More Accurate Than Typing
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 02:49 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's It-sounds-like-you-said-Woof department:
The massive Chinese web services company Baidu has
launched their sophisticated new TalkType 'keyboard' which defaults to voice recognition app. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: Baidu claims that the app's speech recognition is more accurate than actual typing, having developed and tested the technology alongside speech software experts at Stanford University...The researchers concluded that Baidu's technology was three times faster than a typical user typing in English. The results showed that the TalkType error rate was 20.4% lower than an English texter hunting and tapping for letters. The accuracy was even greater for those typing in Mandarin, with the error rate dropping 63.4% when using TalkType.
Of course, last year Baidu was also accused of gaming the testing for their image-recognition software.

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Machine Logic: Our Lives Are Ruled By Big Tech's 'Decisions By Data'
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 02:49 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's changing-lives department:
With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are increasingly moving to a world where many decisions around us are shaped by calculations rather than traditional human judgement. The Guardian, citing many industry experts, reminds us that these technologies filter who and what counts, including "who is released from jail, and what kind of treatment you will get in hospital." A digital media professor said, these digital companies allow us to act, but in a very fine-grained, datafied, algorithm-ready way. "They put life to work, by rendering life in Taylorist data points that can be counted and measured" From the report (edited and condensed): Jose van Dijck, president of the Dutch Royal Academy and the conference's keynote speaker, expands further. Datification is the core logic of what she calls "the platform society," in which companies bypass traditional institutions, norms and codes by promising something better and more efficient -- appealing deceptively to public values, while obscuring private gain. Van Dijck and peers have nascent, urgent ideas. They commence with a pressing agenda for strong interdisciplinary research -- something Kate Crawford is spearheading at Microsoft Research, as are many other institutions, including the new Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. There's the old theory to confront, that this is a conscious move on the part of consumers and, if so, there's always a theoretical opt-out. Yet even digital activists plot by Gmail, concedes Fieke Jansen of the Berlin-based advocacy organisation Tactical Tech. The Big Five tech companies, as well as the extremely concentrated sources of finance behind them, are at the vanguard of "a society of centralized power and wealth. "How did we let it get this far?" she asks. Crawford says there are very practical reasons why tech companies have become so powerful. "We're trying to put so much responsibility on to individuals to step away from the 'evil platforms,' whereas in reality, there are so many reasons why people can't. The opportunity costs to employment, to their friends, to their families, are so high" she says.

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The Real Reasons Companies Won't Hire Telecommuters
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 01:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Marissa-Mayer-said-it-was-bad department:
Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler points us to a new article at OReilly.com: Those of us who telecommute cannot quite fathom the reasons companies give for refusing to let people work from home. But even if you don't agree with their decision, they do have reasons -- and not all of them are, "Because we like to be idiots." In "5 reasons why the company you want to work for won't hire telecommuters", hiring managers share their sincere reasons to insist you work in the office -- and a few tips for how you might convince them otherwise. The arguments against telecommuting range from "creativity happens in the hallway" to "the extra logistics aren't worth it," and the article suggests the best counterarguments include pointing out a past history of successfully telecommuting and allowing your employer to gradually transition you into a remote position. And if all else fails, just become a "rock star," because according to one tech placement company, "For the right talent and when a role has been open for a very long time, they tend to give in."

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MuckRock Identifies The Oldest US Government Computer Still in Use
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 01:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's when-Carter-was-President department:
Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes:
When MuckRock started using public records to find the oldest computer in use by the U.S. government, they scoured the country -- but it wasn't until a few tipsters that they set their sights a little higher and found that the oldest computer in use by the government might be among other planets entirely.

The oldest computer still in use by the U.S. government appears to be the on-board systems for the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes -- nearly 40 years old, and 12.47 billion miles away from earth. (Last year NASA put out a call for a FORTRAN programmer to upgrade the probes' software.) But an earlier MuckRock article identified their oldest software still in use on earth -- "the computers inside the IRS that makes sure everybody is paying their taxes". And it also identified their oldest hardware still in use -- "the machines running the nuclear defense system". (The launch commands are still stored on 8-inch floppy disks.)

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Can We Really Stop Climate Change By 'Capturing' Carbon?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 01:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hostile-climate department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The recently-ratified Paris Climate Accord calls on countries to keep the rise in average global temperatures under 2 degrees Celsius (a threshold which would bring extreme weather, water shortages and reduced agricultural production). But a recent article on Vox warns that "the world has to zero out net carbon emissions...for a good chance of avoiding 2 degrees, by around 2065. After that, emissions have to go negative... We are betting our species' future on our ability to bury carbon."

That's why everyone's watching the W.A. Parish Generating Station in Texas, which came online this week -- on schedule, and under budget. "The plant will use a newly installed system to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide created during combustion."

Alas, Slashdot reader Dan Drollette brings bad news from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: To fight climate change with carbon capture and storage technology, we'd have to complete one new carbon capture facility every working day for the next 70 years. It's better to switch to a diet of energy conservation, efficiency, and renewables, rather than rely on this technology as a kind of emergency planetary liposuction.

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How Tech Companies Are Responding To Hurricane Matthew
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 10:19 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mighty-wind department:
South Carolina was hit by Hurricane Matthew at 11 a.m. EST, after the hurricane killed at least 300 people in Haiti (with Reuters estimating Haiti's death toll over 800). But as the U.S. declares a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and with the power out for more than a million people, an anonymous Slashdot reader looks at the role tech companies are playing in responding to the storm system:
AirBNB "has been advertising free rooms in parts of Florida and South Carolina" reports Motherboard. AirBNB's Disaster Reponse Tool connects people needing shelter with volunteers who are offering their residences for free. Meanwhile, Uber promised to cap its "surge pricing" for the area, while Lyft promised its fares would rise no more than two times their normal rate.

But many escaped the path of the hurricane thanks to Shofur, a startup that books chartered buses and matches riders to low-cost tickets, according to the Daily Dot. "Through Thursday night and into the early morning hours of Friday, Shofur evacuated an estimated 10,000 Floridians and Georgians to areas such as Atlanta, Floridaâ(TM)s west coast, and the panhandle."

NASA is also flying a huge 15,000-pound drone over the area to collect real-time weather data, while Verizon is deploying a 17-foot drone to provide LTE mobile connectivity to first responders. A Verizon spokesperson says drone-enabled connectivity has "set the stage" for connecting drones to their IoT platform next year.

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Linux Foundation Shares LinuxCon Highlights
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 08:54 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Ich-bin-ein-Berliner-Konferenz department:
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
The Linux Foundation held its "LinuxCon Europe" this week, "where developers, sys admins, architects and all types and levels of technical talent gather together under one roof for education, collaboration and problem-solving to further the Linux platform." They've now updated their web site with photos and slide presentations.

The 44 presentations included a talk about Linux kernel security subsystem by kernel developer James Morris and an interesting talk by GitHub's Carol Smith arguing that mandatory math requirements can create a "steep barrier to entry" for people trying to launch programming careers. Karsten Gerloff also described how Siemens is making "strategic" use of free software.

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Feds Convinced Police To Use License Plate-Scanning Tech At Gun Shows
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 08:54 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's peekaboo-I-see-you department:
Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes the Wall Street Journal:
Federal agents have persuaded police officers to scan license plates to gather information about gun-show customers, government emails show, raising questions about how officials monitor constitutionally protected activity. Emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crafted a plan in 2010 to use license-plate readers -- devices that record the plate numbers of all passing cars -- at gun shows in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, not far from the Mexican border. Agents then compared that information to cars that crossed the border, hoping to find gun smugglers, according to the documents and interviews with law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation...

[T]he officials didn't rule out that such surveillance may have happened elsewhere. The agency has no written policy on its use of license-plate readers and could engage in similar surveillance in the future, they said. Jay Stanley, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the gun-show surveillance "highlights the problem with mass collection of data." He said law enforcement can take two entirely legal activities, like buying guns and crossing the border, "and because those two activities in concert fit somebody's idea of a crime, a person becomes inherently suspicious."

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MITRE Dangles $50,000 Prize For Spotting Rogue Internet of Things Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 07:34 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mutinies-for-a-bounty department:
Long-time Slashdot reader chicksdaddy quotes Security Ledger:
MITRE Corporation, the non-profit corporation that helps tackle some of the trickiest technical and security challenges out there, is dangling a $50,000 prize for anyone who can develop a solution for spotting rogue devices within an Internet of Things network...saying that it's looking for ground breaking new approaches to securing diverse Internet of Things networks like those in connected homes.

"Network administrators need to know exactly what is in the environment, or the network -- including when an adversary has switched out one device for another. In other words, is the smart thermostat we see today the same one that was there yesterday? We are looking for a unique identifier or fingerprint to enable administrators to enumerate the IoT devices while passively observing the network... "

Their registration form will be open through October, and the challenge will end after four weeks in November, or "whenever someone wins."

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AT&T Considers Stopping All Samsung Note 7 Sales
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 07:34 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's when-it-rains-it-pours department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: ATT Inc. is considering stopping all sales of Samsung Electronics Co.'s flagship Galaxy Note 7 over concerns about the smartphone's safety, according to a person familiar with the situation. A final decision will likely come as soon as Friday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. ATT spokesman Fletcher Cook declined to comment. Like many competitors, the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier is already offering alternative smartphones to people who return Note 7 devices. Samsung started replacing the Note 7 last month because of a flaw in its lithium battery that can lead to overheating and pose a burn hazard to customers. Airlines have banned customers from using the smartphones on flights, and the evacuation of a Southwest Airlines Co. plane earlier this week was blamed on smoke caused by a replacement device. ATT's move would be a further blow to Samsung. The wireless carrier is the third-biggest customer of the South Korean company, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Samsung is already facing a bill that analysts estimate stretching into the billions of dollars for the recall of 2.5 million Note 7 phones that it announced last month. A U.S.-based Samsung spokeswoman didn't immediately have a comment.

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Teens' Penchant For Risk-Taking May Help Them Learn Faster, Says Study
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 03:20 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's harder-better-faster-stronger department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: The teenage brain has been characterized as a risk-taking machine, looking for quick rewards and thrills instead of acting responsibly. But these behaviors could actually make teens better than adults at certain kinds of learning. "In neuroscience, we tend to think that if healthy brains act in a certain way, there should be a reason for it," says Juliet Davidow, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University in the Affective Neuroscience and Development Lab and the lead author of the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Neuron. But scientists and the public often focus on the negatives of teen behavior, so she and her colleagues set out to test the hypothesis that teenagers' drive for rewards, and the risk-taking that comes from it, exist for a reason. When it comes to what drives reward-seeking in teens, fingers have always been pointed at the striatum, a lobster-claw-shape structure in the brain. When something surprising and good happens -- say, you find $20 on the street -- your body produces the pleasure-related hormone dopamine, and the striatum responds. But the striatum isn't just involved in reward-seeking. It's also involved in learning from rewards, explains Daphna Shohamy, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University who worked on the study. She wanted to see if teenagers would be better at this type of learning than adults would. To test this, Shohamy and her colleagues used an fMRI scanner to watch brain activity in a group of adults and teenagers. They were looking at the striatum, but also in a different part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus (which looks like, and is named after, a seahorse) helps people remember things like dates and times: the who, what, when and where. As the adults and teens had their brains scanned, they played a game that rewarded players for guessing correctly. Between questions, participants saw random pictures of neutral objects. As expected, the reward-hungry teenagers figured out the game faster than the adults did. Surprisingly, the striatum was equally active in both teenagers and adults. But in teens, it also worked closely with their hippocampus.

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Microsoft Is Redesigning the Paint App For Windows 10
Posted by News Fetcher on October 08 '16 at 12:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's stick-figures department:
Microsoft is redesigning the Paint app with Windows 10 in mind. As mentioned in the leaked video posted by Twitter user WalkingCat, the "ability to create in 3D" is one of the biggest new features in the works. The Verge reports: A launch video notes that the new "Paint Preview" app includes all the familiar features of the regular version of Paint, but Microsoft is adding in 3D object support. Paint Preview users will be able to create 3D objects, and annotate them freely. Microsoft has a range of markers and art tools to help artists create objects, and brushes that can be used directly on 3D objects. All of the tools appear to be pen- and touch-friendly, with an interface that mixes 3D models, 2D images, stickers, and community tools for 3D content. Microsoft appears to be testing early "alpha" versions of the Paint app, and the videos indicate it could be ready to be released publicly soon. The timing of the Paint videos come just hours after Microsoft revealed it's planning to hold a special event in New York City later this month. Microsoft is widely expected to unveil a new Surface device at the event, with rumors suggesting it will be an all-in-one desktop PC.

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CIA 'Siren Servers' Can Predict Social Uprisings Several Days Before They Happen
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '16 at 08:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's predict-the-future department:
Through a combination of machine learning and deep learning, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is using powerful supercomputers, dubbed "Siren Servers" by computer philosophy writer Jaron Lanier, to predict social unrest days before it happens. The Sociable reports: CIA Deputy Director for Digital Innovation Andrew Hallman announced that the agency has beefed-up its "anticipatory intelligence" through the use of deep learning and machine learning servers that can process an incredible amount of data. "We have, in some instances, been able to improve our forecast to the point of being able to anticipate the development of social unrest and societal instability some I think as near as three to five days out," said Hallman on Tuesday at the Federal Tech event, Fedstival. The CIA deputy director said that it was "much harder to convey confidence for the policymaker who may make an important decision from advanced analytics with deep learning algorithms." Now that the CIA claims to be able to predict social unrest days in advance, there are some interesting theoretical possibilities that can come of this. One is that the CIA's siren servers will become so efficient that they will predict all social uprising and will be able to prevent it. If they are successful in doing that, there would be no need for the CIA as their technology could predict and prevent any societal upheavals, and the agency would be obsolete. Another potential outcome would be that the CIA could use the data and not tell anyone, just like the finance sector did, and then make calculated decisions on whether or not to intervene in any socially distressing situation.

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Poland Builds a Solar-Powered Bike Path That Glows Blue At Night
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '16 at 06:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's renewable-energy department:
Poland recently unveiled a new solar-powered bike path in the town of Pruszkow that is built with "light-emitting material" that gets its power from the sun. While the bike path has the potential to glow multiple different colors, the path in Prusczkow glows a cool blue for up to 10 hours in the dark. TechCrunch reports: The company that made it, TPA sp. z o.o, is an engineering firm focused on future tech. They expect this sort of road to be useful in larger projects -- highways, say -- but for now they're limiting it to bike paths until they can test the material in the wild. They said that this type of path may be installed in Warsaw soon and that it can glow multiple colors. The lane uses luminophores -- chemicals that "ingest" light -- to keep the bike path nicely lit at night. They chose blue to "match the Mazurian landscape" where lakes abound. You can read a bit more at Gazeta Wyborcza if your Polish isn't too rusty or you can just bask in the cold beauty of a glowing bike lane in deepest Poland.

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Baltimore Police Took 1 Million Surveillance Photos of City
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '16 at 05:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's eye-in-the-sky department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Baltimore Police on Friday released data showing that a surveillance plane secretly flew over the city roughly 100 times, taking more than 1 million snapshots of the streets below. Police held a news conference where they released logs tracking flights of the plane owned and operated by Persistent Surveillance Systems, which is promoting the aerial technology as a cutting-edge crime-fighting tool. The logs show the plane spent about 314 hours over eight months creating the chronological visual record. The program began in January and was not initially disclosed to Baltimore's mayor, city council or other elected officials. Now that it's public, police say the plane will fly over the city again as a terrorism prevention tool when Fleet Week gets underway on Monday, as well as during the Baltimore Marathon on Oct. 15. The logs show that the plane made flights ranging between one and five hours long in January and February, June, July and August. The flights stopped on Aug. 7, shortly before the program's existence was revealed in an article by Bloomberg Businessweek. "We have a real opportunity to police smarter," Commissioner Kevin Davis said. "The old days of looking at a spike in violence, and marching orders to stop everyone that moves in hoping of identifying a suspect or a witness -- we have to move away from that type of policing. I just believe that taking advantage of this technology opportunity was a prudent thing to do."

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Appeals Court Reinstates Apple's $120 Million Slide-To-Unlock Patent Win Over Samsung
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '16 at 05:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's surprise-ending department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple Inc. won an appeals court ruling that reinstates a patent-infringement verdict it won against Samsung Electronics Co., including for its slide-to-unlock feature for smartphones and tablets. In an 8-3 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said a three-judge panel was wrong to throw out the $119.6 million verdict in February. Instead, it ordered the trial judge to consider whether the judgment should be increased based on any intentional infringement by Samsung. In this case, Apple claimed that Samsung infringed patents for the slide-to-unlock feature, autocorrect and a way to detect phone numbers so they can be tapped to make phone calls. The bulk of the award, $98.7 million, was for the detection patent that the earlier panel said wasn't infringed. The February decision also said the other two patents were invalid. That was a wrong decision, the court ruled Friday, because it relied on issues that were never raised on appeal or on information that was beyond the trial record. "The jury verdict on each issue is supported by substantial evidence in the record," Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore wrote for the majority.

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Law-Defying Transistor Smashes Industry 'Limit', Measures Just 1nm
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '16 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sky's-the-limit department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: U.S. researchers have unveiled the world's smallest transistor reported to date, combining a new mix of materials, which makes even the tiniest silicon-based transistor appear big in comparison. The team, led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, designed the minuscule transistor with a working one-nanometer gate -- far surpassing any industry expectation for reducing transistor sizes. In the scientific study, MoS2 transistors with 1-nanometer gate lengths, published today in the journal Science, the researchers describe a prototype device which uses a novel semiconductor material known as transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). The transistor structure uses a single-walled carbon nanotube as the gate electrode and molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) for the channel material, rather than silicon. "The semiconductor industry has long assumed that any gate below 5 nanometers wouldn't work, so anything below that was not even considered. This research shows that sub-5-nanometer gates should not be discounted. Industry has been squeezing every last bit of capability out of silicon. By changing the material from silicon to MoS2, we can make a transistor with a gate that is just 1 nanometer in length, and operate it like a switch," explained study lead Sujay Desai.

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A French Company is Suing Apple To Open the iPhone To Rival Browsing Engines
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '16 at 04:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's lawsuit-calling department:
A French maker of open-source software said Friday it is suing Apple in an effort to get the company to make iOS more supportive of Web standards. Nexedi is suing Apple under French law in hopes it can force Apple to allow rival browsing engines onto the iPhone. From a report on Recode:Although Apple allows rival browser apps, such as Google's Chrome, on to the iPhone, the'y all have to use Apple's Web rendering engine. That means the ability to draw on the latest Web standards is is limited to whatever Apple decides to include. That means some newer technologies, like the WebM video standard and the WebRTC protocol for real-time communications, can't be made to work in an iOS browser even though they work in nearly all other browsers. "We hope [this lawsuit] will help Apple to sooner support the latest Web and HTML5 standards on its iOS platform -- the operating system used by all iPhones," Nexedi said in a blog post, which also explains the more granular details of how technology works and what needs to change, in their estimation.

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