By msmash from Slashdot's rethinking-Windows-Mobile department
Microsoft is investing in Windows experiences on mobile devices, with a new app called Your Phone; a migration of Windows 10's Timeline productivity feature to phones; and an update to its launcher app for enterprises. The app, available on Android and iOS, is designed to provide a mirror of a phone straight to a desktop PC, and it will let Windows 10 users access texts, photos, and notifications from their machines. Features will vary depending on iOS and Android. From a report: While Microsoft is also expected to discuss some of the features of its next Windows 10 update (code-named "Redstone 5") at Build, the company indicated that it will be emphasizing cross-platform apps instead. Microsoft will discuss some of these in a Tuesday presentation by Joe Belfiore, who leads Windows "experiences" as the corporate vice president in the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft. The idea, Belfiore said in a briefing in advance of the show, was that Microsoft needs to know what users are working on, across any device. "Whether you look at a Word doc on Android, iOS, or Windows, is irrelevant," Belfiore said. Belfiore was talking about Timeline, the feature that tracks your work in the Office apps or Edge, recording your activity in what Microsoft calls the Microsoft Graph. But Belfiore could have been talking about any hardware platform. Microsoft sounds like it wants to elevate Microsoft mobile applications to the level of importance of a PC -- making the actual hardware, and operating system, irrelevant.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The volume of pesky robocalls -- and their scams -- have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion in April. [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.] From a report: In an age when cellphones have become extensions of our bodies, robocallers now follow people wherever they go, disrupting business meetings, church services and bedtime stories with their children. Though automated calls have long plagued consumers, the volume has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion in April, according to YouMail, which collects and analyzes calls through its robocall blocking service. That's an increase of almost 900 million a month compared with a year ago. Federal lawmakers have noticed the surge. Both the House and Senate held hearings on the issue within the last two weeks, and each chamber has either passed or introduced legislation aimed at curbing abuses. Federal regulators have also noticed, issuing new rules in November that give phone companies the authority to block certain robocalls. Law enforcement authorities have noticed, too. Just the other week, the New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, warned consumers about a scheme targeting people with Chinese last names, in which the caller purports to be from the Chinese Consulate and demands money. Since December, the New York Police Department said, 21 Chinese immigrants had lost a total of $2.5 million.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's check-mate department
Flash is designed to last a decade or more of use. A lot of the gadgets that rely on it, however, are not. Shady recyclers have spotted opportunity in that mismatch, stripping out used chips and selling them as new. But fret not, there is something that can be done to address the issue. From a report: Engineers at the University of Alabama have come up with a straightforward electronic examination that can tell if a flash chip is new or recycled, even if that chip has only seen 5 percent or less of its life. And the technique is so straightforward that a smartphone app could run it on its own memory. [...] A flash memory cell is like an ordinary transistor, it has a source and a drain and a channel through which current flows under the control of voltage on the gate electrode. The difference is that the gate is split into several layers -- the control gate, the blocking oxide, the floating gate, and the tunneling oxide. [...] Voltage on the control gate causes electrons to tunnel through that bottom oxide and get stuck inside the floating gate. This charge or its absence is the stored bit. It alters how much voltage you need to turn the transistor on in a way that you can easily measure. Erasing the bit is done by reversing the voltage and driving the charge out of the floating gate. Ray and his team took advantage of the rather high voltages -- about plus or minus 20 volts -- needed to program and erase flash. The more you program and erase a cell, the more defects will accumulate in the oxide, he explains.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-vs-old-approaches department
In preparation for a crewed mission into orbit, NASA safety advisers are warning that the super-cold propellant SpaceX uses in their Falcon 9 rockets could be "a potential safety risk." When SpaceX is about to launch a rocket, they load it up with propellant at super-cold temperatures to shrink its size, allowing them to pack more of it into the tanks. "At those extreme temperatures, the propellant would need to be loaded just before takeoff -- while astronauts are aboard," reports Chicago Tribune. "An accident, or a spark, during this maneuver, known as 'load-and-go,' could set off an explosion." From the report: One watchdog group labeled load-and-go a "potential safety risk." A NASA advisory group warned in a letter that the method was "contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years." The fueling issue is emerging as a point of tension between the safety-obsessed space agency and the maverick company run by Musk, a tech entrepreneur who is well known for his flair for the dramatic and for pushing boundaries of rocket science. The concerns from some at NASA are shared by others. John Mulholland, who oversees Boeing's contract to fly astronauts to the International Space Station and once worked on the space shuttle, said load-and-go fueling was rejected by NASA in the past because "we never could get comfortable with the safety risks that you would take with that approach. When you're loading densified propellants, it is not an inherently stable situation."
< article continued at Slashdot's new-vs-old-approaches department
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Alan Turing is rightly famed for his contributions to computer science. But one of his key concepts -- an autonomous system that can generate complex behavior from a few simple rules -- also has applications in unexpected places, like animal behavior. One area where Turing himself applied the concept is in chemistry, and he published a paper describing how a single chemical reaction could create complex patterns like stripes if certain conditions are met. It took us decades to figure out how to actually implement Turing's ideas about chemistry, but we've managed to create a number of reactions that display the behaviors he described. And now, a team of Chinese researchers has figured out how to use them to make something practical: a highly efficient desalination membrane.
To make this a true Turing-style system, the researchers dissolved a large molecule in water. This had the effect of making the water more viscous, which slowed the diffusion of the activator. In addition, the molecule was chosen so that the activator would stick to it, slowing things down even further. The end result was a system similar to the ones defined over a half-century ago. Imaging of the features show that rather than simply thickening the membrane, the membrane retained the same width in these areas; instead, it bulged out to form the structures. That's critical, as the amount of surface area exposed to a salt solution should influence how much water gets through the membrane. In fact, the researchers confirmed that more water was purified when the new membranes were used (the version with the stripes outperformed the dotted one). Unfortunately, the researchers don't compare this system to commercially available membranes. The report has been published in the journal Science.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's business-as-usual department
A Reuters/Ipsos survey found that Facebook users in the U.S. remain loyal to the site, despite the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal that exposed the data of 87 million users. The survey "found no clear loss or gain in use since then," reports the BBC. From the report: Conducted online, the Reuters/Ipsos survey questioned 2,194 American adults between April 26 and April 30. The poll has a margin of error of three percentage points. Some 64% percent said they used Facebook at least once a day, down slightly from the 68% recorded in a similar poll in late March, soon after the Cambridge Analytica story broke. Asked if they were aware of their current privacy settings, 74% of Facebook users said they were, and 78% said they knew how to change them. Among Twitter users, this was 55% and 58%, while for Instagram users, it was 60% and 65%.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flash-in-the-pan department
Tom's Guide gives us some perspective on just how big of a cultural phenomenon the game Fortnite is: "if Fortnite were a website, it would be one of the top five in the United States." From the report: Take a quick look at Alexa's list of top U.S. websites, and you'll see Google, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit and Amazon in the top five. No surprises there. But as a quick Google Trends search reveals, Fortnite has become a hotter search term than Reddit. What some might see as a flash-in-the-pan gaming fad is actually outpacing one of the web's hottest destinations.
"More people in the U.S. are searching for 'Fortnite' on Google than they are for 'Reddit' and these searches have risen sharply over the last two months," said John DeFeo, VP of Internet Marketing at Purch, Tom's Guide's parent company. "When you consider that Fortnite had more than 3 million concurrent players in February, I believe that if Fortnite were a website, it would be among the top five in the U.S., duking it out with Reddit and Amazon."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-according-to-plan department
Jon Russell and Mike Butcher from TechCrunch report of the mess that is Telegram's billion-dollar initial coin offering (ICO): Telegram's ICO was supposed to be a record-breaker to develop a platform that brings the decentralized internet to life. Instead, it has become a mess with the tightly controlled fundraising process in disarray as early backers sell their tokens for handsome returns. The company recently canceled the public sale piece of its ICO, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, after it raised $1.7 billion from private sale investors, according to SEC filings. But the issues date back further.
Telegram's grand vision is to build the TON (Telegram Open Network), a blockchain-based platform that extends its messaging app, which counts 200 million active users, into a range of services that include payments, file storage, censorship-proof browsing and decentralized apps hosted on the platform. According to the original whitepaper, the plan was to raise $1.2 billion using both invite-only private investors and an open sale to the public. Telegram later extended the raise to $1.7 billion before it canceled the public sale altogether. That's almost certainly because it had already raised enough money to develop TON without the risk of running into the SEC's ongoing ICO probe by soliciting money from the public. The result is that the ordinary people can't buy Telegram's Gram crypto token until it is released on exchanges. There's currently no timeline for that. But, with massive demand for the messaging app and deep discounts for early backers, a secondary market for buying and selling tokens early has emerged -- with huge returns already realized by some.Read Replies (0)