By msmash from Slashdot's cooool department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon gets trashed on the international stage pretty often for its inhumane work conditions in its warehouses. However, it seems the Indian arm of the company is trying to do better, at least according to the latest announcement from Country Head Amit Agarwal. According to Business Standard, in an email to senior staff members this week, Agarwal has reportedly asked employees to leave themselves enough time to spend at home, and maintain a healthy "work-life harmony." He's told employees to stop taking calls and emails after hours, and specifically that, "No business decision should be made between 6 pm and 8 am." It's still unclear whether this decision comes from Agarwal or from the company's global leadership. Likely the latter, considering there's been no such chatter for US employees. It'll also be interesting to see how long this plan will hold, given the sheer size of the e-commerce portal. In the email, Agarwal also said that responding to emails while on vacation is "not cool."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's internet-shake-up department
According to a new study from market research firm SimilarWeb, Facebook may cede its runner-up position to YouTube in the next two to three months. Currently, the top five most-visited websites in the U.S. are Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo and Amazon, in that order. However, Facebook's monthly page visits are declining rapidly, from 8.5 billion to 4.7 billion in the last two years, which could shake up that order. CNBC reports: YouTube, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, has seen increased traffic, the study said. The app has also experienced in increase in viewership. Yahoo is also poised to lose its position in the ranking. Amazon has already surpassed Yahoo during big spending months, including December 2017 and July 2018, when the e-commerce giant held its annual Prime Day. The study projects that Amazon will take over Yahoo's ranking in the next two to three months. However, none of the bottom four of the top five comes close to Google. Although it has seen some decline in website traffic thanks to app use and voice search, it saw approximately 15 billion visits in July 2018, the study said. The others were all below 5 billion, according to the report.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's black-hole-sun department
In T-minus three days, NASA will launch a car-sized spacecraft to investigate our Sun's scorching hot atmosphere. "The vehicle is the Parker Solar Probe, and it's set to launch at 3:33AM ET on Saturday, August 11th, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. "It'll be riding on a Delta IV Heavy rocket made by the United Launch Alliance, which will send the probe zooming toward the inner Solar System," reports The Verge. "Just six weeks after launch, Parker will do a flyby of Venus to alter its route slightly, and then six weeks later, the vehicle will be in the corona. Over the course of seven years, Parker will do 24 orbits around the star, as well as six more Venus flybys so that it can get even closer to the Sun's surface over time." From the report: NASA has long wanted to send a vehicle to the Sun's atmosphere, but such a mission has been considered impossible until the last few decades. This region of space, known as the corona, is filled with tiny, energetic particles that can reach above 3 million degrees Fahrenheit. Any vehicle that ventures near this region must have sophisticated protection to keep from melting. But thanks to advancements in carbon manufacturing and other key areas of engineering, NASA has been able to create a vehicle with a state-of-the-art heat shield and other crucial cooling systems. The result: the spacecraft will stay at room temperature in some of the hottest places in the Solar System.
The Sun's corona is actually 300 times hotter than the surface of the Sun, and no one understands why. The region gets so hot that chunks of the corona actually accelerate and break away from the immense pull of the Sun at supersonic speeds. These so-called solar winds shoot highly energized particles out in all directions, which then slam into surrounding planets. Parker is tasked with investigating the mechanics of the breakaway effect and why the atmosphere is so much hotter than its source.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's if-there's-a-will-there's-a-way department
olsmeister writes: A security flaw in the Comcast Xfinity online portal exposed social security numbers and partial home addresses of more than 26.5 million subscribers, according to security researcher Ryan Stevenson. Comcast says the flaws have already been patched and that it currently has no reason to believe that the flaws were ever exploited. BuzzFeed reports of the two vulnerabilities: One of the flaws could be exploited by going to an "in-home authentication" page where customers can pay their bills without signing in. The portal asked customers to verify their account by choosing from one of four partial home addresses it suggested, if the device was (or seemed like it was) connected to the customer's home network. If a hacker obtained a customer's IP address and spoofed Comcast using an "X-forwarded-for" technique, they could repeatedly refresh this login page to reveal the customer's location. That's because each time the page refreshed, three addresses would change, while one address, the correct address, remained the same. Eventually, the page would show the first digit of the street number and first three letters of the correct street name, while asterisks hid the remaining characters. A hacker could then use IP lookup websites to determine the city, state, and postal code of the partial address.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's deserved-recognition department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Popular Science: Plenty of prominent scientists have Wikipedia pages. But while checking to see if someone specific has a Wikipedia page is a quick Google search away, figuring out who should be on Wikipedia but isn't -- and then writing an entry for him or her -- is much trickier. For example, you may or may not have heard of Christina Economos. She doesn't have a Wikipedia page about her, although she's a professor at Tufts University and the New Balance Chair in childhood nutrition. But while she lacks a Wikipedia page, she does have a very short stub describing who she is professionally on a website made by a company called Primer. That little blurb, which could one day grow into a full-blown Wiki entry, was created by an AI system dubbed Quicksilver. The idea behind the project is to use AI as a jumping off point. Humans can use it to help them write Wikipedia pages for scientists who don't have them, but deserve to. For example, on Economos' Primer page, there's a link to an article from CBS Boston that mentions her -- a good potential source for a human Wikipedia editor who may want to write an entry for her.
Primer launched officially last year and uses AI to read information and generate reports; part of its focus is doing the kind of work an intelligence analyst might do. Artificial intelligence generally needs data to learn from, and so for this project, Primer used around 30,000 existing scientist Wikipedia pages to train their machine learning systems. Then they fed 200,000 names and related employment information into their AI system. Those names came from the listed authors of scientific papers focused on computer science and biomedical research provided to Primer from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. If you're curious to see a sample, you can head on over to this page, which has 100 examples of AI-generated Wikipedia blurbs.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's something-doesn't-add-up-here department
"In Chicago, it used to be claimed that even death couldn't stop a person from voting," writes Slashdot reader lunchlady55. "But in the Deep South, there are new reports of discrepancies in voter turnout with the approval of new electronic voting systems." Ars Technica reports: [I]f any state is a poster child for terrible election practices, it is surely Georgia. Bold claims demand bold evidence, and unfortunately there's plenty; on Monday, McClatchy reported a string of irregularities from the state's primary election in May, including one precinct with a 243-percent turnout.
McClatchy's data comes from a federal lawsuit filed against the state. In addition to the problem in Habersham County's Mud Creek precinct, where it appeared that 276 registered voters managed to cast 670 ballots, the piece describes numerous other issues with both voter registration and electronic voting machines. (In fact it was later corrected to show 3,704 registered voters in the precinct.) Multiple sworn statements from voters describe how they turned up at their polling stations only to be turned away or directed to other precincts. Even more statements allege incorrect ballots, frozen voting machines, and other issues. "George is one of four states in the U.S. that continues to use voting machines with no ability to provide voters a paper record so that they can verify the machine counted their vote correctly," the report adds.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's under-development department
Google is using search samples from a Beijing-based website it owns to make blacklists for the censored search engine it is developing for China. Google's website 265.com redirects to China's dominant search engine, Baidu, by default, "but Google can apparently see the queries that users are typing in," reports The Verge. From the report: Google engineers are reportedly sampling those search queries in order to develop a list of thousands of blocked websites it should hide on its upcoming search engine in China. Blacklisted results, which include topics like the Tiananmen Square massacre, will result in users seeing a blank page, The Intercept reports. On Baidu, if you search for something less specific, like Taiwan or Xinjiang, you'll get a partial blackout where you can only see tourist information and not politically sensitive news reports. It could be possible that Google is taking a similar tack.
Originally, 265.com was founded in 2003 by Chinese entrepreneur Cai Wensheng, who's also the founder of Chinese beauty app Meitu. Google bought the site in 2008, while it was still operating its search engine within China. Google has essentially been using the site to figure out what Chinese users are searching for since 2008, and now that it is working on an Android search app, it will finally have a use for that data. The Intercept first reported this news.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blood-sucking department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A vicious species of tick originating from Eastern Asia has invaded the U.S. and is rapidly sweeping the Eastern Seaboard, state and federal officials warn. The tick, the Asian longhorned tick (or Haemaphysalis longicornis), has the potential to transmit an assortment of nasty diseases to humans, including an emerging virus that kills up to 30 percent of victims. So far, the tick hasn't been found carrying any diseases in the U.S. It currently poses the largest threat to livestock, pets, and wild animals; the ticks can attack en masse and drain young animals of blood so quickly that they die -- an execution method called exsanguination.
Key to the tick's explosive spread and bloody blitzes is that its invasive populations tend to reproduce asexually, that is, without mating. Females drop up to 2,000 eggs over the course of two or three weeks, quickly giving rise to a ravenous army of clones. In one U.S. population studied so far, experts encountered a massive swarm of the ticks in a single paddock, totaling well into the thousands. They speculated that the population might have a ratio of about one male to 400 females. Yesterday, August 7, Maryland became the eighth state to report the presence of the tick. It followed a similar announcement last Friday, August 3, from Pennsylvania. Other affected states include New York, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's companion-cube department
harrymcc writes: Toymaker Anki, whose Cozmo robot has been a hit, has announced its next bot: Vector. Though it looks a lot like Cozmo, it packs far more computational power -- Cozmo relied on a phone app for smarts -- and utilizes deep-learning tech in the interest of giving Vector a subtler, more engaging personality. Over at Fast Company, Sean Captain has a deep dive into the software engineering that went into the effort. Vector is being powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 chip, and has cartoon eyes displayed on a 184 x 96-pixel screen. The robot actually scans its environment via a single 720p wide-angle camera mounted below the screen. "Cozmo springs to attention when you call its name, making twittering sounds, and lifting its bulldozer-like arms up and down," writes Captain. "If you ignore Cozmo, the bot gets more in your face, or makes loud, obnoxious snoring sounds." While Vector can connect to the internet and display weather information, set timers, and speak answers to various questions, it's the social and visual intelligence that people may fall in love with the most. Vector is able to detect people and interact with them, even when faces aren't visible. Computer vision technical director Andrew Stein and his team "trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) -- a popular deep-learning AI technology that mimics the brains visual cortex," reports Captain. "Using the often blurry and distorted footage that Vector's camera captures as he moves around, Stein has been teaching the CNN to detect people from the back or the side, for instance, up to about 10 feet away."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blockchain-friendly department
A new company called Audius, lead by entrepreneur and DJ Ranidu Lankage, has raised $5.5 million to build a blockchain-based alternative to Spotify or SoundCloud. "Users will pay for Audius tokens or earn them by listening to ads," reports TechCrunch. "Their wallet will then pay out a fraction of a cent per song to stream from decentralized storage across the network, with artists receiving roughly 85 percent -- compared to roughly 70 percent on the leading streaming apps. The rest goes to compensating whomever is hosting that song, as well as developers of listening software clients, one of which will be built by Audius." From the report: Audius plans to launch its open-sourced product in beta later this year. But it's already found some powerful investors that see SoundCloud as vulnerable to the cryptocurrency revolution. Audius has raised a $5.5 million Series A led by General Catalyst and Lightspeed, with participation from Kleiner Perkins, Pantera Capital, 122West and Ascolta Ventures. They're betting that Audius' token will grow in value, making the stockpile it keeps worth a fortune. It could then sell chunks of its tokens to earn revenue instead of charging artists directly. The big question will be whether Audius can use the token economy to crack the chicken-and-egg problem of getting its first creators and listeners on a platform that might be less functionally robust than its traditional competitors. There are a lot of moving parts to decentralize, but there are also plenty of disgruntled musicians out there waiting for something better.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department
New York City Council passed regulations on ride-hail companies on Wednesday, capping the number of vehicles on the road for one year and requiring that drivers to be paid a minimum wage. From a report: Council Speaker Corey Johnson said earlier that the regulations are intended to protect drivers, fairly regulate the industry and reduce congestion. The year-long cap on new licenses for ride-hailing vehicles will take place while the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) studies the effects of ride-hail service in the city. The cap would not apply to new wheelchair-accessible vehicles or new vehicles serving an area demonstrating need in a way that does not increase congestion. App-based ride services account for 80,000 vehicles in New York City, and provide 17 million rides per month, according to a study by The New School for the TLC. The surge in ridership coincided with increased resident frustration with the local subway system. With the move on Wednesday, New York City, the largest American market for Uber, has become the first major American city to restrict the number of ride-hail vehicles and to establish pay rules for drivers. In a statement issued moments ago, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said," Our city is directly confronting a crisis that is driving working New Yorkers into poverty and our streets into gridlock. The unchecked growth of app-based for-hire vehicle companies has demanded action -- and now we have it."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Caroline O'Donovan, reporting for BuzzFeed News: To convince workers to join the unstable and unreliable world of freelance work, startups and platforms often promise freedom and flexibility. But on the digital freelance platform Upwork, company software tracks hundreds of freelancers while they work by saving screenshots, measuring the frequency of their clicks and keystrokes, and even sometimes taking webcam photos of the workers. Upwork, which hosts "millions" of coding and design gigs, guarantees payment for freelancers, even if the clients who hired them refuse to pay. But in order to get the money, freelancers have to agree in advance to use Upwork's digital Work Diary, which counts keystrokes to measure how "productive" they are and takes screenshots of their computer screens to determine whether they're actually doing the work they say they're doing. Upwork's tracker isn't automatically turned on for all gigs on the platform. Some freelancers like it because it guarantees payment, but others find it unnerving. [...] Upwork maintains that freelancers don't have to use the time tracker if it makes them uncomfortable. [...] But while Work Diary may be opt-in on its surface, Microsoft Research's Mary Gray said freelancers may not feel like they really have a choice.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Larger cable providers once again take a beating for perceived value -- even when it comes to bundled plans. ConsumerReports: Unhappy with your pay-TV company? You're not alone. Dissatisfaction with the perceived value of pay-TV service was once again high among the 176,000 members who participated in Consumer Reports' latest telecommunications survey. When we asked for feedback on their experiences with pay TV, home internet, home telephone service, and bundled plans, they shared their displeasure. In fact, most of the larger cable companies -- Optimum (Cablevision), Comcast, and Spectrum (Charter, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks) -- earned low scores in multiple categories, settling into the bottom half of the 25 providers in CR's new telecom service ratings. Only 38 percent of pay-TV subscribers were highly satisfied with their service, meaning they were "very" or "completely" happy with the offerings. Armstrong, a smaller cable company that operates in Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, earned the second-place slot behind Google Fiber, in part due to favorable scores for technical support, reliability, and customer service. Verizon and the two satellite-TV companies -- AT&T's DirecTV and Dish Network -- also rated better than Cox Communications, Comcast, Spectrum, and Optimum. Top-rated EPB, a municipal broadband service run as a public utility in Chattanooga, Tenn., was one of the few bright spots for internet service. It was the only company to receive a top mark for value. It also got top marks for speed and reliability. Google Fiber was a close second in the ratings, the only other company to get a favorable mark for value. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents who have a bundled plan -- TV, internet, and phone -- said they got a special promotional price when they signed up. And 45 percent were still enjoying that rate when they answered our survey.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Virtual reality is a modern-day beacon of escapism -- a way to fully immerse yourself in other worlds -- and it's seeing unprecedented applications. The market, no surprise, is exploding, with some industry groups estimating a $60 billion global market by 2022. As business booms, however, people who are using the tech are reporting a growing number of physical side effects -- like VR arm, but worse: eye strain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and even dissociative experiences. From a report: VR companies recommend that people take frequent breaks and moderate their VR time when they're first starting out. "As you become accustomed to the virtual reality experience, you can begin increasing the amount of time you use Daydream View," reads one line of the health and safety information included with Google's VR platform. But what happens when it's your job to build these escapist technologies? The potential health risks for everyday consumers are compounded for those who make VR products for a living. When VR bigwig Jeremy Bailenson founded Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, in 2003, two items were even more important than the VR equipment he was using: "We had to keep a bucket in the lab and a mop nearby," Bailenson says. Today, he institutes a strict 20-minute limit on headset time for people in his lab. These health effects produce unique challenges for VR developers. "We have to understand not just the good but also the downsides of this technology. There a lot of questions we need to answer," Bailenson says. "The whole point of VR is it takes you out of your space, but you can't be doing that for many hours a day." [...] Suddenly rotating around a virtual environment using handled controllers or quickly looking left and right in the VR space without any concomitant physical movement in the real world tend to physically affect Jonathan Yomayuza, VR technical director at the Emblematic Group, a creative firm based in Southern California. [...] The feeling Yomayuza describes is common among people who work with or use VR.Read Replies (0)