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Google Tests Submitting Question Directly In Search Results
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Manashjyoti Athparia posted in the Gulshan Kumar Forums a screenshot of Google's search results with a big box letting the searcher submit a question to be answered later by humans. The box comes up within the mobile search results and says "get the answer that you're looking for added to the web." Then it says "your question will be shared anonymously with online publishers who may be interested in answering it." The box then lets you either type your question or use a microphone to speak your question. You can then submit the question.

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Microsoft's New Mobile Strategy: Create Windows-like App 'Experiences' For Smartphones
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 09:51 AM
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.

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Robocalls, and Their Scams, Are Surging
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 09:51 AM
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.

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Microsoft Says 700M Devices Now Run Windows 10
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's aggressive-expansion department:
Over 700 million devices run Windows 10, Microsoft announced on Monday at its Build developer conference. From a report: Almost exactly a year ago, that number stood at 500 million. In addition, the company also today noted that Office 365 now has 135 million monthly active commercial users, up from 120 million last October. Back in 2015, when Windows 10 launched, Microsoft's original goal was to hit a billion devices by 2018. It quickly became clear that this was a bit too optimistic. While Windows 10 usage clearly continues to grow at a decent speed, we're not likely to see it hit a billion users soon.

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Engineers Devise a Technique To Fight Counterfeit or Recycled Smartphone Memory
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
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.

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New Service Blocks EU Users So Companies Can Save Thousands on GDPR Compliance
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: A new service called GDPR Shield made the rounds last week and for all the wrong reasons. The service, advertised as a piece of JavaScript that webmasters embed on their sites, blocks EU-based users from accessing a website, just so the parent company won't have to deal with GDPR compliance. GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is a new user and data privacy regulation slated to come into effect in the EU three weeks from now, on May 25, 2018. The new regulation brings a wealth of protections to user privacy but is a nightmare for companies doing business in Europe. The reasons are plenty, but the humongous fines for failing to meet GDPR standards are at the top of the list for most companies ($24 million or 4% of a company's annual worldwide revenue -- whichever is higher). There's also the 72-hour deadline to reveal data breaches and the necessity of hiring a so-called "Data Protection Officer." Plus, GDPR also mandates that companies must inform users on what data they collected about them, allow them to review the data, and even let users delete the data from the company's servers if they so wish.

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Email Unsubscription Service Unroll.me To Close To EU Users Saying it Can't Comply With GDPR
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's good-riddance? department:
Unroll.me, a company that has, for years, used the premise useful "email unsubscription" service to gain access to people's email inboxes in order to data-mine the contents for competitive intelligence -- and controversially flog the gleaned commercial insights to the likes of Uber -- is to stop serving users in Europe ahead of a new data protection enforcement regime incoming under GDPR, which applies from May 25. From a report: In a section on its website about the regional service shutdown, the company writes that "unfortunately we can no longer support users from the EU as of the 23rd of May," before asking whether a visitor lives in the EU or not. Clicking 'no' doesn't seem to do anything but clicking 'yes' brings up another info screen where Unroll.me writes that this is its "last month in the EU" -- because it says it will be unable to comply with "all GDPR requirements" (although it does not specify which portions of the regulation it cannot comply with).

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China Plans $47 Billion Fund To Boost Its Semiconductor Industry
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's throwing-it-against-the-wall-and-hoping-it-sticks department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: In a move that could further heighten tensions with the U.S., China is poised to announce a new fund of about $47.4 billion (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) to spur development of its semiconductor industry as it seeks to close the technology gap with the U.S. and other rivals, according to people familiar with the matter. The new war chest by the government-backed China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund Co. follows a similar fund launched in 2014 that raised $21.8 billion, largely funded by central and local government-backed enterprises and industry players. Among other efforts, the fund would be used to improve China's ability to design and manufacture advanced microprocessors and graphic-processing units, one of the people said. Specific details including the amount could change, another person said.

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Could SpaceX Rocket Technology Put Lives At Risk?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
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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Ticketmaster Hopes To Speed Up Event Access By Scanning Your Face
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ticket-free department:
Ticketmaster's parent company, Live Nation, has announced that they have teamed up with and invested in a face recognition company called Blink Identity. The ticket sales giant may have plans to scan your face instead of a ticket to grant you access to a venue. Engadget reports: In its first quarter financial report (PDF), Live Nation has explained that Blink has "cutting-edge facial recognition technology, enabling you to associate your digital ticket with your image, then just walk into the show." According to Blink's website, its system can register an image of your face as soon as you walk past a sensor. Blink's technology can then match it against a large database in half a second -- in a blink, so to speak. It's also apparently powerful enough that you don't even have to slow down for its system to recognize you: Just walk normally, and if the technology gets a match, it'll automatically open doors or turnstiles to let you in.

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Alan Turing's Chemistry Hypothesis Turned Into a Desalination Filter
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
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.

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Facebook Survey Suggests Continuing US Loyalty After Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
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%.

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Earth's Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Highest Point In 800,000 Years
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's troubling-numbers department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: For the first time since humans have been monitoring, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have exceeded 410 parts per million averaged across an entire month (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), a threshold that pushes the planet ever closer to warming beyond levels that scientists and the international community have deemed "safe." The reading from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii finds that concentrations of the climate-warming gas averaged above 410 parts per million throughout April. The first time readings crossed 410 at all occurred on April 18, 2017, or just about a year ago. Carbon dioxide concentrations -- whose "greenhouse gas effect" traps heat and drives climate change -- were around 280 parts per million circa 1880, at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They're now 46 percent higher. According to Scripps Institute of Oceanography, this amount is the highest in at least the past 800,000 years. "We keep burning fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide keeps building up in the air," said Scripps scientist Ralph Keeling, who maintains the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth. "It's essentially as simple as that."

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Google News To Be Revamped, Incorporate YouTube Videos and Magazines
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
Google News is reportedly being updated with a "new design" that will "incorporate elements of the [Google Play] Newsstand app and YouTube." It will be powered by Google's AMP technology and is expected to launch at Google I/O 2018. AdAge was first to report the changes. From a report: A Google News redesign is surprising considering that the current design is less than a year old. It's unclear if the current design is just being tweaked to incorporate YouTube and Play Newsstand or if the whole thing is being scrapped and rebuilt. The report also mentions that Google News will get a new app. Google Play Newsstand is currently an odd hybrid of magazine store and RSS reader. The report says that Google Play Newsstand is going to close as part of the Google News redesign. This is the second time we've heard of a "Google Play" brand getting the axe: Google Play Music is also expected to close when it merges with YouTube. We should learn more about the changes at Google I/O, which starts next week on Tuesday, May 8.

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Aventus Blockchain-Based Ticketing System Aims To Wipe Out Ticket Touts
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '18 at 08:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bitcoin-of-ticketing department:
umafuckit writes: The Guardian reports on Aventus, an open-source protocol designed to eliminate fraud and touting for large events. The Aventus Protocol "would allow event organizers to give each ticket a unique identity that is tied to its owner. Since each ticket is a linked list of records, where each new one contains an encrypted version of the previous one, they cannot be faked. The software also allows event promoters to keep an easy record of who owns the ticket, which means they can control the prices. The protocol was launched at Imperial College London last week and will be trialed at this year's world cup, where it will handle 10,000 ticket sales.

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New Hacking Tool Lets Users Access a Bunch of DVRs and Their Video Feeds
Posted by News Fetcher on May 06 '18 at 12:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's open-sesame department:
An anonymous reader writes: "An Argentinian security researcher named Ezequiel Fernandez has published a powerful new tool yesterday that can easily extract plaintext credentials for various DVR brands and grant attackers access to those systems, and inherently the video feeds they're supposed to record," reports Bleeping Computer. "The tool, named getDVR_Credentials, is a proof-of-concept for CVE-2018-9995, a vulnerability discovered by Fernandez at the start of last month, [affecting TBK DVR systems]. Fernandez discovered that by accessing the control panel of specific DVRs with a cookie header of 'Cookie: uid=admin,' the DVR would respond with the device's admin credentials in cleartext." Tens of thousands of vulnerable devices available online can be hijacked with their video feeds assembled in voyeur sites, like it's been done in the past.

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If Fortnite Were a Website, It Would Rival Reddit and Amazon
Posted by News Fetcher on May 06 '18 at 11:11 AM
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."

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Placing Election Ads On Google Will Require a Government ID
Posted by News Fetcher on May 06 '18 at 11:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-guidelines department:
Google announced new policies Friday that will require advertisers to prove they are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident when buying election ads. "Under the new guidelines, Google will ask advertisers -- be they individuals, organizations, or political action committees -- to prove they are who they claim to be," reports Gizmodo. "It will also require the ads to include a clear disclosure of who is paying for it." From the report: The change comes after Google and other social media companies revealed their advertising platforms were abused by foreign actors, including the Russian government-backed troll farm Internet Research Agency, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It also places Google's policies in line with U.S. laws for traditional media that restrict foreign entities from running election ads. Where Google's effort falls short, at least in its current iteration, is the new policies only cover ads featuring candidates running for office. So-called "issue ads" that advocate a certain point of view on hot-button topics are not covered in Google's policies.

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UK Car Industry On Alert Over Reports Some Hybrids Face a Ban
Posted by News Fetcher on May 06 '18 at 09:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's environmentally-friendly department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The UK's car industry has hit out at the government over unconfirmed reports ministers will target hybrid vehicles as part of a new emissions crackdown. New cars unable to do at least 50 miles on electric power may be banned by 2040, a ruling that would hit the UK's best-selling hybrid, Toyota's Prius. The SMMT car trade body said "misleading" government messages were damaging the industry and hitting jobs. In a short statement, the Department for Transport denied plans for a ban.

The Financial Times and Autocar said that the government's Road to Zero car emissions strategy was due to be unveiled imminently. It follows last year's announcement by the government that it would ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars in the UK by 2040. But the position on electrified models was unclear, and Road to Zero is due to clarify the situation. The FT and Autocar reported that vehicles which could not travel at least 50 miles using only electric power would be outlawed. "Unrealistic targets and misleading messaging on bans will only undermine our efforts to realize this future, confusing consumers and wreaking havoc on the new car market and the thousands of jobs it supports," said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. "We cannot support ambition levels which do not appreciate how industry, the consumer or the market operate and which are based neither on fact nor substance. Consumers need clear information about the right vehicles for their driving needs and it is again disappointing for both industry and consumers that vitally important information about government policy is being communicated by leaks."

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Telegram's Billion-Dollar ICO Has Become a Mess
Posted by News Fetcher on May 06 '18 at 08:31 AM
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.

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