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Amazon Is Making It Easier To Set Up New IoT Gadgets
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's frustration-free department:
At an event yesterday where the company unveiled a range of new Echo smart speakers and other Alexa-enabled devices, the company announced a new way to easily set up internet of things (IoT) devices. The Verge reports: Called Wi-Fi Simple Setup, the system will use Amazon's Wi-Fi Lockers to store your Wi-Fi credentials and share them with compatible smart home devices. Amazon is debuting this tech with TP-Link and Eero, with the idea that customers can reuse network credentials in order to set up new devices. This means devices will connect on their own instead of you having to manually set up each smart product. According to Amazon, it's as easy as plugging in a Wi-Fi Simple Setup-enabled device. The device will automatically look for the Wi-Fi Simple Setup Network and connect once it receives encrypted credentials. Amazon says the process should take no longer than 30 seconds. The ecommerce company also announced a "plug-and-play smart home kit called Alexa Connect Kit. "It starts with a module that has Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi and a real-time OS that companies can put in their products in order to make them smart," reports The Verge.

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Romanian Ransomware Suspect Pleads Guilty To Hacking CCTVs In Washington DC
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's jig-is-up department:
gosand writes: "A Romanian woman [named Eveline Cismaru] has admitted running a ransomware operation from infected Washington DC's CCTV systems just days before President Trump was sworn into office in the U.S. capital," The Register reports. The U.S. Department of Justice stated: "This case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service's protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration." She could face a max of 25 years if convicted. She and her cohort (who is still jailed in Romania) made the classic hacker mistake of using their personal Gmail accounts for the campaign, even accessing them from one of the compromised PCs. Cismaru hacked "into 123 of the 187 high-tech CCTV cameras dotted around the city," reports The Register. "The hijacked devices, used by DC's Metropolitan Police Department, then spammed up to 180,000 email addresses with ransomware-laden messages."

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FCC Angers Cities, Towns With $2 Billion Giveaway To Wireless Carriers
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pitchforks-and-torches department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission's plan for spurring 5G wireless deployment will prevent city and town governments from charging carriers about $2 billion worth of fees. The FCC proposal, to be voted on at its meeting on September 26, limits the amount that local governments may charge carriers for placing 5G equipment such as small cells on poles, traffic lights, and other government property in public rights-of-way. The proposal, which is supported by the FCC's Republican majority, would also force cities and towns to act on carrier applications within 60 or 90 days. The FCC says this will spur more deployment of small cells, which "have antennas often no larger than a small backpack." But the commission's proposal doesn't require carriers to build in areas where they wouldn't have done so anyway.

< article continued at Slashdot's pitchforks-and-torches department >

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iPhone XS Teardown Shows Few Changes Aside From the Battery
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-what's-on-the-inside-that-counts department:
iFixit tore apart Apple's iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, revealing very similar insides to last year's iPhone X. Engadget reports the findings: One of the most interesting features is the battery on the XS. The iPhone XS sports a slightly downgraded battery from the iPhone X, a 10.13 Wh battery (2,659 mAh at 3.81 V) versus 10.35 Wh (2716 mAh at 3.81 V). But a new configuration might more than make up for it: Apple is using a brand-new L-shaped single-cell battery instead of two separate batteries. However, the XS Max still sports two batteries. Some other tweaks include a new, Apple-branded power management chip and a new antenna line on the bottom of the phone. The camera bump is also slightly taller, meaning your iPhone X case might not fit on your XS, if you plan on upgrading. The Verge also notes that "there's no evidence that the teardown team could find of any improved water or dust resistance, despite the improved IP68 ratings on the iPhone XS and XS Max."

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Telltale Games Hit With Major Layoffs As Part of a 'Majority Studio Closure'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's downward-spiral department:
Telltale Games, the video game developer behind The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Batman: The Enemy Within, laid off a large number of its staff today. According to The Verge, "the company will retain a small team of 25." From the report: "Today Telltale Games made the difficult decision to begin a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable challenges," the company said in a statement. "A majority of the company's employees were dismissed earlier this morning." The remaining employees will stay on "to fulfill the company's obligations to its board and partners," according to Telltale. Staff were informed of the layoffs today and were given roughly 30 minutes to leave the building, according to one source.

Telltale had previously announced a second season of The Wolf Among Us and a game based off of Netflix's wildly popular show Stranger Things. The company has not yet commented on the status of those projects, though the outcome seems dire. On Twitter, one former lead writer wrote, "I'm so sad we won't be able to show you all Wolf." The layoffs come a few months after revelations that Telltale was a studio mired in toxic management that included employees being subjected to constant overwork. Once an industry darling that worked on iconic brands like Game of Thrones and Minecraft, Telltale quickly spiraled.

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Google Employees Discussed Tweaking Search Results To Counter Trump's Travel Ban
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's information-era department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Days after the Trump administration instituted a controversial travel ban in January 2017, Google employees discussed how they could tweak the company's search-related functions (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) to show users how to contribute to pro-immigration organizations and contact lawmakers and government agencies, according to internal company emails. The email traffic, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, shows that employees proposed ways to "leverage" search functions and take steps to counter what they considered to be "islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms 'Islam', 'Muslim', 'Iran', etc." and "prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms `Mexico', `Hispanic', `Latino', etc." The email chain, while sprinkled with cautionary notes about engaging in political activity, suggests employees considered ways to harness the company's vast influence on the internet in response to the travel ban. Google said none of the ideas discussed were implemented. "These emails were just a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented," a company spokeswoman said in a statement. "Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology -- not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump's executive order on immigration. Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies."

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Divers Are Attempting To Regrow Great Barrier Reef With Electricity
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's worth-a-try department:
A trial is underway to restore damaged coral on the Great Barrier Reef using electricity. From a report: The reef has been severely assaulted in recent years by cyclones and back-to-back heatwaves. Nathan Cook at conservation group Reef Ecologic and his colleagues are attempting to regrow surviving coral fragments on steel frames. The frames are placed on damaged parts of the reef and stimulated with electricity to accelerate the coral's growth. Electrified metal frames have previously been used to encourage coral growth on reefs in South-East Asia, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. They have been shown to attract mineral deposits that help corals grow 3 to 4 times faster than normal. The technique is being trialed at a section of the reef 100 kilometres north of Cairns that was badly affected by the 2016 and 2017 mass coral bleaching events. Some coral is starting to grow back naturally, but it will take at least a decade for even the fastest-growing species to fully recover.

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Huawei Trolls Apple By Giving Battery Packs To People Waiting in Line For the iPhone XS
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's child-games department:
Huawei, which recently surpassed Apple to become the world's second largest smartphone player, can't stop taking shots at the iPhone maker. From a report: After the iPhone XS was unveiled with little new, Huawei tweeted "Thank you for letting us be the real hero of the year," a tease for their upcoming Mate 20 Pro unveiling next month. Now Huawei's taking another shot -- by handing out battery packs to people waiting in line for the iPhone XS and XS Max in Singapore. The packaging says "You'll need it", which is actually a valid boast: Anandtech found that Huawei's P20 and P20 Pro had better battery life than the iPhone 8 and X.

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Magic Leap is Pushing To Land a Contract With US Army To Build AR Devices For Soldiers To Use On Combat Missions, Documents Reveal
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Magic Leap, a US-based startup valued at north of $6 billion and which counts Google, Alibaba, Warner Bros, AT&T, and several top Silicon Valley venture capital firms as its investors, is pushing to land a contract with the U.S. Army to build augmented-reality devices for soldiers to use on combat missions, Bloomberg reported Friday, citing government documents and interviews with people familiar with the process. From the report: The contract, which could eventually lead to the military purchasing over 100,000 headsets as part of a program whose total cost could exceed $500 million, is intended to "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy," according to an Army description of the program. A large government contract could alter the course of the highest-profile startup working on augmented reality, at a time when prospects to produce a consumer device remain uncertain. Building tools to make soldiers more deadly is a far cry from the nascent consumer market for augmented reality. But the army's program has also drawn interest from Microsoft, whose HoloLens is Magic Leap's main rival. The commercial-grade versions of both devices still face significant technological hurdles, and its not clear the companies can fulfil the army's technical requirements. If recent history is any guide, a large military contract is also sure to be controversial within the companies. Last month, Magic Leap unveiled its much-hyped AR device to the press and select developers.

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Twitter Notifies Developers About API Bug That Shared DMs With Wrong Developers
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's Friday-security-news-break department:
Twitter has started notifying developers today about an API bug that accidentally shared direct messages (private messages) or protected tweets from a Twitter business account with other developers. From a report: According to a support page published today, Twitter said the bug only manifested for Twitter business accounts where the account owner used the Account Activity API (AAAPI) to allow other developers access to that account's data. Because of the bug, the AAAPI sent DMs and protected tweets to the wrong person instead of the authorized developer. Twitter said it discovered the bug on September 10, and fixed it the same day. They also said the bug was active between May 2017 and September 2018, for almost 16 months. The bug represents a serious privacy issue, especially for Twitter business accounts that use DMs to handle customer complaints that in some cases may include private user information.

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Romanian Ransomware Suspect Pleads Guilty To Hacking CCTVs in Washington DC
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
gosand writes: The Register reports that "a Romanian woman has admitted running a ransomware operation from infected Washington DC's CCTV systems just days before President Trump was sworn into office in the US capital." The US DOJ stated that "this case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service's protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration." She could face a maximum of 25 years if convicted. She and her cohort (who is still jailed in Romania) made the classic hacker mistake of using their personal gmail accounts for the campaign, even accessing them from one of the compromised PCs.

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Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Closely Track Search Users in China: The Intercept
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned. From the report: The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, code-named Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location -- and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have "unilateral access" to the data. The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China's authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights and peaceful protest. According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained âoepixel trackersâ that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

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David Patterson Says It's Time for New Computer Architectures and Software Languages
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 09:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Tekla S. Perry, writing for IEEE Spectrum: David Patterson -- University of California professor, Google engineer, and RISC pioneer -- says there's no better time than now to be a computer architect. That's because Moore's Law really is over, he says : "We are now a factor of 15 behind where we should be if Moore's Law were still operative. We are in the post -- Moore's Law era." This means, Patterson told engineers attending the 2018 @Scale Conference held in San Jose last week, that "we're at the end of the performance scaling that we are used to. When performance doubled every 18 months, people would throw out their desktop computers that were working fine because a friend's new computer was so much faster." But last year, he said, "single program performance only grew 3 percent, so it's doubling every 20 years. If you are just sitting there waiting for chips to get faster, you are going to have to wait a long time."

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Giant Spiderweb Cloaks Land in Aitoliko, Greece
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 09:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-Greece department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Warmer weather conditions in western Greece have led to the eerie spectacle of a 300m-long spiderweb in Aitoliko. A vast area of greenery has been covered by the web, reports the Daily Hellas. Experts say it is a seasonal phenomenon, caused by Tetragnatha spiders, which can build large nests for mating. An increase in the mosquito population is also thought to have contributed to the rise in the number of spiders. Maria Chatzaki, professor of molecular biology and genetics at Democritus University of Thrace, Greece said high temperatures, sufficient humidity and food created the ideal conditions for the species to reproduce in large numbers. She told Newsit.gr: "It's as if the spiders are taking advantage of these conditions and are having a kind of a party. They mate, they reproduce and provide a whole new generation. "These spiders are not dangerous for humans and will not cause any damage to the area's flora. The spiders will have their party and will soon die."

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EU Justice Commissioner Quits Facebook, Describing Her Experience as 'Channel of Dirt'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 08:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's bottom-line department:
The European Commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality shut down her Facebook account, describing her experience on the social network as a "channel of dirt." From a report: At a news conference Thursday in Brussels, Vera Jourova said that she received an "influx of hatred" on the popular platform and decided to cancel her account as a result. "I don't want to avoid communication with people, even with critical people," she said, noting her decision to leave Facebook was not to avoid public criticism. Her mailbox is filled with critical comments, she said, and she responds to those people who don't use vulgar language. "This is my nature, I speak to everybody who wants normal, honest, descent communication." Euractiv earlier reported on Jourova's remarks. At the same news conference, Jourova warned Facebook that it faces the prospect of sanctions from European member states if the company does not comply with consumer protection rules.

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'It Just Seems That Nobody is Interested in Building Quality, Fast, Efficient, Lasting, Foundational Stuff Anymore'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 08:22 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's ayes-have-it department:
Nikita Prokopov, a software programmer and author of Fira Code, a popular programming font, AnyBar, a universal status indicator, and some open-source Clojure libraries, writes: Remember times when an OS, apps and all your data fit on a floppy? Your desktop todo app is probably written in Electron and thus has userland driver for Xbox 360 controller in it, can render 3d graphics and play audio and take photos with your web camera. A simple text chat is notorious for its load speed and memory consumption. Yes, you really have to count Slack in as a resource-heavy application. I mean, chatroom and barebones text editor, those are supposed to be two of the less demanding apps in the whole world. Welcome to 2018. At least it works, you might say. Well, bigger doesn't imply better. Bigger means someone has lost control. Bigger means we don't know what's going on. Bigger means complexity tax, performance tax, reliability tax. This is not the norm and should not become the norm. Overweight apps should mean a red flag. They should mean run away scared. 16Gb Android phone was perfectly fine 3 years ago. Today with Android 8.1 it's barely usable because each app has become at least twice as big for no apparent reason. There are no additional functions. They are not faster or more optimized. They don't look different. They just...grow? iPhone 4s was released with iOS 5, but can barely run iOS 9. And it's not because iOS 9 is that much superior -- it's basically the same. But their new hardware is faster, so they made software slower. Don't worry -- you got exciting new capabilities like...running the same apps with the same speed! I dunno. [...] Nobody understands anything at this point. Neither they want to. We just throw barely baked shit out there, hope for the best and call it "startup wisdom." Web pages ask you to refresh if anything goes wrong. Who has time to figure out what happened? Any web app produces a constant stream of "random" JS errors in the wild, even on compatible browsers. [...] It just seems that nobody is interested in building quality, fast, efficient, lasting, foundational stuff anymore. Even when efficient solutions have been known for ages, we still struggle with the same problems: package management, build systems, compilers, language design, IDEs. Build systems are inherently unreliable and periodically require full clean, even though all info for invalidation is there. Nothing stops us from making build process reliable, predictable and 100% reproducible. Just nobody thinks its important. NPM has stayed in "sometimes works" state for years.

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Apple's New Strategy: Sell Pricier iPhones First
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 07:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's show-me-the-money department:
The staggered release gives the company a month to sell higher-end models without cheaper competition from itself. WSJ: This year, according to people familiar with Apple's production plans, the company prioritized production of its two pricier OLED models, the iPhone XS and XS Max, whose prices start at about $1,000. Both will hit stores Friday, followed five weeks later by the least expensive new model, the XR, which has an LCD screen and a starting price of $749. The staggered release gives Apple a month to sell the higher-end models without cheaper competition from itself. It also simplifies logistics and retail demands and could strengthen Apple's ability to forecast sales and production of all three models through the Christmas holidays, analysts and supply chain experts said. "It's sort of a Dutch auction," said Josh Lowitz, co-founder of research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, referring to the practice of starting with a high asking price, then lowering it until a buyer accepts. "The people who are most committed will pay to get early access. Then you get to the people who are making a choice and may settle for the $750 phone. This could become the new normal."

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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt Predicts the Internet Will Split in Two By 2028 -- and One Part Will Be Led By China
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 07:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Speaking at a private event in San Francisco this week, Eric Schmidt said he believes within the next decade there will be two distinct internets: one led by the U.S. and the other by China. At the event, economist Tyler Cowen asked, "What are the chances that the internet fragments over the years?" To which former Google CEO said: I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America. If you look at China, and I was just there, the scale of the companies that are being built, the services being built, the wealth that is being created is phenomenal. Chinese Internet is a greater percentage of the GDP of China, which is a big number, than the same percentage of the US, which is also a big number. If you think of China as like 'Oh yeah, they're good with the Internet,' you're missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you're going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There's a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc. Look at the way BRI works -- their Belt and Road Initiative, which involves 60-ish countries -- it's perfectly possible those countries will begin to take on the infrastructure that China has with some loss of freedom.

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Microplastics Can Spread Via Flying Insects, Research Shows
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 05:40 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fish-out-of-water department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Microplastic can escape from polluted waters via flying insects, new research has revealed, contaminating new environments and threatening birds and other creatures that eat the insects. Scientists fed microplastics to mosquito larvae, which live in water, but found that the particles remained inside the animals as they transformed into flying adults. Other recent research found that half of the mayfly and caddisfly larvae in rivers in Wales contained microplastics. The new study, published in the journal Biology Letters, used Culex pipiens mosquitoes, as they are found across the world in many habitats. The researchers found the larvae readily consumed fluorescent microplastic particles that were 0.0002cm in size. The larvae matured into a non-feeding pupa stage and then emerged as adult mosquitoes, which still had significant microplastic within them. The researchers are now studying if this damages the mosquitoes. Professor Amanda Callaghan, at the University of Reading, UK, says it is "highly likely" that other flying insects that begin as water larvae will also eat and retain microplastics. Furthermore, animals that feed on insects, like birds, bats, and spiders, are likely also consuming microplastics.

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First Hydrogen-Powered Train Hits the Tracks In Germany
Posted by News Fetcher on September 21 '18 at 12:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new department:
"French train-building company Alstom built two hydrogen-powered trains and delivered them to Germany last weekend, where they'll zoom along a 62-mile stretch of track that runs from the northern cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervorde, and Buxtehude," reports Ars Technica. "The new trains replace their diesel-powered counterparts and are the first of their kind, but they are likely not the last. Alstom is contracted to deliver 14 more hydrogen-powered trains, called Coradia iLint trains, before 2021." From the report: The trains are an initial step toward lowering Germany's transportation-related emissions, a sector that has been intractable for policy makers in the country. But hydrogen fuel faces some chicken-and-egg-type problems. Namely, hydrogen is difficult to store, and making it a truly zero-emissions source of fuel requires renewable electricity to perform water electrolysis. The more common option for creating hydrogen fuel involves natural gas reforming, which is not a carbon-neutral process.

The advantages of hydrogen fuel cells are that -- unlike battery-powered vehicles -- refueling a hydrogen-powered vehicle is just as fast as a vehicle powered by fossil fuels. No sitting around and charging overnight is required. Trains tend not to be battery-powered when they're electric, however, because they're so heavy. Electric train systems tend to use catenary systems, with electrified cables providing electricity to the train. But over long distances, setting up an external electricity source can be expensive. Both trains have a reported range of 1,000km (621 miles) and can reach top speeds of 140km/h (87mph). Cost is unknown, although Alstom's press release says that Lower Saxony, the German state where the trains will run, supported the purchase of the 14 additional trains with $94.5 million.

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