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Twitter Appoints Chief In China With Former Chinese Military Ties
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 12:52 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's what's-happening? department:
An anonymous reader writes: The Sinosphere blog at the NYT reports that Twitter has appointed Kathy Chen as Chief for the Greater China Region. Ms. Chen served as an engineer in the Chinese military in the 1980s. After that, she was involved in a joint venture that was partly owned by the country's powerful domestic security ministry. She posted on Friday a message of cooperation to China Central Television, the state-run broadcaster. The language resembled President Xi Jinping's call to the Chinese media to "tell the China story well." Twitter has been and remains blocked in China by the "Great Firewall".Quartz has more details.

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Netherlands Looks To Ban All Non-Electric Cars By 2025
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 11:36 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's to-the-fossil-free-future department:
An anonymous reader writes: Politicians in the Netherlands have proposed a law which could put a ban on sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2025. A majority of the lower house in the Dutch parliament approved a motion where all fossil fuel powered cars -- including hybrids -- would be banned. Yahoo News further reports, 'While it's still unclear whether the proposal will pass and become law, the ambitious plan would involve car manufacturers getting on board to produce enough electric vehicles to meet demand. The latest electric cars have shorter charging times and longer ranges, benefits that emission-free car evangelists hope will help make them appeal to users of traditional petrol and diesel cars." More details on this here.

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Bill Gates Calls On the US Government To Invest More In Research and Development
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 11:36 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's things-gates-say department:
An anonymous reader cites an article on Fortune: On Monday, Bill Gates attempted a commendable feat: to get politicians to focus on something other than the current election cycle and its partisan bickering. In an op-ed published by Reuters, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft called on the United States to spur technological innovation by increasing its investment in research and development. "Government funding for our world-class research institutions produces the new technologies that American entrepreneurs take to market," he wrote. But while other nations like South Korea and China have drastically upped their R and D spending, the United States' has "essentially flatlined." He said that the rest of the world's commitment to research and development is great, "but if the United States is going to maintain its leading role, it needs to up its game." His call for more government-sponsored R&D also comes as corporations pull back on their commitment to discovery and innovation. With more government investment, he said, U.S. scientists could completely eradicate polio and further decrease the number of deaths from malaria. More funding could also "develop the technologies that will power the world -- while also fighting climate change, promoting energy independence, and providing affordable energy for the 1.3 billion poor people who don't have it today."

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BlackBerry Comments on Canadian Police Eavesdropping Report
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 10:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's 'doing-what-is-right' department:
Last week, a report, citing court documents, claimed that Canadian police have had BlackBerry's global decryption key since 2010. Today BlackBerry CEO John Chen officially commented on the report. In a blog post, Chen reiterated that his company remains committed to doing what is "right for the citizenry," without confirming if the Candian police have the "global encryption key." "I have stated before that we are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good," Chen wrote, adding that the company's cooperation with the Canadian police resulted in shutting down a criminal organization. He adds: Regarding BlackBerry's assistance, I can reaffirm that we stood by our lawful access principles. Furthermore, at no point was BlackBerry's BES server involved. Our BES continues to be impenetrable -- also without the ability for backdoor access -- and is the most secure mobile platform for managing all mobile devices. That's why we are the gold standard in government and enterprise-grade security. For BlackBerry, there is a balance between doing what's right, such as helping to apprehend criminals, and preventing government abuse of invading citizen's privacy, including when we refused to give Pakistan access to our servers. (Update). We have been able to find this balance even as governments have pressured us to change our ethical grounds. Despite these pressures, our position has been unwavering and our actions are proof we commit to these principles. To recall, Chen criticized Apple last year when the iPhone maker refused to unlock a terrorist's iPhone. At the time, he said, Apple was "putting reputation above the greater good."

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How 'The Jungle Book' Made Its Animals Look So Real With Groundbreaking VFX
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 10:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's pushing-VFX-to-the-limits department:
An anonymous reader shares an article on Inverse that looks into how The Jungle Book movie was made. Following are some of the interesting tidbits from the story: Directed by Jon Favreau, this version of The Jungle Book, which borrows from both Disney's 1967 cartoon and the original Rudyard Kipling novel, sets a new standard for life-like CGI animals. Shot entirely on a soundstage in downtown Los Angeles, it is sort of a hybrid of Avatar and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with one human performer surrounded by animated creatures -- the difference being that every effort was made to trick the audience into believing the animals were real. [...] For the most complicated scenes, the computational power required was astounding. "It would take 30-40 hours per frame, and since it's stereo [or 3D], it requires two frames to produce one frame of the movie -- at 2K, not even 4K," Oscar-winning visual effects director Rob Legato said. "So you can tell how much the computer has to figure out, exactly what it's doing, how it's bouncing, how much of the light is absorbed, because when it hits an object, some gets absorbed and some gets reflected." The math there is mind-boggling; it takes a full 24 frames to make up a single second of the movie, and most shots are between five and ten seconds. That required "literally thousands of computers," Legato said, and eventually, some creative solutions. "I think they started using the Google cloud, which has tens of thousands of computers, and sometimes it would take two or three days to render a shot, he said, exasperated at the mere thought of the process. As powerful as the computers were, they ultimately were just taking cues from the human innovators who spent years on the film. "In all this," Legato said, "there's no real computer that replaces the skill of the operator, of the person who is pushing the buttons."

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Google Books Can Proceed As Supreme Court Rejects Authors Guild Appeal
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 10:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's in-Google,-SC-trusts department:
An anonymous reader writes: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to Google's online book library -- Google Books -- from authors who complained that the project makes it harder for them to market their work. The Authors Guild and other writers had claimed that Google's scanning of their books should be deemed as copyright infringement and not fair use. The Supreme Court let stand the lower court opinion that rejected the writers' claims. The decision today means Google Books won't have to close up shop or ask publishers for permission to scan.The ruling, Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the authors group, said, "misunderstood the importance of emerging online markets for books and book excerpts. It failed to comprehend the very real potential harm to authors resulting from its decision. The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture."

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Silicon Valley's Legendary 'Coach' Bill Campbell Has Died
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 08:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's rip department:
Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode: Bill Campbell, who garnered the name "The Coach" for the sage advice and counsel he gave numerous tech leaders from Apple's Steve Jobs to Google's Larry Page to Amazon's Jeff Bezos, has died. He was battling with cancer. News of his passing popped up on Facebook early this morning and many prominent tech players also confirmed the death to me, which came after a long battle with cancer. It is a big loss for Silicon Valley, given the impact a man who said he did not even know how to do HTML had by virtue of wisdom alone. But he was not without tech chops. Campbell ran companies like Intuit and worked in key jobs at Apple, Claris and Go, and also served on a plethora of boards, including Columbia University, Intuit and Apple. He has been a longtime adviser to Google execs including Page and Eric Schmidt -- and really just about every major tech executive you could think of at some point.VentureBeat interviewed Campbell in 2011, in which he shared coaching tips.

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Your Phone Number Is All a Hacker Needs To Read Texts, Listen To Calls and Track You
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 08:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's challenge-for-the-day:-act-surprised department:
Samuel Gibbs, reporting for The Guardian: Hackers have again demonstrated that no matter how many security precautions someone takes, all a hacker needs to track their location and snoop on their phone calls and texts is their phone number. The hack, first demonstrated by German security researcher Karsten Nohl in 2014 at a hacker convention in Hamburg, has been shown to still be active by Nohl over a year later for CBS's 60 Minutes. The hack uses the network interchange service called Signalling System No. 7 (SS7), also known as C7 in the UK or CCSS7 in the US, which acts as a broker between mobile phone networks. When calls or text messages are made across networks SS7 handles details such as number translation, SMS transfer, billing and other back-end duties that connect one network or caller to another. By hacking into or otherwise gaining access to the SS7 system, an attacker can track a person's location based on mobile phone mast triangulation, read their sent and received text messages, and log, record and listen into their phone calls, simply by using their phone number as an identifier.Also from the report, "60 Minutes contacted the cellular phone trade association to ask about attacks on the SS7 network. They acknowledged there have been reports of security breaches abroad, but assured us that all U.S. cellphone networks were secure."

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MIT Reveals AI Platform Which Detects 85 Percent of Cyberattacks
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 08:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's ai-battling-our-fights department:
An anonymous reader writes: MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) says that while many 'analyst-driven solutions' rely on rules created by human experts and therefore may miss attacks which do not match established patterns, a new artificial intelligence platform changes the rules of the game. The platform, dubbed AI Squared (AI2), is able to detect 85 percent of attacks -- roughly three times better than current benchmarks -- and also reduces the number of false positives by a factor of five, according to MIT. The latter is important as when anomaly detection triggers false positives, this can lead to lessened trust in protective systems and also wastes the time of IT experts which need to investigate the matter. AI2 was tested using 3.6 billion log lines generated by over 20 million users in a period of three months. The AI trawled through this information and used machine learning to cluster data together to find suspicious activity. Anything which flagged up as unusual was then presented to a human operator and feedback was issued.Fast Co Design has an interesting take on this.

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Music Industry Sees First Big Gains in 20 Years Thanks to Streaming Services
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 08:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's going-digital department:
Thanks to subscription-based music streaming services, the music industry is seeing a significant growth for the first time in nearly two decades. According to International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an industry trade group, the global music sales rose 3.2 percent last year, also surpassing those from all physical music formats. The important tipping point in 2015 saw digital services account for 45 percent of recorded music revenue. According to the report, Spotify, Apple Music and other music streaming services brought in about $2.9 billion in revenue. The findings are in line with Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)'s estimates from last month. IFPI also noted that music on free streaming services such as YouTube has also grown quickly, creating a panic among record labels and artists alike. Billboard elaborates that aspect: In criticizing ad-supported services, the IFPI joined a growing list of trade bodies and music company executives to criticize YouTube for paying royalties that are relatively low when considering its popularity. The report argues YouTube distorts its negotiations with labels by hiding behind the DMCA "safe harbor" rules that limit the liability of online intermediaries from the infringing actions of their users. The result, the IFPI argues, is YouTube can use an "act first, negotiate later" that "fundamentally distort[s] the negotiation process."

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UK Hosting Provider 123-Reg Accidentally Deletes Customer Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 08:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's blame-the-rogue-certificate department:
Richard Chirgwin, writing for The Register: UK hosting and domains provider 123-Reg has been struck by a weekend issue that knocked an unspecified number of VPS customers offline. The company posted a status message saying that the unspecified issues arose on April 16. 123-reg customer, software company INNmaster, contacted The Register directing our attention to its post on the topic, claiming a rogue script had deleted customer sites (such as this one). Slashdot has independently received several tips for this incident. Here's a copy of the email that Richard Winslow, Director of 123-Reg sent to the affected customers.

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Sanders Campaign Accused of Trademark Bullying By Web Site
Posted by News Fetcher on April 18 '16 at 02:02 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's enough-is-enough department:
An anonymous reader writes: Buzzfeed is reporting that "An online merchant has accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of 'trademark bullying'. after a Bernie 2016, Inc. attorney sent him a cease and desist letter regarding t-shirts, mugs, and sweatshirts depicting the candidate with historic communist leaders..." The t-shirt's designer tells Buzzfeed "He didn't seem to be the type of candidate, the type of guy, who would do something like this... I would think Bernie, or one of his staff members will step in and put an end to it. It appears to be pretty silly."
In January Ars Technica reported that lawyers for the Sanders campaign had demanded their logo be removed from pages on Wikipedia -- before later withdrawing that DMCA notice.

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Two-Year Delay for SpaceX's Private Spaceport
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 09:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Texas-tech department:
MarkWhittington writes: About a year and a half ago, with then Texas Governor Rick Perry and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in attendance, ground was broken on the first private spaceport designed to launch rockets vertically near Brownsville, Texas. At the time, SpaceX announced that it expected to launch a rocket a month, either a Falcon 9 or a Falcon Heavy in the skies over South Texas starting in 2016. But then, the Texas spaceport story fell off the face of the Earth, as it were. Fortunately, the Valley Morning Star has an explanation as to why things are taking so long.

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Jet Strikes Drone Near Heathrow Airport
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 08:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's navigation-shortcuts department:
smooth wombat writes: "A British Airways flight Sunday appears to have collided with a drone on a flight bound for London's busy Heathrow Airport in what may be the first such incident involving a major airline," according to MarketWatch. "The flight from Geneva, Switzerland to Heathrow, Europe's busiest hub, is believed to have struck a drone, the London Metropolitan Police said in a statement. The plane landed safely following the incident, which occurred around 12:50 p.m. local time. 'It was only a matter of time before we had a drone strike given the huge numbers being flown around by amateurs who don't understand the risks and the rules,' said BALPA flight safety specialist Steve Landells... 'Much more education of drone users and enforcement of the rules is needed to ensure our skies remain safe from this threat'."

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Keurig Spends 10 Years Developing A Recyclable Coffee Cup
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 07:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unfiltered-news department:
Last year Keurig Green Mountain sold over 9 billion single servings of its coffee in plastic "K-Cups" -- none of which could be recycled. "Placed end to end, the pods sold in a year would circle the globe roughly 10 times," reports the New York Times News Service, noting the company spent the last 10 years developing a backwards-compatible cup that could actually be recycled. In the mid-1990s, "Keurig began buying the containers -- made from a blend of plastic that is tough to recycle -- in bulk, never expecting that it would one day sell billions a year. But because Keurig machines were designed specifically for the pods, changing course soon seemed virtually impossible." One environmental advocate complained "There are a lot of ways to make coffee that don't use so much packaging. Making coffee wasn't something that needed to be reinvented." But the company may still face criticism because their new cups can be recycled -- but not composted.

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Viable Mammal Embryos In Space Demonstrated by Chinese Experiment
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 04:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's the-final-frontier department:
hackingbear writes: "The latest experiment results from China's SJ-10 recoverable satellite have been sent back with some groundbreaking news. For the first time in human history, it has been proven that the early stages of embryos in mammals can be developed completely in a space environment," according to China Daily. "High-resolution photographs sent back by SJ-10 show that the mouse embryos carried by the return capsule completed the entire developing process within 96 hours from the launch, the first reported successful development of mammalian embryos in space."

The U.S. conducted similar experiment on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1996 and China conducted one abroad its SJ-8 in 2006, neither was able to show any viable embryos back then. "The human race may still have a long way to go before we can colonize the space. But before that, we have to figure out whether it is possible for us to survive and reproduce in the outer space environment like we do on Earth. Now, we finally proved that the most crucial step in our reproduction – the early embryo development -- is possible in the outer space," said Duan Enkui, Professor of the Institute of Zoology affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and principle researcher of the experiment.

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Online Voters Name British Vessel 'Boaty McBoatface'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 02:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's whatever-floats-your-Boaty department:
Britain's Natural Environment Research Council conducted an online poll to select the name for their new advanced polar research vessel. Though it cost more than 200 million pounds and represents their fleet's largest and most advanced research vessel, when the voting closed yesterday the clear winner, was the name 'Boaty McBoatface'. The name received over 124,000 votes, while the nearest runner-up -- Poppy-Mai -- received just 34,371, and the fourth-most popular suggestion, "RRS It's Bloody Cold Here," received just 10,679 votes. "I am grateful to everyone who has participated in the competition," Britain's science minister told The Daily Telegraph, though he added "You won't be surprised to know that we want something that fits the mission and captures the spirit of scientific endeavor." The Telegraph takes this as a signal that the ministers "were unlikely to endorse the result."

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James Cameron Announces Four Sequels to 'Avatar'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 02:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Dances-with-Aliens department:
An anonymous reader writes: In a surprise appearance at CinemaCon, James Cameron announced plans for "a truly massive cinematic process" -- four new sequels to his 2009 blockbuster Avatar, plus a Disney theme park. "It's going to be a true epic saga," Cameron told the audience, promising that Avatar 2 would be released in Christmas of 2018, followed by three additional sequels, for a total of five Avatar-themed movies. Cameron's original sci-fi blockbuster earned $2.8 billion, though at least one Slashdot user argued that its overall message was that technology is bad, "strange because the movie is among most technically sophisticated ever."

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Flying Jet-Powered Hoverboard Now a Reality
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 01:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Green-Goblin-gliders department:
Zapata Racing has begun testing prototypes of a new jet-powered hoverboard called the "Flyboard Air". The Verge published a new interview with the company's CEO, who confirms that a backpack full of kerosene-grade fuel powers the flying hoverboard's four 250-horsepower turboengines, with two more engines used for stabilizaton. Capable of flying up to 100 miles per hour, the jet-powered hoverboard uses an internal algorithm to adjust the thrust and angle of each turboengine, so "It's like we have six systems working together plus my brain and my legs." The company hopes to ultimately interest the military and security sectors in the technology, but they're also working on a smaller version that could be piloted while sitting, which the CEO describes as "extremely small, extremely stable, and something that you can take to go and buy your bread in the morning."

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Google's Android N OS Will Support Pressure-Sensitive Screens
Posted by News Fetcher on April 17 '16 at 12:02 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's support-for-pressure-sensitive-screens department:
An anonymous reader writes: In the latest Developer Preview 2 of Android N, Google introduced new "Launcher shortcuts" to the beta OS. It allows developers to "define shortcuts which users can expose in the launcher to help them perform actions quicker." It's reminiscent of Apple's "3D Touch" feature found in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which can allow for specific parts of an app to be displayed in a pop-up menu when users forcefully press on an icon or other miscellaneous piece of information developed with the feature.

As mentioned in Phandroid's report testing the "setDynamicShortcuts(List)" feature, Google offered four different scenarios where Launcher Shortcuts make sense: Navigating users to a particular location in a mapping app, sending messages to a friend in a communication app, playing the next episode of a TV show in a media app, or loading the last save point in a gaming app.
"Google says that the manufacturers who build Android devices wanted this use case addressed by the OS itself," according to The Verge, so that developers "can code for all Android devices instead of reinventing the pressure-sensitive wheel for each OEM."

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