By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-fast-tracking department
"Starting April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions," read Friday's announcement, which says the suspension "may last up to 6 months." Slashdot reader elrous0 sees it as part of the "ongoing efforts to curb abuses in the controversial H-1B program." The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
While it could be difficult to divorce the move Friday from the Trump administration's broader immigration crackdown, some experts believed the agency's decision to be apolitical. "It has everything to do with an understaffed, overworked, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services," said Jason Finkelman, an Austin, Texas, immigration attorney, adding that the wait time for an H-1B visa in California is currently about eight months. However, Vivek Wadhwa, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus in NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, said the suspension seems like a message from the government that you "can't buy your way into America."
Whatever the motivation, Engadget believes this will impact large tech companies. "Financial Times quotes a lawyer saying that 'close to 100 percent' of applications from companies like Microsoft utilize the option."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Android-alternatives department
Jolla released their Android-free mobile Linux OS (Sailfish) on their own smartphones, "but has always intended to offer it to other manufacturers," according to Silicon. The next Sailfish smartphone was the Inex Aqua Fish, and people with Sony Xperia phones can now also run Sailfish through the Sony Open Devices Program. But their next big customer is the nation of China. Mickeycaskill
The Sailfish China Consortium has gained the exclusive rights and license to develop a Chinese operating system based on Sailfish. Russia is also using Sailfish to build a national mobile OS in a bid to reduce its reliance on Western technology and reduce the risk of foreign surveillance. Jolla claimed that there have been many attempts to build a national OS on Android but these had been unsuccessful because of Google's control over the code.
One of the consortium's investors claims "several" major Chinese companies are already interested in joining them, adding "I have been closely following Sailfish OS development, and seen many Chinese projects fail, while Jolla's Sailfish OS has been steadily progressing. Sailfish OS is the only viable alternative for China."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's encrypting-emails department
Last week Google released E2EMail, "a Gmail client that exchanges OpenPGP mail." Google's documentation promises that "Any email sent from the app is also automatically signed and encrypted... The target is a simple user experience -- install app, approve permissions, start reading or send sending messages." Trailrunner7 quotes On The Wire:
People have been trying to find a replacement for PGP almost since the day it was released, and with limited success. Encrypted email is still difficult to use and painful to implement in most cases, but Google has just released a Chrome plugin designed to address those problems.
The new E2EMail extension doesn't turn a user's Gmail inbox into an encrypted mail client. Rather, it is a replacement that gives users a separate inbox for encrypted messages. The system is built on Google's end-to-end encryption library, and the company has released E2EMail as an open-source project.
Wired quotes a web security researcher who calls the open sourcing "a telltale sign the project isn't going anywhere. This is a way for them to get their work out there but to absolve themselves of future obligations." But Google's privacy and security product manager responds that they're tackling some very thorny issues like secure key handling, and "The reason we want to put this into the open source community is precisely because everyone cares about this so much. We don't want everyone waiting for Google to get something done."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's arguing-over-HTML5 department
Slashdot reader Atticus Rex writes: On Monday, W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) director Tim Berners-Lee released a post defending his decision to allow Netflix, Microsoft, Apple and Google to enshrine DRM in Web standards, arguing that blocking it would be pointless. Zak Rogoff, FSF campaigns manager, writes in the response: "As Director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), Berners-Lee has the ability to block [the DRM proposal] from ratification as an official Web standard... Of course, a refusal to ratify could not immediately stop the use of DRM, but it could meaningfully weaken the position of DRM in the court of public opinion, and put EME proponents Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, and Google on notice that a very prominent figure was willing to stand up to them on behalf of users. Changes in society's technological infrastructure require political movements, not just technological arguments, and political movements benefit greatly from the support of prominent figures." Berners-Lee takes the position that "The web has to be universal, to function at all. It has to be capable of holding crazy ideas of the moment, but also the well polished ideas of the century. It must be able to handle any language and culture. It must be able to include information of all types, and media of many genres. Included in that universality is that it must be able to support free stuff and for-pay stuff, as they are all part of this world.
"This means that it is good for the web to be able to include movies, and so for that, it is better for HTML5 to have EME than to not have it."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's keep-your-eyes-on-the-road department
Curated advertising may be coming to a highway near you. "A startup called Synaps Labs has brought it to the physical world by combining high-speed cameras set up a distance ahead of the billboard (about 180 meters) to capture images of cars," reports MIT Technology Review. "Its machine-learning system can recognize in those images the make and model of the cars an advertiser wants to target. A bidding system then selects the appropriate advertising to put on the billboard as that car passes." From the report: There is a lot an advertiser can tell about you from the car you drive, says Synaps. Indeed, recent research from a group of university researchers and led by Stanford found that -- using machine vision and deep learning -- analyzing the make, model, and year of vehicles visible in Google Street View could accurately estimate income, race, and education level of a neighborhood's residents, and even whether a city is likely to vote Democrat or Republican. Synaps's business model is to sell its services to the owners of digital billboards. Digital billboard advertising rotates, and more targeted advertising can rotate more often, allowing operators to sell more ads. According to Synaps, a targeted ad shown 8,500 times in one month will reach the same number of targeted drivers (approximately 22,000) as a typical ad shown 55,000 times. In Russia, Synaps expects to be operating on 20 to 50 billboards this year. The company is also planning a test in the U.S. this summer, where there are roughly 7,000 digital billboards, a number growing at 15 percent a year, according to the company. (By contrast, there are 370,000 conventional billboards.) With a row of digital billboards along a road, they could roll the ads as the cars move along, making billboard advertising more like the storytelling style of television and the Internet, says Synaps's cofounder Alex Pustov.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth department
schwit1 quotes a report from ScienceAlert: New data suggests that the upper parts of Earth's mantle are around 60C (108F) hotter than previously expected. The mantle is the layer between our planet's super-hot core and outer crust, and it plays an incredibly important role in things like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tectonic shifts. But despite the impact the mantle has on our planet, scientists have always struggled to pinpoint its temperature, and new research suggests our previous estimates were off the mark. If the new estimates made by scientists at the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington DC are verified, it would mean the mantle is melting shallower than previously expected, and it could change the way we predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The new estimates are based on the fact that the Earth's upper mantle is more affected by the presence of water in its minerals than we've assumed in the past. One of the most common ways to measure the temperature of the upper mantle is to analyze lava emerging from mid-ocean ridges - an underwater mountain range where two plates meet and hot mantle is drawn up and partially melts. So to more accurately measure the temperature at which this would melt, the researchers, led by Emily Sarafian, have used a new technique to add a quantifiable amount of water into mantle samples through tiny particles of the mineral olivine. This allowed them to more accurately measure the melting point of peridotite under mantle-like pressures in the presence of known amounts of water. "Small amounts of water have a big effect on melting temperature, and this is the first time experiments have ever been conducted to determine precisely how the mantle's melting temperature depends on such small amounts of water," said one of the researchers, Erik Hauri. They found that the potential temperature of the mantle beneath the oceanic crust is on average around 60C higher than previous estimates - with some parts much hotter than that. "Our experimental results indicate that mantle potential temperatures along all ocean spreading centers are hotter than existing estimates," the team writes in Science.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-in-one department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: MIT physicists have created a new form of matter, a supersolid, which combines the properties of solids with those of superfluids. By using lasers to manipulate a superfluid gas known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, the team was able to coax the condensate into a quantum phase of matter that has a rigid structure -- like a solid -- and can flow without viscosity -- a key characteristic of a superfluid. Studies into this apparently contradictory phase of matter could yield deeper insights into superfluids and superconductors, which are important for improvements in technologies such as superconducting magnets and sensors, as well as efficient energy transport. The researchers report their results this week in the journal Nature. The team used a combination of laser cooling and evaporative cooling methods, originally co-developed by Ketterle, to cool atoms of sodium to nanokelvin temperatures. Atoms of sodium are known as bosons, for their even number of nucleons and electrons. When cooled to near absolute zero, bosons form a superfluid state of dilute gas, called a Bose-Einstein condensate, or BEC. To create the supersolid state, the team manipulated the motion of the atoms of the BEC using laser beams, introducing "spin-orbit coupling." In their ultrahigh-vacuum chamber, the team used an initial set of lasers to convert half of the condensate's atoms to a different quantum state, or spin, essentially creating a mixture of two Bose-Einstein condensates. Additional laser beams then transferred atoms between the two condensates, called a "spin flip."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's keeping-the-lights-on department
Amazon announced earlier this week that it would install solar panels on 15 of its fulfillment and sorting centers around the U.S. in 2017. "Depending on the specific project, time of year, and other factors, a solar installation could generate as much as 80 percent of a single fulfillment facility's annual energy needs," Amazon wrote in a press release. "That energy will provide electricity for everything from keeping the lights on to powering Amazon Robotics at fulfillment centers," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Amazon is finding stride with other major companies, but it's a bit short compared to some of its more ambitious peers. For example, Google announced in December that by the end of 2017 it would be using a carbon offsets program to pay for as much renewable energy as all of its data centers and offices worldwide consumed. The search giant said at the time that the move to renewable energy wasn't just for show -- it was about avoiding energy price fluctuations in the long term. That's a sentiment Amazon echoed as well in its Tuesday press release. "We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability -- this is good for the environment, our business, and our customers," wrote Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations. "By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It's a win-win."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's another-day,-another-controversy department
Uber has been using a secretive program to evade authorities for years, particularly at times when city regulators were trying to block the ride-hailing service, according to a new report by the New York Times. From the report: Uber is using a tool called "Greyball" to work identify requests made by certain users and deny them service, according to the report. The application, later renamed the "violation of terms of service" or VTOS program, is said to employ data analysis on info collected by the Uber app to identify individuals violating Uber's terms of service, and blocks riders from being able to hail rides who fall into that category -- including, according to the report, members of code enforcement authorities or city officials who are attempting to gather data about Uber offering service where it's currently prohibited. The report claims that that Uber's "violation of terms of service" or VTOS program, briefly known as Greyball, began around 2014, and has sign-off from Uber's legal team.In a statement, Uber said, "This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service -- whether that's people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret 'stings' meant to entrap drivers." Journalists, putting things in context. Russell Brandom, a reporter at The Verge said, This is the kind of thing a DA would put in front of a judge if they wanted to subpoena Uber's business records for an entire city. Matt Rosoff, editorial director at CNBC Digital added, I've been a tech journalist on and off for 21 years and I can't remember any company having a worse month news cycle-wise than Uber is now.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's are-you-smarter-than-a-5th-grader department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Adweek: Elon Musk is well aware that Tesla's superfans love to make unauthorized commercials for the brand, given that Tesla doesn't make its own (and, given the power of word of mouth, doesn't really need to). But it has taken a fifth-grade girl to convince him to actually run a fan-made ad. "Dear Elon Musk, I'm Bria from Ms. Esparza's 5th grade class," she wrote to the Tesla founder in a letter that her father (a writer for InsideEVs.com) also posted to Twitter. "I have noticed that you do not advertise, but many people make homemade commercials for Tesla and some of them are very good, they look professional and they are entertaining. So, I think that you should run a competition on who can make the best homemade Tesla commercial and the winners will get their commercial aired." Within an hour of the Twitter post, Musk -- who apparently is as smart as a fifth grader -- brightened to the idea. "Thank you for the lovely letter. That sounds like a great idea. We'll do it!" he wrote. Two of the fan-made, cinematography-rich commercials mentioned in the report include the 2014 spot called "Modern Spaceship," and "Fireflies," which was directed by Parachute's Sam O'Hare. What's particularly neat about the "Fireflies" ad is that it was completely CGI.Read Replies (0)