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Artificially Intelligent Painters Invent New Styles of Art
Posted by News Fetcher on June 30 '17 at 02:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's art-for-the-AI-generation department:
Dthief shares a report from New Scientist: Now and then, a painter like Claude Monet or Pablo Picasso comes along and turns the art world on its head. They invent new aesthetic styles, forging movements such as impressionism or abstract expressionism. But could the next big shake-up be the work of a machine? An artificial intelligence has been developed that produces images in unconventional styles -- and much of its output has already been given the thumbs up by members of the public. The team [of researchers] modified a type of algorithm known as a generative adversarial network (GAN), in which two neural nets play off against each other to get better and better results. One creates a solution, the other judges it -- and the algorithm loops back and forth until the desired result is reached. In the art AI, one of these roles is played by a generator network, which creates images. The other is played by a discriminator network, which was trained on 81,500 paintings to tell the difference between images we would class as artworks and those we wouldn't -- such as a photo or diagram, say. The discriminator was also trained to distinguish different styles of art, such as rococo or cubism. The clever twist is that the generator is primed to produce an image that the discriminator recognizes as art, but which does not fall into any of the existing styles.

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New Study Finds How Much Sleep Fitbit Users Really Get
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 11:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's snooze-button department:
Fitbit has published the results of a study that uses their longitudinal sleep database to analyze millions of nights of Sleep Stages data to determine how age, gender, and duration affect sleep quality. (Sleep Stages is a relatively new Fitbit feature that "uses motion detection and heart rate variability to estimate the amount of time users spend awake in light, deep, and REM sleep each night.") Here are the findings: The average Fitbit user is in bed for 7 hours and 33 minutes but only gets 6 hours and 38 minutes of sleep. The remaining 55 minutes is spent restless or awake. That may seem like a lot, but it's actually pretty common. That said, 6 hours and 38 minutes is still shy of the 7+ hours the the CDC recommends adults get. For the second year in a row Fitbit data scientists found women get about 25 minutes more sleep on average each night compared to men. The percentage of time spent in each sleep stage was also similar -- until you factor in age. Fitbit data shows that men get a slightly higher percentage of deep sleep than women until around age 55 when women take the lead. Women win when it comes to REM, logging an average of 10 more minutes per night than men. Although women tend to average more REM than men over the course of their lifetime, the gap appears to widen around age 50.

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There Is a Point At Which It Will Make Economical Sense To Defect From the Electrical Grid
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 07:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's its-only-a-matter-of-time department:
Michael J. Coren reports via Quartz: More than 1 million U.S. homes have solar systems installed on their rooftops. Batteries are set to join many of them, giving homeowners the ability to not only generate but also store their electricity on-site. And once that happens, customers can drastically reduce their reliance on the grid. It's great news for those receiving utility bills. It's possible armageddon for utilities. A new study by the consulting firm McKinsey modeled two scenarios: one in which homeowners leave the electrical grid entirely, and one in which they obtain most of their power through solar and battery storage but keep a backup connection to the grid. Given the current costs of generating and storing power at home, even residents of sunny Arizona would not have much economic incentive to leave the electric-power system completely -- full grid-defection, as McKinsey refers to it -- until around 2028. But partial defection, where some homeowners generate and store 80% to 90% of their electricity on site and use the grid only as a backup, makes economic sense as early as 2020. [A]s daily needs for many are supplied instead by solar and batteries, McKinsey predicts the electrical grid will be repurposed as an enormous, sophisticated backup. Utilities would step up and supply power during the few days or weeks per year when distributed systems run out of juice.

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$7.5 Billion Kemper Power Plant Suspends Coal Gasification
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's decision-making department:
romanval writes: A coal gasification plant in Mississippi is iswitching to natural gas after 5 years of delays and $4 billion cost overrun. Megan Geuss writes via Ars Technica: "The Kemper County plant was supposed to be a cutting-edge demonstration of the power of 'clean coal,' and, despite running five years late and more than $4 billion over budget, Kemper was able to start testing its coal gasification operations late last year. The plant used a chemical process to break down lignite coal into synthesis gas, or 'syngas,' which was then fed into a generator. The syngas burns cleaner than pulverized lignite coal does. In addition, emissions were caught by a carbon capture system and delivered to a nearby oil field to help with oil extraction. That, Southern and Mississippi Power said, would reduce the greenhouse emissions of burning lignite by up to 65 percent. But with only 200 days of gasification operations under its belt, Kemper identified more issues with its technology, including design flaws that caused leaks and ash buildup."

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Google Photos 3.0 Released, Bringing Smarter Sharing, Suggestions and Shared Libraries
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's automatic-sharing department:
Google is rolling out Google Photos 3.0, which features an AI-powered Suggested Sharing feature along with Shared Libraries, "both of which are designed to make the Google Photos app a more social experience, rather than just a personal collection of photo memories," reports TechCrunch. From the report: With the addition of Suggested Sharing, Google Photos will now prompt you to share photos you took by pushing an alert to your smartphone. The feature will identify people in the photos using facial recognition technology and machine learning, which helps it understand who you typically share photos with, among other things. It also looks at the photos you've taken at a particular location, before organizing them in a ready-to-share album by selecting the best shots (e.g., removing blurry or dark photos). You can edit the album if you choose, then share with the people the app suggests, remove suggestions, or add others. Even if your friends or family doesn't use Google Photos, you can share by sending them a link via text or email. A second feature called Shared Libraries is designed more for use with families or significant others. This lets you either share your entire photo collection with someone else, or you can configure it to share only selected photos -- for example, photos of your children.

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Zillow Drops Complaint Against Blogger After Backlash Over Copyright Claim
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's back-and-forth department:
The blog "McMansion Hell" is back up and running days after Zillow threatened the site's creator, Kate Wagner, into taking it down. Zillow's decision to withdraw their complaint came soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced it would defend Wagner pro bono. GeekWire reports: "We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell," a statement from the company said Thursday. "We've had a lot of conversations about this, including with attorneys from the EFF, whose advocacy and work we respect. EFF has stated that McMansion Hell won't use photos from Zillow moving forward. It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down, or for this to appear as an attack on Kate's freedom of expression. We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our partners -- the agents and brokers who entrust us to display photos of their clients' homes." The Zillow response came in the wake of the week's events and a strongly worded letter to Zillow general counsel Brad Owens on Thursday (PDF here). EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer said, "Our client has no obligation to, and thus will not, comply with Zillow's demands. Zillow's legal threats are not supported and plainly seek to interfere with protected speech." EFF said McMansion Hell was relaunching and no posts would be deleted, but that "in the interests of compromise, and because Wagner no longer wishes to use Zillow's website, she will no longer source photographs from Zillow for her blog."

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Opinion: Google Unleashes Terrible New Update For Google News Upon the Net
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it department:
Rei shares their opinion of Google's redesign of Google News: Google unveiled a "new look" for Google News, describing it as a "clean and uncluttered look." New design features include a mostly empty "In the News" box for trending-topics, most of which you probably don't care about; a double-height page header so that they can make the border around the search box inexplicably larger and add a four-option menu bar; large empty grey expanses that take up half the browser; and a new news section that presents half as many news articles per page. If you didn't think you were having to scroll enough when using Google News, don't worry -- Google's got your back with this new update. It's safe to say that Slashdot reader Rei is not so fond of the Google News redesign. Have you had the chance to view it yourself? What do you think of the Google News facelift?

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System76 Unveils Its Own Ubuntu-Based Linux Distribution Called 'Pop!_OS'
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shiny-and-new department:
BrianFagioli writes: Not content with simply following Canonical and embracing vanilla GNOME, System76 has decided to take its future into its own hands. Today, the company releases the first alpha of an all-new Linux-based operating system called "Pop!_OS," which will eventually be the only OS pre-loaded on its computers. While it will still be based on Ubuntu and GNOME, System76 is tweaking it with its own style and included drivers. In other words, the company is better controlling the user experience, and that is smart. "The Pop!_OS community is in its infancy. This is a fantastic time to engage with and help develop the processes and practices that will govern the future development of the operating system and its community. The team is currently opening up planning for the development roadmap, code of conduct, discussion forums, and the processes surrounding code contribution. Progress made on Pop!_OS has established an inviting, modern, and minimalist look and has improved the first-use experience including streamlining installation and user setup. Work on the first release, scheduled for October 19th, centers on appearance, stability, and overall tightness of the user experience followed by adding new features and greater customization ability," says System76. You can check out the project on GitHub here and download the alpha ISO here. For more information, the company has set up a subreddi.

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Elon Musk's Boring Machine Completes the First Section of An LA Tunnel
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-for-showtime department:
New submitter simkel shares a report from The Verge: Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk says his ambitious tunnel-boring endeavor, aptly named The Boring Company, has officially started digging underneath Los Angeles. Musk announced the news on Twitter, where he said "Godot," the Samuel Beckett-inspired name of the company's tunnel boring machine, had completed the the first segment of a tunnel in the Southern California metropolis. Prior to today, it was unclear how long it would take Musk to convince the city to allow him to move the experimental effort beyond the SpaceX parking lot in Hawthorne. We don't have details on what Musk hammered out with the city of LA. But he did tweet earlier this month about a meeting with L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti to lay the groundwork for the necessary permits and regulatory approvals he'd need to start digging with Godot, which weighs about 1,200 tons and runs about 400 feet long. Musk said last month that the first tunnel would run from LAX to Culver City, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Sherman Oaks, with later tunnels covering more of the greater LA area. Now, it looks like the LAX to Culver City route appears underway.

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Trump Picks Republican To Fill Empty Commissioner Seat At FCC
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's musical-chairs department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission's empty slots are about to be filled. President Donald Trump will nominate Republican Brendan Carr to the FCC's fifth and final commissioner position, the White House announced last night. Carr served as FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's Wireless, Public Safety, and International Legal Advisor for three years. After Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. "Brendan has a distinguished record of public service, having worked at the agency for over five years, including most recently as the FCC's General Counsel," Pai said after the White House announcement. "In particular, Brendan's expertise on wireless policy and public safety will be a tremendous asset to the Commission."

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Spanish Siesta Culture Lets Entrepreneur Turn Naps Into Gold
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 02:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's when-in-spain department:
An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: There's little that's more Spanish than the afternoon siesta. As the mid-day sun goes up, businesses in small-town Spain pull down their shutters for a traditional nap. In big urban centers, modern business trends have ended that habit, leaving many Spaniards who work long hours exhausted. Now, Maria Estrella Jorro de Inza has found a way to bring back the siesta, making money while her countrymen nap. Bankers, lawyers and consultants catch up on their sleep at Siesta and Go -- Madrid's first nap-bar located in Azca, in the heart of the city's financial district that's home to firms like HSBC, Google and Deloitte. The concept is simple: for just 14 euros ($16) an hour, you get to unwind and take a power nap in a private bedroom before heading back to work. "It's funny that we're known for the siesta, but we haven't been professional about it," said De Inza, the nap-bar's 32-year-old founder. "We get a lot of men in suits who just want to relax and women wanting to take their heels off. Lunch break is the busiest time."

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O'Reilly Media Has Stopped Retailing Books Directly On Its Ecommerce Store
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 02:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's 'reinventing' department:
An anonymous reader shares a press release: This week, O'Reilly Media stopped retailing books directly on our ecommerce store. You might say "what!?" Or you might say "what's the big deal?" Before I explain our business strategy here, there are two important things to note: We are absolutely continuing to publish the top-quality books that are important to the communities we serve. 1. We still sell them through Amazon or your favorite retailer. 2. So why the change? It's clear that we're in the midst of a fundamental shift in how people get and use their content. Subscription services like Spotify and Netflix are the new norm, as people opt for paying for digital access rather than purchasing physical units one by one. We've already seen this in our own business -- the growth of membership on Safari far exceeds the individual units previously purchased on oreilly.com. That's one reason for the change.

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Facebook May Finally Have To Compromise Its User Experience In Order To Keep Growing
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-to-maintain-growth department:
Tony Haile, writing for Recode: Facebook has a problem. What has driven its growth for the last five years won't drive its growth for the next five. However, the options in front of the company involve the kind of user experience compromises that have maimed platforms that preceded it. Facebook makes its money from the West. Some 30 percent of its users and 73 percent of its revenue is from North America and Europe. The monthly average revenue per user for Western users is $3.33 versus 53 cents for the rest of the world. Facebook is a global company, but a Western business. Facebook's user growth in the West is a little over 1 percent a quarter. In North America, Facebook's monthly active users represent 80 percent of the population above the age of 14. If Facebook wishes to grow its Western revenue at the rate its shareholders demand, a 1 percent user growth rate will not do it. Absent rapid user growth, the other lever for increasing advertising revenue is increasing the number or value of ads that are shown to existing users. However, the News Feed is close to saturation. Facebook believes that it cannot stick any more ads in the News Feed without adversely affecting user retention. This combination of slowing user growth and News Feed saturation has led Facebook to warn of a rapid deceleration in revenue growth over the next six months. For the first time in years, Facebook needs a new lever to pull.

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'Microsoft' Scam Callers Arrested After Years of Terrorising the Technically Challenged
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Those shameless scammers that cold-call people pretending to be from Microsoft and demanding money after walking users through supposed problems with their computers? They're going down, it seems, with four people arrested in the UK for enabling the rip-off. City of London Police and Microsoft, the real Microsoft, have been working together for two years to trace the operators of the scheme, with the four people -- two from Woking and two from South Shields -- arrested on suspicion of fraud. Although the calls were found to originate from India, the investigators found that the scam was allegedly being run out of the UK, with the poor overseas callers working from scripts and, presumably, not really aware they're doing anything hugely wrong.

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Uber Crosses 5 Billion Rides
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-numbers department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The ride-hailing company just reached a big milestone: 5 billion Uber rides around the world. With Uber's endless bad headlines, and Lyft gaining real momentum in the war against Uber, it's easy to forget how much else Uber has going on. Lyft is only competing with Uber in the U.S.; billions of Uber's trips have taken place outside America. Uber officially reached 5 billion rides with 156 simultaneous trips at exactly 7:29:06 a.m. GMT on May 20. The company announced the news on Thursday.

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Tumblr's Unclear Future Shows That There's No Money in Internet Culture
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's struggle-continues department:
Earlier this month as Verizon completed its acquisition, a number of Tumblr employees, as well as those at other Verizon-owned properties, like the Huffington Post, were laid off. This comes at an interesting time for Tumblr, which is increasingly struggling to find a business model. From an article on NYMag: The future of Tumblr is still an open question. The site is enormously popular among the coveted youth crowd -- that's partly why then-CEO Marissa Mayer paid $1 billion for the property in 2013 -- but despite a user base near the size of Instagram's, Tumblr never quite figured out how to make money at the level Facebook has led managers and shareholders to expect. For a long time, its founder and CEO David Karp was publicly against the idea of inserting ads into users' timelines. (Other experiments in monetization, like premium options, never caught on: It's tough to generate revenue when your most active user base is too young to have a steady income.) Even once the timeline became open to advertising, it was tough to find clients willing to brave the sometimes-porny waters of the Tumblr Dashboard. Since it joined Yahoo, the site has started displaying low-quality "chum"-style ads in between user posts on the Dashboard. Looked at from a bottom-line perspective, Tumblr is an also-ran like its parent company -- a once-hot start-up that has eased into tech-industry irrelevance. [...] It is rare, but not at all unprecedented, for a site to reach Tumblr's size, prominence, and level of influence and still be unable to build a sustainable business. Twitter steers a huge portion of online culture, and has become an essential water cooler and newswire for journalists, tech workers, and otaku Nazis, but still has trouble turning a profit.

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Twitter Detects Riots Faster Than Police, Study Says
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's crowdsourcing-data department:
A new study by Cardiff University has determined that Twitter can be used to identify dangerous situations up to an hour faster than police reports. From a report: Researchers at Cardiff analyzed 1.6 million tweets relevant to the 2011 London riots. In the town of Enfield, police received reports of disorder an hour and 23 minutes after computer systems could have picked up the same information from Twitter, according to the study. "In this research, we show that online social media are becoming the go-to place to report observations of everyday occurrences -- including social disorder and terrestrial criminal activity," said co-author of the study Pete Burnap.

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The Biggest Windows 10 Shop? Microsoft Partner Accenture
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 10:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's windows-farm department:
Mary Zo Foley, reporting for ZDNet: Microsoft partner Accenture, a global consulting company, is on track to become "the largest consumer of Windows 10," say the two companies. By 2018, Accenture will have migrated all of its 400,000 employees to Windows 10 in a move that will have taken two years. (Accenture has 400,000 employees?! Microsoft has about 114,000.) Currently, Accenture has migrated somewhere between 250,000 and close to 300,000 users to Windows 10, according to information shared on June 28. In a video accompanying the latest statistics on the Microsoft Windows blog site, it appears that Accenture also currently has 450,000 Office 365 mailboxes, 16,000 SharePoint sites and 99,500 smartphones and tablets enrolled in mobile-device management (which I take to be Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility + Security suite products).

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Windows 10 Will Soon Protect Files and Folders From Ransomware
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 10:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's smart-move department:
Microsoft is making some interesting security-related changes to Windows 10 with the next Fall Creators Update, expected to debut in September. From a report: Windows 10 testers can now access a preview of the changes that include a new controlled folder access feature. It's designed to only allow specific apps to access and read / write to a folder. If enabled, the default list prevents apps from accessing the desktop, pictures, movies, and documents folders. "Controlled folder access monitors the changes that apps make to files in certain protected folders," explains Dona Sarkar, head of Microsoft's Windows Insiders program. "If an app attempts to make a change to these files, and the app is blacklisted by the feature, you'll get a notification about the attempt."

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US Senators Seek Military Ban on Kaspersky Lab Products Amid FBI Probe
Posted by News Fetcher on June 29 '17 at 09:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: U.S. senators sought on Wednesday to ban Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab's products from use by the military because of fears the company is vulnerable to "Russian government influence," a day after the FBI interviewed several of its U.S. employees as part of a probe into its operations. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents visited the homes of Kaspersky employees late on Tuesday in multiple U.S. cities, although no search warrants were served, according to two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the FBI probe. Kaspersky Lab confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that FBI agents have had "brief interactions" with some of its U.S. employees, discussions that the company described as "due diligence" chats. The interviews were followed on Wednesday by the release of a defense spending policy bill passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which would prohibit the U.S. Defense Department from using Kaspersky software platforms because the company "might be vulnerable to Russian government influence," according to a summary of the legislation.

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