By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Five Russian couples who are deaf want to try the CRISPR gene-editing technique so they can have a biological child who can hear, biologist Denis Rebrikov told New Scientist. He plans to apply to the relevant Russian authorities for permission in "a couple of weeks." From a report: The case for using CRISPR for this purpose is stronger than for trying to make children HIV-resistant, as attempted previously, but the risks still outweigh the benefits, say other researchers. "Rebrikov is definitely determined to do some germline gene editing, and I think we should take him very seriously," says CRISPR expert Gaetan Burgio at the Australian National University. "But it's too early, it's too risky." Both would-be parents in each couple have a recessive form of deafness, meaning that all their children would normally inherit the same condition. While the vast majority of genetic diseases can be prevented by screening IVF embryos before implantation, with no need for gene-editing, this is not an option for these couples. Several reports have suggested that -- if it can be done safely -- editing the genes of babies might be justified in this kind of situation.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's google-knows department
Todd Haselton, reporting for CNBC: In May, I wrote up something weird I spotted on Google's account management page. I noticed that Google uses Gmail to store a list of everything you've purchased, if you used Gmail or your Gmail address in any part of the transaction. If you have a confirmation for a prescription you picked up at a pharmacy that went into your Gmail account, Google logs it. If you have a receipt from Macy's, Google keeps it. If you bought food for delivery and the receipt went to your Gmail, Google stores that, too. You get the idea, and you can see your own purchase history by going to Google's Purchases page.
Google says it does this so you can use Google Assistant to track packages or reorder things, even if that's not an option for some purchases that aren't mailed or wouldn't be reordered, like something you bought at a store. At the time of my original story, Google said users can delete everything by tapping into a purchase and removing the Gmail. It seemed to work if you did this for each purchase, one by one. This isn't easy -- for years worth of purchases, this would take hours or even days of time. So, since Google doesn't let you bulk-delete this purchases list, I decided to delete everything in my Gmail inbox. That meant removing every last message I've sent or received since I opened my Gmail account more than a decade ago. Despite Google's assurances, it didn't work.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's browser-wars-2 department
From a report: Google's Chrome now reigns as the biggest browser on the block, and the company is facing challenges similar to Microsoft's from competitors, as well as government scrutiny. But Google faces a new wrinkle -- a growing realization among consumers that their every digital move is tracked. "I think Cambridge Analytica acted as a catalyst to get people aware that their data could be used in ways they didn't expect," said Peter Dolanjski, the product lead for Mozilla's Firefox web browser, referring to the scandal in which a political consulting firm obtained data on millions of Facebook users and their friends.
And in something of a poetic role reversal, Microsoft is positioning itself to pick up the slack from people who may be fed up with Google's Chrome browser and its questionable privacy practices. Microsoft is expected to release an overhaul of its latest browser, called Edge, in the coming months. Microsoft is just one of a number of companies and organizations looking to take a piece out of Google -- some using the company's own open-source software. One name that might be familiar to most consumers -- Mozilla's Firefox browser -- is also a veteran of the "browser wars" of two decades ago. The nonprofit Mozilla, which has been biting at the heels of leading browsers for most of its existence, is introducing more aggressive privacy settings to try to stand out and take advantage of the privacy stumbles by Google and other tech giants.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fascinating department
K.K. Rebecca Lai, Jin Wu and Lingdong Huang, writing for the Times: Crowd estimates for Hong Kong's large pro-democracy protests have been a point of contention for years. The organizers and the police often release vastly divergent estimates. This year's annual pro-democracy protest on Monday, July 1, was no different. Organizers announced 550,000 people attended; the police said 190,000 people were there at the peak. But for the first time in the march's history, a group of researchers combined artificial intelligence and manual counting techniques to estimate the size of the crowd [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled], concluding that 265,000 people marched. The high density of the crowd and the moving nature of these protests make estimating the turnout very challenging. For more than a decade, groups have stationed teams along the route and manually counted the rate of people passing through to derive the total number of participants. Though the use of A.I. does not make the calculation definitive, the technology helps produce a more precise estimate because it uses computers to try to count every person.
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By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
Larry Sanger, who co-founded Wikipedia in 2001, is not happy with how the internet has evolved in the nearly two decades since then. From a report: "It's appalling frankly," he said in an interview with CNBC this week. Sanger's main gripe is with big social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter. These companies, he says, exploit users' personal data to make profits, at the expense of "massive violations" of privacy and security. "They can shape your experience, they can control what you see, when you see it and you become essentially a cog in their machine," he said. Sanger launched a "social media strike" this week to draw attention to his concerns.
In a "Declaration of Digital Independence" published on his personal blog, he said "vast digital empires" need to be replaced by decentralized networks of independent individuals. [...] Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded to seemingly endless concerns about privacy and security on the platform with a new vision for the company, highlighting measures like encrypted messaging. Sanger questioned whether Zuckerberg's intentions are "sincere" and blasted the Facebook executive for abusing the company's power online. "The internet wouldn't have been created by people like Mark Zuckerberg, or any of the sort of corporate executives in Silicon Valley today," he said. "They wouldn't be capable, they don't have the temperament, they're too controlling. They don't understand the whole idea of bottom up."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
On July 1st, California became the first state in the nation to try to reduce the power of bots by requiring that they reveal their "artificial identity" when they are used to sell a product or influence a voter. Violators could face fines under state statutes related to unfair competition. From a report: Just as pharmaceutical companies must disclose that the happy people who say a new drug has miraculously improved their lives are paid actors, bots in California -- or rather, the people who deploy them -- will have to level with their audience. "It's literally taking these high-end technological concepts and bringing them home to basic common-law principles," Robert Hertzberg, a California state senator who is the author of the bot-disclosure law, told me. "You can't defraud people. You can't lie. You can't cheat them economically. You can't cheat 'em in elections."
California's bot-disclosure law is more than a run-of-the-mill anti-fraud rule. By attempting to regulate a technology that thrives on social networks, the state will be testing society's resolve to get our (virtual) house in order after more than two decades of a runaway Internet. We are in new terrain, where the microtargeting of audiences on social networks, the perception of false news stories as genuine, and the bot-led amplification of some voices and drowning-out of others have combined to create angry, ill-informed online communities that are suspicious of one another and of the government. Regulating bots should be low-hanging fruit when it comes to improving the Internet. The California law doesn't even ban them outright but, rather, insists that they identify themselves in a manner that is "clear, conspicuous, and reasonably designed."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department
intensivevocoder writes: One of the consequences of the explosive popularity of the Raspberry Pi is the flourishing of competing ecosystems of single-board computers (SBCs). Aside from the accessibility a $35 price tag offers, the foremost benefit of the Raspberry Pi is the community -- the proliferation of projects and integrations that center around the Raspberry Pi, and the ease-of-use that creates, makes competing products that look better on spec sheets a disappointment when taken out of the box. PINE64 has attempted to head this off by fostering an involved community; the PINE64 website explains their philosophy as "the community gets to actively shape the devices, as well as the social platform, of PINE64 from the ground up. The goal is to deliver ARM64 devices that you really wish to engage with and a platform that you want to be a part of." The first-generation Pinebook was available in an 11.6" or 14" configuration, with a quad-core Allwinner A64, 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, and 1366x768 display for $99, beating Nicolas Negroponte's OLPC XO-1, a decade after that project sputtered.
PINE64 is differentiating itself by building not just SBCs, but notebooks, tablets, and phones with community input and feedback. Ahead of the release of the Pinebook Pro this summer, a Rockchip RK3399-based ARM laptop with 4GB LPDDR4 RAM, 64GB eMMC, and a 14" 1080p display, TechRepublic interviewed PINE64 community manager Lukasz Erecinski about the Pinebook Pro, and the PINE64 community philosophy. An excerpt from the interview: TechRepublic: Why is Pine64 building a device ecosystem of not just SBCs, but also finished devices, like tablets, laptops, and phones?
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By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Frustrated by more than a decade of research which claims to reveal intentions, feelings and even consciousness in plants, more traditionally minded botanists have finally snapped. Plants, they protest, are emphatically not conscious. From a report: The latest salvo in the plant consciousness wars has been fired by US, British and German biologists who argue that practitioners of "plant neurobiology" have become carried away with the admittedly impressive abilities of plants to sense and react to their environments. While plants may curl their leaves in response to touch, grow faster when competitors are near and spring traps when prey wanders into them, the vexed biologists argue that is no reason to believe they choose their actions, learn along the way or occasionally get hurt in the process, as some plant neurobiologists assert.
Bothered by claims that plants have "brain-like command centres" in their root tips, and possess the equivalent of animal nervous systems, the critics counter there is no proof of sentient vegetation or structures within plants that would grant them what the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has called "the feeling of what happens." Writing in the journal Trends in Plant Science, where plant neurobiology made its debut in 2006, Lincoln Taiz, a botanist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and seven like-minded researchers state: "There is no evidence that plants require, and thus have evolved, energy-expensive mental faculties, such as consciousness, feelings, and intentionality, to survive or to reproduce."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department
The strongest earthquake to hit Southern California in 20 years left scattered damage Thursday morning and was felt from Las Vegas to Orange County, the US Geological Survey reported. From a report: The quake, with an early magnitude of 6.4, was centered near Ridgecrest, a community west of the Mojave Desert and about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. Reports of scattered damage, including rock slides and fires, rolled in by midday. At least four large aftershocks, from 3.5 to 4.7 magnitude, and dozens smaller were recorded, officials said. In Los Angeles, the temblor was felt as a long, rolling quake, and buildings rocked back and forth for at least several seconds. Before Thursday, the largest quake in the area was in 1999 near Barstow, said seismologist Lucy Jones of the USGS. Diane Ruggiero, general manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites Ridgecrest in Ridgecrest, told CNN's Paul Vercammen that the hotel has significant damage.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
A tiny phone, tablet and laptop charger, the first to use gallium nitride rather than silicon chips, has seen sales four times greater than predicted [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled], prompting the Chinese company behind it to try to ramp up production. From a report: Anker, a Shenzhen-based company that specialises in computer and mobile phone accessories, unveiled a line of chargers using gallium nitride (GaN), which conducts electrons 1,000 times faster than silicon, in January. The use of GaN allowed Anker to virtually halve the size of its charger, while retaining full-speed charging. Another Chinese-owned company, RAVPower, has also started using GaN in its chargers. "Silicon limits have been pushed almost to the extreme," said Steven Yang, co-founder and chief executive of Anker. "But GaN is at [the next] phase."
The introduction of the new semiconductor into the consumer market came after a series of military and other commercial applications, in everything from electric vehicles to radar systems. Raytheon, the US defence group, said in 2017 that it had spent $300m researching GaN since 1999. Like some of its peers, it uses the material in its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, which are able to detect stealth fighters at long range. "Once the power technology is out of the box it will be widely adopted around the world and that means everyone can produce power-switching modules," said Stephen Bryen, a former deputy undersecretary of defence and senior fellow at the American Center for Democracy. "And that is what is used in the radars -- that's the nexus between commercial and military use."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The OpenID Foundation, the organization behind the OpenID open standard and decentralized authentication protocol, has penned an open letter to Apple in regards to the company's recently announced "Sign In with Apple" feature. From a report: In its letter, the organization said that Apple has built Sign In with Apple on top of the OpenID Connect platform, but the Cupertino company's implementation is not fully compliant with the OpenID standard, and as a result "exposes users to greater security and privacy risks." "The current set of differences between OpenID Connect and Sign In with Apple reduces the places where users can use Sign In with Apple and exposes them to greater security and privacy risks," said Nat Sakimura, OpenID Foundation Chairman.
The OpenID Foundation published a list of differences between Sign In with Apple and the OpenID Connect platform, which Sakimura urged Apple to address. The OpenID exec said these differences place an unnecessary burden on developers working with both OpenID Connect and Sign In with Apple, who now have to support two different authentication standards and deal with each one's quirks. "By closing the current gaps, Apple would be interoperable with widely-available OpenID Connect Relying Party software," Sakimura said.Read Replies (0)