By BeauHD from Slashdot's growing-influence department
Amazon lobbied more government entities last year than any other public U.S. company, covering issues like healthcare, transportation, defense, and labor regulation. "Across 2018, Amazon contacted 40 different federal entities on 21 different general issue areas," reports Fortune, citing a report from Axios. "The only tech giant to lobby on more issues than Amazon was Google's Alphabet." From the report: In terms of money spent, Amazon's $14.4 million is topped only by Alphabet's $21 million, says Bloomberg. While the tech industry overall spent less than half of the $280 million from pharmaceutical and healthcare products companies in Washington, Amazon has increased spending 460% since 2012, growing quickly within its trade. According to Axios, Amazon lobbied on self-driving car and drone issues, hinting at new methods of delivery. It supported a law allowing pharmacists to tell patients when using their insurance is actually more expensive, aiding Amazon's new investment in PillPack. It also covered the labeling of bioengineered food and a pilot program allowing online shoppers to use the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program -- signs of Amazon's emerging grocery business.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's waste-of-time-and-money department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Guide: Austrian antivirus-testing lab AV-Comparatives tested 250 antivirus apps in Google Play against 2,000 malware samples. They found that only 80 of the apps could stop even a minimal amount of malware. "Less than one in 10 of the apps tested defended against all 2,000 malicious apps, while over two-thirds failed to reach a block rate of even 30 percent," the lab said in a press release. To make sure you're protecting your Android device properly, stick to apps from well-known antivirus companies. Basically, AV-Comparatives said, most Android antivirus apps are phony, and many of them seemed to have been created only to display ads or promote a developer's career. "The main purpose of these apps seems to be generating easy revenue for their developers, rather than actually protecting their users," the AV-Comparatives report said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Smart TV manufacturer Vizio has formed a partnership with nine media and advertising companies to develop an industry standard that will allow smart TVs to target advertisements to specific households, the companies said this week. From a report: The consortium includes major TV networks like Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal and CBS, as well as advertising technology companies like AT&T's Xandr. Addressable advertising, or targeting viewers on the household level based on their interests, has long been the goal of TV marketers. But TVs lack cookies that internet browsers use to allow ads to follow people around the web. [...] The consortium of companies, dubbed Project OAR, or Open Addressable Ready, hopes to define the technical standards for TV programmers and platforms to deliver addressable advertising on smart TVs, which are WiFi-enabled TVs with apps for services like Netflix Inc and Hulu, by the end of this year, McAfee said. Further reading: In January this year, Bill Baxter, chief technology officer of Vizio, spoke about business of data collection in an interview. He said: It's about post-purchase monetization of the TV. This is a cutthroat industry. It's a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it's pretty ruthless. You could say it's self-inflicted, or you could say there's a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don't need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost. And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years -- the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, "I love Vizio TVs, I have one" and it's 11 years old. I'm like, "Dude, that's not even full HD, that's 720p." But they do last a long time and our strategy -- you've seen this with all of our software upgrades including AirPlay 2 and HomeKit -- is that we want to make things backward compatible to those TVs. So we're continuing to invest in those older TVs to bring them up to feature level comparison with the new TVs when there's no hardware limitation that would otherwise prevent that.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's problem-solved department
Researchers at Google, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of California Santa Barbara has solved one of the biggest limitations with quantum computing: all the control and readout circuits of quantum computer systems must be at room temperature, while their superconducting qubits live in a cryogenic enclosure at less than 1 kelvin. "For today's sub-100-qubit systems, there's enough space for specialized RF cabling to come in and out of the enclosure," reports IEEE Spectrum. "But to scale up to the million-qubit systems needed to do really cool stuff, there just won't be enough room." At the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco last month, the researchers reported making a key control circuit in CMOS that will work at cryogenic temperatures. They described it as "a high-performance, low-power pulse modulator needed to program the qubits." From the report: "The current approach is OK for now," says Joseph Bardin, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who designed the IC while on sabbatical at Google. "But it's not scalable to a million qubits." For Google's 72-qubit quantum processor there are already 168 coaxial cables going into the refrigerator and connecting to the 10-millikelvin quantum processor. The pulse modulator IC Bardin worked on is used to encode quantum states on a qubit in order to execute a program. Quantum computers get their parallelizing power because qubits don't have to be just 0 or 1, like the bits in an ordinary computer. Instead, they can be a mix of those states. The pulse modulator uses a specific set of RF frequencies to produce that mix.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-in-the-open department
eatmorekix shares a report from Motherboard: Glocom, a front company for the government of North Korea that sells sanctioned equipment, isn't giving up. In 2017, before YouTube quietly removed Glocom's channel, the company was advertising missile navigation and other military products on the video platform. But Glocom has returned. It setup a new channel, and also had a presence on Twitter, until Motherboard flagged Glocom's accounts to social media companies. The news not only signals the perseverance of parts of the North Korean's money-making enterprises, but also a slice of the content moderation issues that tech platforms constantly face. Glocom "is using them as platforms to market sanctions violating products," Shea Cotton, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and who has a particular focus on North Korea, told Motherboard in an email. A United Nations report says that Glocom is run by North Korean intelligence agents, even though it pitches itself as a Malaysian company. Cotton said "this company continues to operate openly. Most DPRK [Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea] fronts, when exposed, usually fold or at the very least shut down and move their operations to another country and re-open under a new name. This one hasn't done that. We've seen them try to create this spin off brand called 'FACOM' and sell a few of their products under it but as you've seen their main brand is still thriving apparently."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's it's-here department
Google said today it is rolling out the first beta version of Android Q, the newest version of its mobile operating system. The company will roll out a stable version of Android Q later this year. From a report: The first beta includes a preview SDK for developers with system images for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, and the official Android Emulator. This is the fourth year running that Google has released the first developer preview of the next Android version in March -- Android N (later named Android Nougat), Android O (Android Oreo), and Android P (Android Pie). For the past two years, Google did not use the Android Beta Program, which lets you get early Android builds via over-their-air updates on select devices.
That changes with Android Q -- Google is making the first preview available as a beta, not just as a developer preview. That signals that it is ready for early adopters to try, in addition to developers. As before, this preview version will be referred to as Android Q until Google picks a name starting with that letter.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's under-the-surface department
A new front has opened in the battle between the U.S. and China over control of global networks that deliver the internet. This one is beneath the ocean. [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; syndicated source.] From a report: While the U.S. wages a high-profile campaign to exclude China's Huawei from next-generation mobile networks over fears of espionage, the company is embedding itself into undersea cable networks that ferry nearly all of the world's internet data. About 380 active submarine cables -- bundles of fiber-optic lines that travel oceans on the seabed -- carry about 95% of intercontinental voice and data traffic, making them critical for the economies and national security of most countries. Current and former security officials in the U.S. and allied governments now worry that these cables are increasingly vulnerable to espionage or attack and say the involvement of Huawei potentially enhances China's capabilities.
Huawei denies any threat. The U.S. hasn't publicly provided evidence of its claims that Huawei technology poses a cybersecurity risk. Its efforts to persuade other countries to sideline the company's communication technology have been met with skepticism by some. Huawei Marine Networks, majority owned by the Chinese telecom giant, completed a 3,750-mile cable between Brazil and Cameroon in September. It recently started work on a 7,500-mile cable connecting Europe, Asia and Africa and is finishing up links across the Gulf of California in Mexico. Altogether, the company has worked on some 90 projects to build or upgrade seabed fiber-optic links, gaining fast on the three U.S., European and Japanese firms that dominate the industry. These officials say the company's knowledge of and access to undersea cables could allow China to attach devices that divert or monitor data traffic -- or, in a conflict, to sever links to entire nations.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's real-challenges department
On the occasion of the web's 30th anniversary, its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, has given some interviews and shared his thoughts on some challenges that the web faces today. He spoke with Medianama, an Indian outlet, on some of the relatively unique challenges that the government over there has been pushing lately. Some of these challenges include government's push to have Silicon Valley companies store data of Indians in India itself; a nudge to WhatsApp to put an end to its encryption (On a side note: The Australian government recently passed a law to do this exact thing); and frequent shutdowns in the nation.
On data localisation and data as a national resource
: That's one of the things that the Web Foundation has always been concerned about: the balkanisation of the Internet. If you want to balkanise it, that's a pretty darn effective way of doing it. If you say that Indian people's data can't be stored outside India, that means that when you start a social network which will be accessed by people all over the world, that means that you will have to start 152 different companies all over the world. It's a barrier to entry. Facebook can do that. Google can do that.
When an Indian company does it, and you'll end up with an Indian company that serves only Indian users. When people go abroad, they won't be able to keep track of their friends at home. The whole wonderful open web of knowledge, academic and political discussions would be divided into country groups and cultural groups, so there will be a massive loss of richness to the web.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unexpected-announcements department
Microsoft has announced a form of DirectX 12 that will support Windows 7. "Now before you get too excited, this is currently only enabled for World of Warcraft; and indeed it's not slated to be a general-purpose solution like DX12 on Win10," reports AnandTech. "Instead, Microsoft has stated that they are working with a few other developers to bring their DX12 games/backends to Windows 7 as well. As a consumer it's great to see them supporting their product ten years after it launched, but with the entire OS being put out to pasture in nine months, it seems like an odd time to be dedicating resources to bringing it new features." From the report: For some background, Microsoft's latest DirectX API was created to remove some of the CPU bottlenecks for gaming by allowing for developers to use low-level programming conventions to shift some of the pressure points away from the CPU. This was a response to single-threaded CPU performance plateauing, making complex graphical workloads increasingly CPU-bounded. There's many advantages to using this API over traditional DX11, especially for threading and draw calls. But, Microsoft made the decision long ago to only support DirectX 12 on Windows 10, with its WDDM 2.0 driver stack.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's silence-speaks-louder-than-words department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Alphabet offshoot Jigsaw is launching a Chrome extension designed to help moderate toxic comments on social media. The new open-source tool, dubbed "Tune," builds on the machine learning smarts introduced in Jigsaw's "Perspective" tech to help sites like Facebook and Twitter set the "volume" of abusive comments. Using "filter mix" controls, users can either turn toxic comments off altogether (what's known as "zen mode") or show selective types of posts containing attacks, insults, or profanity. Tune also works with Reddit, YouTube and Disqus. Jigsaw admits that Tune is still an experiment, meaning it may not spot all forms of toxicity or could hide non-offensive comments. "We're constantly working to improve the underlying technology, and users can easily give feedback right in the tool to help us improve our algorithms," C.J. Adams, Jigsaw product manager, wrote in a blog post.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department
Spotify today filed a complaint with EU antitrust regulators against Apple, saying the iPhone maker unfairly limits rivals to its own Apple Music streaming service. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek writes in a blog post: In recent years, Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience -- essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we're now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition. Apple operates a platform that, for over a billion people around the world, is the gateway to the internet. Apple is both the owner of the iOS platform and the App Store -- and a competitor to services like Spotify. In theory, this is fine. But in Apple's case, they continue to give themselves an unfair advantage at every turn.
To illustrate what I mean, let me share a few examples. Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30% tax on purchases made through Apple's payment system, including upgrading from our Free to our Premium service. If we pay this tax, it would force us to artificially inflate the price of our Premium membership well above the price of Apple Music. And to keep our price competitive for our customers, that isn't something we can do. As an alternative, if we choose not to use Apple's payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify.
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