By EditorDavid from Slashdot's another-aspect department
Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes:
YouTube very quietly made a very cool and rather major improvement in their video players today... YouTube is now adjusting the YT player size to match videos' native aspect ratios. This is a big deal, and very much welcome.
YouTube provided some before-and-after screenshots Friday, and acknowledged that "We launched this update on mobile awhile back (both Android and iOS) so this change also aligns the desktop and mobile viewing experiences."
Until now YouTube forced all videos into a 16:9 ratio by windowboxing them, meaning surround them with black vertical or horizontal bars like the old days of watching widescreen movies on VHS. In that sense, this isn't a huge change -- white space instead of black -- although the location of player controls moves to fit the video's size... The aspect adjustments are apparently automatic, retroactive to all uploaded video, and if there's a way to turn the feature off in Creator Studio it's non-obvious... Update 7/27/18 7:48pm: A YouTube spokesperson has since clarified to Gizmodo that currently there is no way to disable this feature.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's government-shut-downs department
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
The German state of Lower Saxony is set to follow Munich in migrating thousands of official computers away from Linux to Microsoft's Windows. As initially reported by Heise, the state's tax authority has 13,000 workstations running OpenSuse -- which it adopted in 2006 in a well-received migration from Solaris -- that it now wants to migrate to a "current version" of Windows, presumably Windows 10.
The authority reasons that many of its field workers and telephone support services already use Windows, so standardisation makes sense. An upgrade of some kind would in any case be necessary soon, as the PCs are running OpenSuse versions 12.2 and 13.2, neither of which is supported anymore.
According to the Lower Saxony's draft budget, €5.9m is set aside for the migration in the coming year, with a further €7m annually over the following years; it's not yet clear how many years the migration would take... Munich's shift away from LiMux -- the city's own Ubuntu-based distribution -- is expected to cost more than €50m overall, involving the deployment of around 29,000 Windows-based computers.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department
At least two malls in Calgary are using facial recognition technology to track shoppers' ages and genders without first obtaining their consent. "A visitor to Chinook Center in south Calgary spotted a browser window that had seemingly accidentally been left open on one of the mall's directories, exposing facial-recognition software that was running in the background of the digital map," reports CBC.ca. "They took a photo and posted it to the social networking site Reddit on Tuesday." From the report: The mall's parent company, Cadillac Fairview, said the software, which they began using in June, counts people who use the directory and predicts their approximate age and gender, but does not record or store any photos or video from the directory cameras. Cadillac Fairview said the software is also used at Market Mall in northwest Calgary, and other malls nationwide. Cadillac Fairview said currently the only data they collect is the number of shoppers and their approximate age and gender, but most facial recognition software can be easily adapted to collect additional data points, according to privacy advocates. Under Alberta's Personal Information Privacy Act, people need to be notified their private information is being collected, but as the mall isn't actually saving the recordings, what they're doing is legal. It's not known how many other Calgary-area malls are using the same or similar software and if they are recording the data.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's holding-on-for-life department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Earlier this month, in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences, a team of Russian scientists announced they had apparently discovered ancient nematode worms that were able to resurrect themselves after spending at least 32,000 years buried in permafrost. The discovery, if legitimate, would represent the longest-surviving return from the cold ever seen in a complex, multi-celled organism, dwarfing even the tardigrade. The worms were found among more than 300 samples of frozen soil pulled from the Kolyma River Lowlands in Northeastern Siberia by the researchers. Two of the samples held the worms, with one from a buried squirrel burrow dating back 32,000 years and one from a glacier dating back 40,000 years. After isolating intact nematodes, the scientists kept the samples at 68 degrees Fahrenheit and left them surrounded by food in a petri dish, just to see what would happen. Over the next few weeks, they gradually spotted flickers of life as the worms ate the food and even cloned new family members. These cloned worms were then cultured separately, and they too thrived.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
Facebook is reportedly rolling out its "downvote" button to a wider group of users in the United States. "The feature began appearing on the service's mobile app without a formal company announcement -- and we only found out about it by browsing on our phones," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The feature appears to currently be limited to "public" posts. Should your account be flagged for this week's test, every comment in a thread will include a numeric value and small up- and down-arrows connected to that number. Upon the first display of this Reddit-like change, the Facebook app will offer guidance: "Support comments that are thoughtful, and demote ones that are uncivil or irrelevant."
This is in addition to the site's long-running "emotion" interface, which lets users tap "like" or emoji-styled buttons. These icons and numbers still attach to posts as they've done for years. Now an additional value based on up- and down-votes, appears as well, and these values are separate. Meaning, if you tap the "like" button and down-vote on the same comment, those actions don't cancel each other out. As of press time, these up- and down-vote numbers are not visible if your account is not flagged for the test. We have not yet seen this feature go live on any versions of the Facebook Android app.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's are-you-a-cop department
"BuzzFeed has this story about proposals to make social media bots identify themselves as fake people," writes an anonymous Slashdot reader. "[It's] based on a paper by a law professor and a fellow researcher." From the report: General concerns about the ethical implications of misleading people with convincingly humanlike bots, as well as specific concerns about the extensive use of bots in the 2016 election, have led many to call for rules regulating the manner in which bots interact with the world. "An AI system must clearly disclose that it is not human," the president of the Allen Institute on Artificial Intelligence, hardly a Luddite, argued in the New York Times. Legislators in California and elsewhere have taken up such calls. SB-1001, a bill that comfortably passed the California Senate, would effectively require bots to disclose that they are not people in many settings. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced a similar bill for consideration in the United States Senate.
In our essay, we outline several principles for regulating bot speech. Free from the formal limits of the First Amendment, online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have more leeway to regulate automated misbehavior. These platforms may be better positioned to address bots' unique and systematic impacts. Browser extensions, platform settings, and other tools could be used to filter or minimize undesirable bot speech more effectively and without requiring government intervention that could potentially run afoul of the First Amendment. A better role for government might be to hold platforms accountable for doing too little to address legitimate societal concerns over automated speech. [A]ny regulatory effort to domesticate the problem of bots must be sensitive to free speech concerns and justified in reference to the harms bots present. Blanket calls for bot disclosure to date lack the subtlety needed to address bot speech effectively without raising the specter of censorship.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's raking-it-in department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A U.S. jury awarded International Business Machines Corp. $83.5 million after finding that Groupon Inc. infringed four of its e-commerce patents. Friday's verdict cements the prowess of IBM's portfolio of more than 45,000 patents and is a boon to its intellectual-property licensing revenue, which brought in $1.19 billion in 2017. The jury in Wilmington, Delaware, sided with the argument of IBM's lawyers, who had said Groupon was trying to portray IBM as claiming to have patented the Internet and had called that effort "a smoke screen." As they began the trial, IBM's lawyers said Groupon built its online coupon business on the back of IBM's e-commerce inventions without permission.
[T]he patents at issue don't protect IBM's products or services, said David Hadden, Groupon's lawyer. IBM never used the patents and instead relies on its huge portfolio to extract money from other companies, he said. Two of the patents, one of which expired in 2015, came out of the Prodigy online service, which started in the late 1980s and predated the web. Another, which expired in 2016, is related to preserving information in a continuing conversation between clients and servers. The fourth patent is related to authentication and expires in 2025, the latest among the case's patents. IBM stressed throughout the trial that a range of companies have paid for licenses to use its patents. Tech giants such as Amazon, Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have paid from $20 million to $50 million each in cross-licensing agreements, allowing them access to IBM's cadre of more than 45,000 patents.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's well-that-escalated-quickly department
Yesterday, it was reported that Charter Communications could lose its license in New York because of its failure to meet merger-related broadband deployment commitments. Today, according to Ars Technica, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to revoke its approval of Charter Communications' 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable (TWC). "The PSC said it is ordering Charter to sell the former TWC system that it purchased in New York, and it's 'bring[ing] an enforcement action in State Supreme Court to seek additional penalties for Charter's past failures and ongoing non-compliance," reports Ars. From the report: Charter has repeatedly failed to meet deadlines for broadband expansions that were required in exchange for merger approval, state officials said. The PSC has steadily increased the pressure on Charter with fines and threats, but Charter never agreed to changes demanded by state officials. As a result of today's vote, "Charter is ordered to file within 60 days a plan with the Commission to ensure an orderly transition to a successor provider(s)," the PSC's announcement said. "During the transition process, Charter must continue to comply with all local franchises it holds in New York State and all obligations under the Public Service Law and the Commission regulations. Charter must ensure no interruption in service is experienced by customers, and, in the event that Charter does not do so, the Commission will take further steps, including seeking injunctive relief in Supreme Court in order to protect New York consumers." The five types of misconduct that the commission cited to support its decision include: the company's repeated failures to meet deadlines; Charter's attempts to skirt obligations to serve rural communities; unsafe practices in the field; its failure to fully commit to its obligations under the 2016 merger agreement; and the company's purposeful obfuscation of its performance and compliance obligations to the Commission and its customers.Read Replies (0)
What OpenStreetMap Can Be
Posted by News Fetcher on July 27 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
An anonymous reader shares a blog post on OpenSourceMap: Most OSM commentary focuses on unimportant minutiae (layers, for goodness' sake, as if it's still 2004) without seeking to examine what makes OSM unique -- and whether that's still relevant in a rapidly changing market. Could OSM become a dead-end curio while Google, Apple, and an increasingly self-sufficient Mapbox hare off in another, common direction? OSM's continuing differentiation from Google/Apple boils down to two points. First, a non-commercial imperative. Google and Apple (and Mapbox, TomTom, HERE) are beholden to their shareholders and investors. They do what makes them money, which means car navigation. (Once human-controlled, now, increasingly, self-guided. When people ask "How far ahead of Apple is Google Maps?", what they usually mean is "Who will get to self-driving cars first?") OSM, however, isn't ruled by shareholder value, but by the preoccupations of its contributor base. (We'll come onto that demographic later.) Whether that's a good thing depends on what you want from a map. But it's clearly a point of differentation. Second, ground truthed local knowledge. Surveying by locals is the gold standard of OSM, building a rich, intricate compilation of contributors' preoccupations. The painstaking human curation of areas and topics remains unique to OSM. Neither of these are under threat from Google/Apple. Outsourced quick-fire digitisation of Street View-type imagery in cheap labour countries doesn't give you this. Nor does image recognition. OSM's points of differentation remain clear. In OSM's early days, commentators used the phrase "democratising mapmaking," and it remains true. You choose what to map; and you choose how to use the map. You participate. Other maps are a one-way street: sure, you can contribute (actively through map corrections, or passively through using a mobile app that phones home), but the provider chooses what you get back.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's real-needs department
A 17-year-old has been accused of breaking into a couple's home in Northern California and asking for their WiFi password, hours after he had asked nearby neighbors for theirs, authorities said. From a report: Police in Palo Alto said the teen, whose name has not been released, went to a home in Silicon Valley late Saturday and asked to use the residents' WiFi network "because he was out of data," before stealing their bicycle. Then just after midnight Sunday, police said, he broke into a nearby home, woke up a sleeping couple and asked them for their password. The male resident "pushed him down the hallway and out the front door of the house before calling police," police said in a statement. Palo Alto Police Sgt. Dan Pojanamat told The Washington Post on Friday that it's unclear whether the juvenile suspect was really seeking WiFi access or whether it was simply an excuse, saying that "the real issue is the fact that he entered a house that was occupied."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's watch-out department
Skywatchers are being treated to the longest "blood moon" eclipse of the 21st Century. From a report: As it rises, during this total eclipse, Earth's natural satellite turns a striking shade of red or ruddy brown. The "totality" period, when light from the Moon is totally obscured, will last for one hour, 43 minutes. At least part of the eclipse is visible from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, most of Asia and South America. On the same night and over the coming days, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth since 2003 - visible as a "bright red star" where skies are clear. Here's a live feed, provided by NASA.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
xanthos writes: A fascinating article in Quanta magazine introduces us to Cohl Furey and the eight dimensional mathematics called octonions that she is using to model the interactions of strong and electromagnetic forces. "Proof surfaced in 1898 that the reals, complex numbers, quaternions and octonions are the only kinds of numbers that can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. The first three of these "division algebras" would soon lay the mathematical foundation for 20th-century physics, with real numbers appearing ubiquitously, complex numbers providing the math of quantum mechanics, and quaternions underlying Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity. This has led many researchers to wonder about the last and least-understood division algebra. Might the octonions hold secrets of the universe?" "In her most recent published paper she consolidated several findings to construct the full Standard Model symmetry group for a single generation of particles, with the math producing the correct array of electric charges and other attributes for an electron, neutrino, three up quarks, three down quarks and their anti-particles. The math also suggests a reason why electric charge is quantized in discrete units -- essentially, because whole numbers are."Read Replies (0)