By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-masses department
Google added two new mid-range devices to its phone line-up Tuesday: The new Pixel 3a is available for $399 effective immediately, while the larger Pixel 3a XL clocks in at $479. The company is also bringing its entire phone line-up, including last year's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL, to a range of new mobile carriers, including Sprint and T-Mobile. From a report: The big idea with the Pixel 3a models is to bring high end camera performance and the Pixel ~experience~ (ie: great hardware and design, and Android without any bells or whistles, for people who might find iPhones too basic and Samsung phones too garish/explode-y) to people who weren't going to spend upwards of $800 on a smartphone. So Google lowered the price by about half, reducing costs by using cheaper hardware and materials -- like a pokier processor and plastic housing -- in other parts of the phone while sticking with the same camera hardware. In a briefing ahead of the announcement, Google's VP of product management for Pixel, Brian Rakowski, said the phones are intended for people who would like to buy a Pixel, but are left behind by that phone's $800 (and up) price tag. (And based on the Pixel 3's disappointing sales numbers, there were a lot of people, for one reason or another, who may have been left behind!)Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department
Google Duplex, Google's AI chat agent that can arrange appointments over the phone, will soon expand to more places -- namely the web. From a report: Today at I/O 2019, Google announced Duplex on the web, which will handle things like rental car bookings and movie tickets. "We want to build a more helpful Google for everyone," said CEO Sundar Pichai onstage in Mountain View, California. "We're going to be thoughtful [about this]." When Duplex on the web debuts, you'll be able to issue Google Assistant a command like "Book me a car from Hertz." That command will navigate to the relevant web page and automatically fill in details like your name, payment information, car preferences, trip dates (using information from Gmail and Chrome autofill), and more. Throughout the process, you'll see a progress bar. And whenever Duplex needs more information, like a price or seat selection, it'll pause and prompt you to make a selection. Once you're finished, a tap of the confirmation button will beam a receipt to your inbox. It'll launch later this year on Android phones.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-tension department
Chinese intelligence agents acquired National Security Agency hacking tools and repurposed them in 2016 to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], a leading cybersecurity firm has discovered. The episode is the latest evidence that the United States has lost control of key parts of its cybersecurity arsenal. From a report: Based on the timing of the attacks and clues in the computer code, researchers with the firm Symantec believe the Chinese did not steal the code but captured it from an N.S.A. attack on their own computers -- like a gunslinger who grabs an enemy's rifle and starts blasting away. The Chinese action shows how proliferating cyberconflict is creating a digital wild West with few rules or certainties, and how difficult it is for the United States to keep track of the malware it uses to break into foreign networks and attack adversaries' infrastructure.
The losses have touched off a debate within the intelligence community over whether the United States should continue to develop some of the world's most high-tech, stealthy cyberweapons if it is unable to keep them under lock and key. The Chinese hacking group that co-opted the N.S.A.'s tools is considered by the agency's analysts to be among the most dangerous Chinese contractors it tracks, according to a classified agency memo reviewed by The New York Times. The group is responsible for numerous attacks on some of the most sensitive defense targets inside the United States, including space, satellite and nuclear propulsion technology makers. Now, Symantec's discovery, unveiled on Monday, suggests that the same Chinese hackers the agency has trailed for more than a decade have turned the tables on the agency.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
In interviews with Bloomberg, current and former Apple employees say brand building became more important than serving shoppers. From the report: In interviews, current and former Apple employees blame a combination of factors. They say the stores have become mostly an exercise in branding and no longer do a good job serving mission shoppers like Smith. Meanwhile, they say, the quality of staff has slipped during an 18-year expansion that has seen Apple open more than 500 locations and hire 70,000 people. The Genius Bar, once renowned for its tech support, has been largely replaced with staff who roam the stores and are harder to track down. That's a significant drawback because people are hanging onto their phones longer these days and need them repaired. [...] Meanwhile, retail chief Angela Ahrendts (who was hired in May 2014) began moving sales and service onto the web -- encouraging staff to tell customers to "get in line, online." Customers were to make an appointment on Apple's website and then pick up the product at a store. Apple was "trying to streamline things," says one employee, "but in the process made things more difficult for some customers."
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By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
The "exascale" computing race is getting a new entrant called Frontier, a $600 million machine with Cray and AMD technology that could become the world's fastest when it arrives at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2021. From a report: Frontier should be able to perform 1.5 quintillion calculations per second, a level called 1.5 exaflops and enough to claim the performance crown, the Energy Department announced Tuesday. Its speed will be about 10 times faster than that of the current record holder on the Top500 supercomputer ranking, the IBM-built Summit machine, also at Oak Ridge, and should surpass a $500 million, 1-exaflops Cray-Intel supercomputer called Aurora to be built in 2021 at Argonne National Laboratory. There's no guarantee the US will win the race to exascale machines -- those that cross the 1-exaflop threshold -- because China, Japan and France each could have exascale machines in 2020. At stake is more than national bragging rights: It's also about the ability to perform cutting-edge research in areas like genomics, nuclear physics, cosmology, drug discovery, artificial intelligence and climate simulation.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's art-of-the-deal department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Now, emails obtained through a public records request provide insight into how facial recognition companies attempt to strike deals with local law enforcement as well as gain access to sensitive data on local residents. The emails show how a firm backed by Shark Tank judge, Dallas Mavericks owner, and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban pushed a local police department to try and gain access to state driver's license photos to train its product. The emails also show the company asked the police department to vouch for it on a government grant application in exchange for receiving the technology for free.
"Chief, you seemed pretty keen on the use of facial recognition in stadiums. If you know of any place to start, please let me know," a 2016 email from Jacob Sniff, a co-founder of facial recognition startup Suspect Technologies, addressed to Michael Botieri, chief of the Plymouth Police Department in Massachusetts, reads. In the emails, Sniff repeatedly asked Botieri to deploy the technology in his district to help improve the product. Sniff mentioned plans for the technology to search through results for people of a particular gender or ethnicity, and deploy "emotion recognition."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's decades-old-classic department
Microsoft Solitaire, bundled with the Windows operating system since 1990, has been inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame for its popularity and influence on other video games and society in general. It joins classic titles like Doom, Tetris, World of Warcraft, and Halo: Combat Evolved. The Verge reports: The World Video Game Hall of Fame is a relatively new institution, created in 2015 and overseen by educational institute The Strong. Its official home is in The National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, and each year it selects a handful of new inductees. Solitaire may be a video game for the ages, but its inclusion in Windows had a higher purpose. The developers of the operating system felt that the familiar game was the perfect way to introduce users to relatively new computing concepts, like using a mouse and drag-and-drop. By playing Solitaire, users honed more than their card skills: a win-win for all.
Solitaire was first bundled with Windows 3.0 and appeared in every subsequent version of the software up until Windows 8.1. It was removed from the base level operating system, but was returned in Windows 10 after Microsoft admitted that Solitaire, along with Minesweeper and Hearts, still have "devoted followings." Because of its inclusion in the world's most popular PC operating system, lowly Solitaire has likely been installed on more than one billion devices, says the Strong Museum, making it one of the most popular video games of all time. "Microsoft Solitaire demonstrated that there existed a vast market for games that appeal to people of all types, paving the way for the growth of the casual game market," said the institute in a press statement. "We are humbly honored to have the opportunity to work on a game that has such broad appeal, is localized into 65 languages, and played in over 200 markets around the world, including Antarctica," said Microsoft's Paul Jensen, studio manager for Microsoft Casual Games.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's follow-the-evidence department
An anonymous reader shares an opinion piece from The Guardian, written by analyst, writer and head of social policy for the New Economics Foundation, Anna Coote: A study published this week sheds doubt on ambitious claims made for universal basic income (UBI), the scheme that would give everyone regular, unconditional cash payments that are enough to live on. Its advocates claim it would help to reduce poverty, narrow inequalities and tackle the effects of automation on jobs and income. Research conducted for Public Services International, a global trade union federation, reviewed for the first time 16 practical projects that have tested different ways of distributing regular cash payments to individuals across a range of poor, middle-income and rich countries, as well as copious literature on the topic.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's captured-in-action department
hooligun shares a report from Phys.Org: To kill bacteria in the blood, our immune system relies on nanomachines that can open deadly holes in their targets. UCL scientists have now filmed these nanomachines in action, discovering a key bottleneck in the process which helps to protect our own cells. [...] For this study, the researchers mimicked how these deadly holes are formed by the membrane attack complex (MAC) using a model bacterial surface. By tracking each step of the process, they found that shortly after each hole started to form, the process stalled, offering a reprieve for the body's own cells. The team say the process pauses as 18 copies of the same protein are needed to complete a hole. Initially, there's only one copy which inserts into the bacterial surface, after which the other copies of the protein slot into place much more rapidly.
To film the immune system in action at nanometer resolution and at a few seconds per frame, the scientists used atomic force microscopy. This type of microscopy uses an ultrafine needle to feel rather than see molecules on a surface, similar to a blind person reading Braille. The needle repeatedly scans the surface to produce an image that refreshes fast enough to track how immune proteins get together and cut into the bacterial surface. The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what's-old-is-new-again department
New submitter Schnapple writes: Back in 2009, id Software put Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM on the App Store, but once iOS 11 started phasing out 32-bit apps, they stopped working. Since their source code was published under the GPL, I went in and fixed them up so they would run on modern devices, and also added game controller support and ported them to tvOS so they could run on Apple TV. Then over the last year I did the same for DOOM II and Final DOOM, Quake, Quake II, Quake III: Arena, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and finally DOOM 3. I've chronicled the adventures on my blog. I can't publish them to the App Store for obvious reasons and you'll need to provide your own copy of the game data, but if anyone's interested in trying them out on Apple devices I've posted the sources to GitHub.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-metabolisms department
Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered that some microbes in the Pacific Ocean actively breath arsenic. "The discovery has implications for how life may adapt to a changing climate, as well as where we might find it on other planets," reports New Atlas. From the report: The discovery was made in water samples gathered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico. After conducting genetic analyses on DNA from those samples, the team found two genetic pathways that are known to help organisms gain energy by converting one form of arsenic molecule into another, and back again. Arsenic-breathing microbes have previously been found in hot springs or lakes with high arsenic levels, but finding them in the ocean, where there isn't all that much arsenic to begin with, is quite strange.
"We've known for a long time that there are very low levels of arsenic in the ocean," says Gabrielle Rocap, co-author of the study. "But the idea that organisms could be using arsenic to make a living -- it's a whole new metabolism for the open ocean." That said, it does seem to be a very small population -- less than one percent of the microbes in these waters. They appear to be distantly related to the other arsenic-respiring species on land and in lakes, which may suggest that this survival strategy is a holdover from an ancient time, when the levels of arsenic were naturally much higher. The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Read Replies (0)