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MIT's Swarm Chip Architecture Boosts Multi-Core CPUs, Offering Up To 18x Faster Processing
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's one-tenth-the-code department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmag: MIT's new Swarm chip could help unleash the power of parallel processing for up to 75-fold speedups, while requiring programmers to write a fraction of the code that is usually necessary for programs to take full advantage of their hardware. Swarm is a 64-core chip developed by Prof. Daniel Sanchez and his team that includes specialized circuitry for both executing and prioritizing tasks in a simple and efficient manner. Neowin reports: "For example, when using multiple cores to process a task, one core might need to access a piece of data that's being used by another core. Developers usually need to write code to avoid these types of conflict, and direct how each part of the task should be processed and split up between the processor's cores. This almost never gets done with normal consumer software, hence the reason why Crysis isn't running better on your new 10-core Intel. Meanwhile, when such optimization does get done, mainly for industrial, scientific and research computers, it takes a lot of effort on the developer's side and efficiency gains may sometimes still be minimal." Swarm is able to take care of all of this, mostly through its hardware architecture and customizable profiles that can be written by developers in a fraction of the time needed for regular multi-core silicon. The 64-core version of Swarm came out on top after MIT researchers tested it out against some highly-optimized parallel processing algorithms, offering three to 18 times faster processing. The most impressive result was when Swarm achieved results 75 times better than the regular chips, because that particular algorithm had failed to be parallelized on classic multi-core processors. There's no indication as to when this technology will be available for consumer devices.

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Why Tech Support Is (Purposely) Unbearable
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's let-me-put-you-on-hold department:
HughPickens.com writes: Getting caught in a tech support loop -- waiting on hold, interacting with automated systems, talking to people reading from unhelpful scripts and then finding yourself on hold yet again -- is a peculiar kind of aggravation that mental health experts say can provoke rage in even the most mild-mannered person. Now Kate Murphy writes at the NYT that just as you suspected, companies are aware of the torture they are putting you through as 92 percent of customer service managers say their agents could be more effective and 74 percent say their company procedures prevented agents from providing satisfactory experiences. "Don't think companies haven't studied how far they can take things in providing the minimal level of service," says Justin Robbins, who was once a tech support agent himself and now oversees research and editorial at ICMI. "Some organizations have even monetized it by intentionally engineering it so you have to wait an hour at least to speak to someone in support, and while you are on hold, you're hearing messages like, 'If you'd like premium support, call this number and for a fee, we will get to you immediately.'" Mental health experts say there are ways to get better tech support or maybe just make it more bearable. First, do whatever it takes to control your temper. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Losing your stack at a consumer support agent is not going to get your problem resolved any faster and being negative in your dealings with others can quickly paint you as a complainer no one wants to work with. Don't bother demanding to speak to a supervisor, either. You're just going to get transferred to another agent who has been alerted ahead of time that you have come unhinged. To get better service by phone, dial the prompt designated for "sales" or "to place an order," which almost always gets you an onshore agent, while tech support is usually offshore with the associated language difficulties. Finally customer support experts recommended using social media, like tweeting or sending a Facebook message, to contact a company instead of calling. You are likely to get a quicker response, not only because fewer people try that channel but also because your use of social media shows that you know how to vent your frustration to a wider audience if your needs are not met.

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Japan's First VR Porn Festival Shut Down Due To Unprecedented Popularity
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's don't-get-too-excited department:
turkeydance quotes a report from Daily Mail: A Japanese sex festival was over prematurely as herds of virtual porn fans caused overcrowding fears. Streams of locals were looking to get their hands on the latest inventions from the adult entertainment industry in the first festival of its kind -- the Adult VR Fest 01 in the Akihabara region of Tokyo. But fans of virtual reality porn, which re-enacts sex and other acts using a blend of simulation headsets, male-friendly sex toys and other gadgets, were left disappointed as the event was shut down due to unprecedented popularity. A Japanese reporter told VR Talk: "For those who did get to go inside, excitement ran wild. I'm not entirely sure if the same thing would happen in the U.S., but VR porn enthusiasts rushed to have a go at some of the latest virtual reality gadgets." About 20 fans were able to make it inside, but the event was reportedly called off due to the unsettling crowds gathered outside. VR Talk also reported that Google searches for the phrase 'VR Porn' have soared nearly 10,000%.

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New Cars Are Too Expensive For The Typical Family, Says Study
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's poor-investment-decisions department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from GulfNews: A new analysis from Bankrate.com found that a median-income household in the U.S. could not afford the average price of a new vehicle in any of the 50 largest cities in the country, though cars are more affordable in some cities than others. The average price of a new car or light truck in 2016 is about $34,000, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's in part because new cars are loaded with helpful but expensive safety features like collision-avoidance systems. Bankrate calculated an "affordable" purchase price for major cities, using median incomes from U.S. census data, and factoring in costs for sales taxes and insurance. In San Jose, California -- the heart of Silicon Valley -- the median income is about $84,000, and an "affordable" new car purchase price is about $33,000 -- close to, but still below, the average new car price. In lower-income cities, however, affordable purchase prices for a typical family are far below the average cost of a new car. In Hartford, Connecticut, where the median income is about $29,000, an affordable purchase price is about $8,000 -- about a quarter of the average new-car price. Experian Automotive said the number of new cars bought with financing rose to more than 86 percent (Source: may be paywalled) in the first quarter of this year. The average loan amount topped $30,000, with the average term for a new-car loan in the 68-month range -- some stretch as long as seven years.

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Bulgaria Got a Law Requiring Open Source
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 03:01 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's affinity-for-open-source department:
All software written for the government in Bulgaria are now required to be open-source. The amendments to put such laws in motion were voted in domestic parliament and are now in effect, announced software engineer Bozhidar Bozhanov, who is also an adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister at Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria. All such software will also be required by law to be developed in a public repository. Bozhanov writes in a blog post:That does not mean that the whole country is moving to Linux and LibreOffice, neither does it mean the government demands Microsoft and Oracle to give the source to their products. Existing solutions are purchased on licensing terms and they remain unaffected (although we strongly encourage the use of open source solutions for that as well). It means that whatever custom software the government procures will be visible and accessible to everyone. After all, it's paid by tax-payers money and they should both be able to see it and benefit from it. As for security -- in the past "security through obscurity" was the main approach, and it didn't quite work -- numerous vulnerabilities were found in government websites that went unpatched for years, simply because a contract had expired. With opening the source we hope to reduce those incidents, and to detect bad information security practices in the development process, rather than when it's too late.

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Google Offers Free 4-Month Play Music Trial Subscription For July 4th
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 01:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easy-listening department:
An anonymous reader writes: Google is offering new U.S. subscribers a four-month free trial for its Play Music streaming service in celebration of July 4th. While everyone has their preferred music streaming service, it's hard to pass up a deal like this. The Google Play Music service offers over 35 million tracks and is usually priced at about $9.99 per month, so the offer amounts to a $40 savings. What's more is that customers who sign-up for the trial also gain access to Google's ad-free YouTube Red service, which features original content, and enables offline and background playback of YouTube videos on mobile devices. If you sign-up for the trial and decide it's not for you, you can cancel at any time.

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Blizzard Sues Overwatch 'Cheat' Maker For Copyright Infringement
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 12:11 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
From a TorrentFreak report: Blizzard Entertainment is suing Bossland, the maker of the popular Overwatch cheat tool "Watchover Tyrant" and several other game cheats. Among other things, the developer accuses the German company of various forms of copyright infringement and unfair competition. Blizzard is not happy with the Overwatch cheat and has filed a lawsuit against the German maker, Bossland GMBH, at a federal court in California. Bossland also sells cheats for various other titles such as World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 and Heroes of the Storm, which are mentioned in the complaint as well. The game developer accuses the cheat maker of various forms of copyright infringement, unfair competition, and violating the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision. According to Blizzard these bots and cheats also cause millions of dollars in lost sales, as they ruin the games for many legitimate players. "Moreover, by releasing 'Overwatch Cheat' just days after the release of 'Overwatch,' Defendants are attempting to destroy or irreparably harm that game before it even has had a chance to fully flourish."

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Lenovo Scrambling To Get a Fix For BIOS Vulnerability
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 12:11 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Richard Chirgwin, reporting for The Register: Lenovo, and possibly other PC vendors, are exposed to a UEFI bug that can be exploited to disable firmware write-protection. If the claims made by Dmytro Oleksiuk at Github are correct, an attacker can "disable flash write protection and infect platform firmware, disable Secure Boot, [and] bypass Virtual Secure Mode (Credential Guard, etc.) on Windows 10 Enterprise." The reason Oleksiuk believes other vendors are also vulnerable is that the buggy code is inherited from Intel. He writes that the SystemSmmRuntimeRt was copied from Intel reference code. Lenovo complains in its advisory that it tried to make contact with Oleksiuk before he published the vulnerability. The company says the vulnerable System Management Mode software came from an upstream BIOS vendor -- making it likely that other vendors getting BIOS software from the same outlet will also be vulnerable. There's also a hint that Lenovo agrees with a speculation by Oleksiuk, that the code may be an intentional backdoor: "Lenovo is engaging all of its IBVs as well as Intel to identify or rule out any additional instances of the vulnerability's presence in the BIOS provided to Lenovo by other IBVs, as well as the original purpose of the vulnerable code."

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What Air Conditioning Can Teach Us About Innovation and Laziness
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 10:51 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's food-for-thought department:
In a think piece for Vice's Motherboard Ernie Smith argues that the invention of air conditioning in 1902 has had a big impact on the innovation we've made since. Smith, citing several studies and articles on the matter, states that it is because of air conditioners that we have things like skyscrapers, clean rooms for building advanced computer chips, shopping malls, and multiplexes. But on the other hand, air conditioners have somewhat limited our creativity in home and office designing. From the article:See, prior to the air conditioner reaching homes around the country, architects had to think more creatively about keeping people cool when options were more limited. This meant taking advantage of breezes, room design, and dimensional layout in a way that maximized the heat when it was necessary kept things cool when it wasn't. And it meant taking advantage of foliage around the home to build in some natural shade, as well as to build porches, which were often much cooler than the insides of homes during warm days.The article, among other things, also mentions that we are currently looking for ways to curtail the energy wastage that incurs because of ACs. But Smith points out that it took us a while -- generations, actually -- before we started to see a problem and began working on it. From the article:"One of the many ways in which we have become cognitively lazy is to accept our initial impression of the problem that [we encounter]. Once we settle on an initial perspective we don't seek alternative ways of looking at the problem," author Michael Michalko wrote. "Like our first impressions of people, our initial perspective on problems and situations are apt to be narrow and superficial. We see no more than we expect to see based on our past experiences in life, education and work." [...] It's hard to even get mad at architects who chose simple efficiency over complexity, or (to highlight a contemporary example) early carmakers that went with gasoline instead of something better for the environment. Because of human nature, it just makes sense that despite all the other advantages that came with air conditioning, the more challenging things that came with the invention -- the fact that conservation and efficiency still have their place -- didn't initially get their due.

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A Chinese Ad Firm Is Using Malware to Get More Clicks
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 10:51 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's speeds-and-feeds department:
An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report: Advertising agencies go to great lengths to spread their clients' messages. Now, researchers have uncovered a new approach: malware. This month, cybersecurity company Check Point reports that a Chinese group called Yingmob has distributed mobile device malware on a massive scale, apparently alongside a legitimate advertising analytics business. Listed as based in Beijing's Chaoyang District, Yingmob, a subsidiary of MIG Unmobi Technology Inc., markets itself like any other advertising firm. Its professional-looking website claims its easy-to-deploy ads support text, pictures, and video, and don't affect the user experience. It offers pop-up, sidebar, and in-app adverts. But Check Point's report claims that part of the company -- the "Development Team for Overseas Platform," which employs a staff of 25 people -- is responsible for malware it has dubbed HummingBad. This malware allows the injection of adverts into victims' devices. Whenever someone clicks on one of these adverts, Yingmob gets paid, just like a typical advertising campaign. The first infection method Check Point came across was a "drive-by-download," whereby Yingmob's malware targets a victim when they visit a malicious website, then proceeds to download malicious apps onto their device. In its analysis, Check Point writes that nearly 10 million people are using malicious Android apps made by Yingmob.

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Steam Warns Users Against Gambling Site After YouTube Stars Discovered As Owners
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 09:32 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's conflict-of-interest department:
Tom Phillips, reporting for EuroGamer: Steam has begun warning users not to use a high-profile Counter-Strike: GO gambling website after its ownership turned out to be two YouTube stars -- who were also using YouTube to promote the site. Trevor "TmarTn" Martin and Tom "Syndicate" Cassell are listed in newly-uncovered business records as the president and vice-president, respectively, of online gambling site CS:GO Lotto. The news of CS:GO Lotto's ownership came as a surprise to viewers who have watched the pair promote the site on their channels, where both YouTube stars can be seen gambling -- and winning big money -- while using it. Neither had publicly disclosed their full roles in the site. TmarTn had not even disclosed his videos as being promotional tools. Attempt to log in to CS:GO Lotto now and you are greeted with the following warning message: "The URL you are attempting to log in to has been blocked by our moderators and staff. This site may be engaged in phishing, scamming, spamming, or delivering malware."

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Google Twists the Knife, Asks For Sanctions Against Oracle Attorney
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 09:32 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's drawing-the-line department:
Google isn't done with its victory over Oracle. Court filings suggest that Google will be filing a motion for sanctions against Oracle and its law firm, Orrick, Sutcliffe & Herrington. The Mountain View-based company is apparently irked that Oracle attorney disclosed the financial agreements between Google and Apple. From an Ars Technica report: Speaking in open court, Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said that Google's Android operating system had generated revenue of $31 billion and $22 billion in profit. She also disclosed that Google pays Apple $1 billion to keep Google's search bar on iPhones. "Look at the extraordinary magnitude of commerciality here," Hurst told a magistrate judge as she discussed the revenue figures. The $1 billion figure comes from a revenue-split that gives Apple a portion of the money that Google makes off searches that originate on iPhones. The revenue share figure was 34 percent, "at one point in time," according to Hurst. Google lawyers asked for the figure to be struck from the record. "That percentage just stated, that should be sealed," Google lawyer Robert Van Nest said, according to a transcript of the hearing. "We are talking hypotheticals here. That's not a publicly known number."

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Top Gear Host Chris Evans Steps Down After Poor Ratings
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 08:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's in-other-news department:
A number of readers have submitted news coming out of popular show Top Gear. Chris Evans has announced he is leaving his role as a presenter on BBC Two's Top Gear after one series. His resignation comes amid falling ratings for the show -- which hit a series low on Sunday night, with an average of 1.9 million viewers. The Verge reports:Evans was brought in alongside Matt LeBlanc and host of other new faces to fill the positions left by Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. The first series of the show had poor ratings, with fewer than 2 million viewers tuning into its series finale this weekend -- lower than any episode helmed by Clarkson.

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China Bans the Use Of Social Media As a News Source
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 08:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's control-freak department:
Mark Wilson, reporting for BetaNews:Continuing its control of the internet, China has announced that news outlets may not use social media as a source of news -- at least not without official approval. The Cyberspace Administration of China says that the move is part of a campaign to prevent the spread of rumors and fake stories, but most people will see it as the government continuing to flex its online muscles. To add weight to its reasoning, the regulator referred to a number of fake news stories that had originated and spread online. It's an interesting new code of conduct, particularly considering the Chinese government floods social media with fake stories of its own.

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Tech Overtakes Finance Among Top Global Companies
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 08:12 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's changing-the-rules department:
An anonymous reader writes:Technology has stolen a march on finance, with the success of companies such as Alphabet and Microsoft helping the innovative sector surpass the traditional world of financial services among the world's top 100 companies over the past year. Technology firms in the list notched up a combined value of $3bn compared to financial firms' $2.7bn and the $2.6bn value of consumer goods companies. Apple held its position at the top of the ranking, compiled by PwC, despite losing $121bn in market value over the past year to the end of March, and the overall value of the world's top 100 firms falling four per cent -- the most significant decrease since the financial crisis, with a cash value of $668bn. Alphabet closed the gap on Apple in second place, narrowing its market capitalisation from $350bn to just $86bn, while Microsoft rounded out the top three. Facebook was in sixth position while Amazon entered the top 10 for the first time. Tech firms have better weathered more choppy conditions in the global markets, particularly conditions in China and Europe's struggle with economic growth.

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China Finishes Building Its Alien-Hunting Telescope
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 06:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's finding-life-elsewhere department:
Work has finished on the world's largest radio telescope, which will hunt for extraterrestrial life and explore space, reports Chinese news agency Xinhua. The world's most populated nation fitted the final of 4,450 panels into the centre of the 500m-wide Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, over the weekend. The telescope, which cost $180 million -- and took five years to build -- will be switched on from September. Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy Sciences said:The project has the potential to search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life.Gizmodo adds:FAST is almost twice as large as the next biggest radio telescope, which is in Puerto Rico. It will be used for early-stage research by Chinese scientists for a couple years, and then be used more widely. FAST is capable of detecting gravitational waves, pulsars and, eventually, amino acids on other planets.

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America Expands Its Freedom of Information Act
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 03:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Independence-Day department:
An anonymous reader writes:
As America headed into its "Independence Day weekend," the U.S. Congress passed -- and President Obama signed -- the "FOIA Improvements Act of 2016". It now establishes a "presumption of disclosure" by law, and will even allow the disclosure of "deliberative process" records after 25 years, meaning those records from the Reagan (and prior) administrations should now become open, according to the Washington Post. In addition, the law also creates a comprehensive new "online request portal" for requesting records from all agencies, and even requires those agencies to make digital copies available for any records requested three or more times.

"By updating FOIA for the digital age, our law puts more government information than ever before online in a format familiar and accessible to the American people," said Senator Leahy, who sponsored the legislation. On the 50th anniversary of America's original Freedom of Information Act, Leahy added that "a government of, by, and for the people cannot be one that is hidden from them... "
It's the law's 50th anniversary, and Leahy imagined a world 50 years in the future, when the next generation "will look back at this moment and gauge our commitment to the founding principles of our democracy. Let them see that we continued striving for a 'more perfect union' by strengthening the pillar of transparency that holds our government accountable to "We the People.' "

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United Launch Alliance Plans For 1,000 People Working In Space By 2045
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '16 at 11:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bright-side-of-the-moon department:
What if you could produce rocket fuel in outer space -- making it 83% cheaper? One company sees this as the basis a self-sustaining "space economy" based on refueling Earth-orbiting spaceships. Slashdot reader MarkWhittington writes: Jeff Bezos, of both Amazon and Blue Origin, may ruminate about moving a lot of industry off the planet, but the United Launch Alliance, that joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has a concrete plan to do so. ULA is working on an idea to have 1,000 people operating in Earth-moon space by 2045, less than 30 years away...

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The Fight To Save the Australian Digital Archive Trove
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '16 at 08:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cherish-your-treasures department:
Slashdot reader sandbagger writes: A digital archive and research tool developed by the Australian National Archives may be the victim of upcoming budget cuts. Used by an estimated 70,000 users per day, the system may be eliminated thanks to a $20 Million (AUD) budget cut to the agency's budget. Since its 2009 launch, Trove has grown to house four million digitised items, including books, images, music, historic newspapers and maps. Critics of the cuts say that such systems should be considered national infrastructure because there's literally no replacement service.

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New York Falls and Seattle Rises on 'America's Top Tech Cities' List
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '16 at 05:55 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's American-evolution department:
CRBE has released their annual list of the top tech cities in the U.S., analyzing 13 metrics (including salaries and housing costs) to "gauge the competitive advantage of markets and their ability to attract, grow and retain tech-talent pools." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article from Geekwire:

Seattle is the third best tech market in North America, trailing only the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington D.C.... Seattle passed New York for third this year on the back of a growing, well-paid and well-educated class of tech employees and a strong roster of big companies...with New York and Austin rounding out the top five.

The report shows a big divide in Seattle between a prosperous tech community and everyone else. Tech workers in Seattle make $110,999 on average, and their wages have increased close to 20 percent since 2010... The 177,380 people who work in other professional fields like finance, sales and marketing make an average of $57,603 per year and their wages have only increased 6.3 percent since 2010. During that same time period, apartment rents increased 39 percent to an average of $1,619 a month.

San Francisco had the highest annual salary for tech workers -- $123,921 -- followed by Seattle, which also had the highest percentage of workers with at least a bachelor's degree -- 59%. And there's also an interesting second list of the top small tech markets, which is led by Columbus, Ohio followed by Charlotte, North Carolina, and Portland, Oregon.

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