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Can We Decentralize the Web?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 10:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's building-a-new-internet department:
This week the Internet Archive hosted an amazing Decentralized Web Summit, which united the makers who want to build a web "that's locked open for good." [Watch the videos here.] Vint Cerf was there, as was the technical product development leader for Microsoft's own decentralized identity efforts, several companies building the so-called punk rock Internet, "along with a handful of venture capitalists looking for opportunities." One talk even included Mike Judge, the creator of HBO's Silicon Valley, which recently included the decentralized web in its ongoing storyline.

Computing highlighted remarks by Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, and Mitchell Baker, the chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation.
The ideology of the web's early pioneers, according to Baker, was free software and open source. "Money was considered evil," she said. So when companies came in to commercialize the internet, the original architects were unprepared. "Advertising is the internet's original sin," Kahle told the packed room. "Advertising is winner-take-all, and that's how we've ended up with centralization and monopolies."
At the conference, attendees presented utopian visions of how the future of the internet could look. Civil, a new media startup, proposed crowd-supported journalism using cryptocurrency micro-payments. Mastodon, a decentralized and encrypted social network, was commonly referenced as an alternative to Twitter. As Facebook and Google continue to monopolize the digital advertising ecosystem -- recent estimates say that the two companies control over 70% of digital advertising spending globally -- the promise of a decentralized web, free from the shackles of advertiser demands is fun to imagine.
< article continued at Slashdot's building-a-new-internet department >

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Samoa Plans Switch To 100% Renewable Electricity -- Using Tesla's Batteries and Grid Controller
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 10:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's on-the-grid department:
An anonymous reader quotes Fast Company:
In seven years, the island nation of Samoa plans to run on 100% renewable electricity. Over the last year, the local utility has worked with Tesla to install a key piece of that plan -- battery storage, and also a software system that can control Samoa's entire electricity supply. In the past, like many islands, the country ran mostly on imported, expensive, and polluting diesel power. As recently as 2012, the country brought in 95 million liters of diesel.
Spurred by the cost and the threat of climate change -- Samoa is at particular risk from sea level rise and new outbreaks of climate-related diseases -- the country has been ramping up the use of renewables, with five large solar plants, a wind farm, and hydropower plants. But as renewable energy grew, the grid struggled with reliability.

"It had gotten to the point where just the solar, combined, could provide over half of the entire peak demand for the island, but they were having quite a few challenges managing that efficiently," says JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technical officer.... Tesla installed two of its "Powerpack" battery systems, and also developed and implemented island grid controller software that can control both the batteries and all of the power plants. "If a big cloud comes over the island and the solar drops very quickly, we can control the battery to make up the difference so we don't have to start a generator immediately, and we don't have to keep a generator running even when it might not be needed," says Straubel.

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Using Electronic Devices During Lectures Led To Lower Grades, Study Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 09:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's school-daze department:
schwit1 quotes UPI: For the study, researchers followed 118 cognitive psychology students at Rutgers University in New Jersey. For one term, electronic devices were banned in half of the lectures and permitted in the other half. When the devices were allowed, students reported whether they had used them for non-learning purposes during the lecture.

Having an electronic device wasn't associated with lower students' scores in comprehension tests within lectures, but was associated with at least a 5 percent (half-a-grade) lower score in end-of-term exams.

The study was published July 27 in the journal Educational Psychology.

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Microsoft Announces TypeScript 3.0
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 08:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I-can't-believe-it's-not-JavaScript department:
Microsoft released version 3.0 of TypeScript, which Microsoft describes as an "extension" of JavaScript "that aims to bring static types to modern JavaScript." Quoting Microsoft's Developer Tools blog:
The TypeScript compiler reads in TypeScript code, which has things like type declarations and type annotations, and emits clean readable JavaScript with those constructs transformed and removed. That code runs in any ECMAScript runtime like your favorite browsers and Node.js. At its core, this experience means analyzing your code to catch things like bugs and typos before your users run into them; but it brings more than that. Thanks to all that information and analysis TypeScript can provide a better authoring experience, providing code completion and navigation features like Find all References, Go to Definition, and Rename in your favorite editor.

Neowin reports:
With any major version release, it is not unexpected for breaking changes to be introduced and that's certainly the case for TypeScript 3.0. One obvious change is that with "unknown" becoming a new type, it is now a reserved type name and can no longer be used in type declarations. Otherwise, there's a range of API breaking changes due to a number of functions and internal methods being deprecated or being made internal. On the plus side, TypeScript 3.0 reportedly has improved error messages, along with project references that let TypeScript projects have dependencies on other TypeScript projects.

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'The Problem With Programming and How To Fix It'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 06:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's move-slow-and-fix-things department:
Jonathan Edwards has been programming since 1969 (starting on a PDP-11/20). "Programming today," he writes, "is exactly what you'd expect to get by paying an isolated subculture of nerdy young men to entertain themselves for fifty years. You get a cross between Dungeons & Dragons and Rubik's Cube, elaborated a thousand-fold."
theodp summarizes the rest:
To be a 'full stack' developer, Edwards laments, one must master the content of something like a hundred thousand pages of documentation. "Isn't the solution to design technology that doesn't require a PhD...?" he asks. "What of the #CSForAll movement? I have mixed feelings. The name itself betrays confusion -- what we really want is #ProgrammingForAll. Computer science is not a prerequisite for most programming, and may in fact be more of a barrier to many. The confusion of computer science with programming is actually part of the problem, which seems invisible to this movement."
It wasn't always this way, Edwards notes, citing spreadsheets, HyperCard, and the many incarnations of Basic as examples of how programming technology can be vastly easier and more accessible. "Unfortunately application programming got trampled in the internet gold rush," Edwards explains. "Suddenly all that mattered was building large-scale systems as fast as possible, and money was no object, so the focus shifted to 'rock star' programmers and the sophisticated high-powered tools they preferred. As a result the internet age has seen an exponential increase in the complexity of programming, as well as its exclusivity."

"It is long past time to return to designing tools not just for rock stars at Google but the vast majority of programmers and laypeople with simple small-scale problems," the essay concludes, arguing we need new institutions to fund changes in both the technology and culture of programming. "We've done it before so we can do it again, even better this time."

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Record Labels File 'Billion Dollar' Piracy Lawsuit Against ISP Cox
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 05:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blame-the-messenger department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: This week Cox's problems doubled after a group of high profile record labels filed a new piracy liability lawsuit against the Internet provider. Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music, Universal Music, Warner Bros Records, and several others accuse the company of turning a blind eye to pirating subscribers. The labels argue that Cox has knowingly contributed to the piracy activities of its subscribers and that it substantially profited from this activity. All at the expense of the record labels and other rightsholders. "Indeed, for years, Cox deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its Internet services to infringe on others' copyrights -- even once Cox became aware of particular customers engaging in specific, repeated acts of infringement," the complaint reads. To stop the infringing activities, the music companies sent hundreds of thousands of notices to the Internet provider. This didn't help much, they claim, noting that Cox actively limited the number of notices it processed.

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Iconic Planet-Hunting Kepler Telescope Wakes Up, Phones Home
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 02:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's never-gonna-give-you-up department:
Kepler, which has discovered about 70 percent of the 3,800 known exoplanets to date, woke up from a four-week hibernation yesterday and has begun beaming data home, just as planned, NASA officials announced today. From a report: Kepler had been sleeping in an attempt to save thruster fuel, which is running very low. Mission team members wanted to make sure the spacecraft had enough propellant left to orient its antenna toward Earth for yesterday's data dump. Far-flung NASA spacecraft send information back to mission controllers via the agency's Deep Space Network (DSN), a system of radio dishes around the globe. The sun-orbiting Kepler's latest allotted DSN window opened yesterday, agency officials have said.

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Apple's 2018 iPhones Are Rumored To Not Include Headphone Dongle In the Box
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 12:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's wireless-era department:
Apple will reportedly ditch the 3.5mm to Lightning port headphone dongle with this year's iPhone models. Apple notoriously dropped the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 in 2016. It has included a headphone adapter with every iPhone since to help curb public unease. The Verge reports: The research note claims that Cirrus Logic, a supplier for the dongle has "confirmed" that it won't be included in the box alongside the new iPhones. Apple has been trying to transition away from wired headphones entirely with its AirPods and lineup of wireless Beats headphones, so the move isn't entirely surprising. The dongle was always meant as a stopgap while customers adjusted to the new, headphone jack-less reality that Apple imposed on the world. Apple will almost certainly continue to sell the dongle -- which costs $9 -- separately for users who still want it. But if the report is true (which, again, remains to be seen), it's hard to imagine that customers will take the news well. The Barclays research note was first spotted by Mac Rumors.

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US Recycling Companies Face Upheaval From China Scrap Ban
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 08:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Wall Street Journal: U.S. companies that collect waste for recycling are weighing higher prices and other changes to their operations since China upended the industry when it stopped accepting much of the scrap material Americans have been shipping there for decades. The top two solid waste services companies in the U.S., Waste Management Inc. and Republic Services Inc., both recently pulled back profit projections in their recycling divisions based on China's new policies, which have created a glut in scrap markets and sent global prices for scrap material plummeting.

According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., 31% of U.S. scrap commodity exports worth a total of $5.6 billion were sent to China last year. It was cheap for recycling collectors to send scrap to China because ocean carriers offered deeply discounted prices to get shipping containers back to Asia after they had arrived at U.S. ports packed with goods made in Chinese factories. "We were happy to send material back in them for pennies on the dollar," Mr. Coupland said. Now it's gotten more complicated. Mr. Coupland said Republic Services has found new buyers in Malaysia, India and other markets, but fewer ships make direct trips there from the U.S., driving up transportation costs. Global prices for used materials have plummeted, so Republic loses money on most of the recycled scrap it now sells overseas. That cost is increasingly likely to get passed along to U.S. households and businesses.

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Air Pollution Linked To Changes In Heart Structure, Study Shows
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 06:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's don't-breath-this department:
Researchers say air pollution is linked to changes in the structure of the heart of the sort seen in early stages of heart failure. "The findings could help explain the increased number of deaths seen in areas with high levels of dirty air," reports The Guardian. From the report: "What we don't know is what is the mechanism behind it, why is air pollution leading to increased risk of heart attack and stroke?" said Dr Nay Aung, a cardiologist at Queen Mary University of London and first author of the research. The latest study helps to unpick the conundrum. Writing in the journal Circulation, Aung and colleagues report that they found exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5 and PM10 particles, is linked to an increase in the size of two of the chambers of the heart, the left and right ventricle. PM particles are commonly emitted by motor vehicles, among other sources. The authors add that similar changes can affect the performance of the heart and are often seen before heart failure takes hold.

The team used data from almost 4,000 volunteers who were part of a wider research effort known as the UK Biobank. These participants were aged between 40 and 69 years old, had been at the same address for the whole study, and were free from cardiovascular disease at the outset. Crucially, their data included cardiac MRI scans, which offer detailed images of the structure and function of the heart. The study also involved estimates of the outdoor concentrations of different pollutants at participants' home addresses at about five years prior to the scan. After controlling for factors including age, sex, income and smoking history, the team found that higher exposure to PM2.5 particles, PM10 particles and nitrogen dioxide were each linked to a greater volume of both the right and left ventricles after they had filled with blood.

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Windows 10 Buggy Updates? Our Patching is Simple, Regular, and Consistent Says Microsoft
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 05:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Microsoft has declined to comment on an expert's many complaints about the quality of its recent patches and cadence of Windows 10 feature updates. Earlier, Susan Bradley, a Microsoft MVP who for the past 18 years has volunteered her time helping Windows users, took a survey of over 1,800 respondents regarding the Windows 10 Update experience. She then sent an open letter to Microsoft [OneDrive link] executives summarizing the results of this survey and providing thoroughly researched material regarding the poor update experience Windows 10 users have been experiencing. In return, Microsoft argued in a blog that it gives admins all the tools they need to test and provide feedback before it releases Patch Tuesday updates. From a report: Microsoft's John Wilcox, who helps promote why organizations should move to Windows 10's Windows-as-a-service model has, at the behest of Windows pros, offered an explanation of its monthly Windows 10 quality update servicing cadence and terminology. As noted by ZDNet's Ed Bott recently, IT admins who'd spent years learning about Windows Update needed to "prepare to do some unlearning" due to the many changes introduced by Microsoft's shift to a Windows 10-as-a-service model. "With Windows 10, Microsoft has completely rewritten the Windows Update rulebook. For expert users and IT pros accustomed to having fine-grained control over the update process, these changes might seem wrenching and even draconian," he noted. [...] Wilcox outlines that Microsoft's guiding principles to its monthly Windows service updates are built around being "simple and predictable", "agile", and "transparent." Wilcox doesn't directly address patching expert Bradley's major complaints about Microsoft's patches of late, but said Microsoft's predictability meant IT managers should be able to handle its "simple, regular and consistent patching cadence."

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Citing 'Economic Efficiency,' Epic Says Fortnite's Upcoming Android App Won't Hit Google Play Store
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's larger-cut-of-the-pie department:
Fortnite developer Epic Games will not be distributing its massively popular game on Android because the Play Store takes a 30 percent cut of the revenue. Instead, the company plans to distribute the software to players via the official Fornite website, "where Android users can download a Fortnite Installer program to install the game on compatible devices," reports The Verge. From the report: For Fortnite on iOS, Epic decided to distribute the game on the App Store, most likely because it had no other method of getting iPhone users to easily download the software. (Apple, unlike Google, does not allow iOS users to download apps that are not first approved by its internal review processes and distributed through its proprietary marketplace.) With Google and its more open platform, Epic can get away with distributing the app itself. CEO Tim Sweeney says the primary motivation here is twofold. Epic wants to maintain its direct relationship with consumers. (The company currently distributes Fortnite on PC through its own Epic Games Launcher, instead of using Valve's popular Steam platform.)

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Trump Administration Tells Supreme Court To Wipe Out Decision Upholding Net Neutrality
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 04:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's throw-out-the-window department:
Repealing net neutrality wasn't enough for the Trump administration. Today, the administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate a 2016 appeal court ruling that had upheld Obama era net neutrality rules that barred ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing content. Reuters reports: The request was made even though the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to toss out the 2015 rules late last year, rendering the fight over their legality moot. In a filing to the Supreme Court, the Trump administration said the question for the court was "whether the now-superseded 2015 order was invalid because it exceeded the FCC's statutory authority, was arbitrary and capricious, was promulgated without adequate public notice, or violated the First Amendment."

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High Speed Internet Is Causing Widespread Sleep Deprivation, Study Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 02:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A study, published Friday in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization and funded by the European Research Council, suggests that high speed internet access is causing people to lose up to 25 minutes of sleep per night compared to those without high speed internet. From a report: It's the first study to causally link broadband access to sleep deprivation. The so-called "digitalization of the bedroom," defined by our inability to part with our phones/laptops/televisions before bed, has already been linked to various sleep disorders. [...] As the researchers found, high speed internet access "promotes excessive electronic media use," which has already been shown to have detrimental effects on sleep duration and quality. The effects of high speed internet access were particularly noticeable in younger age demographics.

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Cameroon Innovator Beats Internet Shutdown With SMS App
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 02:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-with-tech department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Hampered by an internet shutdown in Cameroon's troubled English-speaking regions in January 2017, Zuo Bruno, a young ethical hacker, was inspired to develop a car-tracking application using SMS. The application named Zoomed, whose adoption has been fast in Cameroon, is now on the verge of spreading across the continent. Cameroon has been interrupting internet intermittently in those regions over the last 20 months in an attempt to stifle dissent following mass protests by English-speaking teachers and lawyers which erupted in 2016, first tampered with internet connectivity on Jan. 17, 2017. The internet shutdown lasted 94 days. The internet was again plug off in October same year, taking the duration of the shutdown to a record 230 days, according to Access Now. [...] The Zoomed app does car-tracking based solely on specific SMS commands which gives it an advantage in a continent where shaky internet connection and low penetration makes internet-based solutions less effective. Bruno prices it at FCFA 120,000 ($ 212) and takes less than an hour to get the app installed into an auto-mobile.

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Google Is in China Cloud Talks With Tencent, Others, Report Says
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department:
Google wants to get back into China, and is laying the groundwork for a key part of the initiative: bringing its cloud business to the world's second-largest economy. Bloomberg: The internet giant is in talks with Tencent Holdings, Inspur Group and other Chinese companies to offer Google cloud services in the mainland, according to people familiar with the discussions. They asked not to be identified discussing private matters. The talks began in early 2018 and Google narrowed partnership candidates to three firms in late March, according to one of the people. Trade tensions between China and the U.S. now loom over the effort. It's unclear if the plans will proceed, this person said. The goal is to run Google internet-based services -- such as Drive and Docs -- via the domestic data centers and servers of Chinese providers, similar to the way other U.S. cloud companies access that market. In most of the rest of the world, Google Cloud rents computing power and storage over the internet, and sells a collection of workplace productivity apps called G Suite that are run on its own data centers. China requires digital information to be stored in the country and Google has no data centers in the mainland, so it needs partnerships with local players. Further reading: Google Plans To Launch Censored Search Engine In China, Leaked Documents Reveal.

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FCC Sides With Google Fiber Over Comcast With New Pro-Competition Rule
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 01:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's broadband-deployment department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission today approved new rules that could let Google Fiber and other new [ISPs] gain faster access to utility poles. The FCC's One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) rules will let companies attach wires to utility poles without waiting for the other users of the pole to move their own wires. Google Fiber says its deployment has stalled in multiple cities because Comcast and AT&T take a long time to get poles ready for new attachers. One Touch Make Ready rules let new attachers make all of the necessary wire adjustments themselves. Comcast urged the FCC to "reject 'one-touch make-ready' proposals, which inure solely to the benefit of new entrants while unnecessarily risking harm to existing attachers and their customers." FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rejected this argument, saying that startups are unnecessarily delayed when they have to wait for incumbent ISPs before hanging wires. Here's what Pai had to say: "For a competitive entrant, especially a small company, breaking into the market can be hard, if not impossible, if your business plan relies on other entities to make room for you on those poles. Today, a broadband provider that wants to attach fiber or other equipment to a pole first must wait for, and pay for, each existing attacher to sequentially move existing equipment and wires. This can take months, and the bill for multiple truck rolls adds up. For companies of any size, pole-attachment problems represent one of the biggest barriers to broadband deployment."

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Original Star Wars Movies May Not Launch With Disney's Streaming Service Until 2024
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 12:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's move-and-replace department:
Disney is reportedly having trouble buying back TV rights to "Star Wars" movies from AT&T's Turner Broadcasting so that it can offer them on a new streaming video service it is working on. Bloomberg reports: Disney made a preliminary inquiry about regaining the rights, but met resistance. Turner has the rights to show the films on its cable networks, which include TNT and TBS, and online until 2024. The programmer would want financial considerations and programming to replace the lost films. Disney sold certain rights to Turner in 2016, before it completed plans for the streaming service.

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Google Maps Now Zooms Out To a Globe Instead of a Flat Earth
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 12:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's keep-scrolling department:
Google Maps has been updated to present you with a 3D globe of the planet when you zoom out. Previously, Maps would have shown you a flat map of the world. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from VentureBeat: About two weeks ago, however, Google quietly rolled out (hehe) a change so that the service now presents you with a 3D globe. You can manipulate the globe as you'd expect -- spin it, zoom in, and zoom back out. Google Earth, watch out -- Google Maps is coming for you. Globe mode only works on desktop, but all major browsers are supported, we're told. We tested it on Chrome, Firefox, and Edge -- they all showed the globe just fine. This is all thanks to WebGL.

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GE Engineer With Ties To China Accused of Stealing Power Plant Technology
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '18 at 10:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-at-keeping-secrets department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TheStreet: General Electric stock was little changed on Friday, August 3, as a GE engineer with ties to China who has been accused of stealing proprietary power-turbine technology has been released on bond. Xiaoqing Zheng, 56, has been in custody since Wednesday when the FBI raided his home in Niskayuna, New York, near Albany. A federal judge on Thursday set a $100,000 bond; Zheng offered his family's home as collateral and was released on Friday. He was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device and limit his travel, according to multiple media reports.

Zheng, who is a U.S. citizen, was hired by GE in 2008 to work as a principal engineer for the company's power division, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent filed in federal court in Albany. Zheng is "suspected of taking/stealing, on multiple occasions via sophisticated means, data files from GE's laboratories that contain GE's trade secret information involving turbine technology," the FBI said in its affidavit. He also took "elaborate means" to conceal the removal of GE data files. "The primary focus of this affidavit is Zheng's action in 2018 in which he encrypted GE data files containing trade secret information, and thereafter sent the trade secret information from his GE work computer to Zheng's personal e-mail address hidden in the binary code of a digital photograph via a process known as steganography," the FBI said. "Additionally, the secondary focus of this affidavit is Zheng's actions in 2014 in which he downloaded more than 19,000 files from GE's computer network onto an external storage device, believed by GE investigators to have been a personal thumb drive." Zheng's attorney disputed the allegations, saying Zheng "transmitted information on his own patents to himself and to no one else."

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